school’s out

Somehow the school year is already over. We were just at the open house and on Tuesday we had the end of the year luau party. As the unofficial room mom who cannot say no, I was asked to bring a salty snack and a healthy snack. I was going to construct a palm tree out of pretzel sticks and fruit but Christopher talked me out of it. “I can spray blueberries with edible paint to look like coconuts” may have clued him into the fact that I was able to stay up all night to make something none of the kids would appreciate. I went with goldfish in Hawaiian cups and fruit kabobs instead.There were 10 children in her class at the beginning of the year but only 8 at the end and they all became good friends. It was really sweet how excited they all were to see which awards the teacher gave out. They were almost more excited for the others than for themselves. I wasn’t a fan of their teacher at the beginning of the year. She was nice enough as a person, but she didn’t have the personality to teach first and second grade. She sang no songs, played no games, and barely decorated the classroom. She was not a party bus. About two months into the year there was a switch and we scored the jackpot with the new teacher. She was Annabelle’s dance teacher a few years ago which helped Annabelle with the transition. She is everything the other teacher wasn’t. They danced to the timeline song to help with memorization. They had an animal parade day where they could bring their favorite stuffed animal. I know all those things aren’t necessary to learn but they make it so much more enjoyable. AB struggles in some areas and she was so patient with her and never made her feel less than the children who didn’t struggle. She never complained about all the texts I sent her during the week about the at home school work.

We made it to the ninth month of the school year before Sesame forgot her lunch. I congratulated myself too early because I thought we would make it the whole year but pride cometh before bringing a lunchbox to school at 10:30. We were never tardy. I obsessively checked my alarms for Tuesday and Thursday mornings to ensure they’d go off in 15 minutes increments and I wouldn’t accidentally sleep in. We rolled in at 7:59 once or twice but the gate was still open and she never had to get a late slip from Katie in the office. I was quite proud of myself of our time management skills. It all went out the window on the very last day. She never had to be at school on Wednesdays, but this week we did for the awards ceremony and classical showcase. My entire rhythm was off so I hadn’t checked my alarm enough times the night before and didn’t wake up until 7:11 which was when AB should have been finishing breakfast and brushing her teeth. Somehow we threw ourselves together enough to be presentable and made it on time because I WOULD NOT let our perfect record be tarnished.

Sesame’s mosaic tree was on display. It didn’t have her name on it which is shameful given the number of hours I spent volunteering in art asking students, “Did you write your name on the back? Did you write your name? Your name, not Jason’s name. Why would you write his name on your art?”

On the morning of the awards ceremony Annabelle brought up how some students would get the perfect attendance award and some would get A/B or A grade awards. I didn’t think she’d get either grade award given her struggles with spelling, but I knew for sure she wouldn’t get the perfect attendance award. She missed one day when I had the ‘rona and I suspected she had it too. Imagine our surprise when her name was the first called for the perfect attendance award. Her teacher was presenting the awards and I was 110% sure she’d get up there and tell her she shouldn’t have the award, but she accepted it without arguing. Either the office didn’t get the memo that she was out or they didn’t count it since it was coronavirus related and she turned in all her work. We were both in attendance for all the homeschool days so I will accept the perfect attendance award for both of us. She also got the A Honor Roll award. 

I didn’t get an award for orchestrating Third Thursday Lunch, keeping London from cutting the tassels off her shoes or gluing four boxes of noodles to a cardboard pyramid but there’s always next year. I’m sure the office will keep better track of parent participation in the 22-23 school year.

.eight.

When we were young, Katie and I had a particular way of eating Skittles. She ate the red and purple, I ate the yellow and orange and we split green lime. It was a perfect system and to this day I do not eat a Skittle without thinking of her and wishing she’d take the red and purple off my hands. Back in 2013, I was newly pregnant and at the hospital waiting to be given IVs. We sat in the waiting room for what felt like fourteen eternities. I alternated between staring at the two bathrooms so I would know which was available and rushing into said bathroom so I could throw up. Christopher bought a bag of Skittles because the only thing that sounded like it might have even the slightest possibility of being vaguely appealing was sour candy. It was then I learned that the powers that be at Skittles Headquarters USA changed the flavor of the green candy from lime to apple. Talk about hitting me when I was already down. All I wanted was a tiny lime candy! It was a bad day on many levels.

