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Friday, September 30, 2011

Create Something with Your Hands - Our New Motto

My niece and my daughter love to spend hours outside in the back yard digging and "cooking" and creating their own little imaginary world.   I let them have an old sheet I was going to send to Goodwill, and they added to our teepee to create something really special, complete with ribbons and pipe cleaner 
decorations (that look pretty native to me).   They were so pleased with themselves, and Flannery gets a kick out of seeing her hand-made teepee every time we go outside.  

Create something with your hands.  It's our new motto, and it really does boost our happiness around here.  

What have you created lately that you were proud of?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Create Something With your Hands

When Flanna was home sick, we were both kind of in a funk.  I was obsessing about all the work I should've been doing, and she was just feeling blah.

So, to cheer us up, I tried out the cookie press we got from my brother in law and his wife last Christmas.  It was great fun, and brought back some sweet memories of making "cookie press cookies" with my grandma and mom.

Creating something with my hands is so satisfying.  And really brought us a happiness boost.

And cookies to enjoy were just the icing on the cake.

What have you made with your hands lately? 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Matchy Matchy

The girls feel so special when they match.  So, we try to get matching outfits for them for certain occasions.  I think it promotes in them a feeling of belonging, which these "only children" need now and then.  Plus, now it's a little "family tradition," and you know how family traditions make me happy!

These dresses were for my niece's 8th birthday party.  Soooooo cute, right?

looking for frogs in the pond

What do you think about families wearing matching clothes?  Too cheesy for you, or do you think it helps promote a spirit of belonging?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Speechy Sunday: Teaching Art Vocabulary

On Friday, my husband and I took Flanna and my niece to an art show in Atlanta.  Our friend Dana had some paintings in the show, and we had visited the gallery a few times before successfully, which made me brave enough to try it out during an event.  
At the show, I gave each of the girls a notepad and pen so that they could write down the names of their favorite artists of the night. (Flanna just drew a picture of the paintings she liked because she was too short to see the cards with the artists' names on them.)  I was amazed at how having a little task to do during the evening made them really study each painting and take an interest in the types of pieces there.  By the end of the night, they were using words like, "portrait, landscape, abstract, and still life" on their own.  And they wanted to talk about how the artists might have painted each painting--by using a paintbrush (could we see the strokes?) or by using a putty knife, or even fingers!  My niece got pretty good at picking out an oil painting versus acrylic.   It was a really fun way for them to learn.  And it was neat, too, to get a glimpse into their tastes.  

Here are some of our favorite paintings from the show.  

Flannery's favorite, by Dana Johns

my pick, by Sabre Esler

one Robi liked, by Scott Hill

Flanna listing her favorites (she circled the one with the tree as the best)

My niece listing her favorites

My niece with her pick of the night, by Betty Anglin Smith

Who's your favorite artist?  I'd really love to hear.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Experience Nature: The Zoo

the baby tigers were everyone's favorites of the day!
Yesterday, I met my sister and cousin after work at the zoo, and all the little cousins got some wonderful bonding time together.  The weather was amazing and perfect, with a cool breeze and cloud cover but no rain.  We even had to break out the long sleeves!

An afternoon outside in nature, watching animals eat, play, and rest, was just what we all needed, and I found it pretty rejuvenating.  Plus, we all slept well that night after a day of walking around!   Another big plus!

Flanna roaring.   (Oh my goodness, I just want to eat this child up!)

See what I mean?

Standing like flamingoes by the flamingoes.

Cuddling cousins

How have you gotten to experience nature this weekend?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Create Something with Your Hands, and other Tips for Reducing Stress

This has been a busy and stressful week.  I've felt like I'm getting sick for the past few days, have worked long days and late nights, haven't seen my daughter much at all, and still, yes, still, have boxes left to unpack from when we moved in.  When laundry piles up, and dishes go unwashed, and I have tight deadlines seems like my best attempts to be the gladdest thing, and look at the glass as half full, and appreciate what I have--just don't cut it.

