Saturday, December 27, 2008

I haven't posted in forever because...

- i took a pregnancy test and it was positive!!! yes, joy. yes, we were "trying". 

(BY THE WAY, PLEASE DON'T TALK ABOUT THIS. MY PARENTS DON'T KNOW YET, NOR DO MY CO-WORKERS AND I'D LIKE IT TO STAY THAT WAY UNTIL I'M PAST THE THIRD TRIMESTER IN FEBRUARY. thank you for respecting this.)

but quickly came the, OH SHIT! and fear, depression. mostly related to phoenix. i really wanted to be back in the US so that phoenix could begin school (he's already missed one year) and get the therapies he needs and deserves. almost no services exist here, none that phoenix qualifies for at least, and the school system is the worst in europe. if we do have to stay (unstable job market in the US, an ENTIRE YEAR of paid maternity leave here) i'll home school phoenix and rio part-time and have them in daycare the rest of the time so that i can take care of the newborn. but, again, i just wonder if things would be better in the US. i know that i miss home and friends a lot.

-all in all, i just want to sleep all the time. i am lazy and have no motivation no matter how hard i try. then i get mad at myself for the self-pity. but i'm so blessed and believe in a god of love who will provide me with anything i need!!!! 

- other than that big stuff, rio and i will be visiting the US to attend a friend's wedding in february (couldn't afford the nearly full-price ticket for phoenix too). we'll arrive on my dad's birthday and surprise him while he's out to dinner with my mom and brother. my sister-in-law is planning it. can't wait!

- had the worst christmas on record! as i've written before, my husband is a jehovah's witness so there's no celebrating anything. i try to celebrate, to keep some traditions going, but it is really hard. it just feels empty and fake to celebrate "a little" but not ALL of it. i sulked for 2 days and cried a lot. how are we going to solve this problem in the future? will we have any traditions? i think they're important and build family bonds. UGH. hate this time of the year. and in norway it's like christmas doesn't end until new year's so i'm just feeling suffocated all the time. 

- still, i baked my first turkey and had all the trimmings...green bean casserole, baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows, creamed corn casserole with jiffy corn bread mix (my mom brought over 6 boxes when she visited last year), homemade stuffing (sucked) and trader joe's corn bread muffins (christmas gift from my mom).

- ben has been amazing though. i couldn't ask for a more "close-to-perfect" husband. he ENJOYS housework and i hate it. and never complains that i'm lazy while he's cleaning. he's amazing. i was sick in bed for 2 days and he did EVERYTHING without complaining even though he is plagued with back aches and headaches lately. he's just amazing. i hate that i still want perfection from him. i want to be thankful for what i have.

BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! let's blame this pity-party and all the tears attached to it on the pregnancy. 

-oh, and i read THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER. totally worth reading but i'm still pissed about it!




Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in Norway

DAH! Of course they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Norway. Or at least they have no right to. Actually today on the Norwegian news they did a story about a Norwegian family celebrating Thanksgiving. They had a turkey and the dad came in the room and said, "Happy Thanksgiving"in English. LAME! Get your own holidays and your own language! They've also started to celebrate Halloween here too, but it too is LAME because only a small portion of the population celebrate it and some are even against and look down on those who celebrate it. We didn't get a single trick-or-treater. (OK, I'm not naive. I know a lot of America's holidays are imports from elsewhere but those people actually live in America!)

All 3 of the boys in our house have been throwing up and/or had loose stools all week so I forgot about planning a Turkey Day Feast. Truth be told, we have no $ and had to borrow $20 from Phoenix's savings to buy milk today. It's not that bad, Ben's paycheck will be in our account in 2 days. (Part of the problem is that it took 4 months to get my work permit so I have yet to get a paycheck. But it will be 4-months worth when I do get it!).

