Day 31: gratitude- Done

Today is the day! Day 31- our slicing is complete. Im grateful to have completed this challenge. I’m grateful that I chose to focus on gratitude. It’s been a great month- of slicing and just life in general. Cheers to all you slicers that completed the 31 day challenge. We did it!

Day 30 →gratitude: no room at the inn

I grew up 17 minutes away from my family farm. This is the house my dad was raised in with his 7 brothers and sisters. My grandpa passed away when I was about 5. Then my Gram held down the fort for another 20 years until she passed away in 2015. When I was 10 years old, we lived with my Gram when our house was being built. I was the first (and only one so far) of my generation to get married on the farm.

Fortunately, the farm is still around. Big beautiful old trees scatter across the property and a big open sky. My oldest son, Charlie, adores the farm and all the “tractors”. He is constantly reminding me we need to clean the combine but wait for all the mice to get out first. Yup. Very true.

For our spring break we came to visit “Gramma and Grampa” for a few days. They still live in the same house I grew up in so it’s super close to the farm. Right now my parents’ house is a little packed. My oldest (pregnant) sister, husband, and 13 month old babe have been living there for 4 months. Bay’s husband got a job down south. So, they sold their flat in Chicago and moved in with my parents. And ya’ll know the market today… Unless you know of a house before it gets on the market, you are basically too late. They haven’t been able to find a place they like in time to put in an offer before it goes contingent. So, there really isn’t any room at the Inn. I hadn’t really started to problem solve where we would stay. Typically we’ve made it work, but it’s just tight. And not really a relaxing getaway when sleeping quarters are shared with your 15 month old and toddler. There is part of me that thinks, “Okay ya’ll, wrap this up. You’re cramping our visits to Gramma and Grampa’s”. But I also get it. They are ready to move, too. So patiently we all wait.

My dad called me up a few days ago, “Wanna stay at the Farm during your stay?” Truthfully, I wasn’t sure. Sometimes, just thinking about the Farm still makes me sad. The memories it holds and how things used to be when my Gram was still living. But of course, that’s also what makes this place so special. And seeing my boys enjoy this place makes my love for the farm grow. It’s been absolutely perfect. Plenty of family time with just us four, as well as time with Auntie Brooke, Henry, Auntie Bailey and Maeve, and of course Gramma and Grampa. It’s been terribly cold and windy so we’ve been a tad cooped up. This has led to dance parties, reading lots of books, and playing with the same blocks I played with when I was Charlie’s age.

I’m sure my Gram’s spirit is so full right now knowing my family and I are staying at the farm- that she has left this place for all of us to still love, cherish, connect, and make new memories.

I asked my dad to send a text to the uncles to gather out here tomorrow night before we head back north. It reminds me of our old Friday nights here. Tomorrow there will be a good 25-30 people that gather. Not quite as big as the gatherings used to be but it’s a random Thursday and most of my cousins are in college now.

I’m so thankful Bailey is occupying my parents house. If not, we would have never considered staying out here. I can’t wait for tomorrow night with my extended family, and I can’t wait for our next vacay at the farm.

Day 29- Gratitude- “passing” an important test

A secret I am sharing with the Slice community…

I took a test recently. Lately, I’ve taken the same test. Over and over. It’s not academic based. However, you could say I’ve been “studying” and “preparing” for this test. Recently, and when I say recently, I mean like last week, the results of my latest test showed what I wanted them to. I guess you could say I passed…

One might think, “Goodness. Isn’t it a tad early to share such ‘early results’?” I disagree.

Today, I stand in my joy and share my joy.

Day 28: Gratitude – Baking soda

It may seem like a strange love, but it’s a true love. Baking soda. Year after year I have slowly attempted to remove harsh chemicals from our home. Every time I turn to Pinterest to look for an alternate cleaning solution, it includes baking soda and/ or vinegar- another major staple in our house. 

Since we use cloth diapers, we used to buy a special powder to throw in with the wash. I started to read the ingredients on the back… The first ingredient seemed close enough to baking soda to me. Why would I keep buying a $19 2lb bag of special chemical powder when I could swap it for a 13.5lb bag of baking soda for $7.50. (One of our closest friends gave me the 13.5lb bag from Costco for Christmas this year. They know me well!)

