Friday, December 28, 2007

Update on Tiina

I have neglected to inform everyone with an update to Tiina's treatment of breast cancer. I believe I left off with her coming home after the surgery and recovering from that.

Tiina began chemotherapy on the 5th of October. She tries to explain to me what everything is and how it works but for the most part it goes over my head. I know that there consists a total of six treatments. The first three were Taxotere (brand) docetaxel (substance) & Herceptin (brand) and the last three called CEF.

She continues to work even during the treatments. She is able to juggle her schedule in order to do so. I think she has some pretty understanding bosses. She could just as well taken five to six months of medical leave as was offered to her before treatments began. She declined this because she doesn't want to sit at home thinking about it. By keeping busy it helps her mentally to deal with it.

The first treatment seemed to be the worst one after a few days. Tiina had so much pain one night that no matter what she took the pain wouldn't go away and there wasn't anything I could do to help the pain go away. She cried and I cried. She wasn't able to sleep and yet during all of this she was more concerned about me getting my sleep because I had to work the next day. I told her that work was the last thing on my mind and that everyone understands if I am not able to make it into work on time or even at all after a treatment. So she decided to go upstairs and watch TV to help keep her mind off of the pain. I was able to sleep but for only a few hours. When I got up at 6.30 to go to work I saw Tiina back in bed and sleeping like a little baby so I knew she was feeling better. She stayed home and rested that day when she had planned to attend class. She also cancelled two of her courses she was teaching in Hyvinkää just to make sure she wouldn't need to do so at the last minute.

Tiina's hair began to fall out on the 14th day after treatment. She managed to take enough of it and tie it with a ribbon then had me cut the rest off. That was harder than I thought it would be for two reasons. One is that she has such thick hair and the other is that I hated to cut it off. She cried and so did I but after discussing the fact that it will grow back we both felt better. I continued the shaving and then we both went to sauna where we calmed even more. Tiina did get a wig but she doesn't like wearing it as she says it makes her too hot. She mostly goes without anything or wears a knit cap or just a scarf. The latter makes her look like a pirate or Gypsy.

The doctor told Tiina that beginning with the second treatment that she should use Panacod before she goes to sleep so that she doesn't feel the pain. She had this all along but hates the way it makes her feel. The doctor told her that she would be sleeping anyway so by the time she woke up most of the effects would be worn off. So she did that and it worked good for the second and third treatment. She only had to use it twice each time.

She had her fourth treatment with the CEF on the 7th of December. It wasn't the same as the first three. This made her quite nauseous. She remained in that state for a least ten days. She said she preferred having the pain because at least she could make it go away.

Now she has had the fifth treatment today. So far she has vomited only three times. Her treatment began at 11.30 am and it is now 11.58 pm. She said that she is getting used to the vomiting as opposed to the last time. She knows now that it just has to be and no need to try to put it off as long as she can. I suppose it makes her feel a bit better just to go and do it as well. Still, it must be no fun. The boys are a little stressed about it. I kind of explained to them why it is happening. They mostly think it just sounds so terrible, which it does.

Well Tiina has the meds she needs to fight the nausea so all we can do is wait and see how it works out for her. She is a tuffy and will do just fine. Right Babe? Right !! :)

Tapaninpäivä = St. Stephen's Day = Boxing Day

December 26th, 2007

Today we made the traditional excursion to Tiina's father's place in Vihti for dinner and exchanging of gifts. There were a ton of people there this year. That is mainly due to all of us having kids..... and one on the way :) No not us silly.

Let's see there was Saku, Tiina's father, and his wife Leena, Sampo and Marleena and their two kids Verneri and Marikki, Veera and her husband Jouni (Veera has one on the way), Leena Nuora and her husband Petteri and their kids Siiri, Elina and Salli. Siiri is the daughter of Leena and Sampo. Then there was Petteri and his girlfriend Pia and Me, Tiina and our sons Niki and Alexi. So that makes a total of 19. A household full it was too. The kids all had fun playing together and the adults had fun just visiting with each other. The food was good as well as the dessert. After the meal the boys, Niki and Alexi, played a few songs on the guitar and flute for everyone.

