Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Your Handwriting Matters

I am an advocate of handwriting. Handwriting is an undervalued art form, one that's meaning comes from a deeper layer than the words themselves.

When the topic comes up, I always encourage people to use their own handwriting instead of typing/printing/etc.  A sign in their home, a letter, captions in a scrapbook, a birthday invite, addressing wedding thank yous- all in your handwriting.  Many argue with me that their handwriting is messy, that writing is more time consuming, that they just don't like their handwriting.  I think that there is a lot more to it than that...and here are a few reasons why:

1.  Just to be clear, I am not just talking about neat, beautiful, or perfect handwriting.   I am not just talking about teaching "correct" handwriting to my 5th grade students.  I am certainly not just talking about my own handwriting.  I mean that I am an advocate of your handwriting, my handwriting, your children's handwriting- all handwriting. Neatness and penmanship have their place, but as I am writing this post I am thinking about the uniqueness of the way that you write, possible messiness and all.  Your natural handwriting is what others will remember.  When I encourage someone to handwrite something, they often say that it is just because I have great handwriting.  While I will admit that my writing isn't terrible, I certainly don't always like it.  Anytime we are close to something, we often are the first to see its flaws.  I don't typically love my own handwriting, but that doesn't mean that I am not going to use it.  Perfect is not a qualification for sharing a part of yourself. 

2.  Handwriting reveals personality.  I remember using these cheap handwriting analysis books in jr. high to analyze how the slant of my l's revealed that I was an optimist and the curve on the tail of my y's showed that I was an introvert.  I would not put a lot of stock into what official graphology says about you through your handwriting, but just remember on a personal level that your handwriting is a bit of, well, you.  Your personality is carried and emotions can be expressed through handwriting.  Despite the fact that the twenty two students in my classroom have almost all been taught by the same teachers, their handwriting is very unique and I can usually tell their papers apart easily even when they don't have names.  I can also tell when they were in a hurry, when they were confident, and when they were unsure.  I can see them in their writing.

3.  In a world that limits human interactions more and more, handwriting helps us continue to share a bit of ourselves with another.  It allows us to be Incarnational, to show that another is worthy of our time, and to help us see the person behind the communication that we share.  This can be a lot harder through type-written texts, emails, and letters.

4.  Handwriting is sentimental.  Even if you are the opposite of a pack rat, I bet you have a few notes or cards tucked away in a drawer.  You don't keep those cards for the pretty typeface "Happy Mother's Day" on the outside.  You keep it for the scrawled second grader's message printed in pencil on the inside.  Or you keep the note with the spidery cursive that was your grandfather's handwriting near the end of his life.  My dad has some of the worst handwriting I have ever seen (which is saying something as a middle school teacher).  However, the notes that he tapes on my mom's mirror in his terrible handwriting stay there for her to see and mean much more than anything he could have typed.  Being sentimental doesn't mean that we are attached to the object, but to the person behind the object, and it is a good reason to handwrite things that might mean more to someone else.

5.   Handwriting is a little piece of history.  As a genealogy nerd, I savor finding something handwritten by an ancestor. Handwriting is a missing piece of a person's story that can't be recreated after they are gone.  Much like a photograph, that handwriting is unique and important.  Finding original captions on the back of a picture, or a diary penned over time, or a note tucked in a box meant for a loved one from the past is like finding a unique treasure, one that I think we all can appreciate.

6.  Your handwriting is a witness to what you believe.  There is a reason that our signature is still (usually) required to be in our handwriting, even if it is created with a stylus and a digital screen instead of a pen and paper.  Adding your handwriting to something is like adding a stamp of approval, an acknowledgement that testifies to the content of what you are writing.

7.  Finally, handwriting is a connection between the words we live by and who we have been created to be.  "Keep my commandments and live.  Keep my teachings as the apple of your eye.  Bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart."  ~Proverbs 7:23

I challenge you to remember that your handwriting matters, that it means something to those around you, and that perfect isn't a requirement for something to be important.  Find ways to incorporate handwriting into your days, and learn to love that you share a bit of yourself with each stroke of the pen.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Like Apples of Gold

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold set in silver. " ~Proverbs 25:11

"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." ~Proverbs 31:26

Both of these Proverbs came up in a Bible study that I recently worked through on the book of James.  We were discussing the power of the tongue, and the influence our words can have on others.  As a teacher, I need to continually remind myself of the power that my tongue, in word and tone, has over the environment in my classroom.

