Monday, March 23, 2015

Not OK

I've been feeling a bit down lately. A bit sad and a lot tired and a bit overwhelmed by life. And ashamed because who gets to feel like this with a life as good as mine? There have been a few tough days. But this afternoon I went outside and helped Espen practice riding his bike. I noticed how the plum tree is starting to flower, and that the hydrangea has pushed up a few green shoots. I devoted 45 minutes to weeding a garden bed. I felt happy and more like myself than I have in weeks. While I don't think breathing fresh air and getting my hands dirty actually makes my problems go away, I do feel like at least part of the solution might lie among the simpler things in life. More pink cheeks and grubby fingernails to come.

Last week I posted the above picture and text on Instagram, and I wanted to share it with you too. Not without a little trepidation, because we don't really live in a world where it feels terribly acceptable to be having a hard time. Especially when the struggles you're dealing with are all internal, like mine are.

Really, there's nothing wrong at all with me. I have a pretty fantastic life. My children are sweet and loving and pretty wonderful. My husband is beyond loving, supportive and kind. My faith is deep and sustaining. Any want or need I might have is generally promptly fulfilled. And yet I keep having days where all I want to do is get back into bed. Days of being tired and grumpy and impatient. Days where the thought of planning meals for the week and then shopping for the groceries needed to make them has been so overwhelming it has brought me to the brink of tears. Days where it's hard to see the point of doing anything productive because the things I do matter so little anyway. Days of feeling inadequate. Unfocused. Off my game. Days where my sweet husband has held me and listened to me and wiped away my tears.

We're not really sure what's going on with at the moment, but we are exploring a few possibilities. I've been really, really tired a lot of the time (ask my kids how often Mama conks out on the couch in the afternoons), so we're looking into what we can do to improve the quality of my sleep. Another option is depression and/or anxiety. I dealt with both of those as a college student, so I'm definitely pre-disposed, but I've been fine for almost 10 years now. And the final option is that it's just a passing schlump, a "phase I'm going through", if you will. We'll see.

This all sounds very grim and serious, and I want you to know that there's no need for alarm, I'm going to be fine. I have a great support system in my family and a few close friends. A lot of the time I feel perfectly happy and normal. Some days are happy and productive and fun, and some days are long and exhausting and hard. Most days are a little bit of both. Some days we eat a glorious home cooked meal, and some days we get takeout. Some days I vacuum and mop the whole downstairs and play with the kids in the yard, and other days I play Threes on my phone and feel guilty about how much screen time the kids are getting and how I'm a terrible mother.

Why am I telling you all of this, you ask? It's because I feel like it needs to be OK for people to struggle with things like depression, anxiety or just general schlumpiness. It needs to be OK if we're not happy all the time. Nobody is. And for it to be OK, people who are having a hard time need to be willing say "Hey, I'm actually not OK" without having to feel ashamed or afraid of the consequences if people know. Because people who are depressed or anxious or struggling with other mental health issues already feel ashamed and afraid enough as it as. What they need is for someone to hear that and know that and love them anyway. To let it be OK that they're not OK.

So this post is me telling you "Hey, I'm actually not OK right now." Is that OK?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

February 16th

One of the highlights of Granny's visit was Espen celebrating his fifth birthday. Five! He is five years old. It's a little late this year, but I didn't want to miss out on the tradition of the annual birthday picture post: 







Oh, we love him!

A month with my Mumsy

My mama and me!

We have just come to the end of a glorious month-long visit from my mum and are slowly adjusting back to every day life. Not an easy thing to do, you should know, because it's amazing how quickly you get used to having someone wash your dishes, cook the occasional meal (or favorite treat!) and watch your kids so you can shower or run a quick errand. My mum is pretty great.

As great as it was to have her here to help out with the every day practical stuff, I also really enjoyed having someone to do stuff with, both big and small. This was her sixth visit to Utah, so we didn't really need to hit the really touristy highlights anymore, which allowed us to stick to a lot more day trips and local stuff, which was fun too. We're lucky enough to live in an area that has lots of fun stuff to do, especially for families, but sometimes it's nice to have the excuse of taking a visitor to get you to actually get out and do something. So we went to the aquarium, the natural history museum, the Springville museum of art, the Hale theater. And, let's be honest, an awful lot of stores. My mum is a shopper, I'm a shopper, but if we combine forces... oh man, so much shopping. The kids won't need any more clothes until Christmas*. Especially seeing as my mum caught the sewing bug and made Gwen a skirt and three dresses while she was here (with two more to follow).

The best best part, though, was seeing my mum and kids together. They just adore each other, and Granny has time for books and games and stories in ways that only a grandparent does. Given how far apart we live, the time we spend together feels extra precious. Here's hoping that we'll all be able to keep up the good health and finances necessary for these trips for years and years to come! Naturally there is some sacrifice involved to make it happen, but it's so so worth it to be able to spend together as a family.

