Sunday, 27 December 2009

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Giffer is coming

I have to admit that I actually don't like other people's kids (OPKs) very much. With a few exceptions, of course. This was not the case before I had my own children. Before I became a mother, I was happy to babysit and play with little kids and generally thought they were ok most of the time....

But then I had my own, and other children just seemed to pale into insignificance compared to the shining light and radiance and pure special snowflake-ness of my own offspring. To be brutally honest, OPKs annoy me, sometimes disturb me and usually tire me out (still with those exceptions - if you are reading this and I know your children, I obviously am talking about other-other people's kids, ok?). I think it is because you can't quite treat them in the same way as your own children - you have to be nice.

Um, that didn't come out right!

Anyway, I think before I am lynched for being mean about children 10 days before Christmas, I'll just say that the reason for this long pre-amble is to warn that the rest of this post is about my super special snowflake and his words. And although to me this is the most interesting and cute thing in the universe, I can totally get that it is just not so much to most other people.

(I amuse myself here because I am writing as though I have a readership of more than 2. And one of those is Grandma and I know she'll be interested. But, anyway!)

Here are some of the delicious things that Samuel is saying these days. He talks All.The.Time. A very loud running commentary about everything in his world as he sees it.

He says Giffer instead of Christmas - so he talks about the Giffer Man coming and Giffer Trees and Giffer lights.

He says Uncle Mushroom instead of Uncle Matthew.

He says Side Up Down instead of upside down.

He calls his sister Nanna Nessa instead of Anna Vanessa.

Grapes are Googlie goos

Olives are Ollies

Yoghurt is Ogg-Oh

And on and on. He is putting words together (Sam sit down there; Look mummy - man! Big Man! Funny!) and will confidently switch from English to Danish to talk to people he knows speak Danish. He will say "Se Farmor, hund!" and then turn to me and say "Look Mummy, dog!" He can name blue and green.
And he is just funny. He'll do a fake fall and then lie on the floor and say "Oh No! Fall Down! Sammy sad!" In the morning he'll say "Good......Morning Mummy" And he will often un-prompted thank you if you give him something, although he always says the Danish tak rather than thank you.

Anna showed him that when she pushed her tummy button she turned into a train with Whoo! whoo! sounds and train movements. He fully expects everybody's navel to have this same special skill.

It's all so innocent and brilliant to witness.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Wrapping up

Apparently "writing is the new praying". If this is true then "Bless me Father, for I have sinned - it's been a very long time since I wrote anything."

The "little and often" approach is obviously not my strength and certainly cannot be applied to my blogging skills. The "a lot and often" method, however, can definitely be applied to my shopping behaviour in December.

We have been busy:

  • All 4 of us have celebrated a birthday in the last 7 days (we needed 90 candles on cakes). This is not the best planning - Aksel and I have a birthday on the same day and we have children with exactly 6 years and 4 hours between them - at least they get their own day, but one after the other....

  • Anna had a party with all her class here - a cinema party no less. We had 18 eight year olds in the living room - 16 of them boys. Yes, it took me a while to recover and No, we are not doing it again next year.

  • I baked bread rolls for Sam's birthday treat at nursery - they are not allowed cakes there. This did not faze Samuel at all - he was getting lots of cake at home. This is what he has said pretty much every day in December: Birthday mummy? Cake mummy? Candles? Hurrah! Sam too!

  • We've been to England - the birthday party with my 11 year old niece was excellent. The surprise 40th birthday party for an old university friend of Aksel's? Not so much. (I really don't get surprise birthday parties - don't do one for me, ok? I'd rather be prepared. Plus, I don't like socially awkward situations and combining my in-laws and my crazy aunt with the friends I haven't seen for 5 years is not the best evening that I have in mind.)

I found my Christmas spirit too, along with the box of decorations. These two also helped:

Monday, 23 November 2009

Cleaning up

I've been back from London for ages but had lots of catching up to do - sleep, work, costumes for Christmas performances, more work, laundry, cleaning.

Cleaning is a bit of an emotional topic.

Although Aksel would quite like to be transported back to the 1960s Mad Men style home, where I fixed him a drink the moment he came home from work and his most taxing domestic duty might be to change a fuse, he actually does not believe it is all my responsibility to clean and is fairly willing to do his share.

The problem is that we just don't agree on when things need cleaning and on the level of dirt that is acceptable before a mop needs to be picked up.

A quick quiz of my girlfriends and I understand that this is a normal phenomenon. Apparently, men are just able to live with a lot more dirt and mess than women. Except for one of my friends who is married to an anal type, bordering on OCD. She moans about her husband's need to clean each individual tile to perfection in the bathroom, while I am actually wondering if I could borrow him for a while.

And while my girlfriends are sympathising with me and agreeing, they don't seem to have messy homes. How do they do it? If I am at someone's house and it is really clean and tidy, I admire their home and organizational skills. I wonder if they were rushing around to clean before I arrived or whether it always looks like this. And if I am in a slightly less clean, bit untidy house I will secretly feel a bit relieved and pleased. The thing is, although I like to think that I am not judging people by the tidiness of their house, I think that people are definitely judging me by the tidiness of mine.

A former colleague once admitted to me she used the Black-Plastic-Bin-Bag-Method to clean up. This is a mad dash round the house with a sack 15 minutes before guests are about to arrive.
I don't do this, but I am a big fan of the closely related Boot-of-the-Car-Method. This is used when you are trying to sell your house and have people coming round to see it Any. Minute. Now. You need to disappear the laundry basket, the mountain of toys in the living room, the pile of coats and boots in the porch and any other evidence that your home might lack storage space or the extra bedroom your potential buyers are looking for.

I know other people who have perfected the Little-and-Often-Method. This is probably my parents and other sensible people. Their homes always look ok and they are never worried to welcome unexpected guests. The mess never gets the better of them and they are basically on top of it. I wish I was in this category. Why I didn't inherit some proper cleaning gene I don't know.

But I think I am, unfortunately, in the All-or-Nothing-Method, which is just such a shame. I don't do anything unless I can do it properly, so I don't even start the cleaning unless I can complete the entire blitz of the vacuuming, mopping, dusting, re-arranging, re-cycling, polishing, and sanitizing in one go. And as I rarely (never) have 10 hours of uninterrupted time that I need to devote to cleaning, you can imagine how often this happens. My home looks extremely brilliant and clean and wonderful for about 1 hour every two months and then slowly declines into disarray until I am stepping over piles of stuff and eventually, after much huffing and puffing, the whole process starts again.

I would like to be the sort of domestic whirlwind that can transform the post-weekend debris and chaos into a hygienic and tidy place to be with just a few swiffs of the swiffer in the available 20 minutes. Because I do like Tidy. In fact, I thrive in Tidy and am a nicer person to be around. The mess is just stressful and annoying and makes me grumpy.

So this week I am changing my category. From now on I will be a Little-and-Often Goddess.

Failing that, I have a big pile of black bin bags.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

It's all London baby!

I'm off to London tomorrow for Girls on tour 2. For details of GOT1, you can look here.

For some idea of what I'll be doing in London, you can look here (Gasp! I know! A guest blog post! Me! Feeling very honoured by the whole thing.)

In the meantime, I am busy packing and writing Aksel operating instructions for everything.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

It is not easy but it is simple

Aksel and I used to comment on how easy Anna was as a baby and toddler. At the time, with nothing much to compare it to, we didn't fully appreciate the lack of tantrums. But we were rather smug and self-congratulatory about our great parenting skills.

This was until our son turned up and reminded us that nature might just play a bigger part than nurture and it's all just half-chance anyway.

Samuel really is a buddle of intense loving fury. He is at that stage where he literally thinks the world revolves around him. Right now everything in the universe is Mine! But I know that this is just "that phase" and it will pass. And besides being loving and consistent and trying to pre-empt obvious battles, there is really not much you can do to help your toddler acquire the life skills to function in the world. Or rather, you know the things you want them to learn (take turns, share, don't hit, say please, say thank you, say sorry, play nicely, don't throw that etc etc) and you can teach these things at appropriate intervals and hope for the best. It is not easy – but it is fairly uncomplicated.

