Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Newfound Independence

Annika has started biking to school - no small feat, since her school is a fair distance away. But there are bike lanes almost the whole way there, and few streets to cross. Letting her take this new step was not easy... we had a few test runs, and the first morning, I went halfway with her, through the worst of the traffic. But she is careful and responsible, and seems to have grown a couple of years in maturity with her newfound independence. 

However, it's not all fun and games... 

Annika started out riding with M, a friend from school that also likes horses. The two of them spent the first independence week riding early, stopping by the stables to pet their favorite horses. But then L started riding, too. First problem, M and L don't like each other. Second problem, you can't ride three abreast. And L, being somewhat manipulative, both literally and figuratively, managed to position herself by Annika, cutting her off if she tried to ride up with M for a while. So... take turns, thought Annika.

Week 2, L called to ride with Annika, but she had already made plans with M, and told her. L arrives at school with her mother, in tears, and proceeds to cry all morning. Huge guilt. Much appeasing on Annika's part. But finally everyone seemed happy, and the three of them left school together, biking by the stables on the way home.

Week 3, Sunday night. Late. SMS from L asking to ride with Annika on Monday morning. Annika already has plans with M, and has promised that they will just be the two of them. Annika stressed. If she tells L that she already has plans with M, she risks a repeat of week 2. If she tells L to come, then she risks the wrath of M. I (not so wisely, it turns out) suggest that Annika not answer, and then at school on Monday, invite L to ride on Tuesday. 

Monday morning. Hectic. Late. Lunch required. At breakfast table. Phone rings, twice, L both times. I tell Annika to either answer it or put it on silent, so on silent it goes. Annika dashes out, late to meet M, but on her way. 9am. My phone rings. Annika is crying so hard she can't speak. "L's mom is really, really angry at me, and I don't know why" I finally manage to pry from her. Noon. Speak to L's mom, who accuses Annika of arranging to ride with L, then not turning up, and hanging up on her several times. Turns out she took her other two children to school, leaving L at home, waiting for Annika because she had "promised she would come" (a statement I know to be untrue). So she lays into Annika - "Don't know how you could do something like this... Thought better of you..." in front of everybody. Makes a big deal of how her daughter will be late because of Annika (she wasn't - arrived on her bike with T in plenty of time). Had a long talk with L's mom, though I think neither of us is pleased with the outcome.

End result - Annika is afraid of L's mom (after knowing her for 5 years). Biking has lost some of its glamour, moving from a step towards independence to one more power game in the social network. L and Annika are friends again, after much sucking up on Annika's part. And on it goes... Yesterday, L invited Annika to ride, then invited several more (but not M), insisting that Annika would ride across town, pick up E, then back to L's house, then to school (I put my foot down on that one.)

So what are our lessons?
  • It is always better to face your problems head on, rather than postponing them, hoping they will go away.
  • You shouldn't screen your calls (though the important corollary is that just because you have a mobile phone doesn't mean you are perpetually available, at all times, in all circumstances.)
  • You should never yell at someone else's kid.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Simmärke Scam

When I took swimming lessons, we had little cards when we had achieved certain goals - Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced Intermediate (I think) and Swimmer (which wasn't available until you were 12.. or 14...). That's it. Low cost - like free. 5 levels.

Benjamin just finished his swimming lessons (school sponsored - ain't Sweden great?) and he qualified for 7 (that's seven!) medals. Each at 35 SEK, of course. So we could purchase the Blue Lifering, the Bather, the Silver Frog, the Gold Frog, the Silver Fish, the Gold Fish, and the "Back-Frog" Blue. He has also previously qualified for the Dunker, the Turtle, the Blue Crab, the Red Crab, the Silver Penguin and the Gold Penguin - 6 more medals. If I bought all 13, it would cost 455 SEK, about $54. 

The medals are designed to be encouraging, I guess, though some children are clearly more motivated by them than others. Some pools require you to do lessons to qualify for medals (at an additional cost) while others just let you prove your case when the lifeguard has extra time. Annika, who is both motivated by the medals and a good swimmer, had an expensive summer last year at our local pool. The lifeguard had lots of free time, and she qualified for 2-3 new medals every day. 35 SEK here, 70 SEK there...

The medals are also designed to progress - silver frog for 10 meters in shallow water, gold for the same in deep. The first medal - the Dunker - you can get just by putting your head under water, the next one - the Bather - is doing the same five times. 

In the end, we settled for just three - the gold frog (10 m in deep water), the gold fish (25 m in deep water) and the blue lifebuoy (swim with clothing). And summer hasn't even started...

Of course, the best moment during the whole swim school "showing" (picture parents on their way to work, padding around barefoot with business trousers rolled up) was at the diving platforms. Each kid got to show how they could jump in and swim to the side. After the first little girl daintily jumped in and swam to the side, it was Benjamin's turn. "Cannonball!!!" and we were all just slightly more damp...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kuh Dat Why

is Christopher's new phrase. In case you were wondering, it means either "You know why?" or "Because".
A typical conversation is:

"Mamma - I say sumting?"
"Yes, you may say something", I reply.
"Mamma, I go football snart - kuh dat why?"
"Why are you going to football soon?" I answer, trying to stick with just one language.
"Kuzz I ah-muss sex." (Because I'm almost six - for everyone who needs a translation, which, unfortunately, is most of us.)

I so hope he survives kindergarden next year...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Here we are in Switzerland for Easter again - expecting a forecast of miserable weather that has turned out to be beautiful. We decided not to ski - partly due to the temps (skiing on slush?) and partly since we have had so much skiing that we are "skied out". The kids have been all over the place on their scooters, and we have taken excursions to Zermatt and Leukerbad. Yesterday was a three hour swimming extravaganza at the thermal baths at Leukerbad that left us all wrinkled and exhausted. 
The Easter Bunny came to visit, and the kids managed a reasonably peaceful Easter Egg hunt, dividing up the loot at the end with Annika driving the process - again remarkably peaceful. 
Happy Easter to all!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The New Nils

When Benjamin was three, he was in daycare with Nils. Nils was a bigger boy, and popular, and Benjamin looked up to him. Over the past three years, Nils stories have made their way into our family history. Despite the fact that Benjamin and Nils rarely played together, Benjamin seemed full of information about Nils, his family, and his escapades.
I guess it is really an issue of conversation and wanting to participate that kept Nils in our day-to-day lives. Benjamin wants so much to be a part of things, yet lacks the life experiences for really interesting stories and comments. His active imagination doesn't really work on himself - we all know too well what he has done - or not done - to be taken in by a story. But Nils... Nils has been a character in all kinds of adventures.
Despite the fact that Nils and Benjamin have not been in the same school for 2 years, the stories have continued. Until now... and we have Marcel... the new Nils.
I am sure we have a writer in the making...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Steamin' Fun!

Christopher's new word is "steamin'" - as in "It is steamin' hot outside!" However, he seems to have given up all other modifiers in favor of the "steamin" awesomeness of the word steamin. Like -
  • It's steamin' cold outside.
  • I'm steamin' good at Star Wars (Lego version on the DS - his favorite game)
  • I'm steamin' fast

and many others which are too numerous to name. I can't figure out where it comes from...