Sunday, 28 December 2014

White just after Christmas

The Christmas holidays are perfect time to recharge one's batteries and do the exciting and less exciting Christmassy things. This season started with the coffee group ladies' children's Christmas party on the Sunday before Christmas. This was a heartwarming British party with one of the mothers behind a lot of programme and one of the fathers expressing himself as a DJ. Otherwise our Christmas is every year decidedly an Anglo-Finnish affair.

Christmas preparations continued with strategically timed Monday food shopping spree that allowed us strolling in the Bradgate Park on Tuesday. The preparations were finished with gingerbread baking and cooking a kind of Finnish meal with duck (but with a genuine sweetened potato bake) on Christmas Eve. The first batch of presents was delivered to Number One Son on Christmas Eve as well.

Christmas Eve meal

Then it was a swap to the British Christmas and night-time Christmas stocking delivery for me and Number One Son with a second batch of Christmas presents. I thanked Father Christmas, a.k.a. Archaeologist Husband, with a bottle of less traditional Finnish licorice vodka (not consumed, yet - miraculously considering how much he likes the stuff). The Christmas lunch ended up being 'traditional' steak and chips due to the small amount of duck left from the previous night, but the third batch of gifts kept Number Son happy. Archaeologist Husband had taken rubbish out and observed that it was cold, so the rest of the day was spent on the sofa. We did however keep up with the cultural developments by watching Frozen at last.

The most important Christmas present had already arrived on Saturday before Christmas. We are now four with our Cat slowly getting to know our house. (S)he managed to pee in an extension lead box and defusing one of the plugs that meant no Netflix over Christmas. Otherwise it had found Christmas tree inresistable.

The sofa related activities continued throughout Boxing Day and the highpoint was the traditional Finnish Boxing Day fish meal in the evening. By this time it had started snowing, so we were not certain if Friend's son's three-year birthday walk was going to take place the next day. I was not too keen on driving in snow without proper winter tyres, but it transpired on the day that I was made to go, since Archaeologist Husband really wanted to go sledging. Thus we all headed to the Old John and had a cold, beautiful, eventful hour in the sun. Then Number One Son's hands were cold, his cheek had a frostbite and we were hit by a child's sledge. Nevertheless, the day continued with tea and hot chocolate in the Friend's house.

There is still more to come. A trip to London died a quick death on the planning board after the traditional British railway chaos started - even before the snow landed. Now we are heading to see the first panto I and Number One Son will ever see in De Montford Hall. It will be Cinderella with Buttons and ugly sisters. I think I will need some further enculturation to know who Buttons is...

Sunday, 21 December 2014

I lost the vote

When Number One Son was a baby we had a cat named Shelly. Sadly, she passed away at 18 - while being the healthiest dead cat in the village after all the lab tests done in order to know why she did not eat and withered away. Ever since Archaeologist Husband has wanted to get a new cat. This urge has not been diminished by the fact that our neighbours hate cats. But they do have a gravel gardens both at the front and at the back, so you can guess what the cats do there. The urgency of this new cat has become more apparent with Number One Son loving cats and lifting and cuddling certain Biscuit on the way to and from school.

Shelly 2 (photo: AH)

I found it easy to make Number One Son to behave by saying that he will not get a cat for a Chhristmas. He was stroking the imaginary white cat when saying it... When I asked if we should get a cat, two voices said 'yes'. The women will always lose in this household! And apparently end up buying all the cat food as well.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Skype fighting

Now I have managed to return back to England despite of the best efforts of underground trains breaking down and motorway improvements closing motorways on my way back. The whole air control system broke down in UK happily only after I had managed to lose most of my sleep deprivation sleeping in my own bed. For a couple of weeks the normal life routines are in place and I will see Number One Son and Archaeologist Husband in the same country and in the same house. My blog entries are likely to be either duller or more interesting, depending on the normal way the life goes on on a daily basis. It will be about school runs and unwrapping Christmas presents with an added spice of multiculturality. But of a duller European fusion version that is more about choosing the different kind of Christmas food than anything else.

The tedium and tiredness of the last weeks away did bring about that new spice of coupledoom in Skype Mums life: the Skype fighting. This is the way your specific personal traits are transformed into digital portal online. Are you a Shouter? Well, then you will shout at the camera and let your neighbours know that You Are Skyping and that Your Are Not Happy. Are you the Mute? Well, then your partner will not get anything than your picture over Skype. If you get angry like I do sometimes on a short fuse - you shut down the whole thing and disconnect Internet. And start getting angry, anxious texts to one or two of my mobile phones. Since as an Europe-wide juggernaut you will have more than one, don't you (and your partner is likely to use the last mobile number you have texted/phoned from - handy, if that is the one that lies closed in the drawer waiting for the next trip).

The row will continue as long as you dare to keep yourself off-line: I managed a couple of minutes. Then it was time to try to patch everything up. I must say, being in the same house, getting nagged about undone housework and being able to bang the doors is much more effective and somehow reassuring...

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Christmas is coming!

Number One Son and our tree - apparently (Photo by AH)

The last blog post was passed, since I spent Sunday visiting my mother and having a coffee party with my childhood friends, some of whom I had not seen for 20 years. Monday was spent in an Institutes of Archaeology and Classical Studies team building day, almost directly from the ferry harbour. Then the reality hit and I spent one day sorting out admin and panicking over my vanished e-mail address where students were supposed to send course work. Thus, I decided that I put all my Christmassy thoughts together in this post. However, not all of them are smelling of gingerbread, but remind of the reality of a Skype Mom.

Luckily, I can move later this week to work at home and continue work with book projects and other matters in the same house with Archaeologist Husband and Number One Son. Nevertheless, due to the timing of meetings and other timetabling issues, I will miss for the second time my son's Navity play. Number One Son also tried to refuse to talk to me over Skype, because he will not get a hug from me at the end. Then was a good time to start counting down to my actual appearance next week. In addition, the Finnish Christmas calendar I got from Alex's godless mother is a real joy when we open one shutter lid every evening and look for right numbers. However, the flight home could not come any sooner.

