June 2015 Recap

While all our American friends were kicking off summer break, we were still in full swing with school, festivals, and end-of-year festivities. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the British schedule where the last day of school comes at the end of July but having completed a full year now, I definitely see it’s advantages.

Our first festival in June was the Wool Fair at Ickworth. We met up with some friends where the kids were treated to live sheep shearing, handmade ice cream, and a performance by a knock-off Princess Elsa. I’ve never seen such a large group of children so quiet. It was as if they had all been hypnotized and quite frankly, it was a bit unnerving. Aksel may have been the only one unfazed by the entire ordeal though, to be fair, he was asleep in the Ergo for the majority of it.

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The following weekend was the Dragon Festival at West Stow Anglo Saxon Village. I’ve been meaning to visit for a few years now and just have never made it but having now been, I think this would make a really fun day out for elementary aged kids or anyone who is a history buff. On this particular visit, there were live demonstrations of all sorts. Everything from musicians to weavers, and even some open air theater. Lena had fun exploring the various structures and participating in the dragon-themed activities while Aksel, as usual, just smiled and basically forced me to take way too many pictures of him. At one point, a large crowd gathered to see a baby T-Rex which was surprisingly realistic. Lena was very serious about the entire thing and ultimately decided she did not like it in the least bit and insisted we leave the area. She rarely gets scared of anything as she likes to be brave so she wouldn’t actually admit she was nervous.

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And finally, at the end of the month, the end-of-year festivities came along in full force. First up was Wacky Hair Day and as my munchkin is a bit lacking in that department, I had to get creative. So we created a rainbow out of construction paper and cotton balls. There is hair inside the arch though you can’t actually see it.


Sports Day was the final event of the month and was just brilliant. The school had set up all sorts of stations for the kids and they were free to have a go at whatever looked fun. Some of them were timed, others were tallied, and it all culminated in group races. The egg and spoon race was a particular highlight as Lena was the first to cross the finish line. However, she forgot that the goal was to balance the egg in the spoon rather than just hold it in her hands and run as fast as possible. So she was disqualified in that one. And she really didn’t stand much of a chance in the sprints as her legs are a solid six inches shorter than everyone else. She’s mini compared to her classmates but that didn’t stop her from having fun.

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On top of all that, I ambitiously volunteered myself to design a yearbook for the preschool. I also ended up taking all the individual portraits, hall of fame photos, and theme-day pictures. I somehow managed to finish it in time to be distributed the last week of school – 44 color pages of happy, goofy children and a year’s worth of memories. Not too shabby! I feel almost as triumphant as this little athlete.


Audley End Miniature Railway + Fairies

An alternate title for this post might be something along the lines of “Little Girls’ Brains Explode from Sheer Excitement and Delight.” I’m not sure words will do justice to the excitement that ensued on this particular outing but hopefully the excessive photos will give you an inkling of the magic that was the Audley End Enchanted Fairy and Elf Walk.

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This was actually Lena’s second time on the Fairy Walk but I was completely unprepared the first time around, and didn’t bring my camera. When my friend, Ellie, mentioned that Paddington was doing a meet and greet, we decided a second trip was in order. Since we were traveling with five kids between us, we called the grandmas for some back up to lessen the chance of a catastrophic accident or missing child alert being issued.

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As soon as they were unleashed from their restraints car seats, the girls were off. We had been promising them a visit with Paddington for days and while she was all about hugging the friendly bear in talk, Lena ultimately decided there was no way on earth she was touching him once they were face to face. So she maintained a reasonable distance and a wary stare for the duration of his appearance.

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Knowing the fairy walk would take some time with our large entourage, we opted to eat lunch before venturing into the woods. My mom was in hysterics laughing at Bella, Ellie’s niece, as she slathered her face in egg sandwich. She and Aksel are only about a year apart but she’s nearly surpassed Lena in size. Bella consistently cracks us up and has been nicknamed “Dozer.”

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Before entering the fairy walk, everyone is given a booklet with all the different fairies, elves and other creatures they will see along the way. In order to tick off each character, the girls made magic fairy wands from wooden pencils with the aid of “real” fairies. You can see this was very serious and important business. I loved that the helper fairies stayed in character the whole time and complimented all the kids on their wings and dresses. The girls just ate it up.

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Lena was already over my picture taking at this point hence the lovely face she’s pulling here. She quickly forgot about the camera upon finding the first fairy and started squealing incessantly while saying my name on repeat. It was at this moment I had a flashback to her being Aksel’s age and dreaming of the day she would someday say Mama. This wasn’t exactly the angelic, sweet sound I had envisioned.

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Each fairy had a sign below her house with her name, occupation and other fun little tidbits about them. It was incredibly detailed and well done. I’m not usually one for princesses and fairies, but I loved this whole experience and would come back again in a heartbeat.

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This is basically a little girl’s paradise.

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Even the grandmas had fun.

