Making Time to Slow Down

One of the my favorite parts of summer break is the opportunity to slow things down and take things as they come. The need for alarms, rigid schedules, and the typical “go-go-go” mentality take a back seat to the simpler things in life.

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For each of us, I think summer break has offered a unique opportunity to relax, grow personally and together, and enjoy all things summer… sun, sand, and splashes. You can learn a lot trying to live life through the eyes of a child. In their world, things slow down, are far less stressful, and come with an a healthy amount of light moments and laughter.

If our summer was a made-for-tv movie, the script would read something like this…

THE RETIREE

Liam would love nothing more than to retire early and live the beach bum life. Every morning would start with sleeping in, downing donuts, and cramming in as much screen time as his parents would allow him. If he could stay in his pajamas and laze away the day, he most certainly would. The one exception Liam would willingly make to bring himself out of retirement would be anything water related. For him, water fun comes in many forms- water guns, pools, splash pads, and beaches.

When school starts in August, my little retiree might have a difficult time initially re-acclimating to the realities of first grade. I’m pretty sure he can’t wear pj’s or press snooze on his alarm when back to school dictates the direction life takes. While this adjustment period may prove to be hard at least for a few weeks, there is no doubt in my mind he’ll be ready to soar to new heights academically.

THE BACKPACKER

In his future life, Atticus aspires to be a world traveler. He absolutely loves toting a suitcase on wheels. He fondly refers to it as his car as he pulls it down the sidewalk or through the living room eager to find his next adventure. Atticus wakes up bright and early, and summer break is no exception. His infectious smile greets me every morning. From the minute he’s lifted out of his crib until he lays his head down for nap time or bedtime, this little man is a mile a minute. He idolizes his big brother down to the shoes he wears, and the big boys things he does like brushing his teeth.

When summer ends for Atticus, he’ll take his take-on-the-world attitude into his new toddler class. For this Mama Bear, it breaks my heart that he’s growing up so fast. But little Atti is resilient, and I have no doubt he’ll flourish in his new social setting. Oh, the places you’ll go, Atticus!

With less than two weeks until I’m officially back at work, I will continue to relish in the simplicities of summer. There’s still time for a few more adventures with my dynamic duo. After all, we still have miles to log as we bike the neighborhood, frozen yogurt and sno cones with our names on them, and plenty of water fun to be had! I’m cataloging these memories to get me through the back-to-school blues that always come when summer officially ends!

 

Summer on the Horizon

With just one week left until my work obligations cease and desist, at least until August, the excitement of summer is definitely on the horizon. If the little moments of happiness sprinkled in on the weekends and after school can predict the future, then the boys and I have a great summer in store for us. Today marks Liam’s last day of kindergarten. I still cannot believe how much he’s grown academically, socially, and not to mention physically. But today instead of looking backwards, I am looking forwards to the simplicities that come with the summer.

ADIOS ALARMS…

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One of the simple pleasures of summer is bidding adieu to setting an alarm clock. Granted my children are both set with internal alarms that often have them rising before the sunrise most days however I look forward to letting their internal clocks set the tone for our days rather than a blaring alarm.

SNOW CONES! YES, PLEASE.

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Houston summers are hot and humid no matter how early in the morning you rise to avoid the heat. Hydration and sunscreen are both key to a safe summer of fun in the sun. What better way to cool off than with an ice cold, refreshing treat like a snow cone. Our favorite local spot is Bahama Bucks. They have a great rewards program to help you earn free snow cones and the boys absolutely love this indulgence. This Mama Bear is pretty keen on them too, especially their Birthday Cake flavor with sprinkles.

QUALITY TIME

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During the school year, authentic quality time is often limited to the weekends when free time is readily at our disposal. Summer, on the other hand, offers bountiful opportunities for time well spent together. Unfortunately Sean’s schedule doesn’t ease up in the summer, but we’ll try to weave in some spontaneous moments together when we can.

SPLASH PADS

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In the Texas heat, water, in any form, is your greatest chance of beating the heat. In our neighborhood a wealth of splash pads offer some solace from the heat in a fun and extremely kid friendly way. There will be lots of splash pad play dates this summer. I’ll be one of the many Mama Bears splashing alongside my children as a refuge from the grueling heat wave that sweeps across our Texas summers.

SUMMER SILLINESS

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Summer is the perfect time for silliness in all its forms- silly smiles, sounds, traditions, etc. This morning we kicked off the almost official first day of summer vacation with an impromptu breakfast at Shipley’s Donuts to commemorate National Donut Day. Cake sprinkles, chocolate icing, and free donuts had my little Golden Bear offering up his best silly smile.

