Sunday, January 29, 2017

Happy Teacher

I've spent 8 years working with 6 and 7 year olds, I've worked for 7 administrators, had 8 different teammates, 7 different classroom aides. It's been a quite a ride.  I started out this school year with a mixed bag of feelings. On one hand, I was thankful to be going back to work after our icky summer. I needed routine, purpose, and a reason to get dressed in the morning. I yearned for the spirit and joy that my students brought to my life. I was relieved to have a new class and have a fresh start. The honeymoon phase lasted a few months and then burnout hit and I found myself seriously considering walking away from the classroom forever. The thing is, as I imagine it might go when something like a marriage falls apart, that it wasn't any one was the weight of a thousand small things. To name a few: intense behavior issues that deviate from "normal" classroom management,  educational coaches, pundits, leaders, and decision makers patronizingly thanking educators because "dang, I couldn't do what you do" (and also some variation of "I left the classroom to make the big bucks, good for you for sticking with it. Now let me tell you how to do what I didn't want to". Insert huge eyeroll here I've heard this sentiment more times than I can count), the endless testing/data/number crunching, being treated like a robot and expecting 6 year olds to be robots too, kids who don't read or do any work at home and their data shows it and I take it personally. 

These are not new struggles to me. See this post written last year. And to top it off, my daughter died between this school year and last. I was stressed and frustrated all last year and have had a really hard time separating that from Hadley. Would she want me still here or would she say, "Mom, get the heck outta the classroom."? These are completely honest feelings I dealt with this past fall (just being real with ya'll)  and in all honesty, still linger a bit. But somewhere around November three big things changed and have made me the happiest teacher I have ever been:

1) I flipped the script: Instead of internally chastising parents for failure to love and appreciate their little miracles, I began to put myself in their shoes.(You know what hurts an angel mom's heart more than anything? Parents who for whatever reason make selfish decisions and don't put their kids' futures first. It's hard to witness). I could look at each of my students in a more loving way. I could stop placing blame, and not necessarily put it back on myself, but just do away with the blame game all together. Do I still get frustrated when my data may look sub-par? Of course, I'm a perfectionist, but I'm learning day by day that I cannot be a perfectionist and last in this career. I'll get let down every single time. I also flipped the script of blame and began to embrace the fact that most people are doing the best they can with what they have where they are. It is so easy for me to place judgment and blame. But, newsflash, that accomplishes nothing. Who am I to judge? I had to forget the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" and just roll up my sleeves and get to work. Part of flipping the script is staying away from negativity and defeat. Do I still complain about stupid crap and get frustrated? ALL. THE. TIME. But, I make a concerted effort to leave very negative situations and conversations. Ain't nobody got time for that. 

2) I self advocated: This one is HUGE. I took a lot of crap in previous years. I picked up slack, agreed to things I shouldn't have, and gave more chances than any sane person would. NO more. After our summer, I learned my strength, and I learned the importance of speaking up (AJ and I had to make decisions and act quickly when it came to Hadley's care. We made decisions and requirements that were best for her. We put our feet down and got all "Papa and Mama Bear" when we needed to. For example, we refused to have meetings regarding her most important health information at her bed-side. We required the medical team meet with us in a separate room at a designated time so we could prepare ourselves. Getting vitals and discussing Hadley's health with her laying right there became unacceptable to me. We were polite and respectful with these requests of course). I've leaned  on others and taken them at their word when they tell me they'll help me when I've needed it. I cannot do it all, nor should I be expected to. When things are wrong, I'll speak up (again, respectfully) and you know what? Offer to help me and there's a 99% chance I'll take you up on that offer now. I've been so surprised and delighted that oftentimes merely asking for something produces results. Ask and you might not always receive, but you have nothing to lose by asking. 

3) I seriously looked into other careers: I spent many hours researching, calling, emailing, and talking to others about other careers. What did I discover? I love my job. I thought of all the elements of teaching I just didn't want to give up at this point in my life: working with children, planning creative lessons, fun coworkers who I get along well with, making a difference, teaching kids how to read and love books, a fairly flexible schedule, never working nights or holidays, summers off, all the fun classroom decorating I get to do, I get to read and learn about how kids learn and I had to face facts:  it's my passion. Every teacher should be required  to take a class on how to sift through the crap and embrace what we're all here for. 

