Thursday, 27 August 2009

Getting back to reality

Alice started nursery again last week. Emily started "in-schooling" this week. Discussing this with one of the teachers last week it was mentioned that it will soon be "back to reality" time for me - returning to work... Mixed feelings...

This is the process of familiarisation for the children, to get used to the new environment, people, routines and the parents disappearing. Each nursery has their own way of doing it - some taking 2-3 days and some taking 2-3 weeks.

Emily's nursery will take about 2 weeks (maybe slightly more or less, depending on progress.) The routine is a gradual introduction - we'll be there no more than 1 hour per day for the first week. Then it will gradually step up so that by the end of the second week Emily can hopefully be there the whole day.

Tuesday 25-08-09
Today was Emily's first day - just 30 minutes - enough for her to get a taste of things and for me to get the schedule for the next 2 weeks - the expected time it will take before she's there without me.

It was just her, some of the teachers and me for the first day. The other children and parents will be together from the second day.

It started very quietly - at first just sitting on my knee and didn't want to do anything.

My thoughts beforehand had been that it would be easier for Emily than it had been for Alice because she was already familiar with parts of nursery. But, of course, that's being familiar with Alice's parts of nursery - Emily is in a different department and so nearly everything is new.

It is familiar for me - being the department that Alice started in - called Tromben, meaning tornado - quite apt for the way the children can be... The other departments are Stormen (Storm), Orkanen (Hurricane) and Virvelvinden (Whirlwind) - Alice's current department -
again very fitting!

Emily was coaxed into life by a toy sheep and then a fish tank - empty as the fish hadn't arrived. After a while she got a bit more lively but still being a little subdued compared to her normal self - could have been tired (she slept for 2.5 hours after lunch.)

It was only as we were leaving (her saying "hej då" (bye) in a very sweet voice) that we saw another room full of plastic cutlery and plates that she dived in and wanted to play.

Pillow Case
On Monday Alice's pillow case (right) was returned - she hasn't used it in a long time at nursery
and now she's just started the final year. The pillow case is for their sleeping - something made by the parents usually with things that the children will relate to.

Alice was a big mumin fan when she was smaller, hence the design on the pillow case. I did a few practice drawings and this picture of mumin mamma was fairly straightforward - and it was popular.

Mumin is still on in the household now and again. Emily is picking up the theme tune - occasionally singing along to the "ma-mamma-ma, pa-pa-pappa...". Now mentioning mumin to Emily triggers the singing...

Now it will be time to make one for Emily. It's either going to be Upsy Daisy (or 'daisy' as Emily says) or Pippi Långstrump. Daisy is easier, so we'll see....

Wednesday 26-08-09
Second day and an hour for Emily. Five new children all together with 6 parents sat around a small table trying to be "passive" - boring to the kids, so that they get involved with the toys and teachers. We didn't succeed in being passive all of the time.

Emily wanted to sit with me quite a bit in the beginning - again everything new (children and parents) and this is to be expected.

This is the third time I've done the in-schooling but I don't think of myself as an expert. I'm preparing myself that this time will be different from the other times - children are unpredictable...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Summer of Swimming

A long holiday for all of us. Lots of travelling and lots of swimming - indoor pools, outdoor pools, in lakes, in a red sea and in a delta next to nudists!


Kolmarden Dolphin Show Sweden 2004Image via Wikipedia

Started the holiday here - a day out.

We usually fit in a couple of trips - just one so far - it's the wasp season now (August), so advisable to stay away.

This was where Alice enountered "large mice". Both Alice and Emily did some bathing.


SöderbysjönImage by elisabet.s via Flickr

We had a few days in Stockholm. These mainly focused around bathing - in lakes and swimming pools.

We cycled out to a lake to bathe with some ducks (in söderbysjön - right) - hadn't bathed there for a couple of years. Emily was a bit shy of the water whilst Alice was wanting to go further and further after flowers from water lillies. Must get her into swimming lessons soon!

