I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Monday, December 26, 2011

Brrrrrrrrrrreak

You can call it a break,
or some time to just be.
More sleep's on the docket
with some reading and TV.

There's been plenty of time
with friends and family in town.
Good food and sweet treats
have been duely passed 'round.

We've celebrated Christmas
New Year's on the way
School won't start again
for another 6 days.

So pack in the fun
and don't think of to-dos
Avoid all the malls,
which are surely like zoos.

Get time on your side
The present's what we've got
Make memories today -
ones that cannot be bought.

For it's times just like these
that we're meant to enjoy
Realizing that one day
we'll look back on them with joy.

Happy Holidays!

Well, sometimes, it's best to just take a break. So, that's just what I am planning to do.

I'll see you back here after the new year.

Until then, be well my friends...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas present is here to stay...

As Christmas draws ever near, here is my number one favorite Christmas song:

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 

(It wouldn't let me embed this video for some reason.)


Why it tops the list: I wish I had some great reason to give why this one is my all-time favorite Christmas song, but, honestly, I don't. Probably what I like best about it is its focus on what (and who) we have so that we might feel blessed and happy with the present Christmas, look back on past Christmases with fond memories, and look ahead to Christmases that will come in the future. Time keeps turning, and we all keep moving, but this song reminds us to stop and cherish the special moment of Christmas each year, no matter where we find ourselves.

At least, that's what it says to me.


So, what about you? Have you thought about your favorite Christmas song? 

No matter what it is, remember to "have yourself a merry little Christmas now."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

No Place Like Home for Christmas

"All Hearts Come Home For Christmas." Here's my #2:

I'll Be Home for Christmas


Why it makes the list: It is natural to gather together at Christmas, but for some of us it is not physically possible (due to either death or distance), and such realities can make the holidays an especially difficult time. This song reminds us, however, that at least in thoughts and prayers, our loved ones are with us (and we with them) during this holiday of great joy.

And if we truly believe this, then we all of have something to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One Little Town Made Christmas History...

#3 is a song that brings hope:

O Little Town of Bethlehem



Why it makes the list: The mix of such beautiful music and even more beautiful (and hope-filled) words make this probably oft-overlooked Christmas song one we should all cherish.

Take some time today to really reflect on these incredible lyrics:

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bells Are Ringing

"...Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe." #4 coming at you:


I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day




Lyrics found here

Why it makes the list: This song is for all who believe and all who have ever doubted God's promise of His peace. As the song progresses from the introductory chords to its final refrain, it tells of the realization of inherent good in people - the truth that there is "peace on earth, good will to men." 


When we find ourselves bowing our heads in despair, let us be reminded that the bells are ringing...and God is watching.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum

I'd wager a guess that most of us have been in the shoes of the young boy in this song (my #5):

Little Drummer Boy 


Why it makes the list: Like the little drummer boy, we often find ourselves with no gift fit to lay before Jesus. We come before God empty-handed, and, in light of this, we may feel embarrassed or unworthy.

But God does not see us as unworthy. He sees this as an opportunity to fill us - in the words of St. Augustine of Hippo, "God gives where He finds empty hands." (Our hands should be empty!)

And, in fact, we each do have a gift to bring - and that gift is the talents and love God has given to us that we, in turn, are called to now share with others.


And you thought I liked this song because it has the word "rum" in it, didn't you? Hmm...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Did YOU know...?

Where would Christmas be without Jesus' mother? Here's my #6:

Mary, Did You Know? 


(If the video above does not work, try here --> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiaZYZor6vI&feature=player_embedded)

Why it makes the list: I have a confession - this song will always hold a special place in my heart for two reasons: 1- I can still see my lovely sign language club offering up this song as a prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe last year (and my own mom was there to watch too); 2- Because of the Salesians, I will never wander far from Mary's presence and prayers - pray for us!

Does this beautifully written song hold a special place in your heart too? It is the story of both Mary and Jesus. It is a perfect reminder of why we celebrate Christmas...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

If You Just Believe...

Getting closer to Christmas now with #7:

Believe 


Why it makes the list: Perhaps I am partial to this song this year because our students sang it for the Christmas concert, but I feel it truly captures the spirit of Christmas. No matter what is happening the rest of the year, Christmas appears to be this "wake-up call" for each of us to remember what it's like to believe in the goodness and joy all around us.

On a short side note, we gave the students their very own bells in Christmas goodie bags yesterday - it was in honor of their song and the fact that we had watched "The Polar Express" in class - and they were so grateful and cute about them. They shook their bells and said, "We believe!" They were priceless.

So, here's a question to think about - Does the bell still ring for you?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Let nothing you dismay

And on to #8:

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen


Why it makes the list: In the midst of all the busy-ness and rush of the holiday season, this song reminds us to all slow down. God can handle it - we just have to remember to offer all of our worries and problems up to Him. This song brings greetings and wishes of "comfort and joy" - isn't that what we all want (and need) this holiday season?

So, remember, if you are getting caught up in the rush, take a rest...and look to God.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Come a-waltzing with #9

And 1-2-3, 1-2-3... Here's my #9:

The Christmas Waltz 



Why it makes the list: How can you not love Frank Sinatra in this song? It's short and sweet...and it paints a vivid image of a living room festively prepared for the holidays. Such a pretty picture! And an added bonus? --> Being a waltz, this song is in 3/4 time, and I love how the song actually makes use of that in its lyrics. Clever!

Will you have this dance?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Counting Down...

