Påskkäringar & påskgubbar (Easter witches). And one Easter bunny.

One day, all of a sudden, Adrian fell in love with his soft stuffed doll. Eric made it for him during the schooling-in week last year, and it’s been at nursery since then. They use them occasionally for some sort of group activities I think. And then one day Adrian absolutely wanted to take it home with him, and to hold it all the way home, and to have it with him during dinner, and then in bed.

We gave it a name because I didn’t want to keep calling it “the doll”. I tried a few names and asked if Adrian liked any of them. “The doll” is now called Johan.

Johan was the drop that started a flood. Now Adrian wants to take stuff with him whenever we go out: bags, toy cars, Johan, his favourite jersey hat, an extra pair of mittens, books… At dinner time Johan (or the car) gets to sit on the windowsill. One evening he took three little Chubbies cars with him to bed, and then tried to hold and hug all three while falling asleep.

Taking things with him when going out is OK, but he also wanted to take things home from nursery, and we had a number of tear-filled disagreements about.

Every afternoon, after nursery but before we pick up Ingrid from school, we go grocery shopping. Adrian wants to hold the most important grocieries in his arms both in the supermarket and afterwards on the way home. And just like with the cars, he has difficulty understanding and/or accepting that he only has two hands. He holds a banana, a pair of mittens and a book in his hands, and hugs a large bag of corn snacks, and then asks for the juice bottle as well.

Adrian’s started to pretend and make believe. A piece of fabric becomes a scarf for the hobby horse. An empty bowl in the kitchen sink is cake dough; a pink drinking straw becomes a flamingo. Food, especially, is good fantasy material: the row of apple chunks is a snake; the half-eaten biscuit is a camel, or a dog, or a train.

Watching Daddy finger on YouTube with Daddy

Colours, which he was so interested in last month, have now clicked in place. He still talks a lot about them, but now he actually gets many of them right: red, green, blue, yellow, purple, orange, sometimes white and black.

He often asks, Vad heter den färg?, and he mentions the colours of things he cares about. And he seems to find it fascinated that several things have the same colour. Den vagnen heter röd. Den skorna också röd! Väskan också röd! (“This stroller is called red. This shoes also red! The bag also red!”)

He has started using compound sentences, with a main clause and a subordinate clause. For example using men inte, “but not”, as in “Mommies have boobs but not daddies”.

Miscellaneous items:

  • He has learned to jump with both feet.
  • Favourite Melodifestivalen song: En riktig jävla schlager.
  • Favourite item in the supermarket: Paulun’s raspberry and pomegranate juice. (“Buy raspberries! Green ones!”)

Insisting on the “big bowl”, “big spoon” and “big glass”

This month’s big news: Ingrid’s first baby tooth fell out. It was loose, and then it was looser, and Ingrid was constantly asking us to look at her loose tooth and to feel it wiggle. And then it was gone. Ingrid was in the middle of boisterous play at the time, so she probably swallowed the tooth without noticing it.

She had a dentist’s appointment (which I’d booked quite independently of the loose tooth) where we also found out that several of her six-year molars are appearing. They were visible for the dentist but not quite yet for us.

Ingrid has been looking forward to losing her baby teeth. It is a bit of a rite of passage, and many of her friends at school had lost theirs. But of course most of her classmates are older than her.

Her peers at school are affecting her a lot, more than I ever noticed at pre-school. Is it because she feels she has to act like the big kids now? And is that, in turn, because everybody else is trying to act like a big kid? I sense that she is looking for others’ approval, trying to fit in and to impress, and to be better than others – not always in a good way.

Talk like “you don’t get anything, do you” (du fattar ju ingenting) and snooty frustrated sighs of ah men! may be an unavoidable side effect of going to school but it’s not the kind of treatment I am used to.

