Revisiting 2017

With 2017 in the books, I thought my first post for the new year warranted a walk down memory lane. A way to reflect on the more poignant parts of last year that shaped how I grew as a wife, mother, and woman. Life truly is full of beautiful moments that challenge us, inspire us, and remind us how infinitely blessed we are. Below are 12 pictures, one for each month of 2017. While there were so many special moments I shared with my family all year long, these commemorated an event or captured a moment that resonated something profound within me.

This picture was taken last January in Austin. We were enjoying an outdoor lunch on the deck at Central Market. Liam jumped, climbed, and ran around at the playground just feet away, and I enjoyed a beautiful moment cuddling with Atticus. I didn’t realize my mother was snapping pictures, but Atticus seemed to know as he smiled directly into the camera. I loved the photo so much that I framed it and hung it on our wall. Looking at it every time I walk down the stairs, still warms my heart.

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In just a few short months, the brotherly bond between Liam and Atticus could not be denied. This picture, taken last February on Go Texan Day illuminates their bond. Liam protectively hugging his brother close to his heart, and Atticus taking comfort in the strength and support of his big brother.

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Nothing warms my heart more than seeing my own Mama Bear falling in love with her grandchildren. This photo was candidly taken at a reception at our house following Atticus’s baptism. I love how fondly and affectionately my mother looks down at Atticus. She continues to be an inspiration of the kind of mother I aspire to be most like in life. She embodies the type of kindness, patience, and love I can only hope to exemplify in my own daily life.

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This photo exemplifies the beautiful people who I had the privilege of celebrating my 34th birthday with last April. Each of the people seated at this table have pulled me up through some of my more difficult points in life or showered me with love and kindness at higher points in my life. Each and every one of them holds an incredibly dear place in my heart. Thank you immensely for the gift of your friendship. I look forward to many more amazing years of miles, laughs, celebrations, and joyous moments together.

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May symbolizes the many milestones this last year brought. The birth of my first child. This little person who developed his own personality, learned how to roll over, crawl, babble, laugh, pull up, and walk with help from supportive hands.

Liam ended primary school with a graduation and started kindergarten. He is now actively reading and truly soaking up knowledge like a little sponge. My heart swells with pride at the accomplishments both boys have achieved this year. Big and small, these milestones have monumental meaning for this Mama Bear.

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This photo encapsulates everything I absolutely love- my boys, summer fun, and beach adventures. I fondly look back at the summers I spent with my mom, brother, and childhood friends building sandcastles, combing the shore for shells, and frolicking in the surf. There is nothing I like sharing more than my love of the ocean with Liam and Atticus. I look forward to a lifetime of summer memories built around our time on South Padre Island.

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July is all about stars and stripes as we celebrate our nation’s independence every July 4th. Piggybacking on the stripes theme, this was a simple selfie taken as I was getting dressed in July. I love how incredibly happy Atticus is. His joy illustrates how beneficial it would be for us as adults to take a step back from our busy lives to look at life through the eyes of a child. Innocence, beauty, and joy in its purest sense!

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Hurricane Harvey brought tragedy, humility, and community to the greater Houston area. People came together to help those in need in so many different ways. Our family and friends fared incredibly well while others were far less fortunate. The devastation and loss brought meaningful opportunities to teach the importance of helping our neighbors in times of need and doing our part to make Houston strong.

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September brought the first day of kindergarten. Liam beamed with pride as he posed that morning. He was so excited to make new friends and go to a “big boy school”. In the semester since school started, he’s mastering sight words, can count to 100 like it’s a cake walk, completes mental math in his head like a little mathematician, and asks at least 50 questions a day as all curious children should.

This picture embodies pride all around. A Mama Bear proud of her eldest heading off to grade school. A kindergartner beaming with joy about the prospect of all his first year of grade school will hold. A baby bear who can only dream about grade school but thinks it’s so incredibly cool that his big brother is off to do great things!

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October memories are full and plentiful, but nothing more accurately rounds out milestones for the year of 2017 than the loss of your first tooth. The anticipation of the Tooth Fairy’s visit and the feeling of empty space illuminate all that encompassed Liam’s feelings about losing a tooth. Like any badge of honor, he wears it proudly as he eagerly awaits the next one. With no wiggly prospective teeth in the line up though, it could be awhile until the next one makes its exit!

