Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hello from Holland!

The three of us are visiting Nick's little sister, Tess, and her boyfriend who live here in The Netherlands. I stayed home from a shopping trip to put Espen to bed, and so sadly missed out on getting to see a real live Dutch grocery store. I love seeing the little, everyday stuff that really gives you a feel for how people actually live, y'know? But no worries, I will get a chance to go again before we leave! After a long day on our feet in Amsterdam, it feels good to get up-close-and-personal with a real live Dutch couch.

Espen is a superstar traveler, and napped in the stroller while we did our sightseeing. When we stopped for lunch, he found himself snoozing in an Irish pub in Amsterdam while Bob Marley sang him to sleep. A little bizarre, but it worked!

Tomorrow we are off to Delft and The Hague. I will be back with some photos and a more detailed report of Amsterdam soon, but now it is time for my dinner!

What have you all been up to? I've missed hearing from you and would love an update!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Norway 2011: Hurra for 17. mai!

Time is flying, friends! We just got back from a family reunion up in the mountains and will be heading off to the Netherlands on Wednesday. I have a few posts in the works for you, and will get them up as they're ready. Until then - the 17th of May:

May 17 is Norway's national holiday, and this year www were lucky enough to be able to celebrate it in Norway. While we always go to the celebration in Salt Lake City, we have never actually celebrated the 17th of May together in Norway. Add the fact that it was Espen's first one in Norway, and the first one spent with his grandparents, and we had the makings of a very special day on our hands.

And that is exactly what it was. Let me chuck a few photo highlights at you:

My mum and Espen waiting for the church service to start. They are both dressed in a bunad, which is a traditional Norwegian costume. A lot of people here wear them for special occasions. We loved seeing Espen in his!

Espen and his Daddy getting in the party spirit. The green leaves and blue sky are part of what makes this time of year in Norway so perfect.

Waiting for the parade to start. Every town in Norway has a parade on the 17th of May, including the small community where my parents live. All of the school kids participate, dressed in their best, along with bands, choirs, etc.
This gives you a better view of our national costumes too. Mine was made to fit me when I was 14 (FOURTEEN!!) and I made an entirely unholy effort to fit into it so I could feel special too! Time to get it refitted, I think :)

Watching the parade. Lots of people and flags and music. Espen learned the word "flags" and bellowed it triumphantly at anyone holding one.

My boys. Oh, I love them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Safe and Sound

Just a quick note to let you know that we've arrived safe and sound in Norway. We arrived on Thursday, but have been busy soaking up the family and home ever since. It feels so good to be here.

The trip was long and tiring as always, but Espen was a little trooper and took everything we threw at him. He enjoyed the novelty of traveling and loved seeing lots of new people and places, but of course, got very tired and had a hard time falling asleep on the long flight, much to the annoyance of everyone around us, I'm sure. But thanks to Curious George and the iPad, we made it through. Oh, I cannot say enough good things about traveling with an iPad when you have a toddler! It seriously saved the day so many times when we were stuck in a small space and needed to keep him busy.

This photo is of Espen sleeping on our laps, somewhere over the North Sea. Once he fell asleep, he was so tired we basically had to wake him to strap him in for landing in Copenhagen. I was so proud of him and his little traveling chops.

The big pay-off was, of course, meeting Granny and Grandad at the airport. My mum (who has been counting the days since we bought the tickets) had mentally prepared for Espen being tired and grumpy and not knowing who she was. Imagine how she felt when Espen smiled and waved at her, then reached out his arms to be held. I don't think I'll ever forget that moment.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Guest blogger: Josh

While I am busy getting myself and my family halfway around the world, I have asked a few friends to guest post for me. Rounding out the trifecta is Josh of The Weed. (Ha! A boy is guest posting on my blog - suck it, monkeys!) Josh is here to instill confidence in parents everywhere - right?

So, there's a man, a woman, a deaf guy and a one-year old on an airplane...

No seriously. This is not a joke. About a year after our oldest daughter, Anna, was born, my wife and I braved a round trip airplane flight with her. We were flying from Seattle to Utah and back so we could see family, and the flight to Utah was a resounding success. It was so incredibly successful that I can't even remember a single detail from it. See, that's the sure-fire way to detect the success of traveling with toddlers: if you aren't so traumatized by the experience that you have memories of it seared into your mind years later the way combat veterans have PTSD flashbacks of near-death experiences, you were successful. Congratulations, self!

Well, except for the flight home. Uh, yeah. I have memories seared inexorably into my mind on that one. I might never forget that flight. Even if I get early onset Alzheimer's like my mom, I won't forget this flight. I might forget my daughter's name and age and everything about our relationship. But I won't forget this.

