Fabulous, Funny & Fierce — Old People, Swedish Style

Göteborg tram at night

While riding into town one day, my tram slammed to an unexpected stop. The two tram cars and all the riders within lurched backward and forward, some riders nearly falling to the floor. The cause of this sudden disturbance? A very old man decided he could outrun a tram. As I saw him skip across the last tram track and heave his walker up on to the sidewalk, I couldn’t help but grin. This cheeky fellow is a perfect example of the average over 70 in Göteborg.

Public transportation in Göteborg is a melting pot of nationalities, income levels, and ages. The youngest I’ve seen? 1 day…my own newborn. The oldest? I swear he had to have been 90. Today I want to focus on the older generation using trams and buses in Göteborg. Walkers, canes, and wheelchairs are everywhere. Older people are just as active and adventurous in Göteborg as the younger generation. Not only are they physically present, they also interact heavily with their fellow riders.

Older Swedish men (in my experience) are both hilarious and polite. If my baby’s hat falls or my son drops his toy, they often come to the rescue with twinkling eyes. These same men will readily scold a child for chasing the birds. They are friendly with but firm. Just the other day, my daughter amused herself yanking on the finger and nose of a particularly dour looking older fellow. She thought his scruffy cheeks and papery skin were the best thing ever. He played along, letting her have her way for the entirety of his tram ride. They parted reluctantly at our mutual stop…after 15 minutes of silliness.

Older Swedish women are outspoken and equal parts helpful and ornery. The beauty of these women is their lack of fear. They know their rights and are unafraid to speak up. They are hilarious and a little bit scary. As someone without a car, I spend time each day on trams and buses. One day, I boarded a standing room only tram while baby-wearing. Two seated youths were focused on their phones and didn’t notice me; other nearby passengers avoided eye contact. Thankfully, a 20-something woman offered me her window seat. After she moved towards the door, an older (70+) Swedish woman began to address me, loudly, over the head of the man in the seat to my right. I explained my limited svenska and she switched to english. Still loud, she bemoaned that men and youth are so rude these days that they won’t even move for a woman with a baby strapped to her chest. The man next to me was visibly uncomfortable and the youths in front finally tuned in. I was amused and impressed with her gumption. At the next stop, the youths jumped up to allow another person a seat and the man next to me hopped off.

Three weeks later, I boarded a bus and sat in the section for people with limited mobility when I saw no further seats available. Having a baby strapped on my chest and a sleepy toddler at my hip certainly qualifies me for that section. The man across from me had one leg, crutches, and a backpack in the adjoining seat. An older woman approached and asked him to move his bag. He told her to make me move to the buggy/wheelchair section. She scolded him and pointed out the baby on my chest and my young son. She got louder as he continually refused. I began to stand and she brusquely ordered me back to my seat while heading to the buggy section. Just as she arrived, a man in an automatic wheelchair boarded the bus. She came back to our section and demanded that bag be moved. He moved it. She sat. All was well with the world.

These scenarios perfectly illustrate the personality of many older Swedish women. They are powerful, outspoken, and occasionally a bit cranky (they won’t hesitate to tell you off for having feet on the seats). At the same time, even the most impressively coifed older woman will smile at my baby and allow her to touch their jackets or play with their fingers. As someone who appreciates slightly cranky people, I am quite enamored of these women. And yes, they have also taken me to task when they felt I was deserving of the scolding (I probably was…).

Obviously, not all older people in Sweden fit these descriptions. Some are quite ornery and others are visibly uncomfortable with the cultural melting pot they find themselves inhabiting. However, in my experience the majority are good people, living life to the fullest.

To those Swedes who bemoan their cranky older generation, I encourage you to sit back and enjoy the show. Some day you too can take others to task and live while testing the limits of the trams’ brakes and drivers’ reflexes.

Until next time…


Let’s Talk Ta Ta’s

Breasts have been on my mind for as long as I can remember. When I was small, I wanted them. Then, when I got my first AAA training bras, I was a bit proud — and nervous. At 12 years old, when I was one of the only girls in my class with visible breasts, I was embarrassed. In high school, I was resigned, thinking they made me look boxy. Finally, in my 20’s I discovered the power of a properly fitting bra and began to make peace with these two floatation devices strapped to my chest.

You see, for years I thought I was a 36 C, because that was the size my mom was at the time (or so she thought) and I just let her buy me bras. As I got older, I stuck to the same size, regardless of weight fluctuations, thinking it was still right. Eventually, I grudgingly went up a cup size, but between the back aches and sometimes embarrassing bulges, I grew more and more resentful of my breasts.

