Sunday, September 26, 2010

Here Now:
Dagis, BarnLoppis Deals, and Apples
With the start of dagis-preschool, we got a dose of the community germs and all got a snarfaly nose and were dragging a bit this weekend. Maybe tomorrow we will stay home from school until everyone is 100% better. I was missing Florida a lot last week, and switched my mind to just appreciate all the things around me.

Here we ARE. We are having a third baby, and we are in Sweden, no changing places in the world for at least two years. I am opening to absorbing more Swedish language, but also to maybe moving back to USA someday too, if I can not understand my kid by the time she is seven. Increasingly, I do not know what is going on in her world and that will become more of a problem as she begins to read, have meaningful friendships, and do school work. And in general, I miss over stuffed bags of english library books, small talk, friends, work, and understanding what the hell is going on around me. But I love Sweden. And most of these things would be remedied by learning some Swedish. We will see. We always said we were trying it out.... so we are.

For now, here we are. And it is lovely.

The parking lot at school is next to a field of sheep.
So we sing Ba ba black sheep when we get to school.
The baby loves to watch the sheep, and goes running to them yelling BaAAA! BaaAAA!! and scares them away.
There are chickens at school, too
When I picked her up Friday, I had to retrieve SwedeGirl from the potato patch in the school's kitchen garden where she and her new friend were digging up earth worms. Then I had to wait while she fed them to the chickens.
And the little sister playing peek a boo on the pirate boat in the sandbox
Our runny noses did not stop us from heading out to the big second hand clothing sale in the town I love to mispronounce, Höör, (which is right past the village of He by the way).
We outfitted the girls with 50 kronor snow suits ($7), 30 kronor boots, and 30 kronor rain suits ($4.50). We finally figured out that the second hand shops here are lame, but the spring and fall barnloppis sale in the village of Höör is not to be missed.
The cute 35 kronor fuzzy bunny newborn outfit for the baby to come...
Since we were up at 'em early this weekend, we extended the trip and went to the Kiviks Apple festival. They are a big distributor of apple juice and other juices in southern Sweden, and they have a legendary apple festival each year in the little harbor town of Kivik where the 'big' (still tiny by USA standards) juice processing plant is. The festival is famous for having a huge apple mosiac each year.

Apple Mosaic
The big apple mosaic featured 7 kinds of apples, 35,000 in all. The man pictured is Fritiof Nilsson Piraten, the author most famous for Bombi Bitt och Jag published in 1932 about Bombi Bitt, a young boy often described as the Swedish Tom Sawyer. In the story, he heads to Kivik for the big market and goes to the circus and has other adventures, thus the circus motif.

