Friday, January 29, 2010

So I've just taken my first Norwegian high school math test.  Trippy.

I was so over prepared for this test, it's a little absurd. 

I'm not the type to freak out about tests or finals.  I don't panic about time or blanking out. 

I do the class work, I read the material, I figure out what the teacher wants to hear parroted back to him or her; if I know it I know it, if I don't I don't.  Having said that, I do tend to work my ass off to make sure I know 'it'...whatever 'it' may turn out to be. 

I think I've said here before, I'm a good little student.

So yeah, I feel a fair amount of pressure leading up to an exam, because I want to do well.  Truth be told, I want to ace the damn thing.  This is always what I'm aiming for.  But it's largely internalized pressure, there are never any visible signs of wigging out.  At least, there never were before.....

Blame it on my distracting children, blame it on my age, blame it on the funky foreign language, or maybe just the funky foreignness of the school system in which I find myself.  But whatever the reason, the prospect of this math test has been causing me to go ever so slighty batshit this past week.

I've solved, resolved, and unsolved every single problem in both the text- and workbooks.  Nothing is assigned, per se.  There is no homework that is due, or required to be handed in ever.  You're expected to be responsible for keeping up with the pace of the class at your own discretion.  I'm finding I quite enjoy doing the math, so like I said--solved, resolved, and unsolved three times over.  I made Mister help me with the impossibly hard story problems (finding annual interest rates, calculating the growth of a bacteria population, oh, and my favorite, determining the rate at which human teeth are shrinking per every 1,000 years....riveting, vital information!) 

You could easily say I've been a little obsessed with these story problems.  I find them incredibly difficult.  I always have.  Factoring, reducing, dividing, and variable finding--the systematic shifting around of numbers and letters on a page according to some carefully memorized formula--this stuff, I'm pretty good at. But take those formulas out of that purely theoretical context, and ask me to apply it to some real life number crunching?  My brain congeals into lime Jell-o.  Useless.

Having never taken a Norwegian high school math test before, and not really having any--you know--friend thingies in the class that I could talk to, I had no idea what to expect.  Would it be easy? Hard?  Lots of drill type exercises?  Mostly long equations?  Would I have to prove anything?  Because--gah!--ask me to prove 'a' plus 'b' equals 'c' never 'd', and I'm totally fucked!  Or would I be faced mostly with my old nemesis, the story problem?  And if so, like seriously?  How hard?

So I worked, and I solved, and I memorized.  I ignored dishes, laundry, floors, and wet moldering rain pants under the stairs.  In short, I freaked a little bit out.  Then late Thrusday afternoon, I hit a wall.  Exhausted, I summoned up a little bit of my old sang froid, and breathed deep.  I either knew it, or I didn't.  I'll either be able so solve it, or I won't.  Either way--another deep breath--at least I have my health, and my children will always love me.  Ommmmmmmmm.

There was an accident in one of the tunnels through town early this morning.  At 8:30, as the tests were being handed out in my classroom, I was crammed into a crowded bus, idling on a bridge, a mere three minutes (in good traffic conditions) from my stop.  The driver was repeatedly asked, and repeatedly refused, to let any of us off the bus to just walk the rest of the way.  So there we sat for 50 minutes while they cleared the accident away (Turns out a father with two small boys in the car, collided with a truck, no one was seriously injured.  There's probably a logarithm somewhere that would explain how such a miracle is possible).

Mister soothed and reassured me continually via SMS.  If traffic is this back up, there will be others who are late for the test too.  She'll have to give you all extra time.  Don't worry.  Breathe.  Ommmmmmm.

I ended up being 40 minutes late for the test, but sure enough two other students ran in about the same time I did.  One girl was a good 15 minutes after us.  The teacher had heard about the accident.  No worries.  You'll have all the time you need, she said.  I was handed a single piece of paper with the test, and a stack of graph paper for my answers. 

Del (part) 1--45 minuter--uten hjelpemidler (no aides).  Shit!!!  That means no calculator!  I felt myself begin to panic, but then I looked at the problems.  Three of them.  Basic.  Pretty easy stuff.  There was one bit where she wanted me to explain the reason for my answer, but I didn't have to prove it.  So I think I'm okay there.

Once we had all turned in our first set of answers, we were allowed to turn the page over.  Del (part) 2--90 minuter--med hjelpemidler.  With aides.  Yey!  Hello, fancy scientific calculator, whom I've come to love.  Come, and let us do our thing.

