Spring Visitors

We were lucky enough to have several different visitors this spring!

First, my Aunt Madeline popped in for about 48 hours.  She was off to Iceland for a different trip but hopped over (it’s about a 3 hour flight) to visit us in Copenhagen and I’m so glad she did!  We dropped G off at school and then toured the city.  We did the usual tourist spots (Amalienborg, Nyhavn) but she is a lover of plants so I wanted to take her to the Botanical Garden.  The Garden is an amazing spot in the center of Copenhagen, and we’ve walked by it a million times without even realizing it was there.  There’s literally a small sign on a fence to let you know, but once you make it through the gates, it’s incredible.

The Garden itself was established in 1600, but moved to it’s present location in 1870.  It covers nearly 25 acres in the city center, and is free to the public.  We have walked through several times, and it’s amazing how much it changes from season to season.  In the center of the Garden is the Palmhuset, the Palm House.  It is a gorgeous glass conservatory, housing all sorts of tropical plants.  You can walk up a spiral staircase to a catwalk overlooking all the plants, which is really cool.  (Side note, it has to be the warmest place in Copenhagen, so it’s a good excursion in the winter!)  My aunt and I had a great time cruising around and looking at all the plants.  We walked by Rosenborg Castle and Kongen Have gardens, and headed to Paper Island for lunch.  It was great to hang out with her, and I am so glad she got to see G and meet the Daynish!

A few weeks later, my Uncle Joe and Aunt Roz were in town!  They were on a Nordic cruise, and were in Copenhagen for the day.  I packed the kids into the car and headed down to the cruise terminal to pick them up….except I went to the wrong cruise terminal.  Who knew there were two?  Once I finally got to them, we headed off for breakfast.  We had a great time catching up and then we walked around downtown.  I took them to Nyhavn and Amalienborg (I sound like a broken record, but really, they’re the iconic spots!) and showed them where the big shopping areas were.  I had to head back and leave them for the rest of the day, but I am so glad that I was able to see them!

Lastly, my in laws came to visit again!  They came the last week of June because they just couldn’t wait for us to visit the US.  The last time they were here was right after the Daynish was born but in my exhausted state, I don’t remember much about their visit.  I know they took G to school and helped us get a Christmas tree, so a good time was had by all.  I was very excited for them to come visit in a more functional phase!  Seeing as we (the Hubs) took them to all the touristy places last time, we did some next level exploring.  We took them to G’s favorite place, the bicycle park. We went to the beach, we went to the Zoo, we went to Tivoli, we went to Paper Island (it is that good), and by special request of my FIL, we went to Sweden!  The Hubs and G actually hadn’t been to Sweden before (Daynish and I have been a few times), so it was a great day trip.

We went up to Helsingør and took the ferry across the Øresund to Helsingborg Sweden.  It’s a quick 20 minute ferry ride and super convenient.  G loved being on the boat, and as it’s a car/truck ferry as well, he had his face pressed up against the glass to watch them all drive on and off.  Once we arrived in Sweden, we walked around the Old Town, went to Karnan (the citadel of the city) and walked through the beautiful gardens.  We ate lunch outside and took in some sunshine.  We made our way down to the Radhuset (town hall) and G entertained himself by running up and down the staircase for a good 10 minutes.  I insisted that we stop for a little fika, which is the Swedish version of coffee and cake.  We hopped back on the boat and made our way back home.  fullsizeoutput_36b1fullsizeoutput_35df

We had such a great time with everyone who came to visit, and can’t wait for more!

Hello Portugal!

So in all the craziness of having another baby, we didn’t really plan a trip for February or April break.  We were concerned we wouldn’t have a passport for the Daynish for a February trip, so we set our sights on a trip in March.  Now let me say something about school vacations.  Absolutely EVERYONE, and I mean most of Europe, is on vacation at the same time.  So we have learned that if you don’t book a vacation well in advance, your chances of going to the place you want to go to is pretty slim.  Our original plan was to go to the Canary Islands, a popular winter break destination.  Last minute booking strategy failed miserably.  No flights, outrageous hotel prices…and then we stumbled on Portugal.  Sold!

