My classroom is not a quiet, orderly place.
Students are constantly moving, thinking, talking, reading and writing.
I do my best to help my students find success.

March 22, 2017


Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
Write from your heart.
Two Writing Teachers
I met Beth in 1973 when our parents bought new houses on the same street.  She lived on one side, and I lived on the other, three doors down.

We attended kindergarten together.  We played all sorts of dress up games, forcing my brother to be her husband or pizza guy or our pet dog.  We rode bikes, swam in our backyard pools and sang Billy Joel songs at the top of our lungs.

In 1979 (mid-4th grade) our parents both looked for new houses.  Would you believe they bought lots on the same street in a new town?  They didn't even find out this exciting fact (Beth and I squealed!) until each had put down a deposit.

My brain is a spinning top filled with ideas, music, books, words and worries.
Beth has a great way of clearly stating what needs to be done, she has a great flair for decorating, and she's generous with her time and advice.

In August, Beth moved to Arizona with her husband, cat and dog.  When she was here in Illinois, she was a 30 minute ride away.  We saw each other pretty often for dinner and other fun events.  I'm so glad for the internet, texting and good old phone calls to connect with my friend, especially when I get super wound up about life.

Thanks for being my BFF, Beth!

March 21, 2017


Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
Especially about unusual happenings!
Two Writing Teachers
In yesterday's post, I used sounds to emphasize some of Sunday & Monday's events.

Today, I start out where I left off:

I heard a noise behind me.  SQUAWK!

This noise didn't sound like the robins and sparrows that usually sing from the pine tree.  This was something really different.  After I set all my things in the car, I walked over to the source of the noise.

That's when I saw him.

A rooster.  Under the pine tree.  Really!

 I started laughing to myself.  What else made sense?

I realized that this guy must have flown/walked/been blown over to my house from the park district's historical farm across the street.  We had some pretty intense thunderstorms last night, so I'm glad he made it through the night under our pine tree.  I'm also amazed that he didn't perish as he crossed the four-lane highway!

I really didn't know what to do, so I got some birdseed and threw it to the rooster.  He eagerly chowed down on the seeds, clucking contentedly.  My daughter (the bird whisperer - another slice for another time) was asleep inside.  My hope was to wake her up and have her alert the park district about the escaped rooster.

I snapped these pictures and jumped in the car, already running late to work.  When I arrived, my principal was out for car duty.  I told her I had a great excuse for being barely on time.  "No way!" was her reply when she saw the pictures.

I'm hoping my friend, the rooster, found his way back to the farm.  My daughter didn't wake up until after 10:00 a.m. and at that time he had wandered away.

I didn't see him on my walk tonight, as I looked carefully through the woods around our house.

It's not every day you find a rooster in your yard!

March 20, 2017

A Slice of Sounds #SOLC17

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Write every day in March.
Two Writing Teachers

I finished my final paper for my ESL endorsement.  SQUEEEE!

I wrapped up the evening with a bit of basketball, watching Iowa lose to TCU.  BOOOOO!

I snuggled into bed under two blankets.   WARM!

I quickly fell asleep.  ZZZZ!

Approximately 2:00 a.m. Monday

I awoke to a terrible sound.  CRASH!

It was an intense thunderstorm with lightning. FLASH! BOOM!

Allison came to my room to chat and joke.  GIGGLE!

I fell asleep again.  ZZZZZ!

5:50 a.m.

I woke up to the alarm. BEEP BEEP BEEP!

I rolled over for 15 more minutes.  GROAN!

I got ready for the day.  SHHHHHH!  WHIRRRR!  

I drank a big cup of coffee.  SLURRRRP!

7:15 a.m.

I placed all my bags in the car. SLAM!

I heard a noise behind me.  SQUAWK!

Come back on Tuesday to get the rest of the story!

March 19, 2017

Pressing Pause #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
It's ok to walk away and come back.
Two Writing Teachers
I pressed pause on slicing for two days.  If were a different, earlier year, I would have booted up the computer and typed, convinced I had to slice, no matter what.

This year I'm giving myself more grace.  I spin a few plates and sometimes one crashes.