All that Skittles talk to say, it felt like a full-circle moment the day before Annabelle’s 8th birthday when I read an article saying that Skittles has brought back their lime flavor. The Lord has not abandoned us yet. Evidently, this is old news and the green skittle returned to the lime-light several months ago, but I am just now finding out. The article was dated September 28th, 2021 which was almost exactly 8 years to the day that the green skittle became dead to me. One minute I’m on the verge of throwing up and my favorite candy is gone, the next minute the candy is back but I’m on the verge of tears over my baby’s age. You win some, you lose some.

Annabelle didn’t want a big this year. She said she wanted a few friends over to “do fun things around town” instead. Our town is the size of a postage stamp so it was a real stretch to find a few good activities. I made a pick your own adventure sheet and she had the option between two playgrounds, then between a roller rink or fun park, which activities she wanted to do at the fun park (bowling, bumper cars, mini golf, etc), which snacks she wanted and so on.

We planned two activities outside the house then home for cake and presents and more playing. It was very very low-key. She was so overwhelmed with all the kids at her party last year that we only invited three little friends this year and it was perfect. I told the moms we’d provide supper if AB wasn’t too overwhelmed. Not only was she not too overwhelmed, but the party was never-ending. The kids got to our house at 1:30 and didn’t leave until 7:30. They ran all over the playground, zipped around on go-karts, and didn’t stop moving for six hours.

My great birthday sorrow (besides the fact that the 5lb 11oz baby I brought home is now 64lbs) was Sesame didn’t want to have a specific birthday theme. What’s a party without a theme?! Does she not know that themes are my love language? We settled a generic ”birthday theme” party and while no one would pin it on Pinterest, it was cute and she liked it.

The cake absolutely was not Pinterest worthy. AB requested mud pie (oreo crust, chocolate cake layer, chocolate pudding layer and whipped cream) and I couldn’t make it into any kind of fun shape. I always pride myself on making her a creative cake and I really dropped the ball this year. She requested a theme-less cake so I had no direction. I forgot to buy special things to put on the top so I used one of the silly wrapping bows that matched the bows on her presents. It tasted delicious but it was not my finest work.

At 1:40PM on her actual birthday, the very moment she turned eight, Annabelle was doing very Annabelle things. She was barefoot outside, listening to a podcast.

She loves podcasts, audio books, coloring and drawing, playing games on the iPad, spending time with her cousins, Sunday school, being read to, digging in the dirt, playing outside and swimming. Her favorite meal is spaghetti bolognese and her current favorite color is purple. She still gets cereal on the floor when she pours herself a bowl. She never turns down a sweet treat. Her favorite animal this week is a penguin. She has a sensitive little soul and and a great sense of humor. She is a terrible speller. She’s already bummed out that school will be ending and counting down the days until she starts 3rd grade. She never has a bad hair day.
She’s my best girl and I love her more than lime skittles.

Suess Days and World Days

We’ve had a busy few weeks at school. We had Dr. Suess week, Read Across America and World Day within days of each other. I’d like to schedule a meeting with the principle and/or all parties responsible for scheduling them all at the same time. There may have been a small planning hiccup on our end because we forgot to read 17 of the 50 books until after 9pm on the night before the Read Across America paper was due but we got it done.

I made the class snack on silly hat day.Red fish, blue fish we wanted to have,
But the blue fish are missing, they’re still out at sea.
The red fish are here, they’re as great as can be!


I was proud of that little rhyme and considered filling out the paperwork to change my name to Sarah Suess. As it turns out, first and second-grade boys do not care to read witty poems about why there were no blue fish in the red fish, blue fish Hop on Popcorn. “Why are they missing? Did your mom lose them?” Walmart didn’t have any blue candy, ok? Don’t ask so many questions. Appreciate the beauty of language and the fact that I woke up early to make you popcorn.