In honor of Catholic Schools' Week (this week) and National Catholic Teacher Appreciation Day (Friday, January 30, 2015), I turned this doodle from Bible Study into a printable to remind you, no matter your occupation, of the influence your words can have on the world around you.

Click here for a full page printable:

Click here for half page printables, great for a card or to put in a frame:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Most Holy Name of Jesus

Each month of the year, the Church recognizes a certain aspect of our faith and reminds us to celebrate it.  In January we celebrate the Most Holy Name of Jesus.  My 5th graders are responsible for composing and reading a prayer each morning over the intercom to start off our school day during January.  We use the theme of the Names of Jesus, and they run with that as a topic for Bible verses, specific prayers to that name of Jesus, the meaning of that name, etc.

Before they pick a name, we brainstorm all of the names of Jesus that we know.  This year, that brainstorm took the form of this poster:

The kids were then able to choose a name to use as they wrote their prayer.  It is amazing that the Son of God made himself all things for all people, and even allows us to know him by different names, just so that we can connect with him more fully.

This is a close up of the title that I put at the top of the poster.  I decided that it would be nice for the kids to have something to remind themselves of what we have learned this month, so I turned that into a black and white printable.

Now they can each color this page, and we will include the information that they researched about the name of Jesus that they chose, as well as the final prayer that they composed.  It will make a great addition to their religion notebook!

Click here for the printable:

You may also like these resources:

This cool lesson plan, with 25 lessons on 25 names of Jesus.

Print the Names of Jesus Ornaments here.

The Savior is Coming!  Advent Chain from All Saints Press

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Catholic Schools' Week Thank You Card

In honor of Catholic Schools' Week, my students will be writing thank yous to those that have helped support them in their Catholic Education.  As a school, we always send mail to our Bishop, priests, community workers, etc.  I also would like my students to write thank yous to our principal, custodians, former teachers, cooks, etc. 

I made these cards for the kids to decorate and write in:

You can print just the front, or you can print them double sided with this Scripture verse and thank you banner on the inside:

Happy Catholic Schools' Week!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Catholic Schools Week 2015

January 25-31 marks this year's Catholic Schools' Week- a time to celebrate the mark that Catholic Schools have on students and families, past, present, and future.  One of my responsibilities for the coming week was to decorate the main bulletin board at the entrance of our school. 

The CSW logo was used last year, and the theme will also continue next year.  I saved this paper logo from last year, and while there are some visible folds from storage, I am glad that I didn't have to remake it!

Here was our 2014 CSW Bulletin Board:

To everyone involved in Catholic Education, Happy Catholic Schools' Week!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: Me, In Bullet Points

Inspired by a Jones Design Company post this week, here are seven things that you may not know about me, in bullet points.  Not quite as in depth, and a lot more random, but here goes:

1.  Approximately 32% of the reason that I became a teacher is so that I can still buy school supplies each year.  That may not be true.  But it might.  I really love post-it notes, and new Sharpies, and don't even get me started on the perfectly sharpened Ticonderoga pencil.

2.  I am a complete and total introvert.  Some people have laughed and don't believe me when I tell them this, but it is very true.  Introverts are not necessarily shy all of the time, but are recharged by being alone, whereas extroverts are recharged by being with people.  I love you all, but people exhaust me- which makes my career choice of teaching and work at church interesting and challenging. At the time of writing this, I have been in my apartment for over 48 hours, by myself, (thanks to no-school-cold-weather-days), and it has been the best and most rejuvenating thing ever.

3.  I bite my nails.  Trust, me I know that it is gross and unprofessional and a good way to get sick.  I (and in my younger days, my mom) have tried many things to stop, but nothing has stuck.  I gave it up for Lent one year and did fairly well offering it up as a sacrifice.  My friend rewarded me with a manicure just before Easter, but about a week later they were chewed to the quick again. So now I just keep them painted all of the time in bright colors- it is much harder to chew on your nails when they are covered in dark blue nail polish.

