Happy This Week

It’s baaaa-aaack! And, boy, do I need to practice choosing joy lately. I’m fighting really hard against becoming “bitter party of one” over here. So let’s see what was GREAT about this week…

Even though it was B-R-U-T-A-L getting back into the swing of school this week, I was so happy to see my students. I missed them!

We have been playing board games almost every night as a family. I love playing board games. Some of our new favorites are “Play Nine”, “Sequence”, “Five Crowns” and “Bang!”.

We joined a local gym that has a pool. Olivia LOVES to swim so it’s been great to be able to take her and have her do something fun in the winter. The boys love it too. Matt and I have been swimming laps for exercise which is so fun. I was a swimmer growing up and in high school so it feels good to be back at it.

Matt and I are watching The Sopranos again. Such a GREAT show. Did any of you watch Nurse Jackie? I binged that over Christmas break and loved it. I just started watching The OA on Netflix too…that is so good.

What made you happy this week?

Books to Read Right Now!

Holy cow I’ve read a lot of books since the last time I wrote a blog post about books! It’s definitely no secret that I love to read. Here are all of the books I’ve read this fall/winter. I hope you can check out the good ones and let me know what you’ve been reading.

Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon

This book was awesome. It was fast-paced, had great plot twists and just the right amount of characters. The author doesn’t dive too deep into the characters themselves but you don’t really need it for this story.

Rhonda is a twenty-something woman who is not thrilled with her life so far and lives in a boring, small town. She witnesses a kidnapping and does nothing to stop it. Rhonda feels extremely guilty and is determined to rescue the little girl and find out who was responsible. Did I mention the kidnapper is a 6-foot-tall bunny rabbit? And there are characters named Peter and Warren and Pat? It’s a little kitschy but still very good and definitely worth reading.

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

I wish I would have paid closer attention when I read this book because, by the end of the book, I was a little confused as to who was who and had to keep reminding myself and thinking way too hard. There are quite a few characters to keep track of and not all of them are necessary, in my opinion. The story itself is very good. Allison is a young woman who likes to live as anonymously as possible because, when she was a teenager, her dad murdered her entire family. Her new boyfriend, Paul, has been invited to a wedding in the town where the murder happened and wants Allison to attend with him. She decides to go with him, hoping that no one will recognize her; but, of course, they do. She is thrust back into the nightmare of her family’s murder and discovers that the truth about her family might not yet be known. I definitely recommend it but pay attention!

Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin

I didn’t finish this one. It sounded so good: a real-life account of what it’s like to be a mother on Park Avenue. But I just couldn’t take it. Listening to how ridiculous some of these women are and how mean-spirited they are and how their children are like an accessory was nauseating. I was bummed because I have dreams about living in New York, but I just couldn’t stomach this book.

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban

This is a young adult novel and it’s a decent read. It wasn’t one of the best books I’ve ever read but I did like it. Tim Macbeth is a new senior at an elite prep school who happens to be an albino. Tim is used to people staring, making fun of him and not wanting to be around him. He falls in love with one of the most popular girls in school, Vanessa. While you’re reading this book, you’ll know a tragedy is coming but you won’t know what it is until the end. The whole book reads as one big foreshadow. The story is told back and forth through Duncan, a current senior and Tim. Tim has left Duncan CDs to listen to of his story of his senior year. It’s a quick read and pretty decent but not great.

Hope’s Peak by Tony Healey

I have had really good luck with my kindle first-reads so far! This was another new author choice and it was fantastic. It seems to me like it might be developed into a series; that always makes me happy because you know there will be more. Detective Jane Harper and her partner (and new lover) Stu are determined to catch the serial killer in their small town. They have no real leads but soon meet Ida Lane who has “remarkable gifts” and is able to help them determine who is killing these young girls. I love a good mystery and this didn’t disappoint. I wasn’t sure how Healey was going to hang on to my interest when he revealed the killer’s identity towards the middle but he sure did! There are twists and turns and a great ending. If you like murder mysteries, you’ll like this one.

