Archive for the ‘Philadelphia’ Category

Why do we even call it homeschooling at this point? I guess our home is still our base, the HQ of her education, but this year, more than ever, Z is ranging out far and wide to meet her educational needs. She is actually taking more classes outside of the house than in and I am only teaching five of her seventeen subjects.

Seventeen? Really? Wow! How are we managing that? I don’t know! I have been really lucky finding local resources that are a good fit for Z, especially her homeschooling school, which is she going to two full days a week this year. This year she is doing more subjects but spending less time on each of them. We will see how that works out.

Here they are:

Math: Holt Fuse Algebra app for the iPad  – 3 x wk

Piano: private lesson –  1 x wk + practice –  3-4 x wk

History/Geography : Post Revolution stuff I’m cobbling together/ Around the World in 180 Days – 2x wk

Current Events: OnlineG3 – 1x wk + homewrk (With Z’s favorite teacher Headmistress Guinevere.)

Reading: Right now we are reading The Great Gatsby and various poetry. After TGG we will start on Master Pieces of Short Fiction from The Great Courses.

Language Arts: Another one that I am teaching, we are still using Michael Clay Thompson Word within the Word, Advanced Academic Writing, Magic Lens, and Poetry– 2x wk

Odyssey of the Mind: a collaborative creative problem solving class she is taking at our local homeschool school. – 1x wk

Model U.N.: another collaborative class at her homeschool school where the students are doing hands-on/roleplaying learning about current events, international relations, diplomacy and problem solving. – 1x wk

Naturalist Training: Her 3rd class at the homeschooling school. Described online as teaching an awareness of the patterns of animal behavior and the key characteristics of plants, maintaining a nature journal, creating a plant and animal census, participating in a Hawk Watch, learning to use a variety of field guides, using a compass, making watercolors and sketches, and drawing maps. – 1x wk

Writing Workshop: Her 4th class at the school. This is the same class she took last year where the students made their own newspapers, wrote lots of poetry, participated in Nanowrimo, and wrote and performed a 45min play. I don’t know what they are going to do this year but I expect it will be great. – 1x wk

Biology: a high school class for homeschoolers. Most of it is stuff she already knows but it is cool for her to have access to labs.- 1x wk + homewrk

French: private lessons – 1x wk +homewrk

Musical Theater: Z is finally getting to fulfill a dream she had since she was 3 or 4 to be in Les Miserables. This is a local theater production for middle and high school students. – 1x wk

Circus Aerials: Z moved up to the advanced class this year. – 1x wk

Art: Another class I facilitate. We just do a lot of random projects. Zoe enjoys anything hands-on. – 1x wk

Girl’s Choir: This is Z’s second year at Girl Choir. – 1x wk

Hebrew/Religious School: When we changed temples I moved Zoe back a year (she was grade skipped) so that she (actually so I) would have another year to get ready for her Bat Mitzvah. The verdict is still out on this new Temple. . . but I feel like we just need to stick with it. We can’t keep changing communities this close to her Bat Mitzvah. – 2x wk

Don’t those classes look great?! Some of those might need to drop off in the Spring if, as I fear, we over-scheduled ourselves.  But, even with all those classes, I have managed to protect some free time for her every day. She uses it to write music or stories, read, swim, design outfits, hang out with her friends, play, etc. She is a creative girl and she needs that downtime to create, to be herself, find herself, create herself, etc.

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Yeah, it’s me. We are all moved into our new house and looking forward to visits from our friends. I know the promise of spending time with me is enough of a reason to make the trip. But Philadelphia has more to offer than my charm and wit.

Philadelphia has a wealth of history and historical sites. You could easily spend your days learning about the American Revolution where it actually happened. We have the Liberty Bell, Betsey Ross’s House, Independence Hall, The Constitution Center, Elfreth’s Alley, Valley Forge, and many more sites of historical significance.

Depending on when you come you might even get to experience a live action reenactment. They are having them somewhere around here all the time. There is also areas of civil war history and underground railroad history sites and reenactments.

Yep, Philadelphia really loves and appreciates it’s history. But we also have a pretty cool modern city too.

This is the view from B’s homebase in the Comcast Building, the tallest building in the city. I’m so jealous that he gets to work in the city and be near all the great shops and restaurants.

Downtown Philly is great for sight seeing, especially if you like art and architecture. This Swann Memorial Fountain symbolizes Philadelphia’s three major waterways, The Delaware, The Schuykill and the Wissahickon.

We also have Christ Church, City Hall, Eastern State Penitentiary and and many buildings by Frank Furness. Here is more info about the architecture of Philadelphia.

I love the old architecture of the city and surrounding areas. Building’s like this are common place.

This was someone’s house. Now it is a Catholic Home for Children.

An example of Victorian Architecture in Wyncote.

