June Reads

Ten books! I am pleased that I was able to meet my June goal this month, finishing my last two books on my last day (all of these are physical books read). I have gotten in the habit of reading two books at once, a fiction and a nonfiction usually, and that has proven to be a good method for me. Before I start, one of the nonfiction books I read this month I won't be discussing, just because it's on a topic that I don't feel like talking about here. 

I plan to write a post on this book soon, but I read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, which is about how the criminal justice system in the US unfairly treats black people and perpetuates a cycle of poverty and crime. It's very dense, so I found that reading 10-12 pages a day for a month was a really great way to absorb and digest the content. 

Two of the books I read this month were for separate book clubs I belong to, Isabel Allende's A Long Petal of the Sea and Emma Straub's All Adults Here. I enjoyed them both! Allende's was a sweeping look at two families that were influenced by the Spanish Civil War and then the regime changes in Chile. Like always, her books really focus on family, love, and identity. Straub's is also family-centric, but in a much different way. I have made the comment several times that it reminded me a little of The Gilmore Girls, which is a definite compliment. It's a quirky look at a family going through lots of changes in a small town, navigating their place in the world and their love for each other.

I have to admit that I was a little hesitant to read Elizabeth Gilbert's City of Girls, since I really haven't loved the other two books I read of hers. This one was much more enjoyable! I don't think she's necessarily a super literary writer, but, still, the story line was interesting and the main characters a delight. 

On the flip side, Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half  was stunning. She's a fantastic writer and her book explored race in such a unique way (two black twins are born in a black town that celebrates light skin; one twin identifies as black while the other passes as white). I learned a lot and just really appreciated Bennett's ability to craft a story.   

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier  and The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai were both quick, quirky, stories that I enjoyed. Pizza Girl  felt akin to reading an indie movie, the narrator a recent high school graduate that finds herself pregnant and employed as a pizza delivery girl. She befriends a mom she drops off a pizza to, while also figuring out what to do with the father of her baby. The Makkai book told the story of a librarian who ends up sort of kidnapping a young kid, but also vice versa. It's complicated and while it wasn't as good as her most recent novel, it was still super enjoyable.

Modern Love, a collection of essays about love, ended up being super charming and was sweet without being sappy. I ended up enjoying the non-romantic love stories more than those about marriage, but as a whole it was just a great read that made me hate people less.

Speaking of hate... don't get mad at me. I read Paolo Coelho's The Alchemist for the first time and I really, really did not like it. I appreciated the message and writing, but I just did not enjoy the actual story. I can see how it could be really meaningful for people, but it just wasn't my thing. It happens!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I don't consider myself a glimmering ray of sunshine, but I am also no Debbie Downer, either. I feel like I'm realistic and I try to look for silver linings. That being said, I think that alongside covid19, an epidemic of epic complaining is underway (and yes I get the hypocrisy of complaining about complaining). Some people have the right to complain, for sure, but I know SO MANY people who are just complaining because they feel the circumstances of the world are giving them carte blanche to just do so. 

2. Sawyer and I went to another new-to-us wilderness area this week, tucked away in the hills of Anaheim. It was really, really pretty and I really appreciated the diverse plants that were growing in the park. They didn't have a map, though, and cell phone service was spotty, so I was a little nervous in the beginning about getting lost. I was able to eventually get a bar of service and screen shot one and felt silly once I did, since all the trails were loops and none were more than about a mile. I wish we had been able to go on the trip I had planned this summer, but I am pleased I have been finding new places to explore locally.

3. Some friends came to visit last week and are coming again tomorrow. We just set up lawn chairs outside and are staying away from each other, so everyone feels safe and like we are following the advice of health experts. It's also really good practice for Sawyer, since he is used to hugging guests and being close to friends. 

4. I am starting daily July challenges for my students on my teacher Instagram page as a way to start really prepping for the 2020-2021 school year. We aren't sure what it's going to look like yet, but I have always felt that my connections with students has been one of my strengths. These days educators have to look for new was to build bridges, and if it means having my new juniors send me pictures of their pets one day or play "would you rather" games so be it. 

5. I have decided that buying a small Class C RV is on my list of goals for the next 5-6 years. Owning one right now seems like such a jackpot situation- you can just pack up, drive off, and BOOM! Instant vacation. I have spent quite a bit of time researching them, and I feel like if I can save a certain amount and also finish paying off my student loans this might actually be something I can afford. I could technically go and do it right now, but I despise monthly payments and am currently not really sure about how much my childcare costs are going to run when we go back to school. I am really nervous about driving one, but when the virus eases up my mom and I have a tentative plan to rent one and take a trip. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I had my yearly well-woman exam the other day... over the phone. Ha!

2. Sawyer and I are starting a fun little project for part of his school review time that we do most days- he is writing letters to characters from books he loves. To start things off he did one to Hagrid today, complimenting him on his dragon and asking about the itchiness of his beard. There are so many skills- letter writing format, spelling, writing different kind of sentences, reading comprehension, and art when he draw a picture. 

3. I head Laurie Santos, a psychologist, on The Armchair Expert talking about happiness and was so excited to hear she has her own show, The Happiness Lab. I listened to one episode yesterday about creating good habits and I really liked the practical advice of her and her guests. I can't wait to listen to more! They're in the 25-45 minutes range, which is perfect. 

4. People are always surprised to hear the types of audiobooks that I listen to- mysteries, self-help, memoirs, etc... I never want to listen to something that I think is of a higher quality, since I rather read it!  That being said, I just finished Then She Was Gone  by Lisa Jewell and the first 2/3 was pretty good, the last 1/3 when they were tying things up a little predictable and forced. I just started Tarryn Fisher's The Wives and it's fairly entertaining. 

5. Our friends from out of the state are out staying with their family and are coming over for a socially-distanced visit in our front yard tomorrow. I'm excited! New faces! At my house! 

