My Dynamic Duo

From playgrounds to playtime and everything in between, the brotherly bond between my Golden Bear and Baby Bear continues to grow and melts my heart at every turn. I know it won’t always be this simple. When Atticus is more verbal or when Liam decides his little brother is too much of a baby to spend time with. The natural ebb and flow of sibling rivalry and banter will slowly trickle in and this Mama Bear will be praying for more patience and guidance to get them all happily through it.

Until then, I will continue to float on the beauty of these little moments- little exchanges between little people who love each other dearly. It comes in so many different forms- a sincere and heartfelt hug initiated by Liam as he wraps his brother in his arms in an embrace. The giggles and coos that reverberate around Atticus like a halo as he finds humor in all of the big boy things his older brother does. My cup runneth over as I stand idly by witnessing such heartfelt moments between a big brother and his baby brother.

Lost in each others company, they play together lovingly- stacking colorful blocks one on top of the other or pushing matchbox cars around an imaginary track on the carpet. Each in awe and wonder of the other. Liam fascinated by all of the things his brother can now do- walking, playing, laughing, and discovering. Atticus intrigued by all of the things he can only dream of doing one day- zip lining across the playground, rock climbing high above his head, or racing across the sidewalk faster than lightning.

As a mother, I absolutely love seeing the two of them leaning on one another and growing as brothers. There is something truly beautiful to see as an outside observer. My two sweet boys may you always look out for one another, want the best for each other, and demonstrate love and support every step of the way. When you find yourself frustrated or angered by your sibling, may you search deeper and let your bond and love outshine the conflict. I will always be here to lend an ear, help you make amends, and guide you back into one another’s good graces. My little dynamic duo, together you will always be stronger, happier, and more alive when you are in it together.

When All Else Fails…

This afternoon as my workday came to a close, I catalogued through my mental Rolodex of dinner ideas. I thought about the kitchen staples I had on hand and decided that Caprese chicken with fresh basil and sundried tomatoes sounded amazing. I knew I had two chicken breasts in the fridge but would need to stop at H-E-B for a few key ingredients: smoked provolone and fresh basil.

On Thursdays the dinner table is pretty quiet. Liam has gymnastics and his grandparents usually take him to dinner afterwards. Sean rarely eats with us during the week because he’s either still at work or at the gym. With half of the bears in our den missing for dinner tonight, I knew I’d enjoy the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

With Atticus underfoot playing with an assortment of bowls and lids, I started gathering the ingredients on the island in preparation for dinner. I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and a drizzled olive oil in a Pyrex baking dish. Then I opened up the chicken breast to start prepping the meat and immediately realized something was amiss. An icky stench filled my nostrils and my heart sank. In the few days since I’d purchased the chicken, it had spoiled. The sell by date clearly stated 1/25, and yet it was clear the poultry was past it’s prime.

I quickly tried to recover as I considered other potential dinner options. But with my muse past her prime, I decided on the next best thing. When all else fails, order takeout. I called our neighborhood Chinese food restaurant and ordered vegetable Lo Mein, an order of General Tso’s chicken, and chicken with mixed vegetables. Less than thirty minutes later, the doorbell rang and just like that my dinner dilemma was remedied. Sometimes fixing a problem, really is that simple.

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Atticus absolutely loves Lo Mein. It truly is a sight to see watching an adorable 14 month old picking up the slimy noodles and slurping them up with gusto and joy. Over all, he’s a pretty good eater. He especially loves the broccoli included in the Lo Mein and is quite a fan of the peas and carrots in fried rice too.

Another perk of Chinese takeout comes from an insightful fortune. Opening our fortune cookies provided exactly the right amount of wisdom for this Mama Bear to consider as I cleaned up and boxed the leftovers.

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Appropriately, Atticus’s fortune cookie stated, “Be yourself and you’ll feel at home anywhere.” Truer words were never spoken especially when you reflect on its meaning through the eyes of a child. In their naivety, they lack the ability to be self-conscious. If only we were all so lucky to never have to outgrow this one. To be able to let our hair down and not fixate on what others think about us.

