Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. My schedule is quite a bit different this year- I am arriving home at a different time almost every day and it's taking some time to acclimate to. The beginning of the school year is always crazy, but between this, driving further to drop off and pick up Sawyer, and poor sleep, I'm just totally beat. I've also been "training for training" this month, running wise, which I know adds to my tiredness. My husband started a new job recently and has been putting in long hours, so that also contributes to the different feel of the last week. Nonetheless, I know within a few weeks we will all settle in to our new routines and it will be fine. But getting there? So much internal whining (and a little external, as we now see). 

2. This seems like a good time to articulate my annual birthday wish: a hotel room for JUST ME and a little something to help me sleep (I generally refuse to take anything, even melatonin, but my sleep cycle and schedule is shot to heck... Eventually when Sawyer is a little more reliable I'll probably have to talk to my doctor). That's all. Nothing ridiculously fancy. Just maybe fourteen hours alone, ten of which I can sleep. 

3. I had a nightmare the other day that a bottle of lotion exploded in my closet and got all over my dresses (I have a sort of dress... collection, let's just say). It was traumatizing.

4. I wish (sort of) that someone would make an app that would calculate how much I spend on Diet Coke. Maybe that would help me sleep. Just maybe. 

5. I finished Any Rand's Anthem, my first of her books, and I was pretty underwhelmed. 

6. My lunches this week have been a disaster: PB&J, Spaghetti O's, and frozen pizza rolls. Seriously, how old am I? Eight? 

7. My husband recently informed me that I can pre-order things on Amazon and not be charged, which was probably a huge mistake. For some reason I thought they billed you right away, but nope. I think I have at least one new book coming a month until the end of the year. Ha. 

8. I know that this isn't my job and that people aren't exactly checking daily for posts, but please know that I am well aware content and depth are lacking lately. The last two weeks have been so crazy and I need to be better about scheduling posts. So, for those of you that stick around, thanks! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Hey! Link up, link back, say hi! This is going to be a short one, folks:

1. I cannot even begin to describe the anger I feel at Trump right now. North Korea is like a toddler, and Trump is like the caregiver that lashes out instead of rationally dealing with the craziness. Instead of arguing about watching extra Paw Patrol we're talking ABOUT DESTROYING LIVES AND RUINING COUNTRIES. 

2. I am listening to How to Murder Your Life, a memoir by Cat Marnell, and right now it's so bad it's good. Barely. 

3. I recently finished listening to Beartown and I still can't decide about the ending (I don't want to give it away). I was enraged when I finished, and still basically am, but I've rationalized it a little. 

4. Last Friday Sawyer and I drove down to Torrey Pines, a state beach north of San Diego, and while it was warm, it was absolutely beautiful. I have been before, many years ago, but I had forgotten about how many trails there are in the area. We will definitely be back once the weather cools down a bit. We met my brother there and then headed up to Solano Beach for lunch. That area is really cute too, so I'd like to explore it a bit more.

5. I'm already getting excited about fall outings and activities, despite the 95 degree temperatures. Apple picking, scarecrow making, pumpkin patch visiting... Too bad we realistically have six weeks until we might get a brief hint of fall (and that's if we are lucky). 

6. I have a lot of reading going on- I just finished a running memoir by Catriona Menzies-Pike called The Long Run (I love her name), and am now reading Ayn Rand's Anthem and Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, about the slums of India. 

7. I started back to work for three teacher-work days on Monday and Sawyer is in preschool full time now (I have students tomorrow), and one minute I'm totally into it and thinking how well all of our transitions are going, and then the next I am dead-ass tired and wondering how I can sustain this sort of momentum (or even half of it). Ah, adjustment periods. Always fun. 

Summer 2017 Rewind

[Torrey Pines last weekend]

I know that the beginning of August is certainly not really the end of summer, but for teachers most of us mark the beginning of the school year as the end of the season. I started work today, so for me summer is done (unfortunately that doesn't mean cooler temperatures). At the beginning of vacation I settled for a list of goals rather than doing my usual monthly installment, so I'm here to review how I did:

Be Creative:
- cook new recipes- Yup!
- cross stitch- Lots!
- work on writing projects- No (well, at least not enough to claim a yes)
- think about new ways to teach- Sorta (a few new things in the works)
- get caught up on my 2017 picture book- Yes (all the way done through July! This is the first time this has ever happened; usually I do the whole thing in December)

Read in Excess:
- blog more- Yup  
- Read at least 50 pages a day- Even more (22 books total) 
- work-related reading- Partially