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Whalen

This was another kindle first book and it was a great one. I definitely recommend it. Forgive me that my description is going to be somewhat vague because I read it so long ago and can’t remember names! It’s basically the story of a small, quiet town that comes together after a tragedy. The main character, Jencey, comes back home to help after the tragedy and secrets are revealed. There’s a big twist at the end and you will enjoy the character development. You will especially fall in love with the little girl!

Evelyn, After by Victoria Stone

This was unexpectedly good. A wife finds out her husband has had an affair and wants revenge. Yawn, right? But it’s so good. The author does a great job of putting a new spin on this overused plotline. Evelyn gets a call late at night from her husband that he needs help because he’s been in a car accident. She shows up to help and he’s with another woman. What seems like another boring affair tale turns out to be a great story. You should read it!

Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo

I love this series of books about the Amish in Ohio. They are page-turners and so interesting. The main character, Kate Burkholder, is one of my favorites. I also enjoy the references to Ohio. In this book, Kate travels to New York and pretends to be Amish again to infiltrate a new Amish community to find out more about their mysterious leader and children who are supposedly in danger. If you have read this series, and love Kate, you won’t be able to put this down as Kate finds herself in serious danger and doesn’t see a way out. If you haven’t read this series, start at the beginning. They are soooo good!

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

If Karin Slaughter could just write one book every single month, I’d be so freaking happy. I love her books so very much. My friend, Sherri, just asked me for a book recommendation and I discovered that she hadn’t read any of Slaughter’s books yet. I was very envious of the fact that she has all of her books to read and I’m all done with all of them. Seriously, Slaughter can’t write fast enough for me! (If you haven’t read her books yet, start at the beginning and read in order.)

This was another book in the Will Trent series. Oh, how I love Will. And Sara. And Faith. But not Angie. I can’t stand Angie. But guess what? She’s back to cause major trouble (AGAIN!) for Will and Sara. Will recently investigated a famous basketball player for rape. Now, he is in the middle of a murder investigation that not only involves the same basketball player but Will himself. Will struggles to keep Sara on his side while trying to figure out how Angie got herself in the middle of this mess. There are so many subplots and twists and you wonder how Slaughter will pull it all together but, because she’s SO FREAKING AMAZING, she does. When you turn to the last page, you will be counting down the days until she writes her next one. I love her books!!!

 

 

 

What to Write, What to Write

write-quote

So I haven’t written in forever. Every time I sit down to write, I stumble. I have so many things I want to say, so many topics I want to write about. Should I write about…

how hard it is parenting teenagers?

being a special-needs mom?

the aftermaths of having cancer?

recovering from an eating disorder?

marriage?

friendship?

feeling alone?

strained relationships with a parent?

feeling so lucky at times you could burst?

books I’ve read?

depression?

the state of education?

teaching?

podcasts I love?

I sit down to write and all of these things pop into my head to write about so I give up and don’t write anything at all. But I miss it. I miss this space. I miss writing. I miss interacting with you. I’m making a commitment to myself to be here more often. To sit down and just write. And write some more. And more. And more. I’m going to do it because I love it and I need it.

I hope some of you are still out there. I hope I can write something that resonates with you even if it is just a really good book. I hope you missed my words as much as I did.

I’m back.

 

 

 

The Big Three

Are you watching “This Is Us” yet? You should. They have ‘the big three’ and I wanted to share some recent pictures of my big three…can you believe these beautiful creatures are mine?

all-3-2all-3-4-bwg-4g-8g-13m-3m-5m-15-bwm-17o-2o-4o-7o-9-bwo-12

Happy This Week

I have a two-hour delay this morning! Which means I am taking the time to blog!!! That makes me very happy!

I went to a soccer tournament with Matthew this weekend. It was just him and I. It was so nice to have some one-on-one time and connect with other parents.

