Saturday, June 30, 2012


Late last summer, Amanda's Godmother (who also happens to be my sister-in-law) mentioned to me that she wanted to do something special just for Amanda and Camilla (her youngest daughter, who is a year older than Amanda).  She said that she had been thinking of taking them to Legoland while they were still young enough to really appreciate it.  Did I have any objections to that?  And did I think there would be time for the trip before school started?

No, I did not.  And no, I did not.

To be honest, I didn't really give the conversation that much of my attention.  It sounded to me like one of those pipe dreams we cook up when we're fantasizing about how our lives would be if we were all as organized, altruistic, and motivated as we wish we were.  And sure enough, nothing ever came of it.  School started, fall weather set in, and everyone forgot all about it.  Or so I thought.

Much to my surprise, Vigdis called out of the blue earlier this month to ask, "Is anything happening from the 21st to the 24th?"

"Um, besides school not being out yet, no.  Why?"

"Does it matter?"

"Does what matter?"

"That school isn't out yet?"

"Vigdis!  Help me out here.  What are we talking about?"

"I told the girls I'd take them to Legoland.  I want to do it between the 21st and the 24th.  Do you have anything else planned?"

"Oh.  No, I guess we don't.  So, I guess that would work."

"Great!  We need to figure out a way to get Amanda to Stavanger then.  Do you think she'd be okay to fly down on her own?"

"Wait.  You're planning to take them alone?  Just you?"


"Won't that be awfully boring for you?"

"Yes.  But I promised them, so, you know..."

"Wouldn't it be more fun for you if I went too?"


You could feel the relief oozing from her soul with that one extended esssssss.

And that's the story of how Amanda ditched school two days early, and the four of us: Amanda, Camilla, Vigdis, and I, set out for Legoland.

We drove from Stavanger.  Took the ferry from the southern tip of Norway to the northern tip of Denmark.  And then we drove some more.  On a map, Denmark just doesn't seem like it should be that big, but in fact it takes hours and hours to get from any one where in Denmark to another where in Denmark.  So if you were to ask the girls how the trip went, they'd roll their eyes at you and whine, "Ugh, it took foreverrrrrr!" 

And you'd feel the outrage oozing from their souls with that one extended errrrr.

The weather was threatening, to say the least.  We drove the final two hours to Billund in an all out deluge, and we feared we might have to put the girls off another day in hopes of better weather.  But, miraculously enough, right around the time we started seeing "Legoland, thisa way" signs,  the clouds broke and the sun prevailed.  Perfect amusement park conditions.

Happy faces.  Finally!

They probably wouldn't be able to articulate it themselves, but I'm pretty sure these smiles say,
"It was worth the wait!"

Vigdis and I spent most of our time here at this outdoor restaurant while the girls ran from ride to ride.
They'd get hungry or thirsty from time to time, but for the most part we were left blessedly alone to chat.
My kind of vacation!
Alas, our lucky break with the weather didn't last.  The following day dawned blustery and grey, and worse, Camilla came down with a vicious stomach bug at breakfast.  It looked like we might have to spend our last full day in Denmark nursing a sick kid.  But kids are incredibly tough, especially when a trip to a waterpark is on the table.  After throwing up a time or two, Camilla rallied, put on her swimsuit, and demanded that we do the same.

She gave it her all, dear heart.  But after two and a half hours at the waterpark, Camilla was wiped out and coming down with a fever.  Amanda was not as gracious as she might have been at having her fun cut short, but she's still small enough to pick up and bully so we got her out of the pool eventually...

That night was St. Hans.  In Norway, they build huge bonfires along the coast to celebrate mid-summer night.  In Denmark, the bonfires are considerably smaller, but much more interesting because, turns out, they burn paper mache witches on them!  After choking down a paracet for the fever, Camilla was feeling well enough to come out and join the fun.

I kept telling them to get closer so I could get a good picture of both them and the burning witch.
They were all like, "Fuck that, woman!  This is close enough!"

