If You Are Going To Be Me Tomorrow

If You Are Going To Be Me Tomorrow

If you're going to be me tomorrow, you'll need to know the following: You will be woken up by the sound of your door opening, and you'll be able to tell, without opening your eyes, which child is coming through the door to crawl into bed with you. The boy will have sure, confident steps and will run and leap onto the bed—landing on your right side. The girl will stumble in an uneven stride, still wiping the sleep from her eyes, come to your left side and pull on the sheets because she still needs help getting up onto your bed. She'll demand cuddles but won't tolerate kisses this early in the morning. They'll all be wiped off, and she'll yell, "Stoppy!" at you if you persist. For her, everything has a -y attached at the moment so the translation of her toddler-speak will take a minute. Dogg-y, stopp-y, hund-y—except for "Mama." That one is the same. (more…)...
Read More
Celebrating Midsummer In Sweden Like A Swede

Celebrating Midsummer In Sweden Like A Swede

In the land of the Midnight Sun, on the longest day of the year, Swedes flock to the countryside, the seaside, or any side that isn't touching a city. Though the sun never dips below the horizon on the summer equinox, lovingly referred to as Midsommar in Swedish, the air doesn't feel hot and often a sweater or light jacket is still required. Many Swedes pack up their cars and head out to their summer houses in the countryside, but for the lonely few who don't own a summer house, we peasants head to the nearest island in Stockholm's vast archipelago. With over 24,000 (the actual number is hotly debated) islands to choose from, last year we chose a traditional favorite destination near Stockholm—Grinda—a 45-minute ferry ride from our closest town, Vaxholm.   The ferry boat is jammed full of merry Swedes—women are dressed in all white with wildflower wreaths in their hair and men are sporting colorful pants. The atmosphere is...
Read More
They Don’t Need You Anymore

They Don’t Need You Anymore

Two of the neighborhood girls zoomed past me on their bikes with a cheery, "God morgon!" Good morning! from both of them. Their mother followed behind a solid distance away at a relaxed pace. No pace could keep up with those excited children riding their bikes. "They don't need you anymore," I told her with a smile on my face. She proudly replied, "Nope! I'm only here to carry the backpacks." For the past few weeks, I have been watching my neighbor run behind her daughter's bike holding onto the long broomstick handle jammed into the bike's frame to help her daughter balance as she pedaled. The fruits of their efforts had ripened, and now both of her daughters were zooming along independently. They were—on a small scale—launched into the world. And that's the entire point of parenting. We put in years of hard work, effort, and energy to send out these self-sufficient children to positively contribute to our world. We parent, we love,...
Read More
5 Steps To Raising A Viking Child

5 Steps To Raising A Viking Child

This article originally appeared at Parent.co, "5 Tips For Raising A Viking Child" in their Analog Life section that has other great articles for helping parents venture outdoors with their children.   I just returned from an exhilarating dragon expedition. After picking up my children from their Swedish preschool, my son frantically dragged me to the woods they had explored earlier in the day, eager to show me what they had discovered. We came upon the “dragon” quickly enough and to my eyes it was an old felled tree but to my five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, it was a massive, dangerous, and scaly sleeping dragon. In Sweden, according to a study, 80% of children between the ages of one to five years, attend Swedish daycare which promotes play, napping and eating meals outdoors. There are also some preschools that have no physical building as all of their learning occurs outdoors—in nature’s classroom. Conversely, in a recent cross-sectional study with a U.S. nationally representative sample, 44% of...
Read More
I abandoned my family and it was marvelous

I abandoned my family and it was marvelous

I took our only car, and I drove and drove and drove. I drove on roads that I was unfamiliar and pushed on into territory previously unexplored. I rolled down the windows, turned up the music, and let the wind whip my hair mercilessly around my face like I was a teenager with a brand new license. The sun filtered through the trees lining the back roads winding through the Swedish countryside, and I didn't have to give a thought to which child would be carsick in the back seat. I didn't have to answer to anyone. I was driving on my own, away from my responsibilities, if only for a few hours. Self-imposed isolation. A series of critical moments necessary to reconnect with my inner self. Every day I connect, network, and converse with others but why don't I give myself that much attention? What is it that I want? What is it that I want to say? I didn't know...
Read More
A mother’s quilt