By no means do I claim to have the ultimate Top 10 Christmas songs list - for one, I'm likely to have forgotten one or two - but, for what it's worth (and to bring a little Christmas cheer your way), here's my list, starting today with my #10:

Winter Wonderland



Why it makes the list: It's one of those put-me-in-the-Christmas-y-mood songs that make me want to curl up by a warm, cozy fireplace with some hot chocolate and look out at the snow, while, at the same time, being one of those songs that makes me want to go catch snowflakes on my tongue.

Would this song make your Top 10 Christmas List?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

That's All

3 more days.

That says it all.


...No, really, what more is there to say?


(Join me tomorrow to weigh in on the Top 10 Songs of Christmas Countdown, starting with #10...)

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Alternative Christmas List

With holiday sales and online shopping hitting their all-time highs these weeks, it's time to stop and think.

Maybe this year it's time to consider an alternative Christmas list...

“Christmas Gift Suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect."
- Oren Arnold

As we prepare for the Christmas holidays, let's remember to not get so wrapped up in the stress and gifts that we forget the aforementioned "items" that should be on all of our lists.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joy Instead


In the Catholic tradition, we celebrate Gaudete (or "rejoice") Sunday today. For me, quite honestly, the timing ain't so great. Admittedly, I'm not in the rejoicing mood.

But then I came across an article on one of the blogs I follow regularly: http://liturgycatechesisshallkiss.blogspot.com/2011/12/rejoicing-in-world-that-has-forgotten.html - There's a difference between joy and happiness. And during times of mourning, it is possible to maintain that deeper sense of joy rooted in our Lord: We believe that all will be well.

I love how these kinds of articles come across my Google Reader just as I need them. Amen!

I pray that today you are filled with joy, even during times of difficulty.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

We Have Today

Highly doubtful if the thermometer reached 30 degrees today - in fact, it started out in the mid-teens according to the Today Show at the gym this morning. But, nevertheless, it was a perfectly wonderful day to be outside.

In fact, it was one of those days that I kept searching for a reason to go outside:

A quick jog to the gym (+treadmill run inside) and back - brr!...


A familiar walk up the street for a simple breakfast of chocolate-y chip goodness (in the form of a bagel) and a cup of joe from Panera with my sister...


A smooth drive to my school, where some of my students were playing in a basketball game - they won!


A brief trip to the GAP right at the corner of my street - it's hard to resist a buy one get one free sale...


A short "hike" to a nearby restaurant to meet my sister for dinner (after she went to Mass)...


I know the weather won't last like this much longer. Snow's bound to come and barometers are likely to fall sharply. But I had today.

Yes, I had today...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Immaculate Mary

Remember, it is almost impossible to reach Jesus without Mary's mediation. Therefore, entrust everything to her, especially your soul.
~ St. John Bosco

Mary, Help of Christians, Pray for Us!

This short, simple prayer says it all. (I love how the Salesians make it so simple!) When we draw near to Mary, we draw near to God.

So, clearly, Marian feast days are the best: Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Opportunity's a-knocking

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
- Thomas Edison




If I teach my students one thing this year (in addition to coming closer to God), I want it to be that they should not be afraid of working hard. I want them to look a challenge (or a hard word problem in math) in the eye and believe they can do it. Even if they have a chance at failing, I want them to make that leap. If not here in a safe learning environment, then where? when?

Is that too much to want for my students? I know I always harp on the fact that if something was easy, then everyone would do it. But an opportunity occurs when you work hard to create it. Plus, isn't it that much better when we finally achieve something after working hard at it?

Yes, Thomas Edison sure was a bright guy.

So, the question is, when opportunity knocks, will we be prepared to answer, even if the "work" seems hard?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Laughing Matter

Sometimes laughter is the best medicine.

And what makes it really neat is when that laughter comes as part of your job, and you take the time to really appreciate those little funny moments.

I was fortunate to have a few of those moments today.

And for those I am truly grateful.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Words, Don't Fail Me Now

My Grandpa
(A Memory Rhyming Poem)
December 3, 2011

A man of few words,
but wise, nonetheless.
Stubborn to a fault
as his patience we'd test

He served in the Air Corps,
was a civil engineer
And a good man to his family
year after year

He bled green and white -
A Spartan fan true.
Best beware of "the look"
if you mentioned "Go Blue."

Ev'ry morning he'd have
his coffee without fail
As he read the newspaper
and sorted through mail.

He liked everything plain -
a no fuss kind of guy.
On his burgers, no "garbage"
on the side, he'd have fries.

His dislike for pickles
was one of a kind
"I'm allergic to them" -
he had made up his mind.

Manhattans and Mai Tais,
a cold beer or two
Celebrating with friends -
that he knew how to do.

Public Broadcasting programs
and NCIS
USA, Big 10 network -
on TV, those were best.

He taught us to play card games -
Pinochle was fun.
And we always enjoyed it,
no matter who won.

He gave generously
of his money and time
For he believed that to give
any less was a crime.

A brother, an uncle
a grandpa and dad
A friend, a coworker,
an MSU grad

Words simply can't tell
how I miss him - I've tried
It just hasn't been 
the same since he died.

But his memory I'll carry
with me where I go.
Blessed to be his granddaughter -
that I sure hope he knows.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grandpa, Sparty, and Me

As a twelve year old kid, I confess I didn't know much in the ways of the world. (And perhaps I still don't, but that's another story.) The point is that it was that year when I really started watching college basketball.

And, let's face it, it wasn't just any college basketball - it was Michigan State. (I'm pretty sure I dubbed myself an honorary member of the Izzone.) A fanatic (me) was born.


Why Michigan State? You know, people still ask me that to this day, and I love telling the story.

