Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. It's spring break! Yay! I am utterly exhausted, since Sawyer and I went to Yosemite yesterday- 364 miles each way, 20 hours gone from home, about 13.5 of them in the car. But it was so worth it- the waterfalls were glorious (and I think they're going to dry up early this year), the crowds were relatively thin for late March, and we had a blast together. Usually we go for a few days every spring, but COVID ruined it last year and this year since my husband isn't vaccinated still the compromise was my crazy day trip idea. 

2. I am reading Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro and am totally and completely loving it. If I hadn't gotten only 9.5 cumulative hours of sleep in the last forty-eight hours I'd try to finish it tonight. 

3. Long story short, my Etsy shop was mentioned on a pretty huge blog and now I have quite a few orders to fulfill. I am not complaining at all but it feels weird to have so many orders for people who I don't know, since I usually just use my Etsy shop for orders for friends. I'm excited.

4. Something else I am excited about is California opening up the vaccination floodgates on April 15, which means my husband can get his finally, as well any of my students who are interested. I know the appointment process will be infuriating, but it's a start. So far in my county about 1/3 of people have gotten at least one dose and our numbers have gotten so low sometimes I just can't believe it. 

5. I saw this quote on Instagram today, and it's SO in line with what I am trying to practice this year with certain people: "When you finally learn that a person's behavior has more to do with their own internal struggle than it ever did with you... you learn grace." It goes nicely with my "you can't stay mad at people you bad for" philosophy. 

6. I am so in love with Julia Turshen's new cookbook. I've cook one of the chicken recipes and am going to make the coffee cake in the morning- I can't wait to read the book cover-to-cover, like I did with Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. I appreciate good food almost as much as good writing, so the combo is such a treat.

7. I stated listening to Jewel's memoir Never Broken and it's fascinating! She reads it and her voice is just so melodic. If you're an audiobook fan you have to download this asap. 

Back in the Classroom Again

A year and a few days later, I'm back in the classroom, teaching to real, live students. I am also more tired than I've been in a long time (and I'm usually quite tired). My district has chosen to do a hybrid sort of model where we are teaching concurrently to the cohorts at home, so that they're still "in class," even when they're at home (some places call in concurrent teaching, some hiflex... the name really doesn't matter). I truly think this is better for the kids- instead of being left on their own to complete whatever the teacher assigns, they're involved in the class activities and are being delivered higher-quality content. That being said, it's a huge challenge, teaching-wise, if you're trying to do it as "right" as possible (what "right" even is, considering this is so new, I'm not sure). 

Here are the positives of being back (there are many):
- I love seeing my students, even though there are approximately 8738935 square feet of plexiglass in my class, we all have masks on, and there's a fancy air filter humming in a corner
- I feel that my campus is safe for staff and students
- It's great seeing my colleagues- my friends, my acquaintances, and even the ones I find slightly annoying. Interacting with people outside of my home is a welcome change!
- My students in class are actually talking to each other, both about the book but also just small talk, too. It's so nice to see those interactions happening again
- My home feels more like my home again, and not my work 
- They have built extra prep into our schedule, so I am optimistic about the amount I'll be able to grade and plan at work 
- Our COVID numbers continue to improve in our county, so hopefully we are laying the foundation to go back more "normally" in the fall 
- It's nice to be able to not be tied to my computer every second... obviously I am on it a lot still, since I am teaching concurrently, but even trips to the office on my prep period, or walking around the front of class while the kids are working in something (we can't walk around their desks)
- It just feels more normal, after a year of feeling everything but. I like getting out of my house and going in everyday! We work from home on Fridays, though, but four days is better than nothing. 
- I am much more productive at work
- I was worried I wouldn't know the kids' names or recognize them, since we've never met in person and they're half covered, but I surprised myself and remembered probably 75% of them
- I had a very valid excuse to buy some new Boden dresses 

