Monday, December 20, 2010

Life's A Beach

There was the faintest edge of panic in her voice when she called to me from the sofa where she was sitting with the computer on her lap, doing her online homework assignment.

"Mom?  Mom?  What is this?  Can they say that?"

I knew she was working on English.  I assumed her distress had something to do with one of the scary, irregular verbs both her and her teachers are always stumbling over.  I was elbow deep in dinner preparations, and frankly not in the mood to be very helpful.  I sighed impatiently, "For heaven's sake Emma.  Just sound it out.  One letter at a time.  You'll get to it."

"I can't say that."

"Of course you can.  One letter at a..."

"No.  Mom.  You wouldn't want me to say that word."

"What do you mean?"


So I did.

Now I ask you, what is the point of trying to teach them the difference between 'nice' words and 'naughty' words, when this is the shit they're learning from school?  I know I should be outraged.  And I probably will be just as soon as I can stop giggling about it.

Daniel, as usual, had the final word on the matter, "Well Mom, it makes sense. Sand is kind of annoying..."

It is a bitch, Boy.  Damn right.  It's a bitch!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

This turned out to be so much fun, I could almost forgive the repeat of last winter's bitterly cold draught.

Here's how we spent our weekend:

In the 14 years we've lived in this house, the lake has frozen this way--thick and smooth enough for ice skating--only twice. So this was a real treat.  We were skiing all over it last winter, but the deep freeze didn't come until after the snow last year, so it was never fit for skating.

I did a fair amount of skating as a kid. Most of it of the 'roller' variety, but the mechanics are essentially the same.  But there was plenty of ice skating too.  I remember spending many a happy winter afternoon ice skating at the dingy little rink in Murray Park.  The place smelled like damp socks, and the fries they served were always soggy and over salted, but I liked it.  I think I even took some lessons there at one point. But my childhood recall button is notoriously faulty, so I could be wrong.  Still, I swear I remember some sort of skills test, or something...I did well...lady said I was in the wrong class...

Meh, unimportant.  The point is--I liked skating.  It's kind of what I remember doing most during my outside off time.  And I've never quite understood why my girls aren't spending their youth similarly occupied.

It took me some time to trust the ice.  Despite all my youthful skating, I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've done it on a lake like this.  There's a good 20 cm of solid ice out there, but it's a bit creepy to stare down through all the cracks and air bubbles frozen in place.  Plus, it shifts and crackles sometimes as you move over it.  Shudder.  But once I got used to it, and my feet and legs started to remember how to move in skates, I had a grand old time.

So did the kids. 

Not to mention Toblerone.  Whose ass, by the by, I squarely kick in the skating department.

It snowed a little Saturday night, so on Sunday the kids got to make the obligatory snow-angels on the ice.

Untold liters of hot cocoa and marshmallow fluff were sacrificed in the making of this blog post.  The writer is unrepentant.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Wild Things Are All In His Head, You See

Since the 1st grade Daniel's class has had a sort of mascot.  A cute little stuffed animal they named Geo-Rasken*. Every week a name is drawn out of a box, and the person whose name is drawn gets to take Geo home for the week.  On Friday they bring Geo back to school, along with his tote bag and notebook, in which they're meant to have written a short account of what they got up to during their week together.

Geo was quite popular in the 1st grade.  Nobody could quite hold their cookies until it was their turn to take him home.  Week after week, the first thing I'd hear from Boy when he got home Monday afternoon was, "Not me. Again."  Sigh.

But that was two years ago.  Eventually it was Boy's turn.  And then his turn came again, and yet again.  And three more times in the 2nd grade too.  And it was great. An electric little thrill, everytime. 

When I sent Geo back to school sometime last May, I sort of assumed it was for the last time.  I mean, cute is cute and all, but...going on the 3rd grade now...surely we've played this particular game out.

Imagine my surprise then, when home comes Boy Monday with none other than wee Speedy himself. Looking, I must say, more than a little worse for wear. It was immediately clear from Boy's lackluster, "I got Geo....again...." that I was right in assuming the thrill has begun to wear a little thin. 

What with one thing and another, Geo got set aside that evening, and pretty much ignored for the rest of the week.  Nevertheless, an assignment is an assignment, and just before bedtime last night I told Daniel that he had to write something in Geo's book.  He didn't want to, of course, "There's nothing to write.  We didn't do anything."

"So write that.  Or make something up.  I don't care, as long as you write something."

Thus with a great, put-upon huff, he scratched out the following:

Translation for the Norwegian impared:
Home with Daniel
We did nothing.  It was a boring week.
Next time we'll travel back in time and fight with the Vikings.


I love that kid.  I swear to God I do.

*Geo, pronounced gay-o, short for 'gepard' which is the Norwegian word for cheetah. Rasken, from the venerated Norse root meaning 'super-speedy-fast-one'.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Girlie Interlude II

"I sink we should say 'drowning' instead of 'sinking'. And we should use 'guessing' instead of 'sinking'.  That way there won't be any mix-ups."

