Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mom knows best?? WHO knows best??

I have a strange fear that one of my girls, one day, will show signs of being autistic.  This isn't an all-consuming fear, just a small neurosis, which, from time to time, when one of the girls bobs their head one too many times, or sways back and forth for an extended period of time (with or without music), I find myself, at the computer, googling symptoms of autism.  I don't know why, and I know I'd love either one of them just as I do now, but perhaps it's one of the more unimaginable diseases to cope with as a parent.  In any case, I was recently googling some strange head jiggling Poppy was doing, and found the following in a slew of advice for parents of autistic kids:
Parents are usually good at observing, describing and understanding their children. Parents also, of course, need to advocate for their children in school and elsewhere. But even mothers don't always know what will work for their child and often a teacher or therapist will discover a talent, need, ability or challenge that surprises you. In short, maternal instinct is wonderful, but it has its limits. And by insisting that you always know what your child needs, you may limit the options available to him or her.
There are so many websites for parents of "normal" children advocating, the very opposite, that 'the parent knows best', but then, to read the above??...
ACTUALLY??  I think more websites should pass on the above advice to parents.  I'm very tired of hearing that 'only mom knows best' or 'only the parents can decide what is right for their children'.  Why is it that parenting is a job where instincts rule, formal education, training or licensing is not required (even frowned upon) and criticism, input and advice from others can seem intrusive and offensive?  Can you imagine any other job you've held where the above criteria or attitude was OK?  No, you can't, because no one assumes in formal employment, that you  are perfect or were just 'born to do it' (except, maybe, Doogie Howser - but even he had a supervisor)...there is always learning to be done, advice to be taken, mistakes to be made and criticism to be heard.  I have, personally, felt several times since becoming a parent that I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I'M DOING.  During these periods, I do not assume that some 'killer instinct' will kick in and magically I will acquire all the advice and knowledge of every parenting expert, book author or pediatrician out there - no, these are the times where I google, I read, I listen, I spend countless hours poring over parenting advice from experts, friends and family - and not just the ones that share my beliefs...because, really, what gives me the right to barricade my children off from the world and opinions I may not share?  "A person's a person no matter how little" (Dr Seuss), and the last time I checked, you can't own a human being.  So, since I don't own them, yet have great influence over them, I, therefore, have a great responsibility to them.       
"And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.  And he said:  your children are not your children.  They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.  they come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you."  Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.   
Now, I realize that the above is a tad ideological; that my kids will, likely, have many, many traits that Mayu and I have inadvertently passed on through subtle brainwashing, but I'd like to think, that it is my responsibility to bring all sides of the coin into our house, attempt to humble myself, and listen, even try some of those 'expert opinions' on for size.  I want my kids to do well, not just in this family, but in society.  I want them to be better than me.  To perform better, sleep better, be more adventurous eaters (I like nearly everything, but eyeballs, toes, brains and some organs still test my limits) and be happier than me.  I want all things for them, many of which I do not, I remind myself that,  "The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you'll go" again, Dr Seuss. 
Until next time,
Grumpy Old Sarah
"You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself, any direction you choose."  Dr Seuss (WHAT A GUY!)   

