August Reviews

August is probably my most challenging month of the year, between the heat, getting back into work routine, and accepting that we're about to begin the longest part of the school year (the August to November stretch is very, very long). But it's over! Onward and upwards. Here's what happened in between bitching about 103 degree temperatures, five am wake-up calls, and back-to-school meetings:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer 
531 pages 
I briefly mentioned this book earlier when I did my summer round-up, but I feel like I'm the last person to read it. For those not familiar, it's set during World War II, focusing on a young French blind girl and a brilliant German orphaned boy. The book skips between when they're a bit older and then when they're kid and we watch how the war influences the young adults they turn into. 

Verdict: This is not a book I would have chosen to read, since I'm not generally a fan of war novels, but it was selected for book club. I thought it was well-written and did something differently than other books from this time period, but I didn't love it. I appreciated it, but I wasn't "ohmygod so happy I read it." It's completely a matter of preference. 

In the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib
288 pages
I wrote about this debut novel here.

Verdict: There was a lot to like about this novel, and a fair amount of negatives to get nit-picky about. I thought a lot of the dialogue was unnatural, but the subject matter itself was interesting.

The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson
240 pages
This novel is about Roland Nair, a white man, and Michael Adriko, an African, who have known each other for years. They are reunited, along with Adriko's fiancee, Davidia, in Africa and travel through Uganda and The Congo, on the cusps of a few different scams. Do they trust each other? Are they really working for government or NATO agencies? Who wants them dead? Who is crazier by the end? This book instantly reminded me of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness; the deeper they went into the continent the more unstable and primal they become. 

Verdict: I was drawn to this book, fascinated by Johnson's handling of the setting and relationships between the characters. There were times I was frustrate and felt mislead, but once I accepted the fact that this feeling was a direct mirror of the situations the characters were embroiled in I applaud Johnson's writing ability. While not for everyone, this was my favorite of the three I read this month. 

1,059 pages

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

It's almost Thursday! Which means it's almost Friday! Which means it's practically the weekend? Yes? No? Damn. Link up, link back, say hi, be understanding of my horrible commenting these days.

1. It's not that I'm okay with having a cold, because I'm not, but for the first time in two years I can actually load up on cold medicine. Also, when a child is sick feel bad for the parents. Mom and dad are already feeling super sad for their little kid, but meanwhile they're the ones that turn into a human effing Kleenex and has to subject themselves to the whim of an unhappy little person that is already a tiny bit volatile in their unsick state. So, if you can't read between the lines, I had to deal with a sick kid and am now sick myself so feel bad for meeeeeeeeeee. But not really, because I can now take my favorite cold medicine that has my most favorite side effect EVER: "may cause excitability." Achoo. 
2. I signed up for Artifact Uprising two weeks ago and was given 25 free prints (only the price of shipping, which was about six or seven bucks). I loved the quality of printing on heavy card-stock and will definitely use them to print Instagram pictures in the future:

3. I'm also a fan of my new necklace:

[Christine loves Scott? Sawyer? Soda? Saturdays? Starbucks?]

4. I just honestly filled out my first-ever workplace satisfaction survey, which is sad, considering I've worked in the district for ten years. I was honest... I hope they really are anonymous. And read. And considered. 

5. I'm considering a monthly, or yearly if I like it, membership to Gaiam TV so I have access to a ton of yoga videos. I've started doing PiYo at night occasionally and I really started missing yoga. Part of it is the studio itself, but it's also the practice. You can do the first month for a buck, so I can't really argue with that!

6. Sawyer is walking... sort of. He can take a few feet worth of unassisted steps (yay!) but has absolutely no desire to take the initiative. I'm trying to give him any opportunity I can to get him on his feet... even if that means he takes off with the stroller.

7. I've been telling my husband about what I thought was a unique conspiracy theory about the Clintons paying Donald Trump to run to put yet another wrench in the Republican Party. Apparently that's a thing already! Part of me hopes it's true just so I can see the looks on his supporter's faces to see they've been duped BY THE CLINTONS!

8. I ordered twenty binders at work to supposedly organize every single IB novel and AP lang unit I teach. This is a very, very ambitious undertaking that would make life so much easier, that I'm optimistically hoping will be done by the end of the year. Part of me is always nervous about what I'll be assigned to teach the following year, so I'm concerned I'll do all this work for nothing. 

