Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey!

1. Today is the last day of our first heat wave (supposedly). We've been up at 100 for a few days now, and I while I know other places in the country have it far worse, it's still pretty disgusting. I must say how thankful I am for our attic fan (or whole house fan), that cools off our upstairs once it gets cool at night for pennies, compared to the AC.

2. I love my life, most of the time, but I can't sometimes help wishing I had become an OBGYN so I could join up with Doctor's Without Borders and go help women deliver babies and learn about prenatal care in developing nations. I really, really feel called to do that, but I can't because talking about themes and motifs and everything else I am trained to do probably would not be helpful as they're trying to push something the size of a football through a hole the size of a grape (or something like that).

3. Am I the only person distrusting of Airbnbs? I love the price and the idea of all the variety, but it just seems strange to me.

4. I've had this fear that the preschool Sawyer is set to start at soon somehow lost his paperwork and didn't save his spot (it's hard to find a good, secular preschool where we live), so I finally put on my big-girl pants and called and we're good to go (I had signed up in February, so it's been awhile). They also invited me to come pick up some of the calendars for the next month so he can go on field trips or participate in family night, which I thought was nice. He is SO excited to go and give his love of the teachers and kids at gymnastics I think he's going to do well.

5. I made the above cake for an early birthday for my mom, who has been visiting. I love The Milk Bar's style of cake making so much- sure it's a little bit of a pain, but it's so forgiving and you don't have to worry about a crumb coat. 

6. I got back on the Goodreads train! I spent an entire nap time last week putting in all the books I have record of since starting my blog many years ago and the ones I haven't gotten around to yet. I'm not putting a widget on the blog, since I don't want to screw up the design I didn't make, but I'm going to attempt to put one in below so that anyone can follow me if they want (who knows if it will work).

 Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

7. I am reading Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen right now and am really enjoying it. It's about a doctor in the deserts of Israel who kills an African refugee and must then pay the price in an unexpected way once the man's widow arrives at his doorstep. 

Lemme Tell You a Story (4)

My perfect compromise to not joining SnapChat but still having fun with the idea- Instastories. Every month or so I pop a few of mine up here to lighten the mood:

TED Talks to Watch

Have fifteen or twenty minutes to spare while drinking your coffee in the morning or while folding laundry? I highly suggest these fascinating TED Talks (links are in the titles and I have embedded the videos, but we all know what a b-word blogger can be, so they might not work, especially on mobile platforms):

I try to read up on this topic, since dementia is something that is currently impacting my family, and there were a few things in this talk that I still learned (this is the author of Still Alice). For example, learning things in depth is the best way to stay cognizant, even if afflicted with the condition. The more neuro pathways you can create about a topic the more likely you will retain memory as you start losing connections. Also, just in case you need a refresher, maintaing cardiovascular health (exercise! stop eating red meat!) and getting sleep is also really important. 

This is definitely one of the most controversial talks I have watched, as it is the discussion of a rape between the rapist and victim. When Thordis Elva was only fourteen Tom Stranger, her older boyfriend, raped her one night after they were both intoxicated. He returned to his home country while she dealt with the psychological aftermath for over a decade, finally reaching out to him in order to catalyze a long healing process. Their story is obviously very unique and personal (they have also written a book), and many are angered by it because Stranger was never held legally accountable. I too want to get on my feminist, human-rights soapbox, but I also must remind myself to take a step back and remember that I have never been in this position and should probably listen, be empathetic (towards her), and not judge (it's hard!). 

Here's another talk where empathy is incredibly necessary. As parents, we all want to say that our sons or daughters would never be capable of a horrific attack as the world witnessed in Columbine. Sue Klebold is here to keep us in check, reminding everyone that she was unaware that her son was suffering until it was much, much too late. While as a parent and educator I do in fact disagree, or at least question, some of the things she says, I do wholeheartedly agree with the fact that mental health awareness is one of the most important things we can do for our society. We can't assume that teens are just angsty or that people are "fine" just because they say so. 

