Thursday, June 30, 2011

Week Thirty-Nine - The Final Countdown

I know that it's been all baby all the time around here lately and if you're not into it I do apologize.  I can also pretty much guarantee that it's going to get significantly worse once the baby actually exists outside my belly.  I'm going to be obnoxious, I can feel it.  But lest we forget what this blog is (or was) supposed to be about, I'm using my Week Thirty-Nine post to talk about being pregnant in Sweden specifically.  Granted, I haven't been pregnant in the US or anywhere else, but I know enough to know how fortunate I am to be doing this here.  Today, for example, was my last day of work before over a year and half of parental leave that The Swede and I can split however works best for us, paid by the government.  I can't help but marvel that after a dozen appointments with doctors, midwives and technicians we have never opened our wallets.  There is no business office at the clinic, no invoices, no proof of insurance, nor will there be when I deliver and when we stay over at the hospital, regardless of what is medically or procedurally required.  I, even as a non-citizen, am getting the same care as Sweden's richest citizen and its poorest immigrant and the care is excellent.  No, I don't get to choose my doctor, nor will my baby be delivered by anyone I've ever met before and yes, we pay a lot of taxes here, but not as much more than a US resident as you might think.  Beyond the differences between Sweden and the US, though, is the much more significant reality of how lucky our family is compared to so much of the rest of the world where this experience which is so joyful to us could mean a high likelihood of death.  I don't want to take it for granted that I have the luxury of feeling safe.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program of superficiality:
It's a good thing today was my last day of work because I have nothing to wear.  Time to get a move on, Baby Swede.  My wardrobe can no longer accommodate you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lunch Meeting

Things have been extra busy at the office lately, what with folks taking vacation and having babies and our merchandise selling like hotcakes and all, so sometimes you need to slip out and hit the open road at lunch.  Today was one of those days, so The Swede and I swung through the McDonalds drive-through and headed to the lake to enjoy our lunch at a picnic table in the sunshine.  We weren't the only ones hankering for some crispy, golden fries, though, and were soon joined by a gang of really cheeky ducks.  Here The Swede thought he was going to have a nice, relaxing lunch break but actually ended up playing zookeeper and feeding them fries and croutons the entire time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wake Up Call

The Family Segersten stayed at our place this past Thursday and Saturday night while in town for Midsommar.  On Thursday night, Julia slept in bed with us and though neither of us knew at the time what the other was doing, we both spent the whole night waking up randomly and watching her just to make sure she was still breathing.  This obviously does not bode well for our sleep prospects when our own litte one arrives.  Julia had fallen asleep on the air mattress with her parents by the time we got home on Saturday night, but wasn't about to deprive us of her presence entirely during our sleeping hours.  Early Sunday morning she showed up at the foot of our bed with a bunch of books* she got from The Baby Suite and made The (sleepy) Swede read her a couple of stories.  Just a little taste of our future, Segersten-style. 

*Hilarious side-note: several of the books on Baby Swede's bookshelves were donated to us by Sarianne.  When Julia saw the books there she declared that she had many of the same ones at home.  Nobody had the heart to tell her that those books were her books.  Oh, and Sarianne also forbid us to tell her.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Midsommar 2011

Midsommar was spectacular!  The weather was gorgeous, the food was amazing and the company, well, these folks were the best.  Cousin Anne from London came over with her boyfriend and three girlfriends, the Segerstens were there, Gurra and Gunilla and their family, plus Mama and Papa Swede, of course.  We watched hundreds of Swedes, including Anne and little Julia, dancing around the middsommarstång before heading back to Mama and Papa Swede's for a traditional lunch with songs and snaps shots.
The Swede was the game host and led the group in some silly contests, a trivia game and a scavenger hunt.
We ate too much and sang too loud and stayed up late.  Yep.  Spectacular.

Friday, June 24, 2011


It's Midsommarafton!  While we're partying it up at Mama and Papa Swede's with friends, family and guests from London, I've worked some sweet 21st century technical wizardry so that this pre-written post is published at a time when I am nowhere near a computer.  Magical, right?
A few weeks back Mama Swede mentioned that she would be kicking off the Midsommar celebration with a champagne breakfast.  I became immediately beside myself with excitement as I LOVE champagne and breakfast isn't bad either so this was great news.  Except that 2.2 seconds later I remembered that I am not on the guest list for the champagne half of the champagne breakfast.  I don't mind not drinking alcohol in the least, but on an occassion like Midsommar it feels like part of the ambiance.  With that in mind, I've set myself up with a bottle of alcohol-free champagne and a pitcher of alcohol-free sangria, which I fully expect will make everybody jealous of ME.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Week Thirty-Eight - The Final Countdown

