Monday, June 17, 2019

Hank: 18 months!

Our sweet Hank is officially a year and a half old! He's closer to 2 than 1! He's a little man! His baby features are disappearing! He's a KID now! I say this with every single phase, but here it comes again: I love this age! Toddlerhood is whole different ball game from the other phases----the level of exhaustion is on par with those newborn days in my opinion but it's just so much fun. Language is developing (hearing your baby say Mama?! Highlight of my life!), preferences are made known, outings and activities are fun and interactive, and so much more. It's so crazy to think about how different Hank is this summer compared to last summer! Here's some deets for memories sake on 18 month old Hank.

Hank Eats: Hank has a cup of whole milk morning and night. Although he's not too interested in his night milk lately. He typically has breakfast around 8:00 and it's usually one of the following: Eggo waffle, Life Cereal, Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Peanut Butter Toast with banana slices. Lunch has been either before nap or right after. Hank enjoys: Dino nuggets, bananas, clementines, scrambled eggs, yogurt, green beans, Uncrustables, quesadillas, kidney beans, mac and cheese, blueberries, applesauce, avocado, and fruit cups. Sometimes when he's being picky (some days eggs are God's gift to the world and other days they go right over the side of his tray #toddlers), a gogurt, cheese slice, crackers and/or a baby food pouch are almost always hits. For dinner he usually has some form of what we're eating or some version of the lunch choices. For snacks he enjoys vanilla wafers, Goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, and Veggie Straws (but he leaves behind the green ones, lol).


Hanks Sleeps: Hank typically takes one nap a day now (two naps if he's super tired). He usually naps from about 10:00-12:00 or 12:00-2:00, it just sort of depends on what we're doing or if we're out and about. He can usually hang on until we are home. This past week we went to the zoo and he hung on until about 3:30 when he passed out in the car. Most days if we're home, he's ready for a nap by at least 11:00. He's been known to take a 4:00-5:00 nap if we've had a busy day walking or swimming. Hank goes to bed most nights between 7:30 and 8:00 and wakes up around 7:00. He has to have his pacis to sleep and most days there are about 5 in his crib! He's pretty good about leaving his pacis in his crib to use for sleeping only (Although I always have an emergency paci with me if need be). In the evenings, we watch about 30 minutes of a movie on the couch with his milk (we usually get through about 2 movies a week) and he goes to his crib drowsy but not asleep. When Hank's awake, he stands at his crib and makes noise to let his people know he's ready to roll! Haha.


Hank Plays: Three words come to mind when I think of Hank: On. The. Move. This boy is on the go and into everything. AJ and I joke that parenting a toddler really comes down to diving at things the baby shouldn't have. He has tons of toys but nothing seems to be quite as fun as: remotes, pots and pans, measuring cups, the trashcan....which we had to move to the guest bathroom with the door shut, cords, the broom, and rugs. Haha. I know parents of toddlers totally get this....especially BOYS. Hank does love books, bubbles, his water table, his bubble mower, Duplo blocks, his popper, and puzzles. And we all love a good park and splash pad too!


Hank Wears: Hank is wearing primarily 2T and 3T clothes now. I switched him recently to size 5 diapers and at night he wears TWO overnight diapers! He is wearing size 5 and 6 shoes. Most of his clothes are from Target, The Children's Place, Carters, Walmart, and Gap Kids. I think over half his wardrobe is Cat and Jack from Target.


Hank Loves:
-The "Ladybug Park"---This park has a little ride on ladybug and it's close enough to walk to it. When we approach it, Hank cheers and claps!
-Laying on his tummy to reads books. My mom does this so I think that's where he picked it up, but nothing makes my teacher/mama heart happy like seeing Hank on his belly looking at books on the floor.
-Cups with straws---I always get an extra ice water when I'm at Starbucks because Hank loves to drink from a straw! We recently got him a "crazy straw" cup and he loves it.
-Paw Patrol---We are very into "PaPa" around here and I never thought I'd know all the characters and the theme song by heart, yet here we are.
-Music--Hank loves to move and groove, he enjoys Kindermusic classes, and loves when daddy plays the guitar.
-Planes---Hank STILL loves to search the sky for planes and point out every one he sees. Living on the flight path has its advantages!
-Family--Hank adores his Grandparents, Uncle, and Aunt. He is super comfortable around family and we love that about him.
We adore this little man so much and can hardly believe he's been in our house and hearts for a year and half! We love you, Munchie! For more Hank highlights, click HERE

Savor Your Sparkle,
Leslie

Saturday, June 15, 2019

This Summer Kinda Style: Guest post!