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To finish off our big day, we went for a ride on the miniature train – an impressive 1.5 mile loop through the woods including bridges, WWII pill boxes, and even some magical habitats for stuffed animals. The whole day was magical from start to finish. We will definitely be going back again soon!

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From Black to Green Thumb

One of my favorite things to do when my mom visits is put her to work spend time working on a project together. I really wanted to add giant pots of flowers to the front and back of our house, but my gardening knowledge is on par with my cooking ability. In other words, I got nothing. Big L, however, boasts some pretty major botanical skills so I knew she would be able to show me the ropes.

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I think Jason was rightly nervous when I told him we were going to pick up a few things at the local nursery. My mom and I can do some damage when it comes to shopping. However, I think for what we got, I actually didn’t spend an outrageous amount of money and while they say money can’t buy happiness, these newly purchased plants are making me think otherwise.

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After enduring a very long garden tour, Lena was ready to get down to business. She donned her wellies, found some gloves and got to work potting some lavender while also spreading soil everywhere. Good thing I purchased a broom.

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Aksel was sleepy so he hung out in the doorway and took it all in. The kid loves to be outside and if I time it right and get him to sleep while we’re on a walk, he will happily snooze away on the front porch for up to three hours. It’s glorious.


After some heavy lifting and lots of watering, my little garden was finally starting to take shape. And since Lena is still enamored with all animals, she insisted we have this little hedgehog at the front door. She chats with him every time we leave the house and fills him in on her day at preschool. We also added “Daddy Bunny” a few weeks later, much to her delight.

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And keeping with the theme of flowers, we visited Abbey Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds as my mom had never seen them in full bloom. We were on the hunt for some animal skins at the market but stopped for a few photos first. Lena was being uncooperative hence the tongue and cheeky smile.

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Between the flower-adorned patio and two kids constantly in tow, I think I can actually pass as a functioning adult. Let’s just hope I can manage to keep all these things alive!

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17th of May London (again)

Big Laila came to visit again and she timed her trip to coincide with the most Norwegian of all days, Syttende Mai. That would be the 17th of May for those unfamiliar with the language of the Vikings. We made the trek to London, just like last year, to honor Norway’s independence day. Not wanting to let an opportunity go to waste, my mom took it upon herself to create a folkebunad for Lena to wear to the festivities.

This little costume was the culmination of many weeks work between my parents, my aunt, and my little brother. Have you any idea how hard it is to find a white blouse without buttons or a collar? I am fully aware as my mom informed me of every store they visited in search of this elusive item. They also discovered a little-known Viking shop in the bowels of Parkland, Washington, where they acquired the vintage key and pins. My mom’s twin (aka my second mother) was the seamstress and my little brother used his leather making skills to create the custom belt. I think he just measured his neck as Lena’s waist is about the same size.

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So on the day, we packed up the kids and the flags and subjected Lena to public humiliation by making her travel on the tube in costume. I’m pretty sure all of my mom’s wildest dreams came true on this day as she watched me usher my daughter into this long-standing rite of passage. And in the interest of full disclosure, I did look for black knickers and a red vest for Aksel, but came up short. So he was only halfway initiated in his Li’l Norse hat and Norwegian flag pacifier. Fear not, his time will come.

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We enjoyed our picnic lunch of brødskiver and Diplom Is in the beautiful sunshine while I used my telephoto lens to take stalkeresque pictures of all the people around us. I think there were more people in costume last year or maybe I was just distracted because I had two little ones with me.

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Lena suckered my mom into waiting in line for about 45 minutes so she could jump in a bounce house for approximately 30 seconds. Also, it cost £3 per child. My how we change when we have grandchildren! When I think of my mom, it’s all health food and exercise. When Lena thinks of Mormor, it’s chocolate and more chocolate.

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We wrapped up the day by eating pølse med lompe and spending five minutes convincing Lena to take a bite. As usual, she declared it utterly disgusting until she actually tried it, and then ate the whole thing. Kids are super fun.

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A big thank you to the fam for making this beautiful costume for the munchkin. At the rate she grows, this will fit her for another five years which means endless opportunities for me to force her into photoshoots. Hipp, hipp, hurra!

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March Photo Dump

As if working full time, being a dad and a husband weren’t enough, Jason has decided to go back to school. I have no idea where he gets his energy and I’m pretty sure he only sleeps three hours a night but somehow, he manages to juggle it all effortlessly. Most nights look like this: Jason attempting to do homework while the kids either crawl or sleep on him and I take pictures and gush about how handsome he looks with babies in his arms.


Aksel is our angel baby and demands a nap each night almost exactly as we finish dinner. He has to be in his daddy’s arms, though, and as soon as he finds his little spot, he’s out for the count and making snorting noises like a bulldog. These photos are about six months old and I’m not sure who has changed more in that time – Aksel or Lena.

