A Trip Down Hurricane Memory Lane

There is a hurricane (Danny) in the ocean right now. Apparently it is headed towards the north Carribean Islands.  The latest news reports indicate that it will likely weaken to a tropical storm (or less?) before hitting the islands.  This change turns the storm into a good thing instead of a bad, as these islands will benefit greatly from the rain.

Watching this story on the news has brought back memories of hurricanes that I’ve experienced in my lifetime, and has also made me wonder when and what other storms there will be for us here in Virginia.

Hugo – 1989

Even though I grew up in North Carolina, only a couple of hours from the coast-line, I never actually have been through a hurricane until I became an adult.  My first real memory of even hearing about a hurricane was from my Sophomore year in High School (1989).  Hurricane Hugo was reported to be hitting the coast line of NC in a way that would bring it straight for my little town. There was quite a bit of talk about this, and me not having been in any hurricane before, took the worried conversation to the next level. I remember very clearly thinking, “I don’t want a hurricane.  I don’t want to die!”   I really had no idea of what being in a hurricane actually meant, and as it turned out I didn’t find out that year.  Hugo changed its course and made landfall instead, in South Carolina.

Fran – 1996

The next one that I remember was Fran. I was on my mission when this one hit, so I didn’t even know that it was headed towards my family until afterwards. But what I remember is geting a picture in the mail with my sisters standing triumphantly on a fallen tree and the caption reading “We survived the hurricane!”

Isabel – 2003

That was my preliminary experience. But my real first experience was Hurricane Isabel in 2003. My oldest daughter had just been born. Actually she was born 4 weeks early which turned out to be a blessing because two weeks after her birth (and two weeks prior to her due date) Isabel paid us a visit. At this time, my husband and I were living in Richmond, VA.

I was having a terrible time breastfeeding my daughter, because she wasn’t latching well, and I wasn’t producing a lot of milk, but I was giving it everything that I had to make it work. I had only been able to partially breastfeed my son, and I was determined to fully breastfeed her. I had even seen a lactation consultant who helped me and loaned me a pump. So all day every day and most of the night I was either feeding or pumping.

My mother-in-law was visiting to help out, and when the notification of Isabel came through she and my husband went fully into preparation mode. They went shopping for all kinds of shelf-stable food, and made sure we had means to heat it up as well as boil water in case the power went out (which it was certain to do). They worked very hard, but to be honest I hardly paid any attention. Even though I recognized the immediate nature of the storm, I also knew that if I took my focus off of being able to breast-feed my baby even a little bit, then that would be the end of it.

The night of the storm my sister-in-law who lived 5 minutes away from us called on the telephone. She said a large tree went down on the house across the street from her putting a hole in the roof. She strongly recommended that we all sleep downstairs because it went down on their master bedroom.  In her words, “if they had been in their bed, it would have killed them.”  We also had a large tree right by our master bedroom, so we took her advice and slept downstairs.

I had a battery-powered breast-pump, so that I could continue with my pumping/feeding routine even if the power went out, which of course it did. But that night I was so exhausted that I just slept right through the time I was supposed to feed my daughter (and she did too). When I woke up the winds had been blowing their fury throughout the night. My first thoughts, instead of being on the storm, were a panicked feeling that too much time had passed in between feedings for my milk supply and that I needed to feed her ASAP.

My mother-in-law came in the room at that time and said I should take a walk and look at the fallen trees and other damage around our neighborhood. I resisted, stating that I needed to feed the baby, but she said, “won’t you let me feed her, and you can take a walk?  It would be good for you to get out of the house for a little while, and the weather is beautiful now that the storm has passed.”  In that moment I made a decision to give up on breast feeding and simply bottle-feed her. I fixed the bottle, handed my baby to my mother-in-law, and went for my walk.  Even though it was a sudden decision, ultimately I really felt like that was the right one.

The damage that I saw wasn’t as horrific as you see on the news (they always show the worst places), but even so there were several fallen trees down. Some people had them on their houses, which we were very grateful had not been the case with us. The power was out, of course, and stayed out for two weeks. We also learned that something had happened to the drinking water, contaminating it. Everyone was instructed to boil water before using it to drink or cook with. So we also had to boil my daughter’s bottles and use bottled water to mix her formula. My husband took on this job with the help of a little camping burner, and a small pot.

For the next two weeks we lived like this, but eventually the power did come back on, the drinking water was declared safe, and life went back to normal.

Gaston – 2004

Gaston was next, in 2004.  It was a super-slow moving storm, but without a lot of wind. Instead of blowing everything over, it simply dumped rain and rain and rain. It flooded parts of downtown Richmond, and we saw on the news that anyone living near a certain creek needed to evacuate immediately. The apartments that we had lived in as newlyweds were part of that evacuation order, so even though we didn’t have to go anywhere, we still recognized that this could have been us just a few years ago.  It was kind of a weird feeling.

