Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beyond Christmas

I'm guessing you're waiting for pictures, and a report--perhaps?--of the JEDA household's Christmas ado.

In case you hadn't heard, I got a new camera.  It baffles me.  It's taken me this long to work out how to get the pictures from the camera onto the computer. 

I don't really know much about photography, though I'd like to.  I've been thoroughly reading and rereading the instruction manual in hopes that something in it will be magically transformed into lucid sense in my brain.  It helped when I stopped trying to read it in Danish, and downloaded the English version off the internet.  But I'm still pretty lost.  If anyone knows of a decent "Digital Photography For Base Morons" book that can explain to me what ISO means, or how aperture should be related to depth of field, or what any of that has to do with shutter speed and why 90% of what I've taken with the curséd thing comes out looking like a drunk man's blurry epiphany, by all means, let me know.

In the meantime, here's a few pictures of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  All the Christmas Eve ones were taken with my humble point-and-shoot Pentax, and, therefore, should be correspondingly less wonderful than the Christmas Day ones.  Please help me maintain this delusion as it's the only way I can possibly continue to justify the price of the new one.

This year's gingerbread creation:

Being the great designer of seafaring vessels that he is, Mister had his heart set on a boat. So he designed one.  He carefully measured and drew out all the pieces for me to bake.  Then he painstakingly glued them all together with melted sugar.  I know I was supposed to let the kids decorate, but after all that work I just couldn't.  I let them watch though, and the smoke made of Necco chips was EM's idea. 

Mister tells me it's a clipper. A pepperkake clipper. Which gets translated into Missy speak as a peckercocker clitter. Which is, frankly, hysterical, and I refuse to correct her.

Also new this year: decent weather.
No snow, mind you. But no rain either. A welcome improvement indeed. Mister took the kids out on a little hike while I stayed home and slaved away on a turkey dinner.

All dressed up and ready for a dinner I knew they wouldn't eat. My kids have no appreciation whatsoever for the carb-laden beauty of a full turkey dinner. Elder Miss is getting closer. She loves herself a good leg of juicy dark meat, and she nibbled around the edges of the stuffing and declared it...okay. But the other two whined from start to finish. Their loss. I did a superb job on it this year. I hate to say this to all my Thanksgiving dinner attendees, but my Christmas turkey is ALWAYS better than my Thanksgiving turkey. Always.

Christmas Eve is the one night every year that I dust off my cheap white wine glasses and let the kids use them at dinner for their fizzy Christmas soda.  As you can see EM looks forward to this event with much refined and cultivated enthusiasm.

And then it was bedtime:
Some of my fondest memories of Christmas Eve as a child are of spending the night in my step-brothers' room, the three of us keeping each other up into the wee wee hours of the night speculating wildly about what we might find under the tree come morning. As I was reminiscing about this over dinner, the kids eagerly asked if they could all sleep together too. This all being part of my master plan, I poured myself another glass of wine and reluctantly agreed....putty in my hands, my pretties....putty in my hands.

Which brings us to Christmas morning. I plan to upload a full album onto my Picasa site sometime soon, but for now here's three of the better pictures I managed to take with my new toy.

Meh--three good ones out of at least 200. It shouldn't be that difficult.

Everyone left for Rosendal a couple days after Christmas. Everyone, that is, except me. I stayed behind to enjoy a little peace, quiet, and complete lack of responsiblity. I'll catch a ferry and join the others tomorrow.

Happy New Year's everybody! See you on the flip side.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Christmas Story

When I was eight years old I was baptized as a Mormon. It should go without saying that this was not a faith based initiative.  My parents indulged but did not necessarily support my association with the Saints. My step-father will tell you that the only reason I pursued the baptism was because I coveted some cheesy religious coloring book that Jennifer Murray had gotten when she had been baptized earlier that year. This rather old joke has begun to piss me off because not only does it insult the earnest nature of my youthful heart, but it’s also a God damn lie.

The simple truth is I went to church and got baptized because all my friends were going to church and getting baptized. And I was only invited to play with them so long as I was doing exactly what they were doing in terms of church going and baptized getting. Such is the 'inclusive' nature of the Mormon faithful.

Already I digress—

Before I was baptized I was required to sit through an interview with the ward bishop. I was told the purpose of the interview would be to assess my virginal purity the readiness of my testimony. But I’m reasonably certain that the real reason I was there was for some preliminary indoctrination into the duty of tithing.

My mom was asked to join us. She sat, impatient but quiet, in the back of the room with (I can’t remember precisely, but I’m pretty sure he was there) my step-father.

Like I said, I don’t remember the exact details, but the conversation must have gone something like this: Brother Bishop asked, “Do you know how much money is in your piggy bank, JEDA?”

“Um, I don’t know. Maybe like $5.00?”

“And, JEDA, do you know how much 10% of $5.00 is?”

And I’d have been all like, “Dude, do I look like someone who enjoys math? I, um….I thought there would be more coloring….”

One of the last questions he asked—this part I remember clearly—was, “Can you name any of the Ten Commandments?”

Keep in mind I was only eight years old, and religion was something I did on my own time—my parents wanted no part of it. Up to that point, primary school had been a whole lot of singing about sunbeams, and kicking the chair in front of me while reverently folding my arms and pretending to pray. So I knew the Ten Commandments had something to do with Moses, but specifics beyond that were not exactly etched into the chalky tablets of my instant recall files.

Until—inspiration—possibly the Holy Ghost, though I felt no burning—struck!

“Ooo ooo ooo! I know one!”

“Very good, JEDA. Which one have you remembered?”

“Thou shalt not commit adultery!”

I'm not exactly sure why I said it.  I know that I didn’t know what the word “adultery” meant. At the time, it just sounded like an impressively grown-up word. And I collected such words back then—hoarded them in my pockets like cinnamon bears, waiting for odd moments to pull them out, chew on them a bit, then let their spicy goodness spill over my tongue and into the dull lapses in adult conversation. Such words had power—though I didn’t know why, and I used them frequently as a kid.

Of course, adult me is embarrassed on my mother’s behalf for the broad innuendo her child left hanging in the middle of the room like an unclaimed fart. Adult me can still hear the stiff shh-shh of corduroy as three pairs of adult legs nervously uncrossed and re-crossed waiting for the taint of it to dissipate. Adult me knows how badly my mother must have wanted to stand up, to explain, to clarify, to excuse, “Kids these days! She’s just showing off. Honestly. It means nothing…”

Well, rest easy, poor put-upon mother. It’s been a long time coming, but last week your grandchildren—my own dear babies—conspired to exact your fitting and ironically just revenge upon me.

Heads up, Trace. You’re going to like this part.

Last Thursday night Elder Miss’s art class invited parents and siblings to come in for the last 30 minutes of class to share a piece of cake and a cup of Christmas cheer.  It being an art class, they had decorated the room to the nines with tin foil, candles, and a motley assortment of tinsel scraps. Once everyone had found a seat and a bit of food, the teacher welcomed us and said she thought it might be fun to share some of our favorite memories or ideas about our various Christmas traditions.

“What’s the first thing you think when you think about Christmas?” she prompted as she set the ball rolling around the table.

“Presents! Vacation! Pinnekjøtt*!” came the typical responses, “Pinnekjøtt? No! It has to be lutefisk**!” And thus the conversation found itself focusing around holiday food, and a lively debate ensued amongst the parents.

All was light, all was merry—then came EM’s turn.

“And you, EM? What does Christmas mean to you?”

There was a long pause. So long I thought for sure she had chickened out, so I was about to rescue her by throwing turkey into the mix, when she suddenly found her voice and blurted out, “Jesus.”

"Ah.  Mmmm-hmmmm. Yes,” said the teacher, suddenly sober and careful, “Of course many people think a lot about Jesus this time of year. How about your little sister?” she hunched down and peered expectantly at Missy, “What do you think the best thing about Christmas is?”

Missy, of course, didn't miss a beat, “Jesus is borned!” she exclaimed triumphantly, throwing her arms victoriously overhead.

It should have been cute--funny--but no one seemed terribly amused.  Say what you will about not forgetting the true reason for the season. But Norwegians, by and large, are a secular bunch, and—trust me on this—they don’t want to hear it, especially when the topic of the relative merits of pinnekjøtt vs. lutefisk is on the table.

“Oooo-kay. Of course.” said the teacher, more careful than ever, “How about your brother?" turning to Boy,  "Anything you particularly love about Christmas?”

I found myself silently pleading with Boy, “Say presents. Say Santa. Say ‘jingle bells Batman smells’. Say anything but…..”

