Saturday, October 31, 2009

all saints' day

Back home, everyone's celebrating Hallowe'en right now . . . I have to say, when we first moved here, I was quite happy to be finished with this celebration (when we arrived in 2005, Hallowe'en was barely observed here - it was considered a novelty from North America) - the kids? not so much. Our first 3 years here, we did have Halloween parties with Stefan's sister and family - but something very small; just a chance for the kids to dress up in their store-bought costumes we dragged over here with us, play some games, eat candy, etc. Last year we didn't do anything, and this year's the same except that Mattias has gone to a Hallowe'en party . . . Joel's pretty upset - apparently this is the boringest Hallowee'en ever. Anyways, it seems that Hallowe'en is becoming increasingly popular here, although there's no hint of any trick-or-treating on the horizon.
This is the jack-o-lantern Mattias and Joel made this afternoon out of a mandarin orange . . .

So, what do they celebrate here? All Saints' Day. In fact, all stores were closed today due to the holiday. How is it observed? People light candles and bring flowers/plants to the cemeteries. Seriously, it is just so absolutely beautiful to see the cemetery all lit up with thousands of candles. After dropping Mattias off at the party, Joel, Sofia and I went to the cemetery to light some candles . . . (that's right - I took my youngest kids to the graveyard after dark on Hallowe'en night).

First, we went to Stefan's grandparents', on his dad's side, marker. Joel knew both of them so it was important for him that we go there first and he wanted me to take a picture.
I used the flash on the camera, so you don't get the beautiful effect at all . . .

Then we lit candles at Stefan's mom's parents' marker (no picture) and finally we stopped at the marker that was just put in last year - it's to remember people who are buried in other parts of the world.

This is Joel lighting a candle for my mom who passed away in 2001, when he was just 9½ months old.
And here is Sofia lighting a candle for her Mama Natasha (her birth mom). Sofia was only 2 when her mom passed away and I suspect that the memories she has are a result of pictures and stories from her great grandma, but Sofia tells us that she was a good mom. We let her know that it's okay to talk about Mama Natasha and encourage Sofia to remember her.

I tried to take some pictures of the whole cemetery with all the candles, but the photos didn't turn out with or without a flash so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was breathtaking.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

she's been holding out on us . . .

I've mentioned on a number of occasions, that Sofia has given us the impression that she no longer understands much Russian. In fact, she has emphatically denied that she can speak Russian.

I remember back when she had only been with us a couple months and she boldly proclaimed (in Swedish, but translated here), "Sofia talks Swedish. Russian is finished." (Gosh, that brings me back . . . to when she used to talk about herself in the 3rd person;)

Anyways . . . over the months there have been times when we've heard Russian - on TV, on the internet, at ToysRUs, etc. She recognizes the language, but when we ask what they said, she always says, "I don't know."

Today, she was playing with her Chebourashka stuffie (she had found him in the closet where, apparently, he'd been hiding out for awhile) who happens to speak Russian.
Stefan and I have always known that he's counting in one of the phrases and at one point he says , "I love (?something?)". I've been assuming he says "I love you."

So, she tells us to shush, and then she says, "Did you hear that? He asked if you want to be his friend?" Then she went on, with encouragement, to tell us some of the other things he says. She needed to listen carefully, but she seemed to know most.

I think it's so amazing now that she wants to teach us Russian words, and she seems to take pride in the fact that she knows the language. She has shown interest in attending a play group for Russian-speaking children - I still have to find out if she's allowed to attend even if her parents don't speak Russian:-)

Turns out Chebourashka loves milk.

Friday, October 23, 2009

favourite photo friday

We went to the zoo last Sunday . . . 2 hour drive there, 2 hours at the zoo and then 2 hour drive home.

We decided to buy an annual pass (it's the low season, so they were on sale). Not sure if a mistake was made, but our passes are good till December 31, 2011 . . .

Vildsvin = Wild Boars

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"my eyes are bigger than my stomach"

I think I've mentioned before that we've had some issues with food . . . Fortunately, Sofia has never tried to sneak or hide food, which can be a common PI behaviour (I've heard).

