Friday, September 19, 2014

its great to be home

First of all thank you to everyone for stopping by our blog. I can see on the stat page that several are coming by daily (viele aus Deutschland… Hallo!!), so this is a long overdue update about our new life in Denmark. I did enjoy a break from blogging though, and just taking in the whole new and familiar setting without having to think about how to explain it to others. The fact that someone follows this space and our journey, motivates me to keep writing, although I mainly do it to keep track of our path as we move along.

It’s already been a month, and we have adjusted comfortably into our new but unfortunately temporary housing that has a garden with a sandbox, an office and now our old, but beloved Nespresso machine from Vienna. The kids started preschool and daycare in the beginning of September, and are slowly getting used to new routines and new people. In the beginning Silja was so excited to be among others her age, and to be in a Danish-speaking school where she could effortlessly communicate and understand. And then there’s been a little bump, where she is missing her old friends and teachers, and is asking to go back to her old school in the morning when we get ready. She got a letter from her best friend Brielle the other day and was quick to make a drawing, and asked me to write “Dear Briellie, I miss you very very much. I know you are there, but you are just very far away from me now. My new school in fun, and I got a Tinker Bell pencil case and I made cupcakes with my mom...” I so want her to remember her English, because it really is the sweetest when she starts talking.

Coming home has been easy so far. I immediately feel like I fit in, and I can’t help but feel how incredibly easy everything is for me here (not always for my favorite Icelander though): Making appointments with the doctor, small talking with staff at the preschool, knowing the goods in the supermarket, and where to go for what; even the city is not unfamiliar. Overall it makes for a very smooth transition, and I’m happy to find the rude Danes I expected to meet, are friendly and talkative. (I suspect it might be different when you look different or talk a different language?) And finally it’s beyond amazing to have my dad call in the morning to ask if he can stop by for coffee in the afternoon (he’s an hour away) and to invite the whole family for a belated birthday celebration for Silja. It tops by far the mindset that both of us have seen a bit here and there that the way of doing things in Denmark is the only right way, which is honestly quite narrow-minded, but also understandable for a small but very proud nation. 

The container with our belongings arrived safely before us, and we have moved everything to a storage space, where it will stay until we move to more permanent housing. We are eager to find a place in our current neighborhood, so the kids won’t have to change school/daycare, and it can be a bit stressful to find something that fits into our family of four, although we are not particularly picky. I hope it works out soon. The family that owns this house will return a month earlier than expected, so we got until end of November to find a new and good place, which should be doable.

A couple of pictures from the past month and our new surroundings.

 We are almost living on the country side, although the city center is a 20 min bike ride away. I think I like it. I definitely like these hairy cows.
Getting used to new means of transportations. Bikes of course. We bought two electrical bikes from a French family who lived in the house before us, and they make biking so easy, especially with a big trailer in tow.

She's making crazy sandwiches that doesn't follow the standard rules for what usually goes together according to the unofficial Danish-open-faced-sandwich-"rules": leverpostej og spegepoelse med tomato.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

our icelandic summer

Silja has started the countdown to Denmark. Almost every day she is asking, and today the answer is 12. In 12 days we board the plane for Denmark, and I am so excited I can instantly spit the number out when she asks because I have already thought about it ahead of her.

I've tried to write about the time we currently spend in Iceland, but I never manage to feel I get it right. I stop halfway, when there is still so much to tell. Maybe it's because it feels like we're on holiday and I'm caught up in a really good book, and don't have the patience to sit down by the computer, and probably it also something to with the fact that this time is a strange in-between limbo that has its great and tough moments to it, and it's hard to catch that complexity in words.
So instead of failing with another post with a lot of words, here's a list of the good and the bad and the in-between experiences and observations for our little family of four.

