10 Best... Tips for Handling your Chatter-Box

I have the bestest kid ever- he's seven, creative AF, has the best imagination, loves LEGOs, reads above grade level, is super duper happy, has loads of energy, is helpful, is the absolute sweetest, has a definite feisty streak, is very inquisitive, and NEVER STOPS TALKING (these are all things he knows and has been told many times by me). He wakes up talking and falls asleep talking, I swear. I can be a somewhat chatty person, for sure, but I also desperately crave quiet time, especially since there is so much talking required as part of my job. There has to be balance, though, so we're both happy and neither of us go crazy. He's an only child, so I try to be sensitive to his need as an extrovert for company, for sure. I also know that if I don't have breaks in the noise I get incredibly cranky and have to spend every ounce of my energy from not snapping. 

Being together so very, very much during the pandemic has made me a much more thoughtful parent when it comes to navigating this territory, trying to embrace my child's desire to converse with my own sanity. I never want him to feel like I don't want to hear his ideas or appreciate his desire to communicate, but he has to realize that some people aren't wired as he is- his success as an adult depends on it! Here are my top ten strategies that have worked well for us!

1. Explicitly explain differences in communication styles- Little kids don't get nuance or subtle hints, for the most part, so I've had to be very direct when I tell him that some people are more talkative than others and some people have brains that need some quiet time to think properly. Neither way is better or worse- it's like having brown eyes or blue eyes. He doesn't need a lot of quiet, but I do need some small chunks of it here and there. He knows in order to be a good friend, student, son, etc... we have to respect and honor those differences. He also knows that in order to have a relatively happy mom he has to chill sometimes.

2. "Tell me two more things and things and then wrap it up..."- When a story is getting super long-winded and I need to move on, I give him a warning. I let him know that he needs to tell me two or three final details and then it's time to move on.

3. Be a good listener- Parents often fall into the "yeah, mmhmm, okay" responses and kids pick up on that. I try to be an active, engaged listener when he talks to me so that he knows I value his ideas and what he's saying. That way when I do ask for a break or for things to wind down he still has that sense of safety that what he says has value.

4. "Talking at" vs "talking with"- These terms are HUGE in our house and have really helped him monitor himself. We take a lot of walks together and he's at the point now where after a few blocks of talking at me he'll stop and ask "am I talking at too much?" If I say yes he knows that it's time to talk with and will ask me questions or ask what I want to talk about. I am very direct with him about losing his audiences' attention if you "talk at" too long. 

5. Post Its- If Sawyer wants to talk but it's not a good time for me (I'm trying to grade, read, etc...) I ask him to jot down his idea on a post it so he doesn't forget, which is something he's often concerned about.

6. Timers- If it's been a long day and I just need fifteen minutes of silence I'll let him know, ask him if there's anything important he needs to tell me, and then I'll set a timer and tell him there's no talking until it goes off (unless it's an emergency, of course). If he talks, I start it over (this happened a lot at first, but rarely now). When the timer goes off he's free to chatter away! I don't abuse it; I don't set it for an hour or anything crazy.

7. Copy cat narration- I don't do this often, but sometimes my son just TALKS FOR THE SAKE OF TALKING and provides every tiny detail for me. So, I sort of mimic him to make a point: "Sawyer, now I'm getting a cup from the cupboard and filling it with water. I'm putting it on the counter, and now I'm opening the pantry..." He thinks it's funny and gets the point immediately (if he had his feelings hurt I wouldn't do it).

8. Send them on an errand- We have a two story house and if I really just need a minute I'll send him upstairs to put something away, tidy up his room, grab some laundry, etc... He has no idea it's because of the talking, and I can reset. 

9. Escape- This is the reverse... I'll send myself upstairs for a few minutes for some sort of made up task. My room is off-limits without a knock and permission to enter, so sometimes I just hide out for a few minutes.

10. "Goldilocks"- "Goldilocks" is our code word for remembering to give just the right amount of information when talking- not too little, and definitely not too much. 

