Project Happy: When Friends Succeed

I love it when great things happen to great people.  Love, love, love it.

Something else I really love? That I have so many amazing women in my life, near and far, who inspire me in so many ways, each and every day.  I’m lucky like that.  And…even if I am a positively terrible emailer/Facebooker/phone call returner?  I think of all of you often, and feel grateful for you every day.

I know a thing or two about loss and distance.  When you learn about those things at a young age, you learn to hold on tight to those who make you smile, always have your back, and know when to laugh, cry, or raise hell with you.

That said, I made a friend about a year and half ago (I think).  She likes to joke about the fact that we met online…on Twitter, in fact.  She was in the middle of a conversation with Jessica, who is simply lovely, when I so rudely jumped in and interrupted.  It should be noted that this exactly what people do on Twitter, but when you’re raised with manners…it just feels odd.  Anyway, it was the best decision I’ve made in recent history.

Within minutes, we were chatting away like old friends.

A few weeks later, I convinced her to meet me for coffee.  I’m fairly certain that she thought I was some sort of crazed serial killer behind a fake avatar until the very moment we met, but it was instant friendship from that moment on.

We bonded over fashion, sarcasm, East coast roots, and…we quickly realized that we’ve both been chasing the same dream for quite some time.  Does it get any better than that?  We have talked, listened, obsessed, discussed lip gloss colors and beautiful purses, and read each other’s work until our eyes nearly popped out.  We’ve supported each other, pushed each other, and picked up the pieces for each other along the way.

And that’s why I couldn’t possibly be happier to share in Jenny Feldon’s amazing news.  Jenny is writing a book, and it is fantastic. You’ll have to head over to her side of the Internet to get the details, but I just had to let her (and the rest of you) know how incredibly proud I am.

Jenny is kind, caring, funny, talented, and oh so very genuine.  She is my other half.  I’m so glad that I interrupted that conversation that day, and I am grateful for this friendship every single day.

While my dream remains a work in progress, I am so happy to be along for the ride with Jenny as she writes her way through each day and night to share a truly wonderful story with the world.

Much love to you, my sweet friend.  You are almost there…

(And then we can finally drink that Sterling Cabernet…)

Project Happy: A Date with My Boy

I’ve been under a bit of stress lately.  I’ve been working on a big dream, a really big dream, and I’m so very close to it…but not quite there.  I’ve put countless hours and hard work into it.  At this point, I’ve done all that I can do.  It’s no longer in my hands.

And so I have to wait.

As it turns out, I’m not as patient as I could be.  I’m patient with my kids, I’m patient with other people’s kids, I’m patient with a lot of things…but I appear to lack patience when it comes to waiting for good news.

And…I am faced with accepting the fact that the good news I’ve worked so hard to earn might not actually come my way.  That’s hard.

I try to focus on other things.  I play with my kids, I see my clients, and I enjoy as many small moments as possible.  But for the past few days, I’ve found myself checking my email far too often…feeling deflated when the one email I want to see simply isn’t there.

It was beginning to consume me…

So today I took a break.  Today Liam and I had a very calm and soul-soothing morning at the beach.  The sky was perfectly blue.  The waves crashed down in perfect time.  Apart from a few shell seekers and the riders on the bike path, the beach was empty.

We sat back and looked out toward the ocean, counting the boats in the water and the pelicans flying by…

We played construction site and found a pretty shell for Riley…

And we stood at the edge of the shore, squealing in unison when the waves caught up to us…

 

It was magic.

And as much as I hope that my big dream comes true sometime soon…it felt really good to just focus on the happy.

 

Project Happy: The Best Kindergarten Teacher

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to sit down and reflect on the small moments of happiness…not because they don’t exist, but simply because life is busy.  We’ve been through some big transitions around here, and I needed the space to help my kids adjust to a new routine.  Ok, maybe I needed some adjusting too…why does school have to start so early?

