Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Moving Challenges

This week I am in a frenzy of trying to make our new apartment into a home or at least a place where we can live in from this Friday on. Our temporary lease is up and our new apartment is ours. Mark picked up the keys on the 22nd when Zoe and I were in Copenhagen and yesterday, after we had flown back the evening before, we entered our new home together. Our situation presents several challenges since we are not getting our half container of furniture and stuff (read: books and kitchenware) before the end of January. This means that that we will be living rather minimalistic, sleeping on an air mattress, sitting on pillows on the floor and eating off a borrowed table (thanks Jacob!). Today I went to Ikea to get some minimal level of kitchen utensils. I felt really silly buying things that I already have in a container somewhere on the Atlantic ocean. But I am not doing badly because when in Copenhagen I dug through my old stuff and found my inherited silverware which I brought back with me (yes, I have real heirloom silverware, forks, knives, a teapot and for some odd reason a million teaspoons. My grandparents must have had many people over for tea all the time).
 I also brought my old European sized Vipp bin that my brother had borrowed for half a decade. So for the next month we will drink espresso from my new posh espresso maker (my lovely husband's Christmas present to me), eat with real silver and enjoy throwing trash in a posh trash can. All while sitting on plastic chairs, eating one-pot meals like risotto and stews by candle light.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Flooring surprise

The new floors drying
When we bought our new apartment we discussed if we should keep the floors their black color. I liked it but after Mark did a photoshop of the room with white floors we decided to redo them and get them white washed. After shopping for a decent flooring company, a nice guy named Micke went to check out the floors so he could give us a quote. Turns out the floors in the whole apartment (the whole apartment, except obviously the few square feet in the tiled bathroom) are sanded down to their last millimeters. This means that they will never be white. Instead Micke was able to cover it with a wonder-cover called hardwax that prevents the black oil smudging as it did before. It looks great unless you look at the kitchen part where the floor boards are pushing up in the lining, revealing the 0.5 millimeter of wood. More long term we will have to have them relayed. As in having put in new hardwood floors on 65 square meters (that is around 700 square feet). Wish we had known this before we bought the place so we could have used it as bargain leverage, but hey, you live and you learn.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Walking, walking, walking

Last Friday I flew down to Copenhagen with Zoe. It was one of the easiest flights ever with her, she was a darling despite being slightly ill, coughing and sneezing. I don't travel with a stroller, have never done and will never do. I have a used one in Copenhagen for getting around there and I take her in the Beco on the way to and from the airport for the stretches where she can't walk herself. The great thing is she is increasingly able to walk more and more by herself. She walked onto the airplane herself and was very patient as we stood in line on the air bridge for close to 15 minutes, having her head bumped by inconsiderate business men with their big laptop bags. She cried for 20 seconds as we got seated at our window seat and fell asleep right after take off, sleeping until we landed an hour later. She walked off the airplane herself too and as if my magic, an airport provided stroller appeared (yes, this is one of the reasons I love Copenhagen airport) right outside our gate. She put her little bag underneath the stroller like her mother does, except this version didn't have a basket so I had to save it from being run over before we took off. When we had to leave the stroller before the arrival gate she turned around and waved goodbye to it, as it was her dearest toy in the world. She walked, holding my hand, past all the baggage belts until we reached number 6, much to the amazement by other people who probably rarely saw such little children walking by themselves. At the carrousel we stopped and Zoe looked excitedly for the big green suitcase she had seen her clothes disappear into back at home in Stockholm. When I got it, carrying her in my arms was out of the question, and I managed to lure her into walking the very last stretch through the customs by telling her grandma was waiting at the other door. She was and Zoe ran up to her, with open arms, giving my mom the biggest hug. My mother's eyes welled up. Nothing better than a toddler that recognizes you with love.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Today I got a piece of really good news: an academic paper that I wrote based on thoughts I have had for a long time, actually since I did my first empirical studies during my PhD, has been accepted to the prime conference in my field. They have a 23% acceptance rate and although I have had papers there before, this is my first 'solo-author' paper. It shows that my rather controversial thoughts on the topic are valid and I now have the opportunity to presents these issues to a larger audience. I am obviously already nervous if I can defend them well enough during question time, but so far, this is overshadowed by my excitement.

