Sunday, January 31, 2010

Speechy Sunday - Art Projects





Some of you have asked for fun speech therapy ideas, so I'm trying to honor that.

It makes me happy to be creative, so art projects are one of my all time favorite ways to play with kids. My mom once made a resolution to do something creative every day (like writing in a journal, or making a card for one of her grandkids), and she said it really made her happier!

In honor of the snowy weekend we've had here in Durham, here are some fun snowy art projects. I've done these with my preschool kiddos and with Flannaberry. For speech kiddos, you can have them "earn" each piece they need for the art project by doing whatever "speech work" you want them to do. For example, you could have them say "sssss" with their teeth together and tongue behind their teeth (for kiddos with a frontal lisp) 5 times for each art item they need for the project. If you're not working on sounds, you can just describe what they're doing ("ooh, you're gluing the cotton ball onto the paper!", "that's soft cotton," etc.) to facilitate language and vocabulary building.


Cotton Ball Snowman

Materials:

1 bag cotton balls
several buttons
glue
1 large sheet blue construction paper
3 white circles (1 small, 1 med, 1 large)
1 brown marker (to make the arms)

First, help the child glue the white circles on the paper to look like a snowman. Then, put glue all over the white circles, and let the child stick cotton balls on them. Then, add buttons for eyes and a nose, and as buttons on the snowman's belly. Then draw arms. Easy and fun!



Glitter Snowflakes

Materials:

white paper
scissors
glue & paintbrush
glitter

You'll need to make the snowflakes yourself unless the child you're with is in first grade or older. Then, let the child paint some glue onto the snowflake. Then, put the snowflake on a cookie sheet or plate with raised edges so you don't get glitter everywhere, and let the child shake some glitter onto the snowflake. Voila!



Pipe Cleaner Snowflakes

Materials:
2 silver or white pipe cleaners
lots of big craft beads (blue and clear preferred)

Cut 2 pipe cleaners in half. Line them up and twist them several times in the middle until they seem secure. Spread the arms out like a star. Add 3 beads to each "arm" of the snowflake. Twist the ends around the last bead to secure the beads on. Then hang up on a window to display.

Hope you enjoy these fun activities with a child in your life!


What's something creative you enjoy doing as an adult?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Quiet Moments in History


We had a wonderful snow day! We played in the snow, made snow ice cream, borrowed our neighbor's sled and let Flannery go sledding, made snowy art projects, and just generally had fun! I was able to be in the moment and just enjoy the day many times, and one time in particular really stood out for me.

We had just been on a walk down the street and back. Hardly anyone else was out on our whole street, so it was very quiet out. The wind was blowing a little bit, and it was sleeting faintly. Someone's wind chimes were twinkling. I walked across the street to get a picture of our house all snow-covered, as Robi carried Flannery inside to get warmed up. I just stood there looking at the house and my sweet family, listening to those gentle wind chimes. Just a beautiful quiet moment.

I hope I'll remember this snowy day, and that peaceful moment, when I'm old standing on some other quiet street.



What memories do you call on to bring you peace in quiet moments?

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Only Know Three Snow Songs




It snowed!

It's beautiful!

Hooray for winter!

I'm in such a snowy mood! While Flanna was taking her evening bath, we tried to sing snow-themed songs to go with the mood of the night. She loves to learn little songs that are related to what we're doing, and will sing them over and over until she's got them just right. Its so cute. So, I really wanted to come up with a fun snow song to teach her.

But, really? Can I really only think of THREE snow songs? Surely there are more.

But, no, I've only got 3. Here they are:

Let it Snow
Frosty the Snowman
Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Seriously. That's my list.

I fail at theme stuff. This is why it's good I'm not a preschool teacher.

So, help! Snow songs a kid will love? I need ideas!


By the way, we took Flannery out in the dark of the night to see the snow falling (see pics above)! It was fa-reezing! But there's nothing like catching a snowflake on your tongue to spark some happiness!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Anticipate Fun!



It might SNOW here on Saturday! Snow!

I'm so excited! Being from Georgia, snow is all about fun for me. (No--that year I spent in Boston where I dug my car out of 4 feet of snow repeatedly--it didn't take the fun out of the snow, either!)

I thought about keeping it a surprise for my daughter that it might snow, just in case it didn't. You know, so she wouldn't be disappointed. (The pics are from last winter when it snowed like crazy in Athens, by the way!)

But then, I thought, half the fun of snow is the anticipation of it! Looking out the window the night before the snow is expected, hoping for a snowflake, making plans for the hot chocolate and snow angels you'll make.

It's that way for a lot of things, really. Getting engaged, getting married, having a baby, vacations...it's really fun to dream about how these things are going to be, to anticipate them.

So, we told Banana that it might snow on Saturday. And she's SO happy about it! She said she's going to make a snow monkey with a snow banana. (??) And I promised her I'd figure out how to make snow ice cream. And my husband went out searching for a sled at fifteen different stores.

On a similar note, we're also already making Valentines. As a part of my happiness resolution to Share & Create Family Traditions, each holiday is a big deal in our household. And anticipating the fun of each holiday is fun in and of itself!


