We’ve been in Estonia for nearly two weeks and I have barely said a word about it on the blog. It’s all been too intense, the days too full of action, the mind too full of impressions.

Attractions, sights and outings follow each other in an unceasing flow. We have been to museums, science centres, playgrounds both indoors and outdoors, taken a boat trip and a horseback ride, and more.

Ingrid swallows it all and asks for more; Adrian has found it a bit overwhelming at times, and would probably have preferred some calmer days. But it is easier to plan a day with lots of activity and take him aside for some quiet time, than to plan a quiet day and then try to add extra activities for Ingrid.

Most of these activities we’ve done together with my childhood friends and their children. Me, Ingrid and Adrian have really enjoyed catching up with our Estonian friends, and Adrian pretty much adopted my friends Rahel and Marju as extra moms. Eric has bravely kept us company all the way, but he can probably imagine better ways to spend two weeks of his summer… Planning ahead for our next trip, I think I will try to manage both kids on my own.

Both Ingrid’s and Adrian’s ability to speak Estonian has improved hugely. Adrian said almost nothing at all in Estonian during the first days. Yesterday and today he was playing freely with the other kids and talking to the adults, and using words and grammar that I have never heard him use before.

A few highlights:

Tartu adventure park/seikluspark. Ingrid completed the two kids’ tracks twice and found them rather too easy, so we went on to the first two “real” tracks. These were really meant for people over 140cm (and Ingrid is probably not even 120cm) but with me there to help her move her carabiners, she managed both. Then we did the 300m zipline ride, side by side. Adrian sat on the ground and made silly faces. (We’ve been to a similar park in Otepää twice before during our previous trips, and I could have sworn I’ve blogged about it, but couldn’t find any post about it.)

Vudila, an outdoor playland with all sorts of activities. A pool area with water slides, go-karts and mini ATVs, trampolines and bouncy castles, etc etc. More than enough to fill a day, and good fun in all ways, but the food was really disappointing.

Ice age centre, a science centre about ice ages. Interesting for adults but too serious for the kids, who had much more fun at the beach next to the museum.

Old favourites revisited: Road museum, Hansapäevad, Tartu Toy Museum with its playroom, Ahhaa science centre.

There was an ad campaign some years ago for a water park. It was built around photos of swim shorts and bikini bottoms with holes in them, from too many rides down water slides.

It turns out that this can actually happen, and it doesn’t even require much effort or excessive usage of said water slides.

Recently we started experimenting with exposing Adrian to dairy products again. I started eating dairy of various sorts, and he had some butter on his bread.

For a while it looked like everything was OK. But after a week or two it was pretty clear to us that he was still affected. He was hyperactive, restless and had difficulty focusing on any activity. His bowel movements were weird. So it seems he still doesn’t tolerate cow milk protein.

This counts as progress, still, because the effects came later and were much more diffuse than after previous attempts.

But for now will keep his food dairy-free and limit dairy in my diet (for as long as I continue to breastfeed him, which is probably not very long). But perhaps we don’t need to be quite as strict about products that contain small amounts of milk. And I think I will allow myself to use cream and cheese when I’m cooking, and maybe the occasional piece of kohupiimakook.

Because those are the things I have missed. To put cream or crème fraîche in my soups and sauces, and cheese on oven-baked things.

Yes, I have tasted ice cream, and I have tried yoghurt again. I have put cheese on a few sandwiches. I have eaten pancakes made with cow milk instead of oat milk.

But all of these were merely nice rather than awesome. Ice cream is creamy, true, but sorbet is more flavourful. And oat milk pancakes are in no way inferior to the traditional ones.

I went to a class reunion yesterday for my primary school class, grades 1 to 9. (Which actually only gave us 8 years together because in the middle of those years there was a school reform in Estonia that added one year to primary education, from 8 years to 9. So I never went to 5th grade.)

Last time I saw most of my classmates was 8 years ago, at another reunion. A few of them I haven’t seen since I graduated.

A few of them I wouldn’t have recognized if I had met them in the street; others are so similar to their 1st grade selves that any stranger could point them out in the class photo.

It is even more interesting to try to figure out how they have changed on the inside. (More difficult to observe, too, of course.) As with the faces, most are recognizable extrapolations of their school-age selves. Had someone told me 20 years ago that here is where this-and-this will end up in life, I would have nodded and said, yes of course, that figures, I can believe that. The quiet and studious teenager who now has a PhD; the poet’s son who has now published books of his own and studies history, etc.

Others surprise, with life and career choices that I wouldn’t ever have pictured. Which might well mean that I really didn’t know them as well as I thought.

With yet others I realize that despite our 8 years together I never knew them at all. I meet them now as strangers, effectively. Some of them have grown up into nice, interesting people, making me wish that we were not such strangers.

