Monday, September 29, 2014

City School

It was such a beautiful weekend, temps in the 80s, that even if our internet wasn't down all day yesterday I'm not sure I would have gotten a blog post up.  We spent as much time outdoors as possible, knowing that this was probably our last hurrah before the weather starts to cool off considerably.  That being said, I really do love living in a place with real seasons.  It's fun to switch out the wardrobe, plan different activities according to the weather, feel the passing of time.

School is taking over our tiny apartment, which is probably smaller than most U.S. classrooms.

A whiteboard behind our bedroom door

Science experiments in the window sills
School books everywhere
A word wall in the dining room
I don't think we'll be entertaining guests anytime soon.

We also had a nice breakthrough with school this week.  We try to keep math to the first 45 minutes to an hour each morning.  On Wednesday, Ella really struggled with a new math concept.  We ended up spending a very frustrating 3 hours on math.  As lunch was nearing and Ella was getting really discouraged I realized and then reminded her that this is exactly why we're homeschooling: so that we can spend as long as they need to learn a concept.  We don't need to stop just because the bell rings or because everyone else in the class understands.  I also consulted a fellow mom that afternoon at the playground and got some great advice from her.  Ella is very visual and just memorizing math facts such as multiplication tables isn't going to work for her.  She needs something much more concrete first.  So these Cuisenaire Rods were recommended to me.  Any idea what to do with them?

Friday was the first time I've been alone, completely alone, for three straight hours since Costa Rica.  The kids started their new hour-and-a-half history class at the New York Historical Society and I had the brilliant idea to schedule their Spanish tutor for the preceding hour and a half.  She drops them off at the museum at the end of her lesson so that I can have a straight three-hour stretch to get stuff done recover.  I was good this week and ignored my to-do list and just spent a beautiful afternoon walking through Central Park and making my way to The Frick Museum

Central courtyard of The Frick Museum - the only place they allow photos

You may remember that The Frick Museum is the one that we tried to visit a few months back but that doesn't allow children under 10 years-old.  I was a little put off by that at the time.  It's not like The Met or the MoMA don't have invaluable pieces of art and kids are running all around the place.  Well, now I understand why The Frick is so stingy.  It's a museum housed in the home of Henry Clay Frick, an industrialist at the turn of the century and there are priceless works of art and furniture and vases all about.  You really feel like you're wandering through someone's home.  I would have been pretty nervous to have Holden there.  It's absolutely gorgeous and I was able to join a brief docent tour and then enjoy an hour with the audio tour (not enough time).  Also, since no kids are allowed, it's a very quiet and peaceful way to spend your afternoon.

I returned to pick up the kids at the museum after their class feeling very refreshed and ready to tackle another week of homeschooling.

That evening we met Kevin after work across the East River in Brooklyn.  This weekend was their annual DUMBO Arts Festival (DUMBO is a neighborhood named for the acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).  It was a warm and beautiful night on the waterfront and we wandered around seeing some cool art installations and visiting some funky art galleries.

See the disobedience I'm dealing with?

Had a Neil Diamond sighting under the Brooklyn Bridge!

We were craving some nature on Saturday so we literally crossed the street from our apartment and transported ourselves into the wilds of Central Park.  I know I've said it before but Central Park is my very favorite part of New York City.  It's what makes this city liveable.  We hiked around for a couple hours and explored new areas of the park before the sports games started for the kids.

Love these audible guides positioned all around the park, narrated by famous New Yorkers.

I know this was a long post - thanks for hanging in there!  I will really try to get a midweek post out this week to keep the length down.

Happy Fall, people!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Four Hours of Figaro

Well, it keeps getting easier.

I feel like we finally have a rhythm to our days and I'm feeling more and more confident each day.  Ella started chorus this week and met some more friends.  Holden and I hung around the waiting area instead of heading over to Starbucks which turned out to be a good thing.  I met several more homeschool moms and Holden made a buddy (another 7 year-old boy who also had no interest in chorus).  They played Lego, we chatted about classes and field trips.

I'm getting efficient by combining science and art classes.

