Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Small Joys

This post last month was really good for me, just to write out the things I'm grateful for or that are going positive in my life, so I've decided to make this "Small Joys" post a monthly series for a while to help me be thinking more positively (because otherwise, I'm very prone to wallow in my usual pregnancy doom-and-gloom frame of mind, where everything about life is just terrible). So let's dive in to some of my small joys from the month of August.

-Okay, this first one is actually not a small joy, but a HUGE, GIGANTIC, LIFE JOY. If you missed my announcement on Instagram or when Amy brought it up in our last Book Blab... I'm having a GIRL! I was so surprised when the ultrasound tech told us she thought it was a girl (and honestly, I'm still a bit nervous that in a future ultrasound, or worse, on the delivery day, they're going to come back and say, "Just kidding! We were wrong. It's a boy after all!"), because mentally I was very prepared for boy #3. Somehow the vision of three little boys just seemed to make sense, and I was fine with that. We have all the boys clothes, I know what to do with boys, so we were just looking forward to having another little boy. But then! It was a girl! And we were all so thrilled and excited (and then half a minute later I started panicking, because, we have zero girls clothes! And now I'm going to have to figure out how to style girl toddler hair! And how do you raise a girl?!). Anyway, I'm super, super excited.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Book Blab: The Pros and Cons of Book Ratings (Episode 8 with Show Notes)

Oh hey! Here it is, Episode 8 of The Book Blab. Now that the Blab platform is officially dead (RIP, although I guess we're still keeping our name, for now), we experimented with Google Hangout on Air. There's no split screen here, which is super annoying, but at least it worked and our show lives for another month! This was a fun topic for us, and I hope you enjoy! Show notes below.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Big Magic: Review and Thoughts

Oh, hey, if you came by today looking for that Book Blab live stream I promised you, well, it's not happening today. A combination of technical difficulties (like the entire Blab social media platform being dissolved... ugh, technology!) and scheduling conflicts means we are regrouping. But we're still excited about this episode, so we'll figure something out and get it posted in the near future. Keep an eye out.

So, remember when I made that goal to start writing a book this year? Well, in preparation, I decided to read some motivational/inspiring/instructive books on writing. I started off with Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic, which came out last year, I think?

Now, here's where I confess that I've not read anything else by Gilbert. I never read Eat, Pray, Love, and I suspect I wouldn't like it if I ever did read it. In fact, I suspect I wouldn't really like any of her other novels and I don't have plans to read them.

But  Big Magic? I totally loved. Yes, it's a bit woo-woo and probably not for everyone. But while I didn't agree with everything, I agreed with so much of Gilbert's advice that I found myself wishing I had the paper copy of the book (I listened to it on audio) so I could highlight or copy out quotes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back to School (or... Not)

Home School Preschool, No Preschool,

Around here, most kids went back to school yesterday. If I hadn't graduated in May (and decided to take a year off before plunging into that Ph. D. thing), I'd have started school yesterday too.

But this is a special year for us. This is the last year for a long, long time when nobody in our family is going "back to school," at least in a super formal sense.

My oldest, Josh, will start kindergarten next year, but he is not doing a formal pre-school or pre-K program this year. Apparently, this is unusual. In fact, Josh is the only kid among friends his age in our area that is not enrolled in a formal preschool program. The culture in our city/area seems to have normalized formal preschool as an expected part of every child's experience, even though it is not offered as part of the free public school system. It doesn't matter, every kid does preschool. It's just what you do.

I personally find this baffling, because I did not grow up going to formal preschool, nor do I think did many of my friends. And, well, I turned out just fine academically, so I never really planned  on or expected my own children to attend a formal preschool. But when your kid is the only one of his friends NOT going to preschool, you better believe I felt the pressure and anxiety of this choice. Was I doing it wrong? Was my child going to miss out?

Friday, August 19, 2016

My Career Path (Part 2): Divine Intervention

If you didn't read my last post (Part 1), I recommend you read that first, or parts of this one might not make much sense.

Photo Cred: Josh age 4.5

Besides English teacher, the one other career I briefly considered as a teenager was "writer." After all, I really, really, really enjoyed writing (filled up all sorts of notebooks with my stories and poems and essays, I'm sure it was all just amazing stuff that really deserves to be published... *cough, cough*). But I was far too practical and sensible a person to actually seriously entertain this as a possible career. Because, I mean, what's the career path? How do you "become" a writer? It's not exactly something you can plan: First, I will go to school and get my degree in English, then I will write the next Great American Novel, then I will get paid enough to support myself... yeah, it doesn't work that way. Life is unpredictable, and I wanted to make sure I had some marketable skill that could earn a decently stable income to support myself (I should note, high school Suzanne did NOT expect to get married at the tender age of 21). So "writer" was out (but it does make a fabulous hobby, and I'm not opposed to turning this into a marketable skill that gets financial compensation some day... I'm just never going to rely on it for my bread and butter).

But do you want to know what other career path I rejected as a high-schooler? Academia.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

My Career Path (Part 1): Unexpected Turns and Surprise Satisfaction

Career Path
Photo Cred: Josh age 4.5

Do you remember those career aptitude tests they used to make you take in high school? The ones that were supposed to gauge your interests and personality and skills and help guide you into a career that would be a good fit? I remember getting wildly different results on every test I took. One told me I would make a good clergyman (um, okay), and another told me I should try anthropology (I had no clue what that meant in high school).

But I didn't care what any of those tests told me. I knew exactly what I wanted from my life's work, and I knew what career was going to give that to me. First, I knew I wanted a job that had to do with reading and writing. Second, I knew I wanted a job that needed creativity, that would be interesting and engaging and allow the chance for growth and new changes. And finally (and perhaps most importantly), I wanted a career that was meaningful. I wanted to help other people, make an impact, serve in some way that benefited the world around me.

