Påskfjäder = Easter feathers = a Swedish Easter tradition I will be taking home with me. I'm really drawn to the natural materials, and while nothing beats fresh flowers, there's something big to be said for stuff that doesn't wilt. You see them everywhere here, and on Lidingö they put them in the street island pots, looking bright and cheerful.
The feathers are sold in stores with little wires, or you can buy a bouquet of påskfjäder at flower shops as well. Smalls had fun helping gather the branches and wrapping the wire around the feathers, which is probably the main reason I finally made it for the first time this year.


Did it!

Yay! I officially completed my blog-a-day for a month goal. Accomplishing a goal feels so good, even if it's a silly one. I'm glad now that I finished it. Even if there was a certain level of pointlessness to it, there was also growth in trying something I wouldn't have done otherwise. I have a funny relationship with blogging because self-disclosure feels embarrassing to me, but I am fascinated by it. Plus I'm really, really big on introspection, and writing really helps with that. For every blog post there are 500 other thoughts and often things I end up just writing in my personal journal. It's not so much for the record keeping (there is way to much of it to ever sift through!) as it is a mental exercise - keeping myself accountable to my own self. It's great for practicing positive thinking - because negative thinking is pretty obvious when it's in writing. So when I blog and journal, I find that I analyze myself and my thoughts even more - which is good for growth but also annoying. 
But, at the very least, it probably helped me buy a few less things off of Amazon this month.
And hopefully it's helped a little with staying in touch with my lovely family and friends.
Ciao for now!
I'm sure I'll be back soon anyway, just back to a slower pace.


Bä, Bä, Vita Lamm

I often take Michael and Ella to öppna förskolan, the free Swedish "open preschool". It's an open center for parents to come with their baby or toddler. Basically, the babies/toddlers play with the toys and the parents can socialize, there is a music time, and a dining area for snacks. Since almost every Swedish kid starts dagis (the free child-care/preschool) when they are 18 months, it's mostly just crawling with babies (zing!) and Michael tends to be the oldest kid, lucking out sometimes with the appearance of another toddler or two. But, we go anyway because he loves the music and Ella is pretty stimulated by it all, too. Oh, and I get to talk to adults. Adults! Real, live adults! We mostly talk about kids.

Anyway, Michael has learned a lot of Swedish songs through öppna förskolan, and as I see our move to the States (yay!) and away from Sweden (sob!) coming closer and closer on the horizon, I am trying to put everything into a little time capsule. Here he is, singing Bä, Bä, Vita Lamm.

Bä, bä, vita lamm, har du någon ulle-ulle-ull?
Ja, ja, kära barn, jag har säcken fulle-ulle-ull!
Helgdagsrock åt far, och söndagskjol åt mor, och två par strumpor åt lille-, lillebror. Ja! Ja!


Fourteen Michaels

Several months ago Smalls was in his room when I heard him say loudly "three Michaels!" then "four Michaels" and "eight Michaels" and then "lots and lots of Michaels!". I wondered what in the world he was talking about and then walked in to see that he had discovered this effect with the mirrored closet doors in his room. It has been a great source of amusement ever since.


Thank you, meltdown.

Today I was 15 min. late on my parking receipt, and as I walked out to the car there was an officer standing right there ready to write me up. But, *hallelujah!*, Michael was having a major crying fit and Ella was still in the stroller and it was pretty easy to play up the situation to his sensibilities. So, for perhaps the first time ever, I was grateful for Michael's meltdown.
Not that we have to pay tickets here, per se, but we at least attempt to be good citizens anyway.
It would be a pretty sleezy thing to do, to get my kids to cry on purpose as a means to escape possible future tickets - but it's hard to not to just think of the possibilities. I had a friend get out of a speeding ticket once just by saying she really really had to use the bathroom. So many possibilities. 



