Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Princess Baby Lessons

I have been working on this post for a long time. It's been cooking in my head for a few months now. I know everyone says their kid is amazing, incredible, etc. and so obviously I'm joining the ranks and adding my voice to the chorus: My kid is a wonder. My heart breaks every single day that I won't be able to watch her grow, dream with her, play with her and teach her. I've been thinking a lot about courage lately. I've heard it said that courage is like a muscle and with more use it gets stronger. I hope that's true. I've been working my courage muscle a lot lately. It's hard without her. It's scary without her. I've been spending more time lately in her nursery and thinking on what AJ and I have been through---where we were, where we've been, and where we are now.

 I've decided that loss of a child will reveal two big things: you're more broken than you've ever imagined and you're stronger than you've ever imagined. Broken and strong: That's where I am. Hadley taught me, in six days, more than some people learn in a lifetime. While it pains me that I will never teach her how to ride a bike, read a book, to look both ways before crossing the street, to always order grande instead of tall, and that a little eye shadow goes a long way,  I smile knowing she taught me lessons that I will spend a lifetime unpacking. I want to share some of those lessons with you.

These are the Princess Baby Lessons:

1. Be Full of Surprises: Hadley is a true Steele--a lover of surprises. We were surprised to find out that we were pregnant and also that we were having a girl. Of course we were surprised when my water broke so early. The best surprise Hadley had in store for us was on her last day on Earth with us and we were told by the medical team that she would be with us for a minute, maybe 5 or 10 if we were lucky. Well. She showed them. Our sweet girl allowed us all to be together for 5 hours. It was amazing. Never be so predictable that you won't have a few surprises up your sleeve. It keeps it interesting.

2. Groove: When the music calls for it, dance. Hadley loved to dance and wiggle to music when she lived in my belly. She kicked and moved and grooved during her time with us. I remember watching the Country Music Awards and feeling Hadley kick and kick while I listened to Carrie Underwood's "Black Cadillac." Your body can do amazing things and is a true gift.  So, shake it, sister. Your body was made to move.

3. Give it your all: After Hadley was born and I learned how sick she was in utero, I was shocked that she was actually doing as well as she was. That girl was a fighter. Nothing was going to knock her down and even in her last moments of labored breathing, I have never met a stronger person and doubt I ever will. You never know when a moment might be lost so savor each second and never give up.

4. DazzleHads was a glam girl. A star. A bundle of pink, sass, and energy. In our Hypnobirthing classes they had us choose a "birth color" to focus on during labor. The color we chose for Hadley? Glitter. Hadley was a ham during all of our ultrasounds and even prompted our doctor to say, "This one is a character." Live a life of shimmer and shine and always dazzle. 

5. It's Ok to be a Rascal Sometimes:  I was overjoyed to find out our baby's gender at our 16 week ultrasound. I practically begged for an ultrasound and my doctor obliged. "Okkkay," he said, running the wand over my round belly. He paused. I panicked. Then he laughed and muttered, "Why you little, ham" as he zoomed in and adjusted some things on the monitor. Not only did Hadley have her legs crossed tight, but she was darting in and out of the frame. There was no way to tell the gender that day. Always keep 'em guessing. Your true friends know (and love) your rascal side.

6. Point to your Maker: Hadley had (and still has) a way about her that brings people in touch with the divine. We would pray for her in the hospital and feel strong kicks when we mentioned her in our words. I've never been to a funeral or been around someone close to death or someone who has died before Hadley. The moment her tiny heart stopped was devastating, yes, but there was also a holy presence there that day. Her soul was pure and perfect and there is no doubt in my mind she's in heaven now. Her little life made a big impact on my faith. She points me to holiness, divinity, love, light, and joy. True love never ever ends. Connecting with others connects us with God. 

7. Give Back: People were there for us in a big way during our pregnancy, birth, and loss. We experienced first hand the true spirit of a community of love that surrounded us. I often wonder where we'd be without being able to rely on others through it all. AJ and I knew instantly we needed to give back just some of what we had been given. We came up with the idea of the Baby Bow Bash to give to those experiencing NICU life and also to welcome sweet babies home with some bows created with love. In addition, we decided to be open and honest and share our story both in person and through this blog space. We have relied on our friends who have lost babies and they have relied on us. We are all in this together. Let's make it better for each other.

