Like the Seasons…

This is an open letter to my husband, Sean:

I know most days we find ourselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Most mornings our alarms buzz us out of our dreamlike state and propel us full speed ahead into our day. It’s a blur of brushing teeth, getting ourselves dressed, and then making sure the boys are ready to take on their day too. I’m downing coffee and toast while simultaneously packing up lunch boxes, gathering backpacks, and divvying out vitamins and allergy medicine for Liam. Through all of this there are brief exchanges and pleasantries, but I know I never give you much more than a hug, goodbye kiss, and a salutation to have a wonderful day.

After the boys are safely at daycare, goodbye hugs and kisses sending us all our respective ways, I often find myself reflecting on the way the morning unfolded. Many times, I lose myself in thought replaying certain parts of my morning like a particularly adorable giggle from Atticus or a Liamism that made me laugh out loud. In those moments, I wish I could rewind the day and freeze it long enough to have time to exchange an embrace with you that doesn’t feel like time is working against us. To enjoy more than a brief pleasantry and instead give you something more monumental to hold on to and carry with you throughout your day.

By the time I pull into the parking lot at work, reality sets in and the marathon race begins. It’s a blur of students, parents, emails, and meetings. Each brings a sense of accomplishment, but few opportunities allow me the time to pause in my day and send you a text message telling you I’m thinking about you, am looking forward to seeing you later in the day, or am sending you my love.

By the time 4 o’clock rolls around, the whirlwind of homework, dinner, bath time, and bedtime dictates the direction of our evening only leaving opportunities here and there to exchange pleasantries about our day. Then I’m out the door for run and you’re often still trying to knock out work after the boys are down. As our own bedtimes quickly encroach on our quality time, I often find myself wishing there was simply more time in our day. More time for the little things like enjoying a glass of wine, duking it out over a game of Scrabble, or cuddling up to watch a great movie.

After we’ve both given our best to everyone else in our day, we often are too exhausted or mentally drained to give our best to one another. I say this not out of spite because in my heart, I know we both have the best of intentions. Between parenthood and demanding professions, it’s a reality we’ve both come to accept.

With that being said, however, I need you to know that I love you with my whole heart. I love seeing your eyes light up when you’re with the boys. I love watching you lost in thought as you pour over your computer. I love clinking glasses with you and enjoying a glass of red wine in your company. I don’t always give myself opportunities to pause and say thank you for how hard you work to provide for our family. I may not always give you the best of me, and I’m sorry for that. Please know that even when I fall short, I have the best of intentions at heart. I find peace in knowing that some of the stresses we carry with us everyday are like the seasons; with time, they will change because our workload will lighten and our role as parents will shift as the boys get older and are more independent.

In the meantime, I’m hopeful an open letter written with love and sincerity will bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart. After all, Papa Bear, I love you to the moon and back!

All my love,

Heidi

The Whole Enchilada

Mexican food is undoubtedly my favorite type of cuisine to prepare. When cooking for a large group of family or friends, my go to Mexican dish traditionally is enchiladas, arroz (rice), and guacamole. Even in Indiana on two separate occasions, I’ve delivered the whole enchilada. And might I say finding all of the necessary ingredients there was no easy task!

The homemade sauce slowly simmered on the stovetop is what sets this recipe apart from your run of the mill enchilada sauce from a can. The marriage of flavors between the comino, chili powder, tomato paste, Mexican oregano, fresh garlic, and lime juice takes this recipe to new heights. Thug Kitchen has an excellent sauce recipe I’ve adapted. I love it so much that it is the only sauce recipe I’ve used in the last two years.

sauce ingredients

sauce

ENCHILADA SAUCE

  • 2 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 2 to 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Combine the broth, tomato paste, spices, garlic, and soy sauce in a medium size pot and simmer over medium low heat for about 15 minutes. Do not allow the sauce to come to a full boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze fresh lime juice and stir.

The versatility of this dish makes it an easy dinner option for everyone from vegetarians to carnivores. Carnitas, ground beef, shredded chicken, sautéed mushrooms, spinach and onions, sweet potatoes and black beans… I could go on and on about the different kinds of fillings you could roll between each tortilla.

The most recent batch I made included carnitas and sautéed onions. I rolled them in corn tortillas and sandwiched them together in a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish.

