The Monday we got back from the cruise (1/8), we talked about our favorite parts of the trip for family night. JJ climbed up in Jared's lap and he fell asleep by 6pm. We must have worn the poor guy out. The next day, he came home from school around 3:30 and went straight to the couch and crashed. He woke up around 5:30 and said his leg hurt. Jared, a veteran provider in the urgent care system, explained that children say their legs hurt when they have body aches. We were suspicious that JJ might have influenza, despite all of us getting flu shots in the fall. It's been a terrible flu season. So as soon as I got back from piano lessons, I put him in the car, picked up some neighbor kids to take to the church with Calvin for scouts/activity day girls and then JJ and I went to the local urgent care. It took a couple hours from start to finish as expected. They tested him for strep and flu and he didn't have either. But the doctor said we might be a tad too early for the test to come back positive, so she gave us a prescription for Tamiflu to fill in case his fever spiked, etc.
Interestingly enough, JJ was feeling much much better and back to his normal self on Wednesday morning. I was planning to keep him home, but he said he wanted to go to school. I had a presidency meeting that I had already relocated to our house in case he did stay home, but since he was going to school I told them never mind, we could meet in our usual spot. As I was driving up the road around 9:30 to leave the area for my meeting, I got a call from the school nurse. She said JJ was sent to her office because he was soooo tired. She said he'd been sleeping about a half hour. He didn't have a fever, but she wanted me to come get him so he could rest at home. Poor kiddo. I picked him up from school, put him to bed when I got home and participated in my meeting via FaceTime. (It was nice that I could hear the discussion at the meeting, but as far as me giving input and training as was the case that day, I felt this wasn't the best format. I never knew if the phone was cutting out, if they could hear me, were we talking over each other, nor could I see them, etc. Next time, I'd rather just skip the meeting and get the notes if I can't be there in person.)
This is JJ on my bed Wednesday afternoon. He was kind of stuffy with a drippy nose. My thermometer wasn't working so I was unable to verify where his temperature was sitting. He definitely felt warm but wasn't burning up. It was so strange though because he'd sleep for a few hours, then he'd feel fine and get a second wind, then he'd play for a little bit...
On Saturday, 1/13, Jake and Cooper both earned all As with 1 B on their report cards, so we took them out to lunch as a treat for their hard work. I always forget about BJs, but they have some yummy food. I was actually cleaning out my wallet when I came across an old gift card to BJs. Like a few years old. I was fairly certain there was $1.50 left on it. But I had a prompting to call the balance number on the back anyway. I'm so glad I did. The computer told me I had $56.17 was left!! I didn't believe the automated system so I did it again. Same balance. Then I had Jake do it. Same thing. So we crossed our fingers and when we got seated, I had the waiter check it, too. He confirmed the balance was $56.17. Wa-hoo!! How awesome is that!? We all ended up with a free lunch and a Pazookie to top it off.
Jake ordered a burger about as big as his head. He wasn't sure how to begin, so I documented the effort.
We had such a great time, the four of us, laughing at Jared's experiences when he was their age and having to earn his parents' trust by being home at a certain time...long before cell phones. We were rolling as he told the story when he was fishing with his friend, Dan, and they only had a few minutes before Jared had to be home to receive a phone call from his dad, but it would take took a good 5+ minutes to get there. Dan got serious and told Jared he had his back. His friend wasn't going down on his watch. :) Dan sped out of the area, on a gravel road, spinning the tires of his Cadillac station wagon, and plowed through some cornfields to get his good buddy home before Doc called to check up on Jared. There were actual corn stalks stuck in the front fender of the Cadillac. Hahaha! The phone was ringing as Jared ran through the front door. But he made it! Oh my heck. Awesome.
As we left BJs we drove up the road to drop off Karcyn's viola at the music shop for a tune up and then we were going to swing by Chick-fil-A so Cooper could pick up a job application. They allow 15-year-olds to work on Saturdays. As we were pulling away from the music store I said, "Okay--off to Chick-fil-A." That's when Cooper moaned from the backseat and groaned, "No. Not now--please." I was confused. He was a little under the weather, but his response was unexpected. Jared asked, "Why, what's wrong?" Coop moaned, "I can't eat anymore!!" We busted up laughing. "We're not going there to EAT, Silly. We just had lunch! We're going there so you can get a job application!" "Ohh. Okay then."