Megan Phelps-Roper grew up as a member of the extremist church Westboro Baptist, priding herself in protesting and judging others. As she got older, she took to Twitter and a few who were respectful, firm, and informed took to engaging her in debate. Eventually, her views softened and she decided to leave the church with her sister, with the help of a social media friend. They traveled the country and met people of different backgrounds and faith and learned that people who were, say, gay, or Jewish were actually not from satan and should be treated kindly. Phelps-Roper talks a lot about engaging in productive dialogue with others, which can be applicable to any sort of disagreements. 

Nonfiction Nagging: The Stranger in the Woods

I just finished The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel and feel a little... conflicted.

This is the story of a a man named Christopher Knight, who lived in the wilderness of Maine, reportedly, for twenty-seven years. He claims to have never used fire for fear of being caught, and fed himself by burglarizing empty cabins and camps (and also stealing propane for his stove). Everyone in the area spoke of his presence, but had never really seen him or could confirm his existence. One night, he was caught, and Michael Finkel was captivated by his story and decided to pursue the truth. He met with Knight many times when he was in jail, corresponded through letters, and then also meeting with him upon his release, once he was living with his family. Knight relished in his freedom, silence, and time to reflect and read while he lived outdoors. He is blatantly honest in all regards, especially when discussing his dislike of associating with others- he partakes in no social formalities. Various psychologists speculate he has some form of Autism or a personality disorder, but Knight brushes these diagnoses off a typical desire to label others. 

Many hesitate to believe his story, especially those victims of his theft. People are also very skeptical about his desire to survive in the frigid winters of the area, where temperatures can get to far below zero (especially when he refused to have a fire). But, there are many that did accept his story and credit his ingenuity and resourcefulness. People from all over the country have offered him land, jobs, and companionship, all of which he has declined. 

Finkel mixes in some historical accounts of other hermits, as well as a dose of psychology. Finkel certainly seems to be quite the fan (see title), being a man who enjoys nature and solitude himself. Interesting to note about the author is his past issues with reporting; about fifteen years ago a major publication cut ties with him after he compiled a series of interviews from different people into one voice. He was shunned for awhile but then slowly made his way back to the journalism scene. I did appreciate him mentioning this earlier in the text, but also doing due-diligence at the end by mentioning his two fact-checkers and his reporting methodology. Nonetheless, while Finkel maybe was a bit of a fanboy, and maybe a little bit of a thorn in Knight's side, I think his interest came from a place of good and admiration. 

At one point in the narrative there is a discussion about how long one can go without human contact. Finkel includes information about solitary confinement and past accounts of sailors who have spent great lengths of time at sea. He himself has only gone a few days. Me? I really had to think about this, and I'm guessing perhaps no more than a day, back when we lived in our apartment and my husband was gone overnight during a summer when I was home? Maybe? How long would I like to go? I often fantasize about going away for a few days to spend some time reading, writing, hiking, and sleeping in a cabin up in the High Sierras (but one with electricity and good water pressure), but I really think I'd start getting a bit too lonely after, say three days? It would be an interesting experiment if I ever have the luxury of conducting it. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey!

1. You know it's summer when the Peach Tart gets made on repeat. It seriously only takes fifteen minutes to make and it's delicious. 

2. I have been loving the band The Head and the Heart lately. It was perfect for driving.

3. Listening the The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, was also good listening material, once I got into it. I loathe starting new audiobooks because it takes me at least twenty minutes to get used to the narrator's voice, decide if I'm interested, etc... Fiction is even harder. Nonetheless, I was right in it being a book that I might not necessarily read but that would work out well on audio. 

4. I finished my latest cross stitching project, a sugar skull-esque Stormtrooper that took about three months to do. I know it's lazy, but I really like monochromatic patterns, or ones with big blocks of colors. Changing thread is such a pain when you're sitting on the couch (for once). My current plan is to just save all my favorite projects and then when I have ten or twelve to do a sort of gallery wall in our guest bedroom. So far, I have three, so at this rate it will take me about three more years. (I'm okay with that).

5. My MRI came back fine, which means that the problem is most likely  in the joint/bone, since it's not soft tissue, and I was referred to an orthopedist. Yesterday I told my husband I was going to "yoga the shit out of it" until my appointment, even thought I know it won't help that. 

