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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Splash in Puddles

Today, Flannery and I took a walk in the rain from our new apartment to Brightleaf, a cute little area with shops and restaurants in our neighborhood. Flannery wore her rainboots, and made sure to splash in every puddle on our way. We took time to stop and look at the rocks and flowers and trees on our way, too. It was just lovely to be able to be outside for a while! it's been so hot here that walking in the rain was a welcome change!

We went to dinner at a sushi restaurant, where we sat on the floor on little mats and ate on a low table. Flannery tried her hand at chopsticks, and ate her weight in miso soup and edamame. She even tried the seaweed in it, and kept calling it "algae," which made us both giggle.

What do you stop and notice when you get yourself outside a bit?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Celebrate Life

"He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and so together, we are motherhood." ~Desha Wood

My daughter's godparents just adopted a sweet baby boy.

A sweet baby boy with long fingers and wiggly legs and a wispy dusting of dark hair. A sweet baby boy who already likes music.

This baby is just a miracle.

He's been prayed for and hoped for and prepared for, for so long now.

What a gift to get to share in the joy of a new little life!

My mom once said, "Everything gets magical again when you have a baby." And it's so true. Every gust of wind outside is something brand new for the baby to experience for the first time. Every dog lick on the baby's naked curled up toes is a moment where you get to experience dog licks again for the very first time. Every photo you take now, one day becomes his view of how his life began.

(Baby boy, just so you know, your life began with so much love and wonder surrounding you!)

Magical indeed.

What miracle are you hoping or preparing for? Tell your friends and family, and let them share in the fun of the anticipation!

More Funny Flanna Quotes

We've been insanely busy this past week with our gradual move from one apartment to another. We just moved across the street, but it's been a huge production! Anyway, somehow, amidst the craziness, I was able to jot down a few cute things I heard Flannery say. Here are the hits:

While skating precariously: "Don't worry, mom. I can do it. I'm almost four."

After a tantrum: "Sometimes I scream, and sometimes I don't."

Helping me put together a bookcase: "I'm a good carpenter. Just like granddad." (She really was good at it!)

Pretending to vacuum: "I'm helping to vacuum, because there sure is a lot of bunny dust in here!" (dustbunnies?)

When I told her I would cry when she turns 4: "Don't worry mom, I'll still be a part of this family!"

After Robi said his tummy was full after dinner: "But Dad, only girls can have babies in their tummy."

After we prayed for weeks in a row for and then celebrated our friends' newly adopted baby: "Did you guys adopt me, too?"

There were a thousand more cute quotes that I didn't immediately write down this week, so sadly, those bits of comic gold are history. If I've discovered anything during this week-long move, it's that my memory is completely nil when things are topsy turvy.

What funny things did you notice this week?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Make everyday events more fun

This morning, we made cinnamon toast. With a twist. Instead of regular cinnamon sugar, I used our colored sugars from my cookie decorating stuff.

Flannery was thrilled:

"Wainbow toast! That's just what I wanted!"

Our tongues were purplish-green after breakfast, too, which just added to the fun. Not the most healthy breakfast in the world, but, every now and then, fun trumps healthy.

How can you make some boring event a little more fun today?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Visit from my BFF!

I have two fantastic best friends--one in California, and one in Georgia. Since we're all grown up and responsible now, our visits with one another are getting fewer and further between! But, one of my best friends, my friend Kelley (from L.A.) was sweet enough to swing by for a visit during her vacation last week, and it was so wonderful to see her!

She helped me pack, helped me fold laundry, helped me take a load of boxes over to the new apartment, and entertained Flanna while I got a little work stuff done. What a good friend, huh?

But I promise I didn't just invite her here for free labor! We also had a little bit of fun! We showed her Duke's campus, took her to our favorite museum, played hopscotch and puzzles, danced quite a lot, had some long chats after Flanna went to sleep, and went out to dinner and for frozen yogurt, too!

We told Flannery the story of how we became we bonded over the drudgery of braces and brushing our teeth every day after lunch in 8th grade.

A lot has changed since then. Her mom is gone now. Kelley lives across the country now. She writes screenplays, and I'm old and married and a mama now. We're such different people than those insecure, melodramatic, nerdy middle schoolers brushing our teeth together in the school bathroom.

