Friday, April 25, 2014

Shout out to Husk!

I feel that the last few days have had a huge turn around with Husk the Husky coming to the rescue. I never thought a stuffed animal could bring me such joy and happiness in my late 20s as good ol' Husk.

A little background on Husky. When we were coming to Copenhagen I gave little 6 month old Etta a choice. "Do you want the husky dog or the giraffe?" Her eyes lit up as she reached for husky dog. This was the first time I really saw the effect that Husk has on her.

Anyways, as babies do they go, through ups and downs in their development. Just when you think you have them figured out they need a schedule change, they're teething, learning to roll then crawl then walk etc. Right around 8 months, Etta entered a new stage. She was not only trying to figure out crawling and walking but she also was missing us whenever we would put her to sleep. She would hang onto the crib bars screaming as we left the room and she would then settle to sleep. Yikes! Tear at my heart a bit much!

One day I was holding good ol' Husk as I was setting Etta down in the crib. She clung to him as I set her down. I decided to allow her to sleep with Husk during her nap. Best decision ever!!! From that point on for the two weeks Etta has been having long hour and a half to two hour naps. She no longer screams while holding onto the crib as I leave the room. Apparently she adopted Husk as her lovey*.

Husk really came to the rescue on our travel day to Arhus, Denmark on Thursday. While we were on the 3 hour train ride it was time for Etta's nap. Etta was getting grumpy and really needed to sleep. What happened next was, for Etta, truly amazing. Etta went to bed with Husk on the train for an hour and a half nap. Here is what I did : I set her down with her blanky and Husk, then covered her in the stroller and she fell fast asleep. She even managed this while another baby was crying (which for the record is often Etta as she heads to sleep since she does not want to miss out on how awesome life is which I totally get.)

Now I am not saying that everyone needs to go buy a husky dog to soothe their baby. All I am saying is that it feels oh so good like you have won the gold medal at the world cup when you find something that works for your baby. Even if that thing only lasts for a week! So I raise my hat to you good ol' Husk!

* Apparently, after doing a little mommy google research, a  lovey is some type of object (stuffed animal, blanket, soother) that babies can use to soothe themselves. Now does this mean I need to buy an identical one in case I lose this one?!

Easter in Arhus

 Well let the good times keep rolling... Like I said in my previous post, although traveling has its ups and downs, the ups far outweigh the downs. The people you meet, the sights you see, the history you discover and the memories you create are life changing.

Cam, Etta and I decided to retrace some of Dad Mang and Uncle Ron's footsteps. We headed to beautiful Aarhus, Denmark for the Easter long weekend to meet some of the people they knew back in the 'ol' days' when travelling throughout Denmark.

When we arrived we were greeted by Anne (pronounced Anna) and Claus. They helped us find our apartment and invited us for dinner after we felt settled. Dinner was fantastic!! It was a very delicious rice dish along with fresh fruits. It was also so nice to have a meal that I did not have to cook and was not lentils! Etta was definitely tuckered out and near the end of our visit was ready to head back to where we were staying and go to bed. She let out a few hollers to let everyone
know :) She did become enchanted by Anne's beautiful Danish accent as she spoke soft words to Etta. Anne even managed to get a few smiles out of Etta right during her fussy time.

It was very important that we brought a good supply of lentils, potatoes and onion along with Etta's food to eat. A lot of stores were closed this weekend because of Easter, which made finding food very tricky but was nice to see that the Danes are able to take a break. I think this is all part of the 'Hygge' mentality. It is very important to note that if you are ever traveling through Europe during a holiday to make sure you are prepared if nothing is open. Last thing you want is to be stuck exploring a city and being 'Hangry' the whole time. Everything in Aarhus opened on Saturday which allowed us to stock up on food and browse the shops. Here is our weekend in a nutshell...

Thursday was a travel day : our travel day was amazing thanks to Husk! Check out our 'shout out to Husk' blog post if you want to know how our travel day on the train went!

Friday: We went to check out Den Gamle By (pronounced Bu) which is a historic outdoor museum that showcases what Denmark would have been like in the 1700-1800 to around 1970. It is the same sort of idea as Fort Edmonton. Great for kids with lots to see and do!
Spent a good 15 minutes on these stilts. Had a good laugh!

Forgot Etta's toque which led her to wear my Canada toque making her resemble the mushrooms off the Mario brothers  video game. Kept the mood light throughout the day!

Some 'uphill' bowling. Brought me back to the competitive physical education days at university. I schooled Cam :)

Some old school brewing. You could actually buy taste testers of the brew as there were 3 men working on the brew.