This also means that I am going to a conference in Texas in May, leaving on Zoe's 2nd birthday. Alas, she will be a full fare ticket and since there is no childcare at this conference, and Mark is going too, I have decided to leave her at home with grandma. It will be the first time I am away from Zoe for more than one night, but she loves her grandma and I know she will be fine. May is still 5 months away.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bye bye grandma

Grandma flew back earlier this afternoon, leaving Zoe whimpering at the door but in a home much more homey than when she had arrived: My mom managed to add a bit of Christmas decoration to my pathetic first attempt and sprinkle pine filled decorations around the apartment. Zoe has eaten more chocolate the last 3 days than she has eaten her whole life but at least she took some broccoli in her mouth this evening before throwing it on the floor. She is now sleeping through the night again, which she will hopefully continue to do this week, which will be my last work week before Christmas vacation (apart from a few work meetings in Copenhagen). I am looking forward to seeing my lovely husband again tomorrow morning when he flies back from Boston.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grandma to the rescue

This morning I screamed at Zoe because we were late for daycare (very late) and she needed her diaper changed but wouldn't lie still, probably because her tummy hurt. It was yet another stressful morning where she woke up late after having been awake for the two neat hours between 2am and 4am, like the other nights, leaving me a zombie when my alarm went off at 6.45am. Experiencing one of the low points of my 19 months of motherhood, I lost my temper with her in desperation to get her to lie still, but oddly enough she didn't get scared, she didn't cry harder. She just looked at me with a puzzled look, wondering why I was yelling so loud when she was right there. We eventually managed to get out the door and walk the extra blocks to another subway entrance where the elevator was surely working, opposite our local entrance where the elevator had been out of order for two days. After dropping off a crying tired toddler, I had to compose myself in front of the daycare director when I passed by her office on my way out, but burst out crying as soon as I had the front door to the daycare behind me. On my way to work, after having collected myself I called my mom with the pretense to ask how the Lucia dress was going. She asked how Zoe was and I started sobbing again. "I don't know how I am going to manage, she doesn't sleep at night and she is still not eating much. Mark is coming back Sunday but until then I am just on my own". My mom paused. "Do you want me to go and get a plane ticket to come up there", she said inquisitively. "Yes", I whined. And this is why grandma is coming on the first plane to Stockholm tomorrow, with a Lucia dress size 86 and a roll of marzipan (a Danish Christmas delight).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Daycare makes babies sick

I started last week with a visit to the nice Swedish health services. It turns out they have walk-in hours everyday between 9.30 and 11.30 where you get to see your "house doctor" (general practitioner). Since I didn't have a house doctor yet, I just waited for the first one available, which was about half an hour (their signage was so bad that I ended going upstairs first, just to stand in line to be sent back down where now everyone who had also arrived at 9.27 had signed in). Meanwhile Zoe charmed the waiting room by her eiiis and ohhhhs and at one point waving bye bye at me, turning around with her pull-along train and walking out of the waiting room, into the larger lobby. She looked back several times, waving again, and I just waved back. When she couldn't see me anymore she walked back, realizing that she wasn't really comfortable being that far away either. Occasionally she started crying out of the blue, holding her hand on the right side of her head like it was hurting and it was for this very reason, plus her on and off slight fever, that had brought us in. The doctor made me hold her head still so he could look into her ear, which I was not happy about, especially because I knew that she would hold it still herself if I had time to explain it to her and distract her. But there was apparently no time for that. My instincts were right, a light ear infection on her right ear. She didn't need antibiotics unless I observed her getting significantly worse. This is when I thought it would take two days.

Four days and one failed morning of daycare ("Sorry, but Zoe is just crying after her nap, I don't think she is over her illness yet", the nice director told me on the phone at 1pm, trying really hard not to make me feel like the bad mom that I was) after, I managed to submit the funding application that was due that week after having worked each evening, when Zoe was finally asleep, not in my arms. The research report that was also due this week had to wait, nobody was going to die if I submitted it next week (I might get a black tick in somebody's book of professional people who deserve funding from a particular agency in the future, but hey, I'll just have to find another funding agency...).

So what did I learn this week? Well, firstly, I should always be one full week ahead with my deadlines because with a child in daycare and a husband that also works (and is attending a full time Swedish course at the moment), anything can happen. Secondly, Sweden has a wonderful health system with apparently no co-pay for house doctors (in opposition to the emergency room) and great walk-in services. I'll use them again. The second lesson is definitely an easier one to deal with than the first one.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The pressure is on

I opened the news letter from the daycare, and although I was prepared for some potential holiday activities, I wasn't quite prepared for the level of requirements that awaited. In December it is Nobel day and Lucia day. Nobel day seemed viable, the children simply needed to wear 'elegant clothes'. Zoe has several dresses that can, in the right light, look at least cute (still not sure how you make a chubby toddler look elegant). Lucia day was a bit more complicated: she needed to wear a Lucia dress and carry a little battery driven candle. I am all for traditions but the thought of having to buy a white dress that my daughter will wear for two hours, then shove it in the drawer until next year where I will take it out again, only to discover that it is now a miniskirt and it would offend all the teachers if I let her wear it, was just a bit draining. Plus, we are on a serious budget. How much sewing would such dress be in need of, I thought. I probably had an old sheet somewhere, I just didn't have a sewing machine here. But guess who has a sewing machine? My mom (who used to have her own designer store). One text, a phone call and a measuring tape from Zoe's shoulders to her feet later, I had a deal. My mom will make a long dress that I can possibly reuse because of its long hem and her creativity when it comes to adding edges next year. Sent by express mail. I already felt some of the mommy-pressure ease off my shoulders.