May Reviews


Next month I will read more. Next month I will stop effing around on my phone while feeding Sawyer and will open a damn book. Next month...

The Last Letter from Your Lover by JoJo Moyes
416 pages
I already review this here.

Verdict: I think I'm done with Moyes.

Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas
320 pages
I already reviewed this one as well (combine: one part lazy, one part not wanting to be repetitive).

Verdict: I really enjoyed this travelogue/memoir of Ilgunas' journey to pay off his student loan debts. The book is thought-provoking, making you consider your own perception of debt, money, and how you want to live your life.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
320 pages
Darling is a young girl who lives in Zimbabwe during a time of extreme political turmoil. Her father dies from AIDS, her mother is often gone, and she roams the streets with her friends stealing papayas from the trees of the wealthy. She sees extreme violence and desperately wishes to move to America. Once she does, though, she realizes that it's definitely not what she hopes it would be (she lives in the poor neighborhoods of Michigan). 

Verdict: I appreciated Americanah more, but this was still impressive in it's own right. 

1056 pages

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up below!

This may be really short... Sawyer is entertaining his little self by staring at the lights in the bathroom where I change him but is probably going to self-combust shortly!

1. LeVar Burton is doing a Kickstarter to bring back an online version of Reading Rainbow! The incentives are truly awesome. 

2. The new special edition Oreos are Peanut Butter Cup. If the cookie dough sellout was any indication, I need to stock up asap.

3. We've started watching the new season of 24 on Hulu and it's actually pretty good! We were huge fans the first few seasons before it started getting a little too old, so the faster pace is refreshing.

4. My mom comes on Sunday for six days! I'm so excited! I have a few things, like graduation, happening next week, so it'll be nice to have her around to help out. She offered to take him for the night so I can sleep, as long as I pumped enough! I'm absolutely not doing that, but I thought it was so sweet of her to offer.

5. This article from The Onion on the Santa Barbara shooting is spot on.

6. These pictures (minus the sad monkey) are hilarious. Hello caption contest material.

7. I feel really bad about my dogs not swimming much and am probably going to let a few selected, trusted students come this summer (if they want) to use the pool, with the one stipulation that they throw the frisbee for the dogs occasionally and hang out with them while they dry off.

8. I was committed to doing the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington in February as my "first race back" (it will have been three years), but then heard about the RunDisney Star Wars on in January. I hate Disney, but love Star Wars and Disney races (so well organized). Decisions, decisions.

9. I assigned my students this cheesy "dictionary of me" (inspired by David Leviathan's The Lover's Dictionary) assignment as something easy after testing. I cannot believe how much some of them have gotten into it. I am so impressed! Their honesty, creativity, and kind words directed at me have left me a teary mess on my living room floor. These kids have been through so much, have such imaginations, and are just so awesome. Don't worry, there will be a sappy post next week in honor of their graduation.

10. I read an awesome book today, called Arthur's New Puppy. The character development was incredibly and the allegorical implications impressive. That moment at the end, where Arthur's family realizes the puppy had been hiding the key to the garage the whole time behind the bush came out of nowhere. Color me shocked.

I made it! The tiny human is still smiling and laughing at the bathroom light (I laid him down in "ohmygod I need food now hysterics" to change him and he's been there for over twenty minutes).

One Month Reflections

Disclaimer: Baby post. It's been awhile, so I'd thought I'd give an update on the reason why my blog posts have decreased!

Sawyer turned one-month-old yesterday and I'm torn between "ohmygod it's going so fast" and "holy crap, every day is slow and exactly the same, and I can't wait until you can play with LEGOS and go to the science museum with me" Before having him I accepted the fact that being a parent would be hard and the first six weeks would be excruciating. I don't think they've been as bad as I've thought, but here's a rundown:

Sleep, I miss you so! These days I'm lucky to get sleep in 2.5 hour blocks- a few times I've gotten three straight and it's been glorious. Sawyer has to eat every four hours at night (at first it was 2-3 when he was born, since he lost a bit of weight), although he generally can't go that long and wakes up himself. For example, he'll wake up at 3, I'll nurse him for thirty or so minutes, change his diaper, and then spend another ten or so getting him back to sleep. It was even longer, but I stopped supplementing with a bottle as much at night. I'm getting used to it, but the first week or two was brutal. Luckily he doesn't wake up cranky- there's very little to no crying at night, just big wide-open eyes.