Eating some danishes. We got the pink pop tart looking danish primarily because I saw 10 different people order it and assumed it was a danish favourite. It was delicious. After googling danish pop tarts I am starting to think that pop tarts were modeled after this type of Denmark danish.

Walking the ol' Danish streets. The cobblestones gave Etta a bumpy ride but she still managed a nap!
Saturday: We checked out Sondergade which is a huge walking shopping street. It always amazes me the amount of places to see and things to do in cities such as Aarhus that is home to only ~300,000 people and Copenhagen with only ~600,000 people. To put this into perspective Saskatoon has ~200,000 people and Edmonton has ~730,000.

Saturday proved to be a very long day. Etta woke up to the sunrise at 6 am. I was a little delirious as I was walking into walls saying "why did we not cover the window a little bit to get her to sleep longer." Once I snapped out of this delirium we decided  that since we were up and it was a beautiful day that we would go for a run. 7 am we were out the door. We came back for breakfast around 8 am and Etta had a nap at 9 am. From when she woke up at 10 am we went exploring. Our plan was to get back for Etta's nap at 1 pm. She ended up falling asleep in the baby carrier earlier which made for an interesting day and we ended up staying out from 10 am until 5 pm with a run at 7 am! Cam and I were both happy to put Etta to bed by 7 pm and enjoyed putting up our feet.
Recommended by Rough Guides Travel book we started our day by having delicious coffees at Emmery's which is an organic coffee/bakery. I had a mocha and one of my favourite things about Denmark is that the really good coffee shops put real chocolate attached to a stir stick into your mocha or hot chocolate. You then have to stir the chocolate yourself which adds to the decadence of the hot chocolates/mochas as you watch the chocolate melt
flavour throughout the drink.... mmmmmm!  

Although my heart is in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, (sorry Cam's family), Regina, Saskatchewan is home to a lot of Cam's family and the famous football team the 'Roughriders'. Clearly we had to take a picture of the word Regina in Aarhus.

Resting on the sidewalk and feeding Etta after a mini meltdown. Currently enjoying the calm after the storm. 
Sunday we celebrated Easter!!! Here is our Easter Sunday in pictures!
Etta just found her Easter postcard after a long Easter hunt. This was bought at Dem Gamle By and will go into her baby book at home. Check out the easy chair painting behind Cam :)

Following the hunt and Etta's morning nap,  we went to an Easter service at St. Paul's Church in Arhus. St. abbreviation is actually abbreviated Skt. in Danish. We are pretty sure it was either an Anglican or a Lutheran church. It was a very nice service and Etta really enjoyed the organ and the singing. 
After church we celebrated by eating the famous Danish Hot Dogs which we were holding out on. Best hot dog and worth the long wait to get one! It is all and more than what  the travel books said about them. They were delicious with the different sauces like curry and chili that you could add instead of the standard ketchup (which of course we also added the ketchup!) It is also alot easier to eat than the hot dogs back home because of the shape of the bun. After enjoying the hotdogs, Etta played on the swings before heading back home for her afternoon nap.

After Etta's nap we decided to have one last visit for tea, buns and cake at Anne and Claus's garden house. Afternoon tea/Danish is popular in Denmark. There garden house/cottage was a 30 minute walk from where we were staying. On our way to their garden house we walked through the forest, along the ocean and stumbled upon the palace where the Queen was staying. SAY WHAT?!

 Enjoying the sunny 18 degrees celsius weather in Aarhus at the garden house! 

Back home, after a long day and Etta is fast asleep in bed we ate dinner. Enjoying a taste of home. A very delicious Burger King burger to celebrate Easter for dinner!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Coping in Copenhagen

Traveling and being away is not all lollipops, rainbows and dancing unicorns. I'm going to recount some of our tougher moments. This week the novelty of travelling has worn off and the breaking of my magic bullet has made me miss all the luxuries I had at home. Hopefully this post will prevent you from someday making the same travel mistakes or give you the knowledge that you are not alone. Hopefully this does not deter you from ever wanting to travel with a lil one as the rewards far out way the difficulties.

Jet lag
Jet lag. The first 2 weeks of our stay we suffered from jet lag. My arms felt heavy full of exhaustion as I would look to Cam and see if I could escape the grown up train and sleep. The only problem was that Cam was doing the same look. Expect 3 am wake up calls for play time with a baby who is also jet lagged. We had to gently help Etta get back on the sleep wagon. It was about 3-4 sleepless nights but some quiet days as she slept hard while we were out and about. About 2 weeks it took before our Etta was consistently back to nights full of sleep and happy days.
If she could, Etta would be yelling. "PLAY!!! PLAY WITH ME NOW!" at 3:00am...

