Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2016 Hough Family Year in Review

JJ--(5) Has grown up a lot this year!
He dabbled in gymnastics for a few months and at the end of summer, finally took off his life jacket in the pool so he could really swim without restrictions. Consequently, he turned into a fish virtually overnight jumping into the deep end, doing flips in the water, and diving to the bottom for toys. He has no fear in the water--but still won't try riding a two-wheel bike. He loves Legos and has wowed us with his creations which are very intricate and well-planned. The biggest growth has really been with his speech. We were planning to keep JJ home from school an extra year since he turned five a few days before school started. But this past spring, much to our surprise, we started to feel unsettled about that decision and after several weeks of serious consideration, prayer and research, we opted to start JJ in Kindergarten so that he could continue using his speech skills and practice with peers his age. The decision was completely speech driven. We intend to hold him back next fall. He had a bit of a rough start those first few weeks getting into the swing of things with school all day. But he eventually came around and has made great strides. He has a wonderful teacher who learned she just needed to be more stubborn than JJ (don't we all?!) He is articulating himself in ways we never dreamed possible. It's been such a wonderful blessing for us all. Except for Calvin--who sometimes wishes JJ couldn't articulate everything he sees and hears his next closest sibling do and say! JJ is one determined, independent little boy.
Some of JJ's favorite songs (that we sing in the car) are "Stressed Out," "I'm So Sorry," and "One Call Away." JJ will not eat meat--no eggs, no beef, no chicken, no fish, no pork. Peanut Butter was the only protein he'd consume for the longest time. But a few weeks into the school year, he refused to take PB sandwiches to school and only eats them once every week or two. JJ likes to eat Cheerios with honey (but not Honey Nut Cheerios) for breakfast and he insists on wearing his swimming goggles when he takes a bath in our soaker tub. JJ can quote movies and do voices with the best of his siblings. He continues to wipe all of mommy's kisses off his cheeks and is reading like a champ!

CALVIN--(8) After the Christmas holiday last year, we started driving Karcyn and Calvin to school. Their bus was coming at 6:45am (then at 6:28am in the fall!) and we decided they needed more sleep, which, as we predicted, had a positive effect on some of Calvin's less preferred behaviors at school. That said, his 2nd grade teacher was amazing! We were telling her to send him to the principal loooong before she ever did. She didn't want to crush his spirit. She was exceedingly patient and loves Calvin to pieces. She also recommended him for the Gifted and Talented program (his second nomination in two years). He did not pass the screening, but it's interesting that his teachers think that could be an option for him. Calvin also participated in gymnastics earlier in the year as well as basketball in the spring. He was the youngest player on the team, but was scrappy and a good sport. Calvin started Cub Scouts and earned his Bobcat award before he turned 8.
The biggest event for Calvin this year was being baptized an official member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by his biggest brother, Jake. It was a very special day with unique circumstances which you can read about here. Right after school started, Olympic gold medalist Phyllis Francis (4X400 m relay) came to our elementary school to talk to the kids about her experience. What an amazing opportunity for our children. They got to heft her gold medal and she signed their Take Home Folders, too!! Hundreds of them!! Ironically, she got her education at the University of Oregon.
Learning and understanding come very easily to Calvin. Unfortunately, he doesn't yet fully appreciate that gift. He is sarcastic and dramatic. We have also dubbed him Captain Obvious. The sassy new robot in "Rogue One" (K-2SO) could have been named Calvin Hough, just to give you something for reference :) Our number four just started taking piano lessons a few months ago, but has really only had a handful of them due to scheduling issues and is already teaching himself how to play simplified hymns and pick out "Star Wars" tunes on the keys. He is our first child to sing while he plays the piano. Calvin loves to play outside (and invite himself to join strangers walking their dogs) and expend energy and has also had some curious allergic reactions--one with his eyes in the spring that lasted a couple of weeks and another this fall with his hand which required a visit to the urgent care.
Calvin loves the skin off rotisserie chickens, beef jerky, soda, and only eats apples if they're sliced. He is a good student (and would be great if he turned his homework in). He loves science and social studies, but does not like to write (refuses to use his planner) and will only read if it's on his terms (though he's good at that, too!) Calvin won one of the lead roles in the school's 3rd grade musical about pirates and when speaking to his parents about it, he managed to leave out the fact that he had a couple singing parts, as well!
Oh, the places this kid will go!