9. Despite its gains today, the stock market has been having a rough time lately. This is bad news for many, but good news for people like me who are considering investing. I have a little bit of money that I'm trying to work up the courage to play with, but I'm having trouble cutting the cord. This is why I don't gamble when I go to Vegas! I'm so worried that I'll lose money that I just don't put in any to begin with. Realistically, though, I know that right now is the time. I don't know what to do and I don't want to pay for financial advising. I thought about downloading an app and "practicing," but then I'll still miss this window of opportunity. Investing and overthinking are a hard combination. 

10. And because it's National Dog Day, here's one of two:

Things to Look Forward To

Once upon a time I knew what books were coming out when, and what the author's tour schedule looked like before they did (not really, but I was a bit of a go-getter when it came to stalking the websites of places that host the big guns here in Southern California). Then I had a kid and my concern has been more about when I can go to bed, rather than go to a reading. 

I know. I know

Anyway, I finally started digging around and found a few favorite authors that have some books coming out this fall and thought I'd share, just in case you live in under rock like I apparently am.

John Irving, Avenue of Mysteries (11/3)

David Mitchell, Slade House (10/27)

Salman Rushdie, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (9/8)

Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last (9/29)

Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies (9/15)

Colum McCann, Thirteen Ways of Looking (10/13)

Marilyn Robinson, The Givenness of Things (10/27)

Isabel Allende, The Japanese Lover (11/3)

Now, the real question is if I can wait until my birthday/Christmas for most of these.... 

Sponsored Post- In the Language of Miracles

This book was provided free-of-charge from Penguin. 

I don't accept many books for review anymore, since my time is limited and my shelves are over-flowing. But Rajia Hassib's novel about an American-Egyptian family that must cope with a tragic event sparked my interest. Plus I can be a sucker for a first time novelist.

Just to give a brief synopsis, Samir and Nagla's family is devastated after their older son, Hosaam, shoots his ex-girlfriend and long-time neighbor, Natalie, and then himself. Given their Egyptian background, the community is quick to start a loud, angry, violent backlash towards the family. They find themselves in the midst of the chaos once again a year later when a memorial is planned for the young girl. The family must accept their own dysfunction as they react to Samir's decision to speak out at the service, despite everyone's advice not to. 

There's a lot that I appreciated about this novel. Racial intolerance is at the forefront of our society constantly, whether people are lashing out at African Americans, Mexicans, or those from the Middle East. Drawing attention to the issue in an appropriate, compassionate manner, is always a good thing. I also liked the touches of science, both in Samir's career as a doctor and his son Khaled's passion for butterflies and hiking. The narrative structure, in terms of a countdown towards the memorial, with flashbacks to pivotal moments for the family, contributed towards's Hassib's perfect pacing and suspense. 

As a whole, though, I did find fault with a lot of the dialogue. It frequently felt forced and unnatural, which therefore made the relationships between the characters a bit flat. I also thought some of the references were a little awkward, like how Khaled regards Facebook (Facebook's main demographic these day isn't really with the high school crowd...) and how he listens to Matchbox 20 and Jay-Z (I personally like both, but the way they were both mentioned was odd). Like with any sort of pop-culture references these sorts of things tend to date themselves, which can work sometimes, but here did not. While I'm being nit-picky, I'll throw in the fact that the beginning of the book, a flashback to a time when Khaled was sick and his grandmother was trying to heal him did not hook me at all. I understand the set up in terms of establishing a conflict between American and Egyptian ways, as well as the family dyanmics, but I found it a bit hard to settle in at first.  

As a whole, I thought this was a decent book for an author's debut and I think her writing shows a lot of potential. I'd be interested in checking out her future projects.  

On Fridays....

[this has nothing to do with anything. but they were delicious]

... everyone at work is nicer. It's a fact. We have pep in our step. 

... I don't bat an eye at wearing jeans, skipping the eye-liner, and piling my hair on top of my head.

... my students do independent work, whether writing or oral commentary commentary practice, all period so I can grade or plan.

... I don't have to feel guilty about taking the back, more scenic way home, since traffic is always worse. The one that sucks up the gas like crazy but allows me to at least see some (brown) rolling hills and a (low) reservoir instead of cars and cars and cars. 

... I have this naive sense of optimism about what will get done over the weekend. There just seems to be so much time awaiting. All-the-time-in-the-world kind of time. 

.... I get to make a monster to-do list that is categorized and ambitious and sometimes color-coded (see above).

... I can accept that whatever stresses the week brought are at least temporarily put on hold. 

... I can begin my two-day dinner-making hiatus. Friday means burritos. Or pizza. Or french fries.

