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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

True Riches

"A toast, to my big brother George, the richest man in town."

No matter how many times I watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and hear those words uttered by the character of Harry Bailey, I can't help but tear up. And, somehow, I don't think that this just keeps happening to me. I reckon that the message shared through those words is one that resonates with most people.

The older I get, the more this movie seems to hit home. So often it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and lose sight of our lives' true meaning that we forget how blessed our lives are by what we do for others and by what they do for/with us. And our lives are (or, at least they should be) measured by what we give, not what we get/have.

This reminds me of a book I just started reading yesterday - it's called Rediscovering Catholicism (by Matthew Kelly), and so far I have found it to emphasize a couple key points along the same lines of what I just discussed above: 1) the idea of living an authentic life in which we are called to live our faith by our actions more than just our words; and 2) our human desire for happiness and truth can never be filled until we find these things in God (and that's a constant striving, moment by moment).

George Bailey did both of these things - he ran his business in such a way that he treated customers as people and, more importantly, as he would treat his friends, even if that meant operating at a loss. He fought tooth and nail to prevent Potter from making a monopoly of the banking of Bedford Falls, and he ultimately took the blame of losing the $8,000 that should have rightly fallen on Uncle Billy. In addition, over the course of his time with his guardian angel Clarence, George Bailey found that he already had the people and things in his life that could help him find true happiness. He realized that even if he were to go to jail, his life was worth living because of the people whose lives he had blessed and because of those (especially Mary and his kids) who had blessed his life.

And, in the end, George is rewarded with more generosity than he could have ever imagined, and that is when Harry Bailey states what every other person in that room was thinking. (And then Clarence reiterates this point a few moments later in the note he wrote in the book: "Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.")

What a great lesson we can take from George Bailey - riches are not found in accumulated wealth but rather in our choices of how we share our time, talent, and treasure and in the people we choose to spend our time with. These "things" are what can bring us closer to God and our desire for true happiness.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mother Mary

It's good to be home. In fact, when Marisa and I walked into Church yesterday, it was difficult to figure out whom to hug first. (That's a good problem to have, right?)

Mass was beautiful too, as we celebrated the fourth (and final) Sunday of Advent. During the Preparation of the Altar, the choir sang "Breath of Heaven" (see lyrics here). It sounded lovely, but what made the song even more special and extraordinary was how the interpreter signed the song - she was so graceful, and she consciously chose signs to match the meaning (not just the words) of the song.

This particular verse (included directly below) struck me yesterday, as I couldn't help but think about teaching. (Yes, as a teacher, those thoughts of students, planning, and general school hectic-ness are with you 24/7 - a blessing and a curse.)

...Do you wonder as you watch my face 
If a wiser one should have had my place? 
But I offer all I am 
For the mercy of Your plan 
Help me be strong, help me be, help me...

There are days when I have similar thoughts to this one that Mary must have had - in fact, most of us probably ask this question along the lines of "Why me?" or "Couldn't someone else do this better?", especially when we come to the end of a particularly frustrating day.

But then, the line continues - and this is the most important part to remember - Mary makes an offering of herself, all that she is. And we are called to do the same...with God's help, of course. (That's the next part.) Even though it may not seem like much, all we have is enough and the most we can give. Mary reminds us of that.

Mary is our Mother, and Mary is our model. Through Mary we come to know Jesus, and through Jesus we come to know God's loving presence in our lives.

Friday, December 21, 2012

In Giving...

'Tis better to give than to receive.

I'm sure some people don't believe this saying, but, personally, I embrace it whole-heartedly. It brings me such joy to pick out gifts for others and to see the excitement of someone unwrapping a present. Yes, I think there is more joy to give a gift than to get one.

In thinking on this today, I turned my thoughts toward God, and I realized how incredibly joy-filled God must be every day, as He blesses us so much with graces both large and small. We, in turn, sometimes smile or give a quick prayer of thanks. And, at other times, we don't even really notice...but God still gives and gives.

In this time of holiday giving, let us remember to turn our thoughts to our greatest Giver of all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Counting Down...

At the start of today, this was the countdown:

And then there were 2...(with an evening Christmas concert thrown in tomorrow)

We can do it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Good Ol' Volleyball Swing

Thank God for Tuesday nights. I am so glad I decided to get back in the "swing" of things by playing volleyball with other young adults at my parish on a pretty regular basis over the past couple of months.

Seriously, why did I wait so long?

Having not played since high school, I guess I was intimidated...but there was no need to be so. Everyone has been so encouraging and welcoming, even when many of us make mistakes. (I'm definitely in the middle/middle-bottom of the talent pool, but it's not for lack of effort. Ha ha.)

And it's good for the soul too - it's good to share conversation, laughs, and even a little bit of exercise. And when I see others from volleyball at Church or around the city, it's exciting and fun.

Plus, let's face it, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone, right?

Monday, December 17, 2012


O Wisdom of our God Most High, 
guiding creation with power and love: 
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

Sound familiar? If you're a fan of "O Come O Come Emmanuel," then this first antiphon should come as no surprise. (From what I've read, the song seems to have its roots in the O Antiphons.) It's actually quite a beautiful way to engage in prayer in a special way these last few days before Christmas - as these antiphons use different titles for Christ each day.

In light of all of the media coverage and opinions (about gun control, school safety, mental health help, etc.) being published/shared about the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, praying to God as (and for) Wisdom is likely the wisest thing we can do...

Let us all lift our hearts in prayer to God in a special way during these last days of Advent. May we be filled with joy deeply rooted in Christ and find peace in our hearts and world. Amen.

