Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Stifling of Creativity vs. Rules and Standards

I keep seeing articles online about how we must encourage creative thinking in our children by not expecting them to do "busy work".  I read an article by the grandmother of a five-year-old boy, complaining about the developmentally inappropriate and stifling homework he was given by his teacher.  When I first read it, I was in complete agreement. 

Then I read the comments, several of which came from seasoned kindergarten teachers who explained the reasons for such homework.   As I read the woman's article, I nodded in agreement, but then I read the comments and agreed with those as well.

It is a complicated issue.  Where is the line between practice, which can at times be tedious and even boring, and the true stifling of creativity? At what point are kids expected to hone skills, such as the fine motor skills of writing without it being considered as squashing their creative juices? Must they always have leeway to color outside the lines?

I understand the complaints about how creativity is stifled.  They interpret the routines and structures of public school as taking away the freedom to be creative.  They argue that creativity is stifled because of these rules and these standards.

But I can also understand why there are such standards and rules in place.  If there aren't standards, then how do we teach groups of children at each age level?  If there aren't rules regarding the standards and the methods, how do we assess them and determine if they are learning what we believe they should learn?  In the lower grades, kids need a foundation on which to build.  They need to develop basic skills of writing and reading so those skills become so routine, they don't even think about them later, they just do them.  Is it truly unfair to require a 5-year-old boy to develop the fine motor skills with which to write words?  Is it ridiculous to teach him what a sentence is and once that has been taught, continue to reinforce it by requiring him to use proper punctuation?

This makes education, specifically public education (which involves teaching more than one student at a time by one teacher), a difficult challenge.  While we want to encourage creativity and instill a love of learning in the students, there must be standards and rules to give structure to all of it.

I disagree with large amounts of homework for very young kids, but I also understand why some of these teachers argued in favor of this homework. It is an attempt to get families to be involved in their child's education, since many families in certain socioeconomic groups do not get involved as much as the educator wishes they would.

But that is a separate issue.  Asking a child to draw thirteen boxes might seem meaningless and time wasting, but is it really that burdensome?  Most similar homework packets are assigned on a Monday and returned on a Friday, so if the child does a little every day, they get it done without it being a burden.  Will they be punished if they turn the boxes into robots?  Not likely.  Does drawing thirteen boxes really stifle creativity?  Does practicing penmanship force creativity out the window?  I don't believe that it does.

As in all other areas of life, there is a time and place.  In my experience, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to express themselves creatively in most of today's public schools.  If most parents who complain about this would spend a few days observing, they would see that there are opportunities.  You don't always see that on a homework assignment, especially at the kindergarten level where kids are learning those basic skills of writing and reading.  That doesn't mean they aren't doing activities at school that encourage creative thought. In my experience as a classroom teacher, an aide, and a parent volunteer in four states and several different schools, I have found that most schools, while they push hard for academics and testing, they also allow time for creative outlets.

While there are probably schools and situations where creativity truly does get stifled, I don't think something like a homework assignment requiring that a young child draw a few boxes is the problem.  Kids need to learn these basic skills and practice them so they will be prepared for more difficult learning in the future.  That doesn't mean they won't have other creative outlets throughout their day.  What we need to do is make sure that they do have those opportunities but not confuse the time that is necessary for practicing basic skills as taking away from the creative play of childhood.  Both are necessary components of child development.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Trying to Adjust

This move has been really hard for me. I always thought that when I moved back to Texas, if the opportunity ever came along, that I'd be jumping for joy and charge forward, never looking back.  But that hasn't been the case at all.  It's possible that because this move affected so many people and not just me (my six kids) that it's been hard.

I still feel slightly sick to my stomach whenever I think about what has happened.  We were coasting along, struggling with every day life, trying to figure things out and BOOM! the opportunity to go to Texas jumps out at us.  I didn't even realize how great life was.  We had a good house in a good neighborhood and ward that we could afford.  We lived close to the schools, work, stores, and activities.  The kids were involved in activities that we could afford.

