Postpartum

My little blog has been unusually quiet of late, I know this.

I could blame my writing void on the hoards of visitors we’ve shuffled through Casa Svendsen this summer, which would be entirely true. Or I could blame it on a case of writer’s block that even mediocre bloggers like myself seem to feel we’re entitled to on occasion. And that would be true as well. Writing is like exercise or sex – the longer you go without it, the easier it becomes to go without it.

But the truth is, quite lamely, that I’ve just been lazy. And maybe a bit down. Down and lazy, that’s me in a nutshell these days.

The entire Svendsen family loves, loves, loves having visitors and friends and laughter all around us. When it’s there, we’re happy. When it’s gone, we’re sad. When it’s there for the entire summer and then suddenly disappears… we’re inconsolable.

It reminds me of my mental state shortly after Per Christian was born. I was completely overwhelmed by the demands of a tiny, little meatloaf and the end of my former everyday life as I knew it to be. I didn’t even know where to begin. I don’t mean to make light of postpartum depression, it’s an evil and scary monster that I wouldn’t want to ever meet again. But it created in me the same empty feeling – the same inability to get off my ass and move – that I’ve been feeling since our house emptied out last week.

The only remedy to de-tox from the high of having so many visitors (and a hubby on vacation!) constantly around is to slowly inch back into my usual routine and schedule of daily life. All the mundane everyday tasks that were pushed aside now have to be dealt with — exercise, finances, meal planning, language studies, writing, entertaining my son myself since there aren’t any kids around anymore.

I start small and add a little bit more each day until I’m back on track with my “usual” life. And then I start enjoying the little moments that I would have missed with so many other people to look after — walking slowly with Per Christian into town for no reason at all (and marvel at how well our former meatloaf is actually walking!), cooking a down home country (but not guest-worthy) meal of spaghetti and meatballs, curling up in bed with my husband and watching old reruns of The West Wing…

So my strategy is working and I’m slowly coming out of my postpartum departure blues to enjoy life on the island once again. But in the meantime, who wants to book their next holiday at Casa Svendsen???? The guest room is open and I hear the management is very accommodating!

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Viva Espana!

Unless you live under or rock (or in the United States), you’re probably aware that Spain just won the 2012 European Championships in football last night. At any other time, this would have been a really exciting time to be living in Spain. We would have danced in the streets and blown our horns and made mayhem until 5am like the rest of our neighbors.

However, with a little one asleep upstairs and still too young to absorb such things, we instead opened the doors wide, cheered on the passers-by and took in all the celebrations from afar.

Casa Svendsen was infused with football mania all weekend long, including little Per Christian chasing his mini football around with his wobbly walking legs, and also his Uncle PFA doning an Italy supporter shirt just to arouse a bit of heckling at the local pub.

Per Christian practicing his ball skills:

He shoots…. he scores….. GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!

We did pay tribute to the sport earlier in the day at the Maspalomas park, a blessed bit of green paradise on our dry, volcanic island.

Such skill! Such focused determination….

Uncle PFA gave his big brother a run for his money on the pitch:

Go Team Svendsen!

Hope everyone had a great weekend — Viva Espana!

The sound of silence

We’ve had guests at Casa Svendsen for the past three weeks, and it’s been maaaah-velous! It’s always a pleasure to have friends and family around in Gran Canaria, and this past visit was no exception. Good times, good weather, good food and (too much…) good wine. Now our guests have sadly departed, and the house is eerily quiet again before the next entourage arrives in July.

I’m too exhausted and lazy to actually post anything of substance today, most likely the result of the torturous “Calima” heat wave we’re trying to survive this week. Besides that,  I’m busy dis-organizing all the things we properly organized and placed away over the past week. The house looked great with everything properly in its own place, but I can’t find a damn thing anywhere. So I’m going back to our happy little land of haphazard organization and will just hope for the best.

In lieu of actual substance, here are a few photos of Per Christian and his recent landmark days of excitement:

Hope everyone is staying cool and dry during these hot summer months!

