Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winter break

Today winter break begins, 2 weeks off for the girls and 3 weeks vacation for Michael. We've been looking forward to this! Unfortunately I'm starting off the break with being sick, I came down with a cold earlier this week and it has gotten worse and worse. I'm hanging in there with Alka seltzer cold and hopefully I'll be feeling better very soon.

Our Christmas shopping is almost done, in fact we were almost finished the week after Thanksgiving. We've done almost all our shopping online this year and it's been so easy. Most places offer free shipping so it really hasn't been more expensive.

As always it's a little hard to get into the Christmas spirit here in Texas but we're doing our best. We got a tree about a week and half ago and all the decorations are up. The kids love to drive around the neighborhood at night, looking at all the lights and decorations


The kids love the flying Santa and reindeer's, Rudolph up front.


Inflatable Santa in an airplane.



Our tree.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Going to spelling competition!

A couple of weeks ago Lily tried out to be on the school's spelling team to participate in this years UIL (University Interscholastic League) academic competiton in our school district. Our school is competing in the following areas: Music memory, Ready writing, Spelling, Maps-graphs and charts, and Number sense. Anyone in 3rd,4th or 5th grade could try out for the spelling team. Some of the other teams were only open to 4th and 5th. Three people from each grade level would be accepted on the team, so the whole Spelling team would be made up of a total of 9 children. Last week they announced the teams at Friday assembly and Lily made the team! They are meeting before school every Monday morning at 7:15 for practice, until Competition February the 16th. This Monday was the first meeting where they were supposed to get the materials and rules etc but because I had my Oath ceremony Lily could not go. She had a private meeting with the coach (also the librarian) later in the day and she was told that she in fact had scored the highest out of all of 3rd and 4th grade on the try out! 5th grade got different words and will also take a different test, supposed to be a little harder.

The competition will be a written test taking approximately 45 minutes and participants will be scored both individually and as a team. 3rd and 4th grade have a list of 600 words to practice and 80% of the words on the test will come from this list. The rest will come from different sources and can not be practiced.

So from now on we have daily spelling practice at home although it seems that most of the 600 words on the list will be easy for her. We're so proud!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Proud to be an American!

On Monday December 12th I had my Naturalization Oath Ceremony and became an American Citizen!



I have been eligible to apply for citizenship for years but kept putting it off, fearing the paperwork and long process. This past August I finally decided it was time. The process went surprisingly smooth and I passed my interview on November 17th and was asked to come take the oath of allegiance on December 12th. This happened to be in the middle of a tour for Michael so he wasn't able to be there and because the appointment time was at 8:30am I had to arrange for childcare and leave by 6:45am.

We were 61 people from 23 different countries being sworn in that morning (they do oath ceremonies twice a day every day so you can imagine how many people are being naturalized). The ceremony was not that long but very nice. It included a speech from the Naturalization Officer, a recorded video speech from President Obama, a music video tribute to America, everyone singing the National Anthem and us taking the oath of allegiance. They also announced all the different countries represented among the applicants one by one in alphabetical order. As our country was called we stood up to be recognized. I was the only one from Sweden and most other countires were only represented by one or two people as well. There was probably 10 people from Mexico, not surprisingly.
Parts of the ceremony was quite emotional and as I was looking around the room at the other applicants I realized that for some of them becoming an American citizen is a major life changing moment.

Before the Oath ceremony I made a new friend in the waiting room, a very nice woman from Sudan. She had won the green card lottery and moved here 5 years ago and since then she has not seen her family at all because they have not been allowed to visit her in the US. For her becoming an American citizen means she can apply for visa's for her family members to come visit. It also means she will be able to visit her siblings in Europe. She once received a 30 day visa to visit her sister in the UK (her sister is a British citizen) but it took them 2 years before they granted it. Makes me realize how fortunate Swedish citizens are and by the way I'm allowed to keep my Swedish citizenship and be a dual citizen.
The Sudanese woman was the one taking the pictures of me above.

In the coming week I'm off to register to vote and to apply for my American passport!



This is the song they played at the Ceremony. Not the same video however, I could not find the version we watched.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Eventful weekend

Maddie started off the weekend with a trip to Great wolf lodge. Her best friend got to invite 2 friends to celebrate her 11th birthday. Great wolf lodge is an indoor water park/resort. Generally the water park is only open for guests staying at the resort but Maddie's friend was able to buy day passes as part of an annual fundraiser for "Big Brothers big Sisters of America". They left school early, after lunch, and stayed until close. She had so much fun!