10 Best... Personal Reading Stats from 2021

I just finished my reading goal of the year, 74 books (this doesn't count audiobooks), and did a little deep dive into my stats. Here's the ten that stood out to me: 

1. I read an average of 58 pages a day in 2021, for a grand total of 21,189 pages (according to Goodreads, anyway)

2. 26 of the 74 were nonfiction- that's a third of my reading! Such a huge change from a decade ago, where I'd have just a few 

3. 51 of the 74 were by female-identifying authors 

4. 27 were by BIPOC writers

5. July was when I did the most reading, with 11 books in all

6. I bought somewhere around 68 new books for myself this year, some with gift cards from last Christmas, though

7. The shortest book I read was Sophocles' Antigone and the longest David Sedaris' Carnival of Snackery

8. I wrote my fewest number of blog posts since my first year of blogging, in 2010 (which I started half way in, so that doesn't count). It's been a crazy year!

9. 19 books were for various book clubs and buddy reads, while 7 were for teaching purposes 

10.  3 were graphic novels 

10.... 2022 Book Releases I'm Interested In

Fine, not a "best of" list, but nonetheless, here are ten books that will probably sneak into my cart for preorders in the near future:

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan (1/4)- A sort of big-brother approach to motherhood... yikes.

I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home by Jami Attenberg (1/11)- I have read two of her novels, so I'm interested in her memoir! 

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (4/5)- I loved Station Eleven and liked The Glass Castle, so I'm there!

Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho (1/4)- A sort of coming-of-age immigrant story partially set in LA. 

Manifesto of Never Giving Up by Bernadine Evaristo (1/18)- Another writer memoir! We read her novel for book club this year and I loved it, so I'm intrigued. 

In the Margins by Elena Ferrante (3/15)- Yes, ANOTHER writer memoir! I actually never read her series, but have always been interested (but hesitant), so I'm thinking this might help me decide. 

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan (4/5)- She follows up with some of her characters from A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I might have to revisit first. 

Tracy Flick Can't Win by Tom Perrotta (6/7)- I'm really excited about this one- I loved Election and can't wait to see what Tracy is up to (something else to reread first). 

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (1/18)- This is being sold to "fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven"- sold. 

 The Maid by Nita Prose (1/4)- Seems like a sort of literary Clue-esque mystery.  

10 Best... Things About 2021

2020 was hands down the worst year of my life, for the obvious pandemic reasons, and ones that I'm not going to relive here. When I look back I don't know how I had the emotional energy to teach, be the best mom I could be during a pandemic, and still try to have some sort of life of my own. Needless to say, the bar was set pretty low for 2021- it just needed to be better. And it was. Perfect? Definitely not! My job transitioned from completely virtual to hybrid (hiflex?) to a full return. Sawyer went through similar transitions and also had to start at a new before/after school center this fall. Lots of change with plenty of bumps along the way. But, still, it was a much better year. 

So, here are the best ten parts:

1. Sawyer and I got to fully go back to school- Yes, it caused a lot of stress, but it's better for both of us! I love hearing stories about what he does in class and about his new friends. I am so much happier back in the classroom and am so thankful I had the same students this year that I did last- it's like a do over!

2. My husband started a new job- Early in the year my husband got a new job that has worked our really well for us all. 

3. One sister got married, one engaged, and my brother and his wife had a baby- I am so, so, so happy and excited that so many good things have happened for my siblings this year! It has been so wonderful seeing them experience so many happy life events. They all deserve the best. 

4. Vaccinations for the whole family- Three for Scott and I each, two for the little guy. Yay science! I must admit that Sawyer's was a little anticlimactic in the light of Omicron, but still, it's going to prevent severe sickness in the case that he does get the virus, so I'm incredibly thankful for that. 

5. Sawyer and I went to Lake Tahoe- I didn't anticipate going on a trip this year, but there was a window in July where I could make it work and off we went! The place we stayed was perfect, we hiked over thirty miles in three days, and it felt like old times. I will say that I think I reached my threshold on hours I'm willing to spend driving in one day, though- I think nine is my max. Sawyer does great in the car, but that's a lot of time sitting in one seat for me. 

6. A new president- Need I say more? 

7. I paid off my student loans- I know if I would have waited several months I could have gotten some of them taken care of, but at the time I didn't know, and, honestly, I wanted that monthly payment gone. I was completely responsible for paying for my BA, teaching credentials, and Master's, so this felt like an accomplishment. 

8. Sawyer learned to swim- Speaking of accomplishments, this was a huge one. Sawyer has always loved to play in the pool, but as been terrified of the notion of actually swimming. It was never a negotiable item, though, since we have a pool and was an issue of safety. I swore this was going to be the summer and gave him the choice of working with me daily or dropping him off with a stranger for lessons. He opted for Mom's Swimming School, so I made a list of skills that seemed like a reasonable progression to me and we spent ten or so minutes a day on it. By the end of the summer, after of tears (from us both, haha) he was a little fish. 

