Wednesday, December 14, 2011

confessions

I have a couple of confessions to make.
I haven’t really decorated for Christmas – which is something that I usually love to do. You see, we’re going to go to Canada for Christmas this year.
We leave on Sunday. That’s in 4 days!
I couldn’t bear the thought of having to deal with undecorating the house when we get back in mid-January, so I have only put out a few things, for at least a bit of a festive feel . . .
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In the foyer. The metal item in the middle is a candle holder from an old design . . . in the 19th century the women would put these lanterns under their skirts to keep warm in church during the winter. You can see the kids’ class pictures in the background . . .
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The kitchen table. Advent candles on the table, and an electric advent candelabra in the window (although I have no idea why those ones always have 7 candles instead of 4).
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More of the same in the other kitchen window. Sam made the wooden advent candle holder in school.
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Living room planter box. I had one string of clear lights in large plant close by, but Bruno chewed the cord apart . . .
That’s it . . . not much . . . just a little light in the dark . . .
The other confession – I’m not sending Christmas cards out this year. Difficult decision for me to make, because I love getting cards and sending them out, but with our travel plans and how busy everything has been, I just couldn’t do it. I hope no one drops me from their list because of it . . .
In other news . . . remember when I built this:
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to keep the dogs out of trouble and in the mud room?
Well, somebody decided she wasn’t going to let gates define where she could be:
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She jumped it repeatedly, so that we had to keep the door closed. Well, then it just got all stinky and humid in there.
So, I built an addition:
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So far, it’s kept her in. We’ll see how long that lasts . . .
Barb
PS Another confession? The blue apron hanging on the kitchen wall was sewn by Stefan in high school.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy 94th Birthday Finland!

Today, Finland celebrates its Independence Day. As I’m typing this, I’m listening to the TV in the background, with coverage from the Ball at the castle, hosted by Finland’s President.
For us, it’s been a day off, and a chance to catch up on things around here. Which means, I get a chance to post something here.
I’ve been avoiding blogging lately, for a variety of reasons . . . too busy, wondering if I was putting too much info out on the ‘net, couldn’t think what to post about, etc., etc.
Well, in usual form, I’ll post a bunch of pictures and try to sum up what’s been happening with us.
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The puppies take up a huge amount of time and energy. I couldn’t resist taking this picture because they were laying in almost identical positions. Bella has become a jumper . . . she jumps the gate I built awhile back, so when she is inside we have to close the door to the pantry.
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Bruno was feeling festive one day.
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Our yard was covered in a flock of birds one day. It was very strange. You can’t tell by the photos just how many there were.
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Then they took off to the neighbour’s yard.
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A very popular concept around here is the Advent Calendar. I didn’t buy any this year, because we will travel before the 24th and I don’t want to haul them around with us. But, another equally popular tradition is the “Julkalender” -  The Advent calendar is an annual Swedish Christmas calendar television series broadcast by Sweden's national television broadcasting company  since 1960 and has developed into a living part of contemporary Swedish yuletide tradition.  Every series consists of 24 episodes, broadcast daily 1–24 December. Joel and Sofia really look forward to watching each episode every day. This year, they have decided to also do their own version of it and are reading a chapter from a Christmas book every day.
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Sam’s school had a Ball last Friday evening. The school holds the ball every three years. They have spent a lot of time preparing: learning about etiquette, and formal dances, like the “Weiner” Waltz, as well.
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There’s a huge height difference between my oldest and youngest!
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Yesterday, we had our first snow. Only about a centimetre, but it hung around all day . .. and then we got more today. Last year, we had our first snowfall on October 15th!
There’s more, but that’s all I can come up with for now. Hope I don’t stay away from blogger for so long again!
Barb
PS Tomorrow marks 3 years since we took Sofia out of Children’s Home #4 in St. Petersburg!

Monday, November 7, 2011

busy, busy

Time sure flies when you’re busy! Lately, it seems like there has been something to do, or someplace to go, everyday/evening.
We’ve had unseasonably warm weather for where we live. Last year, we had our first snow in mid-October. So far, this fall, we’ve only had one day below freezing . . . and that was just barely. What this has mean for me (besides the fact that I am rejoicing in the milder weather) is that for the first time since we’ve been here, I think we’re actually prepared (yard-wise) for the snow (when it comes).
I have actually raked the yard 3 times. 3 times. That’s impressive, because I really hate raking. Here’s how a piece of our back yard looked a couple of weeks ago:
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And here’s how it looked after it was raked the first time:
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During this process, I have discovered that it is really hard to have OCD and rake a yard. I want to get every. single. leaf. In the pictures above, you can’t see the part of the yard to the right, where Mattias raked. Sam was working up on the roof with Stefan, and called down to me that it was obvious where I had raked . . .
12 days ago we had our final Post Placement visit from the social worker regarding Sofia’s adoption. The afternoon went quite well. I think it was the first time Sofia didn’t hide behind the sofa when she asked her some questions.
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Mattias has started playing an online computer game called Minecraft. Anybody heard of it? It’s a building game, and he absolutely loves it. Sometimes, his buddy Pepsi keeps him company.
Speaking of Pepsi, last Tuesday we found out that she’s completely blind in her left eye. Surgery can run up to 1500€ and can have serious complications, so I think we will just watch her carefully for any signs of problems with the right eye. You can see the cataract in the picture below:
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Two weeks ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving (a week late for us Canadians). Since we were having all of Stefan’s family over, I didn’t want to have the dog cage in the middle of the hallway that has been there since we got the puppies. We have moved them into our “help kitchen” – I guess it’s like a pantry/mud room . . . it’s a room off the kitchen with lots of storage,etc. Anyways, when we tried having them in there with the door closed, it got WAY too hot and stuffy. Then we tried a piece of wire fencing in the doorway, but they pushed it down. So, I built this:
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I built this. Stefan helped a bit with the hinges and the latch, but I did most of the work. I know it’s not really square, and now it’s starting to sag just a bit, but I’m still kinda proud of myself.
Well, that’s a quick update for now. I hope to post a little more often this month, promise!
Barb

