Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Fleet of Feathers

Benjamin excelled - again - at creativity on the Christmas holiday. While all the cousins were jumping on the trampoline, Benjamin became admiral of a feathered fleet in the bird bath...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

While Visions of Sugarplums...

We came home from a night out to find Benjamin, asleep in his Santa hat. I'm sure the dreams were excellent!
In case you are interested, Christmas is already here, if you go by Benjamin's Christmas calendar. I bought each of the children an open-each-day-get-a-piece-of-chocolate-calendar, explained the concept, and then let them decide how they wanted to do it. Annika is - of course - sticking with the program, a piece a day. Benjamin and Christopher lasted a week before they started delving into the future. Benjamin finished his last piece -the 18th - today. Christopher has a few left, but is a bit unclear on the numbers past 10, so I don't expect his to last much longer. At least we won't have to take them with us on holiday!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Officially Five!

Poor Christopher has a mid-summer birthday, and one that falls in the same month (June) as Benjamin's. Last year, we never managed to organize a party for him with all the school finishing ceremonies and summer vacation... but he never forgot. So FINALLY he got his party on Saturday - nearly six months late - but better late than never!
We rented the local swimming pool, not the big one where the party has to compete with a few hundred other kids, but the little one where we had the whole thing to ourselves. It was perfect - and what a haven on a cold and rainy (and muddy) day. I had no idea what energy could come from 10 small boys and 2 smallish girls. Actually, the girls played quietly in one corner of the pool while the 10 boys splashed, jumped, dove, balanced, climbed and swam in the rest. The kids played so hard in the pool that when we said it was time to come out, they all came immediately, without protest. I think they were just so tired...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Why I Wish it was Colder...

... because this is what the boys' outerwear looks like on a daily basis when I pick them up from school. If only it would freeze...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Wisdom of Swedish TV

December is a dark month. We are approaching the shortest day of the year, and nowhere is it more obvious to me than here. I drop the kids off in the dark... and pick them up in the dark... and I am surprised to see blue sky and sun. If I do see the sun, it is always an afternoon sun, low in the sky with long shadows. It is hard to get up in the cold and the dark... and even harder to get the kids up...

But on the first of December, the Christmas calendar begins on Swedish TV. The "julkalendar" is a TV show in 24 episodes, 15 minutes each, shown on channel 1, the children's channel and - if you miss the 3-5 times a day on those two - online. There's even a calendar for sale (we have three) that follows the show, so that you can open the daily door with the show's host. Each year is a different show, and some years are better than others. (It must be hard to do a 6-hour 24-part show where each 15-minute segment ends in a climax...)

The first opportunity to watch the daily show is at 7.15, perfect timing for breakfast and school. In fact, if SVT had surveyed mothers in Sweden (which they may very well have done), they could hardly have picked a better time and length to get the kids going in the morning. Unlike the rest of the year, when it is a struggle to get everyone dressed and to the breakfast table, all I have to say the whole month of December is "It's 7.05 - 10 minutes to julkalendar" and the kids are up and dressed like a shot. Thank you, Swedish TV. (And here are my little vegetables, glued to the latest episode.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Benjamin: Mom, when you bleed, does blood run out of you?
Me: Yes.
Benjamin: And it never comes back?!?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Benjamin's Homework

Benjamin's homework this week is to learn his Christmas songs. I have just about got the one about the gingerbreadmen (I can handle cookies) but some of them are pretty difficult - words from long ago that I don't even know... or even a verse in Italian. Please. But one of them is "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" - I've got that one down!

And we had a meeting with Benjamin's school doctor - a standard thing for all the new zero-class kids. She wanted to know...
  • Why he didn't get enough sleep (because we have to wake him up most mornings)
  • Why we don't let him watch more Swedish TV (because, as she put it, a little input might help his language skills)
  • Whether we have fully appreciated the difficulty of being a middle child
  • Whether we are seeing a doctor sufficiently often for his glasses (like we have much say in that one - I think his appointment times are issued by the state)
  • Why he can't read yet

I must say, the last one really surprised me. Reading is not a given for preschoolers here, and if I tell a Swede that I learned to read when I was 5, they get a look of sorrow on their face and say something like, "oh, I'm so sorry." Because of course, by learning to read, I clearly must have missed out on some important playing time. So, we have been sort of hanging out, waiting for the kids to show interest, and not pushing the reading thing along until the school starts working on it. (Of course, if he had shown the least interest, I would have jumped on it!) Anyway, I now have a 7-year-old who can't read, and isn't expected to do so before next year. Scary.

So now I'm blogging while the kids are in front of Swedish Disney channel, watching dubbed American cartoons. Does that make me a better mother... or a worse one...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When a Phone Just Won't Do...

...but unfortunately, that was all we had. Yes, I had misplaced the camera... Though I usually carry it in my purse all the time, at some point I decided that the weight and space was just too much, so I took it out and put it... well... that was the problem. Where? So we spent the weekend without the camera. Here's what we missed (but captured on our camera phones) -

Benjamin's first innebandy match - and really, his first match ever. He won't play a "real" match in soccer/football for another year, so this was it. His team played a mini-tournament, and won the first two of three games. And an important note - he is actually wearing the safety glasses. Way to go!

