Jan 31, 2008

One Way Ticket...

In four weeks' time, we are off on a skiing holiday to La Plagne in the French Alps.

I know, I know...I lead a charmed life of sabbatical decadence. I do.

But today I'm not in the mood to appreciate. And if you read on, perhaps you'll see why:

La Plagne is 2 hours by car from the nearest airport of Chambery. Considering Benjamin's rather severe motion sickness, a 2 hour drive on small, mountainous roads is not perfect (perfect would be ski-in/ski-out privileges from our house here in Norway). But it beats a 3-4 hour car ride, which was our alternative.

In addition, the airport of Chambery offers a direct flight to/from Oslo, Norway. Again, better than many of our other options, which require stopovers in Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Paris or even London.

Whenever we book flights, our primary concern is cutting down on travel time. Benjamin tolerates a couple of hours reasonably well, but he seems to hit a wall at the 2 hour mark, and after that things go downhill quickly. As in lots and lots of being sick. It's messy, stressful and, most of all, terribly unpleasant for him.

That's why we thought La Plagne was a good choice for skiing. Our flight from Oslo leaves at 8:30 am, and we get into Chambery three hours later. Two hours on the road, and we might even make it to the hotel for lunch. Benjamin has the afternoon to recover before hitting the slopes the next day. We have time to buy our lift tickets, book ski lessons/ski school, and even enjoy a nice dinner. French food. Yum.

So imagine my mood when, two months ago, an email dumps into my inbox, with big, bold, ominous letters:

"Time Change to your Flight"

A quick glance through the "We are sorry, blah, blah, blah...inconvenience...yeah, yeah, yeah...change to departure time."

Scroll further down...to see that they have pushed our departure time back by 10 hours! What?? We are now leaving Oslo at 6:30 pm. Look, I can handle an hour or two, but 10 hours is an entire day lost!

I immediately went onto their website, and I searched through other airlines' websites for hours. Only to confirm what I already knew. This is the only airline that offers a direct connection to Chambery from Oslo, and this is their only depature a week. There's no alternative, no choice. Not unless we are willing to do stopovers.

So we changed everything. Booked another car to pick us up in C'hambery. There'll be no getting in mid-day now, we'll be lucky to get in the right side of midnight. This sucks big time. The kids will be totally groggy and cranky the next morning, when the ski school starts.

But what sucks even more is that the return flight has also been pushed back 10 hours. We are now leaving Chambery at close to 10 pm.

Given how hotels usually ask you to clear out of your room before noon, we will have the entire day to do nothing. Sure we can, and probably will, ski. Because who doesn't love changing out of your wet and yucky ski clothes in the public bathroom off the lobby in a cramped ski hotel? With kids? Fun times!

At the end of that fun day, we'll arrive in Oslo at 30 minutes past midnight. And you know the privilege of clearing snow off a car that's been parked in the outdoor parking lot for a week? Well, imagine doing it at 1 am with two children in tow?

That's almost as great as having to drive another 1.5 hours home afterwards. Woo-hoo!

But since we are still looking at 5 hours of travel time - just at nasty, nasty hours - there's no point in changing anything. And we may even luck out and the boys will sleep on the flight home. Benjamin can't get sick when he's sleeping, so who knows? A silver lining?

So these last few weeks I've been trying to get into the mood again. Working my way back to looking forward to this trip. It's going to cost us a fortune, and I want to enjoy it.

Until I saw this in my inbox last week:

"Flightnumber Change"

It actually took me a few minutes to work up the courage to open it, and when I did, at first I couldn't see any changes:

1730 from OSL to CMF 2115
2155 from CMF to OSL 0135

But then it dawned on me. They added another hour to the flying time. We are now leaving Oslo an hour earlier, but still arriving at the same time.

Did France move without telling me?

I threw myself on phone to customer service.

[Wait, wait, wait.]

Finally, a human voice. "Ma'am, you are travelling during peak hours of the day, when the air space is full, so we've essentially had to add extra time to just circle."

