Our Home, Split Between Continents

We live 15.556 km. from Copenhagen, Denmark. That is 22 hours by plane. If you take the fast route. Even worse, it is approximately $5556 away for a family of five. Out of peak season.

It is too far.

I lived in Denmark for the first 31 years of my life. Denmark was my home. I have lived abroad occasionally, but Denmark was always “home”. Denmark is still home to me. There is no doubt when I get Danish ground under my feet after being away for months or years – I feel it instantly. It is unconditional. Not even the grey weather can scare me off. I love that tiny, flat country.

But I also love Australia – the giant country almost furthest away from Denmark, that I now call home.

Two homes – 15.556 km. apart. That is not a very practical arrangement, I can tell you now. And yes, it is hard to juggle. Ridiculously hard. Of course it is.

The Absence of Family and Friends Is The Worst

There are many reasons why living 15.556 km. from Denmark is hard for me/us. However, the worst part is, whitout comparison, that my children don’t have the same, close relationship with my family and friends as they would have if we had lived in Denmark. They don’t get to see them regularly and build up those close, long-lasting relationships.

Luckily our children are quite social and generally good at fitting and settling in. When we visit Denmark it only takes them minutes before they warm up to my family, but with friends it takes a little longer. We always prioritise my close family when we are there. Seeing friends is harder. Especially because my parents live in a tiny village hours from where most of my friends live. Some friends we see every time we are there, but some we have only seen once since moving to Australia. Some we haven’t seen at all. Of course it will never ever be the same relationship as if we saw people regularly.

The fact that we are always guests everywhere we go in Denmark and have nowhere to invite people to makes it a bit tricky to see people as well. We always have to go to friends’ or family’s homes – or even meet at parks or cafés – and that can be hard to fit in sometimes with small, wild children.

Feeling Lonely Amongst People

For me personally, the loneliness is the toughest. It has been 5.5 incredibly lonely years, to be honest.

Not having anyone around that understands my traditions and culture has left me feeling alienated on several occasions. Not having those “old” friends who accept me completely. And this; not having anyone who knew me before kids. For some reason, this exact point is crucial to me. I somehow feel that no-one really knows me. Here I am “just” Abby, Billie & Lulu’s mum, but inside I still feel like the person I was before I had any kids. The person who loved being out and about, the person who travelled, the person who partied all night long, the person who was social all day every day, the person with a bunch of awesome friends, the person who called skateparks and ski slopes her second home. That person is still me. Now. She didn’t die with motherhood, but no-one knows her here. That is lonely.

The Practical Side of Things

We have no family here in Brisbane to help us out with anything. I know we have chosen this ourselves but that does not change the fact that it is hard and it would be nice to be able to go to my parents for dinner once in a while, or have my niece babysit the girls or call my brother when we need help with putting up a wall somewhere.

The time difference also makes it hard to uphold relationships across the globe. Not only does it cause immense jet-lag, but is also makes it extra hard to FaceTime with family and friends while the girls are awake – and when they finally go to sleep I rarely have much energy to sit and chat all night. Unfortunately.

Then there is the most boring part of it all, the financial part. It is very expensive to fly from Australia to Denmark when you are a family of five. Kids fly free until they are 2 years old after that they pay full price. SO for the next year and a bit Lulu is still free of charge. Hopefully we get to take advantage of that rebate before it is too late.

So Much To Miss

I sure do miss a lot of things about Denmark.

I really miss having my friends and family come by our house every now and then. Or to meet up in a local park with a bunch of old friends. I miss that.

Or to be able to just go to my mum & dad’s for the weekend when Josh is busy. Or even just send the girls there. Or ask my sister to babysit for an evening while Josh and I go out with friends. I miss going out. And spending time with my brother and his family on Sunday afternoons. My girls’ little cousins. I hate that they cannot see each other more frequently.

Yep, I miss Denmark. No doubt.