The world of the nearly 8-year-old, on the other hand, I am finding much more complex. Right now with Anna we are navigating through topics such as racism, bullying, sex, war, poverty, death, disease and religion. And we are also trying to teach her about the ebb and flow of friendships, about taking responsibility, and about tidying up.

And as we find our way through these things, her shift in mood from elated to hysterical in 0.2 seconds has me floored.

I am finding this all so much more complicated than teaching an ego-centric toddler to share. The parenting “stuff” that worked wonderfully a couple of years ago just doesn’t seem to fit. So my once “easy” daughter is not so much these days and my “difficult” son is somehow much more straightforward. The things Samuel needs are easy and obvious to provide: Nappies, food, love.

Of course, food and love are just as important to Anna. And she’s really easy to love. But meeting her other needs – her need for independence and to make her own mistakes and for privacy or attention – these are harder to work out. Finding the right moment to offer a hug or a compliment and working out when to be stricter and which rules I’m going to insist on and where I’m going to draw the line can leave me spinning. And if I’m confused – imagine how she must be feeling.

We’d better hurry up and get it sorted out. It’s lucky we have a good few years before she is a teenager, because then, so I am told, you’d better know exactly what your boundaries and perspectives are.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Remember, remember

I have been told that it is November 5th and this means bonfire night, guy fawkes, gun powder, treason and plot. And most importantly fireworks. Sadly, we are not having any of these over here.

Fireworks are impossible to buy at this time of year - some sort of regulation thing. Which is kind of ironic when you see what the Danes are allowed to do with fireworks in their own back-garden on New Year's Eve. As far as I can tell, no regulations whatsoever. Until you have seen your neighbour cheerfully lug a great big Rocket and launcher past your garden fence and witnessed the bombardment of fire that is truly spectacular at midnight on 31st December, you won't really understand what I mean. Every year I think it is amazing that more homes aren't totally burnt down by slightly mis-directed rockets.

Anyway. I used to love November 5th as a child. I remember cold nights up the rec watching the village display and the guy burning on the fire. And baked potatoes eaten in the back garden with sparklers for company.

And I remember writing a song with a few other children and the music teacher at my junior school. It was part of a school competition to do with fire safety.

At this time of year (and around New Year's Eve, funnily enough) I can sometimes be heard singing it to my children:

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The firework code:

Stand well back when you light your jumping jack!
Remember the firework code.

And if you have a dog or cat
Well just remember that
They should stay indoors!

And if you have a rocket
Don't put it in your pocket
Remember the firework code!

And on and on and on for several more verses I think. Luckily, I don't remember it all.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

All the homes... No. 3

In my second and third year at university I rented a really dirty house in SE London with 4 others. The house had the type of grime that only years of non-cleaning and student neglect and apathy can inflict. I am sure I would be shocked to see the squalid conditions now, but I didn't mind so much then.

The "garden" was so overgrown that we literally could not open the backdoor. Until one day the landlord came round with a scythe and hacked away for a couple of hours - then we could sort of sit out there on nasty plastic chairs. But it also meant that the families of mice that had been previously making their nests in all that long grass were suddenly homeless. And they didn't waste any time calling squatter's rights in our kitchen. Maybe that's where my love of mice comes from. I remember having to stomp around loudly in the living room before entering the kitchen so that I would scare the little creatures away from the bread.

The house was very close to the train station and after a night out it took about 40 seconds to make it home in a quick sprint, dodging the drug pushers on the corner.

To start with, I shared with girlfriends who were all doing language degrees. This was a mistake as in my third year they all buggered off to Paris and Cologne and left me there all billy-no-mates to do my finals. My fellow psychology friend Rob moved in. He was really cool but brought along his neurotic, annoying Norwegian girlfriend and her (also Norwegian) friend (who turned out to be really nice and I still see in Copenhagen occasionally). We rented the final room to random-bloke-Paul, who liked to borrow my Calvin & Hobbes books, was an anarchist and sometimes received dodgy substances in the post (cleverly addressed to Mr M. Mouse, presumably to confuse the narcotics authorities).

I had one of the better rooms, downstairs with french doors (again). I remember sitting for many hours there, tapping away on my little Apple Macintosh that I got for my 21st birthday. It was an awful student house and a great couple of years.

Friday, 16 October 2009

In Bed and Happily Zombie Free

So, Halloween is coming...

The rather fantastic Nicola at micro-chasms wrote a post a while back about a game she played with her husband: Happy (and) in Bed?

The version that Aksel and I play is a bit more weird and has more elements of zombies, but essentially it is a similar idea. It started 12 years ago when we lived in Jutland. In the middle of nowhere. A little way down the road was a deserted (haunted), derelict (possessed) house.

On cold, stormy, very dark nights, while we lay all cosy in bed, we would ask each other: How much money would you need to.... and then the question would end with variations on the theme of getting up, (possibly) getting dressed, going to the creepy house and spending the night there (often in the basement), usually without a torch.

Although the question was obviously hypothetical, the rule is that you have to answer as though the money is on the table - yours for the taking.

Aksel is quite a lot cheaper than me and I definitely value my nightmare-free sleep more than him. He'd normally do it for 50,000 DKK whereas I would sometimes need that much just to get out of bed.

Years later, we moved to suburbia north of Copenhagen, in a cul-de-sac of tightly packed neighbours where everyone knew everyone else's business but pretended not to. The game changed a little.

There were no haunted houses in the vicinity. But if the Scandinavians actually used net curtains, they definitely would have been twitching. So the question was along the lines of How much money do you need to get out of bed right now, hop around naked to the neighbours and ask to borrow sugar? Extra money was awarded if you called upon the slightly freaky Ned Flanders-type family. Again, I valued my dignity and continued ability to live amongst these people slightly more than Aksel, who argued that they didn't speak to us anyway, so it wouldn't make much difference.

Since moving again this year, we are in the position to add the Zombie element to the question. There is a small building a little way down our street, full of nothing else but freezers, buzzing away. We think it is a left over from the days before folk had their own freezers, but a more plausible explanation is that it houses a dozen frozen zombies. All waiting to come and frighten us the day the power fails, eat our food (or us), and watch our telly.

Now Aksel, who has been known to read How to Survive a Zombie Attack guides, has got quite good at freaking himself out with this little story. And when the question comes up How much money do you need to go and spend the night in the zombie house... I am normally pretty willing to go for not so much, considering the inconvenience. Whereas on particularly dark nights Aksel can refuse all monetary compensation whatsoever.

Have you seen how fast those things can move? he asks.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Nativity

There is a funfair squished into the centre of Copenhagen called the Tivoli. A mixture of fancy fountains and gardens and lights and roller coasters and restaurants and stalls. It is, with the exception of Bakken just up the road, the oldest amusement park in the world.

I'm hoping to go with the children soon as they do a really good Halloween.

We obviously went there, back in the 1970's, when I was on holiday with my parents.
After the summer holidays, back at school in England , my class was asked to respond to the inevitable "What did you do in your summer holidays?" question that the teacher always asks.
All the usual answers came up including beaches, icecream, watching TV, riding ponies and visiting grandparents. Until it got to my turn and I proudly told the teacher that my parents had taken me to The Nativity.

I remember her giving me a funny look and asking if I was sure.

(In hindsight the sub-text is clear -Sure that my parents had taken me to an account of the birth of Jesus? In July? In Denmark?)

Yes, I was sure!

And, I said (as if that wasn't enough weird already) we had also been to a beach where people were naked.

This was all probably quite shocking for a British infant school teacher to hear at that time. I'm sure she thought I had been to some naked religious festival, which was definitely not the done thing in my small village.

Anyway, the thing that I'm actually admitting here is that it was a very long time before I realised that I had got the name wrong and that the amusement park was not actually called The Nativity. I'm talking years and years. Long after I should have known better.

