Saturday, February 28, 2009

life is sweet

I just wanted to post quickly to brag describe some awesomeness from yesterday . . . At least 6 different times, Sofia told me that she loves me. Wow. Different languages. Different phrasings. Different situations. Some of the times were even with a showering of kisses.

I heard:
  • I love you.
  • I love you very much.
  • Jag alskar dig.
  • Jag tycker om dig.
  • etc.
The first time of the day was while she was watching a home dvd of Joel as a baby. She called me over and whispered "I love you" into my ear.

This morning she woke me up (Stefan was already up) by climbing into bed and giving me a big bear hug. We have come so far.

Right now she is watching a Russian cartoon dvd that we bought in SPB. She has wanted nothing to do with it since we've been home. This morning she said she wanted to watch (and hear) Russian. I think she is really feeling secure and safe now and is allowing herself to embrace her Russian heritage (well, I'm pretty sure she's not actually thinking about it in those terms). Yesterday she told Stefan she didn't want to stay in Finland that she wanted to go back to Russia- then she burst out laughing and said "just joking" (in Swedish).

I'll leave you with a photo of Joel and Sofia from Wednesday . . . I will post soon about what we've been up to this week (it's not all been roses).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

a new era?

Ok. Maybe era is too strong of a word. But things are definately changing around here, and in a good way. After 28 nights of going to bed in her own bed, in her own room, Sofia is now going to sleep on her own. Tonight was the third night. It started a little bit out of necessity on Thursday because Stefan had to go deliver something in the evening and I really needed to help Sam study for his Chemistry test.
When Sofia was getting ready for bed, she took me over to her calendar and wanted to know what was going to happen next . . . . (She had been getting stickers on the calendar each night she slept in her own bed and on Thursday morning she had got a small gift for having done 7 nights in a row since the last package). So, I told her that I would read one book and then she could read a book of her choice after I leave and then she would turn out the light when she's done and go to sleep. If she did that, she would get a sticker, and a prize from the box. She agreed, and it went beautifully. We had everything organized so she wouldn't have to get out of bed at all - water bottle and book on the chair I sat on, classical music CD on low before I left, etc. About 5 minutes after I started studying with Sam, she opened her door (which is at the foot of her bed) and said "Goodnight Mom", closed the door and went to sleep. Tomorrow she'll be due for another prize, because we make it one more night each time.
I had actually thought about doing this last week, after it had been 21 days in her own bed (don't they say 21 days in a row makes a habit?), but I wasn't ready to give up the the sweetness of having her fall asleep with her arm purposefully across my lap, or her fingers lightly touching my hand. Even though I still didn't want to really give that up, the reality is that there are other children in the house who also need our attention in the evenings and we are not always both home.
Also, Sofia has been in such great humour lately. The mornings have gone really well (and I am not usually so easy to get along with in the mornings because I am NOT a morning-person) and she's been laughing lots and more easy-going (she has generally tried to control all situations, including play). That's not to say everything is perfect - we all have our bad moments. We all say and do things we regret later.
Yesterday after school, I commented to Stefan how well things were going while he was eating lunch and Sofia was chowing down on some bread and cheese (she doesn't eat well at school and if we're eating when she gets home, she joins in . . .). She wanted some of the soup Stefan was eating, so I gave her a small portion. Then she ran to get the book that I read to her the night before, to show Stefan. When I told her to put it away, and not leave it with all the food, she refused . . . and thus started the evil twin's visit who would be back a few more times before the day ended . . . She wouldn't finish the soup (it got put in the fridge) . . . She wouldn't eat dinner (she sat there 30 minutes after we all left the table until she finished it) . . . She would "let Joel have it" for anything she perceived as an offense against her by him, even though it wasn't meant to be and she made him cry when she erased his name from her list of names on her door . . . and so on. But, bedtime went well. btw, Joel told me at one point during the day that you could sure tell they were siblings by the way they fight . . .
Today's been great. Sofia got herself some breakfast while Stefan and I were still in bed (Oh, I should say that she has finally stopped wailing for us when she wakes up. If she has to go to the bathroom, she gets up and goes. If she wants to get up, she comes in our room and will whisper in one of our ears asking the time.) When she wanted an apple around 11am, I told her she had to eat that soup first, which she did. She had 4 helpings (albeit small ones) of lasagne and 3 pieces of garlic bread for lunch. She's done "homework", helped vacuum, tidied her room, watched a video, played Monopoly and played "bank" with her Russian coins.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

happy pills

I haven't mentioned that 11 days ago I fell on the icy hill known as our driveway. In retrospect, it was a bit like a cartoon - purse flying into a snowbank, feet up in the air higher than my head and then the big crash, right on my coccyx (tailbone). Very painful. I spent a few days gingerly moving around, but by about a week later my back was feeling better. Then, last Thursday, I was playing with the kids on the floor and when I pulled one of them onto my lap - ouch - it didn't feel good. Over the weekend, my back kept getting worse and when I bowed my head in church on Sunday it felt like an electric shock went through my right leg. Yesterday, I finally gave in and went to see a doctor. She decided that since it had been getting better for the first week, there's nothing seriously wrong. She prescribed some pain pills (with anti-inflammatory) that I'm to take regularly for a week, then we'll see how I feel.