So logically, there was only one option. I was going to be an English teacher.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympic Stories

You guys, the Olympics is seriously cutting into my reading time these days. Honestly, it's cutting into my everything time. I race to get my kids in bed as quickly as possible and then just plop on the couch and do nothing for the rest of the evening but watch the prime time coverage. It's such an addiction, but I can't help myself. (Also, it's becoming a bit of a pregnancy tradition, considering I was pregnant with Henry during the last Winter Olympics and did nothing but sit and watch and groan with nausea during every commercial involving food. My goal for the next Olympics? NOT be pregnant. It's a bit depressing watching people performing at their physical peak while I'm at my physical low point.)

But speaking of my reading life, I had every intention of doing some appropriate theme reading during this Olympics. Alas, I'm still three people away on the waiting list at my library for The Boys in the Boat, so I likely won't be getting around to that until some time next month (it's so difficult to time library wait lists). So I thought I'd look around and see what else the reading world had to offer on the Olympic theme.

Honestly? It's a bit uninspiring.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Meditation vs. Relaxation

Way back in 2013 I read The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal. As with most such nonfiction books, I remember it being truly fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable at the time, but have since forgotten most of the content. The one thing that has stuck with me from that book was the discussion about meditation. I don't remember any details of the studies or the specific benefits or whatever, other than the general idea that meditation is inexplicably but undeniably beneficial for your brain, your self-control, and all sorts of other things.

I remember vowing that I was going to make meditation a daily part of my life. The idea of meditation really appeals to me, as do all of the purported benefits of regularly practicing meditation.

But, enter motherhood, and a couple debilitating pregnancies, and that whole earning a master's degree thing, and general sleep deprivation, and a busy life... and, well, this is a habit that has yet to become a really ingrained practice in my life.

But the busy life part is just an excuse. My real problem is that I'm just not exactly sure how to meditate. The (very little) reading I've done on it has given some idea that there are many, many different ways to approach meditation, so I kind of assume that I just need to figure out what works best for me and stick with that. But the few times I've taken a stab at developing a meditation habit, I find that whatever I'm trying feels silly, or ineffective, or way too hard to keep my focus, or just makes me fall asleep, and that makes me feel like I'm doing it wrong.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Magic of Learning to Read

Learning to Read

When I was in high school, my mom taught at the elementary school just across the street. Along with being a second grade teacher, she was the staff reading specialist at her school in charge of recruiting and training volunteer reading tutors, so often during my lunch breaks I would walk over to her school and tutor the little first graders who were falling behind their class mates in reading.

It was a pretty magical experience for me, watching those struggling kids finally sound out a word, or read a sentence for the first time. It was that look in their face, that "aha!" moment when things clicked together and those mysterious black strokes on the page suddenly turned into sounds with meaning. That tutoring experience was one of the big reasons I wanted to become a teacher myself.

But despite having a reading specialist mother, and despite being an early and avid reader myself, and despite my education and teaching background, (or maybe because of all these things) I was determined not to force reading lessons on my own children before they were ready. I absolutely 100% adhere to the school of thought that the preschool years should be all play and exploration and imagination, not academics. If they don't learn to read until 1st grade (or later), well, so be it. They'll figure it out eventually. My main goal with reading and my children is making sure it's always a pleasure, always something they want to do for fun. The longer I can put off tedious phonetics lessons or assigned reading "homework," the better. Right now I'm content to just read aloud to them as often as they will let me.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Books I Read in July

Well, I'm a bit disappointed that I only finished three books this month. I had hoped to start feeling better and pick up my pace this month, but such was not the case. I mean, I did start feeling better, but then got sick again (with a cold), and I'd just rather sleep than read when I don't feel well. I'm still in the middle of a couple of longer books that hopefully I'll get finished in August (slow and steady wins the race).

Anyway, here's what I did finish.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I read this one for my local book club, otherwise I don't think I would've picked it up. I'm just feeling a little too saturated on the dystopian YA trilogy thing. Look, if you love books like Hunger Games and Divergent, you'll likely enjoy this series as well. It's got all the elements: really messed up and oppressive futuristic power structure, strong female lead who ends up being "special" and in the perfect position to lead a revolution, and a love triangle where everyone is pretty inexplicably in love with said heroine who is otherwise completely average in every way. It was engaging and kept me hooked until the end, and I did not see the twist coming, but I don't feel the need to read the next one. At least not yet. I need a break from this genre.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham

Still processing and thinking about and implementing this one, and kind of amazed what it's doing for my parenting. Only good things, I think. Read my full review here.

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

This was my first Selznick book, and I really enjoyed it. Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended this one to Amy on her podcast earlier last month, so when I happened to see it on the shelf during a quick trip to the library, I grabbed it. Despite it's size, it was a quick read, only took a couple hours or so, and I found it delightful. I loved the two different stories, one in pictures, one in text, and how they intertwined, and the blurring of the lines between reality and fiction. It was very well done.

And now, for one book I did NOT finish, (and was the inspiration for this post, where you guys really came through in the comments and taught me what I was missing in my Goodreads tracking!)

Enna Burning by Shannon Hale

I really enjoyed Goose Girl, so I was more than happy to add the second book in this series to my reading list. I read some reviews that it started off a little bit slow, so I was prepared for that, but oh man. It was rough. I really gave it a shot, I probably got about half-way through the book before realizing I just wasn't enjoying it enough to put the effort into it. I don't know, Hale's magic touch just wasn't there in this one. Maybe if I'd stuck it out to the end, but it just wasn't worth the effort for me.