Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[good job, Christine, now shut up about the damn cake]

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1. I actually watched two movies this weekend- a miracle! We took Sawyer to see LEGO Batman in the theater (fun) and then Scott and I watched The Edge of Seventeen (so great- I kept comparing myself to the teacher... at least in some ways) at home. I've met my quota for the month.

2. Cake update (because I am sure you're all dying to know)! I made the Milk Bar Birthday Cake and followed the recipe to the letter and it turned out perfectly (ifIdosaysomyself). The baking part was easy enough, but the assembly got a little tricky with the acetate sheets. Once I figured out how to make a sort of column of plastic it went really well. 

3. I'm reading Ready Player One so that I can give it an honest recommendation to my students and I can definitely say that I am not the target demographic. I am starting to get into it, though! You can't help but to root for Wade. 

4. I realized something recently: I have to give myself my own pep talks. Everyone in my life is so used to me being "fine, good, ready for the weekend!" or has their own issues. The problem with self-sufficiency? You get used to not asking for help and the people around you get used to not helping. Anyway, I had some coffee and said "self, get it together" and was better. Just a super fun observation. 

5. Hey! I am going to Vegas this weekend! FINALLY! I am taking my mom to see Cher and we're staying at the fancy Cosmopolitan for the night and having dinner at Caesar's, so I think it will be super fun.

6. I've been suffering from some hip pain after sitting for stretches of time that exceed twenty or so minutes for years, but lately it's gotten worse (probably because of the running). I stretch it out daily, but no dice. I want to go to the doctor, but I am guessing the resulting treatment will be time with a physical therapist, which I literally cannot work into my schedule (I have to pick my son up right after work and there is no way I can take a toddler to PT). It's frustrating and I'll just continue to hobble around and complain (and maybe figure out foam rolling-?). 

7. Last weekend the three of us went up to UCLA for a women's basketball game (only $8 a ticket!?!) and then wandered around the UCLA/Westwood area for a little bit. Because of the holiday weekend we lucked out with ZERO traffic- we made it through 132 miles round trip of So Cal freeways without getting stuck at all. A miracle.

Making Life (Slightly) Easier

My mission in life is to be as productive as possible. I mean sure, more than anything I want to raise a good kid, stay married, keep my job, and be relatively healthy, but aside from that I have to be honest. I want to do all the stuff in an efficient manner so that I can have time to do things I really love. So, over the past few months I've been really trying to assess how I can be... better. September-December of last year had some really stressful moments, many of which were brought about by that "having too much to do" feeling. So, here are some things, some little and some big, that have helped me at work and at home (caution: this is a little bit... Good Housekeeping-ish at points... sorry if you'e twenty and not into laundry):

Grading Calendar- I have talked about this before, but it has been the biggest lifesaver of them all. Every 4-6 weeks I print out a blank grid with boxes Monday-Friday and one for the weekend. As I collect assignments I realistically assign myself slots to grade everything, being mindful of busy weekends, time I can work in class (like if my students are writing), etc... I am incredibly list-oriented, so I love being able to mark off finished assignments and the competitive part of me (which is a really, really big part...) gets excited to *gasp* cross things off for the next day. This has also made me more mindful of my assigning, too.  

White Socks and Two Loads/Day- I do a shit-ton of laundry, which is probably surprising considering there are only three of us. I am part of the problem- every single day I have my work clothes and either lounge/work out clothes when I get home. Plus all the other house-related stuff. One thing I did to make things easy was get Sawyer all white socks when he was ready to move up a size. I'm not kidding when I say this makes things so much easier. I also make myself do two loads a day- gone are my laundry marathons on weekend (who wants to spend hours doing laundry on a Sunday? Not I). 

Two-a-Days: There is a lot of mixed feelings about doubling up on workouts and I sort of hesitated before sharing. I just started this last week and I only plan on doing it maybe twice a week, running a few miles after work when Sawyer is up and a few after he goes to bed, that way I can get in some more mileage. It's not like I plan on running ten and then ten more... more like 2.5 and 2.5. It's just so hard on weekdays to get in substantial runs, so I'm going to try this until my 10k a least.

Disposable Table Cloths: I love that Sawyer loves paint, markers, and Playdoh, but I hate the mess. I've been buying super cheap plastic table cloths and cutting them in fourths and taping them down to the table when he gets crafts. Clean up is a total breeze and the $2 a mont is worth it.

Throwing Out Leftovers: While I am admitting to wasteful (but so helpful) habits, here's another: if I know that I'm not taking it for lunch or it's something my husband doesn't love I throw out leftovers. I try not to cook in excess to begin with, but sometimes we have extra. And let's be honest- some things are gross second (or third) day. And cleaning up said things after a week of inevitably sitting in the fridge is even worse.  

