Good Things Come in Threes

In the last month, we’ve enjoyed some savory homemade soups, spectated at a few sporting events, and smiled almost every step of the way. True to the adage, “good things come in threes”, tonight’s blog post highlights three of my recent favorites- soup, spectating, and smiles!

TUSCAN CHICKEN SOUP

Since Christmas, I’ve been on a soup kick- chicken tortilla, chicken detox soup, vegetable beef, and now a simple Tuscan chicken soup. Most Sundays, I make a pot of soup that starts the week off on a great foot with a delicious dinner option that also makes for some amazing workday lunches.

This soup was adapted from a recipe I found on Nicky’s Kitchen Sanctuary (www.kitchensanctuary.com). It could also very easily be a delightful vegetarian option by substituting the chicken for cannellini or white beans.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 2 medium white potatoes, diced
  • 2 cartons chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed; deboned & shredded
  • 4 handfuls fresh kale

Directions:

In a large soup pot, sauté the onions on medium heat in one tablespoon olive oil for ten minutes until soft and translucent. Stir occasionally.

Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until fragrant (2 to 3 minutes).

Next add the carrots, celery, potatoes, chicken broth, and spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken and kale and heat through for up to five minutes until the kale is wilted. Garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and serve with a crusty bread. We enjoyed ours with some delicious rosemary focaccia.

SPECTATING

Atticus and I joined our friends Gabe and Miriam and their sweet son, Milo, to cheer on our friends along the Chevron Houston Marathon course. It was beautiful, cold, sunny day- a trifecta for perfect racing conditions. We cheered loudly and encouraged our fellow Bayou City Road Runners along the course as they zoomed by us a mile 22 in Memorial Park. Despite the cold temperatures, Atticus and I enjoyed spectating, spending time with good friends, and offering smiles to the fearless runners on their journey to the finish line.

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One evening a few weeks ago while Sean was in Dallas for work, I threw a little spontaneity into our week when I took the boys to the girls’ varsity soccer game at my school. Both boys enjoyed cheering on the Lady Lions as they savored Chick-fil-a kids meals in the bleachers. In my favorite picture of the evening, Liam moved to the railing for a close up view of the action, and Atticus turned just in time to smile for the camera.

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Every Saturday for the last month, Atticus and I have cheered on the Liam and his fellow Heat teammates. Sean has earned a special place in heaven for the amount of patience it requires to coach a team of kindergarten basketball playing boys. Every week, we’ve seen Liam make great strides on the court as his dribbling and passing skills have improved. Go, Liam, go!

SMILES

In a house full of laughter and light, smiles and happiness are plentiful. Between the squeals, giggles, and screams of a 15 month old and a six year old, it is often a constant cacophony of  sounds. Beautiful smiles almost always accompany the noises and sounds that reverberate off of the walls in our den. Below are some of my most favorite smiles from the last month.

As I reflect back on the memories shared around a kitchen table, the happiness accomplished through sportsmanship, and the simplicity and beauty of a child’s smile, I am reminded time and time again of how infinitely blessed I am. Here’s to many more moments of joy. May they continue to come in threes, fours, or any other numerical combination of greatness!

Five More Minutes

On my favorite local country radio station, a song by Scotty McCreery has been getting a lot of air time. The song evokes strong emotions and often brings me to tears as I sing along to Five More Minutes. 

“Time rolls by the clock don’t stop
I wish I had a few more drops
Of the good stuff, the good times
Oh but they just keep on flying
Right on by like it ain’t nothing
Wish I had me a pause button
Moments like those Lord knows I’d hit it
And give myself five more minutes.”

Holding Atticus tonight before bed as he fell asleep in my arms, I found myself silently singing the chorus to myself. Thinking about how quickly time passes and how before we know it these moments become nothing more than a distant memory.

A loved one we lost before we had a chance to say goodbye. A baby now going off to college before we’re ready to be emptynesters. An embrace with a loved one as you say goodbye and part ways until the next time. In our life, if we were only so lucky to have the opportunity to slow time, hit a pause button, and give ourselves five more minutes with the people we love and care about.

You know as well as I do we would all be so lucky if we truly could afford ourselves more time. But time marches on at the same rate every single day. It is up to us to soak up the beautiful moments, grow from the moments that challenge and test us, and give thanks for all of the little things that make our lives special and rich.

Slow down enough to savor a cup of coffee with your husband or girlfriend and get lost in the small talk that comes from two people sharing time together. Take the long route home when you push your children home in their red wagon after an afternoon at the playground and soak in the smiles and laughter. Give yourself five more minutes on the phone with your mom or best friend even if you have a mountain of to do’s piling up and savor the beauty of your relationship.