9. So much time with friends and family- After feeling so isolated and sick of Zooming in 2020 I was thrilled to spend so much time with loved ones this year. My mom came to visit several times, my sister came to stay with us during the spring to help with Sawyer while we all navigated our new schedules, and I see friends all of the time now. We are still super conscious about Covid, though, and do most of our visits outside, but I feel like we know how to minimize risk and still me social. 

10. Reentrance into the world- I know, this sounds dramatic, but this is how it feels! This year we went to Yosemite, Disneyland, Knott's, the Zoos, the beach, some museums, Modesto to see family, and other places. Sawyer has gotten to go to birthday parties, see friends, and have park dates. I am working on my yearly photo book while writing this post and I love that we were back out there again. Things weren't the same, and there are lots of masks, but we're doing it. 

10 Best... Semi-Boring Adult Things I Bought This Year

I am going to end this year with one of my favorite end-of-the-year trends: top ten lists. Of course we'll get to the books, but for now, let's look at my favorite practical (read semi-boring) things I bought this year.:

Quick note: I get that everyone has different price-points, priorities, and budgets, so this is what works for me. Recently I told my friend how much I spent on a hair product and she made so much fun of me, which I then did the same to her when she told me how much her sunglasses cost (I only buy ones less than $20 from Target). So, yeah, this isn't a budget blog, plus we all know that I get defensive about spending money because I'm really a poor kid at heart.  

1. A leaf cannister for my pool vacuum- I am always torn between being so thankful for my pool guy for recommending this contraption to me and angry that he didn't do it TEN YEARS AGO. We have a TON of foliage in our backyard that I refuse to tear our, since it provides a lot of privacy from the neighbors, but it also means I spend a lot of time skimming the pool. This, for less than $100, has been a total game changer.

2. Reading couch- Ever since March of 2020 I've been retreating to my room most nights for some much-needed alone time to read and decompress. I had an old rocker for awhile, but it was worsening a hip problem I had, so I bought a large love seat and it's a dream.

3. Shani Darden Retinol Cream- As a life-long "wear at least a little makeup before leaving the house" kid of lady, I realized recently I felt totally fine skipping foundation or any sort of BB cream, and I owe Shani Darden all the credit. I've been using it a few times a week since the summer and it's definitely a long game, but I'm seeing the results. It lasts forever and I didn't get any of the infamous retinol burn when I started using it, either.

4. A sensible new car- As soon as I paid off my student loans this spring I promptly acquired a new monthly payment, but the piece of mind of having a reliable car when I'm out and about with a small kid is worth it. I had had my old car for a decade and a few things needed repairs, so it was time. 

5. A fanny pack- I begrudgingly joined the fanny pack club (well, I guess technically rejoined, since I rocked one back when I was a kid) for my twice-daily walks with the dog, since it holds my phone and the dog citrus spray I need in case YET ANOTHER dog tries to attack mine (I have had two bite her in the last few months, so I pack the heat now). I won't leave home (on foot) without it.

6. Two new pairs of Frye boots- Listen, I know they aren't cheap, but the first pair I bought back in 2015 are still in great shape, so I know I'm getting my money's worth. I have a lot of foot issues and I have to spend money on shoes so that I'm not miserable when teaching all day. My feet don't hurt at all in these! 

7. A new dishwasher- Technically, it has had a few issues, but after not having one for over a year it was a miracle (ours broke a little bit before COVID started and my husband didn't want outsiders in our house for a loooooong time). 

8. Benebone dog toys- If you have a super aggressive chewer on your hands like I do I can't recommend these toys enough. We probably go through one or so a month, but they keep Ellie occupied and Sawyer's toys safe-ish. 

9. LEGO sets- This is definitely not a practical adult purchase, but I bought myself, not my child, a few LEGO sets this year and I have had so much fun doing them. They're challenging enough to occupy my mind so I don't ruminate, but also really enjoyable. Plus, I get street cred with my kid. I just finished the Home Alone set in time for Christmas and I was so sad to be done. 

10. Disposable contacts- At the beginning of the year I started having terrible, terrible eye problems that I let go for a few months until I went to the optometrist. Long story short, he forced me to get really expensive toric daily contacts and after being totally miserable all day every day I was a new woman.

