A Halloween State of Mind

Christmas is undoubtedly Liam’s favorite holiday, but Halloween is a very close second. He wholeheartedly embraces the spookiness and mystique that encompasses the spirit of Halloween. This weekend he embarked on his first independent venture of carving a pumpkin. Now granted he needed a little parental supervision and guidance, but overall he successfully orchestrated a pumpkin work of art.

Carving a pumpkin is truly a labor of love, and you certainly can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Liam squealed with delight as his fingers combed through the squishy, stringy pumpkin as we made our best effort to get every last seed and all of the pumpkin pulp. He also meticulously combed through the pulp with an eagle eye to gather all of the seeds for roasting.

Liam spent the better part of the morning cutting his pattern, gutting the pumpkin, using the poker tool to outline his pattern, and finally carving out his design. The end result proved to be both a labor of love and a source of pride for him.

IMG_5388

Carving a pumpkin creates quite the mess. Liam served as my little helper and in almost no time flat, our kitchen was spotless. We realized we’d worked up quite an appetite, so we snacked on some of our roasted homemade pumpkin seeds and relished in the beauty and artistry of Liam’s first solo carving venture.

If you haven’t carved your pumpkin this Halloween, consider saving your seeds for a savory treat. They are great as a stand alone snack but also would be ideal sprinkled over oatmeal or on top of a fresh salad.

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Ingredients:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • parchment paper

Directions:

Melt the butter and pour over the pumpkin seeds. Mix together and then spread the seeds evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. Stir at least halfway through. The seeds are roasted to perfection when they are golden brown.

A side note: the buttery smell that permeates the kitchen as they roast is absolutely heavenly. Enjoy!

The Highs & Lows of a Day

In the course of day if we isolated all of the little moments that comprise our day, we would easily recognize the highs and lows we experienced. Oftentimes the highs boost us up and help us float above the lower moments. Traditionally, I coast through my day with so many things on my plate that I don’t always pay enough mind to these little moments.  Today, however, in reflecting back on my Saturday, I decided to marinate in highs and lows of my day.

This morning, Atticus woke up shortly after 5:00 a.m., bright eyed and bushy tailed. I begrudgingly walked down the hall to the nursery half awake to nurse him in the dark in hopes he would fall back asleep. There are times when wishes do come true, and soon we both were sound asleep. Two blissful hours later, he awoke again but this time I was rested, alert, and ready to take on the day.

Liam awoke shortly after us and the three of us crept into our room to wake up Sean with a plentiful amount of cuddles. We enjoyed breakfast and headed out for our Saturday coffee date. Then my best friend, Anna and her daughter, met up with us to enjoy the sunny outdoors at Howl-o-Ween Fest. We opted to take the shuttle to expedite our trip to the park. Unfortunately after six shuttles passed us up, we decided that walking might be the better alternative. On our way, Paige tripped and fell on the concrete, which resulted in a bloody skin abrasion and an unhappy five year old. This was definitely one of the lows of the day. Thankfully dogs in costumes, bounce houses, and snow cones were just a few of the wonderful things that overshadowed the lower points.

After lunch, Liam had a friend come over to play. Before heading to the nursery to get Atticus ready for his afternoon nap, I advised the boys to play quietly upstairs and that I would be up shortly to check on them. When I ascended the stairs, I was met with a surprise I could have never anticipated. Clearly not using his best judgement, Liam had decided to have a kinetic sand fight with his friend. There was blue sand in every nook and cranny the naked eye could see in the loft- on the carpet, on the table, in between the seat cushions on the couch, …. It took the patience of Job not to come unhinged, especially in front of his friend, but I held it together and employed the boys to help me clean up the mess they made. Thank goodness for the invention of the vacuum cleaner. It undoubtedly saved the day and restored normalcy to the upstairs. Hands down this event would prove to the lowest point of my day.

Thankfully watching the boys play and enjoy each others company quickly helped the negativity I was feeling subside. The rest of the afternoon included plenty of high moments including indulging in a lovely birthday cake truffle, sharing a delicious chili dinner with my family, and enjoying the gift of help as Sean took care of cleaning the kitchen and unloading the dishwasher.

