Friday, December 30, 2011

Reading Plans for the New Year

I love reading. I really do...but I have come to realize that I read fiction very quickly, but non fiction....very...slowly....and don't always finish the book. I like to savor them, think about them, but I don't always follow through. I have collected a bunch of non-fiction books that I have not read or finished. So this year, I plan to read more non-fiction. I will read and focus on one each month (still leaving time for more fiction love). Here are 6 I have found to start the first half of the year:
1. Quiet: The Power on Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. (For January) This is for my online book club, From Left to Write. I am excited to read this because I think I am much more of an introvert than an extrovert, though I really wish I was more outgoing...stay tuned for my post in the next few weeks about this book.

2.50 Things Every Young Gentleman Should Know by John Bridges. (For Feb.) Technically, this book was on my summer reading list, as well. I saw a great idea that some mom read this book to her boys, and had them journal about their thoughts. I really would like to do this!

3. Mamarazzi: Every Mom's Guide to Photographing Kids by Stacy Wasmuth. (For March) I have read about 1/3 of this book-love it! Now need to practice and do.

4. Taking Back Childhood: A Proven Road Map for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids
by Nancy Carlsson-Page (For April) The title is so intriguing. I read about 10 pages, but never picked it up again.

5. Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst (For May) I really want to work on my faith this year....

6. Playful Learning: Develop Your Child's Sense of Joy and Wonder by Mariah Bruehl (For June-perfect for summer learning) The pictures are great, and I've already flipped through and skimmed through some of it.

Good thing is, I own all of these I can build up my supply for the 2nd half of the year. Wish we me luck...looking forward to sharing with you what I learn!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I have been reading A LOT lately....loving my time off! I did the 100 book Challenge through (the best site for book people!!) and I made it! Of course, some of them were picture books, but I read 110 books this year-or at least rated 110 books-teachers read a lot to kiddos! Here are my top ten (in no order)

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon-such a GOOD read-you must read it!!! A gothic mystery set in Spain concerning the unusual circumstances of a book and its mysterious author.

2. Cleopatra by Stacey Schiff...this took me a while to read, but was so informative and I learned a lot about the history of Rome and Egypt. I am slightly obsessed with that time period right now...

3. The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure...if you read and adored the Little House on the Prairie books, you will enjoy this true story about a woman traveling around to all the Little House landmarks.

4. In Stitches by Anthony Youn...funny, funny coming of age story about an Asian boy growing up in Michigan and going on to med school. Liked this a lot more than I thought I would!

5. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay I cried and cried reading this book (and still cry thinking about it), but it's worth a read. Heartbreaking, especially since parts are true-a World War II story in France (yes, it got ugly in France! I did not realize to what extent!)

6. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor-This is a children's chapter book, if you have not read it, go now. Young sweet, caring boy, runaway dog, bad owner...a GOOD book.

7. Savvy by Ingrid Law-another children's book, but with a dash of magic. The sequel didn't grab me as much as this one.

8. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. OK, I love this author-gothic mysteries...this year, I realized how much I love them. Kate is the queen of writing gothic mysteries...I adore all 3 of her books (though this one probably isn't my favorite!)

9. Their Eyes Were Watching Good by Zora Neale Hurston This took me a while to read-the language was difficult to read-but I can see why it's a classic. The story is amazing and Janie is a very endearing main character, through all of her tragedies.

10. I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridus I've also come to realize that I do like historical fiction this year. LOVED all the Italian history in this book, as well. Very thick-couldn't stop reading it.

What about you?? What are your top reads? Tomorrow, I will update with some of my books for next year, including my plan to read more non-fiction. As much as I love reading, I read non-fiction very slowly. My bookshelf is piling up with those books. I tend to buy those, where as most of my books I get from the library.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December, December...a busy time of year!

