Monday, March 30, 2020

Life Lately

`I haven't really had the itch to blog much lately and I think it's because I spend so much of my days in front of a screen (online teaching). That and the fact that life hasn't been terribly exciting around these parts. AJ and I both teach remotely now and Hank is with us all day and that's life in a nutshell! Life is just so strange these days and I'm trying to stay positive, but anyone else got a case of the blahs?? I'm seeking to find the good in each day and savor these moments with Hank and AJ at home that I wouldn't normally have.

some green tea and quiet mama time while Hank drives his Paw Patrol car recklessly into our basement walls 

One thing I am thankful for is this little blogging space. I think it's important for me to document this time in our lives because it so unique and such a turning point in the world. We pray every night for those who are sick, health care workers (nurses and doctors have been Steele family heroes for a while now), and those feeling alone and distressed. Like I mentioned earlier, there are silver linings in all of this and I can't wait to sit in a coffee shop on the other side of this and write all about it. In the meantime, we've been.....

*Spreading Love from afar--My parents dropped off a care package full of goodies and it was a fun treat!
the care package included red vines. Yes and amen! 

So I saw this online and just had to do it. Our toilet was smoking! lol. 

some chalk we left on our neighbors porches 

*Watching plenty of shows--we love Disney Plus for when Hank is up. When he's asleep, I watch all the crap on TLC and AJ and I have 1 episode left of Love is Blind (love it!). Yes, we do have every intention of watching that crazy tiger show. Haha!
Is A Goofy Movie the best soundtrack ever??? YES MA'AM! #powerline 

*Supporting Local Eats--Last week we did curbside service from Honeysuckle Coffee, The Local Greek, and The Salty Pineapple. Not hating all the take out. 

*Crafting--Hank and I played with shaving cream, coloring (I got him the No Mess Markers, he loves them). We've also been having fun with play doh. I have finger painting on the docket this week, we'll see if I'm feeling brave enough! An awesome local business, Heartfelt Wall Hangings, started doing craft kit delivery recently. Yes please! I made a chevron and polka dot flag and a cute sign for AJ's dad for Father's Day. I know of some jewlery designers making DIY necklace kits, too. How fun!

*Cooking and Baking--Cooking has been a bit up in the air due to grocery shortages etc, but I recently made pot roast, mushroom pork chops, fried rice, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, avocado mac and cheese, and this week I'm making bacon parmesan chicken in the crockpot. It's nice to slow down and really enjoy the kitchen.

Avocado Mac and Cheese

Fried Rice

*Doing my own manis and beauty routine: I've been wanting to do a beauty/skin care post, but wonder if it's not appropriate at this time...or maybe yes as a nice distraction?? Anyway, while I've been trying to be diligent about skin care, my hair is whole other story. Lol. These Impress nails are nowhere near as fabulous as a salon gel mani, but they get the job done.

*Online Teaching: There was a learning curve, obvi, but this week is already shaping up to be smoother. I filmed a few videos Sunday afternoon to post throughout the week. I went into school last week (I've been trying really hard to stay away with social distancing etc) and prepared lots of material for a second round of packets for my kids. It hurts my heart because 1st grade is not supposed to look like lots of screen time and worksheets, but it is what is, right? It's been fun communicating with my class via Google classroom. I miss all their little faces so much.

This meme made me laugh---we're still here, doing what we do. Lol. 

*Going for drives: We've hopped in the car a few times, just to get the heck out of the house. We drove to Copperton, Eagle Mountain, The Great Salt Lake, and just around. We stay in the car, of course, but it helps. We cancelled our spring break trip to Boise to visit AJ's family and that makes us sad, but Starbucks and a road trip playlist sorta feels like a trip...kinda? not really? Oh well.
wearing my pencil earrings for some teaching videos later 

*Reading: Check out my March Reads HERE

*Getting Excited for Easter: We are doing a drive through Easter egg hunt this weekend and I picked up this dye kit for Hank (we're very into sharks over here). Yesterday I went to drop off some Easter decorations to Hadley. It's so quiet, peaceful and socially distanced there that I'm looking forward to warmer weather to spend some extra time there. I feel like this year, more than ever, the eternal message of hope that Easter Sunday brings is so needed, special, and holy. 

