Thursday, August 13, 2015

After summer in Poland, back on track in Finland

Hi! Another summer vacation is over. Fourth since we moved here. In two weeks we will be celebrating our fourth anniversary of coming to Helsinki. Now I have to make up my mind and write about some last events. First - our summer experience. Nothing special, but there were some very nice and pleasant days and also few not so good and worth rethinking before the next summer comes. Second - my job and with that third - our new daily schedule, next step for our little son - everyday day-care. Fourth - about the psychology of raising a happy and calm child and - especially - a happy and calm parent. Fifth - some nostalgic thoughts about the passing time and leaving friends, the instant flow of life, of everything around us. Sixth - I'll try to paste some pictures of the past summer. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

End of the year, begin of vacation

It's pouring from the morning. All day long. It's cold and I mean it - COLD. No more than 12C. And grey and rainy. It was also the last day of day care. For me also quite a busy day. I was working home on my article. Later I had to quickly go and pick up few groceries, because tomorrow and on Saturday shops are closed (Juhannus, the shortest night celebrations) and buy a gift for Wanda's friend for his birthday. I wanted to do this before I had one kid at my side. But the idea of groceries came not only to me this afternoon and so it was a crazy day for shoppers. Luckily I didn't need many things. Bought two bunches of roses and two little fancy chocolates and rushed to day cares. It was kind of a sad moment. And happy in the same time too. But somehow I had tears in my eyes and in my mind that whole year - for Tomek such an important year. I almost saw him going there for the first time, still half a baby, with a diaper and not talking at all. And now I came to pick up a boy, independent, potty-trained for long, talkative, singing and making silly jokes. And Wanda? Not that huge of a change during this year, but still. When I came to her day care I saw that teachers has already changed the badges in a cloakroom and now I saw my dauther's name with a shark picture next to it. Sharks - the oldest and last year group. Buuu... my child is growing so fast. It wasn't that long ago either when I brought her to the day care for the first time, my little girl. For me as a person what does it mean one year or even four years - as this is the time which past.  For her is everything she remembers, all her experiences. I just started to write again. I had a break for almost four years, but actually I feel the same and I don't feel that much difference. Oh, anyway, such a mood I have today, it's because of the weather for sure and all the above circumstances.
But, hey, summer vacation just started!
And I promised to update the midnight view from my window. Here it is, from June 16.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Some spring updates and remarks about Nature

The most obvious sign of spring/summer time is now the length of the day. With our living room and bed rooms windows to the north west we are exposed to all those beautiful and every night later sun sets. It is hard to feel the bed time when you see the sun high up the sky. We have installed in kids room those darkening curtains. We don't have such in our bedroom and so we go to sleep with a full light, but to be honest - I am so exhausted that it doesn't matter. This is a picture taken on the last night of May around midnight. Still three weeks before the shortest night. I will try to make another photo closer to mid-summer night, but usually I am in bed around 11pm. Tonight though my on woke up around 2am, I went to ccheck for him and it was already deep yellow light on the east side or better to say north-east side of the sky and again - light. It still amazes me and makes me remember how far to the north we live. 

But there are also some down-sides of this fact. For example I still wear gloves while riding a bike and the temperatures are still way below 20C even on sunny and warm days. I long for summer heat! I long for wearing a summer dress and not to wear a jumper anymore. This year is really cold even for Finland.
In a meantime I took one short but intensive Finnish course. It was nine days, every day, half a day. The purpose was to activate my language skills and in actually worked quite well. What I didn't like was the teacher, who was sort of absent. I expected her to listen what we are discussing in our small groups and correct us, suggest some better words or sentences. She was only giving us a basic commands what shall we do. So we were talking how each of us was able to making probably many grammatical mistakes. But I think it was still quite a good brain exercise because somehow I pushed myself to speak, to use those few learned words and structures and not to be so timid of using this strange language.
During the last few weeks I was searching for job, writing some applications, searching for some good contacts and maybe, maybe there will be something interesting to do. I hope so. So it might be that soon I will be again a very busy person. I'm already excited.
On the weekends we are exploring our Espoo. Last time we took kids and biked to the Espoonpuisto - The Espoo Central Park, which opens just behind Suurpelto and is actually a wild forest, beautiful at this time of the year. We made a picnic on a shore of a tiny lake in the woods. Sunny, lazy Sunday. Kids were so happy to walk together holding hands hiding behind trees, exploring nature.

We spend too much time indoors which makes them to feel bored, to ask constantly for iPad, to fight about every little thing.

When we take them somewhere to the nature, they suddenly transform into best buddies, happy and relaxed. Recently I was reading about all the research made on the positive effects of spending time in the forest. It came to me when I was looking through my window and watch the construction site. Right behind it there is a beautiful view of a iddillic country side - an old farm house, a stable, fields and forest. And now day after day it disappears from my eyes because they build there a new apartment building. Sad.

I have this longing for living closer to nature. I chose for summer vacation an old country house located in a forested land in southern Poland - Roztocze - you can check here - Guciow

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Discovering Espoo Car Museum

Since we moved to Espoo, we want to explore little by little what this place has to offer and what is here interesting for kids. After a short search in google last weekend we've found there is a Espoon auto museo - Car Museum. It is located in a north part of Espoo, somewhere in a country side. You drive through a narrow country road along fields and meadows, summer cabins and woods and finally you reach an old  grey stone stable and you GPS tells you you've reached the place. Outside two men were repairing an old-fashion motorcycle. Inside at the "ticket point" sit an old fat lady selling tickets, 6 euros per adult and three per child. Our 2,5 years old also had to pay. Oh, and they take only cash. But stepping inside you would be very much surprised by what a collection you're going to see. From their website you can read there is about hundred cars, as many motorbikes and bikes and many other everyday life items. And that is truth. The impression is one of a kind. You walk into that old stable, open the door and you are welcomed by two long and tightly packed rows of very old automobiles. Oldest are about one hundred years old, there are also many from the 20. and 30. XX century, those resembling Great Gatsby car. Then comes many from the 50. and 60. and so on.

this is the second floor, on the first were oldest cars

You could see old fire-trucks, kids toy-cars, the whole collection of cars from my early childhood - funny, some of them like an old Wartburg I remember from the streets in Poland in early 80.

their favorites!

