Monday, February 27, 2012


The kids and I saw a fantastic bubble show at the science museum today.  It called itself "unbubblelievable" and it really was super.  It starred Jano Yang, a "soap bubble artist" who has performed around the world and holds a number of Guinness World Records relating to bubbles.  You can click here to watch a short clip of his artistry. 

The kids were totally captivated--even Izzy seemed interested.  At one point, Yang asked for a volunteer from the audience--specifically, "a boy with a nice, big smile."  Oscar, who volunteered very eagerly, and who has just such a smile, was chosen.  He was beyond thrilled.

Oscar was a big hit with the audience.  Jano Yang put a giant bubble around him, then said he'd find Oscar "a pretty girl" to join him onstage:

Oscar and the pretty girl were each given a huge bottle of bubbles for participating in the show...

The boys were so inspired by the performance that they put on a bubble show of their own Downtown while we waited for our bus.  When we got home, they blew bubbles in front of the house, attracting a sizable group of kids from the neighborhood for a big bubble blowout.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ski Trip

We were invited, along with all the Fulbright scholars in Norway and their families, on a trip to Oslo followed by a fabulous weekend at a ski resort.  We arrived in Oslo on Wednesday night, spent the day there on Thursday, took a chartered bus to Skei Kampen Resort with other Fulbrighters and Fulbright families on Friday morning, and returned to Bergen late Sunday night.

Davin attended a seminar all day Thursday, so the kids and I were on our own in Oslo.  I was a little nervous about keeping track of all four kids in a strange city (especially since running away and getting lost has become one of Sergio's favorite pastimes), so I wrote their names and the name of our hotel on their arms, and we walked down to the Museum of Cultural History.

They had great exhibitions about Prehistoric Norway,

...Medieval Norway,

...and cultures throughout the world.

Oslo was cool, but the big, big fun happened at the ski resort.  There were tons of activities to choose from.  And the boys had a blast with the kids of other Fulbright families.  We all had a fantastic time.

Our first day at Skei Kampen (Feb 17) was Oscar's 6th birthday.
Here he is, being presented with a very exciting birthday cake.

I found a beautiful handmade Norwegian sweater at Fretex (Salvation Army) and gave it to Oscar
as a birthday present.  I had given one to Davin for his birthday, and Oscar wanted one in the worst way.
Handsome, aren't they?

Here the guys are, ready to hit the slopes.
None of us ended up actually skiing (Izzy didn't express any interest, and Davin,
who's never been skiing before, wasn't sure he could manage himself and three small children on skis),
but we still had tons of fun...


...frolicking in the snow,


...lounging in the sun,

...watching a movie with new friends (L to R:  Axel, Oscar, Kayla, Anders, Jonah),

...and seeing an amazing performance by Mr. Toons.  This was one one of the most entertaining things I've seen in my life.  Click on this link to see a short video of him in action.

One of the highlights for me (apart from Mr. Toons) was definitely the food.  We ate like royalty.  Both the breakfasts at the hotel in Oslo and the meals at the ski resort were incredible.  I ate about half a pound of brie, tried an amazing ravioli with a curry cream sauce, and discovered that my new favorite thing is a slice of good bread topped with cream cheese, cucumbers, and red and yellow peppers...Who knew?

We ate most of our meals with other Fulbright families with small kids.  It was really nice.

The buffet was very fancy and featured lots of sea food as well as plenty of red meat
(which pleased Davin immensely--beef is expensive in Norway).

There were dreamy desserts--almost too beautiful to eat...

...And some food that really WAS too beautiful to eat--like this savory gelatin with prawns, hard-boiled eggs, and vegetables suspended in it.  YUM!

Beware... Ned Trappen

We spent the last few days outside of Oslo, in Lillehammer, enjoying the company of my fellow Fulbrighters, their families, and several members of the US-Norway Fulbright staff.  The annual ski trip (which Carrie plans to blog about more thoroughly) followed a midterm research presentation at the Norwegian Foreign Office and a reception held at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Oslo.  The midterm presentations were fascinating.  My colleagues are doing amazing things: using sound waves to monitor ocean temperatures, performing emergency veterinary medicine on wild bears, using analytic tools to predict and prevent global conflict, documenting the influence of Norwegian immigration on the culture and history of the upper Midwest, and many, many other topics.

