Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Moving Home From Our Home

Dear Stockholm,
I don't even know where to begin. Maybe a thank you should be our first order of business.  You have given us so much over the last two years.  First of all you gave us a baby.  One that we dreamed about, prayed for, cried for and longed for and now we have her and she is awesome.  

You taught me that change doesn't necessarily mean things will be terrifying.  Change can actually be a good thing.  I know.  Who am I?  
Considering how much I loved staying in my comfort zone before we moved to Sweden I am so glad I didn't let that stop me from saying yes!

Living in Stockholm changed us.  We both really loved it.  We loved the big city with the awesome public transportation, tons of parks that we could walk to at any time and being surrounded by water and gorgeous bridges.

Jake said these last two years have been the best 2 years of his life with his elementary school years coming in a close second.  It is pretty hard to beat playing with legos and friends all day long but somehow Stockholm just barely beat it out :).

Here are lots of things that we are going to miss (and already do since I am writing this post after we moved back) and other favorite spots in Stockholm:

Where We Lived and Worked:
Maybe I should start with a map of Stockholm to show you where we lived.  Stockholm is made up of 14 different islands.  The city is almost evenly divided into thirds: 1/3 green (parks), 1/3 blue (water) and 1/3 grey (buildings).

We lived on the island called Kungsholmen.  It is on the west side of Stockholm.  It is mostly a residential island.  We lived on the west side of Kungsholmen which has more parks and is more spread out than the east side.  We LOVED where we lived.
The green star is where we lived.  The blue star is where Jake worked and the orange star is where I worked.  The island right in the middle of the map is Gamla Stan (Old Town).  North of Gamla Stan is the main downtown area.  South of Gamla Stan is an island called Södermalm which is a pretty hippy neighborhood so we called it the Lawrence, KS of Stockholm :).

The Waterfront:
The waterfront area by our apartment is probably at the top of our list of places we will miss most.  It was less than a 5 minute walk to the water and then we were on a path that could take us all the way around the island of Kungsholmen.
Our favorite view.  This is about 3 minutes from our apartment.  The water is right behind the trees in the middle of these two apartment buildings.  These are Jake's favorite apartments. 
Our favorite apartments from the water.

This video is kind of long (6 minutes) but you can see the path we walked from our apartment to the water.  Our apartment door to the water is about 5 minutes.  We loved the area where we lived.

This restaurant, Piren, is where we had dinner on our first night after we moved into the apartment.  The dock hanging out over the water is covered with people sunbathing in the summer and the squares of grass are covered with people having picnics in the summer as well.
This area is along the waterfront.  You can see the restaurant Piren in the video as well as a park by the water which is a splash park in the summer.
Lots of people hangout by this waterfront in the summer.  People have picnics, parties, go swimming and run along this stretch of waterfront.  There is an outdoor shower and a patio area.
There were 3 floating docks that we called mushrooms along the waterfront at Hornsbergstrand that we loved to walk by.
This path goes all the way around Kungsholmen.  It is about 10 km.  We walked the whole path once which was fun.  Running along the water is so pretty!

 One of the sunsets during our last week in Stockholm.
  The area next to Jake in this picture is where his office is moving to this month.  He was really bummed that he didn't get to move into the new office.
A picture from our last walk along the waterfront before we moved back to Olathe.

The off-road path to the water that we used to take before we had Linnea.  It isn't very stroller friendly.  The apartments at the end of the video are our favorite apartments.  Maybe someday we will be able to stay in one of them :).
Our favorite bridge. Below is a video of the view from the metro going over this bridge.

We call these the lizard rocks because in the summer they are covered with people sunbathing. 
This is our favorite bridge to go over on the metro.  Jake saw this view everyday on the way to and from work.  When I was subbing in Bromma I was able to see this view as well.  The extended stay apartment where we lived during the first 5 weeks when we moved to Stockholm was at the Alvik metro stop so we saw this view a lot.  The area with all the trees and rocks is what we called the lizard rocks because people would lay out on sunny days and from the metro they looked like lizards sunbathing.
A picnic on the rocks.
Just the Two (or Three) of Us:
I loved that this leap we took was with just the two of us!  It really brought us closer together.  Relying on each other for so much at the beginning really brought us together but throughout our two years I really started to embrace adventure instead of shying away from it.  I started eating new foods and not being so hesitant to try new things.  Jake really liked that he didn't have to drag me to new restaurants and cities and instead I was willing to go with him or even suggest that we go on my own.
Big City:
We were both nervous about living in a big city but it turns out that we loved it.  We both really enjoyed the convenience of public transportation and it is no secret that I loved riding the metro. We loved being able to walk everywhere and that a park was never more than 5 minutes away.  

Stockholm has about the same number of people as the KC Metro area but Stockholm is much more compact.  We would often run into people while we were out and about which made the city feel pretty small which was also nice.  Stockholm is also very safe. I felt very safe even walking around by myself at night (or in the dark from November to February when the sun disappears) in unfamiliar places.  Kids can ride the public transportation on their own at 8 years old so if they can trust that an 8 year old will be safe surely a 32 year old will be just fine :).
Now that we've been back in the states for a few weeks I really miss public transportation around dinner time.  We used to be able to feed Linnea dinner around 7 and then swaddle her and put her in her bassinet and walk or take the metro to dinner.  She would fall asleep on the way to dinner or while we were ordering and sleep through dinner then we would push her back home, transfer her to her bed and she would just keep on sleeping.  Now we have to put her in a car seat which means we can't swaddle her.  We haven't figured out a good system yet but hopefully we will.  It was also really nice using public transportation because then I didn't have to mess with taking her in and out of the car when we run errands like I do now.  If I needed milk on the way home I just pushed her stroller through the store and picked it up and then finish walking home.

