Feb 29, 2008

French Follies

In our continuing mission to make Benjamin motion sick as frequently as possible this year, we are jetting off to La Plagne in France tomorrow. Thus, we're in the midst of a packing frenzy, snowpants, jackets, hats and gloves flying this way and that, as I try to guess just how many pairs of mitts a boy can possibly soak in a single day.

Mike is downstairs stuffing the ski bags with skis, poles, helmets, boots and other goodies.

This will be my first ever real downhill ski holiday, and I am excited but also somewhat apprehensive. I mean - these are serious hills, not the little baby hills we've skied in Ontario. I've asked Mike to doublecheck our insurance, just in case I need a helicopter to take me down from the mountain.

The fear of bodily harm aside - doesn't it all look wonderful?



Of course, my concerns may be for naught, and our packing efforts may all be in vain...since the forecast for La Plagne calls for 12 degrees Celsius next week. But that's OK, I'm better at hiking than skiing anyway:



The boys are pretty excited to have yet another week of holidays, but apart from that, they are remarkably unimpressed by the whole thing. Me thinks these children have been spoiled by one too many travels lately!

Happy Weekend everyone!

Feb 28, 2008

Bloggers Rock!

I've alluded to this before...but I had two main reasons for starting my blog back in July of last year:

1. To create a log of our year-long European adventure for future reference.
2. To keep friends and family in North America updated on our crazy doings.

Not in my wildest dreams did I expect to find this wonderful community of bloggers from all over the world.

I could wax poetically about what a revelation the blogosphere has been for me, but today I just want to ask all of you who so kindly check in with me on a regular basis to drop by my amazing bloggy friend Amy Y instead.

Amy is pregnant with twins as a surrogate mother - for the second time - and she had a bit of a scare this week. She is currently on bedrest, and I'm sure she'd appreciate lots of sticky vibes to get her babies to stay put!

Please go now and say hi, and while you're at it, check out her beautiful boys!

Feb 26, 2008

What Not To Say

"I'm allowed to say four bad words."
"Hmmm...I don't think so."
"Yes! I'm allowed to say shoot, darn, darn it and frigging."
"Well, I really don't want you to say any bad words at all."
"But I can say darn it, right?"
"I don't think so, B boy. It's not very nice."
"But you said I could say darn it."
"I don't remember ever saying that. I'd rather you didn't say it, to be honest."
"Okay, but I can say frigging, then."
"Really, Benjamin, it's best if you don't use any of those words. They don't sound good, and it's just not very polite use of language. Especially coming from a 7 year old."
"But I am allowed to say shoot."

[The resigned silence of a mother being worn down]

"Mamma! I'm allowed to say shoot, right?"

Sigh.

"All right, then, I guess you can say shoot."
"Yes!"

[His overly enthusiastic reaction jolts me out of my weary mommy state and I scramble into damage control mode:]

"But only in an emergency! Not all the time."

[In an emergency?! Geez...now even Benjamin realizes I am floundering:]

"Don't worry, Mamma, I won't, because shoot really means another word, right?"
"Ummm...some people use it instead of another word, I guess."
"It really means S-I-T, right?"

[A-ha! Spelling lesson opportunity here - I'll be a great mother yet:]

"Nooooo....it doesn't mean S-I-T, B boy. It means shoot. Besides, what does S-I-T spell?"
"Oh yeah, SIT. But shoot means 'sh' and 'ee' and 't', right?"

[OK, this conversation is not going anywhere good. Let's be firm and end this now:]

"Yes, I suppose that's what some people think it means. But you are NOT allowed to use that word. End of story!"

[Silence. I did it!]

"I know! That's why I said 'sh-ee-t'!"

[Did my boy just say shit to me?]

Feb 25, 2008

Zoom Zoom

Yesterday - the final Sunday of the winter holidays - we had a lovely walk planned for the Frogner Park in Oslo. But by the time we got there, the parking lot was full, the play area was overrun, and the sun had disappeared behind dark and ominous clouds.

Things were not going according to the plan.

So what do you do with four cranky boys who didn't want to go for a walk in the first place, and two sets of parents getting steadily more frustrated listening to the whining?

You get them READY:



....to GO:



The winners:



There were no losers yesterday. I made sure of it, eating lots of chocolate and not exercising.

Feb 24, 2008

Attention Losties!

