September 7th, 2014
Brynja took this picture of Yrsa this afternoon. I love everything about it, even Yrsa’s dirty face.
September 5th, 2014
Like all of my daughters, I had a head full of curls when I was small. Also like them, once past those early years my hair was straight as a pin. From the time I was probably three or four until I was twelve, I never had more than the very ends trimmed off, so when in seventh grade I came home from my first trip to the beauty salon with a shoulder-length mass of frizzy, decidedly un-straight tresses, I was forced to reconsider pretty much everything I thought I knew about my hair.
In the years since that first fateful cut, my hair’s refusal to lie flat has been alternately a source of pride and wonder and the bane of my existence. I think I would have been happy enough with either truly straight or truly curly hair, but what I was left to deal with was stuck in some ill-defined middle ground — less than curly, more than wavy, and anything but tidy. In my adolescence and through most of my adulthood I straightened my hair by various means neither kind nor especially successful, and the vast majority of days I pulled it back in a ponytail or bun, mostly just to avoid dealing with it.
Some years ago I first heard about the “curly girl method”, and though I was intrigued, I couldn’t be bothered to devote so much time and energy to something that I figured probably wouldn’t work anyway. Plus, the idea of tossing out my shampoo and washing my hair with only conditioner just grossed me right out. Even after shampooing, I seldom used conditioner as it left my hair feeling weighed down and just this side of greasy, so I figured exclusively using conditioner would be a recipe for disaster. Also, I was put off by the nickname “no-poo” for shampoo-free cleansing; I hate cutesy shit like that.
But, but. For whatever reason, earlier this summer I was struck again by the idea of trying to make the most of my curls so I started checking out the web for ideas. The before-and-after pictures of women who’d embraced the curly-girl way of life were enough to make me decide to give it a go. And since it was summer and I didn’t have much in the way of social engagements, I reckoned that any disastrous results could be easily enough concealed from the public, so I did my last shampoo wash the last week of July and embarked on what I hoped wasn’t a fool’s errand.
The first order of business was to examine the labels on all my hair-care products and throw out anything that contained sulfates and/or silicones, find an “approved” conditioner, and dig out a micro-fiber towel (terrycloth is the kryptonite of curly hair, apparently). In the past six weeks or so, I’ve progressed to ever more advanced tricks including, but not limited to, slathering my hair in aloe vera “sunburn” gel, sleeping with my hair in a ridiculous topknot-type ponytail, and resting my head on nothing but a pure silk pillowcase. And you know what? It totally works. It works so much that more than one person has wondered recently if I’d got a perm, only to react with near disbelief when assured that all this curl is my very own.
And now I leave it to you, dear readers, to be amazed (because, believe me, my poor husband is plenty tired of marveling at my hair):
August 31st, 2014
This last winter Tage decided he wanted to move from his upstairs bedroom into the small room downstairs that had previously been our guest room. This left a free room and before long Lydia made up her mind to move into Tage’s old room (which, incidentally, was also her own old room some ten years ago). Before she could settle in, however, she insisted on a total room makeover. Generously financed by my mom, she chose new paint, wallpaper, and flooring, and after a couple of months we’ve finally got the space transformed.
Yesterday Olof and I spent most of the day putting in the flooring (it must be said that I am being extremely generous to myself in claiming credit; at most I did twenty percent of the work), and after seeing it last night, the girl declared herself quite pleased. I’m pretty pleased as well, but not as pleased as I’m sure Olof is, if for no other reason than that it should be a good long time before he has to spend another day devoted to home decor.
August 26th, 2014
These have been a busy several days for all of us, but at least someone is getting the opportunity to relax.
August 24th, 2014
Appearance aside, they all had a very good first day back at school. In fact, the reason they all look impatient-slash-irritated is that they were so eager to be off and were not gladly suffering my insistence that they stop and pose for a picture. Really.
Yrsa had no trouble at all being at pre-school on her own. As soon as she was in the door she flung off her shoes and jacket, barely taking time to toss a perfunctory, “Bye, Mom” in my direction as she ran in to join the other kids. When I picked her up later in the day, she was in the same good cheer and the teachers said she hadn’t been at all bothered by not having Brynja there.
