Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In the Navy

So, this afternoon, I washed about 98,429,713 bottles. By hand. On completion of the rather gargantuan task, I stepped back, looked at my work, and said, "Well, all right!"

And then, at that moment, a marching band started playing outside of my window.

But it wasn't for me.

Looks like the Danish navy has pulled in for a little Tuesday whoop-de-woo! Welcome to town, fellas! They're playing "Rock Around the Clock" as I type this.

(Nice August afternoon we're having, huh?)

Hello! My Name Is [UNAPPROVED]!

On my to-do list for today is, "Find form to change William's name." Yes, we have to legally get his name changed, because round about four months ago when I attempted to register him at our town hall, I was told no, sorry, you cannot name him those names which you and your husband have lovingly and effortfully searched the corners of your minds and memories for because, you see, one of them -- Atticus -- simply does not exist on the approved list of Danish names as per the Order of the Ministry of Names.

Ummmm... I see. What?

(And of course I immediately flashed back to Monty Python's Ministry of Funny Walks, not too far a leap.)

After doing the "ha, ha, you're joking...right?" laugh, I actually whipped out this line: "But, but -- I'm an American citizen! He's an American citizen! How... But...? It's a... But... from a very famous book! A classic! The character is... This can't... Uh?"

'Tis true. Here in the Land of Many Orderly Rules, you cannot name your kid whatever you want; it actually must be on the approved list of names. (I'm not joking, once again.) This is to prevent Danish residents from naming their child Badonkdonk or Frying Pan or Zqxrefff8dskil. (Because that would be disorderly.) I recall staring into the clerk's face very intently, waiting for her to tell me she was kidding, or at least to give me some advice or comprehension or even a tiny spoonful of solace. I must have made her the slightest bit uncomfortable as she hesitantly told me that I could, if I really wanted to, appeal my case to the Ministry of Names, explaining why we'd chosen this name and why it's actually not in the least bit ridiculous or offensive and perhaps William's wonderful middle name would be approved. In three to four months. Maybe. Good day.

This is an excerpt from an excellent article in the International Herald Tribune (http://www.iht.com/articles/2004/10/08/news/danes.php):

In Denmark, a country that embraces rules with the same gusto that Italy defies them, choosing a first and last name for a child is a serious, multitiered affair, governed by law and subject to the approval of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and the Ministry of Family and Consumer Affairs.

At its heart, the Law on Personal Names is designed to protect Denmark's innocents - the children who are undeservedly, some would say cruelly, burdened by preposterous or silly names. It is the state's view that children should not suffer ridicule and abuse because of their parents' lapses in judgment or their misguided attempts to be hip. Denmark, like much of Scandinavia, prizes sameness, not uniqueness, just as it values usefulness, not frivolousness.

"You shouldn't stand out from anyone else here; you shouldn't think you are better than anyone else," said Lan Tan, a 27-year-old Danish woman of Singaporean and Malaysian descent who is trying to win approval for her daughter's name, Frida Mei Tan-Farndsen. "It's very Scandinavian."

Greg Nagan, 39, and Trine Kammer, 32, thought it would be cute to name their new daughter Molli Malou. To their surprise, Malou was not a problem, but Molli with an i, which they had thought sounded Danish, had to be reviewed by the government.

The church told Kammer she needed to state in a letter the reason for choosing Molli. She did so, and said she told the clerk, "Here's your stupid letter: The reason for naming her Molli is because we like it."

"Isn't this silly?" Kammer said. "We love to make everything a rule here. They love to bureaucratize."

I guess this is a great example of taking intrinsic freedoms for granted. I grew up in a pretty free (sometimes too free) country, and now I live somewhere where I can't even call my child what I feel is best without running it past some harrumphy old Ministry. On the other hand, I also live in a country where virtually no one can own or carry a gun; I really like that. Give and take, I suppose. And so I'm off to our kommune (town hall) for a form to submit to get his name changed, a new birth certificate, and then we'll apply to have his passport amended. All for a hefty fee, of course.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back to Work

This past week, I started my new job as a part-time teacher at the school where I subbed last year. It's a very small private school where all classes are taught in English. It shouldn't be such a big deal, but 1) I have a four-month-old baby whom I have to say goodbye to most mornings of the week, and 2) I haven't had a job in TWO WHOLE YEARS, something that hasn't been the case since I was 14. Oh, if I had a buck for everytime I fantasized about not having a job over the years... Frankly, it kinda sucked. I never had the "yay! it's FRIIIIIDAAAAAY!!!!" feeling, because everyday was a Friday, every morning was Sunday morning. Nebulous. Structure is a mighty good thing to have in your life, and I've sure missed it these past two years.

