Elias Grows :: Seven Months

8.27.2015



 To see previous months, click here.

Ben and I keep asking each other "How did we end up with two awesome kids?" We really are loving who Elias is becoming. He's an easy going soul, who delights in being with people. He's a vocal one for sure and is sure to scream if he doesn't like something. Yet, the older he gets the easier he is to please. He keeps us laughing.

We're blessed to get to live along side this kid. Grateful that he's been entrusted to us.

Stockholm, Sweden :: Family Style

8.25.2015






Just a few weeks ago, I got the sweet pleasure of exploring Stockholm with my friend Katie. It was exciting to get to jump on a plane and go again with Ben just a few weeks later.  At first I was a little worried it would feel redundant to me. My worrying was unfounded. This city. Stockholm is just so beautiful.

On Friday we flew in leisurely, and after figuring out public transportation and finding our hotel, we ventured out to Gamla Stan. We went down several streets I had yet to see, and we found an incredible burger place.  With full bellies we adventured a bit more, then headed back to our hotel.

Come  Saturday, we ventured out to Djurg√•rden to visit the Vasa Museum and Skansen. Vasa was incredible. Eowyn was pretty pumped to see such a big boat. Ben kept cracking Tim the Toolman Taylor jokes. (The Vasa sank in 1628 during its maiden voyage due to the king, wanting it to be the best warship the world had ever seen, overloading the boat with, amongst other things, some 64 bronze canons.) The boat has been nearly entirely persevered. The Vasa is the only boat from the 1600's still intact. It's incredible. 

After the Vasa Museum, we headed out to a sweet cafe  called Helin Voltaire. Delicious treats, and coffee were had and Eowyn joined digging around in the dirt and rocks (as per usual.)

We then headed to our favorite part of the weekend, the Skansen Open-air museum and zoo. We got to stand next to lemurs, watch the fish, Eowyn petted a snake! (This is a big deal, she's been scared of them up until this point. The night after we heard her tell her stuffed animal unicorn "I touch snake, I scared no more!"  We had a blast. We got to see bears playing around, it really was an awesome day for the animals. 

After, we headed out to this great taco joint called La Neta. We used the "like a Local" app, and found this treasure. 

Delicious.

On Sunday, we ventured out quick for some coffee and treats. We got caught up in the midst of an international triathlon while we searched for the coffee. It was quite the re-routing but great to see all the amazing athletes.  Then we made our way to the airport. We got to check out the t-bana (Stockholm's metro) and prided ourselves on making our way back without too much help. 

We loved Stockholm and its sweet cafes, awesome museums, and beautiful green spaces. 


Elias Bites :: First Foods

8.23.2015


With the first kid, we steamed, pureed, and with great anticipation fed the first solids with appropriate 3 day spacing between introducing anything new. With the second, we went all in. Six months came, we bought some applesauce and have since introduced pretty much everything he's pulled his face to (except coffee, coke (although he's obsessed with the red cans) and red peppers. At one point I noticed his shirt was rather dirty and when I asked Ben what he had eaten he replied "oh, a ginger cookie."

Oh, okay. cool.

Elias got his first teeth some 6 months prior to Eowyn, so I suppose the whole eating like a man comes a few years faster too.

Bacon has already been consumed, in case you were wondering.



Luckily, the only time he ever made any kind of face of disapproval was when we gave him the specific baby foods. He'll eat avocado like a champ, is a big fan of cooked carrots, mashed potatoes, thin slices of toast, and more.

In fact, he screams at us if he sees us eating and not sharing. ha! Sweet boy, you're a whole different ball game than your sister. I have no doubt there will be many a sneaking of snacks between his sister and him (she's already slipped him a nibble of chocolate.)

Yay for growing up! Even if it looks entirely different the first time we drove through this season.

Elias, it's been fun journeying through these milestones with you.

to the mama overseas

8.20.2015


There are times when I hop on the tram and I see you. I can tell you're not "from here" and by the looks of the way you just pulled your stoller on the tram, I can guess you just moved in. I try to catch your eye and give you a smile because they don't come often in a town of introverts. Sometimes you  need to know someone sees you and not just your foreigner status.

So, sweet mom. I just want to tell you a few things.

1. Making it through the day should be celebrated.

This is really hard. What you're doing? You got up this morning, got those kids ready, and out the door. Not too bad right? Every mom has to do it.

