Oh, Hi! Oh.

State #2 and week #2 on our grand adventure led us to Ohio and more visiting with old friends. We stayed outside of Columbus with Deb and her family, friends from our Kirkwood days. Deb likes to take credit for Staffan and I getting together, and she certainly played a role (though I like to think we would’ve figured it out ourselves eventually!). Besides, I think she enjoyed the whole process almost as much as we did.

But I digress. We spent two nights “camped” in Deb’s backyard, and enjoyed cook outs and long evenings sitting outside. Occasionally there were even guitars involved (or rather, a guitar and a ukulele) and it was an all around nice time. Peter had a couple of rough nights and a bit of a fever while we were there, but he seems to be feeling better now and I suspect he might even get a new tooth out of the whole ordeal.

On Monday, Deb’s daughter Kate and her son Jason took us to the Columbus Zoo – which is probably the best zoo I’ve never heard of before. Apparently it’s run by Jack Hanna (or affiliated with him in some way, don’t quote me that he runs it) but it was really great! If you’re ever in the Columbus area, I’d recommend it!

It seems that petting the goat just wasn’t enough. They should rename it “hugging zoo”

Peter also had a little trouble with the “petting” concept. Peter was at the “pulling zoo”.    Very patient goats.

Emelie and this gorilla seemed to have a very deep conversation. It went on a while.     The gorilla never moved. 

Emelie and Jason had so much fun “dancing with the penguins”. This is one of the few pictures that’s not just a blur of two 3 year olds in motion.

The first rain we’ve run into on our trip was just a little drizzle while we were in the zoo. We waited it out on a little train ride with a roof. It was a big hit!

Emelie on the train. I know I’m pretty partial, but that’s a beautiful girl.

Look! What big turtles they have!

I think one of my favorite parts of the zoo was watching my fearless girl petting this snake. They had to keep reminding her to only use 1 or 2 fingers. It wasn’t crowded and since there was no line, they let her stay as long as she wanted – which ended up being pretty long! She loved the whole reptile house and especially the snakes!

We loved our visit with the Bergmann family and our trip to the Columbus Zoo! Our stay in Ohio was short, and Tuesday we moved north and west into Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

 

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Mission to Mars

Jenne was one of the first people that I met in college. We lived on the same hall in our freshman dorm, and she and her roommate and I and mine were the only ones to show up to the newcomers ice cream social. We stayed friends those four years and beyond, but though we’ve kept in touch, I haven’t seen her since the summer we got married on the same weekend and missed each other’s weddings.

So it was an exciting treat to get to visit her and Nate and their three boys. And to visit Mars of course. Who wouldn’t want to go to Mars?

The climate was quite hospitable, though a little hot, and our journey there was fraught with the stuff of great space movies… a delayed launch, unexpected difficulties along the way, an uncooperative crew, and the tension builds until finally a safe arrival. Ok, so it wasn’t exactly Apollo 13… more like a bit of a slow start in the morning, tons and tons of road construction, not choosing the best route, and really cranky kids with a day-after-an-amusement-park hangover. We were a bit frazzled when we finally got to Mars.

Parked at a rest stop to cook a couple cans of raviolis for lunch. It is very convenient that the stove part can be opened without putting the whole trailer up, making it possible to cook without setting camp like this. 

But what would a mission to Mars be without a little drama along the way? Mars, Pennsylvania of course. A quaint little community in the suburbs of Pittsburgh with both a sense of nostalgia for the past and a sense of humor about their name. We saw both as we walked through town… lots of nice old buildings, a little market, and a space ship on the corner. Well, you have to stop and take lots of pictures at the space ship, right?

Emelie, Bradley and Bryson all wanted to be at the top. King of the… flying saucer?

Family picture on the Mars space ship

The whole gang

Look, no hands!

We had a great weekend with old friends. Friday night when we arrived (much later than planned) we spent a little bit of time at the local pool. Saturday we explored Mars, bought cookies at a great little bakery, let the kids play in the backyard, and even met some of their friends at a campfire/movie night party they were hosting. Sunday morning we went to the church where Nate is the pastor and grabbed a quick lunch before getting back on the road. We were bound for Ohio – the second state on our cross-country adventure!

Swimming is always a hit, especially for kids who have been in the car much too long!

A boy and a swing… pure joy.

