Dec 29, 2007

Christmas - Part Trois

Noone can ever say that we did not celebrate Christmas the year we spent in Norway -at this point I'm feeling a bit Christmassed out!

Mid-morning following our late-night karaoke session, two parents, two grandparents, four boys, four DS consoles with various new games, six pairs of skis, six bum trays, seemingly endless pairs of mitts, gloves, snow pants and jackets were packed into two cars, and away we went to Cottage-land. Also known as Winter Wonderland.

Our cottage is situated in the mountains above the beautiful town of Ål, and is very popular for cross country skiing. Right outside our door are kilometers and kilometers of machine groomed trails, some lit, some not. There is also a downhill centre across the valley, and Norway's largest tobagganing hill is only a short drive away.

Arriving after sunset, we quickly threw together a dinner of leftover food from the day before the boys got into their outerwear, strapped on the cross country skis and went outside to test out the brand new head lights they'd received for Christmas.

Looks like they worked out pretty well!

The very next day, we woke up to very mild weather, and a touch of rain that quickly turned into snow. While my mother and I drove down the mountain for groceries, the boys played in the snow. My dad will tell you that he had no help whatsoever building his snowman, as the boys were far too busy making snow tunnels and having snowball fights.

Later that afternoon, Christopher, Mathias and I ventured out for what I thought was going to be a short skiing trip around the cottage. As it turns out, the boys had a 10k trek in mind. I finally managed to convince them, some 2-3 km in, that it was going to get pitch black soon, and we'd have to wait until the following day to venture any further away. As we were returning to the cottage, Mathias and I had a miscommunication in advance of skiing down a large hill, with the end result that I had to throw myself into the snow to avoid crashing into and possibly mortally wounding my little nephew with my Christmas-stuffed self.

This is me following my not-so-fluffy-and-soft encounter with the snow:

A bruised and swollen eye is the hot look for New Year's, dontcha know?

We did do the 10k trip the very next day, and it was an awesome outing - despite wearing sun glasses on a cloudy day to not scare off other skiers with my blooming eye.

That night, those heavy clouds became an increasingly intense snow storm, which we took full advantage of:

And here's what we woke up to this morning:

Thanks to the wonders of heavy duty snow removal services, we were able to pack our boys and their gear into our little car, wave goodbye to my nephews and parents who were staying on at the cottage, and make our way back home.

Which is where we are currently - and not without a touch of panic - cooking dinner for hungry boys, while doing laundry and packing in preparation for our trip to Manchester, England first thing tomorrow. That is, cooking, doing laundry, packing, and...ahem...blogging. Because no matter how busy I get, there always seems to be time for blogging.

Dec 28, 2007

Christmas - Part Deux

Christmas Eve turned out to be everything I'd hoped for - and more. The boys were incredibly excited to be celebrating with their cousins, and we were equally thrilled to be enjoying the evening with my parents and all my siblings and in-laws for the first time in many, many years. It was also a special treat to celebrate baby Emil's first ever Christmas with him.

• Highlights included my eldest nephew Joakim managing to hog 4 of the 11 almonds. Even though I ate an obscene serving of the dreaded rice cream, I still ended up with zero almonds. Thanks Joakim for sharing your bounty! Prizes this year were marzipan figures for the boys (which none of them likes - all the more for me and my ever expanding waistband), and brain teasers for the adults. Love these!

• Two of the largest prezzies under the tree were awesome snow racers for my boys from my sister and family. Check out the grins!

• My parents gave the boys new sports outfits from the local sports association, complete with name. The boys were beyond excited.

• Our present to my two eldest nephews was a trip on the Color Magic to Kiel, similar to the one we went on last November just with our boys. The kids are thrilled about the upcoming voyage, and have been talking about it continuously ever since.

• Baby Emil slept for almost 6 hours on Christmas Eve (so much for celebrating), despite a rather high commotion factor. We are now starting to think that he may thrive on more not less noise.

Happy baby after nice long nap

The very next day, the family gathered once again for a traditional Christmas Day lunch. This is the day where all we do is eat, eat, eat, following a Danish luncheon format (courtesy of my Danish mother).

We started our luncheon at 3:30 pm, and didn't end until after 1:30 am, including a couple of hours of impromptu karaoke in the basement, much to the chagrin of our children.

