Scenes from a Monday

“Hey mom!  Um, my hair is feeling kind of dirty, so I think we need to take a bath.  But just a playing bath, not a washing hair bath, ok?  Does that sound good?”

I get a bath ready for my formerly bath-hating girls so they can splash around like mermaids for a bit.  I go to sit down and as soon as my butt hits the tile, “Um, mommy?  Can you go do some laundry or something?”

That’s kid-code for, “Please get out of the bathroom so we can splash like crazy and you won’t get mad.”

———-

“Oh!  Mommy!  I need to tell you a question about my birthday.  In five days it’s going to be my birthday and I’m going to be five years old so that means I’m growing up fast.  At my Strawberry Shortcake birthday it will be summer and it will be a party at our house not at dance class.  I think I’ll get green eyes for my birthday so I can be like Real Strawberry Shortcake.  And Wyatt is going to bring me a Real Pupcake and Real Custard that will make noise and move by themselves just like Rufus and Kaya.  And I think I’ll get a scooter like Strawberry Shortcake so I can drive to my cafe.  Actually, I think our house will turn into my cafe on my birthday.  Ok?  How does that sound?”

———-

The girls ask if they can watch The Little Mermaid, so I decide this is the perfect opportunity to work on a discussion post for my class.

“Mama, what are you doing on your ca-puter?”

“Homework.”

“What kind of homework?”

“I’m writing an answer to a question.”

“What question?”

“It’s a question about teaching kids who speak a different language.”

“MOM. I need you to tell me the words of the question.”

“Ummmm…what are the implications for Krashen’s hypotheses and Collier’s prism model?”

“Ok.  That sounds good.  Can you get me some fresh, cold water?”

No homework was completed during the course of this film.

———-

“Mooooooooooooommmmmmmmyyyyyyyyy!  We’re hungry!  We’re starving! Can we have chicken and couscous for dinner?”

I make dinner exactly as requested and set it on the table.

“So, how many bites do I have to take?”

———-

It’s time for our nightly dance party! Listening to our favorite song, “Blank Space”* by Taylor Swift, Charlotte announces that she now knows all the words.

“It’ll leave you breakfast! Or with a nasty car.”

“Gotta love all these blubbers, they’ll tell you I’m the same.”

“Boys only want love if it’s your turn.”

*Both girls think this song is about a baby called Blank Space Baby.  They frequently ask to write her name.

———-

The girls are in bed.  I should be using this time to work on that discussion post, but instead here I am writing about and missing those crazy, goofy, sweet ladies.

“MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MERMAIDS IN MY BED!”

Write Something

One of my goals for this year is to rebuild my writing habit.  Writing has fallen by the wayside over the past couple of years, at least in terms of this blog.  I still write papers for classes and write at work, but I haven’t been writing for myself lately.  Writing is not only something I love to do, but it’s my most powerful reflection tool.  It’s still early in the year, and I already feel like I’m struggling to write.  It’s not that I don’t have ideas — I have plenty of ideas — but it’s more that I’ve developed this mindset that every post needs to be polished and meaningful.  So I get stuck because I don’t always have the energy to write something amazing, and I’m out of practice so it’s tricky to get started.

I just need to write something.  Anything.

Just like reading begets reading, writing begets writing.  I need to get back in the habit, practice, and put my words out there.  Even if they aren’t my best words.  The more I write, the better I’ll get.

So, tonight, that’s what I’m doing.  I’m just writing something.  I am quite literally writing about how I need to write more.

One of the things I value most about this blog is that it’s always been my place to tell my story.  This has been my space to share about and process all that has gone on in my life.  I miss taking the time to share my story and to connect with all of you.  I’m working to get back to that place.  Writing this now, it occurs to me that I never shared something with you.  A couple of months back, the team I work with spent a morning together sharing TED-style talks.  I poured my heart and soul into developing my talk which was about the importance of telling your story.  Creating that talk is what sparked my desire to write again.  It reminded me what a powerful tool storytelling is and that I needed to get back to it.  Anyhow.  I figured, I would go ahead and share my talk with you now.  It’s long and it’s not the highest quality video, but I’d love your feedback if you do take the time to watch.