Five Things About... How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids


[Preface: I don’t really lose it with my son, but I want to FREQUENTLY and, consequentially, feel like an internal mess on occasion (especially when I am tired and feeling the burn at work). I picked this book up in hope of some solid reminders and strategies to help me out].

I love Naumburg’s writing style so much- some writers go overboard with the profanity or conversational chitchat, but she is able to strike the right tone. I felt like she was a super educated, experienced friend, not a life coach or super scientific clinician or someone trying to preach at me.

There’s a good mix of scientific studies, anecdotes, and common sense logic that made the information appealing. I didn’t necessarily learn anything new or groundbreaking, but there were new perspectives and reminders that help me recognize when I’m headed for a decrease in parenting patience. 

The book is perfect for busy parents who need things in manageable chunks- small sections, not a lot of extra context, etc… it’s efficient, helpful, and funny. 

This book focuses on you as the parent, and changing how you operate in moments of stress, as opposed to being child-centered. When you parent in a calmer, more rational way,  because you are taking care of yourself, it will trickle down to how your kids act, though, of course.

This is a great read for teachers, too! I’ve known a lot of reactive teachers in my day, especially back when I taught elementary, and the kids FEED on that sort of classroom management style. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[Descanso Gardens]

It's been a month since I've done one of these! For good reason, but it still feels strange. The grades are submitted, the presents are (mostly wrapped), the holiday outings are almost concluded, and I feel like things are starting to slow down a bit (which is perfect, since apparently we have a wild variant on the loose). 

Work was crazy the few weeks before finals, just because of the way things sort of work timing wise in terms of finishing what we read and doing a round of IB assessments. I managed to get everything done with a few days to spare, but man, for a week or so straight I was running on fumes. I'm really proud of my students and colleagues- this was a really tough semester back for everyone, but we managed to pull through. I am slightly terrified that they will move classes to remote learning again or some sort of hybrid system, which I keep hearing mixed rumors about. Last year, I totally understood the need, but this year we have so many tools to help mitigate sickness, so I hope we keep a full-return schedule going. Luckily California's numbers have held steady, including our county (knock on ALL the wood... we know after holiday gatherings it won't last). 

The last book we read was Marjane Satrapi's The Complete Persepolis and the kids loved getting to do a graphic novel. The content is high interest, too, which helps with getting the kids to do the work on it. We had to rush more than I would have liked, but judging by their work they really understood the major thematic concepts, so I was pleased! 

In the past few weeks I pushed to squeeze in a tons of things, since Sawyer is fully vaxxed and my husband and I are boosted. The three of us went to a big LEGO exhibit in LA and a huge garden Christmas light show last weekend. Sawyer and I went to The Broad, Knott's Berry Farm, to see Santa, a cute little event at his school and have caught up with friends. Tomorrow we are off for another Christmas thing at the San Diego Zoo, and then that's it for awhile, besides a quick visit to see my mom halfway between where we both live. 

I can't say much, but there's a new tiny addition to our family of the baby niece variety! I had no plans to visit her (they live in a different state) for a few months, which will be perfect now! Babies are pretty boring for awhile anyway, let's be honest. Sawyer has been so excited to see pictures of his new cousin and I hope he can make the trip with me when I do go. 

I've been reading like a fiend, trying to make my Goodreads goal of 74 books. I finished number 70 today, and have two others in progress. Heck, I might even get there with a day or two to spare, for once.

We did our work book club in person for the first time in about two years and it was nice! I see these people all the time, but it was nice to get take out and have a socially distanced lunch in the same, room, as opposed to over Zoom like we normally do. Our department used to do four or five books a school year, but since the pandemic we moved to one every month or six weeks, which as been a treat.

Yup, I'm actually watching the new SATC show, And Just Like That, and I think it's better than the movies but not as good as the original show. If you didn't watch the show, though, it's totally not going to be for you. 

I can't believe that Christmas is in just four days. We always stay at home, just the three of us, which is so cozy and nice. Sawyer gets to play with his new toys all day long, I make everyone's favorite side dishes for dinner (we started this a few years ago and there's no going back, it's the best), and I reserve the right to nap for as long as I want. 

I have lots of fun projects that need to be completed ASAP- a 235923583289 piece LEGO Home Alone House, my yearly photo book for my family, two embroidery hoops, and trying to get end-of-the-year posts here. 2021 was quite the year and I have some thoughts!