Irene – 2011

There were a few other little storms after that, each with their own unique “personality” and characteristics. But the next big one for us occurred after our move to where we are now…which is a little closer to the coast-line but still with some distance.

This time it was Irene in 2011.  I had two advantages during this storm:  experience from Isabel, and no new-born to take care of.  Of course that also meant that my mother-in-law was not around to help out, so it was up to me to do the preparation work that she had taken care of previously.  One kind of funny memory that I have is that as soon as the power went out (we knew it would), I pulled out some of the snacks we had bought.  These were snacks that we don’t normally buy, and I had been looking at them for several days.  So now that the power was out, I felt justified in eating some.   But not my husband.  He found my actions to be pretty careless, and requested that I put them back.  “They are supposed to be when the power has been out so long that feel like we really need a treat to help us get to the end,” he said.  I responded that after all of the anxiety-driven preparation work, I felt like I really needed a treat right then.  But I finally conceded and put them back.  Funny, huh?  Maybe the solution next time will be to buy some snacks specifically for a reward for all the preparation work, and some different snacks for when the going gets tough after the storm.

The other thing I remember is the sound of the wind blowing while I was laying in bed to go to sleep.  Like Isabel, this one hit in the night time, so we couldn’t actually see the trees blowing.  But we could hear it.

When I woke up, I went for a walk and was saddened to see that our border ever-green trees were all tipping.  We love those trees.  But all-in-all my street looked pretty good.  I could see that most of the trees and bushes had a bit of a lean to them, all in the same direction, and one of my neighbor’s had a tree that fell over (not on anything), but really everything looked pretty good.

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A few days later, however, I drove to the next town over to visit my friend.  Her phone was not working so I wanted to see how her family was doing.  I never reached her house though, because I was greeted by this:

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Their family was fine, though.  This was at the entrance to the neighborhood, but not anywhere near their house.  You can see the pathway people were using to get in and out, so as not to hit the power lines that were across the street.

Another big memory is how important bagged ice became.  The grocery stores had their power restored quickly, and all day every day, people were buying up all of the ice.  Just as soon as a truck would deliver it, people would buy it.   I found that so interesting, because it shows clearly how simple things that we take so for granted can become really important in emergency times.

We fully expected out power to be out two weeks just like it had before.  But…we were thrilled when we returned home from running some errands on day four to find our lights on!  After a storm like this, electricity just makes everything feel like it is all better, in my opinion.

Sandy – 2012

A year later (2012) Sandy came along.  At first they said it was going to hit us, but instead it went north, hitting and totally devastating the areas of New Jersey and New York City area.  For me, there was definitely a feeling of survivor’s guilt.  You know…that feeling where you want to be relieved for yourself but instead you just feel so bad for the other party.  Yeah, that was me.

Trying to Be Prepared 

Hurricanes are not fun, but the nice thing is that they come with a warning.  Even if we don’t know exactly where they will hit, there is time to make preparations, just in case.  I feel like my husband and I have quite a bit more experience getting ready for the storm than actually being in the storm, because over the years we have had several that they thought might hit us, but did not.  I think this practice has been good for us.

My husband went to a Stake Priesthood Meeting where it was mentioned that even though we’ve been through some tough storms, there will very possibly be bigger ones (with longer power outages) to deal with in the future.  Since then, we’ve been making some efforts to be more prepared, although I feel like we still have such a long ways to go.

My Scripture Schedule and What I Learned From the Book of Revelations

This year I set a goal to read the entire New Testament and also the Book of Isaiah from the Old Testament.  I’ve been slowly making my way through them and am really enjoying it!  So I decided to share some of what I’ve been learning. Today I will share what stood out me the most as I read from the Book of Revelations.

But first of all is my schedule.  It’s kind of a crazy-backwards schedule, but there is a method to the madness!

  • January – mid-February:  Revelations
  • mid-February – April:  Isaiah
  • May:  The Epistle of James thru The Epistle of Jude
  • June – September:  Acts thru Hebrews
  • October – December:  The Four Gospels

The initial idea was that I wanted to read the New Testament backwards on account of the fact that I haven’t read much of the last part of it.  So I figured that if I started with the end, then I would definitely read the end.  (Makes perfect sense, right? 😃).  But going straight backwards didn’t seem quite right, so instead I grouped different portions together, starting with the end.  I chose to not read the New Testament at all while I focused on Isaiah so that I could give it my full attention.  And I chose to read the Book of Revelations before Isaiah because I just really wanted to.  I also love how this makes it so I will be reading about the birth and ministry of the Savior during the holidays when so many people are striving to focus more on Him.

