Friday, February 29, 2008

A Quickie In Honor Of Leap Day

Here’s a little game that Missy and Boy like to play in the mornings when Elder Miss isn’t around to referee. Missy starts:

“Boy, be quiet.”


“Are you being quiet?”


“Are you being quiet?”

Nary a peep


A stillness so profound you’d swear you’d slipped into a deep, velvety sleep where dreams of thick, fog-filled glens and mossy meadows await you



“Okay then.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Having Learned That If She Doesn't Ask, I Can't Say No...

I finally picked up a late Valentine’s Day package from Alpha Grandma this afternoon. In it were three boxes of chocolates (which I quickly confiscated until Friday), a heart red sweater for me (awww, she really shouldn’t have), two shirts each for the kids, Spiderman socks for Boy, and three pairs of undies each for the girls.

Boy looked this gift horse directly in the mouth and asked, “Where are the toys?” Elder Miss coolly informed me that the brown shirt was pretty but I’d have to buy her a pair of pants to match them. Missy simply swooned.

Dora panties and a bright pink shirt featuring Dora in a pair of sparkly fairy wings? The haute-est of haute couture in Missy’s world, I tell you what. She quickly gathered these rare treasures unto her bosom and ran upstairs shouting, “I want to cuddle whiss ‘zem, that’s because I want to!” Elder Miss and Boy followed her up saying something about catching the last episode of Power Rangers or whatever. And there they all stayed, blessedly out-of-sight/out-of-mind for the next hour and a half. Giving me ample time to—I know I should say ‘do the dishes, wash the floors, fold the laundry, and pour my husband a second martini’—but I was, in fact, trying to break through to the next, and final level, of Over the Hedge on EM’s Nintendo. Ninety freakin’ minutes, and I still couldn’t find all twenty of those GOD DAMN light bulbs! I’m tellin’ ya’, there’s only nineteen of them. 19. Not 20. Just 19. So LET ME PASS ALREADY! Stupid fucking game. GRRRRRRRR!

Anyway, so 7:30 rolls around, and I call the kids down to brush their teeth and get ready for bed, as per our usual arrangement. Only tonight, instead of Missy barreling down the stairs first shouting that she wants to brush her teeth ‘self’, EM and Boy come a-sauntering in their typical distracted fashion and are half-way done with their nightly ablutions before I hear Missy even make a move in the direction of the stairs.

“Missy, you need to hurry a bit,” I warn in my semi-stern, you’re-okay-for-another-thirty-seconds-but-then-I’m-really-going-to-lose-my-shit voice, “It’s getting late. We’ll miss reading time if you don’t slap a rush on it.”

“Oh-kaaay. I coming,” she mutters, with more than a touch of reluctance in her voice.

When she finally gets into the bathroom—head hung, eyes averted, feet shuffling in the slow, measured way of the guilty—I see that, not only is she wearing her new Dora shirt, but also the pink-ruffled shirt from the package under it. And the hot-pink sweatshirt I sent her to barnehage in under that, as well as the wool undershirt I sent her to barnehage in under that. And, as I start to undress the bottom half of her, I note the jeans and tights she had on earlier—only I’m pretty sure that they weren’t backwards when I put them on her—under those, she’s got all three pairs of new Dora underwear, plus two of the pairs of Dora undies she got for Christmas, plus the faded pair of My Little Pony panties she put on this morning.

What could I do but laugh?

“It’s a bit much, don’t you think, honey?” I chuckle.

Missy’s eyes go from guilty to defiant in a flash, “I has to has Dora on! That’s because I LOVE HER!”

All of which is to say, thanks for the new clothes Grandma, much appreciated.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heresy: A Short Play Of Profound Meaning, In Three Acts

The Scene: Wednesday evening. The living room. It is half way through Winter Break. The children have been off school for three days; they are restless, they are bored, they are playing chicken with their mother’s last nerve. This impartial narrator’s money is on The Mother.

The floor is cluttered with piles of neatly folded clothes and open suitcases. Five sets of skis and poles make a precarious lean-to against one wall. The Mother has been packing all afternoon. The Father has been on an out of town meeting all day, but has planned to take an early flight home so he can start his vacation too. The children are waiting anxiously for him to walk through the door. When he does, they are finally going to Rosendal, to Farmor, to the slopes, at the very least to different walls than the ones they’ve been climbing for the past five unstructured, unproductive, uneventful days.

Act I: Scenes I and II

In which the phone rings, it is The Father. Fog has him socked in at the airport. The children's raucous energy quiets to a twitchy buzz as they listen to the one-sided conversation. It is decided to postpone the trip. The family will leave first thing tomorrow morning. Bitter disappointment and tears ensue.

