Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My 30-year old husband

Yesterday the Husband turned 30 years old. He is 4 years younger than I am, and most of our friends are my age or older, so the Husband was usually “the youngest one”. When I talked to my friend A. (who’s a bit older than I am) she said “the Husband is turning 30? Well that’s about time!”

I remember my 30th birthday; I was just about 9 months pregnant with the youngest one and not very concerned about my own age or what I had accomplished before that day; I was having children. The Husband has spent the past few months fretting about his age and achievements however. The thesis might have taken the Husband longer than planned, but we did have 2 boys in between, and I think being happily married with 2 children, on the verge of finishing a doctorate and landing a professor position is not a bad accomplishment at the age of 30, is it? I am proud.

By Lovain

Our baby has arrived

On Friday morning my friend the amazing M. gave birth to her 3rd child; a beautiful baby boy. Tears of joy ran down my cheeks as I hugged her a few hours later. He was perfect! It was a quick yet painful birth (as births have been known to be) and afterwards the amazing M. said this was her very last birth. If Mr. Speedo wanted to have more children then he could have the next one, she said.

Well, Mr. Speedo, I guess it’s “1-2-3 strikes you’re out”.

By Lovain

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Swedish culture & the Swedes

I found this amusing list “you know you’ve been in Sweden too long when…” here, and below is an excerpt containing my favorites. Most of the observations made me go “aaaahhhh” or “oooohhh” with a nostalgic, longing kind of sound. Sometimes I really miss Sweden.

1. You no longer snigger when you see grown women walking around with their hair in plaits.

3. The first thing you do upon entering a bank/post office/chemist etc. is to look for the queue number machine.

4. You accept that you will have to queue to take a queue number.

5. When a stranger on the street smiles at you, you assume:
a: he is drunk
b: he is insane
c: he's an American

11. The reason you take the ferry to Finland is:
a: duty free vodka
b: duty free beer
c: to party need to get off the boat in Helsinki, just turn around and do it again on the way back to Sweden.

12. Your coffee consumption exceeds 6 cups a day and coffee is too weak if there is less than 10 scoops per pot.

14. A sharp intake of breath has become part of your vocabulary, as has the sound ”Jah hahh”

15. Your native language has seriously deteriorated, now you begin to "eat medicine", "open the television", "close the lights off", “take a beer”, ”look upon everything” and tell someone to “follow with me” or "you needn't to!" You start to say “for 2 years ago” and expressions like "Don't panic" creep into your everyday language.

16. You associate pea soup with Thursday.

23. The fact that all of the "v's" and the "w's" are together in the phone directory seems right.

24. Your old habit of being "fashionably late" is no longer acceptable. You are always on time.

25. Hugging is reserved for sexual foreplay

28. You hear loud-talking passengers on the train. You immediately assume:
a: they are drunk
b: they are Finnish
c: they are American
d: all of the above

30. You know how to fix herring in 105 different ways.

31. You eat herring in 105 ways.

38. You no longer see any problem wearing white socks with sandals.

39. Indoors you wear sandals with socks, regardless of the season.

40. You no longer correct people who say MAC Donald's.

43. You know that "religious holiday" means "let's get pissed."

44. You enjoy the taste of surströmming and lutfisk.

49. You eat jam with savory dishes

51. You accept that 80 degrees C in a sauna is chilly, but 20 degrees C outside is freaking hot.

53. It no longer seems excessive to spend 1,000kr on alcohol in a single night

57. Having to book seat numbers at a cinema makes perfect sense. And you sit in your booked seat even if there are only 2 other people there and your seat is in the front row, on the side.

60. Someone calls you a ”good moron” first thing in the morning and you smile acknowledgement.

63. You associate Friday afternoon with a trip to systembolaget.

64. You think nothing of paying $50 for a bottle of 'cheap' spirits at systembolaget

65. You know all of the “telephone times” by heart.

73. You wear warm clothing when it's 25 degrees plus in April - because it's April.

74. You wear shorts and t-shirt when it's barely 10 degrees in July - because it's July.

75. You get extremely annoyed when the bus is two minutes late.

76. You think women are more than equal than men and deserve to have better positions in the work place.

81. You've been engaged for four years and don't have any plans to get married.

83. You and your friends know exactly the same information, and have the same attitudes and beliefs in the value of Social Democracy.

