Sunday, March 27, 2016

2015 Year in Review

Let's just ignore the fact that the Hough Family 2015 Year in Review is coming out at the end of the first quarter of 2016.

Jake (16)--ACK!! He turned 16 right at the end of the year and now qualifies for the two Big Ds--dating and driving! *At the beginning of 2015, he finally got an A on his pre-AP geometry test (he was always sooo close) and was over-the-moon when he got the coveted sticker on his exam :) *His first track meet was in March. We scraped ice off the car that morning and Jake got sunburned in the afternoon--because who thinks of packing sunscreen when it's freezing out?

*He participated in the school's Zombie Run (a 5K) with his friend Mike and managed to elude the zombies on the trail and even ran the course twice! *He got 2nd place in the mile (1600) with a 5:35 time at a meet in Caldwell (his current PR is 4:56). *In April, he played a beautiful rendition of "Nearer My God to Thee" on the piano during Sacrament meeting. A couple weeks later, he was the youth speaker on Mother's Day. (Sadly, Jared had to work both of those Sundays). *On May 11th, Jake received an academic achievement award (given to the top student in each course offered at the high school) in Spanish 1! Pretty funny since he's as gringo as they get! :)

A couple weeks after receiving that award, Jake was recognized as Defensive Player of the Year for his Freshman basketball team. *After paying for them twice because of our move, Jake finally got his braces off a few days after school got out, only to be told his wisdom teeth needed to be removed. *He was able to go out with the missionaries a few times over the summer and had some amazing experiences. *From Sat. June 27th to Sat. July 4th, he traveled to Colorado with other young men and leaders from the area for high adventure at the Rocky Mountain High Adventure Base Camp and had a blast white water rafting, rock climbing/repelling, fishing, doing some serious mountain biking and learning he can do hard things and all things with Christ. *He was blessed to have some summer jobs here and there--mowing lawns, babysitting, staining decks, dog sitting, picking up dog poop, etc. *Jake had his wisdom teeth pulled right after he got back from high adventure and thanks to a 17 minute video I took on my phone (you can view it on my FB wall :), he and his siblings can now see the scary affects drugs can have on your mind and body. He was a total lightweight! Considering the circumstances, it was hysterical to watch him speak and behave. *Jake's teammates have taken it upon themselves to give him several nicknames. In basketball he was known as: Sherm, Sherminator, Brigham, Jimmer, Kevin 2.0, and Robinson. *Jake decided to close the door on high school basketball and joined the cross-country team instead. The nicknames those teammates have given Jake are: Spikey and Sherm. (I actually ran into the parent of a cross-country teammate at soccer practice and introduced myself as Jake's mom. It took him a few seconds to figure out who Jake was and then it dawned on him, "Oh! Spikey! Yes!") The XC team has practice runs every day, M-F, at 6:30am from the beginning of July through the middle of October around 4 or 5 miles. The mileage that kid runs each week is crazy!! They also run during their period class in school (around 4 miles) and again after school (for another 4 miles!) *Jake offered free babysitting twice a month for a family in our ward when the mom got breast cancer for the second time--fortunately, my friend and her husband took Jake up on his offer several times. I love that he has learned of the joy and reciprocal blessings of service. (Miraculously, my friend is now in remission!!) *Jake still loves Parkour, but finding a place to do it here has proven difficult, considering he and his friend were almost arrested while practicing on the A & M campus! Plus he can't take the risk of physical injury while he's in season, so he's had to put it on the back burner. However--that didn't keep him from building his own American Ninja Warrior obstacles in the backyard. This is the salmon ladder he engineered all on his own (he even schmoozed the wood from our home teacher without our knowledge!)
*Jake's sophomore class load consists of: early morning seminary, Honors Eng. 2, pre-AP algebra 2, Engineering: Design and Presentations (elective), cross country, pre-AP chemistry, Honors Spanish 2. For his fine arts credit, he is now the pianist for jazz band. He maintains a 3.9 GPA and that only puts him in the top 15th percentile in his class! *His first XC meet at the end of August was crazy--there were about 300 other JV runners. But he came in 1st place for CSHS and 10th overall!!
*He got to attend the SEC XC Championships at Texas A & M with his cross country team for a fun field trip. *Jake was also given the unique opportunity of joining a high councilman from our ward and speaking in the Crockett Branch (north of Madisonville--about an hour and 15 minutes away) at the end of the year. *Jake served as the Teacher's Quorum president for just over a year before he was released prior to being advanced in the Aaronic Priesthood as a Priest. *Jake continues to be a big help at home...when he is home. Even after getting his wisdom teeth pulled the day before, I found Jake doing the dishes with one hand while icing his chipmunk cheeks with the other. And if he feels like pizza for dinner, he'll make it so I don't have to!

