Election Eve 2016

I voted. By mail, a few weeks ago.

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And tomorrow the rest of the country votes. I, like many others out there, will be so happy when this election cycle is over and we can stop hearing and seeing Trump all over the news day in and day out. Because he’ll go away now, right? He won’t win, right? It’s terrifying. The opinion polls that show him neck and neck with Clinton. What? I knew there was a lot of asshattery in the US, but this much? This loud? This widespread? This unabashed? It’s disheartening. No, it’s more than that. It’s… I can’t think of any word that’s not an understatement.

So I’m predicting that Hillary Clinton will win. Because I can’t stand the thought of the other front-runner winning. (He’s a front-runner? What? Bizarro World.) I’m plugging my ears and yelling lalalalala and deciding that she’ll win.

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No matter how much I’ve heard about it in the media, seeing this list of names on the actual ballot is still Surreal. But there ARE three women running for President, see that, THREE!

I don’t like Clinton as a candidate. Not because she’s a woman and I’m playing to the sexist propaganda against her. No, because of her foreign policy and corporate backers. Supposedly Bernie Sanders’ campaign was going to pull her towards a more progressive platform, but I can’t see that effect in the things she says. She is business as usual, part of the same old gang we’ve always had in charge, and her warhawk stance on foreign policy scares me.

I mean, I know it’s a big deal that we’re getting our first female US President. I remember the way people said “Maybe one day a WOMAN will be President!” back when I was a kid. Sort of the way they said “Maybe one day we’ll have flying cars!”, like they didn’t actually believe it would happen in our lifetime and weren’t really sure it’d be a good idea if it did happen. Like how would that actually work? Levitating street signs? Flying cars zipping this way and that, willy nilly? It’d be chaos! Flying cars, a female President? Chaos and calamity!

So it’s cool, we’re getting our first female President (Because we are. Come on, please?). But did it have to be like this?

Against Trump? What kind of a triumph is that.
No matter what, if you like Hillary Clinton or not, the fact that she was elected with Trump as her opponent  takes the triumph down a notch.
When she’s praised we’ll hear, “Yeah of course she won. Trump was the other choice.”
And when she’s criticized it’ll be, “Yeah, but would you rather have Trump as President?” He’ll still be there, shadowing her throughout this Presidency and giving people the chance to always ask, “Would she have won against a normal candidate?”.

And isn’t it “funny” that when the US is finally getting a female president (Because we are. Please Bizarro People, Please), her opponent is the embodiment of male chauvinistic schoolyard bully fratboy rape culture behavior? They’re like perfect archetypes for these duelling paradigms in American culture. Almost like you couldn’t have set it up better if it were all scripted and staged. Huh. But I’m afraid it’s not. I’m afraid all the hate and anger that’s been unleashed during this election cycle is all too real.

Personally I’d love to see a third party get 5% this time and therefore be eligible for public funding in the next election cycle. To break the country out of the Democrat-Republican rut would be awesome. But first I want to see Trump not become President.

The ironic thing, for me personally, is that if I voted based on the main issue that impacts me directly* I’d vote for Trump. (*well, other than war. War impacts all of us on the planet, obviously) Not many people are aware of this, or even really care much when made aware of it, but the US is one of the only countries in the world with Citizenship Based Taxation. The other country that has it is Eritrea. And maybe North Korea according to some sources. All other countries in the world have Residence Based Taxation. This is a huge hassle to people living outside the US and has become even more horrendous due to the new reporting requirements called FBAR and FATCA. See, I can just feel people’s eyes glazing over and wandering around the screen as I type this. It’s boring stuff to read about, and even more boring to have to do it. Yet there are ridiculous fines threatened (10,000 US dollars per account reported incorrectly, ridiculous things like that!) and it’s an awful onus to live under. People (Americans living in certain countries like Germany and France) are getting kicked out of their banks, getting their mortgages cancelled, their retirement plans cancelled or taxed away to nothing. These reporting requirements were supposedly set up to catch tax evaders hiding money offshore but the result is that it’s making life miserable for a bunch of little fish like me living their lawful normal lives offshore. Uh, I mean, abroad. Oh wait, it’s the same thing. This has nothing to do with tax evasion, and everything to do with not wanting to live under threat of draconian fines and punishments because of an ever-increasingly complex tax system. So even if this isn’t a hot button issue it’s a big deal to those of us who live abroad, and Trump (or at least the Republican platform) is the only one who’s saying he’d make changes to these things.

