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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Create Something: Halloween Fun!

It's Halloween!

My favorite!

Flannery created a blueprint for our jack-o-lanterns, then transferred her plan over to the pumpkins with Sharpies, then I cut them out.  They turned out cute!  It always makes us happy to create something!  What fun!

And now we can't wait for trick-or-treating!  I bought so much candy--let's hope we get some trick or treaters in our new neighborhood!  (Otherwise, I will gain a thousand pounds because I got the good stuff, hah!)

It was also great fun to create Flanna's "pirate princess" costume! She has a little Halloween parade at her school today and can't wait.

Happy Halloween!

The white pumpkin is a "ghost," and the orange
pumpkin has "bloody vampire fangs."

What have you created this Halloween that has brought you joy?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Expect People to Change, and Expect People to Stay the Same

I just got back from a business trip to Wilmington, where I had the really amazing opportunity to train some early childhood teachers in language and literacy.  And the best part is, my sister drove up to visit with me while I was there!  We went out for dinner and to see a band play.  Or, well, to see a girl and her mama sing some beautiful harmonies.  It was great fun. 

One of the songs I just loved included these lyrics: 

"A quiet line:  I hope you can love me a long time."
"I hope you can see me through... I hope you can love who I might be."

And that just speaks to me so much about relationships.  I think that the best thing about my marriage is that we expect one another to change, and embrace that change as progress.  And I have such confidence that I will love whoever my hubby becomes.  But I also think that there is a bit of truth to the opposite idea--that I need to love my husband even if he never changes.  It's a delicate and interesting thing to me to fully accept and love someone as they are but also to be prepared to continue to accept the new parts of them that emerge with time. 

I do hope that I can fully love my wonderful family as they are now, and as they will one day be.  I try to be vague in my expectations for my daughter's future, so as not to make her feel that I have preconceived ideas of "who she might be."  I try not to say, "One day when you get married.." or "One day when you have kids..." or "One day when you go to grad school..."  Because what if my little one wants to one day not get married or not to have children or not to go to grad school.  I want her to know that no matter what she chooses and who she might one day be, I can love her and will love her. 

I think, too, of my sister and my very best friends and how they have stayed so much the same all these years and how much I love that I can predict how they might respond to this or that situation...but then, too, I love that they continue to grow and change and surprise me now and then, too. 

It's something so interesting to me that both can be true:  that we must expect people to change, and also expect them to stay the same.  We can't expect people to change who they are, because that's not loving them as they are.  But we can't expect them to stay the same, because life shapes us and we grow and learn every single day. 

Hah, well, you can probably tell I am jet-lagged by my ramblings!  But I'd love to hear what you think about this idea.  Do you think that both of these opposites can be true? 

How have you changed in the last few years?  How have the people you love changed?  Do you frame these changes as fearful or as positive?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Gratitude is a Process

Flanna at the aquarium on Saturday.  Love that girl!
This morning, our new priest spoke about gratitude.  It was such a nice little message for me to hear as I head into a busy week, chock full of travel for work and deadlines and meetings and Flanna's fall break (during which the poor thing gets to hang at day camp while we work).  I wish we could all take a week off and go camping or something, but, alas, our work schedules just don't allow for that.

Anyway, one of the things that stood out today to me in the message from our priest was the way he talked about choosing gratitude over and over as a way to keep ourselves from falling into selfishness.  I had never thought of it that way, but maybe that's what is so uplifting about being thankful--that it pulls us out of a self-focus and into a "bigger than me" focus.  I also liked that he talked about how we don't just become thankful once and then forever stay that way--it's something we have to work at, as we're pulled in a zillion directions all throughout our lives, and none of them are usually towards selflessness or gratitude.

So, this week, as I try to finish up a thousand projects and prepare for my work trip out of town, I'm hoping to be mindful of choosing thankfulness over and over, and moving myself forward in the process of creating a spirit of gratitude.

And here's a start:  Today I'm thankful for talking to my sister on the phone this week, yay!  And for seeing good old friends in Monterey!  And for my fabulous husband who let me sleep in on Saturday morning!  And for the anticipation of our cousin Molly's wedding!  And for having a few seconds to blog and take a step back to reflect on this too-fast life!

