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.

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.