Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Smug Than Proud, To Be Honest

I have no idea where to put this feeling I'm feeling.  How to box it up.  Contain it and preserve it so that I can unpack it and revel in it later, whenever I want to--whenever I need to.

You see, I took my last exam of the semester this morning. A five hour, hand-cramping, butt-numbing calculus marathon.  I took one of these this exact same time last year.  I remember walking away from that exam thinking it would be an honest to God Christmas miracle if I hadn't outright failed it.  (I didn't.  But we're talking by-the-skin-of-my-teeth barely.)

I very nearly quit my little re-education project as a direct result of my desultory performance on that exam.  I was convinced I was too stupid, too right-brained, and too damn old to be embarrassing myself in any sort of science program, for heaven's sake!

But oh-ho-hooo!  Not so this year!  Not so by a mile.

I nailed it.  I knew I had nailed.  I double underlined my last answer on my last problem set, and I knew. "That's it," I thought, "I'm done with you, puny exam.  You cannot scare me anymore."

I walked out of the building, turned on my phone, and called the guy who refused to let me quit on myself.

"Jamie!" he answered.  Not even a hello.  Hello wasn't necessary, because I think he knew too.  "Done already?" he asked,  "This must be an A then!  Must be."

Always wary of a good jinxing, I didn't dare agree with him too blithely. All I'd say is, "It went well.  I think I did well.  There was only one problem where I couldn't get the stupid signs to work out.  But the answer is right.  I'm pretty sure the answer I got was right...just something wonky with the algebra in the middle there.  But just that one problem.  Other than that I....It went well, I think."

The professor posted the solutions to the exam early this afternoon.  Mister thinks I'm crazy for having done this to myself, but I couldn't help it.  I had to know.  Did I nail it?  Or did I not?

I don't know if this is done anywhere in the States--it certainly wasn't done at Smith when I was taking exams there--but here we write our exams on carbon paper, so three copies are made of every page we turn in for evaluation.  The third copy is ours to keep.  So I was able to check my answers against the solutions that were posted this afternoon.

It's all good.  I really and truly did stick the landing.

Except for problem 4d) and e).  His answers didn't match mine, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why.  It had to do with an area (multivariable functions) that I'm not totally sure of myself in. So it was altogether possible that there was some subtle reason why we had to use the y-coordinate instead of the x-coordinate as I had done.  But I was just this side of confident enough in myself that I decided to ask.  So this evening, just before dinner, I sent off an e-mail to the professor asking why he had done what he had done, and where had I gone wrong?

After dinner I checked my messages, and this is what he had answered:

Tusen takk for hyggelig email og kommentar ang. fasit
Kan du se om det er rett nå:
Thank you for the nice email and comments regarding the solutions.  Can you see if it is right now:  


This was followed by a link to the solution set.   The CORRECTED solution set.  Because--are you ready for this?--I was right, and he was wrong.


Can I just say that again?  I was right!  And HE was wrong!

It doesn't even matter what grade I ultimately get in the class now.  And it's not really even about being right where my professor was wrongwrongwrongwrongWRONG!  It's about believing in myself.  I sat that entire exam in complete control, confident in what I was doing.  I knew I was right.  It's hard to explain how fucking good that feels.  How empowering.

 I've got my smarts mojo back.  Finally!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Eksamen

This commercial has been getting a lot of play here the past month or so.  Statoil is a state-run oil and gas company, and this campaign of theirs seems to exist soley to celebrate--not so much achievement, as simply putting yourself out there, and trying. 

I think it's wonderful.


I identify viscerally with each and every vingnette:

  • The alarm going off as you stare sleepless and wide-eyed into the dark morning.

  • The frantic last minute cramming on the bus.

  • Line 'em up: pencils, pens, ruler, calculator. Oh God! What if your calculator runs out of batteries half-way through?

  • Chew your bottom lip some more. That will help.

  • And those cheerful, chattering, smug retirees come to hover and leer at you as you sweat. Bastards!

  • You'll spend the next 4 to 5 hours flagging them down for more and more and ever more paper.  Why can't they just go ahead and give you at least 10 pages to begin with?  You know, and they know you're going to need it.  Carefree bastards!  

  • You hope their sciatics are screaming by noon.

The message towards the end translates as: 

  • There are many things worth cheering.  The desire to learn deserves perhaps the biggest applause.

  • You tend to agree. Which is why you continue to put yourself through this.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Intro calc classes at the University of Bergen come in two flavors: easy 101 and hard 111.  Last year as a meteorology student I was required to take hard 111.  It was awful for me.  A lot of theorems, and proofs, and hair-pulling "Ugh! Who really gives a fuck!"  Easy 101 bills itself as a "user's course":  here's your problem, here's how you solve it, and don't you worry your pretty little head about why--it simply doesn't matter.  Guess which one is required for the geology program.

As I mentioned earlier, this past week has been orientation week for new students.  The university does a pretty good job of organizing this event.  I don't really have any complaints about it other than I'm way, way too old to play name games with pimplely teenagers, and I never saw a box anywhere that I could cross off, opting out of the games due to excessive age considerations.  There really should be such a box somewhere.  Anyway, after the games, we had some extra time before the campus tour, so the grad student who was leading our group opened up the floor to questions.

"Anything you guys were wondering about...?" she asked.