There are times I have just brushed my teeth with straight baking soda… and washed my hair… and my face. Sometimes I just think less is more. Sometimes I know the “enhanced” products on the shelves today haven’t been around that long, and I certainly don’t trust what’s in them. What did people use before these products were created? What were the shelves even filled with? My guess is isles and isles of baking soda! haha

By far my favorite use is my shower/tub cleaning solution. If you still use a chemical product that you buy from the store for your shower, stop now and just try this ONE time. It works 10x better! It’s easier and you don’t feel like you need to hold your breath to avoid the chemical fumes while attempting to clean your shower… 1 cup vinegar (heat up), add 4 T baking soda (SLOWLY), then mix in 1 cup dish soap. I coat the entire shower/tub-rubbing it in. Let is sit a minute or two… Or sometimes I just walk away entire and come back in 10 minutes. Then rub again while rinsing it away. Nothing better and nothing more satisfying!

Last night we used up the last of the dish powder. So, you can only guess what I did. I filled up the empty box with baking soda. I will be testing this out, and I’m optimistic. Wish me luck.

Day 27: Gratitude- Close Calls

Close calls are a blessing in disguise. When your baby winds up standing at the edge of the steps and the gate is open, yet you grab them just in time before they get one step closer. Or even on those occasions when they do fall, but come out unharmed. Those moments shock you to your core, make you squeeze your child tightly, and then thank the universe for the reminder to be more present and/or preventative.

About six months ago I was spotting my son as he walked across this open bridge at the park. He had done it many times. I guess you could say I was getting comfortable with his ability. But, he was still young- only 2 and a half. My hands were up, and then in the seconds that I looked away, there he was falling in mid air. (I will say, I am thankful I wasn’t on my phone when it happened. Then I would have really felt like shit!) I didn’t react quickly enough, I didn’t react at all. I simply wasn’t ready because I wasn’t paying attention in that moment. And that’s how quickly it happens. He fell about five feet and completely belly flopped to the Earth. Truthfully, I think the belly flop was the best option, no broken ankle or arm and he didn’t hit his head. In those few seconds I watched his body hit the rubber turf. The turf gave a little as it absorbed his fall. He lost his breath. He was crying and I was holding him. I apologized to Charlie, and I apologized to my husband . Both trusted me and I let them down. Charlie walked away without a single bruise… Maybe a slightly rubbed chin. 

I called the on-call pediatrician on our walk home from the park. I wanted to know if we should take him in for internal bleeding or any other potential effect from the fall. She asked me to press around on his belly and ribs, Charlie didn’t even wince. A good sign that all things were okay. Then, I called my older sister. She is an ED nurse with a plethora of knowledge. I wanted to know more and to get her insights too. She brought me even more relief. Typically, kids manage well if the fall is less than 3x their height. Charlie’s fall was 2x his height. Another good sign. 

Sometimes I catch myself still being disappointed in myself. But, I thank the universe for the close call. It is a reminder that I have two  precious gifts that I get to care for each day. It is a reminder to be present- no matter how skillful they might be getting and/or how old. I will be there, as best I can.

Day 26: Gratitude–> My “job” 

It’s the first day of Spring Break! I am taking a moment of gratitude for my job, my career, my profession, my calling. Yes, I have already shared my gratitude for this, but it’s something I am grateful for daily. The opportunity to inspire, connect, and support these young minds is a blessing. One of my relatives likes to remind me I am lucky to be in a profession that makes a difference. There are plenty of professions out there- most of which are necessary- but many of them don’t positively impact others in the same direct way. 

Not only do I have this opportunity, but also there are so many opportunities to grow as a human. In our work to shape young minds, education must be on the up and up about all things social emotional learning in order to best reach our learners and to help them reach their fullest potential. About 4 years ago I took a Positive Education Certification through the Flourishing Center- my district offered this course to teachers! This kind of work contributes to who I am today. I was already on a path in this direction prior to the PEC, but how fortunate I am to partake in this kind of work through my career and not just my personal time.  I’ve participated in various book studies through work, recently Fostering Resilient Learners, The Happiness Advantage, and Hacking School Discipline. Although many of these ideas center around the workplace and education, it’s also the principles of being a good human. I am thankful to be a career that not only I get to help children learn and grow, but I get to as well.

