Tuesday, November 18, 2014

States I've visited

Create Your Own Visited States Map

This is a nice map. Hawaii, I think you are calling me!

But seriously, what counts as "visited"?  Quite a few of these states I've lived in for months or years.  Then there are states like Oklahoma, which I've only ever driven through or possibly spent a night in a motel.  No great memories have ever been made in Arkansas or Alabama.

Regardless, it's nice to know I've been around.

There was an international one of these drifting around the Internet last year, and a few of my Totem friends filled it out, which was insane!!  Greg and I have spent good amounts of time in Europe and Canada, and only briefly touched on other parts of the world.  (Greg more than me - he's worked in Kenya, China, India, and on cruise ships all over the place).  But many of my circus friends have spent extensive amounts of time in Asia, South America, Australia, and Eastern Europe.

This is all on my mind right now because Totem is in Australia.  It's hot and sunny in Sydney, and my Facebook feeds are full of pictures of my friends on beautiful beaches.

Here in Philadelphia we have pulled out flannel sheets, space heaters, wool sweaters, hats and gloves, and we are still shivering in our boots.  The temperatures this week aren't getting much above freezing. It's a drafty old house, and the only ones who don't seem to mind it are Koonan and Nanook!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Youth Troupe

I'm very proud of one of my little projects here at home - reviving the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts Youth Troupe.  And Baz is in it!  He unicycles, and tumbles, and walks on the globe.  It's a group of 9 awesome kids, ages 8-16, and watching them train and perform together is one of the highlights of my week.  We had our first gig last week, and soon we're going to be in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Baz isn't sure he'll stay with the Troupe - it's a lot of work, he's decided, and he's not sure he really wants to work very hard (?!) … so, we'll see.  He enjoys his circus classes and the performances, but gets stressed out preparing for shows.  I sometimes wonder if the experience of living with Cirque artists for so many years has given my kids a sense of circus performance as some kind of un-achievable height.  Being a circus artist, to them, is training every day, and performing in front of thousands of people every night, and striving for physical perfection throughout whatever injuries and illnesses life throws at you - a terrible amount of hard work, no doubt about it.

But back here in Philly, circus can be fun, it can be amateur and playful and creative.  It can have room for non-traditional body types, for interpretation, and for expression.  While I know my kids may not fall in love with circus the way I have, I hope they do grow up to appreciate all of these sides of it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


We have new additions to our family!

Please say hello to Nanook and Koonan, two purebred husky brothers who we found through a rescue organization in Jersey City.  They are two years old, and have been together since birth - they didn't want to separate them, and we had room in our home and hearts to take both.

We've never had huskies before, so we have been quickly studying up on everything we need to know about them.  So far we've learned that they are very energetic and need lots of exercise; they do better in cold temperatures, and overheat easily in summer; that they shed a lot, and need a lot of brushing.
So we spent our first day letting them run around the backyard, working with them on basic obedience commands (they're doing pretty well so far), and shopping for the "stuff" - they came with crates and leashes, but needed food, dishes, etc.  (and holy cow we forgot how much this stuff costs!)

We're all very excited, and a little nervous.  When we tell people we're getting huskies, we get a mix of "oh that's great"and "oh my god do you know what you're getting yourself into?!"  But so far we've gotten nothing but good impressions of these boys.  They are responsive, affectionate, respectful and sweet.  Greg is especially happy - he loves dogs, and has looked forward to having a dog since we first decided to leave the tour.

So here's looking forward to a future with lots of white fur….

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

Here they are - the Undead Revolutionary War Soldier, Hermione Granger, and Anna (from Frozen).

Such a different experience this year, to be in our own neighborhood for Halloween.  The kids had different school rituals - Isa's school only allowed kids to come in costumes "of their favorite storybook characters".  Ayla brought her costume and had an in-class Halloween party in the afternoon.  Baz's whole middle school had an afternoon party together - in the morning, he walked his little pre-school partners around for their Halloween parade.

Then, this evening, we had a quick gathering with the Sells, and sent Baz out on his own for a little while with the older boys.  That was a first!  Trick-or-treating all happened really early this year - people started around 5:30 and were finished by about 7:00.  And the blocks were completely different - one street had nearly every house decorated and a haunted house set up - the next block over had every light turned off, no one in sight.

They are getting big, my guys … how many more of these years will we have?

Monday, October 13, 2014

A weekend getaway

The kids and I managed to escape for a weekend up to visit my parents and sister in Massachusetts.  Finally some time to get to know our new baby cousin Chloe, who we haven't seen since she was born in December!  It was a very relaxing weekend, with just family time and catch-up-on-sleep-and-reading time.  Much needed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Baz, away

Baz's 6th grade class is on a 3-day field trip to the Pocono Environmental Education Center!  Although he's pretending in this photo to not be happy about this trip, I'm sure he's having a blast.  The schedule includes workshops like "Pond Ecology" and "Tracking", and night hikes and campfires.

