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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

From Hunky Dorey to Montessori

After four weeks of summer school (where he was the only constant) and two weeks at home with Mom, the little man started his new dagis on Monday.

Boy what a difference from his first daycare experience. Background Break: The dude had a nanny for the first two and a half years of his life. Then we moved to Sweden and he started daycare at a school a 30-second walk from our front door. Convenient, yes! Then we found out the school was likely closing for a myriad of reasons, mainly financial and due to the fact that the school is housed in converted apartments not ideally suited to a daycare facility. The parents continue to battle on to keep it open and have made enough of a stink that the local media has picked up the story.

I decided I wasn't that thrilled with the school anyway so figuring we'd have to move schools, I started looking around and happened on a Montessori school. For those unfamiliar with Montessori education, in a nutshell, it's about empowering the individual child to reach his/her full potential by allowing them to be independent and building their self-esteem. Teachers don't "teach" in a Montessori environment, they guide, direct, observe and redirect. After receiving an in-depth hour-long orientation and hearing stories like, "Oh yes, the children make coffee for us." "They help teach the younger children" "They know how to multiply by the time they're ready for school", how could I say No?

For one, Montessori schools in North American are EXPENSIVE. Here, I pay the same low monthly cost of 1260 SEK for 35 hours/week, which is about 200 Canadian dollars!!! Ok, so I also have to clean the place twice a year. But hey, what's a few pee-stained potties in exchange for a super genius son? (slight exagerration on the genius expectation but not the cleaning toilets part). Anyway, I can job out the cleaning to some kid for 750 SEK.

I digress (as usual)

Anyway, today was Day #3. We won't go back to Day #2. That was the day my angelic son changed to devil spawn: saying "No" to every request made by the teacher, constantly running out into the hall screaming, refusing to listen. I was mortified. But that was Day #2 (which involved me sitting in the hall outside the classroom for an hour). Day #3 involved me dropping him off outside and leaving for almost 2 hours. He cried but apparently not for long (his teacher called me an hour later with a report). I think my mother-in-law was right. He was probably wondering on Days 1 & 2 where the heck all the kids were. The first two days, no kids, just him and the director, one-on-one.

As per strict instructions, I arrived on time and waited outside. His teacher, let's call her Anna, came out to brief me on the day's events. A play-by-play: He read a dinosaur book, he played with a dinosaur puzzle. He was consoled by another English-speaking boy when he cried after I left. He played with blocks. She must have spoken to me for a solid 10 minutes and THEN informed me that there would be up to 5 parent/teacher evenings where we'd meet with her to discuss his development. WTF?!

All this for the rock bottom price of $200/month? (yes I realize this all comes back to us in heavy taxes, but still). His last school, though the teachers were kind enough, they NEVER paid that much attention to us! In fact, they didn't pay much attention at all, as evidenced by a few incidents where I freaked out over blatantly inadequate supervision.

Digressing again...

My point is this: Cautiously optimistic about this opportunity for the little man. It's gonna be a huge change for him AND for me but we're up for the challenge. I just hope they are...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Food Fight!

"Start as you mean to go," said my wise Mommy. Well I certainly didn't when it came to eating habits for the toddler. Mealtimes have traditionally been an argument with tears (on both sides), some failed attempts at force feeding and utensil hurling.

Who's to blame? Well me naturally. The little man is typically a wonderful, all-around pleasant little fella, except when it comes to mealtimes. Then we both turn into pro Wrestlers. He holds the title and I have yet to out manoever him.

His diet consists of meatballs (can you tell we live in Sweden?), pasta, cookies, juice, chocolate and well, anything but healthy stuff. Except of course when he's at dagis, where juice is non-existant and the only sweets come in the form of apples, bananas and the like. But he has been known to skip mealtimes there too when he's not fussy about what's on the daily menu.

So what to do? I've tried to make fruit fun, have resorted to covering said fruit in chocolate sauce and have even tried holding off on anything BUT the healthy choices. It's a losing battle. He digs his heels in and I eventually relent for fear he'll starve (even though everyone assures me he won't). In a country where you can find wee ones snacking on everything from oranges to avocadoes and potatoes, I have had my fair share of dirty looks and "friendly advice" on my bad parenting.

I can trace back to the early mistakes and rap myself on the knuckles but this can't go on. I need help fellow mommy bloggers. I want my kid to be like those adorable little babes in the blog...the ones who eat hummus and nuts and homemade yogurt. All suggestions welcome as I try to convert my junk food junkie into a health food nut.