Parenting: Leave it to the trolls

Parenting: Leave it to the trolls

  The first image that may come to mind when someone mentions trolls is probably a small plastic figurine with a shock of bright hair, large eyes, and a bejeweled belly button. These Danish troll dolls were the US' biggest toy fad in the 1960s and then again in the 1990s (you may remember them fondly from your childhood). Trolls are now in our movie theaters—DreamWorks recently released a colorful Trolls movie—or perhaps you are more familiar with trolls as mystical healers from the movie, Frozen. When my children see any moss-covered rock, they point and yell, "Trolls!" because trolls turn into rocks when the sun comes out. (You can add that to your list of random troll facts and impress your kids.) Whatever your familiarity with trolls may be, you probably haven't given them much thought to these cute but often inconsequential characters. However, with a bit of strategy, imagination, and storytelling, trolls can do so much more for you as a parent than...
Read More
When The Exciting Life Feels Normal

When The Exciting Life Feels Normal

  When we first moved to Sweden (five years ago, ahh!), the newness of everything was overwhelming. Every day we jumped into the unknown with glee. It was thrilling to have a clean slate. We could be whoever we wanted to be in this new place. I spent the first few weeks converting everything into measurements that I could understand and then again into USD to get a sense of the cost. Everything felt expensive (it was). But it was okay because this was all new and exciting. Snow on April 1? Not depressing. Let's play! Get incredibly lost while trying to find a particular restaurant only to discover that they are closed on Sundays? It's alright. We'll get pizza from around the corner. Spend hours in line to get a national ID card, fill out forms, and hope that you've done everything correctly in a language you don't understand? Kind of scary, yes, but we're hanging in there. Everything we did felt like a strange but wonderful adventure....
Read More
Raising a Viking Child

Raising a Viking Child

  A while back, I wrote an article for ParentCo called, "5 Steps to Raising a Viking Child" and it was by far my most popular article to date. The folks at ParentCo contacted me and asked me if they could transform the tips in the article into a shareable video and I absolutely love the end result. I think the video turned out great and even our dog makes a brief cameo. The kids laughed when they saw Bessie's rumpa walking away. It's nice to have a few snippets of their childhood turned into a cohesive video. I hope it inspires more parents to take their kids outside for some adventure and fun.   Here are five steps to help you raise your own little Viking through outdoor play: 1. Be creative and the world becomes magical Even the most familiar and mundane playground can become an entryway to another world if you encourage your child’s creativity. That’s not a slide, it’s an elephant’s trunk. That swing is...
Read More
Parenting Abroad: Freedom To Discard Unwanted Holidays

Parenting Abroad: Freedom To Discard Unwanted Holidays

Most days, I feel all alone. Geographically isolated from all that is familiar and linguistically isolated from what I know. The foreign language around me is easily tuned out and processed as white noise. It's soothing and I am alone with my thoughts. Parenting in cultural isolation can provide a new type of freedom in many ways. I have gladly discarded holidays and traditions that I never enjoyed. Without the cultural pressure to honor them, they quickly disappear. Anything that I am not willing to import myself will not get passed down to my children. It requires a lot of work to celebrate a holiday that isn't observed locally. Sorry kids, but Valentine's Day isn't going to be that important for our family. You'll survive. Some traditions, only the ones I hold near and dear to my heart, are kept. Celebrating holidays abroad is a bit like moving abroad—you discover that not so many things are important and you only take the...
Read More
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
“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
Swedish Parents Don’t Expect Pinterest Perfection

Swedish Parents Don’t Expect Pinterest Perfection

It’s mid-1990s and I’m in the fourth grade. My mom opens a box of 24 red and pink Valentines featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the front. I sit next to her and fold them along their dotted lines, signing my name and making little hearts above my I’s instead of dotting them. You know, for that special Valentine’s Day flourish. Somewhere between my school-age days and my children’s school-age days, the way Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day (and every other Hallmark holiday) has changed dramatically. No longer are store-bought Valentines the social norm. Now we have Pinterest and YouTube tutorials showing us moms how to create the perfect, homemade Valentine for our children’s classmates that will still eventually be trashed within two days (if we’re lucky). In the effort of full-disclosure, I am the mom who produces Pinterest-fail worthy creations. Not for lack of effort but due to the extreme absence of any artistic ability whatsoever. Some moms enjoy buying the perfect little buttons...
Read More