Friday, October 29, 2010

Twice the Fair - Continued (Includes Pix of Me)

Amazing how it works, but the first time I went to the Fair this year, with my whole entire family in tow, I didn't get a single picture of myself taken. It's like I wasn't even there. Not to fear, one can almost always rely on the kindness of strangers. And that's exactly what happened when M and I returned on the last day of the Fair.

We went very early in the morning to avoid the stampede and getting stuck in the dreadful traffic. Think Raleigh can't get big, busy and uncomfortable even if it tried? Well, 1,091,887 people attended NC State Fair this year (the new all-time record) and 110,567 of these people showed up on that last Sunday of the Fair (another record set to which we contributed so now I feel like I've played my part in making history. Maybe I can write a memoir. Wait... I already have this blog!)

Back to the Fair. This time around it was just M and I since grandparents went back to NY and Chris was away for the weekend. With nothing better to do, we spent about 5 hrs roaming the Fair.

Here's the cool part. One of the books I bought for M recently was Russian translation of Paddington Bear stories (BTW, adorable and highly recommended). And one of the stories in the book was about Paddington going to a fair, riding different rides, winning a little toy fish and enjoying himself immensely. So our second time at the Fair was very much Paddington Bear-like.

We walked all around the Fair, looking at pretty much everything. Just like the Bear, we went on a few rides (yeah, I had to go on the horrible spinning cups ride, grhh, yuck). Then M played a little fishing game and won a prize. Guess what the prize was? A little stuffed yellow toy fish, just like the one Paddington'd won in the book!

Here's the funny part (in retrospect). I think I read the Paddington Bear story one too many times 'cause I started believing it just like my not-quite-4-year old did. At the end of the story, Paddington feels very sleepy. Well, that was my secret plan - to stay at the Fair long enough and do enough to get M good and tired so he'd nap for a couple of hours. Wishful thinking! As a matter of fact, he went on a no-nap strike that whole week. So the only thing I accomplished walking around the Fair for 5 hours was getting myself VERY tired for the rest of the day.

Twice the Fair

I don't remember last year's NC State Fair probably because we didn't go. Or if we did, we didn't stay very long. Or we didn't have much fun. Or we didn't eat any of the fair food. Well, to make up for the lack of memories from last year's Fair, we've done this year's Fair TWICE.
The first time the entire family - my parents, Chris, M and myself - went there on the opening weekend. Aside from Grampa's complaints and total lack of enthusiasm, it was a good outing. We walked around just a bit, mostly in the Garden Exhibit area (my favorite); took M on a few rides; and had some mediocre fair food.

So let's start with food. The big question this year is did he or didn't he. We all know that Chris got to eat this year's top contender for the title of "Most Disturbing Fair Food Item" - the Krispy Kreme Bacon Cheeseburger (yeah, it's a bacon cheeseburger with a KK donught instead of a normal bun). But did he really enjoy it? To his (Chris') credit, he actually didn't. What's it going to be next year? How about a deep-fried PBJ sandwich?
Everyone else was a bit more cautious in their food choices. Well, Grandpa got some kind of sandwich that was big on sauteed onions and chunks of deep-fried grease. Grandma went for a turkey leg and corn on the cob (actually, good choices both, but we'll attribute them to the beginner's luck since that was her first ever State Fair).
M had a corndog and cotton candy. And I had a grilled corn and fried green tomatoes (delicious while hot, afterwards just greasy).
This year was the first time M got to go on a couple of rides all by himself! Hooray! He went on a kind of a carousel ride and also on a kiddie roller-coaster. Of course, he was thrilled with both! But he also loved the Jungle Adventure maze-obstacle course, spinning cups and a mega slide.

But that first time we didn't get to see much of anything, just the kiddie rides and the food and some old time-y arts and crafts (predictably, M was thrilled by the loom and the spinning wheel).

And then, as we were about to leave, we came across this one-man band. It was clearly a show for kids since there on the ground, in front of this guy, was a box full of shakers, rattles, and various noise-makers. The kids were encouraged to grab whatever noise-maker they liked and join the performance. Needless to say, M loved the idea, especially after he spied a pair of cymbals, lying neglected on the bottom of the box.

