Sunday, July 17, 2016

1 Second...Every Couple of Days

Once upon a time, not very long ago at all, I didn't have an iPhone or any kind of smart phone. And still I fell in love with the 1SecondEveryday app when it was a Kickstarter project. This little app embodies so much of what I love---snapshots of everyday, memory-keeping and EASY.

In July 2014 I FINALLY got a smart phone, because we were moving and I needed Siri in a very real way. The power of being able to ask, "Directions home"  in a new town cannot be underestimated. 

It wasn't until I saw Elise Cripe's first 7-second video on Instagram that I remembered that Kickstarter idea I had loved. So I started 11 days into 2016, and there have been some weeks when I capture only one or two seconds. I let go of perfection and embraced capturing what I can. And I love it.

Golden Seconds from 2016 Part 1 from Deirdre Keating on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Five Things I Learned in June 2016

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. Friendship doesn't solve everything, but it makes everything more enjoyable.

This month I've felt so grateful for the good friends our boys have, for old friends passing through town, and my own tried and true as well as new friends. 

2. Sharing one's friends is one of the most generous acts.

Welcoming new people or the intermingling of friends from different parts of one's life can be challenging. I am not the best at it, but I have been on the receiving end of it and know what a gracious gift it is. 

Freida was the first friend I made in Golden after she rescued my boys from the wrong bus stop on the first day of school. She eventually invited me to her book club and it has been such a gift to gather with smart women and laugh about books, motherhood and life. 

My friend Angie is a master at this---she was created a new community out of disparate parts of her life, and this group has gathered for girls weekends for several years. This fall, for the first time, all our kids will be in the same place at the same time. I'm over the moon about it and sending occasional texts with the countdown of days.

3. Anticipation contributes to the actual experience---at least for me.

I would have loved to have surprised Sean on his 11th birthday by actually leaving that day on our trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Life didn't allow for that, and in retrospect, I'm glad. I love looking forward to the trip, knowing that, while we aren't taking any big summer trip, we have an adventure of our own on the horizon.

Besides time away with my favorite people, I'm most looking forward to the ocean. And looking forward always feels good to me.

4. New favorite podcast: Brooke Castillo

I've been driving the boys to summer camp at Mines all week, which has made me realize how much I rely on the time alone to listen to podcasts on my commute! I've been learning so much from Brooke Castillo's podcast, and still am amazed that so many people share great content for free. A post of favorite podcasts is coming. 

Also Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast now!

5. Other than the newly discovered podcasts in #4, none of these are new lessons or big surprises. But that is what summer is for---taking in blessings and things you knew and relishing them. So grateful for summer!

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.

Best Books of 2015

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

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

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

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

Favorite nonfiction: Brown Girl Dreaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Nolie Cannoli

This boy is now eight.

He is the moon and stars rolled into one, and every mama-cliche about their babies.

He is not a baby. He is a boy. He wants to stay that way. He says his worst fear is becoming a teen.

"I know adults have more freedom, but I like being a kid. I would rather have less freedom and less responsibility."

And just this week: "I might have kids someday, but I'm not going to share my stuffed animals with them!"

This boy loves his penguin, his stuffed koala, his Ewok and a dozen other friends. Every other week we empty his bed of animals and say, "Choose three." Within a week, the three have multiplied once again.

This is classic Nolie and Sean---with Sean trying to entice him and Nolie contemplating whether he'll go along. This boy is strong willed and does not follow blindly, but his big-brother adoration is equally powerful. His love of Ewoks, like his love of koalas, the book series Amulet, and a million other things, have been handed down.

And yet, this boy is his own person. He loves shiny things. He once asked for a diamond from Santa. His grandmother introduced him to Michael's craft store this summer, and he was in awe of the bling aisle. He has very definite ideas, like his decision to be a s'more this Halloween. Not one of the dozen superheroes we already have costumes for, no. A s'more.

This boy has always had a thing for s'mores.

This boy is the slowest eater, and the only boy in our house to like mac-n-cheese, cantaloupe, or grilled cheese (hmm, just like his dad!). This boy used to ask us to call him Brian Junior.

This boy is now an independent reader, just like his brothers. He has fallen for graphic novels in a big way, and El Deafo specifically. This was also the year he introduced our whole family to Edward Tulane. He loves bringing home books none of us have read before---a challenging feat!

This boy is a master builder. And a bit spoiled. This boy hates when I say that, though I intend it as a reminder to his parents. He doesn't have a third of the jobs his brother Aidan had at that age. He is a rule-follower to the extreme in the classroom, and not quite so much at home.

This boy plays piano, soccer, and baseball. His beloved Robotics club just ended.  Last summer he went to two weeks of summer camp, at the Golden History Museum and Mines Sports camp. He is always asking his dad for help building something.