Good job he was easily impressed with my geography skills and could overlook the odd desire to visit a funfair where kids dressed up as shepherds by putting tea-towels on their heads.

(oh, and I might have got the name wrong for Tivoli, but I was right about the naked people.)

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Aksel and I celebrated our Kobberbryllup yesterday -which in Denmark is a sneaky way of getting in another wedding anniversary.

It is a celebration of the fact that you have been married for 12 and a half years. And that you are half way to the big 25 years - Silver Wedding Anniversary.

(The cynic in me suspects that perhaps this tradition exists because people don't necessarily expect to be with each other the full 25 years?)

Anyway... 12 and a half years ago, Aksel and I said that "we would" in the church in the village where I grew up (by the way, only the Americans say "I do" - Brits agree to our nuptials with a more willing "I will").

To celebrate this funny half-year anniversary, we had had rather ambitious dreams of weekends in Rome or Paris. In the end, partly due to our lack of organizational skill but mainly due to the lack of gazillions of kroner in the bank, we managed a full 24 hours without children, playing tourist in the lovely chic (and nearby) Copenhagen.

We ate cake at La Glace (where our Danish wedding cake originated from and just about made it to England in time for the wedding) and then we wandered and shopped around the city with no particular agenda or timeline. It was perfect. We ate dinner at the restaurant d'jour, MASH, and it was very good. Particularly the novel part where we got to complete whole sentences without being interrupted.

The night was spent in 5***** Hotel D'Angleterre, where just about any celebrity who has ever visited DK has also chosen to stay (as evidenced by the rather naff little name plaques "discreetly" placed by the lift). It was also pretty perfect. And the breakfast buffet this morning, eaten at a very civilized 10 o'clock, kept us going until 6 this evening.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

All the homes I have lived in - No. 2

This was an all-girls halls of residence at university in London. I lived there in my first year. I was 18 and it was 1989.

I had a great room, with French doors opening out to the garden courtyard. My parents dropped me off, making sure I knew how to write a cheque so that I could pay the rent, before leaving me to it.

It was not my first choice of university or accommodation. But I grew to love being a student in London and found it easy to live there and make the city my home for the next three years. In terms of the halls, I was disappointed that I was going to be in an all-girls environment.... and although I made some good friends, I didn't really fit in with the girly cliques that quickly formed. I would have hated to go to an all-girls school!

But it proved not to be a problem in the end. We held great parties. The invitations went something like:

Party at halls of residence (the one where 117 women live). Plenty of alcohol. And vodka jelly.

Sounds classy eh?
At one of these parties, I met my future husband.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Sometimes I feel like I am being stretched so thin that I become see-through. And there is just not enough time in the day or enough of me to go around.

With my children it can feel like I am trying to pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time to meet their very different needs while trying to memorise the entire works of Shakespeare.

And this particular circus act has to sometimes cut corners. Doesn't everyone elses too? Apparently not.

Apparently homemade (organic, plucked from your own garden) food is better than stuff from a jar or a tin.

Yes, I know that. We all know that. Do you have to be so arrogant and superior about the fact that you never open a tin of soup for your children? Or make a quick spaghetti bolognese with sauce from a - shock, horror - jar?

Intentionally making other people feel like lesser parents or indeed people just because you have lots of time to stand in your kitchen stirring and chopping does not make me want to keep talking to you.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Copenhagen cool

Isn't it nice when parents cut out articles from newspapers for you? Even underlining the important bits. Because they know you don't have time to read the newspaper. I appreciate it, anyway.

My parents recently sent me a nice article about cycling (from the Guardian, I think?). The British journalist in this article has fun cycling round Copenhagen and is a bit in awe of the super gorgeous Danes on their bikes, enjoying their bike lanes. What he doesn't seem to realise is that this is not a new phenomenon and it is not in response to green politics in the last few years (although, of course, that has helped). Bicycling has always been a good way to transport yourself around Copenhagen.

And the Danes manage to do it in a totally un-nerdy way. If you are in doubt what the beautiful Danes on bikes look like you should take a look at this great blog:

It helps, of course, that the bicycle lanes are wide, clearly marked with a big picture of a bike and separated from the cars with a proper curb. And drivers are usually well trained in looking out for the bikes. You don't feel like you are taking your life in your hands in quite the same way as cycling in London used to make me* feel.

In other Copenhagen-in-the-spotlight news - The United Nations Climate Change conference is being hosted here in December. And about half of Copenhagen is getting shut down tomorrow when Barack Obama comes to visit for about 10 hours when he tries to get the 2016 Olympics hosted in Chicago. Even Oprah Winfrey is coming.

Exciting stuff.

If I could just figure out how to do the cycle chic, I might even start to feel a little bit at home.

*ok, if I am really honest I have to admit that it was Aksel that did the cycling in London. But he used to come back and give me dramatic accounts of near-misses and crazy British drivers and Why aren't we moving to Denmark already? tirades, that I feel justified in writing "me". And it sounds better doesn't it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I blame my parents

When I first told my parents I had a Danish boyfriend, I think my mum was just relieved he wasn't Australian. Not that she has anything against Australian blokes. It is just that she didn't want me doing what she had done: moving half way around the world for love.

Denmark seemed pretty close in comparison to Australia. Unlike her own Australian family who very rarely could manage the long and expensive trip to England from Sydney, she knew she could hop on a plane and visit Copenhagen in a couple of hours.

And it wasn't as if my parents weren't familiar with the country. We went to Denmark a total of 3 (or maybe 4) times before I was 9 years old. It was the first experience for me of "going abroad". It was a bit of an unusual holiday destination for Brits in those days (maybe it still is?).

Here I am picking flowers with my sister at Kronborg (Hamlet's) castle in 1974.

And admiring the Little Mermaid. Look at those little legs!

Imagine what all those Scandinavian adventures did to my young impressionable self. I'm sure it had a big effect and is probably part of the reason I've ended up living here.

At least it is the reason that when I very first met Aksel in London, in my first year at university, and he said that he came from Copenhagen, I was able to reply,"Oooh, Denmark, I've been there!"

He was easily impressed. The girl he'd been chatting to before me had thought it was part of Stockholm.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Sleepovers part 2

We've been talking about it for a long time and Anna's first sleepover at our place this weekend was a big success. It contained all the essential ingredients: best little girl friend, lots of chocolate and sweets, dressing up, make-up "borrowed" from my make-up bag, films, Wii games, a very bubble-ly bath together that turned the bathroom into a water park, dancing around to the Hairspray soundtrack and staying up very late giggling.

I pretended not to notice the chocolates sneaked away to be eaten at "midnight". I was pretty easy going about the spilt chocolate milk. I kept my cool with the make-up incident. I happily mopped up the flood in the bathroom. And at 10 pm I said that they really should be going to sleep now. I left them whispering away, but when I checked 10 minutes later they were both asleep.

It brought back lots of memories of staying over at my friends' houses when I was Anna's age. I was always dreadful at going to sleep. And I really disliked being the only one left awake after everyone else succumbed to tiredness. I remember that hyped up and over-tired feeling and I still really dislike being the last one to bed.

Unfortunately, I was up in the night several times with Samuel, who has some virus that gave him 40 in fever. So I was less than pleased to be woken at 5.40 am on Sunday morning by loud giggling and banging coming from Anna's room. You'd think they would want to sleep late wouldn't you, like any other civilised person. We had to go in three times and threaten Anna with no sleepovers ever again (we are evil parents) unless they kept the noise down until 7 am.

Sadly, the best little girlfriend had some news. Her family is unexpectedly moving country in four weeks, so Anna was very sad about that. She has a couple of other friends who are also moving soon. The high turnover rate is the big disadvantage of an international school. We talk about it a lot. It is tough, especially now she is getting older and friendships are becoming much more important. We'll have to see how it goes, but none of us are convinced that a move to the Danish system is the easy answer.

