Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dear Elder Hough...

We left College Station on Friday, March 9th to begin our drive to St. George to see my parents and siblings and all of their kids for Spring Break. On Tuesday night (3/13) while we were out with Shane and Brandi Johnson (Jared's MTC companion and his wife), Jake texted to tell us that our Stake President just reached out to him. President Sharp had noticed that Jake's mission had been assigned on March 7th--THREE DAYS after his papers were submitted. That's a bit unusual. Usually it takes a week or two to be assigned. The general waiting period from submitting your mission papers to receiving the mission call in the mail is about 3-4 weeks. We were not expecting it to come until the last week in March. President Sharp said it might be waiting for Jake when we got back from our trip, but we weren't counting on it. Our twin nephews had their calls assigned in three days as well and it still took 2 1/2 weeks to receive them.

After 23 hours of driving back to Texas on Sunday, March 18th, we swung by the mailbox to get our pile o' mail. We told Jake he could do the honors. He carefully looked in and turned back to us and said very solemnly, "It's here." I didn't believe him and said, "No way, it's not." He looked at me seriously and said, "Yes.It.Is." And then, from the bottom of the pile, he very carefully pulled out the big, white envelope as proof.

We were SHOCKED!! I wish we had been there to get the mail ourselves so we would have known for certain when it came, but at the longest, if it arrived the day before, that would have been 13 days from start to finish. LESS than 2 weeks. All of a sudden this was becoming more and more real--and a lot faster than we expected!!

He wanted to coordinate with some friends who just moved to Hawaii over Christmas break so they could FaceTime when he opened it up. But we didn't want to wait too long. We decided the big moment would be the next day, Monday, March 19th at 8pm. (Good luck focusing at school, Jake!)

For Family Home Evening, before Jake opened his call, we listened to Elder Rasband's conference talk, "The Divine Call of a Missionary." In it, he describes the general process of how the sacred mission assignments are made.

Here are a couple of the friends who were eager to learn about Jake's call.

My friend asked me where I thought Jake might be going. I said I've always felt he'd go overseas and speak a foreign language. I think that will become important in laying the groundwork for other callings later in life as described in his Patriarchal blessing. Selfishly, I wanted him to go to another country so we could learn about a new land and culture and people that we wouldn't know any other way. But...we were also preparing ourselves for Utah or Idaho. :)  Of the 14-16 missionaries serving from our stake, about 6 of them are in Utah! Being found worthy to serve a mission is the most important. Where he's assigned to labor is only secondary to the call to serve. And, we know from the experiences of others that a missionary could be reassigned to a different location for a myriad of reasons such as health, natural disasters, political unrest, visa delays, etc. just to name a few. You go where the Lord needs you. But--we also told Jake that if he goes stateside, then he'll get packages. Warm ones with goodies in them. :) So it's a win-win!!

Without any further ado--

Jake has been called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has been assigned to labor in the HUNGARY/ROMANIA Mission where he will prepare to preach the gospel in the Hungarian Language! He reports to the Provo, UT Missionary Training Center (MTC) on Wed. July 11th. He was also informed that, "in addition to your calling to share the gospel, you will be assigned to serve in the Hungary Mission Region." We're not entirely sure what that means. We also noticed there was no map of his area included in the papers he received. So everyone was googling it and trying to find out more about this particular mission, which was funny to see.

That's Jared on the left, Jason Schubert (former bishopric member of our ward and Jake's home teaching companion) in the middle and Nate Roeth--2nd counselor in the Stake Presidency on the right.

We have since learned that the Hungary and Romania missions, which are currently separate, will be combined into one mission this July--hence no information. It will be interesting and exciting to see how this all unfolds! The current mission president and his wife have been serving since July of 2015, so Jake will have a new mission president when he arrives in September because those amazing couples serve for three years.

Jake's buddies who treated him to Bahama Bucks after the big reveal!

Several friends from Oregon told us that our former Stake President's daughter just opened her mission call on Saturday. She was assigned to labor in the Hungary/Romania mission--Hungarian speaking, reporting on July 11th--just like Jake!! So fun that, while they didn't know each other back then, they have both lived in the same stake/area (and went to church in the same building!) and will definitely get to know each other while in the same district at the MTC!

Earlier this morning, my friend texted to tell me that her nephew's best friend just opened HIS mission call on Sunday. He was called to labor in the Hungary/Romania Mission--speaking Romanian and reports on July 4th. What are the odds of that??

