Grace

What I know now….

It was a little over 5 years ago I entered into the classroom for the first time. It’s crazy to think it was that long ago, yet, it seems like yesterday. Nick and I had just moved to Sugar Land, I was coaching a 10U select team with a seasoned and wise softball coach, and I had decided I would also help with the high school softball team when it came time.

At this point, Nick and I had barely been married a year; he transferred to a new city he had never lived in before and honestly he didn’t like it. I had already dealt with 3 deaths of people close in my life in the first 6 months of our marriage. We had bought our first house so we were also navigating new home ownership for the first time in the midst of all these changes. It was fun and hard. I was working over 70 hours a week trying to be the best teacher I could be and gone for the weekends with a traveling select softball team. Needless to say, I was busy. Nick decided to look for a new job 6 weeks after his transfer down with Chase Bank. Nothing really seemed ideal at this point. Our marriage was strained but at least we had each other.

Then, in the midst of it all, the following January,  Nick and I made the decision to take in his mother who needed our help. She was in really poor health, at the time, and we knew it was the right thing to do – no matter the timing. She has Parkinson’s and, at the time, she had this diagnosis for 10+ years but the condition of her health 5 years ago made it apparent that we needed to help, get her to see the best doctors we could in Houston and try to keep her alive. It was a really scary situation for everyone and not a very easy transition. Overall, we made it work and now she is in much better overall health. For the last year or so, she has lived on her own outside of Dallas. We couldn’t be more happy about her progress.

But this isn’t what my blog is about, really.

During all of this, at my job at a Christian school, I kept hearing this word: GRACE. I heard it a lot. I heard it a lot in terms of my teaching. You see, I am a tough teacher (or I was). But what I had a hard time understanding back then was how to get the kids to be motivated. What I really mean…. is I didn’t know how any student couldn’t love school as much as I did. BIG WAKE UP CALL.

My first year was R-O-U-G-H. I learned I’m the 10% of students that actually did what the teacher said as far as homework, studying, reading, etc. Now, I wasn’t the brightest student but I worked my ass off in school. I had a hard time motivating those students who weren’t like me as a student. I was young and so that presented another issue of authority – I was rigid and unwavering. The principal at the time was hard on me – really hard on me. I think he knew I was good but also knew I had a LOT to learn. So GRACE kept popping up in our conversations. I think by the end of that year I would have vomited if I had heard that word one. more. time. GRACE.

A few days ago I was driving the boys home from “Donut Friday” and I thought about all this. I laughed because ironically our daughter’s middle name is GRACE and I laughed at how fitting it feels to us to name her that. Because guys, 3 kids under 3! We will need the GRACE we can get. I realized in the car how I really didn’t understand the word, GRACE, at all until I had the boys. I was virtually screamed at until blue in the face my first couple of years of teaching about giving GRACE and it fell on deaf ears, again and again and again. To me, it was an excuse. A scapegoat. Instead of holding students accountable for their actions…. we needed to give them GRACE. I’m not going to lie, there were times where actions and consequences didn’t match up in certain situations and I vehemently disagreed with some decisions regarding GRACE being given but nonetheless I still didn’t fully “get it”.

I don’t know why it took until having my own children but somehow something clicked. I realized in that moment in the car that the reason I couldn’t understand GRACE back then is because I was trying to protect myself from feeling vulnerable. Seriously. I mean if you look at the snip-it of our lives the first year and a half of our marriage, it was insane. Nick and I went through a TON and honestly, we felt alone as a couple. Not many people our age were dealing with as many elements of life at once and so it was hard to relate to anyone. So, I really don’t blame myself for guarding myself like that but it was a HUGE factor in how my life has shaken out in the last few years.

Then, we had the boys and we are 8 days away from having this little girl and it clicks. I haven’t taught a full year of school in 2 school years (though I have started the last 2) and I finally get it. I get WHY I had a hard time giving GRACE when I walked through those doors over 5 years ago. LIGHT BULB MOMENT. 

I couldn’t give GRACE to them because I couldn’t give it to myself. 

Wow. What a heart stopping moment at 38 weeks pregnant with your 3rd child and your beautiful boys behind you. If you know me, you probably aren’t surprised. I am my biggest critic – TO A FAULT.

But how could I have given something to someone else that I didn’t experience to myself for myself? I couldn’t. There was no way.

How did having kids do change this for me? They show me it every day. Every day they give me GRACE. Every. Single. Day. Every day I feel it. I see it. I live it. I’m not perfect and pregnant me is FAR from perfect. But my boys (including my husband) love me through it anyway. They show me every day through their actions, their kisses and hugs at bedtime, when they help clean up their toys and even when they just want to snuggle.

They forgive me daily from my faults. They show me GRACE. And I will forever be grateful for that gift. Because when I step back into that classroom one day, I won’t be the same. I will still be tough but I can give something else (and probably more) to them that I have finally experienced from being a mother.

