Marriage

On my way into your loving arms

I was just going through some pictures when I came across this oldie. Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts happened to be playing in the background and it just kind of set the mood for writing a little post.

This picture was taken almost exactly 4 years ago and is one of our engagement pictures. I had recently moved to Stockholm and we were almost 2 months from our wedding day when we got in the car and drove downtown to take these quick pictures in the freezing icy cold! Knowing exactly how cold we were and how numb my toes were I’m surprised how relaxed and happy we look! (more…)

The way you look at me

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A couple of weeks after our wedding in 2013 we got a CD from a good friend full of pictures from our wedding day. However, before we had managed to move the files to our laptop we moved to Hawaii and lost the CD in the process. Then a month or two ago it turned up in my in-laws’ house in Sweden, and this week I finally took it to the library to transfer the pictures to a USB (because.. no CD drives anywhere anymore?!), and we’ve been reliving that special day all over again since then.
These are just a few of those treasures that I thought I’d share.

A few weeks ago our awesome friends offered to watch Sophia so Marcus and I could go out for dinner. My immediate thought when they asked was along the lines of, “oh that won’t be necessary, we’re just fine!”. But we took them up on it and went to an amazing Italian place nearby.

About five minutes after we had sat down at our table I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I burst out, “Why do you keep looking at me that way? (more…)

A little pub date

Having family visit comes with little extra blessings like stolen mini-dates. Last night we were so happy to be able to sneak away after bedtime for a couple of hours. We went to a nearby pub – my first pub experience!! – and shared nachos. It really wasn’t about the food or the place, only that we got some time to attempt – cause you never really do – to not worry about a child and just enjoy each other’s company. It’s nice to be reminded of what it was like to be a newlywed couple once in a while.

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My husband and I only had 3 things in common – and that was all it took

I remember friends staring at me in awe when I told them I was getting married. At 21. To a guy none of them had even had the time to meet yet. Most of them didn’t even know I had a boyfriend. And then the sigh, or scoff. They didn’t think they’d ever find someone they’d want to tie that tight of a knot with. How could I have found my special someone so fast? A best friend whom I loved more than anyone else and with whom I was positive I wanted to spend the rest of my existence.

Well, I guess it all depends on what you’re looking for. A best friend? That’s always a good pointer. What does that mean though?

Can I admit something? I’m not sure a lot of people know this. I mean really know this.

Marcus and I don’t have tons of things in common.
Seriously. We don’t. We don’t really listen to the same kind of music. We don’t always think the same movies are funny. He likes trying new flavors, I stick to chocolate (always). He’s more trendy, I’m more classic. He likes big crowds, I prefer small groups. He likes to sleep in, I like an early start. We’re actually very different people. Well, especially when we first met.

It took a while for me to really warm up to Marcus. Our first week dating I remember being worried that I was wasting my time with a guy that I clearly didn’t have enough in common with. He was a wonderful guy and I loved talking and being with him, but I just couldn’t see how we’d become the couple sitting in the couch laughing our heads off at an inside joke on a Tuesday night just because we had each other.
I remember one night in particular. We had gone for a walk together and had ended up sitting in the sand by a lake on an evening in July. I especially remember the insane amount of mosquitos. Anyway, I was feeling guilty and ended up admitting to Marcus my worries. I held my breath. Instead of freaking out or getting sad he told me that he’d had the same thoughts. Immediately I felt relieved but hung my head because I was worried that this was it. And so I braced myself for a break-up talk.
It didn’t come. Instead, Marcus picked up a twig and started drawing lines in the sand. He explained to me that he’d made up a sort of score board, and that only three things mattered to him:

Friendship – Did I seem like the type of girl he could be best friends with. And not just now in our 20s but for life. Could we still be best friends in 50, 60, 100 years? Did he enjoy my company that much? Could he talk to me about anything at all? Did he want to talk to me about anything at all? Did he feel like I really listened to him? Did he enjoy really listening to me? Did he like me enough to learn to love me in the future?

