My toddler’s one true love (in photos)

If you look at the world through the eyes of a 2-year-old, there’s a lot to love. There’s play-time and cuddle-time and story-time and bath-time. There’s the great outdoors, which in Gran Canaria means the beach and the sand and the water and never-ending days of sunshine. And there are special treats throughout the day – the simplicity of yogurt with Cheerios or red, individually-sized boxes of raisins.

These things are all great in my son’s eyes. But nothing – and I mean nothing – can beat the pure love, joy and spiritual intimacy my son shares with ice cream. He’s a completely unbiased purveyor of the frozen treat…. any flavor, any shape and any size will do, thankyouverymuch. It’s often messy and often requires a change of clothing afterwards. But it’s always, always beloved.

So without any further ado, here’s a chronological compilation of Per Christian’s affair with his one true love, past and present…








Good thing they have ice cream in Istanbul, too!

Summer in Seville

The Svendsen clan was lucky enough to actually get away for a real summer holiday this year, something we haven’t done since Per Christian was three months old and we went to Greece for 10 days. That was a hell of a trip, to say the least – a real introduction to how our holidays would NEVER be the same again.

This year, I was insistent upon visiting “The Mainland,” believing in my heart of hearts that living in resort-dominated Gran Canaria was not the same as seeing Spain. So we joined forces with some good friends who have a son relatively equal in age and energy to our own, and we rented this villa together in the Ronda mountains of southern Spain for a week.

Pappa P and I spent a few days in Seville with Per Christian before we drove south, which suitably heightened my itch for a return to urbane life ASAP. Seville is a lovely city, complete with an ancient, cobble-stoned pedestrian area, a lively city centre with plenty of shopping, and oodles and oodles of tapas bars to quench our boredom with Canarian papas con mojo.

In typical Svendsen fashion, we were hopelessly lame tourists and took zero photographs in Seville. Forgive me, grandmothers. I’m afraid Per and I have never been good at the whole castle/museum/cathedral shin-dig, preferring instead to spend our time mindlessly wandering the streets in between stops for tapas and cava.

And how about Per Christian, you ask? How did we manage with a two-year-old in the midst of all this cava? Somewhat surprisingly, it was just fine! He walked around with us, slept when he was tired, charmed the waitresses into giving us better service, and pointed out all the buses, cars, taxis and horses along the way – just in case we didn’t happen to see them ourselves. I think his favorite part was the hotel room itself (thank you El Rey Moro hotel for the lovely service and babysitter arrangements) and he adored the TV channel that played Top Gear on continuous repeat.

Truth be told, Pappa P and his son were equally pleased with that little discovery.

So, unfortunately, we have very few photos of the holiday, but here are the few existing shots to help soothe the hearts of our love-sick Grandmothers out there:

Future career opportunity...?

Future career opportunity…?

Pappa offers the best skyline view

Pappa always offers the best skyline view

Don't be fooled - that cute, little Sivert can really pack a punch!

Don’t be fooled – that sweet little man can really pack a punch!

The boys were delighted with the horses in the mountains

The boys were delighted with the horses in the mountains

See....?! It's the best view!

See….?! It’s the best view!

Two-on-one iPad time. Wine essential.

Two-on-one iPad time. Wine essential.

Listen up, ladies... Handsome pappas = cute babies.

Listen up, ladies… Handsome pappas = cute babies.

I don't know. Really. I just don't know.

I don’t know. Really. I just don’t know.

Upon returning to the island, Per Christian received critical "sharing" lessons from his pappa. We're still working on it...

Upon returning home, Per Christian received critical “sharing” lessons from Pappa. We’re still working on it.

Dear Per Christian…

First off, let’s get a few things straight.

I understand you’re two years old and in a strange developmental stage of possessiveness. But that ends where mommy’s closet begins. Although it’s quite amusing to come into my bedroom and see you wearing three of my bras and insisting that they are yours….

They are not.

I understand your sleep patterns are changing, but it would be great if you could still go straight to sleep as soon as I put you in bed. And preferably no later than 6 o’clock, thank you very much. Mommy likes to have her first glass of “mommy juice” right around that time, but your later bedtime these past few weeks is beginning to interfere.

It’s all about priorities, you know.

I understand your curiosity is developing about how mommy makes your food, but I’m not sure the counter-top is the best place for you to observe. You seem to have developed an addiction to sniffing our pepper grinder, even though it makes you compulsively sneeze every time. And sneezing makes you giggle (it always has, you’re so odd…), so you end up sneezing and giggling and giggling and sneezing and then I’m laughing so hard watching you that I stop paying attention and whatever I’m making for you gets ruined.

