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Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

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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Oneweekoneweekoneweekoneweeksevendays!!!!Aghhh!

Somehow it’s gotten to be June and somehow my baby has actually grown out of newborn clothes and somehow we are going to gather all of us together onto a plane and fly to ”Amerika,” as my kids say.

I am not panicking.

We made it through a chicken pox scare at barnehage (two kids down in Emilian’s room) and a hearing-impairing viral ear thing with Karel (went to the doctor just in case). My focus and worry has been so much on keeping the kids healthy that it didn’t occur to me until my own tonsils started swelling that sick parents aren’t really so great to have on a flight either. So yesterday I missed Ann Inger’s birthday celebration (and the ”very, very, VERY, veryvery big white cake” that was served) in order to rest and not perpetuate a throat infection. Luckily for me, Sunday is ER rerun day, so while the baby slept I watched two episodes of ER (the ones where Carter is stabbed and Lucy dies), then and episode and a half of Lost, then a little bit more ER, THEN the beginning of a Swedish baking show before everyone came home. Honestly, it felt like a vacation. My brain was switched off for like four straight hours. It was sad to miss the party, but on the whole a wise choice.

Anyway, back to not panicking.

We are totally stoked to show off our babies to our loved ones in the States. I can hardly believe how big they are, so I’m prepared for the reactions of shock once we see folks we haven’t seen in more than a year. My biggest concern at the moment? Getting Emil Birk through the flight. We’re talking 30 pounds of dynamo, here. If I didn’t know better, I’d think this child was the son of an octopus. Hands. Everywhere. We’ve already started discussing strategy: Man-to-man defense on Emil at all times. He’s in that phase where dumping things out is the ultimate entertainment…. so he will be a nearly 3 year old with a sippy cup on this flight. Slowly conquering our minimalistic tendencies, we’ve ordered kid-size headphones so we can actually make use of the in-flight entertainment. That’s all we’ve got so far. Bjørn is convinced ”do-it-myself Emilian” is going to insist on flying the plane himself. Keep your eyes on the news for that.

My mantra? ”All we have to do is get there. The flight won’t last forever.” That’s kind of long for a mantra, but you get the sentiment.

We still have seven days to refine our strategies. For now I’m washing my tonsils with coffee, just surviving a day at a time.

See you soon!

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Giving mothers a hand

For the family and friends and random people who somehow end up here, I’m sharing links to a couple of organizations that are fighting the good fight, not at home but abroad. These are organizations that are often in my thoughts, and ones that I often wish I could help more.

Here is a link to the African Mother’s Health Initiative, founded by a lovely woman I met in Malawi by the name of Joanne Chiwaula. Well, she was Joanne Jorrissen at the time, but we all find love in Malawi…right, Alicia? 🙂 Anyway, Joanne is a midwife who saw a need and worked to start an organization to fill that need. They are able to fill in the gap between the hospital and home by providing follow-up support and formula for the families of new motherless babes. There are not many other organizations doing this kind of work in the Lilongwe area — or maybe even in the rest of Malawi.

Well, there is maybe one. 🙂 The Central Africa Medical Mission‘s Lutheran Mobile Clinic works hard to fill in gaps, too. The infant formula program for orphaned infants and multiple biths has always been an important part of the clinic. But just like with everything, not always having enough funding keeps the program on and ebb-and-flow kind of routine. Well, and other things. I seem to remember a truck full of formula being stuck at the border for quite some time, which had Alicia and I wondering how much formula we could buy off of grocery store shelves in good conscience. At any rate, while formula distribution is not the primary service the LMC offers, it is an important one.

Christmas is upon us! May the peace and love of the Child shine blaze through the clouds.

Love, Kim

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The disclaimer is that I might not actually get to all of those topics because I’m setting a time limit here, but if I had all day these are the topics that I think deserve coverage and that I’d want to share with the beloved friends and family who read this.

So, ”three seasons in a month” isn’t really anthing new to a Midwesterner, but our recent experience of back and forth weather messes with my head enough that I think it bears some recognition.

