Monday, December 08, 2014

American Education Week

Public Education, and in particular Educators, are part of my heritage. I'm the daughter of a teacher, the granddaughter of teachers, niece of teachers. My kids attend public school (I even go to school, did you know that?). Naturally, when I was invited to attend an event in November for American Education Week, I jumped at the chance.

November 19th was Education Support Professionals Day. ESPs are those who we see at schools in other capacities than in front of a classroom of students, those who are critical for the success of students. Teacher aides, secretaries, janitors, food service workers, bus drivers -- their roles are integral to having a school run well, and November 19th was the day to let them know their hard work hasn't gone unnoticed.

At Odyssey Elementary School in Woods Cross, I met up with Christiana Campos from the National Education Association (NEA). She introduced me to NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and KUED's Mary Dickson. Together, we visited with the women who work in the cafeteria (and who told us they're not offended by being referred to as Lunch Ladies). We washed up, and put on hair nets (yes, really) and gloves, and got to work.

It was taco day, lucky kids. I hope they liked what we made for them.

The women we met in that cafeteria are very smart and hard-working, and I think any of us would be lucky to have our kids eat what they were preparing. I don't think I've ever seen an elementary school cafeteria with such a colorful variety of healthy food available in a salad bar-type setting.

The school itself is wonderfully functional, with a commons area that turns into the cafeteria when needed with portable tables.

Celebrating ESPs reminded me of how grateful I am for the teachers and leaders in my kids' lives. My brother's wife was fundamental in helping to teach my oldest child how to read. At that time, over eleven years ago, my brother's wife wasn't even my brother's wife yet...but she was an Education Support Professional at a local elementary school.

What are some of your favorite memories of, or experiences with, ESPs?

For more on events from this year's American Education Week, check the hashtag #aew2014.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Girl Lux

Last week I attended a maturation program at an elementary school with my daughter who is in 5th grade. Each time I attend these presentations (she's my 3rd daughter to go through this at school, with Mom by her side) my mind is flooded with memories of my own experiences at that age.

I think I was one of the first in my grade to wear a bra, and I have distinct memories of long and hot days in 4th grade-- hot because I wore a sweater (a thick, itchy sweater that made me sweat even in winter) every day to avoid even the possibility of anyone seeing the outline of my bra through my clothing. Still today, when I'm not careful (or if I'm tired) my posture reflects how I held myself during those formative years. I cringe to think of it, and though I've worked proactively to help my girls not be ashamed of their bodies, I know that some of it simply comes with the territory, particularly during puberty.

One of the demonstrations the school nurse did for the audience of 5th grade girls and some parents involved a trick. "Let me show you a trick," she said into her microphone. The trick, of course, involved grabbing and holding a pad in your hand, by your wrist or up your sleeve, so as not to be noticed by ANYONE. Because HOW EMBARRASSING to have a period. (The girls in the room all giggled and/or groaned; I wanted to hug them all and tell them it's okay.)

Look, I can't pull my feminist pants up high enough to ensure that All Girls Of The Future will never feel ashamed when their bodies do exactly what they're meant to do. Still, I champion any cause that makes it easier on them, physically, practically, and/or emotionally.

And this is why I'm really excited to tell you about GirlLux.

Girl Lux is a company started by Melissa Ovard to help girls be more comfortable and confident as they adjust to how their bodies are changing. Their mission is to offer underwear and sportswear that are high-quality, stylish, and age-appropriate. They are a woman-owned and women-run company with the goal of empowering girls with products that make them feel beautiful, inside and out. And? A huge part of what they do is work to keep girls safe: they've committed that you will never see any pictures of their products modeled on girls on their website.

One of their awesome products is the Pocket Pantie. It comes in a cotton/lycra blend brief, or a girl short style. It has a small, interior pocket, sewn in just below the waistband, which is just big enough to hold a wrapped liner or pad, and discreet enough to not be noticed or bother a girl while she's sitting. When she goes to the bathroom, if she finds herself in need of any supplies, she's got what she needs without having to carry her backpack into the stall with her.

Another cool product is their Debut Bra, a smarter version of a training bra. Made in soft, stretchy fabric, it doesn't have a back clasp, and is available in five skin tone-matching colors so as to be less visible under clothing. It fits AA/A/B cups and is machine washable and can go in the dryer.