Friday I went to the pet expo with my daughter and her friend to pet dogs, interact with birds and just wander along.  We came home and watched The Edge of Seventeen, laughing and gasping.

Saturday was spent cleaning the car, crafing a paper, spending time with my parents, and attending my nephew's Boy Scout crossover ceremony.

I couldn't bring myself to slice for two days because I had to get away from the computer.
I've been spending TOO much time working on my final paper for my final ESL class.  I've been over thinking and not typing enough.

And now I'm faced with a deadline of 12:00 midnight.

So I offer this little peek into my brain with this slice.  It's not a tidy place.

I'm in the big green chair, window open to listen to the birds.  I'm determined to finish the paper and send it on its way to be graded.  No more overthinking.  Just typing.

March 16, 2017

Sherwood Lane Little Free Library #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Take a walk first, you'll get ideas!
Two Writing Teachers
In February, the weather improved to 60 degrees one day.  I nudged nagged pleaded with my husband, "Can't we put up the little library todayyyyyyy?"

He obliged.  He's proud of his work (he built it!!!) and the adorable embellishments painted by my cousin Sara and her husband, Dennis.  It's truly a work of art.

As Jeff was pounding in the post to support the Little Free Library (LFL), neighbor Mike walked on over.  He's a mailman, and he has the gift of gab.  After he stopped by, neighbor Dean dropped by.  He promised to tell his grandkids to bring books.  Later, neighbor Jeff rang the bell.  "Tell me about the little house in the yard!"

I decided to go with a "soft open" instead of a grand opening.  I simply put books in the LFL.  I posted a picture on my personal Facebook page, I tweeted and I sent texts to my closest friends.

Today the lake effect snow melted from the sidewalks and the temperature reached 48 degrees.  I saw neighbor Dean on my quick walk (it was chilly!).
"Your little library has had quite a few customers!"
"That's great!" I replied.  I hadn't seen anyone use it yet, but books have come and gone.

As I rounded the block, my house came into view, and two adults (grandparents?) and an upper-elementary boy were checking out the library.  ("CUSTOMERS!" I squealed silently.)

I didn't know what to do, so I smiled and kept walking. The boy looked at a couple of books, but didn't take one.  
Here's to warmer weather, more LFL customers and maybe some bravery (on my part) to talk with them!


March 15, 2017

Thanks for your inspiration, Juliette! #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Sometimes you will be an inspiration!
Two Writing Teachers

First, I must tell you, my cheeks were a little pink on Sunday.  Betsy used one of my slices as the example on the call to slice link.
Next, you should know, I usually construct my slices on the fly (I plan nothing) and I write as I go.
Furthermore, I admit, my heart jumped when I saw my name connected to a slice on Sunday.

I immediately clicked on Juliette's Gifts.  I believe Juliette lives in another country from what I can gather from her slices.  She got inspiration from my Spring is Approaching slice and blogged about her summer.

Juliette mentioned traveling to Mallorca.  I love geography and searching for places, so I had to look it up.  Just LOOK at this gorgeous place!

a rocky bay in north mallorca
Image from See Mallorca
I've always been a guppy** when it comes to travel.  My husband went to Europe with our high school choir for his first airplane trip.  I've only traveled the US with white knuckles on the airplane and restless legs in the car.

But Juliette's slice got me thinking.  There's a whole world out there that I need to see.  I may need some more coaching when it comes to cross-country and overseas travel, but I think it would be worth it.  I can picture myself standing at the top of Cal Boquer Beach in North Mallorca, staring out into the blue, clear ocean, 

Thanks for your inspiration, Juliette!

** ("Flounder, don't be such a guppy!" The Little Mermaid)

March 14, 2017

I almost didn't write (but I did) #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Quick.  Write before the moment passes.
Two Writing Teachers

Woke up this morning to a bunch of snow (but less than New England is expecting).

Taught lots of kids, some more squirrely than others (but it was an overall pretty good day).

Met husband and daughter for dinner.  Cheeseburger and fries (but they were small).

Curled up on the couch.  Passing time until This is Us records (but I can't wait much longer).

