Ingrid asked me to take this picture.

She is not fond of homework.

She’s got homework in three subjects, once a week. In Swedish they read a chapter in a book and answer a few questions in writing. In maths they are currently practising their times tables – this week’s was 9 times 0 to 5. In Estonian they have a workbook where they read short texts and again answer questions in writing, and do “fill the blanks” exercises.

Ingrid and I went ice skating at Spånga IP after dinner.

The large outdoor rink is really, really fully booked this season by bandy clubs. It is only available to the general public on weekend evenings after 18:00, and weekdays during daytime (which doesn’t count as being available in my opinion). So in practice we can only use the small ice field, which is generally less well cared for. Not pleased.

We went for a short forest walk with grilled sausages. It’s been sub-zero for a few days so the ground was all covered by amazing spiky ice formations.

Adrian eating ice cream.

He still doesn’t like cow’s milk, refuses cheese on his quiches and grilled sandwiches, prefers his dairy-free “butter” to real butter and soy “yoghurt” to the real thing. But when it comes to ice cream he is perfectly happy to eat dairy ice cream. And when real yoghurt has Star Wars imagery on it, it also suddenly becomes delicious.

Ingrid wanted to make an animated movie “with real things”, inspired by PES Film’s Western spaghetti which she saw at school.

The first movie she made was of a piece of paper getting crumpled and then unfolded again. The second was of a drawing “emerging”. Here she’s photographing the drawing in its stand that we rigged out of a cutting mat, supported by my sewing box and two food cans.

Last month Adrian started drawing. This month he has done more of that, and added writing. He makes little books by stapling papers together and then draws and writes in them. He mostly draws people and T-rexes, but also ninjas, aliens and monsters.

As for writing, at first he was mostly writing things that had obviously been suggested by the staff at preschool: “til mama ok papa”. But also his own name, and our names, and the names of his friends. As he gained confidence, he broadened out: he’s written a Christmas wish list, added things to our shopping list, etc.

Of course you don’t need pen and paper to write. An iPad is a great tool for learning to write – not least because writing in an iPad makes things happen. Like magic. Almost as soon as Adrian started writing, he started using it to search for video clips on YouTube and Barnkanalen, images on Google, and music on our Sonos system.

Out of those tools, YouTube has the best UI for a 5-year-old – there is just one search box and no further choices. With Google, you need to know how to get from search results to images, but it’s not that hard. Sonos is more complicated – you need to click the right category of things to search, and then there are menus to navigate before the music plays. Obviously not developed with kids in mind. But even if Adrian cannot manage all of that on his own, with his developing reading skills he can at least skip between songs in a playlist and figure out which might be which.

I also wish these tools were more forgiving of spelling mistakes. Google and YouTube are pretty good. Sonos – not at all. Miss one letter and you won’t find anything. The fact that many of the things Adrian wants to search for are in English don’t make things any easier for him.

HVREJÅGUT BLÅBÄR (havreyogurt blåbär)

Many of the songs he searches for are Melodifestivalen favourites: Guld och gröna skogar, Groupie, Hello Hi, Popular. He likes tunes with a catchy melody, funny lyrics and a “bouncy” rhythm. When the song is in English, he sings along phonetically and it doesn’t bother him at all that he has no clue what they’re saying.

Funnily enough, the same happens with songs in Swedish that he learns at preschool. Sometimes hasn’t quite been able to hear or understand the lyrics, and just accepts that songs contain words that make no sense. Sometimes he asks me. Other times he insists that the nonsense version is the right one: “Ögon, öron, kinden klappefå”.

Legos of course continue to dominate. For the first time he has now actually encountered a Lego kit that was too tricky for him to build on his own, so we’re doing it together. Well, mostly I’m just picking out the right pieces for him, and very occasionally helping him notice when he’s made a mistake somewhere, so he doesn’t get stuck later.

When he turned five, we started giving him pocket money: 20 kr a week. He has spent all of it on Legos. Whenever he feels like he has some money, he wants to go to Toys’R’Us and buy stuff. He is unable/unwilling to save for a goal because his discount factor is just too high.

