Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nutcracker from Santa

Lina asks Santa for one gift each year. Last year it was a lap harp. She makes her own music on that harp every week. This year...she wanted a nutcracker toy. She doesn't believe in a long list of toy requests for Christmas (nor her birthday). So, this is what she found under the faux fireplace mantel on Christmas Day when she woke up and ran to the living room and opened her presents...


Four little wooden nutcracker ornaments...with mouths she can open and close (lever is on the back)...a king, a drummer and two soldiers. She absolutely adores them and they have already been on many pretend adventures. Also, she received a tall nutcracker music box (this was a bonus and she didn't understand why Santa gave her two presents instead of one...but I suppose Santa couldn't decide which type of nutcracker she would enjoy more). It plays the Nutcracker Suite while moving his arms and mouth...after she winds him up, of course; it's a big hit.

Santa cut out the letters of Lina's name from pretty patterns found in print catalogs, to avoid handwriting recognition I suppose, and taped them to the red wrapping paper :-)

Lina took a gingerbread cookie tin box (that she valued very much) and put a Christmas tree drawing inside and gave it to me for a Christmas gift.

We're not very materialistic...not into the whole consumerism thing of going crazy shopping on Black Friday (I never do) or rushing to holiday sales at stores ever during the year. It's not the quantity of gifts that matter to us or how much someone spends. It's thoughtfulness that counts most, giving a gift that will mean a lot to that person - whether it was free or $10 or $100 or $1000 (living within their means, of course, rather than going into debt)...or perhaps an experience, rather than a tangible gift. Lina considered the doll I made for her to be her Christmas gift from me and she was very happy with it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Blanket of Snow

We do love snow and we welcomed this snowstorm like we did the blizzard back in February. The holiday lights make it even more special to take a snow walk in NYC.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Doll #2 Made By Mommy

Last year I posted photos of the first doll I made for Lina, she is still playing with it. She told me earlier this week that she very much wanted me to make another doll. There was a snowstorm today in NYC and I decided to fulfill Lina's wish...since we were staying home. She proclaimed that this doll is now her favorite toy and she fell asleep with it :-)

She had outgrown a pair of beautiful tights from Naartjie Kids before getting much use out of them and this was a nice way to repurpose the tights. The word "happy," with a heart below it, was printed on the legs and I used that particular section for the body of the doll. I cut the shape of the head and neck before filling the body with cotton and sewing it up. Then, I cut out the bottom of the tights, which had a nice striped pattern, filled those with cotton balls, stitched them up and attached the legs for the doll. Then I cut out another part of the tights, which had a pretty flower design, and made that part into arms for the doll. When I opened my old sewing box to get a needle and some thread...I noticed two old buttons inside...and Lina chose those buttons for the eyes of the doll. Then, she chose purple yarn for the hair.

Lina played pretend with her stuffed creatures, danced with them (the radio had some Christmas music on), sang one of her own songs, looked through several of her old books and stayed close by to watch me sew (I even let her carefully push a needle through the fabric to experience what it feels like to make a stitch, she enjoyed it). Then, I was done with this toy-making project same day and she was so excited to get this unique new doll. (I think she was inspired to ask me to make another doll this week because she watched the 1961 live-action Disney film "Babes in Toyland.")

Thursday, December 12, 2013

ANNIE The Musical on Broadway

Lina is a fan of the 1982 and 1999 Annie films and she wanted to see "Annie" live on stage before the Broadway run of the revival ends. On the way to the show, Lina sang "Tomorrow" and it sounded so lovely...but thankfully she understood that during the live show we are to remain quiet.  Here's a photo (shown below) of Lina in her seat, waiting for the show to begin. You can see the laundry hanging on the lines on stage. The set designer did a great job making the sets visually appealing and nicely balanced and also the sets changed smoothly from orphanage, to NYC streets to Warbucks' home over and over again. I know so many kids these days want fancy special effects, unlike Lina who wants everything "real," and that's perhaps why this revival isn't lasting long on Broadway (it opened last November). The holiday touches were nice toward the end of the show, too - a sparkling tree, giant stuffed giraffe and doll houses etc.

She enjoyed the performance by the adorable Taylor Richardson in the lead role as Annie (that link goes to the TheaterMania YouTube clip showing Taylor backstage...and here's a YouTube clip someone put up of her singing "Tomorrow" at Bryant Park a few months ago). The rest of the young "orphans" were also talented, in terms of following choreography and singing well, and all the kids in the audience adored the orphans. Lina also loved Miss Hannigan, performed by Faith Prince, since she was so entertaining, acting and singing in more of a funny than cruel way. Here's a photo of Lina in front of the Palace Theatre, right after the show:

She wanted to wear her red holiday dress since Annie wears a red dress at the end of the show when they are celebrating Christmas.

