Lil Lemon Drop

Lil Lemon Drop
Happy Clothes for Happy Kids
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Friday, July 10, 2020

When Breath Becomes Air Book Review

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash


Biography and Autobiography is not a genre which I find attractive typically. When I picked up the book When Breath Becomes Air,  by Paul Kalanithi, after it was recommended in a Facebook book group, I found myself initially disappointed to see that it was an autobiographical book. However, it was fairly short, and I decided to give it a try. Within a few pages, I was hooked. The writing was interesting and the tone was one of a calm friend, explaining his world to me. I wanted to know this person.
 
This is an affiliate link. 

What interested me first was his casual dedication to excellence. The importance of a top-notch ivy league education to his family and the lengths his mother went to in order to ensure he was properly educated to be a competitive applicant to the top schools was fascinating. Honestly, it was a whole new mindset for me. All my life has been focused on reminding myself it was not a race-life was about experiences-prestige doesn't equal meaning. Suddenly, this person is earnestly talking about the importance of striving, and it was just--fascinating. My working class worldview couldn't help but be shook up a little. I found myself wondering how the mindset of his family and his friends was so different from mine. Are they just naturally more intelligent and thus striving towards excellence in their field is the only way of life they can fathom? Is it snobbery and keeping up with the Joneses-a life filled with achievements for bragging rights? Is it to build up a strong financial future so they can spend more time later working on wants rather than needs. I don't know. I was completely intrigued. My whole life was built around consoling myself that it is okay not to get what I desire because that isn't where meaning was to found anyway. To have someone so easily speak of achieving major accomplishments as if they were base expectations for life was just incredible.

The book itself is a heartbreaker. You will feel the wide open expanse of time as Paul briefly describes his childhood and feel the time cave in as he discusses his struggle with lung cancer. Paul struggled towards finding meaning and throughout the book, I found myself slightly unsatisfied. I kept waiting for that aha moment of illumination, when understanding of the purpose of life would shine on me, but it never came. His discussion of his childhood religion, and his belief that mercy trumps justice, left me feeling a bit in the dark. Of course, mercy trumps justice. Isn't that Jesus' point? Mercy and grace-giving people more than they deserve- are hopes we all cling to desperately as we feel life slipping away. But...why? Am I a sociopath in that I don't feel tremendously guilty about things? I feel bad when I hurt someone's feelings, particularly if it was intentional, but I don't writhe in my bed at night worrying about coming hell fires or even karmic vengeance. We are all just babies learning. My mother converted to Catholicism the year before she died. I struggle to understand this conversion. What had she done that was so bad she felt the need for someone to tell her God's grace was waiting. God's grace is all around us. God's grace is within us. We don't need Father Joe to tell us this-but maybe some do. Maybe some need that external validation that God loves them and will be merciful in light of their failings. It's a mindset I just don't struggle with. I've spent my share-precious few- less than two hands-of nights on the floor wrestling with the darkness and God's seeming absence. I've known what it is like not to feel another human's tender touch (besides my kids) for years, and finally broke down, staring at the carpet fibers as waves of darkness crashed over me. I've cried out in silent tears to God about the loneliness and despair of a world in which I just couldn't see or feel God's presence at all. But then, the loving arms of sleep would pull me in,  and in the morning I would rise once more.

But perhaps I am lucky. Perhaps my brain chemistry is just so that optimism is bound to peek around the corner even in the midst of the darkest thoughts.

And I started to feel that dark futility after I finished the book. For a brief moment, no matter how interesting and entertaining the book was, I wondered where Paul was. I wondered where the people I have lost are now. Are they there? Do they exist? My mom is deep within my cells-I am made of her. But Caleb? I can't feel him in my cells. I can't feel him around me. Is it because he takes me and goes out somewhere else? Does he feel me within him? If anyone has disappeared and ceased, it is him. And the darkness of death fell over me for just a moment or two. What happens when we die? Not the stories of old books, not the desires our heads have created, but what really, really happens? Is there this whole other existence, elsewhere? Is that the fairy tale we have created to make the days happier? Does the truth even matter? And then I pulled the sunshine out again. I will choose that which makes my soul sing. 

And the book was good.




Friday, July 3, 2020

Lesson Learned-Thanks Covid!

First of all, after an exhausting day, week, month, I just have to say-Covid 19 has been a real eye-opener. Most of the year, we go to work-I am usually gone before the family is up, because I like to get in and have everything lined out for the day, socialize a bit, and drink all the coffee.  After work I get home around the time my daughter brings my toddler/preschooler back and await the kids arrival from the bus. The big kids play out with the neighbor boys and there is screen time and inside play. I am usually very tired, and lament all the work I have to do, especially if my daughter watches my son (along with hers) at my house, because then I usually have to clean up from the day as well. 
Let's just say, being at home sounds like a dream. 

