in a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction– (of an action or quality) characterized or caused by madness.– in a state of extreme annoyance or distraction
The girls are 2.5 years old. What happened? Why didn’t I write any entries for the last 18 months? Well mostly because my brain was too clouded by tiredness to stretch into any creativity. And spare time I had was used to sleep or watch TV lame enough not to require much brain function (Vampire Diaries, yes; House of Cards, no).
Not that I am getting the most epic amount of sleep these days, but things are on the up and up. I find myself feeling pretty good some days, and it’s a real treat to feel normal.
Let me catch you up:
Last time I wrote we had recently come back to Denmark and my soul was crushed under the weight of snow in March, dark days and living in a mouldy basement apartment. I slowly weaned the girls from breastfeeding and made them more purees. FYI I hate puree. I hate pureeing. I hate the sight & sound of a spoonful of puree slapping the wall behind the dinner table as the girls playfully explore the flight properties of sweet potato moosh. I also, and most of all, hated cleaning puree off the floor and bibs and myself. But at least I got my boobs back, or what was left of them anyway. Soon after the weaning, the true price of pregnancy made itself known. Turns out that a juicy proportion of breast fat was replaced with milk-producing glands, and after weaning I was left with 2 cups half-empty. The (super-young & perky) sales girl at the lingerie store said ‘oh yes, we see this all the time’ as she regarded my formerly Christina Henrdicks-esque and now sadly deflated bosom. I am however somewhat in awe of my now clearly ‘mom’ boobs. I feel like they have now taken on a kind of melancholic beauty. Like a tree with the leaves turning orange in autumn….
2015 was almost as tough as 2014, but luckily towards the end of the year, Chris got a decent ‘real’ (aka not a postdoc!) job and we could finally see a future for ourselves in Denmark. We managed to get a loan and buy a little house in the ‘burbs, with a small garden so the girls could run around. This was a huge undertaking. Let me help you to imagine buying a house in Denmark. There is a mountain of Danish paperwork that you can’t possibly understand, so you hire a lawyer for a squillion kroner per hour to make sense of it for you. Then there’s the complicated negotiations with several banks to try and get the optimal interest rate on the loan. This features fun meetings where they present you with complex analyses of your financial situation (in Danish of course) and offer you infinite possible combinations of loan conditions. Finally, there is the tax. Oh there is so much tax! There is the fee to the government you pay for buying the house, then there is the tax you pay for buying the house followed by the bi-annual tax you pay for the privilege of owning a house. There is even tax to pay on the tax you pay. But hey, I signed up for this. And the sense of relief at finally being home after so long as travellers was amazing. Not to mention escaping the mouldy basement. We found an amazing daycare for the girls where they are cared for by a nanny in her home with just a few other kids and this was way better than vuggestue, which was anyway a little stressful for these girls.
We have been here almost a year and I am so content. We have neighbours with similar age kids and they all run around in summer, and it’s so cosy (‘hyggeligt‘ in Danish). I am also really happy with my concrete walls and I feel like I have more privacy than ever before in Copenhagen. I think we will eventually feel less like outsiders, and there is a good chance that the girls will feel authentically Danish, even if we never do. They already speak more Danish than English, though usually its a creative combination of the two.
This past summer was a memorable one. Our first summer in our new house and the girls were getting to know their surroundings. There is a small wood next to the house and we explored around there, digging up bugs for them to see, hunting frogs and shouting at ducks and they loved it. We also got Chris a Weber braai so he could exercise his inner South African and braai to his heart’s content.
Unfortunately this summer living led up to the worst day of my life.
One July evening, the girls were playing with us outside while Chris had some fish on the braai. I had taken them around the corner behind the hedge to look at some spiders and they were running around there. I didn’t know that Chris had just taken the grill out and put it on the floor for a minute and turned around to move something in the Weber around. Just then, Olivia ran away from Sophia & I towards the house and suddenly she was screaming like hell. I came around the hedge to see her getting up from the grass where she had just fallen on the glowing hot metal grill. I felt the world fall out from under me, the sight of her soft pink flesh seared by the heat, the skin hanging off in places. I was shocked and panicked. We took her inside and put her in the kitchen sink with cold water. She was screaming. Sophia was crying, afraid of what she saw and confused. It was 6pm, and the house was in disarray. I couldn’t find my bag or phone. I was so confused and scared, I ran next door and asked the neighbours what to do.