Aspiration – Did we see ourselves in a similar situation in 10 years? Did we want the same kind of family? Did we want the same kind of life for our family? Did we share the same faith? Was that faith as big a part of each of our lives? Did we want to build our family on the same sort of principles and values? Did we have similar ambitious goals for our future family? Did he like the idea of the life and family we could potentially have together?

Attraction – Did he find me attractive? Inward and outward. Did he want to be with me? Did he actually want to make our relationship work? Was he willing to make sacrifices for it?

He looked up. He said that I got full marks on that score board. Of that he wasn’t in doubt at all. And that everything else could fall into place later. After all, we had only just started dating.

About 9 months later we were married. It’s kind of a blur since everything happened so fast. But that night is one of the significant moments that I remember very well during our dating process. Because I knew he was right.
Sure, I could’ve probably said nope and gone out and found some other guy who liked chocolate cake and Harry Potter as much as I do. Or at least more than Marcus. But man, if I’m dead honest – no grey areas or second thoughts – I think I’d have to look for many many years to find another guy who spot on wanted the same life and family as I want. And even made me more excited about my own hopes and dreams than I was in the first place!

I’ll admit it. I kept dating Marcus because I was blindly in love with the life we would have together and the father he would some day be. But now that we are actually living that life, we laugh at tons of inside jokes every day, and I can watch my daughter crawl eagerly to the front door when he gets home from work, I am so happy I didn’t go find a new relationship to base on a meaningless crush.

So no, I don’t think you need to have tons of things in common. Actually, in some ways I think differences can be a blessing. Because they give you so many opportunities to make sacrifices for each other and thereby to demonstrate your love for one another. Once Marcus brought home a 1000-piece puzzle and suggested we put on a movie and put it together after dinner. I’ve rarely felt that cherished and appreciated. Not just because I love doing puzzles, but because I know how much Marcus hates ding puzzles. And even though he could only stand it for 15 minutes and then left me to do the rest on my own, it absolutely meant the world to me.
I’m thankful today that I based my relationship to my husband on the right things, because everything else, sense of humor, hobbies, interests, inside jokes, telepathy, – it all came later. But it came. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a ton of things in common, you just need to have the most important things in common.

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I’m a real stay at home mom

I’m a real stay at home mom now. I am a mom. And I stay at home. From work at least. Our life has changed a bit since Marcus started working. We are no longer stay at home parents. Now I’m a stay at home mom.

Marcus’ alarm goes off at 6.30. Mine goes off at 6.35, just in case. We’ve calculated 10-15 minutes to lay in bed and talk. We haven’t quite shaken that habit yet. It’s nice. Marcus whispers ’good morning’ in Baby’s ear. She smiles in her sleep but doesn’t open her eyes. It’s too early. She rolls over. Face down. We laugh.

We talk over today’s plans. Marcus should be home by 7. In the meantime I’ll watch the baby. Our life is pretty simple. Marcus tickles Baby’s nose. ’Wake up!’ She starts whimpering. I give Marcus a pleading look. He leaves to take a shower.

I lie back on my pillow. I’m still pretty sleepy.

Marcus opens the door. I must’ve dozed off for 10 minutes. Baby is awake too. She’s already pulling herself up on her wobbly legs and grabbing the headboard tight. Her diaper looks pretty heavy. I grab her around her waist and kiss her chubby neck. She giggles.
On the changing table she really starts to wake up. I let her hold a pack of baby wipes to keep her occupied while I slap on a clean diaper. I put her back in her PJs, the day hasn’t quite started yet.

Marcus emerges from the bedroom. He can’t decide on a tie. I say the blue one. I prefer solid colors. By the way, he has time to have breakfast together if I want. I agree, one thing less to have to do alone with the baby.

It’s bright in the kitchen. I put Baby in her high chair and she happily slaps her fat hands on the table. Marcus gets out some dark bread. I’ll have that too. I can’t really reach the cereal anyway. Milk? Yes please.

