Wednesday, December 26, 2012

So This is Christmas . . . 2012

Christmas Market at Senatintori. We didn't buy anything but makkara and bratwurst. It was too cold to do more than just wander through and let the kids watch the blacksmiths and people watch. 

Christmas Even consisted of new jammies, watching Christmas movies (Home Alone) and Santa on NORAD and junk food. 

All ready for Santa coming. 

Santa's been. He put up a wrapping paper barrier to keep little monsters from coming downstairs, but everyone slept tight. Lots of presents awaited, especially since our friend brought gifts from home. Mormor skyped and watched the kids open their presents, but it was pretty much chaos. 

Mouse said it was the best day ever, so think we did pretty well. 

Cinderella in her new princess dress from Mormor. 

We were supposed to go out for dinner with some friends on Christmas Day, but their little boy became ill so they cancelled and after a heavy lunch watching more and more snow fall, we decided to stay home and just take it easy. It was a lovely holiday. The first one in a long time where I didn't feel miserable or like something wasn't right. We, of course, missed our family, but it was nice just to spend time making our own little traditions.  

About 20 cms of snow fell over the holiday, so a lot of shovelling had to be done. 

On Boxing Day I took the kids down to the beach just to get some fresh air after staying inside all Christmas day. After digging out the garden again, I pulled them in the sled and then we climbed around on a big snow pile made by ploughs. The water is frozen and we probably could have walked quite far out, but I would never try for fear of thin ice. After all that I was exhausted and Bump was fed up with snow and cold. 

All in all a lovely couple of days. I really enjoyed the whole laid back atmosphere of not having to make a big meal and just going with the flow. Some things I will definitely do next year, like our Christmas Eve movie night. 

Hope to catch up with some friends over the holiday week. And then roll on 2013. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Season Greetings 2012

Season’s greetings to you all. 

It's the Night Before the Night Before which was always the beginning of the Christmas excitement when we were kids. Hope you're all ready for the craziness that comes with family, food and festive fun. I hope you’re not up to your elbows in snow like we are here in Finland. The snow started in early December with a big blizzard and hasn’t let up since. I hope all of our friends and family are well. 

In January, Foo, who’s 4, was assessed by an Occupational Therapist and we finally began to understand that he has problems with sensory processing, sometimes he gets too much information from his senses to cope with and other times he doesn’t get enough. He’s now seeing a great OT once a week and we can see the benefits daily. He’s a much happier boy than he was this time last year and now that I understand why he does what he does I can help him cope with it. 

He started at a great Finnish nursery in August. It’s a specialist mixed unit, so 10 children, some with special needs, others without. They use a mix of sign language, pictures, Finnish and English with Foo so he is learning Finnish very quickly. He already understands most of what they say to him and can say quite a bit. I’ve taken to asking him questions if I don’t know a word.

I’ve been trying to study Finnish more this year and I’m starting to be able to speak a bit, but I still don’t feel like I have a grip on the basics of the language because I haven’t been able to get into a proper class, just phrase classes, so I have big gaps in my grasp of the grammar and huge holes in my vocabulary.

Mousie Magoo is back at his English nursery and in the Kindergarten class this year, so he’s learning to read and write. He’s six and I’m sure this seems very late to most people, but if he was in a Finnish nursery they wouldn’t even be teaching him until he started proper school next year. He’s starting to pick things up but they’re taking a very relaxed approach which I like. He’s keen and we work a bit at home but he doesn’t like Mum and Dad teaching him. We’re looking at international schools for him for next August, hopefully one that follows the Finnish system, but we have to fight to get into them because they are popular with the Finns as well as the expat community.

In April and August we went back to Scotland, just for a visit and then for The Chief’s sister’s wedding.  It was lovely seeing everyone, and the craziness of a Scottish family wedding is always a laugh. The boys all wore kilts and looked so handsome, but were rumpled before we even got in the church, but I managed to get them sorted for the ceremony and pictures. Bumptious was gorgeous in a little dress and was the star of the pre-dinner dancing, doing her own thing.

Over the summer we found out that The Chief had succeeded with the permanent job as a Business Analyst at the agency he works for. He started in November and has been really busy trying to do the handover from his previous role while starting in his new position. In May we moved again, that’s 3 houses in 2 years. We’ll have to move again next summer, but I’m hoping that will be our last. Our new house is lovely, but a bit smaller than I’d like, the kids are currently sharing a room, but eventually I’d like to split them up. This house has a lovely, safe garden, but I’m finding it tiring to have to dig out the big front walk and the carpark every time it snows, which is every other day at the moment. Compromises, I guess.

Bumptious is 2.5 and a force of nature. She has become totally girly over the past few months. It started with loving to dance and then she needed ‘spinning dresses’ for dancing. Then she found a tiara and it became about princesses. Now her favourite colour is pink, she has to wear dresses almost everyday and she often changes outfits. Luckily we have the boys and their obsessions to leaven the girliness. She’s the Pink Ninja and is often seen doing her ninja moves in her outfits. She loves dancing to songs from shows the boys like to watch.

She and Foo play so well together, they disappear into a room and come up with some mad elaborate adventure that often involves their favourite programs. The boys like the same things, so it depends on their patience and mood whether they play nicely together. The three of them together are usually pretty good though it often descends into chaos for me.

My Mum came for a month-long visit in September. She stayed in our spare room amongst all the kids’ toys. She and I went on a boat cruise to St Petersburg, Russia, two nights on board and one day in the city. We went to the Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palaces. It was over the top gorgeous, gilt and marbles and precious stones everywhere. We didn’t really have time to see much else, but it’s definitely worth a repeat visit.

