Outrunning the Sun

Most nights after Atticus nods off for the evening, I lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement. Typically at this time of the day, the sun is slowly starting to set. A bright orange glow of beauty positioned perfectly at eye level. So to counter potential blindness, I’ve turned my evening run into a game of sorts. A game I fondly refer to as “Outrunning the Sun.”

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Our neighborhood offers a wealth of options for running including gravel trails, well-paved sidewalks, and a winding asphalt pedestrian road that cuts through the heart of the community. Every night when I set out, my route is a blank slate waiting for me to etch out the miles as I see fit. I weave in and out of the shade always trying to keep the sun at my back.

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In these moments of switchbacks and zig zags, I find myself lost in the beauty all around me. I am often in awe of the sun’s reflection on one of the numerous lakes in the neighborhood; admiring how the deep orange color on the quiet lake resembles the stained glass windows of a church.  Other times, I am mesmerized by the cloud patterns overhead as the sun’s rays break through with the radiance of heaven.

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Outrunning the sun has taken on a deeper meaning for me as this game has gone on for almost eight months now; a game that began shortly after Atticus was born. It’s my time to lose myself in thought, in nature, and in solitude. Quiet moments for reflection, after all, are rare for a mother of two with a house full of responsibilities always waiting in the wings.

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My run usually concludes just as the sun has dipped below the horizon signaling the end of daylight and the conclusion of another busy day. Drenched in sweat, cheeks bright red and flushed, I smile to myself knowing that tomorrow evening I get to do it all over again.

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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.

A Mama Bear Mentality

The psyche of a Mama Bear mentality can be downright exhausting. Pushing the boundaries in every facet of life while trying to balance the world on your shoulders is no easy feat. I’m guilty of carrying this Mama Bear mentality with me day in and day out- worrying about everyone else around me but often neglecting to remember myself.

In counseling, we always stress the importance of self-care. Taking care of yourself first so that you have the physical, mental, and emotional ability to take care of those who need you most. Most of the time, I have this part backwards. At home, I worry about my baby bears and meeting their every need. Are they loved, clothed, fed, bathed, happy….? At work, all of my energy goes into the needs of my students, teachers, parents, and principal.

love yourself

In life, there’s always someone or something who needs my attention and time. Is the laundry washed and folded? Is there food in the refrigerator? Did I lay out Liam’s clothes for tomorrow? Are the dishes washed and put away? Did I respond to all of my emails at work? Is my husband getting enough quality time with me? Is there, did I, have I…

I know I’m not the only Mama Bear walking this tight-rope called life. We’re all doing the absolute best we can, but yet we never seem to give ourselves enough credit for making the world around us better every single day in so many amazing ways. So today when you look in the mirror, beam with pride as you admire your Mama Bear badge with pride and honor. You are beautiful! You are amazing! You make the little people in your lives feel loved!

keep shining

When you look in the mirror, also pause for a minute to reflect on what you’ve done for yourself today. If you haven’t made time for you, give yourself permission to indulge in even the smallest pleasantry like a cup of coffee, a piece of dark chocolate, or a walk around the block. You do amazing things everyday because you put your family, friends, and coworkers first. But today, take a minute to honor the person holding it all together- YOU!

Motherhood can sometimes feel like a thankless job, but we do it because servanthood and selflessness are a part of the job description. The joy of touching the lives of those who matter the most to us is the fuel that propels us forward. To the Mama Bear in all of us, keep up the good work.

you have been

TGIF

Most Fridays the adage, “TGIF” is my mantra, and today is no exception. After my first week back at work, I’m mentally and physically ready for the reprieve that comes with a weekend. We typically don’t have anything out of the ordinary planned, but I always look forward to the simplicity of our Saturdays and Sundays.

Weekends are sacred because they do not require setting an alarm. Granted our baby bears have their own internal alarm clocks and still rise rather early. Because alarms usually signal the hustle and bustle of the work week morning routine, I enjoy easing into my morning even if it’s early. Hair, makeup, and professional dress are gladly exchanged for bed head, pajamas, and sweet bear hugs.

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When we do venture out of the house on Saturday mornings, it’s for our weekly family coffee date at our favorite coffee shop, Land of a Thousand Hills. It’s the one day of the week I indulge in specialty coffee. This tradition started shortly after Atticus was born so we could enjoy a family outing that wasn’t too far from home. After nearly nine months of Saturdays, we’ve achieved the ultimate in coffee patronage, we’re regulars! When we walk in now, the barista greets us with, “Good morning. A large caraminilla and a decaf honey bunny. Both extra hot.” It’s music to my ears!

