Home Sick

Sympathy for the Devil - Iron Photographer 146...

Sympathy for the Devil – Iron Photographer 146 – Utata (Photo credit: Amarand Agasi)


K caught a virus and stayed home three days with a pretty kickin’ fever.  It was wonderful…absolutely magical.  Where has this sweet, gentle, ultra calm and cuddly boy been for the past three years?  It seems that ever since K figured out the trick of self-propulsion, he has been on the move.  And ever since he figured out that you can swing your arms up and down and smack things with his hands, he has been drumming on everything, and everyone, ever since.

But for this week, this one special week, he got a fever and his perpetual self-propulsion automatic hitter machine shut down.  Instead, I had the most gentle, sweet, cute and pathetic sick kid lying on the couch, lying on me, lying on his mother, lying on his brother…wait K get off your brother.  We spent hours over the past two days just cuddling, making small talk, saying nothing at all, just being.  We watched movies, read books, drew pictures, and sipped 7up.  We cuddled more in the past two days than we have in the past two years (not counting “go the f*@# to sleep” cuddle). Time slowed down and the house was calm and chill.

And then he got better…with a vengeance.  K, slow down, stop running, stop drumming on your brother and no you can’t drum on my head either.  Rest time over, game on.




Happy Year of the Snake

K inside his "Dragon" head.

K inside his “Dragon” head.

It’s the Chinese New Year, which happens to be the only New Year celebration my oldest son K acknowledges.  While we have never lived in China, K has embraced this tradition as his own.  It probably has something to do with the fact that “dragons” come out and celebrate the changing of the year.

Though my son swears it’s a dragon, the creature he is referring to is actually a lion.  In celebrating the New Year, there are two types of creatures that come out to dance in the New Year.  The Lion, which is operated by two dancers, inside the body where you cannot see their faces; and the dragon, which is often controlled my many dancers who hold the dragon up on poles, away from their bodies.  But you try to make that distinction to my three-year-old.

Regardless of the correct term, K knows it as a dragon.  Yangon has a pretty decent size Chinese population and for all of the years that we lived there, the dragons have come out to eat offerings and dance blessings around the city.  For weeks there will be troops of young men and boys riding around in large trucks, beating their drums and clanging their cymbals, advertising themselves.  Often they will stop in various neighborhoods and shopping areas and perform.  Many businesses, apartment complexes, and schools invite them in to perform.  Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia describing this with a bit more authority:

During the Chinese New Year, lion dancer troupes from the Chinese martial art schools or Chinese guild and associations will visit the houses and shops of the Chinese community to perform the traditional custom of “cai ching” (採青), literally means “plucking the greens”, a quest by the ‘lion’ to pluck the auspicious green normally ‘vegetables’ like lettuce which in Chinese called ‘cái'()that sound like ‘cái'()(fortune) and auspicious fruit like oranges tied to a “Red Envelope” containing money; either hang highly or just put on a table in front of the premises. The “lion” will dance and approach the “green” and “red evelope” like a curious cat, to “eat the green” and “spit” it out leave it in a nice arrangement, like an auspicious character but keep the “red envelope”. The lion dance is believed to bring good luck and fortune to the business and the troupe is rewarded with the “red envelope”.


Well, ever since the dragons came to K’s school and home last year, performing their daring dances up on stilt polls, K has been hooked.  We have a recording of one of the dances on our ipad…he watches regularly.  Over the past year, K can often be found pushing all of our dinning room chairs together and dancing on top of them like the dragon; or he might be dance back and forth on our couch, dancing like the dragon.  I have numerous bedtime stories all centered around the dancing dragons, the drums that call them, and the cymbals that crash during their performance.