Hey, even the tone deaf have a right to work off all that food, right?!

Dec 23, 2007

It's (almost) Christmas!

Over the past 2 weeks, Benjamin has brought home not one, not two, or three, but six presents made at school. All but one of these presents were wrapped as he brought them home, and every time I've asked him ", who's this present for?" And each time he's replied, "This one is for Christopher." Six times I've heard that answer. It would have been lovely to hear that at least one of those presents was for either Mike or myself, but hey -- you can't blame a boy for adoring his older sibling.

Speaking of whom, Christopher did buy his presents by himself this year. We all drove to the mall to hit the hair dresser for another $60.00 trim for each of the boys. Then B boy, Mike and I went to the supermarket, while Christopher went Christmas shopping on his own. I confess to frequent calls to his cell phone to check up on him, but, truthfully, I needn't have bothered. He came through with flying colours and was positively glowing with pride and happiness when we met up with his gift-bearing self in front of the toy store. I asked if he wanted a celebratory hot dog, but he wasn't hungry, because he'd bought himself a 'family-sized M&M bag to snack on while shopping'. Clearly, we have a future power shopper on our hands.

The third man in the family did his Christmas shopping in Canada, and only had to wrap his own presents to yours truly. He struggled mightily with the ribbon on said presents, so much so, he actually brought the presents - wrapped - into the living room to do the ribbon while I watched. I almost offered to help, but stopped myself at the last second. I will not stoop to help wrap my own presents. That is a line I do not ever want to cross.


Tomorrow, the clan will gather at our house in the late afternoon, for a really special Christmas with all of my immediate family. It's been years and years since we've been able to celebrate Christmas together, and I am so excited, I can hardly wait.

Everyone will arrive around 5 pm to a lit Christmas tree with stacks and stacks of presents underneath it. The adults will enjoy a glass of Sherry or Champagne, and the children some pop or juice to mark the official start of Christmas.

We will then sit down and enjoy a traditional Scandinavian Christmas roast dinner, followed by a rice cream dessert that we don't actually like. Traditionally, a single whole almond is hidden in the rice cream, and whoever is lucky enough to find it, wins a prize. We, however, will have not 1, but 12 almonds in our dessert. One for each member of the family. And although we all have to eat some of the rice cream (isn't that what tradition is all about?), there's a prize for everyone, whether you find an almond or not.

If you ask Mike, I'm sure he'd say the 12 almonds in the rice cream pretty much sums up my family. We are all about fair. Each year, we count our presents, to make sure all the kids get the same number, and we always have to spend roughly the same amount of money on each kid. Even if the child is 6 months old and really wouldn't know any different. Fair is fair, and that's just how it's always been done in our family.

After dessert, we'll wash up. Any family member under 13 will tell you this takes a very, very long time. We rinse, we wash and we dry. And then we do it again. We put dishes away, we wipe down all surfaces, including countertops and stove top. We sweep the floor. Heck, we may even wash the floor. Oh yes, the kitchen is cleaner after Christmas dinner than it is most days of the year.

And the reason for this feverish cleaning? Why, to make our kids suffer, of course! Because while we're washing up, they're looking more and more desperately at the pile of presents under the tree. Trying ever so discreetly to read the gift tags - is that large one mine? - knowing full well it is strictly forbidden to touch the presents yet. Their hands itchy with a desire to rip the wrapping off the packages. All while trying so hard not to whine, as whining is strictly forbidden on Christmas Eve. Everyone knows that Santa frowns upon whining. is time to dance around the Christmas tree. We form a ring, hand in hand, and we walk around the tree, singing carols. This is done with great enthusiasm, if not a whole lot of singing talent. In fact, we may be the most off-key family you'll ever come across. But on Christmas Eve, that is completely and utterly irrelevant. I know I will see my children's eyes shine with joy as they sing their little hearts out.

The dance around the Christmas tree is the highlight of my evening. Though the anticipation is still heavy in the air, the songs are sung with such glorious happiness, it is absolutely infectious, and I will hop, skip and jump hand-in-hand with the people I love more than anyone on Earth. We all become like little children again, and to me, this is what Christmas is all about.

