Sunday, February 27, 2011

Week 6 - Too Much Space

This morning started off with M telling everyone in the house his last night's dream:

"I flew into Outer Space in a space pod. And then I launched a whole lot of satellites into orbit. And even Darth Vader. And then Darth Vader started shooting at the rocks on the Moon."

Oh, and M doesn't pronounce "th" yet, so it comes out as "Darhhh Vader". Super cute!
And that pretty much sums up the theme of this week - rockets, cosmos, astronauts.

We did get snow again on Monday. Fortunately, my brother was here to help digg us out. This is getting really old and I can't wait to get back to Raleigh and its 70-degree weather.

M was so busy helping his uncle to clear the snow, build with blocks, and then going to my uncle Victor's birthday, that he didn't do much space stuff.

Then there was Tuesday. It started off with M building a rocket. Unlike all the previous ones where I'd help him put it all together, this one was all his work. From the choice of spare parts - cardboard tubes from toilet paper and towel rolls, a wine cork, cut-up paint chips, stickers and lots of sticky tape - to the design, to gluing/taping it all together, it was all his work!

He even came up games to play with his rocket. One was "Rocket Landing on the Moon" and the other one - "Rocket Landing on a Wild Planet".

That same day we went to my aunt Sofia's to enjoy birthday dinner leftovers (delish!!!) and M got to play with his cousin (or second cousin? I can never figure these things out in English).
It was a great playdate - they played lots of different games, listened to stories, helped Grandma Sofia bake a cake, ate it, played some more, watched cartoons... Total success.

Wednesday was pretty much the re-run of Tuesday. We started by building another toilet paper rocket. Then went to play with M's cousin at Grandma Sofia's house (more yummy food).

Then there was Thursday. My parents had to go to the Russian Counsulate in Manhattan and we tagged along. Well, not like I care much about the counsulate. But it's just a mile or so from the Museum of Natural History. Hello, Hayden Planetarium!!!
I expected parents to get stuck at the counsulate for 3-4 hours (not an unreasonable expectation), but they were done in just 2. Aparently, the place is becoming more efficient if not less rude. So we had just enough time to catch a show at the planetarium, then watch the Big Bang pre-show. Then M ran around the Rose Center of Earth and Space (spending most of his time in the Space part of it).

Then I managed to get him into the North American Mammals exhibit for a few short minutes. Yes, I did have to bribe him, promised him to stop by the gift shop next. At the gift shop he said that he only wanted "things about cosmos" and ended up choosing an Apollo Program poster, a DVD called "Visual Encyclopedia of the Universe" and a set of tiny plastic astronauts that also included Skylab, Apollo 13 control module and the Moon rover.

We got home just in time to watch Discovery's last launch live on NASA TV, whole 40 minutes of it (including pre-launch coverage).
Since then it's been nothing but "space stuff" around here. From pretend-play to building an elaborate launch pad to inventing more rockets to dreaming of Darhh Vader shooting moon rocks from the orbit.
Ah, we also built a volcano this weekend (if you're wondering about the pinkish color - it's Olympus Mons). And we made a seed collection for M to take up to the ISS so he can grow veggies hydroponically and surprise NASA.
And that was Week 6. Just three more weeks to go.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Week 5 - Half-Way Home

Just 5 more weeks or so before my stronger half gets back and we head back to NC. Let's see, what were we doing this week...

Ah, so M got sick. So we pretty much stayed home most of the week. And since we stayed home, we made stuff, mostly toys but also a magazine.

First, we made the TIE Fighter using a toilet paper roll, some empty tea candle holders, styrofoam ball (big mistake since it managed to both absorb a ton of spray paint and melt in the process), left-over styrofoam take-out containers and some odds and ends.

Then we made a robotic capsule that uses two kinds of fuels (disgusting syrup and liquid methane, as explained by M). Then we played a bit with it pretending that it first landed on a wild planet full of hungry dinosaurs and then - on the Moon.

We also made a drawbot, but I can't find a picture of it so I'll post it later. Tomorrow we're staying home again 'cause M is not completely over his cold. So we plan on making another bot, this one - to knock the building blocks down and then to have an epic fight with the drawbot.

Another thing we tried making was our own magazine. M seemed to be interested. You see, I bought him an issue of Popular Mechanics that he really wanted 'cause it had a picture of a giant space ship on the cover. But turns out, the actual article wasn't very long and, more importantly, didn't have many pictures at all.

