Sunday, February 07, 2016

40, 5 and 3

We have celebrated two birthdays here recently and another one is coming up in less than one week's time.

Isolde was first. On 9 January she turned five. 5! How did that happen?! Her arrival feels like just now and such a long time ago at the same time. (Posts from her previous birthdays, one, two, three and four.)

They say that five is a pretty harmonious age and we have noticed that in the last few months. This time last year was really the opposite. It's quite fascinating how children follow roughly the same development patterns. There are the terrible twos - which I think are really terrible twos and threes (and the Swedish word "trotsåldern" doesn't specify the exact age) - and then there are the f***ing fours, as our American friend here in Brussels calls it. Very accurate description. Isolde was in this phase the first half of last year but it changed after the summer, after 4½. They say 6 is the next difficult phase to get through - I hope we have at least a year before that starts. I know of course that all these phases are good, they are part of children growing up, learning and developing, but it is not always fun for those involved, neither the child itself nor the parents, even if you try to ease the process.

Right now we are enjoying our happy, social, curious, full of energy (but who can also be lazy, especially when it comes to dressing herself or putting her cup or plate away), stubborn, responsible, caring and cuddly girl who loves school (her friends, her teacher and the activities) and drawing/painting and writing letters. Who can tease and annoy her brother but at the same time plays so well with him. Who is fighting about being first (up the stairs or out of the house) but is always making sure that little brother also gets an ice cream or a biscuit. Who likes riding her bike and doing balancing tricks on the scooter. Who is sucking her thumb again after the index finger was demoted but is reassuring us that she doesn't do it at school (but she doesn't want to quite just yet). Who falls asleep rather easy and quickly in the evening but wakes up at night and wants to be close to us and fuel up on love and security and most often sleep next to us the rest of the night. Who still has problem with pronouncing some sounds and gets the word order mixed up in Swedish but is otherwise speaking pretty well (she was a slow starter), and who is finally not only understanding French but speaking it willingly at school and with her little friends and often using it as her role play language (though I cannot guarantee grammatical correctness :-)

Isolde celebrated her birthday with us in the morning of her birthday and with our neighbours and friends later the same day (luckily it was a Saturday) and then she had her first real kids' birthday party, i.e. with just kids and no parents staying, the following Saturday.

Preparing the birthday tray before waking her up with Ja må hon leva (but she was already awake and waiting for us, she told us afterwards).

Happy girl!

"I want to eat  that eclair!"

Elsa! And she got Anna and Kristoff too.

Birthday celebration with our Swedish and Swedish-Spanish friendbours.

Dress-up at Isolde's kids' party

Isolde's cake - one side Ariel, the Little Mermaid, and the other side Frozen - made by Arna.
Time for cake!

Fiskdamm as the finale of course - fishing for a goodie bag

Then it was my turn. The big 4 0. That is even more of a mystery to me. How did THAT happen?! I had a bit of angst the day before, the last day in my thirties, but on the day I felt pretty good thanks to all greetings by email and Facebook and several phone calls from family and friends. Lots of love. The following a day I felt a bit angst again, but I think it's better now. Ask me again in a few months and we'll see. I think it is so strange to think that the next big birthday is 50. Half a century. My parents have just bought a flat in one of those 50+ only buildings and I was thinking "so, another ten years and I can also move there". Shocking thought!

Anyway, I celebrated 40 in style. Parties will have to wait (will probably throw a drink here in Brussels later in the spring when the weather is nicer, and we're having our very belated wedding party/moving-back-to-Sweden party autumn 2017, so that will have to do as 40th parties for us too) but Peter and I hired a babysitter and went out for a very nice meal at one of Brussels two-star restaurants, Sea Grill. Unfortunately Peter had come down with the same vicious virus as both children had had in the previous weeks, one after the other, but he was able to drug himself with some ibuprofen to last through the evening.

Card make by Isolde, flowers from my parents and a bite-size cake

All courses except two - delicious!

Brought a cake to work - managed to get a photo of the last piece

Harald's third birthday is coming up soon. 3 years old! Not a baby anymore and moving from a toddler to a big (little) boy. More about him and his birthday next week (previous birthdays here and here)!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Books and Films 2015 and 2014

Maybe not of any interest to my readers (if there are any left out there..?) but a good way to keep a record for myself.

