It's the most glorious feeling. To have endured months of darkness and cold, bundling yourself up everytime you walk out the door, all the windows in the apartment closed, the ground outside hard and frozen. And suddenly the snow and ice have melted away and spring is upon you. It's the most amazing thing - especially to a girl who grew up in sub-tropical Brisbane, where the change of seasons is almost indiscernible.

I have never enjoyed 7 degrees so much before in my life! In Brissie it would be a record-breaking cold day, but here it feels like the world has just awoken from a long sleep. The air feels soft and sweet, you can smell the earth and moisture. The sunlight is blinding and everyone around seems so happy - the kids in the park have got out all of their sandpit stuff and are madly digging the recently defrosted sand. You can actually hear birds again - and you realise that for the months of winter everything in nature was so QUIET. There are no buds on the trees yet, no grass in the park, but everything has this feeling of promise and excitement. Easter makes sense now, all that talk about new life. A celebration of the return of the sun and the waking of nature.

On the weekend we had a "welcome to spring" bbq on a friend's back deck. It had a lazy aussie feel with beers in the sun and the charcoal smell of meat on the barbeque. The kids went crazy running around playing hide and seek and screaming as loud as they could. We went for a walk in the forest and cut some branches of willow and did some more jumping and screaming, and spring was truly here, and all was good.

Help! Mikus has gone feral. I love him desperately, but lately he is very hard to manage. I know it's just a stage, but its him 'against the world' at the moment and close family members are in the direct firing line. I think it must be a combination of him starting to learn to talk, the frustration of not really being able to talk, realising that he doesnt always have to do everything that Matiss says, and that yelling REALLY loud sometimes DOES actually get what you want!
His favourite words in the last few weeks are "AND ME!" (with his finger expressively pointed at his chest), "MINE! " (roared while fiercely tugging toys away from another child), "I'll show ya!" (repeated incessantly while pulling on an adult's hand to get them away from whatever they're doing), and "Go!!! Go!!!" (yelled while pushing you to go away).
His tantrums are the most spectacular I've seen, where neither he, I, nor his father know how to calm him down. They often start for reasons only known or understood by Mikus and WATCH OUT if you happen to be the perpetrator. Every day I am confronted, numerous times, by this hysterical bundle of rage and frustration and am at a loss how to help him. I've tried distraction. And holding him close and telling him I love him. And completely ignoring him. And taking him to a 'safe place' so that he can calm down himself. And getting down to his level and TALKING to him, asking him whats wrong. Hey, I've even tried giving him whatever he wants, no matter how capricious it seems. But nothing helps. The only thing I haven't resort to is chocolate (methinks it would be a bit too much pavlovian training).
The way he finally stops is when he is too tired to physically fight me anymore, then I pick up the small sobbing bundle, and THEN try distraction. And then walk on eggshells for the rest of the afternoon in case he starts off again. Recently I have tried to fight through my own tears and fear of my sub-2 year old and to HOLD him more during the day (when he's not having a tantrum) and carry him around, talk more and help to translate to him this big, overwhelming world that he is just really starting to discover - provide him with a bit more attention and shelter. Don't know if it will work. Ideas, anyone?

PS. The photo above is Mikus eating his favourite food
The one below is him doing 'thumbs up'

Meet Zelta - Tiss' first real friend.
Before this, Tiss has been playing cooperatively with other kids, but he has been equally friendly/ equally indifferent to all of them. No matter how hard we parents have tried to push our various offspring together, ultimately, the kids themselves are the ones who decide about friendship. Which is the way it should be!

Zelta is also an Australian born Latvian kid living in Riga. She is three. Tiss and Zelta go to the same kindy but Larisa (Zelta's mum) and I have started sending them on alternate days - because those two are inseparable! A good thing in most ways, but at kindy they tend to hold hands and run off, whispering together in English and making up their own games with 'secrets' and 'magical coats' and superheroes etc. According to the director, Tiss gets very little work done on the days Zelta is at kindy . And he's meant to be learning the alphabet!! Important work. The pic above shows the carneval masks that Tiss and Zelta made a couple of weeks back. When we were in Thailand, Tiss pretended to write emails to Zelta, and most mornings Zelta kicks up a stink if she finds out Tiss won't be at kindy too. They share jokes, talk about tv programmes together, organise for each other to come over and play, and bicker in the car. All a part of the 'rich tapestry of life', as my uncle would say.