In our day-to-day lives, the high and low moments we experience will vary significantly from one day to the next. Our stress levels and workloads will profoundly impact how easily we can brush off a low moment or expend a profuse amount of energy wallowing in it. In these less than ideal moments if we allow ourselves to take a step back, we can often find the silver lining in the negativity. Because hindsight is 20/20, it might take us longer to recognize the beauty in these seemingly low moments. If we allow ourselves to look at the situation with a different lens, however, we just might realize that our low moment really isn’t as bad as we initially thought it was. Here’s to the highs and lows we endure every day. May your high points far outweigh the low ones!

Cuddles are the Best Medicine

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

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

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

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

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

Telling a Mother not to Worry…

Worry is a synonymous term associated with motherhood. From the moment you first realize your pregnant, worry sets in and only continues to grow as your belly does. It starts with the little things like, “Has my baby kicked enough today?” or “Oh no! I forgot to order a decaf latte.”

fears

The minute your child is placed in your arms immediately after delivery, your heart swells with love and you find yourself fully immersed in a state of worry. Worry comes in all shapes and sizes. Small worries, big worries, and everything in between. Sometimes it’s slight and it passes quickly. Other times it’s enormous, debilitating worry that can be all consuming.

more essential

At almost one year of life, Mama Bear worry continues to follow me around like an obedient dog. My biggest worry right now centers around Atticus’s tubal ear procedure tomorrow. The procedure requires general anesthesia, which is enough to send this Mama Bear into full blown worry wart mode. Although I’ve been advised that it’s a relatively quick procedure, I will be separated from him for at least an hour. An hour that will undoubtedly feel like the longest hour of my life. It will give me plenty of time to pace, fixate, and stress out. Positive thoughts and prayer will undoubtedly be my saving grace.

loviliest masterpiece

Tomorrow is only one thread in the long string of worries that I will continue to carry with me on this road called motherhood. Through it all, faith and love will continue to propel me forward. I will wear my worry, angst, stress, and concern for both of my beautiful boys like a badge of honor. The adage, “telling a mother not to worry about her child is like telling water not to be wet,” appropriately sums up the worry we carry as mothers for the children we love with our whole heart.

rest easy

 

A Child Centered Weekend

For this Mama and Papa Bear, life tends to revolve around our little bears. We think of meaningful ways to spend time with them and watch them flourish in the company of friends and family. This weekend like most was exactly that- playful, fun-filled, and child centered.

It started with morning coffee but we deviated slightly from our typical Saturday morning coffee date at Land of a Thousand Hills. We ordered our coffee to go and enjoyed the sunshine, blue skies, and green space that overlooks Towne Lake. Liam loved running around and climbing on all of the rocky surfaces. Atticus desperately tried to keep up with his big brother as he crawled around on all fours. We commemorated the moment with an adorable candid picture in front of their, “Happy Fall, Y’all” display.

Liam put his handwriting and art skills to work with a homemade birthday card for his friend Calix’s Ninja Turtle themed 5th birthday. He created an amazing Rafael drawing he was incredibly proud of. I can only hope Calix loved it as much as Liam did. That afternoon, we headed to Urban Air Trampoline Park to celebrate the birthday boy with two hours worth of hopping, bouncing, jumping, and climbing. Liam had an absolute blast chasing his friends down the trampoline runway and through the three story obstacle course. The party ended on a high note with a bright green, “Cowabunga, Dude!” birthday cake. Liam and his friends had plenty of green icing around their faces to prove it was a treat they truly enjoyed.

Later that night, Sean and Liam headed over to his elementary school for their annual Boo Bash. To get in the holiday spirit, Liam put on his Batman chest piece and mask. He’s saving his Darth Vader costume until he can trick or treat in it on the 31st. This Halloween themed event included a haunted house, bounce houses, and plenty of Halloween candy to make any child beam from ear to ear. Liam especially got a kick out of pretending to be a statue in the haunted house and scaring students when they walked past him. For a child who absolutely loves Halloween, I can’t think of a better suited opportunity to spook his peers than with this.

