Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I love a bonus.  That something extra on top of something good.

Like the other day when Ian brought the kids over to the violin store for a visit after a trip to the zoo.  Mona came in proudly holding up the newly acquired shark that we were missing from our Mold-a-Rama collection, which was good.  But then Quinn followed that up with an alligator from the reptile house!  A thirteenth Mold-a-Rama that hadn't been on the map!  A bonus Mold-a-Rama.

I feel like despite some ups and downs lately, I've been lucky to have a bonus thrown in here and there when I wasn't expecting it.  A little bit of bonus goes a long, long way.

For instance, the dinner in Chicago was fun.  Too short because I was late, but fun.  (I often wonder why we don’t go down and do things in Chicago since it’s not that far away, and then I hit the traffic and try to park and think, “Oh yeah....”  Our kids may finally have enough stamina to attempt day trips there by train, though, so that may make such adventures possible soon.)

I missed most of the food, and I didn’t get to talk directly to the women at the other end of the table, but I did get to meet the remarkable Stacey Conner in person which alone made the whole trip worthwhile.  The bonus was to come away with a sense of how many other truly remarkable women are out there.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

So Close, and Yet....

This year's BlogHer convention is happening down in Chicago.  I've been waiting for it to be held somewhere accessible for years, but now that it's within driving distance I just can't.  I have a ton of work at the violin store, and it's the week of String Camp at the Conservatory.  Not only am I teaching at String Camp again, but it's the first year one of my own kids is playing in it.

I'm not sure specifically what I would get out of a blogging convention since writing on this blog is not a commercial venture for me.  All I know is there are many bloggers I admire who will be there, and the idea of meeting any of them in real life I think would be wonderful, and it seems like a great environment to find inspiration.

Even though I'm not attending the convention, I will get to drive down on Saturday night to meet a blogger whose writing I have enjoyed for years.  She was kind enough to include me in a group dinner invitation and I'm really looking forward to it.  The funny thing is I'm already worried about meeting so many new people.  Will I talk too much or have nothing to say?  Do I have anything to wear for an evening out with grown-ups or that isn't covered with glue and varnish?  What if people who like me in blog form don't like me in person?  Which all makes me wonder why I think I would survive an actual convention in the first place.  I'd probably be a self-conscious wreck the whole time.

This is definitely one area where I would do well to learn from my daughter.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Little Things All Over

When I wrote a while back about doing origami with my kids, a friend of mine offered to come to my house and give us all some lessons.  She's a Suzuki violin/viola teacher who visits Japan when she can, and she wanted to share some of the tricks she's learned over time for folding things like paper cranes.  Schedules being what they are, that meeting didn't finally become possible until this month, but it was fun.

My kids each made a crane, and then we moved on to jumping frogs.  But here's the thing about my kids making things:  They always end up accessorizing with a million extra bits.

So before my friend even left my kids had already laid out pieces of blue paper to make a pond for the frogs and broke out the scissors to make lily pads.  Then little water lilies.

Then after she left, out came the aluminum foil (Aden's go to material for small, sculptural expression) and the frogs got bowls of food and goblets and laptops and phones and money and I'm not sure what all.  But there is a lot of it.  And it's all little stuff but it takes up a lot of room.

There is a game involved with all of this with too many rules and Quinn is looking over my shoulder as I work on this post telling me, "That frog owns the shop!  And my blue frog has this symbol to put on things he makes and he lives on three lily pads."  Etc.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mold-A-Rama Rama

Our family talked at the beginning of the summer about things we want to do before vacation is up.  The top thing on my list?  Get one of every Mold-A-Rama figure at our zoo.  And today was our Mold-A-Rama Rama.

