Monday, January 27, 2014

French TV I used to watch

Shall we say bon jour, mes amis? It's Monday night and I am dipping my toes into my French immersion week. I finished up Julia Child's My Life in France yesterday (I'm now a total fan girl), and celebrated with a batch of petit pain chocolat for dessert. Can I just say make these?!? We found this recipe after suffering seriously pain chocolat withdrawal after staying in a hotel in Paris with a boulangerie across the street, and they are the closest thing to the real deal we have found around here. SO MAKE THEM!

I had a busy day today, so not a lot of time for Frenchiness, but I did indulge in a little Youtube trip down French memory lane. Backstory: Norway is a small country, so doesn't produce a lot of its own TV-programming. So they import stuff from all over the world, which means that when I was a teenager, I'd come home, drop my backpack and watch French after-school television. With Norwegian subtitles. Today I tracked down a few episodes of those shows, and gave them a second try to see if they stood the test of time. What do you think?

OK, I don't care what you say, Les Mondes Engloutis is awesome forever.

Edited to add Classe Mannequin, an instant classic about young, beautiful French people studying to be models. I looked for it yesterday, but could only remember the title in Norwegian. Fortunately BFF Annika came to the rescue so I could share this particular gem with you:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Aidez-moi s’il vous plaît?

Me outside the Louvre, December 2007.

I've decided to do a good old fashioned Project Week again! Goodness, it has been absolutely ages. Can anyone even remember when (and what?) the last one was? No matter.

Anyway, I've been reading Julia Child's memoir, My Life in France, about (would you believe it?) the time she spent living in France, and it is seriously getting to me. I've been a bit of a closet francophile since childhood when I watched Les parapluies des Cherbourg with my mother and made her write me a vocabulary list, which I then memorized. No, really. But doesn't it seem like everyone has been really into France for the past couple of years? I swear, every time I pull up my blog roll, someone else is moving to Paris with their family or renovating a cottage in the French countryside or swooning over ridiculously cute (and overprices) children's clothing from France. And it is just so vomit-inducing, because I really wish it was me! And you guys, I knew France was cool when I was seven years old! And I don't have to hang wallpaper with the Eiffel tour on it to prove it! Oh my.

OK, rant over.

I think.

Deep breath.

Back to Julia Child. The way she writes about France and her enthusiasm and delight for all (most) things French is making me excited about it all over again. And I kind of want to wallow in immerse myself in French culture again. So that is what next week is going to be all about. I'm going to watch French movies, listen to French music, maybe try my hand at a little French cooking, read some French blogs. That sort of thing.

And this is where you come in, naturellement. I'm looking for recommendations for movies, blogs, books, recipes, music, TV shows all the Frenchy things that make you go ooh la la (But not the Britney Spears song). And if you're in my area, how about French restaurants and bakeries?

I'll be back next week with some project updates. Until then, au revoir!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Four colds and a three day weekend. And a bit more about conquering my phone addiction.

After the movie. Gwen looks a little dazed! I look a bit like a woman fighting a cold, but hey, at least I was there!
Hello! How is your week going? We're just back to normal after a three day weekend, which we mostly spent battling colds. The kids were sick last week, and Nick and I both got it this weekend.  Between taking turns sneaking naps and feeling miserable, we did manage to sneak in a few fun things, like finally going to see Frozen! It was Gwen's first movie, and she's usually not that interested in watching TV, so we were a little apprehensive about taking her, and fully expected to spend half the film in the lobby with her. But, friends, she loved it! When there was music she would bounce and clap and dance and wave her hands, and when it was quiet she would lean into  my lap and very daintily power through the popcorn. She also had her first taste of soda, and was very reluctant to hand it back to Daddy. Special occasion, right?

