Showing blog posts tagged with: summer

Gotland part 1

by Hilla Duka - View comments

dreamy gotland landscape

So upon the good news of No New Growth, we packed our bags and together with my dad, his wife, their dog and my brother headed to Gotland, where we had rented a house for the week. Eight people and a dog did mean some challenges, but now that I'm safely back in my comfy sofa editing photos, I will claim we had a great trip. The weather wasn't great, but that only meant we got to drive around and see some stuff rather than simply drive from beach to beach.

Jacob by the coast of east Gotland

Gotland is of course famous for its Raukar (I don't honestly know if there is an English word for them, but they are sort of formation made of chalk stone) so we made a point to go and see them whenever we could. And as I found out, my kids are very prone to climbing things (especially rocks) and throwing things (rocks, though smaller), which seemed a very suitable activity while amongst the raukar. Here Jacob is exploring the raukar in Ljugarn, the eastern part of Gotland.

Klintehamn harbour by sunset

 


Sunset at Klintehamn, Gotland

The house we rented, though not the little cottage in the woods I had envisioned was situated in Klintehamn, a small town not far from Visby (say maybe 30 minutes by car), with a cute harbor we could walk to at night and watch the sunset from. And it did have a trampoline, and that outdoors/ indoors indifference that is always so typical for houses and impossible to achieve in flats, so kids and dog were happy.

Milo in the backyard of our rented house in Klintehamn, Gotland

As we came in the middle of the so called Stockholm week (when brats from Stockholm invade even more heavily than the rest of the summer, partying pretty much 24/7 and generally just being load and unappologetic) we tried to stay clear of Visby. We went twice though, to pick up some groceries (wine. In the rest of the world wine is a grocery and something you can buy in the supermarket. In Sweden, you have to go to a specific, state controlled shop, and thre are like two of those in Gotland. One is in Visby.) I tried to sneak some pics of how beautiful the little city is (whilst avoiding capturing vomiting Stockholmers on camera). It really is insanely pretty, the soil in Gotland must be so good, wine and roses grow like crazy.

Milo and the roses of Visby, Gotland

Alley in Visby with lots of roses growing on the walls

 

How lovely? Though I feel bad for the people who live in these gorgeous little houses and have crazy tourists misbehaving in their gardens...

 

poppy growing by the side of the road

 

Then in our at this point rather desperate attempt to get away from drunk teenagers and my kids picking up new and inappropriate words from them, we packed up and headed to northern Gotland and Fårö - in my mind, the most stunning, breathtaking part of Gotland.

 

the kids in front of the raukar of east Gotland

 

Raukar there as well, and crystal clear water with fish swimming in it, even by the shore. 

 

swimming in Fårö, Gotland

 

Sudersand, with this amazing sand and long, shallow beach. Even though not warm, the kids were ecstatic.

 

Milo by the beach in Fårö, Gotland

 

And this little man, who's generally quite fearful in the water, could bathe and enjoy himself without worrying as even twenty metres in the water still only came to his waste.

 

Lauters, ruin and restaurant, Fårö Gotland

 

In Fårö we stopped (on our way to see the Fårö raukar, of course) at this little laid back ruin/ restaurant/ chillax place playing reggae music and offering hammocks for resting under the trees. This happened to be my Holiday Goal - lying in a hammock under the trees and feeling salty wind in my face, so naturally I made the most of this, regardless of the fact that the others were quite eager to continue. 


View from the hammock in Fårö, Gotland

 

In our cottage (that we're still very much hoping to buy at the end of the summer) we will have hammocks. Lots and lots of hammocks.

 

And now we're back home, making plans for the rest of the summer. We have almost another month off, which feels amazing and so very luxurious. Maybe we'll rent a little house in the woods last minute, just to really get the feeling? The whole family is quite set on buying a little summer home for ourselves now, but for financial reasons that might have to wait until after the summer, when the prices drop. Right now, the kids are happy enough back with their books, toys, and a stable wifi. I kind of feel the same.


