Sunday, October 11, 2015

Oh, and also these things happened...

So, the part of this blog that is a record for myself of things my family does kind of got understandably sideswiped this summer (and into the start of fall).  The death of my father and what that means going forward is still something I am processing, but regardless, our lives have continued on in busy and interesting fashion, and I need to jot some of it down before I forget it ever happened.

This is essentially "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" without the sad parts and with many photos.  Here we go:

I did post about our trip to the cottage already.  Ian and the kids (including my niece) got to return there for a week in August as well.  I love that the cottage is a summer tradition for our family.

Early in the summer I finally got the appropriate archery equipment for the girls to share.  There are several public ranges in the park system in Milwaukee, and sometimes we'll picnic there when we go out to shoot.

Quinn's still too small to handle the bow yet, so he acts as a human quiver and also retrieves arrows.  The girls are improving quickly and we've been having a lot of fun.  Next summer I plan to get a third bow so they don't have to take turns.

Summer means trips to Leon's Frozen Custard.  (Or, at least, more seasonally appropriate trips to Leon's.)  Aden has discovered the joy of the banana split.

Aden did Vocal Arts Camp at the conservatory this summer.  I wasn't asked to teach at String Camp this year (which I was really disappointed about, but there have been a lot of changes there recently and one of them was to only use full-time staff to teach at camp), so Aden didn't want to go.  But she misses organized singing, so Vocal Arts Camp was a good opportunity to do that again.  She had fun and the concert made me cry.  (All my kids' concerts make me cry.)
My Uncle John came to visit in order to join us at a surprise birthday party for some cousins in Milwaukee.  We loved having a chance to show him around town in the summer.  It's a different landscape when he comes to see us at Christmas.
Gathered at the violin store before heading to the Air Show by the lake
We were invited to a vow renewal ceremony of some friends down the street, and everyone was asked to contribute a dessert.  I ran several possibilities by the kids and they settled on making an Igle, which is a layered sponge cake shaped and decorated to look like a hedgehog.  We haven't made it since Aden was diagnosed with a nut allergy years ago (the quills are slivered almonds) but she wanted to make it even if she couldn't have any because it's so cute and funny.  The kids did a great job!
Me and Ian, dressed up!
Quinn started Latin lessons this summer and got a little break from piano.  Mona made beautiful things.
Not much to report on the Mold-A-Rama front this summer, although we did add to our collection.  Thanks to a tip in the comments of one of my previous Mold-A-Rama posts we now know of a strange car museum near Chicago that has three Disney molds that they rotate through one at a time.  We stopped there on our way back to Wisconsin once, but they were closed.  We got to see this, though:
Next time we'll snag a figure.  However, our zoo did a dinosaur display that caused them to break out three of their dinosaur molds.  We picked up two when we went to visit the show, and later in the summer when my kids went back with their cousin they stumbled upon the third.  So, three more Mold-A-Ramas for the mantle!  That brings the family collection to 140.5.  (Someday, the zoos in St Paul and San Antonio--we must make it happen!)

The surprise party for cousin Carol and her son Jason was a big success and included a big cake:
It was at the pub (called Best Place) at the old Pabst brewery, which is beautiful and always fun to visit.  (First time I was there was with Ian for the Amazing Race on Bikes, so I'm never in the courtyard where I don't feel like I should be making a catapult.)
How can anyone not want to eat here?
With my uncle in town we also had a good excuse to go visit one of the iconic restaurants in Bay View that we drive by all the time but have never tried.  Three Brothers is a Serbian restaurant that hasn't really changed anything since it opened in the 50s and it's amazing.  (The night he arrived we also took John to Serb Hall for their Friday Night Fish Fry--which is a big deal in Milwaukee because everyone here has a Friday Night Fish Fry and the Serb Hall one is supposed to be one of the best.  So there was an unexpected Serbian theme to the weekend!)