“Jesus is king,” said Boy quietly, but firmly.

What is the sound of eyebrows rising?  Of every eye in the room collectively rolling heavenward to find only a tangle of strung fairy lights to bare witness to their mutual exasperation of the overly pious at Christmas time?  It was the only sound in the room just then, yet it was thundering in my head like herd of hunted reindeer.

It was my turn next.  The teacher--she didn’t want to ask.  You could tell.  Little did she know, however, all I wanted to do was stand up, explain, clarify, excuse, “Kids these days!  They’re just showing off.  Honestly.  It means nothing…This has nothing to do with being from Utah.  I SWEAR!”

I let it pass--dissipate, if you will. I talked about how, in America, we open our presents on Christmas Day, not on Christmas Eve as they do in Norway. And about how our family has blended these two traditions, so our lucky kids get two days of (explicitly non-religious) present over-load. Then the guy next to me, whose wife is Russian Orthodox said, “That’s nothing! The orthodox calendar puts Christmas in January, and the Russians give presents on New Year’s Eve, so we go through it three times every year!”

Saved!  By the Russians.  How...unexpected.

Ultimately, I think EM's motives for dragging Christ into the Christmas party were very much the same as mine were lo those many years ago in unleashing adultery into the bishop's office.  She's experimenting with grown-up words and grown-up concepts, about which she has only a rudimentary understanding, in order to appear more grown-up than she actually is.  The other two were just following their big sister's lead, and parroting some lines they've heard at school. 

She wasn't so far off base.  She just hasn't learn to gauge tone or atmosphere yet.  There is a time and a place, dear heart.  Now, please to explain to the nice Bohemian artsy types that I'm really not a crazed Jesus freak.....

*pinnekjøtt (pee-nuh-chut): salted lamb, favorite Christmas Eve dish in this area
**lutefisk (loo-tuh-fisk): vile cod preserved in lye, favorite Christmas Eve dish in other, less civilized areas

From The File Marked 'Want'

I'm not a shoe person.  I have a total of maybe 10 pairs--not including my two pairs of running shoes, which I consider something more like necessary equipment than stylish footwear. 

The black strapy heels that I wore to the million dollar wedding I bought 11 years ago to go with a dress I wore on my honeymoon.  Jillybaby had a very minor stroke when she heard this.  Then she made me buy a pair of black ankle boots to wear to the million dollar cocktail party the night before the million dollar wedding. 

"They're very now," she said, "Very practical.  You'll get loads of use out of them."

So I bought the black ankle boots--even though they looked almost exactly like a pair of black ankle boots I wore when I was in the 7th grade--a place I swore I would never revisit--and in doing so, I fear I may have awoken something primeaval in my nature.  Something carnal.  Something drooling.  Something controlled not by reason or logic, but by pure, unadulterated, craven lust.

'Want' does not even begin to describe my desire for these boots:

I can't explain it.  I just.....I really just.....oh God, I'm not sure I can live without them.

Can someone please explain to me why all the pretty shoes cost more than $200?

Friday, December 19, 2008

The kids came home yesterday with the hand-made presents they've been working on at school this past month.

Boy obviously put a lot of thought into his carefully worded gift tags.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Notes From A Barnehage Christmas Party

I've been going to preschool Christmas parties every year for the past five years.

Pretty much everything I have to say about them can be summed up in a bulletpoint list, along with a handful of pictures, of course, to prove I've been there, and know wherefore I speak.

  • They're always the same. Year in, year out. Forever and ever, amen ho-ho.
  • The kids are good for three songs. Tops. Any attempts to exceed the three song limit will be met with distracted shuffling, nose picking, inappropriate outbursts, and eventually outright gadding about.
  • Barnehage teachers in their, shall we say, optimistic over-zealousness, will always exceed the three song limit.
  • Understandable, as kids are pretty damn cute when they sing.
  • This will sound like cultural bias, but I assure you it's a quantifiable truth--English language Christmas carols are so much better than Norwegian ones.
  • On average there will be two, maybe three, adult sized chairs on the premises reserved always for The Pregnant Mother, The Visiting Grandmother, and The Grossly Overweight Father. Everyone else will be obliged to shift uncomfortably on their miniature wooden stools and stare daggers into the backs of The Chosen Few with proper back support.
  • During the eating and mingling portion of the party, at least five glasses of punch or milk will be spilt for every cup of coffee successfully drunk while still warm by a parent.
  • There is never enough coffee to go around.
  • That coffee which is on offer will be served out of three shabby, stained thermoses that someone--usually The First-Time Foreigner--will have to be shown how to open and pour.
  • My kids are always the cutest kids in the room. Weird how that happens....
  • Norwegian children give a whole new meaning to the term 'dressy casual'.
  • Rice pudding is the traditional food served at Norwegian Christmas parties. A warm bowl of rice pudding with a holiday-generous sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon, and a holiday-large pat of butter melting in the center is a thing of beauty.
  • Rice pudding left too long in the pot congeals quickly and becomes little more than a lump of chewy paste.
  • Even three songs is too long to leave rice pudding cooling on a paper-draped buffet table.
  • Pardon me, but have you seen my seque? I seem to have lost one around here some place...
  • One afternoon a few weeks ago when I came to pick Missy up from school, I found her alone in a room with one other girl and this boy:
  • She tells me frequently that she loves him because she loves him.
  • Anyway, on this particular rainy afternoon, I called her to come and get her stuff together so we could go. When she came out from behind the small partition that seperates the play kitchen area from the Tonka trucks and dinosaur area, she was clearly in the middle of hitching up her pants and tights. "What are you kids up to?" I asked in a cheery, neutral tone. "Playin' doctor," came her equally cheery and neutral responce.
  • The crafty boy's mother, whom I sat next to at the Christmas party, tells me he is equally taken with Missy, and has grand plans to marry her someday.
  • I should hope so.
  • Since this post was really just an excuse to talk about Missy cloaked in some boring Christmas party bullshit, allow me to share one more briefly surreal dialogue I had with her last week:
  • Again, on the way home from barnehage:
Missy: Ooooo! I love that moon! That moon is so pretty!
I'm going to eat it! I'm going to eat it all! up!
Is there water on the moon?
Me: No.
Missy: What is it then? What is in the moon?
Me: Nothing. It's just dust and rocks.
Missy: Hmmm. I will have to be careful then.
But when I'm done,
I will be able to show you the way home!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another Crap Ass Christmas

I've gotta admit, the vagrant is growing on me.

We visited him again yesterday, and he was ever so slightly jolly.  He twinkled a bit.  He may have even chortled once or twice in a jovial, non-threatening manner this time around.

Maybe he joined AA.

And look, he got himself a little helper.

How freakin' cute is that?

This is the first time in seven years that we've gone out to get the Christmas tree with sun, and snow, and some semblance of actual Christmas cheer in the air.

Maybe the vagrant snorted some of the snow, and that's why he was so merry and bright.

I know all that crisp, fresh, rainless air went to our heads, and we ended up picking out a tree that was 300 feet tall.

Luckily Mister has been watching The Ax Men with the kids so he knew how to chop the thing down and get it off the mountain with minimal effort. First: burrow a hole to the trunk...

We had company this year.  JEDA's to the left, Vibrant's to the right.
Our combined broods made a predicably unruly bunch.  They were far more interested in snowball fights and sledding than they were in Christmas trees or posing for pictures.  What gall!  And I'm pretty sure one of them--almost certainly Boy--farted in the vagrant's hovel.  But their fresh pink cheeks and infectious smiles told me that they were having the time of their lives (or at least of this December).  And I'm prepared to make the Christmas tree farm at Gimmelland #1 on my new list of Norwegian wonderous-ness. 

Christmas wouldn't quite be Christmas without it anymore.
Merry Christmas Crap-Ass Santa!

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Few Words About The Multi-Million Dollar Wedding

A--It didn't really cost that much.  It's just how much the groom is worth, so I judge it as such.

B--I forgot my camera, so you'll never know how fabulous (or utterly not) I looked.

C--The Christmas potential of this early December date was grossly under utilized.  No lights, no trees, not so much as a single poinsettia in sight.  The only thing she (the bride) did winter-right was a heavy brocade over-coat with a white fur trimmed collar.  No elbow length gloves though, no muff.  And I did dispair.

D--Reindeer was served as the main course.  Rudolph tastes best when seared quickly on all sides, then wrapped in foil to rest in a very low temperature oven for maybe 15 minutes.  The blood should be warm--not cold. 

