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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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.

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.

**********************

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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Dear Per Christian…

First off, let’s get a few things straight.

I understand you’re two years old and in a strange developmental stage of possessiveness. But that ends where mommy’s closet begins. Although it’s quite amusing to come into my bedroom and see you wearing three of my bras and insisting that they are yours….

They are not.

I understand your sleep patterns are changing, but it would be great if you could still go straight to sleep as soon as I put you in bed. And preferably no later than 6 o’clock, thank you very much. Mommy likes to have her first glass of “mommy juice” right around that time, but your later bedtime these past few weeks is beginning to interfere.

It’s all about priorities, you know.

I understand your curiosity is developing about how mommy makes your food, but I’m not sure the counter-top is the best place for you to observe. You seem to have developed an addiction to sniffing our pepper grinder, even though it makes you compulsively sneeze every time. And sneezing makes you giggle (it always has, you’re so odd…), so you end up sneezing and giggling and giggling and sneezing and then I’m laughing so hard watching you that I stop paying attention and whatever I’m making for you gets ruined.

Yeah, so cut that out.

I understand you’re increasingly inquisitive about how things work, especially cars and planes and trains and motorcycles and helicopters. But that does not mean you can vehemently insist that mommy stops watching Masterchef so you can watch race cars and steam trains on YouTube.

I was here first.

I understand that you are learning new words every day, but it would be great if you shared the inside workings of your brain with us slower folk. Three languages in one sentence can take a while to decipher, even though we mask our confusion by nodding and saying “mmm-hmm” to whatever it is you’re spouting.

We’ll catch up with you eventually.

And while we’re on the topic of language, “momma” is not synonymous with or a replacement for any of the following phrases —- “help me,” “give me,” “I want,” “I need,” “I must have ice cream or I will perish immediately.”

Oh, and the songs? The singing? And by “singing” I mean the joyful shouting at the top of your lungs with something that barely resembles language and/or tone?

That can stay.

Despite (or because of…) all the above, Momma and Pappa love you in all your outlandish, mysterious, rambunctious and mischievous glory. Thank you for being two.

Never change,

Mommy

PS – you know that crazy, spontaneous giggle thing you do in the middle of the night, when I know you’re happily, deeply buried in Slumberland? Please, please, please keep doing that. Mommy loves it.

Mommy sove

Per Christian has developed a new game lately, one that I’m doing my best to encourage.

It happens when we’re snuggled together in bed or on the sofa — it’s our so-called “cozy time” that lasts all of 2.4 seconds before he’s off and running again.

But sometimes, when the stars are aligned and the gods are in my favor, he’ll turn to me and say, “Shhhh…Mommy sove…” (aka – “mommy’s sleeping,” in English). He’ll close my eyelids with his fingertips, curl up next to me and lay there for at least 10 seconds (I’ve counted). He’ll peek up at me to make sure I’m not cheating and that my eyelids are still closed (which they always are because, duh).

I do an excellent rendition of a sleeping Mommy, all in a selfless pursuit of encouraging my son’s developing imagination and fostering his long-term creativity. Sometimes he even moves away and plays quietly on his own because, “Shhhh! Mommy sove…

Mommy’s favorite game.

Weekend at Bernie’s

I’d had some experience now taking care of Per Christian alone while Pappa P is traveling. And, like I mentioned here and here, it hasn’t always gone smoothly.

However, this most recent weekend was a glorious exception. Pappa was away on business and then a self-invented “while-I’m-in-Europe-I-might-as-well-see-some-football” kind of trip, so I’ve been on my own with our little two-year-old for the last five days. And – miracles upon miracles! – during that entire time, nobody was ill, nothing stopped working, nothing burned down and no body parts were lost.

Miracles, indeed.

I bought myself one bottle of white wine on Wednesday and am only now having my last glass. One bottle for five nights of drinking alone – that’s about normal, right? I don’t even know anymore.

I think this was arguably my first single-parent weekend that went off without a hitch. Enjoyable, even. Per Christian is at such a great exploration age, he loves his cars and trucks and trains and books (as long as they’re about cars and trucks and trains), and I’ve found no better entertainment for my son than a body of water and a big pile of rocks.

It’s parenting in high-gear, folks, and I’m finally catching on.

They’re forecasting a spot of rain for Canaria tomorrow, which I’ll welcome with open arms. Just as long as Pappa’s plane doesn’t get delayed – miracles can only last so long and I’m not taking any chances.

Our new foster dog Kira loves little blond Norwegian boys

Our new foster dog Kira apparently has a thing for  Norwegian boys. Don’t we all?

Saturday morning pj's

Saturday morning pj’s

Destined to be a runner!

Destined to be a runner!

Water. Rocks. Dog. Several minutes in a row of quiet amusement.

Water. Rocks. Dog. Several actual minutes in a row of quiet amusement.

Sunday morning pj's

Sunday morning pj’s

"Helping" mommy with the dishes

“Helping” mommy with the dishes

I don't know why our son looks like a girl here - maybe time for another hair cut?

