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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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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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!

New Year’s Revolutions

Today marks the midway point of January. Although we’re already fifteen days into 2019, it’s never to late to reflect on last year and look forward to what lies ahead. This year as Liam and I discussed the notion of resolutions going into the new year, in true Liam fashion he forgot the actual word and instead dubbed it a new year’s revolution. Now granted we haven’t started a war with the new year but perhaps we should consider that our resolutions if orchestrated properly can have a truly revolutionary impact on our lives.

Traditionally new year’s resolutions revolve around improved health, fitness, and integrating new habits in our lives that will make life simpler and less stressful. I compiled a list of few I have already integrated into my life or are striving towards accomplishing in the new year.

1. Smile More

Research shows that smiling boosts your immune system because your whole body relaxes when you offer up a grin. When you have two incredibly adorable baby bears like these, it’s kind of hard not to smile. Think about how impactful a smile can be to someone who might be having a rough day. Spread a little joy in one of its simplest and purest forms by passing along a smile to someone you see today.

2. Soak it In 

Find moments to pause and soak it all in. Think how quickly 2018 flew by and how we’re already halfway through January. Life is always full of busy moments and to do’s. Allow yourself the opportunity to stop and soak in the little moments. Before you know it, your newborn is a toddler, then a kindergartener, then a tween… time just continues to inch forward whether we want it to or not. So pause to savor those little moments before they are gone in an instant. If you’re too busy trying to accomplish the laundry list of chores piling up or scrolling through your social media feed though, you’ll miss these little glimpses of childlike innocence. Take time to be present and enjoy the company you are keeping.

3. Sip & Savor

So often we are guzzling our morning coffee or inhaling lunch as we multi-task at work. In this new year, make time to sip and savor the food you have in front of you. Indulge in the flavors and aromas that accompany a great meal or an incredible glass of wine. Build community and relish in the food and company at your table.

This year for New Year’s, Sean and I spent a quiet evening after the boys went to bed making pasta from scratch. The homemade noodles tossed in garlic lemon butter sauce paired perfectly with our wine and cheese plate. Taking a step back to appreciate the food and refreshments we put in our bodies and truly marinating in the flavors allows us to savor our food without overindulging.

4. Slow Down 

No one needs to meditate on this phrase more than me. It’s been something I’ve struggled with for years because I’m such a do’er. This, however, has been at the forefront of my intentions for how my 2019 needs to look and feel differently than last year and all of the years before that.

Slowing down starts with recognizing and valuing the importance of self-care. Make time for you every single day so that you have more positive parts of yourself to offer to others. For me, this comes in many forms: bubble baths, hot tea, getting lost in a good book, and soaking in all of the hugs and cuddles I can coax out of a too cool 1st grader and a topsy turvy toddler.

5. Celebrate Accomplishments

Setting goals and celebrating accomplishments is a critical part of achieving success. Striving to be our best comes from hard work, determination, and a desire to be our best. My favorite way to celebrate a podium finish is with high fives, French fries, and champagne. Taking time to celebrate these things allows us to recognize our strengths and appreciate our gifts.

For our little ones, it is also a critical way to build self-esteem and instill a sense of pride in our children. Celebrate your little victories and share these successes with those you are closest too. After all, their support likely contributed in some way to your success!

6. G.O.A.T. 

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2019 is ripe for the taking. Embrace this new year with childlike abandon. Offer gratitude for your blessings. Make time for the people you love and the pursuits that are most important to you. Smile through the good and the bad. Carve out time every day for a little rest and relaxation. Implementing healthy habits and slowing down to soak in the little things will set you up for the Greatest (Year) Of All Time. So go out there and be revolutionary!

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

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

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

I’M THANKFUL…

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

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

I’M GRATEFUL

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

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

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

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

I’M BLESSED

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

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

Red Lipstick & Side Ponytails

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

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

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

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

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

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