Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holiday Concerts

New Year is fast approaching, as evidenced by the gradually increasing amount of fireworks every night, and that means it's time for the kids' school concerts once again. Both boys had their prazdnik last Thursday, which meant that Josh and I got to spend hours squeezed into the performing hall with dozens of other parents eager to photograph their children. Sebby's class was first, and in marched all the little bunnies, clowns, elves and other creatures. They grabbed hands and marched around the yolochka (Christmas tree) as they sang. Then they performed a cute partner dance. I could tell Sebby enjoyed marching and twirling with his fellow rabbit friend, Adelia.

Eventually it was time for the honored guests - Dyed Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and his granddaughter Sniegurochka ("Snowgirl"). A few times of all the children screeching "Dyed Moroz!" at the top of their lungs proved sufficient to summon the blue-and-silver robed Santa. As is customary, Dyed Moroz himself magically makes the tree light up with his words: "raz, dva, tri, yolochka gari!" (One, two, three, Christmas tree, light up!) Then all the kids sang a song about his long, white beard. Sebby knows all of his school songs so well that he often sings them at home. He loves to watch the videos of his concerts over and over, singing and dancing along!

The beard song :)

Afterward, children were invited to go up to recite their poems for Dyed Moroz. Sebby watched from afar, getting out of his seat and inching a bit closer. Then, when there was a brief gap between children, he made a beeline for Santa (everyone laughed), and nestled in beside him. But he didn't say his poem! He just wanted to sit by Santa.

A snuggle with Dyed Moroz
Then came the bunny dance, which Sebby was a part of. At this point he successfully recited his poem about the zaika (rabbit) with dlinnie ushki (long ears) freezing his little nosik (nose). At one point in the song, all of the bunnies ran off to hide, with only their little tails sticking out. You can see Sebby's little gray tail here:

After a few more songs and games, it was time for the main event. A sniekovaya baba (snow lady) pulled in a sled holding a huge snowball, which opened to reveal presents: a huge bag of candy and chocolates, plus two oranges, for each child.

Immediately following Sebby's concert was Misha's first-and-second grade performance. In the rushed interlude between the two concerts, I barely managed to quickly paint Misha's face like a tiger! When the children filed in, we saw a colorful medley of costumes: monkeys, a lion, a scarecrow, a puppy, and a tin man (I think you've guessed the underlying theme), plus pirates, ninjas, tigers, snowflake girls, and flamenco dancers. Quite the variety! Misha joined the starting line-up to recite his poem about embarking upon new adventures and traveling to new horizons.

Misha did a great job singing the Novi God (New Year) song. There is such a difference from a year ago! Last Christmas he barely understood the chorus of the songs he was singing. This year, he not only understands almost all the words in each song, but he can pronounce them all better than I can and he is even able to read the text of the songs.

Another highlight was the "Goomy Bear" dance, which Misha led, calling forth two rows of pom-pom-antennae-adorned kids. The dance was full of cute footwork and funny hand motions.

My gummy bear - or, that is, "goomy" bear. :)

Naturally, Dyed Moroz was invited to this concert as well, and he did indeed respond to the shouts of his name. Obviously, Dyed Moroz decided to change his robe from red to blue, and he seemed to have grown quite a bit as well. :) He set the yolochka ablaze and danced with the kids.

The tiger tail
And all of the kids received their heavy bag of goodies!

Now they have two weeks of winter vacation to enjoy.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Making Spirits Bright

The best part about the Christmas season for me is not receiving presents - and certainly not shopping for them - but actually doing all the fun, wintery activities. "Gingerbread" houses fits right into that category. Since I had not made candy houses with the boys before, I decided it was high time to do so. We stocked up on crackers, powdered sugar, m&ms, and gummy shapes, and after a nice romp in the snow, we came inside and got to work.

Ready, set, let's go.

Misha builds his foundation ...

and then adds the roof and creates a fence. At first he was confused how he could be so good at Legos and yet so clumsy at getting goopy frosting to hold up flimsy crackers. But he got the hang of it!

Way to go, Misha!

Time to start decorating!

Sebby watched while I built him a very sturdy house.

We added the roof.

Decorating was the best part for him.

Here is my own little house, slapped together in moments between helping the boys.

Ta daaa! Three cheerful gingerbread houses.

They could be fit for "Handsome and Greta," as Misha says.

And then, why then, .... we ate them!

Earlier that same day, we spent some time outside enjoying the first above-freezing weather in a week. We visited our mini snow hill and tried out our new plastic seat-and-handle sled, which worked great! It's light-weight, cheap, small, and fast. I have since bought a second one.

Riding double had them both laughing.
Then on our way home we had to stop and make a few snow creations, because the snow was melted to the perfect stage for building.

Snow Bunny

Snow Elf

Snow Penguin

And Sebby's dinosaur egg, which he was so sad to leave at the apartment's outdoor entrance.

It can't be Christmas without making paper chains, so there you go:

And we even got around to painting our clay ornaments (made from a 2 flour : 1 salt : 1 water ratio and baked about 30 minutes) and hanging them on the tree.

We quickly realized that painting takes considerably more time than sculpting.

Misha's red elf, Misha's tree, and my green elf

Misha's Rudolph

Sebby's green butterfly

My Rudolph

Decorative photos - Sebby, Nara, and Misha on the tree :)

And you can't forget cuddling in blankets watching the Rudolph movie ...

and the excitement of receiving pretty packages in the mail. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa, Grandma Kate, and Tanya!

Bubble baths for days when Sebby needs tempting to get in the tub.

A circus performance for Mommy, starring the amazing Leaping Sebby

We've also been preparing for the upcoming school holiday concerts. Sebby will be a bunny, and I finally tracked down a costume for him today. He loves being a zaika! And he looks just like a jackrabbit.

He really loves his tail.

See how I'm jumping, jumping, jumping

Misha decided to be a tiger. I found some ears, and when I add the face paint, he'll look great.

One last project that Josh and I have spent a lot of time on these past few weeks has been a new card game for Misha. It's based on Magic: The Gathering, but we drew all our own pictures and made up magic abilities for our cards. When we finished making some 300 cards, we glued them to real playing cards and "laminated" them with thick tape. Happily, this is Misha's new favorite game and he asks to play it every day. The best part about it is that it involves a lot of reading on the cards (to know exactly what each card does), exposure to new vocabulary ("Tentacles of Tyranny," for example), and a LOT of basic math to figure out who wins battles, how much life you gain or lose, etc.

Misha, casting his spells.

Checking out his cards.

Playing against Daddy, the true sorcerer.

Naturally, Sebby sees Misha playing this game and is also very interested. Misha has spent time "teaching" Sebby this game, and even though Misha ends up playing both sides, Sebby still thinks it's fascinating. However, I decided that Sebby definitely needed his own cards, so I made him my own version of the currently-popular Flip-Along Locomotive game. It's a simple game of memory, but each pair of cards creates one train car which is then added to your own engine. Building your train as you play makes the game really fun.

Since today was Christmas Eve, we let the boys each open up one present. (The rest we'll save for New Year's Eve, when they will have their holiday vacation.) For Misha, we printed out and self-laminated two more sets of Magic cards (this time we simply printed out the actual game cards instead of drawing our own, which saved us tons of time!). He was thrilled. We gave Sebby his train game, which also turned out to be a hit. He loves having his "own" cards and he loves building his train.

Ready to open!

Sebby making a long, long train.

Playing train memory with Misha. Sebby was rather concerned that Misha was so good at this game.

So excited to find matches!

Merry Christmas!