Author Archives: Lauren Muellner, Education

A love letter

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and complete and utter disdain for this winter, here is my open love letter to….SPRING.

Dear Spring,

I love you.  I miss you.  That groundhog is stupid.  Winter is stupid.  Winter in Chicago is stupid.  Please come soon. It snows like 10 inches a week.  It’s like -40 degrees all the time.  My toes are always cold.  I wear 4 layers every day, which means I have more laundry.  I’m crabby.  Everyone is crabby.  I drink so much hot tea to stay constantly warm that I have to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes. I have to warm my car up 15-20 minutes before I leave my house.  Walking through the back porch to get to the basement is like a death sentence.  My face hurts from the air.  When I swing the door open, I get hit on the head with icicles.  Every time I wear my glasses outside, they steam up when I go inside.  My skin is dry. My back hurts from shoveling. I hate when I hit a crack in the sidewalk while shoveling and the shovel gets jammed in my abdomen.  Children are infested with germs.  Children who are infested with germs cough and sneeze on you.  I can’t run outside.  Working out inside is kind of dull.  Going anywhere is a chore.  Going anywhere with children is an even bigger chore.  Do you know how long it takes kids to get their jackets, boots, hats, scarves and gloves on?  A REALLY long time.  It’s a process.  People drive like idiots in the snow.  Every street is an obstacle course of potholes.  There is no where to park on any side street because they’re mostly not plowed.  The money I save by not going out is spent on the food I sit and eat staying in.  Which causes my pants to fit tighter.  I have a constant fear of my space heater blowing up.  And most of all, I find that in winter I complain a lot.  Please come soon.  I’m begging you.

Lauren

 

Preschool Practicum

Embarking on my new practcum in a Pre-K classroom has been a much different experience than I had last semester.  Last semester is hard to top.  My cooperating teacher was amazing.  She gave me an office in the classroom almost immediately and began giving me responsibility.  I learned so much from her that towards the half-way mark of my commitment, I was always two steps ahead of her, ready for anything.  She looked at me as her equal.

So, I’m only in the beginning stages of my new practicum and not to say that my new cooperating teachers aren’t great teachers.  But it certainly is a different situation.  I am in a Pre-K blended classroom.  That means the children’s ages range from 3-5 and there are some children with special needs. There are three teachers in the room with 20 children….and then there’s me.  It can get kind of crowded.

My first couple days I tried to observe.  I wanted to learn about these kids from what I observed, not from what the teachers told me.  After observing, I started asking questions about certain students.  Another difference between this semester and last is that this semester I don’t have specific lessons to complete, or children to do assessments with.  It is nice that I don’t have to constantly worry about the next project for my professor and can concentrate on my experience with the kids.

There are a few children who have already stolen my heart.  One child, let’s call her Julie, has Down Syndrome.  For anyone who isn’t familiar with Down Syndrome or individuals who have it, they are very affectionate people.  This little girl was attached to me once I pretended I didn’t know what was going to happen if she turned the handle of a Jack-In-The-Box.  I had a good time with her and ever since then, she sits by me on the carpet, always needing to lean against me. She speaks Spanish so it is a bit hard to communicate, but I try to anyway.  I always get a kick out of how her mother bundles her up to go to school.  Granted, it has been extremely cold.  But she literally looks like Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, from A Christmas Story all bundled up.  So stinkin’ cute!

Another child who I feel for is a boy who no one quite understands yet.  I’ll refer to him as Leonard.  He is somewhat new from what the teachers tell me.  He doesn’t speak English, except for when he is repeating something someone else says.  They THINK he is Ukrainian and doesn’t speak English.  However, there could be something going on with this child and he could need special services.  He does get yelled at (which I am not sure I agree with), but that is how he is dealt with at times.  One day, we were trying to get all the kids to do a special project.  We’re only able to do a few kids at a time, so we call a few kids over and all of the other kids have play time.  Nearing the end of the morning, there were a few children that hadn’t had the opportunity to do the project yet.  Yet, time was rolling and the teachers needed to move on to the next thing, which happened to be Gross Motor Time.  Normally, that would mean the kids get to go outside and play, but due to it being so cold, the kids stay in and dance to music.  Right when Leonard was called to my table to do his project, the music came on and you could just see the longing in his eyes to go and dance around.  He got up several times but I had to get him to sit back down and do the project with me.  It killed me that this may have been his favorite part of the day in a classroom that no one understands him and he couldn’t be a part of all the other kids dancing around.  I mean, on one side, there were other kids at the table doing the project.  But the majority of them and the teachers were on the rug having a good time.  Broke my heart.