Saturday morning started off with Lily falling off her friends electric scooter. She hit her face on the ground and chipped part of her left front tooth.We put in a call to the dentist and they so happens to be open the first Saturday of the month so we were able to get in right away. Not even 90 minutes after the fall her tooth was fixed, you can't even tell it happened. The fix is only temporary though and it will be redone in a few months. She will also need to go back for x-rays every 3 weeks to make sure there's no nerve damage.


Then, late last night we experienced our first earthquake here in Dallas. The quake originated in Oklahoma and measured a 5.6 on the Richter scale, it was felt in 7 states. The kids were already asleep and didn't wake up. At first I thought it was the wind that had picked up because the windows were rattling and the house made creaking sounds like it sometimes does in heavy wind. Then I realized the bed was shaking and we knew. It went on for close to a minute and then it stopped and went quiet, a weird feeling.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy Halloween

The weekend before Halloween we went trick or treating in a neighborhood close by. The community puts on an annual event called "Ghouls on the lawn" with activities such as ghost stories, smores making, a haunted graveyard, petting zoo, horse drawn carriage rides etc. Great fun!


The boys were not so sure about trick or treating.


Lovely neighborhood with beautiful homes.


Cool Halloween decorations.




Scary costumes.


Harry Potter.




On actual Halloween we went trick or treating in our neighborhood. Michael was out of town and I had spent the night before and most of the day sick with a stomach bug. The girls stayed home from school that day because I was unable to drive them in the morning and they were able to help with the boys. At the end of the day I did manage to take the kids around the neighborhood. The boys were really getting into trick or treating and after we hit the first house Jakie looked at me excitedly and exclaimed "It worked!"
Maddie and both boys had already been sick but Lily came down with the bug the morning after Halloween and ended up staying home another 2 days before she was able to return to school.


Trick or treating in the neighborhood.


Our little firemen, Jacob and Lucas.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Time for report cards

The first 9 weeks of school ended last week and today they had the first 9 week celebration of the school year. Those weeks sure went by quickly! The girls brought home their report cards this week and so I thought it's time for a blog update.

Maddie is doing very well this year. Her grades this first 9 weeks are as follows; Language Arts 91, Math 88, Reading 94, Science 93, Social Studies 95 (4 A's and 1 B). We're so proud of her!
I had a parent-teacher conference with her teacher a few weeks ago and he was very pleased with her performance. The only thing he wanted her to improve on is the fact that she is very quiet in class and he wants her to take part in discussions more. Sounds like she is very similar to me growing up as I got that same comment from teachers a lot.

This year Maddie signed up for "Safety patrol duties" (skolpolis). For now she's on duty every Monday morning where she opens car doors and greets students in the drop off lane. She's enjoying the extra responsibilities.
In a few weeks it's time for 5th grade camp! It's 3 day/2 night trip and it'll be the first time Maddie is away on her own for that long. She is very excited!

Lily is also doing very well. Her grades this first 9 weeks are as follows; Language Arts 97, Math 95, Reading 96, Science 98, Social Studies 95 (all strong A's). As of this year she's in the Gifted and Talanted program (GT) and every Monday she goes to a special GT class. She enjoys the program very much.

Lily has joined a "Kindness and compassion club" they've started at school. A group that focuses on creating a culture of kindness and compassion at school, they directly address the root problem of isolation, prejudice and bullying. They work to find ways that students can help make the school a place where everyone feels accepted.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First week of school

The girls had a good first week back to school. The teachers went easy on them and only Lily had a couple of homework assignments. Both girls commented on how fast the week went by and I agree.

Michael left for work early Wednesday morning and the boys and I went to Swedish playgroup at a splash park that morning. Most of our friends are back from their trips to Sweden and we also have some new moms that have moved to the area.



The temperature is still miserably hot, over 100 degrees every day (40-42C) but the low temperatures at night are going down a little. The boys and I stopped at the playground yesterday after dropping off the girls at school, at 7:40am it was already 82 degrees (28C) but the play equipment was at least cool enough to play on. The boys were having so much fun for about 10 minutes when Jakie in all his excitement fell off the play structure, about a 3-4 foot fall landing flat on his side. Luckily he wasn't hurt badly, only a few scrapes on his leg from the wood chips but after that he wanted to go home and so we did.


