Monday, November 24, 2014

Dirty Rooms

The whole weekend was our oyster, now that sports are over for the season.

We had to be far uptown on Saturday afternoon for Maeve's birthday party so we decided to spend the first half of the day up in the Bronx at the New York Botanical Gardens.  They're having their annual Holiday Train Show which we missed last year.  We also took one of their tram rides around the park for the first time which helped us get a better feel for the size and scope.

It was pretty spectacular.  All the major New York City landmarks made out of only sticks and nuts and leaves and various things found in nature.  Even the train cars were all natural.

Maeve's birthday party was a "Pajamas and Pancakes" party even though it wasn't a slumber party.  And since our entire family is friends with their entire family we all stayed for the party and had a delicious dinner of blueberry pancakes.  


Again, waking up on Sunday and knowing the day was ours to do with what we pleased was so refreshing.  Kevin and the kids caught a matinee (Big Hero 6) while I got some much needed time alone.  I read six whole chapters of my book and drank a huge latte in my favorite coffee shop.

In the afternoon the kids got to return to one of their very favorite places, Science Teacher Sarah's.  They spent an exciting two and a half hours making messy science experiments, learning about scurvy and pirates and other random facts and stuffing their faces with pizza and popcorn.

Meanwhile, Kevin and I wandered through the buildings of NYU and made our way to SoHo where we met our friends Alina and Tom.  We checked out a very strange art exhibit that Kevin read about.  You ring the unmarked doorbell, walk up a flight of stairs and go into a loft apartment that is filled about three feet deep with dirt.  The entire apartment.  And it's been that way since 1977.  It belongs to the Dia Art Foundation and the artist is Walter De Maria. 


As we were laughing with a few other people who were there checking it out, saying things like "Wow, what a waste of an awesome apartment in SoHo!" and "Who waters this place?" and "Is this structurally sound?", a woman suggested that maybe our reactions and conversation was really the art piece.  So New York.

We checked out one more art installation by the same artist around the corner and then enjoyed the last of our weekend drinking beer with our friends, laughing about the absurdity of New York City real estate, all while our kids were learning science on a Sunday night in a run down West Village apartment with neon green walls.

I can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Liberty and Liberals

I skipped Monday's post mostly to spare you people more of the same: "Wow, it's cold outside!"/ "Damn the kids' sports taking over our entire weekends!"/ "I feel like crap."

Ella's last softball game was cancelled on Saturday due to the weather which of course I was thrilled about since I was all loaded up on antibiotics and yes, feeling like crap.  So she and I spent the day cuddled up in bed watching the entire documentary series on the New York City Ballet (produced by Sarah Jessica Parker).

I will toss in a few photos for the Grandmas of the kids getting trophies (just for participating, mind you, which I am not a fan of) and such from last weekend.

This is what Saturday morning cartoons look like at our apartment.

Pizza party for last baseball game

I was feeling well enough Sunday night to join my friend Alina at Doc NYC (a documentary film festival) to see the film Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile, written by her friend's sister.  A must see.  It was the film's world premiere and we were able to stay for the Q & A after with the creators and the lead subject in the film.  Very cool.

The kids had their last creative writing class of this session (they'll continue the next session starting next week).  Whenever a kid finishes a book they get to write the title and their name up on the book wall at Writopia Lab.  Both Ella and Holden now have their names on the wall.  This is by far their very favorite class of the week, which is the biggest surprise to Kevin and me.


After jostling with my meds and getting some rest I was back on my feet by Tuesday, in time for a field trip with a group of homeschoolers.  We got to see a musical called Liberty and being the middle of a Tuesday we were able to sit in the front row.  If it comes to your town, I highly recommend it.  Ella walked out saying, "That was amazing..."  It's about a French immigrant girl named Liberty (symbolizing the Statue of Liberty in human form) and her struggles with being a new immigrant in 1884 to the United States.  It is very timely.  There is an evil character of a politician/businessman who is against allowing more immigrants into the country.  Ella said, "Doesn't he see that he will make more money if he lets them in?"  Which goes to show that you don't choose to become a liberal, you're just born that way.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Foraging and Fury

I need a substitute.

