paris and pumpkins

in honor of my 26th birthday, I was given probably one of the biggest birthday presents I have EVER gotten - a trip to Paris! My family here that I work for was going to be out of the country on my birthday and weren't planning to take me with me, so because they felt so badly for leaving me alone they paid for me to spend the weekend in Paris...awesome, right? I have a great job.
I left on Friday, October 26th, and flew from Stockholm to Paris on a direct flight and, after much effort that involved dragging my suitcase into a Parisian post office and cell phone store, I finally met up with Connie, my friend over at Paris Au Pair, and we started our weekend of walking and pain au chocolats.
I spent Friday evening doing a little bit of walking on my own while Connie worked for a couple hours, and then on Saturday her and I walked around for most of the day, and I was able to see everything from Montmartre, Sacre Couer, Notre Dame, and Chateau de Vincennes. On Sunday we did some more walking and went to visit Notre Dame (this time in the daylight) and the Eiffel Tower, where we got some amazing pictures. Later that evening we trudged through the little streets to find a cafe that we let us have dessert and a glass of wine for my birthday - a much, much harder feat than you'd think. We were finally "allowed" to sit at one of the cafes that, initially, we had left cause they told us we'd have to sit in the crappy section (read: outside, NO HEAT LAMPS). After returning to the cafe and grudgingly asking for a table outside in the freezing cold, they graciously allowed us to sit under the heat lamps, and even brought out my chocolate mousse with a candle. And THEN when I knocked off my glass of champagne and it shattered on the ground, they brought me another one! They were very nice.
Monday was spent sleeping in a bit and then heading out into the rain to do some shopping. I made some great purchases, including some french soaps, four beautiful serviette napkins, a pair of jeans, and some small magnets from an old map of Paris. I also got to see the Arc d'Triomphe on Monday, which was great. The highlight from Monday, though, was probably sitting in McDonald's across from the Louis Vuitton flagship store and having coffee. Felt like a million bucks right then :)
I have to say, most of this would have been impossible if it weren't for Connie! If you haven't checked out her blog, do it. She's far more faithful at blogging than I am, and is a great photographer. Most importantly, she's a wonderful host and great girl, and I'm so glad to call her my friend :) (My real-life friend, now!)
Here's some pictures of Paris...

Here's one of me and Connie -

Also, I thought I'd post some pictures of the kids. Klara's been getting over a nasty cough and since they were traveling to the States on Friday (same day I left for Paris), she stayed home with Sixten to catch up on some rest. We spent Thursday carving pumpkins and running errands, so here's some sweet pictures of the two little ones:


the princess and the dragon

today's a sick day for klara, and sixten gets the pleasure of staying home, as well. i get the pleasure of staying home with both of them and finding entertaining things for them to do that don't include the "Lego Star Wars" video game on PS2.

klara watched "pocahontas"...in her princess dress

and sixten put on his dragon costume and ran around the house

and i downloaded a trial of Photoshop Lightroom...hence the cool colors in the pictures. Not a bad day for any of us, i think. we'll see how the weekend goes - i'm on my own from tonight til sunday. say a prayer for me!


the week is almost over...

Today is Wednesday, which for me is a rather boring but productive day. I usually spend my Wednesdays doing the IronMan (those of you with dirty minds...shame on you.) The IronMan is, well, a blow-up man, essentially, that I put all of Joakim's workshirts on to get them perfectly smooth with no creases. It's an amazing invention, really, but time-consuming. Each shirt takes about 20 minutes, so that means that I usually can't go anywhere on Wednesdays cause I'm running back and forth to switch the shirts. But on Wednesdays I usually run my errands into town to go to the bank, or the market. Then I sit in the house and switch shirts and loads of laundry all day. The amount of clothing that five people go through is incredible.

Last night I had my first Bible study with the girls from my church here in Stockholm, New Life. It was really cool, as there were two Americans, a South African, a Malaysian, a Swede and a Russian girl that has a Nigerian father. How multi-cultural is that?? But they are all great women and I'm really looking forward to getting to know them. It was also in a really cool part of town that I hadn't been to yet, so it's always nice to find new places to explore. Although I really haven't done much of that yet. I guess I'm waiting for winter to come.

I have the kids all this weekend while the parents are in Lithuania for a weekend vacation with some friends of theirs. It should be interesting, since each child is involved in different activities, and I'll be the one running them around from place to place. I'm terrified I'm going to take Kasper to ski school when really, he was supposed to be at track and field. However, their grandparents are going to be here for a couple days, so that should make things a bit easier for me.

