Monday, August 29, 2016

Outsourcing Education

Ella got to spend all day, every day of last week in one of her favorite buildings in the world: the American Museum of Natural History.


She participated in the museum's Middle School Institute.  This week's topic was conservationism, one of her very favorite topics.  She got to do field work in Central Park, meet scientists studying biodiversity and endangered habitats and visit a functioning genomics lab.  While learning about the importance of good field notes, they were able to visit the museum's library (not open to the general public) and look at a variety of field notebooks, one dating back to 1575!  She got to go to several areas of the museum that are off limits to ordinary folk like you and me.  Basically, she was in her happy place.


At one point during the week she said, "This is the first time I feel like I'm with other kids who are as serious about science as I am."  The programs are really top notch - taught by museum professionals with two PhD students as assistants who are studying the topic of the week for their dissertation.  It really doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

Meanwhile, Holden and I enjoyed a bunch of mom-son time.  We browsed used book stores (where he used his own money to buy a 50 year-old copy of an Audubon book), hung out in coffee shops working on his math, and made a trip to the Central Park Zoo.

We even had a fun day in the suburbs visiting his buddy Tighe.  Slip-n-slide is alive and well.

We took a short trip up to Woodstock this weekend.  It's starting to get a little quiet up there - tourist season is slowing down.  But the weather is still hot and the river is still cold, so we enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon at the swimming hole.

Barbecue Apprenticeship Program

We packed up early on Sunday morning so that we could make it back to the city in time for the monthly book club meeting at the New York Historical Society.  Thanks to the hit Broadway musical, the Hamilton craze is alive and well here in NYC.  The museum is currently doing an extensive exhibit on our first Secretary of the Treasury, although they've always had lots of artifacts of Alexander Hamilton on display.

This month's book selection was Alexander Hamilton: the Outsider by Jean Fritz.  Kevin and the kids read it aloud together over the last week.

After a fun discussion with the moderator, who showed up to talk to us but Alexander himself.  The professional impersonator answered questions from the kids and their parents and stayed in character the entire time.  He was fantastic and really helped bring that time period to life the kids.

We were then taken to a secret room in the museum (at least secret to us - not open to the general public) that had a large metal door like the kind you would see in a vault.  We got to look up close (very close!) at original documents written by Hamilton himself as well as other founding fathers!  Not under glass - right up out in the open!  AND we even got to look at two of the very first coins of U.S. currency ever minted...again, not under glass but right there in our faces...not even kidding.

Hamilton's handwriting
Two of the first pennies ever made
 The kids think this is what all book clubs are like...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hiking and Huguenots

The kids and I had a very relaxing and quiet week up in Woodstock last week.

The best part of tennis camp: ice cream after

They went to tennis camp for a few hours each day while I tried to finish emptying the last of our boxes from storage.  This was Ella's first time playing tennis and she fell in love.  She's becoming quite the athlete.


After pick up each day we'd head straight down to one of our two favorite swimming holes to cool off.

One evening the local public library hosted a rocket science show on their front lawn.  The kids are both very into science, as you know, so it was a hit.  Even when the scientist tied Barbie to one of the rockets and tried to launch her into space.

Kevin joined us on Friday and we had another amazing weekend together.

On Saturday we went on what looked to be a short hike behind the Byrdcliffe Art Colony in Woodstock.  The Byrdcliffe Guild, as it's now called, covers more than 300 acres and was a colony formed in 1902 by a group of artists and writers who wanted a place for fellow artists to be able to create.  It still hosts artists in residence in small cabins and has a theater and exhibition space.

We hiked up the mountain behind it and while it was only a mile and a half hike, it was straight up.  My phone thinks that I climbed 49 flights of stairs that day.


Of course the view at the top make it worth it.

After our hike we quickly showered and changed at home and headed back out to the historic Maverick Concert Hall.  Two of the original Byrdcliffe founders had a falling out in 1916 and one of them broke off and bought a hundred acres on the other side of town and created his own artists retreat.  His was more focused on music and he built an incredible barn modeled after Fijian communal huts, which still stands today.  Mavericks Concerts is the oldest continuous chamber music festival in the country and concerts are held there every weekend with musicians from around the world.

Ella sketching the founder, Hervey White

It was pretty magical to sit and listen to this incredible music as the sun set and the cicadas joined in.  Kevin's already asking when we're going back for our next concert.

