Knocked Up Abroad Stories about multicultural parenting Fri, 07 Feb 2020 09:37:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Knocked Up Abroad 32 32 What Runaway Horses Taught Me About Fear and Control Fri, 07 Feb 2020 09:37:55 +0000 When twenty horses ran out of control in my backyard, I made a split-second decision to do something which taught me a lot about fear and control.

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horses fear and calm lisa

I heard them before I saw them.

horses fear and calm

Forty hooves pounded the grass outside and a huddled mass of colors—horses clothed in shining browns, tans, blacks, and whites—raced and paused directly outside of my home office window. The sweet, well-tended golf course grass was too good to pass up.

The unruly group paused on Hole 8 as two women from the stable slowly approached them, shaking a bucket of food, making a distinct noise hoping to draw some of the loose horses to them.

My mind raced to piece together the puzzle I saw before me. Twenty horses? Loose? No reins? No saddles? No riders? What was going on?

I pulled on my jacket and headed to the golf course. If there were twenty-some-odd horses loose, I knew they would need as many people as possible to help get the horses under control.

The horses had relocated across to the other side of the golf course by the time I arrived.

I walked beside a woman who was also walking in the same direction. Erroneously, I thought she was with the stables nearby who had lost these horses.

“Are you going to help with the horses?” she asked.
“I’m going to try. What happened?”
“I heard they’re from the Skånsta stables,” she added.

To my dismay, she powered off in the other direction on her afternoon walk.

From Skånsta? That was over two kilometers away from where they were now. Quickly, my mental map pulled up.

These loose horses had run freely through quite a few neighborhoods and had crossed a few streets to get to my house from the stables.

You can’t run after a horse

If you’ve never chased down a team of loose horses, you quickly realize that there is no point in running after them.

I was embarking on a humbling exercise in futility and a remarkable display of herd mentality.

I felt incredibly small and weak next to the stallion who was rearing up next to me as a stable worker tried to tie a rope to him.

“Can I help out?” I asked meekly.
“Do you know how to handle horses?” the stable woman replied, not quite sure what to do with me.
“Nope, but I can stand here and hold a rope,” I offered.
“Hmm, let’s find one that doesn’t bite…” she scanned the horses looking for the most docile horse to hand to the newbie.

Doesn’t bite?! Yes, please give me a non-bitey horse, thank you very much.

As someone who has little-to-no experience with horses, the idea of holding a rope (not even true reins because this was not a typical experience) of an animal that was born to run, and had been running for an hour, was daunting.

horses fear and calm lisa

Taking responsibility can be terrifying

I was volunteering responsibility to keep this horse calm and under control in a very chaotic, out of control situation.

But first, I needed to remain calm or at least give off the pretense of being calm.

Two police officers were also holding ropes to large horses who were rearing up and resisting control.

One officer shouldered her horse back into line with force. She was calm but forceful.

I took note and kept my hand on the coarse mane running down my horse’s neck. The horse kept turning his large head toward my face.

I didn’t want to get bitten and make the already-tense situation into a medical problem, so I kept my hand on the side of his neck—reassuring us both.

While not knowing the right words to offer to my horse in Swedish (I assumed he understood Swedish), I cooed to him in a sing-song voice and hoped my gentle encouragement made up for the language barrier.

Without enough people to hold every horse, we lined up the roped horses and hoped the other 15 horses would follow, as they generally do.

Following one rogue horse was how these horses got into this mess, and that’s how they’d get home again.

However, the loose horses were more interested in eating the grass on the side of the road than they were in following us, which created a distance between the two groups.

The loose horses would catch up to our group, running at full speed, which would trigger the run response in our horses and spiked my stress levels every time.

Feeling the fear when out of control

I was afraid.

I was afraid my horse would run away, and I’d have to drop the rope.

I was afraid my horse might turn and bite me for trying to control him.

I was afraid of making the situation worse when all I wanted to do was help.

So, I did the only thing within my control. I controlled my breathing, and I talked to my horse.

I told my horse he was so duktig (the best!), and so snäll (nice/pleasant).

In a strange blend of stress and surrealism, we walked the horses back to the stable.

The police officers stopped traffic so we could cross the roads, and additional stable workers/volunteers arrived to guide the horses in.

With my horse safely in his stall, one of the women hugged me in genuine gratitude. I never caught her name, nor her mine—there was too much chaos to exchange pleasantries.

With my good deed done for the day, I walked to pick up my kids from school. We’d be walking home that day.

It was a beautiful and unusual day and we had a lot to discuss on the walk home.

horses fear and calm lisa ferland

So, what did this team of runaway horses teach me about fear and control?

A lot of times in my life, I’ve been asked to help out in quite scary situations (much scarier than a bunch of wild horses running around, believe it or not), and I shirked my duty for one reason or another.

“Oh, there’s someone more qualified.”
“What if I mess it up and make things worse?”
“Maybe they’ll sue me if I try to help.”
“I don’t know how to help.”

And other such excuses that I gave myself for not stepping in.

This event taught me that any help whatsoever is appreciated.

You don’t need to be an expert with horses to hold a rope and walk on the road. In almost all emergencies, you, the bystander, need to do your best, and that’s enough.

The experts will take over if A) they ever arrive, and B) if what you’re doing isn’t working. Until then, doing something is better than doing nothing.

Relinquishing control to gain control

I also learned that the best way to gain control of a situation is to relinquish fears and anxieties you have about NOT being in control.

It sounds counterintuitive, but when I focused on the parts that I could control, I stopped worrying about what MIGHT happen, and that allowed me to calm down and slightly enjoy the experience.

“You were very brave to step in and help like that,” my mother-in-law said on the phone. Her comment surprised me because I didn’t feel brave when I was in the midst of it all; I only felt the urge to do something to help.

As it happens, I was the only civilian (non-stable worker, non-police officer) to help out with the horses, so I guess there was something unique about my actions that day.

I thought of all of the times when I didn’t step in to help when I could’ve. Maybe this redeemed me in some way.

Perhaps the most surprising element of this incident is that our local newspapers never covered it.

It’s almost as if 20 loose horses running wild through our little town is a normal occurrence or something. Just another perk of living near nature.

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Why Unschedules May Work Best When Traveling with Family Fri, 06 Dec 2019 14:18:09 +0000 Charlotte Davis learned a lot about traveling with little kids during a family road trip to Las Vegas. She shares why unschedules might make traveling easy.

The post Why Unschedules May Work Best When Traveling with Family appeared first on Knocked Up Abroad.

Photo by Ashton Bingham on Unsplash

Traveling with family is always an adventure and we’re off into the great unknown.

The views out the window mesmerize me, and I’m dreaming of dipping my feet in the ocean off Oregon’s pebbled coast.

Then, my daydreams are interrupted by the typical sounds of family travel.

My niece wakes up crying from a bad dream, her toddler brother following her example, and the drama spreads like wildfire.

The RV isn’t large enough to contain the family in this distressed state and everyone feels it.  

I love my family, and I love traveling with them. I’ve learned a lot during our trip down the west coast.

Hopefully, these tips in advance of your next adventure with your kids will offer smoother sailing.

Unsplash map boots camera
Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

Plan but don’t over plan your family vacation 

Everyone knows you’re supposed to plan before a trip, but what most people don’t understand is that you need to plan way, way more in advance when you travel with kids.

Before we even picked up our RV rental in Las Vegas, my sister had three notebooks full of maps, ideas, and alternate itineraries. I didn’t understand the fuss. Now I do.

My advanced-planning sister wisely used Google Maps to pinpoint important locations, and not just national parks and your intended destinations.

Fast food restaurants almost always have a play area and accessible bathrooms that traveling families need frequently. If you plan to stay in a specific town or campground, look up the nearest convenience and grocery stores.

