V Day 2014

I’ve heard a lot of exclamations about V Day recently – victory day, one billion rising day, barbie-on-the-sports-illustrated-cover day, someone-complaining-about-something day…. I just can’t even keep track anymore. I don’t mean to be glib about anyone’s missions or passions or quests for social equality – really, I don’t.

I just really, honestly can’t keep track.

But my V Day today, for example, involved red roses and a babysitter. Really, can it get any better than that?!

Valentine’s Day used to be something I taught my foreign language students about in Russia. “Hmmmm…yeah…I think saint so-and-so….somewhere….did something…. so we get chocolates and cards with hearts. Yeah! Let’s practice love poems in English, shall we?

(Except I’m an American and would never, ever say “shall” in public. Not a chance.)

Back in the day, my (then) boyfriend / (current) husband and I would make grand plans for the day, starting with champagne for breakfast and ending with lingerie and other things I can’t mention because my mother-in-law still reads these posts.

But these days… give me a night out with a few J&B on the rocks and – BAM! – Happy V Day to us, baby!

Now, listen ladies. LISTEN! This is not to say that romance is dead. Nothing is further from the truth! I had roses delivered to my door and a lovely note that expressed good, honest, true-to-the-bone emotion (which, as all you women know, is essentially the equivalent of Bilbo Baggins searching for the Holy Grail… )

So grab your man/woman/partner/animal and CELEBRATE all you lovely people out there! Celebrate, as a friend recently reminded me, the moments when you dance in the kitchen and crack open a bottle of champagne on a Tuesday for No Reason Whatsoever.

Good stuff!

Happy v-day to everyone, no matter what your cause of celebration or method for intaking happy substances into your system. Enjoy the moment, dance in the kitchen, and enjoy the babysitter while they’re still on the payroll!

Good stuff 🙂

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Gender stereotypes… Guilty as charged.

The Svendsen clan is going on holiday to Norway soon and we’re having friends stay at our house in Gran Canaria while we’re out. These friends are two very normal, male friends of ours – two decent, responsible and more-or-less mature 30-something men.

So how do I stock the house for them in our absence….?

Beer. And toilet paper.

It was completely unintentional, but as I was unpacking the groceries I realized what my subconscious had accomplished. It made me laugh a little because, yeah… Men… beer… toilet paper… Duh.

I’m sure when said friends arrive and see how I stocked for their visit, they’ll offer me a virtual high-five and wonder why I wasted money on the toilet paper.

So am I guilty of gender stereotyping now? Are the gender police going to come after me about my archaic view of male roles in society? Should I have substituted the beer for white wine and the toilet paper for scented bath bubbles?

I’m so over all these debates raging about gender in the news these days – about who said what about whom during whatever sensational interview. If a woman wants to focus all her attention on her family, let her. If she wants to work 60 hours a week and build a nursery in her office, let her. If she wants to sit around and drink beer and wipe her bum with toilet paper all day, for goodness sake…. let her.

My life right now is almost a dictionary-perfect version of old-school stereotypes. I haven’t worked for two years because we moved overseas for my husband’s career. I put my management consulting career on hold to take care of my family and support our life abroad. My son loves cars, trains, helicopters and dump trucks – not a single doll or pink tutu is evident anywhere in our house.

Some people would say I’m wasting my potential, that I can’t possibly be fulfilled “just” staying at home. But here’s the point…. I know that in a few mere minutes, the situation will have changed again to who-knows-what. Jobs come and go, new homes come and go, time passes and roles shift and life gives us something else to make work. And nothing that anybody says on Fox news or elsewhere is going to impact that. I don’t need the gender police to make sure I’m not offended by some idiot’s ramblings – karma, dude. It’s a bitch.

So I apologize in advance to our visiting friends who will have to live under the yoke of gender stereotypes while in our home. If you feel oppressed and can’t manage to live to your fullest potential while on holiday, I can direct you to the nearest supermarket to buy your own damn wine and bath bubbles.

Love.

Three years ago today…

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For all you busy, overworked and over-stressed parents out there, take a minute to kiss your spouse – your husband, your wife, your better half, your partner-in-crime.

They are special beyond words.

Two (+) years and counting

To my Dear Husband,

Remember those days in that faraway land when we first met and were insanely crazy about each other? Remember how we spent the nights without sleeping – just talking and loving and laughing with friends and dancing in our underwear in the living room?

Yeah, those were good days.

Remember how we were separated for a year when I was studying in England? Remember all those joyous reunions and tearful farewells at LHR? Remember all the good friends we made among my classmates and how you became a part of the extended Oxford family? Remember how you supported me during my moments of self-doubt and celebrated me during my moments of victory?

Yeah, those were good days too.

Remember the days we’ve had all over Norway – in Stavanger and Oslo and Bergen and Fevik? How we’ve always crowded too many friends into apartments that were much too small? Remember our shrimp parties and taco parties and sushi parties and Thanksgiving feasts and 17th May brunches and champagne for no reason at all?

Yeah, those were definitely good days.

Remember when you knelt down on your knee at Lake Como and asked me to marry you? Remember how I answered, “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes…“? Remember how we gathered our friends and family in Amalfi to hear us both say, “I do.“? Do you remember the view out our window on our first morning as a married couple?

Oh, wow, such good days.

Remember when I called you from Stavanger and told you I was pregnant? And the first time you felt your son kick inside of me? Remember when Per Christian was born and you held him in your arms and looked up at me with tears in your eyes? Remember when you climbed into my hospital bed and we took our first photo as the Svendsen family?