You could also see those micro-cars, tiny and cute and actually very modern in design and would be very practical in today's crowded cities.

This museum is one of a kind, because it feels like it was made by automobile's enthusiasts, hobbyists. It is a huge collection, maybe even crowded - for today's modern museums standards, but it has it's atmosphere. And it is an excellent place for kids, because they can really explore it, search every nook and cranny, come very close to every car - the only thing bad - they are not allowed to touch them, but if they touch... well, nothing happens.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Who's an Espoonian?

One of my readers asked this question. Well, I will try to answer it according to my knowledge and what local people say and - what are kind of stereotypes. Basically like with everything - it depends. It depends on where in the metropolitan area you are coming from. For example if you happen to be a downtown hipster living in Punavuori, Hakaniemi, Töölö, or from one of the most posh places like Eira or Kruununhaka, most probably you even don't bother to think about those Espoonians and maybe you look at them with a slightly ironic smile. Those suburbians, depending on their cars, mowing their backyards, or maybe more often snow-shoveling the community road taking turns with their neighbors. Families with kids, doing weekly groceries in shopping malls, hardly ever visiting museums or theaters. And definitely not sipping their espresso in a corner cafe. But Espoonians themselves think about their place and lifestyle much more positive. They are better of, they own nice houses in green and quiet areas, they enjoy this outdoor lifestyle and they claim, they wouldn't change for a city dwelling. Maybe. Oh, and of course they think they are much better than Eastern Helsinki residents. According to the locals that part of the city is the least wanted. Those old working class neighborhoods like Kontula, our old Myllypuro or Itakeskus, now full of immigrants, which doesn't add the good reputation. But of course all of the above are just silly stereotypes and I am trying to be far from judging. It is good in a sense to be an outsider, an expat who doesn't care so much about what the locals think. But of course what matters is how the life really looks like in the above places. And of course we were quite sick of meeting all those drunkards occupying the metro station in Myllypuro. Espoo is fine, because having small kids it is good to be able to spend time outdoors in nature. And of course as with everything, money is the key. If you cannot afford an apartment in one of the downtown areas, you choose Espoo. And that is that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Suurpelto-Kamppi by bus

Today in the morning I decided to try the bus connection to downtown Helsinki. There is a direct bus and our bus stop is located about 200 meters from our house. Perfect. I took the kids and - off we go! They were so excited! Before we hardly used buses having metro or trams going to day cares or downtown. So the whole trip went very smoothly, although it takes half an hour. But actually in the morning rush hours, when all the cars are stuck in a traffic, all the buses go fast on their own lane. The bus wasn't crowded, we were sitting comfortably. Nothing to complain about. So in case of time it is the same. And what fun for the kids ;) And saving money for me, if we are taking a stroller with us. My old and worn out stroller doesn't have working brakes, but in the buses there is a quite clever solution to keep the carriages in place. There are little hooks assembled to poles, so you can hook your stroller.

Today while freezing outside (it's about 8C and icy cold strong wind, more like November weather, not May) I noticed all those ads on bus stops. The ads mostly from H&M and other clothes brands. What do they show? Half naked, nicely tanned girls in bikinis or lovely summer dresses running happily on a beach. Brrr.... Even from looking at them I was getting cold, covering myself with a warm scarf and wearing winter gloves and a hat. The globalization in fashion brands is sometimes almost ridiculous. The spring/summer collection comes to Finnish shops in March, when all the country is either covered in snow or if not snow, then still below zero temperatures. You rather are looking for another pair of winter shoes or a new overall for your growing kid, but instead you can buy brand new ballerinas in all the colors of the rainbow or a cute summer dress. Crazy. But anyway, hot tee will warm me up.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Becoming an Espoonian

