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. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Back from Norway

An extremely jaunty walk to get the mail. 
The kids and I are home again from our trip to Norway and getting settled back into every day life. We miss granny and uncle Jeremy and all of our favorite Norwegian people and places, but my goodness, it's good to be home! Home where my bed and my pillow (my pillow!) are, home where my kids sleep peacefully in their beds, home where I don't have to live out of a suitcase, and above all, home where the love of my life is! Good gravy, we missed our Nick/husband/daddy.

Playing by the lake. 
Whenever I talk to people about our trip, they always express that traveling such a long distance with two small children on my own must be really hard. But to be honest, the actual travel part wasn't too bad. Our kids are seasoned travelers that know how to hunker down, get comfy and make the most of being stuck in a seat for hours (and hours and hours), and I am endlessly grateful for that. They're rock stars! But what was hard (besides the first couple of nights of jet lagged kids) was the realization of what a gaping void there is in our family without Nick. All of the countless little things he does in a day to keep our family running smoothly suddenly weren't happening. And the kids, who usually love being in Norway so much that they don't want to go home, were counting down the days until we could go home to Daddy. Our family is just not our family without him.

A visit from my grandmother and the kids' great-grandmother. With my mum standing in for my dad, we've got four generations on this sofa and ages ranging from two to ninety-four. 

 That being said, we had a wonderful time. We spent hours and hours outside in Granny's garden and adventuring in the forest and along the lanes nearby. We discovered a wild strawberry patch and picked as much as we could find. We caught up with old friends and made a few new ones. We went swimming in the lake and splashed in the paddling pool in the garden. We ate lots and lots of ice cream and tasty Norwegian food. Espen discovered a love for salami, meatballs and fish cakes. Gwen spent every waking moment asking for ice cream, cookies and chocolate.

I gave Gwen one of my old bridesmaid dresses, and she immediately declared herself Princess Gwen.
I'm rather inclined to agree. 
 We had tea parties and made a playhouse in one of Granny's outbuildings. On rainy days we played with Lego from my childhood and drew the children's outlines on big rolls of paper. We picked wild flowers and jumped up and down in muddy puddles. We made leaf rubbings and had epic games of hide and seek all around the garden.

We went for lots of walks up and down the lanes.
Lest this is sounding too idyllic for words we also stayed up too late, threw epic tantrums, made big messes, lost some of Granny's belongings and spent way too much time playing on the iPads.

There were wildflowers (and their tiny tenants) everywhere.
 For me, the theme of the trip seemed to be getting out my comfort zone. I drove a car with manual transmission for the entire month, something I haven't done in well over a decade. I repaired the lawnmower and figured out why the vacuum cleaner wasn't sucking. I read instruction manuals and wielded power tools. I drove to places I had never been before without a GPS, and I drove the entire family on a road trip to Sweden. My comfort zone is my happy place, and I'm never especially interested in leaving it, but I will admit that there is something to be said for making it a little bit bigger. I didn't especially want to know how to clean and replace a spark plug, but now I do, and it doesn't sound so foreign and difficult anymore.

Pancake brunch with my Norwegian Bestie. We love our Annika!
 Of course the whole reason we went was so we could help my mum while she recovered from hip replacement surgery. When we got there a few days after she was home from the hospital, she had to use two crutches to get anywhere, and was frustrated because she couldn't even carry a cup from the kitchen counter to the table. So to begin with I cooked and cleaned and did the dishes and drove her to appointments and ran errands and mowed the lawn and did all of the things that she just couldn't do for herself yet.

Annika is the director of an opera museum, and therefore wins all of the Best Dress-up Box awards. 

As the days turned into weeks, it was really great to see my mum recovering more and more each day. Over the course of the month we were there, she went from needing two crutches to get anywhere, to mostly getting around the house unsupported and only using a walking stick in one hand if we were going somewhere. She was even well enough to drive the car into town before we left, which made me feel like we weren't leaving her completely in the lurch. And now she just had her first day back at work!

My lovely Mumsy

My mum and I have always been good friends, so just spending time with her was great as  it always is. I know I'm very lucky in that regard, because not everyone gets along as well with their mum as I do. She does have an absolutely frustrating ability to be right about things, but other than she's lovely.   We did a lot of chatting and knitting and shopping (so much shopping!) and sorting through old photos and just spending time together without doing anything very significant in that way you can only do with your very nearest and dearest.