There’s a very true statement about 10% of the people in an organization doing 90% of the work. I am in that 10% group. That’s how I found myself gluing pasta to a cardboard pyramid on a Thursday afternoon. Annabelle’s class studied Egypt for world day and no one else volunteered to help with the class project. I genuinely do like helping, but sometimes I feel a little like it’s assumed I’ll be the one to sign up for everything because I only have one child while all the other moms have multiple children.
Genuine Egyptian pyramid covered with authentic gold paint flecks harvested from aisle 8 at Joann Fabric.
Back in December when we did the science fair Annabelle wasn’t very interested in my suggestions about how to design her bird board. She glued on a couple of construction paper eggs, 10 index cards with facts and called it a day. We came a long way with her board on the holidays and tourism of Egypt. We could have added more pizzazz and pictures but it was such an improvement on the bird board I have no complaints. The background looks like the Egyptain flag with US/Egyptian holiday comparisons on the left and tourism facts on the right. In the middle she choose four tourist destinations she’d recommend to someone visiting Egypt. I did all the typing and provided stylistic ideas but it was all (mostly) her work. I REALLY TRIED to keep my input to an appropriate level.

Some parents did their children’s entire project for them and it showed. AB and her friend Sammy got in the car at pick up the day all the projects were turned in and AB said, “That building is really cool but I think their parents built it for them.” Sammy said, “That’s what they said but I don’t think they were supposed to tell us that.” It’s ok, Sammy. It’s obvious three 7 year olds didn’t make a mosque with lights and bells by themselves.Remember when she learned to roll over just last week? Next week she’ll be in college. TIME IS CRUEL.

No one gave me a teacher’s apple but I did get a package of Reese’s cups

Several weeks ago Annabelle’s Tuesday/Thursday teacher started telling me I needed to fill out the substitute teacher paperwork so I could fill in when she couldn’t be there. She was joking at first, then half-joking the second time, then not at all joking the third time. The substitute she was supposed to have that morning so she could go to her appointment called in sick. I sort of laughed my way out of it because I had no desire to be a sub. It’s not that I don’t want to help at school. I go in once a week to help with the art class that always involves moderating a fight between MJ and Jason. I set up the Valentine’s party and that very day got asked to help with the open house. Anytime there’s a sign up sheets for anything my name is on it. I’m going in this week to help make a pyramid out of noodles for World Day. I am very happy to help. I went to school for early childhood education so I can’t use the excuse of not liking kids. It’s just that I have two times a week when I have alone time and can get things done without talking about what’s happening on AB’s podcast or how deep her dirt hole is getting. I didn’t really want to spend one of the two days I have without her, with her and nine of her classmates. Besides, I don’t have a Bachelors Degrees which is a requirement to teach at the school. It was the perfect out. Well, her teacher texted me a few days later saying lo and behold she was mistaken about subs needing a Bachelors degree so could she give me the paperwork that Thursday? Her son was in the state basketball tournament the next week and the other sub wasn’t available. I could not say no. Not when she took away my one excuse. I couldn’t stand between her watching her son at state! I said I’d be happy to.

I’ve done countless fingerprint and background tests, but going to the lab for a drug test isn’t something I’ve had to do before. AB and I arrived when they were closed for lunch so we hung out in the waiting room for 20 minutes. The lady finally called me up to the desk and took all my information then suddenly saw Annabelle. “Oh no. She can’t be here. No kids are allowed in the building. There’s a virus going on.” Who did she think was skipping around and playing hopscotch in the waiting room all this time? Me? We had to leave and I went back the next morning. I had to empty my pockets and put my purse in a locker. There was a whole protocol I was not familiar with as I don’t often hang out with druglords. After I peed in the cup, the nurses stared at a sticker on the side, murmuring and nodding their heads. Instantly I started to panic and wonder what kind of drugs I had been doing. The answer is NONE. I don’t do drugs. It took less than a quarter of a second for my brain to go from zero to I had been doing drugs, forgotten I had been doing them, and assume that my career in substitute teaching (that I suddenly very much valued) was going up in flames. I’d have to move out of town because I couldn’t face my friends now that I was a druggie. My overactive imagination had that workout for nothing as I tested negative for all drugs, real or imagined.

