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

 

The Things we do as Mothers

Our everyday lives are series of boxes to check starting with turning off the blaring alarm in the wee hours of the morning all the way until we reset our alarm after a long days work. This then ensures that the blaring alarm will rouse us from our sleep again the following morning. Read more succinctly as, “wash, rinse, repeat!”

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I willingly own that not everyone is as regimented and Type A as me. And while being so meticulous does have it’s perks, carrying it out seamlessly has proven to be a more challenging task since becoming a mother. So I thought it would be slightly humorous and a no doubt reaffirming post to construct about the things we find ourselves doing in life to get from Point A to Point B with the path of least resistance possible, i.e. a tantrum throwing toddler or a whiny first grader. And because like me so many of you also walk this daily walk as a Mama Bear,  I give you, The Things we do as Mothers to make life work in whatever way we can.

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Let’s start with getting out the door every morning on time. In my world that’s leaving by 6:45 a.m. at the latest. Most mornings, thankfully, Liam remembers to set his alarm. On the rare occasion that he forgets and neither Sean or I double checked it the night before, this usually turns into a rather frenetic scene that plays out something like the opening scene of Home Alone when the McAllister’s realize their alarm did not go off on the day they are scheduled to fly to Paris on an early morning flight. I’m running up the stairs often with a toddler in tow as a door flails open, and Liam is rather abruptly roused from his dreamlike state. Very quickly, however, a half awake seven-year-old realizes he’s overslept and gratefully puts the wheels in motion to get himself ready for school.

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Other mornings things go off kilter because life with a toddler is anything but predictable. Take for example, Atticus’s most recent ear infection. Trying to get him to drink a thick, chalky antibiotic is about as easy as walking a tight rope with fifty pound weights in either hand and a blindfold around your head.

“No, yucky, mommy! I no drink!”

Because he desperately needs this medication, and I desperately need to get out the door so that I’m not late for work, desperate times call for desperate measures. In this case, I simply resort to good old fashioned bribery. Now mind you, this is happening at 6:30 in the morning. The sun has not even kissed the horizon yet, and I’m digging deep for the bargaining power I need to leverage this deal. So I race to the top shelf of the pantry and return with a Dum Dum lollipop. It’s exactly what I need to close the deal and get my toddler to be compliant.

And later when I walk into daycare at 6:45 a.m. with a toddler sucking happily on his cherry flavored lollipop, I hope no one judges me too harshly for encouraging candy this early in the morning. But alas, it’s all about surviving fellow Mama Bears, and so inevitably we do what life dictates in that moment to survive. It might be candy before breakfast, or pajamas all day, or even screen time in the car just to get your toddler in the car in the first place. Life with a toddler is constant bargaining and using every tool in the toolbox. And on your worst days, it’s leveraging multiple tools to get out the door, but alas I digress.

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Life as a mother closely mimics an image I think back to of a book I really liked when I was little, Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina. Daily life as a mother is a bit of a chameleon act. We wear a lot of different hats, each with a very distinct purpose. There is the toddler bargaining hat, the Master Chef hat, the bedtime story teller hat, the jack-of-all-trades hat, etc. There are a lot of hats and sometimes we are wearing more than one of them at the same time trying to multi-task our way through it. The expression, “fake it, until you make it” could not be more poignant for us as mothers.

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Photo credit: Pinterest

I will leave you with a final image. One that surely many of you have lived out at some point in your daily life as a mom. After a long day at work, you pull into the garage with the kiddos knowing you need to still prepare dinner, oversee homework, and keep a toddler entertained all in the next twenty minutes so that the rest of your evening routine can fall into place. You are donning all of these unique hats and trying to nail a home run out of the park through every single venture. You channel the patience of Job and the culinary skills of Padma Lakshmi as you set out to accomplish this rather difficult task.

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Now granted you might burn a tortilla along the way or have to pacify a toddler with an episode of Mickey and the Roadster Racers, but for the most part, you do it. And you do it day in and day out because that’s what Mama Bears do. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes you wonder how in the world the ship doesn’t sink with you at the helm. But by the grace of God, the infinite amount of love in your heart, and the other Mama Bears who stand by you in solidarity, you do the things you do to make life in your own home with your cubs and spouses work.

Our little ones won’t always remember the sacrifices we made along the way to make sure they never went without, but they will remember how much they were loved and how special we made them feel along the way. Even on your most difficult day, remember that you’ve got this, Mama Bear. And you have a tribe of other Mama Bears cheering you on along the way. So go out into the world confidently, and do the things we do as mothers!

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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!

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!

If Life was a Black & White Photo…

Black and white photos tend to evoke a feeling of nostalgia. In the absence of color, our eyes hone in on an image that often tells a very distinct story. Imagine what it might be like if we looked at every life moment through this same lens.

If life were a black and white photo, a smile communicates happiness in its simplest and purest form. Upon closer inspection, the authenticity of their smiles are enhanced by the light in their eyes. In focusing on these two facial attributes, the observer easily finds themselves drawn into this circle of radiant joy.

Allow your eyes to consider the following images and see if you too find yourself encapsulated in happiness!

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If life were a black and white photo, an embrace or a hug epitomizes the sincerity and authenticity of loving thy neighbor. It is amazing how a single image can communicate love so simply and beautifully. Consider how much happier we would be if we allowed ourselves to relish in the company we keep; the unbreakable bonds that tie us together.

We need to allow ourselves time in our hectic schedules to pause enough to appreciate these tender moments with the ones we love. These sweet moments of embrace settle into the deepest parts of our hearts; allowing us to feel truly and deeply connected to the special people around us.

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If life were a black and white photo, it almost feels as though it could and would be simpler. Forging friendships as you walk hand in hand, sharing stories that spark imagination, and building an unbreakable bond as brothers. These are just a few of the the simplicities of life encapsulated in a black and white photo.

While it is easy to argue that life is far too complex and complicated to look at with such a simplistic eye, perhaps the real truth lies in how we truly allow ourselves to choose to see the world. True to the adage, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, we each have the power to determine how we look at the world we live in!

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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.

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!