85. You think that if you smoke a joint you will wind up in an insane asylum. [or become a habitual criminal]

90. You think black rimmed glasses are cool. Your wardrobe now consists of 20 different shades of black and grey.

89. You stop explaining to people what Christmas Crackers are and accept that they aren't - at least in Sweden

94. You don't question the concept of 'telephone time'. It seems reasonable that no business can be conducted on Friday afternoons. [or the entire month of July]

95. You assume that anyone who apologizes after bumping into you is a tourist.

96. You feel discomfort if you can't find the nummerlap machine.

97. You reach for your pocket 20 times a day as mobile phones ring all around you.

98. You actually care if your mobile phone meets the fashion standard - and so do your new Swedish friends.

99. It seems reasonable that even those begging for money at T-centralen reach for their pocket as the melodic music of the Swedish mobile phone resounds.

100. You get into a Mercedes taxi cab and think nothing of it

101. Paying $6 for a cup of coffee seems reasonable.

102. You understand that when a colleague asks you out for "a drink," it will probably be a long night with a severe hangover the next day.

103. You start to think that having a sauna in the nude with a bunch of strangers is a necessary part of daily life ... and a necessary part of business.

104. You start to differentiate between types of snow.

107. You become extremely skilled at assembling pre-packaged furniture kits.

109. You get to the movies early so that you can watch the commercials.

114. Your shed becomes the first stage in the recycling process and you can't get in it for bags of paper/cardboard/bottles, refundable glass/plastic, recyclable glass/plastic/ containers/etc.

116. When offered a bottle of beer the first thing you look at is the alcoholic percentage.

120. You use the alcohol percentage-per-kroner standard for measuring the quality of beer and wine.

121. You think it is normal EVERYTHING is regulated and you obey the rules voluntarily.

133. Even you can hear your own accent.

134. When someone asks you for "sex" you assume they mean half-a-dozen.

137. You expect to find the glove you dropped in February hanging on a post in June

138. Bringing dead sticks indoors at Easter and hanging colored feathers on them seems a good way to celebrate spring.

139. Pigs say ”nerf nerf”, frogs say ”kvack, kvack” and roosters say ”kuckeliku”

140. You immediately think that a bottle of wine contains 75cl, and a carton of cream is 3dl. And you can’t for the life of you remember just what 500ml is in dl or cl.

142. You talk of –10C as ”10 degrees cold”, when in Australia +10C would be considered cold. And who else calls +1C, ”one degree warm”!

143. You know that ”Extrapris” goods are cheaper, even though your English mind translates the word as ”extra price”

144. You will squeeze past somebody rather than say excuse me.

146. The first thing you do in the morning is to switch on your car heater.

150. A fun way for people to pass a wintry afternoon is to watch a Bandy match outdoors when it's minus 20 degrees.

151. Everybody has an outdoor thermometer at home and they all compare temperatures when they get to work.

153. You ringed somebody yesterday instead of you rang them.

154. Your husband is very long instead of being very tall

158. You pour filmjölk (soured milk) on your Kellogg's Frosties.

176. You think nothing of spending all day at IKEA looking for a piece of furniture and then spending the whole next day putting it together.

179. You can't throw a plastic bottle away with out having a guilty conscience.

181. You not only order a pizza with asparagus, banana and béarnaise sauce on it, but you actually like it and wonder why they don't offer it back in Australia.

183. You find yourself munching on Kalles Kaviar and hårdbröd at 3 A.M.

184. You get used to hotdogs being called sausage and you eat them as the "meat" part of a meal without a bun.

187. You hide 5 or 6 bottles of spirits in your suitcase, one or two in your backpack, and put just one in the duty free shopping bag.

188. You think horse meat is a totally acceptable sandwich topping.

189. You think there is nothing wrong with planning Christmas around Kalle Anka (Donald Duck).

190. You don't even think about what you are saying when you are off to the shop to buy your favorite brand of cat food, and you say, "Be right back love, I'm just gonna go get some Pussi"

191. You start calling Coke "cola".

192. You get up for a cigarette at 2 AM in July and put on your sunglasses first.

193. You have 53 different recipes for strömming and you're about ready to clip number 54 from Dagens Nyheter.

197. You know the words to more than one 'snapsvisa' and sing them without difficulty.

199. You would never ever even consider using a metal knife on the butter.

202. When visiting others you try to go in first. If it's locked THEN you ring the doorbell.

203. While visiting England someone gives you directions and says, "It's about 5 miles down the road." You in turn ask, "Are you talking Swedish miles or English miles?"

