We were in the car on the way to lunch talking about spelling. We started spelling names when we realized Luca didn't know how to spell his middle name. Granted, there isn't really a need for him to write it much, although he hears it often enough (I almost always refer to him by his full name, Luca Theodore). But typical of a seven year old, he hated the fact he didn't know something, so rather than try to learn the spelling, he decided to reject the name outright.

"Why did you name me Theodore?! I don't like it!"

"Hey!" I replied, "I wanted your first name to be Theodore."

"Mom, you wanted to name me after a chipmunk?"

Chris snickered. "I'm glad you recognize that, Luca." He wasn't a huge fan of the name either. It was more of a concession to me, really.

Luca went silent for a minute, then out of the blue said, "Mom, you should have named me 'Calvin Alvin'."

"Why? Do you like those names?"

"Well, its just a little bit of me is Calvin, and a little bit of me is Alvin."

I started to laugh immediately, but it took Chris a minute to get it. "Oh, you mean your personality is a little bit Calvin, and a little bit Alvin?"

"Yeah, that's what I mean."

"Why do you say that, Luca?"

"Well, Alvin gets yelled at a lot, and Calvin has some really dumb ideas."

There are moments when children can have great insights. Really, really funny insights.

Today, Tomorrow, and Some Yesterdays

I got my love of dancing and big band music from my grandfather. One of my earliest memories of him was dancing on his shiny black shoes, holding onto his rough, work-worn hands.

Recently while going through storage I came upon some old cassette tapes marked "Roy D. Mattson, Personal Refections". How I came by them I have no clue, but they turned out to be tapes my grandfather made after being diagnostic with advanced stage prostate cancer, the disease that eventually claimed his life. My mom and I sat down and listened to the tapes the last time she stayed with us. The first few were up beat and positive. "As I sit here", my grandfather begins, "I don't feel like there is a thing wrong with me. If I had a little music I'd get up and dance the lindy!" Two or three entries continue in this positive tone, with my grandfather saying how good he feels, how he knows he can beat the cancer.

Then we came to an entry that was immediately different. His voice sounds tired and frail. We didn't get more than a minute into the tapes before my mother started to cry. It was the first entry he made after he broke his hip, and this, my mother said, was his realization that he really wouldn't make it beyond the cancer, that it was, as the doctors had told him from the beginning, terminal.

She told me the story of what happened that day. He had been filling up his SUV with gas, and when he swung himself up into the driver's seat his hip cracked. That was how severely the cancer had weakened his bones. And what did my grandfather do? He drove, not to the hospital, but home. He had my mom help him get dressed up in his best suit and drive him and my grandmother down to the lake for a photo shoot they had already planned. When my mother, the physical therapist, protested, he said to her he wanted "one more picture with his glamor girl". Only then would he go to the hospital.

I have that photo. From the huge smiles and the stylish clothes (both my grandparents were fashionistas in their day) you would never suspect the pain, both emotional and physical that must have underlaid that photo. All you can see is the love.

Today is Chris and my eighth anniversary. And when I think about what I want for our relationship, it is that photo. I want a love that is strong enough to transcend the aches and pains of everyday life, so that all that shines out is the love. No marriage, no life is without pain and struggle. My grandparent's marriage wasn't necessarily a model union. But, in the end, they loved each other, and that love was strong enough to carry them through the hardest times in their lives.

Chris, I love you, more than I can clumsily express. We have been through a lot, and after each and every struggle I love you more. I cherish each day with you, because I am continually reminded how brief and fleeting life can be. Eight years with you has been a treasure, and I am so lucky to have the life and family I have. Here's to tomorrow, today, and the next eight years.

All my love,


April Feels

I'm feeling a bit emotional right now.

I just finished watching "Your Lie in April", an anime about a boy who stops playing piano after his mother dies and finds hope again upon meeting a girl who plays the violin.

I thought, "Wow, an anime about musicians inspiring one another. That should be good."

22 episodes later, and half of them with tears somewhere along the way, I couldn't have been more right. 5 stars on Netflix? Hell yes. Amazing show. It inspired me to play piano better, and it reminded me of a dear friend.

At the same time, I've been listening to this song from a video game, Valkyria Chronicles, called "A Loved Passed On" (the link is to a spoiler-free version). Short and bitter-sweet, it's sung at a funeral.