Olivia is finally having good days at school and enjoying it. It’s been a long 7-week transition!

Gabe is LOVING high school and doing very well. I’m so proud of him!

Pumpkin spice lattes are back! I know that makes me basic but I don’t care!

I received texts from former students last week. I miss them so much and it made me ridiculously happy!

My students this year are awesome. They are very hard workers and polite and respectful. What more could I ask for??

I got my hair cut and colored. I love my haircut, the relaxing time and spending time with my hairdresser!

New TV definitely puts a smile on my face. I am really loving This Is Us and Speechless. Are you watching those? I think Grey’s has been really good and Project Runway is still my favorite. I want to be Heidi Klum or Tim Gunn in my next life.

My BFF texted me on Wednesday to see if I could workout and…I could! We are never on the same schedule and BFF therapy is always a happy thing.

I went to watch my girls play volleyball last week and my wonderful friend Sherrie was there watching her niece. It was such a nice surprise to hang out with her and her daughter during the game. I LOVE them!! I also got to see a bunch of my former students who play volleyball and were there watching the game. It’s so nice to see them grown up and catch up on how they’re doing.

What made you happy this week?

 

You’re NOT Fine…and That’s OK.

Before I write today, I just wanted to say that I’ve missed you so. I’ve discovered that I really miss writing and interacting with you all. I’m going to make a more concerted effort to devote more of my time to this space. It means so much to me and it helps me and, I hope, sometimes it helps you. Thank you for hanging in there with me. 

friend-quote

 

I see your face and I know you’re not ok. I know you, remember? You’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders right now and it’s too heavy. I see you. My heart hurts for you. I am here for you.

I know sometimes you keep things from me because I have a daughter with special needs and I had cancer and everyone’s favorite saying is “Well at least it’s not cancer!” but I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. Everyone has their worries. Everyone has their pain. There is no worse pain or “better” pain. Pain is pain. And you are in pain and I can see it.

have-it-worse

Did you read that carefully? Go back and read it again. When you think about it in terms of happy, it’s ridiculous to think you can’t be sad because someone else might have it worse, isn’t it? Do you think for one second that I ever think “what she’s sad about is stupid”? No. Never. Because there are so many things in the world that can make us sad, overwhelmed, frustrated and everyone feels their own pain for their own reasons. Any pain that you feel is not minor. It’s YOUR pain and it’s important.

drowning

I know we are always trying to be everything for everyone. We’re perfectionists. We love deeply and we want to make sure everyone knows that we love them and care for them and are there for them. We’re trying to be the best wife, mother, sister, teacher, friend that we can be. All the time. Every day. I’ve been through a lot in my life and I will tell you this: there are times when you have to feel and be sad and let someone else take care of you. It’s not easy to do. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s necessary.

quote-2

Here’s what I want you to do. Cry. Cry. Cry. Scream into a pillow. Cry some more. Feel sad. Feel blue. Be in a funk for as long as you need. Talk to whoever will listen. Talk to someone who’s JUST going to listen and not try to solve the problem. Do something that gives you comfort. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Sometimes all I do is put on my favorite ratty sweatshirt from college and make a cup of coffee and cry. Do WHATEVER you need to do to give your soul some comfort right now because you need it. Don’t fight it. Fighting your feelings and telling yourself you shouldn’t be sad will just make it worse. So what if you’re sad for a day, a week, a month? So what if you’re in a funk for a bit. Just don’t make that your permanent residence, ok? But stay as long as you need and then pick up your sword and fight again.

ill-be-ok

Did you read that? You’ll be ok. You will. Just not today. You’re not ok today and it’s F-I-N-E. Feel it. Give into it.

There have been many, many days when I struggled just to get out of bed. Some days I just stayed there. I gave into it. Other days I pulled a “fake it til you make it” and managed to have a good day. Sometimes I bought myself a Starbucks because that was the only thing I could think of that would help. Other times I called you. Or texted you. Or asked for an extra hug. Or made an appointment to get my nails done. Or vegged on Netflix. I did whatever it took to make me feel better in that moment. But did you read that carefully? I did whatever it took to make ME feel better. I had to be selfish. I had to not feel guilty about my pain or what I needed. I just took care of me.

