24 July 2013

X files - 3.25 years old - Xplorer

with the warmer weather since her birthday we have been getting outside with gusto which now means her brain and hands are always working, thinking, doing, testing, trying (there is a double meaning in those last two words). if we are inside she is imagining or reading, if we are outside she is exploring. its been great to watch the city blossom along with her, and to get to know each of them, in this new season.

**note to past readers, ive gone back and changed the kiddos name to "X" for the blog. while i realize this is a small, feeble way to attempt a little privacy for her, its something i want to do.**

obsessions: finding ants (and other bugs) and trying to get them to crawl on her, collecting "treasures" from outside

good picture books: the story of babar, danny and the dinosaur, toot and puddle, bunny money, king bidgoods in the bathtub, handas surprise, no-bot the robot with no bottom, eric (tan), we all went on safari, norman the slug with the silly shell, the magic hat, the three robbers, a carousel tale, insect detective, guji guji, the leaf men and the brave good bugs, black rabbit, louhi witch of north farm, katie and the sunflowers, rogers umbrella, whale gets stuck, the seal mother, indigo and the whale, the brave beast, can you do this old badger?, this is not my hat, lauras star, boo hoo bird, thats disgusting, little owls night, cook-a-doodle-doo, roller coaster, anatole, dog breath, mr pines purple house, mr strong, kittens first full moon, two bad ants, burnt toast on davenport street, the widows broom, the rainbabies, follow the line, henrys night, sleep like a tiger, cat dreams, penguin and pinecone, a picture for harolds room, pond walk, arnie the doughnut, little whistles medicine, our tree named steve, lets go home

good chapter/longer books: what if humans were like animals?, under the sea (mayfield), mercy watson goes for a ride, horse in the house, tales of oliver pig, the pony that went to sea, barefoot book of stories from the sea, the caboose who got loose, mrs noodlekugel, annie and snowball and the cozy nest, monsters of the deep (choose your own adventure)

frog and toad series: frog and toad together, frog and toad all year, days with frog and toad
mr putter and tabby series: row the boat, feed the fish, pick the pears, see the stars
poppleton series: poppleton, poppleton forever, poppleton in winter
henry and mudge series: the first book, bedtime thumps

good special interest books: the complete human body the definitive visual guide, life in the wild, thunder and lightening (pfeffer), unusual creatures

 (the reading box i designated for her in the living room; climbing in the viikki arb)

 (bubbles; bugs)
 (climbing; cats)

X-citing developments:
1. daycare. X was finally able to start (half day) daycare on may 20. this was great, but also hard. we chose a finnish daycare (finnish speaking kids and adults, some adults speak english, but basically none of the kids do) in a daycare center instead of in-home daycare like she had had in canada. so lots of new things to adjust to. i got to go with her the first few days and then i was able to do her breakfast with her for several more days after that. in that way it was great for both of us, but in my time there some aspects of being in such a loud, busy, large room made me nervous, and while i dont think X picked up on those feelings i can only imagine how the noise and largeness of the space and all the strange new kids and adults must have made her feel. i even teared up a couple times (she didnt see me) and was second guessing myself but trying to bite my tongue and sit on my hands a bit until i could really see how things would pan out. but, i saw the place was actually going to work after i gave it 1.5 weeks. the kids were all happy, and there are enough warm adults to make it a nice place to be. it got easier and easier for her, as it had before, and picking her up always brings a wonderful hug and a "i love your beautiful face momma". i think this will be great. and we are so lucky that its a ten minute walk through the serene woods to get to daycare, so easy.

2. potty. so she potty trained just before her third birthday, as i had written, and now we are just refining some potty behaviors. she had a few days in a row of accidents due to being unwilling to go to the bathroom when i suggested it (after i saw her holding herself). she seems to be holding it for long, long periods of time, perhaps testing herself to see how long she can go. i had to refine the way i made my request, instead of asking "do you have to go potty?" simply saying "i need you to put some pee in the potty" seemed to work wonders, perhaps because i wasnt questioning her bladders tensile strength and was simply asking her to sit and make some pee come out.

also, this may seem like a weird thing to say, but, with potty training...i dont see her "area" anymore, so i am less able to make sure it is healthy. she occasionally complains if the skin is in pain (i assume from foods that still bug her sometimes) and needs rash cream but otherwise its strange not to be knowledgeable about an area ive stared at and cleaned for almost 3 years, non-stop, multiple times a day. this is a good thing in many ways to be sure, but now it just reminds me that i need to be talking to her about her area and how its a private place of hers that doesnt need to be touched by strange adults anymore (or something along those lines, and even for bathing ive started to have her wash her area and be more in charge of it).

3. tired? i had a couple weeks there where she was willing to admit to me when she was tired during the day. oh it was sweet delight to hear her playing and then for things to get quiet and to find her asleep in bed. never. happened. before. this of course ended all too soon and we were back to where we always were, but every so often i can see a bit more willingness to give in to tiredness (in the stroller only though) when we go through the motions in just the right way and at just the right time. progress.

4. security blanket. she has become very attached to a white tram shirt i got for dave to wear at her birthday party (he later put it on a pillowcase and let her sleep with it, and it has stayed her shirt ever since). we are still adjusting to the meaning of it in her life. she gets upset if she forgets to bring it with us or if it isnt allowed to be in certain places. she even named it.

