Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year in Review

At the close of each year, I like to post a quick look back over the previous 12 months. And here is my glance back at 2013:

As usual, looking back on the year makes me a bit nostalgic. We had a good year as a family. We stretched out a bit, tried some new things, continued with some old favorites, and in general just grew together as a family.

Any time you have a child in the mix, looking back over any period of time you will be able to see huge leaps in growth and accomplishment. And we are no different in that respect. Wonder Boy has grown and changed every bit as much in the last 12 months as in his first 12 months. The young man that he is becoming is one that constantly leaves us in awe ... and in anticipation of what the next 12 months will hold!

So as we kick off 2014 in style, here's to everything that is yet to come!

Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I'm actually posting this on the way far side of Dec 25, 2013 (it's now 2014, but I'll be back dating this post). I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to work on this. Perhaps it's because our holiday this year was so nice and peaceful that even taking the time to write a blog post seemed like an intrusion on our family time. Whatever the reason, here is a brief review of our 2013 holiday ...

Instead of one big family gathering, our celebrations were a bit more spread out this year.

We launched our family festivities with the Christmas-ification of the house, both inside and out, on Thanksgiving day. And we kept adding decorations and other such signs of the holidays all the way up until the week of Christmas!

On Dec 20th as schools (both big and small) shut down, we kicked off our long winter break with a family wedding. The next day Wonder Boy tested successfully for his purple belt in judo (post coming soon). And the day after THAT we welcomed our first visitors and had a great lunch and early present exchange.

Christmas Eve found us at home, just the 3 of us. We enjoyed an early service, had a super special (though quite non-traditional) dinner, a reading by Wonder Boy, loads of Christmas movies, and the exchange of our gifts to one another. Christmas day started pretty early with more presents and was followed by another wonderful family visit for yet another great lunch and even MORE gifts.

*WHEW* That was exhausting even to type! Honestly, It was a whirl-wind of excitement and we have all enjoyed it immensely. Here are a few sights from our season of celebration:

We'd like to wrap up our holiday re-cap by wishing each and every one of you a happy and healthy 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013


When soccer is done for the season in both the spring and fall, we make our way back to the dojo to re-sharpen our judo skills.

Before soccer started this fall, Wonder Boy and his instructor were preparing him for his next belt test. There was some talk of trying to squeeze in the test before soccer season kicked off, but it just was not in the cards.

When we returned to the dojo in November, those talks and preparations resumed. Wonder Boy, feeling rusty after the 3 month break in training, was much more hesitant facing this belt test than any other before it.

As a family, we spent more than a month drilling him at home, going over techniques, and even quizzing him in the car on the drive to and from school most days.

Wonder Dad and I both knew he was ready, but when the big day arrived, you could sense his butterflies.

He needn't have worried though, as with every belt test I can remember him taking in judo, once he was on the mat, his training took over and he flew through the test with ease.

This test was a little bit different. Sure, Wonder Boy still had to demonstrate every technique he has ever learned. He performed combinations of techniques, and answered questions on general judo trivia.

But what set this test apart was the kata. Kata in judo is performed with a partner. And maybe because it requires some pretty precise coordination, Wonder Boy's instructor saves the teaching and performance of kata until you are an advanced belt.

Here is Wonder Boy doing the first three parts of the Nage No Waza kata.

Nage No Kata (first 3 parts)

You will note that I had the pleasure of being Wonder Boy's uke (throwing dummy). Part of that was due to the fact that the test was held at the start of the winter holiday when there are fewer ukes from which to choose. And part of it was due to the fact that you need to be an advanced belt to perform the kata (or, in my case, have it performed ON you). And finally, there are not a lot of ukes at the dojo anywhere near Wonder Boy's size. Many are smaller. Many are a LOT larger. So this turned into a mother-son affair. I truly have been honored to be a part of this special day.

And I think you can tell from the looks on our faces, Wonder Dad and I are ever so proud of our purple belt boy!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Interlude

As the fall semester draws to a close, one of our most anticipated moments finally creeps up on the calendar - Wonder Boy's winter orchestra concert! Now that he's in his second year of orchestra, an additional in-school concert was added for Veteran's Day back in November, but the BIG showcase for the fall semester is still the Winter Concert.

As in semesters past, Wonder Boy and his pals in the orchestra have been working for months to polish up a couple of special numbers for us and the concert was every bit as enjoyable as last winter and spring. In fact, in many ways is was even more enjoyable as the pieces they performed were longer and more complicated for these young musicians.

I have mentioned it in the past (& will probably mention it time and again), but it never fails to amaze me how far this group has come in such a short time. They hit the ground running the very first week of school and haven't slowed down one bit as they have prepared for two concerts already!

Here is your chance to listen to the winter concert. I apologize for the shaky video - I forgot to bring the tripod (oops!). The music is great regardless of my unsteady hand.

6th Grade Orchestra Winter Concert

I am confident that, after listening to them play their hearts out, you will understand why I can hardly wait until their next performance!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Introducing: Wonder Mutt

In the last few months, our family has added a new addition. We're calling him Wonder Mutt (at least, that's what we'll call him here). Our Puppy Princess (who is all princess and not much pup any more) wasn't too thrilled with our latest family member, but Wonder Boy couldn't be more thrilled and she is adjusting.

