Tuesday, May 19, 2015

i will be sparky

chalk art by shannon 

hey friends.  i have had a couple of comments from some folks recently about why i haven't been blogging as much.  even if no one was asking, i must admit that i sometimes wrestle with some inner voice which tells me that i'm not doing enough, not contributing enough, not writing enough, not being enough.

to which i say "bull pucky."

it's true, i haven't been writing as frequently here as i have at times in the past, but further reflection on the reasons for that lack of writing has led me to remember that being a dad is a full-time occupation.  i am in the wonderful throes of helping three boys become young men, and it takes just about every bit of energy that i have.  and i get it wrong at least as often (if not more) than i get it right.  and then i have to undo, or redo, and that takes even more energy.

i went with jackson's class to the metropolitan museum of art on thursday.  my so-very-well-behaved son (i was so proud of him) was over the moon with excitement, and he took hundreds of pictures of every artifact we came upon, without even stopping to really see what he was taking a picture of.  at one point he was just running around, like the proverbial chicken-with-its-head-cut-off, taking pictures of everything he could see.

believe me, there are times along the journey when i feel that i simply must record these moments, be they magnificent or mundane, but before i have a chance to jot them down, i am forced to deal with some catastrophe (one of them is using the other's pencil, or perhaps they can't figure out who's turn it is to choose a book for bedtime reading, resulting in tears and overt demonstrations of defiance), and the moment is gone as quickly and unexpectedly as it arrived (just now it popped into my head that at lunch yesterday, quinton told me - out of the blue - that tinkerbell's middle name is "disney junior.").  so, i try and take pictures and jot down what i can; i try and tell the stories to as many people as i can; and i try to learn from these boys as much as i possibly can, because they are changing every single day, and i don't want to miss a thing.  and sometimes, because of work - or life - i must miss some things.

but i refuse to miss it because i "need to" scroll through facebook, only to "like" the latest viral video featuring an irresistibly cute kitten.  i refuse to miss it because i am full of myself enough to believe that my presence is critical at every single church meeting and event.  i even refuse to miss it because i am too busy trying to document and archive it, a dad with his head cut off, just taking thousands of pictures and missing the moment.  i will record what i can, but i will not sacrifice being present to my family, in every moment and every way that i can.

we just finished reading "danny, the champion of the world" to the kids at bedtime.  it is a great story by roal dahl (charlie and the chocolate factory, james and the giant peach, etc.), and the very end of the book has a message which dahl addresses to children, but i suspect was written more for any adults who may read the book.  he says, "when you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important: a stodgy parent is no fun at all.  what a child wants and deserves is a parent who is sparky"

so if you don't hear from me for a couple of weeks in a row, just know that we're a bit busy reading stories and brushing teeth and fixing catastrophes and going on adventures and trying to be as sparky as possible.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

mothers day 2015

i've been so blessed with an abundance of great mothers in my life.  i suppose that's why mothers day seems like such a natural time to truly celebrate the nurturing, maternal spirit of the mothers in my life, and motherhood in general.  so today i celebrate my own mother, my mother-in-law, my grandmothers, as well as those who have acted like mothers to me when i was away from home.

but as i help do whatever i can to raise up three boys into young men, i am especially aware of the difficult job of being a mom, as modeled so beautifully and gracefully by my wife, shannon.  and i want to foster in my children a kind of awareness of and gratitude for her and all she does and who she is.  so we've been making videos for 7 years now to try and cultivate those things, and honor shannon with a tribute that, if it doesn't capture her doing her mom thing, at least captures the fruit of her labors (literally) in this particular moment of their growing up.

so, without further ado, here is our latest installment of a series of videos meant to celebrate the life of our family, and the way shannon nurtures and blesses each of us in a way that causes us to grow and be full of life in so many ways.

the collage which you see the boys working on is part of her present.  she had wanted another one i had made like it, but it was sold from an art gallery, so we decided to make her her own.  but this one is even more special.  for the past few years shannon has used old forks in our garden here at home to mark the various vegetables.  she just sticks an old fork in the ground (i have dozens and dozens of the because of my collage work), and writes with a black marker on the handle.  over the last few years, the forks have become rusty and weathered.  i used those old forks to write the word "grow" on this collage, as a symbol of the way she is nurturing us and helping us to grow.

happy mothers day, and thanks to all the moms who helped me grow into who i am still becoming today, especially my own Mom!  love to you all!

