Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Believe I Need an Intervention!

My new title should be "Collector of Boys' Clothes." I absolutely adore going shopping for our children. I especially love buying them coordinating outfits from Gymboree or Crazy 8. My friends make fun of me often but I don't care-not one little bit. I have a penchant for quality boys clothing and I am becoming a brand snob. I'm not proud of my addiction. In fact, Walnut and Peanut's wardrobe is definitely better than Bob's and mine. I am going to make a concerted effort to stop the madness. However, I can't guarantee that I will be healed, saved or rehabilitated.

We're in trouble if we ever have a little girl...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Life Change--Do I Know How to Take Care of Myself?

ERA of 1973 to 1987: I was pretty much raised by my grandparents as my parents were working or going to college. My grandfather, Chuck, passed away in 1980. I was seven. My grandmother, Mary, became my very best friend and the epicenter of many aspects of my life. As I got older, I was definitely became self-centered BUT show me a pre-pubescent adolescent that isn't and I will retract the above. Nevertheless, I was an only child and represented the princesses of the world well. To be honest, one of my parents' friends called me "Queen of Tiff."

1987: This is the year that Casey and Carly were born. I found out in the fall of '86. I wasn't thrilled about the situation but came to terms with it when they were born. They were adorable and it was exciting having babies in the house. My world changed. I learned how to take care of newborns and infants via the pecking order. I think that this is the beginning...of who I have become. Anecdote: One evening at dinnertime, Casey and Carly didn't want to eat their hot dogs. My mother yelled. The girls were crying. I was upset. I was fourteen. I thought that I could pack them up and take them away. What that meant...I am not sure. This is when it began.

1991: My senior year of high school was one of the worst years I can remember. I had no clear idea of what I wanted to be when I 'grew up.' I belonged to some activities and sports. But, I had NO social life. I spent most of my time by myself or with my sisters or with my grandmother. I enjoyed my endeavors with my sisters and my grandmother and the world of teenage foolery didn't really entice me very much. I had friends focused most of my attention on my family. On the day that I graduated high school, my father suggested that I become a teacher. I laughed. Look who's laughing now.

1996: I began coaching small fry basketball, then travel ball, then junior high and then varsity basketball. My motivation for my players' success kept me working hard. I coached in clinics, summer camps, traveled to workshops and even met Coach Krzyzewski. Fantatical. Again, I cared more about the players' development and winning than many of them did. Taking care of others was/is the pattern.

1998: Bob and I met in June. We started dating in July. The rest is history. I began taking care of Bob almost immediately. Some may say that we started 'playing house' soon after we met. I would agree. Suddenly, priorities and real world decisions matured me. I cared about him more than I cared about myself. Apparently, many explain this emotion as love. Again, agreed.

2000: September 18, 2000 was the first day of my professional teaching career at Peters Township High School. I had a first period Honors 10 English class. I wasn't nervous until as I was standing before them discussing my background and policies and procedures it occurred to me, 'I am responsible for their education.' I began to sweat a little and was extremely anxious. Talk about an epiphany moment (one I will never, ever forget).

2001: Bob and I married in November. It was magical. I wasn't really swept up in the reception or the flowers or the favors. I wasn't that kind of bride. Yet, I savored every single second of our day. I recall it vividly. It is one of the few things in my life that I can remember in its entirety. Without words spoken or written, I knew that my job was to take care of Bob-always. I didn't realize that I became responsible for fun for the in-laws, too.

2004: We became pregnant with Baby K #1. I never thought I would be able to have kids. I was wrong. EVERYTHING CHANGED. I had the best pregnancy EVER. We were ecstatic to be parents.

2005: Walnut was born on May 7th. Taking care of him was our top priority. I was obsessive and doting and loving; I was all the things that women become when they have children. I threw myself into motherhood and NEVER looked back. I often wonder, with fond memories, what I was like before Walnut was born. I have never wished to go back to that woman but there are characteristics that I would like to retrieve.

2007: We became pregnant with Baby K #2. It was an odd beginning ( long story) but we were elated and completely clueless. Parents told us that we had no idea how big the jump was from one to two children. We laughed out of ignorance. I had a fantastic pregnancy.

Also, in 2007 I had my first year-long intern from the University of Pittsburgh. Adam was phenomenal. This was yet another reach into the world of nurturance. Yes, he was a married, adult man. But, I was the facilitator of his experience.