Teaching has taught me more about life than I have ever taught my students. It's crazy, guys. It's weird, and messy, and complicated, and freaking hard, and somedays you cry. But somedays you laugh so hard that you cry. These little people inspire me. Monday is the 100th day of school and while yes, I am thrilled that there's 80 more days till summer break, I'm also celebrating the fact that this pack and I made it to the big 100. A lot of learning and growing happened in those 100 days. I'm not a perfect teacher and I know the world of education has a lot of changing and growth that needs to happen, but for right now? Today? It's where I'm meant to be. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Life Lately

It's been a sweet forever since I've had a Life Lately post. Here it goes...

Anyone else feel like we went through a movie dry spell and now there's tons of good ones out?! We saw La La Land (didn't love it, it was cute, I think my expectations were too high), Bye Bye Man (I liked it, we ran into a bunch of AJ's students in the theater so that tells you the target demographic, haha), Fences (long, boring). On my list next is: Split, Lion, Hidden Figures, Cure for Wellness. Love cold afternoons spent in a cozy theater!
AJ got me a "Magnolia" hat (Fixer Upper!) because I never wear hats because I think they look too "boyish" on me. I do wear this one, though! 

This winter has been intense. Spring, you can come anytime now 

We've been cooking up some yumminess lately and mixing up our normal dinner groove and we've tried portobello pizzas and eggplant pizzas. We loved both. One of my go-to dinners lately for chilly nights is a baked sweet potato. Easy, hearty, and yummy. I've also discovered Halo Top ice creams that are less than 300 calories PER PINT. They are so yummy, I want to try them all! My mom was in Phoenix right after the new year visiting my sister so AJ and I hung out with my dad and made him dinner a few times and one night I made this homemade pot pie (it was complicated, like homemade chicken stock and everything) and it was so delicious (even though it sunk in on the top, it was still yummy!) 

AJ celebrated his 31st birthday on the 21st! We had a low-key morning at home, made a big breakfast and hung out at home (It was a really snowy day). Then we got some pizza from The Pie in the evening and went to my parent's house for cake and presents. I got AJ and I tickets to the Harlem Globetrotters and this gorgeous Hadley drawing the art teacher at my school made. Isn't it so pretty?! 

I've been going strong with boot camp, but this chilly, yucky weather practically begs for a book and hot cocoa in bed! I am on my third book of 2017, "Lone Wolf" by Jodi Piccoult. I loved the other two books I read, "Ruthless" about Scientology, and "Goodnight Nobody" by Jennifer Weiner. So many books, so little time! 

I showed the logo for our event, Baby Bow Bash, on facebook last week. Guys, I'm not sure what exactly I'm doing, but in a nutshell: June 3rd, we will be making bows and headbands for the little beauties in the NICU. I really wanted a way to give back and spent a lot of time thinking of what would be meaningful. It was hard to feel like a mom in those few days because I wasn't the one taking care of my baby, the nurses were. There were two things that really made me feel like I could care for Hadley in a practical way while she was in the NICU. One was providing her with milk and the other was picking out bows for her. I remember just bursting into tears when the nurse showed me a bunch of bows I could choose for her. I was in such a scattered, stressed place and the fact that someone had taken care of that simple act meant the world to me. I want to do that for someone else. Also, when we did finally get to dress Hads on her last day with us, even newborn headbands were way too big. Little (the littlest, really!) sweethearts deserve to be dolled up, too. It helps mommy hearts just as much as it helps the sweet babies. ANYWAY....more info to come! I'm really excited about it. 

I am SO excited about all sorts of fun things happening in February and I just know it will fly by! I'm seeking to slow down and savor by enjoying these amazing sweet treat scented bath bombs. I also got a mani and have a pedi scheduled and I always feel like some pamper time helps beat the winter blahs. Have a happy week! 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Jams (Gems) from the Past

This past weekend AJ pulled both of our cars into the driveway, vacuumed them all out, and cleaned our our gloveboxes and consoles. I was hanging out inside (hello, warmth) and he brought in a treasure he had found that made me so excited. He old Ipod, circa 2007-2011. After digging around, we ended up finding a charger that would work with this Ipod and I let the nostalgia begin!

I think I've already found my favorite thing of 2017. Just in case you wanted a walk down memory lane too, here's what was on that little guy....

Adele: from her album 19!!! I'm so glad I had some quality music in this collection. Old Adele is just a good (if not better) than current Adele. Chasing Pavements, anyone??

