Substitute teachers and cookie platters

Back in October after the barn was clean, I decided to become a substitute teacher at the kids’ school. Let me remind you, this is the first time I have worked outside the home since I brought my first baby boy home from the hospital twelve years ago.
I didn’t know how much public school loved me and wanted me so bad.
Just kidding, sort of. I wrote a letter to a friend and mentioned that nothing is as essential and non-essential as a substitute teacher. Completely, 100% on-call and beloved by frantic administration and curious kindergartners, the next minute forgotten–out-of-sight, out-of-mind. There’s a joke going around that substitute teachers are just warm bodies, but anyone who loves children knows better.

It is fine by me. I love winging it. I love pulling random books off shelves and reading them (better than turning on youtube to babysit) as well as making 1-minute crafts to bide time till the bell rings (polar bear finger puppets out of party streamers, anyone?). No one really has a clue what I do but they still love me for coming up with something.

The pre-k through first graders call me Mrs. Marvel. I don’t know how they came up with it, but I feel like the superhero they think I am. (They could be saying Mrs. Marble, I guess, but whatev.) I’m tasting some of the magic my favorite kinder and first grade teachers served up when I was little.

Anyway, it’s cut back on my time at Honey Creek. This week I’m finally home, wrapping up a writing project and messing around with Christmas odds and ends.

Feels like Fall has come and gone in the weird two months I’ve been running here and there. Turns out I don’t keep tabs like a journalist when I can’t play paparazzi on my kids at home.
Our fields were harvested. We raked leaves, played in the creek. I put shrink wrap along the upstairs windows so we don’t let in every draft this winter. (Does one spell it “draft” or draught”?) Our house in the city seemed airtight compared to this rambling stone farmhouse.

We decorated. This farmhouse has held every Christmas there has ever been, from what I’ve been told. Martha the matriarch never tossed one yellow-bellied ornament. We found a silver tree in a box and put it up in my little girl’s room.

We (drumroll…) took the kids to perform in Branson. That’s right, perform. Rhonda Vincent and her band dropped by the festival, so that was a fun surprise. My kids don’t tend to get starstruck, and I’m too proud to make conversation with famous people, so this is as close as I came:

Rhonda! Always a class act.

However! You better believe I talked to the Dobro player and got him to play You Don’t Love God if You Don’t Love Your Neighbor while I sang. Those Dobro players often feel uncelebrated (rightfully so).

And just before we went to Branson we practiced by singing while ringing the Salvation Army bells in front of the grocery store. There’s no bigger pleasure than caroling anonymously outside the HyVee in a Midwestern town. All sorts of folk pop out of the woodwork to greet you. Rest assured, there are other polka-playing accordion musicians living somewhere near you.

I’m making a list and checking it twice to see what Christmas cookies will make it on my cookie platter. I didn’t know what marzipan was until I was an adult, and I’m disappointed every time I think about it because I love it. My Wisconsin-born friend Jen enlightened me one Christmas when we lived in Durango. So I think I’m going to try it out this Christmas. (But the recipe she sent me includes rose water. To me that’s like seeing the words “fairy kisses” on an ingredient list. What in the world.)
In Denver we lived a few blocks from Taste of Denmark, where they wrapped everything in marzipan. All this to say, I will be attempting it on my own and I’ll hopefully report back.

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