Cooper (13)--ACK!! Another teenager!!! Just kidding. These boys are fun to be around...most of the time :) *In February, Cooper had his first backpacking camp out with the scouts. It gets interesting when the pack is almost as tall as you are! But Cooper was a trooper :)
*Spring Break comes earlier for us here in Texas. It starts at the end of the second week in March. Turns out Cooper left his partially eaten lunch (chicken) in his backpack over spring break here at the house. We didn't find it until after Spring Break. There was a nasty smell encased in the backpack. We couldn't, nor did we want to salvage the container and we almost lost the backpack. (Grrr.) Later that week, after school, I grilled him on the whereabouts of his lunch bag. He said he didn't take lunch. When I asked him why, he said it was because he was fasting for his friend's mom (in Oregon). I was so touched he'd fast during the school day--a difficult thing even for adults to do. *At the end of March, Cooper made the UIL Impromptu Speaking team for 6th grade and won 3rd place at his first district competition.
Speaking of district, the chalice he made in art class was entered in the district art fair.
Cooper had the opportunity to work a couple different times to earn money for scout camp. They do camp here in Texas the beginning of June when it's "cooler." This was Cooper's first year to go to Scout Camp and he was super excited. Turns out, he got a really bad headache and was miserable the second night, but he toughed it out and ended up having a great time--even amidst the strong storms as Tropical Storm Bill came through the area. He was fortunate that Jared could spend the last few days with him as well. Cooper also learned he's pretty great at archery. He set a scout camp record! The merit badges he earned were: archery, swimming, leatherworking, chess, environmental science, and he got most of the cooking merit badge done.
*The middle of June, Coop found himself as the Deacon's Quorum president and the lone Deacon in our ward. Jake and Cooper had the unique opportunity to be presidents of their respective quorums at the same time and attend BYC together once a month and pass the Sacrament together most Sundays and received fast offering donations together a couple of times. 
It would be four months before another young man in our ward turned 12. So on Sundays, Cooper got to bounce around to all three different quorums for the lessons. I thought that was pretty cool actually. How many other Deacons can ever say they got to go in with the Teachers or the Priests? The ward prayed for more young men, however, and that's what we got. The end of July and August two families with Deacons moved into the ward! Cooper was no longer alone and could finally submit names for counselors! *Cooper decided long ago that he wanted to play football. So that was his sport of choice for 7th grade as he moved into the wonderful world of middle school. He had two camps during the summer that he participated in to prepare him and to work on specific skills. There was not one, not two, but three 7th grade boys football teams! Cooper made the C team :) In the process, he learned football wasn't quite like he had fantasized it would be. He hustled as the safety on defense and wide receiver on offense. He enjoyed playing safety most and found that being small had it's advantages from time to time. *Unfortunately, he had to quit piano lessons because of the scheduling conflict with football practice. Fortunately for mom, the school bussed the football players to all the away games and back (and provided all the uniforms/equipment except the shoes), but Cooper announced he would be retiring his cleats and trying something different next year. He sure looked cute in all of his gear, though.
*Right around his birthday at the end of October, Cooper got an incredible opportunity when the 7th graders got to go scuba diving with their science class to teach about the respiratory system! Seriously??!! *A week or two after that, Cooper was signed out of school early and he finally went on his "12th birthday" camping/fishing trip (a year after the fact) with Jared and Grandpa Hough.
*Cooper was plagued with allergies when we lived in Oregon, but they are 20x worse here in College Station. We finally took him to see an allergist and get tested. Apparently he is allergic to twelve different things (including cats) that are all around us--like Bermuda grass, hay, and cedar. Spring and fall are the worst, of course, and we decided to start him on allergy shots. We hope, over the years, this will provide him with some much needed relief. *Cooper does well in school and we suspect he'd do phenomenonally well if he got organized and made his classes a priority. He's the king of procrastination and underachieving. It doesn't take much effort for him to get his good grades, so why should he work harder? He is rocking science and loves it! He's made the "Century Club" (those who get 100% on their science test) three times in a row. He is also very enthralled with his required Texas history class :) *There are a handful of older gentlemen in our ward, who tell us, every time we see them, how much they love Cooper. How he is their "favorite." A friend's husband told me a couple months ago that Cooper is a firecracker and reminds him of himself when he was younger (which gives me hope!) Another friend's husband from the ward told me recently that he loves to listen to Cooper (make announcements in Priesthood opening exercises) so much that he will stop the conversations with the guys around him just to hear what Cooper is going to say next. I told this friend that Cooper had been recently released as Deacon's quorum president and that he won't be seeing much of Cooper in that capacity anymore. The guys just shook his head and said, "that was a terrible mistake." :) 
