7 Things I Didn’t Know I Was Missing About the States

Coming back to the States this time, had a different feel than it ever has before.  It’s the second time I’ve been back since I moved abroad, but considering that last time, I was somewhere deep inside a having-a-newborn-haze, I noticed many more things this time around.  These are some things I didn’t realize I was missing about the good ol’ USA

1. Being Polite:  Not to say that people are not polite in Denmark, or that I’m not polite in Denmark, but I forgot how easy it is to be polite in your mother tongue.  No wondering if I was saying the right thing, in the right way.  I knew exactly how to respond to any small-talk venture, and could very my “yes, thank you”s with some “absolutely!”s and “definitely!”s.  I do all my communicating in Danish here, with the exception of Andreas, Theo, and friends of mine that aren’t from here.  I am just so used to dealing with the daily frustrations or insecurities of communicating in Danish, that I totally forgot that sometimes, trips to the shop are actually super easy, and not intimidating at all.

2. Friendliness:  This is kind of an add-on to number one, but the friendliness was refreshing!  I had a full, easy conversation with another mom at the park, and even got to know a few people on our plane trip.  While I do actually appreciate the Danish anonymity on public transport, and the lack of expectation to make small talk, it is really nice once in a while to go back to the Midwest way of living, and for the three weeks that we were there, I found it really easy and comfortable to talk to strangers.

3. Variety:  We were looking forward to shopping in the US (we even came over with a suitcase packed into a bigger, empty suitcase so we’d have more room to bring our goodies home).  But I was focused on the cheaper prices (and the knowledge of which stores carry what for what price), and had completely forgotten about the sheer amount of choice in the shops.  While it was fantastic while we were shopping for clothing, and I could get whatever caught my fancy, I was struck with a bit of green jealousy, when I saw the homewares that were much too big to bring home.  If only I had that kind of selection at those prices here in Denmark, we would have the most beautiful home!

4. Food:  Okay, I did know that I missed the food.  But I really missed it, so I think it deserves a spot on the list anyways.  Topping the list are: Vegetarian Italian sausage (and just all of the vegetarian options in general!), crackers, cheese curds, and donuts (I didn’t actually even get any donuts while we were there, so I might just have to make some myself soon!).  I would probably be embarrassed if anyone saw the size of the sack of candy I brought home with me.

5. Amazon:  It’s been so long since we could use Amazon, that I rather forgot how awesome it is!  We mostly did one big Amazon haul, but it was fantastic to find almost every special thing we needed in one place, with free two-day shipping.  It’s probably a good thing that we don’t have it here, because I’m sure our budget would spout a little leak, but it was fantastic while it lasted!

6. Animals;  Yes, okay, there are animals in Denmark.  But this is more of a going-back-home sort of thing.  My parents’ house is filled with animals.  At present, they have: a canary, a parakeet, two guinea pigs, a cat, and a dog (with an additional cat and her four kittens living on the front porch).  Theo loved each and every one of them, and they tolerated him with varying degrees of caution.  It’s really fun to have animals around, and since we’re not at a point in life where pets are a great idea, it’s an exciting bonus when we visit my family.

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7. Cars:  I do love being a bike family in Denmark.  It works well for our life here, it’s cheaper, environmentally friendly, etc. etc.  But in the US, people have cars–and for good reason!  No one wants to bike thirty miles to get to the grocery store.  We went on a few trips to town, and my parents were good enough to loan us their family car, and it was great!  I did not have to think about how I was going to bike home with everything I was buying.  I didn’t have to carry ALL the things we were buying into every store we were going to.  It was a welcome break.

I’ll never be sorry that I made the swift and absolute decision to live in Denmark, but the longer I’m away from my homeland, the lovelier I find my visits, and I rather like it that way.

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!

Dreams

I dreamed last night that my residence card came in the mail, but that I had to go be on America’s Next Top Model to get my picture taken for it.  Sadly, I also dreamed that my mom had another baby (17 years after the youngest) and named it Fab Yellow Submarine Moser, so I don’t think the residence card dream is a very trustworthy prophecy of what is to come.

However, when I called my mom to tell her my doofy dream, we also ended up talking about other things, and I mentioned how getting a KitchenAid mixer has been one of my “dreams.”  There’s something about a KitchenAid that represents more than just a kitchen appliance.  It means I will make bread every other day and my own noodles!  I can just imagine it whisking and beating frosting into a perfectly fluffy finished product, and warning my curious young children to keep their fingers away from it (and seeing in their eyes the desire to touch it, just to see what would happen).  And speaking of dreams, these curious young children are the most-dreamed-about-of-all.

The reason I mention all of this (aside from “because I haven’t done anything noteworthy in the past week to warrant a blog post”) is because I’ve been thinking a lot about things that are close to my heart, things I want.  A lot.  Besides a KitchenAid mixer and babies, one of the things that tops the list is a home.  Now,  I can’t claim that I never had a home and I moved around all my life and all I wanted as a kid was a steady place to live.  I had an awesome home.  I lived in a big farmhouse that I am so, so happy I can still sort of call home.  However, I realized that I have moved 5 times in the past year.  Five.  From college, to home, to Illinois, to home, to Denmark, to Sweden, and that doesn’t include all the travelling in between.  We’re moving again next week, but instead of a smooth across-the-hall move like we had hoped, things got bumped around a bit, and we’re going to end up moving all of our stuff down to the next building to live with my sister-in-law for a few days before we move it all back up again a week later to our new place which we’ll have until August somethingeth when we’ll have to move.  Again.

Besides hating the tasks of packing everything and moving over and over again, it’s beginning to take a pretty solid emotional toll on little old me.  Moving from my college town of Green Bay back home was bittersweet (the bitterness of leaving friends and the city and campus I grew to know, the sweetness of knowing I’d be getting married soon and starting a new life with my husband).  Moving from the Wisconsin farmouse to a stinky Illinois apartment in a sketchy part of town was a bit heartbreaking.  Moving to Europe was amazing (knowing I’d not have to have a long-distance relationship with Andreas) and horrible (saying what felt like an awfully permanent goodbye to so many people, places, and yes, things.).

I guess I’m just “over it.”  I’m not a young restless soul with a thirst for adventure.  I’m a crotchety old soul with a thirst for a cup of coffee and a place to plant my roots.  I want to buy a bed, and plates, and not say to myself “should I really get this, if we’re just going to have to lug it around for the next _____ amount of time?”  I know that this, along with my KitchenAid mixer and my longed-for babies, is just on the horizon, but the many moves in the meantime sort of cloud my view, and I’m left feeling a bit helpless, a bit homesick, and a bit detached.

Anyway, tomorrow is my first International Knitting Group meeting, and I have pretty high hopes!  Wish me luck with my nerves, and all this home-wanting angst.  Why am I not 45 yet?!