Mama Bears & Motherhood

Mama Bears love fiercely, protect their own, and carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They live each day for the baby bears they call their own. Some days the beauty of motherhood radiates around us like a luminescent aura. Other times our patience wears thin, and we cast blame on ourselves for our shortcomings.

Between the dirty diapers, runny noses, temper tantrums, home cooked meals, and bedtime stories, there is often little time for ourselves. Thank God for the brief quiet moments we steal from time to time, even if those moments come in the form of a quick shower, your child’s nap time, or an evening run around the neighborhood to clear your mind.

Undoubtedly, Mama Bears, we are often incredibly hard on ourselves and oftentimes not very forgiving. How easily we forget that we are human; flawed and imperfect. We have to cut ourselves some slack because we’re all doing the very best that we can. We are blessed with the amazing opportunity to help our children grow in faith, love, and character.

Motherhood will test and try us on more days than we’d like, but it will also surprise us in beautiful and unexpected ways just as often. I am grateful for every single day with my boys. They truly are my greatest joy, and my greatest hope is that they grow up to be respectful, responsible, and kind gentlemen who follow their heart and find great success in life. You, my sweet boys, are my sunshine, my light, and my reason for making every effort to be my best self for the two of you!

Kudos to all of my Mama Bear friends who I take notes from every single day. You inspire me through your words, actions, and strength. A special nod to the following Mama Bears: Anna, Ruby, Stephanie, Adita, and Blaine. I would be lost without your guidance, wisdom, and friendship.

Picadillo, Play, & Pinot

This weekend solidified why the little things matter most in life. We had no expectations or plans, which allowed us to capitalize on meaningful quality time together as a family. We enjoyed our Saturday morning coffee date at Land of a Thousand Hills and spent the rest of they day playing. Between superheroes, dress up, and plenty of outdoor play, it was an easy going afternoon.

Sunday was another beautiful day full of sunshine and smiles. Liam decided his brother would make a cute Mr. Magoo. He dazzled me with his bowtie and monkeying around skills. Between hanging upside down and climbing into Atticus’s crib, Liam was in the thick of most of it.

Our weekend ended with a savory picadillo dinner paired with fresh avocado and tortillas. I rounded out my evening with a moonlit run and toasted the new week with a glass of Pinot Noir. All in all, the simplicity of this weekend was a beautiful change of pace to our very busy work week.

ingredients for pica

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon ground comino
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large Russet potato or 3 small white potatoes, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of water

DIRECTIONS:

Sauté the potatoes in 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive or canola oil until brown on medium high. Remove from heat and drain on a paper towel. Next sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant. Add the ground beef and comino and cook until brown. Next add the canned tomatoes, chopped jalapeno, and cooked potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the water. Cover and let simmer until the tomatoes and potatoes are warmed through. Serve with fresh avocado and tortillas.

My Newest Running Partner

As of late, I’ve traded my quiet evening runs of solitude for a short, mostly bald running partner. While I adore his company, he doesn’t have much to say on our training runs. He’s not making me faster, but he’s certainly making me stronger. I often find myself plodding along with a partner who quite frankly is deadweight.

Despite these shortcomings, I continue to lace up my running shoes to join him for our weekend morning runs. Always the earlier riser, these runs begin in the dark. Occasionally he’ll babble or flash me a brief smile, but most of the time he’s lost in his own thoughts about life. Over the years, I’ve typically gravitated towards running partners who like me didn’t know the meaning of silence. Miles upon miles of training runs blurred together because of the words of training partners like Meg, Michael, Anna, Loris, Ed, Tom, and Gabe to name a few. Their company and conversation carrying me along for the ride.

My newest training partner, however, is a man of few words, but his bright eyes, belly laughs, and companionship mean the world to me. Pushing him along the winding paths of the neighborhood make for the perfect start to my day. We bask in the beauty of gorgeous sunrises; pausing from time to time for a water break or to exchange meaningful glances of encouragement through the sunroof of his stroller.

Undoubtedly running with a jogging stroller is a labor of love. It’s a full body resistance work out that is definitely not for the faint of heart. These training runs can be downright grueling, but I have come to love every part of them. In these quiet morning hours, Atticus and I share this pursuit of happiness together. It’s definitely my favorite kind of mommy and baby bonding time!

 

 

Like the Seasons…

This is an open letter to my husband, Sean:

I know most days we find ourselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Most mornings our alarms buzz us out of our dreamlike state and propel us full speed ahead into our day. It’s a blur of brushing teeth, getting ourselves dressed, and then making sure the boys are ready to take on their day too. I’m downing coffee and toast while simultaneously packing up lunch boxes, gathering backpacks, and divvying out vitamins and allergy medicine for Liam. Through all of this there are brief exchanges and pleasantries, but I know I never give you much more than a hug, goodbye kiss, and a salutation to have a wonderful day.

