Monday, April 29, 2013

Divide and Conquer

Kevin and I try to have regular "Divide and Conquer" days with the kids: one weekend day where we each take one kid and shower them with lots of one-on-one attention.  This actually benefits us more than it benefits them.  We both agree that when we are alone with one child - far, far away from their sibling - they are at their best.  We enjoy spending time with them so much that way.  They are happy, inquisitive, adventurous.  They aren't wasting any precious energy worrying if their sibling is getting more cookies, more iPad time, more attention.

What mother-daughter day would be complete without:
Mani-Pedis and...

While we were relishing in being girly, the boys headed to Central Park and played baseball.  No photos of course, because I wasn't there ;)

But our little family unit can't stand to be away from each other that long so in the afternoon we met up with each other at the TriBeCa Family Festival, a street fair that is part of the world famous TriBeCa Film Festival going on right now.  It was massive and happened to be the nicest weather day since we arrived here three months ago.  There was face painting, arts & crafts for little people, music, food, even a giant castle made completely out of cardboard that the kids could crawl around in and decorate with chalks laying around.  They even had film screenings of children's movies but the weather was too beautiful for us to waste time indoors.

When we were finished at the festival we met up with Maeve's family for some more baseball in Central Park.  The park was crawling with city dwellers like ants to spilled honey.

Sunday inadvertently became another Divide and Conquer day.  Holden woke up sick.  I suspected it all afternoon on Saturday but was in denial.  I couldn't deny it anymore on Sunday morning when he was hacking up a lung and then eventually vomited.  So I sent Ella and Kevin off for a daughter-daddy day while Holden slept and I sewed.
They had a great time exploring the Morningside Heights neighborhood just north of us.  They cruised around campus at Columbia University and Kevin showed Ella where his classes were and they ate lunch in the quad.  They caught part of a Shakespeare performance going on outside and did a lot of people watching.

Then they stopped by St. John the Divine to see an art installation by Jane Alexander.  The church allowed this artist to place sculptures of half-human, half-beasts around the church and it's surrounding gardens.

Friday night Kevin and I attended a celebration of life for an old teacher of mine.  Howie Leifer was my art teacher for about ten years at the French school.  We reconnected a few years back when he flew out to San Francisco for my 20 year high school reunion.  He grew up in Brooklyn and returned to New York in 1998, but for all of the in-between years he lived in San Francisco.  Howie was an amazing puppeteer, a free spirit, and the kindest soul you could ever meet.  About a year ago when Howie was helping his brother Neil (who is a very famous sports photographer) sort through his paperwork, he came across a letter to Neil written by a Kevin Skaggs.  Howie asked if it could possibly be my Kevin Skaggs.  It turned out that Neil had been a guest speaker at one of Kevin's journalism classes at Columbia and Kevin had dropped him a note after, that Neil still had.  After some funny emails back and forth about what a small world it is, about a week later a signed copy of one of Neil's coffee table books arrived in the mail from Howie.  He never mentioned that he was sick.

Howie is also responsible for this awesome picture of the kids.  He sent it to me after Obama was elected in 2008.
I'm happy I got to hear stories from friends and family on Friday confirming to me that Howie was one of a kind.
Howie at Woodstock.  How cool is that??

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Me Day

The sun came out today and so did I.

The laundry was done.  The apartment was clean.  The bills were paid.  I even baked a batch of Meyer lemon-almond muffins for an after-school treat for the kids.
(Who am I kidding?  They were totally for me.)

So I decided to get out and have some fun, all by myself.  I headed down to the Museum of Modern Art and explored a couple new exhibits.  You can now download audio tours on your iPhone, for free!  So I wandered around with my ear buds in, listening to the artists describe their art to me.  Most of it was art I would have walked quickly by.  What a difference it makes to hear what went into the creating of the art.
A real painter in the museum.  (I thought it was funny.)
I've also been listening to audio books on my phone while I walk in the mornings around the reservoir, while I sew, and even as I take the subway.  I finished earlier this week The Round House, which was very good.  And then today I started Isabel Allende's newest book, Maya's Notebook.  I love anything by her and I love being read to.  Very relaxing.