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(Pic source: spv.no) The offshore bank where I hide all my money. Or, put another way, the local bank where I put my money so my family can use it. FATCA go away.

But that’s not happening. Voting for Trump I mean. Not for one iota of a second would I consider it seriously. Even if one thing he says makes sense, the rest makes none. Or some of it makes an awful kind of sense. A racist, misogynistic, xenophobic kind of sense. Which is not something one just ignores as background noise. No, one hears it and starts to MAKE some noise. Bring it, we’re not letting this become our voice. He is not our voice, America. Right? Come on!

So now we all hunker down and wait through tomorrow. And then hunker down and wait through whatever comes after that. I’ll be here, fingers crossed, rocking in the corner, humming a quiet hippy hymn under my breath. Peace, love, and light. Good luck America. Good luck World.

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Pic source: Brutally Honest Voting Stickers

 

Way too low

That didn’t take long.

I’ve only published five blog posts so far and already I got my first negative email about one of my pictures! I think that must be some kind of blogger milestone, right? So I feel honored!

 

It wasn’t a very harsh or abusive email, thankfully. More just condescending and critical. I’ve been active on internet discussion groups and forums long enough to know how nuts people can get. Over things nobody would normally use much energy on at all. I’ve learned a lot about what level I’m comfortable with sharing myself, although I can see that with a blog this comfort level might end up stretching and shifting and I’ll have a new learning curve to surmount as I deal with feedback (aka criticism) on more personal levels. But I like the discussions brought forth by sharing thoughts, for me  it’s part of the point of writing a blog. Putting thoughts out there and hearing what other people think about the subject. Dialogue. So it doesn’t shock me to get a negative email, I just wasn’t expecting it so soon. I’m not naive enough to think it will be the last, or the worst! Bring it on, I’m ready to hit delete! 😉 (Or maybe I’ll answer, if I think there’s something constructive and worthwhile about continuing the conversation.)

 

The negative email I got was because of this picture:

 

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In which, according to the email, my baby is too low, I’m wearing the baby carrier wrong, I’m promoting unsafe babywearing practices, and I should have just used a stroller instead! Ok, I added that last part. The whole email was just “educating” me on why I was wearing my baby wrong and why I should take more responsibility to show babywearing in a better way. Ok.

 

First point, my baby is too low. Her head should be “Close enough to kiss” which you can see it isn’t. Well, ahem, she’s being carried at this height for the simple reason that this is where my boobs are. My baby breastfeeds, on the beach, in the house, with a mouse, in the air, and everywhere. This is the beauty of babywearing for me. I can meet her needs with breastfeeding while exploring an awesome magical beach like this. Amazing. But it requires me to wear her “too low”, like this, so she’s where the boobs are. Yep.

 

Next point, I’m wearing the carrier wrong. The waist belt should be up around my waist, not resting on my hips. And the shoulder straps should be tightened more. This is of course related to the comment about wearing my baby too low. And my answer again is this carrier positioning is mostly about putting the baby at boob level. When I’m not breastfeeding and I’m walking around more actively I usually do tighten up the shoulder straps more and pull the baby in tighter to my body to prevent her from swinging back and forth which is uncomfortable for both me and her. But I don’t always bring the waist belt up higher and I don’t agree that wearing it down on my hips is Wrong. I like transferring some of the baby’s weight down to my hips and carrying it there. That’s comfortable to me. I see this a lot online, people critiquing other people’s baby carriers based on their own bodies and preferences and not being open for the fact that varying the carry position can be both more comfortable for some people. Not to mention the fact that if we use baby carriers a lot it can be a good idea to vary which type and how we wear them so we activate and use different muscles in different ways. Better for our bodies.