Now, here's a not-so-traditional version of this beloved song for you to enjoy.

And in case you were wondering, tomorrow's antiphons continue with O Adonai (or, O Leader of the House of Israel)...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

To-Do List for Today

With one week left until Christmas break, I've actually taken the opportunity to not bog myself down with work, lesson plans, grading... 

And it's been glorious.

I must admit, though, I do have a to-do list for today - it's one that I have found most rewarding, peaceful, and helpful -->

[Maybe baking those gingerbread cheesecake bites to share in the teachers' lounge tomorrow helped lessen any stress or worries as well. (And, having already "taste-tested" the ones that "fell apart", I can honestly say that they are delicious!)]

Still breathing - Mass tonight (followed by the young adult community Christmas party) is pretty much all I have on the docket for the rest of the day. Looks like I might get some time to delve a little further into The City of Ember. Yes please...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Saying Goodbye is the Hardest Part

Saying goodbye is never easy, whether you are able to prepare yourself or whether you aren't.

I've known for months that one of my students is leaving - tomorrow will be his last day at our school...and in the country, for that matter. He and his family are heading home to Australia for good. (Well, I am sure this student will be back for college, which he hopes will be Notre Dame.)

But having known this for a long time hasn't helped, especially in these last few days. After all, these last few days are the ones I believed would never come, or, at least they are the ones I didn't try to think about. And talking to his parents briefly tonight at the boys' basketball game surely didn't help either - I got all choked up. He really is a good kid, and, while I know I'll miss him, I know his classmates will miss him even more.

The students will probably be a little less chatty come Monday morning, and I'll be grateful for that, but I know that I'll still be counting up to 22 heads and looking for the missing #13 papers (even though, ironically, the student we're talking about here never could remember his name on anything). A different student will be the first one in the classroom each morning, and I'll have to find another student with whom to talk ND football.

It never fails - I've yet to get through an entire school year without "losing" a student mid-year due to any variety of circumstances including family moves, changes of school, and expulsion. It really does shake up the dynamic, and it usually affects the kiddos more than we really know.

But I pray for this student and his family. We'll be missing him very much...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Recently Read & Revisited Children/YA Books of Note

In the confines of a school day, not much gives me more pleasure than sharing with and recommending books to my students. When I discover a great book, it cannot stay on the shelf - and that goes for books for adults too (if you couldn't tell).

Just today, I passed along The Lions of Little Rock to a fifth grader (one of my fourth grade girls last year) with the instructions to pass it on as she sees fit to some of her friends...just so long as it eventually makes its way back to my classroom. What I loved about this book was that, while it takes place in the late 1950s during the push for integration of schools, it is not focused so much on the violence or specifics of the time - instead, it is more of a look at a young girl's (12 years old) relationships with her parents, her sister & brother, her new friend (who turns out to be trying to pass as white), her classmates, and people in her community. It's the story about a girl finding her voice and standing up for what she believes in, even when it's not the easiest thing to do. The story revolves around themes of friendship, trust, and courage. To top it all off, the book was a rather quick read, despite its nearly 300 pages.

Currently in our fourth grade class, we are reading The Family Under the Bridge, which has already led into various discussions about homelessness, Paris, and the meaning of family. This novel was meant to be used as a literature circle book, but as many of the copies we have are falling apart, we have opted for doing it as a read aloud/model book instead. It's a very timely book, as it centers around the Christmas season and one family's search/wish for a permanent home. I'd consider it a Christmas classic.

The Gift of the Magi is another book that is perfect for the holidays, especially for middle elementary grades and up. Instead of reading the classic version of this story, half of our class is performing the story as a readers' theater (Scholastic ed. of scripts). (We might also read the picture book version too.) This story gets me every time, as, in an ironic twist, the main characters both independently sacrifice their greatest treasures to find the perfect gift for one another. Its message rings true for all ages, and it has caused our fourth graders to think more deeply about sacrifices. [The other half of our class is doing a twist on the classic A Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens), but that's (literally) another story.]

I just started The City of Ember at the recommendation of my sister's coworker. We'll see how that turns out, but I hope to finish it before the Christmas season, so I may then turn my attention to The Penderwicks and some other reads.

After all, I have to keep one step ahead of the students. Recommendations are always needed (and usually welcome)...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas...

Mmm...Do you smell that? 

It smells just like a fresh (REAL) Christmas tree...

And ours is now all decked out for the holidays (see below). In fact, we even rearranged our living room area to better accommodate (a.k.a. show off in the front window area) our newly decorated tree.

In all fairness, the saying goes, "There's no place like home for the holidays," but until December 22nd (when I get to go home) rolls around, this will definitely settle for a close second. It's surely starting to feel more like Christmas!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Finally...Yes, I finally gave my 2 housemates their wedding present: ACEopoly!

And they came over to hang out and play it last night. (My sister, roommate, and roommate's boyfriend were here too.)

Here's a glimpse at the game:

The cover of the box - Phoenix Ed.

The property cards

Updated/Altered Community Chest cards

The gameboard

more properties & such

A closer look at some of the properties

Add some snacks, some vino, and some laughs, and you have a pretty great Saturday night.

Come to think of it, this whole weekend was pretty darn good - Mass & brunch downtown with my cousin, a visit with an ACE classmate, a school event at Barnes & Noble, my Strengths group wrap-up potluck, and more Mass.