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November commemorated remembrance and unexpected loss. The tragic loss of a dear friend brought a group of close friends and family together to celebrate the beautiful life Meg led serving others, kicking asphalt, and being one hell of a Mama Bear, wife, and friend. Your radiant light will continue to shine and inspire others even in your absence!

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December marks the importance of family. The holidays offer the opportunity for renewal, togetherness, and the merriment and joy of Christmas. From last year to now, some of the changes in my life have been profoundly significant. In reflecting on this last year, I recognize how infinitely blessed I am in so many ways. I have a beautiful family who I love with every ounce of my being. As a wife, mother, and woman, I had beautiful moments and other times I didn’t let my best self shine through.

Christmas is a time for forgiveness. Recognizing the relationship is more important than our individual egos. In this new year, I will make a more concerted effort to give myself more credit for the good I attempt to do each and every day, and I will forgive myself for the times I feel like I’m falling short. Each day is a new opportunity to start over and try to be more patient first with myself and then with others. In 2018, I will try to cut myself some slack if I deviate from “the plan”. The laundry can wait or we can eat grilled cheese again for dinner if it means more quality time with my husband and children.

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I will close with a quote fondly used by my late friend, Meg. “Life is precious… let us try not to waste it!” Wishing you a precious 2018. Bask in all that this year brings. Every day won’t always be beautiful but if you can find one beautiful moment in those more difficult days, you’ve successfully found your silver lining. Thank you for supporting my blog and giving my words meaning. I look forward to the next year of sharing my stories with you.

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.

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An Indoor Camping Adventure

For most of the summer, Sean talked about camping with Liam. Unfortunately time did not allow for an outdoor adventure, so Sean did the next best thing- indoor camping. He taught Liam all of the ins and outs of camping without pesky mosquitos or the atrocious heat.

After Atticus woke up from his nap, he had a great time exploring the tent with his big brother. Some day he’ll be old enough to camp with the older bears. Until then, I loved seeing him light up with excitement as he took it all in.

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For dinner, I decided that the fare needed to compliment camping. Because I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs, I decided chili would set the tone for their evening of indoor camping. Prepping for dinner can often take just as long as cooking, so on the weekends I try to capitalize on the extra time I have; opting to chop and gather ingredients while Atticus naps or plays underfoot.

It’s always important to give credit where credit is due. I love Nutmeg Nanny’s Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili (http://www.nutmegnanny.com/2014/10/22/slow-cooker-pumpkin-chili/). I’ve adapted her recipe to suit my family’s gustos (likes). Because Sean despises green bell pepper, I omit both green and red bell peppers from the recipe. And while I’m a huge fan of pumpkin, I don’t think Sean or Liam would be too keen on the idea of it in a chili dish. Instead of using a slow-cooker, I make it in a large soup pot. From start to finish, this delicious dish is ready in about 45 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes with garlic
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon comino
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Garnishes:

  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Corn chips

First I saute the onions on medium high for about five minutes until translucent. Then I add the garlic and saute until fragrant.

Next I add the Italian sausage and cook until brown. Then I add the beef broth, spices, beans, and tomatoes and let it come to a slow boil.

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I stir periodically as I set the table, prepare the garnishes, and pause to take in precious moments of the boys playing around  me.

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This recipe, hands down, is my favorite because of the surprising flavor the Italian sausage adds. Liam loves it because he gets to top it with corn chips. Any dish that includes chips of any kind is a winner in his book. It’s definitely proven to be a family favorite time and time again.

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What camping excursion would be complete without smores? We accomplished the same results with our gas stove and enjoyed these tasty treats together. It was a messy endeavor, but with gooey marshmallows should you expect anything different.

Sean made the H-E-B run for all of the necessary ingredients as I prepared dinner. He came back with  cinammon graham crackers, which were the perfect compliment to the milk chocolate and toasted marshmallows.

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The camping adventure continued well into the night for Sean and Liam- telling ghost stories with flashlights and making shadow puppets on the cieling. This Papa Bear orchestrated a memorable evening that will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of Liam’s summer vacation.