Yes. Now it is official. We've become Espoonians. For more than a week we are living in our new apartment. And in many ways it is actually better than I thought. The apartment itself is nicer. It is actually quite spacious, now I think better planned than the previous one. The best thing is the big kids room, fitting both beds and all the toys. I like the east side kitchen window - good to have the morning sun while you get up to make your coffee. I like also the north-west living-room and bed-rooms windows - although before we moved here I thought about it as a disadvantage. But now it's actually quite nice to look at the sun set. As for now we also have a nice view, because all the quarters around our building are still empty. There are some meadows and some ground water with ducks and birds happily living there. In a few years we will be surrounded by other apartment blocks, but hopefully not so soon. On Saturday we made a bike trip around the area and it looks very much like a country side. Fields, small paths, meadows, forest. And of course the top thing is that Angry Birds playpark right behind our building. My kids are becoming little monkeys while going there, running and jumping and sliding all the equipments. What is I don't like? Using the car too much. It is now every day commuting and it means being in a traffic jam. Of course it's not an enormous traffic jam. It means usually driving for about 30 minutes instead of 17, but still. I have to try the bus connection and use it time to time, especially on those days I am with my son (who is still using a stroller, so I have a free ride with him). So it looks like we've made everything for our kids. Our daughter's school is no more than 500 meters from our house and we can see it from the living-room windows. The already mentioned Angry Birds park. For our son of course all the construction sites around. The first thing he does after he wakes up is checking what is going on there. "The crane is moving!" - he exclaims. "A new truck is going there! Mommy look!" - with so much of excitement. The nature and fresh air. But, when the kids are happy, so are the parents, right? I hope so :-). 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Only few days left. Only few more times I will travel by metro to Myllypuro. Only few nights in this apartment. We are packing. We are moving. Not far though. Only to Espoo. But still feels like a big thing. It's been a long time in here and so I got used to this place. It has some pros and some cons and because of those cons we are moving. But I don't know Espoo at all. To me it was always just a huge suburban neighborhood. Houses  surrounded by forests and highways. Our new place is exactly such. Brand new so we can expect being also surrounded by construction site. But the apartment is nice and comfortable and right behind the house is located big Angry Birds playground.
When you move apartments you have to do certain paper works, like inform about changing the address. Here it is just a piece of cake. You can do it online, service is in English of course, you login via your bank account and you change your data. The new address goes to the post office and to the registration office and for one month without any additional costs all your mail will be forwarded to a new address and all the recipients will get the information about your new place. While registering you can add all the family members. Fast and easy. Actually this online system works for many official matters. You can submit your online application while applying for a place in a municipal day care, or while registering and paying for Finnish courses provided by one of the public adult education institutions or even to make a dental appointment although this last one I haven't check yet.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Spring vacation - that was needed!

I just noticed it's almost end of April. Yesterday in a supermarket I saw Vappu goodies on shelves, that is those special buns and bubble low-alcoholic drinks - sima. I looked at them and saw the word Vappu. My first thought was - isn't it too early to sell them already? And second was - oho, it's going to be next weekend. Yes, so April. That was Easter. Very nice this year with friends and a visit to a farm. There are two city farms in Helsinki area, both open to the public and maintained by the city. It's a very cool idea because kids love it and for city kids it's often the only possibility to see how a real cow or sheep or pig looks like. So we went there and we weren't the only family who had this idea. It was crowded although weather was pretty awful - cold and windy and cloudy. Most of animals were still kept inside, but there were many offspring, ducklings, piglets, lambs, so cute. 

The week after we made a short spring vacation and this was an even better idea, since we spent few days in Paris with summer in full. After those few years in Finland I know that April is the best month for traveling across Europe. While here is still cold, can be even snow (like two years ago), there is no leaves or even nor even tulips are blooming and you have to wait for the vegetation until mid May, in almost all other parts of the continent (at least the southern part) spring is in its full. Yes, Paris, it is beautiful and amazing, but so huge and so noisy! Or maybe I am now used to a different scale of a city. But about this calm and quiet atmosphere I have written already only couple of days after our first arrival. I was amazed by this quietness. Now I am so used to it and actually I appreciate it a lot. In Paris we tried to take it easy, no museums and no main tourist attractions, more like just walking and enjoying ourselves and discovering new places, wandering along Seine, sipping coffee, talking, but still every night I was super tired. After four days of this relaxing trip I felt my muscles. While traveling by metro in Paris and climbing all those old stairs I looked for elevators and couldn't find any. As a mother my first thought was: how can you take a stroller? Well, I didn't see many of them there and if yes, people had to carry them all the way up or down. My husband is always laughing when I compare the living standard in other countries to that in Finland. Yes, another one with the Paris metro. Although on the other hand whenever there was a pregnant woman getting in people immediately made a place for her to sit. It's not obvious in Helsinki though. 
Anyway, this is me in French capital: 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My kids

My kids.

Wanda. So big already. So clever, intelligent. Loves to learn. Can already read in Polish and in English, but the latter is quite tricky for her. She can write and she writes. Her homeworks in English and just for fun in Polish. She has written in my notebook, I love you the most mommy in Polish. Tears in my eyes. She wants to be nice, to be kind, to please me and my husband, but of course she fights with her little brother. Obvious. But she loves him so so much and to be true she forgives him quite a lot. I love to watch them play together, discuss stuff, make deals, agree or disagree, but eventually get to the point. She still continues her book of short stories. It goes like last year. She tells the story and I write it down, without my corrections, just how she likes to have it. After we are done, she makes a picture. Creative. I don't know if this is this age, this development stage, but she loves rules and fairness. Everything must be fair. "It's not fair!" Is her favorite exclamation recently. And also recently she agreed voluntarily to the rule she would only watch and play on iPad or watch movies on the weekends. And it is so good for all of us. Since that rule was established we read much more, she draw much more and plays and do different interesting things.
Tomek. Changing a lot every day. Now almost without a diaper. Big step to becoming a boy not a baby anymore, big step to independence. Oh yes, he loves being independent, do things by himself. He is talking a lot and he can really speak quite good already. Full sentences, describing what someone or something is doing, what he wish do do or have, what are we going to do etc. He loves to emulate his sister, but also he likes to bother her. He is such a smart boy, playing games with us, making funny jokes and pretending. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Back to the winter - taka talvi

When everyone thought the winter is gone, the end of March brings us some white surprise. They call it here "taka talvi". That means after some pre-spring days, warm and sunny snow-less weather, suddenly in March or even April comes snow again. And so this is what we experience right now. It is snowing from early morning today. Unfortunately it is slightly above zero, so the snow looks very wet and there is already this yucky snowy goo on the streets. But kids are happy. Me too. It's nice, for a change...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Prespring remarks about myself

