Thursday, August 30, 2018


Due to a weird transition happening in our public school system's scheduling, my two oldest kids went back to class in the middle of August, but my youngest doesn't start until after Labor Day this year.  He got an extra three weeks of summer vacation, but while everyone else was in a different routine.  It's been odd.

I asked him if there was anything he would like to do during this last little bit of time he had free while his sisters were away all day, and he decided he wanted to go to Iowa.  He has a passion for geography as well as a desire to check things off lists, and Iowa is the only state that borders Wisconsin that he'd never been to.  We took to Google Maps and determined the closest destination from our house would be Dubuque.

I picked a day that was likely to be slow enough at work that I wouldn't be needed so that Ian could take the store, and after the girls were off to school, Quinn and I hit the road.  It's only about two and a half hours to the Iowa border, so not a big deal in our book.  We fussed with the GPS and found a restaurant to aim for, and enjoyed an easy drive where we left the rain on our side of the state and enjoyed clear skies over the Mississippi.
We worked on filling out passport applications (which didn't go well in a moving vehicle so it was funny), and we made observations about the landscape as we moved into the beautiful Driftless Zone.  We played word ladder games, flipped through radio stations, and made a list of things to Google when we got home.  We narrowed down what he wants to be for Halloween and talked about ideas for future trips.

Dubuque is nice, but mostly struck us as quiet.  We didn't see more than a couple of people walking around, but there was a huge line of cars quietly waiting in the drive through line at McDonald's.  We had lunch at a place called the Sunshine Family Restaurant that we chose mostly for the weird way our GPS pronounced its name, and the fact that they had breakfast all day and Quinn was in the mood for an omelette.  It was good, and fast, and friendly.

We walked around, admired the pretty city hall building (which made us laugh because it had scaffolding on it just like ours which seems to be eternally having work done), stopped in an art supply store, and then stopped at a couple of gas stations and a drug store looking for the right souvenirs.

The main thing we were hoping for and didn't find was an Iowa magnet for Quinn's state magnet collection, but I'm sure we'll find one at a truck stop in the future.  We found a shot glass for Aden's collection, a silly key chain for Mona, a fresh pack of Dubuque playing cards for us (we've been playing a lot of rummy 500 at the violin store when he gets bored being home alone), and a new spinny lawn ornament for our side garden which we recently gave up on and put a tarp over and covered liberally with spinning decorations plus a couple of flamingos.  (It's gorgeous.  Or at least more interesting than the weeds were.)

We had an enjoyable drive home where we shared some candy and laughed at whatever.  (Including at a billboard that read "Your membership pays" and then had a "Dupaco" logo, so Quinn read it all as "Your membership pays Duapaco" which is probably more accurate than what they were going for.)

There are a lot of things I feel behind on, and I get frustrated often about how much I'd like to accomplish that never seems to happen, but I never regret taking time out to really spend a day like I did with Quinn.  When I stop and think about it, everything else is actually the time out.  Sure, there was a pile of rental instruments that needed cleaning at work, and some writing I need to get done for a panel discussion coming up, and endless chores at home.  I need to make a living and keep our lives in order, but days were I get to hang out with my son and have lunch with him in Dubuque simply because it sounds fun are the whole point of anything.  That's the kind of thing I should be basing my life around, and I try to as best I can.  I like my job, but I like being home after school to talk with my daughters about their day as I make dinner more.

I wish I had more Dubuque kind of days, but at least I'm always appreciative of the ones I do have.  Everything else is there just to make those possible.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Wild West

We spent the last two weeks of July doing a whirlwind tour of the West.  We visited nine states and drove over 4000 miles.  (We saw a lot and this post will be long, but there are lots of pretty pictures like this one from Utah.)

It wasn't the most convenient time for this trip for several reasons, but we kind of felt we needed to do it.

First of all, Ian's side of the family is all out that way, and there were several relatives of his we hadn't seen in a long time or had never even met, and we felt a need to address that.  It's hard for us to travel anyplace we can't reach by car, so usually seeing family means seeing my family, but we wanted our kids to get to know the other side of their family, too.

