There are moments during which, upon seeing/reading/hearing, something I am forever changed. I do not mean to imply that the change is instantaneous; Rather, this kind of change is slow but powerful having resulted from being placed squarely out of my comfort zone. This Saturday was one such a time where, for two hours, I saw concrete evidence of how alive, creative, and rebellious Philadelphia was.
Evan and I joined a Street Art tour of the Spring Arts/Eraserhood neighborhood of Philadelphia with the curator of the Streets Dept. blog. The focus of the tour was on murals, graffiti, tags, and wickeds. And while I knew that Philadelphia proudly boasts more murals than any other city in the United States, I had no real understanding how much other art graced this city’s at-times-gritty streets.
Evan took these pictures while I captured these and so many more with my eyes trying to understand and process all the messages.
This isn’t an old picture — this is now, today, in a neighborhood mere blocks from ours. Many people see grit, grime, abandonment but some see a blank canvas, an opportunity for change and rebirth.
Just like that and without much warning the weather has turned. We cherish these fall weekends savoring each one as if it were the last one of its kind for the next few months. Trying to rest up from last weekend and all the festivities it entailed, we stayed close to home.
A classmate of Sophia’s celebrated his fifth birthday on Sunday at the Smith Memorial Playground and both the girls were excited celebrate such a big milestone. The party was great fun and included a magic show and face painting.
Alongside the change in seasons we are undergoing our very own changes and adjustments. Sophia is in Pre-K now which, like last year, she attends five mornings a week. This year we have added a lunch bunch once weekly hoping Sophia will begin learning the social aspects of sharing a meal with her classmates. Lunch bunch is taking some time to get used to because there is a mandatory rest time and Sophia is not a rester, much less a napper. As we work through this, we are trying to instill a sense of responsibility and adherence without stifling Sophia’s independence and expression of free will.
Eliza is also embarking on her own educational path with art and gym classes. I am especially excited about the art class as it will provide Eliza with the opportunity to explore different art mediums, be creative, and make a huge mess outside of our playroom. She will, hopefully, also begin to learn how to be in a class setting and follow directions.
These changes have been a challenging adjustment. We have forgotten what its like to have to wake up at six in the morning every single weekday, pack lunch, get two kids dressed and fed, deliver one to school, and then make our own way to work. Exhausted but sated from all the day’s accomplishments, we collapse into bed every evening looking forward to the weekend dreaming of more sleep, sunny weather, and fairies who cook, clean, and shop for us.
We watched For Grace yesterday. I’ve, over the last few months, preferred documentaries over fiction/drama.We’ve liked Cooked and Dior and I. People’s personal stories can be so powerful and their creativity inspirational.
The movie capped off a fairly busy weekend which started with a Friday evening tour of Sophia’s art at her school’s Lower School Art Show. She had two works on display—a watercolor of a wave and a clay butterfly. We capped the visit with a stop at the playground and retired home.
We made it an early night on Friday to try and recuperate from the week. Busy and exhausting doesn’t even begin to describe it. The rest of the weekend was spent out biking with the kids, a brief dinner date, at dance class, and in a marathon blintz making session. My mom and I farmer’s cheeset wrapped ~90 blintzes. Mmm… That was punctuated by a home-made sprinkled donut snack and a glass of Jefferson Vineyards’ Meritage we brought from our babymoon in 2014.
That babymoon was atypical because we took Sophia with us, toured Monticello, Madison’s house, visited wineries and explored University of Virginia’s glorious campus.
Labor Day Weekend is behind us and with that all our white shirts and dresses. We are switching gears and hunkering down for the fall and the beginning of school. A three day weekend (3.5 day in my case) was the perfect way to bid adieu to summer.
We kicked the weekend off early on Friday starting with what has become our monthly tradition—a tour of the galleries open for First Friday. The girls really love to see the art and we enjoy seeing how First Fridays have evolved into such a big event. Sophia and I spent a bit of time at the Clay Studio at their STEAM (Science Technology Engineering ART & Math) exhibit. There, Sophia and I tried our hand at making a clay boat that floats which involves a bit of engineering know-how. While we engineered to displace enough water with our clay vessel, Evan and Eliza were buying art. As a side-note, Eliza exclaims “Wow!” every time she likes a piece of art. Maybe she’ll be a collector.
Saturday the kids visited my parents for the day while Evan and I had some time to ourselves. There was of course a bit of cooking, baking, cleaning, and laundry. But there also was a morning stroll in the Italian Market which started with coffee and culminated with a trip to DiBruno Brothers for charcuterie. We also went to the ever-popular Fishtown neighborhood and checked out (new to us) Frankford Hall. While we enjoyed visiting Philadelphia’s most well-known neighborhoods, the kids had a picnic and visited a farm in Wilmington with Baba and Deda.
Sunday was spent visiting Grammie and Pop and going to a family birthday party for my two little cousins. We had such a good time at the birthday party where, for the first time, all the kids played together and without much adult supervision. They enjoyed exploring the ample play spaces my cousin has set up at her house and the beautiful back yard.
