Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Choosing to Celebrate

I had forgotten about Family of Five's Celebration week---choosing to celebrate something every day. Let's just say yesterday was about celebrating my family's Oscar tradition:-)

Today I celebrate fatherhood. A scene I'd like to implant in my memory forever. Last night I was brushing my teeth before bed and heard Nolan start to cry. When I looked into his room, Brian had already gotten there and Nolan had stopped crying, looking up at him in anticipation. Bri lifted him up on his shoulder and there was an audible sigh from Nolan, as he lay his head in that nook between Brian's neck and shoulder. That sigh---such a beautiful sound, of peace and happiness and relief.

From the hallway, I could only see their silhouette, and hear Nolan's breathing. But my heart was full just watching that sway of father and son, and knowing how safe all my boys feel when their dad is near.

This is a blurry photo from last month but for some reason I love it...because it feels so alive and in the moment perhaps.

Father son blurry  

Monday, February 23, 2009

"but I have a mother": Oscar Recap


Did you have a good time last night?

I was not disappointed (except by our local Thai restaurant being closed on Sundays...urrr!). 

Out west the show starts early, which is never easy with little ones still awake. Brian, who has no real interest in the Oscars, was incredibly sweet in his efforts to let me watch it uninterrupted. I still missed Best Original Screenplay, which, truth be told, is probably the most important award to me. Must have been putting Nolan to sleep.

First---the winner of our little 8 category contest! Out of the 14 predictors (not including Scott who emailed his picks this morning, ha!), Brian's cousin, Barb won with a perfect score! Way to go, Barb!  Too bad we are too far away to watch Leah while you and Bob enjoy the movie tickets.

And Sean picked Mary Alice's predictions out of a bowl of all the comments, so we'll be mailing you The Slumdog soundtrack. MA, please tell me you don't have it already!

And...just as I was typing the above, I got a call from Sgt. Peppers, our local mom&pop movie/cd store saying I won their contest!! Woohoo! Movie tickets and dinner:-) Luckily they didn't include the Best Screenplay categories. I predicted that "Milk" would win, but liked "In Bruges" too much to vote against it (there is always one category where I have to vote with my heart).

Highlights for me: Penelope Cruz and Kate Winslet's acceptance speeches. I'm a sucker for the childhood stories of watching the show, and loved Cruz's point that the night is really about a moment of unity for the universal language of art.


The few friends I have that do watch the show are more interested in the dresses and fashion. I like seeing what people wore, but couldn't tell you one designer's name. I love that my family always crowded around our TV set, and watched in awe the celebration of storytelling and artists. That's what I love about the Oscars, and why last night, with all its high and low moments, was a great show---it got that feeling of celebrating story right.

Also---the actor awards being presented by five past winners. Brilliant. I love that each nominee had a moment in the spotlight, and preferred the praise from a colleague over a clip that often ruins the movie for future audiences.

Also loved AR Rahman's acceptances, sandwiched around his performing. Hugh Jackson's opening number showed his enormous talent, but seemed mainly about his own talent. I liked the "musicals are back" number more...because I love all those songs.

Loved Danny Boyle's Tigger dance and acceptance. I have mixed feelings about "Slumdog Millionaire" and don't think it will hold up in time, but I hope its success helps those it portrayed. While it relies on plenty of movie cliches, its energy and style were refreshing. I'm so glad its producers were rewarded for their risk.

Low point of the evening was the In Memoriam. Queen Latifa sang "I'll Be Seeing You" so beautifully; it should have been a highlight of the evening. But the camera work was beyond annoying---wanting us to see the stage set up rather than just one screen. And it would have been easy to acknowledge as they introduced it that  Heath Ledger passed away last January so audiences wouldn't be wondering why he wasn't included until they remember (20 minutes later) that he was in last year's montage.

I'm glad Sean Penn won, but man, he comes across as a jerk. I can't stand the idea that Princess Buttercup had to turn his face for a kiss when he won. Maybe he was just in total shock, and maybe he didn't thank her because that's private to him. Still...Buttercup deserves better.

