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.

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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

Family European Vacation Pt 2: Dinkelsbuhl and Environs

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This is the long awaited sequel to European Family Vacation Pt 1: Bavarian Alps.  We are out of the highlands and down in the lower Bavarian farm land.  Our center of operations was the delightfully medieval town of Dinkelsbuhl.  And … Continue reading

Family European Vacation Pt 1: Bavarian Alps

Blink.  It is gone.  As the summer begins to set, memories of its rise fade away.  As I scan back to late June, K excited about going to castles in Germany, M only concerned with playing with his older brother’s toys, and momma S returning from a work trip to Berlin just to pack again for our family vacation; I know that my account here will not be complete.

We arrived in Munich and immediately drove out to the Bavarian Alps.  Our first destination was the town of Mittenwald.  A cute mountain town, one in which we failed to spend any significant amount of time in unfortunately.  Of the three days we spent there, the only thing of note we did was take a cable car up to the snow-topped mountain overlooking the town.  Up through thick mist of drizzle and rain into swirling snow…all with only our rain jackets for protection.   The pictures at the base of the Mountain indicated that it would be very sunny and pleasant, without any snow.  Despite out climatic miscalculations, it was pretty fun to have a snowball fight with K in the middle of summer.

The majority of our time in these mountains was dedicated to driving back and forth across the German and Austrian borders exploring castles.  The two of most note included the incomplete fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany and the romantic Ehrenberg Ruins near Reutte, Austria.  While Neuschwanstein has grandeur uncontested by many other castles, it seems to lack soul.  The castle was a whimsy for an eccentric king, one that never was completed, never used as it was intended, and certainly never used to defend the land.  Ehrenberg in contrast is a variant garden of lush overgrown boulders on the sheer sides of a strategic choke point through the mountains.  This is a place that you can still feel the importance of the castle that once stood there, see the care that went into its construction and repair over the centuries of warfare and siege that is witnessed, all to protect the fertile valley below.

If in the area, especially with kids, try to hit the sommerrodelbahn in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  They converted the old Olympic luge course into a summer fun ride that K could not get enough of this…nor could I!  We also visited the Marchenwelt Bichlbach Tier & Speilpark outside of Bichlback, Austria.  It appears to have once been a zany traveling menagerie run by gnomes that stopped beside the rode at the foot of a mountain and never got moving again.  The place was a bit creepy, a bit surreal, but still entertaining if you can overlook some of the animal conditions.

Happy Year of the Snake

K inside his "Dragon" head.

K inside his “Dragon” head.

It’s the Chinese New Year, which happens to be the only New Year celebration my oldest son K acknowledges.  While we have never lived in China, K has embraced this tradition as his own.  It probably has something to do with the fact that “dragons” come out and celebrate the changing of the year.

Though my son swears it’s a dragon, the creature he is referring to is actually a lion.  In celebrating the New Year, there are two types of creatures that come out to dance in the New Year.  The Lion, which is operated by two dancers, inside the body where you cannot see their faces; and the dragon, which is often controlled my many dancers who hold the dragon up on poles, away from their bodies.  But you try to make that distinction to my three-year-old.

Regardless of the correct term, K knows it as a dragon.  Yangon has a pretty decent size Chinese population and for all of the years that we lived there, the dragons have come out to eat offerings and dance blessings around the city.  For weeks there will be troops of young men and boys riding around in large trucks, beating their drums and clanging their cymbals, advertising themselves.  Often they will stop in various neighborhoods and shopping areas and perform.  Many businesses, apartment complexes, and schools invite them in to perform.  Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia describing this with a bit more authority:

During the Chinese New Year, lion dancer troupes from the Chinese martial art schools or Chinese guild and associations will visit the houses and shops of the Chinese community to perform the traditional custom of “cai ching” (採青), literally means “plucking the greens”, a quest by the ‘lion’ to pluck the auspicious green normally ‘vegetables’ like lettuce which in Chinese called ‘cái'()that sound like ‘cái'()(fortune) and auspicious fruit like oranges tied to a “Red Envelope” containing money; either hang highly or just put on a table in front of the premises. The “lion” will dance and approach the “green” and “red evelope” like a curious cat, to “eat the green” and “spit” it out leave it in a nice arrangement, like an auspicious character but keep the “red envelope”. The lion dance is believed to bring good luck and fortune to the business and the troupe is rewarded with the “red envelope”.