And it sort of was. Working at home was pretty good for me, because my daughter picked up all three kids for the morning while I did my work and then I picked them up around noon and we relaxed most of the afternoon. The bad part was, we could hardly get the kids to do schoolwork. It was a fight for my daughter and a fight for me on days I let them stay home. You would think even asking them to do 30 minutes of Dreambox (math) and Lexia (reading) was asking them to walk over hot coals for the duration of the time. It was miserable. 

When I got an online summer school job, it was more of the same. When I found out I would have two online jobs, I had to leave them at their sister's longer, but their schoolwork issues remained. They were becoming antintellectual. Working all day at home was MUCH harder than working three morning hours. I still had all the housework. I had all the driving. When I tried letting them stay home all the promises to not interrupt during my class meetings disappeared and suddenly they were bored and attention seeking right as I was trying to explain how to do the four operations on fractions. The worst was during my afternoon class when I was screensharing Tynker with a student and my son climbed on the easel. As I picked him up to get him down, the thin metallic whiteboard side of the easel literally ripped the top layer of skin back on his foot. There were bloodcurdling (sp??) screams and oh blood and grossness. I had to end my meeting (who knows what that poor kid thought) and tend a nasty cut (it's much better, but going to scar). 

On top of all this is lawless kids and way too much screen time. It's been bad. When sweet Gabe loses it, he loses it. Liam is always a challenge and 24/7 Liam would try a saint. Alec can be a messy little terror who delights in smearing peanut butter or toothpaste or even worse things all over everything. It's been hard. I am 46, guys. I am not the sweet patient momma of my twenties. 

So what's my point? 
I don't think I want to homeschool. All the times I thought I wanted to be at home homeschooling. Nope. At least not if I also have to work on top of it. It is too much. I don't want to homeschool unless my days were otherwise free and I have a firm grip on the time usage of electronics in my home. I can't. I just can't.

Now, if my kids were in school and I could just tend the house and just Alec alone. Fine. That's nothing. But this three kids, trying to educate, teach house, work, all of the above is just a whole heck of a lot. 

If we do have to return to online schooling, I want clear attendance hours required by the teachers. Make class meeting mandatory and take attendance. Be the bad guys so we tired mommas don't have to. 

That's all.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

A Day in the Life of an Online Summer School Teacher

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash



For the last quarter of the school year and for the month of June, I have been teaching online. I wanted to share a bit of what that looks like on a daily basis.

Rise and Shine!

5:05 a.m. My alarm goes off. I might get up. I might not. If I have K-cups or set up the coffee maker the night before, I am much more likely to get up. Let's assume I do get up.

I typically head downstairs and pour a cup of coffee, black please. Then I take my phone into the library (front "formal" livingroom). Depending on the day, I will either sit on the loveseat to listen to something inspirational on Simple Habit, or sit on the floor and begin stretching. It really depends on how tired I feel.
After listening and meditation/stretching for 10 minutes or so, I might decorate a room on Design Home or check up on Facebook to see if anything exciting happened overnight. 

Sometimes I am feeling the need to reach out to people, which I do by blogging about my feelings. Because what else draws people in like a big emotionally driven post about nothing, right? If I am under a lot of stress, I will pray or write in a private, handwritten prayer journal. It has more of the truth, but it is still censored-I mean, I am going to die someday and someone is going to read it.

If the weather is really nice I might sit out on the back deck and enjoy my second or third cup of coffee. 
Around seven, I put my contact (I only have one left) in, and do my makeup.

Work Begins

 As soon as my makeup is done and my hair is pulled back into a ponytail, I do my short daily video announcements for my students. I make conference meeting times and email those links out to my classes. My public school district uses Canvas and we supplement the learning with great educational games like Prodigy for Math. In addition, we are using Scratch and Tynker for my online coding class. 

Then I start getting the kids up and dressed. 
Usually I eat breakfast, I love a good fried egg, bread, and a cutie in the morning. 

Goodbye Kiddos!

 8:30 my oldest daughter comes and picks up the kids. During the spring, she had been watching them from about 8:00 to 11:30, but since the addition of my second class she is watches them from about 8:30 to 1:50. I hold my one oclock meeting then rush to get them and hurry back for the 2:00 meeting. 

