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.

Showered in Love

Tonight as I checked in on my herb garden, I was excited to see the first fruits of my Spring Break project. I ran upstairs to fetch Liam so that he too could relish in the tiny green tomatoes sprouting on the vines. I laughed as he wrinkled his nose at the jalapeños taking flight in its pot too.

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As I walked back in basking in my little victory, a more expansive thought erupted in my mind. These herbs were flourishing because they were showered in love. First from my efforts to plant them and give them a place to take root and take off. Then Mother Nature stepped in with spring rain, idyllic temperatures, and just the right amount of sunlight to help these herbs maintain a presence in my backyard.

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On a grander scale, though, so many things around us are showered in love. This weekend for example, my mother, sister-in-law, and I hosted a baby shower for my cousin, Veronica, who is expecting her first child in early June. Family and friends gathered to shower her and her baby girl in love. Together we shared words of wisdom, sprinkled with anecdotes of humor, and showered her with gifts every new mother needs. Then of course there are all of the other gifts they don’t need, but who doesn’t love the “oohs and aahs” that come from adorable pink dresses, tulle trimmed skirts, and teeny tiny onesies.

When you travel home to be with family, your children enjoy the benefits of being doted on and loved by one set of grandparents and great-grandparents. Again this pervasive theme of “showered in love” holds true. I cannot think of two boys more lucky than Liam and Atticus because between them they share four sets of grandparents. Each of these grandparents is a blessing in their own rite showering them with wisdom, love, and experiences that will last a lifetime. Here are a few of my favorite keepsakes from our weekend in the Valley.

The takeaway for me in reflecting on today’s post is simple. In big and little ways each and every day we are showered in love. Obviously the more grandiose gestures speak volumes to us. But if we allow ourselves to slow down and take in these smaller moments, we will be pleasantly surprised by the love sprinkled on us throughout the day. For me this weekend, it was watching my father watch Saturday morning cartoons with my children or seeing Liam paint blocks for his new cousin’s nursery with my eighty-seven year-old grandmother. These simple but beautiful moments offer a glimpse at the greater love that comes from all of the family, friends, and loved ones we break bread with and share our life with. Showered in love is not only something to appreciate and be grateful for when we receive it. It’s a phrase we can apply in our daily lives as we love and serve those nearest and dear to us.

 

 

A Little of This & That

This last week has been a whirlwind of Liamisms, birthday wishes, and high notes. Here’s a quick recap of the highlights!

Liamisms 

No week is every complete without some humorous Liamisms to lighten the mood. The two that stand out most include some potty humor and a misunderstanding about the rules of driving.

“Mom, sometimes when Atticus poops his diaper looks like it has peanut butter spread in it. I just want to eat it.”

“Liam, that’s absolutely disgusting. Why would you want to eat that.”

“Well dung beetles eat poop, so why can’t I?”

“Maybe because you’re not a dung beetle for starters.”

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“Mom, I’m all ready to drive the Escalade now. I have my own license plate.”

“Sweet Liam, driving doesn’t work that way. A license plate is different than a driver’s license. That’s what you need to drive a car.”

“Mom, I’m pretty sure all I need is a license plate. So you can just give me the keys.”

“Liam, why don’t we revisit this conversation in 10 years when you’re really ready to drive.”

Birthday Wishes

As I walked down the stairs with Atticus in my arms and Liam at my heels ready to head out the door for work, I noticed a gift lying on the dining room table. I asked Liam about it and very nonchalantly he said, “Mom, it’s nothing. It’s just your birthday present.”

“Oh how nice! Well today’s my birthday.”

“Oh yeah, right. I forgot.”

He then preceded to carry the gift bag to the counter and disappeared. I thought he was going to turn off the light when he suddenly reappeared grunting as he made his way back carrying a wooden plant stand with a succulent. He retreated again, walking back shortly with yet another plant stand and succulent. As I opened my gifts, I loved watching him look over the countertop at me as I opened my gifts. He truly set the tone for a wonderful start to my birthday.

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My 35th year is off to a great start. I’m looking forward to everything this year sends my way.

High Notes

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Liam and I discovered microwaveable Mug Treats on our weekly H-E-B run. Until recently, I thought no one loved dessert in our house more than Liam. After letting Atticus lick the spoon, I think Liam might have some competition for the title of Dessert King in our house. Nothing makes me happier than sweet baby smiles even when those smiles are caked with chocolate!

An Easter Tradition

Easter Sunday marks a time of celebration and joy. After a somber 40 days of penance and sacrifice, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and new beginnings. My childhood memories of Easter are bright and vivid. After Mass and an Easter lunch at either Gammie’s or my Aunt Jerri’s, the afternoon culminated with an Easter egg hunt of epic proportions.

From January until Easter, my mother, grandmother, and aunt salvaged all of the egg shells from cooking. Being from a vibrant Mexican family, breakfast tacos were a staple in our homes, especially on the weekends, so you can only imagine how many dozens of eggs my family collected in the months leading up to Easter.

In our house, my mother led the effort of dyeing, stuffing, and gluing tissue paper on each egg. This was quite an ordeal in and of itself because there were so many eggs to decorate. My brother and I enjoyed the task though because we recognized the significance of this part of the bigger picture- our ritual Easter egg hunt.

For those of you who didn’t grow up in South Texas or aren’t Mexican, let me shed a little light on the confetti egg- more fondly known among Spanish speakers as cascarones.