Ashlee Simpson: Oh boy, this one is hard to admit. I loved me some Ashlee and she was my gym artist of choice. While a bit angsty, I guess this one just spoke to 21 year old me. I literally forgot she even existed until the Ipod was uncovered.

Barbra Streisand: Odd pick for a gal in her early 20's (especially considering the "artist" above), but I came from a home that really appreciated Babs. I used to get jazzed up to study by listening to "Putting it Together" or "Don't Rain On My Parade." (nerd alert). Finding these was a welcome surprise. Nothing like jamming to some old school faves. Girl power, forever, Barbra!

Beyonce: I rediscovered my love for "Halo" and I'm really happy about that direction my life has taken.

Britney Spears: There is so much Britney on my little Ipod. So much. I am not ashamed by this and stand by the fact that Britney changed the pop scene forever. I saw Britney perform twice, the first time was at the Utah state fair when I was in the 7th grade (she wore overalls) so I really was with her from the beginning. Seeing her in Vegas holds a prominent place on my Bucket List.

Celine Dion: see above sentence but replace "Britney" with "Celine." 'Nuff said.

Coldplay: Much like Adele, I was happy to see an artist I still frequently listen to on this list. Coldplay had a major role on my "chill" playlist and now it's like my normal music so I guess I'm officially old.

Dido: Ok, I totally forgot about Dido! I love love loved her music and "Thank You" was my jam. Remember the music video with the cute little cottage in the middle of the city? Just me? Ok then...

Dixie Chicks: This album was classic. I love country music now and the Dixie Chicks were my introduction to songs that really told a story. Their more recent stuff is much more my style, but what girl didn't sing about murder in her hairbrush along with these three? (Goodbye Earl).

Fergie: True confession, I guess I was always destined to be a teacher, because in our college house, I had a little cork board with pockets where we could write each other compliments and put in our house-mate's pocket. I also had a "lyric of the week" (I'm not kidding, stop laughing) and I remember pulling a lot of inspiration from "Big Girls Don't Cry." "I need to be with myself and center, clarity." Love it.

Gavin DeGraw: I love love loved Gavin and saw him in concert in college. I still love his sound.

High School Musical Soundtracks: Like Ashlee Simpson, this one is hard to admit. I loved HSM and listened to it religiously. Remember when I said I was always destined to be a teacher? Junior year (of college), I threw a HSM party with prizes, karaoke (with lyrics printed JUST IN CASE others didn't have them memorized as I did) and cupcakes that looked like basketballs. It's ok, you don't have to be my friend anymore.

Retreat Mixes: Anyone else go to a religious school where after a retreat they'd give you a CD of all the longs played for the weekend? I LOVED mine and have them dutifully organized in their own "Retreat Tunes" playlist.

Pink: Pink was my fave singer when getting ready for a night out. She was sassy, bad-assy, and made me feel like a total diva singing along. Raise your glass!!

Ray Charles: I went through a major Ray Charles faze (as most people coming of age in the early 2000's did. Leslie, who the hell are you?!) Anyway, I wore out my Ray Charles "Duets" CD and felt like I was in a Starbucks when I listened to it. Guess that's why I loved it.

TLC: If you don't own the song "No Scrubs" in some form then I really just don't need you in my life. Sorry.

U2: I felt soo cool listening to U2. I still love lots of their music and was sort of proud of my younger self for owning so many U2 songs.

13 Going on 30 Soundtrack: Loved this then, love it now. Such a fun, peppy, blast from the past album. Listen and be happy.

Switchfoot: I loved them. I have no idea if anyone even remembers them (I sure didn't, until I got my hands on my Ipod relic), but now all their songs are coming back to me. "Dare You To Move" was my jam.

And just for fun, I looked at my "25 Most Played" playlist and there are some winners on there: Snow Patrol, Hoku, Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Brown.

Ohhhh boy. Finding my old Ipod was such a fun treat. If you need me, I'll be taking the long way home to listen to these and remember.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Healthy Hacks

Let me preface this by saying I am no expert in healthy living and I do not claim to be. Umm, have you seen me get down with a Starbucks breakfast sandwich and watch 3 consecutive hours of Fuller House? (#honest)  But I will say I have learned a lot in the 6 months that AJ and I have worked hard to be healthier and stronger and better feeling. Notice I didn't say skinnier. Yes, weight loss is a major goal, but I have discovered so many benefits in addition to that one.