On the upside:

  • To go the outdoor thermal pools and hotpots is ah-mazing, and can almost convince me that actually moving here is a brilliant idea. (The long dark winter is a tough one to swallow for me though in the ongoing discussion about potentially living in Iceland.) 
  • Having a car (Bjarnis parents are spending the summer in Turkey and we get to borrow their car, which is so nice). And man, what a luxury after having to always rent and plan well in advance. Hello spontaneity!
  • Going on trips. With limited time comes the drive to go and see and do things and not waste time just sitting around. Every weekend we have packed a suitcase and headed out of Reykjavik to spend the weekend somewhere else (mostly with relatives), and its been fantastic to see so many different places.
  • To see Silja take in and become familiar with things Icelandic: Eating and loving skyr and dried fish, drawing geysers and teaching me to distinguish the berries (blueberries and crow berries), Bjarnis has already taught her.
  • Getting comfortable driving again. I started driving when we lived in Los Angeles, and was under HARD pressure from Bjarni to even start back then. Five years has past since LA and I haven't been driving since. Until I came here, and this car was just standing there waiting for me to transport me and the kids to places that are beyond walking distance. I got my driving confidence back!
  • Catching up with friends. We are so lucky to have such good friends here although we just pop in for short time here and there, and often with long time in between. Some are from our time in Copenhagen and others are Bjarni's old friends, who have become our friends, and who are always thoughtful to speak English when I'm around. I'm so so thankful for them.   
On the tough side: 
  • Mainly adjusting to new surroundings and routines. We live in a 3-storey house which is not very well suited for little kids with many stairs and a very fancy living room full of antique furniture. With an unusually cold and rainy July it has sometimes been a challenge being comfortable in this space, when outside time has been limited. We have borrowed some toys from the kids' cousin Villy, which has been great. 
  • A full-time mommy in a "new" city: I'm with the kids during the week, when Bjarni goes to work and although I already knew Reykjavik and our neighbor pretty well, I've had to learn where to go and what to do with kids. By now (especially with my new-found driving skills) I can quickly make plans according to the weather and our mood, but in the beginning it was at times overwhelming how to manage all this time in an enjoyable way for all of us.
  • Silja's limited Icelandic is making it difficult to make new friends. She has for long refused to speak Icelandic, and now when we are here and everyone around her speaks Icelandic, it's difficult for her to play with other kids. I can see she is missing the interaction with others her age beyond brief and superficial play. That is probably also why she is so excited about Denmark, because she knows she can easily communicate with everyone. 
  • We spend a lot of time listening to Bjarni, who is surprised, shocked, in disbelief, about how things have changed compared to how it used to be when he was a child or when he lived in Iceland. The trees are taller, the city has grown, the buildings and shops have changed/are gone, the whole island is full of tourists (and it really is).  It's been about 15 years since he left, so no wonder things look different. I find all his anecdotes and stories quite cute (- and who knows... maybe it will be my turn to burst out in surprise when we get to Denmark, so I'm a patient listener...)
Although there is just 12 days left, and I continue to be excited about the countdown, I know this will be a summer we will look back on for long. Even though the kids are still so young, this is bound to be a reference for them later as they get older, and we talk about what they have done in Iceland.

The pictures are from last weekend's trip to the Westfjords, where stayed with good friends in a summerhouse and celebrated Silja's 4th birthday. 
The berry hunter is explaining...
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Saturday, July 19, 2014

ready. set. go.

We are three weeks into our stay here in Reykjavik, which equals halfway, and Boston already seems like a bit of a blur, because everything is so different here (we layer kids in clothes, we eat differently,  we are busy exploring because we are not staying long, and we don't have our usual backdrop of nearby friends and toys and stuff to rely on in the same way.) I want to get to all that, but I need to finish Boston, so here goes.

