Monday, March 25, 2019

Elder Jake Hough, 3.25.19--week 35

(Oh Am I in trouble now Elder!)

"Sevi, how do I stay as far away from becoming a zone leader as possible?"

[severus snape voice] "Take exit three HUNdred and seventy foooooooooouuuuuuur youmissedit."

"...Well shoot."


Well, "lets get down to business" with this one. quite a lot has happened in the last week, and I still cant believe it has only been one week. Its been up! Down! Left right! Inside! Outside! All side! But its been really rewarding too to see that the craziness aside that I have been doing really good spiritually and been really calm to be honest. havent really felt any real stress, which is great! Or it just means Im actually a ghost and Im dead, which is also a possibility haha!

To start off, I was with Proctor Elder and we decided after last weeks email session to go to see the LEGO factory in Nyiregyháza, about a 15 minute bus ride from the city, cause they actually have a lego factory. Bringing me back to those good old days, when I was building all the time, and I was also always broke because the lego sets are so dang expensive, but I was ok with that for some reason, blissfully unaware of that fact...yeah those days were good. But we show up to this factory and its super cool cause they have giant lego bricks on the side of the road leading up to the factory, and so we get there and we realize when we talk wit hthe people that you need to email them and book a reservation 6 MONTHS in advance before belépés lehet (stepping inside is possible)...well darn. I guess Ill have to settle for a couple sweet pics of the flags in the courtyard and that was that. But the pics are pretty darn cool actually. But that was a bit of a flop, no worries though. We planned to compensate the next week and go to the prettiest zoo in Hungary which is there as well. Super worth it, so we planned that out. 
Ever had that feeling of "I know something is coming but I have no idea what it may be or wheter I will be ready" feeling?

Tuesday, March 18, 2019. 11:30:43 am. Örökösföld Nyiregyháza. We received a text from presidnet saying to call him ASAP when we had a few minutes. We try calling, nothing. So we decide to wait for him to call back, and 15 minutes later the phone starts shaking my body with its vibrating. I answer the phone and ask presidnet how his day was, and he said "My day is great Hough Elder! But yours is about to get a bit bumpy, so why dont you find a place to sit down and buckle up. Youre gonna want it." So, like any good missionary who gets a random call from his president during proselyting time and receives a response like that would do, I sat down on a bench and zip clicked my seat belt for safety. He continues to say that my trainer and great friend Peery Elder in the neighboring city of miskolc north of us had to go home for surgery that thursday, and so Proctor Elder would be the District leader in Nyiregháza (Church of Birch), and that I would be going to Miskolc to take his place as Zone Leader of the East Zone...The thoughts that ran through my head were "ES-COP-AY! You know thats funny, cause it looks just like the word escape!", to "I am a dead man!" "Wow that conversation took a dark turn." Haha Im on a quoting roll today! One might say "Im just getting warmed up!"

But yeah, and he will be gone for 3 weeks, back before the end of the transfer, and so I had to pack up my stuff after 1 week of Nyiregyháza and head out to budapest, meet my companion Elder Burnett, have MLC (mission leadership council with all zone leaders sister training leaders and the assistants and the president) in budapest that morning without any idea what was going on, and then traveled to Miskolc that same day! Basically traveled the length of hungary, just ina boomerang sorta shape. So that travel was fun if headaches make you happy. 
So then I got here, Burnett elder is also super new to this area only of a bout two weeks and so its really fun getting to know the area and using wrong buses and such haha! We went to teach a lady about the restoration, and the first thing she says on that doorstep was that she REALLY REALLY like the jehovahs witnesses, and we just stood there and were really polite, let her talk about herself, and every problem she had was answered by the gospel in some form or another, and so we tried to throw in the restoration between her breaths, and at one point I felt that I needed to compare her experience to Joseph smiths and the first vision when he was searching for truth, and so I tried to start the story, got to the point where he goes into the forest and she interrupts, so I wait again and just felt the burning in my chest that if I didnt get this off or out I would die, it was so strong, and then I cut in and started, and gave her the first vision, and as I spake, I started to feel dizzy, and I started to tear up from it, the spirit was so strong with it, and after that she was like "awesome when can we meet again?" And so we ended it there on the high and left. And then walking away I was drained. I was not standing super easy, and it was really powerful experience of giving the restoration and teaching it to this womans needs. Super super cool. 

Anyway...that is about it for this week, there will definitely be more to come in the next couple emails, about miskolc, the people, the place, and everything, but I love this gospel, and it is the same no matter where we are, and that is why its awesome to be a vagabond right now haha! Love yall! Keep on the covenant path!!

Hough Elder
Doesn't this look like the Kirtland Temple just a little different?
Some pictures from the past...
 From the carbon monoxide debacle, perhaps? 

Friday, March 22, 2019

February 2019

1st--I got an email from one of Calvin's teachers. She happens to be his homeroom and science teacher and has a special spot for Calvin. It wasn't terrible, but wasn't what we liked to hear either. 
I just wanted to write you quick email on some concerns I have with our sweet Calvin. Lately, he has NOT been wanting to do his work. The kid is SO SO SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO smart. He legit always knows the answers, and has the most amazing ideas. He made a 100 on his test last week (I'm sure you know that!), but he had a zero on homework, and he just didn't want to do it. Finally, I got him to do it (and I gave him a Jolly Rancher, ha, but I told him I wasn't going to do that every time and it wasn't going to be a habit...)... Today he got so upset because he didn't want to do the web quest assignment we are doing in the computer lab. We worked on it yesterday and doing it today, both day in the lab....He got teary eyed and flat out said he just didn't want to do it (this was today)... He struggled to begin. Finally, he started working on it. I've started having issues like this lately with him, and I know it's something you'd want to know.  I love him so much, and I don't like sending these sort of emails. I'm not upset with him, just concerned! Thank you!! 

So when Jared got home, we had a little chat with Calvin about this and how it's important for him to show everyone that he is capable of doing the work even though he doesn't want to. *sigh* Trying to get him to do homework at home is a struggle, too. I don't even like mentioning it after school because I want to have a good relationship with him and perhaps this is a battle I need to back off on. I decided to make it a matter of fasting that weekend. 

