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….

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Istanbul, here we come… 15 days and counting!

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Fiesta del Carmen 2.0

One of the great things about living abroad is celebrating the local holidays. There’s always something a bit quirky and unfamiliar on these special days – from Russian marathon “piknik” days in the woods, to British horse-and-hat exhibitions, to Norwegian bunad costumes… and, now, to the crazy, overwhelming and hangover-inducing land of Spanish fiestas.

For the past two weeks, our little town of Arguineguin has been in the throws of its annual Fiesta del Carmen, celebrated every July in tribute to St. Carmen, patron saint of the sea. I’m not sure how honoring this lady translates into foam parties and all-night DJ extravaganzas, but so it is.

The highlight of the fiesta is on the last day when St. Carmen is paraded through town, loaded onto a boat and taken down the coast to her sister church in Mogan. Sounds like normal, respectful behavior towards a beloved, sea-faring saint, right?

Hardly.

Do you remember that flotilla boat parade they organized on the Thames in London for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee? The Queen and her entourage stood in full ceremonial attire with proper British decorum, calmly waving to the crowds and the boats that passed.

Respectful flotilla behavior (The Guardian, 2012)

Respectful flotilla behavior (photo courtesy of The Guardian, 2012)

Yeah. This one in Arguineguin is slightly different…. (Note that some photos below are from last year’s celebration but never posted before. ‘Cause that’s the punctual way I work.)

I'm sure St Carmen appreciates your tribute (2012)

I’m sure St Carmen appreciates your tribute (2012)

Parading down to the harbor (photo courtesy of La Provincia, 2013)

Parading down to the harbor (photo courtesy of La Provincia, 2013)

The boats begin their journey (2012)

The boats begin their journey from Arguineguin to Mogan (2012)

Boat procession (2013, photo courtesy of Gran Canaria Info)

Boat procession (photo courtesy of Gran Canaria Info, 2013)

Shipping St Carmen to Mogan (with a totally-no-obvious plug for Per's hotel in the background, 2012)

Shipping St Carmen to Mogan (with a totally-not-obvious plug for the Radisson resort in the background, 2012)

Arrival in Mogan (2013)

Arrival in Mogan (2013). No idea where the lady saint went, not sure it matters to these people…

Per, Per Christian and "Uncle," thankfully wearing more clothes than many other fiesta-go'ers

Per, Per Christian and “Uncle,” thankfully wearing more clothes than the other fiesta-go’ers

Honestly, this fiesta and boat procession will be one of my favorite memories from living in Gran Canaria. The crazy-factor is high and people-watching opportunities abound, but even despite that, it’s a great day out on the water with an authentic Canarian party atmosphere. What could be better than that?

You can read more about the annual Fiesta del Carmen here, here or here.

Helicopter-ing

Yesterday, Per Christian and I were invited to join a friend of ours on a lovely pirate-esque sailing trip along the southern coastline. Pappa P unfortunately had to work, so we sadly left him at the harbor with a quick kiss and a small (but brief) twinge of guilt.

(For those of you visiting Gran Canaria, it was a lovely day on the water that I would recommend to any family with young children. Check out the photos and link below.)

At one point of the day, I was talking with another mother of a two-year-old who had become fast friends with Per Christian. The kids were happily running from side to side of the ship’s deck, enjoying the sway of the waves and the homemade sprinkler system on board.

I was keeping eagle eyes on Per Christian, fearing that he’d get caught by the tipping of the boat and end up over the edge. I was on one side of the ship and my friend was on the other, guarding each railing in case of any imminent toddler disasters.

The other mother, however, was much more relaxed and suggested I let the kids alone and not be “one of those helicopter moms.” She said it quite nicely without malice, and I really didn’t take offense. But it did get me thinking…

Where exactly is the line between smothering and protecting my son? Surely, making sure he didn’t end up overboard was a far cry from hovering over him like a helicopter. I didn’t interfere with his playing, but I did make sure it was as safe as possible.

