Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Untethered

Djurgården & Strandvägen, Stockholm, Swdeden  |  Untethered on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
There were times at the beginning of this year when I really thought I had lost my mind.

A newborn baby and no sleep for days during the depths of a Swedish winter (which I had naively thought would be "cozy" with a cuddly wee one, but was actually debilitating and isolating), plus some physical problems we were having all combined into a Very Heavy and Overwhelming Period.

But then the combination of surpassing (and barely surviving) RF's 4-Month Sleep Regression, his ability to space out his mealtimes, his increased curiosity and awareness of the world around him (so much so that we did an early switch from the carry cot to the sit-up seat attachment of his stroller), and springtime finally rolling around meant that we were finally free to go on long, beautiful walks around the city with a contented baby and a less-stressed mamma who no longer had to constantly search for suitable places to nurse (and change diapers) in anticipation of a hungry baby's wails.


And let me tell you, this period right now is so, so good. Most days the sun is shining brilliantly and it's a delightful 70F outside, meaning we've been spending hours and hours walking, meeting friends, fika'ing, and playing outside the walls of our apparently very-boring-to-a-baby apartment.

Plus, this lovely weather means al fresco nursing and diaper changes are a breeze and has greatly reduced my anxiety when we're away from home. Below the stroller I've stashed blankets, toys, a bottle of water and an emergency chocolate bar (because you just never know), so we're always ready to stretch out in a patch of sun-dappled shade to play and relax in between running errands and strolling around the city.


We've been taking long walks along the edges of Kungsholmen, across the bridge to the grounds of the Karlbergs Castle park / Military Academy near Saint Eriksplan, all around Djurgården, winding through Vasastan, Odenplan (with obligatory stops at Cafè Pascal), and Norrmalm, and even hopping on a bus to go to Drottningholm, one of the palaces, to play on some royal grounds.

And much like our after-work pizza picnics in Vasapark last summer, this year we're doing a riff on that with early afternoon (because of someone's bedtime) barbecues in our backyard in Minneberg.


All this to say, someone's starting to get her groove back.

(Said groove will probably not be completely back until someone else starts sleeping for more than 2.5 hours in a row at night, but a partial groove is better than no groove at all.)

One year ago: Leaving Vasastan & An unwelcome lull & 365 days ago

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

The day I became an Italian citizen

Stadshuset Kungsholmen Riddarholmen, Stockholm, Sweden  |  The day I became an Italian citizen on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
My (at times excruciatingly) long journey to becoming an Italian / E.U. citizen is finally complete—a few days ago we went to the Italian Consulate on Djurgården so I could pledge my allegiance to the Italian Republic and officially become one of her citizens.

At the end of last year, three and a half years after I applied for citizenship, a certified letter arrived with the news that citizenship had been conferred upon me and I just needed to do a few final things to make it officially official, like, re-submitting translated and notarized documents from U.S. agencies that were included in my original application (yes, again), swearing my oath, and (naturally) paying another fee.

When R became an American citizen, he did so with a certain amount of pomp and circumstance (which I enjoyed in my exhausted and anxious state)—to be fair, he took his oath along with about a hundred other people in America.

I became an Italian citizen while living in Sweden and did so in a "ceremony" just for me.

The ceremony being: arriving at a very, very sad little building where nary an Italian flag was waving, waiting for one hour past our scheduled appointment time to be ushered up a rickety pair of stairs to an office filled with boxes of documents and lined with shelves of rubber stamp doohickeys, and reading the one-line oath off of a printout twice (as it took two separate tries to assemble the required number of witnesses).

That was it.

No Italian paraphernalia. No anthems. No miniature flag handed to me on my way out (R received a miniature American one in NYC and RF received one here in Stockholm when we took him to the US Consulate to register him as an American citizen).

When we walked out of the gloomy building, not even the gorgeous day on Djurgården (one of my favorite places in Stockholm) and RF's adorable drool-y smile as he looked up at us happily from his stroller could shake me out of the funk brought on after such a long-awaited day ended up being so disappointing.