After the boys are safely at daycare, goodbye hugs and kisses sending us all our respective ways, I often find myself reflecting on the way the morning unfolded. Many times, I lose myself in thought replaying certain parts of my morning like a particularly adorable giggle from Atticus or a Liamism that made me laugh out loud. In those moments, I wish I could rewind the day and freeze it long enough to have time to exchange an embrace with you that doesn’t feel like time is working against us. To enjoy more than a brief pleasantry and instead give you something more monumental to hold on to and carry with you throughout your day.

By the time I pull into the parking lot at work, reality sets in and the marathon race begins. It’s a blur of students, parents, emails, and meetings. Each brings a sense of accomplishment, but few opportunities allow me the time to pause in my day and send you a text message telling you I’m thinking about you, am looking forward to seeing you later in the day, or am sending you my love.

By the time 4 o’clock rolls around, the whirlwind of homework, dinner, bath time, and bedtime dictates the direction of our evening only leaving opportunities here and there to exchange pleasantries about our day. Then I’m out the door for a run and you’re often still trying to knock out work after the boys are down. As our own bedtimes quickly encroach on our quality time, I often find myself wishing there was simply more time in our day. More time for the little things like enjoying a glass of wine, duking it out over a game of Scrabble, or cuddling up to watch a great movie.

After we’ve both given our best to everyone else in our day, we often are too exhausted or mentally drained to give our best to one another. I say this not out of spite because in my heart, I know we both have the best of intentions. Between parenthood and demanding professions, it’s a reality we’ve both come to accept.

With that being said, however, I need you to know that I love you with my whole heart. I love seeing your eyes light up when you’re with the boys. I love watching you lost in thought as you pour over your computer. I love clinking glasses with you and enjoying a glass of red wine in your company. I don’t always give myself opportunities to pause and say thank you for how hard you work to provide for our family. I may not always give you the best of me, and I’m sorry for that. Please know that even when I fall short, I have the best of intentions at heart. I find peace in knowing that some of the stresses we carry with us every day  are like the seasons; with time, they will change because our workload will lighten and our role as parents will shift as the boys get older and are more independent.

In the meantime, I’m hopeful an open letter written with love and sincerity will bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart. After all, Papa Bear, I love you to the moon and back!

All my love,

Heidi

Recharging my Batteries

This last week proved to be incredibly difficult as I found myself carrying the weight of an abundantly full plate. Between an infant with a double ear infection, the unexpected loss of a dear friend, and the stress of transitioning into a new job position, it left very little time to write purposeful blog pieces. Since embarking on this blog journey, I have faithfully posted almost every day without fail. However I quickly realized that stress can adversarially impede the writing process.

This weekend, however, proved to be exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries before starting my first day at my new job today. My mom and madrina (godmother) came into town and brought the love, hugs, and positive affirmations I desperately needed. Between margaritas at Gringo’s, some retail therapy, comfort food (fried green tomatoes, French fries, and an amazing burger topped with a fried egg) at Whiskey Cake, and some screen time at the movie theater (Home Again), it was a perfect weekend.

Living so far away from family proves to be a challenging endeavor. Trying to sync everyone’s schedule to make time to get together involves an extensive amount of calendar coordinating. When the stars align though and we can all be in the same place long enough to relish in the laughter and marathon conversations, familial homeostasis is restored.

Thank you Patti and Mom for making the drive up this weekend to visit. The boys loved seeing you just as much as I did. In fact, this afternoon as we were unpacking backpacks, lunch boxes, and the like, Liam said, “Mom, why isn’t Dolly still here? She usually stays a lot longer. I really wish she hadn’t left.” His sentiments definitely mirrored mine. Whether it’s a weekend or a week, it’s never enough time! Until next time, sending you both love, light, and gratitude.

Running is a Gift

meg

I first met Meg, the summer before I started my junior year at The University of Texas. I was recruited by a former teacher to run as the anchor leg for The South Padre Island Beach Mamas at the Beach to Bay Relay in Corpus Christi. I was the only runner on the team who wasn’t a mother but perhaps because of my hometown roots, they made an exception. I remember immediately being in awe of her athletic abilities and her incredible abs. I hoped that one day, I too would exude a similar running prowess.

Fast forward five years, to my first year teaching. I spent the fall training solo for the Houston marathon, driving to the beach on the weekends to complete my long runs with Norma and Karen. After the marathon, as my mom and I waited to board the plane, Dayna approached me about running with her group. I was eager to train with others as running in the quiet, dark early morning hours had proved to be rather lonely, so I agreed to join them the following week for a run.