He loves his babysitter who comes for an hour after school. This boy loves how his baby sitter doesn't notice him sneaking yet another fruit snack or granola bar. And he loves drawing with her, and playing games his brother Sean invents for them. He is good at math and great at writing, but hates when his mom has him rewrite his messy work.

This boy says the best grace at dinner, gives his dog a blessing at bedtime, and is anxiously awaiting his First Communion this year.

This boy notices beauty.  He gives compliments and hugs, but only to people he knows well. He craves sad stories. He loves to snuggle.

This boy amazes me and scares me because I love him so.

And now he's eight.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Best Movies of 2015

I have no idea what was the best movie of 2015, but these were the ones I saw and loved, sometimes just because the timing was right.

1. Brooklyn

It is a small story, the story of an Irish girl leaving home to come to America. And it is the story of anyone who has ever felt the push/pull of having left a place you loved, of seeing possibilities in more than one place, in more than one life, and having to choose.

It's also an adaptation of Colm Tóibín's novel, the last book I gave my mother, and I believe the last book she read. It kills me now that I hadn't read it when she wanted to discuss it, but this much I remember---she wanted Eilis to choose differently and I loved Eilis' choice, so it would've been a lively discussion.

They filmed it in the same small town the author grew up in and based it (Enniscorthy, which is near Waterford). I loved the cinematography, the lighting, sets and the clothing. Plus Mrs. Weasley is wonderful as the rooming house woman, and Domhnall Gleeson is always a delight.

It probably won't suit everyone's taste---it takes its time, and most of the conflict is inward. Still, I hope a lot of people will you see it. How many films are made about an ordinary young woman? Without superhero powers or perfect archery? Eilis is already a young woman when the story begins, but this is still one of few female bildungsroman movies I've seen. I've been slightly obsessed with the female bildungsroman ever since I realized that even To Kill A Mockingbird is really the story of Jem's growing up more so than Scout's. 

I wish Nick Hornby had won the Oscar for best adaptation. I've read the book now, and it is masterful but truth be told, I love every change Hornby made. Is it blasphemy to say I liked the movie better?

2. About Time

This was the right movie at the right time. I'm more than a little obsessed with time, and when we saw it, I was out of sorts. I had just returned to work, during the busiest time of the academic year, and I felt like every day for the rest of my life was going to be the same mix of working and hurrying and cooking and cleaning up and then getting up to do it again. 

It looked like a stupid rom-com, and it was definitely marketed that way. There are aspects that you don't want to look at too closely (issues of deception and authenticity) but...because it is cast so well, and Domhnall personifies good intentions, I didn't find those complications too distracting.
It's actually a love story between a father and son, in my opinion. I thought it brilliant and it woke me up when I most needed it. Aidan just watched Groundhog Day with me a week ago, one of my all-time favorites, and the two have much in common.

3. Inside Out

Wendy called it "The Schindler's List" of animation---I was a wreck watching it. We have tweens and teens, and we had just recently moved to a new state, and it was all so close to home.

I didn't love the animation---I found the colors harsh and the drawings a bit over the top, whereas The Good Dinosaur was so lovely that I thought they must have used live-action for some of the scenery. But the story of Inside Out---the role of memory in personality, the essential role of sadness in overcoming grief, and this image of emotions at the wheel of our mind, wow. Thank you, Pixar.

Lots of other good movies. "Spotlight" is a must see, devastating in its portrait of corruption in the church and highlighting our need for investigative journalism. "Still Alice" was out in 2014 but I only saw it in 2015 and loved it. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was so fun in our looking forward to it, going as a family on opening night, and discussing---still discussing now, months later. "Song of the Sea" was a favorite Friday Night Movie Night, as was "Ferris Bueller," the night before our trip to Chicago. I showed the boys "West Side Story" while Brian was on a wildfire---sneaking in musicals whenever I can. I loved "Trainwreck" as well as "The Revenant" (though that may have been 2016). "Peanuts" was much better than I anticipated, especially after the despicable "Minions."

Two random movies that you may have missed, "Learning to Drive" & "I'll See You in My Dreams," were both good. 

At home on our big screen, we said goodbye to Jon Stewart. It was time, but I still miss that nightly ritual. Brian and I watched "Togetherness" --nice, occasionally sharp; "The Grinder" for harmless escape; and "Mr. Robot" until I had to abandon Brian when it got too dark. I miss Louie C.K. and Parenthood and having a weekly show to look forward to, but it's all good. I like the new curated way to watch TV---the best clips of SNL or Jimmy Fallon without having to watch the crappy parts too. 

Brian won our Oscar Prediction contest this year (with 12 correct picks...I had 11), so he won the movie tickets. He says it is poor sportsmanship to keep them when we were the hosts. Maybe, but I say, let's go the show!

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