Sunday, March 30, 2014

Road Trip Weekend

The Clan has been on the road! 

Nothing like visitors to get you to clean your house and to get out into your local surrounds, and sometimes even go beyond them. 

Getting 4 kids up and out is difficult enough, so we aren't usually brave enough to leave the city. But we've had a house guest this weekend who we have taken to all our usual touristy haunts on his previous two visits, so even though the kids were ill all week, we decided to risk going out of the city to visit a few new places. 

We started off slow, Haltia Nature Centre just outside of Espoo, a half hour's drive from our end of Helsinki. The drive was quite lovely once you got off the motorway.I would love to do it when there was actually some colour in the landscape instead of the  early spring brown we currently have. We arrived just after it opened so it wasn't too busy, but by lunch time it started to fill up.

Haltia is listed as a nature centre, but the website doesn't really sell it well. It's pretty spectacular and even entertained to our rambunctious Weans. It uses video, interactive computers and displays, art and wraps the whole thing up in references to the Finnish national myth collection the Kalevala to show the changing beauty of Finland in all seasons.

It starts out looking like a museum. But once you're in the main space things are very different. 

The use of video was really well done, on the floor, walls, projections on the walls, on floating screens. Even the smaller exhibition rooms are quite stunning. 

Best of all for the Weans was the Bear's Den. They loved it. Amazing that a few darkened rooms with beanbags and a big taxidermed bear can keep kids entertained for hours. It even kept them entertained enough that I got some time to see a photo exhibition they had on display. We had to pull them out for lunch kicking and screaming. The cafe/ buffet restaurant was very nice as well.

The only thing I would have liked was an outdoor space for smaller children or interactive nature activities. There's a sports area and hiking right there in Nuuksio National Park but with a child with physical special needs and two under 4, and two adults with foot injuries, we weren't up for hiking any distance. Though the Chief and friend inform me that they have a space below the building right on the Pitkajärvi Lake that they are prepping to adapt to an outdoor activity centre for 2015. We'll be back for that

There is a tower you can climb, but the way the building is set up the view from the observation deck is the roof. I think they use it for night sky viewing in winter. Shame as the lake would be a nicer daytime view. 

The Chief wanted them to do YMCA, but Bumpshie wouldn't play. All in all, Haltia was a success.

Today we were a little less organised with the clocks going back, but were on the road before lunch for Hämeenlinna, to see our first Finnish castle. An hour away from north Helsinki, we figured it would be a slightly bigger challenge, but not as big as Tampere and Turku which are 2 hours away and what we're aiming for eventually. Again I wasn't quite sure what to expect because the websites weren't clear and were hard to navigate. I couldn't even find out if there was a cafe, so we ate in town which wasted time. There is a cafe/ restaurant, but we didn't use it. 

We had less than 2 hours in the end as they're on their winter schedule still, but that was enough for the Weans. They were excited about the moat, so that was our first stop and then climbing on the ramparts. The weather was cooler, but still springlike. 

Moat and edge of lake is still frozen. 

We didn't know what to expect as the website said none of the rooms were furnished and the first few rooms were a bit boring, but once you get into the second level of the main building, you get information on the archaeology of the area and then get into the maze of rooms it was more interesting. It would be nice if they could decorate something to give the kids more ideas of how life was like in a 13th century Swedish/Finnish castle, but they seemed to enjoy themselves running from one room to another. The adults didn't get a chance to see much though. The archaeology room and a few rooms with photographs looked intriguing if we would have had time to read the info. 

Foo later said he didn't have fun at the castle because there wasn't any kids' things there, though he did seem to be having fun and we did find a playpark right at the foot of the castle to wear them out just that extra bit for the ride home. 

All of them slept for at least a little bit. Job done. 

We'll definitely go back to Haltia again and the castle is good for guests, but not sure if I'd take the kids on their own. 

I hope you've made the most of your weekend. I've topped off our trips with well-deserved tea, chocolate, cherry cider and a sauna. Almost all at once, but not quite. Happy Mother's Day if you're in the UK or elsewhere that celebrated it today. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Girls

I'm not a girly girl. I don't wear make-up or do my hair, dress up or even care about what I look like other than clean and comfortable. I don't like the pink princess, rainbows and fairy, waiting for her Prince Charming culture that has risen up for girls lately. I know it's not all that bad, but in its extreme it is terrifying and incomprehensible to me.

