Dear Magical Girl

Written by Irina Gallagher

Magical Girl

My Dear Magical Girl,

Seven. How could this have happened so quickly? One moment you are crawling around the living room in search of board books to chew and the next you are devouring 100 page books on a daily basis. You are clever, imaginative, kind, talented, willful, passionate, funny, thoughtful, and wise. I could never give you a complete summation of all your wonderful qualities and certainly I couldn’t say all the things that I’m thankful for because of you, but here’s a very limited list:

Thank you showing me how precious time is.

Thank you for being, without a doubt, the most imaginative person I have ever met.

Thank you for being an amazing big sister and for having patience (most of the time), even when there is a little lion of a hurricane circling you.

Thank you for being kind and thoughtful to all creatures, no matter their size (though I know you prefer the smaller ones).

Thank you for making me want to be a better person.

Thank you for keeping me on my toes and my mind challenged on a daily basis. I’m hopeful this will help me keep some mental fortitude in the future. (You can take a day off here and there to let your mama and papa rest a little.)

Thank you for always inviting me on your adventures. I know I sometimes get crabby when changing your clothes to go out requires an accompanying otherworldly story line, but I truly appreciate you including me.

Thank you for sharing the stories from the books you’re reading. One of my favorite parts of the day is snuggling up with you before you fall asleep and hearing what Elmer, Lizzie, Gabby, Ernest, Prilla, Clementine, Turnip, and Gruffen have been up to.

Thank you for appreciating simple things.

Thank you for loving our reading time together. There’s nothing sweeter than cuddling up in the armchair with you and reading together. This will always feel to me like our own little home.

Thank you for being such a wonderful role model for our little lion (this does not include jumping on beds, climbing various pieces of furniture which ought not be climbed, or playing some very safety-questionable games, but I understand).

Thank you for your truly bright ideas. An astute inventor named Thomas Edison said, ”To have a great idea, have a lot of them.” You, my dear girl, have many great ideas. I cannot wait to see what’s next. (I would be ever so grateful if you could figure out a solution to slowing time a bit. If anyone could help me out with this, surely it’s you. Keep me posted on this please.)

Thank you for filling every room you enter will heart and magic.

But most of all, thank you for changing everything.

Happy Seven, my lovely girl.

Magical Girl

Dear Sweet Little Lion

Written by Irina Gallagher

IMG_20141201_221529 (2)Dear sweet little Lion,

Somehow, two years have passed in the blink of an eye. You have made an astounding impression on our family. You have brought joy to every person who has met you with your exuberant and kind nature. We are so very, very happy that you chose us. There are a million things I have to thank you for, but here are just a few:

Thank you for teaching me to value time. I mean really. value. time.

Thank you for always making me feel wanted and needed.

Thank you for the 729 nights in a row (yes, that’s an exact number) that you let only me put you to sleep at night. Even the bedtimes that lasted for two and a half hours and caused me to storm out of the room in search of an alcoholic beverage (for myself, not for you – though that may have helped as well). I’m sure you remember some of these times, one was just last week.


How Uganda turned into France

written by Irina Gallagher

RouenThere was once a girl of 23 who felt a sudden urge to travel. It wasn’t that she was never interested in seeing the world before, but somehow, in some mysterious, overbearing way, the compulsion to dive into a far-flung location was all she could think about. It was that very summer, that the girl sent for a Ugandan visa, obtained a series of inoculations, paid a heaping amount of money to reserve a volunteer spot at a Ugandan animal rescue facility, and ended up going to France instead.

It was thanks to biology, really, that this trip took place at all. That yearning to explore ended up, which the girl later discovered, a call to sow the seeds of travel before a baby arrived nine months later. Uganda turned into France by sheer serendipity when the girl’s beloved uncle, who was a renowned physicist, invited his sister (the girl’s mother) to Rouen, France for a conference. The girl, feeling quite confused and unsure about her African adventures, invited herself along. Luckily, the mother and the uncle, welcomed her with open arms. Otherwise, there would be no story to tell.


