Friday, August 30, 2019

August Reads

Well.....Back to School time is here which means my reading time has taken a serious hit. Booooooo!! I am not exaggerating when I say I have ten books on the floor by my nightstand ready to go for when this teacher mama has some time. That said, I did read 4 books this month. Here we go!

 1. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson: I read about this book in a magazine and immediately placed myself on the hold list at the library. This is a historical fiction piece about a woman from rural Appalachia who comes from a line of people who have BLUE SKIN. Yes, this is a real genetic condition that affected a group of people in Kentucky. I did plenty of googling about that, let me tell you. This story features that element as a plot point, obviously, but this book is mainly about how the young protagonist becomes a traveling librarian as part of Roosevelt's plan to get more Americans working. This novel really is a celebration of books and how they can transform the lives of those who are yearning for something different than their harsh reality. I liked this book but didn't love it. It's interesting, for sure, but I don't typically gravitate toward historical fiction. I love a book that compels me to do some research while reading (ahem, googling in bed after I finish a chapter), and this one, remarkably, had me more interested in the amazing stories of horseback rural librarians than the blue skin condition. I'm not sure my description here makes anyone want to grab this book right away, but know it was good, but not one I'll be raving about to friends.
 2. Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Without a doubt my favorite book of the month! This novel about a fictional 70's rock band is brilliant in its format. Basically the entire book is one long interview (it looks like a script on the page, with a characters name and then a colon with what they have to say) like a documentary. Here's the thing---it seemed so real, like reading a true account, but none of it is! That super unique premise alone makes me give major props to Reid. Reading this book is honestly like watching a movie. The dramatic yet subtle tension between the main characters is really remarkable and I love how it all wrapped up. A fun bonus at the end is the lyrics to all the songs the book mentions. This book is a delight and I highly recommend it.
 3. How Do You Tuck In A Superhero by Rachel Balducci: This book is a series of vignettes about life with boys. I only have one son, and this author, at the time of publication, was expecting her SIXTH son, but I still found myself relating and laughing. As a teacher some of the antics of the boys sounded very familiar. This is a fast fun read of short stories that would make an awesome gift for the boy mom in your life. This was a really sweet read.
4. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: I had VERY high hopes for this book because (like almost everyone), I loved Eat Pray Love and had read that this book was the perfect summer read. Don't get me wrong, I liked this book, but I don't think it was worth all of the hype. This is a coming of age story about a young woman named Vivian who leaves her conservative family, drops out of college, and moves to New York City to live at her Aunt's theater in the '40's. She meets all sorts of unique characters, goes wild (this book is rated R for sure), and seeks to discover who she is and her purpose in a turbulent time in the city as the U.S. is on the brink of war. So while this was an entertaining fun read, I didn't find myself super eager to keep reading at night. And to me, there are too many books I can't put down to read much of anything that's just pretty good...if that makes sense. I'm curious what others think about this one. It felt like two books sort of smushed together: the first half was about the dazzling show girl life and the second half fast forwards 60 plus years and features a story line about a soldier's PTSD. Both parts were good but I felt a definite split and that it didn't really fit together.

We are almost at that big blanket, hot latte, sweatpants, candle, and book season and I, for one, cannot wait!
Savor Your Sparkle,

And now here are all the books I've read in 2019....with stars by my faves!
1. An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
2. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
3. The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank
4. *Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
5. Happy Teachers Change The World by Thich Nhat Hanh and Katherine Weare
6. The Day I Went Missing by Jennifer Miller
7. *Glow Kids by Kardaras Nicholas
8. Final Girls by Riley Sager
9. *Becoming by Michelle Obama
10. As Long As We Both Shall Live by Joann Chaney
11. *The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
12. If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey
13. *The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
14. Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanne Elden
15. *Regrets Only by Erin Duffy
16. *Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
17. I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella
18. *The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
19. *Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
20. When Did I Get Like This? by Amy Wilson
21. *Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman
22. Maid by Stephanie Land
23. Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson
24. Sh*tty Mom by Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alicia Ybarbo, MaryAnn Zoellner
25. Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson
26. Dietland by Sarai Walker
27. The Mother in Law by Sally Hepworth
28. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
29. *Life Will Be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler
30. *Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand
31. Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty
32. *The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
33.  Roar by Cecelia Ahern
34. A Love Letter Life by Jeremy and Audrey Roloff
35. The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Frances
36. *Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
37. *Can I Get An Amen? by Sarah Healy
38. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
39. *Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
40. How Do You Tuck In a Superhero? by Rachel Balducci
41. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Letter To My Students

It's Back to School week around here and so in honor of that, I have compiled some posts I've written about teaching, school, and the classroom. My very favorite teacher post I've written is called Letter to 1st Grader. I am copying it here for you and including some other posts I've written about this wacky, wild, and wonderful profession after the letter. To all my teacher friends, Godspeed on the 2019-2020 school year!