I’m not sure how this happened…

The Svendsen family has three people in it – two adults and one 14-month old child.

And yet, somehow, this is what our toothbrush container looks like in the bathroom:

And no, we don’t have any visitors at the moment.

It all started innocently enough. I read somewhere that you should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they pop through. So, being an inexperienced mother that blindly follows any and all parenting advice, I went out and bought some brightly-colored mini brushes for my son’s mini teeth.

He hates them. He took one look at them, pushed them violently away from his face, and that was that.

However, as I reported here, Per Christian loves hangin’ in the bathroom with us in the mornings. And he loves Pappa’s adult-sized blue toothbrush. Not Mommy’s pink one, and not the cute mini green ones I bought especially for him. Nope, just Pappa’s plain old blue one. He literally screams and cries out for it anytime he’s even close to our bathroom.

So, being an inexperienced mother that loves a bit of quiet during her bathroom time, I’ve started letting him crawl all over the house with Pappa’s blue toothbrush. Maybe he’s teething and like the texture of that brush, maybe he’s already developed a God complex about his father and wants whatever he has. Maybe he’s just 14 months old and a mystery.

Whatever.

He’s happy, Mommy can pee in peace and now Pappa needs a new toothbrush.

All of which leads me to another CFM moment at Carrefour yesterday, standing in the aisle with hundreds of toothbrushes, trying to buy a new toothbrush for Pappa.

Hmmm… if Per Christian sees Pappa with a new toothbrush, he’ll want that one instead of the blue one. So the new one should look similar to the blue one. But not too similar, because Pappa is color blind and needs something he can tell apart from the blue one being dragged around the house.

And here’s another little mini one with different colors on it – maybe Per Christian will go for that one rather than the green ones I got him earlier. If I just find him the right color or shape or size, he’ll love his own toothbrush and all my feelings of maternal insecurity will be washed away and I will be a Truly Successful Mother…

Seriously folks, I’m soooooo thrilled I got my MBA in order to figure out these life challenges.

The end of the story is that we all have new toothbrushes, but Per Christian still only has eyes for Pappa’s old blue toothbrush. So that stays around for now and our toothbrush container looks like we’re a happy family of seven (although all with perfectly-manicured dentures).

Oh, and that new, brightly-colored mini brush I bought him?

Fogetaboutit, yo….

I fear this means that in 30 years some woman will scream at my son for wearing t-shirts with holes in them and refusing to throw them away, and his response will be that they’re “broken in” and comfortable.

Opening day

There comes a time in every hotelier family’s life when all of a sudden – after weeks or even months of long working hours, late evenings and work-filled weekends – after all that, finally, finally things become very, very good.

(Cue Etta James belting out “At Last”…)

That day for Family Svendsen came June 1st when Pappa Per’s resort in Gran Canaria finally opened its doors and accepted its first guests. Per Christian and I packed our bags and our swim trunks and left the house and all our cares behind. Why yes, we’d love to spend a weekend in this superior oceanfront suite with pool and playground below, thank you very much

One of the perks of marrying someone in the hotel business are weekends away at their hotel. We didn’t even leave our little town of Arguineguin, but it felt like we were on holiday anyway. Breakfast, lunch and dinner all served at your leisure, drinks by the pool or up on the rooftop, someone stopping by to clean your room and empty your diaper trash every morning, endless hours of amusement for active 14-month-olds, jumping from one pool to the next and back again…

And best of all for all us mommies in the audience – a baby monitor that works while you’re sunning by the pool and junior is napping upstairs!!!

Now that’s what I call a holiday.

Below are my rough, completely non-professional photos of the newly-opened Radisson Blu Resort, Gran Canaria. Of course, we’re completely biased in our views since we’re related to the manager and all, but for me and little Per Christian, it was everything we’ve been hoping for – life is good!

