Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spring Break 2015!

This post is a month late, because rehearsals-concerts-work-kids-biopsy-RACE!-stuffandthings.  Plus my nephew was born and we had my parents here, etc. etc.  You know...LIFE.  So pardon this overly long update with too many pictures, but I need to get it down before I forget everything.

That's pretty much it for Indiana
Ian had Army obligations over Spring Break this year, so I took the kids on a road trip.  We headed first for Ohio, which was a good drive in that it was uneventful, but boring in that the most interesting part was passing through the windmill farms.  (In the distance in the photo are windmills.  Don't spend too much time looking--it doesn't get more interesting if you find them.)

We stayed with my aunt and uncle in Marysville for Easter which we really enjoyed.  Everyone was generous and welcoming as always.  It's a lucky thing in life if you get to feel at home in more than one place.

Not being religious people my kids associate Easter purely with hunting for eggs.  I have no problem with this as long as they are aware of the holiday's actual significance to other people, but truthfully they have been sketchy on the details.  This year was interesting because my cousin asked me to accompany him at the service in his church on Easter morning, which meant my kids ended up coming along too.  They did not like being required to dress up, and they kept asking me why we were doing it.  I reminded them that dressing up is a sign of respect (like for recitals and funerals) and that church was important to many people, including some we love.  I told them attending a church service was something they should do once just to know what it was.

Kids all dressed up to please their mom
Proof I wore a dress, too.
It wasn't their first time inside a church, but it was their first time sitting through any sort of service.  They ate the bread and drank the juice and tried to sing the hymns, but for the most part they just found it all weird.  Which it is if you aren't used to it.  I explained that an Easter service was generally more entertaining than a typical Sunday service, and that at least now they had an idea of what their friends were doing when they said they were going to church.  I also promised them they never had to go again and they looked relieved.

The performance went okay.  Tony wanted to do Amazing Grace in honor of our grandfather, so we put something together the night before in a key he could sing comfortably (which turned out to be F, and not very intuitive for me on viola, but it worked out)

(Here's a link to a recording made on someone's phone if you want to hear us.)  I think people were most interested in the fact that I made the viola I was playing.
The best part of the whole church experience for my kids, however, was the chance to ring the bell in the steeple.  They loved that!  Then we went home and got out of those clothes.

My aunt left me and my children in charge of setting and decorating the table for the big Easter meal that afternoon.  I put the napkins into a bunny-ear fold, Quinn made Easter egg place cards, Mona constructed a bird, and Aden made origami bunnies (and taught her little cousin Kate how to make them, too).  It was fun to be part of a big traditional family meal for the holiday.

My kids were a bit concerned by dinner that we hadn't done an egg hunt yet.  I assured them we were among many adults who adored them and wanted to make their trip memorable, so I was sure there was a plan.  And, wow, yes, there turned out to be many eggs to hunt, and literally more candy than they knew what to do with.  We ended up hiding more than 90 eggs in the house, plus there were special baskets with other gifts like new duct tape for Mona and notebooks and various toys....  (My kids needn't have worried, and actually were a bit overwhelmed.)
Mary and Pepper
So Ohio was great, as usual.  But one of the best things in Ohio was we got to grab my cousin, Mary, to take with us to New York!  She was our surprise birthday gift to my niece, who a few years ago asked for Mary as her only gift on a previous birthday.  Normally I would not spring an unexpected house guest on someone and think that was okay (especially in a small New York apartment), but this was one of the few exceptions I was sure of.  I knew they would be happy to have Mary.

Plus I now had an adult to share the drive with, which was excellent!  She drove, and I read The Golden Compass out loud to everyone.  The one weird part of the drive to New York was that before we even got out of Ohio I looked at Quinn and was alarmed to see his right eye was all red and gooey.  It looked like pinkeye.  So we stopped at a Walmart and I picked up some saline and an eye patch, and my hope was to just keep him from touching his eye and spreading conjunctivitis to the rest of us and we would find an Urgent Care in New York.  But then an hour later he removed the eye patch and his eye was clear and perfect!  Turns out Mary had a bunch of her things packed in a pillowcase that her cats sleep on, and Quinn had been leaning the right side of his face against it.  We now know he's allergic to cats.