Since I help the kids in art I already know the class which helped, but it also meant a few kids felt comfortable enough correcting me when I dared do something out of order and volunteered a lot of statements about how “Mrs. So and So always does it this way, not the way you’re doing it.” At art one day I had made a comment about being a party bus so I knew I had to really bring the fun when I showed up in the classroom. I came prepared with pages of printed jokes. I told them throughout the day and we rated them by one, three, and five stars. I used tally marks to keep track of the ratings so it had a small educational aspect to it. The kids all loved it except for Caroline. She was a hard nut to crack. She never voted higher than one star for any joke and there were some good ones. I was feeling pretty good about my performance so I asked if the children wanted to share any jokes with the class. It quickly became apparent that wasn’t my finest idea. Sammy took his socks off to get comfy for the show. Just took them off and put them on his desk. I know Sammy well so I wasn’t surprised, but why was that necessary? The girls told ok jokes, but the boys told what they thought were zingers but I would have rated negative five stars. “Why did the duck cross the road? Because he wanted to get runned over and squashed and die.” Open mic was shut down after that.                                                                                     I never felt more professional.

I corrected some math sheets for the teacher while the children did some independent work. After six sheets I realized I read the question wrong and had to go back and correct my own correction. Either I shouldn’t be a full-time teacher or I did have a little somethin’ somethin’ in my system after all. (I’M JUST KIDDING, MOM.)
Annabelle told me I did ”a pretty good job with most of the teaching” so I’ll take that moderate praise. I got home at the end of the day and immediately took a nap. I can’t rest for too long though because I’ve been assigned the job of organizing three teacher lunches before the end of the year. I hope my parent volunteer of the year award comes with an all-expenses paid vacation to Italy.

December recap, vol. 2

I haven’t talked to you since last year! I used to get such mileage out of saying that as a kid.

When I left off I was overwhelmed and in tears on the floor preparing for our family Christmas, delivering all manner of teacher/friend gifts, sending cards, prepping for AB’s science fair and school party, gathering supplies for Aaron’s wedding, packing for our trip to Massachusetts, making sure we were ready for Christmas in Massachusetts, lining up cat care for while we were gone and popping pain pills. Not much at all! Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

We got our real Christmas tree from the Hallmark perfect tree farm of Home Depot. I pretended Sesame was wearing snow boots and mittens instead of a short sleeve shirt. She asked for the fifth year in a row why I tap the tree trunk against the ground before spinning and sniffing it and I told her for the fifth year in a row to TRUST THE PROCESS. You can’t waltz in there and grab the first tree you see.
Our theme tree this year was small kitchen items. HobLob really pulled through with small kitchen items being 70% off when we needed them. If anyone needs tiny hohoho or noel rolling pins let me know. Using the colander at the top instead of a star was Christopher’s idea.

I order all the babies memorial ornaments from a shop on etsy and it sent me into a fit of tears when I saw that the owner had closed her shop. I was so upset that one of the babies would have a different ornament than the other three. I spent hours on etsy looking for an ornament that looked similar enough but couldn’t find one. Christopher suggested sending her a message but she said she closed her shop for “a mental health break” and I didn’t want to bother her. Eventually, I sent her a message and two weeks later I had a matching ornament. I could have kissed her feet. It meant so much to me that she took the time to make one for me.

We made stovetop potpourri jars for our teachers and friends and I gave AB the job of writing the names of the lids. Instead of writing her tutor’s real name, she wrote her job. Tootr. Hence why she has a tutor.

No one tell my child that the elf is supposed to be involved in shenanigans. Our elf hides in the microwave, writes notes on the dry erase board and waits with Ian Major Clark on the backpack. Jingle in a very low-key elf.
The day we left for MA, Annabelle had her first science fair. She learned 10 facts about bluebirds which she presented to the class then set up in the gym for the entire school to see. She was so very proud of her board. Her board looked NOTHING like I suggested. NOTHING AT ALL. I suggested she make a tree and put facts on the leaves. Let’s put the eggs in a nest made of dry grass we gather in the backyard. At the very least let’s put some construction paper behind the index cards. “No thanks, Mom. I’ll do it with my own ideas.”
Actual footage of me watching and trying to be supportive but still wanting her to do it my way. Some children clearly had too much parental input (aka takeover). I didn’t want to run the whole show (or did I?). All I wanted to do was add a small amount of pizzazz.