Weekend agenda

We do usually try to get out of the house on the weekends. We go for a drive in the mountains, or out to a new place for lunch, or down to the beach for a bit of sun and sand and topless bikini gazing (and it ain’t always pretty, fellas…).

But sometimes, we all prefer to just lounge around the house and read a good book:

Psssst… Hey, Per Christian…. the book is upside down, silly chap!

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

17 Mai, take two

I posted here about last year’s 17th of May holiday in Norway. Per Christian was just over 6 weeks old and was dressed like a drunken sailor. We had a fantastic brunch with a large group of friends in Oslo, and we got to enjoy everyone’s traditional bunad costumes.

One year later, and my-oh-my how things have changed!

Pappa S is at work today – there’s no holiday here in Spain, and especially if you’re opening a hotel in two weeks. I’ve spent the morning in my pajamas, and I have no plans of changing in the near future. Per Christian is movin’ and grovin’ a lot more than he did last year, when he spent the day sleeping on various shoulders and pieces of furniture.

Here are a few more changes I’ve noticed since this day last year:

Our friends’ terrace in Oslo has been replaced by our own terrace in Gran Canaria:

Last year’s sailor hat has been generously donated to a furry little friend:

Our Norwegian brunch has been replaced by an intimate breakfast of fruit and Cheerios:

And a day off from work has been replaced by a day of laundry:

However, despite all these changes, our little sailor has still managed to wear some semi-appropriate Norwegian attire this morning:

Gratulerer med 17th Mai, Norge!

For better or for worse

There’s a long list of people out there who say that having kids changed their marriage forever. And they’re usually none too positive when they say it, seemingly hoping to travel back in time and remain childless if the opportunity were available. “Don’t get us wrong, we love our kid(s),” they all insist. “But…..”

And there it is – the BUT heard ‘round the world. The BUT that only married people with kids can understand. The BUT that scares couples everywhere away from the baby path.

Here’s my thinking – there’s really no way for a marriage not to change when a little one comes along. It’s an entirely different life, made up of three people rather than just two. It’s a threesome (or foursome, or fivesome…) for all eternity. I think anyone would find an eternal threesome a difficult relationship to manage.

Before having children, a marriage is pretty black and white. Every month at work, you receive a salary to confirm that you’re doing your job correctly. You have rational, adult conversations with rational, adult people and decisions are made, well – rationally. And then you come home, and you have all your free time to spend doing exactly what the two of you love to do together.

It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s your own.

Things inevitably change when you invite a third person to the party. 80% of your days are like your good days at work – and when they’re good, trust me, they’re really, really good. Your child does something simple, which seems extraordinary to you, and you smile lovingly across the table at your spouse. You both smile a lot on those days, and you feel closer to this family unit you’ve created than you ever imagined. You’re bound deeply together by a miniature package of extraordinariness. This is how children change a marriage for the better.

You don’t always hear that side of the story, and that’s a shame.

More often, you hear about the other 20%. On those days, you’re dealing with an irrational boss who refuses to issue clear instructions, and who just does whatever they damn well please. On these days, you’re moody and almost definitely short-tempered. You feel like a failure in one way or another, or maybe in a hundred ways all together. It’s been a bad day at work for one or both of you – there’s tension in the air, one or both of you is pissed off, and angry words may be spoken.

It happens. For better or for worse.

At Casa Svendsen, we’ve definitely had an 80/20 split over the past year. There is truly a domino effect of emotional happiness in our house, which begins with the smallest (and yet most powerful) one among us. When Per Christian has a good day, then so does Mommy. There are lots of giggles and silly stories to share in the evening. Pappa comes home to a happy house and is, by extension, also happy.

The opposite curve works the same way in reverse – a grumpy baby leads to a grumpy Mommy, who feels exhausted and run down by the end of the day. I then, of course, take it all out on Per when he walks in the door. On these days, Pappa has to bear the brunt of all my own feelings of maternal inadequacy because our son is too young to shoulder such burdens.