I had some strange notion that Texas was a less expensive place to live but I was extremely wrong.  I'm not sure how things will go for us financially here.  I'm worried that I will have to get a full time job and put my last two babies in daycare because we just can't afford to live otherwise.  We looked at renting and we looked at less expensive houses.  The difference in monthly payments wasn't enough to make much of a difference, so we settled on a house we really liked.

But it's the other things too.  We had a great dentist in Utah.  We had a great pediatrician.  We had a great optometrist and pediatric ophthalmologist.  I had a great ob/gyn.  We had a great orthodontist all lined up and our oldest was supposed to start braces in December.  Now, not only do we not have a dentist or orthodontist, but with the increase in how much everything costs, I don't know if we'll ever be able to put our kids through braces and then they'll have terribly messed up teeth.  I feel really bad about this.  If we had stayed in Utah, it would have been just fine.

Then there are the activities.  They were in baseball, dance, and fencing.  They took music lessons.  I taught piano lessons.  I was doing what I could to eventually teach a preschool out of my home.  Here, it doesn't look like people use home preschools and the expectation of what a preschool is does not mesh with anything I believe in regarding early childhood learning.  I feel more frustrated about that than I did about trying to get our HOA to allow me to teach a preschool there in Utah out of our home.

I miss my job at the school and how perfect it was for me and for our family.  It gave us an extra $200-$300/month and I only worked one day a week so my husband could stay home just that one day with the kids.  Plus, the job itself was perfect.  I got to do exactly what I love, which is teaching, and coming up with parts of the lesson plans myself but I didn't have to deal with the bureaucracy or the parents, who can sometimes be nightmares to deal with.  I have already tried finding something like that here, even just a part-time thing at the schools and all I could find was full time.  If I'm going to work full time, I'd rather be a classroom teacher, not an aide, but I don't even know where to begin figuring out a teaching license in this state.  I looks like I might need to go through a teacher training program all over again since none of my past licenses are current (California, Idaho and Utah) and it's been 15 years since I graduated from one.

I just feel like we screwed everything up.  I wish so badly that we could rewind life to September 15th, knowing what I know now about Texas, and when the offer comes up, we just ignore it and move on with our life in Utah.

I don't hate it here and there have been many wonderful events and good things have happened.  The people have certainly been kind enough.  But I am truly sorry over having to leave a happy, comfortable, though somewhat non-exciting life.  If I could go back, I would look for more opportunities to challenge ourselves.  I wish so badly that I could rewind time.  I'm so sad about leaving certain friends, friends who only recently came into our lives.  I feel like I ruined the lives of our six kids.  And I feel exhausted by having to start over.  I'm tired of putting myself out there and simply don't want to do it anymore.  It's too hard, too emotionally wrenching for me.

The worst part of all of this is that it is entirely my fault.  I only have myself to blame.  I should have said no, we don't need to do that, but it was Texas and I couldn't resist giving it a try.  When the job opportunity came along, my husband had to "put in for the opening" and request the position.  If he hadn't, he wouldn't have been considered.  I let him put in for it.  It's all my fault.  I should have said no.  I miss my life in Utah and am so sad that we left.  It was a good life.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cooking: Secrets to Saving Money

By today's standards, I cook for a large family of eight people. Because I have so many people to cook for, I have to budget wisely because food can get expensive. Recently, I have been having a lot of success with spending less than $100/week in my grocery category of the budget. I've had people ask me how it's possible, so I thought I'd devote a blog post to it.

Menu Planning
The first thing I do is menu plan.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, every day for seven days. I have a notebook that is my grocery notebook.  Each time I make a list, I use one page.

On the side, in the margin, I list the days of the week.  I write down next to the day what shift my husband is working because that will often determine what the dinner meal will be (something simpler and that makes smaller portions will be designated for nights he is working, etc.).

Dinners are the meals I specifically plan each week.  I plan for a main dish.  My side dishes are almost always the same.  For my dinners, I look at what I already have in the fridge and pantry and then check the grocery store circulars to see what is on sale.