I lost the run for gingerbread making :-> (Photo by AH)

My trip to Finland means I have now a bag full of gifts: more Moomin books, Mauri Kunnas picture books, DVDs with both Finnish and English soundtrack, an educational board game and clothing. I have also one old favourite for Archaeologist Husband, so that for 15 minutes he will be happy about my time away. I have a new photo of Granny and photos of my happy girl friends. The Christmas tree is up in the house and we can start finalising the fusion Christmas meals, since we celebrate both Christmas Eve and Day with fish on the menu on the Boxing Day. We also have to send Christmas cards to all older family members. Luckily, I did my Stockholm-themed e-card yesterday.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Connected, but not connected

One of the superior aspects of the modern living is that we have the instant possibility to connect [when there is an Internet connection and it works]. However, this will never replace the real connection and presence. As a Skype Mummy I do have a connection to my son and my husband every day, but it is not the same as taking Number One Son to school in the pissing rain or tackling the homework. Archaeologist Husband seemed to be somewhat stung when I tried to give advice on the way to get our son to do the homework - this week drawing something on a hobby and writing two sentences on it. The latter part is stretching it, since Number One Son really does not know how to write, yet. He can copy and struggles with fine motor action while doing it. However, he has started to write his name and spell it without urging. Sometimes there is a hint that he may be able to read single words or short sentences without help. But these are just glimpses of his progress while the others seem to be galloping somewhere further on the learning path.

Anyway, my suggestion was to try asking him to draw a cat, something he really wants. He has already named the non-existent cat, so that is an easy sentence: 'Cat is called Shelly'. But this may have been a suggestion too far, since Number One Son had been up at 5am again, so any 'wisecracking' from the away parent was heading to the shredders. I have heard that some parents have kept the Skype on all time in the evenings, but Number One Son's Skype is on his tablet and I think mother intervening with Dora the Explorer or playing Angry Birds Transformers would be frowned upon. I have heard the complaints when Mummy replaces a Dora cartoon...

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Confessions of a bad wife

I have a confession to make. I am now back in Stockholm typing this only because I totally and absolutely forgot my husband's birthday. Thus, without any hesitation, I booked a return flight on the Sunday, "because I had flown so many times mid-week and it would be good to show up at least once at work on Monday morning when one is returning from Britain/abroad". Nothing in the numbers of the date reminded me of anything. Until Archaeologist Husband started to speak about the video night, which suggested to me that during the weekend something special was happening. As I consequence, I swanned away in a taxi when Archaeologist Husband had staggered out of the bed to keep eye on Number One Son after staying up and chatting with his best mate until 2 am. Somehow I think that the special birthday present I bought from Rome or Number One Son's cute 'Happy Birthday' just wasn't enough.

I had managed to book a babysitter and was the one to take Number One Son to the school disco that of course was on the Friday night when we could go to the fancy restaurant in the village. I braved the 100 four-, five- and six-year-olds running, dancing, eating and drinking in the dark where I lost sight of Number One Son several time. Archaeologist Husband was clearly traumatised with his experience in the spring, so I guess who will take responsibility of these events in the future. However, I am just needed as a walking purse who hands over money for sweets and soft drinks.

Sadly, the dinner was not a perfect success either. I had started feeling ill in the afternoon and could not eat properly. Instead of the full three courses Archaeologist Husband got only two and the drinks were not flowing as normally. As a consolation, I took him to our local from the time before Number One Son and that seemed to cheer him up a little bit. I find some consolation in the fact that we both forgot our wedding anniversary last spring - we only noticed when my sister-in-law made a 'may the fourth' comment...

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Conference skyping

I must hang my head in shame, since in the latter of the two conferences I attended this week, I did not make an attempt to skype home in the evenings – even if I was only in Cambridge. This was partly due to the fact that during the first night I was so tired I collapsed to bed as soon as the conference day was over and during the second I did not get Eduroam to work. I have either set it up only at Stockholm or totally forgotten my password and other details. I have to sort that one out when I have more time. Embarrassingly, I did not get the conference guest system working either, but maybe they had not entered me, since in principle I have Cambridge Eduroam. I had to do the tutoring my online course using my smartphone...

However, in Rome I was skyping both from my hotel and the conference venue. The wifi connections make life so much easier, although dragging the laptop around adds to the chores. Nevertheless, the seaming contact with the family is successful only when the wifi is actually working and the timetables go together. On the first conference day in Rome I skipped a possibility to go to eat with some of the other Swedish delegates in order to tell a bedtime story to my son. Frankly, I was also so tired, I would have made very poor dinner company. Additionally, I would have risked falling asleep onto my bowl of pasta... Quick toast in a bar and a glass of peach juice provided my quick supper.

At the University of Rome Tre I was sitting on the chairs in the huge corridor open area and balancing the microphone next to the laptop. Due to the time difference and the time for our conference dinner (a nice buffet – standing cocktail party style as also the previous night in the Swedish Institute), Number One Son and Archaeologist Husband had barely managed to get back from the after school club. Since it was so early, Number One Son showed much more interest to his toys and a possibility to watch cartoons than talking to Mom. However, his hug on Friday morning showed how much he had missed me in re

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Trick and treat

I made a lucky escape yesterday, when Number One Son had been trick and treating with the Anstey coffee group crowd. I managed to forget my son's bedtime story book to the hotel room in Oslo, and I have failed to remember to e-mail them in order to get it back. I am afraid it will be 'Goldylocks' until I remember to print out some stories from the Internet. I thought that I had put it in the suitcase in the evening after skyping, but apparently I just placed it on the small dressing table in the room. Feeling a bit a failure and I rubbish Mom here about that. I do remember my notes for the lecture, but forget seasonal Moomins... Maybe I should check what is on 'Bad Mom' on the online channel of the Finnish tabloid Iltasanomat. It makes me always feel better.

