Jul 30, 2007

Party Time!

Saturday was my mother's big day. Her fabulous 60th birthday party. The party was held in the most picturesque of locations, in a big cottage-style hall, with grass on the roof and pine wood covering the inside walls, floors and ceilings. The hall was only accessible by a tiny, almost hidden dirt road, which led into the middle of a forest. Very Norwegian and very quaint.

Friends and family gathered that night from all over Scandinavia. Some travelled for hours by boat and car to get there. One family from Denmark arrived with 10 minutes to spare. Then proceeded to party the night away, only to get up the very next morning to travel straight back home again, as their oldest son was scheduled to go to a soccer camp that night. Talk about priorities!

The food was of the buffet type. I was in heaven, as there were lots of different types of fish, some kind of divine white asparagus sauce, as well as bread, bread, bread. Gotta love those carbs. Meat lovers had not been forgotten, with roastbeef, a selection of pates, cold cuts, potatoes and meatballs. Good, hearty Norwegian fare. The boys loved it, too, as they were given their own, private table, at which there were no mommies to nag them to eat, sit properly, lean it, stop talking etc, etc. I am not entirely sure that my youngest son actually ate anything that night, but no permanent damage has been done. He remains his crazy self.

Entertainment at the party was live music, as well as those before-mentioned songs...ah, yes, the songs. We worried for naught. Not only was our song received just fine, there was at least one other song that went further than we did. I mean, we did not make my mother AND father stand on chairs and discuss the benefits of cows (!?!) in a Scandinavian perspective.

Of course, the highlight, in terms of the songs, was the one from the grandsons. My mother cried, they smiled. Joy all around. After singing the song, they each walked up to her, gave her a single rose and wished her a happy birthday. Finally, Mathias (my sister's second youngest son), walked up again and gave her yet another rose, this time on behalf of his baby brother Emil. Cue the handkerchiefs.

After a yummy dessert, the floor was cleared for dancing. Then cake and coffee. More dancing. Finally "nattmat", which may be translated as "night food" or "midnight food". My mother had wisely kept this simple - since we were all stuffed at this point - and served Danish style hot dogs with bright red sausages. Apparently, food colouring is not a concern in Denmark. Mike got a lesson from one of my Danish cousins on how to make a proper Danish hot dog. He must have liked it, as he wolfed it down...

All in all a great evening for my mother. She was so happy, and that was the most important thing. During the course of the evening, Mike and I somehow picked up two more kids, so that when everything wrapped up and we were on our way home, our brood had increased to a total of four boys. They were in bed and asleep by 2:30 am. Pretty late for little kiddies, but they were happy and thrilled to have yet another sleepover with their cousins.

Jul 29, 2007

It's...hilly...in.....Norway!!

Athleticism does not come naturally to me. It is hard work. I am not one of those people who wake up in the morning eager to hit the gym/pool/pavement. That's not me. Nope. Far from it. Instead, I have to push myself to get off the couch. Or have a gym buddy who does the pushing for me (thanks, Morag!).

I do admit that the feeling I have after exercising is one of absolute bliss. There is no better feeling than the one you get when your body has been pushed hard. Or maybe it is just the thought that I do not have to exercise again for another 24 hours. That could be it, but I don't think so - I mean, why else would I keep going back? Oh, yes... my buddy Morag! An intimidating force in her own right! But I digress...

Ever since arriving in Norway, a little voice inside my head has whispered steadily louder about how far away from GoodLife I am. Half around the world! Freedom! No more exercising for a whole 10 months. Lax mornings, lounging around in bed until the kids holler for breakfast. No stinky gym clothes to launder on a daily or semi-daily basis. Yes, freedom indeed!

Not so fast...have you met my husband?! My die hard, born-again exercising fantatic hubby?! Keen, keen, keen...everything you don't want to see at 7 am in the morning. I love him dearly - but I have to admit to cooler feelings when he wakes me up with a "Are you ready to go for a run?" In a weak moment, I apparently agreed that going for a run every day would be a great way to stay in some semblance of physical shape while travelling in Europe, and he is now holding me to it!

Most days I join him...I know it is good for me, and like I said before, I do feel better afterwards. But there is a huge difference between running in Richmond Hill and running in Norway...an unexpected, nasty, geographical difference. There are HILLS here! Everywhere you look, there are hills. And they always seem to be going UP from where I am standing. My legs burn like nothing I have experienced before, my brain screams for oxygen, and my lungs roar back that there is no oxygen left in the world. I pant, I gasp, I heave.

And I try awfully hard not to take it out on my husband. However, as he is chatting happily with me while running, and actually expecting me to respond, it dawns on me that he is not feeling these hills like I am. And his unfairly looooong legs are handling the ups and downs just fine. It is so hard not to come out with a snappy reply. Fortunately for him, on most days my severely oxygen-deprived brain is unable to do so.

I am lucky he still asks me to join him for these runs. And my hope is that if my cardiovascular system ever gets into sufficient shape where I can actually have a conversation with him while running up these hills, I will no longer feel the need to bite his head off! :)

Jul 27, 2007

Supersize me!

