Student of the Week

This week, Liam enjoyed all of the attention and excitement surrounding the coveted title of Student of the Week in his first grade class. With more than three fourths of the school year complete, for an impatient first grader this honor took far longer than he would have liked. When his moment to shine finally came, it is safe to say he relished in every part of it.

Friday culminated the end of a wonderful week for him and allowed me the opportunity to surprise him with an open letter his teacher shared with him and his classmates during the morning meeting. I joined his class towards the end of his lunch period to share two of his favorite books with his class. When I arrived, they were all abuzz about how cool Liam’s letter was. I put a little extra care into the creation of the letter by incorporating it into a PowerPoint presentation filled with pictures and special anecdotes about Liam. It only seemed fitting to format this piece into my latest blog post.

Our Letter to Liam

Dear Liam,

Dad and I are so proud of how much you’ve grown over the last few years. You amaze us with your energy, love of reading, and curiosity.

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Dad and I know being the oldest comes with a lot of responsibility.  We are proud of you for accepting this role. You are such a hard worker at home helping us with chores and taking care of your new puppy, Stormtrooper. Thank you for doing such a great job. We appreciate your help so very much.

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Liam you truly are an amazing big brother. Atticus is so blessed to have a brother who is kind, caring, helpful, and loving. You understand how important it is to share and help him learn to how to be his best. Thank you for your big heart!

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Your adventurous spirit is something we truly admire about you, Liam. We love how excited you are about the thrill of scaling a fence, racing across the neighborhood on your go kart, or achieving some type of athletic accomplishment. May you continue to enjoy all of life’s great adventures!

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Growing up on the beach, I have loved watching you find so much joy on the sandy shores of South Padre Island too. The excitement of building sand castles, riding waves, and collecting sea shells are some of my favorite summer memories with you.

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I know dad loves sharing his love of snowboarding with you. You have really picked up the sport and impress us both with how adventurous you are to carve down mountains in Colorado. We look forward to seeing you continue to improve and excel in the sport.

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You astonish us with how much you love sweets. Donuts, candy, cupcakes, milkshakes… you name it, you are all too happy to gobble it up. May your love of sugary sweets continue to bring you endless amounts of happiness.

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Liam, your life of leisure is something we admire about you. You are all about the pajama life and would stay in them all day, every day if we let you. As you grow, I hope you do not lose sight of the simple pleasures in life like wearing comfy pajamas from sun up to sun down.

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Liam, we hope you continue to work hard, show kindness, and find joy in life. We love you so much and are proud of all of the positive things you do.

All our love,

Mom & Dad

 

Slowing Down

For educators and students, alike, Spring Break is a welcome reprieve from textbooks, lesson plans, and tedious schedules. It’s a week to sleep in, relax with a good book, travel, or find fun adventures to discover around your neighborhood.

While Sean and Liam jetted off for a snowboard adventure in Colorado, I opted for a more low key break sprinkled with equal parts of quality time with my mom and Atticus, lazy afternoons of endless reading, and low key evenings watching chick flicks. There were also intermittent dashes of spring cleaning and shopping excursions serving up the perfect recipe for an absolutely wonderful break.

Now granted, slowing down is not typically one of my strong suits, but the takeaway from a week devoid of over-scheduled, hectic workdays is simple: sometimes all a girl really needs is a little downtime to recharge and appreciate the beauty in the little things.

Quality Time

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Quality time can come in many different forms. Before Liam and Sean headed north to the mountains and snow, we enjoyed a lazy Sunday sipping coffee at Land of Thousand Hills, spending quality time with the boys engaged in creative play in an imaginative world of superheroes and castles, and enjoying the beautiful weather watching Liam attempt to roller skate around the neighborhood with his little brother hot on his heels on his tricycle. In the hustle and bustle of our busy work schedules, it was so nice to slow things down and just allow the day to unfold as it did.

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For this avid reader, nothing is more enjoyable than sharing my love of reading with my boys. Something as simple as pausing in the middle of a Target run on Monday morning to peruse the literature section for a great read is a perfect example of quality time.

Liam caught up on a new Captain Underpants novel while Atticus found himself lost in a Coco book. As they quietly enjoyed their reading time on the tiled floor, I perused the self-help section for some great new reads: Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis, 52 Lists for Happiness by Moorea Seal, and The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe. These books quickly became page turners for me on the quiet afternoons Atticus spent napping over the break!