Karcyn (9)--She started off the year with a super cool Daddy-Daughter sock hop at the stake activity days event the end of February and loved dressing the part.
*A month later we were in Austin so she could get a biopsy of her small intestine--doctors suspected Celiac Disease. And they were right.
So we dove head first into a whirlwind lifestyle change that has mostly worked itself out. Dinners are still a challenge, but it's much better now than it was a year ago! We owe a big heart-felt thanks to the Gluten-free fairy who has, this past year, showered us beyond belief with bags and boxes of GF items to help us build up a small food storage for Karcyn. It's absolutely mind-blowing and so humbling! *Karcyn is a gluten-Nazi. She is the most vigilant one of all, which is exactly how it should be. We know we will face new obstacles as she gets older, but we're hoping that starting her young will be advantageous in the long run. Her growth is staggering to anyone who hasn't seen her in several months. Even her doctor is extremely impressed. *We gutted through a very disappointing 3rd grade year at school. As a former teacher, it was just devastating, mostly to me and Jared. Karcyn was pretty oblivious. She finished the year with All As and a B--in math--the same subject she was failing the first several months of the year. *She has continued to take piano lessons, but we dropped dance as soon as we learned the one and only performance would be on a Sunday and started soccer in the fall. She was definitely the "most improved player" on the team--because she could only get better from where she began! :) *Karcyn was blessed to be assigned to the 4th grade teachers she had wished for: Julie Cooper and Sharon McGregor. And they are the greatest teachers ever--like they were hand-molded just for Karcyn. They make going to school a joy for the kids and their parents! *Karcyn made the 4th grade spelling bee and was in the top half of the group before she got out on round 4. *She also made the UIL Oral Reading Team--where you are given a passage to read through once or twice and then you read it with as much expression as possible. She didn't win, but in a way she did because the judges said she was "sooo adorable." Karcyn is definitely Miss Congeniality. *Karcyn's memory is incredible. When she performed her UIL reading piece for us later that night, she also performed her friend's piece just as well as the one she had been given! *Karcyn still loves to read, draw pictures, write and illustrate books or stories, build with legos, sing, jump on the tramp, ride her bike, play with her younger brothers, swim, go camping and make up terrible jokes that aren't even close to funny. *She loves to fish (and names each one as she catches them) and even taught herself how to put a worm on the hook. *She is locked on to all things animals and hopes to work with them someday. *She is a bug whisperer--I don't know how she manages it, but she can get butterflies, grasshoppers, ladybugs, flies and other insects to come to her hand. Let it be known, however, that this girl is deathly afraid of mosquitoes! *Karcyn finds joy in creating To-Do lists--something she clearly inherited from her mom! *Karcyn is a hard worker but can become easily distracted. *She's learning how to cook a few things and is still super sweet and loving--sometimes too much! We're working on boundaries with others! *Karcyn helps us see the good in everyone and everything.
Calvin (7)--He had a great 1st grade year going to school all day for the first time! Ms. Latone was awesome for him and we loved her (and her southern accent) to pieces!
Ms. Latone was obviously impressed with Calvin, because she recommended him to be tested for Gifted and Talented. Several times throughout the year, Calvin was "weepy" about what to wear to school in the mornings. I mentioned it to his teacher and she replied she was so glad she's not the only one! :) *Calvin gets good grades in school, but still won't read on his own unless it's his idea, so we don't force the matter. He doesn't always put forth his best work either. It's all about shortcuts. We'll see how that continues to work out for him. *He got the fun opportunity to travel to the Waco Zoo in April--it was an all day affair. They didn't get back home until 4:30 or 5pm and had a blast. *Calvin got really good at cheering on Cooper at football games. *He loves basketball and playing with big brother Jake. *Calvin is also really good at climbing walls and doing flips on the trampoline or handstands in the house--which is why Santa gave him gymnastics lessons for Christmas. *He qualified for the 2nd grade spelling bee in the fall. When he got out, he sat down and put his arm around one of the little girls already eliminated who was quietly crying and tried comforting her. *Calvin's 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. P, is a blessing! She loves Calvin's tender heart and is very patient with him and his precocious ways. *He is the clown and jokester of the family. He likes being the center of attention and "persuading" his siblings to do things his way (and by persuade, I mean yell at, throw things at or manipulate!)

