Monday, December 31, 2007

Sick Leave

My apologies for not checking in sooner.

I've been sick. Very sick. Sicker than sick. Miserable, awful, dreadful sick.

I admit it. I didn't give any of you much of any thought at all in the midst of my malaise. Except my mommy. I thought a lot about her. Where was she? Didn't she care how wretchedly I suffered? Didn't she love me anymore? Why doesn't she come? Why am I ALL ALONE? MOOOOOMMMMMMEEEEEEE!!!!!!

The terrible head cold that I had going into Christmas Eve turned into a general infection of nearly everything: ears, nose, chest, throat, mind, and spirit. I swear to God, I didn't know my face could hurt that bad and not explode. It just didn't seem physiologically possible.

Anyway, this is my 4th day of antibiotics, and I'm feeling better. Not ready to run a marathon better, but willing to brush my teeth and put some clean underwear on better. It's a start.

Mister gathered up the kids and took them off to his mother's on Friday. I've been convalescing alone since then. I watched both seasons 1 and 2 of Grey's Anatomy in their entirty in just three days. It was a little much, I must admit, even for me. I couldn't even bring myself to cry when Denny died. Am I the only one who thinks it's a little implausible that Izzy didn't do any jail time for what she did, let alone that she was eventually allowed to practice medicine again? It's just silly. Honestly.


Apparently I'm still a little weak and distracted. I can't seem to pull coherent thoughts together. And my ears don't work properly. Makes me feel a little clausterphobic, actually. I still want my mommy. And the antibiotics have fucked up my stomach. Soon they will fuck up my cooter....and not in the good way......(that one was for you Dad, try not to visualize)

I have to go. A taxi is picking me up in an hour to take me to the ferry. I'm going to Rosendal to spend New Year's with my family.

I have a thing for ferry boats.

No I don't.

But I know a guy who does......

Happy New Year's everyone. Hope you all feel better than I do.

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's After 12 Noon On Christmas Eve. Can I Start Drinking Yet?

Seriously, it's darker than dark out there today. Forecast is for full storm (a term which looks like English, but is in fact full-blooded Norwegian and means 'mini-sort-of-hurricane-thingy-during-which-it-will-be-dark-and-windy-and-generally-miserable-out'). So once again all our dreams of a white Christmas have been crushed and broken on account of pissing rain. How utterly predictable. Enjoy your snow American family. You have no idea how lucky you are.

I don't have much to say. Just wanted to wish everyone a merry Christmas. Hope you all have a wonderful couple of days.

Personally I'm having a bit of a hard time getting into the spirit this year. In addition to the wretched weather, I've got a terrible head cold and have been temporarily robbed of all sense of taste and smell. It's weird and more than a little disconcerting to have a mouthful of say coffee or pepperkake, and know full well what these things should taste like, and yet have only the sensation of warm water or gritty mush in my mouth. Makes it hard to get excited about all the cooking I'm about to do when I know I'm not going to be able to taste anything at the end of it.


On the other hand, the kids are happy and healthy, and perfectly delighted with everything. Boy thinks he hears sleigh bells everywhere. Missy won't leave the ornaments on the tree alone. And Elder Miss has her pretty party dress all laid out on her bed and keeps caressing it lovingly. They haven't much noticed the weather, and they could care less about how moist the turkey may or may not turn out. This is their night, and they can hardly wait for all the fun to start.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The True Meaning Of Christmas

There is a song; a carol, actually; a Christmas carol, to be absolutely precise, called “Et Barn Er Født I Betlehem". I thought it was a uniquely Norwegian piece, but a quick search on iTunes revealed versions in several Nordic languages, including an attempt in English by one Garrison Keillor. So 'Scandinavian', I think, is as narrow a label as we can put on it.

Whatever its origins, it’s fairly awful. So don’t feel too bad about having never heard of it before.

A child is born in Bethlehem
In Bethlehem
In Bethlehem
Something about rejoicing Jerusalem

I see no point in attempting a full translation. A good quarter of the words are archaic enough that they don’t make any sense to me anyway. Suffice it to say, it goes on and on about virgins, cribs, visitors from the East, something about a star, and blahdy blahdy blah for about 10 verses, each verse ending in a paradoxically mournful “hall-ehhh-luuu-jahhhhhh”.

