Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween? Sure Doesn't Feel Like It!

 Today is Halloween, but besides the large pot of Chili on the stove (a Jenson family tradition I have continued for Mike) it feels nothing like Halloween. Why? One word "FRANKENSTORM!!"

Frankenstorm, also known as Hurricane Sandy hit the Tri-Sate area on Monday and left a path of devastation in its wake. We were spared from flooding, property damage and even a power outage. We feel so blessed and have done our best to pay it forward the best that we can. Although my story is not nearly as dramatic as others in my area, I want to be sure that it is recorded. So here we go...

The first time I heard of "Frankenstorm" was Thursday afternoon. The lady I babysit for mentioned that we might have a change of schedule if this storm hit. I decided I would go to walmart after work on Friday and pick up an extra lantern and a few non perishable storm essentials. As I left work on Friday I joked with my coworkers that I would see them Tuesday as we all hoped we could squeeze an extra day off from the storm. We had no idea we would be missing a whole WEEK of school due to this storm. When I got to walmart I was shocked to find that the shelves has already been picked over and very little was left. Glad I already had enough flashlights and things in my 72 hour kits. I was still able to pick up some good storm food to help us get by.

 The weekend was a little eerie. It was definitely the calm before the storm. I think most people got what they needed then just sat around tracking the storm and waited for it to hit. By Sunday night, It was clear the storm was going to hit and it was going to be bad. By 2pm Sunday afternoon Mike's office had sent an e-mail announcing that they would be closed on Monday, something that has never happened with any of the past storms. By 3pm I had an e-mail from my school saying it would be closed on Monday and Tuesday. We heard that people on the water in Greenwich and Stamford were being told to evacuate. We looked at a map of Stamford and we were only a few blocks away from the voluntary evacuation zones. Sunday nigh my good friend Camille and her son Peyton came to stay with us since their home is close to the long island sound. Her husband was away in FL on business and she was nervous of flooding in her area. Her home was one house away from mandatory evacuation line.We were glad to have them, it was like a little party. That night as I watched storm coverage I was excited to see my school name flash on the bottom of the screen.

 Monday morning Camille and I decided we should go to the store and buy some fresh produce to eat if the lights went out. I was surprised to see the shelves so bare, but glad I could pick up what I wanted. It was only 9am but even then the wind was strong and blowing carts around in the parking lot. We were glad to get back inside, ready to wait out the storm.

All morning and afternoon the winds howled. I was surprised there wasn't more rain, but most of this storm was wind. We spent a lot of the day watching storm coverage and checking Facebook. We would let each other know when a new friend announced that they were without power. Around 6pm the storm made landfall and we could tell. It was right around then that our lights started to flicker. I was sure that the power was going to go out. I hurried up and got a warm dinner on the table hoping the power would stay on long enough for us to eat. During dinner the lights kept flickering. As we looked out the window it was pitch dark outside. I didn't understand why it was so much darker than normal. As I cleaned up I was just praying we could keep power long enough for the dishwasher to run the full cycle. Camille and I made some bran muffins that we could eat if the power went out. While the muffins were baking we felt like there was a lull in the winds. So Mike and I went outside to investigate. There was a huge tree branch that had fallen in our parking lot, we were glad we moved our cars. While checking out the branch there was a huge, powerful gust of wind. I looked up to see all the trees swaying above me and got a little scared. We ran away from the trees to the street to see if everyone still had power. We looked down the street and saw nothing but darkness. The whole street was out of power. Somehow, our complex and the big medical center beside us were the only people with power. We were so grateful, but even more sure that we were biding out time before our lights went out as well.  Later that night Mike went and stood on our front porch and looked around. He came back in saying that something weird was happening in the sky. There were flashes of pink and orange every once in a while. We later realized that those were power transformers blowing up. Towards midnight we knew the storm serge was close to hitting, that would be the real test. Stamford has a flood gate that is suppose to protect downtown from flooding. If it were to break the whole place would be under water. As it got closer to midnight I started to worry that I would wake up to water around our building. I went to be praying we would maintain power and not end up under water. I usually sleep really well at night, but not Monday night. I woke up at least once or twice an hour checking to see if we had power and if everything was still dry. I was relieved to wake up in the morning to power and no flooding. Our cable and internet was out, but that wasn't even a drop in the bucket compared to what other people would be waking up to. We said a huge prayer of Thanks to our Father in Heaven that we were so blessed throughout this storm.

