Sunday, December 28, 2008

Matters of Life and Death, The Christmas Edition

So I'm putting the kids to bed, with Cousin Talia here for a sleepover. The super-sneaky tactic to stave off the final GO TO SLEEP NOW is to ask existential questions. This evening's discussion went as follows:

Cecilie: Mommy, is Santa ever going to die?
Me: no...Santa is a magical sort of elf, and so the rules of normal humans don't apply
Cecilie: oh, so kind of like God, or Jesus: non-stop kind of guys.
Talia: like Obama!
Lars: hey.... but Jesus got dead! I saw it, in the Walters Eye [sic] Museum.
Me: um, yeah, but Christians believe that then he went to live in heaven.
Lars: so he's just... living up there?
Cecilie (all exasperated): Yeah Lars, that's what that Easter celebration is about.

Go ahead, Dear Reader, accuse me of dissembling. What else do you do in the face of preschool queries on the relationship of God and Man, Santa and Obama?


The day after Christmas, I had the privilege of taking Cecilie and BFF to Grandma's house where they would be whisked off to see the Nutcracker - they were both beaming with the magic of Christmas and brand new American Girl dolls.

Cecilie's new doll is "Felicity" and BFF noted that that was the one she wanted if she hadn't gotten the "Just Like You" doll'. BFF had seen the movie and proceeded to say that it was kind of sad as Felicity's grandpa got a cough and died. Cecilie was stunned as she asked to verify: "He just started coughing, and then he died...?"

I felt the need to step in, and informed the girls that in the olden days ("Felicity" is a Colonial doll), sometimes a cough might in fact lead to death as there weren't many doctors and hospitals. BFF was totally with me and added with wisdom beyond her years: "Yeah, the olden days, like 1993..."

At this point, they decided to play "through the dolls" and proceeded to talk about how exciting it was that their owners would take them to the Nutcracker. I focused on driving for a little while, but soon enough my ears perked up as I heard this exchange:

BFF: "...hey, we are dolls, how can we even talk?"
C: "I don't know, we better look it up in the Bible..."
B: "Yeah, that is a good idea, it has a lot of stuff about God and fairies..."
C: "...but not a word about dolls."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas letter

Time flies, and around here it seems it flies on gilded wings of noise, chaos and general exuberance. Such is the existence we affectionately call Nilsen Life. We find ourselves at the end of 2008 wondering what happened to last year’s Christmas cards, and feeling that perhaps we owe a small update to those who wonder if we may indeed have chucked it all in and moved to a yurt in Outer Mongolia.

Last year’s quiet on the postal front was due to the imminent arrival of Nilsen Kid #3 during the Yuletide season. Positive that Baby would make an appearance any moment, Kirsten seized upon a golden opportunity for procrastination, and planned on a joint Christmas card/Birth Announcement (kind readers will refrain from noting that neither have yet appeared in their mailboxes.)

Annika Louise Nilsen finally turned up December 28 2007, at a whopping 9 lbs 8 oz., with cheeks to rival those of her mother. She has been a delight to all of us, and proved herself of hearty stock by surviving the constant and - ahem – ‘enthusiastic ‘adorations of older sister and brother. A few medical dramas in her first year proved challenging, but she has arrived at her first birthday healthy, happy and TALL.

Lars is beginning to realize the power of conversation – the longer you hold the floor, the longer your sister has to remain silent! - and has started to employ the multi-syllabic descriptors that have long been the domain of his older sister. “Mommy, that smells ‘uhs-gusting’!” Luckily, he has not realized the power of his good looks, and therefore remains quite charming (for a 3 year old…)

Cecilie, at 6, continues to delight us with her chatter. Recently while discussing the lack of forecasted snow, in an outraged tone she reflected that ‘weathermen are just MISCHEVIOUS, Mommy!” She has at long last started kindergarten. On the eve of her first day prayed “Dear God, THANK YOU THAT I AM FINALLY STARTING SCHOOL.” She will always be the sprite who surprises her parents daily.

The children firmly believes he plays all day, but Torbjorn continues in his job as Professional Services Director at Databasics (a software firm), and loves it. What he does not love is his commute: a solid 3 hours there and back, even avoiding the worst of traffic. This means many hours away from home, but as a tradeoff he is fully up to date on all manner of public radio trivia.

Kirsten is in charge of supervising the chaos at the yellow house, and nominally in charge of steering the wreckage in the right direction. With Annika’s birthday pending, she feels that maybe, just possibly, regaining her sanity might be an achievable goal for 2009. Watch this space for updates on what she will be when she grows up.
Speaking of watching this space, if you find yourself riveted by this letter, you’ll be delighted to find out that Nilsen Life is a semi-weekly thing: you can keep up with the latest and greatest on . We’d be delighted to have you along for the ride.

Tinkerbelle party

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

St Lucia

December 13 dawned bright and early, and found Mr Nilsen putting together a GORGEOUS breakfast tray for our St Lucia girl to carry to the grandparents in the guest bed downstairs. And (I'll just brag a little here) let's notice the very interesting baked goods: all a product of Torbjorn's creative hands on Friday evening. They are called 'lussekatter' [Lucia Cats] - saffron yeast buns with raisins. And yes, they ARE as delicious as they sound.

This year we had a very willing Star Boy. Maybe he was excited by a Star Wand that could possibly be a weapon if you squinted and tilted your head slightly to the left....

And how sweet, this year we got to add a Tern to the parade (with her very own baby star wand!) 'Tern' is the technical term for the rest of the girls behind the St Lucia Girl. Can't you tell what a funny girl she is?
She's getting very experienced at this whole 'bringing of light' palaver...

Annika & Cecilie sharing an insider candle joke.