It was wonderful to have Mum over, just to have someone to talk to during the days besides kids and not having to struggle with Finnish is always good. We didn’t do too much; went back to Porvoo, took her to some of our favourite places. She was a huge help with watching the kids while we attended quite a few meetings for the boys’ schools and for doctor appointments. We missed her the minute she left.

I hope you all have a wonderful holidays that 2013 brings you lots of good news, health and happiness. 

Love from The Clan

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Children's Town

Update 2016 - the museum has just reopened after being closed for 3 years. Here is an updated review

First day of the Christmas holidays and we took the kids to the Sederholm House, Children's Town. The Helsinki city website didn't really sell the museum, but I'd heard a few things about it, so thought we should give it a try. 

It actually was good fun, it's all set up around the idea of introducing aspects of Finland's domestic past to children. So it had one floor set up for the 1800s, with a ship, kitchen, horse and carriage, cobblers and the theatre. And the second floor had 2 classrooms from different periods, a room full of doll's houses and a 1970s 'house'. We spent most of our time on the first floor. 

I felt it was lacking some things on the interactive side. It's a museum dedicated to children, but in the classrooms there were lots of things that they couldn't touch but were left out in the open like a giant abacus and benches they couldn't sit on. What's the point of inviting children in but say they can't touch all the things left in the open? The kids were immediately bored by the classrooms and ran off. 

And there were some opportunities missed, like there should be more interactive things on the ship - there were only some bags of 'cargo' they could move about, and in the cobblers - there were some half made shoes, but no tools or chances to play cobbler though it was supposedly 'looking for an assistant'. It wouldn't be too difficult to put out some ropes, a ship's wheel, buckets and brushes for swabbing the deck like they had on the Tall Ship in Glasgow to make it more fun for the kids. 

But saying that our lot had a great time. There was a box of dress up clothes and another for puppets for the theatre. They mainly put on some outfits and ran between the different exhibits. They boys loved the fairy and bug wings, Bumps was a bit put out when they got them and she didn't. 

Even the doll houses have saunas here. 

My little sugar plum. 

Mouse taught me how to make joulutortta, well, he made them and told me how to do it. He likes them without jam, but they were lovely with strawberry jam, I didn't bother to get the plum jam they usually use. After the first couple he began to experiment with the traditional form and the little ones helped as well. 

Only a few more days until Christmas, are you ready? We're getting there, I think. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mouse's Big Show

This Friday was Mouse's big Christmas show and party. The boy done good. I knew he wouldn't have a problem with his lines as he had the whole play memorised and repeated it over and over for me, but I was a bit worried about his nerves and his self-confidence. 

His teacher is brilliant and very aware of his personality, so though she gave him one of the bigger parts, he was exchanging lines with a friend. He was never on 'stage' alone and the two boys had a wee rhythm going as they each said a line. He was an absolute star, he only was a bit late with one line when he was making faces at his sister. He spoke loudly and clearly and of course sounded the best of all the kids because his natural affinity with language and being the only one who spoke only English at home. He was also a bit funny with his face and actions. 

I'd love to put bits of the video on, but since he's never alone I don't want to post other people's children. 

Foo and Bump sat well throughout the show and only spoke up a couple of times. Father Christmas came afterwards and all the kids got pressies. Then there was the usual chaos of food and chat. 

We put our tree up this weekend. Mouse and the Chief braved yet another storm to fetch the tree and then sang 'Deck the Halls' while putting up the decorations. Bump and Foo weren't interested until it was up, then Bumpshie just wanted to pose in front of it.

Then my little ninjas did some practising. They're all getting so big. 

I can't believe another year is almost over. I need to get my year Christmas card catch-up written, but haven't found the energy or inspiration yet. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Prep

Last minute Christmas whirlwind here. Agreed to bake cookies for about 4 different things so been baking like mad. And no one's really eating them, but us. I've been leaving a trail of cookies wherever I go and I still have tons. 

Here's a tray I made for Foo's Christmas Parent's Association Fundraising Fete or something like that. Don't ask me all the various emails were in Finnish and I spent way too long trying to figure out why they were talking about Whelks and Snails rather than understanding what we were doing it for. Turns out it's the name of one or maybe two of the classes in Foo's nursery, I agreed to make cookies of course. I think the Finns were scared of them. 

But then who can eat cookies outside in -5C and in a snowstorm. At least they had coffee and glöggi to take away the frostbite. Even Bump gave up after a bite or two. Though she liked the sledging down the stairs. 

The Joulupukki came. That's Father Christmas. He didn't quite know what to think of the chunks of snow Foo kept giving him. 

We've also had Foo's Christmas party. The Finns sure like to do things differently, it started at 8am. I forgot my camera, of course, I can barely remember how many children I have at that time of the morning. Had to use my phone for photos. Bump gave an impromptu dance recital before the concert began. Then the kids came out and Foo planted himself right in front. 

He didn't really sing any of the songs, but he was very cute and behaved himself. That's Santa Lucia in the back, quite popular among the Swedes here. 

Only decent photo we got as the Chief caught someone else's flash. 

Then there was puro and more glöggi. 

Think he enjoyed his first Christmas concert and party. 

We've also been making and decorating salt dough ornaments with friends and at home. 

Discovered Bump has a thing for glitter. Can she get any more girly? She won't wear a shirt for longer than an hour now. It has to be one of her spinning dresses. I need to find some long sleeved ones for winter. 

All this Christmas preparation has taken it's toll on us all. I've been multi-tasking - shovelling snow and taking home the sleeping children. I can't carry Foo very far any more, he's just too heavy. Bump waited inside while I finished up. 

Hope you're all getting ready for the holidays. Can't say I'm organised yet, but I have a bit of time, don't I?

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