You’re a Jigsaw Puzzle Piece

You’re a Jigsaw Puzzle Piece

Imagine you are a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. You are made of cardboard and have crisp edges that fit alongside your fellow puzzle pieces. Together, you make a beautiful picture and the picture isn't whole without you. Now, imagine that you are mixed in with other puzzle pieces. In the testing of all of the pieces together, your edges become worn and fuzzy. Your cardboard rubs up against other pieces that don't quite fit because they are part of a different picture. Maybe your puzzle piece picture fits a little but the color is a bit off or the shape isn't quite right.  The fit isn't perfect because it's the wrong puzzle, so back into the box you go. Over time, after multiple puzzle creations, your particular piece of cardboard is very well worn on the edges. Your piece has changed shape. When you are finally reunited and placed back into your original puzzle, you no longer fit there either.  Your edges don't...
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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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The “Right” Number of Kids

The “Right” Number of Kids

How many kids do you have?" the dental technician asked me while her latex-gloved hands were working inside my mouth. I could feel her knuckles against the inside of my lips, expertly moving the mirror and probe from tooth to tooth.Now really isn't the right time to be having a conversation, I thought, but I made a noise that sounded like "two" as much as I could and held up two fingers above the paper bib lying flat on my chest."Oh, two, that's a lagom number. Two is perfect. I also have two kids."I know that this woman was only trying to make small talk with me while she scraped the plaque off of my teeth, but it struck me as somewhat of a rude conversation to be having with anyone, let alone a stranger. Who is she to be saying two is the perfect number of kids? What if I wanted more but couldn't have any? What if I secretly wanted...
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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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Dramatic Play is Therapeutic For Your Child

Dramatic Play is Therapeutic For Your Child

Kids recreate the world how they see it through dramatic play.Shouting is emanating from behind the closed door of my daughter's room. "No, Mama, don't go!" "I have to go to work. You have to stay here." My three-year-old is playing in her room by herself. I slowly open the door. Her back is facing me as she sits on the bed with her dolls.We've had this exact exchange numerous times, and apparently, my daughter knows it so well that she is re-enacting our daily ritual of school drop-off with her Elsa dolls.I enter the room and sit on the edge of the bed. "How does the little girl feel when her mama has to leave for work?" I ask but I already know the answer. "Sad." "Yes, but she gets to play with her friends at school." "Yeah, but she misses her Mama sooooo much." Her head is down.Knife in my heart.   Play is a form of therapy My daughter is using play to work out scenarios that affect her...
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Wherever you go, there you are

Wherever you go, there you are

 "Money in the bank. Braces are money in the bank," my Nana told me at her kitchen table in upstate New York. I was 15 years old; my mouth was sore and full of twisted metal. I didn't feel like having a mouth full of braces was such a wise investment. Her words were of little comfort to my angsty teenage self.For six years, my brother and I would take the bus to our grandparents' house after school. We lived outside of the school district and we needed a place to do our homework (me) or watch TV (my brother) until one of our parents could pick us up. My Nana would come home and she'd start making dinner. I sat at her kitchen table in a high bar stool chair, finishing my homework and chatting about my day.These kitchen table conversations created an inner voice that spouts off two sentences of wisdom at a time. We all have voices...
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Can it ever be enough?

Can it ever be enough?

 I've been there for every moment. Every smile, every laugh, every wobbly step—every everything—and yet it feels like I am still missing out on so much. How is it not enough?I look back at baby pictures taken years ago, and I see that squishy face. I can see hints of who you will become hidden around your smile wrinkles, arm folds, and fuzzy hair.  You and I were different back then. Through the long nights with multiple wake ups, the constant changing of sheets, and endless laundry, I was too mired in the hour-to-hour chaos to reflect on anything meaningful. Back then I couldn't see the sweet, crazy kid you would become.Back then your happy moments were constantly interrupted with fussy ones. Your smiles turned into cries, and I'd quickly have to intervene. It felt like we were on this emotional roller coaster together, but the ride was taking too long. I was tired, and the ride kept on going and...
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When The Exciting Life Feels Normal

When The Exciting Life Feels Normal

 When we first moved to Sweden (five years ago, ahh!), the newness of everything was overwhelming. Every day we jumped into the unknown with glee. It was thrilling to have a clean slate. We could be whoever we wanted to be in this new place.I spent the first few weeks converting everything into measurements that I could understand and then again into USD to get a sense of the cost. Everything felt expensive (it was). But it was okay because this was all new and exciting.Snow on April 1? Not depressing. Let's play!Get incredibly lost while trying to find a particular restaurant only to discover that they are closed on Sundays? It's alright. We'll get pizza from around the corner.Spend hours in line to get a national ID card, fill out forms, and hope that you've done everything correctly in a language you don't understand? Kind of scary, yes, but we're hanging in there.Everything we did felt like a strange but wonderful adventure....
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There Are Good People Everywhere

There Are Good People Everywhere

A few weeks ago, I packed my suitcase and headed out of town for a week in Amsterdam to facilitate a data analysis and management workshop—switching my crisp and clean editor/publisher hat for my worn-in public health hat. It was refreshing to step back into comfortable shoes and play a role that was familiar and speak a language that was native. I met public health professionals from all over the world—Georgia (the country, not the state), Russia, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Thailand, and Croatia. In 2013, I was five months pregnant and flew to Cote d'Ivoire to facilitate another global public health consultation of this nature. Luck would have it that I was paired with the only female participant in the room—a laboratorian from Sierra Leone. We sat together and analyzed her influenza surveillance data, and I noted that she didn't have any cases—I mean zero cases, which would be extremely rare—for males aged 30-45...
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I Know Who I Am As A Parent Regardless Of Politics

I Know Who I Am As A Parent Regardless Of Politics

For the past few days, I've been discussing, reading, processing all that has happened and what it might mean and I have left every conversation muttering, "I don't know..." And that's just it. I don't know a lot of things. I don't know what will happen to children of immigrants. I don't know what people of color will face regarding continued racism in their communities. I don't know what economic impact this change in power will have on our country and on the world. I don't know if a wall will be built or if people will be removed from the country. I don't know if the small incremental changes in healthcare policies will be undone. I don't know if any campaign promises were made in earnest or were made to gain power.I don't know. But I do know a few things: I know that I will raise my children to be tolerant, kind, and generous with their love and understanding of others different from us. I know that...
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