Although our self-awareness as adults is significantly different than that of our little ones, we can just as easily circle back to being ourselves. True to the adage, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken,” maybe we need to worry less about what others think. In the end, it really isn’t worth the stress. If someone doesn’t like us for who we are, then they probably don’t really need to be a part of our inner circle anyway.

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For a Mama Bear, nothing could be more poignant or telling than, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.” How often do we forget this one as we put the needs of our spouse or children before our own? While we carry out these selfless acts of love day in and day out, we need to remember how important self-care is for our own well-being and ultimately the well-being of everyone else in our family. This is why I honed in on doing one thing every day for yourself in my last post.

In these quiet, little moments for ourselves, we’re making the time to love ourselves first. You know as well as I do that we don’t have more than a few minutes of quiet in any given day, especially when you have young children. But remember that quality traditionally outweighs quantity. If we allow ourselves just a few moments every day, over time the pay off will be exponential. Carve out time for solitude even if that solitude can only be achieved when you lock yourself in the bathroom briefly and close your eyes and slowly count to twenty. Cherish these small moments of “you” time. When our children graduate from high school and head off to college, we’ll have more time than we know what to do with. But those moments can take their time. I’m certainly not ready for that anytime soon. In the meantime, I’ll take what I can get when I can get it and trust that less is more, at least for now!

 

The Best Laid Plans…

One of the perks of working in an educational setting are the extended holiday breaks that come at Christmas, Spring Break, and Easter. After a brunch last Friday at work with my colleagues, my principal wished us a Merry Christmas and sent us on our way. I jetted off to Trader Joe’s to start knocking out holiday shopping and closed out the afternoon with a long run soaking in the perfect outdoor conditions- sunny skies, cool temperatures, and the taste of freedom on my tongue.

As I ran, I envisioned how I would spend the first few days of my break. Liam would be in school through Thursday and Atticus would go to daycare so that I could finish Christmas shopping, wrapping, packing, and carve out a little time for me. I decided that if I could have everything complete by Wednesday morning then I could enjoy some quiet time getting a massage, a pedicure, and maybe even have time for lunch with a few girlfriends I rarely have time to see. Because quiet moments are few and far between these days, I was very much looking forward to taking a brief pause from motherhood and gifting myself with some quality time for self-reflection, relaxation, and personal growth.

Sunday morning, however, when my sweet little Atticus woke up, I realized rather quickly that “mommy time” was going to be a thing of the past. His sweet little face was bright red and he had bumps all over his face and body. A mother’s intuition and a quick Google search confirmed that he most likely had hand, foot, and mouth disease. Ahh, yes one of the many downsides of daycare- a breeding ground for all things germ related to pass freely from one child to the other. I faced the music that my pedicure, massage, and social plans were undoubtedly on the back burner at least for the next few days.

Although nothing can be done to treat hand, foot, and mouth, I knew a trip to the doctor’s office was necessary to at least confirm my rising suspicions. So after Atticus woke up from his afternoon nap on Sunday, the two of us set out for the Texas Children’s Urgent Care Clinic. I wasn’t prepared for the number of other sick children in the greater Cypress area waiting to be seen. With the patience of Job, I waited it out for 2 1/2 hours until finally by the grace of God we were seen by the doctor. “Wham, bam, thank you, m’am” she confirmed he did indeed have hand, foot, and mouth disease.

So for the next three days, Atticus and I mostly stayed home. Rather than wallow in self-pity, I took my lemons and made some damn good lemonade. When Atticus was awake, we played, read books, laughed, and enjoyed some quality time together. When nap time hit, I wrapped presents as I enjoyed Christmas movies and coffee as I worked like a little elf in Santa’s workshop. Because he still naps twice a day, I capitalized on this time to wrap all of my gifts and those from Santa for the boys, bake two batches of cookies (almond chocolate chip and gingersnaps) for Liam and Atticus’s teachers, prep for two great dinners (chicken noodle casserole and red beans and rice with sausage and cornbread), and knock out laundry list of to do’s including laundry and general house tidying.