As the January 1st New Year was approaching, K got very excited that the dragons would be returning.  We tried again and again to explain that there would be no dragons on that New Year celebration; that we would need to wait until the Chinese New Year in February…he didn’t quite get it and kept looking for those elusive Swedish dragons in January.  In the end, my wonderfully talented wife sat down with K to create his very own dragon that he could dance in.  K was super excited, and because K is such a committed follower of the dragon, today he was invited to perform at this preschool for all of the kids.  While I couldn’t attend, my wife recorded a bit of it and it looked awesome.  K had the dragon head on and was leading the dance for the school, but he had all of his classmates following behind, creating a long serpentine dragon that danced through the students.  Then, each class gave the dragon a red envelope with 1SEK inside to bring good luck to them during the Year of the Snake.

This is just another reason why it is so awesome being Family Nomadic!!

Once upon a book

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

English: Stack of books in Gould’s Book Arcade, Newtown, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I am your average post-apocalyptic/sci-fi/fantasy guy.  When it comes to books, I look for a bit of escapism into another world, or a varied version of this one, but have never been into non-fiction.  I deal with this reality on a daily basis, no need to rub it in with a book.




But, ever since kids entered the story of my life, the first thing they did away with was the time needed to read a book.  Between the feedings, the diaper changes, the “entertain me or I will scream”-ings, and then time to spend with my wife being sure we have the time to connect as adult partners and not just as mommy and daddy…books have simply been removed from the list of priorities.




This is not to say that I have not been reading, in fact I now read approximately between 5 and 15 books a day…out loud none-the-less.  Though these books tend to be geared for a much younger audience and often have rhyming schemes that my typical post-apocalyptical books leave out.  When I was preparing to go to Myanmar in the summer of 2007, I began to keep a book journal simply to track the books and authors that I read.  During the 22 months between my arrival in Myanmar and the birth of my first son, I read 38 novels.  Not too impressive, but I was also living in a country with very limited book resources and having fun discovering a new country with my wife, etc.  But, this equal out to roughly 1.7 books a month, and given that most of the books I read are in excess of 700 pages, I don’t think that is too bad.  Well, since the arrival of K to this day, 42 months later, I have only been able to read 24 books (sans children books), which is about .6 books a month.  Not cool.




Not cool…but that is the reality of having children.  They are little time sucking machines, and the time they consume is coming from us the parents.  So, priorities shift.  And while I once would stay up well past midnight tearing through a book, I now know that come 5am, or 4:45 this morning, one of my boys will be up and demanding food, a diaper change, and entertainment.  I have even tried reading my books out load to them, like it was one of their own…but, Stephen King does not quite sound like Julia Donaldson, no matter how much I try.




Speaking of staying up way late to read a book, something awesome happened here this past week.  I busted K a good hour and half after lights out on his bed, headlamp turned on, “reading” his books.  The kid is only 3.5 years but is already sneaking reading time into his routine after lights out.  Now, I remember doing this quite a bit when I was a youth, but that would be late elementary, not preschool.  I couldn’t help myself from smiling and being very proud of my son…even if I had to insist that he turns off his headlamp, put his books away, and go to sleep dammit!!




I recently read the blog post “Tomorrow has been 21 years in the making” on Puddintopia.  The entry is about the bloggers relationship with a significant story line from the books I have been following for much of my mature life, the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.  This is a 14 book long story, which after about book 8 or 9 I stopped following.  But reading this entry convinced me that it was time to make reading a priority again, maybe not as high as a priority as changing diapers, feeding kids, and general entertainment services, but still a priority.



So I have downloaded the first few books to my Kindle and have been reading…and it is still great.  I admit, it has taken some time away from my blogging duties and I get a bit frustrated when I have to stop mid-sentence at a climatic point do to the unexpected end to nap time, but it has been nice getting back to that reality.  As a hemmapappa, a little escape from this reality goes a long way to keeping the batteries charged.




I would love to hear recommendations of the books you read for a bit of escapism as well, so please feel free to leave a comment.








Spider-Man on the Catwalk

Captain America leads the charge...and brings up the rear.

Captain America leads the charge…and brings up the rear.

