Gravity seems particularly strong today, and the kids particularly floppy.

Becky Chambers writes such nice books. Not nice like well-behaved children and polite cocktail parties, but nice like heartfelt hugs and handmade gifts. Nice in a way that makes me feel good about life.

The setup of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet reminds me of Firefly: small, scrappy, tightly-knit crew of a spaceship goes on a journey. Much of the book is spent on getting to know the crew members, their species, and the relationships between them. The details of all the difficulties and dangers they inevitably face are not that important – all focus is on what happens to the people. They live together, struggle with their problems together, and ultimately come out better at the other end of the process.

I like the way Becky Chambers imagines the future. It has futuristic technology and inventions that we don’t, from spaceships to stasis fields. But it’s like today in that things are sometimes made on the cheap, wear out, may need a kick to work, etc.

This actually characterises much of this book’s worldview. It’s homey and down to earth. Technological advances are balanced out by porridge and piles of unsorted bolts.

The plot is a bit thin and the book doesn’t explore any deep or novel ideas, so it’s not a book that will make an enduring mark on the world. But universe and the characters in it are colourful and vividly described, and it’s all simply good fun, so this is a book to read and re-read with genuine pleasure.

A Closed and Common Orbit ups the game a bit. The themes in the first book were very PC: racism/speciesism, “live and let live”. This one explores the question of what it means to be human, and to be family. There are two parallel plot threads. In current time, an AI called Lovey (short for Lovelace) is put into a human body and tries to adapt and learn, and fit in with the humans she lives with. In past time, a girl escapes from a slave planet with the help of another AI, who is more of a parent to her than any human has ever been.

Superficially there is not much the two lives have in common. But both characters start from a confined, deprived background (in the case of Lovey, all she has ever experienced is the inside of one spaceship) and suddenly burst into freedom. Both now have to make sense of a whole wide confusing universe. Both have to learn what it means to be human and have relationships with other humans – and how to be free and set their own direction in life. (Less profoundly but very enjoyably, both revel in previously unknown pleasurable sensations of touch, smell and taste.)

Fundamentally this book, like the first one, is a warm, intimate story about friendship and love. I hope Becky Chambers goes on to write many more in the same vein.

I made Ingrid go to the supermarket with me in the afternoon, because she hadn’t set foot outside the house all day. Jokingly she asked if I could pull her on the sled. I was quite happy to, because the streets are covered with fresh snow, and it seemed like a good way to get some exercise – I just know my body needs it.

She must have felt like she took advantage of me, because on the way back she insisted on pulling me on the sled for a while. I have to admit it was a really comfortable way of getting from A to B.

I’m happy that we have snow, and I’m happy that it is still almost light outside at five in the afternoon.

His hair is growing really, really wild. He says he likes it long like this. Somehow it never gets tangled, even it rarely sees a comb.

He also really likes hoodies. All other clothes he wears out of necessity, but when it comes to hoodies he has definite favourites. When all the best ones are in the dirty laundry hamper, he just cannot be without them and asks us to wash his clothes.

He is following in Ingrid’s footsteps, playing Minecraft and Overwatch and occasionally reading Kalle Anka (although he likes Bamse better). We’ve played Minecraft together a few times on the PS3 and he navigates the interface like a pro. The part he likes best is building and furnishing our house, and hunting animals for meat and wool etc.

He also likes to order me around in the game and tell me what to do. I guess he’s used to children’s way of sounding totally overconfident about everything and when I don’t talk that way, he thinks I need help and direction with everything. Which is rather annoying.

Current bedtime stories: The brothers Lionheart and The comet is coming.
Current favourite snack: rice cakes with pizza flavour.
Currently learning at school: the finer points of writing. Lowercase and uppercase letter shapes, and getting them correctly positioned, and not mixing one with the other.

