Saturday, May 31, 2008

I spent WAY too much time on these stupid things. WAY WAY WAY too much time.

Then I discovered the music library, and proceeded to waste ever more ill considered hours on them. Housewifery is a blast, man. A fucking hoot, I tell ya'!

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Heh heh--it occurs to me upon proof-reading, that that first sentence could be misconstrued as having spent way too much time on the kids--which is all too true. But, as I'm sure you must realize, I meant the futzy picture dealies.
Missy is 4.

EM is 8.

4 + 8 = 12

There are 2 of them, so divide by 2. That's 6.

Boy is soon 6.

So, together, the 3 of them, on average, are 6 years old.

This, according to Mister, is more than enough reason to open a second bottle of wine.

I love Mister.

Also, I'm very drunk right now.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Missy's birthday party with all her little friends from barnehage was yesterday. Details and pictures later--for now I have a bit of a poser for you all.

For reasons entirely too lame to dwell on, I ended up inviting ALL the girls--not just the girls Missy's age, not just the ones she plays with regularly, but ALL the girls at the barnehage--and in so doing, managed to invite 2 little ones that have never been to a birthday party before. Their mothers (in one case, a foster mother) were so pleased, yet nervous about the prospect, that they both called to ask if it would be okay if they stayed for the party--just to be on the safe side.

Fine. Fine. Whatever. I had no problem with that. More adult supervision is always a bonus at these events.

The one mother (the non-foster one) is a foreigner like me. From the Philippines. Been here nearly 10 years. Very quiet. Even more tortured than me by small talk, it would seem. Anyway, she didn't bring a gift, just a card with money. While I think it's a little chicken shit to give a 4 year old cash for her birthday, it's not unheard of here, and that's not my problem. My problem is the amount of cash she gave: 350 kroner (about $70).

It's too much--crazy too much--and I don't feel good about keeping it. Do I approach her about returning some of it? Or, would that just embarrass the hell out of everyone, and insult her entire family and 6 generations of ancestors? Keep in mind that even though she's been here nearly 10 years and one would think that she would have learned by now that the accept norm for a birthday gift in these parts is closer to 100 kroner: a) this is her only child, b) this was said only child's first birthday party, so no etiquette setting precedent to go on, c) she made several comments while she was here that led both Mister and me to believe that her family's contact with other Norwegians is limited, so it stands to reason that she had no one to ask "Hey what would be considered appropriate here?"

I would feel differently--like maybe she meant to give us that much, rather than she just didn't know how much to give--if both her and her husband where high earning professionals. But they're not--he's a farmer, she's a checker at a grocery store. Surely, they don't have this kind of money to throw around. I know we don't. Also, by approaching her, awkward as it would be, we would be letting her know the local standard for the next party they're invited to. So, you know....civil service, and all that?

I honestly don't know. Do I say something or not?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This is terribly silly, and hopelessly sentimental. But I get that way--kind of, sort of, a little bit--around the kids' birthdays.


Just click play, and deal with it. Oh, and by all means, click on the full screen link when you see it. It helps.

Edited to add: Mark's Jenn's Oldest Younger Sister makes a valid point--you have to turn the pages yourself people. Point and click, point and click.

Also, you'll be singing that stupid song all day. You're welcome.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reading, Writing, And A Smattering Of Arithmatic

I had a meeting with Elder Miss’s math teacher today.


How’s that for a name? Think ‘good reel’ only without the ‘d’.

It says something about how long I’ve lived here that that kind of name no longer even fazes me. Hell—I kind of like it. And Vigdis has grown on me to the point where I’d even consider bestowing it on a treasured cat. Not Ragnhild though; never Ragnhild. And Gaute is still something contagious, and spoken of only in furtive whispers. But Gøril I like. Gøril is sporty and fun; Gøril would buy you a round of Jello shots on your birthday—‘course, she’d call them géle shots and order ‘em full of aquavit instead of vodka, but the night out itself would be a riot.

Hold up. Where was I?

Oh yeah, math. My Elder Miss, she struggles mightily with the arithmetic.

Okay, not mightily, but I suspect there are issues which I wanted to address while they’re still young and largely imagined. So I requested a conference.

Right away Gøril assured me that in her opinion EM is fine—right on track with her progress. She showed me the standardized test that EM and her entire class took last week. EM scored a 56 out of a total of 74 possible points. A solid middle pack performance according to Gøril, and far, far from the panic threshold of 36 or lower. So what the fuck are you doing here? You pushy, demanding, critical, harping tart of a mother you.

I jest. She was really very pleasant. And, truth be told, she gave me a fair amount of kudos for being so engaged and interested in my daughter’s schooling—rare in these parts, apparently.

