Friday, November 20, 2015

Reverse Culture Shock & How We Feel About Being Back

About six months before we moved back to the US I read a blog post about reverse culture shock and it was pretty spot on to what we've experienced except I feel like ours was on a smaller scale.  Sweden and the US aren't that different but they are different enough that the first few weeks back in the US were weird.  We made a list of things that we noticed and I thought I'd share it so that I remember and because maybe you'll think it is interesting. (At the end of this post I shared a few other thoughts about how I feel now that we are back.  Remember I don't sugar coat well :).)
Jake came up with best analogy to compare the US and Sweden from our my box of Fruit Loops with Marshmallows.  I found one box of fruit loops without marshmallows in Stockholm once and bought it.  The difference in the boxes pretty much sums up the differences in the countries.  In the US the box is bigger, cheaper, has more sugar and artificial colors.  People in the US are bigger than the people in Sweden (in general). Things are more expensive in Sweden but they also tend to last longer and are higher quality (not necessarily when it comes to fruit loops but you get the point).  Swedes value natural colors and flavors and things being organic and healthy.  Americans might be starting to go that way more but we are nowhere near where Swedish standards are on food.  We've also noticed that baby clothes and toys in Sweden are more subtle and in the US they are very loud.  Just like the people buying them :).

Our first morning back in the US we went to Hy-Vee to do a little grocery shopping because we were up :) and we needed a few things but also because I loved going to grocery stores in different counties and now I wanted to see how ones in the US felt compared to Sweden.  Here is what we noticed:

*The coffee selection was very small but the bbq sauce and salsa selection was huge! 
We found a salsa bar!
*No rolling small carts at stores.  I really miss this.  Big carts are hard to push and I often don't need that much space but carrying a basket can get heavy.  They need small rolling carts you pull with a handle.
*Not having to bag our own groceries.  Before moving to Sweden I read that you bag your own groceries there which was helpful to know before actually having to do it.  We got pretty good at bagging our own groceries.  The first trip to the store after moving back I actually bagged our groceries while the guy was still scanning things.  The first time we remembered our reusable bags I told Jake to put them on the belt and he couldn't figure out why and then it dawned on him that we didn't have to bag our own groceries.
*You don't have to pay for plastic bags to put your groceries in at the stores in the US.  This is kind of nice but I also think paying for bags would cut down on the people that use them and then throw them away.
*I had a hard time going grocery shopping the first few times because I couldn't remember what brands of things I used to buy and what I liked or didn't like.  I've already had a few trial and error situations.  The stores here are also a lot bigger which is overwhelming.
*I used to get frustrated that in Sweden you had to go to so many individual stores to get all of our weekly shopping done.  Before we moved I would go to Walmart every 2 weeks to do our main grocery shopping and then I'd go to Price Chopper to get fresh produce every few days.  It was nice having all we would need in one store.  I went to Walmart Neighborhood Market by our house last week to pick up a few things and decided to look in the baby aisle for the bigger bottle size that we needed and they had it.  I was planning on driving about 20 minutes each way to go to Babies R Us to get it because I forgot that in the US grocery stores carry more than just groceries.

