Cycled to town for some shopping. Didn’t manage to buy a single one of the things on my list. But I did get a cycle ride and a good lunch out.

Cooked dinner for the first time in many weeks.

Time does not move at the same speed all the time. I remember thinking after the first few weeks of maternity leave that 6 months was an eternity, and then thinking the same again halfway through. Then, with about a month and a half to go, time sped up and the days started disappearing fast. I think it’s mostly because the days are far less tedious now, because Ingrid’s company is much more fun than it used to be.

Now during the last few weeks I have suddenly become really busy, discovering all sorts of important tasks every day, and even though I’ve been trying to get things done before I go back to work, my to do list is growing rather than shrinking.

Today I took a day off from baby-watching and left Ingrid in Eric’s care for the whole day (except I kept the milk bar open). Just knowing that I don’t have to worry about anything – that she is being taken care of, that I can ignore all her noises – meant that I could focus fully on whatever I was doing. I got more done during two hours this morning than I normally do in a whole day. I can totally understand parents who take their children to day care even when they are not working.

Recently Ingrid has started to show a lot of interest in food and meals. During my meals, she sits and stares with great fascination as I eat and drink. I gave her a spoon of her own to play with while sitting at the table, so that she could take part in the meal. She chewed the spoon with great enthusiasm, and quickly figured out which way it fit best in the mouth. But after a while it was clear that an empty wasn’t entirely satisfying: she started trying to reach for my juice glass and my sandwiches.

We guessed that this might mean that she was ready for some real food, so today we tried to give her solids again (after having abandoned the first attempt). And what a difference it was! This time she devoured everything we gave her and demanded more. We started with some pureed carrot, same as last time. When that had been gobbled up and she was making very disappointed noises, we tried apple as well, and it vanished with similar speed. It got to the point where we didn’t dare give her more and switched to milk, even though she would happily have continued.

I was reminded of the way a friend of mine described her son’s first meal of solids: “he swallowed it as if he had been starving for 6 months”. That is exactly the way Ingrid behaved today! After having seen this, it was very clear that our first attempt really was too early. I suspect that stories about how hard it can be to get babies to accept solids are caused by the same mistake: starting before the baby is ready.

Coming soon: cauliflower, sweet potato, broccoli, and rice. (If we sneak in the broccoli early enough, she won’t know that children aren’t supposed to like broccoli, so perhaps she might even enjoy it.)

Ingrid spent her first half-day at the nursery. It felt strange to be walking about without her – strange but half-familiar.

Visited the nursery at work, where Ingrid will be staying during my first month back at work. Practiced getting her in and out of a back carry in the Patapum.

While I love my two Tinokis wraps, Ingrid is getting sort of heavy for them. In a stretchy wrap like the Tinokis, most of the weight ends up on my shoulders, and now they get sore after a few hours already. And no matter how well she sits to begin with, after a while she slowly sinks down and I feel the weight even more. It’s a good thing that she now (mostly) sleeps in her bed – I don’t think I could wear her for all the naps like I used to.

I do, however, want to go on wearing her. It’s a great way to amuse her at home, when she’s feeling a bit cranky and clingy. She can be close to me (or Eric) and at the same time we can go about our business, which gives her something interesting to look at. She really likes to watch us do things, and to see the world from new angles. Also, a baby carrier / sling is far more practical than a pram in tight spaces (the Tube) and for short trips.

So I decided to upgrade. I spent quite a while choosing between a woven (non-stretchy) wrap, a Mei Tai (which is a traditional, Asian baby carrier) or a structured carrier (sort of a cross between a Mei Tai and a lightweight backpack). To complicate things further there are lots of brands of each, differing not only in looks but also in shape and features.

In the end I bought both a woven wrap (a BB-slen Passion) and a structured carrier (a black Patapum). To compensate for my wasteful inability to choose, I bought both second-hand via UKbabywearingSWAP, which made me feel quite good about buying them. The Patapum is for quick carrying around the house, and it’s also a husband-friendly choice (it’s got buckles! and it’s black!) so we’ll be using it to get Ingrid to and from the nursery. The wrap should be more supportive than the stretchy ones I’ve got, so I’m hoping to use it the same way: for longer walks when I want Ingrid to be cosy. I reckon that if either one doesn’t work out, I can always sell it again.