Actually, it's not much of a story, per se. It's really just for one simple fact - I wanted something in common with my grandpa. (I guess I realized even then what an incredible man he was.) Whether watching in the same room or on different TVs across the country, I knew that we would always be able to either celebrate or lament the team's results and stats at the end of each game. Without fail, it would be something we shared.

And we did just that for 14 years.

Eh, who am I kidding? He's still watching (wherever he is), I'm sure of it.

And I'll definitely keep watching too - heck, the team picture and schedule is the desktop background on my computer.

As I'm sure my grandpa would say, Sparty on...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Meeting Adjourned

How quickly things change. And how fast life keeps moving forward even when you want it to just stand still (or even go backwards)...

Grandpa, I miss you so much. Because of you my blood will always run green and white. (Go State!) I will forever hum "Waltzing Matilda" and hear "The Bedbugs and the Cooties" rhyme in my head. And, as you constantly reminded me, I will "save my money and buy whiskey." Whenever I see a pickle on my plate, I will remember how you always claimed you were allergic to them just so you wouldn't have to deal with that nonsense. (Pure genius.) And when it's time to leave the table, I'll always note (at least to myself) that the meeting's adjourned. I love you, and I am so proud and blessed to be your granddaughter.


(In loving memory, July 11, 1924 - December 2, 2011)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ready to sing along to Christmas songs?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...but I just can't seem to get in the mood for holiday music...yet.

With classic favorites like Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" and just about any rendition of "Silent Night," as well as newer songs like "Mary, Did You Know?" and "The Chipmunk Song", what's not love about such Christmas cheer? I seriously don't know what's going on with me.

Grinch-like? I sure hope not (and honestly do not think so). It's probably because we still have 2.5 weeks until winter break at school. Hmm...

I'm sure hoping that tomorrow (being December 1st and all) will finally allow me to get in gear.

In fact, I am loading my iPod with all the good ol' Christmas-y songs as I type this.

Are you in the mood for Christmas music? Is "A Christmas Waltz" or "We Three Kings" music to your ears tonight?

Perhaps a little "I'll Be Home for Christmas" (The song starts at about 1:49 in the clip below)-->

h

Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Busy Retreat-ing

Welcome to the 4th and 5th grade Advent Retreat 2011: "Prepare Your House. Prepare Your Heart."

How did we go about doing this?

Well, we built houses...sort of:


(Apparently, they were quite tasty!)

We "erased" our sins by celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation...

sacrament of reconciliation coloring page of Jesus and Children(kids) download religious photos and Mother Mary images for free

We made St. Nicholas stockings and stuffed them with affirmations for classmates...


We made Advent wreaths...of sorts:

Making promises in the following specific areas -->
1- Prayer   2- Doing Things for Others   3- Show Love   4- Giving

I have to admit that the retreat was a good set of exercises for me too - it gave me a chance to just slow down. (I even had the opportunity to sit (in peace!) in Church for about 30 minutes as the students took turns at Reconciliation.)

Slowly, but surely, we are preparing for Christmas...

"Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise."
- Karl Rahner

Happy Advent. Let this season of preparation find a special home in our hearts!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Preparing Our Hearts

Did you know that Advent is the longest amount of time it can ever be? That's right - four full, glorious (pink-and-purple-filled) weeks until Christmas coming right at you.


So, here's the million dollar question:
What are you doing this year to prepare your heart and home for Jesus' coming at Christmas?

Not sure what plan of action to take? Here are a few resources (that I have found helpful) you might want to check out:

- Interactive Advent Retreat (through Loyola Press)
- Daily Advent Calendar for Adults (includes readings for the day, short Scripture passage, and reflections)
- Praying Advent (compiled through efforts of Creighton University)
- Pray-as-you-go (daily Advent-themed prayer review of the day for your iPod or computer)

Of course, there are others out there too. Do you have any favorite ways to help you prepare?

This last video is just for fun - but it's message rings true:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another Hundred People

Airports have always fascinated me, and that's not really because of the planes; although, granted, those are pretty incredible.

No, it's because of so many people - where is everyone going?


Well, clearly, today people are traveling home after the Thanksgiving holiday.

But every day?

And, in the midst of all those people, isn't it crazy not to usually even recognize one person you know? And, isn't it easy, in the midst of all the craziness, to get swept up into the whole "me" mentality - vying for space in the Starbucks line or nipping at the security officer who made you go through the screening machine (heaven forbid) twice.

It all reminds me of a song my dad introduced me to awhile back from the musical Company - it's called "Another Hundred People".

And thus begins the song:
"Another hundred people just got off of the train
And came up through the ground,
While another hundred people just got off of the bus
And are looking around
At another hundred people who got off of the plane
And are looking at us
Who got off of the train
And the plane and the bus
Maybe yesterday.
It's a city of strangers..."

So many people. So much commuting and traveling. So much  rush, rush, rush.

A song such as this makes me kind of wish I could slow down to just watch everyone else moving through life at break-neck speed in every direction - it would likely be highly amusing.

Do you ever feel the urge to just STOP and take it all in? Go ahead - I dare you.

(Just promise you won't stand there pointing and laughing.)

Online Advent Experience

Online Advent Experience
(Click on the picture above)


from the website:
"This Advent, join Loyola Press for a special online Advent experience. Following a traditional Advent calendar format, the experience invites you to slow down this season and discover the quiet moments of Advent hope. Each day of Advent, you’ll be directed to a reflection, media link, or activity to inspire you. Bloggers Vinita Hampton Wright, Joe Paprocki, Paul Brian Campbell, SJ, Jim Manney, and others share resources to nurture your spirituality at this busy time of year.
Check back each day during Advent, starting November 27, 2011, for that day’s post."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Day of Giving Thanks!

