Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sumerians, Vikings, and Gladiators, Oh My!

The days are flying by.  Securely back in a routine - early alarm clocks, rushed breakfasts, racing to the bus stop.  Then by 7:30 I'm back home starting on my second cup of coffee and on to what I'm calling my Second Mom Shift - doing it all over again with Holden, minus the run to the bus stop.

Other than the long days Ella really loves her new school and being back in school in general.  Math, as you can see, is a struggle, but she doesn't give up.  And frankly, she's doing some hard stuff that I almost have trouble helping her with.  She says she's disappointed that some kids at school don't want to be there and don't like school.  She wishes everyone in her class loved learning as much as she does.  I really am proud of her.

Kevin continues to teach the kids history on the weekends.  This year they're focusing on Ancient History which will have a lot of overlap with what Ella is covering in school for Social Studies.  But I doubt her Social Studies teacher will make learning about the Sumerians as much fun as her Dad.


On Saturday after Ella's soccer game, Kevin took the kids to The Met and gave them each their own custom scavenger hunt.  They ran around the museum seeking out a map showing the fertile crescent, a clay tablet from Mesopotamia, an example of cuneiform writing, and references to Isis and Osiris, among other things.  Kevin pulled together a separate list of artifacts for each of them and they all read a chapter from their history book about the first writings of the Egyptians.  I'm pretty proud of him, too.

After Ella finished up her homework on Sunday morning we headed out of the apartment to explore the city.  Since we've been spending so many weekends up in Woodstock, we have all really missed our urban adventures.


We started way downtown near the World Trade Center where the world's largest Viking ship was docked.  The Norwegian Draken Harald Hårfagre arrived in New York after a sail across the Atlantic from Norway and was open for tours.  The ship followed the historic route of the Norse Vikings and will now continue up through the Great Lakes.  We all enjoyed climbing aboard and hearing about their sail and the craftsmanship of the boat.

From there we wandered along the waterfront, all the way down and around Battery Park City.  That was our first time walking through there and the path was stunning.  Gorgeous parks along the river with beautiful views of the Statue of Liberty and harbor.  The weather was so nice that we plopped down on the grass and read and relaxed for over an hour.

Squint and you can see the Statue of Liberty to the right of the lamp post
We also finally checked out the brand new $4 Billion shopping mall built at the foot of the World Trade Center.  The Oculus is an enormous, stunning, sculpture-like space with a cut-out (oculus) in the ceiling where the Freedom Tower peeks through.

I'm not going to lie though, after we took a few photos and wandered for a few minutes past soldiers holding machine guns, I decided we had seen enough and that it was time to go.  The news of the recent mall shootings and the site of the tower were enough to make me want to be elsewhere.  It was probably one of the very first times I've ever felt even slightly unsafe in New York.

Somewhere that I felt completely safe and at home was last night at the Apollo Theater!  A friend and I went to a Debate Watch Party there and had a blast.  We hooted and hollered as though we were in a Roman arena watching Gladiators fight to the death.

It was the place to be last night. #imwithher

Monday, September 19, 2016

Quiet Birthday

I haven't really celebrated my birthday in a long time.  We usually do a small family dinner.  I get a few great gifts from a couple family members.  And that's it.  That's enough.  I feel uncomfortable getting a lot of attention or feeling like people went out of their way or spent money on me.


This year wasn't really any different.  The actual day of my birthday was busy with school stuff and a late meeting at Ella's new school.  One of my homeschool-mom buddies made me brownies and we went for a beautiful walk through Central Park while our kids were in class.

We did do a little more celebrating on Saturday with our friends Alina, Tom, and Luke.  The New York Botanical Gardens was having a fun event - Blues, Brews, and Botany.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day as we wandered around the grounds tasting beers, listening to live blues and bluegrass music.  Just perfect.

The rest of the week was our first week of a new, normal schedule.  I think we're all happy in our own ways to be back in a routine.  Holden has started several of his new homeschool classes.  He's taking a pottery class and got to use the wheel on his first day.  He's also on a track team twice a week, taking a Web Design/HTML class taught by a homeschool teen, a Spanish class, and a philosophy/civics class.

He told me during the summer that he really wants to learn about electricity this year, so I found what looks to be a great curriculum and then invited a couple of his buddies who also have an interest in electricity to join us once a week to work on the lessons together.  This was our first week and they had a blast learning about static electricity.

And of course we enjoyed our Friday night at The Met.

I got what has been the very best birthday present on Sunday.  I made a list for Kevin and the kids of all the 'deep cleaning' chores I want done around the apartment that I never have time for (or more accurately, that I procrastinate away).  They (mostly Kevin) spent the day moving the beds and cleaning underneath and behind them, scrubbing the bathrooms floors, dusting the overhead lights...  All while I rested, read, and drank tea.

I think this will be my new annual birthday AND Mothers Day presents :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

If It's Friday, It Must Be The Met

Ella's first couple of days of middle school have been a roaring success.  She seems to really love her classes and teachers (her English teacher is a young dude with Harry Potter-themed tattoos all up his forearms).  She comes home buzzing from the mental stimulation and I think she especially loves the independence - the traveling to and from school alone, having some space between herself and Holden and me.  Her school has already had a welcome breakfast for the new parents and the principal and the other parents I met there all seem really engaged and enthusiastic.  It has the energy and excitement that you would expect from a brand new school.

