January Reviews

2015 has proven to already be a much better year than 2014 for many reasons, one of which is the books! This year my goal is to read 10,000 pages, which I'm on track to exceed at this point. My rationale was that anyone can read 100 YA or "easy" books, while you could spend two months on War and Peace. Page numbers just make more sense to me, at least for this year. Here we go:

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
72 pages
This was a reread for work, and for those unfamiliar with the premise, it's about a man who turns into a bug (or DOES he?). Kafka's examination of identity, guilt, sympathy, isolation, and familial duty is profound. Add a dash of existentialism and absurdism and your guaranteed a good time (or not really if you're in my class and being taught this philosophical mumbo-jumbo by yours truly).

Verdict: I go back and forth between enjoyment and irritation. Nonetheless, I'm still appreciative and respectful.

I Am Radar by Reif Larsen
656 pages
I wrote a post here going more in-depth, but to sum it up this book is about a black boy born to white parents and a group of performance artists. And puppets.

Verdict: I definitely enjoyed it but thought it may be a bit too ambitious.

Sous Chef by Michael Gibney
240 pages
I also wrote on this book as well, a memoir about a day-in-the-life of a sous chef at an upscale restaurant in New York City.

Verdict: I loved this book. Like "want to buy all the restaurant memoirs I can get my hands on" loved it. I used a few short passages in my classroom to have the kids analyze things like syntax, as well.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
352 pages
My, my, my how people loved this book last year. Mandel writes about different characters, both before and after The Georgia Flu strikes, killing most of the population rapidly. She focuses on a group of characters connected closely and by proxy, examining their survival emotionally and physically, all the while scaring the crap out of her readers. This could happen, guys.

Verdict: This book was definitely interesting, and was hard to put down. I thought the writing was decent as well, and appreciated that Mandel's first three books received less than stellar reviews- perseverance paid off. I'm a little over dystopian lit, for now, thought (despite the fact I have at least one another new book from the genre waiting to be read). 

January: 1,320 pages
2015: 1,320 pages

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up and link back! And have a nice day.

1. I am sitting here waiting for a general contractor/roofer guy to come look at a leak in our porch overhang area and he's late. The baby isn't napping and I'm pacing around ready to toss the dogs outside in preparation. But yet... nothing. The first day he was supposed to come he called a few hours ahead of time and rescheduled. Fine. It happens. The second time he flat-out didn't show or call. Today's the last chance. He's coming highly recommended by one of my husband's family members, but I don't know... Nonetheless, the fact that we have a leak is bugging the crap out of me and I want to know how much this is going to cost to repair. It's also bugging the crap out of me how unprofessional this man is.

2. Pet peeve: when you really like a shirt or dress with some sort of design or applique on the front and you turn it around and it's completely plain. Willingly pay a few dollars more to complete the circle. Example, this dress:


3. I might make this cake on Sunday, but given the fact that my husband doesn't eat cake I'm not sure what I'll do with the whole thing. But honestly, sometimes baking and cooking is more about the cathartic process, rather than the end result. Although, if you're baking to be happy and the end result blows, you're not doing yourself any favors.

[Sally's Baking Addiction]

4. Does anyone have a chalkboard wall in their home? Is the chalk dust crazy? I think they're neat (and have no clue where I'd put one), but I've always wondered.

5. I completed a month of PiYo and can definitely say I am liking the program. I'll do a mini-review or whatever in another month or six weeks, but so far so good. Nothing crazy (I'm not half my size or ready to enter body building competitions), but it's fairly effective.

6. Ohmygod, he's STILL NOT HERE. This is the sort of stuff that irks me to no end. Hello, technology? Can you not call me and say you're running late? Or did you forget AGAIN? I get it, we're a small-potatoes job, but I'm still a potential client with potential big-potato jobs in the future. Seriously. Plus, I'd like to change out of my work clothes into sweats, thankyouverymuch.

7. Last night was a "bad night," shall we say, thanks to the crazy baby, so when one of my eyes started hurting on the way to work I wasn't surprised. I figured I may have had something under my contact and the exhaustion was making it worse. It didn't go away all day and, come to find out, my contact was torn almost in half. Nice. I also thought I forgot my phone today, drove home (I was only five minutes away at the time) and woke my husband up so he could call it. It was in my car the whole time. I also made the wrong copies for my first period yesterday. And did I mention the contractor being MIA?

