Student of the Week

This week, Liam enjoyed all of the attention and excitement surrounding the coveted title of Student of the Week in his first grade class. With more than three fourths of the school year complete, for an impatient first grader this honor took far longer than he would have liked. When his moment to shine finally came, it is safe to say he relished in every part of it.

Friday culminated the end of a wonderful week for him and allowed me the opportunity to surprise him with an open letter his teacher shared with him and his classmates during the morning meeting. I joined his class towards the end of his lunch period to share two of his favorite books with his class. When I arrived, they were all abuzz about how cool Liam’s letter was. I put a little extra care into the creation of the letter by incorporating it into a PowerPoint presentation filled with pictures and special anecdotes about Liam. It only seemed fitting to format this piece into my latest blog post.

Our Letter to Liam

Dear Liam,

Dad and I are so proud of how much you’ve grown over the last few years. You amaze us with your energy, love of reading, and curiosity.

IMG_0338 (1)

Dad and I know being the oldest comes with a lot of responsibility.  We are proud of you for accepting this role. You are such a hard worker at home helping us with chores and taking care of your new puppy, Stormtrooper. Thank you for doing such a great job. We appreciate your help so very much.

IMG_6505

Liam you truly are an amazing big brother. Atticus is so blessed to have a brother who is kind, caring, helpful, and loving. You understand how important it is to share and help him learn to how to be his best. Thank you for your big heart!

brothers crying

Your adventurous spirit is something we truly admire about you, Liam. We love how excited you are about the thrill of scaling a fence, racing across the neighborhood on your go kart, or achieving some type of athletic accomplishment. May you continue to enjoy all of life’s great adventures!

IMG_7452

Growing up on the beach, I have loved watching you find so much joy on the sandy shores of South Padre Island too. The excitement of building sand castles, riding waves, and collecting sea shells are some of my favorite summer memories with you.

70AAFF85-8C68-43C6-B702-B1D3C1BF209C

I know dad loves sharing his love of snowboarding with you. You have really picked up the sport and impress us both with how adventurous you are to carve down mountains in Colorado. We look forward to seeing you continue to improve and excel in the sport.

IMG_0502

You astonish us with how much you love sweets. Donuts, candy, cupcakes, milkshakes… you name it, you are all too happy to gobble it up. May your love of sugary sweets continue to bring you endless amounts of happiness.

IMG_7903

Liam, your life of leisure is something we admire about you. You are all about the pajama life and would stay in them all day, every day if we let you. As you grow, I hope you do not lose sight of the simple pleasures in life like wearing comfy pajamas from sun up to sun down.

img_9796

Liam, we hope you continue to work hard, show kindness, and find joy in life. We love you so much and are proud of all of the positive things you do.

All our love,

Mom & Dad

 

Slowing Down

For educators and students, alike, Spring Break is a welcome reprieve from textbooks, lesson plans, and tedious schedules. It’s a week to sleep in, relax with a good book, travel, or find fun adventures to discover around your neighborhood.

While Sean and Liam jetted off for a snowboard adventure in Colorado, I opted for a more low key break sprinkled with equal parts of quality time with my mom and Atticus, lazy afternoons of endless reading, and low key evenings watching chick flicks. There were also intermittent dashes of spring cleaning and shopping excursions serving up the perfect recipe for an absolutely wonderful break.

Now granted, slowing down is not typically one of my strong suits, but the takeaway from a week devoid of over-scheduled, hectic workdays is simple: sometimes all a girl really needs is a little downtime to recharge and appreciate the beauty in the little things.

Quality Time

IMG_0335 (1)

Quality time can come in many different forms. Before Liam and Sean headed north to the mountains and snow, we enjoyed a lazy Sunday sipping coffee at Land of Thousand Hills, spending quality time with the boys engaged in creative play in an imaginative world of superheroes and castles, and enjoying the beautiful weather watching Liam attempt to roller skate around the neighborhood with his little brother hot on his heels on his tricycle. In the hustle and bustle of our busy work schedules, it was so nice to slow things down and just allow the day to unfold as it did.

IMG_0338 (1)

For this avid reader, nothing is more enjoyable than sharing my love of reading with my boys. Something as simple as pausing in the middle of a Target run on Monday morning to peruse the literature section for a great read is a perfect example of quality time.

Liam caught up on a new Captain Underpants novel while Atticus found himself lost in a Coco book. As they quietly enjoyed their reading time on the tiled floor, I perused the self-help section for some great new reads: Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis, 52 Lists for Happiness by Moorea Seal, and The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe. These books quickly became page turners for me on the quiet afternoons Atticus spent napping over the break!

Fuss-free Food 

Most weekends, I carve out a portion of my time meal planning and grocery shopping for all of the weekly essentials. Spring Break offered a unique opportunity to stray from the usual and enjoy fuss-free meals with ingredients on hand or take-out leftovers spread out over multiple days. I still kept it healthy with dinners of sautéed kale with sliced almonds and dried cherries, but I also channeled my inner child with whole grain Mickey Mouse nuggets enjoyed with an adorable dinner companion sitting in his high chair cheering about macaroni and cheese and orange slices. Scrapping the more elaborate dinners for low key options offered me more quality time with Atticus and less time in the kitchen cooking or doing the dishes!