Turkey apples, a family (and now classroom!) tradition
Christmas and birthdays are all well and good. Fourth of July might even be right up there. But give me Thanksgiving over all of them.

Yep, it's my favorite holiday - maybe it's the mix of fall and football, food and fun. There's so much tradition (including the annual Turkey Trot and turkey apples (pictured above)) and so much for which to be thankful. Even holiday music is now permissable (and even desirable) - let the countdown to Christmas begin!

Yes...

Thanksgiving...
a day to slow down
to spend time with family
to enjoy the traditional turkey and (of course) pumpkin pie
and to give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives.

Wishing you and yours a very happy and thanks-filled day!

Don't forget to leave some leftovers for tomorrow...

Monday, November 21, 2011

For What Are You Most Thankful?

What incredible people I have in my life - I posed a simple (although, according to some, not so simple) question: For what are you most thankful? to which I received over 50 email replies with responses ranging from family and friends to God's grace to each new day.

I compiled all of these responses and put them into a Wordle: http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/4455942/For_what_are_you_most_thankful%3F

The reason I took on this project was to serve as an example for my students - during their technology period on Tuesday, they will be making their own Wordles with responses they collected today from their classmates in response to Thanksgiving-related questions. Now, some of these questions were more along the serious side (like mine), but other questions focused on "What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?", etc. I can honestly say I am looking forward to the final results we'll have in the classroom tomorrow...

As for me, I am currently most thankful for the Salvation Army volunteer at the grocery store who called my attention to the fact that my CTA bus/subway pass had fallen out of my pocket in the parking lot...but that wouldn't quite fit in the Wordle.

As we enter into this time of Thanksgiving (and then preparation for Christmas), I urge you to take some time and think about it - for what are you most thankful?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Waiting Patiently

"Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise.  It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for."


Isn't it so classic? - Lord, give me patience...right now.

It is hard to be patient - ask any fourth grader, and he/she will tell you that it's near impossible - from waiting to be called to line up for lunch to waiting to begin a test/quiz in front of them, they have the darnedest time.

And, sometimes, I have to admit that I do too.

Yet, in today's reflection, it points out that God calls us to wait patiently but actively. That means we actually have to get up and out and going. It means we need to be present to what is right before us - at that precise moment, nothing should be more important than that which is right there!

It's a call to focus. It's a call to presence. It's a call to openness. It's a call to life worth living.

Patience is, indeed, a virtue...Is it yours?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Doing Something Right

Every once in awhile, it's good to hear that parents (and even the principal) think you're doing something right.

When students are eager to get to school in the morning...
When students feel challenged at a level that's not too hard but, rather, just right...
When students open up and feel safe to take risks...
When students make a personal connection to their peers and their teachers...

During parent/teacher conferences, my co-teacher and I felt validated. It's not often we get a pat on the back. And it's not that we need one, but today we saw that all of the effort and care we have put towards planning, preparation, and lesson delivery during these past few months really hit home for the students, and they (and their parents) feel successful. There is room for improvement, of course, but most everyone has made a great start.

Our classroom has become a place of warmth and welcome. Our students want to learn for the sake of learning (even over and above to score well on a test). And I feel so blessed to be with these 19 students and my co-teacher. I am learning so much every day.

And the most important lesson I am learning? Take the time to build the community - when the trust is there, the learning will come...naturally.

Corny but true -->

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Moments

Random moments from a day in the life...because they're just too darn cute not to share:


During math (pointing to the textbook) - 
Student: "Look, Ms. Foyle. It's competition. The rabbits are competing for the carrots just like we learned in science."

During read aloud (while I was in the back of the classroom and my co-teacher was reading) -
Student: "Ms. Foyle -"
Me: "Pretend I'm not here."
Student: "Can I leave a message?"
Me: "No." (laughing in my head)

At the end of the day (in realizing he would not be at school again until after Thanksgiving) -
Student: "Bye Ms. Foyle. I'm going to miss you because I won't see you for a long time." (Hug)

Oh, it's the little moments. Good times, cute kids.
Yes, even in light of the long hours and different obstacles that come my way, I love my job.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Data, yes...but look further

Data and numbers just don't paint the whole picture.

In light of standard-based report cards and quantifying every question, etc., it is so important that we don't lose sight of this fact. It's true that some of the information on those report cards are going to come from our day-to-day interactions with the students. Maybe it won't be in the grade book. Does that mean it shouldn't be counted as reliable or given as much weight? I think not...

We see the students every day - in their ups and their downs, their goods and their bads, their sick-shouldn't-have-come-to-school days and their top-of-the-world days. The picture is constantly being painted. Report cards should reflect more than just snapshots.

Sometimes, it's true, the data cannot be quantified or recorded. But it needs to be trusted. That data need to have a say.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Mornin', Y'all

The room was dark when she first entered. As the lights illuminated, she turned to face the empty board. It stared back at her. Schedule, morning message, directions for settling into the morning's routine all needed to be written on that board - and it wasn't going to happen magically. (Darn it.) 


She was moving slower than usual. (Maybe she should have topped off her coffee this morning.) The copies were sitting on the machine - she had left them there accidentally over the weekend. Apparently her brain wasn't functioning too well - after all, she had been the one to remind her colleagues of jeans day, and then she had proceeded to forget to wear jeans herself.

Call it crazy. Call it being up too early in the morning. Call it what you want.

But no matter what you call it, there's no escaping that it's just another manic Monday...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Where were you at 11:11 on 11-11-11?

