Word search

I’m searching for a word…

… one word that seems to elude me…

… one word that is somehow capable of encompassing gratitude, humility and an overwhelming feeling of both astonishment and being blessed…

Whatever that word is, that’s what this post is about.

As almost everyone on the planet knows, this project has almost entirely consumed the Svendsen household since the beginning of July. It’s required previously unimaginable hours of my own time, and it is by far the most exciting project I have ever lent my professional time towards.

However, the project was not mine alone. Besides the 62,642 people directly involved, there exist many more who have lived & breathed it from the shadows. This project, and its success, also belongs to the innumerable friends, family and loved ones who stepped up and helped my family manage the chaotic intersection of business timelines and household responsibilities.

This post, this word, whatever it is,… is for you.

To my mother and father, who allowed a three-year old to set their house on end and forced their dogs into hiding for an entire month, who made sure a sandwich and/or glass of wine were never far from reach, and who taught me in the first place to work hard for what you love….

Word.

To my mother-in-law, aunt and uncle, who traveled from Norway to Istanbul to take on said three-year-old in his natural environment, who offered to spend their holidays in my home, and who invested heavily and willingly into the Turkish wine industry…

Word.

To my friend and female soulmate Katy May, who selflessly lent her various homes and wi-fi connections to my insanity, who spent her airline miles and vacation time on my account, and who took on Google’s incomprehensible customer service desk when I was near tears…

Word.

To my friends Robert & Neda, who sacrificed our long-planned Italian holiday to a cooler on wheels…

Word.

To my former classmates and colleagues who provided advice and referrals over the past two months, and to every friend who liked, shared and promoted this project throughout the internet stratosphere….

Word.

To my entire project team scattered across the world who managed to respond personally to over 20,000 comments, inquiries and criticisms, who provided structure when there wasn’t any and who even now continue to invest time and energy into this project…

Word.

And, of course, to Per, who allowed me to leap without fearing the landing, who is my never-faltering cheerleader in all things, and who has now learned enough about coolers to last a lifetime….

Word multiplied by 1,000.

I’m increasingly a believer in the “you-can-have-it-all” mentality, but I’m also rapidly learning that no one can do it alone.

Word, folks.

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Christmas toothbrushes

Holidays spent abroad are always a mixed bag. Sometimes you get lucky, and you find yourself surrounded by a great group of entrepreneurial-minded friends who manage to make pumpkin pie from scratch. Other times, you find yourself in a new apartment with no furniture, no lights and no idea how to oh-so-politely inquire, “Where the *&(#$!* is my internet line?!” in Turkish.

We Svendsens somewhat unwillingly selected the latter option for Christmas 2013. Per tried to make the best of it by saying we’re having a “camping-style” Christmas, which actually sounds quite cozy and romantic in its own sad little way. Of course, anyone who actually knows my Proscesso-adoring husband knows that camping is the least likely activity for him to pursue ever, anywhere….. but still, his intentions were good.

As for me, I was so depressed on Christmas Eve at the sad state of our cheaply-purchased Charlie Brown tree with no legs and plastic needles disintegrating every second, that I very nearly canceled Christmas.

And then a funny thing happened… It all actually turned out okay.

For beginners, the sun set and the tree (similar to a coyote-inspiring hook-up) didn’t look so bad in the dark.

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Per taped the tree’s legs together and hid the worst of its flaws with well-positioned twinkling lights. I must give credit where it’s due – a Christmas miracle was performed on that tree.

We covered our borrowed hotel dining table with red and green wrapping paper to imitate a festive tablecloth.

We lit candles in the room and the windows and played classic Christmas songs on our cell phones.

Per managed to open a bottle of wine with the back end of his toothbrush.

Our new Turkish neighbors, who hardly even know us, stopped by with a lamp. And then a television. And then a television stand. I remained in the kitchen, cooking and marveling at the wondrous nature of Turkish hospitality.

We got to speak with two sets of grandparents, who both have equally charming/disastrous stories of holidays spent eating off the floor of empty apartments in years gone by.

photo (1)

Our young, mischievous toddler learned the unrealized potential of the phrase “Christmas presents!” (a skill that, I fear, will not be unlearned for quite some time).

Per opened many, many more bottles of wine with the back end of his toothbrush.

