Adrian and I slept horribly; don’t know what it was but it felt like I spent all night patting him and popping in the dummy. No long awake periods, not much crying or screaming, but not much proper sleep either. We took a very long nap in the morning.

Adrian got to try his first piece of solids: a chunk of crust from home-made bread. He put it in his mouth, probably expecting it to be like any other toy, and was all googly-eyed when he found out it had FLAVOUR. It was a bit too soft and crumbly for his rough grip, though – I will need to come up with more squeeze-resistant food for him. Apple, perhaps.

Went to the library with Ingrid in the afternoon.

Went to the Estonian playgroup in the morning, as usual.

Tortilla wraps for dinner.

Reading the riveting The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

Yesterday the Estonian school in Stockholm’s Old town had an “open house” day so I went to visit. Next winter we will need to decide on which schools to apply to for Ingrid. (Somewhat stupidly their open house this year was well after the school choice deadline, so I can’t count on visiting them when it’s time to make the decision.) The school seemed good enough, but I haven’t seen any ordinary Swedish schools to compare to. The hard part will be weighing the extra exposure to Estonian language and culture against the inevitable logistical complications.

Today we went to Liljevalchs to see their Spring Salon, an annual exhibition of art by “everyman”. Anyone can send in photos of their works for consideration by the jury, who choose not the “best” works but works that make for a fun exhibition. You can see photos of the works selected for this year’s exhibition here. Ingrid complained about tired legs (par for the course); Adrian was mostly happy to be lugged around (also as expected).

Yesterday: around –20°C during the night so of course the water froze again. Got it mostly working by the afternoon, with the help of a heater under the house.

Took the train to town for some shopping. A battery charger, some origami paper and an origami book for kids, two books for Ingrid, a duvet cover, some fabric for pillowcases. (We have UK-sized pillows and it’s almost impossible to find covers for them in Sweden. The Swedish ones are too small.)

Ingrid’s friend E came to play in the afternoon, after pre-school.

The builders installed the new front door. Now they can use it to get in and out of their half of the house and don’t need to stomp over our carpets, spreading sawdust all the way.

Today: around –20°C during the night so of course the water froze again. It’s becoming routine by now. Pretty cold outside during the day, too: about 16°C when it was time to go to playgroup with Adrian.

He loved it as usual. He insists on facing the other mums and kids all the time. While we sing with the babies, during the songs where you’d normally have the baby facing you (Prästens lilla kråka, Baka, baka liten kaka) I have to either make do with him facing the wrong way or just skip the movements. He will not be turned around.

Unlike the average Swedish parent, I cook dinner every evening, if at all possible. And I mean a proper dinner, from proper ingredients. Fish fingers and rice and peas is not a proper dinner; cheese sauce from a powdered mix is not a proper ingredient.

I enjoy cooking, but there’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. I’m not sure if I cook so often because I enjoy it, or if I enjoy it because I’ve done it so much that I am by now pretty good at it.

Tradition is a part of it. I grew up with home-cooked food since that’s the only thing that was available in Soviet Estonia. There was no takeaway pizza and no frozen meals. Somewhere deep down inside I feel that home-cooked meals are an essential part of what home is all about.

I took a break from this habit in London. We ate ready meals quite often while we lived there. It was convenient, we could afford it, there was a lot of choice, and the food tasted good. I still miss M&S’s vegetarian moussaka with lentils, and the Pizza Express pizzas, and Sainsbury’s pumpkin ravioli, and Waitrose’s canneloni. Here in Sweden there’s almost nothing available. Tasteless, boring frozen fish gratins and pasta with chicken. So we’re back to home cooked meals.

But it’s also because I’m a picky eater. No, that’s not quite the right term. “Food snob” is also a bit wrong. What I mean is that I find it difficult to motivate myself to eat dull, uninspiring, boring, monotonous, low-quality food.

I suspect this is physiological more than psychological. In general I get pretty clear signals from my body. Now that I’m dairy-free I find myself desiring nuts and pulses almost every day, and occasionally I’d suddenly get a craving for eggs or sushi – my body telling me it needs protein. Most of the time my body wants fresh vegetables and a decent amount of fat, and moist, juicy food. My pregnancy cravings were for yogurt and juicy fruit.

I always try to bring a lunch box to work, because the food at the lunch restaurants around the office is so boring, and the choice for a sushitarian so narrow. After a few days of restaurant lunches I tended to find myself thinking “Oh bother, do I really need to eat lunch today again?” and waiting until well past normal lunchtime until I was starving, to make the food seem more appealing.