Tangentally--the punch-line of one of Mister's favorite lame jokes goes something like this:  "Mayday! Mayday! We are sinking!"  Nearby German ship responds, "Yes, vee are sinking of you too!" 

He tells this joke almost daily now as Amanda continues to say "sssss" instead of "thhhhhhh". 

I sink she knows perfectly well how it's upost to be pronounced. She's only persisting to piss him off. 

She's evil that way.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


The morning after I hung him up, the kids decided he was French and immediately started calling him Skull-La-La.  Boy wondered what he'd like for breakfast.  "We'd offer you toast, but it's not French toast, so you probably wouldn't like it."
We offered an exclusive selection of lemon poison, orange poison, or raspberry poison.  But everyone, by God, had to drink their poison, or be gone with them!  There was only one dimwitted little kid who couldn't quite get with the program, and insisted that he wasn't allowed to drink wine.

He spent the weekend rewatching the movies so he could get Jack's mincing little walk down.  I thought he was pretty good at it, but Boy insisted he could do it better if only I'd give him a little rum.  It's the rum, apparently, that makes badass pirates walk that way.
If you asked Boy what Emma was for Halloween, he said, "I don't know, something black."  If you asked Amanda what Emma was for Halloween, she'd say, "It was kind of like pretty, but the face was all wrong."  If you asked Emma what she was for Halloween she'd say, "I don't know what I was, but I was the best one there!

The princess dress that Alpha Grandma made for her last year was a much better fit this year.  She insisted that she needed a wig because both Daniel and Emma had wigs to go with their constums.  Stupid Disney branded Sleeping Beauty rat's nest cost me more than the other two costumes combined, she only wore it for 10 minutes, and she looked 100 times prettier when she finally took the damn thing off.

Count them if you dare.  There should be 16 of 'em, not including the terrified friend of Amanda's who was cowering in my lap while this picture was taken because she was terrified of all the boys' scary masks.  Seriously, the precious thing was sobbing in terror.  Her mom had to turn right around, and pick her back up.  Part of me feels awful about it, the rest of me is all, "Oh for God's sake!"
Appropriate?  Or inappropriate?  Mister and I held quite a debate over these little guys the night before the party.  The marshmallow ghosts were not working, and I was pretty much ready to punch someone in the face for being fed up with party preparations.  Toby then started hanging Seigemenn from tiny licorice nooses, and I think I fell in love with him all over again right then and there.  I worried, however, that other mothers might not think they were nearly as adorable as I did.

They ended up being a big hit, with the boys especially.  In fact, Mister had to make more, because there was some awful whining about there not being enough for everyone.
No Halloween party is complete without a game or two.  It was Emma who came up with Pin-The-Arm-On-The-Zombie.  Then she offered to draw and color the requisite zombie and severed arm.

I offered to find some pictures of zombies online to give her some ideas.  She was immediately offended.  "Can't I just use my own ideas?  It's much easier that way." 
Clearly she didn't need my help.

Didn't need my help at all.

She's rather wonderful, my Emma.  Is she not?

As a prize for playing the game, which they all played and loved, we mixed 50 Kr. in coins into a pumpkin still full of its guts, and told them they could keep whatever they managed to grab hold of.  The perfect amount of gross-out factor, but most of them still dared to do it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We Regret To Inform You

I don't think anyone believed it would really happen.

"Winter?  Again?  So soon?  But, summer was just...Is there nothing to be done about it?"

No.  'Fraid not.  No deferments.  No appeals.  No special pleading.  Only forbearance.  And it would help if you would all put your winter tires on now, please, thank you.  Which no one did.

Last weekend the pepperkake went on sale.  And last night?  Last night it snowed.  Oh, not much.  Only 2 or 3 inches at most.  But still.  Winter -- that bitch -- she's back.

I hear talk, occasionally, when I choose to listen, that there have been predictions of another winter as harsh and cold as the last one.  Personally, I think it's a load of bullshit, and mean-spirited fear mongering.  But still...what if it's true? 

I'm not being the least bit poetic or melodramatic when I say, I don't think I can handle another winter like last winter.  Empty wells, frozen pipes, daily shovelling, minus 29.9 degrees.  That's the record low on our thermometer. I don't care to ever see that one broken. I'll throw the fucker in the lake before I see it dip another tenth of a degree lower. Well -- first I'll hack through a foot of ice, then I'll throw that little fucker in the lake!  So help me God I will!

If I sound a little cheerless and bleak lately, it's because I am.  Things are not going well at school.  My hair is suddenly choker-block full of grey hair.  When did that happen?  It's been two months since I last went out running.  All work and no play, and I'm still not as smart as I think I should be?  Oh, and I'm cold.  All the time cold.  And now there's snow.

Ah well, at least the pepperkake went on sale last weekend.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, pepperkake is absolutely the best and brightest part of Norwegian Christmas.  Still waiting on the juleøl though.  I'm sure everything will be better when the juleøl (Christmas beer) hits the shelves.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Week 41

Ever since my kids hit school age, I've carped and moaned about høst ferie in early October and vinter ferie in late February.  They're a week long school break (every year the same week--week 41 for høstferie, week 9 for vinter ferie*) and every year I've grumbled, "A week?  A whole week?  Didn't they just start school?  Do they really need a whole week right now?  A long weekend sure, maybe.  But a whole week?  How absurd!  How wasteful!  How perfectly inconvenient!"

