Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Holiday Update

Happy New Year!  Welcome to a long catch-up post.

Even though I am a person who doesn't do new year's resolutions, I've decided that in 2015 I will:
1.) Buckle down and build the violin I have on commission.
2.) Edit my second novel, which I think about every day and didn't touch all last year.

At least the blocks are glued to the form.
The problem is finding time to do these things.  My assistant moved to Chicago so I'm swamped with all the repairs at the store myself, exercise takes time, rehearsals take time, my husband and kids need me.... But a violin maker and writer who can't make time for violin making or writing probably shouldn't get to claim to be either thing, so somehow I will find time.  Otherwise I'm not sure who I am.

In the meantime, I want to jot down something about our holiday break before I forget everything.  (I'm always sure I'll remember, but in the car the other day we were discussing what we did last New Year's Eve and no one was certain because it all starts to blur together.  We weren't sure if it was the year of Mona and Aden trying to stay up to midnight alone, or the epic dance party.  Going back on my blog and reading this reminded me that, oh yeah, lots of people, it was totally the dance party.  Having a blog is handy.)

The past few weeks have been so busy!  And it turns out my greatest gift was that we weren't hosting Christmas this time.  One of my brothers really wanted to go to Detroit, so that became the plan.  At first I was disappointed because I like having everyone here.  (That started because I kept having babies so close to the holidays that I couldn't travel, and the drawing power of babies brought everyone to us.)  But my Ohio relatives who usually visit were just here in the fall, and most of the rest of the family were here for Thanksgiving, so it's not like they didn't get time with us in Milwaukee.

Do you know what not hosting means?  No cleaning.  I looked around the clutter in the house each night after work and thought, "Eh."  It was a great relief.  And instead of that "make things presentable by pushing everything into closets and boxes" kind of cleaning that usually has to happen when we host and have no time to be thoughtful about where things go, we did a deep clean of Quinn's room, which was really satisfying.

Quinn's room is toy central.  The girls share a room, and don't really have as much space for storage or display.  (Their room is actually smaller than Quinn's, but when we decided on the room assignments when we moved in I was nervous about him as the youngest having access to the door to the balcony.  I don't know why the girls having access to it is any better, but it just seemed to be at the time.)  Quinn has a big room with a huge closet that he actually uses as a playroom.  The top part of his bunk bed is set up as "Leopard's Library" and the shared toy bins are in his room, as well as the box of stuffed animals and many of the books.

But at 13, 11, and 8, my kids admit to having outgrown certain toys.  We said goodbye to the play structure in the backyard this fall, they winnowed their stuffed animal collection to less than half its size, they agreed they don't need the toy kitchen or the Easy Bake Oven now that they are all old enough to use the real kitchen and the real oven.  They separated out things to pass along to their new cousin when he's born, things to donate, things that should finally be thrown away.  We went through every last item in Quinn's closet and room, installed shelves for his Mold-A-Ramas, and finally put together the bookcase we got him for his birthday.

I learned that most of random looking items in the toy bins are used as either "food" or "hats."  A few special items I was informed were used as both food and hats.  There is an entire bin of just snakes.  We have more Borgs than Barbies.  Many toys in need of batteries were resurrected.  Nobody likes Hello Kitty anymore, but there are a surprising number of Littlest Petshop toys still in use.  There is a weapons corner now filled with Minecraft swords and light sabers.

Quinn and Aden want to keep almost everything.  Mona was ready to get rid of nearly all of it.  It was a long week of on-again/off-again sorting, but it feels good to have gotten something truly organized for a change.  Merry Christmas to me.

We spent Christmas morning at home, just us, which was relaxed and pleasant.  The kids didn't even run downstairs first thing to check out their stockings.  We rediscovered so many things they liked in Quinn's room that they were content to play upstairs until Ian got up to make waffles.

The most amusing items under the tree this year were the tribbles.  I put batteries in them and turned them on before wrapping them, and every time the kids touched presents under the tree, three of the gifts would start to twitter and vibrate.  For some reason Quinn's tribble is stuck on angry mode.  The girls' tribbles have a more soothing sounding option.  The dog does not appear to be a fan of tribbles in any mode.
He kind of blends in with the tribbles
The kids also got dragons and Minecraft things, some chocolate in their stockings and new flashlights (just because I like buying flashlights).

