Here We Come

Monday 8 December 2014

Our 2014 holiday card - Minted, of course.
I've written a few posts about transitioning to parenthood that never seem to make it passed the 'Drafts' folder.  They seem to get wordy and as I reread them I wonder, "Does anyone really care to hear this?" So I'm going to scrap them - not entirely, I'll look back on them later when I can reflect on these early weeks with Jasper but I'll spare you.

The truth is, I'm now a Mom.  SURPRISE! (Ha)  It consists of everything one imagines motherhood to be.  We have good days and we have bad days.  Sometimes I feel like we've got a handle on this whole thing and the next we're flailing a bit.  But generally, we're doing ok.  Jasper is still alive, growing, learning, keeping us on our toes.  This week, he turns 10 weeks old.

This week he'll also board his first and second flights.  He'll land in Canada for the first time and he'll meet a bunch of people that have been impatiently awaiting his arrival.  As we organized travel a couple of weeks ago, it struck me that Jasper has never been held by anyone other than his parents and healthcare professionals.  The poor kid has no idea what awaits him.

It's been nice having this time alone as a family of three.  I think a lot of people assume that being away from our family and friends is a bad thing but honestly, for these early weeks as we adjusted, I've been thankful for the space.  Sure, there are times where extra sets of hands would have made all the difference and I would have loved our close ones to meet Jasper when he was teeny tiny but it gave us the time to get comfortable in our roles without interference.  But we're ready.  We're more than ready.

I can't wait to watch the grandparents and aunties and uncles see Jasper's big, contagious smile.  I also can't wait for someone else to feed me and my arms are excited for a break.  There's some trepidation for the flight - 16 hours of travel with a temperamental newborn - and a bit of anxiety as to how Jasper will take to all the ensuing excitement.  There will most certainly be overwhelming moments for him but I hope he feels the love.

While we're off for a white Christmas in Canada, I wish you the happiest of holidays whether you're at home or abroad.  (And apologies if you happen to be on one of our flights - Jasper is bound to be a traveler and I'm sure he'll get the hang of it soon enough.)

The November Blues

Friday 7 November 2014

November in Stavanger is difficult.  Day in and day out we deal with rain and wind.  The winter darkness is taking over, daylight savings time appearing to make it worse.  I look at the calendar and simultaneously think, 'how is it November' and 'it's only November 7th?'  These days the sun is setting at 16:30 and there are many times I feel like I've just gotten myself dressed and fed and it's nearly dark outside.

It can be quite easy to wallow in the November blues but in an effort to keep myself above water, here are some things making me smile these days:

+The opening of a Vinmonopolet (Norwegian liquor store) in our neighbourhood.  Alcohol is state run here and aside from beer in the grocery store, all booze must be bought via the Vinmonopolet.  Now we're never more than a 5 minute walk away.  (As long as it's between 10:00 and 18:00 on weekdays and 10:00 and 15:00 Saturdays.  Norway.)

+This post on Jess' blog on British English.

+Jasper learning to smile socially (as opposed to random upturns of the lips that are completely unintentional.)  I have to work really hard for them but the high pitched voice and exaggerated smile are completely worth it.

+My daily latte - taken with a shot of vanilla. The crappy weather seems to make it taste that much better.

+UnblockUs for giving me an American IP address and Hulu for keeping me up to date on Fall TV - essential with all the time I'm sitting around with an infant on top of me.

+Jimmy Fallon has been nailing it lately.  The Wheel of Impressions with Kevin Spacey, Daniel Radcliffe Rapping, Andy Samberg's Facebook Account, Wheel of Musical Impressions with Adam Levine --- pure gold.

+The rare days where blue skies (or grey) grace us and taking long walks with Jasper.  Fresh air does the body and the baby good.

+All the snail mail we've been getting lately.  Baby gifts and cards are showing up regularly and it fills my heart with happiness.

+WhatsApp for the ease of chatting and sending photos to friends and family back home and for simple conversations with the ones I love.

+Perusing the photos we had done when Jasper was one week old.  I can't believe how tiny and new he was and I love that we captured a few low key moments as a new family of three.  (Thanks Desiree.)

What's making you smile these days?

 Have a lovely weekend!