Almost forgot to submit a slice.  No big deal (but why not write!).

I have a paper due soon (but it can wait until tomorrow).

I almost didn't write a slice (but I did).

March 13, 2017

Prior knowledge...activated! #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Write about the small moments
that fill your heart.
Two Writing Teachers
It was easy to get back into my small group reading routine today.  
Nearly all of my students came 
bursting into my little room, eager to get back to 
30 minutes out of their classroom to talk my ear off (otherwise known as "reading intervention").

My 5th graders were pretty chilled out due to the time change.  Our next text in the LLI red intervention kit was Six Snakes That Share Our World.

Little did I know that I have a huge snake fan in my small group, G.

G has not had the easiest time transitioning from English to Spanish, especially because our district's bilingual program currently ends after second grade.  G has great ideas, but decoding gets in his way.  He is soft-spoken and very curious.  I had no idea how a text about snakes would light up this kiddo's brain.

G started the conversation about snakes (pythons versus boas, what they eat, how they move).  Then J and C even chimed in with more facts.  We previewed the pages, and C noticed a map that noted there are no snakes found in Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Antarctica or New Zealand.  The facts and questions and discussion was happening so quickly, I could barely keep up.

"I think Kakapos (the New Zealand bird we read about last week) are not threatened by snakes, based on this map," stated C.


I looked at K, the only girl.  Even she had lots of questions for the snake crew.
"Did you hear him?" I asked her.  "I need to drop the mic!"
"Here, Mrs. Rayner," K handed me a pencil and smiled. "You can do a pencil drop!"

Here's to my students showing their genious.  Even after a week of PARCC testing.  Even after losing an hour of sleep this weekend.  Even if it took a book about snakes (ewwwww).

March 12, 2017

Calm before the storm #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
Even when you lose an hour of sleep
Two Writing Teachers

This morning it was really chilly, but beautifully sunny.

I haven't walked much since last summer for a list of reasons:  unmotivated, hurt feet, walking buddy moved, crummy weather.

I decided to lace up my shoes and just go.  I turned right instead of left.  Past the street I would usually turn on.  Then I trodded up the hill.

The sun was shining, but it's warmth didn't do much against the fierce, cold wind.  I was glad for my mittens, but I was missing my scarf and hat.  The wind kept pushing my hood farther back on my head.

I was the solo walker out this morning.  Few neighbors drove by in their cars.  

I walked to clear my head, listen to the birds and move my legs before I came inside to do homework and other computer work.

Tonight we expect a snowstorm.  I can't belive the lack of snow this season, but winter still has a tight grip.  We are in for 3-6" by Tuesday.

I enjoyed the blue, brilliant sky.  The calm before the storm.


March 11, 2017

Spring #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
All slicers welcome.
Two Writing Teachers
Spring is approaching
The sun is warm but the air is cold
I step outside, gloves on hands
and pull down the dry, jagged branches 
of the monster clematis that clings to our fence.

Spring is approaching
I try to connect the hose
failing more than once.
I finally line up the treads
twist, twist, turn on,
big spray, wipe eyes,
now the water is flowing.

Spring is approaching
I take in the sights and sounds
of my yard.
Birds chirping,
grass turning green,
plants pushing through the soft dirt.
What will I plant this year?

Spring is approaching
Time to finish up the indoor projects
and move to the outdoor projects.
Some planned, some spontaneous.
Some long overdue.

March 10, 2017

Collaboration #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
What will you write about today?
Two Writing Teachers
I usually run reading groups back-to-back from 8:15 a.m. until 12:15 p.m.  Then I emerge for lunch and return to my room for two more groups at 1:00 p.m.  I travel the hallways with my kinders and first graders, but I usually don't see my coworkers until after school.

This week, PARCC testing adjusted our schedules.  I didn't see as many students, and I had some opportunities to reconnect with some staff members inside and outside my building.

I adore my students, but this reconnection reminded me that there are many great minds and ideas around me.  I've been planning our spring reading night with just a couple of colleagues.  Today I started brainstorming with three others, and the ideas were phenomenal.  A couple more teachers stopped by my room while their students were in specials and we planned an entire spirit week.