Only 10 more (school) days until Christmas break...We can make it!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mary Immaculate

"Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin Mary too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did. If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his mother, he will not have Christ for his brother." 
(St. Maximilian Kolbe)

Never have I heard so many excuses volleying at me than this afternoon when our principal came over the speaker to reiterate our pastor's reminder about this weekend's holy day of obligation (The Immaculate Conception) and how we should all go to Mass with our families both Saturday and Sunday.

"I have a basketball game..."

"I am going to a party..."

"Ms. Foyle, I can't go..."

Honestly, I stopped listening. I went on to tell them that I wasn't interested in their excuses - it's between them and God, not them and me. 

(On a side note, excuses don't make something okay or right, even though most kids these days think that's the case, but I know I'm in no position to pose any kind of judgment - again, not my job.)

Personally, I love celebrating Mary (I think it's that inner Salesian spirit in me!), so I try to do so every chance I get.

Mary Immaculate, Pray for Us!

*Now, I do want to clarify that I have included a video for "Mary, Did You Know?" even though tomorrow's feast is celebrating Mary's conception without sin. Still, it's in the spirit of Mary...enjoy:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Alone Time...

Being busy has its perks...and that's good because these past few weeks (and the ones leading up to Christmas break) have been (and continue to be) pretty darn packed.

But there is something to be said for alone time too... 

I just got home from wing night, which was so much fun, especially since I hadn't been in quite some time. Thanks to getting together, plans are now tentatively made to hang out with some friends on Saturday night, and other plans are taking form to do quite a few other Church-, school-, and friend-related activities over the course of the rest of the weekend too. (My weekend got packed so fast!)...

But right now, I am sitting in my living room. The smell of my cinnamon candle is permeating the room, and the sounds of instrumental holiday classics are filling the room. The t.v. is off, and my roommates are not yet home. The radiator is hissing, and the heat coming from it is almost as comforting as the sweatpants I am currently wearing. The knowledge that tomorrow is Friday (and that there are only 2 more weeks until Christmas break) is refreshing and motivating.

Alone time.

Thank God for moments like these.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Share the Passion

Being a part of a Strengths for the Journey group for a second round really turned out to be a blessing. In addition to meeting more wonderful, inspiring, and engaged parishioners, I had the opportunity to continue to reflect on my strengths and their manifestation (in both overt and subtle ways) in my life.

I realized, tonight, how blessed I am to be in a job that truly allows me to share my passions and use my strengths every day...

Being goofy...
Learning new things...
Asking questions...
Telling stories...
Laughing at corny humor...
Relating to people of all ages...
Stretching my limits...
Reading & Writing...
Creating new opportunities...
Deepening my understanding of my faith...
Solving problems...
Being dramatic...
Being joyful and joy-filled...
Helping students feel safe, welcomed, and wanted...
Collaborating with co-workers...

Apparently, last week on the news, they interviewed a number of people, asking them what they would do if they won the Powerball lotto and if they would stop working. Many said they would quit their jobs.

If the news crew had asked me, I would have explained that I would not even consider it - I love it (good and bad days) too much. Teaching helps me come alive, realize my passions, and share my love for learning (and God) with my students every day.

Teaching truly is the best job in the world, and I don't know where (or who) I'd be without it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Just another Monday night

It's after 9 p.m. on a Monday night, and, as far as work goes, I actually have plenty to show for it.

Let's face it - I don't usually buckle down, make assessments, and plan lessons this early in the week, but with the promise of Christmas break lingering over my head (and the many, varied, and unusual plans with friends and family between now and then), I decided I'd do the leg work now and enjoy putting my "free time" to better use later.

Plus, who doesn't love learning about the differences between heat and temperature (in addition to the 3 main types of heat transfer) on a Monday night? Pretty great stuff, right?

All science lesson plans (and quizzes) until Christmas? Check! (And Amen!)

As for the rest of the week, things are shaping up quite nicely - volleyball tomorrow, final Strengths meeting on Wednesday, weekly wing night on Thursday...and then the weekend!

(Oh, and I guess I better start thinking about getting those Christmas cards signed, sealed, and delivered...)

So much to look forward to. So much to feel blessed about this holiday season.

P.S. - FINALLY started listening to Christmas music (even to the radio on the way home), and, surprisingly, my favorite music so far has been the Instrumental Holiday Radio on Pandora - it's so relaxing and beautiful to have on in the background while doing work. And it's not at all distracting since there are no words!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

1 Year Today

One year ago today, my family lost a really great guy, my grandfather. I know a lot of my posts, especially right after he passed away, have been reflections on his life and my relationship with him. But I don't think words will ever be enough.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ― Mae West

I think my grandpa surely did "do it right."

photo collage made through Picasa

(The photos are small, but I think if you click on it, they will get bigger on your screen. Also, if you click at the bottom on the label "grandpa," the screen will bring you to all of my previous entries (including poems, reflections, etc.) about him.)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Flavor for the holidays

Peppermint - what a wonderful flavor. So Christmas-y and winter-y. It makes me think of hot chocolate, fire places, and snow...

It's so versatile and delicious (and seasonal) -->

a little added flavor to morning coffee...

a little twist on the traditional pretzel slims...

peppermint bark...

peppermint ice cream...

"brain food" for the kiddos...


There are reasons I don't usually keep these kinds of sweets in my apartment - It's because it's really hard to exercise self-control when these treats are so darn good...

What's your favorite holiday flavor?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

None of them are you...

Especially when I was younger, I worried about living up to other people's expectations and being who others thought I should be. I worried about not being good enough at something or being less in comparison to someone else.

