Bringing Bébé Back to the States

Bringing Bébé Back to the States

When my husband and I moved from Manhattan to Paris in 2012, we didn’t anticipate much in the way of culture shock. We were moving from one big, international city to another. No big deal, right?Wrong.Culture shock hit us hard. My husband struggled to navigate the intricacies of his workplace in a second language.As for me, not only did I have to adjust to a new country, I suddenly was a stay-at-home wife with no friends. I spent the days à la Carrie Bradshaw, wandering the streets and looking longingly into cafes full of people gabbing over coffee. Trips to the supermarket turned into cross-cultural minefields, once bringing me to tears as the cashier upbraided me for not having weighed my vegetables.We adjusted. Slowly. We had a baby and enthusiastically entered him into the French childcare system. We had a mixture of expat and French friends. Eventually, we became a little bit more French than American.Six years later, it was time to move back home....
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Länsmånsgården’s Christmas Market Review

Länsmånsgården’s Christmas Market Review

Continue to live vicariously through our journey to various Christmas Markets in our Swedish town and beyond. So far, we have traveled north to Sigtuna, and Gävle, and stayed closer to home to Wira Bruk, and now Länsmansgården. Länsmansgården is an old mid-18th century property featuring a manor and two-story cottage built in 1743. The historic buildings now house antiques and the main manor serves as a local art gallery, and the barn is now a cafe that serves up dynamite fika desserts and coffee with a cozy atmosphere to boot. Our kids love playing in the garden, which also houses school children's class projects as part of an "outdoor classroom." Different classes plant crops and see how they fare during the season. We love visiting Länsmansgården on a regular day and they always host cultural festivities during midsummer and Christmas. New additions from years past: a new Swedish fence surrounds the property, presumably to keep out the wild boar that destroyed Grade 4's...
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Dragon Skulls, Fairies, and Trolls at Wira Bruk’s Christmas Market

Dragon Skulls, Fairies, and Trolls at Wira Bruk’s Christmas Market

Wira Bruk is an old iron works village that was active back in the heyday of Sweden's superpower era when they were cranking out weaponry as fast as they could. It's the site where the King's weapons (read: swords) and townspeople received tax credits for supplying Sweden with iron goods. Visiting Wira Bruk is like taking a stroll back in time and it is well worth a gander. But let's talk about their Christmas market, shall we? Wira Bruk has hosted a julmarknad (Christmas market) for the past three years during the first advent weekend. Be ready to be shocked by sights not usually seen at other Christmas markets. Have you ever seen a dragon's skull (that's surprisingly small)? A fairy skeleton (that's surprisingly big)? Or how about a 7" tall stone troll (that's surprisingly realistic)? No? Then get yourself over to Roslagen's Wira Bruk because they have them all on display. Part of me wondered if these installations were left up from Halloween but the...
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Creating Kiddo Story Time—Improvisation at Its Best

Creating Kiddo Story Time—Improvisation at Its Best

I sat down with my son, Calvin, to ask him a few questions about his new school and find out what he likes most and least about living in Sweden. His answers surprised me a bit! After we finished the Q&A, we did a fun storytelling exercise where he provided a few details like the main character's name and a setting and I took it from there, pausing at random intervals to let him fill in the blanks. Allowing for 100% pure improvisation can take you and your child down some fun paths and I encourage you to try it out tonight. Our kid-lib story starts at minute 6:00 above if you want to skip over the Q&A. Creating kiddo story time: Ask them for the name of the main character Ask them what special characters they would like to include like a dragon, ghost, a tree that comes alive, I don't know. Encourage them to be creative. Start the story with, "Once upon...
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Sugar Water Painting Technique for Kids

Sugar Water Painting Technique for Kids

Easily create beautiful watercolor designs with this simple and fast sugar water technique. My kids absolutely loved painting with this sugar water technique. They each raved about how beautiful their creations were and couldn't wait to try it again. This is a great rainy day activity for kids and adults of any age. Watch as the colors explode and bloom into new shapes as you continue to drop new colors of paint. Ingredients Water color paint Paintbrush(es) Paper Masking tape Sugar Water Creating the sugar water Add 2 parts sugar to 1 part water and boil to mix together Allow mix to cool Directions Tape down your paper on all borders Paint a thin layer of the sugar-water mix onto the paper Drop the paint onto the sugar-water mix in small drops and watch the color bloom Be sure to get your colors onto the paper before your sugar-water mix dries Get creative with your colors! The final results... You can add a black piece of construction paper to...
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Family Travel Guide to Öland, Sweden