Jake is already trying to get his hands on a Hungarian/English dictionary. :) My friend, Erin Stokes, sent us an article from the Ensign (church magazine) that explained the history of missionary work in Hungary. It was fascinating! Reminded me a lot of the experiences that other missionaries had in the Book of Mormon. I find it no coincidence that Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the area in Hungary for missionary work thirty years ago and is our current prophet whose signature is at the bottom of Jake's call.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Jake's BIG weekend

Yesterday, March 3, 2018, Jake completed a goal he had for the year. He ran the Woodlands Texas Marathon (a Boston qualifier). He not only ran it, he owned it! Jake finished in 3 hours, 38 minutes (and that was after hitting a wall the last three miles). He had paced a guy doing an 8 minute mile, but when the guy called out the times, they were 7 minutes 45 seconds, 7 minutes 32 seconds, etc. A lot faster than Jake was planning on hence the struggle at the end. Even still, he came across the finish line strong as if he could go another 10 miles. He finished 1st in his age group, was in the top 15% overall, and almost an hour faster than the average overall men's time. You wouldn't know it, but he was nursing a knee injury from the last three weeks. He had been praying and praying that the Lord would help him accomplish this and he later reported that he didn't have one issue with his knee. He said he definitely had some divine help--it was an awesome experience and definitely validation considering he was in the hospital 16 months ago after collapsing during a cross-country competition. He proved to himself that he can do physically hard things.

This is the before picture. :)

Getting ready to cross the finish line!
A 26.2 FINISHER!!!

THEN--as he and Jared were making their way back home, Jake found out by email that he was ACCEPTED TO BYU in Provo! He's been a College Station Cougar these past four years and will continue to be a Cougar--in two years, of course, as he'll be deferring to serve his mission.

AND FINALLY--President Sharp sent us an email at 12:13 AM this morning titled "Update 2.0" ;) His missionary application has officially been submitted to Church headquarters!! The clock is now ticking...he should have his call in about 3-4 weeks.

Friday, March 2, 2018

I Hope They Call Me on a Mission!

I hope they call me on a mission
When I have grown a foot or two.
I hope by then I will be ready
To teach and preach and work as 
missionaries do.

I hope that I can share the gospel
With those who want to know the truth.
I want to be a missionary
And serve and help the Lord
while I am in my youth.
~Children's Songbook of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, page 169

Children who grow up in our church are singing this song by the time they're three years old, if not sooner. Its catchy tune and sweet, earnest message makes it a beloved favorite.

While young women are more than welcome to serve missions, missionary work is a priesthood duty and our church leaders encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Jake's missionary papers are complete and we are waiting, literally, any hour now for our stake president to push that submit button!

Mission papers can be submitted to church headquarters in Salt Lake City no more than 120 days prior to the mission candidate's availability date, which, for Jake, is July 1st. February 21st was the earliest day he could submit his papers and his goal. After having his mission interview with Bishop Graham, he met with President Sharp on Thursday, February 15th and it turns out, Jake forgot to have us sign a form. Which seems awfully reminiscent of his Eagle Scout paperwork! No biggie,  though. We could sign it at home and then scan it and send it to our bishop, who would get it in Jake's account. We learned, that night however, that President Sharp would be out of the country on Feb. 21st, but that wouldn't be a huge issue because he could get online and send Jake's papers in from whatever location he was at.

Jake texted President Sharp on the 21st to find out if he was able to push any buttons that day. President Sharp, who was in New Zealand, texted Jake later to apologize. He was having difficulty with his phone and getting an internet connection, but that he would send in Jake's papers as soon as he could. Jake was MOST patient and understanding in his reply to President Sharp. Jared and I, while also understanding, were not very patient! It's just ironic that we get to the very day to start the clock ticking and we have to wait some more. *sigh* I guess it could be worse. Jake's young men president was telling Jake that he waited and waited and waited long beyond when he thought he should have received his mission call in the mail before asking his Stake President about it. This was back in the days of "snail mail." He didn't want to be a nuisance about it, which is why he let so much time go by, but when he finally inquired about his call, the Stake President sheepishly admitted that he had just found the mission papers under a pile on his desk! They hadn't even been mailed off to Salt Lake City. So while we do have to wait for the mission call to arrive in our mailbox, at least our stake president can send off the documentation electronically! Once he has an internet connection, of course! ;)

For kicks and giggles, we thought it would be fun to invite our family and friends and their children to predict where they think Jake will be called to serve. We have an Amazon gift card for the first person who makes the closest prediction to his two year assignment, whether that's the country, state, city or actual mission. In the case of a tie, Jake will draw names. :) If you've already predicted on Facebook, you're good to go!! Leave your prediction in the comments or on Facebook!

******************************UPDATE, 3/4/18*************************************

Yesterday morning (3/3), I woke up to a text from President Sharp. He said he sat down to submit Jake's papers when he first got up and received an ERROR message in response. Apparently, the papers were outside of the 120 day period. You've got to be kidding! I never counted the days. Jared never counted. We left that up to Jakey Poo. But when I read that, I went and counted them myself. Sure enough, Feb. 21st was more like 130 days! I had to laugh. This kid is in AP science and two AP math classes and he couldn't count back 120 days from July 1st. :) It's easy enough to get off by a 10 when you're excited, I guess. President Sharp was relieved to know he hadn't set back Jake's call by because of his trip, but he and I both agreed that if Jake not being able to count his days is the worst thing, he's doing pretty good!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Year in Review

2017 brought several epic and very unexpected events (some wonderful, some not) to our family this year. 