I don't want to get too into it, but breastfeeding is hard. I've had some trouble in terms of producing enough, meaning I've had to give him a little formula (which I'm totally okay with) and have had to throw in some pumping session during the day to get things moving (which has worked some). I generally spend about seven or eight hours on feeding-related activities a day. The mental burden has been the worst part- if things had worked easily it would have been better, but I'm trying to go with it. Four weeks in things have gotten better, but I look forward to the day where I can hopefully cut the supplementing and extra pumping out. I'd like to commit to breastfeeding until he's six or eight months, but we'll see. All I know is that if someone else says "breast is best" to me I might punch them in the face.

I'm not going to lie- the first two or three weeks Sawyer was a bit boring. He was sweet and cuddly and cute, but we were pretty much on the feed/eat/sleep/cry occasionally routine. In the past week he's awake a bit more and has started noticing things around him a little bit, specifically the mobile attached to the bouncer he hangs out in every morning while I tend to the dogs and eat breakfast. He's not smiling on purpose quite yet, but he is starting to make sweet little cooing noises and does show his feisty side by arching his back and giving an occasional frustrated old-man grunt. He sighs after his sneezes and screams bloody murder during his baths. He loves the Metallica lullaby CD and once sat, awake, through me reading six books to him. He has potential. And I have to say, I have probably never kissed anyone as much as I have this little guy's chubby cheeks.

I worry about everything anyway and did a damn good job staying calm during my pregnancy. I'm trying to channel that calm, though, when it comes to not freaking out about the crazy sounds newborns make while breathing at night. Or when he screams himself hoarse and sounds like he smokes two packs a day (this is happening right now, actually). I'm trying not to think about sending him to daycare and the provider not knowing what he likes and needs. I try to not weight him every day after he lost almost a pound the first few days after birth. Luckily our pediatrician is amazing and as long as the kid is eating, pooping, and breathing he's probably fine. 

The Dogs
I have yet to experience "mommy-guilt," but do very much feel bad for the dogs. They were used to at least six solid walks a week and are now down to four or five. They have yet to go in the pool (I'm seriously considering telling some of my students that they can come use my pool if they'll take my dogs in it with them... and dry them off)  and seem to be generally pretty bored. I know I'm projecting, as dogs are generally pretty lazy creatures during the summer, but still. I try to pay attention to them as much as possible, even if it's for just a quick belly rub, but it is something I feel bad about.

I really miss work. I hate the fact that my seniors are starting their last week and I'm not there. I hate the fact that someone else is running my class. I hate the fact that my friends are there and I am not. 

Mental Health
I am incredibly thankful that I didn't have to deal with post-partum depression, which I was a little bit worried about since I do have some of the risk factors. I did have a few moments that involved tears, "why did I do this?" and "my life is going to suck for the next few years!" thoughts, and copious amounts of cookies. This was primarily in week two, though, after the novelty of the new toy had worn off and exhaustion had set in (I'm sure there are some hormonal factors as well). My husband was wonderful- he listened, took the baby so I could get stuff done and nap, and bought more cookies. While I still do have moments of frustration, I'm in a good place and think I'm handling things well now! 

Post-Partum Weight and Whatnot
First of all, labor and delivery is disgusting. The things that your body goes through is just... ugh. Gross. Luckily, a lot of that nastiness leads to weight loss! Hurray! I gained almost thirty-five pounds and was down twelve by the time I got home. Within two weeks I had lost twenty and I'm now down somewhere around twenty-five. Things are definitely a little mushier, but I can get on some of my old jeans and for that I am happy. I know these last ten are going to have to be earned, but this side of it has been a lot easier than I thought, and I'm thinking that staying active up until the day before I delivered was part of it (in my expert opinion, of course). I am very, very antsy to being more active, though. I see the doctor for my six-week check up soon and will begin running once she says okay (I'm sure I could now, but since it's been so long since I've really trained I want to make sure I'm completely ready). And hopefully I can squeeze in a yoga class here or there! This has been really hard on me- I feel like I was more active at nine months pregnant than I am now. I know patience is key right now...

