Tuesday, June 16, 2015

That Time I Needed a Babysitter

Since moving from California, I have had to become much more flexible.  I haven't always been that way.  The first thing that prepped me for this big adventure was having a slew of kids.  I can't ever predict what will come on any given day.  And flying by the seat of my pants has become QUITE an art.

This has helped me in our various moves.

I always figure, I will get it done somehow.

Nevertheless, on the flip-side, my real bent is toward organization.  Truly, it is.  I am a fairly organized person.  So while I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time, this "chaos" is organized.  It's also optimistic.  Remember, where there is a will, there is a way.  I always figure, I don't know how, but I will get it all done.

Moving frequently, every 8-9 months, to different states, schools for kids, lifestyles, etc...has only added to this "flexible" side of me.  I've had to up the organization though to keep myself sane.  You would think these two attributes would put me into total chaos (and at times I feel it) but for the most part, they balance each other and have really just made me a better person.

I remember that it was the first week we were in Colorado that I discovered I'd need to find a babysitter.  We always had access to babysitters in CA (often free from our parents...we still owe them big time), and if they couldn't do it, we had known people for a long time.  There wasn't much of a need for babysitting in Albuquerque.  Steve still worked a fairly regular schedule and the few times we got out for a date night, we could ask someone at church.

But Colorado was different.  Steve was gone.  Nonexistent at times.  And I had situations come up where I needed a babysitter simply because I have five kids total who sometimes need to be in different places all at the same time-and I quickly discovered, I am no Houdini!  Especially, since we only had one car!  I couldn't get around it.  I had to accept help.

A major character flaw I have is that I don't like asking for help.  I assume the other person hates me asking and doesn't want to do it.  I feel like they'll think I'm not pulling my weight which I abhor more than just about ANYTHING.  This is an area I've needed to grow in so much.

Colorado had it in for me.  

When Steve started the semester, I looked at him and said, "Do whatever you need to do to succeed.  Even if that means you're gone all day and every night.  The kids and I will be okay.  It's just nine months."

How nice of me right?  I meant it though.  I am one determined cookie.  And I wasn't going to allow us to bog him down at all.  He needed every hour, every second, to try and keep up with the younger students who had way less home responsibilities.  I wasn't about to stop him at all.

But this also meant I'd have very little support.  Now, no pity here people.  I chose that.  And I chose it for the good of our whole family.  In fact, we both chose that together.  My husband needed me to release him so that he could go and work his tail off and survive.  However, I learned fast, that with him gone all the time, I would need support...I couldn't get around it anymore.  I had to ask for help.  Getting outside of myself and stretching in that way though, led me to great blessings.

So back to my story.  We had been in Colorado a week and I found out that there was a Back to School Night at the kids' school and it was a parents' only event.  I immediately thought, "Oh great!  I've been here a total of 4 days and I need to find a babysitter already."  I started to pine for New Mexico where I had at least one great babysitter in my back pocket, or CA where we had two sets of grandparents!  But I was forced to face the reality that I had only been in Colorado a short time and would need to find a babysitter stat.

One of the administrators at the kids' school was so kind.  She heard about us just moving in, anticipated my need without my asking, and wrote down some numbers of high school girls she personally knew for me who could drive.  Sweet!  Phew!  Glad I had some options.

And then, in the midst of all the unpacking, I lost the numbers.  I was mortified.  I hardly lose anything.  But I lost those precious numbers at a very critical time.  I was forced to reach out somewhere.  I did know one family from back home that lived in our general vicinity but they had already been extremely kind over the weekend and helped us move in.  I'd rather die than ask for help again so soon (see...my proud nature?!)  What was I going to do?

Well I got desperate.  We had been to church that past Sunday for the first time and I had met a young girl in the nursery who looked capable of handling my kids for two hours while they watched a movie.  So I called the church office and with a harried voice, practically begged the admin there   to connect me with this random girl I'd met that Sunday.  How humiliating right?  How was I even going to call this poor high schooler, "Hi!  I met you Sunday.  Can you come over?"  Totally embarrassing.  I break out into a sweat just thinking about it, even now.

What I got was a beautiful response from the girl who answered the phone at church.  Without skipping a beat, she said, "Here's her number.  And if she can't do it, I will."  I literally burst into tears.  I am not a crier.  But the desperation, the fear and the pressure of being in a new place and not knowing a soul but NEEDING help and not knowing where to turn, hit me.  And this kind person, who I had never met, offered to come help.  Just because I needed it.  Just because she cared.

That sweet girl who answered the phone ended up becoming a dear friend to me.  She saved me from a few other situations I was in (some my own doing by being over committed) by helping me with my kids.  She was my friend.  She picked Steve up at CSU in the snow when we only had one car.  She came over and drank tea with me once a week throughout the fall into the spring and laughed with me about life.  She provided me community.  Not because I had built up rapport or even favors with her-which is normally what I'd try to do, because I hate to put people out.  But just because she wanted to.  I didn't even know her before.  But her kindness connected me with her right away and endeared her to me forever.

