Fellow Chief Domestic Joy Spreaders: Christmas is Still on December 25th. You Have Time.


Under normal circumstances there's a lot of pressure on moms to turn it the eff on during the holiday experience to make it oh-so-magical for our kids. And I  admittedly have totally bought into this expectations every year since my son was little, planning fun outings, decorating, doing crafts, and purchasing meaningful gifts. We have traditions, okay?

But, then came 2020 and all it has entailed. My son is an only child (he's six, prime Christmas-is-magical age) and we have abided by all the social distancing requirements. I basically wear all the hats in my house- I work 10ish hours a day, I am responsible for Sawyer's schooling, I am chief puppy-wrangler (cue Sheryl Crow's "Favorite Mistake"), I deal with all domestic matters, and I try to entertain the idea of some sort of life that involves my own need and interests.* And now, now, I'm supposed to make life magical when most days I feel like my head is barely above water? Really?

And my situation isn't unique to me- this is moms everywhere. We are barely hanging on by a thread and this whole Christmas Thing is now dropped in our lap? Like, out of nowhere? All of a sudden? Like, what, it happens every year or something? And, let's be super effing honest: 9 out of 10 dads aren't feeling it like we are. Sure, maybe they lift some boxes and plug some stuff in outisde, but at the end of the day they're not carefully arranging decorative snowmen on bookshelves and curling ribbon packages (and if they are, awesome, this doesn't apply).

Everywhere I turn, there's Christmas. I means for shit's sake, Christmas threw up all over Target a few days before Halloween even happened! There's the marketing emails from every company under the sun, neighbors who have decorated their houses, people putting up their trees, and family members asking for gift ideas for my son. And if you aren't in the mood you're a Scrooge and you're trying to rip away people's happiness after a horrid year. Bahumbug. 

I am oscillating between giving in to the pressure and resisting. I have gotten done most of my shopping (more because of how afraid I am of covid-related shipping delays as the rates of infection are skyrocketing) and have stockpiled all of my baking supplies (I am hearing rumbling of another flour shortage). I've planned some socially-distanced activities for my son (a virtual Santa run, a drive-through light show, and a Zoom with Santa) and I've bought a few new decorations. But I refuse, REFUSE, to decorate until Thanksgiving is over. There will be no Christmas crafts, Christmas music, or Christmas cooking until next weekend at the earliest. I have to give myself the time and the grace to start climbing the next mountain that 2020 is putting in front of us.

And that's the point of this post- a gentle reminder that you don't have to rush. If you want to, that's totally okay and fine, but if you want to wait that's great too! Guess what? Christmas is still December 25. It wasn't moved up, it wasn't rescheduled, and it wasn't extended. Nope. Still the end of NEXT month, as always. So, for those of us who are Chief Domestic Joy Spreaders, it's okay to wait.

And guess what? It's okay to feel a little resentful about having yet something else to do. Right now it's completely how I feel, but I also know that I'll probably experience a shift in attitude in a week or two. I'm not advising anyone to tell their four-year-olds Santa isn't real or tell your eight-year-olds to wrap their own damn presents, but I don't think anyone needs to feel guilty if they don't feel as festive this year. Our memories of 2020 are not going to focus around Christmas, let's be honest. 

All I know is that I am so damn glad I never committed to that goddamn Elf on a Shelf. I cannot imagine dealing with that every night- mad props to those moms who do. 



*I know, I'm a broken record and have stated this fact about 489845 in the past eight months, but when you feel it so acutely 24:7 it's hard not to. 

5-4-3-2-1



5 thing I plan to do as soon as I am vaccinated:
- Get a pedicure
- Get a massage
- See my family (and assuming they get it too, bring Sawyer! He misses my mom and siblings so much)
- Eat at a restaurant with my friends
- Go stay at a hotel for a night or two alone (but somewhere boring for Sawyer like Palm Springs so I don't feel guilty)

4 things I'm listening to: 
- American Royals II by Catherine McGee (these are so bad they're good- perfect for treadmill or dog walking)
- Greenlight by Matthew McConaughey (I haven't started yet, but I heard an interview with him and it sounds fascinating)
- The Daily- I took a looooooooooooooooooooong break from this podcast, since I just couldn't keep up and then couldn't handle the daily doom and gloom. Now that the election is over-ish it is easier to digest
- Smartless- Still in love with this one, and I can't wait to listen to the David Chang episode that just came out yesterday!

3 books I'm currently reading:
- The Lost Children Archive be Valeria Luiselli 
-Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado
- Here by Richard Maguire 

2 not-so-bookish blog posts I'm working on:
- On how it's okay to not be ball-to-the-wall decking the halls right now (and how this holiday season is going to be exponentially more challenging on moms this year).
- Owning my productivity addiction (+ my favorite tips right now) 

1 thing getting me through today:
- the rest of my Ben & Jerry's Cannoli Ice Cream that I have secretly stashed in the freezer. It's the simple things....

End-of-the-Year Bookish Goals



[insert witty introduction that references this insane year and how I somehow spent a ton of time at home but still feel behind at life]

1. Finish my 2019 (yes, 2019...) book symbol embroidery hoop- I have all the symbols sketched on it, so at least that part of the project is done. I should commit to doing one a day and it will be done in no time! 

2. ... and start my 2020 one- What can you do? I LOVE this concept and can't wait to frame them and display them in my class one day, so I don't want to give up. 

3. Meet my 2020 Goodreads challenge- Push it, push it real good. 

4. Help Sawyer crush his class-reading competition- We won't the fundraising component, but I am not going to sit here and pretend to not want to conquer the pages-read part. Right now we're several hundred pages up, but there's this kid (whose mom happens to be the PTA president) that will randomly log one book and say it took him 100 minutes to read. Grrr. 

5. Get some more book recommendation videos up for my students- They get a lot of views, so they're watching them at least! Many have taken ideas from them for outside reading, so I guess I'm selling some of them pretty well (Stephen King's Misery was very popular, as was Crazy Rich Asians). 

6. Blog here at least 12 more times in November and December- You guys are never getting rid of me.

7. Start thinking about the Plath poems I have to teach starting in January- That's it- no doing, just thinking. Doing poetry virtually is going to be tough, since I usually have a "no internet/phone" policy when I introduce each one we have to read. I want their interpretation first! Not the internet's! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts




1. Thank goodness for a day off. I gave myself permission to be a sloth after walking with Ellie for fifty minutes this morning and alternated between sleeping and reading for a few hours. I actually hate napping, since I never feel great afterwards, but there was no way I was going to survive without one. Now I'm alternating between blogging and grading. 

