Friday, February 8, 2013

LEGO Star Wars Sith Fury

LEGO Star Wars 9500 Sith Fury-class Interceptor.This past weekend Alena and I were walking around Manhattan and stumbled upon an official LEGO store near the Rockefeller Plaza. We went inside and I was overwhelmed by a strong urge to get something for myself and build it. Of course the prices on Amazon were better, so I ordered myself a set when we got home.

Finished version. The back wings, front and back doors open up.About a year ago I spent a bit of time playing Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG and I actually has reactivated my account recently. So I decided that building something from that familiar setting would be nice — Sith Fury-class Interceptor which comes with Darth Malgus and a pair of Imperial troopers. The set consists of 748 pieces.

Building process. Arosha was helping.I must say that I haven’t played with something like this in ages. I loved to build things out of Soviet LEGO imitations when I was a kid, but they kits and were nowhere as elaborate and even those were nowhere to be found. I had a few very simple sets. I was worried that I would find it too hard to put everything together, but the instructions were very exact and easy to follow.

Arosha's helping.I think I’m a LEGO fan now. Arosha was “helping” me through some parts of the process. I see a lot of LEGO sets in Arosha’s future.
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Friday, February 8, 2013

Arosha — 30 Months

Arosha. Two and a half.Арошке уже два с половиной года. Такой большой. Такой маленький.

Мне очень нравится, что он любит книги. Каждый день мы много читаем (если он сильно увлечён, то мы можем просидеть 45-60 минут подряд), и я всё время в поисках чего-то интересного для него. Вот некоторые книги, которые мы сейчас читаем: серии рассказов “Саша и Маша” Анни Шмидт, серии рассказов “Мико и Мимико” Бригитты Венингер, серии рассказов “Маша и Ойка” Софьи Прокофьевой, рассказы Н. Носова (“Фантазёры”, “Живая Шляпа”, “Автомобиль”), рассказы о медвежонке Паддингтоне Майкла Бонда, рассказы из “Великой Книге о Зайке” (сейчас ему больше всего нравится часть, где зверята учатся считать), разнообразные сказки, многие в упрощённом варианте (Сказка о Рыбаке и Рыбке, Три Поросёнка, Дюймовочка, Гадкий Утёнок) и многое другое.

Arosha reading with mama.Еще ему очень нравятся сказки Марии Шкуркиной, которые она публикует на своём блоге Мамины Сказки. Я сохраняю их на на iPhone, и очень часто читаю их перед сном. А Даня посление недели две во время укладывания Арошки читает ему “Инкубатор” Носова.

Арошина речь становится всё богаче. К сожалению, он до сих пор не выговаривает некоторые звуки (особенно “Р”) — надеюсь, с возрастом это пройдёт. На площадке многие бабушки и мамы удивляются Арошкиному словарному запасу, и делают нам комплименты. Арошка далеко ушёл вперед в развитии речи от многих мальчиков-ровесников. Вообще, учитывая его речь и высокий рост, многие думают, что он старше своего возраста.

Arosha.По-английски я с ним до сих пор не говорю — и ему не нравится, и мне не очень хочется. Хотя он удивил меня на днях, когда в ответ на “Good Morning” от одного из работников нашего дома тоже произнёс “Good Morning”.

Еще Ароша всегда просит чтобы я ему рассказывала сказки о Винни Пухе. Из наиболее популярных — о том, как Винни Пух обьелся мороженного и заболел; о том, как Винни Пух пошел гулять ночью в лесу и провалился в яму; о том, как Винни Пух сьел волшебный гриб и стал маленьким; о том, как у Винни Пуха перегорели дома все лампочки; о том, как Винни Пух застрял на горке. Сказки мы придумываем с ним вместе, и он часто диктует вероятность каких-то событий (далеко не на все ходы сюжета Ароша соглашается), ну и конечно Ароша всегда добавляет другое главное действующее лицо сказок, себя. Иногда у меня ну совершенно не работает голова и не хочется рассказывать сказки. Ведь слово “сказочку” я слышу очень-очень-очень много раз за день. Но я стараюсь всё же в основном потакать этой его любви.