We ended up in Albufeira, on the Algarve Coast.  It’s a 3 hour direct flight, the Daynish’s first!  He did great and G is officially a flying pro.  We stayed at a beautiful resort, and on our arrival, we discovered something amazing.  The resort was practically empty.  Vacation “high season” starts in April in Portugal…we were there the last week of March and had the place to ourselves!  The weather was warm but not warm enough for outdoor swimming.  We would get to the indoor pool early enough in the day though that we usually had it to ourselves for an hour or two.  The kids play area was completely empty and we played hours of mini golf uninterrupted.  The Hubs and G would go to the driving range nearly every day and no one batted an eye.  We couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing time!

We did do some touring around, and did some day tripping.  We drove out to Sagres, which is the southwestern most point of Europe.  There is a beautiful old fort high on the cliffs overlooking the vast expanse of ocean.  You can absolutely see how people could stand on those cliffs, centuries ago, and think that the Earth was flat.  It was also the windiest place I have ever been to.  So much so that at one stop, we didn’t even let the kids out of the car!

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G running the hotel beach
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Sunset at the resort
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G at the End of the World
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Family selfie!  The Daynish is under wraps due to the wind!

Overall though, Portugal was great.  The people were friendly, the food was great, we had more sunshine in a week than we had in a month of Danish winter.  I think we’d head back there in a heartbeat.  Until next time Portugal!

Our Denmark-a-versary

I briefly touched on this awhile ago, but in February we celebrated our 1 year anniversary in Copenhagen! I can’t say enough how lucky we are to be here, and what an amazing opportunity this is for us.

We had dinner with friends a few weeks ago, and we had a hilarious conversation about expat living.  We agreed that making new friends is like speed dating…you quickly run through the basics (here for such-and-such job, this many kids, we come from here) and decide pretty fast if you want to be friends.  We also agreed that, in our minds, there are several “classes” of expat.  First are the oil/gas/energy people…they have moved a million times, lived all over the place, have incredible stories about their lives in far flung corners of the globe.  They are professionals!  Then there are the Embassy/military people…they too have lived all over the place, but they have a built in support system when they arrive somewhere new.  They also can get Amazon delivered from the US….very jealous.  Let me flat out say though, my Embassy friends who have lived in awful places (and any military people, for that matter)-they deserve Amazon.  They deserve it everyday and twice on Sundays.  And finally, there are the rest of us.  Regular dummies who bumble their way along and are thrilled when they find something new.  The good thing about us dummies is we emphatically share our good news with others.  ‘Netto has Cheerios!  I found rotisserie chicken!’ You get my point.  I think the exact words I said were “and then there’s the rest of us dummies who don’t know to put salt in the dishwasher”.  And our dinner companions didn’t know about salt in the dishwasher!  So we shared!  (The water here is really hard.  They sell special salt at the grocery store.  I would have never known if someone hadn’t told me!)

So with that being said, I thought I’d run through a few of the things I love about Denmark, and a few of the things I miss.  I am not including family and friends on my list of things I miss, because that goes without saying.

What I love…

  1. Family time.  We spend so much time together.  Now, we definitely have times when we want to get away from each other but the majority of the time we spend together is doing fun things.  We have little to no house maintenance here so we aren’t spending weekends fixing the house or picking out ceiling fans.  We are hanging out together, seeing friends, exploring our new city/country.  It’s really enjoyable.
  2. Independence for our kids.  It’s easy for G to be an independent kid here.  Kids are taught to be independent at school here, and it’s no big deal that G rides his bike everywhere.  I leave the Daynish outside in his stroller while I go into a shop and he’s still there when I come back out.  I will fully admit the first few times I did it, I was terrified but he was fine, and so was I.  I put him to sleep outside, because that’s what they do here.  It’s just a different attitude towards children and parenting, and I like it.
  3. The expat community.  I will continue to sing it from the mountaintops…I love our community.  I have people I can call in emergencies, I have friends who want to meet up for lunch/coffee/exploring, I have people who I can hand the Daynish to so I can drink a coffee with two hands.  It’s such a weight off of my shoulders.