This was my response to his teacher later that day:
Thank you for reaching out, though I’m sorry you had to. We were really hoping this wouldn’t happen at school. His reactions recently with you describe the story of our life with Calvin at home. It took awhile this school year, but we finally decided to let him play outside with friends and burn energy and then have him work on his homework in the morning before school. Unfortunately, in the mornings, he would often moan and groan about it and not do it at all after having played the previous afternoon and avoiding his work. It is such a struggle to persuade him to do his homework (tears and getting upset) that we finally told ourselves and him that he will have to learn the hard way—through natural consequences. Nothing motivates him at home whether it’s positive or negative. 

I will say, the past couple weeks, he has shown more initiative to do his homework right after school. We’ve been very proud. But it seems like being home sick for two days ruined that drive. *sigh* I’ve even thrown home school out as an option but Calvin said, "No way!" (And I share his sentiments) 

We will continue to ponder on and consider what we can do to help Calvin this weekend. If your team has any ideas we’d love to hear them. He is very smart. Such a waste. And you don’t need his behavior problems in your class. 

--Then Calvin and I went to the viewing of our friend, Joanne Kuttler, who took a special interest in Calvin when we were rezoned into the ward and invited him to be in the "Future Fathers Choir" for Father's Day these past two years. She was a very special lady and had been my visiting teacher a year ago. We, among hundreds, will miss her very much.

--Cooper got asked by a young married couple to go to Northgate with them after his shift at work. Cooper had been chatting with them as he worked the floor and helped them with their lane. Northgate is where a bunch of bars are. We joked with Cooper that the guy must have been under the influence because how old does he think Cooper is? He even wears braces! :) After work, Cooper ws pulled into his manager's office--apparently that guy is a friend of his and said Coop was really awesome and the manager complimented him on it. 

2nd--Calvin and I did the 2nd annual Pecan Trail Fun Run together. He only wanted to do the 3K which is a mile. I haven't been jogging much, so I was totally okay with that, though I wish he would have pushed himself more. He's a great runner with good form. Fortunately, the weather was SO MUCH nicer than the year before when Karcyn and I did it in the freezing cold and rain. This is our before picture. 
This is the after picture. Not much difference. Haha!! I ran it in 11:50 and Calvin ran it in 13:00.
I love these thoughts about the Savior and coming unto Christ.
On Jan. 29th, our friend, Lala in Hungary, flew with his mom and friends to Rome, Italy. They were able to attend the temple open house on the 1st. I was SO happy for them that they got to go. He promised to send me pictures and asked that I also share them with Jake since it wasn't working for him to send them to Jake himself through email. It's absolutely stunning.
3rd--Lala finally got the Texas socks and thank you note that I sent in Jake's package that almost went to Romania! Lala was supposed to get this before his birthday gift, but the fact that Jake remembered with so many other things to think about is a true victory! :)
--My friend, Camille, went to Rome, also and these are her two pictures. So beautiful!
--During our Come Follow Me discussion, we were talking more about the covenant path (that's one of the focuses of our Area/Stake vision. Out of the blue, JJ pipes up and says, "Baptism is the key that unlocks the gate so we can get on the covenant path." Why yes it is! 

--JJ came up to me Sunday night (3rd) and was sad because the Book Fair was that week at school and he didn't have any money to spend. He wanted to buy two Pokemon books but they were $20. He had a $25 Amazon card and he held fast to the belief that he could use that gift card at the book fair. I tried and tried to tell him the gift card doesn't work anywhere except on Amazon, but he swore "they" (adults at school?) said it would. Somehow I convinced him he couldn't use the gift card at school and the conversation shifted to the fact that he only had $2. This crying and disappointment lasted a long time. I ignored most of it. I told JJ this is one reason why we don't spend all our money because sometimes other things come up. But...for the next time, he could do jobs around the house, like vacuuming the stairs, for example, to earn money for a future time since he's low on cash. But it couldn't be that day (because it was Sunday). I was surprised when that explanation seemed to pacify him since it wasn't going to fix his immediate problem.

4th--Well, little did I know that at 2AM EARLY MONDAY MORNING, I would wake up startled by a dark shadow standing over me. It was JJ. He said he was all dressed, his bed was made, his room was clean and he was ready to vacuum the stairs. What the wha??? That's when it dawned on me. JJ wanted to work now! Despite being groggy, I was super touched and impressed that this 7 year old woke himself up and did everything he needed to do in order to start doing the extra job that would earn him some money. I really hated to tell him it was too early. But it was! I gently tried to persuade him to go back to sleep for a little bit, but he said he couldn't because he was already dressed. Eventually he did leave my room. I was going to go back to sleep, but felt prompted to follow him with my camera so I could document the incredible cuteness of this little guy's self reliance in the wee hours of the morning.