Read Books 2015
  • "Bakom ljuset" by Åsa Nilsonne
  • "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • "En spricka i kristallen" by Cecilia Gyllenhammar
  • "Kaffe med rån" by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
  • "Expeditionen: Min kärlekshistoria" by Bea Uusma
  • "The Sex Life of My Aunt" by Mavis Cheek
  • "Murder in Mesopotamia" by Agatha Christie
  • "Döden på en blek häst" by Amanda Hellberg
  • "Den brinnande flickan" by Mark Billingham
  • "Den sista frestelsen" by Val McDermid
  • "Död joker" by Anne Holt
  • "I stundens hetta" by Viveca Sten
  • "In Persuasion Nation" by George Saunders
  • "The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil" (novel) by George Saunders

Seen Films 2015
  • The Bridge series +++++
  • The Intern ++++
  • Wall-E ++++
  • The Intouchables ++++
  • Tucker and Dale vs. Evil ++++
  • Paddington ++++
  • The Imitation Game ++++
  • Jurassic World +++
  • Survivor +++
  • Get Hard +++
  • Keeping Mum +++
  • The Interview +++
  • Home ++

Read Books 2014
  • "Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden" by Morgan Spurlock
  • Could not finish "Don't Read This Book If You're Stupid" by Tibor Fischer
  • "Livet efter dig" by Jojo Moyes
  • "Utslag av oro" by Mark Haddon
  • "Strandsommar" by Anita Shreve
  • "Till min dotter i Frankrike" av Stephanie & Barbara Keating
  • "En man som heter Ove" by Fredrik Backman
  • "Mr Rosenblum's List" by Natasha Solomons
  • "Ludmila's Broken English" by DBC Pierre
  • "Ok, amen" by Nina Solomin
  • Started "Analfabeten" by Jonas Jonasson
  • Started "Martina-koden" by Martina Haag

Seen Films 2014
  • Sherlock Holmes series +++++
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel +++++
  • About Time ++++
  • The Grand Seduction ++++
  • Begin Again ++++
  • Frozen ++++
  • Gravity +++
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas +++
  • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit +++
  • The Other Woman +++
  • Lucy ++
  • The Signal ++
  • 22 Jump Street ++
  • The Wolf of Wall Street ++

Friday, January 15, 2016

2015 in Summary

  • Did you do something in 2015 that you have never done before? Experience the joy of having lice (Isolde and me) and pinworm (just Isolde but all of us had to take the medicine for preventive purposes).
  • Did you push through any major change? Potty-training Harald, if that counts :)
  • Did any of your friends become parents this year? Our best friends here in Brussels had number 3 now in December and Peter's sister with family had their no 2 earlier in the year in April. And our friends who moved from Belgium to Wales last October had twins in May this year. And several other friends and acquaintances here in Brussels had babies.
  • Did someone close to you die? Peter's grandmother passed away at the beginning of the year. Always sad to lose a close relative but she was 93+ and not in a very good shape so I think it was a relief for her to be able let go.
  • Which countries did you visit? Sweden (as we live in Belgium), Wales, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, France (twice), England and Luxembourg.
  • Best purchase: A new car with 7 seats so that we can do more sightseeing when we have visitors. A new sofa as well although I think I like the style of our old one better, but we really needed a new one.
  • An important date/day: Peter and I had our fifth wedding anniversary on 1 November 2015 and it was ten years since we met around the same time.
Excursion with the cousins' boat in August 2015

