Monday, March 28, 2011

Dollarless Decorations

Okay, the title is a stretch, I know.

We had a ward relief society birthday celebration on Saturday morning. It wasn't until the night before that we realized we hadn't thought about decorations yet. We were already over on our budget and thus had very little time or money to figure out how we were going to decorate the tables where the sisters would eat breakfast.

Between me, the R.S. pres (Kelly), the other counselor in the presidency (Lindsay), and our R.S. adviser (Sister Heaps), we created all the center pieces from things we had at home. Some of you who have been in my room will recognize items on the tables. We tried to make it so each table had a little taste of "home." It wasn't fancy or as matchy matchy as I would have ideally hoped, but it felt homey and personal.

I've decided that, given more time, this could be a really fun way to involve an entire relief society. Each table could be assigned to a different sister to decorate with her own tablecloth and inspirational items from her home. The theme could be, "Home can be a heaven on earth," or something else related to our homes being sacred.

Our R.S. president did all the food for the breakfast and it was incredible.

We had amazing baked french toast covered in cornflake crumbs (I should post the delicious!), quiche, fruit, gluten free muffins (she thinks of everyone!), and juice.

While we ate, Allison, a sister from the R.S. spoke about the women in her family history, and Sister Kallas, the wife of a member of our bishopric, also spoke about the miracles that her relief society at home have helped to realize in her life.

After the speakers, we did a few different service projects for a home for single women who are giving up their children for adoption. We put together craft kits (card making kits, flower making kits, baby burp cloths) they can do to pass the time while they are expecting.

LinnieBell loves having her picture taken :-).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Service and a Haircut

Today, a girl in my relief society gave a message on service at our R.S. birthday celebration. She said when she is going through a particularly trying time in her life, the two things she finds that help her are 1) doing service and 2) a dramatic new haircut.

I agree with her. And I just keep going shorter and shorter. Short haircuts are addicting. Glad I go to the best hair stylist in town.


Only two more weeks until this child will be in my arms too.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Loyal, Strong, and True

Today, I felt like a true cougar.

I've always felt a little guilty about the fact that I have gone to next to no BYU sporting events. My freshman year, I went to approximately one and a half football games. I didn't like standing the whole time and watching something I didn't understand for three hours. Patience has never been one of my virtues. Since then, I've relished the quiet time that exists during the three hours of the game when everyone else in Provo is at the stadium and I'm happily curled in bed reading a book.

Tonight, however, I went to a ward activity where we watched the BYU vs. Florida game. I was glued to the screen the entire game. It was so intense. I was cheering and clapping just as loud, if not louder, than the rest of the crowd. I was groaning at missed shots. Many of you know this is a HUGE breakthrough for me. My biggest regret is that I caught the BYU basketball fever today instead of catching it months ago.

Below is the score when we first got ahead of Florida. I wanted to remember the moment. Like I said, this whole basketball thing is kind of new for me.

This is where the score was at half time (see below). SO INTENSE!

Thanks, Sheralyn, for providing me with the only cute BYU shirt I own so I could feel legit at the game.

Lots of the ward came to the activity to support the cougars with other loyal BYU fans.

Rob grew a "Jimmerstache" that he would not shave until BYU was out of the bracket.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I think I'm going gray...

I just got back from the mailbox. 14 stamps. 14 envelopes. 14 reflection written by students about their behavior, addressed to their parents. 14 gray hairs.

One of my classes was not going well today. Just to give you a taste of what I enjoyed, one of my students kept making animal noises when I told him to stop.

After enduring this kind of behavior for about 5 minutes, I decided to change the direction of the lesson and had the entire class write about their behavior instead of working on note names. I had them rate themselves on a scale from 1-10, write about what respect means to them, how they can improve in class, etc.

Next, I collected all the letters and announced they would be mailed home. I decided to only mail the ones written by students who have been problematic. I made my own little comments when students rated themselves too easy ("I would actually give your child a '5' out of '10' instead of an '8').

I took unholy delight in mailing the extremely disrespectful and cheeky letter written by one student who had no idea I would be sending it home. Here is an example of the kind of things he wrote: The reason I'm bad is because I have to be funny because this class is so boring. I'm funny and it makes class fun. One kid in the class told me the only reason he likes this class is because I'm in it. When he found out I was mailing it, he begged me not to because the next time he gets in trouble, he isn't allowed to be on the football team. Good information to file away...

