Affordable Advent and Christmas joy

(Originally written in Danish for the charity organization Mødrehjelpen. My text was a part of a digital Advent calendar called #Rådtiljul where we were supposed to contribute with advices, inspiration, DIY’s or other tips and activities on how the Advent and Christmas celebrations might be affordable for every family.”Råd til jul” – meaning «Advice for Christmas (+ also meaning «Afford Christmas» at the same time) The organization Mødrehjelpen helps out families in need, and during December they raise money for Danish children that can’t afford to celebrate Christmas. <3 ) 

 

The Advent time and Christmas celebrations have always meant a lot to me, and now that I have my own family with 4 children, it is important for me to build our own Christmas traditions. With several sets of grandparents who would like to be with us during Christmas, we will celebrate in Norway and Denmark every other year, but at least the advent time at home can be the same every year. I also think that if you make the 23 days until Christmas Eve special, then you do not build up too high expectations for Christmas Eve. Then you may not be as disappointed if everything doesn’t turn out to be as idyllic as you had thought in forehand. (As can easily happen with 4 small kids and «your» and «my» family.)

1. The magic element. You do not need much money to create a cosy Christmas atmosphere. I remember well all the expectations, the little magical moments and the Christmas joy I experienced as a child during the Advent days, and can still feel childlike joy over little things. One such moment was when I found a classic brass angel chimes in an interior store last year. (These candles from Dala can also be purchased for 100 dkk on the internet.) I got a sudden sense of nostalgia. We didn’t have these ourselves, but I remember seeing them around. And what joy such a small thing can give! I got a childish excitement when the brass angels started spinning and music arose. And 2-year-old Michael was equally fascinated. I posted a picture on my Instagram account and received huge feedback from people of all ages who remembered it from their childhood and also became nostalgic. So now it is a regular part of our Advent period, and I look forward to bringing it out every year and to keep fascinating the 4 little ones over and over again.

2. Gingerbread baking without stress. I grew up always making and decorating gingerbreads in the Christmas season. When I grew up it was my Grandma that made homemade dough and kept this tradition alive. Now that we have such a busy everyday life, I think it is important to lower the demands of perfection, and I therefore applaud the ready-made dough! Fortunately, Ikea can help out here – they have a very good and cheap dough in their food outlets, as well as cake forms if you don’t have that already, so that is GOLD! And then we are back to expectations – like when you put on Christmas music and have pulled out aprons, and the 2 or 3 year old makes two cakes and then says “done!”. Classic. When that happened last year, I finished the tray that we had begun with, and then I put the rest of the dough in the refrigerator for another day when the kiddo was in the right mood. – Then you suddenly have many half-hours you can fill with a cozy Christmas atmosphere, and at some point the children are big enough for the baking to last a little longer.

3. Christmas tree decorations from thrift shops. I love to buy both clothes and things second hand. The hunt itself is also part of the joy, but I also think the quality and design were often better before. And over the past two years I have started to love vintage Christmas decorations. The really old, classic and elaborate ones, but also those reminiscent of those who hung on the tree in my childhood in the 80’s and 90’s. My goal is to find some new ones every Advent time, and slowly but surely build a collection that the kids will always remember. Instead of following this year’s Christmas trends, I find great pleasure in finding cheap and hidden treasures in both thrift stores and flea markets (something you can also involve your kids in), and I just think it’s nice that they don’t match. If you do not have the space or money to prioritize a large Christmas tree, it is also very cozy with a mini-Christmas tree/bush in a pot that the children can help to decorate. Spruce twigs are also incredibly nice to decorate, and you just need to add some cones to make a table decoration, or tie a red silk ribbon around it and you can hang it on a wall or a door.

 

With this, I wish everyone a good Advent time and Christmas! And remember, of all childhood’s fond memories of Christmas, the most cherished ones contain all those small moments of magic, not all the present we did or dod not get.  <3

Relationship status

Anders and I have had triplets and a toddler for over a year now. How has this affected our relationship?

When we found out about the triplets, we decided in the car back from the hospital that we could manage this. And we both felt that our bond grew even deeper from that moment on. Now we were a Team with a big T – raising these 4 kids would be a team effort for life.