After college, when I finally had a decent paying job, I discovered the glory that is the Nordstrom’s bra department. This place truly is a well endowed girls best friend. It turns out not only was my cup size wrong, my rib size was also wrong. One was too small, the other too big. Leaving the store after that first excursion, my head was held high and my back no longer ached. As the years passed, I became complacent, dependent upon my bra department of choice. Then, I got pregnant…and suddenly Nordstrom wasn’t the best choice.

With pregnancy comes a whole litany of physical complaints, but one that really cannot be emphasized enough is the soreness that accompanies the beginning stages of milk production. Breast tissue swells, becomes inflamed, and just in general becomes a big ol’ pain in the … Well, you get the picture. At the time I was pregnant with the little guys, my local Nordstrom didn’t have maternity or nursing bras (though they will adjust a traditional bra into a nursing bra for a reasonable fee). Thankfully, there was a specialty boutique near by that introduced me to the Anita brand of maternity and nursing bras. These are truly spectacular bras. I credit them with helping me avoid mastitis during the early days of nursing our little guy. Then, once specialty bras weren’t needed anymore, I was able to go back to my old standby. Or was I?

Well ladies and gentlemen, apparently moving countries may put a kink in your plans to frequent your usual haunts. When it comes to bras that is a particular problem. Thankfully, in England I eventually found a shop called Bravissimo that does a pretty good job. They didn’t sell maternity bras, but that was a non-issue at the time, so all in all, it was a win.

Now let’s fast forward many months to the time when I found myself living in Sweden, desperate for a new bra because my current ones were approaching the end of their life span. Apparently, along with being generally tall, blond, and gorgeous, Swedes must also have breasts that defy gravity because try as I might, every bra I found had the most ridiculously thin straps imaginable! One hour in one of these bras was too much for my poor back. The bras are such an issue that a physical therapist actually recommended that a particularly busty friend of mine wear two bras for support. Two bras?!? Talk about torture…

Fast forward a few more months and now I find myself knocked up, with a litany of complaints, one of which is very unhappy breasts. After many, many desperate internet searches, I found myself on a pregnancy forum that recommended Anita bras (no surprise there). After perusing the website, I found a link that helped me track down local suppliers and lo and behold, there was 1! Yes, that’s right, 1. Still, in a country the size of Sweden, in a city that isn’t even the largest city, that is pretty impressive.

That very night, I emailed the owner of the shop, asking if she carried the line (it’s always good to confirm) and asking if she could accommodate my size (one never knows). She responded the very next day, assuring me that my bra woes would shortly be coming to an end. She even emailed me to let me know she was sick one day and the shop would be closed, so that I wouldn’t make an unnecessary trip. Impressive. Very impressive.

Upon tracking down the shop, approximately two streets from a major shopping mall, in a building, up an elevator, and through a door, I immediately discovered that the owner (Lisa) was very serious about women’s support garments. Her tiny shop is packed chock full of bras, underpants, swimsuits…it’s impressive and a little overwhelming. Thankfully, Lisa herself is so knowledgable about her stock and women’s shapes in general that my visit was painless. She guessed my size after a quick perusal and was right on the mark. Her selection of Anita bras was extensive and thankfully, she carries many, many non maternity bras as well. This shop is now my go to place for bras. I even took extra business cards, which I’ve shamelessly passed out to friends, my brow girl, and even my midwife. Don’t worry, I did control myself the time I almost stopped a passing woman to ask if she had heard of the shop…tact doesn’t come naturally to me, but occasionally I find it.

Now, enough prattling. It’s time to get to the good stuff. The bras I brought home from Lisa’s shop are amazing. I actually don’t even notice my chest for large parts of the day. What a revelation! So, if you are in Göteborg and in need of a proper bra (maternity or otherwise), please stop in to Chia-Agenteur at Östra Hamngatan 50A near Brunnsparken. Lisa has limited hours, so make sure to double check her website or Facebook page, but she will make exceptions if you contact her and will schedule private fittings outside of business hours.