The thing is, and I’ve learned this the hard way, traveling with small kids demands more than a plan A and B. You need a C, D, and E (for Exit) for unexpected illnesses, tantrums, or bickering grown-ups. Which leads me to the next tip.

Photo by Ashton Bingham on Unsplash
Photo by Ashton Bingham on Unsplash

Pack extra patience and flexibility

There will be surprises. Some things will undoubtedly go wrong. 

No matter how well you plan there may be delays at the airport and extra boredom to fend off.

All that extra planning in the previous step only works if you’re willing to make adjustments on the fly.

Remember to take breaks and allow the kids to stretch their legs with free play time. If your kids are sleeping all day in transit and get restless in the evening, then enjoy the night with them and go stargazing. Tomorrow’s activities may need to be delayed a bit.

Slow Down

The most important tip before traveling with family is to take your time.

Slow travel is the perfect speed for young kids. An hour to you is a day to them. Spend those minutes wisely, and fill as many as possible with little adventures.

Travel slow. Take breaks. Listen to your kids and each other.

Family trips are as much about each other as they are about the views.

A Keen Eye for Lodging

On our cross-country RV trip, we looked up multiple potential hotels, motels, and campgrounds for every potential destination, and they all had a few crucial things in common.

First off, they had to be highly rated for safety.

Secondly, they needed on-site parking suitable for our RV.

Thirdly, they needed to either be very near a major attraction suitable for the whole crew, or the place needed a pool and/or play area.

Traveling families have the simultaneous advantage and disadvantage of numbers.

Cramming everyone in a couple motel rooms can and will become a costly nightmare. If you plan to stay longer than a single night anywhere on your trip, look for cabins, short term home rentals (through services like AirBnB), and even resorts with enough space to spread out, breathe, and run.

Screen time? Maybe it’s ok this time


Often a point of contention, but frankly, when you’re on a long drive, screens may not be your enemy.

Load kid-friendly games – there are plenty of educational options! – and prep some of their favorite films. 

Don’t forget to bring charging cables that fit cigarette lighters and/or USB ports. You will be so, so happy you did.

Travelling with kids can be so much fun while challenging at the same time.

It might not go exactly as you plan them, but you will surely create a memorable vacation for your family.

About Charlotte Davis

Charlotte Davis is a thirty-something travel blogger who writes about lifestyle, travel, beauty, food and more. She is on a mission to spread optimism by sharing bits of her travel adventures.

Charlotte enjoys traveling with her nephews and nieces. She seeks to inspire families to choose experiences over possessions by partaking her stories in exploring the world with kids and enjoy every minute of the journey. 

You can check out her other blogs here

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Leave the Kids Behind and Divorce-Proof Your Marriage with a Couple’s Getaway Fri, 11 Oct 2019 14:11:26 +0000 Leave the kids behind if you want to divorce-proof your marriage. I'm not an expert but I know that blissful marriages require routine communication.

The post Leave the Kids Behind and Divorce-Proof Your Marriage with a Couple’s Getaway appeared first on Knocked Up Abroad.

Lisa Ferland divorce proof marriage beach isolated

Lisa Ferland divorce-proof-marriage plane
All photos taken by Lisa and Jonathan Ferland

We hopped in the cab at 5 am and giggled like high school seniors skipping school. Our kids were tucked snugly in their beds. My in-laws gave us a yawn and sleepy wave as we passed the childcare baton to them for the week.

We were giddy.

Eight days of traveling as two independent adults felt like an eternity. The excitement of the unknown coursed through us.

Would we run out of things to discuss? How many books would we finish? Would we be bored lounging on gorgeous for a few days? I was excited to find out.

The plane ride to Croatia was eventless, as it usually is when you’re traveling without kids. We drank coffee, read our books, and stared out the window at the blue-green coastline below.

The airport restroom line was long, but I didn’t have a wiggly five-year-old to manage. It was quite dull traveling without kids, which also made it so exciting and novel.

We finally had time to focus on other things—all of those thoughts we had stopped thinking because we were too busy managing little people’s lives 24/7 to give our own inner thoughts much attention.

After ten years of marriage, we earned this trip. 

We wanted to unplug, relax, and reconnect.

Lisa Ferland divorce proof marriage croatia split

Most common causes of divorce

According to this HuffPost article, common sense, and like a bazillion other articles, the most common causes of divorce are:

  • loss of individual identity
  • forgetting and neglecting that you are a couple
  • not having a shared vision of success
  • disappearing intimacy
  • unmet expectations, and of course
  • financial issues.

The discord and disharmony in any relationship happen over time, as if unwinding a ball of yarn. Without regular touchpoints, check-ins, and “keep it real” conversations, you risk heading off in different directions away from one another.

If you want to divorce-proof your marriage, you need to reconnect with each other regularly. Doing this reconnection away from your kids is of utmost importance. 

Finding someone to watch the kids

We love our kids dearly—they mean everything to us—but by focusing our energy on their happiness, we can forget our own and our partner’s.

My husband is the only person to ask how my day is going—my kids don’t care.

It would make sense that we would invest as much (if not more) in our relationship together than we do our relationships with our kids.

Living far from family means that we don’t have a TON of support.

We have great support from neighbors, and we appreciate the afternoon babysitting here and there, but without family living nearby, it feels too burdensome to ask neighbors to watch our kids for an entire week.

We planned our 10th-anniversary getaway for at least a year. We needed to line up babysitters, plan the trip, and save our kronor. If you think you don’t have the money for date nights, you haven’t researched how expensive divorce is.

We’ve seen a lot of our friends divorce over the past few years and it’s something we’d like to avoid ourselves.

Divorce is costly, disruptive, and ugly—and that’s if you have an amicable divorce.

Investing in quality time together as a couple together quickly became non-negotiable for us.


Lisa Ferland divorce proof marriage Diocletians

Find the right place to reconnect

All of our planning paid off when our plane touched down in Split, Croatia. The stress fell off my shoulders with every step into the hot August sun out of the airport.

Split, Croatia is crowded, and while beautiful, it wasn’t our final destination—we were destined for the furthest island off Split’s coast, Vis.

We found two open spaces on the back of a ferry and watched the mountainous coast of Split disappear on the horizon; the wind whipping my hair out of my pulled back ponytail.

The deep blue water glittered in the sunlight, and tourists around us started shedding clothing to sunbathe on the deck.

Lisa Ferland divorce proof marriage wine

Vis, Croatia

As the ferry pulled into the Vis harbor, I couldn’t wait to explore our surroundings. The local pizza restaurant in Vis (the port city) had some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life, hands down. The views were amazing, and the entire island felt calm.

We embrace slow travel—traveling without a set agenda or plans—which is the only approach for Vis.

If you’re looking for relaxing on a beach, reading books nonstop, and swimming/snorkeling in crystal clear water, then Vis is for you. It’s an old island with ancient history—settled first by Dionysus in 397 BC, the island changed hands numerous times.

In 46 BC, the island was taken over by the Romans and prospered under their rule. The island produced remarkable wines and stones for Rome. The beaches of Vis were all human-made—carved during the quarrying of the stones for Roman architecture.

Much of Vis remains undeveloped and unspoiled countryside dominated by vineyards because the island was a naval base during the World War years and only opened to the public in 1991 when Croatia gained independence.

A wild adventure

The island feels a bit wild and dangerous. The “fall off a cliff” type of danger as the mountainous island is covered in switchback roads with sheer drop-offs and no guardrails.

We rented an old ’97 jeep-type deathtrap that had no transmission left. The clutch felt gummy under my foot, and every gear change was a full-on bicep and calf workout.

One of the roads had stone pillars that looked like shark’s teeth protruding around the cliff meant to keep cars from pitching off the side but looked more like a monster baring its teeth in warning.

