Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Little Potty Humor

During the past two weekends we’ve stayed close to home to explore a bit of the local attractions Jönköping and neighboring Huskvarna (the city where Matt works) have to offer.  While we enjoyed what we saw and I took lots of beautiful pictures to share, I’m just too tired to write a sufficient description for you, so I’m saving them for another week.
My exhaustion is due in small part to the nonstop work that is potty training.  After several conversations with fellow MOPS moms (oh, how I miss MOPS!) that were simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and distressing, we decided to go with the bare-bottom method.  Of course, this helped initiate the timing of our adventure; if I’m going to have a half-naked rugrat running around the living room I have to do it before it gets too cold. 
After surprisingly few accidents, and virtually no prompting from me, Gracie is now able to determine when she needs to use the potty and get herself there in time to do so.  Our quick success is due in part to a savvy real estate negotiation.  We now have a hot pink princess potty adorning the center of our living room.  But, better a plastic potty that a puddle, right? 
We’re also moving on to thinner and prettier butt-covers.  Why wear unflattering Pampers with that telltale sag when you have a drawer full of princess panties to coordinate with every outfit?  And yes, they have to match the outfit or she won’t wear them.
Eventually we’ll get to the point where we’re living totally diaper free, but we’re still not quite brave enough to leave the house without some assurance of absorbency.  Diapers also still show up at naptime (Why? She naps on a white couch!) and bedtime.  But cutting down to two or three a day is doing wonders for my budget.  Gracie may yet have a shot at a college fund.
Though it sounds silly to ask, please pray for perseverance and patience for both Gracie and myself. It’s exhausting and exciting watching your little one grow up, and it does funny things to the way your brain works.  I leave you with this incredibly inept parody that I’m sure makes Robert Frost turn over in his grave.
Whose seat this is I think I know.
It sits beside the TV, though;
She will not go in the bathroom
Where toilets flush and water flows.
My neighbors all must think it queer
To see my daughter’s little rear
Dancing naked inside my house
But it’s a sight I find quite dear.
The seat is plastic, pink, and bright,
And though a decorator’s blight,
If she will use it, it’s alright,
If she will use it, it’s alright.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My House the Mathnasium

We moved to Sweden just after Central Florida kids bemoaned the end of summer and started a new school year.  This means that my last week at home was spent, by and large, removing tutoring advertisements hanging from my front door and dodging rowdy kids fresh off the afternoon school bus on my way to collect the mail. One of the more amusing (and persistent, arriving via the door and the mail box) advertisements we received was for Mathnasium.  Apparently math can be fun AND make sense. While I’ve never struggled with math as a subject (I do have twelve credit hours of calculus tacked on to my English Language Arts Education degree) I can’t say I’ve ever classified it as fun either.
I find myself using math all too frequently here, an occurrence that I find both annoying and amusing.  To date, I have no idea how much I’m paying for gas; Swedish Kroner per liter requires not only figuring out the current exchange rate, but also how many liters are in a gallon.  Too much calculating for me, I’ll just wait for an unpleasant little surprise on my credit card statement. And cooking, which I used to find relaxing, now feels like a chemistry experiment. For starters, I didn’t even realize my liquid measuring cup had gradations in deciliters. And setting the oven is like a game of Russian roulette. 
Oh, United States, I blame you for this. I understand that change is difficult, but if you had only tried a little harder back when Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 before giving up on your carefully planned decade-long transition, my personal transition to Sweden would have been so much simpler.  If I had grown up in a world where temperatures were measured in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, liquid volume in liters rather than cups, and weight in kilograms instead of pounds, I might actually be able to blend in as a European. The last time I had to think in metric was for my AP Physics class, a good eleven years ago.  Now, I am left desperately grasping my cellphone, woefully reliant upon my ConvertPad app (a fantastic free Android app) just to figure out the temperature and how much cucumbers cost. 
It’s not all bad though. I enjoy seeing my weight in kilograms (I see kilos, but think pounds) and my computer is courteous enough to display the week’s weather in Fahrenheit so I can plan accordingly. My attempts at estimation are getting faster and more accurate, so I’m actually spending only slightly more at the grocery store here than I did in the states.  And I’m still really good at counting. Today Gracie and I counted at least thirty ducks in the pond, we got two cards in the mail, and I baked one plum cake.
And, for those of you counting along at home, we left Florida exactly one month ago. At this rate, I’ll be back to ounces, teaspoons, and miles per gallon before I know it!
How to make a two-year-old happy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The New Normal

It's funny how quickly three weeks can reset your "normal" view of things. Life in Florida for the past sixteen years had me convinced that rainy, sixty degree days qualified as winter weather. My stay-at-home-mom routine consisted of at least one daily outing, lest I succumb to cabin fever, and my day always began with a morning phone call to my mother. My new normal, though not exciting, is beginning to take shape. And, as is life wherever one lives, there are things I truly enjoy and things that are *this close* to pushing me over the edge to full-fledged crazy.

