Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Curator of Now

I love memories. Actually, I love making memories. I adore documenting life (hello to this blog you're reading). I relish taking pictures. I collect ticket stubs,  mementos, treasures, and have 4 shoeboxes full of cards, notes, and letters that mean a lot to me. I honestly just deeply enjoy reflecting.

A few years ago, in the frustrating midst of getting Hank's newborn footprint imprinted in clay (as you do, of course), I tearfully responded to AJ when he suggested we ditch the idea and leave our infant's feet alone, (blame postpartum hormones), "But I'm the historian of the faaaamily!" What the heck does that even mean? Maybe some of you moms (or non-moms. I think it's a generational thing) can relate to this deep need to document. all. the. things. Gone are the days of elaborate scrapbooking and in its place we have instagram, Facebook, blogs, twitter, group texts, photo printing services, and one of my very favorites, photo books. While at first glance these mediums might appear to be so much easier than busting out stickers and crinkle cut scissors (dang I miss those things), it's actually most likely even more of a time suck. "It's so easy," loses its meaning when the minutes of  speedy documenting add up to hours and hours.

Memories mean a lot to me because I know all too painfully that sometimes, that's all you've got. I have a small box on the top shelf of my closet full of Hadley's things. I have baby shower cards, her tiny bows, my medical wristband, photos, even the dress I wore when she died, a tiny drop of her blood staining it. To anyone else this might seem morbid and upsetting, but to me, it represents my daughter and the small assortment of things that belonged to her. Before you send the Hoarders crew to my house, there are some things I parted with and I understand that things are just that, things. These material items and even manifestations of moments such as blog posts, photos, going down the camera roll rabbit hole, and the piles of paper in my memory boxes, aren't as beautiful and miraculous as the actual moment itself. I know this. I believe this.

We just finished putting up a gallery wall in our house last weekend and I really love how it turned out. I spent a decent amount of time browsing Pinterest, then at Kirklands (clearance frames, oh yeah!), and then poring over photos picking just the right ones that I wanted to display. I love our gallery wall. It's got my cute little family, AJ's parents, my parents, our siblings, Hank through various stages. It's us and it brings me so much joy. But while putting it all together, a recurring message kept coming to me. It was this: Remembering these moments is nice, but wasn't it so special getting to live in those pictures too? 

I know, fundamentally, that my role as "family historian" is completely self imposed. I love it, but maybe it's not always good for me (much like my love of Crumbl cookies). Maybe, the time spent documenting could be better spent living in the moment. LESLIE ARE YOU SERIOUSLY LEARNING THIS LESSON AGAIN? Yes,and I'll keep at it time after time until I get it right. You'll still catch me blogging in this space, instagramming and occasionally Facebooking because I enjoy keeping memories and sharing. But I'm making more of an effort to look up, soak it in, and show myself some much needed grace. In seeking to curate the beautiful now, I realize again and again, with bountiful delight that it's already created just perfectly the way it is. No work (or documentation!) necessary. 

May we all seek to relish the moment and not feel one ounce of guilt for wanting to make a Shutterfly book out of it anyway. It's all ok right in this very moment.

Savor Your Sparkle,

Sunday, January 26, 2020

January Reads

It's the first reads post of 2020!! I read/listened to 8 books this month (well, and also at the end of December after I wrote my December Reads post). I had quite the variety this month and in a nutshell---a Hallmark movie plot, a polygamist thriller (who would have though those words would be paired together?!), a delightful holiday novel, an outrageous autobiography, a practical and excellent teaching resource, a novel that went in an unexpected and unwelcome direction, and finally, the start of one of the most popular series in the world.....a few decades late. Ha! SHEESH!

Here we go!

1 The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg:

I really enjoyed this book. The book description and even the title don't really sum up this book. It appeared at first glance to be sort of a domestic thriller "Desperate Housewives" type situation. But this one was a bit more "The Notebook" than I thought. This is about an older divorcee who ends up falling for a guy with a tough past. I won't give away any more than that!  I read this book quickly and wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen. This one is a sweet, small town, happy ending love story. More Hallmark than Lifetime. I was a fan 

 2. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

This was a Book of the Month club pick. This was a nice solid thriller with a twist ending (love those!). This is about a modern day polygamist family trying to live in the real world (Sister Wives, anyone?). It's told from one point of view, the first wife's, and while you do find yourself rooting for her, you wonder why she's put herself in the position she has. The ending genuinely surprised me! This one is a pretty gritty and definitely R-rated. 

 3. Seven Days Of Us by Francesca Hornak:
I read this book over Christmas break and it was really just delightful. This is about an off-beat British family who is stuck together for a week under quarantine due to the eldest daughter's return from serving a medical mission in an area with an infectious disease. There's quirkiness, heart-felt moments, secrets revealed, and relationships repaired. It's sentimental and sweet and it was such a fun holiday read. 