Whew...are you caught up in the hustle and bustle??? I am! Though I am slowing down a bit due to the stomach flu-yuck! It swept through our school-even derailed our Christmas performance of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". Just as we were ready to start, one little boy threw up all over the stage-front and center-a few times! Started 20 minutes later-after a quick clean up and plastic tablecloth put down-and then someone else throws up during the show-several kids are crying so hard and even the adorable Grinch gets close to tears during his solo song and his teacher has to sing along with him...but the show was a success and my first graders (including my own Coop) were a hit! So, right now, day 3 of rest for me, it doesn't really feel like Christmas....gotta get back on the Noel Train!
We are officially on vacation! No big plans, just family and rest and fun. Love it. The boys have been video games-in their underwear-and enjoying lots of Daddy time. They are in heaven! My Grandpa is in town, too. Haven't had much time to visit with him yet, but looking forward to spending time with him. My sisters get here later this week-cannot wait! THIS is what the holidays are all about for me. Family time.
Here are some pics to to show you what we've been doing lately!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vacation * Time

We love us short vacations....we don't take long vacations, but take short ones often. And living in California, can you blame us? We have everything close! Last week, we extended our Veterans Day break by an extra day so we enjoyed a short trip to Southern California. We did Disneyland for the first time as a family of FIVE.

It was such a blast! Kendall had no idea what to expect, but she loved it!

She was a great age, too! I know people like to wait until their kids are older, and yes, maybe she won't remember much of it, but that's what pictures are for...and the look on her face and the smiles were priceless. She was in love! The boys of course, had a blast!

We found out about an hour before we left that one of Spencer's best friends, Nathan, was heading there as well! We met up with them around 10:30 and then spent the rest of the day with their family.

Nathan's Grandma happens to be a fellow teacher (actually my master teacher when I student taught) and a good friend of mine, so we really enjoyed spending time with them! Lines were short, weather was great, Disneyland was decked out for Christmas...a perfect day!

The next day we headed down to San Diego and spent Veterans Day in one of the most beautiful places in San Diego-Cabrillo National Monument. You must check it out. I guess it used to be a navy base (I am not clear on the history) because there is a big naval cemetery and old buildings, but there is a little museum on the history of Cabrillo finding San Diego and an old lighthouse that was used years ago. You can see all of San Diego, all the way down to Mexico.

There are tide pools to explore, a hiking trail that I really want to try, and old bunkers that American soldiers hid in during World War 2.

Plus, we got to be with my sister and her family!

I really wish we lived closer and especially now that she has Lily, I am so sad that I don't get to see Lily as much as I'd like! She is a sweet baby-she adores her cousins and they adore her!

Can't wait for Christmas!
Now we are on break again for Thanksgiving...a whole week off...and I am actually glad to be home...and no plans....we have been so busy this fall...but I am planning our next short trip-either SF without kids (or maybe with...) and then Santa Barbara/LA in February to start the college tour...yes, we are going to start taking Spencer on the college tours. He will have to get a scholarship to go to school (at the rate of college tuition going up and up....ugh), so might as well get him excited, right? Can't wait to show him UCSB (my college) and UCLA!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Club: Children's Names

Today's post is inspired by Expecting Adam by Martha Beck. As a member of the Left to Write Book Club, I received a copy of the book to read and write a post inspired by the book. Being pregnant while in graduate school is no piece of cake and even more stressful to learn your unborn child had Down syndrome. In her memoir *Expecting Adam *, Martha Beck battled almost everyone over her decision to continue her pregnancy. Join From Left to
Writeon November 10 as we discuss Expecting Adam. I found this book very interesting-especially the the magical coincidences that occurred to Martha while pregnant with Adam and after he was born. I would love to meet him!

I have always been fascinated by baby names. I used to buy baby name books as a teenager and pore over them, listing my favorites (top contenders over the years-Autumn, Jordan (girl), Connor). I love love learning the reasons behind people's names and how they got them (and once I read the page about where Martha got the name Adam for her son, I knew what i would write about!). So, when I was pregnant with my own children, I happily purchased several more books and set about picking the perfect names! Strangely enough, none came from a baby name book!

