Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Late for the Sky

A while back Mary Alice and I exchanged a list of songs that fit some unique form of favorites---either songs we wished we could sing or songs for the soundtrack of our life. That sort of thing. MA is 100x more aware of new music and all trends than I am. Among the many reasons I'm grateful for her friendship are the songs she has introduced to me.



Lfts1_2 I remember driving around LA with her when she first played Dar Williams' "When I Was a Boy" for me. Sometimes I need to hear a song many times before it can find its way into my thick skull. And then there are those songs, like "When I Was a Boy" or "Mercy Now" or "Reason Why" that just have immediate impact. And MA has a gift for finding them.



I knew most of the songs on MA's list, but she also listed "Late for the Sky" by Jackson Browne, which I didn't recognize. I ended up downloading it and fell in love with it. Became obsessed with it. So many good lines, lines of hope and even more of despair and disillusionment:



“How long have I been sleeping? / How long have I been drifting alone through the night?”



The one cure I've found for my peculiar form of OCD: Google. I googled Late for the Sky. I expected to find only lyrics or downloads. Instead I found Paste, and an article on Jackson Browne from 2003 that captured exactly what was haunting me about Late for the Sky. I had never heard of Paste Magazine (no big surprise there---it started in 2002, the year Aidan was born and I lost touch with the world), but twice it's made the Chicago Tribune's list of the best magazines. It's tagline: Signs of Life in Music, Film & Culture. And each issue comes with a sampler CPaste_magazineD or DVD of short films, etc.



And, inspired no doubt by Radiohead's latest experiment, for the next two weeks, Paste is letting subscribers pay what they want for a year's subscription. Now that I've just discovered them, I hope that doesn't put them out of business.



Finally, while searching Late for the Sky, I found this excerpt from Bruce Springsteen's speech at Jackson Browne's induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If, like me, you only associate Jackson Browne with tunes like "Somebody's Baby", listen to the entire Late for the Sky album. I love how Springsteen describes it here:



"Listen to the chord changes of 'Rock Me On the Water' and 'Before the Deluge,' it's gospel through and through. Now I always thought that... our job here on earth, the way we regain our divinity, our sacredness, and our general good-standing is by reconstructing love and creating love out of the broken pieces that we've been given. That's all we have of human promise. That's the way we prove ourselves in the eyes of God and facilitate our own redemption. Now, to me Jackson Browne's work was always the sound of that reconstruction."






Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Bonfire



Walling_halloween_bonfire_4



Click on any image for a larger view of the photos.



Amy & Jimmy threw  a great Halloween party last night (they're the pirate and wench in the photo above). For some unfathomable reason, people were less than impressed with my costume as a pregnant mother of two boys. Maybe next year. The highlight of the evening for Brian was winning the candy corn-guessing contest---look at that smile! Amy had Pin the Broom on the Witch, Bean Bag Pumpkin games, and the cutest gift bags that looked like little witches' brooms. Lots of yummy adult drinks and goodies for the kids, plus a cheese and a caramel fondue. Yum!



Walling_bonfire_2






Saturday, October 27, 2007

Movies

We see so few movies these days that having a category for this topic might be overly optimistic.



But I still love them. Autumn is my favorite season, and added to that, the best time of year to be a movie-lover. Most Oscar contenders haven't opened yet; instead you have that wonderful sense of anticipation, in which the movies exist only in your mind and have yet to disappoint. It looks like a great year for movies, but then again it usually does in October.



0801ebertautosized258Adding to my delight, Roger Ebert is back to writing reviews. Alleluia. Growing up just outside Chicago in a movie-passionate family,  I considered Ebert and Siskel part of our mental landscape. Watching the show, I always preferred Siskel, but once I was old enough to read Ebert, there was no competition. I don't always agree with him, and I'm not usually reading him for a recommendation, though I get many. I read him for his writing. As a long time fan, I love when his review becomes less about the movie and just a great essay, as they often do. I love when he gives  a glimpse into his days in Champaign, IL, as he does once again in his recent review of Music Within. With any critic, you need to know their weaknesses, and we used to joke that you had to subtract at least one star from any Ebert review of a movie that was animated, featured the relationship between a young boy and a dog, or contained a lesbian love scene. 



