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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No pants, no problem

No pants, no problem

"It's my body and I can wear whatever I want."My daughter stood defiantly before me, hands on hips in her underwear, a t-shirt, and sandals.Picking her up from preschool is usually fairly quick but today, my sweet daughter looks more like a stubborn rhino.She will not budge.Her teachers, also unwilling to die on this hill, placed her purple leggings in her cubby. I shrugged my shoulders and jammed the leggings in my purse. She wouldn't be wearing any pants today. Okay, fine by me.The weather was warm, we weren't posing for family portraits, and her brother's elementary school, our next destination, doesn't have a pants policy that I'm aware of.I often see Swedish kids running through the sprinkler in their underwear at his school so I'm not worried about any judgmental looks while my daughter prances about in her purple polka-dotted undies. Rules vs. flexibilityWhy are so many parents caught up in forcing their children to adhere to particular social norms...
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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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This is not the country I grew up in and remember

This is not the country I grew up in and remember

This should not be hanging in my soon-to-be-kindergartener’s classroom. pic.twitter.com/mWiJVdddpH— Georgy Cohen (@radiofreegeorgy) June 6, 2018Columbine High School's shooting happened when I was a sophomore in high school (10th grade). I remember sitting in the sunny second floor classroom in Dr. Gomez's Spanish class and praying that if we ever had an active shooting, that it would happen when I was in his class.Dr. Gomez had sat through the staff meetings, read the lockdown protocols, and came up with his own protocol—one that would keep us safe.He had his stuff together.With the efficiency of a former tactical military officer, which he wasn't, Dr. Gomez explained exactly what would happen in case we had an active shooter.He assigned our three strongest boys to move his metal desk in front of the door, and the four kids sitting by the windows to cover them—something that went against the lockdown protocol entirely."Blocking the windows goes against my instructions, but my responsibility as your...
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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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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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Send Messages to Your Loved Ones Through the Moon

Send Messages to Your Loved Ones Through the Moon

“The moon is a loyal companion.It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.” ― Tahereh Mafi, Shatter MeJulia Inserro is an author and mom of three living abroad with her husband. A mere six months after their wedding, Julia and her husband expatriated to Cairo, Egypt and have since lived in Kuwait, Jordan, and Bahrain.She says on her website,"I will admit there were a lot of tears on that flight; I’d given up my career, my home, my friends, my family, and all semblance of life as I knew it to follow this crazy, lovable man to what felt like the ends of the earth."We hopped on a Zoom video call together to chat about her first book, Nonni's...
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