That's Life Lately---slower, kind of anxious feeling, strange, peaceful, unique. I love that Hank doesn't have a clue what is going on. He's just excited for a lot more Disney dance parties in the kitchen. I am too, honestly.
saw this poem online, it gave me all the feels 

Savor Your Sparkle,

Saturday, March 28, 2020

March Reads

This was such an amazing month of reading!!!!!! It's a good thing, too, since there have been plenty of at home days this month. I  would recommend every one of these books. Let's get to it!

1. The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters: Ok, so I've never read any Stephen King, but I have definitely thought before, "How can a book be considered super scary? I mean, it's just words on a page. What's the big deal?" I was WRONG. This book was so super scary.....but in a fun horror movie sort of way (if that makes any sense at all). This is about a group of friends who love all things creepy...until one of their stories gets way too real. Soon the "Red Lady" is haunting the group of teens and she won't let up, even as they grow up and move on. This very much gave me "Pretty Little Liars" vibes. This was a fun spooky, psychological thriller with a horror twist. It won't go down in history as a classic or amazing by any means, but I really couldn't put this one down! 
 2. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid: I was on the library waitlist for a few months for this one. It was one of the picks for Reese Witherspoon's books club so I think that's why. Guys, I love love loved this one! This one is like a deeper, more thoughtful version of The Nanny Diaries. This is about a young African American woman who nannies for a privileged white family. The mom really means well she can just be tone deaf at times. Then there's the mom's ex...who is currently dating the nanny. Yeah, that gets awkward. This was really such a fun book (see what I did there?) that really dives deep into class, race, age, romance, and the complicated relationships between employer and employee in a domestic setting. Read this book, it's wonderful.
3. True Crime Addict by James Renner: A few years ago, I was super into the docuseries The Mysterious Disappearace of Maury Murray. I recently discovered the TV show made my the same people, Up and Vanished (it's also a podcast). While watching an episode of that recently, I decided to look up this book that is referred to a lot in the Maura Murray series. This is an excellent true crime book and while Renner certainly doesn't solve the case (although he provides a compelling argument that Maura is alive and well in Canada), he pursues many angles and the book was just as interesting as the series, if not more so. One of my favorite books last year was the true crime book, I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara. One of the things that stood out to me about that book was how masterfully McNamara weaves her own story and struggles into the crimes she's researching. James Renner's book is very similar in that way and we get an intimate glimpse at his headspace and emotions as he drives himself to the brink trying to get answers. This was a great one.
 4. The Ingredients of Us by Jennifer Gold: This was a library impulse find because I thought the cover and description on the back were cute. This was a fun, light hearted read that feels very similar to the Beach Street Bakery series or like something by Elin Hilderbrand. The main character Elle runs a bakery (like every chick lit or Hallmark movie ever) and has recently separated from her husband because he was cheating. She explores the world of dating in her late '30's and all its misadventures. This is a sweet read with a happy ending, recipes throughout, and it was just light and fun. It won't go down in history as a favorite, but it was cute.
 5. You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen: This was my February Book of the Month club pick. This is by the same author team as The Wife Between Us and An Anoymous Girl. Those were both great thrillers and this one is verrry similar to those both. If you like a girl power thriller, you will probably enjoy this one. Shay is a young woman yearning for an exciting life. She meets the Moore sisters and they promise her a life of glamour and excitement.....but, of course, at a very steep cost to Shay. Ulterior motives abound and this one features elements of cults (sort of), the power of sisterhood, revenge, and murder. This was a fun one.
 6. Rushing Woman's Syndrome by Dr. Libby Weaver: I think it's so ironic, I ordered this book about a month ago, before all this Covid stuff impacted daily life. I've certainly been forced to quit rushing! I can say, wholeheartedly, that I have Rushing Woman's Syndrome. This book is a great mix of science/nutrition/mental health and dives into the responses our bodies have to this fast-paced, always on world. One thing I didn't love was that Dr. Weaver has her own line of vitamins and did pitch those a few times in the book (eyeroll), but overall the information was solid. Some of the tips involve things like limiting social media use, drinking less caffeine (I know, right?), and the importance of sleep and a healthy movement routine that involves practices like yoga. There were some great tips in here.

Reading has always been a form of self care for me and even more so now. Happy reading, friends!!