A huge blue container arrived Tuesday morning with a driver, who was swearing over all the winding and one-way streets in our neighborhood. This is the first time for us to move with this much stuff. When we moved to Vienna, we were able to get 10 boxes into the container Bjarni's boss was already shipping. I think the most common thing when you ship this much stuff is to have movers come and pack and load everything for you, but we were able to get a much better deal if we packed everything ourselves, so in order to save money we decided to do that. The container was standing in our parking lot for three days, which gave us time to load everything and make the important inventory lists that are necessary to pass Danish customs. During those three days Silja went to preschool and Bjarni and packed and packed. Somehow it's always surprising how long it all takes. The last night some of Bjarni's colleagues came to load all the heavy furniture and helpful friends came afterwards for pizza and helped with the last boxes. I'm so thankful for all the help we had in the end.
The only real mishap was the sweet fresh-out of college girl, who came to pick up our couch and broke her rear window in her car, when she slammed the trunk lid down on the frame of the couch. It wasn't our fault, but we felt soo extremely bad for her.
When we saw the container off three days later, it was most of all hoping we'd done everything right: Making the lists according to the regulations, packing everything rightly so it wouldn't get thrown around or break. It's not because what we own is very valuable (and then actually you realize it kind of is, when you make those lists and add everything together..), but it's our home and it felt both bizarre and comforting we could pack "home" in a container and sent it off on it's own travel and wait for it to arrive in our new city. When the driver had loaded the container on the truck I wanted to run down with Jonas to Silja and Bjarni who was already on the parking lot, and get a picture with all four of us in front of it, but the driver was in a hurry and probably already annoyed by our neighborhood as previous driver, so he quickly took off and Bjarni and I looked at each other and were like "Yikes, that was that!"
We'd said goodbye and "see you" to all our sweet friends. I was a little bit of a mess a Silja's preschool, but they have been so amazing and I (and she obviously) will really miss them. We went to a hotel the last two nights and cleaned the apartment, enjoyed the sun and the pool and Mexican food (which by the way is also how we started..). We managed to get to the airport with 5 suitcases, a car seat, a double stroller and return our rental car, and very excited about Iceland.
When our plane touched ground a little more than two years ago in Logan International Airport in Boston Bjarni and I were squeezing each others hands, so excited to see what this place had in store for us. I'm not sure what I and we will remember most from this time -- it will probably settle over time. But I do know that I will always be cheering a loud and clear GO! if others I know ever consider moving to Boston or the US for that matter, whether for a long or a short time.
(Last waving goodbye to Silja at her Boston preschool with her favorite teacher Mimi)
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Friday, July 4, 2014

fun in new hampshire

Four days ago we arrived in Iceland after a hectic last week in Boston. Before I get to the final week's craziness (everything did go quite smoothly) and all the new as well as familiar impressions we are currently taking in here in Iceland, I had to post these pictures from a fantastic little trip to New Hampshire we went on two weeks ago.
We had been talking about going to New York for a long weekend, but ended up with some unexpected health insurance expenses, so instead of expensive New York, we decided to join some friends to New Hampshire. And we were so happy we did, because it ended up being a way more child-friendly trip, and having gone to the same area the past two summers, it felt like a good way to end our stay. We had lunch at the diner, where we'd eaten the first summer when I was newly pregnant and very nauseous and had to stop to eat, and where we'd brought my family on our way to a summer house last summer. I find that it's little details like that make one so sentimental when you are about to leave or perhaps it's just me. We drove through the White Mountains and stayed at a great motel with an amazing playground (check out the tree house below) and Silja had a BLAST with her best friend Brielle and her sister Naomi, which was really cute. We also went to a theme park for younger kids, Story Land, where aside from rides and shows, the girls joined a tea party hosted by Cinderella herself. 
There were big and happy hugs and arrangements of sending letters and drawings back and forth when we said goodbye to Brielle and her family, and headed back to Boston with two kids sleeping on the backseat, with a big moving container scheduled to arrive the following morning... (And that's a cliff hanger, because the next post is about getting everything packed and moving along for new adventures in Iceland). 

Happy 4. of July to our American friends!
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

one two three boxes

It's full-on summer atmosphere in Boston, and as much as I am excited about spending the summer in Iceland, I'm also thankful for getting a couple of weeks with high temperatures where we blast the A/C, hang out on the balcony at night and head for the playgrounds with sprinklers during the day. 

I lost count of the moving boxes we've packed at this point. They are slowly taking over the space in the living room, as drawers, shelves and closets are emptying out. It's amazing how much stuff you accumulate in just two years, and I can't help but wonder how much one really needs. A guy picked up the TV last night and someone is coming to get the couch on Saturday, and meanwhile Bjarni and I are high fiving each other about being on top of our schedule so far. I hope it continues to go smooth as we move into the last stretch of moving frenzy on the US side.

Next week will be hard as it will be full of goodbyes, and I am terrible at that. But first a lot of fun as we take a break from the packing: a reunion with Vienna friends tomorrow and a two day trip to New Hampshire with other friends over the weekend. Yes, we are so ready and excited for this little trip.