What about you?  Do you find that you really have to make a choice to cultivate gratitude, or are you lucky and it comes naturally to you?  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tackle a Project

Flannery, Robi, and I tackled quite a few projects last week as we prepared for my West Coast BFF, Kelley, to come for a visit.  We took a trip to Ikea and got Robi a desk, and got a cute cabinet to go behind our couch.  Flanna even helped me put the cabinet together.  She is a great helper! (takes after her grand-dad at building things!)

We took a few bags of things to good-will that just didn't really fit or work anymore after the move, and got our guest room functional for guests rather than just as an office.  And it felt so nice to have our home in (almost!) tip top shape finally!  (I say almost, because I still have pictures and art to hang, but we're getting there!).

So, this week, I'm thankful for having the energy and time and help to get things a little more unpacked and moved-in at our place.  It's truly a gift to have this lovely little home we have here.  And as I sit tonight, with my sweet daughter tucked into bed and my husband writing away for a book chapter he's working on, it's easy for me to notice the gifts in my life.

What about you?  What projects did you tackle this week or weekend?  Or what projects if you tackle them soon, will bring you happiness?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Create Something

When I'm feeling overwhelmed, it always calms me down to take some time out to create something.  I think that's why blogging is so special to me--it's something I can create and put out into the world that is beautiful and interesting.

I remember one time during a particularly stressful exam week when I was a freshman in college, when I stayed up late into the night (when I should've been studying!) and painted flowers and vines on the side of my desk in our dorm room.  My BFF (and then college roommate) just laughed, because she knew me, and even though it was crazy, she knew it really did make me feel better to stop cramming my brain for a bit and just create something.

I think Flannery has that innate drive to create, as well.  She is happiest when she is absorbed completely into some art project, or is constructing a block city, or is setting up a neat scene with the stuffed animal in her room.  It's funny--I snapped these pics at different random times all week, and only once I was looking at them did I realize that my little bitty had been generating quite a bit of interesting and beautiful stuff this week!  What a gift.

Cutie Pops -- This is Flannery's invention.  It's a robot that starts out as a baby
and grows into a full sized adult robot.  Patent Pending.  :)

Flannery had been asking for a skateboard, and when I finally got her one, she didn't like
 the dragon on the bottom of it.  So she painted it.  Pretty cool.  

Loving the whimsical symmetry. 

This is what Flanna does while Robi watches UGA football.
The train city was pretty intricately constructed. 

Oh, and this last one just made me happy because I finally unpacked the
last box in our bedroom last weekend, yay!  :) 

What do you like to create (or bake, or design, or write, etc.) now and then?

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

This week has been hectic.  The life of an SLP at the beginning of a school year is just downright crazy sometimes, with all the meetings and scheduling and rescheduling and re. schedule. ing.  But the weekend is in sight, and I am trying to stay focused on the gifts in my life.  It helps that I have a husband who picks up my slack and never complains when I burn the chicken.

Here are some gifts I noticed and named this week.  They made me happy in between the moments I was stressed and burned the chicken.

40.  listening to Flanna banana singing "I-I love you like a love song baby" really loudly as she takes a bath
41.  Flannery's hair french-braided into two little pigtails (by our new wonderful baby-sitter)
42.  sidewalks all the way to Flanna's new school
43.  my husband's smile at the dinner table when Flannery says something cute
44.  our poor man's sandbox that provides limitless fun (just an underbed box with some play-sand and water!)
45.  Flanna playing Sound of Music songs on the iPad piano app.  (I love that movie/musical so much!)
46.  Amazing parents of my clients who are so open and honest and brave as I meet with them to try to learn more about their kiddos.  I've said it before, but it's just so true--life is full of typical and crippling struggles, and people are so strong everywhere you turn.
47.  An email from my BFF with flight info for her trip here very soon!  I can't get over how much I am looking forward to that!