E--Vixen is looking forward to his chance to lead the team this year.

F--I was not the only American in attendance.  I was, however, the only one who enjoyed dinner.

G--I counted 3 fer-sures, 2 problees, and 4 might-as-welluv-been recycled bride's maid dresses in the crowd.  I spent a good portion of the evening wondering what Jilly would have to say about this phenomenon.

H--The music was live.  Accordians were involved.  The second song out was a soft-rock meets polka rendition of  "I Shot the Sheriff".  And I did dispair.

I--It seems money really doesn't necessarily buy taste.

J--It can buy a damn fine chef though.  Have I mentioned the crab salad?

K--I knew exactly two people at this multi-million dollar wedding:  Mister, and the multi-million dollar groom.   Both of whom I danced with. 

L--One of these men grabbed my ass mid-dip.

M--The crab salad was worth the grope.

N--All in all, it was a fine wedding. 

O--But a Christmas wedding it certainly wasn't.  Which is sad, because I've always wanted to go to one of those.....

Friday, December 05, 2008

Oh hi!

Are you all still here?
Your loyalty, and optimism, frankly, at this point flatter me.

There's stuff to say. Jilly Baby came for a visit. Thanksgiving last week as a hoot--probably one of those 'best ever' events that will be hard to live up to next year and beyond. There's also the endless to-ing and fro-ing of the Christmas season I could fill you all in on. But I won't. Or at least, I can't right now. I have a wicked posh wedding to attend this weekend.

(Hear that Mom? A CHRISTMAS wedding! It happens. People do it.)

And anyway, there's a fair amount of shaving and plucking to be done in preparation for said wedding, so I can't get into a long catch-up kind of deal here.

But I finally got someone to send me a few pictures from my Thanksgiving feast (I was distracted....also....drunk....and didn't take any of my own). And I just had to take a few minutes to share this one here.
It goes out to a special know who you are....
(See you next Friday!)

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Part Of This Actually Happened. I SWEAR!

So the Mormon missionaries from the library are stalking me.  They found me again today.  And the way I know they're stalking me is the first thing Sister Drew-the-short-straw-so-she-has-to-approach-the-scary-apostate said when she walked up to me was, "We're not stalking you!  I SWEAR!"

Tjeh--way to play it cool there Sister Smooth.  Not at all suspicious.

She invited me and my entire family to Thanksgiving dinner at the ward house.  I politely declined explaining that I do a traditional dinner of my own every year for a big group of friends.  But I told her I had a friend flying in from Scotland next week whose husband has been very curious about her organization in the past,  "Would she be welcome?"

Blink. Blink.

"Um, sssssure.  I guess.  But....won't she?  you know?  be eating with you?"

"Not necessarily.  We'll see what she shows up with.  Last time she came with chocolate eggs for the children and whiskey for Mister.  But no tea.  So I bid my cat kill her first born; he very nearly succeeded.  I doubt she'll forget the tea this time, but look, if there's no shortbread in that bag of hers, she's going to be giving her thanks at someone else's bountiful repast.  That's just the way it is."


"All righty then!  Okay!  Buh-bye!"

And that was it.  She turned tail and ran.  Didn't even offer to say a closing prayer before she left.  And it was snowing pretty hard outside too.  If ever there was a night she needed the Lord's blessing for a safe journey home it was tonight.  Hope she made it okay.

Oh, and also......Boy totally read his first book tonight.  Read the shit out of it!  Dove fearlessly into the text, plumbing the lines for hidden complexities and subtle meaning.  He owned that motherfucker.  I SWEAR!

Take that dried up, nay-saying, intellectually immature-labling teacher!  Take it, and shove it!

Friday, November 14, 2008

New This Season: SAD Steals My Writing Chops

Look, I'm sorry, all right.  I've tried.  I've really tried.  I spent three days working on this piece about my run in with Mormon missionaries in the library, then realized I was knee deep in a pile of steaming shit and wisely walked away.  Then I made Norwegian weirdness #7 for dinner and tried to write about that for awhile until it dawned on me that there's really nothing particularly funny to say about stewed lamb and cabbage.  But hey, if anyone needs an artfully framed picture of a pile of steaming shit Fårikål, let me know.  I've got them with and without my sky blue tea kettle in the back ground.

My kids aren't being funny.  My husband isn't being very funny.  My cat is dying a slow miserable death and I can't afford to take him back to the vet, which is so unfunny as to break your heart.  I could tell you all about the three parent-teacher conferences I've attended over the past two weeks, but the basic conclusion would be Boy is intellectually immature and Elder Miss is turning into a moody loner who prefers books to friends, and this strikes me as, well, singularly unfunny.  As would be the long screed of steaming shit righteous invective against Boy's teacher who I'm pretty sure has just written him off as an educational loss because at 6 years and 3 months he's still a bit puppyish and short of attention.  She actually said to me, "I don't even want to talk about anything academic for him until after Easter, but can you tell me why he cries so easily?" 

Um, because you're a cold-hearted bitch? 


See?  Unfunny, and now I'm crying.

I don't do well with the perma-gloam of winter in Mordor Bergen.  Too obvious, right?

I am being smarter about my reading material this year though.  Khaled Hosseini has been banished, and anything revisiting the Holocaust can wait unitl after Easter along with Boy's delayed education.  I'm spending this winter with two of the fattest science fictiony bull shit novels you've ever seen--Pandora's Star and its sequel.  A thousand plus pages of mindless drivel each.  Not exactly the most inspiring prose ever written, but it'll get me through to January in one piece.

So, I'm still here.  I'm just not writing much.

I go through this every year.  I'm fine.  Whatever. 

Tis' the season, right?

Friday, November 07, 2008


Part six in a continuing series exploring the wonderous weirdness of the Norwegian wold.

Tonight's topic: weird footwear.

If you were to take a cultural sensitivity class about how not to be overly offensive during your stay in Norway, one of the first things you'd be told is, do not wear outdoor shoes inside a Norwegian household.

This crucial imparative would come right after the 'avoid eye contact with strangers and innocuous, friendly gestures of greeting in public as locals will think you're soft in the head, and waste precious warming energy being annoyed with you and wondering why the system isn't doing its job in keeping such threatening menaces off the streets' lecture. But sometime before the critical 'fish balls, fish cakes, and fish eggs (no, not those kinds of balls you perverted, ignorant foreigner, you)' appreciation course. It's really that important.

No wet, dirty shoes inside. Period. Invest in some warm, thick, whimsically decorative socks. Or Crocs. Every school child in Norway is required to have a pair of indoor shoes at school which they change into first thing in the morning, and after every recess. It's not uncommon for office workers to do the same. If you're going to a dinner party and wish to wear your fancy dress pumps with your cocktail dress, you carry said dress pumps to the party in a ubiquitous plastic shopping bag, then change out of your wet wellies once you arrive at the party.

Now, if you happen to be taking your daughter to her Tuesday night ballet class and can't be bothered to bring along your favorite pair of indoor Crocs to wear while you wait, do not fret. Look around. There's likely to be a small basket just inside the door holding a ragged collection of blue plastic booties that you can easily slip over your outdoor shoes. Doctor's offices, barnehages, gyms, and dentists all will have the same basket.

And here's the really weird part.....people actually do it........

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Could Not Be More Proud Today

I went to bed last night around 2 a.m. 

Kentucky had just been called for McCain.  Vermont had just been called for Obama.  Some analysts were talking smack about Indiana leaning towards McCain.  And I just couldn't take it anymore.

I tossed.  I turned.  I think I got up to pee 4 times.

I woke up drenched in a cold sweat around 5 a.m.  I had just dreamt that Wolf Blitzer had called the election for McCain, then busted into a manic giggle saying, "Heh!  Just kidding!  You shoulda' seen your faces!  Bwah-hahahahahaaaa".  As soon as it settled in my befuddled brain that it had just been a dream, I had to get up.

The headline on CNN's home page said "McCain camp losing hope as Obama's lead widens".  The electoral college count stood at Obama 222, McCain 135.

I found a dry nightie, went back to bed, and slept like a baby for a whole hour and a half before Mister's alarm went off--the news of Obama's victory all over the radio.

And that's the story of election night at JEDA's house.

Elder Miss wanted to know why I was in such a good mood.  "Because it's a happy day my beauties!  America chose a new president last night, and we got it right this time!"

To which Boy asked, "Is it George Washington again?"

"No, Boy.  He's dead," said EM, "It's that man with the brown skin, right mom?"

"Right my darlings!  Only his name is Barack Obama.  Say it with me: BA ROCK O BAM A."