For example, this week's grocery trip (for next week's meals), I planned these meals:
Sunday--cheesy potato soup
Monday--pulled pork sandwiches
Tuesday--chicken rice
Wednesday--lasagna bake
Thursday--Hawaiian haystacks
Saturday--chicken pasta

Sunday.  I already have potatoes in the pantry and my soup takes 4-5 potatoes.  If I didn't have potatoes, they were on sale for a 10 lb bag for 99¢.  I buy chicken broth, sometimes I buy an extra carton to have on hand for the future (food storage).  The chicken broth I buy, which is just the generic store brand usually, is $1.86 for the 32 oz carton, which I use the whole thing.  I can often find the same size carton of organic chicken broth at a neighboring grocery store for about the same price, often cheaper.  I happen to have about one pound left of a 3-pound bag of shredded cheddar, which I will use about two handfuls of for the soup.  The other ingredients are water, onions (I keep a bag of frozen diced onion in the freezer), milk and flour.  I like to add ham chunks or bacon, if I have them on hand, which I do, so I will use those too.

Monday.  The pulled pork is actually left over pork from a pork roast I made last week.  I had so much left over that after the meal, I shredded it and put it in the freezer.  I will use this in the crock pot with BBQ sauce, which I already have in my pantry (part of my food storage item that I like to stock up on).  I will make my own buns.

Tuesday.  I have chicken in the freezer that I bought last week and never used.  Sometimes my meal plan doesn't quite work out and we eat leftovers an extra night or do a breakfast-for-dinner or even stop and grab a $5 Little Caesar's pizza if we have a busy night.  Usually I foresee the busy night by planning ahead but sometimes plans don't work out quite right.  So I will use the chicken I already have, which I bought for $1.69/lb on sale (fresh, skinless, boneless chicken breasts in a family pack--I section it out to one to two pieces per package and package it for the freezer when I get home).  I bought Rice-a-roni for $1 for the box.  I will use one chicken breast, baked and cut up into chunks for this recipe plus the box of Rice-a-roni, prepared as instructed.

Wednesday. Lasagna bake.  I actually grabbed a Banquet brand "Homestyle Bake" of Lasagna for $3 the other day because it looked good.  We may hate it and generally I steer clear of pre-packaged meals like this, but it was a whim and not too expensive.  I do have a lasagna toss recipe that is really easy that I have used that is not too expensive and this will probably end up being a similar dish.

Thursday.  Hawaiian haystacks.  I already have white rice, frozen chicken (I will use two breasts for this recipe), and chow mein noodles.  I will cook two chicken breasts in the crock pot with two cans cream of chicken soup (generic brand--69¢ each).  I shred the chicken and serve this sauce over sticky white rice with toppings such as chow mein noodles, sliced tomatoes, olives, diced ham, green onions, and shredded cheddar cheese.  I always buy things like tomatoes and diced ham and green onions and the cheddar cheese I already have.

Friday.  Pizza Day!  I make my own pizza almost every Friday.  It's a tradition.  The dough recipe is quite easy and I make it in my Bosch.  I buy pizza sauce (generic store brand-$1.14/jar), pizza cheese blend or make my own with mozzarella and cheddar, and pepperoni and other toppings.  I keep a lot of these on hand because I make it every week, so I rarely have to buy the ingredients.  This week, I had to buy pepperoni ($2.98), sauce (I'm cleaning out the pantry in preparation for the move and had used the last of my storage), and flour ($1.78--same reason as with the sauce, low on storage right now).

Saturday.  Chicken pasta.  This is the same as the chicken rice, only with pasta-roni.  One of the kids' favorites.  I have tried to make my own pasta sauce for this, but the pasta-roni just tastes better.  It's only about $1 per box and if my husband is home, I will buy the Family size or two boxes, but with just the kids and me, one box is usually enough.

I often do leftovers on Saturdays or the following Monday.  One of my favorite ways to serve leftovers is in the form of "Surprise Dinners", something my mom used to do.  You take each leftover, dish up a portion size into some foil, wrap the foil around it, and put them in the oven and heat them up that way.  Then the kids pick a foil and get a surprise on what they get.  In our family they are allowed a trade only if the other person is willing (not forced), and they can trade once.  Other than that, it's "You-get-what-you-get-and-you-don't-throw-a-fit". 