My brother Kevin recently emailed asking, "Is Ebert only watching films that he knows are probably better than the rest of the lot or is he just passing out 3-star and 4-star ratings like candy?" Our ever-resourceful brother Martin found the answer, directly from Ebert himself toward the bottom of this page.



Other movie notes:



1. "Away From Her" got a strong review from Ebert. It's at the top of our netflix list because a friend recommended 3 indie pictures: "The Treatment", "Sweet Land" and this. The first two have already disappointed. Both are the kind of movie that you enjoy more on reflection rather than while watching them. They contain good scenes and an element of loveliness (especially Sweet Land) but neither work fully. Bad pacing, awkwardness. So I was going to boot Away from Her, but now it's got a second chance.



2. "Dan in Real Life" ---this looks like the kind of sweet, unchallenging movie that is needed at times. And despite how simple they seem, they must be awfully difficult to make because I can't think of the last time I saw one we liked. "The Family Stone" had that potential last year, but didn't quite succeed. There are so many bad ones ("Must Love Dogs") for every "When Harry Met Sally." And then there is the golden child, the romantic comedy that actually does make you think, ala "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Dare I hope for one this year?



3. Casey Affleck in "Gone Baby Gone". I don't know if the movie will be any good. But I think Casey was the best thing in "The Last Kiss" and I'm just glad to hear he's in a starring role.



4. John Cusack in two potentially good movies this season: "The Martian Child" and "Df02298fGrace is Gone". I so badly want to see him do well, but really can't handle another "Serendipity."



5. I want to see "My Kid Could Paint That", "Bella", "Into the Wild", "Michael Clayton", "Juno," "Atonement," and the Russian version of "12 Angry Men."



6. So sad that "Margo at the Wedding" looks bad.



7. So annoyed to see "Golden Compass" is being touted as "anti-Catholic" by people who haven't read the book or seen the movie. Not my genre of choice, but it was one of those books I had to read because so many students begged me to...and it does contain satire of organized religions and zealots. And, yes, the author is a passionate atheist. Does that mean a person of faith shouldn't read him? Newsflash: a great deal of good AND evil has been done in the name of religions.



8. So disappointed that what I thought for all of 30 seconds was a new Cohen brothers' movie based on the Irish book No Country for Young Men is really an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men.



9. "I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With": Before I knew it was set in Chicago, before I knew it starred Bonnie Hunt and Amy Sedaris, I loved it for the title.






Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Favorite and more Batman & Robin

Batmanrobin013_2 Aidanasbatman_2



Just had to include a couple more of these two Super dudes!















This is a mom Friday Favorite: The Snack Trap



Pegstclrsw_2  Gramare originally gave one to Aidan. It became our standard birthday gift to every 3 year old we knew. Easy to hold, not easy to spill all over. Perfect for roadtrips. We usually keep a container in our pantry filled with cheddar bunnies, cashews, and raisins. That's our go-to snack trap mix.



We also have a tendency to lose these, but they aren't too expensive. They also offer a lid that fits over the accessible lid, which is worth getting so that the crumbs from the cup don't end up in the bottom of your backpack.






Fires & Blogs

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Dscn6547_2 Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost their homes or been displaced from their homes, and with the men and women on the fire lines in California.



Both photos are actually from a fire in Idaho that Brian was on in September. It too broke all previous records for that area. We taped an excellent segment that 60 Minutes did on the connection between global warming and the increased intensity of wildfires. You can check it out here.



Now that our little guessing game (which you can still enter by posting at the bottom of this page) has made the site public, I find myself having to kick a lot of people out of my head while writing. A friend was describing a frustrating phone call that involved too much "minutia of Moab" and I couldn't help thinking that might be an appropriate subtitle for this blog. Because ultimately, that's what I'm interested in, the minutia of our lives.



