Jan 30, 2012

Happiness Week 4

Still dizzy (from ear issues) but staying focused on the good in my life with my Happiness Photo Project .

What Made Me Happy - Week 4

01/23 Refrigerator Light
This is one of the small things in life that you really take for granted until you don't have it. A light in your refrigerator. I was SO happy when Steve fixed the refrigerator light after it not working for 10 months. But alas after a couple days it's now not turning on 25% of the time, but that's still an improvement, right?

01/24 Iron Bird
I love it when I find things I've been looking for....like a bird for my iron bird cage that has been empty for a year and a half. X Check, off the list. Yay!

01/25 A Healthy (and Delicious) Salad
My focus for January has been health, but since I've been dizzy and we had a mountain of snow at our house I've been sucking at meeting my goals.  One is eating regular meals (I tend to skip breakfast but since a friend told me that the first way Sumo wrestlers try to gain wait is skipping breakfast I am trying not to but I still find it hard).  I'm often alone for lunch and just grab whatever is easy which isn't always that enjoyable. I happen to love salads. Today I made a salad with mixed greens, lemon pepper chicken, apples and walnuts and a lemon tarragon dressing. Yum! It made me happy to eat it and I felt like I was doing something toward my health goals.

 01/26 Little Bear After School
Ainsley loves school, she comes home in such a good mood! It's funny though, almost as soon as she sees me she asks for a DVD (using sign language). She was able to open the very heavy block drawer and get to her blocks and needed just a little help to get into her hammock. The sight of her doing such a normal thing as watching a DVD, playing and swinging in her comfy seat after a day at school makes me very happy and proud of her progress. Also since Little Bear was my favorite show for the older kids I love that she likes it too.

01/27 A Day Out With My Father
The day was beautiful, there was a thick fog in the valley with glints of sun peaking through as I drove to my destination with the music cranked up. It was the perfect start to my day, though I wish I'd had time to park and photograph the view. Pre-kids I used to go out with my birth father for breakfast many Saturdays, after which we would go visit an art museum (he's an artist) or see a movie. It was our special thing, but when the kids came along it became difficult to do. He's a great guy and I enjoy spending time with him and miss our outings so I decided to invite him to breakfast to celebrate his birthday. We always seem to have so much to talk about that we linger, but you can only drink so much coffee. Afterward we toured a local gallery and saw some great pieces. And then we met up with my sister and her husband to see his new business enterprise, a photography studio a couple blocks away. I got to use his "Penn Wall" to take this picture of my dad posing all fierce. I love it! We got a private tour of the Edmonds Masonic lodge, it's in a 100 year old opera house, and tried to photograph ghosts. It was an adventure and it's hard to pick just one photo but this would have to be it.

01/28 Basketball and Fatherly Encouragement
I am very happy that my son is learning the lessons that team sports teach. Such as: it's how you play the game that counts, attitude is everything, how to work as a team (even when your team mates aren't), how to lose gracefully, the benefit of practicing anything you want to be good at. He was having a bit of a hard time and feeling rather down (he doesn't have much of a poker face) so Steve sat down on the bench to give him some fatherly encouragement. It was sweet. Our life can be exhausting and in years past we just couldn't make the time commitment that sports require. I am grateful that things have improved enough that we can do this for Adrian.   

01/29 Bags of Leaves
Steve was SO busy at work from October through December that our yard has suffered. Then just after the Holidays it snowed. We still hadn't raked our leaves and it needed to be done so we decided to work as a family. I had the kids picking leaves out of the bushes (yes they complained but it's character building) while Steve and I raked. Ainsley came out in her walker. After several hours (and more by Steve) it looks much better but we didn't get the side or the back. This picture was taken before Steve bagged up the last of the leaves, 8 bags in all. We are very lucky to have this beautiful yard, but it is an awful lot of work. Since we live in a neighborhood with covenants and our neighbors yards are quite tidy, our lack of upkeep was quite noticeable so it's quite a relief to have it at least half done.

