Friday, December 12, 2014

Sights & Sounds of the Season

Our tradition is that, the day after Thanksgiving, we kick off the Christmas season by putting up the Christmas tree. We rushed that by a day this year since Nanny was in town for Thanksgiving and starting dragging out boxes and lights and tinsel as soon as the turkey feast was cleared from the table.

I'll admit though, despite all of the Christmas cheer around the house, I have had a hard time getting into the spirit this season. I'm not really sure why that is the case. We did our shopping early, so I'm not dealing with the stress of holiday crowds and frenetic shopping. Maybe it's work. Maybe it's just the hot-then-cold weather (but that's pretty typical for TX at this time of year). I don't know. I've just had a hard time FEELING IT, this year.

But that has all changed in the last few days.

So what sparked the big change, you ask? It's actually a very simple answer - Christmas tunes! Wonder Boy loves everything Christmas: the lights, the tree, the specials on TV, the PRESENTS, and Christmas carols! He belts out his holiday favorites in the shower, in the car on the way to school, judo, and anywhere else we might travel. He even reads (in his head) questions on his math test to the tune of his favorite holiday anthems (he admitted to that one yesterday when I asked about the math test)!

So I wanted to share with you a few of the tunes we are enjoying this season. Hopefully they will inspire you the way they have our family!

Straight No Chaser - The 12 Days of Christmas:

Straight No Chaser - The Christmas Can-Can:

Straight No Chaser - The Nutcracker:

The Bobs - Mambo Santa Mambo:

Los Straightjackets - God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen:

Los Straightjackets - Feliz Navidad:

There are many more tunes, of course. But these are the ones that are being played (& belted out) most often!

Take care and Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dia De Los Muertos

The Mexican Holiday of "Dia de los Muertos" or "Day of the Dead" is celebrated on November 2nd each year. The holiday is a celebration to remember friends and family members who have passed away.

A few days ago, on Oct. 31st, I lost my maternal grandmother. She passed peacefully after a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease.

So this year on Dia de los Muertos, I would like to pause a moment to reflect on both of my grandmothers.

First, I'd like to introduce you to my paternal grandmother, my Granny.

This lovely red-haired sweetheart was simply known to me as "Granny." She lived on the top of a hill in the piney woods of Texas, was a fabulous artist, a writer, a teacher, a wrangler of grand kids, and an amazing woman of God.

When I look at picture of her, I conjure the scent of fresh coffee since she always had a pot at the ready. Saturdays, Sundays, and summers of my youth she took care of at least 6 of her 8 grand-kids and managed to do it all without bodily harm to any of us. She could tell a fantastical story, entertain us on the piano, and throw together lunch or dinner for a sudden crowd without a second thought.

But one thing that always sticks with me is that she was always teaching. Teaching was actually her chosen profession, but by the time I came along, most of her teaching came from within the walls of her own home. She had the uncanny patience to work with a reluctant writer, was always explaining her way through her day, and was always quick with a tale or Bible verse to illustrate a point.

She left us in September of 2008 and there has been a huge hole in my heart ever since.

Next, I'd like to acquaint you with my maternal grandmother, my Memaw.

As I mentioned above, she has only just recently left us. And she has been on my mind almost non-stop since I received the news.

I miss her already.

It's true that, with the severity of her illness, the Memaw from my memories has been gone for a number of years. But there is just something about hearing the end has come that drives it home all over again.

This little lady was the living spirit of "spit fire." So much life in such a tiny package.

When I look at her pictures, the first thing to come to mind is the scent of Chanel No. 5 perfume, specifically clouds and clouds of Chanel No. 5 powder.

If you knew my Memaw at all, you would know that she was a sports fanatic. And she loved all teams from Houston, her favorites being the Houston Astros (baseball), the Houston Rockets (basketball), and the Houston Oilers (I don't know if she ever warmed up to the Texans).

She also loved to make things. Arts and crafts were a constant part of her life.