I suggested that if he was to publish his own magazine, he can control what stories appear in it. He, of course, said that the magazine had to be only about the Outer Space. In fact, he wanted it to be called "The Cosmos Magazine". So we went through our collection of clippings and M put together a cover.

Then he chose two pictures - the Moon and the Big Dipper - and created stories about them. I, of course, wrote them down. He then wanted an article about galaxies, but didn't want to come up with any more stories himself. So he went to ask Grandpa for a story and that's how we ended up with an interview.

Also, before M got sick we went to a lake nearby. The weather was very nice and M wanted to get some decomposing bark for some experiments. I asked him what kind of experiments and he relied "I am going to pour some water into a bowl and put bark into water and wet it and then I will observe what happens". He did collect enough bark and then he did do the experiment. Afterwards I asked him about his observations. His response: "The bark got wet, floated, but didn't change at all".

So that's about it. This weekend we'll be doing a ton of kitchen experiments, I guess. Oh, and go on a walk to look for bunnies 'cause M wants to catch one and bring him home and feed him bunny food and call him "Zaika".

Week 4 - Birthday

Posting late, but things piled up here. Ok, it's getting late and I still hope to get to bed before midnight at least once in two weeks, so I better get to the point.

Last week was M's birthday. He turned 4. Yippie!!! Babushka took a day off at work and we planned on having a very private birthday party on Wednesday evening, followed by a larger family party on Saturday. Except Grandma got sick first thing on Monday.

We still tried to have a bit of a private party on Wednesday - opening the gifts, playing with them, buying the cake, decorating it and ordering a giant pizza.

So, the gifts. First of all, M is not used to that many gifts. He usually gets 1 gift from us and whatever money he gets from all the grandparents, we just spend them on some kind of cool activities later on (kids museum, zoo, IMAX, etc). This time M got 3 gifts on his birthday and some more the next day. I think he got overwhelmed. Next year we'll try going back to 1 gift on his birthday. But here's what he got:

WALL-E - this was the most exciting gift of the day. M loves WALL-E and this little 'bot truly made his day. He took it with him everywhere and spent half the morning pushing it around the house collecting "trash" (bits of string and paper that I sprinkled liberally around the living room).

M later insisted on building a house for WALL-E so the little bot has some place to hide from the dust storms. And so we made one out of the big box WALL-E was shipped in. And then M made some "treasures" for WALL-E to collect, including a big necklace out of plastic beads.

Unit Blocks - not as exciting, but excellent edutoy. Plus it works on his muscle control skills. First thing he built was a gate and a castle which was later renamed into a planetarium.

Lego Duplo set - this is M's first Lego set and I hope not the last one. I hope to add a few more Duplo blocks to it in the future (once we're back in NC). I think adding more bricks would help retain his interest since this set is very specific and there are not enough spare bricks left over to build anything else around the construction site.

Tinkertoys - huge hit! Right away M built something that he called a rocket. Then - something else that he called a camera. He walked around the house with it stopping to take pictures. But the "camera" kept falling over. So he said: "This camera is not very high quality and it's not stable. But it takes very good pictures!"

Jedi Starfighter - M hasn't watched any of the Star Wars movies, but I got him a $0.50 copy of an Encyclopedia of Star Wars Vehicles (or some such title) at a local library sale and he is in love! His dream is to make Death Star, but I told him he has to get much better at Legos before we get him this kit. So he was beyond excited when one of his gifts turned out to be a model of Jedi Starfighter "just like one in the book, Mama!"

Then there was the cake. M wanted a cake that's "about Outer Space". And we planned on baking him one the day of his birthday. Except, of course, that Grandma got sick and I have no idea how to bake cakes (Chris is the baker, remember). Fortunately, a day or so before getting ill, Grandma and M made some gingerbread cookies for decorating the cake. So then I took M to a local bakery and he chose a cherri cheesecake 'cause it was red like Mars.
Then we decorated the gingerbread cookies. I decorated the astronauts, the rocket, the stars and the dog. And M decorated a round cookie and said it was our planet, Earth. Then we put it all together. So here's the deal - the cake was renamed into Moon. The rocket became Apollo 11 lunar module. The astronaut on the right is Neil Armstrong. The one on the left is Yuri Gagarin (yeah, I know, should've been Buzz Aldrin, but M was doing the naming and he wanted it to be Gagarin). The dog is Laika, the first animal in orbit. Stars - self-explanatory. They are all looking at our Earth. How cool was that!

