Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Website madness

Finding a web bureau is driving me to distraction….. I have been contemplating it for so many months. While I am much clearer in my own mind over how I want the site to look and feel, and what I want to do with it, I am no clearer in my decision as to what sort of platform I should build it on.

I need a CMS, a content management system, and there are a lot of them around. Some are designed by the web bureaus that use them, others are available upon payment of a licence fee and yet others are free and widely available like Joomla, Drupal and Wordpress.

It isn’t just a question of price but also ease of use, functionality and longevity. I am going to be making a lot of changes myself and will need to learn to use this system, and/or eventually pay someone else to do the updating. I need a system that is not going to cost me a fortune every time I want to add something , one that is able to grow with me and the vision I have for the website. And I need something that will last the distance.

I have had a range of quotes for building the website- 25,000kr ($5,000), 45,000kr ($9,000) and well over 100,000kr ($20,000). I have heard a couple of figures of 100,000kr (approx $20,000) for a platform and today I heard 400,000kr ($80,000) for a complete website. That is a lot of money. But then again this website is my everything – it is my business…..

The search continues.

15 minutes later

I just had my 15 minute interview and all I can say is WOW!! 15 minutes goes really quickly! And it is too easy to come away and say – I should have said xxx or I shouldn’t have said xxx, but I am trying not to torment myself. I will just put it behind me and hope for the best.

I met with a man from the production company and the MD of Connect – an interesting organisation. They briefly told me about the project and then it was my turn. They asked a few “hard” questions such as what it is costing me to do the website and what I expected to bring in, if I have talked to prospective customers and when I anticipate the website will be launched.
I was at least well prepared. I have been thinking about it a lot and had a compendium with information that I left with them.

They have my number, if I get a call I go before a jury who will decide if I am to be included in the TV program.

Now it is time to focus on the next task at hand – deciding on a web bureau to do the site for me.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Another squirrel

bites the dust. That is 3 in 3 days. NOW my little hunter has a bell around his neck.
Long live the rest of the squirrels in the trees in Traneberg.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Dead animals...

Visions of a half-eaten squirrel, dead birds trapped in a cupboard and a wasted moose.

Mischa caught two squirrels over the weekend, we took one, he ate half of the other before I took it from him. Two less squirrels we will see in the trees around here. Spring is the time to put a bell on him.

I found two baby birds trapped in a cupboard downstairs in our cellar, trapped until their premature death, never to see the sunlight.....

We watched Into the Wild last night. Excellent soundtrack.
I need to watch it a couple of times to absorb it.
Yet another testimony to the impact of the child/parent relationship.
It was delicious, it was visual, it was disturbing. Watch it and decide for yourself.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Parents' Meeting at Lillgården

I almost forgot the parents' meeting at daycare last night and it came to me like a bolt of lightening during the day. I had planned to go to my first Shenet mingle but figured I had better attend the meeting with the other Lillgården parents. Shenet will have to wait another few weeks. The Moet sounded very inviting..... oh well, a cup of herbal tea it was instead.

As usual I came away from the parents' meeting feeling sorry for my poor children, now it is Kieran I am concerned for.

When we came back from Canada last year it was evident how the six months away had impacted on Makaila. She was more shy, more withdrawn, and more timid than ever before. And it took here a good 4 months to start speaking Swedish again. It was a difficult time for her, a frustrating time. Thankfully things gradually changed and these days she switches comfortably back and forth between the two languages.

Now it is Kieran's turn. He has been "learning" Swedish since last August when he first started at Lillgården. In reality that means he was thrown off the deep end and into a totally Swedish speaking environment, although they speak English if they need to be sure he understands. While his learning was initially passive, ever so gradually he started to regurgitate what he was soaking up. He repeats a lot of what is said to him and will often tell me what things are called in Swedish. I was pleased to hear last night that he is now starting the gradual transition from one word answers to full sentences in Swedish.

