Wednesday, December 29, 2010

christmas crafts

Two weeks ago, we had craft day at school. All the teachers chose a  craft to be in charge of, and the students got to choose 2 they wanted to complete – one before lunch and one after.
Here are the finished products in our home:P1040081_edited-1
Joel made this “tomten”/elf. Mattias also made one, but it is on the outside door and it’s too cold for me to go out and take a picture. It says “Merry Christmas” in Swedish.
Joel and Sofia made these hand-dipped candles.
Mattias and Sofia made these clove-scented oranges.


  One of Mattias’ Rudolfs. Sofia also made them.

Mattias made this light ball. Sofia and Joel also made them (Sofia’s is black and she gave it to Sam while Joel’s is red and he gave it to his grandma.
Have a great Wednesday!

PS – Stefan and I celebrated our 17th anniversary today:)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

our christmas

The days just fly by . . .
As usual, we celebrated a traditional Scandinavian Christmas on Christmas Eve at Stefan’s parents’ house. We got there in time to watch “Kalle Anka” (Donald Duck), which is a staple of the traditional evening. It is broadcast at 4pm, runs for an hour, and consists of:
  • Santa’s Workshop
  • Clown of the Jungle
  • Pluto's Christmas Tree
  • Mickey’s Trailer
  • Ferdinand the Bull
Small bits of these films are included as well:
  • Snow White and the 7 Dwarves
  • Cinderella
  • Lady and the Tramp
  • Jungle Book
  • Robin Hood
(I’m not really sure what most of those have to do with Christmas, though . . .)
Joel is watching Santa’s workshop.
Mattias, Faffa, Sam and Sofia are watching, too.
This year, it was just us and the grandparents. Stefan’s siblings all had other plans. Stefan’s mom made a traditional “Julbord” (Christmas table – meaning Christmas smorgasbord).
Christmas dinner in Finland usually includes: rice porridge sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, baked ham, meatballs, sausages (the cocktail weiner-kind), carrot casserole, rutabaga casserole, several sorts of fish (including pickled herring and dill cured salmon), potatoes (scalloped), salads, “julmust” (a soda drink that is a non-alcoholic alternative to beer, although some say it tastes like root beer, only sweeter, I don’t agree) and bread. Stefan’s mom usually switches out the ham for beef.
After dinner, we exchanged gifts with the grandparents, and then came home so the kids could open their other gifts (we didn’t have a “Jultomten” this year.
P1040107_edited-1 P1040109
I opted for a real tree from the forest instead of our artificial tree. I realize it looks more like a Charlie Brown tree, but I missed the feeling of a live tree.
Joel bought gifts for Pepsi and Max.
Max had chewed his broken by the end of the evening.
Mattias got new “trick” skiis and Sofia is jumping for joy.
On Christmas Day, we opened the rest of our gifts in the morning and then spent the rest of the day preparing a traditional North American Christmas dinner. All of Stefan’s family came, except his youngest sister and her husband (he was working, and she was with him).
The kids’ table (of course, I forgot to take a picture of the adults’ table . . .) You can see a bottle of the “Julmust” on the table:)
After everyone left, we called my dad and brother in Canada and had a chat with them. My brother was supposed to be here for Christmas, but his flight through London was cancelled last week. He’ll be coming the first week in January instead.
Well, that’s about all for now. I plan to post some pictures over the next few days of some of the things we’ve been doing the last two weeks.
Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

two years

Two years ago today, we walked into Children’s Home #4 in St. Petersburg, Russia as a family of five, and left a few hours later as a family of six.
We have not celebrated, per se, this year like we did last year. The day has really been downplayed, actually. We’ve talked a little bit about it, but have not put a lot of focus on it.
You see, the last 7 weeks have been great, but for several months leading up to mid-October things had not been going so well. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail, out of respect for Sofia’s privacy. Since then, I’ve done A LOT of reading about trauma and how it affects so many things in one’s life and I think we’re coming to grips with things here in our house.
One of the things I’ve read though is that triggers bring back memories – and even if those memories really should be good ones (like finding your forever family), they can also be associated with bad memories (leaving everyone you know, not understanding what anyone is saying to you, etc.) and frustration.
Because Sofia came home so close to Christmas, I’ve noticed that there is an association between Christmas and that upheaval in her life. I’ve noticed that some of her more challenging behaviors are trying to make a comeback. But, I’ve also noticed that she is consciously trying to avoid making bad decisions (and I have become a better parent to her and her needs – I have become much more patient and understanding). (A friend recommended the following book to me: The Boy Who was Raised a Dog. I found it to be very helpful for our family!) She actually told me yesterday, “Ya know, Mom, sometimes when I’m mad and then I want to say something bad, now I think about it and then don’t do it.”
Anyways, the point of all this is that even if we don’t make a big celebration of it, we are so very happy to have Sofia here in our lives!
 December 8, 2008
December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

