Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Over and out and Merry Christmas!

Well our blessed little trio is headed home for the holidays starting tomorrow. Overworked hubby really needs a break so I'm super glad we opted to stay in a cottage instead of with the family, at least for the first 10 days of our trip.

It was difficult breaking the news to eager family at first but now they seem more excited than we are and will make sure everything's all set up before we arrive.

Hubby is a little perturbed still, wondering why we couldn't take the money and relax somewhere on a beach in the sun, sipping fruity drinks and watching our son frolick in the sand. Much like our dear friends here are doing.

Unfortunately, our dear friends have their family here. We, on the other hand, are overseas and taking precious vacation without visiting family is well, a sin. ha! I did promise him (again) that the next time, we'd take some time for ourselves. But I can't imagine Christmas without our extended family around. And I am also trying to convince myself that hubby would have been longing for family on the 25th in the middle of downing Mai Tai's.

So bags are almost packed and we'll be flying the (hopefully) friendly skies back home to those we love and cherish starting tomorrow. I'm hoping I packed enough toys and stuffs to keep the 3-year old relatively occupied on the 12-hour journey. Who am I kidding? I overpacked as usual.

Feeling bad for those who booked their trips through British Airways this holiday season though.

Wish us luck, safe travels, health, happiness and all that. And I wish you all the same and a very Merry Christmas/Holiday Season. Jenn xoxo

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Today I did something I've been wanting to do for 11 years but never had the courage, maturity or strength to do before now.

I apologized to an old friend.

This friend was an angel to me 11 years ago but I deceived her. I lied to her. The latter part of our friendship was in fact, shrouded in deceit. It ended with a phone call. She had found me out. And in that moment, I continued to lie to her. Her anger and tears were asphyxiating. Then, I just wanted her, and her very real accusations to go away.

Today I found her blog. Sure, over the years I would Google her every now and then to see if I could find out how she was doing. And today, I Googled her again. I found out that she's still the same beautiful and selfless person I remember her to be. I struggled. I composed an email. I struggled some more and then, I pressed "Send".

I have no idea how she will react or if she will ever write back. But today I needed to say I was sorry. I am asking for her forgiveness.

I have few regrets in life but what happened with her, or should I say, what I did to her, is one of them.

So now, I wait impatiently for a reply. But perhaps I will wait patiently. She has no reason to give me the time of day. But I have every reason to finally, after 11 years, apologize to her without expecting anything in return.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Confessions: Bad Mother Moments

Oy...this post will be hard to write.

This morning marked my son's first Christmas concert at his school, the Santa Lucia celebration or "Julfest".

In Sweden, today marks the celebration of Santa Lucia, some Italian Saint. The kids dress up in traditional Swedish garb: white floor length tunics or Santa Claus costumes ("Tomten" in Sweden). Many of the girls (and some boys too) wear garlands around their heads with four lit candles, marking the four weeks of advent. Modern days have battery-powered candles so little heads don't catch fire. The children sing traditional Swedish Christmas songs while proud parents look on in a candlelit room. Swedish Christmas buns and gingerbread are served following the concert.

There was one not-so-proud parent in the audience today and likely an obvious one. That embarassed, angry and defeated parent was me. And I am admitting it. Perhaps the first step towards change and healing?

You see the last little concert put on by the school involved a breakdown on the part of my little guy. The parents assembled in the classroom while the kids waited outside in the hallway to make their grand entrance. When they finally entered, he was a puddle of tears and quickly ran over to his Mom and Dad for comfort. Eventually he did join them in singing. Well I deduced that our son couldn't understand why his parents were at his school while he was forced to wait to join them. He didn't quite get it.

I had convinced myself that this concert would be different. I have been prepping him for the eventuality of the separation for over a week. "Mummy and Daddy will come to school with you and you will wait with the kids in the hall while Mummy and Daddy wait for you in the classroom." Cripes, I even practiced the Swedish words for this speech. We talked about him dressing up as Santa, how he would sing loudly with the other kids and how Daddy would take pictures. I took him through the day's events with great care, all in hopes of avoiding this meltdown. I thought it was fool-proof. I was the fool.

We got there on time (a miracle really, considering my husband's chronic tardiness). I made a show (again) of explaining where the two of us were going and we would see him soon. While we waited (me impatiently), I even peeked outside to make sure a puddle of tears hadn't begun to form. And then I sat and waited some more.

The piano started and the children began to file in while singing the Santa Lucia song. And when I didn't see our son in the place he should have been, I knew where he would be: At the back of the pack, holding on to the teacher's hand and much to my dissapointment, in tears.

The only child in such a state.

He came over sobbing and I hugged him. He sat on my lap.

I stewed. My face turned to stone and the anger was palpable. I am certain the other parents and teachers in the room could sense it. I worked so hard to prepare him. How could this happen? His father and I are outgoing. What's wrong with our son?
Even after several attempts to push him into the circle with the other children, I was left wanting. Wanting for him to be the child who sang the loudest, screamed with glee, made the cutest little gestures, the center of attention. Instead I endured over six songs with a silent, shaken child...and I stewed. When he tried to get me to look at the classroom Christmas tree, I ignored him, telling him I was listening to the other children sing.

His father sensed my frustration and quickly motioned for our son to join him.

Our families back home are waiting anxiously for photos and video that will never come. I will have to tell my mother our son didn't perform. And there you have it, encapsulated in that last line: my mother.

I love my mother. But as a child growing up, I did whatever I could to gain her acceptance and love. I was the loudest, the brightest, the most animated, the teacher's pet. That's what I had to do. And if I failed to please her in one of these ways, the consequences were her disapproval, anger, resentment and bitterness.

And today, during that Christmas concert, I became my mother.

I cried all the way home while my husband told me what I needed to hear, the harsh truth: "You just want him to be the best. You are competitive. You want photographic/videographic evidence to prove to everyone what a great son he is and by consequence, what a great mother you are. It has to stop now. We don't know why he didn't want to participate. Maybe he has stage fright. You can't force him. He is not a performing monkey."

The remainder of the event, post sing-a-long, showed my son engaged with his friends, enjoying and participating in play. I just want him to belong, I keep telling myself.

But even that isn't good enough/wasn't good enough for me. I needed him to be the best. To be what I expected him to be. To live up to my standards. To be the "perfect child". He's only 3. What am I doing? What have I done?
I'm praying my husband's words were the intervention I needed. I need to break the chain here and perhaps by being aware and confessing my failure today as a mother, I might be headed in the right direction.

But please pray for me. I do not want my son to grow up constantly longing and searching for his mother's approval and love. I do not want to make him feel like a failure. I want him to know his mother loves him unconditionally and that she will not judge him, but accept and encourage his individuality.

Help. Mon, if you're reading this, I'm asking you especially.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Giddy with Christmas Spirit

T-minus 1 week until we hit the (hopefully) friendly skies from Stockholm to Toronto. I can't wait...
- To see FAMILY
- For Joe to see FAMILY again
- For FAMILY to see Joe again
- To settle into our own home away from home. That's right folks. We were brazilliant this year and opted (much to the chagrin of family) to dig our heels firmly into the ground and rent our own cottage over the holidays, merely a 3-minute drive from the main family. Hooray!
- To resurrect our Annual Christmas Party
- To put Joe on Santa's knee
- For Santa!!!

I CAN wait...
- For the chaos that always ensues, regardless of where we're staying
- The dreaded flights with a little guy
- For jetlag
- For overeating and over consumption of alcohol
- For hubby to look into our wallet and say, "Where did all the money go?!"

Sing with me: I'll be home for Christmas....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

No bad weather, just bad clothes

That is a loosely translated and very popular saying in Sweden.

The weather here sucks this time of year (Who am I kidding? It sucks most of the year). Imagine dropping your child off at preschool in darkness and picking him up at 2:50pm as darkness decends again. Add to that a whole month of perpetually gray skies with 1.5 days of sunlight. And to make matters worse, winter is trying to come but not yet here. Where's the snow?

Dressing my son every morning for school is a fight. But the fight is between me and myself. And I seem to get it wrong nearly every morning, evidenced by the fact that his schoolmates are dressed completely different.

They must think I'm a real tool. "They" being the teachers and parents.

Let's review the list of Swedish clothing shall we? Then perhaps you can begin to understand my panic.
- Wet pants: These plastic, completely water retardent rain pants with easy-snap suspenders go on top of everything from normal pants to snowsuits. Recommended weather situations (RWS): rain, wet snow, dampness, chance of mud
- Wet jacket: Again plastic, water retardent jacket that goes on top of shirts, jackets or snowsuits. RWS: rain
- Wet warm pants: Not plastic but water resistent and slightly insulated and go on top of pants. RWS: dampness, slight chill in the air but mainly dry. Anywhere from +5 to 15.
- Fall/Spring jacket: Likely made of warmish material (can't think of the word but there is one). Right: FLEECE! RWS: Anywhere from +5 to 15?
-Winter snow pants & winter jacket: Not recommended for school use due to increased level of difficulty in applying two pieces of winter gear vs. one.
- Winter overall (aka, the snowsuit): Made of some miracle material that is water resistent, not incredibly bulky, easy to maneuver in, warm and easy for child to apply. RWS: snow, cold, dry, from -whatever to +5? this is the tricky one for me.
- Fall overall: I have not confirmed the existence of this ensemble as of yet. Even with strenuous observation of schoolyard children, I cannot decipher between this one and the winter overall. But if it does exist, I assume it's worn in temps ranging from 0-7ish?
- Winter boots: I don't have to explain this one. RWS: Winter, from -whatever to +5.
- Rain boots: Self-explanatory. RWS: all-season really, temps permitting, except for summer.
- Rain mits: These are an unusual specimen. With a plastic outer shell and a fleece lining, these babies are long and meant to almost go up the elbows. RWS: Rain, from +7-10?
- Winter mits: Self-explanatory. Caution: Must have water retardent shell and be heavily lined. The ones Grandma knit will not do under any circumstances.
- Fall hat: Another unusual speciment. Made of cotton and thin, these head coverings will not overheat like a winter hat but keep little heads a bit warmer on cool Spring and Fall days.
- Winter hat: Again, water retardent is good. No Grandma knit hats accepted.
- Rain hat: Like a sou'wester. Made of plastic. RWS: Torrential downpour
- Misc: I am convinced astronauts can see Swedish children from space. Every piece of outdoor clothing is plastered with photo-unfriendly reflective material. Arm bands, leg bands, hood bands, pocket bands. Stripes of shiny material shout from outdoor clothing announcing said child to anyone within a 5km radius. And if your reflective material has been worn away from wash and wear? No worries. They have portable pieces that easily attach. Then there are the neon-coloured vests that adults and children don when on group outings or riding bicycles. Safety First.