And Annika's 9th birthday party. Somehow with the start of school and all the other activities, we missed organizing a birthday party for Annika, so we had it this weekend. It was a disco party for her class - soooo grown up! The highlights -
  • For a disco party, nobody really wanted to dance all that much. A tip I got from the web proved to be the saving element of the dancing - we hooked up our (rarely used) video camera to the TV so the kids could see themselves dance, real-time. Very cool, even though it was only in black-and-white (for some unknown technical reason).

  • The best game turned out to be a "guess who I am" game with cards stuck in headbands. The kids had to guess who was on their foreheads by asking questions of others - am I an animal? Am I a boy or girl? Do I have special powers? etc. I think it got off to a good start when one of the girls got Harry Potter and one of the boys got Tingaling (Tinkerbell).

  • Annika's presents were not toys - a real first. She got Hello Kitty makeup and perfume (strawberry and blueberry scent - sounds sticky to me) and Snoopy bath soap. Plus a few Hello Kitty t-shirts and a couple of books (Kitty = Nancy Drew).
So... that's it for the pics. Just goes to show you that a camera-phone is no match (yet) for a real camera, though it is better than nothing. (And I have now found my phone - so we're good to go!)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weather... or Clothing

I am so glad the kids are growing up with the Swedish mentality of weather - there's no such thing as bad weather... it's just bad clothing. Last Saturday, the boys and I were out and about, and I felt the need to get some outside time. Yes, it was nearly dark (at 3pm), and yes, it was cold and nearly raining. But when I stopped at the lake for a walk/play, the boys didn't even blink. They just put on their jackets, ran outside and started climbing the highest thing they could find.

It's Hard to Get Mad When...

...they are working together so well to avoid bedtime. It was a bit too quiet upstairs, after a bit of bumping around, so I checked and found them drawing away. Of course, the moment I turn up, they both smile innocently, hold out their half-finished works of art, and say, "For you, Mama." Frankly, I find it hard to halt Benjamin's efforts - he draws and writes so rarely, I want to encourage it!

Incidentally, Christopher has now mastered the 11 letters of his name, but Benjamin (who is two years older) refuses to write all 9 of his. He now wants to be known as Benji, spelled BEN-G.
And now it is time to turn out the lights...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Creative One

All kids are different... and all have special skills. It's just that sometimes Benjamin's skills are not the ones that are appreciated. It is easy to praise a child for writing, reading, or excelling in school, but it is harder to put a measure on creativity. Whatever the measure, Benjamin must have it in spades. A couple of examples -

At lunch at a pizza restaurant, Benjamin fashioned a beautiful bracelet for me - out of two toothpicks, a rubber band and a Coke bottle label.

The boys got very quiet - too quiet - this afternoon. I found them in my scrapbooking supplies, and Benjamin had created and taped (!) a Darth Vader mask to his head.

As the resident toy expert, I can say that it is almost impossible to shop for him because he doesn't do anything "traditional" or in the way in which it was anticipated. I think for Christmas, he would be happiest with a pile of couch cushions and some string...

I remember these creativity classes from my time at Stanford - I didn't take one, but they always sounded like fun - like when you get three drinking straws, some string, a rubber band and an egg, and then you have to make something that moves by itself... or when you have to make something that dynamically creates a work of art. Benjamin will be the guy you want on your team - you might even want to sign him up right now!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Sometimes it is really fun to have a toy store. This year for Halloween, I let the kids pick out their favorite costumes, and we ended up with a pirate for Christopher, a vampire for Benjamin and a witch for Annika. Christopher was so happy about his pirate costume that he wore it all week - good thing you can't see the aftermath of the chocolate ice cream in the picture!

We joined friends in Lausanne for some trick-or-treating, and the kids made out like bandits. I'm so stingy with candy that their Halloween stash should carry them through Easter!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Riding and Weather

We had a great break in Switzerland. The holiday started with balmy temps - almost warm enough to get out the shorts. Then, in the middle of the week, everything changed and we woke up to a couple of feet of snow.
All the kids tried riding, and all seemed to enjoy it. The school is so different from what we have in Sweden... in Sweden Annika can do no wrong, but here, the teacher yells at her and makes her really work. I personally think a balance would be good, but since we only have the two extremes, Annika will have to find her way herself. This time she got to gallop a lot - something she has been a bit afraid of in Sweden - and she didn't seem to mind the yelling.

Benjamin got to ride around in circles and work on getting the rhythm of the trot. Fortunately his lesson was only a half hour - he didn't quite get it and it was pretty bouncy.

Christopher got his own "lesson" on Waikiki, one of the roundest and shortest ponies I have ever seen. David got the dubious honor of leading him around, and Christopher was thrilled.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Making It Home

Our "summer house" is now mostly done... with the same exceptions as always. The cabinet that was broken on installation has still not been fixed or replaced (a mere 2 1/2 years later) and the lights are not completely installed, but we are feeling more at home. I decided it was high time for a personal touch (or two) so I got some photos of the kids developed and placed around. Now it feels better.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Sunday (Not...)

