Oh My Stars!

So, I just completed my first week of work for school year 2018-2019. Some observations:

*I am not ready. It takes a while to adjust to working when you have been off all summer.

*Setting up a classroom is a lot of work. A lot.

*I could not go back to school without an amazing team. Thank you team!

*Having my husband make my lunch every morning is a blessing worth more than gold! Thank you Daniel!

*When your school administration understands what you need. When they know what you are dealing with. When they are compassionate and kind. It makes a huge difference in how you feel about returning to work.

Am I ready for students to arrive on Tuesday? Well, not 100% I’m not gonna lie. However, I never feel ready and I have been doing this job for quite a while. Will we have a good day? YES! Will it all get done? YES! Will I change things around? YES! I love innovation and I love technology so my students are in for many different experiences this year.

So I plan on enjoying this long weekend. I plan on being mentally and physically ready for this school year on Tuesday. School year 2018-2019, here we go!

P.S. Check in with me on Tuesday evening to see how I feel then……..

To be continued…………

A Letter to The New School Year…

Dear New School Year,

The time has come to join you again. It is with some reluctance and trepidation that I begin this endeavor. You see, I have been a lady of leisure for the past few months and I rather like who I am in the summer. I am not stressed. I am not rushed. I am not worried. I am not short tempered. Somehow when I get back together with you, I become all of these things and more. Besides becoming stressed, rushed, anxious, and crabby, I also become less patient, more tired, very busy, and somewhat scattered.

I know this is not really your fault. Every year I promise myself that this won’t happen. I vow that this will be the year I roll with whatever comes my way. This will be the year that I guard my time so that I do not become overextended. This will be the year I remain patient and calm. This will be the year I try to do less better. This year is no exception and I vow to be a calm, cool, and collected teacher. The fact of the matter is, I seem to blow it during the first week! We shall see how I do this year. I will check in during week three or four, and I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Here are some things I know:

I work with a great team of teachers. This is extremely important as no teacher is an island and we need each other desperately.

I love my job. I really do. There is no other job I can see myself doing. I think I was just meant to be a teacher.

I work in a great school. I feel supported by our administration, fellow faculty members, school community, and our families.

God is good. He loves me and He has every day of this new school year planned out already. Nothing takes Him by surprise and He will take care of me.

So, here we go! Off on a new learning adventure! I will miss watching my day games (GO CUBS) and my husband and sweet pups will have to get used to not having me around (this is a huge adjustment I tell you.) There are far more good things ahead than behind, so let’s do this new school year!

Sincerely Yours,

A 2nd Grade Teacher

Napping dogs on my lap 🙂

Summer’s Swan Song

Wrigley does not want summer to end.

Well, this is it. The last week of summer freedom. One more week and then the  work begins. Making lunches. Setting the alarm clock. Waking up early. Following a schedule. All the things that don’t happen in my summer life. There are so many things I am going to miss about summer. Things like:

*Spur of the moment activities (no schedule means when the spirit moves, you go!)

*Lunching with my husband.

*Puttering in my garden.

*Reading, reading, reading books for the sheer pleasure of reading.

*Walking with Katie (and sometimes Christine) every morning.

*Just being lazy.

The start of a new school year is hard, I’m not gonna lie. Setting routines with little people is not an easy endeavor, but it is worthwhile and I do love being a teacher. It takes all of us, kids and teachers alike, to adjust to this new beginning. I found a great article explaining how to help children deal with back-to-school stress. I think these tips are good for teachers as well! September can be rough, but by October, we are on a roll and life is good. If only we could fast forward to October!

So keep us in mind. All of us starting a new school year. Be patient with us if we seem stressed out or scattered. Give us lots of hugs and reassurance because we need it. Here’s to school year 2018-2019! May you be the best year yet!

