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

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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…

To the new (illegal) owner of my iPhone

Shame on you.

I don’t know who you are or what you look like, but I know you’ve tried making four calls to Romania since you pilfered my phone yesterday.

But you do know who I am, and you know what I looked like when you stole my phone. You know I was bending over my little boy, trying to comfort him. You know I was a worried mother, caring for her son, and that I put my phone down to give him my full attention. You know I wasn’t thinking about you or about my phone but only about my child for that one moment. You know I was vulnerable and you took advantage.

Shame on you.

I don’t expect you to care about me, really, but I do wonder how you will brag to your friends about your Big Score. Will you tell them you took it from a mother who used that phone to communicate with her husband, with her family and with her friends? Will you tell them you stole a little boy’s favorite toy, and all the photos and videos captured by our family life? Will you tell them that you took it out of a mother’s diaper bag when she was distracted by her child?

Seriously? How low can you possibly be to steal from a mother’s diaper bag?

I don’t know you, but I bet your mother knows what you look like. And I bet she would be ashamed if she knew who you really are.

Trust me, I’m a mother. And this I know.

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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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?

Say it like you mean it

Picture this….

My little boy, not quite two years old, last night pointed his finger at me, stomped his miniature foot to the ground, scrunched up his face and said “NO!” in his best possible Mommy impersonation.

Talk about looking in a mirror.

He wasn’t even fighting against anything at the moment – I wasn’t trying to dress or undress him or change his diaper or give him a bath or wash his face or do any of the other 1,000 things that would usually elicit such a response. We were just in the bedroom laying out his pajamas for bedtime and his pulls this little act out of nowhere.

I couldn’t help myself, I just burst out laughing. My child has become a parrot, mirroring back to me unfiltered snippets of everything he sees and hears throughout the day. He walks up to our dog and says, “Cara, OUT!” for no reason at all, thereby banishing her from wherever she was relaxing. He must have picked that up from us, right? Our poor old dog spends her days wandering from room to room according to her young prince’s pleasure.

He sits at the table and simultaneously asks, “Juice? Cheese? Banana? Cookie?” I’m almost certain he doesn’t know what he’s requesting, but he’ll continue attempting different combinations of those four words until he gets something on his plate that suits his mood. The other day, I gave him spaghetti and meatballs in response to his request for cookies and he smiled triumphantly up at me, as if he knew all along that he’d eventually get his own way.

I fear such successful Mommy-trickery is doomed to be short-lived.

Most surprisingly, he says “Adios!” to our Spanish helper as we leave the house in the morning, and yet he somehow understands to say “Ha det!” in farewell to his Norwegian Pappa and daycare teachers. It’s remarkable that he can somehow differentiate the use of two – even three – languages within his tiny toddler brain. How does that work? Can I go back in time please and learn a new language with such apparent ease? Pretty please?

It’s such a fun age, but also quickly puts your life into sharp perspective. Why does he learn to say “no” more quickly than “I love you“? Of course I understand the reason why, but I suppose in an ideal world it would be the opposite way around. We all want to believe that we nurture and inspire our little ones all the time, not that we hold them back at every turn.

The silver lining among these thoughts is the other new trick he’s picked up lately…. mimicking kissing like Mommy and Pappa. In this case, he’s plants a 100% joy-filled, open-mouthed, sloppy, toothy and wonderful kiss on my lips when I pick him from his nursery in the afternoons.

Now that’s the kind of mirror I like to see.

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Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….

Cutting of the hair

I’ve been known to travel a good, long distance for a haircut. Especially with curly hair, I consider it a worthwhile investment in my own personal happiness to get a class-act cut. Every time I travel to the US, I scope out salon reviews in advance to locate curly-friendly stylists within driving distance of my destination. Last year, over the Christmas holidays, I drove 1.5 hours outside of Orlando to just such a salon. My father was horrified. And I still threaten Pappa P that I’m going to make a special return trip to our wedding site in Amalfi, Italy just to get my hair cut again by the fabulous-o Andrea.

Totally worth it, in my opinion.

Naturally, I’m now subjecting my son to the same level of insanity. I am fiercely protective of my son’s storybook curly locks. My friends, husband and family tease me about it relentlessly. But I don’t care. How can I not be careful when this is what’s at stake:

So not just any hair salon will do for my little one, no sir!

With Pappa out of town, I packed the two of us into the car today and drove 60 kilometers away to this shopping centre in Las Palmas. Now, I realize all you slightly-more-sane people out there think that’s a long way to drive for a kid’s haircut. And you’re probably right. But I’d been searching all over for one of those fun-themed kids’ salons, and I finally struck gold:

Cars and trucks and toys and songs and films…. oh my!

With so many distractions, my typically-restless little boy was completely struck dumb. He sat quietly in his green army truck “salon chair” for the entire ten minutes of the haircut. This is approximately 7 minutes longer than he’s ever sat anywhere since he started walking five months ago.

The result….?

Curly locks still in full force = a happy mommy and a content little boy!