How do you keep up your writing habit?  What does sharing your story do for you?

Spark

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I would like 2015 to bring for me, and about how I want to approach this new year. I always set reading goals (100 books this year), but otherwise resolutions really aren’t my thing.  They just don’t work for me.  This year, I decided to try the “one little word” approach to the upcoming year.  Rather than a list of specific goals or resolutions, my one little word is meant to be a guide for me this year as I work towards my goals and reflect on the world around me.  After careful consideration, the world I’ve chosen is…

SPARK

I chose Spark because it fits so well with my personal and profession goals as well as the person I want to be.  It just takes one tiny spark to start a fire, to elicit change.  I want 2015 to shine with the sparks I put out into the world.  This year I hope to…

  • Spark curiosity and wonder in my girls.
  • Spark new friendships.
  • Spark new reading interests.
  • Spark (rekindle) my joy in writing.
  • Spark inquisitiveness and reflection in those I coach.
  • Sparkle by letting my true self always shine through (and by wearing sparkly nail polish).
  • Spark conversations that lead to change.

Do you have a word for 2015?  What do you hope to spark this year?

August 2014 Reads

In August, I read 11 books and I’m now at 78 for the year.  With work starting back up again and taking graduate classes, my reading has slowed down, but I’m still hoping to finish 100 books this year!  Here’s what I read in August…

Spellcaster by Claudia Gray — 2 Stars. I was wooed by the cover of this book at the library, but it was just ok. I don’t think I’ll be reading the next installment.  There are definitely better teenage witchy magic books out there.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers — 4 Stars. This started a little slow for me, and I wasn’t sure I was all that interested. It didn’t take long for me to really become invested in the story, though.  Assassin nuns?  How can you go wrong?  I just picked up the next book in the series from the library, and I can’t wait to dive in.

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater — 4 Stars. My goodness, I love the way this woman tells a story.  Another book in the Realm of Faerie.  I liked this better than Lament.

The Naming by Alison Croggon — 3 Stars. I’m actually a little undecided as to how I feel about this book.  I liked it, but it didn’t wow me.  Still, for being as long as it is and the constant walking in the woods plot, I am interested in the story and what happens next.  I really do hope there is less walking in the woods in the next installment, though.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys — 4 Stars.  Loved the setting.  Loved the characters.  Josie is an interesting and unique female protagonist.  She lives in a bookstore and is the daughter of a prostitute.  This was an engaging young adult mystery.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson — 4 Stars.  This is one of those cases where I would never have picked up the book if I didn’t already like the author.  The cover is just stupid and in no ways conveys anything about the book.  Anyhow.  This was a sweet, fun, sentimental travel adventure about finding yourself.  Ignore the stupid cover.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin — 3 Stars.  This was creepy, weird, paranormal young adult read.  Creepy in a good way.  Only three stars because I wish the story had been more developed.  Perhaps the next book will have more answers for me.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Calahan — 4 Stars.  This was a fascinating medical memoir.  Like an episode of House, except real.  Extremely interesting non-fiction read.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach — 5 Stars.  This is one of those Great American Novels.  So, so good. I loved the characters and felt like I knew them personally. Don’t be fooled by the baseball premise. This book is about baseball in the way that baseball is about life.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin — 5 Stars.  I checked this out from the library, but I’m going to need to own a copy of this book.  This is going straight to the top of my recommended reads. I can’t even tell you how much I loved this lovely little book. I wanted to take up residence in it. It was over far too soon. If you are a book lover, you will love this book. This book is about a bookstore, books, book selling, and life. Loved every page.

A More Beautiful Questions: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger — 4 Stars.  This book is about exactly what the title says: the ways that asking questions can help us solve problems.  It took me over a month to read this book because it constantly caused me to stop and reflect.

That’s it for my August reads!  Stay tuned for an exciting bookish announcement later this week!