I have a good friend whose life couldn't be more different than ours---he recently lived in the Republic of Georgia for over a year, and is now teaching in Beijing. While our taste in movies and books overlap, I am sure when I start posting on other passions of mine like scrapbooking, he'll be forced to look away. However different the minutia of our life, I adore Dzhon because he has a way with words that clarifies things I've been unable to articulate for myself. I love what he wrote to me this week about his own enjoyment of blogging: 



I've gradually come to realize that blogging is useful to me as an exercise and an outlet, so the rest is gravy. Writing is a form of reification: of holding our lives at arms length outside of the echo chambers of our heads and gaining some perspective on them. It submits thoughts to the discipline of grammar...which, surprisingly often, forces a reassessment of the thoughts themselves.



The main response to the blog, beside kind compliments, has been: how do you have time? I get that same response over reading books or scrapbooking. Ultimately, we all make time for what we want to. That isn't the same as having time for all that we want to. I wish we did---I wish I was practicing the guitar daily instead of just storing it in a closet; I wish I was learning to use the sewing machine I asked Brian for two years ago; I wish the stack of books on my nightstand got more attention. We all make choices. Writing for me is as relaxing as watching TV is for others, and just as addictive. I wish I was as passionate (or even slightly enthusiastic) about exercise as most--no, ALL of my friends here. My main passions are words and images and this little family of ours.



And in keeping with that, here is a little preview for Halloween. I finally let the boys try on their costumes yesterday. They were bouncing off the walls with joy---literally. Here's hoping the costumes make it till Wednesday!



Batmanrobin012_copy








Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Contest Clarification

Mrs_sturmans_class000 On Wednesday mornings, I help out in Aidan's classroom while  a good friend watches Sean. Definitely one of the highlights of my week. I'm in awe of elementary teachers, as I would be overwhelmed with so many little ones for the whole day. But for just a few hours, I get to soak up their innocence and enthusiasm. And since I'm not their teacher, I can indulge in listening to all the stories they are bursting to share.



And I get to see our little man in his new element. I try my best to resist just hugging Aidan the whole time.



Guessing Game Clarification: I love seeing all the guesses. I've only shared the site with a few friends and family so you should have a good chance of winning. If you haven't entered yours yet, click here and scroll down.



You have to guess the correct gender to win the game.



Of those who guess the correct gender, the one who guessed closest to the planned date of birth will win.



If there is a tie of any sort, it will come down to whomever posted first.



Phew...I think that should work. Unless Brian follows up on his threat to post his own guess!






Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Little Guessing Game



5098936_3751720_2 Well, a surprise until next Friday. That's about as long as I can handle not knowing whether this little one is a boy or girl.



So tune in here November 3rd to learn the news.



And to make it a little more fun, you can make a guess. The 50/50 question isn't tough enough, so you have to make two guesses to qualify.



Click on the "comments" link below and post a guess of boy or girl, AND your best guess on the date of our scheduled 5098936_3017551c-section.



With Aidan, we didn't find out the gender ahead of time, but I thought it was a boy the whole time. With Sean, I was sure it was a girl (because the pregnancy was so different) and I'm grateful we found out. This time I have no inkling either way. I had finally gotten to the point of accepting that we probably wouldn't have any more children---and then surprise! So we will be thrilled either way. No question, I'd be thrilled to have a daughter. It would be a whole new ballgame. At the same time, I really like this ballgame, and the idea of three little boys just sounds so sweet to me.



Comments on this post will close before our appointment, and whomever guesses the right gender AND the right date (or is closest to it) will win a $25 gift card to Book Sense (good at any independent book store) or to Amazon.com if preferred (for our out-of-country friends).



Happy Guessing!






Monday, October 22, 2007

Autumn

Aspen_grove_at_warner_lake



Always my favorite time of year. We took this photo at Warner Lake, about 25 miles from here.



I love wearing turtlenecks and sweaters again, making hearty soups, and seeing the pink cheeks on our boys from running outside in the cool weather.



