Monday, March 6, 2017

February Books


Normally, I would have had this post ready for the first of the month, but frankly, March just came out of nowhere!  Here's what I managed to read in February:

I got my first book from Blogging for Books.

Life AfterLife After by Katie Ganshert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Life After was an excellent read. I really enjoyed the characters in this story and the way that they came together. Autumn was a likable character to whom it was easy to relate. I enjoyed "watching" her grow throughout the story to overcome the tragedy that she survived.
I also liked that while the story had a Christian base to it, that it was not the sole focus of the story. The characters' faith is addressed by the narrator and the characters themselves, but it is done in a way that "regular" every day Christians can relate to.



My Not So Perfect LifeMy Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I just love Sophie Kinsella. I've really been enjoying her books lately. They are fun reads with likable characters! This one did not disappoint. I loved it! I really loved Katie and it was great to follow her from start to finish.



View all my reviews

Books I did NOT finish this month:
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

I got this one on Audible, and I just couldn't get into it.  I was confused.  Sometimes, there is something to be said for having a copy of the book in front of you.  I think I might be able to get this one as an eBook through my local library, so I may give it another go in the future.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stuff & Things 2/16

Stuff, Things, etc.

Before I begin, I realized that I never shared here Baby's gender!



Today, I am 26 weeks into my pregnancy, and now that I'm over halfway into this journey, there are some things that I've discovered about being pregnant.

1. Being asked, "How are you feeling?" is really annoying.
First, I know people are asking out of genuine kindness.
Second, I have asked many a pregnant friend or colleague this same question multiple times throughout her pregnancy.
BUT what I didn't fully grasp is that I'm not the only person who was asking that question.  Now, I'm understanding how draining that question can be.  Walking into school, I may be asked by two or three people (especially if they're colleagues I don't see on a daily basis) how I'm feeling.

The truth is that I AM feeling pretty good!  Things are going well, and other than being worn out by the end of the day, I'm mostly ok.

2. It's amazing how many times a person can need to go to the bathroom.
One second all is well, the next second, Baby Boy is dancing on my bladder.  I am grateful that I teach 6th graders because it's much easier to leave them for two minutes to run to the restroom.

3. People are quick to remind you that parenting isn't all sunshine and rainbows.
Last week, Kristin wrote a post about her least favorite comment. In my comment on the post, I mentioned that my current least favorite comment is "Just you wait."  This comment follows a story or vent by a parent about some crazy or annoying or awful thing her child(ren) has done.

I know that parenting isn't all sunshine and rainbows.  I'm a teacher for goodness sake.  Some of those things I know just simply from encountering people's children on a daily basis.

But this IS an exciting time in my life, and I'd like to hear, "Just you wait." after some heartwarming story that is told about your kids.

4.  Feeling your baby move is absolutely amazing!
I love it when Baby Boys is moving around in there.  There's starting to be more in the way of kicking now, which is fun.  I love that Scott can now feel that movement.  He's finally starting to believe that there really is a baby in there!  haha

5. Leggings (I obviously didn't just discover these, but I have a new appreciation for them).
I am beyond thankful that it's legging season.  I've invested in quite a few maternity tops, but I only bought 3 pairs of maternity jeans (which are practically like leggings themselves since they don't involve zippers or buttons).

6. Sometimes, you get out of doing things.
People don't ask you to carry stuff.  They let you sit down more.  People are ok with your house being a disaster because you have "an excuse" for being too tired to get it done.

These are things I can totally live with.




Monday, February 6, 2017

Teacher Thoughts: Why Don't People Like Us?


It's been awhile since I've written a Teacher Thoughts post, but I have some things on my mind right now.  Where better to get them out?!

With the new change in our Nation's administration, the topic of education has been popping up in the news.  In Pennsylvania, there are some new bills in the works, and while I am not asking for a political debate or to discuss politics on my blog, it has all brought to mind some things I don't really understand.

Why Don't People Like Educators?

Summers Off
I've mentioned before that people are pretty bitter about teachers getting summers off.  This seems to be one of the biggest reasons why people hate educators.

I'm sorry that I don't have to work for most of June and August and not at all in July.  But that is the schedule for my job.  In this country (or at least most states in our country), we choose not to send our students to school year round.  How is that MY fault?

People don't realize that many teachers have summer jobs to make ends meet.  I am fortunate enough that this is not a necessity for our household.  My salary is spread out over the whole year, and my husband has a very good job.  So while I COULD work in the summer to make extra, I haven't HAD to.