On Sunday morning, Liam, Atticus, and I ventured out to H-E-B for our weekly grocery run. Because Liam loves Halloween so much, every year he gets to select an indoor and outdoor decoration to add to our growing collection. After much deliberation at H-E-B, he decided we needed a 4 foot tall inflatable pumpkin, ghost, and bat lawn ornament. This purchase proved to be ideal find at a great price!

All in all, it was the kind of weekend that left this Mama Bear feeling happy and fulfilled because there truly is no greater joy than seeing your children happy. Smile on, Mama Bears!

Friday Night Bites

Tonight we enjoyed a family outing in the neighborhood at Friday Night Bites. Local food trucks, live music, and some great fare provided all the entertainment we needed for an enjoyable evening together.

With an assortment of vendors, choosing the perfect dinner proved to be a difficult task. After some window shopping, we decided on Falacos- a food truck specializing in vegan, gluten free taco balls.

falacos
According to their website, falacos are: “Absolutely freakinly delicious falafel balls fried in peanut oil, set on a corn tortilla with an original hummus creation, fresh veggies, and sauces that will blow your mind. Falafel + Taco = Falacos”
After much deliberation, we decided on kimchichi fries. This dish served up a dose of spicy, sweet, salty, and sour with agave pecan hummus, green apple slices, spicy chili sauce atop fried falafels. This delicacy is then topped with sweet hoisin sauce, scallions, and kimchi. All of this deliciousness rested on a bed of perfectly cut french fries. We also enjoyed their Friday the 13th combo: Amazeballs served with hummus and fresh vegetables. Let me just say they absolutely lived up to their name! Quinoa balls topped with fresh hummus, mango chutney, banana peppers, and smoked paprika. So many beautiful flavors in every bite!

We found a shady spot in the grass, laid out a giant beach towel, and plopped down for a picnic. Between bites, Liam enjoyed running around the open field we were sitting in. He ran into one of his classmates and enjoyed playing with her for a bit too.

We closed out the night with N’awlins Sneaux Bawls. Sean surprised us with their three most popular items: Squashed Bullfrog, Dreamsicle, and Bayou Blue. Each sno cone rested on a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The syrup melted into the ice cream creating a beautiful marriage of sweet flavors.

Friday Night Bites offers family fun and great food every 2nd Friday of the month in the Lakeland Village Activity Center. It truly made for the perfect ending to a great work week and was an ideal way to kick off our weekend! If you live in the Cypress area, I highly recommend making a trip out next month.

My Baby You’ll Be

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

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

love you forever mom

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

mom and son

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

toilet paper

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

A Mama and her Bears

This weekend we were one bear short at the den with Papa Bear away on a fishing trip. The neighborhood offered a wealth of opportunities to keep the boys and I happily entertained.

We started off our morning with breakfast at the playground. Sunday mornings are always a little better when you indulge in a blueberry scone paired with coffee. Climbing, crawling, and an unexpected surprise (a hot air balloon floating through the sky) set the tone for a wonderful day.

After lunch, we ventured out to the neighborhood Farmers Market. A few key finds included savory beef samosas, spicy habanero pickles, and homemade popsicles for the boys and me. Liam wore more than half of the red berry rhubarb on his chin and tee shirt. A sure sign he thoroughly enjoyed it. Atticus and I shared a tangy lime cucumber, and I think the photo evidence supports that he more than loved his first popsicle.

For homework, Liam had to complete a university pennant. I discussed the importance of college and showed him a video for each of his parents’ alma maters: Ball State (Sean), Indiana University (Anne), and Texas A&M/The University of Texas (Me). Because I went to two universities, I felt it was important for him to understand that transferring is always a viable option too. As we watched the videos together, I pointed out various features of each school but maintained absolute neutrality. I wanted Liam to decide which university he liked most. When it was all said and done, he decided he liked A&M the most because of Reveille, the Corps of Cadets, and the spirit of Aggieland. Proud of his artistic efforts, he posed with his pennant and made sure to throw in a “Gig ’em, Aggies” for good measure.