It is from Memaw that I developed my love of elaborate holiday preparations. I don't recall ever walking into her home at Christmas without seeing at least 3 trees decked out with sparkles of all kinds.

In her earlier years, when my Papaw was still in the Army, she developed a love of travel. But for me, she will always be a symbol of home. And it didn't matter where she was at - wherever she found herself, that was home. I think that is why I feel a little untethered at the moment.

I have been very blessed. My grandparents (all 4 of them) were a huge part of my upbringing. These 2 ladies were at the center of that experience. And while they no longer walk this world with us, I carry them with me wherever I go.

And for that, I am even more blessed.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Birthday Blessing

Today, our dear Wonder Boy turns 13 years old! I have been sitting here trying to come up with the words to capture all that is going through my heart and mind, but I just can't seem to find the right words.

So ... for now, at least, I will borrow these words - from an anonymous source on the web - with a few modifications of my own - in the form of this birthday blessing for Wonder Boy:

Happy Birthday! You're now thirteen,
It's such a special age,
Choices and plans, what will you be,
A doctor, an engineer or sage?

It's quite okay if you don't know,
It's more important to live each day,
Take each challenge one step at a time,
Learn and enjoy, your work and play.

Live each moment, do all things well,
What's inside you, are things that last.
At home, at school, wherever you are,
we are so very thankful you're growing fast.

Happy Birthday Wonder Boy! and many thanks,
You've been blessed in many ways,
We pray He bless you all through your years,
And guide and guard you all your days.

Today we have enjoyed a family-focused day, which is what Wonder Boy requested. We slept in. He opened gifts. We had great food. Watched fun movies. Played games - inside and out. And just did our best to make this day last as long as possible.

Happy Birthday Wonder Boy! We love you more than you will ever know!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Project 13 to 13: Day 13

Well here we are ... on the final day before our dear Wonder Boy becomes a teenager. I cant' believe this day has come so quickly. We've had a fun and full day. And we are looking forward to tomorrow's celebrations.

But first, we got back on track today and grabbed this snap of the day at today's soccer game:

We had some GREAT soccer weather today and the Boy and his team battled hard against a very strong opponent. They didn't come away with a win, but we saw them playing better as a team than last week. I believe they will continue to grow and develop as a team. There is a lot of talent there. But they have only had 3 practices together so far. And to see how much they have gelled already is very promising for the rest of the season and beyond.

For our look back today, we only look back a few months:

Late last spring, Wonder Dad traveled to an out-of-town conference and brought back a "pyraminx" - which is a triangular prism Rubik's "cube." And with that one puzzle, Wonder Boy become obsessed! He worked tirelessly until he could solve any mix-up. And then he moved on to making patterns (& solving them). Not long after that, he invested in a traditional Rubik's cube. And he has done the same with it - worked and worked at solving it, until no mix-up is too complicated, and then moved on to creating patterns. Maybe we should call him "Kid Cube" instead of Wonder Boy.

Whatever we call him, this kid - soon to be teen - is a lot of fun! And I know there are plenty who cringe at the thought of living with a teenager. But Wonder Boy doesn't inspire that kind of fear (not yet, anyway). And besides, family is family - even when hormones are raging. After all ... Wonder Dad didn't hide from me when pregnant with Wonder Boy all those years ago. And surely teen hormone swings can't compare with pregnancy mood swings!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Project 13 to 13: Day 12

I should hang my head in shame as I come to tell you that there is no snap of Wonder Boy on day 12 of our countdown to teen-dom. But the reason there is no photo is that all three of us came home weary from the long week today, settled down on the couch together and spent the evening just enjoying being together as a family. We watched a movie, cuddled under a blanket, had a nice meal together and just relaxed.

Tomorrow is a busy day that will include a soccer game, errands, and some much needed cleaning before we begin our last minute birthday preps. So while I should hang my head ... I am not. This is just what our family needs today and so that is just how it will have to be.

