Jan 22, 2008

T - 4 Months

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.

3. School

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.



1. Family

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!

48 comments:

Kathryn said...

What an absolutely amazing experience. It must be very sad thinking of the end getting closer and closer. And yet, you have a lot of time left.
Enjoy every minute of it. It sounds like it has been a dream come true.

Melanie said...

If you draft those contracts for your kids, send me a copy, OK?

What a lovely time you've had. I hope the magic goes home with you.

LoriD said...

You're so lucky to have had this experience. I love your #1 moment. Although we try not to over-program the kids, life still seems too hectic sometimes. I'm going to pretend I had your revelation too.

Badness Jones said...

I think your Norway life sounds lovely....and I'm sure your boys will remember it forever with just as much fondness as you will. Those good-byes are gonna be hard...let me know if you need me to send kleenex!

Lisa @ Take90West said...

I can't believe your adventure is more than half over. I'm sad for you. But I think what you have accomplished together as a family is amazing. 20 years from now you'll be all sitting together and talking and laughing about the memories the boys will still remember. Good times.
I hope a little bit of your 'hermit' lifestyle goes home to Canada with you, because it sounds like you guys have really enjoyed each other!

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Oh, enjoy every moment of the time you have left! And take your learnings with you...you are right about how time runs differently in North America.

And Prague...I love that city!

Mary Alice said...

It sounds like a fantastic experience and an opportunity to really meditate on what you really want out of life...what is truly important.

Amy said...

what wonderful experiences your children are getting. i hope you have a great rest of you stay. it's funny how your mindset about things can change when you are removed from your regular routines. i think that is really amazing. your boys are very handsome and that baby nephew is adorable. take care.

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

Sounds like you are having the most amazing experience over there. How wonderful to just concentrate on creating relationships with your family for an extended period of time. Now your children will have lifelong relationships with their family even though they live so far away.

Rima said...

It sounds to me as though your lives in Norway are full in the best possible way. And don't go too easy on Mike - I read that guest post of his and he's livin' it up over there!

Karen MEG said...

Heidi, I can't believe it's going by so fast, I guess it really wasn't so long ago that the boys were having their playdates together!
Your trip has been life-changing for not just your boys and Mike, but obviously yourself as well. I think there's nothing more important in this world than family, and that sounds like it was one of the prime motivations for your trip in the first place. And you've experienced so much of your family during your time there. You can't ask for much more.
Good luck on adopting that new philosphy for the boys' school and lives. I've been working on that myself, trying not to stress over it all. And it is tough, no doubt about it.
Yeah, I would agree, Mike is kinda great. But I suspect you appreciate him a lot more than you might outwardly show all the time -guys just aren't the greatest at picking up the subtleties. That's why every so often I have to clang Ian on the head with a frying-pan full of compliments. Then he gets it.

Cyn said...

oh man - i'm sad to think that your journey will be coming to an end -- so I refuse to think of it. I'm so glad I stumbled across your blog - it has been so fun to visit Norway and surrounding areas with you - and to wonder if I would be brave enough to make such a change. I hope I would.

Rational Jenn said...

I just love your blog! I will be sad, too, when I no longer have pictures from Norway to look at on a regular basis.

Your words about slowing down and appreciating family really ring true to me. I'm glad you are all having such a wonderful time!

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Cool post - and a lesson for all of us. I wonder, is it because most of us don't have family (and lots of it) nearby that we fill our time with all those other activities?

Your boys will remember all of this - and it will be a great memory to have!

Robyn said...

What a nice tribute to to your experience thus far. I so wish I had the opportunity to live abroad for a year. I'm sure this will stay with your boys as one of their best childhood memories.

Chantal said...

What a wonderful retrospective. When we were kids (I was 10) we lived in the Caribbean for a year. I will write a post on that one day. This post reminded me of that (from the kids perspective of course)

the dragonfly said...

What a wonderful experience. Part of me wishes we could have had our Germany time when the Little Mister is older...but we're here now, so we have to make the most of it. He probably won't remember much of anything, but I'm taking tons and tons of pictures so he can at least see what his life was like here! :)

ewe are here said...

What a fabulous experience you've had... I suspect you're really going to miss Norway and your extended family when you leave.


And I adore Prague... my husband hasn't been, and I so want to take him there someday.

So, um, where in the UK will you be for a whole month? Hmmmmm?

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Thank you for validating me and my very unbusy life. I often wonder if I should be doing more, being more proactive about extra curricular activities, making more frineds, etc. I think about it but I just have a hard time giving up the peaceful flow of our lives right now. I won't mind changing that when the kids are asking to do things, but why should I rush them into it when they are so young?

And you are VERY lucky to have such a wonderul husband. I doubt many would have been willing to nake such a life changing decision. I'm so glad it has been so good for all of you.

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

I think it's so neat that you get to have these kinds of experiences. They'll educate your children better than any classroom, that is for sure.

Derek said...

I'm going to try and apply some of the wisdom you've shared in this lovely post. It sounds like this year has been such a special time with your family.

SoccerMomofTwo said...

Sounds like it's been a great experience! Keep enjoying it!

Laura said...

What an amazing adventure, with so many wonderful memories you will all have forever!

kim-d said...

Well, aren't you just cute as can be, Heidi :)! Wow, already half-way through, huh? What a wonderful experience you have had; I just wish there was some way I could insinuate myself into your family.