I enjoyed how the montages acknowledged movies from the year, not just the few that are nominated, though there was a bit too much of reaching for the young crowd (should Miley Cyrus really be there?). I must be getting old.

And the best part of the night---a recap phone call after the show with my youngest brother:-) Next year we have to do a conference call after the show with all the siblings!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

happy list

I love reading your Oscar predictions. If you haven't voted yet, click over here from bloglines/google reader or whatever, and VOTE now. 1st prize is a pair of movie tickets; random prize is the soundtrack from Slumdog Millionaire (Aidan will pick a number so you have a chance on that one just by commenting). I'll turn off comments before the show starts tomorrow.

I'm not crazy about any of the movies this year, and I'm still excited about tomorrow. The Oscars just make me happy.

Other things making me happy lately:


1. Valentine crayon hearts.

2. Qubo's Make Your Own Zimmer Twins Movie. Seriously cool way for kids to learn about story-boarding, animation, plot, and more.

Aidan's made three so far, completely on his own (with 1st grade spelling & humor). I'm just grateful that the sound effects options didn't include his current favorites, burping & farting.


3. Snagging a "lil stinker" on ebay.

4. This blog and this artist. I love "Looking Up".

5. Brian taking the bigs for a hike. Do they have any idea how lucky they are to grow up here?

Lucky boys web

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Best of 2008

Inspired by a sister's email, and the fact that it is almost March, here's my belated best of list for 2008. I've been exchanging these lists with Mary Alice and Angie for at least a decade, and most years, with my siblings too.

Last year, my OCD played out in a need to post on each topic and write about almost every movie I saw in 2007. I'll spare you this year and share just the top 5 of some categories.

Best Books I Read in 08:
    1. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
    2. Breathing Lessons By Anne Tyler
    3. The Now Habit by Neil Fiore
    4. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
    5. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
    Best Children's books (chapter bks) in 08:
    1. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls
    2. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne R. Banks
    3. Encyclopedia Brown by Dan Sobol
    4. Franny K Stein series by Jim Benton (some more than others)
    5. The Water Horse by Dick King Smith
    Best Movies I saw in 08:

    The best things I watched last year were "John Adams" and "Battlestar Galactica", both cable miniseries. We rarely go to movies, but we watch a DVD almost every weekend. So you probably saw most of my favorites in 2007.

    1. There Will Be Blood
    2. The Darjeeling Limited (*caveat: I loved it, but doubt most people would like it)
    3. In Bruges
    4. Slumdog Millionaire
    5. The Diving Bell & the Butterfly
    My mother-in-law asked me how I could like "In Bruges", when I profess to dislike violent movies. She's right, I'm inconsistent. I detest violence and in movies, it often requires me to distance myself from the story, to constantly remind myself "this isn't real"---or it terrifies me and I stop watching. So I'll never see "Dark Knight" or "No Country For Old Men," despite the reviews.

    But there are exceptions. I loved "Fargo" which is quite violent, and "There Will Be Blood" as well as "In Bruges" and "Gone Baby Gone" were all favorites this year because, while violent, they are all character-driven movies. I'm sure they are too violent for some (so you've been forewarned) but they worked for me.

    Best Kid Movies/Rentals:

    1. Iron Giant
    2. The Water Horse
    3. WALL-E
    4. Boys Town
    5. Lilies of the Field
    Best Songs I discovered in 08:
    1. "Lucky" by Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat
    2. "Chicago" by Lucy Wainwright Roche
    3. "Orange Sky" by Alexi Murdoch
    4. "Night Mantra" by Renee & Jeremy
    5. "Lost Verses" by Sun Kil Moon, "Everything'll Be Alright" by Joshua Radin, and more...
    Best Blog Discoveries:

    Ordinary Courage--Brene's stories of working/raising children/developing superpowers. Love it.

