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.