The Book of Revelations

I’ve never actually read the full Book of Revelations (I know, shame on me!) but I’ve definitely heard a lot about the crazy imagery it contains.  I even watched a TV show about it once where they depicted the things that John described literally and gave some of their own interpretations.  But I knew it was time for me to read it on my own and study what my church has to say about it.

One thing that was particularly interesting to me was Johns writings of the seven seals.  These are the 7 periods of time of the earth.  The New Testament Institute Manual helps to explain the first six seals.  Here is a very brief summary of what it says (click the link for a more detailed explanation).

  • First Seal:  These events pertained to someone on a white horse, who had a bow, wore a crown, and went forth conquering and to conquer.  The feeling is that this person was Enoch.
  • Second Seal:  A period of war and destruction:  This was the time of Noah.  From 3000 B.C. to 2000 B.C. was very violent, with plenty of war and destruction.
  • Third Seal:  A Period of Famine:  “From 2000 B.C. to 1000 B.C., as never in any other age of the earth’s history, the black horse of hunger influenced the whole history of God’s dealings with his people.”
  • Fourth Seal:  A period of blood shed:  (by sword, famine, pestilence, or wild beasts.)  Approximately 1000 B.C. to the coming of the Savior.  “This is the millennium of those great kingdoms and nations whose wars and treacheries tormented and overran, again and again, the people whom Jehovah had chosen to bear his name.  This is also the general era in which the Lord’s own people warred among themselves and sent countless numbers of their own brethren to untimely graves.”
  • Fifth Seal:  “Dispensation of martyrdom:”  Highlights from the birth of the Savior until 1000 A.D.
    • The birth of the Savior, His ministry, and atoning sacrifice
    • Setting up His Church, spreading it, and perfecting it.  Also “the unbelievable fanaticism among unbelievers that made acceptance of martyrdom almost synonymous with acceptance of the gospel.”
    • The Great Apostasy

    “Among the ancient saints martyrdom was an ever present possibility, now which completely occupied their thoughts and feelings.  They knew that by forsaking all to follow Christ, they might, if fate so decreed, be called to lay down their lives for Him who had laid down his life for them.”

  • Sixth Seal:  “The era when the signs of the times shall be shown forth, and they are in fact everywhere to be seen.”  From 1000 A.D. until Christ returns.

I think what was so interesting to me about this explanation, besides the history of the earth being divided into these fairly specific periods of time, is that it shows that all people through all time have had a fair amount of trials to deal with.  War and hunger seem to be at the top of the list.

I know that I’ve been guilty at times of wishing I was living in a “simpler time” where certain troubles that I have to deal with didn’t exist.  But reading this helped me to understand that there is no time I could have lived that would be free of troubles.  There has always been and will continue to be a battle between good and evil; there have always been people who have willingly chosen to follow the path of evil, making trouble for those who are trying to do what is right; and there has always been personal opposition as well, such as hunger, sickness, temptations, distractions, etc.

The scriptures teach that “there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11).  But they also explain that this opposition brings about God’s purpose which is “…to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).  Or in other words to give us the opportunity to learn to become like Him (and help others do the same) so that we can live with Him forever and become like He is.

I was also very interested in John’s writings of the time right before the second coming of the Savior.  It is so interesting to live in this day, knowing that His coming is so close and yet not knowing exactly when that will be.  I feel like my study has helped me to understand world events that I see on the news a little better.  They are not just isolated events anymore in my mind, but instead they are part of the “story” of the earth that we live on, a story that was written and understood before the events themselves even happened.  AND, it is a story that has a very happy ending, especially for those who put their faith in the Savior and continue choosing the good even though evil surrounds them.

I love these verses from chapter 21:3-4, 6-7, describing the time after the Millennium or the Seventh Seal.

“3- And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

4- And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

6- And he said unto me, It is done.  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

7- He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”

I’m really happy that I started with the Book of Revelations.  And, I’m glad that I was able to review today what I learned since my reading of it was about 5 months ago.  Next time, I’ll share what I learned from reading the Book of Isaiah!

What do you love most about the Book of Revelations?

An Update on Our “Healthi(er) Eating Boot Camp”

Last summer I put my kids through what I called a “Heathi(er) Eating Boot Camp” for two weeks and wrote about our experience on the blog.  When the experience was over, life got super busy, and we unconsciously fell right back into our former ways.  Well, here it is a year later, and even though I haven’t actually tried to continue with that way of doing things, I can see a few things that have changed as a result of the experience.

1.  My youngest is so much better about taking at least a bite (or sometimes several bites) of things.  She still doesn’t like sloppy joes much, but we can get her to eat a little bit each time which is a huge improvement over where we were before!  And this is the case for just about anything now.  She used to show a lot of fear and anxiety when faced with an unfamiliar food, but now that fear is greatly reduced (not gone, but definitely reduced). Yay!