Then, to my amazement, every single kid in the class reached into their backpacks and pulled out, not only their calculators, but also their textbooks and all their notes.  WHA-HUH?  We can use our freaking books?  Oh for hell's sake!  Is this normal?  I don't remember this from the math tests I took back forever ago when I was in high school?  Our books?  Seriously?

I didn't need mine.  Never even took it out of my bag.  Do I sound smug?  Because I feel a little smug.  Of course, there's always a chance that I managed to mess it up.  Misplaced a parenthesis, flipped the wrong negative, used the wrong function.  But, I kind of doubt it.  Even the two story problems didn't stump me.  Set it equal to this, plug in that, divide by this, log here, log there, raise it to this, punch it all into the calculator, and voila!  70 degrees Celsius after 6 hours. 

Doesn't exactly make me a math genius, but I'd have to say my wine is well deserved tonight.

P.S.  Except for a minor minunderstanding regarding the power of a cell wall to protect a plant cell from the ravages of sea water, my Biology test Wednesday?  Aced it.  Norwegain high school loves me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Biology teacher:  Any questions on protein synthesis before we move on to the mitochondria?

Skrawny-necked boy in the back:  Will the next test be mulitple choice?

Biology teacher:  Just to change the subject....completely......

High school is freakin' awesome, man.  I had almost forgotten just exactly how awesome it really is.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Sea Change

Our new life looks like this:
  • I get up at 6, not 7.
  • I drag Amanda out of bed at 6:10, not 7:30.
  • Amanda moans, and cries, and shivers in the cold, dark morning.
  • Amanda and I leave the house at no later than 7:15.  Emma and Daniel are still eating their breakfast.
  • I drop Amanda off at barnehage no later than 7:20.  This morning she was the first one to be dropped off.  Yesterday evening (due to god-awful traffic and a late bus, she was the last one to be picked up.  I swore I would never do that to my we are).
  • I catch a bus into town no later than 7:30.
  • At 7:40, I call Emma from the bus to tell her it's time to start getting coats and shoes on, and then to head to school.  "Try to remember to turn out the lights," I say. "Okay Mom.  I love you," she says.  "You're a big girl, Em.  I love you too."  I hang up, then turn up the volume on my iPod, and try not to think about how Boy is surely walking out into -23 degree weather without his coat zipped up because I'm not there to do it for him.
  • With any luck, the bus rolls into town around 8:20.
  • I run/trot/shuffle clumsily over icy cobble stones to my new school in order to make my 8:30 class.  Biology on Mondays and Wednesdays; Math on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
  • It's high school, folks.  I'm back in high school.
  • Somedays I'm back home before Emma and Daniel get home.  Somedays I'm not.  Keys to the house have been made and given to both.  Daniel was so proud of his; he showed it off to all his friends.
  • Thursdays will be the hardest.  Emma will have to take a bus--on her own--into to town to her art class.  Daniel will come home alone.  Mister will leave work an hour early to pick up Amanda from barnehage.  I'll be done with my class in time to pick up Emma after her class.  We'll take the bus home together.  We were all set to practice this new routine--Mister had arrange to take the day off, so he could be there to take the bus that first time with Emma, just so she'd know where it was going to go (it takes a slightly different route than we usually drive)--but the damn art class was cancelled at the last minute, so we didn't get a chance to practice.  Next week...
  • It's only been three days since our new life started.  Only three days. 
  • It's still not quite sunk in that this is it.  Every day, every week, through to the end of the school year.
  • I feel guilty all the time.  The kids weren't expecting this.  They could do without the shake up.
  • Mister says I'm dead wrong about this.  If ever there were any three kids in need of a good shake up, it's our three kids. 
  • Be that as it may, it doesn't feel good.
  • I don't love the classes.  I don't fit in.
  • It's freakin' high school.  I can't dress it up any better than that.  I was hoping there would be more people like me--foreigners in need of extra classes to get into a specific univeristy program.  But, no.  They're all kids. 
  • They look at me like I'm all dusty and decrepid.
  • I'm older than my math teacher.
  • It's weird.
  • On the other hand, I can tell the classes are already working wonders on my Norwegian.  My infant math teacher spent 3 hours this morning teaching me how to divide 3rd and 4th degree polynomials, and I'll be god damned if I didn't understand it.  Mostly.
  • It's a soft entry into the world of Norwegian higher learning.
  • I needed that.
  • But still.  Dude.  It's high school.
  • It's weird.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


The time stamp on this picture says: 01.01.10 02:14:52.  Quarter after two in the morning.  I think that might qualify as some sort of abuse.  Oh well, at least they fell asleep with their hats and gloves on.

