Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A Golden Stockholm

We live in a golden world at the moment. If I stand in the middle of our apartment I see golden leaves everywhere I look.

Out our bedroom window.

Off the balcony.
Out the loungeroom window.
And out the kids' bedroom window.

We need to appreciate this golden colour while we have it.

This is what it looked like just a week or two ago.
Autumn! I love the colours of autumn.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Living Life Through My Kids

I always thought that expression meant pushing your children to pursue your goals, your unfulfilled goals and dreams, but it seems it has a whole different meaning. I've come to realise it is also about meeting people through your children.

It seems that these days most of our socialising is thanks to the kids and the families we have met through school and daycare. Yes, Yvonne you did tell me it would happen, and my apologies to old friends who we haven't seen for a while.....

I chatted on the phone one night last week for an hour, not bad for someone who doesn't like to talk on the phone. And we were only supposed to be arranging to get together. Saturday we spent the evening with another daycare/school family until way too late. Sunday I spent the afternoon in the park with my son, his bestest friend and his mother. Last night I chatted to another friend, a daycare dad, on the phone who was just "checking in" to see how things were with us.

It is fantastic to meet so many wonderful people through the kids, people who just happen to be the parents of children who just happen to be friends with my kids. Very enriching!

The Age of No Response?

I've started wondering lately if it is a sign of the times, if we are too busy, if we forget or if it is just ok to not respond to someone.

An email to a colleague to remind her that I cannot be there goes unanswered. Do I need to know what happened in my absence, obviously not. Someone else promises to ring back about something and it is never mentioned again. An idea runs out in the sand, nothing more said. An approach taken, a first step initiated, no response.

Are we so busy, so over-loaded with information, impressions and people in our life that we miss responding to people who have contacted us. How many times have I done it? How guilty am I? I sit and contemplate...

Or is it ok to just ignore? Have times changed so we don't need to bother saying NO - I'm too busy, it's not possible, I'm just not interested? Is it no longer considered polite to say "thanks for the information, thanks for letting me know, let me think about it, I'll keep it in mind".

Perhaps these niceties no longer matter in these days where we have so much information and so many opportunities at our fingertips, so many pressures on us both personally and professionally...

Perhaps it is time to reposition my thinking, to anticipate one way communication, unless it really suits the other party to respond. Perhaps I need to look back through my emails and see what I have missed.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Breakfast Muffins

After popular demand and much nagging, I am finally publishing my recipe for breakfast muffins - they go like hotcakes in this household. They are healthy and nutritious and a lot faster to get down a child when in a hurry on a school morning than anything else!! Much better than the @^!#€%*&! in most cereal boxes.
The best way to make them is to have a digital scale so you can put a bowl on it and zero it each time you add an ingredient, add the wet stuff and Hey presto! another batch is made.

Double batch from original recipe - makes about 30.

Put the oven on 200 C (175 C if fan forced)

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl
90 g (grams) plain flour (I use spelt to increase protein content)
110 g wholemeal flour (spelt again)
3 tspn bicarb soda
1/4 tspn salt
2-3 tspn ground cinnamon
60 g bran flakes (I prefer quinnoa flakes - available in health food shops if not elsewhere and even cooked quinnoa and used that this week - made them even more moist)
170 g dried fruit (anything goes here and have also substituted for fresh fruit or 50/50, apple bits this week made them more moist again)
120 g dark brown sugar
100 g white sugar
50 g seeds (I mix sunflower and pumpkin and even some linseed and sesame - great for calcium, zinc and iron levels)
30g chopped whole rye (optional - gives little crunchy bits in muffins and adds a little more roughage)

Mix following in separate bowl
3 eggs
500ml buttermilk (add juice of 1/2 lemon to sour = buttermilk)
100g melted butter (sometimes use good canola oil but that makes final batter more liquidy)

Mix wet and dry ingredients but be gentle with them.
I leave them to sit for 5-10 minutes so wet soaks through dry without over-mixing.