This last month past fast and I don't know how it's possible, but in a few days we will have April. I was sick, kids were sick, many days at home, mix of nice, sunny spring weather and awful grey, cold and wet condition, but somehow day after day, with no special events, went by. I was quite busy because of planing my future work. I went to pass a Finnish language test to determine what level am I. Not high, it is A1.3 exactly what I should be after those two semesters of my course, but at least not lower. It means I have learned what I was suppose to. Not bad. I started to search the Internet to look for job for myself. Not sure what I would like to do though. Big corporations? Some ngo's or some smaller companies? Maybe. I don't have a very precise idea, what kind of job I could do here. Still lots of mind work for myself. And actually because of that I am again, after years of denying it to myself, more and more eager to go back to writing, to journalism. Whenever I think about me working, I see myself it that role. I always liked my profession, I used to be good in it, so why changing my career path? And actually being quite independent, not having the strict office hours is good for me in our current family situation. Well, I don't know, I will try to apply to some selected places in Helsinki, where I feel I could fit and maybe will try again with Polish media. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Emigrant or expat?

The main Polish weekly women's magazine "Wysokie Obcasy" started a readers' contest about how is it to be an emigrant, to live abroad or to come back to Poland after living somewhere for a long time. Experiences, feelings, insights. Funny, but I never thought about myself as of an emigrant. I'm just not living in Poland, but... well, an emigrant? I don't think in our modern world, global village, open societies, internet, skype, low cost airlines etc. we can still talking about being emigrants. It still can be true for people coming from non-democratic countries, for those who actually have only a one way ticket, for those who had to leave their home place. But for us in Europe, if we choose to move to another european country or even to the US or Canada or even maybe down under, but still staying within the comfort zone of living in our western democratic and open culture, we are just switching countries. Are we really emigrants? Maybe some of us could think about ourselves this way, maybe it is the very personal feeling. I think I don't. But I could say I am an expat. Yes, this is much more accurate word for my status. And there is a difference in a definition of being an emigrant and an expat. The latter is one who lives outside his own country. The first one leaves his own country in order to settle down somewhere else.
When I count all the years of living outside of Poland, there is quite many. First in 1999 one year in Germany as an au-pair. Later in 2002 six months of a crazy trip to the US. Then only three months in Ireland. Right after that from 2005 six years in the US. And from there we came to Finland and this will be soon four years.
Anyway, I've read some of the stories written by those expat girls or emigrant girls living in different parts of the world and they were really thoughtful. About different lifestyle, culture, about homesick or the contrary of it, about love to the new place, about what's bad and what's good, about how their own point of view has changed by living abroad - how they see Poland, how they see themselves.

Very inspiring series. It makes me think about my own path. How do I feel living abroad? How have I changed? How's my own view about my home country? Where do I belong? Where do belong my children, both born abroad and each one in a different country? 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cherish the moment

Today is Wednesday and it means a family club day. This is my and my son's weekly ritual. After two days in a day care there comes Wednesday and my son knows and reminds me that this is our club day. So, after we say bye to Wanda in her day care, we walk few blocks away to a family club Betania, located in Punavuori and pictured above, in the yellow building with round windows. It's a very nice, cosy and really family and kids oriented place. Inside there is one room for playing, usually there are some activities like arts and crafts available for kids, so you can paint, draw, cut, glue etc. My son usually is not interested in putting his hands in it and he prefers to play with cars and trucks and airplanes. So we sit on a floor and play. There is a kitchen and they bake their own pullas there, so sometimes it smells of cinnamon and fresh baked rolls. That is our other ritual - to go and buy the goodies and eat together. If the weather allows we stay outside in a park, like today, enjoying first spring sun. And after such a long morning we are going to the metro and back home. I like it too, I like our routine, the precious time spent together. I do cherish those moments, because I know already they won't last forever.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring is in the air

This morning they started to remove all that gravels out off sidewalks and all the pedestrians ways in our neighborhood. The first signs of spring. It means we do not expect any snow fall before the next winter. And so the thick layer of hard gravel can be remove and keep for the next winter season. I don't know if this year's winter was so short or just the time is going so fast, but somehow I feel like it just started and now is the end. OK, there was almost no snow this year, similar to last one, very bad, grey, wet winter. I have an impression there were too little time for ice-skating and now they are closing all the rinks. We hardly used our sledge with the kids. The bad thing about Helsinki winter is that actually quite often the season looks like the passing one. And another bad news is that still the spring comes in May. So, now we can expect about two months of again grey and wet weather. OK, any optimistic news? Well, my experience of Finnish seasons is only four years and as long as I remember the green leaves comes in May and actually its second half... but maybe this year will be different? But today after a week of cloudy sky the sun appeared and you could really and truly feel the spring in the air. Positive. And days are suddenly so long again! I wake up at 7 and it is light and it is light up to almost 7 in the evening. Energizing. And birds are singing all day long. Love it.
What else has March brought us? My birthday, again. Less and less to celebrate and I was sick, very sick with high fever, terrible headache and stuffed nose for a week, so even less to celebrate.
I guess our final decision about us moving to Espoo.
My final internal decision about going back to work. What kind of? That's still among many questions including taking some courses or studies (for updating my brain resources) or internships (to check if I am able to become a part of a team again) or going back to writing (and prove I can still do this) - but again question for whom, what kind of writing etc. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Time flies and my kids are growing...