This is the bridge I went over every morning on my way to work.  It is just beautiful.  You can see Kungsholmen and City Hall as well as Gamla Stan.

I really miss walking everywhere.  Now when I see a nice day I think "what a nice day, how can we enjoy it?" whereas before nice days were enjoyed as I was running errands and living life.

New Cultures and Traditions:
It was really neat to learn all about Sweden and what traditions they have and how they live life.  We were also able to experience several other cultures on our trips.  I feel like this whole experience just really opened our eyes.  I think living abroad should be a requirement for every American.  Wouldn't that be something?  It is such a neat experience and teaches you so many things you can't just learn from sitting in a classroom or even reading a book.  One of my favorite Swedish traditions is that they have food holidays.  They have cinnamon roll day and Semla day and all the coffee shops are making that special food for the day.
European Lifestyle:
Even the heading sounds snobby, sorry about that, but I don't know how else to phrase it.  We are going to miss how family focused they were in Sweden.  They give you 480 days of parental leave that is shared between parents for each kid!  You are expected to work regular workday hours and then leave the office at the office.  You don't work crazy long hours like most Americans do.  They have more paid vacation leave than the US and here is the kicker . . . people actually take their vacation leave.  I know, crazy right?  

They have parks all over the city full of parents hanging out with their kids either on parental leave, after school or on the weekends.  Having a baby and raising a family isn't an inconvenience like it seems to be the US.  They value having parents spend time raising their kids.  You can't even send your child to daycare until they are 12 months old but most don't send them until they are 18 months old.  And the day cares are really great and about $150 a month which includes food and diapers.  I know . . . why did we move back?

People in Europe are typically in better shape that Americans.  They eat healthier foods and they exercise but they also just enjoy being outdoors more than we do in the US.  I miss that already.  There were lots of organic options at the regular grocery stores.  You didn't have to go to a specialty store just to get organic food.  They also put a lot less sugar and unnatural things into their food and drinks.  Even now it is harder to eat fruit in the US because people just don't eat it as often as they do in Sweden and I feel like the selection in the US isn't as good.

We were both worried about the weather when we moved but we ended up really liking it.  I liked that the weather was very consistent so we could get used to the temperature instead of having it jump all around like it does in Kansas.  I even liked all the snow that we would get in the winter.  I did NOT enjoy the darkness that sets in at the end of October and lasts until the end of February.  If we could have Sweden without the darkness I really think we would live there in a heartbeat.  The summer weather is absolutely gorgeous!  May through September we usually had temperatures between 60-75 degrees.  It is hard to beat a sunny day with those temps!
Coffee Shop & Fika:
I didn't drink coffee before we moved to Sweden and if you ask Jake I'm still not sure he would say I drink it since mine is usually a caramel latte or mocha with whipped cream on top :).  I love the coffee house culture of sitting down with a friend and catching up.  Fika is when you stop to have coffee and usually a sweet treat during the day.  There were coffee shops on every corner in Stockholm and I already miss that!  We went to a Starbucks in Olathe a few days after moving back and it was not the same.  The coffee house was not cozy and quiet like the ones in Stockholm.
Caramel Latte from Espresso House!
We were so lucky to go on so many trips over the last two years.  One of the reasons I said yes to moving in the first place was the opportunity to travel around Europe since we would be so close.  We definitely took advantage of that. We are already itching to travel again so hopefully we can start exploring some places in the US.

Remembering All the Firsts:
One thing that is hard about leaving is that I remember all the firsts.  I remember the first meal we had after we moved to Stockholm.  We had pizza close by our hotel and it was gross but I remember it!  The crust was thin and soggy and I had gorgonzola cheese on my pizza which really didn't taste very good but I still remember our first meal in Sweden.  We both remember lots of firsts and we don't have those memories in Kansas because we grew up there and were too little to remember all the firsts.

New Friends:
It took me about six months to realize that making new friends in Stockholm didn't mean I had to give up my friends in Kansas.  I wish I would have figured that out earlier :).  Making new friends is actually fun!  Plus now I have friends from all over the world: Australia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Syria, Canada, New Zealand, plus lots from Sweden :).
Mini golf with my school friends and their significant others.
I met these girls at my first mommy fika and we became fast friends.
Swedish Food:
I enjoyed most of the Swedish food we had.  It wasn't very spicy which I liked.  I really enjoyed reindeer, fika bread, meatballs and all things pear flavored.  I miss eating cinnamon rolls, having salted butter on my bread and finn crisps with cheese.

Missing Stockholm:
We have come to realize that we will really miss Stockholm the city for so many reasons.  We miss the people in Olathe and other parts of Kansas but we didn't miss the city of Olathe.  I didn't realize that we didn't really like Olathe until we lived in Stockholm and talked about moving back to Olathe.  We are definitely moving back to the States for the people.  

In a perfect world our friends and family would move to Stockholm with us so we could enjoy the city that we love with the people that we love.  Anyone on board for moving?  I promise you will love it! Seriously . . . if you are interested call me!

Stockholm, you were so good to us.  We can't wait to go back and visit . . . or hopefully live there again :).

The Janzens

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