How do like them apples?
Apples. And Candy Apple. And Apple Donuts.
The circus tent was full of apples of all types....
Please do not eat the decorations.
These apple balls were made of one variety each, to demonstrate the types of apples used in the big mosaic.
The whole ten was lined with apples on a rail, all different kinds. We did not count them but there were HUNDREDS. We simply did not know there are THAT many kinds. We decided our penchant for eating organic galas is like always drinking merlot...a sign of our lack of knowledge of varieties, and generally unadventurous.
The town was all mist, apples, and sea side festival.
We stopped on the way home and picked big bouquets of rogue sunflowers we found growing on the roadside, bought fresh picked organic apples, and bought a big juice pack sampler from Kiviks on the way home.
I do just love Swedish Autumn.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hösten är här med svamp och bär...
As the Swedish song my girl sings in dagis- school goes, Fall is here with mushrooms and berries... and songs from dagis like that one.
We headed back to school today.
There was a special first day of fall party, and I got to join SwedeGirl and her class in circle games and fall songs. I left her with a kiss as they settled in on the hilltops of Skåne on a sunny cool day to eat the soup the teachers cooked on the outdoor stove out of the veggies they had each brought earlier in the week for their nature table. We had brought one of our honkin' big zukes.
I continued the introduction of SwedeBaby to her new little class, where we expect she will eventually spend three mornings a week. We arrived in time for samling, or circle time today, and they sat in circle and sang sweet songs about fall, then they headed out to the big sandbox playground for tea time. She was delighted by the child sized tea cup, and had one of her favorite snacks, rice cakes with butter (they even use organic butter at our school). She also had the choice of basil flavored sesame paste....then she played in the sand box and was eventually joined by her sister. She heard an airplane at one point, and grabbed the hand of her classmate and pointed up to the sky to show her. It was nice to see her so happy, brave, extroverted, and social in a new place.
Her sweet little classroom
We can arrange her schedule as we wish, with her attending school for up to 25 hours a week. I like a few days home with my girls with nothing planned, so we expect to do more no more than 3 days a week at school. SwedeGirl is accustomed to three full days, but the little one will only be up for half days, so we have to feel out what works for everyone. It is a half hour drive away, and we only have one car, so the girls will have to be one the same schedule. We will see how it goes.
My little one is still so little to me. Only a year and a half since she came out!!! I have never put my other daughter in a group like this when she was so small. I worked two or three office days a week my first daughter was a baby, was on call for random births, and on other days she accompanied me when I did home visits. She had a nanny, the fabulous Miss Kate, who stayed at home with her when I worked. She never did the group thing until she was nearly three years old, so I am a bit nervous leaving my littlest with out a personal assistant. Her dagis group is small enough, there are 4 children to one teacher, and two of the children have yet to start. So there is just one other 20 month old in her class right now and they intermingle with the other small groups made up of 4 kids and a teacher. But, still, the teachers are doing other things sometimes, and I wonder how my little non verbal girl will fare. Our family understands her personal language, her signs and sounds, but it is nothing she can use to communicate her needs to her teachers, or tell me about her day. Today in the sandbox her little classmate came up to join her playing in the sand, and took her shovel. she was happy to have a playmate, but needed her shovel back in order to play with her.
I saw the interaction and was able to go get a second shovel and help facilitate smooth, frustration free play for the two new friends. I just wonder, though, how ugly would it have gotten if I had not been able to help? I raised my last daughter amongst parents who stayed home, and were able to act as their child's personal assistant in these early years. How do the littlest ones fare before they can talk? It was in this time from 1 1/2 to 3 years old we taught them please, thank you, how to share, and that they could not grab or hit... and that when they did they had to sign sorry to their little friend. We watched and carefully showed them how to be kind.

I asked the teacher how they handle things for such young children, things like the shovel incident, and she said they often see and can help. But I asked what about the many times you are busy and do not? She said they learn it does not get worked out for them, or they learn to work it out, and that the older ones often help. But still, I am unsettled, thinking there would be a new, unnatural frustration for my girl if she spent lots of time in an environment away from a caregiver that knows her really, really intimately and was there to find another shovel.

The girls are in classes that have adjoining playgrounds, so big sister can come play with little sister at school. Here they were working on a pretend celery farm. I know she is caring, and tuned in to her little sister, but she is no substitute for a mom.
But 18 month olds go to dagis here. The only women still home with children here are expats like me, with speech therapy degrees and other odd educations or professions that do not translate here. Sweden is a great place to birth, and be with a small baby, but once you hit 18 months, the parenting landscape changes dramatically in Sweden. All the parents go back to work. I notice here I am more likely than I ever would in the USA to declare myself 'unemployed', as the role of stay at home parent is fairly unknown after 18 months. My littlest is going to dagis because she can, and because we had to start now if we wanted to hold a place for her in this little school we love so much. We had to start now or maybe miss out on her slot. And since we have no babysitter or help with the kids here, it will give me some freedom if she has a place to go. I want her to settle in, so she will be comfortable there when our third baby arrives in the late winter so I will not have to chase at home in the weeks when I am recovering from birth.

She enjoyed her day today- it is a great environment, and I think she is ready for her world to be a little bigger. Just not sure how she will do with out her parents, of course.