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I spend A LOT of time on my summer vacation preparing for the next school year.  I work on new ways and approaches to my lessons and teaching to try to find ways to keep learning exciting and productive for my students.  Once I am able to access my classroom after the thorough summer cleaning, I am in the building getting my room set up, making copies, and preparing for the students' arrival in August.

I love being able to be available to spend time with my husband on his days off and before or after he goes to work.  This year, I am going to be able to enjoy my summer off with my first baby!

It is certainly a benefit of my job.

But should it really make people hate me?

"Those who can't...teach."
I despise this quote.

People seem to believe that teachers are just a bunch of idiots who went into teaching because they weren't smart enough or good enough to do something else.

Are there teachers of whom this is true?  Probably.

Most of us are not.

I went into teaching because I love kids.  When I was a kid, I used to spend hours playing "school" in our playroom.  I had a little chalkboard and chalk.  I would always help my teachers to correct papers (I remember doing this even in FIRST GRADE!)  Many of my teachers would allow me to take home extras of worksheets we had done in class so that I could use them to play.

Like any job, there are good days and bad, but overall, I love helping my students learn and watching them grow as people and as learners.

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We have good benefits.
I am an employee of the State of Pennsylvania.  While school districts vary in some areas, it is required across the state that each school district provide a minimum of 10 sick days per year.  There is a Bill right now that would eliminate this requirement and make sick leave part of contract negotiations.

Again, I'm "sorry" that I have good options for paid leave should I need it.  For the record, I hardly ever use sick days.  At the beginning of this school year, I had almost 70 stored up.  This turned out to be a good thing because my school district's policy is that I need to use up all of my sick days prior to getting FMLA.  So I will be able to take off from May-June to have my baby, have my summer off, start the next school year, and still have a very good stash of days.

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Let's be honest.  Teaching is a pretty traditional profession.  Teachers are able to have a more traditional family dynamic, which is something that appeals to many who enter the profession.

I don't understand why people hate us for being able to be available to take care of our families.


I could probably go on, but I won't.

The fact is that unless you are an educator or work in a school in some capacity, you really don't know or understand what it's REALLY like to work in education.

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We face a lot of obstacles each day including state mandates & requirements, uncooperative students and/or parents, demands of your individual school district, and ultimately the responsibility of providing the best education possible to our students (despite EVERYTHING previously mentioned).

Yet we still do it.

Most of us do it because we want the best for the future citizens of our nation.

We do it despite constantly being under fire from federal and state governments, as well as the "haters" in society.

And if that doesn't mean that I deserve a summer off, I don't know what does. 

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January Books


New year, new book goals, and I'm off to a running start!  I even got one more book finished right at the end of the month, which I wasn't expecting to do.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
3 Stars

I had two classes that chose this as their novel to read for reading class.  I always reread the books as my classes do so that I can stay on top of what I need to discuss (or not mention yet!) with them.  It helps me refresh my memory for going over their tasks.

I'm not a huge fan of this book, but the kids like it.  Either way, it counts as reading!





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Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
4 Stars

One of my classes chose this one as their novel for reading class.  Despite this not being "my kind" of story, it's actually a really good book, and both girls and boys really enjoy it!









The Atonement Child

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I was disappointed with this book. I didn't hate it, but I definitely didn't love it. Rivers's book Redeeming Love is an amazing book, and this one just did not live up to that for me.

If you're not familiar, Rivers is a Christian author. As you can see in the synopsis, the main character, Dynah, is raped and becomes pregnant is faced with a choice. What annoyed me about this book is the lack of compassion from the Christian characters mainly Dynah's fiance and the Dean of the Christian college they attended. It also really bothered me that for the first half of the book, everyone's reaction to Dynah's options was that she needed to have an abortion or have and keep the child. Adoption wasn't even mentioned until over halfway through the book. 

While obviously no one, including Christians, is perfect, I felt like this book did not reflect Christians well. That disappointed me coming from this author. People were angry, bitter, pushy, and mean. I did really like Dynah as a character, and I also really loved the character of Joe. Dynah was a beautiful character whom I felt was realistic. She ultimately comes to terms with her situation and makes a decision, and the ending did wrap up nicely. I just wish that the story would have reflected people better overall.


Advancing Differentiation: Thinking and Learning for the 21st CenturyAdvancing Differentiation: Thinking and Learning for the 21st Century by Richard M. Cash

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


My school district chose to use this book as a book study for the first half of the school year. We finished reading it on January 16th as part of our in-service day activities. Apparently, the author is coming to our in-service in February, so that's pretty neat. But ultimately, reading texts like this just leaves me feeling overwhelmed.

