Year in video

My sister Andrea made this year end video, showing what happened in Candrian-dom during 2011.  Enjoy



We went to Utah for Thanksgiving (via DC, where I had a work conference).  Lorena and the kids stayed behind, while I came back to Stockholm - since I inexplicably couldn't get six weeks in a row of work off.  I'll fly back out next week and we will celebrate Christmas and New Years in California.   I know they have been having tons of fun with family and friends in Utah.  In their absence, I was able to go surf last week in the Baltic Sea.  Yes, it was cold.  I was going to go again today, but I managed to sprain my knee playing hockey, which I guess is what happens when you don't really know how to skate.  Anyway, here are some pictures.  I'd post more, but we remembered to take the camera to Utah, but not the camera cord, which is here with me in Stockholm.


Michaels's bike

Smalls is getting pretty quick on his bike.  Just like his Mom.

Actually, they are probably the same speed, right now...



I gave myself full permission this year to just buy a costume for Smalls. But the cheapness in me still won out once again and I made it. Cheap and resourceful are my two favorite ingredients for halloween costumes, and I just can't get away from it no matter how far up I move in life.
Here he is as a spider.

It was pretty shoddy handiwork and the strings holding the spider legs to his arms broke within 3 minutes. Michael couldn't have cared less, so I'll continue having my fun as long as he is oblivious to how bad I am.
We went to the Halloween party at the embassy again, and they go pretty all out in decorating offices for trick-or-treaters. I was concerned that it might scare Smalls and give him nightmares, but I let him go through anyway. That night he woke up three times scared of spiders in his crib. So, was it worth the fun? Do most kids get nightmares from stuff like that?

I made Ella's flower costume with pink napkins safety-pinned onto a pink bonnet. I hated having it on her though, so she wore it all of like 10 minutes. I didn't care because it was cheap and easy.

We had one group of 6 kids come trick or treating to our house. Halloween is not a tradition in Sweden, but over the years they have started dipping their toes in to the fun of it. So the kids were totally stoked when they saw me come to the door with a big bag full of candy. Anyway, as I went to hand out candy to the individuals, I noticed that just one kid in the group was holding a big basket, and they informed me that I was just supposed to drop the candy for everyone into the one basket. It cracked me up because that is just so, so, SO incredibly Swedish. It was just such a nice, lovely, fair way to do it and I totally wanted to teach them how to do it right instead. Poor kids will never know the pleasure of coming home with a bag stuffed full of more candy than their little brother.



I've been feeling a bit nostalgic lately about my life here in Sweden. Maybe it's the beautiful autumn, maybe it's knowing that it's my last autumn here. Anyway, I quite love where I live. So I grabbed my camera and took it with me on a bike ride so I can capture a bit of the place I love. I decided to limit it to just the island where we live, Lidingö. It's sort of U-shaped, and probably about 7 miles from end to end.
I know I need a tripod. Even though it is a pretty boring video and it's the only way I can try to capture this place. I often think of this line by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"I take this evanescence and lubricity of all objects, which lets them slip through our fingers then when we clutch hardest, to be the most unhandsome part of our condition."

Oh, and the soundtrack is one of my favorite songs - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.




Photo Album

September 22, 2011
I can't make decisions, especially small ones. Like when your family visits and you end up with approximately 5,000,000 photos, how can you decide on 5 to share? So, I finally decided to just go with an album of pictures and, wha-la, I'm no longer incapacitated. Thanks Aunt Andrea, Grandma and Grandpa Candrian for the visit and the loads of great pictures! Just click on the picture to view the album.


Two Years

Michael is officially two years old now. He is the most joyous little guy, always laughing and making others laugh. In honor of his birthday, I am splurging and posting three videos. (All thanks to his aunt Andrea!)

 To explain the last one he wanted to watch Elmo without eating his food, and we told him no Elmo if he didn't eat first - so he's reviewing that.


Don't Lock Your Baby in The Car

Now, if only I'd heard that advice before, maybe Ella's baby blessing would have gone more smoothly. The battery on my electronic key has been low for weeks. I ordered a new battery but of course when it came on Friday it was the wrong size. At which point I should have gone to the store and bought one, but ya know, I didn't. That was going to be on Monday. Why put off until tomorrow what I can do the day after tomorrow? I was getting along just fine and I figured I always had my valet key to fall back on, although I don't really know how it works. After this whole fiasco, I still don't know how it works (I can't find any key hole). I always figured there was a non-electronic way to enter my car and turn it on, and always figured that if I didn't know that Rob knows everything and would know. Turns out he does not know everything. So clearly this was his fault.

