Tuesday, September 29, 2009

this one's for kristine!

My blogging friend, Kristine, recently posted pictures of her house, and all the autumn decorating that she's been up to. It looks awesome.

Today, Ondrea was also inspired by Kristine to decorate for the season and posted some of her pictures, too.

So, I am following suit. Here it is, my autumn decor:


Isn't this little guy cute? He's hanging on our basement door - the only useable one right now. If you look close enough, you'll see that his rake's broken. Has been for years. I just pick it up off the stoop every year and pack it back away with him again. Maybe one year I'll get around to fixing it for him.

Oh, don't bother scrolling any further.

That's it.

There's no more.



Monday, September 28, 2009

friday's progress . . . as promised

There's been blasting around our house.

I was very intrigued by the whole process.

I should say that the first one on Thursday had me a little worried . . . I had been outside on the deck with Pepsi watching the blankets being put in place. I heard a crash inside and discovered that Max had knocked over my coffee beside the computer. As I was cleaning it up, Stefan opened the basement door and shouted, "Don't come out! It's time. And stay away from the windows!" So, I quickly ran to the middle of the house and started feeling a little uneasy. Then I realized Pepsi was still out on the deck! So I phoned Stefan and he said I could get her. I took her with me to the middle of the house and sat huddled on the top stair. What did I think was going to happen? I was getting really freaked out, almost in tears . . . imagining shards of glass flying everywhere, etc. I was just about to phone Stefan again and say I would rather be outside
when I heard a small boom, and it was over.


Friday, September 25, 2009

yard work

On Monday, I posted a picture of the digger outside Joel's room.

Here's what's going on: we've noticed in our basement that the brick walls were damp . . . there was too much moisture there. Our house is on a hill, and some of the underground water has been sitting against the house's foundation underground. So, we're putting in new drainage all around the house.
Sunday - getting ready:

The sidewalk, porch and 2 stoops needed to be removed.


You can see the big step up Mattias is making into the mud room.


Sofia and Sam are chipping away the cement between the slate stones.


Joel, chipping at the cement.

Monday - the beginning:

This is the outside corner by Joel's room. That's cousin Kasper helping his dad.


The backyard . . . one can still see the lawn . . .


Stefan and his brother had to dig out by hand under the firewood chute.

Tuesday - the pile is getting bigger:

Joel and Sofia in the backyard.


Careful. The first step is a doozy . . .


View from the playhouse.


Obviously, we can't use these doors right now. Really inconvenient . . .

Wednesday - the driveway:

At this part of the driveway, right at the corner of the carport, we've had trouble with sink holes. There were some big rocks buried underneath, and years of erosion have taken their toll. This rock's gotta go . . . (photo taken from the balcony)

Thursday - blasting:

A neighbour and Stefan watch as the Nyman brothers prepare to blast the rock.


Kasper watches as more rocks are found and more blasting ensues (we were inside for the blasts).


Putting in the dynamite.


The hole is getting bigger . . . (photo taken from the carport)


The kids in the backyard on Thursday evening.


Not so much lawn anymore . . .

Pictures from today will follow another time . . . There was more blasting today . . .



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

with love from russia

Sofia got a package in the mail today.







Can you see the writing on the plastic bag? It's in Russian.



There was a letter enclosed, addressed to Stefan and I . . . I started reading it to her without pre-reading first, which was a mistake because I was moved to tears at the sentiment. Here is an excerpt:

"We were in the orphanage just recently and told them that Sofia sometimes recalls her friends. This is a small gift from the orphanage to Sofia, which they asked me to deliver to her. Tatiana, Galina (the doctor) and all nannies hope that Sofia will like her new Mischka (Teddy Bear)!" The letter was signed by our coordinator, representative and driver in Russia (but it was written by the coordinator).

What made me cry was the simple appreciation for the people that Sofia had in her life. I have read other stories of Russian adoptions that describe some orphanages as uncaring and cold. We are so fortunate that Sofia was in a children's home where they truly cared for her. There is no doubt in my mind that it was because of the care she received there that she has made huge strides in her transition here. Imagine - they sent her a gift over nine months after she left!

And let me tell you, she is so proud of that bear. His name? Vlad Glad Max Joel Daniel Steve Sergei Holm. It's a mouthful. It got longer as the day went on. It may get shorter as the days go by . . .




Monday, September 21, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

it could've been much worse

So, flashback to the spring of 1999. Our staff was on our way to a conference in Courtenay, BC and I was driving my van with a couple of colleagues as passengers. Out of nowhere, a very large deer ran at me and it impacted on the front corner on the driver’s side and bounced down the side (I’m pretty sure it was suicidal). Not a great way to start a weekend. My colleagues were awesome - they all chipped in and paid for me to get a massage at the resort we were staying at. However, in return, I had to endure weeks of endless jokes about Bambi and the “Deer Hunter”. At the time, Sam was 4 and Mattias was 1 . . . We thought it would upset them too much to know what really happened . . . So we told them a log rolled down a hill and hit the van . . . They didn’t know the truth until years later . . .