204. You start spelling the days of the week in lowercase! monday, tuesday....

205. You find that you can't spell in English anymore. You now replace C with K. Like panik, automatik, seasik, arithmetik.... and you try to remember does papper/paper have one or two p’s in English?

206. You no longer make appointments, but instead you book times.

207. You read text instead of sub-titles.

217. You can identify the people on Big Brother and Expedition Robinson.

219. You can name the toppings of at least ten different pizzas just by name (which is coincidentally more than the pizza-baker can himself)

222. You ask for a Big Mac and company outside of Sweden.

224. Someone cuts you off on the freeway and instead of giving them the finger; you simply mumble "eedeeyout" under your breath.

226. You no longer think it odd that you talk to your kids in English and they answer in Swedish.

229. You say “I’m almost annoyed” when you’re as furious as humanly possible.

233. People buy you a drink in November because they remember when you bought them one in March.

234. You have no idea what "The X-files" is but you watch "Arkiv X" as soon as it's on TV.

242. You refer to weeks by their number.

243. You carefully dissect the restaurant bill so you know to the exact kr. how much everybody owes.

244. You know the catalogue numbers of all of your favorite wines at Systembolaget.

245. It's May. It's 15C degrees. And you're stretched out on your balcony in your bikini trying to get a head start on your tan.

248. England, Scotland and Wales can all be called England.

250. If you meet someone you haven't seen in ages you just stay right where you are chatting away even if that happens to be in the doorway of a very busy department store.

252. Christmas presents are opened somewhere between Donald Duck and "Karl-Bertil Jonsson" on Christmas Eve. Whoever heard of doing it the morning of Christmas Day?

253. If no TV station airs "Ivanhoe" on Christmas Day you become extremely irritated.

254. You just have to watch "Grevinnan och betjänten" on New Years Eve.

260. You find it reasonable that reviews of non-Swedish movies with a Swedish actor in them should use at least half of the space available to discuss how good or bad the actor was in it, even if he had just one line.

262. You watched "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones" just to see Pernilla August.

265. You don't get surprised when kids come trick-or-treating during Easter, all dressed up like witches.

266. You don't find it odd to find movies with a "translated" title. It's perfectly normal for a movie to get a completely different English title than the one it has in the rest of the world.

269. You use the word "or" as a question.

272. You think it's normal that people take shoes in a bag to the theatre

278. You remember to buy the weekend grog supply before 5.00pm on Friday

279. It is your birthday YOU have to make the cake

281. You start collecting travel brochures and talking of trips to tacky places like Gran Canaria just for a fix of sun.

282. You agree to pay 500kr for a basic hair trim.

284. the most interesting report on the news is the weather.

285. You start to believe that everything in Sweden is actually good.

286. When you say good bye to someone you depart by saying 'Have it so good'

287. When you make a mistake or an accident happens you say 'It was not the meaning'.

289. You get annoyed when you realize you have to say “not too much and not too little” instead of “lagom”.

290. You either run for the last pendeltåg at 1 am or choose to party on until 5 am when they start again rather than endure the horrific night bus home, as a taxi ride would require taking out a 2nd mortgage.

292. You find yourself eating bay-con for breakfast and talking about Bill Clin-ton and taking a trip to Lon-don.

293. Anything good and in particular food is “giant good”.

294. ICA is not I.C.A - it's eeka.

295. The wash cottage is not a holiday resort but a very competitive environment, where the rules should never be broken and in particular never go over your time by even a minute or you risk a lot of sucking and muttering from the next in line.

296. A recipe for drugs is not instructions on how to make them.

297. Gift is not a present but it could be dangerous (whether it is poison or marriage)

301. When talking about centuries the Swedes all seem to be a hundred years behind.

303. You know what 'What seventeen' means.

304. Swedes saying Va' to you is still annoying (even after ten years), not to mention that there is no real word for please, or?