All checked up and ready to go

by Hilla Duka - View comments

pink and yellow roses

So, on Friday I went, butterflies in tummy and all, to see my oncologist and find out the result of the last scan, and was very, VERY, relieved to hear there was no sign of new growth! The metastasis in my skeleton are still there, but nothing new is growing, so now we know that the hormone treatment is actually working for sure, until it stops working (which may sound dumb, but that’s actually how it works - they give you a drug, that keeps the growth at bay, and then at some point, you become immune to the drug, and bad things start to grow… and the real kicker is you have no clue as to how long until you become immune, could be months, could be years.)

 

My liver values on the blood tests where slightly worse, but according to the oncologist that’s explained by the fact that I am, as she put it, a bit on the rounder side, and - again her words - would probably not suffer if I shed a pound or two. Hear hear, doctor. The weight gain is one of the most bothersome bits of the cancer (aside from, you know, the not quite ignorable risk of dying). Aside from looks, it means getting around is heavier, and more difficult, and being physically active is one of the most important things in fighting this horror.

 

And as I raise my glass and say a silent, thankful prayer for good results, I look back on the three months since the last good news, and then ahead to what will hopefully be great news in three months (this is how I live my life now, nice and tidy compartmentalised boxes of three months) and I’m desperately, obsessively, thinking back on the time gone, the time to come: did I use it well enough, could I have been less stressed, raised my voice less with the kids, was I really present? I guess there’s no real answer there, but I’m happy that I’m asking the questions.

 

The three months to come will start to a trip to Gotland with the whole family, and I will make a massive effort to be present, create great, loving memories for the kids and for myself. We’ve actually made some efforts with the whole redecorating / create more space project, and I can’t wait to show it (but, you know, I will - wait I mean, because I’m going to what will hopefully be sunny Gotland right now)!

sunset in the city

Juggling the square metres

by Hilla Duka - View comments

some of my favourites at home - fifties lamp and old school poster in black

Love the combination of my fifties lamp and old school poster of wheat on black!

It started as we came home from Paris. Filled with inspiration and team-feeling we started trying to clean up the flat after 48 hours of baby sitting. And after about three hours of cleaning and the house not looking any bit better, we sat down for a much needed break, and emergency council. Why was this not working?

 

As I’ve mentioned before, for rather morbid reasons we’ve decided to stay in our tiny flat in the nice area. But with two adults, three quite grown children (not to mention three cats) and a house with an open door policy, it’s getting cramped, crowded and impossible to tidy. It’s not that we’re insanely messy as people, more like we have no place for a lot of things, and as a result, they simply move from one spot to another, and the house just never feels clean.

some of my favourites at home - brass lamp and dr westerlund flower

One of my darlings that I hope not to kill: an old brass lamp standing on some of my favourite books, and a dr westerlund flower from my grandmother (one of the only things I have from her), that smells amazing if you rub the leaves!

Also, we don’t have places for everyone in the living room, resulting in someone (Ilir) sitting on the floor (this is not as cruel as it sounds, as for strange reasons relating to his origin, he’s surprisingly fond of sitting on the floor, but still - I’d prefer having enough seating), and finding a spot to do homework is a nightmare.

 

Before I showed you our kids room solution with a triple bunk bed, and funnily enough those posts of the kids room are the most searched for and visited posts. Anyway, we’re pleased as punch with our kids room makeover, and so after a few futile attempts at quick fixes, we decided to treat the rest of the flat to the same makeover. Our goal for the summer is to make our two bedroom flat into a functional and beautiful home for five, where we’re often up to nine people. It sounds like close to impossible, but then again so did building a functional bed / playroom for three kids, but we managed that one, so I’m hopeful.

some of my favourites at home - snake plant and Ikea Stocksund sofa in dark gray

My favourite plant - a snake plant in a concrete flower pot - and new sofa, an IKEA Stocksund in dark gray (sooo comfy, but only fits three...)

