Thursday, August 28, 2008
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.”
“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.
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—
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.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
She's in the 3rd grade this year.
They spent most of that first day doing the usual: getting reacquainted, settling into their new classroom, sharpening their pencils, and admiring each other's new shoes. Apparently, their teachers somehow managed to squeeze in a mini sort of assignment thingy into that pressing agenda: the obligatory--tell us a little about your vacation, then draw us a picture of your favorite memory of the summer.
Naturally, I asked what she drew. Know what she said? Ah, you're gonna love it!
Grandma Gae falling into the lake.
Ha! You hear that Grandma? Your grace has been immortalized.
And when I asked her what the backwards question mark was supposed to mean, she said she didn't know how to spell 'whoopsy daisy'. Pfft. More like 'shitting whoops on a fucking daisy', I'd say, but I didn't disillusion her on that point.
For those of you who weren't there to witness EM's favoritest memory of the whole entire summer, here's a little taste of what you missed:
You've gotta give EM some credit for the details in that picture. The wharf and the half-painted fence are post Grandma's visit, but it's a damn fine approximation of what it looks like down there right this minute. And the table and chairs are spot on! She's even got our ugly green water pitcher in there!
Her art classes start next week. Her teacher will find her brilliant. Her classmates will be intimidated. Her portfolio will be prolific, and highly valued, maybe even in her own lifetime. But only if she learns how to do hands....
Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
We covered 'luftambulanse' yesterday. That should be about all you need to know about the health sector.
Let us move on to the fire department. 'Feiing' (pronounced with a long 'i', as in 'dying') is a worthy service the fire department provides to every Norwegian household, (I believe) every two years.
Chimney sweeping, right? It's great. They send you a form letter saying we'll be here on this day, between these hours, please be ready for us. You, in turn, are obliged to set up a ladder for them (no less than one meter over the eaves), secure it with ropes, make sure all your dampers and doors and what not are closed (obviously), and provide free and easy access to the indoor flue hatch (which for us means moving the washer into the guest room). Do this all ahead of time; do it right. 'Cuz safety first blah blah, and also, frankly, we can't be bothered to do any of it ourselves.
In theory, none of this should be that much of a problem. Mister can easily provide for all of it before he goes to work. I just have to be around to let them in, and sign whatever forms they shove in front of my face when they're done. In practice, however, we always manage to forget the day they're scheduled to arrive.
Today was just such a day.
I was still lazing in bed at (blush) 9 a.m. when the doorbell rang. Boy thundered downstairs to answer it while I hastily threw on some clothes. I remembered the second I saw her standing there, of course. Shit! Feiing! Where's the bloody ladder!
It should be said that today's 'feier' was a pretty young thing--at least 10 years younger than me, and a good 15-20 pounds lighter (the filthy bitch). She didn't seem even a little bit amused when I smiled sheepishly, and said, "I'm so sorry, we totally forgot. Give me a sec. I need to call my husband."
I knew perfectly well that there was nothing he could do for me over the phone, but I was nervous about that ladder. It's a massive big thing, and has latches and pullies, and God only knows what incantations have to be said in order to keep the thing upright. So I called and whined until he finally said, "For God's sake, Jamie. Just go do it."
So I shuffled out bowing and apologizing all over again, then climbed into the bush to retrieve the ladder. After a few minutes of huffing and puffing to loose it from all the crap that had fallen and/or grown over it since the last time it had been used, Mademoiselle Feier finally took pity on me and said, "Would you like some help?" As I hefted it off the ground and handed it down to her, she grunted "I can't put this up alone."
"No, " I said, "Neither can I."
It took me a few minutes to figure out the latch and pully thingy to lengthen it. Mademoiselle Feier didn't have much of a clue either. Once it was long enough, we had to scrutinize it a minute or two to figure out which end was supposed to be up. Yes, both of us together really were just. that. stupid.
