August marked our one-year Swediversary, but I didn't quite get round to writing about it then. Partly because we were on holiday. Also because at that stage we already knew of something momentous that was about to change our life here dramatically and which couldn't possibly be left out of an update, but which we weren't quite ready to share yet. Eventually I did - in October I dragged myself out of bed and announced our soon-to-be Swedish baby. All being well there will be four of us in April. All born in different countries. Isn't that amazing?
So here we are, over one year into our Swedish adventure. Actually, it is starting to feel less like an adventure and more like normal, routine, everyday. This is what happens when you up sticks: it takes a year. My mantra. It takes a year to find out where the best bakery is, who you click with, what will grow when, and how to cope with the climate like a local. Give. it. a year.
I feel like our way of living is driven 99% by the climate. The summer was nothing short of spectacular. Right now I see snow and fog from my window, but as it's predicted to warm up a bit again next week, let's pretend winter isn't quite here yet. Autumn, in all its brevity, is/was spectacular too.
The difference between the two - spring/summer and autumn/winter - is shocking though. There are four distinct seasons but you do end up thinking of the year as comprising six months of light and six months of darkness (though we don't get polar nights or days this far south). During the light months we were outside all the time and almost experienced two days in one: get up, go to work/school, come back, eat, go out again for lawn games, playground trips or walks. Now that the darkness and cold have set in, we're retreating indoors and into ourselves a lot more. We share hearty meals with friends, watch a little too much Netflix, and build train track after train track. Some Saturdays none of even bothers to get dressed.
Each has its charms, as long as you're prepared. I froze and preserved as much seasonal produce as I could in the summer months, and we've replaced most of our swish Italian wardrobes with more functional, warm, protective clothing. In summer you accept you'll get sand in your knitting, and in winter you stick your inspiration on the wall.
In late August the Bean finally went up an age group at preschool, from the 1-3s to the 3-5s. He's was so very ready to be challenged more and, oh my goodness, he's leaped in with his heart and soul. It's not surprising - preschool here is so, so cool. Everything is driven by the children themselves and geared towards fostering creativity. As long as everyone is safe, they're pretty much allowed to do what they please. The big ones help the little ones, and they all come home absolutely filthy. Their days out sound so fun they make me want to join in, too: paddling in the stream, blackberry foraging, leaf collecting, library visits. Once they took two public buses to get to a farm, picked their own sweetcorn, barbecued it and just ate it with lashings of butter there and then. I was especially envious that day.
All this intense activity comes with challenges too, of course. He is knackered. Most evenings it's a struggle to shovel some dinner into him and put him in the bath before he collapses. Many days I end up with a half-fed, crusty Bean snoring in my bed.
Always my bed. Though in many ways his confidence has soared, some things don't change. The comings and goings of relatives in the summer holidays always affect his sense of security, and then there is The Baby... He's doing his best to process it all, in his own way, with questions and imaginative play. It's hard though, and there have been some very big wobbles about being abandoned while I'm in hospital in particular. All we can do is reassure him, again and again and again. But every morning I still wake up with his little feet tucked up under my thighs and his face squashed into the side of my pillow.
So yeah, I'm bumpy again! Rather more early on than last time too. Baby is wriggling and I'm a grumpy mess of backache and heartburn. Standard stuff, then. Next week I'll have my second scan, at 19 weeks, which will be the last one if all is well. As I've mentioned before, Swedish antenatal care is very hands-off unless there are complications. Since this country is considered one of the safest for women to give birth in, I'm okay with that.
I will need to chat to my midwife about what to expect from the hospital though. It's always tricky to navigate a healthcare system when you're new somewhere, and our experience of a hospital birth in Italy left both Mr E+L and I pretty traumatised. I would really like to hear it's more midwife-led and communicative here, or they might have trouble getting me to come in at all. My next check-up is in December, so I'll raise it with her then.
Of course, in the meantime I can't resist stroking all the cute wee baby things. It just makes all the discomforts and worries disappear in an instant. I'm making a few things myself, and I've bought a big bag of second-hand newborn clothes. A mixture of fun brights and versatile (gender) neutrals, just like our soon-to-be Big Brother wears.
Ah, work. When it works it's great, but... The insecurity I wrote about in my last update hasn't been resolved or even improved yet, unfortunately. On the plus side, we've made up our own minds about a few things, which is of course part of the battle. We'd really like to stay here, so for the first time in our adulting careers we're not chasing work opportunities and changing everything else to fit around those, but rather looking for ways to make sure work supports the lifestyle we want.
Small steps. From Monday I'll be attending an intensive Swedish course every single morning for four weeks. Then of course from April-ish onwards I'll be on maternity leave, but I'm keeping an eye out for employed jobs as opposed to self-employed jobs. It's nervewracking - I've been independent for 6 years and I'm terrified of losing the creative freedom I've gained - but two of us having unstable incomes is just too stressful. Mr E+L is doing the same so, who knows, a little lucky fairy dust may come our way soon. Who knows where we'll be this time next year?
I'm linking this post up with Chantelle at Seychelles Mama for #myexpatfamily