 Tuesday afternoon we were all stir crazy. Since the storm had died down we went for a walk, then drove around to see some of the damage. We stayed mostly on main roads as we knew the back roads would have lots of live wires down that would be dangerous. We saw lots of trees uprooted, snapped in half, on houses, blocking roads and fallen in yards. It was hard to believe that after Hurricane Earl, Hurricane Irene and all the bad Nor'Easters we've had in the past 4 years that there are still so many trees that had fallen. We didn't see any flooding because those areas were blocked off. I am curious to see what the main campus of my school looks like. It is RIGHT on the water of the long island sounds. I hope it wasn't damaged.


Camille headed home later in the afternoon and a coworker of mine and her brother came over to shower and charge electronics. After all the excitement of the day Mike and I sat down and realized there wasn't as much to do without internet and cable. We decided to take advantage of our unexpected time off and head to a movie. We went to the theater inside the mall. It was crazy to see all the stores closed, but the mall full of people charging phones and laptops.

We feel continually blessed to be so lucky and pray for the people who have lost everything.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Field Trip to Silverman's Farm

One of the perks of being a Kindergarten teacher (besides having long holiday breaks and the whole summer off) is that you get to go on field trips. A few weeks back we took our Kindergarten classes to Silverman's Farm. The bus ride there was less than ideal as the driver got lost, and I got horrible motion sickness. However, once we arrived it was a lot of fun. We took a hayride (although I'm not sure why it is called that as there was no hay on the tractor) and saw all the beautiful tress with changing leaves from the top of the hill. After that we were all able to pick a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. Then came everyones favorite part of the trip, the petting zoo. They have tons of animals on the farm and they give you a huge bucket of feed and cups so you can feed the animals. Before the trip each student does a "report" on an animal from the farm. Animals such as pigmy goats, American buffalo, Emu, Alpacka, sheep, regular goats and peacocks are some of the animals they have. This is so fun for the kids because when they get there they know about the animals they are seeing and they say things like "oh this is an Alpacka, that was John's animal." It's really cute. It was a lot of fun to feed all the animals, especially they pigmy goats. They were hoping onto parts of the fence and balancing on them while we fed them. So cute. After feeding the animals and washing our hands we sat down to a nice picnic lunch. That is until the bee's showed up and scared everyone forcing us to pack up and have the kids finish their lunch on the bus. Our school has been going to the farm for several years and the people who run the farm really like our group. So much so that this year they gave all the teachers a box of their apple cider doughnuts and an amazing apple pie to take home. A-Ma-Zing!! It was a great field trip!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Genreal Conference Weekend: The Spiritual Nourisment

