happiness hacks for October 2017

Happiness Hacks For October 2017

Woohoo! October is wrapping up! If you’re a teacher, October is THE LONGEST month, and ends on a lovely day/days/week full of sugar, hyped-up kids, costumes and MORE SUGAR! Plus, it’s the month with the lowest energy for teachers and students…I’m happy to see the calendar change for November. But to end the month on a positive note, I’ve collected some of my favorite tips to share with you – enjoy my Happiness Hacks For October 2017!

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: Happy At Home

I kept super busy in October – for teachers, the ‘honeymoon’ is wearing off and the grind towards the end of first quarter begins. For teacher-moms, it’s a double dose of stress – especially for me this year, when my ‘baby’ boy is writing college essays and applying early decision for his top school…trying to avoid overwhelm amongst all this goodness is huge.

I’m a huge list maker by nature, and with the launch of Google Keep a few months ago now I’ve got both digital and hard copy notes..but it was getting a bit much, I must admit. I love the Google Keep notes for on-the-go voice typing of things I don’t want to forget, but I’m most productive when I’ve got a paper to-do list right in front of me. But when that list is front and back….I needed to make a change. I decided to try my classroom workflow strategy of must do – should do – could do to help me prioritize at home, and it worked! I used the large, lined sticky notes to prioritize tasks and move undone lists to the next week without having to rewrite everything. I can’t say the lists are eliminated, but I can say that I’m not as overwhelmed with trying to remember what needed to be finished by when, and even dreadful chores like filing the FAFSA were somehow completed early! WIN!

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: A Bit Of Reading Time

I’m still determined to make my Goodreads 2017 challenge of completing 37 books…my free time is slowing down, but I still cherish my reading time. All screens are going off by 9:00 p.m. each night, and if I still have some brain power left I’m turning pages. In October I chose two books that had been languishing on my shelf for nearly a year – The Ladies of Managua by Eleni N. Gage and The Book of Night Women by Marlon James. In a fit of procrastination late one night, I decided to search Goodreads to see which of my ‘shelfie’ books had the highest ratings and start there. These two were tops – for good reason.

The Ladies of Managua by Eleni N. Gage caught me completely by surprise – I originally bought it because of my love of Nicaragua and wasn’t disappointed. Gage smoothly weaves elements of the Nicaraguan culture into her generational narrative of three independent women, connected by blood and history. At times I was comparing it to Isabel Allende’s great novel The Japanese Lover – the flashbacks blending in a historical narrative alongside contemporary Nicaragua deepened my understanding of the country’s disturbing background while solidifying my love for the joyful, loving culture I’ve come to adore.

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James, however equally compelling, was one of the hardest books I’ve read in years. Winner of the Dayton 2010 Literary Peace Prize, Night Women echoes the writing of Toni Morrisson’s Beloved (one of my all-time favorite books) in the telling of the story of Lilith, a Jamaican slave living at the end of the eighteenth century. This is not an easy read, and is definitely a commitment of time and spirit – but honestly, as difficult as James’ realistic, sometimes horrific, descriptions of life as a female slave were, forcing me to want to avert my eyes at the words on the page just to let the images flee my mind, I absolutely could not put it down. The Washington Post describes The Book of Night Women as ‘darkly powerful’ for good reason. In today’s turbulent times, this story sheds light on the history of slavery what we might not want to see, but must understand.

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: Wise Words

happiness hacks for October 2017

Have you heard of Brad Montague? How about Kid President? You really need to. Brad created the video series featuring Kid President about five years ago because he wanted to make the world a more awesome place, and I absolutely fell in love with their short messages. Three years ago Brad inspired me to engage my AVID classes in #Socktober – an annual drive we do to collect socks for people living homeless in our community. It’s such a cool thing. Last weekend I was near happy-tears while listening to Brad give the keynote at the fall CUE conference- his message to all adults about “how can I be a better grown up?” and becoming a “Possibilitarian” full of “Wisdom, Wonder, and Whimsy” hit just the right vulnerable spot in my heart.

happiness hacks for October
Oh yeah – I got to meet him, too!

So often lately we’re hearing about all the horrible, unkind, mean-spirited actions going on in our world. Daily I see kids coming in my classroom full of sadness, fear, and anxiety. Listening to Brad speak reminded me that it is my daily responsibility to “to create things the way they could be” – in my home, my work, and my community. Be sure to check out Brad’s website, Montagueworkshop.com/wonder,  and see his joy-full rebellion in action! Here’s one of my favorite Kid President videos – I show it in my classroom every year:

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: Teacher Hacks

Teachers, I’m obsessed with Hyperdocs, and everything they’ve done for my students. Did you catch my post about teaching writing with hyperdocs?  The more I learn, the better my teaching gets – and I wanted to share a cool hyperdoc I got from my friend Kevin Feramisco, who got it from the original creator, Heather Marshall (that’s how hyperdocs work, folks!). I’ve struggled with teaching 8th graders how to integrate quotes into their writing, adding intros and explanations, for years. Finally, this hyperdoc on quote analysis nailed it! I love how kids first take the quote and break it down – critical thinking about the speaker and audience, context, significance, literary devices, and connections, then ‘putting it all together’ with an assist from some academic language frames…brilliant! Then, I had students share their analysis paragraphs on Padlet and taught them about how to comment…by reading other people’s writing the magic began happening fast! I started with four quotes from the novel we were reading, (one quote per hyperdoc) and by the last one, they were writing and commenting like rock stars! You can #filemakeacopy of my adaptation of the hyperdoc here.

Feel free to adapt, change, adjust the hyperdoc to meet your needs – just keep our names there, and add yours!

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: Something Yummy

pumpkin bread

An amazing recipe for Pumpkin Bread, of course! from Alton Brown – found on my fave new app Food Network’s “In The Kitchen”. I’ve made this recipe several times using canned pumpkin and omitting the nuts – it’s devoured in a day! The link will also take you to a fun Alton Brown video showing how he makes this super yummy recipe!

Happiness Hacks For October 2017: Listen Up, Podcast Lovers

Oprah’s Super Soul Conversation Series has become my go-to podcast at the end of a long day, or when I just want to relax and not think about teaching or writing or parenting…it’s just soooo good! Her interviewees are so intriguing, the podcasts are fairly short (under 30 minutes) and it calms me down and makes me think about life in the big picture. I find myself jotting down ideas to delve into, or texting a link to my friends who would enjoy a particular episode. Check it out – it’s well worth your time.

I hope these Happiness Hacks help ease you into busy November!

Love,

Jennifer

Background on my Happiness Hacks series:

Years ago I started a gratitude journal – just a daily addition to my morning pages that documented the ordinary things that I was grateful for – simple things that made me happy.

During this time I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book, The Happiness Project – Gretchen’s writing and podcasts inspired me to create what I hope are monthly lists of ‘happiness hacks’ – small, simple acts or moments in life that bring me happiness and maybe they’ll rub off on you, too. You can read my essay inspired by Gretchen’s other book, Happier At Home here. 

In June 2017 I started with my first set of ‘happiness hacks’, and loved the responses I received on the post and on social media. Turns out, you do things to make yourselves happy, too. 

You can read my past “happiness hacks” posts below:

Happiness Hacks For September 2017

Happiness Hacks For August 2017: Bring More Gratitude Into Your Life

Happiness Hacks: July 2017 To Bring More Gratitude Into Your Life

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Something – Anything – Pumpkin

Trader Joe's pumpkin bread

It all started with a need for something-anything- pumpkin.

A simple request from my girl, far away in her dorm room, sent me rushing through Trader Joe’s, dodging the UCD freshmen scavenging for their Friday night snacks. Jammed up in the produce section, I can see the hunger in their eyes – already the cafeteria has tapped their taste buds out. They’re dreaming about real food, the kind mom used to make. I see their longing for the day when they can go back to their own apartments, bags of groceries ready to indulge their home-cooked fantasies.