“Don’t hit the shark’s teeth!” Jon said as we rattled around the mountaintop on the way back to our rental apartment.

Nothing like a bit of adrenaline-pumping driving through the mountains to bond you closer together, right?

Lisa Ferland Stiniva Beach
Famous Stiniva Beach and its treacherous cliffs

Create the space for “keep it real” conversations

If you’ve never had a “keep it real” conversation, tonight’s the night.

The essentials for this type of dialogue is to create a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted by anything—kids, phones, TV.

At the beginning of the conversation, you acknowledge that you’ll “keep it real” and confess your deepest concerns, fears, and worries with the knowledge that the truth, in its rawest form, may hurt the other person.

Generally, we have these conversations when one of us is carrying something that we feel is turning ugly inside us.

Maybe it was a conversation we had earlier in the day or a misunderstanding.

Perhaps it was an action not taken or something that felt insignificant at the moment but grew over time the more we processed what happened.

On our vacation, we had a lot of these “keep it real” conversations.

The beauty of having these conversations on vacation, instead of in your kitchen, is that vacations are soothing and relaxing.

The conversations aren’t as hard when you’re standing in crystal blue water, relaxing in the sun.

Reconnect through sharing what’s always been unsaid 

We explored everything in those ten days. We had plenty of downtime. Plenty of quiet and no distractions.

There was no judgment, no hard feelings, just honest talk.

What would happen should one of us die. What would happen if both of us died? What were our best memories from the past ten years? What did we want to accomplish in the next ten years?

We played the “what if…?” game aloud and placed all the cards on the table. At the end, we acknowledged and appreciated each other just a bit more than we had before.

We both needed to verbalize the essential contributions we both make —paid and unpaid—to the stable functioning of our family.

At the end of the vacation, we were completely relaxed, happy, and recommitted to one another.

A lot has changed in the past ten years, and we are different people than we were when we married. Our experiences have shaped us, and for the pieces of our family puzzle to continue to fit, we needed this time and space to work it out.

Lisa Ferland divorce proof marriage dinner sunset

Vis was our heaven on earth—our place to reconnect. But for you, it’ll be somewhere else. Somewhere special for the two of you to call your own. 

Whether you find a remote island, a cabin in the mountains, or just a hotel down the street, taking the time to reconnect without your kids is essential.


Advice from someone married 40+ years—my dad

I called my dad when we got home and gushed about how relaxing and wonderful the experience was.

“You should probably do it at least once a year,” he suggested. “If you’re doing weekend trips try to get away at least four times a year. Bigger trips at least once a year.”

Once a year?! His suggestion shocked me. We planned this big trip because we celebrated ten years together and it was our anniversary gift to each other.

Then again, divorce is really, really expensive for years upon years, so maybe doubling down on investing in my marriage isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Do you schedule time to reconnect and divorce-proof your marriage?

Expat coach and intercultural specialist, Sundae Bean, suggests scheduling dates on your calendar as something that will motivate you to follow through like, “Divorce prevention.” Maybe you’ll take it more seriously if the consequences of not following through are super clear.

Someone very wise but unknown said:

The more you invest in a marriage, the more valuable it becomes.

Wishing you the best.

Lisa Ferland divorce proof marriage sunset
Lisa Ferland divorce proof marriage beach isolated
Lisa Ferland marriage boat
Lisa Ferland marriage happy

Keep Reading

A Vehicle, A Partnership

The Differences Between Then and Now

And a testament to my husband’s ridiculous romantic gesture on our 8th anniversary: The Return of the Lost Wedding Dress

Lisa Ferland has published three books with more on the way.

Click the images below to read them today.

When the Clock Strikes on Christmas Eve cover

A magical, snuggable, cozy rhyming story capturing the excitement of Christmas Eve.

A Halloween book perfect for kids ages 3-8.
The first anthology featuring 21 parents’ stories from around the world
knocked up abroad again
The second anthology featuring 24 mothers’ stories. Read it today!

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Indoor Skydiving—Our Family Bucket List Activity Tue, 18 Jun 2019 08:49:46 +0000 Take the whole family indoor skydiving and see what happens when you and your kids overcome their fears.

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I had a fleeting thought, “What if doing all of these fun activities is ‘spoiling’ my children for when they grow up,” and instantly dismissed it.

Nothing in this life is guaranteed so let’s do the most we can whenever we can.

“We’re never going to go skydiving! You promised we would months ago!”

My son was right. I had promised them months ago, six months ago, in fact, that we would all go indoor skydiving.

But house repairs, car repairs, and dog surgeries ate into our disposable income budget and indoor skydiving took a necessary backseat. 

Life often dictates that we do the boring-but-necessary things first while the fun-and-expensive activities get pushed off to the side.

We kept doing that for months and months until we realize that that was all we were doing. Six months flew by in a flurry and the really exciting Christmas present remained unredeemed.

“Alright. I’m booking it right now,” I said and pulled out my phone and punched in my credit card numbers. 


A bucket list addition

I’ve been editing the website Slow Travel Stockholm for a few months now and recently did a round-up post on Bucket List Adventures in Stockholm.  

Indoor skydiving by BodyFlight looked like a lot of fun so I added that to my family’s personal bucket list.

Jon and I have been real skydiving in our more reckless pre-parenting youth, so I thought I knew what we were getting ourselves into.


Indoor skydiving and skydiving have very little in common aside from the fact that you shape your body like a banana and you wear a skintight jumpsuit and other protective gear.

Indoor skydiving is like wind surfing in a tube with walls and plane skydiving is like plummeting to your death.

Both experiences are loud and exhilarating but very little can compare to voluntarily throwing yourself out of a perfectly good airplane.

Indoor skydiving was the perfect activity for our family, more accessible, and more affordable than jumping out of an airplane.

Indoor skydiving requires balance

When you step into the indoor skydiving tunnel, you are stepping into a wind tunnel that’s whipping air around you at around 195 km/h (120 mph or 55 m/s). 

You fall into the wind tunnel and fortunately, there is an instructor there to keep you from bouncing into the walls. It’s incredible to learn that by slowly modifying your arms or legs, you can zoom up, down, and all around.

Our kids (ages 5 and 8) had a bit more trouble than the adults simply because the body control is really hard.

The wind tunnel is really loud so you can’t hear any instructions and have to rely on hand signals from the instructor.

Also, if you smile and a bit of spittle comes out of your mouth, it’ll hit you again going 195 kph, which kind of hurts like a bee sting. Not that I have experience with that or anything…

Feel free to watch a bit of our experience below. The kids went “swimming” in the air while the adults did their best to not bump into the walls.

What’s Involved

We watched a brief six-minute safety and training video and our instructor explained everything to us including the hand signals and what to expect.

We asked them to provide our training in English, which they gladly provided, and he switched back and forth between English and Swedish to make sure everyone understood what was happening.

After the briefing, we all headed down to get suited up and put on flight suits that left very little to the imagination, ear plugs, goggles, and helmets.

I removed ALL of my jewelry including my necklace and rings just in case. They provided a locker upstairs for all of our valuables.

Don’t worry about not being able to take pictures. They have a professional camera there that snaps great moments and a video camera that captures all 60-seconds of your wind tunnel surfing. 


Two Minutes in a Wind Tunnel

One might not think that 60-seconds is “enough” time in a wind tunnel but it feels a lot longer when you’re in there.

The experts make it look easy but it’s ridiculously hard to balance your body without slamming into the walls or floating down to the ground.

The first 60-seconds was instructional and a chance to let you feel what it was like to balance on the wind.

The second 60-seconds is to take a few pro pics and then to fly up with the instructor.