And while I imagine many of you wish that I would tell about the happy events of the past few days, and perhaps I owe it to my readers and colleagues to dwell on these things, I will make a rare departure from my typical blogging persona to share with you a more sinister side of what was supposed to be a pleasurable and refreshing weekend.  I will tell you about our encounter with Ned Trappen, the ghost, who, according to Oscar and Jonah, haunts the Gausdal Resort in Lillehammer.
On Friday afternoon, mainly to keep the children from wasting their time playing Wii in the hotel's recreation room, I encouraged Oscar, Jonah, Kayla, and, later, Anders, take some time to explore the hotel.  A large complex consisting of many interconnected buildings, the Thon Hotel Gausdal at Skeikampen offers many opportunities to get lost.  In addition to the lobby, hallways and conference-style meeting rooms, there are many comfortable recreation areas, a parlor room, libraries, bars, lounges, and odd nooks.  The spaces are populated with comfortable furnishing, pianos, bookshelves, stockpiles of games, historical photographs, and old pieces of equipment, all with the potential to provide hours of investigation.  A fun way to spend a night, right?

That is, until I heard them talk about the ghost in the hotel.  Evidently, while exploring some of the more remote corners of the resort, those that are "off limits" to guests, they reported some curious findings.  First, they found a piano, that, at times, could be heard in playing in the distance.  When they went to investigate....  no one was there, at least no one they could see. 
Next, they found a reinforced door.  Why was it reinforced? It's hard to say, except that someone either wants to keep people out...  or to keep something in.
Outside the parlor room, they found an old switchboard.  Oscar mentioned that he heard something on the receiver, but when he examined the wiring, he noticed that it didn't seem to be connected to anything.
Driven now by an intense curiosity, the three decided to travel into some of the hotel's more obscure passages. They found a room that, apparently, had been disturbed by some paranormal activity.
In addition to inexplicably stacked chairs, they encountered a locked door to a dark passageway in which a faint flickering could be detected at the end.
After exploring another hallway, they came across a darkened basement passage that ended in a locked door.  This, according to Kayla, might be where they kept the coffin.
But whose coffin?  It was all made up, wasn't it?  That's what Oscar told me.  There couldn't be a ghost in the hotel, could there?  And that's when they found an important clue.
They discovered a cryptic sign that said "WC Ned Trappen."  After a bit of thinking, they discovered that this was the last Water Closet that Ned Trappen used before his accident on the ski lift many years ago.  You see, Ned Trappen was a world class skier whose body was cut in half in a horrifying ski lift accident.  His legs went skiing down the mountain.  His upper half trudges down from the mountain top every night, using his two ski poles to carry himself, looking for his legs.  They even found a picture of young Ned, taken before the tragic incident.
Of course, the kids knew they were inventing these stories out of thin air, but it did not stop them from getting fairly freaked out by old Ned.  While running away from some strange sound he heard, Oscar tripped.  With a worried look on his face, he said, "Dad, you know, Ned Trappen is just something we made up. But, weird things keep happening to me.  You know, I normally don't trip when I run.  Why would that happen now?" Later that night, his water glass, floating on a thin sheet of water, slid across the counter.  "Dad!  You know, Ned Trappen just means 'downstairs' in Norwegian.  It's not real.  But my glass just moved across the counter.  I wasn't touching it." 
Today, traces of this nonexistent character can be found everywhere, if you know how to look.  According to some, his shape even haunts the landscape of Lillehammer...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Good Growing, Izzy!

A week after Isidore was born, a "health visitor" came to the house and weighed him (this is standard in Norway and, I think, a really nice practice).  He still hadn't quite caught up with his birth weight.  The health visitor said this was a little concerning, so she suggested I bring him in to her office a week later to make sure he's gaining enough weight.  When I brought him for his appointment, she said he had gained 345 grams--much more than she would have expected.  I didn't understand how impressive this was until I was making lunch and noticed that a "family pack" of cream cheese weighs 300 grams--packing on more than that is not bad for a week's work.  Today, two weeks later, I took him to another appointment, and discovered that he'd gained nearly 400 more grams (that's two packages of salami).

Here's a recent picture that I thought was really cute...Isidore's brothers sure do love him.

I took the picture above while the rest of the boys were in bed.  It's a miracle that I caught Isidore smiling, since he doesn't do it at all predictably yet.  In the morning I showed it to the kids and told them that sometimes while they're sleeping and he thinks no one's looking, Izzy likes to smile a lot and crawl all over the place.  Oscar was like, "REALLY?!?"