They wanted to know how long she took to complete her bachelor's (3 years).  Which master's program she was in (petroleum geology).  Was it hard to get into (not if you have a C or better in all your undergrad classes).  "And which math class did you take?"

"101."

"And that was enough?"

"Yeah."

"You never felt like you needed more?"

"No."

"They don't expect more if you're planning to take a master's degree too?"

"Nope."

"Are you sure."

"Positive."

"Was it hard?"

"Was what hard?"

"MAT101.  Was it hard?"

"Not particularly."

"Cuz' we heard MAT111 is pretty hard."

"101 is easier."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

It was just one kid asking all the questions, but pretty much the whole group was holding its breath listening to the exchange.  It pretty much took a collective sigh of relief when it was over.  I already like geologists so much better than I like meteorologists.

---

Here's a random thought I had while I was waiting for the name games to be over:  All of these kids (including the grad student) are between 19 to 23 years old.  That means that many of them were busy being born, if not gestated and conceived when I was busy suffering through orientation week at Smith in August of 1991.  Now that's some scary, hard math to digest!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer, As Was

Classes start again next Monday. Well, not classes exactly, but that pre-classes, welcome to the new year, tell your new classmates all about your fine self week that precedes the start of actual classes. That starts next Monday. It's obligatory for new students. I did it last year, but last year I was a Meteorology/Oceanography student. This year I'm a geology student. As such, I'm obliged to do it all over again.

Which means, of course, that I did it. I got into the geology program.  I feel a little guilty about this, actually.  There's been a bit of a brouhaha in the papers over the past few weeks involving 500 or so, in some cases, highly qualified students not getting accepted into university because of some minor computer glitch in their transcripts causing them to be rejected altogether.  I agree with the students.  It's outrageous and unfair. And Samordna opptak (central agency tasked with processing and accepting/rejecting all applications to all colleges and universities in Norway) bloody well should be obligated to inform applicants when there's an obvious discrepancy in an otherwise normal application.  I mean, obviously. I didn't work very hard on my application.  When I submitted it last March, emotionally I was more or less done with my little re-education project. At the time, I didn't really want to be accepted. I didn't even bother to track down official transcripts.  I just sent them photocopies; all but daring them to reject me.  Only they didn't.  Now, after a three month break from the horrors of calculus II and linear algebra, I'm glad about that.  But I still feel guilty that I might have taken the place of some more eager, less ambivalent, more qualified kid who, through no fault of his or her own, lost their place to a dusty, fossilized matron.

(I'll get over it)

The impending start of classes, also signifies the inevitable end of summer.

Alas.

It hasn't been a great one weather-wise.  Not that it's been raining non-stop, but it's been pretty consistently grey and cool.  Not much in the way of beach weather.  We had one glorious week of sun and heat in Madeira.  After that we've been mostly at the cabin.  I've read well over a thousand pages of fictional, strictly non-educational rubbish.  None of them involving bondage, because...I'm going to go ahead and say it...I'm better than that...not the bondage bit...I don't care what you do in the bedroom...says nothing about your character...or mine, for that matter...but the books...they're just...silly...erotica...erotica-lite...It doesn't count as real reading!

(I feel better now)

My greatest accomplishment of the summer has been learning to drive the boat.  Almost.  Docking it is still a pretty tense affair.  And mooring it is, well--I'm still of the opinion that a knot is a knot; Mister emphatically begs to differ.  But I'm getting there.  I know how to turn it on, battery and all. And I'm pretty sure that I could manage to get myself to Rosendal and back without incident as long as someone was with me to grab the pier when I get close enough, because making it stop when and where I want it to?  The dark arts are involved, surely.

My daddy and Boy are so proud of me.  You can tell.

I'm going to do my level best to keep writing and updating this blog, even after classes start.  Share more of the university experience than I have in the past. There are quite a few American in Norway type ex-pat blogs out there.  There may even be one or two students in the mix, already reporting on the vagaries of the Norwegian collegiate ethos.  But when it comes to dusty, fossilized, mothers-of-three?  How many of us could there be left still clinging to the ridiculous dream of becoming a geologist?  In Norway, no less!

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Belated Art Appreciation

We missed EM's art show this year. We had sent out invitations to her weekend long birthday party weeks in advance; long before we knew the exact date of the art show. By the time we realized there was a conflict, we were into party preperations too deep to back out, so we decided to skip the art show instead. 

I feel bad about that.  Sort of.  My understanding is that it was somehow set up outside this year.  No overcrowded, stuffy museum!  And hey, who doesn't love a temporary outdoor art installation?  Especially in a city whose citizens are told to expect rain upwards of 300 days per year.  What could possibly go wrong?

She brought her portfolio home a few weeks later.  She thinks, but she's not sure, that these are the two pieces that were hung in the show.


This is all well and good. I am definitely impressed. Whimsical.  Approaching proportional.  Three-dimensional, even, in parts.  And she's still really enjoying the classes, and wants to continue into the foreseeable future.  So that's great.  I'm as proud as any parent could be.

But, again, I just have to ask:  The hands EM!  When are they going to teach you how to draw hands?!!!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Deadmark

Late last summer, Amanda's Godmother (who also happens to be my sister-in-law) mentioned to me that she wanted to do something special just for Amanda and Camilla (her youngest daughter, who is a year older than Amanda).  She said that she had been thinking of taking them to Legoland while they were still young enough to really appreciate it.  Did I have any objections to that?  And did I think there would be time for the trip before school started?