We are both structured and pragmatic persons, which meant that we immediately started researching to figure out what we needed to do to make everything work out well. We are also both easily adaptable to new situations and we both take responsibility in getting things done, which have been and still is very important in our life as parents to 4 kids three years and younger.

Shared responsibilities is a key word at our house. We shared the parental leave almost 50-50 for the first 11 months (I was a little bit more home alone with the babies), and we were both involved in every aspect, except for breastfeeding and expressing, of course. We also always share chores such as taking in and out of the dishwasher, cleaning up and tidying (well I tidy a bit more ;-)), while I do the laundry willingly and he fixes practical things on the computer and so on. We have an agreement that we don’t sit down on the couch in the evening before the house looks clean again. So everything just kind of floats, which means that there is no fighting over who does most at home. He also knows exactly how hard it is to be home with the kids, so there is no disagreement about the fact that the hardest work is being at home. (We both have calm office jobs.)

Our main problem and source of bad mood during the many many weeks of little and very interrupted sleep, has been that we don’t always understand each other, especially in the morning. Since we are both B-persons and night owls that get to bed way too late, we also often need a while to really wake up after getting out of bed. I do not have the energy to talk out loud when I am tired, and in addition to that I already have a tendency to mumble (and be grumpy in the morning, haha). Anders on the other hand speaks Danish, which is a language that has a pretty indistinct and floaty sound to it to us foreigners. And both of us may not always concentrate enough on listening properly. So when you have to repeat yourself 1-2 times, it gets annoying, and the tension increases and aggravation appears. Some times we have actually shouted out things to make sure that the other one hears it, like we were talking to a 100 year old person.

It is pretty funny that our biggest problem has been that we literally have not understood each other. Seing it from the outside it has made for some pretty humorous situations between us, like a scene out of a theatre comedy – or like two fairly demented persons at an old people’s home having a nightly conversation. It has also often ended up in us laughing at it as well.

Laughter has been the cue to keep us going this last year and a half. We are both pretty relaxed persons, and are lucky not to have any real issues with nerves, anxiety, anger or depression, which makes life a bit easier when you have many small kids. So when we have been in really intense situations, like a lot of babies screaming at the same time and so on, we have laughed a little to each other of the craziness of it all, and just tried to solve the situation as effectively as possible.

A pattern that I see in a lot of relationships, and very much in our own, is that Anders is super calm while I am more up and down in mood, energy and temper. (Which I think has a lot to do with the female cycle and hormones, but that is another story.) I can also easily wind myself up to maximum stress, and almost hyperventilate if I am late for something, if there is too much pressure to perform or deadlines that are too close. But Anders just stays completely calm, and never gets angry even if I am out of line. I always know when I am behaving unreasonable, and always admit that and say I am sorry for the way I behaved after the storm has calmed. We are not the arguing type any of us, but I am very direct with expressing feelings or concerns I have, and Anders has become more open as well. And both of us are good at taking criticism. All this means that we almost never argue. I work with myself at not nagging and bickering, and to not take my inner irritation out on him. I may not always succeed, but at least I am very aware of it.

Another thing that is important for us and our relationship is to be generous with each other. That mostly means letting the other one do stuff outside of the house without making it a big deal. Also acknowledging each other’s needs and personal space. We are not jealous types, which makes all this easier. On the other hand we have mostly focused on being together as a family since Mikael was born, so we do most things together anyway. At least for now when the kids are small and dependant on us. I addition to that, we like to do the same things in our free time, and that makes everything way easier. (Except for flea markets, Anders hates that. Haha.)

But our relationship has of course changed a lot since the trio arrived. We are always super busy, and almost never have time to relax. There is always things that need to be done, or children we need to attend to. In the evening there are chores to take care of and work to be done. We are both freelancers so we have a mutual understanding of what that requires, but it is a little too much at the moment. We know that we still are in a state of emergency, and we both feel that we do not have much extra energy to give. Which is something that of course affects our roles as husband and wife. This is something we are fully aware of, and talk a lot about. And we both look forward to calmer times when we can prioritize our relationship more than we do now.