8.  Keep looking for the love. It's there.: I never thought we'd feel ok again after we lost our daughter. And honestly, some days I don't feel ok. But I have looked for love in all of this and I have found it. Hadley, to me, represents my life's purpose and both my greatest joy and my ultimate goal: I want to be like her. I want to love like her, I want to reach people like her, I want to bring smiles like her, I want to be in touch with the holy like her. I can promise you love is there, never stop looking for it. Love is there even in the trials and tribulations and even when it feels like just a small sliver of light, open the shades and let it wash over you. It's the Princess Baby thing to do. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Unicorn Frappucinos and Such

Hi Friends,
      I have had lots of post ideas swirling in my head and I have been craving some quality writing time! In fact, I've been working on a Hadley post for a month or so now but I've been tweaking it until it feels right to post. This week has been a whirlwind! There's been lots going on and so I decided to do a Life Lately post today. I'm writing this while watching Caitlyn Jenner's special on 20/20 (I think she's so brave), and I've got food cooking for weekly meal prep and laundry rolling in the dryer. What's that phrase, "A Sunday well spent brings a week of content."? Amen!

OBVI I had to try the Unicorn Frapp this week. AJ and I went one night for dessert (he did not get one, I'm sure he'd want me to point that out). Verdict: It was fruity and good, kind of sour. If I go to Starbucks I'd prefer a coffee or even an iced tea, but it looks cool and tastes pretty good (very sweet). Once again I need to give props to Starbucks for their marketing genius!

I made Caprese Orzo Salad with grilled chicken for 2 dinners and a lunch this week. YUMMY! I modified some recipes I found on pinterest, but basically it's orzo, basil, grape tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and the homemade dressing. I just eyeballed the dressing ingredients: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and just a teeny bit of  dijon mustard and honey.

Friday I did a STEM activity with my class. Their task was to make a raft that would float. The kids had so much fun working together, planning their projects, and celebrating their results. I can't wait to add more of these fun activities to my lesson plans. Less than 30 days left this school year....I can hardly believe it! I love the end of the year lessons and activities and gathered supplies this weekend for end of the year gifts (sunglasses) and Mother's Day scented sachets and mini books. Lots of spring fun in 1st grade! 

Friday evening I went to dinner with a friend at a new restaurant called Slapfish. It was delicious! Saturday morning we did some planning for the Baby Bow Bash. It's coming up so soon and I can't wait to bring tons of bows to the gals in the hospitals. I am so thankful for my mom, AJ's mom, and our dear friend Kandi for helping us organize and get ready for our event. I just know Hadley would love it. AJ and I have always joked that Hadley was a little biker chick (don't ask me why, we just envisioned her as a badass baby, lol). I was thinking about her the other afternoon driving home and I saw the licence plate holder on the car in front of me said, "Hadley's House of Wheels." I noticed it the exact moment I thought of her. Now that's what I call a sign! It made me smile (apparently Hadley's House of Wheels is a car dealership in Pocatello. Ha!). 

I'm hoping this week will be a little slower paced than last week. We are going on a little spring trip at the end of the week for a friend's wedding and I'm looking forward to it. In the meantime, here's to a week of good days. I saw this quote this week and it cracked me up. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 Reads

So at the beginning of the year I set a goal for myself to read 30 books in 2017. It's been so great to track my reading progress. Reading is so relaxing, makes me a better writer, and I find the more I read the more I want to read. Without further ado.....here are the 2017 reads so far. (Also I am in the process of trying to organize the blog a bit better, but did you know you can click on "books" under categories on the side and see all the posts I've done about books? Check it out!)

1. Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
2. Ruthless by Ron Miscavige
3. Lone Wolf by Jodi Piccoult
4. The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
5. Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
6. Giddy Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson
7. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
8. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
9. Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
10. Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
11. The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
12. What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey
And since I blogged last about books.....
13. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella: This was a fun little read. Cute, predictable, and the perfect read to bring you right into summer time.

14. What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan: We listened to most of this on our Oregon road trip. It was good but not great. It's been compared to Girl on the Train or Gone Girl and in my opinion it doesn't even come close. But it was suspenseful and interesting.

15. Room by Emma Donoghue: Easily one of my favorite books on this list. I devoured it in 24 hours and loved it. Having a child narrator was brilliant (and as someone who spends all day with 6 year olds, it was extremely accurate) and now I really want to see this movie!

16. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprin Sweeney: I'm a little over half way through this one and really enjoying it so far. Smart, funny, entertaining. It's all about family drama over an inheritance.

And in the pile coming up next.....

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (I've been on the library waitlist for months for this one!).

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Happily Ever After by Trista Stutter (A score I found at Dollar Tree!)

Three cheers for 2017 books! Ok, what books are MUST READS you think?? I love your suggestions.

Monday, April 17, 2017

SpRiNg BrEaK!

Whew! Spring break was just what my mind, body, and soul needed! AJ and I had first thought about driving to Oregon to surprise his family for spring break a few months ago. I am so glad we did. It was a quick trip but full of fun and relaxing. I was not a great blogger and didn't take many photos (not one with the whole fam, I so regret that!) but here's the rundown on our break! Hope you had beautiful Easters and enjoyed the beauty of time with loved ones. I hope and pray that "He is Risen" is not just a once a year hashtag in our lives, but a way of living with grace, courage and love. In the words of one of my favorite songs, "Because He is, I am."
Love road trips with my man 
Wednesday AJ came to my class for the last hour of the day and read to my kids (he had the day off). My kids adored him and loved asking him questions. I just love seeing him interact with my students. So cute! We hit the road about 5 minutes after the bell rang and made a pit stop at Starbucks so I could change into car clothes (yoga pants/t shirt/flip flops) and get an iced cinnamon almond milk macchiato because holy smokes it's good. Then we drove....and drove....and drove some more. We arrived at our hotel in Ontario, Oregon (right on the Oregon/Idaho border) at around 9:00 and went straight to bed.

The next morning we were ready for the final 4-5 hours of our journey to central Oregon. We had the drive to plan how we were going to surprise AJ's mom (his dad knew we'd be there. They are retired and footloose and fancy free and we didn't want them to go on a spur the moment trip and leave us there alone!). We decided to have AJ call his mom and chat casually and then I'd go up and ring the door bell. I heard her talking to AJ and say, "Just a minute, I need to get the door." She opened it and screamed!!! AJ came out from around the corner. It was so fun. She kept saying, "I can't believe you're here!!" We just relaxed that evening and we had BBQ ribs and all the fixings for dinner. AJ and I went for a pretty walk after we ate.
just a minute away...shhhhhh! 

gorgeous walk Thursday evening

Friday morning AJ and I went grocery shopping for the fam and then we headed into Bend for a day together. I wrote this on Insta, but I just love when AJ and I have date days in Bend. We went in all sorts of cute shops and walked all around. I have a love for cute coffee shops (Libby,  You added to this obsession) and we went to this cute one called Sparrow Bakery. Yummmmy! That afternoon we relaxed and read (I read 2 books on the trip, I'll do a book post soon!). We got some take out for dinner and it was so amazing to rest, relax, and hang out all together.

Saturday AJ's mom, Susan, and I went to get mani/pedis. After that we picked up the guys and we all went to see the movie "Going In Style." It was super cute!
We got ourselves packed up so we could hit the road super early on Sunday. We grilled burgers and just enjoyed time being together.

Sunday morning we hit the road and celebrated Easter with some of our fave church songs and this beautiful sunrise.

toes on the dash.....the best way to travel 
We drove drove drove and arrived home to Utah around 6:00. Whew! It was such a great short time in Oregon: low-key and great family time. We are excited to return for our annual Oregon summer trip in July!