8. My husband graciously agreed to take some Valentines Day-esque pictures of Sawyer for me, and this is one I took over his shoulder. His are, of course, much better, but this one still makes me smile.

9. and 10. My thoughts are so completely consumed with rage at this contractor I can't think of anything else. Seriously. Well, rage and guilt as I watch Sawyer chew on coasters since his negligent mother is typing on her computer and yelling obscenities at the phone (the guy didn't even text me back when I asked about whether or not he was still coming today). 


[so ashamed]

I'm a pretty stubborn person. If I say I'm going to do or finish something, I do, and vice versa. There hasn't been a lot of pre-kid ideas that I've reneged on, but there have been a few. For the sake of humility, I thought I'd share.

Boogie Wipes: I remember I read about "Boogie Wipes" (basically saline wipes for noses) on a blog before getting pregnant and thought they were such a gimmick- truth be told they're worth the $4 to make wiping a baby's snotty nose slightly easier during a cold.

Baby in the Bed: I swore Sawyer would never sleep in our bed, and while it has rarely happened, he has spent a few all-nighters on my chest. Sometimes you have to sleep, and after a few nights with only three or four broken hours of shut-eye, it happens (and sometimes on accident, too).
Schedules: I thought I'd be incredibly rigid about sleep/eat/play schedules, and it turns out I'm not. He eats when he's hungry and sleeps when he's tired and plays when he's not doing either of those things. Luckily those things happen in the same time-frame every day, but I'm not the type of mom that drops everything at 12:47 to put the baby down for a nap. We are incredibly structured at night, but that's just for our sanity.

Puffs: Oh, thank you Gerber, for these miracle little crunchy bites of goodness that allow me to make dinner, eat at restaurants, and clean the kitchen. I frowned on these snacks and their lack of nutritional merit before, but considering the serving size and mouth-to-floor ratio, I now have no qualms. Plus, they facilitate hand-eye coordination.

Judgement: I really thought the idea of others judging my parenting wouldn't bother me, that I'd be confident enough to tell them to screw off. And while I don't necessarily lack confidence in my skills (except the fact that he's still sleeping in our room... that's a tough pill to swallow), the fact that I know family members, and maybe some strangers, have opinions about how we do things really bug me. 

Caffeine Intake: I vowed to limit my caffeine intake to just a Diet Coke a day while breastfeeding. Nope. A morning coffee habit has been established big time. 

Dog Walks: This kills me more than anything, but my dog walking routine has suffered big time. Before Sawyer the dogs were walked once a day from 30-60 minutes. Now, not so much. I can't wait for warmer weather so that I can start swimming them a few times a week (sorry to the pool guy in advance...).

Things I've Maintained (So Far...)

Hobbies/Interests: My husband and I are still able to do the things we love. Maybe not to the same degree, but we haven't let ourselves become completely wrapped up in our baby.

Family Dinner: We still sit down to eat at night, in the dining room, away from the TV. Sawyer usually eats his dinner beforehand, but he's still in there hanging out with us. I still cook five nights a week, just like I did before he was born. 

Cleanliness: My car is still clean, we still don't allow food over the carpet, and toys get picked up after they are used (these are all things people swore we'd change our minds about).

Avoiding the Doctor: Sawyer had gone to the pediatrician for well-baby checkups and then once when I detected his torticollis. He's been sick a few times and we've debated, but he's gotten over his ailments without the doctor or antibiotics, something I feel strongly about (if he really needs them, they I'm 110% cool with it; I am not of the "he tugged at his ears let's get some amoxicillin" camp, though). 

Public Crying: Pre-kid I hated it when people let their kids scream and scream in public, especially in restaurants. I can't remember the last time he had a meltdown in public, but the few times he has we've taken him away from others. I know sometimes you have to hang in there, like when you have a cart of groceries and no help with you, but a crying baby at dinner is not okay.

Purchases: We try to not buy him tons of extra stuff. He has clothes, books, and toys from the holidays, but we don't buy him things every time we're out (not even close). 