No, I did not.  And no, I did not.

To be honest, I didn't really give the conversation that much of my attention.  It sounded to me like one of those pipe dreams we cook up when we're fantasizing about how our lives would be if we were all as organized, altruistic, and motivated as we wish we were.  And sure enough, nothing ever came of it.  School started, fall weather set in, and everyone forgot all about it.  Or so I thought.

Much to my surprise, Vigdis called out of the blue earlier this month to ask, "Is anything happening from the 21st to the 24th?"

"Um, besides school not being out yet, no.  Why?"

"Does it matter?"

"Does what matter?"

"That school isn't out yet?"

"Vigdis!  Help me out here.  What are we talking about?"

"I told the girls I'd take them to Legoland.  I want to do it between the 21st and the 24th.  Do you have anything else planned?"

"Oh.  No, I guess we don't.  So, I guess that would work."

"Great!  We need to figure out a way to get Amanda to Stavanger then.  Do you think she'd be okay to fly down on her own?"

"Wait.  You're planning to take them alone?  Just you?"

"Well...yeah..."

"Won't that be awfully boring for you?"

"Yes.  But I promised them, so, you know..."

"Wouldn't it be more fun for you if I went too?"

"YESSSS."

You could feel the relief oozing from her soul with that one extended esssssss.

And that's the story of how Amanda ditched school two days early, and the four of us: Amanda, Camilla, Vigdis, and I, set out for Legoland.

We drove from Stavanger.  Took the ferry from the southern tip of Norway to the northern tip of Denmark.  And then we drove some more.  On a map, Denmark just doesn't seem like it should be that big, but in fact it takes hours and hours to get from any one where in Denmark to another where in Denmark.  So if you were to ask the girls how the trip went, they'd roll their eyes at you and whine, "Ugh, it took foreverrrrrr!" 

And you'd feel the outrage oozing from their souls with that one extended errrrr.

The weather was threatening, to say the least.  We drove the final two hours to Billund in an all out deluge, and we feared we might have to put the girls off another day in hopes of better weather.  But, miraculously enough, right around the time we started seeing "Legoland, thisa way" signs,  the clouds broke and the sun prevailed.  Perfect amusement park conditions.

Happy faces.  Finally!

They probably wouldn't be able to articulate it themselves, but I'm pretty sure these smiles say,
"It was worth the wait!"

Vigdis and I spent most of our time here at this outdoor restaurant while the girls ran from ride to ride.
They'd get hungry or thirsty from time to time, but for the most part we were left blessedly alone to chat.
My kind of vacation!
Alas, our lucky break with the weather didn't last.  The following day dawned blustery and grey, and worse, Camilla came down with a vicious stomach bug at breakfast.  It looked like we might have to spend our last full day in Denmark nursing a sick kid.  But kids are incredibly tough, especially when a trip to a waterpark is on the table.  After throwing up a time or two, Camilla rallied, put on her swimsuit, and demanded that we do the same.

She gave it her all, dear heart.  But after two and a half hours at the waterpark, Camilla was wiped out and coming down with a fever.  Amanda was not as gracious as she might have been at having her fun cut short, but she's still small enough to pick up and bully so we got her out of the pool eventually...

That night was St. Hans.  In Norway, they build huge bonfires along the coast to celebrate mid-summer night.  In Denmark, the bonfires are considerably smaller, but much more interesting because, turns out, they burn paper mache witches on them!  After choking down a paracet for the fever, Camilla was feeling well enough to come out and join the fun.


I kept telling them to get closer so I could get a good picture of both them and the burning witch.
They were all like, "Fuck that, woman!  This is close enough!"

Thanks for a wonderful, impromptu vacation Tante Vigdis!
Let's do it again sometime, only...without the vomit maybe, 'kay?


Friday, June 08, 2012

May 31st

It would be wrong of me not to give this one her birthday spotlight. She, at least, had the good sense to wait until after my exam to turn 12.

Way back in December, when we went to view The Ugly Chicken that very first time, Emma and I stood shivering on the veranda, trying to picture the view lush and green, and conjuring this fantasy of having her birthday party there on the island.  A whole weekend long celebration with fishing, swimming, grilling, and hair-braiding. (Because, for some reason, that's what 12 year old girls do when they gather in groups of four or more. It's what my friends and I did when we were 12, and it's still what my daughter and her friends do. Braid hair. All weekend long).

And behold!  It came to pass.

Dinner Friday night.
.  Only two of the girls' hair is yet braided.
.  If dinner had been but an hour later, the rest would have been similarly coiffed.

Alas, it came to pass that a cold north wind fell from the arctic in the days leading up to Em's birthday, thus polluting the gentle summer idyll of our celebration.  I feared the swimming might have to be called off.

But no.  These are, after all, fully pubescent Viking women we're talking about here.  At least a few of these hearty souls would not be daunted by cold waters and even colder air. 

The sea must needs be swam!
However.

We're going to stand around and look at it for a gooood long time before we do that.



I stood on the shore documenting the moment dressed in a thick fleece, jeans, and woolly socks.

I wished I had had a hat.

More than once I thought, "Christ, their mother's would flog me if they knew I had let their babies go swimming in this weather!"

More than once I thought, "Meh, my baby does it all the time, and look how awesome she is!"