5. oral health. we switched from just brushing her teeth with water to using toothpaste, and we bumped her up to twice a day brushing: before daycare and before bed. aside from needing lots of reminders during the teeth brushing process, id say shes pretty good about the whole thing, which is great.

also, she still putting a shit ton of crap in her mouth. it seems to be more of an absent-minded thing rather than a stress thing. why cant she be done with that phase of life yet?

6. mischief. she has started telling us not to come in the room or to not watch her when she is playing. this immediately means she is doing something she knows is against the rules. she then gets very mad about it when we go against her wishes to not watch her and stop whatever action she is doing.

7. fine motor skills.
-she can now dress herself if we lay the clothes out on the floor. for the most part she loves doing it so its one of those things you can ask her to do and even if you need to walk away, she will still do it on her own.

-she is starting to be able to cut with kiddie scissors, one handed. and, of course they are tucked up on a shelf out of reach...

8. learning
-she has gotten way in to bodies, bones, blood, and other human anatomy type of stuff. its pretty neat to see that she is actually interested in it, and remembers things, and thinks about it and has questions later.

-she can identify tons of underwater animals in real life and in pictures from different books. one time we got a new underwater book with a mantis shrimp in it, and she ran to go get the other underwater animal photo book we had and found the page that the mantis shrimp was on in that book. it just clicked right away. no prompting.

(the two books with the mantis shrimps. [yeah i took a picture of it] i just cant believe it, these books had hundreds of pages in them, and these two pictures are very different shots of the animal; okay, i thought this was super cool too, so sue me. we had the human body book open one day and she saw the above picture and said "look, tube worms" [tube worms are aquatic animals]. i agreed that they did look like tube worms but that it was actually a microscope picture. she thought for a second and said "oh, those are bad germs that our body eats" [we had, on a different day, been talking about germs and looking at other pictures of them in this book, but she hadnt seen this picture])

-i love going together to pick up our books on reserve at the library. ive seen that she can now recognize different books that are done by the same illustrator, and not just ones in the same series.

-she is already starting to get an ear for finnish it seems. at daycare, i asked her the name of a little boy who i didnt know and she thought for a second and said "bi-no", i looked at the wall of kids names in her room and saw a name "väino" which is pronounced very similar to what she had said (without the "b" sound obviously). then i heard the daycare worker use his name while talking to him and i realized how much his name doesnt sound like a name (in a string of random finnish words, at least to my ear, "vii-no" doesnt sound like a persons name), but she was able to pick it out of her head based on what must have been just the workers talking to the boy a lot and the way they said words to him. i was (perhaps unreasonably) impressed by this. i also hear her making jibberish words and songs at home that seem to be more finnish than english sounding. and ive heard her saying the names of other kids in her room to herself.

-she is working on using the words earlier/later correctly and more sophisticated opposite pairs. one breakfast at daycare, she told me "im going to eat my whole breakfast, excluding the cucumber". lol.

momma mentionables:
1. observational learning. duh, ive just recently connected that how i learn in school/on the job is how i learn personally (particularly, parentally). i function best in a situation where i have observed others do/experience something, heard opinions/advice, and had time to reflect on how those pieces of information can inform my personal experience. with luck, i am then able to delicately enter in to the new world/task/experience with plenty of people around as sounding boards for stress/fear and to help me tweak my techniques as i learn to do it by myself. this has always been my fastest route to comfort, confidence, competence, and balance. but, being the first of my friends and my generation in my family to marry and then the first, again, to have a kid i was sorely, sorely lacking in the main, important factors that have always helped me get through novel situations. perhaps this helps me to grasp (and perhaps forgive myself a bit for) having such a hard time dealing with the challenges of parenthood. the scales of challenge vs enjoyment are becoming more balanced though, and im glad to finally be getting some foothold, though i would have certainly benefited from more parallel camaraderie along the way.

2. buyers remorse for birthday gifts. id say about 50% of my birthday gift choices for X (and i had to buy for both grandmas as well) were right on, and 50% would have been better left as cash and spent on experiences. at least we realize that now and will remember that for next year. a few key gifts, some new books, and an experience or two. that will be a more well-rounded celebration.

3. finland job. so, a few days after X got settled at daycare i wrote to 6 people for jobs with an open cover letter. two people didnt have a budget to hire anyone new but liked my skill set. the other 4 were heading into the summer vacation i assume because i did not get a reply, which seems unusual here because for this and other inquiries i have always gotten very helpful, prompt replies. and so, i guess i will try again in the fall once everyone is done soaking up the sun and nature.

4. yelling. i think previously i had mentioned reducing the yelling factor (at least from my mouth). its never been a common thing, but whatever it has been was too much in my book. at some point i read this little entry and it was a good little putting-it-in-context reminder.