So, we got to church and I parked and I'm gathering my things, and I decide to leave my small purse in the car and only take in my big church purse. I am a full-on mom now and need a special big mom purse for church. So I locked the car - something I haven't been doing lately because I've been afraid it might not detect the key battery, but...the purse was there and my brain was not so I locked it.
From the inside.
Because I can't lock it from the outside.
Because the key battery is too low to lock it with the key.
A shining, sparkling, gold-star moment for my decision making processes.
In my defense (do I deserve one?) I thought that the side door was open and that Ella was being taken out of the car....but nope. It got opened, and then shut again, with her still in the car. And as soon as I came around and realized she was still in the car was the same moment I realized I locked the car and my battery was really really really low and Ella starts crying and OH. NO. I just know my key is not going to work - the disaster is too perfect. It does not work, no matter how much I tell it to. So stubborn. So, it had enough battery to start the car and get us to church, but not enough to unlock it. And of course, we can't find a hole for the valet key to open it manually.

This story is too long, so let's just say that after several ideas, including running frantically in to the chapel to borrow a key from a friend to try to switch batteries (different sizes, didn't work), we ended up with a small crowd outside our car. Including the bishop. We had way missed the blessing but, hey, the party at the car was a pretty happening place.

Ella is right inside that car window crying and I am right outside the window crying. 

Rob found a valet key hole to open the trunk and was making a pretty pathetic attempt to reach his hand through to unlock the door through the tiny shoebox size hole that goes in to the cab. Not even close. But then some friends offered up their 3 year old daughter to squeeze through. I thought not a chance. No WAY would she fit through. But while I was busy mugging some other poor fool for their key fob battery, the girl got in.

Then it was really fun while everyone yelled directives trying to get a little toddler - one small enough to fit through a hole a cat could barely get through - to unlock the door. After she stopped to play with some toys, read a book, and send a few text messages, she managed to unlock the door and the crowd went wild.

Ella was so sweet and stopped crying the minute I picked her up. I figured we'd already missed the time for her blessing by a long shot so I took her aside to nurse. She was like a peaceful little angel while I was still racked with stress. She totally soothes my soul. (If we were hippies, her name would have been Peacelove. We threw it around when we were having fun with names.) I hope we don't end up with one of those reverse relationships where the daughter is always comforting and advising the mother.

Oh, they let Rob bless her later in the meeting than usual, and it was beautiful. She was alert and peaceful for the whole blessing, and then just sat contentedly in Rob's arms the rest of the meeting.

And for a final note, you would not believe the number of people who told me that they had locked their kid inside the car also. Like, pretty much everyone and you are not cool if you haven't tried it yet.

Here she is in her blessing dress, hand sewn by her Grandma Candrian.


Life Right Now

Cheering at Rob's soccer game.
I've been totally pampered after giving birth to Ella; between Rob's time off from work and visits from my mom, Rob's sister Andrea, and Rob's parents, it won't be until 8 weeks after her birth that I will finally have to cope with caring for a newborn and toddler on my own. I have to say that as a fair preface to now saying that I LOVE my life right now and I can't believe how manageable it has been to have a second baby.

Total fascade, I know. But I'll live in this little dreamland while it lasts. What every mother needs is a mother for herself. I was so so sad to say goodbye to mine yesterday after three weeks of being pampered. What should have been a totally hectic period of my life was instead a time that I was able to just enjoy my new life. It's a feeling of "my cup runneth over" instead of "bursting at the seams".
Rob's soccer game

Michael found the two cutest babes at the park and thought it looked like fun to hitch a ride. So he just hopped on. They looked at each other like "huh?" but then happily drove him around for like 15 minutes.

Playing at the beach with Grandma Davis.

Grandma Davis and miss Ella Mays

Michael likes to do what Ella does. She had tummy time so he copied her, complete with a pretty fierce impersonation of her moving her head about all wiggly and jerky and unstable-like.  One of the best things ever that has come as a result of his copy-cat behavior is that he will FINALLY lay down for diaper changes. Thank you miss Ella for providing the good example.