 4. Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness:
I was on the library wait list for this when on of my besties sent me this signed copy for Christmas!! I adore JVN and listen to his podcast, Getting Curious, every week. This book feels like you're getting mimosas with the Queen himself and he is spilling all the tea, honey! This book is Jonathan's auto-biography and while it of course features all kind of fun deets about Queer Eye, he also goes in depth about his childhood and some pretty rough stuff he endured (think prostitution, drug use). I enjoyed this one more than Tan's book, Naturally Tan. I think it's an important book due to its brutal honesty. 

5. Teach Like Finland by Timothy D. Walker
 I LOVED this book! We've all heard about Finland and it's fantastic education system and results. My natural reaction to that has always been, yeah well they have a population smaller than many states and a much more uniform culture and identity than we do in America. We could never replicate that here. And the author recognizes this fact too. BUT, what we can do is take techniques and ideas that are successful there and try them in our own classrooms. Some things of particular note: the emphasis on classroom community, hands on learning experiences, letting kids be kids, and my most favorite---reducing teacher workload and burn out by focusing on what is most important and making the students work just as hard (if not harder!) than you the teacher. Preach, Finland!

6. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield:
I bought this book while on Christmas break because I liked the cover art, I love a good Southern novel, and the premise (a young preacher returns to his hometown with his young family and hijinks ensue) sounded entertaining. It took me a while to get into at the beginning, then I really enjoyed it, and I HATED the ending. I felt super misled by this book because this novel is portrayed sort of light hearted and then it gets dark. Fast. Out of nowhere. This novel struggles with multiple personality disorder---funny and warm on one hand.....abuse, neglect, rape and murder on the other. I'm not opposed to books that deal with tough topics at all, I just don't appreciate when they're dressed up to be something different. Hard pass.

 7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling:
So my 2020 goal was to "read" (listen) to all 7 Harry Potter books. If you can believe it, I've made it 32 years without reading a single one before now. I've never been particularly interested in Potter mania and the trend sort of passed me by. I'm not one for fantasy stories really (I've never read Lord of the Rings either) so I've always been meh about it. But one of my teammates mentioned the excellent narrator to the audio books and I said, "let's do it." Overall, I enjoyed it. It was amazing to me all the Potter-isms I knew from pop culture without having ever read the books: Bernie Botts Beans, Hedwig and the other owls, Platform 3/4, Hogwarts and the "houses," "He Who Shall Not Be Named," the lightning scar, Quidditch...It's interesting to put some context to things I've heard about. I am fascinated by JK Rowling and how she created this in-depth, well thought out whole other world! Harry is such a likable character and I am looking forward to listening more and see where it all goes.

How's that for some literary variety to kick off the new year?!

Happy reading, friends!
Savor Your Sparkle,

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Long Time No Blog!

Hi There,
   It has been a while since I've blogged! I got up early this morning and am enjoying my coffee in our quiet living room to the sound of Mumford and Sons. Perfection!
Snow capped mountains on a blue sky day? YES! 

 Since I last logged in:

-We moved out of our townhome
-We moved into our new house!
-Hank got the flu and poor buddy was put on a round of Tamiflu
-AJ got super sick and was out of commission for a few days. In our 8 years together, I've never seen him so miserable. But he's all better now and ready to celebrate his birthday this weekend!
-I have no idea what's going on in my math endorsement class right now. Exponents, eww. But I will be finished in about 5 months. Thank you baby Jesus.
-We returned back to school after our blissful 2 week Winter Break
-We visited Zoo Lights and I want to bottle up Hank's joy over this. He talked about it ALL DAY and was thrilled once we were there. Animals and lights? Well, Hank was one happy little dude.

-I started listening to Harry Potter. Yours truly has never read/seen a single Harry Potter book or movie. My 2020 goal was to finish the series. My awesome teammate lent me her books on CD and I've been listening as I drive. I'm about half a disc away from finishing the first book and liking it.
-I'm on a mission to create an awesome farmhouse gallery wall for the area behind our dining table. I'm a woman obsessed. Canvas? Frames? Any advice is appreciated!
-My sister, Utah Caffeine Queen turned 24! Happy Birthday, Libby!
-I'm tired and busy but feeling oh so thankful.

Leaving our townhome was sort of bittersweet. We didn't leave because we hated it. In fact, we really loved it there, but it was just feeling too small for us. On Sunday I went by and left our keys on the counter and did get a little choked up. We bought that place after our 1st wedding anniversary and that was the house we prepared a nursery for our little girl. And the next year, for our son. Within those walls, we experienced life's highest highs and lowest lows. There were many tears shed and laughs had in that little place and it will always be special to me. The couple moving in there is older and they have grown kids, but I did leave a little note for them wishing them all the joy and love we experienced there. But....this mama did not know life with a walk in pantry and mudroom and I'm not sure how I lived before it. I'm in love!  Ha!

