Monday, November 30, 2009

this should’ve been up last week . . .

Last week, I meant to do posts about what we were doing one year ago . . . but life got busy and I had no time . . . Joel and Sofia’s teacher was sick, so I substituted for her Tuesday through Friday . . . that was in addition to my English class Tuesday night, violin lesson Wednesday afternoon, theory on Friday, etc. (I did some Christmas baking on Thursday as well as washed tree sap out of Sofia’s hair {that was not fun}).
This meant that I was never home without children hanging around, and therefore unable to sit down at the computer and put some sensible sentences together (any time I’m at the computer with kids home: “whatchya doin’?”, “Can I play a game?”, “Who’s that?” . . . you get the picture . . .)
Anyways, a year ago (last week) we were in St. Petersburg, Russia. On November 24, 2008, we were up bright and early and headed to a medical clinic for our Judge M ordered 8 Doctor medical exams. You can read about that experience here. From the clinic, we headed directly to the courthouse which, even though it was the same city, took over an hour to reach. Our court experience was pretty rough – you can read that here.
So, here are some photos from that week back in 2008:
The hallway in the clinic. The psychologist’s office is at the end on the left.
Our courtroom (I had to sneak this photo).
Outside the courthouse.
Our hotel for trips 2 and 3.
The day after court – waiting in the Director’s office.
Getting passport photos. Yes, I bumped my head on the door jam.
We said goodbye on this trip outside, while “Nastja” was with her group. Other than the boy in the purple jacket, the rest in the photo are siblings – such cuties, too!

Monday, November 23, 2009

our second trip to st. petersburg

One year ago, Stefan and I went back to Russia , after 6 long months of waiting, to see “Nastja” again and for medicals and court.
I’m quite surprised how different the weather is . . . a year ago we had snow while today is a “balmy” +6 Celsius.
We had arrived in St. Pete between 4 and 5 in the afternoon. The original plan was for our driver to take us and the other couple directly to the orphanage to visit with our children. However, between 5 adults, our luggage, our orphanage gifts and a Ford Mondeo . . . we had to stop at the hotel first and drop off some of the luggage.
Here are some photos from November 23, 2008 (when I looked back at my post from that day, I didn’t show any photos of Sofia’s face . . .):
Stefan, outside the front of the orphanage.
“Nastja”, opening her bag of surprises (the other family in the background – we were in the same room because the Social Worker was observing us so she could speak in court the next day).
Sofia and me.
Stefan and Sofia.
Doing a puzzle.
Showing us her bed (the one against the wall).

We had about a 90 minute visit and then we had to go back to the hotel, which took roughly an hour to get to.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

you call that a snack?

Yesterday was a bit rough for our youngest three . . . So before bed, I prepared this snack for them:
Obviously, you can figure out the homemade pumpkin pie with whipped topping, but what’s with all the pills and the glass of water???
Let’s see . . . . the big one, that is just ½ a pill, is Vitamin C to put in the glass of water, P1020707
and the smallest one is a chewable multi-vitamin. We’ve been on a “keep away the H1N1 virus” kick around here lately . . . . drinking lots of orange juice, taking our vitamins, washing our hands in warm water with soap (and counting to 10), trying to keep our fingers off our faces and out of our mouths, and Mattias is even following numbers 3 and 4 on this list that was sent to me by a friend:
While you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection, in order to prevent proliferation, aggravation of symptoms and development of secondary infections, some very simple steps, not fully highlighted in most official communications, can be practiced (instead of focusing on how to stock N95 or Tamiflu):
1. Frequent hand-washing (well highlighted in all official communications).
2. "Hands-off-the-face" approach. Resist all temptations to touch any part of face (unless you want to eat, bathe or sleep).
3. *Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine if you don't trust salt). *H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat/ nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one. Don't underestimate this simple, inexpensive and powerful preventative method.
4. Similar to 3 above, *clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water. *Not everybody may be good at Jala Neti or Sutra Neti (very good Yoga asanas to clean nasal cavities), but *blowing the nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is very effective in bringing down viral population..*
5. *Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C (Amla and other citrus fruits). *If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it also has Zinc to boost absorption.
6.* Drink as much of warm liquids as you can.
*Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.