Ahhhh, much better. At least the pain is bearable now. However, I've lost the excuse I was using to not pick up all the stuff my family leaves lying around. That's right, my house is a DISASTER zone. I wasn't doing any bending, and that included the dishwasher. (I also thought it would be an interesting experiment for them to see how messy the house gets if I don't pick up after them). So far, nobody's noticed except me . . . I would take a picture of the kitchen, but I'm too embarrased - I just hope nobody decides to drop by . . . I guess I should approach this with the same JOY as my friend Sheri. I should take JOY in the fact that we have a large kitchen, so there's lots of room for the mess. I am JOYful that I have a wonderful family and that we have a warm, albeit messy, house. Thanks, Sheri, for helping me put things in perpective!

Joel is home sick today. He got out of bed at 11 last night and complained of feeling dizzy. He felt warm (and still does), but the thermometer says he doesn't have a high temperature. We gave him some Tylenol and put him in Mattias' bottom bunk for the rest of the night (didn't want to deal with him in his loft bed if he got really sick). Anyways, he slept through the night, but still doesn't feel great.

Mattias joined the local track team last night. By local, I mean 25km away . . . They practice in town on Monday nights, so he went with me to my classes and sat in the back during the first class. One of my students drove him to the gym for me and then I picked him up after the second class. He had a great time. They ran and trained high jump last night. Unfortunately, I forgot to feed him dinner (we left the house at 4:30) so he was starving by the time we got home at 9. Note to self: plan better.

Last night as we were driving home, the temperature got as low as -22C. Yeah. That's cold. That's like -8 Farhenheit . . . So not fair that Ondrea's walking around in bare feet . . . I'm ready for some sun. One of my students just came back from Thailand where it had been +34C (93F) in the shade. Hmmmm.

On Sunday, the local paper ran a story about our village school . . . that the enrollment is on the rise and that they recently purchased musical instruments thanks to the memorial fund created for a former principal. The picture they ran was of Sofia's class. Yes, that's her playing the accordian . . .

Saturday, February 14, 2009

typically finnish

The kids (Mattias, Joel and Sofia) had a sauna last night. Twice during the sauna, they ran out and jumped in the snow. This morning it was -10C . . . not sure what the temperature was last night, but I'm sure it was pretty cold. Just wish I had had the presence of mind to grab my camera and take some photos . . .

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

holy snow, batman!

In the last post, I mentioned that it had been snowing for 5 days. Well, now we have a lot of snow. A lot. And it's cold. Not as cold as the first year we were here and it was down to -30-something (-22F?), but this morning was chilly at-10C (14F). This doesn't bode so well with my affliction - I have something called Raynaud's Syndrome.

Check out my hands the other day:

When my doctor diagnosed this about 15 years ago, she said it was more common in young women and pretty much the only thing we grow out of as we age. Does the fact that I still have it mean I'm young??

Monday, February 9, 2009

picture post

Things are continuing to go smoothly . . . not to say all the time, but enough to say that it's more like a normal household around here now. Yesterday marked 2 months that we "sprang" Sofia from the children's home. Coincidentally, we had Family N over for afternoon coffee. Sofia was incredibly shy and didn't talk to the boys at all. In the morning, when Stefan had been preparing her for the fact that they were coming for visit, she came out of the room and said to me (in Swedish), "Papa wants to hear Russian, but I can't." She even needed help counting - we're not sure if she's truly forgotten, or wants to have forgotten . . .

On Saturday Sofia went to a classmate's birthday party and it went really well. She had a great time and couldn't stop talking about it on the ride home. (Yes, she was there on her own with her classmates!)

Today is the fifth day in a row that it has snowed . . . It's getting pretty deep! Now for some recent photos:

Joel skiing on Thursday.

Sofia skiing . . . it didn't go so well . . . . She was not happy about how deep the snow was . . .not at all like the track at school . . .

Joel and Sofia were playing "Happy Birthday!" I brought them gifts (inside the socks) and "breakfast in bed".

Sofia, Mama and Joel.

Mmmmmm! Licking the spatula!

Sofia found the old Hallowe'en costumes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

i have nothing clever for a title

I'm feeling pretty giddy right now. I'm alone in the house, and I have time to catch up on emails, blogging, etc. All 4 kiddos are at school! This is the third day in a row. Monday I had 5 hours to do all kinds of little jobs around the house that I never had time to get to, or got distracted before I got there . . .

We've had quite a busy stretch of days here now. On Sunday afternoon, a Russian-speaking friend of mine came over and translated a memory book that our agency sent to us. The book was compiled by the Social Worker at the children's home and included many pictures and anecdotes (in Russian). Interestingly, when she asked Sofia some questions in Russian (trying to get some details about pictures), Sofia would only answer in Swedish and said she didn't remember. I think she just didn't want to talk about it.

