Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry, Merry

Today I baked a German Chocolate cake from scratch with the help of a certain two-year-old. It should be noted that the first time I baked such a cake was for Matthew’s birthday shortly after we were married. Compared to my usual add “water, butter, and eggs to the mix” baking strategy it is an insane amount of work. But you do these things for those you love. Today our cake is for Jesus.
Somewhere jumbled between presents, a festive tree, letters to Santa, Advent calendar countdowns, cookies, and carols is the significance of the season. I have a lot of fond traditions and holiday memories that I want to pass down to Gracie, but most importantly I want her to know why this is such a cherished time of year. It is more than a few vacation days, more than wish lists coming true, even more than time spent with family and friends.
It is about the love of the Lord coming to us through the birth of a baby, reaching down to offer saving grace to a group of hopeless sinners. Every year at Christmas I remember the love that was born, the sacrifice that suffered, and the forgiveness that triumphs for me and for us all.
Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where the Heart Is

When it comes to travel, Dorothy Gale had the right idea.  Unfortunately lacking in the ruby red slipper department, Gracie and I were required to utilize more conventional means of transportation for our return trip to Florida. Desperate to reacquaint myself with the comforts of home (family, friends, that bright thing in the sky called the sun) I boldly grasped the hand of my two-year-old, steeled my nerves, and went where few parents dare to go: the airport. For a nineteen hour trip.  While pregnant.
Our trip passed without incident.  Gracie was mature beyond her years (in all honesty, she was mature beyond *my* years) walking for what literally felt like miles through the Frankfurt airport, passing through multiple customs and security checkpoints, and suffering through 15 hours of flight time with only Larry Crowne and Mr. Popper’s Penguins as our digital entertainment options. 
We enjoyed two lovely weeks defrosting in Florida with our family and friends. I loved seeing my family, taking Gracie to Magic Kingdom for the first time, attending MOPs at First Baptist Oviedo, and our playdates at the park and Amaya Papaya. These outings, our routine, and support system have been greatly missed while we’ve been in Sweden. I am so appreciative of the friends that made efforts to see us and spend time with us during our abbreviated stay.  I know how hard it is to find time to visit during the busy Christmas season, especially if you’re working or taking care of small children. My fond memories of seeing our friends and family will help sustain me for the uncertain duration of our remaining time in Sweden.
She travels well.

I'm going to order the child's meal for myself next time!

It's not home if I don't cook!

A quick trip to Publix with her best buddy, James.

Our first trip to Disney!!

Sleeping Beauty

Gracie got to see our favorite princess, Belle!

Dumbo Ride with Grammy

We rode the teacups.  Twice.

Worn out from the all the magic.

I went to my first softball game!

At the park with the cousins

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Trip to Copenhagen

This past weekend, to conclude our visa application saga, SAAB sent our family to Denmark.  It turns out that Denmark isn’t only home to Hamlet and Legos. Copenhagen can also claim the closest Swedish Embassy branch outside of Sweden. If there’s anything better than being able to take a weekend trip in Europe, it’s being able to take a weekend trip on the company dime and not having to use any vacation time! Technically a business trip for Matthew, we made our appointment with the Embassy, booked a hotel, and fueled up the car. After our obligatory hour at the Embassy where we presented our passports to prove to the Swedish Migration Services office that we had indeed left the country, the weekend was ours!
We arrived in Denmark via the impressive Øresund Bridge, the longest road and rail bridge in Europe which connects Copenhagen and Malmö.

Like good tourists we walked through the city, cameras in hand snapping pictures of every gargoyle and oxidized copper roof or statue we saw. Like Floridians, we pulled our coats closer and scarves tighter to brace against the blustery winds brutally cold from the inner harbor. Like shell-shocked Jönköping -ians, we ogled the size of the city, much larger than we’ve grown accustomed to over the past three months.

Stumbled upon Occupy Copenhagen

We saw the famous street in Legos and as the real deal.

Found a Lego that looks like me!  What are the odds?

We had a full agenda, starting with a boat tour of the canals and history of the city.

The Little Mermaid

Our tour boat went through lots of low bridges

We toured Copenhagen’s National Museum, Denmark's largest museum of Archaeology and cultural (both Danish and foreign) history. Sadly, we barely made a dent in the free attraction’s vast collection, but I was equally impressed with the curator’s imaginative displays of history and the interactive children’s museum. 

Taking her friends around the museum

Look! An elk!

1.8 kg of solid gold. I'd wear that.

Children's Museum!

In the ship's cabin

She actually wanted to take a nap in the ship's bunk!


Matthew managed to squeeze in not one, but two, trips to the Carlsberg brewery where he observed the largest collection of bottled beer and brought home a couple of souvenirs for himself.
Copenhagen has the two oldest amusement parks in the world. Our hotel was literally across the street from the world-famous Tivoli Gardens.  Tivoli Gardens opened in August of 1843 and claims the oldest operating roller coaster and the oldest Ferris wheel in the world. In addition to the carnival style food and thrilling rides, we also enjoyed the fabulous display of Christmas lights in the park, decorated in the theme of a Russian Christmas.

Matt wanted to ride the really scary swings!

On our way back to Sweden, we indulged my literary curiosity and stopped in Helsingør, more popularly known as Elsinore, the setting of William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Helsingør, as it currently stands, was founded in the 1420s by the Danish king Eric of Pomerania. He built the castle 'Krogen', which was expanded in the 1580s, renamed Kronborg and is now the main tourist attraction.

I don’t want to disagree with Marcellus, but as far as I could tell there is nothing rotten in the state of Denmark. We really had a wonderful time! Now back in Sweden, today marks our 90th day in the European Union. Our visas were approved just in time to avoid deportation; we’re now halfway through our stay and preparing to introduce the Thanksgiving Holiday to SAAB.