The Life of Bon: January 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bon's Book Club January: Wonder by R.J. Palacio


Every month we read a book.  On the selected day, we talk about it. (Generally the last Thursday of the month).  I will do my darndest to post questions ahead of time so that you can be thinking of possible discussion topics as you read.

Join in for whatever books you can.  I know you are all busy, and you might not be able to read all the books. (Or be interested in reading all the books!)  Read what you want and comment on what you want.  Some readers write their own review on their blog and then link up to it, others just write their thoughts in the comments- it's up to you!  If you write your own post and link up, please slap the image above on your post! Grazi!


+ What did you think of Palacio's style of point of view- switching up who was telling the story so often?  What did you like and not like about it?
+ Did you read The Julian chapters?  Did you like them?
+ Who was your favorite minor character? (Not Auggie)

+ What did Palacio do in telling this story to make it "real" for you?
+ How did Wonder affect you emotionally?

This month my book club co-host is Casie.  Here our Casie's thoughts on the book:

Thank you, Bonnie, for sharing this book discussion with me! I'm very honored to be "hanging" with you. 

It took me two days to read Wonder. The chapters are short, the print isn't tiny, and it gets you sucked in from the beginning instead of taking a while to build up the characters like most books do. I loved the simpleness of it and how it tugged my emotions. I really felt like I was hanging out with some kids who were telling me their story. One of my favorite parts was when August's sister's boyfriend stood up for August's friend, Jack, when a couple of boys teased him for being friends with a "deformed freak". Wonder is a great book, for children and adults, about what it's like to be a child and a friend, how how hard it is to be teased and judged based on your appearance, and sticking up for others. This kid, Auggie, made me laugh and cry. He reminded me to look past the appearance and into the person, and to be hopeful that others will do the same for me.  

My children will read Wonder when they're a bit older. I bought it for the book exchange my family does among the kids for Christmas- Ty is in 6th grade. I've recommended it to other mothers and single women. A story that reminds us to be caring is one everyone should read. 

And... here are my thoughts:

I didn't know that the book was told from so many different point of views until I finished Auggie's first section and the POV switched.  At first I was a little bugged, but I feel like Palacio did a really good job of this.  It gave extra depth and understanding to the book that we could see it from so many different perspectives.  I especially loved when it switched to the point of view of Via, Auggie's sister.  I had been so absorbed with everything Auggie experienced and then suddenly I was made aware of the struggles from the other side, too.  It was this ah-ha moment of Auggie is not the only one in the world with problems.  Makes me want to open my eyes more to those around me instead of being absorbed in my own problems.

My one issue I had with the point of views is that I felt like they were all still the same voice.  Auggie sounded just like Jack.  Via sounded just like Miranda.  I understand the difficulty of switching the voice for all the characters so I'm not too hung up on it, but I did notice.

One thing I loved about the book is that the whole time I was reading it I was bracing myself for the big, awful thing that was going to happen any minute.  The story is about a boy with a facial deformity going to school for the first time.  So I just waited and waited for the kids to do their terrible, cruel prank or whatever was going to happen.  And then when the book ended with everyone standing up for him and being nice to him, I was strangely overwhelmed.  There was no big "mean thing" that the kids did to him.  The book wasn't about kids being mean, it was about kids being nice.  I loved it.

I also really really loved the Julian chapters at the end.  I appreciated that Palacio tried to get us inside the head of the "villian" instead of keeping him just a one dimensional bad guy. (Although the voice for Julian drove me crazy!)  Julian's grandma was beautiful and again, I just loved the overall message of kindness and goodness that the book taught.  After reading the Julian chapters I was very interested in Julian's mom's perspective- now that would have been interesting.  Come on, Palacio, release more chapters!

Oh- I also loved the English teacher and all of his precepts.  English teachers are the bomb, aren't they?  My favorite one was "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind."

AND of course I loved the principal's speech at the end.  Some parts I highlighted-
"Shall we make a new rule of life... always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?  Because it's not enough to be kind.  One should be kinder than needed.  Why I love that line, that concept, is that it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness."

"Greatness lies not in being strong but in the right using of strength... He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts."

This book really stuck with me.  When I was nearing the end I started reading slower because I was trying to draw out the experience- that's how much I loved it.  It inspired me and continues to inspire me to choose kind.  In fact, the book was the basis for my New Year's resolution this year.