 

Well, ever since the dragons came to K’s school and home last year, performing their daring dances up on stilt polls, K has been hooked.  We have a recording of one of the dances on our ipad…he watches regularly.  Over the past year, K can often be found pushing all of our dinning room chairs together and dancing on top of them like the dragon; or he might be dance back and forth on our couch, dancing like the dragon.  I have numerous bedtime stories all centered around the dancing dragons, the drums that call them, and the cymbals that crash during their performance.

As the January 1st New Year was approaching, K got very excited that the dragons would be returning.  We tried again and again to explain that there would be no dragons on that New Year celebration; that we would need to wait until the Chinese New Year in February…he didn’t quite get it and kept looking for those elusive Swedish dragons in January.  In the end, my wonderfully talented wife sat down with K to create his very own dragon that he could dance in.  K was super excited, and because K is such a committed follower of the dragon, today he was invited to perform at this preschool for all of the kids.  While I couldn’t attend, my wife recorded a bit of it and it looked awesome.  K had the dragon head on and was leading the dance for the school, but he had all of his classmates following behind, creating a long serpentine dragon that danced through the students.  Then, each class gave the dragon a red envelope with 1SEK inside to bring good luck to them during the Year of the Snake.

This is just another reason why it is so awesome being Family Nomadic!!

Twas a Merry Christmas (God Jul) Indeed

Christmas Eve found this family still in Almhult, Sweden…alone with no family or friends over, but very merry still.  This was K’s fourth Christmas and M’s second.  Since K has been around, family has become more of a focus for us.  One of the joys, and challenges, of living abroad is being away from family.  Before we had kids, this did not bother us too much at all. (Sorry folks.)  But since K has been with us, we have only had one Christmas were we did not spend it with family, either us flying to the States, or them coming to us.  But for this Christmas, we made the decision to keep it very low key and immediate family oriented, and it was wonderful.

In the Swedish tradition, my wife and I cooked up a very nice Christmas Eve dinner, which then made keeping us and the boys fed the next day much more stress free as there were plenty of yummy leftovers for all to enjoy.  The presents were simple, some pajamas on Christmas Eve and then just one Santa gift per child, a few presents between family members, and Santa filled stockings to kick it all off.  Luckily, K is still (though barely) in the stage where he can open just one gift at a time and play with it and not have the need to tear into each and every gift under the tree.  He does need to be involved in unwrapping everybody’s gifts, but his excitement is contagious and wonderful.  M enjoyed the wrapping paper and  buzzed around the couch and floor with a little toy train for most of the morning, completely happy in his newly turned 1yr old world.

The day featured nap times for everybody, a family walk through the melting forest (the day began as a mostly white Christmas but quickly faded to green as the slight heat wave worked on the remaining snow), the classic Frosty the Snowman by Rankin/Bass, and some leftover no-bake oatmeal cookies that K and I made for Santa the day before.

Of special note, this is the first Christmas in the eight years of marriage where we have not traveled somewhere for the holiday.  As a family nomadic, this was pretty impressive…though we are now looking at taking a quick trip to Copenhagen in the next few days so that can sorta maintain our nomadic title.  But honestly, it has been incredibly nice to stay at home, with just the four of us, to enjoy a stress free holiday.

And I hope that all of you also had an amazing Christmas where ever you happened to find yourself.  Merry Christmas and in Swedish:  God Jul.

Bringing light into the dark of winter: Saint Lucia Day in Sweden

Bringing light into the dark of winter: Saint Lucia Day in Sweden.

Yesterday was the celebration of St. Lucia Day.  Being a Hemmapappa, I had no exposure to how this holiday was celebrated, though K had a huge feast at school and a visit from the St. Lucia representative.  The above link takes you to another blog, Fika after Fifity, that has a very nice description of the holiday.