 

I’m all for babywearing safety. Unsafe things include anything where the baby’s airways can be compromised. A sloppy wrap job which lets the baby slump and curl down so their chin is down on their chest. Babies carried in “cradle position” where the chin again can get pressed down to the chest and block their airflow. Poorly designed “bag slings” where the baby can roll inwards so their face can be pressed in to the adults’s torso, leading to possible suffocation. Jackets and sweatshirts closed around and over the baby’s head, obstructing airflow.

 

A small baby slumping down in a front-pack carrier of this type can also be dangerous. And that’s what my emailer tried to teach me and said I shouldn’t “promote”. Because wearing the carrier this loose could lead to a small baby slumping down and not getting correct support for their body or airways. I must say my first (somewhat sarcastic I admit) reaction was to thank this person for giving me so much credit, to think I could actually be promoting anything and influencing anyone with this blog at this point, since I have about 10 regular readers (half of which are my family).

 

But anyway, I agree, if a very small baby is worn in a front-pack carrier like this, and the baby’s body isn’t fully supported with for example an infant insert or another solution, and especially if the carrier is worn loose and low, there is a risk that the baby will slide down, curl up, the airways can be compromised, it can be bad for their spine and hips, and they can even fall out the sides of the carrier if the positioning is really bad and the parents don’t pay enough attention. So yeah, scary.

 

*But that’s not what’s happening here.* In this picture my baby is a year old, with excellent control over her head, torso, and legs. I’m also an experienced babywearer, this being my fifth child and probably my 500th baby carrier. (Haha, yes, I’m serious. I ran a babywearing shop for 8 years, I’ve tried most of them.) I know when I need to tighten up the carrier because the situation demands better balance and control, and I know when I can loosen up and let her hang a bit (down where the boobs hang, I just like writing that). I agree that from this one picture you can’t tell anything about my experience level or other specifics of the situation, but I didn’t write that post to teach anyone babywearing skills or “promote” babywearing in any way. When I do teach babywearing I firmly believe in teaching people the Hows, and then the Whys, and then letting them tweak and adapt the skills so they work best for their lifestyle.  If someone looks at this picture of me wearing my one-year old “too low” and then says “hey! that means I can put my newborn in the same carrier and adjust it exactly like that and go stand on a beach!” I can’t personally take responsibility for that. There’s unfortunately a lot of stupid in the world, but we can only combat that with information. Getting good information out there so people can make decisions that are appropriate for their own circumstances. Babywearing can give people great freedom and let them include their babies in so many wonderful experiences. But as it becomes more popular it also develops more and more “rules” which can end up scaring people off from even trying. There has to be a middle ground of giving people the information they need to wear their baby safely while still being able to trust in common sense to adapt to their own specific needs and situation. Yeah, maybe I should write some blog posts on Hows and Whys of babywearing, I do have lots of thoughts and ideas about babywearing, as may be clear at this point. But there are already tons of resources for this information online. I hope anyone who feels the incredible influence and inspiration emanating from my amazing photo (haha) will google a bit and find those resources and that they won’t base their whole babywearing practice on one picture they saw on a blog. One can hope.

 

Those were my thoughts and reaction to the email I received. I’m gonna keep posting pictures of myself, probably babywearing pictures too, and I guarantee there will be many more imperfect situations involved. I’m generally quite imperfect. And dialogue is great, I look forward to it. But my answer in many cases will be this. I do the best I can with the information I have. I make things work for me and I take responsibility for my life and my children. And I trust that those around me do the same.

 

Bonus! I was looking for something else and found this picture. Bad (yet still safe) babywearing at its best! Hint: Boob location is involved in the positioning here too. 🙂

 

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What I did on my Summer Vacation

What I did on my Summer Vacation

Social media sucks. It wastes all our time and cheapens our interactions. It addicts our kids and ruins our attention spans. And even more serious things like controlling the public discourse through censorship and giving bigots an easy way to spew their ideas. (OK, I see the contradiction there, I don’t want censorship, but do we have to make it so damn easy for the assholes?) So yeah, social media is problematic.