My neighbour took us to the closest hospital and there Chris sat with Olivia on his lap in a plastic bath full of cold water while we waited for an ambulance to take us to Rigshospital where they deal with burn victims. Olivia had some painkillers and fell asleep out of exhaustion from crying. Sophia was afraid, so I called her nanny to come and take her home so we could deal with this emergency without freaking her out too much. At Rigshospital, we saw the extent of the burns. She had multiple stripes burned onto her left calf and one on the right. She had another stripe on each toe, and one on her left lower arm. The doctor explained that they have to remove the burned skin so the skin below can cool down and heal. So the nurse gave Olivia a juice box and calmly scraped off the burned skin. It took ages, but Olivia was so brave and tired, she hardly cried at all. She then had to stay overnight in the ward. They leave the burns open to get air and dry out a bit, so she had to stay in a clean room and couldn’t touch the wounds or play on the floor. The next day the doctor applied a burn dressing and bandages and Olivia came home. She stayed home from daycare the next 2 weeks and she had to keep the wound bandaged and dry. This was challenging every day since she wanted to bath with Sophia, but we made it through without any mishaps. She was playing and riding her bike like always, so resilient and undeterred by her injuries. At the next checkup, they took off the bandages and saw that the burns were healing well so she wouldn’t need a skin graft. I was so relieved she would be spared surgery, and so was Olivia, to be free of the big bandage. She still had to wear a plaster to protect the wound during the day when she was playing outside, but it was getting better. Now the wound is still pink, but the scars are fading and we hope she will be scar-free in a year. We put fancy French cream on every night and she knows she had a big Eina, but it’s getting better.
That evening is one I will never forget. The fear and horror seeing her hurt like that is something I have never before felt with such intensity. And the shame at having let it happen is incomparable. Chris & I felt like the worst parents ever but we are slowly forgiving ourselves. Let’s just say that these days, if we are tired we eat pasta, or get takeaways and don’t try anything fancy.
The toddler stage snuck up on us, and one day I realized that they are no longer babies. I am loving it, despite the insanity 😉 They grew taller (and skinnier) and started running, climbing, talking. They subtly accumulate words and expressions and come up with some real zingers. Upon not getting her way, Sophia said the other day ‘Daddy naughty’. She is fond of bossing Olivia around and will repeat my orders to her sister (‘put shoes on!’ ‘ikke (don’t) touch pan’). Olivia is in a stage of being obsessed with certain clothes and wants to wear the same top all day every day (when she is dressed that is). She has chosen a t-shirt covered in Russian dolls, which she refers to as her baby t-shirt. If I manage to convince her to remove it so I can’t wash out all the milk, spit & porridge, she asks (‘baby t-shirt?) as soon as she gets home. She is quite conscientious and informs me as soon as she is dirty (‘I all dirty!’) and lately requests multiple baths a day. She enjoys washing the rubber ducks and hanging them to dry, and drinking the bubble-covered bath water out of plastic cups. ‘Coffee!’ She declares cheerfully as she takes a pretend swig of the water, which vaguely resembles the foamy top of the cafe lattes that I chug in great volumes daily (she offers me a sip).
They both still really don’t eat much, except butter which they can consume in obscene quantities, often plainly licked off a spoon or bread. Eggs of all kinds are a hit too. I have found myself in a groggy haze hoisting the overly heavy cast-iron pan onto the stove before the clock has struck 6 am on a Sunday morning to a joyous chorus of ‘Eggies!’. The girls insist on being involved when I am cooking and Olivia is especially keen. She can competently sprinkle a pinch of salt and oregano on the aforementioned frying eggs, and surprisingly competently flip a flapjack. She also likes to make pretend cakes. If she spots the flour in the grocery cupboard she demands to have some so she can ‘bake’.
Now that they talk in sentences they like to narrate events and reflect on them afterwards. With only modest encouragement they will enthusiastically shout and gesticulate to recount a story. We showed them a scene from The Jungle Book movie where Mowgli is thrown from monkey to monkey up the mountain to the monkey king. They were completely amazed and stared with open mouths. Afterwards they told me in a mix of English and Danish about ‘Mowgi’ being thrown around. And that he got an ‘Eina’ (a sore) from the monkey scratching him. On a recent trip to the zoo they were initially quite wary of the monkeys, perhaps fearing a trip up a mountain for themselves. They got similarly excited about a story book called The Snowy Day (by Ezra Jack Keats the snowy day), where the protagonist Peter is a victim of a pretty tame snowball fight. They were very sorry for Peter, and said ‘Aaaay, mor. Snow ball hit Peter’ and then explained all the events that led Peter to this point. It is way more entertaining than the story alone!
The girls are teaching me all the time about myself, and kindly illuminate all the darkest, scariest corners of my character. One of the leaders in this list is impatience. There is nothing quite as infuriating as dressing a willful toddler. My girls are not keen on clothes, being dubbed The Nudists by my dear friend Lindy. But the Danish autumn is no slouch, and temperatures are in the single digits in the mornings. I fight to convince Olivia to wear a wool vest under her beloved (paper-thin cotton) baby t-shirt. Then I turn around and she has removed all her clothes because there is a small spot of drool on her shirt ‘All Wet!’ and I have to start again. Nappies are so out of fashion around here too, and I have basically given up on making them wear them at all during the day. At night of course I have to fight to make them wear nappies but they are seem to understand that they aren’t quite able to hold their bladders in check at night. Sophia loves her big girl panties and fancies herself quite the grownup. She was asking me about boobs the other day and I assured her that she has boobs too and they will get bigger as she gets older. Then out of the blue a few days later she told me ‘I have boobs like mommy when I big girl’. I really like the way she contemplates the things I have told her.