The pictures below are what I found. Calvin sleeping (haha!), a clean room, a neatly made bed, JJ dressed and getting a couple things in Karcyn's room and then playing Legos quietly in the hall.
When I went back upstairs at 5:30 to get up for real, JJ had crawled into his neatly made bed fully dressed at some point within the last 3 hours. Haha!! But before 6am, he came down and announced, "I'm baaack!" I said, "Okay, let's get going." I asked him to bring his laundry down and then he could start vacuuming the stairs. He did just as I asked. And with a smile!
Then he went out to the garage and got the handheld vacuum all by himself and got to work. And let me tell you what...that was the BEST stair cleaning I have seen from any of my kids in a long time. He didn't complain. He didn't ask for help and he even wrapped the cord underneath the vacuum all by himself. Which is hard, even for me to do. I was SO DANG PROUD of this kid. He had a problem and he went above and beyond to solve it. All on his own. His older siblings were shocked and impressed by his dedication, too. When he was done, I knelt down in front of him and gave him a big hug and expressed my happiness and pride. When I asked him how much he thought I should pay him for vacuuming the stairs, he was really quiet and whispered..."forty?" I couldn't help myself and laughed out loud. And I gave him props for aiming high. I asked him how much we normally pay for jobs and he lowered his head sadly and said, "one dollar." Maybe not quite that low, but I said, "Yes." Then I explained because he worked SO hard and got himself up and solved the problem all on his own, I would pay him $5 (Honestly, I wanted to pay him $10, but I didn't have the cash and didn't want to set an expectation I couldn't keep up with in the future). JJ's eyes lit up. He was SO excited. That plus his $2 would make $7 and surely he could find something to buy at the book fair with that. And that's what JJ did. He found a cool one about sharks that came with a shark tooth necklace. Such a stud!
--Cooper's letter man jacket arrived!
--I told Calvin that while he wasn't in trouble, per se, for not working for his teacher on Friday, he definitely needed to write her an apology note for his behavior. 
--I got a call from the counselor at Pecan Trail Intermediate. I guess the good thing about each kid being in a different school is you know exactly who the school is calling about! Calvin was caught eating food from other kids' trays and the cafeteria lady was concerned that his needs weren't being met. Great. So the counselor called to let me know but the principal (who was buddies with Calvin when her office was at the elementary school) remembered him and believed she recalled him doing something like that before when he was supposed to be bringing his lunch from home and didn't think he was an at-risk child. I don't remember him doing that in the past, but honestly, I wouldn't be surprised. The counselor was calling to verify that he was okay and to let me know. I told her I was so sorry, that we would speak to him about it and that yes, he brings a sack lunch. Though he doesn't often have much in it because he never knows what to take. 

--Later that Monday afternoon, I took some dinner over to my friend, Annie. She's also the new Relief Society president. She just had two funerals for sisters in our ward in the last two weeks! Someone needed to watch over HER. She also home schools one of her sons, who is a year younger than Calvin. I was asking her about it and how it was going and sharing a little bit of my dilemma with Calvin not wanting to work and not knowing how to motivate him. She told me the name of the program she uses and that she'd be happy to have Calvin over once a week for a little bit if I thought that might help. I thanked her for the information and mulled it over some more. I know Calvin does NOT want to be home schooled, but he may not have an option. It's not like I want to home school him either, but if it's what will be the best for him educationally...But the concern that keeps coming back to me is that if he flat out refuses to do his homework at home and now work at school with fun teachers, what makes me think he'll actually work at home when it really counts?

5th--I subbed in Cooper's chemistry class. I saw the job pop up the month before and asked him how he felt about me doing that. He said it didn't bother him, but then he gave me a courtesy heads up and warned me that his class was TERRIBLE. I shrugged my shoulders. His class is 7th period. I wasn't really worried about it. And honestly, things went pretty well that day in chem. I was starting to lose my voice a bit, though. But I had teenagers telling me all day that I was the best sub they've had or that I was a "really cool substitute" while giving me fist bumps. One girl said she loved my energy. :) My favorite though is "Whoa, you have five kids?" I played dumb when a couple of kids in 5th and 6th period warned me that 7th period was awful and to brace myself. Well, I killed them with kindness and respect and I got some compliments from some of those kids, too. When I was introducing myself, one of the students asked if I had any kids at CSHS. I said yes. When they asked their name I said, "Cooper." It took a few seconds, but they all whipped their heads around to Cooper's desk and were like, "Awww." Haha! I wasn't going to say anything, but they asked. Cooper was super chill about it though. 7th period was a success, just like the other periods throughout the day. Later that night, at dinner, the best part of my day was subbing in Cooper's class. Instead of giving me props for being an effective substitute in class, Cooper said, "You got lucky." Thanks, man.

Earlier in the day, I noticed an email from Calvin's Social Studies teacher. And my heart sank. Between the email Friday, the call from the counselor the day before, and now this...I did not want to read it. Plus I was in the middle of subbing. When there was a little bit of down time, I finally decided to just rip the bandaid off.
I just wanted to let you know what a great kid you are raising, I'm sure you know that but..... today, I made a mistake that ended up with him missing some of his recess time, but he handled the situation perfectly! When I told him he had to go to work completion, he did question why since he completed the work yesterday however, I did not remember him doing it or signing the page letting me know he had completed it so, I told him if his name was still on my list, he needed to go to work completion.  He nodded, said ok and went.  No arguing or trying to continue to make his point, no grumbling about it or complaining, he just accepted it and went even though he had to know I was wrong.  Imagine how BAD I felt when I realized he had signed the page and it was my mistake! When I realized my mistake I went to work completion, I apologized, told him I was sorry for wasting his recess time today and I wished there was more I could do to apologize and praise him for how he handled the situation-There was about 15 mins left in recess, so I told him I appreciated the way he handled himself and to go enjoy the time left:)  He graciously accepted my apology with a smile no less- he is an Awesome kid!

I find it interesting that I got two emails from two of Calvin's teachers--emails being a rarity anyway--one about his struggles and after fasting about it, one that was very positive, full of praise for his character. So maybe that was my answer. I can't take Calvin out of school. He needs to be there, even if he's struggling, to be a good example on days like that one. Even though sometimes he doesn't feel like he belongs. A theme my older boys have also experienced. Interestingly enough and not surprising, Calvin was nominated by his teachers (again) for the Gifted and Talented program. I have mixed feelings about it, but it's really hard to get into so it may be a non-issue. At the same time, I have no doubt that he's bored. I pulled Calvin aside after school and shared what his teacher wrote and even I shed a few tears telling him that this is what life is all about! How we react to trials and being humble and obedient. I encouraged him to remember how this made him feel and that Jared and I were so proud!