23 July 2013

Post-travel processing

we're back. now ive got to process everything that happened in that last month and how it affected us and how it will affect our actions in the future.

first, im calling what passed last month a "trip" rather than a vacation because there was nothing relaxing about it.

second, these trips are extremely expensive. weve got to figure this north america travel rhythm out. how often can we feasibly and happily visit? im not sure yet. i do know that my future limit would be a maximum of 2.5-3 weeks away, in maybe 1-2 locations.

third, i HATE the jetlag getting back. its more than a little crippling those first couple days, i actually feel sick and disoriented. plus, coupled with a lack of sleep for 75% of the trip, it does not make for a nice situation. and, once exhaustion was slightly curbed, X seemed to have a very hard time winding down for bed (not surprisingly), and had a hard time coping with regular things during the day, seemingly needing lots of hugs and to be close to us often during the day (again, this is not surprising).

lastly, we really missed finland. X loves it here. she was getting excited talking about it on the last couple days of the trip. she is very happy to walk through the woods, play on the playgrounds, go to the library, ride the buses and see the trams. she really belongs here and im glad about that. and for me too, being back is very calming. being able to walk everywhere, visually take in the nature, the smell of clean air, hear the soothing sounds of wind blowing through the birch tree leaves. its a very meditative experience here. this can also mean its too quiet when you have lonely thoughts/feelings but i'll take a bit of down with all the up this place has to offer and trust that in time i will feel solid and balanced here.

im also a little frustrated that we missed one of this countrys most beautiful times of year to sweat and stress in north america. i think until X is of school age, id like to make our US trips in early spring when things are still not too nice here and the snow is still clinging to the ground in its last futile efforts to stave off green life. i already feel an attachment to the beauty and calm that comes from the warm weather months in this place. i dont want to miss that. getting back at the end of july meant i already felt the hint of fall in the air, and that brings winter all too soon. i enjoy the snow as well, but to have missed a whole month of green beauty here makes me sad.

MIsadventures of summer

the michigan part of our summer trip was...complicated. im not sure of a better way to elaborate (besides the details below), it was just...complicated.

july 10 (wednesday): daves grandma jeanne died. flight to detroit. visit moomoo. novi hotel. visit dad in hospital (me).

* getting on the shuttle to the baltimore airport in the morning, we were informed that daves grandma jeanne had passed away. she was 97 years old and suffered from alzheimers for several years. we had received word that things had suddenly started to go downhill while we were in canada, and a few days after that we were told she was on hospice. it was of course sad that she passed away, but we were all happy she went quickly and wasnt in pain. she had a long, healthy life before that and got to see and do many things. ** the baltimore airports security was terrible. * our visit with moomoo was nice, but its always a hundred degrees and humid when we visit the poor lady. * we hadnt formulated much of a plan beyond this point since everything we had previously planned for had changed on us, but luckily we were able to easily add 5 days to the hotel in novi we had booked. the place had a pool and lounge rooms and a courtyard and free breakfast and there were tons of food options and a grocery store nearby. * after dinner i went alone to visit my dad. he seemed comfortable (enough) and the staff seemed nice and helpful. he had just been moved to the rehab part of the hospital that morning. he seemed happy to work with the staff and though he would like to get out, he was not grumpy or pissed about being there. in many ways he seemed normal and "the same", which was somewhat of a relief. *

(me, X, and moomoo)

july 11 (thursday): pool. lunch with whipps. visit dad in hospital (dave, X, and i). dinner with daves family. frozen yogurt (at menchies).

* working off of minimal sleep, we did a lot of brainstorming and on-the-fly schedule changing today and for future days, but tried to go with the flow as much as possible. * it was nice to see my dad during physical therapy and to get to talk to his doctor. it made me feel better to be included in those important medical interactions. * while it was unexpected, it was nice to have a chance to see so much of daves family (for the memorial dinner for his grandma, his sister and her husband flew in, as well as daves cousins and uncles/aunts on that side). we had a nice extended family dinner where X got lots of love and attention and was very friendly with everyone, including the males in the group. *

july 12 (friday): oakland county 4H fair. open book in fenton. lunch (at the laundry). pool. visit dad in hospital (me).

* the fair was fun and was grandpa whipps idea. X took a few minutes to warm up to the idea of petting all the animals but then she was in heaven. we especially liked feeding carrot slices to a tent of friendly animals (our favorite was the water buffalo). * the book store in fenton was nice and i found a couple new books to keep us occupied on future travel days. * lunch at french laundry was a good approximation of lunch at zingermans. * swimming at the hotel where all daves family was staying was great for everyone. it was so nice to enjoy all the positives that a death in the family can bring, lots of family time with people you dont normally get to see. * i got to hang out with my dad alone again. we had some fairly normal-for-us visiting time (jeopardy and him yelling at the news afterward) in the hospital. he seems better each time i go. *

(feeding carrots at the county fair)

july 13 (saturday): shopping (at nordstrom). lunch (at bagger daves). pool. grandma jeannes memorial service and apartment visit. shopping (at great lakes crossing). memorial dinner (at shepherds hollow golf club).

* busy day today, and under the circumstances, X did great. we even crammed some much needed shopping into the spare minutes we had between important memorial events. * daves grandmas service was nice and seeing nearly every one of her living family members there was amazing (her brother and his wife, her two nieces, her three kids, her six grandkids with spouses [minus one], and 5 of her 6 great-grandkids). the memorial dinner was on the porch and outside areas of the golf clubhouse and it was the perfect night for it. the clubhouse is nestled in a quiet forest of towering pine trees. it really was a great party. id like to have people celebrate me going out in that way. *

(grandma whipp and X at the memorial dinner; aunt megan obliging X by bug hunting in their fancy clothes)

july 14 (sunday): megan/courtney morning visit. shopping (at target). mom/al arrive (they had driven up from florida). go-karts (at paradise park). bbq dinner. pool (dave and X). visit dad in hospital (me). stress-induced nose bleed.