So our Thanksgiving consisted of fiskegrantang and vafler (so Norwegian!) and 3 things we were thankful for today

Ben said
1- the phone call from his friend in prison
2- that this same friend was allowed to leave prison to visit his dying mother
3- our family

I said
1- that Rio didn't puke today
2- that Connie sent a thoughtful text message to me
3- our family

Maybe I'll blow Ben's paycheck on a turkey and all the trimmings after all! We'll see. But I need more family and a football game and a parade for it to really feel like Thanksgiving. Ah, traditions are good!

I did get to skype with my parents, brother and his lovely wife who made a fabulous feast. Oh how my mouth watered as I read what was on the meny!!!! But my favorite was when my soon-to-be-41 year old brother stuck his nose in the camera and we could see his nose hairs! DON'T GROW UP SCOTT! 

Thanksgiving = best FOOD holiday. MISS YA AMERICA.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rio's girly hat




Rio's great grandma on his dad's side really wants a grand daughter. She is OFTEN buying Rio especially girls clothes (in my opinion)- a pink striped turtleneck, a turquoise shirt with pink lettering, a turquoise jacket with hearts, this hat...among other things...sorry, not trying to say that boys in blue and girls in pink is the law...i LOVE my hubby in his pink polo or pink tie, but that's different!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

photos


Body Art



Sipping smoothies



Feeling Holy



Arctic Cathedral, Tromsø

Friday, November 14, 2008

Of darkness, Finnish chocolate and a kid who won't sleep


Poor kid has a comb-over already!
 
Since it was already pitch black when the kids woke up from their naps, we kept the lights off and had a dance party. 

We put on our head lamps, even the kids, and all our reflectors too (vests, arms bands, teddy key chain reflectors too---we have so many because it dark for so many months here) and danced to some good house music (Deep Dish)!!! 


For dinner today I had 8 pieces of the best chocolate in the world, FAZER KELATAINEN, (Finnish chocolate with whole hazelnuts), hot chocolate and two slices of homemade bread with white cheese. And it was delicious. The kids had some left over chili and then we all enjoyed gingerbread cookies and milk for dessert. Hey, its Friday and there is a snow storm raging outside and I don't feel guilt about any of it!

So my non-sleeping child. Rio. 1 year old. I don't know what has happened in the past week and a half but it is me driving nuts, like on the verge of a mental breakdown. Yes, I have screamed at him. I am just so frustrated!!!! He whines when he's awake and won't stay asleep at night but is HAPPY AS A CLAM at daycare (something that brought me to tears AT daycare this week!). 

Long story short and some advice later, I really think he started daycare too early (9 months) or too late (meaning that if he'd been used to it since he was really little maybe we wouldn't be going through this). I think he needs a lot of attention and I should respect that and not tell him to "get over it". Arg, that quote comes from my MIL who thinks I spoiled him. Plus, Rio only nurses before bedtime now (by his own accord) so I think he really misses the closeness. 

Oh, and suddenly we have to hold Phoenix's hand in order for him to fall asleep. I don't what has happened with him either in the past 10 days. I've worked hard for 3 years so that he wouldn't have any dependencies when it comes to sleep but suddenly he freaks out when we leave the room and then Rio wakes up and....you know the rest of the story. 


Phoenix and hats update

I wrote an earlier post about Phoenix's love of hats and the game that he plays with the big kids at daycare. Now they're no longer allowed to play that game. The daycare doesn't want Phoenix to be seen as a "clown". I guess they think that since Phoenix isn't as fast as the other kids he can't chase them down so eventually the big kids will turn this game into more of a "teasing the kid with DS" game. I totally respect the daycare providers for being so concerned about my child but a little part of me is sad that they took something fun away from the kids and Phoenix. On the other hand, hopefully they'll be able to find another "more respectful" game to play. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mental Health Day

Chocolate chip cookies, a glass of milk and a Cubs shirt. 
(Phoenix wore his Cubbies T also today. Had to REPRESENT!)


Thank you, Rio, for being sick today. I needed a day off! Not because I'm sick of work (I actually enjoy my job for once!) but I needed TO SEE THE SUN for a few hours and the election hoopla!