Until then we make sure to watch some episodes of a TV-series we like several times a week and to have the occasional date night, either at home with all screens turned off or out on dinner, a concert, etc. Then we can have deeper talks than we normally do, and put all focus on each other. Because in everyday life the communication has really changed since the triplets arrived. Most emojis are gone in the text messages between us, and many of our conversations are about the kids or practical issues.

But in the end we still are pretty attentive towards each other and remember to give compliments, show physical attention and make out in the kitchen now and then, which I think is very important to keep the sparks alive. We feel secure in our relationship, and talk about how we look forward to firstly having our own bedroom again, and secondly to when the kids are older and more independent and him an me can start doing fun things together on a regular basis – just the two of us. In the mean time we try to see raising our children as our biggest girlfriend/boyfriend-project, and try to find happiness and fulfillment together through that. <3

The Triplets Try Tech Toys

[Annonce (AD) for Vtech toys]

The triplets are now 14 months old, and crave new challenges and stimulation all day long. So it was really about time to introduce some learning toys!

I chose to start a collaboration with Vtech toys because they are a leading company in the tech toy market with 40 years of experience. That gives trust in the products, which is important to me in the big jungle of baby products. A very important aspect for me was also that the toys would speak in Danish, because that will help the kids develop their language.

It would be too chaotic giving them all the toys at once, so I introduced one toy each day for three days. And boy did they respond to them! They found the toys super exciting, fought over them all the time, fell in love with the crawling bear and just tried their hardest to figure everything out. I filmed everything, and edited the material into a film consisting of the highlights of the first meetings and experience with the toys. So here it is! I hope you like it, and find is as cute as I do. 🙂

 

I will now make a little review of each of the three toys from Vtech that you can see in the video, and I am starting out with our new little pet, the Explore & Crawl Learning Cub. <3

(From 9 to 36 months)

Already when they saw the bear inside its package, it was immediately flooded with hugs and cuddles from all three of them. 😀 And it is understandable, because the design is super cute! It is soft and of a good size, not too big to hold. In the beginning they barely let it crawl at all, because they wanted to cuddle it. But when I showed them how to make it move forward, they also wanted to try that. First they thought they should push the blinking ladybug light, but that is only there to attract their attention and encourage interaction with the four soft buttons on its back. So I will continue encouraging them to understand that they need to press those buttons to make it crawl (while saying encouraging phrases), play songs and introduce colors and shapes. They also will have to learn to let it crawl alone and not lift it up all the time, because they have a lot of fun crawling alongside it.

This toy would be perfect to get even earlier, before the baby start learning how to move forward. Then it shows the baby how you move your arms and legs when you crawl. But we still have a lot of use of it: The songs develop their language skills and the buttons and sounds challenges them to understand the principle of cause and effect.

The next toy we introduced was the Light & Move Learning Ball:

(From 6 to 36 months)

They were thrilled getting their hands on this one, and it was a bit of a fight over it to start with – crawling after it, grabbing it from each other, losing it, yelling to each other and so on. I actually had to give them the crawling bear after a short while to loose up the tense mood. 😉

It is equipped with a sensor that makes the ball wobble and roll over on its own, to encourage crawling. And that really worked! They also hit it themselves at times, so that it rolled away and then they crawled as fast as they could after it. This was a good game two of them could do together.

It is also an educational ball, and I observed that they could sit quiet for a long time just exploring all the features, so it was clearly fascinating to them. It has lots of animal keys that can be pressed, twisted and spinner to discover shapes, numbers, animals and animal sounds, all which help develop fine motor skills.

I am sure this ball will continue to be a hit in the time to come!

And in the end we had the Musical Rhymes Book:

(From 6 to 36 months)

This is a really interesting interactive storybook, consisting of many different buttons and play pieces that can be twisted and moved, all of which build motor skills. I let them try it both on their own and together with me. When they tried it by themselves they didn’t always hold it in the right way, but I tried to show them how you are supposed to hold it and turn the pages. The blinking light-up star in the middle caught the attention first, and they were very fascinated by it. They also understood that the songs would start playing when you turn the page, so they turned the pages all the time. I tried to make them pay attention to the song that were playing and tried to sing along, but they just kept turning the pages. So patience is something we will need to practice some more using this book.