Number One Son (by Archaeologist Husband)

On the Halloween note, Archaeologist Husband explained how he and a number of other parents were frantically panic buying fancy dress and sweets for the children. Archaeologist Husband ended up being the only parent dressing up, but his enjoyment of steampunk is well known. Although I must say his attire resembling a long-haired progressive rock basist (I assume he was meant to be Captain Hook or similar) was hilarious. That wig will have further use...

After a long break I have had time to read Facebook - partly it has turned out to be the best place to contact certain people - and I noticed that apart from half-term trips, we had a serious amount of pumpkins around. Number One Son got his pumpkin already at the beginning of the week. It is interesting how this American cultural enculturation takes place. Number One Son self started to talk about Halloween party: it is something from the school, but not necessarily intentional. However, who would not like a bit of light inside a pumpkin in the darkness. Tonight Sweden celebrates Helgondag, but is has been raining all night. In England it is the Saturday for the early bonfire night fireworks. Guy Fawkes comes early, but I am afraid my 'celebrations' contain washing laundry and packing...

Number One Son plus the first pumpkin (by Archaeologist Husband)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Black Dalek missed already

I took my Archaeologist Husband and Number One Son to the Snibston Discovery Museum yesterday for a half-term treat. This time it was duly the time to treat my boys who had contrary to original plans lingered in our living room watching cartoons while I was test driving or taking our old, sticky-taped car to the dump. The farthest we had got was to the New Walk Museum to check the dinosaurs and a bit of additional light relief was provided by a trip with the new car to the speak therapist’s appointment. On Saturday, it was going to be the Dr Who Day instead.

It turned out that some of the programme had the hallmarks of the am-dram society, but it was all good-humoured and the main thing was to see and talk to the moving daleks. There was also a pink lady dalek that was quite amusing, and the daleks could move really quickly indeed. The most marvellous sight was that of Number One Son running around trying to get to the daleks whenever possible. However, he had time to do some outdoor sliding and gliding and try out the interactive floor in the centre.

The adults could see a series of different cybermen styles from the 1950s onwards and there was a Unit jeep as well. Some of the Dr Who lookalikes were better than the others, but K9 was moving around and there was a cyberman ‘silly walk’ to finish it all off. It was marvellous to see Snibston alive, when one considers how the county council tries to shut it down. The cuts seem to never end and there will be next to nothing left in the end. However, the Dr Who day was definitely worth a visit.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Time for Diwali

It is Sunday so it must be Anstey and home... I have returned home for a week and will be enjoying part of my annual leave, even if I cannot escape work altogether. An important presentation requires attention in the evenings and the car is on its last leg, so part of the week will be devoted to visiting second-hand car dealers, browsing Autotrader and taking the old car to its last resting place. It is scary to notice that it is not September any more but we are approaching Halloween - that I will bypass in Stockholm - and this week Diwali.

Number One Son's schoolwork project deals with Diwali and we are supposed to create and execute a poster on the subject with our child. Thus, I was googling 'Diwali' and choosing BBC Schools' web site as my primary source of information together with some websites targetted to the local people in Britain with Indian origin. This suddenly made me realise that Houston, we have a problem. We are one of the over 40 procent of British households that are non-religious and we do not do God, so explaining Lakshmi and Ganesh, the main Hindu gods involved, is slightly pushing it. Santa Claus seems to be easy, since Number One Son happily plays with his toy one. We just have to hope that they have done God(s) in the nursery and school.

We are supposed to include informative content, for example tell why people celebrate Diwali, name important objects and tell the stories related to the celebration. The first two are easy, since ultimately, Diwali is the Indian Christmas bringing light to the darkness and similarly involving candles, food and present, but the last suggestion seems slightly too complicated considering the late developmental stage of Number One Son. The return of Rama after 14 years relating to a circle of mythology I do not know, seems too complicated, when you are entering to the story totally randomly as a total outsider. I assume we will stick to the light winning the darkness and Lakshmi and Ganesh representing the beauty, wealth and good luck.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

When I am away...

The sunny culprit

Nothing is more worrying than when you are Skyping home and you suddenly see a fresh bruise on your son's cheek. Due to Number One Son's speech difficulties, Archaeologist Husband has not really got out from him what happened, if he fell on the grass or if the constant playful bickering and egging up that goes on between Number One Son and one of the other little boys who went with him to nursery has taken turn to the worse. Number One Son is on a green card, so he has been misbehaving and headbutting has occurred. Not a nice thing to hear and see over an echoing net connection.

Nevertheless, Number One Son seems to be developing both socially and emotionally. His last school homework got an 'outstanding' remark and apparently the homework for the coming Friday has already been done. It was on numbers, something he is comfortable with. The outstanding homework was something I also contributed, but Number One Son had drawn more animals to go with animal names starting with certain letters. His emotional development does not come with very pleasant consequences to me. He has started to say that he loves me (among his favourite toys and things, different food stuff and his friends), and verbally communicate that he misses me. Yesterday he had asked when doorbell rang, if Mummy will be there.

The misbehaviour at school happened unnervingly during the afternoons of the same week that I travelled back to Stockholm. When Number One Son's understanding of time will become better, I have to start explaining to him what, where and when. Luckily, now it is only one week to half-term and I can make my presence and ascertain him that I will always come back. The half-term will be fine, since the job interview was postponed to the following week (a positive sign from a potential new employer!). However, the car has now definitely broken down for the last time, so instead of seeing the industrial legacy of the Saltaire World Heritage Site and cruising the Yorkshire Dales, we will see as a family the second-hand car dealers of Leicester. It just does not sound as fancy - or fun!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Payback time

This week I have been working at home during the time I call 'payback time' or 'return to the mummy duties'. Archaeologist Husband held a day school near Liverpool and went to Birmingham to work with his old boss, a current collaborator, so I was doing the school run, returning any forms to the school - this week saw parent-teacher meeting schedule and parental permission for a child to take part into Diwali celebrations outside the school - and take care of so-called 'payback duties'. These are the ones Archaeologist Husband refuses to do, since he is doing his share already.

