Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

Each year, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a season of gratitude. An opportunity for us to pause, reflect, and offer thanks for the blessings we have in our lives. It is a day of laborious food preparation, over indulgence, and ultimately a day of breaking bread with some of your nearest and dearest.

With a spread of turkey, dressing, a plethora of baked sides, and of course some indulgent sweets, this years Thanksgiving did not disappoint. As the merriment continues into the season of Christmas, I thought a post that highlighted gratitude and blessings was in order.

I’M THANKFUL…

For authentic friends who I know have my back through thick and thin. Days, weeks, and months might keep us apart but no matter how busy our lives are or how far apart we might be, we keep each other in our hearts. Sometimes it’s a quick text or phone call to carry us through the longer patches when we don’t see one another, but it’s in these simple exchanges that our friendships continues to flourish because true friendship outlasts distance, space, and time.

So to my truest and bluest (you know exactly who you are), thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love, sincerity, and support. I carry you in my heart always. (A special I love you to Stephanie Kahl, because I couldn’t find a recent picture of us.)

I’M GRATEFUL

Living each day with a grateful heart makes each day that much more of a gift. It is truly in the little things than we can appreciate and offer gratitude for the richness in our lives. I have so many things to offer thanks and gratitude for. Truly the most precious gifts though resonate for me with my family. I am incredibly grateful for an immediate and extended family who love me beyond measure. I owe a special amount of gratitude though to a few key individuals.

I am grateful for a a mother who truly offers me unconditional love and support. She is present and authentic and in so many amazing ways the kind of woman, mother, and friend I aspire to be each and every day. She emanates a natural beauty that few can pull off at any age. She makes me want to be a better person each and every day. Even when I fall short, I know I can count on her to pull me up with her wisdom and kindness. I cannot say enough positive things about the woman I hold in the highest regard. Mom, thank you today, tomorrow, and always for being such a beautiful example for me.

I offer gratitude to my husband who despite being my polar opposite inspires and challenges me to try to find balance in my life. He knows how hard I push myself and how high my expectations are as a wife and mother. When I least expect it, he surprises me with kind words and appreciation that take the weight of the world off of my shoulders.

My grateful heart bursts at the seams for my two sweet boys. Being your mother is the greatest gift a woman could ask for. You challenge me every day to be my best. I pray every day for the patience, kindness, and love to be the best mother I can be. I delight most in your beautiful smiles and love for one another. My heart is full loving you both day in and day out. I know I will mess up in my pursuit to be the best mom, but please know that through it all I love you with my whole heart and want nothing but the absolute best for each of you. Each and every day, my biggest hope for you is to be your best self. Be kind, love big, and do your best!

I’M BLESSED

Life truly is more meaningful when you count your blessings every single day. I have so much to be grateful for including my health, the love of family, a career I find incredibly rewarding, and the gift of running. My hope in writing this post first and foremost is to offer my sincerest appreciation to the many special people in my life who hold a dear place in my heart. If you aren’t included in one of my pictures, it means I just couldn’t find one to use or recognized that I was liable to make my old Mac crash with the importing and uploading of too many photos.

Life is a precious gift. Thank you for being on this journey through life with me. Thank you for your unwavering support, beautiful friendships, and heartfelt memories. As we all move into the season of Advent, let us remember to count our blessings and offer gratitude to the people who have impacted our lives in positive ways.

Red Lipstick & Side Ponytails

Life as a working mother is anything but calm and slow. From the minute my alarm goes off until both of my sweet boys are sleeping soundly in their beds, it is a rat race of to do’s that include the organizational, culinary, and patience skills of a Martha Stewart, Wolfgang Puck, and Mother Theresa.

My daily routine every morning includes brushing my teeth, dabbing a bit of make up on, donning a great outfit for work or workout clothes on the weekends. Most mornings my routine ends with my two tried and true go to’s: red lipstick and a side ponytail. For many this may seem like an odd blog post considering I haven’t posted in months but it’s intended to serve as the backdrop for an inspirational piece about recognizing the little things in life we can control and wearing them as a badge of beauty and strength.

Red lipstick makes a statement. It’s bold and strong. Two traits I think encompass all women working or not, mother or otherwise. While my role as a wife and mother, are two very important hats in my life. I also love and value my work as a counselor. I also wholeheartedly embrace my strength as a distance runner. So for me, red lipstick is the visual I see every time I look in the mirror and remind myself that, “I got this!”

