why i love(?) teaching, exhibit b

Throughout the course of a day, I hear a lot of strange things and get asked a lot of weird questions. Kids are always awkward about the way they ask to use the bathroom. Many times girls will mumble something inaudible or give me a knowing look accompanied by a side glance at their purse. Boys often try to take a humorous approach: "May I go piddle?" or the classic "I've got to drop off some friends at the pool."

However, I have one student who I think is genuinely trying to be polite, but still wound up asking me, "Mrs. Parton - may I go take care of some excrement?"


six real quick

1. The good news is that I feel like my long weekend lasted for about 2 weeks. The bad news is that all my freshmen turned in papers today.

2. The best news is that there are only 3 weeks until Christmas break.

3. Why is my Christmas Wish List always so much more extensive than Doug's? Why are boys so hard to buy gifts for? And, why are all my thoughtful gift ideas for Doug so expensive? Furthermore, why is Doug's birthday the week before Christmas?

4. I told a student recently that I couldn't keep "spoon-feeding" him or he'll "get to college and starve". Today he told me he had finished two of four assigned essays and proudly announced, "Look at me feeding myself!"

5. Someone once told me (probably my mom): "Anyone can be cynical and complain. It takes character to deal with things positively." I am not very good at applying this principle to my life, but I really want to improve... In my small groups, we always share praises along with prayer requests - I need to make that a daily practice.

6. Today's praise: I felt genuinely rested and prepared to come back to school. My long weekend was amazingly relaxing and fun. Plus, I get to have dinner at Katy's tonight, and it's been a long time since we've hung out!


getting holly & jolly

this has maybe been one of the best weekends known to mankind. exaggeration? probably not.

this morning: freezing cold romp with zooey
afterward: coffee with peppermint mocha creamer
late morning: christmas tree! (while listening to christmas music, obviously!)
arrive home: homemade hot chocolate - WOW.
for lunch: butternut squash soup made from thanksgiving leftovers
afternoon: watch plymouth football play in the state finals at ford field & feel famous because 2 boys in our youth group are on tv. watch michigan lose to ohio state - boo. put up garlands - yay!
evening: get out ornaments & put lights on tree!
also, put tree skirt on zooey.

dinner: cheese, bacon & ranch quesadillas
after dinner: planned our countdown to christmas! - 25 things to do before christmas. update blog.
still to do this evening: make gingerbread ornaments.

have i mentioned yet that i'm so excited for christmas?



One more step toward adulthood: successfully cooked my first Thanksgiving turkey.


not even 10 minutes after the previous post...

Walked back into the kitchen after writing my previous post, went to put pumpkin pie in the fridge, didn't stop to think that it would disturb the balance of the cooling rack, sent buttermilk coconut pie plummeting to the ground.

Now, I know it's no use crying over spilled [butter]milk, but I did have the mini-est of meltdowns. I may have texted Doug just to say, "I just dropped a pie on the ground. I'm sitting on the kitchen floor crying." And then texted him 3 minutes later to say, "I'm better now."

The good news is that I got to steal a bite of the pie, and it tastes freaking awesome. So, yeah, I will be serving this disasterpiece tomorrow.

in the works...

Thanksgiving meal is one of my all-time faves. I love hearty food & you sure can't beat Thanksgiving for that! Also - it has come to my attention, ever so gently, that I forgot to list MY MOTHER as a source of help in my Thanksgiving meal planning. Sorry, Mom - you are definitely my number one go-to source for all things cooking!
My menu for tomorrow:
Turkey ala Alton Brown, pan gravy, regular ole mashed potatoes, homestyle green bean casserole, cranberry-apple stuffing, Mom's squash puff, buttermilk rolls, and cran-cherry salsa. For dessert: the classic pumpkin pie, buttermilk coconut pie and pecan pie.

One of my students was surprised today when she discovered that I'm cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my in-laws. She said something to the effect of not seeing me as "the Suzy Homemaker type." . . . Clearly my students know nothing about me.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!


recently i'm... (10)

Nervous About: this guy.
Have never made a real, whole turkey before. Thank goodness for Food Network & Alton Brown & the internet.

In the Middle Of: baking a pie for Doug's office party tomorrow. Buttermilk Coconut, to be exact. One of my personal favorites. Although, chances are good that if it's pie - it's one of my personal favorites.
sneaky self-portrait, too.