What happy moment are you anticipating? Enjoy it!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Learn Something New


Learning new things makes me happy.

The most fulfilling time of my career was when I was on an interdisciplinary team for early intervention in Athens, GA, for about 4 years. My team met weekly to discuss the families we served, to problem-solve about certain kiddos, and to reflect on our job performance and how we could improve. I learned SO much during those years, and I think the learning component of the job was what made me so happy in it. I find that if I’m not feeling challenged to grow constantly in my job or pretty much in any area of my life, I’m not as happy as I’d like to be.

Right now at my job, I’m most enjoying the bilingual Spanish preschool language group I co-teach each week here in Durham. And the occasional Spanish evaluations I do when they come up, as well. I think it’s the challenge that makes me happy to be doing these parts of my job. It’s funny to think that challenge can make me happy, but I really think it’s true.

On weeks I keep my happiness resolution to “Learn Something: Read in Spanish at least 15 minutes 5 times per week,” it definitely boosts my happiness. It makes me feel like I’m in control of my life, like I’m doing something that I want to do that makes me a better person. And on weeks I don’t keep my resolution, I'm just not as happy.

This is one of those weeks that I’m not keeping any of my happiness resolutions very well. But I have a sick kiddo at home, so I’m trying to cut myself some slack.

And I’m actually learning a lot while taking care of a croup-y toddler.

Like, how chicken noodle soup is completely unappealing to a 3 year old unless it has Shrek-shaped noodles.

Or, how popsicles can lose their appeal, but Sprite never does.

Or, how if I put the words, “The DOCTOR says that _____” before something, my preschooler takes it much more seriously than if just “Mom says so.”

Or, how mommy loses her temper much more easily after day 4 of co-sleeping with a restless daughter.

See how much I’m learning?

And even in my short-tempered, exhausted, still-in-my-PJs-at-2 p.m. state, that makes me happy.



How’s it going with the keeping of your new year’s resolutions? Any successes to repor
t?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Get Lost in Something


I'm a huge giant enormous gigantic fan of Lost.

And I cannot wait to enjoy getting sucked into the drama as it unfolds this season. It's one of my favorite things to do, watching Lost with my husband.

Except that he hates it when I keep asking him, "Why in the world did that just happen?!?" a thousand times during the show.

Yay, last season's finale is coming on now! Gotta go!


What do you like to get lost in?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Scary Croup Monster



Croup is scary.

I took my daughter to the doctor this morning, and we were right...she has croup.

Apparently you just wait croup out and it eventually goes away.

This is easier said than done.

The doctor suggested a penguin-shaped cool mist vaporizer (see photo above) and lots of liquids. Since Banana refuses most liquids when she's sick, she has been subsisting almost entirely on popsicles (also see photo above).

Between scary coughing spells, though, we really had a lovely sick day at home together. We watched Cars several times and took a nap together. And I admit it, I had a popsicle, too!

And then there were the scary croup monster coughing fits. Seriously scary. Gasping for breath scary.

During said spells, I have to remind myself to underreact to the situation (something I learned from Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog). Because apparently croup spells get more intense when the child is distressed.

So, I underreact, and say, "Oh, it's hard to breathe right now. Yuck. That's no fun! Let's take a sip of your Orangina and see if that helps."

When what I really want to do is freak out and call the doctor and demand steroids or an inhaler or some other treatment that I've read online is only used as a last resort when croup lasts longer than it should. But no, I'm going to underreact and remain calm and even a little silly so Banana stays calm, too.

So for now, I'm off to sleep with my sick girlie. And to remain calm. And to listen for sounds of "inhalatory stridor at rest" all night. And to try to figure out exactly what "retractions" look like so I can keep an eye out for those, too.

Can you tell I'm not so good at underreacting yet?

Oh, well, I guess it's a work in progress.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Speechy Sunday - a Newbie update


I tried being a "newbie" at my job last week, and it was really fun!

As I was walking from my car to the door for each of my clients, I reminded myself to try to pretend I was brand new at this whole SLP thing. I tried to reconsider their goals and progress and the techniques I was using with each of them as if I had never met them before. And I really do think it made me a better therapist! Maybe it was just a product of reflecting on the sessions before and after them that made the sessions successful. But either way, I'll take it!

I wanted to share one of the speech activities I did this week that was pretty successful and fun. (Some of you have requested some speech ideas and tips, so I'm trying to honor that.) This is just a general idea for working on specific skills and is in no way to be taken as medical advice. If you have a child or grandchild who needs speech and language support, there is no better way to get it than in person with your very own SLP. You can find a certified SLP in your area by going here.