Have a great week! To view a slideshow of the entire Happiness Photo Project click here. For more about what this is all about click here.

Jan 23, 2012

Happiness Week 3

Sheesh. I can't believe we are 3 weeks into January and I haven't posted a single blog post except my Happiness Photo Project posts. At least you'll still get an idea of what we've been up to. Mostly we've been buried in snow (but the kids went back to school today). I'm still dizzy so the combination has been a bit tiresome. I'm looking forward to getting back to life as usual.

What Made Me Happy - Week 3

01/16 Ice Cream Sundaes for Dinner
Yep...for dinner! Vanilla ice cream, Fisher toffee covered peanuts, banana slices, chocolate chips, caramel sauce, dark chocolate sauce and a cherry on top!

01/17 Ainsley's Hammock
Today Steve installed the hammock I bought Ainsley's birthday at the Salmon Days festival in October. The lady who makes them said that her customers have said 20 minutes in it is like a 2 hour massage for a person with muscular dystrophy. Ainsley doesn't have MD but can still benefit from pressure to her muscles and the vestibular stimulation. I had intended to hang it outside (under cover) but Steve was too busy at work in Oct/Nov to hang it. When the weather got cold I realized that it would be far better to have a swing inside the house. The lovely lady from Hang Loose Hammocks was kind enough to exchange the green one I bought for a natural colored one so it would blend in better with the decor in our TV room. It's nice in there because we were getting a little crowded on the single couch (the room doesn't have space for more seating).  Now the kids are fighting over who gets to use the hammock AND we are all more comfortable. They LOVE it! It's great to see Ainsley using and loving her gift. And it's good for her!

01/18 A Towel Bar At Last
The kids pulled the towel bar off the wall of the bathroom shortly after we moved in. We had a hole in the wall for months. Then a patched wall but no towel bar for another few months. Having no place to hang towels was really getting olllllllld! Hooray! Seriously this makes me very happy!

01/19 Icicles
We've been buried in snow. Finally it is melting a bit and today we have hundreds of amazing icicles around the house. We had fun playing with them. Did you know granite melts stuff quick? Bet you didn't know that it can turn an icicle into a blade in about a minute: Place an icicle on the counter top, watch it melt and turn flat before your eyes, flip it over to melt the other side. Kind of cool!

01/20 Happy Kids on a Snow Day
I was very happy to have happy kids today. A few days in the snow is good, but eventually my kids were done...but still stuck inside.  Finally they've worked through the boredom. Evie decided to use Polly Pockets to make Flower Fairies, crafted out of tissue and colored pencils. She's amazing! Adrian opened his Balloon Animal Kit (a Christmas gift from Evie) and made a balloon poodle. Steve ventured out in the snow because we were low on food and came back with the Clone Wars DVDs. Adrian was very happy! Ainsley is always happy. In the end I could only pick one picture so fairies it is.

01/21 My Neighbor Totoro
I'd been wanting to watch My Neighbor Totoro with the kids for days but get missing my opportunity. Finally, I did. If you haven't seen this movie, DO! I love Miyazaki. I just put about 5 of his films on hold at the library and that makes me happy too! They'll be fun little surprises when they become available (they are popular).

01/22 A Clutter Free Desk
I was lucky to have a beautiful built in desk in my kitchen at the old house. It's one of the things I miss about that house. Our new house had a much smaller "office" in the TV Room. The computer was squeezed in underneath where your legs go so I'd bump my knee all the time and the kids would accidentally turn it off by putting their feet on it. We lost power today, happily only for an hour or so. I unplugged things and when the power came back I made asked Steve to take out the drawers so the computer can go into the cabinet. I hung some art, cleaned the keyboard, tossed the old orchid reorganized and I'm VERY HAPPY to have a clutter free space to work. It's been on the to-do list since April. I like getting things done. It makes me happy. Now I just need to print a few pictures for my cork board and so I can really enjoy the space.


Have a great week! To view a slideshow of the entire Happiness Photo Project click here.