- read nonfiction- Check!
- watch TED Talks- I think only one or two, so not substantial
- squeeze in documentary- Nope (pathetic) 
- Sawyer counting, learning colors, being potty trained- Yup, yup, and yup!
- consider being an IB scorer- I will going to apply in the next month (I am trying to pay off my student loans early, so this will help) 

- spare bedroom- Nope
- my workout/stuff room- Yup
- computer- Ha! No way.
- my photos- Negative
- Craft/art cabinet- Yes

- my mind- Not a chance
- my eyelids- I think I got less sleep than when working (Sawyer wakes up at the same time and because I am "off" I go to bed later)

- day excursions with Sawyer- Yes! Many! (three or four museums, three trips to the beach, Downtown Disney, Northern California for a few days, etc...) 
- be social- Yup! I saw friends at least once a week 
- do fun things at home- Check

- run- Yay! Yes! 
- walk/hike- Yeah to both
- light weights- Oops
- Yoga- Not enough (everytime I do yoga I wish I did it more, but yet I still end up doing a million times more cardio) 
- Hip exercises- Got an awesome cortisone shot instead

I'm really satisfied with this summer, and while I do have a major case of wanderlust right now, I am still happy with what we did. 

I'll be back at the end of the month with some goals (all I want to do this month is get back into the swing of things). 

New (School) Year's Goals

Tomorrow marks the start of my twelfth school year, and my eighth in high school. I will be teaching all senior IB English this year, as well as a section of IB Theory of Knowledge, which sounds like a dream, but the grading is absolutely unreal. We also have IB assessments to prepare for and conduct twice during the year, which are always super stressful, too. I help with our Extended Essay portion of things, which I enjoy, but it is still, obviously, more work. Between work, home, and my own interests, my plate is constantly full. Like go-to-a-delicious-buffet-and-get-all-the-food full. So, in order to keep things as manageable, efficient, and happy as possible, I've come up with some things I want to focus on for this school year:

1. Continue living and dying by my grading calendar- Just like I assign my students work, I assign myself a certain number of papers to grade each day. This made things a million times better spring semester, so I'm excited to start the year off with this habit. 

2. Summer work graded by 9/1- My students had a few assignments to do over the summer, and starting day one off being behind is hard (140ish students times 3 assignments = sad tears). I want to get it over with as soon as possible. The stuff they had to do is important, though. 

3. Lift weights at lunch- This is silly, but I am going to stash a set of 8 pound weights in my desk and do some reps at the start of lunch most days. I spend the first fifteen or so minutes before my friend joins me playing around on my phone most of the time, so even just five minutes five times a week will be 25 minutes more than I am doing now! My room is always freezing, so I don't have to worry about working up a sweat, either.

4. To bed early one night a week- I don't stay up late at all, but I think making an effort to go to bed thirty minutes early just one night a week will help. 

5. Keep track of hours- This is for purely scientific reasons, but I want to log the time I put into my job outside of my contractual day.

6. Suspend future worries- I have this tendency to start worrying about the next school year way too early (schedule, logistics, etc...). I need to hold off on that until, let's say, February or March at the earliest.

7. Build classroom library- It's pathetic, but my classroom library is pretty lean. I want to work on bulking it up this year.

8. Be less critical- I think one of the problems of working on a high school campus is that sometimes the teachers start acting like teenagers themselves at times. I am definitely guilty of picking up some less-than-stellar bad habits and I need to remember who I am and what I am doing. At the end of the day, my classroom and my students are what matters the most when I am work. This "be less critical" goal also applies to myself. I do a lot. Sometimes balls will be dropped. 

9. Test Prep- I want to make sure my students are confident and knowledgable as they go into their various IB tests this year. If they're willing to work, I most definitely am. 

10. 30 minutes straight of 100% Sawyer-time a day- For those of you who don't have kids this probably sounds so simple, but it's easy when you're a mom to multi-task playtime (sure, I'll play LEGOs with you, but I'm going to jump up to switch over laundry, or I'll hang out with you while you eat your snack, but I'm going to grade a few papers too). 

How many more days until summer?

But seriously, here's to a good school year! 