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So on to the side ponytail. This is a simple hairstyle I rely on at least 50 percent of the time week in and week out. I change it up with a side twist or partial French braid to class it up, but it’s about as fuss free as it comes. Since Atticus was born, I can count on my hands the amount of times I’ve actually blow dried my hair. To be fair, it actually usually only gets a blowout if I’m at a salon getting my haircut. There are just other things in my life I’d rather spend time on and for that reason, the side ponytail has become my signature style.

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I realize red lipstick and a side ponytail don’t give me superpowers. I also readily accept that while they might be my go to, they certainly aren’t going to be for everyone else. That’s the beauty of being your own person. Accepting who you are, loving what you see in the mirror every day, and putting your best foot forward every one step at a time. For some of you it might be an amazing pair of high heels or a strand of your heirloom  pearls. Still for others it might be a fierce set of muscular arms or a radiant smile.

God made each of us unique for a reason. Be true to yourself and love yourself through it every step of the way. By that same token, compliment and appreciate the strengths of the amazing women in your life. Build them up rather than break them down. The world is hard enough as it is. Women need to do right by other women and it starts by simply respecting and valuing the unique gifts and talents our female friends, colleagues, and family members bring into our daily lives.

Making Time to Slow Down

One of the my favorite parts of summer break is the opportunity to slow things down and take things as they come. The need for alarms, rigid schedules, and the typical “go-go-go” mentality take a back seat to the simpler things in life.

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For each of us, I think summer break has offered a unique opportunity to relax, grow personally and together, and enjoy all things summer… sun, sand, and splashes. You can learn a lot trying to live life through the eyes of a child. In their world, things slow down, are far less stressful, and come with an a healthy amount of light moments and laughter.

If our summer was a made-for-tv movie, the script would read something like this…

THE RETIREE

Liam would love nothing more than to retire early and live the beach bum life. Every morning would start with sleeping in, downing donuts, and cramming in as much screen time as his parents would allow him. If he could stay in his pajamas and laze away the day, he most certainly would. The one exception Liam would willingly make to bring himself out of retirement would be anything water related. For him, water fun comes in many forms- water guns, pools, splash pads, and beaches.

When school starts in August, my little retiree might have a difficult time initially re-acclimating to the realities of first grade. I’m pretty sure he can’t wear pj’s or press snooze on his alarm when back to school dictates the direction life takes. While this adjustment period may prove to be hard at least for a few weeks, there is no doubt in my mind he’ll be ready to soar to new heights academically.

THE BACKPACKER

In his future life, Atticus aspires to be a world traveler. He absolutely loves toting a suitcase on wheels. He fondly refers to it as his car as he pulls it down the sidewalk or through the living room eager to find his next adventure. Atticus wakes up bright and early, and summer break is no exception. His infectious smile greets me every morning. From the minute he’s lifted out of his crib until he lays his head down for nap time or bedtime, this little man is a mile a minute. He idolizes his big brother down to the shoes he wears, and the big boys things he does like brushing his teeth.

When summer ends for Atticus, he’ll take his take-on-the-world attitude into his new toddler class. For this Mama Bear, it breaks my heart that he’s growing up so fast. But little Atti is resilient, and I have no doubt he’ll flourish in his new social setting. Oh, the places you’ll go, Atticus!

With less than two weeks until I’m officially back at work, I will continue to relish in the simplicities of summer. There’s still time for a few more adventures with my dynamic duo. After all, we still have miles to log as we bike the neighborhood, frozen yogurt and sno cones with our names on them, and plenty of water fun to be had! I’m cataloging these memories to get me through the back-to-school blues that always come when summer officially ends!

 

Where does the Time Go?

It’s hard to believe it’s been well over a month since my last blog post. Seriously, where does the time go? June has been a busy month sprinkled with equal amounts of work, play, and travel. To catch everyone up to speed here are some of our favorite summer highlights thus far.

NATIONAL DONUT DAY

Liam is the poster child for all things related to donuts. If he had it his way, he’d eat donuts every day for the rest of his life. With that being said, National Donut Day offered him the perfect excuse to down not one but two donuts to commemorate this unofficial national holiday. “Donut” look away, or he’ll likely snag yours too!

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OVER THE HILL

Arguably Liam had the most fun celebrating Sean’s 4oth birthday, especially because he helped make the cake and licked the bowl clean. He left no evidence of the chocolate cake in the bowl, but his face completely blew his cover!

FLORIDA FUN

A group text message fondly dubbed as the Texas Girls includes my mom, godmother, aunties, and cousin, Blaine. On a regular basis, our phones are blowing up as we swap stories, laughs, and pictures. It’s proven to be the best way to stay in touch with one another despite living in different states, cities, and time zones.