(And let’s be real here folks – the haircut is really all about mommy’s pleasure and actually has very little, if anything, to do with the kid….If you haven’t learned that by now, you’ve been missing out.)

Just photos

The Svendsen family is finally – finally! – taking a two-week holiday off the island. We’re heading back to our old Oslo stomping grounds, then on to Bratislava for some much-needed time with dear friends.

We’ll be offline while we travel, so here are some recent photos of our full-fledged Fidel to tide everyone over until our return.

Old enough now to enjoy our neighborhood park…

… and crazy about cars at our local shopping centre:

Braving the heat in the pool at Pappa’s hotel

… and also in the sea:

I hand-on-the-bible promise this was Per Christian’s own idea:

Keepin’ it cool in Gran Canaria:

See you all again in a few weeks!

Fashion trend alert!

Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls….

This fall’s hottest fashion must-have is a pair of brown suede shoes! Here to model the latest styles straight off the Parisian toddler runways is our very own P&P star…

(UPDATE MARCH, 2014: Photos have been removed due to privacy concerns)

Modeling agencies may kindly contact P&P staff directly for any future employment inquiries. Good behavior and actual smiles at the camera cannot be guaranteed at any time.

(Note to concerned grandparents everywhere… we do usually dress our child. But we bought him a new pair of fall shoes and he is 100% head-over-heels bonkers about them. Anytime we open the closet doors, he emits a high-pitched screeching noise while pointing to his new shoes. Even in the midst of getting dressed in the morning…. what’s a mother to do to keep the peace but let her son walk around in his diaper and new shoes?)

Really.

A taste of Tenerife

This past weekend, the Svendsens left town. Just like that – no huff, no puff. We just quietly and simply ske-dattled our way off the island. Pappa Svendsen had a rare and luxurious three-day weekend available, so we booked a hotel, loaded the car and hopped the ferry to Tenerife.

We were not disappointed. I’m not sure if it was just the change of scenery or the much-needed time away as a family, but we loved this place. We stayed away from the southern beach resort area (that scene is too close to home), and stayed instead at the lovely Hotel Botanico in northern Puerto de la Cruz.

My first impression was, “Wow! Green! Greengreengreen!” After months on our own dry, parched island, the presence of green grass and green trees and green gardens was a sight for sore eyes. As soon as we drove off the ferry, the highway took us up above the cloud line and along the coast towards Puerto de la Cruz. When we arrived at the hotel, Per Christian was let loose to explore the suite while we sipped our Cava on the terrace with this view:

I know I’m like a broken record here, but…. “Hurrah for green!”

We had no plans other than to just relax and spend time together – Per Christian, on the other hand, had all kinds of plans of his own. And they all included ditching Mommy & Pappa at every possible moment and exploring every nook and cranny within reach. If there was any baby pooch still left on my body, it’s definitely disappeared since Per Christian discovered his walking legs. No longer is he content to sit on the floor and play or sit at the table and eat – heeeeeellll no! Now it’s all walking, all the time.

Finally, though, we did manage to get our hands on the little bugger and keep him close:

Traveling with a small baby has taught us (at least) one very important life lesson – never underestimate the power of a baby monitor! This little apparatus and it’s companion iPhone application allowed us to enjoy a long leisurely lunch by the pool while PC napped in the room, plus we managed a full three-course meal at the hotel restaurant in the evening. We did get a babysitter on Saturday night so we could actually leave the hotel and have a date night in town, but for any other time, we can’t recommend enough the value of a good baby monitor.

Before heading back to Canaria, we had to check out the famous Mount Teide, the largest mountain in Spain at 3718m. These photos don’t do it a bit of justice, but they’re the best I could manage from the car window. Heaven forbid we actually stop the car and disrupt somebody’s nap (and our quiet time)!

All in all, I highly recommend including Tenerife in anyone’s plans for the Canary Islands. We only had three days and didn’t want to stress out with too many activities, but I’m sure we could have easily spent a week there and found plenty to do. As long as there’s a good deal of walking space available for our little guy, then everyone’s happy!

Just like Pappa

I seem to remember something from high school psychology class about an Oedipus complex among young boys – how they’re subconsciously in love with their mothers and therefore jealous and vengeful towards their fathers.

My son, apparently, has skipped that lesson. I wrote here about how Per Christian loves his morning bathroom time with Pappa. More recently, he’s started waving bye-bye and giving kisses to Pappa as he leaves the house every morning (kisses are apparently exclusively reserved for Pappa – Mommy gets no such lovin’).

And now, here’s the latest Pappa-pantomine to come into our little one’s head…..

Even more impressive is how Per Christian’s already following Pappa’s lead about where to put the underwear when he’s finished with it…

(NOTE – my husband does actually place his underwear in the laundry basket on a daily basis. But someone’s mischievous little hands have recently started pulling clothes OUT of the basket and spreading them around the house for Mommy to pick up again. Is the father or son to blame here….? You be the judge.)