One small for the kitchen table, one large for the front entrance. Design by Ingrid, carving by myself.

Looks like things are turning around (fingers crossed) and the screaming is abating. Today again Adrian sat in his bouncy chair for long enough that I could have a very quick lunch AND take photos of him. And no screaming!

Some fresh bookmarks from

  • Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science – Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice?
  • XKCD: Tech Support – A dream shared by every reasonably tech-savvy person who's ever called tech support.
  • The genius of Dick Francis was to give readers a racing certainty – "I once wrote a review of a Dick Francis thriller without reading it. I wasn’t going to waste a new Dick Francis on a bloody review when I had a transatlantic flight coming up, was I? So I wrote a piece saying that I knew the book was going to be good. I trusted it, and that’s why I was saving it for later."
  • Difference Between “Real” Writers And “Wannabe” Writers – The difference between doing something because your ego / self-image wants it, and doing it because it is your natural inclination, because you cannot NOT do it.

The screaming I mentioned in the one-month post? It’s continued, and gotten worse. For the past week Adrian has spent all his awake time either nursing or screaming. In the evening and at night he can go on for a good hour or two, and nothing seems to make a difference. (That is, until whichever parent is in charge decides that what s/he is doing isn’t working, and tries something else. The switch to something else invariably seems to make the screaming even worse.)

It isn’t even due to milk supply issues. Yes, there are some burps and farts, but they don’t seem to cause the screaming. When he finally stops it’s not after releasing a burp. It’s more like he stops he’s finally done screaming for some mysterious reason.

I guess this is what they call colic: a baby that “cries or screams frequently and, for extended periods, without any discernible reason”.

This is pretty stressful. I can’t plan any outings or errands at all for when he is awake, or anything else for that matter (such doing housework, or meeting friends, or even eating lunch). Barely a chance to talk to Eric in the evening.

Then suddenly yesterday Adrian wanted to just lie on his changing mat, and did that for a while, all quiet, without a peep. After a while he simply fell asleep there. I could hardly believe my eyes, or ears. And then he did it again a few hours later. Quite incredible. Of course in the evening we still had 2 hours of unconsolable crying.

Do I dare hope that things are turning around? I was just steeling myself for this going on for months, as colic apparently can do, and don’t want to get my hopes up too early.

Ingrid has been riding her balance bike all summer and autumn, and is now a real pro: she can cruise without her feet touching the ground for as long as the bike will keep rolling at reasonable speed. But she’s almost outgrown it, so for her birthday we got her a real bicycle. And she was off riding within minutes. (I was going to post a video but it’s 12MB and I don’t have the time to figure out how to compress it.)

The balance bike was obviously the right way to go: she learned balancing and steering first, and now she just had to get used to the pedals. Learning all of those things at the same time would have been immensely more difficult.

When she started taking the balance bike to and from nursery, she was the only kid with one. Gradually more and more kids turned up with balance bikes – inspired by our example, I believe. Similarly, we got the idea after seeing just one girl ride one, back when we were still living in London. When you see a kid on one, it is just so obviously a good idea.

If you’re a parent of a preschooler who cannot cycle yet, get them a balance bike!

I haven’t bought any new Dick Francis books for years. Dead Heat was lent to me by my kind mother, who also happens to like Dick Francis.

I don’t know if it is the co-authorship with Felix, or just running out of energy, but Dead Heat was nowhere near Francis’ best works. The plot follows his usual pattern: nice guy finds himself in mysterious danger or trouble, investigates, investigates some more, gets dangerously close to the bad guys, gets hurt a bit, investigates some more, and then finally finds himself in a real pickle (his life threatened by the boss of the bad guys). He somehow extricates himself, and the bad guy gets what he deserves.

I don’t mind a familiar plot. But I do mind lazy execution. The good guy (a chef named Max) bases his investigations not on clues but on hunches. “For some reason I felt that x was the clue to everything”, even though there is no obvious reason to think so. And the book is full of clichéd rhetorical questions by Max.

I was assured that others would be waiting at the bottom [of the stairs] to help me. But can they erase the memory? Can they give me back my innocence? Can they prevent the nightmares?

Perhaps it was all a dream. But I knew it wasn’t.

