Thursday, August 29, 2013

Birthday Week...Labor Day Weekend

Thirty+plus years ago, when I was still in grade school, an "August" birthday was considered a "Summer" birthday.  Meaning, school wouldn't start for several more weeks...and always after Labor Day...thus allowing summer-themed birthday parties with girlfriends.

Earlier this week, I celebrated my 44th birthday.

Me and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.  (Oh, how happy it makes my heart to know that one of my most favorite (future) saints shares the same birthday as me!!!)

Now, for the past several years (decade really), my birthday is celebrated "during school".  

Mary Catherine's Catholic School Planner

Students begin using these in the 3rd Grade. 

She's been waiting for this year!!!

This year, we celebrated "quietly" with just the children at home.  

A gift card to Bath & Body Works (aromatherapy, hello!)...bath fizzies from LUSH...and a gift certificate to Par Exsalonce Salon & Day Spa for a body massage rounded out gifts from my husband and children.

BUT, one sweet, precocious 4-year old kindergartner didn't let the day pass by without recognizing my birthday!!!  

Irene turned 4 on the 4th of July and is quite the little firecracker!  She is in Benjamin's combined K-1st Grade class.  She is fluent in English and Russian (Russian being the primary language spoken in the home) and speaks a little bit of Spanish and French.  She attends "Russian School" on Saturday mornings.

This bucket of treats was hand delivered to me in the office by mom.  Basically, it tastes like a little bit of heaven!  :)  The easiest way to describe it is to say that it reminds me of coffee cake.  It is a generations-old Russian family recipe and even the raspberry jam is made from scratch!  It was delicious and even my picky children loved it!

It was very moving to receive this gift.  Mom is young, and trying so very hard to show her gratitude for allowing Irene to be enrolled in kindergarten.  (Public school refused to allow her entry due to her age.  She is VERY young, but very capable.)

This gift of food was so touching.  It transported me back into time...when I would visit my grandparents in Detroit and go with my Grandma to the Polish or Croatian bakeries to pick up coffee cakes for breakfast.  When I shared with Irene's mom that I was 100% Polish-American her eyes lit up.  You could tell we formed an immediate bond.  Something about being central/eastern European...  ;)

Russian Coffeecake

This week has been a busy one...birthdays...boy House at school...

...and trying to soak up these last dog days of summer!!!

Looking forward to the long Labor Day Weekend!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stolen Items Recovered!

Self Control Matters!

"...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law."
Galatians 5:  22-23

Do not underestimate the power of your auto rosary or saint medals swimming around in your car's ashtray! :)

Joking aside, I got my stolen items back last night, and while we all know that there are no magical powers associated with rosaries, saint medals, holy cards, etc., I do firmly believe in the power of prayer!

Last Thursday, I shared this post about a thief taking advantage of this busy mom who inadvertently left her minivan side door open.  I shared that while I was deeply disappointed in this stranger's lack of morals...inability to exert impulse control...outrageous nerve...

...I knew that I should pray for him or her.

I also shared that God is always watching out for us.  The young man that stole the electronics from the front seat area, didn't even realize that the $300 Eddie Bauer infant-to-toddler convertible car seat was much more valuable and left it sitting there.

Well, all of our prayers for this young man worked in my favor!  Not sure if it was his guilt working against him...or his own laziness (probably the latter), but he hadn't even pawned/sold my stuff.

Yesterday afternoon, at approximately 1:00 PM, Detective Sanders got my case file including the surveillance footage from the mall security cameras.  (Incidentally, this mall is the most popular in the KC metro area and because of that, the local city police department also places their own high tech security cameras to help combat parking lot theft at this oh-so-popular shopping venue.)  Between the two different security systems, they were able to watch this thief in action and catch him red-handed!

According to the detective, a little silver car could be seen driving around the mall parking lot.  As he turned down the row I parked in, he could be seen coming to a screeching halt.  Lightning fast, he jumps out of his driver's seat, enters through my open side-door, can be seen crawling up to the front seat.  Quick like bunnies (a family expression!)... he's back into his own car...with my stuff!

From that vantage point, security could not get a license plate, but... he circled the parking lot and stopped to pick up his girlfriend in a different row, he was caught on another security camera and this time surveillance had a perfect image of his license plate.

A quick background check told the officer that this thief had no prior criminal history, but lots of unpaid  parking tickets.

Around 5 PM, the detective showed up at his address.  Sitting in the apartment parking lot was his little silver car with my stolen goods still on the floor board.

