Monday, December 14, 2009

My new kind of happy: It's all about the small stuff



On Saturday, I took Sabrina to a birthday party for one of her friends, and noticed an adorable little boy wearing the kind of foot braces Max has. I started chatting with his mom in that instantly candid way you can be with other moms of kids with special needs. Within five minutes, as children around us painted and giggled and dashed around, she told me her son was a preemie, and had mild cerebral palsy. I told her Max had a stroke at birth and also had mild cp. We kept chatting. "I'm grateful for every thing he can do," she said.

I knew exactly what she meant, of course. I take nothing for granted with Max. Nothing. I mean, tonight, my homeboy and I were hanging in bed watching Hip Hop Harry, his latest TV obsession, and all of a sudden I noticed Max scratching his cheek. Only he was doing it with his pointer finger. This is a major deal for Max, to isolate his finger that way, since usually his fingers are held tight together.

It made me happy.

I've been thinking a lot about the topic lately since I'm reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It is an incredibly inspiring, engaging, funny, real, eye-opening book, based on Gretchen's popular blog of the same name. She spent a year testing out different research and theories on achieving happiness, boiling it down to everyday stuff anyone can do. It might be the most helpful book on the topic you'll ever read. It is that good.

Max has redefined what happiness means to me. Before he came along, happiness usually meant a big chunk of pleasure—a vacation, a promotion, buying my first place. Through Max, I have come to appreciate the little joys. Of watching him color, something he only got into this year. Of making him giggle when I chase him around the house. Of seeing his eyes light up when we're out and he spots something purple and exclaims, "UR-UL!" "UR-UL!" Of the wicked grin he gets on his face when he's teasing his sister (I know, it is so wrong of me to be happy about that but I can't help it). Of watching him struggle to try and do something, like pick up a toy, until he figures out a way. Of the beautiful mess he makes when he holds an ice-cream all by himself and eats it. Of the squeal he lets out when he's careening down our street in his jeep as I beg, "Slow down, Maaaaaaaax!!!!!!" (I think he's more amused by my pleading than by the speed.)

Obviously, kids have a way of making you appreciate the "small moments," as Gretchen calls them. But I think those small moments are even more bliss-inducing when you have a kid with special needs. Not that Max (or Sabrina) provide the only small joys I have in my life. Sunday morning, I got to take a long-ish shower; I blasted the shower radio and sang along to The Kinks' "Come Dancing," and that made me happy. As I wrote this I downed three chocolate-coated Oreos, and they made me happy. Then Dave walked in and gave me a neck massage. He gets happiness pointers for trying, but my knotted-up neck is a sorry excuse for a neck right now. Oh, and in case you're wondering, Hip Hop Harry doesn't make me particularly happy, though watching Max try to breakdance does.

So, my friends, here's to those mini bursts of bliss. What has your child done lately that's made you happy that way?

25 comments:

  1. What a sweet tribute to happiness! Head on over to my blog to read my most recent post and to discover what makes me most happy!

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  2. Great post! Today's happiness...Jack honestly trying to get that poop in the potty. I can tell he's thinking about it and he's trying because he wants not because I am running around after him trying to "catch" it.

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  3. Well, my "kids" aren't kids anymore, but I'm happy when I see them showing care and concern for other people. This week it also made me very happy to go through my box of old photos that never got put in albums and put them together in a little slideshow, set to Bob Dylan's "Forever Young." I think it shows the great joy they brought to my life. (It's on my blog if you'd like to see it.)

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  4. Great post of happiness, so true! My happiness today is hearing Emma say, "MA EEE" (MOLLY. That's the name of her new kitten. I am happy because no one expected Emma to ever talk. So, I am living on this burst like crazy right now!

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  5. What a great post. It makes me happy. My little guy just wants to watch movies about Santa Claus.

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  6. Ellen! Thanks for your extremely kind words about THE HAPPINESS PROJECT. You know I am a big fan of what you're doing, so it means a lot to me to hear that you liked it. You made me very HAPPY!

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  7. Here I was hoping you'd be giving me a copy of that book at the end. You've got me so spoiled with giveaways. LOL
    Happiness? Abounds in our house. Addison learned how to safely climb off the couch, all on her own. And she's getting good at it, most of the time. She's starting to stand with holding on with just one hand, which is huge.
    Noah is constantly cracking me up, but I get so tickled when he helps "Addi"--what he calls her now. Yes, he still yells when she slobbers on him or is trying to get on him to get him off of me, but he also will be so loving towards her, in a way I don't think many 4 year olds achieve.
    LOVE IT! Now I'm going to have to go look for that book!

