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 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 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,'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.   


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Erroring on the Side of Grace

So we are getting used to a new life here.  There are many wonderful things, some okay things and some difficult things.  Such is the stuff of uprooting and committing to a nomadic life of grad school with five children in tow!  I am also learning how to homeschool which is a huge job in itself, especially because I want to do a good job!  I am also starting my own business with Rodan + Fields skincare.  Basically, the doctors who created ProActive also started another skincare line that has been taking off.  It's been all over Hollywood, The Today Show, Oprah, etc...A lot of people are really getting into it because the products actually work.  I'm just excited to get in with this company and start helping people get better skin!  I've talked with numerous moms whose children have extreme eczema to other women who just want to take care of their neverending acne.  Anyhow, trying to get that off the ground has definitely taken up some time too.  Not to mention my children, they pretty much take 98 percent of my time.  But we are adjusting and learning to thrive here in the high desert!

One thing that has really stood out to me is that we are in a different place.  You might say, "Duh!".  No but seriously, on the outside things don't look all that different.  But the longer we're here in our neighborhood, the more I understand that we are in a different place all together.  We are not living among friends anymore like we were at Monte Vista.  We are living among strangers who do not necessarily care about us or our kids.

Here is my most recent example:  There is a playground in our backyard.  Our house happens to be the closest house to it.  That's been nice.  I've been able to send the kids out to play and lots of neighbor kids go out there as well.  For the most part, our kids have gotten along swimmingly with all the other kids.  There have been a few things we've had to talk through (like today Josh asked me if God was really real because a girl on the playground had told him that He wasn't).  There have been things like that that come with other kids being raised differently than mine.

Today I was reminded though about how many opportunities I will have to show grace.  One of the biggest lessons I learned from our old church community was the absolute importance of seeking reconciliation, getting clear and asking forgiveness.  It goes a long way.  And God commands it.  Direct application to my life right now.  When we first moved here there was a little girl who I immediately knew was trouble.  Some of the stuff my boys were reporting to us after playing tipped me off that she was one I needed to watch.  They weren't always angels to her either but, like we try to practice in our family, when they did something unkind, no matter how small, they had to seek reconciliation with her even though many times, she was the instigator.  It didn't matter to me, they had to do what's right no matter what.

On one occasion this past week I went out to tell my boys they had five minutes to play.  Without knowing it, I walked into a bit of an argument between my oldest (who is seriously the sweetest so the fact that he was upset was alarming) and this girl.  He was insisting she stop calling them names and she was denying it like she had never done anything of the sort and had NO clue what he was talking about.  Super suspicious.  However, like any mom would do, I tried to help them sort it out.  And I made sure Isaac asked forgiveness for his tone and she accepted.  She of course didn't care to make things right herself.  I mentioned for everyone to show each other respect and then let them play.

After that, things got weird.  This girl started telling all the kids she couldn't play with mine because they were mean, and my boys started getting really hurt.  Everytime they would come out to play, she would run away and mention loudly how she wasn't allowed around them, etc...This was a new experience for me.  My kids normally get along with everyone.  Finally, Steve and I felt it was time to intervene.  So Steve went over to talk with the parents.  And it came out that they were highly offended that I had talked to their daughter about anything.  I should've received permission from them before speaking to her about being nice.  Really I was just generally speaking to all the kids and really tried to lean on my kids, being much harder on them and really light with her, mostly trying to just clear the air.  But it was too much for them.  I had acted inappropriately and that's why they had pulled their daughter from play with our kids.

When Steve came home and told me the root of the problem I wanted to be furious.  I did.  How incredibly insane.  Who thinks like that?  But he quickly reminded me that we don't know their story.  We had offended them and we had to do what we could to make it right.  After a few minutes of gathering my wits, we walked hand in hand over to their house and I apologized.  Not because they deserved it but because God's grace had to cover this one.  God's grace had to.  It was too insane.  Too crazy for me to understand.  But I had to get clear.  I had to seek forgiveness.  It's what God tells us to do.  Be at peace.

It was so difficult to make that walk over there.  I wanted to fight and tell God how unjust it was!  But deep down I knew.  I knew that I can never go wrong when I seek to get clear.  That's a valuable lesson I've learned over time.  Forgiveness diffuses things.  I haven't always done it right in the past.  But I know now, repentance is what God calls us to no matter how difficult and even when others are ridiculous.

