Tuesday, December 20, 2016


We have spent the last week celebrating and getting into the Christmas spirit.

We helped surprise our friend Athena for her birthday -

Holden and I rang in the holiday season by seeing The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol and the opera The Magic Flute all in one week!  The opera at Lincoln Center was especially breathtaking.  The scenery and costumes were just incredible (and we get free tickets because it was a dress rehearsal!).  Kevin and I had a date night and saw the most moving one-woman play written and directed by Anna Devere Smith (you might remember her from West Wing) called Notes From the Field.  I cried through the entire production.

Ella told Santa what she wants for Christmas while Holden said, "I'm not sure"... Come on Holden, you have all year to prepare for that question.

Is it just me or do they look more like they're at the principal's office than visiting Santa?

We visited the amazing annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens where they recreate lots of New York landmarks and buildings using all natural materials.


Ella went to her school's "Snow-cial" (winter dance) and even allowed me to volunteer to run the drinks station.  This may be my last middle school dance though because she didn't acknowledge my existence the entire three hours - I'm thinking she won't let me chaperone anymore :(


I was invited to my first cookie exchange and had a technical disaster just two hours before the party.  But I recovered and made up an entirely new batch of cookies with various items I found in my pantry.  I wasn't going to let melted shortbread make me miss a party.


And this last weekend we celebrated an early Team Skaggs Christmas (to avoid having to lug large gifts both to and from California).  Just to help set the mood, Mother Nature gave us our first snow of the season this weekend as well.

This may be the fourth Christmas in a row that he asked for a Star Wars LEGO set.

Kevin's was thrilled with his new vacuum!

I LOVE my 1950s bread box from Amsterdam (that I bought for myself)

Ella also got a vintage item - a 1950s doll house

I never would have believed how much I love living somewhere that it snows.  I love having four distinct seasons with different wardrobes, different activities to do on the weekends, the feeling of time passing.  My mother-in-law gave me a super warm, beautiful new winter coat for my birthday this year so I spent a lot of the weekend happily walking in the cold.  At one point my phone told me that it was both 15 degrees out AND that I had walked more than four miles that day.  I was pretty proud of this California girl! :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I haven't yet figured out the law of physics that allows for me to be twice as busy homeschooling one child than I was homeschooling two.  Thus the two week lag in a post.

Holden and I have been winding down his semester, finishing his outside classes, planning for after the winter break.  He still loves homeschooling and says he never wants to go back to school.  But I've been secretly planting the idea of going to Ella's school starting in 6th grade by taking him with me when I volunteer there or, as has been the case recently, when Ella is being honored for one thing or another.


I think I mentioned before that Ella was chosen by her crew teacher (equivalent of homeroom) as the student who most reflected the school's core values of wonder, compassion, creativity and resilience/growth mindset.  And now this week Kevin and I were invited to a breakfast to celebrate the school's academic honor roll students for the first semester.  Our little smarty pants made the cut.  The best part is that Ella is really enjoying herself there.  She's interested in all of her classes, has made good friends, is growing through her extra-curricular work, and is just blossoming all around.

We enjoyed a very quick overnight trip up to Woodstock.  The leaves have all fallen from the trees and it is starting to feel like winter up there.  There will likely be snow on the ground the next time we're up.  It will be our first winter since getting the house and we're excited to explore the ski resorts nearby and do some snow shoeing.

And this past weekend Holden had his first sleepover at a friend's house for a birthday party.  They slept a total of 3 hours and watched about 20 movies.  He said it was one of the best nights of his life.  And in true New York City/homeschooler fashion, the slumber party ended with a Children's Peace March through Central Park the following day :)

After the march we made our way down to the Morgan Library & Museum where they were having a reading of A Christmas Carol and had THE ACTUAL MANUSCRIPT of the book on display!!  Charles Dickens' handwriting.  Not even kidding.

And as a bonus we also got to see a notebook of Isaac Newton's.  Yes, that Isaac Newton.  Who knows, maybe he was writing in it when the apple hit his head :)

Where else in the world can you get all of this in one place?  I'm constantly worrying about all that we're missing out on because there are always SO many amazing activities to choose from.

One thing is a constant though, ending our week at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Grateful Gretchen

OK, California family and friends.  I'm going to ask you for forgiveness before I tell you about our Thanksgiving.  We made a very last minute, impulsive decision to take a very short trip to the Bay Area to spend the holiday with Kevin's family.  Besides his family we told no one except my mother and spent the couple of days only with my in-laws.  I'm so sorry we didn't have time to see anyone else this trip.


We ate a delicious dinner and got to spend some quality time with the cousins and grandparents.  Of course we had to hit a museum while we were there and spent an afternoon at one of our favorite holiday events: the Dickens Fair.

Seriously, I feel terrible even writing this blog post (and that's probably why I waited all week).  I hate that we were so close to so many people we love and couldn't reach out and see you.

Back in the frigid East Coast we enjoyed a breakfast at Ella's school honoring students who exhibit the school's core values: persistence, creativity, wonder and resilience.  I love these values.  We were already pretty proud of our little peanut but getting this honor plus finding out this week that she also made the academic honor roll this quarter makes us a little verklempt.

I think I've mentioned that Holden has been a part of a weekly volunteer "class" (for lack of a better word).  They either go out in the community to volunteer or meet and create things to give to the needy such as toiletry bags or even cupcakes.  The day before Thanksgiving his group got to go to a synagogue on the Upper East Side that was feeding 100 homeless people Thanksgiving dinner.  The week before the kids had made table centerpieces and cards.  Then on Wednesday they got to set all of the tables and decorate for the dinner.

The woman who leads the group always takes time each week to talk to the children about gratitude, being of service to others, and doing good deeds.  She sometimes will read stories with a moral or assign them a task of doing a good deed that week and reporting back to the group.

This week we got to go back to the food bank that we toured a few weeks ago but this time we were able to actually help out by sorting donated bread products and stocking shelves.  It's become one of the most important classes that Holden has taken.  I can already see that he is starting to look at the world a little differently.  He's becoming more aware of those around him and making some comments to show me that he's noticing those less fortunate than we.  I'll gently remind him throughout the week about doing good deeds, no matter how small.

A lesson for all of us parents out there: we can (and should) teach gratitude, compassion and awareness.