27 April 2013

April adventures

right before i totally petered out of exploring steam, we got out to several more new places around the city.

-libraries (tapanila, puistola, suutarila): nice childrens spaces at these libraries but they had poor english book selections. from what i can tell, the closer you are to the core city center or to the west (in or near the city of espoo) the larger the selection of english language books. i guess that says something about where certain groups of people settle to raise their families.

-leikkipuistos (kurranummi, nurkka, jalopeura): [kurranummi] this playground had a nice location near a library with wide open spaces but not much shade. [nurkka] a great playground attached to a library/leikkipuisto/school. [jalopeura] a spread out, open playground with a pond, open grass areas, and river nearby.

-fallkulla farm. this place is easy to get to and free. you can touch and see tons of animals. theres a play areas for kids and bathrooms. in the summer they have a snack place open (im told) and in general is a large area to visit and relax.

-heureka science center. we primarily went for their body worlds exhibit. X loved it (blood and dead body parts and bodies, what 3 year old wouldnt dig that?). the rest of the science center was decent, but not as cool as the one in oulu. the grounds of the science center were great though: lots of lawn, a huge rock garden, a dam/waterfall, a duck pond, it was next to the train tracks, and there were several neat pedestrian bridges. i would come back just for the grounds for sure.

-alice in wonderland on ice. this was at the helsinki ice hall. a local skating club put on an adorable kids show. it was the perfect length and the great, short skate sequences kept their attention. im so happy we made it.

-snadistadi. a new indoor play place. the place was very well laid out and had fun areas for kids. it was expensive but would be worth it for bad weather or winter. a nice resource in the city.

-helsinki messukeskus. the huge city expo center had a child fair. there was a 16€ entrance fee and like other expos in the US there was some free stuff, but mostly prize drawings, info, products to buy, and showcasing for the companies. i was not impressed.

-english language book club. this is organized by the pasila library. i was sick for the march book club meeting but went this month. there were 4 other women of retirement age. they were well spoken and interesting. its a new group of people for me, and i like their energy. i look forward to future meetings.

-chapel of silence (kampin kappeli). shaped like a wooden egg, this chapel is sparsely decorated and is a place of silence. in the bustling middle of the city center, its such a peaceful place to stop and reset. its free and even a short 15 minute sit can make you feel much better.
(inside the chapel of silence. this isnt my pic, its from the blog hecktic travels)

-the trails and parkland between us and the savela neighborhood. there are nice dense trees and rocks and moss and trails. the path opens at the vantaa river and has a huge playground, disc golf, a picnic area, etc.

-river parkland in the suutarila neighborhood. this area looked nice and large on the map, but its mostly rolling grass hills and the nearby vantaa highway isnt too attractive.

-mini trails and climbable boulders in our neighborhood. there are so many ways to get down to our neighborhood mini shopping center area and many of them are up and over boulders. in the snowy winter i couldnt tell what was a real path and what was just treacherous but now that everything is melted, it makes even a dull trip to get food a fun adventure for X.

(this is actually the vanhakaupunki area [not anything i mentioned above] we seem to visit this area every few weeks and it changes so much each time. compared to our snowy january visit, this place is teeming with life now, and there arent even leaves on trees yet) 

-stockmann outlet. peh. scary. like an outlet for tjmaxx.

-nanso. id say a step down from marimekko, but its a finnish clothing design house and is worth a browse every now and again. they have decent patterns, but possibly in the slightly older lady bracket.

-toys r us. the one here is well organized, has a good selection, but has high prices. i will likely need to go back out there on rare occasion if looking for something i havent seen at closer, more unique stores.

-health centers (terveyskeskus). each grouping of neighborhoods has a health center that manages most of its health care needs (though you are not required to go to the health center in your neighborhood). emergencies still go to a hospital, but most other needs are met nearby and in a triaged, timely manner.

-cafe esplanad. in a nice location on the fancy esplanadi, but the food was just okay.

-antell itämerentori. a buffet-style lunch place in an easy access location. a nice spot for a fast tasty lunch.

-caffi. locally roasted beans, as well as tea and chocolate. a nice store but as im not a coffee drinker, i'll have to get the opinion of the people we got coffee gifts for.

finn notables:
-xylitol. offered as gum, chewy candies, mints, and other forms here, its actually a useful health product apparently. its a good diabetic sweetener, it reduces dental cavities, aids in tooth remineralization, and can help with ear infections. im told school kids are even given them after lunch.

