The Messina Family

The Messina Family
Barcelona 2010

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Norwegian Pro Hockey

Back in July, the Stavanger Oilers (the pro hockey team here) was at the NATO base and were playing around with sticks and tennis balls with some of the older kids. I guess Tim had a really good time trying to shoot on them and managed to get a few shots past their goalie. They gave him 4 free tickets to any home game this year. Well tonight we cashed them in and went to a game. Rich and I went as well as Tim and his good friend, Kjell (pronounced Shell).
Stavanger is the 4th largest city in Norway and this pro Norwegian hockey team has been here since 2001. The SiddIsHallen, where the games are held, is quite small. There was less than 5,000 people there...and it was full. Our tickets were standing room only tickets. The boys were able to find two empty seats but Rich and I found locations to stand and watch the game. We had a hard time recognizing any of the other teams in the league...the only place I recognized straight away was a team from Lillehammer.
I have to start by saying that the Oilers did win it, 5-4. There were a lot of differences from the NHL though. The ice is slightly larger than the NHL rinks...more the size of U.S. college rinks. They have very strict rules on violence in the game. I can count how many solid checks against the boards on one hand. Three of them resulted in penalties. So it was a pretty benign game. If you have a son that wants to play at a higher level and you want him to be remotely safe...send him to Norway. I am not sure he could earn a living being a hockey player here, but it he would be safer than playing in North America. :o)
Differences other than the gentleness and slowness of the game? Let's see...there is one player on each team that wears a gold helmet (kind of looks like C3PO from Star Wars). I thought perhaps they were team captains. Curiosity finally got the better of me and I asked a man standing next to me. The player with the highest number of goals and assists gets the honor of wearing the gold helmet. Interesting. So the hottest player is marked for everyone to see.
The only other really big difference was that you could hardly find the players' names and numbers on their jerseys because they had so many sponsor logos on their uniforms. I counted no less than 20 logos on each player. It was even on their shorts! This is very common here in Norway...all the teams (even the sports club teams that play against the boys' JV sports teams) that have logos all over them. The visiting team, the Sparta Warriors, was so covered in logos that their names were relegated to be in smaller print on the back tails of their shirts, over their rear ends. They were each a walking advertisement to anything and everything in Norway.
The Oilers (called that because of all the deep off-shore drilling that is done in this area) have players from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada and the U.S.
Anyhow, just wanted to share a new foreign sporting event with everyone. I would definitely go again. I had a great time, even though I was standing. There were cheerleaders, the crowd was really into the game and it was really a clean game.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Snowy fun in Sirdal