Annoyed With: I cut my thumb on an egg shell whilst baking said pie. Seriously?! Who cuts their finger open on an EGG? Anyway, I didn't even realize that I was bleeding until I went to yell at Zooey for barking incessantly, rubbed my fingers because they were wet, and realized I was smearing red all over. Of course, then I panicked, thinking I had bled all over this pie (um, hope none of Doug's co-workers know I have a blog). Thankfully, all ingredients were fine, but my towel had blood streaks all over it. You're welcome for that mental image, Internet.

Excited About: Other than Thanksgiving Day, NO PLANS this loooooong weekend! Maybe getting our Christmas tree?

Thinking: Can not WAIT to listen to Christmas music. And decorate for Christmas.

Reading: Still working on Scandalous, by D.A. Carson, about the power of the crucifixion and resurrection. Also still reading character diaries for The Crucible. Which were turned in weeks ago. I am a terrible teacher.

Watching & Listening To: I've watched & listened to the "Singing in the Rain/Umbrella" mash up from Glee last week way too many times... and still can't get enough.

Cooking: see picture above. Pretty pumped about my Thanksgiving menu. Minus the turkey. Although, if Doug can install a dishwasher by watching a DIY video, I can cook a stinking turkey.

Eating: Recently loving cilantro leaves in Caesar salad.

Missing: Becca - finally caught up last night. Hoping to see her & the other D.C. girls in March!

Wearing: walk-a-thon shirt

Heading Off: to check my pie...


piece de resistance

This past spring, Doug was part of the search committee for our new youth director at church. When the search committee had a choice they were fairly confident about, they decided to invite this individual and his wife to Michigan to undergo an intense "interview weekend". This consisted of this couple staying with a family at our church, sitting through an "informal" group Q&A session, working on construction the next morning at the CDC warehouse, attending a youth group party (giving a brief talk there and doing praise & worship), attending church, undergoing a "formal" panel interview with the search committee, and meeting with the current youth director. Phew. Thankfully for this candidate, he was hired.

All that to say - I was invited to the "informal" group Q&A session and asked to bring a dessert. Obviously my favorite kind of invitation.

It's safe to say that I am obsessed with Annie's Eats. So I headed to her blog right away to look for dessert options, where I stumbled across this bad boy: triple chocolate mousse cake.

The cake has, not surprisingly, three layers, 2 of which require some refrigeration - the middle layer needs at least 15 minutes while you're preparing the top layer, and the top layer needs about 2 hours. So I baked away, giving myself plenty of time for the top layer to set.

I got to the gathering, started to open my spring-form pan... and the top of the cake began to spread. Not good. After putting the cake in the freezer for about half an hour, the top layer still hadn't set, but was at least somewhat firm enough that I could get the pan off. Within 10 minutes, the top layer was sort of a gooey mess on top of the other 2 layers, but let. me. tell. you. That was a delicious gooey mess. Enough so that it was the only dessert gone at the end of the evening, despite its lack of visual appeal.

Well, last night we hosted a "Parton Place Party" - celebrating our new home with our friends. And I decided to tackle this decadent dessert again.
Ta-da! (To be on the safe side, I would modify Annie's recipe to a whole teaspoon of unflavored gelatin.)

Oh, I also made margarita cupcakes (modified from Annie's recipe) and cheesecake cupcakes (you guessed it, Annie's!).
Plus a bunch of other snacks.
What a fun evening! Plus, there's some of the triple chocolate cake left, so I know what I'm having for breakfast today.


auction abasement

My school has an annual auction fundraiser. Teachers are always encouraged to auction off, um, "themselves", so my dear friend & co-worker, Patti, and I decided to participate. We offered an "Evening of Christmas Cookies with Mrs. Parton & Mrs. Snyder".

We were quite surprised when we saw our item in the catalogue and noticed that we had a DIAMOND next to our item description - - indicating our estimated value of $200-$400. As Patti wrote in an email to me, "Apparently someone thought our baking skills are worth a lot! [...] We should open a bakery."

Well, at the close of the Silent Auction this evening, we had unfortunately fallen $150 shy of the mark, earning for our school only $50 (still 2x the amount of the starting bid, though).

