A Mid-March Update

Alas, it seems as though my resolution of keeping up my blog was mostly good intentions.  I’ve had several ideas for posts, and absolutely zero follow-through, which brings us to an update post, simply so my existence isn’t completely forgotten.

These days, I am alive, but hungry.  We’re in the homestretch of the Baha’i Fast, which means no eating or drinking during daylight hours.  It’s been just as challenging as anticipated, especially the part about getting up pre-dawn to eat, and Theo waking up as soon as we finish eating, and not having coffee as a mid-morning pick-up, but I am making it through.  This is actually one of my best fasts yet, I think, as I have yet to be too sick to fast, or to accidentally eat something!

Schoolwork has been a bit stressful, but I am really proud of how it is going, especially today after a particularly successful online presentation!  Whenever I’m a bit low on self-esteem, I just think about how awesome it is that I’m fluent enough in another language to do “real” school, and how cool that makes me.  And if that doesn’t work, I take a typing test.

It has also been tough for me lately to find a balance between schoolwork, housework, and family time.  I’ve been feeling a bit overburdened, especially when fasting is added to the mix, and it’s proving hard to find a solution or compromise that really improves things.

Theo has also become a regular child, in that he no longer needs 13 hours of sleep per night, and a two-hour nap (Oh, how I miss the days!).  So, he’s getting up early, which was a hard reality to face in the beginning, but is easier now.  And potty-training is right around the corner so I’m sure that will prove interesting.

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Our trip to the states is also coming up when my school is finished, and I am getting more and more excited!  Besides seeing my family, I have to admit that I am SO excited to be in an American grocery store again, and go out to eat AMAP (as much as possible).  Aaaaand I just realized that the couple of kilos that are coming off during the Fast are probably very quickly going to be returned to me.  Maybe I’ll make some room in the suitcase for my running shoes…

How to Creat Life–the Danish Way

The first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant was hop online and start Googling.  I took a test first thing in the morning, freaked out (in a good way), and resolved not to tell Andreas until he got home.  I finished knitting him a pair of socks, knitted a tiny baby sock to go with them (my way of telling him the news), and then it was about noon and I had four and a half hours until I could tell anyone.  So I Googled.  I googled “pregnancy tips,” “pregnancy week-by-week,” and “early pregnancy symptoms.”  And then I googled “graviditet.”  A lot of the advice was common sense, and overlapped: Eat a varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t take lots of medicine.  But a lot of it differed, albeit perhaps slightly.  The American advice said not to drink coffee, or eat sushi, soft serve ice cream, lunchmeat, soft cheeses, sprouts, soft boiled eggs, smoked fish, or even anything at a potluck.

Well, I ate soft serve ice cream,  sprouts, smoked salmon, brie, goat cheese, and soft boiled eggs.  Oops.  But really only “oops” if I was Googling in English, because the Danish advice never mentioned sprouts, or ice cream.  And as far as most other things on the list goes, the official advice is to eat as fresh of food as possible–keep raw things cold, and pay attention to hygiene when you prepare food.  They also say outright that pregnant women can eat sushi.

I joined the August due-date birth board on Babycenter.com, so throughout my pregnancy, I would check the forum.  The American women went to their doctor every month until the third trimester.  After that it was every two weeks until nearer to the end when it was every week.  I saw my doctor four times during my pregnancy (one visit was an “extra” to do a quick blood pressure check), and my midwife about the same number of times.  I went two weeks overdue, so I had another midwife visit, and a couple days before my induction, a hospital visit.  To be honest, I don’t know what these women talked about or did at all these appointments.  I could barely think of questions to ask at my few appointments.