"Whatever!  I'm in too good a mood to let your poor syntax get in the way of my happiness.  We shall work on it tonight!  EM you shall write his name 10 times on a piece of paper and memorize a brief biography to share with your class on Thursday.  Boy you shall aspire to be like him in every way.  Missy you work on clapping and swooning every time I say 'Change has come to America'.  Now go forth.  Today will be a great day!  Today you are Americans!"

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween is slowly catching on in Norway. 



Every year there's an ever wider selection of cheap black and orange tat to be purchased in the cheap seasonal, tat stores.  Every year there are more and more neighborhoods where it is accepted--expected, even--practice for children to dress up and bang on doors demanding free candy.  This year there was even a sort of Haunted House put on by Elder Miss and Boy's school; apparently, one of Elder Miss's teachers was roped into donning a ratty black wig and white robe, and screaming "Help me!  Help me!" while one of the 7th graders chased her around with a plastic ax.  Awesome, I say.  And not the least bit inappropriate.

We celebrated Halloween night with The Vibrant Ms. M's family.

Vlad here seems to think that, contrary to popular wisdom, vampires turn into baby bats when exposed to sunlight.  And also, that no self-respecting vampire would hungrily gulp down the blood of his victim, but rather, gently lap it up with his tongue, you know, like a kitten.
Snow White's dress was two sizes too big.  When I asked her where her dwarves were, she lifted up her skirt and said, "I don't know.  Under here I sink."
Indy couldn't wait to wipe the simpering smile off that damn she-devil's inscrutable face.  I half hoped he'd succeed.
After dark, we sent the whole pack of kids out trick-or-treating supervised by these two fools.  That's Mister Vibrant Ms. M there on the right.  Does he not look ever so slightly like Ozzy Osbourne paying homage to the humble dairy cow?  And if you're a little shocked that my Mister loosened up enough to play along and walk out of the house looking like Shrek in pin curls....Dude, so am I.  Like I said--slowly....reluctantly.....Halloween is starting to catch on in Norway.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Well Done Sister Suffragette!

For the past few weeks, I've been seeing posts like this on ex-pat blogs cropping up the world over.  Finally, I get to add mine.

I'll give you three guesses who I voted for.  Okay, four.  I see Nader is on the ballot again, and I took the time to look up Bob Barr and the Libertarian platform--ol' Bob sports a very compelling 'stache, so it was a bit of a toss up.

This is the first time I've bothered with the whole process of registering abroad, and requesting an absentee ballot.  What can I say?  I hate the electoral college, and also, I'm mostly just lazy.  But this felt like a sufficiently historical, water-shed type moment that I felt pretty strongly about being a part of it.  So I jumped through all the bureaurocratic (a word I will have to look up each and every time I use it) hoops, and voilà--voting complete.

I was a little uncomfortable being asked whether or not So-and-so should retain his bench in the 3rd District Court, or if some other So-and-so should keep hers in the Appellate Court of Appeals.  Um, who? in the what now?  So I looked up all of their biographies, and made the rather arbitrary decision to vote 'No' on anyone who graduated anything cum laude from BYU, reasoning that any such person must be too wankerish to pass judgement on anything or anybody. 

Upon reflection, I'm thinking that might not have been the most kind or responsible use of my civic privileges.

Bad suffragette!  Bad!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More Sighing And Listless Flopping About

The writer's block continues apace. 

Srsly.  I got nothin.

Well, wait.  I got a few things.  What I ain't gots is the words, and the commas, and the sentences and stuff to string them together.

Gone.  All gone.  Flushed out to sea by the pissing rain.

At times like this I see no reason not to take gratuitous advantage of the fact that I've got three bottomless wells of aberrant buffoonery right here under my very nose.  Veritable fountains of childish nonsense that I can tap, and deliver to you in its purest state. 

For example, Boy's thoughts on love:  "Our hearts make love just like they pump blood.  And if someone breaks up with us, our hearts break and the love leeks out.  That means they bleed.  That's why love hurts."  Me thinks Boy needs to lay off the Hannah Montana, but that's not my point.  My point is, clearly he stole all my deep thoughts for the month.

She stole all my poetic grace:
And this one here stole all my literary gravitas:
That nice dance instructor is holding her hair back for her while she tries to puke it back up for me.

And speaking of that nice dance instructor, when Missy saw her for the first time she gasped in delight, put her hand to her heart, and avowed, "That black lady is so pretty!  I 'sink I need to cry about that."

I give up folks.  The kids are doing all the writing from here on out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Been in a bit of a blogger funk lately.

Feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and futility.

It's a dark morass.

Blame it on the rain. Also, too much time on other--better--blogs than my own two-bit little rag. Oh! And Shantaram--a massive, 1,000 page tome of a novel (not a book, mind you, but, you know...a novel) that I started a week or so ago. Jesus it's big. And good. But mostly just so damn BIG. It won't let me go.

I've had requests for pictures of the new car. Tallula, we're calling her, in honor of the latest Norwegian princess whose daft name--Emma Tallula--was announced the same day we picked up the Touran. I'll get on that soon. But she kind of needs to be washed already and there seems to be some disagreement as to whose power job that is. He says me because I drive it most. I say him because he's the one who cares so weirdly much.

So far Tallula has been a brilliant addition to the family, but she is a bit of a tempermental, noisy little thing. She beeps and hollars and dings at anything within a 3 foot radius. Takes some getting used to. Touchy clutch too; not nearly as forgiving as the crappy Kia. Damn prima donnas.

So nothing new or interesting here. Just checking in. I have a follower now--Hi, Follower!--and I didn't want my 1 follower to abandon me for want of anything new to read. It occurs to me that a quick post about how boring and depressed I am might not be the best way to keep 'em coming back for more, but it's all I got right now.

Monday, October 06, 2008

And Then Brigham Young Rolled Over In His Grave

Last week's blogging break was brought to you by:


Week-long, school-free family 'enrichment', shredding parents' last nerve since the fall of frigging Man.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog.

* * * *
EM: George Washington was the founding father of America.

Boy: So?

EM: George Washington was the first president of America.

Boy: Of Grandma?

EM: No. Grandma wasn't borned yet. Not even Grandpa.

Boy: George Washington was Grandpa's father?

EM: No! America's father!

Boy: Did he have a gun?

EM: Of course. There was a war. An indepennant war.

Boy: Why didn't he have a mustache?

EM: Because he was America's founding father.

Boy: What did he find?

EM: Utah!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rated R

The following post contains adult themes, sexually-oriented stupidity, and full-frontal nudity. Readers who share DNA with JEDA, or even those who just share a bed with someone who shares DNA with JEDA, might want to click elsewhere and find something else to read this afternoon.
When I was very young, my bedroom was directly across the hall from my mother and my step-father’s bedroom. In those days my step-father was generally the last one to lock the doors, turn out the lights, and head upstairs for the night. Sometimes he closed the bedroom door, sometimes he didn’t.

I have fairly vivid memories of lying awake, waiting for the moment when I’d hear his heavy step start up the stairs. Would he close the door tonight? Or would he leave it open? I, of course, preferred it open. I was convinced that the ghosts who haunted our hallway were obliged to shove off to Jennifer Murray’s house for the night when my mother’s bedroom door was left open. I didn’t understand why it had to be closed some nights, but could be left open others. Why couldn’t my meddling step-father just leave the damn door well enough alone? Didn’t he know there was a colony of belligerent bogeymen living on our landing? Didn’t he care that they frightened me so?

I’m older now—older, and somewhat wiser. I’m onto you, Dale. I totally know now what was on your mind those nights when you closed that door. And, for the record: ew.

This half-buried memory has been rather a lot on my mind lately. I’m trying to remember, did I ever knock on that closed door? Did I ever cry out or shout for it to be left open? Did I ever ask awkward questions about it over pancakes at The Village Inn?

A couple of Sundays ago, first thing in the morning, Boy climbed into bed with me and said, “I heard you and Daddy talking when you went to bed last night. Where you sick? Cuz’ I heard you making scared noises like you were sick.”


Through cowardly deflection and artful evasion, I went ahead and let him think I was sick. Boy let it go after 20 minutes of relentless interrogation, then never mentioned it again. Mister, however, was clearly spooked.

A week or so later I had to solemnly swear nothing more than a few chaste, virginal sighs and a single church mouse peep at the end would escape my lily-lips before he’d agree to get--you know--frisky with me. It was a hard fought seduction on my part. He wouldn’t shut up about, “But they just went to bed blah blah, and Boy must still be awake looking at his Pokeman cards blah blah, and Elder Miss is almost certainly still reading, and Missy has a bit of a cold, and…..”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. But look! Boobs!”


