Revisiting 2017

With 2017 in the books, I thought my first post for the new year warranted a walk down memory lane. A way to reflect on the more poignant parts of last year that shaped how I grew as a wife, mother, and woman. Life truly is full of beautiful moments that challenge us, inspire us, and remind us how infinitely blessed we are. Below are 12 pictures, one for each month of 2017. While there were so many special moments I shared with my family all year long, these commemorated an event or captured a moment that resonated something profound within me.

This picture was taken last January in Austin. We were enjoying an outdoor lunch on the deck at Central Market. Liam jumped, climbed, and ran around at the playground just feet away, and I enjoyed a beautiful moment cuddling with Atticus. I didn’t realize my mother was snapping pictures, but Atticus seemed to know as he smiled directly into the camera. I loved the photo so much that I framed it and hung it on our wall. Looking at it every time I walk down the stairs, still warms my heart.

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In just a few short months, the brotherly bond between Liam and Atticus could not be denied. This picture, taken last February on Go Texan Day illuminates their bond. Liam protectively hugging his brother close to his heart, and Atticus taking comfort in the strength and support of his big brother.

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Nothing warms my heart more than seeing my own Mama Bear falling in love with her grandchildren. This photo was candidly taken at a reception at our house following Atticus’s baptism. I love how fondly and affectionately my mother looks down at Atticus. She continues to be an inspiration of the kind of mother I aspire to be most like in life. She embodies the type of kindness, patience, and love I can only hope to exemplify in my own daily life.

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This photo exemplifies the beautiful people who I had the privilege of celebrating my 34th birthday with last April. Each of the people seated at this table have pulled me up through some of my more difficult points in life or showered me with love and kindness at higher points in my life. Each and every one of them holds an incredibly dear place in my heart. Thank you immensely for the gift of your friendship. I look forward to many more amazing years of miles, laughs, celebrations, and joyous moments together.

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May symbolizes the many milestones this last year brought. The birth of my first child. This little person who developed his own personality, learned how to roll over, crawl, babble, laugh, pull up, and walk with help from supportive hands.

Liam ended primary school with a graduation and started kindergarten. He is now actively reading and truly soaking up knowledge like a little sponge. My heart swells with pride at the accomplishments both boys have achieved this year. Big and small, these milestones have monumental meaning for this Mama Bear.

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This photo encapsulates everything I absolutely love- my boys, summer fun, and beach adventures. I fondly look back at the summers I spent with my mom, brother, and childhood friends building sandcastles, combing the shore for shells, and frolicking in the surf. There is nothing I like sharing more than my love of the ocean with Liam and Atticus. I look forward to a lifetime of summer memories built around our time on South Padre Island.

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July is all about stars and stripes as we celebrate our nation’s independence every July 4th. Piggybacking on the stripes theme, this was a simple selfie taken as I was getting dressed in July. I love how incredibly happy Atticus is. His joy illustrates how beneficial it would be for us as adults to take a step back from our busy lives to look at life through the eyes of a child. Innocence, beauty, and joy in its purest sense!

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Hurricane Harvey brought tragedy, humility, and community to the greater Houston area. People came together to help those in need in so many different ways. Our family and friends fared incredibly well while others were far less fortunate. The devastation and loss brought meaningful opportunities to teach the importance of helping our neighbors in times of need and doing our part to make Houston strong.

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September brought the first day of kindergarten. Liam beamed with pride as he posed that morning. He was so excited to make new friends and go to a “big boy school”. In the semester since school started, he’s mastering sight words, can count to 100 like it’s a cake walk, completes mental math in his head like a little mathematician, and asks at least 50 questions a day as all curious children should.

This picture embodies pride all around. A Mama Bear proud of her eldest heading off to grade school. A kindergartner beaming with joy about the prospect of all his first year of grade school will hold. A baby bear who can only dream about grade school but thinks it’s so incredibly cool that his big brother is off to do great things!

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October memories are full and plentiful, but nothing more accurately rounds out milestones for the year of 2017 than the loss of your first tooth. The anticipation of the Tooth Fairy’s visit and the feeling of empty space illuminate all that encompassed Liam’s feelings about losing a tooth. Like any badge of honor, he wears it proudly as he eagerly awaits the next one. With no wiggly prospective teeth in the line up though, it could be awhile until the next one makes its exit!

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November commemorated remembrance and unexpected loss. The tragic loss of a dear friend brought a group of close friends and family together to celebrate the beautiful life Meg led serving others, kicking asphalt, and being one hell of a Mama Bear, wife, and friend. Your radiant light will continue to shine and inspire others even in your absence!

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December marks the importance of family. The holidays offer the opportunity for renewal, togetherness, and the merriment and joy of Christmas. From last year to now, some of the changes in my life have been profoundly significant. In reflecting on this last year, I recognize how infinitely blessed I am in so many ways. I have a beautiful family who I love with every ounce of my being. As a wife, mother, and woman, I had beautiful moments and other times I didn’t let my best self shine through.