She will always ask when she wants something to eat. That's the problem right now . . . the always. She talks about food a lot. She wants to eat something. all. the. time.

Mom, can I have a banana?

Mom, can I have an apple?

Mom, can I have some of that (and she'll mime preparing a food she doesn't know the name for)?

Mom, can I have some bread?

In the beginning, I almost always said yes. Especially if she was asking for fruit. However, it's happened that's Sofia's eaten so much between meals, that dinner turns into a battle, especially if it's something she doesn't like. (And it's already really painful to sit through a meal with her if she doesn't like something.) So, I've put the kai-bosh on most snacks for now, unless I clearly know she's actually hungry. Of course, some days after school now she'll ask to go visit grandma . . . I think grandma finds it harder to say "no" . . .

Anyways, tonight everything was going well at dinner. She ate her casserole and a piece of bread and asked for seconds. When she asked for more bread, I said she needed to finish what was on her plate first. No problem. Except, eventually, she started slowing down. Everyone else finished and left the kitchen. I started cleaning up . . . As I was putting away the loaf of bread I said, "I guess you don't want anymore bread?" She said no. So, I looked at her , and told her about the expression, "your eyes are bigger than your stomach". She thought it was funny and suited her well. Then I went down stairs to fold laundry.

About 10 minutes later, Sofia came down and said thanks for the food. On her way back up the stairs:

"Mom, can I have a banana?"

I smiled to myself and said no.

"Why not?"

"Um, 'cause you could hardly finish your dinner. You're not hungry."


Now, believe it or not, it's about 35 minutes after that last exchange and as I typed that conversation I heard:

"Mom. Banana?"


Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Our second Post Placement Report is due in Russia very soon, so our social worker came for a home visit last Thursday. The visit went really well . . . there were no spinal-injury-threatening-stunts nor Evil-Knievel-style-bike-rides like during the first visit back in May.

Sofia was uncharacteristically quiet during the first hour (all the kids were), but then she warmed up and behaved in a way which I believe to be normal under the circumstances (read that to mean a little show-off-y).

If you recall, last May the SW expressed a bit of concern about Sofia starting school - that PI kids need time to just be kids and play because often they don't know how . . . We have been a little concerned, because Sofia tends not to play with dolls, toys and such . . but much prefers to go through old magazines and flyers, write lists, use a calculator to do math q's, etc. But, the SW said she clearly knows how to play based on what she saw (she was bringing out her teddies and dolls into the kitchen, sitting them down with books, etc.)

When we lamented about our school board's decision to only offer Sofia extra help with Swedish if she bussed 20km into town , the SW quickly replied, "Is there anything I can do? Maybe I can write something and that will help." Yes! I was going to ask her to do that, but didn't even have to!!

During our adoption process, one of the major concerns everyone seemed to have was that we are a bilingual family. It was thought that 2 languages would be too difficult and confusing. Our solution was to only speak Swedish in the beginning and gradually introduce English (which we did after Sofia had been home between 3 and 4 months).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

the grumps *edited*

I've been grumpy for quite a few days now. I'm hoping I can move beyond it. It started last Friday with an Anonymous comment on my blog (name was left, but no way to find them). There are a few reasons it bothered me so much (besides the fact that I take everything very personally - I could never be in the public eye):
  1. I write my blog for family and friends to know what we're up to since we moved halfway around the world. I haven't "gone private" because that would make it difficult for former colleagues, old friends, etc. to check in on us. Along the way, I've "met" new friends in Bloggerland, who usually introduce themselves first and then leave a nice comment about our family. When I meet a new blogger, that's what I do. If I read a blog I don't like, or someone's viewpoint is different than mine, I don't read that blog anymore.
  2. Since there's an average of about 20 people a day even visiting my blog, and I know most of them, why would this person decide to reprimand me for giving my personal opinion on a topic that was widely publicized? I'm sure there are many, many more influential blogs and forums out there on the internet than mine . . .
  3. This person pointed out that adoption and attachment is hard. Really? (heavy on the sarcasm here) Gee, I guess I've given people the impression that being scratched (still have scars), pinched, hit, being told, "I don't like you/I don't love you/I don't like anybody in this house/I want to leave/", amoungst other things, is easy . . .
Edited to add: The comment,per se, was not particularly mean-spirited, but I didn't like that I was being reprimanded for having an unfavorable opinion on a widely-publicized story. For the above-mentioned reasons.