Next pour the sauce across the top of the enchiladas until the tortillas are completely covered and about 1/4 of the bottom of the dish is full. Top with a healthy amount of grated cheddar or Mexican blend cheese.

cheesed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Allow the enchiladas to bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and even slightly brown.

oven time

Top with guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and cojita and serve with arroz. When my house guests don’t devour all of the deliciousness, they make great leftovers too. You can reheat them in the oven or microwave them easily and enjoy them later in the week for lunch or dinner.

finished

I can’t say enough positive things about this dish and truthfully neither can my friends. It truly is the whole enchilada! Even my little sous chef agrees. From my kitchen to yours, buen provecho.

helper

 

 

Shop Local

Farmers Market Finds

 

Every month the Bridgeland hosts a local Farmers Market with fresh finds. Last Sunday, Sean, Atticus, and I ventured out on a beautiful sunny afternoon to see what the local vendors were showcasing. We enjoyed some samples and purchased some of our favorites.

  • Backyard Bounty Farms: Made and jarred in Conroe, Texas by “The Pickle Man”, he shared that habanero peppers were the secret to his perfect pickles. They definitely brought the heat but also kept you wanting more.
  • Nisha’s Quick N Ezee Indian Food: Savory and spicy beef samosas topped with a cilantro peanut chutney were absolute perfection. Both freeze well and make an easy dinner option reheated in the oven. At previous visits to the farmers market, we’ve enjoyed their lamb samosas along with a sweet mango chutney and raita (an Indian yogurt and cucumber sauce).
  • BZ Honey: I sampled their orange blossom honey, which was heaven on a spoon. We walked away with a local raw honey ideal for drizzling over fresh fruit or added to a steeping hot cup of jasmine tea. An added bonus is that local honey is ideal for Sean and Liam’s allergies.

tea

Monogram Markets

Based out of her home, Laura offers quality monogramming in the Cypress area. Liam loved the lime green lettering that brightened up his dinosaur backpack. Atticus was intrigued by his name stitched across his lion backpack. I was incredibly pleased with both the finished product and the pricing. I will definitely continue using Mongram Markets in the future.

For product information, call Laura at 281-960-5047. 

backpack

Fancy & Fabulous Creations

 

Jamee created these adorable onesies for Atticus. I found the onesies at H&M, pre washed them, and sent them her way. Then she worked her magic with screen printing perfection. Her designs are durable (a necessity for a crawling infant), hold up in the wash, and couldn’t be cuter on my little baby bear. She designs tees, coffee tumblers, and so much more. For your next family vacation or a unique gift idea, Fancy & Fabulous Creations delivers quality products that don’t disappoint!

For product information, email Jamee at Fancyandfabulouscreations@yahoo.com.

Shopping local allows us the opportunity to support our local economy and give back to those who live and work in our communities. The craftsmanship, quality products, and personal customer service, make shopping local such a joy! Consider doing your part to support your local economy.

 

Recharging my Batteries

This last week proved to be incredibly difficult as I found myself carrying the weight of an abundantly full plate. Between an infant with a double ear infection, the unexpected loss of a dear friend, and the stress of transitioning into a new job position, it left very little time to write purposeful blog pieces. Since embarking on this blog journey, I have faithfully posted almost every day without fail. However I quickly realized that stress can adversarially impede the writing process.

This weekend, however, proved to be exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries before starting my first day at my new job today. My mom and madrina (godmother) came into town and brought the love, hugs, and positive affirmations I desperately needed. Between margaritas at Gringo’s, some retail therapy, comfort food (fried green tomatoes, French fries, and an amazing burger topped with a fried egg) at Whiskey Cake, and some screen time at the movie theater (Home Again), it was a perfect weekend.

Living so far away from family proves to be a challenging endeavor. Trying to sync everyone’s schedule to make time to get together involves an extensive amount of calendar coordinating. When the stars align though and we can all be in the same place long enough to relish in the laughter and marathon conversations, familial homeostasis is restored.

Thank you Patti and Mom for making the drive up this weekend to visit. The boys loved seeing you just as much as I did. In fact, this afternoon as we were unpacking backpacks, lunch boxes, and the like, Liam said, “Mom, why isn’t Dolly still here? She usually stays a lot longer. I really wish she hadn’t left.” His sentiments definitely mirrored mine. Whether it’s a weekend or a week, it’s never enough time! Until next time, sending you both love, light, and gratitude.