What that showed me was that we need people!  And that being weak only ties us faster to those around us.  Believe me, I would try and pay her back in different ways for all of the things she did for me just because.  But I just couldn't.  It was too much.  And I was in such a place that I needed all the help I could get.  My pride had to die.  Before I would try to do everything on my own.  But I just couldn't anymore.

That was the first step for me into community.  And it wouldn't be the last.  I learned early in Colorado.  If we were to survive without Steve, I'd need to grow personally and learn to rely on others.  The thing I didn't know was that I would make lifelong friends in the process.

God always meets us where we are and gives us what we need.  For me, it was the opportunity to reach out and be filled with the love of others.  It was one of the first times in my life where I felt at a total loss as to how to repay all of the people in our lives the same kindness they'd shown to us.  I couldn't.  It was too much.

But this changed me.  I am a doer.  I will do for other people, no problem.  But I am not a receiver.  And I hate being weak.  But being like that isn't strength.  It's arrogance.  It's pride.  And it's rigid.

That my friends, has been worked on.  Another addition to my flexibility.  Another tool in my belt.  As a result, I made beautiful friendships, gained a reshaped outlook on life and obtained a heart full of love from the friends and community we had in Colorado without whom the kids and I would not have survived.  God provided so many people like my friend the church admin, who played such crucial roles in our survival.  In fact, I wouldn't even call it that.  With their support and love, it wasn't a survival...it was a triumph!  Praise God!

Thinking of Colorado.  Missing dear friends.  You will "meet" many of them as they all played crucial parts in our year last year.  Thanking the Lord that he forced me into a place where I needed people so that I could begin to learn to receive.  Deep down, I still hate it.  But I know that God intends it for my good.  Reaping His goodness through these friendships last year showed me how when we are weak, HE is strong.  Treasuring the time we had there with all of my heart.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Story of Colorado...

I haven't paused to catch my breath in about a year.  The sprint we've been on has been like no other adventure we've encountered so far.  No other.  No amount of children or anything so far has been like this last year.  It wasn't horrible.  I don't mean to make it sound like that.  In fact, in some ways, it was incredibly beautiful.  Difficulty breeds perseverance, darkness gives birth to hope, and uncertainty to trust in our Savior.

I still remember our first night in Colorado.  We pulled up just as the sun was setting around 9 pm.  It was beautiful everywhere.  We found our apartment and my children immediately ran for the playground to stretch their legs after hours of driving.  Yet before they reached the swings, they saw the grass.  Grass.  We hadn't seen grass in months after living in the desert.  Without any prompting from me, they plunged into its softness, rolling around belly laughing.  The night was warm and crisp.  We had made it.  A new state again.  All new surroundings, new people, new systems, new school for Steve and the kids, new pressures and new beginnings.

The grass was a good omen.

After getting our keys and such, we settled the kids and the children climbed into their sleeping bags to calm down for the night.  I went to explore the kitchen-my domain, and quickly discovered there wasn't a dishwasher.  No dishwasher.  As that realization began to wash over me, I felt it might sweep me away...but I quickly dismissed it and focused on where I would put things.  It was the first sign though that things may be more difficult than my optimistic self might think.

I moved from the kitchen into the family room.  The apartment was furnished so, there was a kitchen table and chairs.  There was a spot for the tv.  There was a couch.  And yet there was not room for it all.  While Steve was upstairs showering after a long day of driving, I imagined in my head how we could place the furniture to have both a "family room" and a place to eat dinner.  It seemed literally impossible.

But where there is a will, there is a way....

I went back through the kitchen just a few feet away.  Would I be able to fit the "third" of my kitchen that I had brought?  It would be tight.  Where would a pantry go?  My mind began to swirl.  Instead of worrying, I decided to retrieve some things we needed from our car.  Feeling triumphant that I found what we needed, I bounded back to our little abode determined to continue organizing things in my mind.

However, my optimism soon faded when I found the door locked.  I was locked out.  I pounded on the door.  How could it be locked?  I had checked the handle as I left to be sure it was open.  But it was a new door, I was in a new place, it was late now, and my assumption that our new door acted like our last door had proven unwise.  Much to my surprise, it was locked, it was the only way in, and my husband couldn't hear me upstairs because he was showering.

So I plopped down outside the door, listened to the crickets, took in the sweet night air and welcomed Colorado.

I knew I would love it.  From the second Steve got connected with Margaret (his advisor) I knew I would LOVE Colorado.  I didn't know how hard it would be to accomplish what we needed to do there.  But I knew that I would be head over heels in love with Colorado.  I always say that Fort Collins had me at hello.  And that is true.

We spent some of the HARDEST months of our lives so far, there.  But the hardest are always the sweetest too, right?

Pretty quickly, after that night, we plunged into the depths.  Into the depths of darkness.  It was a journey we didn't expect.  It was long.  It was a grind.  It was immense.