But then R told me he had booked a celebratory lunch for us at Villa Godthem on the northern side of Djurgården, where we had a tasty, typically-Swedish lunch on the waterfront (which included the gifting of a very nice little gift). Afterwards we strolled across the lane to Flickorna Helin & Voltaire for dessert on the terrace (which was obviously a ridiculous slice of their decadent carrot cake for me).

Then, since the day was just so supremely sunny and beautiful (and because I had stashed you-never-know blankets in the stroller), we laid them out under a tree with a view of my favorite villa on Norra Djurgården and spent the rest of the afternoon lolling about lazily while watching RF practice his rolling over skills.

Turns out I had my very own personal Italian(s) to provide me with all the fanfare italiano I so desperately wanted.


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Friday, April 15, 2016

Stitch by stitch

Rhino Romper knit baby onesie  |  Stitch by stitch on afeathery*nest  |  afeatherynest.com
While some things have noticeably gone missing from my daily routine—and will most likely stay missing for quite some time to come—since this handsome fellow arrived (e.g., I haven't done any yoga since just before I gave birth and a proper cocktail is a distant memory...as is a full night of sleep), one thing that has resurfaced is my knitting bag.

With the mental fogginess and physical exhaustion that comes with caring for a wee, helpless, and infinitely adorable baby, knitting is my only form of "meditation" right now—a more involved alternative to my calming (and frantically-executed on steamy NYC subway platforms) practice.

It's my (very necessary) way of taming the frazzled, sleep-deprived brainwaves jolting through my mind. Of rinsing the day's small trials and losses of patience from my conscience while replaying its spectacular moments of delight in baby laughs and gummy smiles, in a rounded tummy and a sweet little tush.

Rhino Romper knit baby onesie  |  Stitch by stitch on afeathery*nest  |  afeatherynest.com

Stitch by stitch, breath in by breath out.

It's also much easier to manage than rolling out my yoga mat and contorting myself into positions that are now precarious thanks to my new lack of coordination (thanks to my new lack of sleep).

Rather than sitting on the sofa after dinner while watching something with R and knitting away as I used to, I find my crafty moments during the day when RF is napping snugly in a wrap tied around my chest and I can peer over the curve of his cheeks to see what I'm doing. It's the coziest thing to listen to his little snuffles while I rock back and forth and click my needles in rhythm.

Dulaan Baby Jumper  |  Stitch by stitch on afeathery*nest  |  afeatherynest.com

Dulaan Baby Jumper  |  Stitch by stitch on afeathery*nest  |  afeatherynest.com


I came across this recently and it perfectly encapsulates why, aside from ensuring a small measure of sanity for myself, I knit:
"For many knitters, the small act of creating a sock, a hat, or a scarf is an act of love. Of community. Of creativity, of soul saving, sometimes a rebellion against the constraints of everyday life. Knitting is an escape, a haven, a hidey hole that restores us and gives us a bit of control when many things in life are beyond our reach."

As does this:
"The essential thing about knitting that I will never get over is here you have these sticks and this string, and then you look down and you have this object. It’s a very small act of hope, especially when the person you’re knitting for isn’t even here yet."
It's true, I can't control when we'll find a new, more permanent place to live or when RF will learn to connect his sleep cycles or where we'll be able enroll him in dagis. But I can choose the right needles and yarn and pattern, and I can choose to spend a few quiet moments at the end of the day with yarn gliding through my fingers as I create something from nothing—my own small act of hope that all will be well.

Dulaan Baby Jumper  |  Stitch by stitch on afeathery*nest  |  afeatherynest.com
Lately I've been working on a little "spring collection" for my winter baby, although I think it will begin and end with these two pieces. I've realized after much newborn knitting that perhaps it's better to knit garments for a baby that can sit up and crawl, or for a toddler that can toddle, because knits (even non-bulky ones), aren't as easy to maneuver onto a baby and when said baby is picked up and carried quite a bit or spends most of his time prostrate, thicker textiles that can bunch up is probably a little irritating for him, as well as for the person who is constantly tugging his clothes into place.