Yeah, so cut that out.

I understand you’re increasingly inquisitive about how things work, especially cars and planes and trains and motorcycles and helicopters. But that does not mean you can vehemently insist that mommy stops watching Masterchef so you can watch race cars and steam trains on YouTube.

I was here first.

I understand that you are learning new words every day, but it would be great if you shared the inside workings of your brain with us slower folk. Three languages in one sentence can take a while to decipher, even though we mask our confusion by nodding and saying “mmm-hmm” to whatever it is you’re spouting.

We’ll catch up with you eventually.

And while we’re on the topic of language, “momma” is not synonymous with or a replacement for any of the following phrases —- “help me,” “give me,” “I want,” “I need,” “I must have ice cream or I will perish immediately.”

Oh, and the songs? The singing? And by “singing” I mean the joyful shouting at the top of your lungs with something that barely resembles language and/or tone?

That can stay.

Despite (or because of…) all the above, Momma and Pappa love you in all your outlandish, mysterious, rambunctious and mischievous glory. Thank you for being two.

Never change,


PS – you know that crazy, spontaneous giggle thing you do in the middle of the night, when I know you’re happily, deeply buried in Slumberland? Please, please, please keep doing that. Mommy loves it.

Mommy sove

Per Christian has developed a new game lately, one that I’m doing my best to encourage.

It happens when we’re snuggled together in bed or on the sofa — it’s our so-called “cozy time” that lasts all of 2.4 seconds before he’s off and running again.

But sometimes, when the stars are aligned and the gods are in my favor, he’ll turn to me and say, “Shhhh…Mommy sove…” (aka – “mommy’s sleeping,” in English). He’ll close my eyelids with his fingertips, curl up next to me and lay there for at least 10 seconds (I’ve counted). He’ll peek up at me to make sure I’m not cheating and that my eyelids are still closed (which they always are because, duh).

I do an excellent rendition of a sleeping Mommy, all in a selfless pursuit of encouraging my son’s developing imagination and fostering his long-term creativity. Sometimes he even moves away and plays quietly on his own because, “Shhhh! Mommy sove…

Mommy’s favorite game.

Point of view

My son loves cars. And trains. And motorcycles. And planes.

Especially planes.

I don’t remember when this love affair began, but Per Christian has panic attacks of excitement whenever we drive past the airport. I’m not sure it’s possible to yell “PLANE!” louder or with more frequency than he does in the 30 seconds it takes us to drive by. I think planes are in his DNA, inherited from the many pilots on the paternal side of his gene pool.

So I didn’t pay too much attention when he started yelling, “plane!plane!plane!” in the mornings as we were walking down the steps to our garage. I assumed he was imagining his toy plane upstairs, or maybe his Elias and the Plane book waiting for him in his car seat.

Or maybe he’s thinking about cats. Who knows.

But then it happened again, and again, and again… So I finally stopped this morning and asked him, “Where is the plane, sweetie? Can you show mommy the plane?”

Here’s the view of a 2-year old walking down our stairs. Can you find his plane?


Here’s a closer look. How about now. Can you find the plane….?


Ah, yes!!! There it is!


Okay, so not really a plane per se, but still something flying through the air with wings. Only a fantastic, creative 2-year-old mind sees a laundry basket and dreams of planes.

Weekend at Bernie’s

I’d had some experience now taking care of Per Christian alone while Pappa P is traveling. And, like I mentioned here and here, it hasn’t always gone smoothly.

However, this most recent weekend was a glorious exception. Pappa was away on business and then a self-invented “while-I’m-in-Europe-I-might-as-well-see-some-football” kind of trip, so I’ve been on my own with our little two-year-old for the last five days. And – miracles upon miracles! – during that entire time, nobody was ill, nothing stopped working, nothing burned down and no body parts were lost.

Miracles, indeed.

I bought myself one bottle of white wine on Wednesday and am only now having my last glass. One bottle for five nights of drinking alone – that’s about normal, right? I don’t even know anymore.

I think this was arguably my first single-parent weekend that went off without a hitch. Enjoyable, even. Per Christian is at such a great exploration age, he loves his cars and trucks and trains and books (as long as they’re about cars and trucks and trains), and I’ve found no better entertainment for my son than a body of water and a big pile of rocks.

It’s parenting in high-gear, folks, and I’m finally catching on.

They’re forecasting a spot of rain for Canaria tomorrow, which I’ll welcome with open arms. Just as long as Pappa’s plane doesn’t get delayed – miracles can only last so long and I’m not taking any chances.

Our new foster dog Kira loves little blond Norwegian boys

Our new foster dog Kira apparently has a thing for  Norwegian boys. Don’t we all?