Emma,

I know you prefer for people to see you as the polar opposit of your sister,
that you purposefully align yourself--your behavior, your opinions
--your whole being--
in order to maintain that image.

But, can I tell you a little secret?
It's not working very well.

You are exactly as vibrant, as beguiling, and as joyful as she is.
You are both cut from the same rosy cloth,
and everyone knows it.

Yes, there are differences.
You are brook where she is river.
You are warmth where she is fire.
You are waltz where she is raucus barn dance.

All of the positive, nurturing energy in my life
flows from you two
(and your brother, of course, but he's all snips and snails and puppy dog tails,
another kettle of fish entirely).
My boy fuels my imagination,
but my girls
--especially you, my beamish beauty--
water my roots, and keep me grounded.

You are growing into such a beautiful, accomplished, interesting young woman.

I am completely proud,
and would be utterly lost without you.

Happy Birthday
Thank you for sharing this first bit with me.

Love,
Mom

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

May 28th

You will now indulge me in a bit of back tracking here, as a good deal happened in May while I was swamped with exams and house guests--far too busy to blog about it all.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My Little Miss turned 8 while I was studying for a linear algebra exam.  I had to send her and the family (Grandma Gae and Grandpa Dale included) to the cabin without me so that I could get in a few days of solid, solitary cramming without any distractions, but I did manage to get there in time to spend her very day of days with her.

She's at that age where she's proud to be able to read the printed part of the card,
 but doesn't have a clue what the cursive hand-written bit says.
 I remember that from my own childhood,
 "Blah blah blah, love pride happyhappy.  Now gimme the damn present!"

She's a difficult one to shop for.
.  When you ask her what she wants for her birthday or Christmas, she invariably answers,
 "I don't know. Surprise me."
 The only specific wish I could get out of her this year was
 "one of those uppy-downy stair thingys".

Maybe she's right. 
Maybe there really is no point in brushing her hair
 EVER
when she wears this unkempt, bedhead thing so well.


Amanda,
The past eight years has taught me this about you:
you're impertinent, stubborn, and often exasperating;
sassy, precocious, and always incorrigible.
(one needs such big words to describe your very big, BIG personality)
But you are also one of the happiest, most joyful, loving children I've ever met.
I love you, baby. 
Never change. 
 EVER.

Monday, May 21, 2012

On Crocs And Shifting Paradigms

When I bought the Crocs last week, I said to myself, "OMG, srsly?  Are we really thinking about buying these fool things? Fer realz?  Like, to wear?"

"Well, yeah, actually.  We really are.  Sure they're goofy as shit to look at, but they're perfect to throw on to wear from cabin to beach and back again.  Much better than thongs or those horridly impractical rock shoe thingys that are impossible to get on once wet.  Really.  This is what Crocs are made for.  Totally legit.  We're doing it."

"But, Crocs?  We swore we'd never..."

"Yeah, yeah.  We also swore we'd never eat moldy cheese or use the TV as a babysitter.  We got over those things.  We'll get over this."

"But 299 kroner?  For plastic...."

"It's fine.  Not so bad, really.  Just at the cabin.  Just for the beach. Ugly shoes for The Ugly Chicken.  How fitting."

"Fine. But not that god awful purple.  Ack, no!  Not the red either.  White?  Are we mad?  No!"

"Work with us, here. Pale pink or black.  Decide."

"................pink, the pink ones, then.......Fuck............"

It's hard to say exactly how they ended up on my feet the following day.  The floor was cold? I needed to run up to the garage for something and couldn't find my shoes?  Was I simply showing them to EM?  Mocking them even as I pulled the tags off and slipped them on?  Who knows.  But somehow there they were--on, not off.  Home--not at the cabin.  And there they still were at bed time.

By noon the next day I had to admit to myself, "Damn but these pale pink Crocs are comfortable!  No wonder so many people have been willing to look so stupid all these years! So light and airy, and yet so cushiony and supportive.  Why it's like walking on Jell-o.  If we'd only known...."

"Now, now.  Let's not get carried away.  Around the house and up to the mail box is one thing, but we'll never wear them out in public.  Never.  For that sin, there remains no excuse.  Stupid is as stupid does, and we, JEDA, are not stupid, are we?"

"No.  Of course not.  Never in public.  Obviously."

And I meant it at the time.  I still do!  But I had to work with myself this afternoon, remind myself several times actually, that the parent meeting for the kids' track and field team does, in fact, constitute a public gathering, and no, it really wouldn't be okay to just pop in in a junky old sweatshirt and the pale pink Crocs.

JEDA's standards are slipping. 

Rapid erosion.

 So sad.

My favorite place to buy clothes these days is the sports shop. 

We're not talking nothing but sweats and sports bras here, but...I'm in Crocs now, so it's not far off....

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mad Props To Norwegian Bureaucracy

Have I ever complained about the song and dance an expat has to do to get a passport renewed while living abroad?

It's pretty much absurd.  The pictures, the paper work, the permission forms that have to be signed in front of a frigging judge, for God's sake!  One year the girls and I had to fly to Oslo for a day because we'd missed the one day that year a consul from the embassy set up in Bergen to notarize all that stupid paperwork.

We've never bothered to get the kids set up with Norwegian passports, a) because we haven't really needed them before, all our travel being directed Stateward, and b) because I flat out refuse to go through all that song and dance in Norwegian, I figure--his country, his language, his kids, his job.