There are also several piano keys on the side that says different colors and play different instrument sounds. So there is a big learning opportunity with developing language skills in the years to come. You can choose between songs with or without lyrics, and for children of Mikael’s age it is a perfect way to learn lyrics, and after a while maybe learning to read them themselves.

Conclusion: They still have a long way to go to learn how to use the toys correctly, so it will be fun to watch their development on something this specific. It was so interesting seeing how the kids interacted with the toys, you could clearly see on their faces and expressions that they found them to be new and exciting. Mikael is also very interested in playing with the toys, even though he is a few months older than the age group that they are marked with. So these are toys that can be used for many years. There will always be new features to discover, or new songs or lyrics to learn. 😀

 

– So, where can you get these toys?

You can get them online, but if you go to a physical store you can test the toys to see which one(s) you prefer. In Denmark and Norway you can find them in the following stores:

DK: BR, Bilka, Kære Børn, Ønskebørn

NO: Extra Leker

So if you wonder which one will suit your kids or grandkids the most,  go take a look in your local store!

Our 10 must-haves for the first year with triplets

(Annonce – Some of the companies I link to gave me products for free. But the list is 100 % my personal recommendations)

 

We have now been parents of triplets for 13 months, and this is what we found essential to have during the first year:

 

1. A formula mixer (we had BabyBrezza)

2. A sterilization machine (we had Phillips Avent)

3. A double pump with a bra (I had Medela Symphony)

4. High chairs with newborn seats (we have the Stokke tripp trapp chair)

5. A play pen that can be elevated – with a mattress (we had one from BabyDan) and later on a big playpen on the floor with some play mats inside of it (we have one from BabyDan)

6. A triplet pram (we have one from TFK (Trio Twist) and one from Adventure Buggy Co)

7. Car seats with isofix (our old ones were from Stokke/Be safe, our current ones are from Cybex)

8. Lots of bottles (we used Medela Calma– and Comotomo bottles)

9. Baby nests (The small we had were from Born Copenhagen, the big one we have now is from Sleepyhead of Sweden)

10. Lots of muslins (our favorites were from Cam Cam Copenhagen)

My birth story, part 1

I have never written anything about the actual birth or everything that happened that day, but have intended to do it for a long time. But where to start…? The day was filled with so many emotions and unforgettable moments, that I almost cannot write it down in words.

I remember the night leading up to September 12th 2018 – because I almost did not sleep at all. My body and mind just could not calm down enough to be able to drift off into sleep. When the alarm went off at 07 am, I felt that kind of excitement you felt when you were little and woke up to the first day of school after summer vacation: Excited, happy, nervous, insecure and a bit scared of the unknown.

Anders and I then had a really close and serene moment getting up, talking to each other and to the confession camera about this being the day we had been waiting so anxiously for for SO long – like it being an enormous golden trophy far into the distance. And now we were finally here – at the moment where we were going to meet all three babies, see what they look like and feel them in our arms.

At 07.45 am a nurse entered the room with all the gear we should wear in the operation room. The two camera people from the TV production company had also arrived by then. There was a solemn atmosphere in the room while we were getting dressed; me taking off all jewelry and putting my hair up in a mom bun that was good enough to last all day. And suddenly everything became a whole lot more serious. I could feel how dry my throat was and I longed for water, which I was not allowed to have because I was fasting and had been since midnight.

It was 08.00 am when the orderly arrived, and I laid down on my side in the rolling bed. Out of the blue – fear hit me. Hard. I have never experienced something like that before. My whole body had a sudden reaction: I got pale, nauseated, shivered, cold sweated and silent tears ran down my cheeks. The orderly started rolling me down the endless corridors, with fluorescent lights blinking from the ceiling. Both Anders and the camera man tried to get me to talk by asking how I was feeling, but the only thing I could answer was a whisper: «No, I can’t.»

After what felt like an eternity of corridors and elevators, we arrived at the waiting area outside of the operating room. I got help sitting up, and Anders tried to help me focus on my breathing. And I finally calmed down and came back to myself again. At least a bit, but I was still extremely caught off guard by how nervous I suddenly felt about the c-section. I focused and tried to put on a game face. Then the doors to the operating room opened and it was our turn.