After the museum I picked up a sandwich and found a seat near a fountain among all the well dressed executives also enjoying the sun that we haven't seen in so long.  As lunchtime went on and the crowd grew larger, I noticed that the police presence also increased.  I also noticed cameras up high on buildings I've never noticed before.  Last weekend when we were in Grand Central Station we saw a young guy with too much luggage for any one person being surrounded by about twenty cops.  I'm happy to know that I'm being protected by the NYPD.

I saw this in the museum and thought it as apropos for me today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bouncin' Through the Boroughs

Well, I know I sound like a broken record, but it was another jam-packed weekend.  We focused on the "B" boroughs: the Bronx and Brooklyn.

Friday night we met up with our friends Mimi and Joel and their two boys Ansel and Arlo at their favorite ramen restaurant for dinner.  They're a great family we met when we moved here through a mutual friend back in San Mateo.  It was great to see them and to find a good ramen restaurant (Ella's favorite).  The night was gorgeous - still about 70 degrees at 8pm - so we took our time getting home, wandering through Columbus Circle first.

Saturday we met Maeve's family at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.  Ella and I went a couple weeks ago for her class field trip but Kevin and Holden hadn't been yet.  The weather wasn't nearly as nice as the day before but it turned out we were really lucky to go this weekend since the blossoms will likely all be gone in the next week or two.

We got to see even more of the gardens than when Ella and I went.  They are spectacular.  I know this is going to be a regular place for us.  The kids even got to make their own terrariums to take home.

After Maeve's family had to leave for a party, we stayed on for another couple hours and enjoyed the little bit of sun that poked through and then took the real train (not the subway) back into Manhattan, which the kids loved.

Sunday was all about Brooklyn.
Our original plan was to check out an Earth Day festival but we never found it and instead stumbled upon a fantastic food fair called Smorgasbord DUMBO, which apparently is every Sunday.  DUMBO is the name of that neighborhood in Brooklyn and there are dozens of food stalls with every kind of food you can imagine and all gourmet -  BBQ, Asian, tacos, wood oven pizzas, Argentinian, gourmet grilled cheese - you name it.  We all picked some yummy food and then found a spot on the grass in the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park which runs along the East River under the bridge and listened to live music as we picnicked.

There was even a carousel there.
And our first New York beach.

After we were all stuffed we wandered around the DUMBO area a little more and then decided to walk back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Ella said that was the highlight of her day.

After a quick stop in Times Square on the way home to pop into Toys R Us so Holden could pick out his prize for getting himself dressed all week without being asked (yes, we bribe our kids), we were all exhausted.  So what better way to end the weekend than with happy hour on our roof deck?

I hope you all had an equally fabulous weekend!

Friday, April 19, 2013

What a Week

What a horrible week for our country.

I don't know about you but I plan to spend the weekend mourning the victims of Boston and Texas, being angry at our spineless Senators, the Chechnyan brothers and the ricin freak, and then I'll start fresh again on Monday.

Because what choice do we have?

Bonus Track

A bonus second post to keep the grandparents happy through the weekend.

Ella's piano teacher is teaching her chords. 

Sew Much Going On

First of all, it's been a strange week.  It's the first time there's been a major news story that we haven't had a TV.  Although we've had no trouble following all of the events in Boston on radio, online and for me especially, on Twitter, it's been very odd to not be able to turn on the news.  The radio coverage is such a different way to experience something of this magnitude.  There are no teary interviews with loved ones or witnesses.  No photos of victims.  No gory crime scenes.  Honestly, it's felt like a much higher quality of information and discussions. 

OK, so on to the fun stuff.  Watch out, I discovered and explored the Garment District!  It is a small area just south of Times Square that has blocks of door to door fabric stores and stores that sell anything you could possibly need for sewing.  I. Am. In. Heaven.

There are stores with walls and walls of just zippers.  There are stores with several floors of JUST spandex fabric.  At first I was so overwhelmed I didn't go inside any of them.  I just kept walking in awe of HOW MANY fabric stores there were.  Then I stepped in one and went wild.  I limited myself to just spending a $150 Visa gift card I had burning a hole in my pocket.  But I got a lot of good stuff.  I'm focusing on making some sundresses for Ella and perhaps for me, too.

I did finish a dress that I had started for myself last week.  It's made of a very soft, light Japanese double gauze fabric that I ordered online a couple weeks ago.  The pattern is from the same Simple Modern Sewing book that I made the spring top from.

I really love it and it's super soft and comfy.  If only it were warm enough to wear it...

