Archive for the ‘expecting the unexpected’ Category

When I reach the melt-down point boiling point with one of the kids — and one in particular — my brain starts to spin out of control. My body starts to fall into itself, the physical crash after an adrenaline rush, but my soul — because I don’t know what else it could be — swirls around like a tornado faster and faster

anger fear frustration inadequacy powerlessness

whipping around, rising

Until it stops. If I am still long enough, the emotions are stopped by that ever useful boiling-blood – brain barrier. The cyclone that tried to blast out through my arms and legs and mouth is contained in my head.

why how what why why why where have i failed?

Then my brain flings out frantic search beams into the cloud of memories, anecdotes, stories, books, advice, hearsay, logic, illogic; begging these diverse bits of information and theory to fall into some kind of semblance of direction.

It doesn’t. They don’t. I still don’t know what to do, and am too tired to search. But the whole hot mess subsides and I start to breathe again. Nothing is resolved, but we have survived another crash. We have made it one step further. We recover. I gather my strength. I know that whirlwind of negative emotions is indeed my soul, the core of my being, because there is neverending love at the collective root.

And it hits me that this whole wavelike thing feels familiar. I’ve done this before. This is labor. This is giving birth. This is maintaining and pushing through the peaks of pain of frustration. This is gathering strength in the moments between contractions. This is knowing that they are going to keep coming,

the contractions are going to keep coming,

until they stop.

They started when he was ready to leave the safe space of my womb, and they stopped when he achieved it.

Pain and doubt and anger and fear are then literally flooded out by love and pride. I can still feel the rush of that flood through my veins.

I can do this. I have to do this. No one else can do this. Each contraction pushed him farther from my womb, into my arms, always in my heart.

Where are these contractions pushing him?

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So these conversations happened today:

#1 (Me, three boys, and the kitten sitting in a ring on the rug around a bucket of LEGOs)

Me: So, Karel, I hear that you’re starting to sound like me lately. I mean, yelling at Emil to stop doing things. I’m going to try to stop shouting. Because here’s the thing: it never works.

(Thought but not verbalized: UNLESS you have the element of surprise on your side, in which case it DOES work.)


#2: (In the car on the way home from little-kid-gymnastics, with all three kids, during which the middle child was a screaming hyper nightmare blatantly doing the opposite of all I asked, including but not limited too: running away from me while laughing like a hyena and exerting that maddening magnetic pull he has on his younger brother.)

Karel: Mama, I was wondering if you could do something.

Me: What, honey? (just lightly tinged with dread, hopefully unnoticeable)

Karel: Well, I was wondering if you could be a little more like me. Like maybe not being so angry at Emil and scaring him by saying you are going to leave him.

Me (sighing at the sweet injustice of being lectured on parenting by a 7-year-old) I know sweetie. I don’t like to get angry. I don’t want to scare Emil. I would never leave you behind. But you are seven and Emil is five, and you know what the right thing to do is… etc. etc….listen to your parents… keeping you safe… What AM I Supposed To Do?? when Emil runs away? I can’t leave Cai Ruben, because he’s only two. He could run off and I wouldn’t be able to find him…

Karel: Because he’s so small.

Me: Yes. (And because he is a lightning fast fearless maniac). So sometimes I just have to walk away to show you (ahem) the right way to go.

It’s so frustrating.

Karel: Oh Mama. I understand.

My boys are highly distractable, highly independent, incredibly difficult to motivate unless it’s something they themselves want (read: practically unbribeable), and are deaf to all sounds in parental-voice decibel range.

BUT it seems, friends, that if nothing else we at least have an empathetic listener on our hands . If only you could have heard the tone with that ”I understand, Mama. I really do.” Seven going on seventy.

Please excuse me while I finish my scotch.

p.s. The kitten is a real thing. Also a boy. I would write about it now except I need to eat some ice cream.

