I don't have a facebook account.  I'm not going to get one.  I am 31 years old.  Does that mean that I am an old curmudgeon?  In 20 years will Michael laugh at me like I'm one of those people who refuses to get a cell phone.  Perhaps.  Or maybe I subscribe more to what Malcom Gladwell says in this article.  


Mt. Kebnekaise

Starting out on our way to those mountains waaay in the distance.
Last week my bff Anna and her husband Jeff visited us at the same time as Rob's parents, leaving us with the magnificent opportunity to leave Smalls behind for the first time since his birth and go on an adventure together. 
We hiked the highest peak in Sweden, Mt. Kebnekaise. It is way up north, within the Arctic Circle. I had a wonderful time - I LOVE that sort of thing and this was the first time I've ever done a hike that required multiple days of backpacking in, staying at a base camp, and doing a climb that was more what I would think of as mountaineering than hiking. It was so revitalizing for my entire being. But sometimes I wish I could get that from a hobby like, say, scrapbooking. Why I am so drawn to outdoor things that make me so sore and tired and cold and uncomfortable and fearing for my life?

Anna, jazzed up on life and likely singing camp songs.
A Sami hut. Or at least I like to believe that is what it is.
Anna's trusty old hiking shoes...not so trusty. The soles started coming off several miles into day 1. Luckily Jeff is a pretty clever engineer and came up with a pretty clever trick of threading them on. Worked well enough to get her to base camp where she borrowed some boots for the summit.

Rain clouds moving in...uh-oh
Super Best Friends Club
Thick fog moving in
Getting higher...and colder...and at a couple points we were getting pelted hard in the face with hail. If I was Smalls I would have cried.
No more trail. It was pretty tricky finding the markers for the path to the top in this thick fog. We were glad to have met up with a few others who also made the summit that day and form our own little "international expedition group". Four Americans, two Swedes, and two Kiwis. Together we found our way to the top, but we all agreed none would have made it on their own. We were like our own little organism, sending our feelers out till we found our way to the peak.
Oh...there is the marker. Try finding that little red spot when it is covered in snow and thick, thick fog among all the other rocks.
We made it! It was surreal near the top - the fog was so dense and white you literally could not tell the difference between the white air and the snow covered ground. It gave a few of us a feeling of vertigo. We had to be very careful - if you didn't pay close attention you could walk right off a ledge thinking the air was ground. Five of the eight of us actually stopped several meters short of the small tip-top (yay for GPS!), as it was a glacier and quite slippery and dangerous. Rob was one of the three who went to the top, but when he had a scary slip on his way up it sealed my decision that I was close enough to call it good....

"I'm Anna and I'm awesome!"
Beautiful vistas on our hike back down.
We were past that mtn behind us, up an even taller one!
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The happy honeymooners. A one year delayed honeymoon, hiking Sweden's highest peak, sharing a tiny little nook of a room with Rob and I in the base camp lodge. They are so cool.
The shoelace remedy for Anna's boots gave out a couple miles before the end of the trip, making her rugged boots look more like elf shoes. Not even that could wipe the smile off of Anna's face. Just gave us more amo to giggle about.


Birth Story

Michael turned one today and I have way too many sentiments floating around in my head to write anything cohesive. Among other things, I can't help but revisit the actual birth that happened one year ago today. It set into motion the most difficult weeks of my life directly after his birth, but then of course the innumerable moments of joy that flood our lives now.
So, in honor of this day and my reminiscings, HERE is Michael's birth story, as I wrote it in my livejournal way back when I remembered it a lot more clearly than I do now. I am too self conscience to have it written directly on my blog - there are some womanly, female, estrogen packed details - but I figure if you go to the trouble to click on the link now then you asked for it.