 

July 2014 Reads

July ended up being my most readingest month yet with 15 books!  Currently, I’ve finished 66 books this year.  At the rate I’ve been going, I decided that my reading goal needed to be a little more challenging, so I’m pushing myself to finish 100 books by the end of 2014.  Wish me luck!

So, what did I read this month?

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi — 4 Stars.  This is the final book in the Shatter Me trilogy, and I think it might have been my favorite of the three.  Juliette annoyed me as a character throughout much of the trilogy, but I felt like she started to come into her own in this book.

The One by Kiera Cass — 4 Stars.  This is the final book in The Selection trilogy.  This trilogy is so The Bachelor meets dystopia, but I found it to be a lot of fun.  Full of teenaged drama, so be prepared for that!

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell — 4 Stars.  This was a fast, intriguing read that left me with more questions than answers.  It ends quite abruptly, so if you like neat endings, this book is not for you.  A haunting tale about a woman who lost her life to a mental institution.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell — 5 Stars.  I found follow Rainbow Rowell to the ends of the earth.  I love her books so much.  Reading about Georgie and Neal’s relationship left me feeling very emotional and raw at times.  Plus, there was the added bonus of a magic phone.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins — 5 Stars. Jenny recommend this to me, and I just loved it.  I couldn’t put it down.  Such a sweet young adult romance.

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins — 4 Stars.  I loved the Hex Hall series by Hawkins, so I was excited to discover this at the library.  It definitely didn’t disappoint!  Another great supernatural read from Rachel Hawkins!

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson — 5 Stars.  London, Jack the Ripper, boarding school, and ghosts?  Yes, please!  I devoured this.

Forest Born by Shannon Hale — 3 Stars.  Shannon Hale is a great storyteller, and while I enjoyed this fourth installment in the Books of Bayern, it just didn’t grab me the way the others did.  I had a hard time with Rin as the main character.  I just couldn’t connect with her.

The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar — 5 Stars.  If you work as a teacher leader or coach in any capacity, I cannot say enough good things about this book.  I will definitely return to it again and again.  Such a valuable resource.

Conversion by Katherine Howe — 4 Stars.  Something is happening to the girls of St. Joan’s.  Witchcraft?  This was an intelligently spooky read.

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson — 4 Stars.  After The Name of the Star, I couldn’t wait to get my hand on the second book in the Shades of London series.  Another awesome read.  And now I want to move to London and hunt ghosts.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness — 4 Stars.  It just dawned on me that I finished a lot of trilogies this month.  This final installment in the All Souls trilogy jumps right in where the last book left off.  This was a solid end to a thoroughly enjoyable vampire/witch romance.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink — 5 Stars.  I know people probably aren’t as geeked out about psychology and learning as I am, but this was fantastic.  Such a fascinating look at what motivates us and how work and school get it all wrong.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart — 4 Stars.  I loved the voice in this book.  Such a great female lead, too.  I read it in a day.

Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater — 3 Stars.  Maggie Stiefvater is a remarkable storyteller.  While this wasn’t my favorite of hers (The Scorpio Races.  Go read it.  NOW.), I really did enjoy it and plan to grab the next book from the library ASAP.

Well, there you have them — my large pile of read books for July.  What have you been reading this summer?  What should I check out next?

March-June 2014 Reads

Remember when I said I would post monthly about what I’ve been reading? Oops. I am determined to get back on track because I love sharing books. Since I’m a few months behind, I’m just going to list titles and link them to my Goodreads reviews, with the occasional comment on a few of my favorites.

March 2014 –

April 2014 –

May 2014 –

June 2014 –

So, that’s what I’ve been reading over the past few months.  What have you read lately that you’ve loved?  I always need more books to add to my neverending to-read list!

Ode to Diapers

Dear Diapers,

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I kind of miss you. I know I complained about your mess, your smell, and having to haul you everywhere. I whined about washing you and longed for the days when I would never have to hose poop off you again.

I didn’t know how good I had it.

You made it so that I didn’t have to drop everything I was doing for a potty break.

With you, I didn’t have to run across Target to make it to the bathroom.

