30th of September 

Dear diary,

Husband is in Nuremberg for a few days and I am home with kids, counting days till he comes back. In the morning we had a video call. Knopka was lying on the play mat doing his tummy time. Kroshka was running around. 

We were discussing the daily routine and what needs to be done, when Kroshka ran up to the little one, put his mouth on Knopka’s bare butt and did a loud brrrrrr! You know like if you wanted to imitate a horse? We do it on Kroshka’s belly sometimes, so he, in turn, did it on his brother.

That made Knopka laugh and Knopka laughing made Kroshka laugh too. And that was the first time I witnessed my two babies laugh together, joined by me and my husband hundreds of kilometers away.

9th of October

Dear diary,

I was on the way to a park near our house — Knopka in the stroller, Kroshka walking next to me. And when I say “next to me” I really mean “ten meters behind”. He stopped now and again to smell flowers or examine rocks on the ground. I tried my best to not say anything, as impatient as I was. 

bahrenfeld cemetery
The park was really a cemetery, a really beautiful one.

And then he looked at me and said “Two happy bunnies are walking to the park” (“Два довольных зайки идут в парк”) which made me laugh out loud. He meant himself and Knopka, as I sometimes say “mama has two bunnies”. But the fact that the bunnies were happy was his own addition. Sometimes he also comes up to Knopka and says “Why are you lying here all happy?” (“Ты чего лежишь такой довольный?”), something he must have overheard me say. 

10th of October

Dear diary,

There’s a book Kroshka adores about a family of dormice (if you’ve no idea what a dormouse is, join the club! I had to google it — it’s a kind of rodent) written by a Swiss author Markus Osterwalder. 

Fun fact I’ve learned while writing this: although born in Zurich, Osterwalder spent many years in Hamburg, working for Die Zeit, one of the main newspapers in Germany, before creating Bobo the Dormouse series that made him famous. Unbeknownst to me, I bought a book written by a fellow Hamburger (I don’t know if I can already call myself a Hamburgerin, after spending only a year in Hamburg, but I’d really like to). 

We were reading a story in which Bobo goes to the zoo, and naming all the animals in it. At the picture of two zebras Kroshka paused for a bit and said: “This is mama-zebra. And this is Kroshka-zebra.” Can he be more adorable?

14th of October

Dear diary,

We had baked potatoes and cauliflower with hummus for lunch. Kroshka stuffed his mouth with food, then pointed at the kitchen and muttered something unintelligible. “What?” I asked. “And I love you till thaaaat kitchen over there!” (“А я тебя люблю до вооооон той кухни!”). 

This was the first time he said “I love you” to me, unprompted. I ask him sometimes if he loves me and he replies with “yes”. But this time there was no question and no nudging and it was the sweetest moment. 

We read a book by Sam McBratney Guess How Much I Love You recently, as you might have guessed. There are phrases like “I love you all the way down the lane as far as the river” and “I love you across the river and over the hills”. “I love you till that kitchen over there” seems like a fitting addition. I am not sure why he had to specify that it’s “that kitchen over there” as if there were several kitchens in our apartment, but I’ll take it over all the rivers and hills combined. 

21st of October

Dear diary,

I must have eaten something off Kroshka’s plate while he was in the bathroom, because now every time he wants to pee during a meal, he says, “mama, I am only going to pee and come back, please don’t eat my food” (Мам, я только пописаю и приду, не ешь моё).

Moving with two kids is fun. 10 out of 10. Highly recommend!

3rd of November

Dear diary,

We moved into a new apartment. It’s been a mess. It’s been tough. I’ve been purposely trying to find good moments in the daily routine of cleaning, organizing and sorting. Today when I came… to bed I want to say… but really it was just an old borrowed mattress on the floor, my husband and Knopka were already sleeping next to each other. 

The moon was shining so bright into the bedroom window — we have no bed, of course, there are no curtains either — that even with no lights on I could see their faces so clearly. I lay down next to my baby and looked at his sweet innocent face and said a mental “thank you” to the Universe for my little family.

17th of November 

Dear diary,

As soon as we knew I was pregnant we explained to Kroshka that there was a baby in my belly. And we told him that the baby was going to be born. For the first two months after the little one’s arrival, Kroshka kept saying: “The baby was born” (“Ляля родилась”) and then “Knopka was born” (“Кнопка родился”). He almost never said it afterwards, until today. 

