Tracing Our Roots

Growing up in Minnesota, my family was very proud of its Norwegian heritage.  Like many Minnesotans, our families had immigrated to the United States in the late 19th century from Scandinavia.   While factions of both my mom and dad’s family emigrated from Norway during this period, my mother-in-law’s family emigrated from Finland.  It has always been a dream of ours to trace our roots and understand where our family came from and why they emigrated.

borgundstavechurch

After many years of dreaming, it will finally become a reality.  This summer we will embark on an epic trip to explore our Norwegian heritage and trace our roots in Norway.  Not only are my kids going, but my mom, dad, grandma and my brothers and their families are going.  Together we will be able to meet our family that still lives in Norway and explore the seaside towns, the countryside and farmland where they once lived.

tumblr_n2l5oxDHk81ttn473o1_250.gif

We look forward to connecting with our heritage and the rich history of Norway while disconnecting from everyday life.  Kayaking on the beautiful fjords where one can see seals instead of alligators.  The beautiful mountains and mountain valleys will be a site for sore eyes since we barely have what can be called a hill here in Florida.

In the coming years, there will be more trips to plan.  With family having immigrated to the US from Finland, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, we have plenty of trips to make in order to truly connect with our heritage.   Our heritage is an important part of our identity, but more than that the experience of exploring the world with my boys is priceless.  Nothing beats living a life full of wanderlust.

Support Our Journey

Advertisements

Hazards of Being a Boy Mom No. 104 

I’m not sure we would have had this problem if we had stayed in Minnesota, I think the climate would have regulated it, but for the first six to eight years of my younger boys’ lives they developed a unique daily habit.  While most people take off just their shoes or jacket upon entering the house after a busy day, but not my boys.  They were not content to just take off their shoes.  No, they had to strip down to their underwear.  For years they thought our house was clothing optional.

spongebogandpatrick

Whether they came in the front door or through the garage, as they walked in the house they would peel off the layers.   Being little boys this would be done in a frenetic fashion as they walked towards the kitchen and family room.  Behind them they’d leave a path of clothes stretching from the hallway through the laundry room.

littlerascals

I’d come home about an hour later and find them lounging on the couch in only their undies.  They’d eat dinner in nothing, but their underwear and a big.  They were always content to be in the buff.  Now that they’re older, they’ve outgrown this and like most kids have to be reminded to take their shoes off.

Memorial Day

Several years ago we were in France for our dear friend’s wedding.  After enjoying the incredible ceremony and party, we headed to Normandy and Paris.  After a brief pit stop in the beautiful seaside town of Honfleur, we headed to Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery.   We knew it would be a tough place to visit, but I truly don’t think we understood just how powerful and emotional the visit would be.

trumanquote

From the moment we stepped onto Omaha Beach, you could feel the death, destruction and despair that had occurred there as if it had just happened.  The feeling was palpable and inescapable.  We started our visit by walking down to the beach where our troops handed landed.  When the attack was launched, it was planned to begin 1-3 hours after low tide, which represented a compromise between the Army and the Navy.  When we visited the beach that day, it was low tide.  As we stood on the beach looking at the beachhead, I couldn’t help but imagine how it must have looked to our troops on June 6, 1944.  The cliffs are steep and were heavily fortified.  As they made their way up the beach, grenades and mines would detonate.  That fateful day 6,600 American soldiers were killed in action, wounded or went missing in action.

enhance (2)

Over the course of the campaign to secure the beachhead, June 6, 1944 to August 21, 1944, 72,911 Americans were killed or went missing in action.  Omaha Beach present day is serene, beautiful and quiet, but the overwhelming feeling of loss that was omnipresent made for hard juxtaposition. It was almost hard to imagine the carnage that had happened in this beautiful place except for the pain of walking on hallowed ground in omnipresent.

omahabeach

We left the beach and began to walk through the cemetery where over 9,000 men who died in the Normandy campaign are buried.  They came from all 50 states and were so young.   As we walked through the cemetery, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  The tomb of the unknown soldiers, of which there are many in Normandy, was difficult to see as a mother.  Having kids I could not imagine the pain their mothers endured never knowing happened to their son and never having closure. My heart ached for them.

