Monday, April 27, 2009

tah dah!

A bit of news to make us all smile.

Drum roll please . . . .

Yesterday evening we came home from a soccer tournament and this is what we saw:
That's right, people - open water!!! It appears that spring has finally arrived. After the younger ones were tucked in bed, Stefan and Sam put the boat out at the harbour (about 500m down the road).

Backing the boat onto the road (it was really close to the ditch!).

Are you wondering why Sam's sitting on the roof with a big stick? His job was to raise the power lines as they drove under them . . .

So, with the onset of Spring, we've had a busy weekend - cleaned out the carport (took stuff to the recycle depot and burned the rest of the garbage), raked out one garden, washed the driveway, put up the trampoline, had our first BBQ, and read LOTS outside on the deck.
We moved the trampoline to the back of the house this year. The flattest spot was where my clothesline was, so we had to take it down. Since it's out of commission, Stefan strung up a temporary one for me. I don't think it will last long:
I love how the belt actually touches the ground! btw, they're still hanging out there - it rained today so they need to dry, again.

Now you'll have to excuse the peanut butter and graham cracker crumbs on the face from tonight's snack, but I think it's adorable to see these cheeks and this little nose kissed by the sun:

Now I'm gonna chill with a little CSI NY followed by some ProjectRunway. Then I'll settle down to finish chapter 46 in Dragonfly in Amber. I've already read the book once before, so I know I'm in for a good cry. I should probably warn Stefan . . .


Sunday, April 26, 2009

oops!

This one snuck up on me, even though I knew it was coming:

It was one year ago yesterday that we got our referral for a (then) 5 year old girl in St. Petersburg. We were driving at the time, so we had to pull over. It was an agonizing 5 minutes for me, because I knew who Stefan was talking to, but had to wait till the call was done so he could give me the information.

At that time, we were told her date of birth, her name, that she had blond, curly hair (it's not curly), that she was "careful" and other than "normal" developmental delays as a result of living in an institution she was healthy.

Happy Belated Referral Day to us!



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

bear hunting

I'm the first to admit that I really stink at dressing myself or my kids properly here (thankfully, Stefan usually dresses himself). There seems to be some unwritten code about what days to break out the rubber boots, the snow pants, the wind breaker, etc . . . I first noticed this in the autumn of 2005 when I took Joel to playschool one day and all the other kids had their rubber boots and rubber coveralls for playing outside . . . Joel had a windbreaker and running shoes . . . And so it has happened over and over again as each new season has come . . .

The same is also true when it comes to dressing/preparing the kids for outdoor activities, especially cross country skiing (what this post is about). One day, back in early March I think, I got a call from the principal  because there was some confusion at school over whose ski boots were whose (my 2 boys were claiming 3 pairs of boots with no names in them and another boy had none). We sorted it out over the phone, and I was advised to label everything cuz lots of kids have the same equipment. (this highlights another cultural difference: coming from the "big city" where you don't write your kid's name in anything in case he's abducted and then the abductor will know his name . . . I do realize I'm a little paranoid).

While he has me on the phone, the principal reminds me that they are going to participate in a cross country ski race the next day, and I should send the kids with appropriate clothing for such. Apparently, Joel was way too warm this day while they were skiing . . . they weren't "going bear hunting in Alaska", and a more lightweight hat would be better.

Thus, this hat has been dubbed "Joel's bear hunting hat". Doesn't he look cute?



Sunday, April 19, 2009

huh?

Guess what we woke up to yesterday morning? Yeah, that's right . . . a fresh blanket of snow! Sweet!

And if you don't believe me, here are the pictures to prove it:

By afternoon, most of the new snow had melted away, but not all. In fact, even though it didn't snow again last night, there's still a tad bit of yesterday's stuff out there . . .