Anyway, spending a three day weekend in the loving arms of my (coughing) family gave me a chance to try putting my phone away a bit more. Partly because we weren't really doing anything interesting enough to Instagram or Facebook about, and partly because I was genuinely making an effort. And I think I am developing some strategies:

  • My phone doesn't go anywhere it doesn't belong. Like in the bath tub with me. Or Gwen's room, or the laundry room. It can come with me to movies or plays, restaurants or to meet friends, but generally speaking, it stays in my purse or pocket. So if you and I are spending time together and I get my phone out, please give me a slap!
  • This sounds incredibly simple, but was actually a huge realization for me: When I post less on sites like Facebook and Instagram, there are less responses from other people to catch my attention, and so I spend less time going back to check and read and comment back. 
  • I did this yesterday, and quite liked it. After putting the kids to bed, I plugged my phone into the charger in our bedroom, and then left it there until bedtime. I still ended up pulling out the laptop while we watched some shows, but I also read my book and actually cuddled up to Nick on the couch while we watched Modern Family too. 
  • Give myself a little bit of a break. Sometimes I'll use my phone for dumb stuff in front of my children and loved ones. It's going to happen. But what I can in those situations is be sure that when they actually need my attention, I show them how important they are to me by putting my phone down and actually listening to what they have to say. Oh man, that's really what's at the heart of this whole thing, isn't it? People and relationships and real-world connections rather than the internet shadow of those that we keep mistaking for the real thing. 
So, I'm trying! It's probably going to take a while, and I will keep making mistakes as I go, but I'm hopeful that I'll make some good changes and improvements as I go. Thank you for your kind comments and support! As the tiniest token of my appreciation to those of you who do take the time to leave a comment, I've gone back and responded to  comments from the past couple of months. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Over to you: Help me put down my phone?

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm trying to be here now, and part of that is trying to separate a bit more from my phone. But friends, I am finding that ever so, ever so hard to do! Do you have any ideas for how I can disconnect with my iPhone  a bit so I can reconnect with with my real life? Is there are 12-step program?

Let me break down my problem into a few chunks for you so you can see what you think:

  1. I am a stay-at-home mom, and so my phone becomes a sort of lifeline to the rest of the world. Facebook is a way of connecting with other adults, maybe especially adults that are interested in my day-to-day life with the kids, be they other parents in a similar situation, or family members that just like an update on how we're doing and the funny things Espen and Gwen say and do. And I have to admit that I get a little hungry for likes and comments, so I fall into the trap of checking and rechecking to see if there is anything new. Nick and I also text each other a fair amount throughout the day, which I like, because it makes us part of each other's day. 
  2. I use my phone quite a lot to take photos. I like to just document what we're doing, if the kids are doing anything cute or funny, or if there is anything I want to share with Nick. So keeping my phone on hand to snap pictures has been really great. I Instagram quite a lot, both as a way to share pictures of the kids with my mum (which means that I share them to Facebook, because she never uses her Instagram account, which again means lots of likes and comments that I have to check for, and around and around we go!), and as way of getting in a little, dare I say, creativity and artistic expression in my day. 
  3. I am by nature a fiddly person, and like to keep my brain and my fingers occupied with something basically always. Which means that I almost never do one thing at a time. I get restless when I do, even if it's something I actually really enjoy. Getting my phone out and going on Facebook or playing a game or reading an article is like the perfect drug for fidgety folk like me. But can I please learn to do one thing at a time? Has anyone actually done that?
  4. I like to know. Everything. And so if a question or a query comes up (anything at all!) I like to find out about that thing right away. Hello, Smartphone!
  5. I think I might be genuinely addicted to my phone. Not in a cute way, but in basically the worst way. My fingers itch for it if I don't have, and part of my brain is constantly working on how I can get it back. At this very moment I am thinking about putting down the laptop and going to find it "just in case". 
  6. I just got a new iPhone 5S two days ago. It's the gold one. It's beautiful. I unlock it with my fingerprint. Ir rests in my hand just so. But I was conjoined with my 4S in just the same way. If it has an internet connection and fits in my hand, I'm there.
I don't want to cut it out completely. I still want to use it - lots. But I want my phone to be a fantastically practical and useful tool that I use, not something that is so much a part of me that Espen once called my phone my "friend" (the shame!). Not something that I obviously enjoy so much that at 14 months, Gwen is convinced she must get her hands on my phone at all costs. Not something that stops me from listening to and making eye contact with my husband because I'm too busy playing Scrabble. 

So, have you got any ideas? How do you control your cell phone usage? How do you take advantage of the good without letting the bad take advantage of you? Thoughts?

