Our final Norwegian Days

As the days continued to grow shorter and the sun finally set below the horizon line, not to reappear for another three months, we did our best to acclimate to the winter world of the Northern latitudes.  We spent the days, of course skiing, but also enjoying the beginning of the Christmas festivities. The town was decorated and strung with lights. Julenissen (Norway’s Santa) walked the downtown streets passing out candy, and the winter craft bizarres sprung up just about everywhere.

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The beauty of the winter light is hard to describe, you must see it to know how magical it makes the world look. With the spirit of Christmas added, it was pretty amazing.

We were not able to stay in Norway as long as we had initially planned. Joel was scheduled to return to Antartica for another season of field work for the Winter of 2013-2014. Rather than stay in Norway with the kids, we chose to make a trip home to visit friends and family in the States. This turned into a permanent move home for the kids and I, as my job as a Physical Therapist at Alpine required my attention, Grandma Debbie became very ill and sadly passed away in March, and it became too much of a challenge to switch the kids in and out of school from Norway to Missoula and back again.

We will always look back on this time travelling and exploring as a family with full hearts. We formed an everlasting bond as a family unit. Odin and Adelheyd learned how to lean on each other as siblings and form a lifelong friendship. We understand more about other cultures, traditions, and ways of life. We have learned how to adapt, fostered a love for travel, and formed a very special bond with our environment from mountains and oceans to cities and forests. Thank you Norway for giving us a place to call home for a year. We are happy to return to Missoula, but will always hear you calling for us to return and once again explore all the beauty you have to offer.





Lingon berries in the Lyngen alps


Hello darkness my new friend…

Most of the Tromsø locals explain that there are really only two seasons here, summer and winter. Though we did have a beautiful fall, it lasted all of 4 weeks in late August and early September. The leaves changed and then a big storm quickly blew them all off the trees. The snow began to fall in mid-October and has yet to stop.  I do love snow. My kids love snow. Joel REALLY loves snow. There are two problems with the snow here this time of year (1) a nice pillow soft snow fall is often followed by rain which makes ice…yuck. (2) There is only about 3 hours of pseudo daylight in which to enjoy the snow unless you are keen to ski with headlamps or on the lit ski trails. You must really know where you are going if you plan to get very far on a backcountry ski. Regardless of these obstacles, we have welcomed the dark, snowy, rainy season into our Norwegian lives and are learning to embrace and even enjoy (parts of) it.

Here are some photos of our winter (technically fall, but it is way too wintery to call it anything else) family activities.

1. Cross country skiing. A part of every good Norwegians skill set. Odin and Adelheyd have become quite adept on their skis and fondly refer to this as ‘uphill skiing’. As I mentioned in last Spring’s posts, there is an amazing network of lit cross country ski trails in pretty much every Norwegian town, ours included. We can ski from our house to the trails which is quite nice…spoiled.

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2. Backcountry skiing. Referred to here as a skitur. Not as common as cross country skiing, but the Troms people take pride in their accessible nature and most people you meet have in the past or will still happily hike up a mountain to ski back down. We took the rare opportunity of some time with just Odin to partake in our own little skitur on Kvaloya while Adelheyd had a playdate. Odin made his way up on cross country skis (not an easy task…we have since promised to cut some skins to fit his cross country skis) then changed into his down hill hear and navigated the way down through the trees. Not bad for a 6 year old!

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3. Kicksledding. I am not sure that I can call this a sport but certainly an activity. There are people kicksledding everywhere this time of year. The kicksled to school, to the grocery store, into town. We joined the masses (as is expected in a socialized country) and purchased our own kicksled. I have to admit that I am hooked. They are a genius mode of transport with two kids and I MUST bring one back to Montana with me. I think the kids would agree. Adelheyd has taken to going ‘no hands’ while we cruise down hill together and has a huge smile spread across her face the entire time.