Today (Monday), my mom and I went to see Beauty and the Beast (way cute!), to lunch, and she was my pal on all my normal weekend errands that I did today instead. We had a fun "Girls Day Out."

first show of the day and an empty theater? Why yes, we will sit in the luxury reclining seats! 

The break was a bit hard (especially on Easter) with missing our Hadley. I am glad to say we have made it through the whole year of major holidays post-loss. THAT is a good feeling. In the immediate after math, spring time felt impossible to get to, like we'd never make it that far. But here we are. Smiling and still standing. So thankful for this time off and enjoyable break. Now onto the final stretch of the school year!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Working It Wednesday: Spring Cleaning

Today is another installment of the awesome "Working It Wednesday" series! Today's topic is all about....SPRING CLEANING! This link up is hosted by the lovely Erika Slaughter and Shay Shull,

Ok, true confession: I used to love cleaning.
Loved it in a tiny dorm room. 
Loved it in my single bedroom throughout my early 20's. 
Liked it in my teeny first apartment. 
Thought it was ok in our townhouse. 
Now? In our home? It's not something I love to do (I love the finished result!) but it's a necessary part of this adulthood gig.

To me the key to spring cleaning and all cleaning is one simple word: DECLUTTER.
I love nothing more than tossing away or donating stuff I have no use for. My #1 piece of advice would be to look at each thing you own (take a room at a time) and decide if you need/want it in your life. For instance: I have a bit of a Bath & Body Works lotion obsession and at the start of this year I found myself with about 5 bottles. Solution? I took one to school, put one on my dresser for immediate use, gave 2 away, and put 1 under the sink to use this summer when the dresser bottle runs out. You are in charge of the "stuff" in your life.....not the other way around. Having less stuff makes cleaning so so so much easier #stepsoffsoapbox

I was thinking pretty much of house cleaning with this post BUT guys, I did a digital purge and it's life changing. I unsubscribed to about a hundred emails, and unfollowed people and places I really don't want on my Instagram feed and/or Facebook feed (I like Red Vines, but really, do I need to "follow?") It's good for the soul. If you haven't done a digital spring cleaning, might I suggest a Starbucks peach green tea, plus your laptop, an hour or so and also a cake pop. It'll change your life.

Now, for the house, here's what works for us. I would love love love any tips or suggestions:

1. We use Clorox toilet wands for the bathroom. Sometimes I can even score these at Costco. We have the holders in 2/3 bathrooms and in the 3rd bathroom we just use one of the other wands (1st world problems). I love these little guys and think they  do a great job.

2. I am all about the Kaboom products for the bathtubs and showers. My darling hubby does this job since when I was pregnant I didn't want to breathe in chemicals and he's just kept doing it. This is the best stuff I've found for getting showers and tubs looking new. Another other ones you guys like?

3. I am ob.sess.ed. with Clorox wipes. I use them on the daily on the classroom and at home, I wipe down kitchen and bathroom counter tops daily. Kills germs, fresh scent, wipes away crumbs, and such----a winning combo.

4. We vacuum every week or so. I have been wanting a Roomba vacuum for a while now. I think when our upright bites the dust we might just need to get one!

5. I wash our sheets every other week. Is that a lot? Not that much? What are your sheet habits? I toss bath towels in the hamper after every 3 or so showers.

6. My oven is always dirty. I've used the self cleaning feature maybe twice. I really should do it more.

7. I am on the hunt for something to make our stainless steel sink shine like new! Any tips?!
not my actual sink #wishitwas
8 Every few months I dust the ceiling fans, run a cycle of dishwasher cleaner, wipe out the fridge, clean cabinets and drawers/pantry, run hot water cycles through the Keurig, take clothes/shoes to Savers that I haven't worn in a while, organize nightstands, under sink cabintets etc.

9. Every day we: make the bed, sweep the kitchen, run the dishwasher, make sure there are no clothes/shoes out. 

10. Any other tips or suggestions? I do know cleaning is way better with open windows and a soundtrack of Taylor Swift. 

Happy Spring Cleaning!