The teacher was busy at this pretty table chopping veggies for the fall soup for the children.
I am the rare stay at home mom in Sweden. I may have no one to play with, but I do have 25 hours of quality daycare per kid to use. Back home, I had lots of stay at home mom friends, and my girls and I would often wake and evacuate the house almost in PJS, and I would flop on a friend's couch and let our kids play together and enjoy coffee with my friend. Or we would meet up with kids at a animal park or playground. Or head to my mom and dad's house 5 minutes away. It was like I had coworkers, and some adult company while raising kids. Things to do and places to go with friends so our life was busy and happy. Here, I have not got the assortment of close friends for parenting coworkers. But once we get into the swing with dagis, I will at least have the relief of a few shifts off every week.

I am restless now in this time of transition. Transition of the seasons, of back home, back to the new version of regular life. But I really have the best set up. We have the perfect little school, I will soon have access to quiet alone time, and we have a peaceful home surrounded by woods that make for great walks. And all I thought about this week was what I do not have- friends and my family. But if I can focus on what I have, it is the perfect chance to do so much. I need not be distracted by chit chat, and socializing. I could do some Swedish lessons on the computer, learn to knit- as we all need new hats and scarfs- and I live in the land of sheep now. Or write, I have so many ideas on what to write. I can do anything with this time, if I can just settle and open to what it is I have here instead of having my heart pulling me home to what I once had.

Last August my birthday mantra was 'I can take it!' and it brought me this year to EXACTLY what I wanted for my birthday last year but could not make happen then, which was to swim in the hot springs on Ischia. The place we stayed on Ischia was a time share the family we were trading with did not wish to use, and the one week we had to use it began precisely on my birthday. I can take it, and I did! On Ischia! While there, I looked at my husband and said, so this is it, how ever happy we are right now is how happy we ARE, it does not get any better than this in physical reality. Whatever else is going on is all about how we feel. In my twenties I worked in my dream job and built a lovely birth center that feeds a strong community for families in my old town, and I just spent the summer touring Europe with my handsome husband (who changes all theand two darling girls. I can take it. I have been able to do so much.
Still... my mind is just my mind.

On the way home from our big trip I had an all night drive from Rome to the Alps and got some good thinking time. I did lots of driving when I was in midwife school, and I love a good meditative road trip. I was the only one awake in the car late at night, and I was listening to music I love like Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman....which declares get what you want it you want it, cause you can have anything.

I switched to Eckhart Tolle 'Power of Now'. Not middle of the night material if you want to stay awake, but wonderful, and it made me think how my birthday intent from last year had played out, and that my intended journey this year should be an inner one. I did not distill as succinct or powerful mantra as 'I can take it' out in that moment, but was thinking of this year, and perhaps I just should adapt the 'I can take it mantra' and tackle my own mind. I can take it....I can be here now. Ram Dass facilitated the creation of a book by the title BeHereNow in the 60's, that was very important to me in college. It describes in western hippie terms the the eastern method to enlightenment. And it did in fact show me the way....

My room mates from that time and I would get into very elevated states of mind together. (And we were perfectly sober, it was just a State) We went to Italy together, and at Carnival in Venice danced in parades in beautiful costumes and had prophetic dreams. As we prepared to part ways at the end of the trip, we walked the streets of Venice seeing all colors, all dimensions of light, all at once. It was a very high moment that is hard to put words to, but we together knew this a glimpse of true enlightenment. We stood on a bridge, and said it is like that last part of the book Be Here Now, where it says in the end you are just on a bridge, watching yourself go by. We could see every color in the water, and both the surface and the bottom at once, and the sparkles made by the sun.
We sighed and absorbed the feeling.
And you know what? A little Gondola emerged from beneath the bridge, just then, a boat named Christina. The name of the friend I was with....and we watched her go by.
And there you go!

That is what I want more of in my life.

This year, as I sit with the discomfort that a nearly perfect set up life brings, I will just have to take my journey inward, or I'll forever be looking on and thinking what else??

