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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Take Notice

Today, I really tried to take notice of my daughter. How her hair curls up when she's sweaty. How her eyes really are yellow, not just hazel. They are so unique. How she describes conversations now, and talks about things that happened in the past with such clarity. How her body just will not stop moving sometimes. How creative her imagination is, and how gentle and sweet her spirit is. How she just can't keep herself from singing at all points in time. How she even chews her dinner to a little musical beat. How grown up and independent she is now.

We rode the Duke bus to Duke's West Campus today, and Flanna insisted that she didn't want me to hold her hand or put an arm around her on the bus. "It's okay, mom, I can do it," she reassured me. And through all the quick stops and fast turns and bumps in the road, on a big person bus with no seat belts, she really did make it just fine. Her tiny, skinny-winny body never once tumbled out of the seat, as I pictured it might every time we went around a sharp curve. (I had to catch myself about 7 times as my hands reached instinctively for her, to protect her from falling during a big curve or a quick stop! I was amazed to see she really didn't need that protecting!)

So, today, on that bus, I had to take notice of the fact that I can let go a little bit more now. Which makes my eyes tear up a bit as I write it. I just love these days of holding hands going up the stairs together, and it's sad to think about them being almost done. As Gretchen Rubin says, "The days are long, but the years are short."

We had a few other neat moments today, as well, where I was really able to be in the moment and make a connection with her, rather than thinking about the zillions of things I need to be doing for work, for our move, etc. At the park, we found some really cool pyramid shaped seed pods. We collected a few, and opened them up once we got home, sitting on our porch steps. They were like tiny amazing gifts, intricate and delicate, and resilient all at the same time. Flannery was quiet and careful and seemed a little in awe of the tiny seeds inside the pods. Then later, as we were playing blocks on the living room floor after dinner, I tried to just listen and follow her lead. Not to teach or coach or direct her in any way, just for a few minutes. And in that time, she sorted blocks by shape, color, and size. She made a really cool, almost symmetrical tower. And it occurred to me that she doesn't need my teaching all the time to learn. Sometimes, she just needs me to take notice of what she is already doing. To just appreciate the strong and sweet character and natural curiosity that she has.


My goal for next week is to get more sleep so that I don't have to try so hard to be in the moment! It's hard work sometimes!

What have you noticed from focusing on being in the moment in your life? Do you find yourself like me, getting so caught up in regrets of the past and hopes/plans for the future, that the present gets all jumbled and not as you'd like it to be? How do you help yourself carve out space and time to experience the present moments?

PS -- the first 2 pics here are from when Flannery was almost 2, and the last 2 are from 2 weeks ago. The change from baby to little girl is so striking!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quick and Yummy Summer Simmer

I'm not a great cook.

My husband? He's a great cook. But me, I'm more of a baker. I like exact recipes with measuring cups and teaspoons, and, you know, predictable results.

But, I'm slowly figuring out a repertoire of yummy, easy, and healthy dinners that my family enjoys.

Here's one that we just love. (Warning, what my family loves may be very different from what your family enjoys! One of my daughter's first words was "tofood" for tofu, and we eat a lot of vegetarian dishes. But I think anyone would enjoy this one!)

I'm calling it a "quick and yummy summer simmer", but it's really just chickpea masala over rice.

Anyway, here are the ingredients:

Jasmine rice
Canned Chickpeas
Tikki Masala Sauce
1 fresh sliced tomato
a few sprigs of cilantro
some fresh leafy greens (we usually use spinach)

And the instructions:
Rinse and drain the canned chickpeas. Then put them in a large and deep skillet or wok.
Pour masala sauce over chickpeas.
Add 1 fresh sliced tomato to the sauce, and let the sauce simmer on low for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, steam your rice (My favorite way is in the microwave using a casserole dish with a heavy plate on top as the lid, just add at least 1/2 cup more water than the recipe asks for)

Then, when your rice is done, use the leafy greens as a base, spoon some cooked hot rice on top (this will wilt the greens a little, yum!), pour your chickpea masala simmer on top, and sprinkle on a few cilantro leaves.