There was a lot of reading this summer.  We've been going through the Golden Compass series together.  Quinn made a library out of his upper bunk a few years ago and we organized it a little so he could get back to reading up there again.  (I love that he tapes letters he receives in the mail on his wall.)
There were many art projects this summer.  Mona did a variety of sculptures and drawings, and Aden was inspired out of nowhere to make a wolf out of macaroni and hot glue.  My dad also did his last drawings while in the hospital and I was glad I got to watch him sketch.
Mona cheetah

Aden wolf
Dad sketching
And, of course, my kids got to meet their new baby cousin this summer.  Aden loved holding Rivyn!  And I loved seeing all five cousins together.  I know they will have great adventures together.  Everyone's excited about the idea that when Rivyn is old enough they can show him all the fun things at the cottage.

My friend, Lauren Fox, had a new novel come out!  It's called Days of Awe and it's excellent and you should all read it.  She happened to do a book reading in Ann Arbor the week after my dad died, so it was good to have something positive to focus on right around then.  My mom and brothers and best friend came along, too.

My brother, Barrett, got a beautiful trailer hitch.  Let us all admire it.
There was a lot of bouncing this summer.  The new trampoline was definitely a good investment.  Mona in particular spends a lot of time on it, sometimes just lying on her back and looking up at the leaves in the evening.  Ellora managed to convince my mom to try it at one point, and she admitted it was harder than it looked.
Summer means s'mores whenever we use the grill.
We did a lot of biking this summer.  Aden and Mona both got new bikes so there was a spare for Ellora to use.  I love biking along Lake Michigan.  We are lucky to live in a place with so many nice trails.  (And bunnies!  Milwaukee has been chock full of bunnies this summer.)

Quinn and the dog both got shaggy, then both got hair cuts so they could see again.  (They are both cute, but Chipper kind of crossed over into ridiculous because I let the kids instruct the groomer, and they wanted some semblance of a traditional poodle cut, and now his tail is like some weird palm tree he waves around.)

Chipper, all big head and tiny toes
Summer here also means Chill on the Hill.  There are free concerts in our park two blocks away every Tuesday evening all summer long.  The music ranges from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to rock and all kinds of odd stuff in between.  My cousin's band even played, which was really cool!  Regardless of the music, Chill on the Hill always means ice cream.

The biggest development for us as parents with Chill on the Hill was that the kids are old enough to get themselves to and from the park on their own.  Often Aden would stay until dark with her friends, long after the rest of us were ready to leave, and that was fine.  The other kids, as long as they stayed together, were allowed to go off to the playground by themselves while we listened to music.  It's such a far cry from having to keep an eye on everyone every minute.  I miss many things about when my kids were little, but I don't miss that.

I was swamped with work after being away from the violin store for so many weeks, but when the kids would visit from time to time I didn't have to miss them so much.
Luthier's eye view
We got to have Ellora with us for all of August and the first week of September.  She joined us for archery picnics, and got to be a pretty good shot after a bit of practice!

Mona on the range
My niece also got to join us on clothes shopping expeditions before the start of school (she and Mona picked up matching shirts!), and a morning volunteering at the food pantry.

Mona and Quinn, ready to hand out the last of the cans
We combined two of Ellora's favorite things one weekend by arranging a bike trip to the library.  (The only downside to that was the number of items we could check out was limited by the size of my backpack.)  Part of that trip included a stop at a weird hole in the wall restaurant for lunch that my kids now refer to as "the restaurant with everything" because the menu was all over the place.  (There was also a guy at the next table who, every time he got a new text--which was often--his phone would scream "I'm busy, Mom!" which kind of cracked us up.)  The only problem on that particular bike trip was when Quinn's new rainbow laces got tangled into his pedal, which took a while to undo, but compared to the problems of last year's attempt to bike a long distance with Quinn, that was nothin'.