... I can sit around after work and watch Sawyer destroy the kitchen instead of rushing around to fold laundry or "do-whatever-just-has-to-be-done-right-now-because-oh-my-god-tomorrow-I-have-to-get-up-at-five-in-the-morning-and-go-to-work." 

... I at least pretend that I'm going to catch up on my sleep. Miracles do happen. Teething toddlers do sleep ten hours straight. 

Happy Friday, friends. The weekend takes on a whole new meaning when summer break is over. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Hey. What's up? Link up, link back, say hello.

1. I just met with a solar panel company rep for the last hour and holy heck, SIGN ME UP! Fine, it's not quite the "you can run your air at 65 degree all day, every day" party that I thought it was going to be, but still, long term it's good. And after everything is said and done it's not going to cost us anything upfront... I'd rather be paying a smaller, more local solar panel company than the ginormous asshats at Southern California Edison.

2. Sometimes I wonder what the daycare lady and physical therapists think of my mothering capabilities...

3. An old student/friend bought me a twelve-pack Diet Coke last week, and a current kid brought me a terrarium filled with succulents a few days ago. They either like me or are terrified that I'm about to self-combust and are trying to bring me back to normal.

4. I'm currently reading The Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib, a story about an Egyptian-American family that must deal with their place in the community after their son and neighbor die. It's good, but there's something lacking I can't quite put my finger on yet. I think it's slightly unnatural dialogue? I'm not sure. It's a puzzle.

5. Sawyer, at 4:55 this morning when I was trying to get him back to sleep so I could get ready in peace, he fell asleep and just started saying the only he word he can, "ball," over and over again. If it wasn't so early it would have been cuter, but now, fully caffeinated, it is. 

6. I need to make these asap. Nilla Wafers, peanut butter, and chocolate? Can it get any better?

7. I think, as a society, we have got to start thinking about HOW we address social issues, whether gun control, race, immigration, abortion or whatever. Who is our audience? What will push them away? What will confuse them? What will offend them? People, I think, are rebellious by nature, so if you try to attack them, even with the best intentions, it will cause them to do the opposite of what you want. I mean, not to compare apples and oranges, but the cashiers at Target tried to push the Red Card on my for years, but I resisted (despite it being great), because I found their tactics annoying. And, in case you need more evidence, I have a toddler. And I work with teenagers all day. 

8. So, if you've read by blog religiously over the past few months (because, you know, who hasn't?), you'll know that there's weird noise coming from the water main or water softener in our garage. It's been completely for a few weeks, but then it came back for a few a little while last night (and it's not the nightly softener recharge). It's like The Telltale Heart. It's driving me absolutely insane. I know it's not a leak, because our bill hasn't increased, but still. What is it? WHAT IS IT??????

9. I've started accepting the fact that I will probably never run a half marathon again. My foot is simply not getting any better, and never will, unless semi-drastic measures are taken. And now I have an aggravated toe issue on the opposite foot. I'm basically okay with this realization, but after running twelve, and the hobby being such a huge part of my life for a few years, it's a little unsettling. Luckily there are other ways I enjoy staying in shape. 

10. This article on reading to kids is a nice blend of reinforcement and science. 

Top Ten Tuesday- I'm a Sucker

[source; this guys' comics are pretty fun]

By this point in my reading career, or whatever you want to call it, there are certain authors I have come to trust. This week The Broke and the Bookish asks us which ten authors are automatic buys (unless my husband grabs them first... or I forget):

1. TC Boyle- For his social conscience (even though he is a Trojan to my Bruin allegiance). 

2. Marisha Pessl- I've loved both of her two books and appreciate the research and time she puts in. 

3. Ann Patchett- She's a genius.

4. Michael Chabon- Sometimes you need just need to read a pretentious wordsmith. It makes you feel smarter. 

5. Reif Larsen- TS Spivet is my homeboy.

6. David Mitchell- While I have to confess to only reading two of his books, we have all of them and I know our shelves will always have his current works.

7. Nick Hornby- Such a funny man.

8. Jeffrey Eugenides- He's a genius. 

9. Michael Cunningham- See #4.

10. John Irving- While I prefer early Irving, I still feel loyalty. I mean the man is responsible for Owen Meany. 

Sunday Confessions

[See number 9]

Sometimes I think it would be nice to go to confession- maybe it's the Catholic in me (my Catholicism started and ended with being baptized as an infant, though, so I'm not exactly brunching with the Pope). I guess in my agnostic-mind it seems like such an easy thing to do- you do less-than-desirable things, go to church, confess your sins, do a few Hail Marys or whatever, and then BOOM! you're a good person again. 

