Summer in Sweden

Vi hade iallafall tur med vädret. Roughly translated: At least we had good luck with the weather.

Our Swedish readers are already chuckling to themselves a little bit. In the (somewhat likely) event that you’re not Swedish, allow me to explain. This is a well-known expression in Sweden that comes from the title of a made-for-TV movie from 1980. The film is a comedy of errors about a family on vacation where everything that can go wrong does. Think National Lampoon’s without the Hollywood budget. According to Wikipedia, it was the director’s final project for film school. They made a sequel in 2008, but we haven’t seen it. (Full disclosure – I haven’t seen the first one either. I find those kinds of movies irritating.)

I bring this up NOT because our trip was a comedy of errors, thankfully, but because we definitely did NOT have good luck in the weather department. Northern Sweden welcomed us back with snow showers in early June. We all thought summer was running a little late this year, but then it seemed as though summer just got lost on the way and gave up. We had a few nice days, and in true Swedish fashion we dropped everything and got outside. But otherwise being outside called for rain jackets, blankets, and a healthy dose of determination.

summer snow

The kids were the only ones who thought this June snow shower was fun. And yes, she is out in it barefoot.

In some ways, it feels strange to condense 3 months into one post, but in others it feels difficult to know what to write. Compared to our nomadic life the first half of the year, these months were relatively uneventful. They were spent in the same city, where we had previously lived for 4 years and had left for only 7 months. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of returning for a season to a place and routine that used to be our everyday life but somehow isn’t anymore.

Work and Play

It’s so helpful to our financial ‘big picture’ that Staffan was able to work for nearly 3 months this summer, but it was a transition for all of us to return to that kind of routine. We were used to the flexibility of all being together and rarely having times to keep. It’s a luxury we worked hard for and made hard decisions to pursue. It was also a decision to sacrifice it for this season and rebuild our savings buffer going forward. We all adjusted but it was hard on all of us. For Staffan, filling in as a summer interim is not the kind of relational pastoring that feels fulfilling but rather a series of one-time events adding up to a full-time job. It was energy draining and frustrating at times. I had to figure out how to keep up with my US-based commitments with a time difference and while being on my own with the kids most of the time. The kids had to get used to Pappa being gone all day and fewer adventures in our daily life. As I said, we all adjusted, but it felt a bit like putting on clothes that used to fit but don’t anymore – uncomfortable and a bit constricting.

In the meantime, Emelie had the opportunity to go to dance camp for a week with her former dance school. We spent part of the summer house-sitting in two different neighborhoods and the rest of the time staying with Farmor (Staffan’s mom), so there were three different groups of neighborhood kids to meet and play with. There were countless imaginary games invented on playgrounds and bike paths. There were berries to be picked and eaten – strawberries and raspberries in the garden of a house we stayed in, and blueberries growing wild in the forest.

Skellfeteå Dans och balett

She LOVED Dance Camp. She’s such a natural dancer!

A few weeks after we arrived, we declared a summer break from the more structured parts of our homeschooling. There was no objection to this from the kids, of course, but they were concerned that summer break would interrupt our routine of taking some kind of “field trip” every week. “If we don’t go to a single museum all summer, that would be really disappointing,” declared Emelie in mid-June. So we visited a small local museum that’s been around for decades but we’ve never taken the time to visit. Then we explored the brand new “Exploratoriet” science musuem next door. We went to a local candy factory, watched hard candy being made, and got to taste a sample while it was still warm. We even spent a day at Medieval Week, which was very small but gave the kids a chance to go to Knight Training, watch a battle and shoot a bow and arrow. It poured down rain and we got soaked, but the kids were excited and in good spirits the whole time. Learning happens so naturally every day that there’s no need to take a vacation from it – and when it’s this fun, who would want to?

Nordanå

At the Skellefteå museum at Nordanå. Can’t believe we’d never been here before!

 

science museum

Redirecting water flow to turn the water wheels and generate electricity

 

archery

Learning to shoot a bow and arrow with a really good teacher!

Firsts, Friends, and Family

Kids are constantly learning and developing, no matter where they are or what’s going on around them. Ideally, this is true of all of us, regardless of age, but it’s a lot easier to see how kids grow and change in a short time. There are small things happening all the time, but during our summer in Sweden, each of our kids reached a noteworthy milestone. Micah learned to pull himself up and take a few steps holding on to furniture. Peter learned to ride a bike without training wheels, and Emelie learned to tie shoes and got her first pair of sneakers with laces.

standing baby

Look what I can do!

 

bicycle

No training wheels!

 

tie shoes

I tied them myself!

Most of our free time was focused around visiting with friends and family. Most of Staffan’s side of the family is relatively local to Skellefteå (the city where we were) and his sister came to visit for a week in July with her family. We spent time with some of our oldest friends and made some new friends and everything in between. There never seems to be quite enough time, and there were so many that we didn’t get to see at all or wished we would have had more time with, but we did our best. Relationships really are the stuff of life and we’re so thankful to have had the time we had with so many people that we love.

family

Cousins playing together

Stuff

I wrote here recently about the challenges of having parts of our hearts on both sides of the Atlantic. A much more practical challenge is that we also still have our belongings spread out on both sides too.

When we moved to Sweden from the US, we shipped a container with all of our stuff, including furniture, bikes, tools, and other big and heavy things. This move was/is completely different and we decided to leave last fall with only what we could take in our checked luggage on the plane. We paid for one extra bag so that we could bring Staffan’s guitar, we maxed out our weight allowance on every single bag, and we can’t honestly say that our cabin baggage was within the posted limits. We stored everything else that wasn’t temperature sensitive in our Swedish camper and left a few things with Staffan’s parents.

This summer, we sold our Swedish camper, hoping to be able to put that money back into a different RV that would better suit our family’s needs now that we have three kids and the older two are rapidly outgrowing the small bunks. We were more sad than we expected to watch someone else drive away with our (former) home, but it was the right decision. Unfortunately, we didn’t find an RV to replace it with this summer, so all the things we had stored there last year needed to find a new home.

husvagn

Farewell! Thanks for all the memories!

Once again, we found ourselves sorting through boxes and getting rid of stuff. You’d think we wouldn’t be able to reduce anymore after everything that we’ve sold, given away, and thrown away in recent years, but the process continues. There were things that we weren’t ready to part with last fall, but after spending 7 months living without them, realized we hadn’t missed. Once again we loaded the car to the secondhand store and the trash sorting facility. What was left either fit into our suitcases on the trip back to the US or is being stored by Staffan’s generous parents.

storage

Our corner of the storage unit

So while our clear preference is to travel light, and we fondly remember our trip to London with just a backpack each, once again we found ourselves maxing out our baggage allowances and stretching the boundaries on carry on bags as we continue to move our stuff across the ocean. There are definitely drawbacks to choosing to move this way, but all things considered it’s working well for us. It certainly forces us to thoughtfully consider what we keep and why, and motivates us to continue to reduce the number and volume of our belongings. Simplify.

luggage

Heading back to the US. Not exactly traveling light…

 

And so, full of all these things, the three months of our summer visit passed quickly, as summers seem to do. There were parts that we loved and there were other parts that were less fun in the moment, but will be worth it going forward. We wave a fond farewell to Sweden and summer for this year and look forward to getting back on the road this fall.

 

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