Needless to say, everyone was very tired yesterday but we managed to grump and cranky ourselves through the afternoon without resorting to violence. We even got Anna's homework out the way with only a few tears (mine).

And it was not the best time to have to get through a trip to the out-of-hours doctor with Samuel, but the verdict was optimistic: non-specific-virus-not-serious-not-pig-flu.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


With the number of words that Sam is saying gaining exponential speed, I have been taking another look at some of the resources out there for raising bilingual children. I recently found out that the way we communicate in our family has a name. It is called OPOL - or one parent, one language. Aksel and I both only speak our mother tongue to the children. And we expect them to use that language when they speak to us. This method works really well for us because we all speak and understand the "other" language. We don't need to use another method that involves a "round the dinner table language" that everyone understands. When we are all together, Anna simply switches from Danish to English, depending on who she is speaking to. It seems very natural for her to do this.

When she was little, I was quite concerned about her learning English properly. What if she doesn't talk to me in English? What if we never have that natural communication? What if my parents can't understand her? All my worries were totally unfounded and she was babbling away in both languages by 18 months. And by 2, she had pretty much sorted it out. Daddy spoke Danish, Mummy spoke English. That is just how her world is.

We are doing the same with Sam, this time without even really thinking about it. He already has lots of words in both languages and uses the Danish version (bil, tog, nøgle) with Daddy and the English version (car, train, keys) with me, already quite consistently.
It will be interesting to see what language Anna and Samuel use with each other as they get older. Right now, Anna mostly chats in English with him, but it is quite one-sided.
Sometimes Anna will say a few words in Danish to me to wind me up and to make fun. Lille mor she will say. Må jeg ikke nok, lille mor?* She knows this kind of expression makes my skin crawl ....and makes me laugh.

When Anna and I talk English to each other in Denmark, people sometimes assume that we can't understand Danish. We were in a lift together in a shopping centre the other day. Two boys got in with us. They were perhaps 11 or 12 years old. They noticed that we were speaking English and they giggled with each other about it. Then one of them suddenly said very loudly: Tissemand! It means a boy's willy. Not a really, really rude word. But probably also not something you would talk about in a lift with strangers. They obviously thought it was quite hilarious until they realised that we had understood exactly what it meant. He was quite embarrassed when I said in Danish something like: "Well, that's a rather strange thing to shout about in public!"

Afterwards, I was kicking myself for not coming up with a better line like: "Really? Where?" Or "What, is it not very big?" Although, the poor lad was probably traumatised enough by the situation, without any extra help from me.

*roughly translated it means in a very creepy and a little bit disturbing way "little mummy, please can I, little mummy?"

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Clever title

Oh, it has been roughly 6 years since I last posted, but a lot has been going on, ok.

Three more members of this family (bringing the total to 100% in case you are not counting) have since had the sickness mentioned in the last post. Enough said about that.

We've also been able to:
  • meet the teacher and get the new homework instructions, the swine flu instructions, the after-school activities sign up list, the school transportation permission slip, and a seemingly unending list of things we need to remember on any given school night
  • ride ponies at the nursery party
  • find the new gymnastics class (Anna took part in the class, my job was to get us all there, in one piece, without swearing too much). (I think I'd give myself a C minus, but A for effort.)
  • fix the freezer (ongoing)
  • do some work that actually pays (I had a meeting with a customer for a change; this required wardrobe overhaul and the work is also ongoing...)

And I've been rather stuck. Stuck with the same things on my To Do list. Stuck with the same concerns whirring round my head. Stuck with half-written blog posts. Stuck with all the repetitive things of everyday life that just have to be done.

None of it is very interesting. And it doesn't make for good writing.

I'm expecting that burst of energy and flash of inspiration any time now.

Friday, 28 August 2009

At 3 am this morning

Why, just moments after I have changed the sheets, nappy, pajamas, sleeping bag, cleaned up a particularly messy and surprising sickness incident, calmed the child down, gently sat and offered hugs and songs, eventually decided that it is over and so carefully placed the sleepy child back in the cot and gratefully got back into bed myself- does the puking begin again?

And why is it always at 3 am? All this fumbling around in the dark, trying to find towels and clean sheets and remember where the spare sleeping bag is. I can barely find the bathroom at this hour.

And how come the child is, after such a dreadful night, actually quite perky in the morning? -which is a lot more than can be said for his mother, who feels like her eyeballs have been wrung out.

But this day did help me to contribute to the Stuff I Like: My washing machine.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

The one about the mouse

So, despite what I claimed in the one about the pigeon, it turns out that I am actually a bit freaked out by other uninvited live animals in my home.
The other night it was rainy and stormy outside, and feeling sorry for the cat, I tried to get him to come inside. I could just make him out, crouching near the kitchen door. I thought he was sheltering from the storm and was afraid to run in.
I called and made welcoming noises.

I was a bit surprised* when instead of my cat, a mouse ran in. And proceeded to sprint around the kitchen.

Followed by our cat.

I called** for some assistance and Aksel and my parents came (running) to see what was going on.

The mouse hid under the fridge and a fun hour was had (by Aksel and my dad) trying to coax it out. When they finally did get it out, it did a bit more dashing around before it headed out into the night again.

Typically, by this time the cat had totally lost interest and sort of wandered away in disgust, oblivious to all the fuss he caused.

I watched from a safe distance. Turns out I am a total girly when it comes to little brown mice running around the house.

(But I'm not a bit bothered by spiders. Honest.)

* totally freaked out

** screamed in horror

Friday, 21 August 2009

Lucky potato

In our house, people (usually Anna) are sometimes called lucky potatoes. It is a direct translation of the Danish saying "heldig kartoffel".
For example: Grandma and Granddad have been visiting. When they left, they very kindly put some Danish money in the children's money boxes. Granddad said to Anna that he unfortunately didn't have any more 20 kroner coins left. So she'll just have to have a 50 kroner note instead. Hence, Anna is a lucky potato.
(As an aside, we also talk about "sleeping like an onion". This is a bit more complicated. The Danish word for onion is løg. Pronounced sort of like loi. But when I was learning many, many years ago, I said log instead. And so, I also slept like an onion. It is not particularly funny or anything. But it stuck and we still say it occasionally.
I can also sometimes be heard referring to a heat-seeker, like some kind of essential military defence weapon. Something out of Terminator. This comes from the Danish helt sikker which means being completely sure about something. To my British ears, many years ago, it used to sound like Aksel was saying "heat seeker". It is also something that stuck, even though now I know better.)

Anyway. We are counting our blessings and remembering the stuff we like. The things that are good. In no particular order: It was lovely to have my mum and dad visiting and they got home safely (and quickly). My children are sleeping peacefully. We have gaz-illions of home-grown and picked blackberries waiting for a pie. And mum and dad helped make lots of blackberry jam while they were here. The summer isn't quite over yet. We have the two final episodes of Battlestar waiting to be watched. Anna thinks her new Grade 2 teacher is great. Sammy can say Air-Plane. And can tell us in two languages when his nappy needs changing. I am re-connecting with a few old friends. And I am planning a trip to London for Girls-on-tour-2 soon.

And...I found salt and vinegar crisps in Netto today, posh Kettle Chips and everything. We are lucky potatoes indeed.

Friday, 14 August 2009

All the homes I have lived in - no. 1

1967 with nothing but fields around (the tractor is especially for Samuel )

This was my childhood home in a small village. Middle England. I went to the local infant and junior school and then the nearby comprehensive. And some of my best friends lived on the same street as me, or just across the road. It was on the corner, and we had a cherry tree in the front garden that blossomed both white and pink. I lived there until I was 18 when I headed off to university, via Australia.

First extension 1975

My parents did two extensions to the house. First they extended the kitchen and added a living room and loo downstairs. And then in 1983, they added another bathroom and bedroom upstairs.