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Here are the things I need to remember from the past weeks/months/year before they change:

  • That Emil Birk says ”godteri” instead of ”batteri” (that’s candy instead of battery) and ”bandasje” instead of ”massasje” (which is bandage for massage). This leads to very sweet sentences about the toy train needing more candy and asking me to bandage his back at bedtime
  • That my oldest son has calmed my anxious mothering spirit. We were sitting at the table talking together after Bjørn had come back from a business trip of several days. It had been a rather loud and fractious several days for those of us at home. So I said as much — ”This time when Pappa was gone wasn’t so greit (okay)” Karel: ”Really? I thought it was greit.”  (eyebrows raised) Kim: ”Well, Mama was pretty crabby.” Which was true. And maybe an understatment. Karel, dismissively: ”Yeah, but moms are just like that sometimes.” A simple statement, but it felt like absolution.
  • That Cai joins in the morning franticness of getting out the door by diving in and pulling out his boots from the massive pile of footwear in the entryway to try to get himself ready, but then reaches both arms up with an urgent ”Uh! Uh!” for goodbye hugs to the departing when I tell him he’s not going with today.
  • That Emil and Karel MUST hug before Karel goes to school even if they’d been antagonizing each other seconds before.
  • That Emil plans what he’s going to make with Perler beads at barnehage the night before. It’s his new obsession. I love it and am very happy to keep it a barnehage-only activity.
  • That Cai Ruben, almost 20 months, does stunts like this: 

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I’m projecting right now. Projecting to 15 years or so down the road. I’m assuming all of my boys will be potty-trained by them, but motherhood by necessity fosters delusions, so we’ll see.

Anyway, in my projection, Christmas-time 15 years from now, my boys are healthy and content, secure and gracious. They are funny, helpers, teachers, ruckus-makers, and forgivers. Our mealtimes are noisy, but everyone remembers to sit on their bottoms and keep their feet off the table. In my projection, I haven’t screwed them up too much, and there is still a glimmer of the complete trust that fills their eyes now.

Why do we project, class? As a verb, not a noun?

To remind ourselves of the goal when the way there starts to become overgrown.

To clear our brains and refocus.

Last but not least, we project when the here-and-now looks pretty much nothing like the goal.


Don’t get me wrong — I love the here and now. I don’t get the ”it goes so fast” comment so often, but I did this week on the plane. It doesn’t irritate me, that comment. I know this stage is going to go by fast. It IS going by fast. I like the chaos. I’m probably going to be sad when my ‘normal’ no longer includes a dinosaur head on our bedroom floor and the toilet paper roll on the 3rd step. Who doesn’t want a tiger in boots the size of a 5-year-old waving goodbye at the airport? The visual lunacy of a house  with small kids is what gets me through the day. I should probably start taking photos and then compile them for a coffee table book to browse through when our coffee table is no longer a race track or a lego building site or a boat or a hiding space. Maybe life is going to be too easy when no one takes 10 seconds too long to finish their snack and now the baby is awake and the phone rings and shouts of ”Mammmmaaaaa can you wipe me??” coincide with tired hungry 3 year old screams. What’s the fun in cooking when I won’t have to clean up the milk in the fridge that I spilled (saved in a cup from this morning’s breakfast when it was demanded but not drunk) and then half the beaten eggs off the floor, tipped out of the bowl by an eager helper? How much weight will I gain when I actually sit and eat the sandwich I started to make instead of being sidetracked by the dirty dishes? But if I have the time to eat the sandwich, maybe there won’t be so many crazy searches for chocolate throughout the course of the day. Huh.

How will we cope with all the sleep we’re going to get when there are not two small rocket ships richoceting around the bedroom, saying things like ”Noooo this rocket ship can’t land!!” How much more t.v. am I going to have to watch when the live entertainment moves out?

What will drive me to prayer like the attention seeking statements, or the complete lack of statements, or the midnight crying and congested nose? Please, God, help me know how to help them. When do I wait-and-see? When do I act now?

One day at a time, not counting on the promise of tomorrow…but really really hoping for it.

Ummm, speaking of tomorrows… if anyone is tempted by the wildly entertaining, inventive redecorators that live here, we’re game for a barter. For the small cost of a couple of hours of sleep, you too could have a dinosaur head on your bedroom floor. Just think about it.

