Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Five Things I Learned in May

Inspired by Emily Freeman’s series and a tradition in my besties’ annual letters, I’m sharing a few of the things I learned this month.

1. Ten is probably the ideal age to meet Anne Shirley, but 46 works too.



A terrible wrong has at last been made right; I have finally read Anne of Green Gables.
Confession: I was afraid it might feel like a chore. Slow and old-fashioned. Instead I was surprised at how funny it was, how delightful, and how resonant. I would have loved them even more at 10, but am looking forward to making my way through the series in my 40s.

2. My middlest has created his own font.



He only uses it for his signature, and each character not only represents a sound but an element of Sean's personality: his love of PacMan, Legend of Zelda, LoTR and koalas.

3. My youngest is a dapper man.



Nolan made his first communion in May. Brian's mom and my sister Maria joined us, which made it all the more special, especially with Nolie's best buddy/cousin Henry joining in the fun. Nolie asked if he could wear a tuxedo, a word I'm not 100% sure how he knows, but we did the best we could (after I realized ...the day before...that I no longer had the suit his big brothers had worn). He loved the outfit so much he asked if he could wear it to school the next day.

4. The red-coated girl who can't lower her arms is a favorite of book cover designers.


I was debating between these two titles when my son pointed out they had the same girl on their covers. I hadn't even noticed. We started making up stories about this girl in a red coat who isn't raising her arms in jubilation but because she can't lower them. We'll be on the look out for her on more covers!

5. When you own your breath, no one can steal your peace.


I follow therealflyingyogini on Instagram, and this bit of random wisdom she posted hit me as a I scrolled. Much of what I really learned this spring is that no one can steal your peace. I'm learning the same old lessons, but I do feel this spring has taken them to a new level of understanding. I'm hopeful that new ways of thinking will lead to new patterns and new results, in a variety of areas. And that I'll remember to focus on my breath when I start chasing approval and accomplishments.





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.



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