Why is it that all the phrases that come to mind when I see such a cherubic little baby like Ella make it sound like I am someone who eats babies? But, yes, I just want to gobble her up. I love to munch on her little cheeks. I love to raspberry that delicious, chubby belly. I love to smack my lips all over her cute tiny little toes and feet.
By the way, I need to issue a formal apology to her for saying that she was driving me nuts last week on account of her emerging will and personality. Sorry, Ella. I was dead wrong and I know better than to have worried that way. The cold must've affected her more and longer than I gave credit, because she is sweet as sugar again, even with her emerging desires to move and explore. On a related note, I'm sure, the last few days she is sleeping almost 2 hours more per day than she has any day in the last couple months. Ahhh, life is good.


That thing you do

Something I really enjoy about my life right now is the time I get to spend with the Young Women in my ward at church. I've been a youth leader since we moved to Stockholm and the time I spend with them is inspiring and entertaining.
Anyway, today our class topic was "Arise and Shine Forth". Since "being nice" was mentioned as a way to shine, we tried to solidify that idea a little and it got me thinking about specific people who have "that thing they do", like their trademark way to be nice.
And it got me thinking of
- my friend Michelle, who is always sending nice notes and postcards to people. I just got a postcard from her a couple days ago, in fact. She must send out hundreds every year, I think.
- my mom who is always baking things and cooking dinners for other people.
- Rob who is so good at staying in touch with his family and friends, so good about giving that call regardless of whether he gets the calls in return.
- a friend in high school who was the hugger. Always hugging everyone and they were seriously great hugs that made you feel so warm.
- my friend Anna who is just the friendliest person alive and just chats with anyone and everyone. She is the type who will make best friends with the person sitting next to her on a plane. One of her new friends is someone she met because they work at a store she shops at. Seriously.
- Rob's mom who is always crafting and creating and then giving it away, either to family or friends or charity.
- my Grandma McKee, who always remembered birthdays. She had 9 children and I can't even remember how many grandchildren because the number is over 70 and I've lost track of cousins long ago....but anyway, when she was alive, she remembered all of us, plus friends and others. So I figure she must've averaged several birthday cards and presents every single week. She wrote in her journal that her first thought every day was to find someone she could serve. Wow.

Anyway, the point of this list was just to get me thinking about different people and their trademark things, to try to find and develop more of one in myself. One of my "things" is massage - I think it's great and I like to share that healing touch with others - but that would be a pretty creepy thing to share in the broader sense outside of my nearest. So my current thoughts are on finding a "thing" that can be shared more broadly.

I'd love to hear about it if you have a good trademark thing you do!



Many, many mornings I end up eating breakfast at the little red table with Michael. This morning it was Rob and the sight made me smile. Michael was alternating between bites and pushing Ella in the wagon, so she's only momentarily abandoned there.


Hockey Tourny

Rob is lucky now and then when his work is to play. Today his job was a diplomatic hockey tournament between the embassies of USA, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Canada. I find it kind of ironic to pick a game as rough as hockey to build diplomatic relations, but I guess everyone is probably just stocked to get to do something fun rather than the formal stuff.
Russia won.
Smalls, Ella and I had fun cheering them on.

He's not bored - it's just that took his flag waving duty pretty seriously and was really interested in the game.



Anyone else having trouble lately with blogger messing up high-def pics?


Happy Pi Day

Pi day made me think about the old college days when I would sit in the Talmage building at BYU and just sit and work on math all day long. I miss exercising my brain like that. One B.A. in math education, a year in a master's program, 8 years of teaching math, countless hours tutoring and doing math on my own "just for fun".....and now two babies later I wonder what I even remember and how long it will take to get it back once the occasion arises. What is it like for someone who has put their career on hold for many years while they raise kids and then suddenly try to get back into the game? Maybe I'd get back in the game okay now, but I wonder just how daunting it will feel in like 5 more years.

Also, I've been pondering the fact that even though I've taught math up to calculus, I still don't have a clue about how a little kid learns basic simple math. Right now Michael has a lot of interest in numbers and it makes me really happy to teach him. Today he wanted me to write out all the numbers to 100. But I am wondering if he is actually so interested in the numbers, or more that he is responding to my enthusiasm for it. My dad really loves math and I'm sure that influenced my own interest quite a bit. I always thought it was so much fun when he gave us kids little math riddles to figure out and I always enjoyed that way to connect with him. I really look forward to that sort of thing with my own kids.