* rough day. X acquired a cold yesterday and proceeded to delight us with her typical i-have-a-cold crap attitude and sleep habits, followed by matching crap parental sleep and attitudes. i actually uttered out loud today the phrase, "i just want to go home". 3 weeks is too long (and we had a week left!), and this level of visiting and stress was just too high for me. i also tried not to allow myself to remember that late october would be our earliest next chance at time for relaxation. ew. *

july 15 (monday): amy and kids visit. ann arbor picnic with dohring side. pool. dave and X head up north.

* a welcome nice day of fun for X (and us) with visits that calmed my nerves a bit. it was great to see my friend amy, who happened to be at her parents house in michigan, and to be able to meet her new son nate (i have a crush!). her parents are always such great hosts too (8 years ago, they did an impromptu wedding day brunch for me. it was awesome). * seeing my dads side of the family, even for just a couple hours is always a treat. the argo pond spot for our picnic was very busy but it was nice to play in the water and try to enjoy the heat. * dave and X (DX) split off at night to drive up to daves parents cabin in boyne. they will spend two days having fun, while i will spend two days trying to get a work project done and visiting my dad in the hospital. it was my first time away from her, so it was a bit of a strange and empty feeling. *

(X and nate holding hands. adorable. they were also staring at each other for a while.)

july 16 (tuesday): ME - work. lunch with mom/al (at senate coney island). visit dad in hospital. dinner with mom/al. work. DX - beach. pool. grandma babysit while dave goes to sailboat race with his dad.

* it was nice to get some quiet time and organize my thoughts about work, something i didnt expect from this trip. i had almost forgotten what peaceful adult time felt like. a luxury! * im always glad to fit in a coney dog meal, what a glorious michigan creation. i brought one to dad too. *

july 17 (wednesday): ME - visit dad in hospital. lunch with mom/al (at olgas). work. dinner with phil (at j.alexanders). DX - pool. boat ride/lake swimming. pool.

* i had a busy enough day that i still didnt get too sad missing dave and X. i was happy they were coming back, but it wasnt a weepy thing. * it was nice to be able to go out alone for dinner with phil and his girlfriend bree. since they dont have kids its nice to go solo and be able to talk and listen without interruption. *

july 18 (thursday): mom/al hang out with X. dave and i to lunch (at ajishin), run errands for my dad, get drinks (from biggby coffee), and grocery shopping (at trader joes). dinner at hotel (pizza on the grill). visit dad in hospital (me).

* X was totally fine with being left with my mom and (p)al, which was great for her and them, and great for us. it makes it so easy to be able to get away for a calm tasty meal and do some much needed errands that just arent very manageable with her. * at the hospital, its been impressive to see my dad getting more mobile each day and staying (mostly) positive about his options once out of the hospital. im glad, in many ways, that i was able to be in town during this potentially scary time. *

july 19 (friday): moomoos for lunch with aunt friskie. visit dad in hospital (dave, X, and i). dave to frisbee golf with my brother. georgettes for visiting with college friends with kids.

* it was another hard day (emotionally and otherwise), though i wish it hadnt been. there were some good things, but more heavily there were frustrating and stressing things. it was a shame i couldnt enjoy our visits more today, i just think that at this point we had almost been gone 4 weeks away from home with too big and sustained a variety of stress. our final days with friends and family should have been fun, but at it was, at least for me, i was mostly just trying hard to show up to everything at least halfway presentable (physically and emotionally). *

(making pappy smile at the hospital)

july 20 (saturday): pool time with friend paul and kiddos (dave and X). errands for my dad and visit him in hospital (me). novi library. julies wedding.

* the kid took no nap today, but had tons of playtime. she went to bed at 10:30p(!) but happily survived her first bedtime without mom OR dad (thanks mom/al). * we had a GREAT time at julies wedding with all of our former college pals and almost all of their partners. everyone was sans kiddos and it was really a lot of fun. i was glad to have this little pocket of time to throw off some of the stress, to be with people who know our goods, bads, and uglys, to have the warm fuzzies for the days of yore but to catch up on who these people are now. weddings create that special environment where you get to have all those feelings and experiences with people you dont normally get to see anymore, and im glad we were able to be in town for it. *

(naked X and pauls kids lily and evelyn)
(heading off to julies wedding; marmee and X having fun while we were at the wedding)

july 21 (sunday): lily/ercan/everett brunch in ann arbor. visit dad in hospital (me). wixom habitat. paradise park (for go-karting and arcade play). hang out with paul (dave). pool swim with missy/ava/lonnie (X and i).

* having had only one thing planned for our final full day, the day ended up playing out nicely, which was a great way to wind down a long trip. * after the wedding, we were very tired but happy to be able to visit with grad school friends in ann arbor (this was just my second brief time in ann arbor on this whole trip. boo). lily and ercan and now their son everett are great people to have down time with. they create a great relaxed atmosphere and i always feel full when we leave. * i tried to meet up with my brothers at the hospital but that didnt work out. * X and i gave dave some alone time to do work. we went for a nature walk and did some go-karting (but, i drove too rough for her to have much fun). we also did her first time at an arcade, she liked using her tickets to choose a lollipop and some fake teeth. * and in an unprecedented experience, my friend missy, her husband, and their little girl were able to come swim in our hotel pool. it was so impromptu and yet wonderfully welcome. *

(fake teeth monster; last pool swim)

july 22 (monday): checked out of hotel. quick visit to dad in hospital (dave, X, and i). detroit airport. flight to chicago. flight to helsinki.