As I mentioned before, the sides are always the same.  I do a vegetable and a fruit.  The vegetable consists of something like steamed broccoli or green beans, sometimes a canned vegetable if I'm lazy, or a tossed salad (lettuce is usually cheap, so are carrots).  The kids don't care much for a lot of variety in the salad, so I make it with lettuce and carrots and shredded cheese.  I like to add my own cucumbers and tomatoes and other things, so I will often have those available on the side for those who want it (me).  They prefer steamed broccoli over everything else, so I always buy it when I can find it cheap (lately 99¢/pound). 

I like to make a fresh fruit salad by cutting up a few pieces of fruit, which vary by season.  Often, I can use one piece of each fruit, like one apple, one pear and one banana, to make the salad.  If apples are 89¢/pound, pears are the same, and bananas are 54¢/pound, that means that means apples and pears are about 30¢ each and a banana is about 25¢, then a fruit salad for one night costs about 85¢.  That is about $5.95/week for fruit salad.  However, I don't make the fruit salad every night.  Some nights we have canned fruit, like canned pears or peaches, and some nights (usually on Sundays) we have a jello salad with fruit in it.

I generally don't plan specific breakfasts, but I do have a routine.  I have to give credit where credit is due...I learned this from my mom.  I alternate egg mornings and cereal mornings.  We have eggs in some form every other day and cereal on the other days during the week.  On Fridays and Saturdays, I like to make pancakes or waffles.  On Sundays, we usually have an egg casserole and muffins.  The eggs I make are scrambled (with and without cheese), fried, and hard-boiled or soft-boiled.  Occasionally we will have an egg-cheese-potato thing that my husband makes or omelets.  On the cereal days, we have oatmeal or cream-of-wheat first followed by a bowl of cold cereal.  Some days we have two bowls of cold cereal, something not as sweet first, like Cheerios or mini wheats, then a sweeter kind next.

I don't exactly plan these either, but I do have to stock up on lunch foods.  My kids will take deli meat sandwiches in their lunches, since peanut butter is not allowed at their schools.  If it was, they'd probably take pb&j most days.  I buy roast beef, ham and turkey regularly and buy it again when we are out.  We were not out this week, so I didn't buy any.  I will buy a block of cheese on sale, otherwise they will go without cheese.  For lunches, then, I buy bread, deli meat, cheese (on occasion) and typically they take a piece of fruit (an apple).  I buy a LOT of apples and usually stop by the store once during the week to buy more apples.  They will take a dessert.  Sometimes I will buy Little Debbie desserts or cookies if I can find a good deal or know I won't be baking at all, but I try to bake some things like cookies and brownies for them to take.  They do buy a milk at school, which costs me $20/month for all four of them that are in school.  For us at home, we eat leftovers or sandwiches or sometimes I get creative and make quesadillas or mini pizzas.

I grocery shop on Friday for the next week.  I make my list based on the circulars and usually price match at Walmart but sometimes will go and find the item at the store where it is advertised.  Today, I spent $79 on groceries for next week, which was more than I wanted to.  I did buy a few extras that I didn't put on my list, like Little Debbie desserts (a good price) and  some paper towels that I saw and remembered we needed.  I will be spending more money on Monday for items from Costco (I hate Costco on Saturdays and didn't have a chance to get there today) that come from my grocery category--namely, milk ($5 for 2 gallons), bread (2 loaves for $4), and toilet paper (about $15).  So that will bump up my weekly total to about $110, since I need to buy four gallons of milk.  Still not too bad for a family of eight!

Thursday, November 27, 2014


There was a country song that played on the radio when I was in high school.  I never knew the artist, but I remember the chorus:

"The only thing that stays the same is
everything changes, everything changes.
Time marches on."