I like to eat this with a side of fresh fruit like mangoes or berries.

Yum! In 20 minutes, you've got a tasty meal that looks just beautiful, too.

What's your favorite quick meal to make at home?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Learn Something New

A few days ago, my husband found a caterpillar eating some of our basil outside. We brought it inside and kept it in a jar for a few days, and then, just when I was trying to decide whether to keep it so Flanna could watch it become a butterfly or moth, my husband brought home a butterfly habitat tent. So, we're keeping this cool little guy until he's ready to fly.

My hubby has been reading up on how to take care of it. And the caterpillar is thriving under his care. (It had sort of been eeking out a meager living in my care.) I'm so glad Robi decided to learn something new and create the perfect sanctuary for our new little caterpillar friend. The funny thing so far has been that this caterpillar can EAT! He's munching through the leaves Robi gives him like there's no tomorrow. I guess "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" isn't an exaggeration!

I'll try to get some good pics of the little guy tomorrow. Or girl? I'm not sure how it works for caterpillars.

What are you learning this summer?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Speechy Sunday - Bilingual Babies

As an early intervention speech-language pathologist, I am honored to be a sounding board for all kinds of decisions that families make for their young children. From, "Do you think he's ready for potty training?" to "How can we get her to sleep through the night?" to "Should I start her on rice cereal or pureed veggies first?," I am asked every day about how to best help children grow and develop. And one of my favorite questions to get these days is, "Should we raise our child to be bilingual?"

Many families who are considering raising their child to be bilingual are nervous at the outset. Many of my clients' families were themselves raised in a home where only one language was spoken (a monolingual home), so it's difficult for them to picture exactly what it will look like if they choose to teach their child two languages as they grow. Parents are also often concerned about slowing down overall language development by confusing their child with two different languages.

Today, I was pleased to stumble upon an article that addresses just these concerns. In the article, called "Raising Bilingual Children: Common Parental Concerns and Current Research," authors Kendall King and Lyn Fogle discuss the results of in-depth interviews they conducted with 24 different parents in DC who were all attempting to raise their children to be bilingual. The idea was to figure out what the main concerns of the parents were, and then to answer those concerns with evidence from current research.

The authors came up with four common concerns, and here's what they had to say about each concern:

Concern 1: "I'm nervous that my child's language will be delayed if we raise him to be bilingual." -- The authors cite two different researchers who state that there is no relationship between being bilingual and higher incidence of language delay. So, in short, bilingual children are no different than monolingual children in their chances at having a language delay. (Whew! All parents raising their children in a bilingual home heave a huge sigh of relief!)

Concern 2: "I'm worried that my child will be confused by hearing two languages at once." -- I hear this a lot from families I work with, that the family is concerned that their child is "mixing" Spanish and English, for example. The good news is that the authors report that this "mixing" of the languages is actually common in typically developing bilingual children. I thought that it was interesting, too, that, although I had been taught in graduate school that one of the best ways to keep bilingual children from experiencing language confusion was to have one parent speak one language and the other parent speak the other language (for example, mom speak Spanish and dad speak English) to the child, it actually turns out that it is not harmful for both parents to speak a little of both languages to the child, or for the child to hear one language at home and another at school, as long as the quantity and quality of exposure to both the languages is similar. So I learned something new today!

Concern 3: "I'm worried that I don't have the right program or materials for teaching my child a second language." -- There are tons of videos and DVDs out there claiming to be the best program to teach your child a second language. The problem is, though, that kids just really don't learn as much language as we think they do from a television. The authors point out that,
"human interaction is the best method for fostering both first and second language development."
So save your money! You can just read books together, and play games together, and take walks together while speaking the second language, and, voila!, you'll be teaching way more than those expensive DVD sets and games ever could.