Wonder Boy has been dreaming of a dog to call his own for longer than I can remember. And he adores the Puppy Princess with all his heart. But she thinks of him as a litter mate. They play. And cuddle. But what he was looking for, I believe, is a dog that follows his every movement and cannot wait to be with him at the end of a school day.

Enter Wonder Mutt. The little man just ADORES Wonder Boy. They cuddle on the couch and play games of chase and fetch both in and out of the house(heaven help me).

Wonder Boy has started getting up 30 minutes earlier than normal so that he can lend a hand with managing Mr Mutt first thing in the morning, he helps with feeding time and potty training and all of the other little things that are needed to help Wonder Mutt fit into the puzzle that is our family and our routine. I believe this to be the key to their special bond.

Wonder Mutt came into our home about a month after Wonder Boy's birthday, but it seems like every day is a new gift, watching the two of them together. I look forward to many more years of seeing their relationship develop.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Victory in Defeat

Today, Wonder Boy and his team faced down the top team in the division. Unlike many teams in the division, this group of guys have (mostly) been playing together for a number of years and every last one of them is fit and ready for a grueling season.

So it was with a fair bit of trepidation that Wonder Boy and his teammates lined up across from them this morning.

Things started off well enough and our beloved Green Team managed to end the first half with a draw of 2 goals apiece.

However, the trend just couldn't be sustained in the second half. Wonder Boy's team tried their hardest, but were simply outmatched this time.

But with that said, I think this might have been one of Wonder Boy's finest performances.

About midway through the second half, when the guys in orange had taken a firm lead, you could see the guys in green physically slow down a bit as they became physically tired and emotionally demoralized. Even Wonder Boy seemed a step off pace. But then some switch turned or maybe he got his second wind. Because after that fleeting moment of lethargy, Wonder Boy kicked it back into high gear. He encouraged his teammates, he covered a vast amount of the field - running back and forth from offense to defense - and did his very best to give his team every chance to make a comeback.

The comeback didn't materialize, but we saw Wonder Boy change right there on the field. He went from just being "one of the guys" to being a leader on the field.

And we literally could not have been more proud of him in that moment.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Birthday In Da House!

Today Wonder Boy turned 12 years old. Twelve!

There is a large part of me that would like to focus on the nostalgic side of this birthday, wondering where my baby has gone. But the truth is, this was such a FUN birthday, that even nostalgia gets put aside for this sappy mom.

The day actually started several days, weeks in advance. Or rather, the planning and prep work for the big day started well in advance.

You see, Wonder Boy and Wonder Dad have a bit of a friendly competition where birthdays are concerned. They each try to top one another in terms of creating "memorable moments." And this must be a dominant gene because they are both quite fantastic at this particular skill!

Past birthdays have seen pranks, poems, birthday zombies, special meals, and even underwear scavenger hunts! Birthdays in this house are NOT to be missed!

For the first big event of the day, Wonder Dad and I spent several nights blowing up balloons in the secret halls of our bedroom closet. We blew up over 100 good sized (12") balloons that we then used to fill the alcove outside of Wonder Boy's bedroom! We managed to stack them about 6' high! So when we called the Boy to breakfast this morning, he opened his bedroom door, and the balloons came flooding in!

It was quite a sight to behold!

But that was not the end of the birthday hijinks! Oh, no! We went right into Prank #2.

A few weeks before this auspicious day, Wonder Dad noticed that there was still one yet unopened present from Christmas. I am not sure if Wonder Boy is intimidated by it or what, but Wonder Dad thought (& I agreed) that it would serve the Boy right to wrap it up again and give it back to him. And who knows, maybe that little jab would be enough to get him to tear off the shrink wrap and give it a try finally.

So ... after splashing through the deluge of balloons, Wonder Boy was ready to get down to the business of opening presents. He grabbed the box waiting for him on the fireplace hearth and went to town ripping the wrapping right off.

And then he stopped.

He stared at the box a bit.

And like a good little minion, turned to us and said "Whaaaaa?"

"But I already have this one!", he continued.

He looked to Wonder Dad for explanation, clearly confused. At which point, Wonder Dad launched into a VERY convincing pitch regarding the newness of said gift.

For those that don't know ... Wonder Boy is not what you would call "a morning person." And as such, is not the most clear headed first thing in the morning, even on his birthday.

So ... just as he was beginning to question himself, Wonder Dad spilled the beans and brought out the real gifts (much to the relief of our dear Wonder Boy).

Surprisingly, Wonder Boy took it better than I would have thought, laughed along with us and didn't hold a grudge for the little pranks. In fact, as the day wore on, it seems his favorite thing to do was to tell others the torture we had put him through that morning, but he did so with a big grin on his face, so no hard feelings!

This really is a good picture of how the day shaped up in general - just fun and laughs and lots of good times for us all.

After opening gifts, we settled down for breakfast. Then we got to enjoy a FANTASTIC soccer game where the Boy and his team came away with a 6 to 2 victory (Wonder Boy had an assist)! After that it was home for a sinful lunch of bacon shell tacos (for the Boy anyway). Then a bit of time to start playing with new toys. And then we capped off the day at a special dinner, where we were joined by Wonder Boy's two best buds.