Another popular trip was to Eriksdalsbadet and the water slides and indoor whirlpools. Water slides and sore feet -> tender.

Off to see the family in the UK. Alice had a few concerns about how advanced they were in the UK, here. It was here that a few English phrases started flowing.

A real hit for Alice for Temple Newsam - or really it's home farm. Whilst Alice and Emily have been to see animals before they've never been given a bag of food (grass pellets) to feed the sheep. So Alice was very popular with the sheep (whilst the food lasted) - and she loved it.

It was also here that Alice discovered hair flatteners - having flat hair for a day. Queue request next birthday!

This was Emily's first time on a plane - and it went fairly smoothly. Alice liked the sweets that we had with us for the plane!


Villa Villekulla / Villa Kunterbunt from the p...Image via Wikipedia

No rest from returning from the UK. Ferry to Gotland. We hired a
caravan by a favourite beach, Sandviken.

Lots of rain when we got there but we got a few days of warm sunshine.

We had two days in Kneippbyn - home to Pippi Longstocking's (Pippi Långstrump) house (right) - Villa Villekulla - and the connected waterland.

There was plenty of time in the pools and on the rides.

More Bathing.

HellasgårdenImage by Niklas Jakobsen via Flickr

We had a trip to Hellasgården (right) - a place where we could bathe in a kid-friendly spot with a little beach and still be surrounded by the wildlife.

But remember to respect the wildlife! I remember being there a few years ago and seeing a father show-off to his son - how to catch a crayfish. Well the crayfish caught him - the father jumping up out
of the water with a crayfish clasping to his index finger.

Emily loved the ducks - herself waddling after them - trying to catch them. The toy dinghy was launched for the first time - although Emily preferred sitting in it on dry land - or just dragging it around.

Alice was swimming well with her arm puffs - with some other girls. After a while they wanted to take their arm rings off. Then Alice tried the breast stroke - and sank like a stone. Got over-confident with the arm rings - time for swimming lessons!

Then it was off up to the stuga, here.

We were there for a few weeks and did quite a lot. As well as Alice engaging with the neighbours, there were quite a few other things happening.

There was the obligatory trip to the local baths - once Alice discovered it had a waterslide! Alice even learnt to doggy-paddle.

In Search of Cheese
We'd heard of a local place that made their own feta cheese and brie and they were open late in the evenings. So one evening off we went - it all sounded so easy - bu we were driving around the countryside for 2 hours - lots of small roads - before finding the place, here. Then it was closed - it was only open late on Wednesdays!

Monday. We had an outing to see an am-dram production of children's sagas, here, at the dead falls (döda fallet). One of the stars of the show (at least for us) was our pram!

Back to the cheese
Wednesday came. Off to try again. This time we got updated local instructions meaning that we got there in no time. Rotsjögård - no mobile reception here. They had a cafe and a boutique. However, as soon as we got out of the car Alice and Emily were off to see the goats.

In the cafe we were able to buy some very nice cakes but also some food pellets for the goats. Hurrah!

This was great news for Alice - she could feed the goats and show Emily how to do it.

After a coffee and cake I checked up on the goat feeding. Alice was very
popular with the goats. She was sharing the pellets with Emily so that she could join in.

However, Emily wasn't paying close attention to what Alice was doing and so she was stopping them in her mouth. That's when I jumped in....

We stocked-up on a few varieties of cheese before heading off.

To Paint a House
The stuga needed painting. A grey was chosen - it had sparkly bits in it making it resemble a form of nail varnish. All visitors were roped in to help paint. I did the least on the main house as I was making a more child-friendly track down to the water.

I painted the small building - it was whilst cleaning up the brushes afterwards that I managed to get covered in a lot of paintbrush water - with its nice glittery grey colour. I was the glitter man - or was it glimmer man?

Sea Bathing
The neighbours told us about a local cove by the sea with very good bathing for kids, Åvike.

A circular cove with very shallow water fed by two iron-rich streams. This gave the clear water a red tinge - surreal. So we could say we swam in the red sea. Alice was crazy about bathing, as usual, Emily less so.