My first son is Spencer. My husband's mom wanted to name him Spencer when he was born, but his Dad said no, and so Joe he became. Joe had always loved the name Spencer, so I knew from the moment we started dating that if I married him, we would have a son named Spencer. I didn't have much say on that name. Luckily, I loved the name! It's unique-at least in our section of the country. There are actually 1 or 2 other Spencers in town, but we don't cross paths with them very often. Most people, if they hear "Spencer", think of our son. I like that-especially since I grew up as one of the many, many Amy's in my class. I was always Amy B., or Little Amy, or Brownie.

When I was pregnant with Cooper, we had a list of names we were debating (I don't even remember the other names anymore), but I heard the name Cooper mentioned and I loved it immediately. Joe worked on a TV show at the time where Anderson Cooper was the host, and he thought he was a very cool guy, so Joe liked the name Cooper, as well. We agreed easily, and Cooper he became. We didn't know any other Coopers...but as soon as he was born, so many people said that they knew other Coopers...oh well...he is one of 2 Coopers in 1st grade at his school, but he is his own self, very independent. After we had Spencer and Cooper, we were asked a few times if we were big movie buffs-Spencer Tracy and Gary Cooper!

With Kendall, we already had that name in mind. We had planned for years that we would name our daughter Katie. However, I had a student one year (pre-kids) named Kendall, though she spelled it differently. She was adorable-feisty, fun, and full of spunk. The name fit her to a t-and we fell in love with the name! So, when I was pregnant with Kendall, and she was doing major gymnastics in my belly, it felt right. She is truly a Kendall-very spirited, feisty, and spunky. I can't imagine her a Katie (though I am sure if she was a Katie, I would say the same thing!). Her name has become more popular as well, but I think she can hold her own with the other Kendalls-my girl is no wallflower! Interestingly enough, Spencer has a friend in his 3rd grade class named Kendall and her brother is...Cooper! I guess great minds think alike! Hahaha!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Another Halloween it me or is time fah-lying?????
We celebrated by BOO-ing several families-one of our fav traditions! We buy cupcakes and candy, leave the treats at their door with a BOO sign, and doorbell ditch! We laughed so hard on some of them-it's the thrill of almost being caught!
Stephanie threw a big shindig-complete with a Haunted backyard-a whole maze to wind through.

We had a blast! The kids went through it over and over!

She knows how to throw a party! Thanks, Steph!
Then, Halloween night we trick-or-treated with the Adrian Family-another tradition-on our neighborhood.

We were joined by other friends, as well. The weather was great, the candy was yummy, and the lights were on! Even for a Monday night, it was happening out there! We had an alien, a gangster (Eminem) and a cowgirl this year. Mostly thrown together, frugal costumes...that's the best kind. The kids are already planning on what they'll be next year!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My honey

