One of the best parts of Ania’s development right now is her love of drawing and creating. The reports from preschool have always reflected her inclination towards the arts and crafts even from when she was 2 – but now that her attention span and coordination and manual dexterity has developed so much more, we’re really able to witness that it’s not only something that she does to pass the time at dagis – but she really, truly just loves to make stuff.

Drawing is literally often the first and last thing she wants to do most days. It’s so fun and fascinating to see what constitutes her visual vocabulary – current motifs are butterflies, rainbows, people, princesses, houses, castles, hearts, rocket ships, and general landscapes with skies, suns, and grass. The simple joy of this little universe is so lovely and so innocent, that it can sometimes almost break my heart thinking about how fleeting and impermanent this state of pure, genuine sweetness is. She is incredibly productive, and I often wonder how amazing it would be if only I could be that creatively prolific! Her range of mediums is rapidly expanding too, in both 2D and 3D – cutting, gluing, glittering, collaging, taping, tying, beading, and “decorating”. Writing is also a new hobby – sometimes asking us to spell out quite long and complicated sentences to write “letters” to people, other times copying the text from food packages lying around the kitchen. And last but not least, she got her first set of real Lego at Christmas, finally graduating from Duplo. And that’s been a huge success too. They’ve expanded the colours since we were kids, so now there’s a brighter palette including pinks and purples, together with little eye-parts that you can make faces with – a nice touch which even I can appreciate! Still such a great toy.

And then there’s this recent awareness of “design”. I was amused and surprised when one day,  I asked Ania what she was drawing, and she responded matter-of-factly – “Mamma, I’m doing fashion design.” I certainly did not know what fashion design was when I was 4. And even though one might think it’s a natural consequence of being raised by 2 designers – apparently it was actually Strawberry Shortcake who introduced her to the concept. One of her other latest favourites is a show called “Fixa Rummet”, which is essentially a home makeover/interior design show, in which kids fix up and redecorate their bedrooms. Notable not only for the subject matter, but also because it’s one of the first non-animated programs that Ania has shown any interest in. She will actually sit and watch, riveted, as they demonstrate how to hang shelves and explain the importance of using wall plugs. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if next I discover her starting her own Pinterest account!

 

 

 

 

 

When thinking of ideas for Ania’s Christmas presents, I really wanted to get her tickets to some kind of show or event. Firstly because I know she really enjoys that sort of thing, but also because she’s now old enough to understand that a gift doesn’t always have to be a concrete thing – it can also be an experience. I’ve been thinking a lot about how easy it is to be buying stuff all the time – for the most part, it’s practical things like mittens or socks – but since Ania is actually interested in clothes (one of her latest activities is doing “fashion design”, but that’s a topic for another post) – she can often view these purchases as presents. At times there is a ridiculously large amount of needs – such as these last few weeks when the temperatures have dropped so much that I’ve had to quickly upgrade all of her winter gear to deal with the intense cold. But in combination with my admitted weak resistance to sale season (70% off! It’s just stupid not to stock up on these t-shirts or pyjamas or dresses!) – I must admit that the steady influx of stuff being received by TLP – regardless of necessity – can, quite naturally, create a sense of constant expectation. In any case, I’ve been thinking it’s just something that is probably good to be conscious of.

So – back to the Christmas present. At first I thought about getting tickets to a Moroccan circus that was performing at Subtopia, a progressive art centre just outside Stockholm – guaranteed to be very conceptual and very arty and very beautiful. But then a friend mentioned “Disney on Ice” – an ice skating show featuring all the Disney characters, which is notoriously popular with kids. We’re talking Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Peter Pan, and not least, the Frozen princesses – all singing and dancing on ice. I was initially horrified, because I guess I’m wired to just generally not choose Disney.We almost always go the culture path – as in, we take Ania to Moderna Museet instead of Andy’s Playland. And even though I know Ania really does appreciate “real” culture , I increasingly feel that it’s good to keep a healthy balance, and sometimes let them have their choice. The things all the kids talk about and play at school, the characters they like to watch on Netflix. So, Moroccan circus or figure skating princesses? Ideally, both. But given time and budget limitations, the choice felt pretty obvious.

