Tuesday, March 31, 2009

out of the mouths of babes . . . in this case, mattias

Yesterday afternoon I got a call from the school principal (the school my youngest 3 go to and I work at, except that I'm on parental leave . . .). He started off by saying that I have such funny kids. Hmm . . I wonder where this is going?

So, they were planning what to do on Friday with the kids who weren't going on the ski trip and Mattias (our 11 year old) had a suggestion. I can't remember the exact words, but it was something like this: "Well, we can do the special thing my parents always do when us kids go to bed!"

Pardon?

So, the principal was calling to find out what that special thing was . . .


Wait for it . . . .


Nachos - we make nachos for a snack once the kids have gone to bed.



Sunday, March 29, 2009

from awww to aarghhh

Saturday started out quite well. Stefan took the boys downhill skiing for the day (no pictures) which was something the 4 of them needed; a little guy-time on the slopes, burgers for lunch,etc.

It was a beautiful day, so Sofia and I decided to walk to the store (about 1.2km in each direction) with Pepsi in tow. Despite the cold wind, it was a really nice walk. The store was quite close to the home of one of her classmates so Sofia started talking about wanting to go play at her house. I suggested that we call when we get home and invite the girl to our house. Sofia had to wait a couple hours till she could come over, but she was so excited - this was the first time she had a friend over to the house. It was quite interesting to watch how Sofia interacted. Usually when there are children over, Sofia doesn't talk - she lets her brothers do that, but this time she was on her own. I tried to give them space and let them figure things out for themselves. Sometimes, she was bossy and I would have to remind her to ask her friend if she wanted to do something . . . . They played Guess Who?, Candyland and Noah's Rainbow Race. They watched a tiny bit of TV, went outside for about 5 minutes, played make-believe store, hide and seek and had a snack. Overall, I think it went well (hope the little friend did too!)

For dinner I made a Ham and Leek pie (sorta like a quiche) and that's when things turned to aarghhh. Sofia didn't like it. Surprisingly, it wasn't the leek she took offense to, it was the crust (c'mon, how can someone hate crust that much - it's just butter and flour). And she seriously hated it. I had a battle on my hands. First, she mashed it all up to bits. Then she was putting bits in her mouth and letting them fall back on her plate. All the while, I was trying to explain to her about showing respect for the cook's feelings (I said it makes me sad when she says my food is yucky and makes faces) and also explaining that we have to learn to eat things we don't like in case we are invited someplace . . . we have to eat what has been made for us without being rude to the host. I actually took out the camera and snapped a shot of her. Can you see how mad she is? After about 20 minutes, I put the timer on . . . giving her 15 minutes to finish, but it still wasn't going well. I took out the video camera and filmed a bit, just so she can see it herself one day (if I only tape the good stuff, it's not very realistic, is it?) After about another 5 minutes, I noticed she wanted another napkin and it seemed suspicious to me so I said no. Then she simply refused to "eat" anymore. So, off to bed an hour early. She was angry all through the bathroom routine and getting pyjamas on, but was so surprised that I took out a book and was going to read to her! I tried to explain that even though we were angry at each other, we can still love each other. I told her many times during the story that I loved her and was so happy she was here with us.

Stefan and the boys got home just after her light was turned off, but she was sleeping by the time they got upstairs. When I told Stefan about dinner and showed him her plate, we had a good laugh - the napkin was full of food - instead of wiping her mouth, she was spitting the food into it. Smart girl, but busted!

Now today, guess what we had for lunch? Yes, leftover "quiche". She watched it warming in the oven and didn't make a fuss. She pointed out which part I should serve to her, and didn't make a fuss. She ate some of it, with ketchup but then she reached her limit and the mashing and face-making started. I didn't let it go on for as long as last night, and eventually took the plate away. She had to spend some time in her room and I tried again to explain about table manners. . . I don't know if it made any difference . . . what's a mom to do? Any suggestions for when a 6 year old refuses to eat something?