So this month, my online book club read a very interesting book called Lost Edens, about a woman in an abusive relationship-not physical, but emotionally abuse. It was an intriguing read for me since my own relationship is so different than hers. I couldn't understand her in many ways, but I understand that when you are in the situation, it seems different.
To be honest, I struggled over what to write-Jamie was so honest in her writing, but I couldn't think of anything that raw that I could write about (not to mention that the other members can be intimidating because they all write such polished pieces and are accomplished women, and I am sitting here typing out my ideas that always sound so much better in my head than when I actually get them down on the screen!).
In Lost Edens, author Jamie Patterson struggles to save her marriage which may or may not be already over. Keeping her attempts a secret from her family, she attempts to mold herself into the wife her husband wants her to be. As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read other members posts inspired by Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson on book club day, October 27 at From Left to Write. (Please do-the posts are fascinating! I love peeking into others' lives!)
However, as I read this book, I kept thinking how lucky I am in my relationship. My husband truly is my best friend, as well as my husband. We genuinely enjoy spending time together. He is a great Dad to our kids-they are so lucky to have him. We have known each other since we were 16 years old. I actually met him through his girlfriend at the time, a friend of mine. She graduated a year before me and went away to college, and I still saw him around our high school campus. We just clicked. We never had any trouble talking and would spend hours chatting away. And I was voted Most Shy in high school! Our last names were the same, so we started joking that one day we'd get married. In fact, the first time he brought me over to his parents' house, he introduced me as his future wife. I am sure his parents were a bit confused-who was this girl? We weren't even dating! I graduated and moved to southern California, but we kept in touch and saw each other on my school vacations when I came home. We had a core group of friends in common, and that kept us linked. We ended up kissing for the first time my freshman year winter vacation, but after mixed messages on both sides (I guess...), we ended up not speaking for almost a year. After we finally made up, we stayed close and when we started dating after I graduated from college, within one month, we knew that was it. We'd found our other half. We've been through a lot-moves, houses, apartments, jobs, hard times, good times, 3 sweet children, and 20 years after that first fateful kiss, we are still together, happily married for 11 years and looking forward to many more years together. Reading books like Jamie's makes me appreciate, once again, my luck in finding my Joe. I hope Jamie finds her other half (or maybe she has found him already! :-))

Sunday, October 16, 2011

And what's new with you....

I know I have some relatives that read this and would like updates on the kiddos...


Loving 3rd grade. Reading Harry Potter, doing great in math, finding a competitive edge in him, finished season 3 of Splashball (jr water polo). Loves drawing and creating-very creative. Making a movie with daddy about aliens (one of his obsessions). I think he's really into sci-fi! He ran for 3rd grade senator, but so many of his friends ran, that they "cancelled" each other out and someone else won (with not that many votes!). But we were proud of him-he had to write a speech and present it at an assembly.


Lost his first tooth and he was so excited! Enjoying first grade. I can tell you as his teacher, that things come very easily for him (especially math!). He is reading a lot now-trying to read everything. In the middle of soccer season, which he really isn't loving. Wants to try tennis next. Loves to fix things with daddy and is always found with his ipod (favs: Awolnation and Eminem!).

Miss Social Butterfly is loving school. She loves "reading" (reads to her dolls every night). Loves dolls, nail polish, shoes-anything girly! Helping Dad with cooking (mom likes to do it herself!). Doesn't like to sleep...last one to fall asleep at night. Sometimes it's just K and Dad up! Talking all the time...a real chatterbox! Likes to tease us-will say "I just kidding!"

Having a busy, but fun fall. We've been spending a lot of time in the Santa Cruz area, and we really like it over there. I could live there! Beach and culture!
Our family country project is coming along slowly...we've read a couple of books and put a huge wall map in the hallway. I found a German restaurant in the Santa Cruz area to try next time we go over there. I need to stay on top of it. Now that we don't have things going on almost night (soccer practice and splashball), I think I can schedule more family evenings. not that we don't spend every minute together as it is-we've been taking family walks when it gets dark. But I want to do more family meeting type evenings. Does anyone else do that?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Family *time*

