The Happiness Project

I received great feedback after my last post, so I decided to follow up! I was so amazed by how many of you felt the same way- especially during the winter. One of my readers recommended the book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I ordered it on my iPad right away and got to reading.

While the idea of a happiness project is not unique to Rubin, she took a different approach. Her goal was to change her life without really changing her life. She wanted to find happiness in her existing life. Many of you have read, or at least heard of, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. In her quest for happiness, she moves to Italy, India and Indonesia. This is not a realistic approach to happiness for many people- especially when you have small children. Because of this, I found the idea of Rubin's journey especially inspiring.

The idea behind it is this: Rubin conducted extensive research in the science of happiness. She studied everyone from Plato to Oprah. She then made resolutions each month, for a whole year, in an attempt to increase her happiness. She examined many different areas of her life to find happiness: energy, marriage, work, friendship, money, parenthood and others. Throughout her journey she discovers certain truths about herself that will allow her to increase happiness in her daily life- both during and after her happiness project.

I really enjoyed the book, and found that just reading it lifted my spirits a bit. I was able to realize all I had to be thankful for and keep a positive attitude more easily. This book came at just the right time too. I was reading it while I was stuck inside with three kids for over a week because of all the snow! In what would have normally been a painstaking a complaint filled week, I was able to make it fun and enjoy the special time I had with my kiddos. My husband even noticed that I didn't complain once!

After reading the book, I have decided to start my own happiness project. I am going to start in March and carry it on for the remainder of 2011. I think it will be a great way to examine what really makes me happy. And, as everyone out there know, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" The project will not only benefit my happiness, but that of my whole family and everyone around me. Happiness is contagious, and I would love to spread that around!

I will not turn this blog into a happiness project blog, but I might be doing a few more posts on happiness and my progress as I go along. I have turned into a bit of a happiness junky lately- I ordered a heap of self-help books, and relate so many things in life to happiness. I can't help but talk about it, because everyone could benefit from being a little bit happier!

Have a great day and enjoy the sunshine!!


Are You Happy?

As every good housewife knows, watching Oprah is a must! I have been watching Oprah daily (or at least recording it daily) since I was in college. I get to watch it about 50 percent of the time. I don't know what I would do without Tivo!

Today, I was finally inspired to start blogging again after watching Oprah. The topic was "Are You Happy?" To tell the truth, I have been thinking about happiness a lot lately, so it was perfect timing.

The reason happiness has been on my mind is that I have found myself lacking it. There is no reason in particular. My husband is quick to point out to me that my life is fabulous, and I don't disagree. I have everything I have ever wanted- an amazing husband, three precious boys, and a house I love (although I wish I could super-size it). So, why have I been unhappy? I chalk it up to winter- sick kids, freezing outside, nothing to break up the monotony of being a housewife. So, here are some ways I can help to make myself happier!

According to research featured on Oprah, 50 percent of happiness is genetic. I think I definitely got the happy gene from my mom. I am a generally happy person, and she is definitely a happy person. She is always good at pointing out the bright side and trying to find the silver lining. So, this statistic is on my side. They also said that 40 percent of happiness can be learned. I don't know where the other 10 percent comes in.

Oprah gave her audience a quiz to test their level of happiness, and one of the first questions was, "Do you make time in your day for complete silence?" I literally laughed out loud. Silence? At my house? Not for me! When I do have quiet time I am either watching Oprah, surfing the web or hanging out with the hubby. I never, ever, sit in silence. It kind of freaks me out! Whenever I can hear the clock in my kitchen ticking I get weirded out. However, research shows that sitting quietly for ten minutes a day increases happiness. Maybe I can make that a goal- it sounds nice!

Another point that made me laugh was when they said that the happiest people get eight hours of social interaction per day. I get eight hours a day of wiping noses and refereeing fights over footballs and cleaning up cheerios from all over the house. I think I might explode if I got eight ours of adult interaction in one day. I will admit that I do notice my mood lift dramatically after going out to dinner with my girlfriends or even having a playdate. Sometimes even a phone call will do it. Being a stay-at-home mom can be a lonely job, even though you are never alone!

Does money buy happiness? J.P. and I were discussing this just last week. I believe that money can not make an unhappy person happy. However, it can make an already happy person happier. I will use myself as an example- I am pretty happy, in general. If I were to win the lottery, I am certain that I would be much happier because I would be able to unload the things that stress me out and make me unhappy (laundry, cleaning the house, money woes). I would also be able to take a lot more vacations, which leads me to my next point.