Now, on to enjoying a break from my calling. Bring on the Spring Break vibes and soaking up all the family time I possibly can!

Day 25: Gratitude→ Cloth diapers

I’ve never really grasped when people use the phrase “basic b”. It seems to be a phrase people use when referencing someone that has the latest and trending things…. PSLs, a certain tennis shoe, coat, and/or apparel. However, my initial thought of basic is always one of simplicity and minimalism, having the basics. Google defines basic as “offering or consisting in the minimum required without elaboration or  luxury; simplest or lowest in level.” But I guess, having the basics might be interpreted differently today. I consider myself basic. But, I don’t know; the term confuses me… What I do know is that I work to live a life of simplicity, minimalism, and lower my carbon footprint- clearly I am a work in progress!

One act of trying to stick to the basics and lower my carbon footprint is cloth diapers. Yup. We do that in this house. Whether we want to recognize it or not, disposable diapers is an idea of luxury and expense because cloth diapering is anything but glamorous!  I still remember when I first said the idea out loud. I knew of people that did it, but I didn’t really know them. Then, there were of course the people that challenged and doubted me. Thanks for the fuel to the fire! 

I watched Youtube videos and I was convinced we could do it. We’ve learned a lot along the way. But, here we are. On babe number 2 using the same diapers we used with Charlie. Okay- some have been replaced because they lost their elasticity but yea… Youtube taught me how to fold the cloth wipes so they would “pop up” just like disposable wipes, and Pinterest was full of wipe solution recipes.

I have 8 uncles, one of which always likes to joke with me about cloth diapers. “I still have scars on my hips from those clothes pins, Brittany Ann.” Ha! Goodness, and I can’t even imagine my Gram using cloth diapers on all 8 of her children without the modern day tech we have for cloth diapers today! No clothespins today. Cloth diapering isn’t like it used to be.  I’m sure some people today might opt for the metal clothespin and keep it old school, but snaps or Velcro are an easy win for us. 

I won’t lie. It’s a lot of work, but like anything, you get used to it. Diapers need to be cleaned out with the pail daily. A load of diapers need to be washed every two-three days. On the sunnier/warmer days, we hang them outside to dry to let the sun work all its magic! Probably my biggest annoyance about the whole thing is the way clothes fit. Cloth diapers are bulky. Baby clothes are made with disposable diapers in mind. Luckily, there are shirt extenders so shirts reach under the diaper. But pants, eek! I have to be picky with our pants. No jeans- too tight! On special occasions when I want the boys dressed up, I opt for a disposable. When we are staying at my parents house for a weekend or on vacay for the week, we choose disposable. We tried cloth diapers in the night. That was stopped quickly after too many soaked sheets in the morning.  

In all, I feel good about our decision. We ‘ve even turned a few of our friends towards cloth diapers. Strangely, I am thankful for cloth diapers. It has saved us money, and I feel better that I am trying to do something kind for our Earth. Keep it basic.

Day 24: Gratitude- The Vitamix

If you know me, you know my husband and I are savers. We spend little, buy used items, and just make it work. However, there are a few items that are outliers. One of them being our blender. 

I’ve been making morning smoothies for about the last 7-8 years. It all started when I took an unintended break from teaching and nannied for a high-net-worth family in Chicago (and Miami, FL) for a year. There was a full-time chef, two nannies, as well as a few PA’s. Smoothies were made daily- kale, dandelion greens, berries, and almond milk were the staples. I loved them! I liked starting my day knowing I got in some great nutrients to start the day. Of course, every meal in that house was always nutrient dense. One of the other nannies bought me a nutri-bullet for Christmas that year, and I’ve been making smoothies ever since.

Right after my husband and I got married five years ago, I asked for a Vitamix. The nutribullet was okay for one person, but not as big as I’d like it to be for two people. It was clear we were consistent in making them and the blender wouldn’t go to waste.