We were there in 2011, 67 years after the D-Day Invasion. There were flowers and personal notes left on several graves, which took me aback.  Sixty seven years later, the pain of loss from World War II was still very real.  The wounds of war are slow to heal.  We left the American Cemetery quietly and without speaking we headed to lunch.   The experience was heavy, emotional and one that took several days to digest before any of us could speak about it.

flowersatnormandy

The American Cemetery was humbling visualization of how many brave soldiers, sailors and airmen were willing to go to their death to preserve our freedom.  Amazingly,  it is representative of only one campaign in one war.  In the course of American history, we have lost 651,008 servicemen and women.  This Memorial Day we remember those that paid the ultimate price with a deep sense of gratitude to preserve our freedom.  Lastly, we hold near their families, friends, and battle buddies, who still feel the pain of their loss.  Thank you hardly seems adequate…

Sunbeams      

Have you ever come across a person so sullen that you don’t think it is physically impossible for them to smile or laugh?  Every interaction you have with that person is tenuous at best and horribly unpleasant at worst.  Every interaction you observe between that person and another is equally poor.  No matter how well you or anyone else treats them, they are always unhappy. In their unhappiness, they try to drag you into their dystopian world, but don’t take the bait.  Don’ let their unhappiness define your happiness or lack thereof.

radiate1

In life you have a choice, you can radiate bitterness and unhappiness as characterized above or you can be the antithesis to the negative Nelly.  I’m not suggesting by any means that you become a Pollyanna, but rather that you don’t allow the negative Nellys in your life to define the way you see the world.  Dealing with people that are consistently negative is difficult and taxing by radiating positive vibes you can counter the negative.  So don’t be a Pollyana; be the anti-negative Nelly.  Be the person that takes time to compliment someone on their outfit or their hair or hold the door for someone at the coffee shop.  Be the person that chooses to radiate kindness, generosity and goodness.  Small gestures of kindness go a long way in counteracting the meanness and negativity of those who choose to be miserable.

Roalddahl2

Long before I was reading Les Miserables, I was reading Roald Dahl and Judy Blume. What kid growing up in the 1980s didn’t read Super Fudge or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?  Roald Dahl wrote that “If you have beautiful thoughts they will shine out of your face like a sunbeam and you will always look lovely.”  Nothing makes someone uglier than a mean spirit or a negative or hateful constitution. The choice is yours. What will you radiate?

powerofpositivethinking.gif

Infuse a Little Pineapple and Cut a Couple Calories

If you’re like me and you like the occasional cocktail or are a hockey mom and need a low calorie go to drink for hockey season.  Here are a couple of ideas for you:

Vodka pineapple vs. Pineapple infused vodka

A vodka with pineapple juice will give you 182 calories with 28 gram of carbs.  As a lighter alternative, you can substitute the pineapple juice for a pineapple infused vodka as a martini or on the rocks with or without soda water.     This substitute is only 70 calories with 18 gram of carbs.

603570_10151020173773213_2091154504_n

You can purchase the infused vodka as a flavor or you can infuse your own vodka.  Since we live in Florida and grow pineapples in our backyard, we can make our own pineapple infused vodka.   To do this you can use a 750 ml bottle of the vodka of your choice.  I prefer Grey Goose, Ketel, Tito’s or Ciroc depending on what I’m using it for.  Keep in mind, the smoother the vodka, the better the infusion will taste.

The pineapple will need to be cut up into chucks and placed into a carafe big enough to hold all of the pineapple and the vodka.   Once the pineapple is in the carafe, pour in the vodka and let it sit in the fridge for 3-6 weeks.  The longer is sits in the fridge, the stronger the infusion.  Once the infusion period has ended, strain and serve cold.

15740933_10154733611863213_2464354981039810942_n

Vodka mixed drinks vs. vodka sodas

The problem with mixed drinks, aside from their awesome taste, is that they’re often calorie and sugar laden.  It does us no favors the morning after and does no favors to our waistline.  Hockey season lasts from August to well June here in Florida, so drinking that many calories is not conducive to maintaining a healthy weight or lifestyle.  Here are some examples:

Vodka with diet cranberry calories: 108 calories

Vodka cranberry calories: 182-210 depending on type of vodka and juice

Vodka with orange juice 193 calories

Fuzzy Navel: 253 calories

Here are some suggestions:

The hockey mom fit cocktail: 65 calories 16.3 carbs.

Pour one can of Peach/Pear LaCroix over ice, add one ounce of Peach Ciroc mix and garnish with slice of lime.

Other variations:

Cran-raspberry LaCroix served with Berry Ciroc or Goose/Ketel or Tito’s.