Then I went back to school last winter.  And it all began to make sense to me.

To say I was ready for this week long break is a bit of an understatement.  To say my brain was fried, and I was in need of a week long break from studying is still a bit of an understatement.  To say my brain was first battered, then fried, then shredded and finely minced for good measure, and that I was in need of flash freezing and a week long rest in cold storage is coming much closer the truth (albeit metaphorical) of the matter.

It's not just the classes.  I'm taking physics and chemistry, and I find both subjects challenging to say the least.  And, of course, it's all taught in Norwegian, so I have the additional hurdle of having to make my own understanding of all this new and intellectually demanding material make sense in a language that is not my own.  My fresh-faced, eager young classmates don't have to do that, and I find I resent it.

Also absent in my fellow students' lives--children.  Three children who must be fed, chauffeured, occasionally chastized, often nagged, tutored and read to, not to mention just plain listened to every once in a while, and at the end of the day made to feel nurtured and loved and wanted.  Here too, I find I resent that I'm presumably the only one in my classes struggling to balance both studying and parenting.  And in resenting my childless classmates, how can I help but start to resent the presence of my own children?

It hurts my heart to say, to even think, such a thing.  But there it is.  I resent my husband too.  I resent his job for taking him away from home so much, and throwing such a disproportionate amount of the parenting responsibilities on my shoulders.  I resent his success because it only means that I can't really complain.  He's extremely good at what he does, and to ask him to step back, to help me (cuz' he'd do it, see, he loves us, and he'd do pretty much whatever I asked him to do) would be to essentially ask him to quit.  He's always on the verge of something fantastic, something truly, career-makingly spectacular.  One of these days, one of these glorious projects is going to round third base, and slide on into home.  And that would be it for him.  He'd be set for life. I cannot, I will not ask him to step back now.  Afterall, it's not his fault that I was lazy, and I foundered for so long trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and then summon up the gumption to actually go back to school and do it. 

He's been rather wonderful though, ever since I did ultimately decide. Encouraging me.  Supporting me.  Cheering me on.  But even this unequivocal enthusiasm I resent a bit.  He expects great things of me.  Perhaps even a greatness, eventually, equal to his own.  He says simply, that I'm clearly capable of it.  But with that expectation comes a huge amount of pressure.  I'm not allowed to simply float.  I suppose that even without him there egging me on, I'd put the pressure on myself to get far more than merely adequate grades. That's just the kind of girl I am. But feeling him there behind me, expecting it of me...

The resentment, it just grows and multiplies.

It's this, really, that has been fucking so thoroughly with my brain, and from which I needed the week long break.  I've got to find some way to put it all in perspective, or it's going to break me in two, and I'm going to have to quit.  I don't want to quit because I like it.  I like having a direction and purpose to my days.  I like the challenge of learning new and difficult things.  I love the heady buzz of getting a good grade on a difficult test.  But I keep catching myself thinking, "Why can't my kids just go away?" and "Why is my husband so useless?"

It's wrong.  It's unfair.  And I can't do it anymore.  My kids are delightful, my husband is far from useless, and I deserve to enjoy them.


For now, I'm on my own.  Mister has taken the kids to his mother's.  He's gone hunting.  And I've got a box of rosé and season 6 of Lost to rediscover.  I can honestly say, I resent none of these things.  I am at peace.

*These are the weeks that apply to Bergen.  Other cities have their høst and vinter feries in either the week before or the week prior to ours.  They stagger it this way, apparently, so the entire population doesn't migrate en masse to the hyttes (cabins) and various resort destinations, thus causing a catastrophic shift in land mass distribution, and, theoretically at least, causing the earth to move off its axis.  This is the shit I get to think about now that I know all about Newton's laws of motion....

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Girlie Interlude

On the way home from ballet class Monday evening: I'm driving, Missy is alone in the backseat, Elton John is on the radio singing one of his whinier, sappy love songs.

Elton sings, "What do I gotta do to make you love me?"

Missy groans, "Ugh, just kiss her, and get it over with!"

I snort.

A refrain or two later, Elton sings, "What do I do when lightening strikes me?"

Missy retorts, "And then you die. Duh. Mom, is this man stupid, or something?"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


"Dammit, Boy!  There's Lego everywhere I look.  My house is covered in Lego!"

"I know, Mom.  Isn't it wonderful?"

Friday, September 17, 2010

Neutrons Schmeutrons

I had a physics test on Wednesday. I chose not to study for it Tuesday night.

It was a bold move, and in no way reflected the level of my confidence in my mastery of the subject matter. It's just that, after careful consideration, I figured it was probably better for my continued abiltiy to move freely across the American boarder that I rather not know too much about how nuclear fission works.

"Welcome to the United States, Ma'am. I just need to ask you a few questions. Do you know how a nuclear reactor works?"