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I absolutely love cooking elaborate meals for my family, and the weekends always offer more opportunities for prepping and orchestrating an elaborate spread. Most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays we enjoy family dinners together. As I cook, Sean and I enjoy a glass of wine as the boys play around us. We usually cue up a fun Spotify playlist to accompany dinner. Most of the time, my musical selections match the cuisine of the evening, i.e. salsa music and enchiladas.

Weekends always offer nap time and “quiet time” opportunities. Atticus still takes a morning and afternoon nap, and Liam always has quiet time in the afternoon- quiet, playtime reserved for only him in his bedroom. These quieter moments in the house sometimes equal nap time for Sean and I or at least a low key opportunity to catch up on shows. There is nothing more relaxing than laying in bed on a Saturday afternoon binge watching something on Netflix.

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And finally, no weekend would be complete without wine. I usually abstain from drinking during the week, so come Friday I am more than ready for a glass of vino. In the evenings, after the boys are in bed, Sean and I enjoy wine and conversation. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite highlights of the weekend. Shopping for wine has become a bit of a novelty for me. Every week I peruse the wine aisles while grocery shopping at H-E-B looking at what affordable wines they’re showcasing; often taking advantage of their special offers. We both love reds, especially Merlots, Pinot Noirs, and Cabs, so these are the bottles that traditionally end up in my cart. Opening up a new bottle and discovering something we really like makes this indulgence that much more enjoyable.

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So here’s to the slower paced, unplanned joys that each weekend brings. Wishing you and yours a beautiful one!

 

 

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

When you have a grandmother (Gammie) who was a beautician for more than 30 years, hair can be a rather complex issue. My mother took her styling cues from Gammie, but somehow a finesse for teasing and coifing skipped a generation with me.

Most days, you’ll find me sporting a ponytail with part of my hair twisted down the side. Blow drying my hair is a luxury I rarely have time for and anything more complicated than that is often a source of frustration. I’d love to learn how to master a crown braid or a top knot, but I don’t have the patience for the YouTube tutorials. I only achieved that kind of perfection on my wedding day thanks to Leslie, a hairstylist with the professional expertise reserved for only the highly trained.

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We’ve all a bad haircut or style we wished we could remedy with a do-over. Thankfully hair is always something that will grow back. Although when you really want it to, it seems to grow painstakingly slow.

I bring up the subject of hair because today was Crazy Hair Day at school for Liam. With the help of an arsenal of mousse, gel, hairspray, and temporary hair color, I made my best attempt to give life to a mohawk. Over all, I think I successfully managed to pull the style off but sweating on the playground will prove to be the ultimate test.

Because Liam will one day look at these pictures and reminisce about his own childhood, I have to wonder what his thoughts will be about his hair. Will he beam with pride as he shows his own children these photos or will he keep these photos tucked away and out of sight?

Sean often candidly jokes about the “mom” haircut. For the longest time, I thought he was pulling this style out of thin air until I saw the Saturday Night Live skit that gave life to this easy to wear but far less attractive style. Hair certainly has the power to make or break us. Why else would phrases like, “messy hair, don’t care” exist?

An amazing hair style can be life changing. These magical moments only happen when the person holding the scissors is truly a master of their craft. For me, no one deserves this honor more than my dear friend, Loris. Hair is her heart, her spirit, and her passion. I’ve put my hair in her hands on many occasions, and always walk out of her salon feeling like a new person. Let’s face it, great hair can make you feel like you can rule the world.

If I could take back one hairstyle, I’d say goodbye to the pixie cut I had in high school. Initially it was pretty cute, but the grow out stage was incredibly awkward, to say the least. At one point, I know I was channeling Mrs. Brady, but definitely not in a good way. Try as I may, I couldn’t find any photo evidence of this hairstyle likely because it’s a stage I’d like nothing more than to forget.

embrace messy hair

Naturally bad hair days are inevitable. When all else fails, embrace your messy hair with some kind of an updo, put on your favorite lipstick, and move on to the amazing things waiting for you in your day. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. After all, bad hair is here today, but usually gone tomorrow!

 

 

Friends that go the Distance

I first fell in love with running as a scrawny, long-legged 7th grader at Port Isabel Junior High. Lacing up my navy and white Asics and running through the grassy field behind the school brought me absolute joy. Twenty-two years later, this love affair with running still pulls at my heartstrings every time my feet hit the pavement.

Everything that running is for me is better because of the people I have had the privilege of sharing the road with from then until now. I first discovered camaraderie with other runners as a Lady Tarpon sharing long runs, laughs, and high fives with teammates like Valentina, Elizabeth, Lourdes, and Fatima. Even among competitors at a rival high school, I found life-long friends racing around the track with Ana Lisa, Jenna, and Kiki.

