Thursday, October 31, 2013

Breast-feeding a toddler, preschooler

Recently a friend of mine Karolina Baszarkiewicz who is a photographer and a mother of two started a very interesting and inspiring project - she is capturing those rare and precious moments of this very closeness between a mother and her baby/child during breast-feeding. Her pictures are very soft and warm and show this simplicity and beauty of spending the time together. What is not so usual the kids are not babies anymore. They walk, they play, they talk. They are two or even three years old. Still on breast? One would ask. Yes. Not too long? No. This is exactly why she decided to make those photo sessions. Because we in our western culture (I don't know much about other parts of the world) do support - even very strongly support - breast-feeding and very often we think it is better then formula, but we support it up to certain age of the baby. Usually it is one year. After that - quit. She writes that some people make very unpleasant comments about those mothers nursing their big toddlers. For some it is disgusting, unnatural, pointless. On the other hand there is also very negative opinion about women who for some reason don't breast-feed at all. Those who choose bottle over breast from the very beginning or just after two or three months. Those are also bad mothers. And who makes those opinions? We, women! We like to judge other women. We don't support different behaviors. And who we are to judge? Breast-feeding is so intimate and so personal and shouldn't be judged. Never. This is my own choice and your own choice. We should believe mothers do have the best intuition what is best for their babies and how long do they want to breast-feed. Whatever they choose they should be supported and not judged. Me myself breastfed both of my kids for about a year, my daughter a bit longer, my son a bit shorter. I felt it was enough. I had enough, my body had enough and my psyche. It was a long and slow process of weaning so no one was heart. Just recently I had a yearly check-up with both of my kids - 1-year-old and 4-year-old. I was quite surprised that I was encouraged to give my toddler fat free cow milk. Why fat free? Now he still drinks the formula and if I start regular milk than it will be whole milk. He does need this milk fat. He is not overweight. Same my daughter. They grow and need the fat for the brain development for vitamins D and other nutrients. On the other hand in different parts of the world kids and adults don't drink milk at all. Kids stop after they stop drinking breast milk. And they can grow healthy (if they don't lack other nutrients, what is not so obvious in certain parts of the world). Anyway, let's support breast-feeding but let's not judge those who never breast-fed nor those who did it for few years.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Puu-Vallila or Wooden Vallila walk

Today we went for a walk to this old district in Helsinki - wooden Vallila, old Vallila. It is few blocks with old wooden houses build in the beginning of XX century. They look a bit like those old small towns like Porvoo or Rauma. I mean that by walking down those narrow streets along those small wooden painted houses you don't have a feeling of being in a big city. You get the feeling of moving back several decades to some long forgotten old days. The weather was also perfect. Cold, a bit cloudy (and finally it started to snow a little), first sunny but soon quite dark. You know sort of the atmosphere from Kaurismaki's movies. Old fashion. Old Finland. Places you don't know where they are. And they hidden form the public eye. They hide nowadays between much higher newer buildings (still quite old though) which stand along main streets. For me it was sort of a surprise to "discover" the whole Vanha Vallila right behind a street which I used to drive almost for the whole last year (it was on my way to a day care). The houses still look quite good (some were under renovation) but what they say it is not a posh neighborhood. It used to be working class area but nowadays it is becoming trendy (or bohemian) like Kallio. I'm not sure about those wooden houses, but it is said about the whole Vallila. Unfortunately we didn't check the battery in our camera (it was empty) so no pics were taken. But I believe the one Helsinki episode from old Jim Jarmush movie has a scene either in this area or another with very similar old wooden houses. So, you can google and see that scene (when the drunk guy ends up being kicked out of the taxi around his house). Anyway, I like Helsinki for still having so many places like that. Preserved for decades without any touch of modern life.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Piglets on a supermarket shelve

