Sunday, March 27, 2011

Another Year, Another Dollar

The news is in - we're staying in Finland for another year. The Chief got his contract extension a week before his next one is due to finish. That's European red tape for you. As you may guess, I'm not dancing in the snowdrifts about the news, but we're settled here and it's a lovely place to bring up the Weans, so we will take advantage of a solid job in these shaky economic times.

It also gives us another year to do some things we didn't manage in our first. I wanted to do some ice swimming, the Chief tried it, but I never got a chance. And now the weather is regularly over 0C and the ice is beginning to thaw, it seems a kind of sissy way to do it, so I will wait until next winter. We can go up to the farthest north of Finland and see the area called Inari is proper Lapland. We can try to get to St Petersburg as it's a short jump from here. And hopefully we'll get another lovely summer and maybe a milder winter, though I'm not holding my breath there. Maybe we'll even see the Northern Lights.

Mousie has a place in a good kindergarten and we're still waiting to hear if Foo will get a place at Mousie's old Finnish nursery. I don't know how he'll handle the all Finnish enviroment, but I think it's a good thing to try as he's younger and will maybe pick up the language easier than Mousie did. The Chief and I are still struggling with the language. I have lots of vocabulary, but don't have enough verbs or understand the structure of the language enough to string together sentences, but I'm trying to use what I do know a bit more.

Here's some photos out our back door. I wish we had started from day one, but the photos start mid-summer. Guess I can add that to my list of things to do - get views of all four seasons as Finland actually does them all pretty spectularly. Sorry about the wacky formatting, if I try to add more than one photo the site goes a bit mental.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Big Boy in the Making

It's all change for the Foo, and it's not an easy road. He's on his way to becoming a big boy. He's been using the potty and toilet since my Mum left with only a few accidents related to poo. He doesn't seem to know when he needs one and always manages to hide before I notice. But he's got his big boy pants and he's doing well though he doesn't tell me he needs to go, just comes willing when I say it's time. Only has had two mornings where he's woken up wet.

The next big challange has been dropping his nap. Foo is a very heavy sleeper, once he's out there's no waking him. He got dumped on his head while sleeping in his buggy on a bus and didn't bat an eye. It can take up to an hour to wake him from a nap. But for every minute of a nap he gets, he's up almost twice as long at bedtime. So after being up til midnight recently and regularly taking about two hours to settle, I've decided the nap goes. Boy, he does not like it. He can't verbalise it, but he loves his naps and knows he takes them mostly in the buggy. So today was Day 2 of Operation No Nap. Yesterday went pretty well as we didn't do the school run, but today he was extra tired as he woke up early this morning.

I made him walk home from the Leikkipuisto (play park) this morning and he did so willingly. But when I put on his backpack with the handstrap, put Bumptious in the sling and walked out the door without the buggy Foo lost it. He wanted, needed sleep and wasn't going to give in without a fight. So he screamed, cried, begged, threw himself down on the icy ground every few steps. Luckily with the backpack I could hold him up, so he couldn't achieve the full kicking the ground tantrum stage.

So the walk to the bustop took 20 minutes and was pure hell. I managed to stay calm, even when people started showing up at the busstop and stared at us in the nosy silent Finnish way. But when the bus pulled up he took my hand and walked on calmly and quietly. I have the lioness's share of stubbornness and he inherited a fair whack of it, but he'll never win a battle of wills with me.

I had to tickle him, make funny faces, noises to keep him awake on the bus ride and again the Finns must have thought I was mad, but we made it and it was all better from there. He played in the park with Mousie for a while and got an adrenaline rush enough to make the journey home. He walked home holding my hand, only getting upset when his glove came off.

And he went to sleep after 10-15 minutes of loud talking. Hopefully we'll get his schedule sorted and he'll be able to exist without a regular nap. He's a very strong creature of habit, it's just a matter of shaping his habits to suit us all. Tomorrow will be the test as I'm going to have to take the buggy into town so we can go to a Vauvakino (baby friendly film showing). But hopefully after a good sleep tonight he won't feel the need to nap.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Our Week in Pictures

 Spring has arrived. Temps crawl to 2C almost everyday. Snow slowly melting.