And then we tried to lift it into position. Awkward. Much. She was muttering instructions to me in Norwegian that I didn't quite understand. It didn't help that my mind was preoccupied trying to translate instructions from English into Norwegian that I wanted to mutter to her. In the end, it wasn't exactly a college try we put into the effort...more of a community college moment...and an aborted one at that. After less than a minute of awkward fumbling, she dropped her end to the ground and said, "Ya' know, you can reschedule....." Yeah, let's do that.
There are two things that really bother me about this whole incident:
- This chick works for the fire department but didn't know how to work a ladder. Sure, neither did I. But, I don't work for the FIRE DEPARTMENT!
- This chick works for the fire department but wasn't strong enough to lift a ladder. Sure, neither was I. But, again, I don't work for the frigging FIRE DEPARTMENT!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"God dag! Blahdy blah.....norsk luftambulanse....blah blahdy blah...."
Basically, the Norwegian version of Life Flight grubbing for money.
Naturally, I couldn't be bothered. So I deployed my standard defense against such intrusions by cutting him off midsentence saying, "I'm sorry, sir. I don't speak any Norwegian.
"Oh, yes," There was a long pause, presumably while he gathered his wits about him, "I UNDERSTAND!" he continued, slowly and very loudly, "WE ARE NORWAY! WE! SAVE! LIVES!"
Bloody foreigners. Learn some English.
I knew it would be hard for the kids, especially Daniel, to wait until 5 o’clock when our guests were supposed to arrive, so I made sure I had distractions: Pokeman balls just before lunch, then an early present of Spiderman movies around 2.
Just after 1 o’clock I got a message from Michelle (representing a third of our invited guests) saying she was sick or whatever, and wouldn’t be coming. Somehow, I was neither as surprised nor as sympathetic as perhaps I should have been.
At exactly 5:05, Daniel got the go ahead to start opening presents. A bit of a frantic moment ensued as I tried to get rolls out of the oven at the same time as keep Daniel focused on which gift came from whom, and the whole “come on now, let’s not be so greedy” meme. None of the other adults in the room took a break from their own scintillating conversation, nor even spared a glance at the birthday boy as he tore through his pile of packages. And, let me think, did they help clean up the wrapping paper? Um, no. They did not.
After dinner, I made coffee, found candles, carried both cakes over to the table and asked everyone back for dessert. Only Daniel, Emma, and Amanda came. I was the only one willing to sing. My asshole husband, who was out on the veranda talking to his father about some goddamn fish, couldn’t be bothered to come in until the candles had been blown out and the coffee had been poured.
Daniel didn’t touch his cake.
No one thanked me for all the worked I’d done to make that dinner something slightly special.
In fact, the only thing I did all day that I feel like made the slightest bit if difference, was even remotely worthwhile, was hear Amanda’s cry of true pain when Daniel tore the Nintendo she was holding out of her hands, pinching the tender skin between her thumb and pointer finger as it snapped shut. I was doing the dishes; once again the others around the table didn’t skip a beat in their conversation, even when she howled a second time and ran off to her room. But I recognized the cry for what it was. I went into her, and soothed her, and shushed her as she sobbed into my neck that she was only trying to help.
Daniel wouldn’t hug me tonight before he went to bed.
And I know it’s just because he was too excited, too pre-occupied with his new toys to be bothered with his mother’s prickly pride. But it’s just too much. All these minor slights, all these trivial disappointments of the day are ricocheting through me tonight, lighting up all my edgy buttons and making me feel like a faulty pinball machine.
I feel so sad, and so alone. And I don’t want to feel this way on my son’s 6th birthday.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
P.S. This one takes longer to load. I don't know why.
P.P.S. The song choice comes from two t-shirts he has. One says "Hello! My name is Trouble" the other one says "I'm Trouble. Don't make me prove it". He loves them; I think they're hysterical. His daycare teachers chided me everytime he wore them because, according to them, "He's NOT! He's just NOT! He's a little piece of wonderful is what he is." And I'm all like, "Dudes, I know! I'm pretty sure there's some real irony in there somewhere. Embrace it."