Things I can tolerate….

  1.  Paper products.  You know those paper towel commercials where they put a bunch of grapes on paper towels and then run them under the faucet?  And the bad/cheap ones disintegrate?  All the paper products here are the bad paper towels.  My kingdom for a roll of Bounty!!!  The toilet paper is fine and I can get Kleenex, but it’s all small boxes.  One week of allergy season runs through several small boxes of tissues!
  2. Food delivery.  You can get food delivered here, but it more than doubles the price of the food.  As in we tried to get Thai food delivered, and it was going to be over $100.  For the two of us.  No thank you!  I don’t know why delivery isn’t a thing here, but sometimes if the Hubs is working late/out of town, I just want to call for a damn pizza.
  3. Spotty internet.  I know, I know…that is a total first world problem.  But really, our internet is terrible.  On Sunday nights, we can’t get anything to download.  It’s as if all of Denmark is watching TV and the internet is overwhelmed.  If it’s windy we have spotty service too.  Which is convenient, because it’s windy every day.  It takes ages to upload photos to Shutterfly/Snapfish.  All in all we do watch less TV, which is good, but sometimes I miss just turning on HGTV and watching obscene amounts of House Hunters.  Oh well.

And really that’s it.  When I look at it, the things I miss really aren’t all that bad or insurmountable.  We FaceTime our families every week, and I can text/message/email my friends whenever I want, so that connection isn’t lost.  The pros certainly outweigh the cons!  Here’s to another few years in Denmark!

 

Auntie Comes to Town

With all the excitement of my mom and my in laws being here, and the holidays, I didn’t think it could get any better.  Then my sister told me she was coming to visit.  I pretty much exploded with happiness!  She decided she wanted to come meet the Daynish while he was still a little nugget, and I am so glad she did!

She arrived at the crack of dawn one Saturday morning, and we all clambered into the car to go get her.  G loves a trip to the airport, so we very excitedly stood in the arrivals hall, waving our American flag.  And I promptly burst into tears when I saw her, because she’s my sister.  My goodness do I miss her.

What did we do while she was here?  In short, everything!  We toured downtown, we went to Carlsberg Brewery, we went to G’s soccer practice all in the first 36 hours!  She just happened to be here for the Super Bowl, which of course we got but it was on in the middle of the night.  We all got dressed in our Patriots gear, we picked up a special Patriots apple pie from the pie shop….and the game was going horribly.  Just horribly.  Knowing that I would have to get up overnight with the Daynish, I called it quits at half time.  Well, I’m an idiot because we all know that they staged an amazing comeback and won!  So clearly the secret to the Patriots success is staying up all night!

The next day we were a little tired and lazy, so a quick trip downtown to see the Changing of the Guard and lunch at Paper Island.  The following day we went to the Round Tower and stopped for coffee and cake at Copenhagen’s oldest confectionery, Conditori La Glace.  I should take a moment to say that every single day we availed ourselves to coffee and pastry.  Because it’s the thing to do in Copenhagen, so why not?  On Wednesday we headed to Malmö Sweden, just a quick train ride over the bridge.  We went to a little tiny museum called Ebba’s Hus, which is literally a tiny old house preserved in the center of the city.  We wandered around and enjoyed more coffee and cake, which has it’s own name in Swedish, fika.  The next day we were pretty worn out, so we just hung out and went out for lunch.  And pastry, of course.  As the week wound down, we saw the last few sights we hadn’t seen, had dinner with friends, and basically just enjoyed our time together.

