and then I choked down the giggles

Today I was working with a student from the general ed first grade class. It was just me and him. He's a struggling student and we were working on a phonemic awareness activity.

"Cat," I said. "What sound do you hear at the beginning of c-c-c-at?"

He thought for a while, then answered: "C !!"

"You're right: "c" is the first letter in the word "cat". Can you think of the sound that the letter "c" makes?"

He thought some more, then said...


Lunch crunch

This past week, all of the teachers had to eat with their classes in the cafeteria to ensure proper behavior. This was difficult for a number of reasons: 1) the unhealthy food the school was serving made me cringe (help us, Jaime Oliver!!), and 2) after spending all morning with the kiddos, I really just need to go sit in a dark and silent room for a while... maybe rock back and forth for comfort.

But there I was, digging into my kiwis and having meaningful conversations with the students.

And we have a very stereotypical lunch lady: she's mean. And not just mean with the kids, she's mean with the staff! We can't grab an extra "spork" without paying five cents. She even made a sign! If you go through the lunch line and you just want some macaroni, she'll charge you for the entire lunch. And no, this isn't district policy, this is HER policy.

But I digress.

Most of the kids at our school buy their lunch from the cafeteria, but a few bring lunch from home. I don't know if times have changed or if this is what is typical in our neighborhood (I suspect most of them are on free/reduced lunch). Do you pack a lunch for your child?

If you do, I came across something you might just love: Leo on the Loose has some fabulous lunch box notes you can print out, fill in, and tuck into your kiddo's bag for a nice little surprise. (Unless your kid is at that eye-rolling stage and all into looking cool in front of their friends. If that's the case, slip them a dollar bill in their lunch for the vending machine. It means the same thing as "I love you" only it won't produce any cringing!)

You can download them here.

at least i didn't tell her to shut up

So there's this girl. This is her second time around in the (general ed) first grade. She's receiving special education services through the resource room teacher, and to complicate things, she was in the bilingual program last year.

Basically this just means that she's really low and speaks hard-to-understand "Spanglish". Oh, and she's a total sweetheart.

Yesterday at lunch (we have to eat lunch with the students during the first week to make sure they know how to behave), she was watching me eat my kiwis.

"What's that?"

"These are kiwis."

[spaces out for a few seconds]: "That kiwis?"

"Yes, these are kiwis."

"You like?"

"Yes, I like them."


"Yep, these are my kiwis."

"You like?"

"Yes, I like them."

[eyes glaze over for a second or two]: "Is green?"

[Siiiiiiiiiiiiigh]: "Yes, they're green."

God bless her, she was starting to get on my nerves, but then I wondered if I had sounded just as lost when I was dumped into a French public school when I was seven. My teacher back then knew exactly two words in English: "Shut" and "up" (not kidding!). Somehow I became fluent.

I hope this sudden immersion in an English-only environment does wonders for her. For now, the bilingual teachers are right next door if I need help understanding her!

Scenes from firstgradeland

Going from teaching fifth to teaching first is quite a jump, as it turns out. This week I've been helping out with the "general ed" first grade. So far, we've gone over rules and procedures, and I've been doing some one-on-one reading tests.

Here are some scenes from the past few days:

Student: "I have a grown-up girlfriend, you know."
Me: "Oh, you do? What's her name?"
Student: [very matter-of-fact] "I forget."

Student [noticing my three napkins at lunch]: "You gotta lotta napkins, right? You're messy, right?"

Me: [as part of a reading test] "Do you like to listen to someone reading to you, or would you rather read to someone else?"
Student: "I read all by myself because my mom does a lot of stuff and she doesn't have to do any more stuff for me 'cuz I'm in first grade now."

at least I didn't get a spanking this time

One of my mom's favorite stories about me from when I was little was the time that I was "back-talking" in the car. She was so upset, she pulled over to give me a swat. When she finished, she asked me: "Do you know why you got a spanking?" "Yes," I said tearfully, "because I was talking backwards!"

It's one thing to talk back to your mother, but it's another thing to talk back to a security officer.

Like yesterday. I had to go downtown for a training. Unfortunately, each of our district's various buildings are all in really bad parts of town. You know, the part of town where it's not unusual to see shady looking characters drinking out of a paper bag, or the occasional drug deal go down.

