Today was my birthday party! I woke up early because I was so excited and found a huge Ice Bat balloon in my room. Whoa! When it was time for the party to start, I scampered down the stairs to stand in our courtyard with my balloon. I was worried my friend Ksenia wouldn't be able to find our building. (Addresses in Queens work in a kind of unique system that shows each building's cross street.)
Finally, all of my friends arrived. Nell and Sonali live in the neighborhood, so they made it first. Then, Coral came from Brooklyn. Finally, Ksenia arrived after her two hour subway ride from Brighton Beach! (I decided to take your advice and invite Coral and Ksenia, even though they don't know Nell and Sonali.)
Soon we were gathered around my cake, with my friends singing the birthday song. I couldn't decide between cake and cupcakes, so I had both! Plus, my Mom found these great birthday candles that say my name. Awesome!
Then it was time to open my big pile of presents. Not only did my guests bring gifts, but my friend Maiki sent a package, and my parents saved their gifts for the party.
Coral gave me a pair of Sansha ballet soft shoes with criss-cross straps- just as I'd wanted!
Ksenia gave me a set of colored pencils, a sketchbook, and a Chococat calendar. Nice!
Another awesome present was from my friend Maiki- she stood in line at a book signing and got both Meet Cécile and Meet Marie-Grace signed for me by their authors! Holy Hotdogs, thank you Mike!
All of my gifts were wonderful, but I'd have to say my favorites were the soft ballet shoes and the Calico Critters red panda family! Piper has the hedgehog family and I've really wanted a red panda family of my own. They were only on sale for a few months in the UK and Japan, but my Auntie Liz in London managed to get a set for me!
It was a great birthday party. Thank you all for your kind birthday wishes! Now I'm 11!
Today I woke up knowing it was a special day- my birthday!! The first thing I saw was a little stack of presents on my nightstand. There was one present from Sophie and two presents from my Grandma in Wisconsin! Ice Bat agreed that I should open them right away.'
The first package was beautifully wrapped in brown kraft paper with a pretty pink bow. Sophie is a dear friend (she was at my birthday party last year) and she gave me lovely gifts. She made me an awesome card with Ice Bat wearing a birthday hat! She also gave me a copy of one of her favorite books, the Velveteen Rabbit. It's one of my favorite stories too- because I know Cheburashka and Ice Bat are very Real.
Then it was on to the presents from Grandma! She knows how much I love space, so she decided to help me prepare for astronaut training with a package of real freeze dried astronaut ice cream! Holy Hotdogs! I ate some of it right away, but I saved most of it to share with my friends at my birthday party on Sunday.
My last present was AWESOME! Grandma gave me Ninja Batty Shogun the Uglydoll!!! Awesome! Ice Bat will be thrilled- Batty is one of his best friends. Grandmas are the best.
My party is on Saturday, but I got to do some other fun stuff today. My moms took me to see Happy Feet 2 and we got Chinese takeout for dinner. I got General Tso's chicken, an egg roll, and a coconut bubble tea. Do you like to get takeout? What do you like to order?
Today I had the first of many special birthday treats. Before rehearsal (that's right, before. Yes, it was a super busy day for me!) my moms took me to see the cinema simulcast of the Bolshoi Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty! Svetlana Zakharova played Princess Aurora- and Prince Désiré was danced by an American- David Hallberg! The simulcast was at a movie theatre in Times Square. It was really funny to be eating popcorn while watching one of the world's best ballet companies!Then, it was off to Lincoln Center for my rehearsal.
This afternoon, when I came home from my Nutcracker rehearsal, I was all tuckered out. The show is opening next Friday (my cast starts on Saturday), so there have been lots of rehearsals and last minute costume fittings. Still, when I walked into my room, I couldn't help but notice something new and different!
A new quilt! It matches my other quilt perfectly. My old quilt (see this post) has Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin's Vostok ship in orbit over the Earth. The new quilt has Apollo 11 in orbit over the moon! I love the quilted detail of the craters and rocks on the moon's surface. There are even perfect little detailings on the ship itself! Plus, it matches my first quilt perfectly- the background (space) in both is the same beautiful purple.
I knew right away that it was from my Auntie Smeegol, who made me the first quilt too. I ran to show my moms and they told me that the quilt was so special that no one wanted to wait for my birthday to give it to me.
Of course, I had to look over at my calendar. Today is November 20th- and my birthday is circled on November 23rd. Only 3 more "get-ups!" I won't have my party until Sunday, because many of my friends will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. I'm getting really excited for my birthday!
