Sunday, May 31, 2009

Planning Ahead

I'm that mom... the only mom at the park without cookies, the only one who's kids don't have water bottles at sports practice, the one without tissues or wipes... Well, sometimes I'm a good mom.

Annika went on her school overnight to a camping-in-a-tent kind of place. We got some packing suggestions - extra clothes, sleeping bag, "underställ" (which I took to mean a sleeping bag pad, but which apparently meant long underwear to sleep in), hat and swimsuit. Being a former boy scout (ok, explorer), I added to her list - towel, bug repellent, sunblock - and she came up with iPod speakers and flashlight on her own.

So the result? She was plenty warm given her Arctic quality backpacking sleeping bag (mine) and didn't really need the "underställ" that I didn't pack - and she was comfy since she had the sleeping bag pad that she didn't really need. And her bug repellent and sun block came back empty, since she was the only one who thought of it. And she even got kudos for the flashlight. "Wow, your mom plans ahead!" was the comment from one of the other moms. Yes.

My Little Swedes

We went out on the boat yesterday - one of the first truly beautiful days of the season. Sunny, warm, no wind, calm water, everything blooming - really, really beautiful. Of course, we were busy with football matches and Annika's overnight, so we didn't really get out until after 4... but we packed a picnic, dropped anchor off Grinda, and just enjoyed. 

All three of the kids swam, for a sum total of 12 seconds - 4 seconds each! David and I (wisely) stayed wrapped in fleeces and watched, armed with towels and blankets for the swimmers. Clearly not being born in this country has had a significant impact on our inner temperature controls... or maybe it is age that keeps us warm and dry, rather than diving into water that makes you gasp just to put your big toe in. 

And I enjoyed being a boat wife, some thing I vowed I would never be. When we bought the boat, nine years ago (almost to the day), I promised and swore that I would know just as much about it as David - that I would be able to drive, dock, set lines, fix problems - everything that he could do. 

And for the first few years, I did just that. I had had more experience with captain-ing a sailing boat, so I was the choice for all docking manoeuvers. Those first years, every time David tried to dock, something would go wrong, he'd get in a tight spot... and then say something like, "Dammit - you do it!" and leave me the wheel. So there I'd be, trying not to hit someone else's precious boat, trying to get ours worked into a slip without injuring it - or us. All in all, a great learning experience! 

But now, David's skill at the helm is equal to mine, or better, so I'm no longer in demand in the tight spots. And of course, I missed out on running lines, so he does that, too. So I made and served dinner, sat on the front with the kids, screaming at every tiny bit of wave and wake, lounged on the back bench - and generally had a carefree time! Not so bad - this boat wife stuff!

Of course, the kids are also so much more engaged in the whole boating thing than they were before. We bought the boat when Annika was a baby, and had a wonderful summer when she was too young to move around. We could easily put her below, playing with toys, and be confident that she would be happy and stay put. The summer we had a newborn, 2- and 4-year olds was tough - too many unaware of their own mortality, and no way to leave any combination below deck. But now we have kids that can get on the boat themselves, kids who don't have to be passed through hatches but can climb around on the boat themselves, kids who enjoy being on the water (and don't just sleep), kids who can maybe even help load, unload and generally be counted on to not fall in at inopportune times (or at all). And of course, kids who can swim - what a difference!

Our next goal (after nine years) is to master the Swedish art of "docking on a deserted island" - drop a stern anchor, bow to shore, tied off on a tree. We're not too confident just yet, but it when in Rome... (or when in the archipelago...)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

David's Home!

David was away sailing this week, and got back yesterday. Today, he took the boys fishing and frog hunting - apparently with great success! This is the stuff dads are especially good at (and moms would prefer to see electronically!).

Career Choices 2

So this is the theory lesson - David teaching Christopher one of his favorite sports - golf. Annika and Benjamin are also having a lesson with the pro. 

And here's the result - a swing somewhere between log-splitting and ice hockey. Looks like we have a way to go before he becomes the next Tiger Woods!

(and by the way, I have now learned how to rotate a movie before I post it, but next time I will try to remember to NOT rotate the camera!)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Career Choices

I couldn't figure out what to call this shot - it was somewhere between "Career Choices" and "Annika Doesn't Know How Good She Has It!". So let's start with the career choices...