i’m a dork

Last year, I posted (in a roundabout way) about how I missed the deadline for my permanent residency here in Finland. As a result, I had to start over from square one – first a one-year permit, then a three-year and finally permanent residency (unless I forget to apply again). . .
So, Stefan called me last night.
“Have you checked the expiry date on your residence permit?”
I dig out my passport. December 9, 2010. Dork.
Mattias asks, “Does this mean they’ll send you back to Canada?”
Me: “One can only hope.”
Guess I’ll be going to town today . . . .
Earlier in the day yesterday, I was driving with the 4 kids . . . they had been being rotters for awhile, so I made the comment, “It’s a good thing I haven’t decorated much for Christmas yet, because we don’t have to celebrate it.”
Joel, bottom lip quivering (which could have been totally just for the effect), asks, “You mean you’re not going to celebrate Jesus’ birthday?”
Yesterday was Finland’s independence day, so we had a holiday from school. It was nice to have an extra day to sleep-in . . . life has been busy as usual. I received an email from my university professor that she received my papers (the day after I mailed them) and will read them when she gets a chance (?). Now, I just have to wait for the interview and then I’m all done:)

PS. The photos have nothing to do with the text, just some pretty pictures from last week when it was –17 Celsius (that’s 1.4 Fahrenheit).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


P1040012_edited-1 P1040015_edited-1
After months of procrastinating working hard, I have finally finished writing all the papers I was required to by the Finnish Board of Education (in my endeavour to have my teaching credentials recognized here).
These two papers are the last, and were taken to the post office today and sent off to my professor for reading.
Whew. I’m so glad that’s done:)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

we have ice

I know.
You are already getting tired of posts about the weather. But, really, there’s nothing much more I got up my sleeve (poor English was intentional there).
We woke up to this, this morning:
Mattias already is asking if he can go walk on the ice.
I don’t think so.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

old man winter

Well, it looks like winter has officially arrived.
I was going to do a post on Monday about how it’s actually good to have snow now . . . reasons like:
  • the snow makes it appear to be lighter during these long, dark days of winter
  • it’s a little easier to see the road when the snow is piled up along the edge
  • I’d rather drive on packed snow than black ice
But then, it warmed up on Monday, a bit. And then it got colder again. That means the roads are now covered in slush that’s frozen again. Ya know . . . it’s like driving on a washboard . . . and if your tires find their way out of the ruts, who knows where you’ll go. Needless to say, I’ve been “white-knuckling” most of my driving these past couple of days.
However, the kids are enjoying it.
P1030970_edited-1 (it’s –8 C here, and she’s waiting for the school bus to come with her brothers so she can check if she left her gloves on it earlier when she had her ride home)
It was better earlier in the week when it was a little warmer and better snow for building with. It’s too cold now – the snow doesn’t pack.
Did ya know that they actually have a special word here for the kind of snow that makes good snowmen? Blidsnö.
Oh. And Sunday was Father’s Day in these here parts. Joel made a cake.
He did it all himself. It has a green tractor on it.
That’s all I’ve got for now:)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

fredag’s mys (på lördag)

Last night, Mattias was at a party, Joel was at a friend’s house and Stefan was at the farm, so Sofia and I had “fredags mys” on Saturday.
“What’s that?” you ask?
Fredags mys (translated as Friday coziness) is a concept here in parts of Scandinavia where family and friends gather on Friday evenings after a successful week and celebrate the beginning of the weekend with snack foods, takeaway, finger foods, candy, and watching television. According to ethnologist Charlotte Hagström at Lund University, fredags mys is a modern rite. It can also relieve stress. (I got that info from the Swedish version of Wikipedia.)

Anyways, Sofia and I had fredags mys. I lit candles. We ate popcorn. We drank Root Beer. And we watched a video.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

if not for the power lines

These photos would be kinda pretty, I think.
I took them last week, but haven’t really had any time for posting.
The reflection of the rising moon was so beautiful.

I thought the lighting in these morning shots was so pretty.
You can see here that it was snowing that day.

Remember the fridge calendar I put up at the beginning of October? Here’s what it looked like when I took it down Monday morning . . .

Sunday, October 24, 2010

s is for . . .