-carpet/rug racks and whackers. so there are metal and wood racks outside every few apartment buildings here. people use them like crazy, especially during spring cleaning time. apparently vacuuming is not good enough, you take all your household rugs outside, when necessary, and carry your trusty whacker racquet thing-y and whack the dirt out of them good.

(our neighbor cleaning her rugs)

-sense of community. as the final spring melt was upon us it seemed that neighbors would regularly come out and do a few minutes of general maintenance of their surroundings. it could be breaking up ice, sweeping gravel off the side of the road out into the middle so the trucks that come by to remove the winter gravel would get most of it, or scooping paths in the snow for easier walking around the playground. residents seem to do these "community" services but in a random fashion. its not routine and not in everyones area. but it seems to be no pressure and an easy commitment for people to do only what they can when they can and it encourages others to take an interest and help out too.

24 April 2013

Year 3X in review

the summary of another year gone by...




weight: 13.4 kg (29.5 lbs)
height: 94.6 cm (37.2 in)
head circumference: 50.3 cm (19.8 in)
--> these are mid-range percentile numbers.
shoe size: 8 (US) or 24 (europe)
clothing size: 3T/4T (US) or 92/98 (europe)

new nicknames acquired: yorman, fuzzy j

favorite things: underwater animals (been this way for about 2 years now), transportation...most specifically trams (been that way for over a year)

favorite foods: beans and cheese, chocolate

food sensitivities remaining: soy, lactose, cinnamon, lemon

new friends born this past year:
miss ada b, miss evie t, mister quinn j, miss ava b, mister nathaniel c, miss bea m, miss anna m

new friends to come:
mister stepke, mister ming, mister/miss busuttil

trips taken this year:
-prince edward island and joggins fossil cliffs in june
-michigan in june
-malagash, nova scotia in july
-economy/parrsboro/five islands, nova scotia in august
-newfoundland in august
-ottawa in october
-michigan in december for the move (and visiting)
-new york (albany and nyack) in december
-landing in finland in january
-oulu, finland in march

favorite modified song (to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star):
twinkle twinkle little tram,
all along the tracks you ran,
round and round the town you go,
i love you, this you know...

favorite books: finland (~100% due to the helsinki tram picture on page 183), life-size sharks and other underwater creatures, what if humans were like animals, catwings, the poky little puppy, grasshopper on the road, zoozical, my monster mama loves me so, ocean explorer, getting around by train, what we wear (90% because of the picture of the little swedish girl), dexters journey, mouse tales, pass it on

a typical day as a (now) 3 year old: wake up at 7:30/8a. spend half time inside, half time outside (or swim) for the morning. have lunch of beans and cheese (or have lunch with papa at work). go to library for new books. spend remaining afternoon half inside, half outside. have dinner at 6p. spend time playing with papa. snack with papa. bedtime story with mama. and asleep at 8:30/9p.

1. first ever party: we invited two kid friends and their parents and just did a weekend morning/lunch playdate type of party. the theme was transportation. i used pinterest for a few ideas and came up with: car fruit, train sandwiches, a tram brownie cake. i thought it went well, though i would have liked to have convinced everyone to have spent some time outside. oh well.

(snack table; close-up of apple/grape cars)
(train nut butter and jam sandwiches and manchego cheese cubes; a replica of the tram picture from her beloved "finland" [see above] book)

2. parent/weekday 'party': we made pasta and beans and cheese for dinner (as requested) with a "hand" cake (she got the idea from the book "alices birthday pig") made from a poorly executed gateau de savoie.

(the birthday dinner; the "meh" dessert and candle blow-out)

thank you:
thank you, X, for sticking with us this year as we threw you around the world. we packed you up more times than i can think for travel and moving, we gave you 3 or more different homes to adjust to, we asked so much from you and you bore it as best you could, and with less than perfectly patient parents. your curiosity, your insistence on doing things at your own speed and in your own way, and your willingness to keep getting back out there really helped keep us on track to settle in to our new home and country.

you ask so much of me, of others, but i thank you for absorbing and appreciating so much of what you are given. it keeps me going. you are a determined little bugger and you challenge me in every way to confront my faults, make peace with those i cant change and to work at those i can. of course i am your mother, and i am taking care of you until you can do it for yourself, but in many ways you are raising me to be the world citizen that i can be. so thank you for that, and all that you are. 