    Soulemama--Amanda's beautiful site on her family and crafting and living well.

    mAJjc Show-- Just so happy my friend Angie is blogging:-)

    Camp Creek --Lori's project-based learning wonderland

    molly irwin--she loves paper, photos, textiles, and shares them all. Great source.

     MA, Angie and I also include more reflective categories, like 10 Best memories and 2009 resolutions (or "revolutions" as we call them).  Here are snippets of them:

     Best Moments of 2008:

    1. The birth of Nolan Elliott Keating.

    My water broke at 11 pm, the night before our scheduled c-section. At the hospital, I couldn't stop laughing, giddy over our luck in having picked the right day, our luck in having traveled a day early, and our luck in having a third child. For days I had stressed about being apart from his big brothers, but once Nolie was here, I was so grateful for those cocoon-like days in the hospital with just Bri, Nolan, and me.

    2. Visits! Over eight different friends/families came to stay with us last year. Moab isn't an easy place to get to, so we always appreciate when people make that effort. Lots of great moments and memories.

    3. November 4th---Barack Obama was elected president, and Brian turned 40. Good day.

     Favorite Lessons/Realizations:

    1. "Perfect is the enemy of the good." I thought I said it, but turns out Voltaire beat me to it.

    2. White balance. A common phrase in scrapbooking, but I loved Lori's application of it to life.

    3. Being kind is more important than being right. I heard Anne Lamott say that, and I need to hear it often.

    Favorite Accomplishments:

    1. Building a website for a local non-profit.

    2. Learning to use my digi Rebel and how to shoot in manual (lots more to learn, but a lot learned as well); consistently taking lots of photos.

    3. Staying sane (for the most part) despite a year of sleep-deprivation.

    Most Grateful for in 2008:

    1. My health, the health of my family and friends, and our time here together. Priceless.

    2. The community we've found here, our neighbors, our church family, our friends. I'm also incredibly grateful to my two closest long-distance friends---who keep me writing these long lists so I can read theirs every year. I can't imagine the world without them, and hope I never have to.

    3. That after all this time, I'm still crazy about Brian. I'm grateful he still likes me too, of course, but I'm even more grateful that I love him. Marriage is challenging, and I often wonder how people who aren't crazy in love with their partners stand it.

    Goals/Intentions for 2009:

    1. To complete most of my 40 Before 40 list.

    2. To stay committed to better eating/fitness habits. (that's my PC way of saying I want to buy a new pair of jeans in a smaller size for my 40th bday)

    3. To be keenly aware of what I am saying "no" to before I say "yes". For too long, my no's have mainly been to my own self-care, namely sleep. I'm going to be less sleep-deprived in 2009, and if that means saying "yes" less often, I'm prepared to be okay with that.

    We also pick a word to be the theme of our year, ala Ali Edward's One Word. This year my word is Time. I want more time. I want to choose carefully how I use/spend my time. And mainly, I want to Take My Time.

    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    11 months


    Exactly one month left till Nolan's first birthday (or it was on the 12th when I started this post).

    Sweet Kris posted so positively about her oldest daughter turning 13, I feel a bit remiss lamenting the first birthday. There are great things about every stage of being a parent, I realize. But I also have to be honest.

    This is my least favorite stage.

    Seems that for most of my good friends, the infant stage was the hardest. I love those early days, as exhausting as they are. Probably in no small part due to my having three easy-going babies, no problems nursing, and Brian at home for the first four weeks. The sound of a baby crying tears my heart and could send me over the edge, so I'm grateful we didn't have to deal with a finicky or colicky infant-hood.

    Still, even more so than crying, I have low-tolerance for my children experiencing pain. I realize pain is part of life, and a great teacher, and that if I let Nolan bump his head when he crawls under the dining room table, perhaps he would stop crawling under there.

    But that isn't going to happen...at least not on my watch.

