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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Day of Small Delights

So much for trying to work today.  Flannery woke up during the wee hours of the night/morning complaining that her ear hurt.  I took her to the doctor today, and she has an ear infection.  I was surprised, because she hadn't had a fever or been really irritable or anything like that.  Good thing she's able to tell me what's going on...I never would have known otherwise!

So, we spent our day resting, watching movies, and snacking on whatever we had on hand.  Which included soup and pomegranate.  

I always forget what a treat it is to have a pomegranate.  It's like getting a tiny present of jewels hidden in a maze.  

I read somewhere last year that the best way to get the berries (or seeds?) out of a pomegranate is to cut the whole thing in half and then wrestle with it in a big bowl of cool water.  The good berries (seeds?) will sink to the bottom, and the yucky peel parts will float.  Then, you just skim off the floating pieces, and, voila--the good stuff is cool and rinsed.

Flannery and I ate the whole pomegranate in one day.  (Hope that's not bad for your GI system!)  She kept requesting more, and I was so tired I didn't have the energy to think of something else to distract her with.  Anyway, this was the highlight of our day.  Hah!

Oh, we also went to Target to get her prescription filled--maybe that was the highlight!  Either way, small delights filled our little sick day.  

Robi returns home tonight, thank goodness!  Maybe I can actually get some work done tomorrow!

But I admit, I so enjoyed a quiet day with my girl all to myself, even if we were both kind of puny!  

What small delight did you enjoy today?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sick, and Tired

The more I look at this sad clown, the more I want
to paint it by numbers.
I can't stop coughing today. My voice comes and goes. I'm freezing, but I don't have a fever. My body feels achy, but I can't tell if that's from all the coughing making my body tense up so often or if I'm just achy.

And my hubby's out of town. Which means I didn't sleep well last night. I just can't fall asleep as well when things are different than normal.

I'd been feeling like I was getting sick for about a week, but rather than rest up and try to get myself well, I just kept going and going. Which in hindsight seems silly.

I mean, the world will still spin if I take a day off. The planets will remain in their orbits. But sometimes I get so caught up in all the things I need to do that resting seems, well, impossible. Not very smart, right?

So today, I took a day off. I tried to rest, although somehow I could never actually fall asleep. And, guess what? Nothing fell apart. The sun rose, the sun set, and life went on. Imagine that.

Tomorrow, I'm going to push on and take some cold medicine and get back in the saddle. Fingers crossed that my voice cooperates! I mean, a speech language pathologist with laryngitis is like a sad clown. (My husband tells this joke much better than I just did. I'm sure he's shaking his head if he's reading it now.)

What's your favorite laryngitis remedy? Honey and lemon in hot tea? Crushed vitamin C in honey? A zinc lozenge? (and yes, mom, I am gargling with warm salt water and taking garlic!) :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Work Hard to Make a Connection

This holiday weekend, it's been so wonderful to be able to spend tons of time at home. I've spent a good bit of time cooking, cleaning, getting out winter clothes, cleaning out clothes that Flanna's outgrown, and decorating for Christmas. It's all stuff that needs to be done, and it makes me happy to have a few of these projects out of the way now. You know how "doing what needs to be done" makes me happier!

But I've found that amidst all that productivity, I actually have to remind myself to set all the household chores aside for a bit and make a real connection with my family. You know, talk to each other and look in one another's eyes when we talk rather than trying to do 3 things at once while I'm hanging out with them. Once I started paying attention to how often I actually look my hubby and daughter in the eyes during the day, I was shocked to realize how often I multitask while I'm "talking" to them. So, I'm trying to make a point to let myself pause every now and then to really focus on them. It's hard work to juggle life and housework and family relationships, but how often do I take the last for granted and forget to "Work Hard to Make a Connection?"

So, today, Flanna and I had a morning off from housework. We spent some time playing at the park, going to ToysRUs to spend her birthday money, and then we even ate at McDonald's where she could play at their "park." (really, it's more of a hampster maze, but for some reason, she loves it!) It was rejuvenating to pay good attention to one another, to share sweet winks and play chase and collect bouquets of gingko leaves together.

