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!

Quality Time Away from our Little Bears

After Thanksgiving, Sean and I retreated to Fredericksburg for our first weekend getaway since Atticus was born. Leaving him behind proved to be bittersweet for me as I’ve never been away from him overnight. However, our quiet trip to the Hill Country was everything we both needed and more. This quaint town offered beautiful weather, fun wineries, and great food.

My weekend away proved to be incredibly eye opening for me. In this last year, I have “mommed” so hard that I rarely if ever left myself much time for “adulting”. As a new mom, the learning curve was steep and like all things I take on, I met this challenge with unwavering faith, unconditional love, and the can-do spirit of a Mama Bear. While all of this was noble and well-intentioned, I failed to recognize how my moments as an adult slipped through the cracks.

Now a year later, I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to getaway with Sean. It was such a breath of fresh air to stay up late talking about life, sleeping in, and taking our mini vacation as it came- with no expectations other than spending quality time together. I’ve vulnerably admitted before that being a wife is not always the easiest thing for me; not because I don’t love my husband with all of my heart but because finding the balance in all of it can be overwhelming. Sometimes by default, he gets the short end of the stick because everything else in my day took more out of me then I have left to give him at the end of the day.

Fredericksburg provided an amazing backdrop to a perfectly spent long weekend with my husband. I am truly grateful and blessed for the moments we shared and the fun we had together climbing Enchanted Rock, indulging in delectable sage and butternut gnocchi, sipping cocktails and people watching, and being chauffeured from winery to winery in a cheesy stretch limo. The best of life truly comes in the little things!

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.

 

Baby Bears under the Weather

Things at Casa Mulroony the last few days have been rather stressful. Liam came down with the flu on Thursday afternoon. Then Atticus threw up at daycare on Friday afternoon. Since then, Sean and I have been pulling double duty to tend to the boys and also keep them isolated from one another so that Atticus doesn’t get the flu. This has undoubtedly proven to be a rather difficult task.

Poor Liam definitely was hit the hardest. Lethargy, a high fever, aches, and general discomfort proved to be a recipe for a patient in distress. Tender loving care and some incredibly expensive Tamiflu worked wonders, and Liam is slowly starting to return to normal. Thankfully just in time for his 6th birthday tomorrow! The picture below is of Liam with a sunnier disposition at The Thinkery in Austin. I’m confident he’ll be his sunshiny self in no time!

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Atticus threw up again this morning and had a few explosive diapers but otherwise seems to be doing okay. Thankfully he isn’t running a fever and his general disposition has been cheerful and jubilant. His stomach woes may have taken somewhat of a toll on his little body, however, because he enjoyed a three plus hour nap in the middle of the day.

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With sick baby bears in the house, a simple chicken soup seemed like the perfect way to soothe and comfort the boys. Easy, healthy, and just what the doctor ordered, I highly recommend making a pot when you have a loved one who’s under the weather.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound chicken tenders or breasts, chopped evenly into bite size pieces
  • 1 bunch of carrots, peeled and chopped evenly
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Russet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 5-6 cups chicken broth, depending on how much broth you prefer in your soups
  • Sea salt, pepper, and dried thyme, seasoned to your preference

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Sauté the onions and garlic on medium high until fragrant. Add the chicken and carrots and sauté until the chicken is lightly browned.
  2. Next add the salt, pepper, and thyme. Pour in the broth and turn the heat up to high. Add the canned tomatoes and cover until the soup comes to an boil.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer at least an hour.
  4. Serve hot with fresh bread!

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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!

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!

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!