I think that she is generally sweeter and more innocent than the average 6-year-old. Or perhaps she is simply more innocent than all the 6-year-olds with older brothers and sisters. She is still figuring out how to deal with some of the pushier kids. When we talk about her day (on our way home from school, or during our afternoon snack, or at bedtime) she often talks about others trying to tell her what to do. Not kids trying to push her around, but just kids who think they know better than others.

This month’s major new skill is telling time. Ingrid knew the hours already last summer, and has since then been grappling with quarters and minutes and such stuff. Until now, whenever she asked what time it was, she was never quite able to make sense of the answer. “Quarter to four” – is that before or after four? A minute or a second, which is the shorter one? Is “five minutes past” more than “quarter past”? She asked again and again, and I explained again and again, but it never stuck. And now one day it suddenly clicked, and that was that. Now she can tell the time exactly, by the minute, from both an analog and a digital clock.

She also knows all the months of the year, but that’s not really new. I don’t know exactly when she learned them but I think she’s known them for a couple of months now.

Also just at the beginning of the month, at the very end of the skating season, she learned to skate backwards.

Favourite toy: a slinky that she bought with her own pocket money. But afterwards she realized that Adrian has been playing with it more than her. I don’t think she’ll be buying many toys going forward. When we went to the toy shop she spent a long time looking around, but there wasn’t really much there that she liked. She’s fond of stuffed animals, and was thinking of buying one of them, but when she saw the prices, she changed her mind. Now with the slinky she’s understood what I noticed a long time ago: she doesn’t really play with toys.

She still loves reading, and Bamse is still the best. Maybe because we have so many of them, so she can always find one she hasn’t read in a while. She happily devours all the books I bring home from the library, but rarely wants to read any of them twice. Like an adult, but very unlike younger kids, once she’s read the book, she is not interested in reading it again for a while. Except if I read it for her: she likes to listen to me read, and with my reading makes the book feel fresh and new again.

Favourite movie: Alice in Wonderland.
Favourite iPad app: Pettson’s inventions. Also, watching me play Devil’s Advocate. In fact she likes that game more than I do; she likes the shopping part.
Miscellaneous favourites: nail polish, braids and ponytails.

So we’ve been feeding birds (and other critters) this winter. I’ve streamlined the process for this season. There are no more plastic bags and no more mixing. Instead we now buy bird food in large buckets. I have a one-litre stainless steel measuring jug with which I scoop up half a litre of pre-shelled sunflower seeds from one bucket, to which I add a double fistful of peanuts from the other bucket, and that’s it.

Now that the season is almost over, we had seven or eight large empty buckets in clear plastic. Instead of throwing them away, I gave them to Adrian’s nursery this morning, for the kids to play with.

I thought that maybe they would use them for storing and carrying things. Or maybe they would put the lids on and build towers.


When I got there in the afternoon, I was met by four or five kids, each one wearing a bucket on his head like a space helmet. It was spooky.

The staff told me that these were not helmets, the buckets were mufflers, and they (the staff) were very pleased.

Unfortunately I have no photos of the buckets in use because Adrian was tired and not in the mood. But here’s what they look like with about 5,5 kg of bird food inside. Source: Plantagen.se.

I went to the circus yesterday! Cirque du Soleil is in town and I had booked tickets already in September, for myself, my mother and Ingrid.

Contemporary circus is my favourite form of entertainment, well ahead of theatre, movies and concerts. And Cirque du Soleil consistently delivers great shows. We have seen several – Quidam, Dralion, Varekai and Alegria, and maybe more. Basically I think we went to every one of their shows that visited London during our stay there.

Each of their shows has a theme. I think of Quidam as the French show about a childish sense of wonder; Dralion is the Chinese show; Varekai is the show with the weird creatures. I thought I had seen Saltimbanco as well but now that I try to remember its theme, I cannot, so maybe I haven’t seen it after all.

Yesterday we saw Alegria. Again… but it was well worth seeing again. Alegria is about joy and power – I think of this show as the court of the King of Light. It is courtly, airy, elegant, full of light. A spectacular show, as they all are, with fabulous costumes, great music, and impressively skilled circus acts.

