Apr 30, 2008

You Say Goodbye I Say Hello

Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my post yesterday. I felt much better after reading them. You are all so right - this is just the start of a new adventure, not the end of anything. Norway will still be there.

Following a manic last-minute packing session, we flew off yesterday afternoon after a slightly teary, but all in all fairly stoic goodbye with my family.



The boys were quiet and more subdued than usual in the airport, though their moods were livened somewhat by being told they could buy 'whatever they wanted' from the duty-free candy store (with higher prices than the local supermarkets - gah!).

B boy had taken one of the anti-sickness pills he so hates, and promptly fell asleep as the flight taxied out to the runway. He didn't wake up again until we were taxiing into our gate at London's Heathrow airport. Now that's the way to travel.

We had left a gloriously sunny spring day in Norway and arrived in England to -- rain. Probably the perfect reflection of my somber mood, but still...

On the upside, we were out of the airport in record speed - fortunately we did not have to deal with the luggage mess in the new terminal 5 - and the taxicab driver was jolly and friendly, and made us all laugh with his comments on London weather. The drive into town seemed to go much faster than we'd feared.



The boys were in awe of the hotel Mike's family has booked, and I have to admit - it is pretty swanky. We are staying close to Kensington, in a business hotel with apartments. Our apartment must be one of the biggest ones there, with three large bedrooms and attached washrooms, a new and well equipped kitchen, LCD TVs everywhere. Everything very nice looking and with high-end furnishings. Christopher went around in awe for a few minutes, commenting on this and that, and finally said "This is a suite!" I think my boy will be disappointed next time we check into a Holiday Inn :)



The boys were pretty tired after an emotional couple of days, so we decided to order food in, after which they hit the sack.

Today we are doing what Jen suggested, hopping on the double-decker bus to sightsee without listening to 'tired legs' stories from short people. Then we are off to the Tower of London, before ending the day with the boys' favourite musical of all times - Joseph and the Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat.

And guess what - despite the forecast - I am actully seeing sunshine peeking through the clouds as I write this. Cross fingers!

Apr 29, 2008

Top 5 Reasons It's Time To Leave Norway

The day has finally arrived. It's moving day. Leaving day. Goodbye day. We are off to England for three weeks with Mike's family. We fly out at 3 pm, and we are going to have a great time. First we are 'doing' London for about a week. Then we'll make a stopover in Cambridge, before we return to Ripon near Leeds in Yorkshire for a couple of weeks of family time.

I know it's going to be lots of fun.

But right now, nothing feels great. It's 5 am, and I'm wide awake. In between goodbye parties, packing, quality family time, farewell dinners and shopping, I've been handling this whole leaving business with aplomb. But this morning I woke up with a big, aching hole in my stomach. I feel so torn right now, between desperately wanting to stay and recognizing that our life is back in Canada - and that it is really a very good life.

A nagging voice at the back of my head keeps asking me how I can have a good life so far away from my family. Isn't family what life is all about? But I KNOW that once I come back to my old life, I will be happy to see all my wonderful friends, my house and the lovely weather that is Ontario in the summer.

Mike is being very good about this whole thing. During times where I've been excessively whiny about going back, he's even suggested that we could consider moving here permanently if, after spending some time back in Canada, we find life really is better for us here. But, in all seriousness, I couldn't do that to him. There's nothing for him here, except language barriers. He'd give it a try if I asked him to, but I am not that selfish (I hope).

So I know these next few hours are the last of 'living' in Norway, at least for the foreseeable future.

The boys and their cousins had a final sleepover last night. My nephews are skipping school today, and all four boys are currently snoozing away. I'm going to miss these weekend campouts as much as anything else. I've gotten used to have three or four boys, not just two. And this morning, these four boys are going to 'save' me from totally breaking down. They will keep me busy making breakfast and doling out washing and clothing instructions. Then we'll drop off the nephews at home, while we pack two cars with our luggage and head towards the airport.

In closing, and in a pathetic attempt to lighten the mood somewhat, I give you:

The Top 5 Reasons It's Time To Leave Norway

5. When your child complains that he's had a long school day after finishing at 1 pm.

How is he going to re-adjust to school ending at 3:30 pm every single day if we don't take him back now?