I don’t know why our son looks like a girl here – maybe time for another hair cut?

New dog, same dog-walking technique...

New dog, but same dog-walking technique…

No day is complete without mommy being suckered into ice cream

No day is complete without mommy being suckered into dishing out some ice cream…

The little things

A friend here recently shared a quote with me:

The greatest thing about being a parent is all the little things your child does everyday that make you smile… the worst thing is not being able to remember them all.

So perfect, and so very, very true.

In an effort to not forget, we’ve put together a somewhat random list of the goofy 2-year-old things that make us laugh these days.

(Note of Disclaimer – I  just read J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, which scared the beejeezus out of me about ever having a miserable teenager in the house. I may need to reread this list in 11 years to remember that I didn’t always want to disown my offspring…)

Anyway, The List:

  • Min! Min! – This morning, I took CIMG2594a taste of Per Christian’s oatmeal and he pushed me away saying, “Det er min!” (it’s mine). Yesterday, we visited Pappa at work and all the writing apparatus on his desk were “min, min!” That being said, he’s surprisingly good at sharing, even with The Holy Grail of his life these days (hint – it begins with “ice” and ends with “cream”).
  • My son is a bossypants in multiple languages. If I sit down for even a minute, he’s pushing me off the chair saying, “come on! come on!” If I linger too long with some other parents, he’s out the door yelling “vamos!” at me from the car park. If I read his mind incorrectly and give him the wrong yogurt/fruit/bread/juice/etcetcetc, he says, “nei! denne! denne!” (that one!) while pointing to god-only-knows-what. And heaven help us if we’re Skyping with Gran and Grandad in the U.S. when it’s time for his Curious George cartoons – then he waves wildly at the computer camera and yells, “Byebye! See you!” every 30 seconds until we end the conversation. Our little Fidel is living up to his reputation.
  • My son has a harem of three little girls that he loves from his barnehagen. They are – (in descending levels of infatuation) “Mila!” (aka – Jamila), “Ikke-berg!” (Ingeborg), and “Isa!” (this one he gets right, more or less). If he’s in a grumpy mood in the morning and I need to get him going faster, I just remind him that one of these lovely ladies is awaiting his arrival at the barnehagen (if he’ll just hurry-the-F-up, ahem…). It puts a smile on his face and a skip in his step every time. Men are such simple creatures.
  • Despite his love of the ladies, Per Christian can still CIMG2600hold his own with the big boys. At least he tries. I watch with a mixture of pride and fear whenever he plays with a group of older boys, who are all so much taller and more solid and less fragile that my son. He might not run as fast or climb as high (yet), but he doesn’t ever quit. He loves to chase and be chased and always pumps his arms like he’s just about to cross some imaginary finish line. We used to think the arm-pumping was strange, but now I think it makes him destined to be on Oxford’s Blue Team of something-or-other.
  • Every meal time ends with him saying, “ferdig!” (finished), followed promptly by, “ball! ball!” No matter how much or how little he’s eaten by then, the Mommy feeding window has closed and the meal is over.
  • We have a bit of a clothes fetish going on at the moment. Not a specific type of clothing, just the need for clothes in general. You’d think a young boy being raised in constant sunshine and warm weather would basically live in his diaper or bathing suit. But not our fastidious little man – he demands shirt, pants, socks and shoes. Always. I sense it’s only a matter of time before he starts demanding french-cuff shirts and raiding his Pappa’s cufflink collection. Like father, like son
  • His fussiness about clothing extends IMG_0547(naturally) to his hands. A smudge of morning oatmeal on his little pinky elicits a loud-pitched, “Oh nei!” A bit of yogurt dribbling down his hand? “Oh nei!” A trace of dirt under his nails? “Oh nei!” This attention to detail does not, however, extend to his face. Our kid is the one excessively washing his hands in the sink while his face is happily covered with chocolate ice cream.
  • After months of repetitive ABC singing, our little parrot is starting to catch on. His melody is actually pretty solid, but the letters are somewhat random in their order. There’s nothing quite like waking up at 7am to the sound of your child singing, “ABCFGHK…QMNP….XYZ!” Sing it loud and sing it proud, my son.

There are of course a ton more, and the tragedy is that I can’t remember them all now. What about your own little ones? How will you remember all the daily miracles?

What now…?

This was Per Christian one year ago:

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And this was yesterday:

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One year ago, my son could hardly stand on his own two feet. Now, he’s literally running circles around me, dressing himself in the morning and eating his own breakfast. All the cliches you hear about time flying by are actually true – these miniature humans do not, in fact, stay miniature forever.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to spend as much time with him as I have these past two years. I’ve had a full year of maternity leave and now a full year’s leave of absence from my career in Norway. I’ve been able to jog him to barnehagen twice a week and pick him up every afternoon. I’ve introduced him to the beach and the pool and been able to witness first-hand all of his first-time discoveries. I know he loves spaghetti and oatmeal with raisins and bread with brown cheese, and I know he hates papayas and is skeptical of melon.