Well, last night it happened again. Allow me set the scene.

Mattias’ class was having a sleepover at a local slaughterhouse (now, you’re probably wondering if you read that right. Yes. You did. Once a year the grade 5/6 does this, just before moose hunting season begins. They look forward to it all year - it’s a tradition.) Anyways, it was also his soccer wind-up, so I went and picked him up at 5:30 and took him to the soccer field. It was freezing! Joel, Sofia and I were so cold (along with all the other parents). They had to be there 45 minutes early to learn their new positions, and then their game was about an hour. By the time we left, my fingers and toes were numb, my lower back was aching and my throat was killing me (I’ve been battling a cold for 10 days). I took Mattias back to the slaughterhouse and started the drive back home. About 3 km later, as I was planning to make some tea with honey for my sore throat when I got home, WHAM!
A deer came running from the left, and although I tried to slow down, it got in front of me, made contact on the front bumper and went airborne into the ditch. I screamed said loudly, “I just hit a deer!” and pulled over to the side.

By the time I got my phone out and was calling Stefan, I began second-guessing what kind of animal I had hit - deer are not so common here. It is much more common to hit moose.

I was scared to get out and look because I started thinking it was something else, and was maybe still alive. We were out on a rural road with no street lights. Stefan got there in about 15 minutes and when he couldn’t see what I had hit (he couldn’t find a flashlight to bring), he called his cousin, Anders, who is on the hunting team. They were not so far away, and within minutes, I had about 6 men from the hunting team there. They identified the “victim” as deer by the hair sticking out of the front bumper,

and found it quickly in the ditch, quite close to where I had stopped. Anders called the police for us and reported the incident and so we had to wait for them. Slowly, the hunters dispersed. Thankfully, one of them, who lives not too far from us, drove Joel and Sofia to Stefan’s mom’s house and then she took them home and put them to bed (it was way past their bed time at this point). Yes, they did get out of the car to look at the deer and the damage. No, the airbags did not deploy and none of us are hurt. Anders put the deer in the back of his truck (otherwise, I think we would’ve had to bury it ourselves) and went home.

The police arrived about an hour after the accident and took down all the information. They reiterated how lucky I was that it wasn’t a moose. They only needed to come so that our insurance would cover the repairs. By the time I got home, I was freezing, I had a huge headache, my back hurt, my throat hurt and I was dog-tired. Stefan called the insurance company this morning - they’re sending out someone to look at the car on Tuesday.

With this type of claim, there’s no deductible and I won’t lose my safe-drivers’ status. That was good news.


So, what is it with me and suicidal deer?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

before and after

Saturday morning:



Sunday evening:


Well, we actually went through with it! Saturday afternoon, Sofia had about 7-8 inches of hair cut off.

When we went into the salon, I asked the hairdresser about the condition of her hair . . . I had noticed that it started looking like she had slept in her braids only an hour after they were put in - pieces of hair sticking out all over . . . I was wondering if her hair was breaking, or? Apparently, it was all new growth . . . the stylist thought that she had probably been losing lots of hair and this was new hair growing in (I'm thinking that the length of the new growth indicates that she was probably losing a lot of hair around the time of the adoption? all the change was probably traumatic for her). She also said that having hair in ponytails and braids is hard on the hair, too. Uhmmm - we were doing that practically every day . . .

So, now it is SOOOO much easier. This morning we quickly brushed her hair and she went to school with NOTHING in her hair - no elastics, no barrettes, no hairband,etc. However, you'll notice, that it's still long enough for Mama to do fun things with it on occasion.

AND, Sofia LOVES it! (She actually indicated to the stylist that she wanted it cut above her shoulders, but I ixnayed that!) Since Saturday, she's been going to visit neighbours to show them her new haircut!


Friday, September 11, 2009

favourite photo friday - animal house


A big puppy needs a lot of sleep . . .


This looks interesting . . .


I'll just help with the pre-wash . . .


Meanwhile, Pepsi cuddles with her teddy in her "diva" bed.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

nine months and a day


Time for an update . . . Yesterday marks 9 months since “Gotcha Day” in St. Petersburg. Here’s how things are going:

Behaviour

The last few days have been a bit better. Sofia learned very early on the importance of saying sorry after doing something wrong . . . But then it reached a stage where it appeared a quick sorry would fix everything all the time. We’ve reached a point where we’re trying to have her make the connection between bad behaviour and logical consequences. She mostly doesn’t “get” this yet, and tends to get angry when she is given any form of consequent/punishment, but we’re making progress . . . In fact, yesterday she was mad because of a consequence I gave her but she didn’t say any of those hurtful things (I could tell she was really struggling not to blurt something out).