I didn’t have to stop eating mid-bite to take a kid to the bathroom. And then take the second one as soon as I sat down again.

When you were in my life, I didn’t have to squeeze into a public bathroom stall with two kids, squat on the floor to keep them from falling in, or hold them up to the sink to wash hands.

I didn’t have to deal with a kid freaking out about automatic flushers or loud hand dryers.

Most importantly, I didn’t have to worry about little hands opening the stall door every single time I dared to use the toilet myself.

All of this to say, I’m sorry I was so hard on you. I hope your next family appreciates your hard work,

With fondness,
Erin

Three Years

It’s been three years since you left.

It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that long.

I still have your number in my phone.

I’m still tempted to call you even though I know that number won’t reach you.

It’s just that I want to tell you so many things.

I want to tell you about my crazy and amazing new job.

I want to tell you about how Charlotte names her poops.

I want to tell you about how the girls call sneezes, “Bless Yous”.

I want to tell you about how much Evelyn loves her foof.

The truth is, I can’t write a post long enough to tell you everything I want to tell you.

There aren’t words to explain how much I miss you.

I would give just about anything to kiss your scruffy cheek again.

In my life, I love you more.

February 2014 Reads

I didn’t read quite as many books in February (8) as I did in January (12), but it was still a good reading month!  Here’s what was in my reading stack in February:

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson — 4 Stars.  I always enjoy Laurie Halse Anderson, and this book was no disappointment.  This book tells the story of Haley and her veteran father who suffers from severe PTSD.  Like most of Anderson’s books, this was hauntingly realistic.

Creating Innovators:  The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner — 2 Stars.  I was disappointed in this book.  The author told half a dozen redundant stories about the lives of modern innovators and the people who influenced them.  The conclusions he drew appeared to be largely based on personal opinion rather than research.  Wagner lost me fairly early in the book when he referred to a student as a high school and college dropout, yet the student left his boarding school early to attend Stanford and then left Stanford before completing his Master’s degree.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo — 3 Stars.  This book started off slow for me.  It was fine, but not all that into it.  The second half, however, sucked me in and I’m eager to read the next book in the series.  Definitely worth a read if you are a fan of YA fantasy.

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi — 3 Stars.  I was really looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy, but it fell kind of flat for me.  The first two books really grabbed me, and this one…well…didn’t.  It wasn’t bad.  It just wasn’t great.  I’d love to hear how others felt after reading this!

Speaker For the Dead by Orson Scott Card — 4 Stars.  I loved Ender’s Game, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the sequel.  Turns out, it was great!  I loved seeing Ender as an adult, and the world that Orson Scott Card has created was as fascinating as ever.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab — 3 Stars.  I think I got this for free from the Kindle store.  The premise is interesting —  when you die your life is archived and kept in a library, sometimes those archives wake up.  Another book that started out slow for me, but in the end I enjoyed it enough to want to see what happens next.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion — 5 Stars.  This was, by far, my favorite read of the month.  Don is an adult with Asperger’s (though he doesn’t know it) looking for a wife.  Don’s voice was just fantastic.  This was quirky, sweet, and lovely.  I missed Don and Rosie as soon as I closed the book.  Read it!

 The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood — 4 Stars.  Oh, Margaret Atwood.  Such amazing writing.  Believe it or not, sometimes I like my dystopia a little more grown up.  I loved Oryx and Crake, so I was excited to dive into The Year of the Flood.  It took me a bit to figure out the who, the what, and the when in this book, but overall, it was fantastic.

There you have them, my February reads.  I think my theme for February was “it took me a while to get into this book”.  With the exception of Creating Innovators, I was glad that I stuck with each of these titles.

What did you read in February?

January 2014 Reads

My reading year is off to a great start…so much so that I’m thinking I need to rethink my reading goal.  So far this year I’ve read 12 books.  My goal is set as 60 currently.  So, one month in and I’m 20% done with my reading goal.  I think I underestimated myself a little!