Fuss-free Food 

Most weekends, I carve out a portion of my time meal planning and grocery shopping for all of the weekly essentials. Spring Break offered a unique opportunity to stray from the usual and enjoy fuss-free meals with ingredients on hand or take-out leftovers spread out over multiple days. I still kept it healthy with dinners of sautéed kale with sliced almonds and dried cherries, but I also channeled my inner child with whole grain Mickey Mouse nuggets enjoyed with an adorable dinner companion sitting in his high chair cheering about macaroni and cheese and orange slices. Scrapping the more elaborate dinners for low key options offered me more quality time with Atticus and less time in the kitchen cooking or doing the dishes!

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Simple Self-Care

Every girl loves a little pampering. Simple forms of self-care provided the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind. Nothing says, “ahhhhhh!” quite like a calming paper face mask, an afternoon pedicure with a hot soak in lavender bath salts, or an hour long massage. These three separate escapes could not have been more perfect for this usually too busy to slow down, Mama Bear!

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Sleeping In & Afternoon Siestas

Daylight savings could not have come at a more ideal time. The break allowed us to ease into springing forward by sleeping in and indulging in extra-long afternoons naps. Most mornings, my alarm rouses me from my sleep by 5:45. Sleeping in until 7:00 or 7:30 was such a blessing. Every afternoon, I tiptoed into Atticus’s room to sneak a peek at him sleeping soundly. So much sweetness cuddled up into a cozy ball!

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Reflecting on my break this evening, brings me great joy. I genuinely feel recharged and reinvigorated to push through the next few months until summer break offers me endless opportunities to slow down.

Looking down at my boys this evening as they playfully enjoyed bath time served yet again as a simple reminder that life is too short not to savor the little things. After all, my little things won’t be little forever. Soon enough they will be bigger and taller than me!

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Life as a Boy Mom

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Life as a boy mom is a messy, rugged, action-packed adventure. My daily life is a whirlwind of trains, cars, superheroes, dinosaurs, Legos, and a smattering of other boy toys. The learning curve for me was steep, but with practice and time came the ability to easily name off every Marvel superhero and almost every key Transformer robot. I can identify most construction vehicles with ease and have watched Cars so many times I can quote it by memory.

Growing up with a brother, I remember stealing his GI Joe soldiers to pair them with my Barbie dolls. But outside of that, I feel like most of our other play interactions were gender neutral. There was a lot of fence climbing, bike riding, and playground play but I do not remember being enmeshed in his world of Kinect’s or other boy toys. So life as a boy mom has been truly eye-opening for me.

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Messy play happens in all homes with young children underfoot. Playrooms and bedrooms often look like a fierce tornado rolled through and upturned all of the well organized crates of toys and let the pieces fall where they may. Walking into the boy’s play zone at any given time is a cacophony of giggles, imaginative play, and a colorful mess of building blocks, coloring books, and a wide array of other odds and ends. And while sometimes I have to take a step back and count to ten so that I don’t overreact to the mess that lays before me, I also find myself smiling at these little moments where two brothers are cultivating a unique bond sharing in these creative, imaginary moments together.

Someday my life as a mother might include a daughter and play with her will be more familiar. I remember all-to-well the tea parties, dressing up my Barbie dolls, and braiding My Little Pony’s rainbow colored mane. But for now, I’m happy embracing my role as a boy mom. It is a crazy, beautiful, ever-changing adventure that rarely slows down. They keep me on my toes as we zip down slippery slides together giggling all the way down, zip lining across a playground holding on for dear life so we don’t fall in a pile of mulch, or screaming at the top of our longs under bridges and laughing at the echo that reverberates deeply long after we stop yelling.

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Being a boy mom, brings me more joy than I could have ever imagined. They see the world from a unique vantage point that largely differs from my own as a female, but I appreciate with sincere fondness their incredible curiosity and fierce spirit that emanates from deep within their soul. Boys, may you continue to pursue life with the same zest and gusto you illuminate the world with today!