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dumb Luck

Currently, Mayu earns the monies & I do the book keeping.  This is a major problem for a couple of reasons:  (1).  I'm terrible at budgeting; I don't know the first thing about it; I can't keep track of my receipts, nor do I know, really, how much money our household spends & (2).  I'm an impulsive, online shopaholic, so when I sit down at the computer, go online to to pay bills, I also open a tab (or two) to one of my favourite online stores - currently one of the following:  brandos, ikea or bygghemma.  But since Mayu works fulltime, and I'm home with the girls, we agreed that I would take on all duties involved with the "house" (plus, Mayu's a far more extravagant impulsive shopper than I am!)   Together, financially, we're a mess.  But the thing is???, we never, really, suffer any consequences (financial ones, that is).  The only thing I can chalk it up to, is dumb luck - the key word being dumb. 
Let me explain.
I took out some MAJOR student loans for my undergrad.  Since, when we left Canada, Mayu was being deported, we always figured we'd apply for the necessary visas and return.  At the time of deportation, we changed our permanent billing address to my mom's.  So 3 countries later, 4 apartments and a few hostels, we ended up here, in Sweden, and bought the place we live in now.  I recently acknowledged the unlikelihood of, ever, returning to Canada to live, and contacted the appropriate lenders (the Canadian Government) to give them my new permanent address in Sweden.  The conversation went a little like this:
Loan shark:  Since you are living outside of Canada & the United States, you will have to pay your student loans in full, today.
Me:  Ummmm, $30,000?
Loan shark:  Let me just check...ummmm....actually, $32,463.
Me:  That's ridiculous, I can't do that.  Why can't I keep on making my monthly payments?
Loan shark:  Because our current system cannot make these arrangements.
Me:  What do you mean, 'make these arrangements' - I would just keep on paying as I do, from my Canadian bank account, I don't understand.
Loan shark:  That's just how it is.  Also, if you cannot pay in full, current foreign law prevents us from taking any measures to collect this money. 
Me:  So, if I can't pay today, I don't have to pay ever?  This all seems pretty dumb, no?
Loan shark:  Correct.  And I must apologize now, as I will have to call you at this number a few more times.
Me:  That's ok.  Ok, thank you and have a nice day.
Loan shark:  You too.  Bye.
SERIOUSLY?  and folks, I am not kidding.  Now, I understand, getting deported and moving continents to dodge student loans might be extreme, but at least you know it's an option!  lol!    
We faced another dumb collection as a consequence of Mayu's deportation.  We owed money to a telecommunications company in Canada for mobiles which we could not use anymore because we were leaving the country.  We called to cancel our contract, but they wouldn't let us out of our 5 year contract (with 4 years remaining) - despite Mayu's deportation - and they wanted us to pay for the mobiles in full!  I told them no, that was ridiculous and that I would return the mobiles, and pay our bill up to that date.  Well, they wouldn't budge on the matter, so we just didn't pay them, period.  I think we might have, even, smashed our phones in the Toronto airport as a big f-you to the company (dumb, I know).  A year later, the telecommunications company was bought by an American company, and our names were taken off their 'customer list'  - we never heard from them again! 
Now, don't get me wrong, Mayu & I are by no means, unconscientious borrowers, nor do we test this so called dumb-luck theory - but because we're so shitty at budgeting and spending, and our lives keep taking us on unexpected journeys, we just keep happening upon this dumb luck (knock on wood!).    
Now, before you wish this dumb luck on yourself, please realize, there are consequences, maybe not financial, but other.
Case in point, this morning:  We have stocks that vest every year, for the next 5 years, and I thought a bunch were vesting this month.  It's terrible when they do - it's about 8000kr or $1000 we're out that month, and because Mayu and I are so shitty at budgeting, we usually only manage to save about half that in preparation.  So, I was bracing myself for a bad month, when Mayu tells me today that he's getting paid MORE this month - what? why?  talk about DUMB luck - because he didn't take all his vacation time from last year!  Had I not completed a Masters in June, had we not had a second baby June 20 (with a 15 month old toddler at home), renovated a kitchen (including tearing down walls and laying new floors!) and taken a 1 month holiday over Christmas, I could POSSIBLY understand Mayu having vacation time 'left-over', but, with all the chaos that happened last year, he definitely should have taken ever millisecond of vacation time owed to him.  So, although, without planning, this month will be a good one, do not believe for a second that we will not suffer the consequences:  stress-related heart attacks by the ripe old age of 35 - cause of death?  dumb luck.

Until next time,

Grumpy Old Sarah

'Only fill the kettle with the water you need' - if everyone in the UK did this, they would have enough electricity to power all the street lights in the country.  cool right?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Countdown it on…