Other Adjustments
Not doing things is not an option for me, so I've had to re-prioritize what gets done when. In terms of getting out of the house I've made an effort in the last week or two to get out more alone with the baby and we've both survived. I bought a Baby Ergo, which he loves. The only problem is that we both get kind of warm and with summer coming I'm not sure how much use I'll get out of it. And yes, I totally have fantasies about strapping him on and doing some serious walking on the treadmill...  

So, in a nutshell: this has been hard, but not as hard as I thought, my baby is slightly less boring than he was before, and I need exercise or I might shoot myself. 

Moms! When did your baby start sleeping in longer chunks or through the night?

Non-Moms! What cocktail are you drinking on my behalf?

So Sensitive

The other day I mentioned an article published in the New York Times by Jennifer Medina about something called "trigger warnings." Basically, at universities around the country students are calling for professors to warn them about potential "triggers" in literature or movies that could cause students to experience negative emotions, most likely due to past trauma (for example, rape). Students believe that they should then have the opportunity to opt out of the material if necessary. The question is whether or not educators should be obligated to provide this sort of information.

[All the triggers! Another interesting article here]

Personally, I feel that this is unnecessary at the collegiate level. It's unfortunate that people must endure negative, life-altering events, but if we must accommodate every single student there will be nothing left to read or watch. Even children's books could pose a potential threat- no Charlotte's Web because it might upset the vegetarians and animal rights activists. Bridge to Terabithia won't work because of those students who have experienced the death of a friend. And forget Harry Potter- the devoutly religious would undoubtedly feel terribly uncomfortable. 

We can also assume that most people in college are attempting to "make it" in the real world, trying to acquire the skills necessary to make successful livings for themselves professionally. How will the potential lawyer handle a rape case if they can't read a book with a scene depicting the crime? How will the art museum curator deal with graphic representations of historical abuse when they struggle to watch movies depicting the Holocaust? 

A sugar-coated education isn't really a legitimate education, in my opinion. In order to be knowledgeable about a particular subject area you have to take the good with the bad. You can't claim to be an expert on say, Latin American literature without reading Allende or Marquez, who both boast a plethora of controversial and offensive subject throughout their bodies of work. A well-rounded education is just that- not something that can be hand-picked.

So often the things that disturb us or strike an emotional chord within us are what allows us to connect to a piece of literature, art or a movie. The memories it invokes are what makes us take comprehension and analysis to a whole new level, past the typical surface-level bullshit to a place where we start thinking on a more complex plane. Staying safe and comfortable makes this damn near impossible. Being affected pushes us to be more involved in whatever it is we're pursuing.

Readers, especially those after the age of, say, sixteen or seventeen, also have a responsibility to protect themselves (as opposed to relying on a teacher or professor to do so). If a young woman has been sexually assaulted and knows she cannot handle being exposed to this sort of content she needs to be proactive and look up texts she might think will leave her vulnerable. The same goes with the young man who spent time in rehab, the girl who used to cut herself, and the boy who is still wounded by never making any of the sports teams he tried out for. It sounds insensitive, I know, but we have to teach young adults to be their own advocates and to not rely on others to make things easier for them. It's simply not how the world works. The internet is their friend- Google the books or movies first and determine if there are triggers, rather than relying on others to check first.

With all this being said, I do have to note that by speaking against trigger lists I'm inherently trusting educators to make the right choices in curriculum. If we're looking at the public school system teachers need to make sure they're offering age-appropriate texts and that they're consciousness of their clientele and their needs. I think as students grow older the need to be as careful wears off, meaning by the time college rolls around professors should have carte blanche to go for it balls to the wall. 