Standardized tests threw off the whole school schedule, affecting students and teachers (!).  I'm grateful for the reconnection with my staff across small moments this week.  Our students and their families will benefit when they attend our reading night!

March 9, 2017

Tackling a Classroom Library #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
Got an idea?  Just write!
This week I've assisted our new-to-teaching third grade teacher, Sarah, administer the PARCC assessment.  (Why yes, my legs and feet are sore!  How did you know?)
It's been neat to be part of a classroom community for three days.  Today I decided to spend the entire day with the class and help out Sarah organize her classroom library.
"Do you mind if I cause some chaos?" I asked Sarah.  She was game because she has LOTS of books and wasn't sure where to start.
With an hour between testing and lunch, I invited the class to grab a stack of books and divide them between fiction and non fiction.  After a few minutes of struggle and confusion, I clarified the difference.  We then organized fiction into chapter books, picture books and series.
Next came non fiction.
"Is that real or fake?" someone piped up.
We clarified non fiction and decided to have three big categories:  people, science and animals.
Lunch time and specials came and went.
The kids returned to class and started another PARCC session.  I moved a few books and made more of a mess in non fiction (sorry, Sarah!) 

Today's reflection on our work:  It wasn't very quiet.  It wasn't totally productive, but it was a great effort.  I am seriously impressed by the size of Sarah's library.  She is quite the book finder!

March 8, 2017

Put your butt in the chair #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
A slice is a small piece of writing
Two Writing Teachers
I think I have found the key.

The key to finishing homework, assessments, lesson plans, emails, slices and other paperwork:

Put your butt in the chair.  Then do it.

It isn't as easy as it sounds.

I'd rather be doing anything than sit and work for longer than 15 minutes.  My brain races and spins and tries to come up with an excuse to get up and move.

Dishes?  Laundry?  I'll take care of both and then I'll get back to work.
Copies?  Chocolate?  I think I'll go print and grab a snack before I start on that paperwork.
Friends?  Coworkers?  I just go ask her in person.
Phone ping?  Chocolate craving?  I'll start that homework later.

Yup.  It's true.
I have comfy chairs and rolling chairs.
I have an office, a big table, a clear desk and a laptop.
But I don't have
the ability to prioritize.

Huh.  Makes me feel for the kiddos who feel the same way, day in and day out, at school.

March 6, 2017

Fuzzy buddies #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March
Maybe you prefer sticky notes?
Two Writing Teachers
My shoulders and elbows are a little bit stiff today.  Nope, I didn't play tennis or work out yesterday.  I spent the afternoon gluing googly eyes to pom poms.

Yes,  you read that correctly.

Last year I was wandering the aisles of Hobby Lobby, looking for something to make for my students about to take the PARCC assessments.  I considered...
  • stress balls (too bouncy)
  • balloons with flour (too messy)
  • candy (too much sugar)
  • erasers (too small)
Then I remembered a little fuzz ball with feet and antennae that I got from the fun fair in elementary school.  That was it!  I would make a fuzzy buddy!

Allison (my youngest) helped me glue eyeballs on pom poms last year.  Then I gifted them to the intermediate students at school.

"See, they don't have a mouth, so they are quiet!" I explained.

By the end of the week, some of the students had built little houses for their buddies, and even the "coolest" 4th grade guys were being protective of their new fuzzy pet.

This weekend I bought supplies and received help from Mikayla, a friend of Lindsey's on spring break.  We crafted over 200 fuzzy buddies.  Today I slipped into the 3rd-5th grade classrooms.  I started in 5th grade with kiddos who had a buddy last year.

I showed them a pencil kit from the principal, and then I held out the bag of buddies.  

"Hooray!  Cool!  Oh, yeah!" resounded through the room.

My sore shoulders are worth it.  My heart is full!

March 5, 2017

Hanging with the Hawkeye #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge
Write every day in March.
Try your best - I missed a day - it's OK.
Two Writing Teachers
On Friday night, we hopped in the car and headed to Iowa City, home of my oldest, Lindsey.  She's in her junior year as a Communications Studies/Political Science major at the U of Iowa.

