new york city kid in arkansas
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We spent Thanksgiving where we often do: with my Aunt Dottie and Uncle Ronnie in Winchester, Virginia.  We ate a lot of food, read a lot of books, told a lot of stories, did a lot of magic, endured a lot of Arkansas jokes, played a lot of basement pool, took lots of luxurious bubble baths, shopped locally on “Plaid Friday” (as well as our mandatory visit to Target and the like), and enjoyed a walk through the park’s Winter Wonderland lights display as we officially kicked off the Christmas season.  And wouldn’t you know it, our holiday elf Dixen somehow found us in Virginia and began the daily hide and seek tradition that seems like such a good idea until about December 8th.

Once we returned home last night after a grueling drive through the crowded highways of New Jersey and the very backed-up G.W. Bridge, we sat together around the dinner table and reminisced about our lovely time in Virginia.  We began daydreaming about our future in Fayetteville where we will be able to actually park our own car into our own driveway and unload it slowly and easily, as opposed to the stressful illegal double parking of New York City.  Here’s Huck’s fantasy of non-city living: “And when we build a snowman we can use actual coal for the eyes, which is something we’ve never been able to do!”

Here’s hoping for some occasional snow and easy access to coal this time next year …

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We had a hurricane, an unexpected week off school, Halloween, and a snow storm. We celebrated the election and then wore a tie for Picture Day and according to classmates resembled Mitt Romney. We had a wonderful visit from our dear Austin friend Greg and spent most of that time laughing.  We learned about perimeters, became a little obsessed with knots, performed a song in church, and got new snow boots. We joined our neighborhood collecting supplies for OccupySandy, we went to Book Club, and we had family/teacher conference.  We perfected card tricks and the Rubik’s Cube.  We took walks and raked up leaves and fallen limbs that filled our parks.  We spent a fall day with lifelong friend Kadin and his family, and then the next night got out the massage table and celebrated precious friend Shana’s birthday.  We made some leaf piles and banana bread and decorated our front door for Thanksgiving and sat in front of our fireplace DVD.  We mourned the closing of our beloved neighborhood pharmacy and we finally had the rescheduled Mad Hatters Parade.  We fell in love with The Mysterious Benedict Society and visited the ear doctor, foot doctor and dentist. We fought allergies and hometown conservative radio personalities (http://www.alina.com/news/story/Schremmer-letter-11-14-12).  We complained about sore feet, we prayed, we served at our church’s Thanksgiving Meal for neighbors in need, and we experienced the always delightful Washington Heights Jazz Choir concert.  And last night we were all asleep by 8:30.

In summary, it’s a wonderful life and we’re thankful.

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This being our last autumn in New York, I had to devote an entire blog entry to the lovely pictures I’ve taken over the last month.  These beauties can be found in Central Park, Ft. Tryon Park, Inwood Hill Park and the Hudson River near the GW Bridge.  Because of Hurricane Sandy, we lost a lot of  leaves and many of our usual fall trails are closed while branches and other debris get cleaned up.  But happy to say, there are still many ways to enjoy this most glorious season!  (And also happy to say, our Fayetteville friends have been sending us equally beautiful pictures of autumn in Arkansas, seeing as how I clearly cannot live without this season, as is evident while I skip around public parks gasping, smiling and snapping pictures like there’s no tomorrow.)

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As you might have heard, our part of the country got hit by a pretty scary storm right during Halloween.  Those of us in the Heights got off easy, with the only inconvenience being the loss of school for our energetic little ones.  Our friends and neighbors in lower Manhattan and New Jersey are another story, however, and we all feel terrible for what they’re experiencing with loss of power, no heat, no water, and at least a two hour wait for gas.  By now our city has limited subway service and lots of busses (though from the stories I hear neither are great options quite yet), and all of us with children are getting very creative entertaining them during this week long holiday.  It’s felt a bit like a bunch of snow days without the snow and a lot like Christmas break without the new toys.

Here are some pictures taking us through the Halloween holiday, beginning with a gathering up in Inwood last Friday where the candy collection began.  Huck is such a hoarder that he had quite a bit of candy left over from last Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Here’s hoping I’m better at secretly throwing all the leftovers away this time around.

