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What to Expect When You’re a Substitute Teacher

As I posted about before, I’ve started substitute teaching. I’ve been at it for about 6 months now, and it’s such an unpredictable job. I suppose any job that isn’t the same exact thing every single day can be unpredictable in some ways, but subbing is definitely different day-to-day.

First, I don’t always know where I’m going to be. Some days I wake up thinking I’m not working, only to get a call 20 minutes before school starts, asking if I’m available. And when I get calls like that, it could be any grade – from kindergarten to 8th grade.

When I get that late call, sometimes I end up putting on lipstick and brushing my hair when I get there!

When I get that late call, sometimes I end up putting on lipstick and brushing my hair when I get there!

Second, I most likely will work in several grades during a week. One week I did kindergarten, 2nd, and 5th grade. Despite starting my career teaching kindergarten, I was probably most comfortable in 2nd grade, though teaching 5th is always more fun than I think it’s going to be.

A perk of working in kindergarten is pictures made by the students. :)

A perk of working in kindergarten is pictures made by the students. :)

Third, sometimes I am in several grades in the span of one day. Some days I get to do something called “Roving” where I start in one grade and make my way to other grades throughout the day. I’ve had days where I go from 2nd to kinder to 1st, or 3rd to kindergarten to 5th. I’ve also had days where I’ve ended up in the computer lab for 2 hours, which sounds easy, but is also boring.

Sometimes I get to spend some of the day watching a show.

Sometimes I get to spend some of the day watching a show.

Fourth, sometimes I have detailed plans, sometimes I have a skeleton of what to do, and other days I come in and there’s literally NOTHING for me to go on except possibly a schedule on the board of what the “typical” day is like. I really love it when there’s something specific to do – and the materials I need to do them with are there and ready to go. On days where I only have an outline or the bones of what to do, I always have extra things in my “bag of tricks.” I bring books to read, math to do, coloring and activity pages, and my book of improv games. The improv games come in handy with the older kids. The younger kids always love being read to. This way if I’m left with 30 minutes of nothing to do, I can find SOMETHING to do.

In the rare case where there’s literally NOTHING for me to go on, I try to use clues around the classroom of what they’ve been working on. If the kids are old enough, I can ask them what they’ve been doing – what the last math page was, or what story they’re reading. Sometimes I’ve got an aide that can clue me in on something. The worst day I had was when I had to make up the spelling words based on the story they read, and pulled something together for them to do in science that went with what they’d already worked on. I’m hoping that’s the worst of it. I know that if I ever have to take over for someone long -term that I’ll eventually be doing all the plans, but that’s different, and hopefully I’ll have all the resources I need to be able to do that.

Every now and then I end up in a class where there's a guest speaker. This is always a nice little surprise.

Every now and then I end up in a class where there’s a guest speaker. This is always a nice little surprise.

Finally, I never know who is going to be in my class. In my particular situation, I know a lot of the kids – or their siblings – because either my own kids have been in class with them or I’ve taught their siblings. Some kids are friends with my children, so I’ve had them over to my house. This is interesting, because the kids really want to call me Genevieve, and transitioning to calling me “Mrs. Miller” doesn’t always go so well. :)

I’m not the only one who’s in this boat. I’ve got at least 6 other mom-teachers on this ride with me. It’s great when we work on the same days and can chat on the playground at recess or during lunch. It’s nice to know there are other people walking the fine line between teacher, volunteer, and parent at the school. I do know that it’s gotten easier each week that I work. And it’s wonderful when I get a class that I’ve had before – where I know how the class is run and the kids are comfortable with me.

One big perk of being at this school for years and getting to know the teachers is they trust me to do things like take the kids on a field trip.


Being a substitute teacher may not be the most stable job in the world – some weeks I work almost every day and some weeks I don’t work at all – but it’s the perfect situation for a mom who wants to get back in the classroom but also wants to be free to go on field trips, or stay home with a sick kid. And I’m pretty darn lucky to be working in a place where I know the kids, parents, and teachers.