When we moved to Helsinki Wanda was same age as Tomek is now, or even couple months younger. She was two. Now he is two and four months. Sometimes when I go to some places where I used to go few years ago with two-years-old Wanda I have this strange feeling. Because I am the same, the kid is same age again, but it is not the same kid. Recently I had to go to a store in Espoo, I was looking for a bed for our son and he was with me. While driving there I thought - wait, I did this before, this driving to that particular store with a toddler on a back seat. Or when I am playing in those playparks downtown or in our neighborhood I have this strange feeling again and again. Same me, same places, same age kid, but not the same one. Time flies. Year after year. It is hard to believe that we have been in Helsinki for three and a half years already. When we came here with a five years initial contract we thought it will be long. Now we are pretty sure we will stay here another few years, maybe another five, maybe more and now this time perspective doesn't seem to be too long. Just that. Life goes on. Friends are moving back to their home countries or somewhere abroad. Yes, just recently we had to say good bye to our super good friends from Mexico. She was the first person I got to know in Helsinki and we became friends immediately and our daughters as well. All those play dates, all those chats, all those girls-nights-outs and now, bye, and maybe see you in few years somewhere. Sad.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My little boy. Oh boy!

Being totally dedicated to all sorts of machines and noises. To everything possessing a mechanism and being able to move, to spin, to ride and to make a noise. First it was his sister's doll pram. He was barely a sitting seven-months-old baby when he discovered that when you turn down the pram, you can freely make the wheels spinning. Amazing! Fun! Then there came duplo and some wagons, which can be attached to one another. A train! A car! Cars! Then there came the never ending exploration of the outside world with all its bulldozers, snow plow trucks, dump trucks, diggers, lawn mowers! Yes, that is. A lawn mower is a love from a first sight. Don't you think it is an extraordinary machine? It must be. He is absolutely fascinated by them. What he usually constructs from duplo? A lawn mower. And believe me, he is really an inventor. His own lawn mowers not only can cut the lawn, but in a very clever way he figured out, that such a tool should also water the lawn. So, when you take a look on his inventions, you can see on one end the cutting tool and on the other end the watering tool. He is very eager to explain it to you and present how it works. Oh yes, those lawn mowers have one disadvantage: they are loud. Quite a loud. The sweet noise of those machines comes form my beloved son's throat and for the first few minutes is cute, for the next few funny and for the next whatever just unbearable. The lawn mower can be anything. A stick, a box, an empty garbage bin (why not?), even a stroller or a push-wagon. The other fascination are a hammer and a saw. Before he got his own tool box, he used to built his tools from blocks or playing with those tiny lego tools (a drill for example) or pretending something is a hammer or trying to "steal" a real piece from his dad's tool box. Scary! So, the Santa decided for the goods sake our son is going to find one tool box under a Christmas tree. Some nights all the tools are going to sleep with theirs owner. Resting quietly next to his pillow. Other nights our little boy chooses to take to bed all the construction machines: a truck, a digger, a bulldozer and a crane. We need to read about fire trucks, which he calls in Finnish - palo auto. And for Christmas when I was doing with him some arts and crafts (usually he is far from such activities) and asked him what he'd like to draw on a Christmas card for grannie, he replied immediately: a digger!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Long and sunny days

It is way too early to assume spring is in the air, but for sure the darkness is over. Just yesterday I suddenly noticed that still at 6 in the evening is quite light. The sun is shining for the last few days and the blue sky makes you feel happy and energized. With this new energy come some thoughts about our current work/living/school situation and some thoughts about future changes. Time flies and in one year we will have to decide what school our daughter shall start. She is now an English speaker, so the most natural way is to continue the English path. But there are not many schools or to put it differently there are two in Helsinki (Ressu and Maunula) and one in Espoo (they move to Suurpelto in August). And I am talking about public schools with no fee and for kids who don't speak Finnish. There are few more bilingual schools but unfortunately the kid has to pass a Finnish language exam to get a place. Actually I don't get that policy at all, because on the other hand our non-Finnish-speaking girl could go to a regular public all-Finnish school in the area of residence and she would get a supporting teacher and would take additional Finnish classes. All to catch up with other pupils. But for some reason she is excluded from those bilingual classes, although she could at least communicate very well in one of the teaching languages. But anyway, if you don't want to get bankrupt you won't apply to International School of Helsinki, the private institution following the IB curriculum. And besides, if you are lucky enough to live in a country best known (after the Nokia collapse) from its school system you don't pay for private education. So right now we have started with my husband a discussion about our moving according to the kids school. It would be great not to commute every day half an hour on a metro, bus or tram back and forth like we do for four years now. Having a school within a walking distance sounds like a dream. We have already checked Suurpelto and well, have mixed feelings. It looks a bit like it sounds and the meaning of the name is Big Field. Yes, a big field indeed, but also growing quite fast and most probably when they open the school in August there will be some more life coming. Ressu and downtown living would be cool, but unfortunately not with our current budget. And Maunula? Well, I don't have a good opinion about that city part, sounds for me even stranger then Espoo. But well, soon we will figure out something. I hope it will be a good decision. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mastering ice-skating

Now we are all into it. The whole family on skates. 
No. 1 is our daughter:

No. 2 and 3 my husband in connection with our son:

No. 4 me myself hidden behind the camera. No picture.