For those of you also lucky enough to have a summer break, may your days be filled with sunshine, smiles, and snow cones. Bask in the little moments and enjoy the slower pace of summer with your water babies!

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Chasing a Dream

Since middle school, there are very few proud moments in my life that are not directly tied to running. In high school under the direction of Coach Silvia Torres, I chased personal bests across rugged terrain and all weather-tracks for four solid years straight. Sometimes injuries and losses hampered my dreams of making it to state or cinching the win, but my losses always taught me invaluable lessons about humility, commitment, and sportsmanship.

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In college, my running aspirations continued as a Division I athlete at Texas A&M. Joining the ranks of other runners with similar if not more accomplished running resumés, I quickly learned that running at the collegiate level would take even more grit, dedication, and tenacity than any other running venture I’d toed the line for before.

Over the years running has continued to be a constant source of inspiration for me. It has been a faithful friend I can always count on to pull me up by the bootstraps after one of life’s moments knocked me flat on my rear. Accomplishing new running milestones offers such a sense of pride and accomplishment for me. I run because it is something that brings me so much joy. This year coaching at the high school level offered me the opportunity to share my love of running with others and inspire greatness in them.

 

Yesterday at the age of 35, I ran the fastest mile of my life (5:17); even bettering my high school state track meet personal best of 5:19. I bravely toed the line with a group of open males as the only open female competitor entered in the mile race. Training all season with a group of strong and speedy high school boys, I knew I was in the best shape of my adult life. With high aspirations of running a sub 5:20, the gun went off and I sprinted out with the field of runners. From the very beginning, I fell into second place and maintained that position for the remainder of the race. As I circled the track, I found myself overjoyed by the opportunity to chase down another dream. My heart swelled with pride as I crossed the line with my fastest time to date.

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In life, we are never too old to chase down a dream. It might require more effort and more strategic planning than it did when we were teenagers but nothing is impossible. I say strategic because while I can still run incredibly fast, I need more recovery days than I used to. We can’t be spring chickens forever! Even with all of that said, a “can do” spirit, faith in our abilities, and a heart of gold are the key ingredients for a recipe for success.

After last night’s race, I’ve set my sights on a loftier goal- racing the 1500m this July at the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships in Spokane, Washington. The next two months of training will be difficult as is to be expected in Texas heat, but armed with a positive attitude and a solid training plan I’m ready to reach for the stars.

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A Tough Act to Follow

God blesses us with infinite opportunities in life to selflessly give our time to others. My high school cross-country and track coach modeled this selflessness with the grace of an angel. She dedicated countless hours away from her husband and family to lead workouts, call splits, and encourage her athletes to reach their full potential. When I reflect back on this time, my heart swells with joy as I think of how incredibly blessed I was to have her in my life as a coach, teacher, and mentor.

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This year marked my first year as a high school track coach. Armed with a stopwatch, a composition notebook full of workouts, and the wisdom of many years of running, I stepped into Coach Torres’s shoes to impart a love of running and the importance of sportsmanship, hard work, and dedication. My field of runners brought so much light to my afternoons as together we ticked away lap after lap around the track pushing each other along to greatness.

All season long one of my freshman boys continued to impress me with his raw talent and competitive spirit. Every week he shaved seconds off of his mile time and ended his final lap with the speed and tenacity of a runner far beyond his years. Last week at the district meet, he went into the meet seeded 5th place overall. In the final lap, he executed a flawless kick that allowed him to surpass enough runners in the field to garner a 3rd place finish. I welled with pride as he crossed the finish line and beamed from ear-to-ear knowing we had another week and a half of practice to prepare for regionals.

On Thursday afternoon, under a cloudless, bright blue sky, he toed the line with eight other competitors. Going in to the race, he was ranked fourth. We’d spent all week strategizing how this race needed to play out with him finishing in the top three to secure his spot to compete at state. In the final moments before the gun went off, I did the sign of the cross and offered the race up to the Lord. My prayer was simple, “Lord please bless Harrison today. We’ve done everything possible to get him ready for today. Let your will be done. Amen.”