I realize I am going to have many different experiences and observe many different things.  I am going to want to save every child that needs help.  But it’s difficult to see things in classrooms that I do not necessarily agree with and to be realistic that I can’t reach every child I encounter in my practicum.  I guess I just have to chalk it up to being one step closer to the teacher I am going to be one day, which can’t come soon enough!!

Kids say the darndest things

If you have ever had the opportunity to hang around some kids, you know that sometimes they say some pretty funny stuff.  I thought I’d share some of the things I hear from the boys I nanny, and some of the kids I work with in schools.

I am constantly cleaning up after the boys, especially Sam.  Even though he is only about to turn 3, I try to tell him to clean up his toys after using them before taking out more.  He was in the kitchen one day finishing lunch while I was straightening up the living room.

Me: Are these boys ever going to learn to clean up after themselves? Or is it never going to happen?

Sam: (from the kitchen) It’s never gonna happen!

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Helping Matt get the boys situated after school with homework and snacks and such…

Sam: “I love my daddy.  I love you dad. Lauren, do you love my daddy?

Me: Umm….sure Sam. (AWKWARD).

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Jack has a bad habit of leaving the bathroom light on….like EVERY time he goes in there.

Me: Jack, every time you go to the bathroom, you leave the light on when you’re done.  It is a complete waste of electricity.  Next time I walk past the bathroom and the light is on with no one in there….I’ll….I’ll…put peanut butter in your ear!

Jack: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I uh gotta go! (and he ran away pretty quickly)

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During the election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, I printed out some election activity worksheets for the boys to do.  One of them was draw a picture of who you think would be a good president…

Ben said: aw nuts!…All of our brown markers don’t work.

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Jack while watching Olympic soccer…“Hope Solo!!??!! Is she related to Han?”

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There was no need for words on this one.  Sam came up behind me, didn’t say a word, and waited….just waited for me to turn around. I screamed so loud, I think I scared him a little bit.

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A little girl in the preschool I am in right now is playing with the toy tigers.  She hands me one and says, “You can be the girl tiger and I’ll be the boy tiger.” Without using my brain, I stupidly asked, “How do you know which one is which?” HOPING the answer would not be what I expected to hear, she said, “Because the girl is orange yellow and the boy is orange orange. Duh!” I was relieved and QUICKLY moved on to something else.

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The last couple times I have taken Sam to visit my co-workers at the shoe store, he has either thrown up, or had a really bad accident in his diaper.  So, I told him that we weren’t going to bother them with our germs for a while. The next time we drove past the store he says, “Hi shoe store! We’re not visiting today because every time I poop or puke.”

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Sam likes to help when making lunch or baking.  So, while in the middle of making grilled cheese I told him he could stir the tomato soup and water before I put it on the stove. He starts stirring saying “Bate! Bate! Bate!” (which means Mix, Mix Mix in Spanish).  With all the Bate-ing, he got some on his shirt and he said, “Oh darnit, now my shirt’s all dirty.”

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Again in the preschool, I was doing letter and word puzzles with a few of the kids.  Each puzzle has an animal on them that is in two parts.  The kids are supposed to use the letters and pictures to put the puzzles together.  As we were doing so, one girl said “I’m going to put them together a different way.  Here’s a fish, and here’s a pig.  HAHA! It’s a Pigfish…A Pish!!”


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Eating a snack with Sam.  Sam: “Lauren, you watch me?” Me: “Yes, Sam.” Sam: “You’re my babysister?”

Me: “”Haha, no, Sam, I’m your BabySITTER.” Sam: “Haha yeah….I don’t have a babysister, do I?”

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Hope it made you laugh as much as it made me laugh! Have a great week!