I am notoriously bad at change.  I don't like it, even if it's something very small.  My kids had to switch schools this year due to a boundary re-alignment in the school district.  You'd have thought my world was ending with how I handled it.  My kids...they were fine.  They already knew kids at the new school.  In fact, the boundary change was really for our benefit.  Since we moved here, the kids have gone to a different school than the majority of kids in the ward because of the wonky school boundary.  The change made sense, but I didn't like it.  We had been at that school for five years and it was a great school.  Nevermind that the other school was just as good.  I could only see the negatives.  The other school didn't have band.  Nevermind that I could just take my kids to the band at the old school.  Now that I am facing an even bigger change, an out-of-state move, only five months into the school year, I am realizing how stupid that all was.  I am really thick-headed sometimes.

Tonight I was driving home from a Thanksgiving dinner celebrated with my brother's family and his wife's family.  As I arrived at my house, the movie was still playing in the car DVD player and there was only a few minutes left, so I drove around the block to get to the end of the movie.  As I did so, I looked around at the neighborhood that I have grown to love. 

I realized that the majority of people who lived in this neighborhood when we first moved here no longer live in the neighborhood.  They moved on.  Most of them didn't move out of state, I'll grant you that, but they moved on despite the good school and the good ward and the good friends.  So why am I having such a hard time with it?

I have wanted to move back to Texas ever since I moved away from Texas in 1994.  Twenty years ago.  For twenty years I have been daydreaming about how great it would be to live in Texas.  But I've come to realize that all I ever had was a dream.  I didn't realize that in the time I'd left Texas, I had become a Utah girl at heart.  I had a hard time moving back to Utah, on the outside.  I put up a fight.  But on the inside, I think I was secretly glad to be back in Utah.  It's comfortable here.  The people are nice.  I really, really love how easy it is to access the LDS Church here in Utah.  I love the access to temples, the access to Salt Lake City, the access to BYU (Women's Conference, Aspen Grove Marriage Retreat, etc.).  I love how on Sundays, FM100 plays "Soft Sunday Sounds"--religious music, most of it made by Mormon songwriters and singers.  Driving along I-15 from Provo to Riverton at night, I pass four temples that I can see clearly from the freeway (Mt. Timpanogos, Draper, Jordan River, Oquirrh Mountain).  And the mountains!  Oh how I will miss these mountains!  I have lived in the mountainous west longer than I ever lived in Texas.  What was I thinking?

I know that Texas is a good place to live and there are great people there too, but I am broken-hearted about leaving this place that I have grown to really love.  And somewhat annoyed at myself for not having realized how I love it until it was too late and we were set to leave. 

Utah, you've been a good friend.  I will no longer be ashamed to say I have lived here.  I used to think it was better to tell people I was from Texas than Utah, but I no longer feel that way.  I will now tell people I am from Utah.  After all, I was born here.

Change, how I loathe you.  But I realize that things can't stay the same forever, as much as I wish they would.  Change is inevitable.  It's a fact of life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Could This Happen?

Today I am in utter disbelief that Jordan is gone.  It seems like, since it's been just over a month, that we are just overdue for a conversation.  It seems like any moment now I will hear a ping on my phone and receive a text message from him.  I feel the urge to call him to see what's going on because it's been just over a month since I talked with him last, but then with a gut-sinking feeling, I remember that I can't just call him because he is not there.  I keep looking for his "likes" and comments on my Facebook posts, but they do not come. 

How can this be true?  How can this be reality?  One of my brothers is gone for the rest of my mortal life already.  Already.  This isn't supposed to happen, is it? All six of us are supposed to outlive our parents.  We are supposed to have many more family reunions where we can talk and laugh about past memories and imagine our futures.

How could it have happened this way?  Jordan, you weren't supposed to leave so suddenly.  This just can't be right. We were supposed to be able to get together, a long time from now, after our kids are grown and married and having their own kids and talk about our grandkids and reminisce about these years. 