Anyway, the arrival in New York was not what we planned.  We had an image in our minds of having Mary hide in the car, and we would greet everyone at the door, then send Ellora back to get her special present.  But we arrived after dark and nobody was home and the kids and I all really had to use the bathroom.  And on top of it all I couldn't find my phone.  So, we had to figure out how to have Mary call my brother and his wife without letting them know she was in town.  She essentially called them and said, "Kory lost her phone and called me and asked me to call you," which makes no sense whatsoever.  Add to that the fact that they didn't pick up when Mary called the first time, so she called her dad and had him call them, because they always pick up when their uncle calls and she knew they would do whatever he asked.  So John called Arno and said, "I think you should call Mary."  Arno thought that was the weirdest request of the day, but he did it, and assured Mary they were on their way back to the apartment and would let me and my kids in soon.

In the meantime a very nice couple in a neighboring building invited us to come in and use their bathroom (which made everything feel less desperate), and Mary tracked down a spare key to my brother's apartment through a friend who also freed up a parking space for us to use so we could unload the van.  It all worked out, odd as it was, and Ellora discovered Mary waiting in the apartment and was thrilled.

The time in New York was great.  The one thing I was hoping to do that we could not do (again) was get into the Statue of Liberty.  Back in February I tried to get tickets and discovered they were sold out through June already!  So if we ever want to get in we have to plan very far ahead.  But it's not like there aren't plenty of things to do.  Besides, the kids mostly just like to hang around the apartment with Pepper the dog.  They did iPad things and read and invented a spy game and stayed up very late laughing.  For my kids, that's New York.
Ellora, Mona, and Pepper cuddled up and having fun
Ready for the egg hunt
The only downside to our trip was the weather.  It was very cold (temperatures seldom got above mid-40s) and it was rainy and windy.  But no matter.  That didn't stop the kids from playing Four Square in Bennett Park, and we still had our egg hunt in the rose garden behind the apartment building.

I managed to find plastic eggs at the neighborhood pharmacy even though it was after Easter, and I told the kids we were just going to reuse the candy they got in Ohio which they were fine with.
Quinn and his butter egg

The way we do egg hunts is to color code the eggs.  Everyone hunts for their own color, and that way they each get the same number of eggs, and we can customize what goes in them (no nuts for Aden, for instance) and where we hide them (higher up for Aden, easier to reach for Quinn).  Everyone also gets a certain number of "wild card" eggs that are filled by Arno with unlikely things.  Among the wild card eggs this year were an egg filled with butter, a poorly crammed in clementine, and Mona got one full of organic peanut butter and coffee beans.  We also hid eggs that we dyed in Ohio, so it was the biggest hunt yet: Almost 100 eggs total.

The funniest part of this year's egg hunt in the rose garden was that a curious squirrel snatched up a stray jelly bean when one of the plastic eggs popped open, and buried it.  Once he realized the plastic eggs we were placing everywhere were filled with more such delights, the squirrel started collecting eggs too.  When I fetched the kids to finally come out and hunt eggs I told them to hurry because 1) it was starting to rain, and 2) they were in competition with the squirrels, two of which were working together to roll an egg from its hiding place beneath a garbage can when we got out there.  We never did find two eggs, so maybe they got away with some and there will be jelly bean trees growing next year in the garden.

The main thing my kids associate with New York outside of the apartment is the subway.
Our favorite train stop
We spend a lot of time on the A Train when we are there, and with proper instruction I was able to get the kids on my own down to Rockefeller Center so we could meet my sister-in-law for lunch and our usual pilgrimage to the Nintendo store where she always treats everyone to a new Pokemon toy.

We had cake the night before my niece's birthday (the candles indicate that she's "almost" 11) since the evening of we went out to a restaurant called Jekyll and Hyde.  The spooky themed restaurant was fun, but the one we all met at in Times Square turned out to be closed and we had to find its sister restaurant in the Village.  (An added note about generational differences and Jekyll and Hyde:  The restaurant had regular old clunky TV sets playing old video tapes of scary black and white movies on a loop.  Since the TVs were only playing tapes and not picking up digital signals they worked fine, but it's easy to forget how unusual they are anymore.  A couple of the kids at Ellora's party were discussing how the TV sets were part of the "old fashioned decor" which really cracked me up!  You know, those old fashioned TVs from the Dracula days.)