I don't necessarily believe that every student should have to read or view everything, no matter what. If a student decides that whatever is being studied really is just too much for them, then an alternate assignment can be given, as long as the system isn't being taken advantage of. I've had students make this call for them in class before and I've happily obliged. I just don't think that every teacher everywhere, especially at the university level, should be obligated to constantly provide lists of triggers. We need to let people discover them on their own- it's one of the best parts of reading.

Trigger warnings- yay or nay? 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link below!

1. I think I'm temporarily changing my whole way of life. Instead of making "to-do lists" at the beginning of each day I'm going to me a "what I actually did today list" at the end of the day. I feel like I've been way too ambitious lately and constantly setting myself up for failure.

2. Community has been canceled. Womp womp womp. My husband got me into the show a year or two ago and we've grown to absolutely love the random, cynical, loving group of friends. It figures that total shit like How I Met Your Mother and Three and a Half Men can run for years and an actual quality show gets axed.


3. I've started We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo and am really enjoying it so far. Over the past year or so I've read a few novels by African writers and have started to really appreciate literature from this part of the world.

4. Speaking of global literature, I desperately need to update my "Reading Globally" Map. Maybe tomorrow.

5. My yearbook students have organized an end-of-year "banquet" on Friday and went out of their way to have it at a restaurant near my house and at a time of the evening when I can attend. Why do they have to leave me? WHY? WHYYYYY????? Also great is the note they wrote to their classmates on the whiteboard to "not dress ghetto."

6. I haven't bought books in so long- I think the last time I bought one for myself what back in February for book club at work. I feel a binge coming on- funny thing is that I haven't been glued to the new release lists for awhile so I have no clue what I even want. I'm sure that can be fixed. Suggestions?

[I know I want this]

7. My husband sent me this article the other day. Expect a blog post soon(ish).

8. Driving with Sawyer has made me an infinitely better driver. Not that I was a bad one before, but the idea of crashing what my defenseless little guy in the backseat is totally not okay. 

9. I'm going to have to give my work iPad back to work in two weeks, I think. I'm sad... but I guess not enough so to buy my own (yet).

10. I received an email for early sign ups for the first post-partum half marathon I plan on running next year but can't pull the trigger to sign up. I'll be clear to start really working out in two weeks, so maybe then!


Nonfiction Nagging: Walden on Wheels

Yesterday I finished Ken Ilgunas' Walden on Wheels, his story about how he handled his post-college debt (over $30,000 after his undergraduate). Part memoir, part travelogue, Ilgunas writes with an honest, fresh perspective about money, the post-collegiate experience, and discovering one's identity. 

Ilgunas' anxiety over his student loan debt reached a peak upon graduating, realizing that he didn't have anything lined up post-commencement. Adding to this worry, was his mother's sense of panic- she had cosigned, after all. Ilgunas decides that he will pay off his debt as quickly as possible, living in voluntary poverty until the his mission has been accomplished. He finds his way to Alaska, a place he had wanted to visit for years, leading guided tours, cleaning, and cooking. He slowly starts paying his debt down and stays through the winter months. And thus begins Ilgunas' journey that includes hitchhiking across the country, rowing for months, working in Hurricane Katrina clean-up areas, staying with a friend in Denver, and dealing with his parents' concern for his alternative lifestyle. 

Eventually, Ilgunas does pay off his debt and decides that he wants to go to graduate school without accumulating anymore. He's accepted into a liberal arts program at Duke and decides to live in a van (hence the title). Something that sounds so simple ends up being incredibly difficult on sanitation, emotional, and logistical levels. Living in a van can be smelly and lonely.