    Busy guy at 11 m web Nolan is at the stage when we get to relish his sense of humor, his affection, and his sense of adventure. I love it, except for when I don't. He is also at the almost-walking stage, other wise known as the fall-down-a-lot stage. The bump-your-head stage, crawl-over-to-every-outlet stage, explore-every-plant stage. The looking-for-ways-to-hurt-myself-or-scare-my-mom stage.

    I tell myself all the time that my job isn't to protect my children from all pain, but to give them the strength and resilience to meet life's pain and move on and find joy.

    And I hope I'll be able to live by that when I let them go out into the world and learn first hand about meanness or prejudice. Or about rejection or loss and heartbreak. Thankfully that kind of pain is still far in the future (I hope). Today it is about rushing over, and putting the cord out of reach, and easing his fall. At least until the next stage.

    Enough about me...now about him!

    Nolan at 11 months...

    *has a total of 6 teeth, and two more cutting through

    *LOVES "Signing Time" and especially the "Silly Pizza Song"

    Banana boy web

    *wants to eat whatever we're eating, and has refuted the idea that a stomach is only as big as a fist... (anyone else see the slight grin above after he managed to grab the banana I wasn't feeding him fast enough?). Loves frozen peas, broccoli, toast, strawberries, pears, chicken broth...just about everything.

    *plays ball with his brothers, rolling and attempting to throw it.

    *is scooting, crawling, pulling up and "cruising" everywhere

    Happy guy web

    *has enough hair now that it actually stays on his head instead of floating up above him. So cute.

    *crawls over to the speaker box and does his little rock dance till I turn on the music.

    Swinging nolie web

    *Loves to swing outside.

    *laughs as he tries to tickle us!

    Mr smiles web

    *wants you to come to his little Birthday Bash next month!

    These are the occasions when I really feel the impact of living so far from family. We're grateful though for the family we've stitched together of good friends and will put together some kind of celebration for next month---some kind of giveaway here too, for all of you who have shared in each of Nolan's milestones. Stay tuned.

    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Alien Ice Game

    I've been meaning to post about this game, because I see dozens of people clicking over here from Green Jello's Ben 10 post every week.

    Images My son had a Star Wars party for his 6th birthday and this was a game we played outside, using a frozen Han Solo figure. Extremely simple and a big hit. I suggested Anne adapt it for a Ben 10 party by freezing an alien figure.


    Here are the details (way too many details for such a basic game...but if Anne's description wasn't enough, I might as well go into it):

    If you have any of the Ben 10 aliens or a small Ben 10, place one in a small plastic bowl and cover it with water, then freeze overnight.

    The day of the party, we poured just enough warm water over the bowl to get out the large ice cube with a frozen alien (actually  Han Solo) within it. We told the boys that an enemy had frozen the alien and their job was to free him as fast as they could. 

      WJBCAPBAMKKCA5H60A6CA1CK7JLCAJ0YUMOCAK39GG8CAR2APD7CA0KTBWUCAFCIQH0CAD7P7DACAI2ONLYCA0NPE9PCAE28CVSCAQDYKS7CA7RBSCRCAIR7J7XCAENNB5FCA4H9MR2CAQ12X29 We put a large bucket of warm water at one end of the yard and gave each boy a small plastic bowl (e.g. the Ikea ones) to use. At the other end of the yard was a stool with a large metal bowl holding the big ice cube. The boys had to fill their bowls with water from the bucket, run across the yard without spilling if possible, and pour it on the ice cube until the alien was free.

    That's it---crazy, I know. But the boys loved it for a few reason--we didn't do a relay, so they weren't bored, waiting for a turn. They all went back and forth at the same time, but the challenge of getting there fast without spilling had them all going at different speeds and concentrating. And if they are young enough, they are fascinated by the whole water melting ice phenomena.

    If it were a large group, then you might want to set up two different groups and have them racing to see who can free their alien first. I liked that we were able to do it as a cooperative game rather than as a competition (they were all striving to go back and forth as fast as possible---to do their own best).

    For weeks afterward, I would find a frozen action figure in my freezer. My sons loved just freezing and melting them over and over.