Season one: Winter. This was the status when we left Norway on the 5th of April. We really thought spring was coming — the tulips I finally got around to planting were poking up, the grass was starting to green, I thought about putting our boots away…

Luckily, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that spring likes to cry wolf, so you don’t really put the boots away untilJune. The first week of April brought a couple of feet of snow. No joke. It was crazy. I thought all of Trøndelag would be rejoicing in the new snow just in time for the skiing Easter holiday, which just goes to show how little I know about skiing. Turns out you can’t really ski on soft new snow that hasn’t had a chance to be packed down properly.

However, on the 5th of April, we stowed our down coats in the car and stepped into the airport, preparing to fly our way into season two:

Summer. It’s a rare April in Wisconsin that has one thinking about sunscreen, but that was indeed what we had. We would have had a wonderful time anyway, surrounded as we were with family and friends, but being able to play outside and take the boys to proper playgrounds almost daily was really a pretty thick layer of icing on the cake. We are so unaccustomed to thinking of temperatures that are frozen-custard-melting in April that, well, we just didn’t think of it. And the frozen custard melted. While friends-to-remain-nameless (Eric Michaelson) laughed.

As I said, the weather was really just a small piece of a great vacation. Celebrating Easter in a flower-packed church, hundreds of voices raised in ”He is risen, indeed!” was a highpoint. All five siblings being home at the same time was a highpoint. Bjørn and I having time to just be together with the kids was a high point. Watching the boys have what really might have been the time of their young lives made that all even sweeter. Karel had no trouble warming up this time around; at 6 a.m. the morning after we arrived (because we were up at 3 due to jetlag) he was asking when Grandma and Grandpa were going to get up. Grandma was totally prepared with enough toys to keep them busy for months, and I don’t think there was ever a time when he couldn’t find someone to read for him. Emil busted out the charm and had the crew wrapped around his little finger.

Last year when we came back to visit, leaving was hard. This time it was hard as well, but in addition to being sad, I felt more of an overwhelming gratefulness. How blessed is our little family to be accepted into the hearts and lives of so many others? How blessed am I to have friendships that pick up again, adding a kid here or there, despite years passing and locations changing?

Pretty blessed is the short answer.

When we came back to Steinkjer, thankfully the snow was gone. I really have put away our down jackets, although not until just the last couple of days. There are the occasional flurries early in the morning and still snow in the high areas around us, but I think it’s really Spring now. We’ve got basil, tomatoes, spinach and flowers all sprouting in egg cartons on the window sills, with peas and beans still waiting to be sowed. My friend Heidi just dropped off my very first rhubarb plant; it was actually my excitement about that that prompted this blog post to start with. My days of begging rhubarb off of people are soon to be over. The sun, the shy Norwegian sun, has been out, improving moods immensely.

We’re a ways off from running barefoot in the grass (which Karel wants to do now that we can actually see the grass), but I think we’ve got a few winter-free months ahead of us.

Love to all — Kim and boys. 🙂

(will post some photos soon! and will come back to the ‘Norwegian’ topic later. Maybe.)

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We did it! We managed to reunite! We met each other’s babies, held them and wiped their noses, drank coffee and wine and maybe even a little bit of vodka, took turns watching busy boys so child-free shopping could occur….laughed, cried, and I, for one, did a number of happy food dances. All as it should be.  New York, New York — the city where all is possible.

Stephanie, Alicia, and I met while working/living in Malawi. One of those things that feels like another life and yesterday at the same time. Now, between us we have 4 kids that were born in 3 different countries. I might even venture to say we represent the very different paths educated women can take during their child-bearing years. Before, our common ground was a shared faith in a dusty, colorful, land of hope and heartbreak. I don’t know fully what all of our experiences in Malawi were preparing us for, but it has just occurred to me that the stretching of our hearts in southern Africa made a whole lot of room for our growing families to fit in. Now, in addition to an affinity for good food and bright colors, our common ground has something to do with the joy and frustration of raising little boys; and the love-shiny faces that we each wore when talking about them and their daddies.

Given we were 4 adults and 3 kids (ages 4 months, 14 months, and almost 3) sharing an apartment when the numbers were at their lowest — 6 adults and 3 kids at their highest — the kid craziness I imagined didn’t ever really happen (or have I forgotten already?). Aaron was fantastic about sharing his toys and letting Emil follow him around. Emil is used to big brothers, so is already trained to touch things gently then quickly look around to see what the repercussions might be. And Silas just cooed and laughed and charmed us all, bigger boys included. (Although Emil was going through a throwing phase while we were there, causing me to hover in protection over Silas’s little head whenever E came over to ”chat”). Alicia is my new baby-bjørn wearing hero — I attribute your past as a swimmer to developing your shoulder and upper back muscles in preparation for baby wearing.

