It Might Make You Cry, but You Should Read it Anyway


I don’t understand why I love books that are sad, but I do. I often have a book hangover** for days after finishing a tearjerker. These sad stories typically involve a pet or family member death though that is not a requirement. Here are a few of my favorite books that might make the reader cry, but they are so good, it is hard to put them down.

The books are roughly upper elementary (4th, 5th, 6th) reading range, but I noted a few for middle school readers. Several are great read alouds for younger readers, but remember, it is hard to read aloud when sobbing. There was an incident this year in a certain 4th grade classroom with Stone Fox.

** Book Hangover– (n) The lingering feeling a person has after finishing a book and can not get the story out of his/her mind. It sometimes prevents a person from starting a new book.

  • Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (6th grade+)
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  • Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther (7th grade+)
  • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech (My students don’t cry when they read these books. I think it is a mom thing that makes me cry.)
  • A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
  • Missing May by Cynthia Rylant
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  • A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams (7th grade+)
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio

And the Grand Prize Winner, hands down, never fails to make me cry hysterically, but I have read it at least ten times– Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.


The Last Snack

turkey sandwiches for kids

Tomorrow is our last turn at kindergarten snack. I offered to make Miss Priss any snack she desired. What did she pick? Plain turkey sandwiches on white squishy bread (with the crusts cut off). With a big sigh and a heavy heart, I complied. So, here they are. The most basic snack I do, but it is probably the one that Miss Priss likes the best.

That does not mean that you, readers, have to serve plain turkey sandwiches for kid snacks. You can click Party Sandwiches for one of the easiest recipes you will ever follow, but I am also posting links back to old posts with the other super snacks from this year. Are you signed up to bring an item for an end of the year party? Any of the choices below will work!

Dill Dip

Dill Dip, Veggies, and Pretzels

Fruit Dip

apple dip close up

Turkey Wraps

turkey wrap close

Pizza Bread

slice pizza bread

Dirt and Worms

dirt and worms tray

Chex Mix

dinosaur chex mix

Teacher Gift or Hostess Gift– You Decide

carrot pickles finished

When organizing a teacher gift, I try to follow a generic but personal policy. The carrot pickles with cilantro are a little bit of a risk and break this rule. I visited Sewing Sister last weekend, and she served some carrot pickles with grilled hamburgers for dinner. The pickles were surprisingly delicious, easy to make in large batches, and they looked really pretty in the jars. The risky part, however, is that it is a pretty specific food type– not very generic. I teach at the school my son attends and know my son’s teachers fairly well. I was pretty sure everyone would eat them (or at least try them).

If you don’t know your child’s teachers at all but want to send a small appreciation gift for the end of the year, I think the Insulated Drinking Cup with gift card or an Ice Cream Sundae Kit works better. If you know your teachers like trying new restaurants or enjoy good food, I would give this gift a try, especially if you need to make a large quantity. I needed about 15 teacher gifts.

I will also be bringing an extra jar to a friend’s house this weekend as a hostess gift.

carrot pickle jar samples


  • 1 1/2 lb. carrots, trimmed and peeled
  • 8 oz. shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 c. distilled white vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1/2 t. celery seeds
  • 2 t. whole black peppercorns

carrot pickles bias cut


  • Cut the carrots into sticks that match the height of the jars you are using or slice using a bias cut (this is the diagonal, oval shaped cut).
  • Combine the carrots, shallots, and dill in a glass container with a lid.
  • In saucepan, combine 1 c. water, 1 c. vinegar, garlic, salt, sugar, celery seeds, and peppercorns. Heat until it simmers.
  • Pour the heated vinegar mixture over the veggies, cover loosely, and let cool to room temperature.
  • Tighten lid when cooled and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  • Can be kept in the refrigerator ~2 weeks.

carrot pickles assembling


  • I used a 5-lb bag of carrots, 5 shallots, and 2 bunches of cilantro to fill 17-20 jars. I used a mix of tall and wide mouth half pint jars. I needed 4 batches of the vinegar mixture. 
  • I tied a label to each jar with raffia ribbon explaining the contents and wishing the teachers a happy summer from our family. Click here for the Carrot Pickles with Cilantro Labels.
  • The recipe is fairly forgiving, so you can double, triple, etc. pretty easily.
  • The cilantro can be replaced with dill.
  • The original recipe came from Simple Fresh Southern by the Lee Brothers. They have a whole section of pickle recipes. Sewing Sister also recommends the radish pickles and the watermelon pickles.

carrot pickles with labelsWhat homemade recipes have you given as teacher or hostess gifts that work well? Do you think this gift is a hit or miss? I will admit that I am giving Miss Priss’ teachers (who I do not know as well) the insulated cup gift!

Reading Between the Lines

Report cards will be sent home in the near future for many school aged children. That envelope with the enclosed report card represents about 17 hours of collective teacher work– especially if you receive personal comments on your progress report. My son receives comments from 9 separate teachers. Some of the comments are only one sentence long, but if you know how to read between the lines, they say much more than you might think at first glance.

Match your report card comments with the key words and phrases listed below to determine if your kid is an Intelligent Follower or a Friendly Underachiever. Suzy will be playing the part of your daughter; Johnny will be playing the part of your son.