On Sunday we headed out of town a little earlier than normal so that we could make a stop in the town of New Paltz on the way home.  We've been having fun exploring everything in between the city and Woodstock on our trips home.  After a delicious lunch and stroll through the town filled with bookstores and coffee shops, with live music going on all over the place, we our way to the edge of town to the historic Huguenot Street.


In 1678 a group of Huguenot families found refuge in this area of the Hudson Valley from France, escaping religious persecution, much like the pilgrims from England.  They settled in what is now New Paltz and seven historic stone houses and a church still remain.  We took a self-guided tour down the street with the help of an audio guide we downloaded.


There's so much incredible history in the Hudson Valley and we're having fun discovering it all!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Gone Girl

YIKES!! I just found the following post written three weeks ago sitting all alone in my "Posts to be Published" folder. Please enjoy this old and completely out of order post... I've also just posted "Fun in the Sun", so be sure to find that as well.


The kids and I had a pretty boring week last week. We were in the city running errands, going to doctors appointments, catching up on emails and bill paying.

We did have a few big highlights though.

We took the kids to see Patti Smith play at a free outdoor concert at Lincoln Center. Here's what they thought of the 1970's punk icon:

We also had a nice lunch with Ella's old friend Clara and her mom who moved to Hawaii last year.

We ended the week with a great day cooling off at the pool with Maeve's family.

Kevin joined us and we drove up to Woodstock on Friday night.  We had a nice Saturday bonding as a family over board games and pizza in preparation for Ella's leaving us on Sunday for two whole weeks.

I'm pretty proud of this girl. She chose to do a backpacking camp where she'll learn all about the outdoors, orienteering, hiking, rock climbing, ropes course. It will be two strenuous weeks as you can see by the size of her pack.

Kevin, Holden, and I dropped her off in the Caskill Mountains yesterday. We got to meet her awesome counselor Anna and one of her tentmates Sara (who is staying at camp for fourweeks!). Ella was so excited that she didn't even seem sad when we left.

I thought I would be more emotional at drop-off but I'm just so happy for her and know that this will be such an amazing confidence-builder. Having this two weeks of independence just before starting middle school is perfect timing.

There's plenty of time for me to get sad and miss her over the next two weeks.

Fun in the Sun

I'm going to do my best to post from my phone today as we're up in Woodstock without a computer.

Since I've left you all hanging for two weeks on the adventures of Team Skaggs, I'll try to briefly catch you up.

After our family was reunited with Ella's return from camp, we had a fantastic weekend all together up in Woodstock. On Saturday we discovered a new, amazing swim hole. We were actually looking for a different one recommended to us by our gardener but when we couldn't find it we pulled over to ask directions at a tiny restaurant. The owner told us that swim hole was too dangerous and that several people had slipped to their deaths down the cliff. She walked us down a little ways behind her restaurant to a hidden, magical pool complete with a waterfall. She invited us to park behind her shop and walk down to the pool anytime.

The next day I did a little research on local hikes and found a gorgeous one out to a lighthouse on the Hudson River.

We took a short tour through the lighthouse which is currently a bed & breakfast.

After a few days back in the city getting business done - doctors and orthodontists appointments, renewing passports, paying bills - we enjoyed a fun and relaxing long weekend down on the Jersey Shore. Our friends have been renting the same house on the beach for the same two weeks every year for the last twelve years. You may remember that we joined them down there a couple years ago for a few days. They graciously invited us to stay again this year.

We swam, read, boogie boarded, skim boarded, ate, drank, hit an amusement park, yoga on the beach, and overall got way too much sun.

We took the long way home with a detour through Princeton, New Jersey. It's never too early to start college tours! ;)

In all seriousness though, Princeton is an incredibly beautiful campus. We spent a couple hours wandering around and checked out their stunning museum. For a university that was founded before the American Revolution, they had a surprisingly large collection of modern art.

I bet you people think that was the end of our week, right? Wrong! That was only Saturday!

We had the whole day together in Manhattan on Sunday before the kids and I were going to head back up to Woodstock for the week on Monday. Ella asked to return to the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Museum of Design since they had switched up the exhibits since we were last there. We decided to buy a membership to the museum since both kids were super excited to go. Once we realized that our new membership has a reciprocal agreement with the Frick Museum - Kevin's favorite - we knew we would have to hit them both in one day. Because if one museum is good, two (or three) are better. (New family motto?)