Friday, October 31, 2014

Sphinx Virtuosi

It's a strange name, to be sure.  The Sphinx Organization "brings diversity to the arts" or more specifically, brings more Black and Latino musicians to classical orchestras.  A homeschool parent got a group discount for us to see The Sphinx Virtuosi play in Carnegie Hall this week.  Luckily, it was an evening event so Kevin was able to join us for this field trip.


First of all, just seeing any show at all at Carnegie Hall (this was our second) is an experience in itself.  It's such a beautiful and historical space.  And the acoustics are amazing.  I don't even have an ear for music and I can appreciate the sound there.

I'm not going to lie.  Holden was asleep two minutes in.  But Ella enjoyed watching the women play chamber music in gorgeous ball gowns.  One soloist was only 17 years old and played the violin like I've never heard before.  She got a standing ovation.  The theme of the performance was music by living American composers and after each piece the composer would stand up in the audience for applause.  Ella thought that was pretty cool.

We raced home that night to watch the final game in the World Series.  And luckily, since Holden got a good nap in at Carnegie Hall he was able to stay up for the first half of the game.  We woke the kids to tell them that the Giants won the World Series before putting them to bed.

We tried to enjoy as much time outside as possible this week since the weather is definitely switching from fall to winter.  The temperatures have dropped this week.  Holden's baseball coach warned us that the weather is supposed to be in the high 40s this weekend and his game is right on the river's edge.  Ugh.

School lunch in our secret garden.
Picking up school lunch at Barney Greengrass (Ella got Matzo ball soup, like a good Upper West Sider)

Thank you Grandma Diane for the awesome haunted gingerbread house!
Ella's homemade circuit box
Some last minute Halloween decorating this morning

We're all feeling a little homesick this week.  We'd love to be able to go to the Giants victory parade down Market Street today of all days - Halloween!  Orange and Black!  If any of you go, send pictures!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pumpkin Flotilla

I've been on the verge of major illness all week and I blame the Giants.

Between the playoffs and the World Series, and all being played on Pacific Standard Time, I have been missing my bedtime for weeks.  I'm not a night owl and staying up until midnight, night after night has left me feeling awful.  Hey Giants, could you please just finish off the World Series tomorrow night so that I don't completely self-destruct?

In addition to watching a lot of baseball this weekend, we did a lot of other really cool stuff too.

When I dropped the kids off at the Met for their World Mythology class on Friday night we first made a detour upstairs.  Part of their homeschool curriculum includes weekly Art History classes which I spend about 60 seconds on.  They have the kids look at a tiny postcard of a painting and discuss it.  Since I'm pretty sure my kids get more than the average art education for a 2nd and 4th grader I usually use that time to catch up on other things.  But this week I noticed that the postcard Holden was supposed to study is of a painting that is actually hanging at the Met - The Sackville Children by John Hoppner.  Just a little different perspective to see it in person.

We had a much needed adults night out with our friends Sharon and Stefan on Friday night.  We have 5 (soon-to-be 6) kids between us so when we're together normally, not many conversations are actually finished.  We had a great time catching up with them over Mexican food and margaritas.  Since a babysitter had picked up the kids at the museum and brought them home, Kevin and I found a sports bar after leaving our friends and watched the Giants lose.

Saturday morning, my hangover and I were cheered up with a walk along the High Line with my closest college friend whom I have only seen a handful of times over the last 25 years.  Aimee lives in Texas and was here for the weekend livin' it up in the Big Apple with some girlfriends.  Not only was it great to catch up with her (it always feels like we just spoke yesterday), it was also nice to get to see the newest addition to the High Line which just opened a few weeks ago.  It just keeps getting better and better.

The weekend was again taken over by soccer/baseball/softball.  The kids have agreed that starting in the spring they will each choose one sport at a time.  Kevin and I aren't the only ones missing our family time.


We wrapped up the weekend with pumpkin carving and sending our Jack-O-Lanterns into the middle of a lake on a flotilla.  Every year the Park Conservancy has a big party up at the northern end of Central Park at the Harlem Meer (remember where we once went fishing in Central Park?).  There are lots of fun games and crafts and a big parade around the lake.  It all culminates with a Pumpkin Flotilla filled with carved pumpkins.  The kids donated their two pumpkins for the cause and had a great time watching them float across the lake.

It's fall in New York!

Waiting for the tire swing.