For the next two and half years, Meg, Dayna, Michael, Scott, David, Mark, and I met multiple times a week for training runs. We gutted it out around the Marine Military Academy track for morning speed work sessions, ran up and down the McElvy Trail hills over twenty times a run in hopes of preparing for hillier marathon courses outside the Valley, and ran so many loops around the Harlingen Country Club, it’s a wonder we didn’t get dizzy. We charted out long run through the streets of Harlingen and parts of San Benito, always finding our second wind on the last stretch sprinting towards the Heart Clinic.

Each of these runs was special in its own right. Meg and Michael, the oil and water of our group, were always at each others throats. We often joked they bickered like an old married couple even though we all knew Meg’s heart forever belonged to Bill. Their opinionated banter often had us roaring in laughter. Sometimes just Meg, Dayna, and I ran delving into more serious topics of conversation about our lives, families, hopes, and hardships. Meg was always such a source of strength and support. She had a way of making even the most difficult of times seem managable.

When I moved to Houston seven years ago, leaving those friendships behind was so difficult. Who would I train with in a new city? Who could match their personalities and the dynamic we all shared? It seemed like such a daunting thought thinking about starting all over again.

Every holiday or visit I made to the Valley up until pregnancy included a run with my Harlingen running crew. Each time, it was as though I had never left. We picked up where we left off, filled each other in on what we’d missed, and always talked about our next big race and the training it would require.

Yesterday we lost an incredible gift. Meg, you will be missed by so many. Thank you for the privilege of being a part of your inner circle while I lived in Harlingen. You inspired me, encouraged me, and supported me in so many ways. You taught me the importance of balancing a career, a family, and a passion for running. Your beautiful smile and strong opinions were truly my most favorite things about you.

Last night searching through email archives I found a note she sent me when I first moved to Houston. It truly encompasses the kind of friend she was.

 Hey Sweetie,

My best wishes to you for the SF marathon. I bet you will do a great job & exceed your expectations. I hope so anyway! Please post your time on Facebook when it’s all over so we can see.

I am running again, trying to get back into shape during the season I hate most in South Texas! It doesn’t seem fair that someone can train for over 20 years of their life and be dedicated and committed to a sport, and get “out of VO2 Xchange shape in a matter of Weeks!! I am stubborn. I will get back into shape for Philadelphia my birthday weekend – Nov 20. Dayna is doing it with me!

Should be cold in Phili in Nov. I hope so anyway!

Hope you are doing well & happy at your new home. We get to Houston  a few times a  year. I will try to track you down.  Wish you the best for the race & your new job/ studies.

All my love,

meg

Running is a gift not because of the physical and mental benefits it provides but because of the amazing training partners you share the road with. When you look past the miles, sweat, and body odor, there is a vulnerability that comes from laying it all on the line when you lace up your running shoes. There’s something that happens in a long run when you let your walls down and pour your heart out.  A running friendship is truly an exceptional gift with exponential payouts.

Meg, you will forever have a special place in my heart. May you find eternal rest in Heaven. Godspeed!

A Saturday with my Bears

Yesterday could not have been a more beautiful day. The sky was crystal blue with wisps of clouds painted here and there across its palette. The cooler temperatures were a welcome reprieve from the hot conditions that kept us indoors and out of the blazing sun for a good portion of the summer.

What better way to take in this gorgeous day than with a picnic at the playground! I loaded up our picnic basket with traditional fare including sandwiches, cookies, tomatoes, and grapes. With a basket full of goodies and two boys eager to enjoy the day, we set out to one of our favorite playgrounds in the neighborhood. The climbing structures are perfect for an adventurous five-year-old and the Astroturf and covered playground spaces are ideal for a crawling infant.

With cooler temperatures in the forecast for the next few days, it seemed like the right time to make a hearty pot of vegetable beef soup. It’s a great dinner fix but also pulls double duty by serving as leftovers for the week. I love anything that takes the stress out of midweek meal planning.

This soup offers a wide variety of options and provides an ideal mix of fresh and canned items so it’s easy to pull from your kitchen staples in a pinch. Without the ground beef, it’s also a delicious vegetarian choice. Adding brown rice or barley can stretch the soup even further too.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups of broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable all suffice)
  • 1 pound of lean ground beef
  • 1 can of cut green beans, drained
  • 1 can of whole kernel sweet corn, drained (frozen works great too)
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1 bunch of carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 4-6 small white potatoes, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese to garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot over medium high heat, saute onions and garlic in some olive oil until fragrant. Next add the carrots, and saute for a few mintues. Then add the ground beef and saute until brown. Next it’s go time for the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, potatoes, and broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover, turn up the heat (high), and bring to a boil for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then add the green beans and corn and continue cooking until the potatoes are soft. Turn the heat off and stir in the fresh spinach. Serve with artisan rolls and a sprinkle of fresh parmesan cheese.