So, what did you do at 11:11 on 11-11-11?...


May or may not have had a dance party in celebration of the greatest number ever. (Yes, I'm partial because it was my volleyball and soccer number.) We were in math, working in two small groups. My group started silently dancing and jumping around in the back of the classroom to see if the other group noticed - it took them a little while, but pretty soon everyone was up and dancing around for the remainder of that minute, complete with countdown to 11:12 as we neared the final seconds of this historic event.

Best. Math. Class. Ever.

Later in the day, I also told the students that we could celebrate at 12:11, 1:11, etc. They looked at me puzzled. When I asked them why this would be perfectly legitimate, a few of the students got excited when they realized it was because of the different time zones. Well, as luck would have it, when 2:11 rolled around, we celebrated (again) - this time, though, it was for 11:11 in the Alaskan time zone.

It's quite funny how excited (well, more like dramatic) the students acted during our celebration. But hey, it was a good way to let out the sillies. And, you have to admit, we all get those from time to time.

"Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional."
-- Tom Wargo

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Like a child

"Are we going out to recess?" nearly every child in my class asked as we prepared for lunch.
"Looks dry enough to me."
"But it's so cold!" they whined.
35 degrees is cold? Heck, I'm the one from Florida experiencing my first Midwest winter. This weather is nothing compared to what lies ahead this winter...right?
"Grab your coats and your lunch boxes. We'll definitely be going outside," I told them.

...And, wouldn't you know it, when they all got outside and had the chance to run around, they forgot about complaining. The cold wind whipping at their faces was refreshing and invigorating. They were actually screaming with delight because they swore they were seeing snow. (Now, I was out there with them, and I definitely didn't see it.) They could not contain their excitement - it is clear they are earnestly looking forward to the first snowfall of the season. And, I have to admit, I am too.

I guess some things always are and always will be exciting, like the first snow. Some things truly are better when viewed from eager eyes like a child's.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pray Constantly

We've been studying the Lord's Prayer in religion class recently, and today's lesson focused on how we are called to pray constantly.

How is that possible? Man, were the students' heads spinning on that one!

And we had a pretty solid discussion  on the topic with suggestions such as setting aside times to pray in the morning and evening, treating everyone like we would treat Jesus, doing things to honor and thank God, etc. One student even said that our whole lives are a prayer because God watches everything we do. (Wow)

For me, I know it's impossible to go from praying intermittently throughout the day to "praying constantly," but I've decided to try by doing a few steps at a time:

1 - When I first wake up in the morning, I recently set my cell phone alarm to ring with the phrase "Thank God today" printed across the screen - Just a quick reminder for starting the day off right.
2 - During breakfast, I try to meditate on the daily Gospel and reflection sent via Pray.ND.edu. (I get it delivered straight to my inbox - what a wonderful thing!)
3 - When I drive to school, I like to pray the Rosary or be in silence. Sometimes, though, this isn't possible, depending on if I am giving my roommate a ride or not. But if I can do it a few days a week, that's improvement.
4 - At the transition of each class, I want to remember to send up a little prayer to God to ask for patience, help, or even thank Him for how the last class period went. (And we also pray as a school at the beginning of the day, and we pray as a class before lunch and dismissal.)
5 - Evening prayer needs to become a more consistent part of each day. (I have to admit I sometimes become lazy with that.)

And the list needs to go on...but I find that trying to change/add/modify too much at once isn't feasible. I'd rather start small and do well with those and then build from there.

Are you ready to make prayer more constant in your life?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In the middle of the pouring rain

How does it go...when it rains it pours?

Ok, so literally we have been having quite a bit of rain over the past two days - I guess the colder weather's coming - but that's not really what I'm referring to here.

This week is crazy - and it just seems that everything is happening at once. Quite honestly, I feel like if I stand still even for a few seconds I'll get run over... Report cards are to be turned in tomorrow, and we also have a faculty meeting and an open house these following two days for which we are required to be present. Also, (but by my own choosing) I have aftercare duty on Friday. (Oh, and it's my roommate's birthday tomorrow.)

Gotta love weeks like this.

I sure hope you're not in the middle of such a week. But, if you are, remember to come up for air from time to time. (I have to admit, I took a break tonight and caught up on "Castle" - that was a good choice.)

The rainbow's sure to follow, so I'm going to give myself a kick in the pants for motivation and push through. Sunday is going to be such a good day to rest...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Love That Sharon Creech

Being an avid reader since before I can remember, many books have crossed my path - some have come by my own choosing and others have been shared with me by teachers, friends, and family.

One of my all-time favorite authors is Sharon Creech. Ever since being introduced to "Walk Two Moons" by my 6th grade teacher (who, coincidentally, is also one of my all-time favorites) during a read-aloud, I was hooked. Since then, over the course of middle school, high school, college, and into the present, I have accumulated and read all of her books. I am even subscribed to her blog: Words We Say

Well, imagine my utmost surprise and delight in learning that Sharon Creech would be in Chicago this past Saturday for a book signing after a stage adaptation performance of her novel, "Walk Two Moons." I figured this out on Friday morning (right before I left for school), and I had tickets to the event for me and my sister by that very afternoon. I was not about to miss out. (I even included it in our classroom's weekly newsletter if by some chance one of my kiddos could go too.)

That was such a good life choice. The show was incredible (just like the book) - it had the audience laughing and crying, cheering for the main character (Sal) the whole way. The show was followed by a talk-back by the cast, Sharon Creech, and the person who adapted the book for the stage. Then, everyone was ushered downstairs for an ice cream social and the book signing.

