Archive for August, 2011

Tonight and tomorrow I will spend playing back the events of a year ago, which, for the time being, I remember down to the minute. First contraction: 3:30 a.m., in Karel’s bed.

Bringing Karel back into our bed, taking over Bjørn’s phone to time contractions, trying to be still AND comfortable, as everytime I moved Karel woke up.

Realization that I can’t remember when we’re supposed to go to the hospital: 5:00 a.m.

Realization that despite being trapped between a restless Karel and a sleeping Bjørn, I can consult a website re: labor on Bjørn’s i-phone: 5:15.

Realization that we should probably get going: 5:16.

I managed to very carefully climb out of bed and very quietly go upstairs to write out Karel’s ”schedule” for my mom, as she would be with him for the next days. Around 6:00 I woke her up; around 6:30 Bjørn woke up. We left for the hospital at 7.

The next 5 hours hurt. Those 5 hours — or 8.5 in total — were just a foreshadowing of what I was about to find out: no two babies are the same, and the differences start during labor. Shorter, harder, more painful — there were tears this time, there was watching the clock, there was doubt as to if I could do it.

But to see that head of dark hair push through, the beautiful face, the broad shoulders and long feet….

I’d do it again.

Happy 1st Birthday, Emilian Birk! Our busy, snuggly, determined, silly, patient little boy: we love you.

xoxo Mama, Pappa, and Karel

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Just to clarify: The absence until now of a post about my parents’ and Chris’s visit with us does not imply in any way that it was an un-blog-worthy event. It might be categorized as borderline un-blog-able, though, just because there’s too much to say about it. Conciseness has never really been a strength of mine. Hightlighting just key moments of a visit require a lot of concentration: when just about every minute of something seems important, it’s almost painful to pare it down….but just as painful to write every detail. The problem here is that while ”conciseness” is not a strength, ”attention-span” isn’t really either. Which is why Bjørn and I were going to write these updates together, and in a more real-time fashion. Too bad such great ideas never make it to reality. Sigh.

So as the lesser of two evils, we will attempt to highlight and concize. (that’s ”concise” as a verb, folks.)


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Let’s see. Bjørn is out of town. Not just out of town, but in Paris. France. Surely spending the moments between delicious-food-consumption and delicious-wine-consumption wishing his beloved wife was with him to join in food-and-wine-consumption.

ANYWAY, the point is that we had a busy day, and he’s gone, and the DVD I want to watch now that the boys are finally in bed is no where to be found, which is making me crazy, and my second choice of DVD for unknown reasons will not work, and despite being insanely tired earlier today, I know that if I do not TALK TO SOMEONE  and purge all this stuff in my head I will not be able to sleep.

So. This shall be a prime example of ”blog as outlet.”

Karel. Can I talk about Karel for a minute? I am barely keeping my nose above water when it comes to Karel. He’s smart, and he’s 3. A lethal combination. I feel like I actually DO need to explain and rationalize my parental decisions to him. Then I remember that I gave birth to this particular child and couldn’t walk normally for weeks afterwards, and therefore I am fully entitled to use ”Because I said so.” Liberating.

Anyway, the problem is that at all too young of an age he has discovered how to use his cuteness and vocabulary to diffuse a situation in which he’s getting in trouble. For example: Karel thinks it’s hilarious to blow bubbles into his water cup during dinner, despite being told repeatedly to stop. So I took it away. The elicited response? ”What are you doing, you silly lady?” with a look of true indignation.

I tried really, really hard not to laugh, and almost succeeded. Tension broken: 1 point Karel.

Then there’s the picking up the toys scenario, to which I fully admit surrender. Another point to Karel, hands down. Toys can’t be just picked up and put away. They have to be played away. And 98% of the time, in the course of the playing, they end up farther from the place they’re supposed to be than they started. It’s like his head is so full of potential stories that just touching even the most boring toy opens the imagination tap….and 20 minutes later, there we are. No closer to a cleaner living room OR bedtime. So I take the easy way out….and pick them up myself.