6. Masks! I have worn them in places where I can't social distance from the beginning and originally made some of my own. Now that Sawyer and I are going to more parks and trails I want to have some for him, just in case we find ourselves in a situation where he needs one (plus he might have to wear one when he goes back to school in the fall and needs to get used to it). The biggest problem I have found with him is getting the elastic loops to stay on his ears, so I ordered one from Vista Prints- it is super soft, cute and the ears have adjustable locks. The only problem is that they're $14 a pop! I ordered some little silicon tubes that fit over the elastic as well, so I plan on making him some more and using those, too. 

7. Earlier this week we went to a wilderness preserve nearby and hiked around for almost two hours in the morning. It was beautiful! It's a thirty minute drive from my house, which isn't bad at all and there are enough people around so that you fairly safe, but you also don't really cross paths either. Perfect!

8. One of good friend's moms passed away from Covid19 the other evening, after a valient, rough battle with it. Please wear your masks, stop having get togethers, and be smart about where you're going. No one is too special to follow community health protocols. This isn't political, we aren't turning into a "socialist country," and just because you think you're strong enough to withstand it doesn't mean you are, or the people you live with are.

9. I've had to really practice responding with grace lately and it's really, really hard. Oh, Covid19, you really are character building. 

10. I started my 2020 year-in-review book yesterday and it's going to be the strangest one yet! I am so lucky we did so much in January thru mid-March. I am looking forward to doing the stay-at-home times, just because I know in a decade I might not remember how odd this time of our life was (at least I hope I'm not dwelling on it...). 

What I've Learned from the Last Three Months of Social Isolation

I will admit my privilege before I even begin this post, just because I know I am fortunate to have my job, home, health, and amazing son. I also know that I only have one kid, which is far easier than having multiple on many levels (but also really tough because he relies on my for all of his basic needs being met and companionship). That being said, this has been the hardest period of my life for obvious reasons, and others. We all have our stuff, right? Again, I feel like a jerk confessing this, considering so many fortunate aspects to my life, but it's the truth. That being said, there have been bright spots and I have learned a lot, some serious and some more trivial. In true-to-me nature, there's a LONG RAMBLING list:

If you really want to be connected to your friends you'll find a way. Zoom, Facetime, House Party, Marco Polo, texts, calls, etc... all work! They aren't the same, but they're better than nothing and often more convenient. There are friends I think I actually talk to more now that before! How awesome is that? This has definitely been a reminder that I need  my friends and am super fortunate to have the ones that I have. I have a standing happy hour late every Friday night, another one every-other-Mondayish, am in two book clubs, Marco Polo one friend multiple times a day, plus all the other random forms of communication. I am slowly getting to add in socially distanced outdoor visits with friends, but it's definitely not the same as getting to sit across from them at lunch or getting coffee. But still- I feel good about my social efforts. 

I go through a lot of scented candles when I am home. 

Mandatory rest-time for my child is absolutely necessary and good for us both (he does not rest; this is the original intent, but it has morphed into "be quiet and stay in your room until your alarm goes off"). I know I mention this all the time, but I don't care. 

There is a correct balance of social media consumption; I haven't quite found it. Too much leads to wasted time, not liking people I didn't actually realize I disliked so much, and emotional drained. Too little and I feel disconnected and isolated.

News is best read once or twice a day. It changes a lot, but the change in and of itself is predictable. Also, I have had to learn to remind myself a million times a day to remember headlines are just click-bait and not to worry when I see "Expert's dire warning of xyz," as it may actually  be applicable to something 500 miles away. On that note, I hate paywalls. 

There are people I find to have, shall we say, "really toxic auras," and I've had to do a lot of blocking, muting, etc... On that note, it has been a good exercise in empathy. Are they being a huge ridiculous pain because that's actually who they are? Or are they lonely? Stressed? Scared? It's hard and admittedly not always my go-to way of interpreting social media posts, but it's been a good way to stretch. 

My son is an absolute gem of a person (despite the fact that I do in fact need breaks from him). He has had his whole little world turned upside down and he still wakes up smiling, over-the-moon excited when he's surprised with the occasional glass of chocolate milk, and ready to draw a million pictures a day. He has made so much progress with his reading, talks pretty much every waking moment, and has become excellent at folding towels. He is the best part of every single day and this is more bearable because he's with me. 

Exercise is the only way I've been able to survive this, in terms of keeping my sanity. We take a long walk in the morning, usually close to an hour, I have started doing more and more yoga in the afternoons, and I often run or do an incline walking session after Sawyer goes to bed, or before dinner. There are things that have brought my some incredible anxiety (I know, I'm not the only one) and exercise has always been my form of therapy. It also helps tire me out so I can sleep at night. 

Despite limitations, I have still had to plan things to look forward to. Now that we are able to add some parks and trails in the mix I am trying to use that as the carrot I need dangled in front of me, as well as any sort of social interaction I can get. I still treat weekdays as more structured time, including getting up and ready at a normal hour, having my son do some review work, creating schedules for myself, etc... Weekends I get to sleep a little bit later and Saturdays I try to not do any boring home projects or extra domestic stuff. In the past I relied on time away from home with Sawyer as a break and for fun, and it's admittedly been a bit crippling to not be able to do that anymore. I spend a lot of time outside in the backyard too... I don't know. It's just really hard. I'm not sitting here lamenting not being able to like go to Fiji or something, but... yeah. I'm still trying, though, to have those things to work through the hard times for, as creative as I have to be (a new recipe to bake? Take out on Saturday nights? Sneaking out while Sawyer has his screen time at night so I can walk and call my mom? Ordering something? All of this). 

I have to take responsibility for my own happiness. This isn't just a social-distancing thing, of course, but this time has been a huge reminder of that.  We are all going to have our own narrative when we look back on this time and so far I can say that I've struggled, but I've worked hard to make it the best that I can, for both me and Sawyer. There are days where I feel like I should get a trophy for getting up and getting Sawyer his morning bagel-cereal combo or a medal for keeping the house clean and dinners made, but no one is going to thank me or send accolades. And it's not even that I need that much validation, it's just that sometimes doing the same thing over and over again doesn't really feel like auto-pilot, it feels exhausting. Luckily, after a walk and coffee I'm able to rally and knock out my to-do list, play with my kid, etc... But, again, it's on me. I listen to the Armchair Expert and they talk about having a list of things to do when you feel that happiness slipping away; it's my job that I use it to control how my day goes.  