At the playground before the fall.



Friday night relaxing with the sisters.


Here's a video of Jakie singing. Can you hear what song it is? Maybe we have a future "Justin Bieber" ;).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Back to school again

Yesterday it was time for "Meet the teacher" at school again. Both girls were excited about the teachers they got and the classes they are in. With Maddie starting 5th grade she will actually rotate classrooms and teachers daily, depending on subject, but she got Mr. S as her homeroom teacher which is exactly who she was hoping for. This is our first year with a male teacher, other than their PE teachers in previous years, there are not that many male teachers around in the elementary level.

Lily was also happy with her teacher and excited that one of her best friends from last year is in her class again. Since this year she will be in the gifted and talented program she will have a 2 hours of instruction with the GT group weekly. According to her teacher there are 3 or 4 kids in her class that are in the program, they like to keep those kids together. We're excited to find out more about what they will be doing as time goes on.

We said hi to the teachers, new and old. Met some of the girls friends, dropped off the school supplies and picked up forms and other papers. We're hoping for a great year.

After "meet the teacher" the girls friend Toni came over for a sleep over. This morning we went to the pool and for lunch we treated the girls to subway while the rest of us got some food from Chipotle (mexican). After taking Toni home in the afternoon we stopped at Target for some last minute items for school. The girls are going to bed "early" tonight, trying to get back into the school routine. We got an alarm clock for the girls so this year they will be responsible for getting themselves up in the morning. Not that it gives me or Michael much extra time to sleep in since we still have to drive them but at least it's good for them to get into that habit.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Visit to the dentist


We finally found a new dentist for the kids. One a little closer to where we live now and a place that feels much more friendly than our last dental office.
Maddie and Lily went a couple of weeks ago, they had not been in over a year. They did very well and I have to say that I was a little surprised that neither of them had even the smallest cavity. They got great remarks from the dentist.

The boys had their first official dentist appointment and cleaning ever today. Jacob has seen the dentist before due to his extra tooth in front but he was only a baby a doesn't have any memory of it. They did very well. Both of them were a little hesitant to sit in the chair at first but they were very cooperative and allowed the dentist to clean their teeth without any problems. They got a private room that had 2 chairs and the staff were just amazing with the boys. They each got to choose a toothbrush, sweet Jakie choose pink and Lucas choose orange. They happily picked out a price at the end (both choose a light up bouncy ball) and left with a baggie with toothpaste, floss and their toothbrush.


Lucas


Lucas checking out the dragons teeth.


Jakie and Rex the dinosaur.



Jakie picking out a toothbrush.



Saturday, July 16, 2011

Shopping, playdates and swimming....

Michael went back to work this Tuesday so the kids and I are back to being home by ourselves. The girls went to Toni's house on Wednesday and spent the night so the house got very empty....not quiet though ;).

We've been to the pool twice so far and yesterday we met up with our friends My, Aylah and Celina to play and eat ice cream at Mcdonalds.

Today we went school supply shopping at Walmart. We were out early this year and it sure paid off, we were able to get everything in one stop where I normally go to 3-4 places to find everything we need. The school offers pre-packaged school supplies that you can order but I think I was able to get the supplies for half the price it would have cost me to do the packages.

Here are the boys with their new found "toys"....milk and juice cartons. They are having a lot of fun with these, playing that they are elevators ("hissen" as they call them). In the picture they are also watching "Alvin and the Chipmunks the squeakquel", currently their favorite movie. They often call themselves by the charachters, Jakie being Simon and Lukie being Theodore but they can't say Theodore so they say "Dedore" which sounds so adorable.


All the school supplies, Maddie's to the left and Lily's to the right.
Every year we get a list of supplies the kids need for the school year and it looks about the same every year, quite a lot of stuff to buy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Birthday celebration

Michael turned 36 this past Monday. I think he had a pretty nice and relaxing birthday. Some birthday gifts, princess cake, relaxing by the pool and fondue for dinner.


Story in bed in the morning.


Birthday cake. I could not find our birthday candles at the last minute so resorted to this one.


The boys opened every single gift for him.