I can't wait to hear your thoughts!  Leave a comment or if you wrote your own review, link it up!  Both Casie and I will be responding to comments as well as reading your posts that you link up and responding to those.  Let's talk book!

February's book is My Story by Elizabeth Smart.  It is fascinating!  
I can't wait to talk about it with all of you.  
Email me at if you are interested in co-hosting book club for February.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Introducing Manila Bean!

Hi folks!

Meet one of my best friends in the whole world, Akasha.

Everyone say "Hi Akasha!"

This is Akasha and me when we lived in Hawaii when we were twenty years old.  Life was tough at twenty, wasn't it?  

Akasha might be the sweetest, most genuine person I have ever met.  I love her a million times over.  

Turns out along with being one of the kindest people I know, Akasha is also extremely talented and motivated.  She and her sister, Kalista, have poured their hearts and souls into a new business venture the past few months.  Kalista lives in the Phillipines (Do I capitalize the?!?) and through their business they are providing work for countless Filipino people as well as giving back to the country and the people in it.  They are generous and smart and talented and one day I just know I'm going to see them on Shark Tank.  Here's Akasha to explain it all.
Hey everyone!
Bonnie is one of my life-long best friends, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity to share a little about my business today! 
Manila Bean is a philanthropy centered company that sells hand-crafted products from native artisans in the Philippines. We believe in preserving the rich culture of Philippine hand-woven textiles, and enabling Filipino artisans to continue their craft. Our Django moccasins and shoes were designed by Antonio "Django" Valmores in 1992, and are made on the beautiful island of Boracay. 
They are 100% genuine leather, and the shoes are made with recycled airplane tires- making them Eco-friendly, stylish, and unique. Check out our site here and follow us on instagram (@manilabean) to learn more about life in the Philippines, new products, and how we give back! 
(And don't forget to use coupon code bon20 for 20% off our Django shoes valid through Feb 2nd!) 

And because Akasha is so sweet, she sent June a pair to try out.  We're kind of in love.  Here's June, doing here baby modeling business.  Get your own pair here and don't forget to use the discount!  (Also, I swear, June LOVES it when I dress her up and take pictures of her.  She's an odd duck.)

(Disclaimer:  The shoes on June are a bit big because I want her to be able to wear them mainly in spring and summer.  If you order your child's correct size, the shoes will be snugger than the ones in the pictures.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Let's get ready to Wonder!

See what I did there?

The first 2015 meeting for Bon's Book Club is on Thursday, yo!  Today's Tuesday.  That means you've got two days to finish the book.  If you haven't started yet, don't sweat it!  It's a super fast read.  Give yourself a couple of hours one night and you're golden.  You won't regret reading it- it was my favorite book that I read in 2014. (P.S.  You should definitely read the section that came out later- the Julian chapters.  They really bring the whole book together.)

Just a quick recap of how this is going to go down.  Read the book. Come to this blog on Thursday to read my and Casie's thoughts on this. (Casie=this month's co-host.)  Add your own thoughts.  Answer the questions below if you feel so inclined.  Write your own post and link it up if you feel so inclined.

 Here's the questions!  These are for you to think about and answer on Thursday.  Not today!

+ What did you think of Palacio's style of point of view- switching up who was telling the story so often?  What did you like and not like about it?
+ Did you read The Julian chapters?  Did you like them?
+ Favorite minor character? (Not Auggie)
+ What did Palacio do in telling this story to make it "real" for you?
+ How did Wonder affect you emotionally?

Annnnnnnd some other non book related stuff for your Tuesday pleasure:
+ I am getting ready for February's advertising options.  Let me know if you are interested in a boost or a Saturday takeover.  Details can be found here.

+ If you are a "my house always smells good" kind of gal, there's tons of stuff on sell in the scentsy world.  Click here for warmers, waxes, body washes that are all being closed out and ON SELL.  (And if you do buy, please order through the February party because you are awesome.)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

My French daughter had a birthday!

It has been two months since Agathe has joined our family and lived in our home.  Thursday she celebrated her birthday.  Seventeen!  What an accomplishment!  I still remember when I turned seventeen.  I waited until it was exactly midnight and then I made my then twelve year old sister run out into the backyard with me and yell “I’m seventeen!”  Even though she was only twelve. (I was a very bossy older sister, let the record show.)  Then I started singing “Seveteen” by Tim McGraw.  My dad yelled out his bedroom window.  I thought he has going to yell at me to shut up, but instead he yelled “Happy Birthday Bopper!”  Seventeen felt pretty good.