Hmmm...not much other news. Next Friday I go to Paris! I'm so, so excited to see the city, but also to meet my great new friend, Connie. And a week from this Sunday is my 26th birthday. I think that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, spending your birthday in Paris. I am so, so blessed.

I'm going to try and post pictures with my blogs from now on, but I can't guarantee that they'll always be relative to the post! In keeping with that, here's a couple pictures of Sixten -

the poor little thing had passed out in the living room right before dinner - strangely, they don't take naps at school here

this is his favorite food - spaghetti noodles with ketchup. these kids put ketchup on everything

Hope everyone is having a great week!


these oatmeal raisin cookies are SWEDISH

This weekend was pretty laid back for me. Friday held some drama, as the coat I was wearing out got stolen at a bar, which had my cell phone and brand new lip gloss in it. Definitely a bummer...I keep wondering how it happened cause we were in the nicest part of town! On Saturday, I watched Sixten and Klara while the rest of the family was out for Kasper's birthday party - they were going go-karting, which is a little much for a 3 and 5 year old. So the three of us stayed home, and after they had lost half their brain cells while playing PS2 I decided that it was time to do something productive....

Make cookies! I was in need of some comfort food, so I found a recipe on the Internet for oatmeal cookies that didn't require baking soda (I'm not sure you can even find that here...at least, not at the grocery store I went to).
Here's the recipes...and if you can read the labels, can you see why it's so confusing?

socker - sugar
bakpulver - baking powder
vanillensocker - vanilla sugar (I think they use this in place of extract? we did)
vetemjol - baking flour

I got the recipe online and rounded everything up, and then me and the kids went to town throwing this and and that in. I (stupidly) let the 3-year-old put the egg in. Here's the result of me picking out all the eggshells from the batter:

After we had mixed everything I let the kids dig their hands into the batter and roll little balls of cookies to put on the baking sheet...they loved that part, obviously.

Sixten is so silly. But anyway, after they dug their hands in the mix for a while and blobbed all the cookies together on the sheet, we put it in the oven at 200 degrees celsius, which might have been a little warm cause I left the room and came back 10 minutes later and those cookies were brown. After they cooled I let them have a couple, which surprisingly, they liked! I thought that since it had oatmeal and raisins in it that they wouldn't eat them...but they did.

That was the cookie-baking adventure of the day...it was fun. In other news, here's a picture of me with my new camera - I LOVE IT!

I've only tonight discovered the powers of editing your photos. The camera came with an editing software that is probably not that great by professional standards, but by my ridiculously amateur standards, it's amazing. That's another thing I've learned - always edit your photos! The difference is incredible.

Lastly, those of you that know me know that I love, love, love a book called Strong Women Soft Hearts by an author named Paula Rinehart. Since I love her book so much - it is life changing, ladies, I highly recommend it - I signed up to be on her email list. Just yesterday I got an email from her saying that she was having a new book coming out called "Better Than My Dreams: Finding What You Long For Where You Might Not Think to Look"

Well, if that title didn't speak to me about where I am in my life right now, I don't know what does. I hotfooted over to amazon.com and have ordered my copy! It should be here in 6-22 days. I hate international shipping.
The week looks pretty low-key for me...I start my new Bible study on Tuesday with the girls from my church, and then Thursday-Sunday I've got all the kiddos cause the parents are going to Lithuania or somewhere for the weekend. Should be interesting, four days is a long time for kids to go without their parents. But it should be alright, cause I think they're used to it. Hopefully I will still have hair left in my head come Sunday.


the (3) reasons i'm constantly fighting a cold

I haven't "formally" introduced the kids yet, so I thought that since I've been here a month, now would be a good time to tell you a little about each of them...and you can see for yourself why I'm so crazy about them...cause they're so ridiculously cute!

Starting with the oldest:


Kasper is the oldest one; currently 6 but turning 7 this Saturday. He's definitely got the "oldest child" role nailed down...the one that always listens, nurtures the younger kids, and somehow always seems to me to be the age of 14. Why, I don't know...but I'm always having to remind myself that he's only 6, and then I'm bewildered for a moment cause he seems so much older! He's a very smart child, can read better than some of my own friends, and at the moment is in LOVE with the PS2 game "Lego Star Wars". His favorite color is blue, he knows all the names of all the dinosaurs (no, really), and won't eat potatoes but will eat potatis bullar, which are hashbrowns. Surprisingly, he doesn't talk very often in English to me, but when he does it's too cute. Like, he tells me to "wait leetle" (wait little) when he wants me to "wait a minute". I have a hard time not waiting leetle when he says it. And I think his favorite song is Gwen Stefani's "Sweet Escape".