2. I started subscribing to the Melissa Wood Health app a few months ago and I really like it (only $10 a month!). There are over a hundred workouts, plus a new new one each week, that vary in time and focus area, which is great. I love that there are ones that focus on arms or abs and are only ten minutes, so I can bust one out while, say, supervising Sawyer's shower. Right now she's doing a two week challenge that combines a workout plus a meditation each day, so I've committed to that. I'm on day three and hurt all over, so clearly it's working. 

3. I have a lot of problems with distance teaching, but I do feel some sense of victory that I have figured out how to really help my students with their analysis. I have seen so much improvement that I'm nearly giddy! Each week I assign them a quote from out book to analyze and they have to do three levels of analysis- one example that's really horrible and basic, one that's mediocre, and one that represents their very best. Making them do a bad job is actually making them do a good job! I can't really describe why it's happening, but it's pushing them to work harder and I am so happy with results. 

4. I found out this morning that my son's school, which now has a district from the county to reopen, will start back on January 11, 2021. The waiver grants them permission to open on a hybrid schedule no matter what the local numbers are, so it feels pretty definite. I've talked a lot here about my conflicting emotions about it all, but it feels nice to have a date to hold on to right now. I am, supposedly, going back the week after, but considering the rate of spread I feel fairly doubtful.

5. Last week, with the election, was brutal. I stayed up late every single night listening, reading, and watching the news, and yet still got up bright and early to walk my furry friend. On one hand it was so wonderful to have a distraction from the other struggles in life, but it was also so frustrating as well. Obviously I am pleased with the outcome, but I still feel pretty annoyed with all the roadblocks the current administration is deliberately placing.

6. I think Sawyer and I are going to go to the beach to walk around this weekend (and maybe a little hiking, since there are some trails at the one we go to, in the hills right above). We didn't go all summer, so it will be good to be back by the water, even if it will be cool and gloomy. We also haven't really done much lately, so a trip out of our little bubble will be so nice! Last weekend I was supposed to see a friend, but the weather ruined everything- this week will be much better. 

7. I can't believe I did this, but I bought myself the LEGO Treehouse set (let's call it an early birthday present?), which is about 762993 pieces and will take me 893332 hours to put together. I LOVE trees, of course, and I adore tree houses, so I've been wanting this one since they released it while ago. During the first month or two of stay-at-home I thought about getting it, but they sold out. When it came back in stock recently I bit the bullet and got it. It probably won't get put together until Christmas or spring break, but at least I have it.

8. My dog's tail is wagging in her sleep right now. I'm jealous of her happy dreams.

9. I know I've been saying this for ages, but I wish I had time to write more personal essays and post them here. You know, because I am so fascinating and everyone wants to read my inner monologue. 

October Reads



October was long. I mean, so are all the other months, but October seemed like a marathon. I think it was just... well everything, right? I had some moments where I really had to rally and keep moving, but that's everyone these days. The month definitely ended on a high note, though, since I spent the evening with one of my best friends outside in her lovely backyard on Friday and then we had a super festive Halloween at home. Sawyer went as Harry Potter and we walked around the neighborhood to see the decorations and ended the night with excessive candy eating and screen time.

Reading was another bright spot, the five books I finished each being outstanding. I read two two foodie memoirs this month, David Chang's Eat a Peach and Hungry by Jeff Gordinier. Chang's book is about his rise from a young golfing prodigy who choked to the king of Momofuku. He writes in his typical voice, one part ego and one part self-deprecating (he's a lot like Anthony Bourdain in that way). Jeff Gordinier, a food writer, wrote about his time with one of the best chefs in the world, Rene Redzepi, traveling the world and learning about foraging. I loved that this was part travelogue and part restaurant industry homage.

For work I read "Master Harold"...and the boys (yes, the punctuation is intentional) by Athol Fugard, a play set in South Africa during the Apartheid. This is my fourth time reading and teaching the text, but it felt so much more relevant this year, given the racial inequality in our current times.

Our English department book club read Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous and lemme tell ya, that book is all-the-way gorgeous. The writing, the raw emotion, the narrator's honesty... just so good (probably a contender for my top ten of the year). Little Dog tells a story about being the son a single mom who is struggling from severe PTSD after the Vietnam war, his sexuality, and finding his voice. It's the perfect example of how to do a coming-of-age story right. 

Finally, I just finished Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout and I loved very second of it, just like I did the first Olive book (which I might go back and reread). Strout crafts stories about the people in the small Maine town and weaves in Olive's life around them, so that it feels like a short story collection and novel at the same time. This book made me miss my grandparents so much and simultaneously look forward to aging and be terrified of it. 

Ten Things That are Making Me Happy

 



1. I ordered a huge box of my hard-to-find favorite NY Cheddar Kettle Chips and hid them high up in cabinet so no one can get them. I know my family knows they're there and just don't want them, but I feel sneaky and mean and I like it.

2. It's fall in Southern California! Basically this means we shift between highs of 65 to 85, but it's cool and night and I no longer have to run the AC>

3. I have these things, ummmm, I think they're called "plans," for several weekends in a row now. This is actually really huge for me, because pre-covid my weekends were booked solid and everything has come to a stand still. I've been feeling really, really depleted lately and I had to make some things happen. Over the next few weekends I am going to see a few friends, from a safe distance outside, take my son to the beach (finally! Now that the beaches are empty it will be a great time to get in some walking by the water), and Halloween fun around the house.

4. The Smartless podcast! It's just so funny and the guests are so good (yes, I'll probably mention it every week for awhile).

5. It's almost November, which means a week off school for Thanksgiving and Veteran's day, too. I'll have to do quite a bit of work during this time, just because distance learning plus being an English teacher equals grading for days, but I am still so thankful for the break. 

6. Christina Tosi's cookbook comes out this week and I totally bought it for myself. 

7. Yesterday I got over 26,000 steps, baked a really labor-intensive pumpkin cake, finished a book, finished a cross stitch hoop, and managed to spend time with Sawyer. I woke up sore and tired, but I can't deny that productivity is my drug of choice.

8. The two book clubs I am in are still going strong with monthly meetings. It's just all kinds of great- I get to meet up (online) with friends, I get to talk about good books, and I have reasons to read books I might not normally. I also think Julie and I are planning a post together, too!

9. I've read two memoir centered around chefs this month- if I had to choose, this would be one of my top five favorite genres. If I had time, I would sit and watch hours and hours of Chef's Table on Netflix. 

