29 December 2014

Winter stay-cation

i was bored out of my skull last christmas since finns give themselves nearly 3 weeks off from regular life, including shutting out the outside world for the 3 days around christmas. i declared that we would go somewhere warm, we would stay at a resort! boo. this didnt happen.

Y does not have a passport yet (coming soon) and the two candidate holiday islands (madeira and canary islands) were closer to the ebola coast than i would have preferred (yes i realize that being hundreds of kilometers from the moroccan coast puts them very far away from the affected areas). so we did the next best thing(?), we rented a car and drove ourselves around helsinki and espoo for a few days acting like regular american families over holiday break. lol. :)

dec 25: dave picked up the rental car in the evening. it was so easy that he is now engaged in a serious love affair with our airport. he then struggles in the frigid temperatures to install the car seats and parks it on the street.

dec 26: in the afternoon, we all drive over (during a beautiful snow fall) to the city of espoos serena water park. everyone loved being in the car together, it definitely felt like a treat rather than a burden.

the water park also shares its facilities with an outdoor water park for summer and a small ski hill (smaller than pine knob). serena water park is older than the flamingo water park we tried out last year. the shower/locker room facilities were disappointing, but the pools were fun. the baby pool water was warm and shallow and the air was warm so Y did well until he got hungry and tired. X had fun going on slides, jumping around, going in the sauna, and having fun however else she could.

dec 27: X and dave ran errands using the car in the morning. not surprising, this task was so much easier and more efficient with a vehicle! then we all drove over to espoo again, this time to the weegee museum area. this building houses 5 museums, but we were only interested in two of them. we had a small lunch from the cafe and then checked out the toy museum (lame, everything was in glass cases) and then enjoyed the emma (modern art museum). they had so much art that kids could interact with: projector/video exhibits, sound exhibits, geometric/optical shapes to play with, and a crafty seasons room near the main entrance where you could create something from each season and hang it on a huge rotating tree.

dec 28: X and dave ran out to pick-up takeout lunch. what a treat! then we undertook the seriously heinous task of huge mall shopping. we went to the megalopolis mall in vantaa called, appropriately, jumbo. im out of practice with malls. im sure its no bigger than a typical mall in the US but we were all overwhelmed. we were so lucky to get a parking spot near an entrance but the place was slam packed with people...likely those who were also stir crazy at home and just needed to get out and...shop. we needed a couple household items and i popped in to two stores for clothes. we left asap, well, after we all enjoyed an ice cream treat. :)

dec 29: we lamely finished off our car 'vacation' with a trip to ikea. we needed a few last things to check off daves holiday break 'to do' list. it was nice not having to go there by bus, and it was nice to get so much done. it even inspired some 'winter cleaning' which was welcome activity to make me feel like we dusted ourselves off and can start fresh in the new year when we are back to our regular routine.

so, this car rental idea turned out to be a good one. perhaps we will do it for future winters (when we arent off sunbathing), but i am glad that we arent in charge of a car regularly. having one once in a while makes us use it efficiently to get things done, helps us explore our surroundings easier, and boosts our positive energy for the city, but i like not having to pay for ownership and maintenance.

26 December 2014

The mr. Y grows - 5 months old - Ham sandwich, in demeanor and body type

what else is there to say but that we are still enjoying every minute with him. the more he interacts with us the more we see what a ham sandwich he is. such adorable little smiles and coy looks, long eyelashes and silly giggles. he just soaks it all in and smiles back his appreciation and love. he is so tolerant and patient and serene. i would like to absorb some of whatever it is that centers him. oh, and he is also a gigantic beast.

(hamming it up for whoever looks at him)

 (working on new skills)
 (sister love)
(buddies)
 (mama/papa snuggles)
life:
-3 month nurse appt. he was 15.5 lbs, 24.5 inches tall and his head was somewhat alarmingly large (17 inches), so they want to know daves head and height measurements to see if this is something to worry about or not.

-4 month nurse appt. he was 17 lbs, 26 inches tall and his head was still getting bigger.

-4.5 month dr appt. he is doing great. his head size checks out as just being big. hes going to be a big boy (wearing 12 month clothes now!).

-sleep pattern. he does about a 20-30 nap in the morning, then 1.5-2 hours in the early afternoon and then needs a top-up nap anywhere from 5-45 minutes later in the day, depending on how much he slept earlier. then he does a block of about 10 hours of night sleep (3-5 hours at first, then 1.5 hour wake ups until morning).

-he has taken a few naps like a finnish baby: in his snow suit, on the porch in a bassinet. he looks so comfortable and peaceful out there, and he never even has cold cheeks...though he hasnt done this when its been far below freezing.



-nicknames: (mr) chunky, chunky goo goo, mr [Y], [Y] bops, solid meat, handsome sauce

-has been given tastes of a few foods (like he got to lick the item): bananas, rice, clementine, black beans

personality:
-he is absolutely in love with dave and X. smiles, giggles, staring. love.

-he has started listening to stories, what i read to X, as well as baby books. he seems to like 'the very hungry caterpillar' a lot.

-he can spend way more time chilling on the floor than X ever could at this age.

-he loves being outside. its very interesting and calming for him. he has fallen asleep while riding on my lap on the swings with X.

-he likes the stroller when he is awake now. we are done with the bassinet and he is in the forward facing seated position. under certain conditions he is even willing to sleep in the stroller now.