Nike Air Jordan IV

This was Rob's birthday present this year. It was all he wanted. 
When it comes to shoes, Rob and I definitely have role reversals from the stereotypical norm. 
He has way more shoes than I do, and knows/cares about what is in style much more than I do. He says he has wanted this pair of Nike Air Jordans since 1989. In 1989 I think I was still pretty stoked about Payless canvas shoes. The Nike Air Jordan IV shoes been out of production and just got re-released in February, and were sold out online within 10 minutes.
 Today he got a new pair of Toms in the mail. He ordered me some, too. He's always helping me out like that with my shoes and wardrobe.  



One of my favorite things about where I live is the really really close access to many great running paths and trails. Another really great thing is that there is a nice track just down the street as well. I've almost always neglected it in favor of the trails, but recently I'm rediscovering my love for the track and hard intervals. Going hard in short bursts just feels so stinking good. I just love getting into that "hurts so good" zone with intervals. And since my goals are silly little ones, I love not really caring enough to go into the "hurts so bad" zone.

My run tonight had me getting dinner on a bit late. In the meanwhile, Smalls munched on some crayons. There were red and brown bits all over, so I think he spit them all out.

Same child told me today that he wants to ride a motorcycle.

Same child somehow ended up face down on the hardwood stairs today. Luckily not hurt too bad.

Ella. My dear little Ella. My sweet, peachy, good-natured, lovely little princess Ella is, well, still all those things. But also driving me batty. I don't think it is her cold - it's mostly better. I don't think it is teeth - I see no signs of them. It is much, much worse. It is an emerging will. Du-du-dum. She is getting a will. She is realizing she can move, that she can explore things, that she has desires other than milk. And today she had desires all day long. She's so interested in everything that she won't nap as much as she needs either. Any minute I was not directly involved in entertaining and walking her around and loving her to pieces, she was whining. Intervals of attention and fun no longer cut it. Dang. She's still lovely, but I guess whenever she is exceptionally needy it always throws me off guard. She's supposed to be the easy one.


Strawberry Sandwich

Strawberry, spinach, peanut-butter sandwich. Gotta love food that is as healthy as it is delicious as it is easy to make. Sometimes I cheat the healthy part and spread a little Nutella too, and then it is uber good.

For my tastes, it needs a good dense brown bread that's on the sweeter side. Toast it. Spread PB (and Nutella for a treat). Spread some defrosted frozen finely chopped spinach (I hope it's sold like that in the States. I discovered it here in Sweden. When it is hacked up really finely like a pesto it can be added to just about anything to boost the nutrition without being noticeable in the taste or texture.) Add strawberries and enjoy! Michael loves this almost as much as I do.



Today started soon after I went to bed last night. Both kids are a little sick, coinciding nicely with Rob's work trip, so I pulled solo duty with getting up all night for both kids. Gotta love those Jack-in-the-Box kinda nights.

Today Michael told me he wanted to jump off the top of the house. I honestly have no idea how he got that in his head, except that he has been really into jumping off ever taller things these last few days. So I'm a little scared that it may have been an original idea.

Today Ella got really, really close to crawling. I'd say she did, but I'd be cheating. It was only a couple weeks ago that she hardly seemed to care at all about moving. Not till 7 months old did she even roll from her back to stomach for the first time. Now moving seems to be all she cares about and she's suddenly pretty whiny about wanting to get around.

Today Ella whined more than any other day in her life, I'm pretty sure. I think she just has a common cold - coughing, runny nose, low fever. But the lengthy sessions of whining got me wondering if I should take her in to the doc. But then she would seem perfectly fine and happy other times. Why is it that a kid will whine like they have the plague, but then you get them naked and suddenly they are chirping and giddy? For my kids, at least, nudity is like a cure-all. Or at least a good litmus test for if she's really awfully sick; just get her undressed and if she's still sad then I know to call the doctor.

