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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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I had no idea how profoundly motherhood would change my interpretation of the world.

I can look back and pinpoint each perception shift. As a young nurse: collecting and assimilating individual bits of data into a comprehensive whole. As an aid worker: breaking down the comprehensive whole into its individual parts. As a well cared for, well supported, economically stable young woman: realizing for the first time that I could be treated unequally just because of my gender.

But motherhood? Shoot.

About a year after Karel was born, Bjørn and I and some good friends ran a half-marathon. I remember thinking I wished I had a t-shirt saying: ‘You think this is hard? Try birthing a baby.’ I felt stronger than ever. More connected to women throughout the ages. Your vision becomes simultaneously broader and more concentrated. I talk all the time about the constant ticker-line of risk analysis running through my head. (‘how much damage would a fall from that height do? how likely is it that he’s going to fall? How have similar situations turned out? He’s got pretty good balance i mean he’s been hopping on one foot since he was two ohmygoodness i can’t take it ‘GET DOWN FROM THERE!!!”)

Now the motherview manifests itself in ridiculous ways. Most ridiculously in the compulsion to pinch cheeks and smotheringly embrace half-grown men.

For example, one evening before Christmas Bjørn and I were sitting in a bar in Trondheim. Seriously, every time a group of nervous looking 18 year old boys walked into the bar with their button up shirts and huge scarves, I felt my maternal spirit actually leave my body in order to hold their hands and ask them about their lives. What are you really interested in?  I thought-stared at each of them. Besides wondering if you smell okay? Eye roll. Ridiculous, right? Do not even get me started on the young men we know here in Steinkjer, that live continents away from their mothers. Every time they bust out a silly grin my heart melts like it does for naughty toddlers, and in my head these men who have survived the worst of the world suddenly look like 2-year-olds. I want to pinch their stubbly cheeks.

Deep breath. Let’s say it together, now: RIDICULOUS.

I have to remind myself that I’m not nearly as big as I feel. That what I intend as a matronly, bosomy, comforting Greek grandmother hug would probably actually feel like being accosted by a crazy chicken.

But is it so ridiculous, really? Seeing random strangers through their mothers’ eyes? I mean, the effect of sending one’s flesh and blood into the world is fairly profound. For the past year I’ve worked part time at a nursing home. Many of the residents had some degree of dementia. The majority of them are women. When I was new, they’d tell me about their families. Again and again. About their children, how many they had and — before anything else — how many had died. Sixty five years later, the memory of the baby son that couldn’t be saved because the doctor couldn’t get through the snow storm lives strong. Or forty years later, the daughter who died of cancer in her twenties. One woman had two sons, both of whom were alive and well and lived nearby. She’s aphasic, and I’d never understood anything she said, until her grown son came to visit one day. She attached herself to his arm, beamed to everyone around her and said, ‘MOR‘ (Mother), clear as day.

I just about cried.

When it all falls away — all the things we’ve done, seen said, won, lost — the red thread stringing our hearts together in a line, or web, of human connection shines through in its beautiful simplicity. Not a new story. A story intended from the beginning of time, intended with the impression of His image stamped upon us.

 

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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.)

Karel: Yeah… EMIL STOP TAKING MY LEGOS!!!!!

#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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Today I’m 35.

Thirty-five! I had to check with my Mom to hear if that is middle-aged or not. Evidently it’s not. Yet. Getting rougher around the edges with every year… and also accumulating nicer clothing. I suspect the two are related.

Anyway, today the sun was shining, Cai Ruben was the only boy home, and I was the only one sick. So after *our* nap, we spent the afternoon outside.

Honestly, after the past month of revolving door sickdom, having a few moments of walking down the road hand-in-hand with CR (in between the moments he was running towards any available incline) was one of those flashes of perfection God slips us every so often. The bright spots your soul stores up to keep you from hitting rock bottom when things are not so harmonious. The beauty of having made it to this lovely non-middle-age of 35 is knowing that when you get a moment like that, you enjoy it right then and there. I don’t expect it to last. He’s gonna run up someone’s driveway in about 5 seconds. And laugh and run faster when I call him back.

Or like when your four-year-old falls asleep on top of you in a way that is lovely and sweet and flashes you back to when his toes hit your belly button instead of your knees. Just. Enjoy it.  He’s going to wake up and start pounding his brother on the head (WHERE DID HE LEARN THAT??).