I just about forgot - remember that beautiful photo the other day of our snow-free road? Here's how it looks right now:
It's been snowing for about 18 hours straight. Here's another comparison shot of nearly identical locations:


yesterday . . and then we have . . today

OI!!!


Friday, March 27, 2009

potpourri for 100th

Ahem . . . this is my hundredth post . . .

The Weather
The roads have been clear for about 10 days, but our driveway is covered in about 2 inches of solid ice (considering we live on a hill, that's kinda dangerous - although the kids don't seem to have any trouble with it, at all). I choose to go in through the basement door and avoid the hill. This morning it was apparently -17C when we got up, but it has warmed up to a balmy -4C right now. The sun is shining, and it is really beautiful out there.

Scrapbooking
Now that Sofia is in school and I'm home on parental leave, I thought this would be the perfect time to finally get caught up on scrapbooking. The problem is I don't enjoy it anymore (don't tell Stefan) - it's simply become a huge chore. It's a daunting task, and a little overwhelming to look at the shelf of photo envelopes lined up. In the past 6 weeks, I have done about 50 pages . . . but they lack creativity and I have only reached July 2005 (the days prior to our move here). It also doesn't help that these pics make me cry, because in all honesty I miss our old life. I feel terribly lonely here at times they make me nostalgic. Anyways, I've also had to shift my scrapbooking philosophy - I bought some pocket photo albums and am now sifting through the pics and not scrapping EVERY SINGLE ONE anymore. I'm trying to keep each event to a 2 page layout and putting the rest of the pics in the regular albums (if they rot away in 75 years from the acid, oh well). However, I still enjoy shopping for supplies:)

Attachment
I think we're doing really well on the attachment front. Ondrea had posted a list of signs of poor attachment right when I had been wondering how we were doing. Sofia makes great eye contact, seeks physical comforting when we've had a fight (will come and drape herself over me and wrap her arms around), spontaneously says she loves us and hugs/kisses us, she is very shy around strangers and although she continues to have a bossy streak and likes to direct what happens, she will accept when we say no and tell her to do things a different way (mostly). Sometimes our difficulties are my fault. I still have a bit of a wall up between us from the challenges we had in the beginning. In the last couple of days, some other bloggers have posted things that have really hit close to home for me. I often overreact to an outburst from her (and often wonder if my reactions would've been the same if it had been one of the boys) and after the air has cleared, I feel so awful because I know how frustrating it must be for her to live everyday in another language . . . to hear bits and pieces of conversations but not really know what they're talking about - it's no wonder she acts out inappropriately at times.

One thing I want to point out, and I'll try to explain it as clearly as I can . . . In the orphanage, the kids were highly independent as far as getting dressed, etc. When Sofia first came home, she apparently couldn't do anything by herself anymore. We had to dress her, toilet her, etc. I believe this was her way of developing attachment to us, being dependent on us. At first, we were a little annoyed because it wasn't always convenient - especially when you're trying to get all the kids out the door, and she could be very finicky about how something was supposed to be (shirt tucked in, sleeves not too short, pants not too tight etc.) Then, as things started smoothing out around here, she started doing things on her own. Now, she is usually the first one with her outside clothes on in the mornings. Anyways, the point I'm trying to make is that as she's developing relationships outside the family (at school, etc), I'm trying to purposely help her with these things again - just to make sure that the bonding attachment is with us here at home. I'll help her with her snow pants, even if she doesn't need it, just to have that time down on the floor together, making eye and physical contact. Does this make sense?

Routines
Sofia has been very quick to pick up on routines around here. She always says thank you at the table before getting up and then carries her dishes to the counter (and sometimes even puts them in the dishwasher). She has slept in her own bed for 57 nights, and has not had us there waiting for her to fall asleep for 34 nights (in fact, today she will get the last prize from the bucket - but we'll probably continue with the stickers for encouragement). She gets her breakfast started on her own while I am waking up the others. She makes her own bed after she gets dressed. Teeth get brushed twice a day (she'd been doing it on her own, but I've recently taken over - read below), followed by flouride rinse and mouthwash. Hair styling is no problem.

