May Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

What You Should Read this Summer- Ten Suggestions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

June Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Virtual Book Events and Resources

I really love going to readings and was going to far fewer than I would have preferred before Covid19 struck. In the meantime, I am trying to put together a list of virtual bookish events and resources that are upcoming. I won't be able to necessarily attend many, but in case anyone else is interested, here you go:

Stephanie Danler is promoting her new memoir at tons of places- check here

Ann Patchett will be doing a Zoom call about summer reading with the New York Times on Thursday at 9:30 am- rsvp here 

Curtis Sittenfeld will be promoting her newest novel on a variety of sites- choose on here (the one she is doing with Roxane Gay is linked here, since it seems to be broken on her main site)

This Books and Bathrobes series seems like they've gotten some pretty interesting guests, like Colum McCann and Lily King. 

Emma Straub has several events for her new, novel here

A local bookstore here in Riverside hosted Roxane Gay and a friend just let me know that Susan Choi will be "there" soon too. 

The Anatomy of a Good Day, Right Now

A few months ago particularly good days were usually Saturdays, with an activity somewhere fun planned with Sawyer and I, maybe with friends. It would be arranged ahead of time and the logistics would be easy, since I have a flexible like kid who is up for anything. Maybe Knott's, hiking and lunch, the Zoo, a museum, something that got us out of the area and expanding our horizons. Most of the time the outing would end mid-afternoon and we'd do something for dinner, sometimes takeout sometimes a restaurant. Nothing crazy, but fun and something to look forward to during hard moments during the week. 

Now, my days are... fine. We are still staying at home and haven't had any time with people outside of our home in two months now. We Facetime, Zoom, and walk a lot, but, like everyone else who is playing by the rules, things are predictable. Like I said, most days are fine. We have our health, our routine, I have my work, I have Sawyer's education to manage, and I have plenty of hobbies. Some days are bad, too, I'll be honest (internally... I try to keep a happy face for my kid). Being fine is starting to feel really stagnant and sometimes depressing. I'm fighting it as hard as I can, but I genuinely like being busy and social, so more and more mornings this lock down is feeling more and more challenging. I hate saying that, since I know I am privileged in many ways, but I can't help how I feel.

Friday, though, was, finally, a good day. Early in the day I found out that two of my students were on The Today Show for their work with a voter registration initiative and got to do a Zoom call with Michelle Obama. I emailed them both and their excitement was contagious, as was that of the many colleagues I talked to. Sawyer and I had a good day walking and with his work, even doing a virtual field trip that my friend had put together for our students and shared with us. I had to host a Zoom meeting for my students and alumni for a video we are putting together and was so relieved when my speech went well and that we have 70 kids show up! I was hoping for 25, to fill one screen, and instead we had triple! The colleagues I am coordinating it with were equally ecstatic. Later in the evening I had a two hours book club with two great friends and it was so nice to caught up. For the first time in a long time I went to bed truly happy.

So how do I replicate that? How do I keep that momentum going (spoiler alert: back down to "fine" the next day)? I think there were a lot of key things- I felt productive, I felt like a good teacher-mom, I had plenty of social interaction, I stayed away from the news and social media more than usual, and I was able to get in time doing things I love. Granted, a lot of the things that made that day were so great aren't specifically easily replicated, and the fact that they all fell on the same day was coincidental. But as a whole, those categories, productivity, social interactions, less media, hobbies, and movement are the equation right now. I can work with that. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. There's a difference between speaking your mind and being rude. As I look at online comments, social media accounts, etc... I just see so much downright childishness. I just don't understand people who can't show empathy and who take so much pride in being jerks. 

2. My seniors "check out" in about a week, which means all but one of my periods of teaching are headed towards the final countdown. We are having a virtual graduation, but I'm also super excited about the fact that our district has decided to do a drive-through one, so the kids have the opportunity to walk across a stage in a cap and gown. I volunteered to go, which I'm even MORE excited about, since I haven't been able to distribute senior yard signs, help with passing out laptops, etc... 

3. The weather has been all over the place lately, we had a few days in the 90s and now we are back down the the low-to-mid 70s. It makes a huge difference to me, under lock down, to be honest. When it's hot I can't walk as much and I don't feel like getting in treadmill time either. I know it's inevitable, but I hope we have a late summer this year. 

4. I did it. I made the viral mini pancakes. But, let me get one straight: THIS IS NOT CEREAL.

5. I watched the Michelle Obama documentary on Netflix and I basically choked back tears the entire time. It was basically the film version of her book, which was totally fine with me.