I was reminded today by a friend that Fall Equinox is when the Earth is perfectly balanced in light and dark. It is a rare moment worth celebrating when we find that equilibrium. And now, comes the half of the year where darkness comes, so dramatic in Sweden.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Provincial Swedish (so called) Life
Living 30 minutes outside of the city with no job or friends, I could really just show photos of corn and mushrooms all the time. But I will find something else besides how my garden grows to blog about, and actually write a post.

Yesterday we celebrated Father's Day, as we had skipped observing American Father's day this summer because we were traveling. Our own Father's Day was also a way to mark the end of my husband's father leave, or pappaledig. He has been off work since June, and we had the whole summer together as a family. In Sweden we get 480 days of paid leave per child. We had one child here March 2009, and moved when my first daughter was 3 1/2. We get the full 480 days for her as well, which we can use until she is 7. But now we have used all the leave for the child born here, thus the celebration, and my husbands return to work.

The sleep-in morning plus a nap, waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, balloon-and- banner royal treatment for Fathers day
And come next sometime February to Mid March, our third baby will arrive, bringing another 480 days of leave. Yes, it is that time again for my French press to be filled daily with my favorite mix of dried herbs, to make the same pregnancy tea I was drinking when SwedeBaby was born.
Sweden is a great place to have babies. After working in birth in the USA, where the outcomes are the worst in the developed world, and the medical system (especially in regards to birth) is a god awful wrecked mess , it was a relief to birth in sane, safe Sweden. But I have not been able to work here. Sweden does not recognize my education or ten years running my own birth center, so I am unemployed. Mostly that has been great, as between pregnancy and being immersed in new baby hood, and all the travel we have done with all that pappaledig, I have been happy to not have 50 pregnant women calling at all hours of the night like they did back in the day. I have been plenty busy exploring Sweden and figuring out where to buy chocolate chips and other hard to find items I miss from home . So busy I have not worked on my Swedish hardly at all. Which does nothing to make me feel like this is my real, long term life. It is my so called life.

There are so many reasons it has been good to be here. But I am feeling especially lonely and home sick since coming back from our summer trip. My creative energy was bound up trip planning. We stretched the limits of budget travel and via home exchange and by eating lots of oatmel, we saw the south of France, the Ligurian coast, the islands near Venice, the hills of Italy, lounged in volcanic thermal pools near Capri, ate gelato at Trevini fountain in Rome, and toured the magical Neuscwhannstein castle of the Alps. All by driving the distance that in the USA would take me from Florida to Washington DC. Now the trip is over and my mind is free to look to the future once more, and I am wondering what life will bring next. So when thinking to the next baby, we are planning how we can use the pappaledig time to set us all up to be living the life we want. If we can figure out what that would be.

We said we were moving to Sweden for three years, and we would see how everyone was doing. That date comes up next summer, and I can feel the questioning of 'So, how are we doing?' burning inside.

It is a question every American who marries a Swede, or anyone who lives in one place but has a foot in another country has to constantly live with. I have a American friend here 7 years who is growing unsettled by the conformity Sweden asks of her exceptional children, a sister in law that just moved to Sweden from Washington DC, a new friend about to move here, a blogger I read who is just plotting her return, and a friend married to a Swede living back home in the Sunshine State. Each of us living with all the questions that come when you are living a great life, with an alternate dream life elsewhere.

So I am looking at Sweden with the eyes you have when you come back from a big trip, and are relieved to see home. And with the eyes of someone who is living a temporary, lovely experimental, so called life. And with the eyes of someone who misses her family, and her friends. So I am simply trying to keep them open. And my heart open.

I mostly put up pictures these days, have little time or inclination to write much since having baby #2. But let me share a few random things I could write long blog posts about but never have....