10. Sawyer's reading skills are just improving every single day- every time we read together I'm so impressed with what he's able to decode. I think it's a combo of me working with him, his school work, and the fact that he chooses to read during his independent time every afternoon. I just picked up the first book in The Bad Guys series yesterday and while he balked at the idea of something new at first, he quickly got on board. He's absolute obsessed with Harry Potter, which we read every night. I love it and hate it- I'm so glad he has found something literary to love, but they also take forerrrrrrrr to read and I want to introduce him to so many other books!

A Day in the Life During These "Unprecedented Times" aka I Am So Tired


 

I really hemmed and hawed about doing a day-in-the-life post during whatever it is we're calling this dumpster fire of a year. But, I've really tried to do one for different parts of my life, whether when I first started blogging, had an infant, a toddler, whatever (see here, here, and here,). This is something I will want to look back on... eventually. The other day felt pretty "typical," so I kept notes and here we are:

6:10 AM- 6:50 AM I wake up at 6:10 and am able to throw on clothes and get out the door with Ellie to walk within ten minutes. I am NOT a morning person, despite over six years of basically sleeping in pat seven less than a dozen times, but I do appreciate out walks in the quiet morning now, when I can get in some exercise and listen to a podcast (today it was the Gustavo Dudamel episode of Smartless). 

6:50-7:30 I get back home and it's a mad rush around to get Sawyer and I breakfast and ready for our days to start. We have a good routine now, but I still hate it.

7:30-9:00 I had my prep period today so I worked on grading papers with Sawyer next to me working on language arts. His district has chosen to do a 45 minute Zoom each day at 9, while the rest of the content is delivered through several hours of high-quality (really, it's so good and he's learned a ton) video instruction. I am really strategic about what I do during this time so that I can be productive but also be available to help him. My husband comes out to supervise before his 9 am Zoom, which is when I head upstairs to my makeshift office (after yet another mad dash to take the dog out, make another cup of coffee, help Sawyer log on to Zoom, and put my work clothes on);

9:00-12:00 I teach this whole time, which is great and exhausting. We are finishing up The Catcher in the Rye and have been practicing really sharpening literary analysis skills. I always start class with a "guess this song" game and a question for the chat. I get a break for fifteen minutes, in which I am able to run to the restroom, run back downstairs to take the dog out, chat with Sawyer for a second, and head back up. 

12:00-1:00 Lunch! I make Sawyer lunch, take the dog out, get the dog food, gulp down something myself, and try to just... breathe. Sawyer usually needs to go through his newest ten-page comic that he has drawn pictures for, which is so sweet but often not exactly what I'm in the right headspace for (but I do, because I am in no way going to discourage this hobby). At 12:45 I banish him to his room for his "independent time" for eighty minutes (he is totally fine with it- he reads or plays with LEGOs).

1:00-2:30 I teach another class and have office hours (office hours is every day and is a time where kids can come to a Zoom meeting to chat 1:1 about questions they have- I really love it and have grown to really appreciate seeing the kids individually). Sawyer comes down at 2:15 or so and since I am not currently working with a student I help him get started on his math.

2:30-4:00 During this time I work on answering emails and grading, while I help Sawyer when he needs it on his math and science. Now that Ellie is getting so much exercise she sleep most of the afternoon, which is a lifesaver, since she was a total irritating maniac pre-walking time. 

4:00-4:30 Sawyer and I put work away and work on a Halloween art project for the outside of his bedroom door. I try really hard to do something non-school related with him every day, as hard as it can be for me sometimes. 

4:30-5:00 I run around the house and do laundry, set up some sprinklers outside, vacuum, and straighten up.

5:00-5:30 I give Ellie a bath, clean up the backyard artificial grass, and skim the pool 

5:30-6:00 Sawyer and I take Ellie for another walk. Sawyer and I have started this game where we start a story and trade off making parts for the duration of the walk. The stories are insanely ridiculous- today was about a family of bears who go to the beach and almost get eaten by sharks, so they end up going to an amusement park instead.

6:00-7:00 I make dinner (copy cat PF Chang's lettuce wraps and fried rice), clean up, wash dishes

7:00-7:20 I supervise Sawyer's shower, put away laundry, and then put away dishes (our dishwasher is broken... kill me now).

7:20-8:00 Sawyer watches a movie with my husband and I sit back down to do some work.

8:00-8:20 Bedtime for Sawyer- I help him get ready and then we read some Harry Potter 

8:20-9:00 I ran last night and am already at nearly 13,000 steps for the day, so I do some yoga and shower

9:00-9:45 I sit back on my computer to do a Screencastify review video for my students to review some instructions for an assignment they need to be doing but have had questions on. I also squeeze in a quick Marco Polo with a friend. 

9:45-10:15 FINALLY I get to read (On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous)

10:05-10:20 Take dog out again, shut windows, set alarm, check on Sawyer, etc... Panic that a warm spot on the tile is a slab leak.

10:20-11:10 Worry about possible slab leak, go downstairs to check it again (I think we are fine), check my bank account balance, obsess about a few other things I can't control. Eventually fall asleep so that I can wake up a few hours later when the pool pump kicks on so that I can worry that it sounds strange. 


Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts




1. Social media totally unnecessary conundrum: WHY DO I CHECK THE ACCOUNTS OF PEOPLE I HAVE BLOCKED BECAUSE THEIR POSTS CONTINUE TO DISAPPOINT AND INFURIATE ME? I mean, I know I should cut ties with these people, since it's not like we're close, but, you know how things go.... I need to bribe myself to stop looking. STOP.

2. Ellie is a whole new puppy now that she is getting two walks a day and I've started jingling coins in a metal cup when she barks. She is almost a good dog!

3. My district has voted to not go back to work until mid-January, once the holidays are over and the new semester has started. Most schools in our area have decided this, actually, although Sawyer's school hasn't... yet. As of right now he is going back on November 10, which I can see changing. It's a tough call- we have to keep people safe (I have had many students have Covid and know of a few with family members who have passed away) but we also need kids to learn. I am so fortunate- my own child and my students have (mostly) been doing awesome. I will keep doing me best, as tired as I am, and when we go back, we go back!

4. I found a new podcast that I'm loving- Smartless, with Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes. I've listened to three episodes so far, with Gustavo Dudamel, Kamala Harris, and Jennifer Aniston, and it's becoming a quick favorite. Highly recommend!

5. I had book club with two of my good friends last weekend and it lasted over three hours long... we talked about the book for about five minutes. Honestly, I could care less- it is SO good to converse with people who live outside my home. The week before a different friend came over to visit at a distance outside and that was wonderful, too. I think I might have another friend date in a few weeks- what is this? A social life again? 