And now I have my very own seventeen year old living in my house with me! In the flesh! What is it like? What is it like? People ask me all the livelong day.

The short answer is it’s kind of weird.  Because yesterday I was seventeen and now I am responsible for someone who is seventeen and, wow, life flips on you fast, doesn’t it?

It is weird in the same way that it’s weird when a six foot four inch tall, 300 pound football player asks me if he can go to the bathroom.  Yes, of course you can go to the bathroom and why in the world would you come and ask me, some short blonde, if you can go pee?

Oh, right.  Because I’m you’re teacher.  But still.  Stop asking me to go to the bathroom, you’re a grown man, for crying out loud.

That’s the kind of weird it is.  Like when Agathe asks me if it’s alright if she goes for a run now.  Or she’s thinking about going out with friends on Friday, is that okay with me?  And Tuesday she has a foreign exchange meeting at the library at seven, just so I know.  And I’m like what the heck?  Why are you telling me this?  Why are you asking me if you can hang with friends?  Do what you want!  Be free, bird, be free!  And then I remember that she’s seventeen.

It’s weird for me to be a “mom” in this way- a totally different way that I am a “mom” to June.  Being a mom to June is easy.  I feed her, I make sure she sleeps, I dress her warm.  I’m responsible for big things, like her not rolling down the stairs.  Being a mom to Agathe is so much more complicated, though.  Should I let her stay out this late?  Is she making good choices? Is she happy?  Is she making friends? Is she going to have a date to prom?  Does she feel comfortable in our home?  Does she feel loved?  

Hard as it may be to "raise" a teenager, though, Agathe is certainly the easiest teen in the bunch.  She's responsible, mature, and remembers things that I definitely forgot at her age.  She helps with chores every day, always offers to lend a hand when making dinner or doing dishes.  She laughs easily, especially when Greg and I tease her about language gaps. ("I had a big think" she declares and then we laugh and she laughs, and we say we understand because I lived in Argentina and Greg lived in Russia and learning a new language is seriously the hardest.)  She runs five miles almost every day and likes to watch shows like "Selfie" and "Switched at Birth."  I try to give her crap but she reminds me of my "Teen Mom" addiction and I shut up.  She says she doesn't miss home, but then when she gets a package from France she brushes back tears.  She's down for anything and always offers to accompany me on my ever exciting trips to the grocery store or post office.  She adores June.  We are so blessed to have her in our home.

For Agathe's birthday I told her I would make her any dinner in the world.  She thought about it for a day and then told me she would like "salmon and pasta."  Salmon and pasta?  Who's ever heard of such a combination? I asked if it were a certain recipe and she said no, she would just like some salmon and also some pasta please.  So, I did some research a la the internet and came up with a salmon leek white wine creme fraiche diddy.  And it was good.

Now, pictures.

Joyeux Anniversaire Agathe!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The best chocolate chip cookie recipe EVER

 I have searched high and low in my life for a chocolate chip cookie recipe that would satisfy all my needs for a chocolate chip cookie.  Sweet, soft, fluffy, and extra chocolatey.  And for awhile I thought I was doomed at making cookies and to just abandon all hope because they never turned out.  They were burnt or the chocolate was no bueno or they were flat.  Nine times out of time they were flat.  I googled all sorts of ways to unflatten your cookies but nothing worked. And google told me unflatten isn't a word.

So I gave up.  I'd never learn to make a perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Then I went to visit my friend, Kristen.  Kristen's an old college roomie of mine and she makes parenting look like a day at the spa.  Also, whenever I go to visit Kristen she offers me a diet coke when I arrive and when I leave and, by golly, that's my kind of friend!

Last time when I was over she really outdid herself and offered me cookies to boot.  I ate three while sitting on her couch and then she sent me home with a whole plate full of them.  

I ate them all that night.  Twas the best chocolate chip cookie I had ever had!

Naturally, I demanded the recipe.  She texted it to me.  I was happy.  But still doubtful.  I have tried lots of yummy cookies, but when I try to make them they never turn out.  But this one turned out!  More than turned out, I hit a home run!  That's right, chicas, even I couldn't mess up this chocolate chip cookie recipe. 