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4. Sledding. Remembering the fun we had last year with our sleds, we made an early season trek to a sledding hill not far from our house. We were quickly reminded why early season sledding is not a great idea. The ground is REALLY hard when you fall and there is not very much snow to cushion your landing. We made a repeat visit to the sledding hill after the snow fell and added the required hillside fire with pølse roasting to the event. This is another part of every good Norwegians life. You bring your backpack to the sledding or ski hill with a few important items. 1. wood   2. lighter   3. sitteunderlag (sitting pad or if you are TRULY Norwegian you have a small piece of reindeer skin that you sit on)  4. drikkeflaske (thermos) with hot cocoa   5. pølse and appropriate roasting stick I have even had to pack this exact list in Odin’s backpack for school some days when his class takes a tur (fieldtrip) to the beach or woods. He may not be learning how to read, but the boy can survive outdoors for hours in inclement weather, start a fire, and roast his own pølse. Some may argue these are also essential life skills.

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4. Ice skating. By the sheer quantity of ice skates and hockey gear for sale in the sporting goods store, you would think that everyone here skates. There are several frozen ponds, lakes or just playground areas that get turned into skating rinks around town, but it is no where near as popular a past-time as skiing…yet. Norway is the only Scandinavian country not really known for their hockey skills (the Swedes and Finns we have met here remind the Norwegians of this regularly). Regardless, we like to ice skate and so have included this in our activity repertoire.   The scenery at Prestvatnet (Lake at the top of the island not too far from our house) is always beautiful so it is not a bad place to spend an afternoon.

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5. Building snow forts, climbing and jumping from mounds of snow. The snow plows work constantly out of necessity. Living on a densely populated small island that gets a ton of snow requires good snow removal. The best part of the snow plows for us is of course to make driving easier. For Odin and Adelheyd the purpose of  the snow plow is to make the snow piles bigger and bigger, perfect for launching off. Odin was even doing some front flips off the top of a snow pile landing into the soft powdery snow below. I want to be 6 again.

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6. Futbol. Of course there are indoor activities as well. The boys play futbol (as do some girls) and the girls mostly play handball. Odin is signed up for the 1st grade team at his school, Bjerkaker Skole. The teams around town are all organized by school and grade. All first grade boys at one school are on a team. Odin’s team has about 20 boys with 3 coaches (all of whom either currently play or coach at the professional level for the local top-tier TIL team). They are very well coached and more importantly, they all seem to have a lot of fun. They practice one night a week at the school gym for an hour. Odin had his first tournament a few weekends ago, playing 5 vs 5 for 13 minute games. He received a medal for participating and wears it around the house almost every day, hanging it on his bedpost at night. He is quite proud:) The first two photos are not of Odin’s team, but the older kids. I was just impressed at how they shoveled the field off from one of the early snows to get in a good practice. Dedication.

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So there you have it. Aside from the daily tasks of cooking, cleaning, working, doing homework, etc… this is how we have been spending our fall/winter in Norway.  It looks fun, but trust me, there is often a good bit of complaining in the process. Joel and I have an understanding that we will experience at least on complete breakdown from each kids during our outdoor adventures. We try to prepare with layers and layers of warm clothes, food, beverages, and a positive attitude, but we all know that kids can only walk/hike/ski/sled/skate/be out in the cold snow for so long. The best part is that at the end of the day, the kids only remember the fun parts and so do we.

A small peek into one of the finest health care systems in the world

I have read and heard several times that Norway offers some the best health care in the world. I do not really know what goes into these statistics, but they are currently ranked #11 by the World Health Organization (U.S. is #37). Prior to moving to Norway, I was immersed in the US Healthcare system while working as a Physical Therapist. I was up to date on Medicare and Medicaid laws, understood the importance of working with clients to minimize expenses while they navigated their way through copays and deductibles, watched to make sure no one exceeded their max allowable visits,  and tried my best to maintain constant communication with the client’s physicians and case managers (often times multiple physicians , one for each specialty). It is not easy to navigate through this complex system and it often adds stress to the already stressful event of being injured or dealing with chronic pain.