X files - 3 Years Old - Bye bye baby

well, all traces of baby are gone. if asked if i am weepy about that fact, the answer is 95% no. i mean, looking back at the pics of her at around 18 months...its just too cute. i did love that time period. but for all else, im really not sad to see it go. do i think i would experience the baby phase better with a do over, sure. but im enjoying being with her now as she absorbs and processes life in this more independent, verbal stage of development.

obsessions: making us feed her with a spoon, transportation and vehicles of any and all kinds (most especially trams), snuggling with her "friends" (cars/trams) in our bed, climbing boulders, finding secret paths

good picture books: ming lo moves the mountain, pumpkin soup, crazy hair, small pig, uncle henrys dinner guests, hilda hens scary night, walking through the jungle, spoon, what now puss?, in the ocean, dogger, father bear comes home, king jack and the dragon, snow (rylant), lola and the rent-a-cat, alfie and the birthday surprise, the very best dad, thumbelina (nimmo), scruffy bear and the six white mice, mrs pepperpot learns to swim, bears loose tooth, the big ugly monster and the little stone rabbit, join the zoo hullabaloo, sea otter, pig tale, snow (uri), tatty ratty, the sea monster, orangutan, scruffy bear and the lost ball, beyond the ridge, friends, friends go adventuring, 999 tadpoles find a new home, hairy maclarys hat tricks, the dumb bunnies, tortuga, the story of the little red engine, the dancing tiger, mr pusskins, katies picture show, little one step, maude the not-so-noticeable shrimpton, wendy the wide-mouthed frog, snow white and the seven dwarfs (aiken), six dinner sid, the princess and the sleep stealer, tabby mctat the musical cat

winnie the witch series: winnie the witch, winnie under the sea, winnies flying carpet
simon series: simon finds a treasure, simon and his boxes
findus series: when findus was little and disappeared, pancakes for findus, findus and the fox
pip and posy series: the little puddle, the big balloon, the scary monster, the super scooter
little owl series: little owl and the tree house, little owl and the weed

good chapter/longer books: james herriots treasury for children, catwings series (catwings, catwings return, wonderful alexander and the catwings, jane on her own), the nine lives of aristotle, lotta, the cat who wanted to go home, emilys legs, owls, the hen who wouldnt give up, thimbleberry tales, akimbo series (akimbo and the lions, akimbo and the snakes), james and the giant peach, lottas bike, bears bad mood, claude on holiday, ling and ting not exactly the same, trains (bone)

good special interest books: the heyday of the european tram, citizens of the sea

(indeed there is an abundance of the lovely yellow tram shirt. i fear she will still be obsessed with the damn thing when she outgrows this one and will request the next size up)

X-citing developments:
1. potty. so at the beginning of this last two month period we were having a real problem with ammonia on our cloth diapers. it was irritating her and giving her red, burning rashes. not cool. i figured there would be a bit of a learning curve once we were on our own, washing the things at home so i tried to be patient. i boiled the diapers twice but was getting frustrated that she was still waking up every night at around 4a asking for a new diaper. i couldnt blame her, it smelled like ammonia, no matter what i did. none of her other diapers during the day smelled like that. eventually i gave up and switched to disposables (just for the night). i felt a bit guilty, but i couldnt think of another solution, i had gotten new soap, modified our wash cycles and tried a few extra tricks and i just couldnt figure it out. mercifully, a week after we switched to disposables at night the kid decided the potty was something she was interested in.

as you may recall, she has been interested in the thing at various levels since she was like 18 months old. it took her another 1.5 years to want to actually use it regularly, but it was worth the wait because it was so easy to manage. she had pieced together knowing when she had to go, being able to hold it, and being comfortable releasing it on the potty all by herself. it meant that in the first day of her potty use she peed every pee in the potty, the second day she pooped on the potty (and it was while out of the house too), and on the third night she held her pee through the night and every night after.

its interesting though, the course of potty learning. at first she was so excited to potty at home, not at home, to go pee, to go poo. she wanted to try peeing every 2 minutes, she kept pushing and pushing to make more poo come out. she had to use every potty everywhere. then that got old and she didnt feel like going poo in the potty anymore, we had a few days of being back to a diaper (just for poo). we had a couple days weeks later where she would get scared about the possibility of wetting herself after she would wake up from a doze in the stroller or needing to pee while riding the bus. again, after a few days that went away too. she is still working on making all of the pee come out before bed so that she can settle down and get to sleep. she got up anywhere from 1-10 times each night before finally falling asleep. there are still plenty of nights where she wakes me up at night to go pee. my logical side is happy about that, but my energy bank is so so tired. and she also often wakes up earlier than normal because of her full bladder. we'll settle in eventually of course. but even though it was easy for her to transition to the potty in all the major ways, there are still so many fine tuning ways that it can be so hard on them (and you). i cant imagine wanting to rush that on them (or you), but to each his own.