A Picture an Hour

I've seen other bloggers do "a picture an hour" posts before and I thought it would be a good way to commemorate a fairly-typical summer day this year (and easier than the "day in the life" posts that require so much note-taking). These sorts of posts are typically done for more selfish reasons, so I can look back later and see what a typical day with a three-year-old during my summer break was like. This was from a few days ago that was pretty typical (minus the crazy, for us, weather, which prevented afternoon pool time) for us- nothing monumental, but still good:

[6am-7am: opening the windows
before it's too hot and gross]

[7am-8am: a quick run]

[8am-9am:  finally my breakfast, easily one
of my top five cereals]

[9am-10am: last gymnastics class for Sawyer]

[10am-11am: some chores for us both]

[11am-12pm: Cheesecake Factory
for lunch with Sawyer and a friend/
previous student]

[12pm-1pm: Putting Sawyer down
for a nap]

[1pm-2pm: getting up a blog

[2pm-3pm: we made "sand castles" for
his stuffed animals]

[3pm-4pm: storm watching]

[4pm-5pm: my hair stylist lives
a few minutes away so she stopped
by to give me a trim]

[5pm-6pm: a few minutes to read while
Sawyer occupied himself]

[6pm-7pm: homemade mac and cheese
went down]

[7pm-8pm: bedtime stories]

[8pm-9pm: cross stitched while we
watched an episode of Fargo]

[9pm-10pm: running schedule for the
next six months]
[this is me, setting my alarm for
the next day, being optimistic
about even sleeping in that
long (I was woken up at 5:50...

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[our old lady]

Link up, link back, say hey!

1. Next time I write one of these I will be back at work, getting ready for students to start back the day after. I am of course very sad about going back, and am singing the normal woeful "how did it go by so fast" song, but I feel better about the return than last year. I have really done some thinking about the year and will put up a post on how I plan to navigate and manage soon. 

2. On Monday I took Sawyer for his first full day of preschool (it went well! He's doing it again today and tomorrow, so fingers crossed for more of the same), and it was bizarre to have so much time. In the past I have taken him to daycare for mornings, so to have 8-2:30 was strange. I went to the park alone to walk for a bit and then got a pedicure for the first time in months. I met my husband back at home and we went to lunch together, which was perfect timing since he started a new job yesterday. It was different, but we nice.

3. Speaking of my munchkin, I broke out the sewing machine the other day after a three-year hiatus to sew Sawyer a red cape after reading a book with one. Someday I will how to do more than just go forwards and backwards. 

4. I have looked a lot at my finances (we keep a household account, but then each have our own checking and savings accounts) this summer and have come up with three reasonable (unless something goes wrong) financial goals for the next five years: pay off my student loans, have $xx,xxxx in savings, and take an awesome vacation. 

5. I have finished most of my summer reading for work, including four Shakespearean plays. I reread Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello, and The Tempest, and I've had enough. I have to give Macbeth a fourth read here in a few weeks, but after that, no more. NO MORE SHAKESPEARE.

6. We let out dogs in the pool for the first time this summer, which they of course loved. They would go everyday if we let them, but they take FOREVER to dry (I have a lab and golden) and their hair isn't good for the pool filter. Out golden, Cordie, is getting older, though, and we sometimes get worried she doesn't have tons of time left. There's nothing in particular wrong, but at twelve she's just starting to show her age. She struggles to get up sometimes, she's going deaf, and she just seems a bit more tired than usual. So, just in case she (*sob*) doesn't make it to next summer, she at least got to get in this year. 

7. I registered to run a 10k in October and I'm starting to think I may run a half marathon in February (Surf City in Huntington, for local folks). I may have already drawn up a running schedule for the next six months. 

July Reviews

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this will probably be the month with the most books read all year, clocking in at twelve. The beauty of summer break, right? There were some unintentional and intentional pairs that happened- two Shakespeare books, two nonfiction books, two graphic novels, and two Richard Russo collections. Here's a quick rundown, in no particular order:

The Tempest AND Hamlet by William Shakespeare 
85 and 148 pages
It feels silly summarizing Shakespeare, so I won't. I will say that both were rereads for work and they're both... fine. It's Shakespeare. 

Get to Work... and Get a Life Before it's Too Late by Linda Hirshman
92 pages
I read about this longer essay type book in another book was intrigued. Basically, Hirshman spends 92 pages convincing women to not stay at home and to get jobs, both as a favor to themselves and the world as a whole.

Verdict: This is such a sensitive topic, but Hirshman doesn't give a damn. I agreed with many of her points, but I also disagreed, too. Motherhood and professional lives and feminism are all things that blanket statements don't always work for. Definitely interesting, a tiny bit validating, but also a bit irritating as well. Not for those who are super sensitive about staying at home, that's for sure.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
179 pages
I have read this several times for work, and this reread was for that as well. This is another one that feels lame to review, since it's so widely read, but for those who it has fell under the radar for, it's about a man named Guy Montag whose job is to burn books (ironically called a "fireman"). He sees the light, though, catalyzed by his young neighbor Clarice. The book is about his transformation and what this means for his personal and professional lives.