I don't want to do house projects. I mean, who does, really, but I seriously don't feel like re-caulking the shower, touching up paint around the garage door or back cement wall, steam cleaning the carpets, or deep cleaning every room in the house (those are the things I had planned on). I mean, I will, hopefully, do all of these things before the summer is over, but I really don't want to. I also am very aware of my limitations as a homeowner- pardon my language, but I don't really know how to do shit. 

A One-Woman Anti-Racist Book Club

I have one major issue and one major prediction for the outpouring of support for Black Lives Matter and racial inequality in this county. The issue: so many performative allies. Post-post-post-post-post-post. But what are you doing? What is your call-to-action? The prediction? Americans, as a whole, have the attention spans of rats (like, you know, getting bored of being safe for a global pandemic after like five minutes) and I can see this becoming a passing phase for many. 

I don't want to be that person. I have tried to create my own call-to-actions every week, whether it's donating a few bucks to charity, working on the BLM embroidery hoops for my Etsy shop, reading books on my own, talking to my son about what's happening, or emailing elected officials (this is so, so, so easy, and I have found after sending Facebook messages to many local ones that I get quick, personable responses back within hours, including two police departments, a mayor's office, and an assemblyman). But who will hold me accountable to keep doing things?


And that's the thing, as non-black people we need to take a good, hard look at our track records of staying focused, disciplined, and to follow through. How many diets or work-out routines have you quit? How many friends or family members have you simple lost contact with because you couldn't be bothered to text? How many home projects have you not seen through until the end? And those things aren't even that important, in the scheme of things. I'd hope that something this significant and huge would maintain a strong hold on America, but when I look around, I just don't know.

And sure, you don't need to shout from the rooftops what you are doing. Does it hurt to mention it, to gently nudge the talkers into becoming doers? I don't think so. You don't need to screenshot your donation receipts or a video of you calling your mayor, but I think it can be motivating to people who need a kick-in-the-pants to act to see that their peers are out there actively trying to be a part of the solution. There's a difference between being showy and self-serving and encouraging. 

I can sit here and be pessimistic (or realistic?) about the fickle nature of my fellow countrymen, or I can take responsibility for myself. What I pledge to do each month:

- Make a donation to Southern Poverty Law Center or Campaign Zero
- Keep the dialogue open with my son
- Post links to relevant articles and podcasts on my Google Classroom page- I think I will start doing this on each Monday
- After fulfilling the orders for the BLM hoops on my etsy show I'll keep it going for those who are interested (I donate the profits to chartiy)
- Start my one-woman book club... keep reading!

The One-Woman Anti-Racist Book Club
Okay, fine, this isn't really a true book club, since it's just me. But I want to make sure I am reading at least one nonfiction or fiction book a month that is by a black author. I went back through my records and in 2019 I read ten. This year I want to read twelve or more, and from this month forward I plan to post here about it, focusing on what I learned, applicable quotes, and more about the author. 

There was a hashtag going around twitter recently about how much authors made for their book advances, at the discrepancies between white authors and BIPOC was clear- using our voices as readers and bloggers is one way to highlight books that deserve more attention (while learning how to be better allies ourselves). 

I read a few posts lately from black authors who are reminding readers to not just read nonfiction accounts that are strictly about race; to paraphrase one (sorry, I don't remember the source) she  said that we need to read about the everyday lives of black people that show them falling in love, getting annoyed at their kids, having careers, etc... So my goal is to read a variety of books! 

I just finished my first one, Brit Bennett's newest, and will post about it next week.

I hope that everyone will join me in finding some sort of way to act, not just post or talk, about making America a place.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. Whelp, the school districts here in Southern California are starting to unveil their plans for next school year and so far it seems they want to go back to a full, physical return, on the scheduled start date. I have extremely, extremely mixed feelings and I see both sides. On one hand, distance learning was a band aid and we all tried really hard, but yet there wasn't a ton of new content being learned. I am eager for my son to start his new school and be around kids again, even if it's a totally new socially-distanced way. I can't wait to teach in front of kids and be able to leave the house every day, as well. BUT. Covid19 is increasing and people are still dying (I have four different friends who have had family members diagnosed with it or die, recently). It's simply not safe for at-risk educators and students to return the classroom, and something needs to be in place for these people.  I know teachers who have been directly impacted by this virus and their concern about returning is real and should be acknowledged. I have absolutely no patience for the lack of empathy I have seen from some people regarding this issue and I hope that after some growing pains problems can be worked out.

2. While we're on this topic, the governor has mandated masks mandatory in the state. THANK GOODNESS. It angers me so much how people want everything to open fully back up, but they're not willing to compromise with something incredibly easy and helpful. Research has shown that wearing masks can reduce the rate 60-80%, which is HUGE. This issue has really shown the true colors of some people- how are people so entitled and selfish that they think they're somehow exempt from a COMMUNITY health issue? I hate masks- I am claustrophobic, I have horrible year-round allergies, and a patch of dermatitis that I struggle with on my chin as is. BUT I STILL WEAR MINE INDOORS AND HAVE ONE READY TO WEAR WHENEVER I LEAVE ME HOUSE. Fine, you're so mad at the government for telling people what to do, blablabla. This is bigger than you and your pride. Go have your moments of teenage rebellion when people aren't dying. Wear your damn mask. Bedazzle it. Buy lots to match all of your outfits. Write "F--- Gavin Newsom" on it if you want. Whatever. Just wear it.

***The venting portion of today's post is now over, thanks***

3. Good news: the DACA ruling! I have had so many students over the years that this effects, so I was so exited to see the decision this morning.