1) In April, Jared's brother, Kevin, accepted a job (beginning July 2018) in Snyder, Texas (the Lubbock Stake) only 5 hours away from College Station. Jared and I took the three little kids up there for a weekend to be with Kevin and Chris and their four younger kids while they were visiting to get a lay of the land, look for homes, meet doctors, etc. [Jake and Cooper were at Youth Conference]. We are super excited to have them within half a day's drive. It will be the closest we've ever lived to family in 15 years.
[JJ and Korbin are the last of the Hough brothers' kids and only two months apart.]

2) At the end of April, Jared's parents, Doc and Karole, came to College Station from Utah, looking at homes for possible retirement options. We had so much fun with them during their 10 day visit with us, but it went by way too fast!
3) At the beginning of May, a local ward boundary realignment moved our family from the College Station 3rd ward to the College Station 1st ward. It was quite the surprise, but we embraced the change and have been lovingly and graciously accepted by our new friends and told we are missed by the old ones.

4) In June, our friends from the CS3 ward, Tony and Melanie Upton, bought the house across the street from us!! It's been such a wonderful blessing having them close. Hopefully they feel the same!

5) Jared's wonderful dad--also beloved husband, grandpa, father-in-law, friend, physician, and spiritual leader--passed away on August 13th. We are so grateful that he and the Lord worked it out so that he did not die on his daughter's birthday (8/8), JJ's birthday (8/11) or his sweetheart's birthday (8/17) and that Jared was able to interact with Doc and say good-bye just a day before he slipped away into a coma.
6) The only summer getaway on the calendar (for me and the little kids anyway) was a four-day trip to Destin, Florida, with our friends, Todd and Jamie Graham, which happened to be the morning after Jared's dad passed away. It was a beautiful "destin"ation and we loved being on the beach and staying at the fabulous condo. But circumstances were such that we had to spend our in-between beach moments planning a funeral across three different states. (Jake and Cooper were on a backpacking High Adventure at Philmont, New Mexico this entire week.) 
7) My parents surprised our kids on August 18th (arriving at our house about an hour before Jake and Cooper returned from Philmont). It was the first time we had seen my parents since before they left on their mission to Johannesburg, South Africa in January 2016.
8) Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches (4 feet!) or 27 *trillion* gallons of water over south central Texas and Louisiana. That's about 1 million gallons of water for nearly every person living in Texas beginning the weekend of August 25th. (And no, I did not calculate that statistic). Consequently, the study at the front of our house was damaged in the storm. We were not flooded, but had a leak that invited unwanted water into our home. (This has been an annual recurring problem on a much, much smaller scale since we took possession of the house. The sheer volume of water that came through our area is what made it so destructive this time around, though we thought the issue had been resolved. It took over 10 weeks for our builder to complete the repairs. Our entire downstairs was in a disarray during the construction and repair process--not cool for a Type A personality like mine--but this was nothing compared to the untold devastation felt by thousands of others. Props to Stylecraft Builders for pulling out all the stops to fix the problem for us.) The storm cancelled church that last weekend in August as well as the first day of school on the 28th. My parents had flown into Houston and were forced to drive north and fly out of Dallas on the 29th in order to get back to Vegas and ultimately St. George. We're just grateful they were able to get home--because we had a funeral to attend that coming weekend and my sweet parents were going to join us.

9) We drove the three little kids to Pontiac, Illinois (17 hours in one day) on Thursday, August 31st (having been in school only two days) for Doc's funeral that would be on Sat. Sept. 2nd. Jake and Cooper (a senior and freshman respectively) stayed back through mid-day Friday and a friend drove them to the airport so the boys would miss as little school as possible of their first week. We had a wonderful reunion with our Hough family and our old friends from our previous time spent in Pontiac (filled with laughter and tears and new memories) as we celebrated the life of my amazing father-in-law.  JJ, Calvin and Karcyn sang songs with their cousins at the funeral service, Cooper sang a solo with Jake accompanying him, Jared shared memories, and Jared, Jake and Cooper were pall bearers, all of whom donned baseball caps in Doc's honor. It was really special to be able to show the kids where Jared grew up, the church building that was built while Doc was Branch president, the schools where I taught my first year, and where Jake was born. After the dedication of the grave Sunday morning, all seven of us piled into the suburban and headed home--another 17 hours in one day, arriving back in College Station around 2am Monday morning. Only for Doc. Never again.
[Jared, Nicole and Kevin Hough]
[Calvin, Korbin, Karyana, JJ, Karcyn, Ayzlynn, and Oliva]

10) We've dubbed October 6th as a new holiday to honor and celebrate Grandpa Hough. (Oct. 6, 2017 would have been his 70th birthday). We spent the day doing things that he enjoyed and things that would help us feel closer to him.