I suck. I didn't vote. I didn't do the absentee ballot thing like I should have. Just never got around to it. But I counted on Obama winning Illinois anyway. We were up late last night watching BBC and looking up results online. This morning I jumped out of bed to continue watching BBC. I admit, I got all wrapped up in the emotions of it...of disenfranchised people finally getting the dignity they deserve, John McCain's speech was beautiful (those rednecks booing was kinda funny too), the diverse group of people in my home turf gathered in Grant Park cheering and crying together, the students I taught on the south side of Chicago and how meaningful it must have been for them, voting for the first time in this historical election. I thought of Obama's book title "The Audacity of Hope" and the reality of those words. This world can be so cruel yet people still find hope. I am amazed. He has the world on his shoulders though. Both the demands of being "the first black president" and pleasing his other supporters as well as the whole world it seems. 

At 8am my time I felt like I just had to call someone. But everyone in the US was sleeping so I called Jackie, an old friend who just moved to Germany. It was so good to talk to her and share the strangeness of experiencing this momentous occasion from a foreign country. I was quit emotionally exhausted after the conversation but very thankful for her friendship.

Then Rio and I went to a parent meeting in his daycare. Afterwards I called my best friend Anna and wished her a happy birthday and now I've baked a batch of chocolate cookies. I tried a new recipe. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rio's Birthday and Jehovah's Witnesses










Yeah! Today we had a great party in honor of Rio's first birthday. In my opinion, it was a success! The guests liked the food, the kids kept busy playing or making masks and EVERYONE CAME! We had 24 guests (+ us 3) in our tiny apartment! It was so fun! Only one thing was missing...Rio's father.

Ben's dad is a Jehovah's Witness so he doesn't believe in celebrating any holidays. BUT I JUST HAD TO CELEBRATE RIO'S FIRST BIRTHDAY! I think it is important to pause and reflect on the past year, the good times and bad and all the growth (physical and emotional) that has taken place. Also, I wanted to share this moment with all the people that helped me through the challenges of Rio's first year. I was so touched that everybody came. 

Ben and I have been married for 12 years and out of respect for his beliefs, I have stopped celebrating holidays. Sure, I show up to most of the parties but my heart is always troubled. I feel guilty spending "our money" on gifts for people. I strongly believe in the Christian faith, but I don't agree with JWs that it is ungodly to celebrate holidays. I think traditions are important because they bring people together, even if just for a moment. I struggle with how to respect Ben but still respect my own beliefs. Is it really that important? Its just a couple days a year. I can just give it up. That's way today was important to me. I had a BIRTHDAY PARTY, a real birthday party, with a BIRTHDAY cake, a BIRTHDAY song and we accepted BIRTHDAY gifts. I didn't try to hide the fact that it was a celebration. (Poor Phoenix...his first birthday party was called an "AUTUMN PARTY" so that I wouldn't offend Ben! I SUCK!)

Ben was totally fine with the party, even though he wasn't apart of it. He helped me prepare by cleaning the whole house by himself (YES! HE IS AMAZING!) and watching the kids without complaining while I cut fruit and vegetables. 

OK, I still feel a little bit guilty though. Why did I do something, spend time and money on something that EXCLUDED MY OWN HUSBAND, THE FATHER OF MY CHILDREN? Arg, such is life! 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

First snow


There has been snow in the mountains and frost here since September, but today was our first real snow. Only 8 more months before it melts!!! No, actually I love the winters here. They are much more enjoyable than Chicago winters. People are so surprised that it is colder in Chicago than here in the Arctic Circle. The winter temperature hovers around 25-30F and fortunately there is no "wind chill" to factor in. With lots of snow and "mild" temperatures, it is perfect for playing in the snow!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Phoenix's day today

