Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Bus

As this school year begins wrapping up I want to take a moment to acknowledge the greatest development for me in my children's school attending lives:  the bus.

Aden started taking a bus last year for high school which is almost six miles away, but this year the other two kids started taking a bus too, and to not have to get up and drive anyone anywhere first thing in the morning is amazing.  We still make breakfast (although on days when we can't it's just fine) and we still have to prod the kids awake and remind them to put on clean clothes, but that's it.  Not braving the cold or the snow or the rain or having to find a spot for drop off is wonderful.  Equally wonderful is not worrying about the pickup and having to interrupt my afternoon to get the kids at school or remember to write to note so they can walk to the violin store if I can't get them.  I love it, and I think the kids like having more autonomy.

Why didn't we do it sooner if it was an option?

People asked me often when Aden started school and Ian was deployed why I didn't just have her take the bus the mile and a half to school.  But she was four and Mona was two and I was pregnant and the bus stop was a block away.  So I'd have to have gotten up and gotten everyone dressed and bundled and then waited outside with Aden for the bus because four was too little to stand alone on a corner out of sight on dark winter mornings.  Especially once Quinn was born it would have been really hard to wait for a bus with Aden.  (Thankfully that first year of half-day kindergarten a friend was kind enough to pick up my daughter at the house once it got cold so I didn't have to struggle with getting a toddler and a newborn into the car every day either, and that was a godsend.)

Anyway, after giving up the bus idea initially as impractical we just got into a habit of driving the kids to school.  But this year when we got the bus card in the mail over summer it said the new stop was right in front of our house.  That caught my attention and made me reassess and I realized that my kids could well have walked themselves a block away to catch a bus the past few years.  We don't always recognize in what ways kids getting older changes things because we don't always remember to reexamine our own habits once we get used to something.

I asked my kids if they wanted to start taking the bus, and they said sure.  Quinn was interested in it because he said other kids often had "bus stories" and talked about things that "happened on the bus" and he wanted to have his own stories.  I don't know if anything particularly noteworthy has since happened to him since he began taking the bus, but I did enjoy on the first day of school hearing several children happily exclaim, "Quinn!" when he got on.  (Mona says Quinn always has lots of friends on the bus.)

They've gotten good about keeping track of their own keys and letting themselves in the house at the end of the day.  And frankly, it's probably less embarrassing for them not to have a parent waiting outside the school.  I got spoiled by Aden who will still run up and hug me anywhere, and has never been embarrassed to see me in her school or around her friends, but Quinn and Mona are more aloof than that in public.  I never liked the inconvenience of the school pickup, but I never tired of the joyful greetings I got there when the kids were small.  The glee of a small child running to you with arms wide on the playground is one of the best parts of parenting.  The gloomy shrug of vague recognition of your presence not so much.  Probably better for all of us at this stage to have them just take the bus.

I know each step toward their independence is another step away from me, and often I find that painful, but this one has been liberating.  It took a lot of mental energy not to get frustrated getting the kids off to school most mornings.  I am not good at being up early, so to have that extra bit of lazy time at the beginning of the day where I'm not rushed and not responsible for everything has been great.  I feel a little bad some days when I don't see the kids at all before they leave for school, but not bad enough to want to leave a warm bed.  (All hail the bus!)


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Spring Break 2018--Road Trip to San Antonio

I need to get down what we did for Spring Break (back in March!) before I forget it all.  There are times I wonder how much value there is to maintaining this blog, but when I go back and look at old posts I remember why I do it.  It's a good writing exercise, but beyond that it really is a good record of many things.  I'm often shocked by how much I've forgotten.  So in the interest of not forgetting all of this, here is our Spring Break 2018!

Our original plan to go to New York City was scuttled at the last minute this year, so I presented the kids with a list of alternatives and the one they all found most exciting was the idea of a big road trip to Texas.  Among the last of the Mold-A-Rama locations on our map was the San Antonio Zoo.  That was the one place that seemed impossible because it's just not near anything we had any excuse to visit, so we decided to make it a destination unto itself.

We hit the road early on Monday the 26th (the day after one of my orchestra concerts, which prevented us from getting a start on the weekend).  We drove straight to St Louis in a lot of rain.  We passed through many a small town (including one in Illinois with a sign claiming it was a "good" place to live and made us wonder if they were expressing honest doubt by throwing quote marks around good).  Before hitting the road we'd stopped by AAA for maps which kept Quinn entertained as he tracked our progress.