Jasper Magnus

Monday 20 October 2014

Our little Jasper was born at 8:06 am on Thursday, October second exactly two weeks ahead of schedule.  He was pretty little at 2.55 kg (5.6 lbs) but healthy and strong and as expected, we fell in love with him immediately.
As a first timer, we're told regularly to expect to go into labour late and expect it to be long.  We're also told to write a birth plan but be prepared to throw that plan out the window.  I felt like I knew what to expect yet at the same time, had absolutely no idea.  I suppose that's why despite a few signs earlier in the week, I was rather hesitant to acknowledge that I was in fact in labour Wednesday evening.

According to my birth plan, I hoped to labour as long as possible at home.  I would check in to the birthing loft on the seventh floor of the hospital where I would ask for minimal medical intervention and my healthy baby boy would be delivered by a wonderful midwife.

In actuality, my contractions began around dinnertime Wednesday evening and they went mostly ignored until I tried to go to bed when they became more uncomfortable and more regular.  I told Joe I was going to stay up and time them to see if there was any sort of pattern.  By midnight, I was pretty convinced 'this was it.'  We phoned the hospital sometime afterwards in which I told them I was still feeling good about being home but to expect us later.  The midwife advised us to come in when contractions were three minutes apart.

At four in the morning after a long shower, the contractions were coming much closer together (although still just over three minutes apart) and they were much stronger.  I knew it was time to go to the hospital so we somewhat frantically pulled our things together, trying to line up our movements in between contractions.  Upon arrival to the birthing loft, the midwife examined me and somewhat surprisingly exclaimed that I was already 8-9 centimetres dilated.

Three hours later, little Jasper joined us on the outside, not long after the sun rose over Stavanger.

Despite being told to plan for the unplanned, everything went exactly how I'd envisioned it.  I don't have any tales of woe that are so often recounted after birth.  While it wasn't easy, Jasper's delivery was manageable without drama or drugs.  His existence has continued down the same path and we now find ourselves two and a half weeks later, peacefully coexisting like he's been here all along.

Our first days together

Thank you for all of the well wishes over on Instagram.  

This & That: Pregnancy Update

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Lately on Instagram

It appears that time has sped up and I have slowed down.  Here we are at September second and I'm just over 33 weeks pregnant (meaning I have 7 or so left.)  While time seems to be flying (cue old age jokes now) the speed at which I'm doing anything is passive, at best.  I'm constantly several steps behind Joe, getting out of bed and getting dressed require grunting and a substantial break is needed after completing any task.  While my sleeping habits are resembling that of my teenage days, I'm also in a losing battle with insomnia.  It's actually quite cruel - everyone is telling you to sleep now because you probably never will again yet at 3 am, sleeping might as well be climbing Mount Everest.

Being informed…
Just over a week ago, Joe and I completed our Birth and Baby prep course.  I was hesitant going in (the whole ignorance is bliss thing) yet aside from a few 'oh shit' moments, I came out feeling quite capable.  We all know where babies come from and how they're born but the actual science behind labour is really quite fascinating.  Essentially, it's like a symphony and everything is designed to work together.  (Did you know that even if I were knocked unconscious during labour, my body would still know exactly what to do and most likely be able to deliver a healthy baby? Crazy!)  It was a good reminder that education is empowering with a dose of que sera, sera.

The Stuff…
I started a small list awhile back of the baby essentials that I figured we should have pre-birth and aside from a few small things, we've basically checked everything off.  It's interesting how different baby shopping has been for us due to our current lifestyle choices.  We've been moving around the world with 6 suitcases and one small air shipment.  We're renting a furnished apartment and we have no idea where we'll be heading next.  We just don't physically have the space for a lot of stuff.  Instead of spending the bulk of money on nursery furniture, our biggest purchase was easily the pram/stroller (thanks Mom & Dad) because we know it'll come with us.  It's been good to pare down, keeping our accumulation minimal, in a world where it is so easy to buy every crazy baby thing on the market.  But, I am human and there have been purchases that probably likely wouldn't be considered essential.  I have to have a little fun!

Also, like shopping for anything else in Norway, choice is rather limited.  Each of the baby stores in town carry almost the exact same merchandise and often, things I hear about from friends at home aren't available here.  There are, however, some fantastic European brands to try out.