Jan 16, 2012

Happiness Week 2

I won't talk too much about my Happiness Project , I promise (this blog is still for Ainsley and I will do regular blog posts), but I thought some of you might be curious to know more about what this is that I'm doing. As I already explained I will focus on a different area each month. My area of focus for January is Health, I thought that was a great place to start. It is hard to be happy if you aren't healthy, especially those of us who were born with near perfect health. It's so easy to take for granted. Boy am I finding that out the hard way, with a virus in my inner-ear that is causing me to feel dizzy and awful, like I'm drunk 24/7.  Though that might sound fun to some of you, it ISN'T. It might be more accurate to say it feels like having a bad hangover. Plus feeling dizzy and off balance doesn't make it easy to anything physical, especially exercise. You hear exercise is key to having energy, which I could use more of. I'm not an athletic person nor do I want to be but the idea of yoga appeals to me. It is good for the body, gives you energy and does positive things for the spirit.  So my plan was to start doing yoga this month. Finally I thought I felt well enough to try, and after an hour of doing that while dizzy I'm not so sure it's really good for my health right now. I can't afford to injure myself.  Even simple things like preparing nutritious food is difficult. I have to put off getting new glasses, a dental and doctor appointment until I can drive. I am able to remind myself to breathe(simple but highly important), think about my posture and take my vitamins, but I was hoping for bigger changes. So I'm hoping for an amazing turn around these last few weeks of January so I can get on track focusing on Health and get back to normal life and make up for these first couple weeks.

Despite feeling like crap poorly I have found that my Happiness Project and Happiness Photo Project has been making me feel happier, because I am thinking about all the things in my life that bring happiness. It's a subtle mindset shift. It's nice to go to bed thinking of all the good in the day instead of just how exhausted I am. So here is Week 2, I hope you enjoy!

What Made Me Happy - Week 2

01/09 Not Losing My Thousands of Photos
Monday was my first Happiness Photo Project blog post and I encountered some technical difficulties in my photo editing software. They still aren't 100% resolved. Something is amiss. But at one point I thought my THOUSANDS of photos were corrupt, gone or something terrible. I've had friends lose their photos and it's not something I think I would tolerate very well. When I confirmed they were safe I was VERY HAPPY!

 01/10 My New Lynx Fur (Fake) Vest
It's SO SO soft! Almost like real fur but better because it isn't. It's hard not to feel happy when you are surrounded by cuddly soft fur.
01/11 Non-Marking Shoes
Adrian started basketball season today. We were a little short on notice because the coach didn't realize he was the coach until two days ago. I was SO happy when it turned out that one of Adrian's 2 pairs of shoes (remind me to take the kids shoe shopping) are non-marking so I didn't have to scramble to buy basketball shoes for practice.

01/12 A Fun OT/PT Activity
Steve built this great marble run for Ainsley. It's great because it gets her in high-kneel for long periods. The fact that she is kneeling gives her stability, but allows her to practice balancing without support which is a precursor to standing and walking. In addition she is using her pincer grasp. Look at her tongue stuck out in concentration. It's a challenging activity but FUN for her and she can do it by herself.  Hooray!

01/13 My Husband Packing Up the Christmas Stuff
Why does this make me happy? Because I'm not doing it! Love you honey!

01/14 A Snow Day For the Kids
There is nothing funner for kids than playing in the snow! They were so excited today when it started to snow that they ran outside in their pajamas. For Adrian that means shorts. How fantastic is that?! Our weather is somewhat mild here in the Pacific Northwest. Some years we don't get snow. They were worried it might stop, so they ran out to feel it fall on their faces and catch snowflakes in their mouths. Then they got dressed in appropriate snow clothes (thanks Grandma!) and spent most of the day and some of the night outside building their first full sized snowman. Our yard at the other house was too small but the yard at our new house looks like a winter wonderland when it's covered in snow. I think it might be just enough to change their minds about moving to this house. It makes me happy to see them so happy and I am so grateful that we get to live in this beautiful house.