We've known since early last autumn that we'd to be spending a week in Madeira this coming summer.  It's Mister's mother's 70th birthday in July, and her birthday wish was to get her whole family (us, and Mister's two sisters' families) on the same tiny island at the same time.  Fine.  Fun, even.  But travel within Europe requires European passports for European citizens--even the 50/50 models.

I reminded him when the trip was planned and agreed to, "It's your job to get the kids' passports.  Don't leave it to the last minute."

"Yeah yeah, fine. No problem."

Every month since September, I've said, "You need to get the kids' passports."

And he'd say,  "Yeah, yeah. Soon.  Next week maybe.  Can you do some research for me?  Find out what's required?"

"NO!"

And here it is--April.  Plane tickets should have been ordered at least a month ago, but we can't order them because the kids still don't have Norwegian passports.

GRRRRRR!  FINE!  Here!  Just let me do EVERYTHING!

I thought for a long time that there was a good chance that they wouldn't even let me apply for the passports, me being a scary foreigner and all.  I dropped into the passport office at the police station one grey day in March to ask that very question. The guy looked at me like I was more than a little bit soft in the head.  "I don't understand," he said, "You're not the children's mother?"

"No, I am.  But I'm not Norwegian."

"Then why would we give them Norwegian passports."

"Their father is Norwegian.  But he's too busy.  I need to bring them in to get the passports.  Can I do that?"

"You're the mother of the children?"

"Yes.  But I'm not Norwegian."

To which he lifted an eyebrow and snorted as if to say, "Ya think?"  Then he gave me a form for Mister to fill out, giving me permission to apply for passports for his kids.  The Americans have a similar form, but it comes with a whole bunch of strings attached, so I asked, "And does this form need to be notarized?"

"It needs to be signed, yes."

"But does it need to be notarized?  Like...(my norwegian words were failing me here)...you know...official like?"

"Just sign it.  And bring his passport when you come."

"And the other forms?  Can you give me those too?"

"What other forms?

"For the passports.  The application forms."

"This," he held up the permission form, "And the kids.  You bring.  We take care of rest."

So maybe he didn't say it exaclty like that.  But he was clearly getting frustrated with the fact that I was so desperately working to complicate a really very simple process.

Blah, blah, blah.  Life, school, crap.  I finally managed to get the kids into the police station just this past Wednesday.  They looked everything up on a central computer--my status, kids' status, addresses, fødselsnummer (basically a Social Security number)--everything.  They took pictures right there.  We were in and out in less than 15 minutes. When I asked how long it would take to process the actual passports, she told me, "We guarantee them within 10 days." 

This shocked me, "That's it?  Seriously?"

To which she gave me a level, I shit-you-not kind of look over her bifocals, and said, "It'll probably be much early than that."

I snorted and said, "Dude, could you call the Americans and tell them how you do this?"

She must have thought I was pretty damn funny, and put a rush on my order, because I'll be damned if the very next day, Thursday, the passports were......

_____________________________________________________________________

UPDATE---FRIDAY

I might have to take some of my mad praizzz back.  See I wrote all that yesterday, after I'd recieved TWO of the passports in the mail a mere one day after applying for them.  I thought that was pretty freaking impressive.

But....why just two?

I assumed that the third one must have come up on the pile just in time for someone's coffee break, so I'd get it the following day--yesterday.

Only, I didn't.

I still only have two passports.  Which means, I still can't order plane tickets.

I'm kind of suspecting this little hiccup has more to do with the post office.  But who knows.  I'm probably going to have to make a phone call Monday.

Anyway--I spent a lot of time on this post, so I'm posting it. 

Happy Weekend!



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Klar--Ferdig--GÅ!

One of my more bitter memories of elementary school is the Presidential Fitness Test that we were forced to perform every Spring.  The shuttle run, the standing long jump, the flexed arm hang, the god damn 800 meter dash. 

I sucked--I mean really, really sucked--at all of it. 

And sometime during that fitness week we'd be weighed and measured right out there in front of God and everyone. Empirically proving, year after year, that I actually was the galumphingest elephant in the whole class.  This is how it seemed to me anyway.  I mean, how else was I supposed to interpret slim and perfect Jennifer Murray being able to hang from that stupid bar for upwards of 40 seconds, while I could barely manage 3?  And the 800 meter dash!  Gah!  That's what--barely even half a mile?  I don't remember specific times, but I do remember the abject humiliation of being one of the last ones to drag myself wheezing and hacking over that finish line year after year after year.  By the 6th grade, I was refusing to even try.  I just walked the whole 800 meters, because FUCK YOU Presidential Fitness Test!  You don't own me!  When you say run, I don't say, "How fast?"

I hated it.  Loathed it entirely.

I can look back on it now--on what I was, how I was--and see quite clearly that I wasn't anywhere near as fat and awful as I thought I was.  I was big, yes. Bigger than all my friends. But that was genetics, not fat.  There were kids in the class who struggled more than I did--a few anyway.  I would love to be able to go back in time, and let myself off the hook just a little bit for all that.  Of course, I can't do that.  So I've resolved instead to do everything in my power to make sure my kids (specifically Emma, who--it's been clear since she was an infant--is shaped exactly like me) make it through their childhoods without ever once feeling the same shame and inadequacy over their general fitness and appearance that I once did.