Concern 4: "I'm worried that if I don't raise my child to be bilingual, he won't end up being as smart as he could've been." -- King and Fogle found that many parents thought that raising their children to be bilingual would make their children smarter. Seems to make sense, right? But, it's bad news for those parents seeking extra IQ points from the work it takes to raise their children to be bilingual. King and Fogle say this:

"both parents and the popular press overstate the known cognitive advantages of bilingualism, noting, for instance, that bilingualism will make children smarter overall, when in fact, research suggests advantages only in very specific areas."

Those specific areas are things like metalinguistic skills (being able to think about know, that it's made up of words and sentences and sounds, and stuff like that) and cognitive processing. They didn't go into detail about the cognitive processing part. I'll have to look that up and report on it in another post. (By the way, I'm also researching for a post about bilingual children with language stay tuned if you're interested in that topic!)

Anyway, overall, the authors review the literature about each concern, and in the end, encourage families to give it a try if they're interested in raising their children to be bilingual. They also cite a study about how important it is for families to maintain their native language (or best language) in the home, so that they provide the best grammar and vocabulary models for their children.

Not to get up on my soapbox, but it really irks me when well-meaning people tell parents who speak Spanish to only use English at home with their young children, to "make it easier for her to learn English for school." Um, really? You want the parent to use a language they perhaps are not completely comfortable with and risk the chance that the children will grow up not knowing Spanish, not being able to communicate with family members who are monolingual, not having the wonderful benefit of knowing two languages, just so that it will make kindergarten a little bit easier?? Really?

OK, stepping down from my soapbox now.

Parents, speak your best language to your kiddos. Use the richest, most descriptive vocabulary you can with them. Read books with flowery language and long sentences, and conjunctions like "however," "nonetheless," and neat stuff like that. That's what's going to help your child learn in the long run.

Are you bilingual? Do you wish you were? Do you plan to teach your children a second language? Did you learn a pointless language in high school like I did? (Don't tell my old French teacher I said that!!)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Beginning of Bounty

Our little porch garden is really doing well, despite my tendency to forget to water it! It's pretty amazing! Luckily tomato and pepper plants seem pretty forgiving.

We've been enjoying fresh basil regularly, and this morning, we got the chance to eat our first bell pepper from our own garden. We had it for breakfast in some "garden eggs" (scrambled eggs with whatever fresh veggies we have on hand to throw in). Today, the scramble included tomato, bell pepper, fresh garlic, basil, and feta cheese. We had it with some bagel bread toast and watermelon. Tasty!

Our tomatoes are really coming along. It's exciting to see the red emerge slowly, and then suddenly they're ready! And so far (knock on wood!), no squirrels have bitten any of them.

We also have some fancy chili peppers of some sort. They are curly and cute, but I'm not brave enough to try one. I'm not a fan of spicy hot stuff.
Oh, and happy birthday to my wonderful father-in-law! My in-laws dropped by for an impromptu lunch today on their way back home from Virginia, and it was so nice to get to see them! When we visit their place next week, I'll try to snap a few photos of their's the real deal!

What are you growing right now? What do you want to grow soon? What do you suggest I think about for late summer/fall planting?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Have Fun Together

Summer has been so nice so far!

I think that we had gotten so busy with the end of the school year and the end of a semester and the end of preschool, that we had really just survived the past month rather than enjoying it. But we've really been enjoying these last few weeks.

We've made a point to do some fun things together as a family, and it's provided a wonderful happiness boost for all of us. Last week, we all went to hear a bluegrass band with Robi's parents who were visiting. Then, last weekend, we had our glorious day of fishing. And today, we all went to see Toy Story 3, along with our neighbors. It was a great movie, although a bit of a tear-jerker at times! Or maybe I'm just getting sentimental in my old age!

I really enjoy these special times we get to spend together as a family, where our purpose is just to have fun. Maybe because many of our days are spent trying to get work or chores done while we're together, those times when the point of our time together is just to enjoy ourselves, are really precious.

What activity have you made a point to enjoy with someone you love recently?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Do What Needs to be Done

My house is clean now.

