Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Open Doors

This past weekend was the return of Doors Open Milwaukee.  We weren't able to venture outside our own neighborhood for it this year, but it was still fun.  Although the day got off to a rocky start.

Ian has been out of town for a week doing Army things.  I'm surprised how much the stress of that can still get to me.  I think of myself as a fairly calm parent, not prone to fits very often.  But a lot of my ability to be that way has to do with sharing the burden and having someone to laugh with and getting a break.  Remove the other parent from the equation and my mind becomes a constant scramble of responsibilities, always sure I'm forgetting something, and I become far less patient.

The weekdays with Ian gone have been complicated.  Last Thursday in particular was impressively tricky where I had to work, I arranged for the kids to walk themselves to the violin store after school rather than be picked up, I would feed them there, we'd head to the school for the open house right after work, then go straight from there to the Y for Mona's swim team practice.  Sure the dog wasn't getting walked until pretty late in this scenario, but it was the best I could do.

Then I got the reminder call that all the kids had dentist appointments.  Ha.  Thankfully my assistant agreed to come in with her two-year-old and mind the store a bit for a couple of hours, so the new plan became: Kids walk to the store, eat, we drive home to walk the dog and brush teeth, dentist, school open house, swim team.  That was the tightest day, but all the days have felt like that lately.

On Saturday I had to work and the kids stayed home and baked cookies.  They made beautiful and interesting cookies, and I'm glad they had fun, but I had to nag them about the mess.  I told them I never mind them doing a project, but it was unfair for them to leave a mess for me when there is already too much for me to do already.  They still hadn't gotten to it by bedtime so I left it for the morning.

 Because of work we couldn't do any Doors Open Milwaukee activities on Saturday, and because of Quinn's rescheduled piano lesson anything we were going to do on Sunday was going to have to happen pretty early and close to home.  I requested they please finish cleaning up the last of the cookie mess while I ran out to the Y so we could head on out right after.  They didn't.

Now, my kids are kind and want to be conscientious.  Mona's good about being helpful and doing what she's asked when she's asked.  Her siblings not so much (and Mona gets distracted by them sometimes and that derails her good intentions).  Aden in particular just doesn't seem to know how to make herself do the things she knows she's supposed to do, and it frustrates her.  She's got early onset teenage brain, so I get it, but it's still annoying.

Anyway, I ended up doing the kitchen myself because I wanted it done more than I wanted to create a teaching moment.  There will always be more opportunities to stand over them and make them clean.  But as we were leaving the house I pointed out to Aden what she'd neglected to do.  She looked genuinely ashamed.

I was tired, I was annoyed, and I wanted to yell at her to drive the point home.  I told Aden that I wanted to yell, but I wasn't going to because that always makes me feel terrible.  Instead I burst into tears.  All that emotion had to come out some way, and apparently that was my body's plan B.

It was interesting because it probably made more of an impression than yelling would have.  I was sobbing while trying to explain how having her create extra work for me felt not just inconsiderate but mean.  That love is about action more than words and that she needed to do better.  Then I wiped away my tears and said we needed to just start over, and we headed out for our mini Doors Open Milwaukee tour.

The first place we went (which I didn't think to take any pictures of) was the Milwaukee Makerspace.  We've been meaning to join for some time, and now with all the ways we could use it to work on our Mold-A-Rama machine we will likely do it soon.  The Milwaukee Makerspace is a club for people who like to build things, housed in a building full of tools and supplies.  For $40 a month we'd have 24/7 access to all kinds of metal working machines, lathes, bandsaws, pottery making equipment, 3D printers, sewing machines, a laser cutter, etc etc etc.  Technically it's only for people 18 and older, but we could bring the kids in if they are well behaved and they don't touch the machines.  If they want to design something on their computer for the 3D printer or the laser cutter, they could, we'd just have to run the actual machines for them.  Anyway, the kids were enthralled with all of it, and I have lots of ideas.

Next we took a peek inside St Luke's, which is a church in the middle of Bay View that I've never been in before.  It was lovely.  Pretty stained glass, bright and airy, and snacks for visitors!  Always nice to get to know a place better that you pass often.

Then we paid a visit to the Basilica of St Josaphat.  I've gotten to perform in there a couple of times, and it was even a stop on the Amazing Milwaukee Race once, but my kids had never been inside the main building.  It's a stunning place, and they were appropriately awestruck.

