It's been a while. Let's see, "last post … May 2007". Basically, the last we talked, Hilda had just turned 1, and Hannes - the original "Hilda" - was four.
Raising kids is time-consuming, what can I say.
Here we are now, with a six-year-old Hilda who just left the house to attend her kindergarten's May 1 festivities, dressed as a princess. She's wearing a crown, her fanciest dress, and even white gloves. Now, you might think that the fact that her gloves have three strikes on the back of her hand would bother her, but no. In her six-year-old beautiful brain the Sleeping Beauty's crown goes perfectly well with Minnie Mouse's gloves.
And then we have a nine-year-old Hannes who left the house ten minutes earlier so he'd make it to school on time. It was the first time he took the bus-subway combo down there on his own so I asked him to give me a call when he got to school.
He's the only one in his class who doesn't have a mobile phone, he told me the other day, so this morning he got to borrow my iPhone so he can make the call. And possibly, maybe, play Angry Birds on the subway.
We've also moved to the north side of the city. Well, we moved three years ago so this house is pretty much the only home that Hilda remembers. Sometimes, when we go to the south side, I drive by our old house to show it to her, and to Hannes, but she can't really remember anything.
"And that was our balcony," she'll say, in her happiest voice because she wants to connect. To me, to Hannes, to the house.
"That's right, that was our balcony," I say.
"What did I do on the balcony? Did I run there naked?"
"Yes, sometimes you did. And sometimes I put you out there to sleep."
"You made me sleep outside?"
"Just a nap, when you fell asleep in your stroller."
"Phew," she'll say.
"And that was our bedroom, that's the kitchen, and that was my little office," I tell her.
Surprise! Here we are again, with not one, but two babies to write about. Or, in fact, with no babies to write about. Hannes is an active four-year-old who at 4 has a bigger social network than me at almost 40. Hilda's 15 months, but out and about all the time.
I guess every parent always finds the things to be proud of, so if Hannes was 1.50 tall, I would probably think that being tall is great. But since he's smart, I'm even prouder. He's a really smart little boy, and I think that maybe his brainpower has already surpassed mine, as well.
He still asks me about stuff, and I still manage to make it sound like I know things, but it's getting harder every day.
The Bald and The Beautiful When Hilda was born, she had a lot less hair than Hannes when he was born. And even if Jessica says that I just can't remember how Hannes also lost his hair, I am pretty sure that he was never quite as bald as Hilda is now.
Her head is just so smooth and soft, it's making her bottom feel bad. Baby bottom's got a reputation to defend.
She's so cute. She smiled already after two weeks, and right now you can actually make her smile, and even laugh. But again, you never know what it is that makes her happy. A song that makes her smile now, can just as easily make her "pull a lip" on me.
Then I usually just stroke her bald hair to make her calm down again. That works every time.
Hilda's exactly one month old today. That's right. She was born in Stockholm on 13 March, 2006, and she is a beautiful and happy little baby.
So, there she is. The Hilda we have been waiting for since the beginning of the blog. The Hilda that turned out to be Hannes is now the real Hilda's big brother. And we're fine with that.
The first three four days were weird because Hilda was like a clone of Hannes. I had a hard time saying "she" (especially since there is no he/she in Finnish), and I really had to concentrate on calling her Hilda.
Now she's a little person of her own, with big toothless smiles and anxious sounds letting us (or, Jessica) know she's hungry.
Hilda and Hannes. Hannes and Hilda. I like the sound of that.
Fly Away We visited Boston in September 2002. Jessica was six months pregnant with Hannes. Then in December 2002, on his first flight (to Sweden), Hannes was only three weeks old. in May, we were in New York and Virginia for a week or so.
He's been around. And he's always at home. Gotta love it.
We're off to NYC on Wednesday again, and we're trying to plan the entire eight-hour flight as well as possible. The tapes, the CDs, the books, the naps, the crayons, the small animals that he loves. Let's hope it goes well.
This time Jessica's about five months pregnant so "Kipsu" beat Hannes's record.
Oh, a couple of new names added to the list: Amelie and Hilma. And of course, Hilda.
Hannes will turn three in just a week or so. He's not a baby anymore - something that he likes to point out to us, quite often. And he sure isn't, he's a small boy now. A boy who likes to goof around, to jump on the couch, run around the apartment, hide under the covers in our bed, ride his bike, have me tell stories to him and read.
Well, read, that may be overstating a bit, but he does now all the letters of the alphabet, so I think he may just learn to read pretty soon. (And, uh, the family record, by yours truly, stands at 3 and a half years old).
Sometimes I forget how small he is. We talk so much about everything - you know, elephants, tigers, snakes, Moomin characters, balls, Winnie the Pooh, and so on - that sometimes I'm taken aback when I see Jessica and Hannes walk to the bus in the morning.