We had the same building firm do both extensions and my parents were friendly with the builder. A few years later, he was fixing something with the house and I happened to be racing around the neighbourhood dressed up as a French Tart. I was doing a treasure hunt to raise money for Children in Need as part of a school organized thing. We were in teams and had to collect as many of the fifty things on a list that we could get, within a certain time limit. The things included a quail's egg, a fresh strawberry (this was difficult to get then in February) and lots of other weird stuff that I've forgotton. We were up against, amongst others, the Vicars and Nuns team (the boys) and spent much of the race telling the people who had helped us to not help the nuns.

We must have dashed into my house at one point to get something, and the builders were there, but I don't really remember it. But he remembers it very clearly. And would, for years afterwards, mention it to my parents - about the time their daughter was running around dressed like a French Tart.

There are two cats buried in the garden there. And lots of good memories taken away from it. My parents sold it a few years ago to someone who apparently was very pleased that there would be room for his snakes.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

If the shoe fits

We are in the warm up to starting back to school. The relaxed mornings of the summer holidays, when Anna can still be in her pjs at lunchtime, will be a thing of the past.

The normal school-morning routine goes something like this: I get up, ten minutes later than I planned. Samuel wakes up and Aksel and I take turns with him until we are both partly showered and dressed. Anna is normally reading and we both hassle her to get up, get dressed, eat something. It is a frenzy of breakfast, pack lunches, PE kits, homework, school bags and brushing teeth and hair until we are ready to leave, 10 minutes later than planned ( yes, I do see the obvious connection there, but no, I don't think I am getting up earlier anyway).

Samuel has recently added an interesting dimension to the mornings, which threatens to add another 5 minutes of panic and stress to my already unorganized and running late-ness. He likes to try shoes on. And walk in them. And leave them scattered all over the house. And the best shoes are not his own. So, just as we are about to get out the door, my already frazzled self, is quite annoyed to find I have 2 shoes that belong to me but no matching pairs in sight.

And the other two members of the family with feet that need shoeing before heading out the door are usually in the same predicament.

Samuel thinks it is very funny. But then he is the only one that can be carried to the car and dropped off at nursery with only odd socks on and no-one will mind at all - so shoes to him are just not that essential. Unless they are Daddy's and he has just spent 5 minutes putting them on.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Old and missing

My (very nice, young) physiotherapist had a busy holiday from work, he told me. Visiting friends and family all over the country with his girlfriend. Then a week in Norway. Then a 30th birthday to celebrate.

Oh, congratulations, I said.

No, not my birthday, a friend's. Actually, I have a few years yet before I reach 30, he said.

Oh, that must be nice, I said.
So, I am old. And people born in 1983 have driving licences, and careers, and maybe even mortgages.

Thank goodness Anna is home tomorrow. I am baking welcome home cakes and preparing favourite dinners for her to celebrate. It feels like she has been gone for months. And I think she has missed us just a bit too. Aksel and I agreed that we are not letting her do this again until she is 35 at least.

Samuel is still missing Anna. But he also missed his nap today. Anyone know what that was that all about? I got more and more cross while he chuckled and laughed and thought it was totally hilarious to Not Nap. I rely on that 1 hour and 10 minutes, you know. For important worky-type computer work. Not watching YouTube or reading blogs.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Cars, trains, boats and Sweden

Things learnt on the trip to Helsingborg today:
  • Samuel absolutely loved the train.
  • Samuel loved the boat too.
  • We can pretty much make it from our house to a lovely cafe in Sweden in an hour.
  • Stuff is cheaper in Sweden.
  • Shopping with Samuel is still a pain - as helpful as that play table in the shop is while you are browsing, it is a complete operation to get him away from it when you need to leave. (Prying the tractor from his hands, lifting the screaming child up, and trying to exit with some dignity intact. He is really strong.)
  • Although they understand my questions in Danish just fine, I cannot understand the Swedish replies. Must stop speaking Danish when I am in Sweden.
  • Do not underestimate the value of surprise squirty water fountains near a cafe stop in the afternoon - Samuel enthralled = time to drink cafe latte.
  • Having one child for a day trip out is easier than two. He was outnumbered.
  • Having only Samuel with us made us feel like really old parents. We wanted to tell people "this is our second one, you know..."
  • Helsingborg is a great city on a sunny day.
  • Should have taken the camera.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

And then there were three

My sister and my niece and nephew have been visiting.
The house has been full of Noise and Mischief and Wii Games and Neee Nor Neee Nor, and Water-Ball Games. We've had Day-Trips Out and Rainy-Days In and Board Games and Films and Wine and Wet Clothes and Not Enough Milk.

We visited the Viking Land of Legends, where the children got to try canoeing in a hollowed-out tree trunk. Amazingly, they managed to get back to shore without anyone falling in. (Watching them go round in circles was very funny.) They also tried being archeologists and dug up a skeleton and ground grain to make flour and baked "biscuits" on a fire.
Another day, Samuel practised balancing at the Natur Legeplads.
And James got very wet there:

Nice picture of Louise (taken before the James-got-soaked episode):
Later, they all got soaked, this time it was a bit more fun:
Even Samuel thought so:

Finally, it all came to an end and, as per The Plan, Anna went back to England together with her aunt and cousins. She'll be home again (with Grandma and Grandad) in 10 days. Aksel and I looked at each other as the car drove away: What were we thinking!!!?? Seriously, what on earth were we thinking? It is too long to not have Anna around.

I went from a house with 7 people running around in it to just three. (Actually, only really 2 for most of the day as Aksel is officially Back-to-Work.) The house is Quiet. Too quiet.
Poor Samuel doesn't know what to think. His big playmates have gone and he is wandering around the house saying N-Anna play?!, Jam-es? Ell? Eeeeze? As though it is some never-ending game of hide and seek that they are playing and they will jump out at any moment. Boo!
Just for good measure, he will add in all the other names of family members that he knows:
D-orthe? Bar-bro? MarMor? Ga-ga? D-a-deee? And I explain where everybody is. In England, at her house, at work, at the summer house, in England, at work. Back soon.
Lather, rinse, repeat. It is exhausting.

Then he looks at me, the consolation prize, with a little concern, in case I start to take part in this game too: Mum-mee.

As far as I know, Anna is having a very good time so far and was really very happy about the whole adventure. I have chatted with her on the phone everyday and she has cheerfully told me all about what the passport man said to her at the airport and the film she has watched and how late they had got back and the bike she has already fallen off of. I realised that I hardly ever talk to her on the phone. She sounds so young. Just a little girl. With Anna it is easy to forget sometimes that she is only 7. We are all missing her.

Thursday, 16 July 2009


We all ended up at the summer house today - taking shifts in the hammock.

Anna told me a secret. Names have been changed to protect identities, so I thought I could tell the Internet. Apparently, Nice Little Girl who Anna sits next to at school is in love with Older Boy from football - but I was not to tell anyone, because it is a secret. And OB does not love NLG back. Ah, the trials of romance in the 7-year-old world.

There are lots of secrets floating around the Internet these days.

Have you seen this: ?

It is "an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard."

These secrets can be funny, poignant, tragic, bitchy. They all really give me pause for thought.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


Despite the bleeding-head incident this morning (Samuel's), I've had a nice quiet day with Sam, just the two of us, because Anna and Aksel are up in the summer house, building a tree house.
We are having a hard time keeping up with Anna.
If she is not starting her own blog or writing her first best-seller, she is wanting to know how to create a computer game she has designed, or star in and direct her own film, or build a two-storey tree house in the garden, or whiz up a fancy three-tier chocolate cake with hand-painted marzipan-twirled roses.

Things with her are never simple. And they usually involve a project.

Don't get me wrong. She is great. And I am truly amazed by her every day. Her creativeness and ingenuity far surpass anything I could come up with. It's just that I feel that I constantly have to dampen her spirits and lower her expectations. Take, for example, having a couple of friends round to play - give Anna any amount of notice about such an event and she will have danced and somersaulted it into a pirate-themed afternoon, complete with hidden treasure, elaborately made treasure maps, boats, and water fights, and costumes. All for a run-of-the-mill play date on a Tuesday afternoon.