Thank you!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Be Here Now.

Image borrowed from 
Happy Monday, Beautiful! Is January being good to you? We are enjoying a return to every day life and settling back into our routine again. As wonderful as Christmas and a long visit from my family was, there is something (quite a lot!) to be said for all of those "every days" that make up our lives. And there is just something about these clear, cold, crisp early January days that I love. They feel fresh and clean in the best new beginningsy way possible, don't you think?

So, let's talk New Year's Resolutions! I know it's January 13th, and most people are supposed to have stereotypically broken and abandoned theirs by now, but true to form, I'm running about two weeks behind the rest of the world, and am still feeling reformy and ready to turn over a new leaf. This year, though, rather than making the usual list of resolutions, I am going with a New Year's Motto:

Be Here Now.

By that, I mean a few things. First of all, I mean stop living distracted and pay attention to my own life that is happening all around me in this precise moment. I am especially guilty of keeping my nose glued to a screen (my phone! Always my phone!) and not really being present for the people around me. For my husband or my children. Isn't that kind of horrible? That it's a genuine struggle for me to stop playing around with my phone to pay attention to the people who matter most. If I was going to be completely honest with you, I might tell you that Espen once referred to my phone as my "friend". I might also tell you that I often busy myself with my phone or the laptop or the iPad while watching TV, instead of cuddling up to my sweet husband like any sane woman in my situation should do.

Similarly, I want to pay more attention to my life as it is right now. I spend so much time trying to get things done that I end up not doing the things I really should be doing. I can't tell you how many times I've caught myself telling Espen that I can't play with him because I have "boring mom stuff" to do. And how many times when Gwen wanted my attention, have I simply scooped her onto my hip while I kept on cooking/cleaning/doing the laundry. I recently read this response to the question "I wish someone had told me..." on Design Mom, and it has really stuck with me: "I wish someone had told me that life would go by so fast. It was only yesterday that the kids were crawling and now they are in University. I would have played more games. I would have been goofier. I would have laid on the ground and looked at more stars with them. I would have taken more moments to just sit and BE with them in the moment. Those quiet moments are beautiful and I always want more." So when I remind myself to "be here now", I'm telling myself to put away the trivial and focus on the essential. I want to crawl around on the playroom floor with the kids and really play with them without constantly asking myself how soon I can excuse myself so I can go and fold laundry. I really hope that my children will remember me from this stage of their lives as a mom who played and had time for them.

Finally, I want "be here now" to tell me to live my life right here and now. To stop waiting for special magical moments like New Year's Day, Mondays, "when the kids start school" to make the changes and do the things I would like to do. In the words of Dieter F. Uchtdorf (and thanks to our home teacher for the article!):, ""An old proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” There is something wonderful and hopeful about the word now. There is something empowering about the fact that if we choose to decide now, we can move forward at this very moment." 

Of course there are things to consider and balances to be found in all of this. But in this precise moment as I type this from the corner of my couch, my children are milling about my feet, waiting for the moment when I close the laptop, look them in the eyes and say "Now I'm here!" 

Right about now. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas visit in photos - Part two!

Did you make it all the way through part one of this photo deluge? If you did, you are amazing, my friend! Have a cookie! Want another cookie? Then brace yourself for part two:

We discovered that the morning after Christmas is almost as exiting as Christmas itself, because there are all of these new toys to wake (your mother) up early and play with. 

Espen was playing on the iPad and Gwen crawled up to join him. I promise she's not really as big as he is, this is just taken at a funky angle!
After a morning of getting packed up and ready, we all piled into the car and headed south to Nick's parents' house just outside of St. George, UT. After spending the night with them, we left Espen and Gwen to spend a few days with Grandma and Grandpa while we took my family on a quick road trip around the Grand Canyon!

Gwen was a big fan of the new walking toy at Grandma and Grandpa's house. 

We kicked off our adventures by driving through Zion National Park.

Jeremy checking out the scenery.
Lots of red rocks.
It is quite large. Also, do you think I have my mother's nose?
While we were driving through, we happened to look out of the window and see some mountain goats strolling about on the cliffside. 
Totes casual. No big deal. (Did you know I love goats?)