Knoebel’s Campground and Amusement Park

Campground review

  • Price: Expensive. $40/night (weekly rate broke down slightly cheaper, but we only stayed 2 nights)
  • Location: Can’t be beat for proximity to the amusement park. It’s in the middle of nowhere so there aren’t tons of other options if you want to camp in that area.
  • Facilities: Good. Reasonably clean, adequate bathhouse facility within sight of the campsite. Number of showers and toilets was good – we didn’t need to wait to use either. Dishwashing sink on one side of the building. Glass and aluminum recycling receptacles outside the bathhouse. Trash cans were a little on the small side and were overflowing as the main check out rush approached. Water spigot also within easy distance. Firewood available for purchase.
  • Site description: Gravel/dirt. A bit damp and muddy in places. It didn’t rain during our stay so we can’t comment on drainage, puddles, etc. Roads between sites are paved. Picnic table and campfire pit in reasonable condition. The site was reasonably level and the size was adequate for our camper, which is 23ft long when extended.
  • Neighborhood: Clientele is mostly families which means a generally child-friendly atmosphere. The proximity of the wooden roller coaster to the campground is a detriment for those of us with little ones who go to bed before the park closes. The park shuttle playing music and families returning from the park are also sources of evening sound. It’s not unexpected or unreasonable, but if you’re looking for peace and quiet in the evenings, you won’t get it until 10-11pm, depending on time of year and park open times.

Comments: We felt that this campground was worth the price for the convenience of being so close to the park. A day at the amusement park is both fun and exhausting for everyone, and we appreciated having a relaxed morning without a long drive, and being able to stay in the park until the kids’ bedtime, knowing that our beds were already set up just a short walk away.

A Day in the Amusement Park

Knoebel’s is one of my favorite amusement parks. While it lacks the thrill rides that some of the larger parks can offer, it offers a family atmosphere that’s hard to beat. One of the great things is that you can choose whether you pay for a “ride all day” bracelet, or if you pay with tickets per ride. So someone like my mom, for example, who suffers from vertigo and can’t go on most rides, doesn’t have to pay to go in and enjoy the day with the family.

My parents and my sister joined us on Thursday to spend the day in the park. They were glad to get to see our camp set-up, we were glad that they could bring a few things we managed to forget, and we were all glad to have a fun day together.

Emelie had never been to an amusement park like this before, so it was fun to discover it with her. At first, she was not convinced that it would be all that much better than playing with the gravel at our campsite, but we managed to get her to come along to check it out anyway. We decided to try the carousel as a first ride experience. She was scared and started crying to get off…

And then the ride started.

Let’s just say she was hooked.

I have to admit, I didn’t think she’d be able to do these hand-cranked bike things. But she just did it like she does it everyday. Mamma’s impressed.

Handy when your aunt is 12 years old and often allowed to go on rides with you that your parents are too big for. Thanks for your patience Aunt Rachel!

I was skeptical about this one. It went high and fast. But as long as she could squeeze Pappa’s hand, she loved it. She looks so little on it, but so happy.

Just a happy girl. Beautiful.

She got bolder and bolder as the day went on, and after grabbing some pizza for dinner, she managed to squeeze in one last ride before we walked back to the campsite and tucked her into bed. It was really nice not to have a long car ride at the end of the day. We’re always so tired after a day at an amusement park. But my family had only come for the day (maybe next time?) so we said goodbye to them and tried to get a good night’s sleep. We had a lot of miles to cover in the morning as we headed toward Pittsburgh.

The whole gang minus Staffan and Peter, a little weary toward the end of the day

Central PA

A few days in Central Pennsylvania…

Shippensburg

Our first stop as we started west was in Shippensburg where we visited with the Rockwells, who are the generous owners of our Home Sweet Pop-up. It was fun to catch up with old friends, followed by a long evening helping our kids settle in to sleep in a new environment. All in all, though, our first night in the camper was pretty smooth. There was still a bit of adjusting to be done on Tuesday to get all the connections to the minivan in good working order, so while Staffan did all the grunt work, the kids and I visited with my friend from college, Lisa, and her daughter. We walked over to the campus where we were students together over 10 years ago (!!) and even though we didn’t see much of campus, I could tell that much had changed. It’s always strange to go back to a place that’s so familiar and yet so different at the same time.