We had our first sick day.  Mom/teacher was sick on Friday (hence no blog post) and it was an interesting day.  Thank god the kids love to read.  They read for hours on Friday and were so good sitting for two hours in my doctor's waiting room, happily reading.  The doctor and receptionist both commented on how well behaved and patient they were, which of course made me laugh.

But there's no time to be sick in New York City.  So the week was still filled with field trips and adventures. 

On Wednesday we didn't have any classes or trips planned so I thought it would be nice to find somewhere new to do our schoolwork.  We packed up our books and walked down to the Natural History Museum and found their library, which in and of itself was an adventure.  It's not well marked and it turned out it is through a door off one of the dinosaur rooms that we've been in a thousand times.  We've never seen the door before and now it was a like a secret passageway.  We got through the door and down the dark, hidden hallway only to find a locked door and a sign saying that only museum employees were allowed in before 2pm.  The librarian must have seen our sad faces through the glass doors because she came over and unlocked them.  I told her we were looking for a quiet place to study and she happily let us in. 

For most of the three hours it was just us and a few scientists.  One elderly man finally walked over to our table to see why we were in the library in the middle of a school day.  He spied the history and math books spread out on our table and gave a disapproving snort.  He told the kids to follow him.  We did as we were told and without a word he led us to the children's science book corner and suggested we might find more interesting reading there and walked away.  We did indeed and after that not much more math and history were accomplished.

Thursday was a cold fall day but it didn't stop us from going on our outdoor field trip.  Wildman Steve is a naturalist who for 30 years has led walks throughout parks in and around New York City to teach kids and adults about the environment and getting back into nature.  He took our group of homeschoolers on a foraging tour around Central Park, teaching us how to find edible plants (and more importantly, teaching which were poisonous).  He was so knowledgeable and funny and Holden said it was the best field trip he's taken in his entire life.  Holden was right up at the front of the 30 or so people in our group, raising his hand, asking questions, and pointing out new plants and fungi to Steve.  And the park was just so beautiful with all of its fall foliage.

Steve Brill is well published

That same night we met Kevin after work at the Natural History Museum for a Members Only opening of a new exhibit, Nature's Fury.  I just love going to those exclusive exhibit openings (remember the Pterosaurs?).  Not only do they give you free wine but you get to hang out in the museum at night and see the exhibit when it is much less crowded.  As the name suggests, the exhibit is about the science of natural disasters such as earthquakes (lots of photos of San Francisco), tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanoes.  I was a little worried that it might be too disturbing for the kids but they seemed to enjoy it.


Kevin got to see his old college roommates from Vassar last night, Emily and Emmet.  He hadn't seen them in 20 years and he said it was like they hadn't missed a beat.  Old friends are good that way.


While Kevin was catching up over cocktails, the kids had one of their favorite classes of the week, World Mythology at The Met.  Apparently last night was devoted to studying Buddha, whom coincidentally we had just read about this week in our history book.  Ella was proud to show off what she already knew about him to the class.  She said they got to walk around the museum and sketch lots of statues of the Enlightened One.

Even though I was feeling like crap I hung around the museum and checked out an exhibit that I knew Kevin had no interest in, Leonard Lauder's Cubism Collection.  I got the audio tour to help distract me from my discomfort and really enjoyed learning about early cubism.  The collection was recently donated to the museum from Mr. Lauder of the make-up company Estee Lauder.  It's amazing how little I know about art history and how much renting one of those five dollar headsets can teach you in an hour.  I'm confident that had I just walked through the exhibit without the audio tour I would have made it through in about 15 minutes, coming away fairly unimpressed.  But having someone explain to me the process and history behind each piece really helped me to appreciate the works more.

