Monday, April 27, 2015

Tulip Season

So I'm sitting on a bench, doing some lesson prep for next week when I notice that softball practice is over and the game has started.  I scan the outfield looking for Ella.  I scan each base.  No Ella.  I decide it's time for me to see the optometrist again and stand up and walk closer to the field.  Still, no Ella.  How did I lose my daughter at her own softball game?  I know I can be a crappy parent sometimes, but this seems ridiculous even for me.  I start getting worried.  Would she go off to the public bathrooms by herself?  Did a jogger snatch her up and run off with her without anyone noticing?  I start to walk over the to the coach, trying to think of how I'm going to ask her where Ella is without sounding like a total idiot.  That's when I see her tennis shoes.  Poking out from behind a whole lot of protective gear. 

She's the catcher.

After I regained my composure and the girls won the game, Ella and I had a delicious mother-daughter lunch in Harlem and then met up with Kevin and Holden.  A college friend of Kevin's was in town with his family and this was their first time in New York City (despite living just up the road in Boston), so we spent a couple lovely hours touring them around the highlights of Central Park.  It couldn't have been a nicer day to show off our backyard.

Sunday was just as beautiful so we wandered over to our secret garden (known to others as West Side Community Garden, an empty double lot that they converted into a community garden years ago).  This is the same secret garden that we often wander over to for lunch and reading during the school day.  This weekend was their annual tulip festival and for such a small garden, they packed in a LOT of tulips.  The kids and Kevin brought their sketch books and settled in.

Holden asked me to take a picture of him next to his favorite tulip.

From there we wandered uptown some more, through a street fair, across the park, and ended up at the Guggenheim Museum on the east side (I can proudly say that according to my phone, we averaged 5 walking miles a day this week!).  Sunday was the museum's monthly Open Studios for kids where they have a couple creative stations set up.  The kids made themselves at home in the Monir exhibit.


And then created more art in the basement of the museum in the Sackler Center for Arts Education, a new discovery for us despite being members for two years.

Add to that being treated to a delicious dinner at our friends' Mimi and Joel's house and we can't complain about this weekend.  Now poor Kevin is paying for it by spending the next two days in Detroit.  Poor guy.

Friday, April 24, 2015


I promised to explain the odd photos of the kids engaged in sword play in Central Park this week...

This is The Wayfinder Experience.  If you haven't heard of it, Wayfinder is a program that provides workshops and camps for kids to build leadership, social, and team building skills through imaginative play.  Each child is issued a foam sword that they can personalize and decorate.  They play fun adventure and fantasy games such as Capture the Flag and the like.  By creating characters, working as a team to solve problems, and improvisation, they help kids to build self-confidence, responsibility, and individual growth.  This is a homeschool group that meets every Tuesday but Wayfinders is not specifically a homeschool activity, in case you're interested in finding a group near you.  But mind you, it probably won't be in such an amazing setting :)


And speaking of Central Park, we had another opportunity to enjoy it this week with our second field trip with Wildman Steve, the famous forager.  This is Holden's very favorite field trip (this is our second time taking it) and he sticks to Steve's side the entire time, absorbing all he has to teach about botany, environmentalism, and foraging.  I will be shocked if Holden doesn't work in a field that has something to do with ecology.  It is clearly his passion.

Have a wonderful weekend, people!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cloistered in Manhattan

We passed the 70 degree mark this weekend so these things happened...

Saw some bad public art and picnicked in Madison Square Park 
Ate dinner outside at our favorite local seafood restaurant
Baseball at what must be the world's most beautiful Little League park on the Hudson River

We also had fun with litmus...

Stood out on the subway...

One of these readers is not like the others

Stood around looking cute...

And this craziness ensued in Central Park (I'll post more on that later this week)...

But the highlight of the weekend was heading way uptown to The Cloisters.  The kids have been reading about medieval Europe with Kevin recently and The Cloisters is a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art that specializes in just that: medieval Europe.  The museum "incorporates parts from five European abbeys which were disassembled and shipped to New York City, where, between 1934 and 1939, they were reconstructed and integrated together with new buildings in the medieval style."  Pretty cool.  We rented the audio tour, tuned into the special children's tour, and headed out.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Well Hello, Spring!

The sun is officially out and that means that Little League season has started (yes, a few weeks later than you people on the West Coast, for obvious reasons).