P.S. This is a shameless plug, but here goes……. If you’d like to help a great group of 2nd graders start the year out well, would you consider making a donation to our Donors Choose Classroom Project? You can check it out here:



Geneva, Illinois With The Neighbors

We are in the last days of my summer break, and that means that every minute is precious! In a few short weeks, I will be back in school so we play hard in August! On Tuesday, we ventured to Geneva, IL with our good neighbors. It doesn’t matter what we do with the neighbors – we will have a good time, but the plan was to head out on our annual shopping trip to Geneva.

At the beginning of our shopping trip.

There are certain stores we always head to. The Little Traveler is one of those stores. Around the world in 36 rooms is what they boast, and they mean it! You can get lost in this store as it is almost like a small city. Room after room of things to look at. Usually, someone in our party gets overwhelmed and declares that she will wait outside on a bench for the rest of us to get through the entire store. They have everything you could need or want in that store! You can even eat lunch there, but we did not. We like to eat here:

Kathryn displaying her lovely engagement ring!

Cotto A Legna is where we like to have lunch. Delicious food! Great service, good location. We usually do a little shopping, work up an appetite, eat lunch, and then we are right back at it! The chef even made us our favorite salad, even though it is no longer on the menu! If you find yourself in Geneva, you will not be disappointed if you stop here for lunch!

After lunch, the shopping continued……

We all came away with a few bags. After all, that is the mark of a successful shopping trip! We ended our time in Geneva by visiting Kilwins for some ice cream. What I really appreciated was the ice water that was available as you entered the shop. We were thirsty! We were able to quench that thirst immediately- even before we ordered our frozen treats. What nice attention to detail, or at least concern for their shoppers on a hot summer day! Thank you Kilwins!

Another summer tradition in the books. More proof that we are winding down and heading into fall. I am so glad I have these great neighbors to celebrate life with! That is truly a blessing, no matter what season we are heading into 🙂


Block Party 2018

We have the best Block Party. Hands down. The best. We had our Block Party Saturday and it was another huge success! The weather cooperated and gave us sunshine and nice breezes. ‘Twas a wonderful day spent with wonderful neighbors, family members, and friends (neighbors are in a different category than friends- but that’s a post for another day.)

Good, good neighbors.
…and good friends…

We always have such a good time at our Block Party! Last year we decided to have party central at Katie’s house. For those of you who don’t know, our daughter Katie, bought a house 4 houses away from ours. So, we moved our Block Party guests to her house.  It was so successful that we decided to hang out there again this year! She makes a mean margarita, and she was busy all day making them and serving them up and down the block 😊

We also got to meet this guy:

Benjamin is Auntie Pat’s new puppy. He is adorable! Dogs are another good thing about a Block Party. They are everywhere! Not only the dogs who live on your block, but the other guests bring their dogs with them. It’s a dog lovers paradise. Everyone loved little Benjamin. People stopped at our house all day long just to pet him.

Food is another reason to love a Block Party! We had some great food of our own, but the neighbors food was even better! Our newest neighbors are from the Philippines. They made delicious egg rolls and noodles for us. Another neighbor had a “taste of Hungary” in her front yard. She also was handing out shots of Hungarian moonshine. People walked around all day passing out ice cream and other frozen treats from their portable coolers. Everyone mingled, tasted, and shared the day. What a great way to get to know your neighbors- old and new!

Games……..no Block Party is complete without them! We had Hula Hoop contests, a Bags Tournament, a Frozen t-shirt contest (the first person to unwrap their frozen t-shirt and put it on is the winner), and a water balloon toss.

DJ-this is a must. Our DJ started at 4:00 and played a variety of music until 10:00.  What’s a party without music? We have had many different DJs over the years, and they add so much to the day. The street makes for a giant dance floor. People start dancing when the DJ shows up. We even had a line dance instructor come to give line dance lessons. As the night progresses, the “dance floor” fills up.

Raffles. We had a few different raffles this year. The raffle prizes are always great! We had a split-the-pot raffle, an open table raffle (if your ticket was chosen, you picked a prize from the table) and a put-your-ticket-in-the-box-for-the-prize-you-want-to-win raffle…….if you want to win the three piece bistro set, you put your ticket in the box for the bistro set and you cross your fingers and hope they pick your ticket at the end of the day!