A Trip Full of Firsts at Disneyland

Today is my 45th birthday. I’ve lived in Southern California my whole life. That’s a lot of visits to Disneyland – at least 30, if not close to 40. And yet somehow this year I managed to do more than 15 things I’ve NEVER done before, which seems a little crazy.


The first first is deciding to stay overnight and spend 2 days in the parks.

I don’t have a photo, but we took the Monorail right from the hotel and straight into the park, bypassing the front gate. That was a first, and it was awesome!


This is where the Monorail lets you off in Disneyland.

Bought my first pin. I didn't buy a lanyard, but I did buy a pin. :)

Bought my first pin. I didn’t buy a lanyard, but I did buy a pin. :)


First ride on the canoes!

On a whim, we decided to go on the canoes. In all our years, neither my husband nor I had ever gone on the canoes. I’m SO glad we did. It was truly a highlight of the trip. Not because it was an amazing ride, but because I haven’t laughed that hard in a while. Our guide was hilarious, the scenery was beautiful, and it was frustrating to row and try not to hit someone else’s oar, but it was seriously so much fun!


A snapshot from the canoes

First time on Midway Mania - our scores. (not very good, but fun)

First time on Midway Mania – our scores. (not very good, but fun)

First time truly walking all around California Adventure

First time truly walking all around California Adventure


First time on the Zephyr at CAlifornia adventure. This is the view from my seat.


First time eating at one of the hotel restaurants.

First time staying at the Disneyland Hotel

First time staying at the Disneyland Hotel

First time using "Magic Morning" and getting in early - loved this!

First time using “Extra Magic Hour” and getting in early – loved this!

First time on Radiator Springs Racers

First time on Radiator Springs Racers – usually this ride has a 90 minute wait.

Sean and I were a little nervous about the racers, but it was fun!

Sean and I were a little nervous about the racers, but it was fun!

First time eating at the River Belle Terrace (at least that I remember).

First time eating at the River Belle Terrace (at least that I remember).

Could this really be our first Dole Whip?!?!

Could this really be our first Dole Whip?!?!

FIrst time for the family being in line for a ride when it's experiencing technical difficulties (Peter Pan). We waited it out and were rewarded with a the first Peter Pan ride in years.

FIrst time for the family being in line for a ride when it’s experiencing technical difficulties (Peter Pan). We waited it out and were rewarded with a the first Peter Pan ride in years.

First time on the Astro Orbiters (I'd been on the old school rockets, but not these).

First time on the Astro Orbiters (I’d been on the old school rockets, but not these).

A bonus first was getting to 20k steps on fitbit. :)

A bonus first was getting to 20k steps on fitbit. :)

We had a few more firsts, including taking the kids on Big Thunder Mountain, and asking for the first row on Soarin’ Over California (I didn’t want to have feet in my way again) – totally worth being on top!

We had such a great time! We saw more things than we have in years, and made so many memories with the kids! Here are a few photos that aren’t included in our firsts:


I love this sign at the entrance of DIsneyland.


There were Olaf caramel apples in Pooh Corner.


The boys in their matching shirts in line for Alice in Wonderland.


The girls with Mr. Toad (remember they were in the musical “Toad!” this spring).


The view from the teacups.


Gracie first, then Sean, then Mads & Dad on Autopia.


My favorite Prince Charming’s outfit from Once Upon A Time.


Haunted Mansion decked out for the holidays


It was the Unofficial Harry Potter day there our first day. I was happenstance-illy wearing my HP sweatshirt (not in photo). I found a woman selling these cool Sorting Hat mouse ears and had to buy one.


Walt & Mickey


Whenever we were in a fairly long line, we’d see people playing a guessing game with their ipads and phones. We did our own, sans device. :)


Thanks to the Moustalgia podcast, I noticed the gingerbread house in the Haunted Mansion (and the smell of gingerbread).

I wanted a picture of the kids by the Mickey pumpkin, but we didn’t have time, so I snapped this quickly. :(  I tried to get one the next day, but it was gone. So sad.