6. I have been reading The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel and it's fascinating how someone can live for twenty-seven years alone (it's the true story of the "last" hermit). I have very conflicting feeling regarding solitude, as in sometimes it's all I want and others it's the last thing, so his desire to be so removed is truly interesting. 

7. The other day while I was finishing up the Stormtrooper while Sawyer was napping I watched like six TED Talks- post to come (I'm really just including this to motivate myself to do it).

8. My downstairs bathroom has been free of the diaper genie for quite some time, but the little potty is also gone now. This makes me so happy. 

9. Sawyer is really starting to get a handle on pronouns THANK GOD. He generally referred to himself in third person, which sure, is cute, but to an English teacher a little... not cute. I've been trying to gently point out uses of "me," "I," and "you" and it's finally paying off. 

10. I had an epiphany the other night (in the shower, of course) about the book I'd like to write but have been struggling with a little bit. I'm going to completely overhaul the narrator into someone that I think I can come at from a more organic angle. Now to prioritize writing more! 

11. Fun things are on the horizon- my mom comes for a few days, I'm going to a Roxane Gay reading with a friend, we have tickets for a local baseball game's fireworks show the Sunday before the 4th, and I need to pick dates for a trip to the Getty Museum, the beach, and a children's museum not far from us. The weather is unfortunately heating up, but that means the pool is going to be bearable super soon. 

Going Home

Going home, to where I grew up, in Modesto, is always a little strange. My mom still lives in the house we grew up in, with my two sisters and her long-time boyfriend. But it's not really my house anymore, they've made changes, a lot of his belongings are there (as they should be), and the pets are no longer the ones from my childhood. I also don't expect people or things to stay the same, so it's absolutely okay. 

Modesto is also the place that I wanted to get away from, which I did by going to UCLA out of high school (my mom gently suggested community college would be just fine if my financial aid didn't work out and I cried). It represents some tough times growing up, like everything leading up to my dad's death, my family's constant financial struggles, and not being properly introduced to a hair straightener. But, my family is there, so I try to make the trek back once a year, which is a really good thing for me. The Central Valley is so different than Southern California- people work harder physically, they care less about highlights (raises hand in guilty admission), and they still haven't quite recovered from the recession. There's a lot of poverty- over half of most counties up there rely on governmental medical assistance and areas that used to be seen as safe maybe aren't as much so now. But there are huge green fields, vineyards, dairies with thousands of cows, and orchards aplenty. 

It's complicated and it's simple, and it really is home. 

So last weekend I took Sawyer for three nights and we watched the annual American Graffiti Parade to commemorate George Lucas' movie, stopped by the car show, visited a few parks, ate at some of my old favorite places, and hung out with my family. Sawyer fell in love with my mom's cat and he entertained everyone with his crazy three-year-old antics. It is definitely exhausting driving the 369 miles alone with a kid, but luckily he and I both slept better in hotel beds than we have in weeks. 

I'm not in a rush to go back, for now, but I do wish my family all lived closer.

Required Reading, Summer Edition

Every summer I give my incoming students a few assignments to help them prep for the fall when they return- we call it summer work, aptly named. This summer I have some of my own to get through, besides working on forty letters of rec for upcoming scholarship and college applications (I will keep my juniors from last year and teach them as seniors next year). 

The first set of readings I have is for the actual work I assigned the kids. There are four poems they have to analyze by the usual suspects, like Dickinson. This is just a quick springboard into some analysis we are going to do the first two weeks of school. Then, I have to (re)read Othello, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and The Tempest, since I gave them the option of picking one from those to do some work on. They'll have an essay or some sort of test when they return, so I need to actually read the plays so I can plan accordingly. Right now, since I haven't actually started yet, I'm excited! I teach Macbeth every other year right now, and when I used to teach a regular English class I did Caesar, but that's where my Shakespeare reading has lied since college. 

I am also advising four students' Extended Essays in English, which is a 3,500 word essay on basically whatever they want. I have one student comparing Anthem and Fahrenheit 451, another looking at magical realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude and Midnight's Children, and a student studying the graphic novels Blankets and Daytrippers (the fourth student is still narrowing down his choices). With the exception of the two graphic novels and Anthem, I've read the other selections, but I still like I need to reread in order to adequately advise. 