The craziest part of that evening for us was that we ran into some neighbors from down the street in Milwaukee in the subway station under Times Square.  If we'd tried to find them there it never would have happened.  But how "small world" is that?
Milwaukee neighbor in New York! (photo by her mom)
The highlight of the trip to New York for me was meeting my friend Fernanda in person for the first time.  She's the one who helped me get my head around how to do the final edit on my novel at a point where I was just about resigned to letting it sit in an unpublished heap in the closet forever.
Fernanda and me at the New York Public Library
She's a wonderful writer and an infinitely interesting person to talk to, and it was a real treat to meet up with her and get to introduce her to my kids (and brother, niece, and cousin).  She got to spend the afternoon with us at the MoMA and I loved every minute of it.  It's fascinating meeting someone you only know online in real life--a little awkward yet completely comfortable at the same time, because you know so much and also so little.  To know about someone's life and important experiences, but not know the rhythm of their speech or gestures is disconcerting.  Now I feel as if I can remove some kind of asterisk by her name when I call her my friend because we spent those hours together in the same space.  We can just be "friends" and not "friends online who have never really met."

(She also brought her copy of my book to sign--which is always fun--but she has some weird misprint version that has a random dozen pages or so in the middle all about Fidel Castro!  I signed it by his photo.  She's convinced it will be the rarest and most collectible copy out there.)

My kids all enjoyed the MoMA, even though they were tired and hungry by the time we got there.  Mona loved everything.  All the kids were discomfited by the number of naked people in the paintings, and I tried to explain about the beauty of the human form, but then finally admitted that people throughout history have liked looking at naked people.  That's just true and will always be true as long as sexual reproduction is in our DNA, and it's not a coincidence that most of the naked figures were women and most of the painters were men.  (Aden in particular found this disturbing.)

Aden and Quinn both asked as we wandered among the Van Goghs and the Cezannes how they qualified as "modern," which is an excellent question.  After a hundred years something may still be relevant and influential, but modern?  The truly modern works on display in the contemporary areas challenged a lot of their expectations and had them asking if they were really art, and those discussions are always fun.
Three musicians with three musicians
It was exciting to show them paintings they recognized such as Starry Night and Persistence of Memory, and a little disconcerting to see album covers on display that we still use at home.  The one place where my children all perked up considerably was in a room with vintage video games on a wall.  They all wanted a turn at Pong, and I was able to show Aden what Tempest looked like when I played it as a kid.  (She plays a game called Hexagons that I told her reminded me of Tempest, so she was interested to finally try it.  Who knew that would happen in a museum?)
Pong.  Somehow still fun.

On another day I got to walk with my kids across part of Central Park.  We stopped for churros (because churros are the best), fed some pigeons (because pigeons are the best), and eventually made our way to the Guggenheim (which they recognized from Men in Black). 

Fountain at the MET

That dot near the center of the photo is Quinn
Quinn walked the whole spiral to the top and timed it at four minutes and seventeen seconds.  We saw some beautiful things in the permanent collection, found cool things in the gift shop (I treated myself to a 3-D illusion coaster that I will never use as a coaster), and then went with my brother and niece to the newly re-opened Cooper Hewitt museum.  My favorite display there was about tools.  They had some nice hand tools hanging in a crazy frozen explosion arrangement, and some beautiful toolboxes of various types (including an antique machinist's box very much like the one I use at home for violin making).

Plus Cooper Hewitt had interactive elements that were fun.  You could click things with a "pen" that would save information to a site that you could access later, and there was a table where you could search through images in the collection several ways.  If you just drew a random scribble on the table it would try to find anything in the database to match.  A crazy loop-di-loop could bring up a fork with a similar design in the handle, for instance.  (But if it couldn't find anything it would change your scribble to something simpler which we felt was cheating.)  My favorite interactive room was one where you could design wallpaper and it would display it on the walls around you as you worked on it.
We had wonderful food at a Burmese restaurant (coconut rice is a glorious thing), yummy food from carts, excellent meals cooked by my sister-in-law at home, so good eating all around.  I went grocery shopping with Arno once and he asked me to find the cheapest organic eggs, so I looked and was shocked and told him I thought the prices were wrong.  He said, "I know, it's more expensive here," but when I showed him the shelf had a dozen eggs at $42 he admitted that was insane even for New York and showed me the actual prices were on the individual cartons. 

We are so lucky to get to visit a place like New York City and have it be as homey as it is exciting.  The kids are already looking forward to next year.

The drive back to Ohio was fun.  We stopped for gas in New Jersey (seriously, you still can't pump your own gas there?  What kind of crazy powerful gas attendant lobby must they have?).  We read more of The Golden Compass.  Then when we stopped for lunch we were concerned about Aden who said the whole drive she was all stuffed up and feeling sick.  Turns out in an effort to spare Quinn a reaction to Mary's cat pillow we'd packed it in the way back--by Aden's head.  I moved it up by me and Aden was cured.  We now know she is allergic to cats.

