Spoiler Alert: Life Not Magically Changed

I'm one of those people that feels like her house is an unorganized, messy disaster, approximately five minutes after cleaning it. Between the two hairy, perpetually shedding dogs and the baby-tornado, my hard work is constantly being undone. We've also lived in our home for almost four years now, so I'm starting to feel like it's time to hunker down and clean out closets and drawers. I had heard a lot about Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, so I thought I'd use it to draw some inspiration. In reality? It mostly made me laugh.

Whoa, There
Marie Kondo, the professional Japanese organizer, is intense. And apparently, she has been since she was a wee one, scouring home magazines at the age of five. She'd also set her alarm to get up before her family did in order to pursue her totally-age appropriate passion of cleaning. She opted to not go to recess and stayed inside to help her teachers get their classrooms into shape. She had quite the internal dialogue, too, conversing with herself about "rebound cleaning" and throwing out family members' belongings. 

Organizing, Not Cleaning
This book is strictly about organizing, so if you're hoping how to make your windows sparkle or your grout gleam, this book is not for you. The two are tied together, though- a house in order is simply easier to keep clean. 

Throw it Out. Now. 
This I am pretty much on board with, although I think her policies about books are harsh (as in I mean I instantly thought she was a "stupid  illiterate book-hater" when I read that section). I also wasn't a fan about her insensitive opinions on photographs and other nostalgic items (she's a bit of an ice queen, I think). In general, though, I love to throw things out- I hate "stuff." She raises a lot of good points about shredding paperwork, ditching old manuals, and tossing things you simply don't use or have forgotten existed. 

Find Joy, Guys
When trying to decide what to keep and what to toss, you need to simply "take the object in your hand and ask: 'Does this spark joy?'" (Kondo, 41). I decided to ponder this question with some of my own household items: 






Dress the Part
Kondo usually wears a dress and blazer to organize, because "tidying is a celebration, a special send-off for those things that will be departing from the house " (189). If you really must slum it up, you may wear an apron, if it's absolutely necessary. 

Thank Your Inanimate Objects
Make sure to appreciate your belongings (good point), but to also "treat [your] items like they're alive" by thanking them, aloud, every day (169). When putting your purse away, Kondo suggests telling it, "It's thanks to you that I got so much work done today" (169). She then provides a delightful anecdote about the first time she had to replace a cell phone, when she was a teenager. After buying the new phone she texted the old one a thank you message, and it promptly died the next day. It just new



Jokes Aside...
This book is hilarious, but it's also motivating. Kondo is a bit eccentric, but my god I bet her home is immaculate and functional. She's passionate and practical. I didn't really learn anything from it (although she did instruct us on how to fold our socks and what sort of boxes can be used in drawers), but it did light a fire under my butt to get moving around my house. 


Top Ten Tuesday- Best of... So Far

The Broke and the Bookish ask us for our top ten favorite reads so far this year (I love looking back at the end of the year to see what stayed on the list and what fell off). While I am proud of my twenty-five books so far (I am a full-time English teacher and the mother to a very active one-year-old, for those just stopping by), I wish there were more. 



In no particular order....

1. Sous Chef by Michael Gibney- I wrote about this on a restaurant memoir round-up I just wrote yesterday, but I loved the fast-paced syntax and unique voice of this day-in-the-life style memoir.

2. We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler- I thoroughly enjoyed this tale about what happens when a girl is raised alongside a monkey, and what happens when she gets older.

3. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro- This was my first Munro experience and I loved her writing.

4. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout- I'm such a sucker for connecting short stories. 

5. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison- This is old-school Toni; magical realism, delicious prose, and raw emotion.

6. Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton- A chef memoir written by a chef with a degree in writing. Perfect.

7. In the Best Interest of Students by Kelly Gallagher- I'm not one for "teacher books," but I greatly appreciated Gallagher's navigation of pairing The Common Core changes with what we already have in place. I have so many new activities to bring into my classroom next fall.

8. Gulp by Mary Roach- A woman that can make the digestive tract fascinating. 

9. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabrielle Garcia Marquez- I taught this book again and still love the unorganized narrative and magical realism.

10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel- While I am tired of this genre, this one was well-written and fascinating. 

What made your cut? 