On December 26th, we left for our two hour drive up to Sirdal. It is a little mountain town that is inland and uphill from our Sola home. We have been there several times before and this is our second annual Boxing Day run to the hyttes up there. A hytte is a cabin - not always owned by one person...but generally open to the public. You bring your own sheets and towels and food...and clean up when you leave. The group of hyttes we go to are owned by the Norwegian military. As members of NATO, we have access to use them as well. We just make a reservation, pick up the key and then drop it off when we are done. The boys and Rich went sledding for awhile when we arrived on Dec 26th...but it gets dark so early here (about 3:30) that they didn't get much sledding time in before we were all delegated indoors to play card games. The boys each get to take a different "exploratory" class each quarter at ISS. This past quarter, Joe has been taking card games with his basketball coach. Mr. Knudsen is from Milwaulkee, WI and is MAYBE 25 years old. Anyhow, every Wednesday afternoon, the class of 7 learn and play different card games for 90 minutes. This means Joe's cribbage game has improved quite a bit. He also taught us a new game called "Slaps" which is a ton of fun. We can't wait to teach it to my parents when they come to visit next fall!
On Saturday, the Messina men all left to try their hand at snowboarding. They are all good skiiers but none of them have a lot of time on snow boards. The only time the boys ever were on snowboards was in Colorado several years ago, where they both ended up with frost bite at the ski school. (got them a free day of skiing but I was still not very happy). They came back all moving quite slowly...evidently there was only one run at the resort they went to...a combination of blue and black diamond stuff (per American standards). Tim was convinced he had broken his tailbone and Joe's shoulders are still sore from catching himself when he fell backwards. Luckily they all had helmets on (my requirement) and Rich didn't injure himself. I was concerned about his shoulder,which is still healing. Evidently he was as well. The snow was not very condusive to much up there. There wasn't much was old and it had evidently gotten warmer at one point and then refrozen recently. It was quite cold while we were up there... -10 C. I loved it....I love the cold weather. However, there was about 8 inches of snow on the ground with about 3/4 of an inch of ice on top of it. You step on it and it holds for a millisecond, then you fall through. Not good snowman-making or snow angel-forming kind of stuff. Lily was a bit heartbroken about that. She, weighing all of 30 lbs with her snowsuit on, walked like a little elf on top of the icy snow while I trudging through it behind her. I took her to a tiny hill...not even qualifying for a hill in my mind (see the video) and she just took off...and kept sliding..and sliding...until I realized that beyond the posts, several meters away, was a drop off and a brook (not yet fully frozen). So I ran after here to catch (she stopped with about 3 meters yet to go til the plunge). She got cold pretty quickly so we didn't spend a ton of time outside. We had a really great few days there and always love going where there is snow. Rich and the boys are going to go back up with a group of NATO skiiers in mid January for a trip. I think they'll be skiing that time. I am not's a lot of work to keep track of Lily and two dogs when I am away from the comforts of home and we have limited entertainment resources. All in all, it was a great family bonding time for us.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

God Jul fra Sola, Norway, 2008!

Merry Christmas! Despite all our moving around and trip-taking, Santa still found Joe, Tim and Lily Messina and their Christmas tree. Joe is 14 this year and ended up with a lot of basketball goodies...Eastbay is doing well by us. Then there is Tim, who also is very much into basketball...but is also into Guitar Hero, etc. is the place to shop for him! Lily...she got a lot of dolly stuff this year...thanks to American Girl. She got some Bitty Twins (an Asian boy and girl...named Nicholas and Noel for the season...) and a trundle bed for them to sleep in and lots of clothes for them to model. She also got a monkey she had seen on "Momma's computer." It is made by Precious Moments (I know, shocking that I was on the precious moments website!) and is called Precious Paws. They have cute little bears, dogs, cats, and she wanted the monkey. She wanted a monkey and she wanted it to have a basketball uniform on. Her wish was Santa's command. I thought perhaps Hoosier would be a great name for said monkey...however, she didn't like that name and decided she thought London would be a good name. So London the monkey it is! (Did I mention that Lily loved London? She loved riding on the tube...the underground train system...she loved looking at the maps and counting the stops on the different lines we rode on.)
Aunt Amy saved the day with a package with beautiful blankets (they are all snuggled up in them right now and watching Kung Fu Panda) and American Christmas candy. God bless her...Santa was having a stocking issue last night and Amy saved the day!
We spent the day lounging around and enjoying our gifts from one another and calling the States to wish our families Merry Christmas. Sounds like a lot of the U.S. had a white Christmas this year.
We take off tomorrow afternoon for Sirdal, about 90 minutes' drive from here inland and up in the mountains. The Messina men want to snow board. Lily and I will keep the home fires burning in the hytte (cabin) we have rented and will practice making snowmen and snow angels. :o) We'll be there for 2 1/2 days.
Rich got some goodies for his bike...(as in bicycle) and some things for his marathon dream run in September. I got a few pieces of Polish pottery and a gorgeous poster-sized frame with a collage of pictures the boys have taken over the last year or so. There are hundreds of pictures of all different times since we arrived here in Norway. It is really very special and I hear that Rich and Tim were up until 2 a.m. working on it. I love it! My big gift was a trip to Zurich, Switzerland with Rich in early February. Lily and I will accompany him on a business trip he'll be taking. We'll have someone staying with the boys during those 5 days. Sounds like another fun adventure!