We arrived in Ohio to discover my Uncle John had left a bottle of chocolate syrup and a box of Frosted Flakes on the counter literally with Quinn's name on them.  Those are things we don't buy at home that he knows Quinn likes, so I think now my son has been won over that Ohio is the best place on Earth.  (Ah, the subtle mastermind that is my Uncle John!)
We spent the night in Ohio and hit the road the next morning.  And I found my phone!  I had slipped it into my tool bag when I was doing some scroll carving on Easter and never got a chance to carve again in New York so I didn't see it there.  I know it was beyond annoying to everyone we were staying with in New York that I didn't have a phone, but you know what?  I loved not having it.  We'd make a plan and then, you know, keep it.  When the kids and I hit Central Park we told Arno we'd meet him and Ellora at the Guggenheim at 4:00, and if we didn't see them by 4:30 we'd just meet them at home.  The world didn't end.  I know that's not how people do things anymore but Ppphht.  (I could make a more eloquent argument, but right now "Ppphht" kind of sums it up.)

We made good time going back to Milwaukee (which means no excessive traffic jams in Chicago) and beat Ian home from his trip to Indiana.  He had had a successful and eventful Army week and it was fun to catch up.  The next morning when the kids were at school the two of us picked up the dog from the kennel.  Chipper levitated with happiness when he saw us.  You know that tail wag that is so fierce it wags a dog's whole body?  Chipper was just a living wag for about a day, and he couldn't get enough of licking Aden's face when she came home.

The trip was amazing, but it's always a relief to come home.  There's nothing quite like that little corner of the world that is familiar and populated with the people you love most and the things that make you comfortable and you can simply be who you are.  Home feels ordinary until you step away from it long enough to realize it's unique.

So that was our Spring Break!  And at least I got a post up about it before Summer Break!  My poor neglected blog.  But that's the paradox, that the more you have to write about the less time there is for writing.  (If you could only see the number of drafts started in my folder...)  Anyway, hope any of you who had a Spring Break enjoyed it as well.  More soon.


  1. As it happens, I have also rung that bell in that steeple. My family took me to First Congregational (Now UCC) in Marysville until we moved out of Union County in 1978. The church is pretty, and I recognize the organ, which I associate with my very first piano teacher, Mrs. Saunders. I played Bach Minuet in G on the church piano for the congregation as a prelude one Sunday. There were no page turns, so it went fine. ;)

    1. Oh, Mark, how funny! My cousin told me that everyone at the church has a volunteer job, and his is to empty all the trash on Tuesday nights, and when he goes in to do it he always rings the bell before he leaves. He said he often wonders if the neighbors are confused by the church bell sounding at such an odd time.

  2. The interpolation of a Fidel Castro segment into your novel reminds of of this Seinfeld moment:

    1. Ha! That's like the Bay of Ponies instead of the Bay of Pigs. At least in my book there were no pages missing. The whole novel was there, just with added photos and maps of Cuba. It was like an intermission hosted by Fidel.

  3. OK so I enjoyed reading this for a lot of reasons, but can only wrap my head around one right now: were the eggs really $42? It's late and I develop cognitive impairments after 5pm but I read the paragraph three times and if a dozen eggs is really $42 in New York, I think my head will explode.

    Also: hehehe on the squirrel Easter egg hunt!

    1. Ha! No, the price on the shelf wasn't related to anything. The individual cartons were priced at somewhere between 3 and 4 dollars, which is about the same as organic eggs in Milwaukee, too. On the walk home we passed a different market called Frank's, and Arno said he was glad we had found everything we needed at the first place because Frank's was twice as expensive, and I said, "So eggs there are $84?!?" (According to some theories there is a universe where that is true, and that's crazy.)

    2. Well that's good. That's a much more reasonable price for eggs. If they were really $42, I was going to suggest setting up some sort of Organic Egg Black Market in which you smuggle in coolers of eggs and sell them for a mere $20/dozen. 😉

  4. Replies
    1. We did! And I probably forgot more than I remember.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I love all the pics!

    1. Yes, that photo of Indiana we should frame. Or delete. One or the other.

  6. We used to live in northeast Indiana and drove through that wind farm many times. When we would see it on the way home the kids know we are almost home!