Thanks for a wonderful, impromptu vacation Tante Vigdis!
Let's do it again sometime, only...without the vomit maybe, 'kay?

Friday, June 08, 2012

May 31st

It would be wrong of me not to give this one her birthday spotlight. She, at least, had the good sense to wait until after my exam to turn 12.

Way back in December, when we went to view The Ugly Chicken that very first time, Emma and I stood shivering on the veranda, trying to picture the view lush and green, and conjuring this fantasy of having her birthday party there on the island.  A whole weekend long celebration with fishing, swimming, grilling, and hair-braiding. (Because, for some reason, that's what 12 year old girls do when they gather in groups of four or more. It's what my friends and I did when we were 12, and it's still what my daughter and her friends do. Braid hair. All weekend long).

And behold!  It came to pass.

Dinner Friday night.
.  Only two of the girls' hair is yet braided.
.  If dinner had been but an hour later, the rest would have been similarly coiffed.

Alas, it came to pass that a cold north wind fell from the arctic in the days leading up to Em's birthday, thus polluting the gentle summer idyll of our celebration.  I feared the swimming might have to be called off.

But no.  These are, after all, fully pubescent Viking women we're talking about here.  At least a few of these hearty souls would not be daunted by cold waters and even colder air. 

The sea must needs be swam!

We're going to stand around and look at it for a gooood long time before we do that.

I stood on the shore documenting the moment dressed in a thick fleece, jeans, and woolly socks.

I wished I had had a hat.

More than once I thought, "Christ, their mother's would flog me if they knew I had let their babies go swimming in this weather!"

More than once I thought, "Meh, my baby does it all the time, and look how awesome she is!"


I know you prefer for people to see you as the polar opposit of your sister,
that you purposefully align yourself--your behavior, your opinions
--your whole being--
in order to maintain that image.

But, can I tell you a little secret?
It's not working very well.

You are exactly as vibrant, as beguiling, and as joyful as she is.
You are both cut from the same rosy cloth,
and everyone knows it.

Yes, there are differences.
You are brook where she is river.
You are warmth where she is fire.
You are waltz where she is raucus barn dance.

All of the positive, nurturing energy in my life
flows from you two
(and your brother, of course, but he's all snips and snails and puppy dog tails,
another kettle of fish entirely).
My boy fuels my imagination,
but my girls
--especially you, my beamish beauty--
water my roots, and keep me grounded.

You are growing into such a beautiful, accomplished, interesting young woman.

I am completely proud,
and would be utterly lost without you.

Happy Birthday
Thank you for sharing this first bit with me.


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

May 28th

You will now indulge me in a bit of back tracking here, as a good deal happened in May while I was swamped with exams and house guests--far too busy to blog about it all.


My Little Miss turned 8 while I was studying for a linear algebra exam.  I had to send her and the family (Grandma Gae and Grandpa Dale included) to the cabin without me so that I could get in a few days of solid, solitary cramming without any distractions, but I did manage to get there in time to spend her very day of days with her.

She's at that age where she's proud to be able to read the printed part of the card,
 but doesn't have a clue what the cursive hand-written bit says.
 I remember that from my own childhood,
 "Blah blah blah, love pride happyhappy.  Now gimme the damn present!"

She's a difficult one to shop for.
.  When you ask her what she wants for her birthday or Christmas, she invariably answers,
 "I don't know. Surprise me."
 The only specific wish I could get out of her this year was
 "one of those uppy-downy stair thingys".

Maybe she's right. 
Maybe there really is no point in brushing her hair
when she wears this unkempt, bedhead thing so well.

The past eight years has taught me this about you:
you're impertinent, stubborn, and often exasperating;
sassy, precocious, and always incorrigible.
(one needs such big words to describe your very big, BIG personality)
But you are also one of the happiest, most joyful, loving children I've ever met.
I love you, baby. 
Never change.