Liam walked into his first day of preschool without a worry to speak of.  I thought that he would cry.  I worried that he wouldn’t like it (Sean likes to refer to him as a “stay at home son”).  I feared that would just keep to himself instead of engaging with the other kids.  And, as predicted, he woke up on that first morning and declared that he had no intention of going to school.  Huh.  We talked, we cuddled, I promised to stick around until he felt safe, and we agreed to tuck Giraffie into his cubby (just in case).  And off we went.  As promised, I stayed for a little while, gradually moving toward the door.  After about 1/2 hour, I told him that I was running out for coffee.  I hugged him, kissed him, and reminded him that mommy is always in his heart.  With glassy eyes, he looked up at me and said, “it’s ok, Mommy.  I will be brave.”  It nearly broke my heart.  I ran to the car and sobbed, wondering why a 3 1/2 year old boy should have to be brave.  I considered going back early.  I couldn’t think of a single thing to do but worry during those two hours.  And when I returned to pick him up?  He was singing with the other kids.  He had spent the morning playing with another boy named Liam and having fun.  He shared.  He rode a trike.  He even ate his snack.  In short, he loved it.  He still does.

Even though I miss him terribly on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I am so very happy to see him learning, growing, and making new friends.

Riley had an amazing start to Kindergarten.  She loves her teacher, was placed in a class with her friend, and has already made a few new friends.  She was elated to be sent (with another student) on an important errand to the library and she can’t get enough of homework (who knew?)  Yes, that first week was wonderful.

But then, gradually, there was a shift.  My normally very sparkly little girl was a little less sparkly.  She started to drag her heels in the morning.  She wasn’t as excited at pick-up.  Be week three, she was sobbing in my arms night after night.

Lunch is too fast; I can’t eat my food.

Recess is too hard, there are too many kids.  I can’t find my friends.

I’m afraid of getting lost or left behind.

I just play alone.  I walk back and forth near the teacher until she blows the whistle.

Last week I stopped by recess a couple of times to see how she was doing.  Just as she said, she was playing alone, walking back and forth near the teacher.  My heart nearly shattered.  I fought back tears as I watched from a distance, helpless.

On Friday, I pulled her from school early.  We went out for a family lunch to celebrate Sean’s birthday, and then watched the space shuttle land at LAX.  And a funny thing happened…her sparkle returned.

We spent the weekend cuddling, playing, and just enjoying family time.  With one soccer game, naturally.  My sweet girl was happy once again.

Until Sunday night…when the tears returned.

So I did as any mom would do…I talked to the teacher this morning.  I explained that Riley is completely overwhelmed at recess, that she can’t find her friends, and that she’s afraid of missing the whistle and being left behind.  Then I hugged and kissed my sweet little girl and put my faith in her teacher.

I’m so glad I had that conversation this morning.

When I returned to pick her up, my sweet girl was happy and full of smiles.  As her teacher stood behind her, playing with her hair and letting her know that she cares, they told me about the new system:  The teacher paired them off in buddies so that no one would ever feel alone and everyone could count on someone else to help listen for the whistle.

When I watched her at recess today, I saw a happy girl running, climbing, and playing with her friends.  I saw my sweet, sparkly girl reaching out to her friends from soccer and smiling as she waved to me from across the crowded field.  I saw my little girl doing exactly what she should be doing:  Having fun.

Today I am grateful for the best Kindergarten teacher ever.  I am grateful for someone who listens and makes changes to ensure that every child is happy.  Today I feel a little bit of relief.

Today I am happy to see my little girl smile…

(My apologies for the lack of pictures in this Project Happy post…Wordpress is working against me.  I won’t let it steal my happy though…)

 

 

 

 

Project Happy: The Vacation

I’ve been back in LA for a few days now, but I’m still living as if I’m on vacation.  Kindergarten starts in just a few days for Riley, Liam will start preschool in a couple of weeks, and Sean is right back where he was before we left our lives behind for a week:  Working long hours in dark studios.  But me?  I’m hanging on tight to every last second of summer.