My own daughters have worn these products, and here's what they like about them:

Pocket Pantie/Girl Short:
"It's thin, soft, and comfortable."
"They're so soft and comfortable!"
"It's stretchy, comfy, and I love having the pocket."

Debut Bra:
"It's soft, comfortable, thick and stretchy."
"It's soft. I like the fabric, and love the colors."
"I like that it's so comfy and stretchy. It made it so I could move around more."

Pretty awesome, right?

If you're as excited about this product as I am, go to the Pocket Pantie Kickstarter and give what you can. I wish on All The Stars I would have had these products when I was my daughters' ages. Let's get this company going, their work is valuable and important. There's not much time left-- it ends on November 2nd, so go there now!

This post was made possible by Girl Lux. Join their Pocket Pantie Kickstarter to help girls feel confident and prepared no matter what! You can follow their progress on Instagram and Facebook and share it with your favorite teen and tween girls.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Thank you again

Each year when I write about Taylor I wonder if it's too much, if people are sick of it, if they think I should just let it go, drop it already. But I write anyway because it's helpful to me.

And each year I am overcome by the support I receive and feel from friends and strangers far and near.

This year was no exception, and I thank all who reached out, in word or thought, whether or not we've met before It's not uncommon for me to get an email or fb message along the lines of, 'You don't know me, but my friend directed me to your blog...' and I hope you all know that's okay, not just in October but any time. If there's anything, any good thing to come of loss, it might be the companionship in shared tragedy, making the burden seem lighter.

So, thank you. Again and always.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Something Next to Normal

Almost a year ago the UVU Theatre Department put on a musical called Next to Normal. It ran the same time as In The Heights, so I didn't get to see it.

Never have I had so many people say this to me about a show: "It reminded me a lot of you. You should see it."

The department did another run of the show in February as they prepared to take it to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. It was during this brief run of the unedited show that I got to see it. 

I was wrecked.

Here is where I give major spoilers about Next to Normal, but SorryNotSorry, I've got to talk about it. I also need to mention that if you haven't seen the show, or listened to the songs, and you internalize that stuff like I tend to do: potential trigger warning. I mean it. 

When I went to the show the only things I knew were:

- It was going to a national competition.
- People said it reminded them of me.
- I should be prepared to become emotional.
- Ben and Zoe were in it.

That's it. 

And when it begun and at the very beginning I saw a mom talking to her son, before it was even revealed, I knew. I just knew, and the tears began. 

He had died. 

She was imagining the conversation. 

The show deals intimately with mental illness, and while some parts of that show aren't applicable to me and my situation, many parts are very, very close. 

On assignment I've been listening to the soundtrack for the past two weeks or so, and it's been cathartic. 

Maybe we can't be okay
But maybe we're tough and we'll try anyway.

This is the first year I won't be able to visit my son's grave on his birthday. I'll be out of town. Last year I was able to make strides I never thought possible in the realm of what I was capable of doing during Taylor Week, but I was still able to go to the cemetery on his day. This time it will be new, another step. Like having your child run to the neighbor's house for the first time, a small test of what looks like independence but is really growth.

I don't need a life that's normal,
That's way too far away. 
But something next to normal 
would be okay.

I went on Monday. Brought flowers, took pictures, and then quietly and almost frantically, began weeding around the headstone, trying to brush the dirt and bugs off, realizing I wouldn't be able to get it as clean as I'd like. My tears temporarily stained the stone. 

14. He'd be 14.

I'll wake alone tomorrow.
The dream of our dance is through.
But now until forever, Love, 
I'll live to dance with you.

Taylor Week:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Smells Good

People who know me know how important smell is to me. 'Duh, Jenny,' you say, 'smell is important to everyone.' Okay, but hear me out.

Smell is SO important to me.

A few days ago I filled out this What's Your Ideal Work Environment thing, and smell was the first thing I wrote down.

Things have to smell GREAT. One of the best smells in the world to me is when something smells CLEAN. This is one reason I don't buy sausage (it stinks up the place), and when I buy bacon I pay more for the precooked bacon because it doesn't stink up the place as much.