Moving to Norway, I was excited to learn more about a fully socialized health care system. I had, like many Americans, heard stories from the Canadian system, where people complain about long waiting lists to get elective procedures and limited choices with health care providers. We typically hear those who complain louder than those who are satisfied because the stories of a nice, easy system are boring. It is the opposite with the pictures we share with our friends and family where we are always smiling and having fun, our kids are on their best behavior, and we  are living the American dream. We show our best faces forward and share stories of how great our family adventures are (I am obviously guilty of this:), then complain about how others act, our politicians, and our social systems. So, it was a welcome change for me to get to experience the social health care system first hand rather than just hearing the negative stories second hand.

Fortunately we have all been quite healthy since moving to Norway. No need for trips to the hospital or doctor with sickness. I don’t know if it is the fresh mountain air and plenty of exercise or the cleanliness of the Scandinavian public spaces, but it has been quite nice to  not have sick kiddos. So, I have no experience with the emergency care here, but do have friends who confirm that it is quite easy to get in to see a doctor if you are sick…as long as it is during working hours. Not so easy in the evenings or on weekends, so you better plan to get sick during the work week:) Just joking, you can get care during non-working hours, but you go to the hospital rather than calling your pediatrician or family care doctor as you would during the week (much like the US system in some areas).

My experience with the Norwegian System began with a letter in the mail that arrived the week that Odin started 1st grade. When translated it read that we were to bring Odin to the Centrum Helsestation or Center HealthStation on Tuesday the 17th of October at 9 am. He was to see the doctor at 9 am and the nurse at 930 am. If we were unable to attend there was a phone number to call to change the appointment. We learned that this is a yearly routine health check for all kids in Norway when they start school. There was a questionnaire attached asking the typical questions about allergies and medical histoy, but then there were also several questions about what he eats in a typical day, what hobbies and sports he plays, names of his friends in Norway, what type of outdoor exercise he gets each day, and whether he is independent with self care such as getting his clothes on and tying his shoes. It was quite detailed.

We had no idea what to expect so we showed up 10 minutes early to the Health Station. The appointment started as typical in the US he was weighed and measured by the welcoming nurse then we sat to wait for the doctor. When 9:03 rolled around and the doctor had not come, the front desk nurse apologized profusely and said she was going to go see what was taking so long. The doctor was only 3 minutes late! The doctor quickly arrived by about 9:08 and again apologized profusely for being late…what???? We went to her office where she spoke to Joel and I for just a minute about where we were from, language, etc… She then turned to Odin and mainly interacted with just him for the next 20 minutes. She again did most of the typical US doctor visit screens of heart, chest, ears, etc.. She talked to him about how he sleeps at night and if he likes school, what he likes to do outdoors and what he likes to eat. That was the end…we thought we were done…but then we were directed to the nurse who took us to another room where we visited with her for a full 45 minutes! She again spoke to Joel and I for just a minute then directed her attention to Odin. She spoke to him in Norwegian first then English when he could not understand. She had him look at a book and identify shapes, colors, objects in the pictures and describe what he saw and then would ask him why he thought things were happening in the picture. It was kind of a reasoning or logic test as far as I could tell. Next she had him sit down and do some writing, drawing, and cutting with scissors (fine motor skill testing). Odin’s favorite task was next, jumping, hopping on one foot, throwing and catching a ball (gross motor skill testing). Odin then completed a typical hearing test and vision test.  The nurse ended the session by talking with Odin for about 15 minutes about what foods he likes, does he know that he should eat fish, meat, fruit and vegetables every day. She told him not to eat candy, chocolate, or Nougatti (Nutella in the states) during the week that those were treats for the weekends only. The nutrition conversation was extremely detailed. She also asked him a lot of questions about who his friends were, what he did at recess, and what out door activities he likes. As we were leaving, the nurse mentioned that if at any time with have questions about Odin’s health or issues at school that we can contact her. She also suggested that we go ahead and make an appointment for Adelheyd as well because it is recommended to start these health checks at age 4 (prior to that it is mother/baby health checks).

Adelheyd’s appointment was a month later and was very similar to Odin’s with the exception that they changed the fine a gross motor skill task expectations. The nurse still spent a considerable amount of time talking to her about what she eats, her outdoor play, her friends, her time at school, etc…

Needless to say we were quite astounded and impressed about this process:

1. Accessibility of health care. We were automatically given an appointment and told when to show up making it much easier to ensure that each kid undergoes their health check.