I have now made these cookies once or twice a week for the past six weeks.  It's getting kind of gross.  But also kind of awesome.  And now, without further ado, the sweetest, softest cookie you ever did eat, via my college roommate, Kristen.  She is a domestic goddess. 

2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 bag Guittard milk chocolate chips.

Bake for ten minutes (and only ten minutes!) at 350 degrees.

(IMPORTANT THINGS:  Details matter!  Use BUTTER not margarine.  Use OLD FASHIONED OATS not quick oats.  Use GUITTARD milk chocolate chips because that is what really really puts these cookies in a league of their own.)

You're welcome.

After you have eaten these cookies and declared them the best cookies you ever did eat please send me an email and let me know.  I will forward it on to Kristen so we can truly know that good we are doing in this world.


+ Loved this blogger's way of doing resolutions this year- it's all about "growth".

+ My heart broke when I read a four time teacher of the year  from Virginia explaining why he is leaving the classroom.  Some of his biggest reasons are too many hoops, obsession with flawed assessments, and unfair compensation for educators.  On "hoops":  "Every year, our district invents new goals, measuring sticks, time-consuming documentation, modified schedules, and evaluations.  As a district, we pretend these are strategic adjustments. They are not. The growth calculator was essentially brought forward out of thin air, SMART goals are a weak attempt to prove we’re actually doing something in the classroom, etc. Bad teachers can game any system; good teachers can lose their focus trying to take new requirements seriously."

+ My favorite article I read this week was shared by a college professor of mine on facebook; 10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Incredibly Happy.  (Hint:  Plan a trip!  Even if you don't go on it.)

+ And THIS chart proves it's never too late to publish your first novel.  Tay Tay, this one's for you.

Monday, January 19, 2015


I'm on an Amy Poehler kick. I pretty much love her.  Greg and I started watching Parks and Rec about a month ago.  We struggled through a painful first season, and were rewarded with an amazing second and third season.  We're loving it.  Two episodes every night in bed with the ipad- the perfect ending to our day!

Since falling in love with Park and Rec, I've been dabbling a bit in Poehler's new book, Yes, Please. (Dabbling:  when I can't find a book at a library and I'm too cheap to buy it so read the sample on my nook a bunch of times.) She says this thing (in the sample of my nook) that really hit me hard.  She talks about how difficult it is to write a book and she says that the doing it is the thing.  The thinking about it, the talking about it, the dreaming about it is not the thing.  The doing it is the thing.

Simple.  But profound.  Ah, Amy Poehler, you genius, you!

It's kind of got me all jazzed up to start, well, doing things.  Lately my house has been really clean.  Which is actually kind of totally a bad sign.  It means one of two things is happening- 1) I am super stressed and am dealing with my stress by constantly cleaning or 2) There are other more important, harder things I should be doing but I keep procrastinating them by telling myself I need to clean the house.  Kind of like when I used to have to study for finals but instead I deep cleaned and organized the cupboard under my bathroom sink.  YEP.  Kinda like thaaaaaaat.

My current house-is-always-clean state actually  means both of the above things.  I'm super stressed AND there are other more important things I should be doing.  Yippee!  Two in one!

Why am I stressed?  Easy.  I'm stressed because I used to only be in charge of myself and occasionally a husband.  Now I'm in charge of myself and a baby and a French teenager and a dog.  And occasionally a husband.  It's a lot of change all at once.  Hence, stress cleaning.

The cleaning-because-of-other-more-important things can be blamed on the following important things I need to do.  Not think about.  DO.

- Organize and decorate June's nursery.  Yah.  She's six months old.  And her nursery is still not complete.  But when I think about it I just decide to go downstairs and unload the dishwasher instead.  So much easier.
- Apply for blogging campaigns.  Because that's the way I get paid to justify the time I put in to writing posts like these ones.
- Finish writing thank you cards for June.  See point #1.  She's six months old.  Gosh, I'm behiiiiiiiind.

Ah, the cursed book.  Writing a book is for sure the thing that I am most not doing that I most should be doing.  It's so easy to put off something like writing a book.  There is always a more pressing need.  A book does not press. A book sits.  I suspect most people who want to write books put it off their entire lives.  You can't put off doing dishes your entire life, you know?  Last year I wrote 60,000 words of the book I've been dreaming of for 3+ years, but it needs major major revisions.  (Revisions:  Rewrite the book completely).  I started writing the first chapter for the umpteenth time last week and I feel like I'm finally there, but it's going at a snail's pace.  I want to get it right this time instead of write 100 pages and then realize it's all wrong.  Every day I think about it and every time I don't write it.  I think I think that if I think about it I'm doing it.  (Wow!  Did you follow THAT sentence?)  So from now on I am not thinking about it anymore.  I'm doing it.  Because the doing it is the thing.  Thanks, Leslie Knope.