So, what do I do on weeks like this?

Here are the five things I've noticed myself doing to reduce my stress level (and I think they're pretty consistently things that I turn to when I need a happiness boost, as well.):

1.   I create something with my hands.  - I love to create things. I love crafts.  I like to build things out of whatever I can find.  I like to hang pictures on a wall or paint a shelf or wrap a present well.  This week, on one of my busiest days, when I felt like I was furthest away from "living my priorities," Flanna and I went outside for a few minutes, took a piece of bamboo that had fallen during a storm, and created a teepee.  Nothing fancy.  Just bamboo and some string.  But using a saw and some ribbon to turn one long piece of bamboo into something new and fun for Flannery was really rewarding and quite a mood lifter.

2.  I listen to music I love. - Not new music, but music I've heard over and over for many years.  For me, there is great comfort in knowing every word and note to a song, and listening to it on repeat, even!

3.  I clear a surface. - Just cleaning off one table, or one shelf, or one area in my living rom can really help me feel calmer and less anxious.  I'm messy by nature, so it seems counterintuitive that clearing a surface could bring me such peace, but somehow, it does.

4.  I eat chocolate.  - Dark chocolate is best.   And not too much.  Just one or two bites will do.  Any more than that, actually, and it cancels out the mood boost, for me.  Overindulging just makes me feel yucky about myself, so I really do stick to a tiny bit.  (I'm a moderator, so that works for me.  But if you're an "abstainer," this one may not work for you, I think.)

5. I read a book to my daughter. -  Some of the best times I've ever had as a mom have been sharing books with my daughter and niece.  Tonight, I read "Amelia Bedelia goes Camping," with them, and I have to say, it was probably the best part of my day.  Super fun and super silly.  Plus, such wonderful figurative language and vocabulary!

And now the crazy busy week is over, and I get to spend some quality time with my daughter and niece,  and I finally have a bit of time to attempt some more unpacking and organizing at home, and maybe even to clear another surface!  So things are getting better all the time.

What do you do when you're overly stressed, to help reduce your anxiety level?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Every Once in a While...

...there's a photo of me that I don't hate.  

And since I look back on photos of myself when I was in my twenties and say, "Oh, my goodness, why didn't I think I was gorgeous then?", I've decided to embrace good pics of myself now, even to print them up and put them in photo albums.  I am the memory keeper, after all.  And one day, Flanna might flip through an album and say, "That's exactly how I remember my mom from when I was a kid."   And maybe that will make her happy, or bring back a sweet moment in her mind's eye.  

So, here it is.  The photo I don't hate.  Taken by a friend at work.  

What photo of your mom as a young woman do you just love?  I have this one of my mom in short shorts and a hippie shirt, with glasses and long straight hair, leaning against a car.  And it takes me right back to being four years old sitting on a cool metal glider bench in the back yard, picking mint from the garden, watching our cats dart from under one car to another in the driveway as parents chatted standing by cars.  Funny the things we remember.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Create an Outdoor Nook

I find again and again when I'm trying to get my daughter involved in play, that when she has a cozy little "nook" in which to play, she sticks with activities for much longer.  She just loves little spaces all her own where she can nestle in and feel comfortable.

We just moved to a new place, and I think that indoors at our new home, I've created a lot of little nooks for Flanna, but outdoors, we really haven't done much.  So, recently when her cousin was visiting, I decided to break out our tent (the one we actually use for camping) to create a little outside nook for them.  They helped me set up the poles and stake the tent to the ground, and they were so proud of their tent when it was ready!  They played in the tent for two days straight, having snacks, pretending to build fires, setting up sleeping bags for every baby doll Flanna owned, and just generally pretending to camp.  What a quick and easy outside "nook" for them, and it really did help engage them in creative play together.
a "fire" the cousins built

What were your favorite "nooks" when you were a child?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wild Dogs

We've been spending a lot of time outdoors these days as summer is cooling off, and our once inside-all-the-time dogs are changing!  They've become a little more wild, a little more territorial, and tons happier!  They are so cute running around the yard, burrowing under logs and bushes, barking at everything that moves.  I'm not so sure it's a good thing as far as making friends with the neighbors!  But it's nice to see them so happy!