IMG_0351 (2)

Simple Self-Care

Every girl loves a little pampering. Simple forms of self-care provided the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind. Nothing says, “ahhhhhh!” quite like a calming paper face mask, an afternoon pedicure with a hot soak in lavender bath salts, or an hour long massage. These three separate escapes could not have been more perfect for this usually too busy to slow down, Mama Bear!

IMG_0348

Sleeping In & Afternoon Siestas

Daylight savings could not have come at a more ideal time. The break allowed us to ease into springing forward by sleeping in and indulging in extra-long afternoons naps. Most mornings, my alarm rouses me from my sleep by 5:45. Sleeping in until 7:00 or 7:30 was such a blessing. Every afternoon, I tiptoed into Atticus’s room to sneak a peek at him sleeping soundly. So much sweetness cuddled up into a cozy ball!

IMG_0354 (2)

Reflecting on my break this evening, brings me great joy. I genuinely feel recharged and reinvigorated to push through the next few months until summer break offers me endless opportunities to slow down.

Looking down at my boys this evening as they playfully enjoyed bath time served yet again as a simple reminder that life is too short not to savor the little things. After all, my little things won’t be little forever. Soon enough they will be bigger and taller than me!

IMG_0372

 

 

A Beautiful Thing Happens…

In life, we do not have the luxury of choosing our family. We share the same DNA and other genetic traits, but we may not always share the same interests and life pursuits. Friendship, on the other hand, offers a unique and beautiful opportunity that grows and thrives because we have the distinct privilege to pick our tribe.

Friendships blossom and grow through hours and hours of shared laughter, tears (both happy and sad), and countless glasses of wine and coffee commiserating about our  hopes and dreams- both for ourselves and for one another. If we’re lucky, these friendships withstand the test of time growing and evolving as we do from childhood, to early adulthood, into midlife, and beyond.

Growing up, I admired and aspired to have the kind of powerful friend circles my mother kept. Women who were strong, beautiful, and hardworking. They were fierce women who balanced full-time careers, raising children, and making time to celebrate in each other’s special moments. These women took me under their wing and encouraged me along the way to pursue my dreams in life.

Although time zones and state lines separated these best friends from one another. Their friendship continues to thrive and grow some forty plus years since it began. We (my brother and I, the Bailey sisters, Ayala brothers, and Walker brothers) have all grown up as though we were a family calling ourselves cousins despite the fact that we do not share a common blood line. Most of us are married and raising our own babies now. And while state lines and time zones may stand in the way of us seeing one other with more regularity, our friendships continue to endure. We text often sharing anecdotes about motherhood. Our mothers and “aunties” chime in with words of affirmation and remind us that they too endured seasons of hardship as young mothers.

I value this shared friendship that I am blessed to be an intricate part of- a shared friendship that unites two generations of women. I still find myself deeply admiring the incredible friendship that roots these women together. In principle, we are not family and yet we love, support, and care for one another in exactly the same manner families do.

img_0008

In reflecting on this sisterhood I share with my mother’s best friends and their daughters, I find myself acknowledging a very powerful theme. A beautiful thing happens when your mother’s circle of friends becomes yours too. The circle of trust widens, the bonds deepen, and the laughter, support, and friendships continue to grow!

If Life was a Black & White Photo…

Black and white photos tend to evoke a feeling of nostalgia. In the absence of color, our eyes hone in on an image that often tells a very distinct story. Imagine what it might be like if we looked at every life moment through this same lens.

If life were a black and white photo, a smile communicates happiness in its simplest and purest form. Upon closer inspection, the authenticity of their smiles are enhanced by the light in their eyes. In focusing on these two facial attributes, the observer easily finds themselves drawn into this circle of radiant joy.

Allow your eyes to consider the following images and see if you too find yourself encapsulated in happiness!

img_9190

img_0969

IMG_7849

If life were a black and white photo, an embrace or a hug epitomizes the sincerity and authenticity of loving thy neighbor. It is amazing how a single image can communicate love so simply and beautifully. Consider how much happier we would be if we allowed ourselves to relish in the company we keep; the unbreakable bonds that tie us together.

We need to allow ourselves time in our hectic schedules to pause enough to appreciate these tender moments with the ones we love. These sweet moments of embrace settle into the deepest parts of our hearts; allowing us to feel truly and deeply connected to the special people around us.

img_9793 (1)

IMG_2452

love

If life were a black and white photo, it almost feels as though it could and would be simpler. Forging friendships as you walk hand in hand, sharing stories that spark imagination, and building an unbreakable bond as brothers. These are just a few of the the simplicities of life encapsulated in a black and white photo.

While it is easy to argue that life is far too complex and complicated to look at with such a simplistic eye, perhaps the real truth lies in how we truly allow ourselves to choose to see the world. True to the adage, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, we each have the power to determine how we look at the world we live in!

FullSizeRender (22)

IMG_7626

img_9962

 

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…

IMG_7846

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.

IMG_7766

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

IMG_7791

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

IMG_7793

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

IMG_7849

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!

IMG_7797

 

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.

IMG_7681

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.

IMG_7764

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.

IMG_7749

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.