A few months ago we decided the Texas Girls needed a trip to bring us altogether to chismear (Spanish for to gossip), clink glasses, and bring our children together to play. The trip included a trek to Universal Studios with the older boys as our mothers and aunties watched Atticus and the twins. Blaine and I drove all the kiddos out to Tampa to take in the sights at the Florida Aquarium and let them splash around at their onsite splash pad.

Other fun highlights included great wine, amazing company, and lots of tears and laughter. One of the most special takeaways for me from this trip was that it truly is a gift when you realize your mother’s closest friends have also become some of your closest friends. Here’s to many more Texas Girls trips in the years to come!

NATIONAL SELFIE DAY

The boys and I were happy to strike a pose on National Selfie Day. I think Liam was channeling one of his favorite storybook characters, Old Man Fookwire in Those Darn Squirrels. Atticus is always happy to smile for a selfie most likely because he’s still fascinated by his reflection on the camera screen. From angry mugs to sunny smiles, we covered a wide range of emotions in our selfie shot!

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SUMMER SHENANIGANS

The rest of June has been a whirlwind of summer moments that include playing, splashing, cuddling, and laughing. Even with all of the toys in his nursery, Atticus’s favorite since our trip to Florida has been toting his brother’s suitcase around the house and neighborhood with him. Maybe subliminally he’s trying to tell me we need to go on another trip.

If Liam ruled the world, he’d be playing video games every waking moment of the day. Thankfully between gymnastics camp, field trips with Growing Scholar Montessori, and swimming lessons, he has plenty on his plate to keep him active and busy.

With a third of our summer in the books, we’re looking forward to what the next month brings our way. Hopefully I’ll be better about posting blogs with more frequency and not just summarizing our day-to-day adventures in a monthly recap. Here’s wishing you and yours fun in the sun this summer whether you live down the street, across the country, or across the pond!

 

Summer on the Horizon

With just one week left until my work obligations cease and desist, at least until August, the excitement of summer is definitely on the horizon. If the little moments of happiness sprinkled in on the weekends and after school can predict the future, then the boys and I have a great summer in store for us. Today marks Liam’s last day of kindergarten. I still cannot believe how much he’s grown academically, socially, and not to mention physically. But today instead of looking backwards, I am looking forwards to the simplicities that come with the summer.

ADIOS ALARMS…

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One of the simple pleasures of summer is bidding adieu to setting an alarm clock. Granted my children are both set with internal alarms that often have them rising before the sunrise most days however I look forward to letting their internal clocks set the tone for our days rather than a blaring alarm.

SNOW CONES! YES, PLEASE.

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Houston summers are hot and humid no matter how early in the morning you rise to avoid the heat. Hydration and sunscreen are both key to a safe summer of fun in the sun. What better way to cool off than with an ice cold, refreshing treat like a snow cone. Our favorite local spot is Bahama Bucks. They have a great rewards program to help you earn free snow cones and the boys absolutely love this indulgence. This Mama Bear is pretty keen on them too, especially their Birthday Cake flavor with sprinkles.

QUALITY TIME

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During the school year, authentic quality time is often limited to the weekends when free time is readily at our disposal. Summer, on the other hand, offers bountiful opportunities for time well spent together. Unfortunately Sean’s schedule doesn’t ease up in the summer, but we’ll try to weave in some spontaneous moments together when we can.

SPLASH PADS

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In the Texas heat, water, in any form, is your greatest chance of beating the heat. In our neighborhood a wealth of splash pads offer some solace from the heat in a fun and extremely kid friendly way. There will be lots of splash pad play dates this summer. I’ll be one of the many Mama Bears splashing alongside my children as a refuge from the grueling heat wave that sweeps across our Texas summers.

SUMMER SILLINESS

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Summer is the perfect time for silliness in all its forms- silly smiles, sounds, traditions, etc. This morning we kicked off the almost official first day of summer vacation with an impromptu breakfast at Shipley’s Donuts to commemorate National Donut Day. Cake sprinkles, chocolate icing, and free donuts had my little Golden Bear offering up his best silly smile.

For those of you also lucky enough to have a summer break, may your days be filled with sunshine, smiles, and snow cones. Bask in the little moments and enjoy the slower pace of summer with your water babies!

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Chasing a Dream

Since middle school, there are very few proud moments in my life that are not directly tied to running. In high school under the direction of Coach Silvia Torres, I chased personal bests across rugged terrain and all weather-tracks for four solid years straight. Sometimes injuries and losses hampered my dreams of making it to state or cinching the win, but my losses always taught me invaluable lessons about humility, commitment, and sportsmanship.