Life experiences bring more happiness than material items. Although I do love material items, I am still a big believer in this. Let me use a little example to explain: If you bought me a $500 purse, I would love it, and then it would end up in the top of my closet and forgotten about a year later. But, if you took me out for a day of fun-filled activities with my family, it would create life-long memories. It doesn't have to be expensive either- going to a sporting event, the zoo, picnic in the park. This is one reason I take so many pictures- I want to remember all the fun things we do, so the happiness last longer!

For Ben's first birthday, I agonized over what to get him. We have so many toys, and he has a closet full of clothes, but I wanted to get him something special after the year he had. (For more about that click here) We decided to go to Seaside for Ben's first birthday and Thanksgiving. I know he will not be able to remember his first birthday, but I took 700 pictures (literally) to document the trip. I also bought a kit which makes a sandy footprint out of plaster that can be put in a frame- just a little something the remind us of his birthday on the beach. It was so wonderful to be on the beach, making memories with out family, and reflecting on Ben's first year. That is what a first birthday should be about- family, reflection and celebration! I have so many wonderful memories from that trip that I will never forget! I wish I could do that for each of my kids' birthdays every year. Maybe I will when I win the lottery! :)

The last topic I wanted to cover stems from this loaded question: Do you think having children makes people happier? There are many ifs and buts you can apply to this, but my straight up answer is YES. Of course, they have to want the child and be able to support it- but that is a whole different topic. I could write a whole post about this one, but I will try to keep it brief. I believe the happiness and joy that children bring to life far outweigh the stress. Even in the stage I am in- the diapers, toys everywhere, laundry all the time, fighting and tantrum stage- I still find it joyous. My kids stress me out, they make me mad, they cost a lot of money and they cause me to go a little insane sometimes. But, at the end of the day, they make me smile more than anything else in the world. Every night I check on them before I go to bed, and they just make my heart melt. I can't imagine life without them! (Okay, enough gushing!) The research featured on Oprah said that happiness initially decreases, but returns after children turn 18, and that it really goes through the roof when grandchildren are introduced. I disagree, but I understand where they are coming from.

As I try to make it through Winter with a smile on my face, I will have to remind myself of all I have to be happy about. I will take my kids to the aquarium or look through my Seaside albums or even call up a friend for a nice long chat. And, I know for sure one thing will make me happier: sunshine!


Party Time!

First, I would like to apologize for my absence from my blog. Life has been so crazy lately! Not only am I raising 3 boys, but I recently launched my own business, Maggie S. Photography, and planned Luke's 3rd birthday. I have hardly hadtime to sit down. So, here I am to share with you one of the things I have been up to lately- Luke's Party.

I wanted Luke's 3rd birthday to be something fun and festive. I began planning it back in August- looking around and getting ideas. I decided on a carnival where we could play outside and have lots of activities for the kids. I found a great inspiration- Kara's Party Ideas. Kara had the cutest, over-the-top carnival birthday I have ever seen. I only hoped mine would be half as cute as hers.

I love invitations. I remember reading, while planning my wedding, that the invitation is the first impression of your event. I have taken this to heart and I always make the invitation a priority. I recently discovered beDubci Designs by Tiffany Culver. Tiffany creates the cutest stuff! She creates a completely custom invitation, just for you! I contacted her as soon as I had the carnival idea, and Ithink she was as excited about it as me. She came up with a super-cute invitation for Luke's party! Next on the agenda: shopping! I was able to find so much cute stuff at Hobby Lobby- games, banners, and cardboard serving pieces. I also found some things at Party City. One of my favorite things about the party was the cotton candy! My boys love cotton candy, so I decided it was a must for the party. I got some cotton candy in plastic tubs and Tiffany made the cutest labels for it! I only wish more people would have taken it home so my boys wouldn't have to eat it all! I found that with a carnival theme you could have nothing but food and candy! Hot dogs, popcorn, animal crackers, cotton candy, corn dogs! We could have feasted all day long! I tried my hardest to talk Luke into corn dogs at his party, but he absolutely insisted on "party chicken," or as most of us know it, Chick-fil-a. It is always a big hit as it was at his party. We did have animal crackers on the tables too, which many of the kiddos enjoyed.

Luke's party turned out to be perfect! It was the most beautiful day, 75 degrees and sunny! We had a Jupiter jump, lots of games, food and cake. I think all the kids had fun, and I hope the grownups did too. Last week I kept saying, "After Luke's party I can do (insert any chore or errand)." But now that Luke's party is over, it is time to start planning Ben's first birthday party!!! I should add party planner to ever-growing list of requirements for being the perfect housewife!