It's taken awhile, but I think I've finally realized that living that way is no way to live. It's not about what other people want or expect of me. It's not how I measure up to anyone else. It's about how I measure up to the life God has in store for me.

This idea was brought to my attention tonight in 2 settings - the first was in my Strengths for the Journey group. As we went around and shared about the discussion questions, everyone was responsible for listening and telling back to the person what we each took away from what he/she just shared. By exercising more careful listening, I was able to tune in more to what each individual was saying, and I realized that everyone has such a different story - different backgrounds, education, experiences...you name it. Who are we to be judges of others in any situation on any given day? And, in light of what I previously mentioned, why should I be worried about people judging me? - No one (except God) really knows where anyone else is in his/her life at any particular moment.

That being said, I felt like someone whacked me on the head on my drive home from Strengths, as my second encounter of the evening with this idea hit me - my iPod came on with None of Them Are You by Brendan James (click on the video below). And I feel like this song speaks a similar message - No two people come from exactly the same place. And if we spend our time worrying about being better or the same as others in different talents or situations, we'll be robbing ourselves of the joys and talents present in our lives.

It's not about comparison, after all.

It's about each of us living our own lives to the best of our abilities using the talents and graces God has given to us. Nothing more.

(Gotta love Brendan James - check out this recent NY Times article. I think you'll be hooked.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Actively Choosing to Stress Less

I just realized earlier this evening that when this week ends there will only be three more weeks of school until Christmas break. Amazing yet stressful at the same time. (I feel like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars - "stay on target...stay on target...") So much to fit in, but so much to look forward to: heading home, relaxing and sleeping, visiting with family and friends, enjoying warmer weather...

So, it's time to remember to keep things in perspective - yes, there are many things to get done, but nothing is the end of the world. Plans may need to be adjusted, added to, or (likely) taken away from...and that's okay. In fact, that's life.

Some people may mistake that notion of not being worried over things for being either careless, lazy, or even oblivious. But it's not. It's an active choice made from deep within one's self - it's understanding deep down that most things are out of our control, so it's time to give those things up to God in prayer.

So, maybe I need a list like this -->

No stress

My favorites are 1, 5, 8, & 10. What about yours?


On an unrelated note, I tried again today to listen to Christmas music this afternoon on the way home from school, but it just wasn't doing anything for me. I really think I'm conditioned to be ready for the holiday season when Advent starts...and not a moment before.

So, for now (at least), my radio is tuned to NPR and country music. (But don't get me wrong, I'm eagerly looking forward to Advent.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thankful Each Day

Another Thanksgiving in the books.

(It makes me think of Bing Crosby's song in Holiday Inn - what about you?)

And as Sunday night rolls around...and family goes home...and vacation comes to an end...
I am reminded of God's many blessings in my life - yes, even though we always have at least a few family squabbles - and that I need to make an effort to be more thankful in my everyday prayer and actions.

Well, here's a prayer for starters. (Found it on Pinterest.) -->

Thanksgiving Prayer...soooo love this!

Oh, and I found this too:
Be grateful

And I think I can definitely start by being thankful that Christmas break is less than 4 weeks away.

(Just kidding...well, only kind of kidding...there is so much more to be thankful for than just that...)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Favorite holiday weekend of the year has officially started.

Why is Thanksgiving my favorite? Well, aside from the obvious answer of "I love the food," there are many other reasons too: spending time with my family, annual turkey trot (or, in this year's case, a different 5k race), time off from school/work, knowing that Advent starts soon, and many more...

(Plus, it has the word THANKS in it, and that reminds me to thank God for all of His many blessings.)

I also have some favorite holiday traditions that I usually start doing around this time too:

Making turkey apples with my students:

You gotta love seeing Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving (and also his Christmas special)...

And watching holiday movies...


It's the time of year to start editing Mom's annual Christmas letter too...

In my classroom, I need to bust out the Advent wreath and calendar (and I need to re-find those favorite online resources)...

And in iTunes, I have to update my Christmas music playlist - I'm resolved to not start playing it until Friday, though...

Yes, it's almost time for "the most wonderful time of the year." (Note, don't click this link unless you're prepared to hear some Christmas music.)

But let's remember to take time this weekend to enjoy our family and express our thanks to God. Don't let this holiday get away from you before getting wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.

Yes, let us give thanks...for God is good. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Prayer in all things

Last period of the day.
Only one more day (half of which is a field trip) to go until Thanksgiving break.
Substitute in for my co-teacher (who was out at a conference).

I would have expected chaos.

But we had the total opposite...

Ideally, it would have been very appropriate to do a Thanksgiving-themed read aloud. Alas, the book I wanted to borrow from my sister was the exact one she was using today...so I turned to plan B.

(Sometimes, you gotta LOVE plan B.)

As the students sat on the carpet, I set the tone by explaining that we were going to read Granddad's Prayers of the Earth, and then I explained how I would guide them through a meditation prayer exercise. (I ordered the book through Loyola Press's Pray Me a Story series.)

The story tells of a young boy who is very close to his grandfather - they go on many walks together, and the boy asks many questions. One day, he asks his granddad about prayer, and the boy's granddad goes on to explain over the next several pages how every part of nature, from the tallest trees to the rocks to the water to the animals to (even) humans, prays. The years pass, and the boy and his granddad share many walks and much time together. When his grandfather passes away, the boy loses touch with prayer - he can't hear it anymore, and he feels far away from his grandfather. (At this point, I was holding back tears - I knew it was coming, but it's like the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" - it gets me every time.) But one day, he finds he can hear the prayers again, and so he prays and finds his grandfather's presence is nearer.