After we left we stopped by to see our friends who built a house not far away from Tiina's father's place. They also live in Vihti. They are the Elstobs, Allan, Tea, Jonathan, Benjamin and Michaela. Allan is originally from South Africa. We met when were attending the same immigrant course in Nummela during the year of 1994. At that time neither Tiina and I nor Allan and Tea had any kids. We both were to start a family the following year just 4-5 months after our course ended. Allan and Tea are our eldest son, Nicholas's godparents. We had a nice time at their place and stayed quite late. We got home around 11 pm. So thus ends the Christmas days here in Finland.

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

December 24th, 2007

Christmas Eve

The mad rush to finish wrapping those unwrapped gifts and sorting to whom goes what has finally come to a close. Now it is time to clean house a bit, prepare the Christmas meal, set out the decorations and set-up and decorate the tree. Once all has been done then comes the Christmas sauna to relax and get new energy. After sauna the tasty meal is served and eaten with delight. Afterwards the gifts are opened. First those from other people and relatives then those from each other and finally any that Santa may have brought by that evening.

The price of Christmas trees this year are quite high. Many come from other places other than Finland. I have seen prices ranging from 10€ to 40€ for a 6' plus tree. This year we purchased our tree from the same farmer we got ours from last year. We paid 10€ for it. It is not a perfectly symmetrical tree, but then what is in nature? It was a Finnish tree from a forest nearby here in Espoo. It looks great standing in the corner decorated and lighted. That is all that counts, right?

The boys and Tiina decorated the tree while I finished wrapping a few gifts I had for them. I placed the star on it and lit it up. Seems to be my job and I don't mind it at all. I like decorating the tree too. But the kids like it even better so I let them be kids and have at it after all I already had my share of it as a kid.

The boys went to sauna first and then Tiina and I after the food was ready to be set on the table. In sauna Tiina and I shared a bottle of Joulu Lapin Kulta beer. I bought it because I liked the pretty white bottle. The beer was okay and served its purpose for the sauna. We had the birch oil in the water that is tossed on the rocks which made it smell like Christmas.

After sauna we had the first course of food which consisted of herring in mustard and wine sauce as well as herring Tiina prepared herself. There was cold smoked rainbow trout and cured Norwegian salmon (Graavi). We had liver pâté, hard boiled eggs, olives and pickles not to mention the rosolli = diced redbeet, pickles, onions and carrots topped with a non-sweetened whipped cream with a tad of beet juice to give it a faint, pink coloring and boiled potatoes.

The main course consisted of smoked turkey breast and a ham roll, mashed potatoes and gravy, and the traditional casseroles, rutabaga (lanttu), carrot (porkana), potato (peruna) and liver (maksa) without raisins. For the beverage we had a fine South African fruity white wine called Pearl Bay. Thanks Allan & Tea! The boys had apple cider.

After the meal and the table was cleared we retired to the living room to open the gifts. I think the boys had a nice Christmas this year. They seem to enjoy all of their presents equally well. They were very surprised to see that Santa brought them a few things that they had wished for. We all played until about two in the morning before calling it a day.

December 25th, 2007

Christmas Day

Today was spent at home in peace and quiet just watching TV or playing the Nintendo Wii or with the electric race car track. It brought back many nice memories of my own childhood.

We had a dark Christmas this year. No snow. It did rain some and it was quite windy. I never give up or gave up hope for a white Christmas. I am sure sometime soon we will get the snow. This picture was taken from our bedroom's door window just before Noon. A squirrel had been eating out of the feeder nearest the terrace. By the time I could fetch the camera it had gone away.

So thus wraps up another year of Christmas joy and happiness. We hope everyone had a Very Merry Christmas!!

Joulupuuro = Christmas rice porridge

December 24th, 2007

Ahhhhhh....... what can I say? I wait for this day the whole year! For several years now we have been invited to Tiina's uncle and aunt's place on lake Bodom for Joulupuuro. You might say sort of a family tradition for us. We watch from TV the Turku Cathedral bell ring 12 times for Noon and then the reading of the Christmas Peace = Joulurauhan julistus from the balcony of the Brinkkala Mansion in Turku, Finland. It is always read in Finnish and Swedish by the Turun kaupungin kansliapäälikkö = administrative manager of the city of Turku.