Random Things We've Noticed in the US:
*Everything is big (except for strollers).  We had bigger knives and skillets than we remembered at our house.
*Crappy cars and clunkers
*People speaking English - kind of a duh statement but it is weird being around it again (and being able to eavesdrop.)
*People yelling to each other in stores.  Stores here are loud.  The music is loud, the customers are loud and the store decor is also loud :).  Things are much more muted in Stockholm.
*Bathroom stalls with shorts walls.  In Sweden bathrooms have individual rooms with walls and a door that goes from the floor to the ceiling.  Bathrooms are also co-ed in most places and individual stalls also have sinks so you can wash your hands in the stall even before coming out.
*In Sweden everything is free choice - a phrase we heard often during our prenatal care - but the selection is smaller.  It used to bother me that the store in Sweden didn't have as many choices for things as I was used to but now when I go shopping I'm overwhelmed.  I wish there were fewer choices :).
*We went to a Jersey Mike's (a sandwich shop) a few days after being back and after we finished paying for our sandwiches the guys said, "What's up today guys?" We both looked at each other and weren't sure what to say.  At first we just said "oh nothing" and then he said something else that made me think he was actually curious and that is when I said we had just moved back from Sweden.  We made small talk for a few more minutes before leaving.  When we got in the car Jake said he missed our "Stockholm Bubble" where no one would talk to you.  I just smiled and laughed and told him it was nice to talk to someone and that he would be okay it would just take some time getting used to the small talk.
*While shopping for a new dishwasher at Nebraska Furniture Mart we had 8 different sales guys that worked there stopped and asked if we needed help in about a 20 minute time frame.  Sometimes the offers were less than a minute apart.  We had a hard time not laughing.  No one offers you help in Sweden.  You have to ask.
*One of the sales guys at Nebraska Furniture Mart was talking to us about dishwashers and said we wouldn't want the one we were looking at (and the one we drove 30 minutes to see) because it was a European style dishwasher.  He said that like it was a negative thing.  That is when I informed him that we had just moved back from Sweden and actually loved the dishwasher we had there :).
*A sign on the Macy's Department store door said "No Soliciting, Photography or Handguns."  You don't see signs about handguns in Sweden.
*Our cell phone service has dropped several times on the way to and from Manhattan and Wichita, Kansas.  We always had great cell service in Sweden.  I'm sure this sounds weird but Sweden is a well connected country when it comes to Internet.  We had 100 megabits per second which was their standard Internet speed.  Before we moved I think we had 12 mbps.  Even in the Stockholm Archipelago (the 30,000 islands located off of Stockholm) we always had cell phone service and data.
*Along those lines our cell phone plans were cheaper in Sweden.  (Probably the only thing cheaper than the US.)  I had unlimited calling and texting to anyone in Sweden plus 6 GB of data for about $23 per month.  This wasn't on a contract either so I could quit at anytime.

How Do We Feel About Being Back?
I should probably warn you that I'm feeling all the feelings about this.  You've been warned. (Aka please don't be offended by what I'm about to say.)

That is such a loaded question.  It feels good in some ways and so strange in other ways being back.  Some days we miss Stockholm a little bit and some days we miss it a lot.  I don't think there has been a day that we haven't missed it at all.  That is a hard realization.

The biggest surprise after we moved back was the sudden urge to rewind and just go back. I think the amount of work we have to do in our house to get it organized and decluttered was enough to send us packing without a second thought.  But then we realized moving back won't fix the problem of having way too much stuff.  So for now we will clean out our house, get rid of stuff we shouldn't have held on to for this long and be thankful that we had the experience of living in Stockholm.  We are thankful that living in a one bedroom apartment with 6 suitcases of stuff to show us that we don't need as much stuff as we have.  There is something truly freeing in having less stuff.  We are ready to be free again :).  (We do kind of miss the ignorance of not realizing how much stuff we had.  But I know having it all decluttered and organized will feel really good!)

I'm curious to see how we feel about our house after it is organized.  Will we still want to go back to Stockholm as much as we do now?  How much do we miss the city of Stockholm versus the simplicity of living there?  Regardless, I think both of us will still miss our little apartment.  It was so cozy and just perfect for us.

Feeling all the Feelings . . .
Sometimes it is hard to talk about Stockholm.  We don't want to come across snobby when we talk about it but has become a big part of our life.  I just wish we could convey to others that it is possible for them to experience something like this too.  In Stockholm most people we met were in a similar situation.  They had moved from somewhere else (most of the time the US) to work in Stockholm for a certain period of time.  So we had lots of things in common that we could talk about.  There was a need to make connections and friendships quickly in adulthood which isn't common when you've lived in a city your whole life.  Now when we talk to people it is hard for them to relate to what we went through (or are going through) so then it feels like we can't talk about it.  Not talking about it makes it kind of feel like it didn't happen and that is hard.  I feel like Jake is in an even more awkward position at work because he is around a lot of people who weren't given the opportunity he was so why would they want to hear about how great it was?

I was the one that pushed for us to move back.   Moving to Stockholm was supposed to be a one year deal and then we extended it to two years.  So when we were making plans to move back we I just went through the steps of getting ready to move back because that is what we said we would do.  Part of me wishes I would have thought about it harder.  Did we move back because we wanted to and were ready? Or because I had it in my head that it would happen after 2 years and when Linnea was still little?  How would I feel if we were still in Stockholm and staying for another year?

Living in Stockholm often felt like a dream or a long vacation.  Every time we did things that were really different than living in Olathe (riding public transportation, walking around downtown Stockholm, etc) it didn't feel normal.  It didn't feel like home.  I think that feeling made me think that "if this doesn't feel like home and Olathe does then we should move home."  After moving back to Olathe my thinking has shifted to . . . "just because riding the metro or walking around downtown Stockholm didn't feel familiar or like home didn't mean it didn't feel good."  I wish I would have realized that before.  I didn't realize how much of the Stockholm life we really enjoyed and valued until getting back to Olathe and realizing we don't have those things here.