The detective knocked on his door and when the young man opened it, he just stood there saying nothing.  Detective Sanders said, "You know why I'm here...right?"  And the guy answered, "yes."  The detective said, "you understand that we have you on camera?"  And the guy was like, "I know."

When the detective asked him why he did it, he gave the sob story about so many bills to be paid and no ability to find a job because of the bad economy...etc., etc., etc.  He planned to sell my stuff on Craig's List.

The guy went out to his car and gave the detective my stuff back, but the detective made it clear to him that charges will still be filed.  While he swears up and down that this was his "first time to ever do anything like this", the detective said to me, "more like his first time to get caught".

Sadly, this "kid" (I have no idea how old he is) now has a criminal record.  And while he won't serve jail time (and I don't feel that jail would be an appropriate punishment for this particular crime), he will more than likely plead guilty and be put on probation.  His hand will be forced in that he will now need to get a job as part of his sentencing and plea agreement.

New GPS system, purchased over the weekend, because my husband "can't drive without one".  
I get to keep the new one...he he he!

But what bothers me even more, as both a mother and an educator, is this young man's inability to choose right over exert allow that moral compass to guide his decisions.

I would love to pick this guy's ask him questions like... you believe in God or have a Faith life?   ...did you grow up with religion?

...did you grow up in a two-parent home?...were you a daycare/latchkey kid...?

...can you read...well?  Was school a struggle for you...or was school too easy?

...did you steal out of kids' desks at school when you were growing up (sticky fingers)?

...were you bullied?  ....were you the bully?

...what's your temperament like?  Do you give up easily when times get your persevere?

...did you play in nature a lot?...were you responsible for caring for siblings or a family pet...?

Were you a Boy Scout????!!!! (My little Benjamin is officially a Tiger Cub!!!  More on that later!)

I know that there is not one simple answer to explain this young man's behavior.  More than likely it is a combination of events in his life that led up to last Thursday.

But will this arrest and sentencing be enough to deter future criminal behavior?

My guess is no.

Unless he does some deep soul searching, gets right with God, and finds a mentor/friend/girlfriend in his life that doesn't condone (and be an accomplice!) this type of behavior, he will forever be in and out of the criminal justice system.

Can you tell that I've been thinking about this a lot?

How do I prevent Mary, Ben, and Luke from getting involved in this type of behavior?

I think the answer is strong parental involvement.

This will look different for every child...meeting them where their needs are at..., but I firmly believe in attachment parenting, gentle correction including helping our children master self-control (i.e. telling them no and having them be okay with that!) and giving children a strong Faith life, including being an active member of a church-going congregation.  All of these go a long way into molding little hearts and minds to be faithful, God-loving, productive human beings.

Anyway, let's keep praying for this young man!  He certainly needs our prayers.  And thanks for reading this long-winded post!!!  Hugs.

Linking up with Beth over at Simply Beth for Three Word Wednesday.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

When Life Hands You Lemons...

...pray for the lemons!

Today is my day off, and I was hoping to knock out a couple of blog posts and update you all on how "back-to-school" for the kids and the adults is going, but instead I spent the majority of my free time filling out a police report.


Seems that this morning, while Luke and I were picking up some teacher gifts at the mall, my minivan door did not shut completely and a thief made off with my GPS system and iPhone car charger.

Auto rosary...still hanging.

Miraculous Medal and other saints medals...still in the ashtray!

Box of teacher-work materials...still in the trunk.

But the car charger and GPS system...gone.

Truly, the most important items were left behind!!!  And my GPS system...well, it's well over 10-years old.  In fact, we hadn't even updated the mapping software because a new system was cheaper than the map updates!

As I walked out of the Mall with some aromatherapy Bath & Body works products for my kiddos' teachers, I caught my breath when I saw the minivan's side door wide open.

"Please, God, just let everything be there."  At the time, I was thinking of the $300 infant/toddler car seat, but my heart quickly sank when I noticed the empty GPS windshield attachment.  Truly, that car seat is much more valuable than what was stolen and it is a blessing in disguise that the thief did not realize that.

My little guy was so tuckered out!  After an hour and a half of meeting with Mall Security and then the local Police Department he had a potty accident (so sad for him) and zonked out on the way home.

Ironically, this morning, I had just read Billie Jo's post on her favorite things where I learned about Bath & Body works aromatherapy line.  I decided that I would like to get Mary and Ben's teachers some "Stress Relief" bubble bath to celebrate the end of the first week of school, and on a whim, grabbed a bottle for myself, too.

For the teachers:  RELAX AND THINK CLEARLY variety.

And look at the one I chose for myself...right before I exited the mall and discovered the theft...