Michael woke up last weekend and told Rob that he wanted to wash the windows. I now know how to get Rob to do chores.

He had no idea of this when he stuck his head through that hole. Haha, sucka.

Looking out off the balcony, one of our favorite activities.


Squishy Face

Ella's squishy face. I like the black and white effect because A. It looks good. B. It hides an unfortunate amount of baby acne and dandruff.

Showing off her manicure. And her long fingers.

Mostly these two just coexist. He gives her a kiss every now and then each day and that is sweet. But he wasn't too in to holding her for a picture. The first few did not turn out too well, so we put away the camera. But then he realized that holding Ella was the key to getting his picture taken, and then he was begging to hold her again.

Is this not the coolest contraption of a stroller? Smalls is riding on a skateboard attachment and loves it. Yeah, he's pretty hip.


Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Another Michael video. He is still getting plenty of attention even with the arrival of Ella.
He is way into songs these days - here he is singing Take Me Out the Ball Game like a broken record until I help him remember there are other lines to the song.
Also, I love this video because it captures the way he sounds like Daffy Duck when he pronounces certain words (here: Giants and shame).


Ella's Birth Story

For those like me who love to read birth you go. In a totally uncreative, time-line format. And completely unabridged.

the week before birth: many contractions each day, "false labor" for a couple hours on like 3 different days. So that by the time I am actually at my due date, I'm already feeling pathetic as if I am already a week overdue.

In my sleep Saturday night (1:00 or 2:00 am Sunday): water breaks...just a trickle so I wasn't 100% sure and just went back to sleep. I'd spent the entire previous week getting worked up over false labor, so I went overboard with non-chalance at this point.

Sunday morning: I can feel a hormonal shift in my body that makes me feel a little more certain of the ruptured membranes. But no contractions. Call the hospital. The nurse wants me to be more certain that my water broke, totally thinks I am just over eager or something. She tells me to get out and move around, go for a walk, laugh, etc - to see if it would make more water come.

Sunday midday: Having some contractions now, especially on the drive over to church - every acceleration and bump. And every time Rob makes me laugh.

At church: try to forget about it. Ha! Cry through a talk. Try to avoid talking to people, but that is impossible. A friend who is a midwife and I especially didn't want to talk to because I was sure I would burst into tears, actually succeeds in making me feel better. But, oh, all the people who say "I didn't expect to see you here today!", or ask "so when are you due?" (yesterday, thanks for the reminder). It just feels totally wrong to be at church like any other day, even filling in as nursery leader because no one is there, when you know you should be at the hospital having a baby.

After church: Go on a walk with Sir Smalls. His nose leads us down the street to the neighborhood trampoline. I was secretly hoping for that. Good kid. After a few mild bounces, I sat down and thought I sat in a puddle. No puddle there. Just my amniotic fluid, sorry neighborhood kids who use that trampoline. So there is my solid evidence of water breaking for that lame nurse. Wahoo! I was so happy with the event that I happily walked back home with sir Smalls without even a trace of shame that I looked like I just peed my pants. I was ready to happily explain to every neighbor what it was and that I was about to have my baby.

Early evening: Contractions every 5 to 15 minutes now. Go to the hospital, they confirm ruptured membranes and say I will be induced the next day. Luckily, Sweden has changed it's policy regarding inducing labor for women with ruptured membranes. When this happened with Michael they waited 3 days, but now they want to do it within 2 days, thank goodness. (In the U.S., policy is to do it within 24 hrs to avoid infection, which is why I felt the nurse who sort of snuffed my call was especially lame.) I feel disappointed that my body is not going into full-on labor on it's own and I will have to be induced - the same exact scenario for the second time in a row - but I am at least calm about it this time and feel relief to know that I will have my baby the next day. It feels good to know it will happen one way or another. As opposed to Michael's birth, this time I just try to relax as much as possible - not frantically trying every home method to get labor going. I know I will need my energy and peace!

Throughout Sunday night/monday morning: Contractions still irregular - 5 to 15 minutes apart. But getting stronger. I catch a few zzz's in between contractions, but that is a pretty messed up night of sleep! I break out my TENS unit (I loved it so much with my previous birth that I went out and bought my own this time) in the middle of the night to help me cope with the pain and it worked wonders for me! Love love love to the TENS.

Monday morning: Rob tells me what a bad night of sleep he had, "thanks to a certain someone who shall remain nameless". HA! I shed a few tears on his behalf and apologize profusely.