  • Did something make you really happy? The news that my friend Jenny who has lived in Brazil for the last four years was going to move back to Europe and Sweden.
  • Do you miss something during 2015 that you would like in 2016? More visits from family and friends.
  • What do you wish you had done more of? Slept more, mainly gone to bed earlier in the evening. Read more books, travelled more locally where we live (Belgium and surrounding countries), exercised more, gone to museums and exhibitions.
  • What do you wish you did less off? Losing my patience and yelling at the kids.
  • Favourite programme on TV: Bron (The Bridge), The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Julkalendern, documentary about Astrid Lindgren, documentary about the oldest Swedish blogger (103!)
  • Best book you read this year? "Expeditionen: Min kärlekshistoria" by Bea Uusma
  • What was your greatest success at work in 2015? Contribution to the country analysis on Sweden (mainly labour market chapter) and adoption of two funding programmes for Sweden. And that I managed to take French lessons as well.
  • Greatest mistake: Not something really bad, but I wish I would have slept more and done more exercise, i.e. taking more care of my own health. Then maybe I wouldn't have a stiff back now and needing to go to the chiropractor (though it is mainly due to bad work environment - not being able to stand up and work in particular).
  • Were you happier or more sad this year compared to previous years? Not much different from earlier. I'm pretty happy most of the time, but perhaps that there's not enough time for everything I, we, want to do. And I'm worried that Peter is not as happy here in Brussels as I am (mostly because he doesn't have a job and colleagues, etc.).
  • What did you spend most money on? A new car, but otherwise, in terms of running costs, rent (for a marvelous house we really like) and Harald's crèche fees.
  • A wish that came true? Not my wish but my mum had wanted to go to Chelsea Flower Show for a long time and I made that happen (her 60th birthday present from last year but the trip was this year).
  • A wish that did not come true? A job for Peter and more travelling.
  • What did you do on your birthday? Went out to dinner with Petra and Arielle and celebrated at home with Peter and the kids.
  • Is there something that would have made your year even better? A job for Peter, more sleep and less work (in an ideal world).
  • What made you feel good? Time with my family and friends, and work (when it is not too hectic).
  • Who did you miss? All our family and friends in Sweden, and friends in other near or faraway places.
  • The best new people you met? New friends here in Brussels, especially an American family who is moving to Stockholm next so hopefully we will overlap there eventually as well.
  • Describe your style during 2015? Work wear - trousers with a cardigan or a jacket, skirt and cardigan or blouse. Black or blue trousers or skirts and more colour on top.
  • What made you laugh? All the funny, silly and intelligent and ingenious things the kids say. Books and movies.
  • Lessons learned about myself over the past year? Not something I really understood about myself this year - I have known it for a while - but I let it guide me more. So I'm not going to prioritise going to the gym, especially not right now when the kids are still little. Instead I need to enable exercise at home, hence I bought a cross-trainer during the autumn. Admittedly it hasn't been used that much, maybe 5-6 times in the beginning, but I will make a new start now.
  • Did you learn something new in general? Not completely new but I improved my French a little bit.
  • Most proud of: That Harald stopped using nappies. We took it slow and let it take its time during autumn - starting in good time before he'd start school in January (where they have to be potty-trained, except for la sieste - and after 1-2 months he (with our help) had done it. He's still in a nappy at night but 6 out of 7 nights it is dry in the morning, and he doesn't want to wear it so we put it on after he's fallen asleep.
  • Greatest wish right now: That Peter finds a job soon so that we don't have to move to Sweden just yet.
  • What will you do different next year? Prioritise more, maybe take a break from the French lessons this spring as it brings a bit added stress to the work week.
The kids throughout the year

I never get around to doing a annual accounts post every year but I did one for 2013 and a half-year report in 2012 as well as a full-year report for 2011.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Lately on Insta...

I thought I'd get back into the routine of blogging again by recapping what we have done lately with the help of Instagram (as many other bloggers do). So here's what we've been up to:
1. Visit by my aunt and uncle, Bicke and Anders - lego building with Harald. 2. Overnight trip to Luxembourg with Anders and Bicke - ferris wheel at one of the Christmas market in Luxembourg City. 3. Carousel, mulled wine and walking through the old parts of Luxembourg City. 4. Vianden Castle in the north of Luxembourg, near the German border. 

5. Time for this year's Secret Santa/julklappsbyte! 6. First advent calendar with little presents ("paketkalender") for the kids. 7. Beautiful Christmas lights in Stockholm on one of my 5 (!) business trips to Sweden during October-December. 8. First "lussekatt" (saffron bun) of the season on my latest Stockholm trip this week.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Secret Santa / Julklappsbyte 2015!

På svenska längre ner

It's time for the annual* Christmas Gift Exchange! It's a fun Christmas gift swap, often with people from many different parts of the world.

So how does it work?!

All participants will send and receive a Christmas gift!

Email me at komheden (at) hotmail . com by 6 December and provide your name, address, blog url or Instagram (not necessary for participation), three things on your wish list / things you like and three things that is not your cup of tea.

I will send you an email with a name and address of a person as well as the information about what s/he wishes / likes and don't like. You will then send a wrapped gift worth a maximum 100 SEK (10 euros) and a Christmas card to your designated person by 15 December.

Spread the word! The more the merrier!


Det är dags för det årliga julklappsbytet! Det är en rolig julklappsutväxling, ofta med folk från många olika delar av världen (av vilka majoriteten är svenskar pga en blogg- och Instagramgemenskap med svenskar som bor utomlands).

Så hur fungerar det?!

Alla deltagare kommer ge och få en julklapp!

Mejla mig på komheden (at) hotmail . com senaste den 6 december och ange din adress, eventuell bloggadress eller Instagramnamn (ej nödvändigt för att delta), tre saker du önskar / gillar och tre saker som inte är du.