As an adult, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the reasons that people have children and I’ve concluded that it’s probably almost always some combination of selfishness, narcissism and animal instinct.  Even what seem like good reasons, like getting to relive childhood and experiencing unconditional love, strike me as a little self-indulgent.  And so, until I met The Swede, I wasn’t sure if having kids was something I wanted to do.  But guess what?  I am an animal and there’s nothing more natural yet incomprehensible that I can think of than the instinct to have children with the man you love.  Without even thinking about it, my mind was wholly changed just by meeting him in, I’m sure, the same way that it happens for everyone who was ever unsure about wanting to be a parent and then ultimately (purposely) became a parent.  So there’s that piece. I’m having a baby because that’s what we do and also for dozens of other selfish, narcissistic reasons.  But then, this morning, it came to me: the only 100% noble reason to have children that has ever occurred to me, and I was pretty pleased with myself for thinking of it, let me tell you.  The best reason I can think of to have a baby is this: The Swede is constantly kidding around when it’s just me and him and I often feel sorry for the rest of the world’s population for missing out on his clowning.  With this baby, finally someone else gets to be around to enjoy all the hilarious jokes.  Until it’s a teenager, anyway.  So you’re welcome, Baby Swede. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"I've Never Done This Before!"

Today The Swede shocked me by purchasing a fridge pack of canned Coke instead of his usual 1.5 liter bottle.  Canned soda is not big here like it is in the States.  You really only ever see it at take-out restaurants and it only comes in, like, three flavors.  So what got into him today, then?  On the drive home from the grocery store I got the whole scoop.  Apparently it was a combination of a supposition from his youth that when he was a grown man he would drink his Coke out of cans (perfectly logical and understandable, obviously) and harkening back to those summer vacations when we've visited Mom and Ray's and they had a fridge full of cans for the taking.  This sentimentality is as good a reason as any to buy canned Coke as opposed to bottled, and needless to say he was excited to get home and hear that satisfying snap and fizz when he opened his first grown-man soft drink in his own home.  There was one thing he hadn't bargained for, though: opening the fridge pack.  Sure there's a perforated line to tear away the corner, but I think we've all been stumped at one time or another about where and how to start the tear.  The Swede was no exception.  But ultimately, once the box was open and the first can rolled out, that challenge and subsequent success made that Coke all the more satisfying.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Welcome To Babyland

The final piece of The Baby Suite arrived in the mail today, with just 22 days left until D-Day.  That's D for delivery, btw.  At least according to the ultrasound technician.  I'm still going to try to squeeze 'er out on the 4th of July as a demonstration of my patriotism.  At any rate, that final piece - this mobile - is hung and The Baby Suite is done! 
If you've spent any time in Ikea lately you'll recognize a lot of this stuff.  The Swede made A LOT of trips to Ikea just to swipe the debit card and carry things to the car in the process of putting this bad boy together.  I'm pretty sure that's not what he had that in mind when he said I could do the baby's room on my own.  He also painted and helped put furniture together and was endlessly patient with the constant flow of incoming packages in the mail.
It was definitely a challenge trying to make it neutral and I think some things like the curtains and some of the art and maybe the rug cross the border into girly but, well, it's a baby, darn it, and I'm pretty sure it's not going to care.  Which begs the question, of course, of why I went through all the trouble.  Trouble, you say?  Bah!  This was one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done.  Plus, my nesting instinct required it.
Okay, so here is the part that took the most time and thought and browsing and is for sure one of my top 18 favorite things about the room.  I ripped the idea straight off of Young House Love and, like they did, tried to use as much art as possible that meant something to us.  You see, for example, the vintage maps of North America and Scandinavia, the watercolor of Sweden with a heart in the middle, the US print with a heart over Cleveland, where we met, and the Dalahästar in love.  There's also a vintage postcard from Niagara Falls, where we got engaged, a card I sent to The Swede when we were long distance that says "You will not believe how glad I am that I have met you.", plus Baby Swede's ultrasound picture and photos of The Swede and I when we were toddlers.
Click on the picture to enlarge.
And finally, that mobile that makes me smile just thinking of it hanging over the crib, which will actually reside in our bedroom along with a diaper-changing station for the first, well, geez, who knows how long.  The crib is extra boring (except for the quilt from Selah, of course) and will become even more boring once we remove the stuffed animals and pillows because apparently anything and everything that might make a crib cute could suffocate your baby.  It should look like baby prison in there.
So there it is!  All that's missing is a baby.  Now do me a favor and maybe look at the bill after I leave. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Party on the Patio