Top Ten Tuesday- Book Club

The Broke and Bookish asks us for ten books we'd read with out book club (mine is comprised of English teachers from work, mostly female. We've tried to expand, but for some reason we've had trouble recruiting, even from inside our department. I don't get it, but anyway...). Some I've read, some not:

1. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham- I haven't read it, but own it, and think the controversy would make for good conversation. Sorry, guys in the group. Next pick can involve sports.

2. The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got There by Amanda Ripley- I don't generally read education books, but I thought this one was fascinating when I read it last year. Plus, I can pretend to be all professional and crap.

3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie- I remember dying to discuss this with someone after I read it. The writing is so rich.

4. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann- As one of my favorite books, I'd like to share the wealth.

5. The Circle by Dave Eggars- This book about a fictional Google-like company seems like it could totally be real eventually. How would that make you feel? Discuss. 

6. Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle- Another controversial one. Let's politely fight, guys, while we enjoy our salads and Diet Coke.

7. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel- I'm reading this right now- doesn't everyone want to talk about what they're currently reading?

8. Diary of a Bad Year by JM Coetzee- I really disliked this book. Is it just me?

9. The World According to Garp by John Irving- Let's do some deep character analysis.

10. A recent classic that most of us have missed (maybe American Pastoral?)- We're English teachers, people. This is pathetic.   

A Labor of Love... or a Love of Labor

When I was a junior in high school I vividly remember my English teacher writing "This is either a labor of love... or a love of labor" on the interactive notebook I submitted for Crime and Punishment. That has stuck with me since then, as I frequently undertake projects that require an abundance of work, sometimes willingly and sometimes accidentally. The book recommendation bulletin board I created for my classroom fits Ms. Baker's assessment precisely- this thing took about five times longer than I anticipated. And yet I persevered, determined to finish the bastard.

My inspiration was one of those serial killer sort of webs they show on detective movies. I've always wanted to make one, and since I neither want to kill anyone or solve crimes, I decided to go another, safer, route. 

Step 1: Create a list of books that you think your students should read at some point. Accept that you have limited space and par things down a bit. Try to think of books that they will really like.
Step 2: Develop a complicated spreadsheet with categories (coming-of-age, contemporary literature, sci-fi, plays, international/travel, graphic novels, classics, non-fiction, humor, romance, etc...) and lots of check marks. Fail to consider that when you actually start creating the board you won't use this, since you are the one organizing them to begin with.
Step 3: Type out titles (along with author and pages) and category headers. Have the school clerk laminate them, since teachers are not educated or skilled enough to be allowed to use the laminating machine [insert winky smiley face here].
Step 4: Go to Michael's to buy fourteen packs of yarn. Inwardly (or maybe a little outwardly) cringe at all the craft supplies. Ponder the fact that the store always smells odd. Remember to save receipt for next year's taxes.

Step 5: Assign yarn colors to categories. Make TA cut yarn.
Step 6: Arrange categories around perimeter of bulletin board.
Step 7: Realize that it will take 3.2 years to finish the board if you attached strings to every single applicable category. Sadly decide that each book will be connected to a maximum of three categories each.
Step 8: Web away. 
Step 9: Threaten students with timed writes every week if they touch the board.
Step 10: Suppress fear that the fire marshal will come soon for an inspection and this will have to be removed.  

Step 11: Realize that you don't care that it might be confusing. It's a piece of art, dammit.
Step 12: Post blog with subpar pictures and caveman syntax.

Hot Commodity

The Little House in the Prairie series and I go way back- all the way to 1989ish. My parents bought me a used set from Yesterday's Bookstore and over the course of a few years I read the entire series. I'd occasionally catch a few episodes of the series, too, when I managed to read the TV Guide right. Fast-forward to last Tuesday week- I saw a friend post a Slate article about Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiography, a more adult version written before her children's series, and almost died of happiness.

Until I realized the article was pointing out the publisher's mistake (or WAS it?) of only running a 15,000 first printing. The first batch was gone instantly and the orders for the next version skyrocketed. I ordered my copy on Amazon and am not expected to get it until mid-to-late March.

The most concerning thing about all of this? How did I not know? This is not new news, to the rest of the world, apparently. 

Book blogger fail.

Little House fan fail.

Life fail.