On Saturday night we celebrated the Mad Hatters Ball at Huck’s school, which was a building full of chaos and fun and rumors of an impending storm. Because Huck’s costume wasn’t quite ready (and because Troy wasn’t 100 percent sure it would survive more than one event), he wore an orange and black preview to the periodic table to come.  He wanted us to find him a black body suit to go with his homemade orange t-shirt, and when I told him I wasn’t real sure how to one on such short notice he then requested extra small tight black sweat pants.  It was hard for me to accept this decision, as I like him to look good in his clothes, but a pair of size 4 sweats were purchased and he wore them for several days.  I may be giving those to the Goodwill when I throw away the extra candy.

Here we are during the day of the storm, taking a break from movie watching and computer games to carve our pumpkins and eat our roasted seeds.  At this point in the day the winds were picking up but it wasn’t bad at all.  By night time it sounded exactly like a chorus of ghosts were positioned outside our windows trying to scare us.  By the time we woke in the morning the storm was over, the damage was done, and the sun was shining.  Again: very thankful to live on the highest natural point in Manhattan.

And then the big day arrived!  After putting in a few random hours at the church and meeting some friends out for lunch (we were starved for social interaction), we donned our costumes and headed out into the beautiful weather for some treats.  Troy and I put on our old standby white lab coats, made our hair crazy  (my old standby wig could not be less comfortable) and became Huck’s mad scientist parents, which by then was not too difficult to portray.  While most kids had no idea what the heck Huck was supposed to be, teenagers and adults were highly amused and quite a few strangers requested pictures of him.  Huck, being so very unlike his obnoxious parents sometimes, was quite embarrassed by this attention and would only pose with his back turned to the camera.  Which was fine since Troy put another version of the periodic table on that side.  Who knows how many people tweeted his picture that night.  We’re famous!

In a perfect bit of Halloween timing, Huck’s Storefront Science class taught by the fabulous Leonisa Ardizzone is held on Wednesdays.  He was of course quite excited to show his costume to the woman who inspired him to memorize all those crazy elements, and her reaction did not disappoint anyone.  I believe she shouted something totally non-biased like, “THE BEST COSTUME OF THE NIGHT!” Here they are posing together while Sir Isaac Newton, my arch nemesis snake that I’m trying to become friends with, snuck down inside Huck’s costume.  (I could barely type those words.)

Our neighborhood’s annual Halloween parade was canceled since all the parks were closed due to fallen limbs and other debris, and so our usual trick-or-treating routine was a little different this year.  Various parties and special events came up here and there to make up for the lack of parade, and this meant folks were scattered throughout the neighborhood.  After Huck’s science class we trick or treated to the various stores along 181st Street with our sweet friend Olive and her family, and after parting from them we did our usual stop off at our friends Charlie, Deb, Kimberly and John’s apartments.  Huck became quite aware that we were missing our usual pack of boys that we’ve trick or treated with since he was 3, and as we were finishing up he said, “I can’t believe it’s our last Halloween in New York and we’ve hardly seen the Fiaschettis.”  With that I quickly texted Mama Fiaschetti (and my good friend Nancy) and asked where they were. They had just gotten home, also feeling a little sad by the loss of our tradition, and immediately invited us over.  We almost ran across the street, so happy we were, and got to spend time in their wonderfully familiar living room eating candy, drinking drinks, and reminiscing about Halloweens past.

A very nice way indeed to end our New York Halloween.

(If you want to help those who lost so much visit http://www.redcross.org/charitable-donations or text REDCROSS to 90999)

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We spent last Saturday in an autumn paradise of beautiful foliage, apples, pumpkins, cider donuts, a hay ride and even a game of pool with our delightful friends Dusty and Natalie at Wilklow Orchards up near New Paltz, New York.  It was one of those perfect days wherein none of us stopped smiling for ten straight hours (except for maybe when that scary bee landed on Huck).  Next up for the Schremmers: preparing for Huck and Natalie’s wedding.  (So sorry, Dusty!)