This season may get a little confusing because both Holden's baseball team (the Cosmos) and Ella's softball team (the Peaches) are both green.  The last two photos above are actually Ella.  A couple weeks ago when I reminded Ella that softball season was nearing she groaned.  No interest.  I can't blame her.  Unlike soccer, she spends a lot of time just standing around in softball.  And I'm sure I'm committing parenting blasphemy when I say this, but I really don't enjoy sitting around for 2-3 hours watching them play, making small talk with the other parents.  I know good parents actually enjoy watching their children play.  And I really don't like our weekends revolving around sports schedules and being tied to staying in the city.  So I was more than half-hoping she would back out of it.  But she decided to try one more season and you know what?  She loved opening day.  Had a great time.  I forgot that most of the enjoyment for her is the social aspect with her teammates.  So I'm glad she's playing this season and maybe I'll get some extra reading done on the sidelines.

We spent as much of the weekend outdoors as possible.  Our friend Derek from California was in town so after sports we met him at a new outdoor restaurant/bar on the banks of the Hudson River, overlooking the Statue of Liberty.  Of course I didn't actually get a photo of either the statue or our friend, but trust me when I tell you that we spent at least three hours out in the sunshine, drinking beers and catching up.  I have the sunburned face to prove it.

Sunday was another beautiful day so we headed north to the Bronx to spend the day in the New York Botanical Garden.  We wandered for a few hours, still a little early in the season for much to be in bloom, but the gardens were packed with New Yorkers like us who just wanted to be outside enjoying the sun.  The kids spent a lot of time in the family garden learning about ecology and environmentalism from the garden's educators while Kevin and I planted ourselves in a couple of Adirondacks.


When we got back into the city (people here in other boroughs refer to Manhattan as "the city") and parked our van at our garage up on 162nd Street (much cheaper up there), we discovered a pretty major historical site sat just a couple blocks away.  We walked over to the Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest house in Manhattan.  It was home to Aaron Burr, Revolutionary War hero and our third vice-president.  The house was a headquarters during the Revolutionary War and as a General, George Washington stayed there for a time.  He returned once he was President (our country's capitol was in New York City at the time).  It was pretty cool to be standing in the room where he had a large dinner for his cabinet, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton.

 As we walked back down the hill to the subway, we passed a historic row of houses that date back to the late 1800s and are currently preserved as Sylvan Terrace.  One of them is for sale...tempting :)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Entomology and Orinthology

We decided to plow through Spring Break even though all of our friends were off for the week.  As I kept reminding the kids, for every day we work when the weather is cold and rainy, we get an extra day off once the sun comes out!  They seemed to buy it and we had a productive week.

We also got out for a couple field trips this week, though.  Maeve's family is off for the week from public school so we met up with them one day way up at Inwood Park at the very top of Manhattan.  They were having a ranger-led program on entomology.  Holden almost couldn't believe his luck that morning when I told him that not only were we going to have a play date with his best buddy, but that we were going to be learning about bugs.

Petting a Wooly Bear caterpillar

And today we ended the week with a homeschool field trip to see the Audubon exhibit at the New York Historical Society.  This is the third part in a three part exhibition the museum has been putting on over the last few years of the extensive collection of John James Audubon paintings that the museum owns.  I learned how very little I knew about Audubon.  For instance, he was incredibly prolific and painted thousands of paintings of birds.  He caught and killed the birds to be able to really study them and then pinned them onto a wooden grid easel where he would sketch them square by square.  All of his paintings and drawings are life size and he is well respected for portraying birds in motion, in natural settings, not just straight on side views as is normally the case in more clinical or scientific renderings.  Holden was especially interested since the exhibit and Audubon himself were a mixture of art and science.  And once again, being led through an exhibit by a knowledgeable docent completely changed how we all saw the art and made all the difference.

And we did a little birthday celebration this week.  Before the grandmas panic and think that they missed Ella's birthday, it was actually her half birthday.  You aren't expected to remember that.  But way back in October Ella picked out a cake at Whole Foods that she wanted for her birthday.  But on her actual day we were going out for dinner and the cake never happened.  I kept telling her we'd do it soon and we never did.  A couple days ago I realized that her half birthday was coming up and I checked back at Whole Foods and they still had the same cake (well, not the same cake, but you know what I mean), so we celebrated Ella turning a whopping nine-and-a-half years old.