Last Things

He’s missing all the lasts.

Last spring musical (and many associated events with that).

Last student council events and meetings.

Last lunchtime pick-up basketball games with friends.

Last day of class.

Last school picnic.

I’m normally not into the graduation sign thing, but given all the last things he’s missing, I ordered the sign this year.

This afternoon, for possibly the last time, I exceeded the speed limit on the school’s back driveway to pick up that sign for my front lawn.

Normally I’m not very sentimental, and I tend to shy away from social events associated with school, but I’m feeling sentimental today.

He’s my last kid to attend this school, and he’s made the most of his time there. He’s lived through a total reinvention of the school when it became an independent Catholic school in June 2018. He took on a leadership role in the student council and played the lead in the spring musical last year (and was supposed to do that again, before the coronavirus brought the students home from school and effectively closed down the stage).

I am hoping that the prom and graduation (now scheduled for midsummer) will get to take place, so these 52 kids who have been through a lot will have the chance to properly say goodbye to each other.

As for me, I may have said my goodbyes at 40 miles per hour in the back driveway this afternoon. Just in case I don’t get the chance to do so this summer.

Rainbow over the back of the school, April 2016. Copyright Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Monday Recap: 10/5/2015

Monday Recap-What I've been writing

There’s been a lot of writing going on this week!


PreK4 God Bless Our PopeA Catholic School Welcomes Pope Francis




1Progressive Dinner: Granma’s Rolls

Ranch TunaMacaroni Salad FI



Meatless Friday: Ranch Tuna Macaroni Salad



Saints for All Occasions FISaintly Greetings: Saints for All Occasions Cards



Stay with Me coverBook Notes: Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk (look for a longer review of this book on Saturday, right here!)






At Cook and Count:

Sally Magic Chicken T CSally’s Magic Chicken


Tales from the Substitute: Compassion in Action

I was in the fourth grade today. The teacher had a death in the family and was attending the funeral.

SONY DSCAnd the kids blew me away with their compassion. I was reaching for a tissue at 8:05 AM.

As soon as they walked in (and before I even got a “good morning”) two kids were waving a huge piece of construction paper in my face.

“We’re working on a card! We have to get it done!”

I slowed them down long enough to determine that they had started working on a sympathy card for their teacher. These boys had come up with this idea on their own, and they were bent on getting it finished.

They got busy drawing enough lines inside the card so that every single fourth-grader in the school had a place to sign it–as well as the other fourth-grader teacher and me.

Checking the lesson plan, I figured out a good time for the boys to take the card around the classrooms for signatures.

Many of the students left encouraging messages on the other side of the card, in addition to signing their names.

My plan, before school, was to steal a few moments during religion class to have the students make cards for the teacher. I didn’t need to do that, because the kids took the initiative and had that giant card started first thing in the morning.

I’m sure their teacher felt all the prayers the children sent up today, and I know that when she returns to the classroom her heart will be touched by their very real, very spontaneous, very urgent compassion.

Image source: Wikipedia. Approved for reuse.

Small Success Thursday: One Week Down

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!


I figured out that I can READ while I use the exercise bike at the gym. What with the blaring pop music, I can’t read nonfiction that requires thought, but it’s a great opportunity to get some “fun” reading done–and I don’t even notice the time going by.


The first week of school is in the books! Little Brother seems to be settling in to a good morning and afternoon routine, despite constant interruptions from his friends who get home almost an hour before he does and can’t understand why he’s not finished his homework yet.

Play Later signI might have to hang the “Play Later” sign up if this continues. (The other side reads, “Friends Welcome.”)


Last Friday I subbed in the fourth-grade class. I’ve known most of these kids since they were in kindergarten, and they are not without their quirks. I consider it a success that I got through the day without losing my mind, even with all of these roadblocks:

  • it was a beastly-hot day. My classroom was 88 degrees all afternoon.
  • I had lunch duty. Outside. And there were no “specials” so I had no prep period.
  • One child narrates her way through the day and insists on showing me EVERYTHING. Including her tin of 5 lip balms, which she wears layered.

Actual conversation with a fourth-grader:  “Is today Back-to-School Night?”
Me: “No, that’s Wednesday.”
Fourth-grader: “The other Wednesday?”
Me:  “Uh….”


SCBS 50th cake 1The school celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and on Tuesday the PTA brought in enough birthday cake for every student. I learned about this on Monday night, and within an hour I was put in touch with the Mom In Charge Of Cake, who graciously provided me with cake mix and frosting labels at school on Tuesday so I could calculate the carb count of Little Brother’s slice of cake. (They also had separate treats for gluten-free, dairy-free and food-coloring-free diets. WTG, PTA!)

And not a success but an observation:

13 years ago today I was teaching first- and second-grade Spanish at a local elementary school when the Twin Towers came crashing down during the 9/11 attack.

Today I will be substitute-teaching in a third-grade classroom so a teacher can attend a 9/11 memorial service with her family. And I am thankful that, since I work at a Catholic school, we’ll be able to openly pray today.

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

Never Off Topic

I spent Monday as a substitute teacher in second grade at the parish school. As my training is in secondary education, I’m used to students trying to derail any discussion in order to avoid doing work. Seven-year-olds don’t generally display that level of guile, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t stray off the subject during our school day.

Children that young just want to share. As soon as you mention anything, they make a connection and need to tell you–and the whole rest of the class–about it. Every once in a while, that can be a good thing, if you can manage to capture the moment.

raised handWe were in the middle of a language-arts lesson based on the story of an injured child riding to the hospital in an ambulance. Up goes a hand. “My mommy says that when you see an ambulance you should say a Hail Mary.”

Me:  “Yes, a lot of families do that. It’s a really good thing to do. When you see an ambulance, you can pray for the person who is sick or hurt and for the people who are helping.”

Student:  “And police cars too.”

Me:  “Right. That’s another good time to say a prayer.”

Other student:  “But just for the police. Not for the bad people.”

Me:  “We should definitely say a prayer for the bad people. Do you remember that Jesus told us we should do that?”

Class:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Jesus said that we should pray for people who hurt us, not just for our friends and family. Maybe the people who hurt us need even more prayers.”

Moments like this are why I love Catholic school. Our faith isn’t confined to the schedule block reserved for religion. It can (and should) pop up at any point in the day. I love that the children in this class feel free enough and comfortable enough to bring up the subject of prayer when the thought enters their mind–even during a story about a fictional ambulance ride. I pray that these lessons will be put into practice during a real emergency.

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