The 5-year-old princess of the family, she's adorable and affectionate and playful and sweet...and she knows it. Klara is most definitely the girl that's going to grow up and have all the guys wanting her, all the girls wanting to be like her, and probably putting premature gray hair on her mother's head. Her favorite color is (obviously) pink, but also loves purple and red. She can't get enough princess/girly/frilly stuff, and lately has been having me put water in the milk she drinks at dinner. I've realized within the last week that out of the three kids, she's absolutely the instigator of any mischief they get into, and she'll be the first one to get them riled up at bedtime. She LOVES boys - we'll pick Kasper up from school and she'll go around hugging all his male classmates while we all wait for her - and her favorite song is "Man-eater" by Nelly Furtado. I fear that this is somewhat prophetic...


The baby! I definitely do not have favorites here, but Sixten is the one that probably lets me closest to him, which is probably cause he's the youngest. He's 3 years old and is the most boyish boy I've ever met. His nickname is Cige (like, see-gay...um, french for cigarette. that's what his mom said to me when i asked about it), so you're more likely to hear us yelling for Cige rather than Sixten. Of all the kids, he speaks the least amount of English, but he's getting little words in there, such as substituting "good" for "bra" (the Swedish word for "fine" or "good"). He loves to run and jump and yell, and really gets into fishing off of the dock with his little Mickey Mouse fishing pole. I think my favorite story to date with Sixten is when, one morning his mom was telling me that she woke up in the middle of the night to discover that Sixten had wet the bed (he sleeps with his parents sometimes). She got him and changed him, and the next day her and her husband were talking to him and asking him if he remembered wetting the bed the previous night. Sixten said - with all seriousness - that he hadn't wet the bed, that he rolled over and the bed was just wet. Too cute :)

It's amazing how quickly you can fall in love with children...I've been here almost 6 weeks and already am finding myself attached to them. And yes, I have been fighting a cold since I got here. It kicked in around the 3rd week, and has yet to leave me. Unfortunately it's manifesting itself in a nasty cough right now, which doesn't make for easy sleeping.

In other news, I got my camera!! Very exciting, and VERY glad to finally have it. However, I also discovered that the disc drive on my computer isn't working, so I can't really edit any of the photos into black and white or anything. A bit of a bummer. Hopefully I can get that fixed soon.

Alright...the kids are all asleep and the hot tub is calling my name....


country music, Texas, and margaritas...in Stockholm?

I met up with Philly and Nikki (my two American friends here, also au pairs) on Friday night for dinner, and we ended up walking around Stockholm trying to find a restaurant to eat at for about an hour and a half. It was such a surreal thing, to be walking around and trying to find a place to eat...to not know where to go. Back home, there was always tons of choices and it usually wasn't difficult to get into the place. But here we came across a number of different restaurants that all required reservations or had a two hour wait. We kept going from place to place and were starting to get a little tired of walking around - to the point where we we were considering just heading back to Philly's place and eating at the deserted-on-a-Friday-night Thai restaurant - when we came across.....

Texas Longhorn Steakhouse.

No, really! It was a tiny little restaurant, only about 15 tables in the place, a little itty bitty bar, and all the Texas paraphernalia you've ever seen. While it might have been a little un-cultured of us to eat a Texas steakhouse while in Sweden, we were totally up for it (especially Nikki, who's from Dallas and sports a necklace of the state of TX with a heart in the middle). We got inside and, to my extreme delight, they were playing country music! We each got a margarita and waited until a table opened up about 45 minutes later. I didn't eat anything too extremely Texan, I contemplated getting a steak but ended up getting loaded nachos. They were pretty good...nothing to write home about, but definitely a small taste of home :)