After dinner, for some reason, Joel, Sofia and Mattias started talking that we needed to adopt another child! Sofia fetched the memory book and flipped to the page with a picture of her group . . . she said we should adopt them all and she named them - all 6. Then we remembered that one boy has just been adopted by his forever family in Italy, so it would only be 5 more (btw, 4 of them are a sibling group and are absolutely adorable . . .). They ran around the house, deciding where they all would sleep. Sofia was talking about their behaviour - first what they were like in the children's home and then all the rules they would have to learn once they got here. I videotaped her and Joel running around the house pointing out all the problem areas, all the things they must do as well as the things they must not do. It was really funny, mostly because it's things we've said to her over the course of the last 2 months!

Later in the evening, she talked more about her time in the children's home. We learned about bedtime - that they were allowed to take one book to bed, that they listened to music, etc. We learned about which nannies were there at bedtime and which ones woke them up, etc. After she had gone to sleep, Stefan warned that there would be trouble the next day . . .too much talking about Russia.

Well, he was right. Miss Grumpy had a few "meltdowns" even before we left for her 9:30 dentist appointment on Monday. Actually, they're not so much meltdowns any more, but I don't know what to call them - moments when she reacts unreasonably to something that's happened . . . Anyways, we drove in silence to town. The dentist appointment went fine. She had plastic put in her 3 permanent molars so she won't get cavities in them. Then we did a bit of grocery shopping.

I teach every Monday night, and Stefan had a board meeting to attend this week, so Stefan's mom looked after the kids. They went to their house for dinner, and then she brought them back to our house for bed. I was really worried. It was the first time Stefan and I were away for her bedtime, AND she had had a grumpy day. Well, she went to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual. She chose 2 books to read herself (one English and one Swedish), she put on her sleeping CD (classical music), and when Stefan's mom checked on her at 8:30, she was asleep. I couldn't believe it when I came home at 9 that the house was so quiet. It was so nice to know that the change in routine didn't freak her out. Joel and Mattias were reading in their own beds and Sam was quietly doing his own thing in the basement.

Tuesday was a school day - and she said for me to stay home. So, we got them all out the door at 7:45 and I had the house to myself until the youngest 3 came back home at 1pm. Sofia was so excited. She told me about the big bus that took them to school and the small one that took them home. She told me the skates were good, the wool socks were good and the helmet was good. (I forgot to say that they skated in gym class. We moved the boys up one size in their skates so she could use a smaller pair of the hockey skates, and we had to find a better helmet because the white one in the previous photo really BUGGED her). Apparently, she did very well skating!

On Wednesday, Sofia went to school for a couple hours in the morning and then I picked her up because she need to go get a vaccination. Generally, it went fine because she's had so many of them, but it did hurt so she cried a bit. The health nurse gave her a really nice hard cover book of Swedish stories, poems and songs, so she was quite happy with that! Then I took her to Stefan's parents' house where she had lunch while Stefan and I went to have a mid-term meeting with Sam's teacher. Things are going well with Sam in junior high. He is getting decent grades, although he is described as being forgetful - something he needs to work on. What I liked hearing was that he was a nice boy. Polite. Well-brought up..

Stefan and I spent a couple hours at home with the kids, then they had to go back to their grandma's because Stefan and I had to go sign some papers. We were finally back home with them at 7pm, and the kids played a bit, Joel did his homework, etc. Sofia was acting out a bit - demanding attention when the boys needed it and being argumentative. Bedtime was a mess . . .everybody was short-tempered. In retrospect, the day was very hard on her - school, vaccine, "babysitter", etc. She must have been overtired, too. Despite the storm, she made eye contact with me, and once everything had settled down and she apologised for her behaviour and I apologised to her for my overreaction and gave her a hug, she burst into tears. I don't think anyone has ever told her they're sorry before . . .

This morning, she woke up in a good mood and is now at school. Today they are skiing (cross country) in gym class so she had a lot of gear to take along. I hope it goes well!

The Holms

Denmark Road Trip

The outskirts of St. Pete

St. Petersburg

Saint Petersburg: Sankt-Peterburg, Russian pronunciation: is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. The city's other names were Petrograd (1914–1924) and Leningrad (1924–1991). Founded by Tsar Peter I of Russia on 27 May, 1703, it was the capital of the Russian Empire for more than two hundred years (1713–1728, 1732–1918). Saint Petersburg is home to more than two hundred museums, many of them hosted in historic buildings. The largest of the museums is the Hermitage Museum, featuring interiors of the former imperial residence and a vast collection of art. Celebrating the 300th anniversary of its foundation, Saint Petersburg was selected as the main motif in a recent Finnish commemorative coin, the €10 Mannerheim and Saint Petersburg commemorative coin, minted in 2003. The reverse of the coin features a view of Saint Petersburg, with the Peter and Paul Fortress and its three turrets. In the coin the words "St. Petersburg 1703-2003" can be seen.