On SU campus by Old Main

Emelie’s first corn on the cob at dinner with the Rockwells

Harrisburg area

Once all the adjustments were made and the minivan and pop-up had made friends, it was time to head north a bit to visit my brother and sister-in-law and see their new-ish house. (New-ish because they bought it over a year ago, but we still hadn’t seen it yet.) I’m not sure we ever did finish getting the tour. It seems we kept getting interrupted by something. 🙂 But we did have a fun dinner roasting hot dogs over an open fire, followed by roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Emelie’s first s’mores! She started singing this great little song “marshmallows, marshmallows, sticky as me!” that she sang over and over for several days. We were so impressed by what a cute little song she made up, until yesterday in the car when we realized it was a part of a song on a CD. But then we were still impressed because she had only listened to it a couple of times several weeks before, and she had no idea then what a marshmallow was. In case you’re wondering, the line in the song says “sticky and sweet” but after watching her eat those s’mores, I’m thinking “sticky as me” was much more appropriate. The kids went down really easily on this second night in the camper, and we enjoyed a great evening on their back porch, sitting around the fire pit under the stars.

Grilling hot dogs…

And marshmallows

Mmmmm… S’mores!!

Peter and Uncle Jason playing together

Peter and Emelie helped Aunt Megan water the flowers

relaxing evening by the fire

In the morning, Peter found the dog’s water bowl and had a LOT of fun!

 

The next day, Wednesday, we drove about 20 minutes to my grandmom’s house and visited with her and one of my uncles. It was nice to have a calm visit with a nice lunch.

Great-grandmom and Peter

Wednesday evening we did some grocery shopping in preparation for our first campground stay at the amusement park Knoebels in Elysburg PA. More on that in my next post!

Home Sweet Pop-up

On Monday (August 20) our trip west officially began. We loaded up the minivan in the early afternoon and drove about 150 miles to Shippensburg, PA. It was not without a bit of apprehension that we pulled up out front of the Rockwell’s home as we anticipated our introduction to the pop-up camper that will be our home for the next three months.

A fully loaded van
The kids are buckled in and ready to head west!

We were both pleasantly surprised to discover how spacious and open it is on the inside! For something that folds up so small and is so light to tow, we really do have a lot of living space in there. I suppose it all depends on what you’re used to. Staffan and I used to do a lot of tent camping in a tent that was small and light enough to carry around all day, so in comparison this feels palatial. On one end is a queen-sized bed that we’re sleeping in, and the other end pulls out to a double bed that the kids are sharing. In between is a small kitchen-ish area and a table area.

 

 

Our home as seen parked in my brother’s driveway on Tuesday night

Partial interior view

This is how the kids are sharing the bed.                                                                               A duffle bag and a bed rail turned out to be a great solution!

We’ve slept two nights in it parked in people’s driveways, and tonight is our first night in a campground. We rolled in a little later than planned and are still a little slow and inefficient at setting camp, so dinner was cooked under the stress of fussy hungry kids and parents who can’t seem to find anything when they’re looking for it. Needless to say, there were no pictures taken of our first meal cooked in the camper kitchen, but pictures will follow in a later post of a calmer and more peaceful meal.

We will spend one more day in central Pennsylvania and then move on toward the Pittsburgh area on Friday.

Philadelphia, part 2: Friends, Food and a Birthday Party

We spent our last few days in Philadelphia enjoying spending time with friends, eating our favorite foods, and celebrating Emelie’s 3rd birthday. It’s hard to believe that our trip has begun! It’s a bit surreal to have spent such a long time planning something that it seems like it will always be in the future… but then suddenly, it’s not.

But first, the Philadelphia area wrap-up. We enjoyed a few more opportunities to visit with friends… those beautiful moments spent sharing food and laughs around a table with people we see far too little of. These moments nourish my heart and make me so thankful for all the wonderful people we have in our life. Add to that chances for the kids to play with dogs or trampolines, pick vegetables from a garden, or just get a little extra love and, well, joy. If you were a part of making this week what it was, you know who you are. Thank you.

 

On Saturday we had a little birthday party for Emelie. Her friend Annika came over (and Annika’s mommy and daddy of course) and we made goldfish (cracker) “aquariums”, hot dog and spaghetti octopuses (octopi? I always thought so but spell check rejects this), and of course plenty of cake. The highlight, though, seemed to be the water trampoline that my dad whipped up for the occasion (thanks Dad!)

I may have gotten a little overzealous about the opportunity to try out all these fun ideas I’ve been pinning on Pinterest, but I had fun being creative and the kids had a fun party, so that’s all that matters. 🙂

And finally, a little photographic answer to the question I’m so frequently asked – other than people, what do you miss most about the US when you’re abroad? There are lots of deep and philosophical answers to this question, but sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Yum.

