Most people like to do all kinds of year-end reflections at the end of the calendar year, which works, I guess, but why not change it up a little and take some time to reflect every year around your birthday. You have just finished another whole year of life, and it seems like a great time to sit down and reflect on the previous year. Also, I did not want to overload my site with another year in review post like my reading list post. Thus, a new tradition is born. In the days right around my birthday each year, I want to share the compilation of 1-second videos from the previous year (see above) and share a few highlights and things I have been learning over the year.
-My first return trip to Italy since COVID knocked out the last few years. We had a smaller group of students, but the trip was still incredible and life-changing for many of the kids.
-Our long-awaited family trip to California to do Disneyland and Legoland with an extended time of exploration around Galaxy's Edge and building a lightsaber.
-Our youngest growing out of the difficult first year of life and into the much more fun toddler phase.
-Lots of board gaming and miniature painting.
-Closing out the past decade with a great weekend of friends and fun activities.
-Having a third child is more difficult than I expected in a different way than I expected. The third child is not as difficult from a straight parenting perspective as much as a general managing of life perspective.
-I have great friends who care about me and who value my voice in their lives. I will not ever take that for granted again.
-The American church will continue down a path of decline if we privilege the voices of white men only. Some of the reading I have been doing this year has further opened my eyes to the importance of elevating voices of Christians from the rest of the world.
-Hobbies are a lifeline for me in the midst of a busy family and work schedule, but I have so many that I sometimes get stuck on which to do when I have time. I need a system to better use my free time when I have it.
I am looking forward to year 40 and the excitement of a new decade of life!
With everyone staying at home more these days, and my last post also on the topic of board games, it seemed a fair time to share some of my favorite games to play. Whether you are looking for something new for your family to play or need something for your next game night once gatherings are OK again, I hope you can find something that appeals to you and your family.
7 Wonders - This game has been around for a long time and, rightfully, is a classic. The base structure of 7 Wonders is a deck building game where you attempt to gain the most points through a variety of different strategies. The game works best with 4-7 players, and the gameplay is fast but full of depth. Typically, it takes about 1-2 games to get the hang of it, but after that, games go quickly and offer great repeated gameplay. Bonus: 7 Wonders Duel, a two player version of the game with slightly different rules.
Pandemic - Although this game might be a little controversial during our current world situation, it still is a fantastic example of a challenging and incredibly fun cooperative game. All players work together to eradicate diseases from the world, while playing as different themed roles (e.g. medic, researcher). The game is tense, challenging, and fun. All the qualities you want in a good game. Bonus: Any other version of Pandemic, my personal favorite is the Rome Barbarian Invasion version where you try to hold off the invading hordes and save Rome.
Parks - There are two national parks games out right now, and this is the more recent one and is just called Parks. I have heard good things about the other one (Trekking the National Parks) also, but I have not played it. Parks is great for a variety of reasons. The artwork for each of the national parks on the cards is fantastic, the gameplay is easily teachable and offers good replayability and different experiences, and there is a great balance of strategy and chance. There is also a solo player mode for those who do not have many gamers in their household (like me). Bonus: Any version of Ticket to Ride, while not the same style of game as Parks, these games will scratch your geography/travel itch in a similar way.
Disney Villainous - This game is different from any other game on this list because it is asymmetrical. In the gaming world this just means that every player has different winning conditions based on their chosen character. Players take on the role of a classic Disney animated villain and compete against other villains to achieve their personal objective. For example, Captain Hook has to defeat Peter Pan on the Jolly Roger to win versus Jafar, who has to control the genie at the Sultan's Palace. The learning curve is a little higher on this game, but it is worth the effort Bonus: All of the Villainous expansions, just get them all, each one adds three new villains with unique play styles.
The Quest for El Dorado - El Dorado is a very easy to learn deck builder with an exploration theme. The premise of the game is exploring jungles to find the legendary lost city of El Dorado by gathering a deck of cards that allows you to traverse areas of the jungle faster than your opponents. Simple gameplay and endless possibilities for setting up the path make this one of my recent favorites to play and teach. Bonus: The Adventurers, this game might be hard to find and it weighs a little too heavily on the luck side, but it is a fun push-your-luck style starter game with decent miniatures as well.
I could easily add another five games, but these all hit the perfect sweet spot of not being too inaccessible and fun for the whole family to play. What has your family been playing? I am always interested in new game recommendations. Leave some suggestions in the comments!
Another school year came and went with great stories, great students, and tearful goodbyes. No summer would start off right without some typical end of the year celebrations. This year was no different, as we enjoyed our usual dinner at the local Italian restaurant, Acero, with great food and even better company. It was tough to say goodbye to my seniors, as it is every year, but they are a great group of people who will do great things in life.