Saturday, August 09, 2008
And the prince I hope that comes with this
But Missy, of course, is ambitious. So when she sings it, it goes:
And the king who-oo-oo must do this
Ah, bless her.
I pity the poor king she decides to sink her claws into. I really do.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The positioning of this shot is a little ambiguous, but that's what I love about it. She looks for all the world like she's half a meter from the end of a long and arduous free-style climb up a sheer, rocky cliff. And look at that face--by Christ, she's going to make it too! On the other hand, that's the same pained, constipated expression she has on her face in the lake when she's clinging for dear life to your neck.
The rest of these are just lovely and pretty much self-explanitory.
There's something rather Catherine and Heathcliff about this first one that kind of love.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
He dismissed my warnings with a casual, “No. No. Don’t worry. I’ll see what I can do.”
As long as I can remember, see—as long as anyone, apparently, can remember—my sweet daddy has had a bit of a God-complex. He’d like us all to believe that it is perfectly within his power to get Jesus on the horn, call in a favor, thus arranging the weather to his liking for any given week.
He went a long way last week towards proving his point.
A week ago Thursday, just about the time they would have been leaving American airspace, I’ll be damned if the clouds overhead began breaking up, the temperature nudged up a bit, and a mother-fucking rainbow appeared on the western horizon heralding their impending arrival. By the time they landed in Bergen on Friday morning, summer had officially—emphatically—returned to Norway. All week long—‘twas sunny, ‘twas hot, ‘twas glorious. And my daddy ‘twas one smug son of a bitch.
Oh sure, there were a few glitches in his order. Two thunderstorms rolled through mid-week making a God awful racket and hammering the hell out of my new roses. But Camelot-like, they didn’t blow in till after sundown, and by 8 their attending fog had entirely disappeared. Then yesterday evening during our farewell, lakeside barbeque, an almighty freak of a windstorm blew in out of nowhere scattering napkins and empty beer cans thither and yon, and sending me into a bit of a panic about not getting to introduce more initiates into my new cult of the Smorsh. While I was running around trying to gather up all our picnic bits for a hasty retreat once the rain started, dad sat cool as you please, wine glass in hand, saying, “Tut tut, Jamie. Not to worry. It’ll die down any minute now. This is just a little preview of what’s to come once I leave. Besides, we need to get those coals stoked up a bit for premium marshmallow roasting, don’t we now.”
Five minutes later—the wind (no gentle summer zephyr, mind you, nor even a bracing Autumn bluster, but a full out batton-down-the-hatches, tape-up-the-windows, and give-it-an-old-fashioned-antiquated-name-for-emphasis windstorm ) had blown itself out, the lake had regained its preferred reflective properties, and the coals of our little campfire were all aglow—whipped into a radiating frenzy by the wind, they practically begged us to stick a marshmallow within reach of their throbbing, toasty goodness.
And so we did.
And we ate the Smorsh. And the Smorsh was good.
Two or three beers into the party, Anita (my not even remotely wicked step-mother) leaned over and said, “It’s really me, you know. I’m the one who brought the good weather. I just let him think he’s doing it to prop up the old man’s flagging ego.”
This may be so. Not the flagging ego bit. Dad would want me to hasten to assure you all that his ego is in perfect working order. But it’s true that Anita can only speak of rumors of rain in Bergen for she’s never actually seen any. Every time she’s been here the weather has been on its very best behavior. So maybe she really is our lucky charm.
Either way I’m grateful for it, because we really did have a wonderful week. Or, at least I did. I suppose it’s presumptuous to speak for everyone else (obviously nothing wrong with my ego either, winkwink). We were limited in what we could do because we only had the one car and no where near enough room in it to fit everyone. So for the most part we contented ourselves with swimming in the lake, and taking short walks on some of the local trails. Nothing terribly exciting, and yet somehow everything a summer vacation should be.
I’ll post a few pictures tomorrow. Dad got some beauties of the kids. I totally covet his camera. The stingy bastard refused to leave it here for me though. Maybe it was because I kept making him eat fish…..