7th--I was subbing in Physics/Astronomy on Thursday and Friday for the same teacher. But I had a very raspy/crackly voice that sounded terrible, though it wasn't indicative of how I felt. I was feeling okay for the most part. Jared and I had to do a little rearranging of cars that morning though because I was dropping the burb off to get detailed and get that CAT PEE smell out of the seat! Jared took the burb to the detailers right at 8am and Cooper met him there with the Civic after seminary. Jared would drop Cooper off at school and I'd drive Cooper to the detailer after school so I could pick the burb up and he'd drive the car home. Jared texted me at 8:05 to tell me that there was NO appointment scheduled to get the burb cleaned. No way. I spent 10 minutes talking to the guy on the phone who said they're only doing detailing on Thursdays. Ugh. I felt bad for Jared and Coop, but didn't know what else to do. I guess they decided to call someone in because the next thing I knew, I got a call at 2pm saying it was done. I called back after school to give them my credit card and they left the key with the guys at the Lube Center next door. Cooper had choir practice until 5pm as did Karcyn. So as soon as he was done, we were going to go pick her up. Unfortunately, for the first time ever, Coop's practice went long. I got a call at 5pm from my friend who works in Navasota--about 20 minutes away. Her car broke down and she needed someone to pick up her older boys from school here in town and take them home. I told her I still had to get my car and Karcyn and probably couldn't get there before 5:30. (A cold front came blowing through at noon, dropping the temp about 30 degrees and it was near freezing without the wind!) She said that was fine and I said okay, I would be there as soon as I could. Well, it was 5:15 by the time Cooper and I left the high school. Then I drove as quickly as I could down the road to get Karcyn. Not only was she waiting outside, she had NO COAT! She was shivering in her short sleeved shirt. I felt so bad. It was warmer this morning for sure and you could have totally survived without a jacket. But not after that front came through. Yikes! Then we went to go get the burb. Cooper drove the car home and Karcyn and I drove to go get the Mendez boys. Who were also freezing. Poor things. Never mind the fact I didn't know how to drive through the pick up line either, and went halfway around the school, the wrong way. In my defense, it was not clearly marked! And there were no other cars to "follow." But all's well that ends well. We all made it home and some of us had hot chocolate!! Unfortunately, there is still some mild cat pee smell that my nose detects. Boo.

I survived physics and astronomy for two days with no voice, essentially. I even found a mistake in one of the slides from the notes and I've never even had physics. :)  Even though these were fairly easy days for me, it was a LOT to sub for three days in one week for this momma who is NOT used to working full time with four kids at home, one on a mission, and a stake calling.

I liked this poster in the physics room.
 --It's hard to see, but big Jared is in bed and JJ (our Jared, Jr.) is asleep on the love sac. Notice the positions of their arms. Like father like son. Haha!
--Jared's survey scores at work have "tanked." He's only received five for this recent period. Four of them he almost got a perfect score (9/10), but because one was super low, he was flagged and has to be shadowed by upper management two or three different times. Jared wasn't even told the reasons why he garnered such a low survey. Which makes it really hard to "improve." National law requires accountability based on these surveys only. And these scores follow you around on your employment record from job to job. It's very stressful and absolutely absurd that the opinion of one disgruntled patient would hold our livelihood in their hands...especially if it's because they are mad they were stuck seeing the PA and not the doctor or because Jared wouldn't/couldn't give them the drugs they wanted.

8th--JJ woke us up early that morning. His ear hurt. Jared checked and sure enough, he had an ear infection. And I had to sub my second day in physics. Jared called his mom (waking her up) to ask if he could bring JJ by to just lay on her couch all day. She said of course and I felt terrible, but very grateful. This is the second time I've had sick kids on days I have previously committed to subbing.

--Jared's hospital is going through the full and final steps to converting over to becoming a part of CHI (Catholic Health Initiative). Consequently, that has affected our insurance coverage and benefits a bit. Our insurance carrier stayed the same, but we had to go through the full verification process like we did when we first got the job, providing birth and marriage certificates, etc. Jared was able to take pictures and email those in. As he kept an eye on the status, he noticed that he and all the kids had been verified. But not me. Turns out they didn't like our marriage certificate. We sent them the very same copy we got from San Diego County that we supplied to the DMV and the Social Security office when we got married. After Jared inquired with the verification office, they told him there was no marriage date listed. What? That's ridiculous. It's a marriage certificate. So I marched home after subbing that day and looked it up. Sure enough, there is NO MARRIAGE DATE listed. It only says the day the certificate was filed...May 6th. The day before we got married. Whoa. When we were talking about it that night, I told Jared, "Maybe we aren't married after all!?" Jared looked a little sheepish and then with a twinkle in his eye said, "Then we have a LOT of explaining to do!!" Haha! No kidding. Jared said that insurance would also accept a religious certificate. Phew. We do have a copy of that. So I snapped a picture so that we would always have proof that we did INDEED get married.
9th--Cooper and Karcyn had youth baptisms at the Houston Temple. The left the church at noon for that. Calvin had baseball tryouts and Jared texted me to say he was really worried for Calvin. Because of his age (turning 11 in May) he'd have to play up and try out for the junior majors. They came home a lot sooner than I expected. Jared informed me that they only did a few things and only had a few tries at each station so they could move kids through pretty quickly. He also happily reported that Calvin got a piece of a ball when he was batting. But we fully anticipated him to be placed on a team below the majors because he just started playing last spring.

--I love this thought because I can relate to it. I am not a master scriptorian. I don't know as many scripture stories in the Bible or Book of Mormon like I should. But I don't let that keep me from serving and loving and trying to lead in the Savior's way.
--JJ was eating some tortilla chips and I reminded him to make sure he puts a clip back on them and puts them away. A little bit later, as I walked into the kitchen, this is what I found. JJ decided to use the clip magnet on the fridge--which is NOT where he found them. But at least they were secured. :)
10th--I was a companion speaker to my friend Jeff Hatala. We were in the Young Single Adult Ward, speaking about how our covenants help us come unto Christ. Because I'm serving in the Young Women, I don't get to rotate through to this ward anymore like I did when I was in the Stake Relief Society and I miss them a lot. Those women are incredible! I wasn't feeling super confident about my talk. But as usual, I just prayed that one person would get something positive out of it to help them draw nearer to the Savior. When Sacrament meeting was over, Jeff told me my talk was AMAZING. He's very gracious though. I thanked him and said, "I just hope one person benefits from it and that will make me happy." As I said goodbye and turned away from him, there was a young lady standing there. She said she just wanted to say how much she loved my talk. I told her thank you so much and what I had just told Jeff. She said, "Oh, well, I don't know if you noticed, but everyone on my row was taking notes!" It was really sweet of her to say and to share it with me. I wish more of us would share kind things we notice and appreciate. 