What gifts have you noticed this week? 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Notice the Gifts: Long Lazy Weekend Edition

Today, I spent the whole day with Flanna-banana, and we had great fun.  We found a bed on Craigslist for our guest room (yay!), and the woman selling it was so kind and lives just down from Flanna's school, and let Flanna pet her dogs, which Flannery just loved.  Then we went shopping and had some spare keys made and got some new running shoes (on super sale!) for us girls. Later, we set up a kiddie pool in the back yard, and we met with the new baby-sitter who's going to be picking Flanna up from school a few days a week.  Tonight, we ordered yummy Indian food from down the street and ate it while watching the UGA game.  And now I'm listening to Flanna playing with her train while Robi watches the game (which must be going well by the loud way he's watching!).  

Things are settling down and hopefully we'll have a good routine here soon.  The hardest thing is juggling work and parenthood in a new place when we don't yet have a support system in place.  It's amazing the little things we take for granted when we have them (like trusted babysitters and cousins and grandparents and friends across the street!).  But I know by this time next year, our support system and network will be huge, so I'm trying not to rush it.  

Anyway, this week I noticed so many little gifts!  I took a photo of a few, but not all:

27.  the wind blowing through our open windows at night as we fall asleep
28.  fresh cut grass that the gardener takes care of every week (so luxurious!)
29.  sweet people at the park who let Flannery love on their kind dogs
30.  listening to Flanna chat all silly with her older cousin on the phone
31.  photos texted like a little surprise peek into the lives of my family
32.  fluffy clouds in the sky (we don't get many of them here, so we treasure them when they are here!)
33.  the smell of the lavender growing in our yard
34.  working alongside such a dedicated and caring team of teachers and special educators that all work hard to make parents feel at home in our schools
35.  the little boost of pride I feel when I can actually complete a gazillion phone calls in Spanish and not confuse anyone too horribly
36.  my tech-savvy husband who sets up our internet and TV and keeps our home functioning smoothly no matter what technological learning he has to do. 

37.  a built-in shelf in my shower.  I've never had one of those before!

38.  Vanilla lotion from Prague.  Cause that's just how we roll.  (Thanks to my West Coast BFF!)

39.  A cool bathroom window that opens upside down and allows for privacy and fresh air, so I don't have to use that stressful loud bathroom vent/fan.  So nice!

What gifts have you noticed and named this week? Has it helped you live a bit more in the moment?  I'm hoping it's cultivating a habit of thankfulness in me.  

Our Life in Pictures: Peach Pie

Yum!  We made peach pie with the peaches from our tree.  I also froze some peaches for later.  We had so many!  Flannery loved making the pie, and loved the whipped cream on top, but didn't actually turn out to be a fan of the peach pie itself.  No problem--more for me!   :)  

What do you make from scratch or home-made that you just love?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How Naming Gifts Saved Me from a Stress-Induced Funk

Today, I was folding clothes, and I found this adorable teal corduroy doll jacket with a bear embroidered on it amidst the socks.  And I named it as a gift and gave thanks for:

#26 - Finding tiny doll clothes in with the laundry. 

Appreciating that tiny jacket made me smile.  Which made me stop worrying for a moment.  (FYI - I'm in the thick of trying to scramble to find after-school care for Flanna with zero notice whatsoever!  Deep breaths, deep breaths. :)  )  Which made me realize how tense my shoulders had been before that.  Which made me realize what a crazy person I am sometimes for getting so wrapped up in the things I can't control.  Which pulled me out of a stress-induced funk.

So, there you have it.

That is how naming gifts saved me today.

What has saved you from a stress induced funk lately?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Share in the Wonder: 1,000 gifts my daughter helps me see

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he or she needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."  -- Rachel Carson

Some days it's easier than others to share in the wonder of the world we live in.  Today was a busy and long day, but I'm thankful for many things, and especially the way my perspective is improved when I try to look at things through the eyes of my sweet girl.  

Here are some gifts I name today: 

17.  our cool giant sized washer and dryer that are actually fun to watch
 (at least to me and Flanna!) and save me hours and hours of laundry drudgery!
18.  Art supplies that survived a trip through the desert. 
19.  What we thought at first were really bad plums growing in the back yard,
which actually turned out to be really tasty nectarines!  :) 
20.  An impromptu picnic dinner
21.  The mystery of a home-maade fort

22.  diligence at work in our rock garden
23.  striped shadows falling on water balloons

24.  a husband who is playful and good-natured
25.  the light on my daughter's face in a little window
seat she scouted out at a restaurant

What child brings you a bit of wonder here and there?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

11.  her beautiful bedroom suite from
Aunt Kathy & Uncle Mark, & coverlet from Grandma

Flannery's room is coming along.  Just when I think I have it organized, I walk in and everything is all mixed up in a big heap, but her Raggedy Ann doll is teaching school and all of the Barbies are listening and having a snack of pretend food from her kitchen set, and so I really do understand why she needs all of the bins from her closet and under her bed out all at once.