Built in Bookcases

Like any homeowners, my husband and I have big, future, plans for our home. Our biggest upgrade will have to all happen at once, if we're being smart, and would include new flooring, paint, bannister, and built-in bookcases. We're of the "pay in cash" mentality, so this isn't exactly happening next week. Maybe next year? Who knows. But for now I'll just keep pinning realistic bookcases that would work for our space (envision them all in white).




[and add books... source]


Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Welcome! Link up below (and link back, if you remember)! For those that are new, this feature allows me to share whatever random shit I want to (like I need an actual reason). The Mr. Widget thingy on the bottom allows you to do the same. 

1. Monday was the first day I've spent home with Sawyer all day long in a really long time (my husband just started working out of an office again). Lesson learned: I could never be a stay-at-home mom. I need adults (teenagers are close enough), a reason to get dressed up, and mental challenges. Not to say I don't love spending time with him- he's a delightful little creature. But full time, all day, every day? I'm just not cut out for it. In a perfect world I'd work from 8-12 every day... and still earn the same amount of money.

2. I hate that Wal-Mart has such a bad reputation and there's so much shaming that goes along with people that go there. I'm a Target girl, but I get it- Wal-Mart is cheaper. Basically, by making fun of Wal-Mart and it's shoppers you're encouraging this sort of class-struggle, stereotyping "thing" we have in America.

3. Speaking of people that talk shit about others, I had trouble holding my tongue a few times on MLK Day- so you post statuses that are borderline racist every other day and then get in on the "ohmygod peace and love and equality" message for one day? You probably publicly talk crap about your husband and then post effing sonnets for him on Valentine's Day.

4. Why did I think installing the Modcloth app on my phone was a good idea? On what planet was that a logical decision?

5. Sawyer and I went on a walk in his wagon, instead of the stroller, the other day and he noticed the small hole (that's supposed to be there). He spent the entire time bent over watching the ground go by as we walked. As soon as I stopped he'd pop back up. It was super cute. I tried to get him to stop, but eventually I figured it didn't really matter. Pick your battles and whatnot.

6. Yesterday at our staff meeting the superintendent spoke for an hour. He likes to call on "non-volunteers" and chose me, "a quiet teacher" (the whole staff laughed) to tell everyone "what was on my mind" (they laughed again!). Ten extra credit points for lying and saying something professional.

7. Confession: I'm considering hiring a house cleaner to come every six or eight weeks to clean the really annoying things that I don't want to (baseboards, windowsills, etc...). I can't get myself to make the call, though, since it feels incredibly douchey. Pay money for something I've always done and can continue to do? I wasn't brought up that way. But, now that my husband is back to work in the office and it's just Sawyer and I until 7:30 at night, I'm trying to figure out how to make things work, along with work. And this might be a solution. But still, so douchey.

8. I've been uncharacteristically hard on myself the last week or two. Like ridiculously so. I hold myself to medium-high standards normally, but man are my expectations to get ALL THE THINGS done lately a bit much. My theory? Something particularly stressful in my life was resolved recently and I'm transferring my negative energy elsewhere. Wait, what? "Negative energy?" You can take the girl out of the yoga studio, but you can't take the yoga studio out of the girl...

9. I started Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel the other day and am really liking it so far. I've decided to probably just burn through my birthday/Christmas books. #YOLO*

10. We're reading Barbara's Kingsolver's Flight Behavior for book club next. Has anyone read it? 

BONUS: If you play Trivia Crack add me- Christine0910

*Please note that the hashtag and stupid-as-eff term "YOLO" are being used ironically here. Thanks. 

Nonfiction Nagging- Five Reasons to Read Sous Chef

Either I haven't been reading nonfiction much lately or I've forgotten to write them up under nonfiction nagging. And if I wasn't working under the pressure of a napping baby I'd go check. So, anyway, here we are, taking a look at Sous Chef by Michael Gibney. Gibney writes a day-in-the-life style memoir about a day as a sous chef in a fine-dining New York City restaurant. Here are five reasons why you should read it:

1. Gibney describes the most mundane kitchen tasks, like sharpening knives or organizing a station, so incredibly elegantly. His passion for cooking and writing shines through in every single sentence.

2. You're being given this almost precious, rare opportunity to have a sneak peek behind the scenes into the specific, structured world of the kitchen. I worked at a few chain places in college and they were absolutely nothing compared to the place Gibeny writes about. There's this culture that bleeds through linguistically, socially, and physically into the staff.