4. When you can no longer button your pants due to an overindulgence of rich and creamy Norwegian chocolate.

Although that's not really a good reason to leave -- why not just chuck your old pants and pick up new ones, with friendlier sizing and elastic waistband?

3. When your oldest child just received a cell phone, but isn't happy with the GPS-less model.

Seriously - kids in Norway are way too technologically endowed.

2. When you realize you just paid 6 dollars for 7 strawberries.

Or $20 for a glass of wine, $15 for a movie ticket, not to mention $200 dollars for a pizza dinner. And you didn't bat an eyelid.

1. When you know that if you stay here one more month, or even just one more day, you will never, ever agree to leave, and your husband will have to carry you, kicking and screaming, onto that airplane.

And that's all.

Apr 28, 2008

Christopher's Last Day

How To Plan A Goodbye Party for Grade 5 Students

In advance:
Buy cups, plates and napkins - check
Buy fruit and drinks - check
Buy present and flowers for teacher - check
Beg sister to bake famous chocolate cake for the second time in four days - check
Order pizzas for pickup at 10:45 am - check

Morning of:
Pop popcorn - check
Cut up fruit - check
Carry drinks, present, flowers and snacks to car - check
Pick up pizza - check

During:
Feverishly replenish drinks while marvelling at the amount of pop children can consume in 5 seconds flat - check
Make sure everyone has access to pizza and kick yourself because you ordered too many 'nacho' pizzas and not enough of the plain pepperoni pizzas - check
Prepare slices of chocolate cake without accidentally eating too much for the yummy frosting - check
Take tens of pictures of your boy wonder with his friends, amazed at how seamlessly and easily he fits in after only a few months in the class - check
Try hard not to cry when the class presents your son with an album of personal messages, photos and mementos for him to bring back home to Canada - check

After:
Shed a tear as you walk home again, relieved at how well everything has worked out, but sad that it is coming to an end - check
Wonder how come your son never mentioned any of the cute girls in the class, when they all seemed very taken with him - check

Apr 26, 2008

Change Is In The Air

For the last few weeks, I do not think I've slept past 6 am once. The sun wakes me up each morning by flooding the room with sunlight well before the alarm clock considers jumping into action.

It's a glorious way to wake up - in every sense of the word. I do not have to rush out of bed to prepare for the day. I have plenty of time to lie and think about everything and nothing, before I turn to the task of dragging two groggy boys to the breakfast table.

The evenings are equally light. Yesterday, Mike and I went out for a walk at 8:30 pm, and when we returned from an hour-long stroll around our neighbourhood, the sun was still high and bright in the sky.

These long days are one of the biggest benefits of being this far north. Sure, we pay for it during the winter, but it's a trade-off I'm happy to make.

Though there's still frost on the ground each morning, the sun quickly heats up the day and the trees, shrubs and plants are bursting to explode into full spring foliage. It won't be long now, until the last remnants of snow in the sun-deprived areas behind the garage are gone forever.

Posters made by the kids to Benjamin



Transition is in the cards everywhere, as B boy said goodbye to his Norwegian school class yesterday.

After a party day at school, with yummy food, speeches and presents, he came home with letters and drawings from every child in his class, a photo album of his months at the school, not to mention lots and lots of good memories.

The level of success Benjamin's had this year is more gratifying to me than almost anything else we've done, as he was my biggest concern when we embarked on this adventure.

Unlike his big brother who charmed his way through childhood with an easy smile and friendly demeanor, Benjamin can be a bit socially awkward.

While he is the most generous and caring boy I know, when he gets into a group setting, or feels insecure, he starts acting silly and goofy, forgetting any and all manners he may have picked up along the way.

To the uninitiated, he probably seems wild, restless and out of control, when the fact of the matter is that he's shy and unsure about how to handle those feelings of insecurity.

I was worried that coming to a different school, learning another language and having to make new friends would be too much for him. Mike and I had an 'emergency' plan of withdrawing him from school if things didn't work out for him, and simply home-schooling him instead.

But children are so resilient, aren't they? Not only has Benjamin done an excellent job learning a new language, he's also made more friends here than he made in three years of school in Canada.

