Monday, January 30, 2017

This is What Democracy Looks Like

This isn't going to turn into a political blog, I promise.

However, we are a very politically active, vocal, concerned family.  And since this was what I consider to be possibly the second worst week in the U.S. since I was born, you're going to continue to read about how we are participating in our democracy for a while.

This is what democracy looks like.

We joined tens of thousands of like-minded citizens yesterday in Battery Park to protest the new ban on Muslims (and before you tell me it's not a ban on Muslims, I'll correct myself - a ban on citizens of predominantly Muslim countries with a priority given to Christians...that's not a ban on Muslims, is it??).

This is what democracy looks like.

When the kids protested going to the protest, I read the following quote to them:

After the rally I joined a group who got together to write postcards to our senators and Paul Ryan and others letting them know our feelings about a variety of issues.

This is what democracy looks like.

Our life didn't completely revolve around world events this week, however.  It was really good to be Holden this week.


He continues to enjoy his classes and homeschooling in general.  He loves pottery and started a swim class this week to work on his strokes (and because I want him to still get some exercise during the winter).  We joined a homeschool group to see a fantastic show at Times Square about the Gershwin brothers.  And of course we ended the week in The Met where the kids started their new semester of Pause for Pegasus.  This week they spent time in the Assyrian palace, sketching and reading stories.

 He also continues his Volunteer Club.  This week they created a Good Deeds Tree where they will add leaves with their good deeds done each week.  They also assembled soup jars with dried lentils and beans and herbs to be given to visitors of the food bank that they visited last semester.

 And Ella...*sigh* proud of her.

 She spent the entire week a nervous wreck.  Saturday was another debate tournament.  She begged me all week to let her quit debate after the tournament.  She said she was totally unprepared and out of her league.  Her team is the only public school in a league of very expensive, fancy private schools.  And the other schools also have 8th graders but since her school is only two years old, they only have 6th & 7th graders.  If you asked her, she would have made it sound like they were being thrown to the wolves.

 Kevin rode up with the team on the bus.  The debate tournament was about 45 minutes north in a wealthy suburb of New York City.  The school was on a gorgeous campus and looked more like Hogwarts or an Ivy League university, than a K-12 school.  Ella was likely the youngest contestant there as she is young for her grade.

But according to Kevin, she killed it.  She topped her previous high scores and continually received excellent feedback from the judges and even from older kids.  They use a style of debate called Parliamentary Debate which is based on the British Parliament where they are allowed to interrupt you with challenges and bang on the chairs when you say something good.  It sounds insanely stressful!  But she carried herself with poise and strength debating topics such as "Should Native American reservations be abolished?", "Does globalization cause more harm than good?" and "Is the Dakota Access Pipeline a good thing?"

And she's eleven years old.

She got home late on Saturday night beaming, floating on air.  She said she was NEVER going to quit debate!  And she said she felt sorry for the other teams - "They weren't having nearly as much fun as we were!"

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Girl Power

It's been a political week.  Our new president was sworn in last week and I am among many (*many*) who are concerned.  This goes beyond differences in policy (although I disagree with everything I've heard from him so far).  My belief is that he doesn't seem to want to treat this government as being "by and for the people".  He has much more of a "I'm the dad and I say so" kind of mentality to governing.

He's also not even as smart as my 9 and 11-year-old children.


And so on the night before his inauguration I joined 25,000 of my fellow New Yorkers in a rally led by movie maker and activist Michael Moore outside Trump Hotel.  It was an evening filled with inspiring speakers who reminded us that we need to keep President Trump on notice.  He can't proceed to take away the rights of Americans, destroy our relationships with other countries, and make policy decisions that will further jeopardize the future of our planet.

At least, not without a big fight.

Michael Moore practically ran into me on the way to the rally

Kevin and Holden had a boys weekend up in Woodstock.  Holden had his second trip with the homeschool ski club on Friday and apparently improved dramatically skiing all day with his friends.

Then on Saturday, he and Kevin skied all day together near Woodstock.  By the end of the day Kevin had Holden taking the chair lift to the top of the mountain.  They closed the place down, taking their last run after the sun had set.  I'm so happy for both Kevin and Holden that he's taken to skiing.  Ella says she's excited to get back up there again, too.

Meanwhile, Ella and I did our own bonding.  On Friday afternoon we joined hundreds of pink hat wearing women (and men) on a train down to Washington DC for the Women's March on Washington.  Ella and I read through and discussed the goals of the march as stated by the organizers on the ride down.  We talked about how important it is to be active in our government.  I explained how many of us had become lax over the last eight years because we had a leader whom we trusted and agreed with on most issues.  But now that we have a new president who makes it sound like he isn't interested in hearing what the majority of citizens want, and who has threatened to take away rights of so many people, I told her how important it is that we stay involved and active.  And the first way to do that is to march and send a message to the White House that we need to be listened to.

We stayed with my friend Stephanie and her family just outside of DC.  The kids made signs on Saturday morning and the weather couldn't have been nicer for a January day.  We didn't even wear coats!

It was an incredible experience walking peacefully down the mall on Washington with hundreds of thousands of like minded people.  No matter which direction I looked, I could never see the end of the marchers.  They still don't know how many were there but estimates are between half a million and one million men, women, children, and everyone in between.