So, in honor of this line of thought, I have some things to confess. Obviously this isn't the really bad stuff, since, you know, my students and possibly some family members read this, but nonetheless, here are some minor offenses I'm feeling a little guilty for today:

1. Sometimes I exclude people from my Facebook statuses whose comments I can't deal with, or those that might not get what I'm trying to say. I know it's like so 2012 to give a shit about Facebook, but still. I'm old. 

2. Speaking of old, last night I couldn't help being a tiiiiiiiny bit happy that my husband had passed out while I was in the shower at nine-o-clock. This meant that I could read for a little bit and then haul my geriatric ass up to bed by ten. On a Saturday night. This first week back to work has killed me.

3. Honestly, I've complained more about being tired this week that I have in months. It's surpassed that point where you're just kind of sleepy and want a nap, but instead that kind of tired that settles into your bones and makes you want to DIE.

4. When I checked out at Target today my receipt told my I've nearly saved $200 by using my Red Card this year. After some quick math I realized that it's only August and I've spent just about $4,000 at Target this year alone. Whoa, there, Big Spender. But, in my defense, I buy a lot of our basic food there, plus diapers, clothes for Sawyer, and all of our prescriptions. That means $500 a month, which isn't  quite as nauseating. 

5. Whenever a career-blogger complains about it being Monday, I want to punch them in the face. I know they have meetings and emails to respond to and whatever, but MY GOD most of them are posting at like nine in the morning pictures of their runs, amazing breakfasts, and coffees with little hearts made out of foam. No. You can start complaining when you have to drag your perfect butts (from all the running and Crossfit, duh) our of bed at five, get ready in actual clothes (not Lululemon), and then go to a place that requires coherent interactions with others. Yes, I'm jealous. Obviously. 

6. Sometimes I have a hard time liking other people's kids, especially when they're not acting cute.

7. I'm fantasizing about paying my mom to come down and stay with Sawyer for one night so my husband and I can escape to Vegas. I want to get dressed up and pay a ridiculous amount of money for a meal and then go sleep for ten hours in a hotel room that someone else will clean up. Unfortunately, I won't inflict my child's inconsistent sleeping schedule on anyone else right now (some nights he does a solid ten hours... some nights he's up two or three times).

8. I'm currently bribing myself to work out, since it's hot (it's going to be 106 today) and I'm so tired and whiney. Seriously. For every time I lose a pound, hit 12,000 steps, or do a PiYo workout I make a note so I can justify buying myself something unnecessary later. 

9. I had a gigantic Slurpee yesterday. I could have just poured sugar water into my mouth at home, but still, it was delicious. 

10. Sometimes I wish Sawyer would watch TV for more than five minutes so I could plop in front of [insert name of kid's show that I don't know exists] for thirty minutes in the afternoon so I can just collect myself after work. Ultimately I'm so, so, so, glad he's not into burning off his brain cells, but still. Just thirty minutes a few times a week. 

11. I judge people who support Donald Trump. 

Your turn. 

Summer Reviews

I read a lot of excellent books over the summer. For some reason I thought it was only fourteen, but it was in fact sixteen. I don't want to bore anyone with lengthy reviews, so here's the quick(ish) rundown:

1. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton- A memoir about Hamilton's journey towards opening her own restaurant after a rough childhood and young-adulthood. She has an MFA in creative writing, so this is not only a great story but well-written as well.

2. Back of the House by Scott Haas- Haas is a psychologist that goes behind the scenes of a restaurant and figures out what makes everyone tick. It's a sort of chronological case study that's pretty fascinating, up until a small section at the very end where he gets a little off track. Still excellent.

3. A Thousand Hills to Heaven by Josh Ruxin- This book is also from my chef memoir kick, although this one is more about Ruxin's philanthropy and charity work in Rwanda. I haven't read much about this particular area of the world, so I thought it was particularly interesting. 

4. The Life-Changing Magic or Tidying Up by Marie Kondo- I did a post on this already, but basically the bottom line was that instead of changing my life it just made me a little more motivated to throw out things. 

5. Why We Write edited by Meredith Maran- This is a fabulous collection of different authors detailing why the have chosen to make their life's work about writing. I did a separate post on this book as well. 

6. The Secret History by Donna Tartt- I loved The Goldfinch when I read it last year and enjoyed this book about a group of highly-intellectual students at a small east-coast liberal arts college who commit a murder. I thought it was a tiny bit to drawn-out towards the end, but still outstanding. 

7. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng- I wrote a review for Penguin on this a few weeks ago, discussing how it was equally heartbreaking and impressive. This novel about a young lady who is found dead in a pond and the way her family deal with this will make you at least consider crying. 

8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- If you haven't read it yet I'm not going to waste the time telling you what it's about (unless you're not from the US... then you have a pass). 

9. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee- I also wrote a detailed post about this novel here, but the bottom line was that I thought the writing was sloppy, the characters flat, but the racial implications a lot more realistic than TKAM. 

10. The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp- I loved his Happiest Baby on the Block book, as it was one of the only ones I read and used when Sawyer was little. I found this one less helpful and I'm not sure if I can see myself following some of the strategies he provides. But who knows. If toddler-hood ends up too painful I might be desperate. 

11. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan- This book has been compared to Where'd You Go Bernadette, which I thought was a fun, tongue-in-cheek read. I can see the similarities in the sense that this is also a good-natured satire. It's downright ridiculous at times, like when portraying the wealth in Singapore, but still the perfect "beach" read. 

12. Still Alice by Lisa Genova- I talked in this post about how this book scared me silly. Losing your memory is devastating and this hit home, considering it's an issue in my family right now. It was obviously well-researched.

13. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume- I talked here about how I thought this was a book that would have probably been more nostalgic for me if I read it as a preteen, which I did not. 

14. The Martian by Andy Weir- I loved this book about an astronaut stuck on Mars (and I'm not a sci-fi reader). It's not exactly well-written, but I adored the characters, the struggle, and emotionally invested up until the very end. I hope the movie is good. 

15. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume- I have mixed feelings about Blume's recent adult novel about a town in New Jersey that was devastated by three plane accidents during the fifties. There were some really interesting characters and subplots, but as a whole I thought it was a bit long and paced poorly at times. 

16. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr- I just finished this novel for book club and thought it was the perfect example of books I can appreciate but not necessarily like. The writing and characters were impressive, but I'm not a huge historical fiction reader and I've never had a soft spot for WWII like some people. Still, I'm glad I read it. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, think happy thoughts for my sanity.

1. We officially started school on Monday and have had three non-student days, until the kids come back tomorrow. I'm trying to remind myself that scheduling snafus, copy machine lines, and people who almost make you cry by taking your bathroom keys away from you against your will are all par for the course. This shall pass. The kids will be here tomorrow and will be an excellent distraction from all the other non-teaching things that come with the teaching job.

2. I just finished Anthony Doer's book All the Light We Cannot See and found it to be an excellent example of a really good book that I didn't really care for. I'm not a WWII buff and have a hard time enjoying most historical fiction. I did like the characters and structure, though, and thought Doer is a great writer. So I didn't love the book but I really, really appreciated it.

3. LA County dumped million of plastic, reflective balls into a reservoir to help reduce water-loss to evaporation, discourage animals from doing their thing in the water, and algae from growing. While it's not an answer to the drought, I love the problem-solving that's happening and being supported.

4. We had an all-district meeting yesterday that I was dreading, but it actually turned out okay. They hired an awesome pianist named Alpin Hong to play, work with kids that performed, and give an inspirational (yet not corny) address. For like twenty solid seconds I considered downloading his music, but then I remembered there aren't words and I might fall asleep while driving. But still, even though I'm not blasting it on iTunes, he was fabulous and it was nice to see our district mix it up.

5. Sawyer has started walking with just holding on to one of our hands, standing up without us holding on to him, and has taken two unassisted steps. I think we're getting close to walking. FINALLY.

6. When someone tells me not to worry I immediately hate them for at least one second.

7. This Target thing is driving me bonkers. They're decision to take the words "boys" and "girls" and stop labeling things pink and blue is not because people are transgendered. It's because these sort of ridiculous gender stereotypes are archaic and damaging to kids. Sorry, Billy, you are a BOY and BOYS like BLUE things that you can BUILD with, not PINK things that wear DRESSES. Give me a goddamn break. This is about raising kids that aren't reliant on stupid gender stereotypes. I'm glad they're doing it. Over the weekend I wanted to buy Sawyer a play broom. I looked and looked and looked and finally found a pink one covered in flowers in the little girl's section. I was so pissed with the fact that they were indicating that only little girls can play house so I just bought a generic household brush from the cleaning section. 