Bulbs_2007_2 I planted over 90 bulbs of the above varieties this weekend. If even half of them show up in the spring, I'll be thrilled. The last three autumns have all passed without one bulb getting planted around here, so it was time. Next year I'll focus on tulips. Unless it doesn't occur to me until February when I see our neighbor's tulips popping up...



Aidan_and_ella



We met friends at the park this afternoon. On the way there, I told Aidan that he'd get to see his old friend Ella, who had been in France for the last month. These photos are all from 2005 when Ella's family lived right behind us, and they were best buds. I still miss the convenience of them getting together so easily in one of our yards, as well as having Ella's mom, Annabelle, only a cup of tea away. Then they moved far, far away...okay, probably less than a mile, but suddenly getting together required coordination and phone calls. Around the same time, Ella and Aidan got to the age when girls want to play with girls, and boys want to play with boys. I miss the good ole days when I got to pick all of Aidan's friends based on their moms!



So here's our conversation in the car:



ME: Aidan, you're going to get to see Ella for the first time in a very long time.



AIDAN: That's not true.



ME: Whadda mean?



AIDAN: I just saw her at the next table at lunch today.



ME: Oh. Did you say hi?



AIDAN: No, I just waved. And I kept waving until she waved back. I didn't give up.



At five he has already learned one of the main rules for getting the girl: persistence:-)



Then at the park, Ella and Tava (Sean's favorite older woman) proceeded to chase Aidan the entire time. At least when they weren't begging him to chase them. And so it begins...






Sunday, October 21, 2007

Gratitudes

Pony_rides_on_daddy_2



Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.  ~William Faulkner



There are times when it requires a conscious effort on my part to see how blessed we are, and times when I want to change my perspective, but feel powerless to do so. Then there are times like this weekend, when I wake up amazed at my life and am overwhelmed with gratitude.



So, for the days when I can't conjure that awareness, these are the big and little things making my "cup overflow" right now.



1. Being healthy and having a healthy family.



As soon as I might take our health for granted, there comes a reminder to cherish it. Two friends sent me links this week to friends of theirs whom I've never met but who both have advanced melanoma, the same cancer Brian's father battled. Mara and Julie are both young, and Julie has two small children. Please keep them in your prayers and thoughts, and if you like, post a comment of support on their sites.



2. Sharing life with Brian.



I don't like public gushing (unless it's over one's children, then it's allowed!). But I know I am blessed, in so many ways, to be sharing my life with this guy.  I am grateful for all the small coincidences or little decisions or miracles that led to this particular life instead of the infinite other possibilities.



Brian was away for work three days this week. As soon as he walked in the door, Sean and Aidan had him on the floor wrestling, which led to the horseback ride in the above photo. It's a crappy photo with bad lighting and a busy background, but I love it. I took this one before Sunday_morning_my_3_guys_2we left for church this morning. A better photo in many ways, but I prefer the first one---it captures the kind of dad Brian is and how happy his boys are just to be around him. Saturday morning while up in the office, I noticed a kite fly by the window and it was Aidan and Brian out on the street. Aidan's been asking to do that all week.



There were so many moments this weekend that made my cup overflow---seeing Brian take care of the tomato crop I've abandoned before the predicted frost comes tonight, or manage to get both boys in the tub this morning. Joining him to watch a movie last night and finding a bowl of popcorn and my bottle of water waiting there for me. Or just having him listen to me tonight as I retell my evening spent with friends. Those moments beat roses and chocolate any day.



3. The other two guys in the photo.



Yeah, they're pretty cool too;-)  They crack me up daily. I'm blown away by Aidan's creativity, both in thought, story-telling, and lately drawing. He drew a haunted house today with angled lines to make it dimensional. Where did he learn that??



Sean will often ask to kiss the new baby and then give my tummy a little smooch. Today I'm wearing a carriage charm necklace that Kris gave me when I was expecting Aidan. Sean leaned in tonight and gave the baby a kiss via the "stroller".  I hope this baby is ready for some major lovin' because both these boys love to snuggle!