This was my first time in New York City. Impressions? Everything smelled SO GOOD! Dozens of different food smells within as many or less blocks. Bliss to my nose. And the buildings — It reminded me a bit of the first few times I went to the ocean. After seeing it, you understand why people who grew up near it couldn’t ever really leave. The sheer size of the buildings, let alone their architectural beauty, gave you the sense you were walking along doing your normal tasks in the midst of grandeur. 

Is this post getting to be a bit country-mouse-in-the-city? Kinda how it felt.

Just two more things: 1) People were so nice. We were travelling along in a group of strollers and babies and obvious tourists, and people were so. nice. All the time. Smiled at the kids, gave up train seats, opened doors. A stark contrast to my later experience at the airport in which I, carrying two bags and with a toddler tied to me, was instructed I should carry my stroller down the stairs for it to be taken to the plane. For any that doubt the strength of mothers… Also a bit of a contrast to the culture here in the land of winter, where people are very, very kind and compassionate, but a bit more…stoic, shall we say?, when it comes to general passing-on-the-street-stranger friendliness.

What else can you do when you randomly walk past a shop selling only macaroons? Buy them and eat them. I was rendered speechless by their goodness.

2) The best part about being in the U.S., besides seeing friends and family? Speaking English. I mean, I speak english all the time here, too. But I at least try Norwegian when we’re out and about. It took me a few common interactions to get over that feeling of guilt about speaking english, as I reminded myself that this was actually the language I am supposed to be using. Sweet liguistical freedom. I asked questions of store staff just for the sake of it. Looking stupid in one’s own language somehow feels a lot better.

Emil and I checking out a squirrel at Central Park

So there we have it. A million thanks to Stephanie, Joaquin, and Aaron for their incredible hospitality; to Alicia and Silas for making the trip; to Mom, Mandy, and Michael for always being willing to meet me wherever in the world/country I am. Love to all!

Bjørn and Karel survived quite well on their own….with the help of aunts, uncles, friends, Mola, and neighbors. Nice to know the village comes out when Mama is gone. 🙂 And if absence hasn’t made Karel’s heart fonder, it’s at least more vocal: I now have a 3 year old who tells me he loves me almost every day. 🙂

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If you thought that I wouldn’t continue the trip summary, you were almost right. But stubborness prevails…

After spending our first days together in Oslo, we boarded a bus to take us to train to get us to Arendal, home of Bjørn’s dad Ivar and his wife, Lil Torunn. Lars joined us again at this point, for which we were very grateful. Turns out we had a lot of luggage. At any rate, the trip went smoothly, despite a rather rushed start (we split into two groups…my group may or may not have gotten distracted by some clothing sales) and nearly missing our connecting train. (Fortunately, I interrupted Lars and Bjørn in the middle of a deep conversation — about football — while checking on Karel, just to be reminded that we did indeed need to switch trains at some point. My heart sank at the thought of shifting all that luggage AGAIN, but despair soon turned to quiet and efficient…rage, for lack of a better word, when with a quick look at a watch I was informed that transfer would happen in 2 minutes. Otherwise known as 120 seconds. We did make it, and only left one bag behind…. which was, of course, my mom’s purse containing the passports. (insert eye roll) )

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Just to clarify: The absence until now of a post about my parents’ and Chris’s visit with us does not imply in any way that it was an un-blog-worthy event. It might be categorized as borderline un-blog-able, though, just because there’s too much to say about it. Conciseness has never really been a strength of mine. Hightlighting just key moments of a visit require a lot of concentration: when just about every minute of something seems important, it’s almost painful to pare it down….but just as painful to write every detail. The problem here is that while ”conciseness” is not a strength, ”attention-span” isn’t really either. Which is why Bjørn and I were going to write these updates together, and in a more real-time fashion. Too bad such great ideas never make it to reality. Sigh.

So as the lesser of two evils, we will attempt to highlight and concize. (that’s ”concise” as a verb, folks.)

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