Okay. Enough of that.

Saturday morning, Stefan and I drove 400km to shop. First we stopped at a huge home improvement store about halfway there. We needed to buy new outdoor lighting, and this particular store had a wider selection than stores around here.

We got to Tornio between 6 and 7 pm and went to the hotel we had booked through email. After checking in, we went up to our room and were disappointed to find that it was 2 small (90cm) beds in the room. We didn't even go in, just stood in the doorway. So, we went back down to reception and asked for another room. It was actually worse. It had a double bed (the kind that when you lay down, you roll to the middle), it was small, hot and the bathroom had dirty grout. We probably would have put up with it, but the room cost 94€ ($140US/$143CAD), and I was already grumpy from that blog comment, so I refused to stay there. The guy at reception was kinda shocked when we returned the key and said we weren't staying . . .

The "Drag Queen Show - tonight!" poster at the door should have given us some indication . . .

We drove over to neighboring Haparanda in Sweden and found a hotel there. The next day we shopped at IKEA (I got the neatest desk for scrapbooking - it tilts like a drafting table and has a light table built in) and at a Swedish grocery store, ate Swedish fast food, and drove home.

It was really nice for just the 2 of us to get away - that hasn't happened since our court date in St. Pete . . . and that wasn't really a fun trip . . . .

The kids were home from school on Monday and Tuesday - Autumn Break. And I was still grumpy.

Yesterday I substituted for Mattias' teacher. It was nice to get out and do something different.

I gotta clean the house now . . . PPR #2 . . . the social worker is coming this afternoon . . .

I'm going to post this without any pictures . . . Can you believe it?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

the ditch-digging's done . . . well, sort of

I should have posted this last week - the fellows we hired to dig the drainage ditches around the yard finished their work last Thursday - that also included filling the ditches back in, of course.

We still have a lot of work to do ourselves, though, and most of it will probably have to wait until the spring. For one thing, the weather here has turned cold and rainy and for another, it's better to let all the sand and gravel settle before we start landscaping. It also gives us a chance to think and plan what we want to do!

Here's how things proceeded until now:

Early last week, the digging continues down the western side of the house (across the yard to empty into the ditch along the road). We had already removed one spruce tree to make room for the machines, but this other one's going too - it looks pretty sad with the branches cut like that . . .

Removing the last loads from the "rock graveyard".

Removing the roots from that second spruce tree.

Digging along the front of the house (I'm taking the picture from up on the balcony).

Last Thursday - filling all the holes.

Today - our main doors are back in use. Maybe we'll start a new trend with our walkways made of pallets?

During the whole 2 weeks Stefan and the guys were out working in the yard, the weather was beautiful! It was cool, so comfortable for heavy work. Rain had been forecast almost every day, but never came.

On Saturday, I worked all day, facilitating a scrapbook workshop. I had planned to get out and do yard work on Sunday (since my car is STILL in the body shop, we can't go to church), but it stormed on Sunday - RAIN and WIND! On his way to the farm, Stefan had to stop and pick up some of our garbage (plastic and styrofoam) that had blown down the road.

Yesterday was nice again, so I was able to get out and gather most of the junk spread out on our "lawn", wash some windows, put away some of the patio furniture and clean up the yard a bit. Today is stormy again . . . more rain and more wind . . . The water is high. Take a look:

You usually step over the side of our boat and down into it. On the right side of the picture, you can't see our neighbour's dock that their boat is tied to because it's under water.

The arrows are pointing to fields that shouldn't be covered in water.

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.