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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Oslo, Norway with Kids

Hi everybody! We're back from our travels and I'm finally able to summarize and re-live some of our favorite memories from Oslo as I sit here with a sick and feverish Maren next to me. This year's international travel was one of our longest trips to date at over 3 weeks long, and I have so many pictures to look back through. I'm always looking to others posts about where they've traveled to and what they recommend doing there, so I like to do the same. You can see some of my previous posts about travel with kids to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Helsinki linked here.

We arrived in Oslo on a Wednesday afternoon, a short skip and hop over from Helsinki where we had been the previous 2+ weeks. Why all these Scandinavian, Nordic cities, you ask? Because they're so dang easy (relatively) to navigate with kids. Ours were 8, 6, and 2 this time, and we're just not up for the overwhelming Romes, Barcelonas, or Parises of the world with our trio quite yet. We took a train from the airport directly to city center and walked to our hotel from there--a quick 10 minutes if you're not dragging copious amounts of luggage behind you like Matt was. I'd highly recommend Hotell Bondeheimen for accommodation. For about $230 a night, we had the ENTIRE TOP FLOOR of the hotel, including a balcony, and some of the most delicious breakfast food included (including every kind of smoked or baked salmon under the sun) to feed our family of 5. A huge bonus in an otherwise very pricey city. The location was central and we could walk to nearly everywhere we wanted to go.

After settling in, we decided to jump on a tram to the Vigeland Sculpture Park--unique and weird, for sure, featuring 212 sculptures of naked humans that REALLY got the boys giggling and yelling "butt" and "balls" about every 5 seconds. So much for culture, but otherwise, a truly beautiful walk on the most gorgeous, sunshine filled day. Right inside the park is Frogner playground which was absolutely enormous and got out the travel day wiggles from all 3. They played, played, played, until it was time to head back and figure out dinner, which we ended up eating in Aker Brygge right on the water. The views are unbeatable, and restaurants on the water all have blankets for guests to use as the evenings on the water tend to get chillier. We finally headed back to our hotel rest up and figure out our Thursday agenda.





The next day, we set out to find Europe's best cup of coffee at Tim Wendelboe, a coffee house credited for starting the coffee craze across all of Scandinavia. We stumbled across the coolest, modern playground next to a waterfall in the middle of the city on our way, which the kids STILL say was their favorite part of the trip. On this note, playgrounds are frequent, abundant, all all so unique across the entire city. They are everywhere, making walking throughout the city with kids a breeze with a playground bribe just around every corner. Tim Wendelboe was the experience I had imagined it would be, with cold brew served in a wine glass and our initial thoughts of a take-away or to-go mug quickly squashed to death. This was an *EXPERIENCE*, with every drop meant to be savored. 





Afterwards, we grabbed a quick lunch and went to watch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace, which happens every day at 1:30pm. The kids were way more intrigued by The Princess Ingrid Alexandra Sculpture Park, which contains sculptures by--and for--children. The sculpture park was established between 2016 and 2019 as the result of a nationwide competition among 5th and 6th graders, and you're able to see the drawn up submission as well as the sculpture that was brought to life as a result. August, our artist at heart, gulped it all up.


To cap off the day, we headed to Oslo's opera house, near the top of every tourist guide. This architectural masterpiece allows you to climb up the side of the building to the roof, where you're able to catch some beautiful 360 views of the city. The kids had a blast climbing and riding make shift slides down the outside of the opera house.  The views were stunning and a reminder of how Scandinavia does summer. It seemed like the whole city was out on the small beach that the opera overlooked, sun bathing, sailing, and paddle boarding. We finally wandered over to Operastranda for dinner where they have a big line up of food stands. The kids ate a pizza while we had the best fresh fish and chips of our lives as we sat and soaked up the sun. We ended the day with ice cream and the prettiest playground overlooking the sea (duh).








The next day was my BIRTHDAY (!!!) and we did it right. A must-do in Oslo is sailing the fjords, so sail the fjords we did. A little lesson on glaciers and how the water inlets were formed really peaked Oskar's interest, and it truly was fascinating, and SO BEAUTIFUL, to sail through them all. We were about ready to sell all of our things and to live in one of the cabins by the sea forever by the end of it until we learned their price tags. 





We then made our way to Oslo's most famous shopping street, Karl Johan, where I picked up a Norwegian must-have as a birthday gift to myself: a Helly Hansen sweatshirt that's waiting to be worn once our roasting Pittsburgh summer comes to an end. I also wanted to take a stroll to Damstredet--a charming and picturesque part of central Oslo with well-preserved wooden houses from the late 1700s and the 1800s. These are the colorful houses you think of when you think of Norway. We found a famous food hall called Mathallen, where you can find produce, fish, meat, and any kind of lunch option you can think up, but we, of course, ended up with gelato. We took that gelato and walked a scenic walk to Aker Brygge for dinner, probably the prettiest part of the entire city, and ate all the birthday salmon as a night cap.