We roasted a chicken and vegetables and potatoes and had lots of fresh fruits and salads and even some “pepperkake” (gingerbread cookies) we miraculously found in a nearby shop.

And we exchanged gifts just as we would anywhere else, and we experienced the same sense of satisfaction as parents everywhere when our kid was more mesmerized with the boxes and the wrapping paper than the actual contents.

In the end, it all turned out okay. We missed our family dearly and still at times had to ward off some depressing thoughts about being alone this holiday season. But, as it turns out, this Svendsen family actually does know a bit about camping.

Just as long as there’s a toothbrush around….

Happy 2014 to all our P&P readers!

Moving day: Tips and tricks to survive the chaos

Let’s be honest – this isn’t our first run around the rodeo.

As I posted here almost exactly two years ago, moving is always a mix of emotions. On the one hand, you have the excitement of something new around the corner. On the other hand, you have the total fear and utter uncertainty of something new around the corner.

Same experience, different hands.

We get a bit smarter with each move. We pack less ourselves (and by “we” I mean, obviously, “me“) and we leave more to the paid professionals. We ask the right questions, we get the right documents and we pay for it without a second thought (and by “we” I mean, obviously, “not me“). There are few things in this world that I research more than moving companies, and trust me when I tell you it’s time well-spent.

Leading up to the day itself, I get rid of loooooooads of stuff. Anything I don’t absolutely love gets donated, delivered or dumped. All those quick-fix items around the house that stuck around out of sheer apathy? Gone. All those half-empty bottles of shampoo that were bought and then not used? Gone. All those sexy skirts and jeans that linger in the closet with pre-mommy hopefulness? Gone.

And all those half-eaten cartons of ice cream in the freezer…

Oh, wait. Nope, those get eaten. Duh.

I keep one file folder with original documents like birth and marriage certificates in my suitcase while the rest gets shipped. I keep scanned documents and files on a flash drive or in my Google Drive account, just in case they’re needed before our shipment arrives.

My goal before the moving company pulls up outside is just to get everything in the right room, in the general vicinity of where it ideally belongs. So then, when everything gets packed, it ends up in approximately the right box for unpacking. Laundry is tricky – I woke up my husband at 6am this morning so I could wash the sheets before the movers arrived. But he was really understanding and quite happy to be of assistance (and by “happy” I mean, obviously, “very, very grumpy“).

On moving day, I pamper the packers with coffee and food and lots and lots of fresh water. I don’t hover, but I stick around in case there are questions. Beers afterwards are always offered, but rarely accepted. Such treatment isn’t required, of course, but I like to believe that well-fed, relaxed packers help ensure my sh*t won’t stink at the next destination.

And then, finally, when all is done, dusted and loaded, I look around at the house where my son took his first steps and shed a few tears. We pay homage to the home that housed us for the past two years, that absorbed our nicks and knacks and scratches and scrapes. I always, always get nostalgic at the point when I see our former home, stripped of all its trimmings, an empty stranger to me once again.

It’s said that “home is where the heart is.” But does that mean you leave a little piece of your heart behind in each home you inhabit? In 20 years and 10 houses from now, will we have any pieces of our heart remaining? Or will they all be left behind and scattered around the globe, I wonder.

Thank you, dear Calle Nayra 83, for all your sunny days and breezy nights, for your large terrace that hosted our BBQ’s and birthday parties and our first-ever Christmas dinner. Thank you for your rooms where our guests have slept and for your close proximity to the wine bottle recycling station. The only thing I won’t miss is your tiny dishwasher that never allowed enough space for all our champagne glasses, and that ain’t really so bad…

Sometimes

Sometimes, I think we really, really are crazy.

I mean, seriously…. who gives up this kind of life?!?!?

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This is not a holiday picture.

It’s not even unique – just another normal Svendsen day in the Svendsen land of Gran Canaria.

Then again, sometimes I think it’s really, really time to get this kid out of here….

CIMG3141

Istanbul, here we come… 15 days and counting!

Summer in Seville

The Svendsen clan was lucky enough to actually get away for a real summer holiday this year, something we haven’t done since Per Christian was three months old and we went to Greece for 10 days. That was a hell of a trip, to say the least – a real introduction to how our holidays would NEVER be the same again.