The boys laughed, one of them danced, and we all ate to our hearts' content.

As we drove home, a much anticipated cool front blew in, and we enjoyed a cool walk with our Wonder Pup as the perfect end to an INCREDIBLE birthday!

Wonder Boy should turn 12 every day if this is the way things are going to go!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's In the Fingers

Wonder Boy continues to amaze the two of us when it comes to his musical abilities. His piano lessons are going so well and he seems to just soak in music in ways we can only dream about.

He is getting more and more confident reading music. But what still just makes my jaw drop is to watch him pick out a tune by ear. He'll sit down and bang away until he finds the right combination of keys. And really, it doesn't take too long at all. Some times he'll even change the key a bit and play the same tune in a new way. Seriously, this just blows me away.

After listening to him the other day, Wonder Dad asked what he was doing (it sounded to us like he was working out another new number) and Wonder Boy replied that he was getting the new piece "in his fingers."

I just loved the way he phrased it.

To him, that's where the music lies ... in his hands.

Even when he's working on a new assignment, it may take his hands a little time to catch up with what he knows in his head. So he practices and practices in order to translate the music to his fingers.

I wish my fingers worked like that.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Back In Action

New team. New players. New uniform. New focus.

Fall is finally here. I wish I could tell you that the air is crisp, the colors in a brilliant last gasp display. But that is not the case in general (this is Texas and it's hard to tell the difference between the late stages of summer and the early part of fall, after all).

However, with the turn of the calendar into fall, there are a few notable changes. Wonder Boy is back at school (& doing pretty well as usual). We are all settling into a new routine for the school year. And maybe most anticipated (at least by me), is the start of a new fall soccer season!

Wonder Boy is still in the U12 division this season. And while many of his teammates from last year have moved up to the U15 division, a whole new flood of kids (graduates of the U10 division) have joined the ranks.

Wonder Boy has a new coach (who seems pretty on top of things), a couple of old, familiar teammates, and a whole bunch of NEW guys with which to enjoy his favorite team sport.
This weekend we got to see their first game. The first game is always this big unknown. The kids have only had a couple of practices together (at best). Those moving up from U10 have a handful of new rules to learn. And there is just a general feeling out process that can only take place under game conditions.

But despite all of that, game 1 was quite enjoyable all the way around. Wonder Boy and his team played mid-morning before the temperature got too hot (& before the rain actually rolled in). And while they still need a few practices together to get a feel for how each of them likes to play, where they like to receive the ball, and that kind of thing, they played pretty well together. The final score was a tie, but there were so many chances to edge ahead for the win that it was almost hear stopping. In fact, Wonder Boy even had a last second shot on goal that had those of us in the crowd holding our breath with anticipation. The goalie made a nice stop though and both teams had to settle for a draw for the opening weekend.

It was a fun game and it lays the ground for an exciting season ahead! Now if only we could get a few cold fronts to keep the spectating comfortable.

Monday, August 26, 2013

How the Heck Did This Happen?

I was all prepared to sit down and write a quick little ditty about Wonder Boy's first day of 6th grade. As usual, he was a little bit nervous and a lot excited about the return to school.

I fixed his "first day of school breakfast" (a waffle with cool whip and the number of the grade he's going into written in chocolate syrup) with an overflowing mug of chocolate milk on the side. He got dressed, played with his dog, checked his bags for the 100th time to make sure he had everything he needed, and then was ready to go.

We had a fun ride to school (despite the horrendous traffic - we knew that was coming, turned on some fun tunes, and went ever so slowly with the flow). And at drop off, I barely got a "see ya later, Mom" before he was out the door in search of friends.

But before I sat down to note my thoughts on the morning, I decided to look back at some pictures from his OTHER first days of school.

WHAT THE HECK! Where did my tiny little school kid go? Now he's this long and lean tween who makes me laugh with his uniquely goofy sense of humor and melts my heart with each look of those chocolate brown eyes.

You'll have to forgive the emotional mommy moment. I'm torn .... on the one hand, I miss that little guy - the one with the Incredibles backpack who was a little hesitant to let go of my hand on that first day. But on the other hand, watching my big guy stride confidently through those doors without me ... well, I'm awful thrilled to be his mum and really wouldn't turn back the time for anything.

I hope it's not wrong that, on every first day yet to come, I will probably think back on his first first day. I will likely always see a bit of that kiddo in my ever growing young man.

And that's not a bad thing, is it?

Regardless of my nostalgic trip down memory lane ... 6th grade is off to a great start! Wonder Boy is happy with his teachers and is thrilled to be back with his best buds on a daily basis. Here's hoping his enthusiasm lasts all year long.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fur Elise

Not a lot of time for updates, summer is in full swing and keeping us all quite occupied.

However, Wonder Boy is still spending quite a lot of quality time with his keyboard, so I thought I'd post this little update until we have time for some real posts.


Fur Elise

You just cannot imagine all the music in our home these days. I'll try and get some more videos in the days/weeks to come.

