Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

Each year, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a season of gratitude. An opportunity for us to pause, reflect, and offer thanks for the blessings we have in our lives. It is a day of laborious food preparation, over indulgence, and ultimately a day of breaking bread with some of your nearest and dearest.

With a spread of turkey, dressing, a plethora of baked sides, and of course some indulgent sweets, this years Thanksgiving did not disappoint. As the merriment continues into the season of Christmas, I thought a post that highlighted gratitude and blessings was in order.

I’M THANKFUL…

For authentic friends who I know have my back through thick and thin. Days, weeks, and months might keep us apart but no matter how busy our lives are or how far apart we might be, we keep each other in our hearts. Sometimes it’s a quick text or phone call to carry us through the longer patches when we don’t see one another, but it’s in these simple exchanges that our friendships continues to flourish because true friendship outlasts distance, space, and time.

So to my truest and bluest (you know exactly who you are), thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love, sincerity, and support. I carry you in my heart always. (A special I love you to Stephanie Kahl, because I couldn’t find a recent picture of us.)

I’M GRATEFUL

Living each day with a grateful heart makes each day that much more of a gift. It is truly in the little things than we can appreciate and offer gratitude for the richness in our lives. I have so many things to offer thanks and gratitude for. Truly the most precious gifts though resonate for me with my family. I am incredibly grateful for an immediate and extended family who love me beyond measure. I owe a special amount of gratitude though to a few key individuals.

I am grateful for a a mother who truly offers me unconditional love and support. She is present and authentic and in so many amazing ways the kind of woman, mother, and friend I aspire to be each and every day. She emanates a natural beauty that few can pull off at any age. She makes me want to be a better person each and every day. Even when I fall short, I know I can count on her to pull me up with her wisdom and kindness. I cannot say enough positive things about the woman I hold in the highest regard. Mom, thank you today, tomorrow, and always for being such a beautiful example for me.

I offer gratitude to my husband who despite being my polar opposite inspires and challenges me to try to find balance in my life. He knows how hard I push myself and how high my expectations are as a wife and mother. When I least expect it, he surprises me with kind words and appreciation that take the weight of the world off of my shoulders.

My grateful heart bursts at the seams for my two sweet boys. Being your mother is the greatest gift a woman could ask for. You challenge me every day to be my best. I pray every day for the patience, kindness, and love to be the best mother I can be. I delight most in your beautiful smiles and love for one another. My heart is full loving you both day in and day out. I know I will mess up in my pursuit to be the best mom, but please know that through it all I love you with my whole heart and want nothing but the absolute best for each of you. Each and every day, my biggest hope for you is to be your best self. Be kind, love big, and do your best!

I’M BLESSED

Life truly is more meaningful when you count your blessings every single day. I have so much to be grateful for including my health, the love of family, a career I find incredibly rewarding, and the gift of running. My hope in writing this post first and foremost is to offer my sincerest appreciation to the many special people in my life who hold a dear place in my heart. If you aren’t included in one of my pictures, it means I just couldn’t find one to use or recognized that I was liable to make my old Mac crash with the importing and uploading of too many photos.

Life is a precious gift. Thank you for being on this journey through life with me. Thank you for your unwavering support, beautiful friendships, and heartfelt memories. As we all move into the season of Advent, let us remember to count our blessings and offer gratitude to the people who have impacted our lives in positive ways.

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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That Time of Year

The end of the school year is plagued with a long list of to do’s that make the last few weeks feel like a frenetic race in a hamster ring that spins incessantly without a definitive end in sight. As my twelfth year in education is winding down, I find myself in this familiar rat race. The one difference, however, is that now being a counselor in a high school setting the amount of paperwork I’m trying to manage far outshines any end of year duties I’ve performed at previous schools. With all of that being said, it’s that time of year, and I have had very little downtime to attend to my blog.

In between proctoring AP tests, preparing for final exams, and managing course selections, I’ve managed some time for the most important thing in my life- my family. Last weekend the boys and I trekked to Waco for an adventure at the TAPPS State Track Meet. Friday rain brought incredibly muddy conditions and the boys relished in the opportunity to frolic in the mud. Thank goodness for hotel bathtubs to help remedy the dirty work of boys being boys.

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Our Saturday morning started off early as usual, so I decided on an impromptu trip to the Cameron Park Zoo since running events weren’t slated to begin till later in the day. The rain from the previous day brought gorgeous weather for our zoo adventure. The animals loved the cooler temperatures and put on quite a show for us.

The afternoon brought warmer temperatures with beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine. The level of student talent was high as they raced their hearts out around Panther Stadium. Harrison toed the line with seven other competitors poised to finish this season out on a high note. Seeded 8th going in, he knew he would have to run a strong race. The four laps of his mile race demonstrated dedication, perseverance, and heart. Racing alongside the best 6A milers in the state, he secured a 7th place finish with a strong showing in his final lap. I couldn’t be more proud of his efforts and look forward to watching him chase down PR’s in the next three years at St. John XXIII.