There are no sacred cows here, no inside-the-box thinking allowed, and I’ll (try) to kill my darlings. I boost myself remembering how great the kids room turned out, but then I remember that this time it’s our bedroom, hallway, living room and kitchen. It’s figuring out spaces to eat, play, study, have alone-time and socialise with guests and family. That’s one tall order!

choosing the perfect greige wall colour

Trying to choose the perfect greige wall colour - can you see there are three different grays on that wall?

Anyway, I’m really chuffed we’re trying to stay in our flat, even if it might be a bit of a challenge finding solutions to all the different needs, but hopefully by the end of the summer we’ve made this work, and can start looking for summer houses as a reward! (That we in turn spend most of winter renovating...)


It's half full. It's bloody well always half full, it's just hard to see sometimes.

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Jonathan splashing around in the water

As spring was approaching we were asked how and when the kids would have annual leave from school, and were informed that Jonathan would not have any kind of day care all summer(up until now the kids have always had as much day care as I would need, but apparently a ten year old is perfectly capable of taking care of himself all day long...). At first I started to freak out and wonder what I was going to do with him all summer - How in gods name was this going to work??? And when I was good and properly stressed out and literally couldn't think straight I took a step back, and surrendered. This sounds quite insane, but I've learned to do this more and more (and I get better at it the more I meditate) - I simply give up trying to make something work out the way I on some level want it to, and just surrender it. I let things fall into place, and they might not arrange themselves the way I want them to, but things generally just work out, which is more than I can say for when I try to bend the world to my will.

All three kids playing in the water

Ok, slight side track there. The point was, I surrendered the nightmare of trying to puzzle together Jonathan's ten weeks off school with my annual leave and what we as a family wanted from the summer. And as soon as I did, I realised that of course I would take the ten weeks off work, because spending the summer with my kids was more important than anything. And it would work out, somehow, because it was the right thing to do. And as it happened, it did work out (partly because it was the right thing to do, and partly because I have an amazing boss and workplace). So now I'm rocking ten weeks of summer with my kids. Absolutely amazing.

Jonathan and Jacob playing in the water

Of course it takes me a while to get into holiday mode, but a few trips to the beach later I am now practically almost not thinking about work, and I don't check my work email more than once a day. Ok, I'm still working on accomplishing holiday mode, but I'm working on it from under a tree, where I'm watching the kids splash around in the water, which is a really good place to work on stuff. Or not work on stuff I mean.

Ilir and the kids roasting marshmallows

And what do I plan to do with this obscene amount of family time? Well, thank you for asking, I intend to take my not-so-little family around Sweden. Because we haven't had a car before, the kids haven't seen much of Sweden apart from where we live, and Ilir hasn't really been anywhere, so now we're going exploring. We're spending a week in Gotland, (which is where the majority of Stockholm goes during the summer so the boys should all feel perfectly at home), and are planning some shorter trips to the Stockholm archipelago, Dalarna and hopefully a day or two in Gothenburg (although we'll probably have to go by train since I doubt the boys will last that long in the car). I'm kind of showing them all how great Sweden can be during the summer, like some sort of Swedish guide. Also, I haven't given up on the idea of getting a summer house somewhere, so that might have something to do with why I've opted for renting cottages all over Sweden this year - I'm sneakily trying to win the rest of the family over to buying a house. Then once summer is over, and we all start reminiscing, it's autumn and the prices on summer houses drops, and bam! - the whole family is on board and we're buying a 150 year old cottage. Did I plan this in way too much detail? 

Milo by the seaside

 

Well, that's how it's going to go down, just as soon as I've had my next checkup (the result comes in in nine days, not that I'm counting or nervous or anything) and the doctor tells me it's all good. "All good, no sign of growth" is what I'm trying to envision her saying. Pleasepleaseplease, let that be what she'll say.