Running is a Gift

meg

I first met Meg, the summer before I started my junior year at The University of Texas. I was recruited by a former teacher to run as the anchor leg for The South Padre Island Beach Mamas at the Beach to Bay Relay in Corpus Christi. I was the only runner on the team who wasn’t a mother but perhaps because of my hometown roots, they made an exception. I remember immediately being in awe of her athletic abilities and her incredible abs. I hoped that one day, I too would exude a similar running prowess.

Fast forward five years, to my first year teaching. I spent the fall training solo for the Houston marathon, driving to the beach on the weekends to complete my long runs with Norma and Karen. After the marathon, as my mom and I waited to board the plane, Dayna approached me about running with her group. I was eager to train with others as running in the quiet, dark early morning hours had proved to be rather lonely, so I agreed to join them the following week for a run.

For the next two and half years, Meg, Dayna, Michael, Scott, David, Mark, and I met multiple times a week for training runs. We gutted it out around the Marine Military Academy track for morning speed work sessions, ran up and down the McElvy Trail hills over twenty times a run in hopes of preparing for hillier marathon courses outside the Valley, and ran so many loops around the Harlingen Country Club, it’s a wonder we didn’t get dizzy. We charted out long run through the streets of Harlingen and parts of San Benito, always finding our second wind on the last stretch sprinting towards the Heart Clinic.

Each of these runs was special in its own right. Meg and Michael, the oil and water of our group, were always at each others throats. We often joked they bickered like an old married couple even though we all knew Meg’s heart forever belonged to Bill. Their opinionated banter often had us roaring in laughter. Sometimes just Meg, Dayna, and I ran delving into more serious topics of conversation about our lives, families, hopes, and hardships. Meg was always such a source of strength and support. She had a way of making even the most difficult of times seem managable.

When I moved to Houston seven years ago, leaving those friendships behind was so difficult. Who would I train with in a new city? Who could match their personalities and the dynamic we all shared? It seemed like such a daunting thought thinking about starting all over again.

Every holiday or visit I made to the Valley up until pregnancy included a run with my Harlingen running crew. Each time, it was as though I had never left. We picked up where we left off, filled each other in on what we’d missed, and always talked about our next big race and the training it would require.

Yesterday we lost an incredible gift. Meg, you will be missed by so many. Thank you for the privilege of being a part of your inner circle while I lived in Harlingen. You inspired me, encouraged me, and supported me in so many ways. You taught me the importance of balancing a career, a family, and a passion for running. Your beautiful smile and strong opinions were truly my most favorite things about you.

Last night searching through email archives I found a note she sent me when I first moved to Houston. It truly encompasses the kind of friend she was.

 Hey Sweetie,

My best wishes to you for the SF marathon. I bet you will do a great job & exceed your expectations. I hope so anyway! Please post your time on Facebook when it’s all over so we can see.

I am running again, trying to get back into shape during the season I hate most in South Texas! It doesn’t seem fair that someone can train for over 20 years of their life and be dedicated and committed to a sport, and get “out of VO2 Xchange shape in a matter of Weeks!! I am stubborn. I will get back into shape for Philadelphia my birthday weekend – Nov 20. Dayna is doing it with me!

Should be cold in Phili in Nov. I hope so anyway!

Hope you are doing well & happy at your new home. We get to Houston  a few times a  year. I will try to track you down.  Wish you the best for the race & your new job/ studies.

All my love,

meg

Running is a gift not because of the physical and mental benefits it provides but because of the amazing training partners you share the road with. When you look past the miles, sweat, and body odor, there is a vulnerability that comes from laying it all on the line when you lace up your running shoes. There’s something that happens in a long run when you let your walls down and pour your heart out.  A running friendship is truly an exceptional gift with exponential payouts.

Meg, you will forever have a special place in my heart. May you find eternal rest in Heaven. Godspeed!

The First of Many

For parents, the first day of kindergarten is undoubtedly a monumental day; a day that signifies your little one really isn’t so little anymore. Monday marked Liam’s first day of kindergarten. Because of Hurricane Harvey, the start date was delayed by almost two weeks. When the big day finally came, he was absolutely ecstatic.

