Monday, January 25, 2016

I *Heart* Blizzards

I know you all want to hear about Blizzard Jonas.  But before he rolled through town, we did other stuff, saw other people.  So first things, first.

The highlight of my week was getting the chance to see Neil deGrasse Tyson in person for a second time.  He's the famous astrophysicist who runs the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and created the remake of Carl Sagan's original Cosmos series.  He's also written lots of books and because he has such a great personality, has appeared on countless talk shows and late night comedy shows.  When Kevin and I saw him speak last year I was so mad at myself for not bringing the kids.  It didn't occur to me at the time (mostly, because it was a weeknight event).  But they've watched and enjoyed the Cosmos series, so this time we brought them and they laughed through the whole thing, even when he was talking about neutrino oscillations and why Pluto isn't a planet (he gets very emotional about this).  Bringing science to life.


We also had a visitor from home.  Fifteen years ago to the day, I met Kevin and Rich on a wine tasting trip to the Russian River Valley.  Rich happened to be in town this week for business so we had him over for dinner to celebrate.  Somewhere in storage I have a photo of Kevin and me on the day that we met, looking very different from the photo above.  Who could have guessed that fifteen years later we'd be living in Harlem with our two children?

Friday night was the big art show for the kids' fine arts class.  It's the end of their first semester and Kevin and I were blown away by the quality of the pieces they had on display.  The charcoal vase is above Holden's 8-year-old head.

Here are some more:
Holden's charcoal vase

Ella's pencil vase

Holden's oil pastel tree (from a tree they sat in front of in Riverside Park)

Ella's oil pastel tree

Ella's self-portrait (my favorite piece)

We celebrated over sushi after the show and prepared ourselves for what we knew was coming overnight, Superstorm Jonas.

Here is my before photo taken Friday morning.  Not a flake of snow.

When we woke up on Saturday morning I was surprised to even see snow at all because when you're told a major storm is coming, you expect lots of noise, windows rattling.  We had a completely silent night and woke to this.

Of course, that was just the start of it.  It continued to dump snow all day long with no stops.  Roads were closed, people were warned that they would be subject to arrest if they were caught driving.  Most businesses closed, but I spied two businesses from our windows that stayed open throughout: Dunkin' Donuts, and our beer garden across the street.  That says so much.

Kevin and the kids tried heading out for a short while, but returned home when I heard the mayor say not to even let your children play in the snow yet.  Meanwhile, I stayed in my pajamas the ENTIRE day and read an ENTIRE book from cover to cover.  So I thought it was a fantastic day!  I love blizzards!

Those are parked cards under there.
The next day we woke up to blue skies, no more snowing, and lots of fresh powder to go play in.  In the end, it turned out to be the second largest snowstorm in NYC on record and dumped 27 inches of snow in one day.

A parked car is under there.
We headed for Central Park and stayed a few hours sledding with what felt like the entire city.

We ended our awesome weekend by meeting up with some awesome friends at a local pub to watch the football playoffs.  No complaints here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Among Giants

It's unusual for Kevin to have a three-day weekend for Martin Luther King's birthday, but lucky for us, this year his office was closed.

The weather's been bitterly cold and we even got a dusting of snow (that melted before morning).  The kids wanted to show Kevin their new ice skating skills.  Having already reached my skating quota for the week, I enjoyed a second cup of coffee in our toasty apartment while the three of them hit the ice.  We all met up at the brand new Titanosaur exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in the afternoon.

It's one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered and is so big that it couldn't even fit into a single room in the museum.  Its head is poking out of the front door.  I would have preferred to wait until the crowds died down in a couple weeks to check him out since everyone and their brother was there the first Saturday he was on display.  But of course the kids were having none of that.


Because the kids were so excited about their new class at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine last Friday, Kevin and I thought it might be interesting and even fun to go to a real church service there on Sunday.  So Sunday morning we got up early and walked up the hill to the church.


It was the very first church service the kids had ever been to (and maybe my third or fourth) and I think they were pretty impressed.  The ushers must have spotted us as newbies because they led us right up to the front row of the imposing cathedral.  It was a very nice service with singing accompanied by the massive organ, and a sweet sermon about some of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, given the proximity to MLK Day.  I have to admit that I felt a little like an interloper, knowing I was there purely for the experience and not for any religious reasons, especially when a kind woman behind us approached us after the service and told us all about the Sunday School for children downstairs and that she hoped to see us next week.

After the service we spent almost another hour just roaming around the enormous cathedral.  It just kept going and going, with room after room, chapel after chapel.  The church was hosting several art exhibitions, including some modern art, so it was like being in several museums at once.  I'd love to return to take one of their guided tours.

On Monday we took advantage of the fact that Kevin was home on a weekday and took a tour of the Federal Hall down on Wall Street.  They only offer tours on weekdays and we've been wanting to go but didn't want Kevin to miss it.  And the timing was perfect because the kids had just finished talking about the Constitution in their History class, and the Federal Hall in New York is the site where George Washington was inaugurated as our first president.

 The building is part of the U. S. National Parks Service so the tour was free and led by a park ranger.  The statue above is in the exact spot (and elevation) where Washington stood to take his oath of office.  We got to see the very Bible that he put his hand on to be sworn in, which was the highlight of the day for me.  It's been used four or five times for other presidents to be sworn in, the most recent being Jimmy Carter and Bush Sr.