My favorite part was when the instructor grabbed me, the wind speed ramped up, and I could relax and let him control the experience.

He was an expert at making us fly up and down and the result was exhilarating. 

I may have screamed a bit but nobody could hear me, so it was ok. 


The Verdict

We all loved it.

Our daughter (age 5), was the first one in the tunnel and she had a blast. Our son got to wear a Batman flight suit and loved every second playing the super hero.

What we didn’t expect was what happened after the indoor skydiving was over.

Our daughter had a newfound streak of confidence.

As soon as we got home, she hopped on her bike and raced off down the hill—the same hill she had been too scared to bike down because it required constant braking.

We had dinner at a friend’s house and she was climbing all over the swing set, hanging upside down, and jumping from great heights.

Overcoming the fear of indoor skydiving dislodged whatever was blocking her from trying new things.

She learned that she could try things that she thought were scary and survive. In fact, the scary things were kind of fun.

That discovery in itself was worth the trip.


Find an indoor skydiving place near you

Sweden—Stockholm and Göteborg—BodyFlight


France—Paris, Lyon, and Marseille—iFLY

England—Baskingstoke, Milton Keynes, Manchester—iFLY

United States—iFLY has locations all over the country

What’s on your family’s bucket list?

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Day Trip to Tallinn, Estonia from Stockholm Mon, 03 Jun 2019 11:45:41 +0000 Learn why Tallinn, Estonia should be your next day trip from Stockholm.

The post Day Trip to Tallinn, Estonia from Stockholm appeared first on Knocked Up Abroad.


All photos by the Ferlands

One day is not nearly enough time to explore all of the hidden alleys and beautiful cafes that Tallinn offers but if you only have one day, I suggest you explore it slow travel style.

Slow Travel encourages us to slacken our pace, re-consider our motivations (and itineraries) and embrace a “less is more”  instead of a “fast is better” ethos. It emboldens us to take pause. To think. To saunter instead of rush and enjoy the details instead of blurring past them. —Lola A. Åkerström

We slow travel Stockholm as the least-stressful way of traveling with kids who often have short attention spans, no understanding of schedules, and short legs that tire easily.

Traveling slowly is our modus operandi and we apply it regardless of where we are in the world.

Visit a 300-year-old operational blacksmith workshop

We discovered this blacksmith’s workshop when our daughter tripped on a cobblestone and fell into the closed door of Old Smithy.

Apparently, the blacksmith thought she knocked on it and he opened the door and welcomed us in. (You never know what doors will open when you wander around Tallinn.)

We spoke with the blacksmith who was getting his fire started and he talked us through his daily routine as he started hammering away at a rod of iron.

After 20 minutes or so, he had melted, hammered, shaped, and twisted the rod of iron into a tiny leaf.

You can book the site for a workshop and try your hand at blacksmithing if you have some time. If not, it was well worth hanging out with a real blacksmith and watching him work.

Kid review: “I felt like we’re getting a good feeling of what life was like back in medieval times.”

“I want to be an astronaut and a blacksmith.”


Climb St Olaf’s Church tower for unbeatable views of Tallinn

We passed St Olaf’s church after leaving the Old Smithy and saw that you could climb the tower for a few Euros. Being the adventurous family we are, we all headed up the spiral stone stairs only to quickly remember why I hate climbing towers.

If you’re scared of heights or have a child who trips over cobblestones, maybe SKIP CLIMBING THE TOWER.

The views from the top were absolutely lovely and unbeatable. The weather was gorgeous and you can walk around the viewing platform to see the entire city.

That said, there are goony tourists at the top taking endless selfies and otherwise blocking the platform which makes it hard to make a quick exit if you start to feel vertigo.

Kid review: “Would we die if we fell from this height?”

“I’m glad I didn’t fall.”

Website: St Olafs Church


Visit Europe’s Oldest Pharmacy

I wouldn’t have told you that an old pharmacy would be cool but it was definitely worth the visit.

Located right off the main city square, the Raeapteek is one of the oldest continuously running pharmacies in all of Europe with a guesstimated opening date in the 1400s.

I think the pharmacy staff are a bit tired of tourists taking their photos and never buying anything, so help them keep their business operational by buying a packet of Kleenex.

There’s a side room full of old bottles, weighing scales, and information about the pharmacy.

The main photo on this blog was taken from inside the pharmacy looking out onto the square.


Fried shrimp starter at Kaks Kokka

The Food

OMG, the FOOD! Ridiculously delicious, amazing, and delectable in all aspects.

Our friends recommended Restoran Ö as one of the top 5 best dinners they’ve ever eaten in their lifetime. 

We didn’t have the type of time that Restoran Ö requires to fully enjoy the dining experience, so we booked a table at their sister restaurant, Kaks Kokka.

Not only was Kaks Kokka incredibly accommodating, but the food was beyond compare.

Our server brought out the softest bread with whipped herb butter that made me want to head to the kitchen and hug the chef. The rest of our lunch was even more delicious.

Our daughter was tired and laid down on the couch to take a much-needed afternoon nap.

Not only was that fine by us (and our server) but our server even asked if she needed a blanket.

Needless to say, families are welcome at Kaks Kokka, which is rare to find in fine dining.

Kid review: “My pasta and chicken is really good.”



Save room for chocolate

As if eating the most delicious lunch wasn’t enough, we headed to an artists’ alley to Chocolate de Pierre for creamy rich ice cream and chocolate cake.

Before the chocolate cake, our kids were too tired to walk, their bellies ached, and they were whiny.

After the chocolate cake, they were giggling and acting silly and ready to explore again. Worth every Euro.

Be sure to wander the handicraft stores around the cafe for more exquisite local art.

Kid review: “Thish chocolate cake ish delishous.”

Address: Pierre Chocolaterie Vene 6, 10123 Tallinn, Estland 

Explore the wall

Due to two very tired children, we didn’t get a chance to explore the entire city and visit all of the towers around the wall.

Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the wall that surrounds the city remains mostly in tact from its original construction in the 1265. You can hop up on the wall (for a small fee) and walk along the perimeter for a bit. Some local vendors have nestled their tables in the eaves of the wall itself and the result is a magical teleportation back in time.

Kid review: “The wall is so cool!” 

Wander around and soak it in

There were tons of street performers, musicians, and artists lining the streets of Tallinn and many more places that we’d love to visit again.

If you have more than a few hours and your kids aren’t tired, you could probably check off a few more activities on your list.

We enjoyed the sunshine, beautiful flower stalls, fountains, and the meandering streets and alleys Tallinn offered us during our short stay.

If you’ve been to Tallinn before, leave a comment and let me know what we missed that we should definitely see on our return visit.


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Why a Doula is a Must for International Births Wed, 08 May 2019 12:02:07 +0000 Having moved from the UK to The Netherlands age 22 with no job, nowhere to live, and a partner who’d never even visited the place, I figured that moving to Sweden thirteen years later would be easy. Sure, I didn’t speak much of the language, but I could understand some, and yes, I’d miss my […]

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Having moved from the UK to The Netherlands age 22 with no job, nowhere to live, and a partner who’d never even visited the place, I figured that moving to Sweden thirteen years later would be easy.

Sure, I didn’t speak much of the language, but I could understand some, and yes, I’d miss my amazing friends A LOT, but I figured I’d meet other mums at the playground and make friends that way.

Of course, I could do this all over again!

Relocating as a family is hard(er)

I soon realised, however, that moving to a new country at 22 with only myself to worry about was very different than moving somewhere aged 35 with two small children and a baby in tow.

There were no mums in the playground to become coffee buddies with, and I missed being familiar with how things worked.

Doctor’s appointments, vaccinations, BVC visits, where to buy those things you stick on chair legs to protect the floor…I felt a bit helpless and pretty isolated, and I didn’t really like feeling that way.