... and the less positive things:
- Like I said, I am not used to teaching concurrently and I am constantly afraid that I'll forget to unmute myself when we're transitioning or won't be showing the right screen to the right people. I know it will get easier, but I want to integrate the kids at home into our physical class as much as I can, so I feel the pressure (albeit self-imposed)
- It's weird, plain and simple, to be teaching in this sort of ultra-sanitary, careful, distanced environment
- We are basically completely digital now, and I hate grading this way. I miss my piles of literal papers that need tending to 
- My students used to sit in groups of 4-6 and I did a lot of collaboration, whether it was discussing, projects, or presentations. Not now! I really miss it. I'm trying things out with sort of setting my room up into zones that they can at least talk at each other over the plexiglass and do breakout rooms online
- There's still the possibility of having to do the big state standardized testing this year, since the federal government is pushing it. It's totally absurd
- Trying to get things at home squared away has been really stressful. My son is in school part of the day and my husband, who works at home, can't commit to pick up and drop off. Luckily my family can help out, but they're not local so it's been a lot of logistic finagling 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. Sawyer and I have a countdown for Sunday when my mom comes! So exciting! Despite millions of phone calls and FaceTimes, we haven't seen her since Thanksgiving 2019 (I cannot believe a whole calendar year went by without me seeing my family) and now we get to in five days. She will be down for five days, will go home for my spring break, and then my sister will replace her to finish the school year. We went from no family for well over a year to family straight for nearly two and a half months. 

2. I am reading Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters for a book club this weekend and its really good. It's educational (I admittedly don't know a lot about trans culture), interesting (the story is unconventional, but totally gripping), and the writing is solid. 

3. My son watched that Netflix Movie Yes Day and I was really disappointed in how the mom was represented. I consider myself a fairly fun mom, but I run a tight ship and my lists have lists. It's hard running a family, even when you just have one  kid! The mom deserved a yes day! I was super irritated with how privileged the kids were, how no one wasn't concerned with the massive damage the kids' party caused to the house, and how dumb the concert scene was. Also, another unwanted side effect? My son fell in love with the song "Baby I Need Your Lovin'" and now we've all had it stuck in our heads since last Friday. None of us know any of the actual words, so it's just that line, over and over and over again.

4. Speaking of privilege, my new car beeps approximately seventeen times every time I get out of it and I have no clue why. 

5. I don't buy many cookbooks anymore, but Simply, Julia won my over, after seeing so many Instagram posts with it and then hearing her on the Bad on Paper podcast. It arrives tomorrow and I can't wait to try something new!

6. For the past two weekends I've had friends over outside and it makes me so thankful for nice weather. We've had a bit of rain lately, but I'm hoping most of it is gone! Last weekend I made these cinnamon rolls for our little backyard coffee date and they are, without a doubt, the only recipe I'll use for them now. 

Going Back

English teachers love the full-circle device in literature- so deliberate, so serendipitous. There's a feeling of closure and precision that the author has so carefully crafted, one we feel gleeful upon discovering. I'm susceptible to this notion in other areas of my life, so the fact that we have received the word that we're going back to the classroom a year after shutting down in-person learning seems meant-to-be. Should it have lasted this long? That's complicated and not the point of this post, so I'm not going to digress (for once). Am I ready? Yes. 

Since our county's numbers came back low enough today, we head back into the classroom Monday, for a hybrid schedule (I'll see my kids twice a week, at fifty percent capacity, once online and once in the classroom). Our COVID cases have dramatically fallen, for various reasons, along with most other places in the country, so I feel that we can reconvene with a level of safety that wasn't there before (please note I teach 11th graders, many of which have had the illness move their households and have had it themselves. Some have seen family members suffer greatly and a few even die). I, and many of my colleagues, have received both vaccinations and our classrooms have medical-grade air scrubbers, plexiglass shields, cleaning/sanitizer products, and a partridge in a pear tree. Masks for all, temp checks, social distancing, new drop-off procedures, cohort schedules, reduction in consumable materials, and whatever else I'm forgetting. The swiss cheese model in full effect. 

I cannot wait to see my students again- to do all the academic stuff, of course, but to also laugh with them (do you know how hard it is to joke around together as a class on Google Meets?) and monitor their work a bit better. I know my kids are a great group, given the perseverance and dedication they've shown since August, under less-than-optimal conditions. I keep joking with them that I'm going to arrange them in order of our Meet grid so I can remember who they are. For the last decade I always tell my students that I wish we could all just come to school and hang out and talk about books- I love the content and the discussion (the grading and the meetings I can do without). 

