Monday, January 26, 2015

June 2014, week 2

*Sunday, June 8th--our friends, Wendell and Michelle King, who used to live down the street from us and attended our ward, drove up from Salem to have a final dinner with us. Andrew is their oldest. He and Cooper have been buddies since we moved into our house the end of 2007. They are only a couple weeks apart in age. I'm kind of glad they moved before us. Now bfore anyone has a chance to think, "Jenn! That's so mean!" Just let me say that I feel it kind of eases the pain of separating the kids a little bit as they were already used to not seeing each other on a regular basis. I suspect the paths of our boys may very well cross again in the future, whether planned or not!

*Monday, June 9th--While I was packing that afternoon, Karcyn and Calvin played down the street with friends. I went down to retrieve them and Karcyn greeted me while riding a two-wheel bike! She'd never been on a bike before. Calvin (because he's Karcyn's non-twin) could do it too! Holy cow! Our neighbor friends, Jenna and Jessie had taught them while they were playing outside. Sweet! One less parental responsibility to do! Thanks girls ;)

Jake had a piano solo and performed in front of the ENTIRE middle school student body and staff. He played "Hall of Fame" and NAILED it! I couldn't have been more proud. The piano was facing the audience so they could obviously hear the music. Though I wish they could have seen the incredible movement of his hands and fingers on the keyboard. When he was halfway through with no mistakes, I knew he had it. I don't know much about piano, but what I do know is that it's SO hard to play on another piano once when you've been practicing for 100x on another.

*Tuesday, June 10th--I went into Brown Middle School that morning to get Jake for his orthodontic appointment and then later that afternoon, I went back for his jazz band concert. I realized I'd be at that particular school four times in three days--more than I had for the whole rest of the year. Jake had an awesome alto sax solo in his jazz concert. It was all improv.

Jake had mentioned a few days prior that he'd like to go to his friend Josh's house and play basketball after the concert because Josh lived within walking distance from the school. Somehow after the jazz concert, Jake's plans morphed into going to Josh's basketball game at the high school and then laser tag after. Jake swears he told me about the latter. I swear he didn't, but given my life's condition at the time, it is likely in this case that Jake was more on the accurate side :) I told him we needed to work on this communication thing and clearly, I needed to talk to Josh's parents to clarify a few things. Trusting that you're getting the full story with a teenager is a fine line, my friends. Even with a kid as good as Jake. Not because he's deceitful, he just leaves out much needed mommy details that he knows but doesn't think I need to know to make a decision. I drove him to the high school, which was just down the road from the middle school but I wasn't very confident we'd be able to make contact with Josh's parents. Plus, I didn't want to interrupt them while they were watching their son playing in a game and I didn't have the luxury of waiting around all night. I told Jake not to get his hopes up. As we pulled into the high school parking lot, we followed a suburban that looked similar to the one Josh's mom drives. And it was! Crazy! I pulled into the parking spot beside her and was able to talk to her real quick and verify she was aware and on board with the plans as well. She told me they were going to celebrate Josh's birthday and Jake was the friend Josh wanted to invite. The only conflict was Jake's last dance festival rehearsal that night. He knew his routine though and considering we're dragging Jake 2500 miles away from his friends, I figured he could sacrifice one rehearsal. Even Josh's mom was grateful Jake could come. They had a blast and one day hope to meet up at a BYU basketball camp in the future.

*Wednesday, June 11th--Jared and I surprised Jake with his first cell phone on the last full day of school, despite our "no phone til you're 16" rule. I love that, as parents, we can totally ratify and amend any aforementioned family rules and policies as needed for the greater good. Sixteen is still the baseline age and family rule, but we decided it's up to the individual child whether that age gets moved up or moved back. We were considering getting Jake one at the beginning of his freshman year in the fall or on his birthday the end of December. But the amazing McCulloughs were flying him back to Oregon for High Adventure (that he would have missed otherwise) and I couldn't let him travel from Texas to Oregon without some way of contacting us. I'm kicking myself too because apparently we learned we would actually save money if I upgraded to an iPhone (which I had been resisting) sharing Jared's data plan AND added a 3rd line with Jake's cheap-o-can't-send-or-receive-pictures-or-access-the-internet-call-and-text-only-phone.

I was envisioning Jake going ballistic when we surprised him with a new phone. Nope. He was one cool cat...a raw dawg (tribute to Tyler Nelson). He freaked out more, jumping up and down, when the hard copy of his Patriarchal blessing arrived after he had waited for three months to receive it. Jared commented on the comparison of these two events and said, "Well, at least his priorities are right." But then Jared added, "He cried (sobbed!) when he witnessed Damian Lillard's series-winning buzzer-beater shot" (against the Houston Rockets--in the playoffs the month prior). "Yeah, as far as priorities go for Jake, that sounds about right!"