Marcus is almost finished with his food when I sit down. He’s actually in a hurry, the train leaves in 20 minutes. I take a couple of quick bites out of my sandwich and get up to kiss him goodbye. I hug him tight. Five more seconds. Baby gets a kiss too but whips around in her chair when he leaves the room. She starts to cry. I pull her out of her chair. Marcus jumps back into the room. ’It’s okay, Baby!’ He’s surprised that she got sad. We walk into the hall and I ask Marcus when he thinks he’ll be home. Still 7. Another quick kiss before the door closes behind him.

I hoist Baby up higher on my hip and walk to the window. We watch him walk down the street for a few quiet seconds before he turns the corner and is gone.

I turn to Baby. ’It’s gonna be a fun day! Are you excited?’ She grabs my nose. ’But first, we sleep another hour’.

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Random selfies that we send to Marcus during the day when we miss him.

Why is marriage so important?

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Last week was finals week which means this week is chill-out week for our family… and this post should have been up over a week ago.

Almost two weeks ago it was Conference weekend at our house. That means that my family gets together, eats a lot of unhealthy food and listens to uplifting talks from the president and leaders of our church.

A lot of the messages are usually about how to strengthen your family (especially this year! Or am I just noticing everything because I’m a new mom?), and one of the things that really stuck with me this time was a quote that Elder D. Todd Christofferson shared by  writer and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

“Marriage is more than your love for each other. … In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown and not merely the will to rule that makes the king, so it is marriage and not merely your love for each other that joins you together in the sight of God and man. So love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God” 

For a while I’ve been wondering about that. Why is marriage so important? I myself have faith in God and an afterlife and therefore believe that marriage has more eternal consequences. But we don’t all believe in God or belong to a church. So, if we just consider this life, for the average Joe out there, what is so different between being in love and living together, and being tied to each other in matrimony? Is it just a piece of paper?

I think the main reason that this question is even relevant in today’s world is that the way that marriage is perceived has changed.

If we think that marriage is only special because it is pretty, magical and romantic… that it can be undone or abandoned just as easily as breaking up with a girlfriend orboyfriend… then that’s what marriage is. No different than a simple relationship.

To use Bonhoeffer’s metaphor, if the king’s will to rule is only temporary and if he wants the flexibility of taking an out – then maybe the crown isn’t fit for him.

Marriage is only what you make it. If you enter a marriage with the attitude that “we can always get divorced if it gets too hard”, then it is indeed not more than a piece of paper.

But if you however enter a marriage thinking that you’re willing to stand by each other through thick and thin, knowing that your love for each other may suffer along the way – then marriage can be stronger and more beautiful and romantic than you could ever dream. To me, my marriage is so much more than just a romantic relationship. It’s a permanent committed partnership in creating a happy life and overcoming the trials of life.

On second thought, maybe that is really the definition of a true romantic relationship.

I’m grateful to be in a loving marriage, and I’m gonna take it all the way.

I know, I might be preaching to the choir. But I really needed to understand that.

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I didn’t get this happy by being a realist

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Throughout my life I’ve had friends and other people come up to me and tell me how they admired or envied certain aspects of my life, things that might not be as common these days. They would ask me how these were possible and upon hearing my answer they would sigh or laugh and give me an excuse as to why that could never work for them.

“It’s really cool that you have that good of a relationship with your parents even though you’re a teenager. I could never have that – my parents don’t understand me or let me do what I want”

“It’s so great that you don’t drink alcohol. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t. But I could never stop drinking – I would lose all my friends, because I can’t have fun without being drunk.”

“I wish I had faith in God like you do – that must be such a comfort in your life. But I could never be a believer – (that’s just weird).”

“It’s so wonderful that you are married, it’s just like a fairytale! I could never have that though – I don’t think I could ever find someone that I would want to be with my entire life!”

I’m really not trying to boast, I’m simply trying to convey the message that life is only as good as where you set the bar. It makes me sad to see people limiting their happiness because they are so busy being realists and being like everyone else.

A week ago we celebrated our second anniversary. My marriage (and the fruits thereof) are without a doubt my highest accomplishments in life. And if I’d had a PhD in something frighteningly academic or sold a billion dollar business, those would still be my highest accomplishments in life. In my experience, being part of a family is something that can bring you joy that you cannot find anywhere else.