4. Good news: I was able to go to my friend's house a few days ago for a socially-distanced visit in her back yard, for the first time since the beginning of March. I usually see my friends a few times a month, so this was such a welcome return to something that seemed normal. We were probably 10-12 feet away from each other the whole time and it was safe, practical, and I can't wait to go again (and yes, I had my mask in my purse in case something happened and we had to huddle up... like... an injury? Earthquake? Ha! But seriously, I did). 

5. Good news: Sawyer and I have also started in hot-and-heavy on the park circuit, now that we are able to leave our neighborhood. We have gone to a few nearby, and then two others in Orange County. One, Carbon Canyon, I had never been to before, and they have a grove of the only coastal redwoods in this part of the state. It smelled like Yosemite. (And, yes, again, I carry masks, gloves, and sanitizer in my bag). 

6. Good news: tonight I have a book club meeting, which is with two friends. We read Emma Straub's All Adults Here and I really enjoyed it. If you want to read something that feel like it's set in Star's Hallow, this is your book. Was it perfect? No, but was it a great summer read that made me happy? Yes. 

**** The good news portion of today's post is now over, balance achieved***

7. I am staring out my son's bedroom window right now at a large tree that is probably two years overdue for a trim. The guy who does our lawn gave me a quote and it is totally, totally reasonable, but I, to be honest, I just don't want to spend $350 on a tree haircut. I want to spend $350 on books, back-to-school dresses, or more cheap sunglasses/bathing suits/coverups from Target.

8. I think I wrote about falling in the pool two weeks ago, but in case I didn't, I fell in the pool two weeks ago. I hit my shin really hard on the cement pool/spa divider on the way down and while I don't have pain when I walk now, something is still wrong and I can barely run. It seems the pain has sort of morphed down from the upper shin/knee region into the ankle as a whole. It's lovely. 

***The whining portion of today's post in now over***

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. In the next few days I will be writing a post on how I plan to take actionable steps to be a better ally. It's one thing to say things, but we have to do more as well. I already have a few things in the work, but I want to be more deliberate and consider the SMART Goal approach. I am so tired of all of these brands and social media influencers (neither of which am I) making these sweeping gestures. 

2. There is SO MUCH controversy in California regarding what it will look like when schools open in a few months and I would be lying it I said it didn't stress me out. I am trying to breathe through it, recognize and respect all opinions, and remember everyone is going to have a lot to logistically handle. No one is going to be happy, end of story. I hope to whoever that we can get a viable vaccine by the end of the first semester so we can feel a little bit better (but that's a conversation for a different day...) 

3. I am currently reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. They're both challenges in their own way, which I'll discuss when finished.

4. Are you on Goodreads? Is there an option to record books secretly, so that they count towards your challenge but aren't broadcasted for everyone to see? I'm reading a self-help sort of book that I don't want everyone to necessarily see, but I want to count, dammit. If there isn't a way, I'll just say I've reread something already on my "read" shelf, I guess. 

5. I miss having a dog, but I don't miss taking care of one, nor do I want to train a puppy. But DAMN, every time my son starts talking about Huckleberry, which apparently it will be called, I start feeling guilty and a tiny bit wistful. He's all locked up without a sibling, I could get a dog... but I also don't feel like having something constantly watch... cords... toys... furniture... all that peeing and chewing. I know we could get an older dog, but we are partial to getting them as puppies so we can train them (we have had two amazing dogs that we got around three months and both passed away in 2018).

6. As I write, Half Baked Harvest's Southern Double Crusted Cinnamon Sugar Peach Cobbler is cooling on my counter and Samin Nosrat's Buttermilk Chicken, from her cookbook, is roasting in my oven. We'll be eating well tonight! 

7. Sawyer and I have slowly started reentering society, by way of parks. Basically, that's going to be the story of the summer- how many parks and wilderness areas can we go to? I am also going to slowly start social distancing dates with my friends again- thank goodness! I have been cooped up with two males for nearly three months... I need some girl time. I have been fortunate enough to have some amazing happy hours with a few friends quite often, but nothing replaces in-person bonding. 

8. What I really want is to go to Yosemite. It's not happening this summer, and I get a little teary when I think that it's opening soon and I won't get to be there, but maybe in late October or November, before the snow, Sawyer and I will be able to sneak up for a long weekend (we have gone every spring break for the past four years, three of those trips just he and I, so canceling this year's was very sad for me). 

9. I went to the downtown area in nearby Riverside and walked around by myself the other afternoon (in the 96 degree heat) to see the artwork left behind on the preventative plywood businesses put up before the protests. I think there is talk of saving everything for a local museum, which I hope happens (see one picture above).

10. A friend and I are putting together some fun activities to do with our kids via Zoom this summer. They've at three sharing days a week (jokes, toys, etc...) but we're going next level now. This week my friend is teaching the kids how to make slim tomorrow! We're doing some stuff with empathy, science, and art too. 

Anti-Racism Embroidery Hoops

I have always tried to provide some financial support for The Southern Poverty Law Center, ever since the last presidential election. I won't sit here are pretend they're going to be naming wings in their central offices after me or anything, but I have tried to give some when I can. 

I wish I could give more. And not just to them, but to so many groups fighting racism and unjust behavior. 

After a lot of thinking, I decided I could give some of my time and skills. I was stitching some embroidery hoops for my classroom and decided I could use that as a way to help.

Each of the two hoop designs are $20, with 100% of the profit going to one of four charities on the drop down menu when you look at the product. $10 goes to shipping and supplies and then $10 will then be donated to the charity in your name. Emails will be sent confirming the donation within 48 hours of the purchase. 

I think I am about 75% sold out of the inventory I posted, and once I get those made I will open it back up to more, if there is a need (I just want to be realistic about how fast I can stitch!).

If you're interested, here's the link! I can also do other quotes of similar sentiment if desired- just message me through Etsy!  

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts- Anti-Racism Recs

When it comes to teaching people about anti-racism, white privilege, and the horrific inequality in this nation things get tricky. It's not the responsibility of black people to teach people how to do something they should automatically do. I also think most, if any, white people are equipped to teach on these topics either. We have to be thankful and willing to listen when BIPOC do speak out and we also have to look inside and share what we, as white people, have learned and share (and be willing to accept criticism when are wrong). 