As for Brynja, I stayed with her at school for the first hour or so (that’s the norm here — some parents stay all day). She joined in circle time and introduced herself when prompted and had no problem following directions. I think I worry more about her Swedish than I probably should; it’s really only her spoken Swedish that’s a bit behind and she’s understood the language fine for years. When we went outside for the first recess she was a little uncertain about what to do, but once I secured a vacant swing for her she said it was okay for me to go home. After school she could hardly stop talking about her day, telling me, “School was really fun!”
Petra and Tage reported that their days went well also, and their transitions to higher grades seem to have gone off with nary a hitch. Petra was especially excited about starting wood shop this year, and Tage was pleased to learn that he’d gotten Spanish as his language choice. French had been at the top of the list, but apparently there were too few students interested for the school to offer it, so he got his second choice. I don’t think he had a strong preference for either language over the other, but he was relieved not to have gotten German. I’m not sure what his objection there was, but I don’t mind because my French and Spanish, minimal though they might be, are miles ahead of my all-but-non-existent German skills, so I’ll be able to be of some help to him there.
Lydia had a good week, too, but she’s not nearly as forthcoming with details as her younger siblings are. So far, though, the new school/program seems like a much better fit than where she’d been for the previous two years. She’s already made a new friend or two, and she’s pleased with the lunches (which will continue to be free until she’s 20, thank goodness. I’d been a bit worried about that at the new school, as 65 crowns — 10 bucks — is a pretty steep price tag for a daily lunch).
Otherwise, not much to report of the week that was. That feels like a very good thing.
August 17th, 2014
All of a sudden, it seems, summer is over and it’s time for all of us to get back to reality. My mom left yesterday morning to go back home to Texas, and tomorrow morning at 6:30 Olof will leave on a jet plane for a two-day work trip to Stockholm. A couple of hours later I’ll drive Lydia to town for her first day at her new school, then in the evening I’ll be attending a parents’ meeting for Tage, who’s going into junior high this year. Tuesday is the day that all of the rest of the kids go back to school, and all of them will have new and different things to experience.
Yrsa’s going to the same pre-school, but unlike her first year there, she wont have her big sister, Brynja, there with her. For her part, Brynja is starting kindergarten, something she’s been looking forward to impatiently since she turned six back in February. Petra’s going into third grade, and she’ll have a new lead teacher after having had the same teacher since kindergarten, and Tage, of course, will have a slew of new teachers, not to mention new classrooms, as he begins sixth grade.
My own plans for continuing education are still uncertain, as Ph.D. openings won’t be announced until next month and then there’s the whole application process to get through. All isn’t completely quiet on that front, however, as in mid-September I’ll be joining a few others from Uppsala University in attending a conference entitled “Travel and the Country House” at the University of Northampton in England. A number of papers are being presented, and I’ll be choosing six to sit in on. Not only am I sure to learn new things, it will also be a great opportunity for networking.
Mixed in with all of that, Petra’s soccer continues strong, with a whole lot of games scheduled for the next couple of weeks, and Tage’s violin lessons will start up again soon as well. Brynja may or may not also start an after-school gym program this fall but, honestly, I’ll have to see how ragged I’m run by the rest of our goings-on before I commit to that. I think we’ll all need at least one day a week when none of us is scheduled for anything.
August 13th, 2014
It’s my boy’s twelfth birthday today. That completely does my head in and makes me a little sad, I confess. Before he was born I thought I wanted only daughters, but Tage single-handedly made me appreciate the wonder and beauty of little boys. He’s still a great kid and, in fact, he gets greater all the time, but I can’t help being wistful sometimes for the little boy he was.
August 7th, 2014
It’s hard to believe that the summer is winding down but I have to say that, for once, I won’t be too sorry to see it go. These past few weeks have been nothing but hot and dry and hot. Unlike most of the rest of the country, our little town has been curiously free from rain and thunderstorms. Frequent forecasts of precipitation have rarely come to fruition, and our brown, patchy lawn is testament to the lack of water. We did finally get some rain this evening, but it didn’t last longer than several minutes and didn’t even fully wet down the porch. I hear that it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, but I’m not believing it until I see it.
