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Filled With the Fullness of Life

I have a friend named Joseph Williams.  Joseph is a FOCUS Missionary who is now much more acclimated to the US than he was when I first met him.  Joseph grew up in Africa, and is as tall and thin a man as I have ever met.  We were at a meeting and the FOCUS Team was trying to figure out just who a particular girl was.  Joseph was the only one who knew her.   He was describing her as having glasses, curly hair and fat.  The girls in the group gasped, and the leader exclaimed, “Joseph! you don’t call girls fat!”

He said, “Well, why not, in my country that is good!  It means you are well.  You have energy, will be able to have healthy babies, and you are FILLED WITH THE FULLNESS OF LIFE.”  Joseph Williams, I love you.

Last week I experienced another example of a little one filled with the fullness of life.  I was on home visit and my brother has a grandson who LOVES ANIMALS.  The little tyke, who is not yet two, was at the zoo.  (He happens to be a little blond fellow with a few curls, which took over a year to emerge, so they haven’t been cut yet, but soon.  You get the picture, cute kid!)  The giraffes were giving him absolute delight.  He would hold the grass very still as the giraffe came to eat it out of his hand (zoo approved activity).  As soon as the giraffe took the grass, the little guy jumped up and down over and over, giggled and was a picture of joy.  Repeat the giraffe feeding and the second time the little guy rolled on the ground in the midst of the jumps, all with delight.  His little body could hardly contain the joy!  Repeat the gig until the giraffe gets full.  That, too, is FILLED WITH THE FULLNESS OF LIFE.

May you find a few moments to enjoy life this summer.  Sometimes that is not as easy as it sounds.  We have to know ourselves: what gives you joy?  Hopefully, we can find simple things that bring us to life.  A friend of mine loves birds; she particularly enjoys the ones around her back porch.  Good, simple joys of life.  I’m praying you can find a few to praise the Lord for creating!

In this age of technology, we need to be careful where we get our dopamine.  (Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.)  Professional game makers are getting all-too-good at delivering dopamine to kids through technology.   I guess it isn’t just kids – all of us can engage there.  Sometimes it isn’t inappropriate technology, but just engaging in the game can deliver the dopamine.  (Fortnite?  Be careful of your dosage.)  A little isn’t bad, but too much consistently from the same place can lead toward addiction, especially in developing brains.  May God guide and strengthen you in your role as parents.  Who said this was going to be easy?

God bless you all.  Thank you, Lord, for giraffes, curly hair, and especially for little children.

I’m going out to the garden.  I enjoy it out there, especially with a good friend.  We will find giraffes of our own.  I’ll see you soon back at school.  I enjoy it there too, most of the time!

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Happy Ending!

The countdown began days (weeks?) ago.  Only 6 days left…or 2 for eighth graders!  Students, and teachers, are getting ready to end another school year.  It has been a year full of many blessings and its share of challenges, but a beautiful year nonetheless.

As we draw the year to a close, here are a few things to keep in mind and pass along to your children:

  • “It ain’t over till it’s over!” – This famous quote of baseball giant Yogi Berra applies to school as well.  Sometimes children stop trying their best – with academics, but especially with behavior.  Encourage your children to be even more mindful of following directions in these final days so they can have a more joyful close to their year.  For children who especially struggle with change, some pre-teaching can go a long way in helping to guide them.  Depending on your children’s ages, you might want to read a story about perseverance to help them grow in this virtue.  (Sports-minded children can easily make connections with teams that play hard until the last whistle.)
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1st Graders working hard

  • Kindness counts – Pose a challenge to your children – and your family – to see how many acts of kindness they can do each day!  If they have a positive goal in mind, it provides a healthy focus that also helps to create a pleasant atmosphere for teachers and classmates.
  • Keep routine! – As tempting as it might be this coming Sunday to let them go to bed a little later, try to keep the last days as “normal” as possible to your school routine.  This sets the tone that school still matters until the last day.
  • Discuss summer plans once school is out – By waiting until children are out of school to share what the summer holds in store, students can keep their focus on the tasks at hand with fewer distractions.
  • Pray! – Please pray with your children for the teachers, (administrators!), classmates and siblings as we near the transition.  We all need a healthy dose of patience at this time.

Finally, call upon the Holy Spirit, whom we celebrate in a special way this coming Sunday at Pentecost.  The powerful gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord can most fully help us to not only “end well,” but also “begin” our summer in the peace and joy of God’s daily will for us.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful,
and kindle in them the fire of Your love!the-holy-spirit-roberto-rivera

God bless you!

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Do you remember?