Eating

Progress here as well . . . She can still be picky about what food she likes, but she’s not been making such a big deal about eating something she doesn’t like . . . For example, celery in spaghetti sauce . . .


Language

This is her strength, as obvious by the fact that she talks non-stop from sun-up till sundown. Since our trip to Canada this summer, she now talks English with me and Swedish to everyone else here (although sometimes English with her brothers). It’s just amazing to listen to hear her flip back and forth between the 2 languages so easily. Of course, there are grammatical errors in her speech (“I’m is going outside”, and she can’t seem to ever remember the word “when”), but she is completely understandable. As for Swedish, I think that’s even better (but then again, what do I know . . .) She should be getting extra help with language at school, but the school board has, in their money-saving wisdom, changed the way they deliver this service. In the past, the boys had an extra 1-2 hours a week of Swedish lessons at the school with a staff member. This year, they’ve consolidated all the Swedish-as-a-second-language classes in the district - it’ll be taught by one teacher at a central location. What does this mean for Sofia who lives out in the boonies? She’ll have to take a bus into town for these classes. That’s 20km in each direction. At this point, we’re declining the service for a number of reasons: she’s too young to bus alone, it’s not in her best interests socially to be away from her classmates like that, the SSL classes (to my knowledge) are currently all grouped together . . .6-15 year olds, all ranges of language abilities . . . Our principal agrees with me and is advocating for something else, but the board, at this point, won’t provide any other type of service. Hopefully, once they realize it doesn’t really works well, they’ll change their mind . . . I’ll keep you posted.

Hair

I’m not sure how much longer we can keep it long . . . . It’s exhausting maintaining it! It’s fun to do fancy hairstyles, but it has to be “done” everyday because it’s totally impractical to have it down for school.

Attachment

Looking at her behaviour sometimes, one has to wonder  . . . But I think she, in fact, is really attached to us. When she’s mad, she doesn’t stay mad for long . . . Not at all. And she comes looking for us and just wants to be held and say sorry. She is also talking more about the future and not so much about the past. We have recently been informed that she plans to marry “A” (or “B”) - I won’t say their names to protect their privacy. He will be rich. They will have lots of cats and dogs. She will be a teacher and they will have a farm. They will have 9 kids. We, as Grandpa and Grandma, are free to visit often because they will live near us. How cute is that?



Sunday, September 6, 2009

zero

This afternoon, at 3:45pm, I was stopped at a police roadblock and required to blow into a breathalyzer.

Really?

A Sunday afternoon?

I understand roadchecks late at night, or even Saturday and Sunday mornings . . . but Sunday afternoon? Is Sunday afternoon drunkenness such a problem here? Yikes.

Just so you know . . . when the officer showed me the screen on the machine . . . I blew 0.0.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

grooming issues

This dog is a mess . . . I looked over at her tonight as she and I were watching CSI together on the couch and this is what I saw:


She's very upset with me that I'm posting this photo . . .

As for the other cuties in this house (the 2-legged kind), Stefan took the youngest ones out fishing to empty a trap last week:







I figure they belong in a "grooming"post because Sofia thought their sliminess felt like they were covered in shampoo . . .


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

instruction manual, please

Sometimes I feel like we are going through this blindly. And it's not easy. And we're making loads of mistakes. And sometimes I wish I could kick myself for some of the choices I've made. And sometimes I wish I had Marty McFly's DeLorien, so I could go back and do-over. . .

When the social workers were visiting us back in May, one thing they pointed out was to expect that things can get bad again (we had been going through a relatively "smooth-sailing" period). They said that it's normal for behaviours to regress in the second half of a year home. They also warned us to be constantly reassuring about our then-upcoming trip to Canada - that Sofia would probably feel insecure about leaving her home (especially without her Pappa). I probably should have taken this more to heart. She seemed fine about the trip - she was really looking forward to visiting Uncle Steve again and meeting her grandpa in person, not just over the webcam.

But, we had a ton of issues while we were there - I even posted about some of the problems with food. Looking back, I don't even remember what most of the issues were, I just remember there were many bedtimes overshadowed by arguments and anger. It was during one of these episodes that Sofia threw out the first "You don't love me. You only love boys." and boy did that hurt. I totally get, from her perspective, why she said that . . . she thought I was treating them differently . . . and I'm pretty sure I said words like that to my parents while I was growing up (what had happened was that the 3 of them - Sam wasn't with - were misbehaving and were sent to their rooms . . . Sofia was whining all the way there . . . I went in and told the boys they were going to bed early and to put their pyjamas on and they did [they recognized that I had reached my limit of patience] . . . I went downstairs to tell Sofia the same, and she freaked out - refusing, crying, screaming, etc . . . so I was angry and left the room - that's when she said I didn't love her).