Post-Vacation Situation – Part I

Preemptive preparation for the return home
Written by Irina Gallagher

Post-Vacation PupIt’s safe to say that we have all experienced the difficulty of post-vacation. It doesn’t much matter where you went or what you did – on vacation, away from the daily minutiae (no matter how much you love your life), you become a different you. You are freer, more apt to experience new things, more likely to try new foods, you see amazing things that open your eyes to an array of new possibilities. You don’t care about getting to bed on time, because you’re on vacation! Who cares? You drink a pina colada, or five. Vacation.

Then you come home. And like a slow, annoying punch to the throat, all your normal responsibilities trickle in. It’s not that the tasks themselves are so horrible, but after seeing more of life than you do on a regular basis, all the minor details seem so absolutely insignificant, mundane to the core. Grocery shopping and laundry, seriously? The onslaught of insignificant chores is enough to induce a minor (or not so minor) depressive state. Your mind starts to examine the idea of how seldom you can feasibly travel and at that point you just want to hide under a rock for a while.


The Prisoner’s Dilemma

The Quest for Simple Happiness
Written by Irina Gallagher

My impression is that happiness is a very similar thing for most people no matter their background. After we wade through the nonsense that we think makes us happy – the stuff that we are tirelessly working for that just clutters our lives, I think most people come to a pretty similar conclusion. We want peace. We want to be with the people we love. We want everyone to be healthy and happy. It’s relatively simple. – Excerpt from Mortality Check and the Realization of Happiness

The Prisoner's DilemmaMy guest for this interview is not sitting in the same room with me while I ask him about his thoughts on his life and the room for happiness therein. He is not sitting quietly at his computer sipping a cup of tea as he leisurely answers my questions. His situation is the antithesis. The replies to my questions are coming through a contraband telephone. He is incarcerated for the third time in his forty-two years. For various crimes, he has spent more than a third of his life in prison. A bit over two years remain on his latest sentence.

Simplicity Sprouts: Tell me about your surroundings. Do you have windows?
Guest: My time is spent in a 10×4 meter (approximately 32×14 ft) room with forty other men. The room is filled with bunks. There is about 50 cm (20 in) of space between the beds. That’s our walkway. I have access to windows for most of the days. But the physical surroundings aren’t the scariest thing.


Q&A on Happiness with My Favorite 6-year-old

The Quest for Simple Happiness
Written by Irina Gallagher with F. Gallagher

Directing the wavesHave you ever had a conversation about happiness with a child? From my experience, what brings children happiness is entirely uncomplicated. Their unsullied spirits value experiences over “stuff,” unless we have taught them otherwise. They relish simplicity. Think about the moments of happiness that they keep reminding you about or the perfect days of which they dream; there is an innocence and a purity in their happiness, right? It’s so important to foster this simple happiness and, as adults, it’s invaluable to take their lead.

Part I

Q: Please tell me about your happiest memory.
A: My happiest memory is the first time of going to the Level 3 class [swimming] with my teacher Miss M.B. She’s now not teaching me, but that was my happiest, my favorite memory. I loved it so much.

Q: Why was it so happy?
A: It was the first time learning how to do stuff in Level 3.

Q: What kind of stuff?
A: We did elementary backstroke and just [regular] backstroke. It was my first time doing sidestroke, elementary backstroke, and breaststroke with my feet in frog kick. It’s just such a happy thought. When I remember it, my heart is bursting with happiness. I really like it when that happens when I’m thinking about it. I think about it often when I think about other things.

Q: Would you say that you love swimming?
A: I love being in the water. I love it very much, as much as I can.

Q: What is your favorite part of swimming??
A: I just like doing all the strokes even made up strokes, like upside-down stroke.


A Dog’s Guide to Happiness

Written by Irina Gallagher

Magnificent Max

Next week, we will be celebrating our oldest kid’s birthday. Our magnificent dog Maximus is turning 11 years old. As part of his birthday festivities, I thought that it would be very appropriate to reflect on a few of the ever-so-many lessons on happiness which Max has taught us so far.

Proper greetings are important. You should always make sure that your friends know just how excited you are to see them. Greet your loved ones wholeheartedly. Smile with abandon. Tell them just how much their presence means to you. (You can skip the licking profusely part, that may be overkill).