I hate being the big bad wolf, I really do. This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder why I didn't go in to scrubbing toilets in public bathrooms.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shouldn't every day... princess day?

I get to wear a crown and HOPEFULLY be treated like royalty today for princess day during girls week. Do you think my students will bow before me marvel at being in my presence?

Not likely.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Did You Know...

...I've been using the same laundry basket for ten years?

Holly gave it to me when I graduated from high school in 2001. It has gone with me to every single place I've moved since then (except my mission). That's 9 different places. It's fantastic. It's sturdy and has a place to put my hip when I carry it down the stairs. I have no plans to switch anytime soon.

...I am allergic to cold?

It's true. I have been diagnosed with a condition called cold urticaria. I've had it since I was a young girl. Basically, if I get too cold, I get hives and become really itchy. I've noticed it lately on evening walks. Super uncomfortable.

...I once went 6 months by accident with an expired registration without getting a ticket?

I finally did get pulled over on my way to a friend's wedding. What's awful is that I really had no idea it was expired....and it had been for 6 months!! I'm not sure which is worse...trying to get away with expired registration or being so clueless that you didn't know it was expired in the first place!

...I was published in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul II when I was 14?

It was a rainy day and like most normal teenagers would do, I decided to write a poem and send it to Chicken Soup for the Soul. I wrote the poem but felt like it needed an explanation to go along with it (meaning it must not have been a very good poem, right?). I wrote a little paragraph describing what I was trying to say in the poem. They ended up publishing the paragraph...and not the poem.

...I once said the 'd' word three times in a row when I lost my cat?

Dinah went missing one evening when we were living in our old house. I was about 12. I decided this was an appropriate time to use a swear word. It wasn't as fulfilling as I thought it was going to be. pretend name was always "Shelly"?

Many young girls like to come up with different names for when they play house, school, supermarket, etc. with their friends. My fake name was always Shelly. My friend Kate said hers was Paige. My roommate Kelsey's was Crystal. So it wasn't just me, okay?

...I once bore my testimony in church about mashed potatoes?

I was about 10 or 11 years old and wanted to make jokes like all the adults did over the pulpit. My idea of a funny comment was expressing gratitude for the fact that my mother was going to make mashed potatoes and gravy after church (which was my favorite food).

...I used to fall asleep imagining I was dating Zach Morris or AC Slater from Saved by the Bell?

That's literally how I got to sleep at night.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Belong

Today in Sunday school at church, someone talked about the importance of sharing our testimonies. I realized that I need to take the opportunity to do so more often.

There is a simple primary song I used to sing as a child that truly represents my testimony of the Lord's gospel.

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I know who I am, I know God's plan.
I'll follow Him in faith.
I believe in the Savior Jesus Christ,
I'll honor His name.
I'll do what is right,
I'll follow His light.
His truth I will proclaim.

I hope I can become better at proclaiming the truth of the gospel and the joy it brings me every single day. I know the Lord is mindful of me and wants me to be happy. If I come to Him, He will help me achieve happiness and peace on a daily basis. By keeping His commandments, I can better know Him and more easily feel His Spirit guiding me. When I neglect the things He has asked me to do through scriptures and the prophets, I feel lost. I love my Savior.

Another Blurry Video! Wahoo!

Hey, Soul Sister!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Sing

Between my camera, Sylvia's camera, and Kelsey's I-phone, we were able to get recordings of most of the choral numbers. Because it was so far away, some of the videos were blurry. I was actually really excited about that because then, I could post some on my blog without giving away my students' identity!

In the video above, Christina did the choreography that you can kind of see them doing. This is only the second half of the piece.

I feel stupid posting a picture of just myself, but this is essentially my life journal, so I have to catalog what I wore for my posterity:

This is me watching my students sing, "Hey Soul Sister," which two boys accompanied on guitar and they sang without a conductor.

The concert was a blast. We had a few minor issues, such as a microphone not working, risers coming apart (and falling over), me skipping items on the program, lights turning on and off (and on and off and on and off) backstage, students not going to the bathroom before the concert, etc. but overall, it went smoothly and was so much fun. The audience didn't notice a lot of the things that made me tense and worried, which was a relief.

Now THAT'S a new one...

For talent day today, I had a student bring in the following:

Her talent was trading the heads of stuffed animals with her friend and sewing them on the wrong bodies. I've seen a lot of things during talent day, but that is not one I've gotten before.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patty's Day!

