Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ella update

The last post was almost all Maisie, so I figured I'd share some Ella pics, too!

I love this one - I think she looks a LOT like her cousin Nika.

Aaron took this one a day or two ago, as she was getting ready to go to school.

Ella really loves school, and she's doing really well. We didn't have conferences this quarter, thanks to all the days cancelled for cold weather - the school district decided to hold classes those days instead - but her teacher sent us a really sweet email. She said that Ella's "just been a rockstar" in their classroom, and her love for learning and for life bring smiles to all her teachers. It was a lovely note, and made us very happy.

Grandma Liisa taught her to eat Oreos this way

She did say that Ella tends to get chatty during lessons and will forget to raise her hand before speaking, which wasn't a surprise to us. Ella is very, very verbal - she talks a LOT! She also seems to process things through talking about them. She's talked through movies, plays, and orchestra performances, narrating the whole experience to whoever is sitting next to her. It's exceptionally cute, and a fun little window into how she's experiencing what she's watching.

She does have her stubborn moments... Ella is frankly one of the most stubborn people I've met. (Some apples don't fall far from the tree, I guess!) When she digs her heels in about something, woe unto you if you're trying to get her to budge. Aaron and I have to pick our battles pretty carefully, because when she's made up her mind, trying to get her to go against her decision is not a fun experience!

Truer words were never worn on a shirt

But even with the stubborn moments and tantrums, Ella brings us joy every day. She's smart, funny, and generally a wonderful person to have around. We're so lucky to have her in our lives!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Folk dancing at Urban Expedition: Finland!

A few weeks ago we were at Suomi-koulu when a woman came up to me and said, "You're Maisie's mom, right?" When I said I was, she said "Great. Just so you know, there's an extra practice on Thursday night, so we'll be ready for the performance on Sunday..." Wait, what? "Oh," she said, "Didn't Maisie tell you that she said she wanted to perform with the dance group?" Ha ha what?

Suomi-koulu isn't just about language - they also learn about Finnish culture as well, and folk dancing is part of that. Maisie loves dancing, and has been really enjoying the Finnish dance lessons in class. I knew that some Suomi-koulu students did folk dance performances at various events along with Kisarit, the adult dance group, but it was always something that was presented as for older kids. (2nd grade and up) Maisie's not quite there, but she's been working really hard at it and really wanted to perform, so the group decided they'd let her in! She just somehow forgot to mention to me and she'd signed up for the performing group. :)

So on Sunday, we headed over to the Landmark Center so she could perform at Urban Expedition: Finland!

The Urban Expedition series is a neat series that the Landmark Center hosts. Once a month they host a free series of activities and events that are centered around the culture of a specific country. Cambodia, Senegal, and Brazil are still coming up if you want to go check it out - it was a lot of fun! In addition to the performances, there was food, crafts, and even LIVE ANIMALS.

The north lobby had a "petting zoo" with two year-old reindeer, and an arctic fox that didn't really look like it wanted to be petted.

Gramma Liisa had made Maisie a beautiful costume in a fancy Finnish style - a beautiful full skirt, and a black vest with gorgeous silver buttons. Unfortunately... we didn't know that they weren't wearing fancy dress costumes! Instead, they were performing peasant-style dances in Karelian work clothes-type of costumes. Fortunately, they'd found an outfit for Maisie to approximate the pinafore type of dress. Add an apron and a headscarf, and she was all set to go!

There dancing was last, so we sat through a few other performances and things first. Ella's favorite, I think, was the language lesson from two Salolampi counselors. They taught the audience a Finnish song (Pienet Sammakot), and then taught us all to count to six in Finnish. Ella was very impatient, though - they were repeating yksi, yksi (one, one) and Ella would yell out KAKSI!!! (TWO!!!) I think they were only going to go to viisi (5), but when they got there she wouldn't stop yelling out KUUSI!!!!! (6!!!!!) so they went to kuusi. It was hilarious! And, if I had any doubts that she's actually learning some Finnish at Suomi-koulu, they've been laid to rest.

After the other programs, the children's group did three dances. The first, Tikkuristi, is almost like a game... you do a dance around sticks, and try not to step on or knock your sticks.

The music gets faster and faster... the last person left is the 'winner' of the dance.

