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Archive for August, 2013

It seems there have been a couple of memos that I didn’t get in a timely manner regarding having a third child.

The first — roughly translated as ”Third labors are tricky” — dropped into my inbox in the maternity ward of the hospital.

The second, which still hasn’t been confirmed by the outside world but is the only logical conclusion to be drawn from our experiences so far, goes like this:

Stay. Home.

You know what? No. Go ahead and travel. I’m going to assume that the majority of families of 5 + that didn’t chime in on that little mantra there are probably more organized and on top of things than we are.

Or they’re just strainght-up smart enough to not carry/herd 3 small people and 2 chronically sleep deprived adults onto an airplane MULTIPLE TIMES IN ONE SUMMER.

Do you want to hear the near disasters of our travels this summer? Do you want to hear why, when arriving home last night the one thing both Bjørn and I agreed on is that we are one small step away from having something major and/or dangerous go wrong if we try to go anywhere else? They’re not big stories. Nothing major. Just alllll liiiiiitle tiny straws stacking up on that poor camel’s back.

Let’s start at the beginning. Four point five months ago I had a baby. A beautiful baby, whom we took home to be with his beautiful big brothers, one aged almost 5 and one halfway between 2 and 3. The baby — let’s call him Cai, shall we? — was a great sleeper. A bit fussy the first month, but nothing out of the ordinary.  We hit the ground running, like we do, and within a week and a half we had dinner guests and overnight guests and a birthday party at our house and you better believe I made those two cakes myself, holding to the ‘no sugar’ diet my beloved was following at the time. That’s right. If you’re gonna do it, do it. And stay at home momming is what I’m doing.

By 6 weeks we’d done doctors appointments, committee meetings, and barnehage events.

At 9 weeks of age, baby Cai and his family were supposed to board a plane and head to the grand land of the United States of America, to meet his friends and family across the ocean.

This is where things started to go south.

We missed our first flight. Nothing like getting up at 3 a.m and driving for an hour and a half, loading and unloading children and suitcases, assembling yourselves at the counter and hearing, ”But that flight is already boarding; you can’t make it.”

Whatever. We’re tired, we didn’t get up early enough, we didn’t recheck the schedule, we didn’t do all those little ”make-sure” things that one would normally do before making a transatlantic journey. We are, however, succeeding at the work of keeping our heads above water in the day-to-day. I keep telling myself that’s what really counts.

The only feasible option was to try again the next day, which we did. Slightly more rested, much earlier, we arrived at the airport the following morning. Our test run the day before had proven that it was going to be as difficult as we thought to keep EB contained. But, you know, knowing is better than not knowing.

Anyway, it was great we were so early because aaalllll of the extra minutes of earliness were consumed by filling out online forms that were necessary for the non-US passport holders in our family (Bjørn and Cai Ruben) to enter the grand land of the United States of America.

”You’d think we’d have this figured out by now.” said I, gripping an infant-filled stroller with preschoolers swarming around my legs. ”You look like you have plenty of other things to think about,” said the kind lady in line behind us. That woman both saved my sanity by confirming that this 3 little kid thing is not for the faint of heart and startled me into checking out how we must look to everybody else. Which was completely crazy.

Whatever. We got on the plane. We got off the plane. The kids played, I tried not to die of tiredness and felt a bond with all the other moms at the play area, who closed their eyes and sighed as soon as their kids weren’t looking

We got ready to get on the next plane, the ”big airplane.” Amsterdam to Chicago. 8 hours. We go through security AGAIN. Karel is in zombie mode, Emil is in run-away mode, and Cai is in hungry screaming baby mode.

The forms we had the good luck to fill out when we had time at the small Trondheim airport? They hadn’t gone though. Or registered. Or something. Which means the non-American passport holding members of the family couldn’t board the plane until they were.

Do you know what? We did great. We really did. I fed the baby and contained the boys, Bjørn typed out all his information and Cai Ruben’s for the second time that day on a dying i-pad, and we made it onto the plane. We were the absolute last people on, but we were on. Our seats weren’t together, but we were on.