This isn't all to say we haven't really enjoyed our time in the States because we have.  We've been taking full advantage of being around family and friends again.  Our goal is to hang out with friends or family at least once a week and we have been doing way more than that.  It has been so great and every time we do something with friends or family I think about how we wouldn't be able to do that if we were still in Stockholm.  I went to a Thanksgiving lunch at my niece's school this week with my sister in law and it was great.  I would have missed that in Stockholm.  I had a play date with one of my best friends a few days ago and I would have missed that in Stockholm.

With all the recent news about refugees and Governor's banning refugees I had a strange thought.  I was thinking about all the posts I had read on Facebook and at one point I thought "I wonder what it is like for people in Kansas and other states.  Have they seen refugees?  Are some kids coming to school?  What would that be like?"  And then I realized I'm in Kansas.  Over the last two years I've been reading posts on Facebook about Brownback cutting school funding and other current events and I've wondered what it felt like to live through that instead of just read about it.  Then it dawned on me that I was living through this instead of just reading about it.  Our minds can definitely play tricks on us.

I am so thankful for this little blog and that I can be honest about my feelings.  It really helps me be able to process things and hopefully you guys have learned a few things along the way as well.

Next week is Thanksgiving and I could not be more excited.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  No presents and hardly any stress since my mom and uncle do all the cooking.  I get to see my aunt, uncle and cousins and they are so much fun!  I can't wait to introduce Linnea to several family members who haven't met her yet!  Eek!  Plus, my mom always makes fudge and I eat as much Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream as I can :).  Got to keep up my milk supply, right?  TMI?  Sorry!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Linnea is 4 Months Old!

Oh sweet girl, we sure love you.  You are so much fun.  I didn't realize how fun it would be to have a third teammate.  I've always liked holding babies but it was also nice to give them back to their parents but I could hold you all day (except your dad likes to hold you as well).
At your 4 month well baby check up you weighed 12 lbs 8 oz (5.669 kg) which was in the 22nd percentile.  You were 26 inches (66 cm) long which is in the 95th percentile and your head was 16.25 inches (41.25 cm) around which is in the 56th percentile.  You are still long and skinny and I love it!
A little comparison photo: 1 week, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, and 4 months.
This month you went through a growth spurt and started eating more during the night.  During the day you still ate every four hours.  There were a few days this month where I tried feeding you every 3 hours to hopefully fill you up so you weren't so hungry at night but that didn't work.  You just aren't hungry every 3 hours so instead of eating you looked all around the room.  You kind of forgot how to take a bottle this month but after a few days of practicing you remembered and did a great job when Jami and Grandma Debbie gave you a bottle.

We went to the pediatrician's office for a weight check at the very beginning of the month and since it was our first time meeting her she did a quick evaluation on you.  She said you fall into the "happy spitter" category.  You are as happy as can be and then all of a sudden spit up goes everywhere and then you are smiling again.  The only thing you don't like is when we wipe off your face.  The good news is it doesn't seem to bother you and you are still gaining weight which is great.

I have good news and bad news.  The good news is you are finally getting back to sleeping better.  The bad news is that you spent most of this month waking up during the night a lot more than you used to (and almost more than you did as a newborn).  About a week before you turned 3 months old you started waking up in the middle of the night and you continued to do that until about a week before you turned 4 months old.  Not going to lie we had a few rough nights.  I realize that our "rough nights" were still very easy compared to some but it was hard going from you sleeping through the night (with waking up a few times for your pacifier) to you waking up three times a night to eat.
Your bad nights this month were when you went to bed around 7:30 and then woke up between 10:30-11:30 then again around 2:30 and then 4:30 or 5 and then you were up for the day around 6 or 6:30 but you wouldn't eat again until 7:30.  One night this month you went the whole night without eating and the last week or so you've been waking up just once to eat.  I think we need to move you out of our room and let you fuss a little more but right now your nursery is still full of office junk :( but we are working on it!
When you wake up early (anytime after 5 but before 7:15) your dad gets up with you so I can sleep since I got up with you before 5 if you woke up.  One morning I walked out to find both of you asleep on the couch.  It was adorable!
You've been sleeping in your crib in our room ever since we moved back to the US.  You look so small in your crib compared to when you are in your box.

