This past Friday was Ania’s last ballet class for this course, and as a finale, we parents were allowed to be in the audience. I’ve been dying to see what they’ve been up to – after 10 weeks of waiting in the room next door, hearing only the music and the giggles and the little pitter-patter of pink satin feet! The little girls were adorable, and it seemed like the classes were a good mix of actual technique and play. Although it has been hard to assess exactly what Ania thought of the class – I suspect for her, it has probably been both fun but also slightly anti-climactic, since learning the basics is such a long way off from the dramatic pirouetting that she’s seen on the stage and TV!

So we’ll see if she continues, and as she’s only 4 and this is her first foray into an organized extracurricular activity, I’m going to leave it up to her. After all, there’s plenty of time to explore and find what inspires her most. But one thing I’ve decided is that if she would like to continue with ballet, it won’t be at this school, on the basis of one segment of the class which really baffled me. At one point, the teacher split the group into 2, so that 3 girls had to perform a few movements in front of the other 3, who were their audience) – and then the observers were each asked in turn to vote for who they thought performed best – and say it in front of everyone. I mean, really, why do this? Making little girls compare and single each other out? Especially in this age group, when simply following along is already a commendable achievement. It struck me as some sort of old convention that is perhaps intended to inspire excellence, but at this level, is completely misguided and can only serve to breed insecurity, fear, and failure already when they haven’t even grasped the basics. Isn’t it obvious that the goal should really be to encourage and inspire? Kids have so many mountains to climb as it is, coping with all the confusion of media and peer pressure on their developing self-esteem – that this is the last thing in the world that any kid needs in this day and age.

I asked Ania if that was something they were asked to do every week, and thankfully she said no, it was only for the last class. So that’s good! And apart from that ridiculous voting scenario, it was cuteness to the max!


Fifth position…. sort of :)






A game where they made “sculptures” out of each other


Ania always said this was her favourite part of the class!



Final curtesy :)


I admit it – I used to look at kids on the street dressed head-to-toe in painful combinations of magenta and purple, sparkly cat head-prints and Disney all over  – and silently judge their parents. I mean seriously – who dresses their kids like that? Either they must have awful taste, or no willpower whatsoever to say no to their spoiled kids. But now, as Ania hits the 4-and a half-year mark, I think I get it. Those poor parents are just trying to preserve their sanity.

At least that’s how I see it. Up until this year, I was blissful in my judgemental ignorance. My child obviously was born with great taste, and was super happy wearing all the cool, gender-neutral clothes that I picked out! Mornings were easy, what to wear was a total non-issue. Notice how this is all in the past tense? Yes, that’s right – the days when I could be so smug are no longer. Just like all those other little girls, these days it’s all about pink, and it’s not only a preference – it’s an imperative. There have been mornings when the lack of any clean items of pink clothing have caused crises of unimaginable proportions – we are talking tears, tantrums, and arriving at work over an hour late in full sweat and panic. As an adult, it’s easy to dismiss all this as irrational, childish craziness, and get really angry over it, especially in the stress of the moment. But I actually remember what this feels like as a child – the intensity of emotion, that desire to belong, to define and express yourself the only way you know how. This pink business is no joke.

I really didn’t want to believe that conventional gender stereotypes were set in stone: girls being pink princesses enthralled with make-believe worlds full of aprons and dolls, while boys occupied the realm of superheroes, planes, trains and automobiles. Surely, this happened because parents weren’t aware enough. Or didn’t try hard enough. But even living as I do in a society that is probably more keenly conscious of gender issues than most, where girls are given trains and cars as much as boys are given dolls and toy ovens – at the end of the day, I see now that there is so much more to this which is simply beyond our control. Media, friends, advertisements on the street. What it comes down to is that we parents are no longer the only ones occupying their universe, we’re not the epicenter of influence anymore.

But even more fascinating are the tendencies which I can’t attribute to external factors. Like the way I see Ania so keenly aware of my morning routines – how I do my hair, makeup. How she knows my wardrobe off by heart – and knows right away if I am wearing something new, or that she’s never seen before. How wearing a certain colour, or certain item of clothing – can be a matter of life and death. And how all my friends observe in their daughters this same acute awareness, this same powerful drive  – while that impulse is so much less prevalent in their sons. When it comes to clothes, or colours, or any of that –  it seems like boys simply just don’t care, or at least not as much. Or maybe just not yet.