At long last, we will sit down to open our prezzies. The adults will usually find themselves a chair or a couch to sit on, but the kids just plop themselves on the floor and wait with unbridled excitement, as gifts are handed out one by one. We all make sure to oooohh and aaaahh over every present before moving on to the next one. Oh yes, we take gift unwrapping to a whole new slooooow level :)

By 10 pm or so, the presents will all have been handed out, and it will be time to bring out store bought chocolates and fruits, along with goodies made during the month of December, including gingerbread hearts and marzipan confection. We may even go outside and try out new skis or sleds, or stay inside and play a new game.

We usually last until midnight, at which point the kids are worn out from all the excitement, and fall asleep with huge grins on their faces from an evening that hopefully was a dream come true.


That, my friends, is what we will be doing tomorrow. Is it any wonder that I can hardly contain myself?

I know most of you who do celebrate Christmas, will be doing so in the morning of the 25th. So from my family to yours, we wish you a Very Merry Christmas.

Dec 21, 2007

Pictures? You Want Pictures?

As one of my new and exciting bloggista friends, kim-d, so graciously pointed out, I did not post any pictures of our fabuloso ski trip yesterday.

You see, Kim, I am not Chief of the Camera. My role is limited to gently inquiring "Did you bring the camera?" To which I invariably hear a friendly, but ever-so-slightly exasperated "Of course!"

So it figures that the day I decide to trust, to let go of my control issues and believe...He.Forgets.The.Damn.Camera. I will not get into how utterly beautiful the day was. How the snow glistened like diamonds on the trees, how the sun rose just past the horizon to warm up noses and hands. How the hill was completely devoid of people and totally silent, and all we could hear were Benjamin's squeals of delight and the soft swoosh of the snow as we raced down the hills. (There's sound in photos, people. Work it. And say it with me -- his fault.)

But! My hubster did recover some good will when he managed to snap the following shots with his cell phone:

On the Christmas front, I am happy to report that Mike has been getting in touch with his crafty side. This is a truly wonderful thing, since I don't have such a side. I am craft-less. Crafts are best done with me on the sidelines, cheering from a safe distance. And documenting for my blog, of course.

So without further ado, I give you Monday's creation, courtesy of Mike and the boys:

The gingerbread house has retained its roof for 4 days now. A career best chez Viking Conquest.

This unexpected crafting success is taking my boys into bold, new, unexplored territory. Behold this evening's action:

The performance anxiety:

I know! It's getting downright scary. In fact, the kids quickly decided that PlayStation was a safer bet, leaving me with this:

I gotta love a guy who can make cute Santa decorations!

And speaking of cute, here's my B boy before going to the theatre with his Mormor last night:

Before you "awwww" too much, I should tell you that the pattern on the tie is all skulls. As in pirate skulls. Johnny Depp, take note!

And, for my Grand Finale, the gorgeous Swarowski crystal decoration my wonderful and incredibly kind friend Morag sent to me from Canada:

And that concludes the Picture Event.

Happy Weekend everyone! I'm hoping to squeeze in at least one more post before Christmas, but for those of you who are signing off from the blogosphere today - Happy Holidays!

'Tis The Season... resolve the age old conflict between Darwinists and Creationists.

I present to you:

Benjamin's Theory Of Evolutionary Creation

B: "Do you know who created people, mamma?"
Me: "Do you?"
B: "The God of the Earth did."
Me: "Cool."
B: "Yes, he created a fish, and the fish went onto land and developed legs."
Me: "Oh, and then the fish became human?"
B: "Yeah."
Me: "You sure do know a lot!"

Benjamin is quiet for a little bit, and it's clear something's bothering him:

B (with disgust in his voice): "Except some people came from gorillas!"
Me (definitely not laughing): "But clearly not you."
B: "No, I came the fish way!"


We took a mental health day yesterday, packed boys and gear into our little car and drove off to Kongsberg ski centre for a lovely day of downhill skiing. Our first time out this year. It was fantastic! Because we are the only bad-parents-who-let-our-kids-miss-school-to-ski in Norway, we essentially had the slopes to ourselves. Not once did we have to wait for a chair lift, and as we skied down, we rarely saw others on our way. Being bad parents is definitely the way to go, especially the week before Christmas, when it appears that all the children do at school is sing carols and talk about what they would like from Santa.