“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  I just typed that without looking!  Do you recognize it?  It’s the introductory sentence to the famous Gettysburg Address by President Lincoln.  I memorized the whole thing when I was in 5th grade (over 30 years ago, but who’s counting!).  Unfortunately, I only remember pieces of the rest of it, but boy, do I remember how proud I was when I could recite the whole thing for my teacher for extra credit!

Among the many educational aspects we value here at St. Peter’s is the ability to memorize and understand worthy poetry and literature.  It’s can seem a small component in the big scheme of things, but it helps in the formation of the person by reinforcing the life skills of memorizing, public speaking and the sense of satisfaction from personal accomplishment.  In addition, the type of content we encourage is meaningful for future reflection, even if they don’t fully grasp all the nuances at a young age.  For example, after the fourth graders enthusiastically recited both “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer and “Walk With Me” by Helen Parker, I asked about the latter, “Do you know what that means?”  They replied simply, “It’s a poem!”  I anticipate that down the road in life the Lord will inspire them to remember His presence in difficult times due to that very poem.

Fourth Grade:  “Walk With Me” by Helen Parker

4th poetry

Walk with me, O Lord I Pray
Give me strength throughout the day.
Take my problems big and small,
Lift me when I tend to fall
Walk with me O Lord I Pray,
Prompt me what to do and say.
Let me feel you always there,
Be with  me when I feel despair.

Some second graders recited their choice of a line from a Psalm.

Others, having recently made their First Communion, eagerly memorized the first stanzas of the poem “A Child’s Wish” by Abram Joseph Ryan.

I wish I were the little key
That locks Love’s Captive in,
And lets Him out to go and free
A sinful heart from sin.

I wish I were the little bell
That tinkles for the Host,
When God comes down each day to dwell
With hearts He loves the most.

I wish I were the chalice fair,
That holds the Blood of Love,
When every flash lights holy prayer
Upon its way above.

I wish I were the little flower
So near the Host’s sweet face,
Or like the light that half an hour
Burns on the shrine of grace.

I wish I were the altar where,
As on His mother’s breast,
Christ nestles, like a child, fore’er
In Eucharistic rest.

But, oh! my God, I wish the most
That my poor heart may be
A home all holy for each Host
That comes in love to me.

Kindergartners recited “My Dear Angel” by Leane VanderPutten
K Poetry

I love my dear Angel;
He protects me from harm.
He keeps me so safe
When I lean on his arm.
I pray to him daily,
To make the right choice.
He whispers, “Be good,”
In his soft, gentle voice.

These 5th graders shared the poems “Indifference” by G. Studdert Kennedy, “Hope is a Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickenson and “O Captain, My Captain,” by Walt Whitman.
The 6th graders memorized “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.
In these days of instant messaging that is here one moment and gone the next, it’s a blessing to know that the human mind can carry lessons and words of inspiration for many years to come.  Just think of what comes to your mind and heart with the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want…”
May God bless you!
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Fortnite

An expert in Fortnite I am not!  Hear about it, oh, yes!  As I have learned about the new game that is all the rage in many children’s lives three things struck me particularly:

  1. I can see why the kids are talking about it. The techy creators of the game are really skilled at what they do.  “Draw players and hold them” is surely an objective of those who make the games and they seem to do it very well. They have kids talking about the game with great enthusiasm whenever they get a chance.
  2. The voice of the promoter sounds like a nineteen year old girl with a very pleasant voice who was quite excited and articulate about the game. The words rolled off her tongue so easily and had the sound of goodness and implied a speaker with a good deal of intelligence.
  3. The content presented by her pleasant voice did not match the excited inflection from my worldview. She spoke articulately of “A maze of death that will do the dirty work (of killing) for you!” and “You can craft hundreds of weapons, melees to heavy arsenals of weapons.”

Now, I don’t want to condemn the game lock, stock and barrel.  It appears to have little connection to porn, and the inappropriate language is more on the part of the users who comment online as they play it seems.  Killing and eliminating others are a constant in the game, but all those killed that I could see were fat and ugly, does that help?  (I’m not sure if I’m trying to be funny there or not.)

Still, by their fruit you will know them.  If you have stuck with me this far, you may be interested in the fruit of the game in our school.  Let me list them in the order of priority as I see them:

– TIRED kids – more than just a few at many grade levels admit playing well into the night.

– Spirit of deception – there is a phone app in addition to the IPad, PC and XBox versions, kids report it is easy to sneak into their room so they can play at night. (Deterioration of trust and relationship with parents through deception.)  By the way the game is free in the beginning levels.

– Exclusion – in the game, you can resurrect friends who have been “eliminated”.  Some kids never get resurrected.