Pour into prepared muffin tin - either greased or paper liners.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Hey presto they are done! Good wholesome muffins that you can give your kids without thinking twice. Mine float them in yogurt for a little variation.
You can reduce the sugar level.
You can add vanilla too - add 2 teaspoons to liquids or vanilla sugar to dry ingredients.
Make sure the mixture isn't too liquidy - if it is just add more flour - should not be runny but if it is bake it longer so everything sets.
Experiment! Add more seeds or fruit - the recipe can take it.
Each batch I make is different depending on what flour I have available and what dried fruit I use - the dried cherries, apricots and cranberries have been very popular.

Welcome to good, wholesome and yummy breakfasts that can be eaten on the run if need be!

Edited to say they should be baked in a muffin tray because the mix is initially very runny.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Homework time challenges both of us!

It has now been almost 2 months since Makaila started school and quite a few people are keen to follow her schooling. Friends, family and people in my greater network are curious not only about a Waldorf education, but about schooling in Sweden in general.

Before I go any further I can say she is loving every minute of it so far, both the school part and at the after-school-care. And her teacher tells me she is not the shy, reserved child that many of us knew a couple of years ago, but one who is active both in the class room and out of it. She is truly blossoming.

Even though I had planned to keep people updated and informed through the blog I haven't really felt able to compile my thoughts and observations into a single post and my girl is not the kind to come home and volunteer lots of information about her education - its more the blood out of stone style of communication!!

People at school seem to think there is a big difference between Waldorf education and mainstream Swedish school, not something I can respond to never having gone to school here. There are however plenty of similarities it seems, and I notice how different vastly different this school is to my experience - a lot of which has to do with the Swedish culture as much as the methodology. But I already touched on that in my last school post.

Her school day is a pretty short one, starting at 8.15 and ending at 12.40 (yes that's just after noon!) and in those few hours they seem to have quite a bit of break time - not quite like the long 9-3 days I knew as a kid. Lunch is as early at 10.15am and is eaten in the main cafeteria. They are served a hot meal each day and have a choice of two dishes plus salad. The big difference from daycare, apart from the choice, is the lack of dessert. Gone are the days of Klara's apple pie and all the other treats whipped up for the little ones. While on the subject of food I can also mention that they get a second lunch at about 1pm, once they get to after-school-care. While the "snack" there is not a hot meal it is substantial enough to sustain them until later in the afternoon.

Each Tuesday the homework books get handed out and in our weekly email the parents are also informed as to what the task is. Over the last few weeks they have been working on the letters of the alphabet, a couple each week and the homework is often to draw something starting with the letter they have been working on.

Going from what my girl has described the letters are taught in a way that gives as much feeling as possible to the letter. During our recent parent-teacher meeting we saw a beautiful bear's profile drawn on the board in the shape of a B. Wish I'd taken a photo of that to show you. Another letter that easily mimics an animal is an S. While snake is orm in Swedish, a snok is a common type of snake, so the Sammy snake concept still works. And so on, and so on. The idea is to involve all the senses, and both halves of the brain. Although Ty's teaching colleagues tell him that this is a pretty standard way to teach the alphabet in Swedish these days.

And those of you from the non-Swedish world might wonder if an almost 7 year old already knows her alphabet and the answer is YES, in English. Makaila is learning her alphabet all over again, this time in Swedish. And somehow its all different too. She also seems so much more eager to learn. I imagine the combination of learning in a group, longing to be able to read, and the methodology make it so much more tangible than the workbooks I have put before her over the years.

This week's homework is to practise writing the letters that have worked on so far - A, B, D, F, M, O, S, U and Ö as well as to try and use them to form words. She sat at the kitchen table tonight vigilantly working away while I cooked dinner.

The alphabet tree that Mormor gave her when she was little is now more useful than ever. It helped her visualise the letters while practising saying the alphabet in Swedish, and reminded her how to write them. Mind you she was careful not to press any letters, hear the spounds in English and completely confuse her brain.

Supporting a child with their homework is not always an easy task, something any parent knows, especially those with children much older than mine. Supporting a child in a language other than your own makes it all the more challenging and already I feel challenged, despite my fluency in Swedish. I looked at those letters and the only words that came to me were English ones. Dad, mad, sad, mum and bum just don't cut it as Swedish words! This is a concern Ty expressed long before Makaila started school and I didn't expect to feel the pinch as early as this. Saying that we did manage together to come up with quite a few words, it just took us some time.

Will be interesting to see what more challenges lie ahead of us!