 We began loosely basing our diets on the "20/20" Plan from Dr. Phil in August. It's all about 20 foods that keep you fuller longer and when combined in certain ways, can boost your metabolism. I have discovered tons of great recipes and tips from the program and while we are not on the strict 20 day plan any longer, our eating habits are still based heavily on this program. Some of the 20 foods are chickpeas, apples, berries, peanut butter, oats, seafood, quinoa, Greek yogurt, green tea, spinach...

Here's some tips/random info/products that I have really liked. Here's to a healthy and happy 2017:

1. Don't you dare skip breakfast. I am a big breakfast eater, but I know many are simply not hungry at that hour, but do your body and mind a favor and start it right with some quality fuel. A bowl of oatmeal with berries, a Greek yogurt, scrambled eggs, or an apple with peanut butter are some of my go-tos. 

2. We cheat on the weekends. I know this method is debated, but honestly, I would have fallen off the wagon long ago if I didn't have the weekends on my horizon, complete with cooking rich recipes and going out to dinner. And I enjoy those foods so much more than I used to. I also cheat if I do a dinner out with friends, usually 2 or 3 times a month. 

3. Salads don't have to be boring. Some of my new fave toppings include: all kinds of nuts, apples, oranges, shrimp, steak, grilled peppers, feta cheese, cranberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, flavored oils and vinegars, buffalo chicken, peas, carrots.....

4. 100 calorie packs of nuts are my fave! 

5. Hummus (roasted red pepper is my jam) and 3 Wasa sourdough or rye crisps makes up my after school snack most days.

6. Make sweet drinks a special treat (a non-skinny Starbucks or a soda from a place like Fiiz). I have become obsessed with La Croix sparkling water (don't knock sparkling water till you try it, it's an acquired taste) and I challenge myself to drink 6 refills of my water tumbler each day at school. 

7. EGGS! I love eggs in any form (I know some of you "texture" people can be weird about them) and have discovered the protein punch of a hard boiled egg, 2 scrambled with spinach in the morning, or have you guys tried the Sous Vide egg bites from Starbucks? I am ob.sess.ed. 

8. Plan, Plan, Plan. I make our menus usually on Tuesday or Wednesday for the following week and grocery shop on Fridays or Saturdays for the week. Do we cheat sometimes and cave to the craving of a Cafe Rio burrito? Of course. Do we get right back on our scheduled plan the next day? Of course. 

9. Prepare meat/chop on Sundays: On Sundays we try and prepare our lunches for the week, grill or bake any meat needed for the week, and chop veggies and/or make rice. The "hey babe, let's order a pizza" thing becomes few and far between when dinner is right the fridge ready to go in the evening.

10. Save $ by buying certain items at Costco: Costco is our go-to for chicken breasts, apples, nuts, hummus, frozen berries, Greek yogurt, and dried fruit. 

11. Give yourself grace: This is a FOREVER thing, NOT a DIET. That means restriction is not reality. Try and adopt healthy changes that work for you that you will be more likely to stick with. A treat now and then is necessary (for me at least).

12: "You can't out train poor nutrition"" This quote is on the wall at bootcamp and  I love looking at it in the midst of endless burpees or bicycle crunches. They say "abs are made in the kitchen," and I believe that. Working out is not a free pass to junk food land. You don't "deserve" it because you moved your booty that day. Tough love, sister! 

13. Don't under-estimate small changes: Our regular ground beef/flour tortilla taco night is now grilled chicken tacos on corn tortillas. Small changes add up. 

14. If it all seems overwhelming, pick one meal of the day and really pour your energy into that. Plan and implement healthy lunches one week and try that out for a while, then you can ease into making changes in other meals or snacks. 

15. I can't do plain yogurt, but regular yogurt is loaded with sugar, so I buy plain Greek yogurt and dress it up with honey, berries, and nuts. It'll give more calories than a Yoplait, but it'll be heartier and full of good for you nutrients. 

16. Leave the food area: I've been trying harder to get up to bed earlier (always a goal), and even if I'm still up watching something, blogging, or reading, I try and do it in bed because the kitchen is all the way downstairs and I'm less likely to get up for a handful of something I probably don't need.