Variety:  eucalyptus tea:  KEEP YOUR CALM.

God is always with us...looking out for us...even in the bad times!

And so this afternoon...after soothing my inner need for chocolate with a spoonful of peanut butter and a handful of chocolate chips from the pantry, I took a quiet, relaxing bubble bath and said a prayer for this thief.

Man...woman...teen...I don't know.  But clearly they are a troubled soul...lost without Christ as their guide...unable to exhibit impulse control...and clearly not living a life of integrity.

Tomorrow will be a better day!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Luke's "All About Me" Poem

Today is Luke's first day of preschool.

I'm certain that there will be tears involved.

Perhaps more from me than him!  :)

At "Meet the Teacher" night, Luke was given a little "All About Me" poster to create.  While I tried to coax him to color and create his poster (scribble really), he just wasn't interested.

And being a teacher-mama, I couldn't leave it alone!  he he

I didn't go overboard...

...just traced the little body out of Luke's favorite fabric and "monogrammed" it.  LOL

I stopped before I got carried away with the hot glue gun and buttons.  :)

And since I can tell you right now that there is no way he's going to stand up in front of a bunch of other three and four year olds to "share", I wrote a little poem introducing him.

Luke Kueter
Age 3

My name is LUKE.

I just turned THREE.

I love my dog BURTON,

He’s as cute as can be.

I have a big brother,

and a big sister too.

They go to St. Paul

Catholic Elementary School.

My dad is a FIREMAN.

My mom is a TEACHER.

Only God knows my vocation,

Maybe that of a Preacher!

I’m excited to be here.

The school year just begun;

And now my little poem

Is finished…all done!

Looking forward to my first day working with students.  I work from noon to three o'clock this afternoon.  My plan is to just wander through classrooms observing students.  As it is only the first week of school and first full day, I know how important it is for teachers to be able to establish routines and procedures in the classroom.

Hope your week has gotten off to a great start.  I can't believe it is Wednesday already!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another School Year Begins

Today is the first day of school for my oldest two.  Luke starts tomorrow.

And I just get to be "mom" today.  Not "working mom".  It's a half-day and I don't work in the AM.  Just walked in and dropped them off.  Yippee!

We started with some "before school" photos. 
I made Mary wear "the plaid".  (She would have preferred her navy blue uniform shorts.)
But the plaid is just so "parochial" very "Catholic" if you will!  
And I think kids in uniforms are so cute!

Then, I insisted on some "school" shots.   :)

And finally, some classroom shots.  

And yes, my kids were getting annoyed with me by this time!  

Can't leave out the "heartbreaking" shot...

...this one's not gonna do so well transitioning to preschool.  :(

He broke out the "ugly cry"!

I hope that all of you have gotten your school years off to a great start.  My kids are actually a few of the last ones in the metro-area to start school.  

We've really enjoyed these last few days of 
Summer Vacation by ourselves!!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Husbands, Sons, & St. Monica

Today marks the start of the novena to St. Monica.

A novena is a nine-day period of private or public prayer to
obtain special graces, to implore special favors, or to make special
petitions. (Novena is derived from the Latin "novem", meaning nine.) As the
definition suggests, the novena has always had more of a sense of urgency
and neediness.

Wife of Patricius, a minor Roman government official, and mother of three children, the most famous being Augustine, St. Monica understood a wife and mother's longing that her husband and children be in relationship with God.

I invite you to join me today as I pray for our husbands and children...that they may be drawn to the Lord by experiencing his presence through the Holy Spirit and that we may be an example of gentle Christianity in praying for them to walk closely with God.

Wishing you a blessed Sunday,


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stitches Removal Celebration

Thursday afternoon marked "Day 5" since the accident Ben had on his bike.

That meant he got to get his stitches out.  And although he was very excited about this, don't be fooled...he was extremely proud to show off his battle wound at "Sneak-A-Peek" at school on Tuesday evening.

Benjamin was very brave.  As hard as I tried to keep the sutures clean and from getting scabbed over, they still did which meant a bit of pain as the Triage Nurse had to gently tug to get them out.  (eeeew!)

As a reward for being so very brave, we stopped by Daddy's fire station for a bit of "play time".  (What other occupation allows kids to climb on large equipment while daddy's not operating it...maybe farming or construction!)

Happy Saturday, friends!

Enjoy the weekend,

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Animal School (Video) (A Must See!!!)

Good Morning, Friends!

Happy Feast of the Assumption to all of my Catholic readers.  Today is my first day "off" this week and I look forward to taking the kids to Mass and then back home for a quiet day spent together.  