My Three Wishes

For my 9th birthday I took some friends to see the new Disney movie- Aladdin. I liked the movie, but what I really loved was to dream about what my three wishes would be. I remember lying in bed at night coming up with my grand plan of what I would wish for. Looking back, I think nine might be a little old for believing that I might find a magic lamp with a genie inside, but it kept me dreaming!

So, the consensus on my three wishes was some variation of this:

Wish 1: I wished to be 30.
Wish 2: I wished to have a family- husband and children.
Wish 3: I wished to have a house.

Here is why:

Even when I was 9 years old I was ready to grow up. Why, you might ask? This will lead you to wish number 2.

Wishing for a family could be considered two wishes (husband and children), but in my mind I made it one! I have been wanting to be married with babies since I was 9 years old. I used to pretend I was pregnant ALL the time! I had the perfect ball to put under my shirt, and I would play pregnant lady all day long! I was a weird kid, I know! So, my family hasn't been too surprised by me being pregnant most of my married life.

Wish number three was a house for my 30 year-old self and my family. I love houses, always have. I was introduced to looking through the real estate section of the newspaper when I was seven and my parents were house hunting. It has been a favorite activity of mine ever since then. I love everything about houses. I love real estate, I love decorating, and I dream of doing a total gut-job to a house.

I was reflecting on my life today and thought back to my wishes. How lucky am I? I got all of my wishes (minus the being 30 part)! I am twenty-six years old with the most wonderful husband, three beautiful, healthy little boys and a cute little house. Everything from here on out is just icing on the cake! I truly am living my dream, and sometimes I need to sit back and remember that so I can appreciate every minute of it!


Dreaming of Vacation

Life with three little boys keeps me pretty busy. My house is loud, chaotic, and there is a never-ending list of things I should be doing (laundry, dishes, more laundry). When I choose to ignore this list, one of my favorite things to do is look for vacation destinations.

It relaxes me to even dream of being able to go to the beach and lay there reading my chick-lit without anyone telling me to cook them breakfast or get them more milk. The past couple of weeks I have been looking for places to go, so I thought it would make a good post.

I love to travel. I used to consider myself a world traveler, but since the kiddos I have evolved to more of a close-to-home traveler status. I would sign up for the Amazing Race in a heartbeat if I didn't have 3 little boys who I can't be away from. I think J.P. and I would totally dominate!

I have spent many a nap time researching places I would love to go. So, here is my list. Some are tried-and-true and some are new.

I was lucky to go here with my husband on our way home from India in 2005. I think I will spend the rest of my life trying to get back there. It is my heaven- turquoise waters, white sand beaches only accessible by boat or seaplane, shallow waters and sunsets to die for. We stayed at the One & Only Reethi Rah and it was over and above a 5 star experience. I have even trained my kids to say that they want to go to the Maldives. When flipping through travel magazines I find myself picking out pictures of The Maldives without even knowing where the picture was taken. I can't imagine a place more beautiful! I think J.P. will take me back someday, if only to make me stop asking!


We have taken two family trips to Seaside and have another one planned over Thanksgiving. I cannot imagine a more perfect family vacation. Seaside is a picturesque community reminiscent of the 1950s. It is made up mostly of homes- which is ideal for traveling with children (full kitchen, laundry, plenty of space). The town is centered around shops and restaurants. Everything is in walking distance, and a car will sit unused for the whole vacation. There are multiple pools as well as a gorgeous beach. While I was initially turned off because most of the houses are not beach-front, there are many that have rooftop decks which offer amazing views of the Gulf. I hope my children will grow up with many memories of summers spent in Seaside.


I think Greece would be the perfect compromise of vacation for J.P. and me. I love ocean and beaches, and he is a major history buff. We could stay somewhere overlooking the Mediterranean (like here) and then hop on over to Athens for some historical tours. Maybe someday...


While this is not really my dream vacation, it is what I am trying to cook up at the moment. J.P. and I could use a weekend away and we have tons of free flights in the U.S., so we find ourselves looking in Cali. I have found some gorgeous places, but am still looking for suggestions- send them my way!


I would love to do this just to say I did it! I am not a cold-weather person, I would probably complain the entire time, but I think it would be really cool to say I have been to Antarctica. However, I doubt it will ever top my priority list.

And just for fun, here are a few randoms...

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Lake Tahoe

Now it's your turn to tell me your favorite place in the world! Where have you been that you would go back to over and over again if you could? Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? I need new places to dream about!

PS- If you comment anonymously please include your name!