Sieze the crown! Sieze the crown!

This is the way this rowdy crew rides...

Christmas Concert

Cecilie's school Christmas program was a very big deal, with 2 solid hours of performances. Luckily (and soooo wisely) they scheduled the Kindergarteners and 1st graders in the first half, and 'encouraged' parents to make a graceful exit if your kid wasn't in the second half. This meant Lars was able to attend the 'big kid' event (along with his well-packed activity bag). Grandma stayed home with a sick Annika.

The monastery of St Joseph's has a far too magnificent interior for our little 'point and shoot' to capture in any way close to dignified, so here are the intimate shots, of Lars listening (well, drawing...) intently

And the proud performer, after a successful rendition of "Away in a Manger" (w. sign interpretation) and "O Come Little Children."
It was a cold and blustery night, but my goodness, did the princess ever come prepared with a muff and everything. (There is no occasion that doesn't merit a real dress up effort!)
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Our annual pilgrimage

Early December means a pilgrimage to the Norwegian Bazaar at Union Station in Washington D.C for fresh waffles and all things norsk to make it a 'real' Christmas.. Cue Norwegian sweaters and apple-cheeked offspring, ready to embrace our heritage.
At least half the day's excitement is the trip on The Train (aka Metro). This was Annika's first Metro trip - she seems to take it in stride. After all, anything that means undivided attention from Daddy can't be a losing proposition.

She doesn't yet have an Official Sweater, but we think this beautiful handmade number from Farmor is even closer to the Real Deal.

This one is just a flashback to last year's photo - what IS the fascination with those water fountains?
Hilarious norske barn messing around on the platform waiting for our train.
Cecilie likes those mini skirts...

Cookie Party!!

We invited Kirsten's book club, with families, over for a cookie party/gift exchange. A holy mess was made (we were crunching green sprinkles underfoot for days), and a good time was had by all.

For the gift exchange, all the presents brought were given to a local charity, McKim Community Center in Baltimore, and what was heart warming was that the kids were actually very excited about THAT.
So excited in fact, they decided to not stop with the gift giving alone, they put on a programme, with a "short" speech on the subject by Cecilie, and interpretative dance
The boys took on the challenge and did some interpretation on their own - we present to you the "Funky Dance"....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snowball fight

Just don't think that we are anywhere near current here, this was at the beginning of the second week of December, we have had two Indian summer days (when temperatures reach 60F (15.5C), or more) since then...

Today it has been freezing cold all day long, but no snow is forecasted for the foreseeable future, so we're preparing for a brown Christmas, which can also be fun

This was also Annika's fist chance at playing in the snow, turns out it came natural to her - so there might be some Norwegian in her after all...
Group huddle - we are about to attack the photographer

Eying Cecilie's mini-snowman...;)

Homestead Gardens

We kicked off the holiday season with a visit to our first train garden early in December.

Annika is happy to be doing 'big kid' stuff.

And that includes driving the race cars with her big sister...
learning the finer points of an 'O' gauge railway...

And crawling away from Mommy at top speed...

The Gospel according to Lars

I love how when he's done, he's done

The Gospel according to Cecilie

After a full day of tryiong to upload directly to blogger I am giving up, this one is simply too big (I even had to cut her off at the end;), but click the link for an in-depth presentation of the christmas story

My favorite is the lisp, caused by a missing front tooth...


Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Gospel according to Annika

Santa Coming to Catonsville

Each year, in early December he arrives, by fire engine, I have never seen a bigger crowd so it is clear he has some pulling power that old St Nick
Too young to be scared witless, or maybe just waaay beyond her bedtime, this little lady took it in strides
We borrowed Betsy's shoulders for Lars (you know, she only has four kids of her own;) so all three got a good look at the goings on, including the firework...
...and they got to brush up to Santa, with chaperon, as he walked from the road down to his little house next to the fire station. Cecilie was quite excited as she ACTUALLY got to shake Santa's hand.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Yes we know, we're running behind, but this bird is here to serve as a segue to christmas, because as soon as the dishes are done it is time...
... to get the manger scene out as daintily as possibly...
...and find that perfect tree

Say hello to Sam

Never thought ourselves cat people, but after a fair few mouse droppings turned up and none of our 14 dozen mousetraps indicated any interest from the mice (real clever ones, they are, the mice at the yellow house, of course), Cecilie got a late birthday present and the Nilsens got the youngest member of the household:

Samuel is the name: no cutesy kitty monikers would do for Cecilie, whose biblical logic goes along the lines of: "Well, they are both orphans, kind of..."

Nilsenlife is overwhelming to anyone uninitiated: it took over 48 hours and a rodent trap (kid you not) to locate Samuel after we said good night to him the first night. Since then his every hiding place has been found by Lars who regularly goes searching with a maglite, CSI style. That the cat is still alive and only half a nervous wreck goes a long way to proving the whole 9 lives theory...

As it turns out, we are are braver and more loving that even we thought possible. The grown ups have come to love the little guy and at this point we do consider him "ours" and a fully integrated part of the family, litter box and all!

And one last thing -there have been no new mouse droppings spotted, nor the pitter patter of mice feet heard for a month, so we might possibly be on to a winner with the mother in-laws too!

Our Favorite Carol this Year

"Deck the hells with singing jerry.." [Lars' version]

"Jolly Rogers, heck of glory..." [Cecilie's version]

Both will consistently sing it 'their' way when we hum a few bars and ask them how that song goes again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Preparations

Cecilie in front of the tree
Cecilie toothless in front of the tree
At one of four train gardens of the season, with Ms Sullivan
The Nilsen kids at the mall
Annika's first ride on the merry go round
Our very own peppermint stick
How most of the month of December was spent...
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