These last few weeks have been chock-full of playdates for my B boy, eager to squeeze in every last minute of social time with his little buddies. Plans have been made to meet up next time we're in Norway. Email and MSN addresses have been exchanged.

While B boy still suffers from awkwardness and over-excitability in new settings, he really has come such a long way in learning to manage those feelings. He's changed a lot these last 10 months, and I couldn't be prouder of my baby boy.

Apr 24, 2008

Benjamin's Last Day

I guess progress is being made, packing-wise. Benjamin's closet is pretty empty at this point, and this morning he only had a couple of jeans and three or four shirts to last him until we leave on Tuesday. The rest had been packed in suitcases ready to go.

So don't ask me why I picked up more clothes for him today on my shopping quest.

The shorts were just too darn cute to pass up. And of course he needed a matching shirt to go with them. And a hat. And belt.

Of course he did.

Or maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, and I don't feel like I've really packed until I'm jumping up and down on the suitcases to get them to close.

Yeah, that must be it.

Tomorrow is B boy's last day in the Norwegian school. His teacher has cancelled all lessons tomorrow, and they are having a party day in his honour. Today they decorated the classroom with posters and balloons in preparation for tomorrow.

It's touching to see how much effort they're putting into making his last day a good one. We are bringing in pizzas, fruit and drinks, and my sister has baked her famous chocolate cake for the big party.

It'll be difficult to say goodbye to the class, as Benjamin's had such a good time there. We always knew he'd only be there for a little while, but still...

Moving sucks.

Apr 21, 2008

Of Exercise and Exploration

I was thrilled to wake up at 5:30 am this morning, since what woke me up was sunlight pouring in through the curtains. Spring has arrived in Norway at last! Mother Nature has forgiven me.

Which is why, after sending the boys off to school and putting out a few work-related fires, I put on my shoes and went for a run.

Oh.My.Gawd.

Six months of chocolatey sedatedness have done more damage than I imagined. There was jiggling of body parts I didn't even know could jiggle. And in this country of mountains, even the slightest incline seemed like a Mt. Everest climb.

I eventually managed to run for 25 minutes - with a couple of life-saving breaks thrown in - and I suppose that's OK for the second run this year.

But I clearly have my work cut out for me, and I was so disappointed because my first run - just three days ago - had been much more enjoyable.

Of course, that may have been because it was on a flat surface. Or, more likely, because I got to run past this:



I mean, who wouldn't be able to manage a few minutes of leisurely activity if you got to do it along the Seine, past the Notre Dame in Paris?

Jiggling notwithstanding, Mike and I spent a fabulous 3 days in Paris, as part of my Christmas present. I'd been to Paris a long time ago, and frankly wasn't very impressed with the city, as I found it dirty, crowded and the Parisians rude.

But no more. I now officially 'aime' Paris.



First of all, the buildings look like they've all had major facelifts, or at least undergone serious sandblasting. In addition to the sparkling clean Notre Dame, both the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay were in impeccable condition, as were the gilded statues that abound in Paris. Perhaps they'd been cleaned in the hopes of being awarded the 2012 Olympics.



What's certain is that Paris is now one of the cleanest European capitals I've been to. Every morning, the garbage receptacles were lined with new, empty bags, and beautiful floral displays could be found on almost every corner.



Furthermore, while Paris is still a huge and busy city, its people couldn't have been friendlier, or more gracious when silly foreigners try to test out their tenous grasp of the French language. You know, like responding with a resounding 'si' instead of a 'oui'. Not that I'd know anything about that!

The weather was variable on our weekend away, but we still managed to make the most of it, visiting all the usual tourist traps...

Sacré-Coeur



Arc de Triomphe



Moulin Rouge



Versailles and its Hall of Mirrors



And of course...



But now it's back to reality, which for me means facing suitcases bursting at the seams. We have one week left in Norway, and I'm not sure there's enough hours in the day to get everything done.

Plus squeeze in a run each day.

I guess I'll be jiggling a little longer...

Apr 15, 2008

Ode To Canada

Note: It's still snowing today, but I thought I'd spare you more weather whine. Instead, I'm going a bit preachy on y'all, as I've been psyching myself up to leave Norway and return to Canada. So without further ado...I give you my "Ode To Canada."