The kids were great, the flight attendats were great and helpful and I take back anything bad I’ve ever said about KLM.

We got off the plane. We must have looked pretty bad because we kept getting ushered to the fronts of lines. Just a couple more logistical maneuverings away from fresh air and grandparents.

Remember that thing about Cai not having an American passport? Turns out that was an issue. An issue that the security/customs guy and I had an in depth, if rather circular, discussion about. My inner dialogue went something like this: ”You think you scare me, with your uniform? Do you know what I have kept calm and unaccusatory through for the past 24 hours?? Are you really mistaking me for a woman who will unquestioningly swallow beaurocratic bullshit? ??”

My outer dialogue was a bit friendlier, but I still got the stop-talking head shake from Bjørn. It’s usually the other way around, folks.

Anyway, we made it. The country of my birth allowed me to return to it with my family, albeit begrudgingly.

So that was that. More reflections later on the non-stop fun we had in the Midwest. One road-trip, one wedding, two mexican meals and almost 4 weeks later we boarded the plane again, repeating only the hungry crying baby in the middle of the security line part. Norway welcomed us back with open arms… or just didn’t really care.

Five weeks later we headed to airport again. Destination: Arendal — closer in mileage, but still pretty significant travel time. On the surface, it seems like there would have been enough time to recover from all the travelling in the month of June. Seven days of jet lagged kids, parented by one jet lagged mom while the jet lagged dad was at work; one birthday party hosted by said jetlagged family; two weeks of closed barnehage (beginning just as the jet lag ended); one fabulous and busy week of guests; one week of trying to get back to ‘normal’ and catch up with all the friends we hadn’t seen all summer.

Right. Maybe not.

So it should not be surprising that upon arriving at the airport it was discovered that one of the bags — the one with my and Cai’s clothes — never made it into the car. Whatever. Thankfully I had clean underwear and pajamas in another bag, and Cai had spare clothes scattered throughout.

It was only mildly more surprising when we realized the next day that the stroller (which I’d packed my only long-sleeved item in) we had the foresight to bring was forgotten at the airport.

[Insert blank stare with the is-this-really-happening-face]

Whatever, it’s fine; an excuse to go shopping (snagged the only denim skirt on a sale rack that just happened to be my size), and Dyreparken, the weekend’s big destination, rents out strollers. Probably for lame-os like us that just can’t get themselves together.

Now, Cai-of-the-future reading this, we love you and couldn’t imagine our lives without you. Purely from the standpoint of numbers, however, we did not quite grasp the magnitude of logistical issues bumping up from a family of four to five made. For anyone to pick us up anywhere, either a minivan or two cars are needed.

Bjørn’s dad kindly drove the 2 hours to the airport to pick us up at 9 p.m., (although there was some miscommunication there as well — he thought we got in at 8), but as is humanly normal, was only able to drive one car. So Bjørn took the bus. Same deal when we went to Dyreparken — two on the bus, 5 in the car.

I’m just floating along at this point. I can get the kids packed for a day outing, make some sandwiches, fill water bottles, but anything beyond basic survival needs my brain just can’t handle.

Which is how none of us managed to check out the RETURN bus schedule from Dyreparken back to Arendal. Which is how my husband and my beautiful 2-nearly-3 year old boy ended up at a bus stop with no bus, and made the decision to try to hitch hike home.

[Just go on and imagine that blank ‘is-this-really-happening’ stare again. ‘Cuz I’m still not quiiiiiiite over it. ]

That is post for another day, friends. Another day. When I can laugh about it a bit less hysterically.

That’s what tipped us off that maybe, maybe we’ve attempted a bit too much here. Maybe, maybe I didn’t get any warnings about travelling so far and so much with kids aged 4, 2 and INFANT because most people are smart enough not to try it. Not because it can’t be done, but because it’s borderline unsafe.