I could tell that they were disarmed immediately.  I mean, how do you argue with that?  How do you keep hating when someone just comes over and says, "Wow, I am so sorry I offended you.  That wasn't my intention.  If you'd like me to come talk to you instead of speaking to your daughter about anything, then I will respect that.  Please forgive me!"  You can't argue with it.  God's grace is so powerful!  I have no idea if they will come around and let their daughter play with our kids.  Or if they'll be cordial with us or even like us at all.  But I do know, we've done our part.  And hopefully, they will see the One who is behind it all-Christ.  Because repentance is so counter-cultural.  God will use it.

I may be out of our my safe little Monte Vista bubble now here.  But I'm going to learn a lot and hopefully, those around me will experience God's grace.  I know I need it.  And so do they.

But most of all, I'm thankful for the neighborhood we had surrounding us for so long and for our church that lived in community with others in such a way that reflected this transparency.  These lessons will follow me the rest of my days.  I won't always like their application, but I will think with fondness on those who really taught me about this and I will thank God for the opportunities to grow and learn.

Erroring on the side of grace is always the way to matter what.  No matter what.    

Monday, January 20, 2014

The rest of the story...

I can't tell you how many times we've been asked since arriving here, "Why on earth would you move from California to New Mexico?"  Well, my friends, this is the reason why.  Here is our Christmas Card letter from this year detailing the ins and outs of why we picked up and moved to an unknown place at Christmastime.  The rest of the story...
Merry Christmas!  Instead of giving individual details about each of us, we're going to give a general update due to the fact that our general update is quite a big one!  No, we are not expecting another baby!  The main news round these parts is that we are moving and Steve is changing careers.  After eight and a half years of Steve teaching Calculus and Physics at Monte Vista Christian School, we are packing up mid-year (right at Christmastime to be exact) to go on a new adventure.  So as you can imagine, we have boxes everywhere, our kitchen cupboards are bare and all the toys aren't under the tree but rather packed in boxes.  

Nevertheless, amidst the chaos we are living in right now, we have our Christmas tree up and bright, and the Advent Calendar on the wall.  Both are timeless reminders to us to focus on Christ as much as we can during this season, trusting Him to provide for all our needs.

So why are we moving and where are we moving to?  Here is the story.  As you all know, Steve has been pursuing his MS in Computational Mathematics via Texas A & M's distance program.  It took 3 1/2 years of him working full-time and going to school on the side.  It was a long trek for us but good in so many ways!  We both worked very hard; Steve at his studies and me in my support of him.  God blessed our efforts and granted Steve success in his work.  He graduated in May, Magna Cum Laude.

During the last year and a half of his Masters, Steve began to feel pretty heavily pulled to switch out of teaching and into the industry.  We began preparing him to do so which consisted of him taking an extra engineering exam, lots of networking and researching various industry jobs.  Last December he even interviewed with the Navy and we thought that might be our answer!  One Friday he got the email, and the next week they were flying him out to Virginia.  But then the Sequester hit and he ended up not being hired.  Now we are thankful that God intervened.  But at the time, we were devastated.  Trying to switch careers with five little people to feed is not easy.  Everything had to make sense and work.

So we prayed.  We prayed that God would lead us and guide us.  And then we started sending out applications.  Meanwhile, Steve began his last class for his MS and commenced working on his Final Oral Examination (Oral Thesis Project) to be defended in May.  He chose to research James Maxwell's Equations of Electromagnetism because he had always been fascinated by the material.  Throughout the semester we were waiting for some sort of break.  He had excellent skills, a great new degree coming and awesome transcripts.  However, he had no practical experience.  Many of his applications were rejected.  We were networking and narrowing down what we were looking for but just needed someone to take a chance on him. 

In April we got in contact with a friend of my Dad's who is a Physicist.  Steve had a brief conversation with him and he told Steve to email his colleague who headed up a research group right in our backyard in Monterey.  When we looked up the group, we were shocked to see that their whole area of research is in electromagnetic waves which was directly related to Steve's research for his Final Oral Exam.  We quickly emailed this contact and he responded that he might have room for Steve to intern if they ended up with some funding.  But due to the Sequester, he did not think it would happen.  He promised to be in touch.