The next and final day we ventured by train to Frederikstad, which is truly like going back in time. The ride was just over an hour, making it manageable back and forth to Oslo in a day. The old city is just spilling over with charm, full of wooden buildings, quaint shops, playgrounds, and outdoor restaurants. We walked and shopped, played at a playground with roaming GOATS, and sipped some ice cold Ringnes on a cobble stone street. Highly recommend. After getting back to Oslo, we squeezed in a trip to the Munch museum. It's huge, and we could have spent hours there, but with 3 already tired kids we spent about just about 90 minutes. Enough to soak in some of his most famous works, including The Scream. The kids found yet another too-good-to-pass-up playground next to a Poke bowl restaurant, so that was pretty win-win and we all ended the night on a really happy note.








Overall, I think we could have used just one more day in Oslo, as I would have loved to go to the open air museum and to have done some island hopping by ferry. The city really was a perfect one with kids, and the weather showed up for us 100%. Everyone told me to enjoy my notoriously rainy time in Norway, but not a drop was to be found while we were there. This said, if you go, make sure you pack ponchos and rain gear just in case. Next on our lists: Bergen, Norway, which looks like an absolute dream. I wanted Maren to be a little bit older and out of a stroller so we can tackle the mountains and fjords without one. Until then. 

If you're planning any travel and have any other questions about the city, shoot me a message on Instagram @thelaurablog1 and I'll get back to you! Sometimes it's easiest to talk to someone who's been there, and I think we got a really good feel for everything that Oslo holds. Ha det, for now, Norway. We will definitely see you soon!


Friday, July 1, 2022

My favorite Amazon finds for Summer

Happy Friday and long weekend ahead! I rounded up some of my recent favorite Amazon orders for summer. My favorite finds are the exfoliating mitt (never realized what a difference one could make), the lavender nail polish, and the lip mask that I wear every night. If you're looking to keep that summer glow going, I've got you covered!

1. Exfoliating Glove

2. Loose Powder

3. Tinted Moisturizer + SPF

4. Moroccan Oil Lotion

5. Lavender Nail Polish

6. Moisturizing Lip Balm

7. Lip Mask

8. Hair Mask

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Oskar Turns Eight

Dear Oskar,

Today, you are eight. EIGHT. Growing bigger, older, and more mature every single day, and I feel like our time together and our conversations are bigger, older, and more mature too. What an incredible year of growth you’ve had this year. The pride we feel in getting a front row seat to you navigating your way through these childhood years is something only a mother could dream.

You’ve had a wonderful school year and have surrounded yourself with so many friends. You started off the year having to wear a mask due to the pandemic but were able to stop wearing one in February, also after being fully vaccinated. What a rollercoaster of a few years we’ve had, but I finally feel the worry lessening and a normal childhood returning. The way we’ve filled our home with a bunch of boys time and again really speaks to how much everybody just adores you. This is also evident any time we go anywhere because somebody always knows you and wants to talk to you. Kindness and empathy, first, always, which you’ve exuded over and above and made such a wonderful tribe of friends to navigate elementary school with. Academically, you’ve succeeded again beyond our wildest dreams, skipping an entire academic year in math and still finishing with a 99.2%. Every other subject was mastered, too, resulting in a gifted IEP and discussions about how to keep your curious and brilliant mind challenged. You’re hardest on yourself and persist until you excel. There are seriously great things ahead for you, I just know it.




Another year older and still up at 6am every single day. You tiptoe downstairs and start your day with Netflix or Nintendo, waiting for the rest of the household and world to wake up. You look so much older than you did last year, with your adult teeth all growing in and wiggly or missing teeth finally slowing down. You’re so long and lean—so long, in fact, that we all call you Oskar-long-legs because they’re always either folded up underneath you or splayed out on someone else’s chair or lap. It’s those long legs and your phenomenal speed that have made you a soccer super-star this year, scoring goal after goal and dominating every game. We absolutely love to watch you play. You’ve gained so much confidence and have been surrounded by a team of your very best friends, and I know these soccer years will go down as core memories from childhood. Big hugs after a buzzer beater to win the game or lifting up teammates when they make a big play—you’ll remember it all. You just had try-outs for a travel team, and you played your heart out to make it.

Your perfectionism has really made you a good athlete all around, and you started golf and continued karate this year, too. Needless to say, our weeknights are busy, and it feels like a tornado to get everyone’s homework done, dinner on the table, activities attended, baths/showers checked off, and off to bed. You’ve been reading Harry Potter with your dad and lots of different chapter books with me. We finished “Danny Champion of the World” and “The Witches” this year, both of which turned out to be favorites of us both. You still have your 8 yellow bunnies, the Hoppies, and line them up on your pillow and kiss them goodnight. When that comes to an end my heart will probably shatter, so please don’t ever stop.

You love scary books, Minecraft, swimming, learning about North Korea, and Green Day. Quite the eclectic little soul.

Your relationship with August is also growing, changing, and evolving, and is less imaginative play now than it is physical—playing outside, swimming, wrestling—or then, coming together for favorite shows or movies, or to play a Nintendo game together. I love that you’re in back-to-back grades because your friends have become joint ones. Seeing you get on the bus together or playing with friends together at playgrounds or at our house reconfirms what I’ve known all along: you’re best friends. And as for Maren, she’s the boss in this house and we all know it. She loves nothing more than her brothers, and watching you take care of her or make her laugh is a dream. She’s also inherited your early waking hours, and watching you two snuggle up on the couch in the mornings gets me every time.