Or when our 6 year old knew that I meant it when I said that all I wanted for my birthday was hugs from my boys, and gave them to me all day long. He’s going to air-guitar with a chair  when he’s supposed to be brushing his teeth (no, I don’t have a photo, and no, I can’t describe it any better than that) and ”forget” that we put on pajamas every single night. But before that, for some reason, he’s going to suddenly think he needs to make me a present, and get the scissors and ask for glue and make this:

bilde (8)

which I love so much I can hardly stand it. From the bilingual phonetics to the self-cut hearts, to the scrap of paper is was wrapped up in. My mother-in-law told me I was allowed to cry.

I don’t know how he would react if he knew I pasted this heart-gift all over the internet out of maternal pride. But somehow, despite starting out my 35th year with bouts of sneezing and running eyes. Karel has set the tone for the next 12 months, and I think it’s going to be pretty allright.

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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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Okay — it’s only a couple of weeks late –wait, no 1.5 weeks late, but here are some pictures from Emil Birk’s 4th birthday:

Hahahahaha — just kidding! We didn’t take any pictures!!! Wait that’s a lie — we took one!!! But he wasn’t in it!!!! Hahahahaha….!!!!!!!!!!!

If that’s not the hitting the fast-forward button to a future middle-child-therapy session, I don’t know what is. (insert eye roll)  Sorry Emil. Remember, mama’s love language is food, not photos. I spent weeks planning your cake… which is interesting because right now I canNOT for the life of me remember what it was.

Sigh.

ANYWAY, Emil is a very proud four-year-old. He is in the big-kid room at barnehage, is obsessed with the word poop, has had one accident since he (miraculously) agreed to wear underwear, likes bugs, animals, secrets, and ninja turtles.

That child can push all of my buttons in the amount of time it takes me to pee. He makes me pray out loud while sitting on the toilet. (Are you getting that that happened this morning?) He laughs (literally) in the face of all discipline, but is completely gutted if a big kid he looks up to is angy with him. He hits and throws things at Karel, but somehow not at Cai. His four year old world still has trouble embracing the existance of ”bad guys” in play (E: ”This is a nice thief.” K: ”But he can’t be nice if he’s a thief.” E: ”oh. But he is.” etc. etc. cueing distress and the swooping in of the mama with the solution that if the thief says he’s sorry then he’s nice.)

Emil is not shy. Emil is not small. Emil will chase the neighbor boy out of our yard if he doesn’t want him there. He is a defender of pre-school justice.  As Emil shouted ”Du er dum!!” (”you are silly!”) from the veranda to a random boy riding his bike down the street, I realised that Emil and his big brother put us in the interesting position of being parents to one child who may have a tendency toward being teased, and one who may have a tendency toward being the teaser.

His stubborness is inherited on both sides. Hah! THAT’S where he’s underestimated us. I can out-stubborn him. Push all you want, buddy. I’m still gonna love you.

A tribute to four years with our little man of many names:

eb: sleepy baby with so much hair! :)

eb: sleepy baby with so much hair! 🙂

eb: Six months old, all cheeks.

eb: Six months old, all cheeks.

eb: food enthusiast

eb: food enthusiast

eb: comedian

eb: comedian

eb: 2 years

eb: 2 years

eb: monster trapped in a cage.... just kidding.

eb: monster trapped in a cage…. just kidding.

eb: artist

eb: artist

eb: Selfie!

eb: Selfie!

eb: big brother

eb: big brother

eb: little brother

eb: little brother

eb: Ninja turtle!

eb: Ninja turtle!

eb: proficient baker

eb: proficient baker

eb: FOUR!!!

eb: FOUR!!!

 

Emil, Emil Birk, Emilian, Emiis, Birkelus… still not too big to be our baby. xoxo

 

P.S: I remembered about the cake now! One cake with plums that he picked with our friend Heidi, per his request, generously decorated by the birthday boy himself with sprinkles and M&Ms (or ”emili-ems”, as he — and now we– call them), and surprise spider cupcakes which miraculously turned out like they were supposed to. AND pizza roll ”snails.” We share a foodie heart, me and my Emis, so I think he was pleased. eb review 011

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Did you see this picture on facebook?

spring ice cream 2014

Here’s a quick rundown of the week and the current status of the munchkins:

That kid with the hair in his eyes? That’s Karel. Karel has refused a haircut for the past month, but sometime this weekend there’s gonna be some trimming going on. I can’t take it anymore. Even the hair wax he used to make his hair ”look nice” for church on Easter Sunday didn’t hold it back. His hair also covers his ears, which we have established does not, in fact, impede his hearing.

karel headphones

When we had the standard 5 year-old well-child check, the nurse talked a bit about how this stage of development is kind of a mini-adolescence. Eye-rolling? Check. Blaming of parents for everything/anything not right in the world? Check. Experimentation with power (”I’m bigger, faster, and stronger than you, Emil Birk.”)? Check. And the gun play I managed to avoid for so long has now entered into our home…and trickled down to brother #2. I know it’s normal, I know it’s okay, I know I’m too defensive about it, but I’m not ready for my baby to start knowing that sometimes people hurt each other on purpose, not ready to hand him the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. However –note to self — it turns out that our children are actually individuals in and of themselves, who don’t really care so much when I’M ready for something.

Anyway, Karel finished the first round of swimming lessons and is now starting track and field and his indefatiguable energy is often mentioned when they go ”på tur”/looooooong walks at barnehage. And just like every other big boy, the bravado comes off at bedtime and I get to go back to snuggling him like a toddler.

Emilian Birk, on the other hand, loves a snuggle at bedtime but can’t stand the heat. ”Æ e så VARMT!” / ”I am so WARM!” Last week when it was still cold at night he was in bed, shirtless, and asked me to ‘‘kaldt mæ opp” — to ”cool me up”, which is evidently the opposite of ”warm me up”, with my cold hands.  Emil is the child who runs outside shoeless into the snow. The child who refused to wear socks inside his boots — who actually took off his boots, then his socks, then put the boots back on again — and still has warm feet. He’s coming into that awesome (read: extremely time-consuming minefield laden) age where he has an opinion about what clothes he wears. This morning he needed a shirt that didn’t have anything on it. Nothing. Fortunately I found one, able to finally fulfill a request that thankfully wasn’t physically impossible. Unlike yesterday, when he wanted to stop and have a picnic with a drink of water in the middle of our walk. Found a lovely little picnic spot and sat right down. I didn’t have any water. I  was also unable to magically conjure some up on the spot. This inability to conquer the rules of physics, time, and space is a huge flaw in my ability as a mother, and Honest Toddler blog posts reel through my mind every time I fail. Thank you, Bunmi Laditan, for keeping my head from exploding.

ANYWAY, Emil Birk has started swimming lessons now, he’s started talking again at barnehage, and is in seventh heaven now that it’s spring and the bugs are out. We spent a long time checking out the ecosystem of bark and ants and spiders and moss on a neigborhood tree yesterday (after I managed to distract him from the picnic crisis). He sees the tiniest insects, and rejoices over every single fly that buzzes against the window.

And then there’s Cai Ruben. Whereas Emil Birk thinks he’s a grown up, Cai thinks he’s a big boy. In the last few days he’s learned out to get down from things — the bed, the stairs, the couch, and overturned box — and practices at every opportunity. On our walk yesterday we stopped at a little park nearby and he got to swing for the first time. Little adrenaline junkie that he is, he totally loved it. He also tried to practice his ‘getting down’ skills on the steep enbankment at the edge of the park.

I feel like I’m pretty relaxed as a mom. I mean, the constant risk-analysis calculator is constantly whizzing in my brain, but more often than not the risk isn’t so great and I let them get on with whatever they are doing.* With some exceptions, of course. Emil Birk, despite his constant asking, is not allowed to climb onto the roof. So really, really? is it asking too much for the one year old to stay away from the embankment and the 3 year old to keep his shoes on?

‘Yes’ is the obvious answer to that question.

(Let me just say that yesterday was one of those days I haven’t had for a while (while = week) when I’m shoving chocolate into my face at every opportunity. Managed to hold off on the wine until after Bjørn got home at 7 p.m., so go ahead and applaud my self-control.)

ANYWAY, Cai’s latest cute, non-dangerous trick is playing peek-a-boo with his hands. He covers and ear with one hand and squishes a cheek with the other and says ”BUH!!” It is quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen in my entire life, and he will not do in front of anyone else. So I just keep describing it to people, which is much less cute and probably much more annoying.

klatremus Cai

In other news, we’re working on selling our house. Moving within the same town feels kind of anticlimatic, but we figure normal people do it all the time, so we can too.

 

 

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