So it’s your fairly standard Christian carol. Fair enough. God knows I love a good carol. Only this one is so mind-numbingly plodding and slow, with none of the soaring beauty of say “O Holy Night”, or the gentle lullaby hush of “Away in a Manger”, that it's damn near impossible to endure, let alone love. Nothing but lackluster and dull. Honestly, I can’t say enough about how much I hate this song.

Did I mention my kids know it? Would you believe me if I told you they like it, and sing it often?

Monday morning I’m in the kitchen making lunches for the smaller two before I send them off to barnehage. Elder Miss has long since left for school on the bus. Boy is sitting at the table rifling for the two thousand and first time through the Toys R’ Us Christmas catalog. Missy the Younger is sitting next to him, happily coloring in her Hello Kitty coloring book, mindlessly humming something decidedly atonal (thank you Grandma Gae). All is relatively quiet and peaceful. My mind has drifted past Christmas, past New Year’s, side-stepped January and February altogether, and is mulling over possible ways to wrangle together enough money to buy Mister the kayak he so desperately wants for his 40th birthday in March. Suddenly, Boy lets out a great, jubilant gasp. His chair, which he’s been teasing out on its back two legs whilst he browses, falls heavily forward and lands on all fours with a loud thud. He triumphantly plants a finger in the middle of the page he’s been looking at as if he’s just now, right here in this very spot, located the precise center and meaning of the entire universe, “Missy! Missy! Looklooklook! Et barn er født i Betlehem Right! Here! In the magazine!” And with out further ado, he launches into the song.

Missy, whose attention was caught with Boy’s gleeful snort of discovery, has dropped her crayon, leaned over the table to get a closer look, and is now droning a long, slow accompaniment to Boy’s song, “Hall-ehhhh-luuuu-jahhhhh, halllll-eh-luuuuuuu-jah, hall-ehhhhh-lu-jahhhh, hallelujahhallelujahhalleluuuuu-jahhhhh….”

Both continue to stare in transfixed wonder at the image on the page as they sing on and on…and on.

I had told the kids when we got them that these catalogues were sent out by Santa as a sort of preview of what his elves are working on. “These are the things you can choose from this year,” I said, “Santa says this is what’s available.” And I’ve flipped through them half a dozen times or so time myself. So I know, in that extra-special, extra-sensory way that mothers just know these things, that this is the item that has got Boy so excited.

I know they have a small Nativity set up at the pre-school. Since I’ve spent exactly zero time explaining the whole birth-of-Jesus, true-meaning-of-Christmas thing to my kids, I assume it’s the teachers at the school who have either used the Nativity to explain the song, or the song to explain the Nativity to them. Either way, I think it’s mildly interesting that the song and a random picture are so closely linked in their minds. It’s like one is the other to them. And I’m pondering this curiosity when Boy abruptly stops singing mid-verse to ask, “But Mom, why would Santa’s elves make a toy Jesus? Is it even allowed to play with the baby Jesus?”

What do you say to that? How do you even begin to answer that question? It’s a fantasy, wrapped inside a myth, cloaked in commercialism so profane it’s almost sacred. But how to you tell that to a 5 year old?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bad Santa

You’ll all be happy to know that the same crap-ass vagrant that was staggering around the Christmas tree farm posing as Santa last year was there again this year.

EM and Boy were still too chicken to knock on the door of his little shack, so naturally they sent Missy. She marched right to the front of the queue (which, to be fair, was little more that a loosely assembled group of 2 or 3 other families with parents trying to coax their equally timid children into knocking on the door) and demanded an immediate audience, which she was granted forthwith. Her newly emboldened siblings climbed shamelessly onto her coattails, and followed her in, as did her dorky parents.

So there we stand—the entire family—in a dimly lit, dusty hovel, before a shaggy bum of questionable sobriety who, in turn, is seated behind a wobbly, makeshift desk. Christmas in Norway folks. Ain’t it a gas! Our host wastes no time in fixing his rheumy eyes on Missy—my precious baby angel—and asks, “Well now. And what might your name be?”

Suddenly shy, Missy bows her head and mumbles, “Mithy.”

“Eh! What’s that now?” His gaze darts from me, back to Missy, then over to EM, “Whudd’ she say?” he barks thickly.

“Missy. She’s Missy,” EM answers. Like DUH-UH.

“Missy. Riiiight.” He picks up his greasy quill and carefully writes her name in the large ledger lying open in front of him. M-I-S-S-Y. “And where does Missy live then?” He directs this question at EM whose shyness apparently only applies to knocking on doors; grizzly old geezers she’s all bright shiny sunshine for.