Reading About Restaraunts

This year I've read, and listened to, a lot of books about chefs and restaurants. I worked in a few during college and have always found the dynamic fascinating. Back of the house, front of the house. Servers, bussers, hosts. Bartenders, managers. Cooks, dishwashers, expediters, prep-cooks. Openers, closers. Tuesday night crew... Friday night crew. I never had the privilege of working somewhere particularly high-class, but I was still able to appreciate the structure, organization, and  culture that working in a restaurant provides. 

I've read about chefs and restaurants from the around the world, from a variety of backgrounds and with different experiences. The one thing they all have in common? Grit. This is a highly over-used word (especially in education) right now, but it perfectly describes the hard work that people like Marcus Samuelsson and Josh Ruxin have put in. Creating a successful business in this industry is extremely tough- the odds are not in your favor. 

Here are my favorites that I've read or listened to (a few didn't make the cut, unfortunately):




Audiobooks:

Medium Raw and Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Both of these are great, if you like Bourdain. He narrates both audiobooks with his typical, charming "take no shit" tone. His stories about the darker side of the business are always entertaining and eye-opening. His candor and combination of self-deprecation and ego are always humorous.

Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg
Wizenberg doesn't narrate this, but it's still great listen (although I don't love the woman's voice, she takes unnaturally long pauses at strange spots). Wizenberg must come to terms with her unconventional husband decides to open a pizza joint, turning the whole endeavor into a DIY project. Apparently they also have an LA location that I'd love to get to at some point. 

Books:
Sous Chef by Michael Gibney
This book chronicles Gibney's day from start to finish working as a sous chef at a fine-dining restaurant in New York. The syntax is brilliant, as is the energy and wit. The pressure of working in a fast-paced kitchen is palpable. I can almost guarantee that this will be on my best-of list, come December.

Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Hamilton had a bit of a rough time growing up, her family dissolving when she was just a kid. She was forced into independence, and hit some speed bumps along the way. Eventually she starts her own place, Prune, turning in a literal shit hole into something amazing. The end bring some Italian travels, which I enjoyed. I was also very appreciate of her writing proficiency- that's what you get when a chef has an MFA.

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
Samuelsson examines the more classical route chefs take in terms of starting at the bottom and working their way up, position by position. He works at many restaurants throughout Europe and it's fascinating to hear about the way the kitchens are run and how the traditional staging process works (especially pre-Internet when he has to write letters and visit chefs). He also brings in a racial component, which is obviously timely. 

Back of the House by Scott Haas
Haas, a psychologist, shadows Tony Maws and his restaurant staff for over a year trying to figure out what makes them tick. He becomes quite involved, learning about their personal lives and the dynamics of the kitchen. He also picks up some skills himself, further immersing himself into the lifestyle. While reading this I often felt like I was watching a documentary- it was very captivating. 

A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda by Josh Ruxin
I initially thought this book was going to be more so centered on the restaurant, but it turns out the emphasis was focused on Ruxin and his wife's aid work in Rwanda. It turns out that I actually learned a lot about how relief work should work and how one goes about establishing a successful small business in a developing country. 


What's Happening

We're getting into the summer vacation groove around these parts (except the sleeping in part. Someone isn't a fan):

[my new best friend; it's a good thing I have obligations, because if not I'd live in the pool]
[we saw this at a toy store when visiting a friend and I had to snap a picture for my husband]
[I took a yoga class last week and it was really hard, but really great. I love being yoga-sore]
[Bunny Ears + superhero jammies]
[a daycare morning done right]
[learning how to treat books nicely]

[continuing my quest for amazing homemade ice cream]
[lots of evening walks, a bath, and vaccinations]
[a friend invited us to story hour- first trip to the library!]
video

[I think he hates it.] 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hello.

1. At some point in my life I convinced myself that burritos were healthy, including how I order them from Del Taco or Taco Bell: beans and cheese, no sauce, no onions, add sour cream. They're definitely not the worst fast food menu item, but the cheese and tortilla especially are total fat monsters. Nonetheless, I somehow think that having one is totally fine. Just like how I'm in denial about Chipotle being high-cal.