Which we seem to be having plenty of lately.
This photo was taken last week, October 14th.
Summer tires.
Which were still on my van until about an hour ago, despite the snow.
Santa Claus.
Who we went to visit this weekend.
Up at the Arctic Circle.
2010-10-24 15;58;32 Sam didn’t go with us.
And, yes, it was snowing up there, too.
Funny story. While we were waiting for our turn to go in and see Santa, we were looking at the gallery of photos on the wall. Prominently placed was a photo of Conan O’Brian on Santa’s lap. Beside the photo of Finland’s president with Santa.
Finns are a bit obsessed with Conan (maybe obsessed is too strong of a word, but they are BIG fans). So, he came over for a visit a couple of years ago.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

before and after

Saturday morning:
Saturday evening:
Now she can brush it herself (which is a huge bonus). It doesn’t show very well in the photos, but she got some highlights done as well.

PS - I should have mentioned that Sofia has begged to have her haircut for about forever, but I have dreaded having it done. I let her choose the length this time (the hairdresser, of course, knew enough not to offer it to be very short). If it had been left completely up to Sofia, she would have asked for it "above the ears".

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

oj! they were right about it

By they, I mean the fine people at the weather bureau. By it, I mean the snow predicted for today.
That’s right folks, it snowed today.
Last night, at my English class, we were talking about the forecast. One of my students made a funny comment: “In Finland, we have 9 months of winter. And 3 months of not-so-good-skiing.”
This was what the kids delightedly begged me to look at this morning:
About 20 minutes later, while they were out waiting for the bus, Sam came running up the hill to announce something we couldn’t see in the dark . . .
Can you guess what Stefan is doing here?:
He is dumping the trampoline from the tractor scoop into the trailer. The strong winds blew it away during the night. It was about 200 metres down the road in a neighbour’s field. It’s garbage now; the frame is bent out of shape. Stefan says there were springs scattered all the way along the path it took, and some big gouges in the ground at places (it must’ve been airborne).
Speaking of strong winds, we’re running out of water:
For some meteorological reasons, the water level goes down as the wind blows in towards land . . . All that mud is usually underwater . . .
That’s all for now!

Friday, October 8, 2010

here comes the weekend

So, last night I finished all the invitations! At the end I asked Joel to help – so he sat for over an hour and put the little “pillow-cushions” on the back of all the pieces I was putting on the front of the invitations. What a life saver! Otherwise, my fingers surely would’ve cramped up and I would’ve parked myself on the couch!
It’s Thanksgiving in Canada this Sunday. I’m sad. Turkey dinner is my favourite meal of all-time and I simply don’t have time this year to make one. Maybe we’ll make up our own turkey day later on this fall.
I realize that I forgot to post some photos of the weekend that Stefan and I went away to Sweden for some shopping and RnR, way back on September 12th . . . P1030882
We went to visit an old church village – walking around and looking inside the old Lutheran church.
P1030884 P1030888
As you can see, it was a beautiful day.
Unfortunately, I have no photos from inside any of the stores, IKEA, etc., or the flat of Root Beer we bought . . .

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

contrary to popular belief . . .

. . . I have not fallen off the face of the earth.
I have been incredibly busy. We have been incredibly busy.
And last week I was s.i.c.k. Well, not so sick I couldn’t do my job(s), but I had a stinkin’ head cold that wouldn’t let me sleep (despite the NyQuil) more than 4 or 5 hours most nights, so I was tired almost every day and my nerves were fried.
Fried nerves don’t cooperate well with a child who is still having PI issues and decided that last week was going to be a doozy of a week.
In the last 2 weeks I have been to 2 teachers’ professional inservices in the evenings (here in Finland, teachers must do 2½ of them every year on their own time – an evening inservice counts as a ½ one – there are no Pro-d days).
I have taught English classes at night, 2 nights per week. I have had a Scrapbooking workshop every other Thursday evening. Joel and Sofia have Floorball practices on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Luckily, we are blessed to have other families who are helping with the driving:)
Mattias went to weekend sports camp last weekend.  That same weekend, I took Sam to the big city (Vaasa) so I could get my hair done and we could get him some new clothes. It was really nice to just spend a few hours with him. That doesn’t get to happen so often.
This past Friday, I took Joel and Mattias to another big city (Kokkola) to get a new printer and microwave. They also got haircuts because yesterday was picture day at school.
But, I was so excited yesterday to get a long-awaited package in the mail:
P1030908 I just put it on the freezer this morning, so it is a blank slate – soon to be filled with all our events, colour-coded (of course). Also, on the  freezer, you can see Sam’s, Sofia’s and my school schedules – they are there for Stefan . . . .
And, I have been working on a big project that I took on about 6 weeks ago – a friend asked me to make her wedding invitations. The design process took a while, and I have spent lots of time fiddling around on Photoshop and Microsoft Office Word 2007 (which has been lots of fun figuring out what these programs can do). The cards would probably be done right now, but I ran out of adhesive on Sunday night . . . off to town this afternoon to get more . . . (98 invites, 3 languages . . .)P1030906
The weather was nice on Sunday, and I was a little tired from sitting and cutting and taping, so we loaded the kids in the van and went out to enjoy some nature and fresh air:
I’m not sure why I’m feeling so overwhelmed this fall. I was working the same hours 2 years ago (autumn 2008 while we were waiting for our court date), but maybe it’s just that teacher prep is more prep than I had as an assistant, the invitations, the fact that Sofia demands a lot of attention and time, or the papers that I am writing (or should be at this very moment). I was so mad at myself last night when I forgot to take along my reading material for during the kids’ floorball practices:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