KARCYN--(10) Our ray of sunshine has been with us for a whole decade! Earlier in the year, Karcyn tried out and made the UIL Oral Reading Team but didn't place at the district competition. The judges did say, however, that she was "absolutely adorable." When Karcyn got home, she not only recited her part from memory, but her friend's part, too! Karcyn completely thrived with her fourth grade teachers and I shed a tear or two when the school year came to an end. Her teachers were heaven sent and I will love them forever. Karcyn often has her head in the clouds and sees life through rose-colored glasses. I worried that these things would be a hindrance to her in 5th grade (set up like middle school with six period classes and lockers). But Karcyn has rocked it! She has earned straight As on all her report cards! She started orchestra and is doing great playing the viola. She enjoys learning and has a group of 6th grade girls who rally around her at the morning drop-off.  Karcyn continues to stay vigilant and strict about her gluten-free lifestyle and because of it she continues to grow taller and be pain free. She ran her first 5K at the Turkey Trot in December. Her love of animals runs deep--very deep. Obsessively deep. She wants to be a vet, but her heart just can't take the thought of animals being sick or in pain. She asks us every few weeks if we can get a pet and every time we say no, she cries as if she's hearing that devastating news for the first time. We were all impressed when she did not hesitate to jump in and hold snakes and other reptiles at a show this summer.
She continues to draw, write, paint, create, build and read. She came up with, designed and made her own Halloween costume as the Statue of Liberty.
Karcyn went to see "The Nutcracker" with Mom for the first time at the beginning of December.

COOPER--(14) Can officially attend church dances though he has yet to because they don't happen very often in southeast Texas. Coop struggles with allergies here even though we started him on allergy shots. They help some, but he still flares up from time to time and it's just miserable for him. However, we learned that swimming (the chlorine) can help with that, so we signed him up for the Tsunami's swim team, which ran from the end of March to July. Cooper was given the "Most Improved Swimmer" award and earned lots of ribbons at his swim meets, setting personal records every time.
In April, Cooper was the District Champ for the UIL Impromptu Speaking competition--on the topic "A Person I Highly Admire" and he spoke about his brother Jake, admitting he choked up a little at the end. He attended his last year of  Scout Camp in June and by the time summer was over, he had caught himself up on the required merit badges he needed to be back on track for his Eagle Scout award. Cooper did well in his first year of middle school but was excited to end his days as a "sevie" (7th grader) and become a big 8th grader. Coop decided to do another season of football and as an elective, he chose to be in the boys choir. He won 1st Place at Solo and Ensemble singing a solo as a tenor. The choir just recently performed at Six Flags in San Antonio where Cooper enjoyed his first taste of an amusement park. Cooper has a real knack with people. In October, he signed up to do some volunteer work with the Special Olympics in the Bocce Ball event. He was a gem with the athletes and impressed so many adults with his respect and encouraging attitude.
Cooper's favorite class this last semester was 8th period where he was an office aide :) He's had a blast fishing, mountain biking, and going to the movies or on Sonic/Chick-Fil-A runs with Jake this past year, just the two of them.
Cooper has recently taken up the art of dubstep dancing and is amazing at it. He also enjoys sleeping--a lot--so early morning seminary will be interesting come August.

