Sunday, September 21, 2008

Newbie Teachers

David and I have volunteered to teach CCD/Religious Education at our parish this year.  It's something we've been thinking about doing for a long time, and we finally decided to go for it.  Immediately, we were overwhelmed with the task we'd undertaken.  As converts to Catholicism, we had no idea what goes into teaching CCD.  We'd both gone to Sunday School as children, but I'm not sure that the churches of our youth expected our (good and wonderful) Sunday School teachers to cover quite so much information.  

The curriculum we're using is designed for Catholic school teachers, where the kids are in religious education five days a week.  Parish CCD programs (or at least the CCD program at our parish) is designed for the kids who are not in Catholic school and are not homeschooled-- in other words, the kids who generally have the least knowledge of the faith.  Our parish also has a huge immigrant Hispanic community.  Many of the students in CCD are the children of parents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet, and simply don't have the time to spend on a lot of religious instruction at home.

It was really challenging for me to take the 5-day lesson plan and condense it down into a plan for an hour and fifteen minutes.  I did it, and we got through it, but I hope that we went through it in a way that sunk in somewhat for the kids.

I was pleasantly surprised in a few ways.  First of all, we had a lot more students in our class than we were expecting-- about 15 today.  Second, they were really good at participating.  There was one little girl who knew all the answers to my questions (kind of reminded me of me at her age!), and I'm going to have to remind myself not to call on her all the time.  We'll need to bring the other kids out of their shells, too.  Third, we didn't have any behavior problems at all during class.  

I was also thrilled that David was teaching with me, along with a recent college graduate who works on the Hill in my office.  There were a couple of times when David totally hit the nail on the head in responding to some of the boys' questions, in ways I never would have responded.  For example, he likened forming our consciences properly to training our muscles for sports, an analogy I wouldn't have thought of, but one that the boys in class really seemed to like.  

All in all, we really enjoyed class, even though it took a lot of preparation and was a little exhausting!  Please pray for us and for our students, so that our students would grow in the faith this school year.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I love this photo


I'm in New York City for work today and tomorrow. I got in relatively late last night, went to my hotel and crashed. (Okay, not exactly. For some reason, I stayed up to watch the Governor of Alaska return home and give a speech I've more or less heard before. But I digress.)

When I left our New York office and walked back to my hotel, I realized that I had no idea what room I was in. I walked to reception desk and said to the clerk, "I can't be the only idiot who comes in here and realizes he doesn't know what room he's in, right?" He assured me, that no, I was not the only such idiot. "If I had a dollar for every time someone had asked me to tell him his own room number, I wouldn't be working here anymore."

So I get my room number and walk over to the elevator bank to go to my room. Now, there are two ways into the elevator banks, one from the lobby and one from the hotel bar. I walk from the lobby to my elevator bank, press the button, and wait. As I'm standing there, I hear this little smattering of applause coming from the bar. I figure there are few people watching a football game or something.

Then about ten feet away, I see this relatively short, white-haired guy in a suit walking through the bar, past my elevator bank, followed by a taller blonde woman. And I do a double-take.

It's John and Cindy McCain.

Before I've even processed this, they're past me. In a bit of a fog, I start walking that direction, hoping I could say something to Senator McCain. But by the time I get into the bar, I realize they're surrounded by secret service agents, several of whom are giving me strange looks. I figure it's better not to try to get by them, so I just stand there and watch John and Cindy McCain walk to a separate elevator bank and disappear. A few seconds later, I hear a secret service agent say something like "they're secure," and they were gone.

Naturally, I went immediately upstairs to tell Lauren.

Now, this is certainly not the first time I've seen a Senator (or presidential candidate). Living in Washington, I've seen quite a few. Heck, I've even been to the White House a couple of times. But somehow, I feel a little starstruck by happening upon John and Cindy McCain so unexpectedly in New York City. I almost feel like Binx Bolling spying William Holden on the streets of New Orleans.

Maybe this is just a side effect of thinking, for the first time, that McCain can actually win this thing. If I hadn't been so stupidly starstruck, maybe I could have told him so and wished him good luck.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cookie Madness!

When David and I were down in Savannah, I caught a rerun of Martha Stewart's show in which she discussed her then-new "Cookies" cookbook.  I don't really do a lot of baking, much to David's disappointment, but somehow the thought of making various batches of cookies didn't seem too intimidating.  Besides, I've long wanted to be able to make a variety of treats to share with friends during the holidays, and I'm hoping this will be a good year to start.

We both had Labor Day off from work, so we decided to make a double batch of cookies from the book to thank our neighbors for looking after the house while we were on vacation.  I selected a recipe that seemed interesting, but not too difficult-- while some recipes require quite a variety of equipment, this one simply required us to buy some cookie cutters.  We were making Biscuit Sandwich Cookies, which are buttery and not to sweet, but filled with melted chocolate.  

The dough came together very easily in the food processor, but neither of us realized just how challenging it would be to roll the dough out to a 1/16-inch thickness.  We never could get them thin enough, and a recipe that was supposed to yield 18 sandwich cookies per batch (36 individual cookies) only gave us 11-12 sandwiches per batch.  

Still, they were delicious, and our neighbors really seemed to like them!

The benefit of having too few cookies, though, was that we had a ton of leftover chocolate.  David had the terrific idea of making chocolate-covered pretzels to accompany the cookies.  We had so much fun that we melted even more chocolate and dipped every pretzel in the house!  Here's a photo of just a few of them:

We were expecting yesterday to be a disaster, weather-wise, and so Friday evening I stocked up on ingredients to make a big pot of chili, and some good old chocolate chip cookies from the new cookbook.  I don't have a stand mixer (yet!), and as I mixed and mixed with my little hand mixer, I began to wonder whether the from-scratch chocolate chip cookies would really be any better than the slice-and-bake dough.  I'm pleased to report that making them from  scratch was totally worth it, and David and his brother both raved about the cookies.  

So, the Martha Stewart Cookies book?  Is a big hit so far.  I'm glad we bought it!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Vacation photos!

I'm sitting in our office watching the rain from Tropical Storm Hannah pour down outside the window.  What better time to finally upload our vacation photos and re-live two glorious weeks away?  You can check them out here.