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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Say Yes Whenever Possible

My friend Kelley's dad had a Christmas party last week, complete with a live band.  At some point during the party, the band members asked my friend Monica to sing a Christmas song.  So she snagged me and said, "Come sing, too!"  I was hesitant but remembered my rule to, "say yes whenever possible."  So I snagged my friend Kelley, too (because I'm only brave to a point!).  And we sang a few songs!  Just like the good old days!  (We all did theater together back in the day.)

It was great fun!  That "yes" was such a good idea.  And I felt so smart for forcing myself to say it!  :)

Our girls gave it a try, as well.  They were so brave!  They didn't seem nervous or shy at all up on stage singing.  At one point when they were belting out Rudolph, my friend Amy said, "It's a shame they're so introverted."    Hah.

So many times this holiday season, I've just had this overwhelming feeling of how lucky I am to have such wonderful friends and family.  It's remarkable what kind and interesting people I am blessed to have in my life.

What have you said "yes" to lately that brought you a happiness boost?  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Flanna's New Hair

Flannery decided she wanted her hair cut "chin-length" last week.  It turned out to be really flattering on her!  



after - side view

What fun change have you made recently?

My West Coast BFF

I have the best friends.  

Seriously.  The best.  

I've gotten to spend lots of time with my west coast BFF this past week, and it's been such fun!  My daughter and niece love her!   As do I!  

What friends are you grateful for?

My Life in Pictures: Christmas in Athens

We enjoyed a wonderful get-together with some of our good friends from Athens over our Christmas holiday.    It's so neat to see the way our friends are as their own little families...such kind, thoughtful, and intuitive partners, spouses, and parents--all in their own different ways.  I feel really lucky to know such amazing folks.  

And the kids are all such fun!  Flannery learned all about Star Wars from some of the boys, and is now begging to get to watch it!  We're trying to decide if she's old enough??  

How did you catch up with good friends this holiday?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Be Silly; Have Fun

My happiness commandment #4 is, "Be silly; have fun."  When I pause in my whirlwind of chores and work and general busy-ness, and remember to follow my happiness commandments, this is the one commandment that I think does the most to make my relationship with Flanna stronger.

And I think that being silly together creates bonds between Flanna and her friends, too.

Take, for instance, Pajama day at Flanna's school last week.  The kiddos (and even Flanna's teacher!) wore their PJs to school last Thursday as part of a special Polar Express party celebration, and it was such a cute bonding experience for all of them!  They gasped at one another as they came into school that morning (I made sure to come into her classroom to snap pics!) and just laughed and grinned.  Flanna  was visibly beaming, and her sweet classmates were, too!

How can you be more lighthearted during this holiday season?

Experience Art

Art stirs within us something creative and common.  Something shared and yet secret.

Experiencing art boosts my happiness.   A new song that is finely crafted, a painting that evokes a memory, a dancer as an expression of music--these things just make me happy.

You can imagine my delight that my daughter also loves art--almost any form of it, really.  I love that she'll listen to beautiful music on repeat, that she'll study a flower or a beautiful painting intently, that she can watch a dancer move and can imitate the steps without thinking about it--she is naturally graceful and just has an eye and ear for beauty, I think.

We took Flannery, along with my sister, niece, and mother-in-law, to see the Nutcracker recently.  (We of course had to bring along our Nutcracker book, and my mother-in-law was kind enough to bring Nutcracker ornaments for the girls, as well.)  I loved watching Flannery and my niece take it all in--the lights, the costumes, the dancing.  Experiencing art seems to make them happy, too.

Perhaps it runs in the family.

How will you experience art this winter?  I'm hoping to take the girls to an art museum if we can find time.  Fingers crossed!

By the way, my favorite Nutcracker story book for children is the one by Susan Jeffers.  It's got just the right amount of text for a 4 or 5 year old child, and the illustrations are beautiful.  The only drawback to the book is that the author changes Clara's name to Marie in the book.  (I always try to change it back to Clara as I read it, though, so Flannery knows the real name of the characters.)