Hmm...I really don't understand that little dinky Chambery airport can be that busy. Heck, I couldn't even find another flight in. And Oslo Airport is not busy at 1:30 am, I can promise you that. But she insisted.

Fine! Maybe she can sit next to Benjamin as we circle the airport for the 57th time.

The bottom line is that we've now added another hour onto our travel time. Two more vomits, by my count. Not to mention the fact that we'll be arriving back in Oslo at 1:30 am, and at our house no earlier than 4 am. So there's Sunday gone, too.

Back to getting into the mood. It's going to be fun. Fun. FUN! I.Am.Going.To.Love.It. Forget about the travel time. Who cares?

[Phone rings this morning at 9 am]

...an hour has been added to the flight time to allow for a stopover in Gothenburg, Sweden. We are sorry.

I.Hate.Air.Travel.

Jan 30, 2008

Time Lost

What I could be doing right now...

  • Going for a walk in the lovely, sunny winter weather
  • Shopping for a dress to wear at Emil's christening next weekend
  • Baking a cake for my boys when they come home from school

What I should be doing right now...

  • Work, work, work, so ever more desperate emails will stop clogging up my inbox
  • Laundry in preparation for next week's mini getaway with the boys and their cousins
  • Exercising to at least attempt to combat the frightening results of all that yummy Norwegian chocolate

But all I want to do....

Is watch this:


Jan 27, 2008

Winter Weekend

Note to self: Next time you decide to drive to the mountains in a snowstorm, bring a shovel!

Here's what we found as we arrived at the cottage on Friday afternoon:



Yep, instead of a cottage, we found a roof.

This is Mike bravely trying to gain access to the missing cottage, and its much coveted snow shovel:

(I know it looks as if he's able to just walk on top of the snow, but seconds after I took this picture, he fell through...there's nothing like a meter of fresh snow to make you want to lose a kilo or 20!)

We finally managed to dig out way into the cottage, where we lit a cozy fire and fixed a quick pizza dinner. Then, because we are crazy, we headed out into the snowfest again:


Headlights in the dark are a brilliant idea, especially when you've lost your legs:

We spent the next couple of days skiing. Seeing as B boy is still a novice cross country skier, Christopher had no choice but to keep Mike company on the 10k ski circuit on Saturday. Benjamin and I went for a shorter stint on our own.

(Please...I know! He puts the hat on himself...)

On Sunday, I was raring to go for a longer stretch, and Christopher kindly volunteered yet again, while Benjamin and Mike went on their own. I, of course, picked the best day, as we had gloriously sunny weather.


All in all, Christopher probably covered 23-24 km this weekend; not bad for an 11 year old without a whole lot of cross country skiing practice.

As far as B boy is concerned, he needs a bit more practice, but we are hoping he'll do the 10k before Easter. That's our goal, not his.

This is his goal:


And who can blame him?

Jan 25, 2008

Mountain Forecast: Snow and Sun

Skies are on the roof rack, the bags are in the trunk. We'll pick up groceries on the way. All there's left to do now is wait for the boys to come home from school.

Life is good.

Happy Weekend!

Jan 24, 2008

Neverland

Sometimes I feel as if Norwegians live in a different world than the rest of us. A nicer, gentler world, where everyone is safe, and where terrorism is still unheard of.

Today, we went down to renew the boys' Norwegian passports. Not only were we in-and-out of the passport office in less than 20 minutes, but the entire process was so simple.

In today's world of fear rhetorics, homeland security departments and coloured threat levels, I'm no longer used to anything connected with international travel being simple.

Which is why this was so refreshing.

The passport form was half a page long and 2 minutes of effort. There were no guarantor, birth certificate or ID requirements. All we needed to bring were the boys' old passports.

It made me wish that it could be so simple again everywhere. That the people of the world would come together, and the fear and mistrust so rampant at the moment could be put to the wayside.

That we could all live in Neverland.

Jan 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday


The iridescent skies of Norway, January 21st, 2008

Jan 22, 2008

T - 4 Months

Although I successfully ignored its half-way mark in December, there's just no denying it anymore:

Today marks 6 months since our departure from Canada.