6. I'm super bummed- I was supposed to go to a virtual Q&A featuring Roxane Gay and a local bookstore and I totally forgot to buy the tickets for it. My friend had a good point, though, that this is probably going to be a popular format for readings for awhile. 

7. I've been working on a top-secret fun project for work with some colleagues and it's making me so happy, just our weekly progress meetings, seeing the content role in, and knowing the big reveal will be special to a lot of people. I think productivity, whatever it looks like for you, is so important right now when it's so easy to flounder. 

8. I just had an interesting conversation about the connection between empathy and having meaningful friendships. I believe that people who struggle with friendships often struggle with empathy, with exception, of course. The whole " what came first, the chicken or the egg" things is relevant too, of course- do you have a lot of great friends because you're empathetic or do the friendships make you more empathetic? 

For Consideration, Summer Edition

Every year I order a box of books to kick off summer vacation, a definite source of motivation to get me through the last few weeks of the school year. This year is different, as in I don't really want the school year to end (I will miss the routine I have created and also the connections with students and colleagues) but also in the sense that I will have SO MUCH time to read, since we will be at home a lot. 

I am working on a list of contenders; I will by no means order them all (OR WILL I?) but just in case anyone else is building their summer reading list I thought I'd share:


Rebel Chef by Dominique Crenn- Chef memoir! I love her episode of Chef's Table. 

Stray by Stephanie Danler-  I enjoyed her novel Bittersweet and am interested in her actual story.

Look Alive Out There  by Sloane Crosley-  I have become a huge fan of her essays after seeing her interview another author earlier this year. 

Reborn on the Run: My Journey from Addiction to Ultramarathons by Catra Corbett- I love running memoirs and I've been really interested in her story since hearing about if a few months ago. 


Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld- I love Sittenfeld and I can't wait to see what she does with Hilary's story.

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell- My husband and I are huge fans, so this will definitely be here on release day. I probably won't include it in my big batch order, though, since it comes out in July.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett- I loved her first novel and can't wait to see how this one turns out. 

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh- I love everything I've ever read from her. 

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane- This has been pretty popular in the book blogging community and bookstagram world and seems interesting! 

All Adults Here by Emma Straub-  I think her books are great for summer.

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier- The premise is just so quirky and fun. 

A Week of Glennon Doyle

Before the last week I had had very little exposure to Glennon Doyle; I knew her name and that was about it. I saw her new release Untamed doing very well, so my interest was sparked a little, and then when I saw  a friend reading it we decided on a little impromptu book club with another friend. Her books are often ones I might choose to listen to, but, if we're being honest, her voice often gives a very intense energy that I can't always handle. So, reading it was. I ordered Love Warrior as well, since it was cheap and I found the story of her marriage interesting. 

So, in the last week I have read both memoirs and also listened to her on a recent episode of Armchair Expert (which I founded a little awkward... the chemistry of everyone was just off, perhaps because they were all together). It's been a lot of Glennon Doyle.

One thing I had to sort to sort of check myself about was criticizing things she couldn't control. The entire time I was reading Love Warrior I was inwardly making snarky comments about how easy it was for her to make huge life decisions without seemingly needing to worry about money (I think her ex-husband had a solid job and then her career started taking off). But, that's her life and they seemingly worked hard for financial comfort. I also was frustrated sometimes with the incredible amount of time she was able to dedicate to her inner turmoil and personal growth- yoga, breath classes, therapy, a few nights away in a hotel to think, etc... But, again, she made her life in such a way where these kinds of luxuries were possible, even with three kids, and I can't fault her for that. 

In terms of her writing, I found her books super quick reads. Untamed was set into super short essays which flew by, while Love Warrior was comprised of much larger sections, which I think some were maybe too long (there were a few sections of deep reflection that got on my nerves a bit). She writes like a blogger, if that make sense; she knows she needs to provide a lot of context and examples, while also getting to the point to retain her readers. Her tone is conversational and feels honest, as opposed to lecturing or that of a know-it-all, which I think some self-help books end up being (oh god, like Marie Forleo's, which I quit listening to after an hour or two). 

I appreciated how she sort of grappled with her spirituality during the two memoirs, clearly a believer of God, but a critic of organized religion. She did spend a few too many pages going on about "the knowing" in Untamed, as far as I'm concerned, but I can see some people who are more in tune with their inner voices or how the talk to God into that (I don't know what I am... an agnostic flirting with atheism? TBD... ask me again in twenty years). I do like the fact that she was able to stand up for herself and really be true to some important ideals when deciding how to go to church. 