...Which is why I had the idea to knit a onesie, but even so, I'm going to start knitting a few sizes up from now on and have a nice little wardrobe ready for him for this coming autumn and winter.

P.S. The onesie was originally a romper, as seen in the first picture, but I didn't like how the shorts legs looked when I finished so I unraveled the hem and reknit it as a onesie (as seen in the second picture).

P.P.S. Ravelry notes here and here.


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Monday, April 11, 2016

Straddling three countries

Norr Mälarstrand, Kungsholmen, Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden  |  Straddling three countries on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

If figuring out our own citizenship requirements for each others' countries wasn't enough, we had to go through the same procedure for RF (which I've been mentally preparing for...for a while), albeit a much simpler one, as he automatically took our three nationalities at birth.

The Swedish registration was done for us via the baby's birth center registration, and the Italian one just required taking one form, one notarized document from the tax office and a copy of our passports to the consulate, but the American one? That required an entire folder of documents, plus a hefty fee.

When I looked into it last fall and saw what my birth country required, I began putting everything together well before my due date so all we would have to do in our newborn haze was take a picture of the baby and make a few appointments, and so before he was three months old he was already officially registered as a citizen of the US, Italy and Sweden, and had his American and one EU passport ready to go.

I had thought that that would be the most strenuous thing I'd need to think through this year, but then it came time to begin his vaccinations and I realized our little tri-national baby would need a modified vaccine schedule.

Before Sweden began attracting such high numbers of foreigners, this country was fairly isolated, so the vaccine schedule wasn't (and still isn't) as wide-reaching as the U.S. and Italy's. Given that we plan on spending time in both of those countries, and with family that live in them that will be visiting us here in Sweden, I went through each one's vaccine schedule to figure out what we needed for RF.

During his regular (free) appointments with the baby nurse, he's already getting the Swedish schedule of vaccines, which is the same as both the U.S. and Italy's, with two exceptions: chickenpox/varicella (which the U.S. gives around 12 months, and Italy much later, during pre-teen/teenage years) and meningitis (the U.S. gives the A, C, W, and Y strains during teenage years unless a risk factor calls for an early dose, and Italy does the same with the C strain).

Sweden generally has a low risk for meningitis so the vaccine isn't part of the schedule; and the thinking here is that children shouldn't get the chicken pox vaccine, but rather get infected with the virus and heal from it on their own when they're young.

But we want to get RF vaccinated on the early side because of his exposure to Americans and Italians that have been vaccinated and because we've had a meningitis scare (in Sweden!) in the family—and also because we've decided that when it's time, we'd like to send him to one of Stockholm's international dagis (daycare), where the primary language spoken is English and the children that attend are generally from expat families (and will have been vaccinated against chicken pox and meningitis, for the most part).

The vaccines that are not included in the Swedish schedule seem to be easy to get on one's own—all throughout Stockholm there are standalone vaccine clinics (I'm assuming that given all the international travel that Swedes do there's a pretty big need), one of which we'll be heading to around RF's first birthday to get his supplemental vaccines.

Stadshuset, City Hall, Kungsholmen, Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden  |  Straddling three countries on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

Speaking of dagis, even though RF is only a few months old, we've already started looking into them, because like the crazy housing situation in Stockholm, the dagis queue is just as frustrating.

The way it works here is that children are eligible to begin daycare when they're a year old, but they can be put in the queue to enter their chosen dagis as soon as they hit 6 months—and most people generally still have to wait a few months (or years) to get into the school they want even though they'll be guaranteed a place somewhere in their city within 2 months.

