Thursday, August 8, 2013


A few days before Sarah and I were leaving for Sweden, I was going down to Colorado Springs with a group of parents and hospital staff for a meeting. We were traveling in a shuttle bus, so plenty of time for conversation. We were a couple of parents who started talking about balancing the needs of our special needs children with the needs of our healthy children. It can be a juggling act for any parent with multiple kids, but when you throw in a child with high needs in the middle, the dynamics between siblings is not always equal. I left the conversation knowing I wasn't alone with my thoughts and struggles.

One of the things I have always enjoyed in life is traveling. I had plenty of opportunities to travel as a kid, and later in life through work and with Joakim. Our travels quickly slowed down as Jacob's needs increased over the years. There were in fact years where neither Joakim or I would have considered leaving far from home due to Jacob's shaky health. We just never knew when we both had to be at Children's with a sick boy.

Three years ago, we felt that Jacob had come to a point where he was more stable. He still could get sick, but he wasn't spending time in the hospital every month. We started to plan our first trip back to family for years. As much as we would love to travel as a whole family, we knew there was no possibility for Jacob to come with us to Sweden. It wouldn't be safe for him. Joakim and I are instead taking turns going back with Sarah. It has turned into quality time with our girl and a way to make up a little bit for the times when her brother's needs completely take over our lives.

Here are some of the coolest things traveling with Sarah:

1. There are things making Joakim and I sometimes different from her peers' parents. For Sarah to experience our culture, our food, our family, our friends, and country is really great. This time around, I loved introducing a typical Swedish crayfish party to her.

2. I love for Sarah to meet and get to know our families better. Today, Sarah got to meet my grandma's sister. She prepared a complete feast, since we were coming all the way from Denver to visit with her. Sarah has spent time with her grandparents and we're living with her aunt and good mother Jenny during the whole stay.

3. It is cool to see Sarah making friends over here. Relatives and friends have kids her age. They talk to her in Swedish, and she talks to them in English. They compare interests, play together, and in the end realize that kids are kids.

4. There are certain things Sarah and I share wherever we are. We both like candy, highest on our list is Swedish losgodis. It is a selection of different pieces of candy you handpick. This time around I took Sarah to a candy store with 1000 different kinds of candies. Guess who was in heaven?!

5. Fika is part of the Swedish culture. It means having a break, most often a coffee break with a colleague, friend or family. Having a cup of coffee is an important part of our culture, but it wouldn't be a good fika if you don't eat something too, typically something sweet. We have had plenty of opportunities to share some of our favorite pastries, e.g. cinnamon buns and Princess cake.

6. Sarah loves swimming. She spends her summers on swim teams and in pools. The mix of my sister living next to the beautiful lake Malaren and a heat wave in Stockholm has given us several opportunities to swim in Malaren. The water is chilly!!!

7. I got to introduce a little bit of my Finnish culture to Sarah this time too. We went on a cruise ship to the island Aland (between Sweden and Finland). On the ship, we got to enjoy a typical Finnish sauna at the same time as the Swedish archipelago was passing by. We enjoyed spectacular views as we were sweating!

8. The absolute best part is to slow down together. We sleep in, we eat breakfast together on aunt Jenny's balcony, we spend the days together, and we always make sure we have time to snuggle and watch a movie or TV show on the couch by the end of the day. We have time to chat, catch up on life, share the little and the big things, and reconnect.

I am happy we still have a couple of days together before it is time to return to our boys who we of course miss!

Love, Maria.

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