So my eldest daughter is also a bit incomprehensible. Around 2 she began to demand 'spinny dresses', ones that would flare out when she spun, that she could dance in. Then the Disney Princesses crept in and more dancing and demanding to chose her own clothes when buying and dressing. Then fairies, pink, singing and more dancing. I haven't told her no, I haven't let my initial gut reaction of repulsion of the whole pink girl culture show as much as I want to shout it's just a colour and that she doesn't need a prince to rescue her.  

If I get to buy her clothes I avoid frills and over the top pink. I get leggings and plain shirts, practical clothes that she can put under her skirts and dresses that she chooses on our shopping trips together. I let her dress herself as long as she is warm, especially during Finland's long winter. So she layers rainbow dresses or pink skirts over my practical clothing. She tends to strip all my things off when she comes home from päiväkoti. At the moment her favorite thing to wear is her swimsuit. Or her sister's clothes. I've recently moved Pudding up to more normal clothing after her first six months spent hanging around in babygros and Bump went through it all to steal things that still kind of fit. She loves new clothes and shoes, even her old clothing that she hadn't seen for 2 years. Dresses that are now shirts, leggings that are cropped trousers. 

I think her baby sister might be heading down the same path. Today she was mesermerised by her sister's gold slippers. And was happy to wear the flower crown while her sister practiced her flower fairy dancing while singing in Finnish. I'm learning to grin and bear it. 

By a happy coincidence, before I sat down to write this I checked out a fave blogger of mine, Girl's Gone Child, who also wrote today about her 3 daughters and their love of the frills and girly and how she is handling it. I think my Bump might be soul sisters with her daughters. GGC sees the dressing up and princess infatuation as empowering for girls and presents an interesting argument. I'm all about allowing my children to be who they want to be, to embrace them fairy wings or super hero capes and all. But I'm not ready to cheer forward the whole pink girl culture yet, but maybe another few years of tiaras and rainbows and I'll be breaking out the pixie dust and joining in.  

In the meantime, I will continue to try and instill a sense of power beyond girl power. A sense that my children all have their own strengths, their own super powers that I can nurture. 

All my little super heroes. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gardenia and Pudding at 6 Months

Last weekend we went to Gardenia which is a tropical garden near Viikki. We were a week too late for the Panda exhibition and a few weeks to early for the Witches' Wands exhibition, but we still managed to find enough to keep the kids busy for a few hours. 

They had a treasure chests hidden around the glasshouse marked with animals. Each had info about some of the plants they had growing there: cinnamon, cacoa, coffee and other plants the kids might be familiar with. Unfortunately all the info in the chests was in Finnish, so the kids couldn't play what appeared to be a quiz. But they did give us a info pack in English. 

They also had a nice little eating area with a small salad bar. So we broke up our runs through with lunch. Sorry, the pictures are from my phone camera, so don't do the place justice. 

Update: The City of Helsinki closed Gardenia in December 2015. 

I found out about Gardenia on a new website I discovered - Lastenlinkit - which gives info about things for kids to do in Helsinki and Finland. Every weekend I'm searching the net for new things for us to do so this was a great find. 

In other news: Pudding is now 6 months old and on the go.

Two months and six months.

She's eating a bit. Food's definitely getting in, but a lot more of it gets everywhere else first. 

She's also beginning to sit up, though if she moves that big head of hers just a bit, she falls over.

 So it was time for my traditional 'Not Lion Down' photo. I've done this for all the kids.

I love her serious mouth in this picture, sitting up is hard work. Nice to see my photography skills have improved over the years, thanks to a good camera and the amazing Finnish light. 

She's even starting to pull herself around the floor a bit. Need to get my house tidied. Let the active baby fun begin. 

After a few weeks of lovely spring weather, we just got a big snowfall, so guess winter hasn't totally given up yet. Hopefully, it's soon on it's way out. I'm dreaming of planting in my new garden. 

Enjoy the weekend.  

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