One of the best things about being a school teacher is you have a great excuse to really get in to every holiday without it being totally awkward.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Welcoming the Spring

Our spring concert is tomorrow night. I am so excited! I haven't been this excited for a concert in a long time.

Today, about 10 members of my girls ensemble stayed after school to work on the "set" for our big scene change half way through the show. Pictures to come! They were such busy bees and so creative. They honestly blew me away with their ideas and artistic abilities (and as all my students know, I am no artist). They came up with things I would never have imagined on my own.

This drove home a lesson my mission companion, Sister Jones, taught me years ago during companionship study in Passo Fundo, Brazil. I have never really liked group work. I know I can guarantee it will get done if I do it myself. That sounds awful, but I know there are others out there like me. That morning, I wanted to split up the FHE lesson we had to prepare so we each prepared half on our own. She explained that the point of studying together is bouncing ideas off each other and allowing a good idea to become great by refining it through discussion. She was absolutely right. We were much more creative together than separately.

That's what happened today with my girls. I bought a bunch of decorations at Zurchers the other day and they took the main ideas I had and ran with them, coming up with their own art work and decorating ideas. They were the ones who asked to come after school and help. If it hadn't been for them, I would have tried to do it on my own, just to ensure it got done.

Here are some of the many things I'm looking forward to about tomorrow night:
  • Wearing my pretty skirt and ruffled heels (I didn't mean to list that first...oops)
  • Presenting students with awards for the program cover contest
  • Hearing a guest group from Provo High perform on our concert (including some of my former students!)
  • Listening to my students perform their special numbers on piano, violin, and voice.
  • Collaborating with my good friend and accompanist Lisa and being able to conduct my girls ensemble instead of being behind the piano
  • Hearing my Girls Ensemble and Concert Choir sing their finale number together ("We're all in this Together" from High School Musical) and watching them work together instead of being in silent competition with one another
  • Seeing the set "unveiled" halfway through the show
  • Watching my girls perform their hula dancing during, "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride
  • Seeing my Concert Choir sing, "Hey Soul Sister" (they come up with funny ways of "getting in to it). Special thanks to Megan Payne for coming up with some alternate lyrics (written in the comments section of a previous blog post) for a part that wasn't middle school appropriate. I totally used 'em!
  • Seeing what my kids come up with for the costume change.
  • Seeing if any of my students followed through with the request to bring any older brothers, cousins, or uncles between the ages of 25 and 33 to the concert
  • Not worrying about performance and audience behavior since my 140 7th graders performed at school on Tuesday and will not be taking part in this concert :-)
  • Seeing my grandma, aunt, and cousins (and maybe an uncle!) at my concert. It means so much to me that they are coming!
...and so much more!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

And then I remember Ella

It's 6:44 a.m. on Saturday and I can't sleep. This week has been so loooooong due to this cold that I just cannot shake!! I have the whole congested, sore throat thing. The worst part of all is that my ears are plugged half the time. I HATE that. I also can't taste food. It's the weirdest sensation. Does this border on T.M.I?

I was so lucky to have my mom here for a few days because moms just know how to take care of their little ones. She was out buying me lemonade, Niquil, and Dayquil and making me chicken noodle soup with toast fingers. I just love toast fingers, especially when my mom makes them. I feel bad because I'm sure that's not what she bargained for when she came out here, but she would rather spend as much time as possible with her sick daughter than not see her at all, even at the risk of her getting ill. Is that humbling or what? A mother's love knows no bounds.

Anyway, I'm going on day 5 of this blasted thing, and it's really frustrating. But then I look at my phone and see this picture of Ella sitting on the screen and all is right in the world again:

(By the way, this is the shirt I bought her in Seattle! She loves it. Can you tell?)

Maybe I understand a little tiny bit about the "mother's love knowing no bounds" thing in a small, vicarious way. The amount I love this little niece I've never met is quite mind boggling!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lesson Learned

Don't go to bed with wet hair.

P.S. This is not a joke. This is honestly what I woke up to this morning. And I laughed out loud.

Monday, March 7, 2011


I've been thinking lately about choice and what kind of role it plays in my life.