It goes without saying that this General Conference was one for the books. President Monson opened the first session of conference by announcing that the church was lowering the age requirement for missionary service. Young men can now serve at 18 (provided they have graduate high school) and young women can now serve at age 19, rather than 21. I was so excited to hear this news, but instantly felt a little cheated. My mother served a mission and always encouraged all her children (regardless of gender) to serve a mission as well. I always had that desire to serve. I remember a time in the fall of 2006 (when I was 19 years old) really wanting to serve a mission, RIGHT THEN. A lot of my guy friends were serving missions and I felt really left out. I remember walking through the gardens at BYU-I and looking at the temple being built in the distance and having such a strong desire to receive my endowments and go serve the Lord. I was annoyed that I had to wait till I was 21, it was such a long way away. In January of 2008, I started to get antsy again. This time it wasn't so much a feeling that I had to go on a mission right then, but more of a strong desire for spiritual progression. Which I could only assume was receiving my temple endowments. I was not dating anyone at the time and figured surly I wouldn't being going to the temple to be cealed anytime soon. One Sunday in mid to late January I went and meet with my bishop. I wanted to get the paperwork and ball moving on my mission papers so that I could submit them right when I was eligible (I think it was 90 or 120 days from the day you turned 21.) I wanted to enter the MTC the first day I was able to. My mom was so excited to think that I (her boy crazy daughter) had lasted three years at BYU-I [do] without getting married and was really going on a mission. A few days later I met Mike. Although we all know how the story ended I spent A LOT of time in the temple that semester. I pondered, and prayed to know what path to take. My patriarchal blessing tells me I will serve a special mission, so I debated on the meaning and timing of that. After much fasting and prayer I received that answer that "it was up to me." Both of my choices were worthy desires, both would bless my life and lead me on the path to eternal life and exhalation so why would either be wrong? In the end I decided that I couldn't take the chance of loosing someone like Mike. He was everything I was looking for in a spouse, he had the most loving family who I knew would set the greatest example of righteous living for our children. I could see my life with him clearly and decided that was what I wanted. So in the end I didn't go. How different my story would have been had this recent announcement been made 6 years ago? There is no doubt in my mind that I would have served a mission. I am so excited (and just a touch jealous) of all the YW who will now serve missions. What a blessing, I hope my sisters take advantage of it. As for me, I am still waiting to see what my special mission is. Maybe we will go on a "mature couples" mission, maybe Mike will be called as a mission President, maybe I will be called to serve in the General Relief Society or Young Women's presidency one day, or maybe it will be a little more subtile than all that. Who knows, but I anxiously await to serve the Lord in the special way he has planned for me.

While many, if not all, the talks given this year were wonderful there are some that have left impressions on me. As this is, as it stands, my journal I would like to record a few of those impressions and thoughts. Sis Dibbs of the general YW presidency gave a great talk, in which she coined the phrase "I'm a Mormon. I know it, I live it, I love it." Those simple words really struck me. There is so much more to missionary work then just saying I am a mormon. There is also, in most cases, a noticeable difference in the way faithful Mormons live their beliefs vs how the other people of various faiths live their beliefs. For example the phrase "I know it" stands to say "I know this gospel." Years ago when I was nannying, the women who's children I tended would ask me my beliefs on a number of different topics. Each time I would respond with an answer for her. I have been taught from my childhood the principles of the gospel and what it means to live as a faithful member of the church. She was astonished that I always had an answer for her, once she made the comment that "Mormons sure do know a lot about their faith, not many other people do." Meaning the people who she met of others faiths weren't always able to answer questions about their own belief system. This struck me as a bit strange until one time I asked one of my catholic friends a question about their church, and they had not a clue what the answer was. Now I am not saying that people of other faiths are always unsure of what they believe exactly. I am just noting that in some cases people view religion as a Sunday affair and learn only the basics. They neglect to search their own books of scripture for a more personal witness of their faith. Which brings me to the next point "I live it." As members of the church we strive to live the gospel in every way we can. Sometimes we fall shorts, as we are still subject to the natural man, but we strive to do our best. Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints is not just a religion, it is a life style. We attend church three hours a week, we abstain from alcohol, coffee, tea, drugs and premarital relations. We are encouraged to not just read, but study our books of scripture daily and to really learn for ourselves the teachings they contains. We are taught to pray no less than 5 times a day (morning, every meal and night) and to turn to the Lord any other time throughout the day that we may need his help. We are asked to donate 10% of our income, as well as give up the money we would have spent on two meals to the church each month so that money can support those in finical need. We hold callings in our church that we do not receive payment for, even though sometimes those callings can require much time and effort from us. We are asked to provide service for those in need and to be on the look out for such opportunities. Being a member of this church is not just a Sunday thing, it is a lifestyle, one that I love! Which brings me to the last phrase "I love it!" How much do I love this church? There are not words to explain how much. Everything that is good about me is because of this church. I am a good teacher, because I was given several opportunities as a child, youth and still as an adult to teach in sunday school, YW and sacrament. I am a leader because this church gave me the opportunity to develop leadership skills as a youth. I am a good wife because I know and understand the sacred covenant I have made with the Lord and my Husband to respect, honor, love and serve them. I am a good daughter and sister because I know the importance of family. I know that there is nothing more precious, more valuable, or worth fighting for on this earth. I am kind, understanding, honest, virtuous, sincere and generous because these values have been instilled in me since I was a small child. I was taught to respect all people and to look outside their faults and see the person the Lord saw when he looked at them. I love the teachings of this gospel. I love my Savior, Heavenly Father, Joseph Smith and all the modern day prophets and apostles who have taught me so much. In fact, there is nothing I love more on this earth than the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of this gospel I know that I will be with my family for all eternity. Because of it I have never had to ask the questions, where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? I never even had to ask "who am I?" because I have always known that I am a beloved daughter of my Heavenly Father who has divine worth an eternal destiny. I am not perfect, I am still far from it, but I know as I humble myself to the Lord and constantly seek his will my flaws will become less and my countenance will more closely match his. I will never find perfection in this life, but because of this gospel I will constantly be striving to get as close as I can in this life.