When you read a book like this the ideas are great and everything sounds wonderful, but that is in the ideal class, in the idea school district, in the ideal state....and I'm sorry, but NOWHERE is that perfect. Differentiation is important, and good teachers do it (or certainly try to!) every single day. But some days, it doesn't matter what I do as an educator, there are students who just aren't going to engage or "get" it. After awhile, the book deviated from differentiation and started discussing A LOT about teaching students how to think differently. That's nice and all, but it felt like the ways the author presented to go about it would just require time that we don't have! With the demands we have to not only teach our curriculum but to meet state requirements for testing and constantly testing students up until those tests, I just can't wrap my head around how things like this should work.

At one point during the reading of this text, I literally grabbed my pen and wrote, "Seriously? When are we supposed to do this?"

Needless to say, this wasn't the best professional development text I've ever read.


The Secret KeeperThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really liked this book! I had read Kate Morton's "The Lake House" before, and while I liked that one, this book is way better! While there were confusing parts at times, they helped to move the story along and keep me guessing until pieces started to come together at the end. I can definitely say, the ending took me completely by surprise, and I liked that!


I've Got Your NumberI've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Sophie Kinsella never disappoints me. I borrowed this book as an eBook from my local library. I got an email that my loan was about to expire, and even though I was enjoying it, I just hadn't been putting a lot of time into reading. So I cracked down on Saturday (1/28) and finished it rather quickly! As usual, Kinsella creates a likable protagonist in Poppy. I love the craziness of the way the characters come together in this story, and it was just a light, easy read.



View all my reviews


In light of sneaking in an extra book this month that I didn't think I would actually finish until February, I decided to up my goal on the Goodreads challenge from 20 to 25.  If things keep going like this, I might even up it to 30.  I'm 5 books ahead of schedule right now, so I'm pretty proud of myself.  :)

What have you read so far in 2017? 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Stuff & Things: Currently

Stuff, Things, etc.

Linking up again this week with Kristin and Joey for Stuff & Things.

And let's be honest, if I didn't do this these days, I probably wouldn't blog about anything besides books....

Currently...

Watching: Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath on A&E.  If you haven't seen this, I highly recommend it.  I had listened to the audio version of Leah's book Troublemaker in February last year, and apparently, I somehow forgot to share it in my monthly book review:

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and ScientologyTroublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I LOVED this book. I've always liked Leah Remini, and I really enjoyed hearing her story. I listened to this on Audible, and it was to great to literally hear her read her book.

I did not know that Leah Remini was a Scientologist, nor did I know a whole lot about Scientology. It was fascinating and horrifying to hear all of the things that Leah went through, as well as to hear about her successes in show business.

The show includes interviews with people who have left Scientology, including many people who were high up and in some type of leadership within the organization.  It's just fascinating.  And infuriating.

Feeling: The baby move!  I've been feeling him or her hopping around for a couple of weeks, and it's seriously the weirdest (but coolest) thing.  Words can't even accurately describe what it's like, but I will just say that I have officially learned the difference between Baby moving and gas bubbles....

Listening to: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton thanks to Kristin's recommendation!



Looking forward to: Monday.  Normally, I hate Mondays, but THIS Monday, Scott and I will be going to my next doctor's appointment, and if Baby cooperates, we'll find out if we've got a boy or a girl growing in there!

Recovering from: The plague a cold and the stomach bug I was fortunate enough to have over the weekend.  It was a quick hit, and it didn't last long, but I am SO bad at being sick.  My stomach is back to normal, but the cold thinks it's cool to hang out.

Wishing: That we hadn't had a snow day today.  We had some icy conditions, but I actually feel pretty confident that our original 2 hour delay would've been sufficient.  Now, we've lost a day from our break in February.

Reading: The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers  I borrowed this on eBook from my local library, and I suppose I should probably get back to it because it's due back on the 17th, and I haven't gotten very far!

What stuff and things are currently happening with you?


Thursday, January 5, 2017

1st Stuff & Things of 2017

Stuff, Things, etc.

So the "thing" to do in the blogging world is to have a "word of the year."  I've always admired bloggers who are committed to finding their word and working on it throughout the year.  As a sort of blogger, I find myself wanting to take part in this, procrastinating, not being able to think of something, and then moving on.

But THIS YEAR...

I think I've got it.