Before I know it, I am being roped in to finding cardboard and teabags (to make the map look authentically old), providing treasure (sweets and chocolates, please) and building genuine pirate ships with space for a crew of 7-year-olds.

The thing is, I appreciate her desire to really "do" things. Properly. On a grand scale. It is not about being spoiled or getting everything she desires - because she is really prepared to work at things and also to make do. She is normally happy with the usually far from ideal solutions or suggestions that I come up with to help with her fabulous plans. But it is just that it seems such a shame to keep having to lower her expectations and let her be disappointed by reality.

And I guess that is really the issue. We want to protect her from disappointments and the fact that in real life there is not always enough cardboard or icing sugar. Or time.

So far, she's taking it really well and it hasn't prevented her from coming up with new projects. All. The. Time. We hope this passion will last a lifetime for her. And that she can realise all her dreams.

Monday, 13 July 2009


We are looking at houses.

Having finally sold our old house a few months ago, Aksel and I are once again house-hunting. It took us 10 months to sell and I got very disheartened, what with all the constant cleaning up that it required and the little or no interest that was shown. In the end, I refused to look at anything that was for sale before we had managed to sell ours. But several bottles of Cillit-Bang! later, we received an offer on the condition that we could move out quickly. No problem, we said. But we couldn't find, fall in love with, place an offer, have it accepted, and move into our dream house in just 14 days, even if we had been the most super organized people (which we are definitely not). So we decided we would rent for a while. And then we were very, very lucky to be able to rent a good friend's awesome house, which she had just finished renovating.

And we have all settled in really well here, but we know it is only temporary and we'd better get looking for something else before the market starts recovering. Knowing us, it will take a while to find the right address.

Aksel and I have a bit of an ongoing competition between us about the number of countries that we have visited. He is waaay ahead of me having managed to sneak in a few good ones in the last few years as part of work trips (for example, Bangladesh and Bulgaria) and on account of a trip to Cuba and a supposed "work" trip snow-boarding in Canada. We have also been known to extend this competition to a list of all the homes we have ever lived in. Considering that neither of us moved around very much as children, we have quite a number of homes on the list. But this one is much less interesting competition-wise, because we've been together for ever and from about 1992 or something, we have had the same address as each other.

So, we are out house hunting tomorrow. By my calculations, this next one will be the tenth address that we have shared together. Hopefully, it will come with that extra bedroom/office space that would be so nice to have. And of course be within our budget, especially in light of the financial crisis.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

How did it get so late so soon?

Aksel and I went out to a proper grown-up dinner party last night. No kids. Eight other adults and plenty of good conversation, food, and drink. We couldn't remember the last time we had done something similar together. It was great fun, and stupidly thrilling to be out of the house at 5pm on a Saturday evening. We left Farmor in charge of Anna and Samuel and all went very well even though it was those horrible hours between 5pm and 8pm when children need feeding and washing and pyjama-ering and everyone, quite frankly, has had enough.

So anyway. Aksel and I left the long list of operating instructions with Farmor, (at least for Samuel. Anna is more self-operating these days.) But then, of course, there was also the DVD player, the TV remote(s), the cat, the tricky bath tap, and the oven, that all needed a little bit of explanation.

And then I needed a bit of extra time to actually make myself appropriate for adult company. Long gone are the days when a dash of lip gloss and splash of perfume will transform me into gorgeous and divine. Nope. We'd been in the garden all day so definitely needed a shower and then the whole what to wear thing rears its head (see the begininning of this post - it has been ages since we've done this - what does one wear?)

So, needless to say, we were running late. Not dreadfully. Just a bit. And we let our hosts know. In the end, we were 19 minutes late to be exact. It bothered Aksel much more than me. It must be a Danish/English difference, I think.

Unfortunately, Samuel didn't get the "sleep late" memo, and woke up as usual, nice and chirpy at 7am. So we have been paying the price for the late night today.
We spent much of the morning picking raspberries in the garden (well, Anna and I were picking, Samuel was eating) and then Anna ate them with icecream after lunch. And we're all on holiday tomorrow, so there's plenty of time to recover.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Please sir, can I have some more?

I have decided that Samuel was, in his previous life, a child from a very poor, large Dickensian family.

Picture the scene: many dirty-looking little urchins all clambering over the last stale bit of bread and the meagre broth that the poor mother manages to produce from nothing. The children have to be fast and fierce to get some food and they never really feel satisfied.

Back at our house, Samuel can sit down to a perfectly lavish feast, plenty to go round and leftovers for tomorrow even, and he'll start ramming food in his mouth with gusto. Then, after a few more bites, he will say to me "More. More?. More!" while thrusting his bowl at me. No amount of telling him will convince him that he does actually have quite a lot more still in his bowl (not to mention his mouth) and if he just chewed nicely and finished what he already had, I would gladly serve him some more.

No, he seems upset by the thought that maybe he won't get any more, so he'd better get some now, straight away, before it’s too late.

I've begun "fake" giving him more - that is, I take his bowl and dramatically tap spoonfuls of nothing much into it before I hand it back to him with exactly the same amount as before in it. He seems happy with this - at least for a few more bites.

Sunday, 5 July 2009


Anna: Mummy, what is your favourite thing made out of wood ?

Me: (cautiously, cos I can see where this is going - she is eying up a bit of dowling and Aksel's toolbox) Ummm, a rocking chair, I think.

Anna: Yes, Sam would like that too.... (drifts off to investigate the bit of wood, but evidently decides it is too small - phew!)


Anna: Mummy, how much do toilets cost?

Me: .. ? ? ?.. (turns out she is designing us a new house and saving up for it too. She has 76 DKK, so we might have to abandon the plan for the 6th bathroom and the indoor football arena...)

Anna: Daddy, it is not fair, you two are always talking about the Internet and Blogs and things you've read - and I don't know what you mean.

Aksel: Well, that's because we are adults and sometimes we are talking about things that children aren't interested in or don't understand yet.

Anna: But it is just not fair. (Stomp stomp. Humpf. Goes on for much longer....)

Aksel: (trying to be understanding) It is a bit like driving. You have to be able to reach the pedals before you can drive a car.

Anna: (exasperated) But my legs are long enough to have a blog!

And that is why I helped my seven year old create her very own blog today. And she wrote her first post, which describes this conversation much better than I can, but I won't link to it because she wants to be anonymous to start with.

Thursday, 2 July 2009


Anna's after-school activities have wound down for the summer and we are talking about what she might like to do next year. She has been doing swimming and recorder lessons. She would like to do gymnastics and piano lessons. I think it is always a tricky balance between her doing too much (and me having to taxi her to and from these things) and yet letting her pursue some different interests and also be in a group outside of her school friends.
Also, if she is the next Olympic champion in archery, how will we know unless she has tried it?

A few years ago, Aksel decided he needed a hobby. Something other than work and family. So he took up macro photography, bought himself a fancy camera and has really enjoyed running out early in the morning to catch the light and the bugs and I have got used to him disappearing in a ditch while we are on a walk. As he got more into it, he ordered himself a new lens and more fancy equipment. You can see his great pictures on
Apparently, having a hobby is important in terms of your identity - it is important to define yourself other than just in terms of your job or your family. Perhaps especially in these times when more people are losing their jobs.

When Sam was about 3 months old, we visited Aksel's cousin, a busy doctor with two children of her own. And after hearing about Aksel's photography, she asked me what I did in my free time. Oh, how we laughed.

Free time? A hobby? Time to myself? Ha ha ha.

Seems like women with small children don't have any free time and certainly can't be pursuing a proper hobby. I know this is not exactly true for some super women - but it seems to be true for me in any case. Especially at that stage of baby-hood, when it is all about breastfeeding and not sleeping.

And I am not feeling resentful about this. I enjoy that Aksel has a hobby. And I'm glad he enjoys it. And now Samuel is getting a little older, I can see that I might have a little more available time, at some point. It's just that, if I get a spare moment, I am more likely to use it to lie on the sofa and eat chocolate.