Afterward we went to the grocery store, I took Quinn to his piano lesson, and although I had intended to start working on Halloween costumes, I'm not sure what we did with the rest of the day.  I know at some point I made everyone take showers and I got Quinn to clean up a swath of his room, but it's odd how time can get away from you and you don't remember much of it.

Boy I can't wait for Ian to get home.  He's not going to understand why all the laundry he did a week ago is still just sitting in the basket, but hey, we're all still alive and the house is still standing so I did fine!  And I only yelled at the garbage can and not at any children, so I'm calling that a win.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On the Mold-A-Rama Map! (Well, Almost)

Korinthian Violins is now the proud owner of our very own Mold-A-Rama machine!
Although, technically, that's not quite true because Mold-A-Rama is a trademarked term used by the Mold-A-Rama company which operates machines in the Midwest.  Machines not leased and maintained by that particular company tend to go under the name "Mold-A-Matic" (which is how most of the machines we saw on our Florida trip were labeled), but they are all vintage machines from the early 1960s.  They are hard-working antiques that still delight many.  They certainly delight us!

Our machine was salvaged from the group of neglected and damaged Mold-A-Matics that we encountered at the Knoxville Zoo.  I essentially said in my blog post about our Knoxville visit that this seemed to be where Mold-A-Ramas went to die.  If you'd asked me when I started blogging what I might achieve through this medium, getting the Mold-A-Rama machines replaced at the Knoxville Zoo would not have ever come to mind.  And yet, when people who care about these machines saw my post, wheels were set in motion to remedy the situation, and as a result I was offered the opportunity to buy one of the neglected machines "as is" at a steep discount.

How could I say no?

Well, any reasonable person could say no.  My husband could have easily said no.  But the poor man is married to me and OH MY GOD WE COULD HAVE OUR VERY OWN MOLD-A-RAMA MACHINE AND I WANT IT SO SO SO MUCH!!!! and he loves me and here we are and we have zero advertising budget now for the store from here until forever but I don't care.  We only have to sell about, I don't know, 2000 plastic figures to break even on the thing, but that could happen, right?  Sure.

In the meantime this is so cool.  We get to be on the Mold-A-Rama map!  Or the Mold-A-Matic map.  Or whatever. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Size 14 Forever

I went out last night to buy new pants because nothing fits right now.  It's a good problem to have when your weight is going the direction you want, and not so when it's going a direction you don't.  But sizes are a mess anymore.

I started this summer at a size 18.  When those pants got loose I used a belt for a while, and managed to bypass needing anything in a 16.  When I got to 14 I was happy because my favorite pair of jeans in my closet is a size 14.  It's a pair of Calvin Kleins I got on sale at some point during my weighty journey either up or down several years ago.  They would probably get classified as "mom jeans" by someone because they actually come up over my hips to my waist, where, frankly, they should be.  That whole mid-rise trend is not fair to those of us whose torsos are just a battlefield of stretchmarks.

Anyway, my weight has been up and down enough times that I've had several occasions to break out those size 14 jeans.  Now they are loose again and I had to buy a pair of 12s.  The 10s I have still gathering dust in the closet from the last time I was smaller will have to wait until I've lost another ten to fifteen pounds.

But here's the thing:  Another ten or fifteen pounds from now I will be the weight I was when I got married in 1997.  And back then I was a size 14.  I also remember shopping for pants in high school in the 80s.  And I was a size 14.  There is a forty pound difference between where I am now and where I was in high school.  That is insane.

Which makes me wonder why I'm going to all the trouble of swimming a mile every day and being disciplined about what I eat because apparently if I just wait long enough I will be a size 10 again without even trying.  Or maybe the pendulum will swing the other way and I will be back to being a size 14.  (Either way, nothing short of a sari has ever fit me that my brother has brought me back from India because there sizes are a whole other thing and my 5'10" frame is off all the charts.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reasons to Look Up

I don't want to think about 9/11/2001 today.  I'm stunned at how little it takes all these years later to be reduced to tears again, the briefest of stories on the radio bringing it all back.  I don't want to think about all that can't be brought back.

So instead I will tell you of the kite festival we were surprised by, yet prepared for.