But the heart-breaking part is that while he understands most of what is said to him he can't really communicate with the other kids. Consequently, he ends up on the outer of any group, unable to totally join in their games. Initially it didn't bother him too much, it was all so new and observing the others was part of his transition. Six months down the track I think he is looking for more interaction, but not able to get it.

I'm so grateful he and Makaila have each other - they almost always play together when all the kids are outside, with a couple of others joining in. I'm sure they get a lot of comfort from being together.

It is a process that they have to go through, there is no way to avoid it if we are going to stay in Sweden, and we have no plans to go anywhere. And there is absolutely nothing we can do except make sure they get plenty of Swedish exposure and wait it out. It will get easier, but it takes time.

But some days it feels like a high price to pay and I can only wonder how it will affect them in the long run, for I am quite sure it will affect them in one way or another. Will they be more shy for the experience, or more gutsy as they get older, demanding space in whatever group they find themselves in? I hope they grow up happy to have two languages under their belt, and an easier time then going on to learn other languages.

I hope they think it was worth the price.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

The Story of Stuff

I just watched a fantastic movie about STUFF and I recommend you watch it too!!! It is a 20 minute movie but well worth the time. Annie Leonard is a great presenter and it is a very interesting website with good resources.

Over-consumption is the root of many evils.

It is one of the reasons I love living in Sweden - for its low consumption levels and for the protection of the environment. It is also a good reminder as to why I buy as much organic stuff as I can - even if it costs us more.

There is a great awareness and a willingness to protect the environment, and there has probably always been for these nature-loving Swedes. Individuals are willing to act, governments are willing to act.
And although consumption is growing rapidly with the building of malls or shopping centres everywhere I doubt it will ever reach the levels of the English speaking countries - Swedes have other priorities. And yes, high taxes mean you get less for your money too.

Still, there is a rapid growth of consumption in Sweden too - all the popular fashion blogs alone support this theory.

So, don't listen to me ramble, listen to Annie Leonard's great presentation. And do yourself a favour - get off the consumption merry-go-round and reduce the amount of STUFF you buy. Watch the movie, take it to heart and do the planet a favour too.


The meeting has been postponed. The guy from the production company is ill, acutely ill, enough to postpone the meeting.
Well at least I am prepared now.

Entrepreneurs on TV

I have an interview this afternoon.
For a job? - I hear you ask. No, for a TV program!!

My advisor at Nyföretagarcentrum rang me about 10 days ago to see if I was interested in coming in for an interview. I have 15 minutes to present myself and my business and I am nervous!!
They are interviewing about 18 people and selecting 8-10 to do a documentary/reality show (??) following entrepreneurs during the start and progression of their business.

It would mean publicity, support and pressure.
So very exciting!

Wish me luck.

Monday, 21 April 2008

You know it is spring when....

The sun shines.
The heaters are turned off during the day.
You can leave the balcony door open in the late afternoon.
The balcony has been cleaned up and seedlings have been planted in the pots.

You can sit outside at a cafe in Odenplan and enjoy Sushi in the sun - without a jacket!
You need sunglasses again.
The kids run around in the park without jackets or hats.
They wake up way too early and struggle to go to sleep at night because it is so bright.
Mischa wants to be outside all the time.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

My niece Ellandi

Ellandi is spending the weekend with her dad after having had about six weeks with her mum, and I wonder how she is doing.

Ellandi, born an incredible 12 weeks premature, has not lived with both her mother and father since just a few weeks before she was due to turn one. Her start in life was a traumatic, dramatic and a turbulant one. I can hardly look at the pictures of this tiny creature, struggling to cling to life with every ounce of determination. Yet here she stands over nine years later, a strong, proud and gutsy girl on the edge of her teens, in the twilight of her CHILDhood, a real little toughy. A marvel and a miracle.

I was just a few years older than Ellandi when my parents separated and I remember the nine months of going back and forth between them like it was yesterday.
One of the many, many emotions around the death of my father was relief, relief that I would not have to spend the rest of my life yo-yo-ing back and forth.