If you are lucky enough to have an annual Block Party on your block, then you know how fun they are. You also know that it takes a lot of planning, and organizing. Monies have to be collected and taken care of so that there is a fund for purchasing prizes for the games, buying great items for the raffles, and paying for the DJ. There must be a group of people willing to put the work in. We have that here. We have people willing to do the hard work so that we can all enjoy a very enjoyable Block Party. Thank you!

In case you have never had a Block Party with your neighbors, I am including this article with Block Party planning tips.

On a side note, I had the most delicious lunch today! I had this at Panera:

It was SO good! It has nothing to do with a Block Party, but it was so good I had to share 🙂

Have a great week everyone!




August….How is it August?

How is it August already? I cannot believe we are entering the last month of summer break! We are getting so good at this lazy summer time vibe. I am not sure I can get back into the crazy chaos that is the beginning of the school year.


We decided to take a long ride today. Destination? Didn’t really have one, and didn’t really have a plan. We ended up in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Of course, if you know us well, you know we had to stop at the Grafton Costco. Did you know it was a tax holiday there? No tax on clothing or school supplies today. But I digress. It was a gorgeous day for a drive and a wander in this peaceful town that sits right on Lake Michigan. Our lunch stop was a major disappointment and is not even worth a mention.

I love these kinds of days. Days with no set plan. No real destination. No idea how the day will go. No schedule and no deadlines. I realize that August brings the beginning of the end of these kind of days, and so I plan to enjoy the time that is left. Where to next? Who knows…………….

Hamilton! You Have to Play to Win!

These. These are the ten dollar Hamilton lottery tickets I won. Won, I repeat, won! Do you know how long I have been entering the lottery to win these tickets? One year. I almost gave up so many times. I had a few conversations about this with Callie. Callie is the biggest Hamilton fan I know.  She was the first lottery winner I know. When she won, she took Katie with her. She is the reason I started entering the lottery on a daily basis. We’ve had a few conversations regarding this lottery. Our conversations predictably go like this:

Me: Callie, I am never going to win this lottery!

Callie: Ms. Martens, you’ve only been entering the lottery for a week!

This conversation went on and on, the only thing that changed is the amount of time Callie declared I had been entering the lottery (a week, a month, etc) and then I gave up. I didn’t enter daily. My husband gave up and erased the app from his phone. My hairdresser encouraged me to just buy some tickets, and so, I did. We had really good seats in the upper levels – not TOO high though. They were great tickets, and they were totally worth the price. She suggested purchasing them as far out as I could, so I bought them last October for a Friday in April. We loved it! I am so glad we went (Susie, you were so right!)

The ten dollar lottery tickets.

I kept hearing about lottery winners. I told my student teacher about the app and she started entering. She won after only entering a few times! My neighbor won three times! And the list of winners continued to emerge, so I began entering with more fervor. My husband still refused to help in this effort, but I persisted. A few times I accidentally entered the New York lottery, and then I feared that I would win that one. Then I decided to only enter the lottery for the shows I knew I could get to. For example, during the school year I didn’t enter the matinees I knew I couldn’t get to. Now that it’s summer, I entered any day, any time except for days I would be out of town of course. This past Tuesday as we were riding out to Aurora (that’s another whole story) I got the notification that I won! Pretty exciting! I paid for them immediately as I was afraid of losing them. It just so happened that we were attending the same show as my daughter and her boyfriend so we rode together and enjoyed a nice dinner before the show.

Our view of the theater from our dining spot..

I made dinner reservations with Open Table – I love Open Table! We ate at The Grill Room which is right across from the CIBC Theater. The food was good, the view was good (we sat outside as you can only do in the summer in Chicago) and the company was good. We even got a free dessert with a coupon on Yelp! After dinner, we walked across the street to the box office and picked up our lottery winnings!