 

The way you worry about checkups as a cancer patient is insane. You worry up until them, you worry during all the tests, and you worry in the space between the tests and your visit with your oncologist, when they'll tell you the result. And then when they say it looks good, you only stop worrying for a little while, then you start all over again. You constantly try to judge how you feel. Are you more tired than normally? Do the metastasis hurt more than other days? Does it hurt in some new place? Is that ache in your back just from sitting in a meeting or is it a different kind of ache? And then you try to not become some hypochondriac... I haven't slept naturally since I found out about the cancer over a year ago - I take a sleeping pill and knock myself out so I don't dream, but if I did - I'd be having nightmares about the checkups.

summer flowers in a field

Anyway, the jury's kind of out on this checkup, I have no clue. On the one hand, I feel ok. That's partly because I recently took some cortisone which is like speed to my body, so for the past week or so I haven't had so much pain in my joints and I don't really walk like a ninety year old lady, but the effects are wearing off and slowly the stiffness returns. Partly, I hope, it's because I'm doing my physiotherapy religiously, and am slowly getting stronger again. On the other hand, I've really been under a lot of stress work wise lately, and haven't really felt like I had a good work / family / me balance. When you don't really know what makes one person stay in remission and another relapse, you start taking anything and everything into consideration. Have I taken my vitamins? Am I in a mindful state of mind? Exercising? I can so completely understand people who start believing in weird stuff going through this. Magic stones? Oh well thank you, why not. Anything that suggests answers, because the fact is that medicine offers no answers and that sucks. 


Weekend in Paris

by Hilla Duka - View comments

 

Ilir in Montmartre by sunset

As Ilir's birthday approached, I wracked my brain to come up with the perfect way to celebrate him. In the past I've tended to forget his birthday (it's June first, which honestly just sneaks up on you when you're busy with May, so really it's not my fault at all), but this year was different, for many reasons. Ilir turned forty, for one thing. I've never celebrated a fortieth birthday before, but I had a feeling it should be a big deal. So for the day, I kidnapped Ilir and took him for an afternoon off work and musts, while my mum and brother picked the kids up and let the caterers in (ordinarily Ilir does all the cooking for birthday dinners, and I wanted him to do no work for the day, hence the luxury of catering).

Catering buffet all set up on the kitchen table

As we toasted to him, the kids told him of our present: "You... And... Mum... Will... Go... To... PARIS!" And so we did. We took 48 hours just for our selves, and went to Paris. For me it was a sweet reunion with a city I love and haven't seen in years, for Ilir it was his first trip there. Paris is an amazing place, but you need to stay away from the touristy places, and at the same time, when you go for the first time you do want to see the sites, at least some. We settled for the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe together with a walk down Champs Elysee and the Jardin du Luxenbourg. Oh, and a walk to Sacre Coeur, to see the view of Paris from the top. We tried to not eat close to any of the sites, but had no choice but to sit down for a drink or two as it was really hot and I got tired. 

 

Monmortre by twilight

 

This was our first trip together, just the two of us, and it was amazing to have time together, to realise how much fun we have together.

 

bottle of red wine

 

Ilir normally doesn't drink much, and normally I don't mind, but it was actually so lovely to share a bottle of wine and just sit and chat for hours. Holiday mode accomplished.

 

flowers on a market place in Paris

 

Food market in Paris

We walked past this little impromptu food market, where Ilir got feeling and started raving about fresh ingredients and how you wouldn't find this in Sweden... I suppose he's right in a sense, but at the same time there must be outdoor food markets in Stockholm too, right? Let me know if you've got any tips for me!

Peak of Sacre Coer

 

Sacre Coer

 

Sacre Coeur is so impossibly beautiful, inside out, and the view from the top is breathtaking - I challenged myself to climb to the top, and we got there just as the sun was going down, lending soft, long rays of warm light to the scene. So beautiful.

 

Flower shop in Paris

 

Gorgeous little flower shops - like little pieces of heaven. Magical!