Parade around the Meer

The kids have added two more entries to their blog about hot spots for kids in NYC.  Check it out here!  Happy Monday, people!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On

Thank god there are people in the world like Dr. Spencer who are willing to risk their lives to help heal others.  But would it have been too much to ask that he stay put in his apartment for the 10 day incubation period of Ebola, just to be sure?  How about at least not ride a subway system that provides 5.5 million rides a day to passengers?  Just for a couple weeks.  Not because I think he was actually going to transmit Ebola on the subway, but because panic is a powerful thing.  One doctor said the real problem with Ebola coming to the U.S. will be the toll it will put on emergency rooms.  Flu season is upon us and the flu and Ebola have very similar symptoms.  If we get several more cases of Ebola in this country, as people start spiking fevers and vomiting they'll flood the ERs and doctors will be required to approach every patient with these symptoms as possible Ebola patients.

So I guess the moral of the story is to get your flu shot so that you don't accidentally think you have Ebola.

On a happier note, another fun field trip was had this week.


The kids joined a homeschool field trip to a museum that we've passed dozens of times but have yet to visit, the Museum of Art and Design.  It's a small museum right on Columbus Circle.  I almost didn't sign them up for it because we are too overscheduled as it is.  But then I realized that for the low price of $6/kid I could have an hour and a half all by myself.  Sold.

While the kids toured the museum, met a "real live" artist-in-residence and created some art of their own in this beautiful studio overlooking Central Park, I made my way across the street to the only shopping mall I've seen in Manhattan and tried on jeans all alone, drank a quiet cup of coffee and checked to see what you people were up to on Facebook. 

The week was also filled with the usual fun creative writing classes, play dates, and even cross-stitch.  I really thought they'd tire of cross-stitch after a few sessions but both of them just seem to be getting more into it.  The class is filled with 9-year old girls so Ella has made several buddies and Holden, surprisingly, is hooked.  Of course, we spend all of this money on amazing classes at incredible museums and the one they like the best is the free one.

Get your flu shots.  We did.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Immersed in History

So the kids and I were walking from their class at the New York Historical Society on Friday over to their class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and we came upon a castle. 

No really.

Taken at the top of Belvedere Castle

We also passed a beautiful lake with romantic couples rowing by.

 And of course we didn't let the ice cream truck get by us without grabbing a couple cones.

Friday was a gorgeous day in the city.

Someone asked me what the kids are doing in their history class at the NY Historical Society and I can't remember who so I'll write about it here and hopefully they're a blog reader.

They are just about to finish up their session on the Lenape Indians who were here in the New York area before the Dutch came (and long before the English arrived).  The kids usually spend the first part of the hour and a half in the museum itself looking at art and artifacts from the Lenape.  Then they have some classroom time talking about what they saw and learned, and then finish up with about a half hour of hands-on time where they make art projects related to what they learned.  For the last couple weeks they have been working on making models of wigwams (a domed dwelling for the Native Americans).  They begged me to sign them up for the next session which starts in a couple weeks where they'll progress to the American Revolution and specifically what was happening in New York at that time.  We've accidentally been studying the American Revolution between our visit to Philadelphia, the kids reading the Magic Treehouse book about the revolution, watching a bunch of Liberty's Kids videos (I highly recommend them), our recent visit to the museum at Fraunces Tavern and our upcoming trip to Washington DC over Thanksgiving break.  I say it was an accident because we're not actually studying the American Revolution in our curriculum at home (or online).  This year is actually devoted to a broad overview of history from first recorded history all the way through to the present day (we're currently at about 1000 BC).  I really like this approach because I know I for one never got that broad overview and so as I learned about various wars and revolutions I always had a hard time seeing how they fit into the big picture.  

Anyway, we slowly made our way through Central Park and over to the Met for their evening class.  It happened to be "Teens Take Over the Met" night and you wouldn't believe it (at least I didn't) but the line of teens to get into the Met was three blocks long!  On a Friday night.  The bottom floor of the museum had club music blasting and all throughout you could come across small groups of teens getting tours of various exhibits, some sketching in corners, and others laughing and running through the halls.  There were hundreds of them.  Those teens could be anywhere in New York City on a Friday night and they chose to hang out at the Met.  So cool.

So, back to what the younger kids were up to.  You may remember that Ella and Holden started a 9-week course called Stories and Glories: World Mythology at The Met.  They joined 18 other 6 to 8-year-olds and started off with Greek and Roman mythology.  According to Ella they saw some Greek pottery and a Roman sarcophagus and sketched all of them.  They've been reading a lot about Greek mythology lately with Kevin and on their own so they had a leg up on the other kids.  If you have kids about the same age and are interested, I can recommend the Heroes in Training series - Holden can't get enough of them.

Kevin and I took advantage of an hour and a half without kids on a Friday night and met each other at the nearby Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel.