This year, I was insistent upon visiting “The Mainland,” believing in my heart of hearts that living in resort-dominated Gran Canaria was not the same as seeing Spain. So we joined forces with some good friends who have a son relatively equal in age and energy to our own, and we rented this villa together in the Ronda mountains of southern Spain for a week.

Pappa P and I spent a few days in Seville with Per Christian before we drove south, which suitably heightened my itch for a return to urbane life ASAP. Seville is a lovely city, complete with an ancient, cobble-stoned pedestrian area, a lively city centre with plenty of shopping, and oodles and oodles of tapas bars to quench our boredom with Canarian papas con mojo.

In typical Svendsen fashion, we were hopelessly lame tourists and took zero photographs in Seville. Forgive me, grandmothers. I’m afraid Per and I have never been good at the whole castle/museum/cathedral shin-dig, preferring instead to spend our time mindlessly wandering the streets in between stops for tapas and cava.

And how about Per Christian, you ask? How did we manage with a two-year-old in the midst of all this cava? Somewhat surprisingly, it was just fine! He walked around with us, slept when he was tired, charmed the waitresses into giving us better service, and pointed out all the buses, cars, taxis and horses along the way – just in case we didn’t happen to see them ourselves. I think his favorite part was the hotel room itself (thank you El Rey Moro hotel for the lovely service and babysitter arrangements) and he adored the TV channel that played Top Gear on continuous repeat.

Truth be told, Pappa P and his son were equally pleased with that little discovery.

So, unfortunately, we have very few photos of the holiday, but here are the few existing shots to help soothe the hearts of our love-sick Grandmothers out there:

Future career opportunity...?

Future career opportunity…?

Pappa offers the best skyline view

Pappa always offers the best skyline view

Don't be fooled - that cute, little Sivert can really pack a punch!

Don’t be fooled – that sweet little man can really pack a punch!

The boys were delighted with the horses in the mountains

The boys were delighted with the horses in the mountains

See....?! It's the best view!

See….?! It’s the best view!

Two-on-one iPad time. Wine essential.

Two-on-one iPad time. Wine essential.

Listen up, ladies... Handsome pappas = cute babies.

Listen up, ladies… Handsome pappas = cute babies.

I don't know. Really. I just don't know.

I don’t know. Really. I just don’t know.

Upon returning to the island, Per Christian received critical "sharing" lessons from his pappa. We're still working on it...

Upon returning home, Per Christian received critical “sharing” lessons from Pappa. We’re still working on it.

17 Mai, again….

It was the 17th of May yesterday, which means it was time once again for Norwegians everywhere to impersonate an American July 4th celebration. Except with a lot more formal clothes and without all the fireworks, or the tailgating, or the sparklers…. but still fun, yay!

Heia Norge!

Seriously though, this is Per Christian’s third “17 Mai” celebration since he was born – first dressed (somewhat unwillingly) as an intoxicated sailor and last year with no celebration at all besides Cheerios and laundry. But this year he finally was old enough to dress the part and participate in the infamous children’s tog (literally a train, but also a parade).

I’ve been begging Pappa P to show me a 17 Mai tog every year since I first moved to Norway in 2008 – it just seemed like an authentic cultural experience that shouldn’t be missed. But Pappa P, scarred by years of forced tog participation as a child, has always managed to redirect my attention to champagne and brunch instead. Go figure.

So this year we got the full 17 Mai experience – nice clothes, breakfast at the school, the patriotic raising of the Norwegian flag and, yes, finally! The Tog.

And you know what I learned about walking in a 17 Mai parade with my son?

It’s just like going for a walk any other day.

So there’s one thing off my Bucket List. Next year it’s back to champagne.

Happy 17 Mai, everyone!

17 Mai cuteness, Gran Canaria-style

17 Mai cuteness, Gran Canaria-style

Heia Norge!

Heia Norge!

Per Christian's nursery director in her traditional bunad

Per Christian’s nursery director in her traditional bunad

All the Svendsens in one photo - it's a miracle!

The entire Svendsen threesome in one photo – it’s a miracle!

Handsome boys

This is why women everywhere should marry Norwegian men

Mommy and Per Christian

Mommy and Per Christian

Pre-tog chillin' with girlfriend Jamila

Pre-tog chillin’ with girlfriend Jamila

Learning the national anthem with Pappa

Learning the national anthem with Pappa

Is it time for ice cream yet???