2. Hey! Speaking of high in calories, check out the awesome new Blizzard at Dairy Queen I need to go get:



3. I need someone to please make an app that runs in the background of an iPhone that tracks everything you do, and, most importantly, for how long. I've been looking for a good one for ages and can't. Does someone know how to do this? Let's go into business together, asap. 

4. There's this huge, ugly, dry sort of valley/basin area between the development we live in and the one right next to us and they're turning it into a million houses and a 90,000 square foot (I think that's the right number) shopping center. I'm really, really opposed to the traffic and influx of people this will bring to the area (like to my Target up the road and to Trader Joe's), but it seems like the city has given the green light. I'll just sit up on perch up the hill and glare every time I pass by. But seriously, where will all the animals go? How does this impact the water supply? 

5. I just finished listening to the WTF with Marc Maron podcast President Obama did while he was in Southern California last week and really thought it was interesting. I know that we can't all be bleeding-heart liberals like myself, but he raises some really interesting points about where the country is  now, compared to four (or eight!) years ago and how his job as POTUS is to make small changes that will lead to something bigger someday. People don't always understand that a two-degree course change will make a difference, but your destination will be in the end. I think that really resonated with me on a personal level, as well. Plus it's just amusing to think that the interview took place in a guy's garage.  



6. I'm trying to find a good book on childhood linguistics, just to read for fun. Recommendations?

7. Yesterday was the first good visit Sawyer has had at PT for a long time. Like I've mentioned before, his torticollis is basically gone, but they won't exit him until he walks, just to make sure everything is aligned properly. Well, at nearly fourteen months, he hasn't been that into walking, since he's a little speed demon crawling. He's been pulling himself up and cruising around furniture for over a month, but hasn't liked to push around walkers or anything... until two days ago. He spent the entire session on his feet and didn't cry at all. The balloon they had in the room may have helped. 

8. Scott and I are attempting to play LEGO Jurassic Park together, which may or may not lead to divorce (we go through all this hard stuff together during the last decade and make it, but then BOOM! A videogame ruins it all). I'm kidding, of course, but I have a really hard time working cooperatively with people, and this is no exception. I guess this is a cheaper alternative to marriage counseling, not that we necessarily need it, but you-know-what-I-mean. 



9. I have a dentist appointment coming up and as I was flossing my teeth last night it occurred to me that even at 31 years old I still need validation from the hygienist that I care exceptionally well for my teeth. 

10. Just take down your confederate flags! Jesus Christ. I don't want to hear the crap about tradition, or the South, or freedom of speech or whatever. They represent one of the darkest times in American history and are a total slap in the face of African Americans. They're disrespectful, archaic, and racist. I can't believe this conversation is just now happening. And it's by no means a solution to today's issues of race, but still, it's something that's long-overdue. It would be like keeping up signs that say "White's Only"- absolutely unacceptable. 

On Deck

[source]


Things are a little quiet today. Like literally. I took Sawyer to daycare for a few hours so I could run errands and sit at Starbucks alone for an hour to read. Now, he's exhausted from playing with his buddies and down for the count. I can actually hear birds chirping outside right now. But, things are coming up! Good things! Here's some things I have on deck for the next little while:

Baking and Making
... The Pioneer Woman's Lemon Bars. We have some very ripe lemons barely clinging to their branches in the backyard right now.


... a version of this Ranch Cheese Bread


Reading
... The New York Times summer fiction edition. I haven't started because I don't want it to be over. 

.... The Harder They Fall by TC Boyle

... The Secret History by Donna Tartt 

Buying
... more Duplos for Sawyer. And me. Mostly me.

... some sort of reclining chair of flotation device for the backyard/pool. I'm too old to lay out on the concrete and read. 

... a few of the prints I posted the other day. 

Reducing
... my time spent on Instagram and Facebook. I'll never cut it out, nor do I want to, but I feel like I simply could go on less and still get the gist. Plus, there's been an epidemic of passive aggressiveness lately that grates on me. 

... my Diet Coke (and diet soda in general) intake. I'll never eliminate it, either, but I'm drinking more water. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm drinking more iced coffee. 

... my household water consumption. Do your part, Californians. 

Posting*
... my take on several restaurant/chef memoirs I've been reading lately. I'm on the last one that I ordered right now and am resisting the urge to pick up more. I do miss fiction, though, since it's been nearly a month since I've picked up a novel.