I am learning not to waste sunny days and sixty degree weather. When the sun is out the kiddo and I are becoming brave enough to venture out with the jogging stroller and GPS-enabled cell phone to explore our new home. We've walked downtown, to the local grocery store, to feed the ducks, and to the playground.  I enjoy the exercise. I enjoy the conversations Gracie and I have. After all, she's one of the few people I know here who is a native English speaker. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment in successfully navigating to our location and eventually getting back up the hill to our house.

I am immensely enjoying the Bible study I've started attending. Gracie naps on the couch in our living room, so I can't default to mindless television viewing during naptime. There's only so much time you can waste on Facebook when all of your friends are six hours behind you, so I'm making more of my day by spending time in God's Word and the Twelve Extraordinary Women we're reading about.

I'm learning to enjoy cooking real food with real ingredients again. I didn't realize how strong my reliance on convenience food and dining out had become, especially right before we moved, but neither is a viable option in Sweden.  Though some convenience foods are available at the local ICA Maxi Supermarket, I can't read the labels to clearly identify the ingredients and my fear of accidental seafood ingestion keeps me from purchasing them.  Restaurant dining in Sweden is decidedly expensive, relegating it rightfully to an occasional indulgence.

Today seemed to sum up these new things I'm enjoying. I woke early, checked my email, Facebook, and US News in that order (priorities...), prayed for my family, and avoided walking on our creaky wooden floors until Gracie called for me from her bed. We enjoyed a breakfast of Multi-Cheerios, cleaned the house, and prepped dinner. We took two slices of bread to feed 80 ducks in the pond up the hill (my thoughts at the time were a mix between the loaves and fishes miracle and Hitchcock's The Birds), and then spent an hour at the Stadsparks Playground. We returned for lunch, Skyped with my parents, ordered a moss green slipcover for the couch (we had a run in with an orange crayon on the white rental couch yesterday), took a nap (worked on my Bible study) and then made some brownies.  

I know it's not exciting, but it's fulfilling.  I made my daughter happy.  I took care of my home.  And now I'm going to bed feeling content. Besides a quick chat with my mother and a sleeping dog at my feet, what more could one ask for?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Our Visby Vacation

This weekend Matt and I decided to take advantage of the warm weather (our temperatures here seem to be making a rapid descent into autumn) and hop the ferry to the island of Gotland, Sweden's largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea.  Our final destination was the city of Visby, a UNESCO World Heritage site and remarkably preserved medieval walled city. Now, I get excited just going to the Medieval Times Dinner Theater, so staying in a town that dates from the 12th century was a real treat for me.

From the top of the hill you get a great view Visby all the way to the Baltic Sea
 To begin our mini-adventure, we had to drive from Jönköping to Oskarshamn. During the two hour drive, we realized that the Swedish countryside is (1) breathtaking and (2) devoid of highways in the American sense of the word. Apparently, driving across Sweden is something to be enjoyed, not just accomplished, and (GPS malfunctions notwithstanding) enjoy it we did! From Oskarshamn we boarded the ferry and settled in for another three hours.

Leaving Oskarshamn

On board our ferry

Our reservations in the city of roses and ruins were at the Medieval Hotel, originally built in 1302.  Our room was small, but comfortable, the breakfast buffet delectable, and the location was perfect.  From our room we could see the towers and hear the bells of the Visby Cathedral, built in 1225, and dedicated to Saint Mary. 

As Gracie would say "It's Eat Time!"

We had a room with a view!

After breakfast we started on foot to find bicycles to rent for the day. What should have been a ten minute walk took over an hour since we completely lost our focus every time we saw a set of ruins, or a beautiful garden, or stone sheep.  (Gotland Sheep were established by the Vikings and are famous for their silky grey and black fleece.)  Eventually we rented our bikes and enjoyed the city of Visby, the Ringmuren (Ring Wall), views of the Baltic Sea, and the Gotland Museum.  We took over 400 pictures in the 24 hours we spent in Visby, so I tried to select the best ones for you.  Enjoy!

Leaving our hotel in search of adventure!

This is why we left the stroller in the room.

I think Gracie sat on every stone sheep in Visby.

We finally got our bikes!  This is the main entrance to the city.

The Gotland Museum had some great artifacts (including REAL VIKINGS), but since flash photography was forbidden, clear pictures were few and far between.

Outside of the museum

Look!  A Viking!  Actually, this is a female viking, wearing jewelry around her neck. Gracie bluntly told me she was dead and not to take pictures.


From one of the many church ruins


It is important to wear one's armor properly.

Viking treasure.  According to the sign, this collection of coins was found in a rabbit hole by a group of school children.

Finally, some pictures of the Visby Cathedral.  This is the only church from the period still in tact in the city.  After the reformation most of the churches were largely abandoned and finally destroyed in the 1500s.

Though we missed the annual medieval festival and we only stayed for two nights, we were blessed with beautiful weather and mesmerising surroundings.  The city is stunning, I only wish my photojournalism skills were better able to capture the experience for you.

Farewell Visby.