Saturday morning pj's

Saturday morning pj’s

Destined to be a runner!

Destined to be a runner!

Water. Rocks. Dog. Several minutes in a row of quiet amusement.

Water. Rocks. Dog. Several actual minutes in a row of quiet amusement.

Sunday morning pj's

Sunday morning pj’s

"Helping" mommy with the dishes

“Helping” mommy with the dishes

I don't know why our son looks like a girl here - maybe time for another hair cut?

I don’t know why our son looks like a girl here – maybe time for another hair cut?

New dog, same dog-walking technique...

New dog, but same dog-walking technique…

No day is complete without mommy being suckered into ice cream

No day is complete without mommy being suckered into dishing out some ice cream…

The little things

A friend here recently shared a quote with me:

The greatest thing about being a parent is all the little things your child does everyday that make you smile… the worst thing is not being able to remember them all.

So perfect, and so very, very true.

In an effort to not forget, we’ve put together a somewhat random list of the goofy 2-year-old things that make us laugh these days.

(Note of Disclaimer – I  just read J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, which scared the beejeezus out of me about ever having a miserable teenager in the house. I may need to reread this list in 11 years to remember that I didn’t always want to disown my offspring…)

Anyway, The List:

  • Min! Min! – This morning, I took CIMG2594a taste of Per Christian’s oatmeal and he pushed me away saying, “Det er min!” (it’s mine). Yesterday, we visited Pappa at work and all the writing apparatus on his desk were “min, min!” That being said, he’s surprisingly good at sharing, even with The Holy Grail of his life these days (hint – it begins with “ice” and ends with “cream”).
  • My son is a bossypants in multiple languages. If I sit down for even a minute, he’s pushing me off the chair saying, “come on! come on!” If I linger too long with some other parents, he’s out the door yelling “vamos!” at me from the car park. If I read his mind incorrectly and give him the wrong yogurt/fruit/bread/juice/etcetcetc, he says, “nei! denne! denne!” (that one!) while pointing to god-only-knows-what. And heaven help us if we’re Skyping with Gran and Grandad in the U.S. when it’s time for his Curious George cartoons – then he waves wildly at the computer camera and yells, “Byebye! See you!” every 30 seconds until we end the conversation. Our little Fidel is living up to his reputation.
  • My son has a harem of three little girls that he loves from his barnehagen. They are – (in descending levels of infatuation) “Mila!” (aka – Jamila), “Ikke-berg!” (Ingeborg), and “Isa!” (this one he gets right, more or less). If he’s in a grumpy mood in the morning and I need to get him going faster, I just remind him that one of these lovely ladies is awaiting his arrival at the barnehagen (if he’ll just hurry-the-F-up, ahem…). It puts a smile on his face and a skip in his step every time. Men are such simple creatures.
  • Despite his love of the ladies, Per Christian can still CIMG2600hold his own with the big boys. At least he tries. I watch with a mixture of pride and fear whenever he plays with a group of older boys, who are all so much taller and more solid and less fragile that my son. He might not run as fast or climb as high (yet), but he doesn’t ever quit. He loves to chase and be chased and always pumps his arms like he’s just about to cross some imaginary finish line. We used to think the arm-pumping was strange, but now I think it makes him destined to be on Oxford’s Blue Team of something-or-other.
  • Every meal time ends with him saying, “ferdig!” (finished), followed promptly by, “ball! ball!” No matter how much or how little he’s eaten by then, the Mommy feeding window has closed and the meal is over.
  • We have a bit of a clothes fetish going on at the moment. Not a specific type of clothing, just the need for clothes in general. You’d think a young boy being raised in constant sunshine and warm weather would basically live in his diaper or bathing suit. But not our fastidious little man – he demands shirt, pants, socks and shoes. Always. I sense it’s only a matter of time before he starts demanding french-cuff shirts and raiding his Pappa’s cufflink collection. Like father, like son
  • His fussiness about clothing extends IMG_0547(naturally) to his hands. A smudge of morning oatmeal on his little pinky elicits a loud-pitched, “Oh nei!” A bit of yogurt dribbling down his hand? “Oh nei!” A trace of dirt under his nails? “Oh nei!” This attention to detail does not, however, extend to his face. Our kid is the one excessively washing his hands in the sink while his face is happily covered with chocolate ice cream.
  • After months of repetitive ABC singing, our little parrot is starting to catch on. His melody is actually pretty solid, but the letters are somewhat random in their order. There’s nothing quite like waking up at 7am to the sound of your child singing, “ABCFGHK…QMNP….XYZ!” Sing it loud and sing it proud, my son.