It kind of blows my mind that I’ve already read 12 books this year while working full time and raising my girls.  To be fair, I did have an additional four days off of work this month due to the disgustingly cold temperatures.  Still, that’s a lot of reading!  I frequently get asked how I have so much time to read.  We Still Read wrote a great post this week addressing exactly that, so since they already said it, I’ll save my time for more reading!  The post also includes these great badges to show off when you find time to read.  I love them all, but this is my favorite:

What did I read while drying my hair this month?  So many great titles that I’m excited to share with you!

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvator — 5 Stars.  This was a great first read for 2014.  I absolutely loved this book.  I had great Maggie Stiefvator’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy this past summer and liked them fine.  I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did.  A slightly paranormal young adult read with great characters.  Highly recommended!
  • Cyberstorm by Matthew Mather — 3 Stars.  Adult fiction about what happens when a cyber attack shuts down communications and power just as a giant blizzard hits.  This book was interesting because it really felt like this could happen, and I realized how vulnerable many of us would be without our usual access to communications.
  • The Blight of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler — 2 Stars.  This is the second book in a trilogy that I borrowed from Amazon Prime.  I enjoyed the first book well enough to try this one, but overall this was kind of ‘meh’ for me.  The plot was still interesting enough, but the allegory and deeply religious LDS symbolism were so intense that it actually got in the way.  Not sure if I will bother finishing the trilogy.
  • Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt — 5 Stars.  Oh my heart, I loved this book.  This book tells the story of a young girl grieving the death of her uncle.  The writing was breathtaking and the story heartbreaking.  Definitely check this title out if you haven’t already.
  • Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller — 5 Stars.  This is a nonfiction title about cultivating a culture of reading in your classroom.  Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelly researched the habits of “wild” readers.  A great read if you are a classroom teacher or a parent…or a book lover.  I could listen to Donalyn Miller talk about being a reader all day long!
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvator — 5 Stars.  This is the second book in the Raven Boys trilogy.  I was trying to put it off since I had loved the first so much and the third wasn’t out yet.  I always like to have a highly anticipated read in my back pocket, but I just couldn’t wait.  You shouldn’t wait either.
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell — 3 Stars.  Having devoured Eleanor & Park and Fangirl last year, I knew this would be an enjoyable read for me.  Not my favorite by Rowell, but still a sweet, funny love story.
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton — 4 Stars.  This was my first Kate Morton, and I really enjoyed it.  This book reminded me of books like The Thirteenth Tale or The Little Stranger.  It’s the perfect kind of book to read on a rainy day with endless cups of tea.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvator — 5 Stars.  Hi, my name is Erin, and I’m suddenly addicted to Maggie Stiefvator.  Honestly, her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy just didn’t grab me the way that the books I’ve read this month have.  I completely and utterly adored The Scorpio Races.  Easily my favorite book of the month, and I think it will be a contender for my favorite book this year.  I always loved horse stories as a kid, and this was the perfect combination of horse story, mythology, and magic.  Ignore your t0-read pile and just read this instead.
  • The Curse Girl by Kate Avery Ellison — 3 Stars.  Fun, fast Beauty and the Beast retelling.
  • Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie — 4 Stars.  If I’m being honest, I actually started this book last November and it has taken me this long to finish it.  It’s an excellent book, but it’s dense and full of statistics.  My brain could only handle reading a few pages at a time because there was so much to digest.  This book is a comprehensive look at the things we do that truly impact learning.  If you are a teacher, read this book.
  • The Glister by John Burnside — 2 Stars.  I’m having a hard time with what to say about this book.  We bought it when Borders was going out of business.  We have a mountain of books from that time since Ted would just bring them home.  This one caught my eye on the shelf the other day.  The cover and synopsis make it seem like a suspense/horror type story.  It is, in a way, but really there was very little plot.  The writing was great and the characters were interesting, but I didn’t really get what I expected, so I left a little disappointed.

Looking back, it feels like I was a little heavy-handed with my 5 Star reviews this month, but honestly I got lucky and read a lot of really wonderful books this month.  What have you been reading this month?  What are you looking forward to reading next month?