But then sometimes it results in this:

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The small light gray tent down to the left was ours. Drone photo by Petter Formo.

People travelling together from all over the country, taking a chance on meeting what’s essentially a big group of strangers.

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People who’ve met online, chatted and shared and questioned and sometimes argued, meeting in real life, finally.

People bringing Facebook connections to life in the real world, connections based on common values of trust, compassion, and finding harmony with and on our planet.

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Most of the people who were there. Photo by Marie Vatne, Bygdefotografen.

A parenting group. One of the thousands (millions, who knows) on Facebook. The group isn’t part of an official organization in any way, just a chat group. But then it becomes more than that. People from the group find ways to get together in real life when they can. Smaller local gatherings for those who are lucky enough to live near each other, and a larger gathering during the summer. This past summer one of the families in the group said hey, we’ve got room for lots of people up here, come to us!

So we did!

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And let me tell you about this place! The Hjertefølger family lives here. (Hjertefølger means “Heart Follower” in Norwegian.) It’s on an island called Sandhornøya which you reach by taking a ferry from the city of Bodø. This is Northern Norway, the land of the Midnight Sun, and the Polar Night. The house is built with a material called cob and the whole house is inside a big glass dome. A shining transparent igloo which creates a warm and tranquil space inside. They don’t just have a greenhouse for their garden, they live inside one, nurturing and growing plants and children and dreams all in one big magical jumble.

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As you can imagine, the house and the family have drawn lots of interest from the media both in Norway and internationally. You can read about them here (in English) and also here (in Norwegian). You can also read about their house and ideas here on their own blog (Norwegian) and there’s a lovely short documentary film about them you can watch here. They run retreats and do workshops on permaculture and vegan food and cob-building, so you can go to one of those if you’re in the neighborhood. I would if I was!

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I mean, look at this place.
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Those colors.
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From the beach looking back at the house. Just wow.

And for four days I did get to be there. For four days we got to hang out and recharge in one of the most peaceful, gorgeous places on Earth. Thirty or so families, at least twice that number of children, and the whole experience was amazingly harmonious and conflict-free. I mean, 60 kids running around camping and playing, you might expect chaos. But there was none. Instead there was fellowship and community and respect and good spirits. For a few days we got to experience what it would be like to live in that mythical village we all hear it takes to raise a child. Well, mythical for me at least, and for so many of us. Yes, we have caring people around us who help take care of our kids, but our society is so compartmentalized and institutionalized, there are too many distancing and isolating elements for a real village feeling to develop in most of the neighborhoods here where we live now. But for four days we got to be there, and feel how it could be. I’m so grateful I got the chance to be part of it!

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My daughter, also amazed at what she was experiencing.

 

So much of what social media gives us is negative. More input, more stress, more stuff, more greed. We don’t need that, but we do need more of this. More community. More magic. More coming together. Peace and love and rainbows. I call more of this to my life. I will build more of this into my life, through a web of internet connections or in a real-life village somewhere someday. We start small, gather and share, and then, we fix the world!

Well, a girl can dream anyway.

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A girl, dreaming.

 

Addendum:

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This absolutely awesome full rainbow over the dome actually happened while we were all there. It was breathtaking. I took some crappy pictures with my phone, but they turned out crappy. So I’m sharing this photo taken by the Heart Follower father, Benjamin Hjertefølger.

The Slowness

I have Slowness on me. Big time, like I’m wading in molasses. My son taught me this word, it’s what he says when I’m trying to rush him out the door to get to school on time, “No, I can’t move faster, I have Slowness on me. See!”. Then he moves around in super slow motion to prove his point. I’m not sure if he learned this word somewhere, probably a video game or some superhero story. Just guessing, based on source information for most of the random stuff he throws into our conversations these days. But I’m also pretty sure he thinks it’s a real expression, another example of his “creative” English skills. And it’s obviously a real phenomenon, everyone with kids knows they get Slowness on them instantly when you use magic words like “hurry”or “late”.