2008: Peanut was born on May 7th. In the hospital, I snuggled with him every chance I got. When Walnut was born, I needed rest because he waited twenty-seven hours to enter the world. Peanut came into this world on his own terms and quickly. We celebrated Walnut's third birthday and Peanut's actual birthday in Sewickley Valley Hospital. And, THE FUN and BEAUTY of OUR LIFE as a FAMILY of FOUR BEGAN!

After having a conversation with Dr. Labuda, I realized that I have been taking care of people since I was thirteen years old: Casey, Carly, Grandma Deiter, my cousins, my basketball players, my students, my HUSBAND and my CHILDREN. Where did Tiffany go? Do I even know how to take care of myself? health? mental well being? etc. So, I am working on getting to know who I am again. It is difficult putting myself at the top of the list. I am trying. Check back to revel in my realizations and activities. If you'd like to meet this Tiffany I write of please let me know. :)

The Inner Santctum of the Kocan Boys---the Comic Book Store



Walnut is head over heels into comic books and superheroes. He was Batman for Halloween and peanut was Superman. We went to a birthday party and that just solidified his love of all that is of the comic book world. Of course, Bob enthralled by the idea that Andrew had finally taken a step past the toddler/preschool toys. And, luckily for us, there is a super amazing comic book store very close to where I teach. If you haven't been to New Dimension Comics and you love the prequel to the graphic novel-CHECK IT OUT!

Prior to Saturday, January 23rd, I was not allowed to go to the comic book store with Bob and Walnut. I stayed home with Matthew while the two of them went to check out the new issues. I love comic books, graphic novels, pop culture and all things mythology, too. I teach a class titled World Mythology as an elective @ Peters. We do some very cool stuff and read new and exciting literature in the class. However, the testosterone of these endeavors of both Bob and Walnut did not welcome a little estrogen. Nevertheless, I figured that it was quality time between father and son and I relished the alone time I had with Peanut, too.

On Saturday, January 23rd, I was INVITED to New Dimension Comics. I originally wanted to go to the Hobby Lobby in Ohio but decided I didn't want to drive an hour each way with Peanut in the car. So, as a family, we planned our day: lunch @ Sonic, New Dimension Comics and a quick stop to the Galleria to use my Gymbucks @ Gymboree.

Unfortunately, Peanut fell asleep before we even got to Sonic. So, I knew that my obligation would be to sit in the van with Peanut while Bob and Walnut selected Walnut's new Super Hero Squad and Batman: Brave and the Bold comic books. My little angel slept and I could see Walnut excitedly running around the store. WAIT. I GOT THE WAVE. Bob waved me into the store. He invited me into the INNER SANCTUM. I could shop for comics with Walnut! I was super excited!!!!

Walnut and I perused the stacks and he snookered me into an extra comic book but I didn't care. We were having a blast. I ended up buying four compilations of X Men comics. I bought volumes one and two of the original X Men from the 60's and purchased volumes one and two from the Uncanny series. I was elated and Walnut was excited that he was going to read some of the Wolverine originals, too.

It was a super, fantastic day. I will cherish my time with Walnut and remember it fondly as I was allowed to be part of it! By the way, I love Wolverine!

Monday, January 18, 2010

HMP: DADDY, DADDY, DAAAADDDDYYY

When Walnut was a baby, his first word(s) were "ma ma." He eventually said words: da da, ball, car, choo choo, etc. I had always figured that this was the natural progression of the language acquisition devise (LAD). So, when Peanut started speaking I thought for sure that he would say "ma ma" first. Boy was I wrong! Peanut will only say "Daddy, Daddy, DAAAADDDDYYY!" He has a high pitched squeal and that is exactly how he calls Bob. This is much to my chagrin but I am pleased that he is infatuated with his father. Peanut's face lights up when he sees DADDY. Peanut opens his arms wide and runs to Bob each and every time he sees him. He is a Daddy's Boy! It took me a while to come to terms with being second fiddle-after all, I did give birth to Peanut. However, I realize that it is so important for both of our boys to have a strong father to emulate as they get older. So, for now I will defer to DADDY!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & Mary Deiter

Today would have marked my grandmother's 87th birthday. Her funeral was actually on this day in 1994. People say that the grief of losing a loved one gets easier as time passes...I'm not so sure I agree with that statement. I am not completely inconsolable anymore BUT there isn't a day that doesn't pass that I don't wish to see her. I especially would have loved if Bob and the boys had a chance to know her. She was amazing. SHE HAD A PASSION FOR HER FAMILY and a MORAL COMPASS LIKE NO OTHER.