Orange LaCroix served with Peach Ciroc

Perrier served with Grey Goose and a slice of lime

Calories per 1 ounce of vodka used:

Ciroc: 65

Grey Goose: 69

Ketel One: 69

Tito’s: 60

Of course over indulging in vodka (as with anything else) with or without a mixer will pretty much derail any attempt to: live a fit life, maintain a healthy weight and  maintain healthy relationships, so enjoy in moderation.

523267_10151137433213213_1750459801_n

Savings Alert!

This morning I finally had a chance to sit down and put together some on the weekend’s best sales.  The goal is to make this post weekly. Here are a few of my favorites:

Kohls:

  • Take $10 off of $25 with code: Take10
  • Save 15% off of $100 with code: EBATES15
  • 6% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates
  • Get $5 Kohl’s cash for every $25 spent

Macys:

  • Get $5 Macy’s money for every $25 spent
  • Save 20% (15% on some departments) with code: SUNNY
  • 6% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates

Petco:

  • 8% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates online and in store with linked card.
  • Save up to 50% site wide

BCBG:

  • Take extra 50% off of all factory items
  • Take 40% off of all purchases
  • 12% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates.

Lancome:

  • 20% off during Friends and family sale with code: friends
  • 4% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates online.

Finish Line:

  • $15 off of any order of $150+ with code: 15SEASONSALE150
  • Running shoes up to 50% off
  • 6% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates online.

 

Life Lessons Courtesy of Victor Hugo

There is no book or story I love more than Victor Hugo’s exquisitely written Les Miserables.  A beautiful (and long) story of redemption, love, sacrifice and life set in revolutionary France.  I first read the story in high school and absolutely fell in love with the book and then the musical.  The musical is equally extraordinarily.  I own both the 10th Anniversary and 25th Anniversary Dream Cast recordings on CD/DVD and the movie version on DVD.  I could watch it every day of the week.

When I first read Les Mis, I fell in love with the story.  As an adult, I have ready it two more times and I love it more.  Funny how a little life experience changes the reading experience.  I found this to be true in re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird as well.  The subsequent times I read Les Mis, the themes of redemption, pure selfless love, and sacrifice became really meaningful.

Victor Hugo once said, “We are all under a sentence of death, but with a sort of indefinite reprieve.”   The problem with this reprieve is that nobody knows the length of their reprieve.  In the midst of our busy lives, it is easy to get lost in craziness forgetting that our reprieve is not infinite.  All too often, it takes a gut wrenching loss or diagnosis to remind us that tomorrow is not promised.

Quotefancy-176676-3840x2160.jpg

Jean Valjean, Hugo’s main character in Les Mis, could have chosen to live a bitter life as Javert pursued him relentlessly over stolen bread, but he chose a different path.  Rather than live an embittered life, he chose a life of selflessness, love, forgiveness and sacrifice that ultimately led to his redemption.  Much like Jean Valjean, we too have a choice.  We can choose a life embittered by our circumstances or we can choose a full life – a life that is full of love, experiences, selflessness and even forgiveness.

todieisnothingvictorhugo.jpg

Many people choose to exist and that’s all.  Before you know it, it is too late to do the things they dreamt about.  Don’t sit dreaming about your goals, places you want to see or experiences you want to have, go out and and make them your reality.  One hundred and fifty five years later, Hugo’s tale of redemption, love and life remains as timely as the day it was published.  So what are you waiting for?

Survive

This year has been an extremely difficult year full of pain and loss, which I had discussed in a previous post.  In these periods of difficulty, it is sometimes difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is there.  Suffering is part of the human experience.  Learning to thrive and find meaning in the suffering is to survive.   While I’ve lost a lost this year, I have also learned a lot.

nietchsesquote

Living in S. Florida, it is easy to get caught up in material things and a hedonistic lifestyle.    In doing so, however, material goods can take the place of experiences and people.  While some people’s budget can support both, mine can’t, but that’s really not the point.  The point is that learning to appreciate experiences with the people you love will help carry you through difficult times.  The shared memories you create will never leave you and are priceless.

Life is seldom stable with changes both positive and negative coming rapid fire. In addition to coping with the suffering, you have to be adept at adapting to change.  If you cannot adapt to the changes in your life, you cannot survive and thrive.  This isn’t something that happens real time or overnight.  It can be gradual or after weeks of nothing it happens all at once.  The goal is to learn to how to roll with the punches and be nimble.   Just like Darwin’s finches, you must adapt if you are to survive.

darwinsurvie

Surrounding yourself with people who are your champions is an absolute must. Each and every one of us needs that person that can pull us up when we’re down.  A person that can remind us how fantastically awesome we are when we’re not feeling that spectacular.   Of course, it is just as important to return the favor and be that champion for your friends and family.