The night before his clothes were picked. He was eager to wear his new Star Wars tee and blue laceless sneakers. His lunchbox was prepped with Cheez Its, a ham and turkey sub, a yogurt pouch, and a Rice Krispie treat; all compliments of Lunchables. I don’t usually encourage Lunchables but was more than happy to appease his first day lunch request this time around. He set his alarm and went to bed full of excitement.

In the morning, the smiles and excitement continued. He posed for the obligatory first day pictures, even requesting the opportunity to take a photo with his little brother. We dropped Atticus off at daycare and headed to Shipley’s for a special first day breakfast of donuts and strawberry milk. On our drive to school, he chatted about the things he was looking forward to most- recess and riding the school bus back to daycare.

We arrived a little before 8:30 and stood alongside other families eager to walk their children in on their first day. At 8:30 several very excited teachers ran out of the building yelling, “It’s the first day of school!” This signaled the beginning of his first day. Together we walked hand-in-hand down the hall towards his classroom. It was a sea of backpacks, lunchboxes, and children. I could see a few nerves creeping in slowly across his face. I leaned down and whispered to him that it was ok to feel nervous. I always felt nervous on the first day too.

When we walked into the classroom, his teacher greeted him with a hug. He found his seat, gave us both incredible bear hugs, and looked longingly at us as we waved goodbye and walked out. Leaving him behind was bittersweet. I knew he was more than ready academically and socially for this new chapter, but leaving him behind was difficult, nonetheless.

At the end of the day, Sean and I picked up both boys together at daycare. This is a rarity but one of the cars was in the shop so we carpooled to work that day. Liam greeted us with a giant smile and raved about his first day. He proudly marched out of daycare with a hat made out of construction paper and sentence strips that said, “I  rocked my first day of kindergarten.” His enthusiasm and praise were music to his parents’ ears, no doubt!

Now halfway through the first week, our kindergartner is still eager to get to school in the morning and comes home with positive things to say. I couldn’t be more grateful he’s off to a great start! Here’s to an incredible school year!

New Beginnings

My career as a school counselor began three years ago at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic School, a small inner city Catholic school in the heart of the Fifth Ward in Houston. It was here that I developed a comprehensive guidance program and built a rapport with my students and their families. I could have never prepared myself for the joy that came from helping others academically, socially, and emotionally. It was a difficult school to walk away from; but when a new opportunity knocked, I answered.

Two years ago, prayerful intentions led me to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School where I continued to grow as a school counselor. With an open heart and an open mind, I found my work incredibly rewarding and very quickly grew to love the faculty, students, and families. My days were brighter because of elementary students’ bright smiles and hugs. My heart was happier because of the joy that came from coaching cheer and track; a position I took very seriously as I suited out for practice just like my athletes and led them in workouts around the track. I challenged myself in many ways professionally- leading accommodations meetings, advocating for students with learning difficulties, and meeting the social and emotional needs of many, including faculty and staff. Professionally, I was happy, fulfilled, and content.

Then on the Friday of my first week back at work, I received a phone call from the Director of Admissions at St. John XXIII College Prepatory High School. They had a school counseling vacancy and expressed interest in having me come by for an interview. I found myself immediately torn. I loved the work I was doing at St. Elizabeth but recognized the tremendous opportunities for growth the new position offered. Despite the conflict I felt, I knew I at least needed to interview for the position because I didn’t want to leave myself carrying around any “what ifs?”. My first interview went well, which led to a callback from the principal, and second interview with him. By midweek, I was offered the position, and knew I had a significant amount of soul searching to do.

After prayerful consideration and several heart-to-heart conversations with my closest family and friends, I decided that this opporunity was too good to pass up. The timing was far from ideal; leaving my current position less than a month into the new year and taking on a new role in a new school later in the game. Nevertheless, I’m eager to embark on this new journey and challenge myself professionally in new ways.

A few weeks ago, my post focused on the adage, “everything happens for a reason.” God put this new opporunity in my lap for a reason. This did not happend by accident. My principal notified the faculty and parents about my new position this afternoon. I’m incredibly grateful for his support and look forward to what the future holds. My last day at St. Elizabeth is this Friday. I will take the next few days to say my goodbyes and prepare for this next phase in my professional life.

So here’s to new beginnings, moving forward, and embracing the adventure that lies ahead. Thank you St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for the tremendous opportunities. You will forever have a place in my heart!