Unfortunately I have no photos to add because this is Ella's thing, all by herself.  So you're seeing exactly what I'm seeing of her new life.  Which is just about nothing.


Our Friday night classes at The Met have started back up again.  I say "our" because Kevin and I usually tag along to all the classes now instead of getting drinks in the museum bar.  Ella and Holden are both taking Pause for Pegasus and their teachers are amazing - experts in ancient history and incredibly interesting people.  This semester the kids will be reading The Homeric Hymns and studying art that is related (although the instructors will go to great lengths to make connections between the art they choose and the Greek texts, as evidenced in the above Frederic Church painting and the statue of the Japanese warrior below).

Spending Friday nights in the museum is still a highlight of all of our weeks.

And it doesn't stop us from still going up to Woodstock.  The kids slept in the van as we drove up after class on Friday night.  It will be our last weekend up there for a few weeks now that soccer season has started, but it was worth the late night drive to get a couple quiet days in the country, especially given Ella's new hectic schedule.


We went in search of a lake that was recommended to me by a homeschool mom in the city.  The private lake was closed for swimming for the summer, unfortunately, but we decided to take a hike around the area and found a cool abandoned railroad and some beautiful hiking.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dear Ella and my 10-year-old self,

Neither of you know this yet, but you're pretty awesome.

You're heading off to middle school today which so far in your life is about the biggest jump in independence you've ever experienced.  You will be traveling to and from school without your mom.  You will have to keep track of your schedule, find your classes, watch the clock, remember your gym clothes, navigate cafeteria lines all on your own.

But worst of all, you'll need to survive the most feared animal on the planet: the middle school girl.  They can be nasty.  Hormones are raging, territories are being marked, lines are being pushed.  You'll all be testing every limit to see what you can get away with.  Yes, you too.  You're not immune to the pull to define yourself compared to others.  You'll also need to figure out your rung on the ladder of middle school life, and beyond.  You may do things that you're not proud of.  You'll very likely have things done and said to you that hurt.

But I hope you can hear me when I tell you, beg you, to stay the sweet, curious, brave girl you are right now.  Listen to what they say.  Watch what they do.  But stay true to yourself.  Learn from their mistakes and make yourself better in spite of them.  Because of them.  Take what they teach you, the good and the bad, and apply it to your life.  When someone kindly invites you to sit at their table, remember to invite someone else to sit at your table tomorrow, too.  When they call you names, remind yourself to never treat anyone else that way.  Apologize honestly whenever you even suspect you've caused harm.

Stay away from self-doubt.  I'll always be here to remind you that you are already uh-mazing!  My favorite thing about you is that you're insatiably curious.  You want to know more, understand things.  You love to travel and see the world and experience new places and cultures.  Sure, you can be moody and introverted, but that just means that you're figuring stuff out on the inside.  Getting it right before letting it out.  You have a deepness to you already that tells me you're going to be alright.

Mostly, I want you to have fun.  Enjoy these new freedoms!  Make lots of new friends.  Put yourself out there.  Take risks, they give better rewards.  Let the world see what I see - a rock solid friend, an adventurous, creative spirit, and a brave soul.  Keep the confidence you already have.  It's easy for it to get shaky during these years.  Leave the stress to Dad and me.  We're your net.  Your job is to fly.

You got this.

Mom/my 45-year-old self

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Girls Gone Wild


This was Holden at 7 in the morning on his first day of science camp.  So, so excited.  And camp didn't disappoint.  His week at the Natural History Museum was focused on one of their current exhibits - Dinosaurs Among Us which explores the connection between dinosaurs and birds.  He got to meet and talk to real live paleontologists, create his own made up dinosaur and make a diorama for it; visit labs that are closed off to the general public, and spend lots of time in the exhibit itself.


The timing was perfect because it gave Ella and me an entire week of quality one-on-one time before she's off to middle school.  We did some back-to-school shopping, took a tour at the Whitney Museum, had several lunches out, a tea party at home, and lots of girl talk.  We even headed up north to visit her friend Maeve for a day.  A perfect mother-daughter week, all in all.

For the long Labor Day weekend we were joined for a couple days in Woodstock by our friends Alina, Tom, and Luke.  We always have such a great time with them.  We introduced them to the swimming hole, had a great dinner out at a place where the kids could make S'mores for dessert around a campfire, and stayed up way too late catching up on our summers.


On Sunday we took our friends to Opus 40 Sculpture Park and Museum.  You may remember that we first went there about a year ago.  A man by the name of Harvey Fite bought a rock quarry back in 1938 with the intention of creating a massive bluestone sculpture park.  His plan was to spend 40 years on it but he died three years short.  He did however spend 37 years carving and piling rocks to make a serpentine maze of walls and baths and an amphitheater as well as several sculptures.  His family home is still there and occupied by his descendants.  We had a nice afternoon wandering the grounds and enjoying a picnic on the lawn.


Sunday evening and all day Monday we rested, just the four of us, and prepared ourselves for the new school year starting this week.  Ella got some creative juices flowing by building a small doll house with Kevin while Holden and I played some board games.

Caught a deer eating from our bird feeder.
Every time we leave Woodstock to return to the city we almost always talk about how lucky we are to be able to live in the two extremes.  We all love the energy and life of the city, but also need to be able to recharge in nature with some peace and quiet.  It's a perfect balance.