Pictures from the previous two weeks.
We had a yard sale on Father's Day, and Silja was "in charge" of the lemonade stand. 
Face paint by Anna and Elsa at a friend's birthday party. She was too shy to say much, but said it was the best day ever on the way home.
Sorting pebbles from the baseball field.. Putting the good ones in his mouth :/

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

big move, little kids

Is it already June? We are leaving in 24 days, and although we have started selling and giving away things, and packed the first (small!) moving box, it still feels like life continues as normal. Jonas has his 15-month check-up on Wednesday, Silja is going to a Frozen-themed birthday party on Sunday, Bjarni is busy working, and we go about our every day routines like we always have. It's SO weird to think that in 24 days, everything we own, will either be packed up in a container heading to Denmark or sold. The whole thing feels like throwing life up in the air, without knowing how the pieces will look and feel, when they settle in new surroundings. And if that is stressful for grownups, then what about kids? 
In order to deal with all the transitions, I made a book to Silja about what will happen. I talked with the developmental specialist in her preschool, and she suggested it might be a good tool to help grasp the many different parts that will be her life until fall: first Boston, then Iceland, then Denmark and settling into a new house, and finally starting a new preschool. I got it laminated so it's more durable and we can bring it along, and look in it when needed. 
I also made a book to both of them with pictures and stories about life here. I hope it can be a way - for Jonas, who is too young to remember anything and for Silja, who is attached to people and places  - to see what life here was like. There's pictures and stories of the playgrounds, our house, Silja's friends, her preschool, how her English developed and so on (and now I really regret I didn't make one to Silja about Austria.)
Of all the practical things that have been on the to-do list so far, these two projects have definitely been the most fun.   

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

in transition

Eeekk! All of a sudden things are moving very fast here. Our departure date has changed and now we're leaving end of June (one month earlier than planned). All the pieces are slowly coming together: the container for our stuff is arranged, we got the plane tickets, a whole lot of moving gear, and Jonas' passport arrived in the mail today (An American passport, how cool is that? The Icelandic and Danish passport holder have been examining it thoroughly :) ) As for Denmark, we got housing set up for the first four months, and we even bought two bikes as well as a bike trailer for the kids. More specific plans makes excitement for the next thing a lot more concrete as well, but it's still bittersweet to pack our life together with all that has become familiar and comfortable here. I'm sure the last couple of weeks will go extra fast with packing, seeing and saying bye to friends, welcoming Bjarni's sister who is coming for a short visit, and getting around to our favorite places in Boston one last time. We have planned a last trip to New Hampshire too with Silja's best friend from preschool and her family just before we leave, so that should hopefully be a fun end to it all.
Before arriving to Denmark mid-August we will spend a month and half in Iceland, and both Bjarni and I are so excited to get to spend a good chunk of time there over the summer: Here comes sunny walks at 10pm, swimming in outdoor pools (also without kids, uuhh!), taking pictures of Silja and Jonas wearing their Icelandic sweaters with mountains and sheep in the background, eating lots of fish and getting back into driving again. As much as I can be so sad about leaving this wonderful place, I'm full of butterflies over everything that awaits.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

spring fever

"I've got spring fever" Silja proclaimed over breakfast, and although I've never heard the term before, I think indeed that's what we all got around here. Everything is - finally - blooming and sprouting and we are spending as much time as we possibly can outside. On days with rain where we're stuck inside I'm wondering how I managed to spend all that time inside with the kids over those freezing months without loosing my mind. I suppose I did go crazy sometimes. Knowing we are entering our final months in Boston (we are leaving end of July), there is an unavoidable awareness too on thoroughly enjoying and cherishing the time we have here. And for my part, enjoying all this time I have with the kids. Soon enough we will be part of the hamster wheel of two full time working parents and kids in preschool/daycare with everything that includes.

In the past two-three weeks we've cheered on the Boston Marathon runners when they ran through our neighborhood. The atmosphere was extra happy and supportive after last years explosions, which I also heard from two friends who participated in the race. On Easter we ended up with a spontaneous somewhat Danish Easter lunch, which also included Icelandic schnapps and a speech by Silja. I had a week too with both kids full time as preschool was closed for spring break. We were lucky with the weather, and loaded the stroller for picnics, trips to the library, movie play dates with popcorn and to us new playgrounds. Although I can't help being a bit sad how quickly Jonas outgrew the baby stage (although he continues being our baby), I'm absolutely loving the freedom there is with two little kids, and how we can go pretty much go anywhere now and not have to think about special baby foods, several naps etc. He can be part of it all, especially now that he's walking, so long trips is enjoyable for everybody. Yes!

