Love Trumps SCUBA

During a celebratory dinner last night for the successful conclusion of a conference I was working on, it came up that I used to SCUBA dive. While I would prefer not to use the verb phrase “used to”, the last time I went SCUBA diving was when I visited Belize in 2003. It is really hard to say that I still dive when it has been eleven years since my last sub-aquatic experience. There are multiple reasons for this, but the primary cause of my lack of diving is that my wife does not dive.

So when it came out that I do not dive any longer because my wife does not dive, that was met with a bit of derision from a few of those that I was celebrating with. “How could you stop doing something you love just because your wife does not do that? You should always do what you enjoy regardless of your partner.” Now, this is not the first time I have been met with such a reaction; and most often this seems to come from women. And despite me efforts, I feel that I fail to ever adequately explain why my lack of diving, or any other activity that I once enjoyed as a single male, is okay.

If I had to boil it down to be as clear as I can make it, I would say that I love my wife, and being with my wife, more than anything else. While the joy and wonder of experiencing an underwater realm of continuous mystery, movement, and magic is great…it does not compare to the joy and wonder I get from being with Momma S. The thought of going on a tropical vacation and choosing to spend an entire day separate from her (regardless of the reason) is not worth it. Add to that the fact that we have two all encompassing boys, there is just no chance. Not only do I not want to be apart from Momma S; but, to do so would mean that I am then leaving her with both boys. For those of you who may not have children, trust me when I say being left alone with the kids while your partner goes out to do something fun is not exactly a “great time had by all”. Not that we are not willing to do this. I know that Momma S would support my diving, and that I would support her should she want to adventure off on her own to do some photography or visit the spa…but the reality is, we prefer to do it all together.

I don’t SCUBA dive now; but I will. There are years ahead of us, and once K and M are old enough to join me on those mysterious and magical sub-aquatic adventures, Momma S is going to love the time alone at the spa or wandering around a new town taking pictures and reading travel magazines at a quite outdoor café. But until that time, we are going to be together. And you know what, it is really not a sacrifice at all; cause there is nowhere I would rather be than with my wife…kids and all.

Denmark: Sun & Fun (not your typical pairing)

Spring Break found familynomadic packed back in the prius, this time with as much sand toys and snacks as they could fit.  Destination…Skagen, Denmark.  From the Oresund Bridge, across the Storebaelt Bridge, and finally across Den Ny Lillebaeltsbro, we managed to reach “mainland” Denmark and took rest in the town of Aarhus, which is the second largest city in Denmark.  Seeing that I have two little boys and that Aarhus was not our destination, I unfortunately have nothing to report, except that the Scandic hotel on the outside of town had a great fussball table that K fell in love with, especially as two older boys invited him to play with them.

Our morning destination on day 2 of our drive was the largest “tropical” rainforest in Europe, located in Randers, Denmark.  Randers Regnskov is a great place to spend half a day with kids.  A small, but nice, aquarium on the bottom level, two bio-spheres catering to two different climatic zones, a very cool bat cave and a nice outdoor playground makes this place a must stop place when traveling through Denmark with kids.  So, after watching the monkeys, the alligators, and the bats, it was time to pile back into the prius and push on to the top of Denmark.

Skagen, Denmark is somehow a picture perfect, sleepy Cape Cod/Martha’s Vineyard, small beach town tucked away in the rolling dunes of northern Denmark.  Made famous by countless impressionist artists who have come to capture the bleak, and at times surreal, landscape of where sand meets both the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.  Skagen also claims the title of the sunniest place in Denmark with an average of 223 days of sun (thank you Wikipedia)!  Coming through Denmark, we were under very consistent cloud cover and light rain the entire way…until we made it half way up the peninsula where the clouds seemed to hit an invisible wall and let the sun shine on in.

The theme for Skagen is sand and sun.  As it was still April, the temperature was not conducive for swimming; but, at times the continuous sun shine made it feel like a perfect summer day.  We spent our days in Skagen walking the beaches, taking small hikes along the numerous dune trails, and taking in the two major sites of the town: the Grenen (which is where the two seas actually meet…and some say you can see the different colors of the seas at this point), and The Buried Church (Spoiler Alert…it is not even buried).  We had picnics on the beach, skipped stones in the sea, attempted an ill-fated fancy family dinner on the harbor (I will spare you the details, but let us just same Momma S says it was one of the worst experiences she has had as a parent thus far), and played in the sand.

After a few days of fun in the sun, we hopped onto a fairy back to Sweden and home.  All pretty uneventful until we got caught behind a circus caravan on a nice small two lane road crossing Sweden…only delayed our arrival home by about two to three hours.  We all came back relaxed and sun-tanned, exactly what was needed for our Spring Break.

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An Arctic Road Trip

Back in February, Momma S and I packed the prius with as much winter clothing and snack food that would fit strapped the boys into their car seats, and hit the road heading north.  Destination…the Arctic Circle.

Day 1-2:  A quick 6hr drive to Stockholm.  Meet with a good friend, celebrate Momma S’s birthday, and take in a ferry ride to a toy museum.

Day 3: Visit the US Embassy to apply for a new passport for K, then a long haul up E4 till we reach Umea.  Recently featured in the NY Times 52 places to go in 2014, Umea was a great place to stop.  Good college town vibe, snow castles build in the center of downtown for sledding purposes, and a pretty good art & music scene.

Day 4:  The Arctic!!

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Day 5:  Dog Sledding.

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Day 6: The Arctic Road.

