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.