11) College Station, Texas received a mind blowing 5+ inches of SNOW early in the evening of December 7th, when just four days earlier it was 81 degrees! Apparently, when it comes to Texas weather, if you don't like it, just wait...it'll change! Never in a million years did we expect to see a Winter Wonderland in our part of central, southeast Texas. It was truly a wonder and very exciting indeed! A definite first for JJ. We were thrilled just to see almost microscopic snow flurries, but gradually they just kept coming and getting bigger and it didn't stop for hours. It was the perfect snow, too. Stuck to the trees, the roofs and yards, but not the streets. The kids were in school the next day! :)
12) Watching "The Greatest Showman"--which most people know by now is about P.T. Barnum who started the Barnum and Bailey Circus. He is also a distant relative (10 greats from Jared) in the Hough family line. Jared grew up hearing stories (and I did, too, when I joined the family) about P.T. Barnum from Jared's dad. We are obsessed with the music (it's all we listen to during the week) and the movie, but it's even more special to us because of the family connection. Houghs and circus people...that does explain a few things. :)

13) Jared drove Jake, Cooper and Calvin up to the AT & T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (where the Dallas Cowboys play) to cheer on the College Station High School Cougars in the high school state championship football game. It came down to seconds, but CSHS did it!!! Their first Class 5A Division II State football championship. [CSHS opened in 2012 with freshman and sophomores only. A grade was added each year until full implementation in August of 2014 (Jake's freshman year). The first graduating class was 2015.]

14) For the first time ever, we took a true family vacation with all of our kids and my parents and we CRUISED into the New Year on Royal Caribbean, departing from Galveston on New Year's Eve. Turns out, a family from another ward, whose teenagers are friends with Jake and Cooper, were on that very same boat! More on the cruise to come.

JJ (6)--If I could sum up JJ in six words, it would be: komodo dragon aficionado, carb-itarian, articulate, bucket-filler. This past year, JJ has developed a manageable obsession with komodo dragons. He checked out all the books that the school library had on them, which were only about four. He writes stories and draws pictures about them (at home, school and church). One of my favorites is when his teacher created a class book patterned after Mrs. Wishy Washy. They had to complete the phrase about what went into the bucket to be washed. "In went the..." Some of the other kids said things like horse, mouse, fish, cat, dog, duck. JJ's contribution was, you guessed it, "In went the komodo dragon" and his illustration is below.

When we visited the Dallas Zoo in the spring, he spotted a stuffed komodo dragon in the reptile house (and is always the first to spot the real ones and statues at any zoo!) and we couldn't resist. Before the night was over, JJ did a tongue-ectomy and named it Komody. He has since gotten another stuffed komodo dragon and has named it K2 or Kenge (from the Lion Guard).  He even taught Komody how to pray.
JJ continues to abhor meats of any kind. *sigh* We never anticipated this from one of our kids. We try to persuade him to channel his inner komodo dragon, but he just looks at us like we're idiots. :) Once every 3-6 months he might have some chicken nuggets. He is a carb (and dairy--whole milk, cheese, yogurt) lover. He didn't eat veggies much to begin with but now he's turned his nose up to those and fruits, too! Fortunately, he does eat PB for lunch on most days, but I'm a little troubled by his diet or lack thereof! Any advice?? His pediatrician didn't offer any. It's hard to hide nutrient-rich veggies and such in other foods when he doesn't eat anything to hide them in! His go-to breakfast is still Cheerios with honey (not Honey Nut Cheerios). He eats that with a large serving spoon and, miraculously, no mess. And nowadays, he won't eat pasta unless there's tomato sauce on it. Not spaghetti sauce. Plain tomato sauce. Ew.

Jared and I stuck to our guns and in the spring requested that JJ be retained and repeat Kindergarten. This is his graduation picture. (Unbelievable that they do such a thing...but I could eat him up!)
He has no problems academically or socially. Yet. That could be just a few years around the corner. We wanted him to be an older student in his grade level anyway, before speech issues even entered the picture, so we moved ahead with that plan with little resistance from the school. My biggest concern for JJ would be the first few weeks of the new school year and if he noticed his friends from last year in the 1st grade group, or maybe someone would notice him still in Kindergarten. But no one said anything. Shortly after school began, he was exited from the speech program (special education) and I know this is only because we followed the prompting to enroll him in Kindergarten the year before. JJ was given an incredible teacher who has lovingly embraced our sweet boy, his unique retention situation and is tailoring this year to be one of more growth for JJ. She sent a note home in September, saying how much she was enjoying getting to know him. "He is so helpful and is so kind to others." At the parent-teacher conference in October, she thanked us for whatever we were doing at home to raise him. She is so grateful to have him in class because he's a leader and she is able to use him as an example for the other children to follow. We have noticed that JJ does stand a little taller and with a little more confidence than he has in the past. It was his teacher, Mrs. Neidig, who taught her students to be bucket-fillers this fall. JJ caught the vision of that and is constantly trying to find ways to fill the buckets of those around him through his kind deeds.
As a side note: This was also the year of the snaggle-teeth. On both the top and bottom, JJ's permanent teeth came in behind his baby teeth. Sometimes they were sideways, sometimes they were just fine, but the baby teeth would jut out at strange angles and just stay there. The permanent teeth were already in place and those baby teeth, even though skiwampus, would not budge! Fortunately, with time, they did eventually come out, but wow. We weren't so sure there for a while. And sadly, I never got the cute "All I want for Christmas are my Two-Front Teeth" look with JJ because he ended up with rows of teeth! :(
[JJ hanging with his twin cousins, Cole (left) and Connor (right).]