This is "Calvin and Hobbes" and much to our ironic chagrin, he acts a lot like Bill Watterson's Calvin. Too smart for his own good.
*Calvin looks up to his older brothers and wants to do whatever they are doing. He would fish every day if he could and makes his daddy proud with his awesome casts.
*Calvin learned how to tie his shoes the first day of 2nd grade, taught by his brother Cooper. *He lost a few teeth in 2015 and more than a few privileges. He really loves his agency--just not the natural consequences that come with those choices! *One of his New Year's goals was to ride his two-wheel bike without any help. He got on it the beginning of January and flat out refused to ride it again until the second week in December and accomplished his goal. *Life without Calvin would be supremely boring--and quiet. He's like a fox in the hen house! *We are anxious to see how life unfolds for this little man.
JJ (4)--This kid has probably changed the most! (January 2015 on the top, October 2015 on the bottom).
*He's also learned to speak this year! His language really exploded after the first of the year--and it's coming out in sentences and paragraphs. Every time he speaks, we're hearing something new and it's fascinating to hear him use slang and different social expressions appropriately. We are so, so grateful for his progression. He's still behind, but leaps and bounds ahead of where he was. It's rare that we don't understand what he's saying because if needed, Karcyn and Calvin are the ultimate interpreters. Some of our favorite words he has said recently are: hanitizer (hand sanitizer) and marshellow (marshmallow). *He is very observant. When Karcyn was diagnosed with Celiac Disease last April, we started talking to the other kids about how we were going to eat and Karcyn could only eat gluten-free foods but we never really addressed it with him specifically. One day, when I gave him a snack, he asked, very concerned, "it gooten fee?" He wanted to make sure the foods he was eating were gluten free, too. *He was ready to be potty trained back in 2014, but his speech schedule made it impossible to work on it until the first week in June after school got out. He nailed it! "3 Day Potty Training" for the win--again! *He is supposed to start Kindergarten the fall of 2016 because his birthday is August 11th, and while his speech progress has been great, we have decided to retain him for one more year. *He loves to swim, jump in the pool, jump on the trampoline, fish, play with dinosaurs, build with Legos, help Mom clean and cook, sing, play UNO and do whatever his older siblings are doing, for better or worse! He's obsessed with the idea of parkour and any time he does anything physical, like balance on something, jump from one thing or another, or do bridge push-ups, he calls it "Par-poor."