And I’m not saying that you’re a failure if you haven’t found that certain someone yet. Because I know so many wonderful people that are trying their best in their search. Nor are you a failure if you don’t have strong family ties or if you’re unable to have children.

I am saying that the failure lies in deciding that that sort of happiness is out of your reach. Because it’s too hard, too different or even too good for you. How silly of a thought is that? That something is too good for you. The only person who decides how high you set the bar for your happiness and accomplishments is you. Life is too short to not live it to the fullest. Heck, stop living life like it’s too short! Expect it to go on and on and that you have the power to be happy for every little second of it.

Dream a little!

I’m lying here in bed between my sleeping husband and baby and my heart is singing of gratitude that I didn’t decide to only harvest my happiness from things that I could control or predict or that were socially acceptable. Because I know that I definitely would not have been where I am today.

Those were my early Monday morning thoughts.

A simple golden ring

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On the occasion of our being married 23 months today I thought I’d share a little bit about my wedding ring. And my engagement ring. Because they’re the same ring.

I don’t know where you’re from, but here where I’m from using the same ring for engagement and for marriage is not traditional. But that’s the thing. If planning a wedding taught me anything, it is that I don’t care much for tradition. At least not some traditions.

We knew quite quickly that we wanted to marry each other. I loved him and he loved me. To us it was as simple as that. And we were too excited to start our lives together to wait around till we were engaged to start planning. When he asked me what kind of ring I wanted I told him I wanted a simple ring without big stones that I could accidentally knock out doing the dishes or working in the yard.

He said, surely I would want a fancy engagement ring. He would love to get me a simple wedding ring if I’d like and he wouldn’t think it was weird at all if I didn’t want to wear my engagement ring every day once we were married.

I told him, no thank you, and that I’d prefer just having one meaningful ring rather than having a very expensive ring stuffed away in a drawer the rest of my life. We both knew that we didn’t have a lot of money and what little we had I preferred we save and spend on something more useful.

In the end he agreed and I waited in excitement for the day he would pop the question. In the meantime we planned our wedding.

Then one day when I was in Stockholm visiting him, he took me upstairs to a secluded spot. He apologized for spoiling some of the surprise but that he needed to ask my opinion on something and that he didn’t think I’d mind. I gave my permission and he pulled out a small black velvet bag. He told me that he had recently been to visit his grandparents. They had asked about the proceedings of our relationship and especially about his upcoming proposal. Kindly, they had offered their own engagement rings for Marcus to take. Marcus opened the small bag and emptied the contents into the palm of his hand. The rings were perfect. Simple, smooth and glitteringly golden. I waved off Marcus’ remarks that I could still have a diamond ring if I wanted, and told him that this was the exact ring I wanted. I asked if I could try it on, but he wouldn’t let me. He told me I’d have to wait till he proposed. He only dragged that out for another couple of weeks.

The day after he put the ring on my finger we went to a local jeweler to have them resized and engraved. We already had a date. 23 March 2013.

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Being a mom the way I want

I often wonder if our marriage will keep having as many planning sessions as it does now in these early years. I hope it will. At least I hope that life won’t teach me that I’m naive if I think I can plan it. That I’ll have to do it the way everyone else does it and that the current is too strong to fight.

So here’s our plan: We want for Marcus to be able to someday work from home. We want for me to be at home with our kids. Why? Because we want to be with our family. We want to put our family first. That’s why we decided to have one. So essentially our plan is to have the happiest family possible. And that’s the way we think we can best achieve that.

Is that naive? Is that dream a tiny bit too big?

Because it scares me that most people around me are doing it differently. I’ve already had people give me a weird look for saying that I don’t intend to put my daughter in daycare if I can avoid it. Does that mean my plan won’t work? Or does it just mean that we all have different paths to make our families happy? Because I guess we do. I’m just not sure I’m willing to let that fact crush my plan. And what about the government? It seems that most often it makes life a little easier for people who aren’t trying to follow a plan like mine. I’ll just have to live with that though. I don’t really think benefits are more valuable than our plan.