To me the most impressive and most interesting acts are the ones that combine acrobatic skill with dynamism. People flying and tumbling through the air – Russian bars, trapeze, trampoline, etc. This show had them all, and it was as dazzling as ever.

Ingrid’s favourite part was the clowns, and the rest was too long and too grown-up for her. The clown acts in this show tell a story of their own, about travel and longing. And even though all the other acts were very impressive, the clowns were also the part that I had strongest memories of from the last time I saw them.

Amazingly, Svenska Dagbladet was disappointed and found the show soulless compared to Cirkus Cirkör, the main contemporary circus group in Sweden. Yes, Cirkör is more intimate, and their themes are more idealist (like “world peace” and “it’s OK to be yourself”) but they are also simplistic and naïve, almost childish. And while Cirkör are entertaining enough, compared to Cirque du Soleil they are like a country cousin.

The rodent has extended his highway, which used to go from the hedge to the bird feeder, all the way to the house. There he has dug another little tunnel to get in under the stairs and onwards into the foundation. And from the other side of the house another little path goes to one of the old vole holes.

The neighbours report that from the hedge (which follows the border between our garden and theirs) the rat wanders into their garden as well. The rat seems to have made himself at home here.

And this weekend we spotted the rat in company of another.

It is time to take countermeasures.

Recruitment-related tasks have been filling most of my days at work since January. Now I am finally seeing a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. We are close to signing a contract with a good back end developer, and today for the first time we had a really promising candidate for the front end role.

By now I have a pretty solid and stable process worked out. First I read their CV and/or cover letter, and ask for clarification where I their background really seems to not fit our needs. Well over half of the candidates get discarded at this stage – surprisingly many candidates seem to apply for any job that seems even remotely related to their skills, and don’t hesitate to apply for jobs that they are clearly under-qualified for.

Next I ask them to do a coding task at home, at their own pace. After this we have a brief phone interview. I used to do it the other way round, because I didn’t want to do give them unnecessary work – the task takes a couple of hours to do at least, whereas a phone interview is no more than 30–40 minutes. But it turned out that a lot of people who sounded knowledgeable on the phone failed the coding task, so it ended up wasting a lot of my time instead. And since I get to decide, I’d rather have them waste their time, not mine. The coding task not only filters out the candidates who can talk but not do – it also gives us something concrete to discuss during the phone interview, and therefore makes the interview much more effective.

Now the funnel works quite well. Occasionally I say yes to someone who I am unsure about, and thus far these candidates have always disappointed in the next round. So if the candidate doesn’t seem to have enough relevant experience, they don’t do well on the coding task. And the ones whose coding task does not impress don’t make a better impression on the phone.

All the coding tasks until now have been sort of mediocre, “good enough” at best. We’ve been trying to weigh them against each other but never really come to any firm conclusions. Is one kind of mediocrity better than another? What’s worse, stupid variable naming or badly organized code? How bad is too bad?

The one we got today stood head and shoulders above all the previous ones, and the interesting thing was that this time there was no discussion, no hemming and hawing. The moment we saw the code it was obvious to all those involved that this one was in a completely different league from the others. Distinguishing a really good solution from a mediocre one is so much easier than comparing two mediocre ones. Even if we for some reason end up not hiring this guy, he has at least given us a yardstick for evaluating future candidates.

Another observation we made today was that the good front end developers we’ve met (including those in our team) are all ex back end developers. In other words, they are developers who have chosen to specialize in front end work. The ones who come from the other direction – the designers, the web developers – lack the necessary fundamental development skills. Their solution may work but just it’s like a house of straw: you can see at a glance that it is structurally weak. They don’t build, they hack.

PS: I just counted: I have received 43 applications for this job, reviewed 13 coding tasks, had 10 phone interviews and 2 face-to-face interviews (with 2 more already booked).