--As I headed to my home ward, I got a message from Lala in Hungary. He said, "Today your son has spoken and touched his words. He mentioned you in his speech and how important your words were when he was 16! Very valuable to Hough Elder for me. He is a wonderful missionary!" I asked Lala what Jake said. Jake had shared an experience about babysitting for a family that was struggling and while they paid Jake, I told him we should serve with love and not accept money in those cases. He said, "You are a very good example of your son, Jenn. And now your son is a good example for me/us." 

He sent me this picture later. I asked him if he took the boys to a playground? Lala said, "It was just a few minutes. A little disappointment. Missionary life is not easy! And then we went to knock on!"
I told Lala that his compassion and empathy for the missionaries and what they're experiencing is so touching, especially since he never served a full-time mission. But he's getting to experience it now with them! Lala replied that there are "many refusals, the doors are closed in an instant! Many 'thank you do not care!' Hough Elder said: all refusals give him more strength!"

--I noticed this on the sidewalk at church. Just in time for Valentine's Day. It made me smile.
--Later that night,. out of the blue, JJ starts talking about what he wants for his HALF-birthday dinner and treat, which is the next day. I told him I could try doing what he wanted for dinner, but then he started talking about treats for school. I was driving Karole to Dublin, TX (half way to Snyder--Christina would be meeting us there to take Karole back home with her so Karole could visit Kevin and his family for a couple weeks). So I told JJ, A) We can't make anything at home to take to school because of allergies and B) It was a Sunday and we don't shop on Sundays. (We really need to work on his timing.) Well, he wasn't happy about that at all. I told him that I was actually going to the store at 5am the next morning because I'd be in a car all day and wouldn't have time to get groceries when I got home, so I would pick something up for him then. Apparently he didn't trust me that I'd get what he wanted so he said he'd come, too. Oh really? "Alright then. I'm leaving at 5am sharp with or without you." And to his credit, he was up and ready to go a little after 4am. I made him wait until 5 so I could sleep a little longer. And we went to the grocery store, just me and him. No one else was there except the workers stocking shelves. The lights weren't even on all the way either. We found what he was looking for (Zebra Cakes) and it didn't take long to get the rest of our stuff. We learned that at 6am, all the lights come on completely. What a difference that made, too! We checked out and headed home, had breakfast and then he was off to school. And when Karole arrived around 8:15am, she and I headed to Dublin. It was kind of overcast and partly raining/misty. It took more like 3 hours, not 2 1/2 like we thought. But Chris and I arrived in Dublin at the exact same time. It was pretty epic. We met at the gas station to stretch and relieve ourselves and transfer the stuff from Karole's van to Chris's truck. Then we found a Dairy Queen down the road to get a quick bite to eat before I had to take off again. I only had 20 minutes, tops, and I felt like that was pushing it to be back before JJ got home off the bus. But I got home with about 15 minutes to spare, so it all worked out!

11th--At dinner that night, Cooper said Jake had sent him a video about someone rage quitting (which was the topic of the conversation at the moment). It was P-day for Jake and he had written us that morning. He writes Cooper a separate email and Coop does not share the contents of those emails with us very often (though I could totally get into his account and read them if I really wanted to). So when he said Jake had shared a video with him, I was shocked. I whipped my head around and asked incredulously, "TODAY???" And Cooper laughed saying, no, it was a while ago. Oh good. Well, that's all the opening Jared needed before launching into an exaggerated impersonation of me sending Jake a Howler (for the Harry Potter fans). And he ran with it. All the kids were laughing so hard their heads were on the table. Jared then stood up to take his plate to the kitchen and added body movements to enhance his impersonation and dramatization (and he says he doesn't play charades. :) Poor Calvin couldn't contain it any longer and lost his milk--spit it out on the table. Although I guess the alternative was to choke. Jared punched the air with a victory fist announcing, "And NOW it's a meal!" It took a good minute before the kids came up for air. Hahaha! Karcyn wailed, "This is why it's dangerous to eat around you, Dad!"

--The first section we studied this week in Come Follow Me was the Savior's miracle of turning water to wine. Before we started JJ prayed. I love his prayers. They are really developing and growing and he really wants to pray. For a while there, he didn't want to. This is part of what he said, "Help us to have the Spirit for that we can learn about Jesus, Heavenly Father, God and the Holy Ghost, but not Satan because he's a bad person and we need to cast him away." Hahaha!!! LOVE IT! After we read about the miracle in John, we asked the kids about it...what does this miracle have to do with us? Cooper said that water and wine have the same base. Just like we all have the same spiritual base and God can change any of us into something better. Then we discussed how the wine that Jesus transformed was the BEST wine. So when we follow the Savior and allow Him to change us, He doesn't just change us, he changes us into our best selves. I also love how Jesus wanted to serve and help his mother. :)

12th--I subbed in Cooper's Honor's World History class, but it was in the afternoon, so I wouldn't see Cooper in 2nd period. However, around 8:30am, I got a call from the school asking if I could possibly sub for them earlier that day. Interestingly enough, I was dressed, but I was in the middle of a few things. That said, if a school is desperate enough to call me for help, I'm more willing to do so. I told her yes, I could, just give me about 30 minutes to get things together. She said that was great. Then called back and said I didn't need to come til 10:15, so I said okay. I covered one AP biology class and then had lunch, then went to an athletics class, but they didn't need me, so I read a book. Then I went to a geometry class and then a business class and THEN I went to world history. Everything went splendidly despite being a bit of a pinball that day. The good news is that I got paid for a full day when I was only there for just over half. 