 The difference is that when you got up, you got up in a home lacking so many conveniences you were used to. You made breakfast differently than you're used to, you probably put shoes on your kids that were different than what you're familiar with and if it was winter, you put on a million (and that is no exaggeration) extra layers since they'd be out in the cold for hours on the tram and at the park and in the store.

And now you just pushed your pram through the snow to get on a tram to make it some place to walk some more in the snow. And if you're shopping, you even remembered your grocery bags! High five, girlfriend.

And so, when you see that other mom who seems to be content and relaxed and her kids are quiet and put together, let me tell you truly. She's taking her breath and is just as perplexed as you are. Kids are kids all over the world. Don't let your newness make you think that your kids are some how less (or more) behaved. What you're doing is hard, enough without the comparisons. Moms that have lived here all their lives need grace too. Chances are, you'll see her again. Next time she might be screaming things you don't understand at kids who are having a not too glorious moment. We all need grace in our parenting.

But back to the point. Do you see what you're doing? Despite what you feel are tons of stares and despite all the bumps you had to proverbially and literally push through. You're doing it!

You're doing it.

You're doing it.

And if at the end of the day the only thing to cross off the list is that you managed to make it through?

You're doing it.

2. The next few years will hold A LOT of emotions. None of those are wrong, but be mindful of which emotions you're feeding.

Once the newness wears off, there's the inevitable acclimation period. The reality will come. One day, you'll wake up and realize you're not on vacation. You actually live here. For some this realization comes pleasantly, for others it comes and brings a sense of strangulation. Sometimes two people in the same family will have different ways of acclimating. Rest assured though, with time, you will both reach it. "Home" will start being your host country and not your passport country. You'll actually start saying "passport country" (weird.) and it will slowly work its way that this place you're living in is the place you rest best.

There's a lot of joy and grief when living abroad. I just want you to know, its okay to have days where you really, really hate that you live in this place. And it's okay if you sometimes genuinely hate that you're from a different place. Especially when you start to realize the reasons why there are stereotypes of your passport country.

What I will say is this: you MUST make a practice of setting your sights on what you like about your host country, and keep adding to that list.

There are one thousand reasons to dislike a new place. At the start, it might be hard to find even three things you do like about a place. Keep repeating those to yourself. For the longest time the only thing I could pull out was "I like how blue the sky is here." But to do more than just survive, you have to start owning the place you live. Start saying "our grocery store, our park, etc." We have our favorite restaurants, our post office, etc. Find it. Claim it. and invest your meager emotional coins into it.

As time passes, the work you put in will pay off. I've actually mentioned to people matter-of-factly that this is the best place on earth.

Even more surprising is how easy it is to believe that. I most certainly now have more than one reason why I love this place.

3. Pay attention to your most important earthly relationship.

 Your marriage stretches to accommodate the changes of moving abroad. Chances are it'll hurt. I've heard of countless couples mention how they both experienced different feelings when moving abroad and how it was actually quite a bit of work figuring out what to do with all of it together. It's easy to always feel like you're missing one another. Especially if one of you is at home while the other is working in the field, it can be easy to live different lives. The first year was hard for many reasons, but one of the biggest for me was how hard it was to get on the same page as my spouse. Keep working at it. Because if you aren't working at it, you certainly wont land there on accident.

Moving abroad, and all that came with it has been one of the most painful experiences our marriage has gone through. Honest.

But it's also been the most fruitful. And it's definitely where God has us. Keep paying attention and fight those days where you just want to give up. I'd say 'don't get discouraged' but you will. You WILL get discouraged. It will feel hopeless.

But it's not.  God's fighting for you and he is pruning and growing things that will have their season. Sometimes, the bloom season won't come for a long time.

It's still worth fighting for.

4. Your kids aren't disadvantaged because of what you're being called to, even if that means some of your dreams for them aren't coming true.

I've struggled a lot with daydreaming about how easy life was before moving. I had my mom network. I knew where I'd send my kid to preschool. My local library knew my name. My mom was a drive away. Here things are different. Here it all takes work and the systems are unfamiliar.

I've worried about my kids not getting what they need. I've wondered if this will be hard for them in the long run. I get nervous when thinking of coming back to the states eventually to discover they aren't up to speed socially, academically, emotionally.

But our kids are getting experiences that kids from our passport country don't get to have. Raising Third Culture Kids has its merit. Whatever God's calling them to? This is part of it. This is all part of the plan-even if that means makeshift preschool and learning how to play with friends that don't speak each others languages.