Annika would make a wonderful teacher - she patiently works with Benjamin (and sometimes Christopher) on reading, writing and math. She likes putting together math worksheets, and sometimes writes "books" of exercises. Benjamin will eagerly do any of his homework assignments with her - somehow she is a lot more fun than me. 

Benjamin would make a wonderful writer or an inventor. Instead of focusing on any one task, he is always off in a fantasy land, telling long stories about friends, bad guys, etc. Or he is building forts, hide-outs and homes for stray animals out of pretty much anything - trash, scraps of wood, couch cushions. Of course, if the creative side doesn't pan out, he can always train as a masseuse - he loves giving massages, and is quite serious about it. Though any one massage rarely lasts more than a minute, he is very methodical, working with fingers, palms and elbows to give the best effect.

Christopher has his heart set on either being a cleaner (he wants to quit school before it has even started to come and clean my office) or a security guard (to keep the bad guys away from the local amusement park, Gröna Lund). He actually wants to live at Gröna Lund - and has plans for moving all the rides inside his house in the winter time. 

Of course, the boys may give up these dreams in favor of being... hairdressers. Yep - last night, after her shower, Annika made an irresistable offer to them - "Boys, would you like to dry my hair?" They lept at the opportunity, bringing in a bench for her to sit on, a book for her to read (Christopher's current favorite - Kasper the football/soccer player) and then divided up tasks. One manned the blow dryer while the other manned the brush. And Annika enjoyed every minute! 

Thursday, May 07, 2009


At dinner this evening, Annika informed us that she had broken up with her boyfriend today. News to me - I didn't even know she had a boyfriend. Of course, she haughtily informed us - "I've had three". The first one I knew about - a neighbor that she played with from time to time. Then it was a 2-day relationship with a boy in her class, and now, the mysterious number three. So mysterious, in fact, that she couldn't even remember HIS NAME - just some guy in second grade, and the relationship lasted a total of 24 hours... or less. 

The breaking up part is getting easier, she tells us. The first one was hard, but now she just says, "I break up. We can still be friends." and all is fine. 

Benjamin then informed us that one of the girls chases him and William around, trying to - horrors - kiss them on the cheek. So far, they've been lucky to escape without... what? Injured pride? 

Which all brings back memories... I think I chased a few boys during my elementary school years, and I'm positive I "went steady" with every boy in my class sometime before the end of 6th grade. My mom just didn't get it - "going steady" to her meant something just shy of an engagement ring, but at 10 (or 11, 9 or 12) you're still just getting used to the terminology. So my current strategy is just to listen and enjoy. I'm sure I'll be reporting a case of the cooties soon!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Biking Independence, Part II

So with her newfound bike-to-school independence, Annika informed me this morning that after school, she wants to bike to the... LIBRARY and check out some books. Wooo hooo! (and I said yes, in case you were wondering)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Rant on Manners

Oh, the new generation. In my day (you know - when we had to walk to school, uphill, both ways), my mother had definite rules on manners, and especially on phone conversations. I had 5-minute limits on phone calls, one call per night, and I was always required to be polite. "Hello, Armstrong's residence, Leigh speaking" was the only way to answer the phone at our house. And if my mom had ever caught wind of rudeness, my 5-minute-calls would have been out the window. 

So here's the latest in the girl sagas that have me annoyed right now -

T rings, asks to play. A says "Sorry, but today I can't but..." and never gets to finish because T has hung up on her, ostensibly to call someone else with a higher liklihood of playing,  Right Now. T routinely hangs up on Annika... (and let me tell you that if I ever catch Annika hanging up on anyone, her phone minutes will come to an abrupt end.)

And then there was the whole "unless something better comes along" attitude. I'm sorry, but you have to commit to your friends. Annika was at D's before soccer practice, and D asked her if she could come over and have dinner after practice. At practice, Annika asked me if it was ok, which it was. But when she told D, D said, "Sorry, but I asked S instead." Annika had a very long face - "Mamma, do you think D doesn't like me?" 

I hate to see what it will be when boys are involved... by the way, I was never (ever) allowed to call boys. Never. Not even my boyfriend (now my husband). I don't suppose it is the same nowadays...

Waiting... not so patiently...

for academic success. Yep, my son (Benjamin) is turning 8 in a month, and he can't read. It isn't really his fault, and he isn't failing at some academic level - it just isn't expected. We did decide to hold him back a year in kindergarten since his language was not quite where it should have been, so he is a bit older than the other kids in his class.... but he's still in "nollan" or "zero-class" where the expectations are... well... just about zero. By the end of this  year, he should be able to recognize his name, know the basic shapes (we're talking square, triange, circle here, not diamond, pentagon or parallelogram) and count to 10. 