Sun. 1/14--I was previously scheduled to be in a branch that day for my calling, but when I realized this was the day for our ward conference, I asked to be rescheduled. I really wanted to be there to hear what the stake leaders had to say and it's hard to promote their message if I don't hear it. During the ward business portion, our bishopric was released! I turned to Jared and knowingly smiled, "It's going to be Todd (Graham)" (our previous home teacher). He smiled and predicted it would be Matt Call, our current home teacher. Todd was our home teacher in CS3 for almost three years and he has ministered our family in extraordinary ways. We just love him and his wife, Jamie. We spent a few days in Destin, FL with them in August. Knowing our current bishop was getting close to being done, Jared and I have had conversations about who we thought would be bishop. I had said Todd before and I told Jared I had a dream about it because of a calling Todd extended to me. I actually have had that dream a couple times in the previous eight months since we were realigned into the College Station 1st ward. Todd was serving on the high council and he and I even spoke together one month. Interestingly enough, I had the same dream just a few days before ward conference. That's why, I could, with confidence, tell Jared "It's going to be Todd." Todd was called as bishop and Matt Call as 1st counselor! Jared was close! We had to laugh...both these fine men have been or are our home teachers. So...I guess that means we're the training ground--if you can survive ministering to the Hough family, you can survive ministering to a ward! :)
We were worried, though, so we scrambled to find our water shut off valve. Guess what? It's not in our house or garage! It's in our yard. Then we were shocked to find it buried under 2 feet of cold dirt and mud. Good grief. Jared and I nearly froze out there (not exaggerating) as the wind blew and he tried to unearth our water shut off valve using a plastic bowl as a shovel. Holy heck, our appendages were numb. We found it, had to use Melanie's super wrench, and got it shut off. But then we turned it back on a little while later so we'd know when the pipe had actually thawed. We also learned from some of our neighbors that the pipes used by our specific builder are such that they have flexibility to expand and are more likely not break or burst when this happens. So that comforted us a bit. And thankfully, the water started moving through the pipes again around 12:45pm. Just for reference, the interior temperature upstairs was 55 degrees and it was 58 degrees downstairs on this day. It didn't get to 60 degrees until 3:30pm that afternoon.
Calvin announced to us that he wants to go to medical school. Then he wavered when he learned how long he'd have to be in school. A discussion about retirement and when to stop working came up. Karcyn declared, "I'm going to work until I die." Jared responded, "That is the ultimate retirement."
I finally went paperless with AT&T. I had to chuckle when I saw the portion of the email address they were showing for verification purposes. Sometimes I feel like that. :)
Karcyn came home from school saying her big ELA (Language Arts) research project and poster was due Monday. That surprised me. Usually, we get an email from her teacher to remind us of the timeline. And Karcyn doesn't usually wait until the weekend before something is due to complete it. The students were supposed to research anything that interested them. Karcyn's topic: tarantulas. (Yes, really.) She had some of the research done, but needed more and then had to do her poster. I told her she better get cracking on it. To her credit, she worked diligently Friday night and most of Saturday to get it done.
Sat. 1/20--I helped organize and put on the first auxiliary training that we held for the Relief Society presidencies in our stake. Our president is very inspired and has wonderful vision. (We had our own council meeting to discuss and model councils.) So there wasn't a lot of pressure on me, except to do whatever she needs me to do. In this case, I had to share my testimony of the new "Come Follow Me" curriculum/council format for the RS and Melchizedek priesthood that began at the beginning of the year. I was on the ground floor as a youth Sunday School teacher when Come Follow Me for the youth rolled out the beginning of Jan. 2013. So I really do have a testimony of teaching in the Savior's way. The only issue I run into with these type of assignments is time constraints. Trying to be succinct but edifying and uplifting and encouraging is definitely a struggle.
Before it was time for me to give my thoughts in 5 minutes or less, I ran to the bathroom. And I about collided with this guy. Just a missionary? Nope. We lived in his ward in Forest Grove, Oregon when Jared was a PA student. His mom and I are friends. I didn't know her kids that well because mine were much younger. But I saw he was called to the Texas Houston Mission and I told his mom, Wendy, that I would likely run into him, especially with a stake calling and would keep my eye out for him. And there he was!! I was so excited and shocked to see him by the bathrooms, that I could not spit out what I was trying to say. I must have sounded like a complete fool. Finally I said, "Forest Grove--we used to live in your ward." And he got the connection. We chatted briefly, we got a selfie so I could send it to his mom and then I went back to the gym to give my thoughts. In all that excitement, I totally forgot to use the bathroom!!
