Smarties: the prettiest kind of candy

I see other kids eat cinnamon swirls for their mid-afternoon snack and eat candy off and on throughout the day. And they still don’t gain weight or have trouble with their teeth.

With Ingrid we need to worry about both weight and teeth. Eric keeps an eye on his weight, and I have weak teeth, so I guess Ingrid inherited the worst from each of us. Se’s definitely got the Bergheden body type, broad and strong and tending towards overweight if you don’t pay attention. Adrian looks like he’ll be following in Ingrid’s footsteps.

The standard Swedish solution for keeping kids’ teeth healthy is lördagsgodis, “Saturday’s candy”, i.e. sweets on Saturdays only. And then they get lots, lots and lots and lots. Many of them really get to gorge themselves on sweets. The argument is that if you eat your sweets all in one go then your teeth get to rest from sugar in between Saturdays. (The whole idea was introduced by the worried public health authorities in 1957, according to an unverified source.)

It’s also supposed to instil in kids an understanding and a habit that sweets are a treat, to be limited, not everyday fare. If a Swede sees kids eat sweets on another day then s/he will probably comment on it, whether in his head or out loud.

But while mid-week candy turns heads, many Swedish parents exclude cakes, fika, ice cream and other such stuff from their definition of sweets, so those are OK on other days, too. And pancakes for dinner are not “sweets” either. Judging from the kids’ menus at restaurants, for many Swedish families pancakes is not a treat but a normal meal. And then there are all the other lingonberry-jam-accompanied kid-friendly everyday meals such as potato griddle cakes and black pudding and meatballs and so on. So the whole Saturday candy thing suffers from serious cognitive dissonance issues.

I also think it leads to an unhealthy attitude towards sweets, and eating in general. Many adult Swedes I know tell me that when they are offered sweets, they are unable to eat just a little, they feel compelled to eat lots. This is not an issue I’ve noticed among my Estonian friends. So instead of teaching kids to limit their intake of sweets, the Saturday candy thing teaches them to obsess about sweets all week long and then gorge themselves. (Pretty much the same problem that adults in many countries have with alcohol – but not in countries where there is a tradition of having wine with your dinner.)

So we don’t “do” Saturday candy in our home. We do “everything in moderation” instead. As a result Ingrid is limited to one small-sized treat per day on weekdays, and two on weekends, when she can have a sweeter breakfast (toast with marmalade, or a sweeter kind of cereal) as well as ice cream after dinner. And pancakes with jam most certainly count as a treat in our home. It seems to work; the long-term results remain to be seen.

Perhaps you’ve heard the assertion that you need to put in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at any field. Well, here is an amazing and inspiring example I found today. Jonathan Hardesty decided that he would learn to draw and paint. He totally became an expert. And what’s even more cool – he documented his progress in a forum thread spanning 7 years of work, so you can follow him on his way. Makes me wonder – what might I achieve with the same kind of dedication?

September 2002 (© Jonathan Hardesty)

February 2009 (© Jonathan Hardesty)

Some fresh bookmarks from

  • Fostering Healthy Attachment – How we, as a society, have raised our children with the expectation that they become totally self-reliant and autonomous rather than with the hope that they have the capacity to form close, loving, intimate relationships with others.
  • NY Times: From Scroll to Screen – In the classical world, books came in the shape of scrolls. Then came the modern form of books, the codex – stacks of leaves bound together. With e-books we are going back in the direction of scrolls, losing the power of random access reading.
  • Economist: The flight from marriage – Asians are marrying later, and less, than in the past. This has profound implications for women, traditional family life and Asian politics.
  • Viewers vs. Doers: The Rise of Spectatoritis | The Art of Manliness – “80,000 people gathered to watch 22 men run around, throw a ball, and smash into each other. The appeal is not difficult to see—there’s something truly compelling about watching the most talented athletes in the world perform. But when you take a step back, it’s really quite odd, isn’t it? Two groups of men–the doers and the viewers—and one group is far, far larger than the other.”
  • Cartooning vs. Technology: How Steve Jobs Ruined Comics – Representing something in a super-simplified style when the object itself is already super-simplified becomes increasingly difficult. How do you draw someone talking on the phone, when the phone can’t be seen because it is smaller than the person’s hand?