Five Things About... The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Want an introduction into existentialism and absurdism for your students? Here you go. 

There are so many great creative activities that can go along with this novella. Students can write prequels (what was going on with Gregor pre-transformation?), pastiches, or alternate endings. I usually give the kids the option to use imagery details from the text to create their own replica of what they interpret Gregor to look like, or a writing task. 

The text is a great way to introduce the motifs of weather and food/eating. I use chapters from How to Read Literature Like a Professor on each in a jigsaw activity that requires the students to teach each other their motif and apply it to the text.

This book lends itself to some really great conversations on materialism and capitalism, both of which I feel like my students are really opinionated about this year (and rightfully so!).

The students really get into their theories on what really happened to Gregor- is it tuberculosis? Something psychological? Kafka’s portrayal of himself? An actual bug? Anything goes… as long as there’s plenty of textual support!

My Bookish To-Do List

1. Catch up with symbol-a-book embroidery hoop- I am a smidge behind... And by a "smidge" I mean six months

2. Meet my Goodreads 2021 goal- I think this is the most caught up I've ever been! The holidays might ruin that, though, at least this month. 

3. Finally compare Crime and Punishment to my son's Grime and Punishment, of the Dogman variety. This will require happily rereading one and begrudgingly borrowing the other from a seven-year-old. I'm also considering doing this with Lord of the Fleas and Lord of the Flies. I don't know why I care, but I really feel like as an English teacher this is necessary

4. Find a reading with strict protocols after Sawyer is fully vaxxed and I have my booster. I haven't been to one in ages and I cannot wait for my triumphant return to the LA literary scene (ha- that sounds so snobby)

5. Go walk around my favorite socal bookstore, Vrooman's, in Pasadena. This might happen over the weekend!

6. Rearrange my bookshelves- it's an annual thing.

7. Find all the books I loved but only have that one book by the author and see if I want more

8. Start preparing to teach Persepolis, my first graphic novel in the classroom. I feel like there's some technical things about the frames and art and whatnot I should better learn

9. Make my birthday/Christmas list for my husband- tis the season! 

10. Buy a new bookshelf for Sawyer's room and reorganize 

Five Things About... Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno- Garcia

First of all, full disclosure: this is not my typical genre (horror/gothic). I read it for book club, and while it wasn’t my favorite, we had a great discussion. We wanted something seasonal for Halloween, in our defense!

One thing I did appreciate was the ability of the author to create a descriptive setting that captivates the reader from the beginning. Her imagery and attention to detail were impressive. 

The characters, including Noemi, the protagonist, lacked any real depth. I didn’t feel invested in anyone and many of the characters with potential to be dynamic fell pretty flat. 

Without giving much a way, I found the twist pretty ridiculous. Sorry! I did appreciate the botanical element, but it was all too much. 

I found the pacing off- the beginning two-thirds crawled, while the ending packed in way too much. I had a really hard time wanting to read in the beginning, which made the story drag on even more

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I honestly don't remember a time where I've been so behind and busy in my life. This is probably an exaggeration, but when I look at my to-do lists (yes, plural), my calendar, and the circles under my eyes it definitely looks that way. Mostly, it's all be been good! 

Some highlights from the past few weeks:
- Halloween! We did the whole trick-or-treat thing again and Sawyer got to dress up at school, too
- I taught an embroidery enrichment workshop at my school this morning for 40 students and it was a blast. The prep was pretty labor-intensive, but the kids were eager and it was great to be around them in a new way 
- Sawyer and I have found a new hiking spot in Orange County that is awesome- lots of well-maintained trails, various levels of intensity, great scenery, and less than an hours away
- I finished a 60ish page photo book for my grandpa's 90th birthday next weekend. It was quite the progress- we have a very large family and tracking down pictures from everyone was quite the task
- Sawyer got his covid vaccine last weekend! He took it like a champ and we got milkshakes afterwards. We will of course be repeating this in a few more weeks
- I bough the Home Alone LEGO set- I couldn't resist
- Last weekend we hit up the farmer's market, got fancy donuts, and bought some Christmas decorations with a friend- it was the perfect reminder of how much better this holiday season is than last year

Some upcoming things to look forward to:
- A friend and I are going to a season pass Christmas event at Knott's Berry Farm next week. Sawyer is usually my Knott's buddy, but it's late on a school night, so I'm leaving him home with his dad
- My mom comes down next weekend! My grandpa is turning 90 and we are having a very small lunch for him
- I think my husband and I might actually get to go out to dinner alone, since grandma will be here to babysit! Once Sawyer is fully vaccinated I'll feel better about having a babysitter come hang out with him (and I have several in mind! Yay!)
- Sawyer gets to go to his first birthday party tomorrow since the pandemic started. It's outside and with kids from his class, so it feels fine
- Next weekend marks my triumphant return to LA museums! 
- It's almost Thanksgiving break!

