Chronicles of the O'Brien Family Adventures...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Cello Audition

I am so proud of Aidan. Tonight he auditioned for junior orchestra with his cello. He was nervous but did spectacularly well. It bodes well when the conductor makes it a point to tell you that "he's good." He is good and very talented by his teacher's admission. I'm so thrilled that not only is he keeping up with his instrument, but taking it further with orchestra. It'll mean a busier year next fall but we'll make it work and it'll be so worth it. 
Aidan's audition took place after his cello class. We had time to kill so I took him for the walk through the river valley that I like to take each week during his class.

I'm one lucky mom to get to enjoy all the beautiful live music I get to hear in my home! And my kids dedication helps keep me trying to maintain my own violin practice, sometimes successfully and sometimes otherwise. Summer is still committed to her violin practice and is doing beautifully! Her favorite pieces to work on are the orchestral songs of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.


Today Aidan received his acceptance letter to junior orchestra!

Mother's Day: Or Just How Magnificently Awesome my Family is!

Mother's Day started for me last weekend with the mother/daughter glass fusion pendant workshop I enjoyed with Summer. And then on Friday, the kids all potted geraniums for me at Games Day (although Cai made it clear his was for him) and Summer created a card for me.


Saturday morning opened with Aidan making me carrot muffins from a recipe he had in his Owl magazine (which came with the idea to make it for mom). Aidan had never made muffins before. He made a double batch, which was a good thing because they were so good the first batch was gone and left behind hungry mouths. It was a wonderful Mother's Day present; the best he's given me yet! 


After muffins and a jaunt biking to the park with Summer and Cai, I picked up mom. She wasn't sure where I was taking her and I wasn't sure how much she'd like it. I had booked us a class for two at Glazing Pots, making glass fusion plates. I thought it was a great "experience" present that came with the keepsake of a little appy plate to remember the day by. It turned out to be wonderful and so much fun! 

I really enjoy working with glass; stained glass is something I'd like to get into one day. Until then, glass fusion is a fun and simple alternative. My favorite part of working with it is how forgiving it is. You can arrange your glass pieces on your canvas, moving it around endlessly, until you get it just how you want it. I even braved cutting the stuff into different shapes.

As we worked, they served us cupcakes for Mother's Day. 

This was my creation, before I added glass sprinkles to it. The clear glass parts will fuse as texture bits. I'm looking forward to seeing how it turned out!

Afterwards, we enjoyed Bernard hot chocolate (or I did anyway, my mom ordered tea) and gelato at Cococo downtown before picking up Chinese food. 

Sunday morning, actual Mother's Day, began with a yummy breakfast from my hubby: cheese and bacon omelet with a side of hash browns and sausage strips.

That was after he showed me the wonderful present he made me! 

A jewelry rack for my necklaces and bracelets! He put so much detail into it, making the holders out of beads he picked up from Michaels. I was so thrilled! 

In the afternoon we went to the zoo! Cai's excitement was palpable. It's been a year since he's been and of course he couldn't remember what it was like. The thought of seeing real tigers and red pandas and lemurs was pretty thrilling for him! 

We even heard the tigers roar! It was fun watching Cai walk around with the big zoo map in his face, directing us to the next animal he wanted to see. We all also potted petunias as a mother's day craft to bring home (which I planted in our front garden later that evening).

While dad took the kids around, I enjoyed a free massage and manicure! Such a sweet deal! Even the waiting time was lovely as I sat with a good book with the sound of spa music in a comfy room with full view of the otters at play. 

When I met back up with the family, the kids wanted to get ice cream. So I brought them to Cococo to try their amazing gelato on the way home. And as I wanted no one to be left out, we made one last trip on the way home to Marble Slab so dad could get some lactose free ice cream.

At the end of the day Summer created this clever and exciting game for me. She made a Sticker Book with spots for "stickers" she colored and hid around the backyard. Cai helped me find all the papers and we stuck them into place. Each number set that was completed earned me a prize! Some of the prizes were certificates: a free hug, a free kiss, and three breakfasts in bed (yay!). One prize was a pot with planted flower seeds and another was a butterfly necklace. 