Two observations that, while not at all new, struck me with renewed force yesterday:

  • Some people really are photogenic in a way that has nothing to do with being pretty or handsome. The way they hold their body and move around, the way their face and hands move, just looks good in a photo almost regardless of when I press the trigger. Others look awkward in photos without doing anything that looks or feels awkward in real life.
  • Alcohol is such a natural part of all this events for so many people. I don’t think they could imagine a get-together without alcohol. As a non-drinker one is never specifically excluded, but as the hours pass, alcohol changes the discussions and the mood in such a way that excluding oneself becomes… well, not inevitable, and not the only option, but the only comfortable option.


Morning after:

Posts about previous reunions: first, and second.

Life continues in its usual tracks. Even the bits that I want to change are hard to change. Adrian resists change.

A month ago, in fact already before my thirty-three-month post, I decided to wean him off nursing at night. He was by that time half-waking once at about 5:30 every morning for a quick nurse, after which he would easily fall back asleep. Now he still wakes at about the same time, cries, yells at me, kicks, pulls at my t-shirt, and communicates in all other possible ways that he really does NOT agree with this new policy. It is obvious that he does not wake because he is done sleeping: he is tired and bleary-eyed, and does actually fall asleep again after 10 or 15 minutes or so. And when he next wakes, about an hour and a half later, he is in a completely different mood. But his sleep is restless for about an hour so I actually get less quality sleep than before.

I thought he would get used to this new deal after a while, and maybe he will. Since it’s already been over a month, I’m beginning to suspect that it might not happen until we stop nursing completely. Which he is also very unwilling to do. But I have now had enough (believe it or not) so I am saying no to him more often than I used to.

Sometimes he nurses for comfort, but often plain cuddles and hugs work as well. Sometimes he tells me that he doesn’t want a hug, he just wants to cry, or to be angry.

Many times he asks to nurse just because he can. He has nothing important to do, I am sitting down and – to his eyes – looking like I’m just waiting for him to nurse. So he asks to nurse – sort of like some adults drink coffee I guess. In those situation the solution is to find something for me to do, something that is incompatible with me sitting down. We go and empty the dishwasher, prepare lunch, go grocery shopping etc.

Adrian doesn’t join me in my chores as often as he used to, except when it comes to grocery shopping, which he is always up for. He likes shopping, and he likes outings. One game that he has played several times (while I was watering in the garden I think) is that he pretended to be out driving. He had some random toy that marked the store, and then he drove there. First he drove to Erikshjälpen, which is a large charity shop in Spånga. Then he drove to Bauhaus, he said, which is a DIY/construction materials store.

Another area where I am not making much progress is potty training. I ask him to sit on the potty; he usually refuses, or sits for 20 seconds and then runs off. And then he pees in his nappy two minutes later.

He pretty much only speaks Swedish, although he has no trouble understanding my Estonian. There are some words that he insists in saying in Estonian even when the rest of the sentence is in Swedish. sülle (“[to be] in your lap”) and magustoit (“dessert”) he almost always says in Estonian.

The most memorable ones are the ones that also exist in Swedish but mean something completely different. Torka in Estonian means “to spear”, such as to spear something on your fork. That is how Adrian uses it, except he uses it in a Swedish context and in Swedish torka means “to dry”. Jag ska torka den med gaffeln, “I will dry it with my fork”. Likewise sega in Estonian means “to stir, to mix” whereas in Swedish seg means “rubbery, tough”. Emme kan du sega min gröt – “can you rubbery my porridge”.

A language construct that he likes and often uses mostly correctly is när/då, “when/then”. “When it rains, we get wet.” Sometimes he broadens its meaning to just “things that belong together”, and sometimes he reverses the connection: “when we go to the kitchen, we eat”.

Favourite new activities: He likes balancing on things, and jumping down from them.

This has been a month of summer. School’s out, so Ingrid has been in fritids (after-school care) for two weeks and at home for two more.

Whenever the weather is good, she spends her day outside playing in water, as much as possible. She’s brown as a cookie (just have a look)! We have a small inflatable pool at home, and she also hangs out at a nearby playground with a nice large paddling pool. There she finds not just water but often also kids to play with as well.

Since that is much more fun for her than for anybody else in our family, she now often goes there on her own, or we go together and then I go home again with Adrian when he gets bored while Ingrid stays on. It’s a great independence exercise for her. Not just the being on her own, but also having to manage her things, packing them up and carrying them home afterwards, and so on.

She likes to bring a lot of stuff to the pool. Swimsuit, beach towel, bath robe, mask and snorkel, swim ring, maybe some water squirters, snacks, Bamse… We bought a snorkel and a mask for her for this summer and she loves them. Mostly when she is in the water she’s swimming with the snorkel and often the swim ring, too. I suppose she likes the sensation of just floating, without any effort or struggle to keep afloat, or keep the water out of her nose and mouth. She stays on the surface, with the snorkel clear all the time, and does not dive at all, but she will probably love snorkeling for real in a few years or so.