Other things...
- I am reading several different books- a Sedaris, a Didion, Gary Shtenygart's new one, and then also I am rereading Persepolis in preparation to teach it starting next week
- I really, really want to see the House of Gucci movies but don't want to go to the theater. I need to investigate where to stream it
- My son got an Outstanding Writer award at his semester assembly. I am so proud of him! We weren't allowed to go, which was actually a lot easier for my schedule, but I was thankful his teacher sent pictures

New book mail:
- The Promise Damon Galgut
- Five Days in Winter Lily King
- Between the Lines by Uli Beutter Cohen
- The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel 
- How to Stop Losing Your Shit with Your Kids  by Carla Naumburg
- Raising Good Humans Hunter Clarke-Fields

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I'm telling you, when I grow up I will sit down every Sunday and bang out three of four posts to schedule, but until then I'm going to stick to being consistently inconsistent, I guess. I've finished a few books lately and need to do some "five things about..." posts, so hopefully I can get that going in the next day or two.  

How is next weekend already Halloween? But, also, how is it still October? This time of the year is such a slog for teachers, since we go from the beginning of August to Thanksgiving without a break. Burnout it real this year in my profession; the kids aren't behaviorally worse, but their levels of ability and their needs are much different. There's also a lot of mixed messages "have high expectations, but also slow down," and "take care of their social-emotional needs but also make sure to collect a lot of data to fill out forms on assessment." It's no one's fault, we all have bosses and boxes to check, but it's just a lot, for all of us. Throw in one's life outside of the job and it can be overwhelming sometimes. 

Yesterday evening I had my Moderna booster and a flu shot in the same arm, which is basically dead weight today. The side effects I have today are far less than the second shot, which I'm super thankful for. Frankly, I'm super thankful to have the option of a booster, period, and I can't wait for Sawyer to get his first one in a few weeks. 

I just started Mexican Gothic for book club and while it's fairly entertaining, I'm not sure how I feel about the quality of her writing. We wanted something sort of spooky for Halloween and this one had gotten buzz when it came out, so it made sense. I think it will be a good one for us to talk about, though, since sometimes when we all love something it's a bit harder to discuss (I always go back to Michelle Obama's Becoming where we just sat there and repeated "I just love her. And him" over and over, haha). 

Thursday Sawyer and I were invited to an Halloween trick-or-treating event in Pasadena and I can't wait, despite it being a bit of a drive. We have been really busy again over the past few months, but I love having new things to do and getting some extra mileage out of his Halloween costume (Indiana Jones!) always seems like the cost effective thing to do. 

Speaking of new things, there's a map of a huge hiking area in Orange County that I've never been to next to me and I can't wait for a free weekend to head out there. I guess there's a small lake that not many people know about and is one of the few natural ones in the region. I love finding new nature spots that are easy to drive to. 

I haven't been to a museum since a few months pre-lockdown, but I feel good about going again. My favorite art museum in LA has timed-released tickets and still requires masks, so I think I am going to take Sawyer next month if we can get tickets when they go up this week. I'm super lucky that he is so willing to go and is fairly engaged when we go to places like this. The only exception was one of the indoor tours at Hearst Castle a few years ago- he trudged along quietly but when it was over he requested to never have to go again! 

LEGO is releasing a Home Alone set next weekend. SOLD. 

My grandpa is turning 90 next month and after a false-alarm on a big family party (thank goodness.... I was against it for many reasons, mostly his health), I volunteered to spearhead a huge memory book project. Honestly, I'm pretty excited, since I love designing them digitally, I just need everyone to step up and send me what I need. I also know that the fact I said that people had until Friday means I need to wait until... Saturday. Ha!