The other 2 pills (the purple ones) are Children’s Tylenol . . . these 3 did get the H1N1 vaccine today. It was an agonizing decision to make, but in the end, the opinions that weighed on me most heavily were those whose children have actually had the swine flu and they said it was absolutely horrible.
So, today, the 3 youngest have sore arms . . . but so far, no other reactions to the vaccine.
In other news (I use that phrase a lot . . .) . . . I had a bit of a breakthrough with Sofia on Wednesday evening . . . After cleaning up the dinner dishes, and waiting on the pies in the oven, I was heading downstairs to do laundry when Sofia came and stood against me. I figured she wanted a hug because her arm hurt, so I wrapped my arms around her. She started sobbing so I picked her up and rocked her and tried to comfort her (still thinking the problem was her arm). Then she said through her tears, “If I tell you, you’re going to be mad.”
Eventually, I coaxed her into telling me the problem: she had broken her Christmas figurine (I had just bought the 3 of them some inexpensive Christmas trinkets because they’d been such good sports about the shots). So, she went and got it, and I glued the legs back on . . . “See?. It’s okay!”
If you’re wondering why I think this is a breakthrough, it’s because, in the past, Sofia has never told me if something has broken . . . I come across it by accident, and then have had to deal with it – that we need to take care of our “stuff”, especially other peoples’ stuff. (She has never purposefully hidden something, it’s simply been that’s it’s never occurred to her that it’s a big deal when something breaks). Anyways, this time I think she “got it”. The figurine was important to her and she was sad that it was broken . . . she wanted it fixed . . . I told her how happy I was that she told me about it so that we could fix it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

not again

My car is dead again. You would’ve thought 1155€ would do the trick, but no . . . . Do bad Toyotas go to heaven?

Monday, November 16, 2009

worth its weight in gold?

Last week was a bad week . . . a lot of things went wrong . . . we had a health scare (turned out to be nothing) . . . we had dog poop smeared around the house via the bottom of a shoe (right as I was trying to rush out the door to a music lesson) . . . and my car broke down.

Tuesday night, as I was driving to work it stalled. I started it. It stalled again. Rinse. Repeat. I had to phone Stefan to come get me and drive me to work. Luckily one of my students was able to drive me home.

The car was towed away on Thursday. Today it was ready for pick up.

You know how
labour at the mechanic shop is always a hard pill to swallow? I was charged 143€ in labour (that's about$224 Canadian/$ 214 American).

That's not the worst bit.

See this little part?

This puppy set me back 1010€!!! ($1581CAD/$1511USD). I thought I was going to throw up when the guy said the total . . .

(btw, LG73 did rule . . . in 1984).

In other news, I thought Sofia's hair looked really cute today:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

lost in translation

I'm not sure if you can appreciate how funny this was . . . but I'll try to tell you a story of something that happened to me last week . . . .

First off, our coffee maker stopped working. Since there's no place close to buy a new one, and I couldn't decide what kind to get, we spent about a week boiling water and then pouring it through the filter basket into the coffee pot sitting on the stove top (did I mention that we had to apply pressure to the filter basket because our old coffee maker had the auto-stop feature? ya know, so if you remove the pot from the maker while it's brewing, the coffee stops flowing . . .).

Anyways, last Wednesday, while in town for violin lessons (not mine - Mattias'), I finally picked out a coffee maker. When we got home later, I excitedly unpacked the box, dug out the instruction booklet and started reading what I needed to do to get a cup of good coffee. Fortunately, there was an English section. In the section entitled "BEFORE USING YOUR MACHINE FOR THE FIRST TIME" (and it really was in capital letters) it said (and I quote):

Remove all packaging.
The water filter holder and DuoFilter cartridge are located inside the water tank during shipping.
Remove them before using the appliance. fig. 1

Well, when I looked in the water tank, there was nothing there (I even got a flashlight to scrutinize better). Then I started getting mad. Stefan was getting ready to go out to a meeting . . . He came over and said "Let me look.", etc. I told him I wasn't stupid . . . I'd know if a part was missing or not . . .even told him "it's probably still in the factory in China" (btw, Ann - can you look for it?). So, I grumbled a bit more and then packed it all back into the box and set it aside.

