Thursday, February 11, 2016

Resolved

Find this happy print (and others like it) at Alexa Z Design.
It's mid-February, and one of the busiest times of the year for our family between Valentine's Day (with all that entails now that we have two kids in school!), Espen's birthday and a three-day weekend, so naturally what I want to write about today is New Year's Resolutions. What, we're not still doing those? Psha.

I only made two resolutions this year, and they are as follows:

1. Make the world a little better. 
It is possible that it was just me (although I really don't think so), but didn't the second half of 2015 seem like a really dark and troubled time for the world? And I'm not just talking about Donald Trump running for office (ba-dum ching). Between the situation in Syria and the middle east, the global refugee crisis and terrorist attacks and all of the rhetoric and hate speech, I began to wonder what sort of a world is this to be bringing a new baby into. What sort of a world is this to be raising our little family in? I've already had to explain war, refugees, homelessness and the fact that some people aren't safe for children to be around to my sweet five year-old, and it hurts my heart to think about all of the hard conversations we have ahead of us. I so want the world to be the beautiful place filled with kind and generous people that my kids naturally assume that it is!
Then the thought occurred to me that if I want to see a change in the world, then I have to be that change. I can't wish that other people are going to be kind and generous without being those things myself. How can I expect other people to stand up for the things that are good and right in this world if I'm not willing to do that myself? 
So this year (and hopefully for many, many years to come), I'm going to try to reach out more, give more, do more to make this world a little more like the world I want for my children, your children and everyone's children. 

2. Make the time to play with my kids.
I have to admit that this one actually kind of sprang from a twinge of jealousy: if you were to ask any of my kids who is the fun parent, and who is the boring parent, then hands down, every time, they would say that my husband is the fun one. Which makes me the boring one. And guys, I'm not boring! I'm not! I'm just... busy. Although I'm here with the kids more or less 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I generally spend most of that time either trying to clean our put away our belongings, making or shopping for food or trying to eke out a little time for myself where I can clear my head and just breathe for 10 minutes. On top of all of the regular "home and family" stuff, being pregnant just makes me tired too! And so I find myself dodging requests from tiny people to play dollhouse or build Doc McStuffins' clinic or play Minecraft or boardgames, just so I can get to the end of the day feeling like I have accomplished something. 
To be honest, I don't feel like it's my job as my children's mom to entertain them and keep them happy at all times, and in all things and in all places. I believe in teaching them to be happy in their own company, and to be creative enough to make their own fun without me having to do it for them. I believe in the virtues of being bored and having to problem solve their way out of it. But I also believe in spending time with the kids to create memories, build relationships, take opportunities to teach and just have fun together! And nothing in this world makes those little faces shine brighter than when I take the time to play with them (and put away my stupid phone).
I've already discovered that it doesn't take much. Sometimes it's enough to make a game out of getting them out of the bathtub, and sometimes 20 minutes of building Lego is all they really want. I spent five minutes making a puzzle with Gwen earlier this week, and she was happy as a clam (why are clams so happy?) after that. I let Espen teach me how to play Minecraft on the iPad (so not my thing!) a little while ago, and he still talks about it daily. I'm really learning that it takes so little, but means so much, so I'm planning to make this a longterm habit too. 

Like the quote at the top of this post says, being happy isn't something you stumble across by chance, or are dealt by fate. It's a choice and and an action and a habit. So I'm choosing to make a few small changes that I know will make a difference for me. 


Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Thursday morning in January

The usual suspects.


I typically try to avoid writing blog posts that start with "ohmygosh, guys, I'm so sorry it's been so long since my last post", because let's be honest, that would be roughly every other post around these parts, but...

Ohmygosh, guys, I'm so sorry it's been so long since my last post!

These are my top three reasons for being a bad, bad blogger of late:

  1. Time Between two young kids, school, karate and everything that needs to happen in a day, I've just found it tough to find the time and the head space to sit down, have something worthwhile to say and then say it (hopefully in a way that will be interesting to someone other than me and my immediate family). 
  2. The Holidays Friend, I don't know about you, but the holiday season really took it out of me this year. Between hosting Thanksgiving and spending Christmas with family at a cabin (both of which were lovely and fun and exactly what we wanted to do!), I feel like I haven't had an extra ounce of energy to spare since about Halloween.Which, of course probably has something to do with reason number three:
  3. I'm pregnant! Yup, we discovered in mid November that there is another little North baby on the way, and are all completely delighted. Maybe especially the kids, (which is saying something seeing as this little person is already as loved and wanted by his or her parents as anyone could hope to be) who have been doing happy dances and making plans since we told them. But as delightful and exciting as a new baby is, there are a lot of weeks and months of feeling sick and exhausted to slog through before we get to the fun part of actually meeting our tiny little human. Morning sickness is typically pretty tough for me (although not as bad as some ladies I know, who end up in the hospital or on bedrest because they can't keep anything down), and so I've been pretty useless since about Thanksgiving onwards. But we're getting close to the second trimester, so I'm feeling cautiously optimistic that I'll start feeling like a human being again soon.
Another change that has come about is that Gwen started preschool this week. I realize that this might not seem like the most earth shattering of events, but it does mean that I get just over two hours to myself twice a week when both kids are in school. This is momentous! It will only last until the end of May, and then not again until we ship our new little sproutlet off to preschool in about 3-4 years time, so I'm going to enjoy it while I can. In fact, I am enjoying it right at this very moment! And, I should add, so is Gwen, who instantly loved both preschool and her teacher with a fiery passion from the very moment she walked in the door. 

So, hopefully I'll be back next week! There's lots I want to tell you about, a few things I want to show you and one or two things I'd like to ask you about. But before all of that: how was your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa*/Winter Solstice/Three Kings Day?



*If you celebrate Kwanzaa, you are hereby morally obligated to tell me all about it, because I've never met anyone who does, and I genuinely want to know. 

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!