2. light/dark for bed. the days are getting longer fast around here. bedtime used to occur, very obviously for her, when it was dark. now its not so dark at bedtime. and its light so early in the morning. its affecting her sleep patterns (on top of all the loss of sleep from pottying. its been a very tiring stretch). once we adjusted the blackout curtains things have gotten better.

3. acting out. she has taken to grabbing and scratching (again) when she has reached a point where she is done with independent play and/or doesnt want to be ignored anymore. this is highly irritating since she often doesnt give an indication beforehand of being lonely/bored/etc, she just goes right to being physical. patience is in high demand.

she has also attempted threatening us with physical harm or to do something she knows we dont like if we dont do what she says. we calmly say we dont deal in threats (as well as saying other things like acknowledging her frustrations), but hitting/pushing/kicking or yelling/shrieking usually then ensues. toddlers are really awesome creatures. again, patience is in high demand, and my eardrums are slowly being deadened to the point where screaming (almost) doesnt bother me, thus i can much more calmly react to a heated situation.

4. climbing. she still loves it. she is less of a playground girl and more of an explorer of the wild unknown. she loves to climb anything and its fun to join her when i have the energy. im glad to see the same interests repeat through the seasons and in different places. it was one of the more fun things we would do together in halifax.

5. helper. she has been helping with laundry in a big way. she loads the washer, unloads it, drags the basket to the bedroom, helps hand me things to hang on the drying rack, and wants to pull things off the drying rack when they are dry. she even started folding her clothes the other day and shuttling her things back to her room, into the appropriate drawers. i love it. she even knows the sound of the washer winding down, getting ready to beep that it is finished so she will alert me when its time to deal with the laundry.

6. learning. she has been sounding out letters that a word starts with: socks, pillow, frog, tram, etc. and learning what sounds go with what letters. obviously the ones being understood first are the letters that sound the most like the "name" of the letter, but she seems really interested.

also, we have ventured in to the fun-filled world of chapter books. she really has the attention span for it. of course the trouble is the subject matter of chapter books doesnt always grab or make sense to 2-3 year olds. so, finding stories that work for her has been a challenge, but one im up for! we have lots of interesting discussions at bedtime. and as you can see (above) we read like crazy this month and were rewarded by finding lots of good stories in the library system.

7. anecdotes.
-she has started narrating her actions like a book. "and then she scampered about the room" or "'yogurt for breakfast', she whispered". its really hard not to laugh at her, on the one hand its hilarious and on the other i think its so freaking cool that reading affects her life so much.

-after dropping a book down a crack in the deck out in front of our library (and we told the librarian about it, but had to leave without the book), she asked me a few minutes later on the bus "do i look disppointed?" (and she did). i said that she did. after we got off the bus she said in a sad voice "i had two accidents today." i asked her what the two accidents were..."when i dropped the book down the crack, and when i got jam at my tram shirt at lunch".
*side note: days later, she voluntarily weaseled in to the crawl space under the deck to rescue the library book. i didnt actually think she would go for it, but she was so proud of herself and talked about her brave rescue for days.

momma mentionables:
1. work paper. so the fruit of parts of my work labor in halifax turned in to a peer-reviewed journal article in a well respected journal called the milbank quarterly. im the third author (being first author means you are the big cheese), and im glad i stuck with the team/job long enough to finally get something out there. a big triumph.

2. "fight" response. i do this, X does this. we react to anger situations with "fight" responses (rather than flight), most of the time. ive been working on this for a while, but this is a good article to help focus your efforts for change for anyone with more of a "fight" response, most particularly children.

3. resign. ive resigned myself from another level of unnecessary parental struggle. im trying to just absorb what comes as much as possible, rather than fight against things that arent happening as they are supposed to. the kid wakes up 3 times a night and shes almost 3? unless there is a glaringly obvious reason, i will just be zombie stumble into her room to put her back to sleep and get myself back to bed in whatever fashion will work best for all at the time. to fight against it makes the rest of that nights sleep and the whole next day a struggle, for both of us. im focused on working more on keeping myself as content as i can so that i can patiently absorb the blows as they come to me.

4. feeling old. i dont mean this in a whiney way, but i feel like ive actually crossed the line to looking like im aging. not in a wrinkles on my eyes kind of way either, but in a "hey, my hands, my elbows, my neck, my mid-section...the skin is actually not as elastic anymore. im getting older before my eyes". im sure part of this (mid-section) is due to X, but otherwise i cant blame it on her. its the phase of life im moving in to. i dont feel mad or scared, its just kinda of something that hits you one day. i hope the next aging body shock is a bit of a ways away for now, of course, but im fine being where i am right now.