For example, last night I chose to go to bed at 8:15 p.m. I didn't have anything to do for the rest of the evening and I wasn't quite sure how to handle that. So, I figured I could be really well rested for school the next day, even though I knew in the back of my mind that this was not logical. I determined that if I woke up early due to going to bed early, I could figure out what to do with my time in the morning. It was easier to put off making a decision. I guess one could say I made the choice to not choose. So here I am, 6 hours later, wide awake at 2:45 a.m. I am right now dealing with the consequences of my choice (or would it be a non-choice?). The decision I made isn't of great significance to anyone else, nor will it affect my eternal progression. It has, however, affected my current mood. I am frustrated and not as happy as I could be, because I messed with my body's sleep schedule, I'm wide awake, and I know I'll end up being tired later. I have so much control over my own happiness based on the choices I do or do not make.

Another aspect of choice I've been considering relates to diets. I HATE THE WORD DIET. The word diet is restrictive and binding. It makes me angry. I hate the idea that I am not allowed to eat more than a set number of calories a day or that I cannot have dessert. I want to throw up my hands and give up on dieting permanently when I feel so controlled. After years of trying to find that perfect "fitness program" (as I like to call it, since the word diet makes me want to throw something), I finally figured out that for me, it all boils down to being able to choose. It's really all quite psychological. I do best when I tell myself the following:

"I am choosing to eat less junk food and avoid sweets for awhile in order to slim down and improve my overall health. I am choosing to go to the gym in order to help me accomplish this goal and feel better about myself. If I so desire, I can eat junk food at any moment I feel like it. If I don't want to go to the gym on a particular day because I am exhausted, I wont. I will choose, knowing that I will have to deal with the consequences of my choices later."

This has made such a difference in my life. More often than not, I choose the gym. I choose to avoid the junk food. I choose to control my portions. When I know it's 100% up to me and I determine my own fate, I am more motivated to eat healthier. Now, this is all quite silly, because whether or not I call it a "diet" or a "fitness program," it's all within my control anyway. But in my mind, I want to be in charge of my own personal fitness program, and not let the diet be in charge of me.

Free agency is a beautiful thing. I remember saying in frustration to my roommate Shelley once, "I just want an arranged marriage. I want someone to choose for me and make it happen." I'll never forget what she said to me after that: "The adversary wanted to choose for us. He wanted to force us to do what he wanted. Our ability to choose for ourselves is a beautiful gift." I agree completely. I'm starting to understand this concept better.

It's liberating to feel this way; however, as I've pondered choice even further, I realize that there are some things many define as a choice that I do not agree with. I say this knowing there are many out there who won't agree with my line of thought, but it is part of my personal core beliefs and makes sense to me as I consider the definition of choice and how it permeates all aspects of my life. I say this not to spark debate or argument; I simply want to articulate what choice means to me in every sense of the word.

For every choice, there is a result of some kind. If I choose to go to bed on time and get the right amount of sleep, the consequence will most likely be energy and physical happiness throughout the day. If I choose to kick a dog, the consequence could very well be getting bitten. This is a not so happy consequence. Whether good or bad, the consequence is mine to live with. That's why agency is such an important gift. It allows us to control our own destiny. If we were able to change the consequences of our choices, what's the point of being able to make choices in the first place? Sometimes, however, even when we make a choice with the best of intentions, we cannot control the end result, however much we'd like to. I can choose to apply for a program and do my very best work to get in, but if the school chooses to reject my application, I have to live with those results, whether or not they were the ones I intended.

I think the power of procreation is a sacred power bestowed upon a husband and wife by a loving Heavenly Father. It has other divine purposes; but ultimately, its design is to create children in a family. If you don't agree with me on this point, the rest will not make sense. It is my choice to exercise this power of procreation or not to exercise it. The results of this decision, however, are not my choice.

For example, I have some dear friends who have chosen to exercise pro-creative powers with the intent of having children and they cannot conceive. This is not their choice. Their choice was to try; the end result, however, they could not control. They were forced to live with the consequences and determine what to do from there. Some seek medical help, some choose to adopt, others choose to live a happy life, despite the fact they are childless. I have had many friends suffer miscarriages when their greatest desire was to have children. They made the decision to try for a baby, but they could not control whether or not their baby would live. As much as they would love to alter it, the end result is not theirs to change.