EM doesn’t miss a beat as she mechanically recites the address that she’s only recently memorized. My grip tightens a little over Missy’s hand as I watch this shoddy, second-rate Santa write our address next to her name, and I wonder, “Um, is this such a good idea?” Too late.

EM has even kindly corrected him where he’s written a 3 where there should have been a 4 for our house number. Then he asks, “How old is Missy?”


“Very good,” he mutters, as he scrawls a 3 in the age column, “Now,” turning back to Little Miss, “What would Missy like for Christmas?”

Silence. Apparently, not even EM has the answer to this one. The silence drags on as we all look at each other and shrug. Boy pokes Missy in the cheek. Missy sticks two fingers in her mouth.

“Humph,” grumbles the old man, “How ‘bout I just surprise you then?” he says, and writes the word ‘present’ in the last column. “Best to put a little reminder here see. Just so I know you’ve been good. Heh heh heh. Right. Next?” He shifts his attention over to Boy, “And what’s your name?”


“You live with your sister?”


“And how old are you this year?”

Santa’s hand trembles a little as he writes the 5, and I think if he asks if he’d like to sit on his lap we’ll just run. I’ll grab the book, and we’ll just run.

“So then. Do you know what you’d like for Christmas?”

Boy thinks for a minute, steals a quick glance at his dad for a bit of encouragement I suppose, then says quietly, but clearly, “An X-Wing Fighter.”

“I’m sorry?” Santa leans forward, “What was that?”

“An X-Wing Fighter,” Boy says again, louder this time.

Santa looks up at Mister with a blank, Dude help-me-out-here kind of look.

“X. Wing. Fighter.” Mister says slowly, “It’s from Star Wars.”

“Star Wars. Riiiiight.” He mutters something droll about santas needing to take an English course to do the job these days while he’s doing his best to spell ‘fighter’ in his ledger. From where I stand, it looks something more like ‘feiter’, but I let it go.

“And finally we come to big sister,” says Santa, sitting up straight again, confident that the articulate, intelligent young lady who’d just been so helpful with that address business wouldn’t have anymore surprises for him, “What’s this pretty lady’s name?”

She spells it for him, then adds helpfully, “I’m 7 years old.”

“Of course you are. A very big girl, indeed. Ho ho hoooo!”

And again I’m thinking: grab the book, run, grab the book, run, grab the book, run….

“Do you know what you’d like for Christmas?” he asks with what I think is meant to be a jolly wink and a grin, but succeeds in being little more than a drunken leer.

EM takes a deep breath, then lets it rip, “ALittlestPetShopRoundAndRoundPetTownPlaySet,”

Everyone blinks.

Santa grunts, “Eh?”

EM takes another deep breath, “ALittlestPetShopRoundAndRoundPetTownPlaySet,” then, ever helpful and eager to please, she adds, “Like on TV.”

Santa looks to Mister and I for help, but we can’t stop laughing.

“Say it again EM. Say it again!”

So she does, “LittlestPetShopRoundAndRoundPetTownPlaySet.”

And we laugh again. Harder this time.

I don’t know what he eventually wrote in his book. He might have settled on just “pet shop”, but I’m not sure. Doesn’t really matter, as I later explained to the kids. Clearly that skinny, rumpled degenerate was not Santa. He was just one of Santa’s many Norwegian helpers come to make sure there aren’t any last minute changes to be made to the master list. And a good thing too. As I know for a fact that Santa had indeed set aside one brand spanking new LittlestPetShopRoundAndRoundPetTownPlaySet with our address on it. Only trouble is, he had put Missy’s name on it. Elder Miss was only supposed to get the pretty pink Nintendo DS.

What to do? What to do?

Santa went shopping again. And Elder Miss is, without question, the most spoiled child on the entire planet. But clearly with good reason.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I'm already regretting having suggested this Christmas picture deal. It's not like I'm a good enough photographer to pull it off with any sort of panache. But I wanted to show this one off anyway. It's the kids' advent calendar. I bought the 24 velvet bags from IKEA last year, spent Friday night filling them and sewing the gold ornaments on, and am ever so pleased with the results now. I make them share one calendar--a crime of parsimony so despicable my sisters-in-law are still talking about it like I cancelled Christmas altogether--so each kid gets to open a bag every third day and will receive 8 presents total. That's more than enough, if you ask me. And EM has only spent 10 or 12 hours total whining about it since Saturday, so I think she's coming around to the idea too. Especially since she realized that she gets to open the last present on Christmas Eve this year. Shhhhh! It's a red watch with slutty silver studs on the arm band. She's going to love it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

This Is All Well And Good, But Where's My Lawn Chair And The Cooler Full Of Shasta?