At fours months old, Aksel wasn’t quite able to sit up on his own yet so he was subjected to the strangle hug courtesy of his big sister. The bear suit is the gift that keeps on giving as it was handed down to me by my cousin, Liv, when Lena was just four months old. I think perhaps Lena enjoyed the costume a bit more than Aksel, however.

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March was a bit dreary – more grey, English days. We did reach a major milestone, though, when I was finally able to braid Lena’s hair. Gone are the days of the bald baby with the whispy mullet growing out the base of her skull. I was so excited about the “Princess Elsa braids” as she calls them, that I made her pose for a mini photoshoot.

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We got a little extra Daddy time in March which meant long mornings in bed with lots of snuggles. And sometimes that translated into lunch in bed because the clock struck noon and we were all still in our pajamas. Lena requests a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with peppers and cucumbers for lunch every.single.day. This has proved to be a bit tricky as she can’t bring any nut products to preschool. So on Mondays and Wednesdays, she basically doesn’t eat lunch. I have no idea what we’re going to do when she starts going full time.

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The rest of the month was spent enjoying family time. Lena loves her ballet class and thanks to Jason’s love for Lionel Ritchie, she now sings Ballerina Girl at full volume several times a day. Except that she thinks the song is about her so her version is called “Balla-lena guhl.” Say that last word phonetically and you’ll get the idea; it’s a twist on the British accent.

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So that was March – lots of rain, lots of snuggles, and Lena’s ever-present buttcrack!

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Lambing Season

I wouldn’t exactly call myself savvy when it comes to farming and livestock. There was no 4H at my high school and my interaction with animals was limited to the petting zoos at the Puyallup Fair. I did have a cat once and it was called Tiggy. He liked to gift us with dead animals on the doorstep and I thought he was the most clever cat in the world. However, I got chicken pox, was housebound for several days, and upon recovering, Tiggy was nowhere to be found. My parents told me he ran away during my love affair with Calamine lotion because I failed to feed him. Years later, I’ve realized this story doesn’t add up and I suspect Tiggy was the victim of a reverse catnapping. As in, my parents dropped him off on the other side of town and left him to eat dead birds. Thanks, guys.

Anyway, back to my ignorance about animals. We visited Church Farm in Stow Bardolph which is home to all sorts of rare breeds. Without the aid of the website and posted signage, I would have no idea I was looking at anything out of the ordinary. I also finally just realized that lambs are born at a particular time of year after living in England for nearly three years. There are sheep everywhere here and lots of festivals celebrating the lambs’ arrivals so you’d think I would have caught on a bit sooner. But no. I am a slow learner.

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We met up with some friends, let the kids run wild in the play area, and had some delicious tea and cakes. I can easily be a hermit inside my house for days on end but if you tell me I can have a generous slice of Victoria Sponge, chances are good I will at least brush my hair and venture out of my cave for an hour. Lena’s kryptonite is any type of animals so this place was a big hit for the whole fam.

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All the animals were really beautiful but I have to say, the little black lambs were my favorite. Lena was in love with the two calves – Sven and Olaf – while Aksel just looked around suspiciously as his big sister bossed Jason around like a mini dictator. Definitely a fun day even if you don’t have a clue what you’re looking at!

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Van Hage Garden Centre

As you can see by the giant parkas and mittens in these photos, this post is only slightly belated… by about six months. Though we have had a rather poor excuse for a summer here in England, so you never know.


Anyway, back when the temperatures were a bit lower, we enjoyed a fun day out at Van Hage Garden Centre in Great Amwell in honor of one Mr. Dylan turning three years old. The main attraction was the miniature railway, complete with a conductor and manning station. Also, let’s not forget our old pal Boris.

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After a few trips around the track, we wandered over to the mini zoo. Dylan is the proud older brother of two very beautiful bunnies so he was right at home feeding and petting these giants. I think they may have been the largest rabbits I’ve ever seen. Apologies if I have used the terms “rabbit” and “bunny” incorrectly here, Kathryn. But I’m sure you have come to expect these things from me at this point (cough *Renault* cough*).

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The display of animals was both impressive and incredibly odd as they had quite the random collection. Lena and Dylan tried chasing a chicken nearly as tall as them despite our warnings that they might very well lose an eye or a nose. Completely unfazed. I thought the accommodations for the goats and chickens very cozy and colorful even if it was covered in feces.

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I think Dylan enjoyed it but you can never be quite sure. He’s a very quiet and reserved child.

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After nearly suffering from frostbite, it was off to a nearby pub for a delicious lunch. Jason ordered what he thought was a coffee and it turned out to be an espresso since he didn’t think to consult me first. Being from the birthplace of Starbucks, I know a thing or two about this subject. So I just thoroughly enjoyed watching him choke down this tiny cup of brown liquid while he lovingly gazed at me. Or maybe he was shooting me dagger eyes. You never know with that guy.


Happy 3rd Birthday, D Man! I realize you are closer to four as I write this but better late than never, right?! Cheers!