Archive for January, 2018

Whattup, 2018.

We are just crashing into this year doing all kinds of things we don’t know how to do! Here are the things we DID do in 2017:

  • Bjørn got a job that no longer involves weekly travel! Yay!
  • See how long we can manage with one car! (3 months)
  • See how long we can manage with Kim working (almost) full time! (2 months, and went surprisingly well.)
  • Kim got her nursing license!
  • The boys (+parents) drove to Legoland in Denmark!
  • Our guestroom becomes a permanent bedroom for our ‘new’ 16 year old big brother (A)!
  • Kim and Bjørn struggle to understand middle school homework! (‘we are just going to do this long division the old school American way.’)

So far this year, the things we tried for the first time that will certainly only improve with further practice:

  • Handball (Emilian)
  • Making injera (Kim and A)
  • Confronting strong kids doing mean things at school

Blessings and strength as we move into another year!

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Seeing as I’ve filed an extension for my already extended tax deadline, which reminded me of how I carried my tax returns around Italy last year in order to send them WITHOUT the extension, it would seem that an entire 12 months has passed since last year’s summer vacay.

June, 2016

A week before school gets out we pack up the kids and board a plane. I imagine everything went smoothly. *cough cough* Destination: Italy, more specifically Tuscany, even more specifically Ciciana. Our kind and gracious hosts were Ivar and Lil Torunn, who organized everything so we could celebrate Torunn’s 60th birthday. The concept that my kids saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa and learned to say ‘gelato’ before hitting their first decade of life was a total trip for my Midwestern brain.  Who are we, royals?

Anyway, we did lots of fun things on that trip, but a vacation isn’t a vacation unless someone ends up in the emergency room. In childrens bedtime story form, I give you:

Emil and the Snake

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Emil. Actually, his name was Emilian Birk, but his mom called him Emil and his brother called him Mimi and his dad called him Emilian.  The little boy was very clever, however, and answered to all of these names, plus a couple more.

Emil had a big brother, whose favorite thing was to be buried in books, and a little brother, whose favorite thing was bouncing off walls. Emil’s favorite thing — indeed, his calming, happy place — was to sit in the sun, overturning stones and examining the creatures that lived underneath. He found ladybugs and ants, beetles of all sizes, centipedes, spiders, worms; anything the moved in the grass or through the soil, Emil would see it, catch it, and delight in it. In the early years the insects where markedly less delighted than their captor and weren’t always released unscathed. The learning curve was… not flat.

One day Emil and his family drove to the airport and boarded a plane for Italy! It turned out to be a magical place with the most delicious ice cream, and the most delicious pasta, and — most importantly — a myriad of bugs and butterflies and other many legged friends that Emil had never seen before.

Related image

Hummingbird moth!

The hummingbird moth, for example, and rhinoceros beetles. But the most exciting of all were the lizards. They sunned themselves on the stone walls and swished into the grass or flashed into the cracks the second they heard Emil or his family walk by.


If you knew Emil, you’d know he is a determined and patient little boy. So when he decided that he wanted to catch a lizard, he set out to do just that. He crept quietly around the grounds of the house, inspecting the walls and watching where those lightning fast lizards darted off to.

After several days of tracking, one afternoon Emil came running to his mom excitedly whispering, ”Mama! I found a lizard and I saw where it went! It’s still there and I can catch it! Do you want to see?” Of course his mom wanted to see! She’s deathly afraid of things with eight or more legs, but lizards only have four so it was totally okay. Emil ran ahead to the corner of a low stone wall. There was a small hole underneath, with large loose rock partially covering the opening. He was too excited to wait for his mom (she was walking quite slowly anyway) and plunged his little hand into hole.

”Ow!!! ow!!!” shouted little Emil, and jumped back several feet. ”It bit me!” Two fat tears of shock and surprise rolled down his crestfallen little face. ”What?” said his mom, ”What kind of lizard BITES?” By now the rest of the family had gathered around. There are many nurses in Emil’s family, and just as many brave dads. Sure enough, there were two small scrapes on his fourth finger on the right. The nurses rinsed and washed and bandaged, and the dads went to examine what this creature was that would bite a little boy.

That creature, it turned out, had a tail like a lizard but no legs at all. Coiled up in his hiding hole was a very frightened snake. Our courageous little hero had tried to wrangle a snake!

Snakes, as you know, are mostly harmless little guys just trying to get by, but there are a few that are poisonous. Who knows about poisonous snakes in Italy? Google. Google knows. Some of the grown ups googled, and some of the grown ups decided to try to catch this snake so they could see if it was dangerous or not.

Emil’s dad was also very brave (perhaps that’s where Emil gets it from?) and took a barbecue tongs and reached right into that little snake cave and pulled that little snake out. Except it wasn’t a little snake. It was a very long, very grown up snake. A rather frightened snake that did NOT want to be contained in a bucket. But the bucket had a lid, so the snake had no choice.

But back to Emil and his bitten finger.

What do you do when a Norwegian boy is bitten by an Italian snake? Google told the moms and dads and grandparents about a couple of poisonous (though rare) snakes that live in Tuscany. A grown up called the lady who owns the house and told her the story, and that kind lady (who is also a mom to little curious little boys) decided to call the hospital and talk to a doctor. And the hospital decided that they should take a look at Emil’s finger, and the best way for him to get to hospital without getting lost was to pick him up in an ambulance. (!)

By now Emil’s two fat tears had dried up, and his finger was still exactly the same size and color it was before being hit with snake teeth, so his mom and the other nurses were pretty sure he was going to be okay. The ambulance came anyway, and they heard the siren for at least 5 minutes as it drove up the swithcback road to get to the house on the top of the hill.

The ambulance team was very nice, and wanted to see the snake. The snake tried to get out of its trash can prison when the lid was lifted, which surprised/totally freaked out the ambulance driver who then whacked its head off with a stick.

Definitely the most traumatic moment of the entire ordeal, and moms and dads danced around questions of ‘what happened to the snake? Is it okay?’ for the rest of the night.

Our little hero and his dad ride down the hill in the ambulance, watch football in an Italian hospital, and arrive back to the house on the hill later that evening. While they were gone and the other two brothers were sleeping or playing, Emil’s mom sat by the swimming pool completely alone in peace and quiet for the first time since they arrived in Italy. She didn’t wish at all that her little boy had to have such a crazy afternoon… but all’s well that ends well…and poolside quiet time is never undervalued.

The end.





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