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  8. AMEN ELLEN! SO TRUE>>>>>My new happiest moment is Faith trying to say I Love You....EEEEE offfffff uuuuuuuuu!

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  9. I'll have to check out that book. I, too, have changed my perspective on happiness since my son was born. I used to think it was the absence of pain -- now I see joy and pain all mixed up together in life. I don't take anything for granted with my son and the littlest thing he does can make me ecstatic. This weekend it was asking me (in sign language) what I wanted for Christmas.

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  10. What made my heart burst recently happened at speech therapy. The SLP was playing with Isaiah trying to get hiim to imitate a two-syllable sound.

    When he did, with the same volume, tone and inflection, the SLP and I broke out in joyful laughter! It was music to my ears. I love that little boy. :)

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  11. What's making me extra-happy today: reading about your happiness! Our kids ROCK.

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  12. Great post!
    my Thomas doesn't look you in the eye very much. the other day when i got home from work, I greeted him and he looked at me directly and smiled and came over and hugged me. moments like that are the best in the world. the small things are the best - they keep you going. Since having kids, one of them with a list of developmental disabilities, I have to say I have never been as happy. they both bring me so much love and a deep feeling of pride. i wouldn't trade either one of them or the experiences I have with them for anything. Bravo to the little things in life!!
    Kristen

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  13. I haven't heard of that book. I'll look for it. Thanks.

    Queen Teen sings Christmas songs to her Christmas village. Every time I hear her loud, off-key, almost inarticulate, heart-felt, happy, singing, I grin. She makes my world feel brighter.

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  14. I love this post! Your post has definitely made me happy this morning--thank you for that :)

    Baby giggles and toddler laughter has made me a very happy momma lately :)

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  15. Luke (7) current small stuff -- he his hitting his sister after she hits him; I can read him bedtime stories for the first time.

    Small stuff in a different kind of way -- he has some intenstinal scuz and when he needed to poop in the middle of the night he went to the bathroom. Since he squats faceing the lid, only 1/2 went in, but NONE was on the bed or rug.

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  16. This morning he said to me, "mom, thank you for buying me that yellow gatorade yesterday." He noticed and appreciated and relayed that to me (a day later but just a sweet to hear). Simple things that others take for granted are what I continue to marvel at and you've said it so well. Thank you for your blog. I read it daily and have come to rely on your perspective and humor.

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  17. This morning when I went into Emmett's room, he looked at me and, "Hi, Mom!" Just that. "Hi, Mom!" He sounded...normal - like any other little kid. It was just the coolest thing ever.

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  18. Happiness is...your tube fed child ASKING to eat something THREE days in a row!

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  19. Oh, this makes me smile!!! Thanks for sharing :)

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  20. Barbara from BostonDecember 14, 2009 at 8:41 PM

    As for using dividual fingers: could this be an effect of the stem cell injections? Hope so. May Max's hard work and evolution continue. yeehaw!

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  21. Thank you for the post. I actually had an emergency with my 4 yr. old this weekend, and life seemed very different suddenly. I understand just a little bit:)

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  22. What makes me happy? Jonathan has started sitting on the stairs and saying "coa" (coat), "go" and "by-ee"...meaning "mom, put on my coat and lets go bye bye.". Pretty good for a kid that is horribly apraxic. I can't help it, we drop everything and go bye bye.

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  23. I posted on this not long ago( http://busy-lizzy.blogspot.com/2009/12/little-things.html)
    Elizabeth the age of 5 can now eat a banana without vomiting this for her is a huge accomplishment. People who do not have children with special needs miss out on the milestone celebrations that we often have.
    Elizabeth told her first fib the other day, while trying to be stern with her I could not not be excited that she can now tell a fib.

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  24. Great post! One thing that makes me happy lately is the smile on Emily's face when we put in a Veggie Tales video. She LOVES that song in the beginning - it makes her smile every time. And I smile along with her! It also makes me happy when I turn on her Gloworm and she tries to sing along with the songs. : )

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  25. I know I've already mentioned this, but HE PICKS HIS NOSE with one finger. I love that finger isolation.

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Thanks for sharing!



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