Is it time for ice cream yet???

The stroller section of the tog

The stroller section of the tog

Per Christian "walking" in the parade

Per Christian “walking” in the parade (he didn’t last long)

The Norwegians of Gran Canaria all descend on Anfi beach

The Norwegians of Gran Canaria all descend on Anfi beach, 17 May 2013

For the grandmothers

As I wrote about before, my mother gets a little antsy when too much time passes without photos of her grandson. I expect that my mother-in-law feels the same, but she’s too polite to actually say anything.

So for all the grandmothers out there (and the rest of Per Christian’s fan club), here are some highlights from his world recently. He’s about to celebrate his second birthday on Saturday – we wish you could all be here!

Ski holiday in Austria (Farmor was present, Gran missed out...)

Ski holiday in Austria (Farmor was present, Gran missed out…)

Per Christian's recent obsession with coloring (screaming "TEGNE! TEGNE!" was obviously learned at his barnehagen)

Per Christian’s recent obsession with coloring (screaming “TEGNE! TEGNE!” was obviously learned at his Norwegian barnehagen)

Per Christian's #2 obsession - this little mini stroller (girls probably put dolls in their strollers, our sons rolls balls around instead. Go figure.)

Per Christian’s #2 obsession – this little mini stroller (girls probably put dolls in their strollers, our son rolls balls around in his. Go figure.)

Out walking with Pappa

Out walking with Pappa

We asked Pappa for a new puppy, but he said no (which is only moderatly untrue...)

We asked Pappa for a new puppy, but he said no (which is only moderately untrue…)

Finally playing with the IKEA toy seen at every play area ever invented

Finally playing with the one IKEA toy seen at every play area ever invented

Hiking to Roque Noble

Hiking to Roque Noble

My handsome boys

My handsome boys

Chillin' with Pappa

Chillin’ on the terrace with Pappa

This is the one photograph I one with our son actually looking at the camera

I finally own one photograph with my son actually looking at the camera

Time for another haircut!

Time for another haircut!

Enjoying Las Canteras beach in Las Palmas

Enjoying the Las Canteras beach in Las Palmas

Penny for your thoughts....?

Penny for your thoughts….?

Per Christian ran up and down this beach all morning - the boy has running legs of steel!

Per Christian ran up and down this beach all morning – the boy has running legs of steel!

Momma love

Momma love

The uncelebrated milestone

I’ve been a Cold-Hearted Mommy at times.

I’ve seen other mommies tearfully watch their child’s first steps, nostalgic smiles lining their faces and wondering how time passed so quickly.

I, on the other hand, cheered that I no longer had to drag that damn stroller up those damn steps.

I’ve seen other mommies tearfully leaving their little ones at daycare, stifling their mixed feelings of guilt and relief.

I, on the other hand, cheered that I could finally watch Downton Abbey in peace.

I don’t have a baby scrapbook and I don’t have miniature hospital clothes tucked away in a memory chest somewhere. I don’t have adorned photos for each month of his first year, and I don’t remember the precise when, where, or what about his first word.

I’ve approached many of my child’s milestones in typical middle-child “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” fashion, not because I didn’t care, but really just because I didn’t know any better.

But the milestone that really brings tears to my eyes, the one that has me cursing the need of my son to continue to grow – and the one that nobody warned me about! – is the milestone that really, truly and finally has changed my life…

Two-years old = the end of free airplane travel.

So very, very sad, this passing of the free-travel age.

Maybe your little one reached this mark before the airline-mandated age of two, probably when you realized they were too big to sit on your lap without obnoxiously kicking the seat in front of you. Maybe you, like ourselves, stretched the limit as far as possible, employing all possible techniques of seat thievery – we’ve done the aisle-window shuffle plenty of times, hoping that nobody wanted our middle seat and we’d score a spot for free.

But no matter what, when your child turns two, your travel plans get 33% more expensive. All of a sudden, flight tickets for a weekend away are more expensive than the entire house we booked for our summer holidays.

We were never shy about traveling with an infant, as I wrote about here and here and here. We went wherever we wanted and just dragged our baby along. But now, with a full-fare travel companion to pay for, I’m going through a serious case of sticker shock. We’re now grudgingly adjusting our travel plans to be more… ahem… realistic.