Immediately before our flight out we went to the class Christmas party. As much as my input was not wanted on the science board, it was welcome given on the gingerbread house. That’s how we ended up with a candy cane heart on the roof.

December recap, vol. 1

I know we’re two days from New Years but I have a personal tradition of recapping December events lo, many days after which they happen so why stop that tradition now.

Welcome to the peaceful oasis that was my backyard a few weeks ago.Can I offer you a cocktail on my deck?Our new roof was being installed (? put on? put up?) and it wreaked havoc on my yard, my deck, and my cat’s nerves. Linus, who has never been described as a chill cat, had never been so high-strung in his entire life. He was squeezing himself into the smallest spots under bookshelves and beds. He got so scared he threw up. I wanted to slip valium in his cat food. Lucille was not bothered by the noise or her brother’s anxiety. The pictures falling off the walls from the constant banging don’t rock her boat at all.

It was at this most HGTV perfect home time that Joanna came to visit. Without fail, she’s been the most consistent friend when it comes to visiting us. She has seen all but two of our eight homes. I like to think I’m a generally good time but a different version of me comes out when I go home or my friends from home come to visit. We call it Massachusetts Sarah. Massachusetts Sarah does things like get a running start on one side of the kitchen in order to slide across the counter like a penguin. I try to be a low-level party bus at all times, but I am more reserved when I’m in mom/wife mode. Joanna came to town and immediately out came a lower energy/post-surgery, Massachusetts Sarah. We laughed until we cried. I’ve known Joanna from the day she was born so she’s only ever known me that way. To be honest, there were several years was a very brief period when I deemed her too young to play with because I am two years her senior, but I came to my senses. I did look on her fondly when she was a baby baby. Look how happy two-year-old Sarah was to be holding little Joanna. I was thrilled! She was less than happy about the arrangement. She insists she was unhappy about the bonnet but I’m sure it was how hard I was squeezing.

There isn’t much to do in our bustling metropolis which is how we ended up at Walmart within 12 hours of her arrival. I took her to the coffee shop and the one non-chain restaurant that’s clean and that about wrapped up our tour of the town. She helped me address Christmas cards and pack for Aaron’s wedding. I like to give my guests a good time when they come to visit, but I’m still recovering from the surgery and my overwhelmed level is about 12/10. She showed up willing to help and I reluctantly accepted.

Sesame had many events that all fell on the weekend Joanna was here. She had her first basketball game and I mean this in all love, but sports are not her thing. She has great sportsmanship and is very good at complimenting her teammates, but is not good at the sports part of sports. She doesn’t like loud noises so playing in an echoing gym with people yelling and shouting isn’t up her alley. She also doesn’t understand how to play the game of basketball which I knew going into the game but I don’t think she realized until she got there. But she gave it her best effort. When she played Tball with the Y in the summer, the coaches often showed up 15 minutes before the end of practice. Things are very different in this league. There’s a man assigned to keeping score and “halftime entertainment” when the little cheerleaders in big bows come out. I’m surprised there isn’t a concession stand and someone selling foam hands.

The next event of the day was a school concert held at the local mall. Nothing like singing of our Saviors birth between Auntie Anne’s and Star Jewelers.

Look at the way she’s staring at Christopher. All that love and adoration towards the person who takes her out for pancakes every Saturday and not one bit for the woman who literally fought tooth and nail, blood, sweat and tears to bring her into this world. The next morning at church, Annabelle sang a song with the children’s choir and our family did the Advent reading and lighting on the candles. I did not do the reading because have you met me? I do not open my mouth in public. I would consider performing a concert in front of six thousand strangers (NO ONE I know would be allowed to attend) after I spent all afternoon with wardrobe, hair, and makeup, but no way in heck do I want to read a passage from the Bible in front of our very nice church congregation. Christopher and AB read while I lit the candles. There was almost a catastrophe when I lost my balance while holding the flame but the building is still standing and Christopher’s hair wasn’t singed after all.

Joanna came to work with me one night. She made a teacher gift I didn’t have time to make and one small sign for herself to take home. I wanted to pick Joanna up and recreate the picture from when we were little in front of the paint but it didn’t seem like the right time. I’m sure my boss wouldn’t have minded, but Jojo wasn’t wearing her bonnet.