Thursday, February 26, 2015

How we almost didn't see Helsinki

Background: D. has a visa that lets him stay in Russia for 6 months at a time, and then he has to leave and come back again. So we usually have to do a border crossing trip in the winter and then in the summer we are traveling anyway. For one trip we went to Kiev as none of us needed a visa to visit Ukraine. But that isn't an option anymore, so Finland is the most convenient destination!

Running to the train....

If we could make the first metro departure in the morning (something like 5:36 am), that would give us enough time to make our 6:40 train. I remembered being in a rush last year, and that was stressful. This time we were doing fine, but then in a moment of indecision decided not to get on the first metro car, which meant waiting several minutes for the next one, which made it seem like we were going to be late. After a nail-biting commute, we were at the departure gate, and then there was another pause as we tried to figure out how to get the door to open to get on the train, being the last passengers. Whew.

Andrei had booked us seats in the children's car which includes a play area. It was nice being right there as I remembered finding it hard walking between there and another car while on the bumpy ride. David attempted to play with some other children, but they were older and a little rough. But it was still nice that he could get a little exercise.

Peek-a-boo from inside the space rocket!

No nap occurred on the train, so once again our task was to keep D. awake until we got to the hotel, so we could all crash.

But first..breakfast. We headed for McDonald's and had to wait a bit for the regular menu to be available. So David and I did some fun escalator laps. Anything to keep him out of trouble! :)

After breakfast and an agonizingly long walk to the hotel due to bags, toddler, gusts of wind, and unexpected staircases, and then a room change, we all got in bed and took a 4 hour nap. We woke up around 5pm and it was dark. That was our day in Helsinki, LOL!

Venturing out...

Last year we somehow managed to get out and walk around that first day, but here we were with it already dark, and I had accidentally picked a hotel in the "business" district, kind of dull...with a harbor view that would have been nice in summer. Anyway, we headed out for dinner and Andrei thought this Nepalese place would be fun. It turned out to be mostly like an Indian restaurant.

Yummy "chips"!

When we got back I was a little confused about what time it was, with the 1-hour difference. We ordered a toy cart up to our room (as per the advertisement on their website), and did some quiet activities. We fell asleep much earlier than our usual bedtime. David had immediately rejected the toddler bed, and wouldn't have slept on the sofa, so we had to squeeze into the double bed.

Chilling before bed...

Another sleepy day...

I had my alarm set just in case, but I didn't think it would be so hard to get up, we were all sound asleep after 9 am, and finally scrambled to make it down to the dining room by 10.00....Scandinavian (Nordic?) breakfast buffets are the best!

After checking out, we had to take everything with us since we wouldn't be returning to that neighborhood. Even though we had a few hours, it was still exhausting to traipse around with luggage and stroller and everyone in winter clothes. I think we are nearing the end of our stroller's getting too heavy to push! I mostly bring it along to hang purchases from, or to corral David in a store.

Andrei&Kalevala :)

Speaking of stores, we ran across a Christian bookstore pretty near our hotel. That made up for walking through a dreary neighborhood in the rain! David managed to wreak havoc even while buckled into his stroller, so Andrei and I took turns waiting outside with him after he had already broken something. I gravitated toward a Fair Trade section, and there were also some neat handmade trinkets. As they were ringing up my purchases at a rather "leisurely" pace, I heard about their church's two charitable funds: one for the Church in developing countries (hence the Fair Trade products), and another for impoverished Finnish pensioners. A sign on the door advertised a "Gospel-Hula," and I just loved how international/eclectic it all was! I didn't get up the nerve to take photos, but the bookstore is called Sacrum if you want to look it up.

Running out of time...

Since we didn't have much time left and things were cumbersome, we parked ourselves in Stockmann and took shifts dashing around to buy a few more gifts. I will admit that I found it exhausting to be making purchases in a foreign country. I'm usually spoiled by having everything be in English and/or Russian, and the Finnish labels on everything were killing me. I gave up looking for specific items and tried to at least find something for lunch, but it was one of those situations where I just wasn't familiar enough with the geography and there was always the possibility of something better around the corner. I ended up back in Stockmann trying to at least get a fresh deli sandwich, but scratched that idea and began selecting some baked goods, thinking Finnish pastries would be tasty. It was one of those set-ups where you have to pull the tray out and use tongs, and then go to the weigh station and get the price sticker. I kept dropping things on the floor. Then when I went to pay, I spotted some desserts, which turned out to be the only thing that I liked out of what I bought. The winning morsel may or may not have been an Oreo brownie. :)

Anyway, by this time we had 30 minutes left, so we hightailed it to the train, where we found ourselves alone in our car! :) It was Saturday, so most people were in the middle of their weekend at that point, and not traveling back yet.

Train wagon (or at least half of one) all to ourselves!

Border crossing

It was pretty funny getting checked by the whole group of officers, too. Usually they split up. At one point I noticed fumes and noticed that an officer assigned to our car was sitting in the back row painting her nails. Yuck!

