Wednesday, June 19, 2013

simplicity

For almost 3 weeks now, since we have been home from our trip to Europe, I have wanted to process and share some of the things we learned while away. But life keeps going, it seems. And we live in the moment that we have. Sometimes that means there just isn't time to go back reflecting on what happened a month ago.

If I had to choose ONE thing to share out of all that we experienced and all of the ways we grew, it would be to tell you how much we loved the simplicity of our lives while traveling through Norway and Austria.

Simplicity to me means living simply. Without many material "things" and without all of the extra restrictions that we put on our lives in the form of schedules and obligations, that in the end only serve to complicate. At home we are convinced we survive with the help of our modern conveniences. Travelling, we are stripped of those. Yet somehow we survive. And we learn beautiful things about ourselves and our adaptability, our endurance and our flexibilities, our limits and our preferences, and most of all our ability to seize the day.

A few ways that simplicity found us...

  • We had one week's worth of clothing. Just enough.
  • The girls had only a few toys and some borrowed books. Perfect.
  • We all slept in one room. It was fine. And even fun!


  • We had no cell phone. No one to call, and no one to call us. Wow. It was incredibly relaxing to be without.
  • We went grocery shopping nearly every day, picking up only the food items we knew we would eat over the next 24 hours. As a result, we wasted very little food.


  • We had no microwave at any point throughout our month abroad. With two children who will only drink warm milk, and one of them in particular who gets about 90% of her calories from milk alone, I thought this would be a problem. It wasn't. I heated milk on the stove approximately 6 times a day and grew to enjoy those moments of quiet while hovering over the milk pot, concentrating on warming it to just the right temperature.


  • The children consistently got an average of 2 less hours of sleep than normal. I expected this to result in meltdowns and behavior problems. Sometimes it did. But most of the time these two little girls proved to be extremely adaptable. Occasionally they made up for their lack of sleep by sleeping late in the morning or taking a catnap in the car or zoning out in front of the t.v. In general, these girls just went with it.


Overall we spent more time outdoors, watched less television, and played together more often. As the quantity of time spent together increased, so did the quality of that time. The girls solidified their status as each other's best friend, simply because they were each other's only friend. It was a glorious thing to witness these two giggling together... while wearing no clothes outside, of course.

All of this in the presence of simplicity. It reminds me to fight getting caught up in the American mentality of more. I want more. I need more. I like more. More makes me feel safe. Along with that goes some other thinking we easily fall prey to, like a scheduled life is a better life. And everyone needs a lot of space and things to be happy. Fight it, because it just isn't true.

There is great beauty in simplicity. And while I did a mini-jump of excitement in my kitchen when I got home and used my microwave for the first time, I can remember that it was relaxing not to have one. We aren't turning our cell phones in to Verizon yet, but we might be turning them off a little more often.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

globe-trotting

I've been absent. You may have noticed. While traveling with small children, life does not allow for blogging, or internet, or much alone time for that matter. Those things were replaced by other much more valuable adventures and cultural lessons. It was exhilarating and exhausting all at once, providing us with stories we can tell for the rest of our lives.

Because one can only include so much in a post, the stories will have to wait. For now, here is a glimpse of where we spent the past month... in Norway and Austria! We were blessed to stay with various relatives of Christian's while we took advantage of the final month he is in between jobs. The timing before baby #3 arrives could not be better, as we are certain there is no way we will attempt a trip like this with a 3rd small child.

NOTE: Please excuse the obnoxious date stamp on some of the pictures. We purchased a new point and shoot camera the day before we left for our trip and did not discover this glaring camera setting until we got back. Unfortunately, date stamping on a photo is a permanent feature. Lesson learned. The camera setting has been changed for the future.

NORWAY

AUSTRIA

The real low of our trip was caused by a combination of jet lag and a vomiting flu that Sommer began with in the middle of our 11-hour airplane ride to Europe. After recovering from that, things could only go up. This is what jet lag looks like.

There is nothing like a nap in "polar bear skin" to help you catch up on your sleep, simultaneously making you feel a little more Norwegian.

AUSTRIA
After a few days spent recovering from the marathon flight to Norway, we flew to Austria for almost 2 weeks for some warmer spring weather.  These special cousins were our personal tour guides.

From the idyllic Bodensee lakeside town of Dornbirn we day-tripped to the Alps... 


and to the lakeside...

and watched the flowers open into a fully blooming spring before our very eyes.

Along the way we learned to love Nutella (okay, we already loved Nutella, but it sure tasted delicious in Austria!)...



and my stomach grew, in what was hopefully unrelated to the consumption of Nutella.


We had a visit from some dear friends who live in Germany, and the girls all bonded over animals and playing in the rain.



When our children would sit still for brief periods of time, we enjoyed some fabulous Austrian cuisine, often in an unassuming off-the-road location.

NORWAY
Then back to Norway for our final two weeks where the family greeted us in typical Norwegian style with an amazing local selection of cheeses and jellies and liverwurst and cucumber spreads, among other things. The cakes were the most memorable.



We had the privilege of celebrating the 17th of May, Norway's Independence Day, with the locals. What a fabulous display of national heritage! The entire community came out to participate in the parade and the celebration. If only I had blog space to feature each of the the historical bunads worn by the people!

We toured museums...



and spent much of our time at the water's edge... on islands, 

in the fjords...


and even on a boat!

Annike was ECSTATIC to catch her first fish, a good sized sea trout that she and Sommer devoured for dinner.  It may have been their first decent meal in Europe because prior to this it seemed the two of them were existing solely on milk and gummy candy.


Oh yes, and ice cream. A good European diet. My sweet-toothed husband kept insisting we should eat as much ice cream as possible because they don't make it this good in the states. I had to close my eyes and hope that a month of poor nutrition would not permanently damage them in anyway.


On our final weekend, the family came together to celebrate Christian's birthday. It is surely one to remember. We were treated to a fjord-view lunch by octogenarian Tante Borghild in the charming seaside town of Drobak, a favorite destination of ours.


Upon our return, the most common question we have been asked is, "How was it travelling with small kids?"  Hmmm... not as easy as you might think. We had a LOT of stuff and our children were chronically overtired, which resulted in many naps taken in the car or other assorted locations. But overall our children rose to the occasion and were as flexible as we could expect them to be.


We are indebted to the extended family who opened their homes and their hearts to make this trip possible. It would have been an entirely less comfortable and much less fun experience had we stayed in a hotel for the duration. European travels are quite different with two children in tow, but given the circumstances, we feel we got the most out of our experience. More to follow as I process some of the truths discovered along the journey...
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