Because Ingrid loves playing in the water we’ve also been to local lakeside beaches several times this summer. A trip to the beach is a great combination of bathing (for Ingrid), a picnic (for both kids), and a cycle trip (fun exercise for me). Maltesholmsbadet is the beach we visit most often because it’s closest to us and never crowded. Last time we tried out Ängbybadet instead. The water turned out to be too cold even for Ingrid so we played miniature golf instead.

Most of her friends are out of town for the summer (although we’ve managed to organize some play dates for her) so she has been a bit lonely and bored. She’s made a new friend, a boy about a year younger than her, who recently moved in to a house across the street from us. I suspect his main appeal to Ingrid is his availability… but they also share an interested in things with wheels. Most of the time they’ve spent together, they’ve just been cycling around in the street. That’s usually how we notice that L and his family are at home: L is out cycling in the street.

Ingrid likes stuff with wheels. She saw a note about Lådbilslandet in a book and immediately asked if we could go there. It’s a small amusement park with mostly driving-oriented activities: three-wheel go-karts (severely limited in speed, which Ingrid found a bit frustrating), a traffic area with mini cars and trucks, a train track etc., but also rafts, a bouncy castle, an adventure trail etc. Ingrid drove for what felt like hours.

We’ve also been to Tom Tits Experiment, a hands-on science centre with all sorts of experiments and activities for kids and adults to try: everything from blowing giant soap bubbles to heat-sensitive cameras. During summer they also have lots of activities in their park: a labyrinth, various kinds of water play, a storm simulator, a “free fall” simulator/ride (which Ingrid did 9 times) etc. More than enough for a whole day, and had they not closed at 6pm, Ingrid would have stayed all night, too.

Another fun summer activity has been picking strawberries. She likes to pick and eat them, but also to pick for the rest of us, and then share them equally among us. We have quite a lot of strawberries, both wild ones in various places in the garden and cultivated ones. Often she invites Adrian along on her “strawberry hunts”, as she calls them. She is not very thorough in her picking, so once every few days I go through the raised beds and usually find a bunch of berries that are bordering on over-ripe that she has missed.

Summer and no school also means no early mornings. She often stays up past 10 o’clock, reading. I wake her in the morning at about 8:30 to keep her day roughly in sync with the rest of the family.

She now has 2 adult teeth halfway out at the bottom and 4 loose teeth at the top. The loose ones have been loose for what feels like forever but are not even close to coming out, but they are loose enough to make it hard for Ingrid to bite into an apple for example.

Ingrid has been much more agreeable to be around than last month. She doesn’t purposefully try to annoy us, and doesn’t whine or complain all the time. She tries to be polite when asking for things. She has decided that she wants to be helpful, too. Not generally helpful – she just wants to help me (and sometimes Adrian). She often asks me if there is anything she can help me with, and I try to think of activities that we can do together. That helpfulness appeared overnight, not gradually, and I’ve been trying in vain to recall what discussion or event caused it. Regardless of what triggered it, it’s pretty nice, although somewhat forced at times. It will become more natural with practice, I expect.

Some weeks ago we discovered a slightly moldy smell in our basement and a few boxes felt like they were a bit moist. We took those up and aired their contents. To get the moist air out of the basement we kept the door open during the day a few times, and put a high-powered fan in there.

A while later Eric discovered that someone had seized this opportunity, walked into our basement, and walked out with all the alcohol that was in there. It was all stored in a closet inside the basement, not visible and not even anywhere near the entrance, but I guess someone felt comfortable enough to go poking around inside.

A bunch of bottles of wine (we get wine as a gift now and again and never drink it), some half-empty bottles of glögg, etc. I guess they worked really fast because they also grabbed the totally non-alcoholic home made sloe cordial that sat on the same shelf…

While there were a few bottles there that will be hard to replace, the incident felt no more than a minor nuisance to me, especially since I don’t drink any alcohol. It was more of a loss to Eric. To me it was like a slap on the fingers, “don’t leave the door open, stupid people!” Kind of sad, though, because I really wouldn’t have expected this kind of thing to happen in our neighbourhood.

Today I discovered the real loss. To carry away the alcohol, they took our two suitcases. One of them we only bought last year and I had hoped for it to last at least twenty years. Now it’s gone. Now that made me angry.

It’s a good thing that they didn’t take our kit bags, because I just started packing today for our two-week trip to Estonia. (Hence my discovery of the loss.) Otherwise there would have been some panicked emergency shopping here.

I am so happy that our kids love each other and get along so well.

Adrian can wake up in the morning and declare, first thing, “I love Ingrid” (jag gillar Ingrid). Ingrid likewise says “I love Adrian, he is so cute”.