Luckily for us all, Per errs on the less emotional end of the spectrum and realizes, quite rationally, that whatever troubles await him at home shall soon pass. Per Christian won’t always be so small and require so much work. I won’t always be home alone caring for him. We won’t always find him such a mystery to understand or feel ourselves to be so helpless – although I do expect that we’ll always feel entirely inadequate for the task.

Is it all worth it, you wonder? The simple answer is “yes,” but the more honest answer is “not always.” Here’s the thing – despite the challenges of the 20%, I really, really don’t want a time machine (most of the time). I would not give up my son for all the free time in the world (most of the time). Yes, I’m tired and yes, I do miss my former ability to impersonate a calm, rational adult. And of course I miss our carefree days alone, drinking Prosecco for breakfast on a lazy Saturday morning, as opposed to venting on my husband all my furies after a difficult day of tending to our meatloaf.

But my son is a part of me, taken directly out of my body and walking (stumbling, actually…) around in real life right before my very eyes. How miraculous is that? I can watch him and see reflections in him of both my husband and me. He is an extraordinary being; I can find no other words for it. And when I see my son in this light, I know that I love my husband and my family down to my deepest, darkest core.

So yes, children change a marriage, there’s no way around it. We lose our tempers more often and are made to bear more responsibility than we could ever previously imagine. We will never, ever again get to be selfish and think about only ourselves. Our threesome is here to stay, and all the subtleties of joining three separate people into one loving family unit have to be managed with care.

There are 20% of hard times for our unit, when my husband has to play the roll of punching bag because the real criminal agent is too young to understand Mommy’s frustrations.

But then there are 80% of really great times, when I walk in the door and see my son literally bouncing with excitement over my arrival. And then I see my husband standing right behind him, with an equally large smile on his face. We’re a family, and we’re so very blessed.

That’s just how a marriage with children works. For better or for worse.

Still going strong at Casa Svendsen

It’s been a while since I posted as we’ve been busy with stomach flues, visiting friends and general Life. Here’s a pictorial round-up of the past few weeks with the Svendsen family in Gran Canaria:

Per Christian spent a day at the beach:

And rode his new bike:

And started taking his first brave steps:

Mommy & Pappa took our guests to Mogan (is that Bruno’s speedo in the background?):

And Per Christian wore a hat:

We did some more unpacking:

And planted some flowers (thank you Are & Sandra!)

One missing photo is our hosting of a barbeque for 20 people last weekend. There are no photos because – incredibly! – it was raining most of the day. Somebody is laughing at the irony of us not having rain for the six months since we moved here, except for the one day we planned a barbeque!

Now we’re ready for another fabulous visitor from my Peace Corps days coming next week. Let the fun continue!

Tending the wounded

Since Friday evening, the Svendsen household has washed approximately 72 loads of laundry, changed approximately 189 green diapers and gone through approximately 49 pairs of clothes.

That’s right – our poor little Per Christian is waging his first serious battle against a stomach bug. And it’s horrible, just horrible.

Thankfully, his fever is back down again, he’s finally drinking a bit of flavored water and he’s starting get some hours of long, uninterrupted sleep. I’m personally going a bit stir-crazy in the house, but – as usual – am trying to suck it up for the Greater Good. (Note : This does not imply that I’m doing it quietly or without complaining to Pappa Per. Some things cannot be helped…)

I suppose we’re lucky we’ve made it this far without too many sick days beyond the usual colds and runny noses. But I’m definitely adding another bullet point to my previously-published list of You Know You’re a Mommy When…..

  • You know you’re a mommy when you calmly hold your baby as they’re vomiting all over your new blouse, and your only concern is that they know they’re loved in this moment and that you’ll do anything you can to help them get well again. Blouse be damned.

But even illness cannot stop us from photographing our handsome meatloaf:

Pappa's multi-tasking skills

TV time with Mommy and Sesame Street

Laundry load #33 and counting

Per Christian's food for the past three days

Mommy & Pappa's food for the past three days