It all started when, being the young, naive, and totally thoughtless parents that we were, Wife and I decided to accidentally keep Anna up very late the night before our flight. It's an understandable mistake, I guess. We were saying goodbye to lots of people and we were trying to relish in our time with family members. And we were stupid. Painfully, awkwardly stupid.

Because sweet Anna was so late to getting to bed, when we woke her up the next morning, she was wittle miss cwanky pants. (Yes, I did just drop baby-speak on you right there. Don't hate.) She was not a happy camper, and she was letting us know it. She was grumpy on the car ride to the airport, and she didn't eat very well. On top of that we were running late. Everything was frantic, and we just wanted to get on the plane and get home. She complained minimally as we went through the airport process, but it was clear that she wasn't happy. We craved to just get everything checked in, and then sit down so we could all relax and take a breather.

At last, we got to our seats. We sat down, took a deep breath and...things got ugly. Fast

Instead of the relaxed two hours of travel we were hoping for, our tired, travel-weary daughter had apparently completely lost her mind. She launched into a crying fit which soon turned into a prolonged sequence of straight-up, blood curdling screaming which resembled what a mix between a fire-alarm and a really angry hyena would sound like. We did our best to comfort her and get her to stop crying, but our attempts were met with louder screams so shrill I thought she might actually physically assault me.

When we started getting looks from our fellow passengers that said "shut that kid up, or I'll shut her up for you..." we knew we had to do... something. But what?

I don't know if you've ever been on an airplane before or not, but the truth of airplanes is that they are tight, confined spaces flying in the sky. There is absolutely nowhere to take a profusely screaming Anna if she decides she's too upset to stop sounding like a police siren on crack. What this leads to is a little something called "tension." And when babies know that their parents are feeling "tense," those babies feel "panic" which leads to more "screaming" and "scary-baby nearly homicidal rage."

We were so embarrassed. You could tell most of the people around us were trying to not be annoyed. But they were annoyed. I would have been annoyed. Heck, I was annoyed. I wanted to sit back, listen to my iPod and read a Grisham novel just as much as the next guy. So I could only imagine the level of annoyance I would have been feeling if the grinding, unbearable racket I was hearing didn't happen to be emanating from the lips of my first born child who I am biologically compelled to love, shrill torture devices notwithstanding.

I'd be pissed. I knew it. Wife knew it. We knew we had to shut her up. But we had no idea how. So, we just tried to act casual for a little while, hoping it would end. We tried to talk calmly to each other hoping Anna would calm down. Not paying attention to her, though, made her even more angry. Somehow, her piercing screams got louder. We were especially worried about the man sitting a row in front of us. Surely, we thought, his eardrums must nearly be bursting. But then we realized how lucky we were as we saw him signing to his neighbor. He was deaf! He couldn't hear Anna at all. Everyone else around us was trying desperately not to court fantasies of infanticide (or murdering "that kid's crappy parents"), but not the person in closest proximity to us. This brought us some level of comfort and we went forward trying everything we could possibly fathom to try and calm her down--snacks, drinks, games, holding her, suffocation, etc. (that last one was a joke, btw. CPS not required.)

When something like this is happening, it's all you can do to keep your cool. You know that everyone around you is in literal pain because of your screaming spawn, and you're not sure how to respond. Do you give everyone a knowing look and a shrug and risk people actually murdering you with their cold, enraged stares? Do you keep sitting there, talking "calmly" hoping it will pass? Do you ask a stewardess what to do? Do you engage the emergency exit, grab each other's hand, and launch your little family of three out of the plane in a desperate suicide? Nothing sounds just right.

So, we kept on... talking. And trying to ignore it as best we could.

And that's when Anna got really mad.

She started flailing like she had epilepsy. We're talking gran mal seizure type flails reminiscent of the exorcist. I was half expecting to see her head spin on her neck, or for her to spew vomit everywhere. But not Anna. No, she did something worse. She took the last remaining shred of dignity we had as parents and pooped into it like it was a diaper.

She kicked the chair of the deaf man in front of us. Repeatedly. And as it turns out, that guy was not very nice. Have you ever been yelled at by a person who can't speak or hear? I have. It happens with their eyes. When he turned back and looked at us, it encapsulated all of the rage building up in everyone around us. We were hated. We were the most hated "incompetent" parents ever. And he turned, and looked at us with rage and frustration and judgment and shock in his eyes, and Wife and I knew in no uncertain terms that we had probably literally ruined every person on that plane's life irreparably.

I shook my head solemnly as Wife picked Anna up and raced to the back of the plane, weeping. It was ugly. Really really ugly.