Christmas is a time for forgiveness. Recognizing the relationship is more important than our individual egos. In this new year, I will make a more concerted effort to give myself more credit for the good I attempt to do each and every day, and I will forgive myself for the times I feel like I’m falling short. Each day is a new opportunity to start over and try to be more patient first with myself and then with others. In 2018, I will try to cut myself some slack if I deviate from “the plan”. The laundry can wait or we can eat grilled cheese again for dinner if it means more quality time with my husband and children.

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I will close with a quote fondly used by my late friend, Meg. “Life is precious… let us try not to waste it!” Wishing you a precious 2018. Bask in all that this year brings. Every day won’t always be beautiful but if you can find one beautiful moment in those more difficult days, you’ve successfully found your silver lining. Thank you for supporting my blog and giving my words meaning. I look forward to the next year of sharing my stories with you.

A 6th Birthday of Liamisms

Today marked Liam’s 6th birthday. While driving to Shipley’s this morning for birthday donuts. I started singing happy birthday with an assortment of different nicknames for Liam just for grins. Each time it went a little something like:

  • “Happy birthday dear, Liamnardo da Vinci. Happy birthday to you!”
  • “Happy birthday dear, Liamnardo James Macaroni . Happy birthday to you!”
  • “Happy birthday dear, Liam Sweet Pea Mogwai. Happy birthday to you!”

Every time he chimed in with, “Mom, that’s not my real name.” I preceded to follow up with his full name. At which point he contested yet again that this wasn’t his real name either. He matter of factly followed up with, “No mom. My real name is just Liam.”

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In honor of Liam and his special day on this 5th of November, it seemed only fitting to compile some of his most recent Liamisms to commemorate his sixth birthday.

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“Mom, you want to hear something hilarasing? It’s so funny it will make you laugh.” “Liam, sweetie, I think the word you mean is hilarious. Hilarious is another word for funny.” “Oh yeah, that’s what I meant to say!”

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“Liam, I really need you to be a first time listener, please.” “Mom, I think I’m having a hard time hearing because I have too much ear wax in my ears. Maybe you should clean them out with a Q Tip, so I can hear better.”

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“Mom, why don’t we use mattresses at the dinner table anymore?” “What mattresses are you talking about Liam?” “You know the ones we used to put under our plate to catch the food.” “Oh, you mean place mats.” “Oh right, that’s what they’re called.”

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“Mom, wouldn’t it be funny if I was only one like Atticus. Then we’d be twins. We could play together all the time.” “Liam, I’m sure that would be a lot of fun for you two but it would be a lot of work for me.” “You’re right, Mom. Think of how many poopy diapers two babies would make. That would be disgusting!”

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Liam, your wit and humor bring light to our days. You are an incredibly intelligent young man with a world full of possibilities in front of you. Keep working hard, making us proud, and bringing a smile to our face with your perfectly imperfect Liamisms. May this year bring you happiness, adventures, and so much more! Happiest of birthday wishes to you, Golden Bear.

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An Open Letter to my Baby Bear

Sweet Atticus,

It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, the doctor placed your tiny body in my arms. I remember vividly holding you close in those first few moments together and whispering in your ear how much I loved you. My world forever changed that day in ways I could have never imagined. Just thinking about all 5 pounds 15 ounces of you makes my eyes well up with tears. You, Baby Bear, are the greatest thing I’ve ever accomplished, and I will worry about you for the rest of my days on this earth.

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So much happened in your first year of life for both of us. I successfully mastered nursing and still find great joy in being able to spend quality time with you every day rocking you in the rocking chair my own mother once rocked and nursed me in. It truly is amazing how things come full circle! Your little hands and feet have grown and so has your length and weight. You’re now just shy of 20 pounds, and my chiseled arms are from lifting and carrying you around with me all through the house.

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There were nights where I wondered if I’d ever sleep through the night again. You would wake up every two to three hours to nurse, and in a zombie like state I would shuffle through the darkness to comfort. But a year later, I can say with gratitude that you my littlest, sleep through the night and for the most part so do I. I find myself waking from time to time if you cough or stir just to check on you as I peer into the monitor. But most nights, that’s just my mommy worry getting the best of me.

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Blank stares gave way to first smiles and baby coos of happiness. Tummy time, something you absolutely loathed initially, turned into playtime before I knew it. Rolling over, sitting up, pulling up, and now trying to walk came on so quickly. Leaving you alone for even a split second isn’t possible anymore. You’re in to everything and always require an incredibly watchful eye.

Exploding diapers, runny noses, teething, and drooling all made their mark on numerous occasions. Some of these moments were laughable. Others were downright disgusting and smelly. But even still, I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it for a second.

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You bring so much light to my life- watching you crawl with great curiosity across the hardwood floor or pulling up onto your tippy toes to reach for something you need to know more about. Your smile and belly laugh melt my heart in unimaginable ways. I live for those moments to see you so happy in your father’s arms or underneath your brother’s hug.