One moment at at time. One day at a time. Live it as though it could be your last. We never know when that day will come but allowing ourselves to marinate in these enriching moments will carry us along through the more difficult challenges life throws in our path. It will propel us forward and give us the grace, appreciation, and love to keep these beautiful memories close to our heart. Give yourself permission to give yourself five more minutes…

Grace, Giving, & Gratitude

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of holiday festivities, semester exams, Christmas decorations, cookie baking, and all of the other day-to-day to do’s. I’ve been hard pressed for time and found most of my blogging time being reallocated to hiding Liam’s elf nightly or spending my little bits of downtime with my nose buried in a book.

With Christmas less than twelve days away, I found my heart and head eager to share my sentiments with others, and so I’m finally putting pen to paper for the first blog post in almost a week.

Grace

Grace is defined as the freely given, unmerited favor, and love of God. Nothing more clearly articulates his love than the gift of his only son to save us from our sins. In the hustle and bustle that comes with preparing for the holiday season, it is easy to get wrapped up in the shopping and gift giving. While these are aspects of the holiday that allow us to connect and show our love for others, we also must find pause in our busy lives to recognize the true reason for the season.

It isn’t always easy to find opportunities to reflect on the miraculous story of Christmas  of how a humble man took a woman’s hand in marriage knowing she was carrying a son that was not his all because an angel affirmed his role in God’s plan. And at the center of this beautiful story, a baby was born on a cold, winter night underneath a blanket of stars with an incredibly full life of fellowship and faith ahead of him. In these last few days leading up to Christmas, let us open our hearts to the infinite beauty and grace of God.

In my daily life, I try to find grace in the simplicity of all God created- a breathtaking sunset, a fragrant rose, or a blanket of fresh snow. Miraculous things can happen when we least expect them to. Awestruck by its beauty, I was amazed to wake up to a backyard full of snow last Friday. To see Liam giddy with excitement about getting to frolic in the snow. Watching my high school students play with childlike abandonment as they waged war against one another in a snowball fight of epic proportions on our quad.

Grace truly is in the little things we often are too busy to notice. These simple gifts of grace and beauty show us God’s love each and every day if we allow ourselves to slow down enough to take it all in.

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Giving

A tenet of Christmas is gift giving. This act of love comes in many forms. Oftentimes we equate gift giving with lavish gifts perfectly wrapped and topped with a bright, red bow.  Sometimes, however, small acts of kindness prove to be just as special and can be far more sincere and touching.

For my coworkers this Christmas, fresh baked cookies, surprise Starbucks lattes, and unexpected kolaches during semester exams brought smiles and joy to many of their faces. For my son, giving my time to hide his elf every night is a small way I’ve brought surprise, wonder, and joy to his mornings. Brightening someone’s day with a sincere smile, an extra large tip, or a genuine hello can move mountains for the people who are on the receiving end of these simple gestures of kindness. Sharing quality time with the special people in our lives is another opportunity to give to the ones we love. This week, we let Liam stay up a little later than normal, so I could push him around in the jogging stroller on one of my evening runs to take in the Christmas lights in our neighborhood. He enjoyed seeing the fun decorations, but more importantly I loved the chance to give him these little moment to relish in.

 

Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude is especially important. Taking stock of the infinite blessings we have, offering thanks, and appreciation for the gifts of family, friends, health, and prosperity.

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I am truly grateful for a loving husband who makes me smile, challenges me to be my best, and makes me laugh in the most unexpected ways. I’m far from the perfect spouse or mother, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my life with my Papa Bear and Baby Bears. My sweet boys, you light up my life. I carry your smiles, the sound of your giggles, and the happiness you radiate with me wherever I go. Being a Mama Bear, brings me so much joy. Marriage and motherhood bring with it their own unique set of challenges, but the memories and milestones far outweigh the difficulties.

Christmas is a season of faith, joy, and new beginnings. It’s an opportunity for us to grow in God’s grace, give to those in need, and offer gratitude for the blessings we have in our lives. Wishing each and every one of you a blessed Christmas full of light, love, and holiday joy!

The Road to Motherhood

The road to motherhood is not always a linear path. Sometimes a road less travelled leads us towards something our heart could have never expected. My journey started three and a half years ago when I crossed paths with a handsome widower’s online dating profile. I soon found myself falling in love with two incredibly special and unique individuals. One was a strong, motivated father who put his son’s needs ahead of his and opened his heart to the possibilities a relationship with me could bring. The other was a precocious toddler with beautiful eyes as blue as the sky and a smile that melted my heart every time his lips parted in joy. I could have never imagined my role as a mother would first start as a stepmother of a three year old, but I also can’t envision my life being any different because having Liam in my life has been an absolute blessing.