8. One indication of how busy I am this week? I'm in a FitBit challenge competition with nine other people and I'm only in third. 

9. I absolutely loathe popcorn, but I can't get enough of Trader Joe's Kettle Corn right now.  Every time I'm there buying some I consider getting an extra couple bags, just in case they discontinue it.  

10. Later tonight my summer review post will go up. I'm excited! I read a lot of great things over the past two and a half months. 

Summer Break 2015

I had pretty big intentions when I started summer break. My to-do lists had to-do lists, I kid you not. Spoiler alert: all the shit? It did not get done. This happened for a variety of reasons:

1. My child is crazy. He's a little over one, so that's allowed.
2. When my crazy child was sleeping or at daycare (I took him two mornings a week) I lost all motivation to be productive and wanted to float around on my raft in the pool, reading books.
3. After a few weeks of getting into the whole stay-at-home mom thing I started making fun plans for us and never looked back.

That being said, I did get some things done:

1. I read fourteen books. Reviews to come. My goal was twelve, so I'm very pleased with how I did. 

2. I spent some really great quality time with my little guy and got a better system down for naptime, which was life-saving. We played A LOT, went to parks, walked miles around the neighborhood, and spent some afternoons in the pool. We also went to the fair, the beach, an indoor playground, and lots of PT appointments. I also successfully got him sleeping in his crib (finally) and not in his pack-n-play. As corny as it sounds, I feel like we sort of got to know each other better, a result of him just growing up and developing a personality and also because we were around each other more. 

3. I saw lots of my friends, mostly for lunches, although some for night outs. I actually saw every single close friend I have in the area at least once, minus two I had to bail on for lunch when Sawyer hurt his arm. I made it my goal to plan something social at least once a week and I totally surpassed that. It feels good to reconnect with people and catch up on everyone's lives. I am so, so thankful that I have these people in my life; I went from zero local friends when I first moved our here to a dozen or so that I consider close. 

4. I did all the refi paper for our house and started the process for solar panels. I finished up my life insurance paperwork and the account for Sawyer's college fund. These things make me feel very adult. 

5. I did some small things around the house. I cleaned out a huge closet, our desk area, Sawyer's room, and worked on the garage. I also did a huge cleaning of the laundry room, which had slowly become a dumping ground. I worked on my silly little shelf full of weird prints and fantasized about remodeling.

6. I visited with family- my mom came down for almost a week and I also saw my brother a few times. I popped in on my grandparents and saw a few aunts as well, briefly.

7. I maintained my blog and tried to comment more on other peoples' posts. I so greatly appreciate those of you who read and I wish I was a better contributor to the blogging community in this regards. I do give you page views, for what it's worth! 

8. I watched several TED Talks (review to come...?), although not nearly as many as I would have liked. Every time I watch one I think "Damn! This is so easy! And interesting! Watch more, Christine, more!" And then I don't. I probably watched one or two a week, though. I learned some things, so that's a win in my book. 

9. I wrote 56 letters of recommendation for the seniors that anticipated needing them this fall. That will be a huge load off my back come this fall.

10. I was able to somehow take more time out of myself than I expected; Sawyer went to daycare two mornings a week, I spent a lot of naptimes out by the pool, and I continued my habit of leaving him with my husband every Sunday morning so I can grocery shop. 

11. I averaged almost 12,000 steps a day, between our walks outside, my treadmill, and keeping up with Sawyer. 

12. I made some great new recipes from the different food blogs I read. 

Shoulder pat, shoulder pat, shoulder pat. But, let's be fair. Here are some things I failed at:

1. I barely wrote anything on the project I'm still excited about. I'm not sure how I'm going to be become a famous, or at least published, author if I don't make the time to write.

2. I wanted to do more around the house; my work-out room is still a mess, there are some cabinets that need some help, and just some basic chores that get done a few times a year that didn't happen. I have this constant urge to hire a housekeeper, but am too cheap. 

3. I wanted to take a class or lesson, but I didn't. I barely made it to yoga a few times.

4. I also wanted to sew something. Let's just say my sewing machine didn't get uncovered once. 

5. I thought I would have spent more time planning and prepping for the upcoming school year. Why I thought I'd do that, I'm not sure, since over the years I've mastered "teacher vacation mode." I did try to keep up on emails, though.

6. I wish I would have done more PiYo, but I failed miserably. I also wanted to be able to hold a two-minute plank, but I'm plateauing at a minute and twenty seconds.