But God was long suffering, He was a daily companion and He was bigger.

As things come to me, I will chronicle that time.  It's the story of Colorado.  Our story.  It's one of incredible heart, fight and victory.  God's victory.  Only He could've done what He did.  And all through the darkness, He weaved such intense light into our lives through friends, our church community, LOVE from neighbors and our kids' incredible school.

I am proud of that time.  It was a time of weakness for us.  But God was strong.  It was a time of intense focus and God was the source.  I am proud of my husband and the incredible spirit he showed in overcoming times of defeat and pushing on to victory.  And I know, it took an amazing amount of courage to keep pushing, to keep fighting and to slay the dragons he slayed.  When God says His strength is perfect, He means it.

I haven't even opened this blog in months because I had no self reflection in me.  None.  It was one of the first times in my life that I simply trudged on.  I laughed when I saw that the last post was of us vacationing in Breckenridge, CO just a few weeks before we moved to Colorado from Albuquerque.  You see, I have not chronicled this last year on paper.  There was no time.  I had no time to process anything.  And you know what, that too was an experience.  I didn't pine for yesterday or long for the future.  I just lived and took it all in...all the hard and all the beautiful.  There was LOTS of both.  I loved the people God put in my path and held on for the ride He had us on.  I simply lived in the moment.

But now it's time to tell the story.  I don't know how consistent I will be.  But I will tell it.

Into the depths...the story of our beloved Colorado.  And the time we took our amazing five children to grad school for a PhD in Mathematics.  A time when every ounce of strength and courage we had within was expended to run through the tape.

Yes...that time.

The sweetest and most difficult of times.  Full of memories, laughter and wonderful, life changing friends.

The story of Colorado.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Vacationing In Paradise-We're Growing Up

Friends, I am writing you from the Rockies.  In particular, Breckenridge, Colorado.  We arrived yesterday after a seven hour car ride up here.  We're the type of people that like to leave early and get in as early as possible.  Our kids tend to do best driving wise if we get an early start so we headed out of Albuquerque first thing and arrived here in the late afternoon.

It was like driving into a fantasy world.  No joke.  There is good reason Breckenridge is a world renown ski resort and vacation spot.  Unbelievable, I tell you.  In fact, their off season is the summer, and so we actually got a pretty decent deal for a condo.  I am sure this place goes for twice the cost during ski season.  The main reason we are here is that some of our best friends from Monte Vista, next-door neighbors in fact for a few years who moved to Florida, are vacationing in Breckenridge with their family.  So when we found out that they'd only be seven hours from us and not several states away, we had to come see them.  Just had to come.

We are moving up to Colorado two weeks from today.  So when we get back on Sunday, my busy packing mode will move into Ninja Packing mode.  The kids hadn't been to Colorado yet.  After arriving here yesterday Isaac said to his Daddy, "Okay, I am SO excited to moving here!  This place is amazing!"  Yes son, Colorado is amazing.  We are Californians and we are used to a lot of natural beauty.  Probably took it for granted somewhat.  We're also mountain people.  Love hiking.  Love the cool mountain air and the trees.  The beach is nice but put us up on a mountain any day.  So this whole state really appeals to us.  Lots of natural beauty.  It's cool enough to be outside right now (not so back in Albuquerque) and let the kids run.  Truly a treat for our kids.  They are soaking it up.

Besides soaking up the mountain air, we are soaking up friends.  These are people we used to see everyday, many times a day. Our kids grew up together (along with a few other families from MV).  When they announced they were moving to FL in 10 days,  I was 36 weeks pregnant with Nathan.  I am not a big crier but I BAWLED.  It was all so sudden and I didn't quite know what I would do with myself without them next to us.  I didn't know how my kids were going to handle it.  Isaac still can't talk about it without getting teary.  He had to say good-bye to both of his best friends from MV in one year.  It wasn't easy.  But such is life sometimes.  We all have to move on and go where God leads us.  And more than we want our friends near us, we want God's best for them.  

 But that's also what makes the reunion so much sweeter.  We have friends from Cal Poly that we are still as close to, if not closer, than when we all parted a decade ago.  So even though we can't be near each other all the time, we can still have these times, our memories, and we know that we'll stay close over the years.

On our drive up Steve grabbed my hand and said, "Can you believe that we are going on a vacation in the Colorado Rockies?  If you would've told me a year ago that we'd be doing this, I would have thought you were crazy."  I responded, "Lots of change over this last year.  New career.  New degree.  Two out-of-state moves.  I started a business.  Going to Breckenridge is a huge indicator that we've grown up.  No more young college kids, just starting out.  We've got five kids who are getting older.  We're grown up now."

When we drove in to this, I was totally amazed.  I mean really, unbelievable.

Being here, with friends, Such a blessing.