It's not going to be easy- we are returning to a way of teaching that we've never done before. I'll be concurrently instructing my students at home while teaching those in class, meaning we'll all be together doing the same thing. We aren't supposed to walk around the classroom much, so I think it will work. At the end of the day it means by students are going to receive double of me talking about reading and writing, so CLEARLY it's a win for them. 

I am incredibly fortunate that our childcare is handled, since that is a huge wrench in this system for most people. My son goes to school Monday thru Thursday in the afternoon, and while my husband is working from home, his schedule is not conducive to him covering pick-up and drop-off, so my mom is coming for a week and then my sister for the two months after spring break (and I know this is no one's concern, but we are compensating them- this is a huge favor, since they are both from Central California). It's so exciting, since we haven't been able to see them in almost sixteen months and they will both be fully vaccinated. For once it all worked out!

It's been a really long year that I know has made me a stronger teacher, and person. Going back isn't going to be easy, but, like I tell my students, we're pros at being flexible and changing course.

My biggest concern? Wearing shoes all day again. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. So this person blocked me (lets call them the androgynous "Casey") on social media for a reason I'm not entirely clear about but resulted in some boundaries that were ultimately best. "Casey" has now unblocked me on Facebook so that they could see my posts in a group that they are previewing (I am not an admin on the group, but I was checking to see if another friend had joined yet and was like "whoa, I shouldn't be able to see this name, what is happening?"). I spent my walk this morning pondering next steps- I could a) give this person a taste of their own medicine and block them right on back b) have fun with it and maybe block them a day, unblock them a day, etc... c) just let it go because I am thirty-seven and I find the whole blocking thing a bit dramatic (minus cases of danger). Ultimately, I have chosen the last option, just because at the end of the day I don't have extra time to play games and it's hard to really be mad at someone you feel bad for (and if that person is reading here, I genuinely hope you find something to bring you happiness and light in 2021). 
2.  Does it feel like there are more books than ever coming out on a weekly basis? Or is it because I'm more active on bookstagram now? I cannot keep up! It's a good problem to have, but I'm wondering if it has to do with the pandemic and pushing publication dates, and that they're all coming out now. I cannot believe how many I have bought so far this year. 

3. Sawyer and I have started a super scientific project- every week we make a new milkshake to see what the best possible add-in to vanilla is. The first week was poptart (it was okay) and this past weekend we made M&M rice krispy treats (so good). It's silly, but it's a fun little thing that helps Sunday afternoons not to seem so work and chore-heavy.

4. I had a wonderful realization the other day- the stupid pandemic has not ruined any of the relationships I hold most dear. My friendships have stayed either the same or have gotten even better (regular book clubs, texting groups, constant Instagram chats, outside visits, etc...) and I talk to my family all the time. I've been able to support Sawyer academically and recreationally, and my husband and I haven't gotten a divorce after being stuck in the same hours together for a year, so that's something. I think that's the thing about being a well-adjusted adult- I haven't felt worried that when "this is all over" I'll have to rebuild connections with people, since they were so solid going into this. I am so thankful!

5. I read James and the Giant Peach to Sawyer last month and now we are reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's been so much fun to revisit some favorites from my youth. My husband has been doing the same thing with movies with him, so it's been cute to see them watch things like Indiana Jones (not the second one... apparently it is too scary- I haven't seen it), The Goonies (I hate this movie- I didn't see it as a kid, so there is zero nostalgia factor for me), and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. 

6. Was anyone else a member of one of those CD clubs when they were younger? Columbia House and BMG? I convinced my mom to sign up for me, and I lovvvvvved saving up my allowance to get new ones. I haven't thought about those in ages, but for some reason I randomly remembered yesterday. 