Geez, that was exhausting and exhaustive. Maybe I'll get beter at this dressing-my-child-thing now that I've actually prepared a handy reference list for myself. Here's the deal folks: The kids are outside playing for the better portion of the day. Like the postal worker, "not rain, not wind, not sleet, not snow" will keep a child from the outdoors. So, the onus is on us parents to ensure our children are equipped for any weather situation that might arise. And that part's not so different from home now is it? Except that you should won't find a teacher saying, "Oh it's raining, we'll keep the kids in today." Not-a-chance.

I become a weather woman every morning. I check online. I test the great outdoors with a finger in the air. I try to account for the minimum and maximum projected temps that day, etc. So when the temp dropped to -7 last week and I had no snowsuit for the little man, I must've clothed him in 3 layers (seriously pissing off the teachers would have to help him in and out of these layers). And then I high-tailed it to the store for an insanely priced winter overall. He was ready to go the next day. And then the temps crept back up to +4. Now what to do? I had already made the switch. Do I switch back? Does the fall overall really exist? Do I embarass myself further by inquiring about clothing AGAIN?

A Swedish Mother I am NOT.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Farmer's Almanac of Hockey

Well can't say we didn't try.

I think I might have written a post about how punctual Swedes are, to a fault. More on that later.

Well we showed up at the rink. And when I say rink, I mean the rinks of the olden days. The ones with no heaters for the bleachers, no real bleachers except for wooden benches and no canteen, except for the free stand that was set up offering traditional Swedish gingerbread cookies, juice for the kiddies and the warm Christmas drink called Glögg, that you spoon nuts and raisins into. Which was all very nice and free but I had visions of sitting underneath some fake heat with a cup of warm coffee in hand.

We're in Sweden, land of modern everything, land of IKEA. I had expected a North American type rink and I dressed for one. So instantly my feet were going into the early stages of frostbite.

But it wasn't about me.

Hubby started to dress the kid in overpriced hockey gear (btw, they actually had skates and sticks there for the kiddies). He was fussy. "No helmet Dada". So after hubby's excrutiating but expert application of said hockey gear, they were ready to hit the ice. Well save for hubby who was waiting for his colleague to arrive with a pair of skates for him.

We had miraculously shown up on time at the designated hour of 8:30am on a Sunday morning. And it was truly a Christmas miracle because my husband, God Love Him, is perpetually late. Late for everything. And me being an "on time" kinda gal, it drives me bananas. But this rare occurance of on-timeness had me hopeful that the morning would see my son doing pirouettes while Daddy looked on proudly.

Yes, WE were on time. WE were dressed and ready to go. But the colleague was late. And man was I irked. Here's a good natured 3-year old all geared up but being told he had to wait. Not good.

As the minutes ticked by, a gentleman stopped by our little corner of the wooden bench to say hello. Obviously wondering why we had such a small little potential Gretzky with us when the ages were between 5 and 9. Hubby quickly explained who our friend was and this gentleman (who used to be a professional NHL player, think I can remember his name?) proceeded to complain about the serial tardiness of hubby's colleague. Because it is a mortal sin in Sweden.

I was livid.

Finally 30 minutes later, after constant attempts to keep the expensive hockey gear ON our son, who was growing increasingly upset and agitated, the guy shows up.

Hubby straps his borrowed skates on and drags protesting 3-year old onto the ice. It was the longest 30 seconds of my life. Here I am snapping photos of a son who refuses to stand and a husband who is about to wrench his back trying to hold son up. And then the tears start. And no sooner had they hit the ice, then they were off again and we were removing brand new hockey gear.

I bit my tongue and supressed the urge to look at hubby and say, "I told you so."

What's the moral of the story? We try again next weekend...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hockey starts tomorrow

Yup, he's 3 and tomorrow he will be ingratiated (sp?) into the world of hockey and me into the world of Hockey Moms. Hubby hooked up with a fellow co-worker who runs the Uppsala Young Hockey Club and even though the age for entry is 5 the men convinced themselves that our son could possibly participate. How, I'm not sure. I mean, seriously, he's 3!

So last night we got skates and a helmet and tonight hubby is taking us out for elbow and knee pads. He's 3!

I tried to warn hubby not to expect much. Did I mention he's only 3?! But he's excited for this bonding time on the ice and since hockey blood courses through his veins, why shouldn't the little man hit the ice as early as possible?

And then the little man picks up a stick and ball at the store last night and starts chasing the ball around with said stick. To hubby, this was a proud moment and sure sign we have a young Gretzy in the making. Uhmmmm...So here we go...

Maybe he'll be #3?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Understanding my son's Swenglish

I've been working with Swedes for well over 10 years now. They are extremely good English speakers, especially the younger generations, which has to do with early learning in the school system. It's very easy to be here and get by without learning Swedish. But I don't have that luxury. My son speaks Swedish.

He was just beginning to speak Serbian when we left Montenegro. He was then thrust into a completely new culture and language. Since he started his new daycare in August, he is really adapting well and speaking Swedish almost fluently. We're so proud of our little sponge.

But this has understandably delayed his English speaking skills as he's only speaking English at home with us. From 8-3 everyday he's in an all-Swedish environment and the language that surrounds him while we're out and about is of course, Swedish.

Hubby and I are finding it harder to understand him. I have a bit of an edge since I've been taking lessons once a week for the past several months. But I fear my bad Swedish grammar coupled with his toddler enunciation is compounding his inability to express himself and our inability to understand.

I know children his age back home are speaking and expressing themselves clearly. His "speak" goes something like this: "mama, make a peepee" "Juice" "Go see Dada" "It hurts" "Axel (boy's name) crying."

He pushed a child at school the other day who fell down and started crying. The teacher explained this to me when I picked him up and he then got a stern talking to in English. He was upset. He understood it was wrong.

Yesterday I picked him up from school and he started to babble about "Axel crying. Axel fall down." I asked him if he pushed Axel and he said, "yes". But I was doubtful so before giving him another stern talking to, I called the school to get the deets. Little man did NOT push Axel down. He just fell. Phewf. But do you see my problem? This is a daily occurence. I can't reach him sometimes and he doesn't have the vocabulary to explain himself.

Anyone have any advice? I try to passively correct his speech. So when he says, "Mama, make a peepee", I repeat, "Mama, I have go make a peep". I try to fill in the blanks. I've also started speaking to him in Swedish sometimes but I fear I may be hindering his English.

I'd really like to understand my little man and I fear we're lost in translation.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wanted: 3 bedroom apartment in Uppsala

But we'll settle for two. It's that time of year again...moving time! We've really loved living in our quaint little "radhus" (townhouse) surrounded by kids and nature. Unfortunately our landlord has just sold the house and we're on the prowl again..though this time, it seems much more difficult. Seems there are more people looking to rent and less people renting.

So, if you know of anyone in Uppsala renting an apartment (yes, we want to stay close to my son's daycare), kindly let me know. We need to be out of here at the end of February.

So it begins. Again.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Advent

I've been complaining a lot about how lonely it is in this country and how it's so hard to make friends cuz the folks here are, to put it politely, reserved. To put it bluntly, Stuck Up.

But today I was reminded of how blessed we are to be here.

Today was the 1st of Advent. For a not-too-religious country, they sure take the four weeks leading up to Christmas very seriously. I don't know of anyone, save us, that doesn't have four advent candles (on my shopping list). Every Sunday a candle is ceremoniously lit in every house until Christmas Day; here's it's the 24th, when all four are glowing.

Swedes are big on tradition. Today we were invited to spend the day celebrating with our adopted Swedish family and their real family. We celebrated a daughter's birthday, a cousin's immigration to Sweden from Armenia and the 1st of Advent. As is customary in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the food was "Julbord", which means Christmas Table. An array of yummy foods including ham, this amazing scalloped potato dish called Jonsson's Surprise, pickled herring (it was seriously to.die.for), red beet salad and of course, meatballs. And those are just the highlights.

There were too many of us to count.

And after we feasted, we migrated along with the rest of the townsfolk, to the botanical gardens to witness the annual 1st of Advent firework display. Even amidst a heavy fog, it was impressive. The little guy was in awe.

These reserved Swedes truly astound me when it comes to preserving age-old customs and celebrating as a community. I should also mention we partook (is that a word?) in "Julmarknad", which means Christmas market, in downtown Uppsala yesterday. "Since 1287". Yup, that's how long they've been doing the Christmas market. Outdoor Christmas Craft Fair with pony rides and a petting zoo for the kiddies. Well worth shivering for.

But it wasn't the Jonssons or the fireworks or the white pony or even the wine. It was being a part of centuries worth of tradition with our Swedish family. As they have for over 10 years now, they wrapped us up in their inner circle. We were the only non-family there and that, my friends, was a very special blessing. Today we were far from lonely.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Two golden tickets in hand

for two H1N1 vaccines. You wouldn't believe it but this is the 4th time I've tried. The last time the 3 of us waited in line for 3 hours with tickets and when we finally got to the front, they had run out of adult vaccines.