01/15 A Snow Family
Snow fabulous SNOW! It snowed huge FAT snowflakes ALL DAY! It was fantastic! The kids had the best time! It kept me busy, finding items for snowpeople (and dogs), and drying clothes in between outings.  Ainsley asked to go outside! I was so thrilled. I got her all bundled up and she sat out in the snow with her brother and sister. She was a little shocked by the sensation of snowflakes falling on her cheeks and quickly decided to cover her face with her mittens but she did it and I'm so proud!  It was a great photo op for me even though I'm still dizzy. How could I possibly resist?! The hard part was picking ONE picture for this day. But this picture of their snow family is it because it represents all the fun we had in the snow. It was Adrian's idea to make the snow dog. And Evie's to make the snowbaby. And after all this was done Evie was sad because even though her dad played with them for hours in the snow  he didn't help them build an igloo like he did a few years ago. Geez!

Based on the amount of snow there is on the ground I have to wonder if the kids will be going to school tomorrow. Happy Monday, and Martin Luther King Day!  To see the full Happiness Project Album click here.

Jan 9, 2012

Happiness Week 1

The year is off to a good start. I'm actually surprised at how many things I am happy and grateful for when I sit down to record my day in my journal for my 2012 Happiness Project. I'm finding I don't have enough space, and that's a nice surprise.

I think the Happiness Photo Project is going to be a great creative outlet and way to help me focus on practicing gratitude which is part of my project. The idea is simple. Every day I will be taking a photo of something that either makes me happy or that I am grateful for. Each Monday I will be posting the prior week's photos. (Since 2012 started on Sunday, Week 1 has an extra photo.) Some of the photos will be more artsy than others. Sometimes it is hard to pick just 1 picture, but that's the rule, 1 photo per day. I am trying to ignore my inner-perfectionist and just let the project be what it is. This project is about visualizing some of what makes me happy each day not my photography skills or recording every single thing that makes me happy. In the end I think it will be very interesting to see a year captured in this way. I hope you enjoy the project and it adds a little happiness to your Mondays.

What Made Me Happy - Week 1

 01/01 Books and Children Who Love to Read Them
Evie bought The Son of Neptune, a 500 page novel, with her Christmas money and finished it in 2 days. I love books. And I'm so proud of my avid reader(s.)

01/02 Board Games and Time to Play Them Together
Steve was home through Winter Vacation which was great for all of us even if he did have greatly reduced hearing due to double ear infections. Even Evie played with us (she doesn't always love to play especially when she could be reading.)

01/03 Erasers for Cursive Homework
Adrian's teacher is requiring they do ALL their work in cursive now, for the ENTIRE rest of the year. Thank God for erasers or he'd have been crying more than he already was. I was also thankful that I'm no longer in school because I never liked homework, and I still don't.

01/04 My Husband Home From Work Before 7:00
Yes, we are ushering in a new era. Home at a regular time like regular dads. It's SO wonderful!

 01/05 Finding Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Pantry After an Exhausting 2 Hour Arts School Tour
Only because I am COMPLETELY crazy, would I consider sending Evie to an Arts School in another town, that requires driving to and from school 1/2 hour+ each way when the bus for the regular middle school stops in front of our house. Considering that this is a free public choice school and assignments are selected by lottery from HUNDREDS of applicants, it is likely that I don't really have to worry about it. But it would be fabulous for her. She says it's always been her dream to attend performing arts school (think Juilliard) and this will be her only chance. She thinks she wants to be an actress, loves to perform, dance and loves all types and mediums of visual art. I'm in trouble. I'll keep you posted when we find out in a couple months.

 01/06 Not Having to Cook AND Getting FREE Pizza!
Every Friday is pizza and a movie night and is my night off from cooking. Love it even more when they are late and give it to us for FREE!

 01/07 Ainsley Signing She WANTS to Use the Potty
Fingers crossed this isn't a phase, but Ainsley is telling us (sometimes) when she needs to use the bathroom. Since she can't go by herself this is the missing component, being able to tell us when she needs to go, to a future free of diapers. This development is new, the past week, and I couldn't be more thrilled!