*In the spring he did speech from 11:45 to 2:20 on T/TH, in the fall he started speech up again, only this time, the bus comes for him at 6:30am! *On M/W JJ attends a preschool co-op with other kids from the ward. Mom was a little concerned about how he'd do with the co-op (because of his church behavior), but he's responded well. If only we could get him to cooperate during Sacrament meeting and Sharing time on Sundays. He seems to be following in Calvin's shoes behaviorally and we're a little scared! *JJ is a smart cookie and sneaky quiet. He keeps Mom on her toes and has been returned to our home a couple times by neighbors and the garbage man! *Much to his mom's dismay, JJ hates kisses. :( But she steals them anyway. Every.single.time he pushes her away saying, "I don't wike kisses!" and begrudgingly wipes them off his cheek. I don't know if he's helping or hurting her transition away from her baby. *We are thrilled JJ's long-time run of PB and bread sandwiches without the crusts has now expanded to PB and Jelly with crusts!
Jenn (30-something)--Nothing too exciting going on here! As a mom, it's hard to identify exactly how I spend all of my time. Just doing little things to help keep the family moving in the right direction. *I was finally able to volunteer in Karcyn's 3rd grade class and Calvin's 1st grade class once JJ's speech help and schedule was finalized at the end of 2014. Calvin doesn't like to read, so it was a bit of a shock when he wanted to read with me at school. We took a selfie to document the very important event! 
*I started filing for Jerry Anderson Allstate a couple hours a week in February when JJ was at speech. *In the spring, I picked up jogging again with my friend and neighbor Natassia. She was training for a race and I was along for the torture moral support. I'm grateful though, because I probably wouldn't go otherwise! We began running in the evenings in May and it was still too hot and humid after 8pm! We switched to mornings when school started the end of August (warm then, too, but it's nice most days out of the year!) *One of the "it's-so-fun-living-in-Texas" highlights of my year was seeing a funnel cloud (two days before my birthday :) with my own two eyes and the kids being equally thrilled about it, too! Except JJ. The "dohnado" scared him. This picture was taken outside the entrance of our subdivision.
*At the end of summer, I agreed to join a preschool co-op for 3-5 year olds with some other gals in the ward. I hesitated only because I wasn't sure how JJ would do. But he surprised me and has done well. I taught twice a week in October for three weeks and my next turn wasn't until February 2016. JJ is in the co-op preschool from 9-11:30am and eats lunch there so it's a nice chunk of time to do things by myself when I'm not teaching. *Speaking of teaching, I started the new year teaching the New Testament in the Gospel Doctrine class as one of two instructors. *Somehow, I found myself in the bishop's office the end of November when he extended the call for me to serve as the ward Relief Society President. (I still insist the bishopric had been smoking something when they made that decision! Although one of the counselors assured me it was all organic :) Needless to say, I wrapped up the end of the year with a crazy, unexpected bang. And I'm still not sure what I'm doing!! *Jared and I enjoyed a much needed, couple's-only return trip to Oregon the middle of December. We didn't anticipate going the week before Christmas, the stars just aligned that way, so we embraced the opportunity. No regrets!