I *do*, however, have a look back to share with you.

Here you see Wonder Boy a year ago today doing one of the things he loves the most in this world - knocking out a tune on his keyboard. That smile you see on his face ... it seems to ALWAYS be there when he is making music. And you can count on there being a smile on my face and Wonder Dad's face as well. We love having all this music in our home. It's a true treat!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Project 13 to 13: Day 11

O.M.G. ... it's day #11 of this "13 to 13" project!

Again today Wonder Boy was super psyched about our featured photo of the day:

This was SUPPOSED to be another installment of pictures about how much music plays a leading role in Wonder Boy's world (see the trusty iPod in his hand?).

But when I see this image, despite the tell tale white ear buds, what I see is his expression. Can't you just hear him saying "Really, Mom? Really?"? We hear this ALL THE TIME! It's usually followed by an eye roll or a deep sigh, but that look is SO QUINTESSENTIALLY Wonder Boy that it brings a smile to my face. THIS is the look of my very-soon-to-be-teenage son.

But back to the music ... you cannot just assume what music Wonder Boy will have queued up on his iPod. One day it will be Elgar's Enigma Variations and the next day it will be KC and the Sunshine Band. This morning, however, it was "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede, as featured in one of the Boy's favorite movies from this summer - Guardians of the Galaxy.

I like that the Boy's music tastes are all over the place. Wonder Dad and I both have rather ... eclectic ... taste in music as well. Maybe it's a dominant gene.

Today's look back is from this same date in 2012, just a quick snap before school on picture day.

It's funny - I love the playful grin on the Boy's face, but what really catches my eye is just a tiny little detail - the para-cord bracelet on his right wrist. That summer, Wonder Boy learned how to make them at camp and then, on his own time, took it to the next level with elaborate patterns and custom color combinations. I still have the bracelets he made for me - Wonder Dad has his too and we both wear them whenever possible. Because who knows when you might just need to tie something down? Right?!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Project 13 to 13: Day 10

I'm having a little panic attack at the fact that this project has hit double digits. On the one hand, I have been able to feature 10 sweet flashback photos and 10 up-to-date snaps of Wonder Boy. But on the OTHER hand, that means there is only 3 days left until my guy turns into a TEENAGER! AAARRRGGGHHH!

I think I'm going to live in denial and just ignore that for now (we'll all be better off if I do) ...

So ... back to business ... today's featured snap is a fun one! See!

So far, this project has been entirely for my benefit. Wonder Boy has begrudgingly allowed me my snap each day. Sometimes my request has been granted among exasperated sighs and exaggerated eye rolls, but it's been granted none-the-less. And I have been thankful. What you see in those snaps is my Boy, exactly as he is at this point in his life. The REAL Wonder Boy, not some overly nostalgic version that I cook up in my head. And that is SO true for this photo.

You see this photo is ALL Wonder Boy's doing. He came up with the idea, the pose, all of it. OK. I added the processing - kind of an "acid wash" for PhotoShop - but I think it goes with the attitude he was showing off. Wonder Boy styled the wrap around shades (which are actually just those flimsy things the eye doctor gives you after they dilate your pupils) and donned his head phones, parked himself in his computer chair, crossed his arms, and instructed me to snap away. This is his "DJ look," he tells me. And I just LOVE IT!

I also love that he's in his TAMU Engineering t-shirt. Today is "College Gear Day" at his school. And I think he's geared up quite well. Maybe one day he'll be an Aggie Engineer. Until then, he's still my favorite engineer!

Our flashback snap for today is another favorite of mine, taken on his first day of 4th grade in 2011.

That was a fun school year. It was his last year at the neighborhood elementary school. And by that time, he and his classmates probably felt like they owned the place. He had a confidence and a swagger that we hadn't seen before, when it came to gearing up for the new school year. That confidence has followed him through Intermediate School and even on into Middle School. I hope we continue to see that grow in him each and every school year.