Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sentence Excitement

Christopher is writing sentences - he wrote two by himself this morning and was so proud of himself. Unfortunately, they got thrown in the trash and covered in pasta sauce, so I can't scan them in... but they are:

CHRistoPHER NEiL har EN GroDa i handen.
(Christopher Neil has a frog in his hand.)


NEiL VEL ha EN jqaD
(which should have been "Neil vill ha en gepard" or "Neil wants a lepoard." but gepard got a bit confused in the sounding out process... and then the "p" got a bit turned around.)

First grade is fun!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

From Their Perspective

We were in Yosemite at the end of July, and in the lobby of our hotel was a group of people filming the "Oh, Ranger! Story Tour". They were going to 10 national parks, using macs to film peoples' impressions of what they had seen. I thought it would be fun for the kids... but legally the adults had to be in the video as well. So the whole family crowded in a little tent, in front of a MacBook Pro, and talked about our tour of the park with Ranger Ralph.

It took several weeks for them to post the video, but finally it's here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

While I was in London...

I went to London for 4 amazing days - a pretty sophisticated hen party weekend for Mariam, several weeks before her wedding to Fred.

Of course, before I left, I managed to sign the kids up for the Lilla Lidingöloppet, a 1,7 km course just for kids. We were invited to run by Christopher's soccer-football-running team, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. But in practice, managing three kids with three different starting times, not to mention picking up the numbers in advance, took some serious coordination. Calle, our neighbor, helped out - and with one adult stationed at the start, and one at the finish, it appears to have gone smoothly... though I'm guessing that the picture makes it seem more effortless than it truly was. But in any case, all three ran, finished and received medals - the important bit.

What Happens When I'm Not There...

So I pick up my camera to take some pictures, and flip through some old ones. And what do I find but 20 (!) pictures of Benjamin's on-line catch. No "ones that got away" or "ones that were THIS big" - here we have proof of the virtual fish he managed to snag on the web.

And I wondered why my memory card was getting full....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What You Say... and What They Hear

Christopher loves his calendar and the idea of being organized. He was sitting beside me, writing in his activities...

"Fffff", he says, and then writes "F".
"Eeee" he continues, and writes "e".
"P" he sounds out a few times, and then writes "P".

"Look, Mama" he says. "Is that right?"
"FeP", I say, somewhat puzzled.
"Yep - 'cause I have FEP-ball tomorrow. Right?"

And where, in the whole scheme of things, did he miss the connection between his favorite sport and the FOOT?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Queen Annika

I'm not sure when it happened... when my daughter became royalty, and me a mere servant...

"Mamma," I hear on the phone at 4 pm, "I am going to pick mushrooms with my class tomorrow, and I MUST have new rainboots."
"OK..." I say, "I can pick you up and take you to Mörby Centrum in a few minutes..."
"But Mamma," she replies, using my least favorite name, "I'm playing with Malla right now. Just buy me up a pair in size 36."
Right. Not a chance.

So the next morning comes, and she doesn't have any boots... only her Converse basketball shoes, which she doesn't want to get wet. So she finds last year's pair, and deems them to be adequate to the task.

1.30 pm. The phone rings.
"Mamma", I hear, with crying, "I'm at home... My feet really hurt and I CAN'T GET MY BOOTS OFF"

I hate to report that at that point I was laughing too hard to be able to respond appropriately. And my amusement at the situation was not appreciated...

1.35 pm. The phone rings.
"Mamma", Annika says, somewhat accusingly, "We don't need these boots anymore, do we?"
"Nah, not really," I reply. "They're a bit too girly to give to the boys."
"Good." she says, "because I cut them off with scissors."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Birthday Morning II... and Gympa

Am I a bad listener? I do try... but last week we got a message from Christopher's gym teacher that he has not been changing clothes for gym class - a new thing for a first grader.

The first time, he didn't like my choice (since I wouldn't let him wear his football outfit) so he refused. The second time, he said he "forgot" even though the clothes (same ones) were there. The third time, he said he didn't have time. I tried to talk to him, but he doesn't see the point in changing - if he can play bandy on the playground in his jeans, why not bandy in gym class in his jeans?

So yesterday, I reminded Christopher that it was gympa tomorrow (thursday) and he needed to change clothes. "No gympa tomorrow..." he said. "Yes, it's Thursday, and you have gympa, " I responed. "No" "Yes" "No" and finally I got him to agree that IF he had gympa, THEN he would change clothes.

So this morning, after birthday preparations and celebrations, plus a nutritious breakfast of chocolate covered bananas, I reminded Christopher about gympa. "I don't have gympa today," he said, "BECAUSE we are going on a field trip... AND I have to bring a lunch." Panic. Chaos.

And thankfully, we had some pasta in the fridge, plus a few scrawny meatballs that I could warm up for him. "Not a great lunch, kiddo" I said, guiltily. "It's OK mom," he replied.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Birthday Morning

This morning, I woke up officially 45 years old. Sounds so old... but I'm not - really.

David was out of town, so Benjamin crawled in bed with me about 5. At 6.15, I hit the showers, and Benjamin came in... sleepy, frustrated that the toilet seat wouldn't do his bidding, and angry. I said that it was my birthday - couldn't he destroy the toilet another day? And he gave it some thought...

"Go back to bed, Mom," he said, "and pretend you didn't see me."

So I did. And I listened. Christopher was cranky as usual, and started kicking up his morning fuss... but then got quiet. I never heard Annika. After 10 or so minutes, I snuck out and saw only empty beds. So I crawled back into mine.