*Thursday, June 12th--the Last Day of School. Exciting, but kind of sad for us, too.

*Saturday, June 14th--Jake participated in the Portland Regional Dance Festival, the theme being: "Believe.Stand.Shine." Here's a link to take you to the dance videos. Jake was a Russian dancer and was given the unique task of dancing with not just one young woman, but two!! The girls, Lisa and Kendall, were both from our ward at church...and in Jake's Sunday school class, which made it fun for all of them. On the video link, Jake is actually in the bottom left corner right at the beginning...far left. Then you don't see him again until the very end around 2:27 on the bottom right.

I had been anticipating this whole festival but especially the specific dance my boy would be performing! He had learned to execute the Russian kicks as well as other cool moves. He told us where to sit in the gymnasium so that he would be facing us, but apparently, we didn't completely understand because when his number started, he was not facing us...he was facing the other direction! Every once in a while we could see the left side of him. Sort of. I was so MIFFED--at no one, in particular--just the cruel irony of it all!!! I was kicking myself for not grilling him for more specific details regarding his dancing position. But I guess I was lucky enough to be as close to him as we were. Some parents, especially with multiple youth involved, would have to just pick a spot and hope for the best.

Fortunately, Jared got some good pictures--considering they were taken with his iPhone.

This is the back of Jake's noggin. Lisa is on the right.

Jake in the center, facing the camera. Lisa is on the left and Kendall is in the right.

Jake is the one closest to us--doing a mega jump over his ladies.

Jake dancing with Lisa. I just love that Jake actually looks like he's having a good time. That it doesn't appear painful like it did for some of the other teenagers we watched that day. I'm sure it made his dancing partners feel good, too!
The attitude :)

Landing another jump.

Prepping for the classic Russian kick.


Some more fancy moves--reminiscent of break dancing :)

The trio :)

Love this picture!

And this one!

 Getting ready to swing the girls!

 And the finale! (clap, clap, clap, cheer!!)

The whole dance festival was SO impressive and well done. To consider the amount of work and organization that went into this event for months and months is staggering! I was jealous of some of the teens, especially during the ballroom dance routines. What a fun and unique opportunity these youth had.

This is Jake with his friend and basketball buddy, Josh Walkenhorst. To give a little perspective, Jake is my height, 5 feet, 6 inches. I like to fondly call these two: Stockton and Malone (from the Utah Jazz :)

Monday, January 12, 2015

June 2014, week 1

June was a WHIRLWIND to say the least as I:

-closed/opened utility accounts in our respective cities
-worked with the third party warranty company regarding roof repairs 
-arranged to get final house inspection items completed
-created a file for the new homeowners with helpful tips, information and paperwork
-took Jake to all his marching band practices to prep for the Rose Parade
-went to a weekly mommy-and-me speech class with JJ
-attended two end-of-year assemblies and a talent show at two different schools, three different times
-emptied out all the food storage from our large freezer, fridge, and pantry to give away
-attended special dinners/visits and going away parties with friends
-attended an office going away party at our friend's beach house on the Oregon Coast
-wrapped up my job as property manager and explained the responsibilities to the gal taking over
-took Jake to Dance Festival rehearsals
-arranged for babysitting and attended Dance Festival
-took kids and myself to final dental and orthodontic appointments
-arranged for JJ sitting and attended Jake's 8th grade ceremony where he had a sax solo
-attended two end-of-the-year band concerts
-created "travel journals" and activity packets for the kids to have on our drive south
-sent "Getting to Know Me" letters/pictures to the children's new Primary teachers in Texas
-worked in one last session of swimming lessons for the kids, JJ included this year
-closed on the sale of the house with Jared
-cleaned the church with the family

And that was just through June 21st!
Somehow, I managed to pack up and clean the house as well.

Here's week one:

*Sunday, June 1st was seriously something out of the Twilight Zone--at least for me. Sundays, before and after church, are challenging, especially with Jared being in the Bishopric, but on this day...I was DURING church.

Our meetings started at 9am. Jared is usually out the door by 6 or 6:30 for Bishopric meetings. JJ was up at 5:50am that morning. But at least he was cheerful. It was also Fast Sunday. As any parent, trying to get a small gaggle of kids up and ready to be out the door by 8:30am for church, often feels like you're walking on eggshells when you go to get your kids up. You hold your breath and PRAY they'll be cooperative if not also happy for the new day with the underlying bustle and focus of getting ready. Calvin's first response--his nose was plugged up and announced he couldn't go to church. Somehow, I convinced him if it didn't get better, I would take him home.