Verdict: This will alway be a favorite of my mine, to teach and read (although I think three times in less than ten years is enough for awhile). The intrusive nature of the government is of course timely, as is many of the other social and political commentary. Bradbury was so ahead of his time.

One and Only by Lauren Sandler
205 pages
I wrote a lengthy personal post here.

A Thousand Miles from Nowhere by John Gregory Brown
276 pages
Henry Garrett is having a rough time; his wife has left him, he's quit his job on a sort of whim, and then Hurricane Katrina hits. He heads north and stops at a small motel, only to face more challenges but to also do a considerable amount of reflection. 

Verdict: There were parts of this book that really hard me hooked, but I was flat-out bored at others. I think my expectations going in were a little different from the reality of the novel (I didn't realize it was so existential and as much of a character-study, which is fine, but just not what I had thought). 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
325 pages
Eleanor Oliphant works for a graphic design agency in Scotland and is admittedly a bit socially challenged (actually very). She lives alone, has no friends, speaks to her mother, who appears to be in jail, once a week, and is a functioning alcoholic. Yet as the book continues, Eleanor has reason to become a more social creature, and to also come to terms with her incredibly painful past.

Verdict: This was the perfect pool read for me this summer- it was smart, quick, quirky, and touching. Honeyman's writing was delightful, as were the supporting characters. I did thing the whole twist/reveal of suspension was a little drawn out in the sense that maybe she relied on this technique as a more of a crutch during certain points, but as whole it was a great summer read. 

Interventions and Trajectory by Richard Russo
205 pages and 144 pages (duplicate story page numbers taken out)
These sort stories vary in subject matter, but all maintain that typical level, deep, sort of cadence that is so characteristic of Russo's writing. One of the stories is about a nun taking a writing class, another a sick real estate agent who is struggling to sell a home. There's one about a screenwriter, and another a professor whose student is caught plagiarizing.  

Verdict: While some of the stories were better than others, I still see Russo as this sort of reliable uncle who will always show up at holidays with a decent bottle of wine and some interesting stories about his work. The quality is overall dependable, and while I think I like his novels better, these were still solid.

Blankets by Craig Thompson 
582 pages
This graphic novel is a coming-age-story (I read it because I am advising a student, but my husband has been trying to get me to read it for years) about a young man who struggles with a very religious, strict upbringing and what that means to him as a teenagers and young adult. He must deal with this identity crisis all while navigating new relationships, familial struggles, and the future.

Verdict: I have read one other graphic novel by Thompson, and saw him speak once, so he wasn't unfamiliar to me. I found the story captivating and the simplistic art full of depth and style. I am still sort of "learning," so to speak, how to read and discuss graphic novels, since they still feel foreign to me, but I can confidently say I enjoyed this one. 

Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba
248 pages
This was another graphic novel that I read to advise a student on, but many of my kids have read this for outside reading and have tried to persuade me to read it as well. This story is about an obituary writer, who is also the son of a famous Brazilian writer; there are some father-son issues, clearly. The story, though, examines snapshots of his life, and what they mean alone and in the context of his life, and then how these moments could in turn connect to an immediate death (going back to the obituary thing...) 

Verdict: I really enjoyed this book, both in terms of the beautiful artwork and the complexity of the story line. Moon and Ba have done something innovative, ignoring the normal constraints of life and death, allowing these sort of resurrections to constantly exist to propel the narrative. 

The Idiot by Elif Batuman
418 pages
Selin, a freshman Harvard student in 1995 is trying to figure it all out. How does email work? What does it mean to have Turkish parents? How does one navigate the Ivy League academic system? What exactly constitutes a relationship? The novel follows her during her first year, as she does things as mundane as return videos with a friend, but also as fumbles around an awkward crush. The story takes us into the summer, where she spends time in Paris and Hungary, trying to determine what, and who, she wants.

Verdict: This book was a lot of contradictory things- boring, yet intense. Endearing, yet annoying. Tedious, yet amusing. I still am not sure if I can say I like it, but I didn't not like it. There was something sort of endearing about Selin, and Batuman's writing about her, but I found those warm feelings fizzling out frequently. I just don't know. 

2,907 pages 

So, You're in a Bad Mood

The other day things did not... go well. At all. Nothing catastrophic but just one thing after another, ranging from irritating to embarrassing to frustrating to hurt-feeling inducing. By, oh, ten in the morning I was in tears in the bathroom. It happens to the best of us, right? Thankfully, my truly bad days are fairly rare, but semi-bad days definitely show up. But life's too short to indulge feeling subpar for prolonged periods of time*, right? So, here's how I make my bad moods better, just in case today is one of those days for you:

1. Make plans (preferably with friends): Social interaction makes us feel warm and fuzzy and having something to look forward to is always nice. On my said bad day I confirmed breakfast plans the following day with a friend, reached out to another friend for lunch next month, and also looked into taking a croissant making class at Sur la Table in September.