For now, you'll just have to replay this one. :+)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Things We Do For Entertainment

It's a rainy Monday night. Wonder Boy has so much energy it's practically oozing out of his ears. Wonder Dad and I are both exhausted. Long day at work. Tough workout to boot. But the Boy is just so excited about this old style toy he made at camp (a ball in cup) that he can't sit still.

He's already mastered the basic play so next he starts taking requests for more difficult maneuvers.

Wonder Dad challenges ... "bet you can't do it with your mouth?" thinking this might occupy him for a few minutes. Yeah. Not so much. But we all had a good laugh anyway.

Ball in Cup Challenge

He went on to try clasping the stick between his toes. That one took a bit longer and he had to sit on a bar stool for best results. He tried balancing it on his shoulder (holding it down w/ his chin) as well. But I had to call a halt when they started considering inserting the pencil in his nostril. You gotta have boundaries, right?

They're forecasting more rain tomorrow (& we need it so I really hope we get it). But I am not sure this toy will survive the week at this rate!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Camp Invention

Each summer, since we both work full time, Wonder Boy spends the bulk of his days at a day camp run by the local school district. It's a camp that is filled with lots of fun things to do, plenty of outside time, and even the occasional field trip.

But the older Wonder Boy has gotten, the more we have felt a need to break up his summer, to introduce other activities.

Of course, he spends a week at soccer camp each year. But we really wanted to find a few other things to interest him this year.

So I did a hard target search for summer fun and one activity I found was a day camp called "Camp Invention."

Not long after we registered for camp this spring, we got a nice fat introduction packet in the mail. I knew we had hit on something fun when I read a list of items to send with our camper on their first day.

Sure, they had the usual stuff - lunch, snack, sun block, comfy shoes, etc. But what caught our eyes was the call for "take apart items." They were looking for things like broken down old tape players, VCRs, RC cars, and the like that the kids would cannibalize and use to make NEW THINGS during the course of the week.

Our friends and co-workers found out about the need for these kinds of things and apparently cleaned out their closets to make sure that Wonder Boy and his camp-mates had plenty of material! Wonder Boy walked in on day 1 with an old walkman, a VCR-DVD player, a VCR player, several remote controls, and a coffee maker.

We learned that the take apart items were used for all kinds of challenges over the course of the week. But the most formidable assignment of the week was to build a "duck chucker." That is, they worked in small teams to build a device that would toss a rubber ducky (no actual ducks were harmed in the making or implementation of the "duck chuckers") as far and as accurately as possible. When the Boy learned of this particular mission, he couldn't wait for camp to start!

I can't blame him ... sounds like a fun way to spend the week, if you ask me - just trying anything that came to mind to overcome the various challenges presented by the camp directors is an exercise I can wrap my head around!

And to think of the things he learned without feeling like he was learning - it just blows me away. He learned that HE can overcome obstacles. He learned that you can use what's around you in ways you might never have imagined. He learned about working in a team to reach a goal. He learned about mechanics and physics.

And he learned it all while having a great time!

That's two thumbs up for Camp Invention in my book!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bacon Day

There is always so much to look forward to during the summer months. We are blessed in that there are several celebrations to bring a little spice to the hot months.

The two that Wonder Boy and I seem to enjoy the most are Father's Day and Wonder Dad's birthday! And as luck would have it, these dates fall within a month of one another, so once we start ramping up for Dad's day in June, we get to keep on rolling all the way through mid-July. It makes for a lot of fun!

Like with Father's Day, Wonder Boy is generally "in charge" of gifts and cards and that kind of thing while I take the lead in the designing the menu for the day.

This year on Father's Day, we tried out a number of Paleo recipes in an attempt to keep our celebrating on the healthy side of things. The two biggest hits of the day were the chocolate strawberry donuts and the bacon-shell tacos, so we vowed to include them in Wonder Dad's birthday preparations as well.

I mention this because another facet of Wonder Boy's planning for his dad's birthday is the theme. He likes to have a theme when designing cards, picking out presents, and planning any special activities. Last year, he picked "Zombies" as the birthday theme. And the year before that he did up a special Angry Birds theme.

In our planning discussions (usually in the car on the way to work/camp each morning), Wonder Boy was struggling to find a theme he could sink his teeth into (yes, there is a pun there ... wait for it). But by the time we got through Father's Day and the bacon-shell tacos had been such a big hit, Wonder Boy knew what he wanted to use for this year's theme.


You guessed it!



You can't go wrong w/ bacon, right?!

So we started the day w/ those chocolate strawberry donuts and then 'bacon-ified' them by sprinkling them with bacon pieces while the chocolate glaze was still warm. Wonder Boy designed a bacon birthday card. We found bacon-ish gifts (a t-shirt featuring bacon and a board game for the whole family to enjoy called Mr. Bacon's Big Adventure). For dinner we tried the bacon-shell tacos again, but I'm afraid I learned a hard lesson - don't use thick cut bacon - and they fell apart. But we made the best of things and just had tacos with the bacon added to them. Then we took some of the extra pieces of bacon, chopped them up, and used the bacon bits to top a big bowl of ice cream! YUM YUM YUM!

