We’re settling back into our daily routine after a couple of seriously up and down weeks. The girls both started ballet, I had my first midwife appointment, we’ve been enjoying lots of drizzly days at home, and sunny days at the local park and digging up worms in the backyard. I’ve been baking lots of banana bread, roasting chicken, making stock and soup, and experimenting with all things that can be cooked in a cast iron skillet. I’ve taken tips from two of my favorite ladies, Amanda and Bethany, and am working on making our house a cozy semblance of a home. Amanda has great posts about keeping your house tidy, cozy, and wonderfully inviting. Bethany has great tips about establishing routines, and for homeschooling. Their blogs have been monumentally helpful for me these past few weeks as I attempt to create a little life here.
We wrapped up September with a trip to the emergency room, which really rattled me. Lulu fell and hit her eyebrow on the coffee table when Kyle was out of town. I was on my own with the girls and had no idea what to do… I mean, I knew what we needed to do (not our first adventure with sutures), but had no idea how to do it. After some fumbling, we called a taxi and the three of us made our way to the closest ER (A&E here in England) where we spent the next four hours amongst equally sad and sorry folks waiting to be patched up and treated.
The thing that buoyed me up through the anxiety and desperate aloneness of the experience was our taxi driver. He made the evening so much better by offering his advice on where to go, drastically undercharging us for his services, coming all the way back to the hospital to pick us up hours later, and giving me a big hug when he dropped us back at home. His kindness made all the difference in the world that evening; it didn’t, however, prevent Lulu’s cut from opening back up overnight.
Rather than going back to the ER, I opted to do a little DIY patching up. Honestly, I couldn’t stand the thought, both logistically and emotionally, of going back for another round at the ER. I had a good cry, gave the kids a good bath, and then headed to the local pharmacy and store to buy supplies to glue Lulu back together myself. I didn’t feel very strong or capable throughout the ordeal, but looking back I can see that the girls and I did a pretty damn good job getting through it together as a little band of brave musketeers.
Kyle returned home to a much wearier and more worried wife than he’d left, but we rallied to celebrate his 35th birthday with a quiet family dinner that included brownies from a box, the season six finale of The Great British Bake Off, and putting together our plans for a trip to Sweden the following weekend. After the trials getting utilities set up, having Lulu patched up, and wading our way through the homesickness, we were ready to bust out of England for an adventure.
So, off we jetted to Stockholm to properly celebrate Kyle’s birthday, visit with my brother who’s been living there, meet up with Swedish friends, and wander through the city for a few days. This is our second trip to Stockholm, and it was just as magical the second time around. Stockholm is such a beautiful, inviting, magical city – it’s quickly coming to rival Paris for my favorite European city.
That our opportunity to explore Stockholm meant three days with my brother which included warm, much needed hugs, and his offer to babysit the girls for a few hours so Kyle and I could go on a date to walk through Galma stan and grab dinner, was just the cherry on top of a wonderful weekend. We mostly just wandered around without too much of an agenda, which is my favorite way to travel, but we did spent a whole day playing at Skansen and Rosendals Trädgård.
After Stockholm we hopped on a cross-country train to Gothenburg where Kyle was slated to make a collaboration brew with a Swedish brewery. Kyle worked one full day, and the girls and I ventured out of the city to explore Styrsö, one of the islands that makes up the Gothenburg Archipeligo. We had a wonderful day and I seriously impressed myself. Normally it’s Kyle who navigates the trams, buses, subways, ferries, maps, and schedules – especially in foreign countries! But I got the kids down the hill from our airbnb rental (which, given that I was 28 weeks pregnant and there were a lot of stairs, a loaded stroller, and two freezing cold kids, is worth noting), onto the tram, then into H&M to buy warm hats and mittens for the girls, then onto the next tram, then onto the bus, then off of the bus (which, given that Lulu chose that moment to have an epic tantrum, is worth noting), then onto the ferry!
We had no objective other than to wander around the island, enjoying the sun and changing leaves. Our first stop was a small cafe where I got myself a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea, and double scoop ice creams for the girls (offered up for free by the cafe owner – no doubt in order to both please the gals, and to dwindle their ice cream supply before the even chillier Swedish weather kicks in). Kids will eat ice cream with gusto in any weather! Or at least kids will eat half of their ice cream with gusto in any weather until their lips go numb. Then they’ll abandon their ice cream to play at the park. Which is what we did for the next two hours.
I just let them play while I watched the water, the wind in the trees, and let that lovely Swedish red of the houses fill my vision. I felt so grateful for getting to be there on that little island, on a beautiful fall day, with my wonderful ice-cream-enthusiast-tantrum-throwing-adventurous girls, and a babe hiccuping away in my belly. We walked around a bit before making our way back to the ferry, back onto the bus, the tram, to the grocery store, to the next tram, back up the path and the huge flight of stairs, where we took a quick shower and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner.
Even though this move has been less than smooth, and even though the transition into this new life has been so much more challenging than we anticipated, and even though there’s been (many) moments when I’ve wanted to scramble backwards to our old, familiar life, I’m grateful for it. Every time something is hard I try to remember how much we are learning from it, and every time something feels easy I have extra gratitude for that ease.
Moving to a foreign country, even an English speaking foreign country, is full of challenges and is… uncomfortable. There are so many reasons that we made this move, but one of the main ones for me was that I felt the need to get out of my comfort zone, to hit the refresh button, and to challenge myself. That doesn’t mean that I’m necessary handling all the challenges and discomfort with grace and composure, or anything closely resembling grace, or composure. But I am navigating it, and that’s something. I’m learning to celebrate my capabilities, and to recognize when I need to ask (or beg) for help.
One thing we discovered from our trip to Sweden, is that one of the main benefits of this move is our freedom and the ability to travel to so many wonderful places. We came back from Sweden with the realization that getting up, out of the house, and into Great Britain and Europe is our main M.O. during this time abroad. This weekend we spent a day in London, touring around, and eating a lot. Next up, a trip to Oxford to stay with new friends, and we’re planning our first (of many) trips to visit family in France! My Amazon cart is loaded with travel guides, and everything we need for a top notch first aid kit, we are armed with UK healthcare cards that cover us for emergency room visits abroad, and our passports are ready to be filled with stamps.