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.


Kangaroo said...

WOW. I am in awe! So far you've in the flow! I am inspired to say the least by this.

Jessica said...

Hello there,

I've been following your blog for some months now. I'm a 23 yr old woman currently in the process of applying for a residence permit due to my relationship with my Swedish boyfriend. In the end we'll be sambos. I plan to most likely move to Sweden beginning of this November.

I find your blog very inspiring and more often than not hear my exact own thoughts/worries about the future to come expressed in your words. I think about friends, or perhaps not having many at first, and missing home (although I consider myself quite independent). I also feel that what you find wonderful about the country, I do as well. All the beautiful photos you take bring joy to me that I have the wonderful opportunity to live somewhere so charming.

This most recent post spurred me to comment, as I was a philosophy major in college and took Eastern Philosophy, and learning of the ever present "now" changed my life, too. If only people would step back, or create an opportunity to step back, from the lives we make so busy, some deep insight can truly be found.

When I read your blog often I feel quite akin to you, and am glad another American woman who seems a lot like me (in some regards! I'm not yet married or have children)will be in the same country across the ocean.

Liquid Pen said...

Wow. Thank you for that. I feel like I just went on a good half an hour long walk with you and got to catch up! Here is to a winter of SEEING everything and being one with it!

Abby said...

I have to really agree with what Jessica wrote, especially since her situation was mine 4 months ago.

This post was exactly what I needed to hear right now. Thank you so much for this, it was a much needed reminder to stay present and stay focused and not get caught up on what is and could be going on at home. I'm having a difficult time with that now. Despite all of the mental preparations that went on for basically a year before moving, adjusting to that odd isolation, and wondering what to do next can be so frustrating. Not knowing what step to take, what path to follow, trying to go with the flow, but spending a bit too much time focusing on home...but I just need to be here now.

Thank you so much, again, and a very large congratulations on your third!

SwedeLife said...

Thanks for all the kind words, it helps to hear from friends and meet new friendly expats in bloggie land. Thanks Abby, and thanks for speaking up Jessica. It is always nice to know random blog musings are heard, and find out who is out there reading. Best wishes with your move, and Abby, do not miss the winter markets in castles, they happen before advent in late Nov, before you would expect...the candle glow and gingerbread will get your through your first winter. And do not forget to supplement with Vit D to replace your sunshine. :)

MermaidLilli said...

Deep personal reflections on transitioning into autumn (metaphorically) is what I hear in your words. It speaks to me as well as I see myself going into my own autumn. Settling comfortably into the life we created until spring pushes us once again to be active. I love reading your posts.

Cheryl said...

I have read just a few of your recent posts, and your experience with being between your two lives rings true with me, as I remember feeling the same way for months before my husband and I moved back to the US from Sweden in 2007. We lived there for 2 years total (for my husband's work; we are both American, but we could have stayed indefintely, only came back because of MY missing my family and MY career goals). To be perfectly honest, I miss Sweden so much every day, it is almost physically painful. I am so glad to be with family again, and I do have a "better" job here (with 5 whole days vacation yearly!) but if I could get my sister to come with us, I'd go back to Sweden in heartbeat. Or, if I was considering having children. I just think its a healthier place to raise children, a healthier society. I love so many things about the US, and it makes me sad to admit that. But you are very, very lucky. My one piece of advice has to do with something you have already written about - learning the language. I took 5 months of intensive SFI, and it was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I'll try to cut down the length of this comment now, but if you are at all interested in my SFI experience, and how learning to speak Swedish improved my time there 1000%, feel free to email me anytime. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving, and I wish you the best, whatever you all decide to do in the next few years! Take care! Cheryl