Calvin (9)--Calvin is going to do amazing things one day...so long as we can guide him in that direction. This boy doesn't do anything for anyone unless it's his idea. Similar to 2nd grade, he didn't really care much about school in 3rd grade either. He was blessed to have three amazing switch teachers that year, too, all of whom loved Calvin. Yet, at the same time, he was written up by all three for behavior issues, but mostly because they knew his performance on tests and homework was not indicative of his ability. Very frustrating for all adults involved. However, in March, he was again nominated for the Gifted and Talented program. In order for him to be tested, we had to fill out a pretty extensive parent evaluation. I've done it twice already and hate it. Because of his smug and indifferent attitude, I decided I wasn't going to fill out the paperwork since he wasn't putting forth his best effort on tests and homework. It would just be a waste of everyone's time. But then my heart softened and I considered that this might be what he needs. However, he didn't get into the GT program this year either, which, honestly, is a relief. I need as few battles as possible with this child.

Here is a letter that Calvin wrote to his English teacher, Mr. Rhine, to explain why he didn't stay in at recess to get a second (or third or fourth) chance to finish his missing assignments, prior to him being sent to the assistant principal (which we encouraged the teacher to do). I applaud Calvin for being frank and getting right to the heart of the matter.
Here's another fun snapshot of this real-life Calvin and Hobbes character. In cub scouts, they were doing an archaeological elective in which he needed to sculpt some dinosaur fossils. Below is a picture of the fossil collection Calvin created. What are they, you ask? Dinosaur poop.
Calvin has amazing musical talent for the piano. He can sit down and pick out a tune by ear. He was taking piano lessons for a time, but it, too, was quite the struggle. We threw in the towel when Calvin admitted that all he wanted was for the teacher to tell him what to practice. He didn't want her to show him how to do it or watch him try during the lesson. It feels like a tremendous waste of potential, but perhaps he will put his musical talent into another instrument or decide later that he really does want to do a serious study of piano. (And yes, he can even play the piano laying down on the bench.)
On May 1st, Calvin's birthday, I got an unexpected phone call. It was from the principal of the new intermediate school that was currently under construction right next door to the elementary school. I was confused--what on earth would she want with me when the school wasn't even open yet? Apparently, she and Calvin are buds. Her office is temporarily based at Calvin's school and he had reached out to her and offered to do whatever he could to help her. (Sounds like a strategic move to me.) She just wanted me to know how much she loves Calvin and how kind and polite he is. She wrote him a card on the new school stationery, hot off the press, and he was feeling pretty special.
While he still hasn't found a book series or genre that he loves, he's getting into books a little bit more. We got him A Wrinkle in Time for his birthday because there's a boy named Calvin in it. He picked it up with a more renewed interest once he realized the movie is coming out this spring. He wore a suit and tie for his fall school pictures and qualified for the school Spelling Bee in November as one of only two kids from his class. Out of the forty-three 3rd and 4th graders participating, he was in the top third before being eliminated by "defensiveness." I really appreciate the way Calvin looks out for JJ at school, on the bus and offers to read the scriptures to him or with him. 
Calvin is a pretty special kid. He is charismatic and charming. We love him very much and enjoy his company and observing how his mind is constantly processing things. We are happy to report that fourth grade seems to be his year. He is rocking it with straight As and no current behavior problems. His teacher says he "has THE BEST attitude." Calvin said that he wants to be a doctor someday, like his Grandpa Hough, so he can carry on the family tradition. He's the third son and so was Grandpa. 
[Calvin's Texas snowman. 12.8.17]

Karcyn (11)--Karcyn had an especially memorable birthday the beginning of March because we gifted her with horse-riding lessons. She is a natural and has quickly picked up on the first set of skills and thankfully, these lessons help fill that void of no pets at home. ;) 
Karcyn loves all creatures. Including reptiles, insects, and...sand crabs and...sea slugs (the latter two were discovered in Destin). She was hired on several occasions to care for our neighbor's dogs and she even rescued a small bird that got trapped in our garage. 
Her big news in 2017 was breaking her wrist one morning (with 6 weeks of 5th grade left) playing football with a group of boys while waiting to go inside her school. She takes pride in being the first child in our family, with four brothers, to break a bone. :) She calls herself a "tough Hough." We are grateful she didn't need a permanent cast, but not having use of her left hand made for some very boring, even torturous viola practices where she had to practice 20 minutes a day, bowing with a pencil in the air. 
Karcyn continues to write and illustrate her own stories or spin-offs from books she's read. She went to an awesome orchestra camp this summer and has made incredible progress with her instrument. It's like night and day between 5th and 6th grade orchestra students! She also continued with swimming and piano lessons. During the summer, she had the unfortunate experience of giving herself gluten-poisoning. Which was just as much my fault as hers. She was making pasta for lunch and we had two partially used boxes that I wanted gone. The GF penne was in a blue box and the regular pasta was also in a blue box. A couple hours later, she said her head hurt and she threw it all up. It wasn't until that evening that we realized it wasn't the stomach flu, but gluten that was to blame. She's never thrown up from eating food with gluten in it until now. Two years of not ingesting gluten and it was a shock to her system. On the "up" side, we're having a hard time keeping her in clothes--she just keeps getting taller and taller!