But some things remain from that time. An understanding of one another's character, maybe. Friendship, definitely. And good dental hygiene habits, most assuredly. :)

How did you meet your best friend(s)?

The Saddest Girl in the World

Flannery got 3 booster shots on Tuesday. Her arms were so sore. Poor little thing. She was so brave at the doctor's office, and didn't cry until I told her it was okay to cry if it hurt. I had told her that my pediatrician when I was a kid used to give me those dum dum lollipops after I got shots. Unfortunately, her pediatrician just gives stickers, which is not much consolation to a kid with tons of stickers at home. We went straight from the doctor's office to Target, and I let her buy a bag of lollipops. That seemed to help a bit.

What made you feel better after a booster shot when you were a kid?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I'm Out of Ideas

I usually plan my meals out each week, to make shopping easier and to keep from over-buying and letting food go to waste. (Thanks to Gretchen Rubin, I now know that I'm an "overbuyer," so I'm trying to work on that.) Anyway, yesterday, I looked through the last few weeks of meal plan pages I had saved (I'm also a saver of papers sometimes! Working on that, too!), and I was a little bit shocked to see that every week's meal plan looked pretty similar.

The meal plan generally went as follows: Mexican food, Italian food, stir-fry, Mexican food, Italian food, stir-fry, with the occasional miso soup night thrown in.

Yikes! I'm stuck in a food rut!

So, I need dinner ideas! Healthy, (mostly vegetarian), easy-to-make dinner ideas!

Can you help?

In what area of your life do you need inspiration right now?

My Family Rules, Take 2

A while back, I wrote a post about My Family Rules. These are rules that I think my family should live by. I've been thinking about them off and on since then, and I've decided to change a few. Here were the old rules I had listed:

Family Rules
1. We're on the same team.
2. Be respectful.
3. Say “I love you” often.
4. Share.
5. Notice little moments.
6. Pray.
7. Encourage one another.
8. Be lighthearted.
9. Work hard; keep trying.
10. Breathe deeply.
11. Say “thank you” every day.
12. Respond with a blessing.

And here's the new list. I wanted to make it only 10. I mean, if God can give us all the commandments we need to follow so as not to sin in only 10 bullet points, I don't think I should try to out-do that.

Family Rules:
1. Remember we're on the same team.
2. Pray without ceasing.
3. We give our guest our best.
4. Say "thank you" every day.
5. Respond with a blessing.
6. Work hard; keep trying.
7. Know one anothers' battles, and encourage one another.
8. Say "I love you," often.
9. Breathe deeply and forgive.
10. Tread lightly, laugh strongly.

What do you think? Anything you would add or take out from the new list? Which rules are your favorites? Which ones are too cheesy?

Create a Family Narrative

I just love reading books about marriage and children. I love self-help books in general, as well, but books about marriage and family relationships specifically are like chocolate to me...addicting and fun! Right now, I'm reading "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" by John Gottman and Nan Silver, and it's been really good so far.

One of the points they touch on as being important to maintaining a good marriage is the idea of creating a "history of your relationship." It seems that looking back together, and creating a story of your life together that focuses on the "good stuff" helps to buffer your marriage in times of crisis. Gottman says,

"I've found 94 percent of the time that couples who put a positive spin on their marriage's history are likely to have a happy future as well."

And it's not just that happy memories bring happiness to our marriage, either. Gottman further describes these histories we create about our marriage like this:

"...each couple and each family create its own microculture. And like other cultures, these small units have their customs, rituals, and myths--the stories the couple tell themselves that explain their sense of what their marriage is like, what it means to be a part of their group."

Our family stories are a large part of what help us identify ourselves as a "we," as in this life together, as a team. Family stories aren't just memories; they're how we view ourselves. This really got me thinking about the narratives I already know about my extended family.

For instance, my maternal grandmother Norma's mom was very ill and then passed away very young, and my grandmother tried to take care of the youngest children, but they eventually had to go to orphanages. Even so, my grandma Norma kept in touch with all of them and maintained the family connection throughout their lives. I wonder if this inspired my sister to be a foster mother in some way. Or if this part of our family's history somehow set the stage for our whole family to be so open to the beauty and wonder of adoption. Or if perhaps this story made family connection all the more important to my family.