And not a single arrest.

We came home that evening both exhausted and energized.  We watched the news coverage of the hundreds of similar marches around the world on all seven continents.  It is so inspiring to see so much solidarity around the world for women's rights.  Ella and I talked a lot throughout the day about what it means to be a feminist, why all people regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation are equal and should be treated as such.  And we talked about privilege and why it's important to speak out even if you don't feel like your rights are being threatened.
Just when I thought the day couldn't get any better, Ella handed me this.


I'm not crying, you're crying.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hitting the Slopes

I've been asked by a couple different loved ones to get back to a twice a week schedule with my updates.  Apparently, telling you all that Holden slammed feet first into a tree while sledding and then not hearing from me for almost two weeks was not very nice of me.


Our little daredevil is still limping slightly but doing much better.  He took it easy last week skipping all of his physical classes (swimming, Parkour) and didn't get to ski this last weekend with Kevin.  We did get to see an amazing one-man play called Oh Boy! with some of his homeschooling buddies though.  I loved it in part because the lead character was a gay man and it had nothing to do with the plot or story line.  He just was.  I love that it was just normalized like that.

Holden's easing back into things this week and will go to his second homeschool ski club this Friday and then skiing with Kevin on Saturday.  Lucky kid.


Speaking of skiers, we have yet another in our family, much to Kevin's delight.  Kevin and Ella and our friends Alina and Luke all went up to the ski mountain near our place in Woodstock this weekend.  It was Ella's first time skiing although she had tried snowboarding once before.  She was pretty reluctant and really wanted to stay home with me sewing but luckily we pushed her a little because she loved it!    She had a great day on the bunny slope with her ski teachers Kevin and Alina taking turns.  And Kevin had a great day alternating between working with Ella and hitting the bigger hills with Alina's son Luke.


Meanwhile Holden and I enjoyed a day by the fireplace being creative and reading.  We took a winter's walk around the lake and enjoyed the cold but sunny day.

Getting ready for next weekend!
All four of us got to see a crazy scene that could have been pulled from Animal Planet.  On a walk on Saturday we saw what looked like a murder scene on the iced-over lake across from our house.  Someone else who pulled over to look told us that a deer had walked out too far onto the ice and got stuck and died.  A local bald eagle whom I had spotted in the spring was having the deer for dinner (probably several meals over the next several days).


My little iPhone camera couldn't do it justice, but if you look closely or zoom in, the speck on the right is the bald eagle and the bloody carnage on the left is the poor deer.

Loving winter in the Catskills!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Buh-Bye 2016

We flew home from California with only a couple days left of the year.  We knew we wanted to bee-line up to Woodstock and enjoy a nice long weekend with just the four of us.

It was quite a different scene from what we had left on the west coast.  The city and upstate were a winter wonderland, and our house in Woodstock had a foot or two of fresh snow.  So fresh that it was still snowing as we pulled up.

The kids did a lot of sledding and spent a lot of time by our fireplace reading, playing LEGOs, doing a puzzle, and relaxing.  We all stayed up until midnight on New Years Eve and toasted with Champagne and sparkling apple cider.  Then we took our traditional New Years Day hike, this time in a new part of Woodstock that we hadn't explored before.

We returned to the city so that Ella could start back to school on Tuesday.  Holden and I eased back into school as well.


He started a new class called Medieval Adventures taught by a professor of history at a local college.  Their first meeting was at The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art located at the top of Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River and dedicated to art, architecture, and gardens of Medieval Europe.  We had been there a couple times before but touring with this teacher who is so full of knowledge on that period was a completely different experience.

The oldest known deck of playing cards
His class in front of the famous unicorn tapestry
The next day we woke up early to head all the way to Pennsylvania (just an hour and a half drive).  Holden joined a homeschool ski club that goes to this small, family friendly ski resort six times over the next two months.  He absolutely loved his first time skiing (he had tried snowboarding once before) and Kevin's hoping these six trips will get him hooked.

I also thoroughly enjoyed myself, albeit by the fire in the lodge reading a good book.

On Friday we headed back upstate to Woodstock for the weekend.  A lot of the snow had melted but it was still pretty chilly.  We joined a guided walk on Saturday morning with the Woodstock Land Conservancy.  They lead walks the first Saturday of each month and this month's topic was animal tracking.

I was pretty impressed that Ella and I lasted an hour walking in 19 degree weather but even more impressed that Kevin and Holden lasted two hours!  We saw tracks from Coy wolves and fishers and lots of mice and of course pellets and scat from many different species.  Holden was in heaven.

His weekend didn't end so well though.  As Kevin and I were packing up the house to head back to the city the kids started sledding in our back yard.  You know, the yard that's filled with dozens of trees...  Not a full minute after Kevin said, "Someone's going to get hurt" did we hear the ear-piercing screams of Holden who had just slammed feet first into a tree at the bottom of our lot.


He's been laid up on the couch ever since.  The doctor says it doesn't look like anything's broken but his prescription is to keep the foot elevated for a couple days while I wait on him hand and foot.  He's loving every minute of it.