So, for now I guess the bakery will have to wait.


real life conversations, pt. 9

Rachel: "What should I blog about?"
Doug: "Write about Michael Vick's amazing comeback."
Rachel: "Right."
Doug: "We missed The Office."
Rachel: "Blah."
Doug: "It's so weird to watch English people talk about American football."
Rachel: "Hm."
Doug: "Why would I ever get cable when I can watch everything online?"
Rachel: "TV will be obsolete before much --"
Doug: "YES! SACK! Another point for my fantasy league!"
Rachel: "Great. Hope this conversation pacifies the masses."


reading is fun!

Today an elementary class was in the library at the same time as one of my freshman classes. I sat watching the group of 8-year olds as they rushed for stacks of books, quickly grabbing one and promptly dropping to the ground to sit and read. They giggled joyfully and showed one another various pictures of their books. (One I saw was titled BAD KITTY GETS A BATH... awesome.)

I'm thankful for books & literature & writing & creativity of thought.

And I'm perplexed as to where that zest for reading goes as children grow up.

My friend & co-worker, Kelly, wrote an insightful piece about reading expectations. But sometimes I feel, as an educator, that I need to take a step backward. How do I, as an English teacher, cultivate a passion for reading? Sometimes I worry that, as a secondary teacher, I'm getting kids too late - after the joy of reading has faded.

I think we maintain our love for stories, but for some reason, the reading aspect is a huge turn off for many. Is it our culture? Our educational methods? Where did we lose our love for reading?


career affirmation?

My juniors are currently working on their college portfolios, in which they complete a vast array of self-discovery-esque surveys, career path indicators, college comparisons, etc. As I watched them go through some of these surveys, I thought back to my high school self. My high school career/guidance counselors were less than capable, so my classmates and I were never offered these assessment tools. Who KNOWS what I should be doing with my life?!

So I took them.

And good news, guys. Apparently I'm a "Good Match" for "High School Teacher".

But I'm also a "Good Match" for "Butcher" and "Very Good Match" for "Crossing Guard." Sooo... not really sure what this means for my future.

Parton's Crosswalk Butchery! Steers slaughtered while you wait!


family fun

I am so thankful for my family. My parents are amazing & my little siblings are all hilarious and wonderful.

My parents & sisters left this morning after a fun-packed weekend. I didn't have school on Friday, and Emily didn't have school on Thursday, so they arrived Thursday evening, giving us a nice long weekend to hang out.
(Thursday night I was also reunited with my camera - - my "small scale" item of thanks for today!)

Doug had to work on Friday, so the rest of us enjoyed a leisurely morning walk in the foggy neighborhood.
After our walk, Mom, Emily & I spent the afternoon thrifting & visiting Borders. Dad & Jayne stayed home working on...
my new canning cupboard! My dad is seriously amazing - he didn't have a band saw or a table saw - - all of this was freehand! And look at the sides:
It's like an old pie cupboard! This is already getting me excited for Jamming 2011 with Victoria!

Friday night I made chicken parmesan for dinner & we walked to Coldstone afterward... we were definitely the only people walking around eating ice cream in the 40-degree weather! We got back and played Things in a Box and pretty much burned off all the ice cream calories with laughter.

Saturday morning I made pumpkin-spice applesauce pancakes... yum.
Then we all went to Frankenmuth! It was the first time for everyone, except Doug.
Thanks for coming to visit us - - I love you guys so much!


house: den

My parents & sisters will be arriving here in about 3 hours & I am SO. EXCITED.

Aside from Robert, who got a tour of our house the day we closed, none of my family or friends from WNY have been able to see our new place.

Thought I'd share another before&after of the house - our little office/den!

The green of this room doesn't look too bad in that picture. However, the real color was much more... olive-y. Plus, with a red kitchen, it had to go. Also, although you can't tell from that picture... this carpet was NAS-TAY. (I'm talking potential crusted dog vomit in one corner, people.)
More accurate representation of color:


This brings me to my next item on my "thankful" list - -

On a large scale: our house. I feel so blessed by our home. We got such a great deal on it, almost everyday I sigh with relief that we won't have to move in a year (Lord willing), I love the location... I just feel so immensely spoiled.

On a small-scale: guacamole. I'm pretty much obsessed with it recently. So fresh & delicious. I'm going to go eat some right now.



I am so impressed by people who can refurbish furniture... and a little jealous. Someone please teach me how to do all of this stuff.

