Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sean at 11

"What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don't. You open your eyes and everything's just like yesterday, only it's today. And you don't feel eleven at all. You feel like you're still ten. And you are --underneath the year that makes you eleven."

From one of my favorite short stories, Eleven by Sandra Cisneros

The many Seans within his 11 year old self.

Sean let me know, the day before his birthday, that his great heroic journey was about to begin. 

"Harry was 11 when he went to Hogwarts," he explained, "and Link is 11 when he starts his journey. Eleven is also the Ewok age of coming, when they get their slingshot and put on their hood." Sean is an Ewok expert.

It is also the birthday that I've been thinking about ever since we finished the Harry Potter series. I had to search past Facebook posts to remember exactly when we finished:

[note to self: Facebook is a pain to search. Do not use it as your memory-keeper!]

When we finished the book, Sean asked me if I thought he might get a letter from Hogwarts on his 11th birthday. He confided that he knew we were all muggles but he thought he just might be wizard.

And so was born the idea of surprising him on his 11th birthday with a letter...

It includes an invitation to Hogwarts... at Universal Studios for this fall. 

I wanted to capture Sean at age 11 in this post, but that's an impossible task. He is growing and changing and figuring out who he wants to be. He is a bit adamant about being a nerd, and his two best buddies, Leo and Luke, have joined him in what they call the "nerd herd" at lunch. My understanding is that their game involves a mish-mash of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. 

I see no conflict with Sean's embrace of nerd culture and his love of sports, but he does and we have ongoing conversations about stereotypes and not needing to conform to any one box. He still loves soccer and running, and is playing baseball this spring (when the snow allows). He loves cheering for the Blackhawks along with his dad.

Some things remain constant, like Sean's love of reading, writing, drawing and acting. Here's a glimpse at some of his past roles:

(Superman, Buzz Lightyear, the Wise Man, "An Old-fashioned Thanksgiving," Huck Finn, and an elf in "The Hobbit")

Current Favorites at age 11:
  • Color: Green
  • Food: Hamburgers
  • Dessert: Hawaiian Ice
  • Book: Fellowship of the Ring
  • Movie: Star Wars
  • Song: "Concerning Hobbits"
  • Game: Ocarina of Time
  • Sport: Soccer

He still plays violin (above with his two best buds), and has been teaching himself the piano this year. He says he still plans to live in the Irish countryside and be a blacksmith, as well as write and draw comics. 

Just before his birthday, his godfather, Uncle Kevin came to visit. In a magical, serendipitous moment Sean asked my brother, who has never been into videogames really, what his favorite game was as a kid, and he said, "Probably Ocarina of Time." I don't think Kevin knew that Sean is slightly obsessed with Legend of Zelda, was Link for Halloween (even though everyone thought he was Peter Pan) and has taught himself to play the theme of Ocarina of Time on the piano. He was on cloud nine having Uncle Kevin play with him and point out things he never knew. For me, it was a "cup overflows" moment of gratitude.

Kevin also gave him a few too many tips on chess, and taught me, a rudimentary player, how to castle correctly. For his birthday, Sean received a book on how to beat anyone at chess, with key points highlighted by Kevin and annotated with his own advice. The rest of us have been forbidden to read any of it, and I think it may be my favorite gift any of our boys have ever received.

The past year also brought Eve, Sean's long-longed for tortoise, and a side gig as a personal trainer, and his first non-party birthday party (we stop at age 10) which involved pizza and ice cream cake, his best buds, "Jungle Book" at the theater, and a ton of time on the trampoline, playing Wii, and ghost in the graveyard. For his first year without a party, it still felt a lot like a party.

Then again, most things with Sean do feel like a party. In January he told me his goal for 2016 was to be more positive, which I thought funny because he is a pretty positive kid. A long time ago I said something to him and Nolan about how we can choose to make "a heaven or a hell" out of anything, and he loves to remind me of that whenever I throw a fit. He still loves to snuggle, still loves to wrestle his dad, and is the bridge in our family between the childhood world of Nolan and the teen world of Aidan. 

I'm excited to witness the heroic journey ahead!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Best Songs of 2015

We listened to a lot of music this year, but most of it was the boys' picks.

Man, that makes me feel old.

Image result for 2016 album covers

We are in transition with music.We have not yet found the perfect solution or service.

We were old school. Not vinyl, not that old school. But we bought songs and liked making our own mixed CDs which we would then play for two months or so on the CD player in the minivan. And in this way, every season had its own soundtrack. Songs we associated with that time in our life.