One one hand, this seems like a lot of required reading- four plays, four novels, and two graphic novels (and then two more, depending). But the plays and the graphic novels should move quickly, although the magical realism books are a bit more dense (but oh-so-good). I need to space everything out, though, so that I don't get bogged down at the end, but so I remember everything for when we start back in August. 

I was always the kid in high school that secretly loved summer work. When I was in eighth grade our pre-IB summer assignment was to read Jane Eyre and to do the infamous 175+ questions in the yellow packet that accompanied with it. Always a student at heart, I guess!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey!

1. So, after talking and worrying about it for like two months now, I finally had an MRI on my hip today (also, the pain is getting worse and worse and worse, so YAY! I am thankful exercise doesn't worsen it, but the 6+ hour car drive I have this weekend will for sure). Turns out I still feel a bit claustrophobic in an open machine, but at least I dozed off towards the middle for a bit (it was nearly 45 minutes long). I should have some info by the beginning of next week, finally.

2. This is a long story, but I'll just say that we had our house painted and there was issues with the color and now I have to fear the HOA and prepare to go to battle. We have a valid case and story, but I just really don't want to deal with it, given everything else that's going on. The house looks great, but I shouldn't have to go through this sort of stress when I paid a lot of money to professionals.

3. Also, they broke my lawn gnome and didn't even have the courtesy to tell me. The audacity. So many expletives. 

4. I made Gaby's Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salsa for the first time this summer (it's kinda a staple around here) and probably ate half it from the bowl on a spoon (if you make it, add the oil, lime juice, and cilantro to the food processor for a smoother dressing).

5. I leave for the Central Valley with Sawyer in a few days and I am hoping and praying he naps in the car, mostly because it will ensure he shuts up (three-year-olds talk in the car NONSTOP) and is in a good mood when we arrive, but also because I just downloaded The Nest to listen to.

6. I just finished reading Ayelet Waldman's A Really Good Day, a look at her month microdosing on LSD, and I was interested in a conversation she had with her therapist on the idea of being so over-extended. The therapist told her to imagine she had a dozen clones of herself. What jobs would she give them to do? Why? I looked at my own life from that vantage point and had a really, really hard time allocating the work to my counterparts. It's safe to say that I am okay passing along bathroom cleaning, dishwasher unloading, floor cleaning, and shutter dusting to my clones. 

7. If you have  young child that likes stickers and to color, go to Michael's and pick up their Grab and Go Play Packs for $1. They have like ten different ones and they're perfect for occupying your little guy or girl when going out to eat or meet a friend for coffee. 

Stay-at-Home Activities for the Toddler/Preschool Crowd

I am definitely not trying to moonlight as a mommy-blogger, but as a teacher and mom to a three-year-old I know what it's like to have long stretches of days where your kid is annoying the hell out of you and you just want them TO DO SOMETHING AND BE QUIET OHYMGOD. So, over the past year or so, I've used Pinterest, Instagram, and my own brain to come up with some cheap, minimal mess (well, for the most part), fun activities that will occupy your 18 month- 3.5ish year olds. These are nothing special or wonderful, but they work. 

Water Activities
1. A water table- this is the most expensive item on this list, since most run between like $40 and $100, but if you think about the hours your kid will stand at is then it's totally worth every penny. We also bought a fire-pit canvas cover to protect it from the weather (and so it looks nicer and tidier when not in use).

2. Indoor water play- I'll lay down some towels on the floor, strip Sawyer down to his undies, and give him a few pitchers of waters, along with an assortment of whatever I pull out of my cupboards (ice cube trays, turkey basters, spoons, colanders, etc...). There's something about pouring water between containers that kids love. Plus, my floor ends up super clean in that spot of the kitchen. 

3. Water beads- These are less than $10 on Amazon and you only need a tablespoon to have PLENTY. Sawyer plays with these with his water table or inside. They're also really fun to watch grow over the course of six or so hours, while they are absorbing water (if your kid still puts things in their mouth you may want to hold off). 

Sensory Stuff
4. Rock/bean tub- We call this "Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site" after one of Sawyer's favorite books, and it lives upstairs by my treadmill. I had some leftover floral pebbles that I combined with a couple of bags of assorted dried beans, added some of the trucks, animals, spoons, and small containers he already has and BOOM! A station that keeps him busy forever. 