There were several talks on missionary work and the joys of serving a full time mission. I wept through those talks. Not because I was bitter that I was not among the 19 year old YW who could now serve, no, I wept for my brother. When I was a child I was always told that my actions effected the whole family. I didn't really believe that. Who cares if I broke curfew or told a white lie? Those things didn't make a difference to my parent or siblings, if I made a wrong choice I was only hurting myself. As an adult with a little more life experience behind me I can see how wrong my school of thought was. My brother, who I love so dearly, is having a hard time finding himself. I think maybe he thinks he knows who he is, but as a spectator it is clear to me that he still isn't sure. He is making choices in his life that while acceptable by the world standard are unacceptable by the Lord standards. He has decided not to serve a mission. And while I feel I have a close relationship with him the church is one topic I have tried to avoid with him. I do this only because I know that he knows what I believe, what I think is right and I don't need to remind him of that. Because I don't know where he stands in the church I can only make assumptions, which I try not to do. But one thing I do know, is he has told us he is not serving a mission. That breaks my heart. Maybe it's because I had such a strong desire to serve one that I don't know why he would miss out on this opportunity. But mostly it is because I know he is only hurting himself. He is denying himself of an opportunity that will change his life, a chance to serve those in need and really touch the lives of other people. A chance to share the good news of the restoration and to find those who are truly seeking for the truth and knowledge the gospel contains.  Serving a mission is not just a priesthood responsibility it is a duty. In the Doctrine and Covenants that Lord says "I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say ye have no promise." This is a concept I know he once knew and understood. I remember having a conversation with him one night about my other brother. At that time Bryant was not living the gospel to it's fullest extent and we were concerned for him. Andrew made the comment to me "Doesn't Bryant know that when he does things like this, that are wrong, the Lord can't bless him? He isn't going to get a football scholarship or things that he want if he doesn't do as the Lord asked." That struck me because I was so impressed that at 14 Andrew understood that concept so well. No he is making the choice not to serve a mission, which is what the Lord wants him to do, and he is facing all sorts of road blocks in his life. He thinks it is my parents trying to punish him for not going on a mission or unfair circumstances, but I think it is the Lord. The Lord does not have the power to bless him because he is not living up to the covenants he has made as a priesthood holder. He had no promise.... And as a sister (who acts more like a mother) I am having a hard time watching all of this. I have a hard time seeing how it effects my parents, as they question their parenting skills. I have spent so many nights in tears as I pray for him and fast for him, and yet nothing changes. That is because it is part of the plan to allow HF children to have agency and Andrew is practicing him. I just hope not at the cost of his eternal salvation. But I won't give up praying for him. Pres Monson told the story of a boy scout who stopped to help he and his wife one cold winter night. This boy was LDS but had decided not to go on a mission. Later that week Pres Monson wrote him a letter and included his book and encouraged him to give a mission more thought. The next week Pres Monson received a call from the boys mother. She said he was a good boy, but not making the right choice. That she and her husband had been praying and fasting and putting his name on the prayer roll of the temple and hoped he would change his mind. She saw her sons meeting with Pres Monson as an answer to her prayers, and he agreed. Months later Pre Monson was at this boys mission farwell. So just as this mother didn't give up on her son. I will not give up on my brother, I will keep praying for a change of heart. If not to serve a mission then just for him to attend church more regularly and to strengthen his testimony of the gospel. Oh the joys of being the oldest child... or maybe I just care more than normal.