I am either gonna heave a great big sigh of relief or someone will get a smack. To be continued...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Little Peter's Pink Leggings

...well NOT in this house dear friends.

I live in one of the, if not THE, most gender equal countries in the world. Dads pushing strollers and wiping bums, taking their Government-given paternity leave. Moms changing the oil and heading out for a night of drinking and dancing while Dad stays home to tend to the little ones. All the household chores and bills split right down the middle (though I'm sure they factor in who makes more money). Proof.

But with all that, chivalry is dead in the water here. No opening of doors. No ladies first. No "Dinner is on Me". Seriously. The man is not expected and the woman might even go as far as to be insulted, if the man offered to pay for dinner. (Caveat: This is a generalization, obviously. Sweden has a lot of Middle Eastern immigrants)

There was even some talk recently about all of this gender equality emasculating Swedish men?! Again, seriously. Gotta find that article for you. It's a hoot. This woman is an idiot.

Anyway, I'm more of a traditional gal and though I admire and respect all of this equality, I like to run my house. I like doors open for me. I DO NOT pay for dinner on a date. I like to be treated like a lady in the more traditional sense of the word. But that's me. And yes, I would have been standing in protest way back when for the right to vote.

Now, finally getting to my story here. The other day was an observation day at my son's school so I was able to go for the morning and be a not-so-silent observer of the day-to-day goings on at the Montesorri school. It was pretty cool to see my son in his element.

While observing, I definitely observed a little boy wearing pink tights with flowers on them. Double-take. Yup, that little boy is wearing pink tights with flowers on them. It was a cold day and some of the kids only had leggings/tights/longjohns whatever-you-want-to-call-them, on underneath their winter gear.

Were his blue or boy-coloured leggings dirty that day so Mom or in this country, Dad, decided to thrown on a pair of his sister's? Or maybe the little guy likes wearing pink flowered leggings. I do not know the story. I just know what I saw. And then there's the little boy in the park wearing his sister's hand-me-down snowsuit, a lovely purple hue and again with the flowers.

I have a little boy. I love little boy clothes. If I had a little girl, I would love dressing her up in little girl clothes.

I'm not sure who it was that decided there were boy colours, girl colours and unisex colours. But they did. And we use this colour-coding scheme with infants so that cooing adults know to say, "Oh what a beautiful little INSERT SEX you have!" Now if you dress your baby in yellow (the colour for those who don't wish to know the sex of their baby beforehand and end up getting piles of yellow clothes at baby showers), all bets are off. If I make a mistake, it ain't my fault. So anyway, pink and blue STICK. They kind of follow us through life, don't they? Again, I didn't make this decision. Someone way back in the olden days did. I, like millions of others, just live by it.

And if one day my litte man decides it's tutus, Mommy's make-up and high heels, well to quote Seinfeld, "..Not that there's anything wrong with that". I will love him just the same and stand alongside him in the Pride parade plastered in rainbows. But until such time as my little boy can decide for himself what he likes to wear, he'll be decked out in trucks, trains, aliens and cars--in all the boy colours of the rainbow. Because I control the closet and for now, he's MY little boy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chocolate Monster

So it's Saturday here in Sweden and that means it's National Eat Candy Day. Seriously folks, Saturdays are all about candy in this country. So I give in, as I always do, and treat the little guy to a bag of "goodis". What a mistake. The child reacts to chocolate with an insane amount of hyperactivity. I thought it was a myth. I'm here to tell you it ain't.

He LURVES chocolate. And I LOVES giving it to him. But not today. Not tonight and until next Saturday, never again.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Modern Day Manners

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use. ~Emily Post

We are soon headed back home to Canada to sleep on my sister-in-law's couch and join a household comprising two dogs, a teen, parents, a grandma and now, an aunt. It's crazy but we're really looking forward to it!

Even when staying with family, we never take for granted that we are in fact interrupting their lives and their home with our jolly presence. We always:
1. Bring gifts
2. Pay for groceries and booze
3. Keep the den we take over for 3 weeks as clean and tidy as possible.
4. Help with the housework
5. Fill up the car we borrow with gas
6. Treat them to a meal "out"
7. Leave money for long-distance phone calls or other expenses incurred during our stay.

Does this cost us money? Of course it does but imagine the costs if we were to stay at a hotel for that long a period of time. And even though we try to pitch in more than our share, it costs them as well. It costs them in water, electricity, gas, car wear and tear, inconvenience, time, toilet paper, and the list goes on...

Maybe you say, "Family is family. You shouldn't keep a running tab." But it's not about who pays for what at the end of the day. It's about respect. Respect for each of them and self-respect. When you notice your guests are not reciprocating, it makes everyone feel bad. And we're all supposed to be having a good time together as a family.

In my humble and well-mannered opinion and based on some recent research into the subject, I have come to the conclusion that these are the minimum obligations of a guest:
1. ALWAYS bring a host/hostess gift. Bottle of wine, flowers, chocolate, etc. Does it have to be expensive? Absolutely NOT. It's the thought that counts.
2. ALWAYS offer to help around the house, with dinner, etc.
3. ALWAYS offer to pay for gas if your host/hostess is shuttling you around.
4. Depending on your length of stay, ALWAYS offer to take your host/hostess out to a meal/for coffee to show your appreciation. If you can't afford it, you shouldn't be staying to begin with.
5. ALWAYS send a thank-you. It could very well be a thank-you email. But a personal note that expresses your appreciation is what's needed, no matter the form.
6. ALWAYS keep your living quarters tidy and clean.
7. Depending on your length of stay, ALWAYS offer to pay for groceries or just go out and buy some if you see your hosts are running low.

And before you ask, "No, the pleasure of your company is NOT gift enough."

This is a very sensitive and sore subject for me because hubby and I are usually on the receiving end of company. As many times as I can recall feeling awful due to ill-mannered guests, I choose right now to focus on the positive and name some guests who truly left an impression on me:
1. A friend would stop by on warm summer days to sit by our pool, a box of freshly-baked canollis in hand.
2. A different friend would stop under the same circumstances and bring booze and sushi for everyone.
3. My dear 21-year old cousin, a student on a tight budget backpacking through Europe, showed up with chocolates for us and a bottle of wine as a gift for my birthday. I almost cried.
4. My maid-of-honour who never forgets a hostess gift or misses a chance to help out.
5. A friend who brings beautiful flowers everytime she comes for dinner.
6. A mother-in-law on a fixed income who pitches in generously and spoils our children incesssantly.
7. So many friends and acquaintances back home in Montenegro who would turn down an invitation if they could not afford to buy a host/ess gift. These are people who have so little money compared to us "rich" North Americans.

To be frank, it took me a few years to understand etiquette and its impact. I was not raised in a barn but I started living the life of a "Woman" at a young age. I was entertaining and being entertained by "important" people at the age of 20. I was naive and ignorant in those times (not that it's all bad mind you as you're sorta suppose to be naive and ignorant at 20..ha!) But I did learn quickly after some major stumbles.

I'd like to point out that I realize etiquette rules can vary from culture to culture. Apparently farting after a meal in Asia is considered a compliment to the host...bahahahahaha. I think the universal truth is this: Be thoughtful and be respectful and if you are entering a culture different from your own, do yourself and your hosts a favour and please take a few moments to read up on local etiquette.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Right Now

Right now, I would trade...
1. Our day at the Dinosaur exhibit, to watch my toddler frolick on the beach a mere 10-minute stroll from our home
2. Real bacon for a plate of cevap (Yugoslav sausage...yum).
3. Frequent car trips through big box store parks for a stroll around a charming, war-stained old town
4. This damp, rainy, persistently gray city for the rainy season and torrential downpours in a small seaside town
5. My brewed 100% Columbian for a cup of cooked Serbian sludge at friend Connie's
6. An overpriced cocktail for a shot of homemade rekija
7. A perfectly ripened cucumber for a tomato that tastes like...a tomato
8. My 2-story house for my old mould-infested apartment
9. My son's Montessori school for an afternoon with his Nanny.
10. The reserved faces of blonde stone that surround me for the tall dark-haired beauty at the local grocer who greets my family by name.
11. Online banking for paper bills and almost no bills at all!
12. Movie theaters with popcorn for badly-copied DVDs for 2 euro and all the time in the world to watch them
13. "Normal pizza" for soggy-crusted wanna-be pizza smothered in ketchup
14. McDonalds, Thai, sushi and the choice of every ethnic or not-so-ethnic cuisine under the sun for a multi-course, homemade, slaved-over-for-days feast prepared lovingly by dear friends in a small cozy apartment.
Right now, I would trade Sweden for Montenegro in a heart beat....Though tomorrow, I could very well change my mind.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Father #2

It's been such a pleasure to observe my husband becoming a Father to a son all over again. His first born is 23 years old now and the bond between them is strong.

When #2 was born, it took awhile. As the Mommy, and with a Nanny, my poor Hubby never had a hope in hell. "Here, I'll do it." "I'll get up." "I'm taking him for a walk." I shut him out almost completely. He never rocked him to sleep, rarely changed a diaper and with the exception of showing him YouTube videos on the computer, I rationalized that it was "easier/faster/more efficient" for me to do it all (or the Nanny). I didn't "have the time" or more truthfully, want, to delegate any responsibility for baby care to Dad. And the thought of them going anywhere alone and the associated anxiety (what if he starts to cry? what if he poos? what if he starts to cry?) was enough for me to silence any thoughts of either a) giving myself a break or b) allowing for some bonding.

So I did almost all of it. With Dada as my wingman, on occasion. Not that he didn't love the little rascal. Not that he wasn't there capturing moments with his camera to share with our far-away family every chance he got. But in those first months, I had built up some resentment. Why doesn't he ask to take him on an outing? Why doesn't he want to spend some quality time with our son? Doesn't he love him? Looking back, I realize it was me. It was my fault. I pushed him away.