Sometimes as kids are learning to use language well, they leave out little pieces of sentences. For example, they might say, "It my turn", or "I cold, " or "I hungry," or "Where doggie?". To teach them how to include the verbs in these sentences, we can model the sentences while emphasizing the words they're missing and then try to have them imitate us. If we make it fun, it won't feel like work! Here's one way to teach those little important verbs:


THE HOT/COLD GAME - (a variation of hide & seek)
good for preschool aged children (3-5ish years old)
for working on using "is, am, & are" verbs in short sentences

Here's how it works:
The adult shows a small toy to the child, then has the child close his eyes and count to 20.
While he's counting, the adult hides the object somewhere relatively nearby and easy to find (but not in plain sight).
Then, the adult has the child repeat "I AM ready" when he's done counting, and "I AM coming" before he sets out to find the hidden object.
While he's looking for the object, the adult has the child repeat "Where ARE you?" in a sing-songy calling voice repeatedly, and when he looks in one place and the object is NOT there, has the child repeat, "It IS not there." All the while, the adult says "You ARE cold" when the child is far from the object, and "you ARE warm" when getting closer, and "You ARE hot" when he's right near it, as clues to find the object.
Once the child finds the toy, the adult cues him to say "Here it IS!" "It IS _____(by the couch, under the bed, etc)___!"

Then, they switch roles. Have the child say, "Now it IS my turn" before he hides the toy.
The adult closes his/her eyes and counts to 20 while the child hides the toy.
Once it's hidden, the adult prompts the child to say, "I AM ready!" or "It IS ready!"
The adult searches for the toy, all the while asking, "Toy, where ARE you?" in a sing-songy voice.
While searching, the adult narrates where the toy is not (ex: "Uhoh, it IS not by the table, it IS not under the chair," etc.)
The adult cues the child to say, "You ARE cold/hot/warm" as clues as they are searching (you usually know where the child has hidden the toy because they can't keep themselves from showing you! :) .)
Once the toy is found, the adult says, "Here it IS!", "It IS ___(under the table, by the bag, etc)___!"
Then the adult cues the child to say "It IS your turn", and they switch roles again.


If you can stay energetic and excited throughout this game, most preschoolers will play it at least 10 times in a row with you. That's a lot of "is, are, & am" practice, and, actually, a lot of fun for you both, too!



A friend of mine mentioned that the newbie thing also applies to non-work stuff, like being a new mom or being newly married. We tend to get less appreciative of things as they become routine. What routine things are you thankful for this week?

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Better Day


It's been a better day.

I got to see 5 clients today! That's my goal for each day, so yay!

I got to chat with my mom driving between clients!

My bathroom is clean!

We're having a playdate in an hour with the best ever neighbors in the whole world.

My sweet daughter got to eat pizza (without losing her loose tooth) on her pizza friday.

Plus, we're having a friend over for dinner, and my hubby doesn't have to work late tonight!

And my daughter actually fell asleep easily for her nap! So now I have time to sweep the floors in peace!

Doesn't get much better than that.



I ran across this blog today, and wanted to share it. This guy, Matt, lost his wife 24 hours after she had their baby. It made me really really appreciate my wonderful fantastic sweet life today.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Craziness and a Recurring Cough


My daughter fell at school today. She was swinging herself between two tables and fell straight onto her mouth (onto a hardwood floor, no less!). By the time I got there to pick her up, the bleeding had stopped, but she told me that her mouth "bleeded a lot." Poor thing!

After calling her pediatrician and figuring out that the worst part of the damage was not the busted lips but rather a loose tooth, we managed to get to a pediatric dentist. Lots of X rays, two stickers, and one prize from the prize box later, we were reassured that she wasn't going to lose the tooth and that it should get better on its own with time. Whew!

Then I gave my sore, bruised, and overtired kiddo a treat by getting her a milkshake and taking her to Build-a-Bear at the mall. Where she decided to buy not the adorable baby sling thingie that I thought she would use every day and completely love...no, not that. She decided that she just had to have....

a pink satin dog bed trimmed with santa fur.

and a rather large pink satin dog bed trimmed with santa fur, at that.

But, hey, who am I to argue with a kid who just bravely sat still for a dentist while in tooth pain? If this pain is anything like my recollections of my past orthodontic experiences, then, heck, she can have a chihuahua to go with the pink satin dog bed.

But luckily, there were no chihuahuas for sale at this mall, so we got home with only one slightly crazy purchase.

At the end of the day, soaking in her tub, Banana said, "This was a very terrible day."

I agree.

Oh, and my recurrent cough is back with a dry hacking vengeance. Fun stuff.

So tomorrow can only get better, right?

How do you treat yourself when you've had a bad day?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Keep Growing


My daughter likes to say, "Mommy, when I get big and you get little...." It's sooo cute.

Growing is such a big part of who we are when we're young. It makes sense that it makes us happy even as old folks to continue to experience growth.

When one area of my life seems to stall (like, for instance, when money is still tight after ten years of marriage :), or when I'm still trying to figure out how to integrate regular exercise into my routine after 7 years of failed attempts), it's nice to find a small area (or two) where I can still experience growth (like how I'm learning Spanish, or how I'm almost keeping up with our laundry for the first time ever in our married life!).

Here's a quote one of my friends introduced me to. It works for me right now.

The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it’s the same problem you had last year. ~ John Foster Dulles




What problems have you overcome in the last few years?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Woodstove+Book+Dog = One Happy Texter


What? Me, interview you?

