Guys. We did one Christmas letter once, when we had one kid and worked one 100% fulltime job between the both of us.
That just isn’t the case anymore.
BUT: you can have this personalized, hand-typed, digital entry instead! Yay!
Oh, 2016. It’s been a year. Not a bad year, but a…fluid one. As in, a fair amount of movement. Where to start? I heard once that the beginning is a very good place to start…
January: Iiiiiii don’t really remember January so well. But we can throw out some basic principles that held throughout the year: Bjørn and Kim are both employed. Bjørn is good at what he does, and therefore hired for a position in Oslo, even though he lives far, far away from Oslo. This means that for the past year and a half or so he travels weekly to Oslo. In January, I was still working at the nursing home in Verdal, about 25 minutes away. A couple of years ago Bjørn’s grandparents gave us their old car (which Bjørn’s dad at some point had given to them) which still runs remarkably well (as long as you can start it), and which made it possible for me to work in Verdal at all. So, so grateful for that car.
This may or may not become a recurring theme.
Anyway, I DO remember feeling like there were a lot of unknowns in January. The nursing home I was working at was being shut down. Bjørn and I had our first training-weekend to be foster parents. I finally submitted my nursing registration application. There was also an incident of lice at school that WAS NOT US. In December we met a young Syrian brother-sister pair, and pushed our way into their lives as well. On the news everywhere, every day, there was talk about refugees and asylum seekers and politics vs. humanitariansim.
We barrelled into February. I drove to Verdal, Bjørn flew to Oslo, we picked up kids from three separate locations, we picked up our extra kids from extra locations. I spent a few weeks teaching very very extremely basic Norwegian at the reception center for asylum seekers. Then on February 23rd I got a text from Bjørn asking to be picked up at Urgent Care.
Turns out the road up the hill wasn’t wide enough for a tractor with a plough and station wagon. You may guess which vehicle sustained the most damage, and you will most likely be correct. Anyway, the car was totalled, but Bjørn and Cai were thankfully fine. Well, Cai was traumatized. Every time he got into a car for MONTHS afterwards, he said, ‘don’t crash into a tractor.’ He actually just said it again the other day, now that I think about it. Poor guy. But again — SO so thankful for our second car. Which now only I could drive, because for some reason or another getting hit by a speeding tractor resulted in Bjørn losing his license for three months. Get a life, Norwegian traffic regulators, is all I have to say about that. So that kind of felt like the theme of the next months. I packed the little sedan full of kids, and drove around town.
March gave us another weekend away learning about fostering, and Easter. And lice. Not necessarily in that order.
April. April gave us a three year old and a 40 year old. I flew to Wisconsin with Emil and Cai for 10 days in the beginning of April, and for anyone out there who is nervous about flying with a 5- and almost 3-year old alone…continue to be nervous. I don’t know how we made it, but we did. (oh man – it’s coming back to me now. Bjørn wasn’t even home when we left, so I sent Karel off to school — after sending explicit emails to his teachers about who to contact in case of an emergency — and loaded us and our bags in the car to drive to the train station. Then got us off the train and on the plane. Only had to threaten to turn around once. (“Get up right now or we are taking the bus back to Norway!”) Being fed and pampered for 10 days gave me just enough energy to do it again on the way back. Lovely visit, as always. Tacos and coffee for me, dinosaurs and ice cream for Emil, birthday cake and throat cultures for Cai. Can’t win them all.
Also, Bjørn bought a bike.
Bjørn turned 40 and I had to admit defeat. I wanted to throw a big party, I really did. Something inside me kind of freezes up when I think about planning a party here. I don’t know why. I feel like a scared rabbit. Petrified, yet twitchy. But I will get over that in time for 41, don’t tell Bjørn.
May…. In May, Bjørn found us a new car. Yay! A seven-seater, AKA minivan. It was amazing — he did the entire transaction from his office in Oslo. So one glorious evening after he got home, I took the train to Stjørdal, was picked up by the guy who owned the car, and then drove it home. Just in time for 17 May, the big national day. We ate the traditional meal (the local delicacy of Sodd*) at our place, and packed the big car full of big and small kids to drive to the parade. STILL not enough room, so Bjørn biked in his suit, like any grown European man would do.
*I would like to take a moment to discuss sodd. Sodd is NOT a soup, no matter how closely it resembles one. Impress your Norwegian host by never, ever calling it soup. What it IS, is is lamb broth, with tiny meatballs of beef and lamb, tiny cubes of lamb meat, served with carrots and potatoes (that you put up in the broth). Tasty? Yes. Void of pork (as was relevant to some of our guests)? Yes. The formal and traditional meal that almost all families were eating on that day, so that we weren’t weird for once? Yes.
And, friends, it comes ready made, frozen in a bucket. It’s like this huge gift from the cultural deities that on the 17th of May — when the kids have to be clean, their clothes have to be fancy (and clean), their shoes shined, the car washed, flags found, umbrellas and rain jackets in place on top of the fancy clean clothes and quite possibly woollen long underwear underneath, all the while assuring the children that yes they can eat as many ice cream cones as they want because apparently children gorging themselves on this day is half the point — the only work required for the meal that I am expected to prepare is boiling water and taking the bucket out of the freezer on time.
I just can’t even describe the gratitude I feel over this meal. It’s honestly like a divine “I see you working so hard and am going to cut you a break.” Sigh.
Bjørn also got his license back in May, so we were back to two drivers, two cars. I have to admit, though, that I had many moments of complete contentedness and happiness shuttling around town with the people I love under the same (mobile) roof. Going somewhere. Actively doing something. Driving and laughing and getting people to places on time, with constellations of Karel, Sherwan, Emilian, Mohammed, Cai Ruben, Delvin filling out the seats… Having sole transport responsibility wasn’t always as bad as it sounds.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned, though. Next month, in keeping with the vehicular theme, Emilian rides an Italian ambulance.