3. It's a quick, fascinating read that mirrors the day perfectly. Just like Gibney can't stop to relax you won't be able to stop and put this book down.

4. As someone who likes to cook I always find reading about food and prep interesting. It's humbling and inspiring.

5. If you're like me, it will lead to a mass wish-list filling of kitchen/cooking/restaurant/chef memoirs on Amazon.  

Top Ten Tuesday- My Husband's Books

[a piece of our collection]

I love being married to a smart man. It sucks that he's probably smarter than I am, but it's better than the alternative. And luckily he's not one of those smart non-readers, so we have the whole book thing in common. Over the past few years he's gotten into graphic novels, but he still does have a lot of prose as well. And herein lies this week's freebie topic- ten books of my husband's that I want to read. The problem- 99% of the time I refuse to read his books until I have finished my own, something that will probably never happen. Nonetheless, if I ever get over my rules, here are ten, of many, that I'd like to read:

1. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

2. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

3. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

4. Blankets by Craig Thompson

5. Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm

6. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

7. Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland

8. Dogfight, A Love Story by Matt Burgess

9. The Lazarus Project by Aleksander Hemon

10. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Review- I Am Radar by Reif Larsen

As a huge fan of Reif Larsen's first novel, The Selected Works of Spivet, I was extremely impatient to get my hands on his second book, I Am Radar. I had never solicited a publisher (Penguin) for a copy before, but thought I'd try. Ask and you shall receive! Thanks, guys.

I Am Radar is a long, complicated, tale that takes us around the globe, to different time periods, with different characters. At the heart of the book is Radar, a man that was born black to white parents. His mother was desperate to find out why and to remove the pigment from her young son's skin. Absolutely, ridiculously desperate. His father, a man passionate about radios, was more accepting of his little boy's differences. Charlene's quest led them across the globe to a Norway, where a group of performance artists claimed they could make Radar white again with radio frequency. 

And so it begins, this story about Radar's transformation, a group obsessed with puppetry and social commentary, and the ties that bring everyone together from New Jersey to Norway to Cambodia to Africa. 

The writing is quirky and wonderful. The characters are developed and complex. The story is fascinating and meanders, but within reason. The relationships and connections are deliberate and meaningful. The visuals are well-placed and do not distract. 

It's about race. It's about family. It's about identity. It's about trying to figure out if what you're doing matters to anyone else, and if that even matters to begin with. It's about art and science. It's about legacy and adventure. 

I really, really like this book, I do. There were times where I wondered if it was a touch too ambitious and occasionally I missed the simplicity of TS Spivet. But who wants an author to stay holed-up in his comfort zone? Not I. So I applaud the efforts and will anxiously await a third a book. 

Books on Your Back- Shoe Editon

While I've typically focused on shirts in the past, here are some bookish shoes.* 

The Catcher in the Rye


Harry Potter


 Comic-Themed Shoes

[source + DIY instructions]

Bookish Toms


 Le Petite Prince
And to go under your shoes....


[source can only be found on Pinterest and Twitter]

*Please note that I've worked had to find original sources, but if I've made a mistake please feel free to comment with a correction!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[last weekend. we have returned to 70 degrees. brrr]

Link up below!

1. Today it was either an extra hour spent on the blog, or an extra hour nap because someone wasn't really into letting my sleep last night. You  will very quickly see what one won out. 

2. My New Year's Resolution was almost "start wearing heels" until I realized how my rebellious my right ankle is (the one with the mutant extra bone) after balance exercises. PiYo has quite a bit of them in there, so flats it is.

3. I vote that the Frozen obsession end now. It has gone on long enough and I'm sick of seeing the merchandise.

4. When I was in second grade my science project was called "Different Hearts Go Different Speeds" and I made everyone I knew, near and far, do a lot of jumping jacks and take their pulse. I did research at the library and made a poster board with a hypothesis and everything. And the I grew up and become an English teacher.

5. I am registered to do a half marathon in two weeks. I can run about two miles straight right now. I was prepared to eat the registration but the kind people at Surf City are letting me defer this year. I had no idea that was possible! Ask and you shall receive!

6. I just finished I Am Radar by Reif Larsen and am trying to let everything percolate. It was such a rich text, but I'm thinking maybe a tiny bit to ambitious? Or maybe I just need to let everything sink in. 