Persistence is key. Never give up on your dreams. It doesn’t matter if these are bold conquests to climb mountainous peaks or simply staring down your opponent, ahem, or pal, into sharing a piece of that turkey sandwich.

There is never an amount too small to share. Seriously, just share that sandwich already. Even if it’s the last crumb, it’s the thought that counts. It’s not just about food of course, shared experiences always seem bring more enjoyment and their memories last longer when a friend is by your side.

A walk is always exciting. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold or a deluge of water is falling from the sky (just stay inside if there is lightning, please). A walk will always brighten your spirits.

Always be available if a friend needs a hug. We all know a person who can squeeze you so lovingly that all your worries subside. Be that guy.

Exercise patience as much as possible. If you are no longer able to be patient, simply walk away (eventually the guy grabbing your tail will tire and let go).

It’s always a good time for a nap. Naps are proven to reduce stress. We should all try to take naps frequently. (If only our 6-year-old could follow this advice).

Find excitement in the little things. No one shows as much unbridled enthusiasm as dogs. No wonder they are generally such happy creatures. They find happiness in such simple pleasures: a shared snack, going outside, coming back inside, a squirrel!, a bird!, a walk.

Love unconditionally.

Magic Reading Hour

Written by Irina Gallagher


We are nestled on the couch in the dark, my girl and I. The curtains are drawn as we sit down to read in the evening, our book illuminated by a little black book light. I have just come out from cozily putting our wee one to sleep after reading with him. Evening reading time has been consistently my favorite part of the day for the past six years. This is my happy place. There is a sense of other-worldliness in this gentle moment; we are transported not only in story but also in heart. No matter what kind of a day we have had, we are at this tranquil moment, completely at peace. I treasure this time every single night as I snuggle with my babies. This reading rhythm of ours is more than six years in the making. It has grown and evolved along with the kids.


The Nest

Written by guest Alexandra Weaver

I often wonder how my children will remember their childhood. What will be prevalent in their core memories? My hope is that they will always remember our family’s simple happiness and the beautiful moments that we shared. My hope is that in a couple of decades they can look back fondly on the years spent in their own nest. And my hope is that you enjoy this beautiful reminiscence of childhood as told by the first guest writer of Simplicity Sprouts. Enjoy. -Irina

The_NestI’ve decided to write the following things down because they are the earliest warm moments I can remember, and I don’t want to forget them. They are far away in the past, cozy, peaceful, and safe.

Before the big waves and adventures, there was a unique two-story apartment with steep stairs. We lived there. Our new little family: my father – a young architect, my mother – an even younger engineering student, and me.

There was the balcony with low rails overlooking the beautiful and friendly fountains of Kiev’s main square designed by my father. There was a red kitchen table with three black butterflies that my parents painted to represent the three of us. Our cat Leeza who peed in our shoes. And my crib, which my parents painted white where Leeza once pooped.


Mortality Check and the Realization of Happiness

Written by Irina Gallagher


mortality check – an experience when, upon being confronted with a massively life changing event, one begins to question what is actually important in life.

When you visualize happiness, what do you picture? Is it a feeling of warmth and security? Are you making it rain with hundreds in a Scarface-type mansion (hopefully without the weaponry) or is your idea of happiness something simple?

My impression is that happiness is a very similar thing for most people no matter their background. After we wade through the nonsense that we think makes us happy – the stuff that we are tirelessly working for that just clutters our lives, I think most people come to a pretty similar conclusion. We want peace. We want to be with the people we love. We want everyone to be healthy and happy. It’s relatively simple. Think back to a few cherished memories. Are you remembering people, places, and experiences or are you remembering material things? The memories that come to mind for me are incredibly simple times with close friends and family; watching the news in the evenings with my grandparents, enjoying ice cream bars with my dad, snuggling with my babies, laughing with siblings after the kids are asleep during family vacations. My happiest memories come from moments of heartwarming nostalgia. Happiness is a very simple endeavor, but if we don’t look back on our happiest memories with an air of striving for a new generation of such simple happiness, we are in jeopardy of being caught up in the daily minutia of excess, of thinking that instead of our relationships and experiences bringing happiness, unneeded indulgences will.