Yep, here are the kids after three hours in the adventure pool in Uppsala. But I'm not there... David took them to give me a day at work, since I was home Monday with Benjamin, Wednesday with Christopher, and Thursday and Friday with Annika. Oh - and Tuesday was split between my morning tennis game and an evening of taking Christopher to the children's emergency to get a hit of Ventalin (cold-related asthma). One wonders when I find time to work. Oh - that's right - on Sundays!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Blunt Instrument (aka Annika)

Annika is nothing if not persistent. Dogged. Tenacious. Relentless. If she wants something, anything, it can be pure torture to say no. And my name is NOT "But Mamma..." Right now, the object of desire is a membership in Disney's latest online craze, PanFu. "It's educational - I can learn Spanish", "I can pay for it with my allowance", "I will trade in my Club Penguin membership", "The Panda pets are cuter than the Penguin pets" - all arguments in favor. Though none of the above can explain to me why I should shell out $6 a month so that she can spend even more time in front of the computer, a place where I would rather she not be.

That said, she has begun to realize the shortcomings of her status as a bilingual/bicultural kid in a world that doesn't understand her. (Welcome to the club... and pause for a moment while I call Visa to get my card turned back on after too many "foreign" charges). "Mamma, you know that I have to get two pandas on PanFu... If I have my English panda, I can't meet my friends because English pandas aren't allowed on the Swedish servers." Great. Now I can be badgered for a mere $12 a month...

Working Out

Sunday was a horrible day - wind and rain, and nothing you really wanted to be out in. We went to our favorite hamnkrog (which is still open for coffee) and watched them winch boats out of the water to "sleep" for the winter. But the trip to and from the car was like a cold shower. So while David took Annika and Benjamin to the museum, Christopher (still contagious with strep throat) and I stayed behind. What to do?

Well, first we went to my office/warehouse so I could count shelves and figure out how many more to order from IKEA. I was done in five minutes, but Christopher had so much fun moving boxes around that we stayed for a while. (Needless to say, we had a hard time finding a few of the products to ship out on Monday...)

Then back to the house, where Christopher declared he wanted to exercise. I tried doing a Pilates video, but no luck. "I do own!" was the wish, so we proceeded to stretch and move in our own unique ways. I concentrated on getting "better" and yoga, if that's possible for a non-competitive sport, and Christopher concentrated on... well... he kept himself busy in any case. His favorite exercise involved balancing hand weights on his shoulders and walking around the house. At least we got the blood flowing!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Like Father...

Like Son

Yep - more than five minutes in the car and look what happens!

Actually, it is an improvement from the days where Benjamin and Christopher could fall asleep before I had even pulled out of the dagis parking lot!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Year has Just Started...

and Benjamin hates writing. He hates it with a purple passion, and doesn't want to have anything to do with it. We're not talking major writing here, just making a few of the same figure, like 15 3s, or 10 Ss. I have made worksheets with tracing letters that he can use to get the hang of it, but before he has a chance to pitch a fit about it, Christopher takes them and fills them out in secret.

Writing has tainted Benjamin's view of school - he thinks that writing is all school is good for. He asks me every morning if he really has to go, and though I have explained to him that until he is 18 he doesn't really have a choice, he is still unconvinced. The fact that (almost) all adults can write doesn't really impress him. He just plain hates it... hates it so much that he has a meltdown when trying to complete his weekly homework assignment. He is such a perfectionist that any tiny mistake, real or perceived, carries monumental significance. Using a pencil and an eraser doesn't even help.

However, this evening, he sat for an hour with pens, scissors and glue, making an elaborate paper tree, which he then presented to me, complete with apples and a chipmunk. Maybe if we just keep plugging away at the basics, he will get over the hump and begin to see the value in school. I hope...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

And I Missed It...

Annika's soccer team had a match last night, and it was quite an exciting game. The Stockan coaches noticed that the opposing side had a risky strategy of passing the ball back to their own goalie so that she could take possession and throw it deep into the field. Tied 2-2 towards the end of the match, Annika was right there when one of the opposing team's passes back to their own goalie didn't quite make it, so she gave it a hard kick and made the final point, winning the game 3-2!

Of course, I know this second-hand, because I wasn't there. David and the boys were watching the game while I was home, watching a "webinar" - an internet video broadcast on search engine optimization. Though I did learn a lot, and though I did have an epiphany of sorts for the search marketing for ABC Leksaker, I'm still bummed that I didn't see it happen. I have been there for almost every match... and almost every loss... just not the one big win. (The picture is actually from another win this season - and I was there!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Good with the Bad

Sometimes I feel like a good mom. Today, Annika had two friends over to play, a sure recipe for disaster. I don't know what it is about girls, but more than two spells trouble. So I decided that one recipe should be replaced by another, one for chocolate cake. I forced the girls into the kitchen, and set them to work. By the end of an hour, they had made a great chocolate cake (with a bit of help from me). And nobody got their feelings hurt, nobody had to show loyalty for their "best" friend, nobody felt left out - a good result. Yummy, too.

But with the girls in the kitchen, with chocolate, no less, I had to keep the boys away and calm. So.... the electronic babysitter kicked into action with Donald Duck videos. Not great. Oh well, next time it will be Benjamin's turn to bake.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lice by Any Other Name

Sweden has had this focus on lice (see two posts ago) - known in Swedish as "lus". So, when they want to set up a national reading development scale (Läs-Utvecklings-Schema), what better name could they come up with than LUS. So if you want more information, like on the internet, you have to get past all the literal small bugs to get to their site. I guess the lice were ahead of the educators in grabbing that all-purpose url - (The actual reading guide is buried at - catchy title, that one.)