I wish I could say there was some magical lesson learned from this experience. But there wasn't. There was just a young set of parents trying to calm an extremely disruptive baby and failing miserably. And then there was a mom in the back of the plane crying because her baby would not stop crying no matter what she did, and a harried father sitting near the front of the plane, feeling embarrassed and angry and awkward and alone, and yet at the same time relieved that the crying had been taken elsewhere.

Actually, I guess there is a lesson, kind of. Because eventually, that flight ended. Even though things were about as bad as one could possibly imagine, the minutes passed by, and we all got to our destination, and now I have this story to tell on Tamsin's blog, and every other passenger on that plane has a really great "Worst flight ever" story to tell all their friends. And, truth be told, we will never have contact with any of those people again. Unless you, reader, were on that flight. And you're going to look me up and hunt me down for ruining your life. Um, sorry.

Oh, and the stewardesses were really nice. And they warmed Anna's formula up for us. So they win.

Happy traveling everyone!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Guest blogger: Maddy

While I am busy getting myself and my family halfway around the world, I have asked a few friends to guest post for me. Of course I had to invite my favorite co-conspirator, Maddy of The Madsta Journals, to join in the party:

When I was fifteen, I went to Paris.

Every year growing up we would go to a spot along the great British coastline, Paris was the first time I had ever been anywhere outside of England itself.

I went with two of my best friends, and my French class.

It wasn't an entirely positive experience, my purse was stolen on the way to our hotel, within an hour of arriving in Paris, but that's just the kind of luck I roll with.

If you have ever been to Paris, you'll understand why they call it the most beautiful city in the world, it is.

I love pretty things, and Paris was like a giant painting come to life, that's how I remember it now.

We went up the Eiffel tower, (a story in itself) on a cruise on the Seine, to the centre Pompidu, and, the highlight, Montmartre.

It was spectacular, and If your going any time soon, scrap the Eiffel tower, its overrated and scary, but go ahead and go to Montmartre, getting there is a week's worth of workouts (if I worked out) and you can see the whole of Paris.

So with my huge knowledge of travelling, having spent three days abroad two years ago- I'm here today to tell you the countries on my hit- list now I'm sweet seventeen, and not too many years away from hopefully getting out to see the world.

  1. Jersey in the channel islands- This beautiful Island hit my attention whilst I was wikipedia-ing Henry Cavill, who happens to call this place home- whilst I don't intend to stalk him, unless the opportunity arised, through some research, I have deemed that I want to go to Jersey, and ride a bike all over the island.
  2. The Seychelles- one of my best friends, Nadine's Mum is from The Seychelles and not only is she lovely, but they have a lot of family over there, and a house, and I have been enchanted by tales of Manatees, and geckos, and the beach.
  3. America- I want to do a big American road trip, Jamie style- and hopefully stop by and visit Tamsin, I am fascinated by it.
  4. Greece- I watch mamma mia! on a fortnightly rotation, and I have a beautiful vision of drinking something Greek against the backdrop of whitewashed walls and a sunset- whilst hopping around the islands.
  5. Panama- as a dedicated Prison break addict, I did a lot of research on panama, through wikipedia, because let's face it, it looked awesome, and now I have a growing thought bubble of sailing round.

You will perhaps notice that a lot of my wishful visits include beaches, I just love the beach, I never feel as brilliant, as when I am standing on a beach, looking out at the ocean.

I don't know if I will ever get to visit these places, or if I'll be in a position to travel in a few years time, but I sure am hopeful.

I hope you've enjoyed my random ramblings on where I want to go, feel free to throw in your suggestions, or opinions!

Tamsin- thank you for having me- have a fantastic trip!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guest Blogger: Nancy

While I am busy getting myself and my family halfway around the world, I have asked a few friends to guest post for me. First up, Nancy from Heissatopia. Being prone to moving to far-away lands with small (and ridiculously cute) children in tow, Nancy is beyond qualified to tell you all about traveling with them. Step aside, rookies.

My husband is currently doing a field study program in Ghana, and though he has a well-planned itinerary for his entire trip he wrote home a few days ago and said, "True to third-world form, nothing went as planned today."

I will admit that life in a first-world country does seem to spoil people, comparatively speaking, but I think we could safely pare the sentence down to read, "true to...form, nothing went as planned today," and it would still maintain its veracity. Life throws you curveballs anywhere you live and it's your job to be ready to swing well enough to hit them.

While we were living in Egypt I came across an article in The Economist that suggested that people who live abroad approach life more creatively. I looked around our apartment and noticed the mosquito netting we had rigged above our beds, the homemade air conditioner we had attempted to construct, the tire on our jogging stroller that didn't quite match the others, the couches we'd nailed back together several times because they kept collapsing, the "railing" we'd added to our daughter's bed, the duck tape we'd used to prevent the bathroom door from latching all the way so you wouldn't get trapped inside...