With dull food, I tend to eat enough to not be hungry any more, but not enough to be properly full. Then I’m peckish again after a while and snack on something that has immediate appeal – something semi-sweet and reasonably fatty. It may be uninspiring but it’s satisfying on a baser level. And my metabolism is such that I can do it without any ill effects on my weight.

For this reason I also try to make sure that there are leftovers at home for lunch. If there aren’t any, I’ll end up subsisting on sandwiches and snacks that day.

I notice that frequently, now that I cannot eat dairy products. While I’m breastfeeding I need five or six meals a day. Breakfast, lunch, a light snack (such as fruit), a bigger snack, dinner, a late-night snack. Before I figured out Adrian’s milk protein intolerance, the snacks were often either a sandwich or some cereal. Cereal is off the table for now, and the choice of meat- and dairy-free sandwich materials is quite limited. So when I’m tired of my two fish-based spreads, and of hummus and avocado, I fall back on peanut butter and honey on rye bread for my 11-o’clock-at-night sandwich. It does the job.

Now I’m getting tired of sugar. I never thought I’d see the day. I’m not one to binge on ice cream or candy – I’m a snob here as well, I’d rather eat small amounts of good-quality stuff. But I’ve always liked my desserts, jam on porridge and on pancakes, orange juice for breakfast and so on. Home-made jam… mmm. Brämhults orange juice… another mmm. But a few weeks ago I started having juicy water for breakfast, because juice straight up was just too sweet. Now I’ve tired of jam on my porridge. Luckily we have berries in the freezer since the summer – redcurrants and blueberries with a small amount of sugar make a perfect porridge topping. When we run out of those, I’ll have to see what’s available in the supermarket, or see if dried fruit works (I suspect I might find it too sweet). On the other hand I’m sure that porridge with no topping will be way too dull.

A very ordinary day at home with both kids. Went out for a trip to the supermarket. Read for Ingrid. Washed. Cooked dinner.

It was warmer outside today so the water pipes thawed.

The builders have put up new interior walls.

We’ve been talking for a while about taking a vacation in some warm and sunny place some time soon. Yesterday evening we finally sat down and looked at the alternatives (the remaining ones, after Egypt, our first choice, became unavailable). Today Eric booked a week’s vacation in Gran Canaria in late March.

–20°C during the night; several frozen pipes as a result. We now have no cold water in the kitchen (even though we left the tap dripping to prevent freezing), or the bathroom tap or the shower (both of which froze yesterday already). Lots of hot water though. Luckily the tap in the new laundry room works OK, and the toilet tank seems to fill, too. We’re washing dishes by hand; there’s a bucket with cold water standing in a corner in the kitchen, so we can mix water to a suitable temperature in the sink. I guess the builders’ hypothesis about where the weak spot is was not correct.

My mum came to visit. Ingrid was very happy about this, in high gear all day, barely a calm moment. She is going to be tired tomorrow.

Eric and my mum made pizza for dinner. Yummy, but without cheese it’s not quite the real thing.

The one thing I will remember about this month is the drooling. It’s not like Adrian produces occasional dribs and drabs of dribble. No, it’s more like a river of saliva. He is never without a bandana bib while awake. There is always a row of them drying on the heater: each one lasts an hour, maximum, before it’s soaked through, almost so you can wring it out.

If he was my first child, I’d say “surely he must be teething”. But since Ingrid drooled for many months (although never quite this copiously) before any signs of teeth, I won’t. I think he just drools.

It’s no wonder he eats/drinks so often. He must get dehydrated from all this fluid loss. He still usually feeds twice during each awake period (more often in the evening) and about every 3 to 4 hours at night.

He also spits up a lot, so I try to always have a wash cloth within reach. There’s always a handful spread out in the house, and there’s one in most of my photos of him. In our changing bag, bibs and wash cloths are as important as clean nappies.

He falls asleep pretty easily in both sling and stroller, and in bed with the help of a little bit of nursing. But the only time he sleeps in bed is at night, or when I want to take a nap, too – otherwise I find it too inconvenient.

Quite often he interrupts his naps with screaming. Nowadays I can often get him to go back to sleep – usually I just need to pop in the dummy, and hold a hand on his cheek, and give him a finger to hold. The physical contact he gets from being in the sling is not enough: he wants skin against skin. He also likes holding our fingers when he’s awake but tired.