And second, our oldest is halfway through high school and we won't have that many opportunities to travel together as a family in a few years and there is a lot we want our kids to see.  We've barely scratched the surface, really, of what we want to show them in the world, but at least when they go off on their own they will have a decent idea of the scope and variety of what's in our own country, and that's a start.

My kids are good at road trips, but we didn't want to spend time driving across parts of the country we've already seen, so we flew to Salt Lake City and rented a car to drive from there.  The plan was to pick up camping gear in the first few days of the trip to use later, but the one snag in the plan was the equipment we scoped out at our local Walmart that we figured we could find during our travels was not available in the quantities we needed at any single store.  We had to stop at several of them to get five cots (after our air mattress disasters we decided cots were the new way to go), but toward the end of our trip my kids said they preferred to go hungry rather than stop at another Walmart for snacks and supplies.

Our flight left Milwaukee very early on the morning of the 17th, and an incredibly kind neighbor (thankyouthanyouthankyouAubrie) drove us to the airport at 3:30a.m.  We flew first to Phoenix, then on to Salt Lake.  One of the advantages of finally traveling with older kids (they are now 16, 14, and 11) is that we could take Southwest and not have to worry about all of us sitting together.  (I remember flying to New York when Ian was deployed and trying to manage five-month-old Quinn in my lap while tending to the girls across the aisle.  Very different times.)

We picked up our rental car at the airport from Enterprise, which was the only rental car place in the city that my husband said didn't have a one-star Yelp review.  That never even occurred to me to check because how bad could a rental car place be?  Apparently pretty bad because the lines and complaints at every other place were impressive.  We piled into our new minivan and drove north through Boise to Nampa, Idaho.

It's so interesting to drive through landscapes that look nothing like home.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Today We Bought a Building!

We've been renters in our violin store space on the corner of Rusk and Delaware for over ten years now.  For the past six of those we've been renting the entire first floor so we could provide studio space for teachers and to expand our storage a little.

Then not long ago our landlord said he wanted to retire and sell the building and was nice enough to give us the first crack at it.  After a few legal hoops and lots of emails and signatures the building as of today is now ours!

We've had the past few months to contemplate what it would mean to move our business if the sale didn't work out, and frankly there is no place else we would rather be.  We're in a residential neighborhood which is just enough off the beaten path I don't have to deal with much distracting foot traffic, it's two blocks from the park by the lake (with its farmers' market in the summers where I can grab a little lunch on Saturdays), close to coffee shops for customers, big windows, lots of free parking, a simple drive to direct people in from downtown, an easy walk from two of my kids' schools and only about a 25 minute walk from home.  It's old and charming and friendly and I love it.

I'm really excited.  A little nervous because it's a lot more to be responsible for, but overall I think it will be great.  This is a new chapter for Korinthian Violins with lots of possibilities.  (So if you need a violin please stop by--we have an impressive mortgage to pay!)

Sunday, August 12, 2018


My two high schoolers go back to school tomorrow.  My oldest will be a Junior.  My middle child will be starting ninth grade.  My youngest will be in sixth grade but he doesn't go back until after Labor Day.  This year they will all be going to different schools, two of them on buses, one walking, all leaving the house at different times.  We've bought supplies, cleaned out backpacks, and made sure everyone has a key to the house.  I've set my alarm for the first time in months.  I'm not sure what more there is to do but I don't feel like we're really prepared for this shift into a new more intense schedule.

The biggest change will be for my middle child venturing into a new school where she doesn't know anyone.  Mona had her two days of freshman orientation last week.  She will be in the class of 2022.

From my perspective this feels strange for a few reasons, including the fact that I remember when the idea of the "Year 2000" seemed very far away.  All the futuristic stuff when I was a kid was set somewhere after 2000.  And now I have children who will be graduating two decades or more into that spacey sounding millennium.  (Still no flying cars, though, or even real hover-boards.)