So, please, feel your pain. Don’t fight it. Ask for comfort if that helps you. Stay in bed all day if that will help you. You’re not ok right now and that’s ok.

You will be ok. I promise. And remember that I’m here for you and I love you. You feel deeply, you love deeply and that’s what makes you amazing. So go ahead. Feel it.

emotional

 

Cheers to Another Great Year

I post this every year…because I love it…and I think it’s worth repeating. Here’s hoping that this year is even better than last year!

The Transfer of a Trust by Susan Wojciechowski

The syndrome hits me every year right after Labor Day. It’s always the same. At 9:34 a.m. the school bus wheezes to a stop at the end of my driveway. My child waves an uncertain goodbye and climbs aboard. The door shooshes shut and the bus rumbles slowly out of sight.

I go onto the back porch for another cup of tea, a peaceful cup at last. I spread the paper open in front of me and start to cry. I snap the paper to attention and pretend to read Sidney Harris. My tears blur the words into a muddy jumble. This is nonsense. I should be glad school is back in session. No more sticky kitchen floor, no more sliding door left open, no more trail of Kool-Aid across the rug. It’s no use. I want to jump in the car and follow bus 158 to school. I want to peek around the corner of the building to make sure my baby has found the right classroom, has not gotten knocked over by bullies, has remembered to carry her lunch box off the bus.

But more than that, I want to glimpse into her classroom. I have no need to check the bulletin boards or the lesson plans. I want to look into the teacher’s soul. I want to find some hint of assurance that she is worthy to continue what I have these past few years begun. For, when each of my children turned 5, they were suddenly snatched from me. I had, up till then, been the overwhelming influence on their development. Their values were my values; their world was shaped by what I wanted them to see, hear, experience. All at once a teacher, a stranger, was taking my place.

And so I cry on the first day of school. I cry because my child is entering a world into which I cannot, no matter how desperately I long to intrude. I cry because some stranger is taking over the job, not of teaching my child math or reading, but of nurturing his development of self. And I wonder if she’ll do it with the dedication I demand.

Each September I fight an overwhelming urge to rush to school to remind the teacher what a very special little person my child is: that he is not just one of a roomful of pupils–he is MY CHILD and would she please, please treat him accordingly. Would she be so kind as to try to get to know his complex personality, his weaknesses, his childish vulnerabilities; would she try never to humiliate him or belittle him; would she notice his bad days and on those days treat him ever so gently because his is, after all, not just one of a sea of little bodies–he is special. He’s mine.

But of course I can’t do that, can’t dictate caring to every teacher my children will encounter. I only can hope that each one of them will know that for all the fantastic educational tools a teacher might use and for all her mastery of subject matter and exciting lesson plans, and for all her intelligence, her most basic responsibility will be unfulfilled if the element of caring is missing. And the key to that, in my mind, lies in seeing each pupil as somebody’s precious child.

So I sit on my back porch, drinking a peaceful cup of tea and pretending to read Sidney Harris and hope that my children’s teachers see them as unique, complex, fragile, vulnerable beings. I only can hope that the reason they are teachers, after all, is to bring each student ever closer to his potential, not just as a mind, but as a heart and soul as well.

all 3

School Day Blues

quote 1

I’ve got a bit of the blues about school starting…and it’s not for the reason you think. It’s not because summer is over and I have to go back to work. I absolutely love my job and am actually excited about the new year. Even though I’m nervous for Olivia and Gabe to start high school, that’s not why I have the blues either.

I have the blues this year for the same reason I do every year.

My students from last year have gone on to the high school.

They won’t even be in my building anymore, let alone in my room.