A hearty soup, delicious artisan rolls, and a glass of red wine made for a perfect dinner. Liam and Atticus had their fill of vegetables, and both smiled through the entire meal. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday with my favorite bears.

Image-1 (38)

 

A Coach with an Incredible Heart

A great coach motivates, inspires, and brings out the best in their athletes. With over 20 years of competitive distance running under my belt, I have trained under a handful of coaches who brought out the best in me athletically. No one, however, deserves the honor of the greatest coach more than my middle school and high school track and cross-country coach, Sylvia Torres.

Her dedication to the sport and to her athletes inspired so many of us to chase our dreams across sandy beaches, grassy fields, and an all-weather track. Every morning, I sat on my parent’s washing machine in the utility room anxiously awaiting her arrival in my driveway. She would pull up in her red mini van, and I would scurry out the door to meet her. She had three young girls at home still asleep, so my spot in the van was always in Taylor’s car seat. Coach Torres always had a smile on her face when she picked us up. If she was tired, she never let it show. By the end of our route, the van was busting at the seams with athletes eager to start their morning run.

As we all filed out of the van and carried our bags into the locker room, she was usually trailing after us telling us how far we’d be running that morning. It was always still dark outside when we started. We ran a straight stretch from the high school into town and then turned around at a halfway point indicated by Coach Torres. These workouts were usually lighter than our afternoon workouts and provided ample opportunities to laugh and converse with our teammates.

After school, we piled into a school van to do it all over again. This time, though, Coach Torres would drive us across the causeway to the sandy beaches of South Padre Island. Some afternoons it was tempo or progressive workout along the shoreline. My favorite workout and oftentimes the most difficult was our weekly hill workout through the sand dunes. The soft sand was brutal on the calves, especially because getting traction was almost impossible. We would chart out a course in the highest dunes on the north end of the island, and she would time us with her stopwatch; yelling out our splits as we crossed the makeshift finish line drawn in the sand.

Coach Torres had an infectious laugh that was contagious. There are many times I remember her laughing so hard she started crying. Two instances that stand out in my mind both involve our rental car at the state cross country meet my sophomore year. The day before the race, we drove out to Roundrock to jog the course. On our way back, she kept saying that something seemed off about the way the car was driving. When we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, we noticed the tires of the rental were emitting smoke. It turns out she had forgotten about the parking break and had driven the entire way back with it on. We both laughed and laughed about the error. I was so nervous that it definitely helped ease the nerves I was feeling about the big race.

The next morning we drove back to Roundrock for the meet. My stomach was in knots and traffic was a little heavy, so we arrived with very little time to warm up. To make matters worse, the parking situation was difficult, so we parked in a muddy field; she told me the jog to the starting line would be my warm up. I meandered up the road to the start, checked in with the line judges, and did some sprints from the starting box to finish warming up. Soon the starting gun went off, and I charged towards the front. After the first mile, I made a bold decision to take the lead. With second place, hot on my heels I pushed myself harder to extend my lead. I crossed the finish line first cinching the State 3A Cross-Country title. I remember the pride I felt as I scanned the crowd looking for her. She was beaming, and we embraced in a hug; relishing in the victory and everything it took for both of us to get here.

After the awards ceremony, we made our way back to the rental car only to discover that we were stuck. I will never forget standing behind the car with my gold medal around my neck, pushing the car as she steered with it in neutral; mud flying up all around me. When we were finally in the clear, I returned to passenger side of the vehicle, and we both laughed so hard at the predicament we had just gotten ourselves out of. With Coach Torres, there was never a dull moment.

Shortly before she passed away, my mom and I visited her at MD Anderson. I know she was in a lot of pain, but she still greeted me with that familiar smile. I shared running stories with her telling her about my running accomplishments since moving to Houston. That year, I received the honor of HARRA Open Female Runner of the Season. I had the Texas Runner Triathlete magazine with me to show her photos of me racing that season. And just like all of those years before, that same pride welled inside her.

Soon a doctor knocked on the door signaling the end of our visit. I hugged her, walked towards the door, and turned saying, “Goodbye, Coach Torres.” I remember the doctor saying in surprise, “I didn’t know you were a coach.” Almost out of earshot, I heard her say, “Yes. I was her cross-country and track coach. She was one of the best runners I ever coached.” My mom and I walked down the hall towards the elevator both in tears. This woman selflessly gave me a piece of her every day for five years. She lifted me up on the days I felt my weakest and pushed me further on the days I felt my best.

Yesterday marked her two year death anniversary. It seemed only appropriate to dedicate today’s morning run to you, Coach. I was blessed to have you in my life. Your leadership and direction as my middle school and high school cross-country and track coach laid the groundwork for my love of distance running. I know I am one of the many Tarpon athletes who still misses you dearly. Thank you for your tireless effort and unwavering support.