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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Through the Eyes of a Child

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I often say life would be more pure if we looked at the world through the eyes of a child. Their innocence, heart, enthusiasm, and curiosity set the stage for a worldview that vastly differs from our vantage point as adults. Perhaps though, if we allowed ourselves to be more childlike, our perspective about life would follow suit.

In order to consider this new frame of reference, perhaps we need to recognize what the world of a child truly has to offer. What better way to gain invaluable knowledge and insight than through some of my personal favorite children’s books. Take a walk with me through the colorful and imaginative world of children’s fiction, and see where it might take you!

Beautiful OOPS! by Barney Saltzberg

Let’s start with a Beautiful Oops! A book that resoundingly encourages you to embrace the beautiful mistakes you make in life. What a truly lovely sentiment! If only we could all adopt such a positive approach to human errors. This book undoubtedly appeals to the preschool age child with its unique approach to smudges of paint, torn paper, unexpected spills, and other messy mistakes. However, the theme of this book not only encourages one to adopt a growth mindset but also to have fun growing and learning from the mistakes you make along the way.

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Pete the Cat Go, Pete, Go! by James Dean

What better way to learn about taking life in stride and enjoying the experiences as they come your way then from the perspective of a overly optimistic cat named Pete. Rarely does he let stress or pressure steer him from his pursuits in life. Pete embodies kindness, authenticity, friendship, and a glass half full attitude. We could all take a few notes on his idealistic approach to life. It is refreshingly simple and a way of living so many of us could benefit from.

“The roses are just so beautiful… He has to stop to smell them.”

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The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This classic favorite encourages us to open ourselves up to love even though you might end up hurt or let down at some point by the ones we love. If only we could allow ourselves to love without condition, selflessly giving every part of ourselves to improve someone else’s life.

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

This lovely story transports us into a fantastical world of books. The main character spends his time doctoring old books, befriending forgotten novels, and bringing light to neighbors and friends who need a good story to lift up their spirits. Most importantly though, this story highlights the importance of our own life story. The story we write through our words and actions!

“Everyone’s story matters,” said Morris.

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Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Floyd’s story starts when his bright red kite gets stuck in a tree. This comical story demonstrates how problem solving does not always come in a neat, linear package. While his approach could appear flawed, his relentless pursuit to retrieve his kite from the tree allows us to smile and appreciate the beauty and simplicity of a child’s approach to life.

Floyd’s unconventionality and sheer determination illuminate how we, as adults, should also approach difficulties in life. We must continue to persevere, refuse to back down, and ultimately find a solution that works for us.

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss 

This book is one of the most gifted graduation presents for a very good reason. It opens our eyes to the endless possibilities that lie ahead for us. This book serves as a metaphor for life and illustrates the tight rope we walk balancing life’s responsibilities. It encourages us to take life as it comes, to expect hardship, but to also trust in our abilities to overcome.

Life is not just about the journey. It is about the destinations we end up at whether by chance or by choice. It is about how we embrace the beautiful moments, accept and learn from the difficult parts, and ultimately become the best version of ourselves because of the experiences that mold and shape us!

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Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett

Life is an adventure, and Sam and Dave illuminate this perfectly. Armed with shovels and a backpack with animal crackers and chocolate milk, these two boys set out to discover what lies beneath.

Throughout the book, you wonder how they would feel if they realized how close they are at every turn to uncovering buried treasure. And yet, despite their rigorous efforts, they never actually happen upon any treasure. This viewpoint clearly takes on the persona of an adult because for the boys they find something spectacular because they never started this journey with any expectation other than to have fun.

What a refreshing approach to life Sam and Dave embrace! If only, our adult selves could look at life through the same lens. Life would be “pretty spectacular.”

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In my Heart A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek

The main character of this book describes the big and little feelings she encounters every day. She encourages her readers to consider their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions on her creative journey embracing and accepting these feelings. She unravels a story so similar to what each and every one of us encounters on a daily basis: anger, hope, happiness, fear, humor, shyness, courage, peace, and hurt. Her simplistic approach to very real and oftentimes deep feelings spotlights the realness and importance these emotions play in our own lives. If we allowed ourselves to consider our emotions through the eyes of a child, perhaps we could also give ourselves permission to acknowledge these feelings and how they shape and propel us through life.

“My heart is full of feelings.”

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The Girl who Ran by Frances Poletti & Kristina Yee

Literature should inspire us and motivate us to aspire for more. This book checks all the boxes for a truly inspirational read based on a very real heroine, Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. This book is a must read for all women no matter how young or old because it masterfully and powerfully encourages us to refuse to settle for anything less than our best. No glass ceiling, no male authority figure, no obstacle at all can stand in the way of the dreams we have for ourselves as women. Never settle!