Quinn's big present this year was from the Tooth Fairy, sort of.  We've always done little gifts under the pillow instead of money.  I used to keep a stash of little Pokemon toys in my drawer in case of lost teeth, then for a while it was Littlest Petshop things.

Aden was sad when she figured out I was really the Tooth Fairy.  I don't know if she talked to her siblings about it, but in the past year or so Mona and Quinn have stopped putting teeth under their pillows.  I don't always even know when they've lost teeth!  Quinn accidentally swallowed one the other day at dinner, so I heard about that one at least.

In any case, I thought I was all set and clever a while back when I decided that for Quinn I would put a new flag under his pillow for each tooth, and bought up a whole stock of them so I wouldn't have to worry about it.  He got Australia, India, Germany, Japan and Argentina before he stopped wanting anything for his lost teeth.  So I've just been stuck with a big bag of flags in my closet for a long time now, and decided to just throw them all under the tree.  He loved them!  He waves them all at once and declares "No one knows which country I'm rooting for!"  He got a flag book for his birthday and has been happily looking them all up.

This year Quinn decided to put presents under the tree for everyone, too.  He made his dad a train ornament, Mona got a set of colored Sharpies, I got a pipe cleaner dragon (with my favorite tag ever) and I thought it was sweet that the special candy cane ornament he made at school he decided to give to Aden.  He said everyone else made them for their parents and he was the only one to make something for a sibling.

After a leisurely morning we packed up the car and headed for Michigan.  I love how well my kids travel.  I love that they are happy all huddled together in the backseat, and that was a fine way to spend Christmas.  We put the dog in his travel crate and the kids pretend they are watching "the Chipper channel."  Perfect driving weather, no traffic problems, warm dinner waiting for us when we arrived at my childhood home.  A really good day.

My friend Alit and me by the stream in her new backyard
In Detroit I got to visit a friend in her new home and hang out with her wonderful family for a little bit, and another friend and her daughter were able to swing by the house one evening and chat.  I wish I'd had more time to see friends, but I'll take any chance to see them I can get!

We also got a visit from a mysteriously stained Santa.  That was creepy magical.
Most of our time was spent being with relatives and exploring a little of Detroit.  The city has recently come out of bankruptcy with the museum's art collection intact, and Belle Isle not sold off to developers.

Detroit is always interesting.  For those of us with affection for it, seeing improvements there is exciting.  There is a lot to love in Detroit, you just have to know where to look.  Luckily there are more easily spotted good places then there have been for a while.  Tiger Stadium downtown looks amazing.  We saw lots of people ice skating on the outdoor ice rink.  There is new construction in several places with nice looking condos going up and some older buildings being restored by Wayne State.  Progress in Detroit is more often marked by decrepit buildings finally being torn down, so seeing new things actually being created was rather thrilling.

Kids and mom by the section of garden she tends
We got to visit Belle Isle and see where my mom volunteers in caring for the indoor gardens there.  The aquarium next door to the conservatory was closed, but we'll make a point to go back in the summer.

Looking up inside the main dome at Belle Isle conservatory
My parents!

My kids were excited by the fact that across the Detroit River you can see Canada (which, weirdly, is to the south).  Someday when I get around to getting us all passports I promised to take them there.

We also visited Pewabic Pottery.  Aden found a gorgeous little plate, I got a magnet, and Quinn was going to get a little tile with a turtle on it but then accidentally broke a tall mug and was mortified and didn't want a souvenir of a place he didn't feel he deserved anything from.  (Thankfully the mug was not expensive and when I paid for it they gave me the pieces which I glued back together, so I have a new thing for holding brushes.  The people who worked there felt terrible for Quinn as he left in tears, saying that they saw him being careful and knew it was just an accident that could have happened to anyone, but poor Quinn.)

The kids got some fun sock animal kits for Christmas, and set about putting them together one afternoon.  I asked if any of them needed help sewing, but they all said, "We learned how back in K3."  Got to love a Montessori education.

On another day we went to John K King's Used and Rare Books (I got a nice book about rats), which was impressively busy, and then looked around a gorgeous new store called Shinola.  They have $3000 bicycles at Shinola.  And nice things made out of leather that were all out of my price range.  A plain white sweatshirt was $120.  The place also had coffee and very expensive watches.  I didn't understand Shinola, and anywhere else I would have dismissed it as an over the top hipster oasis, but in Detroit?  It was kind of miraculous to see such a place apparently thriving in Detroit.  It was encouraging to see things being beautifully made and people willing to pay a premium for them, but it's odd when you are only steps from blight. There was a just as confusingly expensive clothing store a few doors down (with a jacket I thought looked nice for only $950---!?!?), and a slightly more reasonable nick-knack store across the street.  I wanted to buy a little something somewhere to help support local business, but I couldn't afford to.  I didn't quite know what to make of it, but it was positive.  Anything that isn't squalor in Detroit is positive, but the juxtaposition gives it an undercurrent of dissonance that I don't experience other places.  Detroit remains unique.