“Wanna’ touch ‘em?”

“……….Oh, hell. Alright………But BE! QUIET!”

At some point mid-frisk, someone somewhere in the house closed a door. We heard the unmistakable clickthud of spring-loaded latch falling into brass catch, and not two nano seconds later, Mister had his pants in hand and was flying towards the kitchen pantry in a way that made me think he’d had rather too much practice at being rudely interrupted mid-frisk.

Wait. Did I just say ‘kitchen pantry’? I should probably censor that. It should read something slightly more vanilla-like: ‘bedroom closet’ perhaps, or ‘under the bed’. But a stark naked Mister tripping into his rumpled pants in the middle of the kitchen lends itself to far funnier imagery. So, we'll stick with the truth here.  We were doing it on the living room sofa. Deal with it.

I looked at him coolly from my perch on the couch, “Oh for heaven’s sake, it might have just been the cat.”

To which he pointed an accusing finger in the general direction of the kids’ bedrooms and snapped, “That! Was a door! The cat! Cannot! Open! A door!”

At that precise instant an inkling of the farcical fool he was acting must have hit him full monty-like in the face, because he suddenly, still ¾ naked, doubled up into a fit of giggles and sputtered, “I’m sorry. I don’t really know what I’m doing.”

The mystery of who or what opened and closed that door was never solved.  The behavior of our blessed children in recent days would suggest that no lasting trauma was sustained.  Personally, I think they saw nothing, heard nothing--know nothing.  Mister is not so sure.

So maybe we should have waited a bit. Maybe we should have carried our frisky selves discreetly up to our bedroom. Probably my step-father's policy of closing the bedroom door every now and then was a sound one.  But, you know, bedroom doors are not sound barriers. Even the peep of a modest church mouse will carry through thin walls. How exactly did my mother stay so quiet through the years that it took me into adulthood to suss out what they must have been doing behind that closed bedroom door? And how, pray tell, does any healthily amorous couple ever have any sort of sex whatsoever with living, breathing, pre-teens in the house? They’re only going to get smart-assier and less willing to go to sleep at a decent hour from here on out. And now Mister’s all shy and shit.


I sense a dry spell coming on. A very, very dry spell indeed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And The Cat Band Played On

Thirteen years ago when Not-Yet-My Mister was trying to sell me on moving to this impossibly green, yet interminably soggy city of his, I was all like, ”Look, I like you. I kind of even really like you. But as much as the romantic in me wants to say your hard ass and winsome smile are enough to justify this kind of leap, the pragmatist in me is urging caution, followed by careful negotiation.”


“Yes, negotiation. I think I’m going to need some guarantees from you.”

“Guarantees? You mean like a ring? Cuz’ I think it’s a little early for…..”

“No, no. Not that kind of guarantee--way too early for that. I’m talking more ‘declarations of future intentions’ rather than a ‘pledge your solemn troth’ kind of thing. Let’s call it a preliminary dowry.”

“A dowry.”

“Right, a dowry. Only, paid directly to me. You need not trouble my family with any part of it.”

“How much is it going to cost me?”

“How much is my love and faithful heart worth to you?”

“Jesus, Jamie. Just tell me what you want.”

“Three things. Three meager trifles and I’ll pack my bags tomorrow.”


“A new flat. You currently live in a flea infested, grease coated, arm pit of a student dorm. And frankly, I’m far too delicate to survive long in such filth.”

“Done. Second?”

“A clothes drier. I know neither you nor anyone in your entire family have ever owned, or dared covet such a new fangled contraption, but I’m here to drag you all kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Towels are not meant to abrade like brittle sandpaper across your skin. Socks are not meant to snap, crackle, and pop like bits of crumpled crepe paper as you sort and fold them. Clothes cannot dry on a line hung in the pissing rain. I can adjust to a kitchen without a dishwasher or a dispose-all, but no clothes drier is a deal breaker.”

“Fine, whatever. And third?”

“A cat.”

“A cat.”

“But not just any cat. I want The Cat. Something luxurious. Something exotic. Something fluffy. Something blue.”



“You want a blue cat.”

“Yes. I saw one in a picture once. It had a fat, round face, and copper eyes.  Gorgeous.  It was called something-blue-something or other. Find me one, won’t you darling? Only then will I know your love is true. Only then can I give myself to you completely.”

The rest is, as they so often say, history.  The breed turned out to be the British Shorthair, and the particular variety of Shorthair that I wanted, the Blue, turned out to be almost nonexistent here in Bergen.  We finally found a breeder in Drammen (city in eastern Norway) who had a kitten he was willing to part with.  Of course,  it was obscenely expensive, but I'm pretty sure I was worth it.
He's been a good Puss.  Haughty, arrogant, distainful.  Distant, dismissive, imperious.  Pretty much everything a good Puss is supposed to be.

Here he is 8 years ago with Elder Miss.
It was incredibly magnanimous of him to pose with her that day.  As you can see, he wasn't in the mood.  And he told me in no uncertain terms that, "If that mewling, drooling moppet so much as smiles at my tail, I swear to God, there will be blood."  Happily, all went well.

Alas, my Puss is an old man now, and his health is beginning to fail him.  He's been sneezing--violent, gripping, brain-curdling sneezing attacks that leave him visibly shaken and drained.  And last week he started whistling through his nose when he breathed. 

The vet, a lovely Danish woman who petted and preened over him like as if he were Bast, the Egyptian cat god, (which, I'm pretty sure, in his agéd fog, he thinks he is) ran some tests, and didn't have the best of prognoses to share.  He has some manner of herpes virus in his eyes which, apparently, he's had for some time.  Like any other form of herpes, it flares up then settles down in waves.  Right now it's very flared up, and there's a secondary bacterial infection going on in his eys that we got some drops for.  He's also got an upper respiratory infection--hence the sneezing--and more pills to treat it.  But the really bad news is he tested positive for FIV (basically the cat version of HIV).

Herpes and FIV--sigh.  We always knew he ran with a dangerous crowd, but we thought he was being careful!*

It's not exactly a death sentence.  He's not suffering (beyond the sneezing, and the twice daily maulings he endures as I try to wrangle eye drops into his weepy eyes). He's not wasting away as we speak, and he's certainly not dying.  But she (the vet) did stop talking about getting his teeth cleaned as soon as she saw the test result, and she said we need to treat this, and any other infection, very aggressively.  She wants him on a special high protein diet, and she says it would probably be best if he didn't go outside anymore.

I'm a cat person.  A life-long lover of the kitties.  This particular kitty has been with me from pretty much day one of my Norwegian life.  It goes without saying that I'm willing to do what it takes to keep him alive as long as it makes sense to keep him alive.  Mister grew up on a farm.  One of his jobs growing up was disposing of the many, many litters of kittens that would turn up throughout the years.  He says he didn't like this job, but he did it.  He suffers no over-wrought sentimentality when it comes to animals.  Even cherished pets. 

So Mom, you may be right.  If he gets sick again after this, Puss may not be long for this life.

*Disclaimer--Neither herpes nor FIV are sexually transmitted diseases in cats.  Both are spread largely through saliva (fighting, biting, spitting, etc).  Whatever, he's still always been the neighborhood man-whore.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Attention!  Attention!

My car Our car MY! car--the new one--the RED car--arrived in Bergen via Oslo via Bremen last night!

I won't get it for another week though, because--and please know that I adore this about my new, red car--it will take the technicians 5 or 6 days to get the on board computers programmed and running. 

On board computers *snigger* 

Did I mention we don't deserve this car?  It wasn't five years ago I was saying to Mister, "Look I don't car what kind of car you get to replace that bloody lemon with the blown out engine. I don't care about color.  Just as long as the defroster still works in this one!  Oh, and it would be nice, though certainly not strictly necessary, but very convenient nevertheless, if the heater were at least marginally functional this time around." 

And now I have technicians programming my on board computers for me--in English no less.

In other news, I heard something about the world economy or some shit over the weekend, but clearly I didn't understand it very well, because did you hear--we just bought a new car! 

Credit crisis?  What credit crisis?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Parental Involvement--Fail

I am a serial quitter.

This is a harsh and unpleasant quality to first recognize and then acknowledge about yourself—stings a bit, like hydrogen peroxide on a cut, only without the pleasing, fizzy chemical reaction. But it is an inescapable fact. I get bored. I get distracted. I’m pathologically lazy. I’m simply not equipped with that all-important ‘see-it-through’ gene. Things get set aside. Pots get put on the back burner. Life goes on.

