Monday, August 1, 2016

Summer Update

Summer seems to be racing by faster than usual this year.  We're making the most of it, though!  Compared to the trauma of last summer almost anything would be a welcome break this time around, but even with the vacation bar set low I feel we're helping make some great memories for our kids.

To me the essence of summer vacation is being unscheduled, getting outside, having time to do projects purely for fun, a cookout, reading for hours on end, bare feet, watching movies/TV way too late into the night, and a road trip.  By those measures it's been a quintessential summer break, and there's still some left, so life is good.

After our trip to Washington D.C. we had a few days at home together, and then Ian took the kids off to the cottage.  I had to stay behind in Milwaukee to work, but I loved that my kids got to meet up with their cousin in Michigan and just be at the lake.  My mom and my brother were there, too, and Ian emailed me reports of much swimming and fishing and cookie baking.

It's weird living in our house with just the dog.  I kept Chipper with me because I needed the company, but he was so sad.  He kept wandering into the kids' rooms to look forlornly at their empty beds.  After a couple of days he begged to go out the back door (which is odd--he's the only dog I know who hides when you offer to walk him), then begged to go into the garage, then begged to get into the car (another thing he doesn't like), and then he climbed into the backseat and wouldn't leave.  I think he wanted me to drive him to wherever the kids were.  I left the doors open to everything for over an hour in the hopes he'd come back in the house, but eventually I drove him around the neighborhood a bit and when we returned home he bounded inside.  I think he believed some kind of magic would have happened and everyone would be back again on our return, but when he got in the house everything about him just drooped in disappointment.

The opposite of the depressed dog was when I got him out of the kennel on the ferry.  I managed to get away to join everyone at the cottage for a weekend, and the only convenient way to do that is to take the high speed ferry across Lake Michigan.  I've never taken the dog on the ferry before, but they have a kennel down with the cars and attendants make sure the dogs get water and treats.  I thought the dog was going to wag us both to death when I got him out of there, and his joy at being reunited with the kids again was something to behold.

The cottage remains wonderful.  Mona caught many frogs this year.  Quinn caught many fish.  We played badminton on the beach.  The kids swam at The Point, and crossed the island on the other side to use the rope swing there at the other sandy spot they have dubbed The Pointless.  We ate literally pounds of blueberries from a local farm.  There was Monopoly and Boggle and we stayed up very late to watch both Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle.  I got to help everyone do tie dying, and Aden was finally successful in making a real spiral pattern on a shirt the way she always wanted.

Aden has also been interested in real cooking lately.  The morning she left for the cottage she made beignets for breakfast to use up some buttermilk.
So it was great for her to have time to cook with my mom at the cottage, and she also pulled out my grandma's recipe box in the kitchen there and made one thing from it every day.  Most of the time that was cookies, but she also made a delicious meatloaf for dinner one night all on her own and I was really impressed.

It was really hard to leave everyone.  The cottage is so restful and timeless.  I can barely convey what it means to me to wake up there with my husband and to see my kids play there with their cousin and to watch my mom draw there at the table.  I didn't have nearly enough time to enjoy with my brother, but I'm glad I got to see him and walk with him in the woods.

counter, cabinet, tile
Back at home (with the dog) in Milwaukee I concentrated on cleaning out the kitchen in preparation for the renovation.  That was a lot of work.  I took a lot of bags to Goodwill, stored many things in the basement, and tried to find space for food and things we will still want to use in the dining room.  For anyone interested in the color scheme of the new kitchen, we are going with dark oak cabinets to match the woodwork in the rest of the house, light quartz counters (with sparkles in them!), and green tiles for the back splash.  The floors will be light maple, and the walls a white that goes with the green in the tile.  The goal is to have the kitchen done in time to host Thanksgiving.  We'll see.

Also with everyone gone I got to work on editing my second novel, finally, but I didn't have the help available I was hoping for so that got waylayed a bit.  But it's a start!  I plan to finish that novel this year if it kills me because I can't have it hanging over my head anymore.  (Plus there is the draft of the third novel just sitting there--I will never get to writing anything new unless I get the old projects wrapped up, so I've decided to make that my focus for a while.)

The oddest part about being home alone is how clean everything stays.  It's nice at first, and then a little creepy.  I wish there were a happy balance where there could be just enough evidence of my kids being around and busy but not, like, a mess to worry about.  You know, a couple of shoes to move or a puzzle out, but not dirty dishes hidden everywhere and wet towels left on wooden furniture.  I want so badly to not get annoyed by such things, but ugh.

I got to enjoy everyone back home together for about a day, and then we all packed up and headed to Door County this past weekend for our second wedding event of the summer.  It was the wedding of a former student of mine and it couldn't have been lovelier.  Andrea is a student I started teaching at the Conservatory when she was eight, and I got to watch her grow and learn and I even got to custom make her a violin when she went off to college.  (She paid for a good portion of that instrument through barter by watching my kids for me while I worked in my shop during my husband's first deployment.  My kids lit up every time they heard she'd be coming to babysit.)

When you teach you get to peek a bit into the lives of other families, and most of them are fine and some are baffling and some you just adore.  Andrea's family was easy to adore.  When Ian was deployed and I had to slash the size of my teaching studio and move it to my home, one of the stipulations to the families I kept was that I'd need them to help watch my kids while I was teaching theirs.  Andrea's parents were actually excited by the opportunity rather than seeing that as a burden, and even made time to help me out when Ian was deployed the second time and I needed someone to play with Quinn at the store.  Few things make you feel more fortunate than knowing such good people.