No More AM Multi-Tasking: There is a twenty-five minute period of time in the morning where I am usually alone (from 5:55-6:20,before I wake up Sawyer and after hair/makeup). During this time I have to get my coffee ready, eat breakfast, assemble my lunch (my little bag and ice packs don't go in the fridge the night before), and get Sawyer's breakfast set. I used to try to do everything at once and was left rushed. Now I do one thing at a time, get it all done, and am much happier.

Productivity App- I love this app I shared a month or so ago. I have several habits I need to improve on (vacuuming every-other-day, yoga more often, etc...) set in the app with a schedule in terms of how often I want to do them, and I click when things are complete. I can see how I am doing collectively or by habit. You can also set your phone to send you reminders, but my battery hates things like that. 

The Furminator- If you have a hairy dog that sheds a lot you have to pony up the $40 and get this brush. It's awesome.

The Pomodoro Technique- I love this idea and have used it for years but have really been putting it into use when it comes to working and cleaning. Basically, you set a timer and work for however long and when the times goes off you can take a break for however long you decide (I use a loose variation of it). If you get distracted during the work portion you have to set your timer over and try again. The structure works well because you know that you are going to get a break soon. If I find myself getting too distracted by my phone or whatever else I will even use this idea when reading or running. 

It's the little things... 

Some Books for the Kiddos

A few months ago I did a lengthy post on some books I bought Sawyer related to diversity, acceptance, and general social awareness. Since then he's gotten some other books that I thought I'd pass along, some with a message, and some just plain fun. 

Rosie Revere, Engineer
Ada Twist, Scientist
Iggy Peck, Architect
The only new one from this bunch, actually, is the top title, but these three by Andrea Beaty are absolutely wonderful. These three little kids, all from the same class but with different backgrounds, each follow their STEM-centric dreams, persevere, and work to combine creativity and intellect. They come up with many obstacles and often think about quitting, but instead problem solve and in turn experience at least a little success. The illustrations are fantastically quirky, the writing witty, and the stories endearing.

XO, OX: A Love Story 
This was one of the books we got Sawyer for Valentine's Day and by far the best of the three. Adam Rex writes the story of an ox who is is love with a gazelle, and Scott Campbell illustrates it. Gazelle is obviously a super-busy famous star and doesn't have time for lowly ox- the two go back in forth in a series of letters that had me cracking up. At the heart of the book is a great lesson on appearance vs heart.

I Don't Like Koala 
Sean Ferrell's adorable little story about a boy who changes his mind about a stuff koala is sweet, funny, and fairly short (if you have a squirmy listener that may be important). The story can illicit good conversations about giving people and situations a chance before passing judgement.

Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups 
This book by Tadgh Bentley is just plain fun- it's about a little penguin who needs the reader to help scare him to get rid of his hiccups. There's counting, yelling, and a surprise visit by a whale- would could be better for a toddler?

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[my drugged-out pup]
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1. I am obsessed with Ritz crackers and putting whatever I can on them. Today for lunch I had a few with vegetable cream cheese, peanut butter, cheese, and tabouleh (not all at the same time). I have been running quite a bit, so I think my body wants salt. 

2. Over the weekend I took Sawyer to a model train show at the local fairgrounds and he LOVED it. He was content doing laps and laps around the place, following trains around the tables. Hobby trains aren't quite my thing, but I do enjoy seeing people who are so incredibly passionate about their interests. 

3. Milk Bar Birthday Cake update: I am waiting for a larger quarter sheet pan, which should arrive tomorrow. This is my last missing item and if everything goes as planned, I will make it TOMORROW NIGHT. Unfortunately, it has to freeze for twelve hours and then thaw about for three more, so I won't be able to eat it until Friday. But still. We're getting there and I am clearly all kinds of excited.

4. Something else I am probably too excited about? Going to see LEGO Batman on Friday. We're taking Sawyer, which I know some might say he's too young for, but whatever.

5. I found Sawyer a daycare that has a kindergarten too, and I could not be more relieved. There are a surprisingly small number of satisfactory secular preschools in our area (no offense to those who do the God thing, but we have concerns), so the whole thing has caused me a great deal of anxiety. We visited the other day and Sawyer loved it, as did I. I am going to put down our deposit and application fee tomorrow so that we are guaranteed a spot for next school year. 

6. Cordie went in for yet another gum growth removal yesterday and per the usual it cost a lot and was really stressful on her. It's a necessary evil, but man I hope she doesn't get anymore. 

A Valentine's Morning at the Beach

Valentine's Day has always been sort of a non-event in our house, but with Sawyer the past few years I am trying to bring it back. I've been wanting to take him to have lunch on the Huntington Beach Pier, at the endearing tourist trap Ruby's, for awhile, so we went today. I am off this week and the weather was perfect, so we lucked out. The lighting was fantastic, between the clouds and winter sun, so I got a few great pictures that I thought I'd share.