Today when i picked up Phoenix from daycare a boy came up to me and said, "Guess what Phoenix did?". For every parent I'm sure this is a tense moment, "Did he bite someone? Get in trouble? Spill something?". I held my breath. The boy told me that Phoenix took his hat. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing so I just said, "Phoenix loves hats!" (which he does!). Then the daycare provider chimed in and told me that Phoenix was playing with a few kids, "chasing them" (he doesn't run, but does a fast walk) and pulling their hats off. She said that the kids and Phoenix had a ball playing and laughing together. Ah...a sigh of relief! That was a good story that made me smile! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

sleepy, sleepy- maybe its the darkness



i took this picture when i picked up the boys at pre-school today. it was 4pm! i had to wear my reflector vest it was so dark! the light is actually one of many street lights that they have on the playground so that the kids don't have to play in complete darkness. hilarious! still, i really appreciate that no matter the weather, the kids are outside playing at least once a day. its nice not to hear kids complaining all the time about it being cold or rainy. as the norwegian saying goes, "no bad weather, only bad clothing". but, when you live in the arctic circle and have winter 8- 10 months a year, i guess you have to tell yourself stuff like that! 

Monday, October 27, 2008

rio's first trip to the ER

yup, the kid isn't even 1 yet and he's already been to the ER (phoenix was 2 1/2 before his first visit). we were about to eat a very norwegian dinner, pannekaker and beta soup, when first phoenix put his hand in the hot soup on the table and then rio. rio is getting so big, he's constantly walking so he gets around a lot faster than we're used to and he has very long fingers. so the hot soup fell right in his face. thank the lord that he wasn't burned badly. it was worst on his hand instead of his face. ben was a super hero reacting quickly and putting him under freezing cold water in the shower. our dear friend let us borrow her car so we could drive him the ER. in the end, they made us run lukewarm water over him and then sent us home. the burns weren't as bad as they initially looked. rio just needs some extra TLC. still, it was emotionally exhausting. i've been passed out on the couch ever since. now i'm off to bed...god natt!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Norwegians and their porridge


Phoenix stirring the oatmeal

Turning on the fan

Rio tugging on Mom's leg, "Jeg vil hjelp!"

Norwegians love their porridge, whether it is made of oats, rice, semolina, butter or sour cream, its all good!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

down syndrome t-shirt slogans



this is the first time i've come across these shirts. personally, i think they are hilarious. although i understand if you find them offensive. my favorite slogan was "DOES THIS SHIRT MAKE ME LOOK RETARDED?". its so raw, to the point, direct, in your face, that I think it could actually make people think about how they use the "r-word" and how it affects the people around them. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

my junk

i have some serious junk, not necessarily in my life, but inside me. i'm just so insecure these days (or for the past year). i just feel like CRAP all the time. so i stuff myself with food to make myself feel better. it is a horrible habit. so far it hasn't really affected my weight but it will soon if i don't get control.

i don't know where to begin, but i really think the move to norway took me over the edge. having a kid with DS really wasn't that hard for me to deal with. honestly. i had such a huge community of friends and family who poured out so much love over me, ben and phoenix, that i got through the "shock" and the first-time mom stuff pretty well. plus, all the doctors, nurses, medical staff and AMAZING THERAPISTS encouraged us so much...

...then we moved to norway and i had NOTHING. 

NO ONE. i haven't met anyone who really knows anything about DS or recent research. there is NO EARLY INTERVENTION here (at least not that i am aware of) so i have no experts to help me. ok, so that was hard...

...then rio came.

rio is the sweetest little thing. he requires so little of me. he just needs to nurse and then he's off exploring on his own. he's so content. but having two kids, moving to a new country, no friends, in the middle of "the darkness" really KICKED MY ASS! it did. the "terrible 2s" kicked my ass too. motherhood and all this other stuff led to so much SELF-DOUBT. arg, i just can't handle it anymore. i can't just "get over it". it keeps coming back. 

now i have insecurities at work. i enjoy my job as a special ed aide, but i'm working in a foreign language which makes things so hard. i don't feel like myself because i can't express myself. i LOVE people but now i'm just quiet and laugh when everyone else does. my co-workers must think i'm such a wierdo! and i so yearn "to be known" by them, but i just don't have the "language" for it.

