Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. I know I wrote about it last week, but I've been making plans again, safely, and it feels so good. Between that, lots of Etsy orders, tons of work, etc... it almost feels like pre-Covid right now. It's so nice. To think, a year ago I was wiping down groceries, and in a few weeks my family is going  TO DISNEYLAND is crazy (we had tickets left from a multi-day pass from early 2020 so we got dibs on reservations. We are SUPER careful, but it still feels weird. Considering the park is at insanely reduced capacity and Scott and I will be fully vaccinated we feel good. Sawyer is a pro at wearing his mark, social distancing, and hand-washing, so while it feels SO wrong to be planning on this, it also feels really, really, really good and positive for our family). 

2. I just finished Infinite Country and really, really enjoyed it. There has been so many novels published that look at immigration in the US and this one did a great job of examining it in a slightly different way. 

3. I have finally gotten in a better rhythm and routine with concurrent teaching. I have 100 minute blocks (we were only 58 minutes pre-covid), so I try to divide the time up into three lessons, plus a block for a quick break and independent work time. I've been finding out better ways for the kids to interact and they've been giving me some positive feedback (I sent an anonymous survey asking for input, concerns, things they like, and it was so helpful- they were so kind and I have been trying to integrate some of their ideas). 

4. Sawyer is new to his school this year, and they've been back in person for about five or six week (they've gone back more this week and there aren't anymore cohorts, so his class have about 20 kids). He's made a new friend and I guess the boy's family has been waiting a ways from school so the two can walk together. So cute! I was definitely worried about him socially, since he knew no one, but he has been doing great (he is a complete social butterfly, so I don't know why I was worried).

5. Please don't tell anyone, but after being at home for a year I occasionally miss my family a teeny tiny bit during the day. But then I get to eat lunch in peace and I remember how much I love being back at work. 

6. My sister is with us and it's so nice to have her around. We walk in the afternoon together and now that we get to venture out into the world a bit more it's been great to have a adult company with me when we go places (like a regional park last weekend, picture above). 

Bloggers Banter- Klara and the Sun

Yay! It's that time again! Another Bloggers Banter with Julz
Julz: Ok, I have to start off with the fact that I just plain didn’t get it.  As I mentioned in my review, I failed to grasp whatever point Ishiguro was trying to make.  What was your take?

Christine: Preface- I have purposefully stayed away from reviews and articles since I didn’t want to be influenced by their interpretations, so this might be repetitive of what’s already out there. Anyway, I found the book to be pretty allegorical- the sun represented God, the Cootings Machine evil, her bargains to help Josie prayers, etc… I don’t think he was necessarily advocating for religion, but more the idea of having faith or hope, even in what might seem absurd. I think there was also this sort of commentary on purity in the natural- the sun, the barn, the rural landscape, Rick’s lack of “liftedness”, etc…

Julz:  Look at you with the symbolism!  Never crossed my mind, but now that you point it out, I totally see it.
It pisses me off when authors never reveal why the world they created is in its current state.  Like why is Josie’s dad a “fascist” and why do kids need to be genetically modified to have their intellects “lifted?”

Christine: It definitely leaves you wanting more, that’s for sure.  I remember feeling that way when I read Never Let Me Go. I couldn’t decide if her dad did have fascist tendencies, of if Helen was being hyperbolic, since his way of life was so much different from theirs. I also wanted to know more about the genetic modification- maybe it was just this way of further dividing people, the class divide we see now grossly transcending to an intellectual one. I guess instead of plastic surgery people start to enhance their brains (so should we be pleased at the idea of values shifting to intelligence away from looks, or just disgusted by it all?).

JulzAh, see you definitely gleaned WAY more meaning than I did.  So was a Cootings machine just an effing paver?

Christine: Ha! Yeah, one that symbolizes all that is evil and wrong in the world, I guess. The irony is that Klara is a machine herself and represents a reliance on technology and industry, just like it also does (although she’s not directly polluting as it is).