I am really proud of Wanda. She is mastering the skills, she enjoys the activity, she is eager to learn and she is really good at it. And me too. The first time after such a long break was tough, but I'm doing better each time. And if you have you own ice-skates the sport is really easy to make and cheap and doesn't require much effort. Ice-skates rinks as I said before are scattered around Helsinki. We have the one pictured above in our neighborhood. It is a so called natural rink, what basically means, if the temperatures go above zero it melts. But it is mainained by the city, so it is cleaned from snow, there is a building next by where you can change. If you would like to check, if there is one in your area look at this link: Natural Ice-Skates Rinks. There are also few artificial, which means they are somehow kept frozen even if the weather condition tells you the ice should melt. You can find them here: Artificial Skating Rinks. We used to go to Brahenkantta, but be careful and first check the web site for the opening hours. On the weekends they close the rink in the middle of the day. There is also a coin machine and you are suppose to pay 3 euros for the entrance. Once when I went there it was out of order and there was no one there to charge you. For the "posh" ice-skating visit The Icepark located on the Rautatientori, that is Central Railway Station square. Adults pay 6 and kids 4 euros, you can rent the skates for 6 euros too. And I think they lowered the prices comparing to last year. It is a nice place especially if you live downtown, are coming with friends, since there is a quite cosy cafe and music. But of course the rink is not very big, so if you are an ice-skate savvy you probably would like to have more space for pirouettes. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Snowy winter is back again!

What a lovely winter day! Piles of snow. White world. Finally! We spent half a day on our yard building an igloo. Hard work it was. I can feel my back and arms. Today is this perfect kind of snow, wet and sticky. It's about 1C above zero and no wind. Perfect condition for outdoor play. We came home all wet (but not inside, the good winter outdoor clothes stayed almost dry even after three hours of playing in wet snow) and exhausted, but with happy kids and ourselves too. This is what we have built. It still lacks the proper roof, but this is the hardest part, maybe later, or maybe there will come some other dedicated fathers with their hungry for snow-home kiddos and will cooperate with us. Hopefully the weather will stay like that and the temperatures will drop below zero.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Minä opiskelen suomea

Minä opiskelen suomea - I'm studying Finnish - and man, it's hard! I mean, I have fun. I like it. I know I should study more at home, really learn all I had in the class and whenever I sit at a table and open my book Suomen Mestari 1, I see how little I know, how hard it is to memorize all the words and all their grammatical forms and how even harder or almost impossible it is to start to use this language. Every time I go out to make groceries, to buy tickets, to ask a mom playing with her kids in a park about those kids, like age or names, so every time I wish I would speak Finnish and I am searching for words but only very few are coming to me and never enough to start a conversation. Little things, but so hard to do this. This is actually the first time in my life when I have an opportunity to study a language (I mean from scratch) in a country if its origin. This means I do have lots of opportunities to use whatever I've learned in the class. This is helpful and I can see it. For example the fact that I've been living in Finland for almost three and a half years helps a lot. I am very familiar with a sound of the language. Even before I started the course I already knew many words - words of food products, some simple verbs or basic adjectives. Of course I didn't know how to conjugate them, but at least a few I've known.
Is Finnish harder than other languages? No, I don't think so. It is just different. And because there is only those 5.5 million Finns who are speaking it, you probably have never ever heard it before. And of course in my case it is also that I am learning it as an adult. All the other languages I learned in my life, that is English, German or French I had during my school years. Was it easier that time? I don't remember, probably not so or I just didn't pay much attention to that. But kids take it easy and are just used to learn many new things, many different subjects, some easy and some difficult. Kids also take it for granted that they are not proficient in anything yet and that they don't understand many things. As an adult and being proficient in one foreign language, like English, you - wanting it or not - you compare your knowledge. For example you can of course speak, write and read books and newspapers in English, so you think - when will I able to do this with my Finnish? But at the same time you forget that you were learning English since primary school and Finnish you started four months ago.
But I can say now that Finnish is quite a logical language. The grammar is very different from all the roman or germanic or slavic languages, but if you are able to think outside the box it doesn't seem so hard. Just stop comparing everything to English or to your mother-tongue - whatever language it is. What is quite simple in Finnish is how you read. Basically you have to read every single letter in a word. There are some hard to pronounce sounds - but of course it is always very subjective and depends what's you mother-tongue. You decline all nouns and adjectives and of course conjugate verbs, but so it is in all slavic languages, it exists to some extend in German too. On the other hand in Finnish you don't have masculine or feminine or neutral forms! Not only for things and animals but also for people. There is only one form - equality in every sense :)
What else? I feel quite lucky because we have a cool teacher, charismatic, funny and energetic, so it is really fun to attend the classes. And the group is also good. Very international. Most are quite committed to it and really want to study. Some are moms like myself. Others just young people who happened to come to Finland. So far so good. Hyvää paivää!

Monday, January 19, 2015

In Finland you are born in ice-skates

Have you ever been to any ice-skate rink in Finland? Were you cautiously walking on the ice afraid of falling down, ashamed of being the only adult not able to move on smoothly forwards and backwards and being in panic because you just noticed you have no idea how to stop. And of course you are surrounded by all those kids from the age of 4 and wild youths who seem to be born with ice-skates. Yes, this is Finland. Literally everyone knows how to ice-skate. Kindergarten-aged kids go to ice-skate rinks during day care time, like my dauthter last week. Just instead of playing in a park. When the winter is cold enough you can find dozens of so called natural ice-skate rinks around the city. All football fields are covered with smooth ice, all lakes and puddles are turned into ice-skate rinks and of course you have also several artificial rinks, which can work even when temperatures go above zero. This year so far only the latter are available, cause the winter looks so so, too warm and too grey so far.
But anyway, going back to my skills. Unfortunately I am such a person as I mentioned above. No, no, it is not my first time ever wearing ice-skates. I used to do it a little when I was a kid (in Poland we do ice-skate), but first - I was a kid quite a while ago, second - I never took any instructions of how to properly skate, so I was always bad in this, third - standing on the ice again after... well, many years, is strange enough feeling to be afraid of moving. Falling down when you are close to 40 is not such a piece of cake as if you are five, like my daughter. But for this winter season my goal is to master my ice-skating skills. My and my daughter's of course. We are both very committed to this idea and passionate about it. Wish us good luck and good weather! 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Inspiring culinary trip to Copenhagen