... some thoughts on navigating the sometimes-complicated world of adult friendship.

... how Marie Kando's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, rocked my world. Or didn't. 

Going
.... to our local semi-famous day spa, Glen Ivy, next Monday. A massage, time in the sun, maybe an adult beverage? Sign my the heck up! Even better is that it will be with my mom, for her birthday. 

... to visit a friend to hang out with our kiddos in a few days. 

... to meet with our refinancing lady again this upcoming weekend. She projected some major monthly savings if we can get things moving asap, so I'm cautiously optimistic. 

Writing
... letters of recommendation for my students. I have close to sixty to do, so I'm excited to start... so that I can finish!

... more of the project I'm working on. I've resisted planning it out, but I'm at the point where I need some organization, so I will.

... some thank you notes. I have been really good about sending them out to people on Sawyer's behalf, and I owe a person or two cards for his belated birthday gifts. 

Watching
... Newsroom. We just watched the the first episode last night and are hooked.

... TED Talks. They're so short yet I still need to start burning through my playlist.

... The newest seasons of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. 


Anything coming up in you world?

*maybe

Print Shopping

A few years ago we put up some awesome floating shelves from Pottery Barn that I had some really great intentions of creating a mini-gallery wall on (back when I didn't have a kid and spent too much time on Pinterest). 

Cool prints! Different sizes! Black frames! Yeah! So eclectic. So cool.

Let me back up. First, we bought the shelves, then we let them sit in the extra bedroom for, like,  eight months. Then we tried to put them up, but because we aren't really the DIY-type, we used Command Strips. Lots and lots of Command Strips to hang expensive, heavy shelves. Well, guess what?

It worked. I ordered four or five prints and put them up (fine, one I didn't have a frame for until last month, but whatever). It looked okay. Maybe a little sparse, but whatever. 

And then the bastards fell. Why? Oh yeah. Because we used fucking Command Strips on three-foot solid wood shelves. 

My husband then decided to put them up the "right" way and succeeded. So, they've been up for awhile, nice and sturdy... and underwhelming.

So, I need more prints. Here are some that I've been eye-balling (mostly from Society 6, since they're awesome):

[source]
[source]
[source; tip: sometimes I find cool greeting cards, like this, and frame them]
[source; maybe cut in half for a tiny print]
[a nod to our SF Giants; source]
[source]
[source; Wes Anderson's characters]

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Hello and happy Wednesday! Link up, link back, say hi!

1. I have had the worst luck lately. A few weeks ago I severely cracked the screen on my phone (I've had an iPhone since the first one came out and I've never done that before!), which was extremely painful since I'm up for renewal on July first. Then, a week and a half ago I was pulling out of the garage, which I've done thousands of times before, and I hit the passenger mirror, destroying the mirror and the mechanism inside that adjusts it from the driver's seat. Yesterday, right after paying a small fortune to have that replaced, I thought I dropped an eye shadow container from my Naked Palette down the sink. The plumber was just out and reenacted how this was physically impossible. I really hope I now stop doing stupid shit that I can't blame anyone else for.

2. I love having time off, but I remembered the other day why I tend to over-extend myself: so I have less time to think. I'm a pessimistic over-thinker and being home all day with a little one who has been rocking the naps lately leaves me time to ponder everything that can go wrong within my universe. I probably should stop being so cheap and stingy with my time and go to a therapist. Can you go for like a month and just be like, "Here is all my shit, tell me how to fix it, okay, bye!"? Is it like yoga? Can you just by a pass? Ha.

[source]
3. Yesterday Sawyer and I went to swim lessons and it wasn't quite the blast I hoped it would be, for him. He complained for the first twenty minutes when they did the activities and full on cried when the instructor tried to swim with him. He did love the last ten minutes when they just got to play and sing his favorite song, "The Wheels on the Bus." By the way, why was there so much singing? Why did almost every activity have a song? WHY?




4. I'm currently reading yet another restaurant-related book, Back of the House by Scott Haas, which is a slightly different take than most. Haas is looking at the staff and owner-chef in a more psychoanalytical way, which is really fascinating.