Keep on working

I spend a lot of time going over the lessons the students have completed, calling and emailing parents whose child isn't attending or logging in, and grading lessons. I compile information from Prodigy and determine what my lesson will be like for the day. At 10 a.m. I hold a lesson for students who want extra time with a teacher.  
At 11:00, I have my regular class meeting. Often it is the same kids who showed up at the 10 a.m. meeting. We chat a little, go over the assignments, and everyone gets a chance to share if they want to talk. 

Not sure about the schedule just yet

After this meeting, I had been taking a break to get the kids, however, since my second class was added, I need to be ready for a class meeting at 1:00. So I eat lunch, prepare for the meeting, and then at one open the room. This class was late getting assigned to me and just started two days ago. Attendance is quite low, so I spend a lot of time, messaging and emailing parents to try and get them on board.
We talk about the lessons and I give them a chance to share. After that I close down the meeting room and rush to get my kids. At two I come back to prepare for the afternoon extra help meeting, which hasn't been attended yet. I think I may push that back to 2:30 and take my break from 2:00-2:30 from now on.

Step away from the computer. I repeat...

Around 3 or 4, I step away from the computer. If I don't have a headache, I call it a good day. 
Honestly, I love it. I wish the class meetings were attended more, but I love getting to know the kids and often the parents are there, too, and just the general feeling of pride in being entrusted with youngsters by the community. 

That Family Thing

Dinner for me is around 4. I am counting calories after a big slide over the spring, and usually starving. I generally chomp down some salmon or chicken breast and a bag of cooked broccoli. Yeah. I don't love it, but it does work, if I can avoid snacking.

I try to have dinner for the family ready around five. At this time, the boys are usually playing with neighbors, and Alec is going from my phone to out back, to sneaking out the front and running away if I let myself get preoccupied. 

Of course, I work again


Sometime later in the evening, I check my email and classes for messages and make sure I know how to do the work for the next day.

And I relax

 If my husband is in a good mood I might go out for a short drive to listen to music, center a little, and maybe let myself think about the things I need to think  about. Or I might take a long, hot bath, if I am really feeling extravagant. I climb into bed around nine, or as soon as Alec is in bed. Alec doesn't believe in going to bed when it is light out-and I get it. We are also training him to sleep with his door open now. Usually by 10:30, I have played my last Words with Friends games and I am tired. I will put the phone away, make sure my contact is out, teeth are brushed, face is washed, and small fan is on. Then it's sleepy time!

When do I shower? If my hair is dirty I will shower either in the evening or first thing in the morning. Otherwise I usually take baths. 

I realize there is little husband time in there. It usually depends on if we are into any TV shows. If we have an ongoing show, we spend a lot of time doing that. Right now we don't, so our interests are very different (he likes music and I like quietly reading). We sort of manage the kids and do our own thing. Sometimes, we do sit out on the deck or build a fire in the firepit in the yard, too. 

Obviously, I am doing laundry, handwashing dishes 2 or 3x a day, and spending time with the boys throughout the day, as well. I just don't have a set time for that.

Online Education Learning Opportunities

Personally, I love doing distance education. As a parent, I find it difficult to get my kids to do their own work, so I understand what some parents may face. However, for some of our kids learning online through educational portals and educational games with the support of a teachers is fantastic option. I would have loved the ability to do middle school at home. 

Welp. There you go. I think this may be the most boring thing I have ever written. But now you know!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

What I have been reading...

Having all this time is both a blessing and a curse, isn't? Those of us who are lucky enough to work and home aren't feeling the financial strain as badly, but there are still conflicting emotions to work through and face each day.

I will tell you this blog contains affiliate links from Amazon.

Sometimes I feel like this is just an extended weekend, and other times I feel like I have been living this forever.

First and foremost, getting paid to stay home with my family is my dream come true. However, it isn't quite like I had planned it. First of all, I do have at least a couple hours of paperwork, grading, and phone calls to do every day. As a special education high school teacher my grading load might be lighter, but IEP and evaluations still have to be completed one way or another, if possible. And it's all good. I love being home. What surprises me though, is how little energy I have left for my family. Someone told my husband, he was lucky, his wife was a teacher, as if teaching my own would somehow be easy. And the answer is, "Nope." If my first grader doesn't want to practice reading (and he is learning slowly) he will throw a pillow across the room, do a karate chop kick jump, while screaming, "No." My fourth grader lives to learn-but only what he wants to learn. Science facts and experiments. Anything else is a struggle. Which sucks, because he is going to need those math skills to advance far in science. Throw in a three-year-old (and folks, my kids have ENERGY, fire and vim (wonder where they get that)), and it makes for a long day.
So yes, I have everything I want temporarily, and no, it isn't quite as I had imagined.

But between working on work stuff, blog stuff, business stuff, and family stuff, I have been trying to read as much as possible. So here are my recents reads, affiliate links, and opinions!




The Career Code This book is subtitled Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish,and Self-Made Career, and includes 27 Life Hacks Every Woman Should Master!

Combining fashion and career advice, this book would be perfect for the new graduate just starting her career! I love fashion advice, and the career advice would have been useful to me years ago, before I made a bazillion mistakes, not understanding the cardinal rule, it's who you know, not what you know. Actually, I sort of suspected that, but couldn't figure how to get to know who you needed to know, you know? Introvert failings and all. It still was a fun book to read, and I highly recommend it to the 20-something gal.

In answer to that question how you get to know who you need to know, this next book just sort of has it.

Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities that Make Us Influential

It is so good. It really takes all the stuff your gut kind of knows, throws a little research behind it, and throws it back in your face in a palatable way.







This Kindle book is just fantastic. I am only about halfway through and I have learned so much. From explaining stereotypes and how they affect us all (it helps to be white, male, and attractive), to giving real advice on how to feel and exude more power, I am treasuring this book. This book acknowledges that some people have an advantage, but (so far) I am appreciative of the helpful advice that is given to those who aren't from a most privileged spot. The main idea of this book is that influence comes from both strength and warmth. It is important to have the right balance of strength (power to get things done) and warmth (overall likeability). This balance differs depending on who you are. Men can get away with exuding more strength, but women who show too much strength run the risk of being labelled a bitch and disregarded. Too much warmth though will have you disregarded as sweet, but ineffectual. It addresses how to get the balance right in order to  boost your level of influence.

Back in the fluff department I am flipping through

Parisian Chic Look Book: What Should I Wear Today?






I got this book from the library, but it is a book which simply BEGS to be owned. With its gold foild color and its fabulous color photos of classic pieces of clothing and how to put the pieces together for certain occasions including the ubiquitous "From Office to NightClub" all the way to "At the Courthouse for my Divorce,"  it will become a classic on your fashion/self help shelf for sure!

Now we get into my latest interest, Manifestation and The Law of Attraction. This is a whole new can of worms, which I plan to do more posts on, both bookwise and discuss my passions and conflicts with the light movement, but I have just worked through these books, so I wanted to add them here.

The Magic Path of Intuition




A quick and simple read, you will find yourself refreshed and hopeful after completing this read. The stories are simple and straightforward, and it makes for a nice read sitting in the backyard watching the kids play in the sunshine.

Liquid Luck: The Good Fortune Handbook



This kindle edition is fairly short, positive, and upbeat. It is all about recognizing with gratitude the abundance which already surrounds you. I am only about halfway through. Although I haven't found anything that can't be found elsewhere, if you want an introduction or referesher into abundant living, this book would be fun to read.


The Tapping Solution for Manifesting Your Greatest Self




So here is what I have discovered. At this point, tapping is not for me. Now I can throw my hands up, thumbs pointed toward myself with Gabby Bernstein on Youtube, but I can't quite bring myself to tap through my anxiety. It's NOT a BAD idea. In fact, I think for many people it might be a fantastic way to get control of anxiety so they can move from the shadow to the light. But my anxiety is highly caffeine driven and sitting still tapping my body isn't my thing right now. I will keep it in mind for when I become a little more peaceful and still.The OTHER information in the book is absolutely useful.


Fiction

Now on to fiction. I have managed to get a little fiction reading in!

In the Dark, Dark Wood

Now I read this book on the kindle app on myphone, but I think fiction is best tasted with paper.




At first I felt a bit of embarrassement reading this. I guess I am a bit of a book snob, and nothing here was calling out literary genius. But I got hooked on the book anyway, pulled in by average characters who just seemed kind of cool and trying to figure out whodunnit. I do think it was predictable, but just seeing how it all unfolded made for a lot of fun. I couldn't put it down!

In An Instant




This young adult book was not what I thought! I guess I didn't carefully read the summary first, but it took a turn fast, and I was along for the ride watching it all unfold. There were characters who angered me: those who were selfish, and those who were judgemental of the selfish people. I felt Mo's character was just a bit too perfect and idealized, but overall, the book had me caring about a tidy ending and truly loving the character Chloe. It was fun to watch this family, whose real balance lay in a strong mother, fight and struggle as they grieved and learned to love again.


If you are going Corono-Crazy or just want to try something outside your comfort zone, I recommend these books. Time is a blessing and let's make the most of it.

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