Also? Parking is tricky.... especially when you have two GIANT crates of very heavy confidential folders you've been asked by your supervisor to drop by. So I decided to park in the closest lot, the one that I think is reserved for all the supervisors. I laboriously lugged up one crate of folders.

As I was carrying the second load, OBVIOUSLY struggling with each step and with each door, the security officer in the building stops me.

"Where did you park?" she demands. "Because if you parked in that lot over there, you're not supposed to."

And... I kinda snapped at her.

"LOOK! The only reason I parked over there was because I had to lug two huge crates up to the fifth floor. I'll move my car when I'm good and ready!"

In my defense, though, I was in the middle of trying to juggle fifty pounds of paper, navigate around the crazies outside, and open the door without using my hands. I was a little too busy to be polite, uniform or not.

the crazy continues

I was warned when I was in college that teachers have tantrums too.

"No.... not me! I'm so on top of everything, I would never let that happen!"


In the first two years of my teaching career, I had several little breakdowns (not in front of the kids, mind you...). Sometimes they involved yelling to myself in the car. One time I threw my keys against the inside of my classroom door and shrieked in frustration (true story!). One afternoon, I was crying little sobs underneath my teacher desk.

There are just things that happen to make your job harder that come out of left field! Like this week....

1. I already have a new student.
2. I have to hold a temporary IEP for this student BEFORE Monday!
3. We were supposed to have a teacher workday all day on Friday but OOPS one more three hour meeting just special for you deaf ed. teachers... forgot to tell you until just now!
4. New school policy: we can't touch the copy machine or the laminator. All requests must be filed two days in advance (DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED!!)

    So last night, it was completely understandable that when I clicked to watch this strangely charming video, I laughed so hard I cried..... But then I COULDN'T STOP CRYING.

    Unless all of you had the same reaction I did, that was definitely my first mini-breakdown of the school year!

    Yes but remember you married a crazy woman

    In a way, it's nice that the school year starts with a week of inservice meetings. It kind of eases you back into the routine of work.

    But still...

    You know how when you're a little kid who doesn't want to go to bed, you make up all of these excuses to get out of bed? Like... I need a drink of water, I need to give mom one more hug, I need to use the bathroom, I need to check on my goldfish, I need, I need, I need.

    Well last night was kind of the same way for me. I was procrastinating on going to bed because I knew that as soon as I did, I'd have to wake up to an early alarm! I need to pack my lunch, I need to get my water bottle, I need to pack my teacher bag, I need to go cry a little, I need to put this stuff away....

    And then usually when I was young, I would be told at some point: "Alright, that's enough. Stay in bed this time." But last night, Max just watched me packing some things and asked (with his toothbrush in his mouth): "Couldn't you do some of this tomorrow morning?"

    goodbye and hello

    Did you know that I'm actually two people on the inside? Yes, two. There's Summer Sarah and School Sarah.

    Poster from Pigtails and Peonies

     Summer Sarah is relaxed. She keeps the house clean, she does laundry, she even cooks. She has all the time in the world to write her novel, to make her cards, to try stuff on the sewing machine, to read great novels. Fridays and Sundays mean nothing to her! She gets to spend every moment with her husband and they laugh a lot. Summer Sarah is very happy.
    Poster from Claire and Me Designs

    School Sarah is stressed out. She is always too busy, too tired, too overwhelmed. She thinks there's not enough time in the day to get everything done and this is exasperating to her. Working out becomes more of a chore. And household duties? Forget it! Fridays are her best friend and Sunday nights are her worst enemy. She doesn't get to see her husband as often, and this makes her sad. School Sarah misses Summer Sarah VERY much.

    Max reminded me yesterday that this school year is going to be better than last school year. I'll only have eight kids instead of fourteen. I'll get to work with an aide in my classroom. I won't have that one kid anymore.

    So maybe....

    just maybe....

    a little of Summer Sarah will get to stay!

    taking a bow

    There's nothing like a pat on the back once in a while! The fabulous Renee from Closed on Sunday has given me an award! And I didn't have to bribe her or anything!
    So I think this means that I'm a versatile blogger, which is just a  really nice way of saying that I can't stay focused on just one topic. Yay for variety!

    Okay. Like any good blog award, there are strings attached. I must...

    A. Thank the person who gave me the award

    Thanks, Renee! If you haven't checked out Closed on Sunday yet, you totally should. She'll regale you with tales of cupcakes gone wrong!

    B. Share seven things about myself

    1. I have three cats. If I lived alone and didn't have my husband to keep me in check, I'd have about three dozen cats. I guess this means I'm that crazy cat lady on the inside.

    2. I drink black tea every morning. I used to drink coffee, but I was making it so strong that it was starting to give me headaches. And what's the point of drinking coffee if it doesn't look like mud?

    3. I think regret is the worst feeling in the world, because there's absolutely nothing you can do to make it better.

    4. I've thrown a tantrum or two in my classroom (once the kids were gone and the door was shut).

    5. I've always wanted to host a murder mystery dinner party. I've been to a couple, and they were so fun!

    6. My second grade teacher slapped me in the face once because I corrected my work in pencil instead of black pen (this was in France, though, so perfectly legal). It was our first year in France, and I still remember my dad chewing out my teacher in his broken French. I think the worst insult he came up with was: "YOU MEAN LITTLE OLD LADY!"

    7. When I was in high school, I refused to stay home from school when I felt sick. Unless I was throwing up, I'd go. My parents would urge me to stay in bed, but I wouldn't. I was too afraid on missing out on something very cool or important!

    C. Pass the award onto 15 other bloggers

    FIFTEEN?? Really?! This teacher is too busy for fifteen. Let's just bend the rules a little.... Since I did seven things about me, I'll pass this award on to seven other bloggers. And if you'd like to grab this award for yourself, too, I won't stop you!

    So here they are:

    I'd love to read your "seven things about me"! If you have such a post, please link up in the comments :)

    way worse than the first few days of summer vacation

    After a nineteen hour road trip (all in one day!), we are finally back "home". We were met by some happy-to-see-us cats, about twenty pounds of cat poo, and a giant hairball on the rug that had started to crustify. It was almost one in the morning at that point, though, so we just pretended that it wasn't there and went to sleep (I did clean up the hairball, though, 'cause that's just gross!).

    It's panic time for me: yesterday, we spent six hours cleaning the house, and I have a long to-do list to work on. Things like finishing last minute school projects, working on a large custom order for my store (thanks, J!), making my sandwich wraps, and cramming in some last minute lounging around and TV watching.

    There's nothing like the last few days of summer vacation....

    it's go time

    Today is our last day in Michigan for a while. We start the 21 hour drive tomorrow.... whether or not we stop midway will be up to how Max is feeling behind the wheel!

    It's been a great last day: we went to the movies, played cards, and Max made steak, corn, zucchini, and potatoes on the grill for the whole family (plus cousins and grandparents!). It was so delicious I thought maybe I was in heaven!

    It also happens to be our eight year anniversary! Max wrote a CHARMING song for me to commemorate the day.... all about how we ended up together. He played it on the guitar, and even made the words rhyme!! I was touched. I may have shed a tear even, but I wouldn't tell if I did.

    Once we get home, I'll be in a flurry of cleaning house, scooping two weeks worth of poop from our three cats, doing laundry, etc, etc, etc. Because Monday? Monday is back to school for this teacher...

    Yep, it definitely feels like Sunday night!

    even writing this makes me want to throw up

    I had no idea what to blog about today until I saw my most recent comment from Unicycle Rose. She wondered about the M&M story I referred to in passing in my previous post. So, go away Inspiration, I just got a writing prompt!

    I was five years old and living in California. I don't remember where we were going or why I was given M&Ms, but somehow I ended up sitting in the back of our station wagon. The back, as in behind the seats... in the storage space. With no seat belts. Because I guess in 1987 everyone wasn't all hung up about children's safety.

    So there I was, peering out of the back windshield, eating my plain M&Ms and watching the traffic behind us. It was dark and I entertained myself by figuring out which side of the highway was going faster: the cars with the red lights stopped on the opposite side, or the cars with the white lights on our side.

    I still hadn't figured out who was winning when I suddenly got very carsick. And I was feeling quite uncomfortable with my belly full of plain M&Ms. I threw up before I could stop myself.

    I don't remember what happened next but I'm guessing that we had to pull over and mom probably got the fun job of cleaning me up.

    And since that day, the very thought of plain M&Ms makes me want to vomit. Peanut ones? I love! Plain ones? Bleeecchhh.

    Years later, my psychologist husband assures me that I'm not crazy (at least not in that sense!)... that I have developed what's called: "learned taste aversion".

    So what foods make you want to barf?

    This is the extent of my patriotism

    I've got McDonald's on the brain. I think it's probably because I'm sitting in one, mooching off their free Wi-Fi and sipping an iced coffee.

    When I was growing up in France, (oh hey, if you're new here: I lived in France from age seven to about high school. Good, now you're all caught up.) the only fast food available was McDonalds. Well, okay, there was this other establishment called Quik Burger but somehow it just wasn't American enough for us. So by default, whenever our family decided to go out for fast food, we would inevitably end up at  McDonalds.

    When I moved to Michigan for college, I avoided McDonalds like the plague. Why go there when there were so many other tantalizing options? Now I had a choice between places like Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy's, Subway, Arby's.... All that yummy food and so CHEAP! I was giddy with the possibilities.

    At the time, Max tried to get me to accept McDonalds into my repertoire of fast food options. It was a slow, uphill battle, and when we married he sounded even more convincing as my husband: I eventually relented and learned to love the place again.

    A few weeks ago, I was at my local McDonalds all by myself. I was all alone because Max had taken the good car (the one with air conditioning and an automatic transmission) all the way to Oregon for some kind of "conference". So I was left with the other car, trapped inside the house for more than a week unless I could brave the stick shift around town. So every day, I would plan an Outing. It had to be in the morning (because of the AC situation) and it had to be within a two mile radius away from any hills (I was still shaky about the manual transmission thing).

    So I landed at McDonalds for an early lunch. I ordered a hamburger and fries during a really busy lunch hour for them. So busy, in fact, that when the credit card swipey thing didn't work, they lady just told me to go sit down and enjoy my free lunch.

    Wow! Food tastes so much better when it's free!

    When the line had died down, I decided to treat myself to a McFlurry for dessert since I hadn't spent anything on lunch.

    I ordered an Oreo McFlurry. The young white guy behind the counter punched some buttons, then asked if I wanted Ranch or Italian with that. "What, now?? No, I said I'd like an Oreo McFlurry!" So he got a cup and started filling it with.... M&Ms.

    "NOOOOOOOO!" I practically shouted to him as he proceeded to mix the vanilla ice cream with it. M&M's are not at all my thing (it's a long story that involves vomit).

    So he makes me an Oreo McFlurry and gives me BOTH McFlurrys since he doesn't know what to do with the other one. And that's how I got eight dollars worth of food for a little over two bucks.

    Gotta love America!

    i didn't lose the sweet tooth

    We drove from Alabama to Michigan in one long eighteen hour drive on Monday.

    I knew my pleas to split it up into two days would be useless in the face of my husband's perfect logic: Why ruin two days instead of one? Why spend money on a hotel room when we can sleep in our own bed at mom and dad's house?

    So we left at 5:00 AM and got there at 11:30 PM. But there's no real need to feel sorry for me because I've developed some pretty good coping mechanisms over the years. My first strategy (and the most effective one) is simply to conk out. Sleeping for four hours takes an 18 hour drive to a 14 hour drive. Much better. My other strategies are to call people and chit chat on the phone, listen to podcasts, and.... munch on munchies!

    There's just something about eating junk food on a long car ride that makes the trip a bit more enjoyable. That's why when we stopped to get gas, I came out of the rest stop with some Skittles and some gum.

    I happily tore into the Skittles after lunch. I told Max I'd eat the first half of the package while he was busy polishing off the Doritos. I was almost at the end of my candy allotment when I felt a loud crunch in my mouth.

    I moaned. This was either going to turn out to be a really stale lemon Skittle, or.... tooth. My crown, to be exact. The crown I'd had put in to the top right hand side of my mouth a mere two years ago by my incompetent dentist. So I spit out the lemony mass, and salvaged the crown by wrapping it in a napkin in my purse. When I looked in the mirror to survey the damage, this is kinda what I saw:

    Okay, so I don't really look like that, but in the absence of an actual picture from my camera, you'll just have to trust me that I am now Hillbilly Sarah (at least until I see the dentist tomorrow).

    There are three good things to come of this:

    1. THANK THE LORD it didn't happen until after my ten year reunion. My vanity could not have handled it!
    2. There's no pain involved.
    3. This is a golden opportunity to convince myself and others that the best thing for my poor mouth right now is to just eat ice cream until my dentist's appointment.
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