Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween 2015

Halloween 2015: a witch and a ninja.

Yesterday was Halloween, which for our family entailed all of the usual suspects of dressing up, trick or treating, soup for dinner and watching the classic Peanuts Halloween specials. Halloween also fell on a Saturday this year, which made for a much more relaxed celebration for us. Instead of quickly shoveling dinner into everyone and rushing out the door to go trick or treating before bed time, we were able to go at a much more leisurely pace which is so nice when you have small children. And, because we weren't juggling work and school and bedtime schedules, we were even able to accept a Halloween party invitation this year! This family-friendly party was brilliantly scheduled to start before everyone went out trick or treating, and involved actual, real dinner, which was such a lovely way to start the evening. I'm definitely tucking that idea away for future years. 

In no specific order: Halloween 2010-2014

One unexpected side effect of Halloween this year was the wallowing pit of nostalgia I kept throwing myself into at every opportunity. A lot of it was, of course, for the kids and their decreasingly chunky cheeks stuffed into various adorable costumes over the past five years that we have been celebrating Halloween as parents. I mean, look at them! Have you ever seen anything sweeter?

But I also found myself mooning over Halloween photos from college and high school and waxing nostalgic over years gone by. I suspect that the reason why is the fact that Halloween is a day for taking pictures, so it's sort of a fixed point in time that you can revisit every year and see how things have changed. Or less esoterically, it's a day for having fun, so looking at pictures of yourself or your friends and family being happy and having fun is naturally going to have you breaking out your nostalgia pants. 

Deep thoughts for not-the-deepest of holidays! How was your Halloween?

Monday, October 19, 2015

A very Norwegian kulekyse for Gwen

I made the pretty hat and the pretty girl wearing it! Aren't I clever?

In a somewhat surprising, and certainly unprecedented, turn of events I've written two knitting posts in a row! While I don't think Project Project is in any immediate danger of turning into a knitting blog, I did finish the hat I was working on for Gwen and felt happy enough with the result that I wanted to show it off to you. Isn't it cute?

It never ceases to amaze me that this blue-eyed blonde is actually mine.

A friend at the monthly knit night I attend showed me the pattern for the adorable hat she had made, and I immediately knew I had to make one too. It reminded me of the type of hats that little girls used to wear when I was growing up in Norway. And then I realized that the pattern was actually in Norwegian, and it was a done deal!

She devised this little pose all on her own. 

But then I couldn't find the yarn I wanted to make the hat. I knew it had to be something really soft and non-itchy so Gwen would agree to wear it (there is nothing sadder than spending weeks working on a project for someone, only to have them not wear it because it's not comfortable), and I knew it would have to be just the right shade of blue. Something cool and icy and feminine to really make her eyes stand out. So I looked around a little bit locally, but couldn't find the right thing until the kids and I were in Norway this summer. We happened to venture into a small yarn shop, and after a little poking around (and exercising a lot of restraint to not buy up the entire store!) I found just the thing. It is a silk/alpaca blend, and is the softest, most buttery smooth yarn imaginable from Du Store Alpakka. It was a little on the spendy side, but seeing as I only needed one skein and it was perfect (and it was my birthday!), I snapped some up, downloaded the pattern and started knitting it right away. 

From the back. I love that it comes to two little points!

The kulekyse (or bubble bonnet, as it is delightfully called in English) is a fun and pretty quick little project. I'd never tried knitting anything like this bubble pattern before, and it was a little nerve-wracking seeing as it involved letting a stitch drop down four rows before picking it back up and knitting it twisted! But after some trial and error, I figured it out and then it was pretty smooth sailing from then on. In Norwegian, at least, the pattern is quite clear and straightforward in its directions, which I appreciated, especially after the problems I'd had with the last pattern I found online. My only complaint is that they only let you download the pattern a limited amount of times, so even though I've paid for it, I can't print a new copy to replace the very worn and raggedy one I've been using to knit from. Kind of miffing, but not the end of the world.