It just doesn't seem right.  The timing is all wrong.  How could this happen?  That question reverberates through my mind over and over.  How could this happen?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Compassion in Our Modern World

Let me tell you a story.  On a warm summer morning, my husband was home from work, so I left the older kids with him to clean the house and the backyard and I took my baby with me on my errands.  I had to go to Costco, which was clear across town, the bank, and then stop at the grocery store on the way home.  We went to Costco first because I like to get my errands done in the order of the farthest distance from my house to the closest.  Then I hit the bank drive through, so we stayed in the car.  During this time, from Costco to the grocery store, my baby was quiet.  I was distractedly thinking about the other cars around  me (crazy that I was paying attention to the traffic, eh?) and thinking about other random things and not thinking about my kids or my husband.  Therefore, when I got to the grocery store, and my baby was asleep in her rear-facing car seat, I had forgotten that I had her with me on my errands.  My other kids weren't there to remind me to open the back doors of the car, and absent-mindedly and focused on my grocery shopping, I got out of my car and headed toward the store doors.  I was checking for my keys, my phone, my wallet, like I tend to do as I walk to the store and felt something was missing and then I remembered--my daughter!  So I went back to the car and got her out and took her in the store with me.  Phew!

This type of thing happens all the time.  It may not be a grocery trip or errand run.  It may be switching parents to drop the baby off at daycare or bringing groceries home and the baby is asleep so you let her sleep while you carry them in, but when you bring the last load in, you forget to go back out to the car to get the sleeping baby.  There are so many different ways this can happen.

Not only that, but there are other instances in which parents do things that might result in harm to their precious children.  For instance, maybe they put a video in to watch with their little ones and doze off because they are exhausted and they wake up to discover their toddler has gotten out of the house and gone into the road, or the ditch, or gotten tangled in a soccer net in the backyard.  Maybe Dad goes out to hitch up the trailer and Mom gets busy putting things away in the 4-year-old's room and doesn't realize Dad left the front door cracked and the 18-month-old has gotten outside to follow Dad and Dad doesn't know she's there and he backs the trailer over her.  Maybe Mom is nursing the new baby in the nursery and the older 2-year-old has climbed out of her crib for the very first time and up onto the dresser next to the crib in the upstairs bedroom and sees an open window and goes to look, pushes on the screen and falls two stories to her death.  Maybe you are visiting the grandparents, who have a pool, and are usually very careful about leaving the pool area locked and the outside doors locked, but your 3-year-old has figured out how to unlock the door and finds the pool gate open, so goes in, accidentally throws a ball in the pool, and then goes in after it.

All of these scenarios are real instances when parents that I have read about or even knew personally have done something, made either an error in judgment or a simple human error, a mistake, a forgotten check, and it has resulted in inexplicable tragedy.

Every single day, millions of parents put their little ones in harm's way when we strap them into our cars and take off down the road.  Sure, car seats have helped reduce the deaths, especially if the child is properly strapped in, but there are still accidents where children who are properly strapped into a car seat die.  Does that mean that every parent who puts their child into a car seat and drives away in the car should be charged with abuse or neglect or assault or whatever?  There is risk in everything we do and sometimes we don't even remember to do or not do something that results in a risky outcome.

That's why I am really tired of the way these parents are received by society when their story, their life-changing tragedy, their despair and grief, becomes news.

We say, "I would never do such a thing!"  "My children are my life and anybody who lets this happen to their child shouldn't have had children!"  "What kind of idiots are these people to let this happen to their child!  It would never happen to my child!"

The news story gets posted on a news website and then social media takes over, spreading it around the globe like wildfire with the purpose of stoning the parents or caregivers of the child who was lost, calling for nothing short of a murder charge and the death penalty.

It especially makes my heart ache when this happens in communities with a highly religious population, religion that is supposed to teach love and compassion.

Yes, there are a few parents out there who are really neglectful, who treat their offspring as garbage, and even purposely cause them harm.  But those are not the parents I am talking about.  I am talking about the pediatrician who forgot she was taking her baby to daycare and left her in the sweltering car all day.  I'm talking about the doting mother who fell asleep watching a movie with her little ones and her toddler went in the backyard and was strangled in a soccer net.  I'm talking about the loving father who didn't know his 1-year-old had followed him outside while he hitched up the trailer and he accidentally backed over her while moving it.