When he doesn’t have enough money to buy what he had planned, he’ll buy something else he can afford, rather than go home empty-handed. But not at any cost: once when he couldn’t afford anything else he bought a Lego mini figure and was really disappointed when he found out it was a duplicate of one he already had, so he’s not buying those any more.

Current interests:

  • There’s been a new surge in perler beading. The most recent theme has been ninjas and Ninja Turtles. I guess someone at preschool has printed out new patterns.
  • Balancing on sidewalk edges.
  • Learning to make porridge on his own.
  • Peeing standing up.
  • Dialects. Skeånska.

Other random facts:

  • Girl colours are totally out. Adrian will not wear anything violet, lilac or pink. It was jarring for him to discover that one of the Ninja Turtles wears a purple headband.
  • We play Labyrinth occasionally. It’s a great game that all ages enjoy and can play together, with some adjustments. Just a few months ago Adrian was mostly just pushing the labyrinth pieces around randomly. Now all of a sudden he’s playing for real and making up plans for his moves. It’s amazing to “see” his brain develop.

Going the extra mile for dinner and de-stringing sugar snap peas.

The world is gray and brown and dull and wet. The colourful part of autumn is well behind us: the leaves have not only fallen but also been trampled into brown mush. I’m glad for the little staghorn sumac that still has its bright leaves.

PS: The links below this post reminded me of a post from our first autumn here in Spånga, about how the city leaves leaves on the ground and waits with cleaning them away until they’ve been well trampled into slippery, disgusting sludge. They still do it this way. My current theory is that this way it’s easier to clean the leaves up with street cleaning machines, so they need fewer staff for the job.

At nine years old, Ingrid has clearly outgrown the “child” stage and is now a pre-teen. She does not play with toys; she plays Minecraft.

Minecraft and Skype are her favourite “toys”. The center point of her evening is the time from after dinner to just after eight that she spends playing Minecraft with her friends while talking to them on Skype. Mini-games and parkour runs and serves and collaborative building and whatnot.

She’d been Skyping with her best friend M for a while, but recently she got in touch on Skype with other friends and now they’re a whole gang who hang out together most evenings, and a big chunk of each weekend as well.

A number of those friends are boys (but not all of them). It seems the kids are in a sweet spot now. They’re past the age when boys don’t play with girls because girls have girl games and boys have boy games – now they have shared interests again. (Or perhaps it’s the all-uniting gender-crossing power of Minecraft, who knows.) But they’re still in that innocent age when they can just play together with no embarrassment. Ingrid just asked today if she could have a sleepover at a boy’s home this weekend.

When she’s not playing Minecraft, she reads Kalle Anka and plays with friends, or hangs out with them. Several times now she has gone to the movies together with a friend, with no adult company. They’ve even had restaurant lunch on their own. It makes her feel grown up and competent.

I like the fact that she now uses the computer to do something, especially something that is both creative and social, rather than just watching Youtube videos. I count “screen hours” much less strictly when I know she’s Minecrafting. (That one Saturday when she was online with her friends from when she got up until 1 o’clock in the afternoon was the best weekend ever, she said.)

Still, she needs a set cutoff time, because she cannot stop otherwise. When she plays, she doesn’t notice the time, nor any signals from her body. In the evening we make her quit early enough that she has time to get the game out of her brain before bedtime – and also time enough to discover that she is actually hungry and needs an evening snack.

That deafness to her own body can reach astounding proportions. At a sleepover party last weekend she slept about 6 hours, which is about 3 hours short of what she needs. Then she went to the movies with a friend. When she got home in the afternoon, it was obvious that she was ready to collapse – emotionally fragile, close to tears about just about everything, no energy for anything. And yet she insisted that she was not tired, and she would never fall asleep even if she tried! And she seemed to fully believe it herself. Five minutes after she lay down on the sofa just to rest a bit, she was fast asleep.

She is surprisingly good at managing other parts of her life – parts that require planning and foresight, rather than listening to her body. She packs her own stuff for school every day, plans her homework for the week and actually remembers to do it. More than I did at 9 years of age, I’m pretty sure.