2. Timeliness. Very little waiting which is not the norm in Norway from our experiences. Typically there is A LOT of waiting to get things done. Not with health care.

3. Focus on the children. The amount time the doctor and nurse spend with the children, speaking mostly with the children, not their parents.

4. The emphasis on nutrition and exercise.

5. Broad spectrum of services. The in depth evaluation of motor skills so as not to rely on parents reports which are often skewed to make their kids sound wonderful (I am guilty of this for sure!). The nurse was also interested in social and school related health. I have since heard that they are very on top of preventing bullying in Norway. It is a huge national priority. After all…in a social system everyone should be equal, not picked on or shunned for being different:)


Bringing Halloween to Tromsø

Halloween is definitely one of the most popular holidays with Odin and Adelheyd. I mean, how can it not be at the top of every kid’s list – you get to dress up in a cool costume and run around the neighborhood getting candy. Kind of a dream come true for my 4 and 6 year old. We have a little Halloween gathering at our house in Montana every year with a group of friends and we did not want to let this year go by without continuing that tradition…even in a country where they have not yet embraced Halloween to its fullest.


There have been Halloween decorations in the grocery stores and costumes for kids in the toy stores since the beginning of October. Of course the best selection of Halloween gear is at our very own local Toys R Us…yes amazingly there is a Toys R Us in this Arctic Town. We don’t even have one in Montana, yet there is one in Tromsø at 69 degrees North.  So, we at very least knew that the Norwegians here were aware of the existence of Halloween. But how was it celebrated here? We asked around and the most common answer was the Halloween was pretty new here, only acknowledged in the stores and by the people in the past 5 years. Most Norwegians have learned about Halloween just as they learn about a lot of American culture…from the movies. Some of the older generation (sorry mom and dad but that means 50+ in this context:) really DO NOT like Halloween. They are against it for several reasons (1) It is an American and NOT a Norwegian holiday (2) kids don’t need all that candy – this one is strange because there is a lot of candy in Norway (3) it disgraces All Saints Day – also strange because this is not a particularly religious country.


Regardless of this small percentage of the population who do not want to adopt Halloween into the Norwegian culture…it is coming here. We hosted a Halloween party at our house and invited some friends. Tim and Elin helped us decorate and prepare for the evening complete with games for the kids including pin the nose on the witch and feeling bowls of yucky body parts (cold pasta, peeled grapes, and a real animal liver from the farm Elin works at – gross!). We listened to the Monster Mash, Ghostbusters Theme Song and all the great Halloween tunes. When it came time to hit the pavement, the Norwegian parents present were more than happy to stay at the house drinking coffee while the American adults (Tim, Joel, myself and our friend Jill) took all the kids out trick or treating. Pretty funny that none of the Norwegian adults wanted to watch their kids knock on random doors asking for candy. Hmmmm…..

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The Norwegians definitely do not know the cardinal rule of Halloween night – turn off your porch light if you are not prepared to give candy! Tim decided he may write a little Halloween etiquette article for the local paper next year:) Despite the dark and icy evening, we made it to about 10 houses. Joel’s statistics as reported at the end of the evening were as follows:

Unscientific survey of houses in our neighborhood: 3 out of 4 Norwegians do not like kids knocking on their doors and asking for candy. The others give out bulk candy wrapped in aluminium foil – mostly candy covered licorice).
Other stats for the evening: 100% of kids will fall when walking on steep roads covered in black ice in the rain, 20% of kids will fall every 100 m or so.

Regardless of the minimal success trick-or-treating, the kids had a blast. I think they each came home with 3 or 4 pieces of candy and one Aluminum foil wrap filled with black licorice. My favorite house of the evening was the woman who asked the kids to sing a song in exchange for a piece of candy. She asked in Norwegian and Adelheyd (who does speak and understand Norwegian) looked at her and said – Jeg snake ikke Norsk (I don’t speak Norwegian). The woman laughed and gave them candy anyway.