Yes. This is what made the news in Poland most recently. One of the supermarket chain - Makro Cash&Carry - started to sell in vacuum packages piglets - meat that is - not cute pets. The view wasn't pleasant of course - you had those baby pigs, dead, wrapped tightly in plastic. The link: pig Like meat! Yes. Like all kinds of meat people buy every day and eat every day. Pork - it is pig too but if we buy it in a form of thin slices we treat it more like something what grew on a tree and not like a big muscle of that piglet or its mommy pig or daddy pig. So, in Poland - the country of huge consumption of pork - I guess an average Pole eats pork at least once every day - you get this huge "scandal". How one can sell piglets??!! Horrible to look at them! dead animals! Yes. It is hard to look at them. But on the other hand maybe this is something we should have more often. We, people living in cities and buying in supermarkets and trying to forget that eating meat means killing animals first. And unfortunately very often the whole life of those animals was a disaster - industrial farming. But we don't want to see it don't want to know it. We just want our pork or beef or better veal and lamb. No old animals meat, we like soft meat of young ones. Yes, those piglets and tiny calfs. On the other hand most of us is strongly against hunting. How can anyone shoot a deer? - we ask, we meat-eaters. It is so so strange. I'm sure it isn't like that for country people. They do live surrounded by farm animals, they do know what they need to do with the piggy to get a piece of ham or what to do with chickens to get hot-wings. Maybe this is what our kids should have in their school program. And we should get reminded time to time of this. Maybe this would lead us to cut our meat consumption? Maybe once a week a piece of fish, once in two weeks a chicken, once in a month pork and once in three months some beef? This is more or less my meat schedule. I don't mind eating shrimps and fish, I do not consider those animals big brainers so I'm OK with killing them for food. But I do care of a decent life of all farm mammals and also chickens. I do my best to buy organic. It is not so easy and I admit - I do buy regular supermarket meat sometimes. Always feeling guilty! Because I always see the animal behind this nice piece of meat. Fortunately recently I discovered in my local supermarket organic meat. In Helsinki there are few places where you can buy or order organic meat and also meat from local small farmers (I believe they do take care of their animals). There is one shop in Hakaniemi market hall - check the link - very good meat and not pricey at all, or check the link - there you can order organic and local food. I never tried to do this yet, but I will. And going back to Poland and poor piglets. I guess people have already forgot the famous Polish specialty served for big occasions like big weddings or big company events or that sort of parties. Baked in a whole piece - what? - a piglet! with an apple in its mouth. Yes, this same piglet which made such sorry feelings in those pork-eaters hearts.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tricky language

This time I will talk about my mother tongue - Polish. Last morning, very early morning, my little son woke me up too early and while he was playing next to my bed, me - still half conscious at 6.30 - was wandering with my thoughts about some words in Polish and how actually I am suppose to use them. Well, those words were nothing rare, actually most common verbs we use several times a day. Namely words like "to dress" "to put on". Now, it is not possible for me to explain in English the Polish variations and why one form is correct and another isn't (I am not a linguist and my English is too weak for that). But I have to admit - and shame on me - that I used also incorrect forms! Me, a journalist!!! And I really take care of my language, I grew up in a home where good Polish was practiced and grammar errors were corrected and till now it is painful for me to listen to all those errors people make while speaking Polish (and I mean the Poles not foreigners, for the latter I have my greatest respect if they were so brave to learn this difficult language). Anyway, for my Polish readers I will write those tricky words. So, we should say "wkładam sukienkę" (I put on dress) "wkładam buty i kapelusz" (I put on shoes and a hat) and not "ubieram sukienkę, buty, kapelusz" or "zakładam buty" - they are incorrect and I really have no clue how to translate those incorrect examples, sorry! You could say though "ubieram się w sukienkę" or you can say "zakładam krawat" - because a tie is something you put over your clothes and not on you, if it makes any sense at all.... Why am I writing about all that at all? Because since I have children and my older one started to talk - that is for the last three years - I noticed that Polish is a crazy tricky language and it is almost impossible to not make grammar errors. It is full of exceptions and sometimes to such an extend that you have an impression that actually there are no rules any more. There is no logic (or a very hidden logic) in conjugation and in inflection of many words. And I started to notice it when my daughter started to talk. She was making all sorts of grammar errors just because she followed logic! When conjugating a verb she made it using a logical pattern adding a proper (or she thought it was proper) suffix to an infinitive and almost always it wasn't correct or it was correct for one verb but not for another even if an infinitive form sounded like a verb of the same kind. What's more it was extremely hard to explain her why is should be said in a different form, because I couldn't find a good and simple answer.  So, if any of you are struggling with Suomi 101, consider taking Polski 101 and relax :) Recently there was circulating on Facebook a picture with a pyramid showing what languages are hard and what are easy. Guess what - my lovely mother tongue was the winner! Second place was reserved for Finnish. Of course it wasn't an unbiased research. The pyramid was made by an English native so for him obviously all languages with conjugation and inflection (that is all Slavic languages) might be quite hard, plus the long words, plus our "ś" "ć" "ź", "dż", "dź" etc. sounds are usually unspeakable for foreigners and my best and simplest example is "cześć" that is "hi", "hola", "moi"! OK, done. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Nobel and my brain

