Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Last Puppy

We finally decided that we wanted to get a family dog... and then we had to decide what KIND of dog. Annika and I poured over books and pictures and internet surveys, trying to decide. At first, I was partial to a pound puppy, but apparently they don't exist in Sweden (the few that are available are imported from Ireland). When I saw the puppy prices at breeders, I began to understand why - most are around $2000! Almost all breeders offer a buy-back clause, so that probably helps as well. Anyway, after much discussion, we finally decided that a brown lab would be best for us.

Timing was tight - we wanted to get a puppy at the end of the summer so that we would still be able to travel at Christmas without feeling guilty at missing some of the puppyhood. So I started looking at the kennel club website and the labrador club website... but there were just no puppies available. 39 litters born over the summer and not one puppy left.

Finally, I found two - a male that was a 10 hour drive away, and another male that was only 2 1/2 hours away... so we went for Teamvik's Dean, born on the 18th of June, close to Örebro, to mamma Alva. He had three brothers and a sister - Dallas, Dixon, Dylan and Doris.

Going back to the puppy books, all of them discussed what to look for in a puppy - the one that comes to you, the one that hangs back, the results of the puppy aptitude tests - but none of them discussed what to do if you didn't get a choice - if your puppy was the last one left.

So back to the e-mail again... and the breeder mentioned that Dean was the puppy we would get... but he was listed as "sold" on the kennel club website. Then while at the breeder's, well into the new puppy hugging process, the breeder admitted that Dean was actually sold to a couple, who came back after three days, exhausted, and gave him back.

So what kind of a puppy did we get? The last choice? Or the first choice reject?

All I can say is that I am typing this while he is sleeping next to me. I am tired after the first night, but mostly because I'm just not used to night-time potty runs. Puppy Dean was awesome - max 15 minutes of whining the first time he was put in his bed, then 5 minutes, and then none. The kids are extatic, David and I are thrilled, and we are looking forward to an enjoyable puppyhood. Yes, certain details still need to be worked out, but so far we're sure Dean is the puppy for us.

Now we just have to pick a name. The leading contenders right now are:
  • Bruno (which three of us like, but not the other two)
  • Mr. Ed (David's suggestion... but he once had a hamster named "Mamma hamster" so I'm not sure we should take his advice)
  • Pelle (Christopher's favorite, mostly because it is not Bruno)
  • James (as in James Dean, to go with his current kennel name)
  • Jimmy (as in Jimmy Dean...)
Just looking at him, I think the biggest challenge will be keeping him out of the Puppy Chow!

Monday, June 06, 2011


With both boys' birthdays in June - right in the middle of parties, picnics, and other end-of-the-school-year events, I sometimes get a bit behind in the planning. This year, we spent the 5-day "Christ goes up into heaven" Thursday/Friday and Sweden's National Day Monday holidays in Montana, hoping in vain for better weather than in Sweden. Benjamin's 10th birthday is today - the same day as Sweden's national day.

So on Wednesday, still in Sweden, I realized that we needed to get busy with the planning, so I raced out to Mörby Centrum and bought the hamster cage - for the hamster he will receive in August, after the summer holidays. The rest of the gifts I left for some Swiss shopping.

Bad idea.

Annika, Christopher and I finally had a moment alone to shop while David bribed Benjamin with a golf cart driving lesson (and a cash payment) to follow along on a round of golf. Sunday. The day before the big day. And everything is closed in Switzerland. We finally found the only open store in the whole area - the gas station rest stop on the motorway - and did the best we could. They actually had a pretty good selection, so we settled for...
  • Swiss-flag bag with Swiss pencils, a Swiss notebook, Swiss balloons and a Swiss cowbell (clearly catering to the tourists)
  • Magazines (in French, but the toys are the important part - Mario and Lego Atlantis)
  • Ping pong paddles
  • A couple of inexpensive flying toys
  • Birthday candles (clearly I'm not the only one who is bad at planning)
AND a party bomb. It promised that it would be ok indoors... but we did it outside, just in case. Lighting matches and placing them on our floors were just not quite what we had in mind. To great anticipation, we watched the fuse burn, and then a BOOM, the lid flew off, and a pile of toys flew about a foot in the air. Very exciting.

So what's new with 10? Not much. And he didn't seem to notice that the presents came from the roadside shop. The best toy by far? The balloons.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I remember that when I was in about 5th grade, the teachers took the girls aside and told us that if we had our "period" then we could use the "supplies" in the teachers' bathroom. I went home clueless, and had to ask my mom what it all meant. She handed me a series of books with pictures, and pretty much left me to it.