I’ve always known I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. My mom fought the current and did it and I knew that someday I would do the same. Because I loved having her there growing up. It’s taught and prepared me for being a mother and quite frankly I think it’s prepared her to be a better grandmother and to help and support her children establishing their own homes. So I always knew this was what I wanted to do. But it hurts me a little to think that a lot of people might think I’m lazy for it. Like I could do more in my life. Or like I could be a better citizen, be more beneficial to society. But I think the best thing I can do for my community is to raise a happy family. A happy, ambitious, hard-working, kind family.

And I know my plan might be a lot to plan for. I may be naive. And for many people this sort of plan just might not be an option. But I like to think that it is an option for me. To live life the way I want. Because I planned it that way. And we may be poor in the beginning. Heck! We may be poor for a very very long time. But, again, I don’t think the dog, the car, the yearly summer vacation, the new clothes every month, etc. are more valuable. I became a mom because I want to be a mom. And I think I should be able to do it the way that I think is best for my family.image

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A Swedish Christmas Eve

Twas a Swedish Christmas this year. It was a bit exciting for the entire family. Marcus hadn’t celebrated Christmas in Sweden for 3 years, I had never celebrated Christmas in Sweden and Baby hadn’t celebrated Christmas before all together.

So it was with great anticipation that we rolled out of bed at 8am on the 24th. Marcus and I showered and Baby got a diaper change. Once we were all dressed we went downstairs to have breakfast with the family at 9am. On the table was rice pudding (I guess that’s the best translation) with toppings: sugar, cinnamon, milk or berry juice (saft soppa?), as well as bread and sliced Christmas ham for sandwiches with toppings: mustard and beet salad. To drink was milk and of course julmust (a Swedish soft drink served for Christmas and Easter).

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After breakfast we all went to the basement, settled in the couches – Baby curling up in my lap – and we took turns reading aloud from the scriptures about the birth of Christ.  I really liked this tradition, as it really helped set the mood for the day and reminded us what we were celebrating – and why.

Then we had some fun family time. We got out the Wii, the candy, the cookies, the blankets, and spent the next few hours enjoying one another’s company. During this Marcus, Baby and I went back upstairs to change into our nicer clothes. Baby especially looked pretty in her new red dress, white stockings and tiny black shoes. Hello Shirley Temple!

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Nice watch, Santa!

At 3 o’clock sharp – and I mean sharp! – it was time to gather around the TV for From All of Us to All of You – or in Sweden better known as “Kalle Anka” (Donald Duck) (wonder which character the Swedes like the best…). This show was so important that Marcus messaged me on Facebook to stop whatever I was doing – I was nursing Baby – and come down immediately.

When Kalle Anka was over it was time for Christmas dinner! I was especially excited for this part. We entered the kitchen and was the dinner table completely covered in dishes with potatoes, meat balls, salmon, brussels sprouts, potato gratin, a dish called “Janssons Frestelse” (potato gratin with fish), herring, sausages, gravy… think I remembered everything. I know I’m gonna get this question a lot when I get back to Denmark, so I’ll just answer it right away: Swedish Christmas dinner was a lot better than I thought it was gonna be. I really liked the different meats and the potato gratin. I still prefer Danish Christmas dinner, but I’m definitely not gonna be sad to have Swedish Christmas dinner every other year.

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Once we had finished eating it was time for presents! We all gathered around the tree and enjoyed an hour of the joy of giving and receiving. It was really a great experience for me, being still the newest member of the family. Since money is a little tight at the moment we hadn’t provided very many of the gifts under the tree. But to me it was a true bonding moment sitting there watching presents being passed around and feeling the love in the room. These people are truly family to me.

Dessert was then served, delicious gingerbread cheesecake, and at last we all watched Svensson Svensson, which I am told is also a Swedish Christmas tradition.

I am surprised how little I missed Danish Christmas. It just testifies that Christmas is more about the people you spend it with than the food eaten or traditions kept.

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