I married into a family of runners.  Serious, medal winning, title holding athletes who have all been sweetly indulgent of my galumphing, elephantine thighs.  I've felt, nevertheless, a certian amount of pressure to up my fitness game in order to be worthy of their exalted, sweaty presense. 

When I first started running as an adult--about 13 years ago--I remember my wildly hammering heart having serious difficulty after only 100 meters.  I'm pretty sure I cried the first time I ran from one bus stop to the next (about 500 meters) without stopping.  It wasn't until after Amanda was born that I got consistent enough with my workouts, that I was able to run any real distances.  My first full kilometer, my first 5, my first 10...these were huge milestones for me, and I remember the season, the weather, and the pride that accompanied each and every one of them.  But let me tell you, all that pride is nothing compared to what I felt this past Monday when Emma completed her first full 3 kilometer race.

Both Emma and Daniel have been going to track and field training every Monday evening for two years now.  Daniel is a natural.  He's got the body.  You know the one.  That lean, sculpted, athletic body built to skip and prance lightly through any physical activity you point it at.  That's his genetics, the lucky little bastard.  Emma and I just have to deal with that.  Emma goes primarily to ensure that she gets in one good workout, once a week.  No one asks her to compete, because the thought of it makes her sick to her stomach.  But she's been saying for the past 4 or 5 months now that she can tell she's getting better.  Her coaches are complimenting her on her running style.  She feels lighter.  She can keep up at a sprint with some of the faster boys in the class now.  She's obviously pretty pleased with herself about all this.  So when the prospect of this løpskarusell* came up, she was open to it, as long as I would run it with her.  I happily agreed.

I told her at the start that our time on this one didn't matter at all.  The most important things were to a) finish, and b) run as much of it as we possibly could.  She was nervous, but she agreed to those terms.

Found picture here.

We managed to get in the way of the photographer right at the start of the race.  That's me in the middle--green jacket, goofy hat, #40.  Daniel is to the far right--#42.  He started behind us, but less than a minute after the gun went off, he was ahead of us and out of sight.  Emma, unfortunately, is behind the pink headband.  But this picture is proof that she was there, that she did do this thing.

As we approached the 1.5 km mark where we were supposed to turn around and head back, she huffed, "When we, get up there, can we just, walk?  Just for a, little bit?"  I looked over at her.  Her cheeks were flushed, there was the slightest sheen of persperation on her upper lip.  She was breathing heavily, but not hard.  Utterly beautiful.  I could tell she didn't really need to stop, so I said, "We'll do what you want, but you seem fine to me.  Let's just see what you've got left in you when we get there."

I deliberately didn't stop or even slow down when we got to the turning point.  She looked at me expectantly, ready for her little walking break.  Instead I said, "Think about this, Em.  Tonight, when we get home, you get to send a message to daddy telling him what you've done.  But you only get to say you ran the whole way, if you ran the whole way."

"But, I've never, run, this far, before."

"Doesn't mean you can't do it.  You're fine Emma.  I can tell.  You're not breathing hard enough to need to quit.  Let's just slow it down a bit."

So we did.  But only for a minute.  There was one other moment just before the 2.5 marker where she really wanted to quit, but all I had to say was, "Em, just imagine how proud Daddy is going to be to hear you ran the whole way!"  To which she dug deep, and kept right on running.  All the way to the finish line.

Daniel was there waiting for us, all bouncey and excited as ever Boy is.  He was 4 minutes ahead of us, and of course I'm proud of him too.  But as I said before, he was born to this kind of thing.  If he ever decided to dig as deep as Emma had just done, he'd be in danger of maybe winning something someday.  In my mind, this was Emma's moment.  I hope she remembers it in years to come with as much pride as I will. 

Your first full 3 kilometers, Em.  It was Spring.  It was cloudy and drizzly.  And your mother wept with joy at the sight of it.  I love you.


*løpskarusell--I'm not sure what's up with this word.  Løp means run.  Karusell means carousel.  I think maybe it's a løpskarusell because it's a cycle of 3 races?...or something? The next one is on May 7th.  And you can bet your ass Emma and I will be there for it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bawdry

Boy climbs into the backseat of the car humming loudly.  He's a fairly hyped up because he's just been to soccer practice, and apparently there was head butting involved.  But wait.  Allow me to correct the unintended tameness of that first sentence.  Boy doesn't so much "climb" into the backseat, as he does "mount" it. Maniacally.  Yes, that's more like it.  The humming too, boarders on maniacal.

None of this is unusual for Boy these days, so I coolly push my sunglasses into place and drive on.

When we turn out of the school parking lot onto the main road, the maniacal humming turns to maniacal singing.  Mind you, he still hasn't said a single word to me beyond a chirpy "Yyyessss!" when I ask if he's remembered his hat and jacket. 

His song goes something like this:

Bosom, bosom, bosom, bosom.
BOZEM!
Bosom, bosom, bosom, bosom.
BOZEM!
Smack your BOZEM!
Bosombosom.
Smack your BOZEM!
Bosombosom.
Bosom, bosom, bosom, bosom....
And so on and so forth, until I finally have to ask, "Boy?  Why are you singing bosom, bosom, bosom over and over again like that?"

He stops mid-bosom and thinks a second before he says, "I don't know.  I just think bosom is a fun word to say.  Listen! Bosom, bosom, bosom..."