So that's the story of Wonder Dad's Bacon Birthday! Wonder Boy must have really enjoyed himself, celebrating both his dad and his favorite salted meat, because he asked for the same treatment on HIS birthday this fall.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Camp Kick

With the close of June came one of the most wearily fun weeks of the summer. For the final week of June brought the start of the Texas Soccer Academy.

Wonder Boy has been going to this camp for a number of summers and we all look forward to it each year. The topics covered don't vary from year to year, but the players' progression in the basic skills certainly builds each summer.

This year we witnessed growth in virtually every area of play for Wonder Boy. But, as we have seen in summers past, I think the most thrilling display of growth has been in Wonder Boy's love of the game.

As we walked off the pitch his first day of camp, he just couldn't help but exclaim "I just LOVE soccer!"

Us too! And we love that he loves the game!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Our Super Hero

Every kid's first super hero is their dad, right? While I cannot speak for every family, I know that is most certainly the case around here!

Just ask Wonder Boy and he will tell you - his dad is the smartest, funniest, strongest, silliest, craziest, most inventive, most AMAZING dad in the history of dads!

OK. So that's laying it on just a tad thick. (Wonder Boy now claims that HE is the smartest and funniest .... but I digress). But the fact remains that we both find Wonder Dad to be pretty darn wonderful! And as such, we look forward to this day each year as a chance to show him just how much we truly love him.

As we like to make a pretty big deal about this day, Wonder Boy and I have worked out a pretty sweet deal on who does what to get things ready. The Boy is in charge of gifts and cards. I handle the food.

For Wonder Boy's birthday last fall, Wonder Dad surprised him with a scavenger hunt that led to his gift. And since that day, Wonder Boy has been itching to return the ... um ... favor. So he wrote out clues that Wonder Dad had to follow to find his goodie bag. I think it was a pretty big hit. But it is certainly upping the stakes for Wonder Boy's birthday a few months down the road!

As for food, Wonder Dad and I made a change to our diets back at the beginning of May and we are committed to making it a life-long change. We've gone Paleo. And without boring you with too many of the details, the general idea is that processed foods are out. Nuts, fruit, veggies, and meat.

That doesn't leave many choices for special occasion baking. But the good ole Internet came to my rescue and I found a sweet treat to start off our day - Paleo chocolate strawberry donuts! They were DELISH! For lunch we had pork chops. And then, the crowning glory of the day (food-wise, anyway) ... we made bacon-shell tacos for his dinner! They were the big hit of the day and both the Boy and his dad have requested that these be standard "special occasion" fare from this day forth.

All in all, it was a good day! Wonder Boy and I love the opportunity to let Wonder Dad know just how special he is to us. We hope that he gets at least a glimpse of that EVERY DAY of the year, but we try to make sure that Father's Day is as awesome as the guy we are celebrating!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Project Unplugged

As the grade school calendar winds down to a close each spring, summer knocking on the door, kids everywhere start to dream of summer vacation.

Wonder Boy is no different. For him, it means a little bit of extra sleep in the mornings, day camp trips to area pools, and (maybe most importantly) no homework!

For Wonder Dad and I though, it means the "busy season" is upon us.

But totally out of character, we actually planned a week of vacation to kick start Wonder Boy's summer! We ventured out and about to the greater Dallas area and took advantage of some of their tourist attractions.

And while we enjoyed each of these activities, the absolute BEST PART (for me, anyway) was spending the time totally unplugged. Phones turned off. Available wi-fi ignored. I mean, I read a book (an e-book, but still a BOOK)! And finished it! And then I even started another one!

But most of all, we had fun together. We laughed. We lounged. And we made some memories.

What could be better? Except to plan our next family excursion!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Class Dismissed

I almost can't believe the words I'm typing now, but Wonder Boy has finished 5th grade and is starting his summer vacation!

I'm not sure where the time has gone, really. It seems to me like it was just yesterday that we were scouting for supplies, picking up schedules and having the Boy practice opening a combination lock in preparation for his first school year with his own locker. And now we're filing away old school papers, picking out summer camps, and locating goggles and sunscreen for days at the pool.

Here's a quick look back at some of my favorite images from the school year:

I say it at almost every milestone, but again as we close out this year, it strikes me just how much Wonder Boy and grown and changed over the course of the school year. He has become so much more independent and confident. He is still a loving and playful kid, but he's matured enough that we talk about more than just video games and play dates.

But now is not the time for deep conversations, it's the start of summer! Now is the time for lazy days, swimming, and fun with friends. I am certain Wonder Boy's time off from school will be filled with all of these things and so much more.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Joyful Noise

May 16 - 5th Grade Orchestra Spring Concert. As the day got closer, Wonder Boy got more and more excited. He'd been practicing for about 6 weeks for this date. And he couldn't WAIT for us to take our seats and see how far they had all come since the Winter Concert.

He need not have worried about us - we had been anticipating this day almost as much as he had been. The Winter Concert was such a great experience that we were both truly looking forward to this performance. And they did not disappoint. The music was much more complicated than the simple tunes they had prepared before the Winter break. But they brought it all together and put on one heck of a show! See for yourself!