We have another 4 months to go, 3 in Norway and one to be spent in the UK. And while I am not yet ready for our sabbatical to be over, I think this calls for a "summing up" of the highlights of our adventure so far. What follows below are...

My Top Five

5. Celebrating my mother's 60th birthday only 4 days after our arrival in July, with family and friends we hadn't seen for years.


Now that my own children are getting older and I am slowly accepting the fact that they won't be living with me forever (*sob*), I keenly understand how happy my parents were to have their entire family celebrating with them that night. And their excitement at the thought that all of their children would be close by for the next few months (I decided a long time ago never to allow my children to move abroad like I did, and made them sign documents promising to live in houses on either side of mine as soon as they were old enough to spell their names).

4. Going to Prague

Mike and I were married almost 12 years ago, and I'm still waiting to go on a honeymoon (some might argue that living in Costa Rica at the time equalled a honeymoon, but I beg to differ). This trip was a mini-honeymoon of sorts; our first ever without our boys, and even though we missed them, it was wonderful to be able to walk where we wanted, see what we wanted, and eat and drink when we wanted.



We were clearly not accustomed to such freedom, as we covered all must-see tourist sites within half a day of our visit. I think we were secretly afraid that it was all a dream, and that we'd wake up the next morning with two boys who only wanted to go to McDonald's for breakfast, and then sit in the hotel room and play DS for the rest of the day.

3. School

My biggest worry by far before coming to Norway! I never thought I'd say this, but the experience my children have had going to Norwegian school has been incredibly positive. I was expecting rough patches, but, when I look back, I can't really think of any. The boys have adjusted remarkably well. Their Norwegian has improved beyond what I could have hoped for, and they've both found good friends to play with.

While I would like to see both boys retain their language skills, more importantly, I hope their confidence in themselves and their ability to adapt, make friends and learn in a foreign environment will stay with them.

2. My nephews

I always felt very close to Joakim, my oldest nephew, and my first Godson. He and Christopher also have a very tight relationship, and he's spent time with us in Canada. My second nephew, Mathias, has always been more of a mommy's boy, and although he's always been interested in Benjamin, it wasn't until this year that the two of them really bonded. But they have definitely made up for lost time! They call each other on their cell phones and have long conversations (I can never get any information out of Benjamin as to what they actually talk about), and they have sleepovers every weekend. It's been a really awesome thing to watch, and I now sense that those two boys will be as close as their big brothers for life.



But the biggest highlight this year in terms of my nephews has to be getting to know baby Emil, and watching him grow from an infant into a lively almost 8 month old baby boy who has a will and a mind of his own. It's going to be a huge honour for Mike and I to become his Godparents in two weeks' time, and I hope it's a sign that he will be as close to us as his two brothers are.



1. Family

Before we left, our life in Canada was pretty busy. We had a healthy social life, combined with busy careers, and children with lots of school and after-school activities, not to mention countless playdates.

It was fun, but often felt hectic and stressful.

By comparison, our life here in Norway is so calm. Some might call it boring. We don't have any friends here, except for the few I still know from years ago. And we haven't done a good job of keeping up with any of them (oh, the shame). Nor have we seized chances to make new friends, whenever they have presented themselves. In fact, we've been rather hermit-like in our life here. It's been all about ourselves, our boys, my parents, and my siblings and their families. We've also been fortunate enough to see Mike's family in the UK more than we normally would have.

And as a family, we do everything together now. We go to the cottage a lot, we hike, we ski, we skate, we bake, we cook, we read, we play cards. We have family over for dinner. We watch movies together, we play singstar. It's all pretty mundane on paper, but in reality, it's been a lot of fun. We've grown much closer, and we are more in tune about where we are in our lives right now, and where we want to go.

I thought I might have gotten tired of this life by now, but, in truth, it's been such a soothing, centering experience. I knew our life in Canada was busy, but at the time, I never thought I had much say in the matter.

I'm rethinking that now.