Oh, but here's the funniest part - while all the rest of the kids faced the performer (and turned their backs on the audience of, mostly, approving or at least amused parents), M quickly moved closer to the musician guy and turned to face the audience. The only kid to have done so!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rockets, Luna 3 and the Gas Giant Jupiter

Yep, we're still in the space age here at home. M still dons his astronaut suit almost every day and calls himself "космонавт Марк" or "ashtronaut Mark" (depending on who he's talking to). He takes his new mission very seriously too!
Just this past Monday he wanted to play with a slightly older boy. So I told him to first introduce himself and then invite the boy to play. So M immediately went over to the boy and said in his high-pitched voice: "Hi! I'm Mark. I'm ashtronaut." When the boy didn't respond, M explained himself further "One, two, three... Blast-off!" with an unmistakeable geasture of a rocket that's taking off.
Seriously though, not a day goes by without him requesting to make some new decorations for our Space Room (that's our family room and the adjacent hallway).
In addition to our pumpkin-box turned spaceship, two rockets from SparkCon festival (yes, they are still surviving) and a small, but ever-growing collection of space shuttles and plastic astronauts, we now have all of these:

Spaceships Taking Off from the Surface of Mars (you can see the big bright Sun and if you look very carefully right next to it there's Mercury). This particular art project, done about 3 weeks ago, used up a ton of glitter and left even more of it all over the family room.

"Luna 3" probe - my proudest creation! It looks just like the real thing (at least based on a picture in a sticker book). We used egg cartons, foil and some odds and ends.

Another large-size undertaking that we call "Earth-rise Seen from the Moon by the Apollo Crew" (you can see all the stickers of the Apollo modules, the astronaut, the lunar buggy and, of all things, a spiral galaxy). It actually looks good enough that for a while M pretended that it was an IMAX screen - he'd pull up a chair, sit down and "watch a movie".

Then we had a bit of a break and went to the Life and Science Museum in Durham. You know, the one with the drums. You know, the ones that M used to drum on for hours on end refusing to see or try anything else in the museum. You know, that's why we didn't renew our membership there last year (plus it's quite a drive from us).

Anyway, they have a life size model of an Apollo module, space costumes, a walk-in Apollo control module and some space-themed hands-on displays. Oh, and a big rocket right in front of the museum! Sure, this time around M spent most of the time inside the Apollo capsule pretending to count-down to blast-off.

Back home we also made this little display that we decided to call "Moon in the Sky" (yeah, not very original, I know).
and the "Solar System" mobile (again, not very original, but that's what this mobile is all about).

and also this "Space Shuttle Taking Off from the Launch Pad" picture (ok, so I did draw all the elements, but M helped me glue them on and he was responsible for the fire and clouds of smoke from the engines).
Then also there are these two original paintings. One is called "Canstellation of Stars with Glitter" and the other one - "Spiral Galaxies in Space". Guess which one is which.
Oh, I just realized that I still haven't taken pictures of our pumpkin-box spaceship and three other solar systems that decorate the family room. Hmm, well, to be continued...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

BlockFest Comes to Raleigh

Have you ever heard of BlockFest? Neither had I until recently. It's this travelling program that teaches parents how playing with building blocks helps children develop math skills. So it's kind of a workshop where kids get to play with different kinds of blocks while parents learn how to "facilitate" and teach basic math concepts.

Well, not to sound like a know-it-all or anything like that, but I kind of already knew a thing or two about the benefits of playing with blocks and how develops math, logic, etc. Some of it is fairly self-evident and the rest I got from all those smart books I skim through.

But it was still a lot of fun to go to the BlockFest. It was like a mega playdate, really. At least the first 2 times we got to go. The third time things got off to the rocky start, but once a large group of very roudy preschoolers left, it all got back to normal.

So there were 5 kinds of blocks - large cardboard blocks, unit blocks, pattern blocks, Keva planks, and large and small foam blocks. We have large cardboard blocks at home and M knows and loves unit blocks and foam blocks. He gets to play with them at the Marbles Kids Museum. But the pattern blocks and Keva planks were very new.

While he wasn't too impressed with Kevas, M got totally into pattern blocks. Surprise-surprise, he even chose the most challenging patterns to copy, the ones with hidden blocks, and was able to complete them mostly on his own. So now I'm on a look-out for pattern blocks. Oh, and for unit blocks.

Anyway, as you can see, for 2 out of 3 days he's been going to the BlockFest dressed in his astronaut costume. He wanted to make sure that "everyone knows that I am a little boy astronaut". And to make sure that the message really sunk in, M built several rockets out of various blocks. Yeah, by the way, the rockets he designed and built all by himself without my help!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Great Idea for a Tree Part Construction Set

I have this routine worked out - every day right after Chris takes M up to bed I sit down to work. Well, actually, I sit down to catch up on various blogs first. At this point I have about 30 blogs in my Google Reader, most of which update daily (sometimes several times a day). And that's not counting business-related blogs or blogs I follow for my clients. But I always keep finding some new super cool and inspirational ones to add to the Reader.

Here's another one I'll be adding to my Reader in just a second. I don't know what this is all about yet, something to do with creative preschool and kindergarten ideas. Sounds good enough for me. And here's a post that won my heart - Teacher Tom: A Tree Part Construction Set. Now, this looks a bit like an activity M did a few times in the past, including here and here. Except this one uses all natural materials, which I LOVE.