What are your pets' favorite activities?  Are you able to provide those experiences for them regularly?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Experience your Community where You Are

I'm trying to feel more at home in our new neighbor- hood.  To work toward that, I've decided that I need to try to get out into the community a bit more than just working and taking Flanna to school.  So, this weekend, we went to the Decatur Book Festival.  It was right downtown in a cute little area, and there was so much to do.  There were hula hoop contests, and tons of booths with books and toys and art for sale, and authors speaking on stages and signing their books, as well.  I was impressed that the turnout was so good for the festival.

The girls seemed to enjoy it, too, especially the puppet show and the kettle corn!  All in all, it was a nice little adventure, and while I still miss Athens and all the other places I hold in my heart as "home," I'm confident that we'll settle in and feel connected in this new home soon, too.

Our own version of Where's Waldo?  Can you find the cousins?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Say Yes Whenever Possible

One of my rules as a parent is to "say yes whenever possible."  I try to reserve my "no" for important things, and to never just say no because something is inconvenient or would interrupt me a bit.

So when the girls asked if they could wear their hair up in a messy bun when we went to a festival recently, instead of going with my initial instinct, which was, "that will take 10 minutes, and I want to leave right now," I took a deep breath, grabbed a brush, and just said, "yes."

They were so proud of their hair that day.  Every time they passed a mirror in a restaurant, or saw their reflection in a store window, they would say something like, "I look so cute!" or "Look at my hair--it's still up!"

I was so glad I said, "yes," and really, who cares if we left ten minutes later than I had planned?  Sometimes I have to remind myself to let my "no" be reserved for the big stuff, and to say "yes" whenever possible.

What have you said "yes" to lately that brought your family a bit of happiness?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Watching the Game

Here's a cute video clip from the game!  Flanna says, "It's really fun, and it's really past my bedtime!"

Savor each Stage

the humongous birthday dessert
My niece just turned eight.  Eight!  I remember when when she first came into our family, when she was just two and so tiny and spunky!                
And now she's so grown up and sophisticated and helpful and sweet.  She loves to cuddle, and she loves to read.  She's a beautiful singer, and she has such a creative imagination.  She's artistic and has a good fashion sense.  And she loves Jesus, and she tries to do the right thing.  And she's socially intuitive in little ways, like knowing how to negotiate with Flanna to calm her down when she's upset, or when to just give a little hug.  It's so neat to see how her personality unfolds and her adult self emerges bit by bit.  I'm trying to savor each stage with these girls.  Because, as Gretchen Rubin says, "the days are long, but the years are short."  

What stage of life are you savoring right now?  

Root for a Team

cute cousins

We took the girls to a Braves game on Friday.  It was Flannery's first baseball game ever, and we went to see her cousin sing the national anthem along with her school choir.  The choir did a beautiful job singing, and I got all teary-eyed watching them!  

The funny thing was, that although Flanna had never even heard of the Braves until that day, she was instantly a passionate fan, cheering, chanting, and dancing in the stands.  She said her favorite part was the Tomahawk Chop, where everyone in the crowd chants together and waves their arms like a chopping tomahawk.  I think that rooting for a team together is such a sweet bonding experience, and the girls felt such empathy for the players when they missed a hit or were out.  It really made me think about how belonging to a team can bring us happiness despite winning or losing.  Just being together and rooting together for a common goal is fun.  

Unfortunately, the Braves lost the game.  Boo!  But we left early, while we were still in the lead.  And really, I doubt the loss would've shaken our team spirit, anyway!

We got to "walk the bases" (a.k.a. walk around the edge of the field) before the national anthem.

intently watching the game

Do you root for any teams?  And if so, do you think it adds to your happiness?