With winter almost over, I can declare this season’s best buy: a snow pusher. (For those of you living in less-snowy climes, have a look at the photo.)

In previous years we’ve made do with just a shovel. A pusher seemed like a waste of money and space. You only use it after a really heavy snow fall, maybe half a dozen times during the season. The rest of the time it just stands there, taking up lots of space.

For the two staircases from the street to the house, a shovel is the only option – there is no space for anything else. In fact on the lower stairs there’s barely enough space to swing a shovel, and occasionally I imagine sawing down the handrail on one side, to give me more room.

But then there’s also the driveway in front of the garage, and the roof. We clear snow off the roof because of the risk of leaks. When we redid the interior in the extension, we discovered signs of an old water leak from the roof. Apparently the roof (a sheet metal one) is not entirely waterproof. So any time the weather report promises above-zero temperatures, we climb up on the roof and shovel off the snow before it melts and starts leaking into our office/library.

And for both the driveway and the roof, the pusher makes life a LOT easier. Now there’s no more lifting, just pushing. Especially for the roof, where we now just push the snow over the edge. (From the driveway the snow needs to be pushed up into a bank.) It’s not even hard work any more – it just takes a bit of time. I quite enjoy it. Peace and quiet, fresh air, nice view, moderate exercise.

The gardening season is about to begin! Last week friend/neighbour P told me about an interesting lecture at a gardening club. This made me suddenly realize that spring is not far off. Now I have bought a bunch of new gardening books (which are lying here just waiting to be browsed) and attended the lecture, so I’m full of inspiration and energy, making plans for this season.

Last summer I planted a bunch of bushes and shrubs. Later, towards autumn, we cleared out much of our “slope of weeds” and had a carpenter build stairs along one edge of that slope.

This year’s main big project will be to finish clearing that slope and then to plant it. It’s not the most central part of the garden, but it is one that we see daily during the summer, and also the ugliest one right now. I’m imagining a low-maintenance combination of small bushes, some decorative grasses, maybe a few large rocks, and hardy perennials for most of the area.

I also hope to add some more climbers & creepers to the play house, to make it more fun for the kids. Hopefully I can do this early in the season so they have time to grow enough to make a difference already this summer.

If we still have time and energy left over then maybe we’ll plant raspberry bushes. This is something that we’ve been talking about for at least two years now, and I’m hoping that we can finally do something about it.

I also have visions of decorative plantings to both sides of the entrance, and along the stairs that lead from the street to the entrance, and also a complete remake of our one and only flowerbed (behind the house, by the wooden deck) but all of this will probably have to wait until another year.

Adrian seems to have grown a lot this month – not in size but in age. Language development is part of it. But he also had his first real haircut (if a 2-minute haircut done at home can be called “real”) and suddenly he looks much older.

But returning to language, he seems to talk a lot more, and about more varied things. He talks about us vs. others, and about ownership: not just “mine!” but also about what is ours and what is not. He talks about who is small and who is big. He talks about what he is doing (jag hoppar! or even jag är här!).

He still pretty much ignores grammar: skips the small helper words like prepositions, and often also the less weighty verbs such as “have” and “be” and “do”. He knows about future tense but not about past: he can say jag ska titta på film (“I will watch a movie”) correctly, but jag tittar på film (“I am watching a movie”) can equally well mean “I watched a movie this morning”.

He loves letters and loves to point them out in all sorts of settings. A (Adrian), I (Ingrid), P (Pappa), M (Mamma), O (oo vad det låter bra), Ö (Örjan), N (näsa), E (Eric or elefant), sometimes also D (Darin), H (Hanna), and others that he knows less well.

He talks about colours a lot, too, usually getting them completely wrong: points at something and says “green”. Often green is his first guess regardless of what the actual colour is, but he also suggests blue and yellow and red. He knows the names of a bunch colours but I don’t think he ever uses any of them correctly.

Numbers and counting are also fun. He knows the numbers come in a given order, but not that you need to start at one. Given two meatballs he can count them “one, two” but equally well “seven, eight” or “four, five”. But I think he’s very close to getting it.

He is practising getting dressed and especially undressed. He can get pretty much all of his clothes off, except for the boots & snowsuit, because of the straps on the snowsuit that go under the sole of the boot. Putting them on is harder and often he doesn’t even want to try – Jag kan inte! Emme ska göra. – but he is very cooperative when I do it for him. He doesn’t object to clothes, generally, and is not at all as warm-blooded as Ingrid. He likes wearing a fleece top and sheepskin slippers at home, like us adults but quite unlike Ingrid.