Monday lunchtime: I pick up the baby sitter. Rob and I head to the hospital. Rob has fun pretending it is an emergency and drives too fast. I feel like a lamb going to the slaughter. I feel less convicted about natural childbirth this time than I did with Michael - I've hardly thought about it this time around and just know I'm going to do it like I did last time. I remember the torture a little louder than I remember my convictions for taking it raw. But I don't want to think it through again, I just want to do it the way I know how. I trust that I had the right reasons with my first birth, although I forget what they were as I deal with the pain.

Noon: arrive at hospital. Wait around foooooorever till a midwife comes to check me. Around 2:00 I find out that I am actually dilated to 5 or 6 cm!!! Contractions still irregular - 5 to 10 minutes apart - but the midwife says I won't need pitocin. WAHOO! She decides to give my membranes a bigger rupture to help move things along (although for some reason they don't get around to that until about 4:00.)

Afternoon: A midwife walks in as Rob is giving me a demonstration on birthing positions and the faces to make to help with giving birth. My laughter may have induced labor as much as the midwife puncturing the membranes.

Late afternoon/early evening: Rob tries to make a joke, and I inform him that NOTHING is funny anymore. I am in the SERIOUS throws of labor now and must be in my zone even between contractions because I have such intense back pain. It feels like my lower backbone is breaking. The back pain is so intense that I don't even feel the contractions in the front at all. In fact, I don't even feel my uterus contracting - I just know a contraction is coming because it feels like my back is breaking even more. The pain stays even once the contraction is over, it is just a little less intense. Still loving my TENS although it isn't as helpful now. Loving the music mix I made for labor.

The midwife's helper, like the student aide or whatever - is totally nice and trying to help but driving me batty. She keeps asking the same questions that HELLO, I ALREADY ANSWERED and suddenly I totally understand the Toby character on The Office. She is my Toby. My disdain is totally unfounded but real. Why should it bother me to have someone ask me if there is anything she can get me and bring me sandwiches and drinks and hot packs? She was totally nice and yet I wanted her to get lost. I warmed up to her once the birth was over and we had some good conversations and I mentally apologized.

Around 6:00, maybe?: At one point, I feel a hormone shift and start trembling. I give the TENS unit the boot - it can't even put a dent in dealing with the pain now. Before labor, when I tested it, an intensity of 20 was the most I could take. I had it cranked up to 37. At that point, it was sending my back into an arch and still not helping me deal with the pain so it became a little counter-productive.

I feel like I will puke, but I don't. I know I am in the transition phase - the most awful, difficult to deal with part of labor. Perhaps pushing and delivery is more actual pain, but you don't have to sit there and try to relax through it. My whole body keeps getting the shakes. I start feeling the urge to push. The midwife says I still have a little to dilate still before I ought to push, so I try to relax through the contractions. But finally, I get this contraction that possesses my body like a demon. My whole body pushes and writhes and mocks me for telling it to relax. It was absolutely agonizing. In my mind, the scene was like something from a horror movie, but Rob says he couldn't tell anything like that was going on. Luckily, the midwife checked me immediately after and said I was totally dilated then. She said to just listen to my body from then on - push if I had to, but relax if I could. Amazingly, the next several contractions let up on me a bit and I was able to not push. This was good and I think allowed me to stretch more gradually so that I didn't tear too much. Finally, my body became possessed again by the pushing demons, and it only took a few contractions - good looong contractions with multiple pushes - until I felt the "ring of fire" that made me want to rip my own head off. In heavy breaths I asked WHAT! IS! THAT!? and the reply was "the head!" and I was like, Okay, then I can end this. Pushed with every fiber of my body. Gave one unintentional scream - the moment that is truly unbearable to continue and makes me scream is the moment the baby is born.

7:08 pm: Out she came. I could not believe it was over just like that. There she was. It is so unbelievable. I exclaimed over and over "my baby, my baby, my baby..." There she was beneath me. She cried the second she was out. I was on my knees for birth, and this time the nurses thought to bring her toward me instead of out toward them - so I actually got to see her with the cord still there. I was a lot more with it this time than I was with Michael and although I was shaking, it was manageable enough this time that I could hold her right away. Rob cut the cord. It helped that I could focus on her as I had to deliver the placenta and get stitched up (only one stitch this time, yay!) - a good distraction from even more pain. She was a model nurser from the very first latch. I had plenty of time to just stare at her every feature while she nursed and run through a gamut of emotions. Childbirth is truly the most amazing, profound experience...anything short of that would not be fair, considering it is also the most excruciatingly painful. I suppose I could make a nice analogy of it to parenthood in general - sacrifices and trouble that only the pure joy and love of a child could outweigh. I'm so in love with my little Ella girl!