what's the deal?

This past week, I have started receiving a whack of spam comments.

Something new for me.

What's the deal? Is it spam through blogger or my email address that's attached to my account? Any chance I can stop it?

Stefan and I had a lovely weekend away. We spent one night in Luleå and one night in Haparanda. When we arrived home, the back of the van was full of shopping bags (and the 3rd row was folded down!). We got cheap stuff like shower gel, laundry detergent, bleach, etc. Things we can't get in Finland . . . like Reese's Peanut Butter cups, Root Beer, "pop tarts", "fruit loops", "cinnamon toast crunch", jell-o gelatin, Runts and weed and feed for the lawn (not allowed to use pesticides here). And some early Christmas shopping got done at lower prices. We also took a quick run through Ikea so I could get some recycling containers I have been coveting.

Yesterday was back to the grindstone . . and the workload has increased . . the schedule has turned insane . . . My adult English classes started last night ( and tonight) and Joel and Sofia both started FloorBall last night. This was how my day went yesterday:

6:20 - wake up and shower
7:00 - wake the kids
7:15 - write a list for Stefan about where he needs to be, what he needs to do, and when
7:30 - make sure everyone has eaten, brushed their teeth and looks presentable
7:40 - scoot them out the door for the bus and then finish getting self ready
7:55 - drive to work (the kids are already there by bus)
8:10 - 1:15 - work, during which I have 2 unpaid prep blocks on Mondays
1:30 - 3:55 - staff meeting (it was long because it was the annual year-plan meeting)
4:00 - meet hubby in Munsala where he has driven the kids to meet me
4:30 - 5:30 - watch 2 of my kids at their first Floor Ball practice in Nykarleby
5:35 - drive the kids home, brush teeth and freshen up a bit
6:05 - drive back to Nykarleby and prepare classroom
7:00 - 8:30 - English class
8:35 - drive to grocery store to get milk and snacks
9:05 - home for the night

No, it won't always be that bad.

But, but man, was I tired today.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

flowers, and things that go bump in the day

Since Sunday, we’ve had some beautiful autumn weather around here, and I took the opportunity to get out and do some much needed weeding on Sunday afternoon.
If you remember, last year we had to dig new drainage around our house, so we’ve been doing new “landscaping” around here (I use the term loosely because we don’t really know what we’re doing). We put in a new garden at the front of the house and re-did the one beside the driveway. During the summer, we have slowly acquired new plants. So far, they all seem to be doing well. And, despite the fact that autumn starts to make itself known around here in mid-August, some of my newly planted flora are blooming:
Aren’t azaleas supposed to bloom in the spring?
As for the “things that go bump” . . . you see those rocks in the background against the house? While I was gardening, I found a dead bird there. The kids and I heard it when it smashed into the window a few days prior, but didn’t know where it ended up . . . For some reasons, birds often fly into our windows (and it’s not because they’re clean!) . . . there are actually some little feathers on the window by the kitchen table right now from a different bird . . . A while back, Sofia wished a bird would fly into her window. One did, that very day . . . and others since . . . those ones end up on our pallet sidewalk outside the front door. Mattias wishes Sofia would take back her wish now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

my surprise

On Sunday, Stefan was gone all day, handing out food samples at a Food Expo.  He is on the board of the local fishermen’s association and a few years ago they devised a plan to do something with the tons of “junk” fish they had been catching – the fish no one really wants to eat. Anyways, they now have these fish cakes/patties that they’re marketing.
On his way home, he texted me that he had a surprise for me. I didn’t get excited until after I confirmed that it wasn’t fish-related.
This was what he brought me:
When we lived in Canada, I loved my crock-pot! But we had to sell it when we moved here – the whole different voltage, different contacts, thing, ya know? And then, I couldn’t buy a new one . . . because I’ve never seen one here before. This is something new (thus, the fella selling them at the food expo).
So, now I have a new crock pot to cook in. I’m really looking forward to it.

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.