Year of the Horse

Like I wrote a few years back, it’s inconveniently difficult to distill a single year in a child’s life into one or two clear themes for narrative purposes. Except when it’s not. Sometimes, it’s actually super easy. Like this year. The title may have already given it away, but let’s reiterate:




So much horse. Hobby horses in their hobby horse stables and with their hobby horse races. Schleich horse figurines. Every conceivable horse or horse-adjacent show on Netflix. Star Stable Online and myriad horse-themed mobile games. And, of course, actual real-life horses at an actual stable, from Shetland ponies to Irish cobs to whatever they call those bigger ones.

So much horse, in fact, that even Julia’s mother completed a basic riding course and was left wanting more. And I would’ve happily joined her; I’ve found I really enjoy being around horses. Alas, the stable where the womenfolk ride has an upper human weight limit of 90 kilograms (180 pounds). Much too low for my manly and muscular frame. Or, as my daughter put it, “Get less fat, Dad.”

So very much horse.

Second grade has gone well, too, by the by. Zero worries and so on and so forth.

My wish list for second grade from last year didn’t fare too well, though:

Fewer 08:15 mornings.

Nope. Same amount.

Less need for parental assistance, encouragement, intervention, coercion, or bribery in the mornings when it’s time for Julia to get up and go to school.

Yes. Zero need, actually. In fact, we need to arm-wrestle her to take a day off from school when one’s needed.

Some new subject or topic of study in which Dad’s help at home proves an indispensable boon.

Nope. I’m not really needed at all. Yet.

Homework that occasionally actually makes one put in the work.

Nope. It takes her like 5 minutes tops to do her homework every day.

Fewer sociopathic autocrats with pathetic delusions of imperial grandeur destroying children’s lives.

Sadly, no. But at least Finland is freshly under a whole new security umbrella, and we’ve finally managed to shake off most of our obsolete Finlandization politics and posture. I’m happy for Finland, and I’m happy that my daughter gets to grow up in Finland.

* * *

Julia’s ninth year ended on a sad and somber note when her maternal grandfather, my father-in-law, Kassu, or “Papu” for his children and grandchildren, died in February. It was not exactly sudden or unexpected, except that it also kind of was. Julia and her cousins dealt with it just fine, though, as kids are wont to do.

Before we get to the yearly collection of quirkily captioned photos, and since this is my blog after all, I do want to say this:

Kassu was my first and, so far, last father-in-law, or “appiukko”, as we call them in Finnish.

Parents-in-law are, of course, legendary in how terrifying and dreadful they can be to usurpers trying to sneak into their family through their precious children. Naturally, I was quite anxious to meet my wife’s parents, especially her father, for the first time back in the early 2000s. Also, you just never know what will happen when two burly alpha males meet.

But Kassu was utterly easy-going and welcoming from the start. I stepped into his home, he came to greet me with a smile, shook my hand, and that was it. No third-degree interrogation, no judging looks, no bone-breaking handshakes (although Kassu always had an iron grip). Nothing you might expect from a scary father-in-law (or girlfriend’s dad, as it was). Kassu and I were totally fine and completely comfortable from the start.

(It was actually my future mother-in-law, Lena, who was the suspicious one. With her, it actually took a while before she was content that the young man her daughter brought home was fit to join the family. But she was always really nice and polite! (She also reads this blog.))

Easy and comfortable is how it went with Kassu over the years. We didn’t have much in common, but it didn’t really matter. He liked cars and sports; I couldn’t care less about cars and sports. Regardless, Kassu was always a really easy and natural conversation partner. And if we sometimes had nothing to talk about, then we just sat in perfectly easy and comfortable silence; he’d watch sports on TV or read an automobile magazine, while I would play with my smartphone.


So, thank you, Kassu, for being a welcoming and easy-going – and at best only very rarely ever so slightly scary – father-in-law. Rest in peace. You will be missed.


Kassu, 21.10.1955 – 20.02.2023

* * *


2015 / 2016 / 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020 / 2021 / 2022 / 2023

* * *


Well, at least she’s not wearing makeup. And she ate them afterwards.


We call this the “Julia tax”. For some reason, it’s mostly levied on Dad.


First ever hobby horse race. She gallops straight to the top 5 in her class.


Hotels are so exciting.


Still chillin’.


First taste of mojito. Non-alcoholic. Not a fan.


No matter how much fun you’re having or how distracted you are, there’s always time to give Dad the fist when he’s photographing you.


Doin’ time is nuthin’ when you have your mobile.


Schleich horse stable. It’s pretty much all there in the name.


Two generations with 72 years in between them. (No, my Dad did not actually pay for this photo shoot.)


Hang on, I’ll be right there.


Daughter & Dad go camping. In a makeshift tent. On the grandparents’ lawn. It was great.


Rocking another photo shoot.


Life lessons from Dad: Hot dog at a grillikioski. Definitely a fan.


Like daughter…


…like Mom.




Materialist consumerism: 1. Ecological choices: 0.


The kids are all alright.


Reading: That thing you do when you’re too bored to do anything else.


Star Stable Online. Hugely popular MMORPG with over 500K monthly players but no English Wikipedia page. That make sense to you?


Nine years almost to the day.


Bigger girl, bigger horse. Onward to year 10.

11 thoughts on “Year of the Horse

  1. Thank you Timo for the words you wrote of Papu ! I hardly could read, when tears filled my eyes.

    Julia is super.

    1. Thank you. Papu was obviously a big part of our lives, so I felt that he deserved a proper digital footprint and goodbye here, too.

        1. I could’ve waited a few more years. :)

          Still, I’m honored, as that was her very first public comment or post on the web. (Well, as far as I know anyway.)

  2. Another excellent post and another great year, thanks for sharing this with us. And thank you for the insight into your in-laws, I think it’s a familiar story but it’s a nice one. Sorry for your loss.

    The “Hang on, I’ll be right there” picture has great Captain Jack Sparrow vibes!

    1. Thanks. I definitely lucked out in the in-laws department.

      In a few years, I can actually watch the Pirates trilogy with Julia! Provided she’s at all interested in watching super old movies with super old Dad.

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