4. Living in a small town.



There are times when I think, "what are we doing here?" But most of the time, it's "how did we get so lucky?" It's a beautiful place, especially at this time of year. And while there is a price to pay for being a bit isolated (no Target within 120 miles), the benefits outweigh them greatly (and we save a lot of money).



5. Moments of serendipity.



While mailing a package this week, I asked the clerk about applying for a passport. It led to several questions about my old one, and whether it was truly expired, so I ended up explaining it was a Peace Corps issued one that I couldn't use for personal travel. The young man standing behind me in line asked, "Were you in the Peace Corps?" Turns out he was holding his application in his hand, about to send it by registered mail.



Just a coincidence, but we were both so happy to connect at that moment, the kind where you feel as if the gods are inexplicably smiling on you.



Me_and_my_boys_copy I know I can't sustain this perspective permanently. Tomorrow I'll be back to complaining about something, but I still believe in cultivating gratitude. I'm grateful for this upstairs nook that gives me space and time to myself, I'm grateful for the wonderful combination of a cup of tea and a seven-layer bar, I'm grateful for all my blessings---the greatest of which might be my own awareness of them.






Happy Birthday, Meg!

For_meg010



Our god-daughter turned 8 years old today! In honor of her and her brothers' Halloween plans, Aidan gathered Woody, Buzz and Jessie. We can't wait to see a photo of Meg, James and Charlie in their Toy Story costumes!



That Buzz has to be the best money we ever spent on a toy. He was Aidan's 1st choice for a good two years, and Sean plays with it daily now (except for days like today when Aidan reclaims it and WWIII breaks out).










Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Favorites: Simply Apple and iGoogle

Lg_simply_apple_grapefruit



My friend Kris, from Michigan City, was the only person I knew in college whose posters were actually framed. Kris was a grad student, and visiting her apartment was like a trip to the "real world" that awaited us. Best of all, she would return from weekends at home with gallons of apple cider, and serve it in thick, frosted glasses she kept in her freezer. I always called it liquid gold.



We've been searching for a place to take the boys apple picking here. Being from the Midwest, I can't imagine autumn without a barrel of apples in the kitchen. So far, it doesn't look like Utah is prime apple-growing country.



But we have discovered Simply Apple. It's in the cold section of your grocery store: "a pure-pressed apple juice with a fresh apple taste in every sip. It contains no artificial flavors or colors, and is never sweetened or concentrated." I think it tastes like apple cider from Michigan city: pure liquid gold (though Brian jokes it better be based on its price!).



Normally I try to stick to just water, but being pregnant, which means dehydration for me, I'm thrilled to discover these. I enjoy grapefruit juice too, and it is hard to find a non-sweetened brand. I prefer my kids get their fruit intake from fruit instead of juice, but recent studies have shown that 100% fruit juice has only positive affects and isn't a factor in childhood obesity. Of course, all things in moderation (especially at $3 a bottle). 



Screenshot1_3 iGoogle has been around, but I never knew the potential it had.



My boys don't afford me much time on the computer, so I love opening one page and seeing most of what I'd want to know. You can personalize it for your needs.



My favorite tools are the stopwatch, Flylady reminders, and Google reader. I can set the stopwatch for 15 minutes, and then make some headway with our papers in the office before I let myself read email. And I can reset it so I stick to my word when I tell the boys I'll only be 10 more minutes. Flylady has great tips for staying decluttered, but her web site is one of the most clutter-filled sites out there. So I love getting one simple reminder I can act on that day. And Google reader allows me to actually read the few sites I visit daily in just 10 minutes.



So a glass of Simply Apple and 10 minutes with iGoogle, and I'm good to go!






Friday Favorites Intro

My friend Angie jokingly refers to an imaginary site called dokrecommends.com, because I love to share my enthusiasm for new discoveries. You've inspired me, Angie, because on Friday's, it now exists.