Image result for vance joy album cover

But we sold the mini van and so, it seems time to let go of CDs at last.

We tried Apple Music for the free three month trial. Aidan loved it, but me not so much. Granted I never took the time to dive in and set it up so I'd like it, but I've been burned too often with iTunes and creating playlist that then disappear.

We've tried Pandora and Spotify and Brian has his own subscription to Sirus radio (actually two now, one for his truck and one for when he drives my car).

And honestly, if I'm alone, I'm going to pick a podcast or audiobook over music most of the time. And I find myself wanting to either hear reliable favorites or classical music. I've enjoyed driving home after work to movie soundtracks like "Cinema Paradiso" and "Out of Africa."

So yes, I am old.

Still, Aidan has gotten good at predicting songs I will enjoy. None of the boys want to hear Adele's "Hello" again, because I chose it almost every time it was my turn to request a song from Siri. That or John Legend's "All of Me."

Image result for John Legend Love in the Future

Some of the songs that graced our kitchen or car in 2015:

Flame and Flood by Vance Joy
Top of the World by Imagine Dragons
Demons by Imagine Dragons
(actually, that was a CD in heavy rotation prior to the car swap---so all of Imagine Dragons)
Footsteps by Pop Evin
Phoenix by Fall Out Boy
Simple Song by the Shins
Renegades by X Ambassadors
Burn It Down by Linkin Park
Castle of Glass by Linkin Park
Art Demons by Glitch Mob
Concerning Hobbits (from the soundtrack)
Acarina of Time (that was Sean's pick 99% of the time)

Image result for Fall Out Boy American Beauty/American Psycho
When we lived in Moab, and the boys had their own Saturday radio show, we kept a playlist on Google Music. I loved that I could access it anywhere. 

I'm not sharing this rambling post on Facebook or anywhere else, but if you have found a music solution, let us know. Our music is all over the place now, some bought on iTunes, some from Amazon, some from Google, and then playlists on Soundcloud. We need to find a home for our music in 2016.

Best Books of 2015

Yes, it is ridiculous that I'm posting a best of 2015 in late March. I find this blog serves as my memory more and more lately though, and well, I'd rather it be late than never done at all.

Starting work in February colored my whole year. I bought myself  Middlemarch just before I returned to work, and guess what? Still haven't read it. I know I will enjoy it...eventually. I loved Better Than Before, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and Godin's What to Do When it's Your Turn (and it's Always Your Turn) but all three were books that I read by skipping here and there. So that, even though I've probably read all three more than once at this point, I still have that nagging feeling I may have missed a page and haven't counted them as finished yet.

Here are the books I did finish---missing a handful, like Where the Red Fern Grows, Emily Henderson's Styled and Brooklyn

Favorite novels: All the Light We Cannot See and What Alice Forgot; they couldn't be more different but both made me oh so happy while I was reading them. 

Favorite nonfiction: Brown Girl Dreaming

Favorite read-aloud with my boys: Peter Pan and Harriet the Spy and Little Women

I liked Eleanor & Park a lot, and got so much out of The Zimzum of Love. I checked Design Mom out of the library and just loved every page of it. I don't want to forget reading Young Fu at night with Sean, and Little Women with him and Nolan. Recently Nolan said someone was like Jo and I asked Jo who, and he said in his shocked voice, "Have you forgotten Jo March?" No, Nolie, never.

Essentialism was also very good, and came at the right time. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? was brilliant and funny, and Aidan loved it too.

I read more books I disliked in 2015 than possibly any other, maybe because of book club picks or maybe because of me. 2015 was rough.

One highlight was a reading challenge my friend Lara and I took on to read a short story a day during May, national short story month. And I loved it. I ended up skipping some days and reading more the next, but read 31 stories that month and wrote about it here

A year of starts and stops (those last 30 pages of Big Burn are still waiting for me! Maybe today I'll finish it up). I read Savor in a gulp even though it is meant to be a daily read---because it was from the library. Love Lisa Congden's Fortune Favors the Brave and have kept it on my shelf at work for courage. 

The handful of books I loved last year were worth all the forgettable pages from books I didn't love. Walking three miles with my boys to Barnes & Noble was a highlight, as were our many trips to the library and our new Mother's Day tradition of going to Tattered Cover in Denver.

My OLW for 2016 is rest, and in terms of reading, it means reaching for what I want, regardless of internal "shoulds" about finishing what's on my nightstand before starting another. Right now that means following up one Ruth Reichl with another. Here's to a year of good books! 

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