307. You eat pizza with a knife and fork.

308. You only leave the country to stockpile cheap alcohol.

312. You no longer find this list funny, just painfully true.

313. You know the names of two or more Swedish ministers.

314. You get excited when you hear someone speaking English.

323. You put both jam and cheese on toast and call it breakfast.

324. You were excited when Kalles Kaviar released "Kalles Randiga".

325. You eat caviar from a tube.

329. Your wallet contains more plastic than a Hollywood superstar.

332. You make liberal use of compound words never heard of by Webster or Roget.

337. In chess, you refer to the knight as a horse, the rook as a tower, and the pawns as farmers or peasants.

339. You feel a certain sense of pride when you see Swedish people in films or on foreign TV shows.

340. Drinking is the fundamental pillar of your social network, be it coffee or alcohol.

342. A “big strong one” is a beer.

345. When someone asks you "Hi, how are you?" you actually take time out to explain how you are.

346. You automatically try to dress the same as everyone else.

347. You know the words to the frog song.

348. When you stop converting Swedish crowns into your native currency.

349. You are no longer surprised when you see full-frontal male nudity in a commercial or on TV.

350. You make fun of tourists.

358. It seems sensible that you need to be at least 25 to buy a bottle of red wine.

361. When you see that the time is 3.30 and you say it’s "half TO four" (halv fyra)

363. You think there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

372. Pronouncing Euro as “Evro” makes sense.

374. You're complaining in January not because it's minus 10 degrees, but because there's no snow.

375. Your house is starting to look like the showcase to IKEA.

390. When you reply 'Yes, thank you' when people ask you how you are. (Hur är det? Jo tack.)

399. You start thinking about the weekend on Wednesday morning.


By Lovain

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Family relations: my brother came to visit

My oldest brother, his wife, their youngest child and his girlfriend came from Sweden to visit us this weekend. The boys were still sick and could not enjoy the visit as much as they had wanted, however I had a great time catching up with the family. We see each other so rarely, and my brother and I are very bad at calling each other so we don’t keep in touch regularly; when we do meet, however, it’s never awkward and always very nice.

My oldest brother is 10 years older than I am, and by the time I was a teenager, he had already moved out and got married. He met his wife in high school; a beautiful girl from town (we lived outside), and they quickly got married, built a house and had children. By the time they were 25, the beautiful wife already had her own lucrative business and they were leading a well-established upper middle-class life in our home town; they still do. Their friends are their old best friends, they shop in the store we always shopped, order pizza from the same places, and go to the same bank their savings accounts were opened at when they were born. They travel and enjoy life, and now that their children are grown, they can enjoy turning 43 with all its might. They’re a very happy couple with a very stabile life; simple and good, and I envy them.

Yet, it’s the life I chose not to lead. Noo-nooo! I had to complicate my life; go off to college, study abroad, work in Europe, make friends I can’t see on a day to day basis because they live all over the world, and worst of all; marry a foreigner, an American at that! My family knows me well enough to understand my choices; I do however suspect that they sometimes think I’m quite strange. I’m the odd sister with an American philosophy professor husband who lives in Belgium.

I do love it when they come to visit though.

By Lovain

Our cultural weakness: Adam Sandler

Monday night we rented Click with Adam Sandler. The Husband & I (are embarrassed to) admit that we are big Adam Sandler fans, and will eternally forgive him for all the foul language and bad jokes he ever have and ever will produce. On Monday evening we forgave him for all the dog-humpin’, the label offences and other transgressions as we laughed out loud for an hour and a half.

By Lovain

Monday, February 19, 2007

A series of unfortunate illnesses

Every other week, all children in school are checked for lice. So far, the boys have been mercifully spared such dismay, but last Friday afternoon when I picked up the boys in school, the oldest one’s teacher came up to me and told me they had found lice in the oldest one’s hair; the very same boy who is very particular about his hair – washes and brushes it several times a week, and asks me on our way to school if it looks just right. The teacher said there were 9 children in his class alone who had been diagnosed with lice. On my way home, I picked up shampoo and a comb at the pharmacy, and as soon as we entered our home, the de-licing process began. Both boys’ hair was taken care of, and I ran 12 full washing machines that weekend, washing, freezing, evacuating and vacuuming everything possible. In the oldest one’s school-bag I found a note verifying the discovery, displaying a louse and a nit under a piece of tape attached to the note. The quest to eliminate took up most of my weekend. The Husband was bed-ridden, still suffering the remains of the stomach flu going around the week before, and I was left to battle on my own. It was arduous, however I was victorious, and I hope I never have to go through it again.

The next week commenced well, however on Wednesday the 5-year old started running a very high fever, and spent the rest of the week in a feverish state. The 3-year old went to school on Thursday, but around noon we received a call from the school, asking us to come pick him up. He had diarrhea and a fever. I spent Friday taking care of the boys; trying to get them to at least drink something, mostly to no avail. On Saturday afternoon our long awaited visitors from Sweden arrived; my oldest brother and his wife, their 17-year old son and his girlfriend, but the boys were not 100% and could not enjoy the visit as they wanted. They went to bed early while we sat up catching up, chatting; “familizing”. Sunday the boys felt better however the family had to return to Sweden in the afternoon. For comfort we took the boys to the movies to see Ben Stiller play a museum night guard, and they enjoyed it with pleasure.