But my continued persistence at doing it all with our son did little to discourage either of them from bonding...thankfully. It started off simple enough. The little man grew too big to be bathed in the baby bath and Dad offered to bathe with him. It became a nightly ritual that still continues to this day. Every night, Dad and the Man splash around in the tub. It's their time. Together. Alone. And then I added swimming lessons to the mix. Sort of by accident because I had no time to shop for a bathing suit. And now, every Thursday tub time extends to pool time.

I honestly don't know which one of them is more excited for our weekly trip to the local watering hole. I have never seen either of them grin so much. And as the only other parent who sits poolside to observe the fun, my face is seriously sore by the time lessons are over.

"Did you see him dunk his face in the water? His back float is getting better because I hum in his ear when his ears are in the water and he likes the sound. That second time, he jumped right in. He has no fear!" All excited comments from hubby and all music to my ears.

And yesterday we dragged Dad out grocery shopping. A rather mundane chore for me and the little guy. But this morning, after lunch, over 24 hours later, "Did you hear him scream out, 'Look Dada, Lemons!'?" Yes honey, I did.

Our little tyke has had the same very early morning ritual for the past 6 months. Every day at around 5am, I can expect to see his sleepy face at my bedside. Most mornings I don't remember pulling him into bed with us. But every morning, we find him tangled up in our sheets and babbling a morning greeting. Our little rooster. Well one morning, my husband woke to find his body missing from our bed and was in full panic mode. "Where is HE?!" I rushed out of the room only to find our baby fast asleep in his own bed (due to a late night the night before).

I think, depending on what kind of marriage/family you have, the bonding between father and child comes a little later on in the game. When baby is no longer breastfeeding every 2 hours and does more than discover his toes, crack a smile or accept a spoonful or pureed whatever (though the latter is always exciting for everyone). When that baby develops a personality and becomes a little person, Dad enters the picture in a much larger way. At least this is the case for our family.

And from the way my son insists on giving sleeping Dada a kiss before we leave for school, asks for him the instant I pick him up, crawls all over him looking for some wrestling and genuinely enjoys every second they spend together...I wouldn't have it any other way.

What about your family Moms? When did you let Dad join in the fun?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Moving Sucks

For so many reasons really. I mean there's the usual crap associated with any move.
1. Boxes: finding them, begging for them, buying them, never having enough
2. Thinking you really don't have all that much and it shouldn't take all that long. Then discovering you have triple what you thought you had and it takes you twice as long as you thought it would.
3. Shaking your head at the junk you accumulate in such a short period of time. I mean, who needs 3 balls of string? How many more shish kabob sticks are there in this drawer? I should have gotten rid of A, B and C years ago. How did this useless gadget make it through the last move?
4. Realizing at the last minute that things would have been sooo much easier had you decluttered PRIOR to the actual packing.
5. Finding a new place to live. That part is sucking hard right now.

In the past three years we've moved to two different countries, neither of which is an English-speaking country. So on top of all the general boxing up our lives crap, we have all these cultural adjustments to make. In Montenegro, it took me weeks to figure out exactly where and how to pay my bills (at the post office, through a very mean old lady who refused to even attempt to communicate with me). In Sweden, it's back to online banking, all in Swedish, and with the added security of this little doohickey that you have to type codes into in order to access codes to input into the computer in order to login, pay and confirm bills. It sucks.

But eventually, we get the hang of it and it's never as big a deal as it is the first few weeks.

The suckiest part about yet ANOTHER move (same country, same city this time at least), is having to explain away another upheaval in our three year old's life. In less than a year, he has lost his nanny and the 2nd language he was learning, moved, started daycare, had to go to a new daycare in the summer and started a new daycare in the fall. Just when he's finally seemingly adjusted and blossoming (turning into quite the little Swede), here we go again...

But our little man is a real trooper I tell ya. My hope is that all of these life-shaping experiences in his youngest years are building up his little character so change is never a frightening thing. As you can probably tell, it is for his Mommy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You know you've become a Bigger girl when...

I wrote this for my BFF. We're dieting together to lose those stubborn last 10lbs. Maybe some of you can relate :-). Our definition of a Bigger Girl: One who has to lose about 10lbs..ha! Caution: This is all in good fun.

You Know You've Become a "Bigger Girl" when...

1. You have gone the longest you ever have gone before washing a pair of of jeans. Because you just know when they're clean, you will need to exert every muscle in your body to pull them on. But hey, that's good exercise!

2. You read every single Nutritional Values label on every thing you're about to consume. You're either checking for fat, carbs or both. Then you promise yourself you'll only have 1. But you have 3 and live with the guilt.

3. You dread opening your closet in the morning because you just know your skinny jeans will be staring back at you. And every morning, you vow that in X weeks, months, you will fit into those skinny jeans again, even when they're clean.

4. You suddenly hate shopping for clothes. But you're down to like 2 pairs of fat jeans (that are almost turning into skinny jeans) and your co-workers are remarking, "You know Jane, I just love those jeans everytime you wear them."

5. On said shopping trip, you rationalize that you will indeed buy a pair of jeans that fit. You can always give them away after you lose the weight, you say to yourself. You walk out of the store with the trendiest $100 pair of your old size. You vow to fit into them in X weeks, months and will brave the muffin top until such time.

6. The phrase, "Give me 5 minutes, I'm just gonna throw on a pair of jeans" becomes, "I'll meet you in the car".

7. "Who the fk stole all my clothes?" Noone stole your clothes bitch. You just can't find anything that fits.

8. You become a magician in the art of sitting at staff meetings. Legs crossed to minimize thigh spread, check. Back straight to camouflage back fat, check. Notebook placed strategically to mask belly flab, check. Elbows out to reduce appearance of Oprah arms, check.

9. Your date night with your partner is over before it starts. Instead of sipping fruity drinks in the latest hotspot, you're slumped over defeated in a pile of clothes crying that either a) nothing fits or b) I have nothing to wear.

10. You promise yourself that you will not stray from whatever fad diet it is you're on at the party. That's right. You are there to satisfy your craving for intellectually-stimulating conversation, not the gooey goodness of the nacho dip. You manage to avoid the snack table for the longest time by pounding back the liquor. Now you're drunk and double dipping.

11. Your shopping buddy now says, "That looks great on should buy 3 in different colours", instead of, "You look awesome. Let's check out the spandex".

12. You wonder why your Mom hasn't stopped by with her homemade fudge in the past two weeks. Your question is answered at Sunday Family Dinner when, as you absent-mindedly reach for seconds, your Mom sweetly inquires, "You're really not that hungry are you dear?"

13. You dread running into people you haven't seen in X weeks/months. "Jane! (furtive up and down glance) You look great!" Seriously, who the fk says that? You know what they really mean, "Jane! You used to be so thin and I used to be so jealous. But look who's having the last laugh now fat ass?"

14. You miss the wild sex. Sex with the lights on or even dimmed. Sex in every kama sutra position imaginable. Sauntering around the house in all your nude glory. Now you might as well be living in the Victorian Era, laying fully clothed and covered with a sheet that has a hole in it.

15. You used to think of sex as a great form of exercise. Now sex has become an exercise in ensuring your partner doesn't mistakenly grab a love handle, feel your round belly or catch a glimpse of your cellulite.

16. You constantly come up with clever and inspired excuses to eat that chocolate bar/buttered popcorn/bag of chips/litre of ice cream, Big Mac, Halloween candy. "My boss was mean today, It's my/my sister's/my best friend who lives halfway around the world's birthday today, I hate stubbing my toe, My dog shat on the carpet, My partner was late for dinner, Watching a movie without chips is a sin, I can eat this because tomorrow I will do 20 sit-ups."

17. Every time you consume a forbidden food, or way too much of a good food, you say with conviction, "I'll start my diet tomorrow. That's it. Tomorrow I'm getting serious!"

18. You and your best friend, also a Bigger Girl, make a solemn oath to lose X pounds by X date. You take before and after photos, you record your lost/gained pounds, you disclose when you cheated, you even send each other supportive emails with tips. You think a little healthy competition will get you both healthy again. So far, you've stayed the same and your friend gained back the 4 pounds she lost. But you promise yourselves you will SUCCEED.

18. Your Dad remarks loudly and with great surprise, like he just made some earth-shattering scientific discovery, "Geez Girl, you're gettin' BIG!!!"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's been awhile

Dang it...I can't believe I haven't blogged in 2 whole weeks. Well, I had an excuse...a guest for 10 or so days, then hubby got ill (worse than a child a man is when he's sick I tell ya), Halloween and general life issues.

Now I'm back and for the life of me, have no idea what to rant about. Actually, I have a really hot topic boiling just beneath my fingers right now. But because it's about a particular person and this person would likely know it if she read it and it wouldn't be a flattering portrayal of her and I can't remember if she has my blog address or not, I have to let my fingers blister..for awhile anyway. And when I feel it's safe...a hot mess of lava will flow, I'll tell ya that readers (all 6 of you? ha!).

But that's when I blog...when there's some pent up passion that needs release. It could be a mundane topic, oh like that post on the kitchen utensil that picks up peelings, or a tribute to motherhood. The passion could happen 3x/week or twice a day. I never really know until I'm wandering down the street and it hits.

Just a sec..gotta run up a coffee to the Mr. Ok, I'm back. Not that you noticed I was gone. But I did. And I wanted to be polite and excuse myself.