Sibling Relationships
I continue to struggle with differentiating between normal sibling rivalry and resentment. Some days, Joel and Sofia play so well together, and Mattias has already volunteered to take Sofia out for Easter (here they get candy door to door at Easter instead of Halloween). Yesterday, Joel and Sofia had a couple of fights. At one point, Joel was so mad he said something regarding the adoption . . . They had fought over who got to choose the movie to watch in the car. They were outside yelling at each other, so I said "No movie." Of course, he blamed her that they couldn't watch a movie. I tried to explain to him that it was a lose-lose decision for me to make - either way, someone was gonna be mad so the only "fair" thing to do was to have them both be mad:)

Health
Sofia is a very healthy girl - it must be all the cold water therapy she got in SPB! She's had the sniffles once since she's been home. We have issues with her teeth, of course, and lately, she had really, REALLY bad breath. Stefan has put a call into the dentist to find out if she has any suggestions. In the meantime, I've taken over brushing her teeth - just to make sure it's getting done thoroughly. She complains a lot about it hurting - not sure if it's the gums or teeth themselves. She's also rinsing with mouthwash twice a day, which she really likes. But, even after she's done that, I can still smell it - it's like moth balls and old people . . .

There's also an issue with BO. She has clarified that she had stinky armpits in SPB too. They can be stinky even the day after a shower - and I've been having her use baby powder. So, the last shower, I had her use my body wash (the princess stuff just isn't powerful enough) and that seemed to help. Yesterday I bought her some deodorant, but isn't 6 a little young to start worrying about this??


Prayers
I ask you to pray for some sweet, sweet children in SPB. I had actually mentioned the children from Sofia's "groupa" in this post. Later on, we found out that 4 of them were, in fact, siblings and heard how difficult it may be to find a home for them. Then, 4 weeks ago, I heard that they, along with 3 other siblings from other orphanages, were being returned to the parents. I had been praying that this family could make a go of it. Yesterday I received word that things didn't work out and the children had been returned to the orphanage. Please pray that these adorable children will not be lost in the system, that they will not be deemed unadoptable because there are so many of them! They are so deserving of a forever family with parents who will love and cherish them!


PS - big news event for the week was that I finally took down all the Christmas lights - yeah, Me!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

floorball

Last night was Joel's last floorball game of the season (here it's called Innebandy). It was the "Mamma Match". Luckily, Unfortunately, I couldn't play because I had an English class to teach. The sport is pretty big here, and as far as I can tell, it's pretty similar to the indoor floor hockey we played in PE when I was a kid. However, for some reason, the goalie sits on the floor. (maybe that's why it's called floorball).

So, I thought I would post some pictures from his tournament on Saturday. The kid is so stinkin' cute with the "protective eyewear" on!

If you know Joel, you'll recognize him by his skinny legs!


Joel's got his water bottle in his hands. There are 3 girls on his team of kids born in '01 and '02.

Sofia was not too thrilled to be hanging around the sports centre for 4 hours, watching 5 games, but this shot was taken during the first game before she got terribly bored. BTW, she's not all dolled up for the tournament - she was going straight to a birthday party afterwards.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

last night

Last night was an evening that had been anticipated for awhile around here. The "elementary" school had their annual Music Cafe, and this year's theme was Dance Bands (think Cruise ship,etc.) Here are the facts (in point form since it's easier for me:)

  • 23 songs
  • waltz, foxtrot, bug
  • the kids had learned the dance steps during the preceding weeks
  • Mattias and another boy were the MCs
  • I was helping with refreshments, so Stefan and Sam were in charge of recording everything for posterity . . .
  • Mattias sang 1 solo, 2 duets and played bass on one song, in addition to singing with the rest of the Grade 3/4s and dancing
  • the school has 34 students and there were probably about 150 people there (including the children)- adults paid 5€ for admission which included refreshments






Thursday, March 19, 2009

if we could've done things differently . . .