“She ran with a strength only hope can inspire, just her and the sound of the wind in the fire.”

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What the Dinosaurs did Last Night by Refe & Susan Tuma

Everyone needs humor in their lives. The more the better. Bring on the laugh lines, the belly laughs, and the absurdities of a fantastical, fictional story that will take you on a wild and messy adventure. But beware, the toy dinosaurs living in your children’s storage bins are waiting to wreak havoc on your home.

This book truly does bring a smile to your face as you consider the outrageous adventures a house full of toy dinosaurs can bring under one roof. Children, perhaps because they are unencumbered by the stresses of life, laugh often and with great gusto. Our lives, as adults, would be greatly changed for the better, if we also adopted this ability to laugh out loud more often and worry less about the little things.

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Normal Norman by Tara Lazar

This final book brings everything full circle with regards to approaching life as our children do. So often we outgrow the innocence and naivety that is an innate part of life as children. We allow our perceptions of what others will think to dictate how we live out our lives as adults. We worry too much about their opinions and their thoughts that we somehow lose sight of true selves.

Normal Norman illustrates just how easy it is for others to try and put us in a neat and tidy box. But we cannot and should not allow anyone else to make us feel like we need to be a different version of ourselves. Authenticity is far more valuable than any opinion someone else will ever have of us.

” ‘Normal’ is impossible to define.”

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While the intricacies of life do not always allow us to embrace life in a childlike manner, we should at least consider donning this hat when we can. After all, a life filled with laughter, vivid colors, and fantastical characters would make for a far more intriguing plot line then some of the real world drudgery that we often have to rub elbows with.

If life were a children’s book, it would be a much more pleasurable read than the realities of our non-fiction lives. With that being said, it’s never too late to rewrite our story!

Follow your Heart

Blogging serves as a creative outlet for me. A way for me to touch people’s lives with my words and time stamp important memories in my life. For those of you who have followed me faithfully since A Mama Bear & Her Cubs was first created in late July 2017 , you’ve likely noticed an ebb and flow in the frequency of my posts.

To create a quality blog, it takes great dedication, meaningful content, and powerful images. Because of my Type A personality and perfectionist tendencies, I toil over the words until they are perfect. Mind you this is typically happening at the end of a long work day or while my two boys take their midday break for a nap or quiet time. I am often my toughest critic and therefore do not always feel like my words are ready for publication. In my busiest of times, I don’t always find the inspiration needed to create quality pieces. These are the moments that lead to a dip in my blog content.

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I find my family life and the little things that I encounter on a daily basis to be the best resource for content. Despite the fact that I faithfully maintain a blog, I rarely make time to discover new blogs. Mostly because I worry that the content I happen upon on other blogs may detract from my own creative process. This year to help me channel my thoughts and keep content fresh, I started keeping a notebook on hand to jot down ideas and things that inspire me along the way. This springboard for ideas has allowed me to easily put pen to paper (or more accurately clinking keys on my keyboard to piece together a blog post).

A Mama Bear & Her Cubs has slowly built a following, mostly from likeminded Mama Bears in my collective circles of friends and family. Because of social media, some of my posts have been shared and reposted on other pages and have reached record breaking views for me. I am sure that I could work harder to build my readership and even consider partnering with advertisers like so many other bloggers do. I choose, however, to focus on this blog for my own personal well-being and for the well-being of other women who read and find inspiration in my words.

Unfortunately we live in a culture where so often women are breaking other women down. I have focused my content on positivity because quite frankly we need more of that in our world and a whole lot less mean girl drama.

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Today’s post is probably the most basic and least powerful I’ve written since the inception of A Mama Bear & Her Cubs. But as always, there is a purpose and intention in the content I choose. My hope is that in reading today’s blog post, you will recognize the importance of pursuing your own passions in life. Do more of what makes you happy whether that’s through cooking, yoga, crafting, trail running, salsa dancing, yodeling…

Carve out time for the things that matter most to you. Don’t let your dreams and life pursuits be stifled because of a full-time job, responsibilities as a wife and mother, or anything else that might stand in your way. Take time to share, learn, and grow every day because your best self will allow you to be your best for the ones you love and care for every day. Be bold and follow your heart!

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Red Lipstick & Side Ponytails

Life as a working mother is anything but calm and slow. From the minute my alarm goes off until both of my sweet boys are sleeping soundly in their beds, it is a rat race of to do’s that include the organizational, culinary, and patience skills of a Martha Stewart, Wolfgang Puck, and Mother Theresa.