This was truly an amazing Mother's Day for me. It was special and so wonderful. I was treated like and felt like a queen. All that said, I must say my favorite part of it all was my beautiful family - my mom, my husband, my kids. I'm so incredibly blessed by them. Mother's Day is one of my favorite days of the year. Possibly my favorite. I admit I love the special treatment and the recognition of the wonderful work I do. Mostly though, I love being with my kids, relishing in their magnificence and the fact that I did that. That together with my husband, we created these beautiful animals. It takes my breath away to think about. And I'm in utter awe as I witness the unfolding of their lives and personalities.

Without them, I would not be a mother. They are the best Mother's Day present of all.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tulips in the Snow

A substantial snow fall, mid May, to mark the day after our historical and monumental change in government. The irony is people adamantly said something about hell freezing over the day NDP took charge of Alberta. Of course that's silly anyway. We live in heaven not hell. But freeze over we did! Epic manifesting Albertans!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A New Government

History was made tonight as the 44 year reign of the PC government came to crashing halt to the surprise and shock of absolutely everyone.

People voted for change. And change is what we got! For the first time in Alberta history the NDP government has sweepingly been voted into power. From 4 seats in parliament to 53, knocking PC down from a staggering majority of 70 seats to 10 (with a total of 87 seats in legislature). Wildrose rose to become the official opposition, knocking the longstanding PC dynasty into third party status.

It was mind blowing. 

We are ready for change. The new party is filled with young blood, many of them university students with only four incumbents among them. They are passion about change; passionate about doing good. I'm excited to see how this will play out.

It was also Sean's first year - in his entire life! - that he had an opportunity to vote (having just got his Canadian citizenship last year). He almost wasn't going to do it but I was a bit adamant. He wasn't up on the issues or the parties. So I directed him to the vote compass so he could get an idea of which party he aligned best with. We discussed some issues of this important election and vote he did! It was fun watching him stick close to the live news on the internet as it channeled in moment by moment count tallies.

I had introduced Summer to the vote compass earlier in the day as we discussed politics together: how the government was chosen, how parties were divided on issues, constituents, how premier was determined and more. She was eager to come and vote with me too. In the past all my kids have attended every voting opportunity with me. I'm not one to throw the word "duty" around, but when it comes to voting, I feel strongly that it is our duty; our responsibility. Our democracy isn't perfect but at least it is one. I feel proud of where we live; proud of my country, of my province and city. 

At the end of the day I had a chance to share our discussions with Aidan as I drove him to cello. When we got home, the results were just coming in.

A lot of people are afraid of what this new government means. Me? I'm more afraid of the old one with their freezing of education funds and drastic cuts to health care and general disregard for the environment. But in any case, I don't think we should ever make decisions based on fear. Hope is much better. And that's what I have for our future. Hope.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mother/Daughter Glass Fusion Date

I love a good secret. Today I had one. 

Summer had no idea where the two of us were going. She only knew we had some time to ourselves. An hour and a half to be precise, of time booked at Glazing Pots in St. Albert for a mother/daughter special event making fused glass pendants. 

To add to the specialness of the day, we enjoyed specialty tea, juice, cupcakes, a fun kiss personally test and a swag bag to bring home (mine came with a wine glass, chocolates, a pen, a ceramic lady bug to paint, coupons and more). 

Summer is definitely surprised!

It was so much fun to spend the day together playing with colored glass! And the best part is, we'll have our pendants to cherish as a keepsake of the special day. 

Picture of the final fused pendants to come! 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

This and That: What We've Been Up To

Much of our schedule has been busy with the same old schedule: Scouts, cello, Violin, Brownies, Games Day and musical theatre, with a mix of play dates, sleepovers, field trips, science classes and miscellaneous events in between. It's created quite a blur to our days. Lots of routine without a great deal of spontaneous deviations. Because of that, I've gotten behind with sharing our doings, so figured I'd catch up in a big post. 

Scouts Survival Night

When a survival night includes roasting marshmallows, it's automatically a winner. In my book. Aidan enjoyed a chilly evening last month at Lions Park learning all sorts of sundry skills. They even fileted a fish and cooked it. Tonight, he set up tents and took them down regularly and then blindfolded! He's proving to be an excellent addition to our family camping adventures, as he trains up as a Scout!

