Sunday, April 22, 2012

Norwegian Clothes

There's a popular Norwegian expression, Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing."

Luckily, they have stunningly good clothing here.

Norwegians, especially Norwegian preschoolers, tend to spend a lot of time outdoors regardless of the weather.  Since rainy days far outnumber dry days in Bergen, good rain gear is extremely important.  Preschoolers here wear something called a regndress that allows them to stay warm and dry even if they sit outside in puddles in the pouring rain for hours at a time (good thing, too, because that's what they sometimes do).

Sergio just started preschool this week (!), so here he is modeling his new regndress and waterproof mittens:

Sergio in his Regndress

Another ingenious solution to all the rain is the boot dryer.  Boot dryers (which are are also great for drying mittens and gloves) are standard household appliances here.  Ours looks like this:

Boot Dryer

But the most amazing thing about Norwegian clothes is the wool.  Norwegians wear lots and lots and lots of wool.  But it's not that scratchy stuff I know from the US--it's Merino wool and it's soft and cozy and comfortable and wonderful.  Most Norwegian kids wear WOOL LONG UNDERWEAR, and Norwegians even dress their newborn babies in wool!

When Isidore was born, for gifts Davin's Department gave him a beautiful wool baby blanket and a wool/silk blend shirt.  The shirt is a miracle.  In addition to looking really cute and feeling supersoft and wonderful, it washes itself!  It's made with raw wool, so it contains lanolin (wool grease), which naturally breaks down bacteria.  If it gets soiled, you can just rinse it under lukewarm water and hang it up to dry.

Izzy was wearing it when I took his passport photos:

Izzy sports a wool/silk shirt for his mugshot.

Everyone knows that wool keeps you warm, but I had no idea that it still keeps you warm even if it gets wet.  That's why it makes perfect sense to use it here.  But it gets much colder in the Midwest in the winter than it ever gets in Bergen, so it would also make good sense to use it there.  Now that winter is over, you can find a lot of wool clothes on sale, so I finally bought the boys wool undershirts and ullstrømpebukser (wool tights)--standard winterwear for virtually all Norwegian kids.  We can still get some use out of it in the spring here, and it'll be great to have next winter in the States.

The kids model their wool underclothes.

They were so happy with their new clothes, gave them such good reviews, and wanted to wear them so often, that I rushed back out and bought a matching wool shirt for Izzy and some wool tights for myself.  (The shirt I'm wearing in the picture below is, alas, not wool.  It's just a tank I already happened to have.)

More wool undershirts and ullstrømpebukser.

Another great thing about Norwegian clothes is that they tend to be very high quality.  Oscar is really hard on his boots.  We got him a brand new pair in the US and brought them to Norway, but he wore holes in the bottoms within a couple of weeks.  So last fall we bought him another pair at the mall here.  They lasted until just recently, when the soles cracked and started letting water in.  I took him back to the same store to get another pair exactly like them.  Before buying the new pair I asked the clerk whether they had any sort of guarantee on their shoes, because I was hoping not to have to buy another pair before returning to the US this summer.  When I mentioned that the last pair I bought was letting in water, she said, "If you bring them in we'll refund you your money."  Thinking she misunderstood the situation, I said, "No, they're not new.  He's already been wearing them for months."  She said, "Well, they still shouldn't be letting in water.  We'll give you your money back."  "But I didn't bring my receipt," I told her.  "It's not really necessary.," she said, "We guarantee them for at least two years, even without a receipt."  I was stunned, which she seemed to find kind of amusing.  She shrugged and told me, "It's your right as a consumer."  I love Norway.

Other news of interest:

* We got our tickets back to the US.  We're flying in to MN on July 2 and will be back in Michigan sometime before the Lenawee County Fair - July 22 through 28 (Be there or be square!).

* Izzy's 3 months old now, and getting very interested in the world around him.  He just started laughing this past week, much to everyone's delight.

* Jonah, Oscar, and Sergio went to the dentist yesterday and had a really good experience.  Dental care is covered for all children in Norway.

* The days are getting really long.  The sun will rise tomorrow at 5:40am and set at 8:53pm.  We try to get the boys to bed by 8:00, but it's hard for them to sleep because it's still as bright as day at that time.  Two months from now, the days will be nearly 19 hours long, with the sun rising at 3:54am and setting at 10:44pm.