And then there's the story of my birth. I was born 2 months premature, and was only 2 pounds 13 ounces when I was born. I had a feeding tube, and surgery to remove my appendix at a few days old, and things were very bleak and scary for my parents, I'm sure. But I grew, and thrived, and my mom pumped breastmilk for me all the while, which I believe really made a wonderful difference for me. Hearing that story about myself made me think that I was one strong kiddo. That I had really overcome something big. And I think it really affected me when I had my daughter, to want to nurse her, as well.

And on Robi's side of the family, his maternal grandfather Bobby was born early, as well, and Bobby's mother died in childbirth. His aunts took turns caring for him, but he really had no stable sense of family life growing up. Perhaps that's what made him such a good father, husband, and grandfather--that he wanted for his children what he never got to have: a stable, loving home.

And in my own family growing up, one of the important parts of our family narrative was that my dad's dad was in the military, and my dad attended 13 different schools growing up. So, when he had children, he and my mom made a point to stay in one town throughout all of our school years. That's right, my sister and I went to school in the same county from preschool until we graduated from high school. And that really made us feel a sense of home, connection and stability. We definitely felt that we belonged somewhere. My parents also highly valued education, and didn't want my sister or me to have to work hard physical jobs like they did. They told us over and over that school was our top priority, and that only through education could we have the good careers we wanted. My sister and I were the first people on either side of our family to get a college degree, and both of us went on to get higher degrees as well.

As for my own little family, I guess our story is that Robi and I were high school sweethearts who just kept growing and changing together and never let ourselves grow apart. We started dating just before Robi started college, and my dad always said that I made Robi a little more grounded and he made me a little more fun. I think that's true. We both valued education a great deal, and supported one another through my 2 degrees and Robi's 3 degrees. Education continues to be important to us, and one of our big goals is to put Flannery through college ourselves. Just before having Flannery, we became Orthodox, and that has shaped our marriage significantly, too, in that we both want to pass down the importance of spirituality to our children. We are both thinkers and planners, and we like having systems for things. For example, when we go camping, we make lists and start packing weeks ahead of time. And when we were picking out names when we were pregnant with Flannery, we had an actual spreadsheet that we kept to help us rank names every so often to see which names remained favorites over time. We're never the same couple for too long, which I think is good for us. We expect one another to change, so it's not scary when we have to reevaluate things together every now and then.

I'm sure I'm leaving lots of things out, but that's a good start.

What's your family narrative? Or your relationship narrative? Or your own individual narrative? I'd love to hear it!

By the way, that's my beautiful Grandma Norma in the photo! She was a WAC (member of the Women's Army Corps) way back when. Gorgeous, huh?

Appreciate Friends

Our good friend Christopher is moving back to Georgia this week. Now that he's done with grad school, he's moving on to bigger and better things. Like marriage! Yay!

We took him out for a goodbye lunch after church on Sunday. We're really going to miss him! It's been so nice to have an "old" friend around here. I think people who know you in many contexts just understand you more easily.

Please say some prayers for Christopher, too, if you pray. He's looking for jobs in the Atlanta area (He does political administration/government work), and job searching right now is no easy business. But he's a catch, so I'm sure he'll find something good in time!

And the best part is that we'll see him again soon...Flanna's going to be a flower girl in his wedding in the fall. We can't wait!

Who in your life knows and loves you in lots of contexts? Call, e-mail, text, or snail mail them to let them know they're on your mind today!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tackle a Project

We've been very productive this weekend! We got the keys to our new apartment last week, and this weekend, I put shelf paper in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, hung curtains in a few rooms, and we moved most of our books into a built-in bookshelf at the new place. It feels nice to get something accomplished, even if it is just little things bit by bit.

We made Flannery a little secret "clubhouse" in her new bedroom closet, which she has been enjoying while we work at the new place. She just loves tiny "secret" places all her own! She also built a little fort out of boxes, but I didn't get a photo of that. And there's a photo of her with her new Barbie (her first one!), riding it around in a makeshift car we made out of one of her skates.