Also, high schoolers seemed very grown-up to me when I was a child, and now of course they seem outrageously young.  Even though I didn't feel like an adult at 14 I remember that knowledge of it being the oldest I'd ever been and it seemed like a lot.  In many ways I wanted to be autonomous, but it was scary to start really thinking ahead about a future away from my parents and how hopelessly unprepared I was for it.  I see my daughters struggling with those ideas now.  I'm struggling with it from the other side, thinking ahead to letting them go.

For orientation I walked my daughter to her new school both days, which is about ten minutes from our house and at the other end of our neighborhood park.  It's the school my grandpa attended back during the Depression.  It's a school that has a troubled reputation but is in transition.  It was my daughter's first choice, even though she had lots of possibilities available to her around the city.  I'm proud of her for wanting to go to our neighborhood school even though she doesn't know anyone there.

It was hard to leave her there both mornings.  It reminded me too much of her first day of kindergarten.  Which is funny, because I don't really remember the first days for my other children.  I have pictures of Aden with her earnest smile and bejeweled purse posing outside of Head Start downtown when she was three, but I can't remember much about the actual drop off.  She loved school, but she usually cried when I left.  Did she cry that first day, though?  I don't remember.  I don't think so.  And Quinn's first day?  I'm pretty sure I cried.  But did he look back at me when it was time for me to go?  Or did he wander off into all those Montessori materials and not bat an eye that I was leaving?  I don't know anymore.

Mona I remember, though.  Everything has always been more extreme with Mona.  She always climbed the highest, swam the farthest, and continues to surprise us at every turn.  Guiding her has always been my truest test as a parent and not one I often feel I'm passing.

On her first day of kindergarten she clung to me and cried in a way that I didn't feel I could leave her.  I ended up sitting with her on the floor outside of her cheerful looking classroom unsure of what to do.  Her teacher (to whom I am forever grateful for being on Mona's side so fiercely in her first years of school) came to us in the hall and said the perfect thing: 

She started by saying that whatever I wanted to do she would support because I knew my child best.  But that in her experience at that moment Mona was in charge and didn't really want to be.  She was sure Mona would be fine after I left.  And of course she was. 

That doesn't change how painful it was to walk away.  Leaving your child with other people to a world you are not directly a part of is wrenching.  I knew Mona needed to form her own relationships with friends and teachers and that's how it's supposed to be, but it's scary.  It felt the same all over again leaving her at the high school, although this time all the tears were mine on the walk home.  I just want it all to go well, but I can't control that.  I want my baby to be okay.

The orientation turned out to be a bit overwhelming and didn't go as well as my daughter hoped, but she admitted it had nothing to do with the school or the people there.  She said everyone was nice.  There are amazing opportunities in this high school, such as a mural club and a classroom where they put together an entire race car every year and culinary classes...  She's looking forward to French class and a course in computer applications in art which she will rock.  All of that is harder to face until you have friends, though.  She was acutely aware of that the first day, which was lonely.  The second day a couple of kids found ways to introduce themselves and now she feels better.

She's created a beautiful dragon costume out of a hoodie that she plans to wear on her first day.  That should send a clear message about who she is and what she's about, and with luck attract people to her side who can appreciate her.  I hope it's a good year.  For all of us.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Won't you be my neighbor?

I took my family out to see the new documentary about Mr Rogers, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"  It's a lovely film.  I think I cried the whole way through it.  There was something good about watching it in a theater and sensing other people getting choked up as well.  My eyes hurt for hours afterward, and I found it very hard to sleep that night because there was so much going through my mind and pulling at my heart.

Mr Rogers was genuinely kind in a way that is far too rare in this world.  We may never see another like him.  There are many people I love and admire and that I have felt lucky to learn from, but Mr Rogers managed to distill the core of what humanity should be centered around more simply than anyone: That we are able to love and be loved.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Promise of America

Like many I know, I have mixed feelings anymore about the 4th of July.