7. This is the slowest week ever. I was out for an all day meeting Monday, was back in the classroom yesterday, and was out all day today. The rest of the week is normal, but I swear tomorrow should be Friday. Not swear. Demand.

8. Podcast sluttiness FTW- now that Serial is done I'm sampling new ones. After I find a few that are good I'll do a post. 

9. One of the best things about having a little kid is seeing them notice, and love, the most mundane things ever. This morning when we got to daycare there was a huge flock of birds overhead and Sawyer was completely captivated by them. We stood out in the middle of the street with our necks craned up watching these stupid birds at 6:45 in the morning.

10. Trader Joe's pre-made pizza dough is the worst.


Reccomended Reading: Kiddos

One of my favorite thing to do with Sawyer is read to him. Lately I just plop him on the floor with a rattle or chew toy (is that what they call them? Or is that term only used for dogs?) and I'm able to get through a book or two. Him in the high chair with some Puffs has also proven successful. Here are a few books that we- fine, I- love.

1. Dragon Loves Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri- This is a fun book about dragons who love tacos but hate spicy salsa.

2. Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino- A boy finds a robot and accidentally turns him off. The robot wakes up when the boys is sleeping and tries to fix him. It's cute and I love robots.

3. Blackout by John Rocco- I love the message behind this book to put down technology and spend time together (it's set during a NYC summer blackout).

4. Skippy Jon Jones Series by Judy Schanchner- I love that stupid kitty boy. These books are so much fun to read aloud.

5. Little Critter Series by Mercer Meyer- These are old favorites from my husband's and my childhood. They always have good messages and are quick to read.

6. Hug Machine by Scott Campbell- Campbell is an awesome illustrator and his story of a little boy that loves to give hugs is the perfect excuse to grab your little guy or girl and give them one too.

7. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers- This epistolary story is told from the perspective of some fed-up crayons.

8. The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna- A friend got this for Sawyer at my bookish baby shower and is about a sullen fish that is one day cheered up by a kiss.

9. Indestructibles: Baby Faces by Amy Pixton- This book claims to be indestructible to tears, teeth, etc... and has been so far. Sawyer pretty much always has it while in the car and loves it.

10. Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston-Gannon- This is a simple story about a farmer... who has dinosaurs to take care of! 

Grammar is Really Effing Boring


I don't teach grammar. Maybe that's is a little misleading. I do teach grammar, but I generally don't believe in teaching it in isolation. My opinion is very simple. 

Students learn grammar by:

1. Reading a lot, whether it's magazine articles, books, TMZ posts, etc...
2. Writing. And then writing some more
3. Engaging in academic conversation and discussion (at home and school)

I don't believe grammar is effectively taught by:

1. Diagramming sentences
2. Worksheets
3. Multiple choice activities

Grammar is really effing boring. And I'm an English teacher and have my degree in the topic. And I love to write. And read. But I can't stand grammar.

An article published last year in The Atlantic confirmed my way of thinking, citing over 250 studies over the past few decades that show the typical "drill and kill" style of teaching used in the past ("What's the predicate, Sally?") is useless. One large, very interesting study focused three groups of students, one taught traditionally, one taught through alternative lessons, and one just given literature and writing assignments. There was no difference in their acquisition and utilization of correct grammar, although the traditional group was shown to develop an "antipathy" towards the subject of English.

Writing, including the fundamentals like grammar, is best taught by, well, writing. In order to become a better writer you write more. 

This isn't to say I never teach skills in isolation, because sometimes I do. Maybe not quite as much now that I teach IB, but when I taught the traditional English classes I would a few times a semester review skills I saw the whole class struggling with (apostrophe usage, subject-verb agreement, etc...), especially since I work with a high percentage of English learners. 

What I do do is assign a lot of writing and a lot of reading. When I grade essays I don't edit them- I fill out a rubric for content (the bulk of their grades) a checklist for grammar/mechanical issues. Then I allow them to rewrite some of them for better grades. They're encouraged to read their essays aloud, have their peers edit for them, and to sit down with me (although that is tough in terms of time). We read six texts during the year with various supporting articles and references. They have to read 700 pages of academic literature or non-fiction writing each semester. Exposure is key.