I just listened to a podcast of a Radio National programme in which they were discussing the recent phenomena of "Geneological Tourism" - that Australian tourist destinations today are often based on a wish to explore their pre-Australian roots. The programme suggested that in the "post-Mabo" Australia non-aboriginal Aussies are trying to find their own "indigenous landscapes". Well here's part of mine:

Yesterday mum and I drove 2 hrs north of Riga to appraise my family's forest with the forestry people. It's good to go before spring, so that the ground is still frozen and you can walk through without mud up to your shoulders. We walked in gumboots on ice which was covered in ankle-deep crystal clear, cold water; crunched over the dwindling snow through birch and pine forest; breathed in the early spring air and felt the sun on our backs and wondered at the majesty of the trees around us. Thanks, great great grandfather Libarts.

Frozen wolf tracks

I love kids' drawings. Don't care if they're my kids' or someone else's. The freedom of line and imagination is something an adult can't replicate. The other day I almost became an art thief when I saw Meta's (kindergarten friend) drawing of a black cat with multicoloured polka dots.

So it was most distressing when Tiss stopped drawing last year in November. During last summer he'd really started getting in to it - you know, drawing those smiling round heads with legs sticking out where their bodies should be, and arms coming out where their ears should be. Cars and helicopters and flowers. But then we found out about Mikus' leg, and Mikus and I flew to England to consult with specialists, and while we were away, Tiss stopped drawing. I'm sure and art therapist would have a lot to say on the subject. For the last four months I've been coaxing and pleading but Tiss wouldn't budge - when asked to draw he'd do some obligatory no-effort scribbles and then walk away.

But this week, something has happened, and he's drawing again! The 'work' above is one he did today of penguins in their home (an ice cave) with icicles on the ceiling. Its snowing outside and there are people walking over the roof. It may not have polka dots, but today I'm the happiest mum in the world.

Well we've almost done it: we've almost bought a house. If all goes well, it will change hands before August, when the land is subdivided officially (big downpayment has been paid, so I'm tempting fate by boasting already). So here are the specs: 2 storey, 200 square metres (which is BIG for Latvia), 100yr old, wooden terrace house in Agenskalns, Riga. This is a suburb with lots of potential - like Brisbane's West End around 20 years ago. Right over the river from the city, lots of cultural developments happening in the vicinity - new national library, concert hall, etc. We have a tram line on our street, a few stops into town. All the locals think we have gone totally mad buying a wooden house, they reckon we'll freeze, the house will fall down around us, etc, etc. You will probably be horrified too when you see the pics below!! But we have faith and super-under-grit-and-dirt vision goggles and believe that we can make it into a great house. Luckily also our family also have these special goggles and we are being sponsored by various family members... Plans for the house include two separate 'granny flats' - for my parents and for my mum's cousin Jānis, who lives in Washington, but comes to Riga regularly. Stay tuned for more...

Here are some snaps we took when doing our 'condition report' - only a few were worth posting. This is the house from the backyard (where we will have a small yard enough for a carport, clothes line, basketball ring and puppy dog ;) ). The house looks the same from the front but with more shutters. On the left over the fence is the neighbours house, on the right is the driveway from the street to the back yard. One very gracious friend commented that it looked like the old orphanage from the movie "Anne of Greene Gables". I think she was being kind!

This is the most charming bit of the house. Hmmmm. It used to have 7 1-room flats and a small shop in it. The flats and shop were heated by 8 wood fire stoves which are still there, the only method of heating. This is one of the first things we want to improve!

Oh yes, Soviet stencilling is another bit of charm we will have to preserve in the process of renovation...

Something the previous shop owners left behind! The shop used to be a second hand clothes store - but sadly got cleaned out before we signed the contract

Well its probably about time I got into this blogging world, considering Jem and I make a living out of internet-related activities! Thought this would be a good way of keeping in touch and perhaps even an appropriate platform for my random ramblings. Expect a whole lot of boring stuff about the kids and the fact that the weather over here is cold! Not sure how often I'll be posting things here - seeing as there's NO TIME, but you never know!


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