My-oh-my, is it even possible to have so many good days?

To my dear husband, partner, friend, lover and fellow parent on our second wedding anniversary… I remember all these days and so many more.

And I’m still insanely crazy about you.

With all my love,
Your Wife.

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.

Taking stock

There’s something about the process of moving that makes me a bit reflective – it’s excitement with a side order of nostalgia. We always put together inventory lists for the movers, and that forces you to take stock of what you have and what you’ve gathered/accumulated/produced since the last move. Our upcoming move to Gran Canaria is no different.

I’ve been moving every 2-3 years ever since my first journey to Russia back in 1999. If I had actually kept all those inventory lists over the years, they would probably look something like this:

We have yet to finalize our inventory list this time around, but here’s what I’ve put together so far:

What do you think – am I missing anything?

Newton’s law

NOTE: This post has been updated on 14 October due to my embarrassing blunder in scientific history. Blerg! See here for full disclosure…

I remember when I was young(er) and my father would travel quite often for business. This was always, always the time when something went wrong in our house and my mother would have to deal with it alone. It was inevitable – the plumbing would rupture, the toilet would overflow, the car would break down, the dog would get sick, the kids would get arrested (kidding).

Of course, this was also inevitably the time when my mother would wallpaper the bathroom or paint the kitchen. I guess Newton’s Murphy’s law worked both ways in my house.

Now that Pappa Svendsen is gone for two weeks getting set up in Gran Canaria (check out our new locale here), I’m discovering a new-found sympathy for my mother’s former plights. He’s only been gone for four days and already Newton Murphy is in full swing.

The computer breaks down and I don’t know what to do (we recently purchased a MacBook Air which I both love and hate in equal intervals).

Lille Per discovers the joys of the television remote and now you can just guess what doesn’t work anymore.

Teething pains descend and Lille Per is at maximum levels of fussiness until – miraculously – tooth number two made an appearance.

And days like this happen that make me wonder how single mothers ever survive.

We’re only renting our place here in Oslo, so I’m not following in my mother’s wallpaper/painting footsteps quite yet. But I am doing my own version of pet projects during my quiet nights at home – writing on this blog, trying out some new recipes (since I’m the only potential victim), looking over a few Spanish lessons, taking a quick farewell trip to a friend up North…. Whatever it takes to get out of the house and avoid as many versions of Newton-ness Murphy-ness as possible.

Let’s just hope the kids don’t get arrested while he’s gone (kidding).

Plan your next holiday at Hotel Svendsen….

…because we’re moving again!

If someone had warned me that marrying a hotelier would entail a life of moving every few years, then I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

If someone had warned me that we’d inevitably be leaving every town just as we really felt settled in there, then I still wouldn’t have changed a thing.

If someone had warned me that we’d be moving from the rainy fall weather of Oslo to the year-round sunshine of Gran Canaria….. yep! That’s right, definitely wouldn’t have changed a thing!

The Svendsen family is on the move once again as of mid-October. Pappa Svendsen is being sent south to open Radisson’s newest resort in Arguineguin, and the remaining members of the Svendsen tribe are tagging along for fun.

So book your tickets and plan your next several years’ worth of holidays with us in Gran Canaria. We hope to be there for at least three years, which is probably just around the time we’ll feel settled in and need to move again.

You can check out Pappa Svendsen’s new project here (due to open in March 2012).

An open letter to all the daddies in the world

Dear Pappa(s),

We know you’re doing the best you can. We know you’re just as dazed and confused as we are. But you’re so much better at hiding it. Your calm, rational ways fall under the shadow of our Mamma Bear personas and tend to get lost in the shuffle.

So please forgive us when we lose our tempers after you don’t have an immediate solution to X (insert given infant ailment here – sleeping, teething, eating, etc etc etc….). It´s not that we necessarily expect you to have the answers, it´s just that we´re so exhausted at not having them ourselves. Our poor darlings are crying and “oh my god please just make it stop, it´s making my heart bleed and my boobs leak…..“!

We don´t say it often enough, but we do appreciate you being here. We really don´t know what we´d do if you weren’t here. Because you´re still the guy who helped make this family and who helps keep it together. You´re the guy who makes mommy coffee and sandwiches before you leave for work. You´re the guy who races home every day to try and make the evening bath and bottle. You´re the guy who fills our wine glasses after the babies are asleep. And you´re the guy who quietly steps in and provides relief when mommy needs it most.

But, you know, if you could have a few more of the answers, that would be good too.

Thanks for stickin´ around, pappa(s).

Three generations of Svendsen pappas that have managed to stick around :

365 days ago…

… was Amalfi.

365 days ago, I wore a white gown.

365 days ago, Per overcame his food poisoning and donned a tuxedo.

365 days ago, we made it to the church on time.

365 days ago, I said the following words:
“I, Marguerite, take you, Per, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward. In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow, to be your faithful partner for life, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. I promise to trust and respect you, and to love and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.”

365 days ago, we laughed….

… and we kissed.

365 days ago, our friends and family gathered around us in the garden.

365 days ago, I walked through the streets of Amalfi with my new husband.

365 days ago, the sun set over the water while dinner was served.

365 days ago we were serenaded by amusing toasts, skits and musical performances:

365 days ago, I married my best friend and fellow traveller on the road of parenthood.

365 days later, Per and I will have babysitters coming over for the first time so that we can celebrate our first anniversary with Italian food, wine and memories.

It’s a Prosecco day in the Svendsen household – happy first anniversary darling!