In fact there is a lot of jag kan inte (“I cannot”) and also jag orkar inte (roughly “I’m not strong enough”) about all sorts of things.

He is curious about our doings and wants to watch as soon as we do something new. Vad du, pappa? But when Ingrid is around, he generally prefers to play with her. Right now the favourite game is playing doctor, when he gets to “coperate” Ingrid. (In Swedish koperera, and it is just as funnily almost-correct as in English.) Whatever Ingrid does, Adrian will do as well, no matter how little he understands of what’s going on – “just happy to be on the show.” He browses Bamse magazines because she does, and stays up until 8:30 because she does. He is much calmer and quieter when she is not at home – trying to keep up with her winds him up but also takes a lot of energy.

When he has a goal, he always runs and never walks. He only walks when he doesn’t quite know what to do next. Jag ska hämta bok! Jag springer!

He is quite sensitive to certain kinds of sensory input, such as loud rumbling noises (tractors, motorbikes) but also the sensation of wind on his face, or snow or raindrops. He doesn’t even like to bathe with me any more, because of the risk of me splashing.

He is scared of all sorts of animals, almost to the point of panic. When a cat enters the room, he not only climbs onto my knees but tries to get even higher up, onto my shoulders, and closes his eyes and hides his face. The other day we saw a hare in a garden we passed, and he didn’t dare to look out until two blocks later.

Likes:

  • Music. This is nothing new but it is something that I am reminded of almost daily.
  • Toothpaste.
  • Breaking eggs (for pancakes etc). He used to do it with great gusto; now he often needs a bit of encouragement because jag kan inte!.
  • Cutting with a sharp knife. Bananas and apple chunks are great for practising knife skills.
  • Eating with his fingers, and especially cramming food into his mouth with his palm.
  • The intro song from this year’s first Melodifestivalen show, a cover of Euphoria by Gina Dirawi. Except that he calls it Copacabanana, which is the (very different) MF song that first caught his attention.
  • Gummibjörn
  • Toting a little bag with him when we go out.
  • Sitting inside the shopping trolley when we’re at a supermarket.
  • The TV sections in Teletubbies, when they show actual kids doing stuff, but not the other parts with Teletubbies themselves. With Ingrid it was totally the opposite.

Another month with smooth sailing all the way. This still feels like a bit of a luxury, not to be taken for granted – I still have strong memories of the time when Ingrid was surly and negative and complained and argued about everything.

Ingrid has matured a lot when it comes to reelationships with other people. She thinks and talks about them quite a lot. Just like she likes to recite her catalogue of physical “hurts” for the day (“I slipped and fell and hit my hands and didn’t even have my thick gloves on” or “I got poked in the eye while we were playing”) she also often tells me about psychological “hurts”: which friend tried to force Ingrid to do something she didn’t want, which friends started to quarrel while they were playing.

There is apparently a lot of “love” at school as well. (And for some reason she/they refer to it as “love”, in English, not in Swedish. Perhaps it is more romantic this way.) Often she tells me about all the boys who are in love with her and try to kiss her all the time, and how she has to run away from them. She seems to enjoy the attention but she is not fond of kissing, regardless of who is doing it. She doesn’t want me to kiss her either – she doesn’t like the wet feeling. She’d much rather get a hug.

School really is a social activity for her. The educational part is limited in scope and ambition, and not the least bit challenging for her. One week their weekly newsletter to parents said they had been listening for the first sound in words – the B in book and so on. We were doing that with Ingrid when she was three years old. Of course, I understand that they have to begin with the basics and can’t assume that the kids have done anything before school.

She has also been more curious about relationship and social issues in books that she reads. What does “bullying” mean? What does “torment” mean? We talk about it, and I reflect on how innocent she is.

She seems to have a strong need just now to feel successful. She often asks me to confirm that she is good at skating / drawing / reading etc. (Which I almost always do.) I don’t like that way of thinking much – I believe in praising effort, not achievement – and I wonder how she’s come to think in those terms. Probably school; I get the impression that teachers say that kind of thing an awful lot.

The one activity about which I couldn’t agree with her was skating. When she asked if she was good at it, she could shakily move ahead but not much more. I told her that to be good at something, it shouldn’t feel difficult. She should be able to skate without having to think hard about it all the time – like she cycles, effortlessly.