* I ended up enrolling Sergie in preschool with Oscar.  I finally realized that he's not likely to become proficient in Norwegian just hanging out with me all day.  Plus, he's been dying to go to school as long as we've been here.  He's LOVING it, and never wants to leave when I come for him.  Yesterday, as I was leaving the schoolyard with him, he said something to his teacher in his sweet little sing-song voice.  She didn't catch what he said, so she asked me to repeat it.  I thought for a second about lying and saying I hadn't heard, but then went ahead and told her:  "I hate our home.  It's dumb."  Before last week he liked our house just fine and wanted to be with me every moment.  But he's been having so much fun, I guess watching me clean the house no longer compares.  On Tuesday, for example, his class hiked up into the mountains, pitched a tent, and cooked lunch outside.  It used to be, on the rare occasions that we were apart, he'd run up to me, joyfully shrieking, "It's Mom!" when he saw me again.  The other day, I went to bring him home and found him happily playing in the schoolyard.  I came up behind him, crying "Sergie!" and giving him a big hug.  He turned his head slowly and sorrowfully around and muttered, "Awww, Mom!" in an EXTREMELY disappointed way.

* There was a big physics convention in town that brought scientists from all over Europe.  Today was the last day of the convention and they were doing community outreach at the science museum.  They set up tables with loads of super interesting, hands-on physics demonstrations.  The kids were enthralled.  There was also an exciting Fisikshow that involved lots of fire, explosions, and liquid nitrogen:

Mixing Liquid Nitrogen with Hot Coffee

The kids (in their favorite wool stripes) ready themselves for an explosion.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter!

The kids have been off school all week, so we've been partying like rock stars.  We pushed the couches in the living room together to form a megabed, and the boys have had "slumber parties" every night.  Here are some photos of the aftermath:

Not only is there no school during Holy Week, but most people also have work off as well, so it's common for Norwegians to spend the week traveling.  Even most of the grocery stores are closed for much of the week.  Good Friday is solemnly observed here--I've heard that commercial ads are not played on TV on Good Friday, just charity ads.

There's also a bizarre tradition of following crime stories at this time of year--the Norwegian TV stations each produce a detective miniseries for Easter, publishers put out books called "Easter-thrillers," and Tine, the nation's biggest milk company, even runs crime comics on their milk cartons.

We didn't travel or read crime stories (though we did try to understand the one printed on our milk carton) over the break, but we did do some interesting things.  One of the highlights was exploring a great area nearby called Fantoft.  Check out this cool wall at the tram stop:

Fantoft has nice play areas that the kids really enjoyed, and we hiked around on some beautiful trails.  There's a stave church there as well.  Stave churches are beautiful, wooden, medieval churches.  Norway is famous for them, but up until last week, I hadn't seen one in person.

Fantoft Stave Church was built elsewhere in Norway around 1150, moved to Bergen in 1883, burned down by a black metal musician (!) in 1993, and an exact copy was rebuilt in 1997.  It's really neat-looking.  Here's a photo I took while we were there:
Fantoft Stave Church

Another adventure Oscar and Davin had was walking to the City Center and back (about 4km each way), doing "ninja training" as they went.  They had such a good time that they did it again with Jonah the next day.

We also went to Vilvite, the children's science museum.  This is nothing new (we've been there many, many times), but I had a new experience there--one I'd been dreaming of since our first visit:  I finally got to go on the Sentrifugalskapen!  Up until now, I'd always been either pregnant or there without Davin (or any other grown person who could look after Izzy and Sergio while I was on the bike).


The boys wore their "Dino Team Uniforms."

Jonah and Oscar participated in a "Cupcake Workshop" at the museum.

Yesterday, Easter day, the kids jumped out of bed (or couches, rather) around 6:00am and immediately started hunting for Easter eggs.  Among the wonderful things they found hidden in the yard were Kinder Eggs (banned in the US!) and Moon Dough (one of the most amazing substances I've ever had the pleasure of handling).  Here in Norway, Easter goodies are delivered in paper egg-shaped containers rather than Easter baskets.  The kids are displaying theirs in the pictures below:

After the big egg hunt, we took a bus Downtown and went out for a fancy buffet breakfast at Rica Hotel Bergen.  It was fabulous.  Then we went to the High Mass at St. Paul Kirke, Bergen's only Catholic Church.

Oscar had given up computer and video games for Lent, so Davin hooked up a Play Station for the kids yesterday to celebrate the end of Lent.  The family we're renting the house from had left one and said we should feel free to use it--Jonah often asks about using it, but I hate for them to play video games, so we had never let them play it before.  They have something called EyeToy, though, and it turns out it's much cooler than regular video games.  You use your whole body to play and it detects your actions with a video camera.  I liked it because playing requires a lot of physical activity and the games can involve everyone in the room at once.  It was really fun.

Afterward, we ate a very nice Easter dinner that Davin had made, and had the last of our slumber parties.

Today (Easter Monday) is known as the Second Day of Easter here, and the shops and schools are still closed.  So today we're just relaxing, eating lots of chocolate, reading lots of Harry Potter, and enjoying our last day of the holiday break.