Saturday, December 24, 2011

Right now...

Listening to the boys' 2009 Christmas CD with knock-knock jokes and carols from my childhood. Also, when the kids are asleep, to Mindy Kaling's book while wrapping gifts. Fun.
Watching the boys play Zombies (Aidan just fed his baby Zombie, Nolan, a brain  in order to get him to go to sleep...). Also lots of movies in the background, yesterday it was "Elf" with the boys, and later that night, "Midnight in Paris."
Eating too much. Andes cookies, Sugar cookies we baked and decorated with friends yesterday, Crescent rolls, and soft peppermints. Oh a little Garrett's too.
Drinking more water to keep going. And the most nostalgic Brandy Alexander last night. Mmm.
Feeling happy, nostalgic (see above), and slightly panicked by my lack of panic.
Smelling the evergreen of our tree, whose needles are mostly gracing the living room floor at this point.
Wanting to get a good night sleep and for dinner to make itself for a change. Oh, and a piano & world  peace.
Needing that good night's sleep, and an extra few hours in the day. I really have all I need.
Thinking that I haven't blogged because there is so much I want to capture, from Halloween through Thanksgiving to today, and because a wide expanse of time to post about all of that will never present itself, I might never blog again---unless I just let it go and post something, anything, even if I don't have photos uploaded yet, even this little bit about right now.
Enjoying a momentary time-out from all the preparations, the mailbox full of cards instead of bills these days, brown paper packages tied up with red and white twine.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11 Gratitudes for 11-11-11

2011 11 04_Sean's missing tooth

1. Gap-tooth smiles

2. A week of birthday celebrations and an entire day in which I prepared no meals for anyone. Ahhh.

3. Homemade waffles with fresh whipped cream and strawberries; lunch at our local Thai place; dinner of Alaskan salmon (thanks to Faye & Jon’s recent trip!) with asparagus & crash potatoes. I almost didn’t have room for the pumpkin pie with candles on top. Almost.

2011 11 03_pumpkin teapot

3. Halloween decorations packed up, except for those that bridge Halloween & Thanksgiving. I definitely prefer the Thanksgiving ones.

4. Brian giving me a GPS for my birthday, despite his overall low-opinion of them. And the fact that we live in a town with a total of four stop lights. But roadtrips, here we come!

2011 10 19_nolie and elle at breakfast

5. Nolan’s love ---and inclusion--- of his stuffed animal friends. He has Super Dog join him on most adventures, Elle joining him for breakfast above, and a half dozen joining him at bed time.

2011 11 04_aidan

6. This very goofy nine-year-old, who is in the midst of a very silly stage (am I fooling myself that it’s a stage?). He rocked at basketball practice last night, after weeks of shooting hoops with his dad on the driveway. And after all that running around the gym, he couldn’t stop talking on the drive home. I’m going to have to make sure I get to pick him up next time too!

7. Getting to read old favorites again. Nolan is on a big Chicka Chicka Boom Boom kick mixed in with equal amounts of Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

2011 10 16_0202

8. Inexplicably love this photo of our youngest—like he was just gonna help himself to something.

9. Brian and I have been exchanging daily gratitudes for the month of November, which I’ve loved. Even on days like today when his was the following:  the irony that I have a degree in English and still mispronounce common words. (Sadly true…and I see Aidan starting down the same road, repeating words he's learned from reading without having heard they are ingrained one way and hard to relearn correctly)

2011 11 11_lanternwalk

10. A lantern walk for Martinmas under a low, full moon.

Image Source:

11. 2011 was the year of the Beatles in our house. This line from We Can Work It Out is my mantra for the upcoming holidays. Hopefully the three boys in the backseat during our 1,500-mile-road-trip next week will agree.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Final 5

20 on the 20th didn't quite work out this month, but here's the final 5 to make 20. I think I'll be revising the whole 20on20 idea next month.

1. I took the boys to a pumpkin patch in Colorado during our UEA break. Nolie had his first pony ride and loved the petting zoo. Aidan & Sean loved the pumpkin bounce (photo below) and the huge corn maze.

2. Bri was in Price for a few days running a burn, and I'm proud we didn't let that stop us from venturing to GJ (because I'd always rather wait till we can go together). Also learned the "sunny sixteen" short-cut this month, to bump my f-stop to 16 when shooting in such bright sun that saved us from getting lots of shots like the washed out one above.

3. Brian spent most of the previous weekend digging line in our backyard, to connect/bury an electrical line to our patio. I freaked when he started pulling up a bit of his patio, but it's all beautiful again. And the twinkle lights on the tree are now a permenant feature---yay!