I saw enormously pregnant women biking happily down the street (well, at least they looked as happy as anyone biking in Danish weather ever looks).  I saw them walking, running, lingering over lattes, and putting away that out-loud-allowed sushi.  Andreas and I attended a sort of parent-prep class, which wasn’t quite like anything I’d read about anyone else’s prenatal classes.  We talked about our relationship as a couple, and how to best sustain that under the stress of a new baby.  We talked about the birthing process and nursing, and I have to say, there wasn’t this sense of anxiety that I often get when I talk to American women or read American forums.  It was “here are pain relief options–which ones do you think you prefer?” not “here are pain relief options–and there’s no medal for women who don’t use them–but there are definitely risks to some of them–and these decisions you’re making will impact your birth experience, your baby’s alertness, your breastfeeding process, and pretty much the rest of your baby’s life.”

After Theo was born, it as more of the same, to my great relief!  But I’ll write about that a different day, or this post will *never* leave my drafts!

Home Again, Home Again

We’re back home in Denmark.

The trip to the US was amazing.  I loved seeing as much of my family as I could, many of my friends, and the families that I used to nanny for, which was so, so fun (and surreal, seeing those little babies as two and a half year old big brothers!).  It was wonderful, staying with my parents for a long enough period that they really got to see Theo grow and develop.  He rolled over for the first time, and started to grab things (and promptly stuff them into his mouth…or open his mouth and rub them on his forehead, as his aim still needed work).  I got to eat lots of my favorite American foods (and gained some pounds back, unfortunately).  We did lots of shopping, and came home with a whole extra suitcase of goodies!

The trip back was definitely not as amazing.  We had a weather delay, a screaming baby while we were stuck in our seats for an hour and a half before take-off, a bad headache, airplane-food-poisoning, a missed connection, six-hour layover, and a wild windstorm in Copenhagen when we landed, which almost trapped us in our plane, and finally a ridiculous taxi-ride home which had me praying over and over as we sped through the rainy, windy streets of our city.

However, after we got the suitcases in the door, things have been looking up.  Theo’s amazing and hasn’t had a problem with jet lag–basically at all!  We did some minor sleep-training (I like to think of it as sleep-helping) which has done wonders for our quality of life.  While we were in the US, he fought sleep like it was his job.  We would wrap him up (so he wouldn’t get his hands in his face and wake himself up), and carry and bounce him around while he fought us every step of the way.  When he finally almost succumbed, we’d drape a burp cloth over his face to shut out any stimulation, and gingerly lay him down, hoping he wouldn’t wake back up and we’d have to repeat the whole process.

After two days of sleep-helping, we lay him down awake in his bed, give him his pacifier, tuck him in his cozy duvet, and give him his ducky, and way more times than not, he’ll just go right to sleep all on his own.  Of course, I wonder if he was ready for this sooner, and we could’ve maybe done this while still in the US, but I just put it out of my mind because…we didn’t, and maybe he wasn’t ready anyway.  But this is seriously, a vast improvement–to just lay him down for a nap instead of making a big process out of it…it’s wonderful!  He’s also started to go to bed around 7-8 in the evening, which is great because it means more time for Andreas and I to be together, which I’ve missed so much since Theo’s been born.

So, all-in-all, everything is going great!  We’re headed to Andreas’s parents’ for Christmastime, and I’m excited for Theo to spend time with this part of his family, too (and excited to see them, myself!).

Here’s some photo-highlights of our time in the US, and Theo from 2-almost four months!

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A-Month-and-Some Later…

I’m not beginning with any apologies or excuses.  We’ve been in the US and it’s been great.  We’re seeing family and friends, and with that–staying up later than we usually would, disturbing Theo’s fragile rhythms (which leads to rather poor sleeping), and very rarely cracking open the laptop.

We’ve been shopping like crazy people, since we stopped buying things about six months ago.  Lots of things are more expensive, or not even available at all in Denmark, so we’ve been stocking up on new clothing, some games, and of course baby things!  Theo’s been sprouting up before our eyes–not just in length (oh BOY has he grown in length), but sprouting new skills every couple of weeks.  He’s sitting really well, holding himself up for standing, grabbing anything he can get his hands on, and even sometimes successfully putting them in his mouth!  He’s been to the chiropractor here a couple of times, and we’ve seen great results from that as well.