Action figures have slowly been creeping into our home over the past year.  Somehow they just show up.  One day all of a sudden there was some large overly muscled masked blue man playing with K’s toy animals.  I do not know the character, nor how he got in our home; but my wife believes that he was given to K at a birthday party he crashed for an older boy at our apartment complex.  Then there was Ironman.  He just rolled in one day looking fresh from a Happy Meal box…but we don’t have a McDonald’s in Burma; and Puss’n’Boots made a similar appearance as well.

Ironman flies in with some help from K.

Ironman flies in with some help from K.

Violet & Goofy paired with classic black boots.

Violet & Goofy paired with classic black boots.

Arriving in Sweden we have started to go to a Loppis every other Saturday morning, and we typically give K a few kronor to buy a small toy; and K has been doing a good job at securing a few additional figurines, Violet from the Incredibles, some space guy that he calls Buzz Lightyear, a Nuclear Goofy by Disney, etc.  Then we visited Kalmar castle and he walked away from the gift shop with a king figurine, inclusive of sword.  And then we just had Christmas where Santa received K’s letter requesting a Spider-Man figurine; but did Santa stop there?  Oh no, K also got a Captain America figurine, his brother M got Thor, Daddy got The Incredible Hulk, and Mommy got another Captain America…sorry Wolverine, you are definitely PG-13 and now secretly guarding the liquor cabinet.

Now don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the day when K gets into Marvel superheroes such as the Avengers and X-Men.  But K is only 3, and he is still a bit young for this material.  My wife and I have been working very hard to instill the values of peace, love, and harmony into K…who seems to have a strong inclination for fighting and violent outbursts.  As far as cartoons and movies go, his exposure has been limited to Curious George, a few Arthur episodes, Buzz and Woody from Toy Story, but he did sneak a viewing of The Incredibles while flying to the states from Burma.  Add to these action figures K’s inclination for fighting, and things are ripe for a superhero show down; but mommy and I are not going down without a fight either.

They obviously did not listen to Edna.

They obviously did not listen to Edna.

So, when K exclaimed excitedly that Thor had a big hammer, mommy replies, “Wow, he must make furniture.”  And just like that the god of lightening is now a carpenter.  Yesterday K had all his figurines setup with his toy train set that he also got from Santa, to which I explained how each character had a role to play in keeping the trains moving on time.  Thor fixes the rails, Captain America uses his shield to prevent the train from derailing, and the Incredible Hulk lifts up the trains and puts them back on the tracks when there is a problem.  Later that night, K was having me pick a figurine I wanted then he would pick one, then me, and him again until all were divided.  Okay, no worries until K gets a gleam in his eye and exclaims, “Now we fight!”  Oh no!!  Why don’t we make friends instead?

Blue, Red, & Booted

Blue, Red, & Booted

So while K’s Spider-Man was ready to capture my King with some slick web slinging, I counter with a compliment about the bold blue and red costume that Spider-Man was wearing.  Then my Captain American joined in commenting how he was also wearing red and blue and how they should be friends.  We then went through all of K’s action figures commenting on their outfits and which costumes were like the others and K paired them off as friends based on what they were wearing.  While Thor was also wearing a nice blue and red outfit, he and the king were paired as they both had flowing red capes.  The two Captains and Spider-Man were joined as they had sleek blue and red costumes; Ironman and Violet were setup together due to their red/black and red/yellow combinations.

Soft brown boots unit the King & Puss.

Soft brown boots unite the King & Puss.

Puss’n’Boots joined the King and Thor due to her nice brown boots…and my favorite Hulk was left out cause he didn’t wear any boots at all.

So here we are with all of these action figures and mommy and I working hard to keep coming up with story lines and situations that will keep K interested in them without incorporating violence, which is a bit challenging with the Hulk who is clearly poised to smash some poor soul into the ground.  (No wait, he is really just stretching out his back and giving someone a high five.)  Obviously, we are going to lose this battle.  (How do you defeat the Avengers?)  Part of me thinks it might be a good idea to allow K to fight his characters, perhaps using them to channel his aggression through his toys and not on his brother and friends at school.  But how do you separate “play violence” with toys from “play violence” with your three-year-olds actual friends?