And the kids returned to their other classes: cross-stitch, creative writing, Spanish, and science.  Even though the cross-stitch class isn't specifically for homeschoolers (it's at 3:30 in the afternoon), we met another homeschool family there as well - a really nice mom and her 8 year-old daughter who have been living overseas for the last several years for work and just returned to NYC.  Our community keeps growing.

I even got to sneak away one night this week with girlfriends to see the opening night of a play written by a friend of a friend, Tail Spin.  It was an hysterical political sketch that felt like an hour and a half Saturday Night Live skit.  Probably because the lead actor was Rachel Dratch of SNL fame.

But the highlight of our week was definitely Friday.  We joined our second homeschool field trip group for a dress rehearsal of The Marriage of Figaro at The Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center.

Not only did we meet even more really cool people there, we enjoyed four hours of a world class production.  Yes, the kids sat through four hours of opera and were on the edge of their seats the entire time - no joke.  They had heard opera singers live before at Opera in the Park in San Francisco but had never seen a real opera production.  We read the synopsis in the morning so that we knew what to expect (the opera is in Italian).  Plus, at The Metropolitan Opera there are tiny little screens on the seat in front of you with subtitles.  The set and costumes were stunning.  I only wish Kevin could have joined us.  We didn't really get much schoolwork done that day but I'd say it was a pretty educational day nonetheless. As we sat eating lunch outside during intermission, a kind older man said, "I think it's wonderful that you're keeping the kids out of school today to see an opera!"  Little did he know that the city is our school and that we were just where we were supposed to be.

The kids have started a new project that you might be interested in, being a blog-reader and all.  Or perhaps you have young children and see a trip to New York City in your future.  They have decided to write about all of the fun things they do and fun places they go in New York City.  Check out their first blog post at NYC with Ella & Holden.

We are in that sweet spot during the year on the East Coast where we no longer use our air conditioners but the landlord hasn't needed to fire up the furnace yet.  The leaves are just starting to turn golden.  Our weekend was filled with friends and sports and just about nothing else.  I'd say that's a pretty good weekend.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Proud to be 43

Thank you, thank you for the birthday wishes.  I had a lovely birthday which revolved mostly around good friends and good food.

I got to see and eat with three of my best NYC gal pals over three different meals.  Friday night we had Maeve's family over for dinner.  We only have a few weeks left of entertaining in our tiny apartment before the weather makes our backyard unusable. 


Then, on Saturday morning we met up with my friend Mimi and her two adorable little guys Arlo and Ansel for lunch on the High Line - one of my very favorite places in New York City. It's about a mile long stretch of railway above street level that had been abandoned for years and almost demolished before a forward thinking group of people decided to make it into a park and art space.  It's really just so unique and beautiful and so nice to be just above the fray.

Recites Shakespeare for donations

Can you see the screaming face?  Think big.

Earlier in the week we met up with Ella's new best buddy Clara (from Make-A-Musical camp) and her mom Kelly (my new friend) at the New York Historical Society for free cross-stitch classes.  Holden insisted he would have nothing to do with it before we arrived but once the instructor started passing out the colorful threads, Holden was hooked.

And of course our weekend was filled with sports - well, until one or two games were rained out.

Walking to Central Park through the Brownstones
Ella's new soccer team - the Pink Panthers

Holden vs. Holden
Ella cross-stitching while watching Holden's baseball game

Walking home along the Hudson River

Before the weekend the kids and I finished up our work early on Friday so that we could attend a "Not-Back-to-School Picnic" in Central Park.  It was posted on a homeschool Yahoo group that I subscribe to and I thought it might be a good way for us to build up our community.  We were shocked to walk up and see at least a couple hundred people there!  We met a really nice family (with their own Ella) who normally live in Abu Dhabi but are here for six months for their dad's work.  Ella taught the sisters how to cross-stitch.

Kevin and the kids spoiled me on my birthday.  They took me to a delicious restaurant we've been wanting to try on Saturday night and we all got dressed up (even Holden!).


And then on my birthday morning I was served breakfast in bed and showered with gifts and love.  That night we met my friend Alina and her family for a fun Mexican dinner, complete with giant margaritas. 