So we made it home with a meager stash of candy in comparison to past Halloweens in the States, but the kids were quite excited! I read an NPR article the next day that kids who get only one piece of candy are happier than those who get a ton.  We all proved that true this Halloween. Minimal candy but a lot of super happy kids. I have to admit that it was pretty fun watching this group of Norwegian kids go trick-or-treating for the first time!

London calling

We returned from a whirlwind 4 day London adventure yesterday. The kids are becoming quite the good little travelers as we adventure through airports, public transportation, hotels, restaurants and walking miles and miles to check out the local tourist attractions. It is quite amazing how far those little legs can carry them. Joel had meetings at the British Antarctic Survey Offices in Cambridge for the week, so the kids and I took advantage of a direct flight (one of the few destinations) from Tromsø. We left a few days after he did and met Oma in London while Joel finished his work week. We joined her late on Wednesday night at a fantastic hotel in the center of London with views of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, the London Eye and St. Paul’s Cathedral out our 13th floor window. It was quite a magical view!

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With Oma, we spent two wonderful days exploring the city on double decker buses and afoot. We started with a morning trip on the London Eye, fondly referred to as the giant Ferris Wheel by the kids. It was a beautiful view of the city on a clear blue sky day!

Next stop was a walk to Trafalgar Square and a tour through the city atop a double decker bus. Of course we also stopped for several wonderful meals, coffees and ice cream breaks along the way.  We finished the first day with a stop at Hamley’s, the famous 7 story toy store on Regent Street. The kids were overwhelmed with the sheer number of toys…and so were Oma and I. We managed to survive with one new toy apiece.  Odin picked out a Harry Potter wand and Adelheyd made her own teddy bear. Happy kids:) Oma succeeded in royally spoiling us all.

Our second day began with a trip to the Aquarium where Adelheyd was in search of Nemo. We did find the little orange fish…and several of his friends…sharks, penguins, turtles, and octopus to name a few.

From the aquarium we boarded a boat to take a trip down the River Thames with a stop outside the London Tower and the Tower Bridge for some sweet treats. The kids also found some perfect ‘English’ costumes and were quickly transformed into a knight and princess.

The following morning, I was able to sneak away for a relaxing run along the Thames, before the crowds hit the boardwalk. It was a very peaceful view of the normally bustling city.

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Joel joined us after finishing his work week, taking a train down from Cambridge later in the morning. We made our way on a nice long walk past Westminster Abbey, through James Park and on to Buckingham Palace. We shared an English lunch of fish and chips with a beer at a local little pub, true English style food was delicious.  We then fought our way through the massive crowds at the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs. It was truly amazing how many people were there waiting in line after line to get into the museum, but we made it and successfully saw a lot of cool dinosaur bones. With all of us tired and hungry we took a cabbie back towards the hotel and had a nice dinner out. Joel and I snuck away (after this kids collapsed in bed) for an evening walk along the Thames, complete with a few beverages and some rare alone time. Thank you Oma:)

Oma had to leave early the next morning. We were sad to see her go and felt so fortunate to have shared our London vacation with her. We had one day left in London and used it to take a nice relaxing walk, then a boat when our feet got tired, to the Tower of London. For anyone travelling with two small kids to London, the Tower of London is a must stop. For Odin there were knights in armor, real battle weapons, catapults, and stories of medieval warfare. For Adelheyd, there were crowns of jewels including the Royal Crown Jewels. She decided that she liked the King’s crown best because she did not like the fur on Queen Elizabeth’s Crown:) The girl knows what she likes! When asked what they wanted to see most, they both decided that they wanted to head to the Bloody Tower, home of some strange torture devices. Adelheyd had heard the gruesome stories about the history of the Tower of London the day before and explained to her dad that “there were dead people there and you should not go in the Tower because you can’t even breathe!!!” As we walked down the winding staircase, she peeked around the corner saw that all the people were not dead, let out a deep breathe and turned to us and sais “Whew….you CAN breathe in there!”. Love that kid! It is quite a magical experience to see two young kids at prime age for loving queens/princesses and knights and battles experience ‘living’ history.

Having explored another part of the world and successfully getting  a good taste of London culture and cuisine, we boarded our plane amidst a great hurricane force storm and returned to Norway. We are now home settling back into our Tromsø routine dreaming of Kings and Queens, Knights and swords, English ales, and the joys of travel adventures.