Today I felt like I was cleaning all day long. Between Michael throwing up and having the runs (let's just say there were some silly fun accidents) and Ella's nose running like a fire hose and puking up from her coughing fits...well, shoot, what did people do before washing machines?!

Today I talked to Rob on the phone while he was waiting for his flight back home, and he told me that his day was pretty boring.

Today I exercised self restraint with sarcasm.

Today I built a pretty awesome train track with Michael.

Today I let Michael watch an entire full-length movie. I'm usually a t.v. nazi so this was big. Big on his part, too, because there have been a couple other times when I was going to let him watch a full movie (read - I NEEDED him to watch a full-length movie) and he always lost interest.

Today I felt a bit trapped with two sick kids and a missing husband, so I did a pretty great home-workout, complete with using Ella as a weight to add extra spice to boring old things like lunges, crunches, etc. I also did intervals of racing up and down our stairs (they run continuously from the 1st to the 3rd floor), and it was the best cardio I've ever done at home. Michael would have thought I was nuts if it weren't for the movie making him completely dead to the world. (Which is part of why I'm so leery of showing him too much of that stuff. And also why I wish I wasn't.)

Today was actually still a happy day. I'm sort of obsessed with my kids (obviously) and one of the best pieces of advice I've read was to not think about doing things for the little parasites, rather as doing with them. Even the not-so-glamorous stuff can still be turned into moments enjoyed together.


Try, try again

One of my favorite traits about Michael is his strong determination. Coupled with a 2 year old's need to explore his independence and a kid whose brain gets very fixated on specific scripts for how different events must play out, sometimes it feels like he borders on OCD.

Today's simple example was when it was time to leave the museum. Like many kids he always begs for "one last ______" before we can go. But if the "one last _____" doesn't go according to script, there will always be a meltdown until he can go back and do it again correctly. Today it was climbing up on a pole, pulling a rope, climbing down, then running fast down the ramp. On his run down the ramp there was a kid in the way who obstructed his clean line and made him scrub off speed to go around. Clearly, an unacceptable completion. He started having a fit as I tried to get him to put his shoes on, having a visceral need to go "try again" (one of his most repeated phrases). So I grant permission to go back to the top of the ramp and run down again. But, no, he can't just repeat step #4. He must go back through the entire long scenario, from step one, in order for his world to feel right. And it is pretty much always just like that.

Virtually any time he falls or messes up something and gets hurt, he always has to redo it. He never really considers that maybe it was a bad idea in the first place or perhaps out of his little 2-year-old league. Mostly I am proud. But also a little scared.
A good recent example was on yesterday's bike ride (on his little pedal-less Strider bike). He found a steep embankment that he wanted to ride down. It seemed a bit over his head (rather bumpy/weedy and steep), but it was only a couple meters long and I figured it was grass so I let him go at it. Of course, he totally biffed it. He cried for a second and then said through his whines "Michael try again!". So he went for round two. I tried to discretely place the bike at a spot where the embankment is a little shorter. But he is getting too astute for my tricks. He all but scoffed at my attempt to put it at a lower, easier place. Showing what he is made of, he got back on the bike and took it to a spot even higher than the original location.
On round two he almost made it, but ate grass again at the bottom. Fell a little worse this time and got all tangled up with the bike. But had he had enough? Course not. In fact, the very thing that calmed him down was expressing "Michael try again". (Gotta love how he refers to himself in third person.)
On the third attempt he took the bike to an even slightly taller section of the embankment. With zero hesitation he kicked himself off, lifted both his legs into the air and went for it with 100% commitment and an air of gusto. He made it like a pro. I'm fairly certain the owner of Strider Bikes is going to be signing him onto a contract soon.


From My Balcony

on a beautifully frosty morning.


Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

This has probably been Michael's favorite song for most of his life. He gets a little goofy singing it for the camera.
By the way, I hate to bail out on goals, but I think my blog-a-day for a month is kinda stupid and I'll probably bail out soon. Let's call it re-evaluation rather than quitting.


