The Storm Before the Calm

Writing today from the United States, for the first time in a long time.

Our last post was about waiting. And when our period of waiting was finally over, there was little time left over for writing. To call the last two months intense is a bit of an understatement. But it has, for the most part, been a happy time, and somehow we find ourselves now back in the US actually implementing the plan we’ve been working on for years. It’s still hard to wrap our minds around it all, but perhaps trying to describe it in a few paragraphs here will help.

Micah

We’ll start with the best and most important event. Two months ago we joyfully welcomed Micah Thomas into our family at 4am on September 9. He was (and is) a big baby, weighing in at 4.3 kg (9.5 lbs) and 53cm (21 inches) long. The last weeks of the pregnancy were very hard on all of us, but that only increased our joy in finally meeting our son. Micah is a calm, pleasant baby who eats well, sleeps well (usually), and is growing so fast.

Everyone wondered how it would work to live in a camper with a newborn, and the short answer is that it worked out just fine. We hung a bed for him above ours, and we moved him around as we needed to during the day. The first night after we brought him home, the older kids woke up when he did. After the second night, when they woke up in the morning, Emelie remarked how great it was that Micah had learned to sleep all night long already. He hadn’t of course, but we were glad that they had learned to sleep even when he was awake. And thankfully, Micah doesn’t cry much as long as we respond well to his other cues.

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Super Micah! All dressed up for Halloween

Words can’t describe how happy we are to have Micah with us as we start this new season. Emelie and Peter are so proud of their baby brother and love to help us take care of him. It’s hard to imagine our family without him, even though he’s only been with us a short time. We’re so in love!

Paperwork

We have, at times, felt as though we were drowning in a sea of paperwork and never before have we so closely monitored the mailbox. From legally registering Micah’s name to getting both his Swedish and American passports, this whole process has required us to keep close track of every small detail. We haven’t had time to miss anything. In fact, our margins were so small that we didn’t get Michah’s American passport until about 38 hours before take off. It was too late to mail it, and it seemed for a while that one of us would need to make yet another trip down to Stockholm (a 12 hour drive). But we found a friend that could pick up the passport in person, who also had a friend who was on his way north the next day. So we drove about 2 hours to meet him and pick it up instead. It was a bit of drama that we really didn’t need in the last days before our trip, but what a blessing to have friends who helped us solve the problem!

Fly to Stockholm

Applying for Micah’s American passport required a trip down to the US Embassy in Stockholm. Thanks to good timing with a SAS “sale” on bonus travel, we had enough points to take the whole family!

I’ve had a notebook full of lists that we’ve checked off one thing at a time, and at times we’ve found ourselves driving to a mailbox with the latest pick up, or signing and scanning documents at midnight. It hasn’t exactly been a calm, restful time with our newborn, but in the end we successfully navigated a complicated process in near record time.

Friends and Family and Farewells

What we miss most, no matter what part of the world we’re in, are all the people we love who are in another part of the world. We’re so excited to once again be with many of those that we’ve been missing during the 10 years we’ve lived in Sweden. And yet, being with them means not being with others, and we spent lots of time squeezing in “one last visit” and saying goodbye.

Staffan’s official last Sunday working at church was October 9. Though we’d only been in that congregation about a year and a half, they had truly become our faith family and leaving them was difficult. We had Micah baptized there on Sunday the 16th, and the party afterward was also a “final” gathering of friends and family before we left. Unfortunately, there were many families who were unable to come because of sick kids, so in among all the final details, we also found time to visit as many of them as we could. We also had a sick child during our last week in Sweden, so poor Peter wasn’t able to fully participate in everything, but we’re so glad he was well enough to be with our family during the baptism itself. It would have felt wrong if we weren’t all together.

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Family photo after the baptism. So thankful our good friend Markus could perform the baptism!

Moving and Stuff

How is it possible, after three years of selling, donating, and trashing most of our stuff, that we still have so much left? About two weeks before we left Sweden, we moved into a temporary apartment so that we could winterize and store the camper. Emptying out the camper in order to clean it well didn’t sound like such a big project, but it’s amazing how much stuff we’d managed to fit even in that limited space! It was a bigger task than we’d expected to sort out the things that we still had left. Anything that didn’t fit in our suitcases to come with us would either be stored in the camper for the winter or find a new home somewhere else. Five days before we left, the camper was towed to winter storage.

On Sunday, October 23, it took two cars to get us and all our stuff to the airport. We checked in five bags that were just barely under the 23kg limit, and our stroller, plus we paid for an extra bag to bring Staffan’s guitar. Then came the real fun: getting all our carry-on bags and kids through security and onto the plane. We had two rolling bags, a backpack each, my purse, a diaper bag that also caught all the little last minute things that didn’t fit anywhere else, plus Peter’s car seat (FAA approved to sit in on the plane). And of course Micah needed to be carried well since we didn’t have the option of gate checking the stroller, so I was wearing him in a wrap carrier. At security, both in Skellefteå and Stockholm, we had to unpack our fluids bag, 2 laptops and 4 tablets as we sent all of these items through the x-ray machine. There’s no way we were actually within the rules for hand baggage with respect to both number of pieces or the weight of each piece, but thankfully no one asked or checked.

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A quick and blurry picture caught with a cell phone camera in the early morning at the airport. Not exactly traveling light!

Our preferred way to travel is with a single backpack each, no checked luggage, quick and easy through security. This was not that trip. I still can’t decide if I am disappointed that we had so much stuff with us, or impressed that we’re actually moving with this little. Either way, all of our luggage arrived with us, and if there was ever a time when renting a luggage cart was actually worth the $6 they charge at Newark airport, this was it.

Stateside

For better or for worse, our pace hasn’t slowed down much since arriving Stateside. Most of it has been fun. We’ve been enjoying family time and eating (way too much of) favorite foods that aren’t available in Sweden. Halloween was about a week after we arrived, and a week after that we celebrated Peter’s 5th birthday.

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Lego brownies for the birthday morning wake up. The kids have these great cots bunked for “camping” at Mommom and Poppop’s house.

But we’re all a bit tired. The last weeks in Sweden were exhausting, and adding in jet lag didn’t make anything easier. Just as we started to adjust fully to the new time zone, we went off of daylight savings time and had to adjust again. It has taken some problem solving skills to add 5 more people and all this luggage to my parents’ small house. We are transferring our savings here from Sweden, losing a lot more than we’d hoped to the lowest exchange rate in 10 years, and shopping for both a camper and a tow vehicle to spend it all on. Playing the game of timing and haggling feels a lot like gambling with a pretty significant amount of money (at least for us), and we’re a bit out of our element. It’s an emotional and stressful time and we’re really looking forward to these initial transitional steps being behind us, so that we can relax, rest, recover, and enjoy the fruits of all this labor.

So that’s what we’ve been up to the last two months: having a baby, moving, moving again, moving over the Atlantic, lots of hellos and goodbyes and two major purchases in progress. (Insert deep breath here!) Our life now in early November bears very little resemblance to our life in early September, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

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