And now, sigh, I must get back to the laundry. But I promise to take a few moments here and there to try to connect.

Who do you need to reconnect with?

Happiness is a Warm Biscuit

I'm just going to let these photos speak for themselves. Yum.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Earliest I've Ever Put up a Tree

This is the earliest I've ever put up my Christmas tree. We usually travel at Thanksgiving, and then I put my tree up a week before we leave to travel again for Christmas, and then I get home after the New Year and feel guilty about keeping the tree up forever, and then I finally take it down mid January.

But not this year!

This year, I'm going to enjoy this tree for a few weeks before we travel for Christmas. I'm going to turn all the lights off in the living room and sip hot cocoa and listen to Christmas music in my pajamas and just stare at the tree.

(I promise I'm not 70 years old--I just like pretty things--and hot cocoa--and pajamas!)

Anyway, you can see that Flanna helped out a lot! (First, by putting every ornament on the same one branch.)

This was just too cute to move right away. But I let my OCD tendencies get the best of me and had to spread them out after a few hours.

Flannery was thrilled to be allowed to use the step-stool to decorate, and even though I kept having visions of her leaning into the tree and taking a face dive straight into the pointy icicle ornaments, she was amazingly careful, and no ornament or 4 year old came to any harm, whew!

Some of my favorite touches on the tree this year are:

the new icicle ornaments I got for a crazy bargain at the end of last season (they add so much shine!)

the tiny bird ornament I've had for 2 years now. It's simple but so cute.

and this special rose bell ornament that used to belong to my Grandma Norma before she passed away. Five years ago, I would've scrunched my nose up at those pink and mauve flowers on a bell, but it just so captures her love of all things pink and shiny, that it makes me smile to see it now.

What special objects do you treasure? And when do you normally put up your Christmas tree?

Pet a Pet

Have I mentioned I have the cutest dogs ever? Dogs are such a big part of our family. Their daily snuggles and snores add a cute and cozy element to our life. We gave Annie (our tiny black dog) a bath today, and it was so cute to see Flannery so gently pour water to rinse Annie without getting any in her eyes. As Flannery gets older, Annie and Padme (our brown dog) are letting her pet them and just generally be near them more. It's very sweet.

Today I'm praying for my friend Kelley, whose sweet dog Sandy has just had a tumor removed. They're waiting to see whether the tumor was benign or not. Send them good thoughts!

If you have a pet, what do you appreciate most about it?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Focus on the Good Stuff

My mom, sister, and mother-in-law visited last weekend, and I was struck by how much a few little changes to our apartment during our preparation for having them here, really made me appreciate our place a bit more.

I'm not made for apartment living, so it's tough for me to see the joys of apartment living very regularly. But in terms of location and cost, this apartment is just right for us for right now. Even so, I find myself often getting frustrated at our lack of storage and no yard of our own and a zillion other little annoyances.

But this weekend, I made a point to take in the good things about our home. To focus my attention on our larger kitchen, our cute artwork, our convenient washer and dryer, the park that's less than a block away. And it's made me much more satisfied with our place. Mind you, nothing changed significantly in the apartment...we still have all white walls, old carpet, a toilet that runs and wastes water, and hilarious 1970's cabinets. But my perception, my focus, my outlook, shifted slightly, and that has made such a difference. Now I see the gorgeous trees in our front yard, the convenience of walking to Flanna's school and Robi's work, the amazingly kind neighbors all around, and the other annoyances seem like trifles.

So, thanks, Thanksgiving. For inspiring my new eyes.

Here are some of the things I love best in Flanna's room: paintings hung above her dresser that she painted when she was 2; her map of America, a flower mobile she colored that my mom hung up for her by the window; her antique bed that used to be mine when I was a kid (in the pic, she's reading before bed with her grandmas and her cousin...sweet, right?); and her super-secret hideout tent in her closet.

That's just a taste of the good stuff. There's really so much more, if I just look for it.

What in your life do you need to see through "new eyes" to boost your happiness?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Years Are Short

Oh, my.


Is. So. Big.

I don't know where the time has gone. The days are long, but the years are short.

I'm trying to soak up every sweet second with this amazing little four year old person.