Then we left the park and saw a flock of bison. They were in an enclosure, but still cool. Slightly off-putting: the restaurant half a mile down the road serving bison burgers. 
Desert flowers in bud in Kanab UT..

I made Nick pose awkwardly with his ancestor and Kanab town founder (I think?), Levi Stewart. Levi's got moves, man. 

Ye olde stage coach!

Ye olde cigar-toting chief.

Ye olde carved bear outside Denny's Wigwam. 

We hit the road again and drove for hours through pretty scenery. I got bored and made my mum take selfies with me. 

One of the best moments of the trip was coming out of the trees on the mountainside, turning a corner and then seeing the Vermilion Cliffs streched across the desert landscape below. Pictures don't do it justice, you'll just have to trust that it was breathtaking.
It inspired an impromptu photo shoot.
Maybe not the world's most serious photo shoot.
It made the men want to stand on rocks.
And gaze heroically into the desert.
Then we drove for a few more hours through the desert and across the Colorado River, until we reached the Grand Canyon!

It is indeed grand. And canyony. 

We started with the Watchtower, which is one of my Grand Canyon favorites. (I've been once before, so I get to talk like  I'm a local). 

Inside the tower, looking down from the top. 

Looking up from the bottom. I think it's absolutely beautifully built. 

On the viewing platform outside. Hiding my rather intense fear of heights quite well, if I may say so myself. 

As I stood looking out at the canyon, this felt so true. 
We hurried along to the next lookout spot and watched the sunset. Not too shabby!
I took this with my phone! While photos don't do it justice at all, it's basically impossible to get a bad shot of the Grand Canyon.
Then we took some more family photos.
And documented our wild enthusiasm.
My goodness, that was a lot of photos! Are you still with me? I think maybe you deserve another cookie, because I'm maybe only half way. But I can't back down now! OK, so maybe a bathroom break? I'll wait.

The next morning the Grand Canyon remained unfathomably gorgeous. 
It was still impossible to do it justice.

More photos were taken of me on this day than in the past year combined. 

My brother looked handsome and happy, like I knew he could. 

I am windswept, but happy. My mum is cute and classy as always. 

Another phone photo. It's crazy how pretty it is! 
Another crazy thing about the Grand Canyon is that you can easily spend an entire day just going from viewpoint to viewpoint along the rim and be perfectly content to just stand and look at it.  
Nick is the one with the fancy camera, so doesn't make it into as many photos, but I did make him take a selfie with me. 

A brief stop in Williams, AZ for some Route 66-ing. 

And then lots and lots and lots of open road.

Bored enough for selfies on the road in the desert. But check out my new necklace that Nick gave me for Christmas!

A brief stop at the Hoover Dam. Obligatory dam(n) jokes were exchanged.
And then Las Vegas!
I can't tell you how weird it was to wake up to the majestic nature of the Grand Canyon and then arrive in the land of silliness where artificial volcanos erupt every half hour and you can take a gondola ride around the mall.
Pretty at Christmas time, though.
Sore footed and exhausted, but still enjoying the sights.
The next day there was one final adventure to the Fremont Street Experience.
Glitter Gulch boasts one of the coolest old signs, and one of the nastiest billboards I have ever seen. Be glad the photo is cropped!
Jeremy by the Golden Nugget.
And then we headed back to Grandma and Grandpa and I kissed and kissed and hugged and squeezed my babies and solemnly swore to never leave them again. It was a fantastic trip, I loved being able to show my big brother a little more of my world, and we were really in need of a little bit of a break from the kids (two nights of uninterrupted sleep!), but my goodness, there isn't a sight in the world that is better than than my two little cuties. 

On the drive back from Grandma and Grandpa. 
After picking up the kids, we packed up and headed home. We celebrated New Year's Eve, we went to Park City, we visited the dinosaur museum and all too soon we were saying our goodbyes and headed to the airport. 

Uncle Jeremy and the crazies before leaving for the airport. 
One last snuggle with Granny.
But what does make saying goodbye so much easier is knowing that in six short months (or so) the four of us will be making the trek across the globe to visit Granny and uncle Jeremy in Norway. And that is something to be happy about!

Now go get yourself a box of cookies, friend. You've earned them.