 

sunlight on a Paris street

 

Chasing the light down the picturesque but cute cobblestone streets in Montmartre.

 

The bridges of Paris

 

The next day we went walking by the Seine. We started by Pont Neuf, with no real plan whatsoever, except maybe get to the Jardin du Luxembourg - one of the prettiest parks in Paris.

 

Ilir looking at an olive tree by the Seine

 

Lovely flower shops with old olive trees and sweet smelling lavender filled the streets, neighbouring cold, boring pet shops sadly selling Chihuahua puppies...

 

furniture shop by the Seine in Paris

 

Past little interior decorating shops overlooking the river. I would seriously buy everything in this shop and never redecorate again!

 

Levender flowers by the Seine

 

The kids really wanted some pictures from the Eiffel Tower, and Ilir wanted to see it too, so we steered our steps towards the giant construction, making sure to stop by Jardin du Luxembourg first.

 

Ilir in Jardin du Luxembourgh

 

Palm trees, pools where children sail miniature boats and ordered rows of square shaped trees. Lovely and serene in the middle of the busiest part of Paris, even though it's filled with tourists.

 

The Eiffel Tower from afar

 

And then we continued on to the Eiffel Tower. It was a lovely, warm day, the sun shining and birds chirping, and we settled down on the grass before the giant construction.

 

Ilir in front of the Eiffel tower

 

Goofing around by the Eiffel Tower

 

The obligatory Eiffel Tower photos for the kids...

 

Me by a rose buch in Paris

 

Ilir tried his hand at photography, even though he decided my camera has too many settings...

 

roses by the Eiffel Tower

 

And after a final dinner (consisting of sadly boring food - France is great for ingredients, and if you settle for wine and cheese you eat little pieces of heaven, but the cooking is bland...) we went to prepare for an early start back, at this point missing the kids and thinking two nights away was probably the exact right amount! Two magic days in Paris - I'm so happy and thankful for it!

 

art deco restaurant in Paris


Weekend outings

by Hilla Duka - View comments

all my boys by the water

A few weeks ago, following one of Ilir's "I've lived in this country for years and I've still not {insert random experience}" rants, we packed the kids into the car, and headed out to Sigtuna, to go touristing. Being able to just go places as we wanted was one of the main reasons for buying the car, but we haven't really been around that much. Never mind all the romantic ideas I had of going to remote places at our leisure, enjoying hidden gems away from the city, the car is mainly used for transporting kids and groceries. So when Ilir and the kids wanted to go somewhere, I was easily persuaded. Plus, I figured, I could take the camera and get some nice pics of the kids!

Little boathouse in Sigtuna

As we drove there, I realised I hadn't been there before either. We'd planned on going there before Christmas, to see their Christmas market, but time just ran away. We came to a little cafe by the water, which Ilir had looked up and were supposed to serve great waffles. Only the kids didn't want waffles, they wanted ice cream. And I didn't want waffles, I wanted a glass of wine. So Ilir grudgingly ordered one waffle, three ice creams and a glass of wine, all the while mumbling about what a difficult family we made up.

Milo eating ice cream by the water in Sigtuna

 

Jonathan having ice cream by the water in Sigtuna

And for the first time in his life, Jonathan actually couldn't finish his ice cream. He left it on the table where it was soon consumed by this fearless buggers:

fearless birds at the cafe

 

Jacob enjoying an ice cream in the sun

 

After our little fika we went exploring, me with camera in hand, of course. The kids found a tree, and were uncharacteristically happy climbing in it.

 

Jacob and Milo climbing in a tree

Milo posing on a tree branch

All three boys climbing a tree

They were not thrilled as we tried to coax them to leave their tree and go exploring the little town, but eventually let us persuade them as we started mentioning an old ruin, quite possibly haunted and very old.