As I mentioned yesterday, we hosted family and friends for dinner on our patio last night.  Everyone was wiped out from the big surprise baby shower of the afternoon, three of us had been out late the night before with our colleagues and, of course, the Segersten family had driven up from Söderkoping on Friday and would be driving back after dinner.  So it was low-key (at least for the adults, as the little girls were running all over the place with other neighborhood kids) and basically the best way to spend a summer evening.  Plus I never get tired of watching my hot husband grill. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Feeling The Love

This morning The Swede and I hopped into the car to pick up some groceries for the grill-fest we were hosting tonight.  We also stopped off at two car dealerships to check out some Volvos that we've been contemplating investing in.  Then we took a little detour to drive by the golf course because The Swede didn't feel like going home yet.  And we got a slushie.  And we stopped by a roadside stand to buy some strawberries.  Clearly he was stalling because when we got home I found the house draped in balloons and other baby-themed decorations and Mama Swede, Sarianne, Gunilla, Elin and Julia popped out of hiding to throw me a surprise baby shower!
They don't have baby showers in Sweden, so these girls researched them on the net, special-ordered the decorations and asked friends and family for tips.  And it was perfect!  We played games and opened presents and ate lunch followed by cake.  The girls and The Swede had conspired with family and friends back home so that I had video and written messages and gifts from them, which I couldn't believe and was totally overwhelmed by.  It really felt like everyone I love was there somehow.  The greetings from my nieces and nephew in the States were especially moving and when the girls asked me if this was like a typical American baby shower I said that it was, exactly, except for the bit when everybody cried watching videos and reading letters.
After awhile The Swede and his dad showed up and joined in one of the games: guessing the diameter of my gigantic belly.  Everyone guessed WAY over with the exception of Sarianne who was pretty close.  That earned a couple of sister-in-law brownie points, to be sure.
I felt so much love all day today, I can't even tell you.  That my Swedish family planned and researched for months to give me an American-style celebration is incredible and the fact that my American family and friends got to be a part of it means so much to me.  Thank you all so, so much, from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Week Thirty-Seven - The Final Countdown

As I sit here writing this, Baby Swede is rocking a violent case of the hiccups that is shaking my whole body.  All of the pregnancy websites and books say that the baby probably won't be moving as much at this point because it's running out of room in there, but our baby apparently missed the memo.  In fact, it's moving more and more.  The stretches, kicks and punches are just becoming bigger, much more noticeable movements.  And while I love, love, love the feeling of our baby playing around in there, it can get a bit uncomfortable at times.  The other night, for instance, I was laying in bed and the baby plucked one of my ribs so hard that I swear I heard it.  Over the Sleep Sheep even!  I can't wait to see all this flailing around on the outside.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

With The Exception of Ikea

This afternoon I went to the outlet mall to try (and mostly fail) to find some clothes that would remotely fit me.  Like American outlet malls, at Stockholm Quality Outlet one can find some decent deals and a lot of tourists.  I feel confident saying that they were tourists and not just foreigners who live here because I recognize my own kind and these weren't them.  So I'm wondering who comes to Sweden to shop.  Because, even at outlet mall prices, I cannot imagine that there is a place in the world where you would need to visit Sweden to find a bargain.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Baby Swede's Future Friend

Today I got one of my favorite text messages of my life:  a picture of Linda's husband holding their new baby daughter, born at 9:28 this morning.  I was sitting at my desk at work, the train was flying by on the tracks, the kids in the schoolyard next door were hopping on pogo sticks, the sun was shining and a new little person came into the world.  And it's all so big and so beautiful I can hardly stand it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Those Summer Nights

This evening our friends Emil and Sophie and their dog/son Malte came over for dinner.  We grilled pork loin and chicken wings, made roasted potatoes and carrots and stuffed portabellos.  I made a strawberry shortcake for dessert since it's Strawberry Festival weekend in Bedford, Ohio and I know my grandparents will be having the same.  It was so hot all day, but it had cooled off by dinnertime and our terrace is in the shade so it was perfectly lovely back there. 
After dinner we took a walk by the lake along with many of our neighbors.  We passed a couple and their two small children launching their boat for an evening trip across the water and another family fishing off the promenade.  It seemed like everyone was outside tonight, even these seagull babies and their mom.  Yes, indeed, this is the life.   

