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.
P1040091_edited-1
Joel and Sofia made these hand-dipped candles.
P1040080_edited-1
Mattias and Sofia made these clove-scented oranges.

P1040089_edited-1

  One of Mattias’ Rudolfs. Sofia also made them.

P1040078_edited-1
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 . . .)
P1040093
Joel is watching Santa’s workshop.
P1040098
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.
P1040112
Joel bought gifts for Pepsi and Max.
P1040115
Max had chewed his broken by the end of the evening.
P1040117
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).
P1040118
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!
P1000937
 December 8, 2008
P1040044_edited-1
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 . . . .
P1040003_edited-1
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?”
P1040007_edited-1
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).

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.