Back to School

Last week was the first week back to school.  It’s also beginning of my last semester of classes for my master’s degree.  I remember a couple years ago talking to my adviser and telling her how I felt like I was never going to finish.  And here I am one semester away from student teaching and less than a year away from having my master’s degree and my Early Childhood/Special Ed teaching license.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

However, the problem is now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I am totally sensing myself check out at times, and it’s hard to focus.  Senoritis, they call it.  Good thing I have my preschool practicum this semester.  The little ones will keep me on my toes.

I look back at the person I was two years ago and I can’t believe how much I’ve changed.  My first semester I was totally clueless.  I had no idea what my teachers were talking about.  Now, I’m two years older (well, duh), I am in the Golden Key International Honor Society, I write a blog every week for UIC, I hold down multiple jobs while being in school, and when I am assigned pages and pages to read, I don’t read them just because I have to.  I read them because they are interesting and I want to learn as much as I can. I am really proud of where I am because I worked extremely hard to get here.  But I’m not done yet.

So, instead of counting down the days until this semester is over, I am going to try to embrace it because I don’t want to miss anything.  It’s not going to be easy, but isn’t that the point? I’m actually thinking about getting my PhD.  Nah, not really.  Well, maybe :).

I hope everyone has a great spring semester!

Where do I go from here?

If you read my post from last week, you know that my uncle passed away the week before.  It has probably been one of the most difficult times for my family.  After it happened, I took a couple days off from work.  I did it because I probably couldn’t handle all three boys all day.  I hadn’t been sleeping well and my patience had been wearing thin prior to his passing, so I knew I had no energy for it after.  The parents of the kids were very understanding.  I felt like I needed to do absolutely nothing.  I needed to grieve.  I needed to paint because it relaxes me.  I needed to lay on the couch.  So, I did.  The time off came and went and I found myself upon Monday dreading going back to work, but knowing I had to.

You never really get over the death of a loved one.  You just learn to live.  You learn to continue your responsibilities and obligations.  But the hurt never truly goes away.

After the boys got two extra days of winter break due to the extreme cold that hit Chicago, I couldn’t WAIT for them to go back to school.  Then I realized, “Oh man! That means I have to go back to school, too!”  Usually by the time the new semester is on the brink of beginning, I’m ready to go back.  It’s my last semester of classes at UIC and I thought I’d be ready to get on with it.  But I’m not. It could be the loss of my uncle, it could be “senioritis,” as they call it and I’m just ready to be done, or it could be a combination of both.  I just go between needing to be around my supportive family and friends, to wanting to be alone.  Where do I go from here?

My family and I are planning a “Celebration of Life” for my uncle at the end of February.  It helps to know there will be something that could give us a sense of closure.  However, it’s not for another 7 weeks.  So, in the meantime I plan to keep myself busy but also allow myself to paint, listen to music and take part in the things that make me happy.  My uncle would not want me in mourning for him, so I’m trying my hardest to think about what an amazing life he lived, how much he accomplished, and what he stood for and believed in.

John Lawrence Muellner April 26, 1948 – January 1, 2014

Rest In Peace, Uncle Larry

Last week, at the start of the new year, I lost my uncle to liver disease. He fought until the end as hard as he could.  His spirit was in it but his body just gave out.

He was an actor, director, musician, and a decorated war veteran.  But above all, he was an amazing father, husband, son, brother, uncle and cousin.  He was a huge influence on my life and encouraged me to explore my passions.

Sitting here, stricken with grief, I wonder what he’s doing right now in heaven.  He was an extremely talented human being, always entertaining, always making people laugh. I’d like to think he is up there cracking jokes.

After hearing the news, countless people began sharing their memories of him with us on Facebook.  It was amazing seeing how many people’s lives he touched.

Even though my heart is completely broken, I am trying to remember him when he was vibrant, healthy, and full of life.  I loved him so much and he was so incredibly important to me.

I will never forget him. Rest in peace Uncle Lar.

He is survived by my Aunt Maggie and my cousin Zoe.