It was time for class photograph, so our 'troll' had to go to the barber's. This is a source of mutual agony, since Number One Son hates any cutting objects nearing his growing nails or hair. He tried to convince me that brushing his hair will help the situation, but the fringe had already gone south and the trip to barbers that had been avoided on the previous visit when he still looked almost decent had to be done. I managed to find excuses to postpone the visit with a day, but the evening before the photographer's visit was the last chance to pop to the barber's shop. The trip did not start well, because the wailing started as soon we hit the queue on the chairs and this changed to full crying when Number One Son was placed to the barber's chair. After several minutes of shedding tears I could convince him that Number One Girl will expect to see him with a decent hair in her birthday party on Saturday and the barber could start his task. Luckily, the cries waned and Number One Son was quite intrigued of the small cutters barber used in one point. In the future, I will ask them to use those exclusively, since Number One Son did not decline them once. Now it is only the dentist to go on Monday!

Saturday saw Archaeologist Husband's day off that was brought about by my and Number One Son's trip to Number One Girl's birthday party and Finnish Saturday School straight afterwards. The birthday party was lovely and this time the little boys did not start a fight or anything, since there was a balanced gender mix and the age range was wider than normally. Not just a lot of little five-year-old boys on sugar high. Finnish Saturday School was true to its name only parts. The children in the nursery group where happily playing with each other in English, while the adults chatted away in Finnish. Well, at least there was a language bath available, if the children paid any attention to the discussions about Coventry's ice rink or specifics of Sixth Form and Advanced Maths.

Sunday has seen Number One Son's reluctant participation in an attempt to do school homework (find as many mammals starting with S, A, T, P, N and I) and insistence of baking a honey cake. Another sign I am NOT a domestic goddess is that the came was burnt outside but doughy inside. At least it tasted honey and ginger! In contrast, Archaeologist Husband had baked a lovely chilli loaf for breakfast. Domesticated husband 1 - domestic slob 0.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Importance of routines

Being until Wednesday a remote mum again, I can only wonder with awe how Archaeologist Husband deals with the homework of Number One Son. It is not a secret that I am quite worried about the way some of these exercises have really stretched Number One Son too far. I am not for dumbing down, but somehow the exercises have to be linked to the level the child is at. Number One Son cannot write properly long sentences or keep straight line, even if Archaeologist Husband tries to put in time every evening to do this. Last week exercise was to compose a long sentence to describe an action in an image. For a child who tries to learn to write the letters properly that was probably a step too far. However, the exercise was fine for those in the class who can already read. This week's 'exercising the use of scissors' sounds more like a task Number One Son can exercise with ease.

Number One Son likes routines - after all, he has been going to the nursery since he was about ten months old - so this has made his change to school quite easy. He seems also quite happy to please Ms Teacher. I feel that I should have tapped into this character of Number One Son's personality when I tried to introduce the word and action card games in order to improve his speech development in the past. I perhaps should have been more persistent. On the other hand, he probably was not that ready to concentrate. He was happy to join the monkey eating the bananas, but quickly wanted to play with other toys.

It will be lovely to get back to the normal daily routines - even if it will be only for a couple of days. Taking Number One Son to school, picking him up from the after school club or from the school gate after a couple of words with the other parents (mostly mums or grandparents) and a pop to the local supermarket will bring me back momentarily to the normal everyday life. We do have a daily routine with me skyping almost daily, but that was broken by the conferences in Italy, and I am playing catching up.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Transient values?

Yesterday and today I have been thinking about my values. How much does my son mean to me? How important are family holidays? How important is securing a permanent job in the light of losing a family holiday or two? These questions have gone through my mind when it has become clear that there is a fair possibility that I have to cancel our family short break during the autumn half-term and head to a job interview. The final details will be heard soon, but there is a fair chance, since I gather the potential half-term schedule of the interview panel is more important than the one of the interviewee.

I suppose most men would not bat an eye lid when faced with choices like this (I may make a gross oversimplification here), but for myself these things are important. I spend quite a lot of time away from Number One Son and I had been waiting for the break, but on the other hand, we will get the windows fixed, if I will secure a job in a nice university. Of course, this is on the back of leaving most of the summer school holiday to be covered by my Archaeologist Husband and without him I could not do what I do know. I probably should devote one blog to the good husbands behind successful female researchers. I know a few and their support is or has been paramount to us. Female scientists do not flourish with old-fashioned husbands.

With my current experience as a Skype Mum, it is clear that the best work-life balance is achieved for female researchers when you have a supportive workplace but also make sure that when you work, you are efficient and create new things and publish. The trust is mutual and work benefits both sides when planned and maintained properly. Thus, I must prioritise work sometimes, but I have to hope it will be rewarded with family time later.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Gove's legacy

Now I and Archaeologist Husband have met the Year 1 Teacher and discussed Number One Sons situation. On one hand I feel more confident that things may go Ok, even if any extra Number-One-Son-specific support comes only when all the visits and enquiries are done for the new model Special Educational Needs support case evaluation. She is tough, but that may be what our stubborn son may need in order to unlock his potential. However, some specifics stemming from the new curriculum and policy are alarming.

Year 1 Teacher explained that the new objectives are basically for the five-year-olds the same objectives that were a year ago the objectives for the six-year-olds. This means that our son who has now started to make some kind of capital letters and can scribe the short version of his own name has now his long first name and surname in proper small and big letters as a homework. I am not sure if the targets have to jump over a series of steps in a matter of week.

The good part is that we are forced to start to put into practice a homework routine and hone different bribing and encouragement tactics in order to get our son to scribe different things. He has never been the one for drawing, so this takes some coaxing. I am sure he is not alone among the boys in this.