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We ended our weekend off on a high note with a belated cinco de mayo celebration on Sunday at Gringo’s. Sean and I enjoyed our celebratory margaritas and the boys enjoyed ice cream and some playground fun while we were there. Our spontaneous dinner also included Jim (Grandpa Dodd) who we had the pleasure of sharing our evening with.

By Monday the work week was in full swing and the nonstop to do list continued to build. Riding out these last few weeks, I know how important it will be to make time to unwind with the boys. Monday marked the first day I didn’t have track practice since March, so the boys and I capitalized on the gorgeous afternoon with an impromptu trip to one of the neighborhood playgrounds after school.

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I hope that when the dust settles and the school year officially comes to an end, I will have more time to dedicate to sharing my thoughts, adventures, and life with you through my blog. In the meantime, the adage, “this too shall pass” is a rather comforting quote I’m carrying with me.

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.

 

 

A Little of This & That

This last week has been a whirlwind of Liamisms, birthday wishes, and high notes. Here’s a quick recap of the highlights!

Liamisms 

No week is every complete without some humorous Liamisms to lighten the mood. The two that stand out most include some potty humor and a misunderstanding about the rules of driving.

“Mom, sometimes when Atticus poops his diaper looks like it has peanut butter spread in it. I just want to eat it.”

“Liam, that’s absolutely disgusting. Why would you want to eat that.”

“Well dung beetles eat poop, so why can’t I?”

“Maybe because you’re not a dung beetle for starters.”

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“Mom, I’m all ready to drive the Escalade now. I have my own license plate.”

“Sweet Liam, driving doesn’t work that way. A license plate is different than a driver’s license. That’s what you need to drive a car.”

“Mom, I’m pretty sure all I need is a license plate. So you can just give me the keys.”

“Liam, why don’t we revisit this conversation in 10 years when you’re really ready to drive.”

Birthday Wishes

As I walked down the stairs with Atticus in my arms and Liam at my heels ready to head out the door for work, I noticed a gift lying on the dining room table. I asked Liam about it and very nonchalantly he said, “Mom, it’s nothing. It’s just your birthday present.”

“Oh how nice! Well today’s my birthday.”

“Oh yeah, right. I forgot.”

He then preceded to carry the gift bag to the counter and disappeared. I thought he was going to turn off the light when he suddenly reappeared grunting as he made his way back carrying a wooden plant stand with a succulent. He retreated again, walking back shortly with yet another plant stand and succulent. As I opened my gifts, I loved watching him look over the countertop at me as I opened my gifts. He truly set the tone for a wonderful start to my birthday.

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My 35th year is off to a great start. I’m looking forward to everything this year sends my way.

High Notes

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Liam and I discovered microwaveable Mug Treats on our weekly H-E-B run. Until recently, I thought no one loved dessert in our house more than Liam. After letting Atticus lick the spoon, I think Liam might have some competition for the title of Dessert King in our house. Nothing makes me happier than sweet baby smiles even when those smiles are caked with chocolate!

An Easter Tradition

Easter Sunday marks a time of celebration and joy. After a somber 40 days of penance and sacrifice, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and new beginnings. My childhood memories of Easter are bright and vivid. After Mass and an Easter lunch at either Gammie’s or my Aunt Jerri’s, the afternoon culminated with an Easter egg hunt of epic proportions.

From January until Easter, my mother, grandmother, and aunt salvaged all of the egg shells from cooking. Being from a vibrant Mexican family, breakfast tacos were a staple in our homes, especially on the weekends, so you can only imagine how many dozens of eggs my family collected in the months leading up to Easter.

In our house, my mother led the effort of dyeing, stuffing, and gluing tissue paper on each egg. This was quite an ordeal in and of itself because there were so many eggs to decorate. My brother and I enjoyed the task though because we recognized the significance of this part of the bigger picture- our ritual Easter egg hunt.

For those of you who didn’t grow up in South Texas or aren’t Mexican, let me shed a little light on the confetti egg- more fondly known among Spanish speakers as cascarones.

In Mexico, the cascarones tradition began to evolve. Instead of scented powder [originally used in China], Mexicans put confetti into the eggs. They then developed the tradition of cracking the egg over a friend’s head to release the confetti, which inspired the name cascarones or “shell hits.” (http://kkyr.com/cascarones-are-a-hispanic-american-culture-easter-celebration-video/)

For children, nothing is more exciting at Easter than running around the yard chasing your siblings, cousins, and friends with confetti stuffed eggs. It’s a colorful mess of vibrant colors and more importantly vibrant fun! Sharing this tradition with my children has truly been a way to enjoy cascarones full circle.

The one difference is that now you can buy cascarones at most retail stores at a very reasonable price. To save on time, this is typically the route I go. As the boys get older and can more readily participate in the assembly, I will likely move towards including them in the process.

We have much to celebrate and so much to be grateful for thanks to the incredible sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let us count our blessings, hug our loved ones a little tighter, and indulge in some incredibly delicious food around a table with our closest loved ones. Wishing you and yours a very blessed Easter.