4.  I entered the world of smart phones a couple of weeks ago.  I had resisted for quite a while, but it was time to upgrade from my little slide-out-keyboard-can't-receive-every-other-text-message clunker and come into the 2010's.  Honestly, one of the reasons why I had avoided getting a smart phone was an excuse to not be connected.  People expect you to be available all of the time...and, well, see #2.  However, I love technology and finding new ways to use it, so I have quite enjoyed having so many things at my fingertips.  And, I can always turn it off if necessary, right?

5.  If choosing, I would always pick a roadtrip over a plane ride.  I love vacations that have low planning, spontaneous stops, and unforeseen adventures.  Getting to your destination can be half the fun, and is a great opportunity to really get to know people.

6.  I am a genealogy nerd.  Well, I have been a genealogy nerd, and need to get back to putting some time in it.  It was kind of a weird hobby to have in high school and college...visiting tiny libraries to find family records, dragging my parents to distant family reunions just to meet other people who could share information, hand writing letters to people decades older than me who knew my family way-back-when.  I literally have had nightmares about loosing my family scrapbooks in a fire or seismic fissure or volcanic eruption.

7.  Speaking of nightmares, I have very vivid realistic dreams, and I usually remember them.  From being a Jew in Nazi controlled Germany, to witnessing a demonic possession, to random (untrue) happenings in the lives of people I know, I never know what I am going to dream next.  I don't usually hold on to the stories for too long each day unless they are really weird/scary/funny or I have someone to tell first thing in the morning.  My family got a few ear fulls during the two weeks we spent together over Christmas break.  Maybe I should write a book...

What are seven random things that describe you?

Thanks, Kelly for hosting!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Baby Z's Shower

Ahh, party planning.  Pinterest of course has taken it to another level, but my family has always loved kicking it up a notch.  With a mom that can bake, sew, use power tools, and basically craft her way around anything, my sisters and I have picked up the knack to create things ourselves with love.  

When Emily and I were planning a baby shower for our sister this fall, we pooled our talents and ideas and came up with a party that was pretty, fun, and a way to bless that soon-to-be-born baby.  I love how the shower turned out, both in decor and games, but also enjoyed a gathering of the ladies that love my sister so much.  

(This post has been sitting in the draft folder a little too long, so I've got some editing to do on my descriptions of the pictures, but I'd still like to share it.  There might be something that you would like to use as inspiration for a party of your own!)

I have a new little niece or nephew on the way sometime very soon! (Whoops- pretty baby Violet was born in December...) Before I post baby pictures, I figured I probably should get up a post about the shower that my mom, sister, and I threw.  

Wait, forget that- Here is a picture of Violet!

Ok, back to the shower a few months ago...

I love helping to plan parties, and making the invitations is one of the best parts.  My sister loves turquoise and ball jars, so we used those as we planned the theme and decoration.

If you can read that invite, you might notice that it says, "join us at an open house style shower."  I ran the idea by my sister, and my mom asked if I had seen it done before.   The answer was no, but with an invite list of 60+ and a desire to host the party in a home, something had to give.  We decided to try the open house thing, and ran the shower from 1-4 p.m. (and later).  We accommodated by having more of a "station" set up through the house (I'm a teacher-I can't help it), lots of seating in various places, and the guest of honor stayed in one room with a table and couches and all the gifts.  She slowly opened gifts so that everyone could oooh and aaaah, and was able to say thank you before everyone left.

It may not be conventional, but I LOVED the open house style shower.  There were still all the traditional earmarks of a baby shower- food, games, gifts, small talk...but you could do it at your own pace.  Some people came early and left, some came late, some stayed the whole time, and all of it was ok.  It was much more relaxed and my sister wasn't in the spotlight the whole time, which isn't her favorite.  As one guest was preparing to leave she asked about the open house idea and said, "So Katie, is this a thing?"  I replied, that no, we just tried it.  She laughed and said that she hoped it caught on!