Counting the days until next time!

Espen, Granny and Gwen.

*I wish that were actually true.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Holidays and everydays

 The annual and obligatory "Christmas jammies by the tree" shot. 

So here we are, almost two weeks into the new year, three weeks from Christmas Eve and a week or so back into our regular routine again. A change of schedule always throws me off a bit, and Christmas break seriously gets me off my game. But mostly in a good way. Espen had two weeks off school, and Nick was off work from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day (which was pretty fantastic, let's be honest), so instead of running on schedule like a piece of well-oiled machinery, we stayed in and wore our pajamas a lot while watching movies and playing video games.

From a day out at the aquarium.

While I have to admit that I am the first member of our family to get cabin feverish and ask "so, what's the plan?", it was really nice to shut the world out and focus our attention on us a little bit. The kids really needed a little time being center stage and not having to fight for our attention. And even if we got a bit lax with regulating their screen time, there was also lots and lots of unstructured play, especially once the snow finally came on Christmas Day.

Happy New Year!

One of the unexpected, but very much appreciated side-effects of our Christmas was that I felt like making what we wanted to of our own celebrations and traditions, somehow solidified who we are as a family. This may well be me overthinking things a bit (I do that, you know) but even deciding that our big, formal Christmas dinner is on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day (when dinner was nice, but a lot simpler and lighter) or having a New Year's party with hats and noisemakers for just the four of us helps us to know what kind of a family we are and really solidifies our identity as a family, Our North Family Brand, if you will. Does that even make sense outside of my head? What I do know is that having a glow stick dance party with my little family on New Year's Eve was really all the fun I needed to send off the old year, even if there was the odd tantrum and pouty face throughout the evening.

Now we are more or less back to normal again. Christmas is all boxed up and back in the basement (except for the Christmas cards that I keep forgetting to take down and the outside Christmas lights that we'll get to... eventually), and I am enjoying putting everything back in its proper place and restoring a little order after almost two weeks of Christmassy sloth.

Showing off my impressively swollen hamster cheeks.

Not every part of getting back to normal has been fun and therapeutic. I had my last wisdom tooth pulled last Thursday (what 34 year-old still has their wisdom teeth?!?), and between the stitches and the painkillers that make me sick and the giant bruise on my jaw from having to break the tooth into four pieces to get it out, I've been thrown for a bit more of a loop than anticipated.

So here I am at the beginning of a new week, planning and shopping for the meals for the week ahead, catching up up on the weekend's dishes and gearing up to tackle all of the laundry that didn't get done while I was out of commission. No matter. This week will be better than last week. New beginnings come all the time, don't they? New year, new month, new week, new day. The time for making those changes that didn't happen last time is always now.

Happy new week!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

We are moments away from kicking off our 2014 North Family Christmas Festivities, but before we do, I just wanted to pop in and wish you exactly the holiday you are hoping for. I'll be spending my Christmas with the delightful people pictured above, for our first ever Christmas with just the four of us. It's going to be glorious.

But before I go, let me just share this video with you. This year we have made extra effort to center our celebrations around that which is most meaningful to us, which in our case is the birth of Jesus Christ. It has brought a spirit of peace and gratitude to our home that I hope we can carry with us throughout the year. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter wonderlamp

A few weeks ago I was at Target, when I saw a really cute Christmas decoration. It was a little landscape of a car loaded up with a Christmas tree, driving through a wintery little landscape. And the kicker? It was all contained in a little glass cloche. Adorable! But as cute as the concept was, the execution had a decidedly mass produced vibe to it, so I left it where it was. But then I couldn't quite put the idea of it out of my mind. Could I recreate my own somehow? 

It turns out that I could, and quite easily! I had the advantage of owning this rather brilliant curio lamp. The class dome comes off and allows us to display something inside. Usually it houses some seashells and a blue glass bottle (sometimes a fish), but it seemed like a good spot to Christmas up a bit, as well as the perfect spot for my little winter wonderland. But if you don't have a lamp like this, you could easily use a glass cloche (amazon has a ton), a glass cake dome or even a jar. Can you imagine a whole series of tiny landscapes in jars? Or how about inside this big cookie jar?

I picked up two packets of different sized bottle brush trees at Hobby Lobby for just a couple of dollars each. Then I set about trying to convince Espen to let me borrow one of his toy cars until Christmas is over. He wasn't completely sure at first, but then once he saw what I was doing, I was granted permission to borrow his wooden London taxi. I have to admit I am charmed by the thought of a traditional London black cab driving through a snowy forest to get a Christmas tree. An old timey truck or a red and white VW bus would be really cute too, I think. Knowing a little boy with a copious collection of cars helps a lot with this step. 

Then I just wrapped a length of string (I used red and white baker's twine for an extra Christmassy vibe) a few times around the car and the tree and tied it underneath. I used white polyester fiber fill (stuffing) that I had lying around from various knitting projects to make the snow, but you could just as easily rip up some cotton balls. Once the snow was in place I positioned the car and the trees on top and plopped the glass dome into place. Tadah! A winter wonder lamp land. 