And I know it doesn’t just stop here. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg, that there are all kinds of upcoming expenses threatening our Prosecco fund. This is when I realize the universe is still laughing at me. You can take my breasts and my flat stomach and my daily showers and my quiet morning time. You can expose me to a screaming, irrational toddler and smelly diaper changes and mind-numbing hours of Elmo.

But now you’ve taking my airplane tickets. Now I’m pissed.

Fare thee well, weekends in Copenhagen! I’ll miss you, quick little hops to London! I hope we’ll meet again, cozy trips to Oslo for no reason at all! You’ve kept me happy and adventurous for many years, I hope we’ll be reacquainted before too long. Just as soon as we pay off karate classes and music lessons and football tickets and college degrees and weddings and ….. and….. and…

A taste of Tenerife

This past weekend, the Svendsens left town. Just like that – no huff, no puff. We just quietly and simply ske-dattled our way off the island. Pappa Svendsen had a rare and luxurious three-day weekend available, so we booked a hotel, loaded the car and hopped the ferry to Tenerife.

We were not disappointed. I’m not sure if it was just the change of scenery or the much-needed time away as a family, but we loved this place. We stayed away from the southern beach resort area (that scene is too close to home), and stayed instead at the lovely Hotel Botanico in northern Puerto de la Cruz.

My first impression was, “Wow! Green! Greengreengreen!” After months on our own dry, parched island, the presence of green grass and green trees and green gardens was a sight for sore eyes. As soon as we drove off the ferry, the highway took us up above the cloud line and along the coast towards Puerto de la Cruz. When we arrived at the hotel, Per Christian was let loose to explore the suite while we sipped our Cava on the terrace with this view:

I know I’m like a broken record here, but…. “Hurrah for green!”

We had no plans other than to just relax and spend time together – Per Christian, on the other hand, had all kinds of plans of his own. And they all included ditching Mommy & Pappa at every possible moment and exploring every nook and cranny within reach. If there was any baby pooch still left on my body, it’s definitely disappeared since Per Christian discovered his walking legs. No longer is he content to sit on the floor and play or sit at the table and eat – heeeeeellll no! Now it’s all walking, all the time.

Finally, though, we did manage to get our hands on the little bugger and keep him close:

Traveling with a small baby has taught us (at least) one very important life lesson – never underestimate the power of a baby monitor! This little apparatus and it’s companion iPhone application allowed us to enjoy a long leisurely lunch by the pool while PC napped in the room, plus we managed a full three-course meal at the hotel restaurant in the evening. We did get a babysitter on Saturday night so we could actually leave the hotel and have a date night in town, but for any other time, we can’t recommend enough the value of a good baby monitor.

Before heading back to Canaria, we had to check out the famous Mount Teide, the largest mountain in Spain at 3718m. These photos don’t do it a bit of justice, but they’re the best I could manage from the car window. Heaven forbid we actually stop the car and disrupt somebody’s nap (and our quiet time)!

All in all, I highly recommend including Tenerife in anyone’s plans for the Canary Islands. We only had three days and didn’t want to stress out with too many activities, but I’m sure we could have easily spent a week there and found plenty to do. As long as there’s a good deal of walking space available for our little guy, then everyone’s happy!

Just like Pappa

I seem to remember something from high school psychology class about an Oedipus complex among young boys – how they’re subconsciously in love with their mothers and therefore jealous and vengeful towards their fathers.

My son, apparently, has skipped that lesson. I wrote here about how Per Christian loves his morning bathroom time with Pappa. More recently, he’s started waving bye-bye and giving kisses to Pappa as he leaves the house every morning (kisses are apparently exclusively reserved for Pappa – Mommy gets no such lovin’).

And now, here’s the latest Pappa-pantomine to come into our little one’s head…..

Even more impressive is how Per Christian’s already following Pappa’s lead about where to put the underwear when he’s finished with it…

(NOTE – my husband does actually place his underwear in the laundry basket on a daily basis. But someone’s mischievous little hands have recently started pulling clothes OUT of the basket and spreading them around the house for Mommy to pick up again. Is the father or son to blame here….? You be the judge.)