With my stomach in knots, the gun went off and the runners set out on a mission. The race played out like a movie in slow motion. He led for most of the first lap, rounded out the second lap in last place, and then in typical Harrison fashion, he put it all on the line in the final lap and put every last ounce of his energy into the last 150 meters of the race. With his head tucked down, his arms pumping with determination, and his crimson red singlet swaying in the wind, he was poetry in motion in the final straightaway of the 1600. Cheering him on at the top of my lungs, my heart swelled with pride as he sprinted past two runners to secure his place as the 3rd place finisher. His finish earns him the opportunity to compete next week at the TAPPS 6A State Track Meet in Waco next Saturday.

In that moment when he crossed the finish line, I wished with all of my heart that I could pick up the phone and share my victory with you, Coach Torres. In that moment, it all came full circle for me. I remembered how overjoyed I was the first time I qualified to the state track meet. I vividly remember the joy I saw in Coach Torres’s eyes as she recognized what my second place regional finish meant for both of us.

Coach Torres, you are an incredibly tough act to follow, but I have tried my absolute best to lead by example just like you did at every single practice and meet. Next week at the state track meet, I know you’ll be watching us from your front row bleacher seat in Heaven. A great coach motivates, inspires, and brings out the best in their athletes. Thank you, Coach Torres, for bringing out the best in me. Your leadership and selflessness are a shining example of the kind of high school track coach I aspire to be!

Showered in Love

Tonight as I checked in on my herb garden, I was excited to see the first fruits of my Spring Break project. I ran upstairs to fetch Liam so that he too could relish in the tiny green tomatoes sprouting on the vines. I laughed as he wrinkled his nose at the jalapeños taking flight in its pot too.

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As I walked back in basking in my little victory, a more expansive thought erupted in my mind. These herbs were flourishing because they were showered in love. First from my efforts to plant them and give them a place to take root and take off. Then Mother Nature stepped in with spring rain, idyllic temperatures, and just the right amount of sunlight to help these herbs maintain a presence in my backyard.

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On a grander scale, though, so many things around us are showered in love. This weekend for example, my mother, sister-in-law, and I hosted a baby shower for my cousin, Veronica, who is expecting her first child in early June. Family and friends gathered to shower her and her baby girl in love. Together we shared words of wisdom, sprinkled with anecdotes of humor, and showered her with gifts every new mother needs. Then of course there are all of the other gifts they don’t need, but who doesn’t love the “oohs and aahs” that come from adorable pink dresses, tulle trimmed skirts, and teeny tiny onesies.

When you travel home to be with family, your children enjoy the benefits of being doted on and loved by one set of grandparents and great-grandparents. Again this pervasive theme of “showered in love” holds true. I cannot think of two boys more lucky than Liam and Atticus because between them they share four sets of grandparents. Each of these grandparents is a blessing in their own rite showering them with wisdom, love, and experiences that will last a lifetime. Here are a few of my favorite keepsakes from our weekend in the Valley.

The takeaway for me in reflecting on today’s post is simple. In big and little ways each and every day we are showered in love. Obviously the more grandiose gestures speak volumes to us. But if we allow ourselves to slow down and take in these smaller moments, we will be pleasantly surprised by the love sprinkled on us throughout the day. For me this weekend, it was watching my father watch Saturday morning cartoons with my children or seeing Liam paint blocks for his new cousin’s nursery with my eighty-seven year-old grandmother. These simple but beautiful moments offer a glimpse at the greater love that comes from all of the family, friends, and loved ones we break bread with and share our life with. Showered in love is not only something to appreciate and be grateful for when we receive it. It’s a phrase we can apply in our daily lives as we love and serve those nearest and dear to us.

 

 

Quiet Moments for Introspection

Sometimes in our incredibly busy lives we must find ways to carve out time for introspection. Without these quiet moments to reflect and assess, how can we expect to achieve personal growth. While many will argue about how life changing technology has been for us as a society, it has also made it more difficult for us to feel comfortable with solitude.

Being more mindful, acknowledging our weaknesses, and giving ourselves permission to learn from our missteps, starts with a willingness to love ourselves. Most of us, as women, are incredibly hard on ourselves. We scrutinize, nit pick, and harp on ourselves, when we really should appreciate, own, and celebrate our strengths. Love yourself for who you are.