01/08 A Hot Buttered Rum When I'm Not Feeling Well
I've been having lingering sinus issues and hope I'm not headed to an ear infection like Steve. I can't afford to be down for the count. We are now back in school. Evie starts rehearsals for the musical today, Adrian starts basketball Wednesday and I am working on a bunch of stuff for Ainsley (new communication device, trip to Cincinnati, multiple specialist appointments, and new therapies.)

I have started an album in Shutterfly if you'd like to see the entire Happiness Photo Project in its entirety click on the link to the slideshow here and bookmark it for future use. I might even add it to my sidebar, we'll see.

Jan 1, 2012

Be Happy.

We had a very nice Christmas season. Hopefully I will have pictures to share soon.
After 5 years of being a parent to Ainsley I have had lots of time to observe her and wonder at the amazing person that she is. How is it that someone can go through so much, have so many trials to suffer through and yet be soooo HAPPY?!  This isn't uncommon for children with medical issues and/or special needs. I believe it really comes down to their ability to live in the present moment.  It is a gift that they have been given, the happiness that we all seek. The title of Ainsley's blog is Happy to Be Me, and she truly is. She doesn't try to be someone else, she doesn't focus on what she can't do. She is simply happy to be as she is. We can learn from her. I can learn from her. We can all be happy to be ourselves! And we can all be happy no matter our circumstances.

I've been reading about mindfulness over the years and also recently about fighting perfectionism (thanks Ann). I do believe that we already are and have everything we need to be happy. Surely that is true. But it is not always easy. To be living means we will meet struggles in our days. But we can choose what we focus our attention on. And what we focus our attention on becomes bigger, I find. So when difficulties arise we must find and exercise our inner Pollyanna. Do you want to be right or happy?

I often find the days slipping by with not enough time spent on the things that are truly important to me. And in addition I think it's easy as the mom of 3 children, one with lots of special needs, to lose track of my self.  Sometimes I can't even remember what makes me happy. Much of what I do every day feels like a chore. Recently I read Life Strategies. I liked Dr. Phil's analogy of our self as a "life manager". If I was paying myself to manage my life how would I rate my performance? Am I doing a good job in all areas of the job description? My life manager is really good at certain things and completely ignoring other important parts of the job. Like having fun and taking time for myself. She also isn't the best at managing time or goal setting (especially the big picture goals). My life manager is an unrelenting task master.

In 2010 a friend told me she was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. After reading the book I decided to try my own project in 2011. To give you the general idea of what a happiness project is, in a nutshell, you look at your life and find areas that you think you could be more happy, then set goals and specific action items, focusing on a different area each month of the year. Read more about it at her website. My project fizzled when the move to Redmond took over our lives last year. I'm restarting again in 2012 and I'm very excited about it. 
I am using Gretchen Rubin's concept to as the framework to my own happiness project.  It isn't about trying to live perfectly (which this project could easily turn into for someone with perfectionistic tendencies) but is about analyzing my life and the things that I can do to make myself happier, knowing that some things cannot be changed. I found the perfect day planner by Thich Nhat Hanh to record my project goals and my daily observations (which the above quote and photo is from). Try as I might to stick to the plan I'm sure this happiness project alone isn't the answer. A second part of my happiness project is to practice gratitude and focus on the good things that happen each day which I plan to record in a photo project, stay tuned for my weekly "Happiness Is" post. The third is to simply being present in the moment. After all I too can be happy to be me, in all my imperfection. To sum it all up:

My Plan for Creating Greater Happiness
  • planning: goal setting with action items
  • gratitude: actively seeking and acknowledging the good in life every day
  • mindfulness: focusing full attention on what what I am doing or i.e. get out of my head
I invite you to take charge of your own happiness. After all if you don't who will? If not today, will that elusive "tomorrow" ever come? If you start a happiness project of your own please e-mail me and tell me about it. Regardless I wish each and every one of you a Very Happy 2012.