Visiting the cows and breaking in their news boots.
There were other good things about being in Norway too, besides just being able to help my mum. One of them was that we were able to spend some time with my brother, which doesn't happen too often. He starts a new job next week, so had a few weeks off to spend with us. The kids adore their uncle Jeremy (he was getting bedtime hugs and kisses whether he wanted them or not!), and I suspect that he's pretty fond of them too. I won't tarnish his manly image by telling you exactly how sweet he can be to a two year-old with a bumped foot or a five year-old in need of a man-to-man talk, but it made my heart happy to those relationships develop.

Washing Granny's car. 

And I was able to enjoy some time with Jeremy too! We went for walks and talked a lot, and discovered that we are equally nerdy about Dr. Who, so almost every night after the kids were in bed, we'd pile onto the couch with my mum and watch some vintage Dr. Who or an old movie. He was great at helping out with the kids and did a lot of stuff around the house in general, which I really appreciated. He's going to make some girl very happy one of these days!

Cooling off with popsicles in the paddling pool. It's a rough life!
Spending time with friends is always a great part of being in Norway. Some of my friends have kids of their own now, which is great because it gives my kids someone to play with while we chat and catch up. And it's just fun to see how children aren't really all that bothered about not sharing a common language. There's usually about a 15 minute warmup period where everyone is figuring each other out, and then they just play. And Espen and Gwen always leave a play date in Norway with a few more words in their Norwegian vocabulary than when they came, which is wonderful.

Picking wild strawberries.
 Being able to spend time with my own friends is great too. We met up with one girl (lady, I suppose!) that I have known since I was four years old. Even though we haven't seen each other very much at all in the past 20 years, there is still something so comfortable and familiar about spending time with people you have known for practically all of your life. I also saw three other women who have all held the title as my best friend at some point in my life - and on some level still do. I think that unless there was some clear and obvious falling out that ended the friendship, then a best friend maintains that level of closeness and love no matter how many years have passed since the last time you saw each other. Some friends you just pick up with where you left off.

One of many tiny tea parties.
 I also spent my 35th birthday in Norway this year. Until last year I hadn't celebrated a single birthday in the same country as my mum for a decade, so being able to spend it with her and my brother for two years in a row was a really special thing. She helped Espen and Gwen chose presents for me (some favorite Norwegian chocolate and Marimekko-print napkins, respectively), and I took her out to lunch. My brother gave me a much beloved TV-show from our childhood on DVD (Vi på Saltkråkan), and my mum cooked a delicious dinner for us and a few friends, one of whom had just happened to fly in from New York that morning. My sweet friend Annika baked a cake and played games with my kids, who just can't fathom how you could possibly have a birthday without party games. I really feel that, for me, are less and less about cake and presents, and more and more about the people around you and the kindness and love that they express through the efforts they make for you. I probably missed Nick more on my birthday than on any other day the entire time we were gone, but it was still a special day where my family and friends just made me feel so loved.

Who even knows? 
Now we're home and everything is getting back to normal again. It took a few days of trying to put my foot on a clutch that wasn't there, but I am finally getting used to driving my own car again. I was a good girl and unpacked our suitcases quickly (within a couple of days, which is pretty great for me!) and have integrated most of our new belongings into our home already. It makes me happy to see our new tablecloth on the kitchen table, and the cute little dish I found holding tomatoes, like little splashes of Norway here and there. And it has to be said that we left with one suitcase and returned with three, so there was quite a lot of putting away and integrating to be done! (Did I mention we did a lot of shopping?)

Happy and handsome.
The next thing on the agenda, of course, is our upcoming trip to Alaska, so our travel bags won't be packed away for too long before we hit the road. And the air. And the high seas. The kids will have a fantastic time staying with grandma and grandpa while Nick and I can hardly contain our excitement to go on our very first cruise! Then, a few days after we get back, Espen starts kindergarten, by which time I suspect we'll be happy to sink into a nice little family routine again.

Playing with mama and uncle Jeremy's old Lego.

 How has your summer been so far?