My Holiday Bucket List Update

In one of my previous blogs, I made a bucket list of things I wanted and needed to do this break.  Now that I am half-way through my break (which I CANNOT believe), I thought I would check in with an update.

1) Go to the dentist.  Yeah…I haven’t done that yet. In fact, I haven’t even called. EEK!

Bucket List-1, Lauren-0

2) Read “I am Malala.”  This one I’ve actually done.  Well, I am half-way through the book because I only got it two weeks ago and haven’t had a ton of time to read it. The thing is, I may have to buy it to be able to finish it because it’s due soon and I can’t renew it. So, I’m almost there.

Bucket List-1, Lauren-.5

3) Read “The Reason I Jump.” Now, this one isn’t even my fault.  I haven’t gotten it from the library yet. Still on request.

4) Be as organized as possible with Christmas shopping.  Oh! I was so organized it was scary.  I had a master list of every one I was giving to, exactly what I was giving them, where I needed to get it or what I needed to do, and how much. See? Scary.

Bucket List-1, Lauren- 1.5

5) Be a couch potato.  Eh. I KIND of have been.  I need to work on that.

6) Make a list of possible schools to student teach. Nope. Haven’t done that yet.

Bucket List- 2, Lauren-1.5

7) Meet up with old friends.  Now, I feel like this list is taunting me.  I haven’t had time!!

Bucket List-3, Lauren 1.5

8) Get back in shape. OK so I actually HAVE been working out. So HA!

Bucket List-3, Lauren 2.5

9) Plan something awesome for NYE.  Woohoo! I actually just rented a condo for me, my boyfriend, my cousin and her niece and nephew for the night in the city.  We’re going to my brother’s restaurant for pizza and champagne (the kids will get Welch’s Sparking Grape Juice, of course).  I am so happy we won’t be spending much money and we still get to go out and be with my family.

Bucket List- 3, Lauren 3.5

10) Get another tattoo. Yeah…I don’t have money for that.

Bucket List-4, Lauren 3.5

11) Spend more time with family.  THAT I have done! Woohoo!

Final score: Bucket List-4, Lauren 4.5.

So, I have about 2 1/2 weeks left of break and still some things to get done.  I’d say I’m doing pretty well.

Hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year!!! See you next year!!!

 

Christmas

Christmas is a time when family and friends gather together and share gifts and food.  Some people dread it, while others love it.  I have always loved Christmas because I have a very special tradition with my immediate family.

When my brothers and I were little, I remember waking my parents up at 5 AM so that I could go downstairs to see what Santa brought me.  They weren’t thrilled but I believe they did get up.  That year I got a HUGE dollhouse.  It was the best.

Now, we’re grown up and our tradition has moved to Christmas Eve, for obvious reasons.  We (and by we, I mean my dad and brothers) prepare a huge steak and lobster dinner while we all drink champagne.

We eat WAY too much, open presents from each other, and we play games.  That’s why it’s my favorite time of the year.

But as I am preparing for the giving of those gifts, I have gone out daily looking for the right gifts and gift bags.  And I can’t help but notice that people out there driving and in stores can be so rude.  I don’t know.  I guess I just thought that given the message that this holiday is supposed to be about, that people would be kinder to each other.  I know that I look at myself during this season and how I can change to be a better person.  I always give a lot of thought about what I give.  I try to let people in my lane while driving, I always smile and say “Thank you” to the person behind the register checking me out, not just because that’s what you should do but because you have no idea how many rude customers they’ve probably dealt with all day.  A simple smile and “Thank you” could mean the world.

Do you remember the days and weeks and even months after September 11, 2001? Yes.  I remember that horrible events that happened that day.  But I also remember how kind perfect strangers were to each other.  People behind the wheel were considerate of their fellow drivers.  We were united, and we treated each other with love.  My question is, why didn’t that last long?  Why did we revert back to being rude and inconsiderate?

I guess this time of year I expect people to be nicer to each other because it’s the holidays.  So, next time you see someone trying to turn or get in your lane while driving, take the 10 second delay and let them in.  When you’re in line waiting to check out at a store, don’t forget to say “Hi, how are you?” and “Thank you” to the person behind the register. Hold doors open, help people carry bags to their car, and tell your family and friends that you love them. Because THAT is what Christmas is about.