Family Travel Guide to Öland, Sweden

Ice cream, go-karts, beaches, and alpacas? Explore this tiny island to find some hidden gems off the east coast of Sweden in this family travel guide.   In European countries, it is common for the entire country to shut down in August as people head off to various resorts and tourist destinations. In Sweden, that "shut down" month is July—typically the warmest weather month of the year with maximum hours of sunlight. With four weeks of vacation, what is a family to do? Fortunately, for Swedes, there are plenty of stugor (rustic cabins) to rent, and plenty of islands to visit. One island, in particular, Öland, is located off the southeast coast of Sweden in the Kalmar region. Öland translates to "island land," which is fairly nonsensical but essentially, it's a long, narrow island.   Getting to Öland There is a bus that runs between Stockholm and Öland if you want to put someone else in charge of the driving. You can enter the island either by...
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Lådbilslandet—Heaven on earth for kids

Lådbilslandet—Heaven on earth for kids

Imagine an amusement park where only kids are allowed to ride and they receive endless rides on the tea cups, carousel, and trains. Where kids drive cars, motorcycles, and tractors. All. By. Themselves. The 1980s are alive and well at Lådbilslandet—or Soap Box Car Land—an amusement park in Sweden with soap box cars, "motorcycles" (they have three wheels so they are more like tricycles with engines), tractors, and river rafts. Lådbilslandet is a place where your kids can feel like grown ups. Kids Only It's a "kids only" type of place and adults aren't allowed on any of the rides. Not one. If your kid doesn't want to ride alone then you'll need to find a willing child (or sibling) to ride along with them. Honestly, that shouldn't be hard at all to find since every kid I saw was dying for extra rides. The kids are really in charge at this amusement park and parents have no choice but to relinquish all pretenses of being...
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Life in the 1800s, I mean, in a Swedish stuga

Life in the 1800s, I mean, in a Swedish stuga

"Where's the chamber pot?" I asked my husband at 2 am. "You're kidding me," he mumbled. Wish I was, my dear, wish that I was. If you ever wanted to know what life was like before modern conveniences, then look no further than your nearest Swedish stuga. Stuga is Swedish for "cabin or cottage, " and they are generally pretty rustic—mostly because they were constructed sometime in the 1800s and electricity and running water were later additions.   Your classic Swedish stuga has low ceilings—people were shorter 100+ years ago—a wood burning stove in one or all of the corners, and if you have a fancy stuga, you'll have more than one room with big heavy wooden doors. For whatever reason, my daughter thinks opening and closing stuga doors is the funnest thing ever and it keeps her busy for at least an hour. Many of our Swedish friends have mentioned spending their Easter holidays and summer vacations "at the stuga," and we always thought...
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Pushing the Limits—The Role of the Firstborn Child

Pushing the Limits—The Role of the Firstborn Child

My approach to parenting involves a lot of shrugged shoulders and raised eyebrows to indicate that, "I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm hoping for the best." Based on my conversations with other parents, we're all in the same boat. A few months ago, I was asking a fellow American-in-Sweden parent at what age is it culturally acceptable for kids to bike by themselves to school and to friends' houses? The answer was a bit vague—well, depending on the distance, your kid's ability, comfort level, etc., etc., you know how it is. Basically, the advice was to launch the bike riding kid in steps. You slowly remove yourself from the equation and increase the distance and time they have on their own. For this American dad, he drops his seven-year-old daughter on the pedestrian/bike path, and off she bikes solo from school to home. He then follows along on that same route a few minutes behind her in case she...
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Games Around The World—What’s Inside?

Games Around The World—What’s Inside?

GlobeTrottin' Kids has created a fun resource for families and teachers to introduce kids (first through third graders) to different cultures through games and play. For these age groups, play is the most effective instructional tool and I tested out some of the games with my kiddos. For the Fukuwarai game (similar to Pin The Tail On The Donkey), we used my handy eye mask and some sticky tack. The kids loved the wacky faces that resulted from their efforts.   With 35 games from 23 different countries, there are plenty of activities to keep us busy during the cold, dark winter in Sweden. I love the handy chart that clearly lists all of the items you'll need for each game. What's Inside? The PDF file comes complete with any playing cards or game sheets that are easy to print from your computer at home. Connect children to their peers around the world through traditional games like tag, hopscotch, tic-tac-toe, and dominoes. Each game card includes clear...
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