* it was nice to see my brother, grandpa and dad at the hospital before we left. we were running late so it was a far too short and overwhelming goodbye, but at least we made it in. * the experience at the detroit airport went pretty smoothly, except that the airport food choices in the smith terminal are awful. * our landing in chicago was a bit scary, but we were okay. * our flight from chicago to helsinki was delayed a bit in boarding and then we had a 2 hour delay once we were boarded. while there were no (individual) video screens and a crotchety flight attendant in our area the flight wasnt excruciating. we had a nice seat location and enough space and we were able to busy X until she willingly fell asleep and stayed asleep. *

(wearing the princess crown marmee got for her onto the detroit-chicago flight got a bunch of laughs from the passengers)

09 July 2013

DC's hot fun in the summer time

from halifax to DC. from work to play. from humid heat to...humid heat. we had fun catching up with lots of friends and throwing in some museum visits too.

july 6 (saturday): two flights. tour of the vienna townhouse. nap/grocery store. library/sushi (from sushi yama) run. movie (disneys brave). homemade mexican dinner.

* our flights were decent and friends ben and ntina made the airport pick-up so easy. * back at their house, we got the full tour (theyve had this house for a few years, but it was our first time there). they are lovely hosts with a comfortable home. our welcome snack was a selection of fancy cheeses of the world. yum. * we went out to pick up a light sushi lunch and included a run to the library for a pile of kids books. X loved the shrimp tempura and tried salmon, tuna, eel, and pickled ginger. * our homemade build-your-own mexican dinner was oh. so. yummy. i LOVE the way these guys cook. and ben even made special coconut milk-based ice cream for X. she loved it. * we attempted to have a grown-up hang out after X went to bed, but the kid took forever to go to sleep so we separately chatted with ben and ntina while we alternated trying to get her to sleep. then we played a droopy-eyed round of euchre and hit the hay. *

(ntina and X watching the movie)

july 7 (sunday): movie (finding nemo). national natural history museum. sculpture garden. lunch (at hill country). nap/REI. gelato (at dolcezza). fountain fun (at mosaic in merrifield). emily and family visit. movie (mulan). mexican leftover dinner.

* we got up way too early after X went to sleep way too late. awesome. * we (we being the whipps and ntina and ben) ended up getting to the museum a bit after it opened. the place had some nice rooms but the displays werent that impressive. i think its because i was able to compare it to the parisottawa, and helsinki equivalents, which had more appeal to me. here there was almost nothing to touch or to get close enough to to feel like you were learning much more than dry facts with a dead animal as an added learning tool. * then, my ex-undergrad coworker friend meg and her husband alan and new baby bea kindly found some time to meet up with us. we sadly hadnt been able to make it to their wedding a couple years ago and now they have a beautiful little girl, so it was nice to see everyone. meg is always involved in interesting work and hobbies and its nice to bump in to her every few years. * anyway, we walked through the national sculpture garden to get to lunch at a bbq place called "hill country". it was a tasty good choice. you go up to a counter to get your meat and sides and then eat at a large wood table. it was perfect for the group size we had and it wasnt so busy because DC tourists seemed to be clearing out after the past 4th of july weekend. * then X neeeeeeeeded a nap and dave wanted to finally acquire a rain jacket at REI. mission accomplished. * we got yum sorbeto afterward, pineapple mint. it may not sound like a decent combo but it was wonderful and refreshing. i also got an argentinian cookie called an "aljafor", it was tasty, though dulce de leche doesnt do it for me nearly as much as caramel au buerre salé. across the street from the sorbet place was a wonderfully designed and situated fountain that X and i had fun cooling down in (although she no longer likes being in wet clothes, and we didnt have a bathing suit with us). * we made it back from the fountain in time to have a short but very enjoyable visit with high school friend (and ex-softball team mate) emily, her husband andy and their toddler owen. he is a talker and adorable. it sounds like they are doing well and are on a path that is sure to bring them much adventure and happiness in the coming years. :) * and then, my goodness, we stuffed ourselves with the most delicious leftovers i could ever ask for, and after a relaxing evening, we all went to bed early. *

 (with walrus at the museum; meg and her mini me bea)
 (fountain fun; emily and family)
(cozy evening seating with ntina and ben)

july 8 (monday): rental car. lisa and kids playing/eating cookies/swimming. dinner (of thanksgiving food). family health issues. adult hangout time (chocolate souffles/port/euchre).

* ntina kindly drove us out to the dulles airport to rent a car. we waited a long ass time to get the rental car and were finally able to get on our way (and lost) to visit my friend lisa and her kids. i used to work in a lab with lisa while i was an undergrad and she was a PhD student (same lab that i worked in with meg). she is basically a primo example of a rural-raised eldest daughter in terms of her warmth, kindness, hostess skills, and craftiness. our kids (she has two, aidan is 4 and claire is 2) had a great time after some initial power struggles. lol. and lisa, bless her heart, made a favorite dessert of shortbread cookies with fruit and cream cheese frosting. it was a nice kid-centric day and lisa and her family were so grateful we made the drive over, and so were we. i hadnt seen aidan since he was a little thing. * a supreme bonus was arriving back at ben and ntinas house to smell ntinas work in the kitchen: a roast chicken and an assortment of thanksgiving fixings. probably the second best meal suggestion (after mexican) a person who knows me could make. dinner was wonderful, and the big dining room table did actually make it feel like a special meal among family. * and then the day took a down turn. i got a message from my brother that my dad was in the hospital. after a delightful round of calling family cell phones that were not answered, my brother called back and we got the scoop. my dad had had a stroke, not a small one, but not one that affected his speech at least. his left limbs werent working very well though. i was simultaneously worked up, shocked, and glad to be in north america and to have the chance to see him for almost two weeks. the upcoming michigan visit was promising to not go at all how i had planned. * mercifully the child went to sleep (thank you lisa and kids!) easily and we were able to thoroughly immerse ourselves in an adult evening. ben made fancy chocolate souffles (at my request, thank you!), ntina introduced us to the lovely dessert accompaniment known as port, and we all enjoyed some laughs during a fun match of euchre. following the work trip stress of canada, the new information of my dads health, and the upcoming busy times in michigan, this was a most welcome pause to enjoy life and friends. *