5. Pipe Cleaner/Colander/Beads- I honestly have no idea what to call this contraption, but I cut down some pipe cleaners, showed him how to thread them through the holes and to slide beads on. Now that he's really into colors and sorting it's serving more of a purpose than just fine motor skills.

[bonus: it can be a hat]

6. Play Dough- Oh, I hate messes, I do. But when you have a kid, you have to learn to deal with it, so I buy cheap disposable table cloths and cut them in thirds. I then tape them to the table ahead of time so that when he's done we can just save the big chunks and throw out the tiny little crumbs. 

7. Bean Sorting- I bought a bag of the 10 bean soup mix (or however many beans are in it) and I set up cupcake liners so that he can sort the different colors. I was really surprised how long he spent on this one and how meticulous he was about the whole thing.

Arts and Crafts (aka part of the reason I save Michaels coupons)
8. Door Decorating (picture at top)- For every holiday or season (so every two or so months) we decorate his bedroom door accordingly. I don't do a lot for seasonal decor in my house, so this is sort of my concession. We recently did an ocean theme and every few days we'd do a new craft (easy ones from Pinterest). It's really cute to see him involved and take ownership of the projects.

9. Canvas Painting- Michaels runs some crazy sales on cheap canvases where you can get a pack of like five or six for a few bucks a piece. I use the tablecloths from above and old paintbrushes and we're good to go. They make good gifts for grandparents, too! You an also reuse them (paint them white when no one is looking- our secret). 

10. Big Boxes- Save some of the old boxes you get from furniture or other big items and when you're desperate bring them inside and put your child in the box with some crayons, markers or stickers. They're confined, the mess is in one place, and it's recycling! 

11. Sticker Books- Sawyer has an old blank book that I got somewhere and he loves to sit and just put stickers in it. I pick them up when I see them in dollar bins and have ransacked my classroom cupboards, and now that people know how much he loves them he gets them for gifts, too. 

12. The Usual Suspects- Sidewalk chalk (LOVE! Costco has a huge box for less than $10), coloring books, stamps, bubbles, LEGO, puzzles, balloons, paint daubers (I had never seen these until last year- they're great!), etc...

13. Tape roads- We use painter's tape to make roads all over the living room for his cars.

14. Cooking- Since Sawyer was old enough to sit in a high chair I've let him play with measuring cups and stuff while I've cooked. For the last year or so he's gotten really into helping and I'll give him "jobs" that he loves (cupcake liners into the pans, putting toppings on a pizza, unwrapping sticks of butter, rolling out pieces of scrap dough, etc...).

15. Magnet board- When Sawyer wasn't even two yet we got him a magnet board and some magnets (Melissa and Doug!). Now every time we go somewhere new he gets a new one, so that we can add it to his collection. It's a great way to talk about past memories and work on vocabulary, too!

16. Melissa and Doug Jumbo Building Boxes- As far as I'm concerned, Melissa and Doug walk on water, and these blocks are one reason why. They're also a little expensive, compared to these other activities, but they hold up really well and are used all the time. We make towers, garages for his cars, chairs for his stuffed animals, etc...

Hang in there, moms. We're in this together. 

Five Tips for Efficiently Tackling the English Teacher Workload

As a high school English teacher that has four classes of IB juniors and a class of TOK (an IB philosophy-ish class) kids, I am constantly swamped with grading. My students write timed essays in class every other week and have process piece essays they do at home every six weeks. Plus all the other assignments and assessments. Combine this with my domestic obligations, hobbies, and social life and you'll see why I'm always one step away from being committed for exhaustion.

After a rough winter term, where I was always so behind, I decided to kick it into high gear spring semester so that I would never feel utterly buried. And you know what? It basically worked. Sure, I was never fully caught up, but I was in a much better place that I've ever been since teaching these classes (this was my eleventh year teaching, my seventh year teaching high school, and my fifth year teaching IB classes). My students were getting papers back faster, my stress level was down, and my semester grades were submitted as soon as the last student day was completed (we have twenty-four hours after that). And here's what I did to make it so:

A Grading Calendar
What it is: I mention this constantly because it is the hugest contributor towards my success. And it's so simple! I print a four to six week blank grid out and every time I assign something I write the name of the assignment on the bottom of the page and then assign myself the days in which I am to grade it, and really, really try to stick with it. I am pretty much always within a day or two from where I want to be and once in awhile I am even ahead (for example, if I assign myself to grade period 2's and 3's tests on Monday and 5's and 6's on Tuesday, but I end up doing some of Tuesday's work on Monday).