Denmark's capital is now famous in a modern culinary world with Noma and some other Michelin' spotted places. But this is not why I visited the city and my culinary inspirations didn't come from their best chefs. My visit was, say, more local. A weekend with my best friend who happens to be also a cooking savvy. First - I have learned something about salt. Yes, NaCl as simply as it is. So far I used to buy whatever cheapest I could find in a grocery store, usually iodized, either sea or rock and didn't think much of it. I couldn't understand recipes asking for some sophisticated strangely sounded names of particular salt like Fleur de Sel or Kosher Salt or Himalayan Salt or others. I used to fully ignore them and used my cheap stuff. Why not? Salt is quite important in our life and in our cooking. First: Different salts do have different taste - at least to some. At least if you just add it for serving the food, not for cooking itself. Artisan salts can have better quality, better taste, different structure. But also be careful - they are usually not fortified by iodine. And as we all know iodine is essential in our diet. So, although my friend promotes salts with no additives I would still be buying those with iodine. Why? Making my own research about salts I have read a lot about iodine deficiency disorder and how easy it is to prevent it by simply consuming iodized salt. Even mild deficiency can cause learning problems and lower IQ (think about your growing kids!). So, even if you'd prefer to pass the fancy artisan salt, try also so smuggle the regular iodized one for the sake of your and your kids well-being. Second - I have learned to make bread. My friend is a regular baker and she shared one of her basic recipes with me. I have made my own sourdough which I keep tightly closed in a fridge and feed it once a week or whenever I bake a new loaf. I've bought several different kinds of flours: rye, whole wheat, oat meal, spelt. I keep different seeds like sunflower or pumpkin. And I bake. And it is so simple and the final effect is so delicious you almost wait for a new fresh loaf. Like this one:

Third - I sort of changed my mind or maybe a way of thinking about hunting and eating game instead of meat from factory farms. Have you ever thought about that? You buy that cheap pork or beef sold in supermarket but you can't stand a thought about shooting a deer, right? For most of us unfortunately the answer is yes. As if pork would be grown on a tree and not coming from a poor treated pig, who never experienced any freedom in her life and was slotted in quite a horrible way. So yes, if you really mind, you should a) become a vegetarian b) buy only organic meet or meet from small traditional farms, where animals can have a decent life c) hunt and eat game. At least this deer enjoined free life in his natural environment. Fourth - some simple but delicious recipes for side dishes and how to smuggle vegetables into your family members plates. For ideas visit this tallerken blog, my Copenhagen' friend used to write.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dress a child for Finnish winter - my response to a friend's blog

A friend of mine wrote recently a great and funny post on her blog about how-to-dress-a-child-for-finnish-winter - dress for outdoor play of course. Melanie came to Finland from New Zealand and this is her first winter. So far she is coping very well, brave woman! What I particularly liked in her post was a picture depicting all the pieces of clothes needed for a particular weather. Especially the equipment for -20C was really impressive. Yes, with all that warm but light modern winter clothes you can really enjoy outdoor play, but what I would like to add is nothing comes without a cost. Yes, to dress your kid properly you need proper money. Winter overall at least 100 euros or if you decide for one of the best brands - and most parents actually do - its closer to 200. Boots. Something between 50 and 100 again. Balaclava - a good one, woolen with a wind-stopper could be 30 or something similar. Waterproof mittens another 15 (or about, or more if you go for big brands). If you also decide to get a woolen overall - especially for younger kids and for really cold weather, it adds another 40 euros or maybe more. I'm not sure, cause I never needed such. What people also use for their kids are thermal underwear, woolen socks and some other special clothes more similar to the alpinist's equipment than to a normal winter outfit. So, how much do we have? Something between at least 200 and up to 400 euros. Per one child, per one winter. Remember - kids do grow fast! One of my friends needed to buy a second, bigger winter overall for her child, because literally that winter was lasting from October till May and the kid simply grew out of the previous one. And it's not all, because if there gets wet and rainy and temperatures grow above zero, you will need some extra rubber pants and rubber boots. Best to get two pairs - one light for spring/summer and one with a warm filling inside for autumn/spring. Oh, and of course good rubber jacket and rubber mittens - remember it's so wet and muddy from March till June and again from September till November, that your child after playing in a park resembles a piglet rather than a human. Didn't I mention a set of outdoor pants, also waterproof but not rubber and same jacket? Yes. That's on your list too. I guess that is that barely. How much off your pocket already? Huh... And again, this is only the basics. And with Finnish weather conditions all the above equipment will be really used after one season. If you are lucky enough maybe the winter overall will be reused by your younger child. Reselling it? Yes, the second-hand market for kids clothes is very good and I am a regular customer of some "kirppis" shops, but not often you find there those big pieces of clothes. Why? My guess is, they are simply too damaged after surviving a harsh weather condition and being worn day after day for half a year. Yes, winter. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Some more about vacation in a Finnish mokki