I also try to give students a lot of opportunity to engage in academic conversation, whether it's talking to a partner about answers to a question, working with a group to analyze something, or having a whole class discussion on the larger issues of a text. They hear examples of both good grammar and bad grammar from their classmates, as well as what I model too (and I confess, sometimes I do speak casually with them, but when we're focused and getting down to business I try to stay academic). 

Think about learning a foreign language- it's widely believed that immersion is far more advantageous than classroom learning. Living in Italy for a year is going to result in far better skills than just sitting in a classroom filling out worksheets. 

I'm sure that there are some awesome teachers that make grammar fresh and hip and cool. Maybe they dress up in costumes and rap. Or maybe their students create interpretive dances that show the different sentences types. But while that's all fine and dandy, that's just not how I roll. 

Students do better when they're engaged; they are in classes almost six hours a day, five days a week. Boring lesson after boring lesson after boring lesson does not make them want to get out of bed in the morning and come to school. Not that my class is always amazingly fascinating, but I try to avoid monotonous things like diagramming sentences. 

I remember spending hundreds of hours going through a grammar text book page by page in fifth grade. We had to do every single exercise and couldn't move on until we got most of them right.

I hated that teacher. 



Sawyer at 8-ish Months

[a sleeping baby on my chest is one of the best things ever]

It's been two months or so since I wrote about Sawyer, so I'd thought I'd jot down a few things since he really is the reason why my reading has suffered. Plus eventually when I do his baby book these will come in helpful, I think.

First Christmas
Christmas this year was so much fun. I know he won't remember it, but whatever. I will. We followed through with our 25 Christmas books- we read one a day starting December 1st and finished up on Christmas day with my personal favorite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Most nights after his bath we'd sit by the tree, he'd play with his ornament and I'd read. When it came to the actual holiday he was predictably more interested in the paper, bows, and boxes. We worked hard to not go overboard (that included talking to family members, which can be... awkward) and to be really thoughtful. We got him a wagon, which he loves, some toys, and he received a ton of books from people.

Sawyer cut his first two teeth on Christmas, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, in reality. He drooled up a storm for the few weeks preceding and chewed on everything he could get his grubby little paws on. Night time sleeping did suffer, though, but not just because of the teething...

Sawyer slept in his swing the first two months of his life, but when we found out he had torticollis we transitioned him to his pack-n-play in our room immediately. He took to it within a few days and was even putting himself to sleep, lasting 6-7 hours at about 3 or 4 months old. The main reason why we kept him with us was because of the typical heat in our area; we ran the whole house fan at night so we needed the windows open. There was no way I was letting him sleep in the front of the house in his room alone with his window wide open all night. So, he slept with us. Then, when the teething kicked in and he was sleeping horribly we decided to try out the crib. He was already pissed, right?


Rookie mistake, I guess, trying something so new while he was already uncomfortable. After a week of fighting it it (he had one good night and I was so excited) we let him move back in (along with his new stupid turtle night light). Last night we slept for over eight hours- he's not going anywhere.

I have to note that this has been a huge "me issue." I feel this intense sort of pressure to have him sleep in his own room, like I'm not a good parent if he's not in his crib sleeping soundly for 8-10 hours. Honestly, we tried to let him cry it out in his crib one desperate night and I totally couldn't handle it- I was in the other room crying along with him. I've done research, talked to other parents, read books, and bottom line- I just can't do it. The anxiety it caused both of us was just unhealthy. If he needs to sleep in his pack-n-play in our room for awhile longer, so be it. I have started to have him nap by himself, though, as opposed to on me like he used to, and that has been a nice break and is good for him. Bottom line: sleep is the key to everyone's happiness in this house.

I'm still breastfeeding, but he does get two "meals" a day of brown rice cereal and baby food. We're introducing a lot of "people" food, though, and he's game to try just about anything. The other night he had some of our minestrone soup and he spent quite awhile feeding himself rice last night. His fine motor skills have gotten a million times better in the last few weeks, which has been fun to watch.

Moving Around
This kid has very little interest in crawling or scooting. He rolls like a boss and is able to pivot himself to change direction, though, so nothing is safe on the floor (including the dogs). At physical therapy (he goes once a month on a sort of maintenance schedule) we worked on helping him to get in crawling position and also standing, so that's our homework this month.