I read. They listened.
I guided. They meditated.
I gave the discussion over to them. They raised their hands and took turns sharing their own connections, responses, and stories.

For 2:00 in the afternoon, I couldn't have asked for more. Actually, given any time of the day I couldn't have asked for more.

This book should be a part of every classroom library - it is such a beautifully told story (with illustrations to match). It serves as a reminder of how we should strive to hear the prayers that are all around us all the time. In fact, it almost made me think the story had been written by a Jesuit because it invites its readers to find God in all things.

Plan B rocked our classroom. And we continued the rest of our reading period in peace.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Perfect, in a Sense

Saturday morning's news said, "Tomorrow (Sunday) will be a carbon copy of today."

And it was.

You can't ask for better weather at this time of year. (All you need is a light jacket...)

Perfect weather for _____ (fill in the blank - I'll get you started below with things I did today)

...a long run on the lakefront path.
...morning family Mass at my school's Church.
...a walk up to the local ice cream shop for the best fall flavor: pumpkin.
...not doing much school work (because it's a short week and most is already done).

Two school days until Thanksgiving - and, quite frankly, Tuesday doesn't even really count, as we'll be on a field trip and then doing Thanksgiving-related activities (including one of my all-time favorite family traditions) for the remainder of the afternoon.

Cheers to that.

Time to start gearing up for Thursday - our menu is set (as we bought our groceries today to avoid all crowds)...


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Update to Book List for Life

As promised, my Book List for Life will continue to grow as I read more and more books. Here's my latest addition:

26. The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
"There is a reason God limits our days...to make each one precious." This book is amazing - could not put in down (to be read as, "I finished it in less than a 12 hour span"). It's an incredible look at time - how we count it, try to control it, wish it this way or that... I encourage you to read it - it will be time well-spent.

Simply Saturday

It's 4:40, and I'm already feeling pretty accomplished today.

I was up at 8 for a quick jog at the gym before heading downtown for Ministry of Care. (Didn't see too many patients today, but those I did see were very grateful for a visit.) On my way home, I went via Trader Joe's in order to pick up a few needed groceries (i.e. veggies) and some treats for next week's visitors... (Look what I found, Mom.)

Once at home, I made a quick turn-around and visited my neighborhood GAP store (yes, there was a sale) to pick up a few long-sleeved items to expand my wardrobe ever so slightly. I left a happy customer and came home, where I worked a little on lesson plans for this upcoming week for school.

Later on, I (actually) cooked, following a recipe for quinoa that I found online. (I've made it before, and it is quite tasty!) And, I scored a stack of student reading response notebooks.

Currently, I am watching Notre Dame score some serious points against Wake Forest (and wishing that I could have gone to the game for senior night - but oh well) and finishing up the final touches on an upcoming science assessment.

To top it all off, today's weather was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS (and felt exactly as Fall should feel), and I got to spend quite a bit of time outside. I also started reading The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom - it is intriguing from its first pages, where it poses many questions about time, how it came about, why we measure it, who Father Time is, etc. So far, the structure of the novel is that it switches back and forth between chapters set in two different times (and with 2 different purposes). I can't wait to read more - and may do just that later tonight.

Hope you're enjoying a relaxing day. Remember, Thanksgiving is just around the corner... Gobble, gobble!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Love of the Game

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves, that you forget, truly forget....how much you have always loved to swim.”
-Tyler Knott Gregson

It's days like today - Parent/Teacher Conferences - when I realize how much I really do love to teach. The parents were so great, and they kept expressing how pleased they were with how their children were doing in our class and enjoying school. It feels good to get that kind of feedback because the hard work often does go (seemingly) unnoticed.

It's so easy to forget why I teach - it's certainly not for the paycheck! - on a day to day basis due to all of the requirements, student needs, phone calls & emails, etc. Some days it seems that there are more hoops to jump through and tasks to accomplish that I feel I'm not able to truly do my job and focus on the kids.

But the kids are what count. All 22 of those 4th graders are my coteacher's and my responsibility. And we do love spending time with them - teaching them and learning right alongside them. The laughter, the critical questions, the funny moments, the randomness - all of these things add up and play a part in the equation of teaching.

It's days like these that I feel that I am floating with my head well above water, and it's days like these that give me the energy to maintain my energy when I need to tread awhile.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pass it On

Happy World Kindness Week!

Starting yesterday, our school has been on a random acts of kindness (RAK) mission. (This has been inspired by the middle schoolers who were encouraged to first do these RAKs earlier in the year.)

During this week-long celebration, there is a different activity each day. Yesterday, we made a list of what RAKs could look like at home and at school. Today, we created pictures and ads to spread the word about World Kindness Week.

One of these days, we're supposed to come up with some kind of song or chant that represents Random Acts of Kindness...and my first thought turned to the Muppets (from their old Christmas movie) - kind of want to show it to my students. Thoughts?

Catchy, no?

So, as you go about your daily activities, remember that kindness is contagious - pass it on!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let Your Light Shine

A thought for today:

“Shine through me, and be so in me, that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus! Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you; none of it will be mine."
- Mother Teresa

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Wedding - Woo Hoo!

Going back to that whole idea of countdowns - finally reached the end of one yesterday afternoon: Two of my housemates from my time in ACE (Phoenix) tied the knot, and there was quite a lot of celebrating going on.