We drove back to Milwaukee in time for me to play a gig in Chicago with the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra.  We played from 10 to 11 as part of Evanston's First Night celebration.  We were offered a free hotel room as part of the deal, so our whole family got to stay in the Hilton for New Year's Eve.  There were only two beds in our room, but the closet was huge and we had an abundance of pillows, so we created Quinn his own private room in there that made him happy.

The gig went well.  It was a throwback to the old standards we used to play more of instead of the more Classical and Baroque bent we're currently on, and it was fun to do.  We had a packed house and an attentive crowd.  If you're curious you can listen to a recording here.  (We start playing about two minutes in if you want to skip past the woman talking.)
Mandola's eye stage view.

While we were in Chicago we got to visit my friend (and part-time super commuting assistant) Robyn and her family in their new place, and on New Year's day we went to the Museum of Science and Industry to get their holiday Christmas Tree Mold-A-Rama.  We've officially lost track of how many figures we have in our collection so we have to count.  The tree was cute enough the kids wanted them for their personal collections, too.

Rene at sound check
Since I started this post I've already had another concert--A lovely mandolin orchestra gig in the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Our director, Rene Izquierdo, did a beautiful solo set, followed by a duo and then the full orchestra.  I'm lucky to get to play with such good people in such interesting settings.
View from the stage
Boy it's gearing up to be a busy year already.  The list of things coming up is so long.  Everyone's taken turns being sick recently, it's incredibly cold (high today of zero in actual temperature--wouldn't shock me if that were in kelvins), and I'm a bit overwhelmed at work, but overall life is good.  As long as I consciously remember to stake out quiet moments I shouldn't spiral into madness.  For instance, Downton Abbey started up again this weekend, and Aden and I made popcorn and curled up together to watch, just the two of us.  We snuggled under a blanket and went ooh and ah over the sets and the costumes and enjoyed being with each other.  I need more one-on-one times like that, but I'll have to mercilessly carve out pockets in my schedule to make them happen.

This blog may take a hit if I really want to be productive this year.  We'll see.  I have so much I want to write and so little time to do it.  But I love this blog and the people who follow me here, so maybe I just need to schedule specific time to do that, too.

In any case, welcome to the year of hover boards and self-tying shoes!  We knew it would be awesome, and we were right.  (Wait, where's my hover board?!?)


  1. Sounds like you had a lovely holiday season. Thanks for the soundbite of you guys playing. Very cool.

    Detroit has always intrigued me although I've never been. Stuff I"ve seen on travel channel and food network say there is a cool food scene and there are some great restaurants.

    I love Quinn's flags! We had a very minecraft Christmas on this end too. Liam and I made some of the paper items last night from a set he got from my sister and loved it. Most of the time I have no idea what he's talking about, but he has fun with it.

    Love the resolutions! You have a cheerleader on this end!!

    1. I can always use a cheerleader! (They make a great pair of extra hands when I need help gluing things!)

  2. I'm hoping you blog about the violin. But that's just me! :)

  3. I'm relieved that having the holidays in Detroit was a relief for you, because it was a blast for me. Only disappointment? I missed the magic of seeing Santa again this year.

    1. Ah, but the smell of Santa I'm sure lingers on. (Loved seeing you in Detroit!)

  4. Happy New Year to you too, Korinthia! (When is it officially too late to say that?)

    Loved reading about your holidays and birthdays and the music tree Christmas cards and travel tales and the Candyland cake! And I can't believe you made a bug cake (even more shocked that your daughter asked for it!!!). I can never say no to chocolate cake, but this would be the *one* exception :)

    I hope you carve out time to keep writing on this blog. Maybe because our lives are so different, I find that I'm curiously drawn to keep reading (even though I should've been in bed 30 mins ago.) Of course, it helps that you know how to write well :)

  5. Happy new year!! Yes, definitely work on your novel this year ! 😀. Glad you had a good holiday!