17. Savor every bite: Enjoy your food, savor the flavors, texture, and think how it is fueling your body. When I lived alone, I tried to eat one dinner a week alone, at the table, with no book, no TV on, no music, just enjoying my meal. It was a great exercise in the art of savoring. 

18, One of my absolute faves: Saute apples in coconut oil and cinnamon. Serve on oatmeal, on a salad, or with Greek yogurt. All the yumminess of apple pie with guilt free ingredients (I even like to saute until they are slightly crispy. YUM) 

That's all I've  got for you! What "Healthy Hacks" do you like??? I want to hear your ideas! 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Hello There!

Hi There Everyone!
    I want to thank you all SO much for your kind response to my previous post, all about life after loss. I genuinely appreciate your kind words and heartfelt prayers. That said, many new people have discovered this blog through that post and through some link ups lately. I wanted to take a minute to introduce myself to those who might be new around these parts!

Here's the Basic Rundown of Me:

-I was born in Phoenix, raised in Utah. I have an awesome dad, mom, and sister, Libby, who is a junior at Arizona State. My parents live just about 15 minutes away from me now, love it!

-In 2005, I moved to Spokane, Washington to go to Gonzaga University. I loved it there! I made friendships to last a lifetime, spent a summer in Italy, lived with incredible women, and oh yeah, got a degree in history (english and religion minors because I am a nerd for basically all learning that's not math or science). At Gonzaga, I participated in two alternate spring break trips, one to Clarksdale, Mississippi and one to St Louis and these experiences opened my eyes to the possibility of becoming an elementary teacher.

-In 2009, I moved to Chicago to begin a graduate school program that placed me at a school on the south side of Chicago. I received my masters in education, taught 1st grade for a year, and then a 1st/2nd grade combo class my next year. I lived with other teachers in my program, made great friendships, got to explore the city, and spent the summers in Indiana for coursework. It was a wild time, full of adventure, and certainly trial by fire for a new teacher. It was challenging at the time, but looking back, I wouldn't change a thing.

-In 2011, I moved back to Utah and started work at a Catholic school. I moved into my own little apartment in Salt Lake City, and in the spring of 2012, I met AJ (a middle school social studies teacher). I started attending church again around this time and have enjoyed diving deeper into my personal faith journey. It's something I work on every day.

-AJ and I got engaged in 2013, moved to the 'burbs, and I began work at a new school closer to home. In 2014, we got married and started adventures as newlyweds. I began the blog around the time of our one year anniversary. We bought our first home together in the fall of 2015. AJ's family lives in Oregon and we love going there to visit. I married into an incredible family.

-About 3 weeks after we moved into our home, we found out we were expecting! I was due mid-August and we were over the moon. We spent the spring getting excited and putting together a nursery for our baby girl. In early June, my water broke unexpectedly and I was admitted to the hospital. Ten days into my hospital stay, Hadley was born via emergency C section. It was evident she was very sick and 4 days into her NICU stay, we knew her prognosis was fatal. She passed away 6 days after birth surrounded by her whole family.

-Now, we are 2 and a half years into marriage and working on building a new normal. I love my husband so very much and we look forward to becoming parents again someday. I am a huge fan of reality TV, Pinterest, cooking, reading, and making our house a home. I have been teaching 1st grade for 8 years and while it is challenging work, I enjoy making a difference and my students have brought me so much joy over the years. I value girlfriend time, thoughtfulness, and have discovered my passion for writing and sharing glimpses of the "sparkle" in everyday life.

I have recently gotten into "Boot Camp" workouts and it has become a daily part of my life. My perfect day would involve Starbucks, some solid writing time, a great day with my 1st graders, a hard core workout, and cooking together with my main man, followed by an evening involving a full DVR. Haha. AJ and I also love taking road trips together and I enjoy hitting the open road with my hubby. When I began this blog, I wrote that "I believe life depends on heaps of gratitude and a whole lotta grace," and I believe that with my whole heart. I am grateful you are here reading in this space, and I hope through our stories you discover a bit about the grace that exists in all of us. Thanks for being here, stay a while!
Savor Your Sparkle,

Friday, January 13, 2017

7 months later

7 months ago today, our sweet Hadley Grace was born. 7 months. I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone by but in many other ways, we have trudged through this year---burdened, weary, and longing. I never thought in a million years I'd be writing a monthly post about our girl that would be like this. Much like how we got our bad news is doses during our 15 day hospital stay, our healing journey has come in doses as well. One huge truth that we have leaned in these months is that we just need to get comfortable with this journey being a forever thing. We will mourn our daughter every second of every minute of every hour of every day of our lives. The healing comes in the sitting with that reality----how do you go on, as yourself, when yourself is now traveling this rocky road, with no end in sight? My grief is woven into who I am. Yet my grief does not define me, I won't let it. So what have these 7 months been like?