 (ballerina pool jumping; goofy kid fun)
(adult treats. drool.)

july 9 (tuesday): goodbye breakfast. drive to downtown baltimore. lunch (at corner bakery cafe). national aquarium. treats (from best of luck). hotel (red roof inn). return rental car. airport for dinner (at sam adams brewhouse). hotel for night.

* we woke up to a huge and yummy send-off breakfast. i should expect nothing less, we got to hit all of our favorite kind of eating experiences with them and were happy to have an unhurried morning to say goodbye. thanks soon-to-be-newlywed buddies! * the drive to baltimore was easy (and inner harbor was pretty and central downtown, yet not a challenge to maneuver in). lunch was fast and different and good. * the aquarium was diverse and just the right size for X to see a lot and visit a lot of animals she knew but not get too overloaded (i loved when we was running from tank to tank excitedly, people were staring at her when she knew all their names). their new coral reef exhibit was super cool. we saw them releasing some of the fish for the official grand opening of the exhibit a few days later. the admission cost to the aquarium was rather high, but it was worth it for us. i would go again. * the rental car return for BWI is out in the middle of nowhere. its not a hassle to return per se, but there is no gas station for miles on end and its not close to the airport itself. in fact the whole BWI airport has poor road signage around it and crappy map/signage inside the airport. why? why? why? *

(farewell photo; under the coral reef)

05 July 2013

Oh canada, once our home and Xs native land...

nova scotia, you slay me. i love your nature but am so happy to wave goodbye to your weather. we ultimately needed to come back to halifax for dave to get some work done with his post-doc boss, and i had a meeting with my still current canada boss. it wasnt exactly a relaxing time, but we made the best of it.

[the following daily entries will include the date/day. major events of the day, noted briefly. and comments about the day, strung together by "*" symbols to break up unrelated thoughts.]

june 22 (saturday): flight to iceland. flight to halifax. rental car. chocolate lake hotel.

* our tv screens were broken on our first flight. boo. * X ate fishcakes and chicken in the iceland airport, it was not cheap but good to see her eat real food on travel day. * the kid did not sleep on our second flight (we landed at 9p local time, which was 3a for her body). we made it through the customs line and baggage claim and she finally zonked while in line for the rental car and tanked in the hotel bed. *

june 23 (sunday): up at 5a. hotel breakfast. swimming pool/showers. frog pond walk. grocery store. apartment. davids tea. woozles. beer store. driving get-re-acquainted tour around town. grocery store. amos house for playtime and dinner.

* everyone very grumpily butted heads in the morning until the swimming pool where X had fun and burnt off some energy. * frog pond was a perfect idea. it was still early enough in the morning to not be crowded and we had nice weather. what a great place. * the grocery store felt absolutely enormous, and the produce selection was mental compared to finlands grocery stores. X spotted and remembered the cookies that were okay for her tummy from 2 aisles away. * the apartment we were able to rent for our whole stay in halifax was a basement walk-out. not the cleanest place in the world, but a family with 3 young kids lived above us. * an employee at davids tea remembered us (i think it was because of X though). * the beer store employee asked about X too (even though she wasnt with dave when he went in alone). * X was in love with woozles while i was submerged in the joy that is having an independent childrens (english) book store in your area. so so so delightful. X was so excited she asked when we could come back as soon as we were out the door. * our drive around town was as fun as it always is to note what is the same and what has changed, and to see what memories float back to you. halifax is a nice town to visit with some knowledge of the lay of the land. * on our way to the amos house for dinner, X remembered the name of the (macdonald) bridge we drove over. she had a GREAT time with the amos kids (rowan and sadie). it was absolutely adorable to see them play together. catching up with the adults was lovely too. dinner was yummy and it was so nice to have someone else cook for our first dinner. *

(at frog pond)

------------dave now begins working regular working hours during the weekdays------------

june 24 (monday): up at 7.30a. fairview cemetery to visit titanic graves. strawberry hill thrift store. grocery stores. point pleasant park beach area. grocery store. pizza dinner. walk to store for popsicle.