I began the ultimate test of a mom of two on Tuesday – Mayu’s gone away, for work, to California for a week, well, in truth?   5 days, or rather, 4 sleeps.  For all of you parents who have done it alone for a night, or two, or three, or several, or God-forbid, are single parenting, you are ridiculous (and I mean this with great admiration)!  I take my hat off to you, HELL, our whole damn family is taking off ALL our hats!! 
06:15 – Mayu and I enjoyed our last cup of coffee together, in peace and quiet, as the girls were still sleeping – he was out the door by 06:45, anxious, sad, it was horrible – we embraced as if he was going off to war (although, we all know who was really left in the trenches!)
07:30 – Olive yells out “MAMA!” and Poppy sweetly coos…my coffee was done and I was feeling good and rested, I went, got the girls…diapers, breakfast, a quick play, clothes on, out the door…
09:00 – dropped Olive at school (she’s overjoyed, ‘bye-bye Mama, bye-bye Poppy’)
09:15 – Poppy was popped in her cot for nap #1, I began to install a kitchen backsplash (a surprise for Mayu that I’ve been planning for some's no easy feat to hide 30kg of adhesive and grout in an 89sqm place!)
10:15 – Poppy’s up, sweetly cooing away in her cot, I went, got her up, diapers, play, lunch...
12:00 – Poppy’s back in her cot for nap #2, I finish adhering the backsplash
14:30 – Poppy & I arrive to pick up Olive, she was happy to come home, we played the day away, ate, hung out, and I had both girls into their beds by 18:45
I put my feet up, have a glass (or two) of wine, admire my handy-work in the kitchen and have a chat with my sister
22:00 – good night
I KNOW, I KNOW, you're thinking, "Wtf Sarah, you want us to continue reading an hourly account of your mundane life over the next 3 days?"...I wish, keep reading...
Plays out nearly exactly the same as Tuesday - minus the farewell to Mayu and I didn’t work as hard on the backsplash, cleaned up the tiles and set up my work station to begin the job of grouting the next day.  We also spent the afternoon and had dinner with our friends Anna, Clint, Mona & Hugo.  Olive was terrible company, whinging all afternoon – I chalked it up to being a toddler who had a shitty nap.
 Again, both girls in their beds by 18:45, I with my feet up by 19:00, wine in hand and 2 newly downloaded Gossip Girl episodes!  In bed by 21:00.
WELL, just when I thought the next 3 days would be a breeze, and life would carry on as it was…
23:00 – I hear Olive, FREAKING out, coughing, spastic, I go in, she’s a mess.  I didn’t want her to wake Poppy, so I brought her into bed and WHAT A MFNIGHT!  I am not shitting you – I have NEVER had such a night.  Not when the girls were brand-spanking new and were super annoying, not through one of their sicknesses; NEVER have I had one of the girls up for such a time!  Olive cried and coughed all night.  A couple times, she coughed so hard, she puked, and another time, her coughing fit was so bad, I wondered how the fuck I’d get to the hospital with both girls in tow.  Olive woke Poppy a couple times, then Poppy went crazy and by 03:00, she, herself, had a cough.  Oh man! 
Sometime after 03:00, both girls managed to suppress their coughs and we all got a little shut eye, but like clockwork, were all at the breakfast table by 07:30.  COFFEE!  OMG, I forgot to get cat food...
We were at the doctors by 10:00, filled a prescription by 11:00, and picked up cat food and lunch and were all in bed for naps by 12:00.  The afternoon was very sad – both girls were super tired and clingy and we all just laid on the couch for the afternoon watching a mix of Despicable Me, Project Runway and AFVs.
So here it is folks, I’m halfway there – I pray tonight will be easier, and with that I’m off to get some sleep.  I’m disappointed that my tiles won’t be grouted to surprise Mayu with, however, at this rate, I’ll be lucky to surprise him with 3 humans:  alive, and 2 cats:  alive.  But seriously, if you never hear from me again, I have failed this test, and my cats are eating my carcass (don’t worry, Olive has carried Poppy to safety and is telling the neighbours what an ordeal the past 2 days have been without her dad around)…
Until next time, IF there is a next time,
Grumpy Old Sarah.
"In the 16th century, melancholia was the elective illness of the exceptional man, of he who had nothing above him.  During the Romantic period, it stood at the crossroads of creative genius and madness.  Today, it is the situation of every individual in Western society." 
Alain Ehrenberg, The Weariness of the Self    
And remember folks, shop locally.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentines and all that...

Hello all!  Well, I'm sorry for dropping of the earth, it's not for a lack of material, but rather, I've been experiencing some technical difficulties over here.  As per usual, my phone is dead and lost, Mayu won't let me touch his precious Iphone (probably because of witnessing the treatment of my own phone) and we left our camera in Canada on our last visit.  I needed some photos taken for an entry I had written, titled "shit my kids have eaten",  and Mayu had agreed to take the photos, for me, with his precious Iphone, but then before he got a chance, went away for work for the week!  So, here we the wake of Valentine's Day. 
My sister works at a really busy restaurant in Toronto, Kalendar, (as they don't take reservations, it's not unusual, on the weekends, to wait for over an hour for a table).  Since she works as a hostess, she has to deal with fuming people, pacing the front, waiting (im)patiently for a table and sometimes being, well, total dick-heads.  She told me that she worked Valentine's, and I asked her (assuming so), if it was a total nightmare - and she said, 'no, not at all'.  All 'tables for two', every couple ordered a glass of wine, entree, dessert and, then, left shortly after paying the bill.  The turnover was quick, and the couples kept coming.  No couples lingered over wine or conversation, everyone, dutifully, ate and left.  Weird, right?  Well, perhaps not. 
Mayu and I, sadly, forgot the day, until I asked him what the date was, while I examined a carton of sour milk I was thinking of giving Olive.  When it dawned on us, of course, we hugged, kissed, said, "no gifts" and then made plans to have some wine and hang out in the evening (but this is every evening for us - we put the kids down at 7, grab a glass of wine, and lay together, in the aftermath of the day, on the couch).  Lame?  perhaps, but great.  Don't get me wrong!  We make a point of getting a sitter once a month and going out for dinner or beers, and of course, would love to do it more often.  But really?, we're just too tired to do it more often!  Once, we found ourselves out on a "date", in a pub, and we were too tired to carry on a conversation, instead we just sat side by side watching 'Swedish Idol' (which we could have just as easily done at home).  But this is it, when life, jobs, kids, ALL OF IT, gets in the's tough.  So we figure, if you keep on making time, ALL THE TIME, not just on one day of the year, you'll end up with something a bit better in the end.  In fact, I asked an accountant friend some budgeting advice (hoping to get some material for an upcoming entry), and she said, well, get a sitter once a month and go out on a date!  lol!  Thanks Claire, but I'm afraid that's the opposite of what I was looking for...albeit, far better advice than 'save for a rainy day' or some load like that.      
So, for all of you who know what I'm talking about, this one's for you - hope you had a great day loving the one you're with, or grocery shopping.
Until next time,
Grumpy Old Sarah
And to prove I AM a romantic, not a cynic, here's one of my favorite fun facts:  In Paul and Linda McCartney's entire marriage, they only spent one week apart - cool.  
Oh, and don't forget to give blood and register yourself as an organ donor!               