There are of course a ton more, and the tragedy is that I can’t remember them all now. What about your own little ones? How will you remember all the daily miracles?

For the grandmothers

As I wrote about before, my mother gets a little antsy when too much time passes without photos of her grandson. I expect that my mother-in-law feels the same, but she’s too polite to actually say anything.

So for all the grandmothers out there (and the rest of Per Christian’s fan club), here are some highlights from his world recently. He’s about to celebrate his second birthday on Saturday – we wish you could all be here!

Ski holiday in Austria (Farmor was present, Gran missed out...)

Ski holiday in Austria (Farmor was present, Gran missed out…)

Per Christian's recent obsession with coloring (screaming "TEGNE! TEGNE!" was obviously learned at his barnehagen)

Per Christian’s recent obsession with coloring (screaming “TEGNE! TEGNE!” was obviously learned at his Norwegian barnehagen)

Per Christian's #2 obsession - this little mini stroller (girls probably put dolls in their strollers, our sons rolls balls around instead. Go figure.)

Per Christian’s #2 obsession – this little mini stroller (girls probably put dolls in their strollers, our son rolls balls around in his. Go figure.)

Out walking with Pappa

Out walking with Pappa

We asked Pappa for a new puppy, but he said no (which is only moderatly untrue...)

We asked Pappa for a new puppy, but he said no (which is only moderately untrue…)

Finally playing with the IKEA toy seen at every play area ever invented

Finally playing with the one IKEA toy seen at every play area ever invented

Hiking to Roque Noble

Hiking to Roque Noble

My handsome boys

My handsome boys

Chillin' with Pappa

Chillin’ on the terrace with Pappa

This is the one photograph I one with our son actually looking at the camera

I finally own one photograph with my son actually looking at the camera

Time for another haircut!

Time for another haircut!

Enjoying Las Canteras beach in Las Palmas

Enjoying the Las Canteras beach in Las Palmas

Penny for your thoughts....?

Penny for your thoughts….?

Per Christian ran up and down this beach all morning - the boy has running legs of steel!

Per Christian ran up and down this beach all morning – the boy has running legs of steel!

Momma love

Momma love

The uncelebrated milestone

I’ve been a Cold-Hearted Mommy at times.

I’ve seen other mommies tearfully watch their child’s first steps, nostalgic smiles lining their faces and wondering how time passed so quickly.

I, on the other hand, cheered that I no longer had to drag that damn stroller up those damn steps.

I’ve seen other mommies tearfully leaving their little ones at daycare, stifling their mixed feelings of guilt and relief.

I, on the other hand, cheered that I could finally watch Downton Abbey in peace.

I don’t have a baby scrapbook and I don’t have miniature hospital clothes tucked away in a memory chest somewhere. I don’t have adorned photos for each month of his first year, and I don’t remember the precise when, where, or what about his first word.

I’ve approached many of my child’s milestones in typical middle-child “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” fashion, not because I didn’t care, but really just because I didn’t know any better.

But the milestone that really brings tears to my eyes, the one that has me cursing the need of my son to continue to grow – and the one that nobody warned me about! – is the milestone that really, truly and finally has changed my life…

Two-years old = the end of free airplane travel.

So very, very sad, this passing of the free-travel age.

Maybe your little one reached this mark before the airline-mandated age of two, probably when you realized they were too big to sit on your lap without obnoxiously kicking the seat in front of you. Maybe you, like ourselves, stretched the limit as far as possible, employing all possible techniques of seat thievery – we’ve done the aisle-window shuffle plenty of times, hoping that nobody wanted our middle seat and we’d score a spot for free.

But no matter what, when your child turns two, your travel plans get 33% more expensive. All of a sudden, flight tickets for a weekend away are more expensive than the entire house we booked for our summer holidays.

We were never shy about traveling with an infant, as I wrote about here and here and here. We went wherever we wanted and just dragged our baby along. But now, with a full-fare travel companion to pay for, I’m going through a serious case of sticker shock. We’re now grudgingly adjusting our travel plans to be more… ahem… realistic.

And I know it doesn’t just stop here. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg, that there are all kinds of upcoming expenses threatening our Prosecco fund. This is when I realize the universe is still laughing at me. You can take my breasts and my flat stomach and my daily showers and my quiet morning time. You can expose me to a screaming, irrational toddler and smelly diaper changes and mind-numbing hours of Elmo.

But now you’ve taking my airplane tickets. Now I’m pissed.