I know I made too big of a deal, for example, of the boys' school work in Canada. And I no longer want school to play centre stage in our lives. Our children are not the best students in the universe; they are lazy, unorganized, messy, etc. They're just kids and they want to play and have fun. They do not want to be practicing spelling words, or doing math drills. But they're not lost behind a wagon, and sooner or later, things will click for them. It isn't going to make things any better for me to push for perfect right now, when they just don't care. As long as they're not ruining their chances of getting into Harvard, I'm going to be cool about it.

I also want to stop scheduling every single free moment of their lives. While I do want my children to be exposed to different types of sports and have lots of friends, I do not want to have to take them to activities/playdates every single afternoon. From now on, we will pick with care and enjoy the things we do. No running around like a crazy woman, trying to get from point A to point B 10 minutes ago.

Finally - and I'm having a tough time getting the words out - I pledge to appreciate my husband more.

Because the truth is, he is kinda great. Fine! He's really great, then. He was certainly great when he agreed to come to Norway for the year. There isn't a lot here for him, and I'm sure it wasn't the best career move in the world. And yet, he did it. That's a lot to be grateful for. He tells me on a daily basis that I don't appreciate him enough. He's joking, but you know - he's got a point. So, Mikey, I'll appreciate you a little more, okay? Just don't get too used to it. You still have to pick up the boys when it rains!

Jan 21, 2008

Ice Day

Dear Principal Larsen,

As you know, last week's rain melted much of the snow around the school playground.




However, freezing temperatures over the weekend have covered the ground with a slippery sheet of solid ice. Since the school is in a small forest, with nary a flat surface in sight, this makes for extremely treacherous passage.

Benjamin practicing the bum walk



While we realize you have no control over the changing weather patterns, we feared broken bones had our boys (and, in particular, accident-in-waiting B boy) attended school today.

This explains why they were not present at attendance call this morning, and we hope you understand that we only acted with the best interests of our children in mind.

We also want to assure you that despite missing school, the boys did work very, very hard today.

In fact, they are absolutely wiped after a long day in our improvised classroom...



...where we covered science:

What goes up....



must come down:



...math:

How long does it take a 7 year old to complete a slalom run? What about an 11 year old?




...a vision test:

Who can spot the numbers on the chair lift?



...and even geography:

Name that town:



Our only regret is that we ran out of time before we could get to the ethics and morals class. We will be covering that subject later (just as soon as the boys have forgotten the meaning of the word truancy, which they picked up during our language class).

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Sincerely,

The Responsible Parents of Christopher and Benjamin

Jan 18, 2008

While Waiting For "Lost" To Start Again...

I'm not Ebert or Robert or whatever he's called, and I'm not going to start writing detailed movie reviews, mostly because I don't want to give too much away. But if you're looking for something to watch this weekend, the following list may be of interest to you.

In no particular order:

"I Am Legend" - Oh.My.Gawd. How come noone told me this movie is scary, scary, scary? I only lasted 40 minutes, half of which was spent looking away from the screen, ears plugged. And I was still unable to sleep that night. The last time I lost sleep over a movie was when I stumbled into a screening of "Silence of the Lambs". Since I didn't see "I Am Legend" to its end, I asked Mike for a synopsis, and even in broad daylight, he freaked me out. This is not a movie for the faint of heart.

"Chocolat" - I may have been the last female on earth not to have seen this Johnny Depp vehicle, which undoubtedly is part of Mrs G's nightly film rotation. For me the movie was a huge let down, only because I had just finished reading the book upon which it is based. As far as I could discern, the only thing the movie and the book have in common, is a confectionary lady. Everything else, from beginning to end, is completely and totally different. I am quite surprised that the book's author even allowed the movie makers to use the name of her book for this movie. The movie would probably have been quite enjoyable, had I not read the book first. As it is, though, I can only recommend you read the book instead, and insert Johnny Depp wherever appropriate.

"Away from Her" - I decided to see this movie based on a beautiful review by my good bloggy friend She She (drop by and wish her a happy birthday, why dontcha?). It is a fabulous film. Lovely, sensitive and deeply moving. This movie will have you in tears.

"Wild Hogs" - Awful. And that's all.

"Enchanted: In New York" - Cringeworthy, McDreamy notwithstanding.