"Um, I can draw a diagram. But actually explain how the thing works? No. Definitely not."

"Mm-hm. And, are you familiar with the various ways enriched uranium can be degraded into plutonium for use in atomic weapons?"

"Gosh sir. Beyond balancing the equation on a final? No. No, I really don't know that much about it."

"Very good then. Enjoy your visit. Next!"

I like to think of it as The Freedom From Information Act.

P.S. The test went fine. I neither disgraced nor distinguished myself. I can live with that.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

For Nan--The Mother Of All Outcroppings

This is Preikestolen. I don't know what they're calling it in the English language tour guides these days.  Pulpit Rock?  Rock Pulpit?  Translated literally it's Preacher's Chair, but I can't seem to stop myself from thinking of it as Preacher's Mount.  Which I know is wrong in all sorts of ways.  But am's Mount it is, and ever shall be.

Whatever it's called, it's rather stunning, no?

It's one of those iconic, quintessentially norsk images--along with trolls, Northern lights, and those thorny looking, wooden Stave Churches--that I've tied to Norway, deep in my psyche ever since I was 14 years old and pouring over library books to learn more about the exotic homeland of my hunky, new heart-throbs A-ha. (Fact: JEDA never would have come to Norway, may still to this day, have been living under the false, but harmless, illusion that Norway was the capital of Sweden, and that Jarlsberg cheese was merely a poorer, larger-holed version of the preferable Swiss, if "Take On Me" hadn't been such a perfectly awesome song.)

It was the one thing Mom said she wanted to do while she was here this go 'round--see Preikestolen. (My mom is here visiting/helping.  Did I mention that?  Been here since early August.  It's been great, but I've been working her hard since school started, and I think she might be ready for a vacation.)  She's been training since winter to make sure she was physically fit enough to make it there--long walks, and hiking in the trails around her house.  We took her on a practice run to our choice blueberry patch a few weeks ago:
The blueberry patch is those sunny, green swathes in the valley below.  We left Mister and the kids there to pick blueberries while we climbed to 'redningshytten'--a sort of way-station for weary travellers another kilometer and a half (maybe) and a hefty (you can't see the vertical drop just behind her in this picture, but trust me, it's there) climb along the way.
We thought we blew out her knees on that little trip.  Hiking the dusty trails of Corner Canyon didn't quite prepare her knees and thighs for all the boulders that must be negotiated on Norwegian trails.  But she did eventually recover, and last weekend we all headed to Stavanger en route to Preikestolen.
Boulders.  Boulders, boulders, and more boulders.
It was a much harder, steeper, and more physically demanding trail than I expected it to be.  Mom, however, gamely insisted that it was about what she expected it to be.  Step by careful step she made it there and back no problem.
There were a ton of people there, but none of them this happy and this proud.
With our legs hanging over the edge like a couple of bad-asses...
Those thunderstorms you see gathering rather magnificently in the background, waited until we were about half way back down the trail to soak us to the skin.
White specks on water = itty, bitty sailboats.
The preferred loogie hocking position.
It was a great trip.  I'm so glad I finally got to see it.

Next on the Norwegian icons bucket list:  Lofoten, and the Northen Lights. But probably not this year. There's chemistry to learn this year, and physics....School kind of sucks right now....not that you asked....but it does....and now you know.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tonight! On Cops.....

Last night I slept with a (I want to say 'hardened', but that might conjure up the wrong sort of image) criminal.

Of course my mother, who taught hardened criminals in a federal prison for seven years was dismayed. But I found the whole experience rather thrilling. 

His nerves were frazzled, and he was sorely distracted because he'd been caught red-handed--on film even--commiting his heinous crime.  And now his picture was plastered all over the internet news sites.  There was a film segment featuring a grim looking cop calming the good citizens, telling them not to worry, that he, Officer Friendly, was there to stand as stalwart barrier between them and my foul, baleful lover. 

It was all weighing rather heavily on his mind, so I can't say he was all that tender or solitious. Ah, but just to be there for him....To sooth those lawless nerves....To reconnect him to his fraying humanity....What a night!

What's that you ask?  The nature of his crime?  The pernicious scope of his naughtiness?

Are you ready for this?  Promise not to judge too, terribly harshly?

Speed biking.

Speed. Biking.


That's him. That's my wicked man with the radar pointed right at him.  Busted! At 22 kilometers per hour.  This is the picture featured on the article which ran all day yesterday on the front page of BT's (local newspaper) internet site. And although he declined to be interview for the news crew that was there, in the segment they posted you could see him (in all his pixel-ated infamy) getting a stern dressing-down from that behelmeted cop with his hand out.


Alas, he was not hauled off to prison.  He was not even ticketed.  This little display by the local constabulary is a result, no doubt, of an incident that happened over the weekend were a little girl was playing (not too far from our home actually) on a pedestrian/bike path, and was run down by a biker who then took off without stopping to make sure the girl was okay.  She was not.  Her collarbone was broken, and her parents are quite rightly furious. 

Thus goes the on-going war between bikers and the rest of us, and Mister ends up in the news.  Again, I say....Awesome.