You can still fit into some size 56 clothes but you also wear some size 62.  You are still very long and skinny so you have to wear 6 month pants because the 3 month pants look like capris on you.  You can still wear some 3 month onesies.  We don't have any sleepers in your size which is fine because we just put you in a top and pants at night when you sleep.

I think we settled on Parent's Choice fragrance free wipes as our favorite but in a Huggies wipe dispenser (thank you Jan for that tip).  We use Huggies size 1 diapers at night and during the day.  I like to use Huggies especially if you are riding in your car seat or sitting in something because they have a tab in the back to help keep projects in your diaper instead of up your back :).  I still like using Luvs size 2 on you as well.

I used to put a bib on you since you spit up so much and I didn't want to have to always change your outfit but then I just ended up with wet bibs and wet outfits because you often got both of them wet.  So now I just skip the bib and change your outfit 2-3 times a day which means you get to wear all of your outfits lots of times and they aren't covered up by bibs :)! 

You discovered toys this month.  You've been "playing" and talking to your friends, aka your mobile, for a few months but this month you started playing with your toys.  It has been so much fun watching you play.  You've started putting toys in your mouth this month which means we have to make sure we watch you so you don't get something that could choke you.

You still really like your mobile but now you like you hit it and watch it move.
You aren't actually going forward yet but you look like you are ready to start scooting soon!  I'm not ready!
One great perk of moving back is having one of my best friends living about 5 minutes away from us and she has two cute girls that enjoy playing with you.  We've hung out together a few times and even met at Deanna Rose Farmstead one morning.  I can't wait to hang out with them more!

Your evenings aren't as fussy as they used to be which means you get to take a bath before bedtime now.  Right after we moved back I hadn't had time to clean the tub so we improvised and gave you a bath in a plastic drawer.  You weren't really a fan which is understandable . . .
This month you have also started to enjoy when we read books to you.  You look at the pictures and seem pretty interested which is fun.

Reading your book and chewing on your hand.  Got to keep up with your Swedish!  At this point you might pass your parents (well . . . at least your mom).

You have lots of favorite toys.  One of your favorites is a plastic toy that has rounded edges that we keep with your car seat because we know you can't choke on it and if it falls on the floor we can wash it off. 
 You love your moose's feet!
You love to eat your fish.  You must get that from your dad because I don't like fish :).
You love to talk and laugh.  It is so fun listening to you.

Sometimes when you are playing you will put a blanket or a toy on your face and then you start gasping for air as if you can't breathe even though you can.  You are such a silly girl.  Maybe that is just the sound you make when you are excited?

New Skills
You started talking more this month and making a "g" or gurgling sound which is really cute.  Sometimes you will do it as I am laying you down for a nap.  You just look up at me, grin and start gurgling.  It just melts me!  I love hearing you talk to me.

You've found my hair and often have a fist full before I can stop you.

Sometimes when you are playing on your mat you will roll to your side to look at your books.  It is really cute.  You roll from your tummy to your back sometimes as well.

Reading and tummy time!
You LOVE sucking on your fingers and the palm of your hand.  Sometimes you have just one finger in your mouth and sometimes you have both hands in your mouth.  You still prefer your pacifier when you are tired or upset which is fine by me :).

You love sucking on our fingers as well.
You try to sit up all the time.  If I lay you on my lap you try to sit up and get frustrated when you can't. You also try to sit up in your bouncy seat and in the rock n play.  At least once a day I grab your hands and then pull you up so you are sitting.  I think you really like it :).
This month we've really started to notice some blonde hair coming in.  We kind of thought you would be blonde when you were born so when you came out with dark hair we were all surprised.  Now I'm sad that you are losing your dark hair and blonde hair is coming in its place.  It is just another sign that you are no longer my newborn baby :(.  I really cannot believe how old you are and how much you have grown and changed in just four short months. 
Your hair looks so blonde in this picture.  This is one of my best friends Emily.  I've known her for a long time and most of that time we actually liked each other ;).  She prayed hard for you and seeing you two together just makes me smile.

Activities and Outings
You do a great job riding in the car.  I wasn't sure how you would do since you didn't ride in a car the first three months of your life but just like everything else we've tried with you, you've been a champ.  You fuss a little when we put you in your car seat but it isn't anything a pacifier can't fix.  Going around town on short trips are easy other than getting your car seat in and out of the car.  That thing is heavy!
We've been to Manhattan three times and Wichita once and you did great on every trip.  We are getting better about taking longer car rides during your nap time which helps but even if you are awake you don't mind being in the car.
 You met lots of people this month and didn't mind going to them which is great.  You did spit up on a few of them but thankfully they didn't mind (at least that is what they said).
Brad, Victoria, Zion, Linnea and Rose Baby Girl #2.  We are so excited to hang out with them again now that we are back!