Time went on... and I heard nothing. Finally, 20 minutes later, I heard the "flame thrower" in action, just outside the bedroom door... and the kids came in singing with their surprise - chocolate covered bananas with birthday candles (4, not 45). Annika had created the chocolate sauce from scratch (cocoa, sugar, vanilla and who knows what else) and Benjamin licked the bowl. Each of them had created a card - Benjamin's was a pop-up chair with a heart on it, the most creative of the lot. They whispered for an instant about presents, but I said I knew that we would do them later, when Papa was home.

And then we enjoyed our bananas... and kicked the morning into gear...

(No pics...)

Monday, August 23, 2010

The World Cup of the Tiny People

Christopher's team of 03-boys participated in their first tournament yesterday. They are a tiny team - both in height and number, and it was a bit touch and go on whether they would have enough boys to field a 5-man team. 7 is pretty much the minimum, but they made do with 6 in the first two matches, and then Oscar H joined them for the third.

Their "world cup" team ended up being pretty international... Christopher (an American born in Sweden) and Ziggy (a Swede born in America) were just a start. They also had Juan-chi (from Argentina), Borg (from Holland), Balash (from Hungary), Kanto (from Japan) - and of course, Oscar, the only true Swede.

The first game, they started off 0-2 in the first minutes. We were a bit worried... until they came back and pulled off a 4-2 win. The second game went much better, and they really came together as a team. It did get a bit embarrassing when the final score was 17-1... and aside from Kanto (the amazing goalie), every boy scored at least one goal. Christopher scored 3 goals! By the third game, they were a bit tired, but they still managed a 10-0 win. (David and Kanto's father were drafted in to coach the final match - and did a great job!)

The practices really came into the game - they have been working on positions and not just playing "every-kid-after-the-ball" football. And we parents found that we were cheering more for the passing and assists than for the actual goals.

Well done, team - and awesome job, Christopher!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Stickiness of Som and Fast

Christopher has such a hard time making the transition between English and Swedish. He is now 7, and still manages to rarely say a sentence correctly in English. "Som" (which, who, that) and "fast" (except, but) slip into his English and refuse to be corrected. He also says such charming things. "Mamma, right..." he says before he launches into a lengthy description of some scientific reality, from his perspective.

I decided to write down a few of his more charming turns of phrase:
  • When asking about his upcoming soccer tournament - "Mamma, when is the World Cup of the Tiny People?"
  • On the function of a hairbrush - "You know when your hair stick together and make it really fat - this is for like breaking them."
  • On death - "When I die, am I like dead for my whole entire life? Is that bad?"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad...

unless your stats are:

Two head wounds requiring the attention of the school nurse in the first three days of school. And yes, my first phone call from the nurse was on Day 2 of first grade.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First Day of School

The kids started school today - and here are some stats.

  • Age: 10 years old, turning 11 in 5 days
  • School year: starting 5th grade at Stocksundskolan (5A)
  • Best friends: Astrid, Elsa, Malla
  • Currently reading: Warriors (about supernatural cats)
  • Favorite TV show: Glee
  • Favorite activity: riding, soccer
  • Age: 9 years old
  • School year: starting 2nd grade at Vasaskolan
  • Best friends: Will, Felix, Rikard
  • Currently reading: The Dragon in the Driveway (I'm reading to him)
  • Favorite TV show: Avatar, The Last Airbender
  • Collects: Pokemon
  • Favorite activity: fishing, watching TV
  • Age: 7 years old
  • School year: starting 1st grade at Stocksundskolan (1A)
  • Best friends: Marcus, Hugo, Luke
  • Favorite activity: soccer, bandy
  • Collects: Bakugan and marbles

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Benjamin Drawing

I so love Benjamin's drawings. The details are all there - and in such creative ways. This one is typical of him - and note:
  • The whale is a true filter feeder - he has even drawn the brush-like mouth - and the krill who are on their way in. I guess he was listening...
  • The fish are swimming in a school.
  • The sailboat has ballast(!)
  • The pirates have a hammock to sleep on and a toilet with a light and a waste pipe down to the sea (Benjamin is never one to forget the poop-element of any occasion).
  • Sea urchins, a sea star and a crab/crayfish/lobster are roaming the ocean floor.
  • There are a few shark fins swimming around, especially close to the poor guy in the rowboat.
  • And a little green turtle is swimming towards the surface.
One last note - as willing as he is to draw the details of the scene, he has decided to change his name to BEN - so that he can avoid writing the JAMIN.

Letters from Camp

These letters will have to be in the "to save" box for future generations. Benjamin's letter was the first I have ever received from him. It was completely him - written in Swedish, in a mix of cases.

Hej Hu(r) mår du mama (Hi - how are you, Mom)
Mama lägär är kul (Mom, camp is fun)
Mama jag har kul (Mom, I am having fun)
Mama hur må'n (???)

And a great drawing. I think the text says "ni simmar" (you swim) in the upper drawing and "ni most joba" (ni måste jobba - you must work) in the bottom one. A keeper!

Annika's letter was a bit more legible, and also equally charming. This was my letter - she also included a card each for Benjamin and Christopher, complete with drawings, since she knew they couldn't read. Her spelling has made great strides - it is only her nationality (Amirican) that she can't spell. Not bad for no instruction in English. And her style mirrors that on her Facebook page - lots of !!!! and smiley faces.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Petty People

I survived another apartment owner meeting in Switzerland, or rather, the other participants survived - without bloodshed. I can't believe the issues that are brought up...
  • X thinks the flower boxes have too many colors this year... Y likes them. Decision? The florist decides with NO input from the residents. Brilliant.
  • C thinks D uses the common washing machine too often, so much so that his friend E can't get a slot. C's solution? Raise the rates so that D gets "punished" for overuse. My solution? Get real, people. Let E tell D that he wants a time slot.
  • Some of the plants didn't survive the winter and late arrival of spring. How should we replace them? With plants that would have a good chance of survival at this climate? The solution - demand an immediate meeting with the landscaper to discuss the replacement plan.
  • Should we spend 2000 CHF per apartment for a remote-by-phone heating adjustment system for each building? No.
And then there were many issues we discussed at length which have no solution... at least among the group present...
  • Will the pitch-n-put golf course continue to be supported by the Crans golf club?
  • Will the house that is planned for the new lot be attractive?
  • Will somebody buy the remaining lots in the valley?
  • Will the ski resort build better access to the valley?
Oh, and we set the date for next year's meeting. Don't know if I will make such an effort to be there... unless Annika will come with me!