2. Bake or cook something unfamiliar with lots of steps: Occupying your mind with something that requires concentration can help distract you from the crap bringing down. I made a pasta dish that night with lots of chopping and prep.

3. Exercise, preferably outside: Endorphins and all that. But really, even if it's just a fifteen minute walk around the block, it'll help. Bonus points if you take your dog. 

4. Drink something caffeinated and take a vitamin or fish oil capsule (unless you already took yours today, in that case good job): I am generally exhausted and something caffeinated can give me a happy jump. And the vitamin? I usually forget to take them, so it makes me feel on-top-of-it and like I'm doing something healthy (I know, I know the jury's still out on whether they truly are).

5. Buy something (within reason): I know this is probably not something the financial experts suggest, but whatever. I discovered the clearance section on the Boden site had some dresses I had wanted months ago and had abstained from. It made me feel DAMN happy to know that in a week or so I'd get a package with some pretty back-to-work clothes in it. 

6. Acknowledge your bad mood: Sometimes the "fake it 'til you make it" thing totally works, but sometimes things are tough to ignore. Admit your shitty attitude and figure out what's causing it. Can these things be fixed? If so, how? If not, how can you work towards accepting them? Don't wallow, but respect yourself to let yourself be less than happy once in awhile. 

7. Don't set yourself up to fail: For me that means don't read the news, attempt to get a few minutes alone (ha), try to not force my kid to do anything that induces whining or crying or irritating noises in general, and to not look at email. 

8. What would you tell someone else?: A friend and I were talking about this the other day and it's a really great exercise in perspective. Another good one that goes along with this is "will it matter in a day? Week? Month?" 

9. Go to bed early: Once in awhile I'll wistfully say to my husband, "Remember that one time, back when we lived in the apartment, and we went to sleep that one night at like 9? That was so amazing." I hate going to bed that early because I feel like I'm screwing myself out of an hour or two of "being off" at night, but I know a lot of times bad moods are induced by a lack of sleep. 

Hope everyone is having a good one. If not, hang in there. We've all been in your shoes.

*Obviously there's a differences between bad moods and something more prolonged and serious, like depression or anxiety. So, if you think it's more than that talk to your doctor or a loved one for guidance! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, and say hey!

1. Sawyer had his first day of preschool on Monday and we got a good report back. It was just a half day, so he didn't nap there, but they said he just went with the flow and didn't have any accidents, so I'll call it good. He seems excited to go back, so hopefully he keeps up the enthusiasm. He slept for three hours after just a half day, so he better develop some stamina. He goes back tomorrow, so fingers crossed it's another good day. I didn't realize how anxiety-inducing this whole switch would be on me, but it has been. I also know that it will probably be old-hat in a few weeks, but in the meantime I will continue to feel sick on preschool mornings, haha. 

2. I just started The Idiot by Elif Batuman and while it was a little slow to start I am still enjoying it. 

3. It has been a week since my cortisone shot in my hip and it has definitely helped. I rode for forty-five minutes in the car yesterday and it didn't hurt at all when I got out (usually after twenty of minutes I feel like I am being stabbed until I can walk it off). It was sore the other day after running, but today not really at all. Hopefully it lasts! I can't have another for three months, but would like to stretch it even longer since I know prolonged use isn't fabulous for the body.

4. So, if I have my hip under control and have my toe issue resolved with some serious taping work should I run a half marathon again? I swore I was done, but I've got the itch. I hope I don't, but I can see myself after a pain-free five-mile run being over-confident and pulling the trigger.

5. Yesterday I went shopping with the intention of dropping some cash on some new work clothes and I COULDN'T FIND ANYTHING. Anthropologie was even giving teachers 20% off and still, nothing. But, later last night as I was nursing a cocktail and a bad mood I landed on Boden's clearance page and jackpot! Several of the dresses I was lusting after at the beginning of summer were marked way down. Yay me.

6. I think I am one step closer to getting a ping-pong table in my house eventually. I will crush you all.

7. TV update, for fun: We finished The Handmaid's Tale (good!), are watching about 1.5 episodes of the first season of Fargo each week (good, but bloody), and I am getting in the occasional episode of Grey's Anatomy during Sawyer's nap time, since I am years behind (so bad it's good). 

8. I have been doing a few letters of recommendation each day for my incoming seniors (who I had last year) and it's been a good way to sort of ease my way back into the incoming school year. Reading their info sheets makes me almost miss them. I have a great group of kids and I really do look forward to seeing them (maybe not grading their papers or getting up early, but I do think they're a neat group with lots of potential). 