5. My nacho skills are on point, if I do say so myself:



6. Last night I stayed up until midnight, which is late considering my super early wake up call, finishing Sawyer's baby book. The company I used was offering 40% off, and then an additional 20%, which ended up taking my $300+ book down to right around $150 (by the way, 40% off plus 20% is not 60% off, which I knew, but I think is a common mistake). It ended up at just over 150 pages, which is slightly ridiculous, but I really don't care. 

7. Next time my husband and I are fighting I'm going to strategically throw in quotes from Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood," if I remember. "Oh, you're sorry? Well guess what? 'Bandaids don't fix bullet holes. You say sorry, just for show...'" He supposedly doesn't read this, so he shouldn't get it. The album version is so much better than the one for the video. 

8. An old friend from high school started a company called Get Outfitted, which allows people to rent ski gear, via mail, which is pretty smart, especially for kids. They just added a camping component, which I think is genius. We tent camped some when I was young, and I have really good memories of it. Now, as an adult I'm not particularly gung-ho about dealing with all that when I could just stay at a hotel(electricity! room service! hot water! valet!), but I do want to take Sawyer at least once. I was just looking at the site and saw I could rent a tent, sleeping bags, and sleeping mats for three days for less than $150. And no, they didn't ask me to post this, I just really love the idea! 

9. Props to Old Navy- I'm really loving their current line of workout wear. A lot of my stuff is stretched out from pregnancy, so I'm slowly trying to replace it. They had cute running shorts on sale for $9 and I think their yoga capris were somewhere around $20. I've slacked off a little the last few days and have only been walking with Sawyer, so I'm hoping this will help me get back on track (yoga tomorrow!).

10. Can't wait to dive into this: 


Unlikely Inspiration

I've wanted to write a novel since the fourth grade, or maybe even the third. I'd painstakingly type out the handwritten drafts on our family's computer (very hi-tech at the time), print them out, and illustrate them. I'd coerce my teachers into giving me the "big" sheets of construction paper so I could make covers for books, and I'd proudly offer them to anyone who could read to read. 

Now I pretty much just want a reason to fantasize about going on a book tour wearing the plethora of new Anthropology dresses I could all the sudden bankroll. Because, you know, first-time authors get huge signing bonuses and sent all over the world to read. Ha.

This really isn't the only reason I'd like to write, of course. I enjoy it and have some stories tumbling around my overtired, distracted brain that I'd love to coherently pull out and assemble. It's hard to carve the time out, though, since I feel like if I have anything less than a quiet half hour straight it's not worth it. And when I do have the time, there are a million other things that often take precedence. So despite having this idea that I truly am really excited about, and feel needs to be written while still relevant, I've just been sitting on it. There have been twelve pages written and waiting, open on my laptop for weeks. I'm a neglectful writer, to say the least. 

But today I felt compelled to write, and I was finally able to put my finger on why. Sawyer was down for his morning nap and I was successfully ignoring a kitchen that needed to be cleaned, reading Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter. In fact, I've been on a restaurant/chef kick for awhile. I've listened to two of Anthony Bourdain's audiobooks, as well as Molly Wizenberg's Delancey and right now Bill Buford's Heat. Earlier this year I read Sous Chef by Michael Gibney, I just finished Marcus Samuelsson's Yes, Chef, and have two or three other titles sitting on my table. 

The first attraction I have to these books is that I'm fascinated by the restaurant industry and, naively, think that I'd make a good owner, given my penchant for efficiency, task-mastering, budgeting prowess, and ability to manage people (I realistically know that such an endeavor is statistically destined to fail, so I won't be taking a second mortgage out on my house or anything). I also love food and cooking, so that's an obvious appeal to. I was lucky enough in college to work at a place from right before it opened through the first few months of business, so I was able to see the highs and lows that happen when opening a new business. It was awesome (probably because it wasn't my money or reputation on the line). 

But today, while in the middle of Hamilton's book I felt like writing, for once. So I did. I reread the twelve pages I had, did some light editing, and then busted out a few more pages. And I'm ready and eager to return. 

So why, in the middle of reading a book about a woman with a tough life who decides to transform a shit hole into an eatery did I feel inspired? Because she, like most of the other's I've read about, started with nothing and persevered until they got what they wanted. They didn't let naysayers or time constraints or needing to make money deter them. They refused to give up, despite failing countless times. They weren't hellbent on certain timelines and were always willing to grow and learn within their field. They have sharp edges and grit- it's not at all sappy or corny. 