He's three years old, and he's taking the bus with his Mom to the daycare every morning. Let me me rephrase that as Hannes would want me to. It's not a bus. It's "a bus, a train, a train and a bus."
The whole trip takes them 50 minutes. And if Hannes is awake from seven to nine, minus an hour's nap, he's awake 13 hours a day. He spends 1½ of them commuting. That's seven and half hours a week, 30 hours a month. Two Hannes's days a month on the "bus, train, train and bus." That's 20 days a year.
That's 20 days of good, solid reading and story telling time right there.
Edit: Oh. Hannes has a couple of suggestions for the name for the new baby: Kipsu and Pimppu.
Ultracool Everything seems to be OK with the baby. We had our ultrasound on Friday, and, well, it all became very real to me again. There is a baby in Jessica's belly. A real baby, tiny, tiny still, but a real baby.
Hannes wants to call her (we'll call the baby "her" until we know, but no, we couldn't see anything in the images) Dintz.
About names Saw on Seth Godin's blog that "[a]ccording to the latest government data, [Justin and Ashley] are the two most common names given to children of Hispanic parents in NY last year. For Asian parents the story is different: name number one is Emily."
Oh yes, a rose by any other name may smell just as sweet .. but if you call somebody and say you'll send them a bouquet of zmellykats, they may not even give them a chance.
Anyway. We were talking about names yesterday again. How important is it really that the name is pronounced the same way in Finnish and Swedish, the two languages in our household? Like, say, Klara. Does it matter if people in Finland say it with a short "a", and the Swedes with a long one?
Well, I do think it matters. I think Klara and Klaara are two different people. Or...?
Mowgli Most of the times I am Baloo and Jessica is Bagheera. Sometimes, I get to be King Louie, but not very often. Only if he's funny and goofy, and Baloo is nowhere to be seen. Hannes is always, always Mowgli.
Unless I am Moominpappa in which case Hannes is Snufkin. The guy that plays the harmonica and wanders around with a backpack.
It gets tricky when Moominpappa and Snufkin bump into Baloo in the jungle.
Why don't you wait until the baby is born and then choose the name? Of course you will have to have a name for the hospital register, but wouldn't it be fair to your baby to be around with him/her a little before you decide what you should call him/her?
Actually, as far as I know, we don't even have to have a name for the hospital. And with Hannes, we had booked airline tickets before he was born - heh - so in his first ticket it just says "Baby Arhammar."
Traditionally, in Finland, the name is kept under wraps until the baptizing of the baby. Now, that somehow seems ridiculous, too, expecially since the baby is referred to "baby," "their baby," or "Shmo" (or any other nickname you can think of) until That Day.
Now, I am one of those people who was called something else until that Day. All my family - with the exception of my mom and dad - thought I was Kalle. Until the priest said, "forget Kalle, this guy is something else ... Risto." Or something like that. I was too busy screaming that I didn't hear him.
My parents made a last minute change, and so will we, should the baby not be anything like the name we choose. But if the name fits...
I also think that the baby will make the name whatever she chooses to. The "meaning" of the name will simply change.
The List We talked a little about the original list this weekend. There are names on that list that we couldn't even imagine giving to our baby now. Like - and here's the disclaimer: what follows is just a personal view and by no means meant as an insult to the readers who may have a name that will be disclosed shortly - Oliver.
Somehow, we aren't an Oliver family. We're more of a Hannes thing, you know. A nice, jokey, running around kind of a family.
Oh, that's about all we talked about. We haven't really reached that point yet. Nor have "we" reached the point where complete strangers want to touch Jessica's belly.
It'll all be different this time, though. Different country, different baby, different situation.
Here we go again Oh yes, yes we do. Hannes, the original Name that baby baby will turn three in November, and while I was reading some of the earlier entries here, I can't believe how fast three years can just swish by. Unreal.
Anyway, in March, Hannes will go from being The One to being Big Brother.
Guys So, Jessica took the 8.25 train to Hudiksvall to see her sister and her daughter. She'll be back tomorrow night which means that Hannes and I will get two full Guy Days at home.
We started the Guy Weekend (tomorrow's Sweden's national day, so it's a holiday) pretty well by cruising down to a friend and hanging out there. After a short nap in the afternoon, we rode our bike to the park and hung out some more. Swings, slides, sandboxes, you name it.
And now we're here, sitting on the couch, eating pizza and watching a movie.
Hannes is back OK, I am at home again, sitting here by the kitchen table. So, things are good. We were away only for a few days, but a lot can happen in a few days to make it seem like a long time.
One of them is being sick for a day. Another, sleeping for 15 hours.
But enough about me. Last night, Hannes said he wanted to go home so you can understand how disappointed he was this morning, when I drove him to his kindergarten. He was like a little monkey, hanging onto me.