Yesterday, Sofia had her fourth dentist appointment. At her first, the dentist examined her teeth, cleaned them, and found the 5 cavities and one horrible sore on her gums that she had. At the second appointment, the dentist put plastic "fillings" in her molars (to prevent new cavities) and put a "temporary filling" of medicine in the tooth that has the sore under it - hopefully to drain away whatever is causing this sore. At the third appointment, she had a filling done in one of her teeth, but the cavity was not so deep, so no freezing was required.

Well, at the appointment yesterday, another cavity was attended to, one that was REALLY big and deep, and it required freezing. Sofia was really brave and cooperative. She had even come into the room with a "spring in her step" - she's quite excited for the dentist to help her have really nice teeth. Anyways, the dentist first applied a topical anesthetic, and while they were waiting for it to take effect, the girl in the room next door started crying, yelling and screaming. Poor Sofia, that she had to listen to that! Then came the needle. Sofia let out a little yelp when they started moving it a bit to spread the medicine around, and throughout the rest of the procedure her feet and hands would fidget, but otherwise she was a real trooper! Once that cavity was dealt with, the dentist removed and replaced the medicine in the "temporary filling" which was the tooth right beside. The sore is still there, but there doesn't seem to be any infection yet. Sofia will go back for her fifth appointment (in 3 weeks) to have the last 2 fillings done on her upper teeth. She will require freezing then also (the dentist tells her she's putting the tooth to sleep so it won't hurt). btw, I have to say that the dentist is awesome. She and her hygienist (who is a parent from Mattias' class) make a great, efficient team.


So, what would we have done differently? Instead of bringing candy and cookies to the orphanage, we should've brought really cool toothbrushes, flouride toothpaste and flouride tablets or rinses for the children. We thought candy would be such a nice treat for them - but Sofia has talked about all the candy she got. In fact, she says they would get candy in the morning if they had gone to bed nicely. She also says that while she did brush her teeth in the orphanage, it was only once a day, and only the front teeth. She says that it's only in Finland that she's brushed her back teeth. The health of these kids' teeth is really poor. Sofia has lost one tooth since she's been here, and I couldn't get over how small and fragile it was compared to the boys' baby teeth.

So, that's a little bit of wisdom I've gained. I feel so bad for Sofia that she has to go through all this. When you think about all the medical exams and tests these kids go through in the orphanages, it would be nice if a little more energy could be put into preventative dental care.


Friday, March 13, 2009

you are NOT gonna believe this!

Yesterday I was told something that made me SO mad. First, I have to back up and give you a bit of the history.

Here, a parent is entitled to 170 days of parental leave after adopting a child (parental leave is also available when a child is born into a family, and is usually taken (I think) after the maternity leave runs out - since I've never given birth to a child here, I'm not positive). The "parental pay" is 70% of the parent's income based on 6 months prior to taking it.

So, my parental pay is not very much because my day job (19 hours a week) is one of the lowest paying jobs around - I took the job because I like working there and it's where my kids go to school. But the parental pay is also based on my adult ed night school classes which only 6 hours a week.

Anyways, when I went to apply for the PP after we got home with Sofia, I asked about the night classes - I was worried that they would deduct that salary from my PP (and then I would end up with nothing. I was trying to determine if I should give up the night classes . . . I was told, after the nice lady made a phone call "upstairs", that I would need to report the days that I worked, and for those days, I would receive the minimum PP (which is about half of what I normally get). I thought, "great" - I can continue my night classes and not be penalized too much.

Last week, I filled out some paperwork to report the days I worked in January and February. When I dropped them off at the KELA office (a different office than the one where I dropped off the application), I confirmed with the nice lady at the reception desk who accepted the papers that for those days, I would receive the minimum PP. She assured me that was the case.

Are you with me so far? I'm almost done.

Yesterday, I received documents from the KELA office to revise my payment schedule. On the first page, I noticed that they had all the dates correct that I indicated on which I had worked. When I turned the page over, I was shocked to see that they had overpaid me by XXX€ because I was entitled to 0€ for each of those days I worked! What?! It must be some clerical or computer error!