Will I create the equivalent to their famous, successful restaurants? Chances are no. Maybe more like the mom-and-pop deli tucked in a street that hardly anyone walks by. But you never know, and you won't until you get off your ass and at least attempt something. 


Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back. You know the drill.

1. Today is my first day of summer break and it has been uneventful, but nice enough. Errands, laundry, Duplos, and reading, basically.

2. I'm currently reading Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter as a part of my obsession with restaurant and chef memoirs (I just finished Yes, Chef, which was fascinating). Hamilton has an MFA, so she actually wrote the book, which is nice. My new reading trend has definitely made me excited to get a little more involved in the kitchen this summer, now that I will have more time.

3. I'm going to start a petition to outlaw all emojis; emoticons in the shape of :)   :( and ;) are still allowed, but other than that, no more. Nails on a chalkboard. I'm sorry. I know a lot of people love them A LOT and get super excited when more are released. If it tells you anything I have only used "LOL" once in my life (and ironically, of course).  Just say "black Santa has heart eyes and cycles on a skyscraper with palm trees," don't send me the stupid little pictures. I know I'm in the minority, but I don't care. At all. Not even a little. Emojis can die. 

[the best infographic I have ever seen in my life]


4. You know what? Stop saying "yummy" too. Unless you're three. 

I'll now quit complaining about standard, socially-accepted things that nice folks do.

5. My calendar for the next week is filling up fast, which was so not my intent (I just can't help it). Breakfast with a friend. Lunch with a friend. A visit with a friend. Coffee with an old student. A blood draw for life insurance. Swim lessons. A bank appointment. Yoga at an actual studio. 

Confession: being at least a little busy makes me happy. 

6. Another confession: I am so listening to Holly Madison's Playboy Mansion tell-all that comes out in a few weeks. I like to listen to thing I wouldn't read, are entertaining, and are nonfiction, so this fits the bill. Plus, I watched The Girls Next Door in high school (or college?), so I can't help to be interested. Is she really as stupid as she appears? I hope! 

7. My husband redid his office/spare room space and took all of his graphic novels off our main book shelves. He emptied out over a shelf, meaning I obviously need to buy more books. 

8. My kid is finally growing a head of hair. And is pulling himself up on everything he can and walking around furniture. He's also understanding simple directions ("put the ball in the cup"). One of the physical therapists that works with him said that he's actually ahead in a lot of his social skills, which is nice, since they usually just make me feel like he's behind, since he's not walking yet.

9. I pretty much don't give two shits about most movies that come out, but I'm pretty excited for Jurassic Park.

10. I made these yesterday, a much more simplified version of Joy the Baker's (she melted peanut butter, used bananas, and fried up some bacon). It was super simple- a small scoop of ice cream (the possibilities are endless!) between two Ritz crackers, freeze for an hour, dip half in melted chocolate (I used the ones that you can buy at Michael's for candy making), sprinkle with some sea salt (or sprinkles), and refreeze for another hour.   


The 2014-2015 School Year



In many ways, this was the most challenging school year I've even been through, in my nine years of teaching. I started over with a new group of students (I have my kids for 2-3 years at a time), was on a Common Core Committee that sucked up a lot of time (patience and energy), and was trying to figure out how to balance it all with my new responsibility at home (who wasn't letting me get more than 6 hours of broken sleep, on a good night). But I think that it was actually for the best, as it made me extensively reflect on how I run my classroom, the professional goals and priorities I have, and as well as how I spend my time at home. 

I was pretty heartbroken when the Class of 2014 graduated; I was close to many of the students and after spending so much time together they understood what I expected and I understood what they were capable of. I didn't get to properly end the year, since I left at the end of April on maternity leave, which made starting back last August a little awkward. It took me a little longer than normal to get back into the swing of things, but by October or so I felt like I knew my classes a bit better and had found my rhythm once again. The kids continued to grow on me and realized they were just as quirky and lovable as my old group. I am very thankful to teach IB students and hope that no one ever tries to break apart out English team; we've been very successful and I feel like I've found my niche.  