Deborah Reed's debut novel Carry Yourself Back to Me follows heartbroken singer-songwriter Annie Walsh as she digs into the past to exonerate her brother from murder. As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read other members posts inspired by Carry Yourself Back to Me on book club day, October 4 at From Left to Write.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked the descriptions of Florida and reading about the family dynamics. However, what stood out to me and something I kept thinking about after closing the book was the fact that we never know what is going to happen in life. Annie lost her dad suddenly, and her fiancee left her without warning. I know we all have had things happen in life that we weren't prepared for or didn't want to happen. I lost my own father at the age of 4, and I've missed out on the chance to know him. Many times I wonder about the some of the character traits I have and wonder if he had them too. I don't even know things like his favorite color or what he liked to eat. That makes me sad.
I talked to a few of my friends about this topic as we celebrated a "Girls' Weekend" together in Monterey this past weekend. Ashley said that she thinks of the quote that you "need to live your life like each day could be your last" (paraphrased by me). So true. It makes me feel teary eyed thinking about that, but also encourages me to hug and kiss my kids and my husband Joe as much as I can. It makes me settle for a less than spotless home when instead, I could be hanging around with the family, chatting or playing board games. It makes me question some of the things I choose to do, things that take away from my family. I've tried to cut back on things that seem like time wasters, including TV. I found that I was spending tired evenings slumped in front of the TV, instead of spending quality time my Joe. It's so easy to sit there, mindless. Which brings to mind the quote about "on your deathbed, what regrets will you have-things you did or things you didn't do?" I don't want to have ANY when it comes to my family. What about you???

Friday, September 30, 2011

New * family* adventure

If I had more money, I would love to travel! I want to experience new cultures, strange countries, unique ways of living...I love reading books set in other countries. I've read so many about the Indian culture, that even though I've never been to India, I feel like I can picture it in my mind. So that being said, along with my love for geography and maps and Joe's curiosity about the world (not to mention brushing up on his geography skills), Joe and I have decided to implement a "Country a Month" activity with our family. For October, we are starting with Germany. I've checked books out of the library and been looking online for some ideas on teaching the kids about Germany. We plan to eat at a German restaurant in San Francisco, as well as talk to friends who are German. We also plan to watch movies set in Germany, listen to music, and so on. I am excited to try this! I'm putting up a map in the kitchen, so we can familiarize ourselves with Germany and its surrounding countries. Does anyone have any other ideas that we can try? We have not planned out our countries yet, so we are starting to go month by month. I want to touch on many different places around the world. I'm so excited! I hope my family enjoys this new adventure!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cleopatra & Amazing history

Lots of ideas came to mind while reading this month's book selection, Cleopatra: A Life by Stacey Schiff. As a member of the From Left to Write Book Club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read the other members posts inspired by this book on Sept. 27 here. I thought about writing about misconceptions in history (Cleopatra wasn't Egyptian!) or how real life makes for a good story (Cleopatra's life is full of very interesting stories...).
However, what I kept coming back to were the things the author mentioned that Cleopatra knew...way back in BC! Cleopatra knew the earth was round-she knew of the existence of the equator_that just blew my mind! This was B.C., people! Didn't we just "discover" this a few hundred years ago?? What happened-and why-did we have to learn this all over again? I was so impressed with the education of these ancient people. It's amazing (and sad) to me that so much knowledge was lost and had to be relearned. I'm wondering about our own future. What will be lost? What will my great-grandchildren know that I don't know or will they know less? We seem so advanced today, but in a way, so did the Egyptians and Romans of the day. Will another Dark Ages happen on earth?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Family Time

OK, so living here isn't our "ideal", as many of you have probably heard me say. Joe and I dream about moving back to LA again...we loved living there, but I will say that I am happy to be here for now for the main reason: FAMILY. I know we made the right decision to live here. I love seeing the kids connect and make memories with Grandparents, cousins, and aunts/uncles (though I wish MY sisters were closer...)

My sweet in-laws have a beach house in Aptos now (shared with 2 other families, one being my father-in-law's brother) and we got to have lots of cousin time last weekend. The kids had a blast! Playing, playing board games, throwing poppers, beach time, and more playing! We got to hang out with Joe's cousin Janell's kids, who we rarely see, as well as Tyler & Pana. The next day, the Gresham cousins came up (minus Maddie). FUN!

And the Grandparents...I love that the kids have "dates" with them, overnights, and just time away to be with Grandma or Grammy. Coop enjoyed his date today with Grammy!

I have such good memories of my Grandma growing up. I loved being at her house. I'm glad my kids get to make their own memories with their grandparents, too.