its all so frustrating. it leads to self-doubt as a mom and a wife. i feel so lost...and now that i try to eat myself back to happiness i just feel fat and gross and unhealthy and like a bad example to my kids...then i feel even worse. it is a bad, bad cycle. 

that is my junk. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

too busy to post...I FAILED!!!


i failed to write anything for the last 7 days. sorry. i'll do better next year. but like i said, i was tired BEFORE marissa arrived and after "partying" every night i just had no energy to post. i promise i'll do better next year!

highlights of the past week...
-being lazy and chatting it up with a dear friend
-girls night out
-karaoke with friends of friends from seattle (so random!)
-road trip without the kids!

(i'm trying to post pictures but it is taking way too long!)


Thursday, October 16, 2008

he's come so far



i was just thinking about how far phoenix has come...

joy, peace, proud, thankful

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

still sleepy, happy birthday to me, when will he start talking?

local down's group

my birthday present-
MARISSA arrives from san francisco

marissa came bearing gifts- 3 kilos of finnish chocolate,
an ipod charger, cointraeu for margaritas, and lots more!

life...

ok , it is midnight and rio is crying so we made our guest from san francisco go in to him!!! she rocks!

so life...i heard rio cry last night at 4:30 this morning and i just couldn't sleep after that. i started worrying about phoenix's biting. and how it relates to his delayed speech. he bites because he has no other way to communicate or initiate play. i think he really just wants to get their attention so they can play. he usually bites the kids he likes best and, naturally, they won't want to play with him if he keeps biting. so i'm worried. i got up and read, tried to find some answers, some way to make him HURRY UP AND START TALKING! but, ugh, patience, patience.

the rest of my day...woke up SUPER TIRED because i was up all night reading, busy day at the daycare...disco ball, ABBA, practicing cutting, a hike to the lavvo. then ran home, tried to nurse rio, he refused, i'm sad, took a cab to a downs meeting. fun to meet up with everyone, especially parents of 6 month old. came home, gave the boys their fish oil, threw them in their beds, tried to pick up AND THEN MY FRIEND ARRIVED FROM SAN FRANCISCO! all the way up here in the arctic circle! what a great birthday present!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sleepy

I didn't write last night because I went to bed at the same as the kids...yup, I went to bed at 8pm, got up at 11:30pm to brush my teeth, and then went back to sleep until 6:30am. And you know what? I STILL woke up tired and I AM STILL TIRED! Honestly, I'm still recovering from the weekend! :)

The in-laws have been here so that meant BABY SITTERS! And we took full advantage. Last weekend we out for our anniversary. This weekend had wine and cheese at a friend's house on Friday (ok, LOTS of wine and some cheese) and on Saturday we went to our block party. Coming home at 3am and then waking up at 6am takes a toll on an old fart like me (my birthday is tomorrow...I'm just getting older!), although Ben took the kids so I was able to sleep later.

Still, its Tuesday and I still haven't recovered. This weekend I'll be out too. Marissa is coming to visit from the US (YEAH!) and of course we'll have to celebrate my birthday too!

Oh well. I can sleep in November. The darkness will be here then anyways so not much else to do.

Good night!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Phoenix turns 3!

And mama makes a cheezy little film of the past year. 
(not sure how to improve the quality though????)


Saturday, October 11, 2008

What happens when Mom isn't home

For some reason my husband decided it was ok for Rio to sit in his high chair and eat lunch without a diaper. Of course, he peed! While Ben was cleaning up Rio's pee, Phoenix decided it would be fun to pour his milk all over himself. His diaper was soaked so Ben took it off and started cleaning up the spilt milk without putting a new diaper on Phoenix. While he was cleaning the floor he started to smell something terrible and looked up to see Rio smearing his poop all over the floor and himself! He ran to the bathroom to get Rio in the shower while Bestemor tried to keep Phoenix out of the poop. Instead, Phoenix decided to pee on the rug. 