Arosha near his sticker covered bed.Еще в последнее время Арошка очень полюбил “Калыханку” — песню из моего детства на белорусском языке. Я пою ему её каждый день (чаще всего перед сном). Он сам тоже любит её напевать, правда немного путает слова (вместо “доугi дзень, цёплы дзень” он поёт “новы день, новы день”, вместо “вачаняты” — “пачанюты”), ну и конечно, целиком он её не помнит. Эту песню я, в числе других, пела ему когда он был маленьким, но сам просить её спеть он начал совсем недавно. Кстати, слово “петь” Ароша тоже часто путает. Он любит слушать очень ограниченный набор песенок, и когда я начинаю петь что-то другое, он начинает протестовать и говорить “Мама, не пей!”. Я всегда говорю ему, что он использует неправильное слово, и он даже сам знает как надо исправить, но почему-то в следующий раз я опять слышу “не пей!”

Кстати, Ароша уже больше месяца спит без подгузников! Причём он сам изьявил желание от них полностью отказаться. Поначалу он стабильно писался во время дневного сна, но последние пару недель, тьфу-тьфу-тьфу, кровать у нас сухая. Правда, ночью я встаю одиин раз (в 1:30) и сажаю его на горшок. Дело в том, что он каждую ночь приходил ко мне мокрый в районе 4-5 утра, и я подумала, что пока на улице еще прохладно, имеет смысл так делать. Ароша ко всей процедуре относится спокойно, и практически не просыпается от процесса.

Snow day.Когда выпал снег, Ароша очень обрадовался. Ему нравилось бегать по нему, кататься с заснеженых горок и лепить снеговика. Лепила, конечно, я, но он сам вставлял нос-морковку и глаза-миндалины.

Он до сих пор очень избирателен в друзьях. Как правило, он хорошо играет с Эвелиной, и изредка может поиграть с другими детьми, желательно более старшими. Я заметила, что Арошка лучше всего играет с теми детьми, которые делают то, что он им предлагает (если они намного старше, то ситуация меняется). То есть в дни, когда Эвелина бегает за ним и делает то, что хочет Арошка, он играет с ней с удовольствием. А вот когда у неё свои планы, Ароша просто уходит и предпочитает играть один (со мной).

Arosha with a glass of milk and a book.Арошка по-прежнему любит мультики, а вот к играм на iPad он охладел — видно, надоели. Чаще всего он смотрит мультфильмы про Барбоскиных, Лунтика, Микки Мауса, ну и конечно Машу и Медведя. Я ограничиваю время проведённое за этим занятием, но в среднем он смотрит мультфиьлмы 30-60 минут в день.

Почти каждый день мы гуляем хотя бы по два часа. Иногда Арошка не очень хочет вылазить, но потом всегда получает удовольствие от прогулки.

Eating mushroom barley soup.На сегодняшний день Ароша весит 32 фунта (14.5 кг) при росте 39¼ инчей (99.69 см).

Ест Ароша неплохо. Он всё чаще более активно участвует в процессе кормления и сам немного ест ложкой и вилкой, но в основном всё же кормлю его я. Он по-прежнему не любит сыр, пюре, йогурты. Практически всё остальное он обычно ест хорошо, хотя по настроению может и покапризничать (отказаться от какого-то блюда в один день и с удовольствием есть его на другой). Он очень любит картофель фри. Я всегда чувствую себя немного виноватой, когда разрешаю ему это есть, но с другой стороны, его диета в целом на мой взгляд очень неплохая. Еще Ароша очень любит сладкое, но мы, конечно, ограничиваем его количество. На днях Ароша меня, порадовал — когда был выбор между мороженым, которое он не ел уже почти неделю, и черникой, которую он не ел еще дольше, он выбрал чернику. Еще он просто обожает грызть лёд — почти каждый день он выпрашивает у меня кусочек или два. Ему также нравится холодная вода и замороженая стручковая фасоль (пару дней назад он её пропросил и слопал целую миску, приговаривая, как ему вкусно).

Arosha.А еще Ароша стал задавать больше вопросов, на которые не всегда легко оветить:
– Мама, а почемя я у вас родиля? Мама, а почему меня назвали Арошей? Мама, а почему Эвелина родилась и своей мамы? Мама, а почему мы тут живём?

А вообще Арошка очень славный мальчик. Иногда бывают дни, когда он много капризничает и не слушается, но в целом я получаю от общения с ним очень много радости. Мы его очень любим, и я знаю, что он отвечает нам взаимностью.
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Monday, February 11, 2013

Pregnant

A few weeks ago we found out that I am pregnant again. We planned to get pregnant next month or later, and we thought that this particular month we were past my ovulation cycle. Apparently, it shifted by a few days, so here we are.

I am happy, but worried at the same time. After what happened last time, I fear to be fully excited. I put my emotions on back burner and just try to take it one day at a time without worrying too much. We don’t even know what the due date is yet (since my ovulation has shifted a bit) — we’ll find out this Friday, but it should be sometime around the end of September. So I am around 7-7.5 weeks pregnant right now.