And I've actually totally stolen it from someone else.  But whatever.

I don't know if any of you have ever seen the TLC show Little People Big World.  I started watching it years ago when I would just put TLC on in the background while I did whatever, and it caught my attention.  For a very brief rundown of the show, it is the story of Matt and Amy Roloff who are little people with four children (who are all grown up now).  Three of their children are average height, and one of them is also a little person.  Jeremy and Zach are twins, but Zach is an LP.  They also have a daughter, Molly, and a son, Jacob.  Currently, Molly and Jacob are not really active on the show (although Molly does pop in from time to time), but Jeremy and Zach are both married.  (They are the two girls at the top of the picture.  Tori is on the left and Audrey is on the right.)


So why am I telling you all of this, and what does it have to do with my word for the year?

I'm so glad you asked.

Through the show, I started following Audrey's blog.  A slogan she has lived by since she was a teenager is "always more."  As I was watching last night's new episode, it hit me.

And that's when I stole it.

This year, my word of the year (even though it's actually two words) will be "Always More."  This isn't about greed or gaining more wealth or worldly possessions.  I went back to Audrey's blog, and she actually adopted this from Ephesians 3:20 "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine..."

When I went through having an ectopic pregnancy this summer, it was hard.  The timing was great for both the school year and my cousin's wedding in May.  It was perfect.  Except that it wasn't.  There was MORE.  God had a different plan.  He had something else in store.  And here I am, 20 weeks pregnant today.

I want to get more out of my relationships with my husband, family, and friends.

I want to get more out of this amazing experience of being pregnant.

I want to get more from becoming a mother for the first time and building a relationship with this new little life we have created.

I want to be more present.

I want to pray more.

I want to put more of myself into the things that I love and am passionate about.

That is what Always More will mean for me this year.

(and maybe I'll get a piece of Always More merchandise from Audrey's shop....who knows?)



Monday, January 2, 2017

December Books


Ah, December.  The last month of the year, and the last chance to finish my goal of 40 books for 2016.  Here's how it turned out:


At the Water's EdgeAt the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I had listened to Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants on Audible, and as I was looking for eBooks to borrow from my local public library, I came across this one. I really loved how the relationships changed and developed throughout the story, and I grew to really love Maddie the more that the story went on.


Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in BetweenTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I LOVE Lauren Graham. This book was a quick and fun listen. I really enjoyed hearing her perspective about working in on Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. She tells her story with just the right amount of sarcasm and humor, and I loved it!


The Time Traveler's WifeThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I've been struggling with what I want to read. I just haven't been in the mood for most books. SO I picked up an old favorite. I LOVE this book. I'm a huge fan of time travel stories, and I love the characters of Clare and Henry. This book is always worth another read, and I'm glad I picked it up again.


Brian's Winter (Brian's Saga, #3)Brian's Winter by Gary Paulsen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


An interesting perspective of how Brian's winter would have gone if he had remained stranded in the Canadian North Woods. I will definitely be recommending this one to my students after they've read Hatchet!



View all my reviews

I did it!  I read 40/40 books in 2016!

Somehow, I've also become a person who doesn't finish books.  It's possibly because of the mood I'm in where I don't know exactly what I want to be reading.  So if something doesn't capture my attention, I'm more willing to stop reading (particularly if it's an audio book from Audible, since they have a great return policy).

Books I didn't finish this month:

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella 
I will actually go back to this book.  I got it from Audible, and I could not STAND the narrator.  Her voice was bad enough as Becky (this was not the same narrator as the Shopaholic book I "read" last month), but when she altered her voice to speak for Luke, I threw in the towel.  I'll get this book in paper or eBook form.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
My local library recently connected with other libraries in my area to offer eBooks and audio books for borrowing (as I mentioned in my review about At the Water's Edge).  I thought I'd give this one a go since I loved Gone Girl, but I just couldn't get into it.  I may come back to it in the future, but with the end of the year approaching, I needed books I could get into and read pretty quickly to meet my reading goal!

I've signed up for the Goodreads challenge again for 2017.  This year, I decided it was necessary to cut my goal from 2016 in half.  My goal for 2017 is to read 20 books. I have to be realistic.  I have a baby coming.  In May, my life is going to change drastically, and I really don't know how much time I will have for reading.  I decided that 20 was pretty reasonable.  If I end up doing better than that...great!  But I'd rather play it safe and surpass than to be too ambitious and miss the mark.

What are your reading goals for 2017?  Any book recommendations from 2016?



 
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