Sunday, April 27, 2014


The end of the year has a way of racing toward me like a speeding train.  February drudges on and the year seems interminable.  Then I suddenly find myself in a dead sprint to the end. I'm in my ninth year of teaching. I should have figured out a manageable pace by now, but I haven't.

There are times of year when you can almost hear the growth.  If you strain, you can almost hear the sound of buds opening, of shoots poking through dirt…  Oliver seems to have sprouted into a new version of himself almost overnight.  And my seniors… My sweet seniors…  They, too, are growing.  They are in the same boat.  They thought high school would never end. Now it's here.  They've become grown ups (almost) in a matter of moments.

I wanted to help them mark it and, at the same time, to help them see the work we've done over the course of the year holds meaning--it provides answers in a way maybe they didn't see it could.  As a culminating project, I offered them the opportunity to complete a bildungsroman project.  A bildungsroman is a coming-of-age story--one that marks the development from childhood to adulthood in some significant way.

A few years ago, I made a bildungsroman cd of music that contributed to the person I am today and I invited students to do the same. I've expanded on it this year and have tied it to a writing assignment. I told students that it needed to be their very best work--it should serve as a testament to the writers and thinkers they are.  Already I've received 4 beautiful, poetic, and insightful essays and playlists that offer a glimpse into the lives of my students. They seem to be taking it really seriously.  The end of a high school career is filled to the brim (if I remember correctly) with emotion.  I think of Joyce Carol Oates' short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" While hers is a dark story, it begs the question.  If ever there was a time that warrants reflection, this is it.

I do think about that… I've chosen a career that bestows years upon years of freshly sharpened pencils, clean notebook pages waiting to be filled, and the scent of freshly waxed floors--an opportunity to begin anew. And I've been gifted with an equal number of springs--of the shedding of a year's skin; the gift of a natural season of reflection, of pledges to do more--to do better, to reassess…  But the spring, too, will perpetually be a year of heartbreak.

To teach--to truly know one's students--a relationship must be forged.  Teaching seniors is likely good practice for watching/letting my own children flee the nest.  It comes with a mix of pride, of joy, of fear, of sadness…  Many won't come back--they're all too eager to explore and grow, to create an identity that is theirs alone.  Others need a nudge.  Some fly off, heads turned, looking back.  We can only hope to impart some of our own knowledge--some of our lessons learned. To offer encouragement in whatever form they may need. And in their final writing assignment, I share Frost's wisdom: "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader."  Everyone has a story to tell.  They get to choose how it will impact the listener.

So these are a few of the things I've been thinking about…  And, in case you're interested, here's the link to my bildungsroman playlist: (If you don't have a Spotify account, you'll need to create one to listen.)

I'm grateful for the opportunity to teach.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn and reflect. I'm grateful for the opportunity to build relationships, to meet young people at such an incredible and important point in their development, and to have the opportunity to watch them grow and forge their own path.  The letting go is hard--it always will be--but there's an undeniable beauty in it too.  In however small a way, I got to be a part of my students' lives, a part of their story, in just the same way they are a part of mine. And in that way, pieces of our story--theirs and mine--will always share common ground.  And I'm lucky to have been a part of it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What I Wanted to Say...

Tonight we visited with Oliver's preschool teacher about his progress.  I know I've said it before, but I have become an infinitely better teacher since I've been a parent.  It's easy to talk about data.  It's easy to talk about what a student can and cannot do.  It's easy to point to a student's skill breakdown on a chart.  None of these are the reasons parents come to conferences.

Parents attend conferences to hear anecdotes about their children.  Parents attend conferences to learn about their child.  Parents attend conferences to catch a glimpse of who their child is in their absence.  Parents attend conferences to celebrate their children.

Oliver's in preschool. We met with his teacher and I learned this: 1) Oliver has an outstanding vocabulary 2) Oliver says he loves school 3) Oliver is slow to master fine motor skills, especially as it pertains to drawing pictures of himself and the spacing between the letters in his name 4) Oliver knows all of his letters and their sounds (with the exception of both sounds for A and E) 5) Oliver knows all of his shapes and colors 6) Oliver can count to 25 7) Oliver sometimes struggles to verbalize his feelings 8) Oliver should repeat preschool.