We returned a couple of days later with sausages and bbq to have supper on the beach and a swim, Emily flavouring her sausages with sand!

We also went sea bathing at the Indalsälven delta.

This is a nature reservation near the airport and interestingly enough
has a nudist beach - is it ethical tohave a nudist beach under a flight path?

However, on the afternoon we were there no planes flew over and the sea was incredibly warm - must've been well over 24c.

It being a delta meant that we had to cross a couple of rope bridges to get there - great fun but no good for the sea legs!

The High Coast (Höga Kusten)
We visited the other stuga for a couple of nights. We were trying to time it with decent weather and didn't do too badly. This was back to basics time for Alice - no electricity and so no tv!

We took several dips in the the bay. Alice discovered a colony of small frogs. These were great to just "go off and visit" - we didn't forget to say goodbye to them before leaving.

On the way back we took a tourist route (southern high coast tourist route) - very picturesque.

Bönhamn rocksImage by Xesc via Flickr

Stopped off for lunch at an old fishing village, Bönhamn. But it seemed like it was shut!

Luckily we had sandwiches - so it was a picnic by the sea.

Alice had a dip in the sea - a bit cool! I bumped into a group of Spanish hippies looking for "water without gas" - but the place was shut...

Driving further south we stopped off at another nature reserve that contained a popular bathing spot, Rotsidan, unusual for its red rocks. No bathing there - we dipped our feet and the water was extremely cold. We managed to lose mum in the forest trail to the sea...

Beaver Search
There had been various sightings of our local beavers. Alice wanted to go out and see them. So the last night before returning to Stockholm we took the canoe out in search, here.

"Can we go home now?"
This was the recurring question for the last 10 days that we were away from home.

For Alice the novelty had worn off. Country life was boring. She wanted to be back in the big city - indoor swimming pools, waterslides and cable tv!

Every day that seemingly had another delay to our departure date or addition to the itinerary was another disappointment.

Heading Home
We overnighted by the lake and then returned to Stockholm, making a petrol stop at the

Dragon Gate, Älvkarleby, SwedenImage via Wikipedia

Dragon's Gate. A very unusual "motorway stop".

This is a Chinese-built, Chinese-run restaurant and museum.

We stopped there late so didn't see the museum - but it apparently has 200 life-size terracotta warriors. Not bad for a motorway stop!

Maybe next time we'll have a closer look...

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Monday, 24 August 2009

Beaver search

The last night at the stuga Alice and I went out to try and see the local beaver.

It was approaching 8pm - perfect time for beaver watching - sun is on the way down but still plenty of visibility, quiet on the water and this is idle for beavers - they can get out and do their thing without disturbance.

A fleece, life jacket, hat and binoculars for Alice - so she looked the part for an adventure. A hat and binoculars for me and we were ready. Just collect the oars and off to launch the canoe.

The canoe was parked on the hillside and so launch was fairly easy - just point downhill and let slowly into the water.

As it entered the water I noticed a bit of water coming in at the front. The canoe wasn't ideal for Alice and myself - slightly unruly and not easy to distribute the weight well - launching into a cross-wind didn't help. Hmm, maybe I should have put on a life jacket as well.

The Search
Alice "helped" with the paddling - which sometimes seemed like we were counter-acting each other. After 5-10 minutes paddling we were about 50 metres from the beaver's lodge. All stop.

Then we saw it - head out of the water, doing a breast stroke - or whatever the beaver-equivalent is. We paddled gently and drifted nearer to get a better look.

"Quiet" Observation
Time for binoculars. Alice's pair were by her feet under the seat. It wasn't easy for her to get them - being trussed-up like a turkey in her life jacket.

The combination of her trying to get the binoculars, rocking the canoe, us turning into a cross-wind, me trying to steady the canoe and stop us tipping over meant that the beaver was gone.

The whispering at the top of our voices probably didn't help either!