We just made our last couple of day-trips away from central Wisconsin, since we decided to leave this last week for at-home relaxation.  I’m definitely looking forward to my Real American Thanksgiving, just the way I remember it, and looking forward to Theo being a part of it.  On the other hand, I’m so not looking forward to the trip home.  Going back to Denmark will be nice.  It’ll be nice to find our routine again, have our own space, cook our own food, etc.  But the flights?  I could go without.  The fact that we’re coming home to pizza that we somehow accidentally left in the living room just before we left doesn’t make our homecoming any more appealing.

Neither does the fact that the jet lag will probably catch up to us this time around.  We managed to have next to nothing jet-lag-wise when we arrived, but I’ve heard that going back East is much more difficult.  To add to this, we’ve decided to start some sort of sleep-training regimen with Theo when we get back to “real life.”  I think it’ll actually make it easier if we do that, plus jet-lag-recovery at the same time.  I’m sure I’ll let you know how it goes.

For now, we’re going to lay back and soak up these last few rays of Americanness.

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Headed Back

We’re leaving for the US tonight!  Well, technically tomorrow, since we leave the house at (wait for it)… 2 in the morning.  Not particularly good flight-purchasing on our part, but oh well.  We’re getting our suitcases packed, taking last showers, giving last baths, and making sure we have everything.  I’m surprisingly calm about the packing (I’m usually one to have lists and lists and take days and days to pack.  This time, we started two days before we leave).  I’m so calm, and not worried about forgetting anything, that it makes me really worried that I’m forgetting things.

I’m really excited to see my family again.  Excited to show Theo off to his Nana and to go back to my childhood home that always brings up memories with every corner I turn, every book I lift off the shelf, every crack and cranny in the decades-old farmhouse.  To be honest, I’m also super duper excited to go to an American supermarket again–and see all of the products that were once so familiar and that I’m now used to being without.  I’m excited to be in secret awe over the sheer size and selection–and to take my time walking down the cereal aisle.  A whole aisle.  Just for cereal.  An aisle that’s nearly the size of the whole grocery store about a block away from our little Copenhagen apartment.

But at the same time that I’m eager to go home, I’m nervous.  What if it’s not as good as I remember?  What if I’ve forgotten all the irritating things, and only remember the good ones?  And the biggest worry-cloud looming over the horizon: what if Theo screams the whole way there?  Now, I know that a baby probably won’t scream for 14 hours straight (not counting the 4 hour car ride home), but…still.  I also realize that there’s nothing we can do now.  If it’s bad, it’s bad, and it’ll be over in not that long.  But…still.

In positive news, we’re nearly done packing, and I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything important yet.  We’ve also been practicing with the ring sling I got a couple of weeks ago, and he seems to be used to it now (and I’m better at adjusting it, which was definitely the biggest problem in the beginning).  So I’m hoping that airport security goes smoothly, and that (pleasepleasepleaseplease) that the flight had another baby bassinet left that we can have (otherwise we’re stuck in the two middle seats in a row of four and…well, I don’t have to tell you why that would be bad).

I’m also a bit nervous about being homesick.  That might sound ridiculous…seeing as I’m going home…but to be honest, that’s not really what I see it as anymore.  It’s my parents’ house.  It’s my childhood home.  But it’s not really home.  Denmark is home.  Denmark with bike lanes and tiny grocery stores everywhere, pretty cemeteries and public transportation.  I live in Denmark.  My son is Danish.  And I know I’m going to lie in bed at least one night, thinking about lying in our IKEA bed in our tiny apartment, with the sweet wooden kitchen and ridiculously small shower.  But then, I realized that that’s okay.  Because I’ll have something to look forward to when we get back–familiarity.  I know I’ll be sad to leave my family, not knowing when I’ll see them again, and any homesickness I develop back in the good old USA will soften that blow.