Luckily, Marisa and I got to the front of the line, and we were able to get a few books signed. My favorite is the one Sharon Creech did for "Love That Dog" (see below):


And what really blew me away was how humble and down to earth Sharon Creech was. She even took time to let us take our picture with her (even though it is a bit fuzzy):


Love that book. Love that play. And LOVE that Sharon Creech.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Don't want this day to end

It's 11 o'clock on a Thursday night. I have no idea why I'm still awake...but I do know that I'm probably going to be dragging tomorrow. Yikes.

Maybe I'm not ready to call it quits for today yet - after all, it really was a great day -->

Pure Poetry - Our students hosted our first annual Chocolate House, where they each recited a poem they memorized and presented their own poetry portfolios. Students and parents alike lit up - what a blessing to share such a special occasion with families and friends. (And all of the chocolate-themed treats were yummy too!) The event reminded me how much parents are eager to be a part of their children's classroom lives - we, as teachers, need to remind them that the door is always open.



Service with a Smile - This evening, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend some time with other volunteers at a local food pantry. At first, I helped take names and direct people to the people with whom they needed to speak, but, towards the end of the evening, I helped out behind the counter by passing out items from the rice and beans division. Most everyone I met was very grateful, and I enjoyed talking to them as they came through the line. (And afterwards, my sister and I went out for dinner right across the street - and it was delicious.) I very much hope to make it back for another evening of service soon.

So, yes, I'm still sitting here. It makes me wonder how much sugar is in one of those Starbucks hot chocolates and a couple of chocolate chip cookies...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Saints Among Us

Today is a day to celebrate all saints - but not necessarily just those who are formally recognized in the Church.

As Fr. Pat pointed out at Mass this morning, this means that there are saints that have lived and who currently live among us who are saints as well. I am blessed to say that I could name quite a few.

Saints are the people in our lives who recognize the need to spread God's love to others and then act on that need. You know them as the people who provide that extra smile or hug when needed, the people who keep us grounded and focused on what really matters. They are the people that take time to really connect with others, and, amazingly, they are the ones who always seem to have enough time to get everything done well and in meaningful ways. 

These people walk among us and sit beside us every day.

Take some time and reflect tonight:

Who are the saints in your life that you are celebrating today?
What are things you can do to be more like saints to those whom you meet each day?

Here's a little meditation music for you - quite appropriate for today's feast, if you ask me. (And, I have to admit, it totally made my morning when they sang this at Mass!):

When the Saints Go Marching In (Louis Armstrong)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

When We Practice

Six to seven miles at a moderately slow pace is supposed to be easy. After all, that's about one quarter of a marathon distance, right? I'm not saying my run this morning was hard, but it did leave me feeling a little frustrated.

Was I more frustrated at the fact that it was harder than it should be or that I haven't been getting in my shorter runs during the week to help me maintain my stamina?

Like all things, we get better results when we practice regularly. Running once a week will never be easy because I'm not putting in the time elsewhere during the week to make it so.

Is this not true of our personal relationships? Without consistent communication with our friends and family, the times we do get together set up conversations to be a lot more on the surface level. Instead of focusing on the things that matter most, we spend our time talking about everything we've done in the past x number of months into about a five to ten minute conversation. (And we call this "catching up.")

And what about our prayer lives? Well, let's think about it: When our prayer lives are regular, we are more aware of God's goodness all around us. (And then we are more ready to thank God for those things at the very moment.)

It's not automatic, by any means. But, like all good things (as noted above), we get better results when we practice.

(I guess that means Notre Dame's football team got in a bit of extra practice this week, eh? GO IRISH! What a game and what a day! - See a couple of pictures below.)

Fall at Notre Dame
Marching Band spells out "IRISH"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Loving more each day

Nineteen heads bobbed up and down as the students warmed up for gym class.

And I just stood there and watched them. They are truly nineteen personalities. They have their days, so to speak, it's true.

But we're slowly learning what makes them tick.
And the puzzle pieces are falling into place.
And I'm loving them more each day...because I'm getting to know them better. (And, man, are they coming out of their shells!)

And then, as I stood there, I thought about how much more God knows each of us and loves each of us. Pretty unbelievable when you think about it, right?


"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
(1 John 4:9-10)

So, I close tonight with a short and simple prayer of gratitude. I think you will find it fitting as well, and I encourage you to pray it with me:

Thank you, Lord, for loving me and for showing me how to bring your love to those with whom I work and spend time. Help me to be a sign of your love in the world. Amen.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Questions

So many activities -
From volleyball to Boy Scouts,
From swimming to piano

So much pressure - 
From report cards to band solos,
From school plays to science tests

When is there time for a child...
to just be a kid?
to learn that mistakes are ok?
to be silly?
to do something simply because he loves it?

What's the hurry?
What's the rush?
As adults, don't we wish
we had those "good old days" back?

The moments go too fast -
We have to urge children to slow down.
And maybe we could slow down too.

It's okay to say no.
Maybe there should be family dinner time.
Sleep is definitely a good thing.
And time to ponder and pray,
now, wouldn't that be nice?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Color Me Fall


I'm not going to even pretend I took that picture - I didn't.

But today's weather was so darn gorgeous that it couldn't really even be captured by a camera.

And it had to be spent outside, where I found any and every excuse to be - a walk to morning Mass, a walk to meet my sister for lunch (and then a walk back home via gelato and the grocery store), an architecture boat ride tour on the Chicago River, a walk to dinner with my roommate's parents...

Today looked like Fall. It felt like Fall. It tasted like Fall.

How can you not fall in love with such a beautiful day?