Life as an Almost-11-Year-Old

I got a great opportunity to spend a weekend in Switzerland - with Annika. She's not a huge fan of Switzerland, but since I had to be there for our apartment meeting, I asked if she would like to go and - surprisingly - she agreed. We had a great weekend, despite terrible weather. We did no cooking, but enjoyed all sorts of restaurants. A few highlights...
  • After camp, Annika decided to become a vegetarian. But when faced with the possibility of a dinner at Le Thai (and chicken satay) she was forced to rethink her philosophy. We're still working on the details of a "sometime vegetarian"...
  • She was stunned that I had a song she likes on my iPhone... one that she doesn't have on her phone. She kept saying, "I can't believe you have it" - like I was incapable of being more cool than her - in this one tiny area.
  • We got to discuss many upcoming 5th grade issues - make-up (which she hopes to refuse to wear at all, despite what the others do), birthday parties (which she wants to have... but she's not sure she wants to be the first to admit that it is still fun...), smoking (stats say that the most common age for Swedish girls to start is 11 - but she cannot understand why - thank goodness), friends, etc.
  • She still managed to get a shopping bee in her bonnet... but we escaped with a purse and wallet (sunglasses were also on her list).
  • She charmed the waiters, getting a free raclette appetizer (which she loved)
In general, it was just plain nice to spend time with her.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Tree Experts

We took a one-day tour of Yosemite with Ranger Roger - a retired park ranger who has dreamed of working in Yosemite since he was 7. I always find it so fun to be with someone who has such an all-encompassing interest - and his stories were wonderful. We started with the giant sequoia trees, and are all now tree experts.

Annika can spot the difference in a fir tree, a ponderosa pine, a sugar pine and a giant sequoia with ease. And the boys are almost as proficient.

Annika sat in front with Ranger Roger and absorbed every bit of his stories, even remembering Teddy Roosevelt and his role in establishing national parks. Wow.

The scenery was amazing, truly breathtaking. And it was relaxing to have someone else battle the crowds - Yosemite on a Saturday in July is kind of like the mall at Christmas... but despite the crowds, we had a great time. Choosing the best Christmas card picture will be a challenge!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Are We... or Aren't We...

from Sweden, that is. We were at a campfire sing-a-long last night, and of course, the event starts with a "Where is everybody from?" question. And yes, we were the only Europeans. I don't really want to stand out, or attract attention... nor do I want to be "cheating" since David and I are really Texans at heart. But I rationalized it - since the kids were born in Sweden and a campfire sing-a-long would be new to them, or so I thought.

As the sing-a-long progressed, it became clear that Annika knew more of the songs than David and I did - from camp. Seems as though they do a lot of singing there, and in her "advanced hiking" van, the driver liked to play Elvis.

"These songs are more fun than Lady Gaga," she remarked, as she sang along with "Red River Valley", "America the Beautiful", and a few Elvis tunes. I knew there was something great about summer camp!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Mother's Angst

Benjamin didn't have the best year at summer camp last year. There weren't enough boys his age, and he really didn't settle in to the routine. He didn't have a bad time... he just wasn't ready to go back. So this year, we found a different camp, Douglas Ranch Camps, in Carmel Valley. It had a two week session, and had the advantage of being a mere 20 minute drive from our summer rental... just in case. It also offered a structure that appealed, though I wasn't that excited about two of the required activities - riflery and archery, and I knew Benjamin wouldn't be keen on the horses... but the pool looked nice in the pictures! And their website and international mix was truly impressive.

When we arrived, the organization was impressive, and the tennis courts top-notch. Then we got to the cabins - so rustic that they made Annika's camp look like a luxury hotel! Wooden shacks, holes in the walls, no windows, bathroom a walk away... but hey, it's camp.

Christopher and I dropped Benjamin off, made his bed and said goodbye. He wasn't happy... but he didn't want us around, either. When we left, he was pulling out fishing pictures to show his counselor, so I crossed my fingers and drove away. Then two agonizing weeks followed, waiting for word from camp. My motto became, "No news is good news" since we didn't hear a word.

The camp posts pictures from time to time during the sessions, and the first 51 pictures came out on the 7th day. And Benjamin was not in a single one of them. By the 9th day, the second lot was posted (and I was checking several times a day), and Benjamin was visible in 5, but not smiling in any.

By day 12, the third lot had one picture of him with a half smile. At least I knew he was still alive...

When we picked him up, he seemed really happy, and the reports were promising. He made some friends - Luis who wanted him to stay one session more, Alejandro, Luke, and more. The counselors commented on how nice he was, how polite he was (!) and how he had settled in (much better the second week than the first). On the down side, he did learn the word "demerit" and experienced them... by having his elbows on the table... and by getting into a fistfight (to help his friend Luke get something back from one of the bigger boys, according to B). All the kids were involved in an activity demonstration, and Benjamin was in the barn dancing - and seemed to have a great time doing it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

BMR - Year 4!