Saturday, May 09, 2015

mothers day: a look back (part 2)

yesterday i posted about how our mothers day videos got started, and i shared the first three, from 2009-2011.

today i want to continue to the series starting with our 2012 installment.  we were having major problems with our video camera in 2012, so the quality was extremely poor this year, and is really my least favorite of all of them.  i was trying to show how the boys are growing up, with an athletic theme, showing the physicality of their growth and talking about how Shannon leads and demonstrates for them how to grow up strong and healthy.  she inspires each of us in that way.  so that was what the 2012 video was meant to show.  here it is:

2013 brought a new era in making videos.  as the kids get older, we have more ability to be creative and make the creation of the video a collaboration.  jackson and caedmon were able to contribute ideas, and we were able to expand the amount of shooting, even with the addition of a new cast member, quinton.  we had an absolute blast making this video all over sunbury, attracting more than a few curious onlookers!  you can just feel the fun coming through the video:

that bring us to last year, 2014.  last year was the first year i decided to connect the video with the gift we were giving to Shannon for mothers day.  we were giving her tickets to go and see bruce springsteen in concert in hershey, pa, so we decided to do a bruce springsteen, and dress up like him.  we also used the tickets as part of the plot - a mystery envelope - which is hidden at the end of the video, and led to her having to go and get it and open the envelope after she saw the video.  we once again had an absolute blast making this video all over sunbury, and even had a bit of an audience at one location.  again, as the boys get older, they are more active in contributing ideas, suggestions, and their own flavors to the video.

so there are the first 6 years of our mothers day video.  tune back in tomorrow to see our newest video, one that i hope will continue to capture our kids at a distinct moment in their lives, full of their energy and life and joy, so much of which is due to the love and nurturing given to them by their mother.

Friday, May 08, 2015

mothers day: a look back (part 1)

this will be our seventh year making a video to celebrate mother's day, and to try and honor and bless shannon with a short video meant to capture a moment in the life of our children who, like all children, are growing up way too quickly.  the videos are meant to feature her, but to showcase her life's best work:  our beautiful children.

i'm not really sure how the idea got started back in 2009, but i thought it would be fun to make her a video in which the kids (just two of them at that time) could express their own love to her in their own words.  so here is our first effort, back in 2009:

when the next year rolled around, i thought we could try again, but this time we would let the boys hold papers that did the talking for them.  only problem was, i was terrible at shooting and editing video, and so most of what was written down is illegible.  sorry about that.  you'll have to take my word for it that it was all kind words for their mommy.  so, here they are (still just two of them) in 2010:

by 2011 we had moved to a new house, and while the boys were still only two in number (and shannon and i were still playing man-to-man defense), the mothers day video had become an annual tradition, and required a bit of thoughtfulness and planning.  if only i knew where it was heading, maybe i would have stopped and just bought a $3.99 card at hallmark.  oh well.  2011 brought us this goofiness, another snapshot of what our life looked like that year:

stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow, and our newest addition to the series on sunday!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


happy cinco de mayo!  it's taco tuesday here at the el milinovich casa!  ole!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

broccoli, butterflies, and baltimore

i don't know if you can see the little green caterpillar crawling in the broccoli in the picture above.

we sure didn't.

we got much of our vegetables last summer from a farm co-op, which provided us all kinds of fresh, locally grown vegetables in exchange for our financial support of their farm.  it was a great arrangement, that put all kinds of good food on our table.  we were very blessed by this.  but the kids weren't quite as enthused when we discovered that a green caterpillar or two had been cooked, along with the broccoli.  they were even more disgusted when i showed them that it wasn't a big deal by eating one right in front of them.  they thought that i had ascended to the very peak of mount disgusting, and it was quite the topic of conversation in our home for a few days.  the next time they helped shannon to prepare some broccoli for dinner, they closely examined it before cooking it, and sure enough they found another little green caterpillar.  i came home from a meeting to find it in a little glass, covered with plastic wrap with little holes so she could breathe, and a note which read, "dear dad, here's a snack for you."


but i didn't eat it.  i just let it sit there on the kitchen counter in our juice glass, and by the next morning, we could see that the caterpillar had begun to make a chrysalis.  so we watched as our little green joke turned into an even smaller green tent, attached to the side of the glass.  we decided to save it, just to see what would happen.

that was august or september.

now it is april, and just last week, shannon was dusting jackson's shelf and looked into the glass to see the little green tent had been evacuated.  doing a double-take, she then saw that what had been dormant for some 8 months had now emerged, metamorphisized, and born again.  there in the glass was a little butterfly.  she seemed disoriented, slow, a little stiff after so much sitting.  we wanted to release her outside, but it got really cold last week, and she seemed unwilling to leave her familiar juice cup.  so we brought her back inside, gave her some water, and just waited for the weather to warm.  during the weekend she seemed to find her wings a bit, and began moving around.  then, yesterday, i took her out into the spring sunshine, and she flew away, hopefully to find something to eat.