So, you might ask how this connects her to Dr. King, Jr. Today is the observation of his holiday. This is a holiday that in my school district goes unnoticed and it unnerves me. As I was talking with a colleague today about Martin Luther King, Jr., I realized that he shared PASSION and RIGHTEOUSNESS with my dear grandmother. He believed in passive resistance and nonviolence to answer the transgressions of others. He believed that U.S. citizens should rise up and follow their moral compasses to help each other and to recognize atrocities as they are handed out by others who have respect for no one.

I asked my colleague, "Who will inspire us like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?" Unfortunately, he didn't have an answer. The answer isn't Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Sean Hannity, Lady Gaga, any politician, movie star, obligatory rich celebrity, etc. WHO WILL BE THE NEXT GREAT INSPIRATION? We are a few generations of slight apathy. It hurts to think about it...truly.

Today, my grandmother and Dr. King, Jr. share a day. However, they shared similar attributes that are intangibles. As my grandmother rose up and led the family. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took this country by storm to the lead a nation-even those who refused the reason. As I self-reflect, I hope SOMEONE HAS A DREAM for us all.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

INVISIBLE

video
One of the women from St. Mary sent me this video. I had heard of it but hadn't received it via email, etc. Dee sent it to me when I needed it the most. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

HAITI-do what you can!

A VERY, VERY SAD ANECDOTE OF TODAY'S EVENTS (but not as sad as the devastation in Haiti):

True Story. I went to the Tanger Outlets to return a few items @ the Carter's store. I saw my friend Vanessa working @ the Gymboree Outlet and decided to stop in and chat. She was a little busy as it was a balmy fifty degrees in WashPA and people were out spending dollars in full force. However, I spotted a really cute pair of swimming trunks for the boys. I waited a few moments so that I could ask Vanessa if they had the size that I needed. This is the conversation that ensued between Vanessa and a customer during a transaction:

Vanessa: "Would you like to donate a dollar to the Haiti Relief Fund?"

Customer: "Yes."

Vanessa: "Your total is $."

The customer paid and the transaction was complete. The customer left and I asked Vanessa if she had the size I was looking for. A minute passed and above mentioned customer walked back into the store with the question, "What is this dollar charge for?" Vanessa explained. THE CUSTOMER THEN REQUESTED THE ONE DOLLAR DONATION BACK!!!

I left the store. I couldn't watch. I actually felt sick to my stomach.

I headed to the Gap to find two Valentine's Day shirts for the boys. I was so bothered that I had to tell someone. So, I dumped my unbelievable story on the clerk at the Gap and his response was, "I am deeply disturbed. That's four quarters."

I guess I just don't understand...

Here are a few sites and organizations for Haiti Relief as posted in the
Post Gazette:


How to help in Haiti
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Numerous charities are accepting donations to aid relief efforts in Haiti. Donations may be made to:
• World Vision, Pittsburgh, is sending pallets of relief materials, including medical supplies. Donations can be made to World Vision, by check, at P.O. Box 9716, Federal Way, WA 98063 or at www.worldvision.org.
• Albert Schweitzer Hospital, founded by members of the Mellon family, is currently treating an overflow of injured from the quake. They are requesting donations at P.O. Box 81046 Pittsburgh, PA 15217 or www.hashaiti.org.
• Pittsburgh-based international relief and development organization Global Links is working with health authorities in Haiti to identify short and long-term needs for medical equipment and supplies. Individuals interested in supporting Global Links' relief efforts in Haiti can make a donation online at www.globallinks.org or by calling 412-361-3424.
• Brother's Brother Foundation -- Haiti, 1200 Galveston Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15233, call 412-321-3160, or visit www.brothersbrother.org.
• Functional Literacy Ministry of Haiti, 1064 Premier St., Pittsburgh, PA 15201, call 412-784-0342, or visit www.flmhaiti.org.
• The Pittsburgh Kids Foundation is sending teams to support missionaries in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, as well as raising money to send containers of food there. Donations can be made at www.pittsburghkidsfoundation.org or mailed to 116 Federal St., First Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. For more information call 412-231-2353.
• The Pittsburgh Foundation has opened an online site at which the public can make donations without credit card fees being applied. Local organizations to which visitors can give include American Red Cross, Albert Schweitzer Hospital, Global Links and Brother's Brother. The site is pittsburghgives.org.
• UNICEF also is helping with relief efforts. Call 1-800-4UNICEF or go to www.unicefusa.org/haitiquake.
• United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh is opening an emergency mailbox to accept donations for Haiti relief. Checks payable to UJF/Haitian Relief Fund can be mailed to 234 McKee Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, or donate online at www.ujfpittsburgh.org.
• The International Rescue Committee is deploying an emergency response team to Haiti to deliver aid. Visit www.theirc.org or call 1-877-REFUGEE.
• Deep Springs International, based in Grove City, has personnel on the ground in Haiti. The organization is devoted to developing sustainable drinking water supplies for Haitians. Donations can be made at www.deepspringsinternational.org.
• Local Pittsburgh company Edward Marc Chocolatier is leveraging their retail space, The Milk Shake Factory, in support of the victims of the recent Haitian earthquake. All proceeds from today's sales will go directly to the American Red Cross.
• Catholic Relief Services. Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh notes that the Diocese of Pittsburgh has asked for a special collection in all parishes in the next four weeks for relief efforts. Donations are also being taken by Catholic Relief Services, the Church's agency for international response at www.crs.org.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10016/1028739-82.stm#ixzz0cvtrfGaL