He was not indignant or defensive at being stopped.  He was actually rather repentant, and quite honestly chagrinned.  He chooses to use the paths and sidewalks because he tends to agree with me that bikers in the road are just fucking annoying.  But, he probably really is biking too fast to be sharing a space with all those soft, meaty pedestrians.  So what's a well-meaning, non-fossil-fuel burning commuter to do?

Revert to a life of crime.  Obviously.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

So Much For Summer

Let's skip the small talk. Shall we?

Yes, it's been a while.

No, I haven't posted much.

Yes, my consistency leaves a great deal to be desired.

Actually, yeah, I do feel a little guilty about that.

Moving on.  Missy started school today!

She was more nervous that she'd have you believe. But also more ready than she knew.
There was a heady shuffling of goods, mutual ahhhhs of admiration, and one stomped foot of jealousy as the girls showed off all their new school supplies to one another.
One of her new teachers helps her with the big clips on her backpack.  Course...she'll fall over backwards if they ever decide to put any actual books in the silly thing.  Nevermind how securely fastened it is around her waist.
"Soooo, how you doin'?"
Boys are already putting the moves on her.
She's already looking decidedly unimpressed.
Good girl.
All kitted out, and ready to get serious.  Tomorrow she has to navigate the bus system....

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Growing Up....But....Hold On There.....Not Too Fast.....

I'm fed up.

Every night at bedtime I go into the room Boy and Missy share. I fold clothes, toss toys into baskets, shove baskets under beds, and pick up two dozen or so stuffed animals off the floor and throw them back in their place at the end of  Boy's bed.

Daniel's menagerie.  A once treasured collection.  Currently at least twice the size it was when I first wrote about it, lo' these many years ago.

Every night I pick 'em up.  Every night he kicks them back on the floor.

Tonight I'd had enough.

"ENOUGH!" I say, "Is it time we got rid of the animals, Daniel?  I'm sick of picking them up!"

"Yeah," he mutters.

"Yeah, what?  You want me to get rid of them?"


"Fine.  Good."  I give one last tug on the sleeve I've been wrestling, before I toss the half-folded shirt unceremoniously into the closet.  I can't fault my children for their clutter too harshly because I am no Neat Nelly myself.  But, there are limits.

"Get rid of them......where?" he wonders.

"Throw them away where I never have to pick them up ever again.  Ever."  I pull a shin guard out from under a pile of books.  This too is thrown carelessly into the closet.  Somewhere on the second shelf if my aim is true.  Which it least half the time...

"Okay," he commits sullenly.

"Seriously.  You're seriously okay with me throwing them away?  Are you sure?"

"Yeah.  Do it.  Take Bobby too."

Say wa'?

There's too much bravado in his voice.  I pause in my search for a mate to the filthy Ben10 sock I've just fished out of an empty Playdough can, to give him a level don't-fuck-with-me kind of look.

"You want me to get rid of Bobby too?"

"I'm almost eight!  Don't you think I'm too old for a Bobby?"

"No.  I really don't.  I'm just sick of picking up these stuffed animals off the floor. I never said anything about Bobby."

"I'm too old for cuddly animals.  And Bobby too.  Take 'em."

Stubborn ass.

"Fine," I say through gritted teeth.

I sweep grandly out of the room, and return half a minute later with a large, plastic garbage bag into which I immediately start chucking the rejected toys.  I feel sharp pangs of regret as I do it.  Snowball, the gorgeously soft racoon that Grandma Gae had to special order.  Snakey, from Disneyland last summer.  Tucker, his Build-a-Bear dog for Christ's sake!  I don't really want to throw all this stuff away!  Stop me you idiot child!  Stop me now!

But he doesn't. He helps. He drags a small, plush Wall-E, and an ugly purple and blue scorpion out from the far side of his bed, and throws them at me.  It takes a second to feed the last animal--a long, green IKEA dragon--into the now full bag, but when I'm done, I look at him, and hold it out to him with a 'well? what's it gonna be?' arch of my eyebrow.

Bobby, tucked safely under his pillow, is the only soft, cuddly remnant of his babyhood left.  He quickly grabs it, shoves it in the bag, then backs himself into the far corner of his bed.  He pulls first his pillow, then his comforter over his chest.  His eyes are wide. Wild. He licks his lips. They look pale and dry.  I know he deeply, intensely, insanely regrets what he's done.  But he won't look at me.  And I won't help him out of this hole he's dug for himself.  I'm just that mean.

I linger with the bag in my hands a few moments more.  When he doesn't make a move for it, I drag it out into the hallway, and busy myself with cleaning up Missy's side of the room.

I don't know how long it takes.  Not long.  A minute?  Maybe two?  Amanda is babbling about something or other. I'm not really listening because my mind is full to bursting with the little farce Daniel and I have just acted out.  I know he'll cave.  He has to cave.  Bobby is his fucking soul mate.  His missing twin. 

He'll cave.  I just hope he gets on with it before it's time to turn out the lights.

It starts with a mumble. 