I will admit to being relieved to hear that EM is not the dumbest kid in the class. I will even admit that that very reassurance was 50% of the reason I asked for the meeting in the first place. The difficulty EM is having understanding and finishing her assignments is common and shared with a good half of her classmates.

But. But but…..

56 out of 74? I’m being patted on the head with 56 out of 74? That’s pretty crap, isn’t it? She showed me the actual test too. This was basic, basic stuff: greater than/less than, find the number on the number line, count by twos, count by threes, fill in the missing numbers in the equation 21+__ =30, 15-__ =8, and so on. Easy, easy stuff. 8 problems per page, and the only page where she was able to finish every problem in the allotted time was the one where she had to find the number on the number line.

She’s in the 2nd grade. Shouldn’t there be more to a 2nd grader’s understanding of basic arithmetic than this?

There was one page where she managed to miss every single problem. The instructions were to finish the equation by finding the 10’s and the 1’s. So something like this: 34=__ +4. The answer EM wrote was 38. Gøril told me not to worry. Many of the kids were unable to do this page. She felt it was because they don’t have any real understanding of what the ‘=’ sign actually means.

Why? How? What the everloving fuck? How does a kid, let alone ‘many’ kids, get to the 2nd grade without knowing what the ‘=’ sign means?

I do not mean to malign the teacher. I really don’t. I have every reason to believe this Gøril’s as competent and caring a teacher as I could hope for for EM. It’s the method and the book from which she teaches that I hate—the convoluted, wordy, theoretical, mumbo-jumbo, concept driven bullshit that bathes these kids in a gentle sprinkle of mathematical ideas without ever teaching them any actual skillz yo.

Grumble, grumble.

In the end we agreed that EM could use some linguistic reinforcement. So for the next month or so, until the end of the school year, she’s going take the time to go over some of these concepts with EM in English after she’s instructed the rest of the class in Norwegian. And I’m supposed to encourage EM to learn how to speak up and admit when she really doesn’t get it. EM is a master at nodding and feigning interest when really she’s just counting freckles on her arms and biding her time until all the tiresome yapping from the grown-ups ceases. It would be helpful, says Gøril, if she quit that.

Yeah. So, so much for my proactive meeting of the minds. Wish I could say I felt better about everything now, but I don’t. She’s average. Fine. I neither expect nor require genius from my kids. I just wish I didn’t feel like the standard she’s being held to was so woefully low. Even after seeing that bungled test of hers, I can’t help but feel she’s capable of so much more, if only someone would issue the challenge and teach her the necessary skills.

I feel utterly trapped by this laissez-faire school system, but see absolutely no viable alternatives.

Grumble, grumble, grumble. I’m going to bed now.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Who-ray For Norway Day

Tomorrow it will be my singular pleasure to celebrate yet another 17th of May, Constitution Day with my adopted countrymen and women.

Woo Fucking Hoo

I’ve never much liked 17. Mai (pronounced soot-en-eh my), except for the bunads. I like the bunads; they’re fun to gawk at. Truth be told, I kind of want one for myself because I think they make chicks look hot—hot in a repressed yet buxom, puritanical sort of way, but still hot. Other than that, 17. Mai =big, fat yawn in my book.

We, like every other family with school-aged children, will be contenting ourselves with passing the business end of 17.Mai—the parade (they call it a parade, but I assure you, it’s nothing like; it’s really just a drab procession of bunad clad families walking down the street waving flags and congratulating one another on being Norwegians), the speeches, the carnival games, the over priced helium balloons and cotton candy—at the kids’ school. Again I say, Woo Fucking Hoo.

If you don’t have kids, or your kids are all old and grown, according to the standard issue The Good Norwegian Citizen’s Guide to Good Norwegian Citizenry, you’re expected to head into the nearest city center, where you will spend your day jostling enormous crowds for a glimpse of the parade (same sort of procession seen at the local schools only bigger, and therefore longer, and infinitely more dull), and searching (largely in vain) for the tiniest of café tables and the chance to ease your bloodied and blistered feet out of your dress shoes. Then, if you’ve been doubly lucky enough to have caught the attention of one of the two working waiters on duty, you may hunker down in this prized spot with a pint of beer and a plate of fenalår, and observe (in a good-humored, non-judgmental fashion) the loud antics of the hordes of drunken teenagers. For it is further noted in The Good Norwegian Citizen’s Guide to Good Norwegian Citizenry that if you are a child you are expected to spend the day gorging yourself silly on bowel shaking quantities of ice cream and cotton candy, and if you are a teenager you are expected to spend it drunk off your ass. It’s a patriotism thing. Apparently, it’s how you express love of country in Norwegian.