About once a week, I've been trying to post interviews with amazing and insightful people who inspire me. Today, I'm focusing on someone who has inspired me (and sometimes bossed me) to do the right thing more times than I can count. Someone who has helped me maintain my faith regardless of my phase in life, and who has never been afraid to make big changes in her life when they needed to be made.

Yep, the bossy part gave it away. It's my sister! (she's the blonde in the pic, by the way!)

Seriously, Jessica is a pretty amazing person, if I do say so myself. She's a single mom by choice who was brave enough to be a rather young foster mom to some adorable kiddos, one of whom she (finally!) officially adopted last year (yay!!!). She's also one of those people who is gifted in the ability to communicate with teenagers, which is not exactly the average layman's forte. She's somehow able to be straightforward without being pushy and to be supportive without being nosy. I have no idea how she does it, but she just gets the turmoil that is growing up. Did I mention she's a high school teacher? Talk about finding your niche.

Oh, and I forgot my favorite thing about her. She's completely cheesy. I mean it. Her cards and notes will just make you cry if you're not careful. (I'm kinda cheesy, too. I think maybe we get that from our mom, who's never been afraid to say what needs to be said even if it embarrassed us (i.e., "I love you SO much, sweetie!" in front of our cool friends on the first day of high school).)

Anyway, here are Jessica's answers to my happiness interview questions:

1. How do you cheer yourself up when you're feeling blue?

it depends on why i'm feeling blue. if it's a work issue, i go find a trusted work friend and we have a vent/hug/scream/cry session. if it's just a general blah day, i'll do something random like take my daughter out for a special treat like hibachi dinner or waffle house or ice cream or a donut. or i put on a favorite CD and we sing along. or once my daughter’s in bed, i'll pick up a "blue day" book and read a page or two that i previously folded down. or buy a new book and read it while sitting by the woodstove with my dog. or email/text/call someone. but you have to pick the right someone for the situation -- certain folks are better with certain situations.

2. What have been the happiest experiences of your life so far?

there are so many that it's hard to pick THE HAPPIEST, but here are some that rank high up there:

*my daughter's adoption day
*my niece’s birth
*so many awesome Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays with family & friends & my favorite ever foster kids -- I LOVE the holidays!
*Disney and beach trips with my family & some awesome friends
*chaperoning the senior trip with amazing friends/coworkers
*Gatlinburg trips with friends/coworkers -- oh the memories!
*camping trips with friends & family
*hanging out with the whole family in WY or the other side of the family in GA
*summer as a counselor at Girl Scout Camp
*hanging out with wonderful church friends at Wednesday night suppers, retreats, doing service projects, etc.
*coffee hour with such amazing friends
*game nights
*girls' night out



3. What is something small that you do regularly that makes you happier?

I am a relationship person. At this point in my life I'm completely happy with myself and by myself, but I enjoy time with friends and family one-on-one or in small groups. It makes me happy to spend face-time (or at least facebook-time) with the people who mean the most to me. I completely LOVE Wednesday nights because I get to sit around with my favorite folks from church and share our life adventures with love and laughter. I used to be very anti-cell phone and anti-facebook. BUT... I now have texting and facebook addictions because I can use them to keep up with my friends and family near and far, thus maintaining our involvement in each other's daily lives in spite of the miles between us.


-------

Wisdom from my big sis. Who, by the way, is the fastest texter I've EVER met in my life. Seriously, in the time it just took me to write this sentence on my laptop, she probably just texted a whole paragraph to one of her friends. It's a gift. And, apparently, a gift that boosts her happiness! So more power to her!


I love how texting is such a non-instrusive way to stay connected to other people. I especially appreciated texting when my daughter was tiny and napped much of the day. My phone ringing seemed so intrusive and rude, but a text "ping" seemed so gentle and thoughtful. Do you text, and if not, why not?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Don’t Fold Your Underwear (and other tips for busy people)


Look, mom, I made my bed! (But only because we had our friend Christopher over for dinner yesterday!)

Part of my happiness project this year is to figure out ways to get myself in the habit of being neat. I’m naturally a messy person, so being neat and tidy doesn’t come easily to me. But I’ve realized that I feel calmer on the inside when things are orderly and tidy on the outside. So, here are some tips that have helped me so far:

1. Don’t fold your underwear – They usually get unfolded as you search for your favorite ones to wear, anyway, so just throw them in your underwear drawer unfolded and save yourself a few minutes. My husband also has a “same sock” strategy. He only buys one brand & type of white socks, so that any white sock of his will match any of his other white socks. I’m too cheap to make the switch when all my mismatched white socks still seem wearable, so I still spend a lot of time sorting socks. But I kind of envy his sock efficiency.

2. Do accidental cleanups. -- If you accidentally drip water on the floor in the bathroom and reach for a towel to clean it up, go ahead and wipe the whole bathroom floor quickly with the towel while you’re at it. Or if you spill some coffee grinds on the floor of the kitchen and reach for the broom to sweep it up, go ahead and sweep the whole kitchen. You’ll be surprised how these little cleanups can save you time and make your house look nicer bit by bit.