And lately I’ve started to ask myself – are we actually making too much out of something that matters very little? A wise friend of mine recently pointed out that nobody ever questions if boys wear too much blue, or play with too many superhero action figures, or spend too much time playing with trains. So why is it that we tend to view the girly-counterparts as being more negative? Almost every woman I know, myself included, once went through a pink princess phase, and that has not made us any less independent, or feminist, or anything. In fact, one of my earliest, most vivid memories is of myself as a 4-year old throwing a huge tantrum over this exact same thing – not wanting to leave the house in anything but some specific dress – and I seem to have gotten over it unscathed. In all our well-intentioned efforts to raise children in a world free of gender biases, I think sometimes we’re just putting our worries in the wrong basket. For sure, the weak-willed, marriage-hunting Disney princess just waiting to be rescued is no role model we want to perpetuate. But it’s also unnecessary to think that wearing all pink to preschool is going to lead to a life of subservience and oppression, right?

So my new motto is, embrace each phase for what it is! If Ania is into pink right now, I’m going to let her have it. It’s just a colour, it’s self-expression, not a future blueprint. And instead of shunning the princess, devaluing her as a role model – we need to empower her. As long as Ania believes that princesses represent strong, smart, inventive, creative, and powerful women that can do anything they want – then I hope she stays in that phase for a lifetime.

This was her Halloween costume this year. What better time than to let her live the dream!

It was, of course, her Halloween costume this year. What better time than this, to let her live the dream!


But who are we kidding, it’s not just for Halloween. Comes home from school, puts on the dress, and hangs out in it. Almost everyday since getting it. Best 149-kronor investment ever!


Getting the pose down.



So. Much. Happiness.

So. Much. Happiness.


And to conclude this series of Vancouver posts, I leave you with….. donuts. No trip to North America is complete without sufficient indulgence in the holy donut, which they unfortunately (or actually – fortunately) still haven’t managed to master in Sweden. The Vancouver must-eat list always includes dim sum, ketchup chips, poutine, coconut buns, fresh seafood, and as much toro and salmon sashimi as humanly possible. And a visit to Lucky’s, shown here, which takes the donut to new gourmet heights.

Big thanks and love to my family for making this trip extraordinarily special. It was short but so, so sweet. Love you all.

It’s hard to mask the joy of a Lucky’s donut.

Almost literally as big as her head.

Almost literally as big as her head.

Bye bye Vancouver!

Bye bye Vancouver!

Passing the time in Frankfurt during our long layover.

Passing the time in Frankfurt during our long layover.

Still a happy traveler after 5 hours in transit!

Still a happy traveler after 5 hours in transit!


Stanley Park must be one of the most beautiful public parks in the world. Basically a huge patch of old growth forest right in downtown Vancouver – made accessible for public enjoyment via hiking paths, bicycle trails, playgrounds, beaches, a few museums and public recreational facilities – bordered by the sea all around. A classic thing to do is go for a walk or ride around the sea wall – which is more or less a full 360-degree glimpse of the city surroundings – offering views of the downtown skyline, the North Shore mountains, passing right under the Lions Gate Bridge, and then in the final stretch, English Bay and the open Pacific to the west.

We rented some bikes and decided to try out one of those cycle chariots for Ania. They’re pretty popular in Stockholm, and we’ve wondered whether they’re a worthy addition to our (vast) bicycle collection. They seem really comfortable for kids, and we have friends who enthusiastically recommend them – but to me they always seem potentially super heavy and awkward to manoeuver in traffic…. so this was a good opportunity to test it out. Actually for Stefan and Ania to test it out – because I don’t think I’d ever dare to drive one of those things either way. The report? Success! Ania loved it – indeed it was a really comfortable ride, and seemed ideal for falling asleep in, which is something she does with alarming regularity in the bike seat we currently have installed. Stefan said it was a lot easier to handle than one would imagine, so who knows, maybe we’ll have to invest in one someday. If we can figure out where to store it, that is!