We pulled into the church parking lot around 8:35. After every.single.kid had been unbuckled and unloaded from the suburban, I suddenly remembered Karcyn had been assigned to give the talk in Primary that day. UGH! How could I forget?? (Oh yeah, I'm trying to relocate my family halfway across the country...) I herded the cats kids inside and told Calvin (my loosest cannon) he could help set up the chairs in the Primary room and then I took JJ home with me to find the talk that Karcyn had written all by herself in Sacrament meeting the week before. It had nothing to do with Priesthood ordinances--the June topic--but Sarah Nielsen--super cool and amazing Primary president that she is--assured me that it would be perfect. I said a silent prayer as I drove home that I would find the paper in the organized chaos that was our house. But I didn't. I looked everywhere I could think of. I was so frustrated. There were only so many places it could be. I finally just grabbed the Friend (the children's church magazine) and would have her share something out of there that went with the theme.

Back at the church, while waiting for Sacrament meeting to begin, I was out in the foyer (as usual) with a rowdy and squirmy JJ. He had managed to get down off my lap and went to see Bishop Nelson. Bishop leaned down and extended his hand for a handshake from JJ. Instead, JJ pulled his arm back and took a strong, little boy swing at Bishop, who jumped out of the way moving his hands in front of his crotch with no time to spare. JJ is the perfect height for hitting men in that special place and he got really close to nailing the Bishop. Sooo embarrassing! I guess it's good the Nelsons are done having kids, but still....

That's when I figured I should head back in to the chapel to check up on my other heathens. I went to the far right side of "our" pew/bench. My kids were scattered among the many McCullough family members and "McFoster" teens. Cooper was on the opposite end from where I stood. There was a little bit of commotion and Niki (the 17 year old foster teen) got my attention. She said, "You'll never believe what Cooper just did." I braced myself. She said he had nabbed a fly right out of the air with his thumb and forefinger. Said it was the most ninja thing they'd ever seen. I was impressed too but reminded him church was about to start and to try and be less ninja-y.

During Sacrament meeting, inspiration whacked me up side the head and I knew exactly where Karcyn's talk was. In a certain pile, in a certain drawer. But I was sad because Karcyn would need it immediately after Sacrament meeting. Then it dawned on me many minutes later that Karcyn wouldn't be giving her talk until 3rd block...she goes to class first! I had time to go home and get it. Sweet! So as soon as Sacrament meeting was over, I told Karcyn I'd race home (living 60 seconds by car from the chapel has its perks!) and get her talk that she had written--which wasn't as easy as I had imagined because Calvin flat out refused to go to class. He followed me around, whimpering as he did so. I took JJ to nursery, which is where I was helping out and told the other leaders I wouldn't likely be in there that hour due to Calvin and my errand and wanted to make sure they were okay. They said they were fine, so I continued on my way and Calvin came too. After I got back from the house for the third time in about 2 hours, I found Karcyn's class and delivered the talk to her. Calvin still wouldn't go to Primary. After about 10 more minutes, I was finally able to persuade him to join his class and snuck into Sunday School for the last 15-20 minutes.

I was sitting next to my friend Kathy when Sunday School was over and almost forgot to GO to the Primary room to actually hear Karcyn's talk. She did great. One of my favorite lines from her talk is: "I'm a super star of the world and I can repent and say sorry when I need to. That is my duty to God and his son." After she was done I slipped out the back door and slipped back into Relief Society on the back row next to Kathy. About 10 minutes into the meeting, I was literally in the middle of making a comment on the lesson when the the door opened. It was one of the Primary leaders waving me into the hall. So I announced to the sisters in Relief Society that I was being summoned and wouldn't be able to finish my remark. I quickly moved into the hall and was told the urgency was regarding Karcyn. She was in the bathroom because she didn't feel well. I went into the ladies room and Sarah was standing outside a stall trying to comfort Karcyn. I apologized profusely to Sarah and she said it was no problem, she was just worried about her. I asked what happened as I was just in Primary watching her give a talk. Sarah said a few minutes later Karcyn was complaining that her tummy hurt (ugh...the dreaded stomach pain that could be so many things!) Sarah went back to Primary and I went in to see Karcyn. She was sitting on the potty but nothing threatened to come out either end of her body. She is our most gaseous kid, which is often accompanied with abdominal cramps, but she said she didn't feel that way. I don't know when realization hit me--but all at once, information converged and bam! I knew the problem.