So basically you are suppose to do nothing but resting, swimming, rowing, BBQ-ing, drinking, sweating in a sauna, picking berries (although at the time we went there were either too early or too late to find some blueberries) and last but not least - fighting mosquitos. Yes, those notorious insects can change your heavenly holidays into a battle field. I think I used something like three bottles of different anti-mosquitos sprays for myself and my kids and one day I started to feel dizzy and I stopped using them at once, because they basically didn't work anyway. I was afraid I am poisoned but not the little guys. So yes, be prepared or simply ignore them altogether as my husband did and he was less ticked by them than me. Unfair! Another thing - if you really wish to have a true Finnish experience of being all alone surrounded by Finnish nature and the only voice you hear for a week is your inner voice, don't choose a place within 200 km from Helsinki. Go further up to north or east maybe. I can't give you exact tips for the most remote place, but the one we went to was definitely not the one. While booking our cottage we didn't notice that there were actually two cottages on that plot bordered only by a thin line of young trees and bushes. Luckily the house was not occupied for the whole week, but still we had for a few days some sort of company. No, no, nothing bad had happened. Not at all. The people were just fine, quiet - definitely more than us with two overenthusiastic kids running around from 7 in the morning. But for example if you'd wish to run all naked from the sauna to the lake - be prepared to be seen by a neighbor. Or cover yourself with a towel. 
My husband is a guy who needs to have some plans and things to do, so for him the first day was kinda weird. What shall I do? Hm, well, nothing? So after three days of that idleness we went for a day trip to see an amazing place, namely an old paper factory located somewhere in nowhere which was still operating in the 1960. Here you can read some more about Werla. Basically the whole factory is preserved perfectly well, you could start the production process any time, all the machines and tools are there. I was really amazed seeing the place and learning about the paper production process, actually quite simple and really almost hand made with machines very simple more like manufacture then machines.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Experience Finnish summer with a summer cottage and sauna

I know there is winter outside, dark and snowy days (although so much longer now comparing to pre-Christmas days), but on and on I am coming back with my thoughts to our week in a Finnish summer cottage at a lake. We rented a small place somewhere between Mikkeli and Lahti at a beautiful lake surrounded by forests. It wasn't very remote place though, there were cottages every hundred meters around the coast line of the lake bordered only by some woods. It was a perfect distance from Helsinki to drive with two small and crazy excited kiddos almost exploding on the back seat. Two hours on a highway. After that just a few kilometers through a forest path... Yes, our GPS got sort of lost and asked us to turn to a little road off-road actually. Through a deep forest. The "road" looked like used last time some five years ago since there was deep grass growing all along it and bushes and small tress almost covering it too. Luckily we had a 4WD car. After driving with a speed around 5km/h and making jokes about how remote our summer place is going to be and how are we going to survive for a week if every grocery trip is going to lead us through this path... so after some minutes later we finally reached a gravel road and after another few minutes of driving in dust we reached our final destination. It looked cute from the first sight and we loved it from that first sight. The house was painted in this deep reddish color - as most of traditional Finnish country houses) and it was situated just few dozens meters from a lakeshore with a tiny sandy beach and a rowboat rested down there. Idillic! If I add to this that it was some +30C and sunny and sooo green, there is nothing more I would need. The cottage had a wooden heated sauna and this is a must if you ever decide to spend your summer in Finland. Of course that was our first time to operate such a thing. But of course it wasn't a rocket science and my hubby managed that just fine. Oh, that cosy smell of burning wood, the heat somehow different from the heat made in electric sauna - I know, sounds ridiculous, but if you have done both, you know what I am talking about. This is just THE SAUNA. Indigenous. Real. Ancient. On the first day we wanted to enjoy it with the kids, but Tomek, our two-years-old, was scared and Wanda, the five years old, was too hot. And she was of course right - remember, there was +30C outside, so why those crazy parents want to get even more heat? So we didn't make another effort for the whole family sauna bath and waited until they were asleep to get some heat. Oh, amazing! Now, in the middle of winter, I am almost jealous of myself indulging in that Finnish heaven. But what is the best thing in sauna? Running naked right to the lake and letting the cool water coat you and chill. The still water of an evening lake surrounded by a dark deep green forest and yellowish and pinkish blue evening sky. Heaven. And right after that a glass (or a bottle, it's vacation after all) of chilled white wine. Yes, this is why you go there. The days are just days with no plans but BBQ-ing, swimming, rowing on a boat - or actually not so much, since our little one was kind of afraid and wanted to escape from the boat. Playing with the kids, pretending to read that book you brought with you, but now you are also watching the kids (water shore is right there), chatting with your husband, wandering with your thoughts, daydreaming and are not able to focus on anything in particular. Vacation! 

Friday, January 9, 2015

And back again in 2015

Hello and welcome back after shamefully long break of not posting any single word. After summer I sort of felt there is nothing to add about my life here about Helsinki and Finland or that everything I have already said or my life is boring enough to not writing about it at all or maybe I was excusing myself for being too lazy to write or not having enough time or whatever reason you could possibly find. Anyway, I was hoping to find out a new huge topic to post about to establish a brand new blog and to start my brand new blog-life and story telling. But nothing has come to me. On the other hand every week or so I do have something quite interesting to say or think about this simple life, those everyday events happening around me and my family or to comment about what is going on elsewhere. And so anyway, my New Year's resolution #1 is to continue this blog. Because I believe it is worth it. It is worth writing just for myself. Yesterday I went through some old and very old posts from the early days in Finland and it was such a warm feeling to read about my little daughter (how much has she changed since!) and my first steps in Finland (how much has my mind changed since!).

Because so much time has passed since my last post I would like to write a little about some past events. First a bit about our summer cottage experience. Second about my Finnish course which I started in September and now I am continuing it after the Christmas break. Third about my new routine having both kids in day cares and having some free time - not free actually, but kids free :). Fourth about my thoughts according to where do I belong to - those thoughts appear whenever I go to my home country. Fifth - about this and that as always on this blog, about my kiddos and their development, good and worse moods, weather etc.