This PhD adventure has been just that, an adventure.  But God has provided every step of the way.  Through Steve's job at Sandia Labs, my Rodan + Fields business and Colorado State, we are still able to steal away for a few days and enjoy God's creation and some of our best friends in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

 I like growing up.  It definitely is risky to pick-up and move, change careers, jump into grad school (again)  full-time this time though, and it's definitely been exciting and scary for me to start my own business.  Yet seven months in, I've been blown away by how much I've been blessed!  If we don't take those steps, take a risk, SAY YES to uncertainty, we have no idea the blessings that are on the other side of that.  God says over and over in His word, "I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys.  I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water."  Isaiah 41:18.  And "I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them.  I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.  These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them"  Isaiah 42:16

Living is risky.  But I've always thought that it's better to live out loud and try new things, seeking the Lord on these unknown paths than to look back and wish I would've taken that step.  When we seek the Lord, work really hard and trust God to take care of us along the way, He will do it!

I have often been afraid over the last year.  How were we going to pay for Steve's schooling without debt?  How would we live?  Where would our kids go to school?  Would we have any friends?  How would we financially make it through this PhD with a family of seven?  How would we do living in another state and then how would we  move again so soon after?  The list goes on and on.

But I wanted what was on the other side  more.  And I trusted God would be there.  And boy has He!  All last summer as Steve was doing his internship at the research firm in Monterey, God kept bringing this verse to me.  We had sent out hundreds, and I mean, HUNDREDS of job applications.  We had been networking with family and friends for months!!  And finally, through a friend of a friend of my Dad's, Steve got given this internship.  That internship is what spawned all of this adventure for us.  So many doors slammed in our faces.  So many no's.  But we knew what we were after and wouldn't give up until we got there.  We didn't expect it all to play out like this but, it's SO much better than we could've ever dreamed.

"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."  Isaiah 43:18-19

Amen and amen!  Take a risk./  God is an expert at making streams in the desert.

Excited to see what God will do over this next year.  Trusting more streams in the desert.  Not always easy to walk these paths but always GOOD as we trust in the ONE who is guiding us and providing for us along the way.

We're all grown up now...  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

So What HAVE I Been Doing?

I must state the obvious-I definitely have not been blogging :).  What have I been doing done here in the desert?

Well for one, I've been resting (kind of).  I know that sounds funny but, for nearly four years, Steve worked full-time and went to school in his off time.  That meant we didn't see him much at all.  Many nights and every Saturday were spent studying.  Even though Steve has had to study quite a bit to get up to speed at Sandia, all of that studying has been his work.  So he's had great hours.  Going in early, getting home in time for dinner and then getting every other Friday off.  It's been bliss I tell you.  And even though we've been making friends, our social calendar has been pretty quiet.  So we have had six straight months of great Daddy time and husband/wife time.  Heaven.  We needed it.

But the main thing I've been doing is building my Rodan + Fields business.  I'd be totally remiss if I didn't mention it.  It's pretty much been my sixth child.  So once Steve and I knew that we were going to pursue his PhD, we knew I was going to have to do something to contribute because we also knew that we didn't want to go into debt for him to get this degree.  We'd already paid off Cal Poly, we'd paid for Texas A & M as we went through the program and we didn't want this new degree to be mortgaging our future.  No way!  But we also knew this was an amazing opportunity and one that had come straight from God's hand.  We had to take it.

So we prayed.  Where there is a will, there IS a way.  God provided so many things.  Steve was given a full-ride to Colorado State University which was amazing because paying out-of-state tuition is quite expensive.  He was also given the internship at Sandia which has allowed us to save a decent amount over the past seven months and has given him the opportunity to telecommute part-time next year while in classes.  That part-time job will pay our main expenses.

But we have five kids.  And they are expensive.  Most grad students are single, or newly married.  Not old with five kids!  Ha ha!  It was plain.  I had to do something to help support us during this time.  But it had to be a job I could do from home all around my kids' schedule.  I had a friend that I knew had replaced her full-time nursing income in 10 months with part-time hours, to become a stay-at-home mommy to her daughter.  She had done it through Rodan + Fields.  She and I spoke and I knew it was an incredible business opportunity.

So two days after we moved to New Mexico, I partnered with the same two Stanford trained doctors, Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields, that developed ProActiv back in the 90's by joining Rodan + Fields Dermatologists as an Independent Consultant.  I was looking for a company that was reputable, had products that were excellent and gave people amazing results, a flexible work schedule and a generous pay plan.  R + F was all of that and more.  

I was given the opportunity to leverage this already established brand that had a great reputation from ProActiv.  All of the products have been through independent clinical trials, giving real, quantifiable results.  They also came with a 60 day money back guarantee further proving their efficacy and endorsing the company's credibility.  I could work whenever I wanted, from wherever I wanted.  I could run my business off of my phone if I wanted to.  And the pay plan was worth all of my effort.  In the last six months, I earned back my investment in the first sixty days and since then, I've built enough of a business to support our rent and groceries next year when Steve only works part-time all while providing an incredible service to my valued customers who were in search of great skin care.  They are truly the reason I am in business today and I am so thankful for their support!!