JAKE--(17) He rang in the New Year by being ordained a Priest!
*Landed his first job the beginning of March working at Chick-Fil-A, a casual fast food store that isn't open on Sundays and happily gave him Wednesdays off for mutual at church. He was an excellent employee who quickly gained respect from his superiors. (See, Kids? Chores are a good thing!)
Jake had a couple of funny experiences working there, but loved it when Chuck Norris (who lives in nearby Navasota) came by in the drive thru and Jake got to meet him. *Jake has been challenged and excited by his school classes and has truly excelled. We're so happy for him. He works incredibly hard and makes seminary a priority, too, when he can't attend in the mornings. *Jake lettered in track at the end of the spring his sophomore year running the 1600. He got 4:58 which isn't a personal record, but got him the letter! He took 2nd place at the district track meet in the 1600 by .10. He ran a PR of 4:50 and his school took first place. *Jake has had his fair share of accompanying people at church on the piano. He played "Come Thou Fount" as a duet with our friend and neighbor, Ashley, who was on the violin. Jake accompanied the entire ward priesthood on Mother's Day, then he was called to serve as the assistant ward choir accompanist. He played all the music for Calvin's baptism, he played "As Sister's in Zion and We'll Bring the World His Truth" for the youth choir at the stake seminary graduation, he is still the jazz pianist at school (where he also played the piano accompaniment for the school musical), and played for the ward choir in our recent Christmas program. He loves to print off piano music and teach himself how to play the songs. We all love it, too! *Jake performed his first baptism on his brother Calvin in a font filled with cold water :) *On Memorial Day, to his mom's great chagrin, he said good-bye to his ghetto (text/call only) flip phone and got a brand new iPhone 6s, like his parents. There are two things that I was not thrilled about. A) the cost and B) that Jake would have an iPhone. Smart phones are everywhere and so is technology. Jake is uber responsible and trustworthy, but we felt it was important for him to have safe practice with this type of device and access to the internet before he leaves for his mission. Unfortunately, that experience comes at a price. I know he appreciates being able to take pictures of notes and things he does at school or on trips and creating reminders. Being able to look things up quickly or use the clock, timer or apps for when he runs are also great perks to the new phone. *June 16-June 22 Jake joined other youth from around the stake and traveled to Nauvoo, IL for High Adventure and wow, what an opportunity! For someone like Jake to have a life changing experience, I can't imagine what it must have been like for youth who were still on the fence about their testimonies. Jake had an epic experience in Adam-Ondi-Ahman in Missouri and I'm so grateful he had his phone (haha!) to record the spiritual impressions that came to him during that special time of reflection. *A few days after returning from Nauvoo, Jake left home again for a week from June 27-July 4 to go on a mini-mission with the zone leaders in our area. Jake got permission from Bishop Sharp and President Mortensen of the Houston, Texas Mission and he was off! And off the grid. No contact with us or friends. It was kind of weird and exciting for the rest of us to think about what he might be doing during that time. He was even mistaken for a real missionary on a few occasions. Jake LOVED the mini-mission and told the elders he didn't want to go back to his regular life. Too bad he still had two years of high school left!
*A big milestone for Jake (and maybe his mom!) was driving with his buddy, Colton, to Austin, TX one day, by themselves, to play at the nearest Parkour gym. *As a testament to the way Jake lives his life, he was on the bus with his Cross Country team traveling to a meet. Several of them were watching something on a device. When Jake inquired what they were up to, one of his teammates put his hand up to stop Jake from approaching and exclaimed, "No Jake! You can't watch this. It will make you NOT Mormon!!" We laughed so hard when Jake told us that and love that his friends know where he stands and that while they don't choose to live their lives by his standards, they respect and want Jake to be able to maintain his. *Jake's cross-country season got off to a great start.
Sadly, he started having some mysterious health concerns at the District and Regional meets that took him to the children's hospital in Austin at the end of October. (See Facebook posts on 10/20, 10/31 and 11/2 for a few more details). Every imaginable test that is associated with the heart was performed. We hoped for answers and we got just one. "We know what it's not." Because all the dangerous issues with the heart were ruled out, the pediatric cardiologist cleared Jake to continue his running career. Cross season was essentially over (Jake went to State to cheer on his teammates two weeks later) but the day after he left the hospital, he was back out on the road, trying to run and get ready for track season. We aren't worried that Jake will have trouble in the future (in fact, if it weren't for the medical bills that come in the mail every few weeks, we would have forgotten it even happened). He was cleared by the doctor and we need to trust the data. Go forward in faith. If it does happen again, then we'll know that running is not in Jake's future. But for now, it is. *Considering there were only three girls of dating age among the three College Station wards this past year (only one of which Jake knew), Jake managed to go on about half a dozen dates, though they were with other girls from the stake and area. Jared and I did not anticipate the dating challenges here in Texas (driving distance within the stake boundaries, only one other non-family passenger allowed with teenager drivers, lack of age-appropriate dating pool, etc.) and concessions have been made from some of our previously stated dating rules to make these opportunities possible for Jake. *He got his letter man jacket this fall! *Jake loved meeting Trevor Knight (quarterback for TAMU) at a youth fireside recently.
*This kid also loves designing and creating things. Even more now that he has access to a 3D printer at school. He designed his own Kylo Ren light saber handle on his engineering program and is making his own light beam and on/off switch to complete it. Currently he's working on designing a Death Trooper helmet. *Jake lives at home, but doesn't. We don't see him much, but I think that's the Lord's way of preparing his mom for when she has to let him go in 18 months! Jake is an amazing kid. Makes his parents look like rock stars even when they're not!