Steve graduated in May.  We threw him a huge party and he started teaching summer school.  We got in touch with the group in Monterey again but there was no change.  That's when we began thinking.  Steve needed experience for his resume.  He was already teaching summer school and then would have six weeks off.  He could go work for free.  We didn't need the money, Steve just needed experience.  So we put it out there to them and they accepted!  In fact, they had the perfect short project for him to work on that had been in need of a mathematician.

After summer school ended, Steve started going down to Monterey to work on the problem.  Every day he came back pumped.  Little by little he was learning the ins and outs of this problem and by the end of his time there, he had solved it for them.  It had not previously been solved.  But that's not the end! While he was working there, they landed a huge contract and ended up paying Steve for the whole internship!  Working with this group had also confirmed his desire to do research.  But research meant a PhD and we had just finished 3.5 arduous years of him doing his Masters.  Steve wasn't burnt on the material just on working full-time and doing school (all of us were).  At the end of his internship though, his boss encouraged him to finish his degree and told him he would help him.
And he did not disappoint!  Right as Steve was starting the new school year at Monte Vista, his summer boss started advocating for him with his colleagues.  He got in touch with a Math Professor at Colorado State University telling her about Steve and his work over the summer, and how she should be interested in him as a student.  She immediately started working on getting Steve admitted to the PhD program for Spring 2014 (it was past the deadline already).  Then she sent off his resume/transcripts to Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque.  Her contact there said they were just starting to look for some Year Round PhD interns and thought Steve would be a perfect fit.  They wanted him to start in January. 

Meanwhile, the runaway train had taken on a life of its own.  It was not a path that we had foreseen nor thought possible.  In fact, we had talked about a PhD numerous times since the Masters had gone so well, but simply thought it impossible to support our family financially during it!  But God paved the way for every single step, mounting every obstacle and leveling the road.  Steve and I stood back and watched this marvelous story unfold before our eyes and we were in awe.  Everyone was fighting for him, connecting him, helping him and advocating for him.  In early October, we found out Steve was formally admitted to Colorado State for the Spring.  A few weeks later, his advisor (the Math Professor) came out to Stanford for a conference and he met her there for the first time.  The rest is history. 

Steve's PhD will take 3.5 years.  The first eight months we will live in Albuquerque on Kirtland Air Force Base.  Steve will work for Sandia Labs and get a grip on the area he will be researching for his dissertation.  Then we will move to Colorado and we will spend a year living in residence with Steve taking classes at Colorado State.  Since his Masters program was so comprehensive, he only needs one year of coursework, as many courses count toward his PhD and Qualifying Exams.  We are thankful!  After that, we will move back to Albuquerque for Steve to continue working for Sandia National Labs and also to finish his dissertation.  Our stay in Albuquerque the second time will be at least two years.
There you have it, in case you missed it!  That's what we're doing and how we got here.  More about our move on base to come.  Base living is quite an adventure!  But we are thankful for our home and know God has put us here for this time.

Much love to you all!  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

We Are Here!

It's been over two months since I've posted.  So sorry!  And I have tons of pictures on my camera of our adventures that won't upload to the computer for some reason so I don't have any pictures for this post!  So sorry again!  Anyhow, for the last two months I've spent every waking extra moment packing our home and prepping for our out-of-state move.  There were many unknowns all the way up until the last minute.  Seriously.  We thought we knew what was going to happen but truly, until two weeks prior, we weren't even for sure what state we were moving to.

I know this can be confusing because I never finished the story.  I got distracted with packing boxes.  I think at this point it'd be difficult to drag you all through it.  But for clarity's sake, I will post the story from our Christmas card this year for my next post.  That will get some of you up to speed.  If you care to know how we got to this point, tune in next time for an abbreviated version.

But we are here now and boy has it been quite a trip!  Imagine piling 5 little kids into a Honda Pilot ages 1-8 years old and driving all the way to New Mexico-with NO DVD player thank you very much.  They did just fine.  We looked for license plates, counted trains (36 total seen) and the kids colored and read.  Nathan had a tough time sometimes but he's a baby.  He's allowed.

We started out by just going to LA for New Year's.  That was a lot of fun.  We got to stay with our some of our best college buddies and their family.  They spoiled us with good food, great conversation and an easy in and out set-up.  We hardly had to unpack our car they had everything set-up perfectly for us there.  Leaving from there helped.  They prayed for us and reminded us they believed in us.  It was a great way to leave CA.