You remember, several months ago I mentioned that I had volunteered for the PTO. I regretted it almost as soon as I did it. But this business of me quitting things long before I’ve had a chance to see them through has been on my mind quite a bit lately. It has occurred to me that if I’m going to shake myself out of the rut into which my life has fallen, I might have to first shake myself loose of the quitting habit. So I showed up at my first PTO meeting last Tuesday evening nervous, doubtful, but full of determination to honor my commitment.

Keep in mind I wasn’t the official secretary for the meeting, but I’d like to try to give you a rough rundown of the minutes of the meeting:

  • We opened with a guest speaker who lectured us for 35 minutes on the importance of parental involvement in the public schools. Preacher, meet choir.
  • Then a second guest speaker used 25 minutes to encourage us to spend 15 minutes a day--just 15 precious minutes, every day--alone, without distractions, talking--just talking--to our children.
  • Finding this a reasonable request, we all looked at our watches and wondered if we'd make it home before bedtime.
  • When the incoming PTO president introduced herself and opened the floor for committee updates, we all thought, probably not.
  • There was a lengthy discussion about the distribution of some manner of brochure--the significance and outcome of which was entirely lost on me because they didn't use the word ‘brochure’ in the beginning, they used some other word that I had never heard and didn't understand, and by the time I figured out they were talking about brochures, they had satisfied themselves that they were going to give something a try, but I had no idea what they were going to try, so I rather hoped they didn't expect me to help.
  • The 17. Mai committee then discussed the possibility of forming another committee to debate, and handle the possible purchase of a cotton candy machine—cotton candy machines being expensive to rent, apparently, and critical to 17. Mai success.
  • Then the fall flea market committee whined that there weren't enough people on their committee.
  • Then the traffic committee whined that the kommune never listened to them, and nothing ever changed anyway, so maybe they should just disband their committee.
  • One lady argued that the whole organization needed overhauling on account of too many committees.
  • The committee for the preservation of committees objected.
  • Then the treasurer entered a motion to spring for stronger coffee at the next meeting.
  • The 'ayes' carried it.
  • Me, I just wondered when the committee for cake baking and class field trip supervision would be recognized, because that was the one I was there to volunteer for.
  • By 9:15 it began to dawn on me that there was no such committee.
  • I sank lower in my chair.
  • By the end of the two and a half hour meeting I was positively dripping down the back legs in an effort to remain unseen, unheard, and unthere.
Two days later, late Thursday evening, I tracked down the incoming president of the PTO and resigned my position.

Pretty chicken shit of me, no? Possibly even more chicken shit than the time in the 9th grade when I quit the marching band without notice after I found out that early morning rehearsals and band practice would continue throughout the football season.

But to my credit, I did spend those two days between the meeting and my resignation waging a mighty internal battle. Step up, Jamie. This too can be borne, Jamie. You promised them, Jamie. You promised yourself! But O Jesus God, the tedium! The repetition! The bureaucracy! The humanity!

In the end it came down to this: There were more parents who volunteered as PTO representatives for the 1st grade than were needed, I just happened to be sitting at one of the first tables to be asked. At the parent meeting last week one of the mothers who volunteered, but was lower on the list, complained bitterly that she was never called. Apparently she gets orgasmic over committee work. Bam! My replacement. Plus—the brochures, people. I seriously didn’t have a fucking clue what they were talking about. How much help can I possibly be to them?

Judge me if you must.

I promise to be resolute about something else sometime really soon. Seriously. Something fun. Something that makes me feel a little less like chewing my arm off to escape the pain.

Monday, September 15, 2008

You know what this means, don't you?

I am sitting on the couch watching West Wing reruns on the Hallmark channel. My tongue gently probes a dull, but insistant ache on my bottom left molar. I'm drawn to this ache. I wonder what it looks like; how deep can it burrow into my jaw before it begins to affect my sanity? There's a long patch of dull in the script where Josh and Toby are once again screaming at each other in strings of meaningless acronyms that I assume will leave CJ with some pretty tough explaining to do in the briefing room.

My attention drifts. I glance out the window.

The background soundtrack in my head screeches to a sudden, dissonant halt. What the?

One of these things is not like the other.
Where did that come from? How long has it been there?

My molar sinks a root deeper into my mandible, lashes a nerve around the rot, and throbs casually as if to say, "Quite a while actually. You've just been too busy to notice."

And I wonder has nature always been this obliging with the easy metaphor? Have I really just not been paying attention before now?
The flaming tree amidst a forest of green. The burning nerve in my otherwise blameless jaw.

The rot of Autumn. The rot of tooth decay.

The impending Winter, which sucks not unlike this creeping tooth ache. I may have some time--a few weeks, a month maybe--to enjoy the brisk mornings and the vibrant color, to ruminate on the poetry of decay--but eventually I'm going to have to deal with the mountain of crap that's marching right behind it, and, chances are, it's going to sting a bit.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


On the first day of school we had a bit of extra time while Boy was finishing up his getting-to-know-you business in his new classroom, so Elder Miss walked me over to her class's garden patch to show me the potatos and the flowers they had planted last Spring. Every class at the school has been assigned a (roughly) 8 foot square patch of earth that they tend, and till, and plant whatever they see fit into. I think it's all too wonderful to be weird, so don't think for second that's where this is headed.

Two summers ago when my brother and sister-in-law got married, they had as their souvenirs little packets of forget-me-not seeds with their names and the date printed on it, also a little thanks for sharing bit, and please take these seeds home and watch our love bloom and grow....or something....I can't remember. Anyway, I took about 12 packets, intending to sow the seeds of their love all over the world first chance I got.

As fate would have it, that first chance turned out to be last Spring when Elder Miss asked if she could take one of the packets to plant in her class's garden.

I'll be damned, kids. It looks like they took root.

I think, though I can't be absolutely certain, but I am, nevertheless, pretty darn sure, that today is the day my sister-in-law is shipping out for parts Middle Eastward. Her reserve unit was called up earlier this year, and now, alas, the time has come for her to go.

Be safe, Jenny. Be well. Come home; my brother needs you. And if it helps, please know that there are flowers blooming in Norway, against all odds amongst a stain of dead weeds, with your name and your love written all over them.

I leave you with the same advice I gave Mark when he left for Kosovo: If you hear artillery fire, duck. Heroism is entirely over-rated.

*Norwegian for 'forget-me-not', pronounced 'forglem-my-eye'

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I hesitate to get into a whole screed against my adopted countrymen and women whereby I serially highlight the uniquely Norwegian weirdness I experience everyday. It just doesn’t seem prudent, or very fair. I mean, obviously Americans do weird pretty well themselves. To wit: the cereal aisle of any American super market, or the root beer float, or the Republican presidential ticket. That alone, coupled with recent tracking polls, equals scary; Americans are rather better at ‘scary’ than Norwegians.

Nevertheless, my loyal readership—one of you anyway—has asked for more news of the weird. And, after all, the subject does lend itself to some particularly easy writing. So…just this once…

Elementary Weirdness

This is a close-up of Elder Miss’s homework schedule for this week—the 3rd week of the 3rd grade.

Allow me to walk you through it. They’re to read pages 12, 13, and 14 of their reading books (one page per night lest the little scholars be overwhelmed). Page 12 they’re to memorize by Friday. ‘Utenat’—this is new and ambitious work. I had to look it up, means ‘by heart’. I’m intrigued; it might require actual effort.

Page 12 turns out to be the first third of a silly little alphabet poem (pages 13 and 14 being the remaining two thirds). A is for Apple that B Bought—that sort of thing, only in Norwegian. Which means the apple is actually an orange.  Which, now that I think about it, is rather a perfect metaphor to sum up the subtle yet insurmountable differences between the American and Norwegian cultures. But, never mind. Maybe we can get into that later, in 10th grade Sociology.

In addition to the reading, for Tuesday they are asked to copy the alphabet into their notebooks using their nicest handwriting. Then on Thursday, after having read the last page of the alphabet poem, the schedule boldly announces, “Now you know the alphabet!

The alphabet, folks. In case it’s unclear, I think it’s more than a little weird that they spend a week learning the alphabet in the 3rd grade. I know when they start teaching letters and sounds in the 1st grade, they start with the easiest letters to form, then they move on to the most common. By the middle of the 2nd grade, all the students can read, but apparently it takes until the 3rd grade to get around to asking them to memorize the letters of the alphabet in any sort of consistent, universally acknowledged order.