Thursday, February 3, 2011

don't expect to raise your cauliflower up and receive rubies!

My husband kindly shot me over an article on a reverse ruling on usage-based Internet billing in Canada, after telling him of the original bull-shit imposition by the CRTC.
Thank you for that Mayu!  He knows that I'm fuelled by small feats against The Man, and that a win, for what is right and just, totally makes my day!  "Those who are right are the rebels, not the snitches and those who bow down".  I have one small complaint, however, from the above article that spoiled by's the part where Industry Minister, Tony Clement, is quoted saying "This is a bread-and-butter issue".  I detest this kind of talk (just about as much I detest the word detest)...
...barking up the wrong tree, smooth sailing, man up, through the barrel of a gun, this ain't my first rodeo son, no dog ever peed on a moving car, that dog don't hunt, don't expect to raise your cauliflower up and receive rubies, a baby crying is a duck whingeing in space, when your mamma gives you some spinach be sure to turn to the cactus...
Ok, so the last three are mine...but you know what I'm talking about:  nonsensical idioms or sayings and the likes of, what I call, Doctor-Phil-talk.  uggggghhhhh!
I'm, currently, illustrating a grammar book written by my mom.  She mentioned to me, recently, that she might include a section on idioms...I told her that I didn't think it was a good idea.  Idioms and Doctor-Phil-talk are difficult to decipher, are a bit old fashioned (or dare I even say, 'hick') and, truthfully, dumn down the English language (people who speak other languages, other than English, already think that English is dumned down, let's not give them more cause!).  Why teach idioms to foreigners, already struggling, with learning a new language??  What people are, often, looking for when they use them, is a little something called 'vocabulary'...or perhaps, we may even say that, one is searching for the correct 'synonym'.  I had read, some years back, that the average newspaper is written for the reading level of an 8 year old...and with expressions like "bread-and-butter issue", I can understand why...there is no need to expand your vocabulary beyond grade 3, simply babble away in strange, difficult to decipher riddles and you'll be fine, you may even become the Industry Minister in Canada!  But this is it, I don't want to decipher advice (especially clinical, thanks for that Doctor Phil), or news articles (World or Local), or, quite frankly, any piece of non-fiction that should be delivered as a matter-of-fact and for greater knowledge purposes.  Please keep your idiot, woops, idioms to yourself!

Until next time...

Grumpy Old Sarah

By putting a piece of foil behind your radiators, you can, not only be kinder to the environment, but save on heating costs!

The third link in this blog (but here it is again) will take you to a super awesome website:  Enjoy!   

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Home is where the heart is...I guess?

