Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Home is where your duvet is

For the past couple of weeks I have been looking at apartments, each sunday as is customary in Sweden, going to 'viewings' with Zoe to see if we can find something just slightly bigger. Or that is, one with a bedroom for me too so I can get a proper bed and not have to sleep on a sofa bed. It was actually a comment from Zoe's dad that got to me and made me think about moving. He said, during one of our not so easy conversations about things that I also have this "strange apartment", as in, that it is not appropriate for me and Zoe. It is 34 square meters, roughly 360 square feet, one nice sized living room and a small room for Zoe that just fits her bed and toys. The kitchen is separate but open towards the living room. The large bay window faces east and it is on 5th floor, which means it is very light and I love having breakfast at the balcony. It is located smack in the middle of everything, 10 min from daycare, five minutes from 10+ cafes and restaurants. I love it and think it is probably the best apartment I have had (ironically perhaps apart from the one Zoe's dad and I bought, the one he took over and lives in now). In any case the comment got me thinking and I found myself going as far as to talk to my bank and get a maximum price, almost cry over one apartment that I couldn't afford and seeing five or six potential ones.

Today we saw the last one though. It was a slightly bigger one but not by much, it had a bedroom for Zoe and an alcove room for me. The wallpaper in the kitchen was hideous though and the built-in beds needed to be lowered. Worst of all though was the location, it took us 30 min including a bus half the way to get from daycare and as we walked away, I felt we had ended up on the countryside. No people, low houses, lots of trees and no shops. I knew this was exactly the one I could actually afford so if I wanted a bedroom for myself and one for Zoe that will fit a bigger bed, this was it.

Setting up a picnic
When we got home, I started cooking while Zoe went to play in her room. I handed her her doll through the gap between the kitchen and her room (probably made to let light into the kitchen) and she proceeded to bring her duvet out in the living room, setting up for a picnic. When dinner was ready she insisted that we sit on the floor, her bare legs under the duvet, and eat the edamame beans and the spaghetti I had whipped up. I let her because it looked so cozy. And then I realized what I should have realized several weeks ago. Zoe is completely happy here in our 'strange apartment'. She is in no need of more space, a different setup or even a bigger bed. She is entirely happy here and so am I. In fact this apartment makes living in Stockholm more acceptable. I can hear the buzz from the city and we can see the moon from the window. I decided not to look at any more apartments at all from now on and throw away the brochures I had gathered. This is our home. Our wonderful home. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Doctors and Macaroons

I coincidentally lifted Zoe's hair as I was brushing it last night, only to reveal a large patch of eczema behind the top part of her ear. "Aaauuuuuch" she proclaimed as I tried to touch it. "We have to go to the doctor tomorrow", I concluded because as much as I probably could dap some hydrocortisone on it, I wasn't sure if that was the best/only thing to do. I wished my best friend who happens to be a doctor was here, but she lives in Denmark.

Hence, the week started with me getting out of bed just a bit too late, waking up a drowsy Zoe who luckily was so excited about going to the doctor that I could convince her breakfast would be a glass of milk and four crackers that we brought in a bag for the bus. Because the doctor is over by her dad's place, four bus stops away. The doctor turned out to speak only accented Swedish, which meant that Zoe didn't understand a word; the doctor gave me a piece of paper with instructions to apply hydrocortisone on the ear morning and evening. Zoe was so unimpressed that she tried to escape before I had gotten the prescription. Plus for Swedish healthcare: they have drop-in for small issues and it is free for kids. Minus for Swedish healthcare: the healthcare terminology is very weird so we first ended up in the drug abuse unit, me being slightly confused about the tattooed people in the waiting room; doctor communication quality, a bit random.

Luckily daycare texted us to which park they had gone in the morning because by now it was closer to ten in the morning and the day had been going for a while. Taking the bus back to where they were, we quickly found them and Zoe ran off with Alicia, her Irish friend. I was stressed by now and to get some peace and quite I decided to hide in a coffee shop with a flat white and write on my paper. I partly succeed although two guys from my unit came over and said hi but left quickly.

By lunch time I managed to get going on my tax issues and ended up spending two hours trying to deduct all the travel expenses I had on research travel, which had not been paid by my employer (or anyone else). I rand out the door at 3:30 to get to daycare before 4:30 where Zoe was excited to see me. "Can I have an ice cream" she asked and I agreed because it would be her treat for going with me to the gym. We walked to long way to the gym with the nicer play room and she laughed when I left her: "Mommy, this is like daycare!". I agreed and didn't say out loud what I thought: Yes, but here you don't cry when I leave. When I returned an hour later, she was doing an alphabet puzzle and the girl who looked after her was very impressed: "She speaks so many languages!". I just laughed and waited for Zoe to finish.

