Monday, June 22, 2009

Midsummer in Switzerland

We had a great midsummer weekend in Switzerland. The Tour de Suisse passed through, with a finish line just below our house for the second-to-last stage. Although it was a bit of a pain that the whole village was shut down, the kids loved the energy and excitement. The whole day was spent in preparation, setting up barriers, traffic patterns, etc. for the racers. And even better, the central square offered free activities for kids - bouncy castle, giant trampoline-bungie cord jumping, wall climbing, and more. The finish line was packed with people long before the racers even apperared, and the crowds were held in place with the freebies being handed out. Our threesome got t-shirts (one size fits all... for the next 25 years), water bottles, hats and clapper things.

The race finally came through, but we were so busy with the activites that we hardly noticed the flash of color as they passed...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Christopher's ABCs

We have been working on basic literacy over the past few weeks - for both Benjamin (now a big 8) and Christopher (a week shy of 6). Having two languages makes it difficult, and half the time, I'm not sure if we are helping or hurting the boys by focusing on English. Maybe we should wait until they have reading down in Swedish... but I just feel like Benjamin is already late and I don't want to waste a whole summer... and Christopher has enough speech and language "creativity" that I don't want to wait until next year in his kindergarten class of 26 (!) kids.

This evening at a pizza restaurant, Christopher had the opportunity to write the whole alphabet. he couldn't really do it, but with help he managed. He was so proud of himself and his new "cheat sheet" for his ABC song (that he never really learned properly) that he sang all evening and begged me to put him in video. So here he is!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Run Up the Flagpole

At Annika's end-of-school celebration, one of the parents gave a speech to the children, a traditon. She had asked the kids for help with ideas of what to do if the summer gets boring or doesn't go as planned. Each had done a drawing or written a suggestion, the best of which were distributed in a booklet after the event. Of course, during the speech, she showed the "best" of the drawings, three from Annika's class... and the lead drawing was Annika's. I should be a proud parent...

But the drawing was titled, "What to do if Mamma spends too much time on the computer" and featured a laptop being run up the flagpole with a nervous, fingernail-chewing woman at the bottom. So, that's me, I guess, the fingernail-chewer who spends too much time on the computer. The one who refuses to pick her daughter up early and take her to the shopping center at 2 because she still has work to do. The one who doesn't automatically run home and pick up the latest forgotten item (homework, gym clothes...) in the middle of the day. The one who limits TV time, but uses it shamelessly (or shamefully) as a babysitter so she can get some work done (or blog, as I'm doing now.) The one who is thrilled at Annika's biking independence because it takes the pressure off. The one who has said - when asked repeatedly why I can't conform to all of her wishes - "Why don't you ask your pappa!"

I guess I thought it would be more equal, this kid-raising thing. I grew up in a traditional family, where my mom was responsible for 99% of the household day-to-day, and my dad came home at 6 for dinner. Sports activities, music classes, school pick-up and drop-off, groceries and meal planning - that was all my mom. Not that she wasn't smart. Not that she wasn't qualified. Not that she wasn't extremely well-educated. It was just the way it was done. I wonder if she would have gone back to work eventually when Rob and I were both in school. I guess she probably would have if she hadn't been busy with her 14-year battle with cancer... a full-time job of another sort. (A clue - when I was 2, she put me in daycare and taught Spanish to Peace Corps volunteers at the local university, but that ended when Rob came along, and then cancer came along when he was just 2.)

Anyway, I do enjoy my life, and I have created and chosen my job because of the flexibility that it offers. However, it does bother me sometimes that all the "flexibility" in our family is mine... but it bothers me more when the kids only see the same thing that I saw growing up. I want Annika to have the view that women can "have it all" (though that theory may be a little outdated these days) and I want the boys to see that dads can take an equal role in the day-to-day. When I ask Annika what she wants to be when she grows up, and she says a mom... well, that's not a bad thing, but what about a doctor? A scientist? A guard at Gröna Lund (Christopher's career plan when he's not planning on being a janitor)? Why should being a mom exclude all else?

After the event, I asked Annika why it was my computer that was up the flagpole, and not David's. (We are an equal-opportunity data household.) She said that it was because he's always travelling anyway... So maybe it isn't such a bad thing to have the household day-to-day. And now the TV babysitter is almost done, so I must sign off and get back to that day-to-day.


I was at Annika's last-day-of-school celebrations, watching her sing the national anthem (of Sweden) with confidence. I don't know it, though I am starting to recognize the tune after so many school events. But truthfully, I don't think she would recognize The Star Spangled Banner if she heard it...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

You Mean He's NOT With You?!?

I did it. That bad mother thing. Even though I always count to three - over and over again. I count after school, at the pool, at the beach, skiing, in the car - always to three to make sure everyone is accounted for... but still...