Happy Birthday Michael

Today is Michael's birthday.  It is crazy to think of how much our lives have changed in the last year.  I'm sure Lorena will have something more entertaining to write, but I wanted to post some of my favorite pictures of Smalls during the first year of his life.  His transformation from a crying, grumpy baby to a happy, curious little toddler is amazing.  He is luck enough to have his Grandma and Grandpa Candrian and his godmother Anna and her husband Jeff travel out to Sweden just for his birthday.  Happy birthday Michael Robert Candrian aka Biggie Smalls, aka King Baby, aka Goober.  You are loved by a lot of people all over the world!


Nintendo Skills

Lately I find myself thinking back to my days as a kid playing Nintendo. Or to be more exact, trying to get the Nintendo to work. Usually when we put in a game cartridge, it wouldn't work simply by sticking it in. Getting it to work was half the fun of Nintendo.

One of my brothers discovered that it would work if you blew on the cartridge's metal strip first. Problem solved.
But then that stopped working, so we had to get creative:
One looooooong blow. Three short blows. Make the strip wet by licking it. Lick it, then blow. Clean with shirt, lick, blow. Blow in it through your shirt. Lick, under the shirt blow, then another lick....
When those methods failed, we got creative about how we entered the cartridge in to the Nintendo. First it was veeeery slowly and carefully. Later we were slamming it in. Then it was other slight of hand maneuvers. Finally, some sibling (Glen, I think) discovered the trick of wedging a screwdriver head  into the machine that held the cartridge at just the right position to function. He was regarded as a genius. Soon we were stuffing all sorts of objects into the Nintendo to make it work.

I'm not sure that in all my negotiating with my mom to get more video game time that I ever thought of the reasoning that I was building important mothering skills. I think I came up with the usual "hand-eye coordination" and "driving skills" stuff that even I didn't really buy into.

But everyday as I work with raising my little monkey (who sometimes passes as a human baby), I find myself trying trick after trick after trick to get him to eat, to get him to nurse, to get him to drink, to get him to sleep, to get him to stop crying, to keep him entertained, to keep him still for his diaper change, to keep him quiet at church, to get down his vitamin D, to...to...to.... I find one solution, I regard myself a genius, and I hold on to that solution as the holy grail of solutions. But then it stops working. I regard myself as incompetent. But I keep trying, I get creative, I find a new solution, and the cycle repeats.
When it comes to nursing, the other night I actually found myself repeating the secret code for infinite lives to that game Contra. (Up up down down left right left right A B start.) Because the first several steps of the Contra code seemed to be quite similar to the secret pattern for getting Smalls to finally settle down and nurse. Left may not work, right may not work - but left up left up right up right up left up right - that was the secret code that finally worked.
Feeding at meals. Oooooooooooh, I could go on for ages about the special tricks to get this to happen: Spoon. Only spoon if in my lap. Peas, he loves peas. No spoon, only hands. Only hands if it was MY food. Spoon if it was MY spoon. No spoon, no hands, only fork. Only fork if he could hold the fork. This piece of cheese, but not THAT piece of cheese. Peas, he hates peas. Throw food off the tray to show me he is done with lunch. Put him down on the ground and discover he is NOT done with lunch as he eagerly devours his table scraps. Hands and spoon and fork, it's all good now. Yogurt - no way. Now give me that yogurt! He's not hungry, so out of the high chair and into my lap, and now he IS hungry....
I just feel lucky that Nintendo prepared me for how to deal with all of this.
Thanks, mom, for letting me play.
But Smalls will probably not get one. I hear video games function much too reliably these days.


Racing the Swedish Way

Last weekend I rode in my first bike race, called the Vasatrampet, in about 2 years, or basically since becoming pregnant with Michael. It was a lot of fun, although it was quite different than the road racing I used to do in the States.