Because I have no grand theme for today's one-sided discussion, ere's a recap of events of late:
1. We're moving...again. Landlord has decided to sell and we have to be out mid-January. Anyone know of a decently-priced 3-bedroom for rent in Uppsala? Prices have gone up twice what they were this time last year, which sucks.
2. We're going home for Christmas. Home being to Ontario to spend the holidays with hubby's fam. My folks will fly to Ottawa to meet us for a few days with some extended fam there. I'm thrilled!
3. My not-so-little-anymore cousin came to visit for 2.5 days. Currently studying in France, she decided to travel a little during her school break. This 20-year old student not only was thoughtful enough to bring us a hospitality gift but even got me a birthday present. I was touched because a) she's family b) she's young enough to have no manners or concept of hospitality and c) the poor thing is a starving student for crying out loud (starving in the eats-pasta-everyday-cuz-it's-cheap sense) It was great getting to know her over shots of Limoncello and rum..urghhh...
4. My birthday was on the 28th! Happy Birthday to ME! Went out with an old friend from here and her cousin, who also happens to be my Swedish teacher. Kinda sad that I've been here for over a year and have no new friends :-(. But that's Sweden for ya! And I was as happy as a clam to get out alone for the first time in God knows when with some dear friends.
5. Halloween in Sweden. They're really just starting to celebrate it here. We had a total of 16 kids come a knockin' and we dressed the little guy up as an elephant so hubby took him around, "Tick or Tweet". A testament to how safe these Swedes feel: Imagine opening up your bag of candy to find ONLY unwrapped loose candies? My Dad, self-appointed candy checker in our household, would've thrown it all out. We did too actually but that's only cuz we had so much darn candy leftover ourselves. Speaking of which, I got rid of the temptation by dropping it off to old friend's daughters today..phewf.
Well I think that's it for now. I know, kinda "meh" today. Hope there aren't prospective readers stopping by right now. If there are, please don't judge me on this pathetic excuse for a post. I'm a better blogger than this, honest!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Toilet Humour. In Sweden.

Permit me to be crass or vulgar for a few moments. Now, if you're reading this and you're Swedish, well you may not see this post as either.

Now "apparently" here in Sweden, it's perfectly fine to make the business you have going on in the bathroom public knowledge. It's ok to announce exactly what you plan on doing when you head on over to the toilet. And if you have a raging case of diarrhea, feel free to let your co-workers in on the frequency and consistency.

Was having a discussion on all that is the washroom with my Swedish teacher, who happens to be from Armenia. Not exactly sure how we got on the subject but there we were. Now in Armenia, if you need to "go", you never actually use the words "toilet", "washroom" or "bathroom". Even if you're a young student in class and need to be excused to take care of your business, you just ask the teacher if you can leave the class. Noone questions your destination. You could be going anywhere really, to meet up with your bf for a makeout session, grab a quick ciggie with your friends or home for a nap. But it is assumed that if you're asking to "go", it means, well, you're on your way to the bathroom for a #1 or a #2.

Uttering any such word associated with what comes out of your body is taboo.

Where I'm from, we DO indeed say the words "bathroom" or "washroom" or not-so-frequently "toilet" when we need to go. We're a bit more specific on that front.

But I cannot imagine an occassion where I turn to my co-worker in the middle of frying up some burgers and exclaim matter-of-factly, "Gotta run and take a dump. Cover my station for me? Be back in 5 or 10 depending on how hard I have to push and how intriguing my reading material is."

Apparently that's the way it is here in Sweden though. My appalled Armenian friend, a real classy young lady btw, explained to me that her co-workers, whom she is not particularly close with, frequently update her on their bathroom habits. They didn't share a womb, don't necessarily share the same social circle and have really only known each other for a year or so. But, "Dominika, can you run this sushi platter over to table 4 so I can take a shit? That's the last time I'm mixing a litre of Absolut with Tomato Juice."


Another expat girlfriend recently told me her boss called in sick the other day. "I have diarrhea so bad I've been on the toilet all night." Let's give her the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe she was really playing hooky. You know when you're pretending to be sick, you always give WAY too much detail about your illness in an always failed and exagerrated attempt to convince your boss and others that you really are sick? Never works.

But c'mon people, who goes THAT far?

Well, by all of two accounts so far, the Swedes do. Fellow Swedes, am I right here? Can we extrapolate these two isolated incidences to a national epidemic? And if so, what the hell? Keep your shit to yourself. Pun intended. :-)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thanksgiving in Canada

Well, we're not in Canada. We're in Sweden. Another holiday passing without the comfort and craziness of being surrounded by those we love. And this is also the first holiday in a long time without our dear Tanja (little man's Montenegrin Nanny). So, just me, the boy and Dada and an 8lb turkey. I've always had a turkey mentor close to me on such special occasions. But this time, it was me on my own with the big bird.

It went well. The bird was great. All the side dishes perfectly timed. I am the champion my friends. We stuffed ourselves and now, it's over.

For over three years now, with the exception of being home for the holidays on a few occasions, we've celebrated our traditional holidays in other countries. And this is the first time we were truly alone. It was nice and it was sad. Thank God for Skype though.

And speaking of being thankful, here's my list of things to be thankful for. Of course I'm thankful for the usual: health, happiness, husband, child, parents/extended family, roof over head, food, etc. so here's a list of stuff I'm thankful for lately.
1. Thanks to the makers of Play Doh for inventing a product that is forcing me to create bad interpretations of a Stegasaurus, a turtle, a tiger, a shark and...repeat. Oh and also, big thanks for that distinct play-doh odour.
2. Thanks to my brain for finally realizing that the little guy's bad potty aim was a direct result of him standing on a bench to pee. Removal of bench = pee IN toilet.
3. Thanks to the neighbour lady for letting me crash my son's first official playdate with her daughter. She actually thought I was leaving..bahahahahahhaaha.
4. Thanks to my husband for being creative and making Play Doh creatures that actually resemble the real thing!
5. Thanks for living in a country where a clothes dryer and a dish washer are staple appliances. I challenge ALL you friends in developed countries to live without either of them for over two years. It CAN be done, but it's not pretty.
6. Thanks to all the North Americans in Sweden who overhear me speaking English and immediately begin chatting up a storm.
7. Thanks to the lady I cornered in the grocery store today for a) not freaking out because a random stranger was speaking to her, and in English and b) for being 100% sure that the box she pointed out to frantic me was indeed cornstarch. FYI: It was NOT.
8. Thanks Swedish businesses for booking appointments for me. "You have an appointment for your winter tire change at X o'clock on X date." "Your child has a dentist appointment at...." I seriously love this. I always leave these things to the last minute anyway. Swedes are so bloody efficient.
9. Thanks to all those wonderful law breakers who post free streams to my favourite TV shows.
10. Thanks to me for remembering to pack that little liquid strainer thingy from Montenegro. Otherwise, we would have had gravy flavoured with turkey bits and clumpy flour.

What are you thankful for lately?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Notebook

In case you haven't noticed, I've been doing a lot of writing lately. Whether it’s company-related, the odd note on facebook, blogging or just changing my FB status, the verbal diarhea is running rampant. I can never spell that word..diarhhea? no...wait, let me check Google. D-I-A-R-R-H-E-A. Just in case you needed the spelling for this awful word. And of course now you have the visual too and are thanking me.

I love publishing Notes on Facebook the most because, depending on the topic, I always get wonderful feedback from fellow "friends". The best part is, I get to hear everyone's story. Another great part, I won't lie, is getting encouragement from friends to "write a column/an article/a novel". That just brings some pink to my white freckly cheeks. I never thought about doing it, the writing thing that is, for anything other than work or self-expression to be honest. And I only write when I have something I feel compelled to say, something I'm passionate about like oh, potty training woes or getting ID'd at the liquor store or most recently, the sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. Or the idiot who engineered the Swedish shopping cart (that post is coming)!

So really, my writing coincides with my ADHD (which my Mom has, in all her great wisdom, diagnosed). How does anyone expect me to write something as complex, time-consuming and focus-demanding as a novel? And you also need imagination for that. I write about my life. I'm all about non-fiction, but in passionate, short outbursts. And then, I move on.

Now my husband, to his credit, has humoured me and my writing fetish. He reads what I write, offers suggestions but generally takes a backseat. He stays "mum" on the issue. Until yesterday when his actions spoke louder than my words ever could.

Yesterday he went to London to have tea and strumpets with the Queen and to discuss the state of the monarchy. No he didn't. He did go to London with a box of kanelbulle (Swedish cinnamon buns) for a meeting with a big company, whose biz dev guy has a love affair with kanelbulle from a specific bakery in Stockholm. So, of course, my charming husband brings the guy a box. It was a fly-in-and-out-the-same-day mission. I waited up. He walked in bearing gifts, mainly for the little man, who was extremely disappointed when he realized the nicely decorated box of kanelbulle we took with us in the car to the airport was NOT for him.

After going through a sweet assortment of toys and shirts, he then presented me with a sturdy baby blue gift bag adorned simply with the words "Smythson of Bond Street Est 1887" in an understated, old-fashioned font. And directly above, four emblems representing the highest offices of the monarchy, “By appointment of his/her majesty...”

The bag, tied together with a black ribbon, was impressive enough. Then a matching blue thick cardboard box inside. And inside THAT, a soft blue cloth bag nestled delicately in tissue paper. And inside that?

A fushia leather bound notebook filled with empty pale blue lined pages. It is gorgeous. It took my breath away.

On the back page of the notebook is The Story of Smythson Featherweight Paper and Bindings. It details the severe craftsmanship that goes into the manufacture of this brand of notebook, including its copyrighted floppy leather exterior (that apparently can be rolled up and squashed and will improve with age) and handmade “stitched spines and gilt-edged pages” (say THAT five times fast). And then there’s the extreme difficulty in creating a watermark on paper this thin. Who knew?

“Smythson Featherweight Books are internationally popular with many distinguished writers, journalists, travellers and explorers. Used by ‘the great and the good’ over many generations, they have been called a ‘secret social passport’. “

They have been used by Queen Victoria, Diana, Princess of Wales, Sigmund Freud and Grace Kelly to name a few.

And now, I have one.