I hate that because it makes me feel ... ruthless, cruel, and any other bad thing you can imagine. So, I am off to the kindergarten now, to pick him up. Maybe we'll take the longer route back home.
Good vibrations We sure lose something as we grow up. Well, we lose a lot, but one of the things is obviously the ability to trust our instints and intuition.
I am fascinated by Hannes's ability to know who he likes and who he likes not so much. Immediately. We're visiting my Mom (so, the view from the blog window is not the usual Stockholm suburbian street, but instead a Finnish farm with frields and fields of - I think - potatoes) so Hannes has charmed my uncles and aunts.
My uncle is Hannes's Cool Friend. My aunts ... OK, but kinda scary. There's just something about the way my uncle moves and talks and looks that makes Hannes trust him and like him.
A funny thing happened.... Well, there we were, sitting - or maybe we were standing - on the NY subway. I think it was the Times Square stop, #2 train Uptown. Hannes, Jessica, myself and Devin, the Godfather.
We were waiting for the train to get going - we were running late, Devin and I were going to stop at Fairway's - when all of a sudden a man came running, juuuust as the doors closed. He managed to get a hand and a foot between the closing doors, as he was desperately trying to open the doors.
We stood there, watching, all four of us, when after about 30 seconds of struggle, the doors reopened, and the man walked into the train.
That little New York moment made an impression on Hannes who has been asking Jessica all week to tell him the story over and over again. Today, he told me the story himself. "And then Mom says, "wow", and Dad said, "oh no" and Debin goes, "uh oh". "
That makes his standup routine 60 seconds long.
The other joke - the above becomes funny when Hannes tells it - involves a Finn, a Swede, a pig and, um, ugly smells.
Here's Hannes There's a nice, small playground on the east side of Central Park, on 96th Street. They have eight swings, three slides, a sandbox and a lot of other neat things to play with. And a lot of kids. And almost as many nannies.
Hannes was there last week.
Anyway, Hannes was a little shy at first, at the playground. He held my hand as we walked around to see what they had to offer. "Dad, what did girl say?" Hannes would ask when somebody said "excuse me" on her way to rescue a little girl in trouble,
Then he saw the slide. The first time, Jessica lifted him up, and it took him minutes to get down. Five minutes later, Hannes would sprint up the stairs, stand up on top of the slide and yell, "Here comes Hannnnneeees!" and then came down feet, first, on his stomach.
Traveling with a two-and-a-half-year-old is different from traveling alone or traveling as a couple. Five years ago Jessica and I walked around Manhattan, saw all the sights and shopped like there was no limit on our credit cards. This time around, we spent one day in Central Park, watching squirrels and chipmunks, looking for the carousel and eating ice cream. The next day, we took the 3-train up to the Bronx Zoo.
And we loved almost every minute of it. Having the cutest kid in the world with you on the New York subway helps a a lot. Everybody's really nice. Except ... you know who you are.
I [heart] NY Hannes is currently asleep in Harlem in New York City. He's had a rough day keeping up with the yellow taxicabs and eating pretzels.
The high of the day was when Hannes was running around the fountain in City Hall Park, beaming, and just being happy to run (instead of sitting in the stroller, or in a car like the previous three days).
Hannes was on his third lap around the fountain when he almost ran into two men. One of them saw Hannes running towards them, he stepped aside and said to his friend: "Look, a smiley!"
"It ain't nice" Hannes and I took the ferry over to Finland and back last weekend or so. It was just the two of us on the ferry, a real roadtrip (of sorts, I know there are no roads in the sea) with good food, lots of fun and late night Donald Duck cartoons and The Simpsons.
Well, not late night. After all, Hannes is supposed to go to bed at around 9.
Admittedly, there is a one-hour time difference between these two countries, and it may be tricky sometimes. Like, should Hannes go to bed at 9 Swedish time, or Finnish time (which actually is 8 pm Swedish time).
My rule of thumb is to let him stay up an extra hour.
Hence, The Siiiiimpsooooons.
The problem was that we probably had too much fun in that 7-square-meter cell of ours, and Hannes didn't want to sleep.
On our way back, we got into an argument, and yes, there was shouting and yes, things were thrown around and yes, some fingers were pointed.
I am not naming names, but I confess that I was furious. Steaming.
Hannes ran to the door and tried to open it. I told him not to, (that's where I pulled out The Finger) and told him to get back to the bed.
Hannes looked at me, crossed his short little arms across his chest and said: "It ain't nice... it ain't nice to sleep, Dad, it ain't".
And the way he said "it ain't nice" sounded so much like my Mom that I couldn't help but smile.
Father of the son Went out for a couple of drinks with Francis last night. We're there talking about our families, and all the issues every family has, and about blogging, and writing and about mutual friends and ex-colleagues, when all of a sudden he asked me if being a father had been like I had imagined it to be.