There’s something about the Connecticut Shore that always soothes my soul.  My East coast friends who never left tease me when the nostalgia kicks in.  You’re memory is hazy, they joke on Facebook and in text messages.  For them, it’s just daily living.  Their East coast is my LA.  But I’ve lived in three different cities.  I loved them all in different ways (yes, even Philadelphia) and found my way in the world along the way.  I wouldn’t change a thing about the journey I’ve taken.  But the older I get, the more Connecticut calls me home.

I want my kids to experience a world where the streets are ruled by bike riding kids and fresh air is everywhere.  I want fewer airborne allergens, less stress, and less scantily clad Hollywood hopefuls roaming the streets.  I want less US Weekly (which, for the record, I do NOT read) and more digging in the sand.  I want ice cream cones and beautiful sunsets that are not compromised by smog and airplane exhaust.  I’m smart enough to know that summer is just summer, but I want my kids to experience the kind of summer that I enjoyed year after year.  The kind where kids bike everywhere and never wear shoes.  The kind where crabbing is practically a sport and beach days last until 6pm.  I want a little more Connecticut in my life…

Last week, we rented this cute house that backed up to the water.

We traveled back and forth to the beach by way of Radio Flyer wagon and ate crazy vanilla ice cream cones with rainbow sprinkles just because.

The kids had only one toy each (except lucky Liam…because Uncle John was nice enough to share his old Matchbox cars for the week) and hardly even played with them.  They were too busy digging in the sand, collecting shells, meeting hermit crabs, and enjoying nature…look at the forest, Mommy!

And we savored every single sunset…

We could have stayed all year.  The kids have never looked healthier.  My eczema covered little girl who is plagued with allergies all year long didn’t even need her medicine back there.  My husband, who spends far too much time in dark, air conditioned studios, finally lost that ghostly studio pallor and finished the week with sun-kissed cheeks and well-rested eyes.  I can’t remember the last time he was so relaxed and energized.

I sobbed when it was time to go.

The kids sobbed when it was time to go.

Even Sean, the hardest working guy I know, didn’t want to go.

We promised that next summer we will stay longer.  We’ve made that promise before…but this time I intend to keep it.  Because that one week on the Connecticut Shore was the most magical, soul soothing trip we’ve had in a very long time…and that is always worth it.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an enormous mountain of laundry to conquer.

What made you happy this week?

Project Happy: Project Me

It’s no big secret that I haven’t been blogging much lately.  The truth is that, by night, I’ve been buried under an enormous project that means the world to me.  But that’s another story for another day.

By day, I’ve been enjoying countless small moments with my little ones.  We haven’t necessarily been on any huge summer adventures, but we have enjoyed a summer of relaxation and little adventures.

Just a little #ShadowDays fun!

I’ve also spent the summer making sure that I’m meeting my owns need too.  I’m eating healthy foods, working out every morning (instead of my usual 8pm workout), and putting a lot less sugar in my coffee.  I know, I can’t believe that one either.  The result?  I feel great.  I’m happy, healthy, and as rested as I can be when buried under the previously mentioned enormous project.

But…I feel the summer slipping away.  And that means that Kindergarten is right around the corner for me sweet little Riley.

I’m not nervous for her to go.  She’s ready and I know she will thrive.  But I will miss her terribly.  And that makes it hard.  The tears are already flowing…that’s all I will say about that (because, honestly, I won’t get through this post if I keep thinking about it).

Anyway, the break from blogging coupled with the summer of small adventures has been good for my soul.  I’ve always put my kids before everything:  Work, blogging, exercise, you name it.  And I always will.  That’s just who I am.  But spending my nights writing-writing-writing began to wear on me.  I wasn’t taking time for me.  I was tired, cranky, and staying up entirely too late.

And I just don’t want to spend my daytime hours writing.  I fought long and hard to have these kids, and I don’t ever want to look back and say that I missed something important or didn’t spend enough time playing because I had to write a blog post.  For free.  Because this?  Is a hobby, not a job.

So I took a little break.  And I will continue this much slower pace for while…because this week we are going on vacation!

My Kindle is loaded.  My laundry is done.  I’m packing my new favorite shoes…

Which, apparently, are also Riley’s new favorite shoes.  Sigh.  Already it starts.