The worrying part is the fact that even the brightest among his peers are disappointed how 'work-like' the brave new school is. I am not sure that the worried faces and moans about the lack of play were the things Gove had in mind when he started to formulate this new brave curriculum. In Finland the children play when they are five. In England they sit by a table and scribe. I hated myself school for its senseless learning without curiosity and reading capital cities or areas by heart. This new curriculum prescribes the model to the toddlers and expects that they somehow become nuclear scientists and learn the mysteries of the Universe by following unrealistic goals. How will those who do not learn to multiply and divide when five pick these things when they are ready? And how the children can keep the fun in this all? New thinking requires unconventional and curious mind.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

On the school run again

The new term has started and at least at the moment Number One Son is still happily scootering to the school. His Number One Friend had already blurted on the day two that he does not want to go again. The limited expressions Number One Son uses mean that we are not totally sure what he does and if he enjoys it at the school, but with a series of Yes/No questions we may get some incling. Any way, it will be a teachers and parents meeting the coming week, so I will hear more. I probably have to have a friendly chat with the Teacher in order to be certain how she approaches the fact that Number One Son is lagging considerably behind - even if his progress is visible and audible. Nevertheless, his reaching the level his peers are right now will take some time.

The class has Literacy and Numeracy objectives that are nicely expressed using stories, role play and Humans and Animals theme still convey an idea that five-year-olds are crammed with expectation. It is clear that Number One Son will learn - but will also take his time. He will hopelessly fail any national targets, but the paperwork suggest personalised targets. These will however be widely different in this case from average targets. We are introducing alphabets here - not reading, yet.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Different styles

Now that Number One Son has had different periods of holiday with me and Archaeologist Husband, it has become clearer how differently we handle the time with our son. Naturally, since the work has taken me to Italy and kept me in Stockholm, he has been the one who has taken Number One Son to the family visits and beach holiday in Jersey (although the weather was not the best, but the normal British summer weather). These things we would have done together - as we have before - if the schedules had allowed. Now I managed to get a glimpse of hotel room ceiling (instead of son's room ceiling) on Skype.

The real difference is in the way we are with Number One Son and what we do. When I was in Anstey, I and Number One Son headed to Bradgate Park or Abbey Park to fish, climb or feed the birds. We did a trip to Loughborough in order to see Queen's Park and we did go place with his friends, too. Archaeologist Husband on the other hand has started to teach Number One Son how to write his own name and different numbers on the blackboard. He has also been visiting the local park in order to keep him in contact with any children he knows from the school and who play in the park, too. His approach is more local and more educational. Mine is more exploring and adventurous. I think he need them both.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Skype Mom in action - again

The past two weeks have seen me out of my normal routines while teaching in the field school. During this time I have been skyping in late afternoon instead of reading a bedtime story, so Number One Son has not been hearing any Finnish at all. Instead I have been talking to Archaeologist Husband and my son at the same time and basically losing to any good children's TV programme. However, I have heard about the first ever Flying Fox ride in the park and seen that the son had got his daily portion of chocolate. I was also introduced to the Gap A that Archaeologist Husband had bought as a present after Number One Son learnt to write his name (we do not bribe, we follow 'practical parenting').

Now our flypaths are criscrossing Europe: I returned to Sweden to work early this morning while Number One Son and Archaeologist Husband flew a few hours later to Jersey for a family holiday to see Bam Bam and Great-Grandmother. I have already got texts telling that they have been building a sand castle on the beach on rainy Jersey. Now I just have to imagine how excited Number One Son was last year when the incoming tide wiped the sand castle away. It would be lovely to share those moments, but sadly first I have to build some models and provide photos of them for the students for their reports this week.

In Casablanca movie they say that we will always have Paris, but I can say that we will always have Brookside and fishing net... Not as romantic, but one of those defining moments of this summer with Mom. Now I only have to stay awake to do my skyping!

Monday, 28 July 2014

More Holiday!

Riding a fire engine

Our two and half weeks is almost over, but it has included a lot of local enjoyment in the lovely sunny and warm weather. We have visited Queen's Park in Loughborough and rode in a local bus that passed all the lovely villages in Charnwood, such as Swithland and Woodhouse Eaves. The park has an aviary with colourful parrots and the best playground I have ever seen in the area. It also has the local Charnwood museum we could visit for free. There was a carousel in the main square and an ice cream van at the park gate. A perfect short-distance summer visit.

In the Queen's Park

We also went to the City Farm and created an animal mask with some of Number One Friends. I and Number One Son revisited Abbey Park, since there is always things to see and do.

Gorse Hill City Farm

Number One Son also participated in an archaeological community dig in Anstey, but he was more interested in the tree house and the paddling pool in our friends' garden. However, he got really excited about troweling worms. Archaeologist Husband was giving a lecture on Medieval brick and tile elsewhere for a community group, but he managed to meet us afterwards in a newly opened family pub in the village. Splendid end to a splendid day!

Digging worms

Monday, 21 July 2014


Sometimes one does not have to go far away or do really special things on a holiday. When one is a Skype Mom, then it is more important just spend some time together and explore things that are nearby and enjoyable when sun is shining.

A peacock in Abbey Park - with added chicken

This summer's novelty for me and Number One Son is having a fishing net. Something we do not do in Finland, since we actually go fishing and eat the catch. There a fishing net is many metres long and a sign of serious dedication to fishing. Here it is actually something I thought was a butterfly net and used by small children. Anyway, paddling is fun!

Paddling in Bradgate Park

Sunday, 13 July 2014

End of the term

It is not only the end of the school term and school year but it is an end of an era. Number One Son is not in the reception class any more: he will start Class 1 at the end of August. He has now started to take scooter to school, kicking his way with increasing speed that raises the hair of me and Archaeologist Husband. He may not read or write, but spiritliftingly he is not unique. I heard in the NCT coffee group about another boy who did not do those things at the end of the reception class. He successfully managed to learn them during the first proper year. He and his brother do not like drawing either - a feature Number One Son shares with them. Running and climbing - yes. Drawing with pens - no. Clearly, not all develop with the same speed nor have same interests, but the education system had problems in acknowledging that. Do not get me even started about the opinions of the current Minister of Education who does have little understanding of the early development and its diversity.