I thought it was a joke, an absurd and insulting waste of time. Elder Miss can read—well! In two languages for crying out loud! Why are we dicking around with the alphabet at this late stage!

But rather than malign her teachers’ judgment, I said, “You’d better do it EM. At least it will give you a chance to practice your penmanship.”

There was a brief argument about big versus small letters. I said all small. She said a mixture of both because some letters are prettier to write big. I could genuinely give a shit, so she won. Then she got started, “a___ B___ c___ d___ E_______________ What comes after E?”

I’m speechless.

“Oh yeah, F” she quickly remembers, “g___ H___ i___ J______________um? “

She has to sing the song to get to K. U she leaves out all together, and her Z is backwards.

I feel compelled to remind you all—most vehemently—that she can read in two languages at, or slightly above, grade level. She is not an idiot.

But still. The 3rd grade! Norwegian secretaries must be the worst secretaries in the whole world.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Half Forgotten Norwegian Weirdness

So that other post about Norwegian weirdness was pretty much just me being annoyed by my in-laws.  My apologies for casting broad cultural aspersions based solely on personal bias.  But this one really is weird, and I had pretty much forgotten all about it.

Where do I begin?
  • I shall shamelessly steal Tales of a Texpatriot's bullet point format.
  • She calls it 'random'.
  • I call it 'liberating'.
  • Very useful for those days (and subjects) when you can't be bothered with any of that narrative arc bullshit.
  • Onward
  • The quality of the above photos is bad because they were taken with my cell phone camera one gray, blustery day in June.
  • My cell phone camera sucks.
  • Also, it is absurdly difficult to get pictures off a cell phone and onto a computer.
  • Thank you, Jørgen for your help in this matter.
  • The kid with his finger up his nose--NOT. MY. KID.
  • Children dressed as mini brides and grooms and pulled in a horse drawn carriage.
  • Adorable.  But, why?
  • It has something to do with SanktHans Aften--Midsummer's Eve.
  • Also called Jonsokk.
  • Also Olsokk.
  • Three names.  One night.  Why?
  • So I asked one of the barnehage teachers, "Why is my son dressed as a mini groom and riding in a horse drawn carriage?"
  • She was pretty sure the tradition comes from Voss (mountain community east of Bergen, much skiing, really lovely, entirely sullied by the prevalance of smalahove)
  • Smalahove must be seen to be believed.
  • Dis
  • Gusting
  • Then I said to the barnehage teacher, "Where is not the same thing as why.  Why?"
  • She couldn't say.
  • So I asked Mister, "Why did the barnehage tantes dress our son and his classmates as mini brides and grooms and parade them around in a horse drawn carriage?"
  • Mister had no idea.
  • Though he had a vague memory of his older sister being dressed thusly on one occasion.
  • Or maybe it was just a picture he saw once, and thought of Hildegunn.
  • Googling is no help.
  • Because, honestly, what do you google?
  • All of the mini brides and grooms were 6 years old and leaving the barnehage to begin grade school in August.
  • So maybe it's a graduation, mile-stone marker kind of event?
  • But no. 
  • Mister says some villages have mini brides and grooms lead the parade on 17. Mai (Constitution Day).
  • No word yet on why.
  • Those are all real flowers.
  • Real roses.  Real daisies.  Real ferny greenery.
  • Someone put some serious time and effort into gathering these get-ups and making those head pieces.
  • Plus--where'd the farking horse come from?
  • No one told me these mini nuptials were going to happen.
  • Hence the lack of camera, and the mini-pixeled cell phone pictures.
  • Perhaps it was rushed.
  • Perhaps one of the girls was pregnant.
  • Perhaps they married them all off to hide the identity of the one.
  • Speaking of the girls, they were gorgeous.
  • I wish someone had given me a tiara of fresh roses and a gauzy veil to wear while being driven around the football field in a horse drawn carriage.
  • They didn't even ask.
  • I wonder why..
  • If anyone out there has any illuminating information about this adorable, yet inexplicable tradtion, by all means....
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Monday, September 08, 2008

An Edifying Dialogue About Birth Order

At dinner last night

Missy the Younger:  Ooooo, I want to be a grown up soooo bad.  Right now!

Elder Miss:  Not me.  I want to be a baby and get all of mommy's attention.

Boy Middle:  And I will just stay me FOREVER! because I make mommy laugh.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Shiny Happy People

I'm an aging Gen-Xer.  As such, I rounded up a babysitter last night, and headed into town for the R.E.M. concert.

It was an outdoor venue.  As such, it had no seating.  No gently sloping, grassy knoll.  No splintered, weathered bench nor crumbling curb.

I spent 5 1/2 hours last night walking, standing, swaying or generally hitting that funky beat.  I did not avail myself of the festering porta-potties, even for the chance to sit down for 30 seconds.  My bladder is legend.

At one point I turned and yelled into Mister's ear, "DOES YOUR BACK ACHE AS MUCH AS MINE!"

"NO!" he yelled back, "BUT MY HIPS ARE KILLING ME!"

I can't bounce as vigorously to "It's the End of the World" as I used to.  And I don't feel the pathos of "Losing My Religion" quite as keenly as I once did in high school.  But Michael Stipe was charming, his voice held for the entire concert, and they ended the show with "Man on the Moon".  Cuz' that's how it should be.

Hey, Baby!  Are you having fun?

Why, yes Michael.  Yes I am.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Is That A Geyser In That Picture, Or Was He Just Happy To See Me?

Bah Dum Bum

Seriously though folks, I'll say right out of the gate that Iceland didn't manage to be nearly as spectacular as I thought it would be.  Which is not to say it wasn't spectacular.  Because it was.  Quite.  It just wasn't as spectacular as I expected it to be.

This is not Iceland's fault.  My expectations were ridiculously high.

It's possible that if I didn't live in, or hadn't traveled extensively around Western Norway, I would have thought Iceland was the fucking BOMB! 

But alas, I do.  And I have.  Been to Yellowstone a couple of times too...

Consequently Iceland, in all its anomalous geological glory, fell just short of knocking my socks off.

What Western Norway doesn't have though, is The Blue Lagoon.
Now this was bitchin'.  Totally so.  It's a natural hot spring that they've turned into a spa retreat, a quick 20-ish minute drive from the airport.  Temperatures range from tepid bathtub upwards of hotter than hot hottub.  And it comes by that color naturally, which, oddly, is the thing that managed to impress me most.

This was the first stop on our trip.  We were instructed to have swimming suits in our carry-ons, so we were good to go almost as soon as we landed.

Conversations while soaking in the Blue Lagoon tended to be hushed; movements tended to be slow, almost sloth-like. There was no rampant merriment or splashing about.  Even the few children I saw were subdued.  Not because there were any specific rules that I saw prohibiting loud mucking about, but just because anything less than dignified reverence in the midst of all that sulfury steam would have seemed gauche. 

It was, however, permissable to wander about this magnificent blue puddle with a cold beer in your hand.  Which we did.  Gauche be damned.

This lovely little spot is in Thingvellir--site of the world's first legislative assembly.  A strictly open air parliament, of course, because these were Vikings, after all, and buildings in those days were for pussies. 

Apparently, that little pool there in the foreground was a favorite spot--bless their ghoulish Viking hearts--to drown women who were found guilty of witchcraft and incest (because we all know how incest is usually the girl's fault). 
Also notable about Thingvellir is it sits on a massive rift valley, one of the few places where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge can be seen above water.  I got a little thrill when our guide said, "Right now we are standing on America.  Over there (points towards the mountains) is Europe."  Oh goodie, I thought.  By all means, let's stay here.

And here we are posing like dorks in front of Gullfoss.  I've never seen Niagra, so this gets to be the biggest damn waterfall I've ever seen.
It really was quite beautiful, and unbelievably powerful.  I hear Ms. Palin favors an initiative to slap a turbine or twelve on it, and sell the energy cheap to India...or was it Indiana, maybe?...I can't remember.

Anyway, I thought the rainbow over Mister's shoulder was a nice touch.  But, ya' know, that's what rainbows do in Iceland.  They follow you around everywhere, and pose prettily in pictures with you.

That's it.  I take it back. 

On second thought, Iceland really was just. that. spectacular.  I think I'll go back someday before all the glaciers melt--further explore interior of the country and maybe go whale watching if there's any left.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Three Examples of Norwegians Behaving Weirdly

Okay, maybe not soooo all-fired up weird, certainly not vasoline-in-your-underpants weird. But, still, a little off—like, maybe, socks-with-sandals weird? You be the judge.