I have so many emotions about this.  Obviously, I want to do what's best for my kid.  If his teacher suggests that he may need to repeat preschool, of course I'll take this into consideration.  However, I look back at that "data." Oliver has met all of the skill requirements for preschool, but because he doesn't always verbalize his feelings, because sometimes he cries instead of using his words, because he draws only a head and legs, because Oliver subscribes to a Courier-style font (replete with pregnant spaces), because Oliver is a boy with a summer birthday, his teacher encourages him to repeat preschool.

I guess the part that kills me is that the woman didn't say a damn thing about my kid. She told me what he can do and what he can't do, but she didn't even remotely suggest that she knew him on even a superficial plane.  If she did, she would have told me that he is kind.  She would have told me that he is funny.  She would have told me that he is creative.  She would have told me that he is perceptive and aware--that he seeks out those who are sad and tries to cheer them up.  She would have told me that his favorite color used to be orange, but when he showed up to preschool and found out that no one else liked orange, he decided that blue is his favorite color.  If she knew him, she would have told me about how his eyes squint and turn to a beautiful shade of blue while a smirk spreads across his face when he thinks of something he really loves and that he nods his head just a little.  If she knew him, she would have been able to tell me something about him.

But she didn't.

She gave me numbers. She gave me data points. She gave me percentages. She gave me cold, hard figures.

Maybe it's just my natural ineptitude with math, but I'm pretty sure this isn't the information parents show up to receive.  As a teacher, it reaffirms how important it is to push the time on my 10 minute conferences.  Each parent has arrived to hear about their kid.  Not what he can do, but who he is.

I know I can't control other people. I know it's probably not worth it to email her and tell her that she sent us home deflated and discouraged, that she sent us home upset... It's a fine line to know what we can't teach...

But I can take it as a lesson for myself. I can be reminded -- as I head into conferences -- about the importance of celebrating and speaking to the individual, not just what a test reveals.  I can be reminded that I'm talking about someone's baby, not just some kid.  I can be reminded of what I want to hear as a parent...

I cannot change others, but I can be reminded of the most important pieces of education. And it's not the score.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Eliot Got It Wrong: Ruminations on February

T.S. Eliot's opening line of "The Wasteland" drifts into my mind more often than I'd like to admit (maybe I have a penchant for gloominess):

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

I've always thought maybe he got it wrong--I mean, obviously April works on a series of levels in the poem, but April's always felt like a light at the end of a tunnel.  I'm longing for April!

February is the cruelest month, despite the fact that it's short.  It's inconsistent, it's dreary, it's slushy, it's dirty (the snow has lost it's appeal, no longer a welcome novelty or pristine, but marred with sand, gravel, salt...). It feels like a month we must toil through, especially in the classroom.  Kids feel the assault of this cruelest of months too.  February is just hard.

Part of it for me is that this is always about the time of year that all my ambitions for second semester seem to flounder a bit-- I'm behind on grades (the piles are surrounding me at this very moment!), I've relented a bit on consistency in the classroom and kids aren't behaving (or engaging) at the level I'd like.  And somehow, February always manages to derail my reading.  I can't figure out where my time is going.  I haven't made anything. I haven't really read anything.  Time is tricky that way.

It's about this time every year, too, that I'm suddenly consumed by the fact that my house just has so much damn stuff in it.  This stems from the fact that I can't do anything about it right now; isn't that just the perfect time to decide to care? February is not peak garage sale time, after all.  I'm going a bit stir-crazy from being cooped up in the house (and shoveling doesn't offer much reprieve)...

All of these things combine, I think, to create a sense of uneasiness and maybe even irritability, but we just have to bide the time until spring.

To keep myself from slipping into full-on negativity, I'm working on gratitude. Here's a list:

I'm grateful for...

1. two sweet, beautiful boys who make me laugh everyday and who awe me with their open, loving, and creative view of the world.  Their imaginations are endless.

2. Jasper, who is always there to snuggle and look up at me with his big, kind eyes.

3. the support of my family.

4. my crockpot--it's a lifesaver.

5.  a career that makes me want to always strive to be better, to always be learning.

6.  the opportunity to write letters of recommendation for students heading off to college--it allows me to truly focus on the good and to celebrate what they have achieved.

7.  Matt, who is always so kind and patient and constant; he is my anchor and my True North.

8.  the comfort of wonderful friends who understand, who are passionate, and who always provide the opportunity to laugh--especially Joanna, Keresten, and The Fredregills (The Spanish Teacher and The Cable Guy).

9.  conversation hearts. Seriously, I LOVE conversation hearts.

10.  a quiet house on a Sunday morning, a cup of coffee in my favorite mug, and the Sunday New York Times.

I know that this too shall pass.  I'm working to take time each day to be grateful and to focus on all the positive aspects of life, even against this dreary backdrop.  There is much to celebrate, even in the cruelest month... I need to remind myself of that.  But you better believe that as soon as it is even remotely possible, I will be purging so much stuff from my house! :)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

52 Weeks, 52 Books

I love reading, but it's often one of the first things to go when I start to feel stressed.  It only makes matters worse when I don't make time to read: 1) I become bitter and 2) reading is one of my favorite stress relievers.

For me, like many of my teacher friends, January isn't the time for New Year's Resolutions (we're still in the throes of first semester and are, in no way, in a position to start with a clean slate).  The start of a school year is the time for resolutions.  It's when we're enough removed from the school year that we can make all kinds of promises to ourselves about balance, schedules, acceptance, and grace.

I knew in August that I didn't want my reading life to be consumed by the high school reading list  dictated by my school year (thank God I teach AP!).  I began a much more demanding independent reading assignment for my students this year.  Having read such brilliant teacher-authors as Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher, I knew I needed to be able to recommend books.  To do that, I need to know them; I need to be able to read from them so students can get a taste for what the book is like. If I want my students to read, I need to serve as a model.  I made it my mission to read a book a week.

I came close first semester, but there were certainly times when I fell off.  Here were some of the titles I read this semester:

1. Columbine by Dave Cullen
2. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
3. Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
4. Sold by Patricia McCormick
5. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
6. Divergent by Veronica Roth
7. Less is More by Kimberly Hill Campbell (teacher book)
8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
9. The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell by John Crawford
10. Stolen by Lucy Christopher
11. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
12. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
13. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
14. Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher (Again. This is also a teacher book.)
15. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

So... I didn't quite hit my goal for independent reading, but I did have to read for school too, so I think it's a wash. :)

Here's my school list:
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Grendel by John Gardner

All in all, that's 20 books in 16 weeks.  Yay!

Goodreads invited me to set my goal for 2014.  So... Here it is... My goal for this year is 52 books. There's some overlap since the new year doesn't align with the new semester.  It'll be lofty, so we'll see what happens! I'd love to read 52 non-school/teaching books, but we'll see.

Here's what's on my list. 

2014 Reading List
1. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
2. Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher (again)
3. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
4. Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins (I love, love, love him!)
5. Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Beers and Probst
6. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (God, it's better every time!)

On My List
-The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
-The Defining Decade by Meg Jay
-The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
-David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
-To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (since, you know, I haven't--don't judge!)

I'd love recommendations! What are you reading?


Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Conjunctivitis

Finals week has arrived.  The Powers That Be have provided us with a wonderfully awkward schedule, but finals week is here.  It's always a race to the end for me.  At the start of each semester I promise myself that it will be different this time.  I'll stay on top of the grading.  I'll have the final written, checked for errors, and copied well before necessary.  I will enter the new semester focused and ready with a clean desk to boot!

These are ridiculous, unrealistic notions. I have a stack of papers a mile high I haven't graded.  7,000 children have found assignments they've decided they'd like to turn in.  I'm hunting kids down who STILL need to make up the Unit 2 test.  Finals begin tomorrow and I have not yet made copies of my exam.

Such is life.

The title promises The Good, the Bad, and the Conjunctivitis.  I'll work backward.

The Conjunctivitis
Part of the reason I'm so behind is because my immune system has decided to take a vacation.  While I loved nursing Levi, I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep it up, even when working and pumping was not ideal.  It was really important to me to nurse him as long as I could and I didn't want to supplement.  Life moves fast with two kids; nursing allowed me to disconnect from what was happening around me and to take time to bond with Levi, to focus on him completely.  It definitely took a toll though.  The days whoosh by as is; making the time to pump and (gasp!) lose precious moments of productivity was hard.  It was exhausting. On top of it, he hasn't been a fabulous sleeper.  Even at 9 months he still wakes and stirs in the night.  He wants to cuddle in with Mommy.  Spoiled boy. Who did that?! Whoops.  I think the lack of sleep and the busy schedule--two kiddos, teaching, walking the dog, putting food on the table, book study-- combined to wear me out a bit.  I just haven't been terribly healthy this school year.

So, I come to this busy point in the year and I catch pink eye.  I get to stand in front of 180 tactless, rude teenagers and encourage them to study hard for their finals and be sure their notes are in order. They can't hear me.  They can't focus.  They're all laughing because some idiot somewhere told them people get pink eye because they have poop in their eye.  All day I've endured snickers as kids look at my disgusting eye.  I heard myself shout in desperation, "I don't have poop in my eye!" more than a couple times, only to hear more giggles.  Someone probably instagramed it with an unflattering caption.

What can I do?  I'm using drops, so hopefully it'll clear up soon.  In the meantime, look how hot I am...
Can you tell how red my left eye is? Gross.
 Yep... So that's the conjunctivitis (aka Poop Eye).

The Bad
A kid did something stupid today.  Our policy at school requires kids who are tardy to get an electronic pass before they come to class.  It's linked with Infinite Campus and it tracks tardies for us. This kid loves to push boundaries.  He arrived late and then refused to go get the pass.  Then he proceeded to swear up and down about why it was stupid to get a pass, at which point I had to send him to the VP.  He declined that invitation, so I had to call for a campus monitor to escort him out.  He declined the hall monitor's invitation as well and was fully prepared to be ARRESTED for disorderly conduct.  Luckily, he got smart before that happened.

I know it really wasn't about me.  I know he's got a lot of issues, but it still sucked that it happened.  I'm so grateful for my lunch bunch.  They laughed with me about it and shared a few of their own crazy-kid stories.  It's nice to know that I'm not in this alone. 

The Good
On a positive note, the fabric I ordered from Girl Charlee arrived! Yay!  If you love knits and are looking for some cute prints, check out the site! I have visions of an adorable reindeer onesie like this, a yellow chevron dress, and an infinity scarf with the feather fabric.
Beautiful knit fabric from Girl Charlee

Oliver and I hung out and drew pictures for awhile this evening. Tonight he wanted to draw a portrait of his brother.  I don't know if you can make it out, but he wrote Levi next to it.  How sweet is that?!  I love that Oliver and Levi are brothers.  I love that Oliver loves his baby brother so much.  It's so wonderful to see the way they interact and I know it will only get better. I'm a lucky momma to get to watch it all happen.

Oliver's sweet portrait of Levi. 

So that's my day... Never dull! I'm going to finish the day with Parenthood. I'm looking forward to seeing my friend Jake tomorrow, getting a bunch of papers graded, and getting the first batch of finals under my belt.  Tomorrow evening Oliver and I have a cupcake date and I'm looking forward to 2 days of family time.  It'll be interrupted with bursts of grading, but I feel lucky to have a job I love, valuable work to do, and an amazing family to share my life with. 

Good night!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Good Things

"In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day's work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years."
-Jacques Barzun

I love this exhausting job. Everyday offers an opportunity to laugh, learn, commiserate, reflect, build relationships, grow, and think.   But it's hard work.  I'm looking now at the piles of paper strewn all over my desk. (I swear the desk was clean this morning.)  I'm preparing to lug my enormous bag of grading home, knowing all too well that the task is far too great to accomplish in one weekend--a mere 48 hours.  And I'll be honest, there are days when I wonder what I'm doing here.  Have I honestly chosen to spend my life surrounded by 16-year-olds?  Am I so masochistic that I'm going to spend the next 30 years of my life in high school?

But then really wonderful things happen.  I spent the last hour working with a student on her college admission essay.  She's so eager to go to college.  She feverishly deleted and rewrote and deleted again, working to make it sound just right.  She was invested.  She kept saying, "I just want this to be the best thing I've ever written.  I just want to show them how much I've learned."  Is that not the sweetest, most adorable thing?!  As I listened to her grapple with syntax and word choice, I heard her saying the kinds of things I write and say to students when I give them feedback on writing.  Here are a few gems I heard--straight from the student's mouth:
  • It doesn't matter how pretty the words are if the message isn't clear. I just need to say what I really want to say.  Say it simply.
  • If I can't hear my voice, I bet no one else can.
  • If it sounds like something someone expects to hear, I should scratch it and say something better.
  • I need to work on revealing the person behind the writing.
  • Who doesn't love a good semicolon? Wait, did I use that right?
  • I want to vary the syntax to engage my reader.  The writer controls the pace.
How beautiful is that?!  She's a WRITER! She very sweetly, full of embarrassment, told me today that she hears my voice when she writes, that it guides her. (I sure hope I'm sending her in a good direction!)

I record feedback for my students on their writing.  I'm too controlling for writing conferences.  (Seriously, what are the other kids doing?! Messing around?  Uh uh.  No way.  Not in my room! Ha ha.) But I want to be able to speak to them. I want them to hear tone. I want them to hear the way their sentences unfold (or don't) when I read a section of their writing aloud.  I want them to remember they are writing for a reader.  I record this feedback mid-process.  I went back through my files after Chloe left.  I've recorded 16 videos of feedback for her.  No wonder she hears my voice! Ha ha!

She left with that giant Chloe smile and a big thank you.  She was so proud of herself.  And really, all I did was witness her process.  I asked a few questions. I gave her a nudge here or there.  I celebrated the semicolon! :)

As she was packing up, a student I had in class last year, Joe, came in.  He's a freshman in college this year. He was one of my favorites (even though we're not supposed to have them).  Truthfully, my feelings had been a little hurt that he hadn't been in touch. I usually hear from quite a few students at the start of the school year.  They want to let me know they know what they're doing--they feel ready for college.  But I didn't hear from him.

He came bounding in after school today with a big ol' grin.  "Ms. MOEHLIS!" he shouted, "We got an A in college English!"  I corrected him, he got an A in English.  He offered, "I couldn't have done it without you." He wanted to tell me in person. He said he knew I'd be proud. I am!

I don't say this to toot my own horn. I write it to celebrate our students who achieve so much. I want to remind myself that "these kids today" do know gratitude. Sometimes it's just hard for them to show it.

The life of a teacher is often a lonely one; it can be isolating.  It can feel like we work for nothing.  But then those kids come bounding in--successful, smart, creative, independent--and they want to share  who they are, who they've become.  They acknowledge that a teacher helped them see something new, a teacher helped prepare them for what comes next.  They are grateful and appreciative.  And then we know that we've got it made.  We're reminded why we do this work.

So I'm heading home with my giant bag of papers.  And I'm smiling.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Levi and Oliver

I am so lucky to get to be the mother of these sweet ones. We've been able to spend the last 10 days together and it's been so wonderful. I think they're both obsessed with me now, and, just like our lovable Vizsla, Jasper, Oliver now feels compelled to be physically touching me at all times.

Favorite Quotes from the Four-Year-Old Over Winter Break
- "Here, Levi. Here's a new toy for you to slobber on."
- "I'll do it, but only because I don't want to be on the naughty list."
-"Jingey bells, Batman smells... Hey! Sometimes Daddy smells too!"
- "Mommy, I'm going to love you for ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever..."
- "I'm Batman and Ben is Superman. That's just how it is."
- (with tremendous excitement and a gasp) "I love it! Wait. What is it?"
- "Another stay-home day! Awesome!"

Homemade Christmas

I love a nice homemade gift. Hopefully my friends and family do too, since that's usually what they get from me! Ha ha! Here are some of the gifts I made this year. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Oliver's Card Table Tent
When I was little, my Grandma Jones made me many wonderful home-sewn gifts.  A card table house was one of them. It had my name embroidered on the door and windows with curtains. I LOVED it.  I knew I wanted to make one like it for Oliver. He told me he'd love to have a cabin. So... Here's the result.
Cabin Card Table Tent--Front
Birch Tree, Stars, Moon, and Fire
Incredibly inaccurate raspberry bushes

Fishing (the fish are compliments of my father)

A closer look at the fish. I love the bluegill best!

Gnome House
I came across this idea on Pinterest (of course). Like all things Pinterest, it looked much easier than it actually was. But, I thought it was cute and perservered. In case you can't tell, it's supposed to look like a tree trunk. I didn't take pictures from all angles, but there's a little window cut into the side.  I sewed little mushrooms around it, too. It was a gift for my cousin's son, Ben. Oliver graciously modeled the gnome-gear. Ha ha!

Last Christmas I got a metal stamping kit. I love it! I made this necklace for my aunt Marilee.

And for my Grandma Riley, an Irish necklace.

Baby Cardigan Onesie
I've been in love with these upcycled cardigan onesies. I made quite a few this Christmas, but didn't snap too many pictures. The one on the right was for Levi. For the gifts I made (like the one on the left on my very messy desk), I made little bowties and attached them to a white onesie underneath the cardigan.

 Fabric Rattle Ball
This was a gift for Levi. It's just a soft fabric ball with a rattle inside.

Key Fobs                                         
A friend asked me to make a couple of these for gifts. They're quick and easy and I love that they can be personalized.                      

Fat Santa Ornaments
Oliver and I made a few of these for teacher gifts. I made each of them a stamped necklace, too, but didn't take pictures of them. Whoops.

Baby Playmat and Burp Cloths
A friend of mine in Texas just had an adorable baby boy. I (JUST) sent this out the other day, so she may see it here first! (Hey, Becky!)

Giraffe Burp Cloths
Patchwork Playmat (terrible lighting, I know)

Disc Golf Bag
My brother loves to play disc golf. He and I picked out the fabric together. This was really a little beyond my skill level, but I got 'er done.

Christmas Dresses and Booties
My cousin had two sweet little girls right after Thanksgiving. Here are their Christmas dresses and booties.

There has been a recent bowtie movement at my school--Bowtie Thursday. I couldn't get these done before Winter Break, but a few lucky colleagues are going to get to don these suckers.

(Photos to Come)

Planting Seeds

I think about things for months (sometimes years) before I take action. This blog is no different. I suppose I've been waiting for a good time to start and the new year seems appropriate.

I am a mother, teacher, and crafter. (I do hate that word crafter. It sounds so demeaning.  What can I say instead? I make stuff. I love to sew. I make jewelry--mostly metal stamping these days. I like to create, but calling myself a creator is more than a little pretentious. So, crafter.)  This is a place where I will celebrate my family and the lessons I learn from them (and about myself) each day.  It will offer a place for rumination about teaching.  It will allow me to flush out my thinking. Finally, it will provide me with an opportunity to show you all the "stuff" I make.

I chose to call it Roots and Branches because it embodies so much about my life and my thinking.  I've always loved trees and nature and plants.  I will forever be awed by the fact that I can tuck a tiny seed into the soil, splash some water on it, and watch it grow.  I think about that a lot as a mother and as a teacher; in both cases, I am a gardener. I'm tilling the soil of young minds. What am I planting?  What will grow?  I'm proud of my own deep roots--the tilling and planting others did for me.  I'm grateful that the seeds of ideas are so plentiful, that I have so much to think about.

In essence, I hope this will serve as a place to capture those thoughts,  to share the beauty of my children as they grow, to reflect, to grapple, to talk about what I'm reading, and to share glimpses of my beautiful (often messy) life.