Photos were forbidden so I snuck this one quickly

I'm hoping to get some rest this weekend and let my meds kick in, but I'm guessing that won't happen.  The kids finally finish up their last weekend of sports for the year so I get to sit in 30 degree temps today and try to enjoy Holden's last soccer game.  

I need a sub.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Snow is on the Horizon


Do you see what I see?  There, on Friday.  It's a snowflake.  I'm not ready for that snowflake.

Friday night started off as promised, with a date with Kevin on the balcony of the Great Hall of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

On Friday and Saturday nights the balcony becomes the Balcony Bar, complete with live classical music.  We enjoyed a cocktail (especially Kevin who's had a really tough year work-wise and had an especially tough Friday) and wandered through the museum a bit before picking up the kids at their class.  It feels a lot different exploring the museum at night.  Mostly because there are no kids, it's much quieter and just feels a little more magical.  The light is different and the whole place is calmer.  I recommend visiting it on a Friday or Saturday night, if possible.

The kids and I recently read a story about the Kings of Nineveh and Assyria in our history book.  In the book there was a sketch of an Assyrian Cherub, large sculptures of winged animals with human heads that lined the entry of the palace at Nineveh.  The kids recognized the sketch and said that we'd seen them at The Met.  I didn't remember it until I walked past it on Friday night.  It was pretty darn cool to see the 2,600-year-old statues from our history book in person.

Earlier in the day the kids learned about the printing press in their history class (specifically Benjamin Franklin's that we visited in Philadelphia).  They got to make their own "press" using a piece of foam, some ink and a roller.  I really like Holden's print.

Saturday was a perfect fall day.  We met our friends in the park for soccer and a picnic in Central Park.  There were so many people with their cameras getting that perfect fall foliage holiday card picture.

 Don't let the pictures fool you - it may have been clear and sunny but it was in the mid-40s.

On the way home from Ella's soccer game on Sunday she and I stopped in the Natural History Museum to buy a birthday present.  Since we still had a couple hours until Holden's baseball game was over we decided to finally check out the Butterfly Conservatory.  I can't believe we haven't been in there in the two years (and countless visits to the museum) since we moved here.  It seems impossible that there are still rooms we haven't been in yet.

It's so nice to have memberships to museums and to be able to pop in for a quick 20 minutes and not feel like you need to stay and get your money's worth. 

Wish us luck this week with the cold and snow.  We have an outdoor field trip planned on Thursday.  Fingers crossed the snow holds off.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Little Peacekeepers

I had a fun night out this week with girlfriends.  I finally got to check out a live taping of a great podcast, Selected Shorts, that can be heard on public radio.  If you're not familiar, it's an hour show with readings by famous people of either work they've written or others have written and it's taped just a few blocks away from us at a place called Symphony Space.  We got to hear Molly Ringwald, Zosia Mamet (from the show Girls), and even Maria from Sesame Street read vignettes from the book Women in Clothes.  It's filled with stories of women discussing their relationship with clothes.  It was a lot better than it sounds.

But the real highlight of the week was finally taking a tour of the United Nations, something we've wanted to do since we got here.


Kevin's office is only a few blocks away so he was able to sneak out early and join us.  We bought tickets specifically for a children's tour that they offer a couple times a month.


The tour lasted about 45 minutes and we were able to wander around a couple floors (apparently we were 35 floors away from the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who was working upstairs).  The kids and I had previously watched a Brain Pop video about the United Nations so that they would have some idea of why we were touring it and why it's important.  I don't think they totally got it, but they certainly had fun visiting what what clearly a very important building (lots of security, as you can imagine).

Mosaic by Norman Rockwell

I'll try to get them to write a post on their blog about the tour.  I'm curious what they took away from it.

The rest of our week was filled with fall fun in the park with friends, science experiments and poetry writing and memorization.  Ella finished her first book in her creative writing class.  I'll try to figure out the best way/place to post it soon.

Holden working on a diorama of a habitat

Kevin and I have a date to meet tonight at the bar in the Met overlooking the Great Hall while the kids enjoy their World Mythology class.

Have a warm and fun weekend, people!