Changing of the Guard

If you have never seen the changing of the is part of it for you... The band acutally went into the Buckingham Palace gates and then played a few Christmas carols for the thousands of people that were there...starting off with "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." This was recorded on December 21st, 2008.

London - December 2008

On December 18th, we left for London. It wasn't the easiest of trips, considering how close it is (as the crow flies). We drove north, then got on a ferry, and continued to drive to the airport in Haugesund. We then flew to Stansted airport, northeast of London. We took a train to the outskirts of London, then the tube (metro, T, underground railroad...depending on where you are from) to Kensington/High Street, then walked a few blocks to the hotel. So we pretty much used every mode of transportation to get there and back. It was so worth the craziness though! I had an absolute blast! It was so great to be able to read the signs around us and understand what people were saying.
The first two days we were there, we paid to be on a "hop-on, hop-off" bus. It helped us get the lay of the land and got us to all the major sites in London. We have pictures of Big Ben, the London Eye, palaces abound, changing of the guard (both mounting and not) and several other sites. We went to Harrod's (to say that we did) and saw the beautiful tribute to Dodi Fayed and Princess Diana. (Dodi's father owns Harrod's, which is the biggest department store in England.) It has 300 departments and a staff of over 4,000 people. It is quite a spectacular place to visit. We also went to Hamley's, a toy store that has 5 floors and thousands of toys. Santa was there and even said "God Jul" to Lily (which means Merry Christmas in Norsk).
I fell on my sword and went to Ripley's Believe It or Not with Tim for almost 2 hours. I got to see shruken heads and other crazy stuff that teen boys ogle over. I did get to meet a man that had transformed himself to look like a was pretty freakish, I must say. Tim wouldn't take a picture with him, but I did...he was very nice but you can tell by my body language that I was pretty freaked out by his appearance.
We rode the London Eye (the large ferris wheel) one of the evenings. It takes 30 minutes for the entire trip around and it is enclosed and you can walk around inside the "bubble" you are in. We had about 20 people in our bubble and still had plenty of room. It was a bit expensive, but well worth it.
We also were able to see two plays while we were there. I had never been to a Broadway play (or in this case, West End). We all went to see Lion King. It was phenomenal. I am still in awe over the costumes. They were so very imaginative! Rich and I went to see Wicked the night before we left. That was also very good. I have read the first two of the three books in the Wicked series and really enjoyed the musical.
Joe was quite ill with a fever, aches and pains and a bad cough the first two days we were there. Lily, unfortunately, caught it the last two days we were there. It was such a relief to have everything in the pharmacy written out in English! Lily is better more high fevers, but has a wonderfully nagging cough she is nursing. Joe also still has his cough as well, so it is quite a duet they have going now.
We managed to get in on some of the sales before Christmas. The boys each got a hoody and a pair of athletic shoes at Lillywhite's (a big sports store in London). Lily and I took in Picadilly Circus while the men went to the very crowded athletics shop.
We managed to get to Trafalgar Square many times. There is a large Christmas tree there that is donated from the Norwegian people every year to the people of London for all of their help during WWII. This Christmas tree has been a tradition since 1947 and this is no little tree! Kinda cool to see that!
We didn't at all expect to see anyone we knew while we were there, but we did see one person we knew. We went to the British Museum of Science and Joe was in the museum gift shop when he ran into his science teacher from here in Norway! Wow, was she ever surprised to see him! He spotted her at the cash register and went up and asked, "Ms. Gilbert, are you buying something for our class?" It was really great to talk with her.
We had a fabulous time and would love to go again. The tube system is very easy and even a directionally dyslexic person like myself can manage around London. I really would love to go again and see even more. The museums there are FREE. I got to see a lot but there is so much more to see!