We had a great time hanging out with my school friends.  So thankful for these guys and that we've been able to stay in touch even though we've been gone for two years.

Your grandparents came up to visit us this month.  You had a great time hanging out with them.

Your Dad
Your dad loves hanging out with you and giving me a break during the weekends.  I love seeing you two together.  He loves you so much and has been teaching you so many things already!  
  You really hit the dad jackpot!
 You loved learning how to install a dishwasher.
I'm not sure who enjoyed hanging out more when your dad was doing yard work.
We left you for the first time with a non-family member.  Technically Kelli isn't in the family but she is one of my best friends and was my college roommate so she is like a sister to me.  She watched you with her sister in law during the first K-State game we were able to go to.  Then we left you again with all of my college roommates for another K-State game.  You did great both times.
Eli was so excited to hang out with you!  (Kelli was 39 weeks pregnant in this picture and still agreed to watch Linnea.  She is one of a kind!)

You went to your first K-State tailgate.  We didn't take you into the game but you did hang out with your grandparents in the parking lot while we went into the game.  Your dad put you down for a nap before the game started and then we woke you up at halftime so you could eat.  It was a pretty hard babysitting job for your grandparents.
We went out to eat for the first time in Olathe with your grandparents and once with just the three of us.  You did a great job, of course, but we wish we could take you in your bassinet so we don't have to wake you up getting you out of your car seat.
The first of many trips to Mi Ranchito.  The guy next to me is Jan. He is from the Stockholm office.  It was fun seeing him after we moved back.

We celebrated the first holiday with you this month, Halloween.  We went to Wichita for the first time as well.  We had a great time getting you dressed up and walking you around your dad's neighborhood.  We also stopped by Tim and Cathy Martz's house so you could meet them.  They were really excited.

When we were in Wichita we watched your cousin Jace play basketball and met your new cousin Paislee!  I have a feeling you two will be great friends! 

Dinner at Saigon.

Happy Halloween!

Dad's Birthday!
On your dad's birthday we went out to dinner with Liz's family.  After dinner we came home to feed you and then swaddled you and put you in your bassinet and walked to their house.  You slept in the front room of their house while we played games and then we walked you home and transferred you to your bed.  It was great!
 One night we went to Erin McGonigle's house to watch the Royals play.  I fed you dinner there and then put you to sleep in the bassinet.  We transferred you to your car seat and then drove you home.  You were awake the whole way home but we swaddled you and laid you down and you slept great.  You are such a great baby!

You are a great shopping partner already.  You smile and talk to me the whole time, unless you fall asleep.  We usually use your stroller because your car seat takes up the whole cart and grocery carts are so hard to push compared to your stroller.

This month you also got to meet my friends that I taught with at Rex Elementary.  We haven't taught together in 7 years but we still go to lunch or dinner when I'm back in town and they couldn't wait to meet you.  You loved sitting on Chris's lap.  I feel like I should have warned you about him.  He can be pretty sneaky.

Roommates Reunion
We had a great time in Manhattan hanging out with my college roommates, their husbands and kids.  It was SO great seeing them and spending time together.  Our time together wasn't as relaxing or as quiet as it used to be but we wouldn't have it any other way.  I'm just thankful that this year we were home and able to get together with them.  Plus the adults still outnumber the kids . . . for now.

I want to remember the way you turn your head all the way to the side when you are ready to sleep.  You'll do this in your car seat, crib or you'll turn your head into my chest if I am holding you.  I love feeling you snuggle into me.

Sometimes you get so excited that your whole body wiggles.  You are just so happy.  I hope I remember how happy you are (and that I don't take it for granted because I know some babies aren't and that would be tough).

I want to remember the look on your face when we play "find Linnea and mommy in the mirror."  One of our bathrooms has several mirrors and at least once a day we go in there and find each other in the mirrors.  It is so fun.

I usually make up silly songs to sing to you when you are sad or upset and I can't pick you up.  They usually start with "Linnea likes to hang out with mommy, play with daddy" . . . . and I usually include a verse about how happy you are.

Thanks for being such an awesome baby.  We are so thankful for you and feel so lucky that we get to be your parents.  Happy 4 months sweet girl!


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