For me, I feel most equipped to disseminate knowledge through sharing the knowledge of others, through books. I also have come up with a few ways to counter-argue certain lines of thinking, since I think a lot of people do well with analogies:

For the BLM Movement:
Argument: "But all lives matter!"
Counterargument: "Yes, they do, but we're not looking at issues that effect ALL lives, we're looking at how injustice effects BLACK lives. You're not going to show up at a breast cancer fundraiser and cause a scenes because people aren't donating to color cancer or lung cancer or leukemia, are you?"

For white privilege:
Argument: "I don't feel privileged! I have had to deal with ______!"
Counterargument: "I get it, I know we all have obstacles. But, think about your obstacles and consider having to work even harder than you do to get around them, because of something you have no control over. Your whiteness is something you didn't necessarily choose, but it still often provides you with an advantage. It's like people who are born tall; it's not something they asked for, but it puts them at an automatic advantage to do a lot of things! And because of this privilege of height they should help short people."

For acting entitled to racial education from black people:
Argument: "If they want me to change they should tell me how to!"
Counterargument: "You don't know how to be a good human? How to be fair? How to recognize your bias? As a feminist I don't think I should have to tell a grown-ass adult how to treat women fairly, they should know how. If you need more information there are tons of websites and books out there."

Hey! Speaking of books! These are taken from my instagram stories, so there are lots! The original order also got all out of whack, but they're all here. I have ordered a few more and have a few that I haven't read yet, but here are ones I have read and can recommend! 

May Reads

I read a lot in May- I needed to escape and I needed perspective! I was split in terms of fiction and nonfiction, which was surprising to me. I already wrote about the Glennon Doyle books here, but here are my thoughts on the rest:

Quickly, I'll gloss over The Scarlet Letter, but Nathaniel Hawthorne, because I've read it before many times (I teach it), and I'm sure most people reading this have as well. It can be a slog to get through and it wasn't a great book to teach via distance learning with a group of seniors who had one foot out the door, but I did my best.

I had always meant to read Flowers for Algernon, but it had always  slipped through the cracks. It was fascinating to see how intelligence, or lack of, was written about during the 1950s, but also just the obvious thematic questions surrounding intellect versus morality. 

We read The Glass Castle by Emily Saint John Mandel for book club, and I really enjoyed it. It was a little hard to get into at first, but once I did I couldn't put it down. I thought she did some really wonderful things stylistically, but she the story was also fascinating (a Ponzi scheme, appearance vs reality, loss, etc...) 

Quiet was an interesting look at introverts, examining them from cultural, social, business, and historical perspectives. I usually split the  total on all of the introvert/extrovert tests, which makes total sense to me, since on one hand I love being social and busy, but I also carve alone time. She had some really interesting things to say about teaching introverts, which I could use in my classroom.

The two stars of the shower were Lily King's Writers & Lovers and Sue Leaf's Portage, one a novel and one a sort of memoir. King's story of a struggling writer who waitresses and is involved in a love triangle sounds overdone, but I promise, her writing style and the development of the characters put this in a class of itself. I could see it possibly hitting my top ten list for the year! And the same with Portage, Leaf's book discussing her numerous canoeing trips with her family. I know it sounds sort of niche, but her writing is beautiful and it will make you want to run out and get lost in nature.


I hope June is better personally and for the country. I feel such an overwhelming sense of disappointment in people, some of which I know, some of which I do not. There's just such a lack of concern for others, whether that means wearing a mask in public without constant complaining or respecting race and holding police accountable. I'm disappointed, deeply, in our country's leadership... so many things are wrong right now and we virtually have no leader. People are dying from Covid-19 and people are dying because of the color of their skin (STILL! HOW?) and it's just so appalling. 

There are so many things that we can do, depending on our resources. The main things I do I will list below. I hope that everyone can be kind, open-minded, will listen, and will be safe

1. Donate money to charities that help; I have been a long-time supporter of the Southern Poverty Law Center. I can't donate a lot, but if everyone donate a little it will add up.
2. I verified out city's usage of body cams with my local rep (I was really pleased that he replied quickly, politely, and also forwarded me our police department's statement on what happened)
3. I talk to my son about current events, in an age-appropriate way
4. I bring it into the classroom when I am teaching
5. I listen. I don't expect anyone to educate me.
6. I try to educate myself through reading.
7. I vote.

Is this enough? No. But I definitely do more than just post infographic after infographic and meme after meme. 

What You Should Read this Summer- Ten Suggestions

This summer will undoubtedly look different for most people,  myself included. Hopefully that means more reading for us all! I know a lot a of people like to take a break with "easier" reads, while some people opt to take on challenges during time off, depending on your work situation. I've got you covered! Here are some suggestions for your time in the sun, by the water, or in inside in the AC:

Craving an adventure but can't take one?
Portage: A Family, a Canoe, and the Search for the Good Life by Sue Leaf
I finished this recently and absolutely loved it. I have never been canoeing, but her stories from time on various rivers, mostly in the Great Lakes area, were absolutely captivating. There's something about the mood she creates and her passion for rowing that is contagious. I looked forward each day to escaping to the backyard to read, feeling almost uncomfortable reading it indoors. 

Want something literary, but not something to complicated?
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
This book about a struggling writer who waits tables who ends up in a love triangle sounds may sound a little like an overdone trope, but I promise King delivers. An extremely talented writer, King will have you so invested in the main character by the end that you are on the edge of your seat hoping for her success. I've heard people compare it to Sweetbitter, which I can see (although I thought this was even better).

Need something distracting and fun? 
Nothing to See Here  by Kevin Wilson
Wilson is one of the quirkiest, fun, talented writers of our day and this book is a shining example of this. The main character is hired by an old fried to take care of her steptwins, who burst into flames when emotional. Yup, you read that right.