Messy: There were awkward moments that came like gut punches again and again and again facing people after we become parents....and after we weren't anymore; after I birthed a 3 lb, 12 oz. baby but never got to take her home. That was excruciating. I was scared to even walk to get the mail for fear that a neighbor might wonder why my pregnant belly was gone but we had no stroller with us. Some people sat with us, some cried with us. We were sent cards, gift cards, meals, flowers, books, memorial jewelry and more. We received phone calls, texts, and emails from close friends and people we hadn't talked to in years. It was all very surreal. I will always appreciate the kindness we were shown in those early weeks. People showed up and we felt love and it really really helped. I will never be able to repay the kindness that we were shown in those days. But much like sharing the news we were pregnant, sharing the news we lost our daughter came in waves......there were calls to close friends, family visits, Facebook announcement, some people heard through the grapevine, and there are the rounds of people you'd never even think of: the dentist, the nail salons I no longer visit because I don't want to explain, people at church, acquaintances at school, my students and their families. It was like one day after another, people would wonder, some would ask, some would ignore it, and pretend my big belly just disappeared on its own.

There is no magic formula for how to react to something like this. Feeling like we were making people uncomfortable added entire levels of pain and worry that looking back now, I know we should have let go. But death makes people uncomfortable. The fact that Hadley was real, and breathing, and born alive, and with us for a week, but passed away in the very hospital where she was born is hard for people. I get it. I've thought many times how I would deal with that situation if I was on the other side, and I always come up empty. I think we don't know how to act in this situation because it's just so unnatural and not supposed to happen.

Devastating: I have shed more tears than I can even describe. The days have gotten so much easier and the difficult, stop you in your tracks moments are fewer, but the pain is just as raw, just as deep. For the first month or so after everything happened I felt numb. I become sort of obsessed with researching Hadley's condition, digging up medical articles, taking notes, and feeling like as Hadley's mom, it was my mom job to get to the bottom of it all. One afternoon, in bed, after googling about preterm labor, infant sepsis, brain hemorrhaging, for hours upon hours, I just broke down: It wasn't ever going to make sense was it? Being certain I will never be able to accurately answer the "why?" is terrifying. It's a puzzle that cannot be solved and that will frustrate me every day of my life. It's rare for a day to go by where I don't turn to AJ and say, "I just miss her." I do, truly. Hadley never got to come home to her nursery but in the weeks after we came home from the hospital, our house felt lonely, empty, quiet. AJ and I both remarked that we felt this odd sense of being home-sick. That's because Hadley was already a part of our family. We read to her, felt her, talked to her, and ultimately, got to hold and meet her. Her presense was (and is) very much alive in our lives. It's a harsh realization that no matter how incredible life feels, a piece of my heart will whisper to my brain, "She should be here."

Hard Work: I believe so strongly that there is nothing wrong with getting help. Ever. As soon as we left the hospital AJ and I both knew we needed a plan. We needed to establish ways of hoping and ways to stop crying, to get out of bed, to laugh again, to hold our marriage up, and to feel things again. The doctor who delivered Hadley is one of my personal heroes. She called us nearly daily in the weeks after everything happened. She coached us through our grief in those early days and I will never forget putting her on speakerphone on the 4th of July in a grocery store parking lot as AJ and I cried and cried and she offered practical, meaningful advice to us. We reached out to our Pastor at church and he too offered us beautiful truths and recommended many excellent resources. We entered therapy about 2 weeks after everything happened. We went weekly for the entire summer. We still go, but now only about once a month or so. Don't ever be ashamed to reach out for help. Life can be heavy sometimes, share the burden and work toward mental health. As I mentioned before, I learned that grief will always be in my life, but maybe I can build something around this huge's not moving, so maybe I should figure out ways to make peace with it.