JENN (39)--I spent the first couple months of the year happily scheduling visits to get to know my "girls" in Relief Society. While I didn't know what to expect in my new calling as Relief Society President, I think the biggest surprise was to discover how joyful it has been. It is easy with my personality to get caught up in the administering part of the responsibility, but the ministering is by far, the greatest gift and opportunity for me. It's hard to believe one year has already gone by (one down, two more to go, right, Bishop? :) I credit my family, my incredible presidency and my beloved bishop in helping me survive that first year. Unfortunately for me, Bishop Sharp, who was a tremendous mentor and cheerleader on my behalf, decided to up and get himself called as our new Stake President at the end of November :) It was a bittersweet time for me, but I'm grateful to have served so closely with a phenomenal leader and this former bishop of ours will set apart up to three or four of our children for missions during his tenure as our stake president. We think that's pretty cool. And I'm very blessed to have an equally awesome new bishop. *I wrapped up my last round of preschool co-op teaching in February. We had a fun group of kids and moms! *I went to Houston four times in March--two separate weekends to witness two women from the ward go to the temple for the first time, once to take our own boys to do baptisms and the fourth time was for a training with Sister Carole Stephens of the General Relief Society presidency in Utah. It was an awesome experience made even more special when she hugged me a few times and even agreed to a picture with me in the hall :)
*At the end of April, I was able to spend my birthday weekend at Women's Conference at BYU (celebrating another friend's birthday) with an incredible group of women from my days in Oregon. The classes were great and it was a wonderful opportunity for me to be reunited with old friends and to make new ones! I even ran into my cousin Angie! Lots of firsts for me that weekend: being on the BYU campus (minus the bookstore when we were moving to Texas), trying CafĂ© Rio and attending the Provo City Center temple. *Bishop Sharp asked me to write a piece for Aggieland Mormons (our ward blog). It was most flattering, but there also came with it a great burden considering who I was representing and it was very interesting to see how the process worked behind-the-scenes. My post went live the middle of May. A couple weeks later, Bishop Sharp notified me to let me know that LDSLiving.com picked up my article and posted it on their web site and Facebook feed on Memorial Day--talk about a shocker! You can read it here. (The title they selected cracks me up ;) *I was honored to speak at the baptism of my new friend, Dayton, at the end of May about the temples and the priesthood. *The end of August began a new chapter in my life--having five kids in four different schools and the day time without any kids! Both crazy and exciting! I was looking forward to the prospect of being mega-productive during the school day without any distractions, but it's downright scary how fast the eight hours go without anyone at home and all the ways I can distract myself!! Another perk of having all the kids in school is that Jared and I can spend the 6+ hours going to the Houston Temple on one of his weekdays off instead of leaving at 5am on Saturday mornings. *I volunteer each week in JJ's class by organizing and assigning leveled readers to each student. I volunteer every other week in Calvin's class doing other organizational tasks. It's not much, but hopefully it helps the teachers have one less thing on their plates. *Calvin, JJ and I learned that the best part of after school in August and September is the swimming! We'd almost always have the pool to ourselves for a full hour before Cooper and Karcyn came home.
*I'm still jogging a little each week to keep my heart beating and I'm still trying to find enough gluten-free dinners to replace the ones we can no longer eat. The world of GF is certainly not the struggle it was almost two years ago, but I will say the restriction remains a little bit like a mild headache every once in a while--especially in social situations. *Some other firsts for me this year: Reading books 1 and 2 of Harry Potter AND watching the movies! And learning how to use the reminders/lists on my iPhone. Life changing!! *My new hobby: trying to keep up on all the bills and insurance from Jake's medical adventure. It is no bueno.