I let him sing his song again.  It's growing on me.  Bosom is a great little word, afterall.  But after the second round of "Smack your BOZEM!" I begin to wonder.

"Boy?  Do you have any idea what the word 'bosom' means?"

"Oh.  Um.  Well....I think it might have something to do with friends? or something?"

"Yes, it can mean something like that.  Something close.  Something comfortable.  A bosom-buddy. Or the warm bosom of family.  But it has another meaning that you should probably be aware of."

"Oh."

"It also means, you know....boobies."

Boy begins to giggle--maniacally--and in so giggling, very nearly swallows his tongue.

"No!  Wait!" he snorts, "You mean!  I've been saying...!  And smack your...!  Nooooo!"

We're nearing home by now.  Gradually the fit of giggles wears itself out.  I'm backing the car into the garage when he asks, "So, you didn't say.  Am I allowed to say it?"

"Say bosom?  Ummmm.  Tja, yeah?  I guess so?  Maybe?  If you really want?"

That is right, isn't it?  I mean--bosom.  It's not like titties, or knockers, or even boobies.  Right?  Sure enough he'll come across as a pretentious turd if he ever decides to compliment a girl on her ample bosom, or anything dire like that.  But he's allowed to go around singing "Bosom, bosom, bosom, bosom" at the top of his lungs, right?

I'm pretty sure I've totally lost the plot on this whole naughty words/nice words parenting task.  I figure, as long as nobody in this house feels free to tell me to go fuck myself, I've won at least half the battle.  But here in Norway where both TV and radio are completely uncensored, where the likes of Nicki Minaj and Eminem are played blithely in my kids' classrooms during the lunch hour, and the English swear words are considered by most parents to be harmless good fun, it's really hard to draw much more of a line in the sand than that.

It also doesn't help that I've lived here so long that I no longer have a clear sense of what some of these words actually mean.  As an example, this past week the kids have had uteskole (outdoor school).  Rather than the usual classroom routine, everyone heads outside, and each day each class is assigned to a different station designed to get kids moving and enjoying the great outdoors.  One of the stations was canoeing, which we, here in this house, oh so wittily renamed kanoodling.  As in, "Boy!  You're kanoodling today, don't forget the lifevest."  Or, "So Missy, did you enjoy the kanoodling today?"  And even worse, "So EM?  Did you get wet during the kanoodling?"  It was Wednesday afternoon before I dimly remembered that kanoodling might have something to do with sex.

Given all that, who am I to deny my boy the right to sing his joy of bosom?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Her Mother's Math Talent

3 + 3 is 8.

No it's not.

Yes it is.

Missy, 3 + 3 is not 8.  Use your fingers if you have to.  But, no.  It's just.....not.

Well, in math 3 + 3 is 6.  Boring.  But in real life if you  put a 3 and a 3 together, it makes an 8.  So the real 3 + 3 is 8.

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's The View, Stupid!

So, yeah.  It's been awhile since I've done this with any sort of regularity.  Quite a bit has happened.

We've touched briefly on the university thing.  I finished the damn problem set, by the way.  There was much grumbling and moaning, and once again Mister had to fish me out of one or two tricksy Algebra muddles.  But it's done. Now I get to start studying for exams.  Yey me!  Wanna know the worst thing about Norwegian university?  Five hour exams.  Five frigging hours of hell.  I don't think it's right, but that's not what I'm here to talk about today.

Today I want to talk about the best thing that's happened to us recently.  Our cabin! 

Best. Purchase. EVER!

A cabin is not something that I had ever aspired to own.  I've visitied several. I've had reasonably good times in all of them. But for the most part, it always felt like far more of a hassle to pack up and get there than it was worth.  Then Mister started pining for one, and I was like, "Shit!  How am I going to stop him from doing this?"  I seriously didn't want to have to fight with him every weekend about whether or not we were going to pack all our crap--AGAIN--and go to the cabin--AGAIN.  Because I knew that's the kind of cabin experience he had in mind.  It's the weekend!  Take me to the sea!  Take me to the mountains!  That's just the kind of guy he is.

He arranged to view our soon-to-be cabin between Christmas and New Year's.  I tagged along.  Reluctantly.  All prepared to start poking holes in his little pipe dream the minute we climbed ashore.  FYI--it's on an island, only accessible by boat--1st easy strike against it, right there! 

Only, once we got there, I couldn't seem to stop myself from saying, "Oh my God!  Look at the view!  The view, kids!  Look at it!  It's....It's....Stunning! Majestic! Magnificent! It's GOOORGEOUS!" 

When I was 14, I had a poster of Norway in my room.  This wasn't it, but it looked something like this:
by Michele Molinari taken off of AllPosters.com
I adored everything about the idea of Norway when I was 14 and 15 (coughA-hacoughcough), and I wanted to go there more then just about anything.  I naturally assumed that everywhere in Norway must be exactly as breathtakingly beautiful as the place in that poster. 

Turns out, I wasn't too far wrong, and now I own a piece of it. 

These pictures were taken with my iphone, and they don't capture even a quarter of the grandure that managed to change my mind about buying that cabin in about half an instant.  But they're all I've got, so here ya' go:
Towards the southeast.

That tree and those bushes are scheduled for demolition pronto.