There are several castle type buildings in the area. This one of Chestnut Hill College.

Here is a list of 19 Beautiful Castles in Pennsylvania, many of these are close to where I live.

If you are also into art The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the United States.  Many great artists are represented; Monet, Picasso, Dali, Rubens, Renoir, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, etc.

The museum also has sculpture, tapestries, and other decorative arts as well as the second-largest collection of arms and armor in the United States.

For more art, you could visit the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Barnes, and The Rodin Museum.

It’s not Broadway but Philadelphia also has some great theaters, orchestras, and operas. All the big name bands and the small “alt rock” groups come here too. It’s a great place to catch a live show.

Besides being home to the first public library, post office, savings bank, university, and hospital in the United States, Philadelphia also had the first zoo. There is also an aquarium (um… over the river in New Jersey, but close enough). For kids there is also the Please Touch Museum.

For science lovers will love The Franklin Institute where Zoe and friend are pictured here, riding inside a flight simulator. The Academy of Natural Sciences right down the boulevard has collections containing more than 17 million specimens. There are several botanical gardens and arboretums to visit, as well as sites along with rivers, like the Seaport Museum.

If you are looking for something a little more unusual Philadelphia has that too. One of my favorites is the Mutter Museum which contains a collection of medical oddities. It is really gross but quite unique.

Laurel Hills Cemetery is a huge, grand cemetery overlooking the Schuylkill River, with over 33,000 monuments. It is really an amazing place to visit.

Literature buffs would like The Edgar Allen Poe House, The Rosenbach Museum & Library (which has the largest collection of the late, great Maurice Sendak’s illustrations and manuscripts), and The Free Library, who’s Rare Book Department features a Charles Dickens collections with first editions, personal letters, and Dickens’s stuffed pet raven, Grip.

The historic Eastern State Penitentiary is also open for tours and has an amazing Halloween event.

Other places of interest in the city are The Comcast Center, with it’s 2000 sqft television screen, Chinatown, the Reading Terminal Market (a truly fantastic farmer’s market), Rittenhouse Square and Franklin Square.

Philly is also fun for foodies. Every kind of food is represented, at every price point. Max Brenner is a favorite of ours. It is a chocolate restaurant and that is a chocolate hamburger with marshmallow mayo, raspberry ketchup, and white chocolate mustard and it is even better tasting than it looks.

If you know me then you know that my favorite place in Philadelphia is the Wissahickon Creek and the parkland that surrounds it.

It is kinda of ridiculously cool. The path along it is called Forbidden Drive. It has a cave that an early American mystic lived in. There is Devil’s Pool, Hermit’s Lane Bridge, Lover’s Leap, Ma Rinker’s Rock, a 15ft sculpture of a Lenape Indian warrior, many bridges, trails and ruins of old mills.

Forbidden Drive

Devil’s Pool

I think it is so amazing that you can just be walking on a trail and come to something like this. What is more amazing is that this huge wooded place is right in the city.

In Philly you can be driving in the city or a close suburb and suddenly find yourself in a rural scene, like a Revolution era barn, or a ruined structure of Wissahickon schist. Sometimes the wildlife comes right up to your door, like these deer in the front yard of a suburban neighborhood, or the red fox that was on our doorstep last night.

Speaking of our doorstep, come inside Gnarlwood and let us entertain you. B loves cooking for company and I love it when he does. You will too.

Right outside the back door we have the Coop/Scoop where we serve food off the grill and ice cream, as well the hot tub, and the pool. Come on in, the water is fine.

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New House Blues

So we are getting a new house (fingerscrossed), and we close in <three weeks. I am alternately very excited about our new house (especially the swimming pool) and also feeling resentful and stressed at it. Is that weird?

I just loved our last house. Loved, loved, loved it. For whatever reason, it just kind of fit me. It pleased me and I felt natural in it.

Our new house is pushing some buttons in me:

For awhile I was all “It’s too big! We are being greedy consumerists!”

Then I was all, “Who do I think I am? I don’t get to have a house with extra space and a pool.”

Then I was, “Am I going to turn into a Stepford Wife with matching non-IKEA furniture and a tennis bracelet?”

And of course I worry, “Does a  clean and updated house mean that I have to be clean and updated? Or can I still be a messy weirdo?”

My poor husband really doesn’t get it, he grew up in a clean updated house with clean updated parents. I come from a long line of messy weirdos. And Z is all “Pool! Pool! Pool! Pool! Pool!”

I do realize that the house is really NOT that fancy. It is not a mansion or even a McMansion. I also realize that I probably left therapy too soon if four bedrooms, some wainscoting, and powerflush toilets can trigger both my inferiority complex and my fear of being turned into a robot wife.

Anyway, here are some pictures of our really not very fancy and non-Stepfording (I hope) house.