 

(I did take these last two pictures, in case you were wondering. Perfect day for a boat ride...)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Marked by His hand

Do you remember the movie "Toy Story (the first one)?" Do you remember the part when Woody looks at his foot and really realizes that he belongs to Andy - that Andy has put his mark on him?


During morning prayer today, we were reminded of this, but it was in light of how it is like this with us and God. God has put his mark on us. We are His - He loves us (and gives us plenty of reminders to help us realize this).

After a long day like this one, I sure find comfort in remembering these things. I hope you do too.

Remember, God has marked each of us with a sign of his love. So, now it's our turn to be that reminder of God's love to others.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trying to find the words

I got plenty of nothin'
Nothing's plenty for me...

Over and over I've started and erased tonight's blog post for no reason other than I just can't find the right words today.

But maybe silence is exactly what I need tonight in order to refresh for tomorrow.

Have you enjoyed a moment of silence today?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Can I Do Better?

"Best is good. Better is best."
- Lisa Grunwald



I love this kind of phrase because it manipulates familiar words and our understanding/thinking about them:

It feels great to be the best at something, doesn't it? Maybe it's a specific sport, musical talent, or knowledge of a specific subject/area of expertise. Isn't it nice to be the "go-to person?" (Think of that Discover commercial with Lou Holtz: "Peggy, you could be my go-to guy...gal.")

So, I'm sure you'll agree with me that there is no denying best is good.

But we can't settle for best. Take a lesson from Jo March: In the musical "Little Women," she sings, "How can I do better than what's already here?" and it takes her the rest of the musical to truly find her voice to make her writing better than before. She didn't give up - she kept trying to be better.

Honestly, when you have finished or are in the process of completing something, are you truly ever done? Isn't there something else - something better - you could do, even though sometimes you don't want to or don't have the energy to do?

If that's true, then when can we say, "enough is enough" or "I've done the best I can?" Well, I don't believe there is a be-all, end-all answer to that question. But if you have worked to become or make things better than they were before, you have already succeeded. By making it (or yourself) better, you have made it (or yourself) best.

After all, we can't always be best, but we sure can always do better. (And, technically speaking, isn't "better" considered "best" in the grand scheme of things?)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Twin Factor

After today's marathon experience, I'm pretty sure Marisa and I could make a new hobby of entering races wearing matching (or even not matching) outfits to get comments/responses of "Are you two twins?" and "Go twins!"

It's pretty funny that most people will tend to give us an extra thumbs up or the wow factor just because we look the same.

For this (and probably for this alone) I will probably never run another marathon without my sister. It sure is a lot more fun to turn heads, regardless of the outcome of the race, by running with my twin.

WE DID IT!

(P.S. My parents are the best - Despite some travel delays, they made it to the marathon to shuttle and cheer us on!)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Weather" or not...

You can't trust the weatherman; he said rain today...


Ok, so it did actually rain today, but it's usually safe to hedge your bets and face the day without the help of the weather channel.

Truth be told, I hardly ever check the upcoming weather - and that's probably not the best idea, I know - but I've been in constant contact with the good old weather site this week because the weather has potential to have a pretty big impact on this weekend's marathon experience. Let's hope it turns out for the best!

But "weather" or not the sun shines through on Sunday, I'm determined to run a good race and, more importantly, to enjoy the weekend with my family. (I can't take them for granted - they're the best!)

As Friday looms on the horizon, don't forget to carry that umbrella - that way, you'll be prepared come rain or shine.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gather 'Round


What do pizza, school families, and hungry teachers have in common? Well, for one thing, they can all come together in an effort to support Catholic education.

And that's exactly what happened tonight with "Let's Raise Some 'Dough.'"

I admit it - I didn't want to cook tonight. Plus, it was a good excuse to have a "family dinner" with my 2 roommates. (And, *bonus*, I met a family with children at the other building of our school.)

Having never cooked one of those pre-made, slide-in-the-oven pizzas before (https://www.homemadepizza.com/), the process was relatively simple. I didn't burn anything. And I have leftovers for tomorrow night too. (Score!)

Yep, this simple fundraiser brought us together for some quality time around the dinner table, where it's often true that more is shared than simply a meal.


But let's face it, the pizza was pretty darn good too...

Monday, October 10, 2011

October, the month of...

October is a month for Fall. It is a month of Halloween decorations and costumes. It brings all flavors pumpkin, caramel apple, and cinnamon. It is time for sweaters and slacks for school. It is better-pull-out-that-winter-coat-soon weather. It is a time of harvest.

But did you know October is also the month of the Rosary?

Admittedly, I do not pray this form of prayer as much as I probably should. (After all, it's our direct link to Mary who is a pretty strong advocate to God on our behalf.) But I took a few (EASY) steps today to get me pointed in the right direction...and I invite you to do the same:

1. Pray for Life - Through Notre Dame's alumni association, I registered with the prayLIFE calendar, where anyone and everyone can sign up for a one hour time slot to devote in prayer for life - life of the unborn, sick, and elderly, as well as the quality of life for all. Seeing as an hour is a pretty large chunk of time, I decided to use the Rosary as my prayer of choice.
(This decision brought me to step #2 -->)

2. Pray the Rosary online - An ongoing Rosary prayer with the Mysteries of the day can be found at http://www.comepraytherosary.org/. You are able to join in and exit at any time, and it tells you at the bottom how many others are on the website praying the Rosary in live time with you. Also, there is a place where you can submit intentions (anonymously or with your name). The words of the prayers are available in addition to a Rosary that shows up at the right of your screen to help you keep track of what decade you are currently praying.