Gwen didn't especially want to pose for pictures - unless her fairy wings could come too.

Gwen was very interested in the whole knitting process, and was quite eager for me to finish her hat. I showed her the finished result on Sunday morning, when she decided that she had to wear it to church. She was already wearing a dress that my mum had knitted for her, so off she went to church, decked out from head to toe in homemade knitwear. She looked very demure and proper in her little bonnet, and I had to smile at how fancy she obviously felt.

I love how the bonnet frames her face, and I am delighted with how that shade of turquoisey blue really brings out her blue eyes. I also like that she can wear it with a dress for "the more formal toddler occasion" or with jeans and a shirt for every day. And it's not something that every other mom in the neighborhood has bought at Target for their kids - it's always fun to have something a little different.

Also - I ended up buying two skeins of the yarn I used, just to be sure that I had enough (imagine how frustrating it would be to run out of yarn that you bought in another country!), so now I have a whole extra skein and a bit of this gorgeous yarn. What do you think I should make with it?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A sweater vest for Espen

Showing off his new knitwear.

Wonders never cease - I actually knitted something! I sort of unintentionally put away my knitting when Gwen was a baby, and then didn't pick it back up again until earlier this year when I started working on a sweater vest (or pullover as I secretly call it in my relatively English mind) for Espen. Then the weather got too warm for knitwear and life got busy and I hardly picked up a knitting needle all summer long. But recently I've been bitten hard by the knitting bug, and have had a hard time putting down the projects I've cast on. I just want to knit all the time, you guys!

A sassy little man and his sweater.
My first completed knitting project was a sweater vest for Espen. I used this free pattern that I found online (courtesy of Revelry!), and while it wasn't without it's issues along the way, I'm quite happy with the result!

A few notes:

  • As is sometimes the case with free patterns that haven't been professionally tested or edited, there were a couple of typos and unclear instructions that had me stumped. I got a bit frustrated and discouraged a few times, but was generally able to reason my way through it in the end. 
  • I thought when I was starting the pattern that I could probably easily have knitted it in the round, but didn't trust myself to get it right. But the further into the pattern I got, the more obvious it was that even I could have adapted the pattern to be knitted in the round, which would have been both quicker and easier. So I think I need to have a little more faith in my knitting skills!
  • It's a great fit for Espen, but I do wish I'd added an extra inch or so to the length. It'll probably still fit him widthwise in a year, but I suspect it might be too short by then. He's just a long, skinny kid, and I need to remember to adapt my knitting accordingly. 
  •  This was my first time knitting a v-neck, and I struggled! I had a hard time picking up an even amount of stitches on both sides of the center stitch, and keeping my decreases even and in the right place. I wish the pattern had been a little more clear about what exactly I was trying to accomplish, but with a lot of counting and concentration, I got there in the end. 
  • I similarly struggled with picking up the right number of stitches around the sleeves, but I tried and failed enough times that the end result is flawless. I'm seriously happy with how neat and tidy it was in the end. 
  • Because I'm still not an expert knitter, it didn't even occur to me to do a stretchy decrease on the collar, and so it's a bit uncomfortable going over Espen's head when he puts it on and takes it off. Blocking it helped a bit, but I really should have done a looser bind-off, or looked up how to do a stretchy one. Next time!
Having said all of that, though, I'm actually quite delighted with it. It fits Espen really well, it keeps his skinny little body warm, and most of all, he likes it, so I'm counting it as a success - as long as his head doesn't get any bigger! 

And now I'm onto knitting a hat for Gwen! And after that I'm making a baby blanket! And after that, and after and after that!

Cheeky face!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Parks, picnics and pasta sauce

With about half an hour to go before school got out at lunchtime today, I was moving over some laundry and plotting how, exactly, I was going to go grocery shopping and give the kids lunch and still make it home in time for Gwen's nap and to do all of the other things I had on my list today. We could grab lunch while we were out (Wendy's is very conveniently next to Target), but Espen had already chosen to make chicken and fries for his dinner day tonight, and there's only so much fried chicken you can eat in a day, y'know?