One thing about Nutcracker season is that I'm too busy to mess up my room! I took a photo of it so I'll remember how it looks when it's not covered in piles of clothes, stuffed animals, and stinky old leotards and tights! Actually, now that I look at my bed, I can see it's great that I have a new quilt for my second bed- there are so many stuffed loveys on my bed that some of them will definitely need to move to the other bed.
Four more days until Thanksgiving. My family doesn't celebrate the holiday, but I'd love to know if you do. Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? If so, what do you do?
Anything homemade and special- those gifts are always the best.
Those are my little wishes for this year. I'd like the same things for New Year, I think.
Thank you all for your birthday RSVPs! I wish more of you lived in New York City and could visit for my party. I'm inviting Sonali and some other kids from my neighborhood. I also thought I would invite my new friend Coral. Then there's a girl from my youth group for Russian-speaking kids that I'd like to invite. Do you think I should invite Coral and the girl from youth group? I'm worried that they won't have fun because they won't know anyone else at the party. What would you do?
Several weeks ago, when my friend Maiki was visiting me in New York, she told me about her friend Coral. Coral moved to New York City recently. She's from New Zealand, but she spent the previous year in Hawaii (where she met Maiki). Now, she and family are living in Brooklyn. Maiki thought the two of us would get along well, especially since we are both dancers. So, yesterday afternoon, I met Coral in Manhattan.
Like Maiki, Coral studies Polynesian dancing. As Coral is half Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand), she studies traditional Maori dancing. I thought that was really interesting, but I wanted to know more about her ballet studies. I asked her where she takes classes and she told me she goes to a well-known school. I had to know- what was it like? I asked her about her audition, and she began to tell me.
"On the day of the audition," Coral said, " I woke up early and had butterflies in my stomach. I have studied dancing for a long time, but the school I was auditioning for is very well-known, so I was a bit nervous. As we moved to New York City between ballet school terms, I had a private audition. I was just told to come to the building on Broadway, wearing a leotard, tights, and ballet slippers. While I waited for the ballet mistress, I stretched."
"You must be really good if they wanted to see you in the middle of the term!" I interrupted. Both of our schools are pre-professional schools- there is one audition a year and it is very rare to get in otherwise.
"Thank you," Coral said shyly. "My parents and I talked about requesting an audition for your school, but my ballet teacher back in Wellington recommended this one."
"Soon, the teacher came into the room," continued Coral. "It was actually a lot like a mini ballet classes. She taught me some combinations at the barre and I went through them. I couldn't help looking around the big, sunny studio. I knew I wanted to study there."
"After I did my exercises at the barre, the teacher asked me to come to the center of the floor and dance a short piece for her. I was anxious, because I knew this school would really help me in my career, but it went really well! I was flying across the floor!"
Coral stopped. "I was really nervous!" she said.
"I was really nervous for my audition too," I replied. "I'll tell you about it sometime."
"It was over pretty quickly. The teacher left the room, talked to my parents, and came back in. She told me I could join the school!"
I could tell Coral was still surprised and happy that she had gotten into the school.
"The next time I went to that big building on Broadway," she said, " I wore the official lavender uniform of my level at the school. I did it!"
I was impressed. While my ballet school is better known, Coral's school is very good too. In fact, a boy from her school worked as the title character in a Broadway musical about an English boy who loves to dance.
Maiki was right- Coral is a great friend. We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting about life in New York. Both of us are busy with Nutcracker rehearsals right now (my school's parent company performs in Manhattan, at Lincoln Center, while Coral's school and parent company are performing The Nutcracker in Brooklyn), but we pinky-promised that we'd try to come see each other dance.
I'm really glad Maiki introduced us. Do you have any friends with whom you have something important or special in common?
I loved visiting Chaco Canyon, but it's not the only national park in New Mexico. After resting for a day and exploring Albuquerque, I headed out to El Malpais National Monument, near Grants, New Mexico. I had decided to earn a Junior Ranger badge there. To start, we headed to Sandstone Bluffs. In this photo, I'm up on the bluff looking down over the lava flows below. Many, many years ago, volcanoes in this area spewed big rivers of lava all over the land. Now, the lava has dried to black rock and you can climb on it if you're careful.
At Sandstone Bluffs, there are beautiful little depressions in the rock. They're called tinajas. I peeked into one and it was full of tadpoles! When it rains, the tinajas fill with water and become tiny water ecosystems.