Sometimes I look around at her room and try to take it all in, with her tiny treasures laying around and so many sweet toys and books.  Too soon, I know the toys will be left behind for more grown-up pursuits.  But, ah, for now, they are loved and mixed up and made into messes daily.  And that is a gift.  

12.  How Curious George books get a laugh out of Flanna, even now as she's almost 7. 

13.  Jelly cat (Flanna's favorite gift from when she turned one)
 hanging out in the American Girl doll bathtub. 

14.  The care and precision Flanna took repairing the floor of her Barbie
kitchen, which was damaged in the move, with cute black & white checked duct tape.  

15.  tiny fingers playing with my old Holly Hobby doll house
cast iron stove and wooden table/chair set.

16.  The tiny easel Flannery found and set up in the
Barbie nursery.    

What do you love best about your home, that makes you feel like this is the place you really belong? 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Experience Nature: 1000 Gifts in my Own Backyard

Our little back yard is really special.  It's a neat shape and has cool fruit trees and shade and flowers and even trees the right distance apart to hold our hammock.  These are the things I am thankful for today.

2.  Our peach tree, heavy laden with ripe and wonderful peaches.

3.  the late bloom of a hydrangea, which reminds me of the
South and makes me feel more at home.

4.  this neat flower which I cannot name, but I think my mom has them  in her yard in FL,
and it makes me feel closer to her when I look at them.  

5.  The brick and wood fence that stretches along the side of our yard
and reminds me of our Pulaski St. garden back in Athens.

6.  Flannery's easel set up in our garage, some beauty amidst the unpacking mess.  
7.  sidewalk chalk that doesn't disappear for ages -- since it never rains here!
8.  my thoughtful and industrious husband who saves us from
the yellow jackets but protects our honey bees.  

9.  my daughter running toward me when I come outside from doing
 laundry.  She bubbles over with wonder. 

10.  a camping hammock on a quiet lazy afternoon

What are you grateful for that you can find right in your own back yard? 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Notice the Gifts, and Name Them

1.  A flowering vine that grows by Flannery's bedroom window.
The buds look like little pyramids before they bloom.  
I read a book a few months ago, and at the time, it didn't seem all that ground-breaking.  It was called "1,000 Gifts" by Ann Voskamp, and it was about how Ann Voskamp changed her life by making a list of the gifts she noticed each day, on a dare by one of her friends to write down 1,000 gifts she was thankful for.  It was a neat book, but I didn't think it was life-changing for me at the time I read it.

But, as I have been unpacking here in California, starting from scratch to refill bare walls, and repopulate the medicine cabinet, and reorganize our linen closet, and recreate a feeling of belonging in our nervous little hearts, the words I read have come back to me over and over.  Like these lines:

"I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives."  -- Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

"Life is so urgent it necessitates living slow." -- Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

"Every breath's a battle between grudgery and gratitude and we must keep thanks on the lips so we can sip from the holy grail of joy."  --Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Of course, I know that thankfulness is well-documented in the happiness literature as important in happiness. But the idea of making thankfulness a habit, of cultivating in myself a noticing of small gifts each day, and in so doing, opening myself to the present moment more (and thereby to God, who is "I Am," and not "I was", or "I will be"), the idea that thankfulness can be crafted into a habit of being, is really interesting to me.

And so, because I know that moving puts me in a delicate place, happiness-wise, and that starting over in a new place and figuring out how things work in a new routine is always a drain on the energy I have for living my life intentionally, I am challenging myself-- this year, in this new place, with picture frames to-be-hung still stacked against the living room wall and so much left to do and sigh about-- to list the gifts.  To specifically name the beautiful and amazing things in my life each day.

Until I reach 1,000.

What fun!  Will you join me?