Why it works: It's a great visual of the work ahead and, most importantly, it's realistic. If I know that I have plans on Thursday night after work, I'm going to go light on what I assign myself to grade that day. (see picture above)

Personal Timed Write Passages
What it is: My students do timed writes every other week, meaning they either have a prompt or a passage to analyze. I find the prompts easier to grade, but the passages take me forever to get through! This semester I have been pulling passages from the books I am currently reading at home, or have recently (like The Underground Railroad, Exit West, and even Ready Player One).

Why it works: I have a much better, stronger relationship with the text that allows grading to be done much easier. Plus, it's interesting to see the kids' take on it, knowing that they are just receiving a page or so. Many of my kids also have used some of these for their outside reading selections, which makes it easier for me to interview them about later. 

Living and Dying by Checklists and Rubrics
What it is: I comment very little on my students' timed writes (their process pieces I do much more on), instead using a detailed checklist for specific errors and area of concern and the IB rubric that focuses more on content. I do always comment on their thesis, though. 

Why it works: I allow my students to rewrite their essays for a few extra credit points, so this makes it so they aren't just copying my comments during the revision process. So instead of  fixing every issue they have, this forces them to use the check list and rubric, and to come and talk to me. What's also great about the checklist is that you can tailor it to your class and adjust it as you see fewer, or more, problems in a certain area. 

The Buffer Day
What it is: I try to schedule one day at the end of each book we read (every six weeks or so) so that the students can catch up on their notebooks that are due on the day of the test, can talk to me about any issues they have (their writing, issues with a grade on an assignment, a group work proposal, etc...), can make progress on a class essay or project, etc... It's on their calendar and I remind them ahead of time so that they can come prepared. 

Why it works: Most of the time the students will occupy less than twenty minutes of my time, so while they are working I can too. I get up and roam around the room every five or ten minutes to make sure they're on track, but then I can knock out a few essays as well. They know what the buffer day (that's what we call it) and appreciate the time to also get caught up. It really is a reward, and they know I can take it away, so they all pretty much utilize it correctly (and then I can too!). 

The Forest App
What it is: An app (I think it was $2) that allows you to grow a little forest of trees each day, in exchange for not disturbing your phone. You get to decide how long (ten minutes to two hours) and if you are successful in not using any other apps you get a tree, which is added to your forest. If you do text or check Instagram your poor little tree dies. You earn coins for successful blocks of time that you can save to unlock other trees with or donate towards planting real trees.

Why it works: I often get really distracted by my phone when grading essays, so this has been an absolute lifesaver the past few weeks when trying to make it to the end. I also use it at home when I want to focus on Sawyer, read a book without interruption and I also sometimes set it at night to discourage social media in bed. 

Summer, Plus May, Revisited

For those new around here, every month I establish a few goals (some reading-related, some not) and look back at those from the previous month.

A quick look at May and how I did:

1. Finish my current cross stitch project: Nope I didn't finish the one I was talking about, but I did do one for my mother-in-law.

2. End (the school year) strong and with minimal stress: Yes This is definitely relative, since I was still very over-extended. BUT, I was far less stressed than past years, which I'll talk about in a post soon, for any fellow teachers out there.

3. Plan day-trip to San Francisco: No.... but we're not going. We are still going up to Modesto to visit my mom, but we're going to head the opposite direction to a lake and hike instead. 

4. Go to a new restaurant: Yup Two, actually.

5. Be okay with hard things: Nope

I've decided to combine the next two months, my summer break, basically. And instead of just a flat list, I've broken up my intentions into categories. I definitely see summer as a gift, despite the fact that I work for it and don't get paid for those days, and I have no intention on wasting it!