Citrus Pulled Pork Tacos

Made these tonight with some guacamole. So, so good. A nice refreshing flavor from a pretty simple recipe. And it involves a crockpot, which is my favorite way to cook cause it means I can make it in the morning and then stay out with the kids in the afternoon, right up to dinner time.



Lorena and Rob

Yep, it's about me and him, too. I like us.
Didn't get any pics today (sorry, Joy, it's Rob's fault) so I'm digging into the archives from November.
Today I timed myself running a mile and it was way faster than I expected, without a serious effort till the last lap when I realized I was doing pretty good. It was 5:53. Almost exactly 6 months ago was the last time I ran at the track and I ran it in 5:55, but it was an all-out race effort (Rob and I were smack-talking and took it to the track. He won.). So, without any special training I improved greatly, considering this was not even close to race effort till the last lap. It means a lot to me because I really like training and goals and now I have one that I think I can do in not too long - beat Rob in the mile and beat my record when I raced in high school. Oh, I love having something like that to work on and smile about.
I told Rob my goal and now he doesn't want a rematch. Haha. But now I've blogged it so he has to. We are a competitive couple and I'm not afraid to admit that my training motivation is going to be run a mile faster than him.
I think running might be more of my thing than biking for these next couple years while my body is a baby factory - easier to do in less time, safer, easier to do while traveling, and events I can do that are nearby. Although decidedly less fun than biking....oh well....you win some, you lose some.

Rob's rebuttal:

I already beat Lorena at a 400m and a 1 mile race.  I don't know why she wants to keep losing to me at running races.  I think we have already established my dominance in these distances.   Granted, if we did anything longer then a mile, my natural speed would probably be over taken by her dogged determination, but that is why I keep the distances short.  Even if I beat her at a 5k, she would probably challenge me to a 10k, and if I beat her then, she would up it to a half marathon.  Eventually we would be doing ultra-distances races, and frankly I don't even like running, so I think I will draw the line at the mile.


Saturday morning

A morning hike at the northeast end of Lidingö and then brunch at Elfviksgård for Rob's Bday.


Happy Birthday Rob



Rotmos, or "root mash" is a food I've discovered in Sweden that I really love and wonder why it's not more popular in the States. At least I'd never heard of it. It is flavorful enough to eat without gravy or tons of butter and cream, and it is definitely more nutritious.
I just ate it today again today for lunch at a cute little cafe (from the 1700's!) Långängens Gård and thought it would be good to share. I was adventurous and ordered grissidan - literally, the side of a pig. I didn't think it was too big a deal considering I've eaten plenty of pork. But as I was digging into my third bite I noticed that the outer layer seemed a little hairy. Closer inspection. Yes. Hairy. I ate a hairy, fuzzy, pig. I sort of lost my appetite for it and really dug into that rotmos.
So, here's all it is - you just do like you do for mashed potatoes, but add in other root vegetables with the potatoes - carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, swedes (rutabega)...whatever. Experiment. Make sure they are all boiled till soft, add some butter/olive oil, salt, and pepper, and mash em. Yum! I think adding a sweet potato gives especially good flavor - and I NEVER like those before (never cared for that marshmellowy yam dish at thanksgiving, and I think that was my only previous run-in with sweet potatoes).

Since moving here, I've also really come to like sparkling water and beets.



Michael's Boo-pa Candrian came to visit yesterday. I say "Michael's" because I'm pretty sure he thinks he owns him. These two will be inseparable for the next week.
 I have enjoyed the extra time to dote on Ella. See her there chewing on a train track at the bottom of the second photo? She is SO the second child, and I am always trying to make up for it but falling short. But she has never noticed, not once. Today she woke up a little early from a nap and I had the chance to just let her snuggle up to me and sleep a little longer in my arms. It was sublime. Then we went on a walk together, just she and I. She got to check out any tree or branch or patch of plants she wanted to touch along the way. We chatted lots, just us girls. Gotta do more of this one-on-one time.


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