First the stomach flu, then the lice and now the fever; is it over?

By Lovain

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Proof of existence: the Husband's philosophical work

Today I found a document open on our kitchen computer displaying the magical words


The purpose of this study is to show from historical and systematic grounds that teleological motives lie at the heart of Kant’s critical turn, and hence that a precise analysis of telic structures can be used to illuminate the basic strategy of the critical system’s most foundational arguments and, following upon this, the unity of Kant’s philosophy as a whole.

It really has begun. Which means it might soon be finished. Which in turn means relief, happiness and joy.

Today was a good day.

By Lovain

Our Hamster Charlie

By Lovain

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My blog has a new look

I decided it was time for a change. Let me know how you like it!

By Lovain

Lovain (Executive Editor, Brussels)

I came to Belgium as a Political Science graduate student, and having studied European Studies and International Relations, I entered a career in European affairs and ended up working as a lobbyist for a large technological company for several years. When the boys arrived I quit my job, deciding that I was not able to combine a career with having babies according to my standards (see my post on having a baby in Belgium), but about a year ago the Husband’s full ride ended, and I had to start bringing home the dough again. It worked out quite well since the boys were just old enough to start school (3 years), and I found my current job very close to our home; flexible hours of my choice, international work environment, independent responsibilities along with no overtime. The transition from being a stay-at-home-mom to full-time-working-mom could not have been aided better. My work is not exactly in my line of interest but it has been interesting enough and I have learned a lot. At this point nevertheless I’m happy to take on a job that I know I will fully enjoy; my passion for writing (accompanied by my previous work-experience) will become my profession: I’m going to be an Editor!

By Lovain

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I quit my current job for a better one in Brussels

End of last week I quit my current job. I have 6 weeks notice, and after that I will start working in Brussels. A large company there made me an offer I couldn’t resist. I have been pursuing this change for a few months now, but at the present that it has actually come this far, I’m nervous; not so much about starting a new job (I’m very excited about that), but about all the practical consequences. Will I never be able to take the boys to school or pick them up? Will I be even more out of shape or feel even more pressed for time? How will this change affect the boys? And my relationship with the Husband? Last year when I decided to pursue a career in Brussels, I said to the Husband with worry “but if I work in Brussels I won’t be there as much for you and the boys” whereupon he replied “that’s OK, honey, your big pay check will”.

I’m aware that millions of women feel this very same guilt and worry, but still; these are my boys we’re talking about and I want to be there for them. In the end though, I’m sure it will work out; we really don’t have a choice at this point in our lives, and realize we simply have to do the best we can with what we have. Besides, at the end of this year (when the Husband’s thesis is long gone finished) everything will be different.

By Lovain

My friend's enormous pregnant belly

I had not seen my friend the amazing M. more than briefly for a couple of weeks (exam period), and when she came over on Sunday I found myself staring into a gigantic belly. “Oh my God! Your belly is HUGE!!” I could nothing but burst out. She smiled. She’s 36 weeks pregnant and usually very slender and tall, but now she has a bulge the size of an I-don’t-know-what that pretty much takes up your entire view when you look at her. I have seen plenty of pregnant women; I myself was not exactly a petit expectant, but this is something extraordinary. If she lets me, I will take a picture next time I see her. I expect the baby to drop very soon, and even though her belly may grow a bit more, it will not look as big any more.

By Lovain

Monday, February 05, 2007

I got puked on

Following Mr. Speedo & his daughter’s barfing episode Thursday night, the youngest one & I found ourselves in the exact same situation Saturday night.

"The thing about Mexican Layered Dip is that it doesn’t look much different coming back up" I thought, as I was trying to rinse it out of my hair.

By Lovain

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Kids are sick all around Leuven - it's the season!

When I dropped the boys off in school this morning, I ran into my friend Mr. Speedo.

“Where’s the youngest one?” I asked.
“She’s sick” he said, adding the nature of the illness; stomach related.
“How are you doing, Speedo?” I had not seen him for a while, and he looked tired, even a bit shaggy.
He did not answer “all right” or “tired” or “feeling yucky”, he said: “I was awake all night with princess throwing up on me. She had 4 changes of clothes and I had three”.

Now there’s proof that a picture says more than a thousand words!

Passing another friend on my way to work, she yelled across the street "one child off to school - one is home sick!"

It's that time of the year.

By Lovain