In the same vein, when a couple decides to exercise procreative powers without the intent of having children, they cannot ultimately control the end result. It is possible to become pregnant even after taking precautions to avoid it. Some things we cannot control, despite our efforts to do so. Pregnancy is a always a possibility when the decision is made to exercise procreative powers, whether or not the purpose is to procreate. If I learn I am expecting a child, those are results of my choice. Just as others have to live with consequences of infertility, I must live with the consequences of pregnancy, either happily or unhappily. But I do have a few more choices now. I can choose to raise the child as my own happily or unhappily, or I can give him/her to loving parents.

At this point in my life, I choose not to exercise procreative powers, because I do not want to be faced with the consequences of procreation without a husband. Some might not mind that, but it's important to me. I have also made the choice at this point that I want to get married and have kids, but I cannot ultimately control whether or not that will happen. I can, however, learn to live happily or unhappily with the consequences.

It's now 4:00 a.m. I've gotten to know myself a little better in the past hour and fifteen minutes. Maybe you know me better now, too. Whether or not you like what you know now about me is your choice!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What I Learned About the FBI

  • You must have a 4 year degree to become an agent.
  • If you know a foreign language, you are much more likely to get a job.
  • Some of the top languages to know are Spanish, Arabic, and Russian.
  • has a list of criteria languages.
  • You must be between the ages of 23 and 37 to get hired as an agent.
  • 57 is the mandatory retirement age.
  • You usually have to work for 3 years before you're hired.
  • A starting agent coming out of the FBI academy starts at $60,000 per year in Salt Lake City (about double the salary of a starting teacher in Utah).
  • After 15-20 years, you could be making $130,000.
  • The FBI academy is 4 months long.
  • Former assistant principals, math teachers, florists, attorneys, and engineers are just some examples of people who end up working for the FBI.
  • FBI agents are on call all the time.
  • The CIA gathers intelligence to defend the US overseas. The FBI works closely with them.
  • The FBI is an investigative/law enforcement agency whose work is primary done in the U.S. but they have world-wide jurisdiction. The FBI has arrest powers, but the CIA doesn't.
  • There are about 13,000 FBI agents and most work in the U.S. About 300-400 work overseas.
  • One dude was undercover for 2 1/2 years as a drug lord in order to bust up a huge drug chain. He worked his way up to the top of the drug business and no one suspected that he was actually an FBI agent! Get out of here!
  • FBI agents jump out of airplanes and helicopters.
  • There are about 2 to 3,000 female FBI agents.
  • Women agents often out shoot men agents because they listen better to instructions.
  • Foreign counterintelligence refers to working against spies.
  • FBI defends the U.S. from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
So basically, since this is my third year teaching, I'm 27, my record is clean, and I know a foreign language, I'm a perfect candidate, right? Sorry, Mom, but this has really got me thinking...


Run, Jump, and Leap Tall Buildings

It's career day at our school and I'm hosting the FBI agent.

This is so cool.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All Part of My Master Plan

It worked.

I thought it might, but I couldn't be 100% positive, until I put my theory to the test.

This year, we're tight on funds at school (surprise, surprise!). Consequently, I have to pick most of my music from what already exists in our music library. Dixon is going on it's 80th birthday this year, so who knows how old some of that stuff in there is. For our upcoming concert, I chose a Rogers and Hammerstein song for my girls ensemble that was commissioned for the World Fair in the 40's. It's such a fun, circus-type song with cool harmonies. It reminded me of barbershop quartets, but for women.

We sang it one or two times in class and the girls hated it. I knew if they just gave it a chance, they would learn to like it. But trying to convince 13 and 14 year old girls who love Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars to give such an old fashioned song a try was like trying to convince a baby it's not hungry. The whining and crying was more than I could bear (and trust me, I know I was the exact same way at their age!).

I did not, however, want to give up the song. What to do, what to do...?

I ditched the song for a little while. After some time had passed, I told the girls, "Since you guys don't like this song, we're not going to perform it for the concert. I promise. Instead, we'll sing a little piece of it each day for our warm-up because it has some great harmonies that will help us become better singers." From that moment on, anytime they'd ask unhappily, "Wait, so we're singing this at the concert?" (because this age group often asks questions that have already answered), I'd say, "Nope. Since you guys don't like it, we're just going to use it as a warm-up." They'd express relief profusely and we'd be on our merry way.

Over the course of the next few days, I made the girls review the first 2 pages until we had it down, under the pretense of it being a warm-up to teach us harmony, vowels, and blending. It started sounding really lovely. And guess what I heard from some of my most out-spoken girls today?

"Ms. Houston, we should sing this at the concert!"

Really? What a great idea!