Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

Halloween is new in Norway and Norwegians are still mighty suspicious of this holiday, especially of the commercialization of Halloween – the plastic decorations, the expensive costumes, and the hugely expensive imported pumpkins. One friend told me she though Halloween was a conspiracy of the pumpkin industry. But it is catching on. Kids love it, and children drive the changes in culture.

Our Halloween started Sunday with the big annual party at our friend Kirstin's house. She hosts this party for the group Yanks in Trondheim, and it's a great party. Lots of themed food and desserts, a craft table, a pinata and bobbing for apples, and the costume contest. 30 or 40 folks were there this year, a bit fewer than last year but still a good sized crowd.

Anna dressed as a hippy chick, Maggie as steam punk comic book character, Pam as a Dr. Seuss-like character, and me as Doctor Doofensmertz with my latest investion, the Halloween-inator.

Naylors in costume

Outside in the snow doing the pinata
On Monday and Tuesday we decorate the house with spooky candles and ghost lights. Wednesday the kids carved pumpkins. Anna made a spooky face, Peter made a zombie face and Maggie carved a howling wolf. Afterwards we roasted the pumpkin seeds with seasoning salt. Mmmm... my favorite part of Halloween!

With daylight savings it gets dark at 5 pm now. The kids were eager to get an early start Trick-or-Treating. We have a good neighborhood for going door-to-door. Most houses have kids and so our neighborhood becomes very busy.

Friends started showing up around 5 and we served chili and cake. The kids ate donuts hanging from strings, hand-free (an easier version of bobbing for apples), and then the group of 6 or 7 set off with Maggie as the chaperone. Grownups played cards and drank coffee and manned the door while the kids were out.

This year we had quite a few visitors. I was surprised – our house is on a short street up a steep hill, and there are 32 steps up from the street to our house. Pam and the kids had put out jack-o-lanterns and candles on the driveway and up the stairs in order to entice visitors, and it worked. We probably had 40 kids knock on the door.

We are very satisfied with our Halloween experience this year. Boo!

Kids count their loot

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Breakdown in the tunnel

Last night going to laser tag the battery light was on in the van. I feared perhaps we had alternator trouble and I would need to investigate this weekend. The issue was forced today when the van died.

Pam was on the highway with vanload of girls, Anna and her friends, on their way to a birthday party in Hommelvik. The van died in a tunnel. Ugh. Fortunately she had enough momentum to cruise to an SOS turnout. They are spaced about every kilometer in the long tunnels. I called a tow-truck, headed out in other car and let Pam and the girls continue to the party. I got to hang out in the tunnel and wait for the truck – exciting!

The tunnel is LOUD. The highway through the tunnel is two-lane with cars driving in both directions, speeding by at 80 kph. There is a phone booth at the turnout. I've always wondered what they were like inside. There's a phone that connects to emergency help, a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit inside. Perfect if you were on fire, bleeding and lonely for someone to talk to. I was hoping for a vending machine with a Twix bar, but no such luck.

The tow truck arrived fairly quickly. He blocked off one of the lanes, making for tricky passing for the other cars. He hooked up an extra battery and drove the van onto the platform truck, and then drove me and the van all the way to Trondheim, dropping us off at a car fix-it place just a few blocks from home.

All in all, it was pretty easy.  And an exciting adventure for a Saturday afternoon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Laser tag!

I took Peter and five of his friends to laser tag tonight. We went to LaserX across town in Fossengrenda, and I was pleased to be chauffeuring the group of excited 12-year olds as they joked and plotted strategies. It reminded me very much of when I was their age and my neighbor's dad would drive a group of us to the university so that we could hunt each other in a live-action game we called "Assassin".

We arrived early and ordered pizza, ate, and then headed up to register. There was a lot of action upstairs with groups coming and going, but the guy behind the counter was cool-headed and friendly. We eventually got set up and I admired his patience as he explained the set up and rules. He asked me if I'd like to join the boys for free. Oh yes I would!

The arena was fun! It was a good layout, and the equipment was top notch. You can even get power ups, such as rapid-fire, shields, invisibility and shotgun blast. The computers keep track of every shot and we get a printout of the results from each round.

We played two 15-minute rounds. Peter won both rounds, earning him much esteem amongst his peers. Two rounds costs 150 kroner, and I must say it was totally worth it! We're planning to do it again, and this time bring more dads.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


It snowed last night. And kept snowing all day. We got something like 20 cm of snow in 24 hours (5 inches). Gross. I complained at work, telling my colleagues how excited my children are and how NOT excited I am. I was greeted with a table of incredulous faces – how could I not be excited about snow? Everyone was really happy to see the snow and the start of the snowy season. Hmph. Norwegians and their snow!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mixing with the musicians

We completed a 2-day kindergarten mathematics conference. It was a great conference with a diverse range of talks and workshops and great social events. I did a talk on mathematics and rhythm with Carl Haakon Wadeland, a professor of music and well-known drummer who's played with many famous Norwegian bands, including currently the very popular children's band Rasmus og Verdens Beste Band (Rasmus and the World's Best Band). We had so much fun practicing and performing together... we're both glad we'll get a chance to do it again in Oslo in a few months. I also got to meet and chat with was Rasmus (also from Rasmus og Verden's Beste Band). He closed the conference for us with a Q&A sesson and played several songs for us – quite a treat!