For some reason I am sure that there is a little boy growing inside of me this time around. I guess, we’ll find out soon enough.

This pregnancy so far reminds me of my pregnancy with Aroshka. No morning sickness, no strange cravings. I am more tired than usual, but that’s expected. I try to nap every day while Arosha is napping, and it really gives me a big energy boost. Plus, I rarely sleep for 8 hours during the night, and right now I need at least 8 hours per 24 hour period to feel like a human being. The only strange thing that I can think of is that chocolate has change its smell to me. I love chocolate, but now it smells pretty disgusting, and I don’t even want to try it to see if the taste changed as well.

We went to see a new doctor a week ago. A girl on a playground recommended him to me, and I thought, why not. He seems to be OK. He has offices in Brooklyn and Staten Island and shares practice with his father and brother. We saw heartbeat during the ultrasound, and my heart melted just a little bit. I really really really hope that our little pea is healthy and that this pregnancy will have a happy ending.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Anniversary in Venice

Sunny day in Venice.Venice was the final stop of our Italian trip. We timed it so that our 6th wedding anniversary would fall on one of the days that we would be staying in Venice. In fact, originally we planned to spend 2 nights in Venice and 2 nights in Milan, but shifting one of those nights over to Venice was definitely the right thing to do.

Venice character.If I were to write a short story it would be this: Venice was magical. It really was the peak of our trip. Rome was a great place to start our vacation and Venice was the right place to finish. I’m glad that it wasn’t the other way around. And it really would be hard to find a more romantic place on Earth to celebrate our anniversary at. And our hotel was the most luxurious one of our whole trip. While other cities have places to see Venice itself is a place to see.

Canals of Venice.And now into the details. We arrived to Venice by high speed train sometime in the early afternoon. Venice has two train stops and luckily we did our research ahead of time, so we got off on the right one — the very last stop of the line. We were slightly worried about getting to our hotel as we had to catch the right “bus” boat since we couldn’t really walk to the right place and taxi-boats would be very expensive. However directions that we prepared ahead of the trip turned out to be very easy to follow.

Canals of Venice.Right after walking out of the train terminal we saw what looked like a bus stop, only for boats. We had two options — either take one directly to the island where our hotel was located and walk, or take the boat to the island across the canal and catch a shuttle provided by hotel directly to the doors.

Streets of Venice.We figured we’ll just take the one that shows up first — they had numbers just as buses do. The one that arrived first actually stopped at both places, but the shuttle schedule didn’t really line up, so we figured we’ll take a walk, even though we worried slightly that there might not be a sidewalk or something like that.

Hilton Molino Stucky Venice.Our hotel was located on an island called Guidecca, which is directly to the south, across the canal from the main Venice itself. The stop that we got off at was called Palanca. Turned out that the walk itself took no more than 10 minutes at a relaxed pace and the only slight complication was that we had to carry our luggage up to a pair of small bridges to cross the canals — no big deal at all. Soon after we were inside the lobby of Hilton Molino Stucky Venice hotel — the most expensive (point-wise) stop of our trip.

Our suite.Several days before our arrival I got an email from the hotel manager asking what is the occasion for our stay and I told him that we are celebrating our anniversary. When we arrived instead of getting an upgrade to executive floor (our Diamond VIP benefit) they actually upgraded us to an executive floor suite with a view of Venice. When I checked the actual cost of the room it clocked in at over $1,000 per night. And we were getting this for free.

Window view.The view really was great. Included breakfasts were usual Hilton style — full kitchen with hot food. And executive lounge provided free drinks and snacks all day long. We really did drink a lot of wine throughout our vacation. There was no way to walk to the main part of Venice, but there was a ferry running every 30 minutes provided by our hotel with two stops on the other side: Zattere — a stop right across the canal and San Marco — main squire of Venice. The ride to Zattere was about 5 minutes and to San Marco around 15.

Ponte dell'Accademia. View from Accademia Bridge — one of four bridges over the Grand Canal.We also soon realized that you can walk all across Venice by foot. All the places are interconnected by tiny bridges along with several large bridges across the Grand Canal — no need to figure out public transportation or anything like that. Plus Venice itself is pretty tiny and can be walked across in a short amount of time.

Streets of Venice.Now we heard things from people that Venice doesn’t smell good, is very hot and humid. It very well might be that during the summer, but it defiantly is not the case at the end of November. We didn’t notice any smells and the temperature was very mild.