Through the Eyes of a Child

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I often say life would be more pure if we looked at the world through the eyes of a child. Their innocence, heart, enthusiasm, and curiosity set the stage for a worldview that vastly differs from our vantage point as adults. Perhaps though, if we allowed ourselves to be more childlike, our perspective about life would follow suit.

In order to consider this new frame of reference, perhaps we need to recognize what the world of a child truly has to offer. What better way to gain invaluable knowledge and insight than through some of my personal favorite children’s books. Take a walk with me through the colorful and imaginative world of children’s fiction, and see where it might take you!

Beautiful OOPS! by Barney Saltzberg

Let’s start with a Beautiful Oops! A book that resoundingly encourages you to embrace the beautiful mistakes you make in life. What a truly lovely sentiment! If only we could all adopt such a positive approach to human errors. This book undoubtedly appeals to the preschool age child with its unique approach to smudges of paint, torn paper, unexpected spills, and other messy mistakes. However, the theme of this book not only encourages one to adopt a growth mindset but also to have fun growing and learning from the mistakes you make along the way.

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Pete the Cat Go, Pete, Go! by James Dean

What better way to learn about taking life in stride and enjoying the experiences as they come your way then from the perspective of a overly optimistic cat named Pete. Rarely does he let stress or pressure steer him from his pursuits in life. Pete embodies kindness, authenticity, friendship, and a glass half full attitude. We could all take a few notes on his idealistic approach to life. It is refreshingly simple and a way of living so many of us could benefit from.

“The roses are just so beautiful… He has to stop to smell them.”

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The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This classic favorite encourages us to open ourselves up to love even though you might end up hurt or let down at some point by the ones we love. If only we could allow ourselves to love without condition, selflessly giving every part of ourselves to improve someone else’s life.

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

This lovely story transports us into a fantastical world of books. The main character spends his time doctoring old books, befriending forgotten novels, and bringing light to neighbors and friends who need a good story to lift up their spirits. Most importantly though, this story highlights the importance of our own life story. The story we write through our words and actions!

“Everyone’s story matters,” said Morris.

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Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Floyd’s story starts when his bright red kite gets stuck in a tree. This comical story demonstrates how problem solving does not always come in a neat, linear package. While his approach could appear flawed, his relentless pursuit to retrieve his kite from the tree allows us to smile and appreciate the beauty and simplicity of a child’s approach to life.

Floyd’s unconventionality and sheer determination illuminate how we, as adults, should also approach difficulties in life. We must continue to persevere, refuse to back down, and ultimately find a solution that works for us.

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss 

This book is one of the most gifted graduation presents for a very good reason. It opens our eyes to the endless possibilities that lie ahead for us. This book serves as a metaphor for life and illustrates the tight rope we walk balancing life’s responsibilities. It encourages us to take life as it comes, to expect hardship, but to also trust in our abilities to overcome.

Life is not just about the journey. It is about the destinations we end up at whether by chance or by choice. It is about how we embrace the beautiful moments, accept and learn from the difficult parts, and ultimately become the best version of ourselves because of the experiences that mold and shape us!

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Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett

Life is an adventure, and Sam and Dave illuminate this perfectly. Armed with shovels and a backpack with animal crackers and chocolate milk, these two boys set out to discover what lies beneath.

Throughout the book, you wonder how they would feel if they realized how close they are at every turn to uncovering buried treasure. And yet, despite their rigorous efforts, they never actually happen upon any treasure. This viewpoint clearly takes on the persona of an adult because for the boys they find something spectacular because they never started this journey with any expectation other than to have fun.

What a refreshing approach to life Sam and Dave embrace! If only, our adult selves could look at life through the same lens. Life would be “pretty spectacular.”

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In my Heart A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek

The main character of this book describes the big and little feelings she encounters every day. She encourages her readers to consider their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions on her creative journey embracing and accepting these feelings. She unravels a story so similar to what each and every one of us encounters on a daily basis: anger, hope, happiness, fear, humor, shyness, courage, peace, and hurt. Her simplistic approach to very real and oftentimes deep feelings spotlights the realness and importance these emotions play in our own lives. If we allowed ourselves to consider our emotions through the eyes of a child, perhaps we could also give ourselves permission to acknowledge these feelings and how they shape and propel us through life.

“My heart is full of feelings.”

