To the new (illegal) owner of my iPhone

Shame on you.

I don’t know who you are or what you look like, but I know you’ve tried making four calls to Romania since you pilfered my phone yesterday.

But you do know who I am, and you know what I looked like when you stole my phone. You know I was bending over my little boy, trying to comfort him. You know I was a worried mother, caring for her son, and that I put my phone down to give him my full attention. You know I wasn’t thinking about you or about my phone but only about my child for that one moment. You know I was vulnerable and you took advantage.

Shame on you.

I don’t expect you to care about me, really, but I do wonder how you will brag to your friends about your Big Score. Will you tell them you took it from a mother who used that phone to communicate with her husband, with her family and with her friends? Will you tell them you stole a little boy’s favorite toy, and all the photos and videos captured by our family life? Will you tell them that you took it out of a mother’s diaper bag when she was distracted by her child?

Seriously? How low can you possibly be to steal from a mother’s diaper bag?

I don’t know you, but I bet your mother knows what you look like. And I bet she would be ashamed if she knew who you really are.

Trust me, I’m a mother. And this I know.

Why I hate IKEA

The Ikea multistory car park at Ikea, Birstall...I know this is an unusual opinion. I know lots of people love IKEA. And I know there is  a time and a place for IKEA in one’s life.

But the problem with IKEA is that it’s created a home furnishing phenomenon that’s leaking to mainstream retail outlets. The entire concept of “putting it together yourself” has become contagious. I don’t always like or want that concept, but apparently I don’t get a choice anymore.

I can remember when IKEA first came to the U.S., bringing its ultra-cool Scandinavian design sensibilities to college campuses and young professionals everywhere. No longer did co-eds have to survive with charitable hand-me-downs from mom & pop – now we could afford to go out and buy stuff ourselves! The materials may not have been the best quality, but we saved money by suffering through strangely-illustrated instruction manuals and somehow managing to assemble our furniture at home. Clumsy people like me suddenly felt like full-fledged carpenters with that little screw wrench in our hands.

It was fresh, young, modern. A revolution in the dull world of furniture retail.

IKEA hit the world by storm and is still growing by leaps and bounds. We even have an IKEA on our little island of Gran Canaria, and they’re so popular that they’re looking to expand.

The problem is when I go out and buy what I consider to be “adult” furniture from a real “adult” furniture store, and it’s handed over to me in a box with assembly instructions. When did this happen? I’m positive I remember my parents getting furniture actually delivered in one piece to their house, unloaded from a large truck in our driveway and without the requisite screw wrenches. When did the shift happen that furniture companies everywhere took the IKEA concept and started to apply it as an industry-wide standard, all the while still charging me “adult” prices?

I just came up against this new reality when I purchased a desk for my new office space. I bought it at El Corte Ingles, which is the largest and best-known department store on the island. Very “adult” material. I saw exactly what I wanted in their showroom, pointed to it and said (quite shrewdly, I thought), “Yo quiero esta, por favor.” Nowhere on the display model did it show a screw wrench. Nowhere on my receipt did it warn about “assembly required.” And yet, two days later, it was delivered to me in a giant box with IKEA-esque instructions (and screw wrench!) inside.

So that’s why I hate IKEA. I respect their business model and I respect that there’s a place for them in the world. I furnished my son’s entire nursery with IKEA goodies. I even love to wander around their aisles on a quiet afternoon, stocking up on colorful tea candles and frozen Swedish meatballs. But I hate that they’ve created something so popular that furniture stores everywhere now assume that’s what I want.

Trust me, if I want to hone my fledgling carpentry skills and save a few euros in the process, I’ll head to IKEA. But when I pay full “adult” prices for something, I expect you to deliver me the goods in one piece. “Assembly required” is not the status-quo, my fine furniture-dealing friends….

Strawberry daiquiris

The last time somebody made me a strawberry daiquiri was in mid-summer 2010. Pappa S and I were at a traditional Norwegian “hytte-tur” (aka – drinking binge) with some “friends” (aka – fellow bingers) in the mountains.

Except that he was not yet Pappa S and I was not yet The Mommy. In fact, I had only two days earlier met for the first time a little blue stripe on a little blue pee stick that signaled that the times, they were soon gonna be a’changin’….

Anyway…. hyttetur.

Pre-Pappa-S and I were in a room full of friends and one particular friend (he-who-shall-not-be-named-but-who-just-got-engaged-yesterday) had the incredible foresight to bring his blender, some rum and lots of strawberries to an isolated cabin in the middle of the Norwegian mountains.

So there we were, with friends, far from anywhere, and rum, and one HUGE little secret among the two of us.

As glasses were passed and our friend’s alcoholic foresight was toasted to the heavens, I managed to sneak myself into getting a virgin version by professing to dislike even the slightest hint of rum. (This proclamation, from a girl who used to pressure big, strong Norwegian men into competing against her with tequila shots was of course not to be trusted. But one must try anyway.)

The point of this story is that when Pre-Pappa S and I finally did announce our pregnancy a conservative three months later, everyone on said hytte-tur was quick to connect the dots.

And the second point of this story is that today, 22 months after that infamous hytte-tur, someone made me a real strawberry daiquiri.

Rum and all.

And it was goooooooooood…..

May all of your Tuesday evenings be filled with daiquiris of all shapes, sizes, color and content!