The Sandstone Bluffs are rocky and beautiful- they look like a moonscape. Actually, they reminded me of my trip to Canyonlands National Park a few years ago. Both are great places to pretend to be a cosmonaut.
After the Sandstone Bluffs, we stopped by La Ventana Arch. My friends in Utah will probably think it's not too impressive, but I was happy to find it all the same. The arch was slowly carved out by wind and water over geologic time. Awesome!
Finally, we stopped by the ranger station so that I could turn in my workbook and earn my second New Mexican Junior Ranger badge. El Malpais is a beautiful park! I want to come back someday and explore the lava tube caves. Sadly, they were closed this year because the bats that live in the caves have a disease which humans spread.
So that was my trip to New Mexico- one cultural park and one natural park! This weekend, in honor of our nation's veterans, all National Parks will have free admission. If you've never explored one before, this is a great opportunity.
P.S. It's November, a special month for me! Does anyone remember why?
Autumn has been going really well so far! I've been having a hard time keeping up with blogging because I did some traveling. Last month, I went on a special trip to New Mexico with my Mama to visit my grandma! I was especially excited because we planned to visit a National Park I've always wanted to see- Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Chaco Canyon is a beautiful canyon in northwest New Mexico with many buildings built by my family's ancestors, the ancestral Puebloans. I'm adopted, so I'm not biologically related to the ancestral Puebloans like my Mama and grandma, but their culture and history still very important to me. We decided to take a special trip to Chaco so that I could see my family's history. Of course, we had to take a photo of me in front of the welcome sign! (I have to make a print to send to Violet, since it's our tradition to do park sign photos.)
After stopping at the Vistor Center to pick up some trail guides, we headed out to our first hike. There are many different parts of Chaco Canyon- each one has something different to offer. To start, we went to Casa Rinconada. Casa Rinconada is a Great Kiva- a special ceremonial place where the ancestral Puebloans gathered. This particular kiva is really large- it could fit hundreds of people! It's one of the largest excavated kivas in the ancestral Puebloan world.
As we walked around the Casa Rinconada path, we saw the remains of many other structures. Imagine, a thousand years ago, Pueblo girls like me lived in Chaco Canyon. I know their life was very different than mine, but I'm sure in some ways it was just the same.
After we finished the Casa Rinconada trail, we headed to Pueblo Bonito. Pueblo Bonito, which means "beautiful town" (in Spanish) is the most thoroughly excavated area of Chaco Canyon. (Excavated means that archaeologists carefully dug through the area and made careful listings of everything they found.) The buildings are huge! In fact, when they were standing, they were even larger than the New York City apartment building I live in!
Pueblo Bonito is so beautiful. I tried to imagine what it was like when the ancestral Puebloans still lived in Chaco Canyon. Can you believe they built such a beautiful large city with no modern tools? Even the enormous logs for the roofs had to be carried from far away- but the ancestral Puebloans had no wheels or horses to help them.
Of course, I had to participate in the Junior Ranger program at Chaco! I filled out a special booklet with questions about the park. I learned that archaeologists can tell how old some of the buildings are by looking at the way the ancestral Puebloans arranged the stones. Cool, right?
Inside Pueblo Bonito, I found this beautiful series of doors. I have been to ancient ruins before, in Ukraine, but Chaco Canyon was so much more special to me- because it's where my family is from. My mama's family is descended from the very people who built these beautiful places.
After we finished our Pueblo Bonito hike, I went back to the Visitor Center with Ranger Jane. I told Ranger Jane that I want to be a park ranger when I grow up; she encouraged me to follow my dreams! She even told me about some special programs I can participate in to help me reach my goal. Being sworn in at Chaco Culture was my most special Junior Ranger program yet. I made Ranger Jane a promise that I would be back- I really want to bring Violet and Piper here some day!
Our last hike of the day was to Una Vida, another series of buildings. As always, I made sure to stay on the trail. In our nation's parks, visitors must always remember to take only pictures, and leave only footsteps. I want to be sure Chaco Canyon will always be preserved for future generations.
As we neared the top of the canyon walls at Una Vida, I looked down over the canyon. I felt so happy that my family had brought me to Chaco Canyon. Before I left, I closed my eyes and said a special prayer in remembrance of my family's ancestors. Chaco Canyon is a very special place; I made myself promise that I would be back again someday.
P.S. If you'd like to learn more about Chaco Culture National Historical Park, check out their excellent website. They have a special section just for kids! If you go to the park, make sure to stop by the Visitor Center to meet Ranger Jane! Say hello to her from me, Inky!