Bumptious has learned to climb stairs and will not crawl or sit down if she can stand. But she can't, she has no sense of balance and often ends up on her back with a bumped head. 

St Patrick's Day Party with International English Speakers Group
Left unattended too long

Think he had a bit too much fun

What can you say to that face?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rain, Ice, Slush and Sunshine

Not much to say today, but thought I'd send you a weather report. I keep seeing all our friends back in Scotland complaining about snow and the rotten weather they're having. Suck it up, folks, you got it easy.

We are just starting to drift above 0C for a few hours most days. Which means the feet of snow we have left starts to thaw, slowly, leaving inches of slush on the pavements. Great for pushing a double buggy through. Then it starts to freeze in the afternoon, so by the next morning it's either a slick ice rink or a bumpy ice gorge to cross.

I don't know what to dress the boys in as it's still cold and the wind gets icy, but when the sun's out it feels almost tropical. So we're still piling on and stripping off layers everytime we go in and out. I go out without a hat to pick up Mousie from kindergarden and we get down by the sea and my ears are frozen. Forgot Foo's boots yesterday as he fell asleep on the floor as soon as I got his snowsuit on him, so he ended up in Bumptious' hot pink and purple suede booties. Very fashionable, my Foo.

Hopefully the drift of the temperatures will keep moving upward and the snow will begin to vanish. There's tons of grit appearing from beneath the ice on the pavements. I think Helsinki city gathers it up and will reuse it next year - maybe the Scottish councils should take a leaf and prepare for next year's snow properly.

But the sun is here, finally, so need to find our sunglasses as it is blinding off the snow. Spring is on it's way, I think. I really can't wait, I'm fed up with this Baltic winter nonsense, bring on the rain. Oh wait, we had some of that yesterday. Wacky. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thinking about Home

and all that that means.

With the Chief still waiting to hear what is happening with his extension, we've been talking about what could happen and what we'd like to happen.

If you had asked me in my free and childless twenties what and where home was, I'd give you an odd look and say something like 'wherever I hang my hat'. I don't think I really knew back then, nor did I waste a moment pondering it. It didn't seem to be back in the States, having chose to move away it felt less like home with every passing year, though I missed and still miss my family there terribly. But the place wasn't home, the people were.

And then I chose Scotland, chose the Chief and chose to stay. Chose the mortgage, the allotment, the kids and all their various ties to place. I decorated the home, chose schools for the kids, put down roots. I was settled. S E T T L E D - it still seems like a heavy, clunky, tie-you-down with no choices word.

I always said that kids wouldn't tie me down, that you could still pick up your life and move about. And in the back of my mind that was still the dream, that we'd go to Italy or someplace romantic and the kids would just come along. The reality of having kids is a little heavier and less portable, as the boys got older, the dream seemed less realistic. It became a more of a tuck in your diary sort of dream.

And then Finland came along, sprang unexpectedly from a long lean winter. It was the dream and it sparkled and inticed and we found that you can pick up a life, even with little 'uns, and move it. Pack your life in a few suitcases and start fresh. It wasn't as easy as when we were 25, 30, but it could be done.

We've found a foothold here, adapted, learned, accepted Finland. But it's different and I can't pin exactly how or why. The language is a mountain I daily struggle with, but it's not that. I have friends here. Ok, not tons, but I'm not a gregarious soul and a few bosom friends is enough for me. I have my baby groups and things to do, I have my photography class as a start of something for me. Mouse has a school he is happy with, Foo has his outlets for his unstoppable energy. We have figured out the health care system, I think, found most of what we need to make a life. But is it Home?

The Chief has applied for jobs in England while waiting for news, would that be more like home? A similar language, nearer to family. I honestly don't know, but can't imagine us in England-shire. If my Clan pick up an English accent, there would be deaths.

Glasgow felt like home, no doubt. It wasn't the house, but more than the people (though I love you all and miss you so much). Finland offers a great (if expensive) lifestyle for us and the kids, but is it enough to become home?

I am happy here, but there's always that nagging doubt that life is going on without me, back home.

Friday, March 4, 2011

2 Out of 3 Ain't Bad

Good and bad day for me and the kids.