In much less exciting news, I am absolutely inundated with work this week, which leads me to question why the need for Scandinavian translations always intensifies right before a holiday? Could it be because everyone knows that Heidi has not finished her Christmas shopping yet? And her house is a pigsty dearly in need of a good scrubbing down?

Because, really, deep down, I know the Universe is all about me, me, me, me.

And unfortunately, at the moment, not so much about you. I am sorry, my bloggy friends, that I haven't been able to visit you as much as I'd like to. I will definitely be making the rounds as soon as I can get these pesky assignments off my desk! And the shopping done. And the house cleaned. (And maybe just a teeny, tiny bit more skiing...)

Dec 14, 2007

An Early Christmas Present

One day, when a seamstress was sewing while sitting close to a river, her thimble fell into the river. When she cried out, the Lord appeared and asked, 'My dear child, why are you crying?' The seamstress replied that her thimble had fallen into the water and that she needed it to help her husband in making a living for their family. The Lord dipped His hand into the water and pulled up a golden thimble set with sapphires.

'Is this your thimble?' the Lord asked The seamstress replied, 'No.'
The Lord again dipped into the river. He held out a golden thimble studded with rubies.

'Is this your thimble?' the Lord asked. Again, the seamstress replied, 'No.'
The Lord reached down again and came up with a leather thimble.

'Is this your thimble ?' the Lord asked. The seamstress replied, 'Yes.' The Lord was pleased with the woman's honesty and gave her all three thimbles to keep, and the seamstress went home happy.

Some years later, the seamstress was walking with her husband along the riverbank, and her husband fell into the river and disappeared under the water. When she cried out, the Lord again appeared and asked her, 'Why are you crying?' 'Oh Lord, my husband has fallen into the river!'

The Lord went down into the water and came up with George Clooney. 'Is this your husband?' the Lord asked.

'Yes,' cried the seamstress. The Lord was furious. 'You lied! That is an untruth!' The seamstress replied, 'Oh, forgive me, my Lord. It is a misunderstanding. You see, if I had said 'no' to George Clooney, you would have come up with Brad Pitt.

Then if I said 'no' to him, you would have come up with my husband. Had I then said 'yes,' you would have given me all three. Lord, I'm not in the best of health and would not be able to take care of all three husbands, so THAT'S why I said 'yes' to George Clooney.'

And so the Lord let her keep him.

Dec 13, 2007

Santa Lucia: To Sing And To Shop

Warning: Braggedy-braggy post ahead.

December 13th is Santa Lucia day in Scandinavia, and this morning my boys' school gathered their students in a darkened gym. There they waited until an elected girl, portraying St. Lucy, solemnly walked into the room dressed in white, wearing a crown of candles. She was followed by a procession of other little girls, also wearing white, each holding a single candle. They slowly made their way around the room, while singing hymns to Santa Lucia in their high children's voices.

I have vivid memories of being chosen as a candle girl at my school one year, and how my hands shook as I stood outside the door, waiting to go into the gym. I was fearful of the candle in my hands, and nervously excited about singing to the rest of the school. When the moment finally arrived, I recall being amazed at how quiet and enraptured my fellow students seemed as we entered the room, and what a lovely light the flickering candles cast in the gym. To an 8 year old girl, the experience was oddly moving.

Even though boys play no part in the Santa Lucia procession, I was excited for my children to experience the ceremony for the first time ever this year. What would they think of the singing? And the candles? Would they be overwhelmed by the feelings of peace and joy that I still clearly remember 30 years later, even though they'd be spectators and not participants?

I guess I'll have to ask Benjamin about that, since Christopher ended up being in the procession after all. And no, not as a girl - even though his much contested long hair might cause you to mistake him for one.

You see, recent discoveries apparently have it that, in addition to white-clad angels, Santa Lucia was also followed by a posse of Norwegian stable boys.*

Who knew?

As head stable boy, Christopher ended up singing - solo - in front of the entire school in this year's Lucia production, wearing the typical stable boy outfit of a traditional, knitted sweater, short pants and long red woolen socks.

Judging from his blank expression when I tried to share my own memories of Lucia with him this afternoon, I'm pretty sure he didn't feel all mystical and powerful, either.