In other news.  I went to the aquarium with my family today.  We all had the day off of school which is kinda like yipppeeeee no school!  But it's also kinda like five people stuck inside together all day in freezing cold January booooooooooo.  So we paid $17 a pop to see some fish.  It was actually awesome except for that it seems that the rest of Utah had the same idea we had, and you could barely move without bumping into some teenager trying to snapchat a picture of a seahorse. Twas awful. I took my camera and my new lens and got a bunch of blurry, far away photos.  Yea for new lenses!  Question mark?

Look!  Blurry aquarium pictures!

Welp.  That's a wrap.  Time to go do that thing.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Six month update- Why do they grow so fast?

six month appointment:

weight: 12 lbs 7.5 oz
length: 25.4 in
weight percentile: 5%
length percentile: 29%


four month appointment:

weight: 10 lbs 5.5 oz
length: 23.25 in
weight percentile: 1%
length percentile: 6%


two month appointment:

weight: 8 lbs 5 oz
length 21.25 in
weight percentile: 1%


two week appointment

weight:  5 lbs 15 oz
length: 20.5 in
weight percentile: 1%


One thing I never ever suspected about having kids is how terrifyingly fast it goes.  I guess I thought that once I started having kids I was going to be stuck at home with them for the rest of my life, and now I'm trying to figure out how I make this stage last as long as possible.  How has June already been alive half a year?  This cannot be!  I just barely had her!  How dare she already know how to hold her head up and smile and laugh and hold onto objects all by herself?  It's absurd!  And terribly rude!  She's supposed to be a newborn, with no idea how to do anything without my help.  Yesterday I put away a box of June's newborn clothes, and I had to try my hardest to not cry as I folded up every little pair of pants, every miniature onesie.  Her little premie outfits especially did me in.  How was it that my baby was ever small and why does she have to change so fast?

This week someone I follow on instagram described watching your children grow as "heartbreaking".  (Also, how sad is it that I am getting my words of wisdom from instagram?  Note to self:  Put down the phone.  Pick up a book.)  I have felt kinda bummed with every pound June has gained, but couldn't quite figure out exactly what I was feeling or why.  Until I saw that word to describe it.  Heartbreaking.  Heartbreaking when June grows an inch or starts eating rice cereal or grows out of her 3 month jammies.  Because why does it have to go so fast?  And because you can't go back to a stage once it's over.  And how does anybody ever have more than one kid without their heart being broken to pieces a million times over?

I hope I am not sounding incredibly ungrateful.  Of course I am so happy when June progresses the way she is supposed to.  I am grateful beyond measure for a healthy, happy baby.

But why can't she stay my healthy, happy baby forever?

Last night June was sitting on Greg's lap and he was reading her the Shel Silverstein book that we got her for Christmas.  And, gosh, she was just so darn attentive.  She stared and stared as he read her poems- like she understood them all and knew exactly what was going on.  I couldn't help but look at her and look at him and wonder how long she will be able to sit on his lap for.  Because I can remember sitting on my own daddy's lap.  I'd climb up there and he'd read me the Sunday comics, and I don't remember any of the comics but I remember feeling loved and protected.  But I can't sit on his lap anymore and one day June won't be able to sit on her daddy's lap anymore.  And, gosh, my heart is just so heavy with happiness and heartache and gratitude and grief all at the same time.

I think a lot about what heaven might be like.  

Maybe it's my babies never growing up?

Reading books with the bug last night.

A picture I found on my phone of me and two week old June.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What We Did in Class + What I Wore

Original post idea taken from Elizabeth.

Jacket: Banana Republic// Dress: Old Navy// Tights: Target// Boots: Shoemint

Going back to school after Christmas break sucks, trust me, it really does.  After two weeks of no-school-heaven there is not a teacher in the world who wants to wake up in the pitch black 20 degree weather and drag her butt to school.


There is something to love about teaching after Christmas.