Joe and I have not discussed one single name.  Early on we decided that we'd each create a list and at some point, we'd sit down and share our respective ideas.  If we were lucky, we'd find one or more names gracing both pieces of paper (I have my doubts.)  We've yet to do this.  My list is created; Joe's is 'in his head' (more doubts.)  I hope to have a few options agreed upon in the next few weeks but I don't think we'll formally make a decision until we meet the kid.

Speaking of the kid…
He's busy packing on the pounds and getting stronger.  Things are getting cramped in there and he lets me know all.the.time.  He's still moving and grooving regularly although he's gotten less spastic.  He pushes really hard against my stomach creating a hard lump that protrudes out my side and I have to remind him that that is not the way out.

The entire idea that we are having a baby is really starting to settle in.  The other night we were taking out the garbage and in the elevator Joe commented that pretty soon it won't be just the two of us anymore.  At the same time we both said, "I'm a little sad about that."  Clearly we're excited and happy about our expanding family yet there's something to be said about acknowledging the changes that are coming.  Life has been good as a couple and life will be good as a trio but there is the teeniest bit of sadness in having to share my husband.

Also, I bought diapers yesterday.  Aside from the visit to the hospital last week, that was the biggest dose of reality I've had yet.

Our Favourite Venetian Experiences

Wednesday 20 August 2014

While Venice may be known for hoards and hoards of tourists crowding St Mark's Square and expensive gondola rides, it's not that difficult to find unique experiences to take in the floating city.

Cruising with Context

I've touted Context Travel on this blog several times and our experience with them in Venice was no exception.  There were a few 'walks' that I had bookmarked for the first portion of our Italian vacation but timing was not on our side and the only one we could squeeze in was "Venice by Boat."  It did not disappoint.

We met our docent, the immaculate private boat and it's driver for close to two hours on the water.  Our docent did a fabulous job introducing us to the city.  We learned all about the history of the city from how it came to be to how it exists today.  We began to understand the challenges a city on water faces and often most interestingly, the quirks that visitors to the city almost never hear.  It was nice to hear a backstory to what we'd already seen but also led us to seek out different areas on foot for the remainder of our stay.

Our time on the boat was fulfilling enough that we decided to forgo the typical gondolier experience and we didn't miss it in the least.

Taking in the Views from San Giorgio Maggiore

Most people visiting Venice opt to visit the bell tower at St Mark's Basilica but we had heard that there was a lesser known tower across the water with fantastic views of the city.  We took a water bus over to the monastery where we were greeted by a practically empty cathedral and tower.  The views from the top were magnificent and with only a few other people in attendance, we could take our time admiring the city from above.  Also, the lift up the tower is half the price of the bell tower at St Mark's.


Getting lost is part of the Venetian experience so we decided to embrace it instead of fight it.  Each day we'd set off in a particular direction but without a strict timeline or destination in mind.  Our favourite moments were found in deserted alleys that I'm not sure we'd find again if we tried.  Also fun, trying to draw our route on our city map when we stopped to eat or drink.

Have you been to Venice? What were your favourite lesser-known experiences?

Daytripping to Bath

Sunday 17 August 2014

There seem to be endless possibilities when it comes to taking an easy day trip from London.  We pondered Cambridge, Oxford, Brighton, York but eventually decided on Bath.  On the eve of my 31st birthday, we grabbed a quick breakfast from a coffee shop near the hotel and walked over to Paddington Station to take the 90 minute train ride to Bath.

First, and really the only, thing on our agenda for the day was to visit the famed Roman Baths.  The actual city of Bath was formed due to the natural hot springs around 70 AD.  The baths are considered some of the best preserved Roman remains in the world and the site of that iconic green water is certainly something to behold.

We followed the audio guide supplied with our ticket and were generally impressed by the labyrinth of different rooms comprising the Roman Baths.  While it has certainly be restored into a museum of sorts, it was still quite easy to picture just how the complex would have been used centuries ago.
From there, it was time for lunch and previous research had us curious about The Salamander.  Joe, being a beer connoisseur, was intrigued by their in house ales and given that it was in the centre of town, it felt like the perfect place to rest our feet and tempt our palates.  Lucky for us, Sunday roast was also on.  It was while we demolished an obscene amount of British fare that the weather decided to turn on us.  Without umbrella in hand, we tried to wait out the rain but just as soon as it would taper off, another short rainfall would drift in so we eventually threw caution to the wind and faced the soggy conditions.