A child that goes between two parents is a child who lives in two worlds, has two families, two homes, two sets of rules, two beds, two sets of toys, two lots of pets, two types of mealtimes, two, two, two of everything. How do they cope??

I suffered from guilt, the eternal guilt of being with one parent and not the other, and that guilt made me angry, angry at my parents, angry at the world.

Do younger child suffer from guilt? Or do they suffer from confusion, and from always having to change and make the adjustment between their two worlds, their two lives. Or do they take it in their stride in a way that I can't understand, because it is all they have ever known, all they can remember....

And will they live with this duality the rest of their lives, and if the events of life change like they did in mine will they find some way to recreate that duality in their lives? The duality of wanting to be in two places at the same time, the duality of always saying goodbye to someone and the duality of always missing those you are not with. The constant, ever-lasting pull in two directions...

From one parent to the other, from one life to the other. I hope you are doing ok precious Ellandi. We love you and we miss you.

Spring has sprung!

Spring is in full bloom. Sunshine and flowers everywhere you look.
I am loving it

Well almost everywhere anyway. Spring is still waiting to happen in some places.

Friday, 18 April 2008


Something clicked in Kieran, kind of like two pieces of a puzzle that click together,
and ever since we have had puzzlemania here.
Makaila has always, always, enjoyed puzzles, but something rather puzzling happened to Kieran... Puzzles in the morning, puzzles in the afternoon and puzzles at night.
He just wants to stay at home and do puzzles.

And when he has completed them a few times, he turns them upside down
and does them that way. All with the help of his big sister.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Business Network International (BNI)

Went to a BNI meeting this morning which was a bit of a shock to the system. The group meet at 6.45 at Scandic Hotel in Bromma - 6.45 am that is, as in early morning!! That involved setting my alarm for before 6am and stumbling out the door at 6.15 AND I had to be dressed in business attire - had almost forgotten what that is - it required a lot of scrounging around in the cupboard. Not to mention I had to leave the car so Tyler could take the kids to daycare. On the train before 6.30AM - that could be a first!

I think my body is still recovering....

Anyway I came in contact with this network through my mentor who is also a member. I have also read a little about it on the net and met another BNI person at one of the American Club networking nights. It feels like it is a spin-off of one of those American pyramid sales organisations, of which I am usually very "anti".

But curious as I am, I went along to see if it is of any interest to me.

A breakfast meeting includes of course breakfast and after some introductions we filled our plates with eggs and bacon, bread and cheese, coffee and juice. The meeting follows a fairly formal agenda and the introductions around the table of both members and visitors made it immediately clear that there could be a lot of value in this network for me.

Not only does BNI follow a formal agenda but they also have very clear goals with the network, so clear that they almost sound crude in my ears. Each member spends a certain amount of energy not only recruiting new members but also inviting guests to the meetings to add to the network, even if only on an informal level.

The members are also focused on satisfying needs, if not their own then the needs of those in their network. A printed sheet is given to each participant with a list of members and what they are looking for. As we went round the group they put forth a contact that they themselves are looking for or on behalf of someone else. Agneta was looking for people interested in installing water filters or contacts in the kitchen renovation or sales business who might be interested in the filters. Roger was looking for companies interested in profiling themselves through golfing products. Ms Lindgren was looking for a sponge supplier, Lars promoted someone else's business and many promoted their own.

The other main part of the meeting included handing out Reference Cards. Again this is a fairly formal procedure with the cards being printed sheets of paper. One copy goes to the person being referred and another is to be filed. The Reference Cards state the name and number of someone who is interested either in your services or the services of someone you have promoted. It needs to be a solid reference and you need to have spoken to the other party so that they are aware that you are passing on their details and can thus anticipate a phone call.