Happy Baby
This kid is such a happy little guy- almost every day this last week when I get out of my car at daycare I can hear him talking and laughing from inside the house. He's always chattering and is so amused by the littlest things. He's not a crier, and when he does it's always for a reason (maybe not a valid one, but he doesn't just cry for the sake of crying). I feel like he's starting to develop a personality, and sense of humor, which makes everything ten times better.

Mom Stuff
I'm still constantly struggling with balancing work, fitness, Sawyer, my social life, my hobbies, and keeping up with all the domestic bullshit. I guess that's just going to be how life is. I'm excited, though, since a few of my friends are pregnant (or have babies), which means play dates (i.e. socialization for moms) will be a thing in the next few years. Everyone is coming over to the dark side.

My husband has been mostly working at home since right before Sawyer was born, but he will return to an office this week to work there full time (Sawyer has been in daycare full time, though, since my husband is busy during the day). While I am so happy and thankful for this opportunity for him, I am a little curious to see how much things will change around here during the week. I'm actually excited about having a reason to get super organized and maybe a little more structured.

I've also started to think about practical things for the future. We need to take out life insurance policies, think about a will (or at least some sort of arrangements), and look into starting a college savings plan. We don't plan on paying for his entire education, but I'd like to have something to get him started, at least.

- Puffs/eating in general
- The dogs
- Bathtime
- His daddy (all Scott has to do is walk in the room and Sawyer laughs)
- Swings at the park
- Going our to eat (he loves restaraunts)
- Obnoxious toys
- Playing the guitar with dad
- His big stuffed bear, Teddy Roosevelt 
- Drinking from Mason Jars (oops)
- Singing/music/weird noises 
- Walks/trees/being outside 

- Getting out of the bath
- Clothes that go over his head
- Getting into his carseat
- Riding in the car at night
- Having his face or nose wiped

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up below! 

1. Why did we wait so long to see Pitch Perfect? It was a hundred times better than I thought it was going to be. No, I will not be downloading "Cups," though.

2. Last year I did a really great Year in Review through Mixbook, but am sadly opting out this year. Most of our year was baby related/stressful/busy, so I'm just going to focus on his baby book. This year I'm already starting to file stuff away, though.

3. I'm back to reading I Am Radar by Reif Larsen after a hiatus for the holidays (and to finish up some reviews). I really, really hate leaving a book and coming back to it. I feel a total sense of disconnect and am angry at myself for putting it on hold to begin with, since it's a good book. Oh well. We shall overcome.

4. I want to start a dessert club- like a book club, but instead one person bakes something each week (or every other week or whatever) and shares with everyone else. Basically, it's an excuse to bake. And to eat sweets. This, of course, won't happen since I lack the motivation to make it so.

5. This cracks me up:


So what do you do? Stare at each other in silence?

6. For the love of all that is good and sacred in this world, please stop copying and pasting useless Facebook "you may not use my stuff" so-called "legal" notices in your status. Remember that itty-bitty terms of service box you checked? You agreed to everything. Your stupid status update (the same place where you passive aggressively complain about your husband and post idiotic memes about gun ownership) is not going to supercede jack crap.

7. So my cousin invited me to join a FitBit challenge that took place yesterday- it was between maybe six or eight people and it was simply to see who could get the most amount of steps in a day. Fun fact: I'm a closet competitor. I was ahead of everyone all day and then my cousin pulled a head by a few thousand steps at like 8:30. What did I do? I turned off my bluetooth so she couldn't see my update and got on the treadmill for forty minutes so I could win. And I did. Over 17,000 steps. Wham-bam thank you ma'am.

8. My classroom counter is covered in Gregors, once again. I'm sure Franz Kafka would be super proud to see his character turned into a neon-colored insect made from clay.

9. I want to write a children's book that explains to kids why their parents won't take them to zoos (my husband and I have ethical concerns about places that keep animals in captivity with the purpose of entertaining humans for profit; our only grey area is the Wild Animal Park in San Diego, since they have more room, but I digress). All I need is an illustrator...

[effing nosy-ass humans; source]
10. I'm working on a really labor-intensive book-recommendation bulletin board for work. If I continue at the pace I'm working at it might be done before the end of the school year.