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A Ton of Projects and Three Blind Mice

We have very little scheduled for summer here.  A few swim classes, the regular violin lessons toned down a bit for vacation, and a little bit of school review for the kids in the mornings so they don’t forget everything by fall.  I have work, a few rehearsals….  But overall summer break is pretty free form.  For most people it would look like a pretty lazy summer.

But my kids take after me in that the more time there is available, the more ways we find to fill it up.  No one here is ever bored.  My kids are up at dawn and squeaking, and there are a lot of projects.

Mona continues to crank out paper creations.  She has stepped up the level of her production since we started supplying her with colored duct tape.  One of my favorite creations of late was this cup o’ snakes.  You probably didn’t realize the world needed a cup o’ snakes until you saw it, but now you know.

Aden’s projects tend toward food (I taught her how to use the oven without help, and now she can make cookies from scratch completely on her own!), games, or science.  This was her own version of a kite last time it got really windy:

(Pretty good use of a grocery bag, I think.)

And the other day she made a volcano and invited us all into the kitchen to watch the baking soda and vinegar eruption.

What I’d like her to do is either finish or completely abandon the popsicle stick log cabin we started at the book club meeting we had about Little House on the Prairie.  One of the craft projects we did to accompany that book was build little houses, but Aden was being very particular about how hers would look and she took too long and now it just sits.  But she’s too distracted by all her new games and projects to do something with it now.

She also has a project to make a marionette made out of a baking soda can and a bunch of empty spools that never quite got done.  But how do you force someone to finish a marionette?  That’s just not the hill I want to die on.

Quinn continues to lay things out in rows.

(Quinn with his Bananagram game that we’ve never learned the rules to because he’d rather just lay out the letters in order and then make words on his own.)

He also wants to learn to play chess, but we haven’t gotten much past just teaching him how all the pieces move.  He’s not sure what to do on his turn without coaching yet, but I think by the end of the summer he should have the basics down.  In the meantime he and his sister play checkers.

In between projects there is a lot of bouncing, elaborate games that seem to use all of their toys at once, and when it’s not cold or raining they set up a lemonade stand.  As I said, they are not bored.

Most of Ian’s projects involve his computer.  I take it on good authority from people who understand what he’s doing that he’s quite brilliant, and I believe that because any old odd thing I ask him to make a computer do he can make happen, but I don’t get what’s involved in all of that.  He built his own router, for instance, to which I said, “Good for you!” but that had my brain-mapping brother’s jaw on the floor because he actually appreciated what it means.  The funny thing is that everything Ian does on the computer looks the same to me, so he could be writing code, reading a book, playing a game, and I can’t tell the difference.  But he politely listens to me say things like, “I planed my rib assembly taper and it came out 0.2mm low in the lower bouts but the twist is gone so I’m happy,” so it all balances out.

The main project I’m trying to work on is a new violin I’m building on commission for someone.  I end up doing most of the work very late at night after the kids are in bed.  It’s not that they mean to disturb me while I work, but I don’t like to turn away hugs or cuteness, and there is always the potential for disaster with kids around.  When my bending iron is plugged in I don’t like to risk that I may forget about it because someone needs a bandaid, and some steps like gluing can’t be interrupted.  So I wait until everyone is asleep.

This is what a bending iron looks like:

It’s used for bending strips of maple into the right shapes for the sides (ribs) of a violin.  (It’s also used for bending linings and purfling, which is just techno babble to most people but I mention it so my luthier friends don’t roll their eyes and say, “Well, it’s not JUST for ribs….”)

When all the ribs are bent I glue them to the blocks attached to my form:

(The form is just for building the ribs around–it gets removed before the instrument is finished, just in case anyone thought maybe that big piece of wood stays inside the instrument.)  This particular violin is based on a Guarneri del Gesu model from 1737.  It’s a fun model to build.

So, I’m making progress, but it’s harder to find the time for this project than I’d like.

What kinds of projects do I end up working on instead of my violin?  Things like repairing wind-up mice.  On Father’s Day we let Ian pick where we should go and what we should do, and we ended up at American Science and Surplus, which is a fun and eccentric store full of a crazy variety of things.  There were very cheap wind-up mice for sale that day, so we let each of the kids pick one out.  Within hours the plastic tail came off of Aden’s.  I told her I would replace it with a better tail.  So the next thing I knew, Mona had deliberately snapped the tail off her mouse hoping for an upgrade.  Then Quinn’s mouse lost its tail.  I sang them the song about the three blind mice and the woman who cut of their tails with a carving knife and they were horrified.

In any case, I cut some strips of dark red leather that I had at the shop and used epoxy to affix them to the mechanical stumps that the plastic tails were once attached to.

(Prep for mouse tail surgery)

(Peppermint, Chocolate, and Cupcake, all with new tails.  Children should not name toy pets while hungry.)

That was time spent that I could have been doing violin work.  Now ask me how quickly after getting their mice back they all broke off the turnkey or messed up the springs inside rendering them immobile.  (Actually, don’t ask, because it’s sadder than the blind mice song.)

It’s harder to keep the house clean lately.  I’m tracking wood shavings all over.  Sometimes I look around my shop and think when people ask what I make I should just say, “Wood chips” and it would be a more accurate description of what’s going on.  There are bits of duct tape everywhere, and scissors and crayons.  You don’t want to know what kind of debris is left over from a volcano project.

But I like that we are a house of projects both big and small.

And of course if they run out of projects there is always hula hooping on rocks to do.

(Because that’s good for a mom’s nerves.  Sheesh.  Their dad lets them climb the rocks by the lake, and I’m just the worried looking figure off to the side saying “Be careful!” over and over, because I’m fun like that.)

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