He is not always pleasant and I’m not always patient and we don’t always agree, but in 20-20 hindsight, I can appreciate the gift I’ve had these past two years.

But now the jig is up – there are no more benefits, no more salary checks and no more “oh-I’m-just-taking-a-leave-of-absence” line of excuses. My son is a walking, talking, functioning human being now. I’m fairly certain he’s happier playing with his gal pals at barnehagen than he is at home with me. The inevitable has happened where he doesn’t need me all-day, every-day anymore.

Plenty of people would “hint” that now is the perfect time for #2, but that’s not in our field of interest these days. Or even in the ballpark. We are opting for sleep-filled nights and white wine in the afternoon over Baby 2.0 right now. Sorry, dear grandparents, but you raised selfish children and now you must love us for it.

What I really, really want to do is to get back to work. But I don’t have my corporate job in Norway to fall back on anymore and similar opportunities here in Gran Canaria are limited. So right now, for probably the first time in my life, the sky really is the limit. The only thing stopping me is lack of imagination or willpower or balls.

So… what now?

Say it like you mean it

Picture this….

My little boy, not quite two years old, last night pointed his finger at me, stomped his miniature foot to the ground, scrunched up his face and said “NO!” in his best possible Mommy impersonation.

Talk about looking in a mirror.

He wasn’t even fighting against anything at the moment – I wasn’t trying to dress or undress him or change his diaper or give him a bath or wash his face or do any of the other 1,000 things that would usually elicit such a response. We were just in the bedroom laying out his pajamas for bedtime and his pulls this little act out of nowhere.

I couldn’t help myself, I just burst out laughing. My child has become a parrot, mirroring back to me unfiltered snippets of everything he sees and hears throughout the day. He walks up to our dog and says, “Cara, OUT!” for no reason at all, thereby banishing her from wherever she was relaxing. He must have picked that up from us, right? Our poor old dog spends her days wandering from room to room according to her young prince’s pleasure.

He sits at the table and simultaneously asks, “Juice? Cheese? Banana? Cookie?” I’m almost certain he doesn’t know what he’s requesting, but he’ll continue attempting different combinations of those four words until he gets something on his plate that suits his mood. The other day, I gave him spaghetti and meatballs in response to his request for cookies and he smiled triumphantly up at me, as if he knew all along that he’d eventually get his own way.

I fear such successful Mommy-trickery is doomed to be short-lived.

Most surprisingly, he says “Adios!” to our Spanish helper as we leave the house in the morning, and yet he somehow understands to say “Ha det!” in farewell to his Norwegian Pappa and daycare teachers. It’s remarkable that he can somehow differentiate the use of two – even three – languages within his tiny toddler brain. How does that work? Can I go back in time please and learn a new language with such apparent ease? Pretty please?

It’s such a fun age, but also quickly puts your life into sharp perspective. Why does he learn to say “no” more quickly than “I love you“? Of course I understand the reason why, but I suppose in an ideal world it would be the opposite way around. We all want to believe that we nurture and inspire our little ones all the time, not that we hold them back at every turn.

The silver lining among these thoughts is the other new trick he’s picked up lately…. mimicking kissing like Mommy and Pappa. In this case, he’s plants a 100% joy-filled, open-mouthed, sloppy, toothy and wonderful kiss on my lips when I pick him from his nursery in the afternoons.

Now that’s the kind of mirror I like to see.

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Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….

Cutting of the hair

I’ve been known to travel a good, long distance for a haircut. Especially with curly hair, I consider it a worthwhile investment in my own personal happiness to get a class-act cut. Every time I travel to the US, I scope out salon reviews in advance to locate curly-friendly stylists within driving distance of my destination. Last year, over the Christmas holidays, I drove 1.5 hours outside of Orlando to just such a salon. My father was horrified. And I still threaten Pappa P that I’m going to make a special return trip to our wedding site in Amalfi, Italy just to get my hair cut again by the fabulous-o Andrea.

Totally worth it, in my opinion.

Naturally, I’m now subjecting my son to the same level of insanity. I am fiercely protective of my son’s storybook curly locks. My friends, husband and family tease me about it relentlessly. But I don’t care. How can I not be careful when this is what’s at stake:

So not just any hair salon will do for my little one, no sir!

With Pappa out of town, I packed the two of us into the car today and drove 60 kilometers away to this shopping centre in Las Palmas. Now, I realize all you slightly-more-sane people out there think that’s a long way to drive for a kid’s haircut. And you’re probably right. But I’d been searching all over for one of those fun-themed kids’ salons, and I finally struck gold:

Cars and trucks and toys and songs and films…. oh my!

With so many distractions, my typically-restless little boy was completely struck dumb. He sat quietly in his green army truck “salon chair” for the entire ten minutes of the haircut. This is approximately 7 minutes longer than he’s ever sat anywhere since he started walking five months ago.

The result….?

Curly locks still in full force = a happy mommy and a content little boy!

(And let’s be real here folks – the haircut is really all about mommy’s pleasure and actually has very little, if anything, to do with the kid….If you haven’t learned that by now, you’ve been missing out.)