Festival Fun

The girls and I joined my mother-in-law at her school's Holiday Festival recently, and we had a fun evening!  My niece did the "ornament walk" (like a cake walk) and won on her first try!  The girls had their picture made with Santa, and also made some cute crafts.  The hit of the night was the sand art, I think, and don't you just love my niece's Bulldawg themed art?  Too funny.

Say Yes Whenever Possible

Gretchen Rubin (of Happiness Project fame) recently said something in a video she made about relationships and happiness that struck a chord with me.  She said (and this is an inexact quote, so please forgive me if I mess it up):  
When you're trying to decide whether to make a commitment, think to yourself, "Will this experience build or strengthen relationships with my friends or family?"  and, if it will, then say "yes" to that commitment. 
We had a rather hectic weekend this weekend--attending a family Christmas party, seeing a movie, helping my sister move, seeing a band, and driving to Athens to see some good friends from out of town.  It was kind of a lot to squeeze into one weekend.  And at times, I wondered if it was crazy to try to make it to all those different commitments. But I kept thinking to myself--these experiences will strengthen our relationships with our friends and family, so they're a good use of our time.

In the end, I admit we're all a little exhausted.  And poor Flanna still has two days of school left before her break!  But it's good to feel connected to our extended family, and to see old friends we haven't seen in years, and to get to see my sister's cute new home taking shape.  So I think it was worth the effort.

For  most people, feeling connected to our friends and family tends to bring us great happiness.   And what builds connection more than taking time to be together?  So, if you're invited out, or you're thinking of organizing a get-together, but you're not sure that it's worth all the trouble--remember that happiness does not come from sitting at home alone taking it easy, and say, "yes!" whenever possible.

Who can you not wait to see this holiday season?  For me, I am happily anticipating seeing my west-coast BFF Kelley, who is on her way toward our home town now, I believe!  Yay!

Observe a Tradition

I took my daughter and niece, along with both grandmothers, to my hometown's little annual Christmas parade recently.  We got there really early and got a wonderful seat, so the girls really got to see each float up close.  We brought cocoa and blankets, and had such fun.  It brought back many memories for me... of clogging down that same road to the tune of Christmas songs, or playing the trumpet in the marching band with tiny pieces of Christma music clipped to the marching stand atop my trumpet, or riding on high school floats in many many parades on that same road.   How sweet to share some of the fun and magic with the girls.  And it was made even more special in that both grandmothers could enjoy it with us.

Are you a parade person, or would you rather observe other holiday traditions that are less freezing?  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Share and Create Family Traditions

Robi's grandfather "Pop" was a train mechanic for most of his adult life, so we've tried to instill in Flannery a love for trains passed down through the generations.  Here she is, playing with our train at the foot of our Christmas tree.  This remote control train set (it's Geotrax brand) has been so wonderful, because it's rather sturdy,  the track is easy to put together, the train can go forward or backward, it's easy to control, and the batteries seem to last forever in the train and controller.  I wish we had more pieces of the track to stretch our train in a wider circuit around the tree--we may have to see if Santa can give us a hand with that wish!

Speaking of Santa, Flannery and her cousin went to see Santa Claus to get photos taken yesterday, and I had NO idea that Flannery was going to ask him for "a baby doll that really peepees and really poo-poos." I really really really reeeeally didn't see that one coming!!  She had been asking for a D.S. for 6 months, so I was just shocked.  And now I have to do some research on which doll that "really pees and poops" is the least annoying in terms of clean up.  The things we have to research as parents.  :)

Anyway, these little Christmas traditions, like the Christmas train and pictures with Santa, bring me such joy.  I love creating predictable and sweet memories for my daughter and niece, and for all my beloved friends and family, really.

What traditions from your childhood do you hold on to?  Have you created any new ones of your own?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Embrace the Things you Enjoy

My daughter loves princesses.  She loves dress up, and wedding day Barbies, and horses with sparkly saddles, and ballet tutus, and just generally anything frilly and fancy.

So, when she got this beautiful Belle gown (from Beauty and the Beast) in the mail for her birthday (thanks to her sweet Aunt Kelley!), you can imagine her reaction.  As in, she wanted to wear it exclusively for the following 3 days.  And she wanted to watch Beauty and the Beast immediately (while in her dress with her Belle barbie doll.)  And she wanted to sing all the songs from Beauty and the Beast over and over and over, and over.