"Where are you from?" an elderly Brit asked me a few years back. 
While I sipped on my stout in the dank pub in my favorite seaside village, Doolin, I thought, then answered, "Canada, and you?"
 "Connecticut", he replied back in a thick English accent. 
Hmmm, something is going on here that I'm not privy to it seems..."You mean, Connecticut, in the United States, that Connecticut?" I asked, smartly, and to clarify.
 "Yes" he kept on, without pause, "how long are you here for?" 
Ok, I don't get it, either my stouts been drugged, or, well, that must be beer has been drugged!  Help!  "Well, how long am I in Doolin?...only until the end of the weekend, but in Ireland?, well, I live in Dublin, soooo...and you?  When do you return to "Connecticut"" I asked, slowly, making the appropriate hand gestures. 
"Oh," he said in a bit of tone, "you're not from Canada at all then, you're from Dublin".
 Mayu and I had an ongoing joke after this encounter, that whenever we were asked "Where are you from", we'd reply with the location we most recently came from (we figured this was better than the alternative:  "Planet Earth, the Mothership"). 
"Where are you from?" he asked.
 "The basement" I answered. 
"The basement?  Where's that?" 
"Oh, about 3 meters yonder" I answered, pointing to the basement, of the bar, where the toilets were located.
But in all seriousness, when you've moved a lot, and have been nowhere in particular longer than somewhere, or have taken up residence in a location which is not your parents', or for that matter, have never lived in the place where your parents reside, nor have spent any time in your birthplace...where do you say you're from?  Many of the above are true for, both, me and my husband.  His parents moved between various places in Central America and Berlin, and my dad played football when I was young, and after his retirement, my parents seemed to just keep moving.  To complicate matters, we've moved around a lot as adults and have taken up shop in Sweden, where neither us were born, nor speak the language, yet both our girls were born here, and our oldest daughter, Olive, says more in Swedish than the languages spoken, to her, at home (English and German).  As we learn more about the culture and customs in Sweden, although some weird (Crayfish parties), some annoying (cutting in line, as if the queue of people with groceries overflowing from their baskets is invisible), some wonderful (dagis/subsidized daycare & föräldrapenning/generous parental leave), some crazy-fun (Midsummers) and some peculiar (black clothes, black prams and white walls), we fall more and more in love with the country and all of its peculiarities.  But when, if ever, will we say that we are from here...and if we never say such a thing, as time goes on, where will we be from? 
Although I'm not from Sweden (yet?), I can say one thing for sure, since returning from a month in Canada, I felt more at home this morning on my walk, with Olive, to dagis, when I passed a neighbor saying "Welcome back", than I did the entire time I was in Canada.  Perhaps home really is where the heart is, or, at very least, can help to explain where you are from.  Now I just have to learn Swedish!
Until next time...

Grumpy Old Sarah

If you'd like to eat organic and/or be kinder to the earth, but can't justify/or afford the cost, Eco milk is a good place to start - you'll be doing your bit and it has a relatively big impact on the environment.

And, since I'm a mom of 2 under the age of 2, I just can't justify enough, that a glass of wine each evening is good for me, so, drink up!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

To blog or not to blog, this is the question...

After having had posted the above on my fb and receiving support from friends to go forth and conquer, I nervously sat down, last night, and began hacking away trying to structure my future blog.  I vacillated between an online-diary and attempting to produce a great think-tank which would encourage thoughtful insights from friends and family  - but this is it:  I don't KNOW what this blog will be or become, or if I'll last much longer than a couple entries before I can't stand it any longer (I've already been told by friends that I'll have to carry around my mobile, ugggh, and maybe even have to keep it charged, ugggggggh, in order to get pics while I'm out to make things more interesting!! ;)) 

Although I cringe at the thought of reading back on 'Dear Diary' entries 20 years from now (I luckily - major sarcasm here- saved my diaries from my teenage years...what a muppet!! ), I won't be able to help but yammer on about my 2 girls: Olive & Poppy, and my partner in crime: Mayu.  I'll, also, likely complain about the old ladies who live in our closets:  Ata & Minuet (don't worry, we don't keep old human ladies tucked away, Ata & Minuet are cats).   

I also love sharing my two (sometimes unwelcomed) cents with the world , and will likely bitch a lot about day-to-day annoyances and behaviors - God willing, this will remain humorous, but you must understand that I was brainwashed as a child, by my parents, into believing that most people are idiots...I just can't help but think and express this. 

Hopefully, in addition, there will be some discussion on parenting, gardening (yes, it's true, come spring, I will likely talk a lot about tomatoes - and, I think, I’ll try planting some root veggies this year...just to save something to talk about come fall), renovations (Mayu's very favorite topic, I'm sure), travel/culture/being part of a family in a foreign country, health and the likes. 

But lastly, I just want to exercise my right (aka, test my ability and technical savviness), dammit, to, here we are, and welcome.

Yours truly,
Grumpy Old Sarah

(my husband has kindly pointed out, that at the ripe old age of 30, I qualify for the BBC's Grumpy Old Women series)

Until next time:  'Instead of discarding the water you've used to cook your vegetables in, save it to water your plants' and, for the ladies with boys...

Raising boys       

and, lastly, for all the parents...please meet a couple, the really fantastic founders of, whose website I frequent and will likely share and post for discussion this...