Personally, this got me thinking about my own loans. I'll be honest- I graduated from my undergrad at UCLA with about $24,000 in debt, added nearly $10,000 for my teaching credential (I had to take money out to live off of), and then an additional ten or twelve for my masters (it all becomes a blur at a certain point). I think I still owe around $25,000? I honestly don't even know, since my payments just come out automatically every month. And while I wish I wasn't paying $400 a month, I consider loans a necessary evil. I didn't come from a wealthy family, and frankly, I began my education as an adult. The expectations that parents must pay for complete college costs is ludicrous to me. Having some debt upon graduation is motivating- you have to get a job, you have to have a plan, you have to be responsible. There is no way I'll take out a second mortgage or ruin my retirement dreams to send me kid(s) to college. Help, yes, but provide a four-year free-ride? No. But, it is a personal decision, and I know plenty of nice people that feel otherwise. I digress. I guess that while I admire Ilgunas' quest to become debt free, I myself don't feel that level of urgency. I rather live comfortably for the life of my loan than shack up in a tent, Alaska, or van for a few years to pay them off sooner. But, like I just said, to each her own. His commentary about the idea of being indebted to someone, whether a bank or ones' parents rings partially true, though. I don't mind owing Sallie Mae, but the idea of owing a family or friend something makes me sick to my stomach.

I can't recommend this book enough, both for the thought-provoking aspect and the travel narrative. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up below! Also, just an FYI- these posts are going to be put up at various times on Wednesday from now on. I tried to keep it to Wednesday evening for a sort of Thursday post, but with the baby cramping my style I'll just put them up whenever I can on Wednesdays.

1. Clifford the Big Red dog must be really expensive to care for. 

2. Have you seen the story about the bounce house that flew away? What the hell? I seriously thought it was a joke at first, but apparently it's legit? It's like the beginning of The Wizard of Oz, but very serious and very dangerous.

3. It's hot here in Southern California- where I live we're reaching triple digits this week. I'm not ready for this! If it was just me and the dogs it would be no big deal- we'd be out by the pool every day. Instead, I've been trying to strategically keep the house as cool as possible without running the air. In the mornings and afternoons we hang out in the front of the house, since it doesn't get warm until late afternoon. And then we move to the back, since it's cooled down by then. We use lots of fans and run the whole house fan at night. And if all that fails we run the air. 

4. Hats off to single parents, especially those of newborns. I don't know what I'd do without my husband! Granted the nights are pretty much my responsibility, due to his inability to lactate, but having him around to help with everything else has been a lifesaver.

5. Speaking of Sawyer, I have some serious cabin fever. I mean I get excited to go grocery shopping. Yesterday we packed up and walked around Barnes and Noble for absolutely no reason at all. Starting next week I have some things planned again, but the lack of activity (both social and in terms of actual exercise) is starting to drive me crazy. I'm so excited to start truly exercising again- I have about 10 or 12 pounds to lose (before I'm back at my mediocre starting weight) still and can't wait until I can start getting in a run here and there. And yoga? Might I actually get to go to an actual class?

6. I started Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas and am enjoying it so far. This nonfiction text is about a young man who is on a quest to pay off his student loan debt, something most of us can sympathize with. What I think is amusing, though, is that he has just a bit more than I did when I left college, and yet a million times more urgency that I do to be debt-free. Good for him! Side note: I just went and looked up how much I have left, since my payments are automatically deducted each month. Buzzkill. 

7. I've been spending way, way too much time on my phone since having Sawyer. Nursing is boring and at 2 in the morning it's one of the only things to keep me awake! I need to try to read more or even watch things on Netflix instead of mindlessly perusing social media and news websites (I am quite up-to-date on all major current events, though).

8. This is the best oatmeal cookie recipe ever. 

9. I guess there are talks of an underground tunnel from China to Alaska and then down the contiguous states. While I'm sure it won't happen in the near future, the idea of traveling 125 miles under the Pacific Ocean freaks me the hell out. I can handle the BART going under the San Francisco Bay, but something about the Bering Strait and all that coldness is enough to trigger my panic reflex. 

10. I saw this on Pinterest or Facebook the other day and was instantly inspired:

[source unknown]

But then I thought about the actual logistics and implications- there's just no way. I am thirty years old- dropping bad habits (like excessive worrying) just because I wake up and feel like it is ridiculous. I've worked hard over the last three decades to really hone these personal flaws, undoing them in a day is downright disrespectful to them. 