When I worked at the UA, we all thrived on sharing ideas and info with each other. I felt good about contributing that spirit to Crater's English department. Eight of us shared one large office, and if DB or Ed discovered a great poem, they'd read it aloud at lunch. James might bring in a CD to play for us. Or a new novel would get passed along to each of us. Or we'd make each other copies of a new assignment that had worked well.



I miss the daily interaction of having coworkers. Yet I'm incredibly lucky to have Brian as my partner, as well as five sisters (albeit in four different states), the community of friends I have here, and my close friends who are long-distance. I don't know of anything as challenging as raising a family and running a home, and love when I get a tip or idea or even just inspiration that makes it feel a little easier---or reminds me that I'm not alone in trying to balance all these roles.



So Friday favorites are just that: the latest thing I'm excited about, often trivial, and probably old news to many.  I strive to avoid much of our consumer-crazy culture, but I still get joy out of discovering a great new product:-)



All of which is a long-winded way to introduce my next post. Every Friday I'll try to update with recent or classic favorites.






Thursday, October 18, 2007

Preparing for Halloween

Halloween_tree2_3



Aidan's enthusiasm for any/all holidays increases each year. I'd much rather decorate for Thanksgiving, and had already started collecting items for our cornucopia. Luckily Aidan has a dad who enjoys Halloween as much as he does, and they strung pumpkin lights outside and pulled out all the ghosts and pumpkin goodies.



Then we decided to make a Halloween tree (inspired by BHG ). I love that it become a total family project. We asked Bri to bring us home a branch from the woods, which he then spray-painted black for us and planted in cement--using a $1 metal tub ala Target. Meanwhile Aidan had made plenty of ghosts, Frankensteins, and bats. I printed photos from past Halloweens and hung them with the orange ribbon. Sean got to help his big brother add the icky spiderweb stuff. Aidan continues to add to it---a big skeleton showed up the other day, and a black cat is now sitting on one of the pumpkins.



I love the idea that we can pull out the now-ready branch every year and the boys can go to town making the scary decorations for it.



Halloweentime014_2






Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Maybe Next Year

Endofsummer015



What else can a Cub fan say at this time of year?



Sean is baseball obsessed. Yesterday I took him to the doctor's office where they confirmed my fear: his first ear-infection (our first ear-infection, since Aidan has never had one).



Even miserable and in pain, he had to bring his glove and ball. And he won't settle for a tennis ball or wiffle ball anymore. It has to be a real baseball. The kind that could brake a window if he decided to throw it suddenly;-)






Tuesday, October 16, 2007

First Post: Why Blog

I've been debating starting this for weeks. Several strong reservations remain, mainly about privacy and the idea that if I'm writing here, I'm not doing the writing I "should" be doing.


Ultimately the reasons to blog prevailed.


Because anything that isn't a "should" is always more motivating.


Because a third child is on the way, and this might be my best chance of actually recording his/her milestones amid our busy days.


Because, while posts may not be "writing" per se, putting thoughts into words always eases my mind.


Because part of me is always compelled to share any good thing I find, whether a recipe, website, or book.


Because so many of our friends and family live far away. My favorite thing about a blog is that you don't send it to people---they only come if they want to. So, rather than inundating all of Aidan and Sean's aunts and uncles with Halloween photos, if they're interested, they can come here.


Because I've always been overly aware of my own mortality, and parenting only heightens that. I plan to be around for a very long time, and hope to dance at my grandchildren's weddings, but if not, this could be a record for my children. Brian has strict instructions to burn all my personal journals, but this is a more public record. A glimpse, perhaps, for them, into who I was (or wanted to be) when they were young and who they were too, at least in my eyes.


And because I want a record of these days, when my children are still small. Ultimately, I am my own audience here, and the blog is for me. Already when I look back at the last few years, it is all a blur. I want to take more photos. I want to capture those little moments that you think you'll always remember but ultimately forget.


          "We have stories to tell, stories that provide wisdom about the journey of life. What more have we to give one another than our 'truth' about our human adventure as honestly and openly as we know how."      -Rabbi Saul Rubin





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