Now granted this isn’t how I’d envisioned my first few days of my break, but oftentimes “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. After all, life cannot be scripted no matter how hard we try. Atticus is undoubtedly on the mend, which is more important to me than “me” time will ever be. My Christmas break, while different from how I imagined it would start, still is off to a beautiful beginning. I’m enjoying the merriment of hot cocoa, Hallmark Christmas movies, and quality time with the boys.

Liam will be on break starting tomorrow and the four of us will drive down to South Texas to celebrate Christmas with my extended family. I’m looking forward to all that comes in this holiday season- the parts that are planned and the ones that accidentally fall in my lap.

This will likely be my last post until after Christmas. I want to relish in every little part of it and look forward to sharing more with you after the 26th. It has been a wonderful 6 months of blogging and sharing my life with you since this idea to start a blog first originated in July. I look forward to putting pen to paper with new ideas and blog posts in 2018.

Wishing each of you a blessed Christmas, peace on earth, and joy to the world,

A Mama Bear

An Open Letter to my Baby Bear

Sweet Atticus,

It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, the doctor placed your tiny body in my arms. I remember vividly holding you close in those first few moments together and whispering in your ear how much I loved you. My world forever changed that day in ways I could have never imagined. Just thinking about all 5 pounds 15 ounces of you makes my eyes well up with tears. You, Baby Bear, are the greatest thing I’ve ever accomplished, and I will worry about you for the rest of my days on this earth.

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So much happened in your first year of life for both of us. I successfully mastered nursing and still find great joy in being able to spend quality time with you every day rocking you in the rocking chair my own mother once rocked and nursed me in. It truly is amazing how things come full circle! Your little hands and feet have grown and so has your length and weight. You’re now just shy of 20 pounds, and my chiseled arms are from lifting and carrying you around with me all through the house.

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There were nights where I wondered if I’d ever sleep through the night again. You would wake up every two to three hours to nurse, and in a zombie like state I would shuffle through the darkness to comfort. But a year later, I can say with gratitude that you my littlest, sleep through the night and for the most part so do I. I find myself waking from time to time if you cough or stir just to check on you as I peer into the monitor. But most nights, that’s just my mommy worry getting the best of me.

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Blank stares gave way to first smiles and baby coos of happiness. Tummy time, something you absolutely loathed initially, turned into playtime before I knew it. Rolling over, sitting up, pulling up, and now trying to walk came on so quickly. Leaving you alone for even a split second isn’t possible anymore. You’re in to everything and always require an incredibly watchful eye.

Exploding diapers, runny noses, teething, and drooling all made their mark on numerous occasions. Some of these moments were laughable. Others were downright disgusting and smelly. But even still, I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it for a second.

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You bring so much light to my life- watching you crawl with great curiosity across the hardwood floor or pulling up onto your tippy toes to reach for something you need to know more about. Your smile and belly laugh melt my heart in unimaginable ways. I live for those moments to see you so happy in your father’s arms or underneath your brother’s hug.

The Lord blessed me infinitely when he brought you into my life. I look forward to all of the little and big things your future holds. I ask for continued patience, guidance, and love as I make every effort each and every day to be the absolute best Mama Bear for you and your big brother, Liam.

Happy first birthday, my sweet Atticus. “I will love you forever, love you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby bear you’ll be!”

Cuddles are the Best Medicine

The tubal ear procedure went off without a hitch. When they took him to the OR, my poor baby was in tears about having to part ways with me. I have to admit that I fought back my own tears as I walked back to the waiting room without him. Thankfully the procedure was incredibly quick and my sweet boy was back in my arms in less than twenty minutes.

The anesthesia proved to be the most difficult part of the surgical procedure as it made my little baby bear rather lethargic and groggy for a significant part of the day. Otherwise I cannot say enough positive things about Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. Their staff held by hand through the entire process. They were kind, genuine, and truly experts in their field.