Philadelphia part 1: Fun with Family and Friends

Welcome to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. And to Philly’s surrounding suburbs.

We’ve been in the US now for almost a week, and we’re finally starting to get over the jet-lag and feel adapted. The first few nights were rough for the kids – and consequently for us – but now they’re starting to sleep better. Peter is having a bit of trouble adjusting to American baby food, which is pretty tasteless when compared to its Swedish counterpart I must say. Since it will be difficult to make our own while we’re on the road, we’re trying to find solutions now that will help him eat a little better. Our pace has been pretty intense since we landed, and though our kids have handled it all extremely well, we’re all a bit tired.  We’ve been having lots of fun though! Here are some highlights:

Birthday!

Our little girl turned 3! Her party is yet to come, but we couldn’t let the day pass in a total jet-lag haze without acknowledging her special day with a little cake and ice cream!

 

 

 

Sailing

My dad has a 16ft catamaran that he sails most often on Lake Galena at Peace Valley Park in Bucks County. Since Emelie had never been on a boat like this before, we thought we’d start off slow and see how she liked it. Well, she loved it. At one point she was hanging over the front edge of the trampoline and shouting “Faster! Faster!” as the water splashed up on her face. It was an amazing day. Our dinner picnic was cut short by a little sprinkle of rain and we brought the boat in after a distant rumble of thunder warned us there could be a storm coming. Not until we left and were driving home could we see that it had indeed stormed and poured down rain – everywhere except the lake where we were sailing. Thanks God for a fun afternoon on the water!

Helping get the boat ready to go in the water. She’s “fixing” the strap.

Visiting, Playing and Swimming

We’ve done lots of visiting with friends since we’ve been here. Time with people that we love but rarely get to see is one of the best parts of taking a trip like this. There’s been lots of chances to play and even a backyard pool to swim in!

Peter loved the water table – especially after the big girls moved on to the swings

What could be better than your own table with pizza and Finding Nemo?

Peter + water = love  I’m sensing a theme here!

Getting this little fish out of the water was not easy! 

The Franklin Institute

One of my favorite places in Philadelphia. I couldn’t wait to introduce my own kids to the things I remember so fondly, like climbing through the giant heart, riding the big locomotive and other fun hands-on exhibits in this amazing science museum. She’s still talking about it days later, even with all the other things we’ve done. She especially talks about seeing the stars on the ceiling in the planetarium, and the “how fireworks work” demonstration. I love how she pronounces “Franklin Institute” with such clear enunciation as she shows everyone the admission bracelet that she’s still wearing. If you’ve never been there and you have occasion to be in Philadelphia, I can’t recommend it enough, whether you have kids or not. 

Lindstrom family with Ben Franklin

Peter’s favorite was blowing foam balls through tubes. 

Emelie surprised us all with how well she could climb on the rock wall!

It’s entirely possible that every kid in the greater Philadelphia area has a picture like this one. What kid doesn’t want a chance to be a pilot?

We’re having a great time! We’ll be in the Philadelphia area until Monday when we start heading west!

Lindstroms in the sky

We have arrived safe and sound on American soil. We landed on schedule at 1pm yesterday after a wonderfully uneventful trip. All of our luggage managed to arrive with us, with the exception of our stroller, which has still not arrived more than 24hrs later. But at least it’s been found and we’re hoping to get it some time tomorrow.

The last few days – few weeks, really – have been exhausting and trying for all of us, but I just have to say that our kids are just amazing. After all the chaos of moving, during our last week in Sweden we slept in four different places. Everything has been upside down for weeks and the kids just seem to be taking it all in stride. Then yesterday, our travel day, we woke them up at 4:15am Swedish time to make it to the airport for our 6:20 flight. Emelie was awake for over 21 hours of that day with only a 45 minute nap on the plane, and she was still so pleasant the whole time. Peter slept a little more than that, but also seemed to enjoy all the new sounds, sights, and people with very little fuss. There is so much that can go wrong and so many things that can make traveling with toddlers a nightmare, but our trip was genuinely enjoyable. We’re so thankful for our incredible kids!

Like most kids, Emelie loved watching the planes at the airport. This was the plane that would fly us from Luleå to Stockholm.

She also loved looking out the window. This was far from the first time she’s flown, but it was the first time she was old enough to be this aware of and curious about everything going on around her. Seeing it all through her eyes made flying so much fun for us too!