Lullabies also soothe him. I can see and feel him relax within seconds. This is something I never experienced with Ingrid – as far as I could see, she couldn’t have cared less whether I sang or not.

This past week he’s been sleeping very badly at night. At first it was (probably mostly) due to congested airways – after a few hours of lying in the bed he could barely breathe through his nose. Now he just seems to sleep very uneasily. He wakes more often than normally, sometimes with no more than an hour between wakings. He is hard to soothe, often screams and cries inconsolably.

Holding fingers

He’s pretty good at using his hands now. He grabs toys (not with perfect precision but decent enough) and can turn them in his hands. A few weeks ago he would use this skill to stuff everything in his mouth, but now he’s as likely to just look at things. When there are no toys in front of him, or when they’re all out of reach, he complains pretty quickly. He is not so good at letting go of things yet: sometimes I can see that he wants to grab a toy but cannot because his fingers are griopping something else and he doesn’t know how to get rid of it.

His fingers also have a complicated relationship with the dummy and its clip. Frequently the hand accidentally hooks or grips the strap and pulls the dummy out of his mouth. But he’s also working hard at taking the dummy and trying to get it back in his mouth. The challenges are (a) getting it turned the right way, so he gets the teat and not a hard edge, and (b) not getting the fingers in there between the mouth and the dummy.

We’ve packed away both the play mat and the bouncy chair. He’s never been fond of lying flat on his back, asleep or awake, so the play mat got very little use. Now we just have a blanket on the floor where I can put him down on his tummy. He likes that somewhat better. And he doesn’t much like leaning back, either: he started doing situps in the bouncy chair, to the point where I thought it looked both unsafe and uncomfortable. Since he is totally not able to sit on his own, we bought a second highchair instead (IKEA’s Antilop), which is light enough that I can easily carry it with me anywhere in the house.

Carrying him with me is a frequent necessity. Adrian is not at all OK with being left alone. When I put him down and move out of sight, it takes just a few seconds for him to start making unhappy noises. So when I want to put away clean laundry in the bedroom upstairs, for example, I have to take him with me, or listen to him screaming all the while.

Or alternatively, ask Ingrid to entertain him. She enjoys that; his reaction is a combination of bafflement, enjoyment and mild fear. She heaps toys in front of him, or makes some stuffed animal walk and jump on top of him, or hangs rattles around his wrist, all the while singing nonsense words to some random tune. She’s not ungentle but she is quite loud and often very close to his face. She loves it when he looks or smiles at her.

He is also always very happy to see Eric. Eric gets big smiles when he comes home in the evening.

Yesterday I got Ingrid to go to her dance-n-play thing in the afternoon by promising that I’d be sitting right outside all the time. And I did. And she came to the door about 10 times, twice to cry about a bumped knee, and the rest of the time to announce that “we’re now playing follow the leader” or “I got to be the bear in the sleeping bear game” and so on. But at least she took part in the whole thing this time and didn’t want to leave early.

Ingrid’s obsession with not throwing anything away flared up yesterday. She got very upset when I emptied the small bin on the desk into the large one in the kitchen, and took it all out again. Then she told me “I wish there was no waste bin! I want to take it all!”

Today I went to meet some Sjalbarn mums again, like two weeks ago.

The builders have now demolished not just everything inside the extension, but also the old veranda outside. Inside, a lovely old window was uncovered, on what used to be the outside wall of the old house but is now inside between the to halves of the house. I’d have loved to keep it visible somehow but it’s right where we’d planned to have a wall, so it’s probably just going to get buried again.

Ingrid has been sort of sensitive this month, worried about loss, about being alone, about not being able to hold on to things forever. She has difficulty letting go of things, in case she can’t get them back, just in case she needs them later.

For about a week we had tearful good-byes in the morning when I dropped her off at preschool. Then she told me she didn’t want to go there at all. She wanted to be with me all the time – or, she suggested, a preschool where parents are welcome, too. Now we have a compromise where she is there for 3 days a week and stays at home with me the other days. Every morning she tells me she’d rather be with me. At home she tells me she doesn’t want to be alone, not even in another room.

Yet when she is forced to be on her own (e.g. when I put Adrian to bed on nights when Eric is away) she handles it very well. But even then her activities are social by their nature: often she will draw a picture or write a letter for me.