Here are a few photos:

Kelsey with her parents

at the party - with my current housemate and my sister

our place settings - got to sit with some of my other ACE housemates

centerpieces - handmade by Kelsey, her mom, and her sister

our great dinner table

Now that the weekend is pretty much over, it's hard to believe it. The events, from the rehearsal dinner to hanging out with my friends to the wedding & reception to brunch at the hotel this morning, flew by.

But everything was wonderful.

And, in my opinion, what's even more wonderful is that I'll be seeing the bride and groom pretty often, as they live in Chicago too. :) Therefore, the celebration has only just begun.

So, what's my next countdown? Eh, probably parent-teacher conferences; although, the countdown I am most looking forward to is Thanksgiving now!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Here Comes the Sun

It's 6:35 a.m. and I've been up for about an hour - and the sun's been up for awhile too.

I know it's crazy that the sun now sets before 5 p.m. (the darkness that early is killer), but when it comes up so early on the morning end, some days it's worth it.

There's something special and motivating (and even comforting) about the sun - not to mention, its warmth - and for days full of sunshine, especially in the fall/winter, I am very grateful.

And today is the perfect start of a wonderful wedding-filled weekend for two of my closest friends (and ACE housemates). I know God is smiling on Chicago right now.

So, allow me to close here with my absolute favorite Beatle song - enjoy:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Right & Responsibility to Vote

Exercised my democratic right & responsibility of voting this morning. (Yes, I went before school at 6 a.m. this morning.)

No nifty "I Voted" sticker, but I did get a ballot receipt. (See below.)

Now it's time to await the national and local results...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day Resources

Election Day is on the horizon, so I've collected some resources that I've used (or am *hopefully* planning to use) in the classroom:

*Learn about the electoral college process with "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College" from Schoolhouse Rock! -->

*Here's a brief history of voting -->

*Check out Congress for Kids and/or Ben's Guide to the Government to help students find out detailed information about our federal government and the Constitution.

*This blog has some creative ideas for election day activities. In fact, we'll be modifying the Coke vs. Pepsi electoral college activity using cherry and blue raspberry jolly ranchers and having the students color in an electoral college map with results as we go.

Here's hoping for some learning opportunities during this year's election and reporting of results! Happy Election Day!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What's your stand on countdowns?

Countdowns - These usually fall to one extreme or the other: Love 'em or Hate 'em...depending on the event for which the countdown exists.

Case in point:

Countdown for wedding of 2 of my ACE housemates = 6 days (extremely excited)
Countdown for parent/teacher conferences = 12 days (not excited)
Countdown for arrival of parents for Thanksgiving = 16 days (very excited)

You get the idea.

Take some time to think about your countdowns right now - are you loving them more than hating them? If not, how can you change that so you're counting down to celebrations & events rather than dreaded deadlines?

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Thoughts of Thanks
KMF (11-1-12)

Where have all the "thank yous" gone?
I pray it's not too far they've strayed
A mere two words is not too long
To thank someone for what he gave.

But kids today (and adults too)
Take much for granted, it is true.
What used to be enough's now not -
We're not content with what we've got.

Always wanting more and more -
Comparison robs us of our pleasure.
And happiness walks out the door,
that which was our truest treasure.

My greatest wish today is this -
That complaining we could resist.
And in its place, we say a phrase
of thanks - Oh, let that guide our days!

Some days, I have to wonder if parents still teach their children manners at home. And, maybe it's not (or at least not all) the parents' fault, but the fact that more and more people (especially students) I meet have a sense of entitlement about them worries me.

That's where the inspiration for this poem (that I wrote today) came from. We had leftover snacks from our 2nd annual Chocolate House today, so we decided to share them with the aftercare students. When we limited them to 2 snacks to start with, a chorus of "What?!" and "Why can't we have more?"s rang out, and I just became disheartened. What happened to being thankful for a small treat - which is more than they would have had in the first place.

I'm not blaming anyone...except maybe society. With instant gratification & indulging behaviors towards their children, I fear we're raising a society of self-centered and oblivious-to-others people. And, quite frankly, that scares me. I know that this instance today was just one, and it wasn't every child who complained, but I don't think I'm overreacting. (In fact, the woman with whom I had aftercare duty agreed with me too.)

I pray that people don't lose their sense of gratitude - after all, we are entitled to nothing. Everything is a gift or is earned (or, at least, that's how we should look at it).

Hopefully, this entry didn't put a damper on your day/evening. It's meant to provoke thought more than anything else. And I pray for a future of gratitude for all of us. Our world needs a little more thankfulness.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This is Halloween

Sorry folks - the creative juices just ain't flowing this week.

But I do want to take a moment to wish you a Happy Halloween!

Oh, and I wanted to share this cartoon with you because it made me smile (and it reminds me that Thanksgiving break is only 3 weeks away):

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Time Lapse

Don't have much to say tonight, but I thought these time lapse videos of Chicago were worth the viewing:

Have a good night!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Almost time to celebrate...

At school until nearly 6 tonight - not really my cup of tea. However, most of the time after school was spent reading that students' poetry portfolios, so it was actually pretty entertaining.

Some did fall short of hopes and expectations, but others certainly rose to the occasion.

There's lots to be said for leaving plenty of room for creativity and student choice (with guidelines, of course).

Oh poetry, how I will miss you when we say goodbye to you on Thursday. (But, I admit, I am very much looking forward to our 2nd annual Chocolate House event - that's sure to be deeelicious!)

Gotta love celebrations...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Odds Are...

I decided to break from my traditional school posts to share a bit of fun I had yesterday. (I hope you don't mind...)