The actual assembling of this project was about 10 minutes, with most of that time being spent on tying the string, and then fussing around and arranging things exactly as I wanted them. And I just love it! It has been catching my eye and making me smile all evening. I posted a picture of it on Facebook, and one of my friends described it as follows: "kinda reminds me of something a little nostalgic and something a little National Lampoon's Christmas", which pretty much perfectly sums up what I was going for. Something cute and Christmassy with just the tiniest hint of not taking itself too seriously. 

And now I am already plotting what I'm going to put in there for Valentine's Day. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Two days in Venice

Do you know what we need right about now? Well, honestly, who knows what you need, but what I need on this December day filled with chores errands and a shocking lack of both snow and my husband, is to daydream myself back to the two days Nick and I spent in Venice this summer. Would you like a peek?

View from the campanile tower on St. Mark's square.

While our family was in Norway this summer, Nick and I managed to sneak away to Venice for a couple of days, just the two of us, as an early anniversary present to each other. Honestly, if it meant I could have Nick all to myself, I'd be happy to spend two days in a cardboard box, but seeing as we had the chance to go to one of the most romantic cities on earth, we went to Venice. And it was glorious.

Dripping in sweat and romance.
It's honestly hard to even begin to put in to words what our time in Venice was like. We wandered the narrow streets along the canals, often crossing the tiny bridges that hold the city together. We visited churches I had been longing to see since my days as an art history student. We stayed in a gothic era bed and breakfast (which used to be a convent) on a sleepy side street just off the grand canal. We ate gelato so good I actually lost track of my surroundings for a moment. We rode water taxis to get around the city, because there just are no cars. We shopped for Venetian glass in countless tiny shops along the way. One night we ate at a small neighborhood osteria, the next night we had a four course meal looking out onto the lagoon. We took a private gondola ride around one of the neighborhood where real Venetians live, the sounds of families cooking dinner drifting down to the canal. On a narrow and quiet stretch of canal, our gondolier, Luca, sang us a Venetian lullaby. One night we wandered onto a square around the corner from our hotel, only to find people dancing the tango beneath the stars. It was so beautiful and perfect it was like being in another world.

Santa Maria della Salute, one of the churches I have most wanted to visit since my college days.  Built by the Venetian people as a prayer to the virgin Mary to protect them from the plague. 

Santa Maria herself.
Of course not everything was perfect and romantic and idyllic all the time. It was so hot and so humid that we were constantly dripping with sweat. We walked and walked until I thought my feet were going to fall off. Smoking is much more common and public than I am used to. Flower sellers were constantly accosting us and trying to get Nick to buy me roses.  It was Venice in July, so there were the inevitable lines to wait it to get into some of the major sites. We met people who live a ten minute drive from our home, so when I entered St. Mark's basilica for the very first time, there was a woman telling me that she much preferred shopping at Walmart to Harmon's because their prices are better. But really and truly, none of that really mattered at all. We were just so happy to be there, and so ready to enjoy every moment that that is exactly what we did.

One of the bridges between our hotel and the water taxi stop. Notice the gondolier on the right - on his cell phone. :)

I think at this point I'm just going to offer a deluge of photos so you can see for yourself. A girl can only swoon "it was glorious and perfect and wonderful" so many times before you want to sock her on  the jaw.

Window shopping on a quiet side street.

Dinner at La Zucca on our first night. 

"Zucca" means pumpkin, and that it what their lighting was shaped like.

A roof at St. Mark's square.
On top of St. Mark's basilica.
Can you tell that we were pretty happy to be there? 
The winged lion - the symbol of St. Mark and of Venice. 
The columns of San Marco and San Theodoro. 

On our last morning we stopped at an open air market. We couldn't bring any of the produce home with us, so we just took pictures instead. 

Pretty zucchinis. 

And some pretty awesome seafood. 

These narrow little streets and tiny bridges were everywhere. 

Enjoying the meal of a lifetime steps from the lagoon. 

The view from our table.

Our dinner by the lagoon. My fish course (top left) was so pretty that I was actually brought to tears. "They did this for me?"

Happily snarfling one last pastry before heading home again.
The only hard part of going to Venice was leaving it, to be honest. We arrived by boat and left by bus, so I was really in heaven right until we got to the area by the bus and train station, which was a rude awakening and return to the real world. Venice itself is quite peaceful and so beautiful that seeing a parking lot and a bus depot for the first time in 48 hours is a real letdown. It was really just as well that I had two beautiful children waiting at home for me to come back and celebrate my birthday with them, otherwise I might just have turned around and gone native. But once we were on the bus and on our way home, we got a drive through the Italian countryside, which made up for a lot. 

Venice, you were a dream. I hope to be back again some day. Until then, arrivederci, bella