It was really great to spend time with this kid.  We ate well, and we shopped.  We discussed the full gamut:  politics, her campus involvement, her classes, her possibilities for a summer internship, and her plans for the alternate spring break trip she's facilitating.

When we tried to get a word in edgewise or talk about other things, she pointedly changed the subject, "Let's get back to discussing me!"

Now some would think she was rude, but she wasn't. I get this kid.  I may be wrong, but it was her way of saying,

I am feeling a bit stressed, please let me vent and strategize.
I haven't seen you in person for awhile, and I need to get you all caught up.
I need you to validate (in a small way) all the things I am involved with as well as all my plans.

We did leave after lunch on Saturday because it is midterm week.  Lindsey had lots of papers due on Monday, and we didn't want to be in her way of completing anything.

There's nothing like seeing your kid at college, especially after their first two years are behind them.  My daughter has become an individual (see, Lindsey - I got the message!) who is capable, empowered, involved and insistent on making her mark on the world.  We parents get to ask questions and hear the details, but she makes all the decisions.  

March 3, 2017

Sloth Love #SOLC17

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Write every day in March
Doesn't that sound like fun?
Two Writing Teachers

Hubby Jeff started working in San Diego last week.  It's been a little bit of transtion to a quiet house for me because he was working locally since December.

Last night he returned with a bag.  Inside the bag was some fur and something rectangular.

"When I landed in San Diego on Sunday, he was sitting in the window of the store," explained Jeff.
"I had to bring him home."

Such sloth cuteness!  I've got some jealous friends at school who are big sloth fans!

And the book!?  Hooray for nonfiction!  I can't wait to spend some quality time reading about sloths with my new fuzzy friend.

Thanks, darling husband!

March 2, 2017

Grocery shopping #SOLC17

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Write every day in March
You know you want to try!
Two Writing Teachers
Image result for i never met a carbohydrate i didn't like
(Button art by Sandra Boynton)

Yup, I'm a foodie.
I love to eat, but
I really don't like to cook.
I leave that super power to my husband, Jeff
We call him Cheffrey (get it!?)

Unfortunately Jeff travels each week to his consulting job,
so I'm left to be
creative?      brave?    desperate.

Frozen pasta + frozen cooked chicken + pesto in a jar = tonight's dinner  YES!

Allison eating out with friends?
I'm on my own for dinner?

Scrambled eggs + English muffin + fruit ... for the WIN!

Tonight I must hunt, forage and collect food at the grocery store.
I'm overwhelmed by the choices.
Even though I can more easily walk through the bakery
(my sweet tooth is tuned to dark chocolate)
and I can choose healthy veggies, fish and chicken,
it's still a challenge.

I'm all set to go.
Wrote my list, gathered my reusable bags,
laced up my gym shoes.

Off I go to the grocery store
a place that should be fun, but to me
it's just a place
where I overthink
the daily BIG QUESTION

What's for dinner?

March 1, 2017

Here We Go (YEAR 6 ?!?!) #SOLC17

Join the Slice of Life Challenge!
Write every day in March!
Two Writing Teachers
Holy moly, guacamole!

I just zipped to the SOLC data form and had to count on my fingers
 (HEY - it's a strategy)
to figure out this is year six for me.

Huh.  I didn't realize how time has FLOWN by!

Because I have not been a weekly slicer for a while
(you did see the name of my blog, right?  The subheading should be Life of a Super Procrastinator)
theres LOTS of topics to write about!

Here's a sneak peek for March, friends:

  • The Sherwood Lane Little Free Library is O P E N  (*throws confetti*)
  • I will have Spring Break all to myself
  • I {heart} chocolate, books, and coffee
  • Grad school (halfway through 2nd masters)
  • college-aged daughters
  • stress, ramblings, silliness
  • making vacation plans (San Diego in May)
  • anything my brain churns up
So welcome to the chaos, the stress and the F U N of slicing!!

So glad you're here, and I made it in time to write!