JARED (43)--Works, works, works and does it so very well! He has carved a name for himself here in the CHI St. Joseph network. He is very much in demand--if a clinic needs coverage for a provider, Jared is often the first one they contact because they know they can rely on him and because he does a fantastic job staying on schedule and delivering quality care to the patients he sees. They've set some records for the amount of patients they've treated in a day because he's got great time management skills. Fortunately, he received a substantial raise because of his incredible work in his rural clinic this fall. It wasn't expected, but so very appreciated! Jared really, really loves working with the staff in Brenham. The drive gets old after awhile and he misses church tremendously on the Sundays he has to work, but Brenham is his express care clinic of choice. His two year commitment to Brenham is up in April, so we'll see if that's the location he'll remain at.
*With the awesome help of our home teacher, Todd, Jared designed and built, from scratch, a locker system where the kids can keep all their school things and coats and shoes. It's been so great! Do bags and coats still get strewn all over the floor? Absolutely!
*Jared instituted a Mother's Week for me leading up to Mother's Day. Each child took a day of the week and Jared took Saturday. I was spoiled and spoiled some more as I was pampered and served and remembered. The best week ever! *Jared was able to enjoy San Antonio for a medical conference the middle of May and even got to connect with old friends from his days as a PA student in Oregon.

*He did some fishing over spring break with the older boys and at the end of May with Calvin, his dad and our friend, Will. They caught about 200 white bass but only kept 75!
*He continues to ride his bike and is looking for a ride to do this year. One is called "Hotter'N Hell Hundred"--it's at the end of August :) *Jared was able to spend some time with Cooper during his last year at Scout Camp. One of the highlights was when Jared and Bishop Sharp went head-to-head in a friendly shooting contest. After three rounds, they ended up tying! They have a running joke, however, because Bishop wasn't there when the award was given out, so Jared insists he was the real winner, since he is the only one in possession with the certificate :)
*Jared killed a deer this fall! He said it was more like a baby Bambi and wouldn't even take a picture of it because it was so small and the cost to process the meat made the cost more than double what we would normally pay for it in the store. But hey--at least we know it's super organic! *We enjoyed having Jared around for Spring Break (for the first time in his working career) and being able to do a variety of things together.

*Attending the Houston Temple quarterly with Jake and Cooper to do baptisms.
*Going to the Franklin Safari over spring break

*The massive flooding in April that closed the Houston Temple for a week, but remained untouched.
*The big storm at the end of May--two tornadoes in one day (one in Bryan, one in Navasota) causing the kids to duck and cover in school twice! This was the flooding in our neighborhood.
*Attending the traveling Reptile Show at the library. How many Houghs does it take to hold a python?

*We were also blessed to take a long overdue trip to Georgia in July so the kids could meet their Aunt Kelly and Uncle Steve for the first time.
*And we wrapped up the year by taking a lovely trip to Houston the week after Christmas, courtesy of Santa, to make some more special memories together.

We are so grateful to be alive and healthy and to be able to say goodbye to another year and look ahead to a new one. But above all, we are grateful for the gift of seeing the Lord's hand in every aspect of our lives.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lake Lanier--7.18.16, last day in Georgia

I think we were looking forward to Monday at the lake with Kelly and Steve more than anything! Steve's parents live on Lake Lanier, so Kelly wanted to make sure we spent some time out at their two-story dock while we were in town. Kelly and Steve swung by the condo to get Jake and Cooper about an hour before we planned to head out to help them set up. Then they called us when they were on their way with the boat to pick up the rest of us at the boat launch nearest our condo--about a thirty second drive.

The Beynon Party Boat :)

Watching the ducks while Uncle Steve filled the boat up with gas.

Sisters! Where the one decided to crash the other's 9th birthday-sleepover party to make her appearance in the world. Kelly still won't let me live that one down.

Our bathing suits even match!

Kelly was lamenting about not being tan. I put my baby beluga leg up next to hers to make her feel better. Everyone is tan next to me. Even the dearly departed.

And then we were off! It didn't take very long to get to the side of the lake where the dock was. 15-20 minutes, maybe? Hard to say because we were having too much fun riding in the boat--a new experience for many of my kids. I sat up front (and in the sun) the whole time. Even though I put sunscreen on after we got to the dock, I realized I had already burned! Some things never change. That happened to me a lot as a kid, too.

Me and Kelly reminiscing about all the different animals we had and when and where they came from.

JJ at the wheel with Uncle Steve.