So the only thing left was to see if I could find some company. More fun for Ania, and definitely more fun for me. Luckily my friend Linda has a 6-year old daughter, Siri, who is equally crazy about the Disney Frozen film, so we decided to join forces and brave it together. We headed out to Globen, a huge, golf-ball shaped stadium and were immediately met with an onslaught of small kids dressed in their best princess gear. And then there was the merchandise. We had been warned beforehand to have a strategy to deal with that – so Linda and I told the girls that they could each get one souvenir within the budget of 50kr. Which they happily agreed to – except that there wasn’t actually anything available for 50 kr! Even the popcorn cost double that – which luckily they were satisfied with, even though we had to drag them away from the ridiculously priced sparkling wands and cheap plastic goblets.

The show itself was pretty good – I mean, it is what it is. I personally had a hard time keeping focus the whole way through, since the program consisted of quite elaborate reenactments of various scenes from various Disney movies, and not just singing and skating – which is what I expected. Which made it all the better that I had Linda along, and so when our attention span waned, we took the opportunity to catch up on our Christmas news and gossip in the meantime. But most importantly, Ania and Siri really enjoyed it – captivated the whole way through, admiring Anna and Elsa “in person”, and singing along with their favourite songs at the top of their lungs, using hand motions and all. Adorable :)

It was hard to take any good photos in the dim lights of the stadium, but here they are after the show – two happy, rather theatrical little girls feeling giddy and high on life! Sometimes it is really worth it to “let it gooooo….” :)

Ania has been so eager to try skating for several months now. It probably has a lot to do with Angelina Ballerina (the cartoon mouse who is a figure skating star as well as a dancer) – and of course, Frozen (the Disney megahit that seems to have hypnotized every little girl on the planet). Speaking of frozen, have I mentioned that winter has arrived now, for real? December was really mild and unseasonably warm, but January has more than made up for it. It has been around -15C over the last week or so, and seems like the deep freeze is not going to let up anytime soon.

It just so happens that we inherited a pair of skates just the right size from a friend’s daughter – so what better time to give them a try? We’ve only been out twice so far, and have started off at a small rink in the neighborhood – a tiny square of ice that by nature of its size, isn’t really fun for anyone except for kids under 10 who are learning to skate for the first time. Which is great, because you can be guaranteed that you will never have to worry about fast experts knocking you over, nor is it ever very crowded.

I have to say, TLP started to get the hang of it much faster than we expected! After only about 15 minutes, she was able to find her balance on her own, and shuffle around without any support. We can also pull her around the rink, or in circles, which she absolutely loves, because then it starts to feel like “real” skating. Of course sometimes it’s frustrating because she wants to be able to go fast and do pirouettes and all the fancy stuff right away – but it’s a good humbling lesson, discovering that developing skills takes time and practice.   Anyhow she’s quite into it now, so I think next time we might be ready to graduate to a bigger rink where Stefan and I can at least rent skates for ourselves, instead of sliding around in our boots. Winter’s here and not leaving anytime soon, so might as well make the most of it!

 

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And finally, the first post of 2016! After a very restful Christmas break, we’ve rolled into the new year feeling pretty refreshed, I must say. Normally I would feel a bit restless having had 2 weeks off with no travels – but this year, it felt just right. December was just so insane workwise, so a quiet and mellow vacation was just what we needed. Here are a few snaps from our New Year’s Eve celebration, hosted by our friends Erik and Stina. There were 4 families with kids, and a dress-up animal theme which even a lot of the adults got into, with actually rather cool costumes thanks to the new Ikea Lattjo collection of games,toys, and costumes designed for all ages. As always, gatherings at Erik and Stina’s are so easygoing and relaxed. The menu was potluck-style finger foods, someone brought fireworks to set off in the backyard, and the night ended with champagne out on the terrace with a great view of all the fireworks going off all over town. But best of all – there was a pinata.

