A Text I love to send: ‘New Piano Guys!’

It happened today: for the second time in a few short weeks, I got to send my husband a message at work reading only this: ‘New Piano Guys!’.

If you haven’t yet encountered these astonishing musicians, you’ve missed out. For the Thayer family, the Piano Guys are like family, and an enormous part of our lives.

I first encountered the work of these dads from Utah in 2013 when my son was 6 weeks old. We were visiting a friend, and I was reeling from a traumatic delivery, the exhaustion of a newborn, and the shock of turning from locking the door of our rented bungalow to find a huge ‘SOLD’ sign on our doorstep. Sitting on my friend’s sofa and clutching a mug of tea in shaking hands, I suddenly clocked the background music – an amazing orchestration of Star Wars themes. Other tracks were stunning and I knew, as I drove home, that this was exactly the kind of music that my husband and I loved and had been seeking more of – music without words, but not needing them. Music that could be poignant, comic, jovial, loving, tender and worshipful.

If the music wasn’t enough, the videography to accompany these songs is also superb. On long afternoons where I struggled to deal with my son, he and I watched Piano Guys playlists on youtube. He would go to sleep at night listening to the cover of ‘A Thousand Years’. He would dance to ‘Mission Impossible’. He went through a phase six months ago (at age 2!) demanding to listen exclusively to ‘I Want You Bach’ (which we still call ‘funny hair’ because that’s how he asked for it: the video where they have funny hair).

This music has been the soundtrack of our lives for the last two years. It has marked family occasions. We have loved, laughed, lost and cried with it; ‘The Story of My Life’ was released as I lost a grandfather and a baby – and still it transports me to that time. ‘What Are Words’ was released days after we welcomed our baby girl to the world, and I think of it as her song. My first exposure to ‘Let It Go’ was through the Piano Guys. My son is now constantly singing the Scottish ‘Fight Song’ cover, often pretending to play the cello as he does it. When he bashes the keys of our keyboard, he tells us the sequence of Piano Guys songs he is playing. Maybe, one day, he’ll play them for real.

The gift of this music to my family is immeasurable.It is a blessing. It forms a part of our identity. When new videos are released, we sit and listen to them together – something I hope to do for many years to come.

So, if you’re reading this and have never listened to this music, open a new tab and go straight to the Piano Guys’ channel. It is simply glorious.

Jon, Steve, Al and Paul, if you’re reading this (!) – thank you doesn’t go far enough. But from the Thayer family to you and your families – thank you, and God bless.

Like my writing? Check out my sister site www.annathayer.wordpress.com to learn about my award-winning fantasy trilogy, ‘The Knight of Eldaran‘, and my work on Tolkien and Lewis. Yes, you got me: I’m a geek.

The Kilns: An Oxfordshire Treasure

Our wipers were on full speed when we reached our destination,  turning down an unassuming close which admonished that no coaches were permitted. The house – like so many sites of historical or literary importance in this country – was marked with a distinctive blue circle plaque. Although there was no mention of party business,  the sign on the latch gate was quite clear: no admittance without prior appointment.

This was my first visit to the Kilns,  home of a man needing no epithet: C.S. Lewis. I’ll be honest,  I’d had an incredibly stressful day, punctuated by the incessant whines of a poorly baby and the seemingly endless spontaneity of a toddler’s bowel movements. In addition, I had not had my morning coffee – the sine qua non of mums everywhere – and I was drenched. Despite standing on the threshold of the home of one of my inspirations and outright heroes,  I was not feeling in a placed to be wowed.

The first thing that strikes you when you step through Lewis’ door is the utter sense of peace and welcome in the place, one compounded by the warmth of the residents and guides.  No parent could have been more grateful than we were to Bethany,  who offered to play with our son while we took part in the tour.  So it was that our initial orientation in Lewis’ story and connection to the house was to the backdrop of a giggling toddler dropping a tennis ball down the great man’s stairs.

You don’t go to the Kilns to see tonnes of paraphernalia – very little is original due to the place’s history – but dedicated volunteers have  lovingly restored the home one room at a time.  Even so, it was a thrill to sit at Lewis’ desk (I didn’t dare to touch the beautiful pen there!), to walk a space he and his loved ones knew intimately,  and to hear stories about him. I won’t spoil them – you’ll have to go and let the talented guides quiz and entertain you! I can, however,  reveal that I resisted the White Witch’s temptation in the dining room. The sugar on my husband’s fingers suggested that he was not so fortunate! (The Witch should have offered me a glass of port from the exquisite port set instead!)