Milo with a map to the ruin in Sigtuna

Milo found a map, and the kids started finding their way to the ruin. As none of us really knew where to go, it was quite fun to task the youngest member of our family with the important job of finding our way. He took it most seriously too.

The kids following the map to find the ruin in Sigtuna

No, this wasn't it. It was however a spot where the kids read "Jaguar" on one of the cars, and decided to consult the map to see if there was a zoo nearby.

Exploring quaint little houses in Sigtuna

Both the kids and Ilir fell a bit in love with the cute houses on the way, and eventually forgot about finding old ruins.

 

By the time we found the ruin, I was too tired to go exploring, and the kids had kind of lost their interest and wanted to go play football instead.

views of Sigtuna in the spring

After playing with the ball for a while we decided on a second fika. Partly because I was tired and the kids needed something to eat and partly because, well - why not?

Jacob having fika

Jonathan enjoying a homemade strawberry drink

And then, the kids high on sugary drinks and sweets and us equally pumped full of caffeine, we headed back to the car, happy and tired.

Ilir happy in the sun


Dreaming away

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Dream-holiday

When the worries and fears of the next checkup, or just of life as it is these days, threaten to overtake me, I have a new weapon. I dream myself away. To after the doctor’s appointment, when she’ll have given me the news that I’m doing fantastically, that the results are better than they had dared to hope for. To a holiday in the sun, playing with the kids. The more real the worry, the more real I make the dream.

 

Yesterday it was time for the half time checkup I’ve been dreading and hoping for for months now. The checkup itself was done quickly and more or less painlessly (they just insert a needle and at one point give you contrast fluid through that), just lying down and then you get moved back and forth through a huge machine with a round hole. The day before that was the blood sample which will tell me if my all-time high of 112 was a fluke, or if my body really is producing blood on its own again (which would mean the cancer cells in my bone marrow are fewer), and tomorrow its time for another mammogram. And for all I’m willing my body to have done well, there really isn’t anything more to do but wait for the results.

 

So, I start dreaming away, to a holiday in the sun with my family. My lovely friend Heidi started a fund-raising when I got diagnosed, to send me away on a dream holiday. The fund-raising went through the roof, and it means I will get to take the kids on their first holiday in years.  I’ve some red tape to get through first, like getting OK to going on holiday while I’m still on sick-leave (Sweden has loads of rules on stuff like that), but my oncologist cleared me for travelling, just to go somewhere “safe and practical” as she phrased it.

 

So now I’m looking at holidays - the kind of chartered ones with preferably all-inclusive and pools and beach just around the corner. The kind I never would have looked at before having kids, and that always seemed too expensive or over-the-top once I did. This summer, I think, in the end turned out to be a good one for the kids. Thanks to the car we could go to fun places we didn’t really go to before, and all of us, Ilir, my brother and my dad, made an effort to take them out as much as possible, so that they could go swimming, or go to the really fun park across town. But we couldn’t go away, at that point. Everything about the diagnose was still so new, so raw, so dangerous. The year before that I had time off in the summer, but no money to take them anywhere, and the year before that I worked all summer, so they’ve really waited long enough for this. We all need this, I think. For one week, just to get away from it all, the morning stress and the homework that needs to be done and the constant, constant worrying…

 

Now, when I start to worry about the result and what it will show and I realise that it’s just one of those improductive worries, I start to think about our holiday instead. I know we will have an amazing time once we get there, and for that I’m so very, very grateful. But even before that, just now, it’s doing me a world of good to just have this to dream away to, as a counteract to those worries that will just lead me nowhere. I just start dreaming away to a place where I’m lying by the pool sipping goldfish-bowl-sized drinks and watching the kids splash around in the water. This trip will be another thing that I hope they can remember for the rest of their lives, something we did together as a family.

 

I’m so, so grateful to everyone who helped the fundraising become such a success. Thank you so much, for caring, sharing, contributing. And a massive thank you to Heidi, who as always knows how to make stuff happen!

The image above is borrowed from fritidsresor