The LUS-guiden, the one related to reading, is pretty detailed in the first phases. Phase 1 is recognizing your name. 2 is knowing that writing goes from left to right. 3 is understanding that what is written corresponds to words... and so on. There are 19 steps, and not all adults have made it that far. But Annika, just starting the 3rd grade, is somewhere around step 16 - and though I'm her mom, I would hasten to say that she is not unusually ahead of her class, more like above average. So somewhere in the next 10 years of schooling, she needs to make it from reading Bella, the Bunny Fairy to War and Peace (step 18). How we get there is a bit up in the air.

There are suggestions on the well-hidden site (which is owned by Bonniers, and only recommends Bonniers Education books, and not dear Bunny-Bella), but I looked through a few and found them somewhat inappropriate. They deal with boyfriends (oh my - not yet), divorced and arguing parents... and include The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (which I thought was for adults, but haven't read it)... and most disturbing, one called E som i Ecstas, which deals with drugs and features an E-pill on a tongue on the front cover.

She's 9. We'll stick with Bella.

The teacher's suggestion is actually more amusing. To speed up her reading, Annika should look at TV programs subtitled in Swedish. Right. Almost everything that is subtitled is originally in English, so we are left with finding obscure French childrens' films that are subtitled in Swedish, or watching TV in silence.

Back to Bella.

One of the moms in Annika's class was actually quite disturbed with the literary qualities of the Bella-type books (this is a whole marketing event - we have been through Jewel Fairies, Weather Fairies, Carnival Fairies, Pet Fairies - each series having 6-8 books). In my "book", anything they are reading willingly is fine with me. Last night, Annika plowed through all 186 pages of Summer, the Holiday Fairy in one sitting. She was quite surprised that I allowed her to stay up reading as late as she wanted.

"Mama, here's the deal. I want to stay up until I finish this book." she said. Fine. Deal. With no conditions. And she did it.

When I think back to the number of Bobbsey Twin, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books, not to mention whole series of Enid Blyton books that I devoured one after the other... Hmmm... I haven't quite made it to War and Peace, but I haven't done that badly either. Go Bella!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

First Day of School!

The first day of school of 2008!

Well, sort of. Benjamin's first day started at 4pm, with a party, and Annika's Build-a-Bear wasn't really going, but it was still pretty official.

Of course, that was 2 weeks ago, and since then, we have all had some sort of fever/cold thing and all of the kids have missed a day or two, and even me. So sorry for the delay, but the bugs got in the way!

The Fish are Back!

And better than ever!

Yes, the aquarium came back last week, and so far - no casualties! In fact, it is truly better than ever. This time, I took Benjamin to the aquarium store so that he could pick his own fish, and make the aquarium more truly "his". Now that it is no longer in his room (see aquatic disaster), it is more of a family thing, so it was important for him to leave his mark, so to speak. Anyway, we wandered through a maze of tanks in the basement shop, splashing through puddles on the floor, looking at fish after fish. We finally ended up with:
  • Several Guppies (so hearty, how can you go wrong with them - and they might even have babies, an added plus... or not...)
  • 2 Black Angel Fish (which are not especially friendly, but shouldn't eat any neighbors... unlike the Siamese Fighting Fish which do, and which I was able to dissuade Benjamin from getting)
  • 5 Dalmation Fish (white with black spots - the kids love how they bang their heads into leaves they are eating)
  • 3 see-through fish (where you see everything, bones, innards, and all... if you could actually see them, but they are so shy, we never see them)
  • 3 bottom cleaners (which are very energetic, and fun to watch)
  • 3 algae eaters (which are much smaller and more energetic than the last ones we had)
  • and a school of neon fish, always fun to have.

But then we noticed that some of the tanks had other things in them... and we asked what we could have - besides fish - and got:

  • 2 shrimp
  • 1 water frog (which we see about once every 3-4 days)
  • 1 water snail (which hasn't moved, not once... so I wonder...)
  • 1 crab - who is the hit of the tank. He hid for several days, but has finally come out and is great fun to watch. This evening, he even climbed up to the top of the filter and hung out in the fresh air - taking a break from the day-to-day in the water, I guess.
So we are really happy with the tank so far, and the kids are fascinated. Having it in the main room is much better, and we all spend quite a bit of time each day, searching for the shy ones, watching the antics of the others, and feeding them... just a little... really... once a day.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Only in Sweden - National Lice Day

Yep, really. So get your lice combs ready for next weekend when Sweden will do its utmost to stop lice from spreading. Exciting. Read more at Seriously.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


New Year's resolutions don't really work for me. Christmas is so busy and the new year is always a bit of a chance to relax so I'm not quite ready to get excited about new goals. However, with a new school year starting, I'm ready for a challenge. So, here are my goals for the new year:
  • Ride my bike or walk more (and with the cost of a tank of gas, this one is highly motivated... though with three kids in three geographically dispersed schools...)
  • Do yoga once a week (really - it's only two blocks from the house, so how hard could that be?)
  • Walk to pick up Benjamin once a week (a quick 8 minute walk there, 25-30 minutes back because we have to check every puddle for signs of pond life - as if a fish might have rained down in the latest storm)
  • Play tennis with Annika once every two weeks (so far we have played once with great success, defined as no tears or tantrums)
  • Eat köttbullar (meatballs - our staple) no more than once a week, same for spaghetti bolognese
  • Don't open my computer until the kids are in bed... even just to check e-mail... even if it only takes 2 minutes... not even once... well, maybe just once...
  • Turn off the TV and the kids computer during the week - no more electronic babysitters!
  • Get the kids to start helping around the house with defined weekly chores (a need which was made clear to me when Annika was asked to help load the dishwasher and she rolled her eyes and asked, "What do you think I am - some kind of servant?"