I’ve tried the Patapum around the house and I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. I need to tighten the waist belt to the max in order to get Ingrid positioned properly, but as long as I don’t lose any more weight there shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a bit challenging to get her onto my back, because the carrier is not like a backpack that you pack first and then throw on your back – it can only be put on around the baby, so to say. But I’m sure I’ll get it to work soon. After that I’ll start experimenting with the BB-slen.

I never buy comics – I don’t think I’ve bought a single one. Eric, on the other hand, buys lots, and sometimes gives one to me to read. “You might like this one.” Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, but by now he knows enough about my taste to get it right almost all the time. Gemma Bovery was one of his recent recommendations, and I liked it a lot. Gemma Bovery is small and light-weight but very well done and I really enjoyed reading it.

To be honest I’m not even sure if it qualifies as a comic or even a graphical novel. It floats somewhere in the no-man’s-land between an illustrated book and a graphical novel. There is about as much text as there is illustration, both are equally important, and often the two are integrated. Some parts of the story are told through both channels; others only through one.

As you may be able to tell from the title, the story is inspired by Madame Bovary. Like that book, it is set in France, and there is a frustrated young woman with a love affair and a tragic death. Except in this case the woman is English, and the action takes place in the present time. All the people in the village notice the similarity between names Emma Bovary and Gemma Bovery, and then one man notices striking similarities in their lives as well.

The story itself is not particularly complex or exciting or even that interesting, to be honest. But it is expertly told, using the two mediums – image and text – to great effect, and utilising the strengths of each one. Pictures describe places and faces and scenes, while text sections narrate thoughts, feelings and sequences of events.

The drawings are simple but expressive in black and white and lots of gray. Every detail is carefully chosen, observed and exhibited; there is nothing superfluous. The same goes for the text. And both are often very funny. I am quite impressed that one person has done both, and done them so well: comics are often collaborations between a writer and an artist (or more).

As an extra twist, the text and captions freely mix French and English. The French speak French; the English speak English. Longer and more complicated French utterances are translated, but many shorter ones are not. I guess the reader is expected to either ignore those, or deduce their meaning from the rest of the conversation. So for full enjoyment of the book you should probably learn some French. I especially liked the way the characters sometimes read a text in the other language and struggle with colloquial expressions that any native speaker wouldn’t think twice about, but that most dictionaries would exclude. It’s a feeling I recognise very well!

It would also be helpful to have read Madame Bovary. I read it some time in high school and only remember the plot vaguely – enough to recognise the parallels between the major plot turns of the two works, but I am sure I missed a lot of more subtle allusions.

If you’re interested, and perhaps want to hear more about the plot, you can find another good review here (good both in the sense that it is a positive review, and in the sense that it is well-written).

Amazon US, Amazon UK.

I came home from Stockholm to a broken hard drive; thus no computer today and not much blog activity. Went to Community Health Centre to ask for advice about Ingrid’s rash. Might be oversensitivity to something, or might be eczema.

Having survived a whole week away from home, including 4 flights, I’ve concluded that travelling with a baby is perfectly doable, if not exactly relaxing. It helps a lot that Ingrid is happy to be transported in the sling, both awake and asleep, and that she is still fully breastfed. This makes her very transportable, without having to worry about getting home for naps or meals. All we need for a meal is a place for me to sit, preferably indoors this time of the year but I’m sure that in a pinch a bench outdoors in the sun would work as well. And all we need for a nap is a short walk to get her relaxed and sleepy.

Flights are still the least enjoyable part. She does not enjoy sitting still, strapped in and facing forward, with nothing to look at other than the seat back, and no one to “talk” to. And nappy changes on a cramped airplane were a bit tricky, too.

Nevertheless the overall experience was good enough to make me think seriously about planning an actual holiday for this summer. Maybe a walking holiday somewhere (day trips, I guess) or perhaps cycling.

Met my brother whom I hadn’t seen for a long time; was glad to see that he seemed to be well. Lovely spring day in Stockholm – we had ice cream and lunch at Lao Wai and then ice cream again. Flight back home.