Thursday, October 20, 2011

the regular check up that wasn’t

Yesterday, Joel and Sofia had to leave school early to go to the dentist for their annual check ups. Joel was first in the chair, and I had to tell them about a new tooth he was getting that was really bothering him (first premolar) . . . the baby tooth hadn’t fallen out yet, but the permanent tooth had already broken through the gum above (top teeth).
After examining it, the dentist decided that the baby tooth had to be pulled so that the permanent tooth could come down in the right place. Unfortunately, the tooth wasn’t the least bit loose, so he had to have an injection of a local anesthetic before the tooth was pulled. Poor guy. First time for him. There was no cleaning. Just 2 new appointments and a referral for x-rays because he has to get a headgear . . .
Sofia’s turn. She says she has no concerns about any of her teeth, but when the dentist looks in her mouth she sees that Sofia has the same problem: a permanent tooth has erupted before the baby tooth has fallen out. And guess what? It’s the exact same one as Joel’s. No kidding. I can’t make this stuff up. So, Sofia also had to have a tooth pulled . . . but hers was bit loose, so she was only given a topical anesthetic. No cleaning for her either, but she did get her teeth brushed with flouride while they were waiting for the topical to kick in . . . She also got a form of braces: a night guard to correct the bite of her front teeth a bit . . .
Ten minutes later, here were my two not-so-happy campers in the waiting area:
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At least the Tooth Fairy is generous when the teeth haven’t come out by themselves . . .
Barb

Sunday, October 16, 2011

sweet surprises

Every once in a while, Joel and Sofia play really well together. After all, they’re only 19 months apart in age. They have some serious sibling rivalry (which has many complicated layers to it), but there are times when their interests line up, and their moods are just right, so that they can enjoy some good times together. Yesterday, they put on a “cooking show” for me outside my kitchen window:
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Then we have this adorable 6 month old puppy, Bella. How cute is she!? How often do dogs lay like this:
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Some sweet surprises turn a little messy . . . Mattias told me on the phone one evening that he was making dinner (it was homework for his cooking class). Pizza was on the menu. This was what greeted me:
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And, although the pizza tasted really good, school recipes don’t feed a family of six . . .
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One final sweet surprise . . . while Joel and I were doing a Bible study at the kitchen table, Sofia was listening and drawing . . . and then slipped this under my telephone:
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The sentiment of the drawing is over-the-top sweet, but there are some really funny aspects to the picture, too . . . why are we standing on pedestals? . . .  why am I wearing green shoes with what appears to be a really short top?
Have a great week!
Barb

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

are you jealous?

. . . of our view during breakfast last Thursday:
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Don’t be.
Although we had a couple of fantastic sunrises last week, yesterday’s temperature got down to –1C/30F.
Barb

Sunday, September 25, 2011

a beautiful day

Today has been a beautiful day!
After days and days of rain (and I’m talking about Noah-esque proportions), the weather today was dry and the sun even came out to visit for several hours.
It was the kind of day to be outside . . . to cut the grass, put away patio furniture, clean up the gardens, move the dog run to a better location, work on the roof on the terrace, etc.
Sofia spent most of the weekend at the grandparents’ house because one of her cousins (who is the same age as her) was there all weekend. Said cousin’s older sister (who is the same age as Mattias), spent the weekend with us. Stefan’s sister and her husband went to Stockholm this weekend to run in a marathon, so their kids were staying with different family members. It worked out well for us, because we did it in exchange for letting some of our kids go to their house last weekend when Stefan and I went away . . .
Last weekend, Stefan and I went to Luleå in northern Sweden (we had gone there for a weekend last September also). It’s a nice time of the year for a little getaway, especially since Stefan’s work is soon going to be really busy. We enjoyed some time sans children and got to do some stress-free shopping.
The puppies continue to grow like weeds.
Bruno (28 weeks old):
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Bella (24 weeks):
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Pepsi (5 years) – she wanted a picture, too!:
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For school pictures here, kids can get a “kompis photo” – a photo with their friend . . . so here is Bruno and Bella’s Kompis Photo:
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It turned out pretty good. Especially when you consider the one we took 6 weeks ago:
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I think they weren’t getting along that day . . . .
Since then, they have started obedience classes. They’ve been 3 times so far and have 2 more sessions. Bruno is the star of the class – he can do everything the instructor asks us to do with them. Bella is at the bottom of her class. I think she has ADHD . . . she can’t concentrate at all. She keeps looking at the other dogs to see what they’re doing.
That’s all for now!
Barb