Spring '13 Orchestra Concert

It never fails to move me - watching these young musicians pour themselves into their performance. You could see the pride on their faces when they took their final ovation. They worked hard and it paid off at that moment. I guess that's just another one of the many gifts that comes from learning to play together.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Two Month Review

Wonder Boy has been enjoying his piano lessons for about 2 months now (8 lessons). I am *thrilled* to say that he is still enjoying every minute of them.

Now when he asks us if he can go upstairs to play, we don't know whether or not he means play video games or play piano - he's at least as likely to do one as the other.

The house is simply ALIVE with music these days! Not only is the boy banging away at his electric keyboard, but he's also getting ready for the end of the school year orchestra concert. The music they are playing this spring is much more advanced than the simple tunes they had prepared for the winter concert. The viola lines are quite lovely and I am really looking forward to hearing the whole orchestra come together to play.

But this post is about PIANO. And I have to admit, as much as I love the viola, the piano is my current favorite. Wonder Boy is showing a true aptitude for the instrument. It only takes a couple of times through a particular piece and he'll have it committed to memory. He has several books of music, but most of the time he plays from memory or picks out a tune by ear. We are thankful that both of his piano instructors don't find this a problem. In fact, they have both encouraged him quite a bit and we can see his love for music growing with each passing day!

He's still working on the "Turkish March" or "Rondo Alla Turca" (which is last movement of Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11). This is the piece he picked out before starting his lessons. And the difference between then and now just amazes me (hold on ... the new video is coming). Listening to his progress just AMAZES me. I hope it's not just the Proud Parent Syndrome. Both of his instructors have told us that he has a natural feel for the piano. And it certainly seems that way to me. But you can see for yourself in the video below. Please note that this is just an iPad video. I'll try to get a clip with the good camera for our next update in a few months.


Turkish March - after 8 lessons

In addition to that piece, Wonder Boy is starting to branch out a bit more. On his last report card he brought home straight As, but to top that effort, he actually had two perfect 100 scores. And that required a special celebration (don't ya think?)! With the way he's been enjoying his piano lessons, it was not all that surprising when he asked for a new book of sheet music as his special reward for that effort. And it's been fun to watch him work through a few of the pieces.

We also had the opportunity to see the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra in April. It was a wonderful performance that we all enjoyed! We even had the fortune to be at a performance that featured a 17 year old cellist (a very talented young man). It really seemed to energize Wonder Boy. The following morning he greeted us with the program in hand. He had highlighted several pieces that he wanted loaded onto his iPod. And he even asked for the sheet music for the pieces as well.

In the end, his viola skills were not quite up to replicating what he had heard the night before, but it didn't take long at all before he was picking out the melodies on his piano.

As I have mentioned, I truly love having music such a prominent feature in the house. But even more than that ... I love seeing the love of music growing in the Boy. I have a sneaking suspicion that music will continue to play a prominent role in his life for many years to come. And that truly warms my heart.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring Roundup

Quite uncharacteristically, I have not yet had a blog post about soccer this spring. It's not that I haven't thought about it. And it's not that we haven't been playing (you KNOW we've been playing). I don't know. I can't quite explain it.

But the wait is over (as is most of the season, I'm afraid)!

The truth is, we've all been enjoying soccer since mid-February and having quite a good time at it!

Though the whole family spends quality time on the pitch, the greatest joy is in watching Wonder Boy and his team.

And it's been quite a season for the Boy! We've seen quite a few changes in his play again this year, the next evolution you might say. He is still most comfortable (& most effective) in the midfield. In fact, I'd say he's becoming quite the field general in that respect. He sees the field quite well and always seems to know where his teammates are going to be (not just where they are at the moment he gets the ball). I sit in awe of his passing skills. He is beginning to develop a nice soft touch. This is something that doesn't come naturally to everyone (myself included, I have to admit). And so to see it in Wonder Boy is quite exciting, let me tell ya.

Another area in which we have seen real change this season is in Wonder Boy's effort on the field. Don't get me wrong, he has always played with a lot of heart and energy. But he just didn't seem to play with a sense of urgency. And he was always perfectly happy to just be the guy who passed to someone else.

There is nothing wrong with that kind of attitude and it set him up to be a really solid midfield player. But what has changed this season is his desire. Yes, I think that is it.

Now he really WANTS the ball. I think he is confident in his ability to not only handle the ball but to get it to where it needs to be. Sometimes that is an unexpected pass to the teammate streaking down the field with him. And other times it is the cut back that freezes the defender and allows him to get his own shot off.

Confidence. Yes. That's it. Confidence! THAT is another big difference I have seen in the Boy this season. He is beginning to feel truly confident in himself with the ball. And that is having a positive effect on his own play as well as that of his team.

It's exciting to watch, let me tell ya!

Here's a brief snip from a recent game. Just remember what I've said before ... we are fans first! And as such, we often miss some of the best action on the field while we are cheering our hearts out. I hope you'll enjoy the show regardless.

Game 4 Highlights

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Walk in the Woods

What is it about getting out into the woods that makes everything seem .. quieter ... more relaxed ... just plain better?