Anyway, friends and family from afar — we love you, we loved seeing you. It was totally worth the effort. But considering Emil Birk’s current favorite sports are sprinting through security lines and RIDING IN CARS WITH STRANGERS, we have to take a little break from air travel at the moment. It’s seeming more and more likely that the next time we all try to pass through those gates, not all of us are going to come out — and no one wants that.

 

 

 

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Barsel-treffing

This was written at the end of May but never left the drawing board. It’s probably going to be a while before we manage to get anything up about our wonderfully crazy past two months, so throwing in a slightly dated post is the best I can do at the moment!

 

The sun is shining, the air is warm, the coffee is brewed, and Cai’s sweet baby head is framed by his sweet baby arms in the official hands-up sweet baby sleep position.

I have a lot of things to do, but am choosing instead to sit here for as many minutes as I’m allowed to ”chat” a bit. Sometimes a native-tongued heart-pouring is just as refreshing as all the consecutive hours of sleep in the world.

Yesterday I went to the first ”barseltreff” — a gathering of women from the community who have given birth around the same time. The midwives arrange the first meeting, and then it’s up to the group to continue meeting as often as they wish. Most women have a year of maternity leave, and with their other kids in barnehage there isn’t really the random library-story-time, saw-you-at-the-park kind of opportunity to meet people. Anyway, this is my second time around with barseltreff-ing. The first time, with Emil, I remember I had to bring Karel to the first gathering because he wasn’t in barnehage that day. The babies that brought us there were mostly seconds, with a couple of thirds. I was late, of course, because I had to wrangle two kids there (and because I’m just usually late), and my Norwegian wasn’t very good, so I couldn’t really catch all of what was being said. I remember leaving feeling kind of sad, because I really liked the concept, and I really like meeting people, but I couldn’t help thinking that if only this group was happening in the States, with some of my old friends and the possibility of new friends… that would have been refreshing to my social mama heart.

This time I went without any expectations. I figured I’d show up and maybe show up at some of the get-togethers in the future, but the chatting is so fast and so dialect-y that it’s still hard for me to follow, so I smile and nod and occasionally laugh and admire the other babies. Anyway, the take-away from this one is that intentionally or not, birds of a feather flock together.

What’s funny is that the flocks I choose to put myself in here, the ones that feel most comfortable, don’t look like they share feathers at all. Immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, spouses of foreigners, natives of the country but not of this town — what we share is broken language and hidden stories and tiny etchings of loneliness deep down on our hearts. It’s all covered up by gratefullness, of course, and the search for a connection. Joy and anxiety (the components of motherly love) over our babies, and maybe the whispered wistfulness of all western mothers when we hear stories of other places where the community of women live together and take care of each other during the months surrounding childbirth. It’s interesting how the independence gained by modern amenities has isolation creeping in its shadow.

The point, in the midst of that swirling thought process, was that this being-from-somewhere-else is very often the connector, whether it’s known or not at the time. As it turns out, one of the women in this group was in the same Norwegian class as me last fall, the one I dropped out of for a number of practical reasons (Cai Ruben being the only ”reason” that actually panned out). And I shouldn’t have been terribly surprised to learn later that the Norwegian woman sitting next to me with the beautiful giggle and smiley eyes, who bless her heart seemed so impressed that this was my THIRD baby, had studied a year in Minnesota and was married to a foreigner. Nor that she would suggest that we three could walk with the babies together to have more time to chat.

Personally, I’m just revelling a little bit in the fact that pushing out three babies might just nudge me into the ”expert” realm to some of the first time moms. Little do they know that the only thing this mama is an expert in is not knowing the answers to anything. However, I will let the illusion live as long as possible.

On the flip side of coffee drinking with mommies of new babies is watching the not so new ones grow up. Karel rode his bike without training wheels last week. Somehow in the last few months he has grown up. I almost don’t remember how it was when he spoke like Emil Birk does now. I don’t like not remembering. I have a sneaking suspicion that having these kids be my whole life now is setting me up for some major emotional upheaval in the future (insert eye roll). Mostly just too tired to do anything about it.

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