And I’m going to miss them like crazy.

quote 6

My friend Kelley and I had coffee the other day and we honest-to-God got teary talking about and thinking about how the kids won’t be coming back and how much we will miss them. This happens every year. It’s one of the bad parts about teaching 8th grade. It’s one of the reasons I’m ridiculously excited to teach two classes of 7th graders this year because I’ll get to see them one more year before they go.

I spend all day with these lovely humans for 9 months and then they’re gone. They probably have no idea how much they inch their way into my heart over the year. Usually, at some point in the year, they start calling me “Mom” or “Mama T” and I absolutely love it. I truly feel like their Mom during the year. I care about them deeply. I enjoy their personalities, their drama, their conversations, their interests. I enjoy THEM. I may be tired, I may be overwhelmed, but when they walk in, I am happy. It is very hard for me when they leave.

quote 3

I am lucky enough that many of my students stay in touch. I love seeing them grow up. I love seeing them fall in love, get married, have babies, get their dream jobs. When one of them emails or texts me, it makes my day. The only reason I have Snapchat is so that I can keep in touch with them and see what they’re up to. But it’s not the same as seeing them every day. Not at all.

So every year, around back-to-school time, it really hits me that they won’t be there. And I get the blues. But then I remember that a new crop of students is coming and they will be awesome too. I remember that my heart has plenty of room to grow and love a new bunch. I remember that there are 150 children coming in my room who want to be loved and cherished and cared for and I will be that person for them. And that makes me happy.

quote 2

Lotsa Great Reads!

We have had a very low key and relaxing with nothing much to do summer and so I’ve had lots of time to read some awesome books! I hope you can enjoy some of these as well.

Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio

If you haven’t read Wonder yet, go get it right now and read it. Make your kids read it too! It’s an amazing book that I reviewed earlier. This is a spin-off or companion book to Wonder. It is separated into three stories that represent three different people’s points of view: Charlotte, one of the girls who is on the “welcoming” committee at August’s new school; Julian, August’s nemesis and Christopher, August’s former best friend. It was great to read deeper into these characters and read their take on their interactions with August.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I absolutely loved it. It was quick, fun and very unique. A.J. is a bookstore owner on an island on the east coast. He’s a widower who’s struggling to live happily. One day a toddler girl is left in his store with a note asking him to care for her. A.J. adopts her and his life changes. There are many interesting characters throughout the book. Detective Lambiase is the local sheriff who befriends A.J. and becomes an avid reader. Ismay is A.J.’s former sister-in-law and teacher on the island who is married to a major cheater and famous author, Daniel Parish. Amelia is a book sales rep who visits the island a few times a year and can’t quite figure out A.J. and his quirky personality. Zevin does a wonderful job of weaving everyone’s stories together. She makes you fall in love with the characters. I was sad when it was over and wanted more. That’s the sign of a good book!

Midair by Kodi Scheer

(This hasn’t been released yet. It’s available August 1st.) I really enjoyed this book. It is pretty short and very enjoyable. Four classmates take a post-graduation trip to France as part of their French class. Nessa is the main character who has plans to commit suicide by jumping off the Eiffel Tower. She is joined on the trip by Kat, her nemesis, and Kiran and Whitney who are likable enough but not considered friends. Kat has betrayed Nessa in a major way and Nessa has plans for revenge before she leaps. It is very interesting, moves quickly and provides a couple of twists and turns along the way. You should try it!

The One I Was by Eliza Graham

Rosamund Hunter has been running from her past for years. She finally takes a job that will return her to the place where she lost her mother and suffered at the hands of a terrible man. She is working as a nurse for Benny Gault who has a fascinating story of his own. As a child, he fled Nazi Germany and stayed at the same estate that Rosamund did in her childhood. Their stories intertwine in many different ways that are fascinating and entertaining. It’s a great story that you will enjoy.

Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter

You know I L-O-V-E Slaughter’s books. She is amazing and I wish she would write one every day! I found this novella on Amazon and couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it yet. Julie is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed college girl who is very upset by the recent disappearance of a girl in her town. It follows Julie as she goes through her days while trying to discover what happened to the missing girl. For a very short little novella, it was terrifying and awesome! You should check it out, especially if you’re a Slaughter fan.

My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

This is the first in a series about detective Tracy Crosswhite. I liked it so much that I plan on reading the other books in the series. Tracy’s sister, Sarah, went missing many years ago. Edmund House was convicted of her murder but Tracy was never 100% convinced that he was guilty. She has never stopped looking for her sister’s killer or proof that House indeed did it. The discovery of Sarah’s body brings Tracy back to her hometown and lands her right in the middle of the investigation. She gets help from a childhood friend who is now a lawyer. Tracy finds herself in the middle of a nightmare but is determined to find out what happened to Sarah. It’s awesome!

The Fever by Megan Abbott

This book was unique and interesting. Deenie is a teenager from a close-knit family with a gorgeous hockey star for a brother. When her best friend has an unexplained seizure, Deenie is thrown into the middle of a chaotic mess. Other girls start having unexplained seizures and no one can figure out what is going on in their town. When the reason behind “the fever” is revealed, you won’t believe it!

Intrusion by Mary McCluskey

This book was OK but not great. Here’s the description from Amazon: “A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives.” That about sums it up! It kept my attention but I found it predictable. A predictable book automatically goes down a notch in my opinion.

For my teacher friends, some inspiring and interesting teaching books:

Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, McDaniel

This was a great book with research-backed ideas on how to help kids learn and retain their knowledge. I skimmed parts of it (the research parts) but found many tips I think will be helpful. I’m always looking for ways to improve my teaching and their learning!

Mindset: The Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

This has ideas for how to have a growth mindset in your classroom. I found many good ideas that I will be implementing this year.

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess

By reading this book, I discovered that I am a pirate! PIRATE is Burgess’s acronym that stands for all of the qualities an amazing teacher should have and implement in their classroom. I was happy to see that I do 99.9% of the things Burgess discusses in his book and I was able to get even more ideas to make my class an even better place!

What have you read lately? Please share!

Look At Me Now

quote 1

Having cancer is a weird and crazy ride. Just when I think I’m doing really well, BAM!, something hits me that messes with my head for a while. I’m starting to wonder if I’m ever going to stop thinking that every ache and pain is cancer returning. I suppose that’s totally normal but I’m pretty sure I’m driving Matt crazy. I’m hesitant to say I’ve beaten it or call myself a survivor because I’m afraid to jinx myself. I’ve figured out that I’m not going to go back to “normal” or who I was before and that’s ok. But it’s still scary.

I also feel a lot of pressure from myself, not anyone else, to do something big now that I’m done with treatment. Lots of women start charities or write books or something else huge after they’ve battled cancer. Should I do that? Is that the point of me getting cancer? To do something huge with my life? To help others in a major way?  The Little Pink Houses of Hope organization is starting this new campaign called “Look at me now!” where you post the amazing things you’re doing after you’ve finished treatment. I think it’s a wonderful idea but, again, the pressure! What am I doing to do now? I’ve been driving myself insane thinking about this.

quote 2

You know what I’ve decided? I am going to do something major. Not major as in changing the world major, but major in my world. I’m going to live in the moment. I’m going to finally let go of my eating disorder. I’m going to feel great about myself. I’m going to enjoy my family. I’m going to appreciate the small things. I’m going to love my family to pieces and enjoy every minute I am lucky enough to be with them. I’m not wasting any more time worrying about my weight or if I’m doing enough with my life. I’m going to try really hard to not worry about getting cancer again. I’m going to live healthily and exercise and be happy. For anyone who knows me intimately, you know this is huge for me. I’m enough just the way I am and that’s going to be my “look at me now”. I am going to take care of myself and, most importantly, love myself.

What do you think about that?

quote 3