Beautiful: I remember our counselor told us in late June: "You are in the valley, but don't forget that beautiful things can happen in the valley." I have clung to that. I would trade every single thing for one more day with Hadley, but since I cannot, I take comfort in some beautiful things that have shone in the darkness. First and most important is my relationship with AJ. I wrote him a letter and gave it to him the night before we got married and wrote something along the lines of how we think we're in deep love now, but we have no idea what life will bring and that we cannot fathom the depths of love we will feel for each other. I see that letter now and know that God chose us to be partners in this walk through harsh terrain. He's my rock and seeing him as a daddy made that love soar and just take off. I was only worried about Hadley in those crazy 15 days, but he had to worry about both his girls and he shows me time and time again why saying "I do" was the best sentence of my life.

In August, our doctor told us about another couple who had lost their baby girl after a week just like us. She got us their contact info and we met them at Starbucks one night this fall. Now, Tracy and Matt are some of our closest friends. Tracy and I text every single day and AJ and I have so enjoyed making new friends on a deep level that we had business really getting to similar social circles, and they live about 45 minutes away. Through grief and loss, our beautiful friendship was formed and we always say our girls are hanging out in heaven together. I know they are.

I have gained perspective that I know makes me a better friend, neighbor, teacher, daughter, sister, wife, and eventually a parent than I would have been without Hadley. Love the hell out of your people. Hold them tight, let stupid crap go, find beauty in the little moments, and enjoy the glimpse of the everlasting and deep love our hearts were made for. Hadley, you changed me. I hope and pray for the better. 7 months later I can say, I will not sugar coat it....the hurt exists, the tears fall, I feel sad, and broken, and lost still. I. just. miss. her. And that's ok. There's no guidebook for this and healing comes in doses. So 7 months ago, when I was still pregnant, my heart was so scared--the future was so uncertain and we knew our Hads might have a rough time after birth. I rely on her example, strength, and determination daily. I will always be thankful for the truth that there is life in the valley.
This song was written for a dad to his daughter on her wedding day. I think it fits for our angel baby as well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New Years Goals

This year, my blog faves, Erika and Shay have replaced their "Stranded" series with a new one called "Workin' It Wednesdays." It's all about how us busy gals manage it all. I can't wait to see more posts in the link up to get great new ideas!

 Here's the rundown of the year's topics!

Today's Topic: New Year's Goals!! 

Ok, I'm resorting to a numbered list for this one.

1. Boot Camp at least 4 days a week: Boot camp is HARD and I always leave sore and drenched in sweat, but also feeling SO GOOD. I am using muscles I never have before and gaining strength, stamina, and energy. I am so glad I found this workout plan that I really enjoy. 

2. Try a few new recipes every month: I am all about finding new recipes on Pinterest and I recently got some new cookbooks. I am on the hunt for some more complicated dishes I've never tried and also some easy fast meals to add to our regular meal rotations (This weekend I am making chicken pot pie from scratch, I'm excited to try it!). 

3. Try some STEM/Problem Based Learning Lessons: I've been doing some research about more open ended projects and lessons with my class. My bunch this year is really creative and I just know they'd be totally into some fun and creative group projects with all sorts of unique materials.

4. Start a garden: We have a little plot of space in our teeny backyard and I'm excited to plant some things there. The owners before us had tomatoes and they popped up again over the summer. They were delicious. I don't know the first thing about planting so I predict many trips to Home Depot to ask questions!

5. Pay off my car: This is a big one. I am super anti-debt (thanks, Dave Ramsey) and I know that for most people paying cash for a new car is unheard of. Most people make payments, as I do, but I am really hoping to knock that debt out of our monthly budget. I'd be satisfied with even a big dent in it instead of necessarily paying it off this year, but that is the goal.

6. Celebrate Hadley's birthday in a meaningful way: I have a few ideas I've been working on/thinking about and I really want to pay it forward, honor my Princess, and find a way to celebrate that is healing, holy, meaningful, and important for us.

7. House Projects: I would like to get some new dining room and bathroom lighting and get new blinds/shutters. Blame HGTV!

8 Explore/work through a new Bible study on the You Version Bible app: There are awesome devotionals and plans for every season of life. There are tons of amazing free ones that walk you through some biblical inspiration and help guide you through the Word.

