448050911201448 School Started and Then So Did a Fire | Polka Dots and Protons - Interactive Science Notebooks & More

My goal is to make interactive science notebooks engaging for 5th grade and middle school science students while improving science test scores. NGSS expert, teacher, tpt author, mom, & widow

School Started and Then So Did a Fire


I thought our home was gone as we watched it burn from the end of our driveway. This was August 29, 2020. The garage was fully engulfed when we realized our home was on fire and my son and I ran out of the house. Our daughter was at the beach and our other son had just moved into the dorms two states away for his freshman year of college.

I am a teacher who is teaching via distance learning. I am in a new grade level and now teaching in a virtual format. We were two weeks into the school year when the fire broke out on a Sat. night at 6 pm. This wasn't our first brush with tragedy. In May 2019, my husband was in a car accident and did not survive.  I became a widow at the age of 45 with three teenagers. One of those teenagers was serving a mission in the Philippines. He flew home for his dad's service and then returned to the Cebu East Mission.

Less than three months after my husband passed away, our home flooded and my car broke. Three different mechanics couldn't fix the car. The kids and I moved out of our home for four months while most of the house was gutted. We moved back home the week after Thanksgiving in 2019. Since my husband had died, we had lived out of our home more than we had lived in our home.

Then came the pandemic of 2020. On Friday, March 13th we were told school would go virtual. Monday was a chaotic planning day and my first birthday without my husband. The panic and chaos at work overshadowed the pain of my first birthday without my partner and best friend. I worked through lunch and then got sick because I hadn't eaten. Friends who were going to take me out to lunch were not able to because they were overwhelmed by the chaos of now teaching online. 

Our now 20 year old, flew home in March from the Philippines. He was supposed to be on his mission until July but the pandemic changed things. Plans and flights kept changing over a six day period. Fortunately, he found ways to call and keep me informed. I got his flight information when we was in the air on one of the five planes chartered by our church to get the missionaries out. Missionaries usually have a homecoming talk at church. We had a drivethrough welcome home but Tyler did not get his homecoming and no relatives were able to able to fly in to meet him. It was painful to have this momentous occasion without his dad and different than what we'd pictured. We saw other missionaries welcomed home by their mom and dad and it hurt so bad.

It was great to have all three kids home for board games and ping pong. I felt bad for teenagers being couped up with their mom. (Even though they have a really great mom.) It wasn't the summer they were expecting. It wasn't the track season our daughter had been planning for. It wasn't the high school graduation our son expected. Senior awards, prom, and grad night were cancelled. We held our own barbeque themed prom on the one year anniversary of Shawn's birthday in heaven. (The boy likes meat so if you can plan a prom theme then go with what you love!)

As the fall 2020 school year began, our middle child was heading off to BYU on the same day I reported for my first day back at work. I was excited for him but so incredibly sad I wasn't able to set him up in the dorms. Team Shawn consisted of my dad and two uncles who took our son to college while I started distance learning with my sweet 5th graders.

The fire was really frightening. We were fortunate that the living area was saved. The garage was a total loss and the kids rooms were also but from water and smoke damage and not fire. The fire did not break into the house. It lapped along the window and fascia but not into the house. We didn't just lose our garage but we lost my husband's bike, backpacking gear, Christmas ornaments from our whole lives, and my husband's childhood Christmas stocking. We lost my husband's grandfather's tool chest and mechanics tools. After losing Shawn, it is hard to lose more of him. 

Four days after the fire, Tyler left for college. All of his clothes and belongings had to be quickly washed and repacked because of the carcinogens they were exposed to. I took the week off of work to get clean up started. When I returned, my sweet students were wearing polka dots and some had polk dot welcome signs. Wow!!!! Every thing in our home was packed up to wash or dispose of because of soot. Our home was empty again. No pictures on the walls, no bookshelves with photos and books, no beds, no clothes. Addy and I moved out for a month and a half. We are now back in part of the home. Addy's room is the office for now. There is no laundry area, heater, or AC but we have hot water and Netflix! It is wonderful to be home.