Moral of the story- put the diaper on the baby!

Friday, October 10, 2008

I love these guys!




Rio obviously lost this round!


Friends again...


Our beautiful Phoenix

No amount of money in the world is worth the job. I miss Phoenix and Rio so much when I'm at work. My heart really ached for them today. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lost in translation

Tomorrow at daycare they will be celebrating Phoenix's 3rd birthday (which is actually on Sunday). I was excited to use his birthday as a way of spreading Down Syndrome awareness. I decided to recruit my graphic designer husband to design a card to hand out along with some candy. I planned on writing the text. 

Ben designed a beautiful card...the problem is that when translating from English to Norwegian my whole point got totally lost and I was very disappointed in the final product (a friend at work helped him translate it) and then he thought I was rude and ungrateful and threw all the cards in the garbage so I pushed him as I lunged for the cards and then it was full crisis. All in front of the kids AND the in-laws! UGH!!! Tears too.  

But I am very passionate about the point that I wanted to get across. 

I was inspired by this Archie's Room post and decided on a theme of "the same but different". That 3 years after his birth, after being depressed about diagnosis and praying for a "normal" child we were finally at a point of ACCEPTANCE (ok, not every single moment of every single day but close). So after writing a little about his birth, I wanted to write At that time we still wanted a child like everyone elses, but it is his differences that make him Phoenix. Today we celebrate Phoenix and his differences. What I got was It is his differences that make him special. He is Phoenix in all his uniqueness. 

CAN YOU HEAR THE DIFFERENCE? First, I really hate the word "special" in the this case. It focuses too much on the special ed, special needs theme and I don't want to talk about Phoenix in that way right now. Secondly, ALL KIDS ARE SPECIAL so I think it is rude to call my kid special and hand out a card to a bunch of parents telling them that my kid is special. 

I'm over it though. Their getting the card and candy anyway and now there is peace again in our house...I think.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Daycare in Norway

The Norwegian word for daycare is "barnehage" and translates literally to kindergarden. However, nearly every kid in Norway begins barnehage when they are only 1 year old and they continue until the first year of elementary school at age 6. So in American terms it is a mix of daycare, pre-school and public education. 

Daycare= babysitter... The only stay-at-home-moms that I have met are immigrants. Here in Norway they have a very high standard of equality and most women have a desire to work outside the home. 

Pre-school= pedagogical platform...Each classroom has a pre-school teacher and they base lesson plans on educational standards. 

Public education= special ed services...If you're not in barnehage it is very hard to have access to any services. (However, "Early Intervention" barely exists here so you're not really missing anything! I'll save that for another post!)

ADVANTAGES...Phoenix's physical therapist (who's job is to simply evaluate him every 6-12 months) signed him up for a swim class on Tuesday afternoons.  The barnehage part of this is that his aide takes him there! It is part of her job! The government pays for a taxi to take them to the class and the class is free! He loves swimming and it is a great work out so we're very pleased about this. YEAH for daycare in Norway!

When I'm crabby one day I'll write about the DISADVANTAGES...may be a looooong post!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Today at Open Gym

Wow, this 31 for 21 Challenge is already getting to me...I should be in bed now! I'm lucky if I post once a week! But in honor of Phoenix and all his friends and Down Syndrome awareness here we go!

Our big event today was Open Gym for 3 and 4 year olds. Today was the first day and I still get a little nervous about having the only kid with DS and wondering how he'll tackle the activity. Of course, HE ROCKED IT! He loved running back and forth with the kids, he is awesome at walking backwards (thanks to the Wiggles) and crawled faster than the other kids! He liked trying to jump on the trampoline and was great at crawling through the tunnels. 