I miss my family and friends and I miss the Danish society and system on my childrens behalf – especially the school system. But I also like it here in Australia. I especially like the climate and the possibilities a country with such diverse, amazing and easy accessible nature gives children. Being able to spend as much time as I have and will the next couple of years with my children is also something I would never have been able to in Denmark. I am grateful of this – even if it sometimes brings me close to a breaking point. (Full-time parenting is hard. Revarding, but ridiculously hard).

No Regrets, though

I do not regret moving to Australia. If I would do it again? I think so. It has been 5.5 hard years, for sure. It has also been 5.5 years filled with adventures that I would not have been without.

Saying goodbye to everything I knew to start a new life in Australia with a 5 week old baby in my arms 5.5 years ago was daunting, but also exciting. Little did I know what I was in for. Luckily I have had Josh beside me all along and I am ridiculously proud of us both for what we have accomplished so far building up a life for our little family here in Australia.

But is it really worth it? It seems like there is so much “missing” going on? There is – and it sure breaks my heart when my children miss their Danish family.

This past week Billie has been sad a couple of times. She says she misses mormor & morfar a lot. It breaks my heart that we cannot just go and visit them or that we have no idea of when or even if they will ever come and visit us again.

I will never forget how Abby cried all the way through security on our last flight. It was horrible. She talked about it this morning. She remembers vividly.

My parents are not getting any younger. My mum turned 75 last month and my dad is getting close to 80. I sometimes find it unfair that my children cannot get more “out of them” now while they are still fresh and energetic. Hopefully they will still be for years to come, but you never know what life brings. I just wish we could spend more time with them now, that’s all.

Living in Australia has definitely put a lot of thing in perspective for me, especially regarding my family and I often catch myself feeling…

Sad when my family is gathered in Denmark for a birthday without us.

Jealous when my parents go to Copenhagen to babysit my niece and nephew.

A little bit furious when someone complains that their family lives a whole two hour drive away so they cannot be bothered visiting often.

You see, the biggest advantage about living so far away is that when we do see my family we are together so intensely (this can also be a disadvantage at times, I should ad). When we are in Denmark we spend a lot more time with i.e. my parents than we would have if we lived in Copenhagen. Then we would probably have visited them for a weekend every now and then – now we visit for six weeks. Enough time for grandparents and grandchildren to build up a very close and special relationship. A relationship I never thought my children would have with my parents. A priceless and beautiful relationship.

Yeah, I am more than certain that THE most important thing I have learned from living in Australia is to appreciate my family. No, it is most definitely not a perfect bunch, but missing them daily has made me realize that they aren’t that bad after all.

Now, I am secretly dreaming of flying home with the girls for the Danish summer this year. Send us a winning lotto ticket and we are on our way!

❤️

What Made You Happy Today?

Seriously, think about it for a while. It is so easy to get caught up in all the negative stuff that happens around us. Especially when the everyday is rolling away and chores and errends and jobs and tasks and demands and what-not fills up our days. We get stressed. We get tired. We get grumpy. Sometimes we get bored. I get bored a lot. Then the negativity spiral takes off. Damn it.

Negativity breeds negativity

I read this article explaining how emotions are contagious, the negative once even more so:

“Many experts believe that negative emotions are a lot easier to catch than positive ones. Some believe this is reflective of our evolutionary past wherein being highly attuned to other people’s negative emotions (pain, fear, and disgust) was directly linked to survival. Those who could pick up on someone else’s pain, fear, and disgust were more likely to survive than those who could not.

But – positivity also breeds positivity. Phew!

It most definitely does. Take it from the experts and take it from me, the self-acclaimed negative/positive expert that I am.

Saying positive things. Doing positive things. It spreads positive vibes.

So, am I positve all day everyday? Hell no. I am often the opposite. I am prone to dwelving in my own missery, but that is exactly why I need to do something active and conscious to force the positivity into my life – otherwise it all gets too dark and dull to handle. Worst of all, I can give my negative vibe onto my kiddos.

