We had a team “conference” yesterday. First we talked.
Then we had a nice dinner.
We had a team “conference” yesterday. First we talked.
Then we had a nice dinner.
It’s been warm and sunny for several days now and I’d been keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that this luxury would last until the weekend. It totally did; we had t-shirt weather today. After a week of sitting in an office in front of a computer I was itching to spend some time outdoors so we cycled to Ursvik and then to the Mulle Meck playground.
The Ursvik recreation area is a corner of the Igelbäcken nature reserve, a pine forest with running tracks, picnic spots, and – of most interest to us – a mini obstacle course for kids. There are tree trunks to balance on, rope nets to climb, hanging bridges and so on.
The course is almost (but not quite) too easy for Ingrid. But luckily a tipspromenad quiz had been added since our last visit, with a question next to each station of the trail. The questions were nicely printed out in big type so Ingrid could read them herself, and mostly at the right level of difficulty for her to answer them, too. Ingrid was racing me from one station to the next and never even thought to complain about tired legs.
The Mulle Meck playground has been one of our favourite weekend spots since we first discovered it, shortly after moving here. It is a playground with an attitude. The equipment and decorations are all inspired by a series of books (which we haven’t read and which frankly seem to educational for my taste) about some inventor or tinkerer, so gadgets and engines are a recurring theme at the playground.
It’s a playground that isn’t afraid to be hard, knobbly and slightly dangerous. Whatever isn’t made of wood is made of metal or concrete. There is a cable ride with a serious bounce at the end, and a “don’t touch the ground” trail out of engine parts and chunks of concrete. The most recent addition is half a ship and a shallow pond – shallow enough that there is no danger of drowning, deep and wide and enticing enough that almost all kids who go near it will end up with their feet wet. As a parent I guess you’ll love it or hate it. It seems that many love the place; often it is really crowded.
Yesterday the Estonian playgroup got started for this season. For Ingrid it clashed with a birthday party, so Adrian and I went on our own. As usual, Adrian loved the new environment and the crowds and the action. But afterwards when we got home he was pretty knackered.
This was also my first long outing with him without a stroller. I’ve been doing shorter trips with him on my back, especially to the supermarket, so by now I am pretty confident that it works well. He used to not like back carries when he was younger but now he has no objections. And he is tall enough to be able to almost look over my shoulder, or around me, which also means that I can reach him to give him the dummy when needed. For all the stuff we need to bring with us, I take our trusty IKEA shopping trolley.
This is a much more mobile setup than a stroller. Yes, I know, a stroller is a contraption on wheels that exists in order to provide mobility – but on steep hills, escalators, and cobblestoned streets, it can be suboptimal. (The photo here shows what our destination looks like – the entrance to the Estonian school is at the far end of the house on the left, almost at the top of the hill.) Without Ingrid and without the stroller, I think it took us 15 minutes to get from the train station to the playgroup, instead of the usual 25.
I let Ingrid paint my face again today, while Adrian and Eric had gone out for a walk. When they came back and Adrian saw me with my painted face, he was shocked into speechlessness. Rather than crawling or leaning towards me to be picked up, like he usually does, he sat quietly in Eric’s arms and just stared at me, without making a sound. Then he picked and poked and pulled at my face for a while. Then we nursed, after which he poked some more. When I washed off the paint after dinner, he was quite happy to see my real face again.
Admittedly Ingrid’s rough brushwork tends to lead to scary-looking results, even when she chooses a non-threatening design to imitate. This time the design she was guided by was a cute kitten. The outcome… more like a bloody ghost.
Ingrid has been talking about and looking forward to swimming lessons for about a year now. This spring I signed up for lessons for the autumn term. (Most swimming clubs here offer lessons for kids from the year they turn 5. For younger kids, parents are expected to join them in the water, which wasn’t an option since I had Adrian to take care of as well.)
Then during the summer she realized that swimming lessons meant swimming without her floaties. That led to some hesitation and then growing anxiety and finally “I don’t want to go to swim school!” She probably imagined being thrown in at the deep end and forced to sink or swim, or something equally horrible.
Today it was time for her first lesson, with Spårvägen Sim in Vällingby swimming pool. I promised her that she could take her floaties if she really wanted, and she reluctantly agreed that we could go have a look at least.
Once we were there, things soon fell into a natural flow and before she knew it the teachers had led her and all the other kids into the water. She also found an almost-friend, a girl she recognized from last year’s dance-and-play group. The teachers were nice and friendly, the activities in the water not too demanding, and by the time she came out she exclaimed, “Swim school was so much fun!”