Girl Guide Cookies 

Summer and I enjoyed selling Girl Guide cookies (while attempting to avoid the snowy days of early spring). She effortlessly sold 5 cases door to door with the help of her adorable toddler brother. It was fascinating to see how his presence literally doubled her sales! She carried a box and so did he and subsequently most people bought both.

As a unit we had so many cookies to sell that we opted for a group sale at Canadian Tire selling to customers as they came in. Summer and I worked a two hour shift with two other girls. They sold 6 cases in those two hours! Brownies are too cute for their own good.
Board Games

Family Game Night is one of my favorite times although I must admit we don't do it quite as regularly as I'd like with our busy schedule. Ideally I aim to do it every Friday. In reality it's maybe a couple Friday's a month. Normal everyday nights like this don't usually make the blog, but it's such an important part of our existence that I like to give it a nod now and again. We've been enjoying fun and educational games from environmental forays to geographical expeditions around the world and Canada.

Laser Tag

The kids got to learn all about lasers in the coolest field trip ever! Two rounds of laser tag with a lesson in between on how lasers work and the science behind them. Interestingly Aidan said it was covered at a very introductory level. His existing knowledge, mostly gleamed through Brain Pop's was more thorough than what they taught. But it was still interesting. The games were the best part and now we can't wait to enjoy it as a family. I've never played laser tag in my life!

Scout Truck Rally

Aidan had epic help from his leader with his Scout Truck. It took a week to make his vision a reality but thanks to Shayne, it was a huge success. Aidan enjoyed competing in the truck races, even though his truck didn't fair terribly well compared to the other kids. It was fun to see all the different creations and Aidan has new ideas for next year.

New Bike!

Summer's bike got too small for her last year but it didn't slow her down. We resolved to get her a new bike in the spring. Spring has arrived and with it a desire was born in her for a new fancy bike (she watched lots of kids walk out of Canadian Tire with brand new wheels while we were selling cookies). She's only ever had hand-me-down bikes. 

When I was in ToysRUs looking for a present for a birthday party the kids were attending that same day, I saw a bike I knew she would love. And it was on sale! In discussion with her and dad, she eagerly agreed that a beautiful new bike would make a spectacular early birthday present. So I happily came home with a super cool new bike for her. She is a happy girl indeed!

Brownies End of Year Meet

Our Brownies meetings came to an end with a final meet at Lions Park. We enjoyed a campfire, s'mores, songs and a game that Summer spent two days creating and getting ready for. She organized the twenty girls of our group into an intricate game about Zombies and Humans. It was a beautiful night and such a blast!

Happily we have two more Brownie camps to look forward to before we call it a year!

I feel like our lives have been so enriched by the Scouting and Guiding programs. Most of the truly interesting things we've done this year, aside from musical theatre, skiing, music and other things I'm sure I'm just not thinking about right now, came about through these programs. And they are still going with several camps on the horizon, the biggest of which will be Aidan's week long venture to the west coast for an entire week of camping without his family!

I find the biggest challenge as unschoolers has been finding the balance between too busy and not enough. Too busy leaves my house in a shambles and me scattered and stressed. Too little and we go stir crazy and aren't challenged enough. Mostly I try to keep a balance: home enough that I can make wholesome food to eat, keep a tidy home and the kids can play and follow their own impulses, while out enough to keep us stimulated and evolving. That's the goal.

Life is a pretty grand adventure no matter what. I am so blessed to be on it with such magnificent young people, and a super awesome husband behind the scenes.


Friday, May 1, 2015

May Day

May Day was a beautiful event this year, as always. Many homeschoolers came out to join us in dancing around the May Tree for our annual hlsa event. The wind was brisk but the weather was lovelier than most May Day's in the past.

Cai was happy to wear the flower wreath I made him. For a little bit anyway. Enough for a few pictures. 

Summer had a blast playing with friends.

And even Aidan had a great time! The food table helped with that, being a pretty typical preteen boy.

Good food, merry friends, flowers, music and laughter. Can't complain about that! And next year I will be taking over the organizing of this annual Hlsa event. I'm excited to be officially handed the reigns (or in this case ribbons), as this event has always been near and dear to my heart.