Annika had a great year at camp - no big surprise. She settled in to her cabin, and tried new activities. She did advanced hiking (two periods), intermediate and advanced horseback riding, American football, and a few others. Advanced hiking got her up Blue Mountain twice, and she even got up at 3am for a sunrise hike. She loved her counselor and her cabin, and made a few new friends (and hung out with lots of old ones).

At parents' day, she competed in the rodeo - barrel racing and barrel weaving. I remarked that sometimes it is hard to get the horse to go where you want it to, with all the speed and excitement of the event. "The horse will go where I say." she stated, and it was true. She didn't miss a barrel - and won both events for her age group. She was determined to win one, but two was a real treat.

And she got her 4 year jacket this year - her 4th summer at camp. And she's only 10!

Of course, she came home with lots of questions - "Why am I the only one in my cabin..."
  • without a bra
  • who doesn't shave
  • who doesn't wear deodorant
I guess these things are coming...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It Started with the Peas...

I never planned on being one of "those moms" - the ones who plan meals around their childrens' preferences.

So there I was, sitting at this sushi restaurant for lunch - why lunch? Well, because I can't convince my 7-year-old to come with me to a sushi dinner, and soccer camp means he's eating french fries with ketchup and I'm free to choose my favorite meal... And there's this 4-year-old, tucking in to her California roll and praising the miso soup. "She eats what we eat" says her mom.

Where did I go wrong? Why do we have a revolt every time I make something new? Why do new meals bring tears? Was it the peas?

Yes, there was that dinner... the one where I put a handful of peas (like 12) on Christopher's plate... and he had a major meltdown, marching each pea to the trash can to dump it. Until they were all gone, there was no future to the dinner. Is this why he can't eat this morning's breakfast without dumping the sliced orange garnish on my plate? And what is it with ketchup? Isn't it a garnish? Not a side dish?

Anyway, Christopher and I found a great restaurant here in Carmel - and we've been there three times in four days... so I guess I'm catering to his preferences. It is a pizzeria where he gets to make his own pizza. They bring him a hat, dough, tomato sauce, cheese and ham - and he goes to town!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Soccer Camp Week with Christopher

With Annika at Blue Mountain Ranch and Benjamin at Douglas Ranch Camp, Christopher and I have a week to ourselves. But to harness some of his energy, he is doing a soccer camp, 9-5 of soccer, more soccer... and a bit of swimming.

The first challenge for his camp was finding something he would consent to wear. He was extremely disappointed that the local sporting goods stores didn't carry his IFK Stocksund uniform, but we made do with a white t-shirt and blue shorts. I also bought a blue t-shirt... but it's a no go. So every night, we have to wash the white shirt and the white socks to be ready for the next day. I don't know who picked white for a sock color, but it sure wouldn't be my first choice...

And today, the camp took the kids to the beach. The camp is at the university campus next to Fort Ord, and Christopher was thrilled by the number of things he found on the way to the beach - not shells - shell casings. He came home with a large collection. He disappeared to his room and laid out his collection for display... on a pair of his underwear. It was there... it was the right size... why not?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Worst Pool in America

The boys and I decided to go swimming. Since the ocean is a bit frigid here, we chose the heated indoor public swimming pool, complete with water slide. It was about the same size as Mörby badet, our local pool in Sweden, just a lot warmer. As they boys began their swim, we noticed a lot more differences...

Benjamin and Christopher went straight for the water slide (about the same size as the one at Mörby). But Christopher was only two inches above the height limit, so the lifeguard made him prove his swimming ability before she would let him up the stairs. Benjamin pointed out that Christopher could just about touch bottom at the end of the slide, but to no avail. Christopher did show his stuff, but before he was able to try the slide, he got told off by another lifeguard for running. He came to me in tears because he swore he wasn't running and was so upset that he got told off.

But then he got told off again - this time for hanging on the rope in the kids' pool...

And then the he got told off again - for using kickboards (in the childrens' pool) incorrectly. Apparently kick boards are only for kicking. No kicking, no board. Even though Christopher was using one behind his head, one beneath his feet, to practice floating on his back. As the lifeguard tried to explain to him that kickboards are only for kicking, (What? What? Christopher kept saying, in typical Christopher fashion), I commented that there sure were a lot of rules. "We don't want anyone to get hurt," she said. Yep, all those kickboard accidents avoided...

And then the boys used the kickboards incorrectly again - each boy had two like airplane wings, legs kicking, but clearly not up to code. So two of the lifeguards took the kickboards away. No more allowed in the childrens' pool.

I counted - 9 active lifeguards here, max 2 at Mörby badet. Some nice, some with far too little to do. Needless to say, we won't be back.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sunday - First Match

Christopher loves football - and in my unbiased opinion, he's actually pretty good. His Stocksund IF team plays only once a week, no matches, so we looked into a new team that is just starting, IFK Stocksund, which is much more intense. Intense like training 3 times a week, 2-3 matches a week... Intense like a trainer who really makes them train, and takes practice matches as a real teaching opportunity, not just a chance to kick back and relax. Intense like I'm not sure how long we will last...

Since he's only 6-going-on-7 and the team just started, he only has 2 practices a week, so the intensity is still manageable. But at the last training, the coach invited him and one other boy to play a match with the 8-year-olds. The whole family went out to cheer him on. He was so little out there - a head shorter than the others - amazing what a difference a year makes.

And the match... Well, let's just say that if the ref called all the fouls (which he didn't), there would have been a whistle every 10 seconds. We later found out that this particular team (the opponents) is known for rough play - pushing, elbowing, grabbing shirts, etc. And after the third IFK Stocksund player went off in tears after getting an elbow in the face, one of the other side's moms said "What sensitive children!" Right. Like to see how she would like getting elbowed in the face by her son. Yes, football brings out the best in everyone.