As a 6th grader, Karcyn is enjoying a brand new, beautiful, two-story, high-tech intermediate school: Pecan Trail. She gets fabulous grades, straight As or super close, has joined the runners club and loves the Warriors book series. It's one of the few fiction chapter books she indulges in. Probably because it's about cats. She is one of my best cleaners around the house and has taken a serious interest in cooking. In October, she was asked to be in a trio and sang a solo at her last Primary program. She sang it perfectly and the moment was extra special because two of her school teachers attended to show their support. Karcyn is becoming a beautiful young lady, inside and out.
[Karcyn and her Florida sand crab.]

Cooper (15)--This kid has grown a lot this year! Physically and otherwise. Our previous bishop (who we haven't really seen on a regular basis since May) commented to me recently that every time he sees Cooper at mutual or in the halls, he is taller! He's also very solid. If you happen to bump into him and don't move, it will likely surprise you and hurt at the same time! Cooper started off the year with a bang--with a scorpion crawling up his pant leg and stinging him while he was doing some service yard work. He was brave though and kept working. Cooper auditioned for All Region Choir and as an 8th grader he was one of 5 (out of 35) from his school who made it. He went Killeen, TX the following week for an all-day clinic and we joined him later for an awesome performance. He was front and center (purple tie) not having hit his growth spurt yet. :) 
In the spring, we were pleased to see Cooper revisiting his talent for crocheting. He learned the basics from Grandma Hough several years ago. But one day, he decided to pick it back up again. Before we knew it, we were buying all sorts of hooks and yarn for him to create a variety of things from flowers, Christmas trees, pumpkins, hot pads, hats, octopuses, blankets and squish balls. He would look up something to make on YouTube and within minutes, he had it! Super impressive. Not only in his ability to teach himself how to make new things, but he turned this into a small business during the summer. He attended Cub Camp with Calvin's den as a youth leader and while he was there, he sold several mini pumpkins to one of the women there that runs the place. He even had a request to make tomatoes instead of pumpkins, using red yarn, not orange. He sold 20 or more to the girls at Jared's office with a super pumpkin as a raffle prize--the more you buy, the more entries you get in the drawing.  He made over $100 in a couple of months. It was really fun to watch. While cute, I was a little skeptical about why he taught himself to make an octopus. The answer to that came a few months later. This was what I posted on Facebook (Oct. 24, 2017):

When he heard our friend’s friend’s grand- baby is fighting for her life in a NICU out of state, Cooper wanted to help. My friend had posted a video from ABC News showing how crocheted octopuses can help comfort these preemie babies. They hold on to the tentacles (similar to the umbilical cord) instead of pulling on their medical tubes. As it turns out, Cooper taught himself how to crochet an octopus this past summer. (Honestly, I thought an octopus was a bit random and weird for him to have in his crochet skill-set. But what do I know? Clearly, he was on to something!) He got right to work on another one a few days ago—even over his birthday weekend. Coop wrote on the card that he hopes the gift will bring a little light into their lives. We’re very proud of this new 15-year-old of ours as he’s already learning to develop and share his talents to bless others, including strangers. 
Crocheting and business venture aside, Cooper had a jam-packed summer filled with tennis camps, babysitting and yard care jobs, attending Especially for Youth (EFY) in San Antonio for the first time, going to Six Flags in Dallas with Jake and being on the radio on the way there, camping and fishing with Jake, 
and going on his first HIGH adventure (a backpacking trek at Philmont in New Mexico) with the young men from church. He's had some amazing experiences!!
He is rocking his freshman year of high school. Cooper has always been intelligent, but based on his previous organizational skills and gift for procrastination, we are pleasantly surprised at the contrast in how he now approaches school. He requested to take Spanish for his language requirement and ended up with German! ;)  He's a natural with sounds and language so it's all good. He is also taking choir and tennis in addition to his core classes. Tennis practices are every morning beginning at 8am, so it does not, miraculously, interfere with his seminary attendance. Cooper has fully embraced seminary as well. He has an incredible teacher, Sister Cunha, who we all love and we will cry buckets when this year ends. He is 2 merit badges and a fantastic project idea away from getting his Eagle! We are hopeful that he'll see this through to the end. Cooper continues to wow (and annoy) us with his mind-blowing memorization and quoting skills, he loves to take selfies with my phone,
is a significant contributor to the volume of noise in our house, continues to consume 1-2 bottles of Tapitio hot sauce every two weeks and will soon hit the roads as he learns to drive! [I thought having had a child go through the process of driving already, would make it easier the second time around. It doesn't. :o] 

After the graveside service, a long time friend of my father-in-law came up to Jared and told him that Cooper is a mini-Doc in his looks and mannerisms. 
We're grateful that Cooper saw a unique opportunity to help with "Harvey Clean Up" in September. He joined me and Jared the Saturday after we got back from Doc's funeral. [Jake was taking a test that day, but he went down to serve with another group on Sunday.] This is George and Barbara (yes, like Bush :) and they were tickled pink to see a young man like Cooper working long, hot, sweaty, stinky hours on their house. So were we!

