Voting in my First Swedish Election

Voting in my First Swedish Election

In this era of anti-immigrant sentiments, I find it more and more important for me to self-identify as an immigrant. Mostly, so my American friends and family start to associate my white face and educated background with the term, instead of the racial minorities that are usually painted in such a negative light by politicians to inspire fear and distrust for their own gain.Like many countries, Sweden is also facing a growth of far-right, anti-immigrant, pro-nationalist wave and never was that clearer than in the months preceding Sunday's election.Does everyone secretly (or not-so-secretly) hate us?I saw anti-immigrant statements by the Sweden Democrats in radio and television debates, articles, and discussions within my community's Facebook groups. They call themselves the "anti-immigrant party" so it's not like they are trying to hide their agenda or anything.The reply that kept getting thrown about was, "Freedom of speech. They are allowed to say what they want. Let them speak," whenever someone would criticize their message...
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This Year’s Midsummer Actually Falls Mid-Summer

This Year’s Midsummer Actually Falls Mid-Summer

Midsommar is usually a bitter-sweet celebration for Swedes. The weather is just starting to warm up and it finally starts to feel like summer weather after a long May of cold, dreary rain with average temperatures in the 6-11 C (43-52 F) range.What's worse is that every Swede you talk to has some sort of Farmer's Almanac approach of predicting how nice or cold a summer will be based on the weather experienced during the winter. How that makes any sense at all is beyond my comprehension."Well, if we have a really hard winter, we'll have a nice summer. If we have a warm winter, the summer will be bad."My eyes narrow skeptically. Umm...ok.Swedish weather is like playing roulette. You look for patterns but there are none. Something has to make sense but it doesn't.The events from the past are totally independent from the events in the future. There is zero influence between summer and winter weather but nonetheless, Swedes need to hang...
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Learning Through Play—First year in a Swedish School

Learning Through Play—First year in a Swedish School

Necessary disclaimer: I understand and acknowledge that not every school in Sweden does things the same way. This is simply a little peek into what we have experienced. "What does your typical school day look like? What do you do?" I asked my six-year-old son.He took me over to the whiteboard where laminated words with pictures were arranged in descending order."First, we have frilek, then samling, then språklek, then rast, then matlek, lunch, and then fritids."I noted that all of the activities (except for snack and lunch time) had the word "lek" tacked onto the end, meaning "play." Everything my 6-7 year old has done during his first year of "real school" is based in play. Frilek—Free playFree play, language play, math play, free time—my son's school day seemed like a fun time—not much compared to what I experienced as a kindergartener in the US.I remember a classroom of 25 kids, a round rug, a wooden log cabin for us to play in, and plastic alphabet balloon people...
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Looking for trash, volunteers discover streets are super clean

Looking for trash, volunteers discover streets are super clean

Determined to "clean up the streets" a small group of volunteers in a suburb outside of Stockholm, Sweden, struggled to find trash to fill their bags. Armed with gloves, oversized trash bags, and water to stay hydrated in the hot June sun, the group wandered along the pedestrian paths searched for anything to grab using their trash pickers.Occasionally, one volunteer yipped with joy after discovering a plastic cup had fallen out of a trash can. One stepped-on grocery store receipt was picked up and placed into the nearly-empty trash bags. "What are you guys doing out here working on a Saturday?" one man sitting on a bench asked the volunteers."We don't work for the kommun; we're here to clean up our community, sir. You have a nice day."Except the community was already quite clean."Just seeing people out and about picking up trash on the side of the road might encourage others to be more mindful of picking up after themselves..." one...
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Saturday Candy—Sweden’s Limited Obsession with Candy