"And now, the love that you gave me, blooms and will live on..."

Both of these stories deal with death. But they also deal with the life that remains and how to move on, and remember those who came before us.

And that life comes, anew.

Like tomorrow. Tomorrow, of all days in April, is the best day. The day my little girl was born, one of the sparks in my heart that gives me life and love.

And we remember those who came before. Luca and Astrid Rose, you two are the hope for tomorrow, and the remembrances of those who came before you.

P.S. She's walking now!

P.P.S. Now that she can walk, she's pulling herself up to play piano with me! *double-feels*

Super Astrid

Astrid got a toy picnic kit for Christmas. A week or two ago, she kept flipping the picnic blanket over her head. I thought she was trying to wear it, like a cape, so I stuck it down the back of her shirt.

And then, SUPER ASTRID was born!

What a back story. So deep and full of angst and darkness. *sarcasm*

Ready for takeoff!

And she's off!

Faster than a speeding milk bottle. Able to crawl over the most difficult obstacles in search of the "path of most resistance".

Now whenever she gets a hold of a kitchen towel, she tries to do the same with it as the picnic cloth. Kyra got so annoyed with her stealing the kitchen towels that she got her a new one just for her. It's now sitting with the rest of the toys in the living room.

In other news, Astrid likes her hat, too.

What a goon. She does have a refined side.

At least for a moment.

It doesn't last long.

Kyra and Astrid are home now full time. It seems to be going well. Kyra is happier and better rested. Astrid is napping better and longer (she has dropped her morning nap, though). I enjoy seeing both of them when I take a break from work. The days seem to go by faster with them home.

Occasionally, Astrid appears to get bored, but Kyra has a lot of plans to keep busy, especially this summer with the garden. I'm looking forward to seeing a "dirt baby" run around in our backyard. In the meantime, there's swimming, walks, and reading time at the library.

2015 Missed Events, Post 3

Last year for Luca's birthday, we decided to go to Fire It Up Pottery. They offer a birthday party package where the kids can make one of a couple of different types of crafts. Luca chose to do sun catchers made of melted glass.

We had friends from school and around the neighborhood attend. It was a lot of fun, and I recommend it!

Later on, Luca spent some time making a collage out of old clothing. Very creative!

Astrid had a few cute pictures from preschool during the fall.

"A" is for Astrid!

For Halloween, I decided to put some effort into a costume and go as Colonel Hogan from Hogan's Heroes. Kyra started watching the show and really liked it. I got her the complete series for her birthday, and we watched the show all summer.

I found the hat on an online auction. The coat is not the right style at all, but I wasn't able to find a good cheap one for the costume. It does have the correct shoulder pins for a colonel. I made the name badge out of cardboard, and I had ordered a star patch for the left arm, but it arrived too late.

Kyra went as a pirate and Astrid was a caterpillar. Actually, the caterpillar outfit was her take-home outfit after she was born, and it still fit.

Luca went as Perry the Platypus from the kids' show Phineas and Ferb. Perry, or "Agent P", has a secret life as a spy for the Organization Without a Cool Acronym (OWCA), foiling bad guys' plans.

Yes, he did have a beaver tail.

The odd thing is Luca had a coat with Agent P on it, and we couldn't figure out what it was from for the longest time, until he started watching the show on Netflix.

Here we are with Auntie Megan, who went as Ponyo's mother from the eponymous movie Ponyo. Ponyo's mother, a sea goddess (the "Goddess of Mercy") had a jellyfish-like umbrella.

I can't remember why Luca was grouchy. Probably because we were delaying his candy looting by a few seconds by taking pictures.

For Thanksgiving, we attended Kyra's family's Thanksgiving at John and Vicki's. It had been several years since we attended, so we thought we should go, especially with the new kiddo. On the following Saturday, we went to my grandparents' house.

From left to right: Great Grandpa, Luca, Luma (our niece), Uncle Kenny, me, Great Grandma (seated), Astrid, Auntie Megan, and Grandma Teresa. Kyra was taking the picture. Aunt Joana attended, too.

The Christmas tree arrived earlier, so we took the time to decorate.

Whew! I finally made it through 2015. That took way too long. Now let's stay on top of 2016!