4. Sean took this photo of me right after we made cookies to give as a thank you. All three boys have the camera bug. Lots of photos of Godzilla this month, and of each other making crazy faces. As critical as I feel when I see photos of myself, I'm trying to embrace them because I do want my kids to have photos that include their mom when they're older.

5. This photo was taken in July 2009 by our good friend Amy, but I just saw it for the first time this fall. I immediately asked Amy to send me a digi copy---a decent photo with all 5 of us is too rare not to ask.

Do you see how Sean is stretching his arm to reach Aidan's shoulder? How wavy his hair was? How blond my baby was? And how my baby was an actual baby?

October was a rough month, full of good things but overshadowed by sadness. My cousin John passed away at the young age of 45. My mom's cancer continues to take a greater hold of her mind and body. We're planning a roadtrip to Chicago in November, and attempting to take things one day at a time.

Meanwhile, I go to sleep grateful to have spent my day with this man and these three men-in-the-making. Time moves quickly, and I'm glad to capture a small glimpse of it here on this site.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Bucket List

This post is inspired by Leroy Sievers and his beautiful post, “Everybody has their own list” that I referred to here in 2008.
1. 1999 Beijing, 2. Arches 2004, 3. B&D 1991 Mackinac Island, 4. Rain in Yellowstone 1995

As a child, I was fascinated by the Bucket List idea: what would you do if you knew you had limited time? My fascination was fueled by a sappy movie called "Six Weeks" with Mary Tyler Moore as a mother whose daughter is terminally ill and they run around the world crossing things off her list.

In 8th grade I plagiarized the movie for a story I wrote. Only in my version, the girl had a younger sister who was being ignored while the family focused on the dying sister's list, and, of course, the youngest gets hit by a bus unexpectedly and everyone feels terrible.

Can you tell I was a middle child?

I see some wisdom though in my tortured version. Here’s the thing: we all already know that we're going to die. We know we have limited time. We don’t need to wait for bad news to make changes. During our last year in Oregon, we lost two friends to cancer. I will always feel in debt to Richard and James because they gave us the push we needed to make changes. Within that same year Brian and I both left jobs and friends we had loved and made the leap to Utah, which at the time seemed the equivalent of moving to Mars.

Loss enhances one's own sense of mortality, and that sense didn't push us to cross things off a bucket list, but to make our daily lives more consistent with our deepest desires.

1. Deirdre and Pat skydiving 1991, 2. Deirdre Skydiving 1991, 3. 1995, Selikhino, Russia, 4. Maui 10th anniversary, 5. sea kayaking in cave islands Thailand 97, 6. turf digging Ireland 1980

For a girl who’s never had a lot of money & is a homebody at heart, I’ve had a lot of adventures: traveling in Ireland as a young girl, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at 21, riding the Trans-Siberian railway, hiking the Great Wall of China, sea kayaking in Thailand, watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon,  horseback riding in Yellowstone, hitchhiking in Siberia, and gazing at St Basil’s in Red Square.

Reading others' bucket lists has made me realize that there is plenty I've never done, most of which I'll likely never do, and a surprising number I've done without them having been on any list of mine. Here's an odd list of things I have done that I read on others' bucket lists:

I've milked a cow, watched a mother whale and her calf off the coast of Maui; sung Karaoke in a bar (“Copacabana" Forever, Robert!), learned a foreign language, ridden around Mackinac Island on a tandem bike, seen the Cubs win at Wrigley Field, enjoyed high tea in Victoria on Vancouver Island, and taken teens to see their first Shakespeare play in Ashland, Oregon. I got to shake hands with Oprah, twice. Thanks to Mary Alice, I've been to a movie premiere and was in the audience for a taping of “Mad About You.” Thanks to Brian, I've been to more than a dozen National Parks, and spent one summer on top of Mt Graham and another in Park City.

Some of the most common listed bucket items I have no desire to do:
Swim with dolphins. Run a marathon. Repel down a mountain.

Someday I’d love to visit Kenya, to eat my way through Italy, rent a caravan in Australia or live in Ireland for a year. I’d like to give back to the world in bigger ways than we are able to now. I’d love to see a Broadway play, or get a piano in this house. Learn to sew, boogie board, and improve my photography.  Visit the Smithsonian & the Louvre. Maybe we will someday. But I’m okay if we don’t.