We’ve been struggling with fruit flies in the kitchen, around our fruit bowl. We tried to get rid of them by just squishing them, and then by vacuuming them up, but it hardly made a difference.

Then I consulted the Internet. The Internet suggested a liquid trap for them, with a tasty liquid (vinegar, juice, wine, sugar water) and a few drops of dishwashing detergent.

For the sake of experiment, we made two traps: one with apple juice (which seemed reasonable since they like fruit) and one with red wine vinegar (which several online sources suggested as particularly effective). And it worked like a miracle. After a few hours the apple juice had trapped 4 or 5, while the vinegar trap had 17 dead fruit flies. Since then the number of dead flies keeps increasing and we hardly ever see any live ones flying around – they must go directly from hatching to drowning. Great trick!

In addition to our excellent cherry tree and lovely damson bush, we also have an apple tree. It doesn’t get quite as much love and attention as the others – perhaps because it stands far away (relatively speaking) in a corner of the garden, and its fruit become edible late autumn (October-ish) rather than during summer when we we’re all out in the garden all the time. But it does bear nice fruit.

Since we first ate its fruit we’ve wondered about what kind of apple it might be. Today we went to Rosendal’s trädgård to find out. This weekend they have their annual apple and pear show, which includes representatives from Sweden’s Pomological society who sit there and inspect people’s fruit and try to figure out what kind it may be.

We brought them five of our apples. They looked and they cut and they tasted and they consulted their books, and they concluded that our apple tree is a Gravensteiner. “Sweet, at first quite tart, very fine. Very old variety. Excellent both for eating and for cooking.”

We celebrated Adrian’s birthday today.

Well, it wasn’t that much of a celebration really… he does like to have people around him but an actual birthday party with the whole extended family would be too much for him. And perhaps for the family, too, considering that they’d be invited back here for a second party a month from now. So we saved the partying for Ingrid’s birthday and just had some cake today, and invited my mum.

Except that we ate the cake after Adrian went to bed (which he did early because he had slept badly both last night and today during the day). And my mum mostly played with and read for Ingrid rather than Adrian, since Ingrid appreciates her company a lot more.

So really Adrian just had an ordinary Sunday, and the rest of us shamelessly used his birthday as an excuse to have fun. But I don’t think he minded.

Adrian’s current favourite game is increasing entropy. Nature abhors a vacuum; Adrian apparently abhors excessive order. When I stack three blocks on top of each other, he picks them down, one by one. He doesn’t just hit the stack to make it fall, no, he carefully picks it apart. When I put his 8 stacking cups inside each other, he picks them out, one by one. I line them up in two rows; he knocks each one over so it doesn’t stand straight any more.

He has also learned to bang things against each other. Sometimes he does this with toys, but it is even more fun to do this with cutlery. We have heavy cutlery with solid handles, and they make a lot of noise when banged against the table.

Until very recently he only used cutlery for banging, but now he suddenly developed an interest for using them for eating, too. This morning at breakfast he took the spoon I had handed to him and started poking at my food with it. When I loaded the spoon for him, he got it in his mouth and managed to lick off some food. (Oat porridge with blackcurrants. Yum.)

We’ve tried introducing a bowl and a spoon before, but they’re both tricky: he wants to investigate them from all angles, so the food falls out and little gets into the mouth. But perhaps this was the wrong end to begin from: spoons and bowls are for spoon-fed babies. For a BLW baby, forks may be easier to get started with. So for lunch today we gave him a fork for his food. He can’t yet spear any food on it, so we do that part for him, but he had no trouble putting the fork in his mouth or getting the food off – laughing all the way as if this was the best thing ever.

He still likes climbing. Most of the time, when I want to take him upstairs, I lift him over our jury-rigged “gate” and then he dives for the stairs, away from my arms, so he can climb up himself. In a new place with no toys or other objects to play with, he will immediately explore all climbing and standing opportunities. He will climb up on the step stool in our kitchen, and on our bed. In trains and buses he will fight with his whole being to be let out of the stroller or baby carrier so he can instead stand up on a seat. He will climb up into shop windows in shops, if given free rein, and stand up on park benches.

Up, up, and away!

With most of these, I let him climb, with various amounts of supervision. He is not overconfident (yet?) and won’t forget, for example, that he is on a stool and step sideways. And none of these places are so high that a fall would lead to serious damage ’ perhaps a banged head but no broken bones. The stairs is the only place where I am always right behind him and don’t let him climb on his own.