(Photo swiped from Internet - too dark to actually take a photo and would have made me look too uncool)

You might remember from our visit to the Madeline exhibit a few months back that Ludwig Bemelmans was the author and artist of the Madeline children's books and lived in New York City.  The Carlyle Hotel let his family live in the hotel for free for a year in exchange for his hand painting all the walls of the bar.  It's gorgeous to see in person.  And in case you were wondering what ever happened to Molly Ringwald of 80s fame, she is alive and well and can be found doing two shows a night at Bemelmans.  Who knew she was a lounge singer?

Several weeks back I bought us tickets to see what was billed as a family program at the Park Avenue Armory for Saturday night called The 7 1/2 Mysteries of Toulouse McLean.  I had no recollection of what the show was about and probably just bought the tickets because I wanted to show the kids the Armory, where Kevin and I saw the amazing performance of Macbeth (still the best live show I've seen to date).  We showed up on Saturday night and were seated in a relatively small room with almost all adults (only about two other children were there).  I kind of panicked and thought I had made a big mistake.  Why would a kids' show start at 7pm anyway?  

It turned out to be an amazing, audience-immersive show written specifically to be performed in the Armory.  The story is about a girl named Toulouse McLean who was aboard the Lusitania (a British ocean liner that was torpedoed and sunk by a German missile and killed more than 1,000 people).  Toulouse survived and was adopted by the 17th Regiment in New York and raised in the Armory (it is supposedly based on a real girl).  She lived and died in the Armory and the show takes you from room to room, with actors all around you, telling the story.  It's very eerie and beautiful and sad and the kids were blown away.  They had never experienced an interactive show like this before.  I never would have described it as a family program but I'm so glad they did or I never would have thought to bring the kids.  I won't be able to do it justice trying to explain it but it was pretty incredible, not only to be in the middle of the show, but to be in such an historic place. 

Original cannons in the Armory

To balance out all of the culture of the weekend the kids had plenty of outdoor time as it was the first weekend without rain in a while.  Lots of soccer and baseball and softball. 

And of course cross-stitch.


Friday, October 17, 2014

A Spoonful of Honey

Who wouldn't want to be these kids?

Yes, we hit the books again this week but it's also been a week filled with fun field trips and awesome classes.  And yet somehow whenever I speak with other homeschool parents it seems we are doing way more schoolwork than any other homeschoolers in the area.  Many of them rely on the classes offered at the museums and homeschool spaces as their only curriculum, rather than as a supplement.  And a few that I have met do a complete curriculum at home and just add one or two more outside classes onto their week.  But as you know, I am nothing if not overscheduled so our weeks are filled with math, science, spelling, history, geography - you name it - at home/on the subway/at the library, in addition to many (too many?) weekly classes and trips.  I know we should cut back but there always seems to be a fieldtrip or class offered that is just too good to pass up.

Case in point, this week the kids joined a homeschool fieldtrip to the Brooklyn Children's Museum.  We hadn't been there yet and it was a bit of a haul to get there (about an hour on the subway) but it was worth it.  It's a gorgeous, enormous museum that reminded me a lot of the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito back home.  It's a hands-on science/history museum with lots of play spaces.  A homeschool mom arranged for our group to get a Junior Geologist class with an instructor for an hour.  Then after exploring the museum on our own for another couple hours we all regrouped for lunch.  Ella made a sweet friend and the kids really loved the museum.  We even got a bit of a cultural lesson as we made our way out of the museum and to the subway station.  The museum is located in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, a neighborhood that is home to many Hasidic Jews.  It felt like we were walking through Jerusalem (I believe it was a Jewish holiday).  So the kids and I spent a lot of time talking about what little I know of Judaism.

And you're not going to believe their day today.  It's a beautiful Friday and I just dropped the kids off at El Museo del Barrio, a Latino cultural museum.  They will tour the museum with their Spanish tutor and do some "fun cultural activities".  I was a little jealous since I haven't been to the museum before but decided it didn't make sense to stay with them since they'd be speaking Spanish the whole time.  I told the kids they'd have to bring me and Dad back with them to show us around.

I just enjoyed a long walk back home through Central Park which is just now starting to look like fall.


I'll pick up the kids after their history class at the New York Historical Society and then we'll make our way through the park yet again for a new class they're starting tonight.  This one I can hardly believe - they'll be taking a 9-week course for children called Stories and Glories: World Mythology at the Met.  I swear, these kids don't know how good they have it.  And the best part is that the class is from 5:30 - 7pm every Friday so Kevin and I have a 9-week standing date night at The Met's rooftop martini bar.

Holden said to me this morning that the best part of homeschooling is "so many vacations".  When I asked him what he meant by that he said, "Like today, no school."  He thinks visiting 3 world-class museums in one day, being taught by experts in their fields (and speaking Spanish for 3 hours) is no school.  I love that. 

It's like I just hid their medicine in a spoonful of honey.