It had had enough of our laurel-n-hardy attempts at nature watching and swam off - probably to somewhere quieter! Alice saw it splash its tail as it went. Obviously in disgust!

We circled around and drifted further out but the beaver didn't reappear. Time to head home.

At least we got back dry!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

"There's your pram!"

A couple of weeks ago we had an outing to Döda Fallet (the dead falls) to see an outdoor performance of children's tales.

The performance (from a local am-dram group) included several classic tales as well as some new ones:

Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, The Three Little Pigs, The Boy and the Trolls, The Gruffalo (pictured), Gnällmåns and The Gruffalo's Child.

Döda fallet
The döda fallet is a site of natural wonder but also has an open-air theatre, with a unique feature in Sweden that we were to discover later....

It was about a 90 minute drive by some of the smaller roads in the area - rain and drizzle all the way - not boding well for an open-air performance. But, by the time we got there most of the rain had blown over and the sun was creeping out.

A bite to eat then off to find where to sit. We had Emily in a pram when we got to the seating platform. So we parked the pram next to the platform and then walked up the stairs to look for some seats - a lot of people were there.

Small World
Part way up we spotted Marlon, a nursery friend of Alice, up near the back. We made our way there - Alice now leading the way - surprised to meet him in the middle of "nowhere", 560km from their nursery!

We sat by Marlon (and his grandparents) and so they were both happy.

Scene Re-Arrangement
A few minutes before the start someone came along and moved the pram. From the base of the platform to behind a prop of a castle. Strange? Were they short of a prop for the tale????

Then we were off. The narrator came on and the performance started. Off to the first tale - literally! The whole seating platform revolved to the first stage scene. Yes, it was the only revolving auditorium in Sweden. That explained the pram being moved!

Marlon, like Alice, is a bit of a character.

The piece of stage scene didn't hide the pram completely (pictured) - or it had been moved so that the actors could move behind it. But now the pram was part of the performance.

Whenever we revolved to the scene where the pram was Marlon would shout out, "There's your pram!" Again and again.

At the interval we wondered about moving the pram, but no - it was now part of the scenery!

Journey Back
We took a different route for the journey back, driving along the Indalsälven - just like driving through the Alps!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Birthday preparations... T-minus 5 months!

After returning from Gotland Alice started her birthday preparartions. Only 5 months to go (at the time)!

She started telling us (in detail) about the preparations.

Alice is going to start making the invites for everyone - to be ready in time.

Presents are to be given to her in bed. She wants to be woken up by everyone singing "happy birthday". Then there is to be a single-file of people to give the presents. Mum and dad to organise crowd control.

Cake in bed.

The cards/tickets that Alice will make are to be presented to Mum & Dad. Mum & Dad will have buckets to collect all the tickets.

The attention to detail is great. We better get cracking with the preparations...

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

June-July Developments

Emily passed the 17 month mark a couple of weeks ago and it's a good time to look at what's new.

Her imitation skills have developed.

She has a witches cackle now - courtesy of Alice. I'm not sure where this laugh originated for Alice but Emily is now doing it.

She occasionally imitates other types of laugh and sources of exasperation (courtesy of big sister.)

Nappies. Recently when she's filled a nappy she has started taking them off. This leads to a couple of interesting situations - usually one parent holding her at arms length and shouting for help.

She is very good at putting the right shoe on each foot without help - but also has a very good knack of losing/hiding one of the shoes - so this skill can't always be demonstrated.

She can almost say Alice - although it sometimes sounds similar to "alla" or "lala".

"Bajs" & "All gone" are slipping into the vernacular. If she doesn't say "all gone" she usually just stands up in her chair with a "Come and get me, I've finished eating" look.

Nodding & Head-Shaking
Sometimes this is uncannily in-synch with the conversation - usually the right response to the question - "do you want some ...?", " do you want anymore?", "have you finished?" etc, etc.

Although the other day when I gave her a choice between two things to eat she nodded at both - but then sometimes she does have a good apetite!