And speaking of patriotism, I’ve been getting quite a kick out of how much effort good Norwegian citizens put into their 17. Mai preparations. Yesterday Boy and Missy’s barnehage spent two hours of their afternoon marching around the soccer field shouting “Hurra for 17. Mai! Hurra for 17. Mai!” Then the teachers would go “Hip hip!” and the kids would go, “Hurra!” Teachers, “Hip hip!” Kids, “Hurra!” And so on and so forth. Apparently it took them two hours to get this liturgy down pat.

Today Elder Miss’s entire school dedicated their entire morning to much the same thing: marching about the school grounds, shouting socialist propaganda at one another, and working hard to get just the right amount of snap in the flip of their waving flags. All morning they worked on this.

And I’m thinking, “Lookit citizens—a lawn chair, a bucket of chicken, and a cooler full of ice and beer. Keep one semi-intelligent adult semi-sober enough to light the sparklers after dark. And that’s your Independence Day. Done.”

All this fuss and bother over a constitution that only granted them partial sovereignty anyway. Woo Fucking Hoo.

Oh well, at least the girls are going to look fabulous in their bunads. I’ve had Farmor ironing them all evening while I swill beer and type at you fine people.

Gratulerer med dagen!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Legs, Meet Hills. Hills, Meet The Relentless Churning Power Of My Mighty Hams.

I recently added hills to my running regimen. Gruesome, but oh. so. satisfying.

If you had told me even just this past Christmas that, come May, I'd be running up the mountain roads I've been running these past two weeks, I'd have listened politely with mock-stern interest, then I'd have had you burned as a heretic.

I freely admit to occasionally underestimating myself and my modest potential.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Couple Who Drinks Together, Stays Together

The Scene:
Friday night. 9-ish. Kids are in bed. So far no one has come out puking. Looks to be a quiet night.

Explanatory note:
We have one TV in the house located in the upstairs living room; we spend most of our time in the downstairs living room where there’s nothing but each other and the fire by way of entertainment—and the ipod of course, which is on low, rotating through a playlist of late 80’s-era Sting, U2, and Springsteen, with an occasional dash of REM, which may or may not be contributing to Mister’s brooding.

One last thing:
underholdning” is Norwegian—means “entertainment”

Him: So. You didn’t like your birthday present very much, did you?

Me: 50” wide-screen TV? What every girl dreams of. Why?

Him: We never watch it. Not together anyway.

Me: We’ve talked about this before, dearest. You and I have a conflict of interests where our TV viewing is concerned.

Him: So? You know I’m not picky. I’ll watch whatever.

Me: You say that now. You might even mean it. But when we're sitting up there together, I feel obligated to watch something you’ll like.

Him: Nobutno. But seriously. I’m fine with whatever. You always get the remote anyway. Do whatever you want with it. Except flip channels. I hate that.

Me: But that’s what I do.

Him: Why? Why do you do that? How can you know whether or not a program is worth watching unless you sit still and watch it?

Me: Look. I know myself well enough to know that I’m not going enjoy anything with the words “norsk” or “underholdning” in the description. Ditto the words “dance”, “idol”, “reality” and/or “contestant”. So why wouldn’t I quickly flip past any and all of that crap?

Him: But some of those Norwegian talk shows can be kind of funny sometimes.

Me: To you maybe. Not to me.

Him: I’m sure you’d like them if you’d just give them a chance.

Me: *heavy sigh* So what are you trying to tell me here? Would you like to go upstairs and watch the Friday night talk shows? Cuz’ you can. You’re certainly free to do that if that’s what you want to do.

Him: Not necessarily.

Me: But you want to watch TV?

Him: I don’t know. Maybe.

Me: And the talk shows are what you’d be watching if it were up to you?

Him: Well. That’s really hard to say when I’m not sitting right there in front of the TV. How am I supposed to know what I’ll be in the mood for.

Me: *heavy, heavy sigh* Honey. Help me out. What are we talking about right now?

Him: Just wondering what it says about us as a couple if we can’t even watch TV together. That’s all.

Me: Not much! I mean, honestly! I don’t get my mother’s TV viewing pleasures either, and I still like her a lot, and consider us quite close.

Him: *silent pout*

Me: And besides, every pop psychologist’s guide on how to build a stronger relationship with your partner begins and ends with TURN THE TV OFF! According to their logic, we’re like the healthiest couple we know.

*thoughtful pause*

Him: So, I’ll open another bottle then?

Me: Christ, I thought you’d never ask!