Anyway, Christopher did ok, but didn't understand the two most basic concepts - Up and Home - so we will work on that. And he seemed happy to have been in the game, despite being knocked flat on his back one time. His only comment was, "Wow - the other team made a lot of our guys cry."

Saturday - First Date?

Well, I don't know if I would really call it a date... but Annika invited her boyfriend (Felix) over to watch a movie. They sat on the couch together, not touching, not holding hands, through the whole of Titanic. We kept the door open (our new house rule for having boyfriends over - never had a need for such a rule before...), and tried to keep our boys out. I guess it was a success... though I think 10 is a bit too young to start dating.

It is also maybe a bit too young to have a first kiss... but Annika and Felix managed to sneak one in with an audience of classmates and Christopher at the disco the night before. Hmmm...

Friday - Annika's Disco

Annika's class will be split up after 4th grade. Right now, 4A (Annika's class) and 4B are at Stocksundskolan, 4C and 4D at Långängen. 4A (except for Annika) has been together since kindergarten. For 5th and 6th grade, the classes will be mixed up, and all at Stocksundskolan. Annika loves her current class, and wanted to have a final 4A disco. In all the final parties, school picnics and birthday parties, it happened to work out for Friday night.

The disco was a huge hit. We bought Just Dance for Wii, and the kids had a great time dancing together. The girls did a couple of turns, and then the guys got a chance - but the girls picked "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" - and what good sports they were! (It probably helped that there was competition involved...) Check out the video on youtube (and the guy on the right is Annika's boyfriend!).

And the weather cooperated as well, so the 22 kids were both in and out, all evening. It's a great age - one minute sophisticated pre-teens and the next minute on the swings and slides. David bought an outdoor fireplace which was a major hit - the kids thought it was great fun to grill their own hot dogs, though our marshmellow grilling "event" lasted a mere 3 minutes. We almost ended up with too many on the trampoline, but the kids seem to know the boundaries now, so we didn't even have to manage that.

And then the last 5 minutes... one boy was chasing another, and the first fell on his shoulder. He was in a lot of pain, his mom came, and we ended up calling for an ambulance. First time for me to call 1-1-2 (remarkably efficient) and the first - and hopefully the last - time parents came to pick up their children from our house to find an ambulance in the drive. It turned out to be a broken collar bone, so in 2-4 weeks, he will be back in action again.

Of course, I went to the boy's house to stay with his two sleeping little sisters while his mom waited for the ambulance and went on to the hospital. David was left to deal with the rest of the kids, their parents, the clean-up, the ambulance, the crying girls (it got a bit emotional), our boys... Fortunately Leonor was there, as well as one of the other moms who stayed. (Parents who turn up at our parties will be put to work - a warning...)

Aside from the last five minutes (which put a bit of a damper on things) it was a great event. The kids were awesome, we had no problems (until the aforementioned last 5 minutes), the kids had fun - and we did as well. A full set of pictures are here.

4A Disco

A Weekend of Firsts...

What a weekend! And what a lot of firsts... As I have time, I will fill in the details, but this weekend we had the following:
  • First time Annika had a boy over to watch movies
  • First time Christopher played in a "real" football match
  • First time I played brännboll
and the highlight of firsts:
  • First time we ended a party with an ambulance...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

American Table-top Football

The other day at the kitchen table, I taught the kids how to play table-top football - remember the one with the paper triangle that you played in elementary school? Anyway, the kids loved it, and David has now taken over as coach - he commented that he had forgotten how good he was at the game...

Benjamin has now decorated his (American) football with soccer ball stickers... a bit of sports confusion. Maybe we can find some (real) football to watch this summer.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Gröna Lund in the Rain

We planned a special day for the kids - a day at Gröna Lund (the local amusement park) with a friend each. Yes, we're about old enough to make that feasible, without undue stress on the parents. So Annika invited Astrid, Benjamin invited Rickard, and Christopher invited Hugo - and the day was planned.

But... seems Mother Nature was not consulted, and the forecast rain became a reality as we got in the car to drive there. And yes, it was a very, very rainy day, and very chilly, but we were good Swedes and were prepared with all-weather clothing, myself and David included.

In general, we had a great time, and I can highly recommend Gröna Lund on a rainy, cold and gray day. The kids did ride after ride, with almost no waiting. We didn't have to queue for ice cream, and even "Insane" - the new vertical roller coaster - only had a 10 minute wait. The kids often finished one ride, ran out the exit and straight on in again, without a single line.
A couple of points to remember for the future...
  • Benjamin is 140 cm exactly, the minimum requirement for the most challenging rides. Rickard, unfortunately, was 139 cm, so there were quite a few that they couldn't do together. So I had to step in and do Insane with Benj, and JetLine... once. But the other four times, he had to go alone.
  • Astrid and Hugo were less adventurous than Annika and Christopher, so there was a little extra waiting at times... but it all worked out in the end.
  • We have no pictures of Annika and Astrid because they disappeared at the beginning and we only saw them when they needed money for food.
  • We finally broke down and gave the kids 30 kr for carnival games (at some point, with entrance fees for 8, ride "bands" for 6 and food, the expenses just keep mounting...) with mixed success. Benjamin really, really wanted to spin the wheel for a giant chocolate bar, and put his whole 30 kr on one spin, 5 numbers (out of 100 - so the odds were clearly not in his favor). And no, luck did not smile on him, and his smile disappeared for a few minutes, but he eventually recovered.
And my new camera was pretty impressive - the old one didn't survive it's second fall...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Three Desserts per Week...