Image from dailymail.co.uk

Image from dailymail.co.uk

Until next time…


The Search for a Nursery Begins…and Ends

Entering your child into school, even nursery in a foreign country is a daunting task. When discussing this with our relocation liaison, the one point I was 100% sure of was that our child should be in a school where he will learn Svenska (Swedish). That automatically removed at least half of the international schools from the list of options, as they are 100% English. My son may be a toddler, but his English vocabulary is stellar. Case in point, today he said “Friend wind is being a bit harsh today” and “I do not appreciate friend wind today” about the weather (which was admittedly quite harsh). He also said, “Mommy, you have a big pimple here” (thanks for that kid) and “I just want to go away without you right now” (right back at ya kid). As you can see, he has no issue with expressing himself in English and he clearly needs time with people other than myself. Apparently my novelty has worn off 😉

The primary lure of the first nursery we checked out is that the staff are equally versed in both English and Svenska. They also have a very holistic pedagogy that reminds me of the Montessori approach; using the child’s interest as cues for what to learn and how to approach learning. Mainly, they play. Like all nurseries in Sweden, there is also a strong focus on spending time outdoors. The small ones get lots of fresh air in Sweden, regardless of the outdoor conditions.

Outside rain or shine...

Outside rain or shine…

We arrived a bit late to our first meeting due to weather and coming from a different area. Despite this, the staff were warm and welcoming. Having fallen asleep for a bit in the car, my little guy was initially a bit reticent. He quickly warmed up after a short tour of the facility. At this point, I should probably mention that I am a person who believes in fate and with good reason… While touring the kitchen, I saw the name of a child on the refrigerator that matched the name of a child we met the previous day. So what, eh? Lots of children share the same name. Scoff not dear readers! After initially commenting on the coincidence, I found out during discussions with the staff that the child we met and the child attending the nursery were indeed one and the same! You concede that is at least a bit odd, no? Yes, that can happen; but there are other factors to consider. We met this child purely by accident at our new apartment building the day before. Our apartment building across town. The appointment we were currently attending was scheduled the previous week. The child’s mother did not tell me which nursery he attended. How is that for a coincidence? Which takes me back to fate…

In addition to that odd coincidence, several other factors stood out for me:

  • Friendly staff
  • Current availability (it is a new location so not yet full)
  • My son’s obvious comfort
  • Bilingual staff (one teacher is American and the other is Swedish)

So, what is a mom to do when faced with these factors? Rather than continue touring nurseries, I decided to go with my gut and give this one a try. After all, if it isn’t a good fit, we will figure it out soon enough. That said, I suspect it will be a great fit.

That means that for a full month of 5 hour days, we will pay about the same amount we paid for 1 day of nursery in the UK.

Nursery in Guildford, where we were living, is crazy expensive. Previously, the boy attended one day per week and there was a flat fee of roughly $90 per day. Yikes! Clearly, more than one day wasn’t an option, because my job doesn’t exactly rake in the cash (darn toddlers don’t pay well). Here things are a bit different. The nursery recommended we slot five days per week from 9am to 2pm; so I can schedule myself into full time Svenska classes. Conveniently, there is a school that teaches the language just down the block from the nursery. Going from one day per week of nursery to five days per week is a bit of a shock to my system. I’m not sure how he will cope, but I guess we will see. Now to the nitty gritty, how much is this going to cost? Based on our income, we will need to pay the max allowable. Wait for it…wait for it… That is a grand total of SEK 840 per month. Those of you who remember previous blogs will remember that isn’t nearly as much as it appears. In fact, it’s roughly $98. That means that for a full month of 5 hour days, we will pay about the same amount we paid for 1 day of nursery in the UK. Crazy, right?!?

Sweden is very serious about ensuring all individuals have equal opportunities. There is a concept here that no human life has more value than any other and that as such everyone should be provided the same opportunities. It is also considered important for parents to return to the work force after children are born. Providing good quality, affordable childcare empowers them to do that. While I don’t yet know who I want to be when I grow up; I appreciate them giving me a chance to rediscover find my path. 😉 Feel free to make me a world famous blogger so I can make my way with speaking engagements and the power of the written word… 😀

After a full week utilizing the new nursery, I can say that I have no regrets. The commute is a bit long (30 minutes by tram) and the boy swears he is not having fun (because I’m not there). That said, he’s eating lunch there like a champ, and when his teacher held out her hand to him this morning, he immediately took it and went in to play. He’s also becoming more independent. Tonight he kicked me out of the room at bed time. Within 20 minutes he was sound asleep. Is nursery the cause of this newfound independent streak? I don’t know, and as leery as I am of it, I am also proud of him continuing his journey and finding his way.

Until next time…


Scrub a dub dub

One ongoing concern for me during my pregnancy journey was chemical exposure. Pregnancy wasn’t something that was as simple as a one time “oops”. It look a long time and for a while there I wasn’t sure it would happen. As I talked with friends and co-workers about what helped them, two things stuck out:

1. Reduce your stress
2. Reduce your exposure to chemicals

The first was difficult for me. My career was very rewarding; but also extremely high pressure and nothing about that seemed likely to change soon. The second, I had a fighting chance with. Initially, I did this by eating organic whenever I could; and changing to the eco-friendly cleaning products in the store. I reduced my reliance on frozen meals and tried to cook more from real ingredients. Nothing drastic; but small changes.