More adventures with family and an early winter treat

I was talking to my parents about this blog just yesterday and realized that it sounds like we are quite the busy family with loads of guests and travel adventures. In our reality, our life seems quite routine and at times even a little boring. We pack the kids’ lunches, take them to school, Joel goes to work, I go to work (sometimes:), we cook dinner, clean the house, go to the grocery store, etc.. We do all the things we did in the States, but with less family and friends nearby to keep us constantly entertained or distracted, however you want to look at it.  I guess that is when you know you have acclimated to your new town/life abroad, you get into your routine. In a way it is a really comforting feeling to feel settled. So just when we start to feel settled, we need something to keep us entertained of course. For those of you who read this and know us quite well, we are not so good at sitting still or just ‘settling in’ at home. Luckily, October has brought us plenty of fun already.

Joel’s Aunt Marlene and Uncle David made the trip to Tromsø during their fall break from working at the University of Utah. A little background is needed here. When I was in PT school we lived in Salt Lake City with Marlene and David for 6 weeks while I completed a clinical there. We immediately were welcomed into their home and their family. We feel an extra special bond with them and were delighted when they decided to come see us in this Arctic world. It is not an easy trip to get to Tromsø, typically 4 airplanes and 20+ hours of travel. Marlene and David are seasoned travelers of the globe and Marlene is getting into photography, so of course Northern Norway is a perfect destination … at least we think so!  We began their visit with a weekend retreat to the island of Sommarøy, directly west of Tromsø and nestled out in the Northern Norwegian Sea. We rented a nice cabin on the coast, explored the nearby hiking area Hillesøy, enjoyed some great meals, great company and an overall relaxing weekend away from home.

We returned to Tromsø and within hours it began to snow. It continued to snow and snow and snow. Marlene and David were troopers, making the walks into town, tromping through the snow with the kids and reveling in the beauty of the first snow of winter in the Arctic North. Pretty cool.

After our guests departed, on their way home via a few day stop in Iceland, the snow just kept on coming. There were periods of sunshine interspersed between the big snowflakes falling, but is was mostly just snow. This morning I woke up to several fresh inches of new snow. The kids have been busy sledding, cross country skiing, making snow forts and snow men. It is beautiful here right now and so much fun to watch the kids with big ear to ear smiles on their faces, loving the winter wonderland. Little do they know this will likely be the longest winter of their lives given that last year the snow storms continued through the end of April! The local say the snow typically turns to rain at some point and stays a mix of snow, rain, and ice until February. We just want the snow to stick around until we depart for the States for the holidays in early December. One can hope!

A whirlwind of fun with Nana and Papa

It had been 7 months without seeing Nana and Papa, so when the day of their arrival in Tromsø finally came, there was more than just a little excitement in the air. The kids were running around silly. We met them at the airport on Friday around noon and the kids did not leave their side for days. The visit began with some walks around town, enjoying the local Food Festival,  a couple of late birthday celebrations complete with a monster cake for Odin and dinosaur brownies for Adelheyd. The kids were of course spoiled with attention and gifts. We were spoiled with loads of Black Coffee from Missoula (love that stuff), and a lot of US goods that are hard to get here or just ungodly expensive. Thank you for bringing the extra suitcase of goodies nana and papa!

After exploring town we made a few side trips to our local favorite scenic destinations. First was the trip out to the Lyngen Alps. Odin and Papa found perhaps the most scenic place in the world to practice a little baseball. Not the most common site in Norway to see anyone playing baseball, let alone on a quiet beach in far northern Norway. Adelheyd geared up in one of her famous fashion forward outfits, brought a Frisbee and joined in the fun. We took the ferry boat across to Svensby on the Lyngen peninsula and made way for our favorite camp spot to take a little hike and view the amazing glacier laden mountains.

Trip number two was a ride up the Fjellheisen or Cable Car near town. The view and hiking terrain at the top is so beautiful. I snapped several picture of the kids just sitting looking out over the fjords, playing with rocks, and just enjoying nature. It did not hurt the picturesque scene that we had beautiful weather.