One should probably consider changing the name of the blog, since Number One Son is not a toddler any more. However, "Two archaeologists and a schoolboy" does not have the same air in it. One could of course use the developmental age of Number One Son as a guide: if he is about three and a half or four, he could go as a toddler one more year.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

I blame Dora the Explorer!

It is a sad feeling when you have to drop bilingual upbringing when you realise that your child has a speech difficulty. Naturally one has to make sure that the child learns at least one language properly and pronounces it correctly. However, I was hoping that three or three and half years of Finnish would have left more of a mark than a 'kiitos' (thank you) to a conductor in the local train near Helsinki. At least Number One Son still likes to watch Moomins in Finnish. However, lately he seems to have started speaking some Spanish...

They say that the language spoken by the mother is the most important. However, I am now mainly speaking to him in English. The main Finnish input is the daily bedtime story, which I duly read via Skype when here in Sweden. Nevertheless, Number One Son has developed a huge following on Dora the Explorer after Archaeologist Husband got us Netflix subcription. Repeating single Spanish words seems to be contagious. Now he is saying 'abre!' every time he wants something opened. I have lost hands down...

Monday, 30 June 2014

Support on Sports Day

This week we participated to the most British of those school traditions in England – Sports Day. I was slightly dreading it beforehand, since Number One Son has not reached the level where he can comfortably skip or do things with a hula-hoop. He is also easily distracted and becomes bored, so I was wondering, how it will turn out.

I should not have been worried. His group started with the things he was stronger at and he did try every single event. Even if he is not very good in throwing ball, he tried a cricket type activity that was not a great success. However, throwing bean bag was OK and he hit inside a hula-hoop ring every single time. It was only the nearest one, but he is only on the reception class. Their team seem to have reached the highest score in that activity.

He was as good as the other children of his age with the hockey stick, and he really did like to manoeuvre with a football. The groups were mixed and he was clearly twinned with the tallest, very gentle six-grader, who was cheering him up, high-fiving and helping when he started to linger off. Similarly, the teaching assistants and teachers were helping him to concentrate, and supported and guided him, when his concentration lapsed.

It was a joy to follow such team work. The atmosphere was lovely and the sun was shining almost all the time, so I and Archaeologist Husband were completely red on our faces at the end of the day. The activities finished with a picnic, so we three had sandwiches and fruit outside and then headed for a play date.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Midsummer sunshine

How can one feel guilty of Midsummer celebrations that do not really involve alcohol and happen in the middle of the day on Midsummer afternoon, not in the rowdier evening of the Midsummer Eve? The reason is the hot sunshine and real barbecue weather in Midlands in comparison with the rain and hail and almost freezing temperatures in Finland. It just felt so unfair that the Finnish family party in England was basking in sunshine. Nevertheless, the half-term week had been so dismal that we deserve some sunny weather.

The barbecue celebration allowed a visit to Eestimaja, the Estonian cultural club, that I had not visited before. A long time ago I and other Finns did frequent the Polish Club in Bristol, but this was a new experience. Sadly, I was driving and attending the party with Number One Son, so any Viru Valge was beyond the limits. Any way, 70 % version could have been lethal. I stuck in their lovely little bar to my standard Tonic Water with ice and lemon...

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Father has to make his own cake – with Son

For this Father’s Day Archaeologist Husband got his card two weeks early. Luckily, I had noticed the Father’s’ Day’s cards in the supermarket, so I could pick up a suitable one that included a ‘Best Dad’ pin or similar. The card lauded the qualities of the father in comparison to million bucks/quids. Considering how marvellous job his does meticulously when I am working away, he deserves all the praise I can offer.

Not The Cake, but with Ganache - as the one baked (thanks, wikipedia)

It was heart-warming to hear that the school Number One Son goes to, had a similar Daddies’ event day as it had for Mummies. Archaeologist Husband had forgotten to tell me about the latter, since he felt sidelined when a special invitation letter had come from the school to the mothers: he did not remember it was before the Mother’s Day... Now he got his turn!

All the usual suspects where there: South African Dad, Congolese Dad, Carpenter Dad, Business Dad and others one has seen in different birthday parties and children’s events in the village. One feels for the kids who do not have father who comes around: some fathers just do not wish to have anything to do with their off-spring. However, even the best of mothers and fathers have to work, so you cannot have everybody there any way.

Somehow it is uplifting and sad that Number One Son and Archaeologist Husband were baking a cake yesterday. Uplifting, since it is an activity they both enjoy and like. Sad, since it is basically Archaeologist Husband’s Father’s Day cake. Although on one level he may be lucky and make a close escape, since I am not famous for my baking skills. In addition, Archaeologist Husbands chocolate and walnut cakes have been a success among the other mothers. Hmm, wait a minute – should I be a little bit worried...?

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Princess Leonore and Number One Son

Today Princess of Leonore of Sweden was christened. This effected my life when I caught a glimpse of soldiers on horses in the city centre in Stockholm. I also reminded my mother that the christening took place today, so she could watch it on TV in Finland. There were also lovely photos of the little baby girl in the Finnish papers I glimpsed online today. A little girl reminds one that one is a mother to a son and will never live through the pink fluff that seems to fill little girls' life these days. It is shameful to admit that I sometimes I walk through a department store and look at the little cute party dresses for girls and think that it would be nice to buy those for my own daughter. But would I have? I have only managed to buy "lovely, but functional" dresses to my niece. The biggest nod to the "pinkification of girls' lives" was when I bought some princess items for Number One Son's Number One Cousin and a birthday present to Number One Friend.

Cousins, princesses Leonore and Estelle of Sweden

More than anything the new princess who actually lives in New York with her mother, Princess Madeleine of Sweden, and his father, reminds me of distance. However, our life is slightly more extreme than the life of a princess who is separated from his grandparents: Number One Son is in one country today and I am in the other. Nevertheless, we could Skype together, so we both have a contact. These are moments one wishes that the distance "kissing machine" Horowitz tried in the Big Bang Theory becomes a reality. Not to mention the improvements to the long-distance marrige...

Monday, 2 June 2014

Half-term together!