The night before, Jared took me out to see "Maleficent." I made dinner for the kids while Jake babysat. When we came home and got the low down from Jake, he said Karcyn didn't eat much dinner. Fine, no big deal, and we all went on our merry way. Except...the next day was FAST Sunday. Karcyn turned 8 in March and we have our children fast 1 meal (breakfast) until they're 12 and can participate in a 24 hour fast. This was only her 3rd time fasting. Not AS big of a deal when you had dinner the night before. However...she hadn't eaten since lunch Saturday and was probably on her 23rd hour of no food.!! Relief and worry washed over me. I knew she'd be fine physically. But my biggest fear was that she would never want to fast--ever again!! I rushed her home and got her a bowl of Cheerios with some honey. There were only about 25 minutes of church left and asked her if she'd be okay staying home to rest until we got back. She said she would be, so back I went for the fourth time in less than 3 hours.

That basically "sums" up my Ping-Pong Sabbath. I swear I felt like a chicken running around with it's head cut off. That was the most I've run around during church since I don't know when. And I'm happy to report that Karcyn has forgotten about her extra long fasting experience and continues to fast to this day :)

Later in the evening, I was in the back bathroom off the laundry room and there upon the counter was the base to our blender. What on earth? "Jake! Why's the blender base in the bathroom??" Apparently he was making a smoothie the night before while we were out and didn't want to wake the kids up with the blender noise. Smart. But not. I'm so glad I wasn't missing it. I never would have thought to look in the bathroom!

*Monday, June 2nd--Jake was in the hall at school with no hall pass when he was stopped by security. Jake had a legitimate reason to be in the hall, but I don't remember why. Jake smiled and told the security personnel, "It's okay. My teacher knows where I am." And for good measure he quickly added, "And I don't lie." :) I guess that was all it took. He was free to continue on his way.

*I don't recall the exact circumstances, but on Tuesday, June 3rd I managed to get locked out of the house. The little boys were already in the car so we drove to Jared's office to get his house key because mine was still in the realtor's box. A dumb inconvenience, but luckily Jared's office was relatively close. Two hours later, I hopped off my bed to get something for JJ. As  my right foot came down, I gouged my heel with something super sharp! I had landed right on top of a sewing needle that was sticking straight up in the carpet and the blunt side had penetrated my heel about a quarter of an inch! I couldn't believe it. Talk about the odds of that execution. I grabbed the needle (which isn't so easy) and pulled down as hard as I could! It was a bit of a fight to get the needle out and I was imagining what fun inside parts of my heel the eye of the needle would be bringing with it. Fortunately, a couple more tugs and it was out--and the eye was clean :) But boy, was my heel super sore for a good 24 hours.

*Saturday, June 7th we dropped Jake off at the high school for the Grand Floral Parade. We would not be going. Jared and I both hate parades. Maybe it's just the parking at the parades but either way...Instead, the rest of us had plans to be at the Oregon coast one last time. Supriya Kaushik, one of the other physician assistants at Jared's office, and her husband Shiv were hosting an office farewell BBQ for us at their newly acquired beach house in Cannon Beach.

And this is the view from their backyard. Funny story: After they were finished looking at the house (about 2100 sq ft--yup, bigger than my own Oregon house of permanent residence) with the realtor, Shiv said, "You know, it all looks really nice. There's only one problem. There's a HUGE rock outside my back door." Shiv--such a kidder. Yeah, Haystack Rock is not a problem :)

Like every other June in Oregon that I've experienced, it was cloudy, on the cool side, and spitting a little rain. The few times we made it to the coast as a family, we had never timed our trips just right in order to see the tide pools, but that day was the day! We took the kids down to the beach to check it all out.

We found hermit crabs! Karcyn wanted to keep them. We explained she couldn't because we shouldn't take them from their habitat; that they belonged at the beach. I opted not to tell her about the time my dad smuggled a pair of much larger hermit crabs home from the U.S. Virgin Islands back to Utah to have as pets when I was a kid. Or how my little brother Mike, about JJ's age at the time, pulled the bucket of crabs down from the counter and the crabs fell out and landed on top of my little sister Michelle--on her head and in her lap. She was about 6 years old and that was the first time I had ever seen someone a) paralyzed with fear and b) turn a real shade of  green. Ha!

Look at those star fish!! Not just the brilliant colors but the size of those whoppers!!!

 Electric green sea anemones.

Ahhhh, the food--and friends! From left to and wellness counselor, LaFawn Smith (who is also in our stake at church) and one of the best medical assistants, Shirley Hirayama.