I think you get the picture. We made a lot of creative fixes around our home because "proper" supplies were unobtainable, either because we didn't know where to find them or because they simply weren't available. Instead we improvised.

You've probably heard the adage "less is more," and that's my rule for packing, whether it's a weekend getaway or a trip across the Atlantic. Anything you forget can be improvised.

It's been harder to live up to this maxim after having children because children require so. much. stuff.

Still, I try to do my best.

I use cloth diapers a home, full time. They're wonderful because they are easy to use in a variety of situations. They are part burp cloth, part handkerchief, part bib, part sun bonnet, part diaper, part baby wipe, part washcloth. Name a job and it's likely they do it. They are certainly a daily staple of mine and make my diaper bag much lighter than it would be otherwise.

The only downside is that they necessitate washing, so when I go on an extended trip and know I won't have access to a washing machine I switch to disposables.

Still, being comfortable with cloth diapers was once a life-saver for me. A couple of summers ago we were traveling around Israel with our recently fully potty-trained daughter. When we were on our way to Nazareth she suddenly got violently ill. In the middle of an art gallery. It was classy.

She was feverish, vomiting, and miserable, and we were in Ceasarea (Maritima), which, in case you're not up to date on your Israeli geography, is in the middle of nowhere. We had no choice but to drive on and by the time we got to Nazareth it was late afternoon. I sent my husband out to find a fever-reducer, which he did, and then I started preparing our daughter for a nap. She was so sick that I didn't think she'd be able to stay dry while she slept—sickness can take a fully-potty trained child to a fully-diapered child in no time flat. We had no diapers and no time to go out hunting for any since this baby desperately needed a nap. So I pulled out a dirty t-shirt of mine, folded it into a makeshift diaper, slapped on a diaper cover we had serendipitously packed and we were good to go. That's what we did until she was better enough to sleep and stay dry; we used the shower to wash them out and let them air dry.

Problem solved...and I further developed my creativity—my ability to handle one of life's curveballs without having an emotional breakdown or forking out a million dollars.

Obviously not everything can be improvised and when you're traveling with children many things are actually essential. Here are a few things I can't live without:
security blanket
a few toys (we take 10 small toys; it's an easy number to remember)
outfits that are highly interchangeable (think a top that could match with three bottoms or vise versa)
toothbrush and paste
baby wipes and/or hand sanitizer
crayons or pencils and a notebook
diapers (if necessary)
Most of the things that I think of as essential are to entertain children or to help children feel like they have a little bit of home with them or are hygienically necessary. Sometimes we'll bring a stroller or backpack to carry the child in, though that sometimes is more of a hassle than anything else. Sometimes we'll bring a few stories so that we can read instead of trying to make up stories when our brains are fried. Other than that I can't think of anything to add to the list unless you're planning on swimming.

I know people worry about traveling with kids; they're worried that they'll act up and won't appreciate what they're seeing and sometimes that's true. Sometimes it's my child screaming in her stroller at the Acropolis, or where have you; sometimes it's my child who loses her stomach in an art gallery; sometimes it's my child who wets her pants and has to walk around in them for the rest of the day because I didn't put an extra outfit in the diaper bag; sometimes it's my child screaming in the car/plane/bus/boat/train. Sometimes it's embarrassing.

Being a parent is embarrassing, anyway, so I figure I may as well go out and embrace the world.

My children have (hopefully) developed an appreciation for cultures other than their own, have been places many people will only ever dream of visiting, and have learned that screaming in public will earn them either disproving looks or lots of candy depending on where in the world we are.

If venturing into the world helps adults be more creative, as The Economist suggests (if you haven't read the article, go ahead and do it; it's short), it will likely do the same for children.

So if you're not headed for Europe, like Tamsin (lucky girl), there's still the world outside your door. Do something bold, do something daring—leave your hand sanitizer (or other security item) at home, go for a walk, and see what happens. If you're lucky, maybe nothing will go as planned. That's what we call an adventure.

Norway 2011: we're leaving on a jet plane

The day is finally here! In about 17 hours we will board our first flight, and then 16 hours after that we arrive in Norway.
The iPad is loaded with books, games and hours of cartoons, and we have enough snacks to feed a platoon of toddlers. Wish us luck!

To keep you entertained until we safely arrive and get settled in the good ol' land of the free and home of the brave (Norway), I have arranged for a few guest bloggers to keep Project Project moving along. Check back soon, the first post will be up within the day. Enjoy!