Hi, Readers! First of all, I want to thank you for your kind words, thoughts, texts etc. on Hadley's birthday. It all means so much to us. We made it through the day and we love honoring and celebrating our girl. Anyway.....My sister has a super cute blog called UT Caffeine Queen and we did a little blog switcheroo this week. Libby wrote all about summer style for me and next week I'll be sharing the post I wrote for her space. So without further ado....enjoy this awesome guest post! Thanks, Libby!
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Hi! I’m Leslie’s sister, Libby, and I’m here to give you some style inspo for the summer. It’s June, which means it’s finally time to shed the sweaters, swap out our boots for sandals and soak up the sun (with heavy SPF, of course). Maybe it’s because I lived in Arizona for a few years, or because I always go “iced” with my coffee order, but I think summer is the time to THRIVE. Longer days, warmer nights - what’s not to love?

So for This Sunday Kinda Love, I put together three outfit ideas for your summer festivities, because one of the best parts of the season is breaking out that warm-weather gear that’s been stashed away in the closet through all those snowy months. I’ve also got some body-positivity tips for swimsuit shopping, because there is just too much fun to be had this summer to let anything stand in your way.


Look 1

Wear it for: Shopping, hanging at a coffee shop, meeting up with friends




Let’s face it: When it’s hot, you want to be comfortable. Boxy tees are very on-trend (a stroll through the Target clothing department or any mall store is all the confirmation you need of this fact), with high necklines and a slight crop at the bottom. It’s also very “in” to wear your heart on your sleeve - er, on the front of your t-shirt. Band tees, cute slogans, movie references - if there’s any time to bust out your favorite merch and show the world what you love, this is it. In my fantasy world, I casually drink cappuccinos with the Friends gang at Central Perk, so I’ve been rocking this tee from Target on my casual summer days. High-waisted shorts are also a perfect pairing with these cropped shirts. Accessorize with basic sneakers, natural makeup and retro accessories, and you’re set for wherever the day takes you.



Look 2

Wear it for: Hitting the pool or beach to swim… or just to tan




Is any summer complete with taking a dip then laying on a chaise lounge as the sun soaks up the water droplets on your skin? A low-maintenance look is key for a day of splashing in the sun, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be cute. Swimsuit shopping can be a dreaded task, and I could probably devote a whole post to it. But I’ve found the key is to find a swimsuit you’re truly excited about. I spotted this pastel pink one at Target and got so excited about it because it totally felt like something Barbie would wear if she were a lifeguard. I didn’t have time to think about the fact that I don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model because I was so busy thinking about how adorable this suit is.

Another tip: Buy your actual size! Tons of stores sell tops and bottoms separately so you can get the perfect fit. In order to be comfortable, don’t be afraid to go up or down a size from what you typically are. A final idea: Keep in mind that no one at the pool is judging you. You’re there to have fun, not impress some randos! Confidence truly is the best accessory. Finish off the look with some comfy shorts (or a fun romper) to wear over your adorable, well-fitted suit, and you’re all set for a poolside day. Don’t forget the sunscreen and shades!



Look 3

Wear it for: Going to the farmer’s market, brunch




One summer event I’m stoked for (did I just say stoked? Guess the summer vibes have hit me already) is the farmer’s market. Strolling through aisles and aisles of fresh produce and friendly vendors as the sun shines? Sign me up! This look is still comfortable and casual, but feels just dressed up enough for a quaint weekend outing. I am personally psyched that jumpers are back in style. I love any ensemble where denim plays a big role, and they’re a more down-to-earth option when you feel like an actual dress is just a little too much. Layer a cropped stretchy tee underneath and add delicate jewelry to modernize the look. Don’t forget a roomy tote bag to hold all your wares. Happy exploring!


The key to style in these sizzling months is to keep it comfortable. It’s a prime time to try out new trends (and not have to cover up with a bulky coat), but also wear what you feel great in so you can focus on the real purpose of summer: To have fun!

Thanks for having me, This Sunday Kinda Love readers! Follow along on my adventures discovering new coffee shops at https://www.utcaffeinequeen.com/.   

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Happy 3rd Birthday, Hadley!