Anyhow, is writing a blog classified as a hobby?

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Making a killing

As a foreigner in Denmark, I have made many language mistakes - some of which I am aware of and some I am sure I am luckily blissfully unaware of.
My Danish family are always very kind and forgiving about my Danish. There was the time when I told my mother-in-law that we were having roast kitten for dinner; the Danish word for chicken (kylling) being very close to the word for kitten (killing).
And the time where I mixed up the word for pillow with another very rude word that can't be written here. I have also told people at a very formal dinner party that I didn't want anything else to eat because I was too drunk ( I wasn't - I was full - which sounds the same as the Danish word for drunk.) I know I am not the only one to make these mistakes.
I have an English friend here who once cheerfully explained that her husband had caught, killed and barbecued a goat in their backgarden (she was really talking about a type of fish, a Pike, which is very similar to the word for goat in Danish).
My sister-in-law recently sent in an article to a Danish newspaper that they published. It was about a telegram that my father-in-law received when he graduated (in 1949). His English uncle, keen to congratulate him and having had an interest in language, particularly the scandinavian languages, since he had shared a trench with a Norwegian soldier in WWI, decided to write the telegram in Danish. And so he used an English-Danish dictionary to look up the words. When he looked up the word for "well-done" he found "gennemkogt" - which in Danish means "thoroughly boiled or cooked" (or well-done in the context of a steak). And this is what it says on the telegram.
Google-translate, eat your heart out!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Tales from the farm

Anna is officially on Summer Holidays and the weather is co-operating - it is hot, hot, hot! I managed to meet my work deadline and in theory should be relaxing, but really as any parent of small kids knows, any relaxation can only take place when they are sleeping. And since Aksel is currently hob-nobbing in the south of France, picking up awards at the advertising festival, I have been playing at being a single mother for the last few days. So, even less time than usual to do anything other than mother.
So that post about Samuel's words? Need to update that. A few days ago he said his first sentence: " Daddy havre" - admittedly a mixture of English and Danish, but clearly stating that he needed his Daddy to make him his porridge quick smart. And since then his language has really taken off. Just today he said 4 new words : Bubble, Go, Pitter-patter, and More (which all totally make sense if you saw what Anna, Sam & I were doing this afternoon - but you kind of had to be there).

And I haven't even mentioned his Tractor obsession, which at one point meant that he didn't want lunch because he had just got a new tractor to play with. I guess it is not so surprising that Samuel shares this thrill about farm vehicles with just about every other little boy. But he is able to have a whole conversation only using the word "tractor", just by changing his intonation. We are lucky enough to see tractors quite a bit now that we live in the countryside and he can go from hopeful expectation that we might see one (tractor.. tractor?) to total happiness (TRACTOR!) when one comes our way to slightly concerned (as the tractor passes us and keeps going, trac-tor??) and finally to desperation that the experience is over (Traaa-c-tooorR!)

We have been playing lots of games of farms, and in an attempt to find some way to make it more bearable for me (there are only so many times I can fix the fence and pretend to feed the cows before my mind starts wandering off) I tried to include Anna in them. She enthusiastically obliged but then I somehow found myself, in addition to the Samuel-level game of beep beep, tractor, moo, baa-a, also playing a complicated love-triangle saga involving three polly-pockets taking riding lessons at the farm, Jeremy (the teenage son of the farmer who was rather lazy and forgetful but hopelessly in love with polly pocket no. 1), and a dramatic fall complete with broken legs and ambulances. Talk about going from one extreme to another.

Aksel's back tomorrow. Yippee! I'm looking forward to some adult conversation.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Too busy to blog

What is it about the end of the school year? We are heading in a frenzy towards the last week of Grade 1 and in the past few days I have attended or been invited to attend:
  • A football match, Anna was a defender and was very pleased with the silver medal awarded to the runners up ( they lost 3-4)
  • The Lucky Viking - A musical performance staring all the school - Anna was middle of the middle row of the chorus, singing the first and last songs. Could just glimpse her through the small K1 children and the ambitious lighting. Thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. And as an aside, think the teachers were really brave for putting this on.
  • Grade 1 open house - this was yesterday, the children recited their poems etc about the vikings. I just made it with about 30 seconds to spare - literally grabbed Sam up from his nap and threw him in the car. Fed him handfuls of raisins throughout the whole thing to keep him quiet.
  • Activity Day - this is tomorrow, another middle of the day one - running around, cheering on the School houses and dressing in the appropriate colours. Even providing snacks in the right colours (red - I'm thinking watermelon, if I manage to get to the supermarket today).
  • Grade 1 end of year party - on the weekend this one, more running around, more snacks - wouldn't be so bad schedule wise, only I've double-booked myself and I'm not sure how to get out of it!
  • Another whole school end of year party - on the beach, running around, more food platters to be conjured up

Even Sam's nursery is getting in on the act and we are supposed to participate in an Arbejdsdag, the Sommerfest, the Bondegårdstur, the fælles frokost, and so on. Not to mention the forældresamtale, where they tell you what a harmonious and advanced baby you have (as if we didn't already know that).

In reality I think these events are less to do with the children and more to do with the parents. But they often have little respect for the working parent's schedules (even those part-time-flexible-schedule-working-from-home-types) or those with extra little children running around.. and in these last few weeks it has been tough for me to keep up. And I don't think I am the only one...not all the parents managed to make it to this open house thing and it must be hard to be the little girl or boy who is one of the only ones in the class not showing off their folder to an adoring adult.

All these things really eat into the little time I have available to work. Might be also to do with the fact that I have a work project going on at the moment that is giving me a headache and it isn't helping that my PC seems to have caught some major infestation that makes it go so slow that I feel like I am back in 1990 (remember that, when it was normal to wait minutes for pages to load?).

Anyway, all I have to do is find those errant reading books and get Anna to return them to school before her last day. Figure out some time to get to the physiotherapist appointments (to fix my messed up arms - a result of trying to do much of all this one-handed with Sam on my hip). And plan delicious dish(es) to take with me to all these events (do you think I can get away with a packet of biscuits? No, I think not).

Oh, and throw some clothes in the washing machine, unless it is appropriate to turn up half dressed.

(I obviously have no time to blog. Oh, that's right. It's called procrastinating.)

Saturday, 13 June 2009


We've just had really torrential rain. All day yesterday and all night it rained. I got soaked to the skin just running to the car to pick up Anna from school. And it has gone all cold too. Since we have more or less decided that we are not going anywhere for the summer holidays, I am hoping that this is not an indicator of the summer to come.
It is hard to imagine that just last weekend we were doing this:

And this:
And this:

This was taken at the beach up in Hornbæk. Anna was actually very brave because the water was still really cold.

And they've also been doing this:They were talking about the stuff that they like. Which inspired Aksel and I to do this:

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark?

We've been up to Elsinore Castle, Kronbørg, to visit the royal opening of Farmor's exhibition Pomp and Propaganda. And when we say "Royal opening" we mean the Danish Queen was there. Making a speech. Talking to my mother-in-law about her tapestry. Enjoying the exhibition, wandering around amongst the ordinary folk. It was all very relaxed. I was quite surprised by the lack of security. I mean, the event was by invitation only, but really ours was barely looked at at the door and we were allowed to take many bags and a pushchair into the building. If someone had wanted to make a scene, or attempt something terrible, it would have been fairly easy to pull off.

I think it was partly the location that got me thinking along these lines... afterall, Kronborg is the true location of Shakespeare's Hamlet and that had plenty of murdererous goings on within that royal family. You'd think in today's modern world, there would be more security around the Danish monarch. It is not as though Denmark hasn't made itself some enemies lately...

Anyway, something was definitely not rotten in the state of Denmark - at least not yesterday. The exhibition was really great and one my mother-in-law can feel very proud of.

When we decided it was time to bundle ourselves home as Samuel and Anna probably had about 5 minutes of good behaviour left between them, we tried to find Farmor to say goodbye.