The little boys have been having some rough evenings.  In-Service schedules are intense...they require nearly full-time participation even though I'm a part-time employee.  This has meant piecemeal-ing babysitting services and disrupting the normal routine and flow of our days.  My middle child actually struggles with this more than the youngest....but the youngest feeds off the middle...and so evenings are a mixture of tears, defiance, tantrums, etc.  Definitely looking forward to next week when our actual "school routine" gets underway and I'm back in the home for the majority of each day!  This week has been a clear reminder that my children are not ready for me to be away from the home for more than a couple of hours each day...even if they think they are!  :)

Anywhoo...yesterday was another wonderful in-service.  My morning was spent learning about how to better serve ELL (English Language Learners) students.  Having spent 4 years teaching in a ELL and Title 1 Building, I am very comfortable with meeting the needs of this type of learner.  And while we don't have a lot of ELL learners at St. Paul, it's important to remember that if we even have just ONE, we need to meet that child's needs.  

In addition, the teaching methods and tools used to deliver content to the ELL learner are just as applicable and appropriate for every type of learner in the classroom.  Many of the suggested delivery methods are just good teaching practice, plain and simple.  

What I love about teaching in a Catholic setting, is that we are able to make that immediate Faith connection that overcomes any language barrier!  Looking into the face of Christ in each and every parent and being the hands and face of Christ to every ELL parent and their child really makes a huge difference in the delivery of services.  

And again, my number one task as a St. Paul employee is to help these little children get to heaven!  

The afternoon was spent learning how to better serve the needs of my Special Education students.  My head is swirling around with terms like "accomodations", "modifications", "scaffolding", etc.  Again, many of the ways we modify or accomodate for the special needs learner is just good teaching for any child.

As the year progresses, I look forward to sharing some of the ways that you can support your emerging or struggling reader as well as ideas to support mathematics instruction, especially problem solving.  Think manipulatives, manipulatives, manipulatives!

Finally, I leave you with this video titled "Animal School".  I had never seen this and it moved me to tears.  (If you're a crier, I might suggest having a kleenex on hand!)  I think that this video sums up how a lot of homeschoolers feel about the education system (both private and parochial).  

I pray that I never make a child feel like a "bee"..."polar bear"..."eagle".

Children are as unique as their fingerprints and a gift from God.  As educators we must ALWAYS strive to help every child develop their God-given gifts and talents regardless of what that looks like!


P.S.  I am not endorsing or promoting this website.  I just thought they made an awesome video.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Parenting Decisions and Temperament

Good Morning, Friends!

I saw this on Facebook the other day and thought it perfectly summed up life!!!

As I re-enter the "outside of home"workforce, I have been constantly reminding myself of the truth behind this meme.

I've been feeling a bit guilty for being so excited to return to the workforce when I still have a pre-schooler at home.  But that guilt only comes from me...and the unnecessary worry over what others think of my choices.  

The bottom line is this, as mothers we all try to make decisions that are in the very best interest of our families.  Those decisions mean that our families might operate and look very different (even confusing)  to others.  But what we fail to keep in mind is that each of us have been given a very unique "temperament" from God,...and we don't know what "question paper" God has given anyone else!  

Yesterday, I got to spend the morning learning more about temperament (a book study) through my in-service training with my principal and how your temperament affects your interaction with your spouse...your children...your students (if a teacher).  Lots of good stuff...and it is a Catholic read!!!  The authors even provide you with examples of Saints who shared those temperament characteristics.  I am planning on writing a follow-up post, because this was good stuff!

Today I'm attending a day-long in-service with only my building staff and the Archdiocesan SPED Director.  Looking forward to a "meat and potatoes" kind of day specifically geared to working in the Resource Room.

Wishing you a great day!!!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Back to Work" Update

Dear Friends,

Thanks to all of you that dropped by yesterday to read and especially those that left me good wishes!  They were greatly appreciated.

The day went well.  Of course, I had to drive in a torrential rainstorm (did you see the national news map of rain in the Kansas City/Midwest and Southeast yesterday???!!!) and with highway accidents/back-ups, I made it to my in service training in the nick of time.  (I HATE to be late!)

Of course, I had no name tag...I sort of expected that!  (Doesn't it seem as if the part-time/new employees always get forgotten about at these sort of things???!!!)  So I grabbed a bottled water and made my way back, ironically to "the front of the room"to grab a seat.  A fellow "missing-a-name-tag" colleague joined me and we quickly introduced ourselves.

I find myself gravitating to the 40/50-something year old teachers instead of the "young ones".  When did I grow up???!!!  Wahhhh!!!