We arrived at a Drury Inn by the convention center in time to partake in the dinner buffet included in our stay.  It was a nice hotel, but peculiar in that most of the building was a parking structure and the actual hotel was just on the 5th and 6th floors.  There was a teeny tiny pool right behind the food service and the whole place was just packed with families.  I'm not sure why, really.  I felt like we were in St Louis at an odd time for tourists, but maybe not?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Bonus Chicago Mold-A-Ramas

On the way back to Milwaukee at the end of our Spring Break Road Trip we decided to stop a couple of places in Chicago to add two more Mold-A-Ramas to our collection.  They were both places we already had Mold-A-Ramas from, but new figures we didn't have.

The first stop was MOSI (the science museum in Chicago).  We had a reciprocal membership to our science museum that was still good so Ian pulled up out front and Quinn and I popped in together and were back out in about ten minutes.  They've added a new machine to the building, not just switched out one of the molds for a new figure.  They now make a pair of chicks hatching out of eggs to go by the live chicks in the genetics display.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

In no mood for other people's updates

This is a short, grumpy post that I should probably not hit "publish" on, but sometimes this blog is my venting space, and I feel like I will get past these feelings sooner if I try to pin them down with words.  So indulge me a moment, and I will post about Mold-A-Ramas and the like again soon.

With apologies for being vague (since some stories are not mine to tell), one of my kids was pulled out of a school event that they've been looking forward to for over a year and I'm angry.  I get the problem, and I don't specifically fault the school since the people making the decisions were at the district level, not the teachers, but I do not think the way things were handled was fair, and the decision had the potential to exacerbate the situation they were supposedly trying to mitigate. 

In any case, I did everything I could to advocate for my kid, and since the decision left my hands I've been trying to just accept things and come to peace with it.  It's all okay.  The world certainly didn't end.  Compared to the nightmare I was living through a year ago at this time, this is like a dream scenario.  Life is good.

But then there is Facebook.  And blow by blow updates from happy parents nervously fretting about their kids off on an adventure.  I had expected to be one of those parents.  Instead I'm reminded with each post that I feel my kid was denied something they had earned and it hurts.  I don't want to resent those other families.  I don't for a minute wish anything but the best for those other kids.  I hope they have a fabulous time.

I just don't want to hear about it.  At least not right now.  Is that petty?

I feel a little like I did the first year or so after my dad died and I really didn't want to hear other people's stories about their dads.  Father's Day was painful.  (Father's Day is still painful.)  I don't begrudge anyone their happiness.  I just sometimes have trouble juxtaposing it with my loss.

I understand that we know things intellectually, and that we can't control how we react emotionally, but there is also the image in my mind of the person I strive to be, and that person is better at all of this.  Or at least better at accepting all of this.

Until I figure it out, I think I will stay off Facebook as much as I can afford to.  It's not helping.

The silver lining in all of this has been my kid, who is grappling with their own mix of emotions and reality and is doing it with a grace and maturity that I find astonishing and deeply reassuring.  That's more than enough to sustain me.  (As long as I avoid the jabs of other people's updates, at least for now.)




Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Mold-A-Rama" at Third Man Records


Jack White has his own "Mold-A-Rama" machine at Third Man Records in Nashville because of course he does.

And "Mold-A-Rama" has quote marks around it because technically that's a trademarked name used by a specific company, so the machine at Third Man Records is labeled a "Wax-O-Matic."  The machine at our store (which is still not up and running yet because we have to find a leak before we can put it out for public use) is not labeled anything at all other than as a way to "Make your own souvenir in seconds!" but we can at least claim to have something in common with Jack White.  (I'm also from Detroit, but I think much past that the similarities and any claim to additional coolness ends.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Mold-A-Ramas in San Antonio

We had an unexpected change of plans for Spring Break this year, and when I gave the kids a choice about other options, the one they all agreed on was a road trip down to Texas to get the (possibly) last Mold-A-Ramas from a zoo for our collection.  San Antonio was the one place on the Mold-A-Rama map that we didn't know if we'd ever reach.  There's no reason for us to go there.  So we seized the opportunity to do something random and went with it!

San Antonio is lovely, and I will write about the whole trip soon in a different post, but for now we will focus on the heart of our mission: The eight Mold-A-Ramas at the zoo.


It's a lovely zoo.  (And at this point we know zoos.)  It's compact and laid out very well.  It had the most memorable collection of birds I think we've seen at any zoo, including a ton of storks or cranes (not sure which but they were long and white) and vultures and grackles that were there voluntarily in droves to nest in the trees in the park.