JoJo Moyes: The Last Letter from Your Lover (and the Last JoJo Moyes bookies I Read)

I have a rule when it comes to losing faith in authors: if the first book I read is decent and the second book is bad, everything rides on the third read. I'm sad to say that JoJo Moyes and I are (probably) through. The first book I read of hers, Me Before You, left me pleasantly surprised- it was sentimental without being cheesy, and the writing, while mediocre, wasn't horribly so. I thought the second book, The Girl You Left Behind, lacked depth and failed to really intrigue me. Therefore, according to my rule, everything was riding on The Last Letter from Your Lover. Unfortunately, it didn't reach my expectations- here's three reasons why:

Something Seems Familiar...
There's a formulaic aspect that really bothered me, reminiscent of The Girl You Left Behind. Basically, both novels start off with something in the past, and then finish up with a more recent investigation and connection. The last book was a painting, this one a letter. It just seems a little cheap.

Coincidence? I Think Not...
Without giving anything away, there are some things at the end that just match up way too perfectly for me. The reporter, Ellie, doesn't really have to do much investigating- the answers to her little puzzle are basically just dropped right in front of her. Granted, this isn't billed as a mystery, but it's still way too convenient for my liking. 

The Depth Issue... Again
Just like in the last novel, the characters in the present day narrative are lacking the depth that the characters in the past portion have. I was much more interested in the first halves of both books, feeling that, in this one especially, the dialogue and characters were just so forced in the present. 

Minor issues also include the cover, the title, and the cliched ending.

Disclaimer: Penguin provided this copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Caught! (Bookish and (not so Bookish) Thoughts)

This is in lieu of Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts this week, but you can still link up below to participate! 

So, my students found my blog. And I panicked. My husband said I was overreacting. In retrospect, I guess I was.

Why I thought I could fly under the radar for this long is beyond me- I guess I had good luck for awhile and I figured it would continue. Wishful thinking.

And then I started thinking about what I'd need to pull down before going live again. 

The pornographic pictures?
Oh wait, there aren't any.

The offensive comments about my students?
Oh wait, all I do is say how much I love them. 

The posts about my drug use?
Oh wait, I've never even smoked pot because I'm too scared (asthma, guys!).

The deep dark secrets about my past?
Oh wait, those are only on my anonymous blog (kidding). 

Yes, I drop the occasional eff-bomb. And I do make sexual innuendos. I've referenced the need for wine. But I'm thirty years old and I'm not suggesting minors partake in any of it. For the most part I write my posts with the knowledge that this could happen at any time. 

And it has.

So, my students read what I've written. What happens? Best case scenario- they find some great books and get excited about reading (it could happen!). Worst case- they start snap chatting screen shots of particularly corny or nerdy writing and laugh behind my back.

Hi kids. Welcome to my blog. The fact that you guys love me so much to watch my every move on the internet is flattering, really. And if you have any questions, comments or concerns, email me.

Six Degree of Seperation- The Bell Jar

[I'm probably late to the party, but this site is so fun]

I love the idea behind this meme and meant to participate last month but completely forgot- Annabel and Emma  are geniuses! The guidelines are posted at the bottom, but basically what you do is start off with their selection, this month The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and then take off from there (come on, guys, you know the drill- Kevin Bacon style!). Try it!

I'm going with short and sweet, but I'll try to best to justify my connections. 

The Bell Jar reminds me in some ways of The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, and not just because they're both books we've read at work. Literary authors writing from the teenage angst perspective, New York, mental instability... 

The Emperor's Children, by Claire Messud, which I actually did not care for when I read it a very long time ago. I do remember rolling my eyes at the group of spoiled rich kids with supposed problems, just like I occasionally had to do so at Holden.

The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer, is also about a group of friends, who met at summer camp, all of which but one are very wealthy. They too have their issues, and it is also set, primarily, on the East Coast.