Here are some pretty decorations- gold circles of various materials sewn together into a garland.  None of them showed up well in the actual pictures of the rooms, but they added some sparkle.
If you don't sew, you might also like this garland, which was made of 4" circles stapled to a gold string:
It hung in one of the doorways:
We also had this cute "Baby Z" banner, some ball jars & flowers, and the party favors.  I don't actually have a good picture of the favors, but I found little mint colored metal buckets in the dollar aisle at Target, and each one had simple things in them, like minty lotion and socks, or a polka dot mint colored notepad and pens, etc.  Since none of the games had winners (more on that below) these functioned as door prizes.  I stamped baby feet on three of the plates in the kitchen and whoever ended up with the stamp got to take a prize home.
This banner was gold Sharpie on mint paper:
Z banner on glitter paper:
Mint and gold decorations on one of the tables, complete with a pic of the expecting mommy & daddy.  Steph had the blue Ball jars, but I made the gold glitter ones.  I watered down Elmers glue (about 2/3 glue and 1/3 water), poured it in the jar, swirled to coat, shook in lots of glitter, and sat upside down to dry.  They are now decorating my other sister's kitchen!

Decorations on the gift opening table.  This one is the original, but you can have your own copy of that Scripture print! Click here for a free printable of the "every good and perfect gift" page.

All of the stations had little signs (again, teacher), but they were cute.  Ivory and mint paper, gold paint pen, and sewn on gold tissue paper ruffle.  Ruffle inspired by Jones Design Co.

More Ball jars and flowers:

We had good intentions to have everyone write their address on an envelope to save Steph time, but the turnout on this one wasn't great.  Oh, well, it looked cute on the table in my sewing machine drawer.

I love these gold (plastic!) tablecloths...

Target came through on the tableware- everything but the napkin is from the "normal" paper products aisle, not the party aisle- meaning you get 10x the quantity for 1/2 the price.  They matched well enough that we went with it.

This was also a dollar aisle find at Target- a roll of cute wrapping paper, only 2 feet tall...not the best for wrapping presents, but it made an awesome table runner over a gold table cloth.
Couldn't resist the cute straws.  My mom found the gold chargers for super cheap, and they dressed up the kitchen.

For food, we had lots of dips, veggies, cheese, and crackers...
...and three pots of warm soup...
...and this gorgeous cake!  (told you my mom had mucho talent)

For games/activities, everyone wrote messages in this copy of "Are You My Mother?"

In the living room, we had a basket of new diapers and colored Sharpies.  People wrote Steph and Steve messages for those first diaper changes:

My favorite game was this calendar.  I split a piece of poster board into a December calendar- roughly 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after Steph's due date.  We had the baby feet stamp and a marker set up nearby and everyone got to claim a guess for the baby's birthday.  They also wrote a time, weight, and length for fun.  Steph and Steve took this home to put in the nursery for now.

Our cousin Christina correctly guessed Violet's birthday- yay, Christina!

I am bummed that I don't seem to have many pictures of this last activity, because it turned out so well.  Emily made a blank ABC book for the baby, and we had the pages set out with crayons.  The guests took a page and colored/decorated/wrote on/etc.  All of the pages (A-Z and 0-9) went in page protectors in a binder for an ABC book filled with all the people who came to celebrate with Steph!
Emily so generously reworked the book so that it is totally generic, and she is willing to share it with you!  Click here for a printable copy of the 38 page ABC123 book that you could use for a baby of your own!

Party favors were little bags of mint m&ms with a ball jar gift tag.

I'd be remiss to not include some of the fun gifts.  Oh, the clothes!  They are so cute!  Baby got lots of books, and cute cute things that mommy Steph loved.  Steph's favorite colors are orange and turquoise blue, so she chose a really good year to have a baby, as those colors are everywhere right now.

We also loved this Oliver onesie that my cousin had made for the baby.  Our dad still farms with the Oliver tractors that were our grandfather's so this is near and dear to us. :)

And, a blurry picture of us with Steph's cute little baby bump.

We are so blessed that she is here, and it was fun helping get ready for her to arrive!