One of my favorite Christmas books is The Grinch by Dr. Suess because it is about a nasty creature who hates the Who’s, who rejected him when he was young sending him into a life of seclusion.  The Who’s love Christmas and the Grinch wants to take that away.  When he waits for the cries from the Who’s that their presents, food and Christmas trees are all gone, he hears something else: singing.  “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.  What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” If the Grinch can change, so can we.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.  Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.”

Have a safe holiday and Merry Christmas!

Four Winds

On December 3rd, my boyfriend and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary.  We decided not to get each other gifts and go away for a weekend instead.  After his parents visited Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, they were raving about it.

The only problem was that on weekends, it could be $300 a night!! Woah Nelly! I was never really a big gambler and since gambling to me is more of losing money than trying to win money, the idea of paying that much was unimaginable.  I ended up being asked to work the night we would go anyways.  But the more I thought about it, I REALLY wanted to go. Turns out, Tuesday nights are the only nights during the week that the resort hotel is $100.  We were both able to get off of work for Wednesday and we booked our little getaway.

Aside from having to drive there after work and realizing there is a time change and we lost an hour, everything was perfect.  The resort is located right after the Indiana/Michigan border.  When our GPS said we were there, we still had a mile of winding road to drive until we arrived in front. With complimentary valet, we immediately went to check in.
Kyle brought some champagne and snacks and everything was just perfect.  We listened to music while we got ready and headed for the casino.  We ended up running into his grandparents there.  Small world! The next morning, I did NOT want to get up to check out by 11 AM.  Who made check out times so early?
After we checked out, they were very nice and kept our bags at the front desk so we could spend more time there.  I ended up winning some money on the Micheal Jackson and Sex and the City slots.  I only play slots because I am too scared to go to a table!
I really had a great time with him and felt very lucky we had the opportunity to go there.  I feel even more lucky everyday that I have him in my life.  Happy 3 years Kyle! Love you!

Hanukkah

As most of my readers know I was raised Catholic.  But the family I nanny for is Jewish.  Well, the mother is Jewish and the father is Catholic.  So, the kids gets to celebrate both, which I think is pretty awesome.

Usually Hanukkah falls around the same time that Christmas does.  This year, it started around Thanksgiving.  Apparently, the last time this happened was in the year 1899 and will not happen again until the year 2089.  According to the Huffington Post, Jewish holidays have to occur in their specific season according to what it says in the Torah.  In order for that to happen, there is a leap year within the Jewish calendar to adjust with the Gregorian calendar, or the 365-day solar cycle.

I was set to babysit on one of the nights of Hanukkah so the parents could attend a wedding.  I didn’t really think anything of it and the children’s mother never mentioned that I should have the celebration with the kids.  They were having a big Hanukkah party the following day, so I assumed they would light the candles then.  Was I wrong.

When the boys realized that their parents were gone for the night and that there was no intention to light the Menorah, I soon came to find out how important this was the them.  They were not very happy and I looked like the bad guy because I didn’t want to bother his parents at the wedding to say, “I don’t know how to do this Hanukkah thing. Help?”  BUT after all of them started crying at the thought of having to wait to do Hanukkah until the next day, I decided to try to be all “Super Nanny” about it to salvage the night.  It ended up being great.

We went out and got stuff to make Hanukkah Dreidel cupcakes.  This idea came from Pinterest
Aside from cupcake mix, we bought marshmallows, kisses, blue sprinkles, blue writing icing and white icing.

We covered some of the marshmallows with the white icing, and some with nutella.  That was the boys job.  It took a long time because they kept licking their fingers and had to keep washing their hands.  They had fun!

After we covered all of the marshmallows, we covered them with the blue sprinkles. This was the point in time I realized we didn’t have one of the things we needed, little pretzel sticks.  So, I improvised with Graham Crackers.  They were extremely hard to cut without breaking. The kisses were put on the bottom of the marshmallow.

Some of them had the Dreidel on top, some of them had the Star of David. All of them were yummy!!!

                The night was saved and the candles were lit.  Happy Hanukkah!!

 

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