Making the prolonged heat even less bearable is the fact that our car’s air conditioning went out three or four weeks ago and, though it’s something we seldom need up where we live, when we do need it, we NEED it. We had it in to the mechanic’s shop earlier this week and the problem was diagnosed as some sort of magnet doohickey having bit the dust. We’re waiting to hear back about how much the replacement part will cost, but at this point I’d be willing to pay almost anything to get it back in order. There is a temptation just to leave it be, as summer is on its wane, but we’d just find ourselves in the same boat next summer and that thought hardly bears thinking.
August 3rd, 2014
We got home yesterday afternoon after an action-packed three days in Byske. The trip started out rather dramatically when Petra ran head-first into the frame of an open window at the next-door cabin and cut her head open less than an hour after we arrived. As head wounds are wont to do, the cut bled profusely and it took my mom and me several anxious minutes to determine where the blood was coming from, as she was positively covered in red. At that point Olof was still a couple of hours from arriving and I feared I was going to have to call him with instructions to meet me at the hospital instead of at the cabin, but after we got the blood slowed down to a manageable level, I could see that the cut was just a a little divot no more than a centimeter long. My mom and Tage hurried over to the little store to buy acetaminophen while I bandaged the cut, and after we dosed her up and she rested on the couch for about an hour, she was as right as rain.
Luckily, the rest of our stay involved mostly action that was on the funner side of things, and Petra didn’t have to miss out on anything due to her injury. The kids partook of nearly all the activities the campground has to offer, swimming and driving pedal cars and playing mini-golf and spending most of their savings on various gewgaws. Yrsa, being used to swimming in an indoor pool, wasn’t having any of the outdoor pool where the other kids spent much of their time, but she was plenty content just to run around and entertain herself while my mom and I sat poolside. We stayed away from the beach this time, probably mostly due to the fact that shade was much easier to come by near the pool. My arms are still a little tender from a nasty sun rash I got a couple of weeks ago, and even with SPF 50 slathered on my arms I didn’t want to risk much sitting in the direct sun. Given that we have two nice beaches here at home, as well as an indoor pool, the outdoor pool was more exotic for the kids anyway, and though they went down to the beach to play some, they weren’t especially interested in swimming there.
Olof was able to work from Byske on Thursday and Friday, so he didn’t have to make the trek to Skellefteå after all, meaning that he was able to sleep a little later both mornings and was on hand to help out with the kids some as well. Though the kids had all been excitedly planning camping out in the tent, Tage was the only one of them who slept there all three nights. The three girls all joined Mom and me in the cabin the second night, with Brynja returning to the tent with the guys for the final sleep. All in all, it was another successful trip, especially because the weather was much nicer this year than last, with the sun and heat broken up rather pleasantly by occasional thunder and rainstorms.
July 30th, 2014
Readers outside of Sweden may not be aware, but last week we were subject to a heatwave of the likes that nobody within the country could have failed to notice. The national weather service issued its first ever warning for extreme temperatures, and here up north we were under a class 2 warning, meaning that the daytime temperature was expected to meet or exceed 30°C/86°F for at least five days in a row. That may not seem too high a temp to many of you, and indeed it would not have seemed especially high to me not so many years ago, but it gives some perspective to note that the highest recorded temperature in Sweden is 38°C/100°F, reached some fifty years ago. Not only that, but we go through plenty of summers without having one day that reaches 30°, let alone five of them in a row.
Those days of extreme temperatures appear to be past now, but the memory of the exhausting, sweat-soaked days and nights will linger for a while longer. The weather is much more reasonable now, and it’s a good thing because we’re loading up with car with all the kids, save Lydia, to head up to Byske for three days of beach camping. We’ve rented a little cabin for my mom and me, but Olof and the four kids will be “roughing it” in a big six-person tent. That tent has been the focus of much longing and planning for weeks and weeks now, and the kids are beside themselves that it’s actually going to happen tomorrow. Poor Olof isn’t on vacation anymore, so not only will he be sleeping in a tent, he’ll be getting up early and commuting back to Skellefteå on Thursday and Friday to put in a full day’s work. Me, I’ll be trying to get as much sleep as possible during those precious hours that I’m (sort of) kid-free.