Zoe and her Macaroons
We went to the grocery store on the way back because we were out of milk but in the freezer we found the most wonderful thing: Macaroons. They were small and frozen but there were 12 in a pack and Zoe hugged them all the way home. "Can I have one now", she asked but I managed to keep her away from them until after dinner. At this point, it was 8pm and past her 'getting ready for bed' time. I tried desperately to get her in her pajamas but even though I only read three short books, she tossed and turned in bed, clearly not that tired. At 9pm we had been singing 7 songs, talked about how many days before we go to see grandma and Zoe had told me that she doesn't like it when I travel without her. She then sat up and looked at me. "Mom, you are the *best* there is", she said very seriously and looked me straight in the eyes. I teared up and gave her a hug. It might have taken an hour and a half to get her to sleep and I might not have time to write anything more on any papers this evening, but it was worth it just so see her little face with the sincere look exclaim something as simple as that. When I get older, these are the moments I will remember and cherish, not the moments of paper writing and email reading. She finally fell asleep ten past ten with her legs sticking out of the bed and two dolls in her arms. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Home is where you speak the language

I often get the question: so is Zoe trilingual? when explaining our situation. I laugh and say no, she is bilingual, her first language is English, second is Danish. She is in an English speaking group at her trilingual daycare (the third language is French) so she is not around much Swedish. But fact is that she is learning. A couple of her good friends there are Swedish speaking and she understands a lot and uses a great tactic: She holds her breath for a second and thinks, then she says the thing in Danish with Swedish intonation and Swedish words if she knows them. It's adorable. Except I hate it. I hate that she is learning Swedish because of my own rejection of it and my own aversion against living here.

It was a close friend of mine who pointed out the problem last night during a long phone call where I had expressed my grief about yet another matter (because if my life wasn't complicated enough, my love life sucks as well*). Fact is that Zoe likes Sweden because it is her home. She needs to learn Swedish if she is here so she can integrate other than just in daycare. I have seen her joy when we are in Denmark or the US and she can speak to people in public. She doesn't shut up, she tells everyone in a shop that it's her birthday and that she got a present, or that she is going to the playground. Here in Sweden she uses her best listening skills before turning to me asking "Mom, what does the lady say?" and I have to translate.

Zoe likes Sweden and if I express any dissonance in relation to her home, she will only get confused and sad. I tell her things like "we don't speak Swedish at home" if she ever utters a single Swedish word but it only reflects my own grief, it does not help Zoe in her understanding of her home and identity as Danish/Scottish/American/Swedish. My friend also told me to stop complaining, because I can't change the things I don't like about Sweden, and instead make a decision to stay or go. So that's what I'm trying to do. Trying to make that decision.

*As in being in love with someone who doesn't want you, having an affair with someone who also then doesn't want you and really just wanting to be back with someone who definitely doesn't want you. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Happy birthday Zoe!

I wrote letters, Zoe did the edge...
Zoe turned 4 a couple of weeks ago and as flybabies do, she had parties in several countries. We started in Denmark where I returned to from a conference, finding her telling everyone she encountered that "it's my birthday today". It was wonderful to see her excitement when everyone from the hairdresser to the shop assistant gave her chocolate and three hairbands; I didn't have the heart to tell her that it was not until the day after, but I did have a thing or two to explain my mom who had convinced Zoe that the day of the Danish party was her actual birthday. In the evening I told Zoe the truth and she was mainly happy: "I get many happy birthdays!".

And so she did. Another one on her real birthday where two of my friends came over (her dad was still traveling) for sushi and another large party at her dad's place where she got the big present she had wished for the whole year: A real bike with pedals and a seat on the back for her doll. And finally she had a party for all her friends at daycare which I had planned with another little girl's mom to save a bit of the hassle. Zoe was more than happy to share her birthday party with Alice as long as there was a Hello Kitty cake and balloons. We had reserved the play room at the Nordic Museum, a hidden gem in Stockholm.
Waiting for the birthday party at the Nordic Museum
It was her babysitter who pointed out the obvious: Although we, Zoe's parents, have split up, we held the parties together. We were both there for the adult party and we were both there for the kids party. We have many mutual friends and apart from the nostalgic pain I always get from being at my old apartment (the apartment we bought together as a family where Zoe's dad still lives with all the furniture that we acquired together through the years), we were perfectly fine, chatting to our mutual friend and playing with the kids. I guess that's an important thing to give to Zoe. And I hope we can continue that for many years forward. I guess that's the best birthday present we can give her.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Flybaby's aversion of planes

"I don't want to take the plan, I want to take the train", Zoe yelled and started crying. "Planes go 'booooom' and on the train you can watch television* all the way". Trying to hide my annoyance, I told her that the plane was much faster and that it was not going to go boom, and that she could watch television as soon as we had taken off. Fact was that I have paid 1300 kr (200$) for her ticket because I was coming back from Toronto via Copenhagen to pick her up and my own plane ticket was paid for. And I really just wanted to be home, after a crazy week of travel and conferencing, seeing people I hadn't seen for a year, drinking too much for my own good most nights and ignoring my emails for a week and a half. Flying it was and finally Zoe calmed down. In the taxi to the airport, she even cheered herself up: "Mommy, I remember one time we took the plane and I lay down and slept and I didn't even feel that it went boom". Yes, Zoe, you fall asleep immediately whenever we board a plane and sleep all the way through.

She was a darling for the rest of the trip and even got the security guy to pat her down by asking nicely since the priority section was virtually empty. When we got on the plane and sat down she said something funny. "Mom, we have never been on this plane before". I told her that we probably had, it was the usual Airbus 320 that always shuttled between Copenhagen and Stockholm and there was a big chance that we had been on this before. "No, Mom, we have not been on this one", she insisted. We took off and after she lay down on my lap and fell asleep I looked up and indeed saw something new: Instead of the no smoking sign next to the seatbelt sign there was a 'no electronic devices' sign. This was indeed one of SAS's new planes that I had heard they had acquired but not flown on before. Looking around, everything was new and shiny and I had to admit that Zoe's observation was entirely accurate. Once a flybaby, always a flybaby, no matter how much it says boom when we land.

*Zoe uses the danish word "fjernsyn", which is roughly television, about anything she can watch on her iPad, the only means of watching any video type things we have.