What will fill its pages? I don’t know. I didn’t realize the impact of this notebook until I began to write about it. This gift is so precious. I both fear and revere it. So many thoughts running through my brain. Like, "Crap, I need to work on my penmanship. What if I make a mistake? white-out vs. scribble out. Should I use it for story outlines or the real deal? Where should I put it? Does this mean I'm a 'writer'? Am I worthy of owning such a coveted treasure?

One day I will open it and put pen to paper (yes, he got me two graceful pink pens too). I don’t know when this D-day will come. But what I do know is that I love my husband for this incredible symbol of his faith in me.

With this gesture, he has given me my very own, but not-so-secret, passport. "Permission to officially enter the wonderful world of prose?" "Granted."

And so begins a new chapter, in life and in love.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Not Me Mondays

Welcome to Not Me! Monday! This blog carnival was created by MckMama. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have not been doing this week.

This will be my first ever Not Me Monday post. This weekend I did not stay up late Friday, Saturday and Sunday night with my husband to catchup on the last season of Big Love. We certainly did not watch three episodes each night. We have better things to do with our time than sit through some mindless television show centered around the lives of a polygamist family. Nope, not us.

There is no way I would make a trip to our local IKEA and pick up 5x what was on my original shopping list. The list I had promised myself I would not, under any circumstances, deviate from. And even if I did, I would most certainly blame IKEA for the overspending. All the fun stuff for kids to do, the perfect setup and display of must-have items. A shopping conspiracy. The Swedish Mob. Damn IKEA.

I did not book tickets for my 3-year old son to go see Walking with Dinosaurs that cost well over $250 for three tickets, just because he loves dinosaurs and I wanted to see the look on his face. I know in my heart of hearts that he would be absolutely petrified and would never understand that the lifelike dinosaurs were not real. I am smart enough to realize the odds of tears vs. cheers are heavily stacked under the tears column and would never take such a stupid risk. And then I most certainly did not discuss the matter with my husband, who did not proceed to reason that our son got scared of a shark he drew with bathtub crayons in the bathtub. And then I did not spend 20 minutes on hold just to cancel the tickets I never should have purchased in the first place. None of it happened because I'm smart and know all about age-appropriate material.

Not me. Not ever.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The faith of religion

I am baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic. Both of my parents can be classified as "devout". I guess I can be classified as "non-practicing". Though Going-to-Church growing up was a cherished part of my life, all of this country hopping and well, general busy-ness, has given me the convenient excuse of missing Sunday morning mass for years. Though whenever I find myself home at the folks’, I look forward to accompanying them to our family church and sharing this special part of my faith with my son.

Recent and not-so-recent events have made me question The Roman Catholic Church, not my religion. Not my faith. The latter, my friends, is unwavering. Whether we're Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant or Catholic, we all believe in a higher being, an afterlife and the promise of a heaven should we choose to live our lives in accordance with a fundamental set of rules. It's only these rules that distinguish one religion from another. I won't go into the wars raged over religious supremacy, the innocent lives lost, etc. All seemingly a product of, "My religion trumps yours".

I think religion helps us feel a sense of belonging. It forms communities centered around these common principles and gives us a network of support, channelling our universal faith.

We look to our religious leaders for guidance, understanding and knowledge where our faith is concerned. We trust them, we bow to them, we honour them as holier than ourselves. They set themselves apart as examples of what a true INSERT RELIGION follower should be.

And what, my dear faithful friends, happens when these leaders fall from their thrones, prove themselves to be sinners (and worse so) than the flocks they claim to shepherd? What if instead of protecting their lambs, they prey on them and victimize them? What then becomes of our faith in being a Roman Catholic or INSERT RELIGION?

Well when I read the news today, again, of yet another Catholic priest accused of pedophilia, I could no longer ignore the impact it has on MY religion. Because this particular priest was a Bishop (a high post in the Catholic Church) and one who worked tirelessly to bring fellow priests to justice for their crimes. He was an authority on the subject, an advocate and it turns out, a likely wolf in sheep's clothing. Caught at a border crossing with child pornography on his laptop.

There is research out there that suggests this is no more prevalent in the Catholic church than in other religions..the abuse of power by church officials in such a horrible way. But with all the media focused in on "my" church, it certainly casts doubt on the research, for me anyway. Does the celibacy required by Catholic priests breed this kind of behaviour? Some argue it does. More research suggests it doesn't. One also has to wonder if the Catholic church is a safe haven, a breeding ground and/or a hideout for the lowest forms of life that walk among us, the pedophiles.

Would relaxing the celibacy law prevent these monsters from penetrating our institution? Is that the answer? Sure you could say that the few bad seeds taint the entire population. And yes, I'm positive there are some wonderful priests ministering. But the increasing number of bad seeds sprouting is killing the garden.

I know fellow Catholics who have stopped going to church, stopped supporting their churches with financial contributions and because of this widespread disease have fled to other religions.

Where does that leave me? I really don't know. But what I do know is that my church is not doing enough. Their reputation for sweeping cases under the rug, providing counselling to these molesters and simply transferring them to other institutions and/or forcing them into retirement as opposed to bringing them to justice is dumbfounding, disappointing and disheartening.

My trust in my church has been broken and it would take a miracle to re-establish the bond. We believe in miracles. We believe Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross and was resurrected. I'm waiting for a miracle. And in the meantime, I'll continue to believe in Him, pray with my child and worship with my family.

In the end, I believe we all answer to “God” and as for the Catholic Church, well they have an awful lot to answer for.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

From StepMom to Mom

It's an interesting job, that of a step mom. You don't own the rights to the child through a birth canal and you often enter their lives in later years. You long to become accepted, part of someone else's already established family unit. And when you're a young stepmom, like me, you wonder how you can provide the guidance and nurturing necessary when you're only beginning to experience adulthood yourself.

And how much "parenting" can you really do? Will they let you do? Do you have the right to do? You walk a fine line.

But if you're lucky, like me, you end up with a wonderful stepson, one who warmly welcomes you into his heart and into his family. One who respects you, loves you and accepts you. One who talks to you openly and confides in you without fear.

Though you may not have changed his diapers, sang him lullabies or pushed him on a swing, you've witnessed his voice "crack", experienced his first girlfriend, cried as he spoke eloquently at your wedding, saw him take his first drink (ok, maybe not that part), and watched him trip and fall. And sometimes you let him make stupid mistakes and fall on his face. Because you remember very clearly it was only a short time ago you made, and learned, from the same ones.

And it's because of the way your husband is with him, the unbreakable bond they have and the kind-hearted and talented soul he has grown to become, that you make the brave decision to have one of your own.

You then worry how your relationship will change once you officially cement the status of "mother". Will you love #1 less? Will you have room in your heart for two? And then a few hours after #2 arrives, your husband gives you a special gift. A handcrafted gold necklace in the shape of a heart. And inside that big heart are three little hearts, one for him, one for #1 and one for #2. So you see, you do have a place in your heart for all three of the men in your life.

Not only do you not become less of a "mother" to #1, but you become a better one. You suddenly have an instinct you never quite had before. The desire to nurture and protect and love becomes so much stronger. And saying goodbye and letting go becomes harder than it's ever been.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nana's Sauce

Let me start this post by admitting the following, I am not a good cook. I generally need a recipe and not just any recipe, a step by step guide with definitions for thing such as "whip lightly" or "sautee" or "fold in X ingredient". When I was back in Canada, I had a trusty beginner's cookbook and relied heavily on any recipe based on a Campbell's soup. Sure there were times I got adventurous and attempted cheesecake. And to my surprise, it turned out amazing. I even had my photo taken with it and constantly prodded tasters with questions like, "No, really, how good is it?"

But then I moved to Montenegro with no Campbell's soup in sight, surrounded by authentic homemade goodies and a serious lack of easy-peezy ingredients. Luckily, around that time, I decided to become an Atkins girl, which meant I had a free pass from kitchen creativity and cooked lumps of meat with stir-fried whatever veggie.

My mother-in-law is an amazing cook. Well, duh. All those Ukranian, Croatian and Italian inspired bellywarming dishes. Cabbage rolls, homemade chicken soup and the all-time family favourite...Nana's spaghetti sauce.

Nana is Ukrainian/Croatian but was married to an Italian for some years and obviously picked up a talent for Italian cuisine. There isn't an Italian on this planet that can compete with her sauce and the Italian side of the family have admitted it.

Whenever we go home, you can bet there's a pot of sauce on the stove..tomato based with hearty meatballs bouncing around on the surface.

I've never attempted to make said sauce and for two reasons: 1. It's Nana's claim to fame so I vowed not to attempt it until the day she can no longer make it. 2. Fear of failure or perhaps worse, what if by some miracle, it's better that the original?

Circumstances have changed.

I find myself with no Nana around, a pack of nostalgic boys AND a tribe of preteens about to enter my house tonight for dinner and a sleepover (one with an allergy to gluten). And the Nana is thousands of miles away. The last time the girls came over, I served up some yummy homemade burgers and this time, I'm super busy and need to make something fast and "easy" and different. I broke my vow, called Nana on Skype and asked her for THE recipe.

I was only half paying attention as she was giving it to me as flashbacks for a particular "Everyone loves Raymond" episode were running through my head. Do you remember the one I'm talking about? Well here's the synopsis. Deborah, like me, sucks in the kitchen. Marie, like my mother-in-law, is always cooking up generous portions of hearty soulfood. Deborah decides she wants to learn how to cook Marie's famous sauce. They spend a day of bonding over the stove making the sauce together, with Marie telling her the most important ingredient is LOVE. It's beautiful. These two frenemies finally becoming friends. It's suppertime at Ray's house and they all sit down to Deborah's attempt at Marie's sauce. She's excited. They're scared. The sauce, as you may have guessed, is awful. Marie spends the evening wondering what could have possibly gone wrong, thinking she doesn't have the LOVE. She checks and rechecks her recipe, breaks into Marie's house and checks the original recipe. Nothing. Then she sees a spice jar label losing its grip. Marie switched the ingredients! She actually sabotaged Marie's sauce. Deborah's fuming. To make a long story short, Marie did in fact do this deliberately. She did it because she believes her food is all she has and she didn't want Deborah to take it away from her. Kinda sad and funny. They made peace, which I believe included Deborah promising never to make THE sauce.

