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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