Be Creative
- cook new recipes
- cross stitch
- work on my writing projects
- think about new ways to teach next year's books 
- get caught up on my 2017 family picture book 

Read in Excess
- blog so much more
- read for pleasure (50 pages a day is my goal) 
- work-related reading 

- read more non-fiction
- watch TED Talks
- squeeze in a few documentaries 
- help Sawyer count to ten, solidify basic colors, and be 100% potty trained (we're at 90% now!)
- consider applying to be an IB exam scorer (and do the online training now if they'll have me!)

- our spare bedroom
- my workout/junk room
- my computer
- my photos
- the craft/art supply cupboard 

- my mind
- my eyelids

- day excursions with Sawyer 
- get out and see friends nearly once a week
- simple fun activities at home

- run
- walk/hike
- light weights
- yoga 
- hip exercises (depending on diagnosis) 

Summer Vacation Book Haul


Every year a month or so before school ends I buy a bunch of books on Amazon to have something to look forward to. This year I did it a little earlier than normal because I needed some motivation. In fact, it was so long ago (or at least it felt like it!) I actually forgot what was in there! I put up a quick little video on Instagram Stories earlier and posted it above (I have no clue what the quality will be like...). 

(In case my low tech video isn't working:

May Reviews

I am sitting on my couch with gym shorts on and no papers to grade in sight. It is summer break, guys! And man am I going to read the shit out of it. Unfortunately, in order to get to this point my reading lacked a bit in May. Nonetheless, here's what I got through:

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
320 pages
I think everyone has read this already, or is at least familiar with the premise, but if not, Cora is a slave who escapes plantation life and begins a challenging quest for freedom. Whitehead integrates a literal locomotive into the underground railroad, peppering his plot with some magical realism. 

Verdict: It took me a twenty or so pages to really get into it, but I thought the writing was rich, the characters deep, the plot paced perfectly, and the magical realism alluring. It will definitely be a contender on my top ten list and the end of the year. 

The other two books, By the Book (336 pages), and Spectacle (also 336 pages... weird), I just wrote about here for a nonfiction post. 

992 pages

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey.

1. There are painters outside right now prepping for the painting this weekend and while I'm excited for a fresh coat, I find the whole thing inconvenient and am worried that they will screw up the color and I'll have the HOA on my back. Or just that something else will go wrong, in general, because when it comes to home ownership something always does (am I right or am I right?).

2. The other day for a brief moment I entertained the idea of trying to get pregnant again, for whatever reason. Literally two minutes later I saw a baby shower for a an old friend's sister and notice that she's expecting twins. And we're over that now. 

3. So my bum hip has gotten exponentially more painful lately (I have extreme pain after standing until I walk a few yards... sometimes more). I bailed on the MRI I scheduled two months ago because of my claustrophobia, but decided that I need to get to the bottom of this, so I scheduled one for next week on the open MRI machine. I also finally went against one of my biggest internet rules and spent some time googling my symptoms. The verdict? I fit basically all the symptoms for hip impingement, which basically means that my joint is royally effed up and while PT might help, surgery is the only real way to take care of it and ensure no further damage. Obviously I am getting ahead of myself, but I just want to figure this shit out and get the ball rolling (yes, I regret waiting, thanks). 

4. Book club tomorrow! Yay! We are discussing a book I didn't care for, but it's still a treat to sit around with smart people and talk about a common read. Plus it's at the Cheesecake Factory, which is nice little occasional guilty pleasure.

5. For reasons we shall not get into publicly on the internet, May has sucked very much (for reasons other than the hip) and I have been having to work really hard at not succumbing to a full-blown funk. Today, though, I went to lunch with a group of people from work and had so much fun I laughed to the point where I had to use my inhaler in the car (yes, sadly, laughing can trigger asthma flare ups). It just goes to show how important relationships and friends are. I try to meet up with friends every week or two, but I think I need it more right now. Friends and exercise are my therapy.

6. Maybe I will take the Goodreads plunge this summer. I was on it a million years ago and I get email updates from people still and I feel left out. It also still has me reading a Carlos Ruiz Zafon book, so, basically, it looks like I read 1/4 a page a day. 