Funny typo (too lazy to turn the photo)

Now we need to get D. registered again. Still working on that...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Speaking two languages (with videos)

David turned 2.5 yrs old last month, and I haven't really written about his development lately...partly because I figure it really isn't that interesting to read about someone else's child month-by-month. :)

But there are some milestone issues I like to address, and since we are raising a bilingual child, that is something to comment on. He has taken a big leap forward from a few months ago.

February sunshine!

One Parent, One Language

It's worked pretty well for Andrei to speak Russian and for me to speak English at home. I had been used to speaking more Russian, but now I can switch back and forth pretty easily and stick to English even when everyone else around is speaking Russian. Like if A. is explaining something to David in Russian, I might jump in and reinforce what he's saying, but in English. It might sound funny to someone listening in, but it works.

David has demonstrated for a while that he knows to use different languages with different people. He has always called Andrei "Papa," but will talk to me about "Daddy," and while he calls me "Mommy," he refers to me as "Mama" to Russian friends and relatives. If he is conversing or even watching TV in one language, he will explain it to the other parent in his/her own language, and so on.

Friday, February 13, 2015


Lent is starting soon (next week or the week after depending on the church calendar), and I wanted to put a brainstorm request out there.

If you’re a parent/caretaker or otherwise work with kids, what kind of activities do you use in preparing them for Easter/Resurrection Sunday (or Passover, for that matter)?

I feel that there are so many Advent materials out there, and it’s easy enough to just get out the seasonal picture books. But we just don’t have as many Easter books as compared to Christmas. I’m working with a fairly blank slate, as David doesn't know about the Easter bunny or egg hunts.

"Why am I doing this, again?"

How much do you think a 2.5 yr old can comprehend?

Six things

Sigh of relief. Andrei washed the dishes after dinner (though another pile has materialized), so I'm actually sort of "done" with evening chores....and can write a little bit.

Here are Six (6) thoughts/news items:

1) It's Sick Week. Church on Sunday, sick on Wednesday. However, I am very thankful that we're otherwise healthy most of the time!

2) Today I was sitting in the living room and suddenly realized that I hadn't heard the neighbors (on any side) drilling for several days! If you're friends with me on FB you probably see my frequent posts complaining that the neighbors are drilling at x time of day or for x number of hours. We did have a downed cactus in the entryway downstairs one Sunday, so I guess Saturday nights can be rowdy. But a drilling respite is great. I almost didn't notice!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

This week's wrap-up

Our marriage survived another annual IKEA trip! Here's a photo for proof...

Have you ever seen a contact lens vending machine? The IKEA mall had one:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Holding Pattern

I keep waiting for The Time to blog. My evening routine just isn't working out anymore. You know that anecdote where the wife says she's going to bed and then proceeds with a huge list of tasks before actually getting under the covers? (though in our family, Andrei has his own list...we're night owls...and David is already pretty good at stalling...)

Though I try to work on certain tasks like laundry throughout the day, there is no escaping evening tasks like dinner dishes, etc. Plus emails that need full attention, not just silly links or quick sentiments dashed off to special people. So 11 pm isn't really the best time to be writing and excitedly going through a whole day's creative ideas...though I WANT to be.

When do you blog, if not at bedtime?

Oh, and...I've been trying to make fitness a priority lately. But I'll write more about that another time.

The good news is that I don't feel upset about not blogging regularly. I think that's a good sign because it shows that I'm finding fulfillment in daily life...not that I only blog when I'm sad, just that I don't need it right now to feel happy. The day when I cry about an unwritten blog post is a sad day. And it does happen, but not right now.

Maybe I need to get a tablet after all so I can type out drafts in the midst of our daily routine. Or maybe I just need to be patient.

So this is me, checking in. And I do hope to see those links in my sidebar change more regularly... you know who you are, and I haven't given up on my blog friends even if I'm more of a lurker right now. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Shopping with a 2 yr old

Why did I wait until Dec. 23rd to go shopping, you may ask? Well, I'm not a very big shopper in general, but with David it is an all-day chore, and that gets tiresome. Last week's shopping forays were focused on a wedding that took place Saturday. So that brings us to this week...

...We set out about an hour before naptime and I figured David would have a snack and take in some sights before falling asleep in his stroller so I could concentrate. He started out on foot, but after just a few minutes he did his new thing where he is 'cared of footprints in the snow, and doesn't want his feet to touch the ground. So into the stroller he went.

Of course a few minutes after I had gotten him all settled in the stroller, we got to the bank which was located at the top of a staircase. My card doesn't always work in stores, so going without cash was too risky. I had to do the whole stair-stroller thing in order to use the ATM. So far, so good.

As we were walking toward the shopping mall, I was noticing the sun breaking through and how it was one of our prettier days in a while. I almost wished we could have just gone for a walk instead. And I probably would have rethought my decision, had I known what was going to happen!