"For Your Consideration" - This is a Christopher Guest film. I have seen all of his movies, and my favourite remains "Best In Show". Having said that, this is a very good film, and if you like Guest's wry sense of humour, you should get a good chuckle out of this one.

"Lions For Lambs" - An uneven effort from Robert Redford. I enjoyed it mostly because I agreed with its message. The movie tries very hard (too hard?), but it just didn't hit the heart the way I think its creators hoped it would. But by all means, it is not a bad movie.

"Gone Baby Gone" - I thought this was a surprisingly good first movie from Ben Affleck. The ending, in particular, was quite understated for being a Hollywood-ish movie, allowing the viewer to draw his/her own conclusions.

So there you have it. It's been a really long time since I've seen what I would call a brilliant movie. And none of the movies above falls into that category, unfortunately. But if anyone has any suggestions, I would be happy to hear them!

Happy Weekend!

Jan 17, 2008

It's All In The Balance

Benjamin will on rare occasions pipe up that he's hungry, but Christopher never, ever asks for food. When I mention this to people, they always try to console me with a "It'll get better" or "They'll tell you when they're really hungry." Well, it's been 11 years, and I'm still waiting.

In addition, they're picky, picky, picky eaters, and they like completely different things. Christopher could live on salmon alone, while Benjamin would be quite happy with only rice and ketchup (don't bother - I know). Behold what was left when the protein lover and the carboholic had "enjoyed" dinner a couple of nights ago:



Does it still count as a balanced meal if I divvy up the different food groups between the boys?

Jan 16, 2008

Wordless Wednesday



The two faces - and two drinks - of Benjamin

Jan 15, 2008

In Your Eleventh Year...



You goofed off with your brother...



You hiked...



And you baked...



You pursued your love of animals...



Of all types....



You played in the water...



And in the snow...



You did a lot of hanging out with family and friends...



Including your brand new baby cousin...



You even learned to pose...



But throughout it all, you remained our very first boy wonder:



Happy Birthday, Christopher!




Jan 14, 2008

I'm A Survivor...

Thank you all for your sympathetic responses to my w(h)ine-infused post.

Lesson learned: greasy pizza and a darkened movie theatre do wonders for a hangover. Who knew?!

[The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch and Aliki2006 suggested as much, but I'm sure they based that purely on anecdotal evidence. Right, ladies?]

The boys were great at the restaurant. At least I think they were. They were sitting across the room from us, and although we did hear the occasional roaring laughter and saw a few boys run around a bit - evidently sneaking lollipops is still popular with the pre-teen crowd - we sat so far away from them, we were able to enjoy our meal in peace. It was quite civilized, really (though I'm not sure if the people sitting immediately next to our boys would agree. Alas).

Then onwards to the movie theatre. Again we were sitting behind the boys, in the last row in the theatre. The chairs were huge and comfy (better be at $17 dollars a ticket), and even though I had to stop a couple of the boys from throwing popcorn at fellow moviegoers, overall, things went very smoothly indeed. I was even able to close my eyes for a bit.

Even better, when the movie was done, all the parents were waiting outside to pick up their respective offspring. No straggler parent making us wait for hours with their stranded kidlet (good thing, too, as it was wet and miserable).

But best of all, Christopher was thrilled with his day and that his friends all showed up for his party.

So now we're getting ready for his actual birthday tomorrow. It will be a low-key affair, with just my family joining us for dinner. On the menu are crepes, and only crepes. Birthday boy's choice, of course!

And completely non-alcoholic.

Jan 13, 2008

Of Wine and Whine

We had a great 65th birthday par-tay on Friday for my father. He seemed very, very happy, and that was really what we wanted most of all. My siblings and I all made and brought appetizers, food and a marzipan cake for dessert.

Judging from the enthusiastic food reviews, we did well. Of course, I've never been to a party where the guests openly admit that the food sucks. So who really knows? I choose to believe that they raved more than they had to, and therefore, that the food was actually kind of good. I'm a glass half full kinda girl (stop making that choking sound, Mike).