I knew that I wouldn't have the same amount of time to devote to grading this year, so I streamlined a lot of things in my classroom, which I think worked out for the best for me and the students. IB is a college prep class, and mountains of what they love to call "busy work" isn't helpful for them (they cheat) or me (I have to grade it). I had the kids do notebooks for each of the six works we read and graded the assignments in them intermittently. I  had one at-home paper per book, timed writes a few Fridays a month, a few projects/presentations per unit, and a culminating essay test at the  end of whatever we were reading. As a whole my students had decent grades and they turned in a lot of their work, once they realized I don't mess around with my late-work policy. I saw improvement and, at the end of the day (or year), that's all I want.

Another thing that I tried to do this year was to be a little more empathetic towards our administrators, one of which was new, this year. I think that there are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that we don't get; reasons why they're not on campus (meetings, meetings and more meetings), can't provide us with things we want (categorical budget restrictions/red tape), or why the make certain decisions (district office pressure). Don't worry, I'm not a kiss-ass, I just get that things are hard at the top. I'm one to notice when there are screw ups, so I figure you just have to keep it fair. Once upon a time I considered this career route, but the more I learned about what it entailed the more I decided it wasn't for me.

I've also tried to get know some of my colleagues better, since I have a feeling I'll be at this site for awhile. Our department book club has been a great way of doing this, as has been simply willing to stop in the halls or quad and chat with people instead of plowing through like I'm on a mission (that still happens!). I've tried to put aside judgement of what I've heard of their teaching abilities or what the kids say- I'm not their evaluator! 

Next year will most likely be a bit easier, since Sawyer will be older, the kids and I will be more in sync, and there are rumors that the committee I've been on is changing (that's yet to be seen). But for the next nine weeks? It's summer! 



Five New-to-Me Things I'm Loving



Every once in awhile I feel like I've hit the jackpot on finding items that I either love lots or make my life easier (which makes me love them). Here are a few things I've picked up lately that I'd thought I'd share. It's the little things!

1. Justin's Almond Butter, Maple (individual packets)- I've been picking these up lately for lunch. Yes, lunch. Along with a piece of fruit and maybe a granola bar they're quick, packed with protein, healthy fats, and simple ingredients. I've been trying to get back on track lately, and they've been a good choice. I do feel guilty about the packaging, I admit. 

2. Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls- An old friend mentioned how she uses these and some lavender essential oil instead of dryer sheets or fabric softener, and how they've reduced her drying time. She was right! I also love that in the long run they save money and are a much more natural, eco-friendly, alternative. 

3. Munchkin Miracle 360 Sippy Cup- I love these for Sawyer! We're basically done with bottles (minus one at day care for the next few days) and I, personally, agree with dentists that regular sippy cups aren't the best for little teeth (granted we do have some, and do use them sometimes). I searched for an alternative and these are awesome. They teach him to drink from a regular cup but restrict the flow and leak less. 

4. The Starbucks App- Since having Sawyer and going back to work I've rekindled my love of coffee. I usually make iced coffee at home, but I've hitting Starbucks Sunday mornings as a treat before I go grocery shopping. Lately I've been going once more a week, due to total and complete exhaustion and forgetting to brew my own at home. The app is so convenient and I love earning free stuff. I'm a total, total sucker.

5. The Body Shop Hemp Foot Protector- The combination of walking around my house barefoot, having dry skin to begin with, and running trashes my feet. I'm always on the lookout for great foot cream that doesn't leave a weird residue on my hands and works to reduce my "Hobbit feet" condition (an old boyfriend said I had Hobbit feet. At the time I thought it was sort of a dick move, but now that I'm older, wiser, and give less shits about things like that I can admit that he was right). 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hi! I apologize for the lack of pictures and proofreading. So busy. 

1. We have book club today in order to discuss The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. My official verdict: overrated. Not bad, but not great. I've been feeling people out and I think we're going to have a really wide spectrum of opinions. I hope people aren't afraid to speak their minds and explain their opinions; I think that sometimes it's easier to discuss books that not everyone can agree on. Nonetheless, it's always a pleasure to meet with colleagues, eat good food, and catch up outside of work.