As I said, it all feels very American, but the advantages are clear. I am going to sell advertising, advertising on a website that is new and so far has no visitors. And it is the number of visitors to a site that help sell advertising, the more visitors, the more expensive the advertising. I don't expect it to be easy and I have had any number of experienced people tell me that it is indeed a difficult task, a time consuming task. I was recently given estimates of about 10 phone calls to a company before you get to speak to the right person, then another 6-10 phone calls and meetings before you get close to signing a contract with them. And that information came from an experienced banner salesman...

Any roads in are going to make it easier, quicken the process, improve my success rate. These people are interesting because even if they are not decision-makers likely to buy advertising on my site, they probably know others who are.

The reaction to my business concept was again, very positive. One of the members, a partner in a law firm, expressed immediate interest in advertising on the site.

Why do I hesitate? 600kr or 110 dollars a month makes me hesitate. A high price to pay, or is it?

Monday, 14 April 2008

Protecting our Children

Neither of my babes were particularly enthusiastic about going to Lillgården today, not even Makaila. Kieran was home Friday after ear-aches during the night and had basically been at home, inside, for three days. Breaking the habit is hard.

I left Makaila sitting on Anette's knee and I started to wonder how much she was missing Lucille. Lucille returned to her native France at Easter and Makaila lost one of her friends, again. Now there are three girls in her group, and even if they mix around we all know three is an odd number. Luckily she has a brother and doesn't think twice about playing with the boys. But boys will be boys, and she says she "hates" cars.

So I asked her and she said, yes, she was missing Lucille........

I took Kieran out to Eija and held him for a while while I talked to her. He had been telling me all morning he wasn't going. He was staying home with me. As we walked out he asked me if Nora was there, I didn't have the heart to tell him she wasn't coming today. I passed him over to Eija and went inside again without any of the dreaded tears. She held him for a moment before he wanted to get down and play.

I stopped on my way past to talk to Eija and we stood watching the boys play. There has been a change to his little group of five with the oldest moving to another group and a younger child coming in. I watched them play and saw how it has changed the dynamics, Kieran no longer has Josef all to himself. Needless to say the language hinders him as does his shy, gentle nature. He stood to the side and watched the other two boys. No wonder he was asking after Nora......

I know I have many of these times ahead. Watching my children in difficult situations, guiding them and waiting for it to pass. It doesn't make it any easier. In time the dynamics will change again, Kieran's Swedish will improve, and tomorrow Nora will be there. The other little boy arrived as I left and I walked away hoping that would improve the dynamics. It is tough being a kid, it is tough being a mum.

I walked to the station, grabbing a paper on my way in and sat on the train reading about the dreaded Engla case. I was saddened last night to hear that they had found her body, it hit home this morning as I read the details.

10 year old Engla went missing last weekend. She was riding her bike home from football training for the first time, her bike was found a street away from her home. Such a short distance, several calls on her phone to her mother along the way, yet, she didn't make it home.

She went missing the day after we had been to see Lova and her 10 year old siblings, less than a week after we had said goodbye to 9 1/2 Ellandi at the airport, an excited Ellandi who will be able to ride to school once they move in May........

The tears welled as I read the news, they flowed as I read Hillevi Wahl's column in Metro. She describes how I feel to a T. Engla's mum was quoted as saying she would not give up until she could bring Engla home, well now she can. What parent is not morning with Engla's parents? The worst that can happen, has happened.

Rest In Peace Engla.

As Hillevi says, no matter how much we want to protect our children, we can never protect them from everything. Not from losing friends, not from group dynamics, and not from unknown danger. Not now, not when they are ten, not ever......

But mum, you already know that now don't you.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Dinner and discussion

We had a lovely dinner last night with Helena, Patrik and Kristi.

Kristi called in to say hello before she leaves for the States for a month and ended up staying. It had been a couple of years since she had seen Helena and Patrik so it was nice for everyone.

The night progressed and the "photobooth" application produced a lot of funny pictures and a lot of laughter.