The Lord blessed me infinitely when he brought you into my life. I look forward to all of the little and big things your future holds. I ask for continued patience, guidance, and love as I make every effort each and every day to be the absolute best Mama Bear for you and your big brother, Liam.

Happy first birthday, my sweet Atticus. “I will love you forever, love you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby bear you’ll be!”

Rain, a Baby Lamb, & Darth Vader

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Thankfully the rainy conditions didn’t dampen our Halloween. In lieu of trick or treating outdoors, we opted for a more creative evening of indoor trick or treating. Then we rummaged through the Halloween loot as we watched A Toy Story Terror Halloween movie pushing pause occasionally for the few soggy trick or treaters who rang our doorbell. Atticus sampled his first lollipop, and his sweet smile and sticky fingers proved it was love at first lick!

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You might be wondering what in the world indoor trick or treating looks like. It took a little creative ingenuity, but Liam’s grandparents pitched in so Liam could trick or treated through the house to four different rooms. He preceded to bang on doors, shout trick or treat, and relish in the excitement of a pumpkin tote filled to the brim with Twix, Kit Kats, Pirates Booty, Dum Dums, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and a whole mess of other sweet treats.

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The rain never dissipated, but Sean decided to brave the weather with Liam so he could trick or treat at a few houses in the neighborhood. The outdoor adventure was short lived, however, because the cooler temperatures and increasing rainfall made for rather unpleasant conditions.

After the sugar rush ended and Darth Vader and our little lamb were tucked in for the night, I decided to venture out myself for a rainy run. I felt like a little kid splashing through ankle deep puddles in the pouring rain. The neighborhood was quiet with few porch lights on and and even less trick or treaters out and about. The pervasive theme as I ran through the dark neighborhood past houses along the lake was the number of televisions I saw on with people gathered around watching the Astros.

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This has truly proven to be a unique Halloween, which certainly seems to be the trend for us. It was only last year that I was trick or treating with Liam, Sean and the Rafla’s while I was in labor with Atticus. I can only imagine what next year will have in store for us! The only thing that will make this night even better is a World Series win for the Astros.

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Ahoy, Matey!

With birthdays just days apart for Atticus and Liam (November 1st and 5th), a combined pirate themed party seemed like the ideal way to celebrate their birthdays with our family and friends.

Pinterest as always proved to be a valuable resource for planning the perfect pirate themed party. Black and red duct tape lined the sidewalk and led guests to the X marks the spot; signaling the beginning of the birthday party fun. A giant inflatable pirate ship bounce house complete with cannons, a lookout post, a parrot, and a skull and cross bones flag brought the theme to life. My parents found a beautiful pirate ship piñata in the Rio Grande Valley to add some hard hitting fun to the mix.

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Snacks, birthday cakes, and treasure map party favor bags brought the theme full circle. Guests sampled Pirate’s Gold (cheese slices), Polly’s Crackers (Ritz and Triskets), Cannon Balls (black olives), Shark Bait (multi-colored goldfish), Dead Man’s Fingers (Lil’ Smokies with BBQ sauce), Caribbean Sea Water (blue Powerade with the labels removed).

My Amazon Prime membership proved to be a godsend with personalized birthday shirts, pirates jewels, gold coins, temporary tattoos, and a treasure map. Thankfully Liam’s toy box yielded pirate figurines that made perfect cake toppers for their birthday cakes. Initially Atticus wasn’t quite sure about his cake, but with time realized he preferred the pastry part more than the icing.

Shiver me timbers, this party is in the books, and thankfully no one had to walk the plank. It was wonderful celebrating our baby bears with our friends and family. Thank you for showering the boys with amazing birthday gifts. They’ll be playing with their new toys in the days and weeks to come. We arrrgh so glad you were able to join us!

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.

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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 Toothless Wonder

This evening Liam joined the ranks of so many children who have came before him with the loss of his first tooth.  My little toothless wonder was so excited about the prospect of looking under his pillow to see what the tooth fairy left him.

After posing for some obligatory photos, rinsing the blood out of his mouth, and safely tucking his tooth under the pillow, we settled in for a bedtime story before bed. As the story drew to a close, we exchanged hugs and Liam began peppering me with questions about the tooth fairy.

“How big is the tooth fairy?” he inquired as he pinched his fingers together demonstrating how little he thought she was. Because Sean told him she flew in through the window, I assured him that she was quite small. “How else could she easily come through the window? Of course she has to be at least big enough to pick up your tooth and fly away with it,” I added.

As I tucked him in, he looked me in the eye with a serious furrow in his brow and said, “Mom, I know she’s going to leave me a lot of money because I brushed that tooth extra every night just for her.” I met his gaze with a smile; amused by his statement but not letting on that I found it both adorable and humorous.

I’m eager to see him in the morning, beaming with joy about the loss of his first tooth and the bounty she left him under his pillow. It’s sweet moments like these that make you appreciate how beautiful life is when you allow yourself to approach life through the eyes of a child.