(All images via Design*Sponge)



I get headaches pretty frequently.

Not just

You know, the kind that make you just do this:
... and long to curl up in a warm, dark room.

So, yeah, they're pretty debilitating. It seems the only solution that really works is sleeping, but that's really inconvenient when I'm trying to introduce a unit on The College Portfolio to a class of high-strung juniors.

Any suggestions??


encouraging writing?

Today's journal prompt:
What do you like about writing? What don't you like about writing? What are your strengths and weaknesses in writing?

Honest student response:
I don't enjoy writing at all. I don't like it because I'm not good at it. When I am asked to write about something, I usually could sum it up in a couple of sentences but teachers as me to write a lot. When I am trying to fill sentences it feels like a waste of time. I have to repeat stuff but just in different words to meet the length requirement. Sorry this was so negative.

Fellow educators - - how do we turn this train around?

thanksgiving, pt. 2

I'm thankful for...

On a large scale: Douglas Ian Parton.
This man is more filled with grace & patience & love & loyalty than anyone I know. I am so thankful for my husband. His love for the Lord and for me is evident every single day.

On a small scale: our heated blanket.
So, apparently electric blankets cause, like, cancer or something... but you guys, there's just something about the air being so chilly & my covers being SO. WARM. I just get really excited. I have been known to even start giggling in excitement, which, admittedly, is a little weird. (I think I'm subliminally trying to alienate all my readers...)

On a mini scale: autumn-colored M&Ms
I love these colors together & they taste delicious. I mean, chocolate in and of itself is amazing, but whoever thought to make it cute was seriously brilliant.


recently in the mail...

Love, love, LOVE this shirt & this idea.
Thanks, Jim & Emily!
Get yours here.

recently i'm... (9)

Arriving Home: from weekend Girls Retreat with our youth group girls.

Excited About: a 3-day work week (I guess 4, counting conferences) and MY FAMILY COMING TO VISIT!

Not Looking Forward To: conferences.

Procrastinating: unpacking & laundry from retreat.

Thinking: I shouldn't have eaten so much junk this weekend.

Literally JUST Watched: Zooey slyly pull a yellow Laffy Taffy out of our nearly empty candy basket on the ottoman and slink into the other room, hoping I didn't see her...

Reading: Bought an anthology in NYC - The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010. Comprised of some hilarious headlines, letters-to-the-editor, whimsical essays, etc. Great plane reading.

Cooking: Made what have been dubbed my "famous cupcakes" at girls retreat - a.k.a. Cookie Dough Cupcakes, ala Annie's Eats. We had our friends Clay & Laura (and their cute kids!) over for dinner last week and I made oven-fried chicken, which has become a quick n' easy favorite of mine.

Watching: Modern Family is easily the best show on TV these days. Hysterical.

Listening To: Currently obsessed with Phil Wickham. He's sort of like what I imagine Rufus Wainwright/David Bowie would sound like if they did praise & worship. Can I say that?

Missing: Doug - he'll get home from the Boys Retreat later this evening...

Laughing At:


a practice in thanksgiving

I've realized that I complain a lot. And honestly, I don't really have anything to complain about. So, in the spirit of the approaching holiday - and because I think we could all use a lot more thankfulness in our lives - I'm going to try to give some thanks each day.

Today I'm thankful for...

On a large scale:
God's faithfulness and good plan.
Exodus 15:13 says, "You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy dwelling." I'm a Type A - - I like having a plan, executing said plan, being in charge, etc. So sometimes I feel like God's not up to speed with what I've got in store for my life. The good news? He knows WAY better than I do. He's written my story & is directing each step. (How's that for a mixed metaphor?!)

On a small, trivial scale:
Zooey's ears.
I know, weird. But seriously? They're so soft & cute. They're not quite as Dumbo-esque as they used to be, but they still are so fun to just pet. And now I sound like Lenny from Of Mice and Men... don't worry, I'm not keeping any mice in my pockets. Wow, did I just lose the Sparknotes section of my audience??


more cupcakes


Terrible photo, ala Doug's phone...

For those of you that love peanut butter, these are the cupcakes for you. Whenever I think of people who love peanut butter, I think of Lyndsay... Is that even accurate? Lynz, where did I get this idea that you're obsessed with peanut butter?

Anyway, Annies-Eats, of course, coming through again with the stellar cupcake recipe.