3. Keep a Donation Bin – In our house, we have a heavy duty “Good Will Bag” (a.k.a. a ForceFlex trash bag) hanging inside our pantry at all times. I’m amazed how fast it fills up. Of course, the 10 item a day Clutter Therapy Challenge has made it even more of a necessity! I remember in our old house, we didn’t have a designated spot for “donation items,” and we’d constantly have goodwill stuff piling up in our hallway near the kitchen. Our donation bag keeps the clutter contained until we’re ready to actually donate it.

4. Shine Your Sink – Flylady says that keeping her sink consistently clean (or doing your dishes every time they’re dirty) was the first step she took to try and change her messy tendencies into productive habits. She says keeping our house clean makes us better people, because we start being able to be hospitable at any time and have guests over with just a few minutes notice.

5. Buy Clorox Wipes. In Bulk. – Keep a container of Clorox Wipes (or any other brand multipurpose cleaning wipes) handy wherever you’ll need it, and allow yourself to do mini cleanups when you have time rather than waiting for a big chunk of time to clean. I try to keep some in the bathroom, under the kitchen sink, and in my car. That way, if I’m sitting in the bathroom waiting for my daughter to finish up her bath, I can quickly wipe the mirror and the sink without having to seek out the cleaning supplies and rags.

6. Plan Dinner – If you have a plan for dinner by lunch that day, then you’ll probably eat healthier and more balanced meals. Sometimes I get really OCD and plan my meals out for a week or 2 at a time. That’s when I really feel like a supermom. But it doesn’t happen a lot. Oh, well. Baby steps.

7. Make Your Bed – I admit it, I never ever EVER make my bed unless people are coming over to my house. But when I do, it totally does make me happy.

8. Invite People Over -- When we lived in Athens, we went through phases of having regular “Thursday Night Dinners” at our house every week. Or sometimes every two weeks. Nothing motivates me to keep my toilet clean consistently like having a deadline by which it must get done in order that guests not be horrified.

9. Pay for Cleaning Help – There have been times when I have just been too busy to even think about cleaning, much less actually find a bucket and some Pine Sol amidst the chaos that was my house. At these times, even though I have never been a wealthy girl, I have hired cleaning help. Hey, I’m cool with eating rice and beans for a week if I have to in order to save up the dough for the cleaner. To come home to a freshly dusted, swept, and mopped house after a long day at work is a serious happiness boost. 75 bucks has never been so well spent.

10. Assign Babysitters Chores – This was a hard one for me, but my friend Nikki inspired me to try it. After the kids go to sleep, or while they’re watching TV before bedtime, you really CAN ask your babysitter to fold a load of laundry or do the dishes. Nothing too difficult, because of course their main duty is to keep the children happy and safe. But most good babysitters don’t mind helping you with a few little chores. And some of them will even do chores without you asking them to! (Those are the ones you pay extra and keep a secret from all your friends so no one will steal them away!)

So there you have it. Secrets to tidiness from a professional mess-maker.

What’s your secret to keeping a tidy and orderly home? Really, I want to know!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Life in Pictures

Partly because a picture is worth a thousand words, and partly because I'm busy doing laundry today, I'm doing a picture post today. It's all about our wonderful day yesterday at our local Museum of Life & Science. What a fabulous day! Made better by the fact that we got tons of exercise walking around, got to experience nature, and generally had tons of tiny little happy moments strung together into one cool experience. Check out the photos, and then get thee to some gorgeous location and experience happy for yourself on this long weekend!

BTW, I think museums can often teach us more than books and lectures ever will. One of the best museums I've ever visited is the Holocaust Museum in DC. Talk about memorable. What's your favorite museum?










Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pretend You're a Newbie

I. love. my new doctor. Don't worry. She's a girl, and Robi's cool with it. :)

I had the dreaded visit with the new doctor in this new town today. And guess what? It was fabulous! My doctor is practically a teenager (just kidding, but she IS young!) and is a resident at the clinic I went to (meaning she's still new at this doctor thing). I told her how I've been coughing for eons, so she checked me out for that, and I also got a typical physical, too.

And the cool thing was, this doctor sat and talked with me. For like an hour.

And when she asked questions, she actually sat quietly and listened while I answered. And followed up with actual insightful questions and comments. And ordered tests that made actual sense to me. And made recommendations that I didn't just roll my eyes at. (Not that I do that all that often, but sometimes doctors say things like, "Well, are you eating your vegetables?" that just make me want to go to an acupuncurist or something so that I can actually be heard.) Annnyway.

My point is that this brand new doctor was amazing. And I had to wonder if she was so amazing simply because she was new.

Remember when you were in school or were being trained to learn how to do your job? How you took notes on what people told you and tried to figure out how to do the best job you could? I think I was a pretty high achiever, but I don't think I'm the only one who can say that I probably gave my job a lot more thought when I was fresh out of school. I took more time to plan for the day ahead, made materials that exactly fit the goals I had for the next day, and didn't "wing it" quite so much as I do now. Not that there isn't a time and place for winging it. But, really, sometimes newbies are amazingly thorough in their jobs.

That's what struck me about my doctor's visit today--how thorough it was.

So, next week (face it, Friday is the worst day to start something new, so I'm going to start Monday), I'm going to try to pretend I'm a brand new SLP just meeting my brand new patients for the first time. I wonder if I'll see them differently?