Post collegiately, my distance dreams centered around marathons and ultra marathons. I trained for my first marathon in Chicago with Ashley and Norma. Later when I started teaching in Harlingen, I enjoyed the company of a motley crew of runners that included the outgoing personalities of Michael, Meg, Dayna, Mark, Scott, Jenni, and Wes. I consider them the first running club I ever had the privilege of being a part of although we never had an official name or required membership dues. And when I got the hair-brained idea to train for a 100 miler, they banded together to help me prepare; dividing up sections of my long runs to keep me company.

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When I moved to Houston seven years ago, I was graciously adopted by the Bayou City Road Runners. Between long runs, speed workouts, and track sessions, I’ve logged countless miles in the Bayou City with this amazing group of runners who are like family to me. I am especially grateful to Anna, Loris, Lisa, Scott, Tom, Avi, Christina, Cody, Gabe, the Andrews, Lauren, Nicole, Alonso, Peter, Bernard, Michelle, Miriam, Judy, and Joe who stepped in when I needed them most- rendering aid after an unexpected apartment fire and an especially difficult break up. I also shared some of my greatest joys with you including achieving several PRs and completing graduate school.

The thread that ties us all together is running. I’ve shared my highs and lows with them, celebrated racing victories, and lamented over our losses. Although I don’t have the privilege of running with some of you anymore, I carry you with me in each of the miles I continue to pound out on the pavement. You truly are my friends that go the distance!

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Because Sh*t Happens

For a new mother, the first diaper blowout undoubtedly is a game changer. I remember the first time, I came face-to-face with an exploding diaper, and let me just say it was unlike any diaper experience I’d encountered before. My first instinct was to immediately put Atticus in his baby bathtub fully clothed while I gathered my army of supplies to ward off the mess that lay before me. This seemed like the most logical place to contain the mess. As he screamed at the top of his lungs, I tried to assess the situation and determine the best approach for getting this sh*t storm under control.

Before I could tackle the actual diaper, I needed him unclothed, which was going to be a feat in and of itself. Successfully removing a poop soiled onsie without dragging it up a child’s back and smearing it over their head is like a Hail Mary pass in football. You pray to God it works or else you’re now in over your head, literally and figuratively. Because I am no stranger to diaper blowouts now, I’ve settled on an approach that involves rolling the onsie over and over again so that the poop becomes trapped inside the fabric of the onsie. Then I slowly remove one arm, take it over the head, and close out the endeavor with the other arm.

A Hazmat suit would come in useful right about now but what mom has time for a wardrobe change. There is after all a far greater task at hand. I think I go through at least a fourth of a container of wipes as I go to town wiping, cleaning, and scrubbing the mess that lays before me. Conservation is the last thing on my mind at this point, so I just keep pulling wipes out until the job is done. In some cases, wipes absolutely will not suffice. Desperate times call for desperate measures. At this point, abort all expectations that damage control is possible with wipes. Carefully place your child in the bathtub and let water work its magic. Your baby may be screaming bloody murder, but they’ll feel and smell much better when they’re fresh and clean.

But what about unexpected blowouts in public places, you say? Sean and I tackled a blowout of epic proportions on our first expedition through the TSA security checkpoint at the airport. Atticus was happy as a clam being pushed along in his stroller. Just before it was time to go through security, Sean took him out of the car seat only to discover the after effects of an exploding diaper. I remember the image vividly. Sean calling me back towards the line to remove a squirming infant with poop running down his leg and out of the sides of his diaper from his arms. Liam was very loudly and unapologetically expressing his disgust. I paid no mind to his, “Eww’s” or to the gawking of the other travelers around me. I whipped out the changing pad, wipes, a fresh diaper, and a clean onsie from the diaper bag and proceeded to remedy the problem on one of the benches most people use to put their shoes back on after going through security. I didn’t have time to wait for the nearest bathroom because to be quite frank, “sh*t happens!”

According to several websites including Parents.com and New Kids-Center.com, a baby will soil somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 diapers in their first year of life alone. This must be why terms like, “Holy Sh*t” and “Holy Crap” are a common part of a parent’s vernacular.

“Diaper spelled backwards is repaid. Think about  it.” Marshall McLuhan, Canadian professor and philosopher

Diapering is a cyclical chore that has a clear beginning and a definitive end. For those of us knee deep in it, we are being repaid in spades for the number of diapers our own mothers changed when we were infants. Exploding diapers are undoubtedly one of the lower points of infant care. Thankfully the cuddles, giggles, and adorable smiles make up for the smellier moments we encounter on our journey as mothers. May you find laughter in these less than ideal moments knowing that “this poop shall pass.”