2.  Both of my girls enjoy experimenting with flavors now.  I don’t know if this is a result of our experience, but my appreciation of it is.  They love to smell spices and choose different ones from the cupboard to add to their food.  I let them do this because I want them to enjoy a variety of flavors and allowing them to experiement themselves can help them.

3.  I have less fear of asking my kids to eat something I know they will really dislike.  I guess this sounds a little funny, that I would have fear of that.  But it is such an unpleasant thing for me to sit down at the table and have the focus of our conversation be whether or not everyone likes and/or will eat the food I served.  So I tend to avoid it by serving what I know will be accepted.  The “boot camp”  forced me out of my own comfort zone on this and made me (and them) realize that we will all survive if the best option for the meal is something they greatly dislike.  I still mostly tend to fix food that everyone is used to, but I also occasionally find myself pushing those boundaries a little bit more than I did previously, and feel more confident about my choice to do so.

4.  I worry a lot less about theirs (and my) eating habits.  I realize these habits are not perfect, but I’ve reached a place of contentment with that imperfection.  Honestly, a poplular blogger, Andrea Dekker has played a huge role in helping me with that.  Although a lot of people talk and write about the drawbacks of perfectionism, Andrea has helped me more than anyone else to see how letting go of perfectionism can help me accomplish more of what’s important in life.  I feel like I’m finally getting it!!

Here are some of her posts (from andreadekker.com) that have been especially helpful to me in accepting the imperfection of our situation, as well as being able to move forward with and feel good about small improvements.

  1. Why We Don’t Force Veggies and Allow Snacks
  2. Why We Eat Some Processed Foods
  3. Good Enough
  4. Why I’m a “do more at less than 100%” Person
  5. Three Simple Concepts to Simplify Your Life

5.  I’ve changed my approach (or rather my intended approach).  For so long my approach (or at least the intent) was that I would prepare the food so that I could control what was served.  But as they got older and more capable, more and more often they were preparing their own food…but not necessarily as healthfully as I felt it should be.  As a result, I resisted in officially turning the job over to them.  But this past year I have put them fully in charge of packing their own lunches and mostly in charge of preparing their own breakfasts, even to the point of letting them ask me to buy certain foods for this purpose at the store.  So with this control over their choices, I’ve realized that it’s more about teaching them to make healthy choices than simply expecting them to eat what they are served.

6.  I think the biggest change is that I’m finally enjoying food again!  The stresses that I’ve felt over the past few years have pretty much taken all the fun out of preparing and eating food.  I love good food, and I really love variety.  So I’m back to trying new recipes again and worrying less about them being perfectly healthy and perfectly pleasing to everyone at the table (although I do try to have something there that each person will like).  But not only that, I’m letting and encouraging my kids to create new combinations of things and have fun with different flavors too.  Food really can be a lot of fun if we let it.

So that’s us a year later.  Now it’s the beginning of yet another summer, full of lots of fun activities and all of the good food that goes along with them!

What I’ve Been Up To Lately

So, my last post was the first part of April, and here it is the last part of April!  I have lots of ideas of things I could write about, but not so much time to do it.  So, I thought I would take a few minutes (I’ve got 30 minutes before having to run off to something else!) to just write about what I’ve been up to!

So, first of all my interior decorator mother-in-law offered to help us update our girl’s bedroom into a “big girl” room.  My youngest (5 yrs) was still sleeping in a toddler bed and my oldest girl (11 yrs) had a big double bed all to herself!  So the first thing to do was to replace the old beds with a set of twin beds (no, they are not bunk beds).  Along with that is new bedspreads, a desk, new blinds, plus some other details like shelves on the wall.  My mother-in-law is the creator of all the plans, and I’m her helper.  Also, she lives in CA and I’m in VA, so we’ve been doing this long distance over the phone and me taking pictures and sending them to her.

A little more than a week ago I got the flu for the first time that I can ever remember.  I don’t get flu shots because I really just don’t (or use to not) get the flu.  Well, I guess I learned my lesson because I was in bed for a week.  It was during Spring Break.  Since my teacher-husband and kids were off of school, they were able to take care of the basics around the house, but we as a family didn’t really get to do anything fun during the week off from school.  It was good and bad timing at the same time!

While I was sick and in my bed, I had to stare at all of my clutter in my bedroom.  Day after day I stared at it, vowing that when I was well I would clean it up.  I even decided to read a few of my organizing books over again to give me some ideas and help motivate me.  Once I was better and semi-caught up on the most important chores, I dedicated about 3 hours one morning to decluttering.  It felt great!  I wasn’t able to finish in that time and by the next day, I had too many other things on my to do list to be able to keep that kind of focus.  But since then, I’ve been trying to declutter a little more just 5 minutes at a time.