I slowly figured it all out and it was a huge help having both a Swedish husband and English as my mother tongue, but it was still more of an adjustment than I had expected.

Now, four years later, I feel settled, and although nobody is going to mistake my Swedish as native, I speak it pretty well. My children are older and are in school and pre-school, and I have a much better grasp of how stuff works.

Oh, and those chair protector things? Try your local supermarket.

Becoming a doula

I have also realised my dream of becoming a doula and supporting Swedish, international, and mixed families in their birth journeys.

Growing and birthing a whole new person is really a big enough task without having to do it in a new country.

For someone moving to Sweden, having to navigate, well, everything, as well as a completely different maternity system is a huge challenge.

There can be so many barriers, the language is an obvious one, but others exist too. Maybe you come from a country where pregnancy and birth are under the care of doctors rather than midwives, where you receive scans and tests at each prenatal visit or where open conversations with your care provider are not really a thing.

Or perhaps the Swedish system is fairly similar to what you are used to, but it’s the little differences that are throwing you off.

A doula relieves some of the emotional and informational load

More and more people are becoming aware of how helpful it can be to have the support of a doula during pregnancy, birth, and into the postpartum.

From the moment you find a doula you really click with (and that’s key) they will be there to support you. They will help you find evidence-based information to help you make decisions, they’ll be with you during labour and birth to help with physical support, and provide comfort measures and ideas on various positions. But most importantly, they will be there for YOU.

Your doula is someone you can turn to when things feel overwhelming.

They are someone to talk with openly who will not judge or tell you what to do.

Someone who will listen to everything you have to say and ensure you know that anything you are feeling is valid and that it’s ok.

A doula is there to create and hold a safe space for you throughout your pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

A doula will not tell you what to do

It’s good to note that a doula is not someone who plays any kind of medical role.

She is not there to push you towards one kind of birth or another and, unfortunately, she cannot guarantee you your perfect birthing experience.

What she can do is to work with you prenatally so that you are as prepared, informationally, and emotionally as possible for any situation that might arise.

Birth, as we know, is an organic process and although you can read all the books and do all the things, you cannot have complete control over exactly how things will go down on the big day.

Your doula will advocate for you

Ok, I cannot emphasize this next part enough:

In terms of seeing your birth experience as positive, playing an active role in it rather than letting your birth happen to you, seems to be even more important than whether or not your birth went exactly to plan.

Being prepared that you can continue to be the driver of your own experience and have the final say in any decisions that need to be made.

I truly believe that this kind of support can be incredibly beneficial for everyone. However, for someone expecting a baby in a foreign country? It’s invaluable.

Your doula can help you to navigate the local maternity system and help you to know what to expect.

They can work with you to create questions for your midwife so that you have all the information you need to feel confident and positive.

Outside of your prenatal meetings, they will be available over the phone, SMS, email or messenger, as often you need them.

Birth sherpas

A conversation with your doula can be incredibly helpful as she (or one of her fellow doulas!) will have had experience in all of the local hospitals and can help you to feel out which one will best fit you and the birth experience you want.

Perhaps you are just overwhelmed with the whole thing, and either don’t yet have close friends to turn to or prefer to talk to someone who will listen without judgment or agenda.

I’ve heard doulas referred to as sherpas, and I can see why. Doulas act as a guide through the tricky terrain of birth.

However, I believe that you should be leading the way on your own birth journey and that your doula should walk alongside you, offering ideas, options, resources, and support but, ultimately, following your lead.

I have also heard doulas called birth fairies and while that’s lovely, a doula is not there to wave a magic wand and grant you the wish of your perfect birth. She can’t.

What she can do is be a steady presence throughout your journey and support you in navigating various interventions to emotional overwhelm and everything in between. 

Talk with a doula

If you would like to learn more about working with a doula, please feel free to explore my website,, or drop me an email to

The post Why a Doula is a Must for International Births appeared first on Knocked Up Abroad.

How a Silly Conversation Turned into a Children’s Book Wed, 17 Apr 2019 09:14:13 +0000 It was a dark and stormy Halloween night…actually, it was. October in Sweden is really dark, and it wasn’t nighttime per se, but rather 3 pm which is quite night-like in terms of daylight. The kids and I were at the dentist’s office for my daughter’s wellness check-up. She opened her mouth wide, and we […]

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It was a dark and stormy Halloween night…actually, it was.

October in Sweden is really dark, and it wasn’t nighttime per se, but rather 3 pm which is quite night-like in terms of daylight.

The kids and I were at the dentist’s office for my daughter’s wellness check-up. She opened her mouth wide, and we discovered she had one cavity.

Given that it was Halloween and the kids were about to eat more candy than usual, we had a brief discussion about sweets and tooth brushing while on our way to the car.

As we walked through the parking lot, my son asked me, “Why does everything spooky on Halloween happen ‘when the clock strikes twelve?’”

I don’t know where this thought came from—my kids usually throw bizarre questions and ideas at me—but this one started a conversation between us.

“I don’t know. Maybe something happens every hour on Halloween. When the clock strikes one, mummies come undone…” I said in a spooky voice.

“Stop it, Mama, you’re scaring me!”

“That’s the idea, isn’t it?” I laughed.

I’ve lost so many good ideas by thinking that I’d remember them later only to have no recollection of what we talked about.

“When the clock strikes two, witches stir their brew.”
“When the clock strikes three…what happens at three-o’-clock?”
“Goblins need to pee!” he chimed in, giggling maniacally.

And so it went, on and on until we had a few rhymes.

The kids climbed into the car, and it dawned on me that I needed to write these rhymes down before they disappeared and became a hazy memory of “that fun conversation we had on Halloween.”

I’ve lost so many good ideas by thinking that I’d remember them later only to have no recollection of what we talked about.

The kids buckled in, and it was after 10 minutes of frantic scribbling in my notebook later that I remembered they were back there.

“Can we go home now?”

“Why haven’t we left yet?”

The backseat was getting complainy.

“Because Mama’s busy writing something. Hang on one more minute, I promise.”

It was at least five more minutes before I started the car and drove home.

I discovered I had a problem.

Nothing rhymed with twelve.

Also, seven and eleven were tricky. I left those rhymes as blank spaces and vowed to revisit them later.

Being the obsessed-with-a-new-idea type person, I had to validate my idea and see if it was any good.

I created some Instagrammable images with clip art, added the text, and published them on my account.

It was Halloween evening…I didn’t have much time left in the day to be timely.

The hearts and comments started to pour in.

“So fun!”
“Haha, love the goblins.”

The initial reader feedback was good enough for me to take it to the next level.

I shared the images in a children’s book writer’s Facebook group and asked for more feedback—this time from my peers.

“I think you just wrote your first board book,” came some encouragement from Sheri Wall, “it’s really fun!”

It was vital for me to test the quality of the story before moving to the illustration phase. Illustrations can hide a bad story well—they are really good at that.

I wanted my contribution—the nucleus, the purpose of the story—to be solid before hiring an illustrator.

Hiring an Editor

I hired an editor who told me that my meter was a mess. What meter did I even want anyway?

My story was a jumbled mix of iambic trimeter, tetrameter, and pentameter. Did I want anapestic?

I had no idea what Tamara was talking about, and, feeling like a newbie to the core, I set off to Google and YouTube different types of meter.

After a lot of thinking and reflection, I settled on iambic trimeter. That had the best rhythm and was the simplest for the age range.

Also, most of my verses were already in iambic trimeter, so I wanted to keep it easy.

My next two books can expand in length and complexity, but the beauty of this story was its simplicity. Iambic trimeter felt right.

Now, to make it more than just a cute story.

What I’ve learned while marketing my nonfiction books, is that it’s best to think through every angle before finalizing anything. 