With school out of the way, summer turns into full-on dad mode. While mom continues to work throughout the summer, I have the pleasure of keeping both of the kids entertained and out of each other's hair. Unfortunately, this summer started off with a two-week period of one or more people in the family sick. Not a fantastic way to begin the summer. Once we all recovered, it was time to get out of the house. I like to at least try to get the kids out of the house every morning during the week to keep me and them from going stir crazy. If it is not too hot, we like to do things outside around the St. Louis area, but there are plenty of good indoor locations to hang out for free when the weather does not cooperate. Play areas in malls make a perfect last minute destination! The slideshow below highlights a few of the fun things the kids and I have done so far this summer.
Melissa and I also got some time together (and a whole trip, but that's for another post), when we experienced the special Thursday night dinner and paddle boat date offered by the Boathouse at Forest Park. We had a fantastic and relaxing time and the weather was absolutely perfect. I would totally recommend this experience if you live in the St. Louis area. The total cost is $80, which includes two hours of paddle boat rental, as well as dinner and drinks. You can find more information about the date night here.
Shockingly, I even have had a little bit of time to work on some of my own hobbies and interests, most of which you can see in upcoming posts on my other blog page, Mini Scale, but while the kids were doing gymnastics camp for three days I worked on building and painting this game crate for my Fireball Island board game. The original box is pretty terrible and does not hold all the components well, so I got the crate pictured below from The Broken Token. The project did not take a lot of work and it was a great way to spend some very rare moments of pure alone time.
Here's to an equally great second half of summer!
The time has rolled around again to embark upon great adventure for Spring Break in Italy with high school students. This trip happens every other year and always brings its share of excitement, nerves, and challenges. As one of the leaders of the trip, I always describe the experience to people who ask as "Fun Work." It is a huge privilege to be able to do this trip, but it also takes a mental and physical toll.
My least favorite part about these trips is leaving my family for 10 days. Fortunately, (and also unfortunately, I suppose), my kids have been sick the last two days so I have been able to stay home and hang out with them for some extra hours before I leave. Today I read them a book I bought on the last trip to Rome all about the city of Rome and told them all about the places I will be visiting. They especially enjoyed the pictures of a bus like I will be riding on.
This is my fourth time taking this tour of Italy, but it never gets old. I always see each trip with the fresh eyes of all the students, which makes the experience new every time. So, excuse me while I go finish packing. Look for some posts about the trip when I return!
Art in Bloom
This past weekend was an annual event here in St. Louis at the St. Louis Art Museum. Every year on the first weekend of March the museum puts on a show called Art in Bloom, where artists draw from a curated list of works in the museum to create interpretative floral arrangements. I have heard about this event from many friends and colleagues over the years but have not attended one until now. As of last summer, we are now museum members so we were able to avoid some of the crowds by going to a special members-only time on Saturday morning. We even made it a whole family event! I have included my two favorites below with some explanation of them. I probably would have taken more pictures, but I left my phone in my coat pocket in the coat check room. Perhaps I was able to enjoy them better that way.
In this picture you can see both the original artwork and the floral interpretation. I loved this piece for its reference to Classical sculpture, as well as the ingenuity in the floral arrangement to match the shape of the original sculpture. The color choice of the flowers also made the piece very striking.
My other favorite arrangement was the above piece based on an ancient Maya glyph. Once again, my taste for ancient sculpture plays into my choice, but I feel like the artist very clearly captured the essence of the Maya glyph. I particularly like the branches sticking out, as it gives the piece a feel of exploring through the brambles in the jungle and stumbling on an ancient piece of art.
Long weekends are always a great time to do some extra fun activities. This past weekend was no different.
Melissa used to work one or two Saturdays a month, so I took the opportunity to start a tradition with the kids, which I lovingly called "Dadurday." Typically, this tradition involved getting donuts and just getting out of the house so I would not go crazy. Melissa does not work Saturdays anymore, but I can't give up the tradition so we went out to Strange Donuts on Sunday this past weekend to have some fun together and give Mommy some time off. We had a great time, despite the usual mess that comes with donuts (something I am getting better at putting up with for the kids' sake).
In an extra bit of fun we had a special field trip for Harrison's preschool to BounceU, a local inflatable indoor fun park. Eva took a while to warm up to playing because of all the noise, but once she did she had a great time. Harrison jumped in right away!
The beginning of the year in the Tiearney household is birthday season. Starting right away in the month of January, half of our household has a birthday. So far, Harrison and I have had some great celebrations.
-Harrison got a great 5 year old birthday party with Star Wars decor and a lot of fun active new toys to play with. His joy and wonder at all new experiences fills my heart with joy and gratitude.
-I got a trip to the symphony to see Star Wars: A New Hope live in concert and delicious BBQ at the local restaurant Salt+Smoke. Basically, my favorite movie, with my favorite person, and eating my favorite food.
I love my family and this is the place to find all of the adventures we experience.