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Each year of Huck’s life that goes by takes with it a little more cutesy pieness, what with him aging and all, and sometimes I worry that he’s becoming such a serious young man with all his pythagorean theorems and square roots and DNA that the two of us won’t have anything to talk about.  He’s got Troy working on constructing his periodic table of the elements Halloween costume in between rigorous study on how to solve the Rubik’s Cube with massive amounts of instructions and 5:40AM sessions.  Fun for him means sitting down with the American Heritage Dictionary and writing words using the International Phoenetic Alphabet, and though he’s only seven he’s currently experiencing an internal struggle between his belief in God and his belief in science, two large parts of his identity.  This is some heavy stuff for a kid who just a few years ago was full of baby fat and slobber and said “lello” for yellow.

But as most of you with older kids already know, there’s still a whole lot of adorable hilarity left.

For instance, he loves to make people scream by turning his eyelids inside out or showing off his horrible double jointed wrists or turning his tongue into a three leaf clover.  He also loves to dance wildly to awful pop songs, especially if it involves sticking his butt out.  All people who visit our home are subjected to his earnest and quite lengthy jazz choir medleys and must sign their name on his awkward Members & Visitors Sign-In poster in his bedroom.  Whenever he’s home he wears the same pajama combination, which is my orange Harvest Festival ladies t-shirt from 2010 and his old-man brown plaid bottoms.  One of his favorite games is pretending the two of us are mother & baby snails talking with snail-lisps, which is truly awful.  Recently we were talking about his girlfriends at school and he indicated he may be having some trouble with his main one and after badgering him for answers he finally stated: “Relationships are complicated.  I thought you knew that by now.” And though he considers himself a serious scholar, the other day he sat at the kitchen table working hard on something that doesn’t come easy for him: handwriting.  He had to make an interesting sentence out of five specific words and this is what he finally came up with: “Here is a sentence that if your friend says it does count as meaning that they are not nice and here it is: I can’t be kind ’cause I pick on peoples backs.”

I smiled to myself, finally assured that there were still many more years of top secret laughs to come.

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If you know me a little bit you know that I love fall and I love our neighborhood, and when you combine them both for the Harvest Festival I’m pretty much in heaven.  In fact, I really hope heaven is a fall-themed celebration with free coffee and pumpkins and happy people.  A group of fantastic parents with kids around age two took over for those of us with kids around age seven so we can focus on other things (like our kids’ school fall festivals), so yesterday I retired my one-day-a-year fanny pack and gave it to Huck (who turned it into a first aid fanny pack complete with salt for leeches) and pretty much just enjoyed the festival for one last time as a relatively normal parent with a relatively abnormal kid.  Troy did his usual stage entertaining and there was lots of Gone Fishin’ and  donut overeating and I was completely pooped d’looped at the end of the day, so some things never change no matter what.  I love you, Harvest Festival, and you will definitely top the ever-growing list of things we’ll miss about New York.

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We spent Columbus Day weekend in Kansas remembering Troy’s dad with his family, which meant a lot of storytelling, a lot of crying and a lot of laughing. The three ingredients to a good life. And let me tell you something: the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of John and Marie Schremmer like to laugh. Bring them together to celebrate the life of one of their brothers or uncles or grandpas and it’s going to be a weekend to remember.

So first to introduce the cast of characters who played such important roles in Gaylyn’s life.  Here’s little Troy back in November 1974 with his mom and dad, brother Kevin and sisters Pam, Sheri and Tina.  All but Kevin were with us this weekend and as always it was good to hang out with the people who knew Troy back when he had a blond hair perm.

Here are Gaylyn’s three siblings: Aunt Connie, Uncle Stan and Aunt Jeanette, who have all inherited their parents’ mischievous eyes, ornery smiles and delightful personalities.

Here’s Laura, Gaylyn’s companion of nearly 30 years, along with her daughter Sandy and Huck the PhotoBomber in between her grandaughters Mindy and Misty.

And here are Gaylyn’s children, grandchildren and children in-laws: David, Pam & Shelby (Huck’s favorite), us three, Sheri (husband Tylor and kids Katelyn and Joseph stayed in Arizona), Tina, Jackson, Rylee and Scott.