The following borrowed from Christmas City of Finland :
"In Olden Times, the Declaration was Read from the "Doors and Windows of the Town Hall"
Christmas Peace was proclaimed from the Town Hall from the Middle Ages until the Great Fire of Turku in 1827. The Town Hall is known to have stood in the same location at the top end of the medieval Town Hall Square (nowadays the Old Great Square) since the 1320's.

After the Great Fire, the Brinkkala Mansion underwent repairs and became the Town Hall. The Declaration was then read from the middle window located above the archway. As the Brinkkala House underwent thorough renovations, a balcony was added to the facade. Christmas Peace was declared from this balcony for the very first time in 1886. The year before, the Declaration was made from the balcony of the building now housing the central administration of Åbo Akademi University. Today, Christmas Peace is declared from the balcony of the Brinkkala Mansion."

Joulurauhan julistus
Huomenna, jos Jumala suo,
on meidän Herramme ja Vapahtajamme armorikas syntymäjuhla;
ja julistetaan siis täten yleinen joulurauha kehoittamalla
kaikkia tätä juhlaa asiaankuuluvalla hartaudella viettämään
sekä muutoin hiljaisesti ja rauhallisesti käyttäytymään,
sillä se, joka tämän rauhan rikkoo ja joulujuhlaa jollakin laittomalla taikka sopimattomalla käytöksellä häiritsee, on raskauttavien asianhaarain vallitessa syypää siihen
rangaistukseen, jonka laki ja asetukset kustakin rikoksesta
ja rikkomuksesta erikseen säätävät. Lopuksi toivotetaan kaupungin
kaikille asukkaille riemullista joulujuhlaa.

I morgon, vill Gud,
infaller vår Herres och Frälsares nåderika födelsefest;
och varder förty härigenom en allmän julfred kungjord och påbjuden,
med åtvarning till envar att denna högtid med tillbörlig andakt fira,
och i övrigt iakttaga ett stilla och fridsamt uppförande,
emedan den, som häremot bryter samt julhögtiden genom något olagligt eller otillbörligt förfarande oskärar, gör sig under försvårande omständigheter förfallen till det straff, lag och författningar för varje brott och överträdelse särskilt påbjuda.
Slutligen tillönskas stadens samtliga invånare en fröjdefull julhelg

The Declaration of Christmas Peace
Tomorrow, God willing,
is the graceful celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour;
and thus is declared a peaceful Christmas time to all,
by advising devotion and to behave otherwise quietly and peacefully,
because he who breaks this peace and violates the peace of Christmas by any illegal or improper behaviour shall under aggravating circumstances be guilty and punished according to what the law and statutes prescribe for each and every offence separately.
Finally, a joyous Christmas feast is wished to all inhabitants of the city.

After the declaration has been made the national anthem of Finland, Maamme-laulu, is sung and the president's march, Porilaisten marssi, played. When they have completed we toast with glögi and wish everyone a merry Christmas.

This year we arrived early to have the joulupuuro first. It was delicious as always. We also had a fruit soup to go with it as well as cinnamon and sugar. Bread and liver pate was also available. I had my puuro with a punch eye. This is done by making a small dent in the middle of the puuro and then filling it with some Swedish punssi = punch (liqueur).

Afterwards the boys entertained everyone with their guitar and flute playing and a few silly songs. This year present were Antti, Heidi, Hanna, Ese, Tuomas and Tarja and Tarja's mother, Mami-mummi and the four of us. Very lovely time. When all wound down we headed home for our own Christmas traditions. Kiitos paljon Antti, Heidi, Hanna ja Ese !!!

Pikkujoulu = little Christmas

December 15th, 2007

This evening our housing association had a Christmas party outdoors. Sausages were grilled and hot alcoholic/non-alcoholic glögi (Glögg in Swedish) = mulled wine was served along with beer and cider. Mostly some of the tenants just hung around the grill and gabbed about events that have happened over the year. Some stood near the fire to keep warm but most stood away because the wind was blowing smoke in everyone's eyes. We had no snow but it was rather chilly, especially with the wind.