Another thing that I’ve been doing is working hard to keep the wasps away from key parts of my house!  We have paper wasps all around my area.  They seem to be everywhere!  Well, one morning my daughter opened the door to go to school and one flew in the house!  I’m afraid of them…I really am!!  So it was lucky that my husband was still home and took a few minutes to take care of it before leaving for work.  Later I noticed another one inside my door frame (it didn’t fly in because I saw it before opening the door).  Upon further inspection, our screen door has just enough opening for them to get inside, and they apparently feel this is a great spot to try to build a nest.  This means that they are not “stuck” there as I once thought, but are trying to be there!  Ugh!!!!  My husband says what we need to do is replace the door, but we can’t do that right now.  So instead I took cotton balls and duct tape and did my best to fill in those gaps.  It is ugly, but I don’t care.  It seems to be working; however we’ve had cooler temperatures so I don’t know for sure yet.  In the meantime I often send my kids out a different door or if we have to open this one I look out the window first to make sure nothing is there.  Can you tell I don’t like them?

Then today my husband asked if I could put some stain on some raw wood around our house because it is supposed to rain Wednesday night.  He said it was just a simple thing he was asking; it was not a large area and it would only take a short time.  But I knew differently.  Painting/staining is never simple.  Finding the paint, the can opener, the plastic, prepping the area, etc. etc.  I tried to do it quickly today without prepping, and then realized I was going to have a mess if I didn’t slow down and do the prep work correctly.  So I did slow down.  I also noticed that really all of our porches and railings need to be repainted/stained, so I took some time to look up on You Tube how to do this properly.  I guess there are times to not worry too much about the details and other times when it really matters.

So, that’s about it.  Well, actually it’s not.  We’ve got the garden we want to get started on, plus all the usual stuff we are doing like my son going to a Scouting event tonight to earn a merit badge.  Plus a spagetti dinner/ auction this Friday night to earn money for Scout Camp.  And he is working on his project that he will be “selling” at the auction.  Busy Busy!  I feel as busy as a bee!  (And I know how busy they are because I’ve been watching them to ensure they aren’t building nests where I don’t want them too!).

So that’s all for now.  I hope everyone is having a great Spring!!

What projects are you working on right now?

Who Was Responsible For My “A?”

Yesterday after dinner, I was rushing around to put food away, and getting myself and my older kids ready so we could hurry out the door and be to Church activities on time.  I was going to be teaching (substituting) the Activity Day girls and so I had a little more to think about than I usually do when we are preparing to leave.  In the middle of the rush, my husband turned on the 6:30 News, and what I heard caught my attention and caused me to stop in the middle of my rushed state-of-mind.

The story being reported was about a group of teachers who had cheated on State tests, erasing students answers and replacing them with the correct ones, or otherwise giving hints and helps so that the students would score well.  As I watched this, I felt kind of sick…it was said that these teachers could go to jail for as much as 20 years!  They showed some of them crying in the court room, and I felt like crying too.

“What a tragedy!”  I thought to myself.

For many years now, it seems to me that teachers are increasingly being held accountable for student performance.  This has been bothering me for a really long time, because I feel in my heart that this is not right.  I’m not saying that cheating in order to artificially increase test scores is right…it is clearly not.  But I have a feeling the motivation behind the cheating was fear…fear of losing a job because what was being required of them was impossible.  And, I have a feeling that there are teachers and administrators all across the U.S. that are experiencing this same fear.  In general I believe that teachers want to do well in their jobs, and they want to do what they can to help their students.  But instead of being supported and given the resources they need to succeed, they are constantly having resources taken away and replaced with an increasing set of demands.  And then they get told they are not doing well because they are “bad teachers,” and that to fix the problems those in charge simply need to let all of the “bad teachers” go and replace them with “good teachers.”  The result, as I see it, is a lot of anxiety among teachers as well as administrators.

I read a story once about a business man who sold blueberries for a living.  He was giving teachers a hard time for not “producing” better graduates (ready to work in the business world), and said if he produced the quality of blueberries that equaled the quality of students that the teachers were producing, then his business would fail in a big hurry.  One teacher responded by asking a question.  She said, “What do you do if you get a *bad batch* of blueberries delivered to you from the farmers?”  He said, “Well, I send them back, of course!”  Her response?  “If we get a *bad batch* we do not have the option of sending them back.  We have to work with whatever we get!”

Below is a little article I wrote about this subject a year or two ago.  I felt the same then as I do now and wanted to express my views.  I didn’t know who to give the article to however, so I simply saved it to my computer.