Maddie and Lily suggested we'd give him another helicopter to replace the last one he had which broke. He was very happy.


Swimming.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

This week....

We've had a pretty relaxing week at home. The girls had their friend Toni over for a sleepover one night, we've been swimming in the pool, we ran some errands, watched some movies, had friends over for dinner Friday night and just generally tried to keep cool in this extreme heat we're having here.


That's temperatures ranging between 38-40 C (for those of you in Sweden) and generally we have a heat index of yet a couple degrees higher. It's been like this for a month already (the heat came early this year) and will probably stay like this until September.

Tomorrow is the last day of Michaels vacation and it's also his birthday so we're baking a cake at the moment. The temperature in the family room/kitchen is 81 degrees (27C) right now, 3 degrees above what it's set to. The A/C has a hard time keeping up in this heat and as soon as you start cooking (oven or stove) the temperature inside creeps up.

The boys are full of mischief these days and it's about to drive us crazy ;). The latest; They broke our Wii console by putting things inside it. Maddie and Lily traded some games in for a new game they wanted yesterday, only to come home and find the Wii not working. Michael investigated and a quarter fell out but still not working. We're taking it to a place to see if they can repair it. Then, a few moments ago while I was making the cake batter Lucas got hold of our ovaltine (chocolate milk mix powder) and sneaked off to the staircase. This is what we found.


He's pretty happy with himself.


This really isn't unusual, they do similar things all the time. Yesterday morning when we woke up they were awake and had gotten the frozen alphabet potatoes out of the freezer and were eating them in their room. They help themselves to things in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry all the time. And the other day, Michael could not find his cell phone....only to find it in the freezer a little later. Oh the fun with 3 year olds :).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence day

Our friends Fredrik and Brenda invited us to join them for a 4th of July celebration at a local park. The celebration included live music and other fun attractions but we decided to sit on the opposite side of a lake where it wasn't so crowded and the music not so loud. It was a very nice evening, although very hot and humid. The evening ended with an amazing fireworks display with probably the best grand finale we've ever seen, see my video further down.


Maddie and Lily with Kate, Sophie and Emma.


Lucas and Emma looking at something in the lake.


Todd, Joanne, Fredrik and Brenda.


Todd accidentally tossed our frisbee in the lake and while Michael tried to fish it out the kids (and then some) anxiously watched them from the side. Lucas was very upset about the frisbee and here Michael is trying to calm him down, such a funny scene.



Our view of the stage and festivities from the other side of the lake.


Me and Lucas.


Sunset.




They sure know how to put on great firework shows here in America. This is only the last 3 minutes of what was probably a 15 minute show, if not longer. Make sure you watch the ending because it's pretty awesome.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Austin

So after 4 wonderful days in San Antonio we came to Austin and unfortunately that part of the trip wasn't as exciting. In hindsight Michael and I both agreed that we should have done Austin first and saved the best for last or skipped Austin all together and stayed a little longer in San Antonio but oh well.
We requested a late check out from the resort so we spent a couple of hours in the water park before checking out and heading north. We arrived in Austin by late afternoon and we were all tired so we decided to spend the rest of the day at the hotel. The next day we slept in and after breakfast we went to Whole foods and bought some picnic foods to bring to a local pool. Deep Eddy Pool is listed as a historic landmark on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest swimming pool in Texas. The pool is fed by water from a 35 feet deep well and is not chlorinated and the water temperature stays between 65 and 75 degrees. The swimming pool itself wasn't all that impressive but the kids had fun anyways.


After swimming we went to see the Capitol. We've been there before but it's so long ago that the girls didn't remember it. They enjoyed seeing it again.









Lily, funny girl, decided to take pictures of each of the paintings inside the Capitol dome.

After that we made a short stop at the hotel before heading out to see the famous Bat flight from underneath the Congress Avenue bridge. The Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue bridge in downtown Austin is the spring and summer home to some 750,000 bats with up to 1.5 million bats at the peak of the bat-watching season. It's the largest urban bat colony in North America. And every night around sunset they emerge from underneath the bridge.


You need to enlarge the picture to actually see the bats ;).


Bats taking flight.



Downtown Austin with the Capitol in the far distant.


The hotel.

We left early the next day and made it home by mid afternoon today. It's been a good trip but it's nice to be home.