He did, however, believe this to be a good first step on the way to his chosen career of "being famous." I guess that's something.

*Equal opportunity taken to a new level, clearly.


In other Christopher news, my the-universe-revolves-around-me-eldest-born-child just came out of bed to ask me if I can drive him to a mall tomorrow and leave him there. He wants to go shopping for his Christmas presents by himself, because "this year I want you to be surprised, not like last year, when you knew all the presents ahead of time".


That puddle you're standing in is my melting heart.

Dec 12, 2007

You Can Come Back Now

Dear Husband,

I'm ready to have you come home now. The novelty of being the Sole Ruler Of The Household has worn off, and I'm now willing to relinquish a few of my responsibilities to you. In particular, the following missions are in need of a new Commander-in-Chief:

1. Getting the children up in the morning and ready for school.
2. Cleaning the house.
3. Doing the laundry.
4. Shopping for groceries and preparing meals.
5. Getting the children to bed at night.

In return, I promise I won't complain about how you perform these tasks for at least 24 hours (and you know that's quite a promise, coming from me).


Your Adoring Wife

Dec 10, 2007


Monday mornings are always rough, but none more so than when the patient parent is far, far away in Canada, and the morning-challenged parent is left completely to her own devices.

Thus, I'm happy to report that this morning was surprisingly easy chez Viking Conquest. The boys were awesome at getting up, getting themselves dressed and sitting down to breakfast.

Meanwhile, I was groggily trying to assemble something remotely resembling a nutritious lunch for them (even though the muffins left over from last night's Advent celebrations were staring at me, daring me to pop them into each boys' lunch bag and call it a lunch.)


There I was, so focused on the task at hand, I didn't even realize I was softly singing to myself...until I heard my crazy 7-year-old loudly join in:

I'm not here for your entertainment
You don't really want to mess with me tonight

That's right. Pink. And while I like that song, it's not really...ehem...appropriate sing-along-material for 7 year olds. Or even oh-so-mature 10 year olds.

Keep your drink just give me the money
It's just you and your hand tonight

I guess I'll be changing my workout tunes today.

You And Your Hand [Pink]

Dec 7, 2007

Wildly Wordy World

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational invites readers to enter new word definitions after taking a real word and changing, dropping or adding one letter.

Check out these winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the
subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus : A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops
bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon : It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido : All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.) : Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

The Washington Post also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

Equally amusing:

1. coffee , n. the person upon whom one coughs.

2. flabbergasted , adj. appalled by discovering how much weight one
has gained.

3. abdicate , v. to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4 esplanade , v. to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. willy-nilly , adj. impotent.

6. negligent , adj. absentmindedly answering the door when wearing
only a nightgown.

7. lymph , v. to walk with a lisp.

8. gargoyle , n. olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. flatulence , n. emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. balderdash , n. a rapidly receding hairline.

11. testicle , n. a humorous question on an exam.

12. rectitude , n. the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. pokemon , n. a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. oyster , n. a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism , n. the belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. circumvent , n. an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by
Jewish men.

Dec 6, 2007

Christmas Concert

Last night we went to Benjamin's Christmas Show with all the grade 2s in his Norwegian school.

The children enthusiastically sang several songs for us, all the while demonstrating highly sophisticated scarf movements. Not always in tune, but never without gusto.

Many of them also had roles in a play. Unfortunately, I am unable to relay to you the riveting story of the play, but it definitely had something to do

When it came to delivering their lines, the children seemed to have three options:

A. Shout them loudly, thus making me worry that the sound system might implode.

B. Whisper them softly, so I wondered if the system had in fact shut down.

C. Use a normal voice, reassuring me that the sound system was OK, but speakveryveryquickly, leaving me none the wiser as to the plot of the story.

The show was high on adorability, if less so on actual ability. A great time was had by all, and we went home with an extremely proud 7 year old. Who - if I may brag - was one of the most enthusiastic singers of all, in Norwegian.

Dec 5, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Being crafty is hard:

But on Advent Sunday we try:

Dec 3, 2007

Where Did These Boys Come From?

This morning was a little stressful. Mike flew back to Canada for a couple of weeks, and thus woke the boys up slightly earlier than usual to say goodbye. True to form, B boy hardly budged from his curled up position, hidden from view by a massive blanket.