With Halloween around the corner, Liam is counting down the days until he can don his Darth Vader costume and venture out for trick or treating. This afternoon he created a Spiderman pumpkin to add to our growing collection.

After a fun filled day of indoor and outdoor activities, I opted for a simple yet delicious dinner of fideo. This classic dish is savory, spicy, and always takes me back to my childhood. It’s also quick, easy, and a great vegetarian option. I usually serve it with warm tortillas but because I was out, I opted for a side of tortilla chips and fresh avocado.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 box of Vermecelli
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ounces chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 packet of Sazon Goya cilantro and tomato seasoning
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons chili powder (more or less depending on how much kick you like)

DIRECTIONS:

Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat until fragrant. Add the Vermecelli and sauté until brown. Then add the broth, water, salt, pepper, seasoning packet, and chili powder. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve with fresh tortillas or tortilla chips and fresh avocado.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

This week has been a whirlwind of illness, work, soccer, dinner, snacks, and a whole lot in the middle of all of that. There have been high points and low points; good days and better days. Through it all, it’s the little things that have stopped me in my tracks, brought a smile to my face, and joy to my heart.

Life is a collage of beautiful moments. Some are incredibly simple and others are far more monumental. These moments are the stories that define us as wives, mothers, daughters, friends, and professionals. Because time gets away from us, these little moments can so quickly fade into the background like everything else in our day.

They say a picture is a worth a thousand words, so I’ll let my favorite images from the week do all the talking!

  1. Bath time with the boys is one of my favorite evening rituals is bath time. It’s a symphony of giggles, baby screams, and splashing water. Atticus feeds off of his older brother’s antics, and I delight in seeing the two of them playing together so happily. Image-1 (53)
  2. My little monkey- Liam has been in gymnastics for a little over a year now. He’s become incredibly fearless and climbs effortlessly up climbing structures with ease. I fondly call him my little monkey because he’s often climbing, swinging, or hanging around like a primate.
  3. Coffee- There is truly no better way to start your morning than with a steeping hot cup of coffee. When you’re weekly coffee shop indulgence doubles as a work of art, it truly is the perfect marriage of beauty and flavor. coffee love
  4. Baby selfies- Sometimes he’s a camera hound and other times he’s much too busy to pose for selfie. In the first selfie, Atticus embraced the camera and gave me one of his beautiful pearly whites. I think the term counts even if you only have two teeth. In the second selfie, playing the piano was far more enticing than saying, “cheese!”
  5. Winding down- After his bath, I like to carve out a few extra minutes of playtime before bed. One night this week, Atticus couldn’t get enough of his Ironman teddy. Like his big brother in so many ways, he was mesmerized by the shiny blue repulsor blasts. ironman
  6. Soccer match- Today marked the first soccer match of the season. I think Liam enjoyed the snacks more than the game. When his nerves subsided however, he did wow me with his speed across the field.
  7. Dessert- Liam looks forward to dessert every night after dinner. Most nights it’s something easy like a frozen fruit bar or a piece of candy. From time to time, I like to up the ante and offer something a little more special. Tonight, I took an H-E-B Neapolitan ice cream sandwich and rimmed the edges with rainbow sprinkles. It was incredibly simple, but the wow factor put Liam on Cloud 9. ice cream sandwich
  8. Little brother- Spectating your first soccer match was the highlight of the morning for this little eleven month old. He skipped out on his morning nap and took in the sights and sounds of YMCA soccer instead. After all, safeguarding your big brother’s soccer ball is an important job! want to be like brother
  9. “Luke, I am your father!”- This afternoon, Liam picked out his Halloween costume at Target. He absolutely loved trying it on and pretending to be the infamous villain with Atticus. He may need to work on his role as Darth Vader though, his brother seemed anything but intimidated. darth vader
  10. Pulling up- At the playground, crawling and pulling up are Atticus’s two favorite things. High on the list would also be laughing at your brother when he gets in your face and makes funny noises. love bugs
  11. Throwback Thursday- This week was Homecoming Week at St. John XXIII. I decided to partake in some Throwback Thursday fun with an homage to one of my favorite television shows from the 90’s… Saved by the Bell.

