Thursday, March 28, 2013

Just Fine at the DMV

I don't think I've ever read anyone's account of going to the DMV where they didn't complain.  I've certainly had my share of annoying experiences there, usually downtown where the lines are out of control and everyone is grouchy.  But today I had to get a new license, having just noticed that mine expired recently on my birthday, and was impressed at how pleasant all the employees were and how efficient the whole operation was.

The line was long, but moved at a reasonable pace.  The employees at the desk were cheerful and knew what they were doing.  It can't be fun having to serve people who would rather be somewhere else, but everyone seemed to have a sense of humor and nobody acted as if they disliked their jobs.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Pianist in the House

Quinn started piano lessons the first week of February.
I have been offering him the chance to take lessons on either piano or a violin family instrument since he was two.  (I know two sounds unrealistic, but in Quinn's case if he'd been interested I have no doubt he would have been just fine.  He's always been a serious, focused kind of child.)

I don't believe in forcing children into music.  I think everyone should have a certain amount of education in it in order to appreciate it better, but playing an instrument is hard and without an internal passion to want to pursue it the result is joyless, so what would be the point?  I let Aden beg me for a year to take violin before I finally pulled one off the shelf at the violin store for her and got her a teacher.  (And no, I don't teach her myself because that is fraught with danger, plus I think a relationship with a music teacher is special and I don't want to deprive her of that.)  Mona started violin because Aden plays violin, which isn't the ideal motivation, however there's nothing wrong with it either.  They both enjoy it, and though Quinn has happily sat in my lap to watch them practice, he never expressed any interest in trying it himself.

But then came the report card.  A few categories marked less than perfect and Quinn was on a mission.  We conquered shapes and we conquered oceans because the boy likes to check things off a list.  Then he wanted to conquer music.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What I've Learned Since Sandy Hook

I was invited recently to participate in a webinar with other mom bloggers about the work of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.  It was fascinating and I want to share some of what I've learned.

It gave me a little hope at a time when contemplating the difficult issue of gun violence in our country has me, frankly, depressed.  Like many, the mass murder of small children at Sandy Hook Elementary caused me to look critically at our laws and culture and consider what should change.  I did not know what sort of laws and regulations were currently in place, or the vast variety of problems we have involving guns in our society.  I've learned a lot since Sandy Hook.

Unfortunately, one of the things I've learned is that when it comes to gun ownership in America finding common ground with people on different ends of the issue is more difficult than I would have believed.  

I have tried to engage gun enthusiasts I know in discussions so that I may better understand their side.  I don't relate to the kind of passion I see for gun rights that I reserve for my family, but I think for many gun owners it's the same thing, since they see possessing weapons as a way of protecting what they love.  I look at the statistics available about what having a gun in the home means in terms of the risk it poses to people I care about and come to a different conclusion.  This difference in world view is emotional for people on both sides, and problems in communication may come down to the fact that the presence of guns makes some feel safer, and others feel less safe.

On this point we may simply be at an impasse.

However, I still think there is room to come together on some policies that will make all of us safer.  I'd like to begin by passing along information from the online discussion, and then I have some additional thoughts of my own.

Here are some facts about gun violence in our country that you may or may not know: 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Big Question

Recently while waiting in the car before the drive to school my daughter, Mona, had a question.

Often it takes Mona a while to say what she wants to say.  There is usually a prelude along the lines of "Mom?  Well, mom.... So, mom, can I ask, well there's...  Uh, mom?  Mom, can I ask you a question?"  She strings fragments of thoughts together in a way where it's hard to tell if she's stalling because she's unsure where she's going yet, or if she's nervous about the reaction she will get when the sentence is finished.  Ian and I learned years ago not to interrupt her when we think we know what she's getting at because she becomes deeply offended.  So we wait.  It can be a long time to get to the end of a question or story, but it's always worth it to hear it with Mona's unique (if halting) construction.

However, the other day, after the drawn out opening of "Mom?" etc., followed by a disclaimer that her question was probably silly, she asked quite simply, "Why are we here?"

"Do you mean here in Milwaukee?  Or are you asking why do we exist?" I tried to clarify.

"Yeah, why is there anything?  What's the point?"

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to Feel Good about 44

Happy Birthday to me!  I get to be 44.  That's a lot of trips around the sun (for which I probably over-packed).

I've been coming across a lot of blog posts recently by people who are feeling freaked out about reaching certain ages, particularly numbers like 40, 45, and 50.  I have trouble relating to this.  I had a nice childhood, but wasn't satisfied being a child.  I was more than glad to be out of my teens.  I didn't particularly care about not being in my 20s anymore because I never fit in with what people supposedly did in their 20s.  I was sad to not be considered young at some point, but looked forward to being taken more seriously.  I remember when I was in college and I realized when I did the math that at our family New Year's Eve party in 2000 I would be 31 and was a little concerned.  Reaching 30 sounded very adult and responsible in a way I wasn't sure I could live up to.  I briefly pictured myself in a pink sweater and pearls and feeling it was inappropriate to climb on chairs to put up decorations at that grown up stage.  And then I realized that was silly.  Why would I change in that way?  I wouldn't.  And didn't.