We showed up very shortly after the zoo opened at 9:00, along with our small cooler to collect (and protect) our Mold-A-Ramas.  There were signs saying coolers weren't allowed in the zoo, but I showed the woman at the gate that there was no food in ours, and we'd come all the way from Wisconsin just to get Mold-A-Ramas and wanted to make sure they didn't break, and she let us take it in.

There are eight machines in the zoo, all arranged in pairs in four spots.  The first place we stopped, however, had no power!  We asked a zoo employee why the machines weren't on and she said that whole area of the park was having maintenance done and power wouldn't be back on until probably 1:00. 

Not an auspicious beginning, but also one of those times we are reminded that our collection is ultimately silly.  We were there really just to enjoy time together in a new place, so it would be disappointing not to get all the Mold-A-Ramas we came for, but nothing to get truly upset about.  I did call ahead before we settled into our plan to make sure the machines were running before driving to the other side of the country, and they assured me they were, so the two powered down machines were only a temporary setback.  We hit them again after lunch on our way out of the park and sure enough they yielded our precious plastic toys.

They were all figures we already have from other zoos, but they were all good, and the machines worked well.  We got another waving gorilla, the three monkeys, a triceratops, giraffes, a lion, a panther, an elephant, and a hippo.

A new twist on the machines:  They take credit cards now, and the price seems to have gone up universally from $2 to $3.







An excellent day and an excellent haul!  I can't believe we actually have Mold-A-Ramas we got ourselves from San Antonio.  I love that those little plastic animals represent such a fun family adventure.  It was a great trip.

Up next, a stop in Nashville for our only musical instrument Mold-A-Rama!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Peeps 2018

Last night we attended the opening of the annual Peeps Art Show at the Racine Art Museum.





















It landed on a night when we had everything scheduled at the same time (2 violin lessons, Latin, orchestra rehearsal, parent meeting for the model UN trip--that was a lot to reschedule or get to late), so we only had time to run through the exhibit and then hit the road again.  (Ask how much we have on the calendar for today or tomorrow--nothing of course.  Because the scheduling gods hate us.)

We left before they announced the awards, but I did read online this morning that Quinn's piece received the Racine Mayor's Award for the under 13 category!  He created "Peepsconsin"--a county map of Wisconsin made of Peeps (that he did freehand, I might add).





I'm more than a little surprised that Aden's "Jurassic Peep" didn't get at least an honorable mention since it was quite the show stopper and was even featured at the entrance to the exhibit.  (Maybe it will still get the coveted Peeple's Choice Award by show's end.)






Dog being helpful
My entry this year was a Peeps Violin.  The Peeps Orchestra I made last year was quite popular in our violin store window after the museum show was over, so I thought it would be fun to make something else that would look good there again.  I had an old destroyed violin that we'd covered in paint and beads about ten years ago that I decided to scrape off and decorate with Peeps.






I played with flattening Peeps with a rolling pin, but that didn't go as well as I hoped, and hot glue can do funny things to marshmallows.  For most of the instrument I wound up just cutting off the backs of the Peeps and attaching them with their own natural stickiness.  The f-holes are felt, and the strings are yarn.  (You're not supposed to use any food other than Peeps according to the rules, otherwise some kind of licorice strands would have been tempting.)

I take an odd sort of pride in the fact that even though the whole thing is ridiculous (and no, you can't play it except as maybe a maraca since there are some clackity objects caught inside), the setup in terms of string spacing and bridge placement is better than on a lot of terrible student violins that walk into my store that need my help.


Peeps are not an easy medium to work in.  We've found if you need to cut them up to do anything with, it's best to let them get really stale first.  Fresh Peeps are incredibly squishy.  Even stale Peeps gum up a lot of scissors, but fresh ones are really unwieldy.  We experimented briefly with melting Peeps, which has potential for future projects.  They're just sugar, so they caramelize when heated up enough, and we played with pulling them into long strands.

Also, we discovered the hard way that there is a lot of variation in terms of the color of Peeps depending on where and when you buy them.  So even though we stock up on a lot of Peeps when we're all thinking out our projects, we know now that if you run out of a particular color you can't count on purple Peeps from Target matching the purple Peeps from the grocery store.

This year with Easter being so early we were kind of rushed and only had a few days to put anything together.  Aden's was literally still drying as we drove to drop it off at the museum twenty minutes before the final deadline.  Mona was wrapped up in a different project and didn't get to a Peeps piece this year at all.  But we plan to think ahead in 2019!  The Peeps show is just too much fun not to want to be a part of it.

Go check out the exhibit if you happen to be in the Racine area!  It runs through April 8th.  (Or swing by the violin store after that.  We'll have at least our things in the window for a while.)  Happy Peeps Break!