Back to today. I don't have the Marie/Deborah relationship with my mother-in-law THANK GOD. But regardless, here I am making HER sauce. A recipe, which like all Nana recipes, calls for a can of this, a dash of that and no measurable amounts of ANY ingredient. Perfect for someone who ONLY follows recipes.

So there it sits on the stove waiting for a hungry brood. I've watched her make it a hundred times. And the meatballs have NOT fallen apart, small victory for the daughter-in-law. But my mother-in-law has nothing to worry about. It's not the LOVE I'm missing but personal control over dispensing of SALT. Looks like they'll be LOTS of water glasses to refill tonight...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Swedish Birthday Party Part 2

So we took off from the house about 10:20 for an 18-minute journey to the party location. As I didn't have an actual house number and it was somewhere outside of town, I wanted to allow for the likelihood we'd get lost.

We got lost, well sorta. Actually it was worse than that.

I followed the directions to this "township" and sure enough, we ended up in the right area. Score 1 for the Canadians! Farmland and lots of houses and little clusters of houses. But which house? Ahhhh...there! As per my previous post, it had to be this house. Balloons. Lots of balloons. Balloons off the main road, balloons marking the driveway and balloons on the front of the house. Well no wonder they didn't give me an address. How could I possibly miss the house? But it was 10:35 and much too early to make an appearance so we circle back around to the gas station to snack on candy until 10:51, when I figured it was safe to head on in and make our appearance.

I park in front of this beautiful old red barn, hop out with the man and the "cheap" gift and we make our way to the door. We're excited...first ever birthday party invite for the little man..woohoo. We ring the bell. Geez, taking awhile for someone to answer. Maybe the kids are already running around screaming. Finally a 13-year old opens the door in her PJs, with a few other kiddies in pyjamas wandering over to take a look at the visitors.

What could be worse than being lost? How about showing up at the wrong house?! "Is this Pontus' house?" "Nej" says the confused teen. Oh God.

I pry my excited toddler off the stranger's balcony trying to explain that Mommy's an idiot when I see a car pull up behind me full of kids. Another family about to make the same mortifying mistake. The little man recognizes his classmate and as she rolls down her window, I proceed to explain we are indeed at the wrong house. She bursts out laughing, "Oh I'm so glad it was you and not me." Thank you very much.

She makes the call to the party house, explaining that we're crashing the wrong party and I set off to follow her to the house I am sure we never would have found alone.

Turns out it's the little man's teacher's son whose turning 4. And we're climbing up slippery rocks into the woods to roast hot dogs in a fire pit. Cute. Did I mention hotdogs are a staple here and that the little guy hates them? Anyway, after some parents come and go and others, like me, elect to stay, we make our way inside.

Beautiful home really.

The kids are playing upstairs. And then it's gift opening time. Thank God, everyone seemed to have spent the same amount on the gifts. My first relief of the day. Then it's ice cream cake. Not just any ice cream cake. This ice cream cake is literally a square box of ice cream flipped upside down and cut into pieces. And then decorated with jam from a tube on the fly.

and that's it. Weiners on sticks and a container of ice cream. We left with a bag containing about 7 candies, "because it's Sunday" said the Mom.

Now I have seen friends with kids throw birthday parties back home. Beautiful handmade cupcakes, ornately decorated homemade cakes, party games, decorations, THEMES, t-shirts that say "Birthday Girl/Boy", loot bags chockfull of loot, jumping castles, hired entertainment, snacks galore, balloons, nice gifts. I wonder how much the average kids party cost these days back home in Canada. But I can guarantee it's a lot more than the $20 this party cost to put on.

Now I'm not saying this is what every birthday party in Sweden is like. I really don't know. And I'm not judging this party. I'm merely pointing out the differences between cultures. Hubby says we come from a culture where it's all about "Keeping up with the Joneses" and here the philosophy is, what does a three-year old remember about a kid's birthday party except that they had a good time playing with their friends? I can't help but agree with him.

However, for the little guy's 4th birthday party, you won't catch me decorating a lump of ice cream with a tube of jam and calling it "ice cream cake". I.Just.Can't.Do.It.

And if I live in the middle of nowhere and on the off chance there are other birthday parties occuring on the same day as my son's, my directions will include landmarks and uniformed officers directing traffic if necessary.

Swedish Birthday Party Part 1

So I've been to birthday parties here, but only within our close circle of friends, friends we've had for years before we moved to Sweden.

And the other day an invitation came in the mail addressed to Joseph. I seriously welled up. My son was invited to his first ever birthday party for a child in his class.

I chose 10am the day before the party to RSVP. The party's in Ströbylund and there was no address provided on the invitation, just "Ströbylund" so I naturally inquired as to the number of the house. "Just Ströbylund". Even when I pressed on, I got the same broken English response from said parent. And then finally, "You can call when you get here". After a quick search on GoogleMaps, I located the general vicinity of about 20small homes. I guess I'll take a page from the movie StepMom and look for the house with the balloons.

Anyway, in my excitement, I call my dear friend about this great milestone. She warns me to only spend 50 SEK (that's like $9) on the birthday gift and assures me EVERYONE does this. Swedes are practical people and I guess with the number of parties a child is invited to during the course of a school year, buying gifts can be quite expensive (not that it stops us North Americans from overspending). So I spent 90 SEK and am hoping and praying I won't be embarrassed...

Now to the other part. I am just supposed to drop my 3-year old off and...GASP... LEAVE! This is likely not going to happen. What if he needs to pee? What if he doesn't like the food? What if the supervision is inadequate and he falls down stairs or gets electrocuted? What if noone understands his special brand of Swinglish? So this is likely NOT happening. Still not sure how I'm going to force myself into their home but somehow I'll manage, maybe...

Stay tuned

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Preschool Blues

The past week or so the little man has taken to crying rather passionately when I drop him off at Preschool. It's heartwrenching to walk away. I don't know what to do. I've tried talking to him about school, warming him up in the car, telling him we'll give kisses and hugs and then Mommy has to "go working". It doesn't matter. The meltdowns still happen.

I know they're good to him there. That's not the issue. If I have to guess I'd say that:
a) There's been a lot of change in his little life this year: new country, new language, new school, new summer school, at home with Mom for 2 weeks, another new school...
b) It's the language barrier. Though it never seemed to bother him quite so much before, I think he's finding it increasingly frustrating that he can't quite communicate with the children his age at school. He has reverted to baby talk and playing with the younger ones, who also can't quite communicate yet. But I think he's outgrown the little ones and doesn't quite fit in with his peer group yet. He's lonely.

The teachers keep a very close watch on him. So much so that at yesterday's 45-minute parent/teacher conference, I got the full rundown on "A Day in the Life of my Son". From his washroom habits to his eating habits and playing habits. They are looking for solutions to the challenges and I'm trying to provide them with as much insight as possible.

But I feel helpless. Short of taking him out of school (which is not an option at this stage in our lives), I really don't know what to do. Everyone says "It will pass", just as it has on so many other occasions but this time seems different. It's a delayed reaction to his new environment...quite delayed. Any suggestions?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yummy Food

I love Marzipan and sushi. Good thing. Seems like all of Sweden's sweets are coated in Marzipan. And our good friends here have family who own a sushi restaurant. I knew nothing of the first one. The second one I developed a taste for.
I ate too much of both today. I feel like barfing.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saturday Randomness

1. Swine Flu, or should I say vaccinate or not. Here in Sweden, they're saying not to vaccinate under 3. The little guy turned 3 at the end of July. Contemplating. Some factors to consider:
- We have confirmed cases around these parts.
- Little guy goes to daycare
- We spend a lot of time with dear friends who have a daughter with a serious heart condition and they are urging all close to them to get vaccinated

2. The little guy is almost always jolly and generally well-behaved. We are truly blessed. May he stay this way. Well tonight at dinner his father told him not to play with his drink. He didn't listen, stuck his finger in the cup and...spillage. Dad raised his voice. Little man has the same reaction on the odd occassions this happens and it literally breaks your heart because his little heart is breaking. He repeats what Dad says, mimicking the same dissapointed tone and begins to cry. It's not a pity cry. It's a I-know-I-did-wrong-and-feel-so-horrible cry and it has both Dad and I with tear-filled eyes and feeling remorse. Unfortunately it can't be helped as he needs to know when he's misbehaved. But about GUILT.

3. Little Man's former Nanny's birthday tomorrow. Really look forward to Skyping her with a birthday song but as the days goes by, want so badly to see her in person. Our Montenegrin Mary Poppins.

4. Hubby's working too hard. He really needs a vacation. I admire his drive and faith but worried about him and wishing we could all take off to lay somewhere in the sun.

5. My comfy pants are history. I found these amazing not lycra or spandex but some lightweightish semi stretchy, slightly baggy (depending on the weight fluctuation state) workouty kinda pants in Montenegro, made by a Serbian company called Gajic. They are the bomb. I even took to buying them for friends back home they're so awesome. But my two trusty pair are on their last legs. Some thread pulling, actual wear (where you can begin to see my actual ass) and well, they just look like I've worn them nearly everyday for the past two years (which I likely have, even if just in the mornings before I get actually dressed). I may have to send them to comfy pant heaven. But before I do, I may have to beg some Montenegrin friends to make a trip to Budva to pick me up a few more pair.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Great Swedish Haircut

So I've been procrastinating on hair maintenance...severly procrastinating..since this past March procrastinating. My roots are a few inches long and my hair was down past my bra strap. I personified trailer trash and couldn't live with my greasy-looking but not greasy hair a day longer so I bit the bullet. What bullet you ask? Just book an appointment, you say.