We were in the first row. The absolute first row. You could not get any closer. I am so glad that our first time we sat higher up (way higher up) and we saw the entire stage. This time, we missed a few things like shoes and anytime an actor sat down,  but we knew what we were missing as we had seen it before. I was so close I could have reached out and touched Alexander Hamilton. I made eye contact with the king and he nodded and smiled at me. The close up view offered a whole new viewing experience. We noticed things this time that we did not notice the last time – facial expressions especially. The king’s comical expressions, Aaron Burr’s  angry expressions,  George Washington’s serious expressions-all things we did not catch when we were sitting so far away. I cannot say enough about the lottery ticket experience.  It was truly amazing!

If you are feeling exasperated that you have not won the lottery yet, do not give up! Keep entering, keep entering, keep entering! If you do not have the lottery app on your phone, get it!  If you have not seen Hamilton and you get the chance to go, go. You will not be disappointed, I promise!


The Half-Way Mark of Summer: The All Star Break

The All Star Break has always been a bittersweet event for me. Bittersweet because it feels like the dividing line between the start and end of summer. It seems like the midpoint of this teacher’s summer vacation. I love the All Star Game. I love the Homerun Derby. I love all the hype and every year I hope that the National League wins. Still the truth is that half of my summer break is gone. This makes me sad that time moves so quickly for I live for summer.

The Home Run Derby ~ I was able to watch this on my daughter’s beautiful deck on her new outdoor television (what a good idea) with a small crew of baseball fans. Dan and I are Cub fans for life. Katie was born into this and is mildly supportive, and Mike, her boyfriend, is also a Cub Fan (good thing for him!) We enjoyed the Derby until my boy Kyle lost to Bryce Harper. This article covers the win, Home Run Derby 2018 Results, but I felt some righteous indignation for Kyle Schwarber. He hit 55 home runs in three rounds. That is amazing! Harper ended up with 45 home runs. The thing is, Harper batted last in each round. He only had to hit one more home run than the previous batter. For example,

“No. 2 Bryce Harper vs. No. 3 Max Muncy

Max Muncy ran out of gas in the second round, and ended with 12, tied for the low round of the night. That was an easy number for Harper to beat, doing so with 1:11 remaining. Harper hit home runs on five swings in a row at one point.”

I mean, it just doesn’t seem fair that Kyle hit so many home runs, but Bryce only had to hit 13 to win the round. Sour grapes? Probably. I just love my Cubbies, and I really wanted Schwarber to win.

Then I read this article, Did Bryce Harper and his Dad Cheat to Win the 2018 Home Run Derby? Sigh, I have to agree with Grant Brisbee when he says,

“I think you’re just going to have to let Nats fans have this one, internet. Harper’s comeback was incredibly thrilling, and we can probably just leave it at that. Not everything needs to be ruined. Just most things.”

Ok….let’s move on. Tonight is the All Star Game. Three of my Cubs are in, and two of them are starters (Go Willson,and Javy!) I am proud of them all, and I am sure to see Lester in the game at some time. I will be watching the game in the same place with the same people (love summer) and I will be enjoying all the little extra things that happen during the All Star Game like all of the Military Service Members Special Events. Makes me even prouder of the MLB. Is there a finer game than baseball? If there is, I have not found it yet!

So, Go National League! Go Cubs! Go America’s Pastime! And while the All Star Break is a lot of fun, it is sobering in that summer has reached the halfway mark. Booooo. I will choose to enjoy and be happy about the days that I have left. Lemons out of lemonade? Not really. You see, I have the best job in the world. I change the future and what could be better than that? So I really have nothing to be sad about. I just wish summer could linger…………..

Watch the game! You will love it!


Old Friends


Do you have them? Those old friends. Friends you’ve had for a lifetime, or so it seems. Well, after Day 1 and Day 2 of summer break were so bleak and rainy, the sun came out for the first weekend of summer break! Yahoo! We packed up the car and headed out to see some old friends.

Auntie Pat, our pontoon driver.

My old (and good) friend Pat and her husband Dave have a beautiful lake house and they are so good to share it with us! We met up for a delicious lunch followed by a relaxing pontoon boat ride, followed by a yummy dinner. We did a lot of lounging on the sunny deck, where we chatted about anything and everything! You can do that with old friends right? We could not have asked for a better day! The weather was gorgeous – sunny and not too hot with very nice lake breezes blowing.