After some time of the adults mingeling and the children playing hide and seek in the woods we were told that Joulupukki = Santa Claus was on his way over to us and had gifts for the children. He showed up and I managed to get a few shots with my phone camera but it was so dark that only one image was faintly viewable. My son, Alexi, just happened to be in the foreground. The kids were wondering how he got down to us from Lapland when there was no snow on the ground. They also wanted to know where his reindeer was.

Niki's guitar recital

December 12th, 2007

Niki had his second guitar recital since he began classical guitar lessons 2,5 years ago. This time he played a piece by Patrick Benham called Invitation. He did very well and was quite relaxed throughout his performance. Notice he is wearing his winter boots :) Good job Niki !!

Happy Birthday Finland!!!!!

December 6th, 2007

Hyvää Itsenäisyyspäivää Suomi !!!
Today marks the 90th year that Finland has been an independant republic. Lots of activities and festivities are planned around the country. As usual the TV will be turned on and tuned into the Presidential Ball to view the 2,000 some guests that president Tarja Halonen has invited to this yearly event.
Also it is my son Nicholas's name's day. Hyvää nimipäivää Niki !!! ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

December 1st, 2007

What's that you say? Thanksgiving happened already a few weeks ago. That is correct. But since Thanksgiving is not a Finnish holiday there is no national day of celebration for this. It has become a tradition between two families to celebrate this dinner over the years since moving to Finland in 1990. At first we invited different branch of the family each year for the dinner so that they could experience the meal. After we had run through the family we had some friends over for the meal. These are Marko and Päivi Haikkola. At the time, way back when, both of our families had no children. Now we do. Our family has the two boys and theirs two girls, Josefine "Jofi" and Frederika "Freja". The eldest, Jofi, is less than a year younger than our Nicholas and Freja is two years younger than Alexi.

Tiina and Päivi first met when they were studying at Åbo Akademi in Turku. At that time her husband, Marko, was a Lieutenant (now a Major) in the Finnish army and stationed at Säkylä. We were living in Kustavi at the time. Päivi was renting a small flat near the school so she wouldn't have to drive the long way back and forth from base to school. Tiina was in the same situation. Päivi offered Tiina a place to stay in that same flat so that she wouldn't have to make the long trip back and forth as well. We were very thankful for this and it allowed Tiina to carry on with her studies. As time went by we moved to Espoo and started a family and the Haikkola's as well began their family. I haven't counted exactly but I think out of the 17 years we have lived in Finland we have shared Thanksgiving with the Haikkola's about eight or nine times. In 2003 we didn't have a dinner.

We coordinate between the two families for a free day on a weekend as close as possible to Thanksgiving Day. Sometimes it is closer sometimes a few weeks later.

This year was a bit different. Päivi came a day earlier and spent the night with us. Her and Tiina went shopping for the food and then began to prepare it that evening and continued the following morning. Päivi made most of the dishes as well as preparing and stuffing the bird by herself. She did a fantastic job at it and all was just so picture perfect as you can see by these photos. As usual we ate too much! We had the turkey, stuffing, creamed green beans, fried breaded carrot sticks, in memory of my Grandmother Flossie Kujala, deviled eggs or (evil eggs) as the kids called them, for the first time, mashed potatoes and gravy, a salad made with orange peppers that we grew ourselves, cranberry sauce, black olives, miniature pickles, and corn bread. The dessert consisted of two pies, apple and coconut cream and two flavors of homemade ice-cream. Yummy!
During the meal preparation Marko and I watched Nicholas Cage's movie Next. After the meal we all watched the movie Click. Again it was another successful dinner with our good friends. We do look forward to next year for another fantastic meal and get together!!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Alexi's first flute concert

November 23rd, 2007

This evening Alexi had his first flute recital. He was selected to play first and Niki accompanied him on the guitar. They played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. They played very well together with only a few mistakes. Unfortunately Tiina had to step out of the room for awhile due to her stomach hurting.

This is Alexi's first year of playing flute. He also is studying music theory as well. Niki has been taking classical guitar lessons now for 2,5 years and is also studying music theory. All of these activities are done after the normal school day. Niki will have his guitar recital next month. I am very proud of these boys wishing to learn music and an instrument of their choosing. They play and sing very well together.

Happy Birthday Sis!

November 25th, 2007

Happy 40th Kristy! Wow 40 ! Where has the time flown? I still remember being called Bat and finding all kinds of things in my shoes! Hope you had a nice birthday with many more to come!!!