--Karcyn had a choir tour that day. They ate lunch at a pizza parlor and she brought her GF pizza to eat. As she was sitting and eating, an older 8th grade girl came up to her (the tour was with 7th and 8th grade girls) with a vending machine ring and proposed to Karcyn. Then another girl exclaimed, "Look [so and so] is recording on his phone!" Karcyn went right up to him and asked if that's what he was doing. He said yes, that he had dared the girl to propose to her. She was nervously laughing when she told me about it after school. I was doing the same until I heard a boy was recording this on his phone and then I was NOT OKAY with that at all. I emailed Karcyn's choir teacher (who had been our music teacher at Greens Prairie elementary, whom we love) and explained what Karcyn told me. I asked that the video be deleted from his device and from any social media outlet immediately. Karcyn was already humiliated in front of her peers in public and I was worried about the fall out from this. The teacher just happened to be traveling to another city for a conference that day and she was horrified when she got my email. She called me right up to tell me so and that she would have administrators at school help her investigate. 

--I had a presidency meeting later that night and I forget what we had been talking about but my counselor said she had several different pints of ice cream in her freezer. I had heard someone say that the new Raspberry Fudge Brownie was pretty yummy and I asked her if she had that kind. I don't even like ice cream, but she brought us all spoons and we dug in. Oh my word. It is AMAZING. Absolutely delicious. The almond flavored ice cream is the real star here. And now I can't buy'll be gone in a flash. 
 14th--Happy Valentine's Day!! Haha. This meme is so funny!

 JJ feeling the love!
--Cooper wasn't exactly feeling the love. Although I did put a special treat in all their lunches that morning. He texted me: "Happy Single Awareness Day!!" I responded, "This is how it should be now anyway. Thank you for taking the dating standard seriously because you'll be blessed for it."

--I spent my Valentine's Day at Allison's house (my 2nd counselor) so she and I could make cabin assignments for 150 youth going to youth conference in April. Once we got started, it went fairly quickly and smoothly. Definitely a blessing of efficiency. Later that night as Jared and I were chatting about the day, I turned quiet for a minute and just said, "I miss Jake." I just miss HIM. And even when he does come home, he won't really be here at our house. But I can still reach out to him and text him and just enjoy that he's within my reach--even if it's just through my cell phone. 

15th--I filled in last minute in 7th grade math at AMCMS. I was there around 11:40. Withing the hour, I started getting all these texts and messages about the new Church Guidelines for missionaries communicating with their families. My friend Leslie Call sent me a text—then I sent Jared the email the church sent me, but hadn't read until that point. Grandma Lee called (I saw the caller ID from Iceland but couldn’t answer—she was going to tell us the news, too!). Then I posted it on FB. Then Bishop Graham texted me and Jared. Then Lala sent me a message—all of that in about 3 minutes! Haha! VERY EXCITING NEWS!!! We couldn't believe it and were anxious to see what this would mean for us and our awesome missionary in Hungary. After all, it is a 7 hour time difference and he has no smart phone or iPad or computer to access. This prophetic change really was a wonder for me, personally, since I had just been saying how much I missed Jake the night before!

--We had our Annual Tax Date Night. We were a little worried about this because we bought a house in our name and credit for Karole. So we were concerned about the implication of that on our taxes. But everyone we had talked to said it shouldn't be a problem because we weren't making money off of the "rental property." Karole is also listed on the deed. We were grossly disappointed, nonetheless, when our tax return came back as only HALF the amount we usually get. We are in the school of thought that really likes large tax refunds (because we tithe on it through out the year) and it's a nice little "bonus" for us when we've been saving and scrimping during all the other months. It will be just enough (we hope) to go to Iceland in the summer to see my parents. That was the ultimate goal. But we had wanted to use it for a couple other things too. But alas, we must learn to live with disappointment.

16th--Picture of me and my boy--this is on my phone and will stay there until July 2020.
--I learned how to bear my testimony of several things in ASL!

--I signed up for the A&M Glow Run with Ashley Teare--a sister whom I minister to. She was actually sick...dual ear infections AND a sinus infection, so instead of jogging it, we walked as fast as we could. I told her that if I were sick, I would have just collected my Tshirt and left. But she wanted to do a 15 minute walking pace and that's pretty quick...considering I shuffle along/jog at 12 minutes usually per mile. But we did 3.27 miles in 49 minutes! And Map My Run had our pace at 15:13. So yay! Ashley has a goal to do a 5K every month this year. I'm doing one in May with her,'s the Chuck Norris run! :) They are trying to go for a world record with the most Chuck Norris look alikes. Part of your fee for the race includes a Chuck Norris beard and belt and shirt. Haha!! Plus the big man himself is going to high five people across the finish line. Supposedly. The race was SO popular that they had to cut it off at 5,000 people!! (That's a lot of high fives!!). I was debating out doing it, but then thought...when in Rome, right? ;)

This is the A&M stadium where the Glow Run began. We walked all around campus, which I had never done before!
--There are a few items listed here that don't reflect our lifestyle, like beer--which is mentioned a few times. But most everything else rings true!

18th--I woke up to a letter from Jake around 5am. In the beginning he was explaining what the new changes in communication would mean and the very small window of time we would have to video chat. "So the time zone kinda STINKS. Its about as hard as it could get haha! But if you want to talk today let me know and we will make it happen. We arent really planing to do much today, so when you get this email let me know! and if there is a monday holiday for school or whatnot, say in the week before so we can plan to talk to the kids on that free day!"

That was as far as I got in his letter and wrote back: YES!! We want to talk's a school holiday!!

I actually think that was inspired...

And we had a FABULOUS chat with Jake. All of us! Including Beck Elder. Haha! It was about an hour. I wouldn't let it go longer than that. We wanted to make sure Beck could talk to his family, too. But it was GLORIOUS and wonderful!! It filled my soul like I didn't think it could. I know we just spoke to Jake two months ago, but it was SO less stressful for me because I didn't feel like "this is it...only one time (hour) out of two this entire year that we're going to get to talk to him...don't waste one second..." It was so much more least for me. Jared was sad he had to go to work. least he gets Father's Day! ;) I have to say really throws off my Mondays though. I do laundry and go grocery shopping and work out. Trying to find an extra hour I wasn't expecting to need is, of course, a delightful problem. 