Managing a smile even though I remember being so exhausted I hardly could raise my arms.

Travel Day Conundrums
If you have ever travelled abroad especially in a country that has no English signs and even worse does not speak English you are bound to get lost, go the wrong way and struggle buying transit tickets. Add in a baby and you need to figure it all out amidst the diaper changes, naptimes, feedings and crying. A few times Cam and I have missed a train. One train we missed and had to wait another 20 minutes for another train. Another time we went the wrong way for a good 15 minutes, then figured out we had to get off and go the other way. In our first week in Copenhagen we were using 10 card punch passes to ride the train. We punched them as usual and boarded the train. When the train officers came by to check our ticket we showed them with certainty that our pass had been clipped. Except it hadn't. Apparently the machines do not always clip your ticket. They can even make the sound without actually having been clipped. Apparently there are signs that say its your responsibility to make sure 'the system' works.... IN DANISH!
With no compassion and a crying baby we were given a $200 ticket. Needless to say we almost did not go check out Kronborg Castle in Helsingor that one Saturday. Thankfully we still went and had a great time. We also fought the ticket and got it reduced to $20. Still lesson learned. Don't trust the system and always double check/ask when buying/using transportation. In each of our instances we had to work together, trust the other person and forgive them if they made a mistake.
Another exhausting travel day. We still manage a smile.

No support
We have no immediate family in Vancouver either but we have an amazing network of friends to hang out with. We even have friends who will watch Etta and give us the occasional date! The lack of support has been hard as you are never given a break. Sometimes I just want to have an all day movie or t.v. show marathon. Hmm I guess I probably wouldn't get that even with the support. However living in the tech age, Skype has been a great way to have Etta entertained by family members abroad.
To help keep Cam and I connected when he is at work we got sim cards for our phones. This is especially nice for when I am out and about with Etta and want to meet Cam somewhere after his work. This would be nice if you could count on them working. Unfortunately our phones only occasionally decide to work. I miss having a working phone in Vancouver!

Change tables
Unfortunately the world becomes your change table when traveling. I remember being out with some moms in Copenhagen and I changed my daughters bum right beside me. I got a funny look and at first wondered why. This is because Cam and I have been caught in so many situations where there is no proper place to change a baby anywhere. I have changed her on her changing mat on the floor in tiny bathrooms, in her stroller and even outside! With these Danish moms I lost all proper mother baby etiquette.  Needless to say when I am with others I now always try to ask where the best place is to change a baby.
Confused by this? So was I.... Cam said" I know where I can change her without the wind." He proceeds by grabbing the changing mat and plopping Etta in this circular cement cheerio. He then begins changing Etta. The funny thing is that right behind us there were public bathrooms, even ones with change tables. Unfortunately they were locked!

Money mayhem
The other day Cam was skyping with a good friend and he asked us what we eat on a regular basis. Pretty much everyday for dinner we eat lentils, rice and onion or veggie pasta ($1.50 pasta sauce, noodles and usually one veggie). This is because it has become our cheapest option. Every week we try and map out what we would like to do and how much that will cost. Wanting to explore, go out for the occasional coffee ($8 each) or ice cream ($10 each) we are trying to find any way to save on money. Funny actually.... as we try to make sure that Etta gets the nutrients she needs, she actually eats the best out of all of us!

Luxuries Be Gone!
Two examples of simple luxuries I had in Canada that I did not have or lost in Copenhagen.
1. Before going to Copenhagen I had figured out how I wanted to introduce foods to Etta. I was planning to introduce food that was blended along with finger food of a good variety. I had just gotten in the groove with a great combination of introducing new foods while keeping with the old goodies. We were introducing more texture along with finger foods. I was just getting to the point where I could make a family meal then blend it for Etta. It was awesome. Then I had to say bye to the magic bullet. Why did I not buy an energy converter. The breaking of my magic bullet caused me to crash, cry and miss all my kitchen tools including Etta's high chair with a tray! No longer being able to grind food meant that I had to find new alternatives. Specifically meat alternatives. What's worse is that without a high chair tray finger food would only last seconds before going on the floor.
Shepherds Pie for the whole family.
Already have to be creative with our own meals and how to cook them!

2. Laundry is another example. First of all we had to figure out the tech system with our swipe key. After about 2 weeks trying to figure out the system we FINALLY realized that you need to reserve the machine before you use it unless its after 5pm. Badly needing clean clothes, a washer finally opens up at 730pm. This will give us just enough time to wash and dry our clothes, linens and bedding by the time the machines close down at 930pm. Unfortunately when we went down to put our clothes in the dryer at 845 pm the machine was not working. I spent a good 30 minutes trying to get it to work when a lady came to grab her clothes and said "Even though it only takes 30 minutes you need to get it in the dryer 60 minutes before closing, otherwise it will not let you dry it."