I heard lots of good discussion on resources used by the various SPED teachers, but I also came away from that meeting feeling MORE confident about my own teaching abilities and usefulness in the Resource Room.

When I think about my teaching career and sometimes wonder why I didn't gravitate toward Catholic Education in the first place, I remember that God always has a plan. We are always in the time and place where we belong...even if we don't understand why.

My 10-years in public education were not wasted.  I touched lives.   But lives also touched me and those "hardest-case kiddos" were preparing me to be the future Resource Room Teacher at St. Paul!  Although, I may not hold a "Special Ed" degree, I do come critically prepared to meet my being a former public school teacher from an AMAZING public school district, a Master-degree educated teacher from an acclaimed Midwest teaching university, and most importantly as a deeply spiritual, faith-filled, devoutly practicing Catholic mother!!!

It's gonna be a great year and I can't wait to meet my Resource Room kiddos!



P.S.  As if I wasn't busy enough...Mary Catherine has rehearsals nearly every night this week for a very special performance at the Kansas City Zoo on Friday, August 23rd.  I can't wait to see my "Little Nala" in full face-paint singing her solo!!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Newest Adventure Begins!

This morning, I return to work.

It's not quite as dramatic as I make it out to be!  I am only returning to part-time status.  :)

But still, it is an adjustment for everyone.  And when my previously scheduled sitter called to cancel yesterday all came back to me...why I quit working in the first place (if not just to be home with littles!).

It all worked out.  Audrie's coming.

My kids LoVe Audrie.

She's 17.  A senior in high school.  And hoping to go to film school (Hollywood or NYC).  She does incredibly creative things with my kids (while the Mr. and I are out on sporadic date nights) like make rainbow colored pancakes from SCRATCH (who does that?!!!) and teach my kids how to create their own "Fox 4 Kids News Segments" using the iPad.  Seriously.  She's a gem, and both the kids and I love her.  We were sad when she told us that she got a real Target...this summer.  Less of Audrie!

Grateful she can help us out this morning.

Oh...and it's thundering and raining here.

Really wish I could go back to bed.  :)

I'm gonna really miss this kid today...

...Benjamin's on the mend.  Mary's been working diligently on her Lion King Medley (more to come on that!).

Happy Monday, Friends!!!


Saturday, August 10, 2013

First ER Visit for...Benjamin!

It was bound to happen.

My daredevil/bike trickster of a middle child was bound to visit the ER sooner rather than later.

Sooner came this afternoon.

A very hysterical Benjamin came screaming up the front porch after wrecking on his bike on the driveway.

I'm not gonna lie...I didn't jump up.

This kid screams over everything.  Always has.  Always will?  (Hope not!)  Fly in the bathroom (age 4)  SCREAMED his lungs out.  Bee buzzes by him while playing outside...(age 5) HYSTERICS.  Little brother hits him with Fisher Price Little People (age 6)...SOBBING.

So, I've sort of started not responding in urgent fashion to his screams.

But when I looked out the dining room window and saw his shirt and shorts covered in blood and his hands cupping his chin, I knew it was legit!

I helped him limp into the house to survey the damage...and it wasn't pretty.  I knew immediately (from the amount of blood pouring out his chin) that he was going to need stitches to fix this injury! No simple "tape" stitching this time!

Of course, Daddy was on-duty.  Because that's how these things happen!  :)

Fortunately, there's a brand-new Urgent Care/ER Pavilion 1/2 a mile from my husband's fire station.  He was actually allowed to take his crew and meet us there.  Three fire guys patiently sat in the pumper truck while captain daddy stayed with Benny in the triage room of the ER.

(Benjamin patiently waiting for the numbing cream to anesthetize the injury-area for stitches.)

Meanwhile, these two were another ER visit waiting to happen!  :)  Once Luke realized that these footstools were on casters, it was all over.  At one point, I caught him trying to stand on them and rock it like a skate board.  Good lawd.  I also heard quite a bit of, "This is boooooring.  When can we go hoooome?"

Two internal and six external stitches later, we were getting our discharge papers and heading home.

Daddy and the fire boys bleeped the sirens and flashed the lights as they pulled away!  It's the little things.

I've been teasing Ben that we need to shave his whiskers!  (He's got some nasty road rash on his chin and knee to go along with the stitches.)

Now to clean up the crime scene accident scene on my front porch, front door, entryway and kitchen sink area.  (I've never seen so much blood pour from one little chin!)

ER Doc says hydrogen peroxide does wonders on getting blood out of clothing!  We'll see.

Happy Saturday, Friends!!!