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A child (mine) exhibiting great Slowness one morning before school.

But wherever this Slowness word comes from, I have it on me, for sure. Which may seem odd because I do tons of stuff every day, like every mom. (And yes, I know, some dads.) This house would fall apart without me. I’m busy all the time. From the moment I get up until the moment I drop at night. Keeping up with the basic housework, laundry, dishes, making food, getting people where they need to go with what they need to take with them. And so on.

The tired old housewife rant (in my case tired and old can refer to both the housewife and the rant) –

“Hello dear, what did you do today?”

“Uh, um, I can’t remember,

oh yeah,

EVERYTHING”

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Today I did this, for example. 7 people’s worth of laundry. Scintillating conversation fodder.

I roll out of bed, make the food, change the diapers, wash, clean and sort all the stuff. And most of the time I remember the dentist appointments and birthday parties too.

But when it comes to the “extra” things, the things I want to do for myself, Slowness. Molasses. Small tasks, little projects, messages to answer, letters to write, these things get pushed down the list until after that.. and after that.. and, sigh, after that too… and ok, well, maybe after the kids are sleeping. Ah, finally, everyone’s asleep, ah, sleep, that’s a good idea. Good night. The Slowness wins another day.

This didn’t just start now. I still catch myself thinking I have a newborn. I’ve been planning to write down her birth story, but I haven’t yet even though it’s been a “plan” in the back of my mind almost every day since she was born. She’s 15 months old now. And that message from a good friend I’m gonna get to just as soon as I find a moment to sit down and relax and focus my thoughts, I note with shame has been sitting unanswered for 8 months now. (And not just that one, there’s a whole list of them.) To do lists upon to do lists, written and rewritten, never getting done. And this isn’t my first postpartum rodeo. It’s pretty standard for me in the months and years after each baby, so I’m up to more than a decade (14 years in November, but who’s counting) of slogging through Slowness now.

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A delightful little Slowness Monster, whose birth story I may one day write down.

I guess I should be used to it, but it still drives me nuts, and I’m feeling extra slow this Autumn. I have so many ideas and plans right now, but I only get these ten minute windows here and there to actually focus on them. (And I spend a ridiculous number of those ten minute windows gazing absentmindedly out actual windows, gah!) In my head, especially while driving, I’m racing around, getting this done and that written and all those things sewn and sorted and built. Man if I could do things telekinetically my life would be awesome! Although telekinesis itself would be so awesome I probably wouldn’t care anymore about having curtains that were sewn up to the right length, or all my photo books for the last 10 years sorted and sent off to the printer. But right now I care, I want curtains that fit my windows and photo books of my kids. Amongst other things.

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I stared absentmindedly out the window for at least ten minutes before taking this picture today.

Is it too much to want to feel on top of things? To feel efficient? Yeah, probably. I do try to lower my expectations, practice self-forgiveness, be grateful for the little things. I do. But some days I’d just like to go to bed feeling like, yeah, hey, check check check, the To Do list is Done.

Like I said, I’ve come to accept that things slow down in the months (years) after a baby. Accepting this and really forgiving myself for all I never do has been key to keeping my sanity through many a postpartum year. But there comes a time when forgiving yourself for not getting things done turns into just never doing anything. Hard to hold your head high and be proud of your accomplishments when you don’t really have any to speak of. (Yes, I’m proud of being a Mom and all it entails, but I have so many other ideas too!) I’m ready for an upswing now, my baby is 15 months old, the energy-rebound is just around the corner, right? It must be. But it seems to be taking longer than usual. Maybe because I’m 42 this time. Or because 5 kids and a big old house full of half-done renovation projects is just that hectic. Maybe the Slowness is here to stay this time.

Or maybe tomorrow you’ll be the one who gets an answer to that email you wrote me two years ago.

And I’ll sew up those curtains.

And actually publish this blog post.

Take that, Slowness! Pow pow.

 

One parent, whatever language works!

One parent, whatever language works!

-Remember yesterday when we were on the shop?

-Batman are my favorite!

