Follow your Heart

Blogging serves as a creative outlet for me. A way for me to touch people’s lives with my words and time stamp important memories in my life. For those of you who have followed me faithfully since A Mama Bear & Her Cubs was first created in late July 2017 , you’ve likely noticed an ebb and flow in the frequency of my posts.

To create a quality blog, it takes great dedication, meaningful content, and powerful images. Because of my Type A personality and perfectionist tendencies, I toil over the words until they are perfect. Mind you this is typically happening at the end of a long work day or while my two boys take their midday break for a nap or quiet time. I am often my toughest critic and therefore do not always feel like my words are ready for publication. In my busiest of times, I don’t always find the inspiration needed to create quality pieces. These are the moments that lead to a dip in my blog content.

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I find my family life and the little things that I encounter on a daily basis to be the best resource for content. Despite the fact that I faithfully maintain a blog, I rarely make time to discover new blogs. Mostly because I worry that the content I happen upon on other blogs may detract from my own creative process. This year to help me channel my thoughts and keep content fresh, I started keeping a notebook on hand to jot down ideas and things that inspire me along the way. This springboard for ideas has allowed me to easily put pen to paper (or more accurately clinking keys on my keyboard to piece together a blog post).

A Mama Bear & Her Cubs has slowly built a following, mostly from likeminded Mama Bears in my collective circles of friends and family. Because of social media, some of my posts have been shared and reposted on other pages and have reached record breaking views for me. I am sure that I could work harder to build my readership and even consider partnering with advertisers like so many other bloggers do. I choose, however, to focus on this blog for my own personal well-being and for the well-being of other women who read and find inspiration in my words.

Unfortunately we live in a culture where so often women are breaking other women down. I have focused my content on positivity because quite frankly we need more of that in our world and a whole lot less mean girl drama.

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Today’s post is probably the most basic and least powerful I’ve written since the inception of A Mama Bear & Her Cubs. But as always, there is a purpose and intention in the content I choose. My hope is that in reading today’s blog post, you will recognize the importance of pursuing your own passions in life. Do more of what makes you happy whether that’s through cooking, yoga, crafting, trail running, salsa dancing, yodeling…

Carve out time for the things that matter most to you. Don’t let your dreams and life pursuits be stifled because of a full-time job, responsibilities as a wife and mother, or anything else that might stand in your way. Take time to share, learn, and grow every day because your best self will allow you to be your best for the ones you love and care for every day. Be bold and follow your heart!

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New Year’s Revolutions

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

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

1. Smile More

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

2. Soak it In 

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

3. Sip & Savor

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

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

4. Slow Down 

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

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

5. Celebrate Accomplishments

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

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

6. G.O.A.T. 

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

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.