Then inspiration struck. Today was one of those glorious early September days that Utah does so very well, and I decided to capitalize on it and pack up a quick picnic of juice, sandwiches and a handful of cookies and run out the door. Gwen and I pulled a very bewildered and excited Espen out of his carpool, and then headed off on our picnic adventure.

The park was more or less empty at lunchtime on a Friday afternoon, so we had a nice little lunch beneath the shade before the kids ran off to spend a happy half hour or so on the playground. As I watched them bask in the glory of having the entire playground to themselves, I knew that there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to do all of the things I had planned to do today. But I knew I had to (as Espen so enthusiastically belted out in the bathroom at Target a little later) let it go, and just make that time in the park with the kids my priority for today.

I forget that sometimes. In the rush to check things off my list and get things done and organized and into shape, I forget that the whole and entire point and purpose in life is to be with the people we love.  To serve others and allow ourselves to be served. To love them and to let them love us. Isn't that why we're really all here?

I got another reminder of that after we got home. Espen was in the backseat of the car, telling me that he could unbuckle Gwen from her seat "so you don't have to waste your time doing it, mom. I don't want you to have to do lots of work today." It was meant as a kindness and I so appreciate his good little heart and willingness to help, but it felt a little bit like a slap in the face. Waste my time? Is that really what I have been teaching them? That things I do to take care of them are work and chores, and that anything that takes a little while is wasting my precious time? That my time is somehow more important than them? Oh, I hope that's not what they're learning!

I was too stunned at the time to say much of anything, but what I should have said, and what I will say to Espen tonight when we snuggle up in his bed after his bedtime story is this: "Taking care of you and your sister is a gift, and if I have ever made you feel like any of the things I do in a day are more important than you, then I apologize. There is a lot of work involved in being a mom or a dad, or just a grownup in general, and sometimes there are things that just have to happen, like making our food, doing laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning up... But those things never, ever matter more than you or Gwen, and loving you and taking care of you is not a waste of my time, even if it just something small or not very fun like unbuckling a car seat or changing a diaper. If I ever make you feel like I care more about unloading the dishwasher then I do about you, please tell me, and I will be happy to remind you just how much I love you, and how much you really do matter to me."

Two more little events: yesterday afternoon I put Gwen down for her nap and then started to head downstairs to make a large batch of pasta sauce when the thought popped into my head to invite Espen to join me. I popped my head inside his bedroom door and asked if he would like to keep me company while I cooked, and his whole little face just lit up. He came downstairs and spent the next hour or so perched beside me on the kitchen counter, chatting about school and helping me with the occasional cooking task. It was so nice to and easy to just spend time together like that, and I felt like such a doofus for not thinking of it before. Which is exactly the reason why, when Gwen asked me to play Lego with her this morning when I was really planning to go upstairs and do some laundry, I said yes. And sure, I spent some time cleaning up the playroom around her while she played before I came to my senses and actually played some dang Lego with her, but I got there in the end, which help both of us remember that she is infinitely more important than even the longest to do-list.

So: yes to taking ten minutes to play Lego with Gwen before I go upstairs to do the laundry. Yes to letting Espen help me cook, even though it's messy. Yes to putting away the iPads and having a tickle fight. Yes to first things first. Yes to family first.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

In the middle of the week

All of the apples!

I have just successfully put Gwen down for an early nap (sing, choir of angels!), and Espen is playing at a friend's house, so I have a few minutes to spare before it's on to the next thing. How are you?

Espen has been in kindergarten for two weeks now, so we're starting to really get the hang of our new schedule. As much as I still don't like getting up in the mornings, I do like getting an early (for us!) start to the day, and really like being able to get the bulk of my errands and whatnot done before lunch, which frees up the afternoon quite a bit. Not that I do anything very exciting with it, but I have steam cleaned the couch and put together a couple of storage shelves for the basement, so things are happening, and I'm happy about that.