We’ve been eating all the odds and ends that we could from the fridge (for instance, I had some whole wheat macaroni, herbed cream cheese, fresh mozzerella, and soy-hamburger all mixed together for lunch).  We’re hand-washing the dishes instead of filling the dishwasher, and charging all of our electronics.  We’re ready…and we’re excited!

Theo's excited, too!

Theo’s excited, too!

Coming Home

We’re back in Copenhagen, after a weekend in Odense, visiting Andreas’s family and having our first Thanksgiving!  It was also Andreas’s and my first Thanksgiving as a couple.  Even though all the time apart during dating and even after we were married was difficult, it’s kind of exciting that we still have some firsts to experience together.

This weekend, was also the time I felt most at home with Andreas’s family.  He stayed in Copenhagen to party it up (read: play indoor hockey) with some of his coworkers, so he wasn’t around for Friday, or a lot of Saturday (seeing as he was so tired from being out late the night before that he fell asleep at 8 pm) but it didn’t seem to really make a difference to me.  I definitely missed him still when he was gone (just because we’ve spent nearly a year apart in the past, doesn’t mean that I still don’t miss him when he’s gone for a day), but I was perfectly fine hanging out with his family on my own.  Just another thing to scribble onto the long list of things I’m grateful for this year.

Anyway, coming back home was wonderful, because we finally have one!  I really feel finally like we’re coming home.  Not coming to that place we’re staying for a few months while we wait to move to the next place we’ll stay for a few months.  So even though we’re missing a lot of important house-y things, I’m feeling more at home (in this particular apartment, and in Denmark in general) than I’ve felt in a long time, and that, I think, is really, really good for me.

I thought that making the Thanksgiving dinner my family makes would stave off my homesickness, and it did, in a way.  But to be honest, I was a lot less homesick than I thought I might be.  I couldn’t feel so lonely or far away from my home and family when I also feel like Denmark is my home and Andreas’s family also belongs a little bit to me.

PS–I still miss my family.

Voting Day: Is America Really #1?

So today is the day Americans choose their president!  I’m going to try to write as politically neutral post as possible, but I wanted to address something I’ve been seeing on my newsfeed all afternoon.  There are certain times of year when patriotism suddenly peaks: the 4th of July, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, etc. aaaaaand election day.

Most people who know me know that I am not a particularly patriotic person, so in general I try to ignore these surges in American pride, but there are two things that really get me.  “America is the greatest country on earth.”  and “We’re #1!”

First of all, who decided that America is the greatest country on earth?  Oh yeah, Americans.  You know, if anyone ever names themselves the “greatest” anything, it probably means that a) they’re not the greatest and b) they’re really arrogant.  Now, I wouldn’t call myself “worldly” by any means, but within my limited experiences outside of America, I’ve seen other countries, and their citizens, doing things so much better than the states does them, from tax and healthcare systems to how safe one feels walking the streets (or you know, leaving their baby out on the street) to their very ideas about patriotism.

In Denmark, you see the Danish flag everywhere, but not in the same way as you see American flags.  An American flag most often signifies pride in their country, and goes back to that “we’re #1” feeling that almost always accompanies American patriotism. Danish patriotism is, I guess, a bit softer.  Danish flags are used for celebrations that don’t really have anything to do with patriotism at all.  They’re used to decorate birthday cakes, and during any and all parties (New Years, Christmas, etc.) They think Denmark is great, but they don’t take it so far as to say they are the best, no questions asked.

I guess what I’m saying is that I think it’s dangerous (yup, dangerous) to believe that you’re the best.  If you’re the best, where can you go from there?  You can’t be the bester.  Saying that America is the number one country on earth is like saying they do everything better than everyone else, and I think this is partly why people over here in Europe tend to roll their eyes at us.  How is America going to get out of the dunghole it’s gotten itself into if they still think they’re the bee’s knees?  How is denying that we have problems going to help us solve them?