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Livezey Mill site

The Wissahickon River park is one of my favorite places ever. It is huge and there are trails all over the place and we are also stumbling upon new places. Today we found the awesome mossy staircase down to some rocks and the ruins of a dam. Across the river is the Glen Fern house, built in 1747 and the ruins of the Livezey Mill.

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We walked out onto the dam and played a game of Pooh Sticks. We were enchanted by the little waterfall and found the source of it on the other side of Forbidden Drive. We also were inspired to make up a story about a girl who goes into a woods and gets transported back in time. 🙂

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Mt. Airy Mists

I’ve been a bad blogger. But, I’ve been a better writer. Since Z’s birthday I have been spending more time working on my Dream Girl book. I have thought about blog posts but I haven’t gotten around to writing them. Instead I will post some pictures of beautiful Philadelphia.

Mt. Airy Mists – Taken on the grounds of the old historic Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and Dumb.

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Zoe and I bonded with the gorilla Nne. We learned from the zoo volunteers that she liked to look at the stuff in your purse and would sit next to the glass and look interestedly into your bag.

So many of the animals were out and about, in the cool weather, the lions were roaring, the jaguars “coughing,” the mother and daughter tigers aggressively pacing, and the gibbons swinging. We had a really excellent time.

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I’ve lived a lot of places, really really a lot. Not all of them have been homes, some of them I can hardly remember. But whether I lived there for a short time or a long time, each location, neighborhood and even the layout of the house somehow shaped my life.

Like my first house, across the street from the elementary school, I learned to ride a two-wheeler in the parking lot and got blisters upon blisters on the monkey bars.

Once we moved to Florida there was telling myself ghost stories  in an attic bedroom, then with grandma, then in a house with a palm tree and sidewalk that I drove my big wheel up and down, and a triplex where a friend’s mom banished me for being a “lesbian.”

Then there was the duplex in the neighborhood with all the kids and the empty lot where I climbed trees, built a clubhouse, and stepped on a rusty nail, leading to my first tetanus shot.

In 5th and 6th grade we lived in a townhouse near a lake and some woods and Scott Tullman, who put me in a full nelson the day I learned that I wasn’t always going to succeed at everything I put my mind to.

Then I was back to grandma’s, then the one bedroom “house” in the ghetto – a real ghetto where someone was selling crack on the street. And finally into another townhouse, the house I ran away from. Actually I didn’t run away from the house, more like the booze, the turmoil and the instability.

But hey… where was a going with this trip down memory lane? I didn’t intend to end up on skidrow. So, let’s skip a few houses and… a few more.

Now I am a grown-up, in the first house I am living alone in. It’s not really a house. It is more of a “house,” a pool house to be exact. But it is the first time I lived alone. It’s small but doesn’t seem too small to me. There is only a hot plate but who wants to cook food anyway? I live on cereal, pepperoni sticks, and soda and I absolutely love it. I had dreamed and yearned of a place all to myself and I was happy there.

In a couple years I somehow end up in Fort Lauderdale, within biking distance to it’s famous Spring Break beaches. Life is nice there. We find a HUGE tv on the street that says “Works Sometimes” and haul it home. That was my life then, it worked sometimes, until it didn’t.

Then I was living in a version of Friends: Ft. Lauderdale style. I had a bunch of mates. We all worked together and lived in the same apartment complex. Sometimes we all hung out in the hot tub after work. I was stressed and Brian offered to give me a back rub. That was some back rub. (and I am really talking about a back rub.)

Virginia was where our baby was born. But that apartment was no home. And soon Brian took me “home” to L.A.. But we moved around a lot there too, priced out of the housing market, we rented one place after another. I didn’t give my heart to those places. They were like unsuitable boyfriends that you know you are just wasting time with, except I never did that.

So, that is how we ended up in South Bend in the perfect house, in the perfect neighborhood, in city that was really just too damn cold. I loved that house. I really did. And the town was uncommonly beautiful. It inspired me to write Dream Girl and Brian to build Zoe a castle, a CASTLE for god’s sake! Zoe had friends and a type of “old-fashioned” childhood, chasing fireflies, skipping rocks on the river bank, decorating her bike for the neighborhood 4th of July parade. We found and rescued a dog. I became the “Halloween Party lady.” Brian and I both started running and pounded the pavement in the Northshore Triangle. We lived a good life. We had good neighbors. We made good friends. That house was a healing place, literally and figuratively. I healed from my cancer treatment there. I also healed from some childhood wounds. We had some special magical moments there, and I am so grateful for them.

Now we have a new house on the horizon. What kind of home will it be? What adventures will we have there? How will it shape my life? How will it shape Zoe’s? What will I do that I will have only done because of that house? How will the landscape influence the path of my life? It is all very exciting. I am looking forward to making that house our home.


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