Yeah, It's Hot

Our thermometer must be broken.  It must be, right?  Because even though it certainly feels like 39.8C/103.6F inside and 51.4C/124.5 outside, I think we might all be dead if that was actually the case.  And we're not, so that's good. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Week Thirty-Six - The Final Countdown

As of last weekend we have more or less everything we need.  Diapers and wipes, onsies and bedding washed and folded, the baby suite nearly in blog-ready condition.  And I can't tell you how this fact has taken a load off my mind.  We have about a month to go and I can already tell that I'm going to spend the entire time getting super excited that every twitch is the beginning of labor whereas before I would have been terrified.  Baby Swede is more or less ready to go too and is just piling on the pounds at this point, so we'll be here waiting when it's ready to come out and meet us.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No More Pencils, No More Books

It was the last day before summer break for the kiddos who attend the school next to our office building.  I had heard a piano playing earlier in the day and couldn't figure out where it was coming from, but it all became clear around 3:00 this afternoon when parents and siblings began setting up camp on the playground.  Then dozens of elementary school kids in cotton sundresses and collared shirts filed out into the schoolyard behind a teacher carrying a huge Swedish flag and put on a concert for their families and half of our staff who gathered by the open windows to listen to a classic song about the last day of school.  No, not this one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Carried A Watermelon

Dudes, it is hot up in this.  Actually, it's probably pretty reasonable, but I've got this elevated pregnancy temperature thing going on.  And don't get me wrong, I still have an appetite for all foods, but the most appealing ones in weather like this are cold and light so it's been sushi, salad and lots and lots of watermelon on the menu.  I tried to get The Swede to carry the watermelon around the store while we were shopping the other day so he could get a taste of my reality but he put it in the cart shortly thereafter.  I guess he thought I was kidding.  But this ain't no joke.

Monday, June 6, 2011

See You Tomorrow

I'm having some technical difficulties over here and can't seem to upload any photos.  I'll try again tomorrow, though.  Glad nationaldag!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer In Sweden Again

Yesterday we spent a sunny afternoon on the great Lake Mälaren.  We had some sandwiches and cold drinks at a cafe on the shore where the atmosphere was so laid back that it felt like we were on vacation and when it started to cool off we headed home on a slow boatride. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ascension Day Seamstress

Sweden is a glorious country.  Take this, for example: all businesses closed yesterday for the Feast of the Ascension which meant that we not only got that day off of work, we got the preceding afternoon off.  Sure, we had to work today, but there was hardly anything to do because most everybody took a vacation day on Friday.  So after nearly two days off, today feels like a Monday but, of course, it's actually a Friday and GET THIS: it's the Friday before a three-day weekend because Monday is Sweden's national day.  Are you feeling me on this, people?  Glam, right?  Not nearly as glam as the year of maternity leave I have coming up in a few weeks, but pretty awesome nonetheless.  At any rate, The Swede spent his Ascension day golfing with a couple of buddies up in Uppsala and I spent the day making curtains for the baby suite.  I borrowed Mama Swede's sewing machine and after a few minutes getting oriented I got right to it and even ended up making a couple of pillow cases.  It had been years since I have sewed anything, but I used to be pretty awesome at it back in Mrs. Northway's home-ec class if I do say so myself.  What I did yesterday was ridiculously simple, though, so mostly I'm just proud that I was able to figure out how to thread the bobbin on the unfamiliar machine. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Week Thirty-Five - The Final Countdown

Five weeks left, guys.  I've been thinking a lot lately about all the love that this baby has already.  There are my new mom friends who offer advice and support, our people back in the States who email and skype and send packages and always want to know how the little one's a'cookin'.  There are grandparents, our brother and sisters and their kids, especially Elin and Julia who will get their first cousin, colleagues old and new, family friends.  You guys who read this blog, some of whom I've never even met.  So many people are sharing in our love and our hopes and dreams for this baby and in a way it feels like their baby too. 

What'll It Be?

Since the countdown has begun, it's time to start weighing in officially on Baby Swede's sex with the poll on the right. 
Baby Damara
Here are some facts to help those old wives among you make your decision:

  • The baby's heart rate has been above 140 for several months.
  • The Original Baby Swede
  • I've had cravings for clemen-tines, baked potatoes, popcorn, ice cream, sour candy and all kinds of fruit.
  • I prefer to lay on my right side.
  • I had morning sickness for the first four months.
  • My wedding ring moves from side-to-side over my belly.
  • My age plus the number of the month when I conceived is an odd number.
  • I hated the smell of garlic for the first half of the pregnancy.
And you can see for yourself how I'm carrying. 
So what do you think?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Millenium Movie Marathon

At long last I've finished all three Millenium books and it's time to move on to the films.  We're going to start watching them tonight and see how far we get and while I've been looking forward to this, it's a little sad to know that after about six hours I'm going to have to say good-bye to these characters.  At least until the American version comes out later this year.