2. Tonight is also graduation (so I work until noon, since it's finals, go to the department book club, pick up Sawyer, run home, hand him off to my MIL and hope that he is cool since he's been having some mild separation issues lately, and then go back to school). I don't have many seniors this year, so I signed up to work as an adjunct duty. I love graduations, especially at our school. They keep it relatively short and it's just so nice to see the kids feel so accomplished. There are some that are on their way to Ivy League schools, and then some that barely scraped by this semester. Nonetheless, they all made it! And it's awesome to see the families there, so excited for their seniors. It's a happy occasion and it's a pleasure to be a part of it.

3. This article on tips to be more efficient was a nice reinforcement of many things I already do and a reminder to get with the program on others.

4. I got the Starbuck app. Oops.

5. I read an article the other night (I can't find it now, dammit), while trying to put Sawyer back to sleep, about a man that talked about why he won't let his kids cry-it-out. It was worded so perfectly, and articulated my struggles clearly. But basically, bottom line, I personally (key word) can tolerate being tired so that my kid doesn't learn to accept that I'm not going to be there for him in the middle of the night when he needs me. He also raised a point about the first year or two not really being about discipline, but about creating a foundation. Again, this is me personally; if my kid was up every two hours, every night, for months on end I may be singing a totally different tune (one set to the screams of my kid learning how to frigging sleep). 

6. I love love love that Old Navy is selling Pride shirts. There is so much bigotry going on right now, especially with the Caitlyn Jenner story, so it's nice to see a huge company be supportive of different groups. ETA: I guess they've always done this, I've never seen. Even better! 

7. Yesterday I received the Anthro, Sur La Table, and Atheltica catalogs in one day. Talk about temptation! 

8. Can anyone recommend a good iced coffee maker?

9. Confession: I ordered tanning hearts for the summer instead of dealing with finding a bathing suit with cutouts. They were like $4. My husband said I'm acting like a teenager. I said- well, I won't say what I said.

10. One student day. One work day. Two meeting days. Si se puede. 

May Reviews

[source]
May was full of lots of stuff I don't remember. I know  there was grading, FitBit challenges, ice cream making, and.... other things? Nonetheless, I finished a few books, but none of which I was very enthralled by. Next month will be better. 

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
331 pages
I started off being very amused by this book about an atheist dentist who is frustrated after someone has created a website referencing obscure Bible passages for his practice. But then things got sort of philosophical and annoying- we went round and round with the dentist about his love for baseball, his hatred for his religion, his difficulties with women, his non-desire, but desire, to fit in with others, and his gradual identity-crisis.

Verdict: I went into this book optimistic, but I have to be honest when I say I just really didn't like it. It's not that it was bad, because Ferris writes well and I'd give him another shot, I just didn't care for this novel.

Home by Toni Morrison
145 pages
This is the short story about a man traveling to his sister, whom he had taken care of their whole life until he left for the war. She is very ill after working for a doctor who did gynecological experiments on her, after escaping their home town. 

Verdict: Who doesn't have high standards for Toni? I mean after Beloved and The Bluest Eye we just expect a certain level of writing and story from her, right? Unfortunately, I think Home fell short, lacking developed characters and even a hint of magical realism from back in the day.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd*
354 pages
This quick read was for book club, the story of two character, Sarah a rich white girl with abolitionist tendencies, and her slave, Headstrong. The story spans decades, as the two grow together and apart, all the while maintaining some connections. The book tackles slavery, feminism, religion, and the Southern infrastructure, flipping back and froth between the two women.

Verdict: I hate to say it, but this book really is nothing great; it's not anything that hasn't been done before, really. If "Oscar Bait" was a book, this would be it. A white woman who saves the day? The horrors of slavery? Family strife? A rich family with troubles? I just can't say anything about it was innovative or that the writing was anything special. And it bothered me there was a guy named Burke Williams, since that's a day spa chain down here in Southern California (unless he happened to be a founder, of course).

Postscript: I promise I am not a racist person who hates books about African Americans. I swear. I know two out of three of my books this month dealt with sensitive racial issues and I disliked both, but still. 

This reminds me of Jerry Maguire when Cuba's character makes Jerry scream "I love black people." 

This has gotten so off topic. Oh my. 

I love ALL people and ALL books about EVERYONE.

830 pages

*this book was provided to me for free by Penguin- thanks guys!  

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