They will soon be out of cribs too, Olivia has promise in a gymnastic career. She climbs between her crib & Sophia’s and sometimes climbs out of her crib if I don’t come and get her as soon as she wakes from a nap. I hear the door click open, her quick little footsteps and a naughty giggle.
Something no one tells you, and I never considered, is that twins fight a hell of a lot. They are constantly competing for attention from you, for their toys, books, food, baby t-shirts etc. And they are vicious. Pulling hair OUT (and stopping to admire the bunch of hair in their little paws), scratching faces and pushing. Nowadays at least they kiss it better immediately after and smile sweetly. Still, some weekends, after a rough night of poor sleep, and a day of constant fighting and crying, I think that this is impossible to survive and I wonder how parents make it to tweendom. But I think we may have passed the peak of toddler evil* and they are playing together a bit more and trying to kill eachother less. They like to play with baby dolls, and like me & their nanny, have multiple babies to care for. They put them in the pram and sing to them (‘Dudu baba, sleep angel muffin’) while pushing the pram back and forth. They change the babies nappies (‘Skifte! go fetch baby bum cream’) and comfort the babies when they are sad (‘Aw baby crying’). They even change eachothers nappies and help eachother to dress.
One of the other recent developments is that they love this stupid Disney TV series for kids called Sophia the First, about an ordinary village girl that becomes a princess overnight. Vomit. Also, why is it always about being a frikkin princess? There is more information about tiaras and tea parties in this nonsense than I ever cared to know. But sometimes on a rainy day when they have been running around like crazy it helps to just occupy them for a few minutes. Mind you, they sit still for an average of 5 minutes. The funny thing is, they call it Olivia the First. As if, in their minds, Olivia and Sophia are interchangeable. I mean, they know their names, but seem to think that really this is a mutable property. I guess this is sadly due to people mixing them up all the time. These days I am quite competent at telling them apart, which I thought was impossible when they were babies. So many little features are slightly different, the shape of their eyes (a tad more almond-shaped in Olivia), their mouths (wider in Sophia) and their speech (louder & more enunciated in Sophia). But for most people they look the same.
By the way, the sleep thing was apparently in no way sorted the last time I wrote. After the sleep training the girls did sleep well at night. For a while. Then they got a cold and it all went to hell. In my overly concerned mom way, I stupidly took them to bed with me when they were sick (ALERT: letting a kid sleep in your bed is never a one-time thing! They are like crack addicts for mom’s bed.) I recently tried again to dissuade them from coming to my bed, mostly because they don’t sleep well with me, and I don’t sleep at all. So far so good, I have had more sleep than usual in the last week but if I have learned anything during this journey, it’s that nothing stays the same and nothing is predictable.
Now I am at an impasse in my life.
I am getting marginally more sleep. Looking at life and wondering what is the deal? Having these girls, I realise, has been an identity-melting experience for me. Reflecting on pre-baby me, my identity was very much linked to work. Working a lot, trying to reach a goal (eventual academic tenure). Post-baby, I can’t work as much, the time is not enough. I want to be there to fully experience their childhoods with them. I don’t think I can achieve my previously all-important goal without paying too high a price. Whether it is my health, or missing out on time with them. So now I am reassessing and it’s hard. In the first place it’s hard to admit it: I don’t want to do this anymore. I have to look honestly and wort through layers of stories I have been telling myself for years to see: what do I really want? I want to use my natural talents and work in a way that I can feel flow and creativity and not anxiety and insecurity. I have no idea yet how this is going to turn out, but I officially invite the universe to help me out. I am open to any possibilities and I am ready to change and be challenged.
*Spoke too soon.Sophia just discovered the joys of stamping. when she doesn’t get her way, she stamps her feet on the floor and wails**. I’m working on it…
Sleep: One nap of 1-2 hours around midday, most days; Sleep at 7.30 pm, sometimes wake up during the night, awake by 6 am
Eat: Eggs, butter, cucumber, apples, blueberries, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beef, chicken, frikadeller, rye bread, yoghurt, rice, pasta, oats, anything sweet
Skills: Running, throwing ball, naming animals in books, climbing, changing baby nappies, singing, drawing, painting, riding pushbikes and much more
Talking: short sentences, Danish and English mixed, more words every day, some swearing (oh my God!)
Choice quotes: Sophia: ‘It’s not so bad’ after bumping her foot; ‘I am scared, Winter is coming’
Olivia: ‘I buy present for daddy’; ‘Sophia naughty! Nej, she nice’, ‘I not baby, I biggirl’