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Recently I’ve been lamenting/bewildered by the boys’ complete CRAZINESS and total lack of manners when we’re out. Honestly, the way they’ve been behaving when we’re guests makes it look like they’ve been trained to sit on (not at) the table, eating with one hand and reaching for the farthest possible item with the other, with food bits dropping from their gaping, talking mouths.


After a couple of (failed) rounds of hissed instructions I just give up and accept the judgement.

This morning, however, I felt a glimmer of hope as I was standing with Karel in the bathroom, he on the step-stool facing the mirror and I behind him.

K: ”Mama, can you please move to the side?”

me: ”Okay…” (well, THAT was nice asking! yay!)

PPPPPPFFFFFFFFFffffffffttttttttttt. (That, friends, is the phonetic spelling of a grown up sized fart.)

K: ”I had to gas.”

me: ”Did you ask me to move out of the way so you wouldn’t gas on me?”

K: ”Yeah.”

me: pause. ”Thank you.”


Happy Friday, yo.





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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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My weakness has been exposed, and I fear for the future of our family.

Yesterday at 3 p.m. all was normal… I might even go so far as to say it was calm. Both boys were sleeping after a busy morning/afternoon. I was getting a head start on dinner preparation, and planning on finally putting together the apple crisp I’d sliced apples for 3 days ago.

At 5 p.m. we suddenly had a dog. Didn’t really see that coming, to be honest.

As it turns out, a colleague of Bjørn’s was in a tight spot. His son, the owner of 3 dogs, was badly injured and hospitalized in an accident over the weekend. Due to a number of circumstances, they had no place for one of the dogs — a 3 month old puppy — to stay. My compassionate husband, wanting to help in some way, said he’d talk to his wife and that maybe we could take the puppy for a while.

His wife left her phone in the car, so had no idea what was happening when a serious looking man who said he was a colleague of her husband showed up unexpectedly at the doorstep. A man who looked more and more worried as the wife answered ”no” each time he asked if her husband had spoken to her. I was just starting to brace myself for some very bad news when he began to explain the situation.

Long story short, we agreed to keep the puppy until a new owner is found. At which point the puppy was carried from the car up to our living room. At which point I laughed harder than I have for some time. I realize that ”puppy” refers to age, not size, and that after hearing the heritage of the parents (boxer-pit bull, labrador-akita) I should have been prepared…But this is a big puppy. This ”puppy” is bigger than any or all of the dogs we had growing up.

Anyway, night one and day one have gone well. He sleeps through the night. He pees on the floor no more than my other kids do… possibly even less. He puts no more things-that-need-to-be-retrieved in his mouth than my other children (although he did consume part of a lemming carcass. That was gross.) He is friendly and sweet and sits on my lap if I’m on the floor. (Which prompted Emil to try to squeeze on, too). Like Emil, he is interested in the dishwasher; UNLIKE Emil, he lays quietly in the kitchen while I wash dishes. I was contemplating how lovely this was when he then laid his head down, just barely resting on my foot.

Years of anti-pet resolve were just rendered useless.

My maternal instincts are so active right now, due to this sweet (huge) orphan puppy, that I had a very vivid dream last night that I gave birth to our 3rd son. Blue eyes, name Sigmund. (Don’t ask, because I don’t know.) I also found myself feeling like I needed to be singing to this dog as he laid so patiently and quietly in the kitchen as I worked. Everytime he pees in the yard I say, ”Good job!! That feels better, doesn’t it?” or something to that effect. Yes, all 40 pounds of him need to carried up and down the stairs because he’s afraid of them; BUT  — does he complain when I close the door to his ‘room’ (our entryway), engaging my tired brain in the ”should I let him cry it out?” debate? No. He chews on his stick and goes to sleep.

Dream baby. That’s all I’m going to say.

(As I sat down to write this tribute to the dream baby dog, I heard the liquid tinkle of dream baby dog’s pee hitting the floor. There’s a little bit less bloom on the rose, but at least I had the foresight to move the rug.)

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