So now Annika is in the 5th grade, and the teachers took all the girls aside and spent a fair bit of time with them going over the whole thing. (I love it when the school does my job!) They saw a movie, learned how babies are made (pretty much NOT on the 5th grade curriculum in Texas) and compared "supplies". It was pretty exciting - as they passed around the tampons to look at, one girl fainted and they had to call the ambulance... so all in all, a memorable day.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Today's Higlight? The Hong Kong Rip-Off

Years ago, when David and I were in Hong Kong, we asked the hotel to book us a nice tour. We were pleasantly surprised as we drove around the island - and we got a pretty good overview.... until the last hour. Then we stopped by a jewelry factory and showroom, so that we could see jewelry making for real. It actually is not that interesting - tiny details, and stuff that's pretty hard to see. But after 5 minutes of factory, we then spent 55 minutes in the showroom, being followed everywhere by helpful salespeople. When we split up, the salespeople had a hard time deciding who to follow - it got to be amusing.

So today, we had a half-day tour of Istanbul - Haga Sofia, Blue Mosque, underground cistern... and just when I thought we were headed for either the spice market or a quick snack stop, we turned in to a pottery shop and were immediately ushered to the back for a pottery demonstration and participation workshop. No purchases required. But lots of apple tea, coffee - anything we wanted - and since all three kids got to make pots, the shop was guaranteed to have our full attention for 90 minutes, plus a return trip two days later to pick up the dried pots.

Of course, when we asked the kids what was the best part of the day today... and nothing cultural even made the list. Benjamin picked swimming, but Annika and Christopher were convinced that the pottery thing was the highlight.

The Universal Language of Football

David was in Barcelona last week, and brought Christopher a Barcelona team shirt (with Puyol on the back). Christopher was thrilled- and has been wearing the shirt now for at least 5 days in a row.

When we landed in Istanbul, and were walking through the "taxi greeters", one turned to Christopher and said, "Barcelona - Messi?" "No, Puyol", Christopher replied with a smile.

When we got to the hotel, all of the staff made a point of speaking with Christopher - Barcelona was scheduled to play that evening, and everyone wanted his opinion on the match against Real Madrid.

The next day, as we walked through Istanbul, Christopher received many comments and discussions - about Puyol who couldn't play because of a bad knee, of the loss Barcelona had suffered the night before to Real Madrid (1-0 in overtime), about his views of Messi...

So the take-home tip - buy your kid a football jersey before an international trip!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quoteables from Christopher

"When I get 18 I'm gonna buy a credit card."

"Do I get to have two girlfriend" "No, only one." "Why?"

then he thinks about it... "I know. If some people has two girlfriends then that means that some people don't get to have any - and that's not fair."

And right now, everything startes with a statement, followed by "I say why?"

I love 7!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

How Long Will This Go On?

I was looking over past photos the other day, and I realized how often I dressed the kids alike (or at least in the same fabrics) when we were travelling. Italy in red and white checks... Colorado in red-white-and-green stripes... July 4th in Navy with red and blue stripes...

Now it seems as though I am relegated to underwear. The kids would never be seen wearing the same things again... or rather, Annika would never be caught dead wearing the same as her brothers. But when I saw the long underwear on sale at the local sporting goods store, I couldn't resist. And not a single protest!

Bored and Frustrated

We went skiing over sportlov, and Annika was broadsided by an adult snowboarder (while snowboarding herself). The instructor wisely called an end to her lesson, and she came home complaining of a pain in her neck and head. Fearing whiplash, I called the local doc and we went in. He reviewed the x-rays, and then immediately put her in the x-ray room again - the neck was fine, but he picked up a fracture in her collarbone. (Many, many thanks for the wisdom of the instructor who refused to let her snowboard some more!)

So... three weeks of no sports. No football. No riding. She started blogging, taking pictures, playing guitar - and wore the figure-8 brace for the full three weeks. And watched TV. And was very bored.

Three weeks to the day, she was back in the saddle again. Riding on Wednesday. Riding on Friday... and then she got cocky and decided to trot on the home stretch. Lupin bucked twice and she only managed to hold on through the first buck. She landed on her back (and head) and came home complaining of a headache. When the headache didn't get better on Saturday, and when she elected to spend the day in bed in a dark room, we realized that she probably had a concussion.

So Sunday evening she is asking me if she really has to go to school, since moving around makes her head hurt more, and makes her feel sick. But can she ride in her jumping class on Tuesday? So I respond with the logical if-you-can't-sit-at-a-desk-what-makes-you-think-you-should-sit-on-a-horse argument. "But I won't fall" she insisted. "Really?" I say. "So you planned to fall off Lupin?" And she thinks about it for a second, then looks me in the eye. "Yes, I did."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Attack of the Giant Tomatoes

"Mom, if it come-ed a big tomato..." says Christopher. And here I am, imagining vegetable attacks... But then I realize that he really means "tornado" and that no matter how many times I correct him, it's still tomato...