* it was nice to mostly be rested and back on a normal schedule (time zone-wise) with sleep so quickly. * the titanic graves at the cemetery were underwhelming. im not sure what i had expected but there were a few dozen of them lined up next to each other with plain granite headstones. a few had interesting epitaphs written on them, but thats all * going to the thrift store, for me, was like doing drugs, i was high. i got like 10 books for $9, all known good ones. im officially in love with all things children books and am daily amassing my knowledge of authors, illustrators, series, etc. its so much more fun to thrift shop when you have an idea of somethings worth. * im so glad we know the halifax area and the places that sell food that is okay for X to eat. it made it so easy to grab items for dinner that we know will taste good. * point pleasant park beach was awesome, as always. i think that park will always be a place that reminds me of Xs childhood and my time with her. we have thoroughly enjoyed 3 distinct areas of that huge park, and it all came rushing back to me when we hung out at the beach. every season she finds entirely new and different ways to entertain herself in the exact same area. we collected an assortment of seaweed, climbed boulders, learned how to use seashells as tools for various things, found animals and acquired our first sunburns of the trip (whoops). * our pizza dinner was so yum and walking around the block afterward was something i forgot how much i missed. its nice to do a nature walk at night in finland too, but walking around the block gives us a chance to people watch and see peoples yards and flowers. our days routine basically hit all the high notes today. *

(a titanic gravestone)

june 25 (tuesday): grocery store. public gardens. lunch (bahn mi) brought to daves work. library. playground. outside playtime for dave and X (bishops landing fountain, salter sands).

* the public gardens were beautiful as always. X spent much of the time getting ants to crawl on her. * lunch from bahn mi was delicious, best smoothies. * the library provided two giant stacks of books for us (i still have my library card, so i pre-requested the books) and the childrens staff all remembered and talked to X. i would love to come back after fall 2014 and see the new downtown library with her. * the playground provided barefoot climbing fun and more ant collection, and, while waiting for dinner, X collected bugs in the backyard and made them a nice home in an old sour cream container. it marked the beginning of a serious bug collecting habit on this trip. *

(jumping from logs at salter sands)

june 26 (wednesday): natural history museum. lunch (gingerbread haus bakery). library. dinner with janice and family.

* the museum was set-up differently enough to be interesting for a couple hours, but same enough to be remembered by X. the animal guy showed her a bunch of animals up close and took some out of their cages for her. its nice to get such personal, one-on-one attention at a museum. * the bakery still had great bread and we tested her tummy with a shortbread cookie as a treat. * this first (of many, many, many) rainy days was cause for finding worms and slugs outside after the library. * we had a nice dinner with friends with a kid (janice works with dave and has 2.5 year old molly and another on the way). *

june 27 (thursday): dingle park (beach/playground). lunch (cantina mexicana) brought to daves work. point pleasant park western rocky coast area. grocery store. library.

* the dingle was such a well-timed choice. we were the first ones on the playground that morning and ended the visit with crab and starfish hunting in the shallow waters, and watching a huge jellyfish swim back out to open water. its so nice to be close to so many different natural environments here. * alas, going to pick up lunch reminded me why i hate the roads in halifax. this city just boggles the mind sometimes. * point pleasant park was nice for the cloudy weather we had and X remembered the spot and all her old favorite things to do there, as well as adding new things. *

(boulder climbing. i love the rocky coasts of nova scotia)

june 28 (friday): green street thrift store. farmers market. garrison brewery store. art galleries at the seaport. discovery centre. library. dinner (cafe karachi).

* more cheap, quality book finds at the thrift store. love that place, this was the one down the street from where we used to live. the place closed a few weeks before we left due to smoke damage from a fire in the restaurant next door. * the farmers market was lame but X got a free matted photograph for "being cute". we chose some fancy macaroons at the french sweet shop and ate them on the new staircase/bleachers that the market created in our absence. it was pouring rain on the way back to the car, so we stopped in to the beer and art places on the way back to break up the drenching. * after lunch we tried the discovery centre for their new aquarium/touch tank exhibit. that place disappointments me more and more each time i enter it. it also doesnt help that there are such nice museums in helsinki to now compare it to. * cafe karachi for dinner was awesome. the food was great (and spicy) as always and the couple who own the place totally remembered us and were so happy to see us. the woman loved seeing X again, she seemed so happy. we told them we had moved but would come eat whenever we are in town. too cute. *

june 29 (saturday): rain gear shopping. lunenburg for lunch (salt shaker deli) and the fisheries museum. mahone bay for dessert (biscuit eater cafe). errands. dinner at isabelle/djordjes.

* rain, rain, rain (i honestly dont think the province has seen much sun since 2012). seeing rain in the forecast for still several more days was making me feel indoor claustrophobic (and its not even as if we stay indoors when it rains). after purchasing some new rain/snow boots for me (and attempting to find a new rain jacket for dave) we went in search of fun for the weekend. * lunenburg was a good choice, we had only misting rain while we were there and were able to enjoy lunch (X was so adventurous and tried everything we ordered including the fishcakes and pickled relish) and the museum quite a bit (the touch tank was a major hit, the scallops area especially. X also gave me a tour of one of the docked fishing boats. lol). * the treats in mahone bay put Xs tummy over the dairy (or perhaps it was the cinnamon) edge and she complained of a painful bum after a trip to the potty. i have been glad to see that this trip she can tolerate some dairy though. perhaps in a couple years we can even do a france trip right. :) * dinner at isabelle/djordjes was very pleasant. we had just enough time to visit without X getting destructive. they did make-your-own vietnamese spring rolls, a new-to-us meal and so easy and fun. we hope to replicate it back at home. *

june 30 (sunday): rainy day close-to-home activities (indoor reading, worm/slug gathering, and grocery store). farmers market. harborfront boardwalk. chapters book store. three attempts for dinner (ended up at burrito jax). skype calls.