Dessert seems to be an issue at our house, as in why we don't have it every night. So we decided that a max of three would be allowed for the week (which translates in kid-speak to at least three, and possibly more if the logic can be argued - like does it count if we are at someone else's house for dinner, do "lördags godis" (Saturday candy) count, etc). And to try to get some cooperation from the masses, we allowed them to plan the final dessert of the first week (the third dessert, if you don't count the two we had at other peoples' houses and the candy on Saturday).

So with Benjamin leading the charge, we had a banana split day - one big plate, three spoons.

Which brings back memories of our high school dating days, and Swensons ice cream parlor. David and I used to go there and order an "earthquake" to share - 14 different scoops of ice cream, 14 different toppings, one giant bowl, two spoons. And we survived, so I'm sure our kids will too!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Rid the on Luk God

The boys were playing go-cart (Benjamin, Christopher, and Luke, who also speaks English). They drew out a track with chalk, and we were mystified by the message they wrote at the start.


Of course, when we read it from the other way... it became God Luk on the Rid, or Good Luck on the Ride. Much better.

And then today, Luke and Christopher were drawing a castle.

"How do you write CASTLE?" Christopher asks, and then sounds it out. K-A-S-L.
"Well, not quite," I reply.
"I know," says Luke. "K-A-S-O-L" so Christopher adds a tiny O between the S and L.
"Sorry guys - it's C-A-S-T-L-E", I say.
And Christopher puzzles over that one for a good long time, sounding it out in various ways, trying to make castle be... well... castle.
Then he adds "NU" and "GEAM" (new and game)... Then that was just too much and they ran outside to play.

Oh the joys of English!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Third Place!

Annika goes back and forth on football - one day it is in favor, the next out of favor. Right now, we're in an "in favor" phase, and she is really enjoying practicies. Of course, now that the temps are above freezing, I can see that outdoor practice is more attractive. She had her first "cup" of the season - an all day series of matches, hosted by her team - Stockan. And the highlights - she SCORED A GOAL and they came in at third place.

Of course, with riding three times a week, taking care of a horse (Enita) two times a week, football practice three times a week, guitar once a week... there's not much free time left. But right now, I don't think I could convince her to miss anything, so we'll just have to see how it goes. At least the homework load this year is mostly English, so she is coasting through.

Monday, April 05, 2010

A Picture I Couldn't Get...

After a day of skiing, we were relaxing... me with a book, Annika hanging out in her room, and Christopher playing outside (David and Benjamin were off swimming). I looked out and Christopher was there - in his long underwear, rain boots, mittens and sunglasses, wielding a pair of kitchen tongs, and having the time of his life. I don't know whether he was battling imaginary aliens or fending off the dark forces of the Force, but he was completely engaged (as only he can be). I love his six-ness - his ability to imagine and create - and just be. Toys are really not that important - kitchen tongs will do, and one of his favorite toys has been a tiny wooden easel from my office. Think of the possibilities - kitchen tongs can be a sword, a gun, a light saber - and they are just plain useful as well. A wooden easel can be a plane, spaceship - who knows what?

I asked him if I could take his picture (there was no way to sneak one without his knowing) but he refused. Bummer.

Facebook Faux Pas

Annika borrowed my computer today to go on Facebook - and started exchanging comments with a friend from her class. Turns out this friend is moving, and leaving the school. So she started messaging him - "Are you glad to go?" to which he responded (surprisingly) yes. "So you won't miss us" she replied, "So you are glad to leave the class", she pushed, and then again, "So you won't miss X, Y and Z?" she pushed again...

When I came into the room, she proudly showed me the exchange - having fun with a guy on Facebook. I reacted pretty strongly - gossip-mongering, gathering the negatives, talking about others behind their backs - would she want the whole class to see the exchange? She was extremely defensive, though she did delete her last comment and shut down. I reminded her that comments live forever in the electronic world. She disappeared into her room and stayed there for an hour, doing nothing but thinking. Then after some games, dinner, etc, she came back to admit that I was right (shocker) and was a bit worried about whether the exchange might be viewed by others (doubtful, thankfully).

I need to remember this about my daughter. She has a good head on her shoulders - it just takes her a while to find it at times... and some things just take a lot of processing time. I need to say my piece and then back off - she will find her way in the end, and a very good way it will be.

Newsflash - Grapes are Good!

Yes, after 6 years, Christopher has finally eaten a grape. A GREEN grape. And he LIKED it - will wonders never cease? My child, who refuses anything green, for whom a green pea is a personal insult, who has never wondered why his siblings are fighting it out for the last cucumber slice, who must have all garnishes removed from his plate before his food can be consumed - yes, my child has actually eaten something green. And enjoyed it.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Fort Day

Kramsnö is Swedish for "hugging snow" - the stuff that sticks together. Since it is so late in the season, the snow was perfect for snow forts. We had an igloo maker - a mold to make bricks for igloos - that we had never tried, so Benjamin and I gave it a shot. Pretty cool!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Nickis - Still Fun!

Desperate weather calls for desperate measures - and today was just one of those days. So I loaded up the car with a foursome - A, B & C plus a friend of Annika's (Malla). The kids had a great time running around, and burned off a lot of extra energy. Of course, the boys got wilder than they used to, and I had to stop them from jumping off the bouncy slide... but it was good!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wock and Woll

Christopher has a new hobby - air guitar, to Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n Roll". Of course, the only words he knows to the song are just those, forget about "putting another dime in the juke box, baby"... but the song is stuck in his head. Mine, too, after hearing him racing around the house, singing, "I love wock n woll" about a thousand times. I have tried to make it a speech exercise - "Rrrrock and Rrrroll" says Mamma, "Wwwwock and Wwwoll" replies Christopher. No use.