Whew. It all starts on Monday. And I have just looked at the schedule and with three kids, each with 1-2 activities, we are booked solid.

A Nine-Year Old!

Annika turned 9 today - our last year of single digits.

What she didn't get for her birthday: a mobile phone. She has been begging for one for months, and goes to the phone store every time we are at the shopping center just to check out the latest pink and purple models. She even roped Benjamin into the asking process, so that we had two begging for a phone for her. However, we have discussed it at length, and a mobile is not just some fun toy to play games on or to use to SMS her friends. She will get one when she needs one.

What she did receive:
  • a loudspeaker for her iPod so that she can dance in her room
  • some clothes for her Build-a-Bear
  • a Klutz book she has had her eye on for ages
  • a Room-Mates fish border so that she can cover up the babyish Noah's Ark wallpaper border in her room
  • Toobs of Whales & Sharks and Horses, espeically chosen by Benjamin

Annika's current career choice would be rock star and/or famous actress, somewhat along the lines of Hannah Montana, Vanessa Hudgens or Amy Diamond. We have discussed that perhaps some interest in music (other than her iPod) would help... But anyway, as luck would have it, Amy Diamond was doing a show for Kids Day at the local mall. Ellen and Annika were right up front, though a bit to one side to have a great view, but Annika is sure that Amy Diamond waved right to her one time.

A few stats on our adorable daughter:

  • Grade: 3rd
  • Favorite book: Spiderwick
  • Favorite TV show: Zack and Cody
  • Favorite actress: Vanessa Hudgens
  • Favorite school subject: math
  • Favorite toy: Build-a-Bear

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Everyone (and Everything) on Holiday

Yes, we have had a wonderful holiday - and a long one. The five of us were either together - or individually - in four countries (including the US) and five of the US states. The blog was on holiday (though not the camera), even though I did manage a couple of camp-related updates.

Even our house took a holiday... unfortunately. The alarm, which was fixed just before holiday, went on the fritz again... the car battery went on holiday and never came back... and the electricity also decided to take a holiday. Yep - the whole house was "dark" for at least a week. Our two fridges were beyond disgusting, with spoiled food that resembled a science project gone bad.

David and I should really learn our lesson. Every time we end an overseas trip with a taxi ride where we discuss who will sleep when, we come home to a domestic disaster. At least this time the house wasn't frozen - just smelly. So, instead of getting quick naps and work done, I started in on the fridges, filling the trash can with a stench guaranteed to keep neighbors away, and David walked to the grocery store (no car) and bought the bare essentials.

By the way, in the process of cleaning (and cleaning), I disassembled every part of both of our fridges. The new one must have more than 50 various shelves, drawers, sliding pieces, doors, ice making devices, etc. The old one? About three shelves. Progress? Uncertain. Chance of getting it all reassembled again? Uncertain.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rodeo Queen

I picked up Annika at camp, after parents' day. We got there just in time for the rodeo, and all of the kids were barrel racing, followed by barrel weaving. Annika did a brilliant job, especially in barrel racing. She looked like a natural on Wildfire, and had no qualms about urging her into a gallop. Barrel weaving was a little harder, since Wildfire decided on speed, rather than chosing the proper path. But she still won both events for the younger girls... and I wouldn't be surprised if her barrel racing time was as good or better than the older girls. (Moms do get to brag sometimes.)
She would now like to ride every day when she gets back to Sweden, and compete - in barrel racing. Unfortunately, rodeo opportunities are few and far between there...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Poem

Annika wrote me a letter from camp with a poem - and I have had a smile all day!
You ar like the flawors that rest in the grownd
You ar like the birds that fly hi in the sky

Friday, July 18, 2008

Benjamin's Day

Benjamin got to spend a day and a night at camp to check it out. From all reports, it went really well. He did low ropes, fishing (and caught a fish!), soccer... and I'm not sure what else. He did the ropes with Annika, and enjoyed seeing her. I especially love the pics of soccer (courtesy of Rob, Benjamin in green) when he really goes for it, despite the fact that most of the other kids are twice his size.

His only difficulties were in changing his shirt and taking a shower. I am quite sure he would happily spend two weeks at camp in the same shirt. He did, however, help clean the cabin. I'm not sure I would believe it myself if I hadn't seen the evidence!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

His Last Day

Benjamin's last day at dagis - and we baked and decorated sugar cookies for everyone. We will miss his dagis, and it is hard to leave a place where he has had so much security and outstanding care and attention.