And I embraced it, remembering how I used to love Disney movies and dress up and getting lost in a good story.  So, I dug out the Beauty and the Beast movie, and (since my hubby was watching some soccer or football game) let her watch it in our bedroom on the travel DVD player.  Along with the Belle barbie I managed to find at the bottom of her Barbie basket.  She was in heaven.  And the next day, I let her wear her princess dress to her grandparents' house.  And she really just couldn't stop glowing.

It got me thinking, that when we embrace what we love, when we know what makes us happy and then do just that, it's easy to glow.

So, I had been reading the Hunger Games.  I had finished the first book, and loved it soooo much!  And I was trying to pace myself before reading the next two.  But then, I realized, if I love reading this trilogy, and it makes me happy to read this trilogy, then why wait?  So I got the next two books via my Kindle app and spent a blissful few days reading every chance I got.    Now, I've finished the books, but I have such happy anticipation of the movie (coming out in March, I think?).  When I hear anything about the Hunger Games, my face just lights up...I believe I glow!

So, embrace the things you enjoy.  It might just make you an easier person to be around.  I mean, who doesn't like hanging out with glowing girls?

What do you most enjoy doing?  Do you allow yourself to take the time to do just that now and then?  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

5 Scary Things I've Read Recently

1.   "When a child with ADHD has trouble complying, the parents cannot help reacting with greater direction, control, suggestion, encouragement, and ultimately anger."

2.   "Research on the interactions between children with ADHD and other adults and children outside the family, such as teachers and peers, shows that when the children with ADHD are placed in a classroom, teachers, like mothers, are likely to increase their commands to, reprimands of, and discipline of the children. "

3.    "When children with ADHD first enter a new play group, the other children will start to act like "little mothers"--giving more commands, directions, and help to the children with ADHD."

4.   "Over time...parents proceed straight to the last strategy of management that produced some partial success.  This can readily lead to immediate negative reactions or harsh physical discipline when the children start to show even minimal disruptive behavior."

5. "When children with ADHD are placed on stimulant medication, the use by mothers, teachers, and peers of commands, disapproval, and general control diminishes to that seen with children who do not have ADHD, and the interactions become generally more positive."

Pretty darn depressing, no?

I've been thinking a lot lately about my ability to be calm, patient, and positive even when I'm repeating directions to my kiddo for the 423rd time.  I think that typically, I'm able to be really upbeat and to throw a little humor into the situation, or to set a time limit for when I want a direction to be completed, or to use some strategy that gains compliance eventually.  But sometimes, especially if we're in a hurry to get out the door, or if I'm trying to juggle too many tasks in my head, my reserve for being kind and patient and upbeat can become almost nonexistent.

I'm working on it.

And trying to figure out what resources I need to keep things on a positive cycle.  Because obviously, given those scary things I've read recently, it's easy to fall into a negative, controlling, demeaning cycle with kiddos with ADHD.  And that is the last thing I want to do with my sweet girl.

What helps you maintain a positive frame of mind when dealing with the hard stuff involved in parenting?  Or even if you don't have kids--how do you keep yourself patient and kind with those you love?

By the way, the scary quotes are from a really wonderful book (with just a few scary parts, I promise!) called Taking Charge of ADHD, by Russell Barkley, Ph.D.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Force Yourself to Take a Group Photo

You'll be glad you did.

Nothing's more fun than looking back on geeky group photos of yourself and all your friends/family from different eras.  For instance, I remember a wonderful group photo of me and my closest girlfriends from middle school all sitting around in windbreaker outfits.  (What were those outfits called?)  I think we all have braces and are growing our bangs out at the same time.  Seriously, I love that group photo.  (One day, I'll take the time to scan it in, so you can see it in all its preteen glory.)

Annnyway.  Here are some cute group photos I forced my family to take over the holiday.  They'll thank me one day.  I'm sure of it.

What group photo do you just love of your friends or family?

Ohh, by the way, I heard this line today on "Eloise's Christmas," (a cute kids' special).  It said, "Traditions are gifts you give yourself." (or something like that.)  I totally agree!