 

And I am taking a break.  Sure, you’ll see the usual weekly posts (maybe, if I find time to write them), and probably a few pictures from paradise.  But the parenting advice?  That will have to wait.

I sincerely hope you’ll hang in there and find me when I return…

Thanks, as always, for being a part of Practical Parenting.

Because of all of you, I end up on lovely lists like this one over at Circle of Moms.

What made you happy this week?

 

Project Happy Week 31

After a month of travel, which isn’t really much at all but somehow felt never-ending, Sean is back in town. And truly, I could just stop typing right now.  The kids are thrilled and I couldn’t be happier.

I missed these quiet moments with coffee and a just a little bass behind the conversation.  During the second half of the trip, we hardly talked.  He was in Italy.  Between the time difference and conflicting schedules, there was no time for us.  I snapped that picture during quiet time yesterday.  As we sat, side by side with Riley across from us, chatting and catching up it hit me that moments like these are what I remember when he travels or works insane hours.  These are the moments that help me feel whole.

So I could stop there…but then there was this very cute father-son moment yesterday.

 

Seriously…could you just pass out from cuteness?

And then there was this teaching moment that I almost missed but thankfully didn’t (the laundry might have suffered as a result)…

 

And just when you think you can throw away the inflatable pool that is entirely too small, it takes on a new function…

 

The girl can jump!

Incidentally, I’m over at Circle of Moms this week talking about back to school success.  Check it out!

What made you happy this week?

Project Happy: Essence of Now

My friends Jessica and Natalie started a photography series called “Essence of Now”.  It’s designed to tell the everyday moments of our lives in pictures…which reminds me of why I started Project Happy.  So this week I combined the two!  I have a bad feeling that I’m supposed to be using my real camera for this…but this busy mama is just a tad behind on uploading those pictures, so please accept my best iPhone photos of the week.  And, as always, I’m a week behind on Project Happy.  Sigh.

Sean stopped home for a couple of days in between long trips.  The kids were over the moon.  Especially my poor sweet Riley…she misses him terribly when he’s gone.

The three of us have really been enjoying our summer of nothing.  Lots of running, zooming, swimming, and playing…

Riley is officially the expert butterfly catcher in the house.  This one visits us often, but we don’t dare catch her.  Riley is convinced that her wings are “not safe to touch, even with a net”.

And my two lovelies?  Are loving the constant together time.  This happened this morning…and my heart melted.  Oh, how I love these kids.

I hope this week found you happy…

 

Project Happy Weeks 26 & 27

Two weeks in one!  Obviously…I’m constantly behind these days.  And staying away from my computer as much as humanly possible.  Because what’s fun about being glued to my laptop every day?  This is not a trick question.  The answer actually is…not much!

But lots of fun moments to share…so let’s get started.

Riley hosted her very first lemonade stand.  She has been begging to both have a lemonade stand and “adopt” an endangered animal, so we decided to combine her two goals and accept donations (because apparently some cities are cracking down on lemonade sales…what has the world come to?) in exchange for her tasty lemonade (with maybe just a hint of help from Paul Newman).

If Sean had even a shred of pride left, it’s long gone now.  Nothing screams daddy like dancing in the street with a pitcher of lemonade to help find customers.  Also?  The nice man who stopped and donated $7 because, “he always appreciates hard work” is my new favorite person.  Clearly he has been on the other side of the stand at some point.  And the nice man from the Department of Recreation who told Riley to keep the change because he always wants to help endangered animals warms my heart.  This is why we live in the small town in the big city.

While Riley’s original intention was to adopt a rainforest animal, she fell in love with a Barn Owl when perusing the adoptable animals through the National Wildlife Federation, and was horrified to learn that these particular owls are low on trees (“at least they have the barns, but we have to buy them some trees, Mommy!”)

She raised $20 to save an owl, and we matched her donation.  Five days later, this arrived in the mail:

Can you just melt over the pride in her eyes?  Truly, I am so very proud of her.  And amazed by her can-do spirit…let’s just say it was a slow start…  Hoot has adjusted well to life at the beach and Riley has a memory to last her a lifetime.