So at dinner the other night, Christopher looks up sadly. "Ronaldinho is dead," he says. "What?" David and I look at each other, wondering if we have missed the news lately - that something has happened to one of the best football/soccer players...
"Why do you think he's dead?" we ask.
"Cause he's a lim-ah-dission," he says. "Lim-ah-dission?"
And then we realize that Christopher's latest passion, collecting football cards, has inspired this conversation, and Ronaldinho is indeed a Limited Edition... but not dead.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Swiss Fondue

We come to Switzerland - the French-speaking part - and the kids don't like the food. How can that be? David and I go crazy for the French bread... but the kids think the crust is too hard. David and I look forward to mornings at the bakery - pain au chocolat and chausson aux pommes... but the kids would really prefer Swedish cinnamon rolls.

But now, finally, finally - there's something here that at least one of the kids likes. Yes, Annika likes fondue (and raclette). So we will celebrate the fact that at least one of our children actually likes at least one dish from somewhere south of Malmö!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A String of Letters

and most of them NOS.

I haven't written so much about the difficulties Benjamin has been having lately... I guess I wasn't really sure where to start. But he hasn't really been happy, and wasn't making progress at his school. So after thorough investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, he now has a diagnosis, of sorts. But the letters all seem to roll together.

ADHD - is the first and clear winner. Or ADD since the H isn't so clear. This one we're all sure about, and his impulsivity, distractability and creativity make it a sure thing.

PDD-NOS (or GUS-UNS in Swedish) - for Pervasive Development Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (and just to show that I know what it is here - Genomgripande Utvecklingsstörning - Utan Närmare Specifikation). This one we're less sure of, but it places him somewhere on the Autistic spectrum, closer to Aspergers, but not really... just imagine somewhere under a very large umbrella of social challenges. If you take his fantasy stories as a specific interest, then he probably falls out somewhere on the spectrum... but exactly where is a matter of debate.

Mood disorder - not otherwise specified - is the other part. He hasn't been truly happy for a long time, and hasn't found an interest in a while - other than TV. I wish it was easier - we have two children who are surprised at how wonderful their lives are, and one who is the opposite. What to do...

So somewhere in ADD-ADHD-PDD-NOS-land we have to find a way to enjoy our lives as a family. Some initial thoughts...
  • I have never been happier with my marriage and my husband. Every book I read has a chapter about marital relations, and though this is challenging, David's wisdom and willingness to see things from other perspectives... well, I can't imagine how lucky I am to have found him, and how thankful I am that he is my husband (13 years now).
  • Sweden's system takes some sorting out, and the motivations and goals are not at all like what I would imagine private practice to be. We're working on it.
  • Benjamin has changed school - hopefully for the better. Somehow, a school with 1:1 ratios should be fantastic. But he's still not reading, nor does he see the need.
  • We're working down the pharmaceutical chain - and I now know more brand names and active ingredients than I ever expected.
So wish us luck - it is bound to be a bumpy ride...

It's Just a Word...

Christopher's calm, first grade class has been in an uproar. Apparently, someone has written "Jävla unga" in the book of one of his classmates, a girl called T. And not once, but several times.

I had to ask Annika for a translation - to me, the words sound like something a cranky old man would say about noisy kids on the block -"Damn brats" or something like that. But no. It's worse. More like F*** Y*** in Swedish.

So you see, I can write the Swedish words in my blog with no problems, but don't dare to write the English. The English ones are more "loaded" for me, and the Swedish ones are just a string of letters.

So back to the class... At first, they thought it was the older kids coming in while the first graders were at recess. But the last 2-3 times, the writing has been - shall we say - different, and at a time when nobody else could have come in to the class. So who sits at T's table? You got it - Christopher. Could this possibly be my child? I did wonder... and then two things happened -

1) C wants to have a playdate. "Let's do something new" he says. "I want to play with T." Strange, since he never plays with girls.
2) And then C's teacher corners me today, to say that she thinks he is responsible, since he always turns his Js the wrong way, and since he has a kind of "flirty" relationship with T. Oh S***.

So now all of the parents are up in arms, the investigations are ongoing, and the teacher is still somewhat mystified. And my sweet little boy, the one who - truthfully - probably has no idea what the words mean... Will this follow him through his whole school career?

Do I really think he did it? I truthfully don't think so the first time... or the second. He was entirely too clueless to really come up with something like that. Maybe I'm naive, but I just can't see it. However, could he have done it later? I'm afraid so.... How to approach this topic...

And coming back to the words, Annika now has a blog - tha gleek hess - and in case you are wondering, no, it doesn't mean anything other than she likes Glee and horses (hence the name hess for häst in Swedish). So tonight she informs me that she is trying to write for a more adult audience, so she has decided to throw in the word "jävla" every so often to spark interest.

So F***. Are you more interested now? (and no, I still couldn't bring myself to write the word...)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Flash from the Past

Last January, we ended our Christmas holiday with a few days in San Francisco. We stopped by the Matheson's house in Palo Alto - and were treated to a great welcome and dinner. They even managed to snap a family photo as we walked in, and sent it to me last week. I lost a bunch of photos in a hard drive crash in March, so it was extra special to get this one!