THE Bible
 The kids were really into the tour because not only was the ranger incredibly knowledgeable and personable, but because this is the exact time in history that they're studying right now and it really helped to bring it all to life for them.

A painting of the swearing in which happened where we were standing.

Friday, January 15, 2016

American Embroidery and Medieval Architetcure... For Kids

It's tough to get back into the blogging habit once I've taken a couple weeks off.

We had a nice, not-too-overscheduled week.  Some highlights, but also a lot of time just hanging out in our apartment, warm and cozy.  No snow yet but morning temperatures hit some single digit lows.


All four of us stopped in The Met on Sunday to see a cross-stitch and embroidery exhibit.  It was off in a small room with no one else there (not one of the museum's big draws, I guess), but we were all pretty impressed with the collection of mid-19th century work.  After being in the weekly cross-stitch circle for over a year, the kids could really appreciate the work that went into the pieces.  One of the pieces was a handkerchief with a long division problem cross-stitched onto it.  Apparently even girls in the 1850s had a sense of humor.  While we were there we also checked out a fashion exhibit that was ending that day and no visit to The Met would be complete without Ella sketching some Egyptian artifacts.


There may not be any snow in New York City yet, but the kids and I found ice.  On Thursday afternoon there was a big homeschool ice skating party on a rink we hadn't been to yet.  I had planned to just get out onto the ice long enough for the kids to feel comfortable and then head back inside where it was warm to have coffee with my friends, but it turns out I'm not so bad at ice skating after all and I had a really fun time on the rink.  The kids and I skated for two straight hours and slept like babies that night.

 Ella didn't heed the above sign and made a delicious dinner for the four of us - veggie wraps.

And not only can the girl cook but she also was proud to show us that she had written 47 lines of code.  I'm not sure I even understand what that means but she sounded really smart saying it.

The highlight of the week for the kids was starting a new class.  When I saw this class posted on a homeschool email group I thought to myself, I am so glad we're homeschooling.  How awesome is this class??


For four consecutive Fridays the kids will be taking a series of medieval classes at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Anglican cathedral in the world which just happens to be up the street from us and which we can see from every single window in our apartment.  Listen to the description of just this first class meeting:

Medieval Journey and Medieval Arts Workshop - Enter the exciting world of the Middle Ages, and appreciate the historic role cathedrals played as centers of culture, worship, art, and pilgrimage. Discover the ways the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is similar to and different from a medieval cathedral. Discover the arts of the Middle Ages and of cathedral building. Carve a block of limestone; create an illuminated letter; sculpt a clay gargoyle; weave on a loom; make a brass rubbing; and design a stained glass collage.

How cool is that?!?  And in their first two-hour class they did ALL of that.  There's an entirely different description for next week's class but it also revolves around medieval architecture and art.  Needless to say they loved it and were happy to see several of their friends in the class as well.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Uncle Jack

You may remember a couple months back that we made our way down to SoHo on a Thursday night to see the opening of Andy Goldsworthy's newest exhibit.  Thursday nights are traditionally gallery hopping nights in Chelsea and SoHo, the night of the week when the galleries throw opening receptions for their artists.

Well, last night we got to attend another opening night, this time for someone we know well and love.  Kevin's uncle Jack is an amazing artist (who's work we have throughout our home).  He also hosted our wedding at his beautiful compound in Healdsburg, California, the former home of Charles Schulz of Snoopy fame.


The kids had a great time.  Ella and Jack discussed Ella's new oil paints set and he told her that he was her age when he got his first set of oils as well.  We had a very lovely conversation with is wife Diane, who couldn't have been any nicer.


We really enjoyed this newest exhibit of work we hadn't seen before because several of the paintings are from the Hudson River Valley, places we've hiked and visited over the last couple of years.  Jack grew up nearby in Yonkers, New York, and has a special affinity for the Hudson River School of painters.

It was a packed house and by now the kids are pretty used to being the only children in a gallery, but I think they felt pretty special to get a hug and kiss from the artist.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Winter in Woodstock

Part 2 of our holiday adventures...

Immediately after returning from California, we unpacked, repacked, and headed upstate in Moby (our VW campervan) to Woodstock, New York.  While we were away the nice couple who let us stay in their Savannah condo over Thanksgiving stayed in our apartment in New York.  If you have any interest in trying out this kind of swap to keep travel expenses low, check out  Anyway, that meant that we had to leave the place spotless before heading out, which wasn't an easy feat with a 9-hour turn-around.

After an unseasonably warm holiday season (Christmas Day was a whopping 72 degrees in NYC, thank you Global Warming), we found snow two hours north!  It looks like more than it was in this photo, but it was enough for snowman building.


Unfortunately, not enough for cross-country skiing, which I was hoping to try out this trip.

We spent four wonderful days in a gorgeous Airbnb house where we cooked great meals, played board games, completed a 1,000-piece puzzle, read a couple books each, created art, and even listened to a bunch of vinyl records they had in the house (mostly Woodstock-era music, which I love).  Kevin was able to sneak in a couple history lessons without much push back from the kids.  We explored the area a bit, did a New Year's Day hike around Cooper Lake, and ate a few delicious meals in town.  We really love this area.

On our way home we stopped first at a museum we love, Dia:Beacon, in Beacon, New York.  It's housed in an old Necco Wafers factory.  And then made another stop to see Maeve's family in the suburbs before settling back into the city.

After two weeks away, we were all so happy to sleep in our own beds, lulled to sleep by sirens and horns.