As I look back on the picture of all the cousins (ranging in age from 11 to 1) lined up for a yearly photo, I cannot help but realize that they will grow up playing and create memories together. This closeness our kids have learned from us and our parents, and this they will perpetuate to their own children. This closeness isn’t innate, it is bred and taught by example.
The weekend flew by and we are all faced with the case of the Mondays. It was, by all accounts, a very busy two and a half days. This Friday was First Friday and we visited the galleries to recharge our inner artist and introduce this tradition to the kids.
These were taken at the Clay Studio which is one of my most favorite galleries. United by Blue was celebrating their 5 year anniversary with good eats, desserts from a Frangelli’s, a spirits tasting, and a live band. Eliza loves music and it was neat to watch her take in a live act. Have you ever heard of a franolli? I hadn’t till Friday and was not entirely surprised that someone managed to marry a fresh donut to a cannoli.
We made a last minute decision to visit Saint-Gobain’s Future Sensations exhibit right in front of the Art Museum. We hopped on a bus and made our way down the parkway pointing out all of the flags to Sophia as we went. The exhibition was very, very cool and the kids were in total awe. For those who haven’t heard of Saint-Gobain, the company is responsible for the mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles among many other amazing works.
The oppressive heat and the kids’ love of all things green forced us to stop by the Rodin Museum and its beautiful garden on the way back.The Rodin Museum is free though donations are appreciated which makes an excursion with kids a low-risk, low-cost affair. Everything about this spontaneous excursion was an adventure for the kids.
Alas, our Saturday wasn’t complete without an outing to the ballpark. My company gets season tickets to the Camden Riversharks and so I took my in-laws and the girls to the kids’ first baseball game. I absolutely love Campbell’s Field because it is small, very clean, has a great atmosphere, is ten minutes from our home, and provides amazing views.
Shoes, strictly optional 🙂
You can’t beat that view. I can literally see our house from the ballpark.These “firsts” are a big deal to us. We want to expose the girls to a variety of activities and events and sharing their experiences with family and friends makes every first that much more special.
Having had a busy Friday and Saturday, we stuck to more low-key activities on Sunday. Evan and I ran out to Sunday School while the kids played with Baba and Deda. Sophia LOVES dinosaurs and was thrilled when my mom brought a few of Alex’s old ones.
Hooray for spring, for summer, for weekends, and for family.
That is exactly how I describe our life in the last month or so as we took on a task of looking for a preschool for Sophia. Sophia is 3 years old and will turn 4 in October making her the right age to begin transitioning her to a more structured learning environment. Our goals were to find a safe and nurturing school that will foster Sophia’s creativity, instill independence, responsibility and social skills. Despite Evan’s and my STEM-oriented backgrounds, a school focused entirely on academics would not be sufficient as we feel the arts are critical to a child’s cognitive development.
With these goals in mind, we have toured three preschools in the Philadelphia area and were surprised to find such a disparity between the curriculum and facilities in the schools. Some schools (if you would like names and details, email me and I’ll be happy to discuss) offered small classroom sizes, emphasis on individuality, creativity and social responsibility. Children were allocated cubbies and daily classroom responsibilities (lead snack dispenser, water cup filler, classroom representative, etc) were assigned out to some of the children. The very fact that some children had no responsibilities on a given day was a lesson in itself. Other schools had no responsibilities given to the children and in-fact, forced the children on potty breaks at the same time. This, in my opinion, seems like a very juvenile way to treat children most of whom are already potty trained. Furthermore, it does not instill a sense of responsibility for taking care of yourself.
The school that stood out for us had a significant emphasis on the arts and children as young as four were taught basic principles of working with various materials and learning new techniques. We happened to visit the school on a day when the children were learning about watercolors. The arts teacher read a child-appropriate book about Monet and the kids learned how to properly apply water colors.
Tailoring the learning methods to a given class is yet another way that I think can produce great results. Instead of teaching the same curriculum the very same way year after year, teachers adapt their methods to best suit the children they have that year. For example, in a classroom that is very arts-centered, kids learning about letters may have a learning segment about painting letters as a way to learn the letter, the words that start with that letter and how to draw a letter. The kids have fun and learn all the while doing an activity that is fun for them.
Community involvement and social responsibility can be learned through doing. A particular school used a garden to teach kids that food grows and doesn’t just appear in their grocery mart. There, three and four year olds planted, grew and even harvested plants including stevia. In addition to learning about the farm-to-table concept, the kids learn about tastes and smells.
In the end, a fun, engaging environment with teachers who are passionate about their job working in naturally-lit, well-stocked classrooms with access to outdoors can provide a great learning environment for young learners. I never imagined that looking for a pre-school would be so time-consuming and I would see such a big difference from one school to another. I can only imagine what the college application process will be like. As they say, little kids, little problems, big kid, big problems.