--I had a thought about how we could use this opportunity of being able to talk to Jake more regularly to strengthen our family and help to gather scattered Israel. We should use part of it to do a 15 minute Come Follow Me discussion! I know we won't get to hear from Jake every week, but I think it would be awesome to have family prayers together and talk about one of the topics for that week. I can't think of a better way to spend this precious time together than by reading and discussing the scriptures and how to follow the Savior as a whole family when we do get to connect. This way, we will be able to learn from Jake's inspired thoughts and comments from his special missionary perspective and he can learn how his siblings are progressing and we can share and strengthen each other.

--A rare moment with the kids playing nicely together on the trampoline.
19th--Believe it or not, JJ is under those covers somewhere.
--We asked JJ to do something...put his laundry away, I think. He avoids it like the plague and didn't do it. So when he asked if we'd play a game with him, we told him not until his laundry was put away. Apparently, he'd rather PLAY a game by himself (walking back and forth between opposite sides of the table) than put his laundry away.
21st--Cooper competed in Solo and Ensemble for choir. He earned a 1-Superior rating in both songs! He'll be performing at State in Austin, TX--AFTER school's out on June 1st, which means we have to cut our vacation in Branson short a day. (My goodness...who ever thinks their kid is going to have a school obligation after school is out.) In the event that someone from his ensemble fails a class--the ensemble can't perform (which is EXACTLY what happened to Cooper last year). But he can still attend with his solo. He is the only tenor from CSHS going to State.  

--Jared is on call every W/Th. He has the answering service send calls to our landline after 5pm because our cell service out here "in the country" is so bad. Around 8:15pm there was a call. Jared noted it was a 281 number and not 979 but picked it up anyway, just in case. The lady on the other end was a member of the Church (in the Southwest area that we're a part of) and asked for Jacob. Jared explained that he was actually on his mission and she said, "Oh, perfect!" She had sent him an email to his gmail account and hadn't heard back from him and was following up. His service in the Houston Temple in June/July 2018 was actually part of a three-year project and he was only 1 of 117 young people to serve in the temple during that time. The Church is now asking the short term/temporary temple workers (typically kids getting ready to serve their missions) how their service in the temple affected them and their missionary service. The only audience who will read his response would be...the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve and other Area General Authorities. She told us she would send the email to his missionary address and asked us to see if he got it. They are anxious to hear from him. Talk about a way to really impact and communicate with the Lord's very special chosen to lead and direct the affairs of the Church. Wow, incredible!!! I did ask Jake later if, considering his audience, he would please try to avoid using the word, "dope." Haha!

 22nd--Jared had to go up to Snyder, TX to pick up Karole and bring her back to College Station, so he decided to make a weekend of it so he could spend some time with Kevin, too. Cooper had to work so he and I stayed home while the other four headed to Snyder.

And off they go!
--I had a YCL (Youth Camp Leader) Kick-off to attend that evening, but Cooper and I decided to go on a Mother/Son date to see "How To Train Your Dragon 3." The movie was at 7:40 so I would just leave my activity early and meet him there. It was SUCH a great movie! Even though I hadn't seen the 2nd one and just saw the 1st one the day before. Haha!!

--Apparently, Cooper doesn't like smiling with his teeth. Maybe after the braces...
23rd--On Saturday morning, it was just me and Coop to do the Blitz Cleaning before grabbing breakfast at First Watch--a delicious, organic, farm fresh breakfast/brunch eatery up by campus. I realized at the last minute that Jared wanted me to run the Civic to the mechanic to look at a computer glitch. We were an hour later than when he had hoped we could drop it off, but we took it by anyway. By the time we got up to First Watch, it was 8:45am and the line at First Watch was out the door. Since Cooper had his bowling league at 10am, we decided to go to Torchy's Tacos. A very good second choice and the number one choice after going to the temple. ;) I dropped him off at bowling, then ran some more errands until time to pick him up around 12. The Civic was ready to pick up (they just needed to reset the computer...yay!), so I grabbed Cooper, we got the Civic, he drove home to start on his homework before leaving at 2:15 to go back to the bowling alley to work until 10pm and I picked up some Fazoli's for lunch. He was gone for 8 hours so I had lots of time just to myself. I read a book, I cleaned, I organized, I planned, I watched a couple of movies while I worked. It was wonderful! Having ME TIME was a real gift and so rejuvenating.

24th--We had Ward Conference. Bishop Graham bore his testimony about the Covenant Path (that's our North America Southwest Area "mission/vision statement"). He told of an experience after they bought their first house. He wanted really thick grass and he went to mow it the first time and it was thick and full and kind of wet so the mower kept bogging down and jamming. So he'd have to shake out the grass from the blades, etc. He did this another time and then the mower quit working. Well of course, being the mechanically inclined person that he is, he immediately set out to fix it. He took it to his shop and started tearing it apart to find the problem. It was only after it was in pieces that he realized it was out of gas. :)  He related that to us. That most times, it's the basic things in the gospel that will fix our problems. Not the internet or the fringe areas. I really loved that.

President Sharp was, as usual, really awesome in sharing brief but powerful messages. He started out by saying that for the VAST majority of God's children, the covenants available to them (on the covenant path) will ONLY COME to them through the temple and our proxy work for them. Which is why attending the temple as often as we can is so important.

He noticed a pattern in the New Testament...that when the Lord sends a Heavenly Messenger, that messenger begins by saying "Fear not." What is our greatest fear? Is it failure? The Lord hardly views ANYTHING we do as failure. Sometimes we're afraid to climb because we don't know if there's anyone to catch us if we fall. President Nelson has asked us to go higher than we ever have before...We're moving and climbing higher. It's okay to stumble and fall along the covenant path and that's why the Savior gave his life and his infinite atonement--to catch us when we fall.