Most recently she’s drawn puzzles for me: the kind where there are, say, 3 kids and one apple and tangled lines from each kid, and you have to follow the lines to see which one gets the apple. Her versions have a castle as the “prize”, and various people/animals around it: for example a girl or two, a baby, and two squirrels with pine cones. When she draws, it’s still almost always girls or princesses.

She mentions (occasionally but not daily) that we will die before her, but that it is a long time till then. We’ve discussed that we probably won’t live to be a thousand years old, but might well reach a hundred, which, luckily, feels like an eternity for one who’s four.

She has started collecting things again. It used to be sticks and stones; now she also wants to keep empty egg cartons, the foil lids from yogurt pots, empty chewing gum bags, and most other empty jars and boxes. She wants me to save the shopping list after we’re done shopping. When she borrows my camera and happens to take a blurry photo, she tells me I mustn’t delete it. She got very upset the other day when I deleted some RSS messages with pretty photos from my inbox. Today when she saw me surf the web, she worriedly asked me if I would be throwing any pictures away.

Ingrid is, in general, not so good at handling adversity. She doesn’t like iPad games where she can fail (except if it is easy to try again, such as Angry Birds). She’d rather not try at all than try and fail. She skips the boring parts of movies; she has a tendency to walk away from conflicts with friends.

Writing remains a favourite activity. She likes writing lists, messages, letters etc. It’s becoming a normal and everyday thing for her. In terms of skill she’s at about the same level as last month. Sometimes what she writes is legible, other times she skips half the letters so I have to ask her to read it for me. Sometimes when she runs out of space she squeezes in letters wherever she can, so the letters of the second half of the word is interspersed between those of the first half.

She’s not so interested in reading, although she does try occasionally. Some words she knows by sight. When she tries to spell out an unknown word, she often gets tripped up by the names of letters. When she sees “KUU” she reads “KA, U, U” – “KAUU?”.

With numbers also she’s about where she used to be. She does simple sums with small numbers without a problem. But it’s interesting for me to see that she really has no feel for numbers, no intuition. We have a card game where you’re supposed to find numbers/cards that together make up 10. She has, say, 5, 7 and 8. She tries 5 and 7 – twelve, too much. She then tries 5 and 8, without even thinking that since 8 is more than 7, there’s no way that would get her closer to 10. But if given 1, 3, 8, she tries the combinations and then realizes that what she needs is between 1 and 3, that she needs a 2.

The cards in that game have both a number and the corresponding amount of some thing. (One hedgehog, two bikes, something like that.) When she adds, say, 2 and 8, she will always count the things on both cards. She knows that the card says 8, but she won’t count 8, 9, 10 only – she starts at 1 and counts every item. No shortcuts.

She likes composing things out of other things: decorating things with stickers, playing Fablescapes on the iPad. While I cook she often creates sculptures out of stuff in the kitchen. It started with matchbox towers; then she added spoons and tea sieves to that; the latest sculpture covered half the free space on the kitchen counter and was made up of about 15 things: tea jars, wooden spoons, etc etc.

Recently there have been fewer complaints about walking but she is not a fan, by far. At some point I suggested to her that what we really need is a pair of wings, and she adopted that idea completely. Now she often brings up wings whenever she tires of walking. Ideally she’d like wings that fly on their own, that you don’t need to flap – perhaps with hooks or handles where you can hang your bags too – and perhaps some sort of place for a baby, because they’re too young to have their own. Or perhaps a flying house (and then we discussed how many rooms it should have, and she told me that it absolutely needs windows so we can see where we’re going, and doors so we don’t fall out) or perhaps a flying armchair, with two seats like twin strollers, and a canopy for rain, and someplace to put our bags, and a tray table too. Unless she’s really really tired, these ideas take up enough of her attention to get us home without too much fuss.

She enjoys amusing Adrian. It makes her glad to see him look at her, or smile at her. She will put toys in front of him (or on top of him), wave them in front of him, etc. He mostly watches with bafflement.

She does not like wearing socks. I think her feet get too hot, and that she’d happily wear socks if she had thinner winter boots.

She likes nightgowns better than pyjamas.

She has discovered chewing gum, and loves it. Wrigley’s Extra with blueberry and pomegranate, or with strawberry flavour. In fact she likes berries in just about any form: blueberry jam is better than apple; raspberry juice is better than orange; ice cream, yogurt, etc.

She’s also discovered the concept of wish lists, and has a long one that contains everything from “a Swedish flag” and “a music box” to “plastic duck with wheels” and “pretend flowers”.