We wandered up to the Circus and on to the Royal Crescent, ducking under porches and behind buildings when the rain reappeared.  Had the weather been on our side, we probably would have lingered longer and perhaps ventured into the city further.  Instead, we looped our way back, crossing the Pulteney Bridge and walking along the river before returning to the train station.
Aside from being impossibly picturesque, Bath is also known for fabulous spas.  For the life of me, I cannot figure out why I did not put two and two together and book us in for a night at a luxe hotel-spa. As we found with our day trip to Bruges, the city was lovely when the crowds thinned out and it would have been nice to spend more time getting to know Bath.

The next time I find myself in the vicinity and needing a little pampering, Bath will certainly be top of the list.


Thursday 7 August 2014

The kid around week 28

There are certain milestones in pregnancy that most everyone anxiously awaits.  There's the magical end of the first trimester marking the disappearance of that pesky nausea and then spreading the happy news.  There's the moment when you start to notice your belly protruding and then the moment where your belly no longer resembles what it looks like after a holiday meal but an actual pregnant belly.  There's hearing the heartbeat for the first time and finding out if you've got a baby boy or a baby girl growing in there.  And then there's the movement.

I haven't done a very good job of documenting my pregnancy so I can't tell you exactly when I started to feel the kid grooving but it was pretty early on.  Early enough that I questioned (as many pregnant women do) if it is in fact the baby moving, or if it's gas.  People and blogs and books will tell you it feels like flutters or bubbles.  I'll tell you, it feels like something.  Something that could be mistaken for gastrointestinal things but another something tells you it's not.  Later comes the time when it's unmistakable.  The "whoa, yup. There's someone in there."  Looking back, I can't pinpoint exactly when this happened but I do know that those "whoas" were big enough for Joe to have felt before my first midwife appointment at week 17.

I'm not a particularly sentimental person.  You will not find me oohing and ahhing to anyone and everyone about the wonders of pregnancy.  I haven't come up with any cutesy names for the child occupying my abdomen and I don't sit in his room with tears in my eyes as I sift through his clothes.  But, as this baby grows and his movements are stronger and more pronounced, I can't help but feel a special connection, beyond the physical, with this little boy.

There's the moments where he's stretching and his movements are slow but strong as if he's just waking up and pressing his back, legs and arms as far as the space will allow.  His head or back or bum protrude out the side of my belly making a hard, round surface.  I'll gently push back, sometimes out of discomfort, and he'll respond by either moving on to another spot or pushing back.

There's the times where almost instantaneously after food or drink drift across my mouth, the movements are sudden and sharp.  I imagine him throwing his fist into the air in a sort of, "woohoo, what do we have here?'  These jumps are sporadic and impossible to predict, particularly if I've had something sugary or the temperature more extreme.  A cold drink of water or a hot tea will really start the spastic dance that might last ten minutes or more.  These are the ones that are fun to watch from the outside as my belly contorts with him.

There are times when the movements are undetectable from the outside but completely rhythmic.  Logic tells me he has the hiccups but I prefer to think he's just carrying a beat, tapping along to a song in his head like his Mama is known to do.  Other times, completely unexpectedly, I'll take a single kick to an organ, usually the bladder.  By the time I've complained vocally, it's over.

At night as I'm settling into bed and reading, he begins his workout.  It's as if he crouches himself into a ball and then throws his arms and legs out, flails around a bit and returns to the ball.  Over and over again I'll feel limbs protruding on either side of my belly.  I'll tease Joe telling him his son is acting up and it's his turn to take over or I'll address the kid directly, trying to persuade him to calm down for bedtime.  But, like clockwork every night, he picks up his routine.

These movements are bizarre, occasionally uncomfortable and annoying but also kind of amazing.  While Joe partakes when he can, it's me that knows the schedule and it's me that feels the full breadth of every kick and stretch.  While we've yet to meet face to face, I'm starting to get an idea as to who this little person is - small glimpses into his personality.  I wonder if I'll recognize his moves when he's out, putting the pieces to the puzzle together confirming what I felt but couldn't see.  Even though pregnancy is fraught with more than its share of discomfort, it's in these moments of movement that I'm reminded just how incredible the entire process is.