Mont St. Michel

montstmichelindistance

There have been many people, places and events that have left an indelible impression on my life.  One my favorite places can be found in the Normandy region of France.  Mont St. Michel appears almost as if it is an apparition in the distance as you approach via car.  It looks as if it is a castle rising out of the Atlantic.  Undoubtedly, there is something so absolutely and hauntingly beautiful about Mont St. Michel and something exciting about exploring its narrow winding paths and stairways.   The architecture of Mont St. Michel is breathtaking in its beauty and each of its evolutions and layers.  You can see the progression of culture vis-à-vis the evolution in architecture seen in the abbey’s construction, which is absolutely fascinating.

 

While Mont St. Michel is fairly commercialized now, we did still find it possible to get lost and explore a bit.  As the tide rises and falls at Mont St. Michel, it intoxicates you.  It both rushes in and rushes out, much different from how our tides behave here in Florida.  The difference in between low and high tides at Mont St. Michel is nothing short of astounding.  In low tide, you can walk to the abbey (if you choose, but beware of quicksand.)  If you try walking to the abbey during high tide, you’ll need either water wings or to stay on the paved road that now leads to island.

stmichelebay

Aside from the natural and manmade beauty that bounds at Mont St. Michel, it is a feat of human ingenuity and engineering. It is amazing to me that they were able to build such an amazing structure on this island without a paved road and without modern machinery.  It almost seems impossible.  I think that the beauty in travelling is discovering places like Mont St. Michel that speak to you and leave a lasting impression on your soul.

theabbeyatdusk

As our kids grow older, we’re trying to instill in them that experiences/trips are more fruitful and significantly more meaningful than material goods.  Often these experiences and trips are shared with people who have made deep and beautiful impressions on our souls.  When I’m confident that they won’t break something in the Abbey I cannot afford to replace, I will certainly bring them.  I know, I know, after last night’s blog you’re probably thinking I’ll be waiting a long time and you’re probably right.  Can you imagine figs catapulting in the bay from Mont St Michel?   With my boys in the Abbey, I certainly could.

Catapults, Toothpaste and a Bass

Life as a boy mom is not for the faint of heart.  As I looked over today’s prompt, I first thought about how Jake’s graduation was about to catapult him to the next stage of life. I then thought about all the crazy schemes, inventions and concoctions my younger boys have come up with over the years.

FullSizeR (5)
Photo taken from the Mayor’s Drone

Before heading to bed several years ago, I remember walking upstairs to look in on them.  Their door was slightly ajar, but they didn’t hear me come up the stairs and I could not see into their room.  All I heard was Goalielocks says to the Mayor, “do it again, next time it will bounce higher!”  I never found out what “it” was, lord knows they wouldn’t tell me when I asked.  To this day, I have no idea what “it” was and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.

During this same general period, Goalielocks and the Mayor did their best to give us a run for their money.  Somehow, again they are miracle workers of a special breed, they managed to get enough toothpaste on each of their feet to put prints from their bathroom into their bedroom and into the hallway upstairs.  My husband was so overjoyed that we ended up with a beautiful new hole in the wall.

A more recent story of their shenanigans comes from last October during Hurricane Matthew preparations.  As the storm braced down on Florida, or so we thought, we sent Colin off to Tampa with his coach so he wouldn’t miss his hockey tournament.  Jacob and I went into the backyard to start trimming the banana trees of the dead leaves that would become airborne if Matthew’s KAT 4 winds hit Florida.  I was supervising and Jacob had the saw.  We started with the plant closest to the house, so he pulled down the banana tree and naturally a large mouth bass fell out of it.   A couple of important points here.  First, we’re not directly on a lake.  Secondly, the storm had not hit yet, so it could not have been carried and dumped into the tree by said storm.

IMG_5538

There were only two ways the fish could have made it into the tree:  Goalielocks or the Mayor.   I asked the Mayor first since he was at home.  His dimples sucked in as he smiled as he quickly implicated Goalielocks, however, there is no doubt in my mind he was complicit in bassgate.  I texted Goaliocks, who then promptly called.  His response was that the bass had been in our small pond (we have a very small pond in our backyard) and was unhappy so it must have jumped out of it.  Perhaps the bass was hoping the banana tree would catapult it back to the much bigger lake less than 500 feet away.  I will never know…. What I do know is that I will never be bored as a boy mom.