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Day 7-8:  A long haul home, made possible only with the magic of Harry Potter.  By this point, K & M were done with being in the car.  From Almhult to Porjus, where we stayed in the Arctic, alone was over 1500 kilometers, not counting all of the extra driving we did to go dog sledding, to drive up a mountain in the middle of the night to get above the clouds so we could see the Northern Lights, and just to see the Arctic.  So, the long road home was proving to be very long with two cranky boys in the back.  Luckily, we picked up an audio CD of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and introduce K & M to the world of wizards and witches and broomsticks and magic.  That CD lasted a good day and half, which allowed us to arrive home all in one piece.

Looking back on this trip, I have to say that a road trip to the Arctic, in the dead of winter, was the perfect adventure for this familynomadic.

Art, Nature, History…Wanås!

Three kilometers outside of the rural village of Knislinge (20 minutes east of Hässleholm ) you find the old manor/art galleries of Wanås.  The Wanås estate is dedicated to uniting the areas of art, nature, and history and proves to be a wonderful day excursion if you happen to find yourself in southern Sweden.

With Spring in full bloom, now would be a wonderful time to explore the estate, to amble along the paths, never knowing what beauty or mystery awaits around the corner.  Momma S, the boys and I visited Wanås in the Autumn, and even then we were transfixed by the installations that they had.  We have been told that many of the art pieces themselves seem to change with the seasons, continually creating new impressions and sights.  What made the visit so fun is that many of the installations are there for you to interact with.  The boys had so much fun exploring the giant cinder block type cube in the middle of the forest, or climbing over the multicolored Tetris like formation, or listening to the eerie cries of a little boy echo through the trees of a piece designed for your audio pleasure…and mystery.

With cafes for the taste buds, an upside down house, tree swings, and words of wisdom etched in rock walls (if you take the time to search them out), Wanås offers a bit of joy for everyone in the family.

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Burma Bound

It’s May 24th, the day before Mother’s Day in Sweden and here I sit in an airport lounge in Stockholm waiting to board a flight to Bangkok…and I am flying solo. I can’t say that the prospect of taking a 16-hour flight by myself does not appeal; in fact it feels like a well needed vacation from life. On one side of the flight, I leave behind two loving, demanding, self-centered, caring, tender, temper-tantruming, moody, funny, and sweet boys. And I leave them with my wonderful, amazing, beautiful, supportive, and uber-nice wife who has agreed to let me venture off on a new adventure…leaving her solo with the afore-mentioned children of Jekyll & Hyde proportions. On the other side of the flight awaits a country in the grips of a coup and martial law, a painful visit to the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, and then three weeks working with some great people to pull off a pretty monstrous national forum on disabilities, and a chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues from yesteryear.

So, for the next few hours I will allow my self to nap, read WIRED magazine (of which I am only 11 issues behind the most recent edition), and enjoy the silence of loneliness. It is a guilty pleasure, and one for which I seriously owe Momma S a huge debt of thanks…a debt I am sure she will cash in.

Thank You Momma S. I love you very much…and the boys too!!

An Unexpected Conversation

I was waiting for Momma S to get M down for the night and playing some games of tic-tac-toe with K.  I took a break to get a glass of water and when I came back into the living room K hit me with:

- I don’t want you to get dead.

- (stunned silence) What?

- I don’t want you to get old or hurt and be dead.

I immediately pulled K into a huge bear hug and whispered into his ear that I am right here and not going anywhere.  I asked where is this coming from?  Did you talk about something in preschool?

- No.  I just don’t want somebody to hurt you or for you to get old and be dead.

- I don’t think anybody is going to hurt me; but as for getting old…that just sorta happens.  You can’t stop it.

- But your old and if you keep getting old you will be dead.

- Yes.  At some point I will be dead, but not now and not anytime soon.  But getting old is part of life.  How old were you last year?

- 3

- And how old are you now?

- 4

- And how old will you be after your next birthday?

-5

- See, you are always getting older and the same thing is happening to me.  Every year I get older and some day, when I am really old, I will die.

- Can’t you just stop having your birthday?  That way you don’t get older.

I guess that was the end of the conversation.  As I brought out a humorous retort at how some people try to stop celebrating their birthdays but keep getting older, he cut me off by shoving a book at me and demanding that I read it to him.  But in all honesty, I was really touched by this moment.  K and I have our ups and downs and Momma S is the icing on this family cake, so for him to share this with me was something unexpected and extra special.  I love K so much, and that giant bear huge I gave him after he informed me that he did not want me to be dead was the high point of my day.

A Bunny Conundrum

“How many Easter Bunnies are there?  Is it the same Easter Bunny here as there is in Sweden?”  These were the two questions that greeted me this morning as soon as K woke in our hotel in Skagen, Denmark.  Now, these questions should not have been too terrible to field if it wasn’t for the recent conversation between my wife and I regarding the Easter Bunny…or the lack there of.

Of course there is a Santa Clause, of whom we visit yearly, write letters to, and allow to enter our home at night to eat our cookies and leave presents.  But for the Easter Bunny, we had not put any stock or common folklore of her for our kids.  For some reasons, the bunny just did not hold the significance of Ol’ St. Nick.  We love the Easter egg hunt and have participated in one every year that K has been around.  We really enjoy the celebration of spring and renewal, which is what Easter represents for me and have chosen to follow along with society in celebrating the seasonal change with candy and eggs.  But for some reason the myth of the bunny has not been a conscious part of this.  And just last night my wife and I talked about our lack of bunny lore and felt that it was no big deal.

So when K came out of his room this morning asking about the Easter Bunny I did not know what to say, so I did the only sensible thing a father could do…”Go ask your mother.”  Her response, “Um…yeah its the same Easter Bunny.”  And now family nomadic now believes in the Easter Bunny and through out the day we have been piece-mealing our particular belief system into place for both M and K to enjoy.

And here they both are, finding the eggs that the Easter Bunny left for us…even when visiting Skagen, Denmark.

K on the Hunt M on the Hunt