The United States of America is great, and they do a lot of things well.  You get free drink refills and candy doesn’t cost as much as a car (and your car doesn’t cost as much as a house), but the US has a lot of work to do before it can even try to proclaim itself as the best country in the world, and it could start by working on humility.

Can we get some common sense over here?

So by now, I’m sure that everyone has heard about  the whole Todd Akin thing.  The ignorance, the “apology,” and all of the drama that ensues.

I heard about it first on Facebook, then from my husband while he was browsing Reddit, again while reading through blogs, and finally I saw it featured on the Danish six-thirty news.  American politics are embarrassing enough, with more drama than a trashy teen television show before you mix in the real idiots.

Now, my Danish has somehow still, miraculously been improving, and I actually understood a lot of what they were saying about the incident on the news.  To be fair, none of them called anyone an idiot, and didn’t mention the word ignorance, so they were a lot more objective than I’ve already been here, but while they were discussing it, it seemed that they couldn’t quite erase the bemused expressions off of their faces.  They even said “this is quite difficult for Danes to understand.”  Overall, it was even more embarrassing to see our news being covered in Europe.  They did a small spot on it again during the morning news that I was watching while attempting to finish the sleeve of my nephew’s sweater, and the anchor asked her guest why this was even an issue in the states.  The guest responded citing that American politics are quite entwined still with religion.  A president in the US is expected to pull out a few God Bless Americas every time he makes a public appearance, while she admitted that if a Danish politician were to do the same, he would be laughed at.  She mentioned that the US tends to play to and honor Christian values instead of science and common sense.  She even managed to say it in a fair, non-judgmental tone of voice.  Kudos.

Now, if some Americans heard that, they would probably say “you bet we do, and we’re proud of it!”  but even as I look at that sentence again, I can’t help but cringe and wonder when the US is going to catch up.

As an American here in Europe, I often feel the shadow of the US following me around.  I’m often the token American, and I feel like I have to answer for everything (ridiculous as it may be) that the US does.  The “US” being politicians, corporations, psychotic individuals, etc.  The title of this blog, An American Hermit Crab in Denmark, is actually the title of one of my poems, and I’m feeling more and more like I’m carrying my “home,” the US, on my back wherever I go here.  I wish it were easier to realize that the people who leave the states to live somewhere else are often the people who aren’t the most thrilled with how things are going there, and are the last people who can really answer for the shenanigans that play out on the news.

The best part about feeling the shame of having such awful human beings as leaders in my home country is seeing people rise against them.  Maybe if things get weird enough, the general public will have a breakthrough and we’ll turn, as a country, a bit more towards science and research, and if we’re lucky, maybe towards some common sense, too.

Guess what we just finished!

Well, it’s done.  We now have a fat envelope of papers filed neatly into plastic sleeves which are numbered, and indexed to perfection.  If Denmark doesn’t say yes to this, I don’t know what would convince them.  That’s right, our visa application for Denmark is finished!

It’s been a busy couple of months getting it ready.  One might think “how much work can that really be?  Just get together your certificates, copy a few passports, staple it all together and voila!” but one is most definitely wrong, when it comes to a Danish visa application.  I have to admit to a twinge of jealousy when my sister who lives with her husband in Malaysia, just had to go down to the embassy and “get” her spouse visa while I sit here wondering whether or not I will cry with relief when mine (after months and months of anxiety, worry, and paperwork) comes through.

Andreas has done the majority of the research, posting often on Ægteskab Uden Grænser.  They have helped so much, and I know we wouldn’t be where we are without them.  I feel so fortunate, and I hope that eventually we might be able to say thank you, or pass on the support we’ve had.  Now that it’s all packaged up, only waiting for an index and out next move before we send it in, we both feel a sense of almost-relief.  It’ll be final next Wednesday when we post it, and then, again, we wait.