Jared (40-something)--In February, Jared found himself flying to Iowa for his grandma's funeral. (I've actually known his grandma for 18 1/2 years--longer than I knew my own!) She lived a wonderful and full life and was a tremendous matriarchal example for her posterity. Jared was surprised to learn he had been pre-selected by her to speak at her funeral. He was honored, of course, and gave, from what I heard, a sweet tribute to her while simultaneously sharing the importance of temple work to all the non-member friends and family in attendance. It was really special that his entire immediate family could be there to celebrate her life. *The first of the year wasn't a great time in the workforce for this great guy. He was experiencing a very stressful situation with the job we uprooted our family for. Ultimately, we said good-bye to any chance for loan repayment (the #1 reason why we moved) and Jared took another job within St. Joseph at the beginning of April. The details surrounding those events from Dec. 2014 to the end of March 2015 are chronicled here. *Jared loves working in express care and at the clinic in Brenham. We love his 2 to 5 days off each week! Missing Sundays though is a major drag no matter how you look at it and with time hasn't gotten any easier for any of us. We're praying there will be an end to that or that he can work just one Sunday a month. Even that would be better than every other Sunday. *In the spring, he signed Jake up for the "parent-taught" driving course with Jared being the dedicated "parent." Texas has some pretty intense driving requirements for the youth and it's kind of ironic because TX drivers are crazy. Not as bad as Utah drivers, but close. Jared's not sure he has the stomach to teach all five of our children through the parent program (there are two he flat out refuses to teach!) *The end of July, Jared flew with Jake and Cooper back to Utah to pick up a car that his parents were graciously gifting to us for Jake to use. The boys had a great time with each other and with Jared's parents--and Jared made the drive from Utah to Texas for the third time in a year! (Cooper was the one who suggested they get a "dam selfie"!)
*Jared signed up to do a 44 mile bike ride with the Rotary Club in October and started training for that in August going on 2-3 bike rides a week. *He and I were blessed with the opportunity to go to our very first Texas A & M football home game at the newly renovated and expanded Kyle Field (2nd largest college stadium in the country) on November 14th. We were graciously given four tickets (on the 40 yard line about 15 rows up) and a parking pass by our friends Larry and Amy Jackson (Larry is the strength and conditioning coach for the Aggies).
*In the fall, Jared went deer hunting on his days off. Sadly, he didn't shoot anything, but he did get the Baja stuck in the deep mud on Thanksgiving. Luckily there was a nice man with his tractor (which almost got stuck) who came to his rescue!
*We miss our front hall closet in Oregon that had just been redesigned for better storage for backpacks and coats the year before we moved. Jared (with the help of our awesome home teacher, Todd Graham) decided to build a locker system from scratch as a gift for his organizing-clean-loving wife. It's beautiful and solid!! Does it keep coats and backpacks from off the kitchen or foyer floors? Nope!
*Jared spent about a year or so as the Cub Master for all three College Station wards. But when his schedule changed, that interfered with his ability to be at the meetings. He was then called to be the Assistant Ward Clerk (membership clerk), which, for his RS President wife, has some major perks when needing to update information! *He continues to go on fishing trips any chance he can get by suckering his buddies to go with him.  
*He's also trying to figure out how to have a house renovated by Chip and Joanna Gaines (of HGTV's show "Fixer Upper") who live and work in Waco, while still living in College Station :) *Our kids gripe just about every day, lamenting that they don't know what to eat or pack for their lunches or what to have for snacks. It's beyond ridiculous. Jared has said numerous times throughout the year: "Our kids are the only ones who will starve to death surrounded by food!" Indeed!
The Family
*Fishing at Bryan Lake (while the big boys went mountain biking)--April
*Swimming a lot at the subdivision pool--the end of April through the end of September!
*Summer visit from Grandma and Grandpa Lee--June
*Enjoying the new trampoline we bought from friends who moved to NYC (best investment ever!)
*Going to the beach in Galveston for the first time--June
*Fishing fun at Woodlake--July
*Chicken sitting for friends for a few weeks--July
*Camping at Huntsville State Park--August (yes, August!)
*Memorizing the entire Living Christ document as a family over the summer (in 10 weeks!)
*Taking cover in our pantry during a surprise tornado warning--November
*Still talking to each other through movie or Studio C quotes. Usually around the dinner table and in normal conversation--if someone hears an opening, they take it! And then there's no going back!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jenn gets a new job