My mother supplied fabulouso Italian Valpolicella red wines.

[Cue reverie music]

I.Love.Valpolicella.Wines.

And so does my sister - my partner in crime. So much so that by the end of the night, we felt compelled to finish off the last bottle ourselves, without sharing with our guests. Yes, we did. We are generous souls.

Which may be why I woke up with someone else's body yesterday morning. Someone who's slow, heavier than me, and who gets nauseous when making quick or sudden movements.

When I groaned to Mike that I am cutting out red wine for life, he had the nerve to laugh at me. And under normal circumstances, that would have offended me mightily.

But all I could think of was how much fun it was going to be to take several 11-year-olds out for pizza and a movie that afternoon in celebration of Christopher's birthday.

In someone else's body!

Jan 11, 2008

Pets And Parties

Christopher usually picks his brother up from school, but on Thursdays and Fridays, Benjamin finishes early, leaving Mike and I on pick-up duty. Given the two minute walk home from school, B boy really should be able to come home alone, however, if you know my baby boy, you already know that he won't be old enough for such an endeavour until he's...15?

It's not a safety concern - there's no traffic to speak of on these little roads. In truth it's mostly to spare myself the aggravation of having to trudge back up to school every day to pick up whatever he'd be bound to forget. This is a child who could forget body parts if they weren't attached to him (and yes, I have occasionally asked him where he's left his head today).

Besides, I don't mind picking him up a couple of times a week (except when it rains - then I send Mike). So it all works out.

On our walk home from school yesterday, the sun was shining and our boots made loud crunching sounds in the snow as B boy chatted about soccer lessons, his desperate need to go the bathroom (though apparently not desperate enough to go while at school), how wet and yucky his socks were in his boots, all the while trying to negotiate playtime before homework time.

We somehow got onto the playdate he'd had yesterday, and how one friend always brings chocolate when he comes for a visit. This has impressed Benjamin, who is clearly his father's son when it comes to chocolate.

B: "Can we buy him a present next time he comes over?"

Me: "That's a great idea, B boy. Let's definitely do that."

B: "Good!"

Me: "What kind of chocolate would you like to buy?"

B: "Oh, I wasn't going to buy him chocolate."

Me: "Well, there's also cookies, or chips. We could even bake a cake?"

B: "Nah....I want to buy him a dog!"

Something tells me that B boy and his little friend are taking Nintendogs a bit too seriously...

************************

Today is the beginning of the Birthday Weekend. We are celebrating my dad's 65th birthday today with a dinner party hosted by his children, attended by family and friends.

Tomorrow, Christopher has invited some friends to pizza and a movie downtown. On his actual birthday, this coming Tuesday, we'll have family over for dinner and cake.

Happy Weekend everyone!

Jan 7, 2008

Bye-Bye!

This morning, we woke up two very tired boys. Many, many late curtain calls had made it difficult for them to fall asleep last night, and they were totally unprepared for the 7:30 am wake-up call.

Groggy C boy and grumpy B boy ate their breakfast in silence. They dressed slooooowwwlllyy, and then sat on the couch rubbing their eyes and staring blankly out into space.

I had to help them put their outerwear on - snowpants, heavy jackets, hats, gloves. Everything zipped up. Big winter boots on. School bag - check. Lunch - check. Drink - check. The boys themselves stood there like zombies on cruise control.

After encouraging hugs and motherly statements about how fun it would be to see their school friends again after the holidays, they were ushered out into a dark, snowy Norwegian winter morning. I even waved supportively from the window until they disappeared behind the garage and I could no longer see them.

But then...

I snuck back into bed and slept for another hour.

School RULES!

Jan 6, 2008

Weekend Affairs

Bye, bye Christmas decorations....




...and gingerbread house




Hello snowstorm...



...and outdoor fun

Jan 5, 2008

Say What?

We are incredibly lucky that my boys each have a best friend in a cousin. Christopher's best friend is Joakim, who's 12, and Benjamin's best friend is Joakim's brother - 8 year old Mathias.

Joakim and Christopher, in particular, have always been very close, despite the fact that they've only seen each other once or twice a year.



