Happy Valentine’s Hearts

Happy February! Because this is the time of year we celebrate love in its many forms, I wanted to share a couple articles I found with you about how to show love to your family and yourself, along with some fun treats and crafts that will get hearts in the warm spirit of the month.

 

Do you have “Built-In Happiness”?

 

Do we love ourselves enough? I read a really interesting article in Good Housekeeping by Gretchen Rubin of “The Happiness Project” that explored this question and offered some tips for how we can all find more happiness within ourselves and better share love with the important people in our lives.

 

Rubin theorizes that that there are three keys to happiness:  self-knowledge; anticipation; love. And she believes that if we can get in touch with these different elements, we can feel more content in our lives.

 

  1. Self-Knowledge. As Rubin points out, “Know Thyself” is advice that has been passed along for thousands of years, but is one of the most challenging to follow, especially today, when it’s so easy for us all to get distracted by all the outside forces vying for our attention as well as by the way we wish we were and the way other people expect us to be. Her advice is to truly find time to do what you like to do:  “We can build a happy life only on the foundation of our own natures, interests, and values.” The more faithfully she is able to just be herself – rather than fit into the mold of the person others feel she should be – in her daily life, the happier she becomes.
  2. Anticipation. It’s really hard to be happy when you have nothing to look forward to. And Rubin agrees:  “Anticipation is the first stage, and a critical one, of enjoying a happy event.” And the other three stages, in her opinion are “savoring” the moment (this means turning off your cell phone every once in a while!), “expression”/voicing your pleasure in the moment to heighten your experience and “reflection,” or looking back on happy times to remember all the times you’ve felt joy. Everyone needs to be able to look at their calendars and see a few pleasant events scheduled in the future. A life that is an endless list of tasks, obligations and required “appearances” just brings you down. Even though sometimes it’s impossible to imagine making the time for fun (and the kind of fun you personally enjoy!), you need it for the sake of your own happiness and sanity … and the sanity of those closest to you!
  3. Love. This happiness ingredient is probably obvious to most, but with all we have to do every day, we can sometimes lose sight of how important strong relationships with other people are to our emotional, spiritual and physical health. Rubin stressed, “We need close, long-lasting relationships; we need to belong; we need to give and receive support – perhaps surprisingly, giving support is just as important to happiness as getting support. Not only does having strong relationships make it far more likely that you’ll take joy in life, but studies show that it also lengthens life (incredibly, even more than stopping smoking), boosts immunity, and cuts the risk of depression.” Thus, we should all take the time to focus on strengthening bonds with family, friends and coworkers and sharing the love as much as we can!

 

Making Kids Feel Loved

 

While, of course, Harold and I have one incredible kid, I am always interested in learning about how parents share their love in a home with multiple amazing ones! I came across an article in Family Fun magazine that offered up some different ways to make every kid in a multi-child household feel special. Mother of six Becky Hayes shared her “Kid of the Day” system. To settle some of the unrest in her own home as her kids grew up, each day, on a rotating basis, she would let one child get the “Kid of the Day” title and some privileges, such as getting to decide which TV show to watch, being the first to play with a favorite shared toy or getting served a meal first. In time, she found that this system continuously reminded each of her kids how important he/she was within the family (and also often had the bonus side effect of resolving sibling disputes!).

 

Hayes kids are now grown up. And she admitted that this system didn’t always offer up a “miracle” solution to every hot-button issue that came up on a given day – especially the unpredictable ones. However, it has been critical in helping her develop a special bond to each of her kids and create meaningful memories with each one of them.

 

Happy Heart Day Treats

 

Are you looking for some Valentine’s Day treats to make with your kids this month? I found some really good ideas in both Family Fun and Family Circle that are pretty easy to do.

 

“Lovin’ Spoonfuls.” These are white chocolate treats made with plastic spoons that can be eaten right off the spoon or stirred into hot cocoa. To make them, arrange plastic spoons on a cookie sheet or other surface so their bowls are level. For every 8 spoons, melt 6 ounces of white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl according to the directions on the package, then transfer the chocolate to a ziplock bag and snip off a corner. Pipe the chocolate into each spoon and gently tap the spoons on the work surface to level the chocolate. Then, have your kids help sprinkle small candies like conversation hearts, red hots and nonpareils on top and let them cool completely. You can see a photo of the finished product here:  http://spoonful.com/recipes/lovin-spoonfuls

 

Homemade Valentines. Homemade Valentines aren’t just for kids! You and your kids can make Valentines for friends and family together. Set up a card-making station with colored paper hearts cut out and baskets of supplies like patterned tape, decorative-edge scissors, stamps, ink pads, markers, glitter glue, colored pens, stickers, ribbons, sequins and buttons. This is also a great activity for Valentine’s Day parties!

 

“Love Bites.” Bake batches of simple sugar cookies in different sizes and shapes. You can frost some with icing and leave others plain. Then set out icing tubes and pens and fill different bowls with sprinkles and other sweet toppings. If you’re making this an activity for a party, provide bags so kids can seal up their creations and take them home!

 

There are a lot more of these ideas to make Valentine’s Day fun at http://www.familycircle.com/holiday/valentines-day/recipes

 

Hopefully all the ideas above can help you spread the love in February and beyond.

 

Years ago, when Harold and I first met we wrote a song called “Know the One You Love.” The message of this song was that sometimes the “family” that brings you joy may not be blood related. Your family can be your best friends, co-workers, or people in your building or neighborhood.

I am all for being loving to your family, if your family is loving to you. Because life is reciprocal; it doesn’t just go one way. Only you know what is the most loving situation for you and your children.

 

You can love yourself by removing toxic relationships from your life (even if those toxic relationships are with people who are blood related) if they don’t create a positive space for you and your children. If you are getting ill in an obligatory relationship because it’s a relative, think about whether or not there is a win-win situation you can create to be loving to yourself so you are less exposed to experiencing a less loving environment.

 

I live my life by the saying, “I love myself enough to surround myself by those that are good for me and detach myself from those that are bad for me.”

 

Be loving to yourself and your children this Valentine’s Day, and choose happiness!

 

Please enjoy “You Are Loved” from Parents with Angst. xo – Amelia