Today is Hadley Grace's 3rd Birthday. I cannot help but imagine what she'd be like at 3 years old. Sass and sweetness, I'm sure of it. But today, I wanted to take some extra time and reflect on Hadley. Not on grief. Not on healing. Not on our Rainbow Baby. Not on the story--the heaps brokenness, healing, pain, grace, and sorrow that were all there in droves. Because newsflash.....it's not about me. It never was. So, baby girl, this one's for you. Dad, brother, and I will be visiting you today, honoring your memory, going to do some of our traditional Hadley birthday things, and celebrating YOU.
 

I knew Hadley before I met her. This one was a rascal, through and through. My pregnancy with her was eventful and while we could never forget a baby was on the horizon, girlfriend made herself KNOWN. And really, is there any other way to make one's debut?

In addition to making herself known, Hadley knew things. She just did. She knew when we were praying over her (extra kicks), she knew when it was time to perform for the NST tests, and when she could chill. She knew her arrival would blow us right out of the water and her path to being brought into this world would be anything but usual. I wonder if she even knew her time with us would be brief. I suspect she might have.

Hadley delighted us....she still does. Her presence was a light in every sense of the word. In a dark and broken time, Hadley provided peace just by being her sweet self. Amidst the cords, oxygen, wires, beeping, and medical device mania, she lay there day after day---calm, peaceful.....radiant. We were frantically trying to figure everything out, drowning in medial jargon and doctor's meetings,  and I regret sometimes not just pausing and being with her more in those days. All of the answers were right in front of us the whole time.

When it was time for her to leave this world behind, Hadley exhibited more strength and courage than I I could have ever imagined. She existed in the space between perserverance and steadfastness on one hand, and peace and perfect rest on the other. There, in the middle, she gracefully bowed out of this life to one far more spectacular and tranquil.

After her life---her birth, time spent present with us, and her beautiful, sacred death, Hadley has continued to be with me and teach me. Hadley was an amazing little baby, a gift, truly, and it feels odd saying this about a 3 lb. child, but she exhibited a zest for life, a wisdom that surpassed any of my feeble understanding, and she proved to be a prime example of courage, grace, and surrender.

Hadley, we love you so much. We think about you every day, and each morning, Hank waves at the picture of "Big sis" and we say good morning to you. On this special day, your THIRD birthday, we remember and celebrate you even more than usual. Here's to you, Princess Baby. You are a blessing.

Savor Your Sparkle,
Mama
PS) If you want to read along on the whole journey of sweet Hadley click HERE Words fail to encompass everything about those days, but I tried to record it all as best as I could and I am so thankful to have these memories now.

Monday, June 10, 2019

That Summer Kinda Life

We are one week into summer and the Steeles are here. for. it! AJ returned yesterday from 8 days of AP test grading in Cincinnati and Hank and I missed him so much! It's so great to have him back. In his absence we kept busy and I tried to get in some relaxation too. We have visited the splash pad, pool, aquarium, started Kindermusic class,  went for many walks, went to the mall, spent time with family and friends, and hung out. I so appreciate my parents and sis helping me out and giving me some breaks to hit the gym etc.! Single parenting a toddler is no joke. I love having summers to experience stay at home mama life. Here's picture overload coming at ya.....

Grandma came to the splash pad with us


My sis and I took him to the mall last week and I made the mistake of showing Hank this stuffed avocado. He would not let it go and snuggled it right away. So I had to buy it. Lol. He LOVES this thing. 


 We must have watched Coco at least 5 times. Hank loves this movie and so do I!




Breakfast with Grandpa! 

Farmers Marketing 
Daddy and Hank together again.....
We gave AJ his Fathers Day present a week early so he can use it on the golf course this week! I was confused, as a non golfer, why he wanted essentially a stroller for clubs, but he tells me this is legit. Haha. 
We are savoring these sweet summer days and do not take them for granted. 

Happy summer to you!
Savor Your Sparkle,
Leslie 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Ten Years

Guys, I made it to ten years of teaching. I know those of you who have put in multiple decades of teaching are like, uhh, big deal, rookie. But I think ten years in the same gig is sort of a big deal! Also, I wanted to clarify that this makes it sound like I'm hanging up my teacher hat...I'm not! I'll be back at in August, don't you worry. I am a reflective/nostalgic person by nature, so I thought it'd be fun to look back and pull together some "big lessons" I've learned over the years.



To back up a bit...It's sort of crazy how I ended up in elementary. I got accepted into a grad school program through Valparaiso University in Indiana (Valpo was on my radar because I picked up a brochure at the college fair in high school...random). The program involved summer coursework and online classes along with 2 years teaching at an under-resourced school in the Chicago area. We lived with other teachers in the program in affordable housing, got paid very little (about half of a "regular" teacher) and at the end of the 2 year stint? A free Masters degree in education. Done and done. I always wanted to teach high school history because I had amazing social studies teachers in school and my Bachelors degree was in history.