Ever since January 2015, when things were really getting difficult for Jared up in Madisonville and sinking quickly, I felt a prompting to try and find a job to help us breathe a little easier and because we knew that sooner, rather than later, adding Jake to our auto insurance policy would be all but "catastrophic" to our already strapped finances.

At the beginning of February, I happened to see a friend from my ward post online that she needed a filer at her Allstate office for an hour or two each week. I can certainly file and with JJ in speech for a couple hours in the afternoon twice a week, I could find an hour to do that. I inquired with my friend telling her I was interested and shared some of my previous, recent experience. She told me I was extremely over-qualified, but definitely hired!

The time I spent there and the rate at which I was paid, were both very minimal ($8/hr). In fact, I have to chuckle that Jake makes $10 each week, spending 15 minutes or less picking up dog poop for a neighbor. I need HIS job! I didn't take the filing job for the money, but to start networking and to get my name out in this new community that doesn't know me yet. I later learned that the Allstate agent/owner is a high councilman in our stake! I guess that's a pretty good start! I refused to be paid until I filled up the entire length of the time sheet with entries because it wouldn't have been worth the cost of the paper the check was made from until then. After six months, I got my first check. It helped pay for some of the the kids' school supplies, for which I was very grateful. But if I was going to really help contribute to our family finances, I would need another job.

Over the next few months, work-life for Jared got better after he cut ties with Madisonville and transitioned to Brenham. I quietly spoke with a few of the women in my ward (visiting teachers, RS president and a couple friends) to let them know I was looking for work, but there were conditions. It had to be on Jared's days off (T/Th) so he could watch JJ and it needed to be flexible because if Jared could pick up an extra shift on one of those days, he was going to work because he could make six to eight times more an hour than me. I knew that a job like that would have to fall into my lap like they have in the past. I wasn't holding my breath, but if I didn't let some friends know I was looking, they couldn't keep me in mind if they came across a possibility.

That summer, I learned that another friend of mine (who helps do the accounting books for a local, privately owned ER for another ward member) was moving. She said her job is really flexible and the woman she works with (the mom of the head ER doc) is also in our ward. My friend said she couldn't guarantee they'd hire me, but would totally recommend me to take her place. She said it's about 10 hours a week and an extra $550 a month. That would be perfect! I was so hopeful!

Two weeks later, though, Jared found out his schedule would be changing. So instead of having every T/TH and every other Fri-Su off, he'd work an A/B schedule. A week: M/T off, W/TH on, Fri, Sa, Su off. B week: M/T on, W/TH off, Fri, Sa, Su on. And repeat. This would actually be better for Jared in many ways. The Brenham clinic was the only clinic in the St. Joseph system not on this schedule. So it would increase his chances of picking up extra shifts if his days off were the direct opposite of other providers who needed coverage. Additionally, when he worked a long weekend on the old schedule, that always gave him FOUR days in a row with Monday attached. But the new schedule guarantees he'll only have THREE days in a row, unless he chooses to pick up an extra shift.

I was happy for him (and us) for both those reasons. And they ultimately trumped my bummer reasons. #1) I like consistency and predictability. I liked knowing Jared was off every T/TH and planning my life around that. Now his days off vary from week to week. Not a fun adjustment. At the same time, it would be nice to have him home on some Mondays and some Wednesdays where he never was before. #2) So much for getting an opportunity to at least interview for my friend's job with a schedule like that.

As it turned out, my friend's husband's job fell through and they didn't move afterall...and she needed to keep her job. I was actually sad for my friend's circumstances and didn't even worry about the lost possible job opportunity. Somehow, I knew it would work out.

In August, Jared had his annual review. His supervisor, Kim, gushed over him and just kept asking what they could do to make sure he doesn't go anywhere. She's been so supportive of him and I'm so grateful that, even within a large hospital system like this, Jared hasn't fallen through the cracks. We wondered if he might get a small raise--like a cost of living increase, if nothing else, after he had fulfilled his first year of employment. In the past, Jared got a raise (and sometimes very generous raises) every year in Oregon. We were so spoiled by Dr. Hicken. In the end, though, we weren't holding our breath that Jared would get any financial increase after this first year. Nor did Jared hear of any such thing from other employees. So we continued to plug along doing the best we could, keeping the commandments, honoring our covenants and trusting that the leap of faith we took the year previous was indeed the best for our family, regardless of our financial situation. Even though there were many times that we felt (and were convinced) we didn't have enough, we have always had what we needed. We learned a long time ago when we lived in Michigan and Oregon while Jared was working towards his master's degrees with no income to speak of, that you can't budget the blessings of tithing--even when you mathematically take what you have and subtract what you need to keep your head above water, only to discover you run out of money before the next check or installment comes. But that's where God steps in and works His miracles. A couple months ago, our family had been reading in Ether 12 in the Book of Mormon. We taught the children that miracles do not develop faith. They are a product of your faith. Verse 18 says: "And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God."