Its all about the boots.

Its all about the boots.

And just how long can mommy and I keep K entranced with these action figures when their impressive powers are only used to keep the trains running on time and in designing fashionable clothing?   Though so far, K does keep referring to them as his “boot people” and seems very concerned that the Hulk is not wearing any boots…I guess we might win this one yet.

The Incredible Hulk...sans boots...sans friends.

The Incredible Hulk…sans boots…sans friends.

Twas a Merry Christmas (God Jul) Indeed

Christmas Eve found this family still in Almhult, Sweden…alone with no family or friends over, but very merry still.  This was K’s fourth Christmas and M’s second.  Since K has been around, family has become more of a focus for us.  One of the joys, and challenges, of living abroad is being away from family.  Before we had kids, this did not bother us too much at all. (Sorry folks.)  But since K has been with us, we have only had one Christmas were we did not spend it with family, either us flying to the States, or them coming to us.  But for this Christmas, we made the decision to keep it very low key and immediate family oriented, and it was wonderful.

In the Swedish tradition, my wife and I cooked up a very nice Christmas Eve dinner, which then made keeping us and the boys fed the next day much more stress free as there were plenty of yummy leftovers for all to enjoy.  The presents were simple, some pajamas on Christmas Eve and then just one Santa gift per child, a few presents between family members, and Santa filled stockings to kick it all off.  Luckily, K is still (though barely) in the stage where he can open just one gift at a time and play with it and not have the need to tear into each and every gift under the tree.  He does need to be involved in unwrapping everybody’s gifts, but his excitement is contagious and wonderful.  M enjoyed the wrapping paper and  buzzed around the couch and floor with a little toy train for most of the morning, completely happy in his newly turned 1yr old world.

The day featured nap times for everybody, a family walk through the melting forest (the day began as a mostly white Christmas but quickly faded to green as the slight heat wave worked on the remaining snow), the classic Frosty the Snowman by Rankin/Bass, and some leftover no-bake oatmeal cookies that K and I made for Santa the day before.

Of special note, this is the first Christmas in the eight years of marriage where we have not traveled somewhere for the holiday.  As a family nomadic, this was pretty impressive…though we are now looking at taking a quick trip to Copenhagen in the next few days so that can sorta maintain our nomadic title.  But honestly, it has been incredibly nice to stay at home, with just the four of us, to enjoy a stress free holiday.

And I hope that all of you also had an amazing Christmas where ever you happened to find yourself.  Merry Christmas and in Swedish:  God Jul.

Silly I know…but perhaps I should still check on him.

I had that awkward internal debate in my head yesterday.  It went something like this:

-Wow, M is sleeping an extra long time for his nap. -Ah how nice, I can relax and catch up on more mindless internet stuff. -But it really has been longer than normal…could there be something wrong. -No, he is fine.  Look more status updates on Facebook. -Do you think he is still breathing? -If you check you will definitely wake him up.  -He has a cold and you never know, perhaps I should check.  -Don’t be silly.  He is breathing, its just that he has a cold and needs this extra sleep to fight it.  If you go in there you are going to wake him up.  -But he never takes a nap this long, and he has been having difficulty breathing.  I’ll call my wife, she will know what to do.  -No answer, probably should let him sleep, its no big deal…look, you woke him up and he was breathing just fine.

Funny how the slightest deviation from the normal routine will cause part of you to panic and assume the worst.  Silly I know, but its what parents do…at least, its what this parent does.  Ironic thing is, typically I would be telling my wife to relax and everything is fine, but with her at work I had to fill that role and check.

Bringing light into the dark of winter: Saint Lucia Day in Sweden

Bringing light into the dark of winter: Saint Lucia Day in Sweden.

Yesterday was the celebration of St. Lucia Day.  Being a Hemmapappa, I had no exposure to how this holiday was celebrated, though K had a huge feast at school and a visit from the St. Lucia representative.  The above link takes you to another blog, Fika after Fifity, that has a very nice description of the holiday.