This was Ania’s first experience with a pinata. And let me tell you, it was a huge success. Those kids really whacked the living daylights out of that poor rainbow-coloured donkey! And even after they had cracked it open and gobbled up its sweet contents, they continued to take turns bashing the carcass on and off throughout the rest of the night. In fact, it made such an impression on Ania that she now sometimes pretends to “make pinatas” out of random objects that she can dangle around the house, and proceeds to blindfold herself (or us) before batting away, shouting “Hit the pinata, mamma! Hit it! Hit it!!!” So much fun to bat a helpless target…. even without the candy. Should I be worried? Or maybe it’s all that baseball practice we’ve been doing since the summer on the Cape! :)

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The kids table. Or should I say… the zoo?

 

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Ania dressed up as a mouse-butterfly hybrid, with a giraffe-print shirt and panda-print skirt to really complete the look.

 

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Kiddie food nirvana: hamburgers, sausage rolls, and mini-pizzas.

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Lining up, so civilized…

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Waiting for her blindfold…

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After awhile, they ditched the blindfold and just went at it...

After awhile, they ditched the blindfold and just went at it…

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So satisfied.

 

Classic case of the weatherman getting it all wrong. Looking at the forecast pre-xmas, it looked as though it would be a spring-like Christmas holiday – grey, damp, and above 5 degrees for at least 10 days straight. It has indeed been a very mild winter so far – I think even last week, I heard that it was warmer on one particular December day than it was in June on Midsummer! But on Boxing Day, that all changed – temperatures dropped, and snow fell. Such a welcome sight, especially in Gränna, which becomes even prettier under a white blanket at Christmastime. Since we weren’t sure how long it would last, we sent the kids out right away to take advantage – playing in the garden and even going sledding. We were happy to note that Ania’s sledding accident last winter does not seem to have had any lasting psychological effects – she was thrilled to be on the slopes again, and asking for more, higher, faster! Little fearless daredevil she is. Wouldn’t mind a continuation of this real winter for a little while longer – fingers crossed for a few more crisp, sunny, snowy days so that we can hopefully try ice skating, which is high on Ania’s list of to-do’s. Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!

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Look, snow!

 

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Making snowballs…

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Ania made the first throw…

Up on Gränna mountain

Up on Gränna mountain

Learning to pull her own sled up the hill

Learning to pull her own sled up the hill

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Beautifully sunny but very cold day

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Let’s go!

We found a cute little snowman that somebody else made...

We found a cute little snowman that somebody else made…

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This year we finally tackled the gingerbread house! Okay, granted, we did use one of those ready-made kits where you just need to assemble and decorate the pre-cut, pre-baked cookie parts…. but trust me, that in itself is challenging enough! At least for me it was. I struggled with 2 attempts at melting sugar for the glue – as per the instructions. The first time ended in a pan of burnt sugar crystals and a scorched finger. But I persevered, and on the second try got the sugar to a perfect syrupy consistency, which in the end still didn’t work at all – the sugar just dried upon contact and was totally useless as a gluing medium. So finally I just resorted to using the icing itself to stick the parts together, which thankfully worked perfectly well. Now I know! Getting everything to hold together at the right angles was still pretty tricky, so I ended up calling in the architect to put on the roof – which of course happened swiftly and effortlessly. I guess as they say, some things are best left to the professionals. Next year I’ll remember that, and stick to what I know better – the decorating!

The grocery store was totally sold out of white icing – so we ended up with a very pink house. Guess who didn’t mind one bit? :)

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No Christmas period would be complete without some cosy photos of Ania and Sam!  It’s so fascinating to see how independent they are now – playing together, inventing elaborate make-believe schemes, sometimes just playing with their own toys but in parallel. They often ask to be left alone too, taking themselves upstairs and making it clear they would like to be unsupervised. No accidents or broken items so far (knock on wood) – and almost no fighting at all, which we’ve noted is a huge step from even a year ago, when they often needed a bit of intervention, or at least our presence to keep the peace – or at least make sure they didn’t tear the house down. We don’t even need to do our customary glass-and-antique-removal sweep of the house anymore, as it seems they’ve learned to respect the breakables. They are growing up, that’s for sure! And hopefully they will always stay this close, best friends forever :)

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Screen time

 

Waiting patiently for their presents...

Waiting patiently for their presents…

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