Retracing my steps through the rose garden at the end of our tour, to the car and thence back to the A34, I felt as though I had been on a literary pilgrimage.  But, unlike visits to the homes of other writers,  I felt curiously edified and refreshed – which is, I suspect,  exactly what Jack would have wanted.

Like my writing? Check out my sister site www.annathayer.wordpress.com to learn about my award-winning fantasy trilogy, ‘The Knight of Eldaran‘, and my work on Tolkien and Lewis. Yes, you got me: I’m a geek.

Black Friday: A Black Mark?

When I did my regular food shop this week, I was stunned by a sign outside the supermarket which advised me to ‘set my alarm early’ (5am the time suggested by the digits of a practically neon clock pictured on the ad) and to ‘dress up warm’ in case I had to queue for entry.

I was taken aback, and then remembered footage from last year’s Black Friday – the crush of consumers forcing their way through barely ajar automatic doors, scores of the tech-savvy (and not so savvy) desperate to grab screens bigger than their wallls could support, or tablets that outperformed last week’s model in a not entirely deducible manner.

Is it just me who, witnessing such scenes, feels a barb of shame for Western culture?

My brother in law – a Californian – told me last year that it didn’t even make sense for the UK to ‘do’ Black Friday,  as it traditionally comes the day after Thanksgiving (which we don’t really do, unless you count Harvest Festival). It’s a day that Americans and their families gather and thank God for His blessings, on them and their land.

We have a tendency in the West to spend, spend, spend, and I found myself wondering today whether, like Christmas and Easter – and many other occasions of non secular origin – Thanksgiving is another casualty of our money driven culture. It seems to have been gently – lovingly, almost – laid on our consumerist altar. If so, then Black Friday appears as its headstone.

A Worthwhile Verse

Having a 7 month old and a nearly 3 year old is an adventure.

When the first thing I hear at 06:04 is the crash of the lego box being tipped all over the living room floor when I was just dropping off to sleep, this verse flits through my head: children are a blessing from the Lord.

When my daughter’s in her third change of clothes in two hours and then she and her brother coordinate poopocalyptic nappies but still can’t nap at the same time, I remember: children are a blessing from the Lord.

When the washing machine has been running non stop and I’m still behind on the laundry… when they get into a fight over a piece of track that’s identical to 27 others (but only that one will do)… when they’re colouring the kitchen floor (and each other)… when they’re hungry and supper is being prepared in 3 second intervals… when my car journeys are judged by how many times I can listen to their current favourite song (and nails on a blackboard would be exquisitely better)… when I finally get a shower but all I can think of to sing is the theme to ‘Peppa Pig’ or ‘Team Umizoomi’ (“La la la la la… they are a tiny team!”)… when I look at myself in the mirror and think “Just begone,  bump!”or mournfully walk past the nice bras in M&S because no such thing as a sexy,  supportive nursing bra exists… I say to myself,  perhaps through clenched teeth: children. Are. A blessing. Not a trial, a blessing. From the Lord.

And when they’re sick, or fall, or are sad, I hold them close. When I feel their pain like my own, and pray they should never know more of it, I remember it: a blessing.

And when they’re lying on the bed in just their nappies tickling each other,  covering me in kisses, applauding me for ‘a good job, Mummy!’, telling me it’s the best supper EVER (when it’s just fish fingers again), or racing to the door to greet daddy, or being wondrously and spontaneously caring,  gracious, or tidy… they’re a blessing.

And when, God willing, my son phones me (probably via skype on something smarter than I am) with the news, or my daughter smiles at me over a coffee and lays one hand on her belly, then I’ll share this worthwhile verse with them: Children are a blessing from the Lord. And I shall pray that they – and I – never forget it.

Like my writing? Check out my sister site www.annathayer.wordpress.com to learn about my award-winning fantasy trilogy, ‘The Knight of Eldaran‘, and my work on Tolkien and Lewis. Yes, you got me: I’m a geek.

A Brave New World of Blogging

Hello, Internet! Welcome to Thayer Thoughts, a blog that does exactly what it says on the url: collects my musings on life, literature, teaching and motherhood.  I’m told that blogging is a great way to get out (handy when you’re chained to the sofa nursing an infant!), so here goes!  This is my first foray into the brave new world of blogging…

Like my writing? Check out my sister site www.annathayer.wordpress.com to learn about my award-winning fantasy trilogy, ‘The Knight of Eldaran‘, and my work on Tolkien and Lewis. Yes, you got me: I’m a geek.