We were walking the four flights of stairs to our apartment. “Knopka was born… but how did he get out of the belly?” (Кнопка родился… а как же он вылез из животика?”) Wait! I thought I had a couple more years till that conversation! I was not ready. “There’s a hole? He got out of a hole?”, I said not sure what the best course of action here is and he laughed so hard. Whether at the strange way babies make it into this world or at my embarrassment — we’ll never know. 

20th of November

Dear Diary,

Knopka started saying “mama”. Not that he understands what “mama” means, but he keeps saying “ma-ma-ma-ma-ma”. And sometimes, when he is upset or has just woken up, it comes out in a particularly piteous drawl “maaaaaa maaaaaa”. Just a sound, but melts my heart all the same. 

29th of November

Dear diary,

I swear a lot. I probably don’t make an impression of a person who swears a lot, but in my native Russian language I do. Since Kroshka has been becoming more and more proficient in Russian in the past year I had to dial it down. 

The problem is how do you stop swearing when parenting is exactly what makes you want to swear in the first place. This is not the only paradox I’ve been contemplating. Here’s another one: how come the people who need a drink the most at the end of the day are not allowed to drink because they are breastfeeding?

So the swearing… There’s an expression I use rather often “Ёб твою мать!” which literally translates to — I apologize for my language — “fuck your mother”. I know I know! Horrible! But also… so satisfying?

I was pushing a stroller with both kids through the autumn slush when a pack of diapers that was hanging on a hook on the side of the stroller fell down right into the mud. “Ёб!” I started enthusiastically but shut myself up mid-sentence. Phew! That was close. And then Kroshka screamed “твою маааааааать!” at the top of his lungs. And because I couldn’t help but laugh he continued screaming “your mooooother!” in Russian over and over again all the way home. 

30th of November

Dear diary,

It may seem that what makes me happy most of the time is Kroshka speaking Russian. Which is often the case: he says something funny, I laugh and think “I should write this down”. These moments are easy to register as happy. But there are many more that are so fleeting you need to train your brain to recognize and remember them. Knopka’s toothless smile is one. The way he looks at his big brother, amazed and curious. How impatient he is when he sees food — we just started weaning. His constant attempts to eat my chin or my cheek when I am holding him close. His contagious laugh. His chubby legs. His baby smell. 

christmas market hot chocolate

1st of December

Dear diary,

Three years ago right at this moment I was lying on a hospital bed, looking at my husband holding three-hour old Kroshka on his bare chest. I wanted to pee so I awkwardly got up from the bed and what felt like a bucket of blood splashed onto the floor. The nurse ran in and might have asked if I was crazy to get up like that after giving birth — I am not sure, I wasn’t very good at German then. 

I will leave reflections on three years of motherhood for some other day. I will just say that today was good. I wanted to bake a birthday cake the day before, dress Kroshka into something nice and stylish, ask a professional photographer to do a few pictures of us — none of which happened. 

In the morning all four of us went to a supermarket to get missing ingredients for a cake, balloons and candles. At midday we ran (literally) to the Planetarium to see a show for babies featuring starry sky projections to the tunes of classical music.

They don’t allow anyone in after the show starts. So at some point I was briskly walking uphill while drowsy Knopka was attached to my boob. That was the easier thing to do because I’d rather passersby give me weird looks then have Knopka be late for his nap and cry. Also, I can’t believe I just wrote that breastfeeding while walking on the street is the easier thing to do. Who am I ? What is my life? Anyways, we made it to the show with 30 seconds to spare. 

After the show we took a bus to a Christmas market, but Kroshka fell asleep as soon as we got there. When we finally made it home at 5 pm I rushed to make a cake but couldn’t find a cake pan, so we had a loaf birthday cake instead. Knopka, who I’d put to bed for the night, woke up right when we were about to light the candles. 

birthday cake 3 years
Lemon loaf (birthday) cake from Cannelle Et Vanille Bakes Simple by Aran Goyoaga

All in all few things went as planned. But the cake was lemony and moist. And watching Kroshka watch the show on the dome of Planetarium made me smile. And the hot chocolate at the Christmas market was the real deal, with whipped cream on top. It was not a perfect day, but I didn’t have one reason to swear.