Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Yesterday I spent more time in the kitchen than I have in a long time.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I don't really enjoy cooking and baking, and I have to be in a rather ambitious mood to do so.  My motivation?  Making homemade gifts from the heart!

I knew exactly what I was going to make and where the recipe was. And, no, it was NOT (gasp) a Pinterest find! 

Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (Five -5- Ring Binder, 10th Edition) 

 Since 1989, I have been using this cookbook.  I received it at my bridal shower and it was a lifesaver for a novice cook and homemaker. Inside this dog-eared book are faded pages, some of which are stained and smudged. Inside this book are memories from the last 23 years. Remembrances of recipes gone bad and flashbacks to cooking and baking with my oldest son, some fifteen years ago.

I decided that I would make one of my favorite cookies, snickerdoodles.  My husband loves them, my kids love them, and I fondly remember my mother and I baking them. But, let me digress for a moment.  As I was working alone in the kitchen, listening to the ubiquitous classical music that I only turn off at bedtime, I remembered something else about these cookies.

Ten years ago I was teaching a middle school reading intervention program (Read 180) to a tough group.  I had three classes,one for each grade level.  My seventh grade group was a bit of a challenge.  I had about ten kids in the class, eight of which were boys.  Very troubled boys.  Boys without fathers, boys with parents in jail, parents that had died. I had students that wore ankle bracelets, who threatened to kill me, and many, if not all had an IEP or 504 plan for various reasons.  Was it easy?  Oh, my no!  I cried every day with the frustrations of desperately trying to reach these kids.  They were hurting, they were angry, they felt stupid, and they had major trust issues.  They rejected any sort of kind gesture, as they had very few adults in their lives that they could depend on.  Did they test me?  Absolutely!  However, I was determined that I would not give up, I would not disappoint these kids, and I would not abandon them as so many others had.

We started each class with a ten minute read-aloud.  I chose this book to read to them at the beginning of the year.  The title alone, grabs the reader's attention.  

I had a group of struggling students that felt like losers their entire life.  Jerry Spinelli has been a long time favorite of mine and the middle school students that I taught for 15 years.  He graduated from Gettysburg College, mere minutes from where I now live and is the college my father attended.  Many years ago, I had the privilege to meet him at an IRA conference. Anyway, I had a suspicion that my students would be able to connect with this book's main character, a loving, yet awkward child who struggles for acceptance.
I'm getting to cookies- soon- I promise.  Almost instantly, the class loved the book.  They begged me ( "tough" 7th grade boys that towered above me) to continue reading.  Some days I read longer than the allotted ten minutes and we had very emotional discussions.

Now for the cookie part.  In the book, the main character makes a giant snickerdoodle cookie that doesn't turn out so well. At the mention of this cookie, one can't help but smile, and, well, snicker!  The kids had never heard of this cookie.  Was it real?  What did it taste like?  I had a light bulb moment. My behavior modification and incentive plans I used were finally working.  So, I made it a bit sweeter (pun intended).  If they had a "good" week and earned "x" amount of points, I would make them homemade snickerdoodle cookies for them to eat the following Monday as I read aloud to them.

Yes, they earned the cookie "party".  I lovingly spent a chilly November Sunday baking cookies for them. For the rest of the year, they would choose these cookies as a reward.  I never made so many snickerdoodles in my whole life!

And that, my sweet readers, is what I was thinking about yesterday when I was baking.  I often wonder where these kids are today... did they graduate high school, did they stay out of jail, did they remember my message that they are special and had such great potential?

They touched my life and that is one of the many blessings of being a teacher.

I'm worn out from this long post, so excuse me as I go to eat breakfast~ snickerdoodles of course! 



  1. What a great post! That's an awesome story. I, too, wonder where some of my kiddos are now and what they have done with their life . . . especially the more challenging boys.

    What i have learned

    1. Thank you, Jessica. We can only pray that the seeds we planted are now growing and thriving. So glad you stopped by! :-) Lauren


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