My bag of little tricks to boost my own and my family’s positive spirit is pretty jam packed. I think I need to use it even more, ay?

Well, this particular trick is a family one, because our family needs to calm the fuck down and be postive every night – we can be such a bunch of whingers otherwise.

What is it we do?

It is pretty simple and something everyone can do every day. We eat dinner together every night and while eating we take turns in telling the other which three things that made us happy during the day. Simple.

Does it really work?

Yes! Focusing on some positive things that we experienced during the day help us to:

1. Start good conversations about the day around the table.

3. Give everyone a chance to get a word in and be heard.

2. Focus on the positives and go to bed with that in mind – or at least we can remind us self that life isn’t that bad afterall.

It might sound basic, but, as you know, back to basic is the new black. Some days it is really easy. Some days it can actually be pretty hard. On all days it is a good idea.

Here are some examples from our dinner table:

Today it made me happy (kids edition)…

…to play with my friends.

…to eat pizza here with you right now.

…to play in the sandpit.

…that I love my whole family.

…to get lollies.

…to swim in the pool.

…to play games together.

And the adult edition…

to paint the bathroom.

…to have a nap.

…to see Lulu take her first steps.

…when you girls played nicely together.

…to finish my assignment.

…to hear back from that job.

…to get the shopping done.

And one that very often goes again around the table:

Right now, eating dinner together.

As you can see, it does not have to be huge magnificent things. It can be, but it can also be tiny little things that made your day better in some way or another.

Have a go yourselves tonight and let me know how you go. Also, be a bit patient. It somehow gets better over time. At least that is my experience.

What has made you happy today?

❤️

Sunday Blues and My Empathy Super Heroes

I have been a bit down this weekend. Especially today I basically just wanted to go back to bed. I have had no energy and everything has been a struggle. It might sound relatively normal for a mum with a teething baby, but for me it is an alarm bell I have to take seriously. If not, things can get a lot worse – I am planning on writing more about my mental health, but it takes time and curage, so for now I’ll just tell you my little Sunday story. It’s actually a feel good one, if you stay ’til the end 🙂

Mummy is just gonna paint a wall

Luckily Josh caught me before I really fell – he took the girls and sent me to bed in the airconditioned bedroom. A nap and a cool down (it’s bloody hot here atm.) gave me enough energy to go and paint the bathroom. As you do, right? Maybe not your average stress-down activity, but when I struggle in my mind it helps me to focus on a specific hands-on task. This bathroom has been a running project for weeks now. Stressful in itself.

I sweated and painted for four hours.

Meanwhile I could hear the girls play together in the garden. Play. Not fight.

Then, at one point I could hear screaming from the living room. Billie fell down the stairs and bled from her lip. Apparently Abby “accidentally” pushed her. Well, I went out to save, what I thought was, the sinking ship. While I gave Billie a cuddle, Abby came over and said sorry, gave her a kiss and they shook hands (that’s Billie’s thing these days) and hugged each other. Then all was good and they went outside to play happily together again.

Wait, what just happened?

A little later Abby came and slit a drawing under the bathroom door. She made it to make me feel better. You see, when I don’t feel good we let the girls know that mummy is tired or maybe even a bit sad. Then they accept that I need a break and they, somehow, get extra loving and caring towards me – but also towards each other. It’s like some kind of “family above all”- thing is happening.

My Emphatic Super Heroes

While I was wrapping up my painting I could hear the girls talking to Josh:

“Mummy has painted a lot today. I think she’s trying to make us proud of her. I am proud of her, but she doesn’t need to paint so much. I am always proud of her”

Oh, my heart!

I am so proud of them. They often drive me nuts, but their intuition of when they need to step up is (almost always) spot on. It becomes so obvious that they do have loads of empathy hiding underneath their cheeky, rascal surfaces.

The Flower Dilemma

Actually Abby is in quite a dilemma due to her emphatic nature. It can be hard to have loads of empathy and be an aspiring scientist at the same time, I tell ya.