-Today at school we had a try. (a test)

My son’s English is charming. He has creative grammar and makes lots of mistakes. He superimposes English words onto Norwegian grammar, or translates directly to English from Norwegian. My kids are bilingual with Norwegian and English as their mother tongues, but Norwegian has become the dominant language in our house. They hear English from me, when I remember to speak it to them, and when we’re in social situations where switching to English every time we addressed each other wouldn’t be weird or rude, and of course from tv and movies. Other than that they hear Norwegian. They understand English but speak with Norwegian accents and make mistakes here and there. Many a fellow expat has let me know this is all my fault, as I’ve failed at holding the One Parent One Language rule. When raising bilingual children what language you use when you talk to your kids is just one more checkmark on the list of Things You Can and Probably Will Do Wrong.

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My kids in a Norwegian hardware store being Norwegian

There are so many rules and expectations about this. I’m not supposed to speak to them in Norwegian because I’ll teach them my bad accent and grammar. And I’m supposed to always speak to them in English (my mother tongue) to give them a full heart language in the language of their mother. (The guilt! My children don’t share a heart language with me, if that’s not a mama failure I don’t know what is.)  According to some I’m supposed to go so far as to refuse to answer them if they speak to me in Norwegian, waiting in stoic silence until they say it in English. (Can you imagine this approach with an overtired three-year old? What joy this would add to our family life!) On the other hand I’m supposed to help them in their daily life at the Norwegian school and Norwegian activities with their Norwegian coaches and parent-teacher meetings with their Norwegian teachers, and model normal polite behavior out in society (Norwegian), and have normal social interactions with all the children and adults in our neighborhood and community who are, you guessed it, Norwegian. Plus integrate into the society myself, you know, to be a happy, normal, social-functioning adult which helps me model happy, normal social behavior to them. And I’m supposed to do all this whilst never speaking Norwegian directly to my own children. Does Not Compute.

But I hear this again and again. Expats worried and upset at the fact that their children who grow up here don’t speak English perfectly, or (gasp) have a Norwegian accent when they speak it. I just can’t relate. It doesn’t bother me that my children have Norwegian accents when they speak English. I think it’s fine that Norwegian is essentially their first language. I can’t get worked up about this “problem” because having Norwegian as one’s first language is actually in fact not a problem at all. And one-size-fits-all rules about how we should be interacting annoy me.

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Happy kids with Norwegian accents

Kids, my kids at least, are efficient. Not in the sense that they focus on a task and jump to it when I say they should do something (I wish!), but in the sense that they don’t use brain space to force things which aren’t necessary. When we’re around people who don’t speak Norwegian (family from the US visiting, for example) they suddenly produce English, with varying degrees of charmingness, but as soon as they know everyone around them speaks Norwegian that’s the language they use. But the English is in there, they understand it perfectly, so if in the future we travel more and it’s useful for them to produce English more often, I’m confident it will come. In our daily life though they know I speak Norwegian, and I’m not into forcing them to artificially switch to English every time they turn to me.

And it’s not wrong for me to speak Norwegian to my kids either, even if I have an American accent. Give me a break, kids are smarter than that, my American accent rolls right off the language-processing-duck-feathers in their young flexible brains and they go right on their merry way speaking Norwegian like the rest of the native speakers around them.

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My son hanging out with some Norwegians at the mall.

Growing up we used to say what a shame it was that our grandparents didn’t hold on to Italian and keep it going in the family, so that we’d be able to speak it too. They were more focused on integrating and becoming American than holding on to Italian culture. Which I now understand better, because even if the circumstances are different here I am doing the same thing again in a new direction. It’s complex, isn’t it? And to be clear, I’m not saying integration should mean giving up one’s native language. Absolutely not. Language diversity and language preservation and keeping minority languages alive are crucial human rights issues. But on the personal, familial level language use shifts and evolves and flows. People move from this side of the globe to that and their language use shifts and changes along with them. For me personally, integrating and interacting with my kids as they grow up here has meant letting go of my language to a certain degree and accepting the fact that for us, in our situation, the societal language has become dominant.