We survived the early parenting mistake of taking a 3 year old into a toy store to pick out his own toy using birthday money. It seems so obvious now that it was a bad idea….but irrational hope is a mainstay around here. He would pick out one, then another, hold the two side-by-side, look from one to the other, and say ”hmmmm. hmmmm.” Karel has survived multiple moves, lives with two languages, and has to repeatedly say good-bye to loved ones… but I really think that making him choose one toy out of so many was the most traumatic thing he has lived through; the following meltdowns and exchange requests seem to be further evidence.

BUT, I was blessed enough to experience one of those glowing, I-have-it-together, these-little-people-are-also-my-friends moments today. We had a breakfast picnic this morning. I had planned this, and packed sandwiches and fruit for us to eat somewhere on our drive back from the airport this morning. Of course, once we were at the airport we realized that that bag hadn’t made it in the car. Neither had the one with my debit card and driver’s license. Which didn’t really matter because it’s Sunday and all the grocery stores are closed anyway, so even if I had money I couldn’t buy anything anyway. Because sometimes it feels like everything is working against you. ANYWAY, Bjørn handed over his cash, the gas station had a passable selection of food and was, more importantly, open, so it was all fine. So we took a side road that went down to a camping place by the fjord, and sat on a blanket in the grass on this unusually warm August day eating grapes and sweet rolls with chocolate pieces. All with the typical stunning view of fields, forest, and rolling hills.

Because it all always works out, and that sometime feels like a victory.

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Friday, July 22nd was the beginning of the last weekend of our parents’/in-laws and Chris’s stay with us. We were spending it close to home in Steinkjer, not Oslo, as we had earlier considered. We were furniture movers that day — loading and unloading the stove and t.v. we’d been borrowing from Bjørn’s brother for over a year now, so he could move them into his new apartment in Oslo.

We had turned on the radio in the car, on our stove-and-t.v- delivery route, when we heard there had been an explosion in Oslo. I heard the words, but thought maybe I’d misunderstood. Be prepared for the worst, but don’t expect it. Maybe an accident with all the constuction going on? I thought. No. No. Terrorist. In Oslo? Home of the Peace Prize? What could anyone gain from attacking Norway? Norway??

The reports that were coming through, less than an hour after the explosion, talked a lot about windows. Windows had been blown out of buildings several blocks away from the strength of the bomb. All the windows in the central government buildings were shattered. This is such typical Norwegian reporting, I thought, frustrated. They’re not used to anything happening here, so they don’t know what to focus on. ”Who cares about the bloody windows? How many people are hurt?” is what I said.

Later we saw footage, in the electronics store. The staff was gathered around, watching the wall of monitors, having just switched the channel from the Tour de France. What was striking? The windows. Every last one was gone. Each blown out window and indicator of the strength of the bomb; the image as a whole like a punch to the gut.

Then the island. The youth. The numbers of fatalities that went from 10 to 80 over night. Too much. Not here.

Here in Norway, only the media use the attacker’s name. The movement among the people is to not give him or his manifest recognition. To not give his actions the attention as the call-to-action he intended them to be. Here he is referred to as ”the killer” or ”the murderer.” Norway, equalitarian Norway, was quick to brand him as their own, an ethnic Norwegian. Oh, to deepen the betrayal of this trusting people.

I was 16, I think, when the Timothy McVeigh’s bomb killed 168 men, women, and children in Oklahoma City. Twenty-one when al-Quaeda crashed into the twin towers. Both attacks in my home country. But somehow this day felt closer, harder.

The grief is setting in now as the shock wears off — for the families of those killed; for the survivors who must work through the terror of being hunted; for the compassionate people of Norway who feel each lost life as if it were their own child, husband, sister.

And for the world, which has just lost its last safe place.

But: They are proud and stubborn, these Norwegians — attributes spoken of with rueful grins and head shakes world-over. With pride and tenacity they will not fall into hate and suspicion; they will not be less trustful, they will not succomb to fear. They will grieve, and forever hold this day in their hearts, but they will not change. And it is by this ”non-reaction” that they will thwart any who think to try an attack like this again.


”Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Matthew 5:4, 9

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