Savor Your Sparkle,

Here are my 2020 Books so far with stars by my faves---
1. The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg
2. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
3. *Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
4. Over the Top by Jonathan VanNess
5. *Teach Like Finland by Timothy D. Walker
6. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
7. *Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
9. *Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
10. Finding Chika by Mitch Albom
11. The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James
12. *Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
13. The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters
14. *Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
15. *True Crime Addict by James Renner
16. The Ingredients of Us by Jennifer Gold
17. You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
18. Rushing Woman's Syndrome by Libby Weaver 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Social Distancing Deets

So....yeah. Everything has changed since I last posted. The Corona Virus, which started out as something I heard was going on in other parts of the world is now here, in an angry, rushing burst of sickness, heartbreak and general yuckiness, that is changing every aspect of our lives as Americans.

Wednesday and Thursday of last week were a whirlwind with parent-teacher conferences and looong days at school. On Thursday, I checked our local news site and saw that a nearby school district had closed due to Covid-19. Hmmm, that was alarming to me. So I continued on with conferences, continually refreshing news pages during appointments. I stopped by the store on the way home to pick up my Clicklist order and it was chaos. They weren't able to get many things on my list and the employees were so flustered and overwhelmed. I got home and immediately cried as I told AJ, "I think life is really going to change."
Headline on March 13th 
That Friday, I had the day off from school so I took Hank to Harmons and it was eerie. We were in line to check out for over 30 minutes. That afternoon, on the way home from Hank's first dentist appointment (he was a CHAMP), I received word that school was cancelled. I tried to refrain from watching the news most of the weekend.

this mountain view coming down the stairs is always gorgeous to me

just hanging around 

Monday and Tuesday I went into school, set up my Google classroom, and made packets for my students. I miss them terribly and contrary to what many may think, remote teaching is not at all easier than face to face teaching. That human connection is missing and it hurts my heart. Luckily, I feel like there are so many excellent online resources out there and I'm getting the hang of Google classroom. I've been filming a video each day for my kids of either a lesson or simply reading aloud to give them some peace that I'm still their teacher and I love them.

I filled that laundry basket with manipulatives and tools to use in teaching videos. It's my "Basket O'Teaching" 

work packets ready to go 
Wednesday morning, the first day of our at home teaching, AJ and I woke up early to try and get as much school work done as possible before Hank got up. We were sitting together at the kitchen table when the whole house started to shake. I froze. "That's an earthquake," AJ said calmly. We both shot up to go get Hank and by the time we were up the stairs, the shaking stopped. We just stood there in the stillness for about a minute not saying anything just processing what happened. We went to our phones to text nearby friends and family and check the news. Yep, we had just experienced a 5.7 earthquake. Sheesh. We had a few smaller ones last spring and we purchased an emergency backpack with survival goods and emergency food. We made a plan for if/when it happens again. It just felt like a lot on top of an already crazy week. We also discovered a series of cracks in our basement flooring from the quake. Fun times.

Some things to smile about, though:
-extra Hank snuggles and playtime is #1!!
-I took care of nagging to-do's like taking the census (do it while you're home!) and hanging some more things around the house

-emails from my sweet 1st graders
You can see my laptop is perched on a box so I can read aloud to my students from here 
-my 4th math endorsement class is officially finished! The 5th one (out of 6) will begin online at the end of the month
-Hank and I blasted Taylor Swift in the car (our fave!!) and drove around for a while and then to the Starbucks drive thru yesterday while AJ worked. It was the best half hour of my week, haha.
-We sorted and organized our basement
-AJ and I have really kicked up our workouts and are kicking some booty in our basement. Plus the FREE 90 days on the Peloton app is awesome. Plus walks. Lots of walks.
-I've cooked some new recipes and plan on baking some yummy cookies this weekend
vegetarian curry over basmati rice

quinoa crusted chicken parm
-I watched Harry Potter movies 2 and 3.
-The house is decorated for spring

-I've been re-vamping my daily gratitude practice and loving it
-Cleaned and sorted lots of paperwork
-I am declaring this the golden age of the internet. The memes are just too good.

I've spent a few years now taking the lemons of life and trying to make lemonade. Ever since Hadley, my sweet 5 day old daughter passed away in my arms, nearly 4 years ago,  I've searched and prayed to find silver linings in darkness and hope in the valleys... and it's worked. I've discovered stores of strength and the value of perspective in  difficult times. And know, my friends, that sometime in the future I'll write a post in this very space about the lessons I've learned, the bright spots in the unknown, and the beautiful grace of a loving God and kind people in my path. It really is true: It could always be worse. It's important to empathize with those who don't have it as carefree as we do right now.

But now, I'm not sure, is the right time for diving into those musings. I miss my old life and feeling secure and settled. I know that this too shall pass and that hope--perfect, awesome hope, is there no matter what. But sometimes the healthy thing to do....the right thing to do.....the sane thing to do, is let the hurt hurt for a minute. Let your heart break knowing it won't be that way forever.