These parents are suffering the worst kind of grief and guilt imaginable, and rather than reaching out to help console them in their suffering, we throw stones and call for crucifixion of them.  We are no better than the Puritan society of "The Scarlet Letter" or the witch-burning tribunals of Salem.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that we should "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." (Romans 12:15)  In the Book of Mormon, we are taught that to be called the people of God, we must be willing to "bear one another's burdens...and to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort." (Mosiah 18:8-9) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

Whether or not a person is a Christian doesn't matter.  Yes, those are tenets of Christianity, but I would care to wager that other faiths teach compassion and love also.

Compassion (n) as defined by my 9-year-old's school dictionary is "sympathy for suffering, kindness."  This is something that many people simply lack in our modern society that is so focused on "me" and doing everything with self in mind.

We all need to be more compassionate.  Is there a time and place to punish those who do inflict intentional harm on their children?  Of course.  Are some instances of accidental harm also punishable?  Probably.  But I don't think we should be so quick to stone others for these types of mistakes.  Accidents do happen.  Every single one of us is capable of leaving a child in a car or being unaware while our child wanders out of the house.  Every. Single. One.

I am tired of so much judging and casting of stones.  I think we would all do better to support each other and comfort each other.  It doesn't happen often enough.  Yes, there are times when the news picks up a story of real love, compassion and comfort, but in the public eye, it isn't seen often enough.  Especially on threads of news stories about parents making fatal errors.  Please, people, let's try and be more compassionate and more loving.  If there was more compassion in this world, think of what a better place it would be!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Brothers

I have five brothers.  This has been a source of both pride and disappointment throughout my life.  I have always enjoyed telling people that I have five brothers and no sisters.  That automatically paints me as someone who is pretty tough and also someone who has people watching her back.  I do wish that I had sisters, and that is where the disappointment lies, but that is another story for another day.  I fall in the middle with two older and three younger.

This picture was taken four days before my oldest brother Jordan was killed in a car accident.  There aren't a whole lot of pictures of just me and my brothers, especially since we all grew up.  I insisted on having this picture taken at our recent family reunion.  I'm very glad I did.

My relationship with each of my brothers is very unique.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love all my brothers though.  I have often told people stories of what it was like growing up with five boys.  I have often shared, with pride, the accomplishments of my brothers.  They are all, indeed, great men.  I admire each of them for different reasons. 

But of all my brothers, the only one who ever expressed this same kind of appreciation to me by telling me of his appreciation and sharing his admiration of me with others was Jordan.  Not one of my other brothers ever told me that I looked beautiful, but Jordan did.  Not one of them (to my knowledge) ever told anyone about me with pride that I was his sister, but Jordan did.  I didn't even realize he did as often as he did until after his death.  I have had many, many people that knew him, but not me, tell me how he spoke of me often and how he admired me.

When I was in first grade, Jordan was in fourth grade.  We had recess at the same time.  He introduced me to some of the girls in his class.  Those girls continued to be kind to me, even into high school.  I remember how nervous I was the night before starting junior high school (7th grade).  He was starting 10th grade that year, which was at the high school.  I was so afraid I would get lost in the hallways and not be able to find my classes.  He sat down with me and went over my class schedule and mapped it all out for me.  I remember going to many stake dances with him and his group of friends once I had turned fourteen.  I have a lot of these kinds of memories with Jordan that I don't have with most of my other brothers.

In the last few years, we hadn't talked as much as we used to.  When we were both in college, we talked often on the phone.  After college and when real life started, we still talked a few times a month on the phone.  But as his life got complicated and difficult, we didn't talk as often.  Oh, how I wish I would have been better about calling him.  It had only been in the recent two to three months that we began talking on the phone more often again.

I will miss Jordan tremendously.  I will miss his friendship.  Yes, friendship.  His phone calls, his Facebook comments, his comments on my blog posts, random emails and instant messaging and texts.  It wasn't often, but it was more often than I communicate with some of my other brothers.  I guess now I know what I need to work on with my other brothers.

Jordan, I love you.  You really were a good brother to me.  And even though when we were little, you sometimes teased me, you were never really mean.  I hope and pray you are in a happy place.  I know the last few years of your life you had an immense struggle.  I hope you passed your test.  I love you, my brother.


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