Du kommer sedan få tillbaka ett mejl med en adress till en person samt information om vad hen önskar sig / gillar och inte gillar. Du skickar sedan en inslagen julklapp värd max 100 SEK (10 euro) samt ett julkort till din utvalda person senast den 15 december.

Sprid ordet! Ju fler desto roligare!

Isolde on the lap of Saint Nicholas (two years ago) who is celebrated on 6 December in Belgium, among other countries

* Initiated and most often organised by Emma, and by me last year and again this year. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Our Second Year in Belgium

We have begun our third year here in Belgium - time flies! And I haven't blogged since the beginning of this year so it is really time to recap and catch up here on the blog!
Our last year in bullets:
  • Harald started créche in August 2014 and Isolde her second year in Belgian maternelle in September. Consequently Peter's parental leave finished and he started working for his Swedish employer but remotely from Brussels (until January 2015, more on that below).
  • Kids caught the chicken pox in autumn but luckily it didn't clash (but almost!) with our week in the sun at Lanzarote in November. We stayed in a really good hotel (resort) there, which we can really recommend. However, if you don't like black volcano sand you should choose another Canary island (we only went to the beach ones, but our kids probably prefer the pool anyway). 
  • We had mainly family visitors during the autumn - Peter's parents - and Maria and Daniel (who are practically family) and in early November we also went home for a long weekend and had the opportunity to celebrate my cousin H's 40th, which very coincidentally happened to be the same weekend. In the spring both sets of grand(parents) visited and we had brother-in-law and uncle Martin (not my brother Martin but Peter's sister's husband) here for a few hours while he was here on a work trip. Our good friend and Harald's godmother Jessica also came twice, once to spend the night and once just a few hours on her way to the airport after work meetings (it's convenient that we live so close to the airport).
  • Christmas was spent in Sweden, as usual. We stayed about two weeks, and since Peter was still working for his Swedish employer at that stage (until 31 December), we were able to stay in one of the company's apartments for parts of the stay and with my parents or in my sister-in-law's flat for the rest. As usual we had a pretty busy schedule trying to see as many family members and friends as possible, but we had time to relax as well. There was no snow at all unfortunately and especially Isolde was disappointed. Hoping for a white Christmas this year instead!
  • I did a number of work trips to Sweden, one per month on average both in the autumn and the spring. One of them was the December one mentioned above, when Peter also had a work event in Sweden, so we made a family weekend out of it. One of the trips was to Göteborg (which was nice as I could catch up with Heidi who lives there) but otherwise I always go to Stockholm, which is perfect in terms of seeing family and friends. Next year I may however go to other parts of the Sweden once or twice, and I hope it will be somewhere I haven't been before and preferably up north. I really enjoy my job, though hectic at times, and I don't mind the work trips either but sometimes once a month feels a little often. But I shouldn't complain as I often can meet up with friends and do some shopping to stock up on Swedish goodies or necessities. We are lucky that Peter was working from home earlier and now since the beginning of 2015 has been a stay-at-home dad, so we have not had many logistical issues with my work trips or work in general. Now he's applying for jobs and I hope he finds one soon for a variety of reasons, but it will of course be a bit more tricky when the kids are sick or when one of us is working a lot or travelling. Normal situation for most people of course, but we have been spoiled for a long time now. 
  • In October our good friends and neighbours the Swedish-Welsh family unfortunately moved to Wales so we had to say goodbye for now to them, but in March we went to visit them with our Swedish-Spanish and American friends, and at the end of this summer parts of the family came for a quick visit here (and to pick up items we had stored for them in our garage). On that March trip to the UK we also visited our friends Chris and Jacqui who lived here until spring 2014 (and before that in Sweden) and met very briefly - a few hours in a park - my friend Kim and her family. We also stopped by an old school friend, Nathalie, who I hadn't seen for a long time, and met her sons for the first time. 
  • Peter's grandmother passed away late winter/early spring so he went home for the funeral. It's always sad of course, but at almost 94 and suffering from dementia I'd like to believe it was only a relief for her to move on.
  • We celebrated the kids' birthdays with their little friends and families and of course mine and Peter's birthdays too, but less fuzz about ours naturally.
  • In spring we could tick off one of those "when-you-have-kids" experiences: lice! Harald only got one or two, and Peter was lucky to be unaffected, but Isolde and I had a lot! Our friendbours also caught it so we had one fun Friday evening where we were all shampooing each other and the kids :)