Jake (18)--Well, my baby is now an adult. I'm not sure how that happened, actually. Most times, the days and weeks drag on, but those years just FLY! Speaking of "flying," anyone who knows Jake, knows he was pretty much ready to fly the coop a couple years ago. Legally though, that's generally frowned upon. :) It's been a bit of a wild ride for him this year. He entered the track season cautiously optimistic after his hospital stay a few months prior. He PR'd 4:42 in the 1600 (mile) and easily took 1st place at both JV district events (800 and 1600). At the end of March, he drove an hour away to ask a young woman in our stake (who was at her own track meet) to go to prom with him. 
JJ ran to give Jake a good-luck hug before he left to pop his prom question, but as it turns out, luck was not needed. She not only answered yes, but said, "While you're here, will you go to my prom?" :) They had a great time at her prom in small town Burton, TX, on April 8th. A funny highlight for him was having to take a breathalyzer test before they could enter. I love a young woman who can embrace modesty! That makes her truly beautiful.
The last semester of school was very busy for him with testings, regular classes, projects, performances, etc. May was especially crazy. It was the last month of school, he had his own Prom plans to finalize, he had to speak on Mother's Day (again) which was the last Sunday in our ward, then we moved to a new one, not to mention a few last minute projects thrown in there for good measure. I think May is the worst school month out of the year here in Texas. The big moment in May, came however, when Jake was running at school during his cross country class. All of a sudden, he felt prompted to stop running. When he did, he continued to get the same prompting. Having already stopped moving, he realized that the prompting was to stop running--for good. Jake was slated to be the top runner his senior year. After a lot of pondering and praying, the answer remained the same. So with a heavy heart, and right before school got out, he told his coach he would no longer be on the cross country team. He doesn't know why and he was a little lost for a couple weeks without eating, drinking and doing all things running. But he is at peace. In June, Jake was invited to participate in a lifeguard certification group with the young women training for girls camp and was immediately hired by CS Parks and Rec. He often guarded during the little kids' swimming lessons and it was really fun to see him there.
After a test run in March, Jake drove Cooper three hours north to Six Flags and enjoyed the day together. But not without getting his first speeding ticket. Jake was out of state most of July. He and Jared drove to Canada on July 6th for a long awaited (Congrats on earning your Eagle 3 years ago!) fishing trip with his twin cousins, Cole and Connor, who are only 8 months older. It was an epic trip for those boys. Jake claims it was like having three of him around! They had the time of their lives. 
Jake was home for a day before flying out to Oregon to spend time with his best bud, Josh Walkenhorst, before they graduate. He had a fabulous time visiting old friends and saw even more than he expected thanks to a regional youth conference! Jake was home for about a week before he and Cooper left for High Adventure at Philmont. (Had Jake still been in cross country, he wouldn't have been able to go with Cooper on this first and last high adventure together). Apparently, Jake had quite the experience, and a humbling one, when he was hit with altitude sickness. Crazy how it affected him--he is physically strong and very fit. But he learned a lot about himself--spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Houghs can do hard things.

As a senior, he has AP Physics C, AP Calculus and AP Statistics, Honors English IV and an online Econ class first semester, then Government the next, 2 off periods and he picked up Jazz Band again as the pianist. He began teaching two kids piano after school and word spread quickly (there is a piano teacher shortage here!). In a very short time, that number increased to 4 then 6. What a blessing for him to have this job opportunity with life guarding over and no other real leads on employment. With his cousins Cole and Connor as inspiration, Jake decided to give pole vaulting a try and he's doing really well. Running is still a big part of him and so he decided to train for the Woodlands Marathon which will be on March 3, 2018. 

Even with the crazy, full schedule that he has, Jake has managed to further develop his engineering and tinkering skills this year by first hitting up our home teacher, Todd, for an old door and for his handyman assistance to help him pull off his master plan of installing a workbench space in his room (before mentioning it to his parents). Gotta give him props for figuring it all out on his own and for using up dead space, so why not? With this new place to work, Jake attempted to build Storm Trooper armor (out of card stock), began constructing a Lego Star Destroyer (from a kit), taught himself how to do electronic servo circuitry (robotics), and with his epic 3D designing skills, made three light saber handles (two for friends, one for himself). One of Jake's dream gifts would be a 3D printer all of his own. :) Playing the piano is one of Jake's favorite ways of decompressing, plus it just brings him joy. He found a plethora of piano music this year and taught himself to play many songs: "Summertime," John Schmidt's mash up of "Perfect" and "LA LA LAND" and a medley of Disney songs and "The Greatest Showman," just to name a few.
Jake ended the year with a bang as a new young adult, eligible to now vote and start adulting. Cooper (with months of preparation) planned and pulled off a very successful surprise 18th birthday party for his big bro the day after Christmas. Yay us!
I don't know if 4 is his magic number, but by the end of 2017, Jake had been pulled over 4 times by the police (ticketed only once, however!) and he saw "The Greatest Showman" 4 times in the movie theater (within 6 days). Just when you thought life couldn't get more eventful than it already was, 2018 promises to be filled with even bigger things for Jake. 

