This weekend we joined friends for a road trip to a brand new science centre open in Estonia.  The museum was great - one of the best science centres we've ever been in.  The kids loved it: curious, active, fearless - running through the exhibits, ready for anything, the first to jump into flight simulators, dark tunnels, mazes, elevators.   I was surprised to see my own reaction to things though.  A number of times throughout the day I found myself fighting mini panic-attacks as I failed the challenges that the kids seemed to thrive on.  I couldn't overcome the feeling that I was going to cry and scream and vomit all at once when Tiss tried to lure me into the mirror maze.  I clenched my eyes shut and prayed for the ground when Jem pulled us 2 flights high in the rope chair lift.  I turned around and fled when Mikus invited me into the "Shanghai house" with a sloping floor, which made you feel instantly sea sick.  I was surprised at my own amount of fear and dread at simple things that cause kids joy and wonder.  My pulse racing and insides tingling, I sat down on the huge row of exercise-balls-come-exhibition couches and tried to gather myself together.

Maybe giving in to panic was just my reaction to my fear at real-life situations that have already come up early this year.  Almost immediately after new year's we found ourselves in a crisis at home, with our sweet Mikus developing a debilitating health issue - which has us confused, searching for immediate answers to relieve the problem, and possibly facing years of management once things settle down.  I have been finding this process difficult - because the sadness and fear that I have been feeling about this little person, my own flesh and blood.  Overcoming fear has been the hardest part of this process - finding the courage to keep searching, to be active in engaging health professionals and being advocate for my own child.  Things late this week started looking a little more positive, though not completely cured, and I have managed to regain some sense of balance.

So it looks like my theme for 2013 has been defined by outside influences.  Turns out that my resolution of learning to make sushi has been usurped by something a little more challenging - finding courage, wherever and whenever I need it.

Get me outta here!

I made myself go up and down this chairlift (with my kids alongside, to support me) until I could do it without screaming

After the science centre I bullied everyone into going for a quick walk around historic Tartu.  The seriously sub-zero windchill factor meant that we were all miserable and frozen after the first few blocks.  

Except for me, who was feeling all warm and fuzzy after seeing this famous (but quite recent) statue in the town square.  

I think our kids + friends would have been more happy spending extra time on the iPad.  Who said they don't generate social interaction?

Cold drive home - road trip!  Well worth the distance.

It's not too late for this cosy romantic scene with a handwritten "Happy New Year!", is it?  I picked up this postcard at a collector's fair this autumn.  I think I was taken by the obvious chemistry between the photo subjects - and the absurd hand-coloured hot-pink flames in the fireplace.

The heartbroken Sigurds has written to Elga in 1924 - a lovestruck poem he can only have composed himself, inspired by the image on the card.  After reading his verse, I can't help wonder if he was also responsible for hand-colouring the card:

"...Oh, believe me!  A fireplace is love,
Where the most lovely dreams are consumed by flame,
But there is no more love, and my heart grows cold..."

 Years ago, my mother-in-law taught me a concept taught to her by her mother - that some days are just "days with holes in them".  Meaning that on those days you feel miserable, and everything goes wrong.  Or they are melancholy, and you just can't wait for them to end.  Or maybe something actually terrible happens, or you get some bad news.  A day with a hole in it is a great concept - it gives you the acceptance that today is a shitty day - and that some days are just like that.  It also gives you a sense of closure, in the way that it is just one day - tomorrow will probably be different.

Over time, I have also taught this phrase to my own kids, and sometimes in tears or frustration or unhappiness we agree that today is just a day with a hole in it.  And we feel better!  If any other hurdle comes our way, we figure it's meant to, because it's that kind of day.

Well, for various reasons today was that kind of a day for us.  So we decided to get out of the house and tackle the day head-on, by going to various museums and exhibitions in town.  I managed to abandon my men and dived into the Marimekko exhibition on at the Decorative arts museum.

Dear lord, if there was anyone on earth who NEVER had a day with a hole in it, it's those happy Marimekko designers.  I have never seen a fashion label with a bigger sense of joy de vivre.  Who doesn't love their cheerful, bold, colourful prints?  And to top it off, they sewed these fabulous floral fabrics into short frocks that could only be described as stylish sacks.  In the midst of my day with a hole in it, I realized that I NEEDED one of those frocks/sacks - and all my problems would be solved.

 Meanwhile, my boys were visiting an old favourite, which never ceases to amuse and amaze - the Latvian Natural History museum.

The best bit is the vintage diorama on the second floor, with all the moth-eaten stuffed animals.  If they ever refurbish that floor of the museum I will make a one-woman protest by chaining myself to the lopsided taxidermied giraffe.

We have been visiting the museum since the boys were tiny, and they still get excited every time we walk in the doors.

Especially by the big clunky mechanical map-of-the-world, where you can press a button next to a picture of an animal, and little lights come up on the map that correspond with where the animal lives.

And there's certainly nothing like a careful examination of the "Mouse school" to chase away that day with a hole in it.... 

If you ask me there's no better way to bring in the New Year than having a New Year's Eve sauna. Woodfired and super heated, with a refreshing rub-down of snow afterwards.  Leaves you feeling extra clean and saintly, and ready for just  about anything, I reckon. 

That's how our sauna looked last night - cosy light in the window as we walked down to the bath-house through the shadowy, snowy landscape. 

I am not a big one for new year's resolutions.  This year I've kept them practical:  I want to learn to roll my own sushi.  And I intend to keep going to the gym.  

Is that setting the bar too high?  

It actually wasn't time for too much philosophical contemplation last night - the hubbub of friends and kids that descended on our country place kept me active.  I over-ambitiously decided to make pelmeni for the first time in my life - little meat parcels that are traditionally Siberian, a bit like ravioli really. 

Other friends got busy making traditional winter solstice decorations with reeds from our pond.  I love these mobiles - called puzuri - but rarely get a chance to make them myself.  

The most beautiful moment last night was an instance I didn't manage to catch on camera - I was too busy locking it into my memory.  I stepped back from the traditional fireworks spectacular arranged by the pyrotechnically literate males in our community - and watched it all from the side.  Our kids craning their necks backwards to watch the colour explosions in the sky, muffled in scarves and hats, red cheeks from the cold and squealing like hobbits at Gandalf's light show in Lord of the Rings.  Then I watched everyone lighting sparklers from afar - crowds of silhouettes with bright little stars exploding periodically amongst them, lighting up faces and smiles and shining eyes.  Ach, maybe it was the champagne talking, but it all seemed pretty wonderful to me. 

So on that note - 2013!!  May it sparkle and shine.  

 And for good measure - looking forward to hanging out with these dudes in 2013...


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