What is a Mold-A-Rama?  Well, if you're not from Milwaukee (or a small handful of other places according to a quick Google search) that's a very reasonable question, since I've only seen the likes of these machines here.  They were built back in the 60s, and maybe they were all over at one time, but I've never personally seen any outside of the Milwaukee County Zoo.
There are twelve of them scattered around the park.  You put in two dollars, and you get out a plastic figure molded on the spot that is shoved into a holding tray while it is still hot.  It's seriously kind of wonderful.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Catching Up: 4th of July, Growing Things, and a Sparkle Cello Conundrum

I am behind.  On just.... everything.

At least here on my blog I can catch up with one messy post of odds and ends.  This won't be very coherent, but hey, you get what you pay for.

Part of the reason I haven't had time to write is I have been reading.  I finished Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and really enjoyed it.  It didn't feel like it was over 500 pages, but it sucked up time like it was over 500 pages.  From a writer's point of view it looks like it must have been great fun.  Basically the main character starts her life over each time she dies and we get to see lots of variations on her life story.  I found the whole thing very interesting and wish I could have attended our book club discussion on it.  Excellent book if you're looking for something (and you've already read mine!).

4th of July went well.  The parade in the morning was fun, but I miss marching bands.  We have several lazy bands that get driven on the backs of trucks, and among those are a polka band and a live group backing up an Elvis impersonator (which I used to think was weird and now look forward to every summer more than I can say), but no schools marching.  A lot of schools don't even have bands anymore, though, which makes me sad.  The elementary schools all had marching bands when I was a kid and we loved cheering on Roosevelt School in the parades and hearing the group practice around the neighborhood.  This year's parade did not include giant sausages, but did have Milwaukee's mayor, and I got to shake hands with Senator Tammy Baldwin.  My kids got a moderate candy haul, but the whole idea of candy for 4th of July is still odd to me.  (It's another bizarre thing from "back in my day" that I can tell them about.  No candy being thrown at the 4th of July parade, and knobs you had to turn to change the channel on the TV.  Oooooh.)

Mona got honorable mention for her decorated bike in this year's contest.

This worked out fine because the prize was a bunch of sparkly headbands that she loves.  Her bike was not as flashy as the ones that won, but the amount of fine detail work she did was above and beyond.  She even made a special patriotic helmet for her duct tape eagle.  (I told her it reminded me of a Mexican wrestler and she liked that idea.)

Quinn's flag with exactly 50 stars
Quinn had kind of the opposite experience of last year.  Last July he entered his scooter in the boys' coaster division, but was the only entrant, so he received a trophy and a prize when he scootered across the stage as they called his name.  He was really proud and it was adorable.  This year, having recently learned to ride a bike, he wanted to decorate that instead.  But the bike division started at age seven, so they put him in the trike group.  Well, I don't think anyone even pretends the tiny kids in the trike division decorate their own things, but Quinn did, and his bike looked big and messy by comparison.  He was okay about coming in last, but the problem was they somehow lost his name altogether.  They handed out prizes and then never called his name so he could ride across the stage!  I had to flag people down and ask them between other categories of kids coming up to please let Quinn have his chance to ride his bike up there, and they did.  And then the lady offstage with the consolation prizes gave Quinn a hard time since he didn't have an official "place" in the contest, and I had to explain that he didn't win anything so she should please let him have his stupid bag of plastic crap I don't want in my house marvelous prize.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Long Way Home

Quinn baiting a hook on shore.
We just had a lovely (if too short) trip to the cottage.  Aden got to bring a friend along which worked out great.  There was swimming and fishing and horseback riding and during the stormy days there were board games and crafts.

For Ian the cottage has become just a big list of out-of-state house projects, but he tackles them one by one and still seems to enjoy himself.  On this trip he fixed the water heater, repaired the sliding door, and cut up a huge fallen branch and stacked the wood out front.  I do not know how he actually knows how to fix any of these problems, but I'm grateful he does because all my solutions would be far more expensive.

I got to read.  I never get to read.  I joined a newly formed book club this summer that has been wonderful for getting me to make time to read, as well as discover books I would not have picked up on my own.  (Plus in September they plan to do my book!  You there, reading this, buy my book!)