And of course having English as our second language is a special situation, because English is a special language. Exceptionalismly imperialistically media-istically special. My kids, and all Norwegian kids, get lots of exposure to English all the time. It’s all over the place in tv and movies and youtube and it’s a regular subject on the school curriculum starting in first grade. Scandinavians in general are very good at English. So I’m not worried about my kids losing their English skills. It would be a different situation if their “non-dominant mother tongue” was Latvian or Sinhalese. Then I’m sure I’d feel like I needed to make more conscious effort to help them retain knowledge and use of it. Bilingual families come in all shapes and sizes. Some expat families know their stay abroad is temporary so it’s very important for them to keep their kids fluent in the home language they’ll move back to. Other immigrant families (I identify more with the word immigrant than expat, personally) have moved to a new country permanently and language integration is more of a priority to them. Some people learn languages quickly, others slowly. Some families have two immigrant parents, some have one, and the kids’ needs for exposure to the language in the society around them will vary accordingly. In my kids’ case we have one native Norwegian speaker parent and one immigrant English speaker. And they’ve grown up 100% in Norway and we have no plans of moving anywhere else.

What it comes down to is that language is about communication. If I make sounds and my kids understand them, we’re doing great. If the sounds help us create a connection from our thoughts and feelings to the physical world and to each other, then we’re doing even better. Our connection isn’t defined by which language we choose to speak. I don’t know where in the world they’ll end up living one day (except they’ll all be my next-door neighbors, right?), but I know they’ll adapt and use the language that works best for them wherever they are.

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My heart, in any language

 

Do you have two or more languages in your household? How does that play out for you?

I’m a circus mom

I’m a circus mom

My kids go to circus class. And handball and gymnastics and drama and drill team and marching band. And in previous years ballet and art class and jazz dance and tae kwon do. Not all of them go to all of the activities of course, but 2 or 3 activities per kid, 4 kids in activity age-range, means I spend an inordinate amount of time driving my kids back and forth to activities and shows. It feels inordinate some days at least, like those days during which I spend three hours in the car driving back and forth across the island where we live, and sitting and waiting for this class to end and that kid to come out the door and the baby to finish her nap because she fell asleep again in the car seat but if I take her in she’ll wake up and be fussy for half an hour until she falls asleep again and then it’ll be time to take her out to the car for the next round of driving anyway. So I sit in the car, waiting and driving people places. That’s my hobby right now. Hanging out in the car. Seriously when I get asked the question, do you have any hobbies, my first thought is “driving people places” and then I feel lame. Although I almost never get that question in real life, not sure why, maybe because I’m sitting in my car all the time instead of talking to people, but sometimes I think it in my head. I still feel lame not having a better answer. And for asking myself questions in my head. That’s why I’m starting this blog, see, I need a new hobby, and writing blog posts can be combined with hanging  out in the car!  Two hobbies in one, but I can play down the car part and say my hobby is writing. Yeah.

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I don’t really think the amount of driving is inordinate in the grand scheme of things, or else I’d stop doing it. The kids often get more real-life learning from these activities than they do from school. Sorry school, it’s not you, it’s me, I just don’t love you the way you want me to. And we all know that really means I think it is in fact you, not me. You could do so much more, be so much better! Break out of your funk! Get creative! See the potential in all these amazing kids within your walls and help bring it out in them! But no, for you it’s tests, scores, standards, measure, compare, repeat. I respect you, I can work with you, but we have some fundamental ideological differences. Deep ones. So I see these activities as ways to get other impulses, try out other ideas, let the kids meet and be with other people and learn about all the possibilities that are out there.

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And circus is my favorite of all the activities they’ve tried. Maybe because I like to jokingly say I’m bringing the circus to town whenever I take all my kids anywhere at once. We’re usually loud and colorful and causing enough of a commotion to qualify as a clown act, not that I usually feel so proud and happy about it as it happens, but I can usually laugh about it afterwards.  But circus is just fun! It’s cool to be able to tumble and balance and dance on stilts and ride a unicycle and generally perform in a colorful funny expressive way. Good skills. And there are no winners or losers, no contests. Yeah, I’m sure circus contests exist somewhere, there are contests for everything somewhere in the world, but this activity here is currently contestless and I love that. The kids get measured and tested and compared and evalutated enough in their lives. Sometimes it’s really nice to find an activitiy where the main goal is to move and stretch and try new things and figure out what makes you smile.