9. I have started an All-Female Fantasy Football League for this season. Mostly I just want an excuse to get all of my friends together for an end-of-the-season brunch. I think it will be fun. Go football. 

Current Wish List

Time for some book window shopping (mostly me, but a few for Sawyer)! I've done pretty well the last two months not buying many books (less than five for myself and Sawyer combined), but we all know that the most common side effect of refraining is wanting. So, here are some contenders, including upcoming releases:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng- I loved her first book and have been eagerly awaiting her follow-up efforts!

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan- Another fall-release that I have high hopes for.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How They Communicate- Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben- I love trees so  very much, so I am intrigued by this one. 

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Samuel Tinti- Father-daughter relationship with a dark secret.

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing- A nonfiction account of a woman who spends a lot of time being by herself. 

Chemistry be Weike Wang- All the cool kids are doing it. 

The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading by Anne Gisleson- A memoir of sorts about how a woman got through some extremely hard life moments with reading (and stuff). 

For Sawyer (age 3):

We're All Wonders by RJ Palacio- The illustrated version of the book that teaches kids empathy.

The Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers- I'm slowly getting all of his books, and this one is set in the mountains. Sold. 

Dragons Love Tacos 2 by Adam Rubin- We love the first one. 

What's on your list?

Natural History Museum of LA County Visit

For some reason, I had never been to the Natural History Museum in LA, even though the NYC version is one of my favorite museums ever. For some reason I thought it was on the smaller side, so I sort of ignored it, until this summer. It's actually pretty bug, and right now they have an Extreme Mammal exhibit, as well as a greenhouse that's pretty packed with butterflies. The museum itself has all the normal things a Natural History Museum does, like dioramas (these were lit extremely well, I noticed, for some reason), a gemstone area (we didn't go there), a local history wing, and dinosaurs, which Sawyer was super excited to see. We spent three hours there, including lunch, and then headed over to the California Science Center to take a look at the space shuttle, since, thanks to Little Einsteins, my child is obsessed with rocket ships. CSC has The Endeavor Shuttle, so for $4 we were able to walk around that for awhile (we were actually just here for the Pixar Exhibit last December, but I guess he didn't remember?). It was a really, really fun day and I can't suggest the NHMLA to local people enough! Their science labs were awesome and the place is just really well maintained and curated (the tech is far, far better then the CSC). 

Some pictures:

If I Could Only... [a survey]

So, I saw this feature in an old issue of In Style I was reading on the treadmill this morning and thought it would be fun to play along, since some of my posts have been a little heavy this week. So, in a (mostly) bookish manner:

If I could only... books by one author Ann Patchett- she publishes every few years and I've liked everything I've read by her

... read in one spot I would say my pool float, but that would eliminate most the year, so I'd have to go with the couch in my living room

... buy books from one place Amazon. I'm sorry, I am, but I have a budget. And then there's Prime. It's bad.

... drink one drink I want to say a gin and tonic, but you can't really sip on those all day long. So, Diet Coke. Shoot me. Take my kidneys. Give me cancer. I love it so. 

... teach one author That's really hard! If newer, maybe TC Boyle? If older, Oscar Wilde. 

... teach one literary element Theme! We talk theme do death in my classroom, but you can bring in so many other aspects of a text with it.

...subscribe to on streaming service Spotify; I can take or leave shows and movies, but I need music to work out and drive to (or entertain my kid).

... read one genre If "contemporary literary fiction" is too broad, I'd say "magical realism." at one restaurant So I sort of snub chain restaurants (but still go, since we have limited options), but I'd have to say The Cheesecake Factory because their menu is a book. There are like 3,452 options, so at least it wouldn't always be the same thing. 

... recommend one book Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle. The social and political messages are so important and he's a fabulous writer (even if he does teach at USC)

... take one book while being stranded on a deserted island Maybe the Oscar Wilde anthology I have, or the Narnia books that compiled into one volume (I've been meaning to reread them for years and years). 

... meet one author Salman Rushdie. 

... visit one more country Switzerland (it just looks so beautiful, in summer and winter) 

... rearead one book right now I've been itching to reread Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics for awhile

...have one reading superpower I'd want to remember everything I read much, much better. Not that I forget, but with how much I read combined with life in general, details slip through the cracks 

... develop one better reading habit It would be to spend more time looking up unfamiliar things when reading them. For example, I read a short story by Richard Russo recently and they were talking about some gallery in Venice that I thought I had visited, but wasn't sure, but didn't take the time to investigate. I need to.