We found out that she was not available because at that moment she was in one of Kronborg's towers, weaving for the queen.

Sounds like something out of a fairytale.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Grandma is visiting

And she is a big hit with Samuel. Not least because she has lots of patience to play ball, drive cars, play peek-a-boo, and read stories. One of the best things about Grandma's visit (according to Samuel) is the book she bought with her - Tom's Cat by Charlotte Voake. The front cover features a cat on a motorbike - A Cat on a Motorbike - In Samuel's world things don't get much better than that. We are already on about the 1000'th reading.

Mi-aow! V-room!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

What I am reading

I just finished reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It was a really fantastic, terrifying, traumatic, and harrowing read that I just could not put down. It reminds you to hold on to to the people you love just a little tighter and to appreciate that beauty and goodness are all around us. It is a haunting book.

Before this one, I just finished The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.

Other than that, work wise I am reading some extremely tricky descriptions of paintings and sculptures that I am trying to translate.

And I am dipping in and out of Anna's Harry Potter book again along with her. We're just getting to the big finale.

And I am reading What Shall We Do Blue Kangaroo? by Emma Chichester Clark to Samuel many many times. Along with I love you, Blue Kangaroo, they are definite favourites. He loves them. Especially the part when the baby says "Goo goo, boo gangaloo!"

Waiting by my bed is The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. I loved the Lovely Bones, so I hope this is just as good.

Edited to add that I just got The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz in the fat parcel that arrived from Amazon today. Along with The Angel's Game (from the author of Shadow of the Wind) and a Jaqueline Wilson something for Anna that she has already started. Now all I need is some uninterrupted hours for reading.

Monday, 1 June 2009

What Anna is reading

Anna is a prolific reader and really this post deserves a whole blog of its own!This picture was taken a week or so ago when Anna was reading the 6th Harry Potter. As you can see she was nearly finished with it. She is currently about half way through the final book. I keep asking her if she understands what is going on and she seems to be really getting it and enjoying the story and the characters. Occasionally she will ask me what a word means, but not very often. Anna loves reading. She describes it herself as "diving in" to a book and she will gladly get "lost" for hours on end, immersed in a story. It is a great pleasure for me to see her enjoying books that I have really enjoyed too and remember as a child.
She has several books on the go at the same time. And can often be found enjoying Aksel's comic books too, including Viggo and TinTin.
She also loves the Roald Dahl books and has read and re-read many of them. I just asked her which one is her favourite and she said Matilde.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Sister and brother

There is exactly 6 years between them (give or take a few hours). They are wildly different. But they still have a lot in common. And so far they seem to like each other - most of the time.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The one about the pigeon

I don't have any phobias as such (and as a former psychologist in another life, I know the proper definition for one). But if I did have a certain Big Dislike of something it would be birds in confined places. Or perhaps more specifically, birds flying around inside my house.

Once, a few years ago, I was working from home and was on the phone to Important New Client, explaining how great my company was and the sort of work we could do for him and how professional we were, and so on. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed our cat go past the office and into the bathroom, with something in its mouth. I followed, just out of curiousity, still talking to INC. And was quite horrified to see cat and bird sitting in the shower, playing together. At this point I am not sure why I didn't make some excuse on the phone and hang up - but I didn't. I carried on with a perfectly normal conversation while running downstairs, and finding the biggest saucepan I could. By this point, cat and bird had followed me downstairs (or rather, cat had convinced bird using unfair means to come with him). I managed to shooooo-oo the cat away, trap bird under the saucepan and shuffle it out the window. And then thank the customer kindly for the big juicy project I just landed.

I am telling this story just so you know that I am not a complete wuss in a bird-emergency situation, but I would really really rather let someone else deal with it if at all possible.

Which brings me to the one about the pigeon. A few nights ago I woke up to what sounded like Anna playing with beads outside our bedroom door. It was a bit too early to get up and if she wanted to play with beads she could do it elsewhere, I told her. But Aksel told me to be quiet because Anna was still sleeping. And so was he. And to shhhh because it was just some animal on the roof or something.

But yesterday I was in the office, which is downstairs under our bedroom, and heard a scritch scratch scratch and being the girly that I am I waited til Aksel got home to further investigate. The office is next to the chimney and Aksel thought something was stuck in there. He opened the flue while I made a hasty move towards the door. Then he asked me to get him some gloves. Not those ones he said when I came back with some ordinary winter gloves. My skiing gloves, he said. The extra long ones.

Luckily, my brave husband has no problem with birds in confined spaces and he reached in and rescued a rather grumpy and stupid but otherwise completely fine pigeon and set it free out the window. While I crouched out of sight behind the kitchen cabinet - you know, just in case the bird could get me.
Aksel even vacuumed up the feathers. He really is very useful. I am definitely keeping him.

Anna's joining the circus

Anna asked me if I would paint her face. I quickly calculated whether I could manage it in between making lunch and saving Sam as he moved the chair to exactly the right place so that he could stand on it and then have much better access to all the forbidden items that had been placed there to be out of his reach - and decided that I probably could manage it.

Of course, I ended up doing it one-handed as face painting was definitely something Sam wanted to be UP for so that he could see what was going on. Nevertheless, Anna and I had fun painting her face and then she disappeared off upstairs.

A bit later she re-appeared and treated us all to a fabulous circus performance. Samuel is her biggest fan.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The weekend

  • MIL's birthday brunch went down well - plenty of pancakes, strawberries, scrambled eggs, melon, and chocolate croissants for all. And Anna and Sam were both in good spirits. Anna set the table nicely and made 71st birthday card for Farmor.
  • Anna finished reading the 6th Harry Potter book and made a Firebolt (a Harry Potter inspired broomstick) and designated part of her room as a "Harry Potter room", complete with posters, and Quidditch banners
  • Anna & I picked flowers in the garden and both filled a couple of vases with lilac
  • And post arrived from England with survival items...proper teabags, Thorton's chocolate...

  • Sick sick sick..Aksel & I were both feeling under-the-weather with a flu-ey type cough/cold thing that just won't shift, zaps your energy, and makes you wish you could curl up with a hot drink, chocolate and a good film, with no-one bothering you for 90 minutes of uninterrupted relaxation (I must admit, we often feel like this at other times, even without the cold)
  • Sam spiking a 39,7 fever Saturday night and waking at 5.30 am this morning (thankfully went back to sleep again)... We are diagnosing post-MMR reaction (9 days ago he got the vaccination) and fingers crossed it has gone by tomorrow, but he was a ball of need and grumpiness today
  • I stubbed my toe so hard I saw stars and had to bite my lip not to swear all sorts of words that I hope I never say in front of my children. It is still hurting now but I can wiggle it so I guess it is not broken.
  • I accidentally trod on what I can only assume was a blood-filled-tick that had fallen off the cat. I heard a loud sp-la-at and looked down to see blood squished everywhere. Eeeugh! At least I had socks on.
  • And the weekend is over already. I need another one to recover.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Samuel words

You are trying really hard to communicate with us and you make your feelings known in no uncertain terms when you don't get what you want. You are just 17 months old - we are a just a little bit nervous of the two-year-old + tantrums ahead, as you are already putting on a good show.

You understand everything we say and can follow quite complicated instructions (if it suits you). You can say:
  • Hi
  • hej hej
  • An-na
  • Dad-dee
  • Mum-mee
  • mi-a-ow
  • cheers
  • cheese
  • baa
  • cuck-oo
  • dog
  • Brmm-brum! (when he sees a car or a motobike),
  • uh-oh!
  • gynge-gange
  • key
  • door
  • up
  • apple
  • quack (kind of)

You can make the clip-clop sound like a horse, and blow air out like a horse does when it is hot.
You can nod your head and shake your head but it is not always what you mean.

You like being tickled and cuddled and hung upside down. You like reading stories with us and will choose the book and take us by our hands to come and sit down with you.

You love going to fetch Anna from school and you are delighted when Daddy comes home - Da-da-dad-DEE!

We can’t imagine life without you.