6. Something else that was so nice- Sawyer and I went to a small local pumpkin patch near our house and got our future jack-o-lanterns last weekend. I wasn't sure if it was going to happen, but it did and we were both so happy.

7. Did you get your flu shot? I did! Sawyer did! His pediatrician wanted to do an exam as well and it ended up lasting over thirty minutes, since Sawyer would not stop talking to the nurses and doctor. They were so sweet and had extensive conversations with him about Disney movies and Harry Potter. Sawyer is apparently starved for interaction as well. 

8. This week has kicked my butt, and it's only Wednesday, so I am promising myself that I am going to take a night off from running and doing work to just sit at read for at least an hour straight. This seems so simple, but it's such a luxury right now. 

A Decade of Blogging



This past July marked by tenth year of blogging here at Bookishly Boisterous. Given the circumstances, I sort of... forgot? Or more like, remembered, intended to post, got busy, forgot, lather rise repeat. So much has happened in those ten years, bookish and otherwise. Bookishly Boisterous has been my own little time-capsule and I am proud that I've kept it going, no matter how crazy life has gotten at times. I have a lot of faults, but when I say that I'm going to do something, I do it, and maintaining an active blog has been one of those things. I started the project back in 2010 when I was pink-slipped from my elementary teaching job and needed an outlet to distract myself from possibly being unemployed. By the time I actually published my first post, I had gotten my job back but still was enamored with the idea of having a tiny space online where I could ramble on about books however I pleased. So many people I knew during that time period were blogging, many of which were family-centric ones that fizzled out. I admittedly saw many of them as silly at the time and was fearful of also being perceived this way, so I waited until I really had a sort of theme to rely on. Running? Nah, not fast enough. Teaching? Too new. Baking? I didn't create my own recipes. Reading? Now we were getting somewhere. 

At the time I was newly married, living in a tiny apartment, and really enjoying the benefits of being someone in her twenties with disposable income and various friends who were up for anything. I was working on my Master's, going to the gym every day, and enjoying my dog. As I look back those early years of the blog represent such an "easy" time in my life, but, as I have learned with old age, "easy" is always a relative term. 

Let's take a quick, self-indulgent jaunt down memory lane.

Since then, in the last ten years, I have:

- gotten two additional teaching credentials, plus my Master's
- am at my third school site, moving from fifth grade to fourth grade to high school, where I started off teaching severely struggling kids and now have IB classes (which are wonderful but also a lot of work)
- bought a house, refinanced it, and taken out a HELOC, all of which I 've done all the leg-work and paperwork for
- Made so many new friends and strengthened many of the bonds from those friends I had ten years ago 
- traveled to some awesome places 
- really worked hard to find techniques to get my anxiety under control 
- had a kid and have watched him grow into an awesome little six-year-old (and also started a college fund with monthly contributions)
- done very boring adult things like find a tax consultant I love, take out a life insurance policy on myself, find different repair/contractor type of people for home matters, research child care/preschool/speech therapy facilities, and get passports 
- run over a dozen half marathons- all very slowly and with plenty of profanity
- said good bye to two sweet dogs and hello to crazy Ellie
- worked hard to save a lot of money, work my family's budget so it only relies on one income if necessary, and have a plan to pay off my students loans in the next few years
- become increasingly passionate about feminism and learning about intersectionality 
- dealt with a lot of foot (and hip) pain
- really taken advantage of all Southern-California has to offer, whether it's museums, nature, events, theme parks, etc... (well, during non-covid times)
- had some serious, serious obstacles that I won't bring up here, but let's just say I'm proud of myself for handling my self as I have
- I got back into cross stitch, took up embroidery, and started an Etsy shop 




In terms of reading and bookish things a lot has happened as well:

- I was an enthusiastic Amazon Vine reviewer, but then quit when I found myself acquiring books for the sake of just getting free books
- I worked with Penguin to review books for a few years, but also allowed myself to stop when I was accepting books I really didn't want to read and was neglecting the books I bought with my own money
- I have gone to dozens and dozens of author readings and have gotten to spend some really fun evenings by myself in LA and also with friends when I've gotten them to come along
- went to a fun Hello Sunshine book event for Gail Honeyman, the author of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
- I endured my students finding the blog when I went out on maternity leave, deleting a few posts before they found them (and then just assuming that everyone was reading, even though they're not)
- I have met some great women through blogging that I'd totally go to lunch with if I ever dropped into their cities (I already did with Brie! And Rory and Julz, you're next)
- Julz and I started our occasional Bookish Banter posts, which are always fun
- I belong to two book clubs now! One, through out English department at work, as been around for a very long time, and a new one this summer with two great friends that's going strong
- I've stopped hating on ereaders, although I'll be team physical copy forever
- I've subscribed to Audible but will never count those as read books (listening is not the same as reading- I won't budge on this opinion, sorry)
- I've gotten to read to a newborn, a toddler, and now an elementary student. Even cooler? I've taught him how to read and have watched him develop his own tastes. 
- That one time I completed NaNoWriMo- ha! 
- I've started an Instragram (bookstagram... @bookishlyboisterous)  account for the blog that I don't really maintain, but wanted to claim the handle for, just in case I do eventually
- I gave into Goodreads and have done a good job keeping up with at least entering what I read and buy 
- Published 1,671 posts! 
 
This blog was never, ever, ever intended as a money maker or something to "go viral" (in fact, I'd be mortified if it did). I love that I have an outlet for writing and talk about books, and I've never had lofty expectations about readership. 

So, if you've made it through this post, and whether you're an old reader or a new one, thank you so much. 

Distance Teaching and Learning: Week 9

You know it's serious if there's no picture. Serious because I'm too tired to bother, amirightoramiright?

It's week nine of distance teaching for me, distance learning for my son. Where I live in Southern California we have moved from the bottom tier of various indicators to the next level up (is this a video game?) and there are plans to begin planning to head back into the classroom in the near-ish future. 

Yes. Plans to make plans. And near-ish. The powers-that-be are oozing information. 

Like every step of the way thus far, I have very mixed feelings. I am so exhausted of this life- I work at least ten or eleven hours a day Monday-Thursday, a regular contractual day Friday, and then probably eight or so hours on the weekend, which means I am putting in close to sixty hours a week right now. I also help my son with all of his school work, take care of all domestic matters, deal with the puppy, and try to maintain some sort of hobbies and social life (from afar). 