I’m less happy about his new ability to climb out of his highchair and onto the kitchen table, not so much because he will fall but because everything else would fall or be sat upon. So we can no longer leave him unattended there, and have to take him out of the chair as soon as he makes it clear he is done.

Climbing up is easier but he is also slowly learning to climb down from things. He can’t yet get down from step stools, but he can get down backwards from our bed and from the sofa.

He also climbs around when nursing. He sits, then kneels, then sits with one leg underneath him and one somewhere else, then stands up… The weirdest nursing position he has used was standing up and then bending forward from the waist – not quite 90 degrees but maybe 60, i.e. pretty far forward – staying upright by planting his face on my chest, and letting his arms dangle and wave around.

He wanders around in his sleep. When I go to the bedroom at night, he is never where I left him. Almost always I find him lying across the bed, with his head towards Eric’s side and his feet towards mine. Usually he sleeps on his tummy, either flat or with his bottom up in the air. Sometimes he then lists to one side and leans his bum onto a pillow or a warm body. When he’s napping with Eric he likes to burrow his head into Eric’s armpit. With me, especially when he wakes at night and has trouble going back to sleep, he likes to lie on his right side across the bed, with his bum and his feet against me, and his head away from me, sort of as if he was sitting on my chest.

He still likes being carried in a sling or baby carrier. When he is out with Eric, he is content to stay in the stroller, or so I’m told. With me, he sometimes accepts the stroller but more often he wants to sit in a baby carrier. I suppose he knows that with Eric, he doesn’t really have any choice, and he’s OK with that.

I carry Adrian for many reasons. Sometimes for the closeness: when I’ve been away from him all day, and then take him out for a quick trip to the supermarket I’d rather hold him close than at arm’s length. Sometimes for convenience, especially when there are stairs, hills, or narrow spaces to be navigated. Sometimes for the safety of things around him: on my back he is further away from stuff he shouldn’t touch (especially in small cramped shops) than when he’s in the stroller. Sometimes to keep him calm: when he wants out of the stroller, he often wriggles if I hold him in my arms, but is somewhat quieter on my back.

He hates lying down on his back for nappy changes. He screams as if he was tortured, and fights us and flees as soon as he can. I try to get as much as possible done without putting him down on his back: unsnapping the poppers on his clothes, taking off his trousers, even taking off the wet nappy. Sometimes I can entice him to stand still in one place long enough so I can actually put on a dry nappy with him standing up. But with dirty nappies there is no option; if I let him go he will sit down on the floor and there will be poop everywhere, so I have to put him down and listen to him scream. Toys, singing, silly faces, no distraction works.

To counterbalance this torture, I often let him loose without a nappy when I’ve cleaned him up. He loves that part. The moment I let him go, he usually laughs and crawls away from me. Then he makes a game out of crawling away when I call him back or follow him, looks over his shoulder and giggles at me and races away. We call it his chasing game. Unfortunately he often pees small puddles on the floor, so I can’t let him go free without constantly watching him.

He likes waving and smiling and babbling at people. He’s learned that this usually gets a pleasant response.

He likes my mouth. He pokes at my lips and my tongue, and hooks his fingers around my teeth. Sometimes he puts stuff in my mouth.

For a week or two he really liked playing with and chewing on Ingrid’s paint brushes, and my old toothbrush. That seems to have ended as suddenly as it came.

He likes pointing with his finger but I’m not sure if he actually points at any particular object, or just points. He likes holding out objects towards me and triumphantly announcing “täääh!”, but not giving them to me. He just likes to show them off I think.

Adrian’s favourite foods are puffed rice cakes and wafers. You can’t go wrong with these. Prunes and meatballs are also safe bets. With fruit his taste is unpredictable: some days he has no interest in bananas, other days he eats a whole banana in a single sitting.

This month Ingrid learned to read. She’s known all the letters for, like, years; been able to read single words for at least six months, and been able to write something that I can more or less read for even longer. Now it’s all come together and she can read: not just single words but proper reading, fast enough that she can read entire sentences and stories.