My books dealt with time, my son was struggling with understanding the concept of time in first grade, and it was a perfect fit.

My friend, Megan actually suggested adding a large clock face to every page. Perfect!

The book would have a large clock on one side of the page opposite cute illustrations. The story could hold water on its own, but now I had a teachable aspect of the book. 

Parents and teachers would appreciate it for more than just a cute story—kids would learn something new while reading it.

“Am I crazy? Does this work?” I sent an advanced copy of my book to a few teachers.

“Oh, it definitely works! I was surprised at how much my kids didn’t know about time until we started the questions at the end of the book. We had a good class discussion about the differences between morning, afternoon, and evening. I’ll be reading this to my class during the Halloween season.”

“I can’t wait to buy this book to help me with my teaching!” said one ESL teacher.


Hop on your broomstick before this witch flies away to work on other projects.

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“You don’t work”—A lesson in the dressing room of H&M Sat, 23 Mar 2019 15:33:03 +0000 My daughter told me I don't work with such authority that I discovered that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't forward enough about what I do.

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“You don’t work,” my five-year-old daughter said as hangers draped over my arm filled with blazers and black slacks in various sizes. 

“Now, why do you say that?” I asked while searching for another blazer. Did I want navy, rose, or gray? I couldn’t decide so I grabbed them all.

I haven’t worn business, business casual, or honestly, anything other than jeans, in years.

Working from home doesn’t require special attire and I haven’t purchased “work clothes” since we lived in Atlanta, GA in 2009.

My body was a different shape back then—before kids stretched my skin and years of breastfeeding rearranged the fat to new places in my body. The clothes from that era not only don’t fit but they are horribly out of style.

My high heeled shoes from that same time period have been chewed up by cobblestoned streets and deteriorated from neglect.

I needed new everything for a female entrepreneur conference in Amsterdam in three days—from my head to my toes—I needed a new hairstyle, blazer, slacks, and heels.

“Klack shoes!” My daughter squealed and I laughed at the appropriate term in Swenglish.

Yes, high heeled shoes make clacking sounds and “klack” means heel in Swedish.

I handed her a pair of black “klack shoes” and asked her to follow me into the dressing room.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying on clothes in front of a five-year-old fashion critic, then I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a lesson in humility.

Their eyes don’t lie as they scan every inch of your body when you undress, bend over, and redress.

Club music pumped in from overhead and she started bouncing up and down to the beat in her tiny corner of the dressing room.

The millennial club-like atmosphere of H&M was the closest I’ve been to an actual nightclub since she was born. Frankly, this version of a club was about all I had the patience for anyway.

“No, definitely not. I don’t like fluffy pants,” she declared.

The wide-legged navy pantsuit looked good on me, I thought, in fact, it looked great. It wasn’t “fluffy” it was “flowy” but, I had to admit that she was right. It wasn’t quite right—it was sleeveless and more appropriate for summer weather. March weather wasn’t quite conducive for sleeveless pantsuits and I’m mindful of how much skin I bare at professional gatherings.

“You’re right. Ok, let’s try another one.”

I zipped up a pair of stretchy black slacks, paired it with a pale rose shirt, and a striped blazer. I knew I had a winning outfit.

I looked good but I felt great. The comfortable stretch in the pants sealed the deal. I could wear these pants all day.

With the outfit selection behind me, it was time to address the elephant in the dressing room.

“Lucy, you know I work. I work harder now than ever before. Please don’t say things about how I don’t just because I don’t go into an office. I know you don’t want to hurt my feelings but it hurts when you say things like that.”

She looked down and I could tell she was sorry even though she said nothing. We’re still working on making public apologies.

Without counting being a mother and a wife (if you want to count those as jobs), I last counted 6 jobs and 2 volunteer efforts that I perform every week.

Writer, editor, publisher, marketing director of my existing KUA series and children’s books. I make all of the decisions regarding the technical logistics, supply chain, creative design, content, and marketing for the books.
Assistant editor of Slow Travel Stockholm
Crowdfunding consultant for indie authors—I’ve been so busy that I had to create a waitlist for more clients
Public health consultant for Emory University working with Africa CDC to develop the Institute for Workforce Development.
Writer, website developer, content generator, and moderator for four websites (two of my own,, and one for the local women’s shelter)
-Head of marketing for my upcoming Kickstarter campaign for my debut children’s illustrated book.
Program committee volunteer for the upcoming Families in Global Transition Conference in Bangkok, Thailand
Volunteer with my local women’s shelter which entails monthly meetings and occasional visits to the shelter to support the residents

So, yeah, six jobs and two volunteer efforts in addition to my ongoing weekly participation in three mastermind groups related to entrepreneurship, marketing, and self-publishing. My weeks are jam-packed with work that fulfills me, challenges me, and enables me to work with amazing and creative people.

I think I deserve some new business casual clothes. It’s time for a bit of an update from 2009.

In order to handle the stress of my daily workload, I’ve been waking up at 5 am every day to exercise and journal my gratitude. This new habit meant that despite the vocal five-year-old critic in the dressing room, I felt confident about what I saw reflected in the H&M mirrors.

Transformation must first take place from within. The new clothes were just window dressing.

We headed to the register and I inserted my debit card—the one that pulled money from my solo account that I’ve earned from doing all of this “non-work”—into the card reader.

“Sweetie,” I told her as I punched in my pin code, “sometimes, you just need new clothes to match the work you do.”

Have you read my latest children's book? Check it out here:

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The Culture Shock is Free at Walmart for Returning Americans Mon, 04 Feb 2019 09:08:04 +0000 “What is it like when your American friends visit you? Are you totally overwhelmed with culture shock?” Our Swedish neighbor asked one night at dinner. “No, the culture shock doesn’t happen when friends and family visit because we’re still in Sweden. They are only a tiny piece of America in an ocean of what’s familiar. […]

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“What is it like when your American friends visit you? Are you totally overwhelmed with culture shock?” Our Swedish neighbor asked one night at dinner.

“No, the culture shock doesn’t happen when friends and family visit because we’re still in Sweden. They are only a tiny piece of America in an ocean of what’s familiar. The culture shock happens in Walmart. Always at Walmart,” we explained.

To Americans who have never lived overseas, Walmart is a massively oversized store featuring shrieking children in the toy section and questionable fashion choices from strangers.

To us, Walmart is the scene in the movie where the ceiling grows and the main character suddenly feels very small in a panic. 

We know how Alice in Wonderland feels after she drinks the “Drink me” potion and shrinks down to a fraction of her usual size. That’s how we feel in Walmart.

The products loom over us and the aisles stretch into a disappearing horizon.

Walmart is both terrifying and fascinating all at once.

“I thought it was a bag of dog food, but it was a bag of cookies! Cookies! Who needs cookies in a bag that large?!” My husband finds us with tales from the Walmart jungle. “Seriously, it’s a 10 lb. bag of cookies!”

“Calvin, pick up that jar of peanut butter and put it next to your head. Which is bigger? Oh my god, the peanut butter jar is bigger than your head! That’s incredible!”

We were overcome by all of the food in bulk sizes and at the ridiculous cheapness of it all. Who needs a gallon jug of Ranch dressing for $10.24? Who needs that?

We know how Alice in Wonderland feels after she drinks the “Drink me” potion and shrinks down to a fraction of her usual size. That’s how we feel in Walmart.

Probably the worst moment at Walmart was when the kids asked if they could buy something with the American coins we had in a Ziploc bag.

When we moved to Sweden, running to the bank to turn in all of my USD wasn’t at the top of my to-do list. We moved with about three pounds of useless coinage and lugged it all back to America on this visit with the intent to be rid of it at last.