Tuesday was a crazy day, in so many ways. I played tennis, as usual, with the group of 8-ish that I usually play with, the last game of the season. And we had a luncheon for one of the ladies who is moving back to England. Then after pick-up, I was planning to chop veggies for 35 - Annika's class party that evening, and I had organized a babysitter to take and pick up Christopher from his "graduation dinner" at his dagis. Everything planned, all pieces in place.

Well, the tennis was fun for the first 45 minutes, but then on a deep shot, I ran for the ball and felt that pop in my calf muscle - that muscle that has been bothering me for the past few weeks - and realized that my game/set/match/season was over. (BTW - I got the shot, hit it deep, and scored the point - the bright side of my injury.) So I limped out early, home to get ready for the luncheon. On the way, I stopped by Apoteket for a wrap for my leg, and then took the opportunity to buy a few kilos of veggies for the evening.

The luncheon was lovely, hosted by the wife of the Belgian ambassador, and a sub for our game-of-eight. But long. And I didn't drive, thinking I would help the environment/avoid parking in town. And at 3.45, I started to panic. "I really have to leave - but I can take a cab..." thinking that I only had 30 minutes to make it home and pick up two boys. But of course, as always happens, that first one to break the leaving ice starts the flood, and goodbyes were said among all. In the meantime, I saw that the mom of one of Benjamin's friends had called, so I called her back. "Could Benjamin play?" - Absolutely. Now down to 15 minutes, having only one boy makes all the difference. Then traffic. School finishing parites, trucks full of beer-drinking graduates... chose the wrong street... friend's car almost out of gas... called the dagis... finally home at 4.25. Dash to pick up Christopher, home again, chopping veggies like a madwoman, hobbling around the kitchen with a knife.

And then... 5.05 the phone rings. Answer while still chopping. "Are you going to bring Benjamin over soon?" asks Benjamin's friend's mom. "You mean he isn't already there?" Yes, Benjamin had been left at school, through a huge miscommunication on my part. I had just assumed the mom was still at school when we spoke, but she wasn't, having picked up her child a good 30 minutes previously. Duh. She was on her way by the school anyway, so she picked him up - the last kid there - and explained the miscommunication to the staff.

Benjamin, typically, was completely unphased by the whole thing. In fact, he experienced it as a good day - not only did he (eventually) get to play with his best friend, but he also got an extra strawberry juice at fritids (after-school). So, no harm done, veggies chopped, three kids eventually in place... just a lingering feeling of guilt that I actually let one slip through my fingers.

And it is such a good thing I don't have four...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

And He's Eight!

It was Benjamin's eighth birthday today, and Sweden's national day. We usually take a day trip to Sandhamn since Benjamin loves it there so much and has such fond memories of our past summers there (and since he thinks the house we rented belongs to him). It usually isn't the best of weather, though usually it is better than it was this year! Rain, wind and generally dismal conditions prevailed, and we couldn't really think up a reason to be outside more than absolutely necessary. So we went to see Night at the Museum 2 (though the kids were still laughing at the previews for Ice Age 3 long after the feature film had started - can't wait 'till it comes out!). Then we went bowling, which - thanks to the lane guards - is actually fun to do as a family. Benjamin won, which was only fitting. Of course, his bowling looked more like pool, with at least two ricochets for each shot!

Somehow, I just don't have it in me to plan two birthday parties before the summer. Benjamin's class has a picnic planned for the 7th (Sunday), so that leaves out this weekend. Then it is "full fart" to the end of the school year, with class parties, football parties, football matches, etc. I think we will end up taking two families to the laser game place... maybe later this month...

Toothfairy Overtime

It has been a busy week for the tooth fairy.
  • Annika lost one of her molars (they're just popping out - loose for two days and then gone)
  • Benjamin (thankfully) lost one of his front, lower teeth - one where the permanent tooth had already come in behind, and one that we had an appointment with the dentist to remove. Good that he lost it without professional help!
  • And Christopher lost his first tooth. Yep - my baby is growing up.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Before and After

Annika has wanted long hair - and has been growing it out for the past three years. Every haircut has been an ordeal of just how little the hairdresser can clip. Brushing her long hair is also an ordeal, and every couple of days she chooses to get in the shower with a handful of conditioner (a bucketload?) and a brush to get out all the tangles. (Of course, this leaves the floor of the shower feeling something like a skating rink for the next one in line...)

And hair, in my book, is something that always grows back. Any decisions about it are hers to make, and if she truly wants to die it green and shave parts of it - though I would in no way be thrilled - at least it is not a tattoo!

But last week she decided that she wanted it shorter, RIGHT NOW, of course. I booked her a time, but with the end of school fast approaching, appointments are hard to come by. Her time is booked next week... but we were at the mall and went by the walk-in place where RIGHT NOW was an option, and voila!