Jenn (40)--As I was reflecting on 2017, I realized that it was filled with many first time experiences for me. So here is my year, in firsts.
*1st time being the feature presenter at the Stake Activity Day Girls activity ("Let Your Light So Shine" with flashlights)
*1st time installing keypad locks on the pantry and game room doors. Best.decision.ever.
*1st bike ride in Texas 
*1st time seeing a live snake in Texas--seen plenty 'o dead ones!
*1st time Prom-mom
*1st time one of my kids got a broken bone
*1st time turning 40 (and getting a surprise party! Still can't believe the kids kept it a secret!)
*1st time visiting the Magnolia store in Waco
*1st time being in a Stake calling
*1st time celebrating 20 years of marriage
*1st time traveling all over the Stake on Sundays
*1st time speaking in Sacrament meetings, on different topics, once a month with a high councilman
*1st time predicting anyone's mission call and in this case, twice! My nephews Cole and Connor were called to serve in Ghana and the Philippines, respectively. My sister-in-law said my prediction for Cole was close enough for the win because it was on the same continent! 
*1st time going on the Riverboat Tour in San Antonio
*1st time called to jury duty in Texas
*1st time losing a parent
*1st time staying in a condo on the beach
*1st time planning a funeral
*1st time being in a hurricane
*1st time cleaning up after a hurricane
*1st time my kids span the full K through 12 spectrum!
*1st time making tamales (I was so slow and so bad and the sisters were SO patient!)
*Survived my 1st mammogram
*1st time having my cell phone fall in a toilet
*1st time painting in acrylics (it was a step-by-step instructional) 
*1st time driving my mother-in-law, Karole, the entire way to Mesa, Arizona. We spent 11 hours traveling the first day, 10 of them driving, and we were STILL in Texas!! :o
*1st time seeing my sister Michelle's house and fiance!
*1st time speaking at Stake Conference in Texas.
*1st time seeing a movie on opening day (The Greatest Showman!)
*1st time being the mom of a young adult!

Jared (44)--In April, Jared fulfilled his two-year commitment working in the express care in Brenham, but nothing was offered to him that was closer to home. There are certainly days when the 50 minute drive each way gets old, but he doesn't mind it usually because he likes the staff and his supervising physician--who works in the Family Practice wing of the building. It's just hard for him to be gone from 7am to 8pm, for as many as 5 times a week (sometimes 8 shifts in a row!) and working every other weekend. Having him home on his off days is nice, buuuuut, we would love (love, love, love) to have him back on the weekends. He is growing weary of missing Sundays and the Sacrament each week. Jared was asked to be on a local advisory board for Advanced Practitioners. He was also invited to participate on a bowling league in a very large "friendly" competition with other medical groups around the area. Jared's league won! In June, he flew, unexpectedly, to Utah to help pack up his parents' house after they had already driven to Pennsylvania to be with Jared's brother and to receive medical care for Doc. Jared's long awaited trip-of-the-summer was in July, when he and Jake drove to Canada for a week long fishing trip at Rainy Lake Lodge where they met up with Jared's brother, Kevin, and his twin sons. It was a good trip for Jared, though, unfortunately, there was a constant undercurrent of worry and sadness for Kevin and Jared, as they were getting regular updates about their dad's declining health and because Grandpa was supposed to be with them.
Sadly, a couple weeks after returning from Canada, Jared flew to Pennsylvania when his dad's health took a sharp downward spiral. It was the last time Jared would see his dad, but we're so grateful he could be there to share those last moments before Doc slipped into a coma. 

Jared has navigated the loss of his dad with such dignity and has stepped up to support his family when they needed it. The flu season in Texas was/is brutal and really hit the Brenham clinic hard. The Monday before Christmas, Jared and the other provider saw 103 patients between the two of them!! Those numbers didn't drop below 77 that entire week. The line of patients was out the door as if there was a mass pilgrimage to Brenham. The week of New Years was not much better. Thankfully, there was a 7 day cruise for Jared to look forward to at the end of those two weeks. Jared had served as an assistant clerk in the CS3 ward the first half of the year and was called to be a Gospel Doctrine instructor (a calling he's really good at and one of the few that is compatible with his work schedule) in our new ward the last half. Deer continue to elude Jared, but maybe next year! We love anything we can do with Daddy!! Fishing is one of the kids' favorite past times and they are experts.
Jared wanted to take Jake to a Dallas Cowboy game before his mission, so they went with our friend Todd, and his son, Cameron, leaving after school on Thursday, November 30th. They got back super late, but the Cowboys won!! (A victory for Grandpa who was supposed to have gone with them.)
For anyone who knows him, Jared makes the world you're in a *much* better place! The kids ADORE him and rightfully so. He is full of humor and incredible wisdom that's anchored by his faith in the Savior. We don't know what we'd do without him!

2017 has shown us personally that there is only so much within our power. But our eternal perspective is key and our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the answer for everything. We send lots of love and best wishes to our family and friends all over the world. May you have a wonderful, peace-filled 2018.

What a difference a year makes! 
Picture taken December 27, 2016.

Picture recreated on December 27, 2017.