I can’t even put into words how much it meant that she came.  Just sitting on the couch in the same room with her was fantastic.  Having her meet my friends, see G’s school, and generally see our life here was such a gift.  I can’t wait for her to come back!DSC_1698

So much to catch up on!

 

Oh it’s been a busy few months!  I feel like I am emerging from hibernation/maternity leave, and spring arrived just in time.  Here’s what’s been happening…

Fastelavn…oh, the strange little holiday that comes in February.  The closest descriptor for Fastelavn is Carnival, a big party before Lent starts.  So the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, children dress up in costumes and bash a wooden barrel (like a piñata).  Traditionally, the barrel had a live cat (!) in it, and whoever broke the barrel and let the cat out ‘won’.  Hmm.  Thankfully, nowadays they just sell cardboard barrels with pictures of cats on them.  So the stores are filled with dress-up costumes, and G had a costume day at school.  Now, my boy is not one to dress up but I told him about it and suggested he could wear his Halloween costume (he was Jordan Speith 😉 ).  And he emphatically said “no mama, I’m going to be a Batman”.  Whaaa?  Commence my panic to find a Batman costume.  ‘Just look online’, you say…but that’s not how it works.  I did find one online, and had it shipped to the store and I thought it would be there the next day.  Oh no.  It ships to the store with 2-5 business days and then you can pick it up.  It ships to your house in the same 2-5 business days.  Not helpful when your kid tells you on Wednesday that he wants to be Batman Friday.  So I managed to find a costume, bring it home and he staunchly refuses to wear it.  Ugh.  I sent it in Friday morning, guilt-ridden that if I didn’t, he’d be the only one without a costume.  Well go figure, he put the cape on the minute he got to school.

Well, didn’t he win the barrel bashing and be the kattekonge (cat king)?  He knocked down the barrel, and his classmate broke the bottom out so she was the kattedronning (cat queen).  Needless to say, he loved it!

Another big happening was the Grand Opening of the school.  While we have been attending the new campus since January, there was an official ceremony in early March. This was a very big deal, and was attended by the Board, local politicians and Her Royal Highness, Princess Benedikte, sister of the Queen.  Apparently, the Royal Family is quite involved with opening the International schools throughout Denmark, and Princess Benedikte was also present at the opening of a new building at the old campus.  So about a week before the opening, G’s teacher pulls me aside and tells me the G has been chosen (along with another little girl) to present the Princess with flowers, would that be ok?  OF COURSE!!!!!!  So the day comes, we had been telling him about meeting her and giving her flowers and we get him all dressed up for the big event.  Well, we didn’t prepare him for the swarm of photographers that were present and our little guy got a little overwhelmed.  So he hid behind The Hubs, but what can you do?  He was none the worse for wear though.

And lastly, we had our 1 year Denmark Anniversary in February!  I still can’t quite believe we are here.  So much has changed over the last year, but I continue to believe we made the right decision in coming here.  Of course we miss our families and friends, but we are thrilled to have this opportunity.

Daynish Check ups

As we are settling into our new life with 2 kiddos, I want to reflect a little bit on how awesome postpartum care is here.

When I was pregnant, everyone told me that because it was my second child, I would be leaving the hospital within 4-6 hours of delivery.  That terrified me at the time.  However, I did have some complications with delivery, and we ended up staying for almost 24 hours after I delivered.  And at that point, I was begging to go home.  So I guess I was worried about nothing.  As we were being discharged, the nurse was telling me how giving moms the opportunity to talk to someone about their birth reduces the incidence of postpartum depression. We were given multiple phone numbers that we could call, in case we had any questions.  We were given a card with all of the birth details (weight, time, etc) as well as the full name of everyone who worked with us, in case we wanted to call and talk to anyone.  Well done, Denmark.