This was the best pumpkin Mickey shot I got, because they were shooing us out.

This was the best pumpkin Mickey shot I got, because they were shooing us out.

I don’t know when we’ll ever get this chance again, but I’m so glad we did it this time. I have a feeling we’ll be talking about this trip for years to come, especially the canoe ride. :)


It’s Almost Haunting Time!

I can’t believe Halloween is merely 3.5 weeks away! Usually by now we’re well underway with the costume-making and the shopping and whatnot. This year, we at least got the decorations up, thanks to Maddie. As far as costumes… only two of us know what we’re doing and exactly zero of us has all the pieces for the costumes.

In the past few years, my kids have had amazing ideas for costumes that we’ve been able to realize.


Jan and Cindy BradyIMG_5566

A cute little cupcakeIMG_6894

Luke (and Yoda)


Emily, the Corpse BrideIMG_9680

Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas

This year, my youngest wants to be young Maleficent.

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I love that my girls are so creative! I only wish I could sew. That would make this process infinitely easier.

My son, the oldest, doesn’t like Halloween nearly as much as the rest of his family. He rarely makes a decision about his costume without suggestions, and never before October. Two months ago, after we started watching “Mork and Mindy” after Robin Williams died, I suggested he go as Mork.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 4.07.38 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 4.03.44 PM

I think he could pull off either one of these!

As for my middle child, who usually has half her costume finished by now? She doesn’t know. I suppose that’s the middle school girl in her who just can’t make a decision, but we’ve given her several ideas.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 4.11.34 PM

Elsa, only as a zombie!

(any Disney princess as a zombie, actually)

Monster Mash-up : part Mummy, part Frankenstein, part Werewolf, part Dracula

Fire queen: kind of the opposite of the snow queen. Would work well with her red-tipped hair.

(Apparently I’m not the only one who has thought of this: this is a smattering of images that comes up when I googled Elsa Fire Queen.)

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 4.17.12 PM

But, she doesn’t like most of my ideas. She’s 11. I suppose that’s par for the course. :(

I will say that I found the base piece of my costume this year. I found it by happenstance while looking for clothes for the kids.


If you’re not sure who I’m going to be, it’s Emma Swan, from Once Upon A Time.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 4.27.53 PM

Granted, it’s not the exact jacket. Actually, she’s had several versions of that same jacket. But I think if I do my hair, wear skinny jeans and boots, and maybe a sheriff’s badge, I think Oncers will know who I am.

As for my husband, I’d love it if he dressed as Emma’s love interest, Captain Hook:

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 4.34.39 PM

but he’s not down with that. :(

However, he can always be his favorite go-to costume, the Jedi


OR, if Sean decides to go for Marty McFly, he can be

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 4.33.16 PM

1.21 gigawats!!! Dr. Emmet L. Brown.

What are YOUR plans for Halloween? Do you buy or make your costume? Have any ideas for my picky pre-teen? I’d love to hear it!!

I Love You A Bushel And A Peck (or at least a half a bushel)

Today we did our now famed annual apple picking outing. We’ve been going for years. Our first trip was back when the 13 and 11 were 3 and 1. Wow. Ten years. Seems like a lifetime. Before we went that year, I’ll be honest – I’d never been apple picking before. And I grew up in Fallbrook – just a few miles from Julian.

I did my homework this time and knew there would be lots of apples to pick, so we called our partners in apple-picking and headed up to meet them.


Surprisingly, we were early enough to beat the big crowds. Also surprising was the weather… it was in the 50s up there, which was quite refreshing!IMG_9290

Everyone’s heading up to the apples!IMG_9294

It’s easy to hold the box when it’s empty.IMG_9296

Always with the eyes and the rolling.IMG_9297 IMG_9299

I picked some good-looking apples, but brought back some kind of weird ashes, too.IMG_9306

Friends give you a lift when you need to get an apple high in the tree.IMG_9310

I… can… reach it!IMG_9313

“C’mon, kids! Stand by the pretty flowers. Look at me. Smile. C’mon, just look at me and smile.” sighIMG_9316

No explanation needed.IMG_9318

If you look closely, you can see Pat walking on the hill. He was told honeycrisp apples were there. Sadly, he was misled.