Pretend you're a newbie. And see if it makes you happy to do things by the book again for a while.




And I"m also going to work to find a fun way to exercise, like my new amazing doctor suggested. Something that really fits me so I'll keep at it. Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Celebrate Traditions

Today was my hubby's birthday. I completely forgot to tell him happy birthday this morning before I left for work, though. How terrible, right?

The moment I wrote the date during my first treatment session, though, I realized my mistake and called and sang happy birthday to him (with my two speech kiddos).

When I got home from work, Flanna and I made him a giant cookie cake and ordered Indian for dinner. And we all danced together before dinner. Fun! Flanna kept asking her dad, "Will you be my prince?" when she meant, "will you dance with me?"

Sooooo sweet.

At the end of the night, she said her favorite part was eating his cake and picking out his candles. (I let her choose which candles to put on his cake).

Making a point to truly celebrate each special day that comes up has probably been the most effective happiness resolution I've made.

Now, to sleep off this sugar high.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Help Where You Can

I heard a replay of a really amazing interview on NPR this morning with Miep Gies, one of the people who helped hide Anne Frank and her family during WWII. I had to sit in the car for a few minutes before going into a client's house to pull myself together after hearing it. (I admit it, I cried!) Miep was just so humble! (If you don't already know, Miep Gies died yesterday at 100 years old. She was the last of the remaining helpers of the Frank family, and she was the one who found and saved Anne's diary when the family was discovered and taken away.)

In the interview on NPR, Miep talked about how she would get a list from the family in the morning, and would go out and buy groceries and supplies for them each week. I read on Wikipedia that she didn't like being called a hero. Here's a quote from an online chat she did with some students:

"Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary."

She also said that when Otto Frank (Anne's dad) asked her to help hide the family,

"I answered, 'Yes, of course.' It seemed perfectly natural to me. I could help these people. They were powerless, they didn't know where to turn."

I love that she said, "I could help these people." It makes such an amazing act of kindness seem so normal, so do-able.

In Orthodoxy (have I mentioned I'm Orthodox?), reading about and learning from the lives of the Saints is right up there with praying on the list of important things to do to better yourself. Considering the lives of the saints helps point us in the right direction. In trying to learn more about Miep's life, I found her website, which was really interesting. Check it out to see some amazing photos of her, including one of her and her husband beside the bookshelf hiding the annex door.

Consider the saints.

And sometimes the saints are just normal, ordinary housewives and secretaries, helping where they can.



What helping opportunities are in front of you right now? Which ones seem to be the most do-able?

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Ritual of Good Tea



What? Me, interview you?

About once a week, I've been trying to post interviews with amazing and insightful people who inspire me. This week's focus is on Lauren, a friend of mine and a blogging mama who inspires not only me, but a whole heck of a lot of folks. Her blog, "Sharing the Journey": Life after Postpartum Depression, offers support to parents who need it from someone who's been there before.

1. How do you cheer yourself up when you're feeling blue?

I give myself permission to be lazy. I'll fix a special meal (this could even be Ramen in a special mug) and plop down on the couch for a favorite movie. The ensuing relaxation really cheers me up.


2. What have been the happiest experiences of your life so far?

One of the happiest moments of my life so far is being able to see my three kids thrive and care for each other. Never fails to bring a smile to my face.


3. What is something small that you do regularly that makes you happier?

I drink good tea on a daily basis. I buy loose leaf so there is an entire routine which goes along with drinking tea. It is my treat to myself every day.


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Mmm, good tea... Speaking of which, I think it's time for a little decaf chai latte while I give myself permission to veg on the couch with my hubby. Thanks for the inspiration, Lauren!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cut the Chaos


I just spent ten minutes drooling over these monogrammed hangers online at www.hangers.com. I have no idea how I came upon monogrammable hangers...it was during one of those out of body free flow googling experiences, but aren't they cool? I'm sure I'll never bring myself to buy them, but imagining my closet looking that fancy-schmancy gave me a little mood lift.

I've been in a decluttering frenzy for the past few days, and I really think that I'm feeling happier because of it! It's so nice to get rid of things that I don't use and to make space for the things I love. My friend Dianne started a blog for the new year called Clutter Therapy, and she has really given me some inspiration to keep my "cut the chaos" happiness resolution. She's challenged her readers to get rid of 10 things every day (from old gum wrappers in your purse to those pants that just don't fit right) for 100 days. I think this challenge is going to get me in the habit of decluttering on a regular basis, and I'm really excited about it!

This weekend I went way further than Dianne's 10 item a day decluttering challenge, and just let my OCD tendencies have full reign while I cleaned out my closet, my dresser, my jewelry box, my daughter's dressers & closet, and her toy bins. I still have a long way to go (as we speak, we still have a Christmas tree up and several Christmas toys who are as of yet homeless), but tomorrow IS another day! And I actually made some dinero in the process! Turns out after Xmas isn't the BEST time to sell your unwanted clothes to Plato's Closet, but I fared better selling kids' stuff at Once Upon a Child. Now we have more room in our closets and some extra cash. Nice!