Dear 1st Grader (Well, let's be real, I should call you "pretty much kindergartner"),
  Did you eat breakfast this morning? I hope so. I hope you ate something healthy and hearty and that your mom and dad woke you up with excitement and joy for you on this big day. And it is a big day! You're in the big time now, baby! School all day. Big playground. Lunch at school. Homework. New friends. Your own desk. Right now I'm pretty sure the big playground and the idea of THREE recesses has you jazzed. And that's ok, those things are pretty cool.

 I can't blame you for not knowing yet all the other awesome stuff that will happen this year. You will learn to read. Yes, you. You will start off reading cautiously, sounding out letters and looking to me for acknowledgement that yes, you did it correctly. But just you wait. Soon, probably much sooner than your mom and dad realize, you will be reading sentences and paragraphs effortlessly and smoothly. You will laugh at Captain Underpants and your heart will break for Wilbur when Charlotte dies. You will discover a joy in books that I hope never dwindles. Your pictures that you use to express yourself will morph over time into words and then sentences and then stories. There is power in this. Reach inside you and decide what it is you want to share. Then write it, and read it, and admire it. You are a writer. 

Right now you'll ask me at 9:10, 9:25, 10:04, 10:33, and 10:56 if it's lunch time yet. And around January you'll get a watch and know that you can get those Oreos when the little hand is on the 11 and the big hand is on the 12. It seems to arrive sooner each day. You might not know who you're sitting by. They look different and some are even missing their front teeth (don't be scared, that'll be you in November). These scary unfamiliar kids will become your friends. Some, though, might call you mean names. Don't call them mean names back. Some you might giggle with and I might have to move your seat. You'll go home and tell your family that Mrs. Steele moved your desk and they will give you a stern look and say "good." 

There are big kids around a lot more than last year. They are taller and louder than you but want to know a secret? I think you are smarter. Don't be nervous, the big kids think you are pretty cute and secretly wish they were back in 1st grade. You'll discover why pretty soon. Right now, you don't know me. And besides writing your name on your coat hook, homework folder, work folder, clothespin, lunch ticket, parent email list, notebooks, door decorations, filing folder tabs, math book, and job chart (whew!), I don't know who you are. You are a name on my attendance list. For now. 

I've been thinking about you for a long time and I am so glad you are in my class (even those of you who illicit a laugh from your previous teacher when I ask about you...then they mutter "good luck." Please go easy on me). You will, with sticky fingers, giggles, naughty playground behavior, broken pencils, and spelling "they" as "thay," push your way into my heart and you will make our classroom family complete. 

I hope that you were able to eat that good breakfast I mentioned and that you weren't too nervous. I also hope you got some sleep last night because I sure didn't. I was too excited/scared/nervous all at the same time. Maybe you were too. You have no idea what you'll be able to do in June and I think it's best that way. Let's surprise ourselves as the days pass. Remember to be nice, treat supplies and others with care, and most of all, if it's a bathroom emergency, don't try and hold it in. I am here for you this year and beyond. 
Love, Mrs. Steele

You Might Be an Elementary Teacher If....

Happy Teacher

Dear Teacher, Take a cue from Elsa

A Teachers Tale of the Stuffed Animal That Melted My Heart

12 Days of Christmas (Teacher Version)

Little Hearts, Big Burdens

Savor Your Sparkle,

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Life Lately

Hi There!
   It's been a while since I've blogged so I'm here with a giant life lately post for you! It's been a busy few weeks gearing up for school to begin. I meet my students Tuesday and school begins Wednesday. Honestly, I'm ready. There's always more you could do to prep, but there's a point where you've just gotta dive in....I'm at that point!

We spent the last little bit of summer enjoying the pool, splash pad, parks, and just chilling at home. Hank is at such a fun age (21 months!) and he just cracks us up.
Reading with Grandpa

Hank thinks it's hilarious to take the picture out of this frame and put his face in there instead. My little comedian. 

feeding goats!

No shame here, we love ourselves a happy meal lunch. Cheeseburger or nuggs, this kid is here for it. 

My parents have this cute "Hadley angel" statue in their backyard and Hank posed with it. #presh 

We have cucumbers!! Our little veggie patch burst to life this past week. 