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Before starting this blog, the waiting part of my sitting-in-the-car hobby often involved a whole lot of clicking and scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and other such sites. And I note that people have plans and ambitions for their children. That’s good, to a degree. And people’s plans and ambitions tend to mesh with their worldview in general. Understandable. I have ambitions for my kids too. For example I hope they will always feel that running away to join the circus is a possibility. It’s good to have backup plans in life. Of course I don’t actually want them to run away. I want them to be my next-door neighbors forever (Sorry, Mom!). If they decide to join a circus for real I’d be happy to go with them. Not that I have any circus skills myself and I’m of an age when it’d be difficult to build them up sufficiently, I guess. Although there’s that 80+ year old woman who rules the parallel bars, and 100 year old yogi women and stuff. My goal is to be like that one day. I should figure out how to do yoga in the car while I’m waiting for my kids, that would be an even better way to stack my life  (I’m a Katy Bowman fan, yes). Why don’t you just get out of the car and do yoga outside while you wait, one might ask. Well, because I live in a place where it rains 320 days per year, and my baby’s sleeping in the car, remember? and well, because I have a Hobby now, which is writing, I’m very busy writing this blog. But back to the circus, I could still join even if I’m out of shape. I can keep the books, manage the Facebook page, help with costumes, childcare, cooking. I’ll find ways to be useful, I promise.

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My kids of course have their own ambitions for their lives. None of which currently involve joining a circus, hmph. They want to be things like a lawyer, a police officer, and a crane operator. Nice sensible jobs. And yet I don’t think all this time I spend being a circus mom (and handball and drill team and gymnastics and marching band mom) is in vain. My ambition, the hope I have for them, is that they won’t end up feeling stuck. And when they do feel stuck, they’ll feel like they have other tricks up their sleeves, and they’ll try something new. Like dancing on stilts, or starting a blog. For example.

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Life on planet Norway

Growing up I wanted to have 10 kids. I also quite seriously thought I would have them on another planet. I read a lot of science fiction and I was sure technology would catch up with imagination by the time I was an adult and we’d all be choosing which planetary expedition group to volunteer for after college. I’d pick the one going to the planet with the slightly arid but hospitable climate, where the blue-orange tone of the rocks always reminded us of how far we’d travelled, but the cool sunshine and tender breezes and our little house next to the rippling lavender-rocked creek would make it all worth it. (It was the 80’s, I was really into pastels)  And the 10 kids, they’d love it. A whole planet to explore and wild (benign) nature to play in all day long. It’d be hard work, we’d have to homeschool, and homebirth, and home-doctor, and home-everything! Our nearest neighbors would be an hour’s walk away, and we’d spend most of our time in the garden making sure we grew ourselves enough food (with good help from the hydroponic gardening setup and seed bank we brought with us from Earth). Hard work, but satisfying. Pioneers in a brand-new world!

I’m a grown-up now with a husband and 5 kids. Half of 10, that’s pretty close! We live on an island in Norway, which sometimes feels like another planet compared to where I grew up in California. The kids go to the local school but my heart beats to the unchooling rhythm so I do everything I can to help them find and follow their own paths through life. Homebirthing, check, big fan! Home-doctoring, well I prefer manuka honey to antibiotics but I’ll go with the latter if circumstances call for it. No self-sustaining farm yet, but we have some strawberry plants, so maybe one day we’ll learn more and grow more. I’m always open to learning! So there you go, the world’s not quite where I envisioned it being with regards to interplanetary exploration and settlement. And if we did go to a new planet we’d probably have to kill off the natives in order to take over, and that’s not ok ever. But my life does sort of remotely resemble my vision from childhood, if you just squint your eyes and don’t pay attention to the pesky little details.