“You two can split this change and buy whatever you want with it,” I told the kids. Delighted, they sorted all of the coins into piles and we counted them up.

They each had an $8 budget for their Walmart purchases. (We had $16 ($16!) in coins. Do you know how heavy $16 in coins feels?)

It turns out, that Walmart had a lot of options for $8 and that caused a bit of anxiety with my son. “But I could get one of these or two of these…” He was paralyzed in the toy aisle.

Analysis paralysis should be Walmart’s tagline. The overwhelming number of options paralyzes you with decisions.

Too many options. I didn’t need 150 types of deodorant or antiperspirant but yet, there I was, analyzing the contents of five products when all I wanted was one that smelled nice and prevented sweat stains.

I saw the panicked look on my son’s face and did the old parenting trick I learned from my mother when I was his age. I took both of his options and placed them behind my back.

“Pick one,” I said.
“That one,” he pointed to my right hand. I revealed his choice and his face fell.
“Ok then, take this one.”

I offered him the toy in my left hand and he smiled. With that done, we headed to the check-out aisle.

Both kids wanted to process their purchases separately and feel like adults.

Why not? We never let them go shopping with “real money” in Sweden because we have no cash there, only cards, and it’s not really empowering to have their mother whisper the PIN code in their ears as they check out.

Paying with a bag full of coins did not make for a fast transaction. I saw the cashier’s mouth set tightly as she clenched her jaw. She would have to manually count out $8 in coins to process the kids’ purchases.

We had already counted everything and handed her the exact amount, but she had to double check.

After what felt like an eternity of coin counting, the kids’ toys were paid for and I placed the items that my husband and I were purchasing on the conveyor belt.

While checking out, I looked through my wallet and noticed that I only had large USD bills left.

Internally cursing, I knew that this cashier would realize that I could’ve saved her a ton of time by A) processing the kids’ toys together, instead of in separate transactions, and B) using my lovely $50 instead of the $16 in coins she had just counted by hand.

With a large smile, I handed her the only bill I had in USD because we don’t have anything smaller because we never pay in cash ANYWHERE. 

“Thank you SOO much. We appreciate your patience,” I cooed as I bagged my purchases and left that house of horrors full of indecision and overwhelm.

Walmart—creating culture shock in returning Americans since 1993.

But, let’s face it. Walmart is just the easiest store to get your culture shock for free.

It wasn’t necessarily the endless options of multivitamins, the expansive rows of every variant of peanut butter texture one might imagine, or even the crowd of people swirling around us.

The culture shock we felt had more to do with the fact that the physical building dwarfed all of the inhabitants.

We felt very tiny and insignificant while walking through the store.

I think we feel very small and insignificant when we visit in the US.

Everything feels bigger in the US than it does in Sweden—the roads, the cars, the traffic, the stores, the houses, the noise.

To us, it’s overwhelming. To the kids, it’s awesome.

Our kids loved Walmart. They love America.

Every time we visit, we are on vacation. Who wouldn’t love eating ice cream after every dinner. Of course, they love being surrounded by family who gush over them when they sleep over.

They wish we had a bigger house, “Like Grammy and Poppy and Grandma and Pepe” and wish we could visit more often.

It’s important for us, as parents, to remember that our kids aren’t processing our visits in the same way. They aren’t seeing the entire picture. 

The adults are seeing the fact that we don’t have the right cash in hand, we have forgotten how big everything is, our friends are wanting to meet up but we are exhausted and disoriented, and everything feels like a slog.

Culture shock, even when only temporary, is emotionally exhausting.

Even being surrounded by English 24/7 is overwhelming. My brain refuses to turn off and I simply must listen to everyone’s inane conversations because I can.

While the adults heads are about to explode, all the kids see are huge jars of delicious peanut butter and fun dinosaur heads that they want to jam into their suitcases.

Maybe the adults in the room can take note from the kids and analyze less and enjoy more.

Interested in my upcoming rhyming children’s book about Halloween

Click here to sign up and you’ll get a free ebook when it’s ready to read! 

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The Mom Who Cried Wolf Tue, 15 Jan 2019 09:38:58 +0000 The snow crunched beneath my thick soled boots. After a week without snow and temperatures that rose during the day and fell at night, the ground was covered in patchy bits of hardened snow. The top layer was icy, and a confident stride would degenerate into walking like a novice tight rope walker with both […]

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The snow crunched beneath my thick soled boots. After a week without snow and temperatures that rose during the day and fell at night, the ground was covered in patchy bits of hardened snow. The top layer was icy, and a confident stride would degenerate into walking like a novice tight rope walker with both arms flailing out to regain balance.

My six-month-old energetic puppy bound ahead of me, her paws slipping and finding grip in alternating strides. Her pattern was erratic as she kept her nose to the ground searching for smells. She zoomed in front of me, around, and back again within the time it took me to move five steps forward.

We headed to our favorite location—a large wooded area toward the edge of the expansive golf course that provided me with a scenic home office view out my back window. The area held sheep during the summer months and in the winter, served as a suitable place to let dogs run around without their leashes.

The pup discovered the woods absorbed all of her pent-up energy and I felt the fence provided a clear boundary so she wouldn’t get too far away. I relaxed once I closed the gate and unclipped her leash. We wandered around and breathed in the pine trees and listened to the birds still chirping and chattering away—breaking the winter stillness.

After my third trip to the fenced-in site, I noticed a piece torn plastic ribbon with the word, “Fornlämning” printed on it and wrapped around a tree. I recognized the same tape from my recent archeological digs at a nearby ruin. Archeologists used the tape to rope off areas of excavation.

I Googled the location and the word, “fornlämning,” and I discovered that the fenced-in area that served as our makeshift dog park was the site of over 70 burial mounds from the years 400-1100—the Viking Age.

“Everywhere has ruins. You can’t dig a shallow hole without finding something of historical value,” my neighbor explained as I revealed the exciting news that we lived near ancient ruins. “All of Sweden is practically an ancient ruin.” He was unimpressed.

But this was OUR ancient ruin. Practically in our backyard. Actually, it was better than our backyard because we could visit it whenever we wanted and still play soccer without worrying about trampling over ancient graves.

We nicknamed it the “far sheep pen” because of course, there was another sheep pen located even closer to our house. The far sheep pen became my favorite destination on our morning walks. Our dog got some much-needed exercise, and I had a chance to stretch my legs and enjoy the scenery.

We developed a healthy routine of walking to the pen, making a loop inside the fence, and walking back to the house within 45 minutes. The pup often collapsed once we got back to the house and I logged some uninterrupted writing time into my morning every day. What we didn’t know was that our newfound perfect outdoor routine was about to be interrupted by an unwanted intruder.

Out for a walk

On Saturday morning, I headed out with the dog on our usual walk. Grass poked up between the semi-melted patches of snow and we quickly found our way to the far sheep pen. Within sight of the fence, a paw print in the snow stopped me in my tracks. It’s very common to see owners and their dogs walking around the golf course as the conditions were not great for cross-country skiers, so there are countless paw prints in the snow so, why did this one catch my eye?

I could’ve easily dismissed this print as a large dog print, but it was larger than any other paw print I had ever seen. Our dog is a Labrador mixed with Golden Retriever and she weighs about 45 lbs (20 kg). She’s a medium-sized dog (still growing) and I figured that her paw print might be a good approximation for how large of a print I could expect to see from an average sized dog. I found one of her paw prints in the snow for comparison. The larger snow print was 4x-5x larger than the one her feet made.

Now, after much research and paying close attention to my dog’s paw prints, I know now that the conditions of the snow affect the size of the print.

If the snow is soft and melting, a paw print can look quite larger than it is in reality. If the snow is hard and frozen, a dog’s weight may barely make an impression, thereby creating a very small paw print.