I did feel a little worried when I turned 30 that I wasn't where I thought I should be yet at that age, but I was on my way.  My 30s turned out to be a big, complicated blur of pregnancies and C-sections and deployments and diapers and violin work and home ownership and what have you.  I was very busy, but I have no picture of myself in my mind being in my 30s.  I feel as if I simply survived my 30s. 

But the 40s?  I'm liking this.  My body isn't tied up with my children the way it used to be with gestation and breast feeding and constant contact.  With my kids' independence comes more of my own, and that bit of distance is making me feel like a whole person.  A person with possibilities.  There is so much good stuff to do!  So many wonderful things ahead!  A number like 44 doesn't diminish that for me.

The biggest secret to feeling good about being 44?  Don't start exercising until you're 43.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lessons in Love

Listen To Your Mother is a performance of readings by local writers in cities around the nation in celebration of Mother's Day.  I auditioned last week for the Milwaukee incarnation of the show but unfortunately did not make the cut.  I've watched many clips from past years online and it looks like a remarkable experience to be a part of.  Maybe I will be lucky enough to be included next time.

For now I thought I would share my essay here.  Hope you like it!

UPDATE:  This essay was purchased by the site Rewire Me for publication on Mother's Day 2013 and is being reposted with permission. Check it out here!

This essay was also recorded for the show Lake Effect and aired on May 11, 2013.

LESSONS IN LOVE by Korinthia A. Klein

Before I had children I thought I knew love.  I certainly knew what it was to love my family--My parents and my brothers and grandparents, to love friends, and to love my husband.  But loving a child is different.  There is no choice in it.  I believe I would do anything for the people I care about, but I'm aware that it would be a choice.  With my children there is no choice.  They can have whatever of myself they need without question.  That is a love I did not know before I had my first daughter, Aden.

When we decided to have a second child we managed to get pregnant on the first attempt.  As we got closer to the birth of our daughter, Mona, I wondered if it was really possible to love this new baby as much as the first.  My love for Aden was so all-encompassing, how could anyone compete?  What would I have left to give?  But my ability to love expanded easily to include Mona.  That was an amazing thing to learn, that love could be so huge.

I was raised with two brothers and always pictured myself as a mother of three one day, so as Mona reached a point where she was up and around and causing trouble it seemed time to get pregnant again.  Getting pregnant had been easy so we didn’t think much of it.

It never occurred to me that I would have a problem staying pregnant. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Settling Catan

I like games.  I've always liked games.  And I'm thrilled that my kids are finally old enough to play interesting ones so that I don't have to suffer through Candyland anymore.

The family card game is called Spite and Malice.  At the cottage we like Apples to Apples Jr and Monopoly.  When my mom's in town we play Cribbage.  Last year we were introduced to Set.  (I love Set, and Quinn and I do the online version regularly.)

But the big obsession of the moment is Settlers of Catan.  I bought it years ago (when Ian was deployed the second time) on the recommendation of my brother who had read good things about it.  We tried it once when he was visiting along with a friend of his who thought he remembered the rules.  It seemed like it could be fun, however it didn't get a fair trial back then because we really didn't know what we were doing.

But a friend of mine down the street does a regular game night at her house and I've been lucky enough to be invited from time to time, and upon spotting a Settlers of Catan box in the pile of games I asked if she could teach it to me.  I'm not great with reading rules, I need to learn a game by just doing it.  My friend set up an evening where I could come over and give the game a whirl.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Mistake You Only Make Once

I'm not feeling well today.  My husband got everyone ready and off to school and left me here in bed to take it easy so I'll be in better shape to go to work later.  The dog is curled up at my feet.  I can hear trains going by and the sun is shining outside my window.  It's hard to lie still when there is so much to do, but in a minute I'm going to try to sleep again.  Just so I don't feel completely unproductive here's a brief story from last week:

Last Tuesday we had a big slushy snowstorm.  It made driving dangerous and caused my daughter's choir rehearsal to be cancelled.  I drove Quinn to his piano lesson and the normally ten minute drive took us nearly an hour on the way home.  I had a rehearsal on the other end of town so as soon as I dropped Quinn off I grabbed my case from the front room and turned right back around to give myself time to navigate the snowy streets.

I got to rehearsal in plenty of time!  I even found a good parking space.  I used the extra time to catch up on my reading.  And at ten to seven I went back into the orchestra room to get out my viola and start warming up.

But there was nothing in my case.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Ha!  The skunk under the house kept bypassing all the traps around its hole and sneaking out under the fence.  So the trapper put a new trap on the outside of the fence and this morning: Success!  I hope she enjoys her new home far, far away.

Next step is to determine if there are any more living in that den, and if not, fill it up and make it uninhabitable to future skunks.