Its so different having a special needs child. I often feel this huge responsibility to "show him off", show what he can do, make sure that he's well-dressed and has all the things as the other kids. Its probably the same with a typical kid too though? I guess a part of me wants him to be EXACTLY like the other kids although he never will be. Its hard for me often to just let him do what he wants, to let him roll around on the mats instead of walking in an orderly fashion across the mat like he is "supposed to". If I don't let him enjoy Open Gym by doing his own thing then he won't want to go and 1) he won't get the exercise 2) he won't get to socialize 3) he won't be seen in the community...my struggles...still, despite "me", I think Phoenix had fun!!! 

I will say one thing good about myself. I used to get embarrassed in situations where Phoenix was taking too long and kids were waiting. I would often let the kids cut in front of Phoenix or I would hurry him through the activity myself so that the others wouldn't have to wait. SHAME ON ME!!! That was so disrespectful to Phoenix and to the other kids, who missed an opportunity to practice patience. I love to praise those kids who do wait patiently for Phoenix. It's a practice in patience for me as well. I'm his advocate after all and I'm glad that I'm becoming better! Most importantly, I enjoy seeing Phoenix having fun and having time to learn new skills. 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

31 for 21

October is Down Syndrome Awareness month. I'm taking the 2nd Annual 31 for 21 Challenge and blogging everyday this month (I just heard about this, thus the late start) in honor of my son Phoenix. 

Phoenix is now 3 years old and thriving. He started walking at 21 months and he understands two languages and uses sign language. He is an active little boy who has not stopped us from living, but rather enriches our life in a way we never could have asked for. 

Here is his birth story...
Phoenix was mom’s birthday present, born 3 days before her 29th birthday. I had a wonderful pregnancy. I looked and felt great!!! And was very proud of having a 100% natural birth. We had opted not to do any prenatal screenings.

A few hours after Phoenix’s birth, our midwife and nurse tenderly told us they suspected our son had Down Syndrome. I was on a high from the accomplishment of the delivery so I was not extremely distraught over the conversation, unlike my husband who cried and prayed all night that what we had been told was not true.

The next day the doctors told us they were 95% sure that Phoenix had Down Syndrome. He was then admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and that same week a genetic test confirmed that our son had Trisomy 21. He spent 5 weeks in the hospital and used supplemental oxygen for 9 months. Still, he was able to nurse.

We could have never made it through this period without the love and support of our friends. Phoenix had over 40 visitors while he was in the NICU. Thus, we chose Amado for his middle name, which means "loved" in Spanish.

12 year wedding anniversary


Outside the courthouse in Vardø, Norway, where we got married. 


We celebrated 12 glorious (so cliche!) years of marriage yesterday. Pretty amazing considering we only knew each other 3 weeks before we got married! We celebrated with cake and margaritas and then went bar-hopping in Tromsø. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dinner at the Nystads

I'm making the annoying "raspberry" sounds in the background. BUT LISTEN TO PHOENIX'S LAUGH!!! Isn't it great?!.


PHOENIX SAYS MAMA! A real achievement! 



This is the sign for "cry". Phoenix is dragging his finger down  his cheek like a tear. 


Look at those cheeks. (More annoying "raspberry" sounds!)
video

Happy Sundays

Hanging out downtown

It was a huge feat climbing to the top of the slide!

The boys sitting down for dinner and drinking from martini glasses!

Taking the bus in to town


It is about 9pm and like most Sundays, I AM SO HAPPY (and not only because the kids are asleep)! We usually spend our Sunday evenings at Phoenix's friend's house. He's 5 year old and also has Down syndrome. It takes us about 5 minutes to walk to his house. It is such a blessing to have him and his single mom in our lives. She is from Ethiopia so it is extra special to have the whole ex-pat thing in common too. She cooks delicious meals for us, whether it is Ethopian injera or Norwegian elk. Then she makes ginger coffee and serves it with Norwegian chocolate. Other days we hang out downtown or got to an indoor playland. Each time after being with them, my heart if full of warmth and joy. 

I love that Phoenix has a friend. And he is such a good example to Phoenix. He is polite, full of compliments and very sweet and careful with little Rio. I love that our whole family enjoys Phoenix's friend. Its so wonderful that Ben enjoys being there too, with the kids and two women discussing the latest DS research. 