The Mother resorts to much tutting and shushing to calm her frustrated children. Peace is eventually restored with the promise of some Pepsi Max and a bath after dinner.

Act II: Scene I

In which panic once again grips the hearts of the children when The Mother casually mentions she hadn’t planned on making dinner tonight. The pantry is searched. The freezer is raided. The refrigerator scoured. The exhaustive search turns up frozen chicken, pesto, a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, and half a red onion. The children are skeptical, but The Mother promises to work a culinary miracle.

Act III: Scene I

Finally seated around the dinner table, the children slump heavily in their seats and pick suspiciously at the sticky green chunks of pesto-soaked poultry on their plates.

Elder Miss: (pouting) I wish there was a God to blame.

Boy: (defiant) Me too.

Elder Miss: Maybe there is.

Boy: Nah. Let’s make one up!

Elder Miss: Okay. His name is Bob-nob.

Missy: (giggle) That rhymes.

Boy: Yeah, and he has a jet pack.

Missy: And a monkey!

Elder Miss: And he can control the weather.

Boy: Bob-nob sucks.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Dr. Seuss Might Have Worded It Differently, But Otherwise It's Just The Same

So a few weeks ago I wrote a strongly worded letter to EM’s teachers asking, among other things, whatever happened to the reading books you used to send home every Monday? And, are you fer’ real with these spelling words? “Jeg”? “Meg”? “Av”? You are aware, I hope, that she is nearly 8 years old and has been reading with ever increasing fluency for nearly 3 years now? Oh, and while I’ve got your ear for a minute here, why is it exactly that no one has yet bothered to teach her how to carry her ones and take away from her tens? I mention her age again (8 in May) only because it seems from the contents of her homework folder that you all seem to be operating under the impression that she is still 5. Or, mentally challenged. Or, even—I grudgingly admit it is within the realm of possibility—just plain stupid. So, like, what gives?

Her teachers (all three of them), whom I have always liked by the way, were quick to respond that: No, EM is most definitely not stupid. She is rather, a very bright, eager, and easy student. As far as the work level is concerned, we are simply following national curriculum guidelines for her age level. However, if I want her to have a bit of extra work, why all I had to do was ask.

Splendid. They sent her home with two extra reading books that very day. One in Norwegian, and they were pleased to announce the school had just purchased a set of early English readers which would be perfect for EM. So, here you are—the first in the series. Enjoy! Oh but please, they were quick to add, don’t push her too hard. EM likes to learn, but she’s still just a child and she likes to play too.

Pfft. What.Ever. Put that bloody Nintendo down EM, and read this. Yes! NOW!

When I first read the phrase ‘early English reader’, I was thinking cool, they’ve purchased the Oxford Reading Tree series, or possibly the Jolly Phonics books that I’m told are all the rage over in merry old England. At any rate, English books written by English speaking persons for English speaking children.

But, no. Being Norwegian, they naturally figured a Norwegian writer was better equipped to teach a Norwegian child to speak and read English for heaven’s sake. So what I’ve got here is a series of books written in halting, tortured English by, what I can only assume from the subject matter of these books to be, halting, tortured Norwegians.

I’m sure this violates all kinds of copyright laws, but I just have to share with you the text of the second book, in its entirety. There’s no way I can do this stuff justice in a brief synopsis.

So here it is: The Naughty Mice

It is evening.
They are eating.

(The illustration shows a family of four seated at a dinner table in the fuzzy background, and a cute little mouse drinking a drop of water from a faucet in the foreground.)

Mary says:
There is a mouse on the table.
(According to the illustration, the mouse is, in fact, on the countertop. But whatever.)

Steven points.
He says:
--There are two mice.

Daddy says:
--Are they walking on the table?
They are naughty mice.
I am going to fetch a trap.

Mummy says:
--Where are our cats?

--They are sitting by the door.
They are waiting for food.

They hear a snap.

A mouse has been trapped.
Daddy gives it to the cat.
(The illustration for this one shows a disembodied hand dangling a dead mouse in front of two cats. A dead mouse, for God’s sake! The hell?)

Daddy says:
--I will put the trap out again.

Yes, says mummy.
--Catch the other mouse.

Mary and Steven are going to sleep.

Steven says:
--How many mice got trapped?

--20 naughty mice, said Mary.
--And that is just tonight.

Personally, I think the story ends rather abruptly here, and I’m considering sending a suggestion to the publisher to add a tiny little epilogue:

The cats grew fat.
And they lived in continued squalor ever after.