We bought this safety harness for her and we’re so glad we did. It made the plane seat seem just like her car seat and made her more safe and comfortable overall. I wish they were a bit less expensive, and I’m not sure it would be worth the expense for just one trip, but we travel enough that it will hopefully be worth it. We were definitely glad to have it on this trip and would recommend it to others traveling with little ones who are in their own seats (not lap held).

We were so glad to have Staffan’s tablet with us with some preloaded videos and music. The children’s or “family” options on the in-flight entertainment system were definitely aimed at much older kids. We found one movie that was worth trying, but she was scared and asked us to turn it off after about a minute. She watched a documentary about Olympic cycling for a little while but we were really disappointed with the selection of things that were appropriate for her. It would all depend on the child and what he or she is used to, of course, but we would definitely recommend bringing a tablet, iPad, laptop, etc with some entertainment options that you know the child enjoys.

Peter got to hang out in his own little bed that mounts on the wall. He’s right on the edge of being able to use this at his height and weight, and we’ll miss having it on the way back. It served as bed, high chair, and playpen during the transatlantic flight.

A nice little nap on the plane.

I wish these two photos of peacefully sleeping children were taken at the same time. Not that I’m complaining after they were so easy overall, but it would’ve been nice for Mom and Dad to get a little break. Emelie had trouble settling down in all of the excitement despite how tired she was. But thankfully we had a new book with us that she got for her birthday that was a bit long. I’m not sure how long I kept reading after she fell asleep listening, but that was the only thing that helped. So that’s something else I would recommend to other parents – a new book that they’re excited to read. And it wouldn’t hurt if it’s long enough that the sound of your voice and the hum of the engine lulls them gently to sleep.

So now we’ve crossed the pond and are enjoying spending time with family while we land a bit and get adjusted to the time change. A trip to Target without the kids wasn’t so bad either. We’re so excited for all the people we’re going to get to see this week after being away for so long. After the last few weeks of moving, ending a job, and seemingly endless packing, unpacking and packing again, now it’s time to just relax and enjoy!

 

One week and Ten years

In just one week’s time we will be arriving on American soil. One week. Seven days. A number which is both exciting and a bit distressing, given that everything we own is still in boxes. There is so much to think about and so many small details left. Like yesterday, I unpacked winter overalls for the kids and hung them by the door. Not so useful in August, maybe, but needed as soon as we arrive back here in December. I’m realizing that it’s unrealistic to try to pack everything we could need for a 4 month trip. Especially with a baby who outgrows his clothes every 10 minutes. What size will he need when the weather gets colder? That’s what secondhand stores are for.

Speaking of everything being in boxes! This picture’s a couple weeks old but still captures the chaos of moving. On this occasion, while living life in two places, somehow the baby ended up in one place and the baby bed in the other. Thankfully we had plenty of boxes!

So today marks the one week countdown. Staffan is still working this week in a town where we no longer live, though the kids and I will be there this weekend for a farewell reception. It is a relief to have the move behind us and all that went with it. I was eager to move and don’t feel at all sad about leaving, but still it is a strange feeling to see a place that has been so full of life – our life! – looking empty and sterile. Despite everything, it was impossible not to feel a bit nostalgic as we left the house where we brought Peter home for the first time, and where Emelie learned and grew and changed so much from a 2 to a 3 year old. The little house on Smedvägen will always be special because of those things.

And while we’re talking milestones, Staffan and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary tomorrow. Though it seems impossible that either of us are grown up enough to have something like a 10th anniversary, the calendar does not lie. There is too much going on around it right now for any real celebrations of the occasion, but we will at least be in the same place by the end of the day, which somehow seems fitting given that our relationship was long distance for so long before we were married.

The real “celebration” is soon to come anyway. Our trip is certainly not an anniversary celebration or a second honeymoon in any way. But it is a part of fulfilling the kind of life we dreamed of and planned all those years ago, in the dreamy “some day” kind of conversations you have when you’re newly in love and spending hours and days together on a hiking trail. The kind where you silently wonder if any of this could ever really happen. Already then we talked about this trip. And in a week it will become a reality.

So happy anniversary, Staffan. I love you, I love who I am when I’m with you, I love who we are together and the family we are building. I love that we are, in our 30’s, pursuing the dreams we dreamed together in our 20’s. May there be many more years, many more adventures, and many more dreams.