There is also a romantic angle to the plot, again very weakly executed. Max meets a girl and, within hours, decides that she is his soul mate. She seems to think the same. And yet we never get to hear what exactly they have in common, or what makes them think the other person is so great. This, and many other parts of the book, totally fail the “show, don’t tell” admonition. All in all, the writing was so dull and uninspiring that I skimmed the book rather than reading it. Disappointing.

Adlibris, Amazon US, Amazon UK.

The first two or three weeks Adrian spent pretty much all his time eating and sleeping. Honestly, he was like a newborn kitten, with his eyes closed all the time.

Now he is actually awake some of the time, occasionally over an hour at a time. The downside is that he no longer falls asleep without any effort from us. At first he would easily fall asleep no matter what; now it’s not that easy any more. But it’s nothing like Ingrid’s sleeping troubles: when he is tired and I put him in the sling, he generally falls asleep without much fuss. And with a bit of help (such as a dummy or someone’s finger to suck on) he can actually fall asleep lying down. But since I usually have more important things to do than to sit by his bedside, I often tuck him in the sling anyway.

Unfortunately Adrian spends much of his awake time crying and screaming due to tummy troubles. I have forceful letdown and plentiful milk supply, so he chokes, splutters, gasps for air, and generally struggles to feed. (No comfort nursing here.) As a result he eats way too fast and swallows a lot of air. I burp him several times during a feed, as well as afterwards, and every time he lets loose a huge burp more befitting a champion beer drinker. But it’s hard to get all the air out, so for a good while after every meal he cries and throws up as he tries to burp it out.

On the plus side, he’s developing good strong neck muscles, because he spends so much time upright, being burped or comforted.

He seems to dislike being naked, so he doesn’t enjoy nappy changes or clothes changes. Partly because of this he’s only had two proper baths since he was born. (The other reason is that there aren’t many opportunities: either he’s asleep, or upset, or I’ve got other, more important things to do.)

He has a strong startle reflex and is startled by many things. Putting him down on the changing mat, unbuttoning his body, tearing the nappy open, picking him up, and so on.

This month’s big thing is of course Adrian’s arrival. Ingrid had been excited about the impending arrival of The Baby for a long time already. After he was born, she was very proud to be a big sister, and wanted to show him off to anyone who’d listen.

Now that he is here, she’s not quite so excited any more. I totally understand her: he isn’t very exciting, really. At first she tried to show him stuff (toys etc) but when he turned out not to be ready for that kind of interaction, she pulled back. He does cry quite a lot, and loudly, which Ingrid doesn’t like much, so she keeps a bit of a distance to him: cautiously pats him occasionally, but otherwise stays away.

She’s coping well with all the disruptions to our normal routine, and is pretty understanding when I cannot help her or spend time with her right when she wants. And while she may not like it, this change is also pushing her to do things on her own, without my help. On Tuesday nights Eric is away from home and I have to put both children to bed. This Tuesday Adrian was awake and most unhappy just when it was time for Ingrid to go to sleep. I left the room and told her I’d be back when Adrian stops screaming. When I came back, she was asleep: the first time she’s gone to sleep on her own.

Similarly Ingrid is now forced to get by without the stroller, which she was so very fond of. She can walk, run or bike, or stand on the buggy board. And of course she manages just fine, and doesn’t even complain much. When she sees that there is no choice, she is usually very sensible and accepts reality.

There is some frustration, of course, but I’m not even sure that there’s more than in a “normal” month. Ingrid’s current way of expressing her frustration is through (more or less realistic) threats and blackmail, or calling me “stupid mummy”. “If you do X then I won’t invite you to my party” and “if I can’t get an apple now then I will just stand here [in the middle of the street]”. She’s even taken to hitting me sometimes, but not with real force, mostly as a challenge.

I’m “stupid mummy” at times but Eric gets an even rougher deal. If Ingrid had her say, he’d always be last and get the least. And his clothes are the ugliest and so are his shoes. When Ingrid happens to draw three humans, the largest and prettiest one is mummy, the middle one is big sister, and the smallest one, drawn almost as an afterthought, is daddy.

That is mostly an act: when I’m busy and can’t be with her, daddy is perfectly acceptable. Again, when it comes down to it, Ingrid is a sensible girl.

The one thing she’s least able to cope with is boredom, and having to entertain herself. She’s always been very social and is never happier than when she’s playing with someone else. Then she can be as inventive and full of ideas as anyone could wish. But on her own, nothing is fun. When she has a choice between doing something on her own, or standing next to me and whinging “mummy can you read for me NOW” and “I have nothing to do” and “what shall we do”, she will choose the whining more often than not.