So what a lovely thing to know the feeling is mutual, because you're never really sure of your impact as a teacher as you're working.  I want so much for people to enjoy making music, and I work hard to try to figure out the best way to fit violin into their lives.  I've never believed lessons are just for those who pursue music as a career.  There is certainly a track for that and it's laudable, but many people make wonderful music as sideline to their main occupation and that should be honored too.  I think of myself sometimes as the champion of the amateur, which I'm sure in some players' eyes puts me on a lower tier, but that's the tier where I want to be.  To hear from Andrea's mother that the way I taught inspired Andrea to continue to play through college and beyond is amazing.

When Andrea contacted me to ask if I would play at her wedding I was deeply touched.  (After getting over the shock that I am so old that one of my tiny students was getting married.)  I also didn't want to play alone, so I asked if anyone else in attendance played, and it turned out another former student of mine--her high school stand partner--was also invited.  We got in touch and worked out some duets, and it was a doubly moving experience for me to not only be asked to play for one former student on a big day, but to work with another former student as a colleague.  (I taught her well--she sounded great!)

before the event in the pretty church
Andrea and Princess, all grown up
The wedding was beautiful and my kids got more practice dressing up.  Although we had one setback where Quinn managed to pack everything for the wedding trip but his wedding clothes.  I must have reminded him a hundred times to lay out his good clothes, but did not actually inspect his suitcase before we left.  At least he caught his error the night before and not half an hour before the wedding itself, so we had time to drive to Walmart and cobble something together that wasn't flip flops and shorts.  And now we have more recital clothes, so it's all good.  (But I am personally inspecting his bag before our next trip.)
My kids after the wedding at the tip of the thumb of Door County
Door County is fun.  It's the kind of Midwestern tourist location that many people think of when they think of visiting Wisconsin, but to my kids it was foreign, which means we need to get out to local sight-seeing places more.  To them Wisconsin is an urban environment, and they were surprised to learn people from our area and neighboring states think of it the way we think of the cottage, as a place to enjoy woods and water and ice cream stands.

We made the most of our little bit of Door County time.  We took the kids to their first drive-in, saw shooting stars and the Milky Way, watched cable in the hotel room, saw goats on a roof, played mini golf, admired the gorgeous landscape and water, and had fun being together in a new place.

There was a peculiar realization at one point for me and Ian, though.  I was reading aloud on the drive up from a book in the "My Family and Other Animals" series, and there was a passage about ant lions.  I know about ant lions because when we were at the cottage one time my brother Barrett pointed them out to us.  There were little dimples in the sand around the edge of the porch most of which were created by water falling off the roof, but Barrett spotted one dimple in the sand that was somehow different from the others and said it was the lair of an ant lion larva.  He proceeded to scoop up a hapless ant nearby and toss it into the small depression in the ground.  As soon as the ant tried to crawl its way out, a flurry of sand came up from the center knocking it down into the hole, where eventually it was grabbed and dragged under by the ant lion.  It was incredible!  We asked Barrett to do it again and again.  (Spending time with Barrett means discovering wild happenings on a very small scale.)

Anyway, we got to the description in the book of ant lions and Ian and I smiled and asked the kids if they remembered the time Barrett showed us that one at the cottage and they all looked confused.  We decided it was probably before Quinn was born and Mona was too little, but surely Aden remembered?  No, she did not.  Then we thought about it some more and realized we don't think Barrett has had a chance to go to the cottage since before Aden was born.  First of all, that's just wrong, he needs to get back out to the cottage.  But the other thing is that it's hard for us not to insert the kids into our memories at this point.

In my mind, the kids were there.  They couldn't have been, but they would have loved it, and it's hard to imagine a world without them in it.  I see so much anymore through eyes that include them and consider their reactions.  I can't automatically trust that what I remember with them is real because I can't undo their existence in my mind.  My life before kids is hard to recall in many ways.  I know the details and can tell you the stories, but they barely feel like my stories anymore.  They belong to someone else who lived at a time when there was no Aden, no Mona, no Quinn.  That's not a world that feels real to me.  That's not a place I'd willingly go back to.

I think the intriguing part of reaching middle age is being in that odd flux of looking forward and looking back in a jumble.  There is probably more life behind me than before me, which is unsettling, but not scary.  There is a lot from my younger days that I'm glad I don't have to worry about now, and there is a lot to look forward to.  Summer is a jumble like that too, where we're halfway through the year and there is still some time to play, but plans to make as you look ahead to the end of it and figure out what you hope to accomplish.

Today all I plan to do is be with my husband and my kids.  I couldn't ask for a better summer day.


  1. Korinthia, what a gift it was to have you and Princess share in Andi's wedding day. The music was wonderful! And it was so nice to have some time to talk with you. You have been a true inspiration for Andi, but also for me. We can't thank you enough!
    Love, Kate

    1. What a wonderful weekend! Thank you so much for inviting us be a part of it. What an amazing woman your daughter has grown to be, and Steve looks like a worthy person who makes her happy. Glad I could offer up a little music as part of such a lovely event.