That's been true for me since I first visited the Statue of Liberty as a child and watched a short film in the welcome center.  The film featured famous people talking about what the Statue of Liberty meant to them, and it included James Baldwin whose statement is the only one that stayed with me.  He quoted the beginning of the Declaration of Independence and said it was problematic since he hadn't been included in those ideals.  He highlighted that for black people whose families were brought here by force to work as slave labor for others who claimed to believe "all men are created equal" the Statue of Liberty represented only a cruel irony.

It was the first time I truly recognized that symbols of our country flouted as patriotism were painful for many Americans.  It broke my heart that people with as much right to the ideals of America did not feel a part of that dream.  I had a child's love for my country that was uncomplicated.  I had to rethink it.

Our country's history encompasses many dreadful and shameful things.  Too much of that was whitewashed in school when I was young.  There is less of that in my children's education, so they understand better than I did at their ages that there is much about American history that is disturbing and unpleasant.

I asked them this morning on our way to the annual parade how they feel about the 4th of July.  My oldest said she wasn't sure how to feel.  She sees so much happening in our country anymore that is hard to take pride in, that she'd rather think of the holiday as more a celebration of our neighborhood traditions.  My middle child was conflicted because she doesn't want her disgust for the current president to contaminate her ability to enjoy the day.  My youngest doesn't know.  It's hard for him to see the 4th as something other than a candy holiday (and asked why anyone would bother to go to a parade that didn't involve throwing treats into the crowd).

Here's what I told them:  America is a promise.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Varnish Workshop 2018

The varnish workshop that I’ve come to attend on an annual basis since it moved to Chicago (instead of Boston) has become one of the highlights of my year each spring.  I don’t need it in the way I used to—when I lacked the knowledge and tools to use oil varnish with confidence—but for something deeper now. 

I don’t mean to imply I know all I want to know to varnish a violin.  That remains a lifelong process, and I learn something new and useful at the workshop every time.  But if I never returned I could certainly proceed on my own and feel capable of varnishing instruments in a way I can be proud of.  The very first workshop I attended succeeded in doing that.

No, what I get now that I’ve done this four times is that rare and cherished sense of being among “my people.”  The participants at the varnish workshop run the gamut from absolute beginners to luthiers at the top of their field, but everyone there has something to learn, something to teach, something to share that is valuable.  The atmosphere is industrious but relaxed, and it changes a bit each year with the different personalities in attendance, but they are all people who get what it is that interests me about this field and I don’t have to explain it.  We share a language and an aesthetic and there is a pleasure in that that I don’t experience in group settings very often. 

The other thing that’s nice about the varnish workshop is simply being able to block out an entire week of time to do what I want to do all day every day.  Other people may want a vacation at a spa, but that’s not for me.  Much more satisfying to be productive and feel I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing rather than using all my energy on the chore treadmill that is often day-to-day life.  The varnish workshop has become a favorite playground.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Dear Dad (2018)

Has it really been almost three years since you died?  That's a long time to have gone without your hugs and kind words.  Do I still have your voice right in my head?  And your laugh?  I'm starting to wonder.  Until almost three years ago I got to refresh those details periodically.  Now whatever memories I cling to are all I will ever have.  I hate that, and it doesn't get easier.  I don't reach for the phone to call you on Mondays anymore, so at least I can say the reality has sunk in.  I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad one.

Oh, Dad.  What would I tell you about what life has been like since last Father's Day?  I guess that in recent months it's been better than the year before.  Last year was a nightmare and I'm still suffering occasional flashbacks of pain, but when I think back to where we were, and look at where we are, there is no comparison.  There are still issues to deal with and I'm scared every day that things could fall backwards into crisis again, but for now I will be grateful that on a day-to-day basis life in our home is normal again.  That's no small thing.  Normal is a gift.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Spring Catch Up Post

Life has been nuts.  I remember how hard running after toddlers was, and how babies suck up all of your day, but I also remember thinking something easier was just over the horizon if I could just get a little more sleep and make it there.

Yeah, no.  Bigger kids just have different issues that suck up just as much time, and complex problems that can tear at your soul.  Older kids can also be wonderful, and having real conversations with these people you made is amazing, especially when I think back to the days where we spent a lot of time just pointing to colors and that was as stimulating as things got.  I prefer playing Settlers of Catan to Candyland, there are just a lot more rules to remember.