What projects, if tackled, will bring you happiness?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wuv, Twue Wuv

My 11th wedding anniversary is coming up next week. I really can't believe how fast time has flown since my wonderful wedding day! If I'm ever upset or feeling blue, just reminiscing about our wedding can really bring me happiness. It was just so magical.

I remember that as my parents were waiting to walk me down the aisle, my dad leaned over and said, "You don't seem nervous. Most people are nervous at this part!"

But I wasn't nervous. I really wasn't.

It wasn't that I didn't realize the gravity of what was happening. I knew that this was a sacred event.

But standing there beside my mom and dad, preparing to walk down the aisle of Robi's dad's church, where Robi and I would say vows to love one another forever, I wasn't nervous at all. I knew that I could trust this man with the rest of my life. I knew that if he made vows, then he would follow through on them. That he would do his darnedest to be sure we had a great life together. Walking down the aisle, I was just amazed, thrilled, and so grateful, that I was so lucky as to be the one Robi chose. I wasn't nervous. I was just eager. Just ready to truly be his family. It was so magical to take his hand and stand in front of a church with all that love and support around us.

I get a little lump in my throat here. Ahemmm.


I really hope my daughter gets to experience love like this. I don't take it for granted. I know I'm lucky. Not every girl gets such a great partner who knows how she likes her marshmallows overly-roasted, and who works hard for a living to support the family, and who takes time to play with their daughter each day, and who prays out loud before meals, and who makes her laugh at least 8 times a minute, and who takes care of his own health without any nagging from her, and who is the best trivial pursuit player of all time, and who is just generally the most gentle person ever created.

Did I mention I'm super lucky?

What area of life are you lucky in? Or if you don't believe in luck, in what area of your life have you been truly blessed?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My life in Pictures

You've probably noticed that I've been sporadic about posting this week. So sorry!

I'm super exhausted from trying to cram too much work and fun into summer days and staying up late every night (even though I keep trying to get to bed earlier!) AND, we get the keys to our new apartment tomorrow! Yikes! Which means I have got to get my rear in gear and get packing!

The good news is that I'm on vacaaaation next week! It'll be a stay-cation, which I'm very excited about. (Can you say pajamas all day? And kiddie pool lounging?) AND, my BFF from 8th grade and high school and college and the year I lived in Boston is coming for a visit! (That's right, those are all the same person...a remarkably wonderful person who hopefully will let me at least get one photo of her with Flanna that I can post to document our fun time together!)

Anyway, here are some great photos from a fun trip to the museum today. I took Flannery and her best friend, and we met my friend and her 3 kiddos there. The kids were amazingly well behaved, and I even got a few shots of all of them together! It was a wonderful day. And now I'm pooped!

Flannery trying to pull the "bubble" pump up...check out those muscles!

I love silly face photos!

The interactive shadow wall...this is so much cooler in person!

Aren't those just the cutest? And now to is it already 11?

How do you get yourself to bed on time?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Funny Flanna Quotes

"Don't you ever get tired of speaking all that Spanish, mom?"

"Was daddy your prince?"

"When I go to college, you need to have another baby, because you'll be sad without me. But it's okay, we can Skype!"

"I need to find a husband to marry so I can have a baby one day."

"Mommy, can we say a prayer to God so he will make my kitty cat [doll] real? Or maybe he won't, 'cause he's allergic."

and my favorite from today:

"I'm going to save the world tomorrow."

Gotta love that kid!

What's something funny you heard today?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

This is Why I Can't Declutter

This weekend, I cleaned out our ever expanding media collection, and culled the herd a bit so that all our DVDs still fit into the big basket under our TV. It looks so nice now that they're not overflowing anymore. There were several movies I was sad to see go, but that Flanna's definitely outgrown ("Potty Power!" and "Elmo's Potty Time," for instance!). Not sure why I am sentimental even about toilet training! Every stage is just so special!

I also tried to organize our childrens' books and to pack away books that Flannery's outgrown. The problem is, we have such sweet memories of each of those little baby books! There's one my mom sent called, "Googly Eyes," with animals on each page with these giant googly eyes. It's so silly! We have a little video of Flanna saying, "Googy eyes, Daddy?" while we're reading it when she was just one and a half or so.