Oh, by the way, I made the dreaded doctor's appointment with a new doctor in this new town, and they can't fit me in until Thursday! My hubby, meanwhile, took himself by the acute care clinic this morning and was home with an antibiotic within 2 hours. I almost stole it from him while he wasn't looking, but I guess I'll wait my turn.



Dianne is one of those friends of mine who could inspire a telephone pole. I love feeding off of her enthusiastic energy! How have your friends helped YOU to become a better person?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Make Mistakes on Purpose


To keep my happiness commandment #4 (Have fun!), I've been trying to make more mistakes on purpose when I'm around my daughter and my preschool-aged clients. This is something I learned from the book, "The Happiest Toddler on the Block," which is a pretty enjoyable read. Here are some examples of what this looks like:

I'm trying to get my daughter dressed for bed, but she's running around half naked in a sleep deprived frenzy after our 2 week hiatus from any semblance of a normal routine (a.k.a. Christmas break).
Me: Sweetie, it's time to get pajamas on. I need you to cooperate.
Banana (this is my daughter's nickname): (runs away)
Me: (sternly) Honey, I'm going to count to 3, and then I'll have to carry you back into the bedroom.
Banana: (comes into the room with a resentful look on her face)
Me: OK, now let's put these pants on. (sliding them over her head). Now that's not really working. Hmm, maybe this will help (sliding them onto her arms).
Banana: (laughing, sticks out a foot for me to put her pajamas on) No, mommy, they go on my legs!
(I seriously couldn't believe this worked so well!)

Here's an example from work today:

I'm trying to help a little boy learn to say his /k/ and /g/ sounds instead of using /t/ and /d/. He keeps saying "tar" for "car" and "tootie" for "cookie," and "bite" for "bike." This is called "velar fronting," and is a pretty common error that kids make in articulation (pronunciation) as they're learning speech sounds.
Me: Would you like this bike? (holding up a toy motorcycle)
Joey (name has been changed): Yeah, bite!
Me: Bite? You want a bite? Oh, you must be hungry! Hmm, I need to look for some snacks. (pretending to look around).
Joey: No, bite!
Me: Oh, you want ME to bite YOU? Okay, yum yum yum yum yum! ( I pretend to bite his hands).
Joey: (laughing) No, bite!
Me: You mean biKe? Bye-KKKKK? (sometimes holding out the /k/ sound so that it almost sounds like you're clearing your throat can make it easier to imitate, and it's ALWAYS easier to imitate /k/ and /g/ sounds at the ends of words at first. I also touch my throat just at the angle below my chin, which is where we make that /k/ sound.)
Joey: bye-KKKKKKK! (touching his own throat, too, as he says the word correctly)
Me: OHHHH, you want a BIKE! I see, here ya go! (we push/crash the bike together with some other truCKs he's earned).

Turns out I am pretty convincingly dumb.

While this is a little scary, I'm cool with it. Heck, anything that wins me a little cooperation from a kid without having to resort to bribery or time-outs sounds okay to me.



Do you remember any silly things your parent(s) or teachers did when you were a child? I remember once in 3rd grade, my teacher told us that she would tap-dance on a desk if we all learned our multiplication tables. We did, and she did, too! What a cool adult who can grasp the importance of FUN for kids' learning and engagement!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Take Advice



I'm kinda sick. In an "I've been coughing for 3 weeks straight" kind of way. And being sick for this long, I've started to notice a trend.

People love to give advice about how to get well. I think the last time I've gotten this much advice in such a short time frame was when I first had my baby. Seriously.

But the funny thing is...when I first had my baby, I was crazy defensive about all that advice. I'd shrug it off and get back to reading books by people who I thought actually knew what they were talking about.

Turns out, though, that a lot of the advice I get is pretty darn good.

Take your vitamins.
Get some sleep.
Have some homemade chicken noodle soup.
Rest.
Garlic, garlic, garlic.
The miracle of magnesium (did you know there's actually a book with this title?)


And then there's the kicker..

It might be time to see an actual....doctor. (insert scary music here)

Sigh.

But I think these people are right. So, tomorrow, I'm going to look for a new doctor in this new town.

Take advice. It's something I'm trying this month, and it kinda feels good to embrace the wisdom of my friends and family.



What is it that we hate about getting advice? Why does it feel so good to give advice and so terrible to receive it?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Listener


I am paid to communicate all day long. I studied communication in college, in graduate school, in continuing education courses. I’ve taught courses in communication. But I have to admit something.

I am a terrible listener.

I'm so terrible at listening that I made a happiness commandment to focus on it. #8 - Really Listen.

I love to talk. I have a lot to say. I think I’m sort of insightful about a lot of things, and I know a lot of interesting stuff to contribute to conversations. My husband says I tend to interrupt. (I agree—it’s true!) I also sometimes try to finish people’s sentences for them. More than sometimes. Often. Okay, frequently. OK, a heck of a lot.

Ugh.