This business has been a blast.  I knew nothing about skincare or sales before.  But we have incredible team support and the business is duplicatable.  If one follows the plan, they will be successful.  So that's what I've been doing.  Following the plan and running this race.  I've been building a business.  I've been wiping noses and bottoms and gaining team members!  I've been training and reading books to my littles.  I've been homeschooling and doing sales calls for my downline to help them train.  And I've been supporting my Mathematician who is my favorite person of them all!

I have seven direct teammates.  And I love every single one of them.  They bless me every day.  One of my favorite parts of the whole deal is helping my friends and family build businesses that are significantly changing their family's financial futures.  And then seeing them do the same and give more than they ever have before.  That's incredible to me!

It's been amazing.  Totally amazing.  God has given me a way that I can help support Steve through grad school while still doing what I do best, run my home and cheer for him.  I am so thankful.

So I haven't been blogging but, I have been busy.  Hoping to remedy the blogging thing but, know I haven't been idle.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Long Lost Nikki

So it's true.  I've been lost.  Lost in Albuquerque.  Lost in homeschooling.  Lost in starting a business.  But guess what?  I am finding my way again!  I haven't forgotten about all of you.  I've just been trying to establish a new normal and learn how to run my house with all five littles underfoot again all day, here in the crazy southwest.  And since my husband's career has changed, so has my role in supporting him.  I'm no longer a teacher's wife but, a Mathematician's wife.  And that's quite different, I may say!  One is not necessarily better than the other, they're just different.  I knew everything about his job at Monte Vista.  I know nothing about his work at Sandia and can never know.  That has taken some getting used to.  I like to know everything about him.  Because I love him, you know.  Anyhow, enough said.

Okay, so Albuquerque.  First of all, you need to know, the Southwest is a pretty great place.  I have really grown to love it here.  I truly think that anyone can be happy anywhere if they put their mind to it and decide to be thankful.  When I moved here, I had never visited and did not know what I'd think of it.  But I was determined to learn and figure it out.  It's really been a great place.  Growing up in California, I was definitely spoiled with amazing, mild weather, green trees and beautiful landscapes wherever you go.  The weather here isn't extreme but it's cold in the winter and hot in the summer.  It's also very windy.  I never knew there could be such strong wind.  When I say Albuquerque, I know that you all are thinking arid, desolate, high desert.  And in some sense, you're right.  Either that or Breaking Bad...possibly both.  Okay, I get it.  But let me tell you, there is some real beauty here.  The Sandia Mountains are positively MAJESTIC.  That is them off in the distance.
And here is a taste of my morning run.  I love that I live on an Air Force base and I can run super early without feeling unsafe.  Watching the sunrise is one of my favorite things to do!
One of the most amazing things though that I've experienced is the amazing power of people.  I have met some of the most genuine, loving and caring people.  I've never lived out of state.  I've never known a different climate or way of life.  But I have to say, that living here has shown me, that no matter where I go, there will be great people to meet.  There will be others to cross paths with, even for a short time, that will be an encouragement.

Just this last week the two middle kids have been in swim lessons here on base.  That is Joshua and Elliana.  They are having a blast.  Within two days, I'd made friends with these ladies there.  One of them, her husband is a Scientist at the labs and the other, is just visiting Albuquerque (it's home for her) but her husband is a Major in the US Air Force and they live in the Midwest now.  The first friend has had us over to play twice in the last week and the other has gone running with me at the wee hours twice before having to leave to go home.  The military community is like this.  There isn't time to mess around and wait.  People live in the moment and just love each other.  You never know when someone will get orders and have to move away.  

We've had other people take us into their home and feed us when we were new here.  Dropping off food, babysitting our kids and inviting us over to dinner.  We've stayed up late with these people, shared our hearts and laughed HARD!  We don't have a history yet.  But they've loved us deeply simply because we are a part of their community.  I've had other friends I've met from the kids' baseball teams sit on my couches, trying out great skincare, chatting with neighbors and talking about life.  More friends I've met through a boot camp a bunch of us moms have participated in at Hardin Field twice a week.  We're all moving our jiggly bodies, chasing after kids and laughing at how hard it is to do the moves our trainer makes us do (positively evil I tell you...I am a runner...I don't do weights...at least not very often-ha!).  And not only have I met some incredible people but Steve works for the best guys ever.  So often I hear wives say that their husbands really dislike their superiors.  But Steve loves his.  They are so encouraging, patient, kind and hard-working.  They push him to his best.  Both Mentors Steve works with at Sandia Labs have been the BEST.  We thank God so much that He put Steve with those two.  We're so lucky.  All of these things have been precious to me here in Albuquerque.  
Our time here has been brief.  But it's been substantial.  And it's not over yet.  We'll be coming back next year.  It's been substantial for Steve's growth as a Mathematician.  It's been substantial for our family's growth as a family of 7 in the middle of a PhD.  It's been substantial for my growth as a wife.  Believe me, learning how to live on a military base, when you're a civilian is a job in itself.  But it's also been a blast.  We only have 1 month left here.  And even though I am positively ECSTATIC to move to Fort Collins (which is like SLO in the Rockies...my dream place to live), Albuquerque will be missed.  Very missed.