I don't have the answer, but I'm glad to live the results regardless.

Today we got the opportunity to make the short drive to an area state park. This park has long been one of my favorite places to visit. I spent many a summer day (& night) at this park growing up. Wonder Dad and I often found ourselves here when we were dating (& newly married) as well. This place is permanently counted as one of my "happy places" for certain.

And today we got to share it with Wonder Boy.

He's been here before, but it's been a number of years. I think he was 4 the last time we came. And he wasn't exactly thrilled to be here that day. But none of that mattered today.

Today we hit the trails as a family and all was right with the world.

This is the best time of year for anything "outside." It's not too hot, it's not too cold. That doesn't happen too often in Texas. Most of the year, if you want to enjoy this kind of activity, you have to get up really early to beat the heat. But in early spring like this, the weather is unbeatable! And even though we usually have a full itinerary on the weekends, I think we're going to have to work in a few more outings like this one.

I always enjoy being outside. Especially in a place so pretty. We got to see quite a few sights - we found a Luna Moth that looked like it had been run over by a mountain bike. It was so pretty. It broke our hearts to see it injured like that. But to find a silver lining - she probably would never have let us get so close if she hadn't been hurt. We saw this one old, fallen tree trunk that looked like it had been dipped in Clorox. It resembled a great ivory wand and it took my breath away. We saw (but got no photographic evidence of) a great brown jack rabbit. We pondered whether or not he was related to the Easter Bunny (this IS Easter weekend after all), but Wonder Boy dismissed us for the silly folks that we are as he hopped away from us. The Dogwood trees were in bloom and they left a beautiful carpet of white petals at their base.

But despite all of the eye candy to keep us occupied, it was the time with my guys that truly made the day for me. There is something really special about being in a place where you can run and laugh and tease and chat and not worry about anything other than the events of that one moment. I loved watching Wonder Boy run up and down the trail. I soaked up his lessons in seed dispersal (they've been studying just such things in science class as of late). And I held hands with Wonder Dad and watched our Boy having so much fun with us.


It's been a good day. One I intend to carry with my for quite some time. And I can hardly wait to do it again!

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's a Texas Thing

It's spring in Texas, folks! And while it is a very short season in these parts, we look forward to it with great anticipation.

It's one of the few times of the year when we need neither the air conditioner nor the heater. And while picking a wardrobe for a day that starts out frigid and ends sweaty and sticky isn't the easiest thing in the world, it's more than worth the hassle to be able to open the windows and let the cool breezes freshen up the house.

But perhaps my absolute FAVORITE sign of spring is the sight of the blue bonnets that start popping up along the roadside as soon as the first warm days start to mark the calendar.

I just love blue bonnets. Maybe that goes back to the brain washing that starts in grade school around these parts (it IS the state flower, after all). Or perhaps it's just those regal deep blue hues that draw me in. I honestly don't know and to be frank, I'm kind of ambivalent about my motives on this one. ;+)

Since I such a fan of this roadside wonder, Wonder Boy has had to endure at least a short photo shoot surrounded by blue bonnets each spring for as long as I can remember. It's not his favorite thing to do, but he's a good son and he puts up with it for my sake.

As you can see, it's well worth the effort (imho)! This little patch is actually fairly close to our home so it wasn't hard to make it over there after school one afternoon (there are crowds to fight on the weekends). This year we had a friend with us. She's about to graduate high school and wanted to make sure she had some photos in the blue bonnets to mark her final year before college. Wonder Boy kept her laughing and in turn, didn't protest too loudly when it was his turn in front of my lens.

Color me one proud Texas momma right now.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Piano Man

Not long after his orchestra's Winter Concert, Wonder Boy was fiddling around with an electric keyboard Santa delivered a few Christmases back. He came to me a bit exasperated saying that he thought he could play a little if only he knew which notes were which on the keyboard.

I may not know much about playing the piano, but thankfully I did know the answer to that! I was able to show him how to find center C and he was off and running from that point on (he didn't need me to go any further than that).

He quickly discovered that everything he could play on his viola, he could play on the piano. But that wasn't enough for him.

His little keyboard was one of those "learning" keyboards. It came programmed with a number of songs and the keys would light up to show you which one to press. Wonder Boy jumped in and tried it with a few songs (all the while following along with the printed music that also came with the set up). Then he ditched the lights and just started working things out - mostly by ear as not all of the songs came with printed music.

Not long after the first of the year, Wonder Boy expressed an interest in lessons. It took us a while to find the right teacher with the right opening in her schedule, but eventually we lined all of that up. Wonder Boy has only had 2 lessons so far, but he seems completely in love with it. And just like with his viola, we do not have to pressure him to practice. Daily he works it into his schedule.

Honestly I don't think he sees it as work. It's fun. It's play time.

Our hope through all of this is that his love of music will continue to grow. So far he's right on track with that!

I will admit that I love having so much music in the house. Not a day goes by without a performance of some type. And most days, we get to hear him play on both his viola and his piano. And we couldn't be happier about it!

The following video was taken a few weeks ago, before even his first lesson. I can't wait for a few months to pass so I can post a progress video. I can hear a difference in his play already, after just 2 weeks. I can only imagine how much we'll be able to tell in a few months!