You could pay a little extra to make cider (we didn’t).IMG_9323

We came upon a big orchard full of Granny Smith apples, but they were off limits for today.IMG_9327 IMG_9329

I got one!


Sometimes you gotta climb a tree to get an apple.IMG_9334 IMG_9337

This was one of only two Gravenstein trees. Sadly, so many of the apples fell before anyone could pick them.IMG_9339

A little help from Dad, “Jake – get the big one. See the big one? Not the little one.”IMG_9342

Maddie getting some help from Daddy (or is it the other way around?)

IMG_9348  IMG_9355


All done! We picked a half a bushel!


Afterwards, we ate at their “Publick House.” Some of us had better lunches than others. :)IMG_9363

I love this kid. Mother and son.


We have so many apples!! I’m looking up recipes for crisps and cobblers and caramel apples.

Happy Autumn, everyone!!


Look Down, Look Straight, Look Up – Neighborhood Walks

I’ve been taking a lot of walks lately. I’ve been logging between 2 (on a quick day) to 5 miles around the neighborhood. When I walk through the neighborhood alone, I always listen to a podcast (sometimes music) and try to find things around me to look at. It’s much different than when I’m walking with a friend, whom I can talk with the whole time.

So, I try to find interesting things to look at.

One thing I have found is the sidewalks in the three close neighborhoods are all different ages.


My neighborhood. 1949.


Neighborhood directly North of us. 1954.


Same neighborhood North of us – 1951.


Neighboring city. The earliest I can find is 1974, which is odd, because I know the city is over 100 years old.


Same neighboring city. 1987. They patch a LOT of their sidewalks with asphalt.


Same Northern neighborhood as before – stamp is on the side of the curb, rather than the sidewalk. 1955.


Last week I found a hidden treasure – a neighborhood I had NO idea existed. Much younger – on the curb. 1986.

Every now and then I find something pretty on the ground.

Every now and then I find something pretty on the ground.


Looking forward, I noticed the doors on the houses in the neighborhoods. I love unique doors. I love doors with color. And I’m fascinated by the variety of styles and eras of doors in all the surrounding neighborhoods. Here’s a smattering.


I don’t know that I could have these doors on my house, but theyre really cool!




The birds remind me of my grandmother, who loved birds.







Some decorations are cuter than others.

IMG_7283 IMG_7280 IMG_7270

IMG_6280 IMG_6278

And every now and then I get to see a view of the city.

IMG_7578When I look up, there’s all sorts of things to see.

IMG_7275 IMG_7505

IMG_7276 IMG_7262 IMG_7278 IMG_7293

What do you see around your neighborhood?




A Night With The Simpsons At The Bowl

Last night was our last concert of the summer at the Hollywood Bowl – The Simpsons Take The Bowl, Celebrating 25 years of the Simpsons. It was SO much fun (well, once we got through the One Direction traffic. I forgot they were playing at the Rose Bowl and that was kind of a nightmare).

Anyway, my husband is out of town (country), so my parents came along in his place, and we met our friends Eric and Mona, who we haven’t seen in FAR too long. It was a great night!

The Bowl was decorated all festive-like for the Simpsons.

It started with inflatable donuts.


There were two big inflatable Blinkies.IMG_7619

There were also cut outs everywhere. Two of my favorites together – Ned Flanders and Groundskeeper Willie.IMG_7623There were also two giant murals.


And several of the ushers had Sideshow Bob hats on.IMG_7627

My son, posing with the only clown he’s okay with. :)


The show itself was fantastic! Here are some highlights.


The first chair, along with a few other musicians, wore Marge wigs.


They animated an entire sequence of the Simpsons parking, walking to the Bowl, and heading to their seats.


They made their way through each section, with the kids asking, “Are we there yet?” (or something similar) with Homer becoming increasingly  frustrated.