A few things I've had on my mind lately:

  • Gwen's naps. She still takes a nap most afternoons, but is often grumpy when we wake her, and then has a hard time getting to sleep at night, which isn't easy for anyone. I'm really hoping this won't be the end of nap time for Gwen, so we're experimenting with this and that to see what works. Today I put her to bed an hour earlier than usual, and I'm going to wake her after 90 minutes instead of her usual two hours, so we'll see how that goes. Any wise words would be much appreciated!
  • Nick's aunt and cousin stopped by this weekend with a huge box of freshly picked apples. What a great gift! So now we're trying to work out what to do with them all. We've made a few batches of apple fruit leather, and I think apple muffins are next on my list, but that barely scratches the surface. At least apples store well, so we have a couple of weeks to use them all!
  • Nick and I started watching A Path Appears  last night, and it has given me so much to think about. The first episode was about sex trafficking in the Unites States, and while it was so shocking and quite hard to watch at times, I really do believe that the more we know about a problem, the better we can solve it. So now my mind is buzzing with things I can do and ways to help. If you're interested in watching the series (I highly recommend it) you can find it on iTunes, Netflix and Amazon. 
  • Reading time with Espen. We've been working our way through the books his preschool gave him (about 60 short books that get increasingly challenging) and now he only has three left! We're hugely proud that he has plowed his way through all those books, but now we're trying to figure out what to have him read next. So now I'm looking for something simple enough for him to be able to read, but fun and engaging enough for him to want to read. Suggestions? 
  • Starting a new blog! A friend and I have a fun idea for a blog in the works, so I'm thinking through all of the nuts and bolts involved in getting that particular party started. Hopefully we'll move from the thinking to the doing stage pretty soon. 
  • Knitting! I've got a couple of projects going at once right now, so hopefully I'll have something to share with you soon. For now you can get a preview of the hat I'm making for Gwen here
OK, time to wake Gwen and start thinking about dinner. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Espen goes to Kindergarten

He's got his new backpack and he's ready to go.
 Last week was another big milestone in our family when Espen started kindergarten. He's done joy school and preschool, so it wasn't our first first day of school, but now he is finally one of the kids going to the neighborhood school.

It's bittersweet, of course. There were tears when I dropped Espen off for his first day, and they weren't his! On the one hand it's scary and hard to send him off to a school with hundreds of kids to fend for himself (and it's every day!), especially knowing that he's a sensitive little guy who sometimes gets his feelings hurt. I worry about him making friends and kids being mean, and will his teacher "get" him and all of that motherly anxiety-ridden stuff. But then I'm also so excited for him to make friends (his preschool class was all boys, so we are super excited to make friend with girls!) and do all of the learning and growing that comes with going to school. Education is such an essential part of growing up and being human that I can't wait for Espen to fully experience.

I took a risk and let him pick his own First Day of School outfit.
Other than this being a 90 degree day, I think he did pretty great!

He's had a few nervous moments, of course, but mostly Espen has been happy and excited about going to school. His favorite part is playing with his best friend at recess, and he's already had a new friend  (a girl!)over for a play date already, so socially he's very happy, even if he was a bit shocked that a girl in his class had been "mean" to their teacher yesterday. And academically he is just fine. The pre-school that Espen went to last year was pretty academically focused (I mean, for a bunch of four-year olds!), so he already knows his numbers and can read or sound simple words already, so he's a little ahead of the curve - for now. But he's happily learning the alphabet and numbers all over again, and treats everything like it's valuable information to him, so if he's happy in the classroom and not getting bored, we really can't ask for anything more. Besides, a little review never hurt anyone.

I love this kid. 