Trying to find places to dry all our stuff. This is in our kitchen/living room/bedroom/office!

Baby philosophy 
Its really important to remember that most parents are doing whatever they can to raise their baby in the best possible way. This can also be very different from how you would raise your child but does not mean that it is wrong. There may even be research that backs up certain methods but there is also research that may back up another method as well. It is important to be open minded to other peoples baby philosophies especially when you are travelling as other places tend to raise their babies differently. On the flip side it is also important to stick to your gut and raise your child the best way it is for you and your family.
Some interesting differences between the cultures that I have noticed are: 
(For the record I share these because I thought they were interesting and not because I specifically agree or disagree; Also I do not know if ALL Danish people think this so do not quote me)
- They do not believe in giving baby cereal with iron as they say there is links to cancer but rather they give 6 iron drops a day.
- They believe that a baby should have every nap outdoors.
- They leave their babies sleeping outside the restaurant/coffee shop/pub while they are having coffee or a beer inside.
- They do not have exersaucers because they believe they are bad for the babies back.
- They do not stand their baby up until they are able to do it by themselves as they believe this is also bad for the babies back.
Showing some love to our beautiful baby girl!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Copenhagen Daily

I thought I should dedicate a blog post to the everyday Copenhagen life.

What does Cam's week look like?
During the week Cam goes to the University to do what he does in the astronaut world (inside joke with teacher friends). Now don't go thinking he is an astronaut it's just that sometimes it gets confusing what he does but in simple, my language terms, he is a kinesiologist/neurophysiologist that does research primarily for people with spinal cord injuries and stroke. One thing that is pretty cool about being in Denmark is the opportunity to be a part of experiments you would not be able to run in Canada. It seems that the Danish people and Danish research ethics boards are a little bit more inclined to experiment with certain mind-altering anti-psychotic drugs. As I write this, I realize it sounds kind of bad, but don't worry it's all safe! Cam also enjoys Wednesday Cake Club and Friday Breakfast Club with his temporary labmates. He is also starting to create his own smorrebrod sandwiches at lunch, just to fit in (and also because they're delicious!)

What does Annika's week look like?
Etta and I embark on many different adventures during the week, especially since I feel the need to regularly get out of the house. I highly recommend if you are ever moving to a new city, going for an extended trip somewhere or just plain looking for a group of people with similar interests you should look on the meet up website for a group that suits your needs. I joined a group called Copenhagen International Parents meet up group here in Copenhagen. Through this group I go to a few activities a week. For example Etta and I will meet up for coffee with other international parents and their children or go to a song a dance class in English. When we are not meeting up with other international parents or our awesome German neighbours that are students as well here in Copenhagen, Etta and I go explore. With our transit pass we hop on and off buses and trains and then find unique streets to explore.

We play in the grass
This was the first week there. It was such a beautiful week. Etta and I hung out outside near Cam's work in front of this church. A lot of people come to this piece of grass in front of this church and just hang out.

We walk the streets of Copenhagen.
We especially like nice and hot sunny days.  Sometimes we hang out in coffee shops if we have the extra $8 (!) but mostly we walk the streets and check out shops. I do spring for the $1.50 chocolate croissant often. mmmmmmm

We eat food.
A lot of our day surrounds food. Making food, eating food, playing with food. Etta loves food. It always takes her a good few days to adjust to something new because she is a little touchy. However after a few days she is all in and eats like a champ!

We hang out with other babies and moms.
 Etta and I met some moms at a play place. Etta was probably too small for the play centre but really the meet up was not for her but for me. I enjoy the adult conversations I get to have when being around other adults. Etta enjoyed the ball pit the most. 

We enjoy nature baths*. 
Ducks... It was a beautiful day and I really wanted to go for a nature bath with Etta by the ocean. Etta had a different thought in mind for how she wanted to spend the nature bath. As soon as she heard the ducks she protested until I took her out and she got to hang with the ducks. 
We go to the park
Etta loves parks and specifically two things about the parks.
1. She loves the swings. Could stay in the swing forever.
 2. She loves watching the other kids. Etta is a social butterfly and loves being around the action. 
There you have it folks. Regular daily life in Copenhagen for the Mang's.