    While my hair wasn’t quite as long, I did get the Keds shoes, flannel shirt, and Guess jean skirt right for the part of the girl-next-door, Kelly Kawpowski.

  12. Curiosity- As I’ve said before, I absolutely adore Atticus’s little moments of curiosity. This week’s came when he discovered the dryer for the first time. Watching the clothes spin around and around can easily be summed up in two words, “Mind blown!

mesmerized

In high school, one of my favorite songs was Could not Ask for More by Sara Evans. Fast forward almost twenty years later, and these lyrics hold even greater meaning now as a wife and a mother. I will continue to savor the sweet little moments as they come and catalog them away in my heart so that I can always keep them close.

These are the moments I thank God that I’m alive
And these are the moments I’ll remember all my life
I’ve found all I’ve waited for
And I could not ask for more

Chorus from Could not Ask for More by Sara Evans

 

Soup on a Sick Day

Sometimes trying to carry the weight of the world comes at a price. I put so much energy into transitioning into a new job and jumping into it with great gusto. Then Atticus got sick and again I expended more energy on worrying, doting, and offering extra TLC to comfort him in his time of need. In the midst of all of this, I let work and personal stress get the best of me. Burning the candle at both ends typically doesn’t end well for me.

So yesterday when I woke up with a sore throat, I knew I might be in trouble. Unfortunately as the day progressed, I started to feel feverish, achy, and downright puny. When Atticus went down for his afternoon nap and Liam started his quiet time, I knew I needed to see a doctor to make sure I wasn’t coming down with something more serious than a cold.

It’s rare that I get sick, but when I do, it usually knocks me flat on my you know what. As I waited to see the doctor, I feel asleep on the table; a sign I was really in for it. The doctor walked in, awaking me from my feverish slumber, and delivered the bad news. My lab results confirmed strep throat.

I’d already missed two days of work only a week and a half into my new job because Atticus was too sick for daycare. Now I faced calling in again, this time to report I was too sick to work. This, of course, sent me into a bit of a tizzy because I worried immensely about what my new administrators would think about me missing another day of work. In the end, I accepted my fate, although rather begrudgingly, because I didn’t have any other alternatives.

Today’s sick day has been restful with lots of napping, lying in bed, and catching up on Hallmark movies. The antibiotics, fluids, and rest seem to be working their magic. I’ll be back at work tomorrow and will slowly ease back into it so that I can ensure a speedy recovery.

When I’m under the weather, there’s nothing better than homemade soup to ease my symptoms. Perhaps fate worked in my favor when it came to weekly meal planning because Saturday morning I’d purchased all of the necessary ingredients for chicken tortilla soup. I prepped, diced, chopped, minced, and gathered all of the items early on Sunday morning before I started to feel terrible. After my doctor’s visit and a trip to the pharmacy, I whipped it together in under 20 minutes. This soup was savory, spicy, and exactly what the doctor ordered! The leftovers were perfect for lunch today too.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (Remove the seeds if you want to take the heat down a few notches)
  • 1 pound chicken tenders, chopped
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons – 1 tablespoon of chipotle chili pepper (It depends on how much heat you like!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh cilantro, large handful
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn

GARNISHES:

  • Mexican cheese blend, grated
  • fresh limes, quartered
  • cilantro for topping
  • tortilla chips, crushed or in strips
  • fresh avocado, sliced

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot on high heat, sauté the onions, garlic, and jalapeno in olive oil until fragrant. Add the chicken and cook until brown. Next add the tomatoes, corn, and the handful of cilantro. Top with salt, pepper, and chipotle chili pepper. Bring to a boil to warm everything through. When the soup is ready, serve with your favorite garnishes.

To stretch this soup, consider adding black beans.