The party on Saturday was cancelled, but Grandma felt well enough on Sunday to be left alone. So Grandpa, M and I went to a place called Peddler's Village in Lahaska, PA. It's a very pretty village, even in winter. But it's mostly boutiques and restaurants. However, they do have this awesome Giggleberry Fair that is totally worth the 2-hour drive (one way).

First, we went to an arcade. M's never been to one and had a ton of fun trying all the different games. Then he rode on a carousel lion. And then we went to the Giggleberry Mountain. I can't even begin to describe it. It's huge and awesome and so much fun. At first I only got M a ticket, but it looked so awesome that I ended up buying a ticket for myself as well. It's this huge multi-story maze with slides and rope ladders and tunnels and air cannons and a huge Giggleberry Fountain. Oh, and check it out, they have a 3-story tall spiral slide. I wanna go back again!
Maybe we'll get to go one more time before we go back to NC. It'd be great to go there with Chris though.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Week 3 - Getting Used to It

Yes, more and more snow, but what else's new? Actually, lots of things. I think we're settling into the routine now or so it seems. Morning - I try to sleep in ('til 7:15 or so), but it usually doesn't happen, so I just pretend I'm asleep and stay in bed as long as I can. Then M helps me make the bed. Remember, it a fold-out loveseat, so it takes some strong muscles to fold it. M's muscles are getting much stronger since now he eats not one, but two breakfasts - one with his grandparents as they are getting ready for work and another one - with me after I finally get out of bed.

Then we try to do something fun - play with cans of fruits and veggies, for example. You'd be amazed at how many different games you can play with cans (full and empty) after you've stayed indoors for 3 weeks with M. For example, this is a canbot we built. M was responsible for the overall design, me - for hot-gluing it all together. M didn't want the robot to have eyes, just an alarm button to warn him of dust storms. There are also battery packs on the back and later on M wanted to add some "shooting things".
And then M built an Axiom (from Wall-E) out of all the cans from the pantry.

We've also started talking about Valentine's Day, although M calls it Balenvine Day. But I think he got the idea after making a little craft of wrapping a yarn around the heart shaped loom I made for him with a scrap of wood and some nails.
After that craft, M wanted to make me more gifts. One was a bracelet (he picked the beads for it). The other one was going to be a nice painting. M asked me what colors I wanted to see, then chose pink and told me not to look 'cause he wanted it to be a total surprise. A few minutes later he called me over and proudly showed the painting he made just for me - Pink Skeleton, complete with a rib cage!
Oh, and M also drew pictures of me, Babushka and the cat. Last time he drew pictures of people (or animals) was... never. So these are officially his first portraits. He was very happy with the result and even wanted to sign them (баба, мама, кот).
It was interesting that he drew me wearing black and grey pants and a fuzzy purple sweater. He then drew Babushka with the same colors because after all, that purple sweater is hers and I just borrow it sometimes. And then he drew our orange tabby cat. He made sure to draw the blue collar and the bright red tag Xander now wears.
So now we have another picture to add to our impromptu gallery wall.
I also started a word wall and it went well for a while. M did read the words for a while, but then kind of stopped paying attention. I think I need to remove the letters off the wall and start new word after a few days.
Oh, since this week was Chris' birthday, we wanted to celebrate (even though Chris is away). Unfortunately, we were snowed in again and couldn't go to the bakery for a dessert. So instead, Grandma and M made some cookies.
Our little backyard sledding hill is growing with all the snow.
So Babushka, M and myself went sledding there a few times, including a candle-lit evening sledding with hot компот to keep us warm. The rest of the time we were busy digging our way out of the snow. M has his little shovel and is now helping us out in earnest. Telling you, he's getting much stronger.
Oh, and today the weather was actually nice (meaning no snow or icy rain) and we ran some errands. Good news - even though I'm going to miss the huge Wake County Public Library annual book sale, I've found another book sale here, in NY. And I already went to it and got a few books. This is a much smaller sale, but it takes place in a very nice little library and all the books cost between $o.10 and $1. Can't beat that, right?