Kate has Aaron and Jack won't see him.

Explain.

Feb 23, 2008

Busy Hearts

It's been a busy few days...too busy to even blog, which has not happened since I was in Cyprus back in October and out of Internet-range.



We got back from the cottage on Tuesday, where we'd had an awesome time skiing, jumping, making bonfires in the snow, and generally enjoying ourselves.



We spent Tuesday afternoon and evening back at the house, just the four of us. Mike and I threw ourselves over the piles of work that were waiting for us, and the boys had a joyous reunion with their beloved computers and play station. Four days of nonstop outdoor fun in the Norwegian mountains give boys horrendous electronics-withdrawal, apparently.

Wednesday was another day of frantic working for Mike and I. Over the past three weeks, I have translated some 50,000 words, which is a crazy amount of words. I am starting to dream of CT machines, but have not yet gotten to the point where I'm worried that our rushed translation will cause permanent injury to some unsuspecting patient. I'm sure that'll come by the end of this nasty project, when we'll have reached some 150,000 words.

Wednesday night we had my sister and her family over for dinner. We made Chinese food, which, although not as good as the authentic stuff, beat the hot dogs we'd been surviving on for the last few days.

Since it had been a full 24 hours (gasp!) since my boys had last seen their cousins, they convinced us that my nephews needed to spend the night on Wednesday. Not that it took a whole lot of convincing. The boys are on their winter break, and, frankly, it is easier to have the four boys together, than my two alone.

Thursday was spent pretty much like Wednesday, with us working and the boys playing in the house, except for the hour or two when they were banished outdoors to enjoy the spring-like warm weather we've been enjoying lately. We even put them to work clearing the snow from the walkway, which was dangerously icy to walk on:



Somehow, the boys managed to finagle another sleepover through Friday, which was just as well, because yesterday was my parents' 39th wedding anniversary.

39 years of wedded bliss is not usually celebrated in grand style, but seeing as we are here this year - and likely won't be in Norway at this time next year - we jumped the gun a bit on the big 4-0 years of marriage for my parents.

The grandchildren even got involved by making awesome congratulary cards to their grandparents. They wrote cute little messages and drew balloons and coloured fairly well within the lines. No small feat for boys who are not artistically predisposed or interested. They were very proud when we hung the cards up on the wall by the dining room table.



And imagine my surprise, people, when I realized that B boy knows how to draw hearts. Hearts! This is my fit-for-fight warrior child, who sleeps with his Lord of the Rings sword and dreams of becoming a Jedi Knight. The same child who has been diagnosed with severe fine motor skill issues and refuses to write more than 10 words at a time. But if you're in need of a heart - here's your man:



Speaking of artistic skills, I baked a heart-shaped cake of which I was extremely proud until Mike burst out laughing at my attempt to create the number 9 on the cake with sugar, and kicked me off decoration duty and onto washroom clean-up duty while he took it upon himself to decorate the cake. The nerve!

I think I even heard him mutter something about "I see where Benjamin gets it from" under his breath. Clearly he was unaware of Benjamin's heart drawing ability, because this cake rocked:



The night was a huge success. My mother cried when she saw the boys' cards, the food was awesome, the cake was a big hit and the boys...well, they played and played and played some more.

And despite having been together for 5 out of the last 6 days, they were still upset when they had to say goodbye to each other last night (I'm starting to really worry about how they'll cope when we pack up and return to Canada).

Today has been yet another day of work for us. The boys have done very little but play electronics and card games, and Benjamin only got out of his PJs in the late afternoon, as we prepared to go visit my parents for a quick dinner of leftovers from last night.

Tomorrow is looking like another sunny and warm day, so Mike and I have promised ourselves to take a break from the overload of work and drag the boys out into the fresh air for a nice, long walk. Something tells me they won't be thrilled...

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone!

Feb 19, 2008

Random.org Has Spoken...

And The Chocolate Goes To:


Congratulations!

As soon as you send me your address, this will be making its way across the ocean for your enjoyment:

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who played along!





Feb 15, 2008

Winter Holidays...

...and we're off!



We'll be back in Internet-range on Tuesday. Just in time to select the lucky winner of a lovely box of to-die-for Norwegian chocolate. See the post below and add your comment, too!

Happy Weekend!

Feb 14, 2008

Treat Time!