And off the top of my head, I said, "no."
Pulled out that "no" almost as fast as Hannes. :)
But then I started explaining my fatherly feelings to him - and to myself. And now to you, because this is what I said:
"I don't know what I expected, actually. But I haven't had any of these larger than life "he's my son" proud moments", I said and stumbled along, "I mean, I am as proud a father as can be - Hannes is Wonder Boy - but I haven't had the Hollywood "father-son, my legacy will live forever" moments".
Do you know what I mean?
The only thing I know about being Hannes's father is that I just love him with no strings attached, unconditionally and with all my heart. Like I told Francis, there is nothing I wouldn't do to make him happy.
The difference with loving Jessica and doing everything to make her happy and loving Hannes is that Jessica is a person that I got to know and fell in love with.
Hannes I have loved from the second he was born, and I am now getting to know him.
May I have your attention, please Just came home from Jessica's Grandma's traditional epiphany dinner with the sausages, and the fish and the pears and the cream and the talk.
This was the first time for Hannes who got his seat by the end of the table and he commanded everybody's attention from there. To be fair, Hannes is probably the neatest two-year-old in the world - he spills less yoghurt than I do - so he can just sit by the chair and eat and observe.
He can even converse a little with his dinner companions on each side.
Today, those happened to be Jessica's uncle and Mom.
Sometimes it just feels so good to look at him interact with other people because you can almost grab a hold of the love in the air.
Every once in a while, somebody quietly left the table to go and play with Hannes. Then they'd come back and Hannes would sit down for a while, maybe eat some more and then disappear with somebody else.
He rewarded his admirers by singing a song. And then another one. And then one and a half. And then one more.
Back in business Hannes went back to work this morning. With all the holidays, with Christmas and everything, Hannes hasn't been going to the kindergarten for two weeks.
It's a funny old world, that kindergarten, you know. I think all kindergartens are a little special, and I think it may have something to do with the fact that everything looks almost like in any apartment, except that everything's smaller and lower.
The toilet seats are tiny, the sinks are kneehigh and the plates and forks and knives are small as well. It's like entering another world, where you definitely are the visitor. They have their rules and their hierarchy, you just observe, mister.
What makes Hannes's kindergarten a little bit more special to me, is that they all speak Finnish. They all speak Finnish in Stockholm.
It's a little Finnish hub in the middle of the swedishnest of Stockholm. It reminds me of a special club that you go to.
And Hannes is member. I'm just a hangaround member.
Devil in Disguise
When Hannes was just a little baby, I used to sing Elvis to him. I am sure I have told you this before, but bear with me. Elvis is about to return to the building.
I remember those early evenings when I rocked (sic) Hannes on my arms, singing the entire "Elvis Number Ones" album, all the way from "Heartbreak Hotel" (One of my favorites, and one of the songs I do best) down to "Way Down". Song number 24 was "Devil in Disguise" and more often than not, Hannes fell asleep during that one.
Jessica always used to laugh at my interpretation of the song. I mean, it's more like two songs, with the first, slow part turning into the hard rocking (and excellent) chorus:
You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wise
You’re the devil in disguise
Oh yes you are
The devil in disguise
And apparently, I can't carry a tune, so my voice changed a bit too much between the two parts.
Anyway, I think it's more than a coincidence that Hannes liked that song even when he was a baby, because just two years later, Jessica and I realize that he is a devil in disguise.
When things don't go his way or when Mom/Dad doesn't get it. Sometimes Mom and Dad are just ignorant tyrants, says Hannes.
"Hannes, you are Daddy's little darling, aren't ya?" is one of my favorite expressions. Hannes just looks so damn cute, so often, that in lack of better words, I just give him a huge hug and I tell him that he's my little angel.
Sometimes, we ask him if he's Daddy's darling and then if he's Mom's little cutiepie.
Now, keep in mind, that I speak Finnish with Hannes, and Jessica Swedish.
The first time I heard Hannes say "no" to me when I asked him if he was Mom's little angel, I was startled. It felt like the worst kind of favorism, and I surely didn't want Hannes to feel that yes, he was Daddy's darling, but not Mommy's.
Until Hannes went on to say that instead of being Mommy's darling like I had said in Finnish, he sure was Mom's cutiepie, in Swedish.
Now that Hannes goes to kindergarten every day, we have developed some new routines for the three of us.
Jessica and Hannes leave the house at around 8, taking the bus to the subway and then another bus to the kindergarten. Jessica, being the optimist and positive person that she is, tries to make the trip as much fun as possible.
With great success. Hannes seems to enjoy the bus and subway rides, and the hectic morning city life.
And then, in the afternoon, I drive downtown and pick him up at three. We sing in the car, all the way home. Hannes gets to sing the new songs he's learned during the day, and I get to do the classics.
Sometimes I take the longer route, so we can sing a little more.