In case I haven't said it to you already, I should probably start off with a hearty Happy New Year Everyone!

We're usually in Rosendal with my mother-in-law for New Year's, but seeing as she abandoned us for other, more favored family members this year, we were left to make other arrangements.  We opted to keep it local (sort of) and drove the billion miles north of town, across the bloody bridge and everything, to spend the evening with my friend Marilyn, her husband, and her son.  A very quiet, but highly enjoyable evening that, as you can see, ended at least two hours later than the kids might have wished it.

Now for the part where I review last year's resolutions and make half-hearted, non-commital commitments towards new ones.

Old resolution #1--As you may or may not recall, last year I decided it was high time to read a book in Norwegian.  My one book commitment somehow turned into three.  Then my three book commitment ballooned into a class, leading to an exam, landing us here on the foothills of a still murky, but definitively bilingual future involving, almost certainly, ever more books. So I'm going to call old resolution #1 a success, even though, in the interest of full disclosure, I never actually finish that third Norwegian book.  A mystery/crime thing.  It would have bored me even in English.

Old resolution #2--I was going to learn all about digital photography and the inner workings of the fancy Canon I got for Christmas last year.  Ahem.  Well.  I've definitely learned things.  For example, I've learned that the settings you would use to take this picture:

are not necessarily the same settings you would use to take, say, this picture:

All wrong.  I know.  But I've learned, see, that kids move, like, all the freaking time, and they're way too impatient to wait while you fumble with your settings on a cold, dark night when there are fireworks to be seen.  I've learned not to care so much.  Because, I've also learned, that using the wrong settings can sometimes capture oddly amusing phenomena such as this:

"But Mommy.  You told me there were no such things as arctic ninja ghosts!"

So, old resolution #2 still needs some work.  But I'm always picking up odd bits and pieces of knowledge here and there.  And I got a tripod for Christmas this year.  I'm told tripods are an important tool of the trade, so it should help, right?

That was about it for old resolutions.  I kept the blog posts up above 52 for the year, so I'm happy about that.  Despite the dark moment mid-September where I got all moody about it, and nearly quit blogging altogether.  Let's say I try to avoid that kind of nonsense this year, call that new resolution #1.

New resolution #2: obviously, this one's about school.  I've lost some of the steam I had going into December.  I clearly didn't make if off the waiting list into those classes I waited too long to sign up for.  There are some other, far more expensive options, but I find myself dragging my feet.  Finding reasons why the kids can't spare me, why it would be too hard to get into town, why it would just plain be too hard.  Anyway, I'm still going to apply to the university in February.  There's still a chance they'll take me even without those extra classes.  So, depending on what happens with that, I'll either be starting university in August, or starting the high school level science classes I'm missing that kept me from being accepted into the university classes.  Either way, I'll be going to school full time next fall.  Or at least, that's my current plan/hope/wish/fervent-if-only-I-believed-in-prayer prayer.

And just for kicks, new resolution #3: run the Fana mil, a local 10K race held here every September.  This is an easy one because I already know I can run 10 kilometers.  But I've only ever run in one organized 5K.  I don't much like races, but I'm feeling this urge to go ahead and give another one a try.  I could make it more challenging by training for a specific goal time, but no way am I going to commit to that this early. 

For now, let's just say I plan to sign up for the race.  Now, if only the damn snow would die so I could get out on the road and go for a run!

Edited to add---Man did I ever speak too soon.  Hours after I posted this, I got a call from the school I was on the wait-list for.  Seems I got into both of the classes.  Shit.  Starting tomorrow.  Double shit.  The logistics are fierce.  I can't be here in the mornings 3 days a week to send the kids off to school.  Amanda is going to have to be dumped at barnehage at 7:15.  Thursdays are the worst.  I have no idea how to get Emma into town for her art class other than to have her take a bus in on her own.  Shit!  What have I done?  I didn't look very closely at the time table because the counselor made it sound like the waiting-list was miles long.  No way was I supposed to get in.  This was largely a symbolic move to bump me in the right direction and shut Mister up for another few months or so.  SHIT!  SHIT! SHIT!  Now everyone watch while I step out of my comfort zone, and turn my life upside down......