7. Two more work days. One more student day. 

Some Recent Non-Fiction

It wasn't until a few years ago that I really started giving non-fiction some solid time in my reading schedule. Currently, I try to read one a month (not counting listening), but this month a few have piled up, varying very much in subject matter and enjoyability. A quick look:

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco
I listened to this relatively short audiobook (not even six hours) and I desperately wish it was twice as long. Mastromonaco worked with Obama when he was a senator as his Advanced Scheduler and then in the White House as the eventual Deputy Chief of Staff, so her perspective and insight is particularly interesting. Her narrative voice is spectacularly hilarious, honest, and insightful and she does an outstanding job narrating her own text. The book isn't about Obama, exactly, but about her role behind the scenes in politics, looking at everything from the work required campaigning, how it is to transition into the White House, the logistics of traveling abroad with POTUS, and how she had to work to control her own flaws and issues to be successful (reigning in her emotions, having IBS, being a workaholic, etc...). It was the perfect blend of politics, personal stories, harmless gossip, inspiration, and humor. #imissobamasomuchithurts 

Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga 

by Pamela Newkirk
This was someone's pick for book club and I was intrigued when I started it, since most of our selections are pretty solid, but this one fell incredibly flat. For those who aren't familiar with Ota Benga's story, he was taken from Africa at the turn of the twentieth century and placed, most memorably, in Central Park in the Monkey House. There was a great deal of controversy regarding the inhumanity of it (YOU THINK?!?!?!) and problems with the responsibility of his care. The book documents all of this, plus his life before and after very well- but that's the problem, the documentation. Newkirk provides a ridiculous amount of of evidence and information for every tiny little thing she mentions (for example, a group of men walk into a city building for a meeting and she briefly discusses some of its architectural historical background; now multiple this by 150). I hate to say this, but the dry, academic, extraneous detail-heavy style of this book detracts from the emotional affect and nauseating implications about recent humanity. Obviously we can read between the lines, and imagine the horrors on a more sensitive level, but it bothered me throughout that Newkirk was so detached.

By the Book 

by The New York Times, Edited by Pamela Paul
This book took me a few months to get through this, since it was the book I picked up at home when I just had a few minutes to read. This collection compiles the articles from the series of the same name in the The New York Times, which asks writers questions from a bank of twenty or so each week. The questions range from their perfect reading location, to what they think the President should read, to childhood literary heroes. Some of my absolute favorites were interviewed, including Ann Patchett, David Mitchell, Michael Chabon, and Jhumpa Lahiri. Each interview takes only five or six minutes to read, so it's perfect for when, say your kid is in the bath or your waiting for dinner to finish up. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey.

1. I played in the annual staff vs senior softball game yesterday and it was as fun as always. Someday I'll join a league once again. My indefinitely sore hip was not pleased with the sprinting around, though, so I'm paying the price today. WORTH IT. 

2. Who else is watching The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu? We are through four or five episodes and I really like it. I am actually a little disappointed that it's been renewed for a second season, since I think that might make them veer too far away from the source material, but I guess we'll have to see. 

3. Seven years ago I interviewed to work at the high school I am currently at, very reluctantly. I was an elementary teacher and was facing a lay off, but my district was doing some restructuring and some positions were opening up (this is a very simplistic version of a very complex situation that I'll spare you guys from). I'm glad I was desperate for work- moving up to my site has been the best years of my career. I am lucky enough to have made a few really important, life-long friends from my K-5 days, though, that I am thankful for! 

4. Lemon Noosa- try it (it's "yoghurt").

5. My students are powering through a tough assignment right now, with just over a week of school left, and while I think they are a bit frustrated with me, I'm proud of their perseverance. I'm asking them to push their writing abilities and they're really trying to rise to the occasion. Ten months ago they would have floundered- it's nice to see their growth in maturity and ability. 

6. My mother-in-law has been helping us out on Mondays with Sawyer for a few years since I teach a late class, so I made her this (it looks better in person, especially since it's mounted and framed now):

7. I ordered myself a box of books several weeks ago and told myself I couldn't open them until the bulk of my grading was done. Honestly, I have forgotten what I even ordered! The good news is that I am the cusp of being able to open it. Christmas in June. DOn't worry, I'll post allllllll about the haul.