So, when I took Mattias to his violin lesson yesterday, I first went to the KELA office to straighten this matter out. I got there 2 minutes before the office closed . . . Now, I need to preface this by saying that the woman I spoke to was very kind, and I in no way blame her - she's just relaying the information, and the words she chose to use are probably inappropriate because she was speaking English with me (I'm hoping that she would have chosen her words more carefully in her mother tongue . . .)

Here's the bottom line - I am not entitled to the minimum allowance on days where I work part time because our daughter is adopted. Parents are only allowed to that minimum if they "have their own child the natural way". Are you kidding me?

Sounds discriminatory to me.

I guess now I need to figure out who's responsible for this ridiculous law and see if I can do something about it. Really, for me, we're not not talking about much money at all (about 16€ per day for a total of 26 days over 4 months), but it's the principal of the matter.

argh.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

birthday time

Stefan turned 41 today. It was a very exciting day for Sofia and a huge deal for her. We played it low key - the kids brought him his gifts in bed in the morning. He worked while they were at school and I made lunch and baked a birthday cake. When the youngest 3 got home from school, we went to town to get a new passport for Sofia and see the Magistrate about certifying and getting apostilles for papers giving our Russian social worker power of attorney for some unfinished business in SPB. Dinner at McDonald's (same place I've sworn about 4 times never to return to, but keep doing it) and then home. Stefan's parents came over for tea and cake, and then the day was pretty much done. Of course, the only photo of the day is Stefan in front of the cake, with the dog (that he doesn't particularily like) and no children . . . . hmmm.






Monday, March 9, 2009

an anniversary

Today marks 3 months since we signed Sofia out of the orphanage. Literally. During the party to celebrate her adoption, the social worker brought over an ancient looking book in which we had to sign at the "x" attesting to the fact that we were taking her from the orphanage. I'm not sure how many years of adoptions were recorded there, but it was pretty thick. I guess they don't really trust computers . . . There have been so many changes over these past three months, and some of them have been so subtle that we haven't even noticed at first. . .

Once again, I started a post, only to get distracted and abandon it for a day . . . So, yesterday, was 3 months since Sofia joined our family. These are some short descriptors of what she’s like right now:
  • She talks pretty much non-stop. This includes interrupting when other people are talking, too. She’s learning patience when we tell her someone else was talking first.
  • She loves going to school
  • She likes skating.
  • She dislikes cross-country skiing.
  • She doesn’t really play with her toys very much. She prefers to gather our old receipts, junk mail, etc. and play things like “store”, “McDonald’s”, etc.
  • She’s very bossy. She’s learning that she’s not the only one who decides what and how to play.
  • She often points out that she speaks lots of Swedish and a little bit of English and she does not speak Russian. (However, sometimes she will tell us what things are in Russian, and a few days ago she was watching a Russian cartoon and was translating bits of it for Stefan.)
  • She likes having her hair done; will ask me to do it and even knows which hairstyles work best depending on the day’s activities (ponytails don’t work when you have to wear a helmet for skating, braids are best for playing outside when there’s static electricity, etc.) 
  • She has mentioned her biological father to me once, and her birth mom once to Stefan’s parents.
  • She is learning how to behave when someone stops by to visit with Mamma and Pappa. She’s shy and won’t really talk to them, but then she’ll run back and forth through the kitchen (where we’re usually sitting) and make lots of noise, etc. trying to get attention. If there are children with, like her cousins, she’ll play with them instead.
  • She has become a heavy sleeper. She used to sleep so lightly, and would wake at the slightest noise, so we would walk around on tiptoes in the evenings and mornings. Last week I had to wake her 2 mornings for school. We think she feels more trusting in her situation - like we’re not gonna take off in the middle of the night.
  • She has a great belly laugh and loves being tickled. (She’s a little rough when she tickles back . . .)
  • She consistently sleeps in her own room, and can now fall asleep on her own after 1 or 2 bedtime stories.
Last Friday, when she came home from school, she called up her Fammo (Father’s mother) and asked if she could sleep over, just like her little cousin Linnea did the week before. So, we packed her suitcase and she headed over before 2pm. She had a great time and apparently it went really well. Her first sleepover.