As I sit here alternating between grading essays and adding to this exceptionally long, meandering post, my son is next door playing nicely alone. Most of me thinks this is amazing, but a tiny part of me feels guilty. He's an only child, our weekdays are a constant state of rushing, and studies say we should play more with our kids. But studies also say kids need to be self-sufficient and entertain themselves. It just goes to show that mom guilt is ever-present, even when everyone is happy and doing what they need to do. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

My two sisters and Mom (I'm in the middle)... we missed my brother!

1. Last weekend I went to Modesto for my sister's wedding and it turned out really nice. It was in her now husband's family's backyard and they did everything themselves, for about sixty of so guests. I left Sawyer and my husband at home, so I spent the evening with my other sister, her fiancĂ©, and my aunt and uncle. It was my first big social event since Covid and it felt kind of weird, but also very safe. I was sad my brother couldn't come, but Kansas is far and he's trying not take much time off work before his wife has her baby in a few months. Nonetheless it was a great night and I'm so happy for the newlyweds! So many great things have happened for my siblings and I love watching their lives unfold. 

2. I'm still working my way through Sally Rooney's newest, and I can't make up my mind whether or not I like it. Ain't that always the way with her books? I haven't been able to read in big chunks lately, though, so that might be part of it. 

3. Between Covid shots for Sawyer in a few weeks (hopefully), a booster for me (hopefully, I have Moderna and it depends on the FDA/CDC meetings later this week), and flu shots I feel like there are a lot of vaccines on the docket for our fall. Super grateful, but also, I have no time for appointments, since I'm trying to not take any time off work. The sub shortage is super real, especially at the high school level. Since secondary teachers can cover other classes on their prep periods, they often redirect our subs to the elementary schools. It makes sense, but since I don't want to screw over my fellow teachers with the hated prep-period coverage, I'm trying to not take days unless I have to. 

4. I have never read Louise Penny before, but I have to say I'm intrigued by the book she just wrote with Hillary Clinton. Obviously, I am a fan of Clinton, but the reviews are coming in pretty solid. 

5. At some point in my life I'm going to accept that I don't have time for subscriptions to the New Yorker, right? I think I've had them on two separate occasions and I found myself considering signing up again today. If they were once or twice a month I'd be able to handle it, but the once a week delivery KILLS me. 

6. I read somewhere on a post today there there are only ten Saturdays before Christmas and I cringed. How!?!? Now that we're feeling better about doing more I'm starting to get that "how will we fit in all the stuff?" feeling that I haven't felt since 2019. It's good, but my planning brain is in overdrive. 

7. I listed to an episode of The Armchair Expert the other day with David Sedaris and he was delightful as usual. One of my book clubs is reading his newest, A Carnival of Snackery, which is over 500 pages of his diaries. I have high hopes.

8. So, once upon a time I fell in love with this pink herringbone blazer from Boden and hemmed and hawed too long before committing. Of course my size was gone by the time I went for it, and I've lived with this overwhelming regret and sadness for like two years. Well, guess what? After searching long and hard I found a comparable one and it comes next week. Let this be a cautionary tale: ALWAYS BUY THE PINK BLAZER. (Please come back weekly for extremely critical life advice).

9. Recently I found myself on the horns of a dilemma and when I mentioned the issue to someone they said, basically, "go for it, but I wouldn't tell other people because they might thing XY and Z." I had thought my mind was made up, and it gave my pause, so I ran it by one of my best friends and she said, "Eff the people! If they know and love you they know you have the best intentions and are responsible." I hope everyone has at least one of these friends.

10. Are we all excited for the new Adele song this week? 

Five Things About... Murder on the Orient Express

Five things about…. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

This was an impromptu book club selection by a friend who had never read Christie before (neither had I). We had a book club brunch and didn’t talk about the book at all. Ha! Any excuse to get together, #amirightoramiright

This book is ALL plot, which, honestly, isn’t my preference. No character development, no nuance, no themes… you get the gist. I knew that going in, though, and also totally acknowledge that it’s an accepted characteristic of this genre.

It was like I reading the game Clue, except it was “who killed the asshole on the train with the knife”? 

The twist was good, and this is where I have to give mystery writers their credit. She’s known for being a master of her craft and I can see the excruciating work that goes into constructing the bones of the plot. So while I probably won’t read another of hers, I can appreciate her efforts. 

I have ridden on my fair share of trains from the Central Valley to Southern California and the first thirty minutes is great, always followed by wistful regrets of wishing I had driven. It’s been years, though, so this restored the romanticism that is the railway for me. Maybe it would be different if I wasn’t in a rush and the train ride itself with the event?