With the invitation for a costume ND gamewatch party lingering in the air, it was now or never to throw together a costume.

But what to do?

I had limited time...and limited resources. (The countdown was about 5 hours, and I had just gotten back from Target.)

I don't know why, but I thought that maybe - just maybe - I could make Katniss Everdeen (from the ever popular Hunger Games trilogy) work. I had the pants, shirt, and boots. I could borrow the jacket from my roommate. I could (probably) braid my hair. I could make my face and arms look grungy/dirty.

But what about her famous arrows? Hmm...

A quick Google search for "easy Katniss Everdeen costumes" yielded a brilliant idea - use a mailing tube from the post office. Ready, set, go! Only one problem - the tube available for purchase was white. (Otherwise, it was perfect, even though I didn't have a bow.)

Back to my apartment - I had a brown marker. I thought I could make it happen. And, after some quick coloring, the tube looked pretty good. I put clear packaging tape up and down the whole tube so the marker wouldn't run. It gave it a somewhat shiny quality, but I figured it was better to be safe than sorry. Then, it was time to figure out how to make a sling so I could carry/wear it. I wasn't about to let this challenge beat me either - I decided to use hair ties, knotting 5 together to create a sufficient length before attaching them to both ends of the tube. The arrows were relatively easy to make too - just wrap/twist some aluminum foil around itself and leave the butt of the arrow flat.

Check it out -->

I needed a mockingjay pin - I mean, Katniss has to wear one. Time to put my artistic skills to the test: I got some copy paper, ripped it small enough to tape around a button I had in my room, and then found a picture of the pin online. I sketched it first, then colored the pin part yellow and filled in the rest black so it would look like my jacket coming through.

This also surprised me by how well it came out (and how relatively easy it was too!) -->

Now, put it together and what do you got? -->

Katniss Everdeen! (And a satisfied Halloween gamewatch go-er)

Too bad we don't get to dress up for school. I feel like this would be a hit, especially with the middle school. Rats.

I must admit, it was pretty fun to think outside of the box to get this costume together. (And the gamewatch turned out to be a lot of fun too - especially since the ND Fighting Irish won!) I guess I can't ever have an excuse for not having a Halloween costume again because I can probably come up with something, right?

May the odds be ever in your favor for a Happy Halloween this week!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


"Ms. Foyle, I'm going to dedicate this poetry portfolio to you for always having patience with me...except for right now...so now I CAN'T dedicate it to you. (Sigh)"

Ok, so maybe it was a bit dramatic, but I was actually quite impressed with the idea that she noticed my patience, which I have been working on extra hard of late. I've been trying to stay calm, keep my voice down, and still make sure we all still get where we need to be.

And it hasn't been easy.

There have been times I've wanted to BURST!

But, for the most part, I've kept my cool. And she noticed that. And I think it's made a difference. And for that I am grateful.

And that patience is something I will keep striving for in the weeks to come, especially as we approach the holidays. 

(Lord help us all...)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The fruit of prayer...

"The fruit of prayer is faith.
If we pray, then we will believe.
If we believe, then we will love -
because the fruit of faith is love
and the fruit of love is service..."

~*~ Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta ~*~

I love the fact that it's 6:30 a.m., and I am able to sit in silence here in my apartment and meditate on these daily reflections provided by The Year of Faith Companion (Magnificat). Such a beautiful and peaceful start to the day!

And I particularly believe that Mother Teresa stated these thoughts so eloquently. In fact, she goes on in the reflection to say, "Faith is the most beautiful gift God can give to a human being - to believe that he Is, and that the Church Is..." And I believe that too.

But what is faith? Yes, sometimes it is hard to define, but it, too, can be found in the Bible: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen." (Heb 11:1) 

So, what is faith? It's keeping our minds and hearts set on God, while firmly believing in God's miracles. As I try to explain to my students - we can't scientifically explain a lot of things that God does - that's why they are mysteries. 

But, as Mother Teresa pointed out, if we pray, then we will believe, and when we believe, we will love.

Let us strive for these beliefs and actions as we go about our day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Come Alive

Came across this on Pinterest tonight...


And I LOVE it.

So, from time to time, we need to ask ourselves, "What makes me come alive?"

And, as educators, we need to ask, "What makes our students come alive?" - otherwise, I think we'll have a lot of apathy on our hands. Face it, when the students' energy is there, material gets learned and "miracles" happen.

And, if that quote doesn't do it for you, you can think about it in the words of Steve Jobs instead:


Love what you do and do what you love. And, gosh darn it, live it up a little and don't be afraid to be ALIVE!

Think Stephen Sondheim -->

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Failure to prepare

...is preparing to fail.

Or so says Benjamin Franklin, John Wooden, and likely many other greats.

So, preparation for our Rosary activity on Thursday is exactly how I've spent quite a bit of time on this weekend. Here's what I've come up with:

How to Make Your Own Rosary Powerpoint

[I also took pictures of the baggies - all 43+ of them! - that I made ahead of time to avoid "attack of the beads" or any other disasters that could ensue if the beads were just laid out for the taking, but for some reason, my computer won't let me upload them. I'll post them later if I can...]

I want to make sure I am prepared - better to have done more than I needed to than not enough, right?

Here's hoping for a solid week!

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Today was a tough day, and I am exhausted. It's not because the students were bouncing off the walls (they were actually quite good) or because I had a headache/was sick (I didn't/wasn't) or because we had no specials (we had music). No, it was a tough day because we attended the funeral for our school's music teacher who passed away last Friday.