All soft and breathy like, but I can hear it.  Abruptly, the mumble stops.  He's quiet for a few, steely seconds, then he looks me right in the eye and says, "Mom.  I want Bobby."

Well all right then.

I found his Bobby.  I tucked him in.  Kissed him hard on the forehead, and told him he wasn't even close to too old for Bobby.  And that he never, ever had to pretend to be again.  Then I came into the kitchen and poured myself a very large glass of wine.

A little while ago, about 20 minutes after I'd said my last good-night, I heard the door to their bedroom open, followed by a very distinctive rustling in a certain plastic garbage bag still sitting in the hallway right outside their door.  I haven't checked to see which of the animals he called back from exile, but I hope Snowball and Tucker made the cut.

Not even close to too old.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Strike is over. 


Children have buggered off to school where they bloody well belong. 


There's all of a week and a half's worth of school left before the summer vacation, so ya' know, the teachers are really going to earn their hard fought raise this month!


I know. I know. I know.  I really should be more supportive.  And, I am.  No really.  I am.  Teachers have a thankless and difficult job.  In order to get (and keep) the good ones, we need to pay them the wage that they're worth to us. Plus, how can I fault them for taking advantage of a negotiation tactic that I've believed for years now that American teachers* need to be more aggressive about using.

I finally found a place that listed average salaries for Norwegian teachers (a surprisingly hard fact to track down).  This was not from an official site, mind you, so I won't swear by it or even link to it, as I can't seem to find it a second time.  But my shadey sources tell me that the starting wage of a teacher in Norway is 319,000 NOK**.  Right now the exchange rate is about 6.5 kroner to the dollar, so that's $49,000 per year.  Just 'fer starters. lists the starting wage of a teacher in Utah as $26,521.  Even making amends for the inflated cost of living over here, that's a huge difference.  Huge.  Clearly one side has been much better about making themselves heard.  And I'm all for that.  But a two week strike for higher wages still feels ever so slightly off to me at a moment when the rest of Europe is in financial meltdown mode.

Whatever.  I'm over it.  We're all totally over it.  Except my trash can, which hasn't been emptied for three weeks now.  And wasn't it just my luck that the strike ended on our regular pick-up day, so we have wait another damn week before they get around to our bloated, stinking midden.

*By 'American' I guess I should admit that I'm talking mostly 'Utah' since that's where both my parents live and taught, and it's their gripes I'm most familiar with.

**The average after 16 years on the job goes up to (I think--I don't remember exactly, and like I said, I can't find it again) 380,000 NOK ($58,000).  Not much of a raise at all, really.  It was much easier to see why they're on strike after finally finding these numbers.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Schools Still On Strike

In the meantime--eye candy!

From Missy's birthday party.  This is her very bestest friend.  They were together when they got their ears pierced.

It was a smallish party.  Just the kids from her age group at barnehage.  All the boys ended up with Boy and his Lego.  All the girls ended up in the kitchen with the Playdough.  None of them much liked my cake.  One boy asked for two pieces, but only because he wanted to lick the frosting off of both of them.

From Elder Miss's birthday breakfast.  In 10 years it's never rained on her birthday.  Born under a lucky star, this one...

Later that afternoon, she had a bowling party for all of her friends.  They're all 10 now, but they all still squeal like mad harpies when they get together in a large pack like this.  When do they outgrow the squealling?

The birthdays were two weekends ago.  Last weekend Em had a dance recital at one of the malls in the center of town.

She was awesome.

Friday, June 04, 2010

May I Bitch About The Strike For Just A Moment Here?

You won't have heard, because you don't live here, and you probably don't care, but there's a huge strike afoot in Bergen.  It was sort of cramping my style last Friday when it started.  Now, a week later, I'm just plain pissed off, and ready to start smacking sense into people.

The teachers have been called out on strike.  Our school (and a handful of others around the city) shut down last Friday.  All the other schools closed as of Wednesday.  A whole week this thing has lasted, and there doesn't seem to be any rush to get it sorted out before a whole 'nuther week passes.

As a child of educators (or, former educators, I should say), I know I should have more sympathy.  But here's the thing.  The strike isn't about education, or any specific complaints modern educators tend to have: crowded classrooms, insufficient materials, the slow attrition of fine arts and humanities electives.  These are problems I could easily get behind.  But none of that is what this strike is about.  It's about money, of course.  But not specifically teacher's salaries.  It's to do with the entire pool of money allocated by the federal government to the kommune, and how much of that pool is set aside to pay the salaries of municipal employees.  I think.  The municipal government (the kommune) says they've given enough of the pool to salaries.  The unions representing the municipal employees say, 'No, actually, we want more.'  The kommune says, 'But no.  Seriously.  You have enough.'  The uppity unions say, 'Enough is never enough.  We want more.'  And so on and so forth.  The teachers were just chosen to fight this fight because closing schools and kommune-run barnehages is inconvenient and, presumably, a very effective pressure point.

I think.