We had raclette for dinner last night. Christopher has been waiting for this ever since he had it in the UK at New Year's. He was so excited, which is a good thing, considering how ridiculously unimportant food is to him.

I've mentioned this before -- but he's 11 and he is still not eating more than a sparrow. A sparrow on a protein-only diet, that is.

Despite his infectious excitement last night, he only ate a bit of bacon, an egg and a couple of pieces of chicken. Dr. Atkins would've loved him like his own.

Of course, I've taken it upon myself to compensate for his lack of an appetite, certainly if we go by caloric intake. My sweet tooth has been out of control for the last, oh, 6.5 months. Ever since we came to the land of



How am I ever going to be able to leave a country that markets delicious milk chocolate wafers as a 'quick lunch'?

Seriously. The chocolate here is THAT good.




To prove that it is not just me, and in honour of Valentine's Day (and possibly to spread the pounds...I mean...eh...BOUNDS of joy!), I'm going to send one lucky commenter a box of delicious, ecstacy-inducing, Norwegian CHOCOLATE.

So go on, leave me a comment about your Valentine's Day plans, how chocolate once saved your life, or just to say hi.

Best friend random.org will pick a winner on Tuesday at 9 am EST, and voila! A day in chocolate heaven could be yours!

Happy Valentine's, everyone :)

Edited to add: For awesome pictures and a funny take on Valentine's, especially if you like wine or have kids, check out MamaGeek's amazing photo skillz and wit at What Works For Us! She's got it all - except Norwegian chocolate, of course...

Feb 12, 2008

Morning Madness

Any weekday morning, in Norwayland. Everyone's finished their breakfast but the B boy.

"Benjamin, eat your breakfast."
"Okay."

[2 minutes later]

"C'mon, eat your food - and lean over the plate."
"Okay."

[Another minute later]

"Eat!"
"Okay!"

"I have to go to the bathroom."
"All right, go, but hurry up then."

[1 minute later, he's out of the bathroom. I've left the kitchen and he walks by me in the family room]

"Okay good, now go back and finish your breakfast."
"Mmmmm!"

[2 minutes later, I call from the family room]

"Benjamin, are you eating?"

[Silence, then with a mouth full of food]

"I am eating, mamma."
"Okay, good, finish up now. You've been sitting there for almost 20 minutes. You're not going to be able to watch any cartoons before school if you keep this up."

[Wail of unhappiness]

[2 minutes later]

"Benjamin, are you done now?"
"Almost."

[1 minute later]

"I have to go to the bathroom."
"Again? Go then, but please hurry up."

[5 minutes later]

"Benjamin, are you still in the bathroom?"
"Yeah..."
"Are you coming out anytime soon?"
"I guess so."
"Well, come out then."
"Okay."

[Exits the bathroom]

"Now go finish your breakfast - quickly!'

[Runs to the kitchen - comes back immediately]

"I am done with my breakfast."
"Eat the crust, too."

[Clearly stunned by my telepathic abilities, he stomps back into the kitchen]

"And finish your drink."
"Arrrrgh!"

[Comes back again with his mouth full of food, mumbling something about being done]

"Excellent. Now go get dressed. Pappa put clothes out on your bed for you."
"Dressed...arrgh!"

[Mumble, mumble in room...finally comes out partially dressed]

"Where are your socks?"

[Another wail of despair]

"Then you have to go brush your teeth."
"Hmmph."

[Marches off to the bathroom again, still sockless]

[I hear the Tooth Tunes toothbrush from the bathroom]

"And don't forget to MOVE your toothbrush when you brush. It won't do any good if you just push it against your front teeth to hear the song."

[More sounds of frustration as the toothbrush was clearly being pressed against said teeth, and then comes out of the bathroom to illustrate his stellar brushing skillz]

"Thanks for the demonstration B boy, but please don't walk out of the bathroom with the toothbrush. And LEAN OVER the sink so you're not dripping everywhere."

[Back to the bathroom he goes]

[Song stops playing, Benjamin throws the toothbrush down into the sink and rushes back out into the family room, finally done]

[He looks at the Tom & Jerry episode just starting on TV. The frustration of the last 40 minutes instantly forgotten as he cracks a huge smile of recognition and jumps onto the couch]

"This is a good one, Chris!"
"Mmm," says Christopher, who's been sitting calmly watching cartoons for the last 20 minutes.