As a teacher, besides having to work many more hours a week now, it's been hard to get a solid read on my kids. As horrible as it is to say it, teachers are part performers and we feed off the responses of our audience aka the students. I can tell so much by looking at my class in person; if they're engaged, if they understand, IF THEY ARE AWAKE. Online it's different- they're awesome at turning on their cameras and participating when asked or called on, but I can't see their expressions or if they're playing around on their phones off screen. I have my students twice a week for 80-minute blocks, as opposed to five time a week for a little less than an hour a day- that's a huge loss of time for content. I feel like I have to over-compensate sometimes and be accessible ALL the time and be super energetic and warm whenever I'm on camera (not that I want to be a drag, but it just gets tiring, you know?).

My son is doing well enough with his situation. He is in a different district than I am, and their requirements are a little different. Instead of lots of synchronous (live) teaching all day, they want the teachers to do about an hour of Zoom and then around four hours of pre-recorded high-quality lessons (for primary grades). His teacher is doing an amazing job- I have absolutely no complaints about her role in all of this. The content itself is really manageable for him, since a lot of it feels like review still, at least for him. The computer skills aspect is totally different; he is so new to using a laptop that so often it feels that his "drag and drop" skills are being tested more than anything.

Socially, I am heartbroken for him. He is an only-child and has not had a face-to-face interaction with another kid since March. I've read articles telling me that his connections with his parents at this age are the most important, but still, he needs to be around his peers. He has maintained a positive attitude and is still a really happy kid, but he does make comments about missing his friends from his old school and wanting to "go to fun places." He is starting a completely new school when we do go back, so I guess on one level it's been a good transition having him see him teacher and classmates on Zoom every day, but still, our current situation is not a sufficient substitute. Plus, let's be honest: sometimes I don't want to be his playmate and often am short on time. 

There are some positives to the distance thing, I guess. I don't have to pay for any sort of childcare and am not losing hours of my life to commuting. I have had to really rethink my approaches to the curriculum and become as efficient as possible (both with teaching and in my non-work life, since I now have to accommodate so muck work at home). I've also had to work on new ways to be engaging and reach students as well. I'm sure there are many who are doing much better than I am, but I can genuinely say that I am doing the best job I possibly can for my personal circumstances. I also have a much better understanding of Google Classroom now and have added a few other programs I would have never into my repertoire. 

I am pleased that our districts didn't rush back into the classroom and start back in August and I am hopeful that when we do get a return date every effort will be made to keep everyone safe. I have a lot of faith in Sawyer's school and teacher; his class is small as is and I've seen pictures of what it looks like inside. Little kids, for the most part, can be convinced to follow rules and I know that Sawyer has a decent understanding of how to stay safe. I am worried about my teenage students, though. I feel like I can keep myself healthy, especially with the abundance of plexiglass in my classroom right now (around each student desk, around my desk, and a plexiglass wall to teach in back of... oh my god). But what happens when the kids start mingling with each other between classes? Because they will. No matter what we tell them, it's just the way it is. They're fourteen to eighteen years old- we don't trust them to vote, buy alcohol, join the military, and half of them can't drive. They may not be ready to be left to their own devices with the virus lurking around.

So, nine weeks in. I don't like it, I'm tired, but I'm really trying to push forward and take what comes. If we start back in two weeks, so be it- I've got an order of super cute masks coming for us any day now. If they say Sawyer starts in three weeks and me three months- I'll make it work. If we all go back after Christmas, falalala we'll do what we're told. I'm not going to sit here and complain about admin or the state- this is all so new. We've never been in a pandemic before and we're trying to keep people safe. Under regular times we can barely hold it together! I'm tired of people spewing facts- even statistically if that means one staff member at my school dies that's ONE TOO MANY. But I get it. We can't do this forever. I just want people to be empathetic, that's all, and I'm just so disappointed in some of the things I've heard from people I didn't realize were such jerks. 

I often feel like I am on the cusp of breaking, between the workload I've described here and other cards I keep closer to my chest. But I can't. I have my own child, a puppy, 140ish students, and my own damn self-respect. So, every day I get up, I make my lists, drink my coffee, and keep on keeping on, remembering what I can eventually look forward to, who I can turn to support, and why I do it all. Forward motion. Survival is insufficient. 

It's all we can do. 

Books on My Wish List for Sawyer



Sawyer, my first-grader, is at such a fun age when it comes to reading right now. Not only does he love to be read to still, both picture and chapter books, but he also can read to himself more and more as well. His favorites right now continue to be the Mo Willems books, the Harry Potter series (we are reading the third at night now), and any of the Dog Man or Captain Underpants books. Here are a few on my/our radar: 

Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Guide to Diagon Alley and Beyond by Matter Reinhart- We have the first pop-up book of Hogwarts, which is really awesome and well-done, so I have a feeling this one will be too. 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay- I have the boxed set of the novels, but I have been reading Sawyer the ones with illustrations. We are on the third and will need to get the next one soon! 

Roald Dahl Collection (15 books)- There are so many great classic in here that I can't wait to read him. He saw the movie BFG recently and really liked it, and I can't wait to reread Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach.

Boxitects by Kim Smith- Sawyer loves to repurpose items, so this book looks like something he'll be able to relate to. 

The Boxcar Children Books 1-4 by Gertrude Chandler Warner- I loved these books growing up and I can't wait to see if he's interested. He loves mysteries, so I have a hunch he will. 

Cat Kid Comic Club by Dav Pilkey- Another series by one of his favorite authors.

The World of Beverly Cleary (15 books)- Another classic author! 

Dog Man Grime and Punishment by Dav Pilkey- So, Pilkey is not my favorite, but Sawyer really loves him and I'm not about to squash any sort of love for reading he has! Plus, I have to admit I'm not exactly his target audience, so there's that too (in case you aren't familiar with these books they are really silly graphic novels that involve a policeman protagonist that is half dog half man who gets himself into crazy predicaments and ends up saving the day. 

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey- Another pseudo-graphic novel series that I think he will like. 



Bookish Wish List- Late 2020


 

I did a pretty good job of not buying too many book during the summer, but now that all-too-familiar itch is back and I've been spending some time revisiting my wish list. Here are some that I have pre-ordered, in my cart, or are just on my mind: 

1. Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval- I stumbled across a post from Book Soup on this the other day and then spent a few minutes looking at the Instagram account with the same name. Basically it's a coffee table book with images that connect to his movies, which I love. Once I found out that Anderson had give it his blessing I pre-ordered it. 

2. What are you Going Through by Sigrid Nunez- I really l enjoyed her last book, and this one has gotten good reviews as well, so I had add to my short list of books to purchase over the next few months. 

3. Just Like You by Nick Hornby- I am ashamed to admit that I didn't even know he had just published a new novel, and I would consider Hornby one of my top-ten favorites! I don't have a set book budget, but I do have a fairly rigid person budget, so once I have some wiggle room I'll be hitting "buy."