Julz: I was also thoroughly confused when Klara’s perception became fragmented.  What was the point of her sight becoming “spatially segmented?”

Christine: I think it was because they removed some of her fluid to ruin the Cootings Machine, so we see her willingness to sacrifice her mechanical efficiency for Josie. I think she was also super overwhelmed during that whole episode to the city, between there being so many people, human emotions, and stimulation.

Julz: But her segmented vision occurred even when she was in the store, long before she sacrificed her fluid.

Christine: I think it changed, or even got worse, for a bit after they removed the fluid. Before that, I got that feeling that her vision was sort of divided into boxes to help her process things- a sort of grid. I think if we were watching the movie version it would be like some weird neon blue lines with little numbers on the sides doing calculations- the “AF filter.” But then after the fluid removal what she saw seemed to be reduced to actual shapes. That whole episode was strange.

Klara is basically taken out to pasture at the end, when Josie goes to college, after helping to save the day. I was so mad! But then it also seemed like the “normal” thing to do, since she was “just” a machine. I guess that’s another whole issue in this text- can AI take the place of a human? Klara was so sophisticated and seemed to feel emotional- should that have earned her a permanent role in the family?

What did you think of the parents, both Josie’s and Rick’s?

Julz: I thought there was something cold and calculating about Josie’s mom, where Rick’s mom was Chrissie’s polar opposite, flaky and in-your-face.  I didn’t have any particular feelings towards Josie’s dad other than a bit of curiosity to want to know more about him (like we mentioned above).

Christine: I had a lot of emotions regarding the plan to turn Klara into Josie- first I was seriously creeped out, but then really sad, since it showed such devastation. But then also selfish? What about you?

Julz: Having lost one child already, I can see why Josie’s mom would have resorted to such desperate tactics.  I am relieved they never got to that point…

April Goals, Plus March, Revisited


A week into April and I'm finally getting around to this… what can you do? The last month has been a lot, so I'm cutting myself lots of slack. Here's how I did on my March goals (that I created before I knew I was going back in to work):

Average 6 hours and 45 of sleep a night- HA! Definitely not. Getting up at 5:30 to walk Ellie, instead of 6:20 like before, is throwing a huge wrench in this plan.

Get in a Sawyer-back-to-school routine- Yup! He's been doing great.

Plan workouts each week in advance- Pretty good, actually. I change things sometimes, depending on mood or energy, but I have been adding a lot more variety in.

Keep working on emergency binder- What emergency binder? Maybe this is better left for summer…

Be in a good place grading-wise for spring break- Nopity nope nope. And now I'm even more screwed because I truly took spring break off and didn't do much at all.

Buy a car- Sure did! And I have the loan to prove it (although I have a plan to hopefully pay it off in a year)

Lose 6.2 lbs- I lost a few, but Easter candy really did not help the cause

Now, April! I plan to be very reasonable:

Buy a new phone- I despise dealing with setting up passwords and all that, so I have been dragging my feet for months. First world problems, I know. 

Finish and ship all Etsy orders- I got a mention on a large blog so there are several hoops for me to complete right now! It was unexpected, but awesome.

Get a few health issues under control- Nothing major or life-threatening, but just annoying.

Make sure Sawyer has a great birthday- He turns seven in a few weeks! Last year it was completely at-home, but I think we have a good compromise in place for this "in-between" time, plus he's going to get a gift that he's going to absolutely die over, so I have a good feeling it will be a success

Stay away from a certain parent Facebook page affiliated with my son's school district- I check it for updates, since they seem to have news about schedule changes before the district office officially releases them, but the group is so toxic that it makes me very disappointed in my community.  I know good, hard-working teachers in the district and they have said reading the comments have literally made them cry- just not okay.

Step up my skin-care routine- I'm not getting any younger

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I have something that requires leaving the house each weekend for the rest of the month- it almost feels like old times. We are of course being careful and adhering the the CDC and local regulations, but I am vaccinated, my sister who is staying with us is, and my husband gets his first one this weekend. 