Babies are born colourblind. They do not distinguish between blue or brown eyes. A white face or a black one.

Babies love whoever loves them back.

As they grow, children begin to look for more than just baby lovin', but they're still making friendships based on personality traits. They remain unmoved by externals such as skin colour, gender, size or grooming for a long time. Two kids who like to talk will naturally gravitate towards each other, as will those who prefer to run and jump.

Oh, to be wise like a child again!

Children's International Summer Villages (CISV) is an organization that sends children at age 11 to camps all over the world for a month. The organization, which celebrated 50 years in 2007, was conceived by a child psychologist after the devastations of World War II.

The intent behind CISV is building peace through friendship, and its central idea is that this must begin with the younger generation.

While they are still colourblind.

I was lucky enough to go to a CISV camp in Brazil as an 11 year old girl, along with three other kids from my country. The impact this experience had on me cannot be exaggerated, as it allowed me to make friends with children whose backgrounds couldn’t have been more different from my own.

And the single most important lesson I learnt that summer was that behind those external differences, we were really all the same.

But my children are even luckier than I am. They don’t need to go to a camp half around the world – they live this reality every day in their very own community in Canada.

My boys have grown up with friends and neighbours who have different traditions, religions (occasionally wearing different clothing in deference to these religions) and skin colour, often speaking more than one language at home.

Mike and I like to refer to the children’s school as a "mini UN", filled by kids who hail from countries all around the planet. Lunchtime is a sight to see. Out come the naan and curries, the rice and the noodles, the burgers and fries, the croissants and cheese. It is a veritable feast of world cuisine.

Through school and play dates, our children and their friends take bits and pieces from their individual backgrounds, and create a brand new value system that is much more international than anything I had a chance to experience in just one month in Brazil.

We now celebrate holidays I had never heard of before, we eat foods my parents would gawk at, and we have fun doing it!

Imagine how the world would look if today's world leaders had gone to a CISV camp or grown up in a community such as ours in Canada. Would we still have all these conflicts based on either religion or a fight for wealth?

Perhaps I am naïve, but it seems to me that many of the problems in the world today are caused by fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of having things taken away (sadly, we don’t become better at sharing as we age – quite the contrary).

And as we grow older, the instinct to surround ourselves with what is familiar - and therefore less challenging - appears to become more ingrained.

We gradually become less open, less colourblind.

That's why CISV has it right – it is important to start with the younger generation.

Or better yet, grow up in a place where everyone is different. Because if different is what you are used to, what’s familiar to you – then it’s not really different at all. Or scary.

As great as Norway is - for us it has been absolutely wonderful this year – I think the future of the world relies on inter-marriage, figuratively and literally. And in that respect, Canada is light-years ahead.

Apr 13, 2008

"I'll Take Weekend for $1000, Alex"

A: What you eat when you're stuck indoors for the third weekend in a row, thanks to inclement weather.

Q: What are brownies, muffins, banana bread and scones?

Because, frankly, focusing excessive boy energy on this:



is better than giving them free reign:




But I'm not taking any responsibility for not fitting into my shorts if spring and/or summer ever does decide to arrive.

You know who's to blame!

Apr 12, 2008

Are You Kidding Me?

Thursday:



Saturday:




I guess Mother Nature didn't appreciate my little joke. If anyone has any suggestions as to how to appease her, I'd be much obliged.

Because all this white stuff - it's getting old...

Apr 9, 2008

When you were young, was it the old days?

I didn't physically hurt him or anything. I just stared at him hard and long:

Of course not!

Me thinks that little monkey known as B boy won't be repeating that question any time soon.

Although he's not the only one causing trouble at the moment. The Universe appears to be conspiring against me, since I also had to endure my just-born-yesterday eldest son going to a disco last night.

That's right, baby Christopher even showered, picked out a cool shirt, fixed up his hair with gel AND chose a leather necklace to wear, before he ran out the door on his way to the school to party all school night long.



I'm pretty sure there were no grade 5 discos in the olden days. Not that I'd know anything about that...

(Not Quite) Wordless Wednesday

Continuing the recap of the year's excursions, we saw this in September:



...a better look from the side:



Do you think the poor driver got two tickets?