Sometimes she gets stuck but unless she’s tired or in a hurry, she will reread the word until it makes sense. And she’s pretty attentive and notices when she’s made a mistake. She can read “smörgåsar” where it says “smörgåspaket”, catch that, and try again. My hypothesis is that with long words like that, she looks at the first half of the word, skips to a conclusion, and then reads the last few letters to confirm.

Her first book was En liten stund by Anna-Clara Tidholm. It’s really a book for toddlers: a simple story, about 30 pages, with a picture and a couple of sentences on each page. (It’s about two rabbits who eat pancakes. Lots of pancakes, with lots of raspberry jam and cream.)

This is about the right level for her, so Eric and Ingrid have been borrowing toddler books from the library, and I have brought out her own old books: Bu och Bä, Liten skär, etc. There is also the Extra lätt att läsa (“Extra easy reading”) series, which is at about the same level but the topic matter is geared towards 6- to 8-year-olds rather than 3-year-olds. (Simskolan was particularly topical.) But she quite likes the toddler books, too.

Ingrid’s first book: En liten stund.

Reading other people’s writing has brought up the matter of Swedish spelling. Which is much easier than English spelling, thank goodness, but not as regular as Estonian. She’s learned how to read the sj in sjuk and sk in skiner, and that the g in morgon and the r in bord are not heard. Currently she is struggling with the fact that de (“they”) should be pronounced dom while det (“it”) should be pronounced de – sentences tend to lose their sense when you read “it” instead of “they”. I do wonder why they didn’t use the modernised dom spelling in books that are aimed at beginning readers.

As with everything else, reading is, of course, a social activity for her. She may have read on her own on a few occasions, but she’d much rather read for me or for Eric. (And show us the pictures, just as she wants to see the pictures when I read for her.) Today she had a friend over after preschool, and read Bu och Bä i skogen for her.

Now that she has figured out the art of reading, she reads everything. She reads the text on cereal boxes and on juice bottles, on street signs and on notes from my desk. Annoyingly many texts on everyday goods are in English: slogans and brand names on cereal boxes are a good bad example. (“Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Multigrain”.) We’ve also discussed why some packaging has the same text in Norwegian and Danish in addition to Swedish.

Often when I’m reading for her, I hear her mumbling under her breath some words from the page I’m reading. In particular she often reads the last word from each page.

Other than reading… nothing much, I think. I haven’t spent as much time with her as I used to when I was at home, so now I simply don’t see enough of her to notice minor changes.

She usually spends most of the night in her own bed but often wanders over to her mattress next to our bed some time around 5 or 6 in the morning. Sometimes earlier, sometimes not at all.

In the morning, in bed before we get up, she likes cuddling with me or playing with Adrian.

During breakfast she likes to pour apple juice on her cereal instead of milk. Other breakfast favourites include tunnbrödsrulle with liver pâté and perhaps apple slices, or scrambled eggs.

It is very important to her to give me a proper good-bye when I leave for work: put on her shoes, follow me out onto the porch or down the stairs, then three hugs and three kisses, and wave from the porch until I go out of sight behind the neighbours’ hedge. The ceremony slowly gets longer and longer: first it was just three kisses in the kitchen; one day earlier this week she forgot what she was doing and followed me all the way to the corner, at which point we both laughed at her mistake and she ran back, and now she’s wanted to do it that way every morning.

When I see her again in the afternoon she is usually either watching a movie or playing with a friend. When movie time is up we usually read a bit, or play with Adrian (either all three of us together, or just her and Adrian) while Eric makes dinner. After dinner and after I have put Adrian to bed, we may read some more, or maybe draw.

Most days she will have brought home a drawing or painting for me from preschool. The subject matter is generally girls, princesses, castles, flowers and hearts.

She often uses varför (“why”) in the sense of “how unfair, do I really have to, why must I do this”.

She likes wearing dresses and tights or leggings, and rarely picks any other clothes. I think that the waists on skirts and trousers make her itch.

Prompted by crankymonkeys in London I have now put up an About page. What do you think?

Babies vs. blind people: two groups with opposite needs. You wouldn’t think so at first glance, but it is true. And the people designing the Stockholm public traffic system clearly favour the visually impaired. Every time I get on a commuter train or the tube with Adrian asleep, a bell goes DINNGG!!!! on the platform when the train is about to arrive, or station names are announced in a clangorous tone. And inevitably Adrian’s eyes also go DING! and he is wide awake. Bleh.