Archive for November, 2011

It’s fall here…still. Today I noticed some snow on the hills/mountains (what they are depends on where you’re from) across the fjord, but here in Steinkjer we’re still putting our rain gear to good use. Maybe it’ll snow this weekend, but maybe the weather is working to keep us from hurtling into Christmas-mode in order to remember Thanksgiving.

I kind of forgot today was Thanksgiving, to be honest. We, i.e. the American crew in the Steinkjer area, are having our big Thanksgiving celebration on Sunday, so Sunday has been where my focus is. It was actually a very pleasant suprise to realize that TODAY is the actual, on-the-calendar Thanksgiving Day. It’s always nice to know there’s something special about what might otherwise be an ordinary weekday. To call/text/email people and say ”Happy Thanksgiving!” — how can that not make you smile?

Therefore, I have spent the day thinking about my family in Wauwatosa — about my parents and siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and their kids that will all be there; I’ve been visualizing the Thanksgiving table and all the food. And I’ve been noticing that I’ve been getting a bit choked up when all these thoughts and visions are running through my brain.

I’ve thus spent the day mentally composing my ”what I’m thankful for list,” never really knowing if it would make it so far the typed word…but as long as the kids keep sleeping, there is hope. Here goes:

1) I’m thankful that our first year in a new place is over. That no one drowned in tears or threatened to move out or was hit with a depression that needed more than vitamin supplementation. I’m thankful that the mandatory time to carve out your little niche in a society has been fulfilled. Maybe we don’t have a niche yet, but there’s at least a comfortable indentation.

2) I’m thankful to live in a safe place; not only to live in a safe place, but to realize I’m living in a safe place. What a blessing, what a blessed relief, to not excercise every hour of every day that part of your brain that works to protect your family. I’m thankful to the people of Norway for giving this to us, and for teaching a cynical American how to trust in the common good again.

3) I am thankful for my healthy sons. For imaginative, word-smith, clear-eyed Karel and for climbing, roaring, cuddly Emil. (Emil and Karel’s latest thing is to roar at each other. Emil now makes every toy animal he picks up roar. It’s pretty funny.) I am thankful that even on the days I totally fail as a mom, they are still ours to keep. Toddler hugs and preschooler ”I love you”s are things we never, ever take for granted, still reveling in each one.

4) I am thankful for my partner in this parenting endeavour — and this whole life-navigating endeavour, for that matter. A man who is patient, kind, and just generally nicer than me. And really good at puns. (okay, that part I’m not especially thankful for, but a guy’s gotta have at least one moderately annoying habit.)

5) I am thankful for food: its presence, its availability, its plentiful-ness; that keeping everyone fed is not something we ever have to worry about. Karel is proving that he can subsist on knekkerbrød and cheese, so that’s reassuring too.

6) As always, I/we are thankful for our families. I am thankful to our American family for making such great efforts to see us — we do not take those efforts for granted. I am thankful to have friends in my siblings, who, if they haven’t completely forgotten how I used to hold them in headlocks and just generally be mean, at least refrain from bringing it up. (Usually.) We are thankful for our Norwegian family, whose faces always light up when they see the boys wether it’s the first or the fifth time that month.

7) And…I’m thankful for technology. Every time I skype my mom or chat with a friend on another continent, I marvel a little bit at how easy it is these days to stay connected with loved ones. This Thanksgiving, for example, I was able to talk to my grandma for 20 minutes — not only talk, but see her; I got to talk or at least see everyone who was at the Thanksgiving Day gathering. I even got to see the pies. This is crazy. Miraculous. Both. In this particular instance, a blessing.

Okay, the list could go on and on, but we’ll stop now. Happy Thanksgiving and much love and peace and joy from our grateful hearts to yours.

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We did it! We managed to reunite! We met each other’s babies, held them and wiped their noses, drank coffee and wine and maybe even a little bit of vodka, took turns watching busy boys so child-free shopping could occur….laughed, cried, and I, for one, did a number of happy food dances. All as it should be.  New York, New York — the city where all is possible.

Stephanie, Alicia, and I met while working/living in Malawi. One of those things that feels like another life and yesterday at the same time. Now, between us we have 4 kids that were born in 3 different countries. I might even venture to say we represent the very different paths educated women can take during their child-bearing years. Before, our common ground was a shared faith in a dusty, colorful, land of hope and heartbreak. I don’t know fully what all of our experiences in Malawi were preparing us for, but it has just occurred to me that the stretching of our hearts in southern Africa made a whole lot of room for our growing families to fit in. Now, in addition to an affinity for good food and bright colors, our common ground has something to do with the joy and frustration of raising little boys; and the love-shiny faces that we each wore when talking about them and their daddies.

Given we were 4 adults and 3 kids (ages 4 months, 14 months, and almost 3) sharing an apartment when the numbers were at their lowest — 6 adults and 3 kids at their highest — the kid craziness I imagined didn’t ever really happen (or have I forgotten already?). Aaron was fantastic about sharing his toys and letting Emil follow him around. Emil is used to big brothers, so is already trained to touch things gently then quickly look around to see what the repercussions might be. And Silas just cooed and laughed and charmed us all, bigger boys included. (Although Emil was going through a throwing phase while we were there, causing me to hover in protection over Silas’s little head whenever E came over to ”chat”). Alicia is my new baby-bjørn wearing hero — I attribute your past as a swimmer to developing your shoulder and upper back muscles in preparation for baby wearing.

This was my first time in New York City. Impressions? Everything smelled SO GOOD! Dozens of different food smells within as many or less blocks. Bliss to my nose. And the buildings — It reminded me a bit of the first few times I went to the ocean. After seeing it, you understand why people who grew up near it couldn’t ever really leave. The sheer size of the buildings, let alone their architectural beauty, gave you the sense you were walking along doing your normal tasks in the midst of grandeur. 

Is this post getting to be a bit country-mouse-in-the-city? Kinda how it felt.

Just two more things: 1) People were so nice. We were travelling along in a group of strollers and babies and obvious tourists, and people were so. nice. All the time. Smiled at the kids, gave up train seats, opened doors. A stark contrast to my later experience at the airport in which I, carrying two bags and with a toddler tied to me, was instructed I should carry my stroller down the stairs for it to be taken to the plane. For any that doubt the strength of mothers… Also a bit of a contrast to the culture here in the land of winter, where people are very, very kind and compassionate, but a bit more…stoic, shall we say?, when it comes to general passing-on-the-street-stranger friendliness.

What else can you do when you randomly walk past a shop selling only macaroons? Buy them and eat them. I was rendered speechless by their goodness.

2) The best part about being in the U.S., besides seeing friends and family? Speaking English. I mean, I speak english all the time here, too. But I at least try Norwegian when we’re out and about. It took me a few common interactions to get over that feeling of guilt about speaking english, as I reminded myself that this was actually the language I am supposed to be using. Sweet liguistical freedom. I asked questions of store staff just for the sake of it. Looking stupid in one’s own language somehow feels a lot better.

Emil and I checking out a squirrel at Central Park

So there we have it. A million thanks to Stephanie, Joaquin, and Aaron for their incredible hospitality; to Alicia and Silas for making the trip; to Mom, Mandy, and Michael for always being willing to meet me wherever in the world/country I am. Love to all!

Bjørn and Karel survived quite well on their own….with the help of aunts, uncles, friends, Mola, and neighbors. Nice to know the village comes out when Mama is gone. 🙂 And if absence hasn’t made Karel’s heart fonder, it’s at least more vocal: I now have a 3 year old who tells me he loves me almost every day. 🙂

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