4. Monogamy by Sue Miller- Honestly, I don't know a ton about this book and I have never read anything else by her, but the quick snippet I did read had my intrigued. Marriage and divorce and the decisions people make regarding cohabitation are fascinating. 

5. Once I Was You by Maria Hinojosa- This memoir tells about Hinojosa's extensive career as  Latina journalist. 

6. Here by Richard McGuire- I read about this graphic novel awhile ago and it's five or six years old. McGuire focuses on the idea of space and time- a room in an apartment building and who lives in it, past, present and future. 

7. Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer- I can be a sucker for running and yoga memoirs, what can I say? I also do a lot of reflecting when I'm on the mat, so there's a bit of a voyeuristic quality to this.

8. The Molecule of More by Daniel Lieberman- It's a whole book about dopamine. Sold.

9. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker- For the longest time I thought that this book was something totally different, as opposed to a look at mental health in one family. It seems like it might be a tough read, but also fascinating. 

10. Life and Other Shortcomings by Corie Adjmi- A welcome dose of some short stories with feminist (I think) undertones. 

11. A Promised Land by Barack Obama- I preordered it the second I heard about it. 

12. Milk Bar: Kids Only by Christina Tosi- I adore Tosi and not-so-secretly wish she and I could be best friends. I have her other cookbooks and I love them, but the recipes require lots of difficult-to-find items (citric acid, clear vanilla, glucose, etc...) so I don't make many of them. The idea of a simpler kids book is exciting! I I won't even pretend I got it for Sawyer, haha.

October Activities for 2020 (with a First Grader)



I usually do a lot of activities for the holidays with my six-year-old son, starting in October and not letting up until Christmas. I'll be honest: I'm bummed. Living in Southern California we have excellent weather and a variety of activities to choose from, which is obviously not the case this year. And, icing on the case, work is basically twice as exhausting. But, Sawyer will only be six once, and the magic of the holidays won't be this sweet forever, so I am forcing myself to rally*. 

1. Craft kits- little kids are missing out on all of the fun art projects of school, so I picked up some cheapy ones at Michaels (also, they take up time!) 

2. Halloween cookies- Hurry, go get some festive sprinkles before all the stores transition to Christmas! 

3. Make and send Halloween cards- I will dump a ton of art supplies on the table and let Sawyer go to town making cards for families and friends. 

4. Try on old costumes- There is nothing more hilarious than seeing a costume that was once huge now look like culottes. 

5. Carve pumpkins- Of course! I think I'll put some effort behind mine this year (read: actually use the drill collecting dust for something).

6. Decorate the house- I don't have a ton of fall decorations, but I'll let Sawyer help me put up the ones we do have.  

7. Watch Halloween movies- Honestly, I am not a fan of Halloween movies, or really movies in general, but Sawyer is! 

8. Read Halloween/fall books- I've acquired quite the collection thanks to Scholastic book orders from his old school. 

9. Come up with a 10/31 plan- this will look differently for everyone, but we are planning on letting Sawyer dress up in his costume and we will walk around the neighborhood to participate in the whole vibe, but not collect candy from houses (I will buy him all his favorite to have at home). I'm pleased everyone in our house is okay with this! 

10. Bedroom door decorations- Sawyer's room door is due for a refresh, so we'll put something festive up soon.

11. Sidewalk chalk mural on the driveway- now that the temperatures are cooling off and the puppy is fully vaccinated we can spend time outside in the front yard drawing lots of pumpkins. 

12. Dress up the pets- I think Ellie is going to be an Ewok. 







*I am very tired of rallying, for the record. I am tired of over six months of having to make the best out of everything, of constantly propelling things forward, to plastering a smile on my face most days and being the cheerleader. So, so, so tired. Wouldn't it be nice if someone on this planet tried to make my life easier, for once? Anyway. So tired. 

September Reads




Should I wax and wane about the passage of time in 2020, as we close out another month? I want to, but I'll spare everyone. I will say that in order to make my Goodreads challenge for the year I will need to read 19 more books in the remaining three months of the year, which will be a bit of a stretch. Luckily I thrive under pressure, so if I get through five in October and seven in each of November and December, when I have some time off for the holidays, I might pull it off. Scratch that- I will pull it off.

This month there were two book club books (actually, I think that's every month now, which is one of the few good things to come out of this horrid year). I reread Weather by Jenny Offill, which was even better the second time around. It's not an uplifting or happy read, but instead more of a reminder of things such as the doom connected to global warming, possibilities of existential crises, and how difficult relationships can be. Have I sold it yet? Fine, fine. Read it for Offill's unique, poignant writing style instead. 

The other book club selection was Naked by David Sedaris, which is exactly what you would expect from him- hilarious essays that highlight his family, quirks, and observations. If he were to publish a new collection a month, I'd buy and read it. He can do no wrong. 

I read Erika Sanchez's I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter to help a student with her IB Extended Essay (a 4,000 word paper on a topic of their choice). This one is a YA novel, and the she plans on comparing it to a contemporary adult literature on the same topic, which is such a cool ideas. I am not a fan of YA, as I typically find the whole "adult writing as a teenager" voice problematic, but I did appreciate the story.

The shining start of the month was definitely Curtis Sittenfeld's Rodham. She absolutely nailed Hillary's voice and the reimagining of what her life would have been life if she hadn't married Bill was fascinating. I convinced one of my book clubs to read this next month, and I can't wait to have people to talk to about it. It was so distracting from life's stressors- it felt like a treat to read every night. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts




1. October! I have been sort of dreading the holiday season this year, just because I usually jam-pack every weekend with fun things for Sawyer and I for nearly three months straight. You're not going to hear any "it feels good to slow down" talk from me- I'm bummed that we won't be pumpkin-patch hopping, eating breakfast with Santa, or running in festive attire. But, it's still important to celebrate, so I'm going to work hard on doing what we can with what we've got.

2. Schools might start back in our county soon, since the numbers have been steadily improving according to the state's metric. We will start back in a hybrid format, which is basically going to be a nightmare, for many reasons that I won't make my head and stomach hurt lamenting here. I will say that my son's teacher has been posting pictures of her classroom and it looks incredibly safe and well-planned out, and since there are only 20 kids in his first-grade class I think they can do a good job social distancing.

I will say that it continues to be a complicated, fluid, and emotionally-charged issue and I have absolutely no room in my life for people who are going to withhold empathy on the topic, in either direction. That are a lot of valid concerns on both "sides."  

3. I am doing a mileage challenge in October in order to earn myself an RBG medal- 87 run/walk miles. It's less than three miles a day, so between my normal treadmill work and the fact I can walk the puppy outside soon it should be easy. 