Some phrases I jotted down were
*First observe, then serve
* Pray with all energy of heart
*Do you Love me? - from Elder Holland's powerful talk on Peter and the other disciples after Christ death. He always gives the most powerful talks. He took a few verses of scripture and just expanded on it so much that it was mind blowing.
*We will never look back
* Never postpone a prompting
* Pray to find those to serve
* Don't dwell on the negative but look for even the seemingly small but positive things.
*He is aware of our needs and we should call upon Him for even the smallest of needs.

Then I wrote *keep praying for Andrew*

I love that in general conference you listen to great talks but then during these great talking little things pop into your mind that relate to your own life. How you can live this concept better or someone you can serve. Just personal revelation just for you that may have nothing to do with the talk but because you are spiritually in tune already you can hear the spirit speaking to your heart a little more clearly...

There is of course one talk that is always meant for you. To my friends and family it was obvious which one was meant for me, which was shown by the wave of text messages I received once the talk ended. It was Elder Scotts talk on family history. I think I will write more about that later as this entry is far to long for today.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

General Conference Weekend: The Physical Nourisment

 AKA: The Food

I love General Conference weekend for several reason. One of those reasons is the food. Since conference is right in the middle of the day on Saturday (12pm-2pm and 4pm-6pm) I usually stay home most of the day. I take this day at home as a chance to try out a new recipe or two. The timing was perfect. This week I finally got the hang of pinterest (I know I'm a little behind.) I searched for desserts, soups, baby shower ideas (I have 4 friends pregnant and expecting with in 45 days of each other,) and so much more. There were a few recipes I knew I wanted to try. All in all it was a very tasty weekend.

Friday night is usually Mike and I's date night so I rarely cook dinner. This is nice since most of the time I am pretty tired by the time Friday night comes around. This Friday we started our date night with a trip to Greenwich for the Vineyard Vines sample sale. I was a little overwhelmed with all the boxes to dig through and only found 2 things that I loved in my size. Lucky for Mike they had a lot of things in his size. He got a few gold shirts, a few polos, a few pairs of shorts and a really nice sweater. He was so happy with his purchases (and the low prices he paid for them) you would have thought he was a girl.

After the sale we went to our usual date night spot, Bedford St. in downtown Stamford. We decided on Remo's since we hadn't eaten on their new patio area yet. It was a beautiful night to be outside and the food was delicious (as always.) After pizza we walked down the street for frozen yogurt at 16 handles. I love that place, it probably isn't good that we have such easy access to it. I think we go at least once a week, it's that good. It was a great date night, with great food to start off conference weekend.

Saturday morning I babysat one of my friends little girls while they moved into their new place and Mike studied. She picked up her daughter just in time for me to start conference. What a great session!
After conference was over I made a soup from a recipe I found on pinterest. It was called "Taste like lasagna soup." The name did it justice, it tasted like lasagna and was delicious!! Mike loves that I have been trying all these new recipes lately, we usually just sit at the table and rave about how good the meal is.