“What are you hungry for?” I heard them ask each other. Must be freshmen. Their voices had a hollow ring to them, as if they weren’t sure a) what their new roommates would think acceptable, and b) how they would cook it like mom used to. They had the wide-eyed look that only 18-year-olds who are used to having mom do their grocery shopping get. They are the ones who linger just a bit too long in the produce section, intimidated by the choice of pre-washed bagged mixed greens or an entire head of organic red leaf. I often hesitate there myself, just in case they want some ‘mom’ advice. Sometimes they ask – usually they don’t.

English: Trader Joe's produce

I feel it in their body language, the bravado of a puffed out chest behind their shopping cart, attempting to believe that yes, they can do this. Methodically, they place their items in the bright red carts. There’s no rhythm there – that comes with years of experience navigating the aisles.

And I wonder, is my girl this girl who walks away? Does she pause over the frozen ravioli section and then casually toss two bags in her cart, only to be shut down over the myriad of red sauce choices? Does my girl scan the produce section with laser focus, or does she hope for help in the shape of a forty-something woman holding a latte and shopping list?

On a care-package mission, I turned the aisle and there it was: the pumpkin display. No one in my house craves pumpkin now that she’s gone. I toss the yellow box of pumpkin bar mix in the cart. Why not pumpkin bread, too? In it goes, without hesitation. Tears crack the corners of my eyes. Somehow, I will fit it all in the care package. I have to.

I watch the students with a wistful smile, knowing their parents might be just like me, wondering and wishing they could get a glimpse into the ordinary moments in their life as an 18-year-old away from home for the first time. The look so young. Have they ever been grocery shopping before? Did their mothers teach them to compare prices, or how to pick a ripe melon? My inner mama is surging. I feel her panic. Did I teach her before she left? Is she making her smoothies and eating enough protein?

Standing in the frozen foods section, I feel an obligation rise up in me – a sense of duty to all those moms out there.  Somehow I must let them know their kid is OK, that they’re choosing the produce over the sweets and six-packs. How can I make known that they have a jacket on, and remembered their reusable grocery bags? I want to somehow tap these kids on the shoulder and beg them to just send one text, simply snap one photo of this ordinary moment – something – anything –  to let their parents know they’re smiling and happy and making friends. To give them a glimpse of the extraordinariness of their life…their growing up.

But I don’t say anything – that would be creepy, I hear my daughter’s voice in my head. Instead, I squeeze my eyes together, willing back the tears, and hope that 600 miles away, some mom in a grocery store feels my call, looks into my girl’s eyes, and smiles.

I’m ready now. I can do this. The pumpkin will arrive safely, like a hug from home.

p.s. – if you’d like to make your own pumpkin bread, click here for our favorite recipe!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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My Best Life, November 2013

when autumn

flares out at the last,

boisterous

and like us longing 

to stay- how everything lives,

shifting

from one bright vision to another,

forever

in these momentary pastures.
~Mary Oliver

November…that time of year when the world begins to slow down, the morning bike rides to work are brisk to the fingers and nose, and the afternoon returns with warmth and sunshine. November…that time of year when we begin to hunker down, reflect, prepare, and hug those we love just a little bit more tightly.

What I loved this November:

Best Views:

Super Soul Sunday

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

Whether you love Oprah or not, you’ve got to check out her Super Soul Sunday series. I may be a bit slow to become hooked, but this month she offered some thoughtful and thought-provoking episodes that had me watching them over and over again. One of my favorites this month was Oprah’s talk with Maya Angelou. She even inspired my fourteen-year-old son to watch with me and to write his Great American essay about what he learned.

Best Books:

Help. Thanks. Wow by Anne Lamott

Help. Thanks. Wow. morning read for gratitude
Help. Thanks. Wow. morning read for gratitude

Anne never disappoints me; this book may be less lengthy than some of her others, but it helped me start my mornings off with inspiration, gratitude and guidance. Next up on my Lamott must-read list: Stitches.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P.D. Viner

This book wasn’t a ‘feel good’ read like Help.Thanks.Wow., but it did make me think about how grateful I am to have my children to love every day. The Last Winter of Dani Lancing, tells the story of a twenty-year-old college student’s murder twenty years prior, and her parent’s struggle to come to grips with life without her.

