Monday, June 28, 2010

summer daze

Yesterday I met my good friend at the park with 3 of her kids and all of mine. A few shots of their good times:
Sofia, Sarah and Joel. What's a girl to do when she doesn't have sunglasses?
Clay and Sam, best friends since the beginning.

No photo of Mattias yet. He spent the afternoon in the pool. This morning he informed me that his forehead was burnt by the sun so he can't flirt with his eyebrows now because it hurts.

Dad had been doing quite well most days since we've been here, but today he was dizzy and very sleepy. He was in bed by 7 tonight, even after napping in the afternoon.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

safe and sound

We have landed safely in Vancouver after a fairly uneventful trip.

I will try to make sure to post about how things are going. Dad looks pretty good, he came to the airport with my brother and our best friends to pick us up.

Besides Stefan, someone else really didn't want us to leave:
She spent about an hour there Monday evening.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

long, long time ago . . .

I posted, then disappeared.
A week ago we returned home from our trip to Sweden where we visited a zoo and Astrid Lindgren’s World with one of Stefan’s sisters and her family.
P1030497  In Tiger World, they have prints in the cement depicting different “encounters” the tigers have had.
Troll Family.
P1030564 The sign speaks for itself . . .

P1030580 The Safari drive.
Pippi Longstocking.

  P1030601  Cousins.

Sleeping on the ferry on the way home (our cabin only had 4 beds, so Mattias volunteered to sleep on the floor [under the bunks]).
When we were about an hour and a half away from home, Sam called (he didn’t go on vacation with us) to say that my dad had had a stroke. He’s fine physically, as far as I know, but is having some difficulty remember certain words. He has been home from the hospital for a few days now and wants to see us, so the kids and I are flying back to Canada on Tuesday for 3 weeks.
Please pray for my dad’s health and for a safe trip for us (I really don’t like flying so I’ve already got the anti-anxiety meds out).
I’ll let ya know how things go.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

skolavslutning (school year end {assemblies})

This is being posted one week late because we went away on holiday to Sweden for 7 days.
Last Saturday was the last day of school for all 4 kiddos.
First up was the ceremony at the elementary school:
Sofia, reading her poem about summer.
Joel reading his summer poem.
Sofia and some of her classmates wait in front to receive their report cards.
I know the quality of the photo is bad, but I think it’s so funny that Joel and his classmates are already comparing their reports before they even sit down.
Mattias and his classmates. Mattias received another bursary this year (30€) for doing his school work responsibly.
Another bad quality photo (darn the point and shoot) . . . Sam and the rest of the Ninth Graders ceremoniously enter the room where the high school ceremony is held. They are the important ones this year as they are “graduating”. Grade 9 is the last year of mandatory schooling in Finland. After this they choose where they want to go next . . . senior high, technical school, trade school, etc.
Sam, receiving his report card from his teacher and the principal (as he towers over them). His report card folder actually contains all the reports he has through his school years in Finland. The final page is his high school final report, which takes into account all reports he has received in high school and looks at trends (has he improved?). This final report is what the schools for next year consider when deciding whether or not to admit students to their programs.
Sam’s class (the smallest one, at only 14 students). Of the 100-something students in Grade 9, almost all the boys wore suits.
Sam’s class.
The little ones in their new outfits. This picture was supposed to be taken in the morning, but because I had my time all mixed up and they missed the morning bus and I had to drive them, we didn’t have time for this picture until late afternoon . . .
Sofia’s Hairdo.
Thanks to all who left a comment awhile back on the hair blog to get instructions for the ribbon braid. I was going to do it, but Sofia ended up with more casual clothes and that hairdo was too fancy . . . so we’ll save that one for a dressier occasion!

Friday, June 4, 2010

the russians are coming

disclaimer: This is late in being posted because I left my camera in the hotel lobby, but it arrived yesterday in the mail!
Last Saturday we took a day trip down to Helsinki to meet up with a delegation from St. Petersburg. They were guests of our adoption agency, and we took the opportunity to meet them and send along some things to Sofia’s great grandmother.
First off, let me say that it wasn’t so easy. For days beforehand, Sofia was really uneasy about it . . . vascillating between wanting to go and not wanting to. There were behaviour issues, but at least we knew what was behind them and were able to deal with it a bit better. In fact, her and I made a little game of it – she would suggest that she’ll go back to Russia with them and I would vehemently protest, “You absolutely can’t do that! You must come back with us! We’d miss you too much!” She just wanted to hear those words repeatedly to reassure her that she wouldn’t be going back to Russia.
It takes about 6 hours to drive to Helsinki from our house, and we stopped at a mall a little over half way there to eat lunch and buy new clothes for the kids for the year end school assemblies. About an hour before reaching the big city, we stopped once more so I could do Sofia’s hair. When we were getting ready to leave, Sofia was very sulky and even ran and hid behind a sign. The discussion didn’t go very well, until finally she said, “I’m scared to see them.” It was a huge breakthrough that she could articulate her feelings that way and we could hug and talk it out. I was so proud of her.
We met them in the hotel lobby where they were staying, and once they arrived it was a whirlwind of conversations and details, etc. A rep from our agency was there to translate and it got very confusing with 4 languages: English, Swedish, Russian and Finnish!
Anyways, the delegation included G (who had power of attorney for us once we had agreed to meet Sofia for the first time – she was the one who ran around the city with all our papers), T (the children’s home’s Social Worker), the SW for the city (who spoke in court for us saying it wouldn’t work for Sofia to be adopted by a local family), another worker from the home who I thought was the music teacher (but I’m not sure) and another woman I recognized (I think she was a doctor, maybe).P1030435
Let me tell you, they were SO excited to see Sofia – of course, they called her Nastja, or Nastinka, the whole time. But, they were very aware of how these children feel in situations like this. In fact, without me saying anything, they told her they were going back to Russia the next day and she would be going home with us, not them – they were only visiting.
Sofia didn’t talk at all, she was so nervous. She sat on my lap mostly and played with my fingers. But she did nod or shake her head when asked yes/no questions. T brought some gifts for her which included a puzzle, some chocolates and some books from the Hermitage. Apparently, they had been on a field trip to the Hermitage and Sofia remembered.
She was happy to show them the things she made for her great grandmother (which T will take back to her).P1030425
She cross-stitched her name using the Russian alphabet.
She drew a picture of her with her great grandmother, then wrote “Nastja and Babushka Tanya” in Russian.
She drew hearts on the back of the picture.
P1030427  P1030429  P1030430 P1030431 P1030432 P1030433 P1030434I made a 36-page digital photo album for her – here are only a few pages.
We visited for almost an hour. As soon as we stepped out of the hotel, Sofia started talking again and sharing the chocolates. The ride home wasn’t as smooth as we expected (we thought things would be perfect now that she knew she was coming back home with us) – but in fairness, it was a long day and lots of driving. Sunday’s behaviour was pretty bad too – lots of testing.
However, on Monday morning, while getting ready for school, she said, “It was fun in Helsinki, right, Mom?”. She was talking about the visit, for sure, because we didn’t do anything else while we were there. And, each night we’ve been looking through a different one of the books she got. The text is in Russian, but we’re looking at the pictures and she’s telling me about the things she remembers, and I tell her what I remember from visiting the Hermitage in 1992.
Maybe one day she’ll be ready to go back for a visit, but for now we’re content with how things are.

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.