After dinner Mike and I went our separate ways. Mike went off to the priesthood session and I went out with some girlfriends to 16 handles for frozen yogurt, yes for the second night in a row....

Sunday morning we slept in since we both went to bed pretty late. When I finally got to the kitchen I made my favorite breakfast casserole, pumpkin pie french toast and some buttermilk syrup to go with it. Holy cow! It was delicious. Thank you pinterest yet again for two delicious recipes. I think they will be added to my favorite breakfast food list. We got breakfast eaten and cleaned up just in time to watch the first session of conference.

Between sessions I was busy in the kitchen getting things ready for dinner. I put a chicken with veggies in the over, made homemade applesauce and apple crisp (using the apples we picked last week.) My house smelled so good as we watched the second session of conference.

I'd say dinner was a big hit. We had our friends that moved this weekend over for dinner. I knew they wouldn't be able to unpack everything in time to cook a good meal so I had them join us. Even with the 4 of us eating this delicious apple crisp there is still over three quarters of the pan left. So if anyone would like some... come on by and I will share with you :)

What a deliciously tasty weekend. I am looking forward to April when conference weekend rolls around again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Apple Picking

This past weekend Mike and I kicked off the Fall Season with a bang. We have been planning this trip for a few months. We watch the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on occasion and we really enjoy it. It is a show the features small food joints that have amazingly delicious food. A few months back we looked up to see if any places in CT made the show. There were three. One happened to be in Norwalk, it was a venizulaian place called Velincia's that has delicious empanadas and arrapas. We went three times in less than two week, it is so delicious. Another place was O'Rourke's Diner in Middlefeild CT, which just happens to be in the same town that we go apple picking in. So we decided to go up there for brunch before apple picking and man was that a great decision. 

The town the diner is located in is so darling, and very New England, it set the perfect backdrop for our morning. The diner itself was really small, a lot smaller than we thought it would be. It was also really busy, we had to take two seats at the counter. The diner only serves breakfast on Saturday and the menu was fantastic. It was hard to decide what to order. I was really excited that they give you some sweet bread to eat while you wait to be served. They are known for their breads I guess. The famous chef at this place is Brian, he is the one in the triple D video clip. We watched the clip before going that morning so we saw chef Brian on there. I was slightly star struck then when chef Brian came out from the kitchen and cut me a piece of his hot, fresh sweet bread and put it on my plate. Later he came out and talked to us for a few min, then he went on to talk to every other group in the restaurant. I was really impressed with that, it made the whole experience feel more personal. The food was incredible. Best french toast, bangers and eggs we have ever eaten. We left with very happy, and full stomachs.

After brunch we went over to Lyman orchard for our annual apple picking outing. It rained a lot the day before so the orchard was really wet and muddy, but we didn't let that stop us. We, well I really, picked three nice sized bags of apples. Mike will want you to think that he picked apples, but in reality (as the pictures show) he spend most of his time on his phone and taking pictures. Some of the apples on the tree were seriously supersize. I actually had to look hard to find some more normal sized apples. The setting of course was beautiful, its hard to see the vibrant colors of the trees in the pictures, but some were just gorgeous.


It didn't take to long to pick all of our apples so after we finished we went to the Apple Barrel, the country store at the orchard. It is on a beautiful little pond. The sell hot apple crisp and hot apple cider outside. We of course got both and enjoyed them very much... although there were a lot of bees around and one landed on my hand. That was not a pretty moment, I dropped my apple crisp, screamed like a little girl and ran away. I think it embarrassed Mike. lol. We were still pretty full from brunch so we didn't buy to much from the country story like we normally do. We got apple cider glazed doughnuts and carmel apples for later and called it a day. It was just a lot of fun to look around at all the treats and yummy food. I only wish the store was closer, but thats what Stew Leonard's is for I guess. After that it was back home so that Mike could study and I could do some homework before the General Relief Society Broadcast. I hope we can go on one more drive up north before the leaves are gone, but the next few weekends are pretty busy. Fingers Crossed.