While in the process, I have learned countless things, a few of which I will share with you here:

  • You will use 150 paperclips faster than you ever imagined.
  • If you think an envelope is big enough, you’re probably wrong.  Buy a bigger one.
  • Even if the answer-box looks very big, write very small.
  • Smile a little when you get ID pictures taken.  Apparently even small, cute me can look threatening when I’m serious.
  • Patience, patience, and a little more patience
  • You’ll get to know your local copy machine pretty well.
  • Take a day off, always venture outside to stave off the “meh”s and the “bleh”s
  • You think you have enough proof that you have lived in Sweden?  Get more proof.
  • There is no limit to the number of times a gluestick can be lost.
  • If we can get through all of this together, we can get through almost anything.

It’s been frustrating and difficult, and it’s far from over, but boy will I be glad when it is.  I’d like to say “bring it on Denmark!”  but what I really mean is “please, Denmark?  Please?”

Almost ready to be signed, sealed, and delivered.

 

Olympics, of course!

I LOVE the Olympics.  I love the Olympics.  Which might seem weird, because I’m not “into sports” so to say, but there’s something about the Olympics…

And I have to say, this year I even have extra love for the Olympics.  For one, it’s providing me with a distraction, so I don’t dwell on how soon we have to move (again) to another (temporary) apartment.  And trust me, having a distraction is almost necessary at this point.  Any prolonged thought given to the fact that I don’t have a permanent home on the horizon is pretty detrimental to my mental health.  I’m fed up.

But anyway, back to the Olympics!  There are three big things that I’ve been noticing as I watch this year.  We are lucky enough to get two Danish channels here in Sweden, so we’ve been watching on those.  First of all, I can’t say how happy I am that they air badminton!  I’ve always loved badminton, but I have almost never seen it played professionally before.  In the US I think it’s considered more of a joke sport, which is really unfair, and I’ve never seen coverage of it, even during the Olympics.  They also show a lot more of things like rowing and handball (which is now, hands down, my favorite team sport to watch…pun sort-of intended).  I guess I’m just lucky that my taste in sports is pretty similar to that of the Danes’.

The second thing that has made this Olympics even more of a pleasure to watch is that I’m cheering for Denmark.  Four years ago, while I watched the 2008 games, I had no idea I would be meeting my future husband in a week, or that he would be Danish, or that the next time the Olympics rolled around, I’d have a new loyalty.  That’s right.  I said it.  I’m not really cheering for the US.  That’s not to say I’m “un-cheering” for them, and if there aren’t any Danes in competition, I’ll root for the American, but I’m not super-excited about any of the medals they win.  And you know why?  It’s because they win so many!

I know that the US sends many fantastic athletes to compete in the Olympics, and that’s definitely something to be proud of, but isn’t it just a little boring when you expect to win medals across the board?   I’ve been having more fun this year, cheering on the Danish team because they don’t win everything, and they don’t mind or think that they deserve to win.  It’s always more fun to cheer for the underdogs.  The Danes are happy for any medal they can get, whether it’s bronze, silver, or gold, and they’re often happy to come in fourth or fifth, too!  There’s no attitude of expectation or entitlement, just enthusiasm and anticipation!

Which brings me to my third point.  Somehow, my Danish is managing to get better, despite the fact that we hardly remember to speak it, and I mostly watch Swedish television.  Anyway, the point is that I’m starting to understand a lot more of the Danish commentary than I expected to.  Now, I don’t understand all of it, so I can’t tell you if the sort-of subtle sexism is present, and I never watched very many sports in the states, so I can’t really compare it to other commentary I’ve heard, but I really enjoy it.  Their voices raise and get excited when the game is close, and they congratulate their opponents on a good play or hard-won point.  Also, they shut up when there’s nothing to say.  I like that a lot.

I’ve been watching badminton (with a smattering of tennis and rowing) all day, and I’m looking forward to the Danish handball game tonight.  I have to say that I have a soft spot for the Danish men’s handball team.  They’re just so cute, and I also think it’s a bit sweet how proud Denmark is of them (they won the Euro cup earlier this year).  Hooray for the Olympics!!