4. I am reading I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez as part of my advisee duties for a student research paper and while there are a lot of good things about it, I stand solid in my preference that I just don't really like reading YA. There's something about an adult writing from the perspective of a teenager that just doesn't quite work for me.

5. I mentioned it before, but I can walk Ellie starting on Sunday, since she is fully vaccinated. I am SO excited. She has SO much energy and it will be a great way to get out in the nice cool morning air before work starts. 

6. Why did I watch the debate last night? Why did I waste my time? Why will I watch the others? Ugh. The worst. Remember when there was some sense of decorum and procedure to these nights? Back before Trump entered politics? 

7. I really, really miss my family. My mom lives like six or so hours away, but I usually see her four or so times a year. I think this has been our longest stretch- since last Thanksgiving. My brother moved to the midwest a year ago, so that makes it easier to process, but I miss him too (he used to live in San Diego, so I saw him probably every other month). I keep telling myself "when all this is over" (what does that even mean?) I'm never spending another weekend at home. Man. I should have bought a little RV a few years ago. Why can't I be psychic? 

8. But, if it was even a legit thing, would I even want to be psychic? That's a lot of responsibility. 

9. I'm not sure if it will happen, but I want to try to post every day for a week. 



Three Things That Made Me Tear Up Today


 

I'm a bit of a crier- it's who I am. Not a crier at work or with friends, or even people outside my home, but more of a solitary crier, mostly. It's not that I'm ashamed of crying, in fact I find it incredibly cathartic and, clearly, easily admit to it. I just think that when you cry in front of someone else you're at least subconsciously asking them for something; support, an apology, understanding, whatever, and I have some serious issues about accepting things from others, material or otherwise. So, I cry in the car, on the treadmill, in the bathroom, wherever need be. I know of a person or two in particular who have mocked the act of crying and I think it's pretty disdainful. Not to pat myself on the back, but I'm a pretty tough, efficient, self-reliant woman, and I can cry with the best of 'em.

Quite the intro, eh? Is being defensive a super power yet? Asking for a friend...

Today was a long, busy day, and I should be in bed, but I felt compelled to share a few things from today before catching some shut eye, just in case you too need a good cry. Three things, plus a bonus option, coming right up:

Watch: Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish), which came out today on Youtube, was so incredibly corny, eye-roll inducing,  and predictable, yet I bawled through most of the twenty-five minutes (on the treadmill, so hooray for multi-tasking). First of all, I loved the first movie and I can say it's one of the few movies I can re-watch, so there was definitely a nostalgic factor. Second of all, I want someone to love me as much as the Banks family members love each other. They all just absolutely adore each other and are so cognizant of each others' feelings. I mean, can they adopt me? Please?

Listen: Today's special episode of The Armchair Expert that detailed Dax's lapse of sobriety made me cry at many points. First of all, I often find him incredibly annoying (I'm there for Monica, okay?), but his honesty, vulnerability, and clear love for the people in his life just killed me. He took such a risk putting his story out publicly and I was worried at first that it was just a sort of ploy for publicity, but after listening I didn't feel that way at all. I understand his need for control and also his desire to wake up feeling good in the morning. I also really felt for Kristen Bell, who I can take or leave, and, of course Monica. I think people often focus so much on the victims of addiction and mental health, and rightfully so, that they forget about the caregivers. It's really, really hard to be on the receiving end of someone who is struggling's anger, depression, dependency, etc... 

Read: I am currently reading David Chang's memoir Eat a Peach, and he talks quite a bit about how he uses extreme productivity as a way to manage his mental health and, while getting modestly teary-eyed, I just felt so heard. People make comments about how much I do and I often think it comes from a place of at least a little cattiness. They don't get it: I need to do things or else I won't do anything. And I don't mean "lay on the couch all day watching TV" kind of nothingness, I mean "worry myself to the point where I can't eat, take care of my responsibilities, end up making endless lists, running obsessive calculations, running through scenarios B-Q, etc..." kind of not do nothing (so basically, while this does sound like doing "something," it is nothing productive or beneficial). It's taken me a looooooong time to tame the beast, and being busy is the way I do it. Yes, it's been intensely hard since March, for various reasons, but I keep productive and structured. David Chang gets me. 

Bonus: Get super convinced for a few moments that something is realllllllllly wrong with your upstairs plumbing, and then figure out that everything is basically okay. While maybe not a catalysis of a good cry, a quick tearing up may be in order (and perhaps a glass of wine). 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts


 

1. We are going into week seven of distance teaching and learning... I have never been so tired in my whole life (including when I had a newborn). 

2. What is JK Rowling doing? Ugh. I have a first-grader who is obsessed with the Harry Potter franchise and wants to be Harry for Halloween, meanwhile she has to keep running her damn mouth.

3. Halloween in 2020... what the actual hell? We are going let Sawyer dress up and we'll walk around the neighborhood (masks handy) to get the feel for things, and then I'll buy him a few bags of his choice of candy. Honestly, it sounds like a total win... he gets scared of some houses in our area and I feel like we skip so many as is. Plus, he ends up eating maybe 1/3 of what he gets anyway.

4. I started subscribing to the Melissa Wood Health app and really like it so far. Actually, I hate it, since I hate strength training and anything that isn't cardio or straight-up yoga, but I know it's good for me. I love that some of her videos are only 10 minutes- I was able to get through an arms one last night while I supervised Sawyer's shower. Clean kid, eventually super sleek muscular arms (ha). Win-win.

5. I haven't embroidered in seven weeks and it breaks my heart.

6. Last weekend Sawyer and I desperately needed a change in scenery, so we tired the crazy puppy out (she has 2.5 more weeks until she will be fully vaccinated and can walk outside) and the drove to a large regional park nearby. We walked around for awhile and then had -drum roll- A BOOK PICNIC. We had lots of snacks and read on blanket under a big tree for thirty minutes (Dogman for him, Rodham for me) and it was the highlight of my...  week? Month?

7. Speaking of the crazy puppy she had a two hour period the other day where she was so lethargic and sad that we almost had to take her to the emergency vet. Then, miraculously, she was fine. 

8. Sawyer is obsessed with making comic books- I think I've mentioned it before, but he's still at it, churning out nearly one ten-page story a day. It's just so fun to see his creativity (and it takes him 2-3 hours, so it's been a great way for him to occupy himself). 

9. I am absolutely devastated by RBG's death. I'd like to write a post on it, but who knows when I will have time. I have admired her greatly for several years, one of my highlights of 2018 being a girl's night out to a museum in LA that had a huge exhibit dedicated to her. 