Walking in the parking lot yesterday, she said, "Mom, you don't have to hold my hand anymore, remember? I'm four!" I told her the rule is that you hold hands until you're twelve.

I'm reeeeally not ready for twelve. Good thing I've got some time.

How do you try to soak up the moments with your family and friends?

Share and Create Family Traditions

You're probably tired of hearing me go on and on about the joy that sharing family traditions brings me, but I just had to share this sweet experience. One of my favorite traditions is the holiday visit with Santa Claus. Our local mall has a really great Santa. He's so jolly! We were lucky enough to have my niece visiting with us this weekend, so we took the girls to see Santa a little early in the season. Both of the grandmothers, my hubby, and my sister got to go with us, too, so it was fun to share this tradition with all of them! It was a wonderful visit...not crowded at all, and we topped the day off with dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, which is an old tradition my friend Kelley and I used to share back in Boston. Fun!

During her chat with Santa, Flannery asked for a giraffe with a long neck and a new Baby Alive. Then, on the way out of the mall, she threw a penny in a fountain and wished for a pony.

I love the hope and magic of four year old wishes!

What makes the Christmas season magical for you?

My Official Taste Tester

Flanna helped bake her own birthday cake. I think she tasted more batter than we actually baked! But it was great fun! And the cake turned out pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

What was your most memorable birthday cake as a kid?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Say it without Saying It

Sometimes when I'm finding it difficult to be patient, my voice gives away my frustration. But if I just keep quiet, and try to make my body do the hard work of being kind and patient, it's much more effective.

Take tonight, in the car on the way to Chick fil A. It was the end of a long work day. Flanna and I were on our way to grab a special "girls' night out dinner," and in the car on the way, she decided to chant some shrill song or poem repeatedly. My first instinct was to ask her to please find another quieter way to sing, but then I decided that might sound rude. So, I just reached back and patted her little toe (the best I could reach while driving) and smiled at her in the rearview mirror.

And then she stopped her shrill chant, smiled, and asked if we were there yet.

I bet if I had used words to ask her to quit with the shrillness, I would've been met with some type of resistance. But a small touch goes a long way in communicating sometimes.

A pat on the back encourages.

An arm around the shoulders supports.

A gentle touch on the arm connects.

A hug comforts.

A wink reassures, lightens things up.

A few days ago, I read that regular touch helps preemies gain more weight, helps reduce depression in patients with alzheimers, and increases student verbal participation in class. This video about the many ways that touch increases quality of life was very interesting.

Since then, I've been making a point to pat my students on the back, to wink at my daughter more, to give high 5s to my speech students when they meet a goal, to just communicate acceptance and fun and reassurance to those around me through touch.

And it's really made me happier.

How can you reach out to your family more through touch? Do you feel comfortable giving pats on the back or high 5s to students, and if not, would thumbs ups and grins work?

Joint Attention and my Favorite Band

Tonight, my husband and I went to see my favorite band play in Raleigh. It was a fabulous evening of gorgeous music and just general fun.

I tried to be in the moment during the show, and I was struck by how much that increased my enjoyment of the experience. At one point, the band was singing a song about how "sometimes rain that's needed, falls," and the crowd all around me was singing those same lyrics, and I realized that almost everyone in the whole theater was sharing in this beautiful quiet moment of joint attention. Which was rather transcendent, actually.

That moment got me thinking about how people bond.

I teach social skills groups to children with autism, ADHD, and general difficulty with social language skills at work each week. The last 2 weeks, we've focused on "making friends." We've learned about how to choose which person might make a good friend, how to learn about that person, how to ask about his/her favorite topics each time you see him/her, and how to judge whether your friendly gestures are being taken well or not.

But, we have not focused on what makes some friendships "click." On how to bond with friends. Which is ultimately my goal for each of my get them to the point where they are able to bond with others.

The interesting thing to me here, is that this band we went to see tonight, it's not my husband's favorite band. It's mine. Yet he indulged me; he entered into my interest. And we shared a beautiful bonding experience together because of that. It deepened our relationship to share joint attention together.

So this week, I'm going to remember that my students (and my family, too, for that matter!) really want me to come and see their favorite "band." To stand and listen and watch the things they really love. To have me appreciate the things they find amazing.