Who Was Responsible For My “A”?

When I was a senior in High School, I had Mrs. Draper for English.  She was a great teacher – energetic, cheerful, knowledgeable about her subject, and one who truly wanted to see her students succeed.  Although I can’t remember the exact grade, I do remember that I didn’t get what I wanted on one of my writing assignments that I turned into her.  But then, when it was time to turn in another assignment, as she was explaining her requirements, she said, “I’m here every day after school.  If anyone doesn’t understand or feels like you need some help, you are welcome to bring a rough draft of your writing and I will go over it with you.”  So I took her up on her offer.  She read what I had written, and explained what I could do better.  Later, after all the assignments had been turned in, she finished grading them and handed them back to us.  As she handed me mine, she said, “I was so happy to see that you got an ‘A!’” For some reason, her wording struck me as odd.  I remember thinking, “but you graded the paper; you could have given me anything you wanted.”  I think this thought stemmed from the idea that writing is subjective, not concrete like a multiple choice test.  But I quickly realized to myself that she was using very specific criteria to grade the paper, and I met enough of the criteria to earn an “A.”  She was happy for me, and I felt good about it too.  That was 23 years ago, and I still look back and consider Mrs. Draper to be one of my favorite teachers ever.

Currently I am married to a teacher.  It seems to me that government is increasingly holding teachers accountable for the achievements of their students.  They will say essentially, “a certain number of students needs to pass our test, or you are not doing your job correctly as a teacher.”  Or, they will say, “If all of your students do not graduate, then you must not be doing your job as a teacher correctly.”  This puzzles me.  Mrs. Draper said that I had been the one to earn the “A.”  Yes, she helped me to understand what I needed to do, but I was the one who did the work.

I feel that if we are going to hold teachers accountable for student failure, then we must also give them credit for student success.  Therefore, the “A” was not mine after-all; I must give all of the credit back to her.  The “A” I received that day, was in fact Mrs. Draper’s “A” because she did everything right as a teacher.

But wait!  There are others who helped too!  Maybe, the “A” actually belongs to one of them!

For example, my mom (and sometimes dad) made dinner for our family almost every night of my life growing up.  To be honest, being somewhat a picky eater, I actually did not even enjoy what we ate all of the time.  But I was there, at the table with the other members of my family practically every night.  In 2007 Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk in General Conference titled, “Good, Better, Best.”  In it he said this,

“The number of those who report that their ‘whole family usually eats dinner together’ has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together ‘eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.’ Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs. There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: what your children really want for dinner is you (emphasis added).

I had to laugh a little by his words, “what your children really want for dinner is you.”  But family mealtimes being a “strong predictor of children’s academic achievement?”  Well, maybe that “A” on my English paper really belonged to my mom.

Or, maybe it belonged to my Dad.  When I was in 9th grade, I wasn’t doing well in Algebra.  My teacher sent home a progress report that showed that I was in danger of receiving a failing grade.  When my dad saw it, this is what he said:

Dad:  “Why are you getting a poor grade in Algebra”

Me:  “I don’t know!  I just don’t understand it!  I see what the teacher is doing, and hear her explaining it, but it doesn’t make any sense to me!”

Dad:  “Well, in the future, if you don’t understand something when you are doing your homework, bring it to me and I will help you.”

That was the beginning of a whole new life in homework for me.  Throughout High School, I brought him Algebra, Geometry, Chemistry, and Physics, and he helped me with it all (well, I do remember him being a little stumped with some of the Chemistry, but hey – we can’t all be perfect, right?🙂 ).  The point is that when Mrs. Draper invited students to stay after school to receive help from her, I was already used to that because of the help from my dad.  So, really the “A” should be his.

But it could be my peers’ “A.”  Some of them were great examples of being diligent in their school work.  When I was in 5th and 6th grade, I really struggled with my school work, and so I was placed in the “regular” classes with students who didn’t seem to care about good study habits.  Sometimes I actually felt embarrassed if I did too well on something.  But in 7th grade, for some reason I did very well that year, and so the next year I was placed in the advanced Writing Class.  Suddenly, I was surrounded by students who wanted to do well!  They had good habits and were nice people.  I watched how they approached their school work, and copied the behaviors that I thought were good.  So, when I reached High School, I was placed in more advanced classes with more opportunities to learn from these students.  I really think that their influence helped me to do well overall with my school-work!

And so the ownership of the “A” on that English paper 23 years ago bounces around, from person to person without quite settling down.  That is, until it makes its way back to me.  In the end, I was the one who wrote the paper.  I made the choice to stay after school and ask for help.  I implemented the suggestions when I re-wrote the paper.  And I turned it in on time.