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The Girl who Ran by Frances Poletti & Kristina Yee

Literature should inspire us and motivate us to aspire for more. This book checks all the boxes for a truly inspirational read based on a very real heroine, Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. This book is a must read for all women no matter how young or old because it masterfully and powerfully encourages us to refuse to settle for anything less than our best. No glass ceiling, no male authority figure, no obstacle at all can stand in the way of the dreams we have for ourselves as women. Never settle!

“She ran with a strength only hope can inspire, just her and the sound of the wind in the fire.”

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What the Dinosaurs did Last Night by Refe & Susan Tuma

Everyone needs humor in their lives. The more the better. Bring on the laugh lines, the belly laughs, and the absurdities of a fantastical, fictional story that will take you on a wild and messy adventure. But beware, the toy dinosaurs living in your children’s storage bins are waiting to wreak havoc on your home.

This book truly does bring a smile to your face as you consider the outrageous adventures a house full of toy dinosaurs can bring under one roof. Children, perhaps because they are unencumbered by the stresses of life, laugh often and with great gusto. Our lives, as adults, would be greatly changed for the better, if we also adopted this ability to laugh out loud more often and worry less about the little things.

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Normal Norman by Tara Lazar

This final book brings everything full circle with regards to approaching life as our children do. So often we outgrow the innocence and naivety that is an innate part of life as children. We allow our perceptions of what others will think to dictate how we live out our lives as adults. We worry too much about their opinions and their thoughts that we somehow lose sight of true selves.

Normal Norman illustrates just how easy it is for others to try and put us in a neat and tidy box. But we cannot and should not allow anyone else to make us feel like we need to be a different version of ourselves. Authenticity is far more valuable than any opinion someone else will ever have of us.

” ‘Normal’ is impossible to define.”

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While the intricacies of life do not always allow us to embrace life in a childlike manner, we should at least consider donning this hat when we can. After all, a life filled with laughter, vivid colors, and fantastical characters would make for a far more intriguing plot line then some of the real world drudgery that we often have to rub elbows with.

If life were a children’s book, it would be a much more pleasurable read than the realities of our non-fiction lives. With that being said, it’s never too late to rewrite our story!

Self Care Sunday

The practice of self care is a critical part of our overall well being. While the hustle and bustle of life as a wife and mother does not always lend itself to pursuing self care faithfully, it is something that truly should be at the forefront of our priorities. The pursuit of self care is not selfish but rather well-intentioned time that allows us to recharge and regroup.

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Photo credit: Chantelle Grady, Pinterest

As a counselor, I find myself always addressing this with students and clients. Oftentimes their stress and anxiety levels are magnified because they do not regularly make time for themselves. Only recently have I come to truly appreciate the time I dedicate to self care. Making time for myself allows me to be more mindful and grateful for purposeful time spent alone. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by our day-to-day and try to guilt ourselves away from making time to unwind when the laundry list of to do’s lingers overhead.

While the practice of self care may sound daunting, it starts with some purposeful reflection. Self care will look and feel different for each and every one of us. If you are an avid reader, for example, self care may be an afternoon in a comfortable chair, wrapped in a cozy blanket paired with a steaming cup of hot tea and a good read. For the avid athlete, self care might be a slower paced workout enjoying a relaxing walk around a beautiful lake or a light hike getting lost in a picturesque trail of lush greenery.

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Photo credit: The Ascent

Self care truly can be anything that allows you time to unwind and purposefully recharge your batteries. Give yourself permission to light some candles and enjoy a hot bubble bath after your children are tucked in for the night. Make an effort to carve out at least one opportunity a week for self care. Many have embraced starting the week off with self care Sunday.

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Photo credit: Ted.com

The day and pursuit do not matter as much as carving out the time for you. Self care starts with you and can start today. I encourage you to put this intentional practice into motion. Not only will you experience the powerful benefits of self care but everyone else in your immediate circle will reap the benefits too. After all, a more patient, more grateful, more compassionate, and more kind wife and mother can only have a positive impact on those she shares her time and love with every day.

 

 

Follow your Heart

Blogging serves as a creative outlet for me. A way for me to touch people’s lives with my words and time stamp important memories in my life. For those of you who have followed me faithfully since A Mama Bear & Her Cubs was first created in late July 2017 , you’ve likely noticed an ebb and flow in the frequency of my posts.