Messing aBout on the Piano

Friday, January 25, 2013

Could I Have This Dance?

Yes, today I'm channeling Anne Murray. But seriously, who doesn't love to dance (on some level)?! Even those of us who have two left feet can't help but start to sway when the beat is just right. And what about the rush of your first dance with your true love? It doesn't matter if you do little more than hug and rock back and forth from foot to foot. It'll still be a magic moment.

Wonder Boy has always had an affinity for music. Even as a baby he was drawn to a thumping beat and a good rhythm. He got a chance to shake, rattle, and roll in school from preschool all the way through his current Intermediate school. Movement is good for kids and what better way to get them moving than a lively tune?

That brings us to late December. A couple of dear friends decided to tie the knot and we got word there would be a dance floor and DJ at the reception following the service. FUN!

But I didn't expect Wonder Boy to take to it quite as much as he did. Not long after the bride and groom had their opening dance, other couples joined them on the floor. Wonder Boy took the opportunity to invite me for a spin around the room. And I gladly accepted! This was his first "official" dance. We've twirled around the living room together, but never out in public.

We had a great time! And Wonder Boy invited just about any familiar female at the wedding to try to keep up with him. Wonder Dad and I sat and watched and marveled at his energy and zeal. He was the LIFE of the party, imho. And he just couldn't get enough. Wonder Dad and I tried to sneak in a dance with just the two of us, but Wonder Boy quickly made it a group activity. We didn't' mind too much though. We know the days of him enjoying a dance with his parents are short lived, so we are enjoying it while it lasts.

I can't help but let my mind drift to all of the dances yet to come for Wonder Boy ... homecoming dances, proms, graduations, and one day maybe we'll find our way back to the dance floor together at his wedding. Heaven help me. :+)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Going Greek

Wonder Boy is starting a module on Greek mythology at school. He came home today all fired up about the tale he learned today - all about the Sun God (Helios) and his demigod son (Phaeton). He spun a story about Phaeton's first (& last) ride through the sky in his dad's chariot of fire.

Wonder Dad couldn't help himself. He convinced Wonder Boy that the true point of the story was NOT a tale of creation and how volcanos came to be on Earth, but rather a morality tale about the ills of a son learning to drive.

I confess to a great deal of mirth on my part. I couldn't contain the giggles. The whole scene touched my funny bone in ways I couldn't have guessed.

I am really glad he is so excited about school. We have been introducing the Greek myths through modern fiction, like the Percy Jackson books written by Rick Riordan, for some time now. He is comfortable with the idea of the gods and their half human children influencing life for the rest of us here on Earth. He seems genuinely excited about learning the "back story" to some of his favorite tales.

I always enjoyed mythology myself. It is easy to get lost in the myths. You can imagine yourself with super human attributes, saving the day, creating something grand. What could be more fun?!

I hope there is some homework involved so we can all get a taste!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Judo Boy

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, someone is playing "Sunrise, Sunset." And once again, it is hitting me just how fast time flies when you have a child.

When I was a kid, it seemed like I would never grow up, that time moved so very slowly. Everything seemed so far away.

But since Wonder Boy was born, life has been on fast forward. And it seems like I can barely hold onto a moment before 10 more have flown by and some other milestone has been reached. *sigh*

Please understand that I am not complaining! It's one of those bitter sweet truths of being a parent, I think. And there are moments when it takes me by surprise.

What sparked this particular moment of reflection, you ask? Wonder Boy had a belt test at judo class last night. Yes, that's all it takes.

He passed with flying colors, of course. In fact, I think it might have been his best belt test yet. And I guess that is what you would hope for - improvement with each passing test, each year, etc. But something about his performance last night just struck a chord with me. I don't know if it was the confident way he approached each question, each technique, each opportunity to shine, or what. But whatever the case, it really got me to thinking about how far he has come.

He started martial arts while still in preschool, in a class designed for young kids. He had fun but was always a touch timid. He can be a bit shy. Then in Kindergarten, he started judo and it has been a great fit from day one. Even though he was often the youngest and smallest in class, he was having so much fun, that he rarely seemed to notice that he was so young and so small.

Fast forward though the years to last night and you would never, ever guess that he had ever been anything but completely confident in himself. He just oozed faith in his abilities.

I don't think there was a person there last night that didn't feel it. My heart nearly popped right out of my chest, I was so overcome with pride. Even Wonder Boy's instructor made a point of remarking on his excellent performance. We were all caught up in just how far he has progressed in the many years he has been studying judo.

Wonder Dad and I endured some questioning about starting him in the martial arts at such a young age. People worried he would learn to be a bully. But anyone who has studied the martial arts, ANY of the martial arts, can tell you that the opposite is true. What the kids learn is discipline, self confidence, respect, and patience. True, they learn how to defend themselves. But they also learn how to avoid potentially dangerous physical encounters. And they learn that honor and dignity are much more important than being the baddest guy on the playground.

Wonder Boy has learned all of these lessons and more as he has walked the path of the Martial Way. My hope and dream is that he will continue to walk this path and glean from it the innumerable values and benefits that the martial arts offers.