Blue Eyes

She is so, so, so lovely in every way. I can't get enough.


More Ella pictures (and one of Smalls)

Because that is what the people have demanded!


Sleeping some more

Hi Ella.

Michael, taking a walk down memory lane...


Ella: World; World: Ella

Here she is...

Yeah, she kinda looks like an alien.  But a cute little alien.  (fyi I think that most babies look creepy,  please don't kill me for saying so). 

Funny story for all of the grandparents, relatives, and those with kids already (if you don't have kids and aren't related to us, you will think this is just another one of "those" stories that people with kids tell.   I remember, before having kids, hating blogs where all people did was talk about their kids.  Now look at me.):  When I brought Michael to the hospital this morning to meet Ella, he was really excited because he got to ride an elevator up to Lorena's floor.  Smalls loves elevators and escalators.  He could ride them all day.  Over and over and over and over...Anyway, walking down the hall to the room, I was trying to tell him about how he was going to meet his sister, and all he could think about was riding the elevator again.  He kept saying "elevator, elevator."  When we brought him into the room, we took him over to look at Ella and I told him to say "hi" to his sister.  And Michael, in a really sweet voice, walked over to Ella and said "Hi.  Hi baby Ella."  And then the moment ended, and he reverted to form and said "Elevator?" and wanted me to take him back to the elevators.


Hello Ella

Ella arrived at 7:05pm on 18 July 2011.  Both the beautiful little girl and her beautiful mother are doing fine.  Pictures and stats tomorrow.


ABC 123

Michael is a hoot at this age. I am finding it especially funny when he says things to me that I have not taught him. For example:
"Daddy hates Teletubbies."
Then a couple days later he tells me "Michael hates bunnies."
Yesterday it was "raisins gross!", as he was happily devouring them. I still have no idea who the source is on that one. Rob and his Boo-pa both deny it but I smell fish.
Another funny thing I hear way to often for my liking: "nervous" or "mommy nervous". I know to rush over as soon as I hear it because it always means he is doing something a little dangerous.
If he finds something interesting, he shows it with a deep, throaty "Whoa! Whooooooooooooaaa! Whoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaa!" He went on like that for an entire bus ride once, to the amusement of plenty of passengers.
His affirmatives can be pretty hilarious too - he is always sooo eager to do things. For example, asking if he wants to go on the swing can be met with a long, enthusiastic reply of "Kay. Okay. Yeah. Alright. Do it. Try it. Kay. Alright. Do it."

This is certainly a time when I wish I could capture a hundred different cute things he does on video, but I'll consider myself lucky to have caught these couple tricks. He is even more obsessed with letters and numbers now that he has seen himself saying them on video. Now he usually skips straight to 18 19 20, or WXYZ because he's learned that is where the wild applause comes in.


Fun with Boo-Pa

Big Michael came to visit little Michael for the week.  Both Michaels where in heaven.  Smalls doesn't even know what to do, now that his "Boo-pa" (Michael's name for his Grandpa) has left and gone back to his house.  He is confused because Lorena and I won't do everything he tells us to.  Boo-pa would, so why won't we?  Boo-pa brought him some cool gifts (not pictured: licorice and potato chips) like a Giants had and some sunglasses.  He also took him on walks, took him to the beach, went on a boat ride, and generally did whatever Smalls wanted to do.  Smalls was pretty sad when he woke up from his nap on Saturday and realized that Boo-pa wasn't there to be his buddy.  It was even sad for us (not just because we had a free babysitter for a week, but it was sweet to see how much Michael loves his grandpa and vice versa.)  It was a lot of fun having him here, and we can't wait until he comes back out with Grandma in two months to meet Ella.