Yesterday, after Sam, Joel and Sofia moved all the sleds, skiis and snowshovels back into the red shed across the street (so I don't have to see them any more this year), Sofia picked a new hairdo, which we attempted after her shower:



It has lasted well, in fact it looks just the same this morning:)


Friday, April 17, 2009

time to post


This is Mattias. He has pointed out that the blog is pretty much mostly about Sofia. And he is not impressed (as you can see in this photo). He's the one responsible for most of the kms I put on the car . . . track and field on Mondays, soccer on Tuesdays and Sundays, violin and track on Thursdays . . . yikes! He has put in notice at the Music Institute that he will only continue next year if he is able to switch instruments (to guitar). He has done 3 years of violin lessons and is currently getting ready to do his level 1 exam which includes a lot of scale practicing. At school they are preparing for the big track meet in Helsinki that comes at the end of May. It appears that he will be running on the 1st team with the grades 6's (he's in grade 4):-)

Sam is just a big goofball sometimes! This is the face he made when I said smile for the camera! I really need to videotape him more right now . .. he's in the midst of his voice changing . .

Easter traditions are a little different over here. On Saturday, the children dress up and go to houses to collect candy. It's done during the day, and traditionally they dress up as Easter witches. I have a very hard time reconciling the idea of witches to Easter, so I get them to dress up as something else (in fact, the first year we were here, they didn't participate at all because I felt so uncomfortable about it - I took them shopping instead). In all fairness, I should point out that usually the witches look more like old ladies, wearing aprons and freckles . . .

Mattias went out with a friend (in her village) and the 2 of them were dressed as trolls.

Joel and Sofia went out here, and were dressed as the Easter Panda Bear and Easter Chicken. It was so funny watching them walk down the road . . .

Sunday morning the kids woke up to find their Easter baskets on the kitchen counter. They were up at 7, trying to be quiet but since our bedroom is off the kitchen, we were awake soon after! Anyways, I had to get up so I'd have enough time to do Sofia's hair before church.

Sofia's Easter basket and Easter hair-do!

Joel and Sofia ready for church. We went to the service at the Lutheran church. The playschool children sang, and the youth sang and re-enacted the Resurrection. The priest's sermon on the resurrection was directed at the children. It was a nice service.

In the afternoon, we discovered that the Easter Bunny had been to our backyard, so Mattias, Joel and Sofia ran out to collect the eggs he had left behind. Although it was fairly warm (5C), we still had quite a bit of snow!

On Monday, Mattias had an all-day soccer practice where they trained inside and outside and ended the day swimming. He had a great time.

This week I substituted 3 days for Sofia's teacher who is on holidays. It went really well. The first day Sofia came home and told her papa that Mamma can teach. (I guess that degree comes in handy after all). It was quite fun working with the little ones - much different than what I'm used to (teaching middle school). The little ones like to hug goodbye, sit on your lap and give you drawings - that didn't happen so often to me with my middle school students!



Wednesday, April 8, 2009

four months

Four months ago, we were at a party in a children's home in Saint Petersburg, celebrating Sofia's adoption!

My how this girl has changed in four months. She has gone from mornings of sitting quietly in her bed waiting for someone to come get her, to yelling for us to come get her, to now getting up on her own (once she hears someone else is up) and getting her breakfast of a bowl of cereal (every new kind I buy is her favourite) then brushing her teeth, making her bed and getting dressed on her own, just like her brothers! (She's the only one who makes her bed.) Since she is now sleeping more soundly, I often have to wake her on school days, just like her brothers.

She has become a "Chatty Cathy". In fact, I have now started laying out her clothes for her because if I don't, she'll call me into her room (for a consult) and then she starts talking about stuff while I'm there, and she can't dress and talk and the same time! So, when this happens, then it's usually a mad rush in the bathroom and then getting out the door to catch the bus. Her teacher has reported that she is also talking MUCH more at school and participating in class discussions. So much so, that she's now had to learn the "putting up you hand to talk" rule (which she didn't need to know before). What's really funny is when she does this at the dinner table . . .

Some of her favourite things to do with her brothers are: play hide and seek, play dog and build forts out of blankets. She does watch some movies, but she's not nearly as interested as her brothers in that.

We now have lots of fun trying new hairdos. Here are 2 more:
This is The Star. I should have done the bottom two piggies lower so the star shape would show more . . . But we were in a rush before church on Sunday. btw, Sofia managed to keep this in overnight, so it lasted all through Monday,too!

This is The Heart. I managed to do this before school today - it was pretty quick.

We're off to the dentist again today to get 2 more cavities filled - what a way for her to celebrate her anniversary (bad scheduling on my part)!