Big barnehagen decisions…

The “barnehagen” in Norway is like daycare or nursery school in the US, except that it’s free for everyone (via our enormous tax dollars). But although you’re technically guaranteed a barnehagen placement by law, I’ve heard too many woeful tales to believe it. For example, you might get your place as promised, but it’s in a school across town from where you work, or you have two siblings in two separate schools at opposite ends of the city. Or you can have your place, but only beginning in August whereas your maternity period ends in February, thereby leaving you stranded for six months. The theory is great, but it sometimes falls apart in practice.

On the other hand, I love the concept because of the below photos – this is what you see around Oslo on a daily basis in good weather (and sometimes in rain… remember that there’s no bad weather in Norway, only bad clothing and lots of skoposer).

The Norwegian barnehagen lifestyle is unique because the kids are always out and about. No worries about liability or other nonsense you would have at home, they’re all dressed in florescent vests and out they go. I’ve seen them in the parks, walking down the sidewalk and overtaking the public trams and metros. Loud, rambunctious and lively without anyone complaining – how good it is to be a kid in Norway!

Now that Per Christian is reaching his first birthday, we’re looking for a similar environment down here in southern Canaria. There is a Norwegian barnehagen practically opposite Per’s hotel, which is a great option. It’s filled with Norwegian children and teachers, so I’m sure he’d feel right at home. It seems normal enough – toys around the room and someone keeping a close eye on the kids. It’s clean, convenient, has space available and is in our price range. Simple decision, right?

Not so much.

Yesterday I visited another option, one that I described to Per as the “Cadillac of barnehagens.” It’s a 20 minute drive from our house to the town of Maspalomas, and wow – it was impressive. A big open space with children as young as three months and as old as three years from all over Europe, including Norway, UK, Finland, Germany and Spain. The working language is Spanish, but they do teach some English and German songs when they’re in the oldest 3-year group.

Per Christian was taken to the “La Luna” playroom for children under one year while I had my tour of the school. When we came back 20 minutes later, he was staggering across the floor in one of those baby walkers (which we don’t have at home), sharing a toy with another boy in the group and looking at me with the hugest smile. In typical Marguerite fashion, I did a very poor job of hiding my tears. (I can’t even blame this on post-pregnancy hormones anymore, I’m truthfully just a bucket of emotions wherever my son in concerned.)

So this option is also nice, they have space available, it’s in our price range, but it is not convenient. I know my mind is already made up though, I noticed it as soon as Per started questioning the school last night and I kept defending it even though I’d only spent one hour there during the day. My gut says this is the best place for Per Christian, but it really makes no logical sense since our perfectly good Norwegian option is right around the corner.

It’s kind of like the car decision we made last year – we ended up going for what we wanted even though it wasn’t necessarily the smartest choice. For better or for worse, this is a typical Svendsen family decision.making trait. I guess we haven’t suffered too badly from it in the past, but should we allow it to guide our big barnehagen decision as well?

A first attempt…

I used to be good at this.

I used to imagine fully-developed fairy tales in my head and receive high marks in creative writing. My college essay applications were easy, and my letters home from Russia were something my mother saved for future memoires.

But I’ve gotten a bit out of practice. I’ve been influenced by an era of one-liner Facebook updates and business school PowerPoint slides. Everything must be short, succinct and highly entertaining. Entire thoughts/ observations/ philosophies must be offered up in bite-sized pieces.

I want to get back into writing for the sake of writing. Plus, there’s a new family member on the way and I’m sure some people out there will want to follow his progress.

So…. since maternity and impending parenthood isn’t challenge enough, and since I now find myself semi-removed from the corporate world until February 2012, I bring to you the new Svendsen family blog, “Prosecco and Pampers.” A collection of stories, photos and anecdotes from the (growing) Svendsen family in Oslo. An instant bestseller based upon the name alone.

Anyone reading this is well-acquainted with Per and I, and the lifestyle we love to live. The overriding slogan of the Svendsen Residence has always been “Drink champagne for no reason at all.” That’s why Per & I get along so well and, quite honestly, that’s a big part of why we’re happily married. (Probably that’s also why we’re pregnant, but that’s another story for different type of blog.)

In consulting-world speak, prosecco represents the “AS-IS” Svendsen Residence. It reminds me of all things Italian – leisurely pasta lunches, dinner tables occupied by good friends, sun-filled days spent along the Amalfi coast. Prosecco symbolizes summer boat trips, it’s Per making sure everyone’s glass is filled, it’s champagne without the posh. The art of doing nothing at all. Live it, love it.

Pampers represents the “TO-BE” Svendsen Residence. Like good naive parents around the world, we have no idea what’s in store for us. We (meaning “me”) have read the pregnancy books and keep a running list of must-have items for the nursery. Surprisingly enough, nowhere on that list is a storage unit for Prosecco. Dirty diaper pails, sure, but alas – no wine chiller in the nursery. (Per claims it’s still up for discussion….) We know what Prosecco represents to us, but we don’t have a clue about Pampers.

So it’ll be interesting to see how our AS-IS and TO-BE situations merge. Or not. Either way, there will surely be stories to share and photos to post along the way. And I’m hopeful that at least some people will want to laugh with us through it all.

Welcome to the next great Svendsen adventure!