    Other game ideas: draw a large Ben10 and have the boys "pin the omnitrix" on him; and play charades where they have to pretend to be one of the aliens and the boys guess which one.

    Hope that helps---and a thank you to Christine & her son---their email got me to finally write this post!

    Edited to Add: I added info on creating Ben 10 Bingo and included a photo to use with all the aliens here. Scroll down to #3.

    I'd be happy to send jpg files of the Bingo playing cards we made to anyone who'd like them. Just email me. We played it two ways---with the letters as in "B--Spidermonkey", and without the letters, and definitely preferred the latter---made for a faster game.

    I do have one request---if you found any of this information helpful, please read my recent post about Shriners Hospital and vote for the Perfectly Imperfect project. It won't cost you anything but a few minutes of your time. Thank You!

    Oscar Time

    Time for another little blog contest---share your predictions of Oscar winners 81st_Academy_Awards_poster by February 21 6 pm on Sunday! Two winners will be chosen---one who gets the most correct predictions and another random winner just for commenting (we'll have Aidan pick a number again).

    If I can't win a Pioneer Woman contest, I can at least throw my own mini-version.  Winners will receive their own personal "movie in a box" care package of goodies:-)

    You can just number your answers 1-8. Or, if "WALL-E" was the only movie you saw last year, you can make wild guesses or just say Hi in the comments and still be in the runnings!

    And the Nominees are...

    1. Best Picture: Frost/Nixon; Slumdog Millionaire; Milk; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Reader

    2. Best Actress: Angelina Jolie; Anne Hathaway; Melissa Leo; Meryl Streep; Kate Winslet

    3. Best Actor: Richard Jenkins; Frank Langella; Sean Penn; Brad Pitt; Mickey Rourke

    4. Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams; Penelope Cruz;Viola Davis; Marisa Tomei; Taraji P. Henson

    5. Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin; Robert Downey Jr.; Phillip Seymor Hoffman; Michael Shannon, Heath Ledger

    6. Best Adapted Screenplay: "Frost/Nixon"; "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; "The Reader"; "Slumdog Millionaire"; "Doubt"

    7. Best Original Screenplay: "Frozen River"; "Happy-Go-Lucky"; "In Bruges"; "Milk"; "WALL-E"

    8. Best Director: Danny Boyle for "Slumdog Millionaire"; Ron Howard for "Frost/Nixon"; Gus Van Sant for "Milk"; David Fincher for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Stephen Daldry for "The Reader"

    Contest closes at midnight Mountain Time on February 21st (yep, we're all official here). I'm trying to muster some enthusiasm for the Oscars this year, despite not having much for the nominees. I am happy to see "In Bruges" nominated for screenplay, but find it ridiculous that  Dev Patel wasn't nominated for Best Actor, nor Brendan Gleeson for Best Supporting Actor. Still, that's part of Oscar season, defending those one feels were overlooked.

    Their winners will be announced on the 22nd, and ours on the 23rd!

    Wednesday, February 4, 2009

    Fire List


    While the Santa Ana winds were spreading fire along the California coast last fall, we had our own wildfire right here.  Forty minutes before the call came, Brian had taken a Tylenol PM and gone to bed. In less than 5 minutes he was out the door. Thankfully no one was hurt, but we had wild winds of our own that night, and several homes and a few hotels were evacuated.

    Good friends of ours live near the wetlands that burned, and the next day she was relating to me how she gave each of her children one bag to fill with whatever they wanted to take, in case the evacuation reached her home. She also spoke with some alarm about realizing how little she would want to take with her.

    I came home and looked around our house and wondered what I would load into a car. If it's a house fire, you only grab people and get out. But if you were given time, say two hours or so, to prepare for an evacuation, not knowing if your house would be one of the lucky ones or would never be seen again, what would you take?

    Looking around my home, I had the same reaction as my friend Amy: there isn't a lot that I couldn't live without. Not that I don't appreciate what we have, but most of it is replaceable. I was racking my brain for what would not be replaceable...and realizing how impossible it would be to think in the actual panic of a real evacuation. I have a few books signed by their authors...would I really want to grab those?