Meal Planning 201...We're So Past 101



I have a penchant for meal planning. I love to look through cookbooks, not so much websites, and look for different recipes. I have found several cookbooks over the course of the last few months that I really like. In the winter, I use the slow cooker often. In the summer, we grill. And, during the school year, we freeze-meals that is :). Above are two of my favorite new cookbooks focusing on freezing meals Don't Panic-Dinner's in the Freezer and Don't Panic-More Dinner's in the Freezer: A Second Helping of Tasty Meals You Can Make Ahead. They are both great cookbooks that offer charts as to what you need if you want to make 3, 6 or 9 meals to freeze. I have wanted to start a 'Freezer Friends' group among my friends but haven't.

I like to meal plan by the month but sometimes do it by the week, especially if there are quite a few produce items for the menu. I select the meals, pick two days per week for 'just in case' days and I plan for the month. I make an excel spreadsheet grocery list for the different Menu Plans and separate into categories of DAIRY, FROZEN, MEAT, PRODUCE, GROCERY, HBC & MISC. This system works really well for me and I have found that we waste way less food by planning in advance. I usually buy most of the meat items @ Costco and I pick up the grocery items that I don't need in bulk @ Giant Eagle. So for this coming week I am making:

Monday: Taco Soup with Salads
Tuesday: Cheddar Beer Chicken w/ Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans
Wednesday: Pulled Pork Sandwiches on Pitas w/Crudites
Thursday: Belgian Waffles with Egg Souffle
Friday: Buttermilk Herb Chicken w/ Egg Noodles and Beets
Saturday: Honey Pork Chops w/Hash Brown Casserole and Sauteed Spinach
Sunday: I think I want to go to Janoski's for Stuffed Chicken Breasts-yum!

The beauty of the meal planning is that for almost all of these meals, I am making double and freezing for another week. So, If you'd like to be a 'Freezer Friend' let me know. :)


Friday, January 15, 2010

Random January Pics


Eating dinner in the dining room is a BIG deal because Peanut doesn't have to sit in a high chair. Plus, Peanut wonders what in the world Walnut is doing...


Walnut is OBSESSED with super heroes right now. Here he is playing Batman. He loves watching Marvel and DC Comics whenever he can. Superhero Squad is becoming a staple in the Kocan house.


Peanut and the chocolate chip cookie-part I

Bob playing the chef while the family engaged in a game of Green Eggs and Ham

Peanut and chocolate chip cookie-part II

Monday, January 11, 2010

Adventures in K: The Beginning of Walnut's Educational Journey

Bob went to Catholic school. I went to public school AND I am a public school teacher. So, when the idea of Walnut going to Kindergarten entered my mind, I was torn. I had heard some "not so good things" about the K teacher at the neighborhood school. I am also not happy that our school district does not offer full day K unless children need remediation. Walnut has been in preschool for three years (basically) and is ready to move on to bigger and better things. He recognizes sight words. He has already mastered CAPITAL letter writing and is working on lowercase letters. He has begun addition. He's ready and prepared for kindergarten! With that, we have a Catholic school very close by that has good programs. However, I teach near another Catholic school that I know produces very well prepared students. We have officially entered the world of the unknown: PREPARING FOR KINDERGARTEN.