– Some kids get stalked in the game and killed frequently….and then see the bullet above.

– BUZZ- when you play this game a few times, you get a better at it and you are congratulated by the nice woman and lots of points and whatever else they use to create a “screen high”.  It gives the human spirit a real BUZZ.  How do your chores measure up to that?  Homework?  (I’m not a promoter of a life bereft of joy, but ……the science of screen addiction, endorphins in large doses in frequency lead to a captivity worthy of a lot more study.  The science of the effect of screen use is coming in and it is looking like a tough pill to swallow.)

I’m sure in a while this too shall pass, but in the meantime, as a faculty who work with your children, it is a good thing to make sure you know about the game.  Moving forward I’d appreciate two things.

  1. If your child hasn’t started it, wait at least until summer hits to let them begin if you think it a good thing for them.
  2. Secondly, set boundaries for use of the game. Some of our kids are proving on a daily basis they don’t have the intellectual gray matter, strength of will and discretion to use the game well on their own.

What fruit is the game bringing to your family?

I realize a negative take on a game that so many of our kids are spending hours on may not tickle the ears of you who have the challenge of navigating the culture with your kids.  One of our teachers who asked a few questions about the game received very strong responses from the kids about how good the game was.  They did not respond, “Crucify her!” but the strength of their response reminded me just a bit of that strong response from long ago.

Which brings us to another skill to work on, having civil discussions.  We all have a lot of work ahead of us don’t we?  May the Good Lord guide us and may we receive well the graces of vocation to make wise decisions and help our children and families grow in the path of holiness.

I’d like to close with a line from Fortnite, which I find interesting that they use in a fantasy game. I find it in reality through my Catholic faith.  “Build the ultimate fort and use it to withstand all the bad things the storm will throw at you.”  Lord, we need you, bless us and help us discern well.blog signature

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When no one’s looking

What do you do when no one’s looking?  I was recently creating a virtue project about integrity and it made me reflect on this question.  The students could choose to create a poster, write an essay or make a wordle about this virtue.  I realized that I witness little ways that I see this virtue lived out in our school:

  • Children who walk down the hallways (instead of run) even when no one is looking.
  • A middle grade child who caught me at dismissal to anxiously tell me that the ipad cart was locked when she returned an ipad, Mrs. Noble was not in her classroom, and she wondered if it was okay to leave it there.
  • The children who promptly take lunch tubs to the cafeteria and back on their own each day without loitering or causing problems.
  •  The sixth students who waited and didn’t interrupt the prayer time during my classroom visit by leaving right on time for band.  Instead, they went to band a few minutes late without me asking or them making a fuss.
  • The first grader who brought his mission collection envelope to the office when he forgot to bring it to church.
  • The junior high students who set up the choir area before Mass each day without supervision.

Integrity is built on trust, and trust is shown when one is given responsibilities and carries through on them without someone monitoring.  Of course, we carry out our role as adults by having appropriate monitoring in the classrooms, on the playground, in the cafeteria, etc., but the goal is to help the students grow in the ability to self-regulate and “do the right thing even when no one is looking.”

Integrity.-I-will-have-the-moral-courage-to-make-my-actions-consistent-with-my-knowledge-of-right-and-wrong

This carries over into the moral/spiritual life as well and can be even harder to gauge.  Do the students play with someone they don’t like as much, even without the teacher asking, because they recognize that everyone deserves to be included?  Do the sports boys welcome those of other interests at the lunch table?  Do the girls refuse to talk about another girl behind her back if they feel slighted in some way?  These are tougher questions and not part of our daily lesson plans.  But they are part of the daily life lessons our children need.

I hope many of you have regular conversations with your children about what they are doing in school and how things are going.  I would encourage you to delve a little deeper and ask if he/she notices anyone being left out on occasion or not being treated as kindly as they should.  If so, you can build empathy by asking your child how he/she would feel in a similar situation.  Then comes the time to challenge by asking, “What do you think you could do about that?”

Integrity, like all virtues, is built slowly, one step at a time.  By helping our children to reflect on how they act when no one is looking, we are encouraging them to grow in integrity.  The next step, though, is to ask ourselves, “So, what do I do when no one’s looking?  Our own growth in integrity will be the model for our children to follow!

God bless you!

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Examples That Surprise

Little kid examples surprised me.  Big kid examples surprised some of the bigger kids.  These are not the kind of examples that inspire or motivate, well they did motivate me but not in the normal sense of drawing in goodness, rather in a defensive motivation, Typically I am very much on the offense here at school, and especially in this blog.  Nevertheless the value of defense came ringing through in the examples.