We had an interview at a posh English speaking school for the Mousie Magoo today. We knew it was a long shot as the website next year was already full up but the Director called us right away for an interview. Turns out he didn't read the application carefully - the Chief is an employee of a EU company here and their children automatically get a place at that school, but he's a contractor not permanent, so Mousie didn't get a place and he bluntly said that after about 2 minutes. We spent the rest of the time talking about the weather. He could have just asked on the phone.

But the Foo used the potty when asked this evening - without a fight. Potty training has been very slow with him, but he has glimmers of figuring it out. Ok, so he missed a bit and peed all over his feet, but I'm so chuffed all the same.

And Baby Bumptious self-settled this evening without the breast. First time in forever. Didn't even have to rock or pat her, she just whined her 'I don't want to go to bed' song for about 10 minutes and then went to sleep. Now if she'd just sleep longer than 2 hours at a time, I'd be a happy bunny.
9.30pm here and everyone's asleep. I should really join them, but kind of enjoying having the quiet house to myself.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Crochet, Museums and Baklava

After weeks of colder than minus twenty weather, the Clan household can honestly say it's had enough of winter. Whether anyone is listening or cares, I don't know. But this week there has been a slow creeping up the thermometer to a balmy -5 or so, so maybe the gods were listening.

It didn't help that everyone has had varying doses of the leurgy. The Weans had it first and were knocked down like bowling pins to a hacking cough and a mild fever. Then Mormor got it and it is still lingering 3 weeks on. Not a nice way to end her time here in Finland. Apologies.

So the non-working members of the Clan were housebound for two weeks which made the crippling cold a little more bearable, it looks beautiful behind glass. But the plague slowly lifted and we set off to play tour guide to the wife and child of a collegue of the Chief. Their son is the same age as Mousie so all 3 boys seemed to hit it off immediately.

We hit the child-friendly, inside things to do in Helsinki. Starting with the Leikkiluola, the Play Cave, a soft play area underground. Then the Natural History Museum, for the dinosaurs. The Sea Life exhibit, for the sharks; then Itakeskus, a huge shopping mall to the east of the city. Do you see the theme? Big wide open spaces perfect for boys to run themselves ragged. We did it all at about 50 miles an hour as Mousie was the tour guide and he was always rush to show us the next thing. Unfortunately, the kids were not old enough to be let totally free, so Mums and even Dads on the weekends were pretty knackered as well. A bit of a shock after sitting on my bum for 2 weeks.

It was nice to see the boys play so well with another child and for them to both have someone they could relate to and talk English with. 

With Mormor's departure looming, a few issues had to be taken into hand. First, the Chief and I had a trial run to get Mousie to his new daycare on time with all the little ones in tow. Check. Still need a bit of finessing with getting organised the night before, but it's doable.

Second, get myself organised for making dinner with all the kids in the house. I have started a weekly meal plan. So far we've had Chicken Noodle Soup, Turkey Burgers, Spanish Tortilla, Chicken Tagine, Spanikopita. Not all of it has been a hit with the Weans, but it's nice to have something different for a change and again if I can get organised at the weekend and do my big shop then, it can make things easier.

Tonight I took advantage of Mormor watching the little ones today to make a small plate of baklava to go with the Spanikopita. They taste just like the ones we had in our young, free and childless days in Greece, even if they were a little bodged together as Bumptious decided it was time for milk just as I started. So the last one awaits me with a big cup of tea as soon as I finish here. Nice end to the day.

My other wee challange was to crochet Bumptious a hat for the summer. I had some lovely peacock coloured yarn as Mormor called it and wanted to use it. Finding a good pattern and learning how to crochet again took a while, but after two dozen or so restarts I have managed to make a lovely floppy brimmed hat, with a little flower on it. So far she has tried to eat it when I put it on her for sizing. So it must be a success. The flower isn't sewn on yet, so in an odd place.

So my plan for tonight is to find a little cardi or something to go with it and tomorrow after Baby Group I'm off to see if I can get more of the yarn. Something to while away the last of the winter months. Yes, months, the thaw will take a while. But my fingers will be busy readying for summer.
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