    Here's what I'd want: the samovar from my colleagues in Selikhino, a few handmade treasures--Kim Justice's version of The Storm, the box of letters and cards from Brian, photos from the days before digital, old journals, and my hard drive. The boys' baby albums. I rarely wear any jewelry, but the few items I own are sentimental in value, so I would grab those as well.

    Do you know what you would pack? Perhaps write a list and tape it to your fire-safe box, just in case.

    I asked my boys the same question as we walked to the park that week, but I limited them to five items each.

    Aidan immediately rattled off his list.

    1. "the thing on my wall"

    It took me a while to figure out he meant this:

    Aidan photo collage

    And that made me so happy. A boy who values photos: be still my heart.  We have one side loaded with photos of faraway family, the other with friends. Now I'm determined to keep it better updated (above photo is at least 3 yrs old...so the photos are all even older).

    2. "My yellow blankie" ---his lovey since he was a baby.

    3. "The cars Uncle Kevin gave me."  I love this boy.

    Cars and trains web

    4. "Curious George" (the big one Aunt Mimi gave him before he was even born & that often sleeps with him)

    5. "the clock above my bed" (only after being told the bunkbeds would have to stay)

    Aidan wall clock web

    Sean followed Aidan's lead:

    1. "my blue blankie"

    2. "my trains"

      Miles and Sean playing trains web

    3. "Buzz Lightyear" (which one?)

    A Buzz fan web

    4. "Yellow" --his big yellow dog from Carol.

    Sean's dog Yellowweb

    5. "Ace" from Planet Heroes.

    When we arrived at the park, I found a friend who had a pen and I scribbled their lists on the back of a receipt in my wallet so I wouldn't forget. But I did forget...until I cleaned out my wallet today.

    About a month later, Brian took the bigs out to the preserve to help plant trees among the ashes. My boys returned black; the tub had to be emptied and refilled three times, the water was so dirty from all the ash they brought home. Bri said they planted about 14 trees before they decided to eat their snack and just watch their dad work. Still, I love the idea that some day the wooden walkway will be rebuilt in the preserve and our boys will walk under those very trees.

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    Sean yesterday

    with hands on his hips,

    after I foolishly suggested he might need his stepstool to wash his hands,

    "Mom, you know, I'm not two any more."

    Sean and his jungle friends web 

    Oh yes, I know, sweet boy. And too soon the same will be true of three...

    Sunday, February 1, 2009

    Book of Days

    I'd like to thank everyone who sent kind emails about Janice, and especially those of you who clicked over and took a look at the blog she kept at the end.

    "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophies." -William Shakespeare

    I hope that much is true.


    One of the things picking up our spirits around here lately is Blue Yonder's Book of Days. In case you haven't heard about it yet and you too have curious kids who love a good project, let me introduce you:

    Aidan's snowflakes 1 web 

    One of Aidan's many snowflake drawings

    Stefani is a member of my favorite exclusive club---the Momma to Three Boys Club, and writes an inspiring blog about their homeschooling adventures at Blue Yonder. She and her sons have created a monthly downloadable book that includes a recipe, an experiment, and other crafty/inspiring ideas. You can purchase it here. There is a free preview of the activities in February's edition.

    Sean's pb snowballs web 

    January's snowball recipe

    Our egg-periment webRight now our first two months are in a little binder that I imagine will grow throughout the year. I love this opportunity to capture a bit of our year (since I haven't scrapbooked in over a year), and to have the boys reflect on the journal page included.

    The Book of Days isn't a curriculum, but a spark, something to get things started.

    Stefani has set up a flixr group, which is a great way to offer kids an extended classroom of peers from all over the world. 

     Time has a tendency to move faster than I'd like, and so far, the Book of Days is helping us slow it down a bit, pay more attention, and enjoy these days.

    And I love the idea of supporting these three young entrepreneurs:-)

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