Nice folks!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Math room preview

Our new math room is nearly finished! We've got some more things to do like installing a magnetic board, outfitting with manipulatives and equipment and putting up wall and ceiling decorations. The room is at Regnbue barnehage. My company Matematikkhuset, working with Fem + En Til architects, designed and built it. It is for 0-3 year olds with the theme "rounded". We will begin designing our next room shortly for 4-6 year olds with the theme "straight".

The materials are very high quality and we're all very happy with how it turned out. Most important, the kids and the teachers love it as well.

Here's some pictures.

A "room in a room", places to creep in and peek out
Wavy benches

Storage inside the benches
More storage in the cabinets and shelf

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sushi, Guinness and a fire

Went out with Pam and friends from our company to celebrate 2 years in business. We went to Kos sushi bar downtown and were most of the way through a fabulous meal and 2 bottles of wine when the fire alarm went off. "No way we're leaving" we said to each other, until people from the back of the restaurant came running out. I grabbed the plate of strawberry rolls (salmon, strawberry, apple, avacado and cream cheese) and we followed. Moments later 5 fire trucks rolled up. Very fast response time – I understand they take fires very seriously in a downtown filled with old wooden buildings. We ate the sushi on the sidewalk, the envy of the other patrons who left their food inside (though we regretted not bringing the wine). Employees from the restaurant came around a bit later and said they would not be reopening for an hour or two and that we should go. It was sad. Both for the restaurant, and for us, who were enjoying an exceptional meal.

We went a few doors down to a Scottish pub and finished out the evening drinking Guinness. It was a strange combination of tastes ... and an unforgettable evening!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New basement windows

I've been putting in new windows in the basement, both for safety and to make the basement rooms feel more open. A few weeks ago I bought the windows and dug out around the window openings from the outside. Yesterday a friend brought some awesome tools over and we did some initial work, cutting and investigating the structure of the concrete walls. The previous windows were only 25 cm tall. The new windows are 80 cm, and open two different ways, one way for ventilation and a different way as an exit.

Today I used a compression hammer to make openings and remove the old windows. My friend was coming at 4:30 and I wanted to surprise him by having both openings done by the time he arrived so we could focus on setting in the new windows. I finished the second opening in time, went inside entirely exhausted and sat down, just to hear him knock on the door 60 seconds later! It was ok, though, I get really energized with these kind of projects. By 8:00 we had both windows in and sealed. There is still quite a bit of finishing work to do both inside and out, but that can wait a few days.

Me in my destruction gear
Pam flipped out when she arrived halfway through. She hates to see things like this... I love it!
Before (well, a couple holes already)
After. Tada! (Still lots to do, though)
One of the bricks from the basement wall. Weird, huh?

More pictures will follow when the windows are complete.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Minikart racing

Anna was invited to a minikart race track in Heimdal, so I drove a vanload of giggly girls down to the track. I was surprised with the size of the building. It has bowling, an arcade, and a HUGE indoor gokart track. The kids dressed up in racing costumes with hairnets and helmets, got a lecture on safety, and then went racing. It was an exciting event for the girls!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall vacation day 7: back home

Friday morning we had another full breakfast, this time it was a little strange as it was my attempt to eat up all the leftovers. Hot dogs sliced into scrambled eggs are pretty darn good. Every day we've had good breakfasts, pancakes, crepes, eggs and bacon. It's nice starting a day with no hurries, no plans other than "make breakfast."

We packed up and cleaned and were on the road right on time. We took a direct route home, straight south to Rissa then onto the ferry. We didn't get out of the car as we usually do on the ferry. We were glued to the stereo, listening to the final chapters of Ender's Game on the audiobook. We reached the end of the book just as we pulled into our driveway in Trondheim.

Here's an overview our trip:
 home is at F, Inderøy is at B, our hytte at C, Stokkøya and Linesøya at D and our friends' hytte in Selnes is at E.

Cost for the trip was about 600 kroner for gas and 4200 kroner for hytte rental for the week. Plus food, drink and Lego. I haven't done the math, but it surely cost us much much less than driving to Denmark. It was certainly much more peaceful and relaxing. We'll save Legoland for the spring...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall Vacation day 6: Selnes and Hiking

We made another road trip yesterday, this time to visit friends who own their own hytte on Fosen. It's a one-hour drive to Selnes, and the kids were again eager to hear more of the audiobook ("Ender's Game", by the way, highly recommended). We visited our friends for several hours, enjoying chicken dinner, and returned in the dark. Pam read to us from Harry Potter (the book is so much better than the movies!).

