Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Grandma's in Gotham

Mom's timing was perfect.  While her house in the mountains of California was getting covered in snow, New York City was downright balmy all week.  Of course I have mixed feelings about this, knowing full well that this doesn't bode well for our planet.  But I can't deny that wearing a t-shirt and drinking iced lattes in the middle of December feels great, if not a little eerie.


As usual, we sent her home this morning exhausted.  But I hope she'll agree that we went easy on her this trip.  She joined us for some outings and stayed home on the couch for others.  We stuck to taxis and Ubers and tried to keep walking to a minimum.

Friday night drinks at the Met's Balcony Bar while the kids were in class

She got to join us for our annual trip to see the Nutcracker and we all agreed that this was the best performance any of us had ever seen.  We showed her off to our cross-stitch class, brought her to Ella's end-of-the-season fashion show for her Fashion Design and Sewing class, and browsed a few store windows all dressed up for the holidays.

Giving teacher Liz her pillow that the kids made for her.

Lincoln Center

Grandma thought it was best that she avoid the crowds so the kids and I checked out the tree at Rockefeller Center and Santa at Macy's Herald Square without her.

Acting like he hasn't been thinking about the answer to this question for months.

And one day we just hung out at home all day, playing board games, cooking, and watching movies.  It was perfect.


She even let Kevin and I have a night on the town to meet up with a very old friend.  Scott and I were born on the exact same day and bonded over that fact when we were both teaching in Seoul, South Korea in 1996.  We were friends for just a few months and haven't seen each other in 19 years and had lost touch until Facebook came around.  Scott lives in the very center of Canada where he produces TV shows and was in the city for work.  He hasn't changed a bit and we had a great night catching up.  I love Facebook for just these kinds of things.

I'm sure mom will spend the next few days recovering before taking off on her next adventure in her RV.  She has no plans except to "head south, maybe the desert."  Now you know where I get my love of travel and sense of adventure.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December Madness

Decembers are not my best time of year.  They always leave me a little strung out.  Christmas shopping, holiday parties, stressing about money, preparing for travel, planning for school and classes for the spring, trying to keep the kids focused on schoolwork when there are a million other more fun things they'd rather be doing.  I feel like a chicken with my head cut off right about now.  I'm sure many of you people can relate.

So with that said, this post will be mostly photos because I've got 800 things to do and writing a blog post shouldn't be one of them.  This last week found us at a lecture on dark matter at the Natural History Museum (with a Neil deGrasse Tyson sighting), Kevin and I enjoyed getting to know some of our neighbors at a Champagne tasting party in our building (the hosts and our neighbors are the authors of Wine for Dummies), the kids went on a homeschool field trip to see Cirque Mechanics while I sat quietly in a movie theater all by myself, Kevin and I had a grown-up night on the town to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday, and the kids had fun at a birthday party at the New York Historical Society.  Just our average overscheduled week.

My mom arrived in NYC on Tuesday night and we plan to show her Christmastime in New York, even if it is 60 degrees and sunny out.

Owl sighting in Central Park

Stefan's 40th

Slightly bigger than a Charlie Brown Christmas tree

Hanukkah gift for their cross-stitch teacher

Patience, Holden, & Grandma

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Writer in Residence

She never stops surprising me.

If you know Ella personally, then you know that she is a soft-spoken, what most would consider shy kid.  She is definitely an introvert - she'd much prefer to spend an hour in her room by herself reading or playing with her dolls than an hour at a birthday party (except for the cake part).  So when she asks to take part in things like presenting at the history fair or reading her own short story on a stage in front of dozens of strangers, I just don't know what to make of her.


She and Holden have been taking creative writing classes at a great non-profit space called Writopia, where they are mentored by real published authors.  You may remember that a few months back we went to watch their friend Charles read his story at a local independent bookstore.  Ella said she'd like to read hers the next time Writopia had public readings.  When I saw that this time it wasn't going to be at a small bookstore but at the Barnes and Noble on the Upper West Side, the same stage that major international writers have read from, I thought she might change her mind.


Not only did she not change her mind, she didn't seem nervous at all.  Not even when we walked in a few minutes late and saw no one that looked like a child.  It seems that I accidentally signed her up for the teen reading night.  But she didn't say a word.  They called her name, she marched up to the stage and read her story, proudly.

She's not the only one who was proud.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Yankees Go South

I feel like we've spent the last week traveling back in time.  Charleston and Savannah couldn't possibly be any more different from New York City.  We visited many Civil War sites, toured a dozen historic homes, explored plantations.  We took walking tours, audio tours, horse-drawn carriage tours, and even a ghost tour in the back of a hearse.  We had pool time, beach time, city time, and hiked though two nature preserves.  We walked through at least three cemeteries, climbed to the top of a lighthouse, were led though a dungeon, somberly toured an old slave mart, and averaged about seven miles walking each day.  No one's ever accused us of being lazy.

Ready for travel

First we spent three days exploring Charleston, a city that's a mix of old and new.  There are many historical sites and homes there but just as many Banana Republics and trendy new restaurants.  The highlight was probably a tour out to Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.

Emanual AME Church where the shooting occurred this year.

Holden adding his name to the Declaration of Independence

Fort Sumter

Drayton Hall

Old Slave Mart Museum

Journal writing

I was surprised to learn that much of the South Carolina and Georgia coastlines are made up of beautiful, tropical islands.  There is a rich African-American history there as many of the slaves, once freed after the Civil War, settled there.

After three nights in Charleston we traveled south to Beaufort for a night.  It's a small town halfway between Savannah and Charleston, filled with history and gorgeous old mansions.  We stayed in an amazing B&B right on the beach.

And then we drove down the coast, stopping again at the beach, to Savannah.  Savannah felt like a step back in time.  The local preservation society has been very active in saving and restoring old homes and buildings.  The city centers around 22 town squares (we hit all of them), many with park benches, a fountain or statue, and all dripping with Spanish moss.

Ella took the lead as our tour guide for an entire day.

Ghost tour

Ella was mesmerized by this diptych and sat there for quite a while taking it in.

Telfair Art Museum

Bonaventure Cemetary

We had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner in the Olde Pink House, another 18th century mansion, which was beautiful.  Savannah was our first home exchange as well.  We signed up online a few months ago on a home exchange website where people can swap homes while traveling and save money.  We stayed in Laura and Michael's HUGE condo right in the middle of the historic district while they were away celebrating Thanksgiving in Texas.  They will stay in our place in New York over New Years Eve while we're away.  It worked out perfectly and we were much more comfortable than we would have been in a hotel and saved hundreds of dollars.

Holden HATED the sweater I made him wear.

It was such an educational trip for all of us.  I'd say that between all of the books the kids read leading up to the trip, the classes they've taken at the New York Historical Society on slavery and the Civil War, and the sites we visited and tours we took, the kids are now experts on 18th and 19th century America.  I know I certainly learned more than I ever cared to know about the Civil War.

After we got home and spent all of Sunday doing load after load of laundry and catching up on homework, we decided we all needed to get out for some fresh air.  A walk through Central Park brought us right to a Revolutionary War cannon that had been found right over in the East River just a couple years ago, still filled with gun powder!  We can't escape the historical landmarks and artifacts.

I hope you people all had wonderful Thanksgivings and were surrounded by family and friends.