Weirdness #1:

My father-in-law called last week. Mister and FIL have a tendency to gossip and twitter like school girls when they talk on the phone, which, in itself, is a little weird, but not the point here. I only mention it now because I had tuned them out so thoroughly that half way through their conversation, Mister had to call my name three times to get my attention before I was able to tear myself away from the riveting game of Spider Solitaire I was playing (and winning, I might add) to mutter a terse, “What!”

“When has your mother bought tickets for Disneyland?”

I’m immediately wary. Extenuating circumstances have conspired in such a way that we’ve been obliged to share Mister’s last two consecutive summer vacations with FIL. I like the guy. I do. But I do not fancy a third. I hope, no doubt in vain, that Mister hears this in my voice when I carefully bite out, “July 6th. To the somethingth. I think.”

The rest of the one-sided conversation I listen to more carefully. But all I get is, “So most of July then. Uh-huh. Yeah. Sounds good. No. No. Yeah. Okay then. Right. Uh-huh. Bye then.”

“What was that?” I ask, all pleasant smiles and feminine wiles, as soon has he hangs up.

“Well, this is so weird. And a little flattering. I think.”

“Oh?” Through clinched teeth.

“It seems B (FIL’s second wife) wants to spend her summer vacation next year at our place.”

“In Utah?” Aghast.

“No. Here. In our house.”

“Eh?” Confused.

“It is a lake house, you know. Many people would consider this a vacation home.”

“Yeah, but. Eh?”

“I guess she just wants to spend some time by the lake.”

“But it’s……it’s just……Eh?”

“What? Are you saying they can’t come?”

“No! Hell no! Free house-sitters. By all means come. They know that Puss comes with the house, right? They have to feed the cat. And B better keep my roses alive, goddammit!

FIL has done so much of the building and remodeling in and around this house that he probably has a legitimate claim to partial ownership of the place. So I really don’t mind that he stays here while we’re gone. I just think it’s weird that he wants to.

Weirdness #2:

Mister and I are going to Iceland this weekend. Yeah, you heard right. Iceland. This makes me perfectly awesome, and, in itself, is an example of Norwegians behaving rather wonderfully because it’s Mister’s company who’s sponsoring the trip. More about that later, when I have pictures to demonstrate how perfectly awesome I was—in Iceland.

My mother-in-law is taking the kids for us while we’re gone. A very nice thing for her to do because we don’t fly back into Bergen until almost midnight Monday night, so she’s going to have to take Monday off work. But first, we have to get the kids to Rosendal, where MIL lives.

There are two ways to get to Rosendal from Bergen: option 1) a 2 ½ to 3 hour drive by car, depending on how you hit the 2 ferries that stand between here to there; option 2) a fast ferry (catamaran thingy, passengers only) that takes only 50 minutes, and drops you off right in Rosendal. What we’ve done in the past when we’ve needed to ditch the kids for the weekend is MIL will get on the fast ferry in Rosendal, we meet her in Os (closest stop to us) where we simply usher the kids onto the ferry and into her loving arms; boat turns around, takes them all back to Rosendal. Hey, presto! Mister and I are free!

Unfortunately, MIL doesn’t want to do that this time around. It is both time consuming and expensive, and not something I’d personally be willing to do myself. So I can’t really blame her for not wanting to do it now. Her alternative plan, however, is both reckless and negligent in its weirdness. She wants us to put the kids—ALONE—on the fast ferry in Os, and let her collect them in Rosendal when the ferry docks.

When Mister told me about this proposed plan of action, I said, “Tell me you know what an incredibly bad idea that is.”

“Do I? No, you’re right. It probably wouldn’t work.”

“No, honey. I need to know that you know that not only would it not work, but it would be foolish and cruel, criminal maybe, to even attempt such a magnificently stupid thing. Tell me you get this. Please tell me now. Because I might drop dead someday—tomorrow, next week, later tonight maybe—and before I go, I need to know that you’re with it enough to know that our children are neither old enough, responsible enough, nor smart enough to be left alone, unsupervised on a ferry—fast or otherwise!”

“Sure, sure. I get it. Missy might have to pee or something…..”

“Pee or something? PEE OR SOMETHING! They might get off at the wrong stop. They might lose or miscount the money meant to pay for their tickets. They might be approached by a friendly grey-haired gentleman who wants to help Missy ‘pee or something’. The motherfucking boat MIGHT! SINK! At the very least they might be so rambunctiously annoying that the other passengers on board might be compelled to judge the wisdom and parenting acumen of the morons who saw fit to loose such godless urchins ALONE on a boat. And so help me God MISTER! So long as I live, this cannot, will not, happen!”

A few days after this conversation, I asked him again if he had talked to his mom and figured out how they were going to get the kids to her. “Hmm, not really,” he said, “She still doesn’t quite get why we can’t just put them on the ferry.”

My eyes dimmed. My mouth watered. I was prepared for war. But he put his hands up, cutting me off before I could even get started. “I know, I know. Weird, right?”

And now to better illustrate the above point—

Weirdness #3:

Tuesday morning EM somehow managed to pinch a nerve in her neck. Don’t ask me how. The deed was already done by 7 a.m. when I went in to see if she was up and getting dressed.

My darling EM tends to panic when she’s suffering a good deal of pain she can’t control. So rather than grimacing and muttering curses under her breath like a sane person, EM was HOWLING and CRYING, SCREAMING DEAR GOD PITY ME FOR I DO SUFFER SO! Mah-ah-ah-ahhhhhhhhhh

Annoying. And more than a little bit weird. But again, not the point.

There was no way I could put her on a bus when she was carrying on as she was. So, lame as I though she was being, I sent her back to bed, and asked Boy if he was ready to take the bus by himself. Sure, he said, but he’d prefer it if I walked up to the bus stop with him.

No problem. Off we went.

The proud smile and friendly wave I directed towards the driver quickly faded as I noticed he slammed the door shut and pulled off before Boy had found a seat. Asshole, I thought. Then shrugged it off, and frankly, didn’t give it another thought as I squared my shoulders and headed home to deal with EM’s weirdness.

Later that evening we were all chatting over dinner, when Boy broke in and casually said, “Hey Mom, know what? You thought it was the right bus, but it wasn’t. It was the wrong bus. It didn’t go to my school. I had to walk.”

“You always have to walk across the street. It’s just the afternoon bus that picks you up right at school.”

“No but, it didn’t stop where it should have. I had to walk.”

“What? What do you mean it didn’t stop? Where did you get off? How far did you walk? WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT DIDN’T STOP?”

Now here’s the deal folks, some Norwegian kids—the ones who live in densely populated areas with say 30 or 40 school aged children—climb on busses every day specially designated as ‘School Busses’. These busses are only for the children, and they drive right onto the school grounds, and deliver their charges safely onto the playground. My Norwegian kids are not so lucky. We live in a narrow valley with no more than (maybe?) a dozen or so school aged children that need transportation to and from school. My kids climb onto a public bus every morning; a public bus, full to bursting with Mr. and Mrs. John Q Public, that stops very near the school, but then continues on its merry way on into the city.

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that that stop near the school would be absolute. You stop the bus of a morning for a skinny kid with an oversized backpack. Wave to his anxious mother hovering protectively in the background. You pretty much know that kid is headed to school, right? So even if—for whatever reason—that string doesn’t get pulled, and the signal to stop at that particular stop doesn’t go off, you’d still know, right? You’d still know that there’s a skinny little kid here that needs to get to school. If he doesn’t get off here, he won’t know where else to go. What else to do. So, you’d stop. Right? Keep in mind too, that that skinny little kid wasn’t the only skinny little kid to climb on your bus that morning. There were at least 4 other skinny little reminders that part of your job is to ferry skinny little school children safely to their school. So, of course, you’d stop.

But the guy didn’t stop. Now how weird is that?

It’s hard to get a clear narrative out of Boy, but here’s what I was able to piece together. He said the string thingy didn’t work. He said he was scared when the bus didn’t stop. When it finally did stop (I think) another kilometer or so up the line, he said he heard M (friend of Elder Miss, in the 3rd grade) call his name, so he followed her. I’ve always liked M. I’m pretty sure she’s the only reason Boy ended up where he was supposed to be Tuesday morning. In the end, I don’t think they were even late for the first bell.

I sort of have to limit my commentary on this one to ‘weird’, because if I start to think of it as anything more than that, I immediately picture Boy stranded alone on that bus heading straight to the seething den of urine-reeking iniquity that is the city bus station, and I start to lose my mind a little.