Best Blog Reads:

From the beautiful blog, Barnstorming, I loved the post about the Gift of Fragility. At this time of year, and when I’m feeling especially vulnerable to change, I find myself clinging to every fragile moment.

I love the daily posts from First Sip, and this poem about the love for a daughter made my heart weep. Made me think of my own beautiful, strong girl who is about to leave home. Consider having First Sip delivered to your inbox, too.

Day 1 of training: ✔️ #geterdone via _lilwolfey_
Day 1 of training: ✔️ #geterdone via _lilwolfey_

Best Recipes:

My daughter was on a Wednesday afternoon baking kick (must have had something to do with the stress of college apps due this month), and pumpkin topped the list. Our favorite? This recipe for moist and somewhat-healthy pumpkin bread.pumpkin bread

Twice this month my son requested spaghetti and meatballs; our favorite recipe was Giada’s Turkey Meatballs from Food Network. So easy and delicious-you should try them tonight!

Another sweet treat we tried this month came from one of my favorite recipe blogs, Iowa Girl Eats. Her recipe for Mini Pumpkin Sticky Buns uses pumpkin butter, crescent roll dough and November-flavored spices to create a sticky sweet bunch of yum!

Best Quotes:

Mr. Johnson (Sesame Street)
Mr. Johnson (Sesame Street) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amidst all the hunkering down and reflection, when I received this quote in my daily email from Goodreads it sure made me smile and remember times when life was so simple. Happy birthday, Sesame Street!

“Sunny day , Sweepin’ the clouds away, On my way to where the air is sweet ” – Joe Raposo

Best Photos:

Instagram is my new fave photo website, and I’d love to connect with you there! Here are some of the shots I loved best this month:

My boy and my dog...love.
My boy and my dog…love.
How could they betray me so?
How could they betray me so?
I tried to spend more time looking up than down in November
I tried to spend more time looking up than down in November

Best Websites:

Looking for some good news? Try Daily Good as an alternative to other news websites-you’ll surely find something to smile and think about.

I’m always looking for education inspiration, and lately I’ve found it on Edutopia. It’s worth a look if you’re interested in cutting edge education practices.

Are you a pinner? I use Pinterest for all sorts of things: collecting recipes, ideas for writing, teaching resources, places I’d love to travel…the ideas are endless. I’d love to pin with you here.

Best Moments:

Our teenage daughters talked us into a spontaneous trip to the Warfield in San Francisco to see Hoodie Allen…yeah, we’d never heard of him either. After completely embarrassing our girls by insisting we watch over them until the entered the theater (the Warfield is in one of the sketchiest parts of SF), we enjoyed a fabulous girls night out on the town!

Girls night out in SF
Girls night out in SF

 While I can’t honestly say that grading all these notebooks was my favorite moment, I can tell you that when my daughter arrived with a surprise coffee it made the afternoon so much more bearable!

Coffee makes everything easier...
Coffee makes everything easier…

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday month ahead.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The Comfort of Home…and a Pumpkin Bread Recipe, Too

 

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”

– Jane Austen

Wherever you find yourself this week, I hope you find the comfort of home.

Fill your home with love and the flavors of fall with this delicious pumpkin bread recipe-a perfect way to spend an hour with someone you love!

  • 2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting the pan

  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature

  • ¼ c. ground flax seed

  • 1 ½ heaping cups pumpkin puree (fresh or one 15-ounce can)

  • 3 eggs

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend sugars with butter and flax seed until light and fluffy. Add remaining wet ingredients (pumpkin, eggs, vanilla) and mix well. Sift together dry ingredients and add to wet mixture. Mix just until combined. Pour batter into greased loaf pans. Bake for approximately 50-55 minutes, or until bread doesn’t jiggle and a toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool bread in pan on a baking rack for 15-20 minutes, then remove gently. Find a warm spot near the fireplace to snuggle up and share at home with those you love and are grateful to have in your life. Then bundle up, take a walk, and see all the beauty that surrounds you!

~adapted from One Hungry Mama, I decreased the amount of sugar and fat and substituted flax seed to keep the bread rich and most, and a bit healthier, too!

Davis trees in NovemberAngel Trumpet tree

November sky in Davis

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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