... develop one better life habit Stop over-thinking the future. 

Play along! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I go back to work in two and a half weeks, so that means mom guilt and time-off remorse are both in full-swing. I sat down the other day and added up how much time Sawyer will be in preschool compared to daycare last year, since my schedule is changing a tiny bit, and it's the same, but I still feel bad (it's always like that at the beginning of the year, and I always feel better after a few days). I also look back at the last two months and wonder if I did enough with him, for the house, with friends, etc... What can I cram into the next eighteen days while still relaxing? I WANT TO DO IT ALL AND I WANT TO DO NOTHING.

2. Speaking of friends, I have been so lucky to spend time with so many of the wonderful people in my life lately, with plans yet to come. It's so nice to catch up.

3. So, Sawyer dropped out of swim lessons. The first day was great, but on the second day they pressured him to put him face in and he was not having it. Then, when he started crying the instructor dunked him. My child literally screamed the whole thirty minutes. I took him out to use the restroom and tried to settle him down, but it didn't work. I tried again the next day after talking to the instructor about letting him keep his head up (it was the first week of level one, come on), which he agreed to, but Sawyer started bawling as soon as he got in. And that was that. I took him and left- he was scared, the other kids were confused, and parents were annoyed. So now I'm trying to work with him more at home and we'll figure something out for next summer. Water safety and learning how to swim is super important to me, though, since we have a pool.

4. More fun times with kid activities: at gymnastics yesterday an ornery little child put his hands around Sawyer's neck to "playfully" choke him. Sawyer ran away to me and looked so, so sad. I told him he did the right thing by leaving and telling a grown up, and that the other kid wasn't being nice, blablabla. The kid's mom was right behind me. Ha! She asked me what happened and immediately removed her child was a stern talking to. Parenting. It's lovely.

5. I finished the cross stitch above in record time (thanks, summer!) and I love how it turned out.

6. I am current reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gaily Honeyman and am enjoying it, although it does remind me at times a little bit of The Rosie Project (not that it's a rip off, just some similarities with the tone/voice). I am also still listening to Beartown, which is definitely entertaining. 

7. So many fun things coming up (see number one... ha)- two days of breakfasts with different friends, a day at some museums with Sawyer Saturday, and then Sawyer starts going to preschool in the morning for two days a week on Monday.

8. Not fun: I just got a cortisone shot in my hip and as soon as I walked out of the office I almost passed out. I went back in the office and called for a ride. Sigh. I can run half marathons, jump out of an airplane, birth a baby, hike Half Dome twice, and get a tattoo but I just suck at needles. In my defense he did it standing up, so that was uncomfortable and weird. 

One and Only- Some Personal Thoughts

Disclaimer: I wish I was the type of person who had the "I don't care what other people think" sort of attitude, but alas I do not. I know that topics regarding things like family size, fertility, etc... are sensitive; it's easy to offend and easy to take offense. But, I'm feeling daring, so let's see if I can be both honest and respectful. If not, know that's my goal. Also know that this is a long, rambling post that is me explaining a part my life when I probably don't need to, but a lot of people have been mentioning baby #2 lately, so I feel a little... defensive? Reflective? Conflicted? I also know that there are a lot of people who want to have just one child but they're almost afraid to admit it, since there are so many stereotypes out there. So, here I am, putting it out there.

Over a year ago I bought the book One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One by Lauren Sandler and then let it sit in a drawer, out of everyone's sight, until this past week. I had always said that I wasn't going prepared to make any big decisions about having a second child until Sawyer was three, which he turned in April.

The book itself was fine, offering some personal insight from the author (she was trying to figure out if she wanted a second, and also happened to be an only child herself). There's quite a bit of research provided, albeit dry at times. She focuses on economics, parental contentment, child behavior, what it's like to be a grown only child, and some historical perceptions. While it was nothing amazing, or shocking, it was reassuring and very thought-provoking. 

Sandler starts the book off by discussing why her mom only had one child, and what she said echo my growing sentiments. Sandler paraphrased her mother's thoughts that, "To have a happy kid, she figured she needed to be a happy mother, and to be a happy mother, she needed to be a happy person. To do that, she had to preserve her authentic self, which she could not imagine doing with a second child" (Sandler, 1). That, right there, is me in a nutshell. 