Meh--this whole rant is hopelessly half-baked right from the get-go, because to be honest, I don't really understand the way unions work here.  All I know for sure is, they're very large, and they're very powerful.  Powerful enough that the prospect of a two to three week strike sounds like a grand way to make a point.  To hell with the children and the two or more weeks of education they'll be missing out on!  But forcing thousands of families to scramble to find alternative day-care?  That's our ticket public sympathy and support.  Hell yeah!

However, I have yet to talk to anyone who has any sympathy whatsoever for the union in this particular strike.  Big babies.  Knock it off, and open the damn schools again!

It's not just the teachers that have been pulled out on strike though.  There's a handful of city offices that have shut down, as well as the people who run the big smelter thingy at the city dump.  The upshot of that one being--no garbage pick up. 

Quite honestly, if this thing breaks earlier than expected, I think it's going to be the garbage issue (rather than thousands of languishing, instruction-less children) that does it.  It's turned warm and sunny here in the past few weeks.  Garbage bins everywhere are filled to overflowing.  The one right outside Missy's barnehage* is more than a week overdue now, and it smells so bad they're limiting the kids' outside playtime.  Hurricanes, and minus 30 degree weather don't deter Norwegians from their outside playtime.  But a week without garbage removal does.  Experts are warning of a rat explosion.  Articles in the paper are featuring tourists registering disgust and rueful disappointment in the state of the city's streets.  It won't be borne.  Something must be done.  Eventually.  Just as soon as they get their damn money......

*Missy's barnehage is privately owned and operated, and is therefore not part of the strike.  It's still opened.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 27th

A big day in big pictures.

We started early at the school.  Little Miss's 'forskoledag'--a sort of open house for all of next year's new students to come in, meet their teachers, and see their classrooms.  I don't necessarily like that I'm the sort of person who cries at these prosaic little milestones.  But I can't help it.  I am.  And I did.
The woman on the right, with the dark hair, has been Emma's teacher for the past four years. She's rather wonderful, and I'm thrilled that it looks like Amanda will be spending the next four years in her keeping.

When we were finished at the school, I surprised Amanda with her first birthday present. 

The only thing she asked for specifically this year was to get her ears pierced.  Well, 'asked' isn't exactly the right word for it.  'Nagged' is a bit weak as well.  She never came so far as to 'insist', but after the second month of negotiations, she did start to talk about it as if it were a foregone conclusion.  A rather brilliant strategy, if you ask me.  By early May, she had her father asking me, "So?  When are you taking her to get it done?"

Happy Birthday, dearest.

She was predictably stalwart throughout. There was a breathy 'ow ow ow' followed by an accusing glare, and an indignant 'that hurt' directed at the wench with the white gun.  I detected a slight tremor right before the second shot, but no tears, no fuss.  And now:

Pink, sparkly loveliness.
That same afternoon was Emma's art show opening. 

As you may or may not recall, last year's show ended up being a bit of an ordeal for me.  (If you're interested, you can read about it here .)   In short, I was grumpy and unimpressed.

Now, I don't mean to brag or anything, but it's almost as if someone in charge heard my grumblings of discontent, and decided to do something about it.  Lest I should be displeased again....

They held the show in the same museum, but they spread the student work throughout the upper galleries so it was mixed in with the stuff on permanent display. There was much more room to move around, and breathe every now and again.  Still crowded, but tolerably so. 

Once again they ignored her paintings and drawings, which I (perhaps mistakenly) tend to see as EM's strong points, and opted for a small, model chair that she had designed.  But it was displayed in a gallery that featured Norwegian chair designs over the past two centuries.  Clearly an attempt at some sort of thematic continuity.  Very cool.  Emma was also impressed, and a little surprised.  "You can be art?"  Oh--and they chose her chair to feature in the pamphlets and advertisements for the show.  (Just here, I definitely do mean to brag.)

So, without further ado:

EM did not design this particular chair, but I wish she had because I feel strongly that it should be in my house.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ho-hum.  Ho-hum.  I'm bored.

I feel like I should be studying.  I probably should be given the phantom possibility of these oral exams in June.

So here's how it works.  Five students out of every class will be picked out by a computer (total random chance) and called in to take the final.  Some classes have both a written and an oral final.  Some classes have just a written final.  Some classes have just an oral.  My calculus class has both. I already know I wasn't called up for the written final.  But there's still a chance I'll have to show up for the oral.  My biology class has just the oral.

This is by far the weirdest thing about Norwegian high school.  Not everyone has to take the final. 


And because it's done by computer--and computers are notoriously heartless, indifferent bastards--you could be called up for none, or all.  The computer really doesn't give a shit one way or the other.

The day they posted the list of written finals along with the students who'd been selected to sit for them, there was a girl crouched in the corner, wailing (wailing, I tell you) and cursing (rather loudly at that) because she had been called up for three written exams.  TRE! TRE! FAENFAENFAENFAEN! TRE EXAMER!  Ahhhhh FAAAAAAEEEEEEN Ahhhhhh...

(For those of you not familiar with the dimsally limited range of Norwegian curse words, here's a link to an instructional video: NOT SAFE FOR WORK )

I must say, I tend to agree with the wailer.  How is it fair that this one poor girl has to struggle through three exams while some other smug bastard, taking exactly the same classes, may luck out of having to take any? 