One of the highest compliments you can pay me is to tell me I smell good. I remember when my brother and sister-in-law walked into my house after months of not being here and said, "Yep, smells like clean laundry." Another time I was told, after living in my house for over 8 years, that it still smelled new. Recently I saw a friend I hadn't seen in a while and when he hugged me he said, "Oh, your smell! I remember your smell! Your clean clothes smell." AND, I kid you not, it's not uncommon for people to say to me after zumba class that they can't believe I smell like clean clothes after all that sweating. I promise, it's true.

Have you heard of olfactory memory? How certain smells are closely tied to memories? I believe it.

Some of my favorite smells:

Downy Unstopables
Clorox Cleanup (reminds me of when I worked the closing shift at Remedez)
Gain anything (I use Febreeze with Gain scent)
Yankee Candle Clean Cotton or Fluffy Towels air freshener
Method Pink Grapefruit all-purpose cleaner
Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Rosemary hand soap
Coffee (but not coffee-scented stuff because it doesn't smell like coffee)

Different times of year I'll add different things to the mix. Like, from now until the end of the year, anything with the right blend of spices is perfect. I really like this Spice Market candle from 719 Walnut Avenue.

My kids are more into sweet smells, fruity smells. It's funny, it carries over for them, too-- my daughter is using these Pumpkin Pie Diner wax melts from Glade in her room. A holiday smell, but sweeter (too sweet for me, anyway).

Another daughter likes to plug in Febreeze Noticeables in Toasted Almond (a blend of almond and caramel). I like the almond, but the caramel is too sweet for me (just right for her).

What are your favorite smells? I'm not asking because that's what some bloggers do at the end of a posts, I really want to know. Do you know why you like those smells?

Note: I was provided some product and compensation for this post. All content is original and honest.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dear Parents: It Gets Better

Tomorrow is a day I've anticipated for years. Actual years. It's here.


For years I've talked about having a campaign for parents: #ItGetsBetter (though I don't mean to be disrespectful to It Gets Better in any way). Parents sometimes find themselves in well-documented (or not) throes and need something, anything to hold onto-- which is to say something, anything OTHER THAN, "Oooh, these years pass so quickly, don't you just love it?" and that ilk.

I'll be honest: I've found myself actually loving most of those crazy moments. I laughed heartily when I walked in on this scene:

I've also cried myself straight out of stores, out of church, away from social events, and straight to my bathroom only to find that there isn't any place to be safe from the inevitable heartache occasionally brought on by parenthood.


When my youngest was born, my second-to-youngest was 18 months old. I remember saying to myself at that time, "Three years. I'm giving myself three years. I won't go anywhere, I won't have any expectations." It was a survival tactic, and it was effective. It's not (necessarily) the best kind of thing for every parent to do, but it was the best thing for me to do then.

My oldest was born 8 days after I turned 22. My youngest was born 14 days after I turned 31. I like being a young mom, but I don't remember my twenties.


In September of 2008 my kids were 5 months, almost 2, 4 and a half, turning 7, and 9 and a half. Things were going on, despite my 3-year moratorium. Kids still had school and lessons, speech therapists still had to visit my house, and I was doing fundraising things online.

I don't know which day in September I did it, but one day I walked over to the pantry, opened the door and looked at my calendar. I grabbed a green marker and made a chart.

I needed to know. For whatever reason that day, I needed a timeline. I didn't feel desperate, just wondering: How long until they were all in school? Maybe more than that, I needed to know: When would they all be in school all day?

Even I was surprised by this move. I'm not a mom who rejoices at her kids going back to school. I like having them home, I like being with them. I'm also a mom who recognizes the benefit of the structure that comes from their days of school and other activities, days which just aren't the same during summer break.


And here we are. Tomorrow's the day.

All the kids will start the school year, that school year I wrote down back in 2008. 14-15. That's tomorrow. It's not some abstract date I wonder about while I have babies on my hip and Kraft dinner on the stove (again).

So, Dear Parents:

It Gets Better.

Not that you shouldn't enjoy whatever stage you're in, but you're the boss of that. I'm not, your mom isn't, strangers at the store aren't, even well-meaning friends aren't.

Maybe you are enjoying this stage. Super, and GoodOnYa. But maybe this stage is really hard for you, in which case, it's okay, hang in there, and keep going.


It's a new season. Yeah, I'm going to call it better.