Fare thee well, weekends in Copenhagen! I’ll miss you, quick little hops to London! I hope we’ll meet again, cozy trips to Oslo for no reason at all! You’ve kept me happy and adventurous for many years, I hope we’ll be reacquainted before too long. Just as soon as we pay off karate classes and music lessons and football tickets and college degrees and weddings and ….. and….. and…

Top Toddler “Non-Toys”

This is the post toy manufacturers don’t want you to read. But I just can’t keep silent any longer.

Toys suck.

I don’t want them to suck. Really, I don’t. I always pop into a toy store when I see one nearby, always hoping there will be something in there that my son will adore. And – let’s be honest here – we’re all hoping that if we find that one perfect toy, our toddlers will sit for hours on end and play happily (i.e – quietly) with themselves.

But that doesn’t happen. Ever. Because toys suck.

So I’m giving up on toys. Sure, I’ve still got them around – all the train sets and stacking blocks and miniature puzzles and those “put-the-shapes-in-the-right-hole” thingy-s. Maybe my 22-month old boy is still too young to appreciate them. But in the meantime, I’m making note of the things he DOES like to play with, and I’m keeping those handy instead.

Here are some top contenders for “non-toy” hits in our own house:

The Bathroom


Counting with Q-tips… 1…2…3…

My son has a field day in the bathroom – it’s a non-toy treasure chest! So many little jars of stuff to stack on the floor, toilet paper to unwind, laundry baskets to empty and refill. And you know that lingering box of tampons collecting dust on your shelves? Excellent toddler fun. Just look at this photo – he’s surrounded by wonderful store-bought toys, but what does my little meatloaf enjoy the most? A giant box of Q-tips, taken downstairs from the bathroom. This, my friends, is true genius at work.

The Kitchen


Our kitchen’s very own grab-bag

You know that giant drawer you have with all the odd-shaped kitchen gadgets? The one that makes you root around in frustration trying to find something that is inevitably not even in there but rather sitting in the dishwasher or on the drying rack?

Yep, perfect non-toy material. Place anything potentially lethal out of reach and then let your little one go wild. My little guy loves the plastic spatulas and the measuring cups and the can opener and the lemon squeezer. It’s like one of those giant grab-bags we used to have in school around Christmas time. You get to reach in, root around for something and then pull out some new treasure. Good stuff.

Along the same lines is the infamously disorganized Tupperware drawer that we all have and hate. And this set of cookie cutters from IKEA. Sure, they require some clean-up when the fun is over, but what’s two minutes of cleaning compared to 10 minutes of quiet playtime?

The Terrace


Not our terrace, but still dirt

I feel fortunate to have a house here in Gran Canaria with a large, sun-filled terrace. Quite naturally, I have loaded up the terrace with all kinds of outdoor playthings – miniature bikes and cars and footballs and child-sized tables and chairs. But what does my little one gravitate to every single time we’re outside?

The dirt.

Yep. Go figure. Ditch the toys that claim to help develop your kids’ motor skills, or that promote productive play or heightened learning or blah blah blah….  Just get yourselves a big pile of dirt and be done with it.

I must admit, however, that Per Christian isn’t actually allowed to play in the dirt. Which means – he receives a loud “Nononononono!” every time he scoops some up from the flower bed and attempts to swallow it. Which means – it’s even more interesting than it was before Mommy said something.

The Grocery Store

Have you ever taken your toddler to the grocery store without actually strapping them into the cart? No?! Try it, really!


Wrapping paper = joy. Trust.

You’re going to think I’m crazy here, but this is honestly one of my favorite things to do with Per Christian at the moment. There’s HUGE non-toy potential in the grocery store!

I’m not talking about doing this on those big once-a-week stock-up shopping trips, but rather the ones where you just pop in for some milk or a few things for dinner. Let them help you carry/drag the mini shopping basket around the store, or pick out the bread from the bakery, or help you place the fruit & veggies into plastic bags.

And when he screams for that roll of wrapping paper that you really don’t need? Eh – let him have the wrapping paper. 1 dollar of cost for you, but then an entire day of amusement for him. Besides that, he’ll be distracted during the inevitable candy vortex that awaits you at the cashier. It’s a win-win!

The Great Outdoors


Must. Have. THIS. Rock.

This one’s a no-brainer, but deserves a mention anyway. No toy on the face of the planet can amuse my toddler like the park. Of course, it’s mostly the dirt and the rocks at the park that he loves so much, but still. You haven’t lived until you’ve sat peacefully for 30 minutes in the sunshine watching your little boy happily hunting for and throwing small pebbles into the lake.

They also have fountains and ducks and climbing gyms at our park, but really it’s all about the rocks for Per Christian. And the dirt.

How about you all? What non-toys are big hits in your own house?