So, Abby wants to find out if flowers have feelings (don’t ask). Josh set an experiement idea up for her: get two similar flowers. Plant them in similar pots, place them next to each other and give them exactly the same amount of water. Then, one flower you keep telling how much you love and the other you keep telling how much you hate. Then, if flowers do have feelings, the loved one will flourish and the hated one will die. Logic.

Abby gets the idea and really wants to try the experiment. However, she is very worried about doing the experiement in case flowers actually DO have feelings – because she doesn’t want to make any flowers sad. Oh dear.

Mummy, are you okay?

At dinner Billie said to me: “now mummy, you don’t have to paint anymore” and gave me a kiss and a cuddle. I think it was her way of saying “mummy, are you okay? I hope you are feeling better.

And I do feel better. Exhausted, but better. Fingers crossed for a good nights sleep. Ready for the Monday rush in the morning.

Oh, and I actually do have to paint some more. The little sucker of a bathroom needs another coat. Exciting when that’s going to happen.

❤️

How (and why) We Are Raising Our Kids Bilingual

One of the most frequent questions I get in regards to us living in Australia is: “Do the girls speak both Australian and Danish?” followed by “do you speak Danish with them?”

The short answer is yes. They are, what you would call, bilingual. They understand Danish fluently and can switch back and forth between Australian and Danish effortlessly. However, they don’t actually speak much Danish when we are in Australia.

I guess it makes sense. Here in Australia it’s only me who speaks and understands it, but they know that I fully understand them if they speak Australian back to me. So why bother? That’s what it seems like they are thinking. However, in Denmark they learned that especially other kids don’t understand them unless they speak to them in Danish. This has been a huge eye opener for Abby, especially. She’s such a social little butterfly.

On our recent trip to Denmark magic happened and Abby started to actually speak a lot of Danish. Those 6 weeks we were there made such a difference in her Danish vocabulary and her pronunciation and it is obvious that the words are in there – she just has to practice using them.

And she does practice at home with me now. We speak Danish together daily and I love it. Billie is also tagging along as she does and says pretty much everything that Abby does. She is still mixing the two languages a lot, but she’s getting there and Danglish is so damn cute – and even if it is not perfect, it is so amazing hearing my children speak my language. It just matters.

How do we do it?

I am being very consistent, persistent and determined. Otherwise it wouldn’t work with me being the only Danish speaking parent. At home I only speak Danish unless we are having a group conversation involving Josh. I even speak Danish when Josh is present sometimes. It can make the communication in our house a bit messy, but Josh actually understands quite a lot of Danish by now and he can usually follow our conversations enough to join in if he wants to.

I also read Danish books to them, sing Danish songs, they watch Danish cartoons and we have started doing some easy Danish exercises with Abby, now that she can read and write a bit.

An added bonus is our Danish friends here in Brisbane, who gives us just that extra little bit of Danish almost every week. I do believe that makes a difference to get inputs from others than me.

The girls making our friends happy in Denmark 🙂

Then, of course, we visit Denmark regularly. Every time we do so their Danish evolves with the speed of light. Kids can adapt and learn so much, so fast. It is amazing.

Why do we even bother?

I mean, Danish is not exactly a language they can use many places in the world. In fact, they can only use it in Denmark and in Denmark everyone over the age of 10 speaks English pretty fluently.

Well, first of all I would be sad if my children didn’t understand my language and my culture – which I believe is closely connected to language. It means a lot to me that they, not only know, but also understand where they come from.

Then, of course, there is the practicality of it. That they can actually speak the native language when we are in Denmark makes it both easier and more fun for them to be there. Especially now, when they are playing with cousins and friends there who have not yet learned English. I guess it’s also another way of better understanding the culture. To be completely integrated when we are there and not have a language barrier, makes a huge difference.