You see, something happens to the students over Christmas break.  I can never quite figure out why or how, but Christmas break is a turning point in the year.  Before Christmas it's an endless cycle of power struggle, enforce rules, discipline, procedure until we all want to cry.  Battle battle battle.  And then after Christmas we come back and we're all just a little softer, you know.  More chill.  I feel like somehow during the break we all realize that we're playing on the same team.  We have the same goals- enjoy school, learn something, pass the class.  I no longer put up my defenses against any kid who dares question my rules.  And the kids no longer fight the cell phone policy or wear their hats in class.  We all just kind of give it up and decide to get along.  The kids believe me when I say that I am giving them a practice ACT for their own benefit, not for my own twisted amusement.  I, in turn, believe them when they say they were late because of a flat tire, not because they were intentionally trying to ditch my class and piss me off.

This year I am teaching three junior classes.  It is an ideal set up.  This is my fifth year teaching juniors so the lesson planning is a cake walk.  A little tweak here, a copy here and my lessons are ready.  Furthermore, I really really enjoy teaching juniors.  I love the junior core (American literature!), and juniors are just at such a great age.  Not bored like the seniors, not clueless like the sophomores.  Give me juniors until the day I die!

Oh- and another thing that makes after-Christmas-teaching so awesome is that the second half of the junior curriculum is so much more fun to teach than the second half.  We knock out my not so favorite books by December (The Crucible, Scarlet Letter, excerpts of Huck Finn) and do the books I really love the second semester (The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, The Things They Carried).  The freezing cold temps and black mornings may not help me out of bed in the morning, but the excitement of teaching material I love does.  Teaching from January until May is a freaking dream, I tell you.

And now, what we did in class:

LAST WEEK we finished up our unit on transcendentalism.  I get a little bored of teaching just about transcendentalism so I threw in some other American poets.  The ones I feel like I for sure have to cover are Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Henry David Thoreau.  Then, to spice it up a bit, I go over other American favorites:  Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, ee cummings, William Carlos Williams, and Shel Silverstein.  The kids surprisingly dig it.  Mostly because poets are weird.  Williams proposed to his wife only after the older sister said no.  Emily Dickinson lived in total isolation.  Poe married his 13 year old cousin.  Plath stuck her head in an oven.  See?  Poets be craaaaaaaazy!

THIS WEEK the kids tested on their poets and poetry terms (Onomatopoeia!  Metaphor! Alliteration!) and handed in four poems they wrote themselves, using poems by our poets as examples.  They had to do a children's poem in the style of Shel Silverstein, a "Song of Myself" in the style of Walt Whitman, etc.  They hate me when I assign the poems, but then somehow stoked out of their minds when they turn them in to me.  Poetry will do that to you!

TODAY we started The Great Gatsby.  I do not know what it is about this book that has a hold on me.  It's not my favorite book ever written, but it is my favorite book ever to teach.  Fitzgerald just lays the groundwork so well and then, oh boy, kids, get ready because the shiz is gonna hit the fan!  Oh, and just wait until you see how it ends!  You'll never see it coming!  I can't help myself.  I just get so stinking excited about teaching this book every dang time I teach it.

Also, Fitzgerald, I mean, sheesh.  That man can craft a sentence.  How about this one:  "Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men."   FOUL DUST THAT FLOATED IN THE WAKE OF HIS DREAMS?  It's like poetry!  Except even better than poetry.  Every time I read The Great Gatsby (which is once a year) I catch layers and meanings and symbols that I never saw before.   

To introduce our Gatsby unit today, I had students choose what their "American Dream" was.  Then they had to move to a sign in the room that had the word that corresponded the closest with their dream.  The signs read Family, Beauty, Fame, Power, Money, and Career.  Most students choose family.  It's funny, though, because when I asked them what the average American would say is their "American Dream" they all went to the money sign.  So everyone else in America is obsessed with money except for the students in my English classes who somehow are wiser and smarter than the average American and know the true importance of family?  Or maybe they misjudged themselves?  Or misjudged the rest of America?

I also showed a short clip done by A&E about Fitzgerald's life.  Usually I don't bother too much with authors personal lives but with Fitzy I feel like it's essential.  Everything about his personal life carries over into his writing, you know?

The next few weeks we will busy with Gatsby with some thrown in prep for the writing portion of the SAGE (We take it the second week of February.)  Oh, and then of course we'll be prepping for the good old ACT which is going down on March 3.  It's such a busy, fun time to be in the classroom.