My teachers used to say to us that it was their pet peeve when a student would say, “What are you going to *learn me* today?”  Sounds grammatically horrible, right?…but sometimes students really would say this.  My teachers would emphasize that they were there to teach, and it was our job to do the learning.   Student performance is a complicated issue, and one that many people rightly feel concerned about.  But I firmly believe that teachers and school officials are being required to carry more of the responsibility than is reasonable or possible.  We need to recognize that there are many factors that go into adequate learning, including family environment, peer environment, and most definitely what the student him- or her-self chooses to do or not do.

In regards to the situation with these teachers who cheated, of course we should let our legal process play out in determining what happened and what the consequences should be.  However, in the mean-time, my hope is that we will use this experience to evaluate the kinds of pressures that are being placed on teachers and school officials, and think about how we as a country can best help them in their efforts to provide a great education for our children.

As a wife of a teacher, and a mother of children attending Public School, I want to say “thank you” to teachers everywhere for your service.  I know for certain that my children have benefited from your efforts.

What are your thoughts?  Please share in the comments below!

Finishing My General Conference Goal…and Looking Forward to the Next One!

General Conference

{picture from lds.org}

General Conference is less than 2 weeks away (and if you count the General Women’s Broadcast, less than 1 week away)!  And guess what?  I completed my goal of reading all the General Conference talks prior to the next one.  Hooray!  I’m so glad I was able to do that, and of course the very last one I read was President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk given at the General Women’s Broadcast.  It was exactly what I needed to read, on this day, and actually every day.  Here is part of what he said:

“My dear sisters in the gospel, whether you are 8 or 108, there is one thing that I hope you truly understand and know:

You are loved.

You are dear to your heavenly parents.

The infinite and eternal Creator of light and life knows you!  He is mindful of you.

Yes, God loves you this very day and always.

He is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits.  He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles.  He is aware that you reach up to Him in heartfelt and hopeful prayer.  He knows of the times you have held onto the fading light and believed — even in the midst of growing darkness.  He knows of your sufferings.  He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed.  And still He loves you.

And God knows of your successes; though they may seem small to you, He acknowledges and cherishes each one of them.  He loves you for extending yourself to others.  He loves you for reaching out and helping others bear their heavy burdens — even when you are struggling with your own.

He knows everything about you.  He sees you clearly — He knows you as you really are.  And He loves you–today and always!

Do you suppose it matters to our Heavenly Father whether your makeup, clothes, hair, and nails are perfect?  Do you think your value to Him changes based on how many followers you have on Instagram or Pinterest?  Do you think He wants you to worry or get depressed if some un-friend or un-follow you on Facebook or Twitter?  Do you think outward attractiveness, your dress size, or popularity make the slightest difference in your worth to the One who created the universe?

He loves you not only for who you are this very day but also for the person of glory and light you have the potential and the desire to become.

More than you could ever imagine, He wants you to achieve your destiny — to return to your heavenly home in honor.

I testify that the way to accomplish this is to place selfish desires and unworthy ambitions on the alter of sacrifice and service.  Sisters, trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ; keep His laws and commandments.  In other words — live the gospel joyful.”

I’ve been watching every session of General Conference consistently each April and October for about 28 years now (since I was 12!), and I continue to be amazed at how many of the talks given address something that I’m very personally concerned about right at that moment!  So, yes…I’m really excited that it is that time of year again!

But one thing that I really noticed as I re-read the talks given over the past few months is how much they helped me when I was feeling anxious or upset.  I do tend to struggle with emotional highs and lows, and I have relied a lot over the years on prayer to help me when I feel bad.  But recently as I was prayingm I felt like I should also read my scriptures and the talks from General Conference.  So, I’ve been doing this a lot more, and even when what I’m reading has nothing to do with what I’m bothered about, I immediately feel peaceful and more centered.  And often, I find that what I’m reading actually is relevant to my concern!

If you are not familiar with my church’s General Conference, feel free to visit this page and read or watch any talks that have been given!  And anyone can watch the upcoming Conference on April 4-5, 2015.  It will be broadcast on-line, but my favorite way is to watch it on the BYU Channel on TV!  If you take the time to watch even a little bit, I am confident that you will be glad that you did.

If you have a favorite quote or experience from General Conference, please share in the comments below!

10 Tips for Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

fruits & vegetables collage

In my efforts to eat more fruits and vegetables, I have noticed that there are times when the task is very difficult and other times when it feels practically effortless.  So, I started paying attention to what makes the difference and came up with this list.  Some of these strategies are more helpful for my family members, and others are more helpful for me, but when they are in place, I find that we all eat more of the good stuff!

1.  Keep the cutting board and knife clean and in easy reach.  Most fruits and vegetables require some prep work before eating, and if the cutting board and knife are dirty or hard to get to, the preparation becomes a large barrier to eating them.  On the other hand, if they are clean and available, I find that it’s usually pretty quick to chop up whatever it is I am planning to eat.