7. I wanted to use my cookbooks more to try new recipe. I feel bad for them, as if I'm neglecting them by using Pinterest. I also thought I'd become, like, this Ice Cream Making Maven, which sadly did not happen. 

8. I have like three or four LEGO video games that are unbeat/unplayed. I know it's silly, but I like those games and good money was spent buying them.

9. I wish I would have exercised the dogs more. I did better than the school year, but I still feel guilty. I'm going to try to bring out the ergo and get Sawyer on my back so I can walk both at once one of these days. I can only imagine the neighbors laughing at our parade of craziness.

Summer 2015, you were different than what my summers in the past have been like. In the past I've traveled to Europe, I've hiked up mountains, I've taught summer school, I've floated around the Caribbean, and I've suffered from cabin fever with a tiny baby. This year that tiny baby turned into an opinionated, wild, hilarious little person that helped me work on my patience, empathy, and ability to find fun in the little things. Fingers crossed we have a good school year and developing a new routine isn't too painful! 

10 Good Things About the School Year Starting (According to a Teacher)

It's time to set those alarm clocks, chug even more coffee, and trade in the yoga pants for business-casual work attire! I actually really do like my job as a high school English teacher, but damn! do I love me some summer break. So, in order to put some pep in my step, here are some reasons why returning to work might actually be okay:

1. Free air conditioning- Summer arrived a little late to Southern California this year and all the sudden it's really, really hot. My classroom is always freezing. Win. 

2. Colleagues- I know some people don't like the people they work with, but I'm lucky to work at a large high school with a friendly, down-to-earth staff. Our English department is full of genuinely nice people and I don't duck around corners when I see administrators. Sure, there are certain people that may get on my nerves once in awhile, but as a whole I really like my colleagues. Some of my best friends are teachers!

3. More money in my wallet- I spend way, way too much money during the summer. Some years it's on trips, but sine I didn't go away this year I went out to lunch and coffee way too often. Target is also currently my second home (there's one less than five minutes away from my house I probably go three or four times a week, and that's conservative). I also get this sort of lax, "oh it's summer, I deserve it" attitude, like when I bought a pair of Frye boots I've realized I'm too scared to wear (luckily it's too hot).

4. New goals- Screw January 1st- the start of the new school year is the time I really take stock and evaluate where I'm at. I get organized, reflect on changes that need to be made, and get excited for new things I plan to implement personally and professionally.

5. A healthier life- Strangely, I find working out so much easier when I'm at work. I get a ton of steps during the day and do a lot more PiYo, and even running, during the school year. I also find it so much easier to eat better while working, since I don't have time to leave for lunch and have to eat whatever I packed (I have such good, healthy intentions when I pack my food).

6. The students- I love my students and am lucky to have 3 of my 5 periods full of the same IB juniors I had last year, now as seniors. The other two periods will be full of new sophomores to get to know. While a lot of work, I love the courses I teach, despite the fact that there is so much more grading than other classes I've taught (please note that "grading 150 essays from one Friday of timed writes" is not on this list). 

7. Routine- I thrive on routine and I always struggle to really get into one during breaks. I've been better this summer with Sawyer, but I still feel like there are days that I miss having a clearly defined plan (like get up, go to work, teach theme in Macbeth, teach argument essays, go home, etc...). I feel that I have to be super efficient while working to get everything in, while being off there's always "time later." 

8. Excuses!- The house isn't clean because I work all day, person that probably doesn't even notice but I think is judging me! I can't _________ this weekend, person I don't want to really see right now because I have to grade papers! 

9. Getting it over with- I hate the slow build up to break; Target puts out their school supplies, people start complaining, and you start feeling like you need to adjust your sleeping habits. Rip off the band aid! 

10. Just that much closer... to the next break. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hello!

1. I just spent way, way too long trying to formulate a concise Facebook status pledging my allegiance to Planned Parenthood. Very few things enrage me, but the idea of taking help away from the 2.7 million people who used them last year is beyond me. 

2. Last Thursday I took Sawyer to the Orange County Fair and we had a ton of fun. He went on his first ride (the carousel), saw tons of animals, and ate ice cream. He shrieked from happiness for almost two hours straight and "meowed" at the goats and rabbits. It wasn't too crowded, but it was hot and a little expensive (as to be expected). I know some people are a little surprised that I just take him alone, but Scott works a ton and the weekends at a lot of places in Southern California are crazy. Plus, I like to just go with him sometimes, as opposed to friends or family! We can do our own thing, at our own pace, and I can focus my attention on explaining things to him and having fun.