And now, to bed!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Blog Book Club 2015

I present to you, the 2015 reading schedule for our Blogging Book Club:

January 29  Wonder by R.J. Palacio
February 26  My Story by Elizabeth Smart
March 26  Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
April 30  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
May 28  Interpreters of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
June 25  Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
July 30 Wild by Cheryl Strayed
August 27 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
September 24 The Happiness Project or Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
October 29 And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Two choices carried over from last year (Wonder and My Story) and we cut out November and December this year meaning that we needed to choose eight books together.  Six of the choices were based on your votes- Yes, Please got the most votes followed by Unbroken and Dark Places.  Wild, All the Light We Cannot See and And Then There Were None rounded out the top six.

I let myself choose the last two remaining books.  Last year's book club had more than a few books I didn't really enjoy so I figured I'd hand select a couple this year.  For May I chose one of my favorite collections of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, and for September I chose Happier at Home (or The Happiness Project if you haven't read that yet.)

I am totally stoked for our reading this year.  I think we have really chosen some awesome books and a good variety.  Just a quick reminder how it works--  Read the book.  Come to my blog to read the discussion on the book and see what I and other book club members have to say.  Post your own thoughts.  Link up your own post about the book if you wrote a post for the book.  Visit other posts about the book.  Feel yourself becoming more intelligent.  See?  It's easy!

(Also, you never have to commit to reading every book for book club.  You can join one month and drop the next.  It's fine!  Just hop in on whatever books you are interested in.)

This year I will have guest "hosts" for book club.  We will both share our thoughts on both of our blogs.  It's a great way to get traffic for your blog and a great way for me to get the word out about book club. Win/win my friends! If you are interested in co-hosting book club please email me at and let me know which month/book you are most interested in.

Oh, and if you haven't read Wonder yet, get working on that!  We will discuss that on the blog on January 29.  (Book club will always be the last Thursday of the month.)

And now, a short summary of each book we will be reading so you can get all jazzed up for book club this year.  I am so excited to get started.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio, 4.42 Goodreads rating

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?

Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, WONDER is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

My Story by Elizabeth Smart, Chris Stewart, 3.72 Goodreads rating

On June 5, 2002,  fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.

Now for the first time, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving.  Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, 3.85 Goodreads rating

In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, 4.44 Goodreads rating

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, 4.10 Goodreads rating

Some of these nine tales are set in India, others in the United States, and most concern characters of Indian heritage. Yet the situations Lahiri's people face, from unhappy marriages to civil war, transcend ethnicity. As the narrator of the last story, "The Third and Final Continent," comments: "There are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept." In that single line Jhumpa Lahiri sums up a universal experience, one that applies to all who have grown up, left home, fallen in or out of love, and, above all, experienced what it means to be a foreigner, even within one's own family

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, 3.90 Goodreads Rating

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she had been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben's innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother's? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realize that everyone in her family had something to hide that day... especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed, 3.92 Goodreads rating

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.

Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, 4.23 Goodreads rating

All the Light We Cannot See--while set mostly in Germany and France before and during the war--is not really a “war novel”. Yes, there is fear and fighting and disappearance and death, but the author’s focus is on the interior lives of his two characters. Marie Laure is a blind 14-year-old French girl who flees to the countryside when her father disappears from Nazi-occupied Paris. Werner is a gadget-obsessed German orphan whose skills admit him to a brutal branch of Hitler Youth. Never mind that their paths don’t cross until very late in the novel, this is not a book you read for plot (although there is a wonderful, mysterious subplot about a stolen gem). This is a book you read for the beauty of Doerr’s writing-- “Abyss in her gut, desert in her throat, Marie-Laure takes one of the cans of food…”--and for the way he understands and cherishes the magical obsessions of childhood. Marie Laure and Werner are never quaint or twee. Instead they are powerful examples of the way average people in trying times must decide daily between morality and survival

The Happiness Project or Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, 3.52 Goodreads rating, 3.44 Goodreads rating

Starting in September, Rubin dedicated a school year—September through May—to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love. 
In The Happiness Project, she worked out general theories of happiness. In Happier at Home she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. How can she control the cubicle in her pocket? How might she spotlight her family’s treasured possessions? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.
Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions—and this time, she coaxes her family to try some resolutions, as well.  

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, 4.20 Goodreads rating

The world’s bestselling mystery, in which ten strangers, each with a dark secret, are lured to a mansion on an uninhabited island and killed off one by one.