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When you look in the mirror, be proud of the woman staring back at you. Smile, pat yourself on the back, and remind yourself that, “you’ve got this!” Too often we undervalue our talents, strengths, and abilities. Embrace them wholeheartedly! I’ll borrow powerful words from a powerful woman who has inspired many with her beautiful prose. As per Maya Angelou, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”

Fixating on our flaws, dwelling on the negative, and wallowing in self-pity rarely propels us forward. Our happiness comes from our own desire to persevere through the difficult times, high five ourselves when we overcome adversity, and offer gratitude for the beautiful moments that touch our lives. We are the author’s of our own story. Appreciate the importance of the pencil as you write, it allows you the opportunity to revise, edit, erase, and rewrite the negative parts of your story; infusing your rewrite with radiance, light, and positivity.

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We only have one chance at this life we live. Dream big, love fiercely, sprinkle in spontaneity, and celebrate your accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to let your hair down, ruffle some feathers every now and then, and give yourself permission to go off script from time to time. While structure and regimentation often play a critical role in overall success, we have to appreciate and even laugh at the flawed parts of ourselves that make us who we are. Find time to let go sometimes and take life as it comes!

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When we allow ourselves quiet moments in our busy lives to pause even for the briefest moments, we open our hearts and minds to personal insight, reflection, and honesty. There are countless ways to find solace in our solitude whether through prayer, mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, or quiet contemplation. Slow down and hit the pause button from time to time. You just might surprise yourself with what you discover!

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Be your best self and know that every day is a new opportunity for self-improvement, self-love, and self-acceptance.

 

“Break” is a Relative Term

For those of you who know me well, I very rarely slow down. Whether I’m running, working, or being a Mama Bear, I am a busy bee buzzing from one flower to the next. So naturally when Spring Break rolled around, the word “break” proved to be a relative term. Yes, I did enjoy a much needed break from work however I found many other projects, activities, and outings to keep me busy from the very beginning of the break to the very end.

The break kicked into gear on Monday morning with Liam and I hustling around the greater Houston area for plants. With our multiple freezes and snow days this winter, my potted plants bit the dust despite repeated efforts to cover them from the cold temperatures. We perused Target, Wal-Mart, H-E-B, Lowe’s, and Ikea for a multitude of different plants. Later in the week, I planted and rearranged our outdoor living space. My favorite takeaway from this project was repurposing Liam’s sandbox into an herb and vegetable garden.

My mom drove in midday on Monday, so the two of us enjoyed some much needed mother- daughter time shopping, eating out, and catching up. Liam and Sean ventured out on Tuesday afternoon for a father-son snowboarding trip in Colorado. Between the shopping and late night conversations with my mom, Atticus enjoyed quality time with his DeeDee (my mom’s grandma name) and also enjoyed walking just about everywhere his little legs would take him.

After my mom headed back to the Valley on Thursday morning, I enjoyed some extremely long lunches catching up with good friends. The food was great but naturally the quality time in good company was even better. In the afternoons, Atticus and I enjoyed some quality time exploring the neighborhood playgrounds, and I also mixed in a little work by reorganizing my closet. Purging and donating several bags worth of clothing to Goodwill proved to be cathartic. With some of my new finds from my shopping excursions with my mom, it also felt good to make room for the new and pass on some of my clothes for someone else to enjoy.

While at lunch on Friday with my friend Anna, she convinced me to run the 5K at the Bayou City Classic if I could find a babysitter. Thankfully, one of my go-to babysitters who works at Atticus’s daycare was willing to babysit starting at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Exactly a month out from my Steps for Students win, I toed the line again with a goal of improving my 18:40 time. I was incredibly happy to better my time by 20 seconds and cinch the overall female win. The icing on the cake was catching up with my favorite Bayou City Road Runners and savoring my victory with an amazing iced coffee compliments of Katz coffee. I rounded out a wonderful day catching up with a dear friend of mine and enjoying a glass of wine and a charcuterie plate of amazing olives, cheeses, and prosciutto.

As if I didn’t squeeze enough into my “break”, I also devoured another great psychological thriller (Trespassing by Brandi Reeds). An absolute page turner I stayed up way past my bedtime reading on multiple occasions because I was desperate to see how the book ended.  I also made time to cook because it always brings me so much joy. One of my favorite dishes from the week included a savory white chicken chili with white beans, white corn, and fire roasted tomatoes and a fresh batch of homemade cornbread.

All in all, my Spring Break was anything but a break but proved to offer bountiful opportunities to enjoy some of my favorite past times, catch up with some of my favorite people, organize and declutter, and feel productive and proud of my accomplishments. With a few hours remaining of break, I plan to enjoy a glass of wine with my husband, try a new creamy chicken soup recipe for dinner, bond with my boys, and sneak in a little quiet time reading a new book. For me, the word “break” truly is a relative term!