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Bless Bless

Dear Iceland,

You have been close to our hearts for a long time now, as the first time Eric came here, for 9 whole months just after we started dating, served as a crucially formative period in our relationship.  I visited you then, in the dark, windy 1st week of December 2005.  We came again in 2009, a remarkably gorgeous summer, just a year before we had our first child.  We saw some amazing bits of your countryside on two road trips, and I soaked up every inch of Reykjavik that I could.  Once more, last spring, with our boy just 7 months old, you greeted us with snow on the 1st of May.  We stayed in the city then, laying low as Everett battled a fever.

And then this year, deep in the middle of February, we returned, in the dark, in the snow.  Everett now 16 months, and a baby girl growing within me.  We settled in, we hibernated as our active toddler would allow.  Eric set to work on some of your manuscripts, working on a writing project and exploring the history of your fascinating people.  I set to work exploring the walkable radius of our apartment in the snow, meeting other mothers and knitters, and growing this baby.

Then she came.  Helped along, no doubt, by the many kilometers I must have walked through your streets as she grew, she made her entrance swiftly.  Aided and welcomed by two of your own daughters who comforted and encouraged me through the labor; your naturally heated spring water as the first element to touch her fresh new skin, she arrived.  Bryndís Ann, bearing a name that is part of your beautiful language, and who I hope will always be proud to claim you as the land of her birth.  You are now an indelible part of our family.

We say farewell, or “Bless bless,” to you now, but it is not forever.  We will be back, it feels inevitable, even necessary.

With Love,
Eric, Emily, Everett, and Bryndís

This chapter in the Bryan Family Adventure was made possible by: Icelandair, The Missouri Research Board, the American Scandinavian Foundation, The Arni Magnusson Institute, and the Missouri University of Science and Technology.  We would also like to thank Jóhanna Bogdottir, Hanna og Elvar Ingolfer for their lovely apartments; Magnea and Helga at Hallgrimskirkja, Bergdís Rosantsdottir and Hrafnhildur at the Red Cross; Jenny, Torril, Kassia, Renee, Jana, Colleen, Amanda, Sonja, Johanna, Sandra, Anna, Dawn, Angela, and all the other wonderful mothers I had the pleasure of sharing playtime with (no doubt I’m leaving someone important out); Hrafnhildur at Bjorkin Midwives, and Soffía of Hönd í Hönd for making Bryndís’ birth possible at home, and a peaceful, joyful experience; Kara Payne for coming to take care of us for awhile; Diane, Mike, Kaitlin, and Freya  Wilson, for being the difference between surviving and enjoying this visit; and of course our families, for showering us with love and encouragement, spending a fortune to send us the things we couldn’t buy here, and another fortune on coming to visit, serving as glorified babysitters and taking us out to dinner.  We couldn’t do it without you, and we appreciate you letting us take your grandchildren so far away for awhile.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Travel, Writings

 

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Highlights: Mombee and Aunt Silly take Reykjavik!

After Kara left, my mom (known to Everett as Mombee) arrived for two weeks, and my sister Hannah (affectionately nicknamed Aunt Silly) joined her for the second week.  So we got a full month of extra help with a new baby, so awesome.  Some of the sweetest moments I don’t have pictures of, like getting to take my mom to two playgroups to meet everyone whom I’ve gotten to know over the past few months, just hanging out in the flat reading or watching videos with Everett, mom cooking most nights, wandering around town, shopping, and stopping at playgrounds, and the moments when they took both kids and I got to rest some!  We took one road trip that included Þingvellir and the southern coast down in Vík, and mom and Hannah headed to the Blue Lagoon one day.  Here are a few favorite pictures of mine:

whale watching, or really, rocky boat ride in the cold and looking at a lot of water:)

Watching some new dvd’s Aunt Silly brought with her

The girls at Þingvellir; we also got some great family portrait shots here but I’m saving those for the Christmas card.

Hannah and I (and Bryndís, hiding in the sling under the blanket) on the beach at Vík. This isn’t the best picture, but I wanted to show the cool rock formations behind us. It was a beautiful day to drive down there!

Skogafoss; not part of the planned day trip but we spotted it on our way home and had to let mom and Hannah get out. I was pretty ok with not unstrapping two babies again, but would love to go back one day and climb up to the top. How gorgeous!  Hannah took this picture, btw

Sheep! I have an absurd number of pictures of sheep and horses from our various drives, so it’s about time I threw one in here. There’s just something so magical about the way these animals are allowed to roam the countryside until they’re needed, and they are EVERYWHERE.  But sheep are particularly special, not just because I love knitting with their wool, but because my mom has a thing for them and decorated MY nursery with little sheep stencils.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Travel

 

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Highlights: Kara’s Visit

As timing would have it, baby girl arrived 2 weeks early which meant our friend Kara got to be here for the first two weeks she was alive!  Kara is someone we got to know last summer at L’Abri (remember? here, here, and here); she lives in the UK and the plan was for her to come and help me through the last two weeks of pregnancy, but timing is everything and I just love it when God’s turns out to be way better than mine.  She was a tremendous help as we got used to two little ones, often cooking and constantly doing the dishes (which seem absolutely endless), holding the baby or playing with Everett.  Bryndís’ birth was such that I recovered much more quickly than with Everett, so we also got to have a little fun with Kara. Here are a few highlights:

Holding the little one.

Bryndís’ first road trip at 1 week old!!

Kara at þingvellir

Snæfellsjokull, view from the car. The day was perfectly beautiful, though very very windy and chilly, so we were content to stay warm and snap pics out the window. We briefly considered driving the road that goes right through the glacier, instead of around, but a strongly worded caution sign changed our minds!