Good food + good friends + my three favorite people in the world = a perfect birthday.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fall Ball

Oh no!  I was afraid this was going to happen.  My busyness factor has increased tenfold and blogging has taken a backseat.  I apologize to my regular readers.  I know we'll find our groove soon and I'll return to my biweekly posts.

Fall ball started last weekend.  For us that means softball for Ella and baseball for Holden.  This coming weekend they'll both also start soccer.  This means our weekends for the foreseeable future are hijacked by sports.  I'm not going to lie, I'm resentful and secretly hoping they don't like one sport or the other so we can get back to our free and clear weekends ripe for last minute getaways or spontaneous neighborhood jaunts.  But the kids are happy, so I'm keeping my mouth shut.


Saturday morning started off with piano lessons with Dad.  This is one of the few times of the week where I can be alone.  I escape to the coffee shop on the corner and read the paper or my book.

In the afternoon we headed over to Riverside Park where we found the baseball field right on the edge of the Hudson River.  Absolutely gorgeous setting.  My resentment faded a bit as I enjoyed the view and sunshine and Ella's enthusiasm.  She was thrilled about the whole thing, except her team name:  the Peaches.  Ugh.  We both agreed that softball teams should be named after major league teams just as the Little League baseball teams are (Holden is on the Yankees this year).  Just because they're girls doesn't mean they need a silly name.

We kept to our tradition of spending Sunday mornings in a museum.  Even sports isn't going to keep us from our culture, entirely.  Kevin read about a new app for your phone from The Metropolitan Museum of Art with mini scavenger hunts.  The kids always do better in a museum (especially Holden) if they are looking for something specific.  So this really helped in holding their interest. 

Kevin also realized that the cover of a book the kids both read last week while visiting Philadelphia has a painting that is on display at The Met.

Washington Crosses the Delaware

Holden walked into the room and said, "Whoa!  I didn't expect it to be this big!"

Luckily, Holden's baseball games are on the same beautiful field right on the Hudson.

Holden's first at bat and he hit a single.

The kids discovered foosball.

This week has been insanely busy for the three of us.  This is our first week of not only having both kids homeschooling but also taking outside classes during the day.  That makes for long days.  Ella started her science class on Monday with 12 other kids and loved it.  She said, "Everyone is so nice!"  And they both started a creative writing class with 3 other kids on Tuesday.  Holden said, "It was awesome!"  They've both been using their free time this week working on their stories.  It's all online so their classmates and teachers can leave comments and feedback on what they've written throughout the week.  So 21st century.  They also started working/playing with their Spanish teacher twice a week and this afternoon Ella is taking a cross-stitch class at the New York Historical Society with a friend from theater camp.  And there are more classes starting in the coming weeks.  This means that all of our regular schoolwork needs to happen before/after/in-between all of these other classes.  I'm basically exhausted all the time.

To try to be as efficient with our time as possible (and being efficient is my very favorite thing to be), I decided to try out something very Manhattan - having a hairdresser come to our apartment to cut our hair. 

It sounds completely ridiculous and I've been nay-saying our friends who have been using her for years, but let me tell you, it was awesome.  First of all, she charged less than our salon hairdresser.  And best of all, while she was cutting each child's hair I was inside working with the other child on schoolwork.  No travel time.  I even got my hair cut. 

We've also been trying to start our days with recess as a way to wake up and help Holden stay focused on his work when he gets home.  This week we walked around the reservoir first thing in the morning.  I think it's working.


Yesterday afternoon we stopped by the American Museum of Natural History with the intent of buying birthday presents for my niece, Piper.  But when we checked in at the Members' desk the employee gleefully bragged that she had just sold tickets to Justin Bieber and his entourage!  Our museum trip turned into a hunt for The Biebs.  We ran all around the museum but to no avail (he later posted photos of his visit to the museum on Instagram).  At one point Holden said, "It's like we're the cheetahs and he's the gazelle!"  I felt a little bad after that and we decided to just go to the gift shop and leave Justin his privacy.