I always was pretty sure I wanted to be a mom- to how many kids, that was the question. My husband and I struggled for over a year to conceive, which was very hard, but still so much luckier than many. After an incredibly easy pregnancy and delivery Sawyer was born. He was a happy, healthy baby who didn't really love sleeping in long stretches (still often the case), yet was otherwise flexible, fun, and oh-so-cute. But as a working mom who brings home buckets of work (I am an English teacher, so there are literally hundreds of essays on my plate to grade at a time), an individual with hobbies (reading! running! yoga! writing!), a friend who actually likes to interact in person, and a wife (whose husband worked long hours with a long commute, a fact of life I accept, understand, and am in agreement with), I was falling apart. Every second of every day was accounted for, I was never not exhausted, and I always felt a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from losing my shit (I am fully aware this is normal for a new mom, or even just moms in general). Nonetheless, I was happy. I had a baby, a husband, a core group of loyal friends, and a job I was passionate about. But me? Who I am and what I love, including time to be alone occasionally? I was fighting a losing battle. 

And this is what my life was like for probably two or two-and-a-half years. I always have had very high expectations of myself at work and at home, and I constantly felt like I was failing (and some people purposefully, and accidentally, made me quite aware of my inadequacies). I was constantly sacrificing one thing for the other, and that's not even considering my lack of sleep. Multi-tasking was my norm- that baby on the floor playing with blocks, me on the treadmill walking on an incline reading for work. Or me, in the kitchen uploading pictures, while baking cookies for a work meeting, while playing with my toddler with measuring spoons. I needed more breaks, so much so that two or three or seventeen times I considered how great it would be do have my appendix out so that I would get a few nights in the hospital. 

In the last six or eight months I started feeling more at ease. Sawyer is older and he and my husband have been spending more time together. I got things at work under control with a new organizational system and by being hyper-efficient every second I am there. I purposefully schedule in down-time at home, and I started changing my cleaning/laundry/errand routine. I see friends, I pursue hobbies, I am trying to spend more time with my husband, I am a good mom and interact with my son constantly, I work out, and I've worked hard on making anxiety productive. I am also planning on doing some traveling again soon, hopefully, which is something I have greatly missed. 

But I am still very, very tired. I am happier, but I am so tired. 

I cannot go back. I cannot rewind the clock. I cannot focus more on surviving than thriving. I cannot. 

Let's say it takes me a year to get pregnant again. Then I cook the thing for nine months. Then it takes two and a half more years for me to return to me. That's over four more years. It's easy to say that that's not a long time, but it is. 

And then there's the money. I'll be honest- we paid anywhere from $450-$625 a month for daycare and will be paying $800 for preschool. Times two? Dear God. Then there's college, later. I'd like to help my child get an education but also not go severely into debt (again) myself. 

Some people are good at having multiple kids and looking at life's big picture. Some people are more patient, can survive better on little sleep, and cut themselves more slack. But I know myself, and I know that I just... cannot. And knowing my weaknesses is something I consider a strength. Different people need different things to be happy. 

Am I depriving my son of a sibling? Yes. Saying no would be a lie. It would also be lying if I said that I'm worried what will happen if he needs a kidney later in life. But is that an acceptable reason to bring a kid into the world? 

"Hey kiddo, you're super cool and all, but I was just worried about Sawyer's renal future, so thanks for the potential spare parts that you will hopefully match for, if so needed." 

(Sawyer has no renal issues, I am just being hypothetical). 

So yes, I'm not giving my son a sibling, a live-in playmate, and he might be sentenced to a life on dialysis, but I still feel like I am giving him a lot. I am prepared to spend countless hours with him playing with LEGOs, taking him to parks, visiting museums, and signing him up for summer camps so he can hang out with other kids during weeks off. And I totally volunteer my husband to take him to every single super hero movie that comes out, ever (by the way, my husband is not even close to begging for a second child; if he was then I'd have to do that thing you do in marriage when you consider the other person's desires and opinions). It cracks me up when parents of only-children are accused of being "selfish." There is nothing selfish about having a child, even if it's only one. I spent forty minutes the other  morning involved in a conversation about Mama Batman and Baby Batman going to Target for apple juice, thankyouverymuch. 

Am I 100% sure? No, but closer every day. Could something in me snap in a year and make jump back on the multiple-child train? Maybe! There are plenty of things in life that I said I wouldn't do and then decided otherwise. But sometimes you need a book to help you articulate what's going on in your head and your heart (and your ovaries). So, here we are. 

Families come in all different packages, and at the end of the day, I really truly think that there are so many ways to raise a good little person (or good little people). Maybe you and your partner are lesbians and you have five kids of all different ages and colors you've adopted. Maybe it's you, your husband, and your two dogs (pets are family members too). Maybe it's a husband, wife, a daughter, and  a son. Maybe you live in wealth. Maybe poverty. Rural? Urban? Stay-at-home-mom? Two working parents? Divorced? Remarried? The possibilities are endless. And that's good.