 

It’s the toughest job I’ll always love.

 

Rachel

“Sisters, sisters….

…..nothing can come between sisters”

I am the oldest of 4 kids in our family. I have one sister, who is 16 months younger than me and then 2 younger brothers (4 years and 8 years younger respectively). I always wanted an older brother but that’s just not how life worked for me. Instead my parents brought home this sister. 

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One of my favorites of us

My boys are about to have a sister in about 4 months (I still can’t believe it) and there is just something about having a sister that is the most frustrating, at times, explosive, and most wonderful experience I have had in my life. I hope the boys feel the same with maybe a little less explosiveness but let’s be real, she will have TWO older TWIN brothers almost just like her daddy. I couldn’t be more excited her and nervous for them. Ha ha!

The explosiveness. When I think about growing up with my sister, I think about her stealing my clothes and being a BRAT. Seriously. I would have to label my clothes to get her to stop taking them. I would get so mad. And she still took them. 😦 Why did it matter so much? Well, I’m sure it’s all about territorial things when you are growing up, right? I wasn’t the only one dealing with this I am sure. I’m also sure I was a brat too but this is my version of the story, right? 😉 Then when things really got crazy between us, my dad would sing us the song from White Christmas Sisters (Check it out here if you don’t know the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trD3Kqf-g0w). Man, that would really get our blood boiling! But I guess it would get us to stop for that moment. So parental mission accomplished.

Did I mention she always ALWAYS got away with everything too? I mean life couldn’t get more unfair! Maybe she was just better at lying and hiding what she was REALLY up to – I have no idea but she seemed to NEVER get caught. Me, on the other hand, ALWAYS got caught. I was ALWAYS told I needed to be a good example. Totally UNFAIR. I mean she had younger brothers too!

I don’t think there could be two people living in the same house that were SO OPPOSITE from one another. She was into architecture and modern looks. I am more into history and traditional looks – we still are today. I mean, when it came to almost anything, we had a different outlook on everything. I’m sure our parents were so exhausted from dealing with us by the time my brothers came along – I don’t blame them. They’re probably still recovering. 😉 

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She still makes this face now.

Anyway, as we got older and I mean, out of college, things were better between us – not great but better. I guess the whole growing up thing really helps. Plus, I was living in Dallas and she was finishing up her Masters with Texas Tech while living at home. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? 🙂 She was very helpful when it came to planning our wedding festivities and she was so supportive! To be honest, I was a little surprised, at the time, at how she listened to what I wanted and she was there for everything. It was really neat and memories I’ll keep forever.

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At one of my bridal showers

But really our relationship took the next level of understanding was when I was finally pregnant with the boys. I say finally because that wasn’t an easy process (we will get to that later in this blogging journey). In the weeks leading up to the boys being born, she changed. She grew up. My little sister literally grew before my eyes. I don’t know if that really happened and maybe I was the one who really changed but I saw HER for the first time. I understood her for the first time. We were really friends for the first time in our lives. The sister thing clicked with us and it was magical. 

In the photo to the right, I was doing my usual thing laying on the couch (I was so incredibly pregnant and miserable) and she wanted to take a picture of her with her nephews – so sweet. I had no idea that when the boys were born, next to my husband, she would be the rock in all of our lives. 

The boys were born at 34 weeks and lived in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for 15 days at Memorial Hermann Medical Center (again, another part of the story that we will definitely talk about later on). While we were there, I’m pretty sure she came every day – the days run together when you are in the NICU so I have a hard time remembering exactly. Lucky for us, she worked in the Houston Medical Center so visiting was easy for her and it was helpful for me to have another adult there just to get my mind off the babies (well, as best as anyone could) and pumping and all the healing that needs to happen after a c-section.

These pictures were taken early on in our stay at the hospital. Some of these memories make me laugh because she was SO AWKWARD holding them and trying to feed them. Now, to be fair, the boys were very tiny so everyone had to learn how to hold them a little differently. So not only had I watched my sister grow up, I was watching her become an aunt and hopefully one day training her to be a mommy. It was beyond the neatest experience and I know when this little girl comes, she will have a better handle on her (I hope). I hope we all will. 🙂

We came home from the hospital and my sister, with the help of my family, had cleaned and rearranged everything to help us transition better. In the days after the hospital, she continued her aunt journey with us. She lives in the Heights so it’s not exactly around the corner. But whenever she made it to Sugar Land, she would stop by. This was the best time because I got a break and the boys learned who she was and to this day, she almost makes weekly trips to see us. 

In January 2016, she became the godmother to Andrew when the boys were baptized. In March, she treated Nick and I to the rodeo for my birthday – a much needed night out. By April, she was on our first flight with the boys to Ohio to see family! I mean, pretty much when we need her to be there for us – she is and usually without a complaint (except for missing some sleep 😉 ).