To create a quality blog, it takes great dedication, meaningful content, and powerful images. Because of my Type A personality and perfectionist tendencies, I toil over the words until they are perfect. Mind you this is typically happening at the end of a long work day or while my two boys take their midday break for a nap or quiet time. I am often my toughest critic and therefore do not always feel like my words are ready for publication. In my busiest of times, I don’t always find the inspiration needed to create quality pieces. These are the moments that lead to a dip in my blog content.

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I find my family life and the little things that I encounter on a daily basis to be the best resource for content. Despite the fact that I faithfully maintain a blog, I rarely make time to discover new blogs. Mostly because I worry that the content I happen upon on other blogs may detract from my own creative process. This year to help me channel my thoughts and keep content fresh, I started keeping a notebook on hand to jot down ideas and things that inspire me along the way. This springboard for ideas has allowed me to easily put pen to paper (or more accurately clinking keys on my keyboard to piece together a blog post).

A Mama Bear & Her Cubs has slowly built a following, mostly from likeminded Mama Bears in my collective circles of friends and family. Because of social media, some of my posts have been shared and reposted on other pages and have reached record breaking views for me. I am sure that I could work harder to build my readership and even consider partnering with advertisers like so many other bloggers do. I choose, however, to focus on this blog for my own personal well-being and for the well-being of other women who read and find inspiration in my words.

Unfortunately we live in a culture where so often women are breaking other women down. I have focused my content on positivity because quite frankly we need more of that in our world and a whole lot less mean girl drama.

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Today’s post is probably the most basic and least powerful I’ve written since the inception of A Mama Bear & Her Cubs. But as always, there is a purpose and intention in the content I choose. My hope is that in reading today’s blog post, you will recognize the importance of pursuing your own passions in life. Do more of what makes you happy whether that’s through cooking, yoga, crafting, trail running, salsa dancing, yodeling…

Carve out time for the things that matter most to you. Don’t let your dreams and life pursuits be stifled because of a full-time job, responsibilities as a wife and mother, or anything else that might stand in your way. Take time to share, learn, and grow every day because your best self will allow you to be your best for the ones you love and care for every day. Be bold and follow your heart!

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A Beautiful Thing Happens…

In life, we do not have the luxury of choosing our family. We share the same DNA and other genetic traits, but we may not always share the same interests and life pursuits. Friendship, on the other hand, offers a unique and beautiful opportunity that grows and thrives because we have the distinct privilege to pick our tribe.

Friendships blossom and grow through hours and hours of shared laughter, tears (both happy and sad), and countless glasses of wine and coffee commiserating about our  hopes and dreams- both for ourselves and for one another. If we’re lucky, these friendships withstand the test of time growing and evolving as we do from childhood, to early adulthood, into midlife, and beyond.

Growing up, I admired and aspired to have the kind of powerful friend circles my mother kept. Women who were strong, beautiful, and hardworking. They were fierce women who balanced full-time careers, raising children, and making time to celebrate in each other’s special moments. These women took me under their wing and encouraged me along the way to pursue my dreams in life.

Although time zones and state lines separated these best friends from one another. Their friendship continues to thrive and grow some forty plus years since it began. We (my brother and I, the Bailey sisters, Ayala brothers, and Walker brothers) have all grown up as though we were a family calling ourselves cousins despite the fact that we do not share a common blood line. Most of us are married and raising our own babies now. And while state lines and time zones may stand in the way of us seeing one other with more regularity, our friendships continue to endure. We text often sharing anecdotes about motherhood. Our mothers and “aunties” chime in with words of affirmation and remind us that they too endured seasons of hardship as young mothers.

I value this shared friendship that I am blessed to be an intricate part of- a shared friendship that unites two generations of women. I still find myself deeply admiring the incredible friendship that roots these women together. In principle, we are not family and yet we love, support, and care for one another in exactly the same manner families do.

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In reflecting on this sisterhood I share with my mother’s best friends and their daughters, I find myself acknowledging a very powerful theme. A beautiful thing happens when your mother’s circle of friends becomes yours too. The circle of trust widens, the bonds deepen, and the laughter, support, and friendships continue to grow!