September 28th, 2014

Kindergarten woes

Poor Brynja is having a rough time adjusting to the kindergarten life. After her three very successful years at pre-school, we didn’t anticipate her having many difficulties with the new school, and indeed, she had been looking forward excitedly to the new milieu for a good many months before she started at “the big school” a little more than a month ago. Change is always hard, of course, but after just a couple of weeks we realized that what she was facing was more than the normal growing pains.

The crux of the problem, I think, is a serious personality conflict between her and her teacher. Readers who know our girl are already aware that she has no little amount of stubbornness in her, and I’ll be the first to admit that it takes a special sort of finesse sometimes to get her to go along with things. Her teacher, for whatever reason, is either unable or unwilling (or perhaps some combination of these) to employ that finesse, and the result has been an unhappy and uneasy six-year-old.

According to the prevailing system here in Sweden–which I normally think is a good one–she’ll have the same teacher for three years, which means that this isn’t just something to be got through for a short time. Two or three weeks ago we approached with the principal the idea of moving Brynja to a different classroom with a teacher we’re familiar with and are confident would be a much better fit, but so far we’ve been met with resistance. I talked with the teacher early last week and we traded some ideas about how we might fix the situation, but I am not at all convinced that it can be fixed to all of our satisfaction.

Not getting the answers I wanted, I turned things over to Olof, who has arranged to meet with the teacher face-to-face this coming week. I expect he’ll be more successful than I’ve been, being both a native Swede and a man. (I hate that the world works this way, but I can’t deny that it does.) Further, that stubborn streak in Brynja comes directly from him, and I’ve yet to meet the person who’s managed to sway him once he’s got his back up about something. Here’s hoping, then, that once he’s got to work here, Brynja’s days in that classroom will be numbered.

Served up by Beverly at 10:52 pm 4 Comments »

September 21st, 2014

Higher education

It’s been a while, I know. This past week has been very busy for me, in a good way, and I haven’t had much time to sit an organize my thoughts into a coherent post.

I had thought that when school started up this fall I’d be much less busy than I’d been for the past two years, but happily it hasn’t turned out that way. I have to give a big shout-out to the Research Node in Early Modern Cultural History at Uppsala University, which takes a genuine interest in finding and creating opportunities for us members, even when we’re “between projects”, as I am now. Last week I spent a few days in England as a representative of the node at a conference concerning travel and the country house, and next month I’ll be working in Stockholm as a host for a conference titled “Visualising Difference: Objects, Space and Practice in Early Modern Europe”. These conferences are helping me keep my head in the game, so to speak, and the occasions to network and encounter new ideas are invaluable. Neither of these opportunities would have come my way without the engagement of the node and its research director, and I am very grateful not to have been cast unceremoniously into the wind after my thesis was defended.

It’s been especially good for me to get my thinking cap on now, as it’s time to apply for Ph.D. positions. The two I’m looking at now are in Uppsala and Stockholm. The competition is going to be stiff — off the top of my head I can think of at least six or seven other people who will submit strong applications, and there will surely will be applicants I don’t know as well — but I’m trying not to discourage myself. I’ve been working on my proposal (for now mostly in my head), and I feel confident that I’ll have a solid research plan to send in with my application next month. Still, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t daunted. My classmates and I had hoped that there would be more positions available than just the one at each university (these aren’t the only positions in Sweden, of course, but I’m rather limited when it comes to travel and relocation), but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. In any case, I remain cautiously optimistic, but it’s going to be a long three months until December when the offers are made.

Served up by Beverly at 10:11 pm 2 Comments »

September 10th, 2014

(Social) Media Frenzy

Anybody who knows my husband will not be surprised to read that he harbors strong feelings concerning matters technological. He’s fervent in his anti-copyright stance, fully committed to open-source programming, and a proud member of Sweden’s Pirate Party. Our home is a no-Microsoft, no-Apple zone (apart from Lydia’s personal devices–a parent’s convictions hold minimal sway over an adolescent’s eagerness to follow the herd). Our computers are Linux machines on which our kids play Minetest rather than Minecraft and, apart from two ill-fated ventures to the darkside of Sony Ericsson, our mobile phones have always been Nokias.

I have loved my Nokia phones, particularly the 808 Pureview that I bought at its release two years ago and recently replaced with a new one of the same model. The camera is every bit as amazing as the ads claimed, and it’s a good performer all the way around. A couple of months ago, however, I found myself increasingly annoyed by the fact that, being neither an iPhone nor an Android, my beloved 808 does not allow me access to the wonders of Instagram and the like. I can be something of a herd animal myself, and I hated missing out on the mainstream delights of social media on the go.

In July, unable to bear the exclusion any longer, I gave in to peer pressure and bought a cheap Samsung Android. My Nokia is still my main phone, from which I do all my calling and texting, as well as the bulk of my picture-taking, but the Samsung lets me participate to a much larger degree on Instagram (we do have a USB-Android stick that I could use from my desktop, but that, of course, took the “insta” right out of Instagram). It also gives me good access to Facebook and Twitter when I’m not at home, and I’ve even been known to send a snap now and then to my two Snapchat friends.

So, all things considered, I’m satisfied with my foray into tech-conformity, even if my husband finds it a little ridiculous. If forced to choose only one of the phones, I’d stick with the Nokia–no question–but it’s nice to have more options now. Feel free, if you’d like, to follow me wherever you can find me (I’m beverlyrevelry everywhere), and I’ll be happy to return the favor. When playing conformist, after all, one can never have too many fellow travelers.

Served up by Beverly at 10:28 pm 4 Comments »

September 7th, 2014

Big eyes

Brynja took this picture of Yrsa this afternoon. I love everything about it, even Yrsa’s dirty face.

Yrsa

Served up by Beverly at 10:29 pm 1 Comment »

September 5th, 2014

If ya got it, flaunt it

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):

Curly girl!

Curly girl!

Curly girl!

Served up by Beverly at 10:23 am 3 Comments »

August 31st, 2014

New digs

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.

New flooring

Served up by Beverly at 09:42 pm 5 Comments »

August 26th, 2014

Kicked back

These have been a busy several days for all of us, but at least someone is getting the opportunity to relax.

Gwen

Served up by Beverly at 10:14 pm Comments Off

August 24th, 2014

School Daze

Back to school!

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.

Served up by Beverly at 12:44 am 4 Comments »

August 17th, 2014

Back to Life

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.

Served up by Beverly at 11:04 pm Comments Off

August 13th, 2014

Almost a teenager

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.

Tage and Onock

Tage and Onock

Served up by Beverly at 11:15 pm 3 Comments »