After five days of fun in Tromsø, we all boarded a plane and headed to southern Sweden, by way of Copenhagen. Two airplanes and two trains later, we arrived in Ystad, Sweden. It was a long day of travel, but well worth the final destination. Ystad is a very quiet town on the southern coast of Sweden. With miles of sandy beaches, timbered houses in the German style mixed with Swedish décor, an amazing little locally owned hotel, and more beautiful weather, our 4 day stay in Ystad was picture perfect.

The main goal of our trip to Ystad was to meet Papa’s cousins and spend some bonus time with Aunt Alli who came down from Uppsala. Cousins Caroline and Kathy and their families were wonderful hosts, showing us all around their hometown areas. We explored the beaches in Ystad, partook in the national pastime of Fika (coffee and cookie break) on the beach near Malmo, walked the cobblestone streets in town, ate several delicious home cooked meals, explored the Stone Age Rock Formation of Ale Stone , and made new friends. Adelheyd and Odin were quite taken with two of the younger cousins who showered them with attention, jewelry, piggy back rides, and video games:) All in all, it was a busy whirlwind adventure, but magical and never to be forgotten.

The final day with Nana and Papa was spent in Copenhagen before boarding our plane home to Tromsø. We had already spent a week in the Spring in Copenhagen and I do love this city. We wanted to show Nana and Papa all that we loved about Copenhagen, but it was hard to tour very much in just a few hours. We walked the streets, had a fantastic lunch, visited the palace and gardens (quickly) and stretched our legs before the journey home. Nana and Papa were even able to treat the kids one last time with a gift from the Disney Store and some candy:)  Thank you, thank you, thank you Nana and Papa for a wonderful 10 days.


Happy Birthday to Little Lady Lulu

Our amazing little girl has turned four. Adelheyd, fondly referred to as Lady Lu or Lulu, is one of those kids that people describe as “really being quite something” or “she is just ridiculous!”   She has been full of spirit since the day she was born and continues to make us smile, laugh out loud and often shake our heads in disbelief of her crazy antics, intelligence beyond her years, and strong will. We love her raspy voice, silly dancing, and big hugs. This little lady has a BIG personality and we LOVE IT!

When Adelheyd decides what she wants it is not simple. She explains in full detail what she envisions, leaving nothing out. When asked what she wanted to do for her birthday she replied ” I want a dress up costume party, but I want the costumes to be nice. We should invite girls because they like nice costumes, not boys because they like scary costumes and I don’t want scary costumes. Odin can come but he will want to be scary. That is o.k.” So we invited 3 little girls who we camp with and helped them dress up in nice costumes. Next Adelheyd insisted that we invite Kyeush and his mom. That would be our friend Jill and her dog Kyeush. They also came. The next detail was cake or cupcake choice. Adelheyd replied “I want chocolate cupcakes because I DO NOT like vanilla. I want white icing with golden balls and duckies on them” We found out she really meant silver balls and we found some animal decorations at the store, so that wish was also granted. Next on the list was that she wanted to “paint rocks like Ladybug Girl does with the Bug Squad in the book” (Ladybug Girl is one of her favorite books). No problem…rock painting added to the birthday wish list.

The final birthday question for Adelheyd was “what do you want for your birthday?” Most 4-year old girls are easy to shop for…not this one. She will tell you if you get her something she does not like and will ask you to bring it back to the store. This year she asked if she could just take her money from her piggy bank and go buy herself a present “like mom did on her birthday when she bought herself a new jacket”. Adelheyd did not have too much money in her piggy bank, so I told her I would take her to the store. We walked though endless toy stores. At the end of the day, she decided she wanted a Donald Duck stuffed animal more than anything because “I like stuffed animals more than toys. I like toys alright, but I really like stuffed animals.” So Donald Duck came home with us. The other toys she liked were bubbles, a rainbow slinky and a Mater Remote Control Car (Mater is the junky tow truck from the Cars movie). No princesses for this one, though she did not pass up the opportunity to wear a pink crown and pink tutu as part of her costume:) And we did surprise her with her the three other toys because I could not pass up the opportunity to watch her eyes light up with surprises on her birthday.  Of course she as also fully spoiled with presents from our family is the US so there were a lot of ‘eyes lighting up’ moments for this girl on her birthday. It was perfect.