The next day, we dropped into Åfjord to inquire about hiking trails at one of the few shops. We were recommended a hike up to Solriks-something-or-other, which we did. Despite the steep trail, the ground was soaked with water and we soon all had wet feet except for Maggie, for whom Pam had just bought new hiking boots. I marveled at home much water the ground could hold even at an angle.

We thought perhaps we'd leave today, but we decided to stay until the last minute. It's been peaceful here. Not much to do. And that's been just the thing.

Rainbow on the way to Selnes

A wet hike

Sunset in Stordalen, view from our porch

Anna using her hand as a model as she sketches pictures

Peter dries his feet after a wet hike

Mike and Pam enjoying chili at the dining nook

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Vacation day 4: Stokkøya and Linesøya

Road trip! The kids were eager to get back into the van and continue listening to the audiobook we'd begun listening to on the way up. I was eager to get out of the woods and into some direct sunlight. We drove north up to Stokkøya (Stick Island), a popular summer destination. In October, we were the only souls around. There is a lovely white sand beach with a funky hotel and what we're told is one of the best seafood restaurants in Norway. We explored the beach, finding fish bones and jelly fish. The sun was shining but the wind was cold and the water even colder. It was definitely not a day for swimming but it didn't stop Anna from taking off her shoes and socks and running through the surf. It's October and she's splashing in the Norwegian Sea. (You've heard of the North Sea, yes? The Norwegian Sea is the next sea north of the North Sea. Brrr!)

I asked at the hotel if there was a central tourist area with shops here on Stokkøya. The lady behind the counter seemed amused. In a strange Norwegian dialect she told us of a grocery store on the island. Yes, we had passed this little store clinging to the cliff between the road and the sea on the way up here. If we want shops, she further explained, we'd need to go to Åfjord. I smiled. Åfjord is where our hytte is. There's about 10 stores there. It's the biggest city around. We are far from everything, near the end of the earth it seems.

The map shows the road continues to one more island. We must investigate. The road leads to a one-lane bridge from Stokkøya to Linesøya. The road is fenced with a motion-sensing gateway. I learned that these gates are to keep foxes off of the islands so they do not endanger bird populations. We followed the road, twisting through small farmlands – and sometimes right through small farms – until we came to the end of the road, a picnic table on a rocky outcropping at the end of the world. It felt lonely and desolate and yet somehow comforting. I think I could come to a place like this to die, to just fall off of the planet.

All in all, a gorgeous drive and a good outing. Back to our hytte for a few more games of Catan, hot dogs on the fire, and few a late night rounds of "monster" (hide and go seek, in the dark, with a slow-moving growling daddy-monster).

The drive to Stokkøya is just amazing. These pics don't do it justice.
Funky modern rooms to rent on the beach. We should do this next summer. Rent early I bet.
Hot tubs to rent. No one renting this season!
Mysterious fish part
Brilliant texture. I like textures.
Inflated sand dollar. Do they call them sandkroner in Norwegian? I wonder
Anna must be part polar bear
Maggie contemplating, as usual

Peter is ready to attack!
Lots of jelly fish to poke with sticks

Farmhouse at the end of the world on Linesøya

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fall vacation day 3: just hanging out

Our hytte (notice the similarity between Norwegian "hytte" and English "hut") we're renting is located in Stordalen ("the big valley") near Åfjord. I like the name "Åfjord". "Å" is equivalent to the English "oh!", so this is "oh!-fjord", a very appropriate name. It's gorgeous here.

The property we're renting has three buildings, each with grass roofs. The main building has a living room, two bedrooms, bath with shower, dining room with fireplace, kitchen and two lofts. One outbuilding is a sleeping quarters, and the third is a utility building with a sauna.

The property is located on a river feeding into Storvannet, and the view is idyllic. There is a waterwheel in the middle of the river, and on the second day rain had made the river move quickly and the wheel spun all day. Pam always talks about she likes "living in a postcard", and this place is certainly a postcard.

One of our few rules for the week is "no screens." There was much complaining at first, but we quickly grew accustomed to other forms of entertainment: craft projects, board games, walks in the woods, maintaining the fire.

On Monday, the day we would have been visiting Legoland (assuming good travel speed), the kids got to open their packs of Lego. I told them the day before we left that they could spend the price of their admissions to Legoland buying actual Lego, but they couldn't open it until Monday. On that morning, they were up early like it was Christmas. All day they built they Lego cities and Lord of the Rings battle sites. Happy kids. (Maggie was pleased to own a Lego Legolas. She pulled his legs off so she had a leg-less Lego Legolas. We built longer phrases involving encouraging a girl named Liz to let go of said figure, but it's not really worth repeating. If you want to try lengthening the phrase, knock yourself out!)

Me? I was happy just to sit on the porch, drink coffee, and look at this: