Lights Out!

imageIt was a dreary, lazy Sunday afternoon, rain dripping outside while I sat curled up in my chair with a good book.  There wasn’t anything I needed to do and there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do.  I had no thought other than enjoying my book and the slowness of the day.

Then the electricity flickered…flickered…went out.

No problem.  It happens.  It will be back on in a minute.

It’s not back on.  Well, I’ll just read a little bit longer and then see about calling it in.  It’s probably just a fluke.

Still off.  Doggone it, I’m going to have to reset all my clocks.  That is so annoying.  Especially when the power is out for such a short time.

Ok, it is not such a short time.  What if it doesn’t come back on…for awhile?

Uh oh.

I can’t fix dinner.  I can’t turn on any lights.  I can’t turn the furnace on when it gets even colder in here.  I don’t want to open the fridge.  I don’t want to open the freezer.

Oh no–the freezer!  All my meat is going to thaw and go bad, and there’s going to be a horrible stinky mess, and that’s expensive, and I hate thinking about everything that is in the freezer that will surely be lost…

I can’t set my alarm for the morning!  I can’t dry or fix my hair tomorrow before school!  I can’t…


–The power flickers…flickers…and stays on.  It has been about 25 minutes.—

Ok, well.  I’m just going to read my book then.  I’ll deal with the clocks later.


The Battle of the Bin

imageIt happens every time.  I know the temptation, and tell myself that this time will be different.  I have the willpower to resist.  I can just walk away.  There are many logical, rational reasons that bounce through my brain louder and louder as I approach.  And without fail, my resolve falters and before I know it, I am elbow-deep…

in the bargain movie bin at WalMart.

Here’s how it happens.  I approach with my cart, ready to slide right past the display. Yes, I see the big $9.99 sale sign–but I don’t have extra money to spend on nonsense and I am strong enough to not even look.  I own WAY too many DVDs already.  Besides, I want to finish up my shopping list and get right out the door, on to better things.

But then I see it…in the random chaos of DVDs in the bin, one very sweet title that I cannot believe is actually there.  In the SALE BIN.  ON SALE.  And that’s all it takes.  I swipe that plastic case up and stick it in the cart without another rational thought.  And then I think “Well, if THAT is in here what ELSE is here as well??”

At first I am methodical.  I try to excavate in a certain area all the way to the bottom of the bin (because surely if there are treasures, they are at the bottom of the bin).  I try to stack the excess DVDs to the right, then to the left while I dig my hole, but soon my piles begin to collapse.  With visions of an noisy avalanche, I quickly abandon the organized approach and start digging in every direction.

After some time, I become aware that I am seeing the same titles over and over, and I start to regain my sanity.  This is ridiculous!  I have better things to…WAIT!!  Is that “My Three Sons” from the 70’s???  WOW!  I had better keep looking!  What else is hiding in here!  Do they have ALL the seasons of “Little House on the Prairie” do you think??

Finally my frantic digging slows and I realize that once again I have succumbed to the black magic of the sale DVD bin.  I check my cart and find a tossed assortment of random DVDs that seemed essential just a few minutes ago.  As I get my equilibrium back and start evaluating my choices, most of them go back into the bin.  A couple are tough to put back, but if I am really honest with myself, I know I can find those shows easily online and don’t need to own them on DVD.  I release my grip on the last set–“The Waltons:  Season One” and push my cart away with resolve.

I give in to my disappointment by allowing myself some pretty pens to use at school–then decide it is time to check out and leave.  I push my cart back in the direction of the bin, almost without thinking.  I try to speed up, but it’s no use–I scoop up “The Waltons” (which I left in a sweet spot at the very top of a stack) with one hand and head for the front of the store.  And a moment later, with a grim look on my face, I whip right back around and toss John Boy and his television family back into the bin.  For heavens’ sake, “The Waltons” is on tv four times a day in the summer!

I have conquered the Bargain DVD Bin once again…but I know the very next time I will face the same battle.  Let’s just hope someone else has taken home “The Waltons” by that time.  Or at the very least, hidden it down at the bottom for someone else to dig out and find.