  • Whilst Christmas was spent in Sweden as usual, we decided not to go to Sweden for Easter and instead join our friendbours P & O for their Easter celebrations in Spain with O's family as well as P's family coming from Sweden. We flew down (with Ryanair, first time in several years) from Paris but missed out on a planned day in Paris beforehand as I caught some sort of stomach bug. It was nice to see the village where O. comes from and meet his parents and sister, and do some excursions in the area including to Zaragoza, the nearest city (also Spain's fifth largest city). I also enjoyed seeing the Catholic Easter parades, something we don't really have in Sweden. And we bought a lot of shoes, especially for the kids, as his village and the nearby villages are in a shoemaker region. 
  • In spring we also took a day trip with P & O and kids to Aachen in Germany with a shorter stop in Maastricht in the Netherlands on our way back. I love living so in the middle of Europe where it is easy to take a day trip or a weekend trip to another country, or several! We really have to make more such trips! Luxembourg is on the list, as is France and Champagne, but for the latter we'll get babysitters so we can enjoy it properly!
  • Late spring, early summer one of the kids' little friends L. was very unlucky and fractured her leg on our trampoline, poor thing (we have a safety net but she twisted her leg while jumping). Luckily she recovered quickly but is staying away from the trampoline for a while just in case.
  • In the spring Isolde got a new bike, a real bike. We would probably have got one already in the autumn if she hadn't been so short and most bikes were still too big. Her balance bike is 10 inches and we thought it was unnecessary to buy a bike of the same size. But in the spring she was a few more centimeters and a 12-inch bike worked, just. Having had the balance bike (and a scooter) has really done the trick - she could ride the bike without training/support wheels right away! She found it somewhat difficult to start by herself and also break, but we practised that during the summer, and now we can take quite long bike trips with her.
  • In May my friend and Harald's god mother Åsa visited with new baby Lily (new as in 8 months old then) for a few days. It was nice to spend some quality time with them, especially for Åsa and Harald. 
  • For the ascension weekend in May we went to Normandie to see the D-day beaches and also to Brittany where we visited Saint Malo, Mont Saint-Michel and some other picturesque towns. It was a very nice and interesting mini-break. 
  • In May (busy month!) I went to London with my mum and my aunt Bicke to do some sightseeing but most importantly, go to the Chelsea Flower Show. It was my present to my mum for her 60th birthday last year. As there was a bit of a green theme to our trip we also visited Sky Garden
  • A few weeks after Åsa's visit we went to Sweden for a long weekend to attend Lily's namegiving ceremony and to see family and friends. We finally got to meet the children's new cousin Fred (well, I had met him briefly when he was just a couple of days old in April when I was in Sweden on a work trip) and my friend Suvi's new baby boy as well as time to go out to the summer house. And have Harald's hair cut, kicking and screaming like the time before that (and after...). 
  • We have made new friends here in Brussels - an American family who are moving onto Stockholm next summer after two years here. Their son is in Isolde's class and Harald will be in the same class as their daughter next year (they also have a baby girl born in May). There are also some other mothers in the area that I have started to hang out with - Petchie started a sort of ladies' dinner club so now we meet up regularly, but we have also hung out on full family basis as some of them have children in Isolde's class or same year. 
  • Isolde has been taking rythmic classes at school for a year (and she's continuing, plus some other extra-curricular activities this year). She loved dancing and singing, however, she doesn't always like being told or instructed what to do so it took a few classes before she even wanted to participate. I think it is a mix of wanting to be free-spirited and being a bit too self-conscious.
  • We now have a (wooden) toy house in the garden, an inflatable pool and sprinklers, and Peter also got various adult "toys" for the garden, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers and what have you. So we have no excuses now not to do gardening! 
  • At the end of June, a little bit before my longer summer break, we spent one week in Nice (the apartment of my in-laws as usual) and my parents came down as well for a few days. It was nice to have a week off (with guaranteed nice weather), then work a few weeks again before to Sweden on holiday.  

A lot in a year! I'm sure I have missed half of it, but these are the highlights! I will write about the summer and about the adventures of Isolde and Harald in separate posts! I will also post some photos later, but now I just want to publish this post!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Two Years Old Today!

Celebrating Harald's 2nd birthday this morning. Celebrations will continue tonight and on Saturday.

Harald is a little "livsnjutare" (enjoying life), especially food and drink :)

Our all-inclusive holiday last autumn was a hit; unlimited access to fruit (melon), ice cream and hot dogs!

Expert on smart tools already

Happy despite completely spotty from chicken pox

Simply happy most of the time (this was before his very overdue haircut)!

Showing his fashion sense (and his big belly...)

With bestie E.