Obviously, from the name of this blog, you know that something eventually worked. Shortly before my son was born and after a long battle with pregnancy related hyperemesis; I left my job to move and prepare to be a mom. That took care of my primary source of stress, but the dodging of chemicals became even more important after Drake was born.

I’ve come a long way from those eco-friendly detergents in the store. Thanks to my friend Karen, I discovered DoTerra essential oils and pretty much live bathed in them. They support my system and because they are therapeutic grade; I don’t feel bad using them. Of course, to justify spending the money, I have to find ways to use every oil I bring into the house. Enter my “miracle spray”. It’s not really a miracle. It’s just good old fashioned household ingredients with a touch of Purify oil.

In my squirt bottle I use:

1/2 bottle water
1/2 bottle vinegar
10-15 drops Purify or Melaleuca (tea tree oil)

Now, how did I use this during my move? In addition to scrubbing the walls, floors, and counters, there were three particularly smelly jobs I did not want to do (thank goodness for rubber gloves!!!!!).

Rubber gloves and spray

Remember that cat I was so worried about with this move? Well, I knew that as soon as we got to the new place she would need a fresh litter box. So, rather than throw out the one I had, I disinfected it and put it in my checked baggage. That’s right, I put a used litter box in my luggage!!!

Does that freak you out? If I didn’t have so much confidence in the disinfecting properties of my miracle spray, I would probably have freaked out too. No need to freak out people. My hound like nose declared that box to be clean and sanitized.

The next two things I cleaned are tied for nastiest. One was certainly the smelliest and the other mentally traumatizing.

First for the smelliest. Yes, I gagged. Ugh… Here we go. Compost is a big thing in England. The wonderful thing about Guildford was the weekly compost pickup. Unfortunately, it took me a really long time to discover compost bags. So, initially I would just put the compost into the household bin during the week and then transfer it to the outside bin for collection. As you may expect, some things would cling to the bottom of that outside bin… I did eventually discover compost bags and they kept things a lot neater; but I never got around to cleaning out the outside bin. Then came moving week.

Armed with my miracle spray and some industrial sized kitchen gloves; I set about scrubbing out the bin. And promptly found myself in the backyard gasping for air. Once my stomach settled, I continued my task. Happily, living up to it’s reputation, the spray had that bin smelling fabulous within just a few minutes. I will never again put myself in that situation. You too should never experience this misery. Learn from my mistakes. Compost bags for the win!

The final chore I had to do was equally dreaded. I call it…the poop bin. When we moved into the house, it came furnished with a kitchen trash bin the prior tenant had left (I think). Since we already had both a recycling bin and a trash bin; we didn’t have space in our petite kitchen for this additional bin. Thusly it was placed in the backyard and became “the poop bin”. No, we didn’t just shovel dog poop into the bin. We did indeed place a liner in the darn can. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to enjoy being lined and the hubs didn’t seem to enjoy checking to see if the liner had stayed in placed. As such, I frequently found the bin liner had slipped and dog poop bags and cat litter kept finding their ways all around the interior of the bin. I should have dealt with this bin after our dog passed away; but instead I turned a blind eye and ignored it. Finally, it was moving day. I realized I hadn’t dealt with the bin. Egads! Thankfully, I had one additional pair of industrial sized kitchen gloves and an entire bottle of miracle spray.

Mentally, I cringed as I heaved the interior liner into the kitchen sink. Yes, I know I could have done this in the backyard. However, my spray is largely vinegar and vinegar is terrible for keeping plants alive. Great weed killer, terrible grass fertilizer. There was logic to this decision. As I reached my arm into the can to scrub, I counted my blessings; which were many. Essential oils, vinegar, gloves; these were all things that were going to keep me from smelling like dog and cat poop the rest of the week. Fifteen minutes and one hubby intervention later (my arms are really short…) the deed was done. The can smelled worthy of household use and took up a position of honor in the kitchen.

There you go. I promised to regal you with stories of cleaning before the move and I did. Bet you didn’t count on all the gory details. Sorry about that. I’m naturally detail oriented. Now that you know the minutiae of the move out; the next blog will get to the fun stuff—moving to Sweden!

In future writings, I will fill you in not only on life in Gothenburg; but also about the travels we’ve taken through Europe so far and future travels as they come up. Hopefully you will enjoy all the toddling we’ve done through Europe as much as we have.

Until next time 🙂