Baby Books

I realized that I truly am a housewife and mom tonight. The boys were in bed, my husband was out for the evening and what do I choose to do? I could have curled up on the couch with the latest chick flick or taken a hot bath with my book of the moment (Bergdorf Blondes). But what did I find myself doing? Rocking out to Pandora Radio while I worked on the boys' baby books.

In my first post I wrote about being an ideal wife. What I haven't talked about yet is being an ideal mother- even more of an impossibility than being the perfect wife in my opinion. There are many qualities of the "perfect mother" at which I do not claim to excel. But I do have one brag on myself: all three of my boys have baby books which are up-to-date.

When I was pregnant with Jack, my sister Lindsey gave me a baby book by Aimee J. She has since given me one for each of my other boys, and I think they are one of my favorite baby gifts ever! I am convinced it is the best baby book out there!
I wasn't always the best about keeping up with it. Before Jack's first birthday I made it my goal to get his updated, because Luke was on the way! Then I did the same thing for Luke. And, I have been totally on top of things with Ben's- which is really surprising since he is the third baby.

Each album comes with 20 scrapbook pages to help preserve your memories. The pages are: Mom and Dad's Story, Family Tree, Big News, Baby Showers, Big Arrival, Name, The World Today, First Home, First Times, Doctor Visits, Favorites, Friends, Bath Time, First Foods, First Haircut, First Holiday, First Birthday, and Gift List. I also ordered a package or the bordered pages to match the pages that come with each book so I can include lots of pictures. I have also created a few pages of my own- such as baptism and additional birthday and holiday pages.

I have really enjoyed making their baby books, and I thought I would share a few of my favorite pages with you:

Mom and Dad's Story- from Jack's book. I love that the book allows you to share pictures and stories from before babies! Look how young (and skinny) J.P. and I were!

Big Arrival- from Jack's book. I use this page for hospital pictures and birth announcements. Jack and Luke always like to look and see their hospital pictures from when they were born.

Big News page- from Luke's book. I use this page for pictures from being pregnant and ultrasounds. I know they will love to see how tiny they were!! First Birthday- from Luke's book. I have included their party invitations and pictures. I also added pages for each additional birthday. It makes me sad to see how much they have grown up already! Doctor's Visits- from Ben's book. This page will always have such a special place in my heart. I cry every time I look at it, but I know Ben will love to see what a tough baby he was through his journey with Craniosynostosis. I take great joy in knowing that my boys will be able to read their baby books when they get older and share them with their own children.

I had such a wonderful evening looking through their books and remembering how tiny they were and how far they have come already. It reminds me to take in the little moments everyday, because they will be grown up before I know it. Look at me getting all weepy- I really am a mom!


Ranch Houses and Minivans

Ranch houses and minivans- two things that would make most of my childless friends cringe! Since becoming a mom, I have begun to desire things I never thought I would. Practicality has become my priority. Don't get me wrong, I still judge things by how they look- sometimes too often- but I am having a harder and harder time passing up something that is practical. This is where my new found lust for 1950s suburban America comes in. I dream of parking my big ol' minivan (not station wagon) in the garage of my sprawling ranch house!

I have always said that I would NEVER drive a minivan. But, with three kids (and that means three car seats) it looks more appealing everyday. My husband is my saving grace in this department- he will not give in to the temptation and I am generally thankful! Currently I drive a Land Rover LR3, which I love! I love everything about it- but it just isn't big enough! It fits my family of 5, but that is all. Nobody else is allowed in my car. I need an easily accessible third-row seat. For this I have 2 options: minivan or suburban (or various other gigantic SUVs). I officially need a swagger wagon.

Now on to the ranch house desire. Ranch houses were very popular between 1940 and 1970. They are known for their single-level living, open floor plans and general livability. I lived in a ranch house until I was ten years old. I never appreciated all of the functionality of the house until I became a mom. I tell my husband frequently that I would do anything to buy that house. The features that I desire most are: large laundry room, over sized 2-car garage, playroom, flowing floor plan, closets (oh the closets!) and of course four bedrooms. The fact that everything is on one level is especially desirable when you have small children (like me).

I would like to think of myself as a cool, modern woman who would be driving a little sportscar if she could. But, the fact of the matter is, I am turning into your stereotypical "soccer mom" of the 21st century. I am still a little uncertain whether I should fight this metamorphosis or embrace it. Good thing we are not in the market for a house or a car at the moment, so I have some time to decide!

(PS- this is my very first attempt at Photoshop, so excuse the quality of the image above)