Although I successfully ignored its half-way mark in December, there's just no denying it anymore:
Today marks 6 months since our departure from Canada.
We have another 4 months to go, 3 in Norway and one to be spent in the UK. And while I am not yet ready for our sabbatical to be over, I think this calls for a "summing up" of the highlights of our adventure so far. What follows below are...
My Top Five
5. Celebrating my mother's 60th birthday only 4 days after our arrival in July, with family and friends we hadn't seen for years.
Now that my own children are getting older and I am slowly accepting the fact that they won't be living with me forever (*sob*), I keenly understand how happy my parents were to have their entire family celebrating with them that night. And their excitement at the thought that all of their children would be close by for the next few months (I decided a long time ago never to allow my children to move abroad like I did, and made them sign documents promising to live in houses on either side of mine as soon as they were old enough to spell their names).
4. Going to Prague
Mike and I were married almost 12 years ago, and I'm still waiting to go on a honeymoon (some might argue that living in Costa Rica at the time equalled a honeymoon, but I beg to differ). This trip was a mini-honeymoon of sorts; our first ever without our boys, and even though we missed them, it was wonderful to be able to walk where we wanted, see what we wanted, and eat and drink when we wanted.
We were clearly not accustomed to such freedom, as we covered all must-see tourist sites within half a day of our visit. I think we were secretly afraid that it was all a dream, and that we'd wake up the next morning with two boys who only wanted to go to McDonald's for breakfast, and then sit in the hotel room and play DS for the rest of the day.
My biggest worry by far before coming to Norway! I never thought I'd say this, but the experience my children have had going to Norwegian school has been incredibly positive. I was expecting rough patches, but, when I look back, I can't really think of any. The boys have adjusted remarkably well. Their Norwegian has improved beyond what I could have hoped for, and they've both found good friends to play with.
While I would like to see both boys retain their language skills, more importantly, I hope their confidence in themselves and their ability to adapt, make friends and learn in a foreign environment will stay with them.
2. My nephews
I always felt very close to Joakim, my oldest nephew, and my first Godson. He and Christopher also have a very tight relationship, and he's spent time with us in Canada. My second nephew, Mathias, has always been more of a mommy's boy, and although he's always been interested in Benjamin, it wasn't until this year that the two of them really bonded. But they have definitely made up for lost time! They call each other on their cell phones and have long conversations (I can never get any information out of Benjamin as to what they actually talk about), and they have sleepovers every weekend. It's been a really awesome thing to watch, and I now sense that those two boys will be as close as their big brothers for life.
But the biggest highlight this year in terms of my nephews has to be getting to know baby Emil, and watching him grow from an infant into a lively almost 8 month old baby boy who has a will and a mind of his own. It's going to be a huge honour for Mike and I to become his Godparents in two weeks' time, and I hope it's a sign that he will be as close to us as his two brothers are.
Before we left, our life in Canada was pretty busy. We had a healthy social life, combined with busy careers, and children with lots of school and after-school activities, not to mention countless playdates.
It was fun, but often felt hectic and stressful.
By comparison, our life here in Norway is so calm. Some might call it boring. We don't have any friends here, except for the few I still know from years ago. And we haven't done a good job of keeping up with any of them (oh, the shame). Nor have we seized chances to make new friends, whenever they have presented themselves. In fact, we've been rather hermit-like in our life here. It's been all about ourselves, our boys, my parents, and my siblings and their families. We've also been fortunate enough to see Mike's family in the UK more than we normally would have.
And as a family, we do everything together now. We go to the cottage a lot, we hike, we ski, we skate, we bake, we cook, we read, we play cards. We have family over for dinner. We watch movies together, we play singstar. It's all pretty mundane on paper, but in reality, it's been a lot of fun. We've grown much closer, and we are more in tune about where we are in our lives right now, and where we want to go.
I thought I might have gotten tired of this life by now, but, in truth, it's been such a soothing, centering experience. I knew our life in Canada was busy, but at the time, I never thought I had much say in the matter.
I'm rethinking that now.
I know I made too big of a deal, for example, of the boys' school work in Canada. And I no longer want school to play centre stage in our lives. Our children are not the best students in the universe; they are lazy, unorganized, messy, etc. They're just kids and they want to play and have fun. They do not want to be practicing spelling words, or doing math drills. But they're not lost behind a wagon, and sooner or later, things will click for them. It isn't going to make things any better for me to push for perfect right now, when they just don't care. As long as they're not ruining their chances of getting into Harvard, I'm going to be cool about it.
I also want to stop scheduling every single free moment of their lives. While I do want my children to be exposed to different types of sports and have lots of friends, I do not want to have to take them to activities/playdates every single afternoon. From now on, we will pick with care and enjoy the things we do. No running around like a crazy woman, trying to get from point A to point B 10 minutes ago.
Finally - and I'm having a tough time getting the words out - I pledge to appreciate my husband more.
Because the truth is, he is kinda great. Fine! He's really great, then. He was certainly great when he agreed to come to Norway for the year. There isn't a lot here for him, and I'm sure it wasn't the best career move in the world. And yet, he did it. That's a lot to be grateful for. He tells me on a daily basis that I don't appreciate him enough. He's joking, but you know - he's got a point. So, Mikey, I'll appreciate you a little more, okay? Just don't get too used to it. You still have to pick up the boys when it rains!