My daily routine every morning includes brushing my teeth, dabbing a bit of make up on, donning a great outfit for work or workout clothes on the weekends. Most mornings my routine ends with my two tried and true go to’s: red lipstick and a side ponytail. For many this may seem like an odd blog post considering I haven’t posted in months but it’s intended to serve as the backdrop for an inspirational piece about recognizing the little things in life we can control and wearing them as a badge of beauty and strength.

Red lipstick makes a statement. It’s bold and strong. Two traits I think encompass all women working or not, mother or otherwise. While my role as a wife and mother, are two very important hats in my life. I also love and value my work as a counselor. I also wholeheartedly embrace my strength as a distance runner. So for me, red lipstick is the visual I see every time I look in the mirror and remind myself that, “I got this!”

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So on to the side ponytail. This is a simple hairstyle I rely on at least 50 percent of the time week in and week out. I change it up with a side twist or partial French braid to class it up, but it’s about as fuss free as it comes. Since Atticus was born, I can count on my hands the amount of times I’ve actually blow dried my hair. To be fair, it actually usually only gets a blowout if I’m at a salon getting my haircut. There are just other things in my life I’d rather spend time on and for that reason, the side ponytail has become my signature style.

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I realize red lipstick and a side ponytail don’t give me superpowers. I also readily accept that while they might be my go to, they certainly aren’t going to be for everyone else. That’s the beauty of being your own person. Accepting who you are, loving what you see in the mirror every day, and putting your best foot forward every one step at a time. For some of you it might be an amazing pair of high heels or a strand of your heirloom  pearls. Still for others it might be a fierce set of muscular arms or a radiant smile.

God made each of us unique for a reason. Be true to yourself and love yourself through it every step of the way. By that same token, compliment and appreciate the strengths of the amazing women in your life. Build them up rather than break them down. The world is hard enough as it is. Women need to do right by other women and it starts by simply respecting and valuing the unique gifts and talents our female friends, colleagues, and family members bring into our daily lives.

Making Time to Slow Down

One of the my favorite parts of summer break is the opportunity to slow things down and take things as they come. The need for alarms, rigid schedules, and the typical “go-go-go” mentality take a back seat to the simpler things in life.

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For each of us, I think summer break has offered a unique opportunity to relax, grow personally and together, and enjoy all things summer… sun, sand, and splashes. You can learn a lot trying to live life through the eyes of a child. In their world, things slow down, are far less stressful, and come with an a healthy amount of light moments and laughter.

If our summer was a made-for-tv movie, the script would read something like this…

THE RETIREE

Liam would love nothing more than to retire early and live the beach bum life. Every morning would start with sleeping in, downing donuts, and cramming in as much screen time as his parents would allow him. If he could stay in his pajamas and laze away the day, he most certainly would. The one exception Liam would willingly make to bring himself out of retirement would be anything water related. For him, water fun comes in many forms- water guns, pools, splash pads, and beaches.

When school starts in August, my little retiree might have a difficult time initially re-acclimating to the realities of first grade. I’m pretty sure he can’t wear pj’s or press snooze on his alarm when back to school dictates the direction life takes. While this adjustment period may prove to be hard at least for a few weeks, there is no doubt in my mind he’ll be ready to soar to new heights academically.

THE BACKPACKER

In his future life, Atticus aspires to be a world traveler. He absolutely loves toting a suitcase on wheels. He fondly refers to it as his car as he pulls it down the sidewalk or through the living room eager to find his next adventure. Atticus wakes up bright and early, and summer break is no exception. His infectious smile greets me every morning. From the minute he’s lifted out of his crib until he lays his head down for nap time or bedtime, this little man is a mile a minute. He idolizes his big brother down to the shoes he wears, and the big boys things he does like brushing his teeth.

When summer ends for Atticus, he’ll take his take-on-the-world attitude into his new toddler class. For this Mama Bear, it breaks my heart that he’s growing up so fast. But little Atti is resilient, and I have no doubt he’ll flourish in his new social setting. Oh, the places you’ll go, Atticus!

With less than two weeks until I’m officially back at work, I will continue to relish in the simplicities of summer. There’s still time for a few more adventures with my dynamic duo. After all, we still have miles to log as we bike the neighborhood, frozen yogurt and sno cones with our names on them, and plenty of water fun to be had! I’m cataloging these memories to get me through the back-to-school blues that always come when summer officially ends!

 

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!