As it got later we settled in to the more serious discussion of equality...........
Let me say today is a sour one.

How do couples get equality in their relationships?

Especially when one has been either on maternity leave, unemployed or scraping together little assignments here and there for over 5 years and now wants to change the balance between taking care of children and having time to work?

Things are so sour today that I wasn't "allowed" out to go and do some work, but it was ok if I took the kids with me.

Life sucks!!!

Friday, 11 April 2008

GI Method??

Someone asked Ty recently if he knew what the GI method was.
Clearly, he doesn't.
The bread baking continues.
As does the eating.......
Yum yum!!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Snow turns to slush and then to puddles

When I left the kids this morning at Lillgården they were building a snölykta and when I picked them up a mere six hours later they were playing in a very wet forest and covered from head to toe (faces included) with sand and dirt.

Getting them in the car on a day like today is an ugly event, and the car ends up worse for wear (good reason for not buying a new one huh?).

As we reached home I was telling Makaila how Suparb used to get them clean by turning the hose on them on days like today, when what was before our very eyes as we got out of the car??

A giant puddle!

Telling Kieran to keep out is impossible, he heads straight for them at any time, today he at least had his gumboots and waterproof pants on. Not that he usually cares....

It turned out to be a great way to get the sand off them before we went inside. And they loved it! Whoever invented the song "rain, rain go away, come again another day" was NOT a Swedish kid!!


The snow has been a mysterious creature this year.

It's absence was felt by everyone through December, January and February. And then it reared its ugly head in March when it was most unwelcome.

By everyone except for the kids.

Ellandi in particular was very enthusiastic about seeing snow in March, snow for Easter.
And we did have a great time in Judarskogen Easter Monday making snow angels, throwing snowballs and skidding on the ice.

But then snow again this morning? This was not what we expected to see when we opened the blinds this morning, even if it was a cold one yesterday.

It is spring - the flowers tell us so and the hire bikes have even been placed around town. It is spring, what is the good of all that snow that just turns to slush?

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The Dentist

I took Kieran to the dentist yesterday- just the routine check up they have once they turn 3.
For a while there I thought it was going to be a "no show" and he was going to refuse to open his mouth.

Kieran shied away when the dentist talked to him but I did manage to sit up in the chair with him on my lap, still shying away from her. She had success when she pulled out a toothbrush that matched his top and started poking it in his mouth. She gradually managed to get him to open up and let her brush his teeth (without any toothpaste) although he (gently) clamped down on her finger a couple of times. The mirror was introduced and then the poker thingy and she managed to get a good look at his teeth, counting them and telling him what a good boy he was.

He gladly took his new toothbrush, including the little house to put it in and chose a ring from her box of goodies. He even got a little book (brochure), which was actually for mum and dad, telling him how to brush his teeth.

I had been sitting there thinking that 3 is just too young for a child to experience this sort of thing and had been dreading the confrontation that was likely to come. When Makaila was three and refused to be accommodating the same dentist was quite annoyed with me because my child would not do as she was told and her mother would not make her. I refused to force my child to sit there and I refused to force her mouth open. Is that so strange?

This time we survived this first trip to the dentist without too much of a drama. Thankfully Kieran is a bit more pliable. And Makaila sat and watched the whole thing, encouraging her little brother and wishing she too could have another turn....

Monday, 7 April 2008

Thanks but no thanks

I have had another company express interest in part ownership of my business, my website. We didn't discuss the details but the offer included office space, a platform to build the website on, a sounding board, direct access to their contacts etc etc.

It would be fantastic to have somewhere to work from and to be in a group of people that are clearly dynamic, ahead of the pack and working with some very interesting things. The owner gets a lot of media attention and is very progressive, someone I had respect for even before I came in contact with him a few weeks ago.