At 39 I wrote a 40 Before 40 list, but it was more of a to-do list. I listed things that might never get done because they were a priority only to me. This list is different. My bucket list, the 15 things I really want to stick around for---the unfinished business, the joys I’d miss, and the work I’m drawn to:
  1. Visit my sons at college and wherever they make their homes.
  2. Hold Brian’s hand as we watch our children marry.
  3. Dance with my grandchildren.
  4. Host my godchildren in our home as adults.
  5. Listen to live music we love at Red Rocks.
  6. Write a book.
  7. Learn to play “Closer to Fine” on the guitar
  8. Know exactly where everything is in my house. (i.e. minimize and organize)
  9. Create and maintain a meditation habit.
  10. Send three responsible and compassionate men out into the world with a strong sense that they are loved.
  11. Build a vacation cottage/cabin somewhere that my children relish returning to.
  12. Spend a weekend away with all my sisters.
  13. Run a 10K (i.e. conquer some demons)
  14. Be a good dog owner.
  15. Die knowing I loved Brian & our boys well, took my time, & paid attention along the way.
Ideally, if you ever receive bad news from a doctor, you wouldn't want to spend your final days that differently than you do now. If the news would spur you into action, consider this your notice. I hate to break it to you, but you’re terminal---our time here is limited.

This is my entry in the Just Ask Bucket List Getaway Giveaway. Just Ask offers a breast and ovarian cancer screening and is encouraging people to share 15 things that I want to enjoy in my lifetime as a reminder to be aware of my health. Want to enter? Head over to to get the details.

5 on the 23rd: Aidan


Aidan in October 2011

Our oldest son. He’s nine, skinny and tall. His nose in a book most of the day, with a green apple in his hand. He gives us daily quizzes on our ability to translate Dragonese, even though he’s the only one who’s read the How to Train a Dragon series (we’re actually getting better because he’s persistent). In a couple of weeks he’s going to play basketball for the first time.

web aidan and nolie on mt lasal

Photos like this one make my heart swell. I love the way Nolan says “Aidan.” Love the way Sean imitates him. Love the way he worries about his brothers getting hurt. Tonight, when the bigs and I watched “The Goblet of Fire,” he warned Sean when a scary scene was coming and covered his eyes for him.

aidan at the rock show

Aidan and Sean are DJs every third Saturday at our local public radio station, KZMU. During the autumn fund drive, DJs are expected to collect pledges from family and friends. There are few things I dislike more than asking people for money, even when it is for something I believe in like public radio. I honestly considered quitting the show to avoid flashback of going door-to-door to sell Campfire Girl candy.

Instead, Aidan stood up last Sunday during announcements at church and told our little congregation about our community radio and his gig called “Shine Time.” He let people know he’d have pledge forms available during the coffee hour if they wanted to donate “five bucks or whatever” which got a laugh.

All of our boys’ adopted grandmothers (90% of our parish is over 70) took out their checkbooks right then (does anyone under 70 still carry a checkbook?). I have a habit of being overly critical of our church community---wishing it were simultaneously more like the Catholic parish of my childhood and more like the Zen-Unitarian parish of my imagination. Their kindness to Aidan humbled me and woke me up to what our parish actually is---a group of individuals who gather consistently to share a bit of their faith journey, to sing and pray together, to work for more peace and justice, and to forge a bit of community as a respite from our fast-paced culture. I’m grateful to Aidan for having opened my eyes once again to how good we have it here.

2011 09 30_0018

Even though he was born in Oregon, Aidan is adamant that our current town is “the only home I’ve ever known” and he doesn’t like any discussions about leaving. We’re on year seven here, the longest Brian and I have lived anywhere since we were 18. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m grateful to have Aidan’s perspective to help us all appreciate the here and now.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

5 more on the 22nd: Sean edition

Sean is the real reason I’m blogging. When I look through our old blog, which I still hope to print as a photo book, he is the age Nolan is now. His hair is still curly and his belly still round. I could curl up in a ball with longing for that little toddler I still adore, except that I’m too busy being entertained and enjoying the wonderful six year old boy who lives here now by the same name.

sean soccer 2011 Fall

Sean is playing on the Shin Kickers this year. He can’t understand why he is so much better during practice than during games. It’s not because of the other team’s defense---it’s because he spends most of the game chatting up and laughing with the opposing team.

2011 09 30_0049

I looked at this photo several times before I actually saw the fish. Sean was the only one of his brothers to actually catch one up at Warner Lake with his dad. Go Sean!