I took Calvin out to lunch at Whataburger after my stake training to celebrate the straight A's he got on his report card. He's doing awesome this year!!
Sun. 1/21--Our friend's first Sunday as Bishop and he had to announce that little Davie Leatham had passed away early that morning. I was crushed. I couldn't sing the opening hymn. Jared was working and JJ was being super ornery. I had actually left my phone at home and needed it to take pictures for a stake assignment I had after church. Because of how naughty JJ was being, I drove him home with me so I could get my phone, leaving the other kids in Sacrament meeting. As I drove to the house, the thought came that I could take a teddy bear over to Nancy's house on my way back to the church. They live only 5 minutes away. I grabbed one of Karcyn's small bears (hedging my bets that she'd be okay with it) and took a picture to show her which one because she has names for them all. I wrote a message of love on a card for Nancy and Levi, tied a white ribbon around its little neck, then headed to their house. I felt like I was intruding, parking at their house. I also felt like I was walking on hallowed ground. Tears welled up in my eyes as I walked up the long drive at 10:30. There were several other cars there. I didn't want anyone to notice me, I just wanted to drop off the bear and go. I propped the card and bear up on an empty planter by their front door and left.
When I told Karcyn about her teddy (that I gave it to Davie's mom, not that it was likely eaten by a dog), she was completely happy to sacrifice her bear for a grieving family--even though he didn't get to fulfill his purpose that way. I had gently talked to the kids about Davie's passing on the way home. JJ was extremely sad. I was caught off guard when he cried most the afternoon because he felt bad for Davie. I tried to explain that Davie was happy and safe and warm, but that we should pray for his mom and dad and grandma and grandpa. He wanted to draw a picture of Davie, so I showed him the picture Nancy had posted on Facebook and he did a really great job. I told him I would give it to his mom.
When Jake got home, we finally had a chance to talk about the meetings together. Jake had a big group project in his English class that required him to work with six other students. They also had to make a movie. They decided a couple days previously that Sunday was the only chance they had to film. I was bummed that Jake had to do that, but he's old enough to make his own decisions. Plus, I told myself that he would be in church with us that day and would be able to fulfill his priesthood duties. Life sometimes requires work conferences or such out of our control. Jake's heart was in the right place. I left church after the Sacrament was passed, so I missed the remainder of the meeting. Jake reported that every single talk was on keeping the Sabbath Day holy. :o Considering his plans with his peers from English later that day, he was feeling pretty uncomfortable. During the closing hymn, he texted this to his group and prepared for the backlash. This was his message:
"Hey guys so I know this is sudden but I've decided I'm not gonna be coming out today to film, because it is a personal and religious thing that is very important to me to not do the things I could do on another day on Sunday. I don't have many lines as the duke and Lorenzo, I can film each of my lines separately and we can edit it in, I have a friend who can do it if no one knows how to. I'll still get my end don so don't worry I just thought I'd let ya'll know."
Turns out, there was another LDS young man in his group, who echoed Jake's sentiments and they other kids said they were cool with it. We got a good laugh out of the fact the one day Jake feels like he has to work on a project on a Sunday and the talks that very day were on keeping the Sabbath Day holy!
Sunday evening, I got an email from Karcyn's ELA teacher informing the parents that his students' research posters were due the following week and that they'd work on them some more in class. Whoops. Karcyn was super ahead of the game. I let her teacher know she was "done" so he could have Karcyn do other things in class as needed.
Wed. 1/24--JJ really wanted a chess buddy and Cooper stepped up. This is one of many things my kids can do, but I can't!
I took this delicious tortellini soup to another RS counselor because she is Nancy's visiting teacher and was in the thick of the funeral/luncheon plans. And the RS secretary, our piano teacher, was Nancy's close friend, so we took her some flowers the afternoon of our lessons that week to help her know we were thinking of her, too.
Sun. 1/28--Cooper gave a talk in Sacrament meeting when I was in the Hearne Branch. Fortunately, Jared was there to hear it. It was on service.