So strange for us to not have him at home!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The second month

So, September has kicked all of our butts.

Today, Greg finished the final Fringe Festival performance of his new project, Theorem, which was an epic undertaking.  He wrote the show, built the props, and rehearsed the cast in an intensive 6-week time period.  It involved lots of late nights, lots of brand-new challenges, and lots of moments of frustration and self-doubt.  But the show was well-reviewed, and he got the photo and video footage he needed - so it is the launch he needed to move forwards post-Cirque.

While he was doing that, Baz, Ayla, and Isa were getting adjusted to their new schools - and we've all been adjusting to their new schedules.  I get up and ready at 5:40am, so that I can wake Ayla up around 6:10, to be walking out the door with Dad at 7:00.  They walk to the train station; she catches the train, then a bus, to be at her school by 8:00.  While Dad's taking her, I get Isa and Baz ready - Baz walks by himself to school at about 7:40.  Greg comes home, and he and I take Isa to school at 8:10.  I stay with her until 8:30, and then I walk to work.  By the time I arrive at 9:00am, it already feels like a long day.

The round of pickups is also complex - Isa has to be picked up at 3:00, Baz walks home by himself and arrives at 3:15, and Ayla arrives back at the train station at 4:00.  If I make the rounds alone, without a car, I'm out from 2:30pm-4:15pm.  Greg can do it a bit faster, if he's available.

During the days, Baz is doing all kinds of interesting things at school.  He takes Spanish classes, and has a funny science teacher, and Quaker meetings once a week, and "Choice" time.  He goes to Tech Club once a week, and an activity called Outdoor Games 2 or 3 times a week.  I regularly get emails from his teachers and administrators, filling me in on the week's activities and saying things like "I ate lunch with Baz today!  We're so happy to have him at GSFS!" With the small class sizes, I also get the sense that his academic work is stimulating and well-targeted to his abilities.

Ayla's first two weeks have been a gradual orientation to the rigors of Masterman.  They spend a lot of time teaching the 5th graders to be organized and manage their time effectively, so it's all about agendas and schedules and task lists and letters home that need to be signed.  The evening homework load has, so far, been light, but I have been assured this is temporary.  Ayla has seven classes a day including Science every day, Health once a week, and Math Enrichment once a week.  She has a locker that she shares with another girl.

Isa is her bubbly self every day after school.  She's always delighted to tell me about her special class that day, which was either Music, Art, Computer, or Phys Ed.  (she loves all of them).  Academically, she hasn't told me anything impressive about her 2nd grade class - they seem to spend a lot of time talking about Rules and Discipline and Good Behavior.  According to Isa, there are a lot of noisy rule-breakers in her class, and so there is a whole system of stickers and rewards and punishments.  The teacher (who is new, her first year as an elementary school teacher) is trying hard to motivate good behavior with the promise of a classroom party once a jar of "good behavior" marbles is filled, so we'll see how that goes.  In the meantime I've talked to the teacher about giving Isa more-challenging reading and writing assignments, which she says she is happy to do.  I am going to be joining the Henry School PTA next month as Recording Secretary - of the 3 schools I think this is the one that needs the most parental involvement (and I do need to choose).

As for me, I have been thoroughly sucked into the vortex of PSCA; I am here for some part of the day, 7 days a week, and working most evenings at home.  Two months in, I feel like I can truly manage the place now - I can make decisions, give advice, move projects forwards.  While there are still areas of the school's operations that are not entirely familiar to me, whenever I come across one (like the storage areas, or the cleaning systems, or the work-study program, or the parkour equipment, or the infinite complexity of our scheduling software) - I dive in.  I have learned enough now to know when things are being taken care of, and when they're not.  I can take a long-running problem (like the dumpster, or the birthday party teacher training, or a deadbeat staff member) and get it under control.  For the problems that are not easily solved by sheer decisiveness (such as private-lesson management, MindBodyOnline booking problems, and staff interpersonal dynamics), at the very least I can commiserate with everyone and try to pitch in.

My favorite times are on the studio floor.  When I observe classes, or take some time to warm up and stretch, or substitute-teach - I really feel the life of the school, and the joy of it.  I remember why we're all here.  And then I nudge myself back up to the office, sit back on the yoga ball at my desk and get back to work.

We are not sleeping enough, or eating well enough, or taking time to spend together as a family, or as a couple - but we made it through these first difficult weeks of September, and we're now ready for the next stage… what a friend of mine calls "Steady State" … finding a new equilibrium, now that our basic framework is established.

This past weekend we all came down with head colds, dragging us into the new week miserably...