Atticus required extra tender loving care, which I was more than happy to indulge him with. Hugs, kisses, and cuddles undoubtedly proved to be more effective than any other medicine today. By the time dinner rolled around, I decided to err on the side of simplicity. With Sean out of town, I didn’t need to worry about an elaborate meal, so I gathered some of the boy’s favorite foods and voila, dinner was served. For Liam, leftover pizza, cherry tomatoes, sliced mango, and a side of Cheetos and Doritos made for a delicious dinner. Atticus enjoyed peanut butter toast, fresh mango, and mashed potatoes. My dinner included a few samples off of their plates as I prepared dinner. My favorite part was the ice cream sandwich rolled in rainbow sprinkles that I split with Liam.

With the boys tucked in for the night, I’m capitalizing on a husbandless evening of chick flicks coupled with a glass of white wine. With all of the worry and stress I carried around today, this low key evening is exactly what I need.

I would like to extend a special thank you to the family and friends who were kind enough to send me reassuring text messages before his surgery and the follow up calls to see how Atticus was doing. Additionally, faith, prayer, and mindfulness truly played an instrumental role in my well-being today. With Friday on the horizon, I’m looking forward to a wonderful weekend with my family. Wishing you and yours a wonderful one too!

My Baby You’ll Be

Most nights when I come back in after my run the house is serenely quiet and dark. The boys are sleeping soundly and Sean is often engrossed in a show in our bedroom. I often pause as I shut the door behind me taking it all in. It’s a simple pause in a normally busy day that signals the final stretch of my day.

Tonight however when I arrived home, Sean was still upstairs with Liam and Atticus was wailing at the top of my lungs. As soon as I walked in, I immediately sprang in to mommy mode. It’s rare for Atticus to awake after he goes down, especially so early in the evening. I threw on a giant tee shirt because I was a sweaty mess and quietly crept into the nursery.

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I said nothing and turned on no lights. I simply held him in my arms and rocked him back to sleep. Sitting in the comfort of the rocking chair, my eyes slowly adjusted to the dark. I looked down at my beautiful baby listening to the gentle, rhythmic sound of his snore. It’s amazing how the world completely melts away in those little moments with your children. As I sat there, my heart full of joy, I started thinking about one of my favorite books growing up, Love you Forever by Robert Munsch. A book my mother still keeps on her coffee table at home to this day.

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If you’ve never read the book, it’s a beautiful love story about a mother’s love for her son. It’s touching and brings me to tears every time I read it. My mother gifted me my own copy when Atticus was born. I remember reading it just days after giving birth. Sitting on the couch next to my mother, both of us arm in arm engrossed in the story as tears streamed down our faces.

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Undoubtedly nothing prepares you for the amount of love you feel for your children. You will do everything in your power to move mountains for them, take away their pain, and give them the world. Even after our children graduate and enter adulthood, in our hearts they will forever be our babies. I know the need to rock Atticus to sleep will fade with time, but I will forever hold on to these beautiful moments that truly are the best parts of motherhood.

A Mother’s Love

One of the hardest parts of motherhood is a sick baby. You so desperately wish you could take their discomfort away, and oftentimes feel helpless as you try to calm them in their fussy, feverish, and uncomfortable state.

Since Wednesday evening, Atticus has been under the weather. Enduring his fourth ear infection since late May. This ear infection came less than two weeks since his last and brought with it a high fever that he hasn’t kicked despite intermittent doses of infant Tylenol and Motrin.

Yesterday we visited the ENT and are scheduled for ear tubes. In consulting my inner circle, I’ve heard great things about the relief they provide but it still doesn’t ease my mommy angst. As if one doctor’s visit wasn’t enough, the ENT sent us back to our pediatrician for an antibiotic shot, which put Atticus in full meltdown mode and it took everything in me to hold back my own tears.

When your child is in pain, you feel their pain, sorrow, and anguish too. I wish I had a magic wand I could wave that would magically make the fever, discomfort, and infection disappear in a poof of smoke. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Instead I hold him tight, soothe him, and give him all of my love. I savor his neediness because I know he won’t always let me be this close.

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Baby Bear, I hate seeing you so puny and unhappy. I pray this passes quickly and hope that the kisses, hugs, and cuddles make all the difference in the world. I can only imagine how difficult it feels to feel so much but be unable to articulate those feelings. I’ll be here to love you through it all because that’s what Mama Bears do best!