I thought I could hold it together. After going to the wake last night, I was pretty sure I'd said my goodbyes. But I found that funerals have a way of stirring up strong emotions, old memories, and a few tears.

And so, tonight I thought I'd focus on what a funeral can teach us, but I changed my mind because, honestly, it's more like looking at what a life well lived can teach us.

Here goes...

Life is short, so it must be lived to the full. At 51 years of age, Bob had so much life left to live. The fact that he was taken away at such a relatively young age serves to remind each of us that every moment is precious.

People keep many things private; don't judge a person because of something you see (or don't see) because there's probably a lot more going on than you realize. I had no idea Bob was sick with cancer. He was always so positive and cheerful. His smile was one of his greatest assets. One of our students said that even though she was new to the school and didn't even have him as a teacher, Bob made her feel welcome just because he showed he cared.

Find your passion - and then share it with others. Bob had a beautiful voice and was a talented musician. He gave endlessly of his talents (and, as it turns out, his own money) to build our school's music program and to help create a joy of music in our students.

Have fun, laugh, and celebrate whenever possible. There's a time to be serious, but don't take yourself too seriously. There's much to be enjoyed in a good hearty laugh and time spent with friends. As we learned today, these are things Bob did well.

Thank your friends, teachers, and family when you have the chance - if you wait, there's no guarantee they will know how you feel and how much they mean to you. Nothing is certain, especially the gift of life. Say "I love you" and "thank you" - and mean it.

One person can make a difference. Be that difference for someone else. Bob made a difference for so many people, especially his immediate family and his students. And what did he do to make that difference? He took time for people. Bob said what he meant, and he offered many compliments when things went well. He offered a unique perspective to different activities, especially in our faculty meetings. He always had a smile on his face, and he had a way of knowing which students needed extra help or care even before they, themselves, had realized it. He was extraordinary by doing the little things that matter. And that can inspire each of us to strive to do the same.

Yes, Bob's was a life well-lived. And we are each called to do the same.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Faith Is...

About a month ago, I purchased Magnificat's Year of Faith Companion. The Year of Faith, as named by Pope Benedict XVI, began on October 11th, and I have been diligently reading the short reflections (about 1 page in length) each morning before heading to school. The reflections range from poems to catechism to prayer.

Today's reflection was "A Litany of Faith" (based on the writings of Pope Benedict), and it really defined faith in a more clear and rather new light for me. I wanted to share a few of the lines here with you:

"In faith, something meets us that is greater than anything we can think up for ourselves*...
Faith is reaching that point in which we recognize we need to be given something*...
Faith means opening our hand in trust and accepting a gift*...
Faith entails the shift from dependence on the visible and practicable to trust in the invisible*...
Faith expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness*..."

(*The response after each line is "Lord, increase my faith.")

And I just meditated on the lines of this litany - pretty powerful stuff, eh?

Let us continue to pray that God increase our faith and that we remember these descriptions and explanations of what faith should be for each of us.


P.S. - On a completely unrelated note (because I didn't want to leave you hanging), here's an update on the pumpkin cake - the "proof of the cake" was definitely in the eating - I personally enjoyed it, and many other faculty members shared how much they liked it as well.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Measuring Up...in Heart

To measure a man, measure his heart. (Malcolm Forbes)

As our students shuffled in this morning - it's always a little rough on Mondays - they were asked to copy and respond to the above quote that my co-teacher and I had posted on the board. (I had literally found the quote about 2 minutes before the bell rang, but it fit the purpose rather perfectly.)

After morning prayer, we invited the students to share their thoughts about the quote's meaning. Many said that it's not about what's on the outside but rather what's on the inside that counts. Others said that it matters more how someone treats others and values things than what he looks like or says.

These ideas led right into the topic of our community circle discussion this morning - the unexpected death of their music teacher (and our co-worker) and their memories of and feelings about him. He was a rather private person, and he wasn't very old, so the news of his death came as quite a shock to most of us. Their music teacher was a man that will likely be remembered not only for his love of music but also for his smile, genuine care for the students, dry sense of humor, and calm presence. The students shared many stories with each other (and even more students shared at a school-wide prayer service later in the morning) - and those stories brought smiles and a few tears. Clearly, this man had a large impact on our school community, and he was definitely a great man due to his love for others.

So, if I may, I ask that you please keep our music teacher, his family & friends, and our school community in your prayers tonight. We know he's in heaven looking down on us now.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Hobby for a Sunday

Everyone has 'em - they are fun; they keep us sane; they bring us joy.

The list goes on.

Yep, you gotta love a good hobby.

Today, mine was baking. I've been dying to try this pumpkin bundt cake recipe - I was going to make it for faculty potluck last week, but, alas, I didn't have the instant butterscotch jello mix. (Who would have thought that would have been the hardest thing to find?) Needless to say, that day I settled on muffins (which, let's face it, are not quite as exotic).

But, lo and behold, after going to Target yesterday, where, by the way, I purchased two packages of instant jello (not to be thwarted again!), I decided to put my baking skills to the test.

Here's the evidence/process:

all ingredients combined, pre-mixing - guess I need a bigger bowl next time

post-mixing, in the process of adding the mix to the bundt pan - yes, there was a little mix left over - darn...

in the oven - and lookin' good...

the final product

all wrapped up for tomorrow

The final test will have to wait until tomorrow. (I'm hoping it's not as dry as it looks!) At that time, we will see if, as they say, the "proof of the pudding is in the eating"...

Or, um, in this case, of the cake.