Happy Birthday Bro !!

November 12th, 2007

Happy 44th Jay!!!

May you have many more to come. Sorry to hear that you were ill but glad you can recover enough to get by ;-)

One of these days we will be able to kick out the tunes again. LOL

Happy 22nd !!!

October 12th, 2007

Today marked our 22nd wedding anniversary. We didn't do much but our eldest son, Nicholas, took a train to a shopping mall to buy us flowers and a card. He wanted to have a better and bigger selection to make the bouquet. He is always so thoughtful. We thought maybe we would catch a movie but all the good ones were playing in Helsinki and being that Tiina had her first chemotherapy treatment on the 5th it wasn't certain if she would be able to sit through the whole movie and then have the trip by train or bus home. So we decided to just stay at home and take it easy. Maybe for our 25th anniversary we can go to Iceland or even Hawaii for a Honeymoon we never really had!!

A Furry Visitor

October 7th, 2007

The night before this picture was taken Tiina had been in the bathroom and said she had seen something sticking out from under the washing machine. Sometimes we get small, thin millipedes that come down through the vent in the sauna when it rains. At first she thought this was one of those critters she doesn't care for very much, mainly because they go crunch when she steps on one that has already died and dried quickly over night. Anyway, it moved too fast for it to be a millipede, she thought. So I came in and had a look see around the bathroom, the sauna, hallway and kid's room but found nothing. I did notice about a week earlier something that appeared to be mouse droppings on the white rug on the bathroom floor but thought it unlikely. I just picked it up and tossed it in the garbage.
The next morning Tiina had gone into the bathroom to wash up and she let out a scream and came running into the bedroom waking me up. She said there was a mouse on the sink in the bathroom. I drug myself out of bed to investigate, my eyes barely open enough to see. At first I didn't see anything. Then I saw a strange, curved shape from behind the clear, plastic pump soap dispenser. A few seconds later I saw some whiskers twitching to one side of the bottle. I then noticed that the bar of soap Tiina had removed from the soap dish, only to drop it quickly in the basin, had teeth marks all around one curved edge of the bar of soap. So the little beastie was hungry. I put two and two together and figured it must have been in the bathroom at least a week and was famished. I sent the boys to fetch a slice of bread. I put on a leather work glove and held the bread in my palm. The mouse came out from behind the soap bottle and onto my hand where it began to eat the bread like no tomorrow. It then decided to take the whole thing away and back behind the bottle. I thought perhaps I could catch it with the glove on but that was not to be. Instead the mouse leap to the floor and shot up and over Alexi's foot and under the washing machine. I placed a towel on the floor to block the entrance to the sauna but the mouse just squeezed its way between the towel and wall and made it under the door into the sauna where it disappeared. It was then that I figured it, too, had come down through the air vent and couldn't get back up as it is a vertical drop. I went outside to check the cover on the vent and sure enough it had been removed. I put it back into place and stuck rocks in front of it to keep it in place. After 30 minutes I came back to the sauna and turned on the light. Mr. mouse was out from hiding. This time I would see where it had disappeared to. As I approached the mouse quickly turned and shot up between the sauna wall boards and the wall. There is space between the foundation wall and the sauna wall to allow for air circulation. I figured little rodent was hungry enough to do almost anything to get food, including falling for a simple catch 'em alive trap. There was no need to kill it. Besides it was rather cute. So I took a piece of picture framing wood and propped it up against an empty mop bucket. I placed three pieces of bread along this piece of wood and tore up the remainder into smaller pieces and dropped them into the bucket, turned off the light and left for about an hour. When I returned I found the fur ball in the bottom of the bucket enjoying its meal. It stayed eating long enough to get a few snapshots off but then became nervous and tried to jump out. It almost succeeded once. I placed a towel over the bucket and had Alexi take it up into the woods to release it along with the food. I think it was very happy to be back in its own environment just as Tiina was happy to be back in hers.

A sign of Autumn

September 30th, 2007

Snapped this picture on the way to the bus stop. The leaves were beginning to fall from the trees and there was a slight chill in the air. Hoping that an early Fall will bring a nice, cold winter with lots and lots of snow!