In Mexico, the cascarones tradition began to evolve. Instead of scented powder [originally used in China], Mexicans put confetti into the eggs. They then developed the tradition of cracking the egg over a friend’s head to release the confetti, which inspired the name cascarones or “shell hits.” (http://kkyr.com/cascarones-are-a-hispanic-american-culture-easter-celebration-video/)

For children, nothing is more exciting at Easter than running around the yard chasing your siblings, cousins, and friends with confetti stuffed eggs. It’s a colorful mess of vibrant colors and more importantly vibrant fun! Sharing this tradition with my children has truly been a way to enjoy cascarones full circle.

The one difference is that now you can buy cascarones at most retail stores at a very reasonable price. To save on time, this is typically the route I go. As the boys get older and can more readily participate in the assembly, I will likely move towards including them in the process.

We have much to celebrate and so much to be grateful for thanks to the incredible sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let us count our blessings, hug our loved ones a little tighter, and indulge in some incredibly delicious food around a table with our closest loved ones. Wishing you and yours a very blessed Easter.

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.

The Magic of a Good Book

From a very young age, I can remember how much I looked forward to bedtime stories with my mom. From fairytales to fictional fantasies and everything in between, my love for reading quickly developed. By the time I could read independently, I could often be found lost in a good book curled up somewhere in my bedroom.

Growing up, my mother modeled a love for reading. Her favorite place to read was in a comfortable swivel chair next to our large front window in the living room. The perfect nook haloed by natural light eventually turned into one of my favorite places for page turning fun too. Weekends, afternoons after school, and summers often involved bike rides to the neighborhood library where I eagerly checked out every Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, Babysitters Club, or Boxcar Children’s book I could get my hands on. Then I sped back to my house as fast as my little legs would carry me so that I could open my new book and let the reading adventure unfold.

In the course of my life, I can think of only a handful of times I was too busy for reading. My tenure in graduate school required a lot of reading, but I can honestly say it was rarely the kind of reading I would typify as pleasure reading. With the exception of graduate school, reading for pleasure has been one of my favorite leisure pursuits.

For the longest time, I loved reading paperback books. There truly is something so satisfying in the tactile parts of reading: running your hands across the smooth cover, opening the book and letting it rest between your hands or on its spine in your lap, and turning the pages over and over as you lose yourself in the riveting plot line. Additionally, I loved being able to share in the highs and lows of the storylines with my closest friends when I passed one of my favorites along to them.

Today though, more out of convenience than anything else, my page turning now requires finger swiping across my phone screen. The Kindle app on my iPhone and a subscription to Prime reading, guarantees that no matter where I am, a book is never more than a few finger taps away. If I find myself with idle time, I simply take my phone out and enjoy one of my favorite pastimes as I wait in line at the grocery store or in an airport waiting for my flight to board. It also makes reading at night with the lights off incredibly easy, which often leads to me staying up way past my bedtime. While I often miss the tangible aspects of reading an actual book or having the opportunity to share a book with a friend, I appreciate the ease and accessibility of reading on an electronic device.

The joy of reading is one of the most beautiful gifts my mother passed along to me. A love of reading is something I have passed along to classrooms full of students and now love that my own two children are following suit too. As this school year has progressed, it has been incredibly amazing to watch Liam grow academically. Decoding and applying his knowledge of sight words as he takes in words and signs all around him. I love seeing Atticus delight in turning the pages of his hard books or listening as Liam and I read aloud to him. I hope that they will both find happiness through the adventures they discover in the books they read. Perhaps renowned artist J.K. Rowling puts it best with, “I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”

Here’s to reading for pleasure in your favorite nook with a delightful cup of coffee and getting lost in the magic that unfolds with the turn of every page!

 

 

The Beauty in Imperfections

Parenting is an intricate tapestry tied together with delicate stitches of many varying colors. As parents, we are called to guide our children to be their best selves. This task is one we do not take lightly. It requires infinite amounts of patience, immeasurable amounts of love, and unwavering support every step of the way.

Even with all of these tools in our back pocket, sometimes our children will misstep. These moments will test our wills and make us question our parenting abilities. For mothers in particular, this can prove to be a deeply personal struggle. The internal monologue in our heads can ring loud and often make us feel like we’re somehow letting our children down by not serving as a better model along the way.

But just like us, our children are human. Like us, they make mistakes of varying degrees each and every day. For our children, the takeaway at the end of the misstep is the most important part of the journey. An integral part of their personal growth comes from recognizing and accepting the error they made. With acceptance, they can put their best foot forward to make a more positive choice when they find themselves in a similar situation. Children, however, are not always quick learners. Their innate curiosity may guide them to push boundaries and test limits to see if the outcome or consequence will change.

Through it all, our role as parents should never waiver. We are there to love, support, model, and guide our children every step of the way. When they fail, we pick them up, dust them off, sprinkle in words of wisdom, and send them back out into the world to do it all over again.

Remember, Mama Bears, parenthood is a calling that comes with immense power and infinitesimal amounts of responsibility. There is no manual to consult for the answers to our lingering questions about raising amazing children. We can only ever take it one-day-at-a-time. Love fiercely, support deeply, and accept our own faults as parents. We are not perfect parents so we cannot expect to have perfect children. And if we look closely enough we will recognize how much beauty truly lies in life’s imperfections!