I know what the weather will be like in late July. It will be overcast, rainy and chillier than the week before or after. The only day the weather was good during this half-term was the last day, Sunday, when I was going to fly back to Sweden for two and half weeks of teaching and the preparations for teaching before the next spurt of holiday in late June across the Midsummer. Then Number One Son will be at school so it will be bound to be sunny.

Tuesday: climbing

This half-term was all about ordinary things cut by some more half-termy activities. We did take bus to the city centre on Bank Holiday Monday when Archaeologist Husband had to go to work in Birmingham. We went to check the Disney shop and had a McDonalds chicken nugget treat. Sadly, I had to drag Number One Son through some clothes shops, since I do need some new clothes for field school – for the hot Italy in August. When I will miss trips to southern England with Archaeologist Husband and Number One Son. Sigh!

The river Cam at Lammas Land

Tuesday was all about normal weekly food shop and a fair amount of running and climbing in the park, whereas Wednesday saw the less successful swimming trip. Our safety conscious son does not like to go to the water that is deeper than his thighs. I think a career in Health & Safety will be looming... If not in paleontology. On Thursday I and Number One Son headed to Cambridge, where the short walking distances across many pedestrian lanes, free museums, river, tourists in the punts and swans along the river, an old times’ sweet shop and a cheap lunch in The Regal guarantee a successful treat away. When it comes to the dinosaurs, normally the bigger the better, but this time ammonites proved to be a success as well.


On Friday we had a family day in the garden centre and revisited a pub where we have not been for a couple of years due to the declining quality of food. Well, it had improved – but not much. Now we can wait a couple of years again. Saturday was the lazy day in the garden whereas Sunday morning saw a play date in the sunny park. A full week of togetherness.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Hugs all around

Finally, finally, I am back home again after a longer stretch away due to the family holidays in Finland and Sweden. How it feels good - although I have not started with the mail, yet, since it is Bank Holiday Monday. The day is extraordinary, since Archaeologist Husband is away for work - the only day his boss and collaborator could make due to the elections last week. Thus, I am left to entertain Mr Wriggly, who was enthusiastically hugging us both both in the evening, when I arrived just for time for bedtime story, and now in the morning. I surely have been missed - and the bedtime story reading was longer than normally, since I have to encourage his questions for developmental support.

The developmental assessment has come through and Number One Son is significantly delayed. However, there seems to be slight differences of opinion between the professionals how significant the delay is, so we will see. As a Finn I am not totally worried, yet, since most Finns know that the developmental differences are wide until 7, although it is clear he will require help at school in England and will miss the targets for 5-year-olds. But what can you do, except trying to support a happy and confident child, who makes constant progress - although it is not swift and quick. Luckily, some of the fuss can be blamed on a certain Education Secretary who does really not know much about the different speeds of development in young childs. Nevertheless, keeping eye on progress is never to be underestimated, but the support should be automatic for all children.

The SEN rules are changing, so what the future brings is not perfectly clear. Archaeologist Husband has to arrange a meeting with the school and we will see. I hope I will be in the country on that day, since even if I have been working away, I do follow carefully the situation. Is it responsible parenting - or just parenting...

Sunday, 18 May 2014

No targets in sight

This week saw Number One Son’s assessment by the paediatrician. The doctor was apparently quite happy, but I think Archaeologist Husband did not tell how much his drawing skills are behind the others. He can do a fine volcano and a dinosaur looks remotely as a real one, but any human figure is rudimentary. One of Number One’s schoolmates asked me about his mother figure, which had my one eye in the right place but the other on my chin and the figure was basically a head with a scarf downwards. At that moment I was speechless, but I probably have to start explaining to other children that with Number One Son it will take slightly longer.

Now all the offices, professionals and agencies will need our approval that they can speak to each other. Well, self-evidently they will get it, since we want that Number One Son will be monitored, even if he is probably just a late developer with a speech difficulty. In Finland this would not be a problem, but in England he will go to Class 1 in the autumn. He will probably fail all the targets for 5-year-olds that will not trouble us so much but is likely to be a bit of a headache for the school.

Thus they may hope some kind of diagnosis that would help them to explain to the Department of Education why the lateness is the case. In Finland the fact that he is a five-year old would be enough. Nothing is expected properly before seven there.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Nearer the understanding

This week brought a new assessment from Number One Son’s new speech therapist. She considers him having the speaking skills of a three-year old, but apparently understanding much more. We the parents know this, since his knowledge of dinosaurs is extraordinary and he shows signs of strategic thinking and business acumen when it comes to getting new dinosaurs.

Number One Son will soon be assessed by a paediatrician as well, so we will hear if it is likely that all this is only about speech development and lateness or if there is anything else on the background. To us he is a happy boy who shows signs of intelligence, enjoys exploring and likes his friends, so he is our delight in any case. Even if poor Archaeologist Husband gets tired while I try to keep our finances balanced and get my research somewhere.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Number One Son does Fennoscandia

Well, not ALL Fennoscandia, but only parts of two countries, i.e., Finland and Sweden. First we were travelling around southern Finland visiting my family members in different cities and then staying in my student studio flat in Stockholm. The second part involved attending an archaeological conference where Number One Son was the only visible child, although a Swedish Professor had arrived with all his family for an Easter holiday outing.

Every modern parent's dirty secret

One can never laud the persons who A) came up with the idea of a tablet computer, B) the people who came up with the idea of DOWNLOADABLE BBC iPlayer programmes, and C) the persons who developed Angry Birds in its many incarnations – including the animated movies. This setup keeps Number One Son content in the restaurants, for almost half an hour of the opening ceremony of the Nordic TAG and while waiting for mummy between the papers and the breaks in the conference. I and Archaeologist Husband wish not to think about the time these things did not exist. Even the babysitter during the day we had our session used the combined Method A and C at the end of the day.