A Bit Homesick

Annika has now been at camp for almost two weeks, and tonight - at midnight - she called home. Seems she has been a bit confused about what country we are in, and it also seems as though she hasn't received any of the mail we have sent. Can you imagine? Two weeks of - sniff - mail call and - sniff - nothing - sniff - nothing - for you? Well, all should be better this next week as all the letters and packages we have sent start arriving. Apparently she has to sing in front of everyone if she receives three in one day, so I hope her voice is in good form. Next year --- FedEx!

We did receive two letters from her, and found out that in her first week she did softball (how American!), wonder (I wonder what that is...), nature, yoga (never would have guessed) and cooking. This week she is doing "cheer" - and really enjoying it. Just so she doesn't make it a career choice! Her English spelling is still very Swedish - "ples sej hi to the bojs"

Fish on Holiday

Yep, that's our fish tank. Or lack thereof. And if you look closely, you can see a little wet patch on the floor.

After our fiasco with too much food, we thought it best to move the tank and the eight hearty survivors to the living room. Seems two small boys together can get into trouble when they are supposed to be in bed. Imagine that.

So the aquarium service moved the tank yesterday, and then this evening I noticed a small puddle...

The aquarium service was fantastic - came out within 15 minutes, and in another 15 minutes had the fish packed up and out the door. They even had time to answer Benjamin's many questions - where were the fish going (on holiday), would they feed them (tomorrow), how much would they feed them (just a very little bit), would the same fish come back again (of course). As soon as we are ready, they will move everything back in again... maybe when school starts again.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Most Creative Child

I often wonder what life with an older Benjamin will be like. He is extremely creative, but not necessarily in traditional ways. What does it mean that he is creative? Well...
  • He can look through an entire toy catalog, finding tons of stuff he wants, but all of which he plans to use for some purpose other than what the toy was intended for.
  • He can ignore rooms full of toys in favor of boxes which he uses to build a play station for a cat...
  • His drawings are never entitled "Pirate ship" or "My family" but instead require long sagas to tell how each of the items got there and how each is related to the others...
  • He can look at a "find and seek" book, and instead of finding and seeking, he develops elaborate stories around each of the characters...
  • He has never (to my knowledge) colored in a complete picture or filled in a pattern, but prefers to "wing it". His drawings, though few, are elaborate and painstakingly detailed. (The boys made pärlplattor/bead pictures for Annika. Christopher's was a perfectly executed heart pattern. Benjamin's was a free-form of Annika's camp room.

So what has he done here? He has found a pile of blocks (remnants of a Swedish game) and built a house for a small kitten he saw. In this house, the kitten can find a warm bed and be protected from other predators (as long as they don't jump over the wall). The kitten can even take a shower (if it is raining) with the help of a leaf.

We have been so fortunate to find a daycare with outstanding staff. They really appreciate Benjamin's uniqueness, and allow his creativity full reign (as long as his stories don't get too fanciful). However, his last day there is tomorrow, and in August, he will start "real" school, though he will still officially be in "zero class". I only hope that his new teachers can find a way to channel his creativity into learning basic skills... but without squashing it. I only hope that I can be patient and enjoy his stories and creations...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Goodbye for 3 1/2 (long) Weeks

Annika really wanted to go to summer camp in Colorado this year. She went last year for just under two weeks, and this year, she wanted to stay for the whole 3 1/2 week session. We were a little apprehensive, but since we know the family and the camp so well, and since it is like my brother's second home, we decided to go for it.
So we had an amazing pancake breakfast at the Hungry Bear (This is what an American pancake looks like!) and dropped her off.
Last year, the drop-off was a bit tearful... but what can you do? Say "Gee, I'm sorry. This whole camp idea was a msitake. Forget the plan - she's coming home." Nope. You can't. And I heard that the first 24 hours were a bit rough, but after two weeks, we had to drag her away.

This year, she walked in the door, and a friend from last year said, "Annika! Where have you been? I've been waiting for you all day!" and all was well. We chose a bunk, spent 5 minutes making the bed, and then I started getting what my brother called "The Look" - the one that says enough, mom, you can go. So I went.
Somehow it seems much harder this year. Maybe it is because she is staying longer...maybe because I'm now a whole ocean away from her... maybe because I know I won't hear from her (she will have to write a letter home to get in to Sunday dinner, but by the time we get it on this end, we will already be gone)... but I'm sure she will have a great time, and I will still have to drag her away when it is time to pick her up.

(Blue Mountain Ranch -

A Girl Who Knows What She Wants... or not

Annika got to be a big girl and eat dinner with the grown-ups - Gail (my friend from Texas), Gina (Gail's 18-year-old daughter) and Teresa (Gina's best friend), me and David. Our visitors had heard about the Ice Bar, so we had to try it out. It was actually really fun, except my feet kept freezing to the floor, and it felt like I was walking on tape. We were issued warm capes for the event, and received our drinks (juice or vodka-juice) in glasses made of ice. Cheezy? You bet! Fun? Absolutely (or Absolut-ly).