I really respect and admire Doyle for ending her marriage literally right after Love Warrior was published; she had been so unhappy and when she met her now wife, Abby, she knew that it was over and she had to figure out herself on a new, different level. I think so many women would have stayed with their husbands, terrified of the PR consequences of changing her tune, so I applauded her bravery. 

Untamed had far more of an impact on me than Love Warrior, and it's a book I'll never lend out to anyone, as my quote underlining was out of control and is far too much of a look into my psyche (no, I'm not a lesbian, if that's what some of you are thinking... not that it would matter if I was, but I know this is how rumors start, haha). Love Warrior feels more like a standard memoir to me, while Untamed a combo of self-help and memoir. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

There's a weird place between denial and pessimism that I am living in right now. I know that, say, K-12 will take a huge funding hit over the next few years, but do I want to hear it? Nah. 

I am reading Lily King's Writers  & Lovers right now and it is fantastic- it makes me want to really start writing again. Her main character, Casey, is so heartbreaking and smart, it just kills me.

Apparently I'm a Glennon Doyle fan now? Sort of? I read Untamed for an impromptu book club and then started Love Warrior, just to learn more about her life prior to her most recent book. She gets on my nerves a little bit when listening to podcasts and whatnot, so I know I wouldn't be able to listen to her audiobooks. But reading her has been really thought-provoking. 

I had some great Zoom sessions with my students last Friday about Kate Chopin's The Awakening. The kids are still totally capable of discussing literature and making me laugh. 

I am now teaching (Google Classroom-ing?) the last book of the year, The Scarlet Letter, which isn't my favorite, but at least thematically it's relatively easy and easy to sort of piece out to them over the course of a few weeks. Reading it can be a big fat chore, though, so I hope they can pull through. 

Over the course of a recent twenty-four hours I had so many interactions with people outside of my house it was so nice. I had to run to the store the other night to get ice of for a planned power outage and someone standing many, many feet in front of me, wearing a mask, made a dumb joke, an administrator/friend from work called to ask me something, I had an hour and a half FaceTime call with a friend, and I chatted with the nicest customer representative from AT&T. I know, this all sounds pathetic, but I am desperately missing my social life. 

May Reading Goals

In March my reading lagged big time, as the schools closed halfway through and things became dramatically different overnight. In April, things got rolling a little and I ended up clocking in at six books. Whelpppp, as my son would say, I have big plans for May (and even bigger for June) and I'm the type of person who thrives under public accountability, though, so here are my plans or the month:

1 & 2. Untamed and Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle (the first was for an impromptu friend book club, the second because I want to hear more of her story)

3. Writers & Lovers by Lily King (loved Euphoria)

4. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (for work)

5. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (for our English department book club)

6. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (I've always meant to read it)

7. Portage by Sue Leaf (a memoir about a family who got super into canoeing)

8. Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks (I haven't read any short stories lately) 

April Reads

April was such a long year, guys. 

I mean month.


I had initially wanted to read eight book in April, but considering how spread thin I have been, I'll take it.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was read with Sawyer at night and it took us a really long time, but we finally finished. The illustrated versions are beautiful, and they the the same exact text as the normal ones. It was so much fun to revisit them with him, and we're already a chunk into the next one.

I reread the The Awakening by Kate Chopin for the 32329th time, for work, but I still love it. I just had a Zoom meeting with some of my students to discuss it (and have another one in an hour), and they all really like it too. There's so much to discuss in terms of class, gender, the arts, and society to talk about. It's barely over 100 pages, so if you haven't read it, you really should. 

I finally finished Elton John's memoir, Me, and it was outstanding. I am a huge fan of his, so I loved all the tidbits he offered about his career. I wasn't as interested in the beginning, the childhood and early, early singing stuff, but as a whole it was really great. 

Towards the beginning of the month I read Lauren Wilkinson's American Spy, which I knew little about, other than that Obama loved it. It ended up being a solid B- the writing, the characters, and the story were all really solid. I admittedly got a little bored during some of the super political moments, but that's just personal preference (and probably why Obama liked it so much!). If you are into spy novels, but want a little more depth I highly suggest this one.

I read Don DeLillo's White Noise, which Julie and I did a Blogger Banter post for (check it out here).

Finally, I finished Colson Whitehead's newest novel, The Nickel Boys, a few days ago for our book club meeting last night. I thought it was well done on every level- I enjoy his writing style, I thought his characters all possessed true depth, and he did justice to the subject matter. Highly recommend this one.

Maybe eight next month?