Want an outstanding memoir?
Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl
This story of the previous editor of Gourmet magazine was absolutely captivating. She talks about the publishing industry, working during 9/11, food, and her time after. It was a stellar memoir from beginning to end and I need to get my hands on some of her other writing

Feeling nostalgic for your youth?
Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of the '80s and '90s by Gabrielle Moss
This book is a full-color text that talks about the books from most of our youths- Sweet Valley High, Baby Sitter's Club, RL Stine, etc... It's tongue-in-cheek, but also provides some interesting sociological perspectives, looking at what sort of things teen girls gravitate towards.

Want a modern take on The Handmaid's Tale?
The Farm by Joanne Ramos
While of course Atwood's will always be the OG when it comes to reproductive servitude, this book about a corporation that has a compound for women who are paid to have babies for wealthy women who can't conceive (or don't want to). The protagonist ends up as one of the pregnant women there, questioning the entire system.

Still all up in that quarantine cooking frenzy?
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat
I read this book cover-to-cover, learning so much about how ingredients work together and how to be a more intuitive cook. The drawings are adorable, the recipes I have tried excellent, and her writing voice personable.

Stuck at home with your kids and want to improve your parenting skills?
The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go so Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey
I loved this book as a parent and a teacher and while I think a lot of it were things I was already doing, it helped me better verbalize why. Kids need to struggle and really sharpen their problems solving skills, but a lot of people tend to just help kids too much through the hard things. I remember when Sawyer was learning to dress himself and I would let him cry through battling putting on his shirt the right way, and, guess what? He learned. Recently when he was doing a hard puzzle and getting frustrated I had to remember this, too. Currently he is crying because he doesn't remember how to spell "was" and I won't tell him. We need to let our kids fail so that they can really feel success. 

Want to examine gender roles? 
The Power by Naomi Alderman 
We read this for book club a few months ago and it was fascinating. The author imagines a world where young women develop this sort of electric power that they use to take over the world. But, when things go wrong the reader is left questioning power constructs and gender. 

Need more fuel to fire up your desire to act for social justice/against racism?
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
This book about a boy's detention center in the south post-Jim Crow will break your heart. Coupled with a look at the lack of justice and his superb writing, Whitehead has written yet another book that will make you questions America and how we treat people of color.

Happy reading! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. We are doing a drive-thru graduation and I get to go tomorrow- I am so excited. They have spread it out over four days to keep things safe and to eliminate bottle-necked, and it has gone well so far. The only problem is the heat, but that's so typical of this area- the week of graduation is super hot and than it cools down right after. ALWAYS.

2. I keep forgetting that they turned Sally Rooney's Normal People into a show. I respect her work but feel a little, I guess, old, when I read her writing (Conversations with Friends, too). I've heard nothing but good things about this one, though, so I guess I'll have to add it to the list that's already a million miles long.

3. Sawyer obviously isn't having a kindergarten graduation, so I am throwing one here at home for him on Friday, with just us. It's silly, but it's fun to have reasons to celebrate! We have started getting takeout again (ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod it's so nice to not have to cook every single meal, even if it's just one dinner off a week), so I am going to get donuts, I bought him a little cap and gown and will bake a cake (yes, celebrations yield a lot of sugar). He has been talking about having his own Fitbit for ages, and since we do so much walking, I bought him the kid's version for a gift (I know, I know, it's a little crazy but, again, it's nice to have reasons to celebrate).

4. Let's stop for a second. Pause. I need to stop breaking the habit I did in number three: apologizing and justifying and explaining. So what? I want to have a kindergarten graduation for my kid that no one is attending. So what? I want to use the money I earn to buy my not-spoiled-hardworking-kid a gift. Why do I always, always, always feel the need to explain? I always feel like someone is out there, questioning how I spend my money, my time, my energy, and chances are no one cares. And if they do care? Like.... why? And why do I need explain myself to this person who is judging me? Really, this isn't a huge issue on the blog, but on social media and in real life. 

5. Do you have an air fryer? I am passionately in love with mine. Seriously. I use it probably four or five times a week, whether to make a main dish for dinner or something quick for lunch. My friends are starting to make fun of me, since I'm always posting things I make on my stories, but, whatever, they're just coping the best they can with their jealousy. It's a magical little machine that is worth every penny.

6. Today is my younger brother's birthday and I miss him so much- he moved to Kansas last October(ish), after living an hour or two away from me. He is always up for anything- he's gone to get pedicures with me, to yoga, hiking up Half Dome, anything. I was pretty opposed to visiting him there, but I've reconsidered and might have to do a road trip out at some point. There are lots of cool places in between- Zion, Colorado, etc...

June Goals

I used to do this monthly, create a list of goals here to hold myself accountable. I got away from it for whatever reason, but I think this time where I am transitioning from highly structured days of distance teaching my students and homeschooling my own first-grader to the abyss of summer break. I have lots and lots of things I want to do, but I'm trying to limit it to fifteen or less.

1. Redo the caulk in the master shower- Yes! Let's start off with something super glamorous! This has been on my to-do list since November when we had a dripping valve replaced and I've lagged big time. I've done it one other time, like six years ago, and it was a huge pain in the butt.

2. Read ten books- This will ensure that I am on track for my Goodreads goal. It might be a little lofty, but it really means about 100 or 150 pages of reading a day, which sounds doable.

3. Get caught up with my 2020 year-in-review book- I have a love hate with doing in, but I think now that I have a new laptop it will be a much easier process. My old MacBook hadn't been updated in eons and the whole process of uploading pictures was tedious.

4. Work on patching grass- Another incredibly fun project, but there are a few areas of our front lawn that need to be reseeded. 

5. Bake a cake from Christina Tosi's All About CakesI bought this on release day when it came out a year or two ago and still haven't made anything.

6. Finish a puzzle- My husband bought a 2000 piece Star Wars puzzle that we started in March and it's still sitting on the table, maybe 1/5 of the way done. 

7. Catch up with Etsy orders- I have a few in progress and a few in the queue. Thankful for the business!

8. Do fun enrichment projects with my son (but also keep progressing with reading and math skills): I'm a teacher, I can't help it. Plus he has made so much progress with all this one-on-one teacher-mom help, I don't want to lose it.