3. When we got home from the fair I, stupidly, almost chopped the tip of my thumb off while cutting parsley. I didn't want to deal with stitches, so I bandaged it up with gauze and surgical tape and hoped for the best (I was alone with the baby, so it was just super inconvenient). The verdict? It hurts really bad still but it closed up, so I think I'll survive. Maybe I should have glued it shut. 

4. I just started reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr for book club. I don't really have an opinion yet, but I can say that I'm liking the short chapters. 

5. I just finished Judy Blume's adult novel, In the Unlikely Event, and while it wasn't my favorite, I was shocked to know that the three plane crashes in the story happened in real life in New Jersey in the fifties. Augh! 

6. I have raved about Piyo in the past, but I totally fell off the wagon this summer. I decided that for every time I do it from now on I'll pay myself $1 towards a massage or pedicure or something unnecessary and self-indulgent. I think the lack routine during the summer has actually hindered my working out, actually. I walk outside and on an incline on the treadmill every day, but that's not enough. 

[I need to do this]

7. Speaking of exercise, I got back on my bike (it's set up on a trainer in the house) and it felt good! I haven't done it for a long time; I think I rushed back after pregnancy and the extra weight just felt strange. Sawyer thought it was great to watch, too, so hopefully that lasts for awhile.

8. Does anyone have solar? I have so many questions. Buy? Lease? What does it do to your roof long-term? What if something breaks? Do you have to clean them (hello, I just read The Martian!)? What if you lease and the company goes out of business? 

9. Our re-fi was approved! I know this is not a big deal and people do it all the time, but I did the whole thing on my own so I'm proud of myself for getting it done before rates went up.

10. Last Friday night I went out with two of my friends that I haven't seen for awhile and it was so fun. I see a lot of my friends during the day, for lunches and such, but it's been awhile since I actually go to go out, without my kid, when the sun is down. 

The Decorating/Remodeling Itch

One of the side effects to being home this summer is that I've been looking around our home, which we've lived in for almost four years, and have been wanting to make some changes, big and small. We did a lot of painting when we first moved in, but other than that we were very lucky that the previous owners had taken excellent care of their carpet, had upgraded the kitchen (although the cabinets could use some TLC), and had done a beautiful job on the yard and pool. 

There are a lot of minor things that I'd like to do, and are mostly of the decorating sort. Maybe I'll do a post on those, just to help me prioritize. Basically, though, it's artwork, mantle ideas, laundry room decor, etc.. 

But then there's the Big One. We want to replace the carpet in our living room, great room, and dining room areas (who puts carpet in a dining room?!?!?!) with a hard wood that will stand up to the dogs. I don't want laminate and we're not sold on the tile that looks like wood (although I think it would be awesome in a bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room), so I think we might consider bamboo. I know there aren't a ton of options, but there are some if you're willing to pay. While we're doing the floors, we're also going to redo the bannister and stairs, with the same flooring (with a carpet runner). We aren't a fan of light wood, which is what the bannister is right now. Since our house will be a mess we will repaint the great room and upstairs hall it leads into, possibly have a custom made bookshelf put in, and buy new light fixtures for the entry way and dining room. 

Did I mention that we don't finance things like this? Right now we're saving, and depending on what the next year brings, it may be possible next summer, or the one after. I'm hoping when the time comes it can be coordinated to happen within a few weeks. Pipe dreams, I know. If only I could book a month-long vacation and come back to perfection. 

Anyway, it's fun to look at ideas on Pinterest. Here's what we have and the direction we want to go in:


[want; source]
[currently; the berber is nice and in good shape, but it's light and not what we want]
[something like this; the staircase is great too!]
[our current IKEA bookshelves; they do the job but are very basic]

[a little more sturdy; source]
[in dark wood, but love the design!; source]
[current outdated fixture]

[option; a larger version of this]
[or something like this]
[Good God, I LOATHE this monstrosity. I may convince my husband to replace it sooner]
[I love this but it might be too high? Or maybe I'm just used to the hanging light we have?]
[a bit shorter than these are, but I like the idea of three small lights]
[I like pendant lighting but will it go out of style?]
[we'll stick with a neutral for paint; our current one has a too-yellowish base]
I wish we were DIYers, but the honest truth is that we are not. I'm very jealous of people that decide they're going to put in a new light fixture and hop on down to Home Depot. We're more of the "wait an extra month and save to hire an electrician" sort. But man, if you want something edited or written for you, we're the couple to go to. 

Any plans to change things up at home?