After realizing two days prior on our way to LA that Nathan does NOT like the car for very long at all, we decided that our all day trip to from LA to New Mexico had to be strategic.  So we planned to hit the road early.  We were on the freeway after filling up at 5:30 am.  That made a huge difference.  We were able to get to Flagstaff, AZ by lunchtime only stopping once for gas in the Mojave Desert.  Then all three littler ones fell asleep.  The older two in the back played games.  It was a quiet afternoon when we crossed the border into New Mexico.  After that, we raced the sun to Albuquerque.  We made it to the city by dinnertime.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

One of the themes of this last week is God's faithfulness in our weakness and our need to follow His lead.  Our plan was to arrive Thursday night, stay in a hotel and then move onto Kirtland Air Force Base the next day.  However, when we were only 200 miles out of Albuquerque, I happened to check my email and the housing office had emailed that morning that they had to delay our move-in due to the carpets needing to be replaced.  They had known we were moving in for a month and they didn't figure this out yet?!  We weren't pleased at all.  Now instead of moving in we were going to be stuck in a hotel for four nights!  Who was going to pay for that?  We tried to regroup and then just had to let go.  God had this.  There were reasons for this delay.  We just couldn't see them yet.

Our leasing agent knew that they had totally inconvenienced us so she offered to put us up until our house was ready.  So the hotel was paid for.  All we had to do was wait it out...all seven of us, in a hotel room.  Ha!  But truly, we picked a good place that had two rooms, a kitchen and a free breakfast.  It was small for sure, but it would be doable for a few days.  I tried to be cheerful as I set-up camp.

My cheerfulness started to wane a bit as I heard my poor husband up in the night sick.  As the night went on, he was more and more sick.  He had a horrible headache, was sick to his stomach and just felt terrible.  We think he was altitude sick (we had just moved from sea level to 5500 feet) because none of the rest of us got the same sickness.  On the one hand, I was thankful we weren't moving the next day!  On the other hand, I knew it was me, myself and I, with the kids, in a very strange city that I had only just seen that night (we had never visited Albuquerque prior to moving)!  I had to get the kids out the next morning to do something so Steve could rest and get better.  I wanted to panic!!  Where would we go in this huge city?  However, God calmed my heart.  I made plans in the middle of the night to get groceries and some needed supplies.  No time to be intimidated.  It was go-time.

Armed with Siri and God's mercy, the kids and I went out exploring the next morning.  We found my happy place-Trader Joe's and suddenly, things felt a bit more familiar.  I began mapping out some plans in my mind about where kids would nap for the next few days, how/where we'd get our meals taken care of and basically tried to re-plan our entire upcoming weekend now that Daddy was sick and we weren't moving in.  God's strength welled up in me and I felt hope that He was there.  I knew it.  I knew that He knew and I saw right away that our move-in delay was all a part of His plan.  As I saw that, I began to relax.

Steve was sick all of Friday and a lot of Saturday.  Saturday morning he came out to the Aquarium with us for two hours or so.  We had just gotten passes from grandparents for Christmas.  After that he went back to bed.  But he was slowly getting better.  In the meantime, the kids played lots of cards, colored, we went out for errands and made some meals at the hotel.  The kids weren't sleeping well at night but, all in all, things were going as smoothly as they could under the circumstances.  God was taking care of us at every turn.

By Saturday night Steve felt better.  He had been researching some local churches in the area and we narrowed it down to two.  We picked one over the other because they encouraged families to bring their kids into service with them.  Any church that values children sitting with their parents really stands out to us so we decided to go there.  We were so glad we did!

This church immediately welcomed us.  Of course we were noticed right away.  Wherever we go with our five kids we're noticed.  This time being a spectacle came in handy!  Everyone asked us what we needed and within a short time, we had identified a few people that worked at Sandia (where Steve will be interning) and a family that lived on Kirtland Air Force base (where we are living).  One of them offered to help us with whatever we needed when we arrived on base the next day!  We were so thankful!  The delay in our move-in had allowed us to meet some people and connect with a church.  That ended up being key to our move on base.

But I'll get to that next time.  That's a story in itself.  What we had seen at this point is that despite our own plans, God would determine our steps and care for us in the best way.  We just had to trust Him.  We made it to New Mexico and we were in His hands.  He'd provide for everything else.