I had this quote on my wall my first year teaching 

Once I got accepted into the grad program, I was informed that they might not have a position available for high school, but they'd see what they could do. It was a leap of faith but I said yes anyway. Next thing I knew, the director of the program was driving me the hour or so into the city from Valpo so I could interview at a tiny elementary school (where there was an opening for a teacher who was part of my program). The rest is history. The school I taught at was about 95% African American and the class sizes were very small. There was definitely a bit of a learning curve, but I really really loved it that first year. I had a huge classroom and the other teachers I met there were absolutely incredible.


The following year I taught a 1st/2nd combo class with all my students from the previous year and a handful of 1st graders in the mix too. I worked with the school to develop an after school program and I taught creative writing (still my favorite thing to teach). I stayed on at the school the summer after my Masters program ended and worked with their summer day camp. I loved living and working in Chicago. I think of my students there fondly.

In 2012, I moved back to Utah where I taught for 3 years at a Catholic school in downtown SLC. I once again had a beautiful classroom (it had a window seat and bay windows!) and the most amazing coworkers.



In 2014, AJ and I had moved to the south end of the valley and I was ready for a change. I worked for 3 years in an IB charter school.

In 2017, I decided I wanted to enter a school district and teach there. I interviewed at a few schools in my local district and got such a good vibe from the one that I chose and still currently teach in.

Whew. 10 years and about 230 1st graders. I've experienced more joy than I ever imagined within the walls of my classrooms. I've also shed a lot of tears, vented to my friends and family, and felt so frustrated. I've had students who will be in my heart and mind forever and students who I was counting down to them moving onward, upward, and away from me. Ha!

I've taught while single, while planning a wedding, while pregnant, in the depths of grief, and with the wonder of a new baby. I've unlocked the door to my classroom with giddy anticipation and a smile and also with dread in my heart and an eyeroll.

I've made friendships for life and I stand by the fact that teachers are "my people." (I even married one!). It has been a great honor in my life to work alongside some of the most talented people in the world.

 I've spent too much money at the Dollar Store, Target, Walmart, and Amazon.

 I've received cards and notes that I go back and read on hard days.

I'm convinced every school in America would come to a crashing halt without support staff who do the Lord's work each and every day (aides, secretaries, custodians etc).

I've had parents yell at me, cry to me, laugh with me, celebrate with me and I believe parents are, and will always be, their child's best, first, and most important educator. I can make an impact in 9 months of teaching, but they are their parents' children forever and ever. It sounds overwhelming because it is. Supportive parents are amazing!!!

I believe there's a dangerous viewpoint in education that seems to be spreading---"You can (and must!) save the world!" Teachers will keep trying (and that's why they're amazing)  but that's a heck of a lot of pressure. I am a human, not a robot. There was something so freeing when I admitted that movies like Freedom Writers and Dangerous Minds are made preciously because those teaching experiences are so rare. It's not a loss if you're not a superhero. Having a life outside of school is CRUCIAL and HEALTHY.

I always forget how exhausting August and May are. October and February are the sweet spots.

Parent volunteers are amazing and incredible and even if a parent can't physically come in to help, just knowing you read the newsletters I send and are involved makes me so happy.

It took me about 5 solid years in the classroom to stand up for myself. There are things teachers are expected to be and do that are outlandish. There's nothing wrong with saying no. Don't be afraid to advocate for your students. They get lost in the red tape sometimes. It's important to bring it all back around to those little people who sit in our desks.

Flair pens are life.

I try really hard and not be bitter at Professional Development events, but sometimes I just can't help it. I don't want to hear from "research." I want to hear from those in the trenches, tying wet shoe laces, and  those helping a child sound out a word. I don't want to hear from people who made big bucks and publishing deals and those who give out free pens. I don't want your swag, I want real solutions for real issues.

I love love love love having summers off, but I do get a skip in my step when I order my new lesson planner and head back in August.

I've made so many mistakes. I wish I could go back to my first class and reteach it all. There's a joy, passion, and energy that comes with the early days of this career, but the actual lessons and teaching strategies? Those get refined and better with practice.

I hate insects but my butterfly unit is my all time fave.

This job is messy, and hard, and complicated. But it's also incredible. Behind the bulletin boards, emails, to do lists, and rushed lunches, a school is truly a magical place. Here's to ten years!

Savor Your Sparkle,
Leslie