The other big news that happened this month has to do with Jared's job. When we chose to walk away from the loan repayment opportunity, which was no longer possible, he transferred from Madisonville into an express care in Brenham. Still 50+ minutes each way, but in the opposite direction. And driving to Brenham is going through the country at least. Jared committed to this clinic for two years. Well, April 2017 was Jared's two year mark and he kept on working there because no one mentioned any other option to him. But that was okay, he liked his office staff and the doctor. The Brenham express care is unique to the St. Joseph system in that it's run solely by physician assistants and nurse practitioners. There is no doctor. However, Jared's supervising physician, Dr. McDonald, is in the building, but she does family practice on her own. The Brenham express care is a very busy and successful clinic. Which is good, but it's also an island. It's up to the two providers on each shift to see the volume that comes through each day and if someone needs a day off, it's almost always one of the other providers on the opposite schedule who covers for them. No one really wants to drive all the way to Brenham to help out because they don't get paid mileage. Ever since Jared first made this change, he started thinking about how to get his Sundays back because he was working every other weekend, which was not what we moved here for. He missed worshipping on the Sabbath with us and it was starting to wear on him more and more the further past that two year mark we got. I can't blame him. At all. There was an opening at the City of College Station clinic where he would be serving the people who work for CS. It was a M-F job run by the city but staffed by St. Joseph. They were having a hard time staffing it and currently had a doctor working there. When Jared suggested he could fill that vacancy, we learned that if Jared left the express care system, he would be taking a $20-25K pay cut. We were stunned. Jared's a medical provider. He should be paid the same no matter where he works. However, the city would only pay a certain amount for this position and St. Joseph wouldn't pay the difference to meet his currently salary even though they were paying for a physician to work there. So there went that idea.
As 2017 continued to pass, we tried coming up with some alternative to help get Jared to church since changing jobs wasn't working. Maybe he could take 45 minutes off so he could attend Sacrament meeting with the Brenham branch and then let his co-worker leave 45 minutes early. But right about that time some issues came up with the other guy and we weren't able to explore that option either. At the end of 2017, Jared's mom decided she was going to move to College Station after his dad died, and under these new circumstances, Jared felt it was even more important to be closer to town if she ever needed anything, not a whole hour away.
About a week after returning home from our cruise, Jared texted me and said it was time for a venue change. Mandy, the office manager at the Bryan Express Care, has wanted Jared at her clinic for a long time. He would cover extra shifts for her and of course, he's dependable, great with people and what he does and they love him. But he was still committed to Brenham and couldn't get out of that two year agreement. Yet something made him look at their schedule. We were shocked when we saw that they don't even open until 12pm on Sundays!! We're meeting at 9:30 right now, so Jared could spend two hours at church with us before he would have to go to work. Jared texted her right away to find out if she happened to have any openings. We were stunned when she said they did--they were actually losing a PA. Mandy told Jared to contact Tina, who is in charge of hiring and such changes among the clinics. Tina has been an advocate of Jared's since he got to Texas. He called Tina and she confirmed that yes, there is an opening at the Bryan urgent care. But...she also said the ENT guys were looking for a PA. She told Jared it was M-F, 8-5 right here in College Station. Jared responded that the position sounded great, but that he couldn't go there because he'd have to take a significant pay cut and that wouldn't be possible (besides who would want to??). Tina said she knew he would say that and when, Mark, the guy above her, mentioned this opening, she highly recommended Jared, but added that Jared wouldn't even consider it because he won't take a pay cut to leave the express care system. Mark told Tina there wouldn't be a pay cut. That got our attention. Jared said he'd be stupid not to at least explore the option, so he said he'd be willing to at least meet with the ENT docs. Either way, if that didn't work out, he'd have a job in Bryan and he'd get to go to church on Sundays and take the Sacrament--if not with our ward, with someone. And we'd already eliminated the 2 hour commute and 11 hour days!! We were so excited, we dared not even breathe for fear this change would vanish. We'll see how things progress after Jared meets with the ENT docs, but we already feel like winners!
We also realized that this change came right on the heels of Jake getting his mission papers started. We know that isn't a coincidence. I had been fasting and praying for a year for a positive change to happen where his job is concerned. We pay our tithing and what we hope are generous fast offerings. I've served faithfully and as diligently as I know how in my callings and in my visiting teaching. We attend the temple each month. There wasn't much more I could do to help expedite a change for the better with Jared's work situation. But I've heard and now I know for myself, that families are blessed when their children serve missions for the Lord--even when it's just opening their mission account and beginning the preliminary paperwork process!