That park life

We went to check out the Train Shop 

Hank began childcare two days a week at the beginning of August. He's enjoying it and despite some tears at drop off, I know he loves being social, independent, and going to "school." We listen to the song "High Hopes" by Panic at he Disco on the short car ride over and he loves dancing. We also chant "Toys and Friends, Yeah!" to get him pumped up. Haha. I, on the other hand, sobbed after the first drop off and worry (unnecessarily I know) about leaving him. He can't be with mom and dad 24/7 and it's working well for our family, but man, I miss my little sidekick. My mom will continue to watch him 3 days a week which is so wonderful. Hank looks forward to "Grandma Days."

 My sister, Libby, and I tried out Goat Yoga a few weeks ago! The goats were so cute and it was hilarious having them just jump up, but it's not something I'll be clamoring to do again. I counted it as my workout for the day, and that was a bit of a cheat because I probably only did actual yoga for about two minutes flat during the class. Baby goats are distracting! Speaking of fitness, a friend introduced me to this great podcast called "Balance 365 Life" It's all about fitness, nutrition, and living a balanced life. I need this message! I'm trying to lose some weight (what's new) but do it thoughtfully and in a way that lasts. This podcast is awesome.

Nachos are a love language of mine so we re-did them with sweet potatoes and they were AMAZING! 

AJ and I happened to have two date nights this week for two events we have very much been looking forward to. We saw Mumford and Sons Tuesday evening and I think it was my favorite concert ever. I listen to Mumford A LOT but have been listening non-stop since the show. Amazing. We also saw The Book of Mormon with some friends and enjoyed it!

This year I did a nautical theme in classroom and thanks to Donor's Choose, I got lots of great materials and supplies. I love decorating my classroom every year....but I also forget how exhausting it is! 
a teacher leaving our school gave me this plain stool so all summer long I collected candy wrappers and made it into a "sweet seat" as a fun reward seat for my classroom. 

Can't wait to have kids curl up with a good book here soon

Homework goes better with coffee 

I know it's August, and I know it's 95 degrees out, but my Pumpkin-lovin' heart is gearing up for FALL. I've been adding some pumpkin flavoring to my coffee lately and have been loving all the fall deco out at Hobby Lobby and Kirklands. Give me all the pumpkin paraphernalia. And how much easier will it be getting dressed in the morning when I can bust out my fall uniform of leggings, an oversized sweater, an infinity scarf, and boots?! 

These next couple weeks are sort of crazy with Back to School nights, the return of my math endorsement classes, the start of Hank's music classes with some friends, and plenty of fun thrown in too. August is usually almost always my least favorite month (ever heard August refered to as "One long Sunday Night"? Truth) but this August was pretty darn awesome. No matter how busy our days get, I love coming home to my two dudes. 

Savor Your Sparkle,

Friday, August 16, 2019

August 17th

Long time no blog! It's been a while since I've posted. Since we got back from our summer trip, we've been squeezing in end of summer fun, getting ready for school, and being all sorts of busy. School starts next week and I've been in trainings, in my classroom, and taking lots of trips to Walmart and Target to get ready. But I'll get into more "life lately" deets in another post. 

Today I wanted to write about August 17th. My heart has been connecting recently to thoughts of Hadley and our short time with our daughter. Maybe because the 17th is this weekend. So why August 17th? Because August 17th, 2016 was Hadley's due date.
 Every time I hear that date in any context I feel a little sting. That date, August 17th, was ingrained in my mind the second we had our first doctor's appointment. August 17th (or close to it) I would meet my first born. I'd be a mom to a sweet little girl we had already named Hadley. August 17th. August 17th. August 17th. my heart chanted for the entire first half of 2016. That would be the day....all my hopes and dreams pinned onto one day, one date. Well, as life so often does, things did not go according to plan and I met my daughter in a pretty traumatic manner nearly two months sooner than that on June 13th. And even though her birth date and death date are etched into smooth granite stone, and even though the 17th proved to be additionally significant as Hank made his debut on December 17, 2017, I always remember the hype and hope that I put into August 17th. 