These past weeks I have been exercising irregularly due to clashing commitments, and I’m feeling the effects. I am irritable and restless when I don’t get enough exercise. And the irregularity itself is giving me a bad case of restless legs. I was tossing and turning in bed yesterday night, trying to calm down my legs so I could sleep. Today I couldn’t even sit still in the sofa without my legs twitching. At ten o’clock, when both kids were in bed, I went for long and energetic walk, and felt much, much better when I got home (and got a good night’s sleep). (I’m posting this a few days later, not at half past midnight!)

Nighttime is not a bad time for walking. You don’t get much of a view, true. But the streets and parks are relaxingly empty and quiet.

We have Nälstafältet nearby, a kind of meadow-ish area that the city mows occasionally, with a few trees, a stream and footpaths crossing it here and there. I like to walk there occasionally: it’s near enough that it’s easy to get to, but far enough and large enough that walking to its farthest end is a proper walk. And right now it’s frozen and covered with a thin layer of snow, so it’s really pleasant to walk on: firm, but softer than asphalt, and uneven enough to feel good for the feet.

She has her nose in a phone quite a lot of time. Except when she is playing Overwatch or Minecraft or Fortnite. I keep reminding her to do get off the phone/PC/iPad but like a magnet the screen pulls her back, and I can’t spend all my time monitoring her.

I make her read at least fifteen minutes every day, but she likes postponing this task until late at night. She likes doing things last minute. Her argument – that it is better to play first and read later as a way to wind down – makes sense but does mean that sometimes it simply gets forgotten.

She is anxious and worried. Not all the time and about all things, but it’s a constant undercurrent. It seems like hard way to go through life, and I wish I could help her not worry. I hug her, I tell her that things don’t need to be perfect, and that she is good at what she is doing, and that whatever she chooses or decides will be just fine, but it’s still not enough.

Shrove Tuesday and its buns.

The semlor are usually so large that it is more or less impossible to eat them with your dignity intact. Once one of them got whipped cream on their nose, both gave up all pretense of table manners and rocked their creamy noses.

Speaking of cake lasting for weeks… we still have cherry cake in the freezer from last summer. We just don’t eat much sugary stuff, despite my loving photos of chocolate pralines and writing about dessert.

The kids’ sugar intake and other potential addictions are most easily regulated by simple, somewhat fuzzy rules. I myself chafe at rules. So when the family is away, I celebrate by breaking rules.

I eat lunch late, when I am truly hungry, rather than at an hour that suits everybody’s schedule. I read a magazine while eating. And I have a piece of cake afterwards.

(Meanwhile I still miss having a proper camera, and the way the small one never makes things look the way I want is seriously annoying me.)

For no particular reason other than that I felt like it, I cooked a three-course meal for dinner. Toast with a tomato and avocado topping, veggie hamburgers, and no-bake raspberry cheesecake.

I like eating dessert, but I rarely make one. Mostly because it usually doesn’t feel like it’s worth the time it takes, no matter how delicious it turns out. A cake or a batch of cookies lasts us weeks, but dessert that takes half an hour to prepare is gone in five minutes. If I was ridiculously rich, I’d hire a dessert chef or order catering desserts every weekend.

Adrian’s homework for this week was to write a couple of sentences about what games his parents played during break time at school.

I recall playing hopscotch. And kummikeks or elastics, which I loved but wasn’t good at. And Human knot, and chanting and clapping games. Other than that, I cannot remember any.

I also remember spending a lot of break time on the sidelines. I wasn’t quite bullied, but a few of the girls in our class decided early on that I was not to be a part of the group, and that was that. Sometimes, as an act of charity, I was let in from the cold for a while.

Seeing Ingrid and Adrian at school now, the difference is immense. The teachers here/now have a very strong and conscious focus on encouraging decent behaviour and teaching children to be nice to others. They have much closer contact with the children, a relationship of mutual trust and caring. Kids can actually talk to teachers as fellow humans, even friends, whereas in my days we were subordinates. I don’t think any teachers cared about the social aspects of children’s time at school, as long there was no actual physical fighting going on.