My daughter has had playdates and fun outings and summer camp all week. (Above are some cute photos of her playdate today, during which we made a birthday cake and sang happy birthday (with candles and all!) to some twin baby dolls.)

My tons of start-up paperwork for all my new summer clients is done.

And I'm exhausted.

But happy!

It feels good to get things done.

I promise I'll be back to posting regularly now!

Why does a clean house make me so much happier than it should? Have you noticed your own mood being affected by the level of chaos in your home?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Create Family Traditions

One of the things that has been a huge part of my happiness project is recognizing how important making and creating family traditions is to my happiness.

This year, for Fathers' Day, we took my hubby out for a day of fishing, something that I hope will become a family tradition for us. It was such a wonderful, happy day together as a family.

Flannery caught 5 fish...not bad for her first time fishing! And Robi caught 2 whoppers, as well as lots of little fish, too. We threw them all back, because Robi has this deal with fish. They let him catch them, and he agrees to throw them back. Can't argue with that.

I think this day of fishing was such a huge success because it took place outside (so we could all experience nature together), because fishing is challenging (so we were feeling like we were learning something new), and because it was just plain fun.

Happy Fathers' Day to all those dads out there!

What do you love most about your dad?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tackle a Project

I'm always surprised to find that tackling a project that I've been meaning to do can make me really happy. Maybe it's the workaholic in me, but it's fun to get projects done.

I think that my daughter has followed in my footsteps in the whole "tackle a project" thing. She is constantly "working on" projects like creating a fashion show, making a train in the living room, or creating a puppet show. These little projects seem to make her really happy! Guess it's genetic.

That's her presenting her "Going to the Zoo" puppet show this week. Complete with songs! It was so cute!

What projects are you hoping to tackle this summer?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Grammie Time

My sweet mother-in-law has been visiting us this week, and we've had the chance to do a few fun things while she's been here.

On the down side, our AC went out this week....of all weeks! So it's been hot!! But she hasn't complained...what a trooper! We are sweltering a little!

Here are some wonderful photos of our trip to the Life & Science Museum at the beginning of the week. Such fun!

We miss our family soooo much, and it's just been so wonderful to have a week together with Grammie! And Poppa comes to visit tomorrow! We're very excited!

What special times do you have planned for the summer?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If You Give a Kid a Camera

....she's going to want to take pictures.

So you're going to have to find batteries for the camera.

And that's going to mean a trip to Walmart.

During which she's going to want a toy kitty cat that really purrs and really walks.

And her grandma's going to buy that kitty cat.

Which the kid is going to want to take a picture of.

So you're going to need to find the tiny screwdriver and an extra SD card.

And then, the flash is going to be really bright.

And the pictures are going to be really unflattering.

And the kid is going to take pictures at her kid's-eye-level during dinner.

Which is really rather hilarious.

What's made you smile this week?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Be a Kid Again

On Saturday, two of my best girlfriends from college and I met up at the zoo, along with our daughters. We had such a wonderful time!

The great thing about having children is that it gives us a chance to just be a kid again.

We rode the carousel. Magical!

We rode the train. Not as magical, but only because it was too slow to work up a breeze, and the day was sooo hot!

The best part was watching our daughters enjoy themselves together.

Oh, and the giraffe. Trying to get water from a stream. Too funny, poor thing!

It was a marvelous day. We're going to have to start having fun reunions more often!

Tonight I let myself be a kid again for a moment, and splurge on ice cream for dessert after dinner. Fun! And very good for my happiness level! What makes you feel like a kid again?

Friday, June 11, 2010

I love peppers?

I really don't like peppers, but, seriously, if they will grow despite my lack of a green thumb, I really must at least learn to appreciate them a little. Check them out...real peppers from my own back yard! (I took these the morning we left for our trip...sorry I posted them out of order. If you're kinda OCD like me, little things like that might drive you cuh-razy!)

What's a good family friendly meal I can make with all of my future peppers? Any ideas?