On Sunday I had the whole day off and my husband was out of town for Army work.  The weather was beautiful, and I chose to leave the house a mess and told the kids we should grab our kites and head to the lake and I would buy them ice cream for lunch.  They agreed this was a good plan, and off we went.

Quinn and his kite
As we drove over the bridge toward the museum the kids started exclaiming about all the kites.  Apparently we weren't the only ones to have this idea.  In fact, there was an entire kite festival happening on the lakefront that we got to join in.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

No Gradual Adjustments Here

Normally as school approaches we get the kids back into some kind of bedtime routine.  Enacting bedtime forces other parts of our routine in line as well and gets us back into a more precise schedule.  That seems reasonable.  Apparently this year we were going for the unreasonable.

During summer vacation we have very few rules.  We don't tell the kids when to go to bed or get up, we get, um, flexible about mealtimes.  When I'm home and feeling ambitious I might remind them to practice violin or piano, but I'm of the belief that real unencumbered free time is valuable.  Left to their own devices my kids never get bored.  They do interesting projects and come up with interesting games, and I know how important freedom is to the creative process.  To have a big swath of unscheduled time to use as a blank canvas is a gift.  (One I wish I got for myself more often.)

So summers around here are loose when they can be.  It's nice to be able to do things for as long as you want and not care about the clock.  At the cottage the kids routinely went to bed well after we did.  Occasionally we'd bug them to be quieter, but we didn't actually want them to stop whatever odd thing it was they had laid out with foam swords and pillows and fake jewels.  There was lots of laughing involved in whatever that was, and I can't ask for more for my kids than a summer filled with laughter.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What I'm Eating

Or, I guess, what I'm not eating, which is sugar, dairy, and wheat.  Although, honestly, I focus on what I'm happy about eating and not things I'm avoiding.

Back at the beginning of the summer when I wrote about how I needed to get serious about my weight but wasn't sure anymore what to do, I made a decision to just do something and stick with it and see what happens.  And so far so good, actually.  I've been losing about a pound a week and I'm feeling better.  Do I miss things?  Sure.  But I figure the choice is between having those things and not feeling healthier, or feeling healthier and not having those things.  I've done it one way for a while, now I'm doing it the other.  I don't get to have it all so I'm not going to worry about what I'm missing.  I'll always be missing something.

So why am I cutting out those things?  Because it's easier for me in general to just cut out certain categories of food so I don't have to think too hard or struggle with anything.  When you flat out make some things off limits you kind of stop seeing them.  I did the paleo thing for a bit a while back, and the concept behind it is bunk, but it did work.  It taught me to read labels and focus on simple foods and avoid processed items, so going back to some form of that seemed like a good idea.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Goodbye to Harold

My Uncle Harold died almost two weeks ago.

It was a loss to our family, but also to the world which was better for having Harold in it.  My uncle was kind and funny and smart.  He loved his family.  He loved good grammar.  He loved to read and play golf and take pictures of people (and pets) he cared about.  I don't know anyone who ever met Harold who didn't like him.

I'm glad my children and I were able to make it down to Florida in time for the funeral.  I'm even gladder we were able to get there six months ago and spend some time with Harold while he was still with us, because visiting the dead is about respect, but visiting the living is about love.

I've encountered differing opinions on whether or not children should attend funerals.  I think as with nearly everything it depends on the circumstances and the people involved.  In our case, I don't want to shield my children from the realities of loss because it's part of learning to appreciate what we have.  When we attended my grandmother's memorial a few years ago the younger kids played together in a separate room, but my oldest (who was nearly 9) chose to sit with me and cry along with the adults.  She remembers it, and knows it was meaningful.

When the news came that my uncle's health was failing rapidly we discussed as a family what we should plan to do.  My father (Harold's younger brother) is not capable of that kind of travel at this time, and my brothers were geographically scattered too far to even have a chance of getting to a funeral on short notice, so we felt we needed to be there to represent our family.  The original thought was that I would fly out with maybe one child, and Ian would stay home with the dog and the remaining kids.  That seemed the most workable thing to do.  Of course in the spirit of, "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, / Gang aft agley," we got the call of Harold's passing when Ian was out of state with the Army, and I scrambled off with all the kids in tow.