3. Pray the Rosary on-the-go - Awhile ago, my friend of mine sent a website (http://www.rosaryarmy.com/?page_id=22) on which you are able to download audio podcasts of the Rosary (with or without the Scripture passages included). I loaded them on my iPod tonight, and I made a CD for easier access in the car. My intention is to use the CD to help me pray on my commutes to and from school for the remainder of this month.

And just in case I forget which day is which set of Mysteries, there are plenty of handy guides online like this one to remind me. (And the beauty of #2 above is that it starts in with the right Mysteries automatically!)

Remember, October is the month of many things. But, most importantly, it is the month of the Rosary. So, remember to spend some quality time with Mary today.

"From Mary we learn to surrender to God's Will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God!"
- John Paul II

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Wonder"-ful

Did you ever wonder...

Can an apple a day chase the doctor away?

or Is a gob more than a smidgen?

or even How hot is the sun?


Ok, so maybe you haven't wondered the exact questions posed above - although, give me anyone who hasn't at some point wondered the first one! - but you have to admit, isn't it neat to wonder?

Wonderopolis is a site I happened across a few weeks ago, and I like to check back every once in awhile to see all the latest wonders for the week. I enjoy making time for doing so because it gives me a chance to read and/or watch about things I've taken for granted and never really thought about before.

Too busy to wonder? Think again:

"He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."
- Albert Einstein

"Wisdom begins in wonder."
- Socrates

"Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why."
- Bernard Baruch

I wonder if I've made my point?

Good night, my friends...and have a wonder-filled evening!

Friday, October 7, 2011

We don't want perfect

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves.” 
- Thomas Edison

There is so much pressure on kids these days to "be perfect." Parents and students already have their sights set on college, graduate or med school, and beyond.

That's all well and good, but it's setting these kids up for failure...or for a nervous breakdown. Plus, it's creating a culture in which students are oftentimes afraid to try the harder path because they are afraid of failure. Even a small homework mistake may throw a student into a tizzy.

But without some failure, there will be no growth. Without accepting the fact that we might fail at something, there is no possible way we can be at our bests. And if we're not at our bests, then how are we able to achieve our true potential? 

Isn't it often that the hardest tasks and activities we do are often the most rewarding?

Let's let kids be kids - mistakes happen! Those mistakes won't kill them. In fact, if they learn from them, they'll be much better off in the long run. Failure from time to time gives us the opportunities to look at things from a new perspective and figure out better ways to tackle the tasks at hand.

Face it, playing it safe is not an option. The game is won by the ones who risk failure and push to success.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In Their Shoes

Don't judge any man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins. -Indian proverb


How much baggage are my students carrying with them to school every day? What are things going on outside of school of which I'm not aware? What are the thoughts really occupying these children's minds as they move through the day?

Well, I know a few things...

If I was a fourth grader, I sure wouldn't be able to concentrate on my school work if someone was calling me names or was taking my books from my desk.


If I was a fourth grader, I couldn't think about doing math when we should have been able to go to the computer lab to type our poetry projects.


If I was a fourth grader, it would be nearly impossible to focus on the book I was reading when all I really want to know is who was elected to student council from our class.


And in knowing these things, maybe it's okay after all to reserve some time for silliness. Maybe I need to be a little more patient for students to return to the task at hand. Maybe I need to be a little more forgiving of students who can't manage to keep still at their desks.

So, maybe it's time I remembered what it's like to be in fourth grade. Just maybe it's time to walk in their shoes...

Monday, October 3, 2011

L-I-F-E

The adventure of life is to learn...
There is so much to be learned any given day, and it's not always learned from a textbook. As our principal pointed out this morning at the faculty meeting, our goal as teachers should be to first help the students learn valuable life lessons, such as how to deal with bullying issues, how to manage time for projects, etc. Then, the "book learning" will come. After all, as my dad always likes to remind me, "They won't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

The goal of life is to grow...
Think about it: children are always eager to see how much they have grown over a given time. Take my family, for example - we had a basketball pole at Grandma's house that we always measured ourselves on with sharpies and a kleenex box. But I think it's more than about (literally) growing taller. It's about growing in our abilities to learn new things, empathize with others, and participate in prayer.

The nature of life is to change...
Did you ever hear the phrase about how "the more things change, the more they stay the same"? No matter how we might fight it, change is inevitable. And, speaking as one who does not usually embrace change, it's important to recognize change as the potential for good. Without change, we stay safe. And while safe feels good, we're called to challenge ourselves and mix things up a bit.

The challenge of life is to overcome...
And what are we overcoming? Well, heck, there are challenges every day. But in order to overcome these challenges that come our way, we need to keep everything in perspective. It's not the end of the world. And we are not alone. (Remember that.)

The essence of life is to care...
There's really no point in living if you aren't doing it with and/or for others. We learn in communities. We pray in communities. Caring makes life more worth living.

The secret of life is to dare...
Risk failure - it's okay to make mistakes. That's a secret some people don't learn for a long time. (I'm personally trying to get my students to learn this very secret now. We'll see how it goes...)

The beauty of life is to give...
For it is in giving that we receive...

The joy of life is to love.
Some of my friends like the term "heart explosion" - and I think that's the perfect image for how much joy can be felt when we model our love after how Jesus loves us. Maybe the Beatles were right - "All you need is love..."

Now, let's add up all the pieces of this quote -->
“The adventure of life is to learn. The goal of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome. The essence of life is to care. The secret of life is to dare. The beauty of life is to give. The joy of life is to love!”
-William Arthur Ward

Have a blessed evening!