I have the same dilemma whenever I’m at the playground with Per Christian. I always stand off on the side and let him raise havoc and make friends on his own (even though half the time I’m holding my breath, hoping the big bully he fearlessly befriended doesn’t wallop him). But does that mean I shouldn’t help when he wants to walk across the tightrope and can’t manage on his own? If I help him the first few times and teach him how to place his feet and how to balance, then maybe the next time he’ll manage on his own. Right?

This article about a mother not helping her kids up the playground slide set off a huge chain-reaction in the blogosphere world. I largely ignored the drama because I hate when people think they have all the answers and all the time in the world to preach to others. But the underlying point of the article may be valid – that “saving” our kids every time they’re challenged doesn’t actually help them in the long-run.

So it seems like my choices are to be criticized for being a helicopter mom, hovering and suffocating my kid, or criticized for being distant and forcing him to learn on his own, even if it means getting hurt in the process.

There’s got to be a balance in there somewhere, right?

Right??

I can literally see my mother at home in South Carolina, reading this post online and muttering to herself, “Well, Marguerite, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

Moms are always right. And that, dear readers, is the moral of this story.

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As promised, here are just a few photos (too busy helicopter-ing to play photographer) from the Cruceros Timanfaya. I give you fair warning about the poor quality of their website, but the great service and kid-friendly activities of the pirates on board definitely make up for it.

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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

Just photos

The Svendsen family is finally – finally! – taking a two-week holiday off the island. We’re heading back to our old Oslo stomping grounds, then on to Bratislava for some much-needed time with dear friends.

We’ll be offline while we travel, so here are some recent photos of our full-fledged Fidel to tide everyone over until our return.

Old enough now to enjoy our neighborhood park…

… and crazy about cars at our local shopping centre:

Braving the heat in the pool at Pappa’s hotel

… and also in the sea:

I hand-on-the-bible promise this was Per Christian’s own idea:

Keepin’ it cool in Gran Canaria:

See you all again in a few weeks!

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!

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!

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!

Homesickness

A funny thing happened today in Gran Canaria…. it rained. I know this sounds like I’m mocking everyone who lives with rain throughout the year, but I am actually serious. I’ve seen rain three times since we moved here last October, so it is indeed a rare thing to behold.

Funny enough, the rain makes me homesick for Oslo. I always enjoyed curling up under a blanket and sipping coffee in the mornings, but such a thing is more unusual here. “Koselig” (the Norwegian word for “cozy”) is used in all kinds of situations – an evening with friends around the table, a gathering of children happily playing together, a weekend getaway to your cabin in the mountains. But most often, I think of koselig as snuggled under a blanket with either rain, snow or grey skies outside my window.

Norway is in the news a lot these days because of the Breivik trial. My family was traveling back from Crete on the day of the attacks, so we only heard the news through frantic text messages and patchy media coverage. We were in Oslo for much of the aftermath though, including the street closures caused not by the attacks themselves, but rather by the heavy outpouring of roses and flowers around Oslo’s main cathedral.

Never once did I hear that Breivik’s message against multiculturalism had taken root and would continue to grow. Instead, I heard the Prime Minister say that the attacks would make Norway stronger in its resolve to be an open, democratic country. In typical stoic Norwegian fashion, crowds gathered to mourn silently, yet proudly, and to illustrate that this tragedy would not be their undoing.

So when I read about yesterday’s gathering of more than 40,000 people to – once again – stand together against the hateful messages coming out of Breivik’s trial, I am filled with awe at the Norwegian people’s resolve.

I miss my dear town of Oslo. Even though I was only there two years, it does feel like home to me. Maybe because it’s where so many of our friends live, or maybe because it’s where my son was born. Or maybe because it’s where I spent so many koselig days and nights. Even more likely, it’s because I can identify with the Norwegian people gathering together to sing in the face of ugliness.

The world is watching you, dear Norway, and you are setting a sublime example for us all.