Cooper trying to influence JJ's driving. (And Cooper's getting his permit in a year??)

Uncle Steve and Cooper crashing their pretend boats--JJ as calm as a cucumber :)

We had such a blast swimming in the lake, fishing, and jumping off the top of the dock (captured on video) about 10-12 feet above the water. Everyone in the Hough fam jumped, too, from JJ to Jared, except Calvin! Jake and Cooper even did tricks and stunts off the dock and sometimes used props, like a float and a ball they found :) We ate lunch, swam so more, hung out, enjoyed the sun and then we got caught in what had been predicted as a "chance of thunderstorms." But that's okay! We spent a good couple of hours on the lake and were so happy to have had that opportunity. 

When it appeared the storms weren't going to let up any time soon, Steve led me, Jared and the three little kids (soaking wet) up the path to his parents house where he used his mom's van (bless her) to drive us back to the condo while Jake and Cooper stayed to help Kelly break stuff down and haul it back inside. I have it on good authority that once the rain stopped, Jake and Cooper did some full-fledged diving off of the top of the dock. Impressive.

Since it was our last night with them, we invited Steve and Kelly to come back to our place after they changed clothes for a Kalua Pork dinner and some games. After we ate our fill, we introduced them to Tenzies and Telestrations. Aunt Kelly got her serious competitiveness on with Tenzies. I don't think she won a round, but she was really close!! ;) Cooper is tough to beat!

Then we played a few rounds of Telestrations. It was as hysterical as I imagined it would be. I don't remember laughing SO hard. The game is basically the Pictionary form of Telephone. Technically, the winner is the one whose final drawing or guess in their notebook is closest to the original secret word. However, we personally feel that the final guess that is the farthest removed from the original topic, is the real gem! This was one of our favorites. 

This is Jake's notebook. He got the term "over the counter." So he wrote it down and flipped the page for the next person to put that term into picture form.

This was Karcyn's drawing of "over the counter." Then she flipped the page and passed it to Kelly.

Kelly flipped back to look at Karcyn's picture above and decided that Karycn drew the "Olympic Bunny Vault." :)

Then it was Calvin's turn to draw the term. Here is his version of the "Olympic Bunny (pole) vault." So cute!

Steve's interpretation however, was that of an upside-down Eeyore! 

So Cooper did the only logical thing and drew an upside-down Eeyore.

However, I took Cooper's drawing to mean that Eeyore was dead. (Such a dark game!!! :)

So we went from "Over the Counter" to "Dead Eeyore"! Hahahaha!

We were rolling on the floor, tears coming from our eyes. Part of the problem is Kelly's laugh. It's so dang contagious. You can't help but laugh when she laughs. It took a while for us to calm down :)

Sometime during the evening, Calvin thought it would be a good idea to chuck his empty Coke can into the neighboring field behind the condo. Uh, no. So Jared escorted him outside and they drove along the road behind our condo to try and find the owner of the field who could let Calvin in to retrieve his "wandering" trash. Brother.

Before we said goodbye, Kelly and Calvin (our May Firsters--both born on May 1) had a moment talking together in the gazebo.

Oh, how we didn't want to say goodbye. We had an incredible week and I loved seeing my sister and brother-in-law again. The ultimate gift, of course, was having my kids connect with their aunt and uncle who will no longer be nebulous to them, and so they can maintain a more concrete relationship with them moving forward. Kelly sacrificed a lot during a crazy time at work to spend time with us and we're so grateful. We hope it isn't another 15 years before we see them again. Maybe just a couple. Hopefully, Kelly and Steve will have recovered from our visit by then! :)

On Tuesday, July 19th, we were "up" and on the road very early--around 5am. We were driving home in one day. Even though we would gain an hour, we wanted to head out as soon as we thought we could.

The Atlanta skyline early in the morning. Traffic is great at 5am!

We took the southern route home through Baton Rouge, Louisiana and up through Houston. We'd never driven this way before. It was really different to be that close to the water and swamp land. Hard to believe and kind of not, that this was all underwater with the floods just a few months later.

We got caught in some thunderstorms.

And there were some pretty wicked winds...which were successful in blowing this trailer over. 

We made it back to College Station safe and sound a little after 7pm. It was about a 15 hour day of driving. Just on the edge of insanity, but the kids did great!