Two years into motherhood, I found out I was pregnant with Atticus. It was a rollercoaster of hormones, bouts of morning sickness, and a waistline that grew a little more every single day. As a little life grew inside of me, my heart swelled with love as I envisioned what this baby would be like when he made his grand entrance later that year. My life forever changed again when my doctor placed a precious 5 pound 15 ounce newborn in my arms for the very first time.

This last year has challenged me as a wife and a mother. It’s inspired me to be more mindful of the little things that make our lives so rich and meaningful. It has been eye opening, raw, real, beautiful, and unscripted. Life as a mother requires patience, a big heart, compassion, and humor. How else do you get through the messy parts of it like spit up, throw up, exploding diapers, and boogers for days?

Armed with all of this, I circle back to how this blog post started describing how the road to motherhood is not always a linear path. November is National Adoption Month, a month that signifies an important month for many children who find love, support, and happiness with their forever families. This is a month that will soon hold a very special place in this Mama Bear’s heart too as we will welcome a daughter into our lives sometime this year. This is a journey that started with a conversation over a year ago and developed into a more serious dialogue between Sean and I about eight months ago. Then this summer we started attending parenting classes and started the mountain of paperwork required to start this journey.

As public as I have been about my chronicles as a Mama Bear. This next step will be incredibly private. Because we are working with an agency contracted through Child Protective Services, until our adoption is consummated, we cannot post anything on social media about the expansion of our family. Our home study will be completed in the next few weeks and then we will cleared to begin considering little girls who would be an ideal fit for our family. I pray for my daughter every single day. I don’t know her yet but I can’t wait to meet her. I pray that her foster parents are meeting her needs daily and are making her feel safe and loved. Her past will undoubtedly require unconditional love, unwavering patience, and unfailing support to help her overcome and thrive. I know it will challenge me in ways I’ve never expected, but it will also only add to the rawness, realness, and beauty of my story as a mother.

The path to motherhood is rarely a perfectly straight line from Point A to Point B. My path thus far has shaped me into the mother I am today. A mother who loves fiercely, gives it her all every single day, and forgives herself when she falls short sometimes. I am far from perfect, but my heart is open and ready for this next chapter as a Mama Bear.

 

A Balancing Act

Dr. Seuss put it best with, “So be sure you step, step with great care and tact. And remember that life’s a great balancing act.” (excerpt from Oh the Places You’ll Go). These simple yet poignant words encompass all the hats we Mama Bears wear as wives, mothers, professionals, and dreamers. Finding time to give your spouse the support and love he deserves, showering your children with positive affirmations and hugs, fulfilling your professional obligations with fidelity, and squeezing in tidbits of time for self care prove day in and day out to require incredible time management skills and an uncanny ability to multi task.

In the course of day, what we set out to do is nothing short of superhuman. Getting up before the sun rises, getting ourselves and our children dressed, packing lunches and backpacks, inhaling breakfast and downing coffee, dropping the kiddos off at daycare, and zipping off to work and it’s only 7:00 a.m.

The work day kicks off to a running start at 7:30 a.m., and it’s parent meetings, guidance lessons, individual student counseling sessions, lunch duty, academic team meetings, 8th grade tours, college rep visits, and a slew of emails and phone calls are all in a days work. Somewhere in the midst of all of this I manage to pump twice, usually while I’m returning phone calls or emails as I also try to eat lunch.

When 4:00 rolls around, I’m out the door and making a bee line to daycare to pick up the baby bears who I absolutely cannot wait to see. It’s hugs, homework, sharing the best parts of our day, and some playtime all before dinner. During the week, it’s leftovers or low key dinners that simplify life. Then it’s bath time, which is one of my favorite parts of the day because it’s relaxed, there’s lot of laughing, and the splashing and smiles are perfect too.

Then it’s books and bedtime for the boys, and it’s time for a role reversal. I change hats from a mama bear to a runner and head out the door for some sweat, solitude, and reflection. After pounding out a few miles, the hat changes again, and I step into my role as a wife. Sometimes we catch up over a glass of wine or enjoy one of our favorite shows. By this time in the evening, it’s been an incredibly long day for us. Papa Bears, after all,  walk their own tight rope every day too.