There are also other more, lets call them, intellectual benefits connected with bilingualism. They are not the direct reason why we do it, but they definitely are added bonuses. Being bilingual is supposedly a great way to train childrens’ brains and make learning easier for them in the future. Not only new languages but also other subjects. And it can potentially help them fight off brain diseases such as dementia in the future.

There really isn’t any downside to bilingualism, as I see it, so we will keep on doing my very best to keep them bilingual. No matter where we’ll live in the world in the future, we will speak both Danish and Australian in our home. At a minimum.

Actually, Abby has started learning Japanese in school now. I think that’s pretty cool, but it might be a Danish thing. Learning Japanese in Denmark is quite exotic, here it’s more common I guess. Anyways, learning a third language by the age of five is cool no matter what – and I have already started dreaming of a trip to Japan sometime soon-ish. To support my child’s education, of course 🙂

Billie learning about Danish culture.

Have a nice day / ha’ en god dag / konichiwa (that’s all I know in Japanese)❤️


Exploring: Enoggera Reservoir

Today we jumped into a lake to cool down. It was fresh(water)! We went to Enoggera Reservoir, also known as Enoggera Dam. Such a great alternative to the beach on a hot day only 15 minutes drive from Brisbane CBD and quite a little gem, if you ask me.

The biggest downside to Brisbane is probably it’s lack of proximity to the beach. When the temperature is well above 30 and the humidity equals a pumping steam bath there is nothing more tempting than jumping into the ocean for a swim.

Luckily there are some pretty decent alternatives in or close to the city.

There is, of course, the beach pool at South Bank and several decent public pools with good facilities. However, there are also more natural options such as dams, creeks and waterfalls.

Today we went to check out Enoggera Reservoir – and one thing is for sure, we will be back!

Enoggera Dam

As the name suggests it is actually a water reservoir for Brisbane, so obviously it is not completely natural, but that’s okay. It was build in 1866, so it is fair to say that it has settled into the natural surroundings by now.

Even if it is man made back in the day it is beautifully positioned amongst the trees and bush land at the start of the national park. You truly get a feeling of being far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, yet Brisbane CBS is merely a 15 minute drive away.

The water is not pristine, clear and blue as the ocean, but compared to the sometimes quite wild waves at the beach, it was so nice to swim in the calm lake water – and the kids loved it.

There are no BBQ facilities or toilettes at the dam and the café located at the entrance to the park closes early, so I would recommend bringing food and drinks. A good occasion to give the ol’ Esky a workout, ay!

Besides swimming the area is also used for other recreational purposes such as kanoing, mountain biking and hiking. It is possible to rent kayaks and paddle boards at the site and it is very popular to bring blow-up swimming aids of all kinds.

Next time we go we will definitely combine the swim with a hike on one of the trails joining up with the national park – and visit the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre and cafe, which unfortunately had closed when we got there today.

How to get there:

It was a 25 minute drive from our house at Kangaroo Point and well worth it – and still a lot closer than the beach which is an hour on a good day, easily 1.5 hours when the traffic is heavy.

There is parking at Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre at 60 Mt. Nebo Rd. The Gap, Brisbane QLD 4061. From there it is a 5 minute walk to the dam. The path is nice and wide and you can bring a pram or stroller if needed.

Don’t – as we did – just tap in “Enoggera Reservoir” to you GPS, unless you wish to drive up the mountains and stop in the middle of nowhere 🙂

Missing Mis

Our cat is missing. Our eldest cat, that is. We have two of them. Her name is Mis, Danish for cat, because that’s how creative we are.

We got her when Abby was one year old, and she really is part of our family now.

She’s a bit of a weirdo in the cat world. She goes into other people’s houses – also the people who definitely doesn’t feed her. The ones who are allergic to cats and find it a tiny bit annoying that this random cat always tries to sneak in their door. Mis is very curious and trusting, I guess.

Unfortunately, she gets herself into Mischief(!) in some people’s eyes.