Feb 10, 2008

Random Thoughts

After a few months of leisurely calm, things have taken a hectic turn in Norwayland.

First of all, I'm struggling under an avalanche of urgent translation assignments. My work load usually increases after the holidays, but this year is crazy. Judging from all the requests for translation of MRI/SPECT software and user guides, Norwegian medical clinics have apparently all decided to upgrade to new and better machines at the same time.

It never ceases to amaze me how companies will spend years - not to mention millions of dollars - on R&D of these extremely complex medical machines, and yet only a few weeks to localize the accompanying documentation.

You'd think it would be worth a bit of time to make sure the users actually understand how to operate the machinery. Especially since this is equipment that could kill patients if used incorrectly.

It also sucks BIG TIME that I may be very busy the last few weeks and months in Norway. I'm trying not to think about it too much. I'm ostrich-like that way. If I ignore it, it'll go away, no?

I guess not.

Sigh.

On a brighter note, Emil was baptized today, followed by a reception held here at our house this afternoon. He was such a good boy! Not a tear was shed, but he did make a grab for the Priest's Bible in her hands as she was speaking.

I'd love to show you a picture of his adorable self, but I apparently altered the camera option to the 'blurry only' setting this morning.

Double sigh.

As we drove away after the ceremony, Christopher commented that he didn't know priests could be female. Mike explained that the term 'priest' in North America usually refers to Catholic priests, and that the Catholic Church does not allow female priests. The Norwegian Protestant Church, which also uses the term "priest", makes no such distinction between the genders.

This moment was too good to pass up, so I seized the opportunity to launch into a lecture about gender discrimination, and soon Christopher caught on and compared it to racism, which we all agreed was terrible and wrong.

I was bathing in the glorious light of good parenting, thinking somewhat smugly to myself that one day, one day, my daughters-in-law would thank me for raising such liberal and open-minded boys.

And how my daughters-in-law and I would be best friends. And they'd call me when they got pregnant with my first grandchild. Even before they called their own mother!

How wonderful it all would be.

But then Benjamin opened his mouth:

"Luckily, there's no 'discrimation' in Star Wars Battlefront*, mamma."
"Oh?"
"No, even girls can be snipers in Star Wars Battlefront."

As the vision of my daughters-in-law and I running happily arm-in-arm disintegrated before me, I was at a loss for words.

I could have tripled sighed, but instead I burst out laughing: "Where's the computer when I need it?"

*For those good parents who do not allow their children's minds to be wasted by electronics, I should clarify that Star Wars Battlefront is a PlayStation game. I do not think I need to clarify that it consumes too much of my youngest child's consciousness.

Feb 7, 2008

Senior Sailing Style



Day 2 of our cruise included a stop in Kiel for some souvenir shopping, where people looked at me with either pity or admiration as I trooped around with my four boys:



Otherwise, though, it unfolded much like day 1. Except for the time I spent worrying that my eldest nephew wasn't enjoying the cruise as much as I'd hoped. He never complained, but if you look at the pictures, you can clearly see his finger is hurting.

In the pool:



Drinking a slushie:



During dinner:



Following an encounter with the chocolate fountain:



And even while enjoying bar drinks:



Fortunately, he's a very brave soul who was able to tough it out:

Feb 6, 2008

Junior Cruising Class - Onslaught of the Cute



Monday afternoon, the boys waited and waited and waited to board the MS Color Magic. Not even at Christmas did 15 minutes feel that long. Finally, the doors opened and thanks to somewhat lower stature, Mathias and Benjamin easily pushed their way through the crowd, leaving the rest of their travel party behind.

They had a destination in mind, and their efforts were crowned with success when the boys were the first kids to make it into the ball pit. Thanks to their acrobatic climbing skills, ball-throwing prowess and intricate battle cries, they also managed to scare off any other kids who may have been wanting to join in on the fun:



But you gotta love the attention span of the under 10 crowd. Once the playland had been thoroughly explored and secured - ie. 5 minutes later - we were hit by a tidal wave of requests to go swimming. Though we were graciously granted circa 30 seconds to settle into our cabins, we were all present and accounted for at Aqualand before the ship had even left the Oslo harbour:



And yet again, the boys conquered everyone in their path with almost unbearable cuteness.

Or maybe that was just me?