This is the food truck. I hear there was a documentary made about it. It comes down out street every Saturday just before noon. Not too early, not too late, just the right time to get any brunch ingredients you may not have on hand for the weekend.
It has a whole mini grocery store in it. We try to patronize the food truck whenever we have the chance, as we want it to keep coming. It is frequented by the elderly people on our street who come here to their little houses they still have as weekend and vacation cottages, the few houses not yet converted into regular suburban homes that harken back to the time this was a place people only came to escape the city. One little old lady from the neighborhood who lives nearby used to buy my little girl a treat each time she saw her on the truck. The lady has now moved to the village center so she can have more help for her sick husband. The food truck, a little part of my old fashoned, provincial so called life in Sweden. ~
Today I began getting my 18 month old settled into her part time day care, and my girl went back to her sweet little Waldorf school. We will pay about $1800 this YEAR for for 25 hours of private Waldorf school for the girls. In Florida, it would be less hours and cost $15,400 for a year for both girls. If they still go to this school when primary school aged, it will be free. It would cost $30,000 annually to send both of the children to Waldorf school in the USA for the amount equal to an decent annual salary.

When I picked up my big girl at 4pm it was cold, gray, and and she was outside in a rain suit rolling down a hill over and over with her friends. She was breathless, sweaty, and happy. If she was in the USA, she would be in a classroom all day, with state mandated goals, and worksheets for homework every night, an no time to play and certainly no hills to play on in the rain. I really think it is healthy to wait until kids are seven to start school as they do in Sweden. I could go on and on about that point. But suffice to say I am happy my girl has a chance to wiggle, dig, explore, and lives in a place where people believe there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing.

After school we stopped at the grocery store. The big nice one a village over with a better selection than our local store. When you walk in, there is a TV playing Winnie the Pooh movies and kid sized table and chairs.... you are invited to just leave your kid at the door watching TV while you shop!!!
Never, oh never would this happen in the USA. When we were home in winter, I had to tighten my girls roaming radius in public to conform with American standards for fear of kidnapping. Even so, I had her returned to me as 'lost' once when she was in view an aisle over at a thrift store. The sense of safety and freedom for children in Sweden is one of the things I like. Kids ride their bikes, and take public transportation everywhere. In my town in the USA there is not a single child to be found on the street.
The big sister got to sit while we shopped, little sister just got in the picture when I paused for a photo.
Did I say I could skip writing and just put up pictures of wilderness, produce, and mushrooms? Well it is true.
Because these grow here.
Saw this one on the street on the way to the food truck this weekend.
So Elsa Beskow
And after picking corn we drove through the forest and stopped to see mushroom after mushroom on the forest floor in Hackeberga Nature reserve.
A fairy condo development
This one is called 'Chicken of the Woods' and is edible. But being pregnant, I am not taking up mushrooming just now...a bad time to make an beginner's error, so I will take photos for now...
So much to love about Sweden.
And so many minutes to spend thinking about it in this quiet, so called life.

Corn Harvest
So yes, we are still thinking about all that grows over here.
Corn is a summer food in USA, but it comes in quite late in the season in Sweden.
Somethings are better left to the farmers for us amateur gardeners, and corn was one. We planted a few seeds, but they did not do anything. A good crop takes space, and more know than we have. We were looking for a Saturday activity and we were in the harvesting mood after the potato pickin'. SwedeDadddy wanted to pick corn, so we found a little farm that had sold it's promised crop, and opened to the public to pick what remained of the sweet corn. They had a little ad on blocket, which is like craigslist of Sweden.

A blowy September day. It can be very windy in Skåne
Playing in the field of corn
Just 2 kronors an ear, a third of what I would pay if I was lucky enough to find sweet corn on the cob
With a little boost from her dad, Swedegirl towering over the field
We were given a wheel barrow to bring in the harvest, great fun for the girls!

A typical small farm in Skåne, houses arranged in a U to protect from the wind.
We got 50 ears, ready to freeze. Corn on the cob is one of the favorite veggies of the girl.
Tonight we ate some combined with the rainbow chard in the garden.
Mmmmmm, garden fresh rainbow chard.
Perfect for this recipe from Moosewood Lowfat cookbook for Black Bean Chilaquile which calls for corn and chard, a tried and true favorite Mollie Katzen recipe at our house.