Then dinner at Berns, which didn't turn out to be nearly as Swedish as we had intended. The restaurant is still notable for the fantastic decor, but Asian? Well, we enjoyed it anyway. For dessert, Annika and I ordered the same - something banana with vanilla ice cream. One bite each and we were convinced that vanilla it was not, so we asked the waitress. She investigated and reported back that the kitchen had run out of vanilla, and they thought to substitute something historical/traditional (yucky) instead, hoping we wouldn't notice. Annika was suitably unimpressed, so the waitress offered to comp the desserts and bring her an ice cream of her choice - what would it be? Peach, rasberry, iced banana or ?? Annika then asked for a taste of each to help her decide - and look what she got! In the end, we weren't crazy about the food, but the waitress got high marks!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I Thought I was a Runner...

Yep - have the shoes, the running clothes, and all the accessories. I think of myself as a runner, and have even completed one marathon (first and last). Now I have some super-cool software on my iPod, the Nike iPod training software. It is pretty neat - lets you track your runs, set challenges (with yourself) and goals (with others) and helps with motivation. After a run, you even get surprise messages from famous athletes with words of encouragement, like"Great job - you just completed your longest ever run" or "Great job - you just finished your fastest time for a mile." And you can pick a "power song" for extra motivation (though I haven't figured out yet how it works).

But today, after a medium run, I checked my stats. I knew I hadn't lived up to my personal challenge (10 runs in 4 weeks) and I even missed out on the goal (50 k in 6 weeks), but I didn't know my overall performance had been so dismal. Yes, there's always an excuse - school finishing parties, sick kids, sick me, guests, work, etc, etc. But I didn't really calculate the number of runs I average per month. Sadly, my running average - even counting my "better than nothing" 20-minute jaunts around the block - is three per month. Not even one a week.

Time to do better...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Aquatic Disaster

So the fish tank was a good idea... until...

The boys got a bit out of hand on Sunday night, and managed to dump a whole can of fish food in the aquarium. We made an emergency call yesterday and today to the service company, and they have come out twice so far to clean out the tank. The guy who came today was amazed that anything was still alive in there, but we still have about 15 hearty fish swimming around. I begged him to take them somewhere so that they might have a better (short) life, but he said that they have to keep them there to get the aquarium back in balance. So I guess we just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

In the meantime, we have a little graveyard for all the dead fish that Benjamin has found (that we haven't flushed away before he has seen them). We said a small prayer for each of them this morning -

"Dear Flattie, you were a great fish. You were really flat and swimmed really good. I'm sorry that I killed you. Dear Suckie, you were a great fish. You really sucked good. I'm sorry that I killed you..." and so on. I think he has learned his lesson.

Our only consolation is that we are perhaps not the only ones who have found themselves in this situation. The aquarium guy said that usually it's the adults... but suggested that we hide the food in the future. I just think it's a good thing we started with fish.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Adventures with Dad

I went away this weekend with our friends from Texas, which left David alone with the kids. I must admit that when I have a weekend alone with the kids, I generally get about as adventurous as one of the local museums, or maybe an activity center. But not my husband - he is always planning new and exciting things to do with them.

This weekend, he sent Annika to stay with a friend (so that she could attend sailing school both Saturday and Sunday), and then managed to organize a fishing excursion with Benjamin and Christopher (and Carl - a neighbor and David's extra pair of hands on these excursions). From the pictures, it looks like they had a great time - fishing, kayaking, watching football (soccer) - really, really cool!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mamma? I'm got.

Christopher is working on developing his sense of humor. His latest joke is to call "Mamma?" and when I say "Yes?" he smiles and says "I forgot." Repeat this about 20-50 times, and he finds it quite funny. The only problem is that he doesn't really say "I forgot". He almost never uses "I", just "I'm" (as in the response to "Where are you?" - "Here I'm is!") And then he forgets the for in forgot, leaving only got. So yesterday, after about 10 "I'm gots", I really focused on making him say FORgot. So today, as we were walking home from school, he started up again. I couldn't really hear him because he was in front of me, and all I heard was "got". But then I asked him to turn around and say it again, and with a big smile, he looked at me and said "I forgot." YES!!! Progress! Next challenge? Here I'm is!
(and a little song for your enjoyment - HERE)

This is So Much Better

I had a goldfish once. It was one of those things you do at the county fair - throw a ping pong ball at a series of tiny glass fish bowls full of colored water, and if your ball is (un)lucky enough to land in one, then you get your own goldfish in a little colored-water-filled plastic bag. I can't even imagine how the poor fish must have felt, being carried around the rest of the fair in that little bag, nor can I imagine that he/she even lived beyond the first five minutes, but goldfish must be a hearty species. My little fish not only survived, but lived on for a couple of years in a glass bowl in the kitchen. Even when I forgot to feed him, or didn't keep his bowl as clean as I should have, he survived to a ripe old fishy age. But as a pet, he wasn't really so interesting, just swimming around in circles...

And of course, the kids have been begging for pets for ages, and the discussions about why we can't have one are endlessly repetitive - what do we do with it when we travel; wouldn't it be lonely all day alone; we don't have a fenced in yard, etc, etc. Everyone says a dog is almost like another child, needing to be walked, fed, bathed... and I just can't imagine adding one more thing to my to-do list.
So for Benjamin's birthday, we decided to take the first tiny step towards pet-hood, with hand-holding all the way. We went with a leased aquarium - which seemed to solve all our problems in one (expensive) solution. They take care of the cleaning, and the health of the fish, and all we have to do is feed them and enjoy. They can even put in an automatic feeder if we are out of town. They turned up the day before B's BD, and within an hour, we were completely set up with an aquarium full of fish, plants and even a sunken ship.
So far, it has been a big hit. Everyone is mesmerized by it, and both Annika and Benjamin have been found in front of the aquarium, reading to the fish and showing them pictures from the books. The only disappointment was when I had to tell B that he couldn't catch fish from the ocean to bring home...