Not as majestic here, but this is looking towards the northwest.  We've got ocean views everywhere we look.
It's pretty much awesome.
I was a bit shocked this morning when I sat down to write this, to discover that I don't have any pictures of the cabin itself.  Doi!  Nevermind.  It's practically new.  Tastefully furnished (for the most part).  And covered floor to ceiling in pine paneling (as every Norwegian cabin ever is).  It's lovely really, but God people!  The view!  The view is what sells it!  Well, the view, and loads and loads of fresh seafood.


We spent all of vinterferie there, and all of Easter, plus a weekend or two in between.  The neighbors are delightful, and have four kids more or less the same ages as ours.  They all get along great which makes the kids want to pack up and go as often and as eagerly as we do.

All of this shocks the hell out of me.  Because, seriously, I'm not a cabin person. 

Well, that is--I never was before.

One last bit of eye candy--a terrible shot into the sun of the girls playing with crabs.  Made moderately interesting by Picasa photo editing dodads.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Imagine Me Wispering This. REALLY! LOUDLY!

I have a confession to make.

I'm about ready to quit school.

Quit, as in:

Walk away.

Cease and desist.

Run. thefuck. away.

I have a problem set for my Linear Algebra class due this Friday.  I have to get at least 60% on it to be allowed to sit the exam in May.  You have no idea how tempting it is to just blow the whole damn thing off.  Wash my hair, put on some make-up, and go shopping instead.

I'm all mathed out, folks.  Done.

I was talking to a woman this past weekend, an aquaintance of Mister's from the village he grew up in.  She was asking me what I was studying, how it was going, and such n' all.  I explained that, for the moment I'm in the meteorology program, but I've just finished applying to switch over to the geology department.  She chuckled heartily at this, and said, "Ah! Not autistic enough to get through meteorology's math requirements, are you?" 

Now, I can think of half a dozen ways to be righteously offended by such a casual dismissal of my current academic predicament if I chose to be, but the plain fact of the matter is, she's right.  And funny to boot. So, yeah, I concede.  I'm not autistic enough to get through the math.  I is stooppud.

The reason I'm attempting to switch over to geology is, even if I take the geophysics degree, there are only two required math classes there (neither of them Calculus II), as opposed to the six that meteorology demands.  Geology is what I wanted to do in the first place, but it's a very competetive program to get into in Norway because all the eager young pups coming out of the high schools looking for the quickest route to loads of spare cash know that the oil industry is nothing but booming, and a degree in petroleum geology is their surest ticket to the party.  Meteorology was relatively easy to get into, and global climate change is something I'm genuinely interested in. But this particular program puts all its emphasis on weather tracking, forecasting, and modelling.  Hence the unholy fuck ton of math requirements.  I want out.  I'm trying to get out. 

But. I mean. Like. Seriously? Secretly?  Even if I do manage to get into the geology program?  I don't really want to.  This is my truth.  My truth that my Mister is not yet ready to hear: I want to quit.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Poor, Poor JEDA


This is the current long term forecast for Bergen.


I'm still so traumatized from the horrors of two winters past, that all I can think when I see a week of fine weather like that is, "Fuck. When do I have to start conserving water?" I feel like an ungrateful, privileged, 1st-world harpy when I think such things.  But I can't seem to help myself.

I remember saying to Mister during those awful waterless months, "Never again.  Never.  You will fix this well situation.  You will find us a secure source of water. You will do this before you do anything else.  Fixing the shallow well has just become number one on your to-do list!  Are we clear on that?"

And we were.  Two years ago, we were definitely in agreement on that one, crucial point.

Since then Mister has overseen and completed the following purchases/home repairs:
  • a boat
  • a paved driveway
  • an upstairs bathroom
  • a lovely, and I dare say, enviable sea-side cottage
  • another damn boat--to ferry us to and from said sea-side cottage, naturally
These things are huge.  And wonderful.  They are testimony to a watershed shift in our lifestyle that places me squarely amongst the ranks of other ungrateful, privileged, 1st-world harpies who fan their newly manicured nails whilest bemoaning the scarcity of well tailored jeans, poor us.  And I did technically approve each and every one them, so I've no business whining about it now.  But, god dammit!  I'm going to run out of water again, and I don't want to!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Retrospective

This blog is clearly defunct.  It's served its purpose, and I've neither the time nor the inclination to continue mommy blogging.  Silly to keep pretending otherwise.

But, as I've already mentioned, my favorite aspect of the entire blogging phenomenon is the journaling.  The writing down, and storing away of moments that would otherwise have been forgotten.

I've had this notion for a while now that I should maybe take and broaden that idea.  Go back--way back--and write about memories of my own childhood.  But also pick up moments that I skipped over of the kids' earliest years.  I don't think any of it should be forgotten completely.  And I think this is a great medium in which to capture it all.

I can't decide though if I should start it as a completely new blog, or just add on to this one.

In the meantime, here's a little taste of what I'm talking about.  A moment, one slow summer day just four years ago.  Please to note the dejected slump of his shoulders as Mario plunges into the abyss for the last time.

video

Technically, this doesn't pre-date the blog, so it doesn't really qualify for my new grand scheme.  But I just found it, and after watching it a dozen-odd times in a row, I felt strongly that I needed to pass it on.  Plus, look how cute Emma is with her sassy short haircut and Brazt t-shirt.  I know she won't want to forget that in years to come!