I hope you are enjoying spring too.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

a visit and a reminder

Look who came to visit last week. My dad! It was such a nice surprise when he called and told me, he had found an inexpensive ticket and asked if we wanted a visit two weeks later? Of course, yes! We managed to squeeze in a trip to the circus, a drive up north to Rockport, playground and cafe visits in the area, a grandpa drop off at preschool and a walk at the nature reservation World's End -- all in five days and amazing spring weather (and we were lucky with the weather, because two days after my dad had left, we woke up to snow -- yes, snow! It melted away before noon, but still.)

In addition to thoroughly enjoying the company, his little visit reaffirmed to me, why we are returning to Denmark. Returning back home after years abroad, turns out to more difficult than we initially expected. Whether it's just that or an attack of panic in terms of "we are returning to Denmark, it's the end of the excitement of living abroad" I'm not sure. As I write this I realize it's impossible to put a finger on one specific thing as there are so many things that impact our thoughts and feelings on this issue. Bjarni and I obviously also have different feelings, because Denmark is home to me, but not to him. Anyways, because of feeling frustrated with things and limitations in Denmark we have been flirting with the idea of moving somewhere else, initiated by Bjarni's work opportunities elsewhere. It seems crazy as we are so far along in the planning of this upcoming move, but somewhere else is tempting with other opportunities.
Well, then my dad arrives and I see Silja, who is so extremely happy, excited and proud to have him around. And that is what counts and what we can't find anywhere else. I want to move back because being in proximity to our extended family matters more than anything else. I know that living somewhere else, would be a life full of other great advantages and I'm full of admiration of those who choose to do that. For a while I thought it would be us too, but I have realized that with these kids that are growing with the speed of a rocket, I want them to feel connected and anchored to family and everything there is in Denmark. (And then it get's tricky... Because I want them to feel an equal sense of belonging to Iceland and the family and culture there -- that's another post for another time). The point is, there might be better job opportunities, higher salaries, more diversity (oh, do we strive with cultural diversity), but it just doesn't beat the benefits of those roots, we have that are long and well grounded back home.
It was a great great visit and a great reminder that came at just the right time. Tak for det far :)
We celebrated our two year anniversary in Boston on April 11th.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

carpet diem

We are on the mend after a bad stomach virus that got the best of all four of us, at the same time. O h m y G o d. Ever since we moved to this apartment that boasts the "charm" of wall-to-wall carpet I have dreaded puke scenarios. And just as I recently thought: "Hey, we are soon leaving, and nobody has thrown up on the carpet... All that worry for nothing." we are hit by this horrible stomach bug that will not be forgotten for quite some time. Imagine us in the middle of the night. Me running to the bathroom where I by all means need to stay, Jonas waking up screaming from the commotion, and Silja calling: "Come help me, I have to throw up again." In the end no puke went on the carpet,  which I suppose is pretty good considering two small kids. We did however manage to (generously) pass on the stomach bug to our friend, who had invited us for brunch Sunday morning, when it all started with Jonas getting sick at their place. I feel so bad about that.

March marked the end of the workshops I have co-led on culture exchange. It's been a great little volunteer project and exercise for me on something I'm very passionate about, but as our time for departure is slowly approaching, it's time to spend my time and energy with getting ready for the move. I submitted my first real job application yesterday for a position back home. Uhh... I'm simultaneously freaked out and very excited about returning to Denmark with all that it entails. As for now Bjarni and I have a weekly meeting after the kids are put to bed, to sort out all the practicalities and discuss how to go about different things. I hope I can share more about this process as we move along: It's shifting between feeling organized and in control (I for example created a returning-home logbook), and completely overwhelmed by bureaucracy, rules and being dependent on good luck or pure coincidence.
 The carpet which is on top of the list of things that won't be missed.
 Culture Exchange workshop on Harvard through HSSPA (and I cut out the faces, because I didn't ask permission to post it publicly.)
Wednesday night = Moving-back meeting

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