Since the beginning of this term, the kids have been going skating every week at school, and Ingrid’s skating skills have improved enormously. Now she actually glides with (relative) speed and confidence. She can turn, and skate on one leg for short stretches. She has even tried skating backwards a little bit. A month ago we used to chase each other on ice: me skating semi-slowly backwards in front of her, her trying to catch me. The last time we went skating together, I definitely was NOT going to escape her if I skated backwards, and even skating face-forward I had to exert myself to not get caught. On a long straight stretch I can outskate her easily, but when I have to maneuver and turn because we’re about to reach the edge of the rink (and she can turn and intercept me when I am forced to turn) we’re now almost evenly matched.

Ingrid plays a lot with Adrian and they really enjoy each other’s company. Their play is still simple and physical and usually quite incomprehensible to me. If they play WITH anything, it’s things like pillows, blankets, balloons, maybe a large cardboard box or a bag they can climb into. The toy food doesn’t get much use just now. Instead they play a lot with a set of doctor’s equipment. It also mostly seems to be about poking and tickling each other.

For some reason she generally speaks to him in baby language. In fact sometimes his sentences have better grammar than hers. She skips prepositions and doesn’t decline her verbs: “Adrian try” instead of “now you try it”, “play blanket” instead of “let’s play with the blanket”.

Small stuff:

  • Weekend fixture: watching Melodifestivalen.
  • Favourite fruit: kiwi and pineapple.
  • Favourite on YouTube: Pink Panther (the animated one, not inspector Clouseau)
  • Fashion: having her hair in braids.

There is a debate going on in Swedish media right now about näthat, “net hate”: hateful, threatening, demeaning comments to bloggers and journalists, especially women. Death threats, graphic descriptions of sexual violence, harassment online and offline. The trigger was an episode of a respected investigative TV programme, Uppdrag Granskning, that focused on net hate. As an extra twist, a trailer for that episode got so many hate comments on YouTube that comments were turned off.

I feel as if those people must be a different species, not entirely human. How is it possible for a seemingly normal human being to feel so little empathy, so little kinship with another, that you can either (1) seriously wish to torture and kill them because you don’t agree with their opinions, or (2) imagine that the target for those threats “probably doesn’t care much” because it wasn’t seriously meant?

I don’t hate anything or anybody, and I cannot even really imagine the feeling. There are people towards whom I feel contempt, disgust, anger. There are people without whom the world would be a better place, and I would be glad if they ceased to exist – mass murderers and such.

Even from such negative feelings, there is a huge leap to wishing great humiliation, pain and suffering on those people. Not just wishing them gone from the world, but wishing that they died a painful death, or spending time and energy on harassing and humiliating them.

I can sort of imagine, very hypothetically, that I could possibly feel such hate in response to some great harm done to me or my family – if those mass murderers had killed my children, say – if I wasn’t really in my right mind.

But in response to a blog post with which you don’t agree? What could fill those commenters with so much hate?

Or perhaps it is me who is not entirely normal. (Well, I knew that already, but perhaps this is another aspect of it.)

Is it normal to hate?

This week I have spent almost all my time thinking about recruitment ads, CVs, coding tasks, phone interviews and other such stuff. It is mostly not fun, and sometimes downright depressing. The wheat is there but buried in lots of chaff. To top it all off, one of the candidates that I (politely) rejected has become abusive and is harassing the company about it. Oh how I am looking forward to the day when this process is finished and we have our new colleagues with us… and then of course I will soon start it all over again.

Against all common sense, I have allowed Melodifestivalen into our house. Now that I have understood the scope of this thing, I almost regret that I ever mentioned it to Ingrid. It appears that I have effectively committed to 90 minutes of rather boring schlager music show, every weekend from now to mid-March.

It used to be just one show on one night. I vaguely knew that it’s now a bit more than that, but had no idea how much it has grown. Turns out it’s ballooned into four semifinals, one “second chance” semifinal, and a final round, with various complicated rounds of voting. It’s been turned into a docudrama, as Eric put it.

At least we watch it on the Internet and not on TV, so we can take breaks when we want, and fit it around the kids’ bedtimes. (If you’re fast, you can still catch yesterday’s semifinals on SVT Play.)

Ingrid’s favourite did not go on to the finals; the one she liked 2nd best was Yohio.