Hard Worker, Reliable, Independent, Intelligent

  • Suzy is organized.
  • Johnny exceeds expectations on assignments.
  • Suzy is an eager participant
  • Johnny is a conscientious student.
  • Suzy often contributes ideas that show an understanding that go beyond the surface meaning.
  • Johnny has consistent work habits.
  • Suzy is a self-starter.
  • Johnny volunteers ideas often that enhance class discussion.
  • Suzy is a pro-active learner and asks questions or seeks help if she needs additional practice with a skill.
  • Johnny meets objectives for the “X” assignment.
  • Suzy has good time management skills.
  • Johnny has creative ideas.

Kind, Thoughtful, Friendly

  • Johnny arrives at school with a smile every morning.
  • Suzy makes an effort to show consideration to others.
  • Johnny is a leader both as a friend and as a student.
  • Suzy is cooperative.
  • Johnny is respectful.
  • Suzy works well during group work.
  • Johnny makes good choices in the classroom.
  • Suzy thinks of others first, and I appreciate her kindness.
  • Johnny goes out of his way to help classmates and teachers.
  • Suzy has a caring attitude.


  • Suzy does not always like to work independently and needs support to start assignments.
  • Johnny has not embraced the effort required to be a successful “X” grader.
  • Suzy does not take ownership of her work.
  • I would like to see Johnny demonstrate more personal responsibility.
  • Suzy is struggling with the amount of time and effort required to complete assignments well.


  • Johnny is capable of making his own decisions.
  • Suzy should consider what she believes is right and not make choices based on her classmates’ decisions.
  • Johnny’s peers have a strong influence on his behavior.

Disruptive, Hyper, Chatty

  • I need to re-direct Suzy’s attention often.
  • I would like Johnny to settle into class more quickly.
  • Suzy’s self control is improving, and I appreciate her effort.
  • Johnny seeks attention that delays instruction.
  • I sense that Suzy is looking for loopholes, so she can create her own set of rules for completing assignments.
  • I want Johnny to focus on classroom procedures.
  • Suzy is enthusiastic in class, but she should give classmates a turn as well.
  • Johnny needs to make sure he is chatting at appropriate times.
  • Suzy needs to focus on the teacher, not classmates, during class instruction.

Know-it-All, Bossy, Bully

  • Johnny is a leader in the class but does not always influence the group in a positive way.
  • Suzy struggles with peer relations.
  • We are working together to make sure Johnny is setting positive examples.
  • I would like to remind Suzy to consider her classmate’s feelings.
  • Johnny is working to improve social skills.
  • Suzy does not need to monitor the activities of classmates.
  • I do have to remind Johnny not to worry about his classmates’ choices.

Underachiever, Careless, Disorganized

  • Suzy does not always show what she knows on assessments.
  • Johnny should carefully read directions.
  • If Suzy will review work before giving it to the teacher, it will reduce errors.
  • Johnny has great ideas even though it might take him some time to organize his thoughts.
  • Suzy has made great efforts to improve her organization and focus in class.
  • I would like Johnny to stretch his abilities.
  • Suzy’s final project was not as polished as I had hoped.
  • I am encouraging Johnny not to rush to finish first.

The positive comments are easy to decipher. Constructive comments are difficult (these are the negative ones). Teachers want to set goals for improvement but let parents know in a way that is not overly confrontational. What kinds of comments do you receive on your children’s report cards? What comments worked well, which ones were confusing, and which ones were so generic they did not give you any insight into your child’s progress at school? Please share.

Pork Tenderloin Picnic Sandwich

platter pork tenderloin sandwiches

Anyone need a really good sandwich recipe for a Memorial Day picnic? By Memorial Day weekend, it will be two days away from my last day of school, so chances are I will be almost comatose on my sofa and not going anywhere. However, if we do attend any events that weekend, I will be preparing pork tenderloin sandwiches with a champagne mustard sauce. I have brought these to the Derby races, Mardi Gras parade parties, potluck events, Super Bowl parties, and tailgates. They can be served at room temperature and can be made several hours ahead (but I prefer not to refrigerate them overnight because the arugula gets soggy).


  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. bourbon
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 pork tenderloins

champagne mustard sauce

Champagne Mustard Sauce

  • 1/3 c. sour cream
  • 1/3 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 T. champagne mustard
  • 1 T. finely chopped green onion
  • 1 1/2 t. garlic vinegar


  • arugula
  • crusty French baguette

building pork tenderloin sandwiches


  • To prepare marinade, combine soy sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, and garlic. Place pork in a large Ziploc bag. Pour marinade over and seal the bag. Marinate at room temperature for 3 hours turning occasionally. You can also marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Remove pork from marinade and prepare grill. Grill pork until center is a little pink. Remove pork from the grill and tent the meat with foil. Let rest until room temperature. The pork can be cooked a day ahead. Do not slice the pork until you are ready to assemble the sandwiches.
  • While pork is resting, prepare sauce. Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, green onion, and vinegar in small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  • When pork is cooled, slice thinly on the diagonal.
  • To assemble sandwiches, halve the baguette horizontally separating the top of the loaf from the bottom. Spread sauce on the bottom and top of the bread. Place slices of pork along the bottom half of the bread. Top with arugula then put the “bread lid” on the sandwich. Slice into wedges.


  • Champagne mustard is hard to find. I have located Stonewall Kitchen’s Maine Maple Champagne Mustard at Whole Foods. If I don’t have a champagne Mustard, I use Dijon.
  • Garlic vinegar is also hard to locate. I replace with white wine vinegar. I think I could probably steep garlic in my white wine vinegar to make my own garlic vinegar, but I never think about it ahead of time.
  • Squishy rolls like Portuguese rolls work well too instead of the French bread.
  • If taking to a tailgate, the sandwiches can be bagged individually and stored in a cooler.

pork tenderloin sandwich