Maisie LOVES Tikkuristi dancing! She practices at home with scarves on the floor. It's awesome to see how hard she's working at it.

Tikkuristi was followed by Seni, a threshing dance, and they ended with Helsingin matka, a dance about a trip to Helsinki.

Maisie was by far the youngest and smallest person in the dance group, but she did a GREAT job. She really kept up with the older kids and adults, she knew all the steps, she stayed focused, and she had a LOT of fun. I was so proud of her, I thought I was going to absolutely explode with it!

The program ended with an audience participatory dance called Svetit Mesjats. Even Dylan and Auntie Laura got in on the fun!

It was a super fun, and very Finnish, afternoon. I feel so fortunate to have found this great community through Suomi-koulu!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Braving the polar vortex

Brrr you guys, it's been COLD! That's been true across North America, and our little corner of Minneapolis has been no exception. In January, Maisie and Ella lost five days of school to closings due to extreme cold! I know some people thought the closings were excessive - this is Minnesota you guys, of course it gets cold, parents have to work, etc. etc. etc. But when it's that cold - air temperatures of -15 to -20, with wind chills -35 to -40 - it's just not safe for kids to be outside waiting for a bus that might be 15-20 minutes late. Little noses and fingers and toes can get frostbitten in just a few minutes! Not to mention the middle school & high school kids I see waiting for their buses without hats or mittens, even in the depth of winter. I am such a mom, I always want to slap a hat on their heads and give them a talking-to.

Anyway, winter, amiright? There's no escaping it, so you might as well try to enjoy it. The extreme cold finally let up a bit this weekend, and I think the cabin fever may have been getting to be a bit much, too. So we took every opportunity to be outside! On Saturday afternoon, the girls and I joined Laura and Dylan for some activities at the St. Paul Winter Carnival. We did some craft activities in the Landmark Center, and then headed outside for Maisie's new favorite activity: ICE SKATING!!

A few weeks ago Maisie attended a friend's birthday party at the Depot ice rink, and since then she's been NUTS about ice skating. The problem's been that it's been so cold out, we haven't been able to get outside much! But on Saturday it was beautiful, maybe 15 degrees out, so we hit the ice. And this time, Ella (who hasn't wanted to skate before) decided she wanted to try it too!

Dylan and Maisie were super happy to try to help Ella get comfortable on the ice. And it didn't take her long...

And she was off to the races! She fell - a bunch - but each time would look up and say "I'm okay, mama! Help me up!" and she'd be off again. She worked hard, and before long she really had the hang of it. I'm so proud of her!

Maisie, too, is improving by leaps and bounds. The last time she skated, she was still sort of walking along on her skates. But this time, with some help from Dylan, she got the hang of the slide & glide. I don't think she fell once! And Dylan, of course, is a confident and strong skater - he was a great help to both girls, and an excellent ice skating role model. :)

We finished up the night with the parade, hot chocolate at Dunn Brothers, and cheering on the Vulcans who successfully deposed King Boreas. The next morning Maisie told me that it was the first day of summer because the Vulcans won, right? Uh, not quite summer yet!

And a good thing, too, because Sunday was our Suomi-koulu Laskiainen celebration!

For those who aren't familiar, Laskiainen is a traditional Finnish sliding festival. You go sliding, eat pea soup and rye bread, and basically enjoy the heck out of winter. Suomi-koulu holds its Laskiainen at "Mount Como," a park in St. Paul that has skiing and snowboarding facilities. Laura and Dylan joined us for some awesome Laskiainen sledding!

(That's the 3 kids, wayyyyyyy down at the bottom of the hill. Maisie's in the red coat, Ella's on the sled in front of Maisie, and Dylan's to the right.) We stayed for three hours, sledding and playing in the snow, and warming up with hot chocolate, pea soup, rye bread, and pulla (a Finnish sweet bread flavored with cardamom).

It was a very fun - and very tiring - weekend of winter activities! By Sunday night Aaron and I were both exhausted. I could've used another weekend day to rest! But I should bite my tongue and be careful what I wish for... we might end up with another sub-sub-zero polar vortex blast, with cancelled school and broken-down buses, and that's no good either. I'll take the mild winter weather any day!