When Adrian needs waking from a nap, I send Ingrid. Both of them love it best this way. If I wake Adrian, there’s a good chance that he awakes grumpy and whiny, whereas if Ingrid does it, he’s always happy. And Ingrid much prefers Adrian to wake her in the morning rather than us. “He does it better,” she told me.

Sometimes Ingrid helps dress him and even change a wet nappy. It ususally involves lots of giggling from both.

Adrian idolizes Ingrid. Anything she does, he wants to do. He tries on her skirts and headbands; he “reads” her Bamse and Kalle Anka pocket cartoon magazines, he wants to join her in all her games and activities. Vänta på mig (“wait for me!”) and jag vill också! (“I want [to do this], too!”) are heard in the house throughout the day.

Envious of Ingrid’s headbands, I went shopping for one for myself. My hair is getting long (because there is always something more important to do than to sit for an hour at the hairdresser’s) and it gets in my face when I’m outside, mowing the lawn or digging in the dirt.

To my disappointment, my choice was very limited. Black or white. Several variations of each, but still, not a single actual colour to be found.

Now I look like a pirate when I mow the lawn.

Pirate Helen

Pirate Jack

This evening I started on this season’s second round of mowing the lawn. I mow in sections, usually about a quarter or a third of the lawn at a time, so it takes about a week or two to do the whole thing.

This is not just to spread out the work – although with about 800 sq m of lawn to mow, doing it all at once would take at least half a day. It’s also because I don’t want to denude the whole garden at once. This way there is always some part that does not look “shaved bare”. Because that is what I think the mowed parts look like: bare and boring.

Most gardeners seem to dream about the perfect lawn. Perfectly even, perfectly uniform… perfectly dull.

I can imagine that one might feel a sense of achievement, of mastery over the forces of nature. I guess. But I really cannot empathize with that. If you don’t want nature in your garden, but rather something more akin to a carpet, why have a garden at all?

It always feels like a pity to mow down all the variety, all the flowers and the different grasses, to an even green surface. Now I only mow at the last responsible moment, when I feel that the lawn is close to becoming unmanageable. Once it grows too tall, it becomes difficult to mow: the thinner grasses bend so the mower runs over them and doesn’t cut them, and in other parts where the grass is particularly lush and thick, the mower simply gets stuck.

I always make an effort to spare the wildflowers (aka weeds) in the lawn: wild primroses (nurmenukk/gullviva), the ox-eye daisies (härjasilm/prästkrage) and Campanula (sinikelluke/blåklocka), Lady’s Mantle (kortsleht/daggkåpa), larger groups of lawn daisies (tusensköna/kirikakar) and creeping buttercup (revsmörblomma/tulikas) and so on. In a proper lawn, these would all be considered weeds. Here, I’m happy for them to go to seed and spread.

Not a weed

Also totally not a weed (although I don’t go out of my way to spare them) is clover. Its tendency to attract bees is, according to gardening magazines, a reason to get rid of it: you might get stung. To me, something that attracts beneficial insects to the garden is most welcome. We just watch our step when they’re in full bloom to avoid stepping on the bees and bumblebees. (There is a bumblebee nest somewhere in the crawl space under our house.)

I also don’t mind plantains (groblad/teeleht), or any of the other non-lawn species whose names I don’t even know. (I think I should by a book about weeds.) And I don’t mind moss, either. It is soft to walk on, and nice to look at.


There is only one species of plant in our lawn which I do consider a weed, in agreement with mainstream gardeners, and will dig out if I can bother: dandelions.

Then there are things that are technically not weeds, and may even have some positive value, but totally exhibit weed-like behaviour in our garden, and need to be kept at bay: if let loose, they would spread out of control, fast.

Cherries. They spread by root and by seed, and there is no end to them. In the same category (but without the redeeming berries) are maples: every spring and summer we walk around pulling out maple seedlings. And oaks, too, probably brought here by squirrels or jays, because there are no oak trees here.

Lilacs and snowberries. Both are nice in hedges but send their rhizomes way out into the lawn, and then produce lots of shoots.

As a result of our non-standard way of caring for the lawn (infrequent mowing, no watering, no fertilizer) we have seen new species spreading and thriving. The wood anemones are spread much wider than five years ago. This year we noticed foxgloves for the first time, in a part of the garden that I have left unmowed since spring.

Wild strawberries, which we found in just a few places during the first summer, are now spreading in more places than I can count. Lots of fun for the kids, who go on strawberry hunts in the evenings, and an interesting challenge for me. I don’t want to mow the strawberries of course, at least not the largest, most fruitful patches. But if I don’t do anything then they will get buried under tall grass. My current solution is to simply tear off some of the grass by hand (where the grass is thin) or with grass shears.