Yes, I've been lost in life here.  But it's been a sweet, sweet time and a time that I will treasure.

Expect more posting from me.  There's too many good stories not to share.  Miss talking with you all.  Catch up soon. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Meant to Be

Life has been clipping along here.  I spend my mornings homeschooling the kids.  Some days I feel like I'm getting better at it, some days I don't.  But over time, we are moving forward and getting better!  The kids are definitely learning and advancing.  I just don't want to be cranky while they do so!  We've gotten into some routines too with Steve's work.  Basically, he leaves early in the morning and walks to work and comes home at dinnertime.  Sometimes I drive him when the weather is bad but, most days he walks.  Now he's gotten onto the 9/80 schedule so he works 9 hour days and then gets every other Friday off.  We're really enjoying that!

I feel like we'll get used to life here and then we'll be heading to Colorado.  Surprisingly, I feel okay about it.  I think that God has just given me an abundance of grace through this process.  For the last year that we were at Monte Vista, we knew we were headed somewhere else.  We just didn't know when, how, or where!  But over time, God opened up this way and we've been in awe of everything He's done to provide for our needs.

Something that's been on my mind a lot is the idea of a husband's mission.  The reason for this is that I have been asked more times than I can count, how I could just pick up and move my five kids to New Mexico, homeschool them, and still be smiling.  To be honest, I don't really know.  But I've thought about it a lot because, truly, I am doing well here.  No regrets.  No angst against Steve.  This was a decision we made together and one that God had clearly paved the way for.  But what I think it comes down to is, do I believe in the mission that God has given my husband.  Am I sold out for it?  Not to say that will give me a perfect attitude all the time but, it will surely shape it.

God has created all men with a mission to go out and conquer the world with their own God-given talents.  And there are many different ways to do that.  As a woman in submission to her husband, that means that I am totally sold out for his mission in life, for what God has called him to do.  It may be inconvenient to me sometimes (like moving around a lot for a PhD-ha!) or it may not make sense, but as his wife, I'm called to being cheerfully sold out.  Whatever it takes.

This journey of ours actually has roots back to before we were even married.  When Steve was doing his undergrad at Cal Poly, he entered as an electrical engineer and didn't do super well.  Not because he wasn't smart enough but because he was lacked vision for his life and didn't know how to work hard.  When I met him, he was switching out determined to do something else.  Yet hidden in his heart, he knew he had settled.  And really, that was much worse than just not being able to hang. Anyhow though, through a variety of events, he ended up in Math when we got married, and he graduated with his BS in Mathematics.  Math had always been his passion so this was a better fit for him in the end.

We got pregnant with our oldest, Isaac, we moved up to Watsonville and Steve started his career as a teacher.  We came to Monte Vista with no money, a newborn and a car that had been given to us a few weeks prior due to the fact that our other two cars had been totaled the month before, one in a hit and run and the other on the way to get our rental car the next day-no joke!  So we had nothing.  But Steve started teaching and doing well.  During his first few years he learned how to be a Dad and how to have a successful career.  And we added more children to our family.  They were growing years and prepared us well for the years to come.  When Joshua was a baby and we had been married 7 years, Steve shared his desire to go back to school.  I was pretty hesitant at first but, he took some exams, did really well, and so he applied.  He was accepted.  Thus began our journey with A & M.

When Steve started his Masters at Texas A & M, I had no idea what it was going to entail- or what would happen.  But I knew this-I knew that he needed me to believe in him if he was going to succeed.  I knew that his success would hang on my attitude, my utter belief and my respect.  He had regrets of not living up to his God-given potential from his younger years.  He felt like he had wasted his chance.  As time wore on, this feeling only got stronger, and this lit a fire in him that fueled his amazing success in his Masters.    

So Texas A & M was a glorious second chance.  And one that he took very seriously.  As he steadily worked away at his studies, he did well.  Extremely well.  For three and a half years.  Every Saturday.  And many nights during the week.  Always studying and always looking forward.  And always at his back was the idea that he was going to do this right no matter what it took.  He never wavered.  He just drove on, steadily, with courage and with unending fight.  As I watched him working, I was inspired to do everything possible to help him succeed.  He was studying hard and I was supporting hard.  That was my job.  I didn't start out totally sold out for him being in school.  I truly didn't know how it would go and there were a lot of things going on in my life.  I was a busy mom at the time.  We had three kids when he started.  I got pregnant with our fourth soon after.  The fifth came in his last year.  Both were born during finals.  And he worked full-time too!  Not only that but the program was expensive.  We had to sacrifice big time in order to pay for it.  And I started a business to help with expenses (which ended up being one of my greatest accomplishments so far and blessed me far more than it blessed us financially).  But I knew he needed this.  And because he needed it, I needed to do it.  Because I loved him more than anyone or anything.  Because I loved him!