From experience, I can guarantee you these two things: 1) If you are able to keep your vow to continue on at a simpler, slower pace when you get back to Canada, you will never be sorry. I'm thinking that you might even find it impossible to go back to the stress of the constantly-on-the-go days; you've experienced the goodness that is the simpler life, and 2) You will also never be sorry that you appreciated Mike more. Really, our time on earth is so short that it's a shame to not fully appreciate the good in our lives. And sometimes it can even lead to him appreciating you more, too!!! Yeah, baby :)!

All of those "baby" boys (oh, I'm sure Christopher would just love to know that includes him!) are just so handsome! This time that they have had together will be with them forever. What an incredible gift you have given them!

And now you'll have to excuse me while I go visit Prague via Google...hehehe!

Kellan said...

Well - there it is - the answer to my question in the e-mail!!! I'm so glad to hear this story and now understand! What a great experience this has been for all of you - what a great adventure! I think you are very lucky! Take care and I'll talk to you soon. (Hey - maybe you could talk that sweet husband into moving to Texas for a year - down the street from me - ya think?) - see ya. Kellan

Aliki2006 said...

This was a wonderful list--and so important for you to reach that 6-month mark and reflect a little on the adventure. I'm happy you're sharing it with us!

BeachMama said...

I love this post. It shows how much you had to give up and how much you gained by this experience. And what you learned from it all. I hope you get to bring all you learned back with you.

I also agree with so much about the scheduling of kids as well as school being the center of the Universe. There is just so much more important out there.

And yes, your Hubby is pretty great to have agreed to go away for a whole year.

chichimama said...

Fabulous post! Do you read my friend Rebecca's blog? (Somewhereoverthepond.blogspot.com). She has had a similar experience with their stay in the UK, minus the family aspect. Of course I have offered mine up to her, but she for some reason didn't think that hanging with my relatives was quite as thrilling as I did...

Anyway, she is now four or five months from her return to the States and having similar reflections.

Misty said...

You have inspired me. I have decided to 'try' to chill out about school work...a little. And maybe try to do things in a more child-friendly manner...putting 'being a kid' before Harvard.

Got it.

Beck said...

This experience sounds magical - I think it's important to realize what our priorities actually ARE as a family. Moving back here was startling but good in the same sort of way.

Mrs. G. said...

I admire your family's gusto and sense of adventure. I really, really do. And I am grateful to you for sharing.

MamaGeek said...

I love this post, I can't begin to imagine all these experiences in such a short time.

And I pledge to appreciate my husband more too.

Enjoy every single remaining moment!

Candy said...

What an amazing reality check. I want to move to Norway. Oh wait, I've said that before haven't I? Ah well...

Hate to think about it ending!

carrie said...

Wow.

Shan said...

I have very similar contracts drawn up for the girls too. And we live a pretty slowed down lifestyle too. I normally only allow one after school activity per week. Although right now Abby does two, swimming and choir, but they're each only half an hour and choir is only every other week. I didn't want to be one of those crazy households where everyone is running in twenty different directions.

Cathy said...

This all sounds so incredible. And you still have another half to go! I'm so envious...

Love the accompanying photos.

sandyshoes said...

"family adventure," indeed. What a treasure.

I can relate to what you said about not rushing around so much once you get back to Canada. One of the reasons I chose to live on Cape Cod instead of, say, right outside Boston, is because of the pace of life being a bit slower. I want my kids to be kids.

Alpha DogMa said...

What a lovely post. I especially liked your reflections about schooling -- an issue we are just getting into with our boys.

Are you definitely returning to Canada? How did you wind up in Canada in the first place? Why were you in Puerto Rico? I'm so jealous. My life seems small and bland in comparison.

familymclean said...

You are amazing!!!! I love your life there, the calm reminds me of us since we moved here, and you are right, it is so much less hectic!

The conclusions you have come to with their education...you are so smart.
I soooo wish you were my next door neighbor, I would just come hang out and gobble up all your experience!

kimmy said...

What a great post and such a great experience for your entire family. I think traveling with your children is better than anything they could ever learn in school. This will be something they will never forget and cherish forever!

Kimmy

gmcountrymama said...

Wow, what a wonderful time you have had. I am especially jealous of the time you have gotten to spend with hus and boys.
Both of my kids are planning on building homes on our property when they grow up. I hope they don't change their minds! Of course I want them to see the world, but to settle down close to us.

Professor J said...

I am really impressed with your willingness to uproot yourselves for a year. I am sure these are all experiences that will stay with you forever.

Victoria said...

Oh, Heidi. This - like so many of your posts - is so touching and warm. I love your perspective on the boys' learning-not-in-the-classroom. Me too.

I've enjoyed "seeing" this thru you. Thanks for sharing the journey. Can't wait for more.

Rebecca said...

I totally hear you about taking what you've learned from your time overseas and using it to make positive changes in your life back home. As much of a gift as these months have been, that would be a true lasting legacy of this experience. Will be curious to see how you get on with this... especially as I'll be doing the same before too long!

Thanks for finding me through chichimama!

Stomper Girl said...

This is such a nice taking-stock.

The nice thing about telling your young kids they have to live next door to you when they grow up is that they totally agree with you and are even a bit shocked at the prospect that one day they WON'T live with us.

MadMad said...

What a great post, in so many ways: sharing this great experience with us, but also what it taught you (and could be teaching us). I think of calming things down all the time - and dream of moving off somewhere where we don't know anyone, and don't have any "obligations." Some days I feel like I live vicariously through you - it sounds great, really!

Steph said...

How lucky you are to have this experience and sharing it with your kids. I'm sure it will be a year that you will all look back on fondly. Enjoy the rest of your stay!

theotherbear said...

Great post, Heidi! Food for thought for all of us. Especially #1.