Thus, one of the biggest advantages of our stay in Europe is that the boys get to spend lots of time together. My worry that they might grow tired of each other, seeing as they only live 15 minutes away from each other this year, has been solidly disproved. If anything, the boys have grown closer, and the younger two have had a chance to cement an equally tight relationship.



We really enjoy having the cousins visit, and they often spend the night on weekends. Tonight is such a night. The boys have been playing together since late afternoon, and we all just returned from a tobogganing session in the snow.

As I write this, the two oldest boys are hanging out in their bedroom, playing DS. The two younger boys are downstairs playing Battleground, a Christmas present from my brother.

Both pairs of boys are talking excitedly to each other.

But here's the kicker - while my boys are speaking a somewhat accented Norwegian, Mathias and Joakim are responding in equally broken English.

Clearly, all four boys have decided to perfect a foreign language this year.

Half the time, Mike and I have no clue what they're saying, but somehow the boys understand each other perfectly. And what's more, no one corrects the other's numerous errors. They're communicating, and that's all that matters.

I love it. I only wish I could bottle it up and keep it for posterity.

Jan 4, 2008

Really, Really Old


B boy and I were walking behind the rest of the family on our recent visit to the beautiful city of York in England. We pretty much always make up the tail end of a group. Benjamin has little legs, so he walks slowly.

And he likes to talk.

I often wish he'd speak clearer, so I wouldn't have to stop and bend down to hear him, but mostly, I just enjoy his chattering. He'll make comments about people he sees, things that happened at school that day, and even events from years ago that he's suddenly remembered. Everything with infectious enthusiasm and usually with a slightly cheeky undercurrent.

We don't get anywhere quickly with B boy onboard, but the journey is almost always amusing.

And then there's times when his innocence just slays me. Like that day in York. As we crossed a busy street, I was pulling and tugging on him to hurry up. Those little legs were moving even slower than normal, and definitely not as quickly as the flow of traffic.

Because Benjamin had spotted the ruined remnants of an old stone building. Except to him it was simply a house with no roof, and he absolutely could not understand why there was a house with no roof in the middle of York.

"It's just an old, old house, B boy, I'm sure it's protected," I said.

"How old?" he asked.

"Hundreds and hundreds of years old," I answered absent-mindedly, still trying to get us across the road safely.

"I get it. As old as black-and-white TV, right?" said my genius boy.

I almost stopped in the middle of the street, but managed to get us across to the other side of the intersection before replying:

"No, even older than that. Many hundreds of years old."

"Oh, back from the dinosaur age, then," he declared with total insight.

Which is when I swore to myself never to tell B boy that our first black-and-white TV was bought after I was born. Never, ever!

Jan 3, 2008

You're Both Going To Bed? Promise?!

Kellan from On the Upside wrote about a Saturday afternoon drive with her kids which made me giggle. If you haven't read it, you should do so now. I'll wait here. Really, go...!

[....waiting patiently....]

You're back? Yeah, I know, she's funny!

Yesterday at bedtime, my boys were told that today would be an electronics free day. Meaning a day without access to electronic toys, including the computer, their beloved DS consoles, the playstation, the television, etc. Today would be a day of good old-fashioned playing.

Our poor neighbours likely thought we'd sentenced our kids to 20 years of daily showering, judging from the whines, wails and heartfelt sobs echoing from our house when we broke the news to the boys.

But honestly, we were not trying to be cruel and unjust. We only wanted the children to take a break from all the electronic games they've been playing over the holidays. Heck, we even took them downhill skiing today - a wholesome, family friendly outdoor activity. No electronics required.

But we've been back from the slopes for a few hours now, and, quite frankly, my kids are driving me crazy. They apparently have no clue how to entertain themselves without electronic stimuli. At this very moment, my eldest is lying on a couch, stroking his hair, staring absent-mindedly into space. I can hear my youngest out in the kitchen, doing something with tape and glue that I am sure I will end up cleaning up.