After years of living in North America, I guess it was only to be expected that I started seeing everything as "bigger is better". I mean, we live in big houses, drive big cars, eat big meals (and, consequently, buy clothing in bigger sizes...). In many ways, Costco and Sam's Club are emblematic of North American culture. Bulk is better value, right? Living large is the way to go...

Not so in Norway! Norwegians seem to have embraced the idea of less being more...everything is smaller here! From apples to zippers, it is all as if miniaturized. 4l of milk? Try 1.5l. Potato chips? Snack size only...Guys might appreciate the fact that even clothing appears to cover less and be tighter...

Cars are also smaller here. We picked up our leased Golf yesterday, and it is tiny. Cute but still tiny. You might think that'd make parallel parking easier - but you'd be wrong. The parking spots are smaller, too. So small, in fact, that when Mike and I went to pick up our new GPS today, we felt the need to doublepark our Golf! Can you imagine having to doublepark a Golf? If so, you get the picture...

Now, the thought that this might be the solution to the obesity problem in North America had crossed my mind. Just make foodstuff smaller, right? But that was before I had a peek at our grocery cart this afternoon. That's when I realized how quickly our family had adjusted to the difference in size, and compensated by buying MORE of everything... So 4 chocolate bars where one used to do. Apparently bigger is still better for us!

Jul 26, 2007

Preparing for the party...

My mother turned 60 this past April! I still have a hard time believing that, not to mention what that says about my age?! Let's not go there, but yes, in the end it is all about me...

Back to the matter at hand - the reason we needed to be in Norway no later than this week is that the Big Party celebrating my mother is this Saturday. Our family has a tradition of gathering friends and family from near and far to celebrate milestones, so we expect to be innundated with relatives starting tomorrow. At least we have had a total of 2 days to recover from our trip...and should be ready to receive by tomorrow afternoon.

As such, today was spent on important tasks such as writing silly songs that we will sing for my mother on party day. Yes, you read that correctly. In Scandinavia, we make up songs that we print out in as many copies as there are guests. Each guest will get a copy of the song, and will all be expected to sing along to celebrate (or make fun of, as the case may be) the guest of honour. In our case, two songs were made. One from her five grandsons, and another from her children and children-in-law. You may be able to guess the theme of the song from her grandsons - if you thought along the lines of how wonderful a grandmother she is, you came very close. However, we were quite naughty when creating the song from her children and children-in-law. Based around the Beatles song "Yesterday", we waxed poetically about how old she's become...it is going to be hysterically funny. Or not at all. Depending on your feelings around the issue of age. I will let you know how it goes...

Mike did not have a lot of time to spend creating lyrics, as he had a golf tournament to go to in the afternoon, and thus spent the morning brushing up on his Norwegian golf terminology. Fortunately, most of the necessary words are the same as in English, such as "green", "bogey", "driver", etc. Not sure he knows how to say "d#$% it" in Norwegian, but that may be just as well...he did make sure he knew that "fore" is "fore" in Norwegian, too!

The boys are doing so well. They love being with their cousins, and we had a little photo session with them this afternoon. Christopher was thrilled to hold his baby cousin Emil, and I think he even got a smile out of him!

They are getting a lot of use out of the trampoline we purchased and assembled with great gusto yesterday. I went on it for a while today - and it was a riot! What a great way to exercise. I am trying to figure out how BodyAttack might be done on a trampoline. Honestly, it would just make it so much more pleasant!!

Tomorrow will undoubtedly be another busy day for us, but I will keep you posted on our happenings. Hope to hear from you too. Please use the comments feature and let me know what you think of this way of communicating.

XOX Heidi from Norwayland...

Welcome to my blog!

As my family and I start our year in Europe, I thought this might be a better way to keep friends and family updated on our big adventure. This is my first ever blog, so please bear with me as I try to get the hang of it! My inspiration is my friend Karen, and her eloquent blog on life as she sees it.

I will try to put into words some of my observations about living in Norway and, eventually, in the UK. I cannot promise to be eloquent, but I hope you enjoy reading about our family's little ups and downs as we try to get in touch with my "Norwegian-ness"!

To give you a quick recap: Mike and I decided many years ago that we would spend his sabbatical year from the university in Norway. It would allow me to come "home" for a while, plus give our boys a chance to get closer to their Scandinavian family and to hopefully pick up the Norwegian language. Well, after many years of talking the talk, it is time to walk the walk. We arrived in Norway two days ago, after a fairly painless - albeit long - trip over the Atlantic. Joining us were 7 pieces of luggage, one of which is Mike's golf bag.

This was Benjamin as we pulled up to our house for the next 9 or 10 months. Not to worry, he has recovered since, and is now his usual happy-go-lucky self!

Now is the time to see how much Norway has changed after I left some 12 years ago. My memory may not serve me as well as I think it does - and I wonder how Norwegian I really am, after all those years abroad.