A mother’s quilt

I didn't feel the change at first. When I first held my baby, I thought I would know what to do, but I felt the same. The love was overwhelming, but the fulfillment of the massive role of "mother" didn't come right away.   My role as mother slowly became stitched into my soul in pieces like a patchwork quilt. Some stitches caused pain, but others resulted in the most amazing experiences beyond compare. Each and every stitch is placed with love and care. I knew that I was making something unique, and the bittersweet journey would be worthwhile.   The first stitch pierced my heart and broke it into a million pieces—some of which are still healing—when I left behind my 12-week-old son with a stranger when I returned to work. The struggle to produce enough breast milk while pumping at work—a severe ache and tender swelling—the physical difficulty unmatched only by the emotional strain.  The second stitch was ongoing sleep deprivation. The...
Read More
“Slotting” it up in Sweden

“Slotting” it up in Sweden

When we said we were heading to one of Sweden's most famous "slott," my mother thought I was saying a bad word in English but really, "slott" means castle in Swedish and our activities were pure and innocent. Being a tourist in your city is a fun way to expand your horizons without ever leaving your comfort zone. We are currently on a budget (buying a house is not a cheap endeavor in Sweden, nor is a new roof and new windows for the aforementioned not-cheap house), so we've been on the lookout for interesting things to do in our backyard (relatively speaking) that we've never done before. About an hour and a half from our house is one of the most famous castles in Sweden. Swedish castles aren't that impressive, in my opinion, after viewing other European cities' gothic style castles. We've been to Neuschwanstein—a most impressive mountaintop castle in Germany—and I'm not sure anything can top that. This day trip...
Read More
I am your home

I am your home

  My voice is hushed and soft as I sing the lullaby to my two-and-a-half-going-on-ten-year-old daughter that I have sung to her since she was born. I had a lot of time on my hands to memorize the song during all of those hours rocking and nursing her when she was a baby. I've sung other songs to her, of course, but that one was my go-to. My favorite song about us. Singing a song about love and friendship seemed like a better alternative to the redundantly boring Mary Had A Little Lamb.   We used to rock in the oversized faux leather chair that we bought when I was pregnant with my son. That rocking chair has seen many sleepless nights. Many nights rocking babies back and forth held in my arms throughout the dark hours of the morning, night, and who knows when. Time has no meaning when you're upset instead of sleeping.   Today we aren't rocking but the song has the same calming effect.   "You be...
Read More
5 Tips For An Enjoyable Field Trip With Young Children

5 Tips For An Enjoyable Field Trip With Young Children

Not many people would volunteer to chaperone twenty-two children between the ages of four and six when you don't speak the language, but that is exactly what I did. My main goal for the trip was completely selfish. I have been seeking out intensive language immersion opportunities and Swedish children don't understand English. My basic Swedish was going to get a workout and I figured, at the very least, that I could provide an extra pair of hands and eyes to help out the teachers. I'm pretty sure the kids thought I was a crazy lady because I accidentally switched the Swedish words for "gloves" and "wait." Luckily for me, shouting, "Gloves a little bit! Gloves a little bit!" while waiting for the bus did still get their attention, so I wasn't completely ineffective. While on the trip, I observed how Swedish daycare teachers fearlessly manage large groups of kindergarten-age children. Without a doubt, corralling that number of kids while venturing out in the big...
Read More
International Resources for Domestic Violence

International Resources for Domestic Violence

Nobody wants to believe that they will ever need these resources, however, as expat women we are at a severe disadvantage if the unimaginable happens. Living abroad means that we are often without the support of our family and friend networks. There may be a language barrier, and we may feel like there is nowhere to turn for help. I have lost one friend to domestic violence and every year, we lose more women to the unthinkable. We cannot help others if we do not discuss these issues. I am committed to helping women near and far seek out helpful resources and support. This is by no means an exhaustive list of resources but it is a start. Always, you can email me or Skype me as a sympathetic ear, an objective listener, and someone who cares. I care and there is a way out, I promise. ORGANIZATIONS/AGENCIES Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Line 3300 N.W. 185th Street, Suite 133 Portland, OR 97229 Phone: (503) 203-1444 Toll-free: 1-866-USWOMEN (International...
Read More