This is more than enough for me. Even if she doesn’t learn to jump in from the edge or to dip her head under water, as long as she enjoys it and wants to continue, I’m satisfied.
Many of our neighbours, friends and acquaintances have been asking us about the remodelling – Are you done now? How did it turn out inside? What exactly did you do? – so we decided to invite them all to view our home in its new incarnation. Today we had a houseviewing party. Well, not quite a party, a houseviewing afternoon with coffee and biscuits. Lots of people came, we had a lovely time, and lots of biscuits got eaten. Now we’re all knackered. Except for Ingrid, who came into her second wind some time around 7pm and was still singing and hammering at the piano at 8.30.
We put up before-and-after photos of the house for the guests to look at. Going through the photos was interesting – already I myself am starting to forget what the house felt like before we started changing it. (I’ll be posting more of them here, too.)
Adrian was feeling quite a bit better today. He was sort of unwell on Friday, and really ill on Saturday, with a fever and a runny nose, and barely sleeping at night. Last night he slept a bit better, and today he actually had enough energy to crawl around and play and look at all the people. He loved the crowd so much that he barely slept at all during the afternoon.
We’re home again. The house is a mess with half-unpacked bags and suitcases, mounds of dirty laundry, piles of unopened letters, etc etc. But it is good to be home again, to sleep in my own bed.
Saturday: The planetarium at Ahhaa, somewhat disappointing. A lecture rather than a show, dry-ish and uninspiring. Presented by a guy picked for his knowledge rather than his presentation skills. Since he only gives a scripted talk his knowledge of astronomy is no use; I would have preferred someone with better diction and more charisma, or even a recording by a professional actor.
Sunday: drove to Tallinn. Got stuck in a massive traffic jam at Ülemiste due to some bicycle race that we didn’t know about. We could have taken an alternative route but the traffic authorities didn’t have the sense to inform drivers of the road blocks in advance. After half an hour we finally got to a place where we could escape the jam and zig-zag through Lasnamäe to Pirita where my friend V lives. Spent a most relaxing afternoon with V and family – the kids entertained each other, Adrian picked through their toy box, and we adults just lounged on the deck and ate and talked.
Monday: in Tallinn’s Old Town. The town was overrun with large guided tourist groups; they were everywhere. Both kids were in a bad mood, tired, didn’t want to eat at mealtimes and then complained of hunger a short while later, and generally complained about stuff all day long. We hardly enjoyed any of the stuff we saw.
Tallinn Flower Festival: small scale, low-key, pretty and fun.
Finally saw the much-discussed Victory Column with my own eyes.
Lunch at Olde Hansa: menu unchanged over the past 10 years, food still good, portions smaller than they used to be.
Climbed to the top of the tower of the old City Hall: good views but very windy; had to go down almost as soon as we got up because Ingrid wouldn’t keep still and got in everyone’s way, while Adrian squirmed all the time.
NUKU muuseum, the museum of Tallinn’s puppet theatre: far larger and more interesting than I had expected. But it was a total labyrinth, a tangle of rooms with confusing signs.
Kultuurikilomeeter, a kilometer of culture: “a lot of kilometer and not a lot of culture”. Instead of one kilometer the path is 2.2 km long but the culture along it is very, very sparse. From its name I had expected it to be lined with sculptures, installations, outdoor art… all we found was an “eco-island” (a cheap-looking café on some sort of floating island), a stage and some graffiti and another café in the old Patarei prison, a construction site which will at some point become a museum for sea planes, and a couple of historic ships. A lot of urban decay – hip and edgy, I know, I know, and quite nice-looking in places, but depressing in others – but very little of what I would actually term “culture”. We gave up about halfway through since Ingrid and Adrian were both bored as there was nothing at all to hold their attention.
Tuesday: Emajõe beach.
Wednesday: debilitating humid heat again. We fled to my father in the countryside and I spent most of the day sitting and sweating and gasping for air. Celebrated my birthday; everyone except me ate cake. They tell me it was good. I ate a handful biscuits.
Among my presents were two lovely necklaces that are almost complete opposites of one another: one pendant in the shape of a 3D-printed tangled geometrical ball structure, and one necklace that Ingrid had made out of wooden beads. She made it some months ago for the fun of making it, and now decided to give it to me. It is not quite my usual style but it is certainly colourful and happy.
Today: Elistvere loomapark, a small zoo with animals native to Estonia.
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