So... so far, so good! Our days start a little earlier and our mornings are busier, but I feel like we've quickly settled into our new routine. Gwen and I drop Espen off at school at nine and then go and run errands and go shopping until it's time to pick Espen up at lunchtime, so I've had a lot of productive mornings! On Monday I was positively elated to have all of the week's grocery shopping done and dusted by 10 AM, which basically never happens at our house. And with our mornings being so productive, I've had more time to do other things in the afternoons; like working in the yard, reading, blogging, playing Lego or even painting with the kids. I really do feel so lucky that I am able to spend all of this time with the kids while they're small, and having more un-rushed time where I'm not constantly feeling guilty about all of the other things I should be doing is honestly pretty priceless. My least favorite thing about being a mom is when I feel like a stressed-out, snarly head case, so any time I don't have to do that is golden.

In conclusion: we're one week in, and school is great! Espen likes his school, we like his school and his school seems to like him too. I'm sure the time will come when things aren't as quite rosy at school as they are at the moment, but until that day comes, we're grateful that Espen is off to a good start.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ten Years

We are back from our cruise and our busy summer is officially at an end. We've had a few North Family Milestones since my last, including Espen's first day of pre-school and our 10th wedding anniversary. Ten years! How did that happen?

We decided very early on in our marriage that we wanted to really celebrate our anniversaries, and seeing as we both like to travel, we decided that an annual trip would be the way to do it. It didn't always have to be big or expensive or even very far, we just knew that we wanted to escape the everyday and spend a little time away, just the two of us. And so far we have done a pretty good job of managing just that! Some of our anniversaries have been in faraway places (Venice!) and some of them have been a couple of hours away (Cedar City!), but what they do have in common is that they have all been such happy occasions, as well as a perfect opportunity to stop the world and remind ourselves that we are still the people we fell in love with years ago.

2005: Married for about six hours and seriously happy about life. 

2006: First anniversary in our first apartment!
And then a day or two later, we hopped on a plane to spend a few weeks in England and Norway.

2007: We don't have any of our own photos of this trip, (so I borrowed one from Tripadvisor) but for our third anniversary we ventured north and stayed at the Providence Inn near Logan, UT. We slept in, wandered around the town, went swimming and just generally enjoyed a long weekend together. 
2008: Utah Shakespeare Festival. We watched lots of plays, stayed in a seriously cute B&B and fell deeply in love with baked brie and each other.

2009: This year we combined our anniversary trip with a babymoon to Stockholm! Sadly, most of those photos disappeared in The Great Photo Loss of 2010, so we will have to make do with a pregnant photo of me in Gamla Stan.
 I promise Nick came too!

2010: Back in 2010 we didn't post our every move on social media, so we actually don't have any pictures of our fifth anniversary trip. But we do have this picture of Espen swimming with Grandpa, which is how he spent his weekend while we went back to the same place we stayed in when we got married. 

2011: Nick's beautiful Grandma Jo passed away just before our actual anniversary, so we replaced our plans for an anniversary trip to Las Vegas with a visit to Las Vegas for her funeral instead. Life got very crazy for us that fall, but we managed to sneak off for a few days after Christmas, just the two of us, and went hiking in Zion National Park (and stayed in a posh-ish hotel).

2012:Six months pregnant with Gwen and enjoying a quick break in St. George while Grandma and Grandpa took care of Espen. The heat was ridiculous, but we enjoyed tasty food, a show at the Tuacahn theatre and spending time together.

2013: Our babysitter cancelled last minute, so we scaled back our plans and made our eighth anniversary a family affair.
(A friend offered to watch the kids for us that night, so we did manage to sneak off to dinner and a moonlit ski-lift ride in the mountains, so no harm done.)

2014: Our anniversary was also Espen's first day of preschool, so celebrations were low-key.

2014: But we did celebrate a month earlier with a trip to Venice, so romance was not dead.

2015: Ten years! We went on a cruise to Alaska and celebrated the actual day canoeing across a lake near Ketchikan.

2015: Back onboard the cruise ship, we celebrated again with a fancy dinner and eversoverymuchtoomuch dessert.

Happy anniversary to us! I can wait to see where the next ten years take us.