-he likes screens. no, loves them. they arent often on, but if he is nearby...its gonna be hard to keep kiddo #2 away from them.

-he is very determined, focused, and patient when he is doing something. he can try to rollover for 20 minutes sometimes without getting frustrated.

skills:
-he can roll from belly to back (4.25 months), and back to front (4.75 months), though he doesnt really use rolling as a way to move around much yet.

-he can stand up and we often only need to use one hand to steady him.

-he really likes to pitch himself forward (in his chair, on our lap) and get into an upright sitting position

-hes grabbing things, but not really rabidly putting it in his mouth yet

20 December 2014

Two against one as dave heads for the sun (and clouds) of california

from december 14-20 dave was off in san fransisco for the annual AGU meeting. this was great for him in many ways, notably because he was invited to be a guest speaker, which is an honor. and so i was left alone in the finnish winter darkness with a 5 month old and 4.5 year old. things actually went well.

dave left on a sunday after breakfast and then we just slowly and patiently went about our business. i just kinda lived in the moment, put out fires/tantrums, patiently waited through the harder hours of the day (3-5p) and just marched along until bedtime. happily, the weekday, with the help of daycare, went very well, and then we only had to face down the full saturday without going crazy. and voila! it was over. thankfully i stamped out the few panic attacks that tried to bubble up and i was able to make dinners and get them to bed and shower and sleep enough myself to take care of everything. it was still too eerily quiet at night for me, but it was much more doable than i had dared hope. i might have to do it again in the spring when dave goes to canada, so im hoping for a similar kind of repeat.

once again, im glad im not a military wife and im glad dave doesnt do month-long field work, but im happy to have seen that i can manage a week with them and without help. it also reeeeeally helped that no one got sick. so, thanks universe. :) dave brought back gifts in the form of a suitcase full of clothing and food. nom nom.

End of fall 2014 - city summary

weather: it seemed like a very typical fall here, though the colors werent as brilliant or pretty as last year. i thought the leaves kind of dried up and went brown and crisp quickly. i found november to be fine (though we had a record of only 14 hours of sunshine for the whole month) and thankfully december was better than last year, for me, because we had some pretty snow mixed in there. thank you kindly finland. :)

kid-friendly:
-kids thrift store velmukirppis, in malmi. this was a newly opened thrift store just for kids stuff and it was well stocked and organized. lots of good finds. im sure we will be back.

-hoplop. this is a huge indoor playground and activity center. it is THE place to burn off pent up winter energy, such a huge space for moving your little body. and they made all the areas parent accessible too so you can go down the slides, climb through the tubes, jump on the trampolines, etc. if your little one is unsure about things at first. they also have food and comfy chairs there. our nearest one is in a really ugly location, but its still a great place, and Xs new favorite.

finn notables:
-food. we tried leipajuusto finally. its name means 'bread cheese' or 'oven cheese'. this is a tasty cheese that is made by baking it in the oven (you buy it at the store already baked though). you can eat it cold or warmed up, some finns apparently even eat it melted in their coffee (eek!) but we got it and warmed it up and put a dollop of cloudberry jam on ours (the cheese and cloudberry combination is the traditional way to eat it). i really like it. its also called 'squeaky cheese', because its kinda rubbery and squeaky when you eat it cold.

-birthday parties. from my amassed observations i find a surprisingly amount of local kids birthdays are on weekdays from 5-7p. whats up with that!? are people too busy on weekdays? what about work the next day, and how do you prep for a party like that? i dont fully understand.

-baby showers. they dont really have them in finland, or they didnt in the past. they are slowly becoming more popular i guess. otherwise people seem much more comfortable giving gifts once the child is born.

-our neighborhood (pihlajam√§ki) apparently has a reputation of being bad, like in the bottom 5 in the city. but, i think thats mostly historic...the first batch the families who moved out here back in the 60s came with young children and they all grew up together and became bored teenagers (before the city had sprawled out to really absorb it) and the teens would wreak havoc and fight, etc. i see and hear of none of that now, but apparently we are still tarnished by the past reputation. for me, i feel perfectly safe, X has lots to do and lots of kids her age to play with and we really enjoy the surroundings. plus, there really are no ghettos or scary areas of helsinki, perhaps areas with a higher amount of drunks, but they are mostly just dumb drunks, not dangerous.

-robin. there is tween pop singer named robin here. i suppose you would call him the finnish justin bieber in terms of popularity and cuteness (to clarify, i strongly dislike bieber, and also, i realize biebers popularity is finishing its 15 minutes of fame). robin, however, is a much nicer kid (and adorable too, i never liked bieber). because he is such a sensation among kids in finland we have one of his albums (a friend gave to X for her birthday) and we have been listening to several of his songs. his recent major single is very catchy, in any language, give it a try.

-finns are BIG creatures of habit. each season, month, holiday, procedure...has a ritual. you dont really deviate from the ritual because these repeated actions bring comfort. like in november, its typically tv watching month, when no one even tries to enjoy being outside. and it seems the month when the tv channels really do pay for the best selection of shows and movies (so far, that weve noticed. weve been watching tv since this summer). also, clementines seem to only be enjoyed around christmastime so they have finally gotten nice ripe, juicy ones at the grocery store and i.am.psyched. im starting to mold to the ways of these creatures...