The city of Bergen does this quaint little thing every year on the 1st of December. All its good citizens make a collective decision to ignore the pissing rain, the perpetually falling dark and oppressive gloom, to throw a great, big, lighting-of-the-lights party in the center of town. Lysefestivalen they call it—The Light Festival. Clever, isn’t it?

Mister and I have never been. Mostly because we’re both about 87 years old at heart, and frankly, we worry that we can’t handle that much festive good cheer, but also because it sounds like a lot of work, what with all the layering of the clothes, and the finding of the gloves and the hats, and the dragging of reluctant toddlers through crowded city streets. And Christ, what if one of them has to pee in the middle of it all? A logistical nightmare best left untried.

But the kids are getting older, more mobile, increasingly continent. And with EM in school now, she hears about these things, and isn’t shy about asking why we never get to do anything fun like that? So when she asked us last week couldn’t we please, please, please go to Lysefestivalen this year, neither Mister nor I could think of a single good reason why not. And, indeed, both of us kind of harrumphed and thought, “Yeah, we really should do that. Might be kind of fun. Yes, EM. Let’s do it!”

So off we went.

We started the day (yesterday) off early at a local arts and crafts market. Similar, I’d guess, to local arts and crafts markets the world over—small town artists hawking their small town hobbies at—shall we say—optimistic prices. There were soap makers, glass makers, pottery makers, jewelry makers, quilt makers, cheaply repainted ceramic tat makers. Lots of rosemåling, for local flavor. Along with a hefty number of stands selling small knitted doll clothes, and seemingly the same collection of hats, gloves, and knickers that the naked ladies at my gym were so agog over.

It was a nice little market, and personally, I would have been happy to spend a few hours there, milling about and fingering the merchandise. I happened upon the perfect gift for Grandma ‘Nita. I swear, the very thing. It practically screamed at me, “Buy me and send me to that good woman NOW, you stingy, ungrateful daughter, you!” And I would have done it too, if I had been about a billionaire. Nor did I have a chance to talk Mister into ponying up the ridiculously inflated price, because the kids had decided just 47 seconds after entering the building that this was absolutely the most boring place in the whole world and they demanded, rather persistently, that we leave immediately. Eventually they won, and we headed into town before I’d had a chance to see everything.

We weren’t exactly sure what to expect once we got there. We knew there would be an outdoor concert of some sort. Some speeches. Some rallying together of public spirit. And fireworks at the end. So a little like the 4th of July, right? We were stumped as to what any of that had to do with Christmas, but we were game to find out.

As it turns out, Lysefestivalen isn’t just a little like the 4th of July, it’s a whole heck of a lot like it, only with hats, and gloves, and rain boots instead of tank tops and cutoffs. And the rather than having to languish all day waiting for the fireworks to start--drinking beer and eating snow cones--the whole shebang is over and done with by quarter to 5 in the evening cuz’ that’s when it’s dark. Hard to say if that’s a bad thing or not—less beer is nothing to cheer about, but I was mighty glad to be heading home before bedtime.

There were other differences, of course, both for better and for worse. The cold, wet, city pavement, for example, wasn’t nearly as cozy as a sun warmed grassy knoll. But instead of sparklers, we were all given open flame torches, which, let’s face it, pretty much kick all kinds of sparkler ass—fire hazard notwithstanding. There was indeed a stage where local choirs and bands performed carols and other seasonal favorites. A minister was forced on us at one point. She was kind enough to remind us all of the true meaning of Christmas. We, in turn, were kind enough not to boo her off the stage. And at the end of it all—fireworks! A reasonably awesome display of fireworks. After which, 5,000 people headed, en masse, for their cars, where we all sat in a parking lot for 40 minutes waiting to move a single car length.

Happy 4th everyone! And furthermore—Season’s Greetings!

I’m so glad we went. It turned out to be exactly what I needed to shake me—however briefly—out of my funk.

I’m toying with an idea to do a daily post from now until Christmas featuring a picture of some holiday scene or other from my home to yours. I don’t know. Might be a bit of a strain to come up with that many pictures. But I like the idea….so stay tuned.