This video below is really not that great except for the sake of seeing Michael. I guess that's probably true of this blog in general, so I don't know why I feel the need for the disclaimer.
The first part is Midsommarsafton, or midsummer's eve. It seems like one of the most celebrated holidays in Sweden. There are lots of big gatherings where the tradition is to pick wild flowers and greenery to decorate a huge maypole, raise it up, then sing and dance around it. And decorate flower wreaths to wear around the head. And eat disgusting things like pickled herring with mustard. Most include lots of beer, but since our party was mostly mormons, that part was left out. For many Swedes it marks the beginning of their looong summer vacation to their summer cabins - often 4 to 6 weeks - and the city really empties out.

The second part of the video is later the same day, and just shows Michael doing his favorite activity - pushing his stroller. He begs all day every day to go for a ¨little walk¨, which is basically 30 - 60 minutes of him pushing the stroller around where ever his nose leads him, until I've had enough and put him into the stroller (screaming, of course) and push him back home.


Gröna Lund

We took Smalls to the local theme park - Gröna Lund.  He really really really liked the train.  I think we rode it 10 times.  The conductor would blow a horn before each ride, and Smalls would say "Choo Choo."  Besides the train, there was a blatant "Dumbo" ride rip-off, which he liked.  Even though those were his favorites, when we would ask him which rides he wanted to go on, he would point to all the big roller coasters, that spin and go upside down, etc., and say "that one!".  Occasionally, he would even take off running towards them.  But his plans were always foiled by the blasted height restrictions.  Sorry, buddy.  You are too small.  We bought a season pass for one adult (since Michael gets in for free) so that all the people who come visit this summer can take him on the rides.


For real?

Thanks for sending me this link, Anna. Although I can't believe that so many of my current adult friends think of me when they see something like this. You go to ONE little cat convention when you are like 8 years old, and man, that sort of thing follows you around for decades.  



This week we decided to take a random trip to Tallin, Estonia. One of the things I should have mentioned in my previous list of things I dig about Sweden is the cheap cruises we've been able to take. For a grand total of something like 80 bucks, Rob, Smalls and I got a cabin on a round trip cruise to check out the city for a day. I really love short trips like that, and I really really love great deals like that. And I quite like doing the cruises every now and then. It feels like camping to me, in a totally non-camping sort of way. (In my mind that statement makes perfect sense.) And then when you wake up you are somewhere new. Love that.
The city was pretty cool. Supposedly it has one of the best preserved old towns in the world. Buildings still in use from the 1300's. I didn't know much about it's history except that it used to be part of the USSR until 1991. I learned that it has been occupied on and off by Russia and Germany for a good deal of it's recent history, and it was humbling to walk down the streets and realized how much the every day citizen has been through to finally have their recent independence. We went to the Museum of Occupations, where they had rather basic stuff on the main floor, and all the impressive huge statues of past oppressive leaders were sort of thrown into a darker basement with zero fanfare. Great statement. 
While I'm at it I have to brag about the trip I took a couple months ago to Helsinki. The cruise ship gave some free tickets to the embassy, which combined with the free bus ride (anytime if you board pushing a stroller), got me and Smalls all the way from my living room to Helsinki and back without paying a penny for even so much as gas. Lovely. I hope all of my deal-loving and extreme-couponing family members are impressed.


Looking inside my finger

I had my sixth surgery today (three on left knee, one on right knee, one on left achilles, and now my right pinky finger).  This was the first one I was able to be awake for.  It is a bit surreal looking inside your own hand.  I was under local anesthetic for this one, as the surgeon needed me to be able to flex my hand to make sure that everything was attached with the right tension, so I would have the right range of motion.  About halfway through, the doctor asked if I wanted to look in, and I couldn't say no - morbid curiosity got the best of me.  It was really interesting seeing the bone, the ligaments, etc.  It wasn't as freaky as I thought it would be, probably because there wasn't that much blood.  It was also really weird having my hand be numb, but still feeling the pressure and pulling associated with re-attaching a tendon to my finger.  It was a bit painful when they attached an anchor to the bone in my finger that would be used to re-attach the tendon.  I guess they aren't really able to numb the bone.

For those that are wondering what I did to have surgery on my pinky (generally regarded as the wussiest of fingers..) It seems I tore a tendon off the bone playing hockey back in December.  The finger slowly felt better over the past few months, which is why I didn't go to the doctor.  Two weeks ago,  while playing soccer, I re-injured it.  When the doctor saw it on Wednesday, she said:  "That is the most unstable finger I have ever seen, that someone can still move."  I wanted to take a picture of the surgery, but I wasn't allowed to bring a camera in.   Sorry.