It's October, it's Nobel Prize month. This is the week when I was always excited and I used to open my laptop early in the morning (in Sweden it was already afternoon) with a huge dose of curiosity and excitement and I was getting ready to act fast. That were those years in the States, before my sweet little Wanda was born. I remember so good reading fast who and for what discovery was awarded and where the guy comes from. If he was somewhere in the States I knew that the job is mine. The job of interviewing him as soon as possible. And it happened twice that I really managed to do this. Oh, I remember my excitement and that I was doing sort of historic thing, that I am talking with a guy who really has changed a world - in medicine or chemistry or other sciences. And those scientists are amazing, always quite shy, busy with their work, not willing to be on a first page, very polite, eager to explain in a simple language their crazy hard science. And now. This year I was so busy with my mundane stuff and with my kids that I even missed the days and have read the news day or two late. I tried to read what they were awarded for and reading the professional information (not from a daily newspaper) made me feel "I don't understand a word". It is sad how fast the brain deteriorates when not used. I wonder if it ever recovers if I will be back on track one day. And it is not a twenty something brain unfortunately... (to make things more positive there is an excellent book about a grown-up brain by Barbara Strauch :)) well, anyway, this year's Nobel prizes in science are wonderful and I am happy for the laureates. 

Am I a hipster or simply an old lady?

Why this title? Because I am going to knit. Yesterday I bought some wool (nice and soft merino) and knitting needles! Gosh! Sounds terrible? My husband looked at me with big eyes. And he asked: Have you gotten that old already? No, I replied, I am a hipster, don't you see? Didn't you know that they are happy to do out of fashion stuff? Why not knitting? I took the tools and to my surprise I didn't forget how to do that! I used to knit when I was a child and I did all the clothes for my dolls and even a sweater for myself. It wasn't very well done but I loved to wear it. And so somehow I missed knitting. I don't know if I am going to get ready with anything like a scarf or a hat before the winter ends but at least I will have busy hands on those long winter nights :) Well, to be honest I don't know if I will be able to have free hands and to get busy with knitting, but why not giving myself a chance. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I love fall!

Even those grey wet foggy days are beautiful with those yellow orange and red leaves falling down, covering streets and side walks like thick carpets. I like the fog soaring at the sea surface and hiding all the ships from your view. I like to set up candle lights around the house. It makes the fall/winter cosy atmosphere. Today I went to IKEA to buy some furniture for Wanda's room and it's funny - there you have X-mass decorations already. Bit too early for me. We still are in a harvest mood with pumpkins and all kinds of squashes and wild berries around. I love to go to Hakaniemi farmers market and buy there fresh goodies. I love their organic shop inside, where they do have all sorts of fine squashes and best cucumbers ever :) Today I should cook something with my butternut squash still sitting in my refrigerator... Warming-up soup maybe? 