And I'm thankful for August 17th. Here's why: On August 17th, 2016, when I was supposed to be having all my dreams come true, I was actually at work. It was the first day of school and nothing could prepare me for the stares of former students and their questioning eyes wondering why I was there at all. Shouldn't I be having my baby? Or at least at home taking care of her? Or even home waiting patiently for her arrival? It was the 17th after all. Instead, I'd cry on the way to the first day of school and sigh at the injustice that this day, of all days, seemed so normal. I'd say out loud as I did so often in those days, "This is not how any of this is supposed to be." I got through that first day, my C section scar, two months out, still sore, trying to rehearse how to tell a six year old student that your baby died when they ask how Hadley is doing. It was torture.  I  hated the fact that my very presence felt like the elephant in the room. People would look at me and burst into tears, squeeze my hand, and tell me they were sorry. Or they'd play it cool and act as if nothing had happened, as if I didn't end the school year hugely pregnant. Any way you sliced it, I felt uncomfortable, awkward, sad and devastated. 

That day, THE day, I was hoping for, I'd come home to a quiet house, just AJ and I. The excitement of a new school year was tempered because this was not how August 17th was supposed to feel like at all. So why, exactly, am I grateful for August 17th? Because here's the thing---The fact that August 17th was even significant in my life at all proved to me that for 7 glorious months, I was on cloud 9. I was thrilled and I put all my hope, my unabashed love into one beautiful day in the future. Did it all end up ok, wrapped up in a pretty bow? No. Not at all. But I cherish so heartily my time pregnant with Hadley. I treasure those days. Even if....maybe even BECAUSE the real August 17th was so difficult. Experiencing true hope is a glorious gift and I have no regrets. Loving without fear, hoping when it might even be foolish, and giving yourself over to the terrifying unknown---that's what life is all about. 

So find that "August 17th" in your life and throw all your bets in. You might win, you might lose, but if even for a moment, we each deserve the thrill of the chance. So now, three years after loss, when I hear the date "August 17th," I try and remember not what should have been, but what was---a full opening of the heart and the joy and anticipation of truly living. August 17th means hope to me....and hope is always worth having, even when the outcome doesn't look like you imagined. Imagine it anyway. 

We miss you, Hadley. Not a day goes by where I am not still learning about life because I got to be your mom. 

Savor Your Sparkle, 

Friday, August 2, 2019

What I'm Loving Lately

Every once in a while, I love to do these posts on What I'm Loving Lately. I find that by writing these I keep a closer eye out for little joys all around me. There's something awesome about being aware of how fantastic all sorts of random things are, right?!

1. Almond Lattes: I've been trying to less dairy milk lately and making a latte iced, using almond milk, and some almond flavoring is a new favorite combo of mine. Super refreshing and a great flavor combo!

2. Workin' Moms: The second season of this Netflix show just came out and I can't stop watching! This show is hilarious and relatable. There's also a lot of heart and the season 1 finale gave me all the feels. It can be a bit off color and risque, so fair warning. This show tackles tough topics head on with no holds barred. Even if you're not a "workin' mom," you might still enjoy this comedy.

3. Melissa and Doug Kids Coffee Set: We discovered this cute set at one of our favorite local shops, Honeysuckle Cafe. Hank loves putting the little play pods in the coffee maker. It comes with two mugs, a little spoon, 3 "pods" and the actual coffee maker with buttons and knobs. This gift actually came from the "Vacation Fairy" that we made up on this trip. We told Hank that if he was super awesome on our road trip, the Vacation Fairy would come to our house and leave a present there. We figured as he gets older it'll be a good reward to work for and it helps reduce that post-vacation blah. This is definitely Hank's new favorite toy.

I saw this on Pinterest and love it!! 
4. Back To School: Ok, so I'd be lying if I said I was 100% psyched and ready for school to start again...I'm not. I'll get there though! But I am loving all the back to school commercials, supplies in stores, excitement etc. Whether you're a teacher or a parent, I think it's SO critical to have a positive attitude about the start of the new school year. It's an exciting time for a student to embark on a new adventure with a new teacher, classroom, and friends. Long live all the back to school hype, it's something worth getting jazzed about.

5. Hot Toddy Heat Protectant: I use a blow drier and flat iron about 3 times a week (the other days it's dry shampoo's time to shine, ha) and all that heat can be super damaging to my hair. I tried a sample of Dry Bar's Hot Toddy heat protectant and I loved it so much I bought a full size bottle this week. I spray on this stuff after blow drying but before flat ironing. The one issue? It doesn't smell great. It's not an awful smell, but it's not nice either. Eh, I'll take it for some medicine for my dried locks.

6. I haven't had a Crumbl cookie in 3 weeks. I'm taking applications if you'd like to be in my celebratory parade. Don't at me that I've been out of town the past 2 weeks, mmmkay? I miiiight need to break that streak as a post summer treat.

Happy Dog Days of Summer!

Savor Your Sparkle,