You wished for drums for your birthday and got a set so that you could start a band with August called The Rockers. You’ll start lessons later this year, another thing I know you’ll be amazing at due to your math-mindedness. Otherwise, we’re celebrating you with a big group of all of your very best friends, swimming and eating pizza, and then heading off to Finland and Norway on the day of your actual birthday. This will be your 7th international trip, and I’m still so proud that we’ve made this work as a family of 5. We went just 6 months ago right after Christmas, so you'll get to live the winter and summer in Scandinavia within just a handful of months of each other. It’s not easy, and it’s not a vacation as much as it is an adventure, but in the end it’s always worth it.



There are no words for how much we love you and how proud we are of you, Oskar. We’re navigating the way right along side of you, and you make it so darn easy. To my insightful, inquisitive, introspective, deep thinking, analytical, blue-eyed baby boy: happy, happy birthday. You’re my favorite big kid in the whole wide world.


Love,

Mama

Monday, May 2, 2022

My International Travel Carry-On Essentials with Kids

Hi Friends! It's MAY. How, I do not know, but here we are, in the middle of spring, but also just a few days out from the last snow and hail storm that came our way unseasonably late. We are so, so ready for some sunshine, and as some of you know, we're heading out to Finland and Norway for the month of June. We'll be celebrating my sister's wedding in Finland (!!!), and then heading over to Oslo, Lillehammer, and the REAL Arendal in Norway before heading back home. Nothing beats a Scandinavian summer, and I'm already planning, pulling things aside, and starting to get my carry-on ready since I'll be flying with all three kids. I have a handy checklist that I previously made, here, that I'll refer back to, but also wanted to share my absolute 100% must-have items that we wouldn't survive without when on the plane together. New to the line up is my Thule bag, a Mother's Day gift to me that I've been wishing for. It's absolutely perfect for a carry-on and fits EVERYTHING, but also comes with a small detachable day-pack that can be used as a diaper bag once you reach your destination. 10/10 recommend.
Bag: As mentioned above. The VIP in this whole round-up.

Adapter: Always make sure you have your phone charger and a travel adapter in your carry-on in case luggage gets lost! 

Water Bottle: This one is the perfect leak-proof water bottle that comes with a straw for my kids to drink from without spilling all over themselves. We've had good luck with security, who are generally flexible about me bringing liquids through when traveling with small kids.

Clorox Wipes: Self explanatory, but very necessary to wipe down windows, arm rests and tray tables upon boarding. I also buy travel hand sanitizers and clip one to each of the bookbags that the bigger kids carry themselves.

Battery Bank: We've experienced being stranded on the tarmac for over 4 hours before take off, and the kids' tablets were already starting to run low on battery. This bank allows all kinds of electronic devices to be plugged into it to charge while you fly.

Cozy Socks: A must have for all of us! We love to put our cozy socks on when we fly because the airplane is always freezing cold.

Passport Wallet: A necessity to fit 5 of our passports in at once while still keeping them organized. Also fits all of your money and credit cards.

Neck Pillow: I thought I had tried them all, but then my mother-in-law got me this one. Incredibly comfortable and necessary for me to TRY to rest a little bit on our red-eye over the Atlantic. 

Travel Tylenol: Important for adults + kids in case of somebody not feeling well during the extremely long travel day. We also pack kids' Melatonin for the overnight flight for them to get a little bit of sleep.

Wet Bags: Do not skip these. A change of clothes for everyone, packed in a wet bag, is a MUST. We've been burned before!

Tablet: Sure, we pack books, games, and cards, but the ultimate holy-grail are these tablets that keep them entertained the longest.

Now tell me, is there anything I'm forgetting? Are you traveling with kids this summer? I'd love to hear all about your adventures too!

Monday, April 4, 2022

New Guest Bath, who dis.

Another post! As Oskar would say, "Who even am I?" I'm excited to share our renovated bathroom with you because 1) I love it, and 2) It will likely never be this clean again. This project went hand-in-hand with our downstairs mudroom project, here, because our laundry room used to be where we expanded our entry way and installed cabinetry for additional storage. So, we had to find a new home for our washer and dryer, and what better place than in an oversized guest bathroom located on our second floor? No more hauling laundry up and down stairs was an added bonus that I could absolutely get behind. The concept of laundry in a bathroom is a very European one and I'm all about it. The kids come home, throw their school clothes into the washing machine and wash their hands in one fell swoop. Or, when they jump in the shower at the end of the day, their clothes get tossed right in. We still had plenty of room for a vanity, even with the added laundry space, though smaller than before. Plus, we added an oversized tub that everybody loves. 

First, some "before" pictures of our early 80s bathroom that hadn't been touched since the house was built.




And now, the after! So much lighter, brighter, and more functional. The built in washer and dryer are the real MVPs, with so much countertop space for folding and sorting (within 7 business days). We really love it, and hope you do too! Sources for anything I could link, below!






Rug

 
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