He's going to summer camp this summer, where he won't be able to read what activity he should go to next. Nor will he be able to write the obligatory Sunday-meal-ticket letter home, and even though I have already bought check-the-box stationery, he can't really use it without help. I don't know what he will do at reading time, when other kids his age (second-graders, surely) are reading chapter books...

But now an article in the New York Times makes me feel much better about the whole idea. Seems as though he will catch up in a couple of years, and maybe even be more balanced and well-adjusted, due to his years of play. Right. One can only hope! For the full text of the article - see the link below:

Friday, May 01, 2009

Nike Dreams and iPod Reality

I love running - at least the idea of running. I love looking at the shoes, the clothes, and enjoy the latest in outerwear technology. The electronic component is even better - how fun to run when you can know everything about your run - your distance, time, heartbeat, etc. I bought the Nike-iPod-thingy-for-your-shoe last year, and think the idea is great.  

However, I'm not sure what my Nike-iPod combination really does for me. Unfortunately, all it showed me about my running was that I am not a runner. I didn't meet any of my goals, and I failed at all my challenges. (On that note, I thought the challenges were pretty badly matched. I wanted a challenge - like "Run 50 km in a month" - to keep me motivated. In the challenge I joined, most of the members had reached the goal on the second day. Not very encouraging for the rest of us...) I did realize that I was running about once every three weeks... and that does not a runner make.

So now comes spring, new weather, new motivation - and summer pants that no longer fit. I have started getting up at 5.30 every morning to do something... run, Wii Fit, eliptical... something. And it is going... well... Anyway, I'm not as fit as I once was, nor am I getting fit as fast as I used to. But so far, I'm on track to meet my first Nike-iPod goal, and today was the first run (of 8 in this fitness go 'round) that I actually started getting a "wind" - we're not going for second wind here - I'll settle for the first one. 

So here's hoping I can keep it up!

Happy Valborg

I took the kids to the Stocksund Valborg bonfire last night - high time to celebrate the end of winter! We biked by a friend of Annika's, then down to the waterfront park, taking two extra kids with us (their dad was walking with their third). Of course, the moment we arrived, all 5 kids vanished in the chaos... 

Benjamin's eyes lit up when he saw the fire and the waterfront reeds, racing to the water's edge to get a six-footer that he could light in the bonfire. I tried (in vain) to point out to him that - if it indeed caught fire - then what? But he was already dreaming of lighting things on fire and was beyond reach. (Consolation note - he was not the only one with that thought.)

Christopher found some friends and a tree to climb, and I had a moment's panic when I saw a kid on the highest branches (not mine, whew!) . Otherwise he busied himself investigating the many small campfires around. 

David (age 6, not mine) also raced for the reeds, revealing a squashed marshmellow he had brought in his pocket that he was hoping to grill.  

And Annika and Ellen both raced off to the waterfront with some football friends, all of whom seemed to be fascinated by what some older boys were doing (I have no idea...)

Which left me, the coat lady, wandering around, trying to catch an occasional glimpse of my children (and the two extra) in the crowds, chatting with friends and enjoying the warmth of the fire. It was a stunning evening - in other words, it wasn't raining or snowing - and the fire was in full blaze. (We missed last year's when they apparently couldn't get it lit, but the scent of lighter fluid in the air made it clear that this year, they were taking no chances.) And it was a wonderful time to be in Sweden - where my children could race around with friends and strangers, with all the natural dangers presented by fire and water - and I could be confident that somewhere, somehow, some adult would step in if they got too close to danger.

It was admittedly quite hard to convince the masses that it was time to leave. I found the boys huddled in a group by the water where an older boy was demonstrating the combination of aerosol cans and fire - when they weren't lighting fireworks. Annika and Ellen had lost interest in the older boys, and were playing tag with 6-year-olds (hope this phase lasts!)

I had previously left the car at Annika's friend's house, a wise move since the kids were pretty exhausted after their evening. And it was pretty dark at 10pm, when we finally left. It turned out to be a good plan, though Christopher still managed to throw a fit the entire way back to the car - it is beyond me how a kid can both cry uncontrollably yet still see and breathe enough to ride a bike. All in all, a fun evening!