--When the fam got back from Snyder later Sunday night, Calvin went straight to the piano and started plunking out "My Favorite Things." I didn't think anything of it, but Jared stopped me and said, "Did you hear that?" "Yeah, why?" "He's playing that song because we JUST watched the Sound of Music on our way home." That dang talented. Our piano teacher quit on us a bit unexpectedly. Karcyn stopped getting lessons last May (to take a break for the summer because our teacher was moving). But she said she'd teach again in the fall. So we waited and I didn't want to look for or secure another piano teacher out of loyalty to her. But then that start time was pushed back to December. So we waited. Then that got pushed back to Feb. So we waited. I really wanted to start looking for another teacher, so I finally just asked her if she was going to be teaching or not. She said she was going to then decided against it. And that was that. Lucky for us, I had, amazingly enough, three solid leads on piano teachers who wouldn't cost us an arm or a leg. I'm excited about this "new beginning " for Karcyn. She is a legit piano teacher (REALLY hard to find in Texas) who is a certified piano instructor, has 5 pianos in her living room, and charges the same amount per 45 minute lesson that we were paying before. And she's just up the road from our church. She said she would teach Karcyn every other week (since Karcyn is also playing viola and in choir) and agreed to let us try Calvin in the summer without committing to anything. I told her how maddening his talent was and that he "doesn't like to be taught." But maybe...with her computer games to teach theory and her decades of teaching children, she might be able to find a solution to help Calvin want to learn to play and develop his incredible skill of playing by ear the FIRST time. 

--Love these quotes.

 26th--We learned that Cooper made the Pepsi Bowling Tournament (like State) in Fort Worth back in January. We had to pay $40 in a cashier's check and fill out a participation form, then mail it to a woman named Cheryl, who was organizing the event. We got it sent off two days before the postmark deadline on Feb. 15th. Miss Kay, the league coordinator here in College Station, asked Cooper one day last week during bowling if he was planning on going to the tournament. He told her yes, then texted us to make sure we got it mailed in. I said yes. Except there was no record of is form or entrance fee. But if he wanted to go, Miss Kay said she'd take care of it and asked which time he wanted. 11:30 or 4:30. He chose 11:30. (Good boy!) So after getting the mail on the 26th, I notice this letter. It indicated "damaged mail" at the top. I opened it...
...inside was Cooper's participation form for the bowling tournament AND the $40 cashier's check!!!! Huh?? So I called Miss Kay and told her that Cooper said you didn't have our entry form/fee and that they showed up in my mailbox that day from the post office citing that it had been "damaged mail" but it was all in tact. There was no damage to papers. She said that she had seen Cheryl earlier that week and Cheryl received the envelope but nothing was inside!! What a mystery! Miss Kay went ahead and paid the $40 out of her own pocket for Cooper and told us to take the check when we go to Ft. Worth and Cheryl would pay her back. I don't know what I expected for Miss Kay to do to "take care of it" for Cooper, but I was really touched that she would cover him with her personal funds like that. all worked out, but how bizarre!!
27th--Jake got a summons for jury duty in the mail. You may shocked to learn that the options for exempting from jury duty did not include "out of the country to serve a mission." So I sent a message to the only email address listed on the card and told them that Jake is in Hungary til July 2020, but there was no place to indicate that on the card and I didn't want to sign for him either. I asked if they needed the mission assignment letter from our church leaders or if my email would suffice. They lady wrote back that he will be removed from the system and that my email was good enough. I wrote back and said, "Feel free to add him back after July 2020!" :)

28th--A friend of mine, Jalaire, reached out to me on Facebook. She lives in Katy, TX. She was driving through College Station that night and wondered if I could find a priesthood holder to give her a blessing. I was honored she reached out to me. I love Jalaire. She's actually the sister of a former ward member. I was teaching Gospel Doctrine shortly after we moved here and she loved my lessons so much, she kept coming to them even though she wasn't a member of our ward nor was she active in church. So for her to come to my lessons was quite the compliment. We didn't have much contact outside of those lessons. But we became friends on FaceBook. She moved and her brother's family moved. When I threw out the opportunity for people to get Jake's mission updates, I was so pleased that Jalaire said she would love to receive them. And I hadn't really heard much from her until Feb. 28th asking for a blessing. As it turns out, I was going to be at the church that night for a stake YM/YW planning meeting and then a PPI with President Roeth after that. I asked Pres. Roeth if he'd be willing to give her a blessing of comfort and he agreed.

I reached out to Jalaire's sister in law, KiLee, and let her know that Jalaire would be passing through and receiving a priesthood blessing of comfort. I learned that Jalaire was actually putting her things in storage and moving...essentially homeless...while she travels around the United States. She can work remotely, so she wanted to go see the places she's always wanted to. That occasion called for some travel goodies, so I asked KiLee if she could give me some ideas. She did and I ran to Walmart to get her some fun and practical things for the road and put them in an Easter bucket for her. The contents were her favorites: red vines, swedish fish, sweet mint Orbit gum, a Texas postcard with our address and phone numbers letting her know she's welcome in our home anytime, wet wipes, 3 pack of tissues, jergens lotion, bottle of Advil, a ziptop bag of Peanut M&Ms, hand sanitizer and a travel first aid kit...with a bottle of water and diet Coke on the side. :)
--Later that night, after Jalaire arrived at the church, President Roeth sat down with us so he could get to know Jalaire a little bit before giving her the blessing. She was very unsettled and emotional and couldn't figure out why. She's single and has lived alone and traveled alone before. She just wanted some peace. President Roeth gave her a powerful blessing from her Heavenly Father. I cried just listening and feeling the incredible spirit of God's message to her. I was truly honored to be a part of that moment. Jalaire told President Roeth that I was really her only friend in the area. I had no idea, but that makes me even more grateful that she felt she could reach out to me for help and friendship. I walked her out to her car, gave her a big hug and bid her a safe farewell. She told me a few days later that she felt SO MUCH BETTER after receiving that blessing.

--Sure do love this kid of mine and that smile!! It's contagious.