7. I bought a new car (very new... only three miles on it!) over the weekend. It has a lot of little features on it that I do not understand AT ALL and have already had to pull out  my owner's manual about eighty times (Julie, you were right!). I am not a car person at all so I'm not super jazzed. I like the idea of having something super dependable and with a lengthy warranty, though, and I don't have to worry about maintenance for several years either. Time to whip out my calculator and figure out how to pay this sucker off asap!

8. There's a lot of uncertainty and complications about when high school will go back in my county (they're going to be changing the color-coded tier system we have a little bit soon), so I'm in limbo. I have my childcare standing by, which I am eternally thankful for. It's just really, really frustrating that it could be in a week and a half, which is right before our spring break, or after. Again, the flexibility of our childcare help is a huge relief, but I'd like to know so that I can be ready. It's a huge adjustment not working outside the home for a year and then having to do it. When we go back we will probably be teaching to the kids at home at the same time, which will be an adjustment, but will also let me cover twice as much material, which is awesome! 

9. Just so everyone knows, I am fully aware that there are frequently typos here. I just don't have a lot of time for editing- if I took the time that would call for I'd never get anything posted. Yes, I understand the irony of the English teachers having typos and I am totally here for it! Ha! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts


1. Sawyer started back to in-person school this week, four 1/2 days a week. He absolutely, positively loves it! They also have an additional 90 minutes of instruction online a day, which so far has just been a lot of review of sight words, math facts, PE, iReady, and then a menu of activities. Drop off has been a little chaotic, with the kids needing to social distance and get checked in, but I'm sure it will get smoother and smoother every day. 

2. Speaking of going back to work, it is starting to look like I will head back to the classroom in a matter of weeks, since our county number have vastly improved (the number of vaccinations continue to increase, as well!). I am still hammering out the logistics of our family's schedule and life, which, truth be told, is making me incredibly anxious, but I think we are on the brink of a plan. If you really stop and think about all the changes going back asks of families, parents, and teachers it's pretty monumental. I am so excited to be back around my students and colleagues, but I am also making myself sick worrying about the details (mind you I am not concerned with my family's health; I am fully vaccinated, my son is a tiny cohort, and my husband is fine too). 

3. Yesterday I proclaimed to my husband that I was going to start a new book buying system, where I only order 1 book for every three I finish. At that rate I can do some serious damage to be TBR numbers! A few hours later the delivery guy came and brought two books I had forgotten I preordered... oops. Maybe preorders and books for book clubs don't count....? I've accepted that I'll never not have a ton of unread books to read, but things have gotten a little out of control, especially with the onslaught of such intriguing new releases in the past few months. Thank goodness books are fairly cheap.

4. A week ago I had these flashbacks to my step aerobics class, so I bought a cheap step and did my first thirty minutes work out yesterday. Dang! It was definitely a good workout! I might even be sore later! I am really trying to diversify my exercise and not just fall back on the treadmill most days, like I have for the last decade. I want to run or incline walk 3-4 days a week, do step twice, and then bring in shorter yoga and Melissa Wood Health sessions, to help with my strength training.

5. I'm reading four books right now, which is two too many. I started Hood Feminism last month and am working my way through that, still. I am also reading a parenting books, since I need a refresher on maintaining my patience and dealing with a first-grader with growing opinions. I am gearing up to teach Things Fall Apart again, and I am also just starting The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. 

6. I guess I'm buying a car this weekend. I really, really, really don't want to, but mine is over ten years old and has over 160,000 miles on it and needs some work. It's at that point where I don't want to put a ton of money into something that's becoming so geriatric, but I just loathe the whole process, from start to finish. I tried to use not being able to find my title/pink slip as an excuse to stall, but the salesperson I've been talking to at the dealer said that was no big deal. I know a lot of people, my mom included, who take a lot of joy in the new car smell and all the new little buttons and features, but I do not. I'm thankful I am able to go get what I need, but I much rather buy more books (see #3 above). 

February Reads

February is gone and March is upon us! I read six books last month and am a little nervous about what I'll get through in March, since there are some big changes on the horizon for my little family (logistical challenges, sure, but good changes!). Who knows, maybe I'll be in desperate need for an escape from the chaos and will be able to read a ton (wishful thinking, probably). 