2. Snack on fruits and veggies before meals.  Yes, you read that right!  Most of the time we hear the advice to not eat snacks right before meals.  But I find that when I’m chopping produce for dinner, my kids will often ask if they can have some.  If I go ahead and give them some right then, they eat more than they would with the meal.  I’ve actually had to start buying extra bell peppers, because my youngest has been known to ask for so many that I haven’t had what I needed for the recipe!🙂  However, my big exception to this is berries.  We have a strict “hands-off” rule for berries until the meal is served, because everyone loves them so much!

3.  Add fruits and vegetables to muffins and other baked goods.  This is a pretty common strategy, but it definitely needs to be included, because it works!  And every little bit helps.

4.  Make smoothies.  Another common strategy, I know.  But smoothies really are a great way to get in some less favored fruits and veggies.  Spinach and greens of course, but for my family even pineapple is not very well liked among the kids.  However in a smoothie, you can’t really taste it.  It simply adds sweetness and it is so healthy.  Smoothies are a perfect way to help my family eat more pineapple!

5.  Make extra.  White potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes are all vegetables that can be prepared in larger-than-normal batches, and stored in the fridge to eat for several days.  Or, they can be stored in the freezer for longer.  I like to make soups and freeze individual batches for me to have for lunch.  It’s so easy to just thaw and eat! (I like these two recipes: Butternut Squash-Apple Soup and Nutty-Sweet Potato Soup — however, I’m the only one around here who does, so that’s why I freeze individual portions).  Smoothies also freeze well, but they don’t thaw quickly.  Sometimes  I make a big batch of smoothie and put it in small tightly-sealed containers to pack in my kids lunches.  They thaw to just about the right consistency by lunch-time!

6.  Make a little extra.  For vegetables that don’t store well for a long time after they are cooked, I’ve learned to make just enough extra at dinner to have some the next day for lunch.  This way I don’t have to prepare a vegetable when I really want to just grab something, but I don’t have so much around that I have to throw it out later.

tooty fruity salad

{click image to view larger}

7.  Mix ’em up!  I love this story from the Friend Magazine (see image on the right).  The child is hungry and wants a snack, but when offered an apple, banana, grapes, and crackers he turns them down saying that he is tired of them all.  The mom responds, “how about tooty fruity salad?”  This gets the boys attention, and he agrees.  So the mom combines bite-sized pieces of the different fruits and the graham crackers to make a fruit salad.  And, of course, now the boy is very happy with his snack!  And this trick doesn’t just work with kids; it works for adults too!

8.  Keep it simple.  While mixing it up can be a great thing, on the other end of the spectrum is planning to “mix it up” so much that it becomes too much work.  For example, if I plan a main dish and a vegetable side for dinner that both require quite a bit of preparation, I will likely want to skip making the vegetable side when it comes time to actually make dinner.  So I often plan the simplest vegetables to go with dinner, or a more complex side with a basic main dish such as baked fish or chicken.

9.  Eat ’em first!  If the fruits and vegetables being served are not my favorite part of the meal, then I try to eat them first and get them out of the way.   Then I am free to enjoy the rest of the food.

10.  Keep ’em fresh! – I have a thing for wanting my produce to be really fresh.  The longer it sits in my fridge, the less likely I am to eat it or serve it.  It’s kind of a hang-up really, because sometimes it really is still fine to eat.  But in recognizing this about myself, I’m learning that prior to shopping for new groceries it is helpful to look in the fridge ask myself, “Do I have a clear plan for eating these (i.e. scheduled in an upcoming menu)?”  If not, I take some time to clear them out…either by eating them right away, preserving them for later (i.e. freezer), or getting rid of them (in the compost pile).  This way when I bring new produce home from the store, everything in the fridge is as fresh as possible, making all of it more appealing to eat.

Below is a picture of a bunch of produce that I preserved by freezing one day, prior to restocking the fridge.  From left to right (clockwise) there are cut up bell peppers (to add to soups), mushrooms (for stroganoff), celery (to make chicken stock), apples (for smoothies), orange-lime-aid (drank right away), lime zest and orange zest (for adding extra flavor to food), and spinach which I blended with water and froze in an ice cube tray (to add to soup or smoothies).

freezer food collageThese 10 strategies really do work when I take the time to implement them.  In fact, I’m glad to publish this post today, because I need the reminder!  Hopefully they can be helpful to others who may want to include a few more delicious and healthy fruits and vegetables in their diet too!!

What are your favorite strategies for eating more fruits and vegetables?

{note:  click here for top picture source…I made a collage of several of the pictures}