This realization came early.  And I'm thankful to God for that.  It was all His strength and courage that got me through those years.  But as I put my head down and believed in him, he was free to fly and rose to the challenge.  I watched him transform before my very eyes.  He grew much more confident.  And in turn, he worked even harder, earning the best grades of his life, in much harder classes than he ever took at Cal Poly, while still excelling at his day job as a Math/Physics teacher, not to mention being an excellent husband and father.  What amazed me was watching him start to believe he could do it.  And over time, what started as a second chance, grew into a bridge to a career he only dreamed he could have.

I can't tell you how many times he's told me he wishes he could go back and tell himself that he would care one day.  Yet we've also talked over and over about how the path he took wasn't a mistake.  Because God writes our stories.  And He is all about redemption.  Without it, how can we have any hope?  God is about redeeming our missteps and making them beautiful.  So this path, this round-about way to being in a field that is home to him, none of it is a mistake.  And really, he enjoyed his years as a teacher.  We raised our kids at an amazing school, made lifelong friends and grew so much as Christians and in our marriage.  Monte Vista allowed us the freedom to have this second chance by providing the stability we needed to do his Masters.  Without the eight and a half years at Monte Vista, we wouldn't be here.  It's still hard to think about regrets and not wish you'd made better choices.  But even in our regrets, God redeems...and He not only redeems, He makes it beautiful.  Utterly beautiful....providing blessings that are totally undeserved.

There's a song that has meant so much to me during Steve's Masters and since then, when this whole plan for him to get his PhD started to unfold.  It's called Meant to Be, by Steven Curtis Chapman.  It was actually written for a Veggie Tales that was a kids' take on It's a Wonderful Life-a story written about a man who had wished his life had taken a different turn.  I listened to it over and over again during those weeks as all the correspondence about Colorado State University was flying around, when he was accepted to the PhD program, and the offers from Sandia National Labs were coming through.  And every time I heard it, I would cry.  Because being here is better than anything we EVER could have dreamed up.  EVER!  We miss our family, our church and our community but we are so thankful to be here, we keep pinching ourselves.

Steve has the amazing opportunity to work at a prestigious national lab learning from the smartest minds in the country.  The mentor he has is so kind, encouraging and brilliant.  Steve really respects him and is so happy working for him.  And there are constant opportunities for him to be exposed to all sorts of amazing mathematical/scientific fascinating things. For example, recently, the director of NASA's Curiosity project (current mission to Mars) came and presented at the lab.  It was mind-blowing and so incredibly interesting.  Steve came home saying, "How am I here?  Really, how am I here?"   And that's just the lab.  The whole reason he's even here is for his PhD.  And his PhD is being funded through various facets from the lab to his advisor and we're able to live, even though he's in back in school, and this time, full-time.  And lastly this opportunity that God has blessed us with carries its own sense of beautiful irony because the work Steve's doing now for Sandia Labs is ALL electrical engineering research and its mathematical applications.  Beauty from ashes.  Home.  

 The other night we were in the office.  Steve  had just finished listening to a lecture.  There's a certain kind of math that is used a lot in the work he's doing and he hasn't had a class in this area in a little while so he is putting in some extra time at home to brush up.  He looked up some lectures online and found a professor from Stanford who is amazing!  What's even more amazing is that it's free!!  So anyway, most nights after dinner he's been heading upstairs and listening to a lecture before the kids go to bed.  Afterward, we were chatting and I happened to glance up and see his Texas A & M diploma that sits above our computer.  I looked at him and told him quite emphatically, "You know, it says your name on that diploma and I'm fine with that.  But I know that it's as much mine as it is yours."  And then Steve smiled and said, "It's ours.  We did that together."  It's our legacy.  Our story.

And that way wasn't a mistake.  This is the path God put us on.  And I have faith that as God continues to write our story, that we'll look back on these PhD years like we look back on A & M, with awe, utmost respect for God's plan and a trust in His provision.    

It's been a round-about way, but God has accomplished His purpose, in our marriage, in our family and in our individual lives.  This is how it was meant to be.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Homeschooling Update

So we've been quite busy around these parts!  But I am happy to report that all has gone back to normal on the playground.  The little girl has gone back out to play with my boys and there have not been any more issues.  We are a thankful bunch over here!

I'm going to post more about this on another post but, in addition to learning to homeschool, like I mentioned in my last post, I am trying to learn as much as I can about Rodan + Fields skincare.  I have two goals with this business-my first one is outrageous but possible.  I want to be able to earn enough to pay our rent in Albuquerque while we are in Colorado so that we can keep our house on the air force base. 