I'm convinced hair salons in this fair country are criminal organizations. Every time I take my son or my husband or my big son to the hairstylist I want to scream at the absurdity of the prices. Average salons here charge over 250 SEK (that's like 40 CDN dollars) to cut my little boy's hair. My husband's hair, we're looking at 350+. My hair cut was gonna cost me 400 the conversion. You don't want to know how much colour costs. But I'm gonna tell you anway...around 2000 SEK (that's $277 USD!) at an average salon.

I've been holding out because I've not-so-secretly been longing for a week's vacation back in our old home of Montenegro, where'd I'd be paying a max of 70 euro for a beautiful colour, cut and style. Focus on that last word for a I'm still half holding out...I decided, at the very least, that I needed to CUT this shaggy mop.

When you leave the hairdresser, don't you expect to walk out feeling like a million bucks? I mean, who can do our hair better than a trained professional, right? The soft, silky, glowing, frizz-free, fresh-out-of-a-magazine hair style...ahhhhh...

I am NOT CHEAP. I tip generously too. But yesterday afternoon was a different story.

She cut my hair...quite a few inches off so now it just rests on my shoulders. And then she proceeded to finish me off. But no happy endings here. WTF was she doing? First she sat me under one of those helmet dryers. Then she comes at me with a heat-blowing curling iron. The result was a fuzzy, frizzy mess. And she has the nerve to monkey around in it with her fingers, like she's putting finishing touches on it or something! I guess her fingertips must be numb as she's obviously NOT feeling that my hair is still HALF WET.

The word "anger". "Please help me understand the hair styling process here in this country. Back *home*, when we pay for a haircut, a hair style is included in the price. Is that not the case here?" - "Oh yes," she replies. "Do you not use round brushes?" "Yes, we have them".

I honestly don't see one anywhere. If you have long hair, like I do, you fully expect the hair stylist to blow your hair out with a round brush and sometimes even use a flat iron. How else can you get it to look flawless?

What I should have said, in hindsight, was "Would YOU leave this salon with your hair looking like THIS?" There are a lot of things I should have said but I was boiling over with rage and wanted to get the hell out of there and home to my family, who experienced my wrath, and my flat iron.

Hair stylists in this country are likely the best paid and treated in the world. They get their five weeks vacation just like everyone else. They also have special chairs they sit on to cut your hair (which I think is smart because I have a lot of friends who are stylists that have problems with their backs and legs). In Montenegro, hairstylists are likely the worst paid and work the hardest and still, for 7 euro I can get an amazing wash and set from a talented girl whose arms are like steel from roundbrushing hair all daylong.

And yes, I fully expect to pay more in a country with a higher standard of living, an expensive country.

Hair stylists in this country are just plain LAZY. You're probably wondering if I encountered this before at different salons. And yes, I have. Three to be exact. So I am full justified in painting them all with the same round brush.

These pretty girls need to get their shapely butts over to Montenegro, or America for that matter, and take a few lessons. The next time I won't be walking away with pent-up frustration and without leaving a tip. The next time I will leave a tip: I will demand a round brush, a blow dryer and show them how it's done.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Whatever the reason, DO NOT BE LATE

Oh boy...One thing I've noticed since moving to this country is that Swedes are chronically ON TIME. If you're having a party, like we did for hubby this weekend and tell guests the party starts at 7pm, the guests either arrive at 6:45pm or right on the nose at 7pm. So my usual buffer of "casually late" which I've become accustomed to in North America is gone. This is not so much a problem for me, really. But my chronically-late husband needs to get his ass in gear.

So my poor son has been sick with a cold since Friday. No fever. Just a runny nose. They called from his school to suggest that I pick him up early. And sure enough, hubby and I both fell ill after our party guests left Saturday night. Today is Monday and time for school. After gauging that Joe was just fine, save for a runny nose, it was off to school for him. Last night I decided we were sleeping in. No waking up at 7am to get him to school for 8am. In fact, we woke up at 8am and my plan was to call the school (like a good and respectful parent) to advise them Joe would be late.

I proceed to explain to the teacher that answered the outdoor phone, to which she replied, clearly aghast, "Oh no, what happened?" I was not expecting that kind of What-terrible-thing-could-have-happened-to-prevent-you-from-respecting-the-rules-and-being-on-time reaction so I blubber, "Son's sick, I'm sick and we slept in". I then had to backpeddle a bit to explain that son was actually feeling better (really, he's well enough to come to school, I swear). "Oh, I think you should speak to Anna" (the boss).

I had composed myself again, apologized, but my son would be late. He would arrive at 9:15am. " know that the children are inside at that time and that you will be interrupting things. Please make sure we make eye contact before you leave. That's very important."

Suddenly sleeping in didn't seem like a good idea anymore.

So we show up at 9:15am (on time, the new time that is). Of course, son had expected to walk down the rock path to join the children in the park and was visibly upset the routine had changed and we were going inside instead. I am not stupid. I do realize that this change of routine would impact him. But in my defense, I had planned to make it on time for the park drop-off and blame my boss for calling me with a work emergency that delayed the "getting ready for school routine". Anyway, I drag him inside and Anna comes over to greet us as the other children look on. She, of course, notices son is a bit "out of sorts".

"The reason for your lateness doesn't concern me," she states, "Please remember that it is extremely important to follow the routine and that your son is confused now because the routine was broken."

"Yes, I realize that," I try to explain. "It was a bad morning."
"I'm sure it was," she said. "But please try to be on time."

Translation: Dear Bad Mother, Get your lazy ass out of bed in the morning and get your son to school on time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Swimming with the fishes

Little man's first ever swimming lesson was tonight. Dad was too busy to let me go shop for a bathing suit so he took the 1st turn in the pool with the 3 year old.

Little man has been in the water since he was under one, spending every day at the beach in Montenegro. Now we live in Sweden. The only beaches near us are filled with bacteria and of course, the weather rarely cooperates's been awhile since he's been "swimming".

With the exception of...
1. The meltdown that occurred when he was forced under a shower before heading to the pool.
2. The fact that I got in trouble for taking photos of the little man's first swimming lesson with his Dad (yup, the teacher swam over to tell me one of the mothers was very uncomfortable with my camera. Hubby later told me I should have asked her, "Can you point out who she is so I can refrain from taking photos of her FAT ASS?")
3. The severe meltdown that occurred when the 30 minute swim session was over and he was forced to leave the pool.
...It was a great first swimming lesson! He really enjoyed all the singing, splashing, feet kicking and gallons of water swallowing.

At least now he knows what to expect so next time won't be so traumatic what with the shower scene, Mommy getting "told", and the whole "having to leave" thing. Did I mention he's in the CRAB class?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gimme my IKEA Catalogue!

For crying out loud...

On our daily walk, where we once strolled along the boardwalk overlooking the Adriatic, we now roll past a neverending field of houses. And in front of said houses, stand POST boxes (mail boxes for those reading from the Americas). They all sort of look the same, with the word POST on the box. Most of these monochromatic POST boxes have "Ingen Reklam Tack" neatly written on them, meaning, "No flyers/junk mail please." Some even have stickers that talk about saving Sweden's trees. How typically environmentally compassionate of the Swedes.

But today I noticed a POST box with an unusual scrawl plastered over top of its Ingen Reklam Tack notice. It said, loosely translated, "Please leave the IKEA catalogue". I laughed. Out loud. I couldn't help it and I didn't care that the resident of said home just happened to be standing outside watering his flowers.

I guess all bets are off during the IKEA catalogue season. "Screw the trees, I want my 100+ page IKEA catalogue" the man seemed to proclaim loudly from the front of his POST box.

So, not only is the IKEA catalogue worth the effort of writing and attaching a notice on your POST box, but apparently, it's ok to pick and choose your junk mail in Sweden. Cool. Sorry, I have no Ingen Reklam Tack sign on my mail box. I like my flyers. Well, not all flyers. I mean, I don't need the ones from building supply stores. Come to think of it, I could do without the "Save the starving children in Africa for only 10 cents/day" ones too. I pay for enough kids already. As a matter of fact, I think I will take a few minutes today to compose a letter to our local POST person:

"Dear Mr. or Ms. POSTAL Worker,
I received some good news today, courtesy of a neighbour: We can pick and choose our junk mail! I haven't seen an order form, perhaps it got lost in the mail. That's ok. In case you were wondering why mine was the only house that you weren't customizing junk mail for, here's my list of approved junk mail:
- Local grocery store flyers: Perhaps it would be easier to just give me the one with the best deals? We eat a lot of meat here, so make that the one from the store that has the best deals on meat. But it should be meat that's typically expensive, like T-bone steaks or Sirloin.
- High quality, high gloss flyers: I would like to support those companies that spend a lot of money to market to me. So anything you deem printed on low-quality paper, I don't need to see. Exceptions: Shoes. Anything shoe-related is approved, regardless of paper stock.
- Anything witty or funny: I enjoy a good laugh so if there's anything with a photo of a fat dude poured into a Speedo, two old ladies salsa dancing, a homeless person begging for change or anything you deem laughable, stick it in. I'll trust your judgement on this. You could also mark the ones that are REALLY funny and I certainly wouldn't mind translations. It would help you practice your English too!
- One charity leaflet per month: I would ask you to refrain from putting these in my mail box but I certainly don't want to seem ungrateful for the food, running water, electricity and malaria-free country I live in. I mean children are dying every day in third world countries so the least I can do is read about them once a month. Plus, I wouldn't want the neighbours to think us spoiled and uncaring.
I reserve the right to change this list at any time, depending on my moods and tastes but I'm sure you're a busy POSTAL person so let's agree on changes once/month.
Kindly ring the bell anytime after 10am if you have any questions. I'm here to help!
Regards for a dry winter, SwedishJenn

PS. Did I mention you can get the IKEA catalogue AT the IKEA store?
Image credit: IKEA