Fast forward to today- we still make smoothies. And when I say we, I mean my husband. Somehow over the years he took this on, and why would I argue that?! As soon as we started to grow our family, we changed our tactics. We started prepping them just like our meals. We make a few batches on Sundays and freeze them to use throughout the week. Then the night before we just stick them in the fridge. I find comfort knowing our boys ate something that had some nutrients in it. I don’t feel quite as bad when we are doing another night of mac-n-cheese or chik-pea patties.

My latest excitement with our blender…cashew milk! I’ve been wanting to make my own milk ever since my nanny experience. On random occasions the chef would make some almond milk. It seemed relatively easy and just intrigued me. I’ve had my cheese cloth still in its unopened packaging for about the last three years. Finally, last week I dived in. I soaked the cashews for 6+ hours, measured out the water, and turned that bad boy on high for two minutes. The bonus with cashews is that you don’t even need to strain it. Even better! I didn’t like the idea of the added commitment of boiling the nut bag after every use. I’ll pass on that.

Why have I waited this long?!? The best milk I have ever tasted!  Now my three year old still needs a little coaxing of course, but he will come around. Ollie loves it! And, I love it. I love knowing exactly what’s in it and the choice I get to make to store it in a toxic free glass container. I like knowing I will never throw away another 2-liter milk carton. Okay, never say never because I am sure sometimes we will be in a pinch!

The Vitamix was a splurge for us, and over the last 5 years, it has served us well.

Day 23: Gratitude –> Swim lessons

Did I mention I love our local park district? Their wide range in options for toddler classes is amazing- swim lessons, music classes, sports, gymnastics… We’ve had Charlie in many different classes, but the one we’ve stuck to month after month is swim lessons. Of course, the pandemic slowed this down a tad, but for the most part we have had both our boys in swim since they were the minimum age requirement (6 months old). It gave us a weekend activity and a reason to get out of the house on cold/rainy days. Like I mentioned yesterday, their classes are so affordable!! 

We work to be very present with our boys, but swim lessons really give us this scheduled one on one time. Until recently, we had the boys registered for the same time/class. So, we are all in the water together. I take one child and my husband takes the other. It’s 30 minutes of pure quality time-  no dishes to distract me, no toys to clean up, and no laundry to fold.  

Charlie recently leveled up. He is in a class with just 3 other kids and one instructor. I sit on the side and cheer him on. He’s not ready to float on his own, but he loves the water. I love watching him from the side. I see how he acts with kids his own age, as well as how well he listens to his teacher. Ollie is a super chill babe. He’s down for whatever swim brings, which is mostly singing songs and splashing around. 

Fox Valley Park District, you rock!

Charlie’s last class before leveling up. Joined by TiTi Andrea, Daddy, and Ollie
Don’t let his face fool you. He was having a great time!

Day 22: Gratitude –> Our park district

This morning on my drive to work, I reminisced over the weekend. “What comes out of the tree, Charlie? Syrup or sap?” I asked him.

On Saturday we went to a maple tree tapping event put on by our local park district. It was rainy outside and it gave us the perfect reason to still get outside.  I still remember my 4th grade field trip to learn about maple tapping. It’s one of my favorite field trip memories. The event put on by our park district was just as wonderful.

First, we sat in a room and the leader went through the process of what a tree needs to grow, how old the tree needed to be, and how big it needs to be before it can be tapped. Then she took us outside as we learned about tapping throughout time. We learned Native Americans tapped trees! I did not know that. Initially they made a simple “V” shape into the tree that naturally allowed the sap to pour out. The sap was collected in “birch baskets”. As the walking tour went on, we learned about the water/sugar ratio in sap, as well as how tapping tech has transformed over the years.  At our last station, the leader carried a bucket of sap to the “sugar shack”. This is where they cooked the sap to transform it into syrup. Finally, everyone had a mini pancake with some syrup to try. 

After the tour was over, there was an activity station to try out some of the tapping steps. There was a dead tree that Charlie got to drill a hole into. Then another station where he got to hammer in a spile. So fun!

I am so thankful that our park district organized this event. It was $3 a person! Can you beat that?!?