However, that was just the beginning of the verbal daggers she has begun throwing at us.

Lately, we are being told things like:
  • I don't like you.
  • I don't love you.
  • It doesn't work to live here.
  • I'm leaving.
  • You can go away (as in go find another place to live, not leave me alone for a few minutes)
At first, these things made us mad, but then we had that "oh, right" moment about what the social workers said. When she says these things (and it happens pretty often lately), now we try to counter with things like, "That's too bad because we love you very much." or "Well, we'll miss you and we wish you would stay because we love you." As much as we understand that these are probably fairly typical PI behaviours, it still hurts like heck to hear them. On Sunday I finally broke down and just starting sobbing. It wears one down after awhile. I've tried to be thick-skinned about it, but to have your own child say she doesn't love you and tell you to go away . . . ugh.

Of course, I'm constantly making mistakes. I have too much of a knee-jerk reaction to outbursts . . . and, this, I'm working on. In this way, Sofia and I are SO much alike - very reactionary. And, she's been having lots of outbursts lately . . . they usually begin with one of us telling her to do something and her deciding it's something she won't, so she refuses. It can be as simple as where to sit in the car. She'll have one of two reactions - whine in a really loud voice (which is like nails on a chalkboard) or completely refuse which begins an argument that leads to the "verbal daggers". It used to be that she was only like this with me, but now she does the same with Stefan. And, she does it with attitude . . .like teenager attitude. Having taught teenagers, I knew this would be something for us to expect . . . I just didn't know it would happen at age 7!

All this being said, I think maybe the new puppy has something to do with a spike in difficult behaviour . . . change is not always a good thing . . .

So, here we are, struggling to raise our spirited, willful child. . . trying to discern which behaviours are temperament and which are PI, and deal with them accordingly. We so dearly love this child - and even though we understand that her pushing us away is a form of self preservation, we still make mistakes along the way. We know that God planned, long ago, that Sofia would be a part of our family. She is a very special child - so incredibly smart, it's mind-boggling, yet so stubborn and short-tempered at the same time she must be my daughter! We know that we are blessed - we have 4 healthy children, we live in a wonderful place and we have a roof over our heads.

Despite the fact that I am not the mom I wish I could be, I'm so thankful for my family!

I am also thankful for blogging friends, like Ondrea, who often seems to write thought-provoking posts on things that matter to my heart. This is something she posted last week (August 21) that truly touched me (it's from the "Jesus Calling" devotional):

"I am a God who heals. I heal broken bodies, broken minds, broken hearts, broken lives, and broken relationships. My very Presence has immense healing powers. You cannot live close to Me without experiencing some degree of healing. However, it is also true that you have not because you ask not. You receive the healing that flows naturally from My Presence, whether you seek it or not. But there is more - much more - available to those who ask. ..... When the time is right, I prompt you to ask for healing of some brokenness in you or in another person. The healing may be instantaneous, or it may be a process. That is up to Me. Your part is to trust Me fully and to thank Me for the restoration that has begun. I rarely heal all the brokenness in a person's life. Even My servant Paul was told, "My grace is sufficient for you," when he sought healing from the thorn in his flesh. Nonetheless, much healing is available to those whose lives are intimately interwoven with Mine. Ask and you will receive."

I don't really know how to end this post. I didn't intend for it to be something negative - only a glimpse at the reality of our lives. In a way, it was a process for me to write about it so I could reflect, and not just dwell on the dark stuff. It was also a wake-up call for me that I can't do it all alone - God called us to adopt and he will carry us through the difficult moments:

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9


And, of course, I must include a photo of the sweetness that makes it all worthwhile:

The little Russian princess is turning out to be quite a tomboy, what with 3 older brothers and all . . .


PS As I was reading through old posts trying to find the ones to link back to, I came across these words in another post:

When I came down the stairs for the last time, Sofia called me into her room one last time.

She looked at me and said, "I very, very love you, Mama."

Sometimes I wonder if I am deserving of the love of this child. There are so many times I am not the parent I want to be. So many moments I wish I go back and do-over.

But, tonight, she made me feel like I must be doing something right. We have come so far in our relationship. This is such a good thing.

Gosh, maybe I need to copy, laminate and post those words on the wall in the bedroom so I can be reminded daily that's it's not always a struggle.

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.