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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Point of view

My son loves cars. And trains. And motorcycles. And planes.

Especially planes.

I don’t remember when this love affair began, but Per Christian has panic attacks of excitement whenever we drive past the airport. I’m not sure it’s possible to yell “PLANE!” louder or with more frequency than he does in the 30 seconds it takes us to drive by. I think planes are in his DNA, inherited from the many pilots on the paternal side of his gene pool.

So I didn’t pay too much attention when he started yelling, “plane!plane!plane!” in the mornings as we were walking down the steps to our garage. I assumed he was imagining his toy plane upstairs, or maybe his Elias and the Plane book waiting for him in his car seat.

Or maybe he’s thinking about cats. Who knows.

But then it happened again, and again, and again… So I finally stopped this morning and asked him, “Where is the plane, sweetie? Can you show mommy the plane?”

Here’s the view of a 2-year old walking down our stairs. Can you find his plane?

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Here’s a closer look. How about now. Can you find the plane….?

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Ah, yes!!! There it is!

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Okay, so not really a plane per se, but still something flying through the air with wings. Only a fantastic, creative 2-year-old mind sees a laundry basket and dreams of planes.

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?