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

about time

So sorry.
Time slips away as the days are so busy right now . . .
I was going to post about the last day of our trip to St. Petersburg, but I only took two photos! Here’s one, from the train as we were about to leave the station heading west:
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I regret that I don’t have more pictures from the restaurants that we ate at, or any of our driver, Vlad. He was awesome, and also arranged to have a second car and driver because we were so many people. He is the same young man who drove for us on our 3 adoption trips. He also translated for us.
A few days after we got home, Sofia went to her best friend’s birthday. She lives about 500 metres away, so she went by bike. The gift was in a box so big, she needed to carry it in a backpack. She also is carrying a bag with her swimsuit and towel because her friend’s house is right on the water and they were going to go swimming.
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Steve sent Sofia a couple of dresses for her birthday. She’s mostly a shorts and pants/sweatpants kinda girl, but she has worn one of them a couple of times. It’s just kinda hard to wear a dress when you’re . . .
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climbing trees . . .
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swinging . . .
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and climbing tractors.
August 16th was the first day of school for the kids:
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Sam (2nd year upper secondary), Mattias (1st year high school – Grade 7), Joel (Grade 4) and Sofia (Grade 3).
We had terrific weather all summer, despite a prediction of a horrible summer. However, autumn is coming upon us quickly (I noticed the first leaves falling from the birch trees in early August). The last few days have been rainy and icky, so we’re hoping things dry up soon.
Barb

Sunday, September 4, 2011

st. petersburg 2011, day 4

I’m starting to think that pretty soon I’ll be able to post about what’s currently happening in our lives.
Until then, more pictures and details from our August trip to St. Petersburg, Russia.
On Day 4, we decided to go to Peterhof, Peter the Great’s Summer Gardens and Palaces. We had to walk over to the Neva River and take a 30 minute ride on a hydrofoil boat. While we were waiting for the boat, it started to rain. By the time we got to our destination, it was pouring.
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Don’t we look a happy bunch? When we arrived at the dock, it was raining SO hard and was really windy. I was disoriented at first, and didn’t understand where we were supposed to go (I thought we had been stranded out on some type of platform!). Once we figured out how to get to the gardens, we speed walked a couple hundred metres to the entrance, thrilled that we beat most of the crowd! However, it turned out we had to pay an entrance fee and nearly everyone else figured out where to buy the tickets before we did! (We thought the entrance fee was included in our boat fee.) btw, the ticket booth has some weird glass so you could barely see the people sitting inside, especially difficult with the rain and wind.
Anyways, in this picture Sofia is especially miffed because a) she doesn’t like wearing a hood and b) she couldn’t carry one of the 2 umbrellas we were sharing between the 5 of us (it doesn’t work to have the shortest person carry the umbrella – because she won’t carry it higher than her own head).
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The moods are starting to improve as the downpour lessens.
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A pool fit for a princess.
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One of many fountains.
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Statues and more fountains.
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You can see the platform where the hydrofoil boats dock in the background.
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A palace fit for a princess . . .
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Gardens and more fountains.
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Still more fountains.
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One of the fun fountains.
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A hydrofoil boat arriving.
After we got back to the city, we walked around the Hermitage before heading back towards the hotel.
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I caved and let the kids hold the monkeys that we had seen the day before.
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The bigger monkey is flossing his teeth with a strand of Sofia’s hair he had plucked when Joel was holding him (you can see him examining it in the first picture).
After buying a few more souvenirs, we went over to Nevsky and found a place to eat dinner. We chose “Chatty Chicken”. Joel complained that he didn’t want to eat food that talks . . . It was a nice place, but they don’t get so many tourists . . . the manager had to go through the menu with us and tell us what they had . . .  no English menus!
Later in the evening we decided to go up to the colonnade of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. It was 250 steps up a spiral staircase . . . then 50 more outside:
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. . . to a fantastic view! This shot shows our hotel and the church we visited yesterday.
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The vendors have their shops set up in the trees on the left . . . that’s where I bought my chinchilla scarf.
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Going back down the spiral staircase.
PS Ann (who commented on my last post) – yes, things pretty much shut down in the summer in St. Petersburg. For example, the Social Worker who met with us had been on vacation up until the day we met her, and our agency’s in-country director was on vacation while we were there. (And back in 2008, when we adopted, our judge was on vacation for most of September).
Barb

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.