To clarify, here is a broad generalization to contrast our two cultures; I feel like Americans thrive off of competition and quest for the extreme, while Swedes thrive off of cooperation and moderation. (I've heard enough Swedes make similar statements and seen enough examples to know that, although a stereotype, it has a basis.) A saying in Sweden with roots back to the viking era is "Enough is best", or in other words, get just what you need and no more. It can be looked down upon for anyone to stick their head out - for example to be wealthy or to try to be too good at something or too competitive. You see this in the political ideals - really really high taxes (so it is difficult to get too wealthy) but the payoff is that everyone is pretty much taken care of. I also notice it in the way salespeople have no pushiness whatsoever. I notice it in the serving sizes at restaurants. I notice it in the houses (sure there are some nice ones, but not the abundance of mcmansions I'm accustomed to seeing in the States.) But I probably have noticed the most examples in the biking culture.

So back to the race. It was 55 miles, and I would say that the first 53 miles of it didn't really feel like a race against each other; it was more like a race with each other. Like a team time trial, basically. Even at the end, the speed ramped up but there was no major battles that I could see. We pacelined the whole way. Of course it naturally broke up into groups - probably only about 15 people could keep the pace of the lead group - but within this group it was like we were all just trying to get to the finish line in our fastest time, all everyone together, regardless of the team. Although I must say that the vast majority was Team Magnus (the team I joined a few months ago), so it made sense we were helping each other. But no one seemed put off by other individuals mooching off of our draft. There were no attacks, EVER, even in the end, as I learned that here, for this race, that would have been very, very bad sportsmanship. But I am used to attacks being the name of the game, part of the competition aspect of a bike race. Anyway, I am sure that part of that was due to it being a mass start style amatuer race (I'm sure their pro races would have the attacks and competition), but I still know that even the most amatuer of races in the States would have attacks and plenty of flashes of testosterone and battles for dominance.

I got caught behind a crash right before the last mile or so of the race, so I was disappointed that I did not get to see how the end played out among the race leaders, but the guys who placed all said that there was no sprint at the end. Yes, it was fast, but they did not do a proper sprint. I almost feel like they would hold hands across the finish line if they could. There was only one other girl who also kept up with the lead group with me, and I figured that my only goal (besides simply having my curiosity filled to do a Swedish bike race and see how they do it here) would be to try to beat her. However, she was one of the people who crashed in front of me so we didn't really get to race it out at the end. And now I am thinking that was a lucky thing we didn't race to the finish together because maybe I would have looked really bad if I was out there being all tactical to draft behind her till the finish and then trying to out-sprint her at the end, while everyone else just held their position....I would have felt so dumb! So I was lucky to have been sparred that embarrassment. I am learning the Swedish way. But it is so against my highly competitive nature! But it is good for me at this point in my life when I am doing this sort of thing "just for fun" (which, ironically, I've found is actually less fun than when I used to take it pretty seriously...). I later learned that they don't even post or keep track of the placings for the race. But it was definitely, decidedly a race. Would that even be legal in the States? (Along the same lines, they do not get grades in school here until they are in eighth grade.)

Anyway, it was a good time. It was fun working with teammates and non-teammates, without those surging efforts of people trying to rip my legs off and me trying to do the same to them, since I really don't have the fitness for that now anyway. And I am enjoying Sweden more than ever. There are a few issues, as you can see from what we were wearing in this side picture in ***AUGUST***. But overall, I feel happy and at home here, and I am having fun figuring out the culture and language and food (I fed Smalls blood pudding the other day, at the recommendation of his nurse. Yes, bloody bloody blood pudding. More on that in a future post. I was trying to play it cool like I'm-so-Swedish, but really I wanted to puke.).

Below: In our hotel the night before the race.
Bedtime Battle Winner - Biggie Smalls! What little boy could possibly go to sleep when this must CLEARLY be a slumber party! How could he go to sleep when he knows we are RIGHT THERE, omigosh, BEST THING EVER. The child was as hyped up as we've ever seen him, crawling wildly from one spot to the next, wheezing in and out like he was going to hyperventilate, and falling over in fits of excitement. It was just like puppy flurries.


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