Coming back to work after spring break was rough, since we had a week back on campus before a week off- everything just felt super disjointed and exhausting. But, thankfully, things are starting to settle in. My sister has been with us helping with Sawyer and I think they are getting into a good routine, and I am starting to get my pacing down with our super-duper long class periods (and concurrently teaching to the kids at home). 

Today I gave my students a five minute break to stretch during our 100 minute block and I got to talking about the Dyson hair dryer with a few girls. I can't tell you normal and wonderful that felt, to one minute be doing hardcore literary analysis and the next getting stuck on a random topic like hair care.

I wonder about certain industries these days- lipstick? Gum? High heels? How are they all doing over a year into the pandemic?

Easter came and went- I'm not a big Easter kind of person, so we don't go all out. Luckily when you never go big you don't set a precedent for your kid and they assume grand festivities aren't necessary. 

I don't need a fancy pizza oven, but… I want one? How many pizzas do you have to cook to justify buying one? One a week? ONE A DAY? What we really need to do is perfect cooking them in the barbeque- our first attempt was great, the second disastrous. Send all your tips, thanks.

My sister is a reader and is excited about my little home library- I get to make her a stack of suggested books. This makes me so happy.

March Reads

Third month in a row of six books read- a real surprise for this month, considering there was a LOT of change in my household, between our jobs, schools reopening, visitors, etc... Good change, but lots of accompanying stress, so I guess some escape was needed. I've been reallllllllly trying to use the Forest app for 100 hours a month (I made it in February and fell short by two hours in March), which has helped me not waste time on my phone as much, so I think that is part of it too. Whatever it is, I hope it continues!

The two nonfiction books I read couldn't be more different. The first was How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I bought this in late February when we had to idea what was happening to the school schedules and I was clinging to the last thread of patience I had left. It's not Sawyer's fault, at all- he's a chatty only child and I'm a working mom who hasn't felt rested in, like, seven years. I read their version for little kids a few years ago and it was just a good refresher. Nothing mind-blowing, but it helps to be reminded of strategies to use to help not feel like a nag all the time. 

The second one I read was Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall, which I read in part of educating myself about intersectional feminism. Kendall writes about how traditional feminism had in many ways perpetuated elements of racism, through the neglect to help black women. She does a good job of organizing the book in to categories involving such topics as education, violence, housing, poverty, etc..., detailing the issues and how they can change. If you are a feminist, especially white, you have to read this. 

I reread Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Part for the fourth (I think?) time in order to teach it to my students. It is the first time since the BLM movement got more traction, so it's been fascinating to read it through a slightly different lens. My students seem to enjoy it and I am looking forward to the discussions. If you haven't read it I highly recommend it- Achebe's simplistic prose juxtapose the complexity of tribal life in Africa when the white missionaries come. It deals with masculinity, pride, violence, tradition, and change- it's definitely a rich text. 

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters was my choice for one of my book clubs and while I thought there were areas of the writing that were a bit too heavy on the exposition, the overall story was compelling. I don't think I have read anything by a trans author before, and Peter's exploration of the issues that people feel when transitioning, and detransitioning, was educational. This goes back to my need to deepen my knowledge of intersectional feminism- I need to learn about other areas and this made me even more aware. 

Also for book club, another one, was A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet. I thought it was an excellent allegory and liken it to a mash up of The Road and Lord of the Flies. I hate the word "triggered," but that was exactly how I felt reading it, given the fact that their entire world is changed after just one event... like our with the pandemic. A group of kids is vacationing with their parents at a secluded lake house when a massive hurricane hits, deepening the divide between the young and old, testing everyone's survival skills.

I think my favorite of the month was Deesha Philyaw's short story collection The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. These stories look at black women and their secrets and struggles, whether it's with sexuality, family, or identity. It's a slim volume that I originally planned on read in a day or two, but I found myself savoring the stories and trying to just read one a day to make it last.