9. Keep Blogging: I thoroughly enjoy writing in this space. I'm looking forward to the future direction of this little corner of the internet. I want to reach out to other bloggers, seek out more writing opportunities, and as always, be honest and form connections with readers of Sunday Kinda Love

10. SAVOR MY SPARKLE: Cherish, celebrate, and enjoy. Life is sparkly and beautiful and I intend on being grateful for every victory, lesson, joy, and sorrow that comes my way in 2017. Come at me, bro. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017 Reads

Let's talk BOOKS! I was on a major reading kick this summer and fall (I alternated between grief books and light chick lit reads....kinda the perfect metaphor to my 2016). I sort of slacked off toward the end of the year but I caught up over the break I read through a big stack of magazines (I like Glamour, People, Parents, Food Network, and sometimes US Weekly), the book We Have Your Daughter about Jon Benet, The Winter Season by Elin Hilderbrand, Settle for More by Megyn Kelly, and I'm currently reading Goodnight No One by my go--to fave, Jennifer Weiner.  I have Lone Wolf by Jodi Piccoult on my nightstand currently as well. I have big reading goals for this year and here are some on my must read list.....

1. The Circle by Dave Eggers: A friend (hey Tracy!) recommended this one to me and I am excited to read it. It seems like a sleek, interesting read about a young woman who works for an Internet company where odd things start to happen. Perfect one to get lost in on a winter weekend (big blanket and fave Nike sweats mandatory). 

2. Ruthless by Ronald Miscavige: I have hopped on board the Scientology train (no, not to join, who do you think I am, Tom Cruise?) and after Leah Remini's fascinating docu-series, I am so interested in what is happening in this crazy world of Scientology. The head of Scientology's father wrote this tell-all about life on the inside. Unique lifestyles (I am also fascinated by polygamy) make for very interesting reads! I just know this is one I won't be able to stop reading or talking about. This one will most likely be devoured late into the night and opened again first thing in the morning. 

3. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick: Tina Fey's book "Bossy Pants" started me on my love of celebrity autobiographies. While Anna Kendrick follows the lead of Anne Hathaway in my book as "gives good performances but also slightly annoying," I am excited to read her book and love love love stories told through series of short vignettes. I may save this one for the spring time because it seems like the perfect "backyard with a glass of pinot when the weather warms" read.

4. Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist: Shauna's devotional, "Savor" has changed my life. I love her wit, wisdom, and guidance, all wrapped up in practical biblical application. Her newest book seems like it was written just for me. The back reads, "I've learned a way to  live, marked by love, rest, and play and it's changing everything." I'd like a highlighter, an epsom salt bath, and a journal close by for this one. 

5. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: This book is about the author's experience with the loss of her husband. I love reading about the way other people have navigated their way through life after loss and the work of grief. I'm pretty sure I'll need kleenix and Hadley's photo album to get through this one. 

6. The Magnolia Story: It's no secret I love Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their style (give me all the whitewash, shiplap, and rustic!) and their marriage inspires me. A friend was telling me this is a great book to listen to on audio because it's read by the Chip and Jo. I get the feeling I'll take the long way home with this playing in my car. 

7. The Clasp by Sloane Crosley: I read Crosley's book of short vignettes about her life (told you I love that), "I Was Told There Would Be Cake" in college and I honestly still remember and think about certain stories in that book. Goodreads says: "Heartfelt, suspenseful, and told with Sloane Crosley’s inimitable spark and wit, The Clasp is a story of friends struggling to fit together now that their lives haven’t gone as planned, of how to separate the real from the fake." There may be many early bed times as I snuggle under the covers with a mug of chai and this read. 

8. The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell: The description of this book reminds me so much of my beloved Liane Moriarty books--a family who appears perfect but underneath lies deception and drama. Oh yeah. This seems to me a coffee shop read....just one more page and one more refill....

9. Elin Hilderbrand anything: I mentioned earlier I read my first Hilderbrand over Christmas break and enjoyed it. I have been told by so many people that I would enjoy these fun, beachy reads. Nothing like a little light chick lit to ring in spring break. I have two small trips planned for early 2017 and Hilderbrand reads seem like the perfect flight companion. 

10. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover: As much as I love heartfelt, relatable, cute reads....I need some drrrrrammmma too. This book seems like an intense, powerful, suspenseful ride. Sign me up. Amazon says, "Combining a captivating romance with a cast of all-too-human characters, It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price." I can see myself devouring this one in the living room and AJ keeps asking me to come up to 

Whew! That's ten reads I have my eyes on and I know there will be many more as the year goes on. What are you looking forward to reading in 2017?! Grab a bookmark and get going!