If you are doing what you should be doing (and are a faithful steward over what money you do have and express gratitude for it), the Lord will bless you in ways you could never imagine. The groceries you purchased for the week somehow stretch into meals for the next week. Your car tires last longer than they should have. A refund check from a marketing promo from the year prior shows up in your mailbox out of the blue. Your friend has clothes her children can't wear and wonders if you would like them--and they fit. Anonymous friends shower your family with expensive specialty food, repeatedly, because of your daughter's newly diagnosed food allergy. Your phone company doubles your data plan on the very day you are shopping around for other cellular options. You have a copay credit at the doctor's office. Several things you normally buy at the store happen to be on sale. You need $2600 worth of car maintenance the same week your tax return shows up which will cover the entire cost of the repairs. Your daughter can wear the shin guards and soccer cleats you've been storing in the attic for the last seven years. You receive many hundreds of dollars in a refund from your mortgage company because you had too much money in your escrow account. When you balance your checkbook, you discover you've deducted a couple bills twice so you can add that money back into your register. Every single one of these financial miracles have happened to us this past year, many in just the past few months.

In September, I had another friend share with me that she was cleaning an orthodontist's office three or four nights a week. She is currently pregnant and didn't want to continue to do it after the baby arrives in the spring. She said if I was interested she would pass my name along. I was VERY interested. Especially since it wouldn't require me to be away from home during the day. If it worked out, the job would start a few months after insurance went up, but it would be close enough! Beggars can't be choosers! I was so grateful for another lead. I did have a few friends try and encourage me to get into substitute teaching, but I'm pretty sure that's not something I would be good at. At all. It's one thing to have your own classroom and procedures and structure--which comes with its own set of challenges. It is quite another to walk in blind and try to teach kids you've never met and follow sub plans that could be vague at best. Furthermore, I'm not familiar with any of the schools or teachers or administrators. That alone is overwhelming. I'm not convinced the stress of that line of work would be worth the very little that it pays.

It was the middle of October when Jared got a call from the supervisor of rural clinics. He told Jared there had been a "market adjustment" (whatever that means) which would directly increase Jared's annual salary by $3,000. We couldn't believe it! That comes to about $115 extra per paycheck before taxes and would obviously help a LOT toward the difference with the car insurance cost increase. Two weeks after that, Jared didn't get a call, but I noticed on his paycheck that his hourly rate of pay had increased--again. My heart sank. I really liked seeing that take home pay, but it wasn't accurate. I just knew payroll had messed up his hours and overpaid him. And I was really hoping I wouldn't have to pay them back for their mistake or that it would be deducted from our next paycheck. After Jared contacted his supervisor about the mix-up in his rate of pay, we learned it wasn't a mistake after all. Major miracle #2) Jared was receiving an additional $2,000 for his "merit" (a raise for his great work). These two raises combined would, even after taxes, be exactly what we needed to pay for insurance with a teenage driver--and just a smidge more! Such an incredible stream of blessings!

While I intend to find a job once JJ gets into school full-time to help contribute to mission funds and retirement, it was no longer needful for me to seek employment currently. I find it no coincidence at all that just a few weeks after Jared received his second raise, I received my call to serve as the ward Relief Society President. As it turns out, I work for God now :)

There are certainly women in our church who are Relief Society presidents who also work full-time. There's no rule saying you can't do both. Some have to work. But I'm confident that because I'm Heavenly Father's daughter, He knows that as organized as I am, working a new job and serving as Relief Society president and being wife and mommy would be really difficult for me to juggle, personally. All of the experiences related to my efforts to secure employment during the year 2015 are a huge testimony to me (again) that God's hand is in our lives and that He will open the door for us to serve His children--in the most miraculous ways!