Summer Camps can be a lot like temporary little communes, much like the one in Arcadia by Lauren Groff. There a bunch of hippies learn that it's not always easy to live in peace and harmony. 

Also living together in an unsettling situation are those in the novel Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez, about a closed in city of people who are not suffering from a population-threatening pandemic. 

This of course naturally ties to The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The end of the world is so depressing (just like The Bell Jar- full circle! Boom!). 


April Reviews

Last month was totally split- two books for work, two for pleasure. Two I enjoyed, two not so much. Can't win 'em all, I suppose. Let's see how many I get through this month [a winky smiley face would be inserted here if I believed in using emoticons on my blog].

Diary of a Bad Year by JM Coetzee
240 pages
This novel is about a man, Senor C, who is commissioned to write a series of free-choice essays and ends up hiring a young, attractive young woman, Anya, that lives in his building to help transcribe his tapes. He ends up falling for her (but not in a romantic sort of way... the dynamics are odd), while her boyfriend is scheming to steal his fortune so that it's not donated to charity when he dies. The book is split horizontally down each page, the top halves being the essays he's writing on anything from birds to Australian politics to philosophy. The bottom halves are the narratives, split between both Senor C and Anya.

Verdict: Everything I just said about this book sounds great- something different with the design, a combo of nonfiction/fiction, dysfunctional relationships... But, honestly, it just wasn't for me. I really struggled to get through some of the essays (maybe because some of it is Australian politics) and the interactions between Senor C and Anya were a tad boring. It's not a bad book, it just wasn't a good fit.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
322 pages
This was a definite reread for me, and I'm assuming most people are familiar with this classic, so I'll spare you the synopsis.

Verdict: I'm definitely a Twain fan, and this is a great book to teach. I taught it in terms of humor and satire to my AP lang sophomore students and then they will be looking at it from a more literary perspective after the test.

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
192 pages
Same as above, another classic we're all familiar with.

Verdict: I'm so not a fan. I do love the movie Easy A, though, for what it's worth. My husband and I have decided to model our parenting techniques after Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson's characters.

[now let's all get that "Pocket Full of Sunshine" song stuck in our heads]

The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Harnagarne
304 pages
I really enjoyed this memoir about Harnagarne's struggle with Tourette's, his Mormon faith, and life working in a library. Harnagarne's is charismatic, seemingly honest, funny, and never does he demand your sympathy. And, honestly, from the way he presents himself and his struggles, you don't necessary feel you want to give him any. He coped, and he did it well. The book follows him from childhood to the recent present, flipping back and forth between his experiences as a librarian.

Verdict: As I just say, I really enjoyed this book. It read more like a novel and I could absolutely identify with many elements, including the absolute love of reading, struggle with faith (not Mormonism, though), and the need to use exercise to calm inner struggles.

Total:  1,058 pages

Where the Wild Things Are Nursery (Finished!)

Sawyer's room has really been quite the process and is probably the most complete room in the house. There was a lot of discussion as to what the theme would be- we didn't want something too babyish or something too mature. I'm not sure when he'll outgrow this, but I think we have awhile! Anyway, we both love the book, and the movie, so this is where we landed. 

My husband can be credited with the bulk of the mural- he did the drawing (most freehand) and much of the black outlining. After I proved myself I was allowed to help with the color painting and did some additional outlining as well. He also did the silhouette canvases on the side wall. The only thing I can completely really take credit for are the decoupaged letters! To this day I'm still impressed with his talent and willingness to put in a "don't think about the total" amount of hours into it. The entire thing was definitely a labor of love (and taking on something that ended up being a longer process than we thought). 

A quick overview of the process (excuse the lighting and iPhone photography):

[From start to finish]
Some of the details:

All the furniture is pretty much from IKEA, except after hours and hours of searching for a crib I found this one bundled with a mattress for a really reasonable price from Wal-Mart, so I decided to jump off the Target bandwagon and order it there. Eventually we'll get a rug and hang some of his baby pictures on the fourth wall that's not shown up there. 

It's not perfect, but I really have to admit that I love the finished product!