11 Ways I Use My Teacher Instagram Account



A few years ago I sucked it up and created an Instagram account for my kids who had graduated, after declining follow requests from students on my personal private account daily. It ended up a great way to keep in touch and it was always sort of a fun way to tease my current students, telling them that I wouldn't associate with them on social media until they were graduates. I have my students for two years, so I end up being super close to many of them- it's a good way to ease my sadness about them graduating. 

Then March 2020 came and my seniors were ripped away from me in one day, without getting a chance to say our proper goodbyes. Within a week I changed my mind and allowed my students at the time to become Instagram followers, which made me officially change my policy and allow all students past, present, and future to jump on board. 

A few things to remember before the fun parts:

1. What is your district's social media policy when it comes to teachers and students? Mine is super relaxed, for better or worse, but always be mindful so you don't get a wrist slap (or worse) later!

2. Pretend that your administrators and the students' parents all have access to see every tiny little thing posted. 

3. Recruit a few colleagues to follow you, just in case anything comes up later.

4. Keep your account private and have some way of verifying students (I ask them about their schedule). If you feel like you might need to keep a spreadsheet with user names and actual names go for it! I don't, but I can see how that might be helpful with some groups.

5. Have clear cut parameters; I won't discuss grades on social media, and encourage kids to email me with anything that can't be resolved with a word or two (checking due dates is great, giving feedback on a thesis needs to move over to email). You might also have a standard message about decorum that you DM a kid once you accept their request.  

6. You are doing this to build relationships and communicate- if any student gets in the way don't hesitate to block them (tell them why, they need to know). Following you is a privilege, not a right.

7. DO NOT follow the kids back. I feel very, very, very strongly about this and tell my students this more than once. Once you follow them back you are opening yourself up to seeing parts of their lives that might require you to call their parents, CPS, or even the police. DON'T DO IT. 

How I Use the Platform:


1. Post reminders- This practical reason comes in so handy during this time of distance learning! A few weeks ago I posted constant stories so that the kids would know when to pick up text books.

2. Get (appropriately) personal- I find it a lot easier to work for people who I know and can connect to, so I try to share about my life here. There are lots of pictures of Sawyer, vacations, hobbies, the puppy, and other weird little tidbits about my life. I put subtle posts up so that they know I am an ally, as well, since I want kids to feel comfortable telling me more about themselves! I try to post a few stories a day, too, since I know a lot of them watch there based on the stats.

3. Polls and questions- People love to easily contribute and feel compelled to weigh in, so I find the polls and question boxes to be a great feature. I post literary-based "would you rather" sort of questions, but also a lot of ones for fun, too. For example, I did a whole series of ones based on reading preferences last spring, but then lots on cereal a few days later. Right now I have a simple question box up about the long weekend. I could technically do this for feedback on content, but I really try to not push my classroom content super hard on this platform.

4. Personal  validation- Last spring I did a few "star students" each day, recording video for stories. Despite the fact my students at the time were eighteen-years-old, they sent me so many sweet messages thanking me for the appreciation. I have been thanking kids who come to our office hours lately and plan to expand this soon.  


5. Group shout outs- I like to the thank specific periods or the group as a whole, as well. My kids have been doing an amazing job with attendance and submitting work, so I made sure to pop a note on stories and tell them this last night. 

6. Fun extra credit Easter Eggs- Sometime I'll do a quick little competition with a question and tell them the first ten kids who answer get a few extra credit points. I've also hid quiz questions or hints in stories before, as well. 

7. Track down hard-to-reach kids- This came in handy several times last year when some of my seniors disappeared when schools closed. You can see when they check their DMs, which is super helpful.

8. Keep in touch with alumni- One of the hardest parts of being a teacher who loops with her kids in 11th and 12th grade is when the baby birds leave the nest. Instagram is a great way to connect- I'll put up polls for the older kid about college or even DM them personally to say hi. 

9. IGTV book recommendations- I never thought I'd use IGTV, but here I am, looking like a fool while talking about books. You can see the views and I'm always pleasantly surprised the kids are actually watching me yammer on and on about reading for fun. 

10. Scavenger Hunts, Pictures Submissions, etc...  I have had students send me pictures of the nearest book close to them to re-post, pictures of them in their masks ("maskies"), shots of their pets, etc... 

11. Day-in-the-lives: I haven't done this yet, but eventually I want to recruit my past students to do some Instagram Stories takeovers so my present students can see what it's like to be a UCLA, Cal, CSUF, RCC, etc... student. I might do one myself, too! 


A few other helpful hints:

1. Always ask before you tag a student or post something they've written or given you. Common courtesies!

2. There are a lot of fun word/text app out there that let you make cute, custom test boxes (I love Word Swag)

3. If you're comfortable, ask your family members or pets to say hi. The kids love meeting people! I did an AMA once with my son and the best was when my students asked him about the symbolism in The Cat in the Hat

4. Repurpose the pictures you put on your personal account and just change the caption if necessary. 


August Reviews



Oh man, August kicked my ass. We had some crazy hot days, I went back to work, Sawyer started distance learning, I had some extremely hard personal days, and Ellie is an actual puppy tornado. Somehow we managed to make it out alive, though, and September is here. I got through four books last month, which is nothing short of a miracle- here they are:

I reread The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger for what seems like the thirty-eighth time, when in reality it was probably the sixth or seventh. I teach it every other year and, despite my easy annoyance with Holden, I think it has been the perfect book to start distance learning with a group of juniors I don't yet know. 

I finally finished Bill Bryson's The Body: A Guide for Inhabitants, which was just amazing. In his typical witty, fascinating, expertise tone, he talks about basically every aspect of the body, from the skin to the heart to reproductive system. It was a great combination of accessible biology and unknown facts. I need to buy more of his books. 

I adored David Mitchell's newest, Utopian Avenue, a more literary, gritty, well-written version of Daisy Jones & the Six. This book had a kaleidoscopic narrative, which isn't for everyone, but I really loved. He delves into the lives of four band members, which of course all includes variances of the typical sixties drugs, sex, rock-n-roll. This book meets my trilogy of greatness for a book- the writing, characters, and plot are all spot on. 

Finally, I, a self-proclaimed hater of poetry, read a small volume of poems this month called Build Yourself a Boat by Camonghne Felix. I saw the book on Instragram and loved the cover and title instantly. Build yourself a boat- take care of yourself, be your own advocate, don't want for anyone else to save you. Yes times a million to all of it. I saw Roxane Gay read it as well, which made me even more curious. It was timely, heartbreaking, and extremely well-done in terms of structure. 


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