I find that sometimes when I’ve asked my husband about his day, I suddenly tune out and have no idea what he just said to me. It’s not that I’m not interested…it’s just that my brain suddenly stopped focusing. These are the times when I say, “Oh, really?” at a really awkward time in the conversation, and my husband knows immediately that he’s lost me and just shakes his head at his wife, the terrible horrible no good very bad listener.

But….. identifying the problem is half the battle, right? I know I’m a bad listener, and I’m working on it. I find that I can’t multitask and listen well. I can’t be typing an evaluation report while I’m listening to my husband tell me about his day. My brain just can’t handle the competing stimuli. So, I have to decide when I want to listen and ONLY listen. This is hard to do when you’re crazy busy. But it must be done. Which takes me back to good old happiness commandment #3 –Do what needs to be done. (I told you, that one is brilliant!)

What helps you tune in and pay attention to those you care about?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A New Year, a new Goal (or 6)


I've come up with 6 reasonable New Year's Resolutions. I'm starting small here, and hoping for a little success to motivate me to keep going. Of course, I'd love to exercise every day and eat home-made healthy lunches consistently, but for now, I'm letting myself change slowly.

I'm even going to be a little bit OCD and print these resolutions out and tape them in the front cover of my calendar, where I'll see them each day. I did that with my priorities list once, and I think it made me work harder to do what I wanted to do during that year. Anyway, here are my first 6 resolutions for this year of my happiness project:


MY HAPPINESS RESOLUTIONS:
1. Learn Something: Read in Spanish at least 15 minutes 5 times per week.
2. Be social: Start a girls’ night by June.
3. Really listen: Interview at least 5 past clients about happiness amidst struggles.
4. Cut the chaos: Tidy up the house for 10 minutes each night, every night.
5. Exercise: Dance with Flannery on Mon, Wed, Fri afternoons.
6. Eat Well: Bring a lunch on Tues/Thurs.

I'm trying to make these measurable goals so that I'll know if I've met them or not. Some years, I have resolutions like "Exercise more" or "Eat healthier foods". While these sound like good goals, they're too nebulous for me, and I don't like feeling unsure if I'm meeting them or not. Maybe that's why I haven't really kept resolutions all that well in the past. This year, I'm going to be specific and push myself to do exactly what my goal says, and more if I can.


What resolutions have you made this year? Do you make broad sweeping goals or smaller more conservative ones?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me...and a Challenge


It's my birthday today! I'm "turning into" 31, as my daughter would say. I tried to find a photo of me from 10 years ago, but the best I could do was 5 years ago. So here I am at 26 holding my cousin's new baby, dreaming of how happy I will one day be when I have my own little bundle of joy.

And now that I have my (now 3 year old!) bundle of joy, am I that happy? I am in ways, but I'm starting this Happiness Project for 2010 because I know there's room for improvement.

I'm going to start this improvement by trying to follow my Happiness Commandments for the whole year that I am 31! (I'm also hoping to break these up into more measurable New Year's resolutions/goals, but that's just the SLP in me coming through!)

Anyway, here are my happiness commandments so far. (Let's see if I can make it a week without breaking one of them...fingers crossed!!)

1 Live your priorities
2 Be in the moment/Pay attention
3 Do what needs to be done
4 Have fun
5 Work hard to make a connection
6 Do your best and be done with it
7 Be authentic
8 Really listen
9 Partner up
10 Be prompt and polite


If you had to come up with your own commandments to guide you toward happiness in the next year, what would they be? I'm sure mine wouldn't apply to everyone, and I'd love to hear what you think!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Be a Storehouse of Happy Memories


Sometimes I get more happiness out of reminiscing about moments than actually experiencing the moment.

I just ordered some photo flip books chronicling our Christmas experience for my daughter and my niece. (Have I mentioned my unhealthy addiction to Snapfish?) I REALLY enjoyed looking back through all of our photos of our celebrations! Is it strange that I enjoy remembering the moments more than actually experiencing the moments?

Take Christmas eve. We were staying at my sister's house, so we let my daughter and niece have a sleepover in the same room for Xmas eve (actually, in a huge princess tent with matching sleeping bags, but you get the idea). The girls wore matching pajamas, set out cookies and milk for Santa, and then giggled and talked when they should've been getting to sleep. A-dor-a-ble, huh?

Strange thing is, though, all this adorability was kind of lost on me. I was busy trying to remember where we'd hidden all the gifts, trying to count to make sure everything was going to be even gift-wise in the morning, willing my child to fall asleep before 3 a.m. in her crazy overexcited state, and trying to hop myself up on enough cough medicine that I might possibly sleep as well (did I mention I've had some upper respiratory funk for about 2 weeks now?!).

Anyway, I'm SO glad I looked back at those cute pictures. And I really can't wait to recount the holiday fun with my daughter when my Snapfish photo book arrives! I'm trying to be a storehouse of happy family memories, and it's already making me happier. Fingers crossed that it makes the family happier as a whole, too.

In any case, at least some CEO at Snapfish is getting happy watching profits pour in thanks to me! Ah, the many ways I spread joy. Maybe next year I'll miraculously be able to be in the moment more, so that I can enjoy the fun times while they're actually happening. Here's to growth!


What happy memories do you enjoy reflecting on from your own holiday?