2011 10 09_0011

Sean is usually the “let’s dress like twins” instigator and he does it with both Nolie and Aidan. These cool Buzz Lightyear shirts were a gift from Mary Alice years ago.  (Do you see the adoration on Nolan’s face? So glad Sean got to be a big brother!)

boys in their Cubs jackets from Grandma

The Cubs jackets were a gift from my mom about five years ago---so glad they finally fit! Just like his dad, Sean never leaves the house without giving me a hug, kiss and saying “I love you.” He has so much love to share with everyone.

aidan sean nolie digging

People immediately fall in love with Sean. Maybe it’s his bright smile, the way he delights in others, or that he’s so easy to make laugh. My friend Emily, who never hides that he’s her favorite, remarked that Sean doesn’t fit the middle child stereotype at all. I had to laugh---for one, because Emily obviously didn’t know I’m a middle child when she went on to describe them as usually mopey and needy. For another, even before Nolan was born, Sean at only two would ask, “Do you love me most?” Most birth-order psychology is unfounded (52% of American presidents were the middle child, but you’ll still see people writing that “almost all” were first born), and I’m convinced Sean was born who he is. But who he is also happens to be the kind of child who quickly scans all the popcorn bowls to make sure he got the same or more than anyone else.

The Big News: Sean and I finally finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I think we started it in January or February. My least favorite of the series (the whole House Elf subplot is just dropped?), I had forgotten how scary and how moving the conclusion is. We ended up loving it, and will watch the movie tonight. Less than five minutes after finishing, Sean announced, “Now we can start Order of the Phoenix!”

He lost another tooth this weekend, and jumped up two more letters on his school’s reading level this month. He won’t slow down. And so I blog, so I can capture him, at least slightly, and visit this charming six year old again someday.

5 on the 21st: the extended October version.

It’s already the 21st; my best bet for getting this month’s 20-on-the-20th written is to spread it out. So today’s post covers just Nolan. I plan to post about Aidan and Sean in the next two posts.

2011 10 09_nolie and raspberries
2011 10 09_0422
2011 10 14_Nolan the firefighter
2011 10 15_Pirate Nolie
2011 09 27_nolie mr muscles
2011 10 13_nolie segolily lunch
2011 10 08_0097

Nolie had a busy month: a trip to the fire house (thanks for inviting us, CeCe*), a pirate birthday party (probably his first party without his brothers), a bbq with his Children’s Garden friends,  a rock show and today’s adventure at a Colorado Pumpkin Patch. With three Halloween parties to look forward to, our party-obsessed boy is in heaven.

The Big News: Nolan is officially the “king of the potty”---no accidents all month. He celebrated and then turned to me and said, “When can I get a dog?” A lot of promises have been made in the past six months, and Nolie appears to remember them all.

He has also let us know he is not cool with just listening to his brothers on their Saturday DJ gig on KZMU. Check back here later this week for a short video of his most recent ukulele original, “Goodnight Momma.”

Lastly, it’s not only puppies, or even just stuffed animals (if I’m really honest, they’re my favorite kind of pet, i.e. low maintenance), this boy LOVES animals. While his brothers jumped on the giant Pumpkin Jump, he could not be tempted away from the chicken house or from feeding an ear of corn to a goat, or petting the sheep or riding a pony for the first time.

Later, when we stopped to eat, he stood on his bench and yelled, “I’m a COWBOY!” Unfortunately we couldn’t quite make out what he was saying and kept agreeing, “Yes, you’re a tall boy!” to which he would shake his head and repeat, “I’m a COWBOY!” Finally, when he said, “I’m a COWBOY---I ride pony!” we got it. After smiling in relief at being understood, I swear he shook his head one more time in disbelief over how slow we are.

*CeCe is one of the four or five people I’ve shared this blog with so far.  Here’s my conundrum. I find it a little freaky to have people I don’t know read the blog. But I also find it motivating to post more when anyone reads the blog. And last time I had a blog, I found it unnerving (and difficult to write) when more people whom I knew in “real life” started reading the blog. So I want people to read it, but I don’t want people I know or people I don’t know to read it. The solution?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Three Wild Things

an old favorite, by Wendell Berry.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Overheard Recently

Taken by Brian at Warner Lake during my week in Chicago
Aidan, explaining to me who Takeshi, the final ninja, is: "Take Spiderman, combine him with Iron Man, and now make him Japanese."

A great thing about nine year old boys: you don’t have to understand what they’re talking about to enjoy listening to them.

Sean, with great incredulity, to Nolan (age 3): “What?! You don’t know who Babe Ruth was?!”

Nolan at dinner almost every night, after anyone else has said more than a few sentences: “Now my turn! Onceuponatime…um…” and then continues a tale of good witches and bad witches, pirates and monkeys, and all kinds of things we can’t quite make out. Lots of “they come and they go”---one of his favorite plot turns.