Everett, NOT sleeping on the way home from a long day’s drive around Snæfellsness

Kara on her last day with us, taken by the Viking ship sculpture down by the harbor, Harpa concert all in the background. We miss you, friend!!

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Bryndís, Travel

 

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Heima, part 4: Hanging out with Kiddos

We get out and about as much as possible as Everett’s energy level seems to increase daily and he needs more to keep him occupied than can be (safely, undestructively) found in our home.  But occasionally we do have a few lovely moments just chilling at home together, sometimes involved in activities together, sometimes everyone doing their own thing.
One of Ev’s favorite new things to do is climb into our bed with a book (or 5) and flip through them–literally, he loves just fanning through the pages–sometimes under the covers, sometimes sprawled out, and almost always with violently kicking feet and healthy doses of drool.
 This photo’s from awhile back, when we first moved in here in April, (and I have since had to retire that lovely red and white sweater due to a massive growth spurt in late April), but this fort stayed up for a few weeks and was a favorite place to summon Daddy when he came home in the evening.
At first, I thought this coffee table was an awkward height; then we set up the trains:)

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in At Home, Fun with Everett

 

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{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.* A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in This Moment, Travel

 

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Belongings: Indulge in the Simplicity

Last year, I attempted to start a series about the things I’ve learned through all this moving about, things that make family life easier–or possible–despite changing surroundings, as well as tips and tricks to keep logistical nightmares to a minimum.  I think I wrote a grand total of ONE entry in this series, which I’m still calling “Belongings” and picking up again now:)

When we returned home to our house in St. Louis last fall, after 8 months abroad, I really tried to be glad to be back, but I wasn’t.  The succeeding autumn consisted of a myriad of fantastic developments–namely, a lot of significant growth in several friendships–but also an onslaught of negative emotions that I couldn’t comprehend or really begin to deal with. One underlying factor that I have been able to identify was that for some reason, our house, small as it is, felt completely and totally overwhelming when it came to cleaning and organizing.  This was, of course, related to the fact that I was in the midst of first trimester ickiness and attempting to manage a very active toddler, and had many days without a car to get out and go somewhere (anywhere!) else.  I was frustrated by this–why is this so hard? I thought.  This house just isn’t that big, I should be able to keep it plenty clean and tidy and manage to get some kind of dinner on the table without it feeling like the biggest, most difficult task anyone has ever done.  But that’s how it did feel, and I blamed all sorts of factors and made lots of excuses, and ultimately avoided the work as much as possible, which only made me more unhappy about where I lived because it was chaos, and gross, and disorderly.  You can see where this is going: the cliche downward spiral.

I have a pretty strong feeling that most of you out there who have any sort of home for which you are responsible have felt many of the things I was feeling, so I won’t go into much more detail.  Except to say that I responded with a pretty much overall BAD attitude, coming to resent the house for being so burdensome, and even my husband and son for actually needing things from me (never mind how much I needed them too, wasn’t this all about me?)

“helping” me pack back in January

When we found out we’d be coming to Iceland, I was immediately excited about the possibility of living in a tiny apartment with only the stuff we could bring in our suitcases, much like last year in London.  I knew this would mean a return to a level of simplicity that is almost impossible to achieve except in these circumstances, and I couldn’t wait!  And I was right, because as soon as we got here, I felt like I could breathe a little more easily, despite all of my sadness for leaving home yet again.

There’s something just so beautiful and refreshing about a small space and limited stuff.  The way we live here and lived in London last year was not really sustainable in a normal, permanent dwelling.  So my advice to anyone who gets the chance to live abroad temporarily (or hey, even just house sit for awhile), is to soak up the simplicity.  Rather than bemoan not having a proper pie plate, find out if a springform pan will work; get creative with your accessorizing so that a bunch of cardigans, scarves, and camisoles stay interesting for 6 months; rejoice in the minimal clutter and the ease of having everything all on one floor; and finally, brainstorm on how to recreate as much of this simplicity at home while accepting the necessary level of chaos that comes with being planted somewhere for (more or less) good.

Living room (before we moved furniture to block breakable things that belong to the owners)

P.S. Can you tell I’m trying to self-help with this post?  t-minus 3 weeks before we fly back to the U.S.!

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in At Home, Travel, Writings

 

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Settling

I took an unintentional 3.5 month hiatus from blogging and quite a bit has changed since I last posted, like, let’s see: our home, the weather, the number of people in our family, the overall shape of my body, amount of sunlight in each day. . . I have lots of thoughts, pictures, news, and on and on to share, but for now, here are some highlights:

April 1-we moved from 107 to 101 Reykjavik, to an awesome flat facing the Tjorn in the center of town.  It was nice being next to Laugardalur park, but I’m much happier downtown where I don’t have to take the bus to get anywhere.

April-May, sometime–it stopped getting dark, at all, ever.

May 7th–Baby girl enters the world!!  I really look forward to sharing her insane birth story and a few precious pictures in an upcoming post:)

May 8-June 2–first our friend Kara visits, then my mom, then my sister!  Several fun day trips with everyone to other fantastically beautiful parts of this country

June–settling into life with two kids, fortunately with the help of some gorgeous weather!  Lots of time spent at the playground, in the kitchen, at playgroups, and the library.

Projects finished since March 13–Everett’s sweater (ALMOST in time for Easter), E’s Easter basket (now toy storage), easter garlands and letters for friends back home, E’s overalls, knit baby blanket, tiny baby sweater and matching hat, tote bag for a friend’s birthday, fathers’ day present.

In other news: a new addiction to Pinterest (something easily explored one-handed and while nursing or bouncing a fussy baby) has led to a growing project list and several yummy kitchen experiments.

Pictures and links to all patterns, tutorials, and recipes forthcoming!

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in At Home, My Projects, Travel

 

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