Anyway, lately there has been little time to think, let alone write, so this is a giant catch-all post to sort through some of what we've been doing and to keep my memories anchored in time a bit better.

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?

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!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Cube Club

I have a cube collection--Meaning a collection of puzzles centered around Rubik's cubes.

I remember very clearly when Rubik's cubes arrived in the United States in the early 80s.  I wanted one.  It spoke to me in a way few things did.  I liked that it was colorful and compact and could fit nicely in your hands.  I liked that it was something that would take time to figure out.

I also come from a family of collectors, so in my home growing up it was accepted and even encouraged that if you liked something for you to collect and save anything related to it.  So I didn't just have a cube and a solution book, I had all the cubes and all the solution books I could find.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Box

My mom is amazing.  She's an amazing artist, person, and grandmother, too, not just amazing as a mom.  I'm one of only three people in the world, however, who get to judge her directly on the mom-front, and the vote is unanimous that she is the best.

I've been struggling with how well I measure up in that role lately.  I know I am good enough most days, and there are moments I'm satisfied that I've done something I can be proud of, but I've never felt more inadequate to the task than in recent years.  I appreciate most of the freedom I have now that my kids are more independent compared to the baby and toddler years, but I miss the relative simplicity of their worlds being so small.  Often the first time I see them on an average day is when I get home from work.  They are beyond my reach.  It's a helpless feeling.  I worry I should be doing more for them but it's hard to know what.

When I look back on my own childhood and think about how much my mom managed to do, I can't figure out how she did it.  She would sew us real clothes, not just Halloween costumes.  She kept the house much cleaner than I'm able to keep my own and certainly changed the sheets more often.  She tended the garden, did all the bookkeeping, did all the labor at the art gallery full time, and somehow also maintained her career as a successful artist.

And then there was the food.  My mom prepared us excellent homemade meals every day.  I don't remember us ever getting food delivery or take out when we were growing up.  Once my brothers and I were intrigued by the look of something called "pizza" on a Little Caesar's commercial, and we asked if we could try some, so the next night my mom served up homemade pizza in the same broad pan she made lasagna in.  It didn't look the same as in the commercials (shapes are strangely important to kids, and the ones in the adds were circles cut into triangles and this was a rectangle cut into squares, so that was distracting) but it was good.  I don't remember her making it again, though.  In our house (usually on a Wednesday when I leave work early to take Quinn across town to Latin after school then have to pick up Aden right afterward so the two of them can do violin lessons until 7:00) there is often actual Little Caesar's pizza on the table so that people coming and going can grab something to eat before getting shuttled to the next place.  It's fine, I don't really beat myself up about it, but I know my mom would have managed it differently somehow and I am awestruck.

Saturday, January 27, 2018


Two of the things I most want to define myself by (aside from my relationships and my attempts at being a decent person) are my instrument making and my writing.  Yet somehow, more often than not, the treadmill of chores takes priority, as do the needs of others around me like my kids and my customers and even our silly dog.  There are rehearsals to attend and meals to make and little things like filling the gas tank and collecting dishes from around the house that nibble away at my available time.  Whole days, then weeks, then months, and even years slip by where I'm not doing the things I most want to do.  Stepping back, that looks ridiculous.

I know how to fix this, I just have to do it.

When I talk to younger women in instrument making the main questions they have for me are about how to keep doing it after having children.  (I remain fascinated by the fact that this is never an automatic question about men.  No one assumes once a man has children  he won't be able to continue doing his work.  The expectations of women are different, both about us and by us.)  And I tell them that the answer is simple, just not easy to do:

You must carve out time that is yours and be ruthless and unapologetic about protecting it.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Word of the Day

I love weird coincidences.  I don't read anything into them, I just enjoy how they can make otherwise ordinary moments seem far more intriguing.

Our weird coincidence in the first weeks of this new year involves a word from my childhood:  Floccinaucinihilipilification.