Best Foot Forward

imageAs my family celebrated Easter last weekend, it brought back one of our favorite family stories…

It is hard not to be late for church when you have a house full of family and only one shower.  It is even harder not to be late when you also hold an Easter Egg hunt in the morning, have a special breakfast to enjoy, and then have small chocolatey children to wrangle into good clothes.  Our plan of attack is usually to send a small delegation of put-together adults down the street to church early to save seats for the rest of the family to slide into at the last minute.  It was during this flurry of activity that there was a sound of alarm from the upstairs floor.

My brother had just realized he left his dress shoes at home, two hours away.

As the chaos continued and children were buckled into car seats, we considered the options.  Since it was about 15 minutes before the service was due to start, we didn’t have any ideas.  None of the other men in the house had extra shoes that would fit.  We had to think outside the box for a solution.  In a last-ditch effort, we called my uncle and crossed our fingers that he hadn’t left for church yet.  That wish was granted, but…

The only shoes he could come up with so quickly were faded brown moccasins.  He showed up in the driveway moments later and tossed them to my brother through the car window.

Ten minutes later, the last of us arrived at church.  The sanctuary was packed and the service was starting.  To my poor brother’s embarrassment, he then led the procession of family members all the way down the long aisle to the only seats left, in the very front pew.  Although he did his best to walk with dignity and pretend his feet were invisible, my sister, sister-in-law, and I shook with laughter all the way through the service.  It was an Easter to remember, and we bring up that story almost every year.  At least one person finds a way to ask my brother if he remembered to pack his shoes!

This year, I was the only one to go home for Easter.  Just before locking my door and leaving for the long trip, I made one final check of the house to make sure I had all my bags.  And there, on the floor of my bedroom…were my church shoes.

I was so close to joining my brother in the Easter Family Shoe Debacle!  (I may have had to borrow and wear the brown moccasins just for tradition’s sake…)

Thank goodness I didn’t have to…


imageI had been hearing some conversations about “the big game” for awhile in my class.  It seemed to be an ongoing topic that all the kids were buzzing about.  The mystery was solved when one of the boys asked if I had recess duty on this afternoon.  When I said yes, he said he was super-excited because now I could come to the game, and he handed me a paper ticket.

What were they up to?

It turns out that they were putting together a soccer game.  It sounded like pretty normal recess play to me until I overheard two of the boys discussing who was going to be the Commentator.  Ummm…what??

And so it went…when I walked over to the soccer field at recess, my whole class was involved in the Class Soccer Match.  There were goalies and players on the field and cheerleaders by the sidelines.  There were spectators, the Commentator (of course), and one boy who paced the field with a clipboard.  Everyone knew their job and they managed to pull off a spectacular match…I think.  I’m not sure how many of them actually know all the rules of soccer.  At least two of them are pretty fuzzy on the “no hands” rule.  But it was a wonderful thing to watch them all working together, including all their classmates in whatever role they wanted to play.  They lined up at the door at the end of recess, all smiles at the success of the Big Soccer Game.  I know they had just as much fun planning it together as they did pulling it off, and I can’t wait to see what they tackle next.  I still have my ticket, so I’ll be sure to get invited!

Oh…and the boy with the clipboard was the referee.  I have no clue what he was writing down, but it surely seemed important!




It was already too late when I heard the story.

One of my students wanted to bring her new box of Pokemon cards to school.  (Students are allowed to have cards out in the gym while waiting for the morning bell to ring.). Her new (expensive) Elite Trainer Mega-Blastoise set of cards that she had saved for and bought herself.  Her mother advised her not to bring them, for fear that they would get lost or stolen.  She pleaded her case and brought them on Friday morning.

They got lost or stolen.

By Monday, the story came out amid tears.  The student was heartbroken but also embarrassed because she had pushed to bring the cards and then they disappeared on her watch.  I tried my best to figure out how to help.  From the description of the timeline, it was clear that the cards went missing while in our classroom.

I suspected everyone.  I suspected no one.  After all these days of looking into the eyes and hearts of these children with love, how could I look instead through the lens of doubt and suspicion?