We actually had a second cycling-revelation that day: the first time I had ever, in my life, seen my Dad ride a bike. It was his first time in well over 50 years, I think! And he proved that it indeed is something that you never really forget. We had an amazing day, leisurely taking in the views and the fall colours, with once again lovely weather. And the best part is that you can do all this, and then just take a quick detour over to a handmade noodle place and have the most delicious lunch ever, get back on the bikes and spot a grey whale swimming right in English Bay! Okay okay – that is by no means a regular occurrence, but we did, indeed, see a whale downtown that day. Incredible. Only in Vancouver!


So pleased!


The whole cycling gang


Little girl and big rock. This is Siwash Rock, a landmark outcropping that is part of a First Nations legend.




One of the highlights on the west side of the park – these amazing balancing rock sculptures, created by anonymous artists.

Ania and her uncle Lawrence :)


Ania tries to build her own…


And Elena has a go at it too… harder than it looks!


Endlessly fascinating…



Tree-lined paths


These are funny public art sculptures on the downtown west side, done by some Chinese artist. Ania had fun imitating their expressions

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Another advantage of the chariot? Perfect for if you get hungry and need to eat a hotdog en route.

Another advantage of the chariot? Perfect for if you get hungry and need to eat a hotdog en route.


The leaves were all starting to turn…


Nothing like the Canadian red maple leaves!


As with all big family gatherings, it is so lovely to see everyone – but sometimes hard to have much one-on-one time with any one given person. So I was glad that we managed to have at least one dedicated visit with Mom, where Ania could have Gransey all to herself for an afternoon. We had just been to Toys-R-Us, which is sort of like a tourist attraction for us…. those huge aisles! SO MANY TOYS! Those kinds of superstores just don’t really exist over here, or at least not in inner-city Stockholm. Anyhow, our goal was to get a baseball bat for Ania while on North American soil, since she acquired a taste for the sport when we were in the States over the summer. But persuasive as she is, TLP also managed to score a Play-Dough-dessert kit, which contains a plethora of cupcake, lollipop and cookie molds that would allow her to create the tea parties of her dreams. And that is exactly what she and Gransey proceeded to do. Within a few minutes of entering Gransey’s condo, the cake factory was in full production! They served up neon-coloured confections while chatting and giggling like old times – and I was struck once again at how amazing it is that we have things like Skype – technology that makes it possible to almost seamlessly bridge a mostly on-screen relationship to an immediate, in-person connection. Or perhaps that is just the nature of children and their grandparents – an inherent bond of warmth and trust that just exists inherently, despite distance or time.





Later that evening, we joined up with the whole gang for one last family dinner – which was of course a massive, delicious Chinese feast.


Riding the BC Ferries doesn’t seem like the most exciting thing in the world. But when the weather is good, being up on the roof deck with the sun on your face and the majestic sea and mountains all around… there’s something romantic about it that I’ve always enjoyed. For Ania, Lucas and Lauren – it most likely wasn’t the romance of the setting that captivated them – but more likely the wide open deck perfect for games of tag, and the wild, wild wind. The trip between the Island and Vancouver is around 2 hours long, and I swear they were in high gear for the ENTIRE duration of the trip – running, jumping, chasing, wrestling, and of course, giggling and shouting non-stop. Good times!

Vanessa got the lucky little rascals some cake pops, and I think this was the fuel for what was to follow...

Vanessa got the lucky little rascals some cake pops, and I think this was the fuel for what was to follow…

Let the chasing begin!

Let the chasing begin!


Flying like birds…


Getting theatrical


Or maybe it was interpretive dance…

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Lucas getting chased by the girls


Family photo!

Family photo!








Just a few photos from the lovely Middle Beach Lodge, where we we stayed in Tofino. The kids loved sharing a cabin together, while Stefan and I enjoyed the freedom of in-house babysitters :) And did I mention the spectacular views?


The 3 musketeers


From the balcony of our cabin…

Morning view from our balcony.

Morning view from the cabin.


Looking out over Mackenzie Beach, where the wedding ceremony was held.


Making funny faces for the camera! Never a dull moment :)


Also some serious, very focused moments. Stefan and Lucas go head to head in a game of chess, in the cosy Lodge lounge.


Incredible sunsets over the ocean…


Sunset on Mackenzie Beach.


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