What Smalls dragged in

Look what sir Smalls dragged in. Especially appetizing considering I was cooking dinner. I hear him eagerly run in from the patio off the kitchen proclaiming "snail! snail!". He chased me around trying to give it to me. He was quite proud of it and really wanted me to have it. The garden variety snail is quite large here, much bigger than anything I ever encountered growing up in CA.
I have cleaned up all sorts of diapers and other nasty stuff since giving birth, but I must say that cleaning slimy snail scraps off his fingers and fingernails has been the most repulsive of all. Just fyi, snail gut scraps do not simply rinse off.
In addition, pregnancy and having a young child makes me disturbingly empathetic to all creatures, and I've thought way too much about the fate of that poor snail.


Bin Laden made me homesick

I am a little surprised at how stoked I am that they got bin Laden. I didn't expect to be so hooked on the news and get goose bumps so many times. But it sort of makes me glad that I feel this way considering the fact that when a friend mentioned on Friday that she wanted to stay home to watch as much of the royal wedding as possible, I wasn't exactly sure what she was talking about.  Me: Wedding = huh? Death = goosebumps. Interesting self-analysis.

My point in this is that I want to give some high fives and be part of the revelry at home that we got him. I was reading a Swedish newspaper today, where it is also headline news. However, I was a little let down that I couldn't find a single line of excitement that we took him out. I've read American headlines that proclaim "Rot In Hell", "We Got The Bastard", "Dead", etc. To contrast, the front page I saw here had a picture of bin Laden and stated something like "Swedish people after bin Laden's death - Half believe this will cause new terrorist attacks in Sweden".  Other articles' headlines were "Terrorism not dead with Osama" and "There will be reprisals for Osamas death". Another article just outlined many of the other most-wanted terrorists still out there and talked about another leader who is about as powerful as bin Laden and still alive. True, true, true, and true. But a total buzz-kill. I'm not, and Americans are not (I don't think...) in denial about anything. But I didn't read a single positive note about the fact that at least this one awful, most-wanted-terrorist is gone for good. What the what?

I guess I kind of get it - he was not their monster. And there are other different-frame-of-mind factors that I am starting to understand better now as well. But still, I am homesick today. I want to revel in it with my country.