Through it all, their love keeps me pushing forward. Making the best of every moment, even the less ideal ones. This week, for example, sweet Atticus is contending with a sinus infection and has been feverish. I’ve had to leave work early for the last two days to give him a little extra TLC. Such is the life of a Mama Bear though, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To all of you Mama Bears out there, balancing your load with beauty and grace, pat yourselves on the back for all of the things you accomplish daily in life. You are a force to be reckoned with. You are a doer, a lover, a mother, and so much more. Take it one day at a time, life each day to the fullest, and remember the words of dear old Dr. Seuss, “life’s a great balancing act.”

New Beginnings

My career as a school counselor began three years ago at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic School, a small inner city Catholic school in the heart of the Fifth Ward in Houston. It was here that I developed a comprehensive guidance program and built a rapport with my students and their families. I could have never prepared myself for the joy that came from helping others academically, socially, and emotionally. It was a difficult school to walk away from; but when a new opportunity knocked, I answered.

Two years ago, prayerful intentions led me to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School where I continued to grow as a school counselor. With an open heart and an open mind, I found my work incredibly rewarding and very quickly grew to love the faculty, students, and families. My days were brighter because of elementary students’ bright smiles and hugs. My heart was happier because of the joy that came from coaching cheer and track; a position I took very seriously as I suited out for practice just like my athletes and led them in workouts around the track. I challenged myself in many ways professionally- leading accommodations meetings, advocating for students with learning difficulties, and meeting the social and emotional needs of many, including faculty and staff. Professionally, I was happy, fulfilled, and content.

Then on the Friday of my first week back at work, I received a phone call from the Director of Admissions at St. John XXIII College Prepatory High School. They had a school counseling vacancy and expressed interest in having me come by for an interview. I found myself immediately torn. I loved the work I was doing at St. Elizabeth but recognized the tremendous opportunities for growth the new position offered. Despite the conflict I felt, I knew I at least needed to interview for the position because I didn’t want to leave myself carrying around any “what ifs?”. My first interview went well, which led to a callback from the principal, and second interview with him. By midweek, I was offered the position, and knew I had a significant amount of soul searching to do.

After prayerful consideration and several heart-to-heart conversations with my closest family and friends, I decided that this opporunity was too good to pass up. The timing was far from ideal; leaving my current position less than a month into the new year and taking on a new role in a new school later in the game. Nevertheless, I’m eager to embark on this new journey and challenge myself professionally in new ways.

A few weeks ago, my post focused on the adage, “everything happens for a reason.” God put this new opporunity in my lap for a reason. This did not happend by accident. My principal notified the faculty and parents about my new position this afternoon. I’m incredibly grateful for his support and look forward to what the future holds. My last day at St. Elizabeth is this Friday. I will take the next few days to say my goodbyes and prepare for this next phase in my professional life.

So here’s to new beginnings, moving forward, and embracing the adventure that lies ahead. Thank you St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for the tremendous opportunities. You will forever have a place in my heart!

Difficult Decisions

In life, “there are no accidents!” “Everything happens for a reason.” These adages may seem overused and even a little cliche, and yet they can truly be poignant in their own right.

I bring these well-known quotes up today because a very unexpected opportunity recently fell into my lap. I’ll elaborate in more detail in a future post, but I’m not in a position to publicly address this opportunity just yet. Now I find myself discerning over a very important life decision that up until last Friday wasn’t even on my radar. When I find myself face-to-face with a difficult decision, my first instinct is always to leave it in the hands of the Lord. He, after all, put this opportunity in front of me in the first place.

Decision making is something I struggle with even in the simplest of situations. “Should I order the French toast and bacon or the blueberry pancakes and sausage? Hmmm!” The last time I found myself pondering my breakfast options certainly wasn’t going to have life altering ramifications. So now faced with one of the biggest professional decisions, I find myself teetering a tight rope of indecision.

The aforementioned quotes I found on Google images last night encompass a wide array of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that are weighing heavily on my heart. In revisiting this theme of difficult decision making, two quotes resonate the deepest within me and are pushing me to accept how this all fell into my lap in the first place.

“Making a big life change is pretty scary. But, know what’s even scarier? Regret.” I know I have to follow my heart and my intuition on this, but that doesn’t make the decision I need to make any easier.

“Sometimes you have to do what’s best for you and your life, not what’s best for everybody else.” This final quote reverberates loudly all around me because in my work as a counselor, I’m often acting off of what is best for everyone else.

So in the next few days as I discern, pray, and ultimately finalize an incredibly difficult decision, I will continue to circle back to “everything happens for a reason.” I ask that you please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I turn it over to God.