Friday, November 30, 2007

Workaday World

For the past few weeks, I've been subbing a bit at a wonderful little school here in town, and it's been completely fascinating and a hilarious experience so far. My background is working mainly with older kids (ages 14-18), but sometimes I'm with the wee ones (ages 5-9), which is a mindblower in itself. It's been a long time for me since tears and boogers were a normal part of interpersonal communication.

Today, I came in for an hour and a half to help with a bon voyage party for one of the older students who was moving away. No sad faces, just some goodbye cards scribbled on graph paper. Someone had blown up about 40 balloons, which were bopped around like beach balls until someone got the brilliant idea to start stomping on them. Then, a tray of hotdogs appeared out of nowhere, followed by egg rolls, and so the group of nine students (ages 13-16) sat around and shoved hotdogs into their mouths and played Green Day on a laptop computer. That was when they started begging to go home.

"Home?? I thought you guys were having FUN!!"

"We are! But we're BORED!!!"

It was about an hour from the end of the school day, so we cut a deal: They could go outside, but not home. Fair enough. The gal who was leaving tried to get Capture the Flag going, but no takers, so I suggested Red Rover, Red Rover, which they'd never heard of. It was like I'd given each kid a loaded rocket launcher. They. Went. NUTS. I guess when you're 14, RR, RR can be just about the most exciting thing ever, because you must 1) run, 2) scream, 3) be mildy violent and 4) grudgingly hold hands with all of your mad crushes (that you outwardly hate). YAY! Win-win!

For one of their classes, they have been working on research projects. The boys have read a portion of "The Godfather" and are researching the mafia, while the girls have been reading a book called "Supermodels." Yes. It's an in-depth look into the lives of today's supermodels, one of whom they will select and individually research in earnest. I can't tear myself away from this slim volume; I'm completely captivated. Here are a few choice verbatim excerpts:

Famous for: A smart model
Cindy was a smart student. After high school, she went to college in Chicago. She got 100% on one test there.

Famous for: A great smile
Claudia was with David Copperfield, but they separated after six years. Now, she is going to marry Tim Jeffries. He was with Elle Macpherson before Claudia!

Famous for: Short hair
Linda married a modeling agent when she was young. He was an older man. They separated after six years.

Famous for: Very thin
Kate Moss wasn't always happy. When she left the hospital, she found a new BMW at her house. It was from her old boyfriend, Johnny Depp. She went out for a drive. When she was out, a fire started in her apartment.

You see why I'm transfixed?

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Little Jack Alexander made it into the world on Monday, saying HOWDY to everyone with a big sneeze!

Congratulations to you both, Deanna and Alex! He's just beautiful and we just can't wait to meet him!

Thanksgiving, Herring Style!

No. Not really. But, we did stage a traditional American Thanksgiving last night for some dear Danish friends. And it did damn well near kill me. We had to push it back a week due to a variety of scheduling issues, including special-ordering a turkey from Slaughter Frank's, the butcher. No Butterballs or Jennie O's hanging about our grocery stores, unfortunately.

Despite some rather overcooked veggie side dishes, all was simply super duper. Our menu consisted of roasted turkey, stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, Brussel sprouts with bacon and shallots, fresh cranberry sauce, freshly baked bread, pecan pie and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Sadly, I found that I simply no longer possess the same abdominal vacancy volume that I used to, and so I spent a good hour staring glumly at my half-eaten plate of delicious food (which I paid for that night with the most spectacular heartburn fireworks). To cheer myself up, I had pie.

John and Jeppe were in charge of wine, so they chose something extra special, to remind Don and me of home:

Oooh, it was SO good. Neither Rebekka or Jorunn had made their chosen dishes before -- roast turkey, and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie -- but they turned out really, truly fabulous. I don't think Danes are all that accustomed to this concept of stuffing yourself beyond what you can comfortably hold in your belly, but these guys absolutely got into the spirit. Jeppe and Don had a silent, knowing competition of repeated helpings, while John announced that he thought he was probably going to be on the toilet for four days.

Jeppe, baby Victor and Jorunn:

Rebekka and John (our lovely hosts):

Don and me (completely exhausted):

It was SO much fun, and SO incredibly delicious! And I'm never doing it again. (Although I was asked if we could make this a monthly, if not a weekly thing.)

Understanding Is Good

Late this afternoon, I went to our friendly little pharmacy (or "apotek") to pick up a few items. Pharmacies in Denmark, incidentally, are kind of like all-purpose well-being stores, and you can get a lot of handy doodads there besides just prescriptions. They're quite official, however, a real take-a-number-please operation. Anyway, I had a couple of questions about some stuff I was buying, and I did it ALL in Danish!!!! No "I don't speak Danish well. Do you speak English?" for me! I got through my whole transaction without a word of English, and it felt amazing.

"Hello. I have these."
"Yes. Do you have the prescription?"
"Yes. It is here."
"One moment."
(Little stock-ticker loop running underneath my thoughts the whole time: pleasedon'taskmeanythingcomplexpleasedon'taskmeanythingcomplexpleasedon'taskmeanythingcomplexpleasedon'taskmeanythingcomplexpleasedon'taskmeanythingcomplex)
"Okay, here you go. Do you want the big one or the small one?"
"Hmmm. That is the small one?"
"I will have it. And I am pregnant. This is okay for me?"
"Yes, it is good."
"Great. Thank you."
"158 kroner, please."
"This is my money."
"Okay. And here is your change."
"Thank you. Bye bye!"

I felt like a freaking Rhodes scholar. I think I was actually smiling. While I am a tiny bit perplexed that there was NO applause when I walked out the door, it didn't matter. I did it! I did it! I did it!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

And He Shall Be Known As Thud

Baby-naming is a frightfully loaded minefield, I am quickly discovering. EVERYONE has an opinion:

"Don't name him THAT! It sounds WEIRD!"
"He's going to get beaten up on the playground. You do know kids will tease him?"
"Ugh. I dated a very freaky guy in college named that. DO NOT NAME HIM THAT."
"Are you intentionally trying to keep him a virgin until he's 50?"
"Don't you want him to have friends?"
"I like ____. How about that?"

Or, my personal favorite (hi Krista):

(straight face, no expression) "Huh."

If you haven't guessed by now, it's a boy! We do have a pretty good frontrunner that hits a lot of bases which are important to us, but we're keeping our cards close to our chest, SO DON'T ASK. It will probably change a few thousand times over the next 18 weeks (I KNOW!!!! EIGHTEEN WEEKS!!! WHAT AM I DOING TYPING A SILLY BLOG!!!!), but we like it for now.

However, my dad has come up with an excellent stand-in moniker. Searching for something kind of Nordic/Scandinavian, strong, short, easy to spell without any crazy characters, he put forth: Thud. You know, like Thor, but with a bit of zing to it, a bit more oomph. Don likes it because, as he says, this was the precise sound his jaw made hitting the floor on seeing that pregnancy test for the first time. (Although for some reason he has lately taken to addressing him as Nancy. Huh.)

Would You Just LOOK at What My Baby Done Did?!?!?!!

After four action-packed months of marriage, I assumed I knew everything there was possible to know about my husband. Wrong. I have recently discovered (as did he) that he is a WICKED PECAN PIE MAKER.

We're going to put on a Thanksgiving feast for our friends next week, delayed due to schedules and life in general. Don got a bee in his bonnet that he wanted to make a pecan pie for our Thanksgiving, and so he did a trial run first. There is no such thing as corn syrup here, so he had to make do with something called "mørk sirop" (dark syrup), which turned out to be browned cane syrup. Anyhow, the pie was smashing, and I think we both learned a very valuable lesson about leaving me at home alone with a cut pie. Nut by nut, it shrank down to nothing, until:

Yes, I have a problem. BUT, there are nuts in there, and nuts are natural, and the crust had some whole-wheat flour, which, um, contains fiber, so...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Whole Lotta Gelato Love

Of all my honeymoons, THIS was the best: ROME. Wow! Romantic, delicious, beautiful, educational. Don and I headed down south for five days of pizza, gelato and pasta, stopping off first for an overnight visit with Sophie and Mickey in their adorable new home in Cambridge, England. They set the tone for us nicely -- kedgeree and crumble with custard! GAH!

We opted to take the rent-an-apartment route rather than get squeaked out of every euro we had to our name in an sketchy train-station hotel. I've had too many bummer experiences of gauze-thin walls and beds of granite in "hotels," so I booked a sweet little apartment 2 blocks away from St. Peter's Basilica. It was SUPER cozy! And the hordes of overjoyed cockroaches were more than happy to sweep away any miniscule morsel of food-like substance that we had either spilled or tracked in with us. My valiant husband sent each and every one packing to Jesus (only 2 blocks away!) as I wimpered and acted the role of terrified newlywed wife, according to the script. My hero!

Spending time in Italy without the option of swilling barrels of wine can kind of turn you into a Debbie Downer, so I chose to eat everything I possibly could instead. The food got better and better...

Unfortunately, the toilet situation did NOT get better. It is hugely puzzling to me that Rome seems to be a place where toilet seats are not all that important. Okay, so, this is not quite the Italy of my youth where, at 6 years old, I cried in fury and deep humiliation as pee splashed all over my legs from having to squat and aim for a tiny hole in the ground. I guess things have now improved -- there are actual sit-down toilets these days. But no toilet seats? Am I being a snobby American? Perhaps so. Maybe they ARE kind of unnecessary? The whole time in Rome, this became my minor obsession, and I reported the contents of each cubicle to Don after every pit-stop, which, during pregnancy, can be an hourly thing. I wondered if maybe the city was trying to cut costs; no toilet seats would eliminate that pricey order from the toilet factory. Did they have a problem with rowdy tourists stealing them as souvenirs to take home? Could it be that Italians all carry their own personal Fendi or Gucci toilet seats? After a lot of mulling and discussion with Don, I've concluded that modern Romans are just too darn busy for toilet seats. I mean, who has the time? All this up-down-up-down business, and then that weekly cleaning? Forget about it! Look for Versace to be the first on the blinged-out catheter market in the spring.

Back to food: This photo is one of my favorites. In a pizza-by-the-ounce place near the Vatican, one could choose from pies loaded with mushrooms, spinach, Serrano ham, eggplant, buffalo mozzarella, sausage, or this -- sliced hot dogs and French fries. Yes, please!!!

Agressive cockroaches aside, our apartment was in a pretty great location. We walked through St. Peter's Square most mornings, marvelling at the throngs of tourists. In truth, we did hear more English than Italian around there, with a good bit of Japanese, Chinese and German, too.

A pre-lunch walk along the Tiber River...

A piazza with fountains...

On a lovely little street just after a truly fabulous lunch...

Making toast Italian-style...

At the Colosseum...

Inside the Pantheon...

At the spectacular Trevi Fountain...

Walking home over the Tiber to our little cockroaches...

Our bedroom ceiling was laid with bricks and mortar, and one morning, Don spied a dog paw print in one of the bricks. Bella was sending us all her love and kisses...

We walked so much that we hardly gained more than a pound or two, so not a bad take. We did make it to the Vatican (probably the most crowded place I've been in my entire life) (yes, even more than that George Michael concert in 1986), but I'm sorry to report that the most interesting thing there was a collection of Popemobiles spanning the past two hundred years. Lots and lots and lots of crucifixes, however. The Sistine Chapel was incredible, though there were so many people crammed in there, each spouting his own commentary about whatever, it was a little tough to block it all out. We're talking shoulder-to-shoulder, for real. Major points to Don for shushing the unbelievably loud American goon next to me who saw fit to lecture to his companion (and the rest of us) in outside-voice. Not cool, dude. I know this is a little like going to Times Square on New Year's Eve and complaining about the crowds, but MAN, maybe let just a few people in the chapel at a time? Or install a moving sidewalk, like at the crown jewels in the Tower of London? Yeah, go with the moving sidewalk, Benedict. All in all, an excellent five days. Yay Rome! (Sorry, roaches.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kinda Like Camping

When we returned from Rome last week, our sweet Bella-sitter informed us that there had been no hot water for a few days. Aha. Broken pipes? Only ice water from the tap. I see. That was a week ago Monday, and I am pleased to report that today, Tuesday, we now have hot water again! This may seem like no big deal to you fancy-pants city folk, but try going without it for even just a couple of days. Un. Pleasant. Yu. Cky. You ever washed dirty dishes by hand in freezing water? Not nice. We broke out our big pots and started the whole constant-boiling thing, which took forever, but it did get the job done. Bathing was a pain, but I tried to remind myself that it was kind of like camping. Minus the beer and hot dogs and trees and fresh air and good smells and laughs around a campfire. So, yes, like camping, minus the fun and positive stuff.

Anyhow, it's back now. Tomorrow's bonnet-starching, butter-churning and rug-beating will be SO much more enjoyable.

On the Road Again...

It appears that pregnancy's second trimester is just dandy for travel -- reduced fear of miscarriage, early labor and all that unsavory business -- so I've spent my silent blogoshere absence zooming around the planet in a whole bunch of flying machines. Three weeks visiting family and friends in Washington and sunny Arizona was just what the chakra doctor ordered.

I've always found airplane-window photography excruciatingly dull, except for my fine portraits. Behold -- the balmy tropical isles of Denmark:

Apparently, Copenhagen's airport has won all kinds of coveted awardery for being the best/coolest/most architechurally forward/efficient airport. I love how this part looks like a cathedral. Or rather like the space-age corridor to the Wizard of Oz's chamber:

Look how special -- a private smoking cabin! How relaxing for everyone!

Seattle was beautiful, as always. I hadn't realized how spectacular the autumnal tree colors were in that town. The leaves were so mesmerizing that I was unable to get it together enough to photograph them. But here is a picture of Krista's cat, Isabel. She and I spent many quiet hours thinking deep thoughts at one another.

After several days visiting Krista, Kathy, Jen, Brenda, Judy, Marcia and others, it was down to my dad's in the Columbia Gorge region. Ridiculously beautiful. Or, if one is to trust the legion of local bumper stickers, "IT'S GORGE-OUS!"

Down at Dad's, I'm afraid to report that I was unwittingly turned onto a particularly wicked, a uniquely evil and unforgiving addiction. I'm talking about Nips. And I say it loud and proud because I feel in my heart there are others out there like me, those who sometimes have Nips for dinner. Or get out of bed for one. Or two. Or a box. And, of course, guess what's NOT available in Denmark? Yes. Cold turkey, my friends. Rough days. My best advice to you now is that if you've never had a Nip, please -- don't start. (Send them to me instead.)

Off to Arizona! A layover in Salt Lake City afforded a fabulous view of the Great Salt Lake. American terrain is really something else...

Now, I'm not scientifically certain about this, but these two ponds may be the Snapple production facility just outside of SLC. See the red part? My indications tell me that's the strawberry sector of the strawberry-kiwi drink, and the green, obviously kiwi. (I must emphasize, however, that this is only an untested hypothesis.)

Tucson is really an incredible place. I lived here for ten months awhile back, despite the 120-degree days in July and no air conditioning. All of the crazy-delicious Mexican food made the languid sweats well worth it.

While getting my hair cut in Tucson, I noticed this awesome display of a brand-new product that the salon was hawking. Me? I think I'd go for the Fun Betty, myself, were I in the market to dye my pubic hair electric pink. (Although maybe I will surprise my midwife in about 4 months.) Needless to say, I don't think this product would fly in Denmark. Unless it came in red-and-white with a stencil of the Danish flag. Then: Gangbusters.

Oh, yes, lest I forget Mexican food (REAL Mexican food, that is). My poor mother has never been harangued to pull into every single Mexican joint in her whole city like she was last month. What can I say? Baby loves Paco's best, so a pre-airport stop was unavoidable. Can you hear me sighing? And struggling to keep my eyes from crossing? I knew this would be the last food with flavor for a long, long time. Paco, oh, Paco. Do you deliver?

And with that, I was off into the friendly skies, leaving Baby to happily work with all of the guacamole, carne asada soft tacos, chicken flautas and Mug rootbeer he could handle. The next 23 hours saw me from Tucson to Chicago to London-Heathrow to Copenhagen to Sønderborg. And I was very happy to be home.