But now, it's back, in force. Not only do I have to organize my own structure, but I also must push and pull 20 middle-schoolers along with me for eight hours each week, in and around the magical kingdoms of English and History. Curiously, not many 13-year-olds are naturally and intrinsically overjoyed to do so, but I'm up for the challenge. I kicked off my classes by creating a charter of sorts, asking the kids to ponder for a few minutes what traits make for an effective teacher, and what makes for an effective student. Kind of big ideas for the pre-teen set, I know, but I wanted to see where it would go. The youngest kid in the class is 8, and the oldest is 14. (Yep, it's a multi-age, multi-level classroom. You can see how my mind boggles, right?)

They took the task quite seriously. After mulling over and jotting down what they thought were the most important attributes in teachers and students in order to make for a really great classroom, this is what they came up with (click on the photo to see a larger version):

How relieved am I to have just barely made that age cut-off. WHEW!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Catching All Y'all Up

We've been on the road for most of the past two months -- Seattle, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tucson, Portland -- and that's meant TEN flights for us and young William. I've been asked so many times, "How did he do flying?" which is usually accompanied by a somewhat nervous facial expression. Simply put, he did beautifully, far better than we'd expected. Part of the great thing about flying SAS is that when you tell them you're flying with a baby, they seat you in the bulkhead, and then two smiling flight attendants bring out a little baby bed that screws right into the wall in front of you. Voila -- fresh crib linens are whisked into place, baby toys and spare diapers are lovingly placed into your hands as your infant is fawned over by the flight crew. Pretty dang nice. And not having to hold a baby in your arms for nine hours is also a major treat. Flying to Seattle was a dream (he slept the entire trip), although our seat-mates flying back to Copenhagen were a rather jangled pair of parents and their even more jangled 9-month-old who shrieked the loudest, most eardrum-bleedingest shrieks from out of nowhere the entire journey (when not tumbling right out of the bed itself). This occurred about every 30-60 minutes, and poor little William did NOT care for it one bit, opting to demonstrate his displeasure by crying. And for any of you who have had the rare misfortune of seeing him cry, well, you know that that's some mighty sad business all right. It was definitely not the funnest time of our lives, but so it went. For nine hours...

It was such a fabulous summer all around, and now it's time to get serious and all worky again... BAH HUMBUG!

Monday, August 04, 2008


I've had a wonderfully literal summer. Not much figurative about it, just loads and loads of very tangible, real, in-your-face joy and relaxation. I've literally gained a few very real pounds (oooh...margaritas AND onion rings!), and I've ticked away innumerable hours laughing and gabbing with some of the best friends ever invented, and I really did cut off all my ratty long hair (which had somehow become a baby stabilizer... OW!). Perhaps the most literal moment of all came when I remembered (poolside in Honolulu) that we left our Danish apartment having forgotten one terribly important thing: To empty the diaper bucket. And, so it sat. Packed. Full. For seven weeks. It appeared that our Bella-sitters did not quite see fit to empty (go near?) it. Guess whose attending it fell upon returning home?

It. Was. Tremendous.


Saturday, August 02, 2008


So... May. Like, LAST MAY. MAN. Like, WHAT IS UP WITH THE POKEY POSTS? Well, I'm sorry, everybody. I guess my mommy is all BUSY or something. Diapers and stuff, you know. Bottles. LOTS of bottles. And holding me, and talking to me, and smoothing my hair and nibbling my toes and purring in my ears to make me giggle and making weird cross-eyed googoo faces at me and stuff. Whatevs. She's a little nutsy about this mama business, so I guess she's not super into blogging these days. Apologies, guys, for reals. Clearly I have to do everything around here. But, here are some mad cute snaps of ME! ME! ME! to tide the frenzied masses over until she joins the living again... More soon!