Granted, most of their toys are in Canada, but in the short months we have been in Norway, they have managed to accumulate a respectable amount of playing things. You might think they could figure out how to sit down and play a quiet game of Monopoly, Uno or Scrabble? But noooooo....

Mike even dragged out an electric experiments kit which held their attention for...I dunno...5 seconds, before the kids left him to his own devices.

And while Mike was making sad magnetic fields all alone, the boys could only come up with a ridiculously silly game they've oddly named 'Meditating', which consists of whopping each other with pillows until Christopher falls off the bed and cries foul.

I suggested to the boys that they ask friends over, but they both refused. It is evidently impossible - or impossibly lame, more likely - to have other kids visiting without being allowed to play any electronic games.

So they've booked play dates for tomorrow instead. Because tomorrow has electronic privileges.

But wait - there's a silver lining! Benjamin just proclaimed with glee that it'll be tomorrow in only 3 hours, prompting Christopher to pipe up that he was going to sleep. And with that, they both decided to go to bed!

Soooooo.....it's 9 pm, and my boys are in bed. We’re celebrating with a bottle of red and some cheese, 'cause I think we may be on to something here...

Cheers and happy Thursday!

Jan 2, 2008

And The Weather Forecast Calls For...



...rain on New Year's Eve in the UK. Yeah, I was shocked, too.

We are back in Norway again, but despite the rain we had a great time with the Wades in Yorkshire. How could we not, as we arrived on Sunday to warm-ish weather - for us anyway - and flowering roses!



The airline decided to send our luggage to Hamburg, Germany instead of Manchester, England, which did cause a fair amount of irritation on our part. They eventually managed to get the suitcase to Manchester, but the impending New Year holidays and the fact that we were staying in Ripon (a 90 minute+ drive from the airport) finally forced the courier company to admit we probably would not see our suitcase until we were ready to fly home again.

Argh!

My obvious distress is probably why my hero-of-the-day - aka my father-in-law - spent 7 hours that day driving to-and-from the airport, first to pick us up, then to pick up that pesky suitcase. Gah! Whatever happened to airline service?!?! I could write a long venting post about this, but I will not, as I do not want it to overshadow an otherwise fab visit to England.


(side shot of the York Minster)

On New Year's Eve we went to a super matinee pantomime in the beautiful city of York. The boys - and we - spent the better part of 4 hours vigorously exercising our stomach muscles laughing (much needed exercise, I might add, following the chocolate overdose during the holidays). If you have never been to a pantomime - well, you've been missing out!

Pantomimes are usually well-known fairy tales with a spin, and the actors often include a principal boy, most often played by a young pretty girl, the heroine, also played by a beautiful young girl (making the inevitable romance a tad unusual), and - most importantly - a dame, acted with much exaggeration and fancy wigs and costumes by a middle-aged man, as a lewd and rude middle-aged woman.

Although the story changes from year to year, there is no plot line to follow, and there's always a few standard scenes: The water and pie scene (in which the main characters get wet and caked), the neon light scene (with all lights turned off), and a pre-recorded video from around the city, most often featuring local politicians, mayors, police, etc. The entire show is peppered with political and pop culture jokes.


(A scene with "the spice girls")

If this all sounds crazy, it is, but in the UK, this is considered top family entertainment, and though not a native Brit, I've learned to love it, too. It's a great way to spend an afternoon/evening with the entire family.

New Year's Eve was spent in a quiet fashion at home, where we had a highly successful raclette dinner (Christopher has asked me if we can buy a raclette at least 10 times since), played a few games and at midnight went down to the town square to see the fireworks. Despite the rain, the display didn't disappoint, and the boys went to bed with big smiles on their faces.

Unfortunately, the skies really opened up on New Year's Day, when it poured the proverbial cats and dogs. I would have liked to have gone for a walk, but there really wasn't much hope of that. Cue more chocolate and licorice allsorts.

The plane ride home yesterday was uneventful, and we arrived - luggage and all - to a beautifully white snow-covered land, with more snow in the forecast for the next three days. We are going downhill skiing today, and hopefully cross country skiing tomorrow and on the weekend. There may even be time for some skating. Anything but eating chocolate, really!