on its own, it is a great story.  from munching on broccoli in our fridge to hiding in a chrysalis in our juice cup. a 250-day journey which culminated in joy and wonder, and freedom.  it was a wonderful, wonder-filled moment for our family, to see the power and mystery and resiliency of life.  beautiful.

but for me there was a subtext.  i released her to freedom on the day i was also obsessing over news coverage out of baltimore, where race, economics, fear and hate were being brewed together into a hostile mix of chaos and rioting.  in my broken humanity, i see many sides to the issues, and i feel the heavy burden of so many questions without easy answers.  i see the smoke rising from recently-doused fires, seemingly the only thing rising from the broken storefronts, broken windows, broken bottles, broken hearts.  i see the smoke; i see the teargas, i see the years of accumulated frustration; i see the consequences of addiction, of prejudice, of inequality.  it has been a day of so much brokenness.

and this on the heels of seeing the almost unbearable images of broken earth, broken buildings, and broken families and communities in Nepal, having been rocked by an earthquake.

so much brokenness.  and into this broken world, i release one small, fragile, born again butterfly.

and that little broccoli bug became a symbol of my hope.  that more can rise from the brokenness than just smoke.  more can rise than just cries of desperation.  more can rise than the flames of hate and fear.  hope can rise from the ashes.  growth can rise from the broken ground.  with CNN blaring its sensational song, i heard a still-small voice in the tiny beatings of barely-used butterfly wings.  i heard a sound of hope.  and as our little green, refrigerator-bound caterpillar-turned free-flying butterfly rose into the sky, i offered a prayer, that i, too, would be willing to see the world not only for what it is, but for what it might be.  i asked the Maker to remold my callused heart into one that beats with wild expectation and rekindled hope, one that is willing to build a chrysalis wherever it finds itself.  i prayed that from the brokenness would come new birth, and more would rise than smoke.  and i felt compelled to be a part of it, in any way i can.

lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

one small green caterpillar.

Monday, April 27, 2015

happy eighth birthday, caedmon

this weekend our little caedmon turned eight years old.  our family tradition is to have a bigger birthday party for their eighth birthday party, and you may remember jackson's a couple of years ago.  normally, we just have family parties, but when they turn eight they get to invite their whole class from school and we go all out with a theme.  some may say that we go "over the top," which may indeed be the croatian meaning of "milinovich," but we can't be sure.  regardless, like any pole-vaulter worth their salt will tell you, there's only one way to go, and that's over the top.

cade wanted a narnia theme, so we worked hard to make the entrance to the church basement the wardrobe door, which, when opened, revealed a rack of coats and furs.  Once you passed through the coats, you came to a group of evergreen trees, in a snowy white room, punctuated proudly by a beautifully handmade lamppost, which actually lit up!  many thanks to shannon's dad for making this for us.

once you passed through the snowy entrance to narnia, you could enter into cair paravel, and the castle dining hall, which was pretty impressive, if i do say so myself!

and that's just the decorations!  we had a blast of a party, playing all kinds of games in which the kids had to free animals from the white witch's icy spell, defeat goblins, witches and giants, and knock the witch over with snowballs, just to name a few!  we had all kinds of good food, including sardines and toast (swedish fish on graham crackers), turkish delight, poultry and sausages, roasted potatoes, and fruit skewered on queen susan's arrows, just to name a few.  the kids loved drinking the white punch out of their golden goblets, too.

but in the end, all of the work and all of the festivities were about celebrating that little ball of energy named caedmon.  he was a great host and had a great time, and enjoyed being called "king caedmon" for a few hours.

i can't tell you how proud i am of this little guy.  i know it can be tough to be the middle man in a family of three boys, but he more than holds his own, and is a loving and compassionate child.  yes, he may be the heaviest sleeper i've ever met, and he may give us a run for our money when it comes to his attention span and his inability to sit still, but he is so clearly a preposterously undeserved gift to us.  we named him for a singing poet, the first english hymnwriter; and he lives up to his name, with a big voice and a love for singing.  he isn't afraid to belt out a few verses, whether it be an old german hymn, a modern worship song, or even "what does the fox say?"  and i love his unabashed willingness to just be himself.  i'm crazy about him, and so proud of him.

and finally, i want to say thank you to all of our family who not only drove various long distances to come and celebrate with us, but who came to help us with set-up and cooking and tear down and cleaning up.  you helped us put fruit on arrows, shields on walls,  and make cookies and cakes and potatoes and lampposts.  you bought fur coats and lent us everything from evergreen trees to fake snow.  and then you helped us transform it back into a church basement in about an hour.  thank you so much!  you are kings and queens in my book!