It just seems right to me that a written final should be part of the requirement for a final grade for every student, not just an unlucky few. 

I have no idea why they do it this way, or how they justify it.  I've asked.  No one knows.  Well--to be clear--I haven't ask an actual educator, or administrator, for that matter.  But I asked Mister.  And, like, a whole two of my classmates.  They didn't know.  So I assumed it was unknowable.  "It's just the way it is," said Mister, "Everyone's used to it.  So no one bothers with it much.  It's just....the way it is."

Sigh.  So very unhelpful.

In the meantime, I'm left to find some way to motivate myself to study for these 'maybe' oral exams because, if I do get called up for one or both of them, I'll only have 48 hours notice.  Everyone has to be prepared; everyone (or at least all the responsible ones who care about their grade at all) has to study like as if they're definitely going to be selected.  So, alright, fine.  I see the fairness in that.  But still.....what is the point in subjecting only five of us to the pressure of an actual examination?

Whatever.  It's just the way it is, and I'll deal with it if and when that soulless bastard of a computer puts the short straw in my hands and says I have to. 

It's in Norwegian though.  Am I getting across to you people the point that we're talking about an oral Norwegian?  There's something so comforting about sitting around bitching about how flawed the system is in the face of my imminent doom.  Because, obviously, it's the system's fault that I still can't wrap my tongue around Norwegian well enough to comfortably compare and contrast the circulatory systems of an insect and a human, or the reproductive cycle of forest moss, or even my thoughts on the exceptionally cold winter we've had, and what effects I might expect it's had on local ecosystems. 

Oh God, and the calculus?  What's up with an oral exam in math anyway!  It's the prospect of that one that's really got me wetting my pants. 

Doomed.  I'm doomed, I tell you. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Situation Normal

Okay.  So.  The blog.

Look, I know.  I'm sorry.  But, you know, things got really hairy back there in, what was it? April? March month?  Something had to give.  I'm only one person. 

I only had school to talk about anyway.  The derivation of logarithmic functions, and how I can't do it very well.  That's it.  You wouldn't have enjoyed it.  I got sick some more too.  Really sick, as it turned out.  But that was very recent, and, now that I think about it, that episode actually was blog worthy material, fraught as it was with pathos and dispair.  Nothing like a fever to unleash the poetic muse lurking in us all, eh?

Ah well, it's over now.  I'm finished with classes for the time being.  I may yet have oral exams in June to fret about, but for the most part I'm free.  Free to blog at will.  Blog about the kids. About the pseudo-wet-Norwegian summer, and long runs around the lake.  About the dirty floors, and the laundry pile which grows legs and arms, and breathes hoarsely from somewhere deep within its fetid bowels.  And eventually maybe, we'll even get to how I've been reading Stephen King lately, and how ever since, my whole house appears to me to breathe hoarsely from somewhere deep within her fetid bowels. 

I avoided Stephen King for a long time, because I thought I would find his whole demonic anthropomorphism thing disturbing.  But actually, I kind of like it.  I could straighten the cupboards and scrub the floors, but frankly, she wouldn't like it.  She draws her strength from filth and chaos.  She breeds order from our disorder.  She is our sentry and our warden.  She is the ghost of a dead white whale.

No. I can't take credit for that last one.  That was Boy's phrase--not about the house, but about his beloved Bobby. But I can't get it out of my head.  There must be a story in there somewhere.....

But I digress.  Where was I?  Oh yes, freedom.  Speaking of which--Hooray for Norway Day was just this last Monday.  Yey Norway!  wOOt!  wOOt! 


As most of you already know, I'm no big fan of ye ol' syttende mai.  Nothing's changed there.  It was cloudy and coolish this year.  Had to buy the girls capes to go with their bunads.  And hey, we even got Boy into a bunad this year.  He was not well pleased with it.  He kept saying, "But why do I have to look German?"

"You don't look German.  A bunad is Norwegian."

"But it looks German.  I don't want to look German."

"It's not German!  It's nothing but norsk, Boy.  Quit it."

"But it's kind of French then, right?  I don't want to look French."

"Boy, a bunad is a quintessentially Norwegian thing.  People will look at you and say, 'Hey, why does that kid look so Norwegian?  I want to look just like that Norwegian kid.  Geez what a cool Norwegian outfit.  Can I have one?'  Get it?  Norwegian.  Now I mean it.  Shut up, and button up those knickers."

"Scottish then.  I look Scottish.  I don't like it."

Gah!  I had my way in the end; he wore the damn thing.  It must have been some sort of twisted cultural solidarity thing that prevented him from admitting that what he in fact didn't want to look like was another stuffy Norwegian in yet another stuffy bunad.

A few pictures of the day:

Random, pretty Norwegian girls leading the parade.  You're not meant to recognize anyone here, so don't study it too closely.  It's merely a mood piece.
I said 'boobies' to make them laugh and to wipe the standard picture grimace off their faces.  Then I couldn't get them to stop giggling.
So serious.....

Missy's last year marching with the barnehage. 

Looks Canadian to me......