Christopher cried.

Christopher has a very difficult time saying goodbye. He will agonize over an upcoming farewell for weeks (which is why we rarely tell him in advance), and he'll fall apart as the moment finally arrives. There'll be tears and long hugs. It's hard and I know Mike hates saying goodbye to him. Benjamin, meanwhile, takes everything in stride. He'll give you a hug, and then he's off playing. Seemingly without a care in the world.

But the funny thing is -- once you're gone, Christopher is fine. Almost immediately, he's back to chattering about this and that, totally focused on everything around him, apparently oblivious to the fact that anyone's missing. He may mention it at bedtime, but only occasionally. And when you're back, while he's happy to see you, there's no big reunion hugs of affection. It's almost like you never left.

Benjamin, meanwhile, suffers pangs of loneliness if someone's missing from his little world. He'll recreate the moment of farewell - the one you thought he wasn't paying any attention to - and he'll agonize over the fact that he didn't tell you he loves you, or that he didn't hug or kiss you. He'll count the days until your return, the hours, and even the minutes. And once back, he's on you like a moth to a flame. Making up for all those hugs and kisses.

It amazes me that my two boys came from the same gene pool, the same womb. They barely have anything in common. Except for their incessant chattiness, I can only think of one trait they share:

A total lack of organizational skills.

I couldn't tell you how many mitts or hats B boy has lost over the years. Certainly enough to clothe of all Luxembourg's preschoolers. And maybe Iceland's too. Last year, he lost two pairs of snow pants within the first winter week, and by the end of the season, that number was in the double digits. I was just amazed that he managed to keep his jacket all season long.

Christopher isn't too bad when it comes to outerwear, but he's a mess with respect to his school books. To illustrate, allow me to recount our adventures just today...

This morning, while I was attaching his lunch bag to his bag, I noticed a piece of paper sticking out of the school bag's side pocket:

Me: Christopher, is this something you need?
C (taking the paper): Oh no, this is a song I need to memorize for Santa Lucia. We're doing the rehearsals today.
Me: When did you get this?
C: Last Wednesday.
Me (deep breaths - remember, child just said goodbye to father): Christopher, do you need to know this for today, or can it wait until the 13th?
C: The rehearsals are today, and we have to know it by today.
Me: Well, practice now then. Practice, practice, practice. That's all you can do. You have 30 minutes.

After school, Christopher always calls on his fancy-smancy cell phone on his loooong (4 minute) walk home:
C: Hi Mamma!
Me: Hi 'Stopher! Did you have a good day?
C: Yep.
Me: Do you have everything you need to do your homework?
C: Yes, I brought Norwegian and English today.
Me: Okay good, I'll see you soon then.

2 minutes later:

C (opening the door): Hi Mamma!
Me: Hi sweetie - how did it go with the rehearsals?
C: Fine, she just said I have to know the song by tomorrow. I didn't lose my part.
Me: That's great. Did you bring the sheet home to practice?
C (getting his books and his lunch out of his bag): Yes. But I didn't have time to eat my lunch today, so I'm going to eat it now.
Me (looking through his books):...mmm...okay. Where's your weekly homework plan?
C: I put it in my bag - it's the folded sheet.
Me (taking a deep breath, sensing what's coming next): The folded sheet is the song you need to practice. I can't see the homework plan.
C (now looking frantically in his bag): thought it was the folded sheet.
Me (calm, lecturing voice): Next time maybe you could *look* at the sheet before you leave?
C (getting his jacket and toque on to go back to school, while being a bit emotional): I always have to go back to school!
Me: Christopher, you really have to learn to take responsibility for your things. It's like forgetting to practice that song this morning -- only you know what you need to do, so you have to organize and plan for it.
C (in a huff, not feeling like a lecture): OKAY. 'bye.

10 minutes later:

C (opening the door): Here's the sheet.
Me: Excellent! But...where's your toque?
C: I wasn't wearing a toque, was I?
Me (breathing deeply...again): Yes, you were, Christopher. Did you leave it at school?
C (getting emotional...again): Oh no...!
Muffled sound as he slams the door. I watch him walking dejectedly back up the road.