Calvin, Karcyn and Cooper enjoying their grub by the fire pit. Nice and warm.
The clouds starting to clear a little bit.

Enter excellent medical assistant number 2: Dawn Nielsen, who is bravely accepting Cheetos that JJ wants to feed her.
Gracious hostess Supriya--doing her daughter's hair at the end of the table.


Supriya doing Tara's hair some more :)

Bratwurst connoisseur and PA extraordinaire: Jared!

 Cute, cute Tara!
Master of all things grilled: Shiv! The food was DE-LISH!

Jared and half of "his girls." Medical assistants Elizabeth and Lisa couldn't make it.

Final Hough family picture on the beach--minus Jake.

All four kids plum tuckered out!! That's what I'm talking about! :)

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year Resolutions--version 2015

Yesterday, after a pancake breakfast, we all sat down as a family and wrote our resolutions for the coming year.

To help guide and focus our goals, we have four areas that we choose to work on. We require that each person come up with at least one goal per area. Those categories are: Spiritual, Physical, Educational (School), and Personal.

Below are the resolutions we each committed to. We started with the youngest and worked our way up in age.

JJ (via Mom)

Admittedly, the potty training thing is a totally selfish wish on my part. But I'm thinking there is hope. JJ's speech teacher sent the following email message regarding his progress since starting his T/TH class mid-November. His speech at home has really exploded with his attendance there. He's imitating us more and more and what he wants to say comes out in (word approximation) sentences! I shared this with his teacher Meghan and this was her reply:

  We are so happy to hear this!! We love having JJ in our SMILE program, and we agree that he has been saying a lot more! It did take him a couple sessions to settle in and learn our routine, but that is totally expected since this is his first school experience.  We actually noticed a big change in his speech AND behavior when another new student came (his age).  I think JJ wanted to show off a little for him, and so he started attempting to use his words much more frequently and show that he knew how to behave well.  I also think our older students in the class are good role models for him, and he likes to imitate them.  We will be sending a progress report home after the break, so we will go into a little more detail then!!

That cracks us up that JJ wanted to show off. Seems like I should be able to use that to my advantage somehow so that he'll want to potty train himself....Any bright ideas? I'm open to suggestions! #dreadedmommydutyofalltime
I feel like I need to preface this by saying Calvin came up with every one of his goals on his own. In fact, he had them written down before most of us.

So yeah, this mom is totally impressed with the fact that my 6-year-old feels the best goal to have at school would be to play with someone who is alone. I hope he always lives by that standard. And the very fact that he thought of his personal goal without any "suggestion" from his parents is mind-blowing: "walking away from big problems" (instead of being one...). Wow. Whether or not that goal comes to fruition or not...he still gets Kudos from me for his line of thinking.


Her personal goal...always a good one!


His 3rd spiritual goal made me raise my eyebrows...maybe I need to follow up with his Sunday School teachers a little more often...
His 3rd educational goal is definitely a challenge. There's comfort in the known, even when it comes to books, I guess. He takes after his Aunt Shell there.


This kid has ambition. It really shouldn't surprise me that he wants to teach himself Algebra II so that he can test out of it and do PreCalculus next year. He is so not our kid. Jared and I were never that motivated. And Jake's not kidding either. He's already completed step 1. He got a gift card from Barnes and Noble for Christmas and yesterday he used it to buy "Algebra II for Dummies" :)


Not a whole lot of explanation needed here. Educational goals at my age are always hard to come up with, but I really hope I can make some leaps and bounds in my quest to learn family history. And yeah, my personal goal is hilarious. I'm only 6 months behind.


When Jared shared his first personal goal of "speaking with more softness" (at home), Calvin chimed in and said, "Yeah, Dad, you do yell sometimes." Jared replied, "Well, sometimes that happens when you don't respond to us by the third...or fifth time." In jest, I suggested, "Hey Calvin, if you start walking away from big problems and Cooper, if you were nicer to your siblings and obeyed your parents the first time, every time, there would be less yelling." Jared beamed and said, "That's right! If all of you succeed in meeting your resolutions, then I will meet mine!" :)

You may have noticed a saying at the top of the papers or partially in view. It says:


We had a Family Home Evening lesson on attitude a few weeks ago (compliments of Grandma Lee who forwarded it on to us). It's true that much of our success depends on our attitude. Knowledge and hard work can take you far, but attitude takes you all the way.

I saw this quote on Facebook and love it. Definitely gives perspective:

Giving up on your goal because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires because you got one flat.

Here's hoping for positive changes and improvement in 2015!