Aidan, at a recent BBQ with friends after a crying baby had been handed to me and fell asleep: “You sure have mama-charms, Mom.”

One of the best compliments I’ve ever received.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

20 on the 20th: Us Right Now


web nolie washing and smiling

1. started preschool this month, three mornings a week. This boy, whom I could never leave with friends or for a play date, waved and kissed me goodbye on his first day and only cried when I came to pick him up…because it was time to leave! I tried hard not to take it too personally.  Really grateful we got to spend time there this summer together---made it much easier this fall!

web nolie's first day of school

2. LOVES his school. He is outside almost all morning, surrounded by horses, a creek, and old trees. And his teacher is magic. Aidan often asks if he can go there too.

web nolie at concert
At the free outdoor concert, just before the skies sent a downpour on all of us!

3. wants to paint every day. He brought home his first wet-on-wet watercolor last week, and presented it as gift to me. He awoke the next day intent on creating a painting “for Daddy.” It’s hanging on our kitchen white board now.

nolie kite flying frontyard

4. has decided he wants to be Super Nolan for Halloween. So far that entails having a robot body, a red cape and mask, and a skeleton glove.  Sean and he have created a whole story line involving Super Nolan and his partner, Eagle Man.

web Nolan library

5. has inherited an inability to leave the library without more books than one can read in a week. LOVES the library doll house.

web nolie and doll house

web sean goofy grin

1. also loves school, though he stayed home yesterday after a bad tumble on the run to the bus. Our neighbor was outside when he fell on gravel, picked him up and carried him home. At lunch Sean sat reflecting and told me, “Now I know for sure that God exists---he made sure Jon was there to help me get home.”

Sean and his SuperNolan and Eagle Man comic

2. worked all weekend on a Super Nolan comic book, “Shot to Dot.” I’m in love with all the detail he put into the cover (see below).

web sean's comic book cover

3. is torn between being Harry Potter or Eagle Man for Halloween. I have no idea what Eagle Man’s costume would entail, so you know for which one I’m voting. He & Aidan are having big debates as to whether DC comics already has copyrights to a villain of the same name (though Sean’s Eagle Man is decidedly good).

4. seems to be awarded the supposedly rare “blue card” at school almost every day. He loves to help people, especially the newly adopted boy in his class who knows no English.

web aidan sean heading to the bus
Still cracking me up with "twin days" when Sean & Aidan dress alike.

5. has big plans for hot cocoa and lemon cookies tomorrow, as it is just beginning to show the faintest signs of autumn.


web aidan my first born

1. also took a big tumble in a parking lot at Cub Scouts today. He and Sean compared injuries and band-aids after he apologized for getting on the school bus and not noticing that Sean was no longer behind him.

friday movie night

2. set up our big beach blanket on Friday night so the four of us could enjoy popcorn and “Rio” on the floor together. Also won every round of our “Identify the movie line” game.

aidan writing his screenplay

3. began work on his Kidbot© script that he has been talking about all summer (I secretly think he was motivated by Sean’s focused work on his comic book & recent discussions about "grit"). He kept wanting to dictate it to me, and I agreed to…some day. He definitely finds typing easier than handwriting.

web aidan eye clops

4. Rediscovered his eye clops, a microscopic camera his Gramare gave him last Christmas. He is constantly asking me to look at incredible images of Sean’s hair (looks like blades of grass), his shirt (amazing weave) and of course his scabs (I’ll spare you).

5. After our big yard sale last week, seems like there’s been a lot of “rediscovering” happening; perhaps getting rid of stuff opens up space for it. Aidan had our IKEA igloo set up all week in the playroom, and it is his new favorite reading spot. On our library run today, he stocked up on the entire Narnia and Stink series, a priceless juxtaposition.


1. haven’t seen each other for 10 days. I know I sound whiny, but even after all these years, I don’t like fire season. I think of military spouses,  who juggle so much more for so much longer. I’m in awe of them, but berating myself by comparison only makes me feel wimpy and worse.

2. saw “The Help” together a few weeks ago, as predicted in my last 20-on-20.

Not our 1st date, but at the President's Ball later the same month.

3. will be celebrating the 21st anniversary of our first date on Oct. 4th. Hopefully together.

4. have been reading The Tiger (Brian), Devotion, Take the Cannoli, Love is a Mixed Tape, and just about anything but Cutting for Stone. I don’t know why.

5. probably won’t be posting for a few weeks. See ya in October.

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