Saturday Candy—Sweden’s Limited Obsession with Candy

In a recent  New Yorker article, How to Eat Candy Like a Swedish Person, the general public learned about Sweden's (limited) obsession with lördagsgodis or "Saturday candy."Messages about this article flooded my inbox with questions like, "Is this true?" and "Do you really only eat candy once a week?"I'll admit that this has become such a normal part of our lives that it didn't register in my mind as being anything particularly interesting to share.Yes, we really do limit our kids to eating sweets on Saturdays and let me tell you...it's wonderful.Implementing a nationwide 6-day ban on sweets is an effective way to avoid those arguments about not eating so much candy, juice, or cookies during the week.Whenever my kids ask if they can have juice, I just blame the calendar instead of taking parental responsibility for imposing harsh restrictions on their sugar consumption."It's not up to me, kids, it's not Saturday and those are the rules.""Is it Saturday? Then...
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The Swedish Approach to Postpartum Health

The Swedish Approach to Postpartum Health

It seems like all too soon, mothers of newborns are concerned about losing the baby weight."What a cruel scheme to keep a woman from knowing her power. To put the focus on what pregnancy did to her body rather than focus on what her perfect body just did. Here we sit, creating and nourishing the guture and we are diminished to "baby weight." I will not succumb to your demanding ideals." —Amethyst JoyOne thing I noticed upon arriving to Stockholm was that all of the Swedish moms at my six-month postpartum check-up all looked super fit. Didn't we all just give birth six months ago?  Mental HealthMy postpartum appointment was focused on my mental health. My midwife asked me how I felt about my delivery, how I was handling the sleepless nights, and how often my baby was nursing. I don't recall her weighing me or even inquiring about my physical health aside from sleep—which I obviously was not getting much of.But...
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The Parenting Advice That Changed My Life

The Parenting Advice That Changed My Life

If you find parenting advice that alleviates stress, follow it.The Anxious Mother For a while, I managed a delicate balance between slight overprotectiveness and the desire to keep my child alive.What looked like common, everyday items before my son was born grew into menacing, dangerous agents of destruction and death.The couch was no longer a couch but a superhero launch pad. The kitchen drawers turned into finger pinching torture devices when he was pulling himself up to a standing position.The playground across from our house, barely viewable from the kitchen window, was surrounded by a pedestrian path of safety. Often, though, the neighbors liked to drive on it and unload their groceries with ease. Their convenience came at the cost of my child's safety.Like a passive-aggressive-slightly-overprotective mother might, I placed a note in everyone's mailbox alerting them to the fact that tiny children (often difficult to see when driving a car) frequently played at the central playground and that they couldn't...
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The Differences Between Then and Now: Reflections on Integration

The Differences Between Then and Now: Reflections on Integration

Over the past six years, we have become a murky blend of less-American-but-not-quite-Swedish.We've kept some of the old but mostly, we have embraced the new.The differences between January 2012 (back then) and January 2018 (now) are stark. Stark also conveniently translates into "strong" in Swedish.The changes in us are noticeable only when we take a moment and conduct a brief mental compare and contrast exercise. Otherwise, everything feels normal, as it should.Back then...and now...Back then, we kept our feet firmly on solid ground even when the lake froze over. We'd marvel at the bravery of those heading out on a skating expedition from Stockholm to Uppsala (80 km/50 miles).Now, we see people skating on the lake and hurry home to grab our skates.Once there, we are greeted by friends we know who warn us that two people have already fallen through the ice. Instead of leaving, we simply tell our kids to avoid the area with weak ice.I...
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Växtförsäljning’s Christmas Market Review

Växtförsäljning’s Christmas Market Review

Don't try to say "växtförsäljning" three times fast unless you are from a Scandinavian country or unless you want a tongue twister challenge.Växtförsäljning translates simply into "plant nursery" and our local nursery sells wonderful plants, bushes, and trees during the year and converts into a Yuletide haven during the third Advent weekend.This Christmas Market was the last in our Christmas Market Marathon and the kids were feeling the holiday fatigue. Too much Christmas cheer, perhaps? You know it's been a few long weeks in a row when the promise of warm waffles and pony rides stirs little excitement in this bunch.But they dug deep and somehow mustered the strength in their little bodies to hop on a cute pony and ride around a few laps.The restaurant/cafe on site at Växtförsäljning is one of those hidden gems that not many people know about in our sleepy town of Åkersberga. I know that because whenever I head there for a casual lunch...
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