1 month down

i was driving in the car the other day and i realized i was coming up on my 1-month mark - WOW, hard to believe it's already here. i've been listening (repeatedly) to this song by brad paisley called "find yourself" and it's the kind of song that gets you thinking about your life, and where it's going. it made me look back to the things i've learned within this last month, and also the things i'm looking forward to learning about myself in the future.
it's amazing how much your life can make sense and fit in a box when you're in a place that you're totally comfortable in. or, on the other hand, it's amazing how much your life can be so frustrating, so mis-guided (in your own mind), and at a dead end when you're completely comfortable. maybe this is why we should always be seeking out ways to get outside of our comfort zone? i don't know...another blog for another day. basically, in this last month, these are a couple of things i have learned:

life is the moment you're living in - not some far off dream/vision/plan

now, some people might think that's not right; that we have to look to the future, plan for things, live for our dreams, etc....i agree with all those things. but for the past couple years i've been living my life thinking that it all really started once i got married and had kids. i mean, to be completely vulnerable with you, i don't even know what i want for a career cause i think i've always banked on the idea that i'd be more settled down than i am at this point.
but the bottom line is this - my life is MY life, and it's passing me by, as i write this. believe me, i want to get married, want to have kids. but i'm learning that i have to grab the life that God has given me in this moment, and not just grab it, but love it and really live it.

there really is some good in the rough seasons of life

about a year ago, i began to enter into a very, very difficult time in my life...and it was all for no apparent reason. yes, the relationships in my life were in a rough place - had broken up with my boyfriend, my two best friends were thousands of miles away, all my friends seemed to be getting married....but none of those things were cause for the deep loneliness i went through for about five or six months. i mean, it was bad, bad loneliness. deep in my heart, never-wanted-to-be-alone loneliness that caused me to be horribly discontent with my life. eventually i came out of it, but the good news in all of it was that my discontentment led me to look for this job. i got so tired of my life and the way that it was that i had to do something different with myself. this job opportunity came along at the right time, and it's been one of the biggest blessings of my life. why i went through all of that, i don't know...i believe there's reasons for those times in our lives. i'm still learning why, but i can't overlook the fact that no matter how awful it was, it led me here.

as for the things i'm looking forward to learning about myself, the big one is -

find my purpose in life - or a career

i'd really like to find my purpose in life, but i'll settle for the career :) i've decided that this year is probably going to be a huge growing year emotionally for me, but in all other ways, this year will probably be pretty stagnant. i can't get a real job, i'm not really garnering any lifelong and coveted career skills....i do laundry and wipe butts everyday. but as i mentioned above, i really have absolutely no idea what i want to do with my life. it all sounds good...photographer, graphic designer, social worker, whale trainer at sea world...(no, really - my life dream was to swim with orcas. slightly goofy). but being almost 26, and nearly 27 when i return home, i'm pretty sure that it will be time to start working a real job, one that i love and want to stick with for a while. but at this point, i have no idea at all what that will be. i'm really looking forward to being led in that area.

being completely assured in who i am apart from my relationships, career, travels, etc.

obviously, the goal here is to grow in my relationship with Jesus, and focus more on finding my identity in the way he sees me, and not in the way i see myself. here's the thing i've learned over the years - you can regress from a place you once were. i would definitely say that i used to be very self-assured and very confident in who i was apart from guys, friends, achievements...but that is not so much the case any more. believe me when i say it's a hard place to be. maybe one of the hardest places to be, cause we're not meant at all to find our value and assurance in the things outside of God. i am so not perfect, never will be...and i also am coming to recognize (again) that i'm not enough on my own. and that no marriage, no children, no job, no overseas experience, no amount of j.crew clothing will fulfill me.

so, those are the few things i've been thinking about over the last month. the great news is that i've made friends here and have a social life (thank God), but being in a place like this - completely away from all that's comfortable and familiar - really causes you to think about the things that matter in life.
in fact, i'll probably spend the rest of my life encouraging young people to go live abroad, for any period of time...it does change you.
as for this brad paisley song i mentioned, i recommend you check it out, cause i guarantee that we've all been in the place that the song talks about. it's a sweet reminder that sometimes the places that we think are all wrong for us- the places where we feel lost - are really the places where we find out who we are.
i miss you all, with all of my heart.


early birthday present?

oh, how i want these original wellies boots. when i first arrived in stockholm i was amazed at how much it rained, and decided i was sick of having wet pants all the time. one afternoon i was strolling through the city, all by my lonesome, thinking in my head how much i'd love to have a pair of red rain boots....and all of a sudden to my left was a storefront full of rain boots in all sorts of colors! and there was my red pair...
i went back to the store three times before i caught it on a day that it was open (store hours here are ridiculous), but sadly, and unknown to me, the rain boots i had been pining for were the original Wellies, made by the Hunter boot company. They cost 1100 kronors. That's half of my monthly salary.
i left without them.
so, i do have a birthday coming up in 25 days! plenty of time to ship them overseas....