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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