After we got home, I got a call from the home health visitor.  This is my favorite thing about having a baby here…the nurses come to you.  A nurse comes to the house to do the post natal check ups for the Daynish, and he didn’t need to go to the doctor until 5 weeks.  Genius!  So basically, a lovely woman comes to the house, checks on him and checks on me.  On her first visit, she asked to see where he sleeps, how G is doing with him, how we are adjusting, etc etc.  She gave me her cell phone, her email and her office number if I had any questions.  I really like the idea of this totality of care.  He won’t go back to the doctor until he is 3 months, and will get his vaccinations at that time.  The home nurse has been several times, and now won’t come back until he is 5 months.

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The Daynish getting weighed by the home nurse

The other wonderful thing here is the nurse asks if you’d like to be part of a mothers group.  The kommune organizes a meeting of moms who had babies all around the same time.  There are groups for Danes as well as international moms.  The first meeting was held at the kommune building, and a nurse facilitated the meeting.  We all talked about our backgrounds, our birth experience, and questions or concerns we had.  It was really quite nice and I am glad to have the opportunity to meet other moms outside of school.  The group has met up since then, I just wasn’t able to go to the last meeting, so hopefully I will get there soon.

Becoming a US Citizen

Shortly after G was born, we could pop him in the car and take him anywhere.  We drove to Connecticut, we went to Vermont, off we go!  So when the Daynish arrived, and everyone asked if we were going anywhere for winter break, I said “we haven’t gotten his passport yet!”.  So let me share that process….

The United States is amazing in that it has ‘birth right citizenship’.  If you are born in America, or if you are born to an American parent, you are automatically a citizen.  However, if you are born to an American parent outside the US, you have to claim your citizenship.  Now, the Daynish will not be a Danish citizen because in Denmark, you have to have at least one Danish parent to become a Dane.  So for a little while, our little man was a man without a country.  While we were home over the summer, we compiled the massive pile of paperwork that we needed to show to the US Embassy in order to prove that we were, in fact, American citizens.  We filled out a million forms to secure a passport, a social security number, and a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, which we will eventually need to get an American birth certificate.  I scheduled an appointment for the Embassy months in advance so when our baby did finally arrive, we would already have everything ready.  But we still had more hoops to jump through!

Within 30 minutes of the Daynish’s arrival, he had a CPR number, the Danish equivalent of a social security number.  So he was automatically entered into the Danish system. The Hubs and I both noticed while we were in the hospital, no one ever asked us our baby’s name.  Which we thought was odd, but we chalked it up to a cultural thing.  It turns out that it is!  It is not uncommon for a child to go unnamed for awhile, to give the parents time to ‘try out’ a name.  You get 6 months to formally name your child, and then the government will name your baby for you!  What will they name them, you ask?  Margrethe for a girl, as she is the current queen, and Frederick for a boy, as he will be the next king.  Can you even imagine that happening in the US?!

The most challenging thing was getting a birth certificate.  They are not automatically generated, as they are in the states.  Here, you have to request one from your local (assigned!) church.  So I contacted the church, and requested a birth certificate.  The lovely man I spoke to called me back a few minutes later and said “I will get you a birth certificate, but I think what you really want is a navngivning“.  Huh?  He went on to explain that a birth certificate just reports that you had a child (it literally just says “boy” on it) while the navngivning would have the child’s actual name on it.  Well then yes, I want that. So the navngiving (literally ‘name giving’) involves going onto the kommune website and filling out another form, which both parents have to electronically sign off on.  So after filling that out, and multiple trips back to church to pick up the form, we had everything we needed.

The trip to the Embassy was relatively uneventful.  It’s like going to the most well-guarded DMV you can imagine, except everyone was pleasant!  We had some minor issues, most importantly that we didn’t have the navngivning paper yet, and our passport photo was the wrong size (who knew they come in different sizes?).  But luckily we were able to mail those items in and not have to go back.  Several weeks later, the passport arrived!  As I write this we are still waiting on his social security number, but hopefully that will arrive soon.  In the meantime, let the traveling begin!img_1629