Venice. Daniel.We actually lucked out with the weather. Less than a week before we got to Venice there were a lot of reports of Venice being completely flooded. When we were there it was perfectly fine and we didn’t see any signs of flooding. However right after we left the city got flooded again. Talk about good timing.

Foggy night.I also got a good amount of great photographs. First day was cloudy, second day was sunny and third and forth days were very very foggy which made the place even more cozy and romantic. The city definitely has character. We spent hours upon hours just walking around, looking for the tiniest and quietest streets and bridges we could find. All in all we absolutely loved it.

San Marco. The center of Venice.On the first day we just walked around and looked around and had a very nice dinner at Santo Stefano. Alena’s black ink risotto was especially nice.

Inside San Marco Cathedral.On the second day we went to explore the main square and San Marco Cathedral itself. It’s an eastern influenced architecture and has 5 domes more reminiscent of those that you would see on a mosque.

Piazza San Marco.There is also a high tower next to it. There are no stairs and only an elevator ride to the top. As a result it didn’t seem as impressive — there is no sense of accomplishment that I’ve experienced when I was at the top of the tower in Florence. But the weather was nice, so we got some bird-eye view photos.

View from the top of the tower.And we did a lot of wondering on this day as well. We also stopped by Venetian Guggenheim museum, and quickly realized that if you want to visit Guggenheim you do it in New York. They advertised that they had Picasso, Dali, Kandinsky and such, but in reality had one of each. New York is where you go.

Anniversary dinner at Trattoria Ai Cacciatori.This was the day of our anniversary. We decided to find a dinner place somewhere on Giudecca for this night. We ended up walking all the way from our hotel on the west side of the island to the very eastern side of the island and in the process discovered only two open places. I guess in low season this island is really asleep. We ended up eating dinner at one of the places that we found online prior to our walk — Trattoria Ai Cacciatori.

Streets of Venice.Although the pictures that we saw showed a very rustic looking place when we got there it turned out that they renovated and ended up with plain white walls. Sounds like a mistake to me. The food however was good. We ordered a couple of appetizers, I had Venetian liver and if I remember correctly Alena had some fish. And of course more wine again. This also was the only place where our waiter (a young guy) had trouble understanding our English — probably one and only such occurrence during our whole trip.

Venice masks.On our third day we did a lot of wondering around again. I’m repeating myself — but what a beautiful place. On this day we started looking for something authentic to bring as a gift to my parents and something for ourselves. When we first arrived to Venice we noticed tons of shops selling masks. At first we thought that it was weird, but later on, when you start looking at them you see how really beatiful and well crafted some of them are — they are indeed art. However the trick is to find the real ones that are made in Venice and not some imports. At first imports might sound like a good deal price-wise, but when you hold both in your hands you feel a substantial difference.

Mask shop.We walked through a lot of stores until we found one that we really liked. This place didn’t even have a sign, but when we walked in it had a nice collection of all kinds of masks and there was no sales person to pester you. There was a master working on them. When we walked in he was picking the masks out of the forms and cutting them out. He greeted us and carried on doing his thing leaving us to look at everything at our own pace.

Venice. Fog.We ended up picking out the ones that we really liked and got a pair of them for a very nice price of about €50 each — it really is a good deal. I asked him to pose for a picture, but he, what seemed like a typical Italian, said that he doesn’t really like himself on pictures, but instead will do something else. So he grabbed a mask, a cape and a hat and stroke a rather cool pose for us. We were quite happy with our acquisition and were actually glad to see the process of those being created with our own eyes.

Streets of Venice.In the evening we picked another restaurant to eat at, but this was really the only time that we struck out with our random picking. Not that the place was bad or anything, it just wasn’t anything special either — and by now we were spoiled with our luck with restaurants.

Foggy day. Venice.When we got to our hotel we ordered a taxi to the airport. The price was quite high — €105 if I remember correctly. But we were aware of it from the time that we were booking planes and decided that we don’t want to fumble with public transportation and other people’s schedules on the day of our departure. My nerves are worth to me more than the money and me being me — this was money well spent.

Canals of Venice.In the morning taxi picked us up at our scheduled time and gave us the last ride through the romantic canals of this beautiful city. We arrived at Marco Polo aiport and had an uneventful non-stop flight back home. Now some time has passed and all those cities have a very fond place in my memory. So many great days and places I’ve seen with my bestest friend in the whole wide world, my beautiful wife.

Streets of Venice.P.S. I have a lot of great photographs of Venice left, but no room to post them. The city is just too photogenic.

Fog. View from our window.
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