* im so, so tired of the rain. make it stop. please make it stop! and this town doesnt just do a rain shower in the morning and then a nice rest of the day. its rain/drizzle/mist, grey, humid. all. day. long. * we did hit up the quarrelsome yeti stand at the farmers market. he's my favorite vendor, really cool graphic tees (and im not usually a collector of those). i got a new shirt with dancing lighthouses on it. * while over on the dartmouth side attempting to stave off rainy day boredom we went to 3 different restaurants to try and have dinner. no f-ing dice! they were either closed or too busy with a wedding. boo. we ended making a to-go order at a burrito joint. *

(aunt megan read "chicken soup with rice" to X. they both enjoyed it)

july 1 (monday): canada day parade. killing time downtown (buy tickets for tattoo, candy from freak lunchbox, mill around grand parade). royal tattoo festival. point pleasant park beach. failed firework viewing attempt.

* due to rain, i suspect, the canada day parade was shorter than normal but it still made me cry (every year!). * ive just now realized that candies of childhood dont taste as fun as i remember (i think the artificial crap hurt Xs stomach too). * the royal tattoo show was cheesier this year than last year. X and i left early (thankfully we had gotten half price tickets). * then. then, it finally stopped raining. a muggy heat and peeks of sunshine emerged. we went to the beach after dinner to help us stay up for the scheduled canada day fireworks. the fireworks were a bust (canceled). we were reminded of the poor communication skills of the city. *

july 2 (tuesday): new playground. lunch brought to dave (issas saj house). dalhousie mcculloch museum. argyle art gallery. library. sorbeto after dinner at humani-t cafe.

* mmmm yummy yum...issas middle eastern food. the place even showed me that pickles are good, when placed in the finest falafel sandwich in north america * the argyle art gallery was really awesome, all nova scotian artists with some really cool style and manageable prices. i wish we had our own place to choose some great art for. *

july 3 (wednesday): X to daycare/alyce to work meeting. errands. library. plan b shop. pizza dinner. shakespeare by the sea performance of snow white.

* X had a fun day at daycare (the same in-home daycare she went to while we lived there), despite all her worrying. i had a productive work meeting and apparently agreed to take on being first author for a paper to be done by the end of august. eeps. * after daycare, X seemed tired and fell asleep while driving home. i accidentally woke her up while trying to take something out of her (clutched) hand and get it in to the fridge. bad idea. what ensued was a very grumpy 1.5 hours (i can barely talk about the weird and interesting "plan b" shop we went in to because the grumpy factor clouded my viewing of the place), and then i got her to fall asleep again by driving around some more. my allergies/sneeze (tree pollen was making my head go bonkers) woke her up a bit too early from that nap as well and things continued with more grumpy wailing in my ear. ugh. thankfully pizza dinner and the snow white performance erased much of the memory of the afternoon. * the shakespeare by the sea childrens productions have been just awesome, i havent laughed so much in so very long. X is already embarrassed by my laughing (karma baby, i was always so embarrassed by my moms laughing growing up). *

july 4 (thursday): playground. lunch (tarboosh/gingerbread haus bakery). library. pond/cliffs of point pleasant park. dinner at chris and beckys.

* from dank rainy days to insta-hot hot humid blah. we didnt last long at the park due to the heat but we had a nice dinner in the back garden of chris and beckys. X collected all manner of bugs, rerouted plenty of earthworms to their garden, and removed some slugs for them. chris and becky were kindly attentive to her and we all ate well and enjoyed ourselves. *

(chose a different route up this year)
(yoga poses with chris and becky)

july 5 (friday): apartment clean-up. errands. point pleasant park. daycare picnic party. airport hotel (alt).

* oh sooooo hot and humid. i cant believe we are next heading down to DC where there is the promise of no relief from this weather. * we had a hot walk in the park where X went barefoot and picked up some foot rash that plagued her and her sleep for the rest of the trip. * we managed to find some nice shade and a breeze for our picnic with Xs halifax daycare provider and families (the daycare woman is actually closing her daycare and getting back in to doing OT as her job). we had a lovely time visiting with kids X knew and seeing her play and eat kid-friendly food. she loved having her daycare grown-ups attention as well as other kid-minded parents and us. and i liked being around other adults too. * the airport hotel was a nice comfortable place to end up. *

a round-up of my halifax impressions:

1. the rain. the cold. because these two factors can surface at any time of year (and they did!) our suitcase had to be filled with not just summer clothes but also pants, long sleeve shirts, fleece, and rain gear.

2. dank basement apartment life in halifax came rushing back to us. yuck. so glad we dont have to live with that anymore.

3. halifaxs traffic and roads really make me want to pull my hair out. and we dont even commute.

4. i noticed it took a while for my ears to adjust to hearing english spoken all around me again. i felt like i was coming out of a bubble where previously all sound was garbled and confusing like the teacher on the speaker in charlie brown. while everyone ive needed to talk to in helsinki has spoken english, they of course walk around in their everyday lives speaking finnish. my ear got used to that, and then it was like turning a tv show off mute when we got to canada. quite a weird sensation. and i noticed that already my english had been slowly leaving me (the bigger words or the words used to convey a situation more complex than "where are the toilets?" or "no, i dont need a bag for my popsicles"). its rather alarming what happens when you dont live in your own mother tongue region.

also, aside from more overtly friendly customer service wherever we went, i would have to say i didnt find the canadians to be too much more open and friendly than finns. people act like not chit chatting with strangers is such a glaring absence in the finnish social culture...when really, i think...not so much. although, to be fair, i dont really initiate chit chat with strangers wherever i am, so maybe a more bubbly person would notice a more stark contrast.