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?


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