Hopefully I can do just that.

Have you indulged friends' or family members' or students' interests and reaped the reward of a stronger connection? I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Funny Flanna Quotes

Remembering how we used to sing "You are My Sunshine" and "ABCs" every night when she was tiny,
"Can we do that again? Mom, can you put a bookmark in your head so you can remember that?"

Looking at an icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos, pointing to halos around Jesus & Mary's heads,
"Why do they have helmets on their heads?"

Holding a lock of her hair that we just trimmed,
"Mom, can you put this in my baby book so one day when my hair changes color, we can look at it?"

Talking about the shirts I bought for her and her cousin to wear to her birthday party this weekend,
Flanna: "Is it a dress?"
Me: "No, they're just sparkly shirts. But we can let you wear a skirt with it."
Flanna: "But, mom, that's not a dress. I have to look willy willy pretty."

Saying goodnight at bedtime,
Flanna: "Night night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite--Bedbugs are real! They look like beetles, and they have hard shells."
Me: "But we don't have bedbugs at our house, so don't worry about that."
Flanna: "Cause we have a brick house, and it's strong!"
Me: "Yeah, so no bedbugs can get in here."
Flanna: (looking skeptical) "But bedbugs are tiny, and what if we have tiny holes in the wall?"
Me: "Nope, we don't have tiny holes."
Flanna: (still skeptical) "Okay. Night night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite! --Bedbugs are real!"
(Methinks we're going to have to change the bedbug part of the sleep routine! Thanks for the google science lesson, Daddy-o!)

Oh, and this last quote was actually by one of my speech students, but it was so cute I just had to include it! We were chatting about the fabulous cartoon Phineas and Ferb, and my student was laughing about how I was pretending to be Candace saying, "Oh, Jeremy!" Then he made a face and said,
"Some loves are gross?"

What made you laugh today?

Experience Nature

This morning, we hiked a bit in Duke Forest, and it was altogether a lovely experience. The fall colors are in full force this week, and the weather has been crisp and perfect. Flannery wasn't feeling all that great, but she did a great job hiking such a long way!

Being in nature is so restorative for me; I can't help but assume it boosts my daughter's mood, too. She loves all the tiny rocks and acorns and sticks she finds along the way, and her pockets are quickly full of tiny treasures anytime we venture outside.

How are you experiencing nature so far this autumn?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Share and Create Family Traditions

One of the greatest revelations about happiness I've had this year is that sharing and creating family traditions brings me immense joy. Here are some of my ideas as to why this is so:

1. I'm a creature of habit who likes predictability
2. All of my extended family lives at least a day's drive away, so I miss them a lot, and sharing family traditions makes me feel closer to the people that passed the traditions down to me (i.e., my family).
3. I feel like I'm doing something right when I share a family tradition with my daughter, which feels good.
4. Traditions make our little 3-person family feel like a real team of people who belong together.
5. I'm a homebody, and sharing family traditions adds a little fun to days spent in our little home/neighborhood.

So obviously, if I need a happiness boost, I just need to engage in some good old fashioned family tradition. And in my family, that means doing one of the following:
a) taking pictures. - Huge group photos in which teenagers roll their eyes and someone holds a dog to get them to stay in the picture are the utmost pinnacle of photo success in our family tradition.
b) making chocolate chip cookies. - From scratch. Using my mom's recipe. Yes, you must eat at least a few spoonfuls of the dough. No, so far I've never gotten salmonella. Yes, I do realize it's bound to happen one day.
c) going on a walk - preferably in the woods. preferably at sunset. preferably someplace where you'll pass some horses and be able to throw them an apple or a carrot. preferably walking not for exercise, but for taking in the scenery.

Since I live in downtown Durham, I typically have to settle for a walk around the block and then a or b. Or both.

So yesterday, Flanna and I made homemade chocolate chip cookies from scratch by my mom's recipe, then put the cookies on my grandma Norma's retro hand-me-down platter.

It was super fun. And the cookies, I wish you could taste them, or even just smell them. Yum. A definite happiness booster.

What family tradition do you love to keep?