9. Keep engaging with my students onlineI toyed with "disconnect from work" for this one, but the truth is that I need to keep my incoming class at least slightly engaged in just the idea of IB, me, and literature. Nothing major, but a few posts on Google Classroom and my teacher Instagram account each week.

10. Get the backyard cleaned up a bit-  I need to take the covers off the furniture and rise it all off, repaint a few parts in our flowerbed walls that are peeling, etc... 

11. Work on writing- I know, I'm always claiming to want to be a writer and produce very little. I have an idea of how to sort of jump start myself, which I'll write about in a different post soon

12. Organize my laptop- When distance-teaching learning started I decided to replace my nine-year-old Macbook that I hated (I love my iPhone, but I am just too used to Windows). I had totally let my old computer go- the files were a disorganized mess and I never updated it, since it got to the point where it just... wouldn't. The end of the school year is the perfect time to clean it up.

13. More yoga- I have absolutely no problem getting between 12,000-16,000 steps a day, but I need more yoga in my life. It makes my joints feel better and my head clearer. I want to do ten sessions in June!

14. Set up a little sitting area in the master bedroom- I have been spending more and more time in my bedroom lately at night after Sawyer goes to bed and would like to make it look a little better. I took a rocker and foot stool from his room, since he never uses it, but I've been using an ugly lime green foot stool for balancing things. I just want to it feel like a relaxing little space. 

15. Stay on budget- I am really good at budgeting in general, but I am sometimes tempted to order things sometimes to cheer myself up (I am developing quite the Target cheap sunglasses collection). 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I am reading Susan Leaf's Portage right now and it is so good. Basically, it's just about a family's experiences canoeing, mostly on the northern Mississippi, which sounds sort of lame, but, honestly, it makes me so happy. It just proves that someone can write about moth balls if they've got talent. 

2. My Etsy custom-portrait option is starting to take off! So exciting! I opened the shop late-last summer and it has grown at the perfect rate for my life. I never planned to make a fortune or anything, but the proceeds have supported the hobby, haha.

3. I submitted senior grades a few hours ago, which was so... difficult. Difficult because some kids earned higher grades than they deserved, but the law is the law. Difficult because I miss them so, so much. Difficult because we don't know what next year will look like.

4. That being said, I have already reached out to my incoming juniors and have over a third of them signed up for next year's Google Classroom, just we can have some casual interaction over the summer. I just really put out the call yesterday so 50 of 146 is pretty good for a whole bunch of kids I don't know.

5. One more thing about work- I get to go in tomorrow! I'm so excited to get to go somewhere that isn't the grocery store or a take-out place! I also will get a few hours peace and quiet, which is also very, very exciting since that can be really hard to come by.

6. I've been watching Mindy Kaling's new show, Never Have I Ever while I work out and it's such a distracting, delightful little half hour. 

7. The baking bug has started to finally catch up to me- I made a boysenberry pie over the weekend, cookies yesterday, and I plan on doing homemade pizza tomorrow and these little bagel cream cheese bomb thingies in the air fryer soon, too. I also need to pick a recipe from Christina Tosi's cake book, since I bought it on release day and haven't made anything (I have from her other book, though, and everything requires tons of random stuff but it's so worth it).

Summer Activities for Early Elementary: Stay-at-Home Style

Oh, summer 2020. This one's going to be interesting...

Our past few summers have been pretty amazing- Sawyer and I have gone on trips (Banff in 2018 and the California central coast in 2019) and then rest of the time our weeks are full of fun activities and days where he is at school so I can have time to do my thing. I had saved and planned on a big (for us) trip, but clearly that's a no go, as is taking him to school, or going to our normal places (the jury is out on where we will get to go, but definitely not the same flexibility as before). So, here we are. Together. In the same house. Still. 

I like our days to have some structure, which is why we've been doing well spending huge chunks devoted to my work and his schooling. Our school years are both wrapping up, though, which is slightly terrifying, to be honest. I plan on still having him do some ELA and math skills practice for about an hour or so a day,  taking our daily long walks, and independent play time. I am a huge proponent of playing with your kid(s), but also of firmly setting boundaries and having them spend time without a parent directly engaging with them (safely, of course). He does about 75 minutes of "rest time" in his room every day, so we can both have some space (basically he can do whatever he wants as long as he cleans up and is safe), and I also sort of trade off when he's up- I'll play with him for thirty minutes, but then I want him to play alone after for awhile so I can read or whatever. This isn't to say this is the right way to do it, but for he and I it works. 

Given that, there will still be a lot of open time in our day, and I want to have some ideas of activities that are fun, different than the norm, and can be educational (obviously they don't have to be, I've just included easy ways to do for little kids). Between my own ideas, the internet, and things I've already done, I've put together a list of 25 options (my son in going into first grade). I've tried to not include much technology in this, since we don't do a ton of screen time. I personally hate background noise and I just feel like as long as I can prevent excessive ipad/videogame/TV time the better. It works for us. 

Feel free to use, adapt, share or ignore! I also included a list of Sawyer's favorite toys at the end, in case you want to spend some cash to keep your kids entertained.

1.  Recycled sculptures- Save random cardboard and plastic containers for a few weeks and then help your kid (if they can't do it alone) create a robot, a castle, a city- whatever their little imagination wants. Afterwards they can paint or decorate it, which can turn this project in a multi-day one, if desired. (make it educational: talk about shapes, mixing colors, bring in simple machine concepts for moving parts)

2. Tent time- playing is so much more fun in a tent, for whatever reason. If you don't have one, a two-person one is less than $40 and will last for lots and lots of play days. (make it educational: talk about the five senses while being outside,  discuss different plants or animals outside, read a camping story and discuss the sequence of the plot)

3. Mail call- People love getting fun mail, so create cards or letters for loved ones (make it educational: writing skills, penmanship)

4. Sidewalk Chalk Murals- Take your sidewalk chalk up a notch and make a family mural! I know, it sounds cheesy but we've had so much fun doing scenes from the desert, the ocean, and the movie Up. (make it educational: learn some facts about the animals you're drawing, practice sight words, do math problems, create an obstacle course for movement)

5. Collages- My son loves making collages, so I save my magazines and junk mail, for him (yes, I still get a few magazines to read on the treadmill). I have to admit, I like getting in on the action, too.  (make it educational- find pictures that start with a certain letter, create a scene connected to something you've learned about, write a a sentence about what you've made).