Friday, October 4, 2013

after two years in Helsinki

It's been already over two years since we moved to Helsinki. Time flies I'd say. It doesn't feel like that. It feels like we moved just recently... Only if I look back and memorize the first months here with little Wanda... Yes, her age and how much she has changed makes me think we are quite a long here. And well, for her it is half her life! For her Helsinki is her home town I guess. And so will be for Tomek. Not just a stop on a life path, no, this is their home. And for me? Recently I've got some mixed thoughts about my life here. Our apartment - shall we look for something better? Renting or buying? Making long term plans for our future or live from day to day? Settle down here and planing more years or rather thinking about what's next, what's after Helsinki? Looking for a job and if yes, what kind of job? To make money or to be satisfied? You know, those thoughts without a real answer because there is no immediate answer to most of those questions and I really do not need an answer. It is more for my mind to wander and meander and weigh the pros and cons. But just about today I came to a simple idea. Our daughter's day care is located in Kamppi/Rouholahti. There is so nice there and I am there every morning. So, as simply as it is I can always spend there some more time. Going to a nice park and playground, strolling at the sea side (what I love doing! water! sea galls! ships!) and going back home a bit later. And I started to use my car again, so sometimes instead of going by metro we pack ourselves to the car and I drive and the good thing about it is that we pass on our way my favorite neighborhood - Kruununhaka - the very first place we lived in Helsinki. So I guess it is my own attitude whether I feel fulfilled with my life here or not. And as always - there are those small things, someone would say unimportant, even silly or childish, but no - those little things make your whole life. But anyway after the two years I still don't know any Finnish besides of some single words, Wanda can speak good English but not Finnish either. I have some friends but I feel like I need to meet and see more people - this is a job to do and not a difficult one. And well, I should really enjoy every day with my little boy who is one. Time flies. We should grab the moments - again the cliche! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013


If you ever thought about spending summer in Finland go to Lapland. And go there in September. In this time there is an Indian Summer there or what they used to call it here: Ruska. We went there on a second week of September and we had a gorgeous weather and colors. We went to Saariselka region which is right at the entrance to the Urho Kekkonen National Park. The park is huge, something like 150 km across. How to get there? Best by plane, you can take one up to Ivalo and you are right there (plus a short bus trip). We took one to Rovaniemi because of course having kids obligates you to visit Santa. But I liked it too. I mean, there was no season for Santa of course, so his village was sort of empty and asleep with some lost Japanese tourists wandering around. But Santa Claus is there all year round and is happy to see the kids. My kids were amazed by him. Wanda was brave enough to speak to him in English, Tomek was brave enough to crawl by himself up to Santa's huge boots. I guess in the kids eyes there is some magic out there, the house, the interior, all like in an old fairy tale, like from the good old times. But there was one funny thing - they have actually more then one Santa Claus! And we discovered it on the second day. When we arrived in the afternoon, right after having late lunch we went to see Santa in his home. This is what they told us - that there was his home or office, whatever. But the next morning before we left we went for a walk around the whole village and we visited him in his second home - a big house. I was sort of surprised that when Santa saw us for the second time, he didn't say anything about the fact. And with not so many people visiting the place he should have remember us! So I was suspicious :) And when we were walking back to our cottage I saw the welcoming sign saying "visit Santa in his office". Ahah! So, that's the trick. One guy is in the house, the other in the office. But I don't think it's fair for the kids. Anyway, we left his village and we headed up North! North from the Arctic Circle! Lapland is perfect for long walking, hiking, biking, runing. I loved the colors. Red, orange, yellow and blue - the sky. And the reindeers! They really walk along the way, so you must be careful while driving. But maybe instead for writing I will attach some pictures.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Past summer in the city - Suomenlinna, Linnanmaki and stuff

OK, almost two months without putting a single word to my blog is a shame. I really even had a thought to stop posting at all. But it was a stupid idea. I should keep writing, for me, for the readers, for my English (buhhaaah! it's on a slippery slope since I've left the States!). So, let's look back to the summer. That is to August. It was a nice month. It was really super warm and sunny in Helsinki, we really had perfect summer weather and we had guests. My two nieces and my sister came to visit us. Wanda and Tomek were amazed and I hope everyone was happy. I decided to be a good auntie and I planned busy and active week in the city. There were too many of us to use my car, so everything we did was planned in a way we could have reach the place easily by public transport what is of course easy in Helsinki. And so one day we went to the Olympic Stadium swimming pool. I wrote about that place before. It is one of my faves place to spend a warm summer day. I love the old school architecture reminding me of the past era and the forested area. It's perfect to spend even a whole day, cause there is also a play ground for the kids or even two of them - one for little ones and one for big kids. You can use sauna, lay in the sun, have ice-cream. The only weird thing is that you are not allowed to take pictures. And I don't know what's the reason - that accidentally you can take a pic of another person or that you are not suppose to document the premises itself. Of course I didn't know it and so I started to take pics of my kids (I've managed to take some)and the staff person reminded me not to use my camera. Oh, actually they reminded us of other things too - like when my daughter took her swimsuit off and wanted to run to the water naked (it is not allowed) and when my niece wanted to snorkeling (and this is also not allowed for some reasons). I felt weird, cause there were only our family constantly being reminded of things, burt anyway, I didn't mind. I respect their rules. Another day we went for a whole day trip to Suomenlinna. It is a must for any visitor in Helsinki and of course I've been there several times but this time it was a very different visit. I found out that you can go there to tunnels in a fortress and the tunnels are scattered around the whole island area. And so the day before our trip I bought two torches, we packed lots of food for a picnic, took a blanket, good shoes and we went to downtown market. Ferries go from the Kauppatori and it takes about 15 minutes to get to the island. The first thing we did there was a visit on a play ground! Yes, what a surprise :) next thing was a picnic on a lawn, because all of us got extremely hungry and we packed all the delicious stuff. And when we were finishing our food we notices the sign telling "The toy museum". All right. I've never been there and so it looked like we were in a perfect company to explore it. It is hidden from the view and easy to omit if you follow the main track and not stopping at the playground. You have to turn towards the shore and than the path follows you through some old maintenance buildings, but after that you see a beautiful cosy house with a cute cafe, flowers, colors and you are right there. The toy museum is small, there is an entrance fee for kids too, but it is packed with old toys especially for girls. You can find there all kinds of old doll houses with all sort of tiny equipment - furniture, kitchen utensils. All tiny and beautiful and you wonder how it was possible to make such tiny pieces of all that. One of my nieces was over amazed, she could have spend there a whole day looking at the houses. She's the fan on Sylvinian Family if you know what I mean :). And after we were ready with that the girls wanted finally to use their torches and see the tunnels. They are marked on a map and not hard to find. Some of them are not very spectacular - too light and not underground, but the best one is close to the Kings Gate at the end of the island's main path and that one was something! The kids were excited, it was dark, wet and long tunnel and you could have "discover" some different paths inside. On our way back home (we took the ferry from the King's Gate) and than the metro home, Wanda fell asleep and she slept up to the next morning. It was an exhausted and exciting day. Oh, and of course one day we spent in Linnanmaki and even I went to one of their roller-coster. But I am not a person who enjoys it... anyway kids had lots of fun. I was mostly amazed by the prizes: a single ride is 7 euros not depending on age , one good thing is that some small kids carusells are for free. What else have we done during that week? They explored the Natural History Museum which is fun for the kids, cause you can see the skeletons of dinosaurs and plenty of animals from all over the world. We've been there with Wanda twice already. It's good especially in a winter time. This time we didn't go to Heureka - again the car didn't fit so many people. But the girls were happy to play in our play park Myllynsippi, which is now brand new renovated and really nice. Oh, it's so good to memorize the summer!