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!