And that's about as sentimental as I'll get.

An Escape Up the Coast

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Joe was working like crazy.  A combination of being generally understaffed and unsupported with colleagues on holidays, jobs coming up at the same time and problems with equipment kept him at the office to nearly midnight (or sometimes after) for an entire week.  The poor guy would arrive at home, eat an extremely late dinner and slump into bed only to wake up at 6 and do it all again.  We had planned a night away before everything went nuts but of course, had to cancel the night before as Joe just couldn't get away.  When the following week calmed down, the time away was even more needed as I wondered if he might turn up at home one day telling me he quit his job.

Haugesund is a small city just up the coast from Stavanger and while it's only about 80 kilometres, 2 undersea tunnels and a ferry ride make the journey close to two hours by car.  We had no idea if there was really anything there but we've seen it on the map and road signs over the last couple of years and we were curious.  Known for its past in the herring industry and home to Norway's longest pedestrian street, we hoped it would be a quaint and cozy weekend away.
Well, truth be told, it wasn't.  The town itself felt a little run down and that long pedestrian street wasn't anything to write home about.  It wasn't lined with cute cafes and pubs and it lacked the charm we had hoped for.  After a quick peruse Friday evening, we immediately decided a day trip out of Haugesund was in order.
 Haugesund is also home to Norway's National Monument, Haroldshaugen.  Supposedly, Harald Fairhair is buried here.
Saturday after breakfast, we jumped back in the car destined for Langfoss, one of Norway's many waterfalls.  In 2011, CNN featured an article on the 10 most beautiful waterfalls in the world and Langfoss happened to make the cut.  Thankfully, it was impressive.  The sheer length (2 008 feet) combined with the width as the water crashes out over the rocks and into the fjord certainly make it a sight to be seen.  There is an accompanying hike to the top of the falls however, it's deemed as 'Demanding' and demanding in Norwegian standards is most definitely a challenge that I wasn't up for 7 months pregnant.  Instead, we drove the short drive over the bridge that cuts directly through the waterfall, parked and admired the sight from a number of different vantage points.  On the return trip back to Haugesund, we stumbled across a small Polish cafe in ├ślen that was serving pierogis which might have been a highlight of the entire weekend.  They weren't the same as the Ukrainian variety I grew up eating regularly but they were pretty damn good.

So, Haugesund itself was a bit of a bust but the waterfall and those pierogis saved the trip.  Joe caught a break from his computer and it was nice to be just the two of us in the car with time to chat about life away from the distractions of home.  Sometimes, that's all that's needed.


Wednesday 30 July 2014

"Venice never quite seems real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water."
-Frida Giannini-

One must visit Venice before it sinks - or so the story goes.  To be honest, Venice was probably the city I was least excited to visit on our Italian vacation.  I tend to feel overwhelmed and unimpressed in places that are famous for being touristy and from what I'd heard, this little city on water was going to be filled to the brim with tourists.  Well, there certainly was a fair share of foreigners gracing the streets but Venice itself had more charm than I could have imagined.

The canals, the boats, the colours, the bridges, the laundry draped out windows, the narrow walkways snaking off in random directions, the quiet corners and the air of mystery that hangs over you as you delve further into the city - it's almost too perfect. 

While we made sure to pass through St Mark's Square, cross over Rialto Bridge and admire the Grand Canal, our days were generally spent delving as far as we could into the city.  It's amazing just how quiet and magical it feels when one wanders away from the crowds.  We had heard that it was easy to get lost in this floating city and yes, when one is seeking out something specific it can seem like you might never find your way there.  However, when your objective is to meander down as many side streets and canals as you can, it's not the disorientating experience you expect.  In fact, it's utterly intoxicating and you can't help but want to burrow further.

"Venice, the most touristy place in the world, is still just completely magic to me."
-Frances Mayes-

While one can't deny that there are indeed a lot of tourists in Venice, one also can't deny that the city is steeped in fascinating history with plenty of quiet corners to feel like you might be the only foreigner in town.

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