When she transitioned jobs over the summer of 2016, she spent the time off she had with her nephews (me too, but let’s just be honest about who she really wanted to see). We went to the Houston Zoo and the Fort Bend Discovery Center and we probably did others things I can’t remember. It was so fun and I loved the fact she wanted to spend time with us when she could have done a million other things. Her aunt-y heart is so big – I know she will have room for more. 🙂

On July 11, 1989, my sister, Rene Louise Hoelker was born and I had no idea how she would rock my world but I’m glad she did. I didn’t know that when my parents brought home this little sister of mine that we would grow to have this special relationship. I truly believe all those fights (yes, even some physical ones) and all the misunderstandings brought us to this point of friendship. This sisterly friendship is one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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Rene’s Graduation from St. Agnes Academy May 2007

“Lord help the mister that come between me and my sister
And Lord help the sister that come between me and my man”  — Sisters, Bette Midler

Here’s to everything in between,

Rachel

So, who are we?

Background into us….

The journey into who we are is a LONG one. I’ll start with college. To go back any further would be way too long. But don’t worry, I’m sure my life will come out in pieces as we continue our journey together.

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This is me in 2007. These pictures were taken almost 10 years ago to the day!
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This is Nick in 2007. We met on a bus ride to Illinois.
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Baseball and Softball rode ONE BUS 18 hours! Why? Don’t ask me.

I met my husband, Nick, in college at the University of Dallas. He was on his 4th college following his dream to play baseball and he was the cutest, most rough around the edges type guy. I was there being my studious self and playing softball. Do I believe it was love at first sight? Not really. At least, not for him. 😉 Nick left UD after a year and off to LeTourneau University where he finished college and baseball. Fast forward to my last year of college when we FINALLY dated and had TONS OF FUN. One year later we were engaged and the year after that we were married on September 3rd 2011. I would say “Well, the rest is history.” Isn’t that what people say right about now? Maybe so but little did we know our lives were about to get a little more crazy.

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Our Engagement Pictures
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Our Wedding Day 9/3/2011

We started our married lives in Dallas, Texas. I was finishing up my teaching certificate and then became a nanny; Nick worked at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo and then got a job at Chase Bank. We weren’t making much and lived in a small apartment but we enjoyed life. Sometimes we look back and wish we could get away and go back to that “simple” life. Funny how perspective changes as you get older.

By August of 2012, we headed to Sugar Land, Texas (my hometown). I found a job teaching World History at Fort Bend Christian Academy and Nick transferred with Chase Bank. Ya’ll it was complete divine intervention that brought us back to Sugar Land. I applied for every job under the sun in Dallas and only one job in Sugar Land. YES ONLY ONE. I got ONE CALL BACK from this ONE JOB I applied to in Sugar Land! So off we went! 

This is really where the fun begins! Anyone a teacher out there? Talk about a whirlwind of a first year of teaching! That’s a whole another blog entirely but I have never had more heartache, pain (quite literally), and lessons learned in one year of my life (so far). I was also coaching a select softball team AND helping with our high school team. I look back and think WHAT WAS I THINKING! I think I may have come close to having a major panic attack a few times.

While I was doing all that, Nick decided he needed a change and found a new job at Frost Bank. While we were going through all of those transitions, we ended up taking in Nick’s mom. She was living alone and things were rough (to say the least) all the while trying to live with Parkinson’s. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (http://www.pdf.org/about_pd), Parkinson’s is a “is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time…..and it involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons.” She had this disease for about 10 or so years by this point but due to some unfortunate circumstances, her health was taking a turn for the worse. She lived with us beginning Jan 2013 through the summer of 2014. In that time, we found specialists in Houston and successfully got her on a new plan. We also bought another house actually in Sugar Land and we all moved in early 2014. We eventually moved her into a town home close by from that summer of 2014 until November 2015 when she moved to Greenville, Texas to live with her brother. She is doing fantastic now!

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Archannette, Nick’s Mom

But let’s get back to the story, we had bought our first house in a new city in Richmond Texas, I was in my first year teaching, coaching two softball teams and became a primary caretaker to my mother in law. Nick was learning a new job, learning a new city, and also the primary caretaker to his mother. Oh, did I mention he had to live in San Antonio for 8 weeks for training at Frost Bank during all of this! In 2014, we moved again to Sugar Land Texas and we adopted our dog Dakota! WOW! When we look back on this time in our lives, we don’t have ANY regrets but ya’ll it was SO HARD. Don’t forget, we were also in our first years of marriage! That honeymoon phase ended REAL QUICK.

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Dakota, when she was a puppy.

 

Are you tired yet? We are just getting started….. 😉

Here’s to everything in between,

Rachel