Birthday Camping with Friends and Berries

Another beautiful weekend spent camping with friends in Norway. Celebrating Joel’s birthday in the woods with friends (which included Jack…Daniels), a fire, some canoes and a nice mountain lake seemed only fitting.  We joined three other families at a nice, remote campsite in Dividalen, a National Park about 2 hours southeast of Tromsø. In total we had 8 adults and 8 kids, of which Odin was the oldest. Eight kids age 6 and under is pretty amazing…including a one month old and a three month old. Don’t hesitate to get your kids out in nature! That is the Norwegian way. I like it.

As I mentioned in the last post, the fall colors are in full swing and  it is absolutely beautiful in Northern Norway right now. Every season here has brought new beauty to the mountains and sea. I have truly enjoyed watching this happen and am so happy that we have taken advantage of the nature around us with countless camping trips. Joel and I are a good match in motivating each other. Sometimes it seems like such a process to pack food, organize camping gear, load the kids, make the drive, set up camp, hope it does not rain, get the kids to sleep in the tent, poop in the woods, help the kids poop in the woods,  and so on. The weekends where I am feeling lazy, Joel steps up to the plate and gets the process going. I am the motivator when he is not really in the mood. We are all happier when we go. Of course the weekends at home are nice, but the weekends exploring and camping are amazing. Dividalen was no exception. A beautiful mountain landscape set inland from the fjords, we were surrounded by rivers and streams, leaves changing colors, great company with our friends, and berries everywhere. We have been picking berries since leaving Sweden in July. They really are everywhere and so yummy. So far our harvest has resulted in the following delicious stockpiles loading our freezer and cupboards: Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, Red Currant Jam, Lingonberry Jam, Blueberry bread, Blueberry Crumb cake, Blueberry oat bars, Rhubarb oat bars (Rhubarb from the field next to our house… a nice bonus), Rhubarb Juice, and some yummy raspberries that ended up in our tummies before they made it into any treats. We have been mostly picking blueberries as these are a family favorite on our cereal, in our yogurt, and in our baked goods. We have also had a lot of fun experimenting with Red Currants and Lingonberries, which are a Scandinavian favorite to eat with meat. Joel made a batch of Lingonberry Jam with added cinnamon and apples…it tastes like Christmas and is soooooo good on our morning panekaker (Norwegain pancakes that are more like crepes). I will definitely have to find some berry picking in Montana when we return…huckleberries are already calling my name!

Norway is Beautiful

I cannot imagine anyone ever disagreeing with the statement…Norway is Beautiful.  We began our adventure here in February with feet and feet of snow falling. Spring arrived with beautiful Sunsets preparing for the  Midnight Sun that lasted all Summer. We are now making the transition to fall as the leaves of the Birch trees are changing colors which is all the more beautiful against the white bark. The berries are out in full force decorating the forest floors and we are entering the time of year when the Northern Lights once again become visible.

We had spent several weekends in a row at home after a busy summer and the start of school. This past weekend, the forecast promised sunshine and clear skies so we called our friend Jill (recently relocated to Tromsø from Alaska) and we all loaded into the VW, including her huge part Akita dog whom the kids have fallen in love with, and drove out to the Lyngen Alps.

We returned to one of our favorite campsites from last Spring to see what it offers in the fall. It was amazing. The berries were abundant everywhere, the huge gushing river from the Spring was now tame enough to cross allowing a hike toward the glacier nearby, and the weather was perfect. To top it all off, the Northern Lights made a beautiful appearance in the sky. It was a magical weekend. We returned home with buckets of lingonberries and blueberries to make breads, bars, jams, and anything else we can dream up. The kids were troopers on our hike, definitely impressing us with the distances they can go. Jill and her pup, Kyeush, were great camping companions. Joel mastered the art of slowing the shutter speed on the camera to snap shots of the Northern Lights…impressive I must say. Norway is beautiful.