And then of course there’s the reason for everything: the children.  Neither Huck, Jackson nor Rylee knew their grandpa as well as everyone else did, but it sure was nice to have them around to remind us of the swift passage of time and how fun cardboard boxes can be.   When we got off the plane in Wichita it was a brisk 45 degrees, more than half the temperature we’re used to in Kansas, so that meant a cozy evening by the fireplace.  Jackson’s newest thing is to very earnestly turn any word into a heartfelt song, whether it be “tractor” or “fire” or “cucumber,” and at one point sweet Rylee actually exclaimed, “Girl oh girl!”  Huck built a habitat out of blankets and boxes that he stayed in most of the time, though he did come out for basement baseball with Nana and an amazing coin magic trick that just happens to require a button up shirt with long sleeves and collar.

The week leading up to the memorial service Troy spent many evenings sitting at our kitchen table talking on the phone to his sisters and aunts, gathering as many stories and details as he could for the eulogy he was writing.  As he said in that eulogy, “I love talking about my dad.”  He always has, he always will.  And continuing his theme of being very preacher-like lately, he also conducted the graveside service the next day.

We ended the Wichita weekend with a wonderful family lunch at an all-you-can-eat-buffet, which you know can be dangerous for Troy.  (He herniated his belly button at one of those once.)  We all felt Gaylyn’s presence when I accomplished the seemingly impossible and won Huck the teddy bear he desired in the Claw machine.  Knowing my lack of video game abilities, Tina said with a sneaky Schremmer smile, “That was definitely Dad.”   (Thank you, Gaylyn.)

Being in Kansas, we had to slip in a couple visits to the Hottman side of the family.  Huck and I enjoyed a too-brief visit with my sister Lori and her family, where my tiny great-niece Sadie told me they were going to have a birthday party for her later.  Since she was born in March, I’m pretty sure she made that up.

We three spent our last night in Kansas with my parents in Salina.  Again thanks to the beautiful fall weather we were able to enjoy the evening sitting around the fire pit in the back yard.  A perfect ending to a wonderful weekend celebrating our family.

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These days Huck’s obsessed with the Pythagorean Theorem (thanks to a book he brought home from school) and Disney’s “Donald in Math Magic Land” (thanks to his math-whiz teenage babysitter).  This means lots and lots of questions about square roots and right angles and golden rectangles.  Mostly I try to stay hidden so my mathematical incompetence doesn’t make Huck think less of me, while Troy proudly dons a Grover puppet and follows our son from room to room as they magically explore math in everything.  (Because even though Huck loves sophisticated math ideas, he also really loves Grover and Donald Duck.)

These days Troy prepares for his father’s memorial service next weekend in Kansas, making sure all the details are in place thousands of miles away.  It’s not an easy time but will be so good to gather with everyone and remember Gaylyn together.  (And it sounds nice to be in Kansas when it’s under 100 degrees.)  The last few days Troy’s been working on a slide show of beautiful pictures from years gone by, like this Olan Mills delight:

And these days I’m still the same old me, obsessed with fall weather and all things pumpkin, hay and leaf.  I made my mathematician nerd-outs take a break this weekend and accompany me to one of my favorite spots on earth: the Bronx Zoo in almost-October.  ‘Twas good for all three of us to get out in the chilly weather and pose for traditional fall-themed photographs in between hay mazes, magic shows and carousel riding.

I like these days.

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Huck just finished his homework and it included writing a special letter for a special friend, who just happens to be his Aunt Jeni.  Here is a translation of the letter, which got so long he had to write on the back of the page (which he was none too happy about because he can’t stand handwriting):

Dear Aunt Jeni, On Tuesday in <sic> dance class inspired me to make up a dance about reading, chemistry, and math.  In the reading part of the dance I read a tiny book and a giant book.  In the chemistry part of the dance I poured liquids together and they exploded at the end.  In the math part of the dance I wrote on a piece of paper quickly then handed it to the teacher.  Each section had 8 counts.  I loved it.  From, Huck

And indeed when he got off the bus on Tuesday (which he was none too happy about because he can’t stand riding the bus) he declared, “TODAY I WAS INSPIRED IN DANCE!”  As soon as we got inside he showed me his three dance moves, and again I grew hopeful that one day I will be on national television in the So You Think You Can Dance audience proudly applauding her beautifully dancing son who’s made it to the Top Four.

(Though probably more likely I’ll be standing outside his lab watching him twirl and leap from test tube to bunsen burner.)