Sunday, 6 April 2014

Lambing time

I must admit that no matter how lovely the little newly born lambs are, a whole programme called Lambing Live, suggesting that there will be blood and all, makes me shiver and does not make me to want to watch it. Nevertheless, it is apparently extremely popular and as the BBC Farmers Hour told me, everything has been happier than last year, when there was snow deeply in many of the higher areas and countless lambs were lost. This year it was all sunny and happy.

The programme reminded me that Number One Son had not visited the local City Farm for ages, so we headed there on the English Mothering Day. At the same time when Archaeologist Husband was still in Reading – admittedly on his way home – in a conference networking and meeting his Roman pottery expert and Roman archaeologist friends. It was a fair day, even if it was not as sunny as the Saturday before when I and Number One Son were looking for a new proper-sized bed for him (and I fell for a cheap model, since I got a nice mattress and free home delivery, to the fury of Archaeologist Husband who had to try to put the flat pack wonder together). Number One Son and his reception classmates have ‘Animals’ as this half-term’s theme, so a picnic at the City Farm felt vaguely educational as well.

Everything was nice and lovely, but not overly exciting – until two things happened. Number One Son saw the huge pigs of a traditional British variety. Number One Son was standing next to their drinking hole, and we were lucky, since a huge pig waddled towards us in a muddy pigsty and started to drink. I must say this was very educational to me as well, since I had never seen pig’s upper lip ever. Very thin and feminine, I must say.

Even if Number One Son hogged the sandwiches and enjoyed running around in the playground, the real treat was to the last. He realised that he can feed grass to the sheep and the tickling that resulted from the sheep basically licking the grass from his hand made him giggle. That was a happy end to the fun visit.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Nothing is better than a good party!

Not unexpectedly I had to skip one blog entry, since instead of writing about it, I was spending time with Number One Son and Archaeologist Husband. I arrived on Saturday evening and headed to buy food to Number One Son’s birthday party that was going to be on the same day in the afternoon. It is not advisable to panic buy birthday food, since we ended up with more crisps than anybody can consume. In addition, many of those Aldi ones are really salty! Even if I like crisps, the red packs may stay uneaten for the future.

I am not the only one overestimating and getting carried away. Archaeologist Husband did not bake one, not two, but THREE birthday cakes. And two boxes full of fairy cakes. This meant that the cake was enough until the Mother’s Day morning. At least I got my treat even if Archaeologist Husband was in Reading in a conference.

The fact that Number One Son is behind in speech development means that he has not got too many birthday invitations lately. This is totally understandable, since most people invite about 10 or 15 best friends – or go for bowling, horse riding or other special activities. Most children has made – or at least the parents have made – the leap to the next birthday party level from the toddler parties.

The main thing was that Number One Son’s party was great and he got extra playtime with a bouncy castle during the preparation and cleaning time. One must admit that it was slightly terrifying, since the four- or five-year-old boys are quite big and strong when wrestling in a bouncy castle. However, many of them left with a glow on their face, so it was just what the doctor ordered for the boys. And the next time it is time for a ‘more mature’ party for Number One Son as well. Since his speech is improving, we will have a full account for the sixth birthday next spring.

Birthday boy with all the presents - except those from Sweden

It is a great pity that the other children and the parents did not see when Number One Son opened the presents. And how much he has been playing with them. He loves dinosaurs, so we have now more dinosaurs and dinosaur books than a small boy needs. This time around Archaeologist Husband made a list of the donors and we could actually send out thank you letters.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

One child – not only one present

I have noticed alarming phenomenon. The number of presents we are buying to Number One Son is seriously escalating. I have already bought three and, although they were not hugely expensive, that will be joined by a larger amount bought by Archaeologist Husband. We know what Number One Son likes, so he will be showered with dinosaurs and cartoons. He will also get a bigger present he has specifically asked for. Nevertheless, more than anything he wants his party.

It is quite clear the exponentially growing number of small presents have to do with the fact that he is our own child. We want him to enjoy the kind of things we enjoyed when we where children and give him things he enjoys. If we had more children, we probably would not target one with all the different things. One child would get a Dalek and the other a dinosaur. Now one will get both. But now worry - we are archaeologists, so the favourable finances may be history next winter and the Christmas presents will diminish almost as exponentially as the birthday presents were increasing!