We also took the kids to the Safe House.  We brought the girls there once a very long time ago, so this will be the first visit there they remember.  The Safe House is a spy themed restaurant downtown and it's awesome.  You need a password to get in, otherwise you wind up performing a bunch of silly tasks for the person at the door that everyone can watch on monitors at the bar inside.  I knew the password, and did give the kids the option of my simply telling it to them or going through the rite of passage that is performing in the lobby of the restaurant.  They all chose to just suffer the silly antics and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them on the TV inside.  There are too many fun things inside the Safe House to even attempt to list here, but suffice it to say I've decided the next time we go I will order the sandwich that arrives via pneumatic tube.  In order to get out of the restaurant you need to put a quarter into a pay phone that then opens a secret door to a corridor you follow until it spits you out into the alley.  The kids loved it.  (Didn't hurt that they all ordered the most chocolaty chocolate dessert I've ever seen.)
Kids at the false entrance to the Safe House
Escape out the secret passage!
First day of school!  I'm glad that my kids don't go back to school until September each year.  People were posting first day pictures on Facebook in early August, and that just feels crazy to me.  I love that my kids get a full summer off.  I want a full summer off!  In any case, my kids are now in eighth, sixth, and third grades.  Unbelievable.
My kids started school while we still had Ellora with us, so my mom came out to visit and she and Ellora did some fun things together.  Ellora had even gotten good enough at archery she was able to help her grandma give it a try.
Ian and I got in a little more biking with Ellora while our kids were in school.  She's lovely to have around.  We're so lucky to have her as part of our summers.

Mom came to Milwaukee as part of a plan to reunite Ellora with her dog, Pepper, and to deliver both of them to Chicago to meet up with Arno and get all of that family on a plane back to New York.  I loved having all of them around. 
Mom, Ellora, and Pepper at the violin store

Mona and Quinn inexplicably decided it was time to make all their Valentines.  Mona was inspired to make little puff ball creatures to hand out to everyone, and Quinn liked them enough she showed him how to make them, too, and they got to work.  So that's done.  I have no idea why, but I suppose it's one less thing to worry about half a year in advance.
Bay View has a wonderful farmer's market from June to October.  Lots of beautiful food and flowers, kids and dogs.  I got to play there one morning with the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra.  (I always like a gig I can walk to.)

We also did a little bit of exploring last month during Doors Open Milwaukee again.  Nothing grand, but we did finally see the inside of the printing shop two blocks from us that I've always been curious about, and we got to see the Fire Museum which is only open four hours a month so we've never been in it.  (Lots of old fire equipment and a timeline of all the big fires that have happened in the city--some interesting history.)  I put in a request to see if the violin store could be on the Doors Open tour next year, so we'll see!  Could be fun.

Axe sharpening wheel on the back of a truck!
The same day as Doors Open we also went to Bug Day at the Wehr Nature Center.  Our friend Howard is a naturalist there, and they do an annual hands-on bug event that's a lot of fun.

The tarantula table!

Howard handing Mona a millipede

Quinn checking out aquatic bugs
Our life is mostly the land of projects, though.  The dining room table is busy place, covered in puff balls and jewels and pipe cleaners, and the hot glue gun is usually on.  Aden is working on her portfolio for applying to the High School of the Arts, and now I know it's never too early to make Valentines.  I need to post this and start clearing room for the Halloween costumes.
So I'll leave you with one last photo to ponder.  Points to anyone who can figure out where this lovely shot of Mona was taken! 


  1. I guess I'm missing something. Are you planning an additional posting or series of posts devoted to my beautiful new trailer hitch? Why so much filler? Can you talk more about my hitch? I'm sure your readership is brimming with questions about the background, make and model of my new hitch.

    1. We don't want to make the masses too jealous about your hitch. Yes, I buried the lede, but it seemed kinder. But I can forward any burning inquiries your way.

      Surprised you didn't have a guess about the last photo!

  2. Was it at American Science and Surplus? And I want to know more about the hitch? Diameter? What is he hauling, etc?
    Paul P

    1. Ding ding ding! Yes, American Science and Surplus remains one of our favorite places. We went there for magnets which we then broke before we got to use them in our top levitating project.

      Barrett will have to fill anyone in on hitch details. The original plan was to haul away the things he had in storage at the house after dad died so mom would have less to deal with. But after going to the trouble and expense of installing that hitch there was not a single trailer to be rented in all of Detroit! None! So... he went home with just the hitch.