No matter, others were worn down with sheer persistent cheekiness (including the lifeguard who eventually gave up whistling at their repeated jumping into the water from the edges and refusal to use the stairs).



Although eventually, even little tummies realized that no lunch had been had that day, slushie notwithstanding:



A final swim down the lazy river followed, whereafter we proceeded to gather up our things and head back to the cabin to get ready for a buffet dinner that legends are made of. From the seafood to the burgers and hotdogs to the ice cream and chocolate fountain, the boys' very own table was a little slice of heaven:



After dinner, a small window of opportunity presented itself to spend some of the parents' hard-earned money:

Option A - going to the Adventure Planet games room and using 10's of dollars on a machine that eventually yielded an absolutely useless toy with just enough battery power for two Japanese tunes before it conked out.

Option B - the classic approach involving a stop by the taxfree shop to pick up several oversized bags of candy.

But in the spirit of all things buffet, why choose?



Money thoroughly blown, the boys settled into their front row seats in the show lounge. Neither of them really wanted to be there, but they were overruled by their pesky older brothers.



[I hasten to add that once there, they were absolutely hooked, and couldn't wait to go back the next night].

Then a quick stop by the cabin to fix up their 'do's:



Before a final couple of hours roaming the ship on their sugar-fuelled highs. Thankfully, Benjamin's elevator phobia was short-lived, and he was able to take full advantage of the elevators.

A good thing, that.

Because, even though I admit to being completely biased, what could be cuter than a 7 and 8 year old having drinks (aka apple juice) in the 15th floor Observation Deck bar, ordered and paid for by themselves?



And that, my friends, was the end of Day 1 - The Junior Cruise.

Feb 4, 2008

Cruisin'


We are doing a repeat of November's high successful two day cruise to Germany, and this afternoon we sail into the sunset. Or, if the forecast is to be believed, into the rain.

As part of their Christmas present, our nephews are joining in on the fun, and as an extra bonus, my parents have also decided to come along.

And four boys 12 and under roaming a cruise ship is bound to be fun!

The kids are sharing one cabin, with a double bed, a single bed and a bunk bed. To sort out sleeping arrangements under these circumstances requires diplomacy and finesse.

Which is why why we've avoided broaching the subject.

I am crossing fingers that this will be resolved painlessly once the kids are actually onboard. Without tears over who gets to sleep in the wretched bunkbed.

This morning, Benjamin declared that he would not be using the lovely, glass-encased elevators while onboard. He's apparently concerned that his arms may get cut off by the elevator doors, and "I need my arms, you know, mamma." I have no idea where this newfound fear came from, but I am curious to see how long he'll last trudging up and down the stairs with his little legs on a 15 storey high cruise ship.

Dinner reservations have been made at our favourite restaurant onboard; the Grand Buffet. Because our kids - who are normally picky, disinterested eaters - absolutely adore buffets of any kind. The nephews have been regaled with stories of the bountiful chocolate cakes and ice cream freely available for consumption, but 12-year-old Joakim has much more refined culinary tastes. He's skipping lunch today, to ensure plenty of room for his preferred combo of lobster and fries. Yum, anyone?

Hold on to your colours, Color Line, because here we come!

Feb 2, 2008

Making It Work

The boys are beyond excited that their cousins are staying for the weekend. Dinner tonight is their favourite:


I'm just as thrilled that the kitchen is too small to fit all of us:



Feb 1, 2008

A Wonderful World (Parts I, II and III)

Part I

I got a card in the mail from one of my closest friends. She's in Canada, and she sent the card to me for no reason, other than to say that she was thinking of me while we're away.

In a world of emails and text messages, it was so unexpected and lovely that she took the time to write and send me a card the old fashioned way.

It put a smile on my face.

Part II

Today was a ski day at school, and Christopher came home happy, despite being soaked to the bone by the raging blizzard outside. After a warm shower, he asked to make brownies.

Benjamin then took it upon himself to call my parents and invite them over for a cup of coffee. Soon we were all gathered in the dining room, looking out at the rapidly falling snow, with steaming hot cups of tea and brownies still warm from the oven. If there's a better way to spend a Friday afternoon, I don't know it...

Part III

We are free this weekend. There's no birthday parties on the agenda, or dinner commitments. No places we have to go, or people we have to see. Tomorrow we'll wake up and take a look at the day. Get a feel for its opportunities...and grab them.

Happy Weekend!