Pat and I met in college. We hit it off right away. We have done a lot of life together, and yesterday was spent sharing memories, laughing a lot, and just enjoying life. Isn’t that what summer is for?

I am so thankful for old friends. It’s nice to have new ones too, but nobody gets you like an old friend. Thanks for a thoroughly delightful day!

Summer Break ~ Day 2

Rain. Rain. Rain……..that is how Day 2 began. What to do when it won’t stop raining? Visit another outlet mall. But first, get yourself fingerprinted. Yes, you read that right. I received an email telling me to update my fingerprints or there will be no job for me this fall. Woah! That was my first stop today. Not exciting, but necessary. Then it was off to another indoor outlet mall. Today, we visited Fashion Outlets of Chicago. Our main goal was to get our daily walk in, and that is what we did before we shopped a bit of course! This mall is hit or miss as there are a lot of high end stores that don’t really give the outlet vibe. But, we were dry as toast and we were able to get a good walk in – and that’s important to me so it was a win.

Tonight, we are blessed to have dinner with our good, good friends. That will top the day off and make it a huge success! What a blessing to have friends to dine with.

So, Day 2 was pretty calm and uneventful, although that whole fingerprint adventure was a bit crazy. There we were sitting in a room full of other people waiting to be fingerprinted (it was quite crowded) and there was such a serious vibe as nobody was smiling or speaking. I’m just glad that’s out of the way. It is also Friday, which usually is a good reason to celebrate, but Friday on summer break takes on a whole new meaning……it feels like every day is Friday 😊

Enjoy your summer Friday and weekend. I hope you plan for some fun!

A Teacher’s Summer Break~Day 1

Ahhhhhh…….no alarms. That was the very first thing I did. I turned off the alarms. Yes, I did say alarms. As in two. They are silenced for two months and that is glorious! My most favorite thing about summer break is that I am no longer bound by time. I do not need to get up at a certain time. There is nowhere I need to report at a certain time. Little people are not waiting for me to pick them up at a certain time, and I don’t have to eat at a certain time. The list of time constraints goes on, but not for me. Not now. I am officially off the clock!

I woke up to a rainy day on day 1. Rain. Buckets of rain. We like to walk in the morning. We like to walk about 5 miles in the morning. The rain made this difficult on Day 1, but my daughter Katie and I braved it. We almost made it too, but we had to call for a pick-up when the deluge came. A few good things about that: 1. Rained on hair does not matter on summer break (another one of those time constraint things.) 2. I was able to call the dear hubby on my Apple Watch (that is a whole other post about all of the reasons why I absolutely LOVE my Apple Watch.) 3. Nobody was in a hurry. No need to rush. We got a bit soaked, and it was fine. That would never be true during the school year.

So, what to do on Day 1? Well, we usually begin our summer by heading to RJ Grunts in Lincoln Park for lunch. RJGrunts is right across from Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. We lunch and then we stroll around the zoo. Sometimes we even meander over to the Lake and hang there for a while. Quite a lovely day to spend on Day 1. But not in this rain. So, we decided on plan B and we headed to Gurnee Mills for some outlet mall shopping and lunch at Portillo’s. We will save the inaugural summer break activities for a bright and sunny day.

What did I buy? I’m so glad you asked!

Yankee Candle-Sun and Sand

This candle smells like a vacation by the ocean. It smells like suntan lotion, sea breezes, and ocean waves all at the same time. We love it here, and it is burning all the time, year round. I may have made some other lovely purchases at Loft and the Gap because I love to shop and who doesn’t love a sale? Both are outlets, and the sales were pretty amazing 😉

Now, we are relaxing in our cool, dry basement. I might have a glass of Rosé near me, and there might be a movie playing in the background. I know! A movie in the middle of the day? Unheard of during the school year. But guess what? School’s out for summer and I am celebrating Day 1!