It is amazing how fast 6 years has flown by. Monday marked Odin’s 6th Birthday. Up to this point every one of his birthdays has involved a big outdoor BBQ birthday party at our house in Missoula. We have been joined by family and friends, joining together to celebrate our wonderful, kind little boy. I am not so sure I can call him a little boy anymore.
This year we knew would be different. Originally I wanted to plan a fun family excursion to LEGOLAND or someplace warm with swimming pools and sunshine. After a busy summer or travel and also discovering that this little guy’s birthday also fell on the first day of First Grade, we opted for a party at home. Odin requested a soccer party so we invited over all of our friends in Tromsø which consists of 3 families with kids and our friend Jill who recently moved here from Alaska. We chose to celebrate before the first day of school, on Sunday. It was a beautiful sunny day which allowed us to complete Odin’s wishes of water balloons and a soccer match. The kids all under age 8 smoked the adults, winning 6 to 1 and we really did kind of try! Odin was royally spoiled with gifts from his Norway buddies, gifts arriving in the post from family in the States ( a huge highlight to get presents at the post office:) , and several Skype dates. He even received the traditional gift for a 6-year old Norwegian boy, his first knife from his dad. We had one happy boy!
Odin’s ‘real’ birthday began on Monday morning with pancakes filled with rainbow sprinkles and covered with Nutella. We walked across the street to Odin’s new school, the Bjerkaker School, to begin First Grade. We struggled with the choice of whether to send him to the local Norwegian School or an International School where courses are taught in English. He was pretty excited to try the Norwegian School, so there we were with 60 other first grade students and their parents listening to the school principle welcome all of the students, in Norwegian of course. We followed the masses, which were A LOT. Every student had at least one parent with them and many had both parents there. I did not know what to expect, but as it turned out the parents stayed in the classroom for the entire first day of school! Another great part of the Norwegian family support structure…no one is actually expected to go to work on the first day of school….except those working at the school of course:) While Odin made his first steps into the big kids school, Adelheyd returned to Strandkanten Barnehage. She has many friends still there from last year and seems to thrive in playing with more of the kids her age now that her brother is not at school with her. I think it will be quite good for both of them to spend time at separate schools during the day. There has definitely been a lot more love between them in the afternoons after they have been apart. It warms my heart to see what good friends they have become.
We are now done with one week of school. Odin did not shed one tear and put on a brave face every morning. His teacher commented on what a very nice boy he is and that he is trying hard to learn and understand what the other kids are saying/doing. I cannot imagine how difficult and frustrating it would be to make new friends at a new school and figure out what everyone is doing without knowing the language. I am so very proud of my brave boy. He has begun to get some Norwegian homework which we translate with him every night and we continue to do daily lessons in English at home after school so that he can continue at US schools when we return home. Luckily the school day is over at 1pm every day (quite short days at this age), so we have time in the afternoons to do some math and reading in English.
At his school, Odin has an outdoor gear cubby where all the kids shed their rain or snow gear and put on inside shoes. They then go to their inside cubby where they can put their extra change of clothes for when they get wet playing outside (not if they get wet, when they get wet), backpacks and lunch bags. From here they meet their teacher at 8:30 and head into the classroom to begin the day.
The highlight of the first week of school was a Friday trip to the beach. His weekly plan that is sent home instructed us to pack (1) drikke, mat, noe å grille (drink, food for the grill) (2) grillpinne (grill fork to hold food over the campfire) (3) sitteunderlag (sitting mat so the kids don’t have to sit on wet/snowy grass) (4) klær etter vær (appropriate clothing) (5) ta med ved til bål (wood for the campfire). The class joined their big kid buddies from one of the older classes, walked to the beach, built a fire and roasted pølse (hotdogs) while playing. This is a very typical way to spend an afternoon or evening in Norway. People meet just about anywhere to grillpølse – beaches, on the side of the ski trails, sledding hills, lakes, back yards, anywhere. Of course it had to pour rain all day, but as I have mentioned before, weather does not matter here. Nothing is cancelled due to weather…ever. Kids play in the pouring rain without a second thought. It is kinda nice because you never have to wonder if something will be cancelled. It won’t. It sounds like there will at least one day long outdoor trip every week. School in Norway is fun:)