When we play, it’s mostly board and card games. I can’t even recall the last time we played shop or doctor or anything like that. When she plays with her friends, it’s often role play with dolls, and the girls themselves are mommies or big sisters. At nursery they also seem to play group games (vargen och kycklingarna, which in English is called “sheep, sheep, come home” I think, and bro bro breja). Ingrid has also brought home a counting rhyme from nursery (ole dole doff) which she uses in all sorts of situations, such as choosing a toothbrush in the evening, deciding which chair to sit on, etc.

The iPad remains a big favorite and is now even crowding out movies. Ingrid likes games where she cannot really fail: when she does fail some task in some game, she often decides she doesn’t want to play that game any more. Her favourite app is a dress-up game, and the next best one is a drawing app. Both often turn into social activities: we choose clothes together in the dress-up app, and take turns drawing or choosing colours in the drawing app.

Ingrid has figure out addition and can add small numbers. When both terms are no greater than 3 she knows the answer without thinking, and she can usually figure out the sum as long as it is under 10. Pairs of numbers are easiest: 3 and 3 makes 6, 4 and 4 makes 8. On a few occasions she’s done some subtraction, too (without knowing it herself). One day she was painting invitation cards for her birthday party. Eric and Ingrid had previously counted that they needed to make 6 cards. Halfway through she said, “Now we’ve done 3 cards, so we have to make… 3 more. Then it will be 4, 5, 6.”

Hearts, with and without flowers

At the same time she is close to figuring out writing. She used to focus on the dominant vowel in each word: she’d say that “raamat” (book) begins with an A and so on. Now she can say the word slowly for herself and pick out the first letter, and a few more as long as the word isn’t too long or tricky. She does even better if Eric or I pronounce the word for her, really slowly, focusing on each letter in turn. Interestingly, when she writes, she sometimes writes an L instead of an R because she pronounces them the same.

Writing seems to interest her more than reading. She isn’t interested in trying to spell out written words. But she does like emptying our mailbox and sorting the letters (E for Eric, H for Helen, I for Ingrid) – in part because she hopes that one of them will be for her. And the other day she recognized that ingen (as in signs saying “Ingen reklam tack”) starts the same way as Ingrid.

She also likes rhyming words. And with the help of the alphabet song (which they seem to sing at nursery) and a connect-the-dots app, she seems to have learned most of the alphabet.

Likes: The dance class. Slippers. Drawing princesses and hearts. Going to the library. Surprises and presents (real or play). Eating nuts.

Some fresh bookmarks from

  • Irritating brand names: Silly name, silly company, silly product? – There seems to be no end in sight to the tiresome habit of companies giving themselves and their products novelty names that contain unnecessary punctuation, bogus foreign accents and diacriticals, random use of capitals or lower-case letters, and so on.
  • Schneier on Security: Stuxnet – Bruce Schneier's comments on the Stuxnet worm.
  • Bizarre sea slug is half plant, half animal – Not only does E. chlorotica turn sunlight into energy — something only plants can do — it also appears to have swiped this ability from the algae it consumes.
  • Social Software: The Evaporative Cooling Effect – "The people who most want to meet people are the people who the least number of people want to meet. The people who are the most desperate to date are those who the least number of people want to date. The people who are the most eager to talk are the ones who the least number of people are interested in hearing. It is the ignorance of this fundamental principle that I see at the heart of so many failed social software designs."
  • Putting your hand in the Large Hadron Collider – Several physicists weigh in on what would happen if you were to place your hand in the proton stream of the Large Hadron Collider. The responses range from "nothing" to "you'd die for sure, instantly".

Parental leave is called föräldraledighet in Swedish. The first part, förälder, means parent. The second, ledighet, generally means leisure or holiday. It has overtones of freedom, of time off. Of course reality is nothing like that. Eric likes to refer to it as “parental service” instead.

I don’t know where the time is going, but it definitely feels like two children take more than twice the time as one. There is more to be done, and less time to do it. I seem to recall a certain amount of leisure when I was at home with Ingrid as a baby. Now there are nursery hours to keep, errands to run, and busy evenings trying to juggle the needs of two children at the same time. I am glad that Ingrid is as old as she is, and as sensible as she is – this would be a lot harder otherwise.