Like in other Scandinavian countries, the concept of a full-time, stay-at-home-parent for all of a child's childhood is very uncommon in Sweden—most parents return to work at least part-time by the time their child is 2 years old so the dagis world is something nearly every parent in Sweden experiences. To encourage parents to stay in the workforce, dagis is very affordable—parents pay a percentage of their income up to a max of about $150 a month for the first child (and progressively less for each subsequent child).

While it translates to "daycare", dagis is really more like pre-school in that they all adhere to a pedagogical style (Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Waldorf, etc.) and children learn social and mobil skills and about the world around them—but the emphasis is not on reading (in fact, most children here don't learn to read until they're 7 or 8), but rather on how to function in the world. The kids learn about other cultures (a big reason why we want RF to go to an international school—there's a larger focus on this), table manners, how to share, and about nature (a LOT of time is spent outdoors, regardless of the weather).

Children can attend dagis from one year of age until they're 5 years old, and then there's the option to do a preparatory pre-school year at age 6 to get ready for compulsory schooling, which begins at age 7 with the equivalent of the U.S.'s first grade.

While we haven't figured out the daycare situation for RF just yet, I'm completely in awe of what I've seen so far of the system that's in place here.


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Monday, March 7, 2016

Tootsie toppers

Knit baby legwarmers  |  Tootsie toppers on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
After I bound off the final stitch on the last knit goodie I'd planned to make for RF before his appearance, I decided to spend the last few weeks of my pregnancy making something for myself. I'd stopped in at two local yarn stores near Odenplan on the hunt for a particular shade of red for a gift, but rather than leave empty handed when I didn't find what I was looking for, I was enticed by a beautiful, variegated alpaca yarn (on sale) and a teensy pair of double-pointed knitting needles made specifically for knitting socks.

As so often happens, I gave into the temptation of something new (the yarn and the needles) and managed to forget that I don't particularly like knitting socks. They can be a bit tedious because when you finally finish one, there's still another whole sock to do. And while I've knit the kind of socks you use as slippers at home, I'd never knit proper socks to wear with shoes, which are finer and more delicate (and thus take more time when using teeny needles).

But forget all of that I did, and I scooped up a hank of the alpaca yarn and a new pair of needles and made my way home where I cobbled together my own pattern using one person's broken seed stitch pattern, another's interesting heel technique, and Purl Soho's general guidelines from their Pixel Stitch socks.

I managed to get 1.5 socks done before RF's grand appearance, and needless to say, the insanity that is life with a newborn means that I didn't get around to that last half a sock until recently.

Handknit wool socks  |  Tootsie toppers on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Handknit wool socks  |  Tootsie toppers on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Luckily Stockholm has been cooperating with the continuation of winter weather into March so there was/is still time for me to to make use of them this year and I have to say—hand knit wool socks (even ones with a few cosmetic irregularities here and there where I made mistakes but didn't have the patience to fix them) feel amazing inside winter boots.

(Amazing feeling aside, I don't think I'll be making another pair anytime soon.)

Once I'd finished these I needed a quick hit—something easy, fun and interesting to knit so I could recover from the monotony of those socks. Enter RF, who had finally put on enough weight to be able to wear the POOPS! cloth diapers we'd purchased from a local Swedish company for him.

Even though he's now big enough to wear them without fear of leakage, he's still small enough that we have to button them on at the smallest setting, which creates quite a bit of bulk around his tush and makes comfortably wearing the pants for his actual size a bit tough. So rather than cram him in his pants (and since we're still using disposables when we're out for long periods of the day), I realized I could keep him pantless at home if I knit some legwarmers to pop on his little legs.

Knit baby legwarmers  |  Tootsie toppers on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
I found a pattern for boot cuffs that I repurposed into legwarmers and voilà, comfy and warm and cabled while still being pantless.

(Note: those legwarmers are actually worn higher on the leg, but I didn't pull them up all the way so his tickle-able thighs could be in the picture.)

P.S. Ravelry notes: socks + legwarmers


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