Anyway, he and his friend Marcus performed today for the parents at a special open house. (Actually, the whole class performed - very cute.) He's been practicing - at least as much as one can practice with an air guitar. And he has made his own guitar out of paper and string, complete with skulls and flames. Here he is -

A Man with a Mission

I married a wonderful man - sometimes I get reminded of just how wonderful. Like getting things done. Give David a list, and he is a man with a mission. No obstacles can deter him from checking off the boxes on his list until everything is done and complete. My list is more of a guideline - a nice-to-do but full of things that don't always get done. But if a task makes it to his list, then it will be checked. Period.

A couple of weeks ago, it was haircuts for the boys and football shoes for Benjamin. Check and check, complete with green and blue hairspray. And yes, it meant that he had to brave the mall on Sunday afternoon, but it was done (plus about 5 other things on his list).

The other night, I had a meeting so I left him to cook dinner. We have a new service - Middagsfrid - that delivers groceries and recipies for four dinners on Monday afternoon. Of course, the recipes are in Swedish, but he enlisted Annika and his favorite service - Google translate - and I came home to find him chopping veggies next to his laptop, the rest of dinner simmering happily away on the stove.

Of course, not speaking Swedish (after 10 years) is a bit of a hardship, especially if you're not that observant. Last week he went grocery shopping (check) and came home with chick peas. "Are you in the mood for hummus?" I asked. Nope. He just thought it was corn. And then he bought pasta stuffed with goat cheese and carmelized onions... which was not a big hit with the masses. But he's not shy, and if something unusual is on the list (cornstarch, for example), he will have every woman in the grocery store helping him to translate and find just what he needs. (cornstarch, check).

He's away this week for a whole week... fortunately an unusual occurrence. We will all be happy to see him again next week!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When He Grows Up...

I asked Benjamin what he wanted to be when he grows up. I was hoping, of course, for a future doctor, teacher, rocket scientist, inventor... but instead... he wants to be a taster for a candy company. Creative idea - I guess somebody has to taste all those batches of sweets as they roll off the production line...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Highlight of the Trip

The Womens' World Cup Downhill was in Crans Montana when we were there for sportlov. Of course, Mother Nature didn't cooperate, and the first day was delayed, then cancelled, due to high winds. Christopher was with his ski teacher in the building at the top of the mountain when he saw someone in Swedish colors. He walked right up to her, "Är du Anja Pärson?" and it was. He said, "I hope you win" and she said "Me, too" - and he got his picture with her (thanks to the ski teacher's phone and MMS technology).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spite and Skip-Bo

In the Crans-Montana grocery store, I had a moment of inspiration and tossed Skip-Bo in the cart. "By the makers of Uno" it said on the package, so I went for it. Brought it back, and Annika and I started to play... but the instructions were in German, Dutch, Italian and French. Thank goodness for wireless and Wiki-How. And then I read the intro - "Based on Spite and Malice"... and the memories came rushing in.

When my parents were away, we often stayed with my mom's mom, Meme, a grandmother of a different sort. She wasn't at all interested in babies or toddlers, and really didn't have much time for us until we could play cards. Then the real fun started. As soon as my brother was asleep, Meme and I would sneak downstairs for our mixed drinks - vodka tonic for her, 7-up with lime for me (I think I was in college when it finally dawned on me that we weren't drinking the same thing), then back to the card table. We had running matches of S&M, and her card table was littered with scores from her matches - with her daughter Lou, with a few of my cousins, and with me. The matches were cutthroat, full of the spite and malice the name promised. I loved those times, and loved the game.

And Skip-Bo didn't disappoint - yes, the cards were a bit more colorful than Meme's standard 2-decks, but the game was the same. Annika and I didn't keep score, but so far, I'm winning, 2 games to 0. I'm sure it is the experience factor!

Monday, February 22, 2010


I hate to say it, but I'm a bit disappointed in the Swedes. This is supposed to be the no-bad-weather-only-bad-clothing place. We turned up for Benjamin's class sledding event on Saturday in high winds, blowing snow and -15C, only to find that only 3 other families braved the elements. Score one for the Texans.

And today, with the thermometer reading a balmy -23C, the city has fallen apart. Commuter trains are not running over ground, only the tunnelbana is going, and even that is late, at best. No replacement busses. No trains to Göteborg. No trains from Uppsala. You can't get through to the taxis.

Benjamin's class should have had an ice skating event this morning, but when we turned up, we were the only ones there. Cancelled, due to the cold. Score two for the Texans (who bought the good clothing).

I must say, I am surprised - I thought this would be normal for the Swedes (though there is an unusual amount of snow on the ground).

Spring should be interesting... we may have to shovel our backyard to avoid a flood. When all this snow melts - and the ground is still frozen - I don't know where it will go. With the amount they have salted and sanded, we will all be sitting in one giant mud puddle.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Definitely My Child

Benjamin got glasses a couple of years ago, a slight correction to his left eye, no correction on the right. Then there was a missed follow-up appointment last year (my fault that we missed it, but then I couldn't find the little piece of paper which had the two "telephone hours" during which I could call each week to rebook so I just gave up - gotta love Sweden sometimes)... then he quit wearing his glasses. The school nurse called me last week to report that he should really be wearing glasses so I made the booking. But now that he is a big 8 years old, I no longer have to go to the 2-hour-phone-time-eye-doctor, but can make an appointment with the mall store, the one that does answer the phone.

Benjamin was a real trooper, trying so hard to see what he just couldn't see. At first, they started with the right eye, and he was a bit thrown by the eye chart - thought he should be reading the words, not just the letters, and HVOR didn't make much sense. But then he sailed through with only a slight correction. Then she started on the left eye...