Oh yeah, I should also mention the dog . . . At first, Pepsi was so scared of Sofia because Sofia was, let's say, not so gentle. And Pepsi is really little. I think she got dropped a couple times. And I don't think she liked being chased around the house. Now, Pepsi is so excited when Sofia comes home from school. She jumps up and down, does her happy squeal, etc. During the day, I'll sometimes find her sleeping on Sofia's bed while the kids are at school.

Yesterday the social worker called to schedule her first post-placement visit. She'll have to drive at least 3 hours to get to us . . . She only had one day open and luckily it worked for us, but it will be a tight turnaround to get the report to Russia (it's due 10 days after the visit). I'm not sure why she didn't arrange the visit earlier . . . .

Because she is an "older" adopted child, Sofia has many memories. In the last month she has talked more and more about them. There are 2 reasons for this - language development and attachment. She feels safe telling us things about her birth family and life in the children's home.

So, overall, things are going really well. We still have issues over things, but I think sometimes it's more to do with clashes of the will and not attachment (Sofia and I have very similar personalities). She loves to give hugs and kisses - in fact, this morning after she went out to wait for the bus, she came back a few minutes later to give me a hug! It's standard practice that we each get a hug once she's dressed to go out but this morning she had forgotten.

Some photos:
This is today after we got home from the dentist. She couldn't smile evenly due to the freezing on her left side. btw, she cried more this time at the dentist - probably because she knew what was going on and how it was going to feel. Plus, she had 2 fillings done . . . one of the cavities was so deep it was into the roots!

This one just cracks me up . . . I was trying to get a good shot for her 4-month photo. Next time I should think about not doing it when her face is half frozen . . .


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

what's new, you ask?

As I sat here listening to my dog pass wind, I looked out the window and saw that it was SNOWING again. Seriously, isn't this enough? It has snowed a bit every day for the last few days . . . I'm beginning to worry I will still be driving with snow tires in May . . .
Yes, that's a tractor in front of the sidewalk to our main door . . .


In other news, Sam got his birthday present on Sunday - 8 months early. He is currently in 14-year-old-heaven (the kind with grease under the fingernails. Here it is:
He can't drive it on the roads until he gets his license in 8 months, but he's enjoying monkeying around with it in the meantime.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

look what I did!


After years of the boys refusing to let me braid their hair, I finally have a little girl to practice hairdos on! Of course, in the beginning, the hair was a huge issue, so just getting it brushed was an accomplishment in itself. Now, as we've been having more fun doing Sofia's hair it was time to find something new. But I've been stuck in a rut. We've done braids, french braids, ponytails, pigtails and curls, but not much else because I'm not really creative. However, this week I clicked on a link on a link on a link, etc. on someone's blog and ended up in a whole new blogworld - one of mommies showing off their daughters' dos, and several of them with step-by-step how-to instructions. Yippee! After looking through one blog's hairdos and watching some of the instructional videos, Sofia picked this hairstyle as the first one we would try (she even said she would sit as still as the little girl in the video:).

The style is called "French Twist Piggies".
It involved 2 french twist braids on the top of the head and 2 french twists at the back worked into buns with the ends sticking out.

I think it turned out pretty good for our first try, although the buns are hard for me to figure out and look like they're about to fall out.



At bedtime, we undid the buns and she slept with the piggies in, so that is how she's worn her hair today, although it looks a bit messy.

I'm looking forward to trying something else soon!



Thursday, April 2, 2009

hello, april!

When we first moved here, back in July 2005 {btw, I'll be scrapbooking those airport photos today:( }, the local newspaper came and interviewed us for a story. Unfortunately, I can't find the paper right now - in spite of my generally high standards of organization, I can't figure out where I put the darn thing almost 4 years ago!

Anyways, as the reporter said, it's not so common for people to move into the small villages (the population here is ~300), referring to other Finns, let alone from other countries! Of course, the big question was why . . . We had several reasons for making this move, but among them was the need to slow down. After both of us working full time, having the boys in daycare, and spending much time sitting in traffic, we were looking for a slower-paced lifestyle.

At first, that's how it seemed here, but may I present to you "March 2009" . . .
As you can see, there are only 3 days in the whole month with nothing scheduled. I drove 830km during the week of the 15th - the 22nd!

I have had to colour-code the calendar to keep track of who's doing what and when (although blue was used incorrectly this month).

Man, I hope April's not so busy . . .



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.