Yeah, so that one's staying.

And then there are several "touch and feel" books that I remember Flannery scooting toward on her belly when she was just beginning to crawl. She was so motivated by those books! They're probably too babyish for her now, but I can just see her when she was in that "patting" stage, absorbing every bit of information those chubby fingers could find on each interestingly-textured page.

Yeah, so at least one of those is staying.

In the end, what did I manage to declutter? A lot of my old CDs that I already have in my iTunes, a few novels I haven't read in ages. And a couple of babyish movies that are probably also scratched beyond repair.

That's right. All the children's books stayed. I managed to cram them into shelves or baskets, though, so at least they don't look too cluttered.

Did I mention I still have tons of my own Little Golden books, and Stephen Cosgrove books? (Does anyone else know his work?) I just love their sort of musty smell, and the stories really appeal to Flannery, too, so at least they're getting read regularly!

This is why I can't declutter. Some objects hold too many memories, smell too much like my childhood, or will always bring to mind my daughter's chubby toddler hands flipping the pages.

And I'm okay with that.

What objects do you keep for sentimental reasons?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Show Gratitude

When I got married, I got a lot of advice. A ton of advice.

But one piece of advice really stood out. An elderly man in our church whose wife had died a few years before, wrote us in his card, "Say I love you every day, and thank each other every day for the little things." He had been married over 50 years to his wife, so I put a lot of stock in what he suggested. At first, I had to try pretty hard to remember to thank Robi for the little things like taking out the trash, or taking the dogs out. But pretty soon, it became a normal part of our relationship, us both thanking one another regularly for little things. And I could feel how those little expressions of gratitude made me feel closer to Robi.

Today, I stumbled across an article about how gratitude helps maintain romantic relationships. The author wrote that,

"even everyday gratitude serves an important relationship maintenance mechanism in close relationships, acting as a booster shot to the relationship."

Seems that the old man's advice really was good!

What are you thankful for about your partner right now? For me, I'm thankful that my husband let me sleep in a bit this morning! So sweet!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Attend to Little Things

I've been reading up on attention today. Doing a little studying about ADHD for some continuing education. And it's helped me focus a little bit on something I couldn't quite figure out--why this blog has meant so much to me.

I mean, it's just a blog.

It's not a friend, not a vacation, not really even a hobby.

But somehow it's helped me to focus my attention on the little things in my life. To attend to tiny moments that would otherwise fly by and not be remembered or told. Something about blogging makes me be a better observer of my own life.

Which has made me much happier.

Although right now, for some reason, I'm a bit blue. Maybe it's my anticipation of moving soon. Although it's just across the street, I feel guilty about the changes we make so often to Flanna's life. Or maybe it's because every time I visit family, I get a glimpse of the wonder it might be to live near them and to truly be a part of their life, rather than just visiting here and there.

That's the scary part of paying attention. You get to notice happy stuff, and you also get to notice areas where your life just isn't measuring up. But hopefully that leads to action, and change for the good. Or at least contemplation of action.

Annnyway.... here are some of the little things that I actually (miracle of all miracles!) paid attention to last week, and was lucky enough to be able to document with my camera, as well!

Flanna and I took a walk to the creek, and picked some Queen Anne's lace and Zinnias for Grammie's table.

My friend Lauren got married, and her "something blue" was her shoes!

My hubby was all debonair for the wedding, and our friends who are getting married in October helped me experience the wedding with fresh eyes...I remember the excitement and giddy energy!

Flannery wearing the medal her uncle Chris gave to her. She didn't want to take it off.

the dogs enjoying some attention, and a toad we found near Poppa & Grammie's porch. He was big!

the way the sun hit the bounty from the garden

What helps you truly attend to little things in your life? Do you keep a journal, photograph, scrapbook? What about your life, if you pay close attention, do you wish you could change a bit?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pray without Ceasing

I used to hear people use the term, "prayer warrior," and it sort of made my skin crawl. It seemed so holier than thou. And sort of creepy to think of a spiritual battle ground going on behind the scenes of everyday life.

But someone called me a prayer warrior the other day. Someone I know and love dearly.

And I was humbled.