Number One Son attended today a friend’s party. He was happily waving the monkey in the banana tree balloon sculpture on Skype at bed time. Not only are balloon animals getting more complex and seriously good, but Number One Son sat down with other children following the magician for half an hour or so - and laughed at the right points. My mother was asking today over the phone how Number One Son is doing speechwise and I explained the latest developments. However, I had not heard this. I definitely has to say that there has been progress – but the progress seems to come when Number One Son is interested and wants it.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Little Andy and his imaginary gizmos

A new hero has entered in the life of Number One Son. In fact, he has been known to him for some time, but only lately when Andy, the former zookeeper, now a museum assistant cum custodian in the National History Museum in London started to go back to the time of the dinosaurs has Number Son been hooked on the CBeebies. Not only has he found new words, like Triceratops, he is also running around with Archaeologist Husband’s Indiana Jones hat and his rucksack on, playing with his invisible gizmo and utility belt. He is climbing up the climbing frame and even taking his visible and imaginary gear to the Finnish School.

The venerable Andy

The excitement reached the fever pitch when his class visited the zoo and he saw real giraffes and parrots and other animals. Please, do not let me started about the ‘voluntary’ cost payments the parents have to give in order to their child to get to the zoo, though. Anyway, the day was a success and the weather was sunny, so our little Indiana Jones could explore the animals, the topic of this half-term after the earlier ‘stars and planets’. All things Number One Son loves.

For a child with speech difficulties, Number One Son shows remarkable memory and relatively high level of imagination. He cannot always express what he imagines, but boy he gets enjoyment out of it!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

School meetings

One aspect of being the away-parent is that you miss all the important meetings. The parents of the Number One Son’s class had meetings with Mrs Teacher last week. Naturally, I got the report from Archaeologist Husband the same day, but felt my current unpowerment in the situation. Number One Son’s meeting was extra long due to the assessment of his current development. He is firmly behind all the others across the field, but since he seems otherwise happy and balanced – at least at home – this may pass. In Finland the rule of thumb is that the differences in development can be wide until about seven or eight, but naturally, Number One Son has his speech difficulties to overcome, too.

At the same time the slight uneasiness resulting from my employment situation is starting to creep in. I am half-way through my contract and I am just one in the vast mass of postdoctoral researchers, employed or ‘free’, who are chasing the diminishing resources. I can do some applications, but I also have to keep my eye on the ball: there are certain things I definitely have to do this year – job next winter or not. Publish and perish in the academic world basically makes the difference for people like me between my family having food on the table for one more year - or not. The whole point of being a Skype Mom is to provide for the family – something that men have done for a long time. Naturally, there is the academic side of it, but the only way to explain being away to myself, to my family and to others is that there is a greater good in this.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Half-term thoughts

Suddenly the half-term is over and I am back in Stockholm. The 11 and half hour trip from door to door reminded me why I am not flying back home for a long weekend every week. It makes definitely more sense to stay for a slightly longer period, concentrate on work and then spend more time with family over a week or more taking part into all the routines. Nevertheless, this time it was half-term and I took the baton from Archaeologist Husband and took main responsibility over the 'entertainment'. Naturally, the modern angst of parenting nowadays involves trying to make a half/term an 'experience' for your child, as fun, entertaining and educational as possible.

Because of the long periods of time I am a Skype Mom, I decided against a train trip to London. This would have been the last chance to get Number One Son to London for free, but it did not seem to make sense to concentrate on getting from A to B in a huge city when a slice of chocolate tart in Leicester seemed to be enough. It was more about being together than being highly active. Thus, the highlights included the slumming up in the corner playing Angry Birds during my annual dentist check-up, a car trip to Aldi and choosing jeans in Tesco. In reality, the more 'educational' - or fun - content of the week included a trip to swim in the local swimming pool during an hour that was one of the last ever Aquatots visits, bus trip to the city centre for the chocolate tart and main library and a play date with Number One Friend who is still in the nursery.

Number One Son's speech is getting better and he is now repeating all kinds of words I mouth. 'Water pipe' was a hit when going to the play date where the workmen are making speed bumps along the local drive-through road. This was probably the main educational content of the week. If one does not count the hugs and the kisses that are invaluable and memorable for a Skype Mom.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Birthday party panic?

After ‘Skype’ Mom’s stay in Rome, the half-term is looming ahead. I and Archaeologist Husband were due to plan Number One Son’s birthday party already at the beginning of January, since we need to pencil in various family and work occasions and travel. The problem this year is that the Roman Archaeology Conference is during the weekend that would be the most natural for a birthday party, so we have to do the birthday earlier. Since I will literally fly in for the party, it could be the wisest to book one of those play area birthdays that come with ready-made food. This would give Number One Son’s friends a possibility to run around properly.

Archaeologist Husband would like to go for a home birthday and do one of his famous chocolate cakes. This would be an extremely easy and definitely cheaper option, but would give little boys and girls a limited opportunity to run around in our small garden. It is bigger than in the previous house, but it still will be full with about five children with very few placed to run to. The time for the definite decisions is coming nearer and not all of the play centres seem very appealing with strange rules about how many adults can go to help and accompany the children to the munch time. In addition, sometimes you have to come with a cake, but it has to be a bought one with receipt for hygiene and food safety reasons. Tricky.