There are still issues with some behaviours, and we’re not sure whether it’s personality or the situation. She can be really whine-y, she’s a really poor sport when it comes to playing games and the boys get really frustrated and angry with her bossiness. Hmmm, sounds like a typical family, right?

This was taken during Sports Break, the day we went to the beach to sled. You can see the sled track the boys made. We still have this much snow.

Our kids love bananas.

This sewing kit was one of her "prizes" for sleeping in her own room, on her own.

Sofia with her doll "Masha" that we had brought to SPB for her when we met for the first time in May.

She looks like she's saying, "What have I got myself into?"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

funny story

This is one of those stories that it going to come back to haunt Sofia later in life . . . maybe at her wedding reception or something like that . . .

Last Wednesday, as she was getting changed into her pyjamas, she crossed her arms and stuck both sets of fingers into her armpits. Then she held them out towards me. This is how the conversation went (in Swedish):

Sofia: Taste. (she meant "smell", and we later went on to practice those 2 verbs)

Me: Ok. (So I smell them.) Ewww. That stinks.

Sofia: Yes. Taste again.

Me: Yeah . . . that's not good. Tomorrow morning you'll have to have a shower.

Sofia: Yes. It stinks. In Russia, everything stinks.

Now, I'm not really sure what she meant by "everything stinks in Russia". . . . Possibly a) her armpits always smelled bad, b) her whole body smelled bad, c) everything, in fact, smelled bad, or d) she was speaking metaphorically and was talking about her life.

(ok, I know it wasn't "d")

Sunday, March 1, 2009

sports break

Today is the last day of a week off school. yipee. We've had a fairly busy week, so it's gone quite fast. I don't really remember much about last week . . .

Well, I wrote those first lines yesterday and then I had to stop because Sofia burst into tears. You see, since Saturday afternoon Stefan's been down with the flu and Sofia couldn't take it anymore. She just cried and cried because Pappa was sick and she wanted a hug. She wanted him to do bedtime. She wanted him to feel better. So, she needed comforting and my undivided attention and this blog had to wait! Now it is Monday morning and all the kiddos are back to school.

Last Monday Mattias went to camp, but it was an only one-nighter. Joel was supposed to go too, but he was at the youngest age, and when he got there and didn't know anybody other than his brother who seemed to know a lot of other kids, he changed his mind and came back home with me. At camp, Mattias went swimming, sledding and downhill skiing. Monday evening I took the other 3 to see Bolt at the theatre. Sofia was great (she said she has gone in a taxi before to the movies) and consumed LOTS of "pok Corn".

Tuesday was old home movies and picking up Mattias.

Wednesday morning saw one meltdown in the morning (I attribute it to the lack of schedule during the holiday and am actually surprised that she didn't have more this week). Then I took the kids sledding at Klippan on the beach (they sledded down the wooden walkways from the church up on the rocks down to the beach). We came home, packed some food and then went to Stefan's parents' cottage (see the pictures below) where they put out some fishing nets under the ice and we grilled sausages in the fire.


The cottage.



Sam, relaxing while his dad and grandpa are getting the fishing equipment ready.



Joel, with his ice collection.



Sofia, making a snow angel.



Putting out the net.



Mattias, waiting for instructions on where to shovel.



Thursday morning we all worked and then Stefan and I took the older boys with us and drove 2 hours to do some shopping. Sam desperately needed some new clothes (he has grown so much lately) and Mattias bought himself a cell phone with his birthday money.

On Friday, Sam went on a ski trip. He had to catch the bus at 5:30am, 7km away. He insisted on waking up at 4am! Anyways, he didn't get home until 12:30am. It was a long day for him, but lots of fun.

Over the weekend, we just kept things low-key, and tried not to disturb Stefan too much. He's still not feeling well and hasn't been able to eat anything yet. Hopefully he gets better soon. Sofia informed me that he owes her 4 bedtime story nights!


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.