Five Things About... Sharks in the Time of Saviors

Modern Hawaiian magical realism… I mean, I feel like I could just leave it at that (but I won’t). 

The parents, Malia and Augie, of this novel are so utterly flawed and the journey they take from the conception of their children to their adulthoods made my heart hurt. They knew they were making so many mistakes, but they also desperately wanted the best for the next generation. It’s so hard when you’re in the thick of trying to survive to be reflective- hindsight’s twenty-twenty and all that. Despite the familial damage caused, they never give up on their kids. 

I really enjoyed how the element of nature became so integral to the story, whether it was hiking through deep Hawaiian valleys or farming techniques. Washburn’s message about the importance of staying connected to the earth is one of the most prominent. 

One of the things I really loved about this book is that it’s messy, just like life. People pop up and then disappear, moments are regretted later, characters hurt, they say the wrong thing, exaggerated weight is placed upon things in the one that, the wrong people are loved… 

The waxing and waning bonds of siblings was also something I could relate to, the relationships between brother and sisters changing as people get older. There’s so much baggage that comes with growing up together in the Flores family that when they’re forced to confront it their lives are shaken to the very core.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

This August-November stretch of the year is kind of a slog, but I still can't believe it's the end of September! I think being so busy lately has had something to do with it, between work and home, but I'll take it. Last weekend Sawyer and I hiked around a nature preserve in Orange County that was new to us and then Sunday we met for a park date with some friends. Next weekend I have a virtual book club, am hosting a different small book club outside, and Sawyer and I may go to Knots for an hour or two on Sunday morning when they open for the Halloween stuff. We are still being super careful, but since everything is outside and we will masked I think we are okay before it gets crowded.

Speaking of the c-word, I am giddy with excitement about the pediatric vaccine. When I saw the update last week about them being so close to a EUA I stopped in my tracks at 5:15 AM outside walking the dog in disbelief. We are so close! 

I am reading Sharks in the Time of Strangers  for one of my book clubs and am loving it. It wasn't on my radar at all, so it's the perfect example of why we should be open to books that might seem outside of our interest. 

I am using nearly half of my yearly classroom budget on books for my classroom, which mean I just submitted an Amazon order for TWENTY new, high-interest, quality books, for the kids. It's kind of a pain to deal with reimbursement, but it's worth it get the most bang-for-my-buck.

I am totally sure the Sex and the City spin off on HBO will be a total disaster, but I have to admit once it's on I'll probably bump into my to-watch list. This is absolutely no indication of when it will actually be viewed, though, since I still haven't finished the Friends reunion I was excited about back in May (or the Flight Attendant, which I started in December). 

Oh, and since we're talking about Friends, I was totally suckered into buying Jennifer Aniston's new hair product Lolavie product since Jessica Yellin of New Not Noise posted her before-and-after pictures. I'm the worst.

While we're being confessional, I also did some damage on the Frye boots site because they gave me a $50 off coupon, and I also stared my Christmas shopping for Sawyer since the headlines have been all "shipping and inventory delays expected." I am a marketers dream (aka sucker), which is incredibly ironic because that's my husband's field and I should KNOW BETTER. 

Go Giants (as in baseball, since I gaf about football, thankyouverymuch).  

Five Things About... Antigone by Sophocles


This is the fifth time I’ve taught this classical play and the sixth or seventh time I’ve read it. It’s a sort of chicken-or-the-egg sort of situation- do my students love it now because I love it or do I love it now because my students do? I read the other two plays in the trilogy a few years ago and I think they helped- I play up the incest component of Oedipus and Jocasta hard in my background lecture and the kids DIE when they hear about the curse. Boom. Total investment in what one students called “the incest babies.”

There are so many great thematic concepts to discuss with the kids that relate to current events- power/authority, corruption, gender roles, etc… Timeless.
Confession: choral parts are not my favorite, although I see the purpose and appreciate the context. Keep up the good work, guys. 

I had my students read this in small groups, outside, with their masks on, and 99% of them gave me positive feedback on it (I asked on a reading assignment and told them they’d get full credit no matter what). They said that it was great to get fresh air, so something different, that it was easier to discuss with their group, etc… it took six class periods and I loved it too! We will be outside much more often in the future. Take that, covid!

Can we just appreciate Haemon? He tries so hard to rationalize with his father and save Antigone.