A list of random things I like in Sweden

1. Good bike paths everywhere.
2. This bread called Guldkorn that is sold in a loaf with NO END PIECES and every slice is the same exact uniform size. I didn't know how much this mattered to me until I found this bread.
3. The traffic lights turn red and yellow at the same time before they turn green. I know driving is not supposed to be a race, but my analogy is that in the States driving is like being in a race where you line up and someone suddenly just says "go". Here, it's like "ready, set, go", and it really relaxes those type A people like Rob and I who would make an analogy of racing to driving.
4. Open preschool - a parent accompanies their kid to this, but it is free. It's mostly just babies/toddlers playing around, and then a music-time, but there are open preschools all over and, yeah, it's free.
5. Pappaledighet - the right that fathers have to get paid leave from their job to take care of their baby. I don't know the exact laws around this, but together the father and mother get a sum total of 1.5 years paid leave from work (I think...). The clincher is that if the father does not take some of that time (like 3 months or something) then it is simply lost so then they don't get the full year and a half or whatever it is. At the open preschools I have gone to, it is pretty common to see more fathers there with their kid than mothers, which I think is quite the novelty that I just can't get over. (This is because it is common for the father to take over baby-duty when the kid is a year old, which also coincides with when a lot of people start going to open preschool.) I mean, what full-time-mother hasn't fantasized once or twice about trading places with their husband for a couple months?
6. Loooooong vacations. Many people take like 6 weeks vacation in the summer and the whole city changes, like a college town. (I think everyone is legally entitled to something like 5 weeks of vacation.)
7. Free bus rides if you are pushing a stroller.
8. Cheap balls of fresh mozzarella.
9. No one honks in traffic. Actually, this is love/hate, because sometimes someone really needs to be honked at like 5 cars ahead of you and no one will get the job done. But when you compare the peacefulness of it to DC drivers (angry honking haters), it is definitely worth the trade-off.
10. Entire school classes will go out on bike rides together. I once saw a class of grade schoolers out for a ride with their teacher giving them instruction about cycling. And the bike lots are overflowing at the schools.
11. I was reading the Swedish Book of Mormon the other day where it has the same passage as the Bible that says "And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council". I've never really known what that word "Raca" meant until now. The Swedish version essentially interprets it as "Dumbhead". So enlightening.
12. Brännboll - a nicer, friendlier version of baseball. There is no such thing as an out and even if you strike out you still get on base. Probably more like wiffleball than baseball, but nice for things like the family friendly picnic setting.  I played this for the first time with my church youth group last week, and I didn't quite understand it yet, and they must've thought I was a little crazy the first couple of times I was yelling "OUT!!!" at people before I realized there is no such thing in this game.
13. Non-competitive attitudes here, in general. As witnessed in too many occasions to count (for example, #12) Another recent example I noticed was in the Easter tradition of the egg-hunt. Here each kid gets just one giant egg, and once they find it they are done. Okay, so I think it isn't quite as exciting, but no kids are left in tears because they found 2 eggs while someone else got 18 eggs plus 4 chocolate bunnies.
14. Everyone exercises and eats well and does stuff outdoors. Okay, not everyone, but it sure seems that way. It is rare to see anyone overweight here.
15. A friend was making an argument for living a healthy lifestyle the other day, and it seemed that the pull for it isn't so much centered on "healthy = good for you", but more like "healthy = good for society". It seems the stronger argument is that things that make you unhealthy make you a burden on the system and others, so don't be that person. I'm positive I am way over generalizing here, but perhaps a thread of truth to that mentality.
16. Dogs are soooooo loved.
17. Kids who ride the bus to school use the public bus system, not a school bus. And they use the public bus and metro for things like field trips too.
18. Valborgmässafton - a holiday that was celebrated last night. From what I gather, it is basically a pagan holiday celebrated with ginormous bonfires to ward off evil and burn away the dry and dead of winter. The fire I went to burned up a heap bigger than a garage and the flames reached higher than the trees. There were no ropes to hold people back for safety and no waiver forms to sign. Just a picnic like atmosphere with a good old fashioned "mind your own safety" before they set the biggest blaze I've ever seen.
19. The floor heater we discovered this winter for our bottom floor tiles. Mmmmmm, Toasty.
20. Saunas saunas saunas.
21. Lack of american modesty in dressing rooms. Nowadays when I use a locker room it is usually to go to the pool with Smalls, and that kid is crazy and likes to make me chase him around whenever possible. If we were anywhere but Europe, I would have had some really awkward moments in the locker room.
22. Swedish meatballs (I'm hooked) and Wallenburgers.

Things I wish would make their way to Sweden
I'll keep this brief because it's all nit-picky stuff that doesn't really matter in the scheme of living in a really great place that I love. Just random stuff I've missed here and there.
1. Disposals in kitchen sinks.
2. Juice sold as concentrate.
3. Screens for windows and screen doors. Actually, I saw a screen door for sale once in a magazine that was about the equivalent of Sky-Mall magazine. Hey guys, check out this crazy cool contraption!
4. High watt light bulbs. (Can't find anything above 60.)
5. Drive through fast food.
6. Fitted bed sheets.
7. Air conditioning.
8. American size cribs (teeny tiny ones here).
9. A Target store or something of the like.
10. Authentic Mexican food...who here wouldn't love a grubbin' Beto's burrito?
11. Pick up of recyclable trash. It's like mile round trip walk for me to go to the recycling bins and back, plus you sort it yourself, so it is definitely less convenient than I am used to. (Don't worry, I still do it.) 
12. A massive aisle of the grocery store dedicated to hundreds of different delicious cereals. Wouldn't Swedes just love Cinnamon Toast Crunch? I think they would.

Actually, I think the above list is a testament to how awesome it is here, if that is all I can find to wish for.
I am sure there is tons more I will find myself wishing I had put on each of those lists, but I've gone on quite long as it is, haven't I?


This is my son...

He put the ice cream bowl hat on his head on his own volition.  He thought he was so funny.  The Gorbachev thing he has going on... he fought the stairs and the stairs won...this round. 


Say Cheese

Lorena had to take a picture of Michael so that he can get his VISA and not be an illegal immigrant in Sweden.  He wasn't enjoying it too much until she taught him to say "Cheese" and then he thought it was pretty funny.
 Before "Cheese" (more like a mug-shot)
After "Cheese"


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