While we were in Denmark over Christmas I got a Facebook message from an animal shelter telling me that they had our cat in custody. At first I thought it was spam, but nope – Mis had taken a Christmas holiday at the shelter.

Our neighbour went to pick her up and got told that someone had found Mis tied to a tree next to Main Street, a couple of blocks from our house. Luckily they reacted and brought her to the shelter. Tied to a tree! Who would do that? Why? I mean, even if you don’t like cats that’s a pretty fucked up thing to do. Also, this cat would most definitely put up a serious fight. No-one ties her to a tree without feeling her “love” and sharp claws, that’s for sure.

Now, we have checked all trees in the neighbourhood and she’s not currently tied to any of them.

To do something, we have been out putting flyers in people’s letter boxes and hanging posters on poles.

Last night a lady actually texted us, saying she saw our cat in her yard on Sunday afternoon – I’m surprised anyone even remembers exactly which cat was in a garden at a given time. Anyways, that means she was seen two days after she went MIA from our house. Good. Hopefully she’s just gone walkabout and will return soon. She has done that before.

Fingers crossed. Abby and Billie will be devestated if she doesn’t come back. So will Josh and I – and when(!) she comes back, Josh is ordering GPS-trackers for her and Max, our other cat. No escaping then – Big Brother will be watching, kittens!

❤️

We’ve Got a School Child

Abby started school today. Real school. Big school, as she calls it. Wow!…I thought I was cool about it. I wasn’t. Not at all. I freakin’ cried when I left the classroom. What?! Obviously it was partly due to the fact that my first born all of a sudden has grown up and starts school – and that I lay awake half the night reminiscing all of our fun times together at home and out and about the past 5.5 years (somehow all the tantrums and conflicts had already faded).

However, it knocked me over that it wasn’t what I had expected. I had prepared for one thing in my mind and I wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t ready for the chaos. It seemed extemely chaotic in the room and, more importantly, I wasn’t prepared for not knowing anybody.

Before Christmas Abby went to prep orientation on two different days. Days where she spent two hours in the prep-room with other future prep-kids while us parents (read.mums) were hanging out together in the yard. It was actually really nice. After those two days I had a great feeling in my stomach and in my heart – this was going to be good. Good for Abby and good for me. You see, Abby connected with some really nice kids, who she already started calling her friends – kids who had mums who I also connected with. Say what?!! Ever since Abby was a baby everyone has been saying “just wait ’til she starts school, that’s when you’re going to get a great network of friends amongst the other parents”. Yeah, I have always been a bit sceptical about this, since finding new friends amongst my kids’ friends’ parents have been a bit up hill so far. However, during those orientation days I actually felt like it was going to happen. It didn’t feel awkward, it just felt pretty nice and natural to hang out with these other mums. That, my friends, means a lot to someone who gets minor anxiety everytime I have to get near anything parent-related.

So, back to today. Abby started prep and in amongst all the chaos there were no familiar faces. No kids or adults we knew. All the kids who she connected with during orientation have gone into the other class. Auch!

She somehow felt the same as me, I’m sure. She started crying and didn’t want to let go of me. I hadn’t expected her to react like that at all, but I cannot blame her. She expected to walk into a room of familiar faces and there were none. Thankfully, a teachers aid who she had met during orientation came and helped her settle. And at least I didn’t cry until we had left the room. Geez. I used to be so tuff.

But hey, I know she’ll be fine. I know she’ll make friends in her class in no time. But I still think it sucks that she’s not in the class with the kids with the mums that I like – buhuuu! (I know, I know…there probably are some really nice parents amongst this new group as well, it was just so calming to know that I had already crossed the awkward “hi, so…yeah, I’m Abby’s mum – which kid is yours? Where abouts do you live”-part).

Phew! Okay, now that it’s out of my system (thanks for listening), I’ll try to enjoy the first day in a loooong time with only one child around. And I cannot wait to pick up my Abby in 4 hours – I’m sure she’ll be all smiles – and so will I❤️