OK quit beating around the bush, and get to the point of the defense.  It’s Lori’s fault, she started it, ever so gently with her son pulling the fire alarm.  She tells it better, hang in there at least until the part about the dogs, that’s what convicted me of the importance of defense.  Here’s her note.

Friends,

Happy Sunday Morning to you! I’d like to extend a warm welcome to the newcomers on this email list.

I love my life so much. I love coffee. I love my people. I love writing.

A little warning: we will be going deep today.

First, I’d like to share a story with you.

About twenty years ago, I was at the YMCA with my (then little) family and all of a sudden the fire alarm went off. It was loud and caused my heart rate to skyrocket. I clutched my baby Mitch and grabbed the hand of toddler Rachel.

I looked around. I could not find four-year old Eric. Mommy Panic.

Then I saw him. My boy was standing in front of the pulled fire alarm, hands on his ears, with a look of sheer surprise and terror on his face.

My child, a new reader, had sounded out the words, “Pull Here,” and had complied.

The fire trucks came. THE FIRE TRUCKS CAME.

The manager stood near our family as the fully-decked out firemen came into the YMCA.

Words were exchanged. Fingers were pointed.

A fireman knelt down by my son and explained to him about fire alarms.

Oh.My.Stars.

What a deep, defining moment for me.

I realized, clearly, that there was more to this parenting gig than I had first anticipated.

I realized that I needed to step into my role as MOTHER, which meant I needed to ACTIVELY guide and teach and prepare my children to live in our world.

I share that with you because it’s easy to think that our only role as parents is to more or less fulfill the Corporal Works of Mercy:

  • Clothe the naked
  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Comfort the sick

Think about that. That’s where we spend the majority of our time!

But we also have to “Instruct the Ignorant.” And our babies were born ignorant. They need to know things.

That being said, there are about one zillion things we could TEACH our children. We live in this Beautiful World of Information.

There are many shiny lights vying for our attention.

It’s hard to figure out what is Most Important.

Today I’d like to invite you to a crucial teaching moment with your young child. If you don’t have a young child, please forward this email to your sister or neighbor with small children.

Okay, I am now going into the deep. Grab another cup of coffee.

You know that the internet has brought much GOOD into our lives; it has also brought the CRAZY to us.

You know that pornography is part of that crazy. It is a supernatural stimulus; the modern day kryptonite.

When someone, even a good someone, starts consuming pornography, they will need more and more of the crazy to reach the “feel good” hit.

No matter the age, once someone begins this addictive behavior, they are now walking on a brand new road.

Kids that have seen porn can become naturally curious and want to act out what they’ve seen.

Yes. That is the world we now live in.

The cold hard fact, more and more kids are being molested. This is happening by people they know and trust.

What does that mean for my young children? How can I protect them?

Oh my goodness, what do I need to do to protect them?

My first reaction: avoidance.

I mean, GROSS. I don’t want to think about this and I certainly don’t want to talk to my innocent little kid about this topic.

HEAR ME. WE ALL WANT TO AVOID THIS.

Or, we can do this together.

I can imagine your reaction. You are thinking that I have lost my mind. Maybe. Maybe not.

I think of my young Eric. I had not educated him about a fire alarm. I could have simply spent five minutes explaining what it was and then every time we walked by a fire alarm, I could have asked him good questions about it, allowing him to truly UNDERSTAND it.

In the same way, we can educate our children about their bodies and how no one is to touch them. And we can do it with ease and confidence.

Does it feel scary?

I guess so. But I think of the alternative. I’d rather prep my 9-year old David and give him tools than be on the other side of this thing.

Okay, now let’s talk tools.

This is a simple yet thorough video:

My Body Belongs to Me – Spanish – Si prefieres español, aquí tienes!

I also highly recommend this book:

It’s the one we use with our kids. I read it to David about a year ago but it’s time for another inoculation.

I know you are busy. But if you have a son or a daughter under the age of ten, join me today. Create a time when you can sit down with each child (this is not a group project) and watch the video together.

Afterwards, ask him or her, “Have you ever been touched inappropriately?” Or “Has anyone ever touched your privates?”

Don’t freak if the answer is yes. Quietly get more information. Assess the situation. I know people that have had to press charges, I know people that have had to confront others.

You are your child’s advocate. Step into the role. You can do this.

If your child says no, they have never been touched, then do a cartwheel in your mind. Smile. Reassure them that you love them always and that if anything like that should ever happen, they must tell a trusted adult right away.

Finally, it’s powerful if you can role-play the situation. This doesn’t happen in a dark alley. It happens with people they know, like and trust, which is probably the most confusing thing EVER.