I have given it a lot of thought the last few days and decided to decline the offer. It is very flattering, it tells me I am heading in the right direction and that there is value in what I am doing. His final words in our meeting were that he thinks it is great that I am doing this. It is hard to say NO, but NO feels right. Their market segment is similar to mine, but different and making the adjustments that he would want would completely change my profile.

I have to go ahead with this on my own. For now......

Sunday, 6 April 2008

A kid's kind of weekend

When Kieran woke on Friday morning his first question was "Am I going to Lillgården today?" and when the answer was Yes he cried so hard that Tyler decided to stay at home with them. Makaila was exhausted too and only woke at 8.30 when K had a tantrum over me leaving for the day.

They went in to work with Tyler for his hour long mentor meeting where the student's got the chance to oooh and ahhh over the kids. K fell asleep on his shoulder during the lesson and Makaila sat quietly with a book at the front of the class. Our shy children loved the experience but didn't dare say "boo" to anyone.

Saturday morning we got up nice and early and were at Yvonne's just after 8am. We picked up her, her almost 12 year old daughter Yvette and Maggie Rose (their three-legged dog) and drove out to Yvette's horse-riding school. The kids were enthralled with the pre-class grooming of the horses and then sat attentively through the 40 minute lesson. Kieran hardly blinked!

We went back to their place afterwards - with Kieran protesting saying he just wanted to go home. His toilet-training started over the Easter weekend and since then he has not wanted to go anywhere - he only wants to sit on the toilet at home! But we endured, he settled and sat and drank hot chocolate. Afterwards Kieran was still eager to go home but Makaila was upset because we had to leave. I think she likes being anywhere but home and an older child and a dog definitely made it an attractive place to be.

After an afternoon nap (all but M) we went over to Lova's place. Lova and Makaila went to Suparb's family daycare together when they were just 2 years old. Lova then moved over to the daycare beside Kristofferskolan where her brother and sister go. The girls got along very well, as did the parents, so we continued to stay in contact although so much time has passed that the girls no longer remembered each other.

Still it didn't take long for them to warm up and a couple of guinea pigs certainly helped things go smoothly. Kieran, on the other hand, sat on the step by the front door, he wanted to go home and didn't want any dinner. Tyler eventually talked him round and he sat up with us and ate too. It was a lovely evening and really nice to see them again. We talked, and talked and talked and then talked some more. All the kids played, both young and old and Lova's 10yr old brother and sister were involved most of the evening. They either sat with us and talked, played with the girls or helped Kieran build train track. Lovely kids! We finally dragged ourselves out of there at 10.30 to take the tired little ones home to bed.

Today, Sunday we had a working bee at Lillgården. There is going to be a new group after the summer and Kieran's group is getting a new room. So Makaila and I were part of the team and we sanded walls, puttied and stripped wall paper for a couple of hours. Makaila was actually quite a good help and she enjoyed running between the adults and a new boy who was in "her" room playing with the toys. She also enjoyed sitting outside drinking cordial and eating a sandwich with all the adults. She sat in her "normal" spot.

Meanwhile Tyler and Kieran were doing the weekly grocery shopping - thank goodness I didn't have to do it. I HATE grocery shopping!

All in all it has been a nice, kid-oriented kind of weekend.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Athena & Ellandi have been and gone

April is here and they are in Paris. No more can we say "When Athena and Ellandi come we will......" Years of talking about them coming and thinking about what we'll do has evaporated in just three little weeks. What will we look forward to now? Will it be another 10 years before my sister visits me??

It is not normal for my sister and I to live under the same roof, it is not normal for us to live in the same country! We have hardly done it as adults. The longest time we have spent together in the years gone by is a week. A week at the beach, at mum's, at her place. Now we survived 3 weeks under the same roof and we didn't even argue...... We must be mellowing in our old age.

I'm going to miss my sister so much, I am so grateful that she took a few weeks out to spend them with us, in our life. It means a lot to me.

Now it is back to work for me, time to put my head down and get serious. Time is ticking by and decisions need to be made.