May 4 & 5: Parent-student-teacher conferences and more

We had parent-student-teacher conferences, scheduled for a half-hour chat about how things are going at school for the kids. We went through the regular system: the kids filled out a self-evaluation form (sad face-neutral face-happy face) for each subject, with space for comments, and setting goals. Then we all went together to talk with the teachers about it and hear how they are doing.

Nora was quite sad at her meeting because she needs to work harder on paying attention and learning Norwegian. It’s easy for her mind to wander to all of the other stories in her head, which was also feedback we got from her Spanish teachers at Garfield. Her teacher was extremely kind, and she really likes her teacher and doesn’t want to disappoint, and she is generally afraid of making mistakes so hearing that she has room to improve is tough for her. We all understand, and are doubling down on helping her improve her school habits and skills. She will also finally have to make a real effort at norsk now that her Canadian-Norwegian friend is moving to another school; she’s been taking it a little too easy because she’s like a little UN delegate with a translation bud in her ear all of the time. When she knows she will get the translation, she doesn’t have to try to understand. But she is doing very well socially, is a cheerful rainbow in the classroom (literally on many days because of her choice of clothes), and is well loved. She is still playing soccer, happily walking to and from practice on her own, and has played with more classmates that don’t speak much English, so she is learning to be adaptable.

Anders is officially the best norsk speaker in the house–the conference was entirely på norsk! He can follow pretty much everything his teacher says and reply, although he is still getting down some of the grammar and plenty of vocabulary, but he is certainly functional. I could follow most of their conversation, my norsk has seemed to click lately, but Ted was left out a bit. Most of what we hear about school from him is about recess–they are outside for 1 to 1.5 hours every day, and the whole class plays basketball, capture the flag, or other games every day. Pretty sweet deal. On the elementary school-sized basketball courts, he feels like an NBA player, dunking all day long! But he was supposed to be reading from norsk books to us every night, then translating for us, but he hasn’t been doing that. That’s the new habit we have to get into with him, and it’s good for Nora to see and hear too.

To celebrate after conferences, we went out for dinner at Milano, an Italian restaurant in the nearest shopping center to our house. Anders asked how many people a large pizza would feed, and the waiter said 2, but 1 if you are hungry. Lies! We laughed so hard when these two huge pizzas arrived! I think Ted was still laughing and made the picture blurry. They were pretty bland too, not too Italian at all. But my 2nd glass of red wine in 4 months helped, and Anders and Ted were happy to bring pizza to school for lunch. We are so proud of them for being brave and taking on school in a different country and a whole new language, it’s very impressive!

Anders may be the best norsk speaker in real life, but I finished all of the Duolingo app norsk lessons! It took about 8 months, but I had a 100 day streak to finish it off, timed it just right. I learned such key phrases as “I am drunk and alone,” which is “Jeg er full og alene,” so be careful about saying you are “full” after a meal, that means you are drunk. Instead you say, “jeg er mett,” I am satisfied. I was exposed to a lot of words, which doesn’t mean I really speak the language.

Early alert system: There is general agreement that we should come back to Trondheim when the kids are in 7th and 10th grade, those “middle” doldrums years in the US system. Nora is even kind of on board. You can’t say we didn’t warn you! We will have to keep up the norsk for 2 years so that we get an earlier “click” with the language next time.

It’s been in the 50s lately, with some rainy days and some sunny days. The sun is up now around 4:30 am, although it gets light before 4, and sets around 10:00pm, although it stays light until around 11. The long days are upon us! When the weather is nice, Ted and Anders have been out to play catch at the schoolyard. Nothing says “I’m American” like strapping some cowhide to your hand and throwing a small hard ball at each other. What yankees. But it turns out that there is a club baseball team at NTNU, and another for the city, which also welcomes anyone to practices. They list about 18 club teams around the country, and they play games here occasionally. Anders would like to go to a practice sometime, and maybe we can take some of his friends to see a game.

Nora and her gaggle of friends have been meeting and running around outside, clearly plotting something. There was a large dumpster outside for about a week, a spring cleaning opportunity provided by the housing association (these are condos). The girls found all kinds of “treasures” out there.

We learn a little bit more about Norway’s system and customs through friends and co-workers, and I’m reading 1 newspaper per week. The Saturday paper is like our Sunday paper, with more content, so I buy 1 newspaper and a fizzy water every Saturday, which sets me back about $10. Then I spent all week reading the newspaper, because I’m such a slow reader and have to look up some words. Seems like a fine investment.

Here’s an unbelievably rational policy choice by the Norwegian healthcare system: People diagnosed with celiac disease get 2000 kroner (about $250) per month because of the higher cost of gluten-free food. Because it’s cheaper to eat properly than to treat the illness. Can you imagine a private health insurance company doing that? I always thought that we should get a food allowance for the ketogenic diet because it was very expensive to buy the foods Nora needed. Our health insurance would pay for drugs, but not for proper food. I fought with them once about just covering the visit with her dietician. I wonder about the state of the ketogenic diet here, maybe I will have to do some research. We’ve found some great foods that would be keto friendly, and dairy is a big part of a traditional diet, so it would be possible.

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About Christy Anderson Brekken

In no particular order... Instructor and Researcher, Department of Applied Economics, Oregon State University. Educational background: University of MN Law School, 2005. MS in Ag and Resource Economics, Oregon State University, 2011. Teaches: Agricultural Law, Environmental Law. Mother: brilliant 9 year old boy; brilliant 6 year old girl with benign myoclonic epilepsy on a modified ketogenic diet therapy. Married to: Ted Brekken, OSU Department of Electrical Engineering. Ride: Xtra-cycle Edgerunner with kid seat; 400-pound cargo capacity. Grew up: Devils Lake, ND. Lived in: Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, Pohang, South Korea, Trondheim, Norway, Corvallis, OR. Interests: Cooking, knitting, eating, yoga, laughing, hiking, traveling, staying sane.
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