Sweden/Finland ferry: small boy, big boat

During our trips we encountered the Nordic spring weather with all of its forms. There was the heavy rain when we landed separately at the Helsinki airport. There was snow in the woods in central Finland around my uncles houses (yes, houses – it is a long story). There was bright spring sunshine over yellow lawns in different parts of southern Finland. And there was the cold sunny weather and the warm sunny weather over very green lawns in Stockholm. The most hair-raising cum irritating moment came when on the motorway I did not know how to switch on the windscreen wipers when the rain started.

In pine forest

What I had hoped to introduced Number One Son to, was the Nordic pine forest with the grey smooth outcrops of bedrock that are marvellous to climb on. Sadly, we had all too little time for that, but he did really get the idea. Sadly, my changed schedule over the summer months will mean that we two are unlikely to spend quality time in the north as I had originally hoped for. Our precious moments of overlapping holiday are better spent at home enjoying small adventures in England.

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.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Skype Mom travels again

It does not really matter where one is when one skypes. It seems that the light in the ceiling is always shining to the eyes of the receiver and requires changing and you are sitting in a darkish room reading a fairytale. Stockholm looks like Finland looks like Rome. This is not helped by the fact that I have a room with the windows very low next to the floor level, so I have to have a light on even during the day.

Nevertheless, for a distant parent the regularity of contact is the most important thing. It is not the child’s fault that you have to work away and you have to show your child that you care. This week I will have two social evenings in a row, which means that I cannot book or plan anything more before Saturday. Number One Son will need a couple of nights of regular good night story before any thought of another evening in a restaurant. In addition, I cannot be impulsive and attend an opening of an art exhibition I just spotted, but do the thing I promised today. Nevertheless, Saturday will be my last evening, so it would be nice to have a meal in town. People have lauded the artichokes this season and I feel tempted.

The tiredness in the eyes of Archaeologist Husband keeps me concentrated in work. One cannot be frivolous when the other half is carrying the can and taking the responsibility of any everyday activities. Luckily, it is not long until the half-term when I will be doing my share. And be nagged about the housework...

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Quiet life of a Skype Mum

Reading a bedtime story via Skype to your child when the child is in Britain and you are working in the continental Europe is the easiest way to guarantee that you life frugally, save money and keep away from any temptation. Of course, one could hit town or any bad habits afterwards when one has also discussed the day with your partner. However, if you are working, you start to be quite tired by 9 pm. In addition, you may not life in the busy party central, but the residential ‘garden city’. By 9 pm the bus service has grinded to almost to a halt, so reaching any hotspots will take time and waiting in the freezing evening.

I probably should have started a hobby, but the travelling schedule would bring gaps to any evening classes. Sitting in for example would mean that I would mix with people who are not archaeologists, I do not work with and who actually live locally. Now I live in a student flat in a house where the nearest thing to a local is me, another Finn and one Norwegian guy who may or may not still live in the house. Well, there are some Russians, but if you consider people who by definition speak at least some Scandinavian, I am almost native. This is a bit alienating, but making the most of the window of being able to write and study means that I am easily at the University until about six a clock, when I have to leave, if I want to eat before skyping.

Luckily the archaeology seminar sometimes leads to a dinner in a pub, but since I miss the Christmas party, these occasions seem to be rarer now during the ‘nose-whitening January’. The discussions at the swimming pool where I go about once a week relate normally to some queuing issue, when I transform into a small-minded middle-aged woman when people pass me in the Jacuzzi or shower queue. May be I should have taken up Italian discussion group or something. Well, now I am heading to actual Rome and my Italian will be hilariously mixed with Swedish words. You should have heard me on the phone! ‘Februari’ came from my mouth instead of ‘febbraio’. No wonder the funzionario was puzzled... Or perhaps written Swedish may have been more fitting. Considering my first stab in formulating a paragraph in Swedish for 15 years in academic language. Total laugh-out-loud non-sense!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Winter holiday?

Even if the new year has barely started we have the plans ready as far ahead as April - which is in current circumstances about as far ahead as we can think! After that the things seem to be changing and be covered by the mist of uncertainty, but at some point during the summer I and Number One Son will be in Finland, hopefully with Archaeologist Husband. But all is open and so much depends on other people's projects, so we can just sit and wait. But we are ready undil Easter.

The end of my stay at home was marked by a colour change: I left behind a green land and landed in the darkness into the whiteness. Almost every day some new fluffy snow is coming down from the sky and in the underground one can spot ladies and gentlemen in their cross country gear. Suddenly I am facing distant memories from the late 1970s and early 1980s when I tended to go to [cross country] ski and skate. Then the mild winters, student life along the coast and move to the country where I did not see snow properly again in the winter until the late 2000s. And in those cases we talk about snow staying over one weekend. However, the last two winters were different in England and suddenly I had to use my Finnish winter boots again.

Now the coffee table discussions at work when my colleagues are discussing their children going to ski and skate here and there around Stockholm make me think, if Number One Son should have his slice of the pie. However, we have made the decision that I will go home for half-term, since one week's winter would mean a lot of winter clothes bought for one week only and sudden need for skies and a sled. With no certainty, if there will be another Swedish winter ever again, we really do not want to buy things we do not need or be able to store. Which is a pity, since every child would need their time walking on the ice on a lake or on sea. of course, we will never know, if it will be snowing at Easter in April!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

End of the holidays

Number One Son's first proper Christmas holiday from the school is almost over. The time passed us by fast. Not least because I have been battling with a winter cold throughout, been able to do activities for a short time and then basically been resting on the sofa. As if my body and the bugs knew I am officially on my annual leave, so that one is destined to become ill. In addition, Archaeologist Husband has to finish a series of reports for mid-January, so he has been heading to his office on many afternoons, while I have done some things in the mornings on the weekdays.

Luckily, we have managed some play dates - both in our house and elsewhere. In addition, I and Number One Son visited Sales after Boxing Day and headed for the city centre on a couple of other occasions just to see the Christmas decorations or running some errands. The holiday time has been relatively quiet - just as we planned it to be. It is just a pity that my cold has left the long walk to the Bradgate Park undone and swimming has been out of the question. I just shiver out of a thought of a draughty changing room!