I tried giving a plea to their compassion and friendship for their classmate.  We talked about empathy.  We proposed solutions.  We spent precious minutes looking in nonsense places around the room because they couldn’t accept the idea that they had been taken.  I moved on to sterner words and some interrogations.  Nothing.  I pulled out books that talked about making mistakes and fixing them.  We talked about how brave it is to have the courage to fix a mistake like this.  The little girl (again tearfully) told her classmates that she would forgive whoever had the cards and not be angry because she just wanted her cards back.  And in the end, I offered a reward–a class celebration if we could solve the problem and return the cards.  They were so excited at the idea of this that we all walked out the door optimistically thinking that the cards surely would reappear in the morning..

They did not.

Pokemon cards are a hot commodity these days among my second graders.  If one of the kids really did snatch the box and take it home, those cards are surely absorbed seamlessly into another collection with no one the wiser.  This situation lurks like a cloud over our classroom, but as much as it troubles my heart, I am out of ideas on how to get to a resolution.  It’s been an expensive lesson to learn for one little girl in particular, but the rest of the kids and I are also paying the price of a loss of trust among us.  This is not the direction I want our feelings to go as we zoom towards the end of our school year together!  We have some work to do as a class in our conversations in the coming days, and my hope is that we can regain some of the trust that has been damaged.  This has been a sad chapter in our class story.

Any advice or ideas would be much appreciated!

So Squirrely…

imageimageHe was there again today, just like every day.  This time he was on the ground.  Sometimes he is in the middle of my path and other times he is already up in the tree.

He’s my little squirrel playmate.  Or my vicious squirrel stalker.  I’m not really sure yet.

Today we had a game of peek-a-boo.  He dashed around the back of the tree and then hid for a few moments.  Before long, his curiosity got the better of him and he peeked around the trunk at me.  Usually I just keep walking, but this time it was too tempting to see what he would do.  I stood completely still and just waited.  He peeked around one side, then frantically pulled back to hide once more.  In a few seconds, his squirrely little face peeked around the other side.  The longer I stood, the more he could not resist the peeking and hiding game.

Before long, he dashed up to reach the first branches overhead.  He picked a sturdy branch to perch on and froze, staying just as still as I did.  When I didn’t react, he went a little higher and tried the same staredown tactics.  He seemed to be more than a little agitated at this point, but he also didn’t want to go off to his squirrely life work while I was still standing at his tree staring at him.

The final straw for me was when he ventured out a little further on a higher branch. Suddenly I had a vision of a kamikaze flying jump that would result in a squirrel plastered to my head and I decided to move on with a little speed.

Well played, squirrel.  I’ll be back tomorrow.



imageI needed something lighthearted to read to my class following Spring Break.  I picked up “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” because I knew my second graders would get a kick out of it and maybe some would pick it or its sequels up to read on their own.

What I didn’t realize was how much I would enjoy their laughter.  They can’t wait for me to open the book each day.  They settle in to listen quietly, just waiting for the first ridiculous line that tickles their funny bone.  And every day, I am not disappointed.

First,, as they listen, someone inevitably mutters something like “…but that doesn’t make any SENSE” or “wait a minute, that’s not right”.  And then, someone else blares out with a big “HA!” and the giggles begin.  Before long, the whole class dissolves in laughter and we have to take a minute to get back to the story.

There are a couple kiddos who are my favorite laughers.  One boy, who loses himself in his own books on any given day to the point of not hearing any of us around him, becomes so absorbed in the antics of the student in Wayside School that he lets out a crazy high-pitched “HEEEEE” almost before anyone else realizes the funny in the moment.  I love when he does that, and I find myself thinking ahead as I read, trying to guess which part will get him going.  He doesn’t disappoint!

One of my girls usually listens quietly and laughs with the others as usual…until something really big happens, when she sits up ramrod straight and bellows out a huge “HA!” and then doubles over with a loud belly laugh.  Once she starts her shouts of laughter, we all lose it!

I always had fun reading this book with my first graders, but reading it with second graders this year makes me think they are the perfect age for the zany, nonsensical (but to them, perfectly logical)  stories that are told.  I guarantee they are going to remember this book for a long time to come!

(And yes, my belly-laugher checked out another copy from the library and is trying her best to read at least one story ahead of me…)