"That eye is broken," he said. "I don't use it." (WHAT??? Why didn't he say something to me?)

And the dials started moving.

"Can you read the letters?"


"How about now?" (more dials moving)


"How about now?" (more turning and whirring)


"How about now?" (more dials moving)

And finally he could make out the letters, the bigger ones. His prescription at that point was -3.5, a fair bit worse than the -.75 he had before. But when she put his eyes together, his brain couldn't handle the correction, so he ended up with his left eye only moving to -1.5, the level that didn't leave him dizzy, and the right at -1.

Nearsightedness runs in families, apparently. He's not quite up to my -5s, but he is certainly moving in that direction. I hope he got some good genes from me somewhere else, since I seem to have short-changed him in the short-sighted department...

And here's hoping he will wear the new glasses in the future. We pick them up next week. If he looks at me and says, "Mamma, I can see!" then the circle will be complete (since that's what I said to my mom when I got my first pair of glasses).

Friday, February 05, 2010

Home Alone

What would you do if you were home alone for 5 whole days? For moms, this has a special meaning - no dinners, no dishes, no bedtimes, no sharing the tv... just 5 peaceful days to do whatever you want. Well, I got my wish, sort of.

It wasn't the plan. Right now, I should be spending 4 days at the toy fair in Germany, monitoring industry trends, finding new suppliers - and my personal favorite - finding the worst toy of 2010. Since I was going to be gone, David planned to take the kids skiing. Part 2 of this plan is underway... but Part 1...
Somehow, I ended up with a serious back problem that stated last week, and doesn't look likely to go away any time soon. The diagnosis is a "cervical herniated disc" which means a very sore back and shoulder area, with pain radiating down my arm. My Sit-on-It beanbag chair is my saviour, and I have spent more nights on it than in bed. Days are spent watching reruns and favorite films.
I guess I should get used to taking it easy - seems as though I will be doing a lot of that over the next few weeks... and spend my time planning how to avoid this problem in the future!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

X-Country X-2

According to our neighbors, our role as parents must include teaching our kids to swim, skate and bicycle. Well... that was last week. This week, skiing is on the list. So how are we doing? Ice skating - check. Biking - check. Swimming - almost check, but still some work to do. Downhill skiing - check + (does it count if they are better than their parents?) Cross-country skiing... well, that was this week's goal.

Adopting divide-and-conquer as a strategy, I took Christopher to do that "snow country thing" on Friday. He put his own skis on before I had even tied my boots, and left me behind in the parking lot. He attacked the trail and managed admirably with zero instruction. Falls were fun and uphills were his way to shine (by leaving me behind). He was ready to go again this morning, so we did our 2,5 k trail in -13C - piece of cake. One down...

So Benjamin and I decided to give it a try this afternoon - though I didn't expect it to go quite as smoothly. But in the first 5 minutes, he said "Wow - this is fun!" TWICE. Not once did he get frustrated, not once did he get angry. In fact, it was a truly awesome loop - 2,5k again, in a more reasonable -8C. Two down...

One to go...

Luggage? What luggage?

So what does it take for a family of five to travel? Let's complicate things a bit... and go first to Santa Fe (freezing temps and snow), then to Hawaii (warm and sunny swimsuit weather), then to San Francisco (somewhere in between). Oh - and let's make it Christmas, so that we have to move all the presents from Sweden to Santa Fe and Maui and back to Sweden via San Francisco. Then throw in a 10-year-old who refuses to share a suitcase with her brothers and the proceeds to pack her entire closet... and a 6-year-old who managed to sneak the household emergency flashlight into the suitcase (for emergencies, of course). Just to give you an idea...
  • 8 pieces of checked luggage (which are - amazingly - all on this luggage cart)
  • 4 backpacks
  • 1 roll-on bag
  • 2 computers
  • 7 iPods
  • 3 mobile phones
  • 4 nintendo DS consoles
  • 2 electronic books
And yes, you can see the boys upon arrival in Maui, t-shirts, leis - and winter boots. Where were those Crocs?

Why We Went Halfway Around the World

I think this says it all - the thousand words of picture. A few of those thousand spring to mind at once - sunshine, water, waves, surf, heat, laughter, togetherness, siblings. And a few... well, you just had to be there. Like... Swimsuits that just fell apart in the waves. Red days where the surf was way too big. Red-yellow days where a wave slammed Benjamin so hard that he had a scrape on his face from the sand. Whales that were so close you could hear them breathe. The wettest and driest places on earth. We can't wait to go back!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Slowly Posting Our Holiday

When we went on holiday, I vowed to blog about the trip. At the same time, I promised to spend the minimum possible time on the computer. I guess you see what won out - and now I'm doing a bit of catch-up at the end of January.

Christopher wasn't too sure about the surfing lessons. Annika and Benjamin had a great time (and pics to prove it will be blogged at a later date). But the boogie board was just Christopher's style, and he loved it!

The Eyeball Police

Jet lag really sucks. I - personally - am usually not that bothered, but throw three kids in the mix and it really starts to take a toll on the family. Benjamin seems to have the worst time coming back to Sweden - I guess he has such an easy time falling asleep that he's not used to working on it in the middle of the night. He is so exhausted - has woken up at 2 or 3 am for the past 5 days. Last night was a record - 3.30. Of course, by 6 or 7pm he is totally wiped out, and keeping him awake is a struggle. So here I sit, blogging, but keeping an eye on the eyes - no closed ones allowed.

Jet lag does have its benefits - never before have my children literally begged to go to bed as they have this past week.