6. Story Creation- my son has started dictating stories to me that I type of up and print out so he can illustrate them (make it educational: discuss story parts like beginning/middle/end, characters, problem/solution, etc...)

7. Build a city- we take out all the blocks and building materials we have and make a huge city all over the largest room in our house. This takes time to make and then a lot of time to play with (make it educational: bring in some social studies and discuss what sort of buildings and services towns need, read  Iggy Peck Architect)

8. Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt-  there are so many printable ones online that you can use, or create your own. It took us over thirty minutes and was a great way to slow down and observe (make it educational: five senses, write about what you see and draw a picture)

9. Baking- My son loves to help me bake and at six he is actually a lot of help! And it doesn't have to just be baking; we've been practicing the ever-so-culinary PBJ. It's a great way for kids to feel involved, self-sufficient, and to contribute to the household (make it educational: measuring, counting, and even chemistry if you talk about how certain ingredients interact)

10. Puppet shows- There are so many fun puppets on Pinterest! I love the tried-and-true paper bag ones, but you can go crazy with socks, Popsicle sticks, or whatever else you have. Afterwards, either have an impromptu puppet show, reenact a favorite book, or create your script (make it educational: shapes, story structure, and problem/solution)

11. Drawing videos- There are so many drawing videos on Youtube (I know, this one defeats the no-screen idea, but we'll make an exception). I love the Art Kids Hub channel because the videos are less than twenty minutes, the directions are clear, the host is goofy, and the characters recognizable (make it educational: write a sentence about your character)

12. LEGO car balloon races- I saw this on a pin, but basically you construct little cars out of LEGOs, leaving a space where you could put the end of a balloon. The balloon is blown up, inserted into the space you left, and the car should take off as it deflates (make it educational: STEM skills for building different cars and testing their speeds and elements of physics) 

13. States of water experiments- My son is so mesmerized by the idea that ice is water, so we'll be doing some experiments with liquid, solids, and gases (make it educational: talk about what atoms are and how they are moving during the temperature changes and write a few sentences with illustrations)

14. Density/floating experiments- There are so many ways to do this, but the easiest is to fill up a tub or the bath and make predictions about what will float or sink. You can also make tin foil bats and predict how many marbles (or whatever) will take to sink the boat (make it educational: talk about density, work on the scientific process with hypothesis creating) 

15. Career day- Ask you child what they want to be and spend the day researching the career, role playing the profession, and maybe even finding someone who has that job to interview (make it educational: write about the experience, practice research skills)

16. Design your own ________ map- We have done this for lots of places; we designed an amusement park, an island, but have also made maps of places that actually exist. You can stick to basic coloring supplies, or incorporate paint, different materials, etc... (make it educational: learn the parts of a map, talk about what different community elements need, measurement)

17. Swimming skills- This will depend on your access to a pool, obviously, but my son is pretty scared of swimming (we have a pool). I will spend time this summer teaching him to hold his breath, kick, etc... 

18. Ice cream in a bag- We did this the other day and it was so much fun (I used the Martha Stewart recipe). It's just like you did it in elementary school- put some heavy cream and milk in a bag with some sugar and vanilla, seal it up, place it in a bag with ice and salt, and shake for ten minutes (make it educational: measuring, states of matter, five senses)

19. Teachers-Pay-Teachers- If you're ever stuck and are willing to spend a few dollars, this is a great resource. Sawyer really loves maps, for example, so I downloaded a really well-done activity packet and PowerPoint for less than $5 that provided probably 7 hours of learning.  

20. Paper towel/toilet paper/wrapping paper roll cities- I saw this somewhere and it was adorable- save rolls for a few weeks and then paint them into buildings (or even trees). When you're done you can add roads and reuse the set up in the future (make it educational: shapes, city parts) 

21.  Water toys- If you have space, you can have water play! I have found over the years my son will play with anything in the water- simple containers, kitchen tools, etc... Right now he really likes to use the Little People from when he was smaller and make boats for them (make it educational: sorting, water density with floating)

22. Bean bag toss- I am going to sew some simple bean bags and we are going to make our own cornhole game with old cardboard, since I don't have anyway of actually sawing wood. You could also do it with buckets or some other containers to toss in, which we will probably do too (make it educational: measure the distances that the bean bags are thrown)

23. Clay animal zoo- We have done this a little already, and it's super fun for both of us. There are lots of examples online, or you can just go with your own imagination. I plan on doing this slowly and then making a little diorama kind of zoo at the end (make it educational: learn about the animals that you are creating, take virtual tours of real zoos, work on measuring and shapes when making the structure)

24. Design your own board game- Using Candyland or Chutes and Ladders as a guide, create some sort of theme, board, and rules. It can be tiny or huge! Painted or drawn! There are so many options (make it educational: patterns, counting, sequencing, writing) 

25. Bedroom door decorations- We've been doing this for four or so years, but every couple of months Sawyer and I decorate his bedroom door. Sometimes it's seasonal, sometimes it's based on something he comes up with, sometimes it's something we've learned about (Make it educational: spring/summer door art based that can be paired with learning the butterfly cycle, marine animals, weather, etc...) 

Favorite Toys
1. Magnet blocks 
2. Marble run
4. Action figures of all varieties 
5. Drawing supplies
6. Scooter
7. Perler beads (the ones that you melt)
8. Play-Doh (pro tip: get a plastic table cloth and cut into fourths; every time you do something messy use it to easily clean up the mess)
9. Magic Tracks (bendable tracks with battery operated cars)
10. Puzzles
11. Jenga and Candyland
12. Sidewalk chalk
13. Water table (we have had it since he was two and he still plays with it)