4 minutes later, phone rings:

C (happy now): It was in my pocket! I got to the classroom, and I realized that I'd taken off my toque because I was hot and I put it in my jacket pocket.
Me: All righty, then. I'll see you at home.

A short while later, at the house:

C (opening the front door again): OK, I have everything now, right?
Me (coming to the hall from the kitchen): I don't know, I assume you have all your books?
C: Yes, I do.
Me (waving the supposed homework plan he walked back to pick up from school): So this is the new format for the homework plan?
C (looking at the paper, groans): Oh no! I took the wrong sheet. This is the work plan for what I'm supposed to do at school. Not the homework plan.
Me: Bye, bye...

And as I watch him walk back to school for the third time that afternoon, I realize it is going to be a very long two weeks of solo parenting.

Bloggy friends -- make me feel better by telling me I'm not the only parent with this problem?

Nov 30, 2007

"There's no mice in Norway"

Moi to Mike - last year, after discovering suspicious signs in our cold room.

Translation: There are mice in Canada. And why do we live in Canada? Because one of us is Canadian. So, who's to blame for this mouse situation ? That would be...YOU.

I'll admit I was slightly wound up and possibly freaking out a tiny bit - I don't do well with rodents, so I'd had better days. You know, mouse-free days.

It didn't help matters that the mouse (mice?) appeared to have been making itself at home for a while. Who knew that a little thing like that - and possibly its extended family - can produce that many turds? It is D.I.S.G.U.S.T.I.N.G.

Mike got rid of the mouse. I do not know the details. All I can tell ya is that he came up from the basement with a plastic bag the next day. From a quick glance, I could tell the bag wasn't empty. [Shudder].

For the next many weeks, I avoided going down to the basement to exercise before he'd checked the many, many traps set up in the cold room. Just in case a tiny rodent - attached to a trap - was able to jump through the door from the cold room, across the play room and into the rec room, to scare me.

And there you have it, my friends. The true story of how we ended up in Norway for the year. We were chased out of Canada by a - deceased - mouse!

All righty, then, that may be a slight exaggeration. Perhaps we had planned this trip to Norway for years. But you have to admit - the timing was good! A year in mouse-free Norway.

Cue the happy music.

So, imagine my gobsmacked self when I heard a radio announcer declare this to be a particularly bad year for Norway.


(For a fleeting moment I thought I saw that look in Mike's eyes - the I TOLD YOU SO look. But I can't be sure, and he wisely didn't comment.)

I immediately consoled myself that this infestation was primarily a problem in southern Norway. Not where we are. We are in the south-east region of Norway. Really, mostly east. Just a little bit south.

Except that last night, while reaching under the sink to retrieve the compost container, to my horror, there they were.

Stop the happy music, start the Twilight Zone theme song.

The T.U.R.D.S. There was a mouse in the house. In Norway.

I say was because as of this morning, it is no longer. Also gone is my confidence that nothing lives in Norway but Norwegians and mosquitoes. Apparently, mice can live here, too.

PS: While Michael Moore clearly hasn't heard about the infiltration of rodents, the UN must have, as they just demoted Norway to the world's second best place to live. I'm considering moving to Iceland.

PPS: Special note to our friends now living in our house: Don't worry. We did get rid of that mouse, and forever sealed off the cold room from any outside access (why take chances?). It is now a warm room. Really. You're fine.

Nov 26, 2007

Winter Wonderland

My parents built their cottage almost 11 years ago, pretty much right after I moved to Canada. Despite the fact that they spent 25 years of marriage talking about getting a cottage, only to build one the second I left the country, I carry no grudge and have been a regular visitor. I am not one to let such insignificant issues such km stand in the way.

My visits have been limited to the summer and fall, when the boys' school schedules allow for a trip across the Atlantic. The "hytte" is the perfect place to escape from the heat of a June or July day. The sun barely dips down behind the mountains before it rises again, which may make it hard to sleep, but also promotes fun and games outdoors at all hours of the day - and night.

A September outing is equally thrilling with its crisp air and spectacular glimpses of Mother Nature's full colour palette. A final gala, if you will, before the trees and bushes, the grasses and flowers go to sleep for the winter. Even the sheep seem to sense that they are grazing on borrowed time, and are much braver in their attempts to check out your picnic lunch. Soon they will be rounded up and brought down to the farm.