There are many reasons for this.  One is that it will simplify our moving so much.  It is such hard work to move!  Right after we got here, we started thinking about how we could keep this house.  We have to be able to store our stuff somewhere.  And since we'll be coming back to New Mexico within nine months, it'd be so nice to just take a few things to CO and then come back to an already unpacked house.  But there are also practical reasons for it too.  The reason we've been able to get on base in the first place is because occupancy dropped below 95%.  But if occupancy is back up, we will not have this option anymore.  We'd have to buy Steve a car, and live further away.  So that is another big reason to keep this house.  But we're not sure we can afford it. 

Anyhow, my next big, HUGE goal is to earn enough to pay rent and also to put the kids back in school next year.  Tuition is expensive and even though we'll be applying for scholarships, we'll still have to pay-we have four kids eligible for school next year.  And we don't expect a free ride.  We'll be living in smaller quarters in Colorado and it will be more difficult to have the kids around each other all day in such a small living area.  Plus it snows all winter so they'll be stuck inside a lot!  But it is doable.  And if we have to, we'll do it and be thankful.  So those are my goals.  Keeping our house here and putting the kids in Christian school are extras but it'd still be really nice! 

I am working on building up my business as much as I can before we go to Colorado!  If any of you are interested in Rodan + Fields products or the business opportunity, let me know!  Leave a comment or find me on facebook.  I'd love to talk to you about it!  The products are amazing.  My skin looks-wow!  I've not ever seen it look so radiant.  I'll probably be doing some giveaways on my blog too.  Don't worry, this blog won't turn into a Rodan + Fields blog, but I'm just putting it out there to anyone who is interested and who'd like to help support us while we are in grad school full-time!  It's a fun way to do it!

Now on to homeschooling.  We have just finished three weeks of homeschooling.  Yes, we've survived.  The first day was tough.  I'm not going to lie, I cried.  I cried for what my kids gave up for us to come here.  I cried for what I couldn't provide for them (like all the extra crafts, fun projects, etc...) in the day to day interactions we have at home.  (Yes, I can do those things but, since we are in upheaval right now having just moved, I have to keep things simple).  But after a pretty frank talk with Steve that night, I turned my attitude around a bit and tried to focus on the positive things that they are gaining by being at home with me.  And believe me, there are many!  This homeschooling adventure is temporary for our family.  We would like our kids to be in school.  But for now, this is what God has provided.  We are at a nomadic point in our lives and our kids need the stability of their studies coming from their parents.  And there aren't the right Christian schooling options out there anyway for us at this point.  So this is where we are. 

There are many good things though that I have seen in the last three weeks.  Here are just a few.  First, my kids are becoming quite tight.  When you're around each other all day, there is fighting.  However, there is also a lot of playing together and they are actually doing really well with it.  It's always been hard for me to integrate Josh with the older two boys.  That problem is becoming much less as time goes on.  Sometimes they need a break, but really, they have grown much closer in the past month since we moved and I am thankful. 

Secondly, I am becoming closer to them.  I see them all the time.  I get to tell them how much I like them and enjoy them throughout the day.  I feel like my relationship with my kids has grown and that's simply because I have more time to look them in the eyes each day.  I know it's not going to be like that forever.  And really, I want them to go out into the world and be independent.  But I am going to enjoy this time I get with them.  I really love being with them!

Lastly, I've been able to adjust their studies to their abilities.  They came from a great school that has prepped them so well in all their subjects.  However, our family is a math/science saturated family.  It is in their blood and they are surrounded by it all the time.  For example-the other night, at the dinner table, there was a huge debate as to who was the better scientist-Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein?  I said Newton by the way.  Yet, that's just our family culture.  A few of my kids needed to be pushed much more in those areas.  One in particular has taken off and I knew he would.  He's nipping at his big brother's heels in math.  So it's been fun for me to challenge them and introduce them to math that is hard for them! 

The actual schooling part isn't hard for me.  The grammar, math, handwriting, cursive, phonics, Bible, etc...it's the juggling the four older kids with Nathan running around.  I'm still trying to figure that part out.  Having a positive outlook on this whole area of our transition has really helped.  I definitely need a rest from them on weekends because I am around them 24-7 now and hardly get quiet.  But I am learning to get better in that area too.  I'm adjusting.  God is being faithful to me.  And I'm enjoying the ride.

Fridays are fun days and also prize days.  One thing that has helped is that I've run things much like their old school so they are used to what is going on.  Prize day was a huge motivator for my third son especially at St. Abe's.  It's proved to keep him in line at home too.  This past Friday we found the Arts and Crafts Center on base and they kids got to paint pottery and then have it fired for them.  They loved that!  We've been to the zoo and to our local children's math/science discovery museum called Explora.  Instead of Christmas gifts this year, since we were moving, we asked for passes to these places.  So fun!  And we have the flexibility to go do these things on our own time. 

We're going to make it.  It's not been a perfect transition but I see God's hand and I'm thankful.  Always thankful.