Liam decided to sit out the lemonade stand…but he is very proud of his new shoes.  He will probably tell you about them 37 times if you happen to run into him.  What can I say?  The boy loves cars.

The Fourth of July was a wonderful day.  We went to the park to join in with our community celebration.  The kids were crazy for confetti eggs…I think the town officials are just a little bit crazy for allowing them.

Liam and I ran in the three-legged race together.  I thought that I would have to carry him and hop, thereby making it a one-legged race, but he was amazing!  We didn’t even come close to winning, but we laughed the whole way and we didn’t fall once.

After heading home for some quiet time and some homemade ice cream (yum…I’m never going back to store bought), we went back to the park to eat a picnic dinner while listening to an outdoor concert.  This is where Liam truly started to enjoy the day…

 

And we ended the night with some fireworks viewed right from our own front balcony…

What made you happy this week?

 

Project Happy Week 25

It’s officially starting to feel like summer around here!  Lazy mornings, swimming, and spending all day outside are a welcome change, indeed.

Sean took three days off this weekend (which is practically unheard of around here), and we enjoyed every minute of it.  That’s a lie.  We didn’t enjoy dealing with ADT and Time Warner Cable…but we enjoyed the rest of it.

Sean and Riley have a sweet little special time activity when he’s home for bedtime.  They wrap themselves up in blankets and read bedtime stories on the balcony off of our master bedroom.  I finally got a picture of it in action…

Isn’t that the cutest?  It melts my heart…

finally took the time to dig out the old (possibly not so clean) sand from Liam’s sandbox and Sean brought in six 50 pound bags of fresh, new play sand.  Wow.  Sand gets really dirty over the course of one year!  Liam is in heaven…he is officially back to full-time digging status.

And Riley and I decided on matching manicures the other day…can you guess who chose the color?

I started this week off right with an early morning trip to the grocery store and a mid-day workout.  I like this summer schedule, for sure!

What made you happy this week?

Maybe just one quick favor?  I’m over at The Writer Revived today (and again on Wednesday) for a little Q&A.  Won’t you stop by?  See you there!

Project Happy: Week 24

Wow.  I missed a few weeks of Project Happy.  Not because we failed to find the happy, but because I was too busy holding on tight to what matters the most…and so I took a little break.

We’ve had so many wonderful small moments these past few weeks.

Riley graduated from preschool.  Sean and I are so very proud of her.  This wasn’t her favorite year of preschool (last year was).  It just wasn’t the best match with the teachers.  But she went, and learned, and she found small moments of happiness there…and she graduated.  And although the whole Kindergarten thing has me a bit freaked out (who said she could graduate from preschool?), I couldn’t be happier for my sweet baby girl…

This also means that it’s summer…and I get the kids to myself until late August!  I know, most parents are desperately seeking camps and entertainment.  And I totally understand…but I really just love the family time.  We have so much fun together, and it’s nice to just slow down and be a family.

Riley took her first ride on a ferris wheel today!  She loved it.  Like she couldn’t get enough of it.  Sean spent the ride trying not to vomit everywhere…and I watched with heart palpitations.  I think we might need to hire a person just to take her on rides in the future…

As you already know…the kids love chasing butterflies.  But today?  Riley actually caught one.  On her own.  She made a very sweet little “butterfly forest” for it on the patio.  And then?  The butterfly crawled onto her hand…and Liam’s! Oh happy day!  I’m pretty sure this is what winning the kid lottery looks like (who needs money when you have a butterfly on your hand?)…

 

And I will leave you with this cute little video.  An old childhood friend of mine stopped by the other day.  He happens to play a little guitar on the side…and he happens to enjoy John Mayer’s music as much as Liam does.  So he joined “The Racers” for a few songs in the garage…Liam was in heaven (so was Sean, I believe.  He enjoyed having a guitar player around).  Enjoy the show!

 

 

Go out and find some happy!