*See blog post Eat, Drink and Be Merry! (Part 1) for nature bath description

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saunas, Oceans and Onion Domes

This past weekend we decided to venture into our homeland Sweden. This sounds like it would be a big deal and to us it was! However, the 30 min train ride meant that it was closer to us than Squamish is to Vancouver and is ideal for a day trip!

Saturday we woke up and had the regular debate of whether to stay for Etta's first nap or leave before her first nap. We decided to leave before her nap and head to the train station. On the train Etta was smiling and charming all the passengers. That is until it was naptime, on the train. This was the only moment all day that I felt stressed. Cam took the role of chilled out dad saying 'don't worry honey' as we tried to put her in the stroller. Our thought was that she would just fall asleep like she does at home in her crib for an hour and a half. Did this happen? Nope. 4 agonizing minutes went by of her crying and I caved. Off into the carrier she went and immediately crashed for a short 30 min nap. Phew! Following this I remembered to change my mindset to be easy and go with the flow. What I needed was hygge*.

Anyways here is the rest of our Saturday in pictures.
Etta having her 30 minute snooze in Malmo, Sweden. Cam and I are so excited to be in our homeland. I can't stop saying 'I can't believe we are actually in Sweden" and I keep thinking of dad, Leonard and Crystal doing one of their
 Sven, Ole and Lena jokes with a Swedish accent. These jokes were frequent in my childhood and occasionally they would be performed at gatherings when I was little. 

├śresund is the famous bridge behind Cam and Etta. This is the train that goes across and in the ocean from
Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmo, Sweden. Riding this train offered beautiful views of the ocean. Spectacular!
We stopped by this castle so that Etta could have breakfast. It was a beautiful day which made it easier to do things with Etta. Etta was hungry and we could easily take her out of the carriage and feed her without worrying about
finding somewhere indoors. The other day when we were at the little mermaid statue we did not have this luxury and therefore spent alot of time in the washroom. Today the problem was the 30 ducks surrounding us who then started squacking at invading birds. Needless to say Etta loves ducks and therefore we enjoyed a good hour eating breakfast outdoors with those ducks.

On our way to the beach, in the distance,
we saw the Turning Torso.
The only tall building in Malmo and
a popular tourist destination. We were not so
 interested in seeing all the sights in Malmo.
What we really wanted to check
out was the saunas.
 So we just continued towards the beach area.
The beach in Malmo. There were hundreds of people either running, playing in the park or partaking in an exercise work out on the beach. I was once again in a euphoric state loving Sweden and my homeland. I am now understanding where my inner need for physical activity and exercise is rooted from. At this moment I was immediately disappointed I did not bring work out gear to go running while Cam was in the Sauna. 

This is the Sauna. Probably our favourite thing to do since we have come out to the Nordic countries. This is how it works. You go into the sauna that overlooks the ocean for about 15 minutes. Then you go into the ocean by the stairs that lead into the ocean. This seals your skin so you stay warm. Then you sun bathe on the deck. You repeat this as many times as you like. There is a men's only section, a women's only section and then a co-ed section. Since we did not take Etta, Cam went first for an hour. After his hour was up he was pretty pumped with how awesome it was. I was definitely skeptical as I do not usually like saunas all that much or cold water however... it was probably one of the coolest experiences being in a sauna looking at the ocean and then sunbathing in 8 degrees weather without being cold!! 

While Cam was in the Sauna Etta and I played on the beach!

Having a beer!

After having spent time in the sauna we had to make the decision of whether to return to the sauna after lunch. This was a clutch time family decision and we decided that it would be best to have lunch,
walk around Malmo and then head back to Copenhagen. As much as I was sad to say good-bye to the sauna for the day it was a game winner decision!
The end to our day in Sweden. Back to Copenhagen, Denmark.

Sunday we decided to have a more 'normal' day and I will keep it short. Since we were both missing church and had finally felt settled, we decided to go to the Russian Orthodox Church in Copenhagen.

A couple of nice surprises were that the church is on the tourist list of places to go which means that it was beautiful. There was a wide range of different cultures because there are many different people from different countries that move to Denmark. There were also many children, young adults, adults and seniors. It felt like being back at church back home minus the Russian. It was really beautiful to be halfway across the world praying and meditating with the Danes knowing that our church was doing the same. We are looking forward to returning to the church in the future.
The Orthodox Church in Copenhagen, Denmark

*Hygge is a term by the Danes that reflects not only a state of being but a way of life. Apparently the term is originally Norwegian but has been seen in Danish writings as early as the 18th century. "Hygge means creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you." This means even enjoying doing your laundry by reading a book while waiting for it do be done. In my case it was enjoying the my family in whatever situation we were in. This information was derived from people we have met here and the website linked above!