Monday, June 09, 2008


We spent the weekend on Sandhamn to celebrate Benjamin's birthday (and Sweden's), and the boys managed to be at least as interested in fishing as they were last year. Amazing. Equipped with life jackets and nets, they stayed busy for hours. Within five minutes, their shorts were soaked, and they also managed to tromp straight into the water without taking off their shoes. Oh well - everything dries... eventually.

Benjamin's birthday dinner was soooo sloooow, but at least the kids' food came quickly. We then waited more than an hour for our appetizers, but ended up with lots of fellow restaurant friends who were in the same boat, so to speak.

I can't believe that this will be our first summer without Sandhamn. The kids are really disappointed, but we just have too much going on. Also, the house we have rented for the past 6 years is not really available, since the owners now have children and want to use it themselves. We have been so lucky to have been there the past summers, and will always think of it as a tiny bit ours...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Would This Song Make the Charts in Lubbock, Texas?

Doubtful. And I can't even believe it is on the playlist here, but I have actually heard it more than once. The song title - and most of the words in the song - are "You've got the sweetest ass in the world" - and pretty much nothing else. Go figure.

(I feel I should apologize for objectionable content, but if you really want confirmation that the song exists, you will find it - where else? - on YouTube.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

How Say It BooZoo

After spending a bit of time in Switzerland, the kids have picked up a few words of French. Annika can count to five, Benjamin knows the response to "Ca va?" (which is, of course, "Ca va!"), and Christopher... well.... let's just say he's not a linguist. We have worked on "Bonjour" (Good morning) and he's getting there... A couple of days ago he kept asking me "How say it BooZoo", and got increasingly frustrated at my failure to understand. Finally we figured it out. What he meant was "How do you say it in French", which he calls "Bonjour" - or "BooZoo". Now we know.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Harbor Day!

Every year, Stocksund has its harbor day celebration. Weather can be iffy, but there's usually a good crowd and lots of exciting things to see - fire trucks, police boats, coast guard cruisers, helicopters and more. The kids had a blast this year and the weather cooperated. We just let the kids have free reign while we socialized with the neighbors, and the kids came and found us from time to time, mostly when they wanted money. We ended up taking 5, our three plus two from the neighborhood. Annika was really excited about getting to drive a real boat - I guess she doesn't remember driving ours last summer... Christopher loved the helicopter, and Benjamin was on a hunt for fish.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Conversation Opener

Annika's school class had a garden party this evening, with parents and siblings included. When we arrived, Benjamin immediately struck up a conversation with two of the moms. "Are there any snakes here" he asked. "No, not here. Why?" they replied. "Because I want to find them and kill them." When the moms patiently explained that we don't usually hunt for snakes, Benjamin asked, "Well, what is there here that we can kill?" Really - he's actually a very sweet little guy...

Difficult Choices

Sometimes it is hard to take a slower road. I chose to give up consulting when I had children - it didn't really fit with what David and I wanted for a home life. Starting ABC Leksaker seemed like a great opportunity... though different from the path I had pursued up until now. Don't get me wrong - I love what I'm doing, and it fits the family perfectly. I can generally work from home, the hours are flexible, and what doesn't get done... well, it just doesn't.

But even at ABC Leksaker, I have made some strategic choices. First, no store. I just can't see how I could fit in the time to manage a store, and still pick the kids up by 3 (ok.. 4...) And trying to handle inventory between what's out on the web and what's in the shop - a coordination nightmare that I haven't even begun to deal with. And time? It takes time to make the warehouse ready for company - it is still a warehouse - and it takes time to provide good customer service. And time is the thing I just don't have. So no store. But... when people do come in to shop, they always leave with much more than if they shop online. And now an on-line competitor is opening up a shop just around the corner from the house (and office)...

Second, no catalog. I priced it once, and tried to calculate how large the print run would have to be to generate enough orders to cover the cost. Even at a conservative print run, we would still have to several times the orders that we currently fill, and we don't even have the stock to make that happen. But another competitor just sent out their summer catalog last week, and it was awesome. There were even things in there that I wanted to order...

So what can I do? I guess I can enjoy the results of the choices I have made - more time with the kids, but a smaller (and less profitable) company.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Djursholm Uniform

Odd Molly is the hottest thing going in Sweden - or at least in Djursholm. I broke down and bought this "Granny sweater" (though I might not have bought it if I had known what it was called). Odd Molly isn't cheap, but it does feel wonderful to wear. And I can even imagine that I look this good in it - though my sweater is a somewhat larger size...

And then I go out to pick up the kids at some activity and three other moms are wearing the same sweater. Or until I go to Täby centrum and pass three other people in the same sweater. At least it comes in different colors! I always wondered how long it would take me to fit in here - nine years and counting!