Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween 2013!

Lina was a tree fairy for Halloween 2013. We marched in the Park Slope Halloween Parade after we went trick-or-treating in that neighborhood.

We had an absolutely wonderful Halloween and we hope that you all did as well. Cheers!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ascarium and Haunted Walk...the Good and the Bad

Yes, it's that spooky time of year again.

Lina once again enjoyed the Ascarium at the New York Aquarium. We went last year and the year prior, but they have different performances and decorations each year that strike a balance between celebrating sea life and Halloween. Grandma and uncle joined us and experienced the magical silliness of the Wizard of the Waters Academy, lessons served up with "evil stew" at The Sea Witch Spooky Show and rockin' catchy tunes of the Dream Jam Band (Lina had a blast dancing to their sweet song "Look Around").

At the end of our visit, we went to the gift shop...where Lina quickly chose a stuffed great white shark and a couple of other soft creatures to add to her collection.

Our weekend was quite busy, since we also went to Prospect Park for the Halloween Haunted Walk, like we did last year. Sadly, we will not return next year. We waited one hour on line and then the volunteers rushed everyone through it all so quickly, you could barely interact with the costumed characters or take snapshots. The young female guide at the back of the group was extremely rude...yelling at people to put down their cameras...telling us we should just take a picture at the end of the tour (though no spooky characters for photo ops at the end, just a nature girl and some pumpkins). The woman leading our group was extremely sweet, but still must have been directed by whoever trained the volunteers that they had to rush through it all...speaking as fast as possible and encouraging people to move on after a few seconds at each station. Last year they allowed the group to watch a brief "show" at each station, so everyone had plenty of time to snap a reaction or two from the kids. We also waited half the time on line last year, thirty minutes, but it would have been worth it to spend an hour or more on line for that wonderful experience.

Perhaps they were overwhelmed with a huge line this year. So many web sites promote the same free activities in NYC. I guess people spend so much money on insane rents here that they can't afford to do anything. (Another reason to move!) But they can make some simple rules I think to try to cut down on the ridiculous line. For example, I really don't think this experience was appropriate for toddlers or infants, yet there were so many people with strollers on the line. On the trail, the tots being held (or barely walking along while holding hands) looked unhappy, confused, scared (some were crying) or sleepy.

Just adding a small required fee, like $5 per person, would also cut down on the line. I used to hunt for free activities in NYC, but last year I finally realized it's just not worth the long lines, with people coming from all over the city, cutting in line in front of us, cramming into very crowded spaces and not supervising wildly misbehaving kids. I'd rather pay for monthly or annual memberships, not wait on long lines (or have to show up super early) and be surrounded by folks who are part of a committed community, in terms of dedication to various interests.

The photos below show the awesome volunteers we encountered at the Halloween Haunted Walk. Though my daughter's momentary ear pain was all she remembered about the event; she told everyone the rest of the weekend that she couldn't understand why "dead people" want to make ears hurt. Whoever was in charge of training volunteers this year obviously equates "scary" with loud yelling...directly into people's ears, like one or two inches away...because so many of the volunteers were doing that this year. Last year we were (pretend) running away from zombies who looked scary, it was fantastic fun...this year, they were terrifying to us because we didn't want ear damage. Thank you to the volunteers below, you were the silver lining to an otherwise disappointing activity:

Lina had a wolf around her neck because she was a "wilderness girl."

After the free Halloween Walk, we did not attempt to wait on another ridiculously long line nearby to attend the free carnival...instead, we took a walk up Prospect Park Southwest, while Lina played her harmonica (thankfully she could still hear the music).

We saw beautiful decorations in the Park Slope neighborhood as we made our way down to 7th Avenue.