I'm so thankful to have this family in our lives.  They are a source of inspiration and encouragement to us. 

Fantastic fall

The view from Tromsø's highest point

Trying to get the kids to pose for a picture!

Trying to get them both to smile is another thing!

Phoenix on the way down

The mornings are full of pink light...I love the contrast of the snow and fall foliage. 



I've had this post in my head for 2 weeks now, when "fantastic fall" was actually appropriate. As of now, it has been raining hard for 3 days and it has been cold and rainy. We're very used to living by the Norwegian modo "no bad weather, only bad clothing" but in this weather it is hard to enjoy being outside. But back to 2 weeks ago...

It was a perfect autumn day. The sun was warm on our backs as we hiked to the highest point on Tromsø island Varden (means stack of rocks). We took the kids in the stroller most of the way and then left it on the trail so that Phoenix could hike the last part on his own. It was steep and took maybe 30 -40 minutes but he did it all on his own! It was awesome! And the fall foliage was at its best- lots of yellows, reds and brown!!! Gorgeous! I will autumn lasted longer!

That night we saw another fascinating wonder of September, the northern lights. I had butterflies in my stomach, feeling so blessed to be allowed to live and experience life in the arctic circle. 

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Døgnvill Music Festival, Tromsø

50 cent and G-Unit came out in Marine outfits

The venue was so small and were really close to the stage


Ben and I were looking forward to Døgnvill Music Festival ("døgnvill" means when you get your days and nights mixed up) ever since we heard that 50 cent was playing. We could not believe that he would come all the way to the arctic circle to play in 38F weather for this "city" of only 60,000 for a bunch a Norwegians who have no clue what words like "ghetto, projects" mean. We had to be there to see this!

The line up included people like Samantha Foxx, Limahl ("The Never Ending Story") Duolva Duottar (Sami people- the indigenous people of northern Norway, they still heard reindeer- rapping) and a couple really good Norwegian bands. Kaizers was by far the best performance of the night. 

We only got to go the festival on Friday. But Saturday's line up included the Sex Pistols and Travis. 

One really cool part of the festival was that so many families were there! I mean newborns from 2 months (they had them in their baby bjørns or sleeping on the outskirts of the lawn in their big buggies) to teenagers hanging out with their parents.  It was really a cool atmosphere on the top of the island surrounded by mountains. 

These were my favorite Norwegian artists...and the hilarious Sami rappers:

Ida Maria "Oh My God"


Kaizers Orchestra "Enden av November"



Here is a video from FIDDY's official website about the show here in Norway. There's some good footage of Tromsø. It is hilarious to see them at our local Burger King and complaining about how expensive everything is here!






Sunday, August 31, 2008

Phoenix's first 5k

Go Phoenix!

Aw, he looks so small!

Looking forward to many more medals!

Ok, it was a point .5k , not a 5k, but it doesn't matter. We are so proud of him! He had had a fever the night before and was a little under the weather and hadn't napped, but he persevered and completed the race!

It was called the Hamna Race. Our little part of the island, which is a bit isolated from the rest, is called  Hamna. It is inhabitated mainly by families. There are 4 decent-sized daycares, one huge one and numerous home daycares all within 5 minutes of each other- and still there are waiting lists! So there were plenty of kids competing and lots of family-oriented events all day- from free breakfast to music and grilling down by the shore. It was a really fun day spent with our family and neighbors. 

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nystad family reunion

The Nystads + Ben's dad's mom

Tante Eva

We had to eat some traditional rice porridge with butter, cinnamon and sugar

That's a huge pot of rice porridge! Left overs are perfect for rice cream pudding

Bestemor Nystad and her boys

Ben's sister Eva Theresa came to visit last week. She lives in New York state, outside Rochester. The family, Ben, his sister and their parents, hadn't been in the same room together since 2001! We didn't do anything special...just a lot of hanging out.