Our move in went super smoothly thanks to my awesome family for helping us when Hank was sick. We also have a rock star realtor (we love you, Jessica!) and I just have to tell you guys about this awesome moving company. We hired this company called Red Barn Movers and they were incredible! Red Barn Movers is a part of a non-profit called Red Barn Academy It's a place where men struggling with addiction commit to live and learn for 2 years. They run the working farm, learn to budget, live in community, and work hard at a job. The moving company is the training ground for these guys to rebuild their lives. Their reviews were outstanding and we were so impressed. During the move, we had coffee and cookies and the we got to know the guys a bit. I've never met a more dedicated, hard working bunch before. If you need to move, call them! Not only will you be super pleased with their service, but it's supporting a cool cause!
I'm grateful for some extra time off this weekend. Speaking of Monday off, I LOVE teaching my students about Martin Luther King Jr. Kid President has one of my favorite videos about him. Check it out HERE

And I also have 2 other little joys to share----Starbucks has a new honey drink and it is 100 emoji. girl T-Swift's documentary is coming out this month. Yes please. 
Translation: Grande blonde almond milk honey flat white 

Thanks for reading. And as always, Savor Your Sparkle,

Friday, January 3, 2020

Top 5 Reads of 2019

I love reading. Obviously. I teach reading. I read everyday. I love the library and book stores with a passion. And one of the things I also enjoy is documenting my reads each month and sharing them with YOU.

I also love to get book ideas from others so please share your must reads with me, I'll add them to my list! I do want to say that if you are not a reader, no fear. You just haven't found your book yet. Try visiting the library or a book store, find an author you enjoy, read their work, then find others like it, and next thing you know, your TBR ("to be read") pile is ready to roll. I think regular reading works like any other takes time to make it part of your every day.

I read 58 books this year, and I struggled to narrow down my faves to only 5. But I finally did it and all 5 of these share a common theme: Strong female leads. And Lizzo said Amen!

5 Fave Reads of 2019 (in no particular order):

1. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

2. No Exit by Taylor Adams

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama

4. Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

5. Again but Better by Christina Riccio

Honorable Mentions:
-Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss by Georgie Fear
-Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras
-The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
-Life Will Be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler
-Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand

2019 was an amazing year for reading and I can't wait to get my hands on all of the amazing books that await in 2020. For the detailed reviews of all of my 2019 books, click HERE.

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 
42. *No Exit by Taylor Adams
43. *Things You Save In a Fire by Katherine Center
44. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
45. *Again But Better by Christine Riccio
46. *Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann
47. I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi
48. Well Met by Jen DeLuca
49. What Happens In Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
50. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
51. *You've Been Volunteered by Laurie Gelman
52. Naturally Tan by Tan France
53. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell 
54. Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews
55. *Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
56. *Miracles and Other Reasonable Things by Sarah Bessey
57. Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
58. *Lean Habits for Lifelong Weightloss by Georgie Fear 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Winter Break

I love Hank's goofy grin here 

It's my first post of 2020! Happy New Year! I decided to kick off this year on the blog with a winter break recap. School doesn't begin until next week, so we are still on break, but the next few days will be busy doing house stuff (We move this month!), so I figured it'd be a good time to write about the holiday break. The first couple days off, we totally relaxed. We all had little colds so it was nice to just chill. The last bit of school before break went really well, but AJ and I were both exhausted. We did go to the aquarium to see the scuba diving Santa. It was super cute.

We made our traditional overnight French Toast bake on Christmas Eve, went to church and heard a beautiful message about how God is always with us, and went to bed early, eager for Santa's arrival. 

Santa left Hank his big gift in the garage---a Paw Patrol car. Hank had a great time driving all around the garage on Christmas morning (it was snowy and freezing out so it hasn't made its sidewalk debut yet). We went over to my parents house that afternoon and had a fun evening celebrating together. 

The next morning we boarded our flight to Oregon to visit AJ's family (and our third Christmas celebration, haha). 
Hank had his morning milk in the airport in a Starbucks cup 

Hank was a champ on the 90 minute flight---snacks, coloring, books, music, more snacks, cars etc. 

Hank looks like he's 25 here. 

I always need my Oregon Dutch Bros! 
We had such a fun time in Oregon. AJ and I went to visit the cute town of Sisters one morning, we went to the movies and saw Knives Out (we liked it), and enjoyed plenty of relaxing. One of our Christmas gifts was tickets to see "The Michael Jackson Experience" in Bend. The impersonator looked so much like Michael and he put on a great show. We also visited the High Desert Museum. Hank loves exploring with his grandparents. 

 We got to visit with some friends and their kids. It's so fun to see how quickly kids grow up when you only see them a few times a year! AJ and I had this idea to do a pizza challenge when we visited Oregon so I made up report cards and we brought all the entries home and got to tasting and rating. The winner was....Abby's pizza! AJ's bro Matt introduced us to a new game called Code Names. We played many rounds of this fun game.

Code Names 
This was such a wonderful break to cap off a wonderful year. I am so excited for new beginnings in 2020! 

Savor Your Sparkle,