Then we indulged in some rare junk food (but we walked three solid miles that afternoon). Lina never wants burgers (of any sort) and I enjoy a burger like once a month max. I took Lina to Cheeburger Cheeburger for the first time. She was willing to eat mini hot dogs sliced up with a few fries dipped in ketchup and she drank her first ever small vanilla milkshake (very nicely made, I hear). The onion rings were outstanding and the brewed iced tea was thankfully not sweet. I couldn't understand why I read reviews by a couple of customers that the meals for adults and kids were not big enough! We ordered the smallest sizes possible (they have some gigantic sizes, I have no idea who is able to eat those and why they would want to) and still we left half-eaten meals at the table. The staff were supremely nice to us...allowing me to choose a quiet area for our table. They certainly please the kids by serving their meals in a cute paper car.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What I Love About You

Lina chose a bouquet of beautiful flowers to bring to one of her doting great aunts a while ago. (We had a fun visit bringing that gift in person to my dear aunt and spending some time with one of her friendly sons, as well.)  Since another great aunt couldn't keep flowers inside her home (due to a family member's health), Lina chose a journal book instead as a gift for her...because it had a big heart on the cover.

Lina dictated answers to many questions listed in the show her love for auntie.

The journal was about one hundred pages long. Lina filled it up with her words or (in the case of questions about romantic love that were not relevant) she drew pictures on construction paper that I cut out and taped onto various pages. This kept Lina happily occupied during many evenings at home (we do not have a TV, by choice, so it's our mission to find alternative entertainment that's not passive). A bonus for us...when we delivered the journal in person to my sweet aunt...I had a chance to chat with my wonderful uncle, while Lina played with their adorable 10 month old grandchild for hours.

If you would like to see a sample of the lovely pages that were created in the journal...

Friday, October 11, 2013

AlphaSmart 3000

Lina wanted to type...but I was hesitant to give her control of my laptop unless I was sitting right next to her or had her on my lap (you know, to make sure she doesn't modify settings in applications, sends emails to my contact list or deletes data files).

I decided to spend $50 and go old school. I bought a used AlphaSmart 3000, a word processing keyboard. Such a low price, I'm not concerned if it's handled by a 5 year old. Below is the first thing she typed on it:

What was the next thing she typed on it?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Aladdin...and the wonderful tilapia!

Continuing our tradition (since Lina was 2 years and 10 months old) of seeing every production of Puppetworks in Park Slope, Brooklyn...we just saw their fall puppet show "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp." It was incredibly entertaining! This show ends December 22, so there's plenty of time to see it with your family (the show is perfect for kids ages 4-8). Plus, it's a 5 minute walk from the theater to one of Lina's favorite playgrounds in NYC, J.J. Byrne (here's my review published on Mommy Poppins; Lina is in four of the photographs I took for that assignment...and wow, Squishy has grown so much in 1 1/2 years :-).

Since I discovered Haab Park Slope when we went to a puppet show at Puppetworks about seven weeks ago, once again we walked on 6th Avenue from 4th Street to 7th Street to indulge in the most amazing fish taco I have ever eaten. They use tilapia, a mild tasting fish that I first discovered in Santa Cruz, California a few years ago. I didn't realize it's gaining popularity in New York City (according to the New York Times, Americans ate four times as much tilapia in the last year as a decade ago). I also tasted a chorizo taco, truly perfectly cooked...yum...and the taco was only $3.25. I didn't have breakfast (I'm not a morning person, it takes hours for my system to wake up after I do...versus Lina who is a big fan of breakfast), but I wasn't super hungry at lunch (though we had a 2 mile walk on a fairly humid day). Knowing Lina would likely not split a Mexican meal with me (she just wanted to eat a fresh green salad and a plain tortilla- though she tried a hard taco shell this time; plus, she loves sipping water from the mason jars they provide)...I didn't want to order something larger like a burrito (stuffed with beans and rice) or fajitas or a brunch dish with eggs, but everything smelled delicious at the restaurant. This is definitely a place I want to bring friends in the future.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Making lunches with egg and sandwich shapers

Yes...ever since Lina got the awesome lunch bag (The Very Hungry Caterpillar!)...I've had to make cold lunches...that look super cute :-) She loves these:

Boiled eggs in bunny and bear shapes.

And dinosaur-shaped sandwiches.