From this person, it seemed like a huge compliment, an honor, to be called a prayer warrior.


The thing is, I don't pray as often as I think I should. I don't have a consistent time I set aside each day for prayer. I don't have any sort of prayer routine yet, although I really wish I did.

But, in the past year or so, prayer has become a big part of what I do each day. Any time I have a free second--in the car, waiting in line at the ATM, cuddling quietly with my daughter--my mind is usually drawn to prayer. Not because I'm a great person or a very disciplined person. Just because I care deeply about the people around me. And it seems to me that every person I know is fighting their own private battle of some sort. Big battles with no easy solution. And those battles are constantly on my mind. Job searching in a bad economy, health issues, financial issues, fertility issues, figuring out how life works with a child with a disability, trying to find a diagnosis for your child's rare disorder, loss of a parent, seems no one is spared and given an "easy" life.

Maybe I'm a worrier. A little anxious sometimes. Or a lot of the time. But my mind stops and rests on these concerns of my friends, family, and clients about a thousand times a day. Is that normal? I really don't know.

But I think that's why I pray. Because of my busy mind. And my wonderful friends and family and clients who are brave enough to divulge real life difficulties to me, to open up about their own little stories, their own little trials, and big trials. And huge trials.

And it doesn't hurt that I'm a member of an online prayer group through my old church. The other members of this prayer group--now they're the prayer warriors. Me, I'm not sure. That word still makes me a little nervous. But maybe I'm at least beginning to have the instinct to pray without ceasing.

In any case, prayer brings me a lot of happiness. It brings me calm and peace, and a feeling of connection with those I'm praying for, and with God and the angels and saints. Does that sound crazy? In Orthodoxy, we believe that we can pray to saints to ask them to pray for us, too. And that when we are in church worshiping, the saints and angels are singing and praying along with us. So even if we're the only person besides a priest in a service, there's really a whole crowd of saints and angels worshiping alongside us. I really think it's such a beautiful image. And sorry if I make any non-Orthodox folks out there cringe...I know it's a lot to swallow. But the communion with the saints stuff is really a big part of why prayer has been so meaningful to me lately.

If you pray, why is prayer meaningful for you? How often do you pray? Do you pray with words or just general thoughts? Do you hold images in your head when praying? Do you think that prayer makes you feel happier or more connected--to people and to the spiritual world?

By the way, the icon at the top of the post is Saint Melania the Younger. I took her name when I became Orthodox, so my Orthodox name is Melania. Check out her story if you're interested.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Appreciate Beauty

Today was pretty horrible.

A long drive home.
9 hours in the car.
With a 3 year old.
And two dogs.
And then the part where I accidentally left the back windows partially cracked during a carwash.

Good times.


But, there was a moment in the early afternoon, a quiet moment, that made my soul happy.

Driving through Georgia, near Augusta, there was a beautiful clearing. And hills in the distance. And a perfect soft blue sky with bright white gentle clouds. And this song popped into my head by the Weepies. It fit the moment perfectly:

"All this beauty;
You might have to close your eyes
And slowly open wide
All this beauty;
We traveled all night
We drank the ocean dry
And watched the sun rise..."

And we actually had that CD in the I got to listen to it soon after.

All this beauty. Really, it's around us every day. I just need to close my eyes, and open them anew to see it sometimes. That one little moment of appreciating beauty was the saving grace of the day. (And then we did sparklers when we got home, which was pretty fun, too, but I was really exhausted, so it wasn't quite as moving!)

What song can pull you out of a funk? And what places, when you see them, can calm your spirit? There used to be this beautiful road where I grew up called Rocky Creek Drive, and it was just so gorgeous that my sister and I would go out of our way to drive on it. A real live happy place! Were we the only ones who had a place like that?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Today we shared in the tradition of Independence Day Fireworks! Sharing in family traditions is something that always brings happiness to our family, and the fireworks extravaganza tradition was no exception!

Flannery said her favorite part was the "grand finale," which she called, "when they all happened at the same time." Too fun!

And I loved that the photos of the fireworks look like an amazing jellyfish exhibit I once saw at the Chattanooga aquarium.

What Independence Day traditions do you want to keep? Any new ones you want to start?