When I first began teaching, I noticed that several students were extremely well prepared for secondary and even post-secondary education. These students were known as the 'weezers.' They were friends and remain friends still today. One thing that I found interesting was that a few of the parents of these students were teachers in our public school district. When I decided to venture into the world of Catholic school I emailed them for advice. One mother/teacher couldn't rave enough about the education and foundation that her daughter received. Networking is so important!

With that, we decided that we wanted to take a look at St. L  in. We discussed our idea with Walnut and went to the Open House. Luckily, our tour guide was Mr. K, the school principal. He was most helpful and the Student Council liasons prepared very informative speeches for prospective students and their parents. We were impressed with the facilities-especially the new computer and science labs, Spanish beginning in K, PE twice a week, the art studio, Accelerated Reader program AND TWO TEACHERS IN EACH CLASS FOR KINDERGARTEN AND FIRST GRADE. The kindergarteners go to the computer lab once a week and beginning in second grade students have SMART boards in their rooms. Each room is equipped with several computers for every day use. I appreciate the dress code of uniforms, too. It levels the playing field and students recognize the importance of rules and regulations. We were so pleased with all of the educational aspects of the school. On the religious side, we were happy that religion was taught every day and students attended mass every Friday. Attaining sacraments as a class is another benefit. One Student Council liason said it best, "At St. L we are a family."

Walnut was/is so very excited. It was a bittersweet day for Bob and me but we were quickly smiling as Walnut talked about his "new school" over lunch. I look forward to this educational journey and can't wait to see Andrew thrive at this "new school."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rachel Turns 16!!










Aunt Missy and Uncle David threw a big Sweet 16 party for Rachel on January 9, 2010. She was tres surprised and many of her closest friends and family attended to celebrate. Here are a few photos.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Beginning 2010 @ Phipps Conservatory










We spent a good portion of the first day of 2010 in pajamas and played games and rested. But, about midday I decided that it would be a good idea to go to Phipps Conservatory for the Candlelight Event. I am so glad that we decided to go; after all it was free because we are members. Nevertheless, there were no crowds and it was quite peaceful. I would like to continue to do this each New Year's Day, too. Enjoy the photos!

2010: What I KNOW to Be the TRUTH in My Life

I was going to write a list of pseudo-resolutions or reflections. During a self-reflection session, I recognized that there are aspects of my life that literally save me on a daily basis. I believe that in some capacity I have taken the following things for granted (and need to stop immediately):
  • My husband may be the finest man on the planet. He has his little quirks and idiosyncracies BUT when it comes to Andrew, Matthew and me-HE IS AMAZING! For instance, I was sick the night of our BFF cookie exchange. I knew that I had to go and I knew that I committed to picking up two friends cookies, too. What did my husband do? HE WENT FOR ME!!! Not only did he pick up our cookies, he also picked up my friends cookies and dropped them off @ Jodie's house. This is just one example of his love for me. There are so many more, especially right now as I am dealing with some health issues.
  • Andrew is the best big brother I could have ever asked for-in the entire universe. He is so wonderful with Matthew. He is kind, caring, compassionate, intelligent and very handsome. I am looking forward to watching him become a fantastic, independent and responsible man. God has blessed me with Andrew so that I may know the beauty of motherhood.
  • Matthew's smile is electric. He reminds me every single day that it is necessary to be playful and to not take life too seriously. He loves his big brother and idolizes Andrew. He is inventive, ornery and a snuggle bug, too. He brings a sense of wonder and inspiration to our household that wasn't there before. I know that God has blessed me with Matthew so that I may know patience and unconditional love.
  • My family is integral to my peace of mind. Many members of our families have been supportive through thick and thin and have never waivered in their love for us. I appreciate them more than they will ever know.
  • My friends have taught me that I am worthy of quality relationships in my life. They like me for who I am and are steadfast to show me that they care about me. My friends have reintroduced me to the world of forgiveness as well. I have made some new friends over this past year; to them I am forever grateful for what they have brought to my life.
  • My faith is what sustains me-always. I am becoming a more faith-filled woman as I get older. I am still learning...
Perhaps there will be more to come throughout '10. I will update when appropriate and necessary. Self-reflection is so beneficial. Perhaps that is the most important idea of making resolutions.

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