On Thursday, we went back to town for Sofia's Russian class, and while she was there, Joel and I went to return/exchange the coffee maker. The lady at the counter sent us through to the coffee maker section where an employee was waiting to help us. I explained that a part was missing and he dug out the instruction booklet and started reading.

Here's where things get really confusing . . . I can tell from his name that he is Finnish, but the 2 of us were having the conversation in Swedish . . . .

After he reads through the Finnish section in the book he says:

Him : You have to buy the part separately.

Me: Really!?

Him: Yes. But we don't have any in stock now.

Me: Is it a necessary part for the machine to work?

Him: No, it's only an extra water filter.

So, after confirming that indeed the machine will work, I head out with the coffee maker I had bought the day before.

On the way to the door, Joel says, "Aren't you going to buy any jam?"

Me: What? Why do I need jam?

Joel: The guy said you needed to buy jam for the coffee maker.

That was the funny part . . . the word "separately" in Swedish is "skild" (pronounced something like "shild"), but the guy pronounced it like "silt", which sounds very much like "sylt" - the word for jam in Swedish. Then, when I had said "Really?!", it confirmed for Joel that the guy was telling me to buy jam for the coffee maker. Too funny.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

big day

Today is a big day for several reasons . . .

  1. It's Father's Day here in Finland. We celebrated by letting Stefan sleep in. Mattias made him breakfast in bed. The kids gave him homemade items they crafted in school as well as candy and some Moomin attire (pyjamas and boxers). After lunch we went to Stefan's father's house and had cake, coffee and goodies along with the rest of Stefan's siblings.
  2. Today marks 11 months since we signed Sofia out of the orphanage in St. Petersburg and became a family of 6. I have posted a new photo down on the sidebar as I usually do each month. Check out the book she's reading which she signed out from the library's Book Bus. I have no idea behind the reasoning because we certainly don't give much attention to the topic around our house . . . She IS quirky . . .
  3. It's Orphan Sunday. The number of orphans in the world today is staggering. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

first snow

We got our first snow yesterday and it seems to be sticking around . . .

When I called the kids in for dinner this evening, I saw this massive snowball Sofia was working on (her brothers had helped earlier). I thought . . . ooohhh great photo op! . . . ran in and grabbed the camera.

It wasn't until the flash went off that I saw the "damage".

Remember all the yard work? The dumptruck loads of sand?

Well, Sofia's wearing it.

*groan* Must. load. the. washing. machine.

PS. Max was just outside for his evening visit to the "loo", and he spent most of the time barking at the giant snowball.

russian 101

Yesterday, Sofia went to the Russian children's group for the first time. . . Turns out that she doesn't really remember much Russian, at all.

Or, it could've just been shyness . . .

Anyways . . . there were 3 girls and 1 boy in the class (the boy is in Joel's gymnastics group - small world!).

I talked with the teacher for awhile before the other children arrived and gave her the background . .. she was a little concerned because the group is intended for children who speak Russian at home - it's a way for them to continue with their mother tongue - and they get support from at least one parent. She preferred if Joel and I didn't stay because she said the children tend to be too self-conscious with the parents around, so J and I went to the store to exchange the coffee maker (Sofia knew where we were going and was okay to be left there).

I talked again with Lena when we got back. She said that Sofia didn't seem to understand much and didn't say much either. But, she said that Sofia is welcome to come again.

I'll let Sofia think about it this week - let the experience sink in - so she can decide if she wants to try it again. She said that one of the books Lena read was a book she had back in Russia, but she left it there. I think it would be great for her to retain her Russian - we live so close to Russia that travel there is very easy, and , of course, it would be so wonderful for her to have a chance to visit with her great grandmother again. However, I don't want to force it on her and have her feel that it is something she must do, especially if it is unpleasant for her.

So, we'll see what happens.

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.