Lina was most amazed "by the actress dog." Sandy was played by a dog named Sunny and Lina was impressed that the dog "didn't go off the stage." Yes, she did not jump into the audience during the acting scenes...that's easy enough when a human being is holding the collar and leading a dog...but there were a couple of times when Sunny had to go on stage by herself, stop and look out at the audience, and then walk off stage before any actors returned to guide her, so that's good training; this is a young dog under 3 years old who could have gotten easily distracted. Of course, Lina spotted the stuffed toy version of Sandy in the lobby and I bought it for her as a souvenir (and it's already a star "actress dog" in her pretend adventures with her other stuffed animals).

I didn't plan to have a meal at a chain restaurant in Times Square, since they are all insanely crowded with tourists...especially at this time of year. We had 45 minutes to spare before the doors opened at the theater and we were a few short blocks away (below freezing temperature outside) and we were getting hungry (the show is 2 1/2 hours long, including intermission). We popped into Ruby Tuesday, for the first time, and I was surprised how accommodating they were. "It was a delicious meal," said Lina. I was pleased with the very friendly service and the fact that we could be in and out within 40 minutes and eat a perfectly cooked meal in a comfortable setting for $40 total (including 30% tip).

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lina's Top 9 Books (2013)

Our annual tradition on this blog...a list of Lina's favorite books from our collection at home! She certainly enjoyed many more books at storytelling events all over NYC and we have read many other fun books at public libraries.

She still enjoys picture books, of course, but she is gravitating more to longer stories in chapter books, with few illustrations. I listed only 9 new books below...because #10 would just be a tie between ALL the books listed 2012, which she still loves, and half the books from the 2011 list that she still enjoys and doesn't want me to donate or recycle.

Lina's Favorite Books (2013):

#1. It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale (by Margot Zemach)
#2. The Wind in the Willows (by Kenneth Grahame)
#3. Fairy Tales (by E. E. Cummings)
#4. The Sneetches and Other Stories (by Dr. Seuss)
#5. Aesop's Fables for Children (by Milo Winter)
#6. The Twelve Dancing Princesses (by Ruth Sanderson)
#7. Sharks (by Valerie Bodden)
#8. A Fairy Tale (by RH Disney)
#9. A Book of Fairies (by Patricia Saxton)

If you are interested in my notes about these books...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hanukkah Party at Different Directions Collective

In the spring, I posted about a fun class Lina took at The ROC, a wonderful center for homeschoolers, in the East Village. That class was led by Tinamarie Panyard, who is now Co-Director of Different Directions, a welcoming homeschooling collective in Midtown Manhattan. Tinamarie organized a Hanukkah party on Monday and I'm glad we attended.

This fall, Lina won a full scholarship (worth 25k) to an alternative kindergarten program, but we learned quickly it was too restrictive and inflexible to allow for joyful learning in a self-directed fashion. She was not comfortable being forced to sit in a half lotus position for hours on the rug and not be allowed to stretch out her legs in front of her. For 5 hours to pass on a school day and a 5 year old not be allowed to sing, dance, draw, build much, make music, play pretend or even talk to friends, that's pretty sad. Lina learns a lot through play, creative activities and exploring the outdoors. She is very intelligent, curious, social and happy and I would like her to stay that way.

Since September 2012, as members of the New York City Home Educators Alliance, we have had the pleasure of many fantastic experiences within the homeschooling community - with very bright, caring and creative parents and children. So, we decided to continue with fun classes, field trips and learning at home until Lina is 6 years old and then we will make a decision regarding the best option for first grade.

We visited Different Directions Studios for the first time (which is located in a lovely red brick Victorian church) for a Hanukkah party this week, enjoyed greatly by children and parents. Lina is one quarter Jewish and thanks to this party she had three hours of hands-on learning about Hanukkah, including many first time experiences: spinning a dreidel and learning to play the game, eating a latke with sour cream, hunting for hidden gelt (chocolate coins) and watching the lighting of a menorah.

Of course, Midtown Manhattan is already decorated for Christmas:

It was nice to start off with a festive Hanukkah celebration, before the flurry of Christmas activities is upon us.