So use a realistic example of two kids playing together, or a slightly older kid saying something like,

“Hey, let’s play dogs. I’ll touch your privates and you can sniff mine.”

Clearly teach your child to say, “NO.”

And then teach them what it means to go find a trusted adult.

They can also say something like “I feel like puking, please call my parents,” which gets attention quickly.

Practice this several times.

Finally, admit your feelings. “Honey, I’m sorry that we even have to go over this. It makes me feel yucky.”

That will normalize their own feelings of yucky feelings.

HOWEVER, let them know that teaching this skill is part of your job. You have taught them to dial 9-1-1 in case of an emergency. It’s the same sort of skill. It’s part of life.

This next part is so simple, but HUGE. I’ve found that after a conversation like this, I need my child close to me so we make pizza dough or cookies or we play a game together, something ordinary to get our balance back.

You can do this. I can do this.

I, Lori Doerneman, commit to talking with my 9-year old today, Sunday, April 15, 2018. I will talk to David about his private parts and how no one should ever touch his private parts. They are part of HIS BODY.

The Steps:

  1. Commit to talking to your child and put a time boundary on it.
  2. Watch the video My Body Belongs to Me first. If you like the message, then watch it with your child.
    1. If you don’t want to use the video, just use the concepts from the video. Your body is yours. You have parts that are private. No one should ever touch those parts.
  3. Ask the question, “Has anyone ever touched your privates?”
  4. Listen. Respond appropriately.
  5. Create an action plan so they KNOW what to do if they are ever in this situation.
  6. Role play.
  7. Admit that this topic makes you feel sad BUT it’s part of your job and you love them SO MUCH.
  8. Do something fun to get the balance back.

OR you can use any other technique. The point: Your Child Deserves to Know How to Handle This.

There is a lot to this parenting gig. YOU are your child’s educator. Step into your role.

Commit!

And I’d love love love to hear how it went.

Let me know!

Better together, Lori

lorianderic@theparentingdare.com

SMMi back now……to conclude the longest blog ever posted here:

The same enlightenment based on example occurred in our upper grades too!  This shared with permission from Mr. VanDyke:

“The students were a little surprised by some of the tactics that are used by a potential predator but I think they see now how many different ways someone can go about doing that.  I feel like they have a pretty good grasp on what to do if a situation like that were to occur, and also make sure they are assertive and non-aggressive.  I reminded them of what Jeff Veley said in that if you become aggressive with an attacker, the attacker will only escalate the situation more, which (often) makes it more dangerous. ”

If you want to know exactly what the Safe Environment lessons include, here’s the diocesan link, grade level lessons are well marked. http://www.lincolndiocese.org/protection-of-youth/safe-environment-childrens-curriculum

May the Good Lord who is community and communion par excellence guide you in deepening your family bonds.

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A Convergence of ‘Yeses’

 

Our average lay teacher has been here roughly 18 years.  It seems odd that although we have not necessarily chosen to work with each other, but we have all chosen to work here, and for a good long time.  When you share the same faith and concern for the children, along with some of the same challenges in reaching them, after a short period of time it becomes clear that we have a lot in common.  Over time we have become familiar with one another’s families, hopes, dreams and crosses.  When we said “yes” to becoming part of the St. Peter’s School family, we said “yes” to caring for one another.  The death of Mr. Richter has reminded me of how much care and love thrives here in our parish school, and how much you, the parents of our children, also care about our community here.

In addition to Mr. Richter’s death, Mrs. Colson’s daughter, Valerie, is also very sick, and may not be long for life on this side of heaven.  I hear many times a day, “Have you heard anything new from Rox today?” or, “Are there any updates on Valerie?”  Father Townsend just returned from visiting both families, and is assuring us of their well-being during these difficult times, offering his and our support to them.

As a school, your children are our primary concern as educators.  I see that being true every day in many ways in the service and sacrifice of our teachers for the young ones.  I also see beautiful concern for one another among the teachers and parents, whether it is stopping by to drop off food, offering a warm hug and a prayer or donating some scrip to help.  Some of you have had kids here for longer than the average teacher has been on board!  That too is a blessing!  In addition, I am seeing and hearing support for these families in need from our new families as well as the established ones.

What a blessing to see and hear the convergence of “yesses” which has drawn us together.  It is Jesus’ “yes’ to the Father in all things that enables ours to grow and thrive together.  Even – and maybe especially – in the face of the cross, we continue on and grow and even thrive.  God is our loving Father and He knows what He is about.

Thank you for your abundant/amazing prayer and support.  I feel the care of our Catholic community, which makes me grateful that we are far more than an educational institution – we are a family in Christ.  May the Good Lord continue to bless us all, especially where the need is the greatest.

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