Taking in all of that information, it remained a shockingly large print in the snow. I took a picture with my hand next to it and my own dog’s paw print for comparison’s sake.

Wolf print?
My dog's print

I also looked at the tracks of the prints in the snow. They were in a straight line.

Looking at my dog’s tracks, hers were erratic and overlapping as she often doubled back and ran ahead. Her back paws landed just behind where her front paws hit, creating a pattern of two prints on each side of her path as she trots along.

These larger prints in the snow were much farther apart and not stacked in the 2×2 formation. There were also no human footprints in the vicinity.

Whatever animal made these prints was most likely large (at least 60 kg if we’re using paw print size to estimate weight and using my dog’s prints for reference), walking in a straight line, and walking alone. It didn’t follow the pattern of your typical domestic dog out for a walk with its owner.

We like to consider our neighborhood as being “subrural”—a blend of both suburban and rural areas. Our street borders fenced in pastures that corral Icelandic horses in the spring and summer and the other side borders an open golf course.

In true Swedish style, fences line the areas leading to the houses (not that it stops any deer from hopping over) and are open on the side bordering the wooded areas to allow wild animals to make an exit. This somewhat permeable border doesn’t restrict animal movement at all and provides a false sense of security to the humans.

We’ve seen only evidence of lynx (deer carcasses and bones hauled up into trees) but we have seen moose eating apples, glaring at us as we approach, and of course, the average (and boring) deer tugging on our trees with their itchy and uncomfortable growing antlers. Based on the shape of prints, moose and deer were out, so that left only wolf and lynx as a possibility.

Wolf or lynx?

Wolves often walk in a straight line because they are used to hunting in stealth mode. Domestic dogs don’t even think about walking in a straight line unless walking on a leash and when off-leash, dogs usually alternate between running, walking, and circling back to their owner who is trailing behind.

I was unfamiliar with lynx tracks but knew that there has never been a recorded lynx attack against humans. “It’s probably a lynx,” I thought, and the more comfortable thought of a lynx replaced the wolf assumption in my mind.

I followed the large prints until they disappeared into the frozen grass. Without fresh snow, it was too hard to track the tracks for long. Without seeing the wolf myself, I started to doubt my initial assumption that the tracks were a wolf’s at all, and we continued to the fenced-in sheep pen.

I scanned the hills for any movement and proceeded with caution. My dog sniffed the ground with alertness she usually doesn’t have when playing. A few times, she froze with her head looking straight ahead and one time, she jumped backward in fear. Turns out, she was spooked by some overturned trees that fell over after a strong wind storm the night before. Their roots exposed was a new sight and she was unsure about the changes that occurred in her usual sniffing spots.

However, her behavior was freaking me out. I know that she is scared of birds and airplanes and that I couldn’t rely on her as an early warning system against some unknown predator but she was overly jumpy.

All of a sudden, a group of birds in a tree chirped in a chorus of cacophony. The dog stopped with her tail held high in the air at attention. I scanned the horizon, looking for movement among the trees and bushes but saw nothing.

Was something climbing the tree? Hunting? Were we being hunted? Oh my God, I put us in a fenced-in area for safety and now we’re being hunted by a lynx/wolf/monster. I’m such an idiot!

My mind raced to the ridiculous as the only explanation possible and my freak out was complete.

I clipped the leash back on my dog’s collar and led her out the fence. We were out of there in a flash.

I felt like there was something behind us, like when you turn off the last light in the basement before you head up the stairs and was afraid to look back.

“Just keep moving forward. It’ll be fine. Lynxes don’t hunt humans and the dog isn’t a threat.”

I’ve seen lynx drag large deer up into trees so I was lying to myself that a lynx wouldn’t hunt down my goofy black lab puppy with the softest floppiest ears. She would make for such an easy snack. I felt like an idiot for not turning around once I saw the tracks.

We made it safely home but the specter of something unknown claiming the golf course as their territory put both me and my husband on edge.

In the news

Our local newspaper featured front page articles about residents who saw a few wolves on the other side of town. Surely, those wolves couldn’t have covered that much distance already, right?

We sent the snow print pictures to our friends, they all responded with the wow face emoji and told us to report it the authorities using the app, Skandobs.

The app showed a map of all local observations and as I placed my observation on the map, it was clear that we were the outlier. All of the other observations were way on the other side of town—kilometers away. What was more interesting/frightening was that someone had found bear tracks and scat. A bear!? I have to worry about bears too? Come on, Sweden.

I chose the best pictures and uploaded them into the app. My phone rang 24 hours later from a woman at Lansstyrelsen who asked me questions about what I had reported. She asked if I thought the wolf could be found by airplane or helicopter observation. Yes, I believe with the winter trees, finding a wolf via helicopter would be easiest.

The snow melted and with it, all traces of whatever it was that made those tracks.

Days went by without incident and I began to believe that the entire thing was a fabrication of my imagination. My own fears about the unknown, the never-ending darkness of winter, and the thought of being trailed by a top predator were getting the best of me. I discounted the notion that there was a wolf in our area and chalked it up to misreading a dog’s paw prints.


“I met a woman with a dog who shared some interesting news with me.”

My husband stood in our hallway, removing his snow pants and reflective vest after his nightly walk with the dog. His nighttime loop around the golf course mirrored my daytime loop but instead of heading toward the woods, he stuck to the roads and skirted the outer edge of the golf course by our house.

“The wolf has been confirmed. A man told her about seeing a stray dog on the golf course earlier today until he realized that there aren’t any stray dogs here and that it was much larger than any dog he’s ever seen before.”

Confirmation that I wasn’t crazy was great but it wasn’t the best news to hear. There was a lone wolf in our vicinity and lone wolves, without the benefit of hunting in a pack, often target domestic dogs for their easy snacks.


I Googled “wolf hunting patterns” and discovered that yes, wolves are nocturnal so my daytime walks should be fairly uneventful but wolves with pups are active during the day (because apparently, even wolf pups never let their parents sleep. We have more in common with wolves than we think.)

The next afternoon, I worked from my home office upstairs and heard the thumping sound of helicopter blades in the air. A helicopter was scanning the treetops and made slow loops over our nearby woods.

The wolf was still out there and we were not the only ones hoping to find it.

Wolves in our folklore

Wolves have an undeniable place in human culture and folklore. In Native American tribes, wolves are admired for their strength, hunting prowess, and cooperation as a pack. They teach us about sharing, caring for our family unit, and living courageously.

Folktales portray wolves as either ruthless and fierce or noble and loyal—I guess it the traits emphasized changed based on the lesson being told.

In Norse mythology and Native American culture, the wolf is associated with warrior status. Odin is accompanied by two wolves as loyal companions. Nearly every Native American tribe had some wolf lore and considered the wolf to have the power to heal, provide strength, and courage,

Wolf Conservation

I Googled my town’s name and varg (wolf) and discovered that interactions between humans and wolves rarely ends well for the wolf. Generally, the wildlife folks at Lansstyrelsen track new observations using the app, Skandobs, a database of Scandinavian large predators, and attempts to find and remove the wolf before it harms anyone.

In 2018, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency handed over the rights to hunt wolves, bears, and lynx to the decision of the counties as long as a minimum population is maintained (preventing total wipeout of the species).

In short, the counties don’t take much action aside from notifying residents about a wolf in the area unless it starts eating family pets and people start to become outraged. Then, a hunt is licensed and the wolf’s days are numbered.

I’m not a fan of feeling uneasy walking my dog in my own neighborhood, but I’m also not a fan of killing a beautiful animal just because it wandered into our town.

Humans are encroaching more and more on the wildlife and it is our human development that changes the territories of these wolves.

If you want to take action and help save the gray wolf, Defenders of Wildlife has some great options.

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