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In college, my running aspirations continued as a Division I athlete at Texas A&M. Joining the ranks of other runners with similar if not more accomplished running resumés, I quickly learned that running at the collegiate level would take even more grit, dedication, and tenacity than any other running venture I’d toed the line for before.

Over the years running has continued to be a constant source of inspiration for me. It has been a faithful friend I can always count on to pull me up by the bootstraps after one of life’s moments knocked me flat on my rear. Accomplishing new running milestones offers such a sense of pride and accomplishment for me. I run because it is something that brings me so much joy. This year coaching at the high school level offered me the opportunity to share my love of running with others and inspire greatness in them.

 

Yesterday at the age of 35, I ran the fastest mile of my life (5:17); even bettering my high school state track meet personal best of 5:19. I bravely toed the line with a group of open males as the only open female competitor entered in the mile race. Training all season with a group of strong and speedy high school boys, I knew I was in the best shape of my adult life. With high aspirations of running a sub 5:20, the gun went off and I sprinted out with the field of runners. From the very beginning, I fell into second place and maintained that position for the remainder of the race. As I circled the track, I found myself overjoyed by the opportunity to chase down another dream. My heart swelled with pride as I crossed the line with my fastest time to date.

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In life, we are never too old to chase down a dream. It might require more effort and more strategic planning than it did when we were teenagers but nothing is impossible. I say strategic because while I can still run incredibly fast, I need more recovery days than I used to. We can’t be spring chickens forever! Even with all of that said, a “can do” spirit, faith in our abilities, and a heart of gold are the key ingredients for a recipe for success.

After last night’s race, I’ve set my sights on a loftier goal- racing the 1500m this July at the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships in Spokane, Washington. The next two months of training will be difficult as is to be expected in Texas heat, but armed with a positive attitude and a solid training plan I’m ready to reach for the stars.

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That Time of Year

The end of the school year is plagued with a long list of to do’s that make the last few weeks feel like a frenetic race in a hamster ring that spins incessantly without a definitive end in sight. As my twelfth year in education is winding down, I find myself in this familiar rat race. The one difference, however, is that now being a counselor in a high school setting the amount of paperwork I’m trying to manage far outshines any end of year duties I’ve performed at previous schools. With all of that being said, it’s that time of year, and I have had very little downtime to attend to my blog.

In between proctoring AP tests, preparing for final exams, and managing course selections, I’ve managed some time for the most important thing in my life- my family. Last weekend the boys and I trekked to Waco for an adventure at the TAPPS State Track Meet. Friday rain brought incredibly muddy conditions and the boys relished in the opportunity to frolic in the mud. Thank goodness for hotel bathtubs to help remedy the dirty work of boys being boys.

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Our Saturday morning started off early as usual, so I decided on an impromptu trip to the Cameron Park Zoo since running events weren’t slated to begin till later in the day. The rain from the previous day brought gorgeous weather for our zoo adventure. The animals loved the cooler temperatures and put on quite a show for us.

The afternoon brought warmer temperatures with beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine. The level of student talent was high as they raced their hearts out around Panther Stadium. Harrison toed the line with seven other competitors poised to finish this season out on a high note. Seeded 8th going in, he knew he would have to run a strong race. The four laps of his mile race demonstrated dedication, perseverance, and heart. Racing alongside the best 6A milers in the state, he secured a 7th place finish with a strong showing in his final lap. I couldn’t be more proud of his efforts and look forward to watching him chase down PR’s in the next three years at St. John XXIII.

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We ended our weekend off on a high note with a belated cinco de mayo celebration on Sunday at Gringo’s. Sean and I enjoyed our celebratory margaritas and the boys enjoyed ice cream and some playground fun while we were there. Our spontaneous dinner also included Jim (Grandpa Dodd) who we had the pleasure of sharing our evening with.

By Monday the work week was in full swing and the nonstop to do list continued to build. Riding out these last few weeks, I know how important it will be to make time to unwind with the boys. Monday marked the first day I didn’t have track practice since March, so the boys and I capitalized on the gorgeous afternoon with an impromptu trip to one of the neighborhood playgrounds after school.

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I hope that when the dust settles and the school year officially comes to an end, I will have more time to dedicate to sharing my thoughts, adventures, and life with you through my blog. In the meantime, the adage, “this too shall pass” is a rather comforting quote I’m carrying with me.