And just in case you're wondering where to avoid breaking traffic rules, here's a hint:



If that made your mouth water in anticipation, hop on the first plane to beautiful Prague in the Czech Republic:



Apr 7, 2008

Attached

I looked at the computer clock as I clicked Enter to see that it was 9:03 pm on Friday evening. Then I plonked myself on the couch to continue watching 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' (yes, the last person in the Universe to see it - and how come no one told me not to bother?).

10 minutes later, the first text message came in. Followed by another, and another and yet another. I checked my emails an hour later, and there were 5 replies. The landline rang at 10:30 pm.

Clearly we'd seriously underpriced the trampoline in the online ad.

The text messages, emails and calls kept coming all weekend long.

Using the 'first come first serve' principle, the trampoline will be picked up this evening. I'm planning on keeping Christopher inside and safely ensconced in the basement, in front of his beloved computer.

The less he knows, the better for him. Judging from the teary drama he put on when I tried to get him to throw out the holey socks he was wearing the other day ("But these are my favourite socks"), I don't know how he'll react if he finds out his trampoline is gone.

Better to just leave him believing it's still safely stored in the garage. It's not like we'll be able to put it up before we leave anyway, what with all the snow that fell yesterday, and more in the forecast for this upcoming week.

But that knot in my tummy? It just grew another few centimeters.

Moving sucks.

Apr 6, 2008

Weekend Report

We walked down to town yesterday, which is a good 6 km walk. It was a sunny day, and the boys did pretty well. Only minor whining about tired legs and a few 'are we there yet' disturbed an otherwise perfectly family oriented, healthy outdoor weekend activity.

Giddy with our parental awesomeness and ability to ensure our children's physical well-being and plenty of fresh air and exercise, we promptly treated the boys to McDonald's for lunch.

We wouldn't want to overdo the healthy lifestyle.

Or risk a major culture shock when the boys return to Canada in just a few short weeks.

Old habits die hard, fortunately, and I'm happy to report that the Norwegian chicken nuggets and fries are up to Canadian standards.



Good thing, that - considering the $60 we paid for four combos.

Today, my sister and four of our boys went to see Horton Saves a Who. The young'uns enjoyed it, the older ones gave it a 2.5 out of 10.

My sister and I just watched the minutes tick by. Veeeeeeery slowly.

It was raining and miserable as we came out of the theatre. While driving up towards the house again, we noticed that the cars heading down towards town were covered in white stuff. And sure enough, it was snowing like crazy as we arrived home.

Which pretty much confirms my suspicion that Mother Nature didn't get my memo last week.

So in lieu of something sunny and spring-like to show off, I give you the following:



Is there anything cuter than a baby bum in jeans?

Apr 4, 2008

The chip off the old block doesn't fall far from the tree

I went to a parent-teacher conference today, for the B boy.

The news were surprisingly good.

He is where he should be in Norwegian, and not really behind the others. Pretty awesome, considering he didn't speak more than a couple of words of Norwegian 8 months ago, let alone read or wrote the language.

Thrilled to bits by the feedback, I offered to get the boy a reward for working so hard at school.

I figured he'd want a new game for the DS or the PlayStation, or perhaps a night out to the local playland, or maybe even go see a movie.

I was wrong.

As a reward, my boy wants chocolate.

I'm now thinking the B in "B boy" stands for Brilliant.

Apr 3, 2008

Cranky

So I cracked open the first bag bright and early this morning, to get started on the monumental task of packing.

The bag's now sitting on the living room floor with one winter coat in it, two toques and four belts.

It took me six hours to get that far.

B boy is downstairs with a couple of buddies making lots of noise. Christopher is there, too, on MSN with some girl from class. They seem happy.

I'm not.

I loathe packing. And I've already pointed out to my husband the injustice of me doing all this work (above mentioned coat, toques and belts), and him doing nothing and being absolutely useless. Twice.

Good times...

Apr 2, 2008

Wordless Wednesday



I'm going use the next few WWs as an opportunity to review some of the amazing vistas from the past year. This is a shot of Aurlandsdalen in Norway from last August.

Apr 1, 2008

To My Husband

12 years of foolishness and still going strong!

Happy Anniversary!