Until now, these have been my experiences at the cottage, and I've always thought that I was seeing the mountains at their best. I didn't miss not going in the wintertime or even the spring. But today, I'm no longer sure, because this weekend was my first taste of what winter is like at the cottage. And from what I can tell - it tops both summer and fall.

I noticed a difference from the moment we started the 3 hour drive up on Friday afternoon, when a brand new blanket of snow gave the landscape a scrubbed, just cleaned appearance, lined with snow-covered fern trees glistened as if decorated for Christmas. The rivers and lakes had the ice-blue colour of glaciers, with the occasional sparkle of newly-formed ice crystals.

As darkness crept in, the snow lit up our surroundings, like nature's own sunshine. It was pure and untouched, without footsteps and almost void of tire tracks, and none of that ugly black yuck that piles up on the side of the road after too many cars, or too much salting. I imagined we were the only people in a winter wonderland.

My parents were already at the cottage, greeting us with lit lanterns by the doorstep, a roaring fire, and the delicious smell of fresh waffles. Yum. (I have informed my parents that we are now forever spoiled and can never go back to the cottage without someone arriving first to prep and get everything ready. Once you've tried First Class, you can never go back).

The temperature outside was a cool but not ridiculous -5 degrees C. Our bellies full of waffles and hot tea, we bundled up and headed outside. Grabbing a couple of "rumpebrett" (literal translation - "bum trays") on the way, we headed out into the darkness, to hit the tobogganing hill for an hour or two.

It was magical! The sky was clear and the stars overhead seemed so close, I felt like I could reach out and steal one. The largest full moon I have ever seen lit up the horizon like a miniature sun. From our vantage point, there were no electrical lights anywhere, only the gentle light cast by the lanterns outside our cottage in the distance. The soft snowy carpet muffled all noise, except the occasional squeals of delight as we all slid down the hill and ran up again. And again, and again.

After a delicious dinner, we soon tucked a couple of tired boys into bed, still with rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. It didn't take long before I followed suit. All that fresh air wears you out!

The next day began with an incredible sunrise. Pictures do not do it justice, but here's our best attempt:

Outside was a chilly -12 degrees C when we woke up, but the cottage was nice and toasty with a cosy fire (OK, and the heated floors, too. We are not exactly roughing it). The temperature began to rise as the sky filled with heavy clouds, and though the snow fell slowly at first, majestically and silently, it wasn't long before our cars were covered. It wasn't until the snow began to come down fast and furious that we realized there was only one thing to do:

Bundle, bundle, bundle. Hats, gloves, mitts, scarves, snow pants, coats, extra socks and boots. Phew!

Hot and sweaty, we finally made it out to a winter scape overflowing with opportunities for snowball fights, angel making and general mayhem:

When we were thoroughly soaked and content to take a break from all the goofing around in the snow, Mormor and the boys baked gingerbread cookies and decorated the cottage for Christmas. The rest of us watched skiing on TV, while sipping lovely hot mulled wine with almonds and raisins.

Sunday morning, our final day at the cottage, Mike decided there was just enough snow for the boys to try out their new downhill skis for the first time. He even built a small jump for Christopher. The incline wasn't steep enough to keep the boys' attention for long, which was probably not a bad thing, considering poor Mike had to pull B boy back up the hill each time. Hopefully we'll get an opportunity to try the skis out at a real hill next weekend.

Still, it was a fantastic winter weekend. What I loved most about it was that the focus was on family and playing. And I hope it was only the first of many such weekends to come this year.

Nov 23, 2007

Off To The Cottage...

But I'm going to leave you with something that's all over the newspapers here today, courtesy of Michael Moore. If you have a couple of minutes, you might get a laugh at the utopia called Norway.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

The best country to live in - left out of the movie

Nov 22, 2007

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

We woke up to a lovely sight this morning:

Yes, I said lovely. For the last few weeks, it has been pitch black when we've woken up in the morning, but today, at 7 am, there was an ethereal, wintry glow peeking through the curtains:

The light dusting of snow had our boys super excited to go to school, planning elaborate forts and spooky snowball fights:

While we frolic in the snow this afternoon, we'll be sending happy thoughts to all you Americans out there celebrating Thanksgiving today.