This looks like our section. :)


I suppose it was very Meta.


Hank Azaria was one of the hosts, and he was hilarious. He sang in the voice of Chief Wiggum singing various songs, including “Let It Go.”


Throughout the night, he would change costumes to be Apu, Duff Man, Frink, and Moe.IMG_0150

They brought out the Kwik-E-Mart for “Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart?”







There were several couch gags by other directors/animators, such as Sylvain Chomet



Banksy, and even Guillermo del Toro, as well as a live-action version. All have been shown on various episodes, but we had never seen them.


Beverly D’Angelo came dressed as Lurlene to sing “I Finally Bagged Me A Homer.”IMG_0171

Yeardley Smith (Lisa) told a story of Michael Jackson when he was on the season 3 premiere. Although it was his speaking voice, it wasn’t his singing voice. The song, “Lisa, It’s Your Birthday” was sung by Kipp Lennon, and he and Nancy Cartwright (Bart) sang it live. One thing they did that I don’t remember ever seeing before is animation ON the actual bandshell.IMG_0181

A family favorite of ours, Weird Al, came out to sing “Homer and Marge” – a parody of “Jack and Diane.” He ended with an accordion solo which morphed into the Simpsons theme song.IMG_0187The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles was there to sing “Spider Pig,” “The Stonecutter’s Song” (I got lucky with this photo)

IMG_0200and “See My Vest.” It was a great rendition of the song, though it would have been awesome if Harry Shearer could have been there.


They stayed on stage to help Conan O’Brien sing the Monorail song he wrote, originally sung by the great Phil Hartman.IMG_0207

Lisa and Bart sang a song from the Sherry Bobbins episode.IMG_0215

John Lovitz came out to talk about his friend, Phil Hartman, and then sang his song from the Planet of the Apes musical.IMG_0227

Vaud and the Villains (a band featuring director and animator David Silverman on tuba) played “We Put the Spring in Springfield.”IMG_0232

There were fireworks (notice again the animation on the shell).IMG_0241IMG_0246

and as an encore, Nancy Cartwright (with the help of everyone else there) sang “The Bartman” which was written by Michael Jackson.IMG_0254It was a great night, and a great way to end our season at the Bowl. The only things that would have made it better were if my husband, Harry Shearer, and Sideshow Bob were there.

See you next summer, HB!



Is Chocolate Keeping Me From The Life I Want?

Recently I’ve made some big changes. Most of the summer I was pretty sedentary. I went from working on my feet most days to chilling with the kids, driving them to places, sitting, and doing housework. I tried to work in some swimming with them and some dancing, but for most of the summer I didn’t do a lot of exercise.

Since August 3rd, I’ve started walking. I’ve logged 33.5 miles in the 11 days I’ve walked.

Since August 1st, I’ve cut gluten out of my diet, in hopes that it’ll help my thyroid issues.

I’ve been eating fairly healthily since then. No late night Cheez-its. No mindless snacking on pretzels during the day. No bread. No pasta. No flour tortillas. No cookies. No pancakes, brownies, sandwiches, muffins… none of my husband’s homemade buttermilk biscuits.

My husband said to me “You’ll lose weight without gluten!”

You’d think so, right?

You’d think that between cutting out gluten AND walking 3-4 miles several times a week that I’d at LEAST lose a pound or two.


I understand you, Betty.

I understand you, Betty.

I don’t get it. My only vice right now is chocolate. I eat it every day.

Is that enough to KEEP me from losing weight?

Is that enough to screw with my metabolism?

I think I’m going to have to give up chocolate – at least for now.

What’s weird is I’ve had NO problem giving up Gluten. Maybe it’s because I am doing it for my health, not to lose weight.

Maybe if I have a legitimate health issue, I can give up chocolate.

I do wonder if I gave up chocolate (and maybe even sugar), would my headaches disappear? Would I feel less sluggish? Would I sleep better? Would I lose weight?

Or would I just look like this all the time?


Any opinions? Any first hand knowledge you’d like to share?




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