This is a blessing to them, even if it feels like a struggle to us. They're gonna be alright.

I have to repeat this often to myself, but I hold it dear. God cares for them even more than we do. He's not going to forget them. They aren't going to fall through any cracks. This is all part of a breathtakingly beautiful plan.

5. Jesus truly is a friend to the lonely

I deeply wish moving to another country wasn't so hard. But I especially wish that it wasn't so lonely. Especially for the stay-at-home mom. the more I read and talk the more I realize that this living-abroad business is a whole beast to be tamed for the women who stay back at home to raise their kidlets. You feel desperately lonely? You're thoughts are getting the best of you and you're starting to wonder what the hell you got yourself into?

You're wondering if God even sees you? If he knows how every emotional muscle in your body aches?

Friend.

Sweet friend.

He sees. But more than sees, he comforts. And more than comforts he helps. and more than helps he calms the heart and brings the peace and reminds you that all striving can cease.

He's a good, good friend to the lonely

Lean into that and find out yourself. Then celebrate how he often will bring physical friends to your space to comfort you. He's a big believer in not letting us go at it alone.


In general?

 I want you to know I'm glad your here. I'm glad you're not so culturally acclimated that you forget that you don't have to smile. I'm glad you are brave. Because you are SO brave. I know it doesn't feel like it. But, you are. I'm sure tons of people 'back home' have said it to you, but sometimes its nice to hear it anyways-especially now that it feels like you have to be. I know what it's like to fight fear all day long. I'd say you're pretty brave.

I'm glad that you bring your kids out despite the work. I'm happy that my kids can see that they're not alone in this either. I'm happy when I hear you speak and  I can ask you where you're from, even if the first time you speak to me, we don't understand each other. I love that our kids get to smile and make faces at each other on the tram.

I'm glad you exist on this same slice of earth as I do and I hope with all my heart that you have more days where you feel like you're making it.

And as I watch you pull your stroller off the tram and give one last smile, I want you to know I'm praying for your mama heart.  Not a quick "bless her" either. I've got 7 more minutes until my stop, so I'm making it a good long chat with the big guy.

I hope you buy a korvapuusti (or whatever treat suits you) and celebrate. Because, you're doing it, mama. You're doing it.


Family Pictures :: Katie K Photography




Not too long ago (at least that's what I keep telling myself,) our dear friend Katie took our first set of family pictures. Having her in town, I didn't want to let her get on a return flight home without having another go at it. We went to a local park, on one of the last days she was here with us to capture a bit of our family in this season. Eowyn wasn't too keen on any pictures, and yet Katie did her magic. We got a few sweet family  photos of all of us, a few of just the two of us (so special to me!) and some really sweet ones just with Elias. Being a second born, we know how rare it is to have pictures of just us with our parents. so while Eowyn was running around trying to snatch up bumblebees, we took advantage of those moments to have a few photos taken with our littlest baby.

Thank you Katie.

If you live in Minneapolis, check this girl out. So fun to work with.

Stockholm Sweden :: Katie's Visit Part III

8.18.2015


When a soul friend comes into town and half-joking, half-serious asks if you want to hit up Sweden, you go ahead and make that half-serious a full-serious and buy the tickets.

We had never traveled on a plane (with babies) together. There were a lot of firsts for us on this trip. But I gotta say, it was sweet. If ever there was a friend to journey solo with two kids to a different country with, it's Katie.

These pictures are half hers, half mine. We tag teamed, as we often do, when it comes to capturing our moments. She would entertain Eowyn while I fed Elias, and I would hold down the fort when an occasional cute shop beckoned her name. We make a good team. We found an empty alleyway that looked so European, we had to go down and it was a blast taking pictures. Some of my favorites from the trip happened in that empty alleyway. 

Some other highlights: eating the 'chocolate balls' ("What are these made of?" "Uh, Chocolate." "Oh, What are they called?" "Uh, chocolate balls.") getting to talk to a sweet french couple over lunch, all the Italians swooning over my 'bambinos,' the funny glances we got as we hustled along with our babies in tow (I look pretty impressive with my baby carrier and stroller, no?) and the laid-back company of my sweet soul friend.

Sweden will always be the place Katie and I discovered together. In the barely there rain. With our rain boots. And babies. 

Funny thing is, the weather turned out perfect just like we prayed it would. God's kind like that.

Love you, Katie. So, so glad you spent so many days with me. Going through pictures is like reliving the trip all over again. It makes my soul so happy.