The books I read this month were an eclectic bunch, four of which were for book clubs or buddy reads, on and off the blog. That has been one gift the pandemic has given me- frequent bookish interactions with people! 

The first book I read this month was Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta, which I bought immediately after hearing him on The Armchair Expert. My grandma has Alzheimer's, so I am always very aware of how to keep my brain healthy, which this book provided some good reminders of. I don't think it was necessarily anything I hadn't really known, but it did make me more motivated to get more sleep, be mindful of medications and diet, and also look for ways to cognitively challenge my brain. 

For my two regular book clubs I read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, which I wrote a little about here, and I also read Interior Chinatown by Charles Wu, which I absolutely loved. Wu's commentary on immigration, stereotypes, class, and family dynamics was darn near perfect, and I still keep thinking about it. 

I read another book my another Asian-American author this month, If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha, after seeing it all over the place. Like The Midnight Library, I thought there were flaws but I appreciated the fact that it really makes you pause and reflect on bigger issues, in this case standards of beauty, sacrifice, and friendship. My complaints include awkward, uneven character development, a reliance on withholding information from the audience (there are plenty of books where keeping details from the past is done effectively, but I thought it just became super overdone here), and a sort of lackluster ending. If it was summer I'd definitely put this in the slightly more literary "beach read" category. 

I also read Jessica Francis Kane's Rules for Visiting which was quirky book about a socially awkward landscape architect who was trying to rekindle friendships. It was much different than I thought it was going to be- I think I'd liken it to a lighter version of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, in a way. I appreciated how Kane tied in elements of botany and travel, as well as some important thematic links to family and mental health. If this book had to be described as an experience I'd say it was a cozy blanket and some coffee- comforting and enjoyable. 

Julie and I did a co-read of Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison here

Total: 1856 pages 

March Goals, Plus February, Revisited

Every month I set some monthly goals and revisit the previous month's. This is mostly just for myself, as a sort of public accountability exercise, but feel free to add your own in the comments so that we can be nosy together! 

February's Goals: 

1. Log at least 100 hours on the Forest App: BARELY

2. Average 6 hours and 45 minutes of sleep nightly: ALMOST I was doing okay until this week, when the COVID19 vaccination really messed with my schedule and sleep quality. I was only a few minutes shy for the month, though, so I'll need to keep working on it.

3. Get ready for our tax appointment: YUP 

4. Start and emergency binder: YES I am nowhere near done, but I've started the process of getting things together so that my husband has ALL the info to run our house smoothly if for some reason I cannot

5. Go to at least 2 "fun" places with Sawyer: DONE We went to see these large dinosaurs out in the desert and last weekend we took Ellie to a large regional park

6. Teacher Sawyer to tie his shoes: SO CLOSE We are on the very last stage of the traditional bunny ears method. I did get him riding his bike more this month (still with training wheels), which was really challenging for both of us, so I am happy with his progress in Important Little Kid Skills Advancement.

7. "Go" to a reading/event: YES I "went" to hear Brandon Hobson speak to Rebecca Makkai through the Strand/Scripps Presents/PEN.

8. Do abs twice a week: YUP (looks down... needs to do more...)

Onward and upward! March goals!

1. Get an average of 6 hors and 45 minutes of sleep a night- Go go Gadget take two!

2. Get in a Sawyer-back-to-school routine- He went back for his first day today, so time to rock and roll! 

3. Plan out work outs each week (even if I don't stick to them completely)- I am such a rule follower that know I'm "supposed" to run for twenty five minutes and then do arms for ten (or whatever) will force me to be more strategic about my exercise. 

4. Keep working on my emergency binder: Chugging right along on this weird little project... 

5. Be in a good place grading-wise for spring break at the end of the month: I hate brining work into my breaks, like I had to over Thanksgiving. 

6. Buy a car: I am dreading this so much. Large purchases stress me out, monthly payments are the worst, and I just don't really care about cars in general.

7. Lose six-point-two pounds: Ooooooof I know we aren't supposed to say things like that, #bodypositivty and whatnot, but I think that as a responsible, rational, healthy 37 year old woman I can. And did.