When I got home from the Garment District I had about an hour before I had to pick up the kids at school so I quickly pulled together this hippy skirt for myself.  It's actually made of a soft t-shirt material.  Very un-New York.

Ella ended up going back to the hairdresser to get more cut off.  I'm not sure what the hairdresser doesn't understand about a bob because while she did take another couple inches off, I wouldn't call it a bob.  But Ella likes it, so that's all that matters, right?

Some random New York photos taken this week:

Taken without breaking a stride on my morning walk around the reservoir.

The kids on their scooters, zipping by Brownstones.

I can't tell you what's going on here.  They both have their own sense of style...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Just a quick post for my two moms who I know check each morning for a new post.

This is my view on my morning walk now.  The cherry blossoms are in full bloom.  That's the Guggenheim Museum in the background.  And I wish I had smell-i-vision because these smell delicious.  Lucky me.

I took the kids to meet their new pediatrician today.  Kevin was happy to hear that based on my height and Kevin's height and some complicated computations, the doctor predicts that Holden will be six feet tall and Ella will be 5'7 1/2.  Hard to imagine, especially since currently Ella is in the 8th percentile for size for her age.  She'll be a late bloomer like her mother.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Nervous Nelly

Who needs to make new friends in New York when it seems like every week one friend or another is here from California?  This week it was my dear friend of 30+ years, Jean.  He is here on business for the weekend and so we got a babysitter and Kevin and I took him out for dinner and drinks and got to catch up on family and life.  So great to see him and have a taste of home.

We started Saturday off at the hair salon.

It turns out Ella got an "interim" haircut.  I let her do the talking.  She told the hairdresser that she wanted a bob, above the shoulder.  Apparently the hairdresser was too scared to cut so much off of her hair all at once because although she took several inches off, it was still well past her shoulders.  Ella didn't seem to mind and it was obvious the hairdresser needed to get back to another client who was having her hair colored, so she said if Ella wants more off we could return on Wednesday when she's here next.  Of course as soon as we got home Ella said she wants more off.  Then this morning she decided she liked it as is.  We'll see if it stays.
From there we headed out to discover Brooklyn.  At least one neighborhood: Williamsburg.  It's a very cool little neighborhood - hipster central.  Lots of stores that sell ironic t-shirts, oversized plastic sunglasses, and of course the ubiquitous fedora hats.  We had a nice day although I just about had a nervous breakdown. 
We let the kids take their scooters with them.  The sidewalks were very crowded (not evidenced in the above photo).  The kids would get way up ahead of us and I was a nervous wreck.  They would always stop at the corner and wait for us to cross the street but always a little too close to the edge, for my comfort.  Drivers here are crazy and there's no observation of silly things like stop signs or red lights.  Holden crashed into the back of at least one woman that I saw (and heard evidence of a second).
I thought these were going to be such a great idea because the kids wouldn't complain about all the walking.  But I didn't realize the trade-off.  They had a fabulous time though, zipping down the blocks, weaving between pedestrians.  And we had a nice lunch on a rooftop terrace (rooftop bars and restaurants is going to be our theme for the summer, I've decided).
 And saw some fun art.
By the time we got home I was so stressed out that I had to take a long hot bath to relax my nerves.

We did make one pit-stop on the way home to pick up a chess board.  Both kids are now getting chess lessons once a week in their classrooms and love it.  Friday night was chess night at school and since we were out with Jean, our babysitter took them over and they had a great time playing chess.  Who knew?
Sunday I had grand plans to get us back over to Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Museum to see an exhibit that Kevin and I have been wanting to see since we got here.  We made it all the way to the subway (with the scooters) before I realized how much stress these damn scooters were causing me.  I'm already a nervous Nelly on the subway with the kids.  Those trains FLY by and there is very little distance between you and the speeding train.  An average of one person EVERY WEEK is killed by a NYC subway train.  I grip the kids' hands so tight they complain whenever we're on the platform.  And to do it with a scooter in tow...too much.  I know I'll get used to it but on Sunday I decided that instead we should just take it easy, play in Central Park (with the scooters) and hang close to home.  We did and ended up having a really nice, relaxing day.

We used all of the amenities in our building - the kids went swimming in the pool, they played in the playroom while Kevin and I read in the lounge.  We all even hung out on our roof deck - the kids playing tag while the grown-ups read and soaked in the sun. 

Just what I needed.