Lots of love to you my friends.

Savor Your Sparkle and Wash Your Hands,

Monday, March 9, 2020

Unexpected Kindness

This weekend we were the recipients of a random act of kindness and it made me so happy I nearly cried. We went to Michael's this weekend (me, AJ, Hank) and as we were in the checkout line, Hank kept saying, "Tracker! Tracker!" I had no idea what he was talking about since I am only familiar with the OG Paw Patrol cast (Rubble is my fave), but apparently "Tracker"is a new-ish member of the Paw Patrol. Sure enough, there was a little Tracker dog in a stuffed animal display. I checked the tag and yep, Hank was right, his name was Tracker. The lady behind us in line smiled as I said, "Yep, buddy, his name is Tracker. Good eyes!"  Hank grabbed it, squeezed it tight, and as we went to pay, I swiped it and tossed it back on the shelf. Hank fussed for a second, but I explained we weren't going to buy him today and maybe we could get it another day.

As we were walking out the door the lady who was behind us in line got our attention and said, "Here's your Tracker dog little buddy. He's all yours." I was floored. Hank lit up and gave her a huge smile. AJ and I thanked her profusely and told her she was so sweet and that was so unexpected. She said with a smile, "Well, he is just the cutest thing and I thought he should have that little dog."

GUYS. I can't even. That small act of kindess is something I will never forget. Here's the thing, this caring stranger wasn't on her phone, she was present, and listening to us in line. She decided to reach out and spread a little joy. She certainly didn't need to. Hank is not wanting for stuffed animals or anything really, but it made him so happy and taught our family a valuable lesson....Stay alert, and watch and listen for how you can give and spread joy. This sweet stranger was observant decided to act in generosity. I think it's fitting the little pup's name is Tracker. May we all be actively tracking ways to spread love and share kindness. 

Savor Your Sparkle,

Friday, March 6, 2020

Catching Up With Captions

I've got lots of pictures for you today and this blog post will be full of captions. I'm sitting here on Friday evening with some kettle corn and a glass of moscato. I just wrapped up designing a photo book on Shutterfly from our Hawaii trip. It only took about 4 months, ha!  It would appear to be peaceful, but I'm watching the 20/20 special, "Outbreak," all about the Corona Virus so it's not the most Zen like option. I'm about 5 minutes away from switching to the DVR'd episodes of Married Ar First Sight. Ughhhh. I don't know about anyone else but I'm having a hard time determining whether it's sensationalized by the media or truly something to worry about (or most likely a combination of the two??). Anyway, despite the depressing nature of so many news stories lately (saying farewell to the chance for a female president among them), my little fam is doing well and we are SO EXCITED for spring time and warmer weather.

I ordered this for our upstairs bathroom a few weeks ago and it arrived this week. True words!! 
I had today off for grade transmittal day so I decided to take my little man to do some random acts of kindness. We baked up some festive St. Paddy's Day sugar cookies, whipped up some homemade frosting, and delivered them to Hank's school, AJ's school, and my parents. It was so much fun and Hank and I chatted about how it's nice to do something kind for others.

We made about 50 cookies total! 

"I stir" 

Helping mama

Hank and I went to lunch at In and Out (he loves cheeseburgers) 

Visiting dad's classroom
I completed the 4th out of 5 teacher retreat professional development sessions last week. The topics are super interesting and I can't say I mind the night in the hotel by myself! (a book and bedtime by 8, nothing exciting but delightful nonetheless).

Some more Life Lately...
Just us on a little walk

Getting a new 'do. Also---who told Hank smiling means "open mouth awkwardly?" It cracks me up 

We went to the aquarium last week and this sweet sea turtle "visited" with us for a while. So cool! 

Riding a frog, as you do 

I had a girls dinner last week on the other side of town so I stopped in for a latte at a local shop to do some work on the way.. This was a delicious mid-week treat

I made a "school years memory box" for Hank where I will have a file for each year and the special mementos and art from that year. The art is piling up so I figured we needed an organization system for the most sentimental pieces. 

A bit of warmer weather meant we got out for some walks this week! 

A teacher at Hank's school sent me this. I love seeing my little man try new things
This meme made me crack up. I think we can all power through the time change this weekend knowing we have the Bachelor finale to start our week!

Thanks for reading!
Savor Your Sparkle,