Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tomorrow is September 1st


Every year I make special plans for September 1st and these plans have become more precious to me during my years here in Hawaii. Because we don't have a climate change to usher in the fall season, I set aside the day for very special things. I bring out my leftover pumpkin keurig coffee cups, put in the Scentsy pumpkin wax, throw two pumpkin pies in the oven, and decorate the entire house for fall. Not to mention the fact that Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Lattes are out next week, Glade's Pumpkin room sprays/candles are out, Scentsy's September Scent-of-the-month is Pumpkin Marshmallow...AHHH! This may be my favorite day of the year.

Well, maybe second favorite- I really love Christmas. Oh wait, third favorite- Valentine's Day is so special, with it's fancy dinner on china plates and special secret gifts between Jerry and I, topping it off with slow dancing by candle light. AND there's the 4th of July...but I don't know, I think "Fall Day" beats the 4th of July. Independence Day's claim to fame is those fancy fireworks and the red, white, and blue theme everywhere, plus I love the way it makes me feel all patriotic and proud inside buuuuuuuut......Fall Day. I've made my official decision. Fall Day is hereby declared as the "Third-Best Day of the Year" in Lauren Land! ;)

Just between you and me, though, I'm going to start a little early this year. Out of necessity but of course readily embraced! I have a busy day planned for tomorrow and tonight once Roman is asleep, Jerry wants to study for a promotion test at work that he takes tomorrow. So I'm using the time to decorate without a toddler underfoot when I can take my time and think it through. Decorating is a creative process! Plus I want to have the pumpkin pies made tonight so that Jerr can take one in to work with him tomorrow so that I can spread the fall cheer to his co-workers. He has off work on Friday, so the pie has to be ready to go tomorrow! So sad. How will I ever come to terms with smelling baking pumpkin pies today? Torture.

...All this talk of pumpkin pie is making my mouth water. I may just have to break down and have a cup of pumpkin coffee while I decorate.

No, Lauren. Be strong.

Don't give in.

You're tough.

Don't let the pumpkin-osity win.

Show it who is boss.


Gotta go!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Thank You"

"To give is better than to receive."

It's true- the giving heart is hugely important to cultivate in yourself and the youngsters around you, whether you're teaching in a classroom, Sunday School, or raising children. But without receiving, no giving can occur.

A friend once taught me that being a gracious receiver is just as important as being a generous giver (in a perfect world, we live out a balanced combination of the two.) When you have a way to bless someone by giving them time, money, or a material object, you feel blessed for having given it. It makes your heart feel good. But if you won't let them give it, you rob them of those blessings. That's not fair to them.

Sometimes, it's hard to let someone bless you because it doesn't always feel good to receive help or to let someone sacrifice something for you- no matter how big or small. But it feels SO GOOD to help someone out. It's ironic, then, that without someone willing to receive, you don't get to give.

I was reminded of this while watching an episode of Sports Night (the Aaron Sorkin show that lasted only about 2 seasons) with Jerr last night. In the show, Dan crosses paths with a homeless man and even though he's really hungry and has been excited to eat the half of a turkey sandwich that he had left in his fridge, he gives it to the guy. The homeless man, realizing that Dan was on his way to eat the sandwich for himself, takes the sandwich and cuts it in half, giving half of his half to Dan. Dan looks at the guy, takes the sandwich, and they both sit down to eat their quarter of a sandwich together.

And I just thought while watching it, "But homeless guy, you need that sandwich more than Dan! I would have said "No thanks! You eat it! I can get more later." But that would have robbed the guy of the dignity and the opportunity to share something- and he probably doesn't have the opportunity to bless people with much under normal circumstances. How important for Dan to have taken the sandwich.

It just got me thinking... what a privilege it is to enable someone to give you something so that their heart can experience the joy and happiness that accompanies the action. In a way, that's giving, too.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Morning of Day 2

Like I said in the video, after curling my hair it will usually last me 4 days. I thought I'd take a picture this morning, on day 2, to show you what it's like after having slept on it. In this picture I haven't curled it at all- I put my makeup on quickly and snapped the picture. After taking it, I curled it just like I did in the video, but only about 3-4 curls in each side and one on the back. As you can see, it was still pretty curled from the day before and the work was pretty quick!

Don't you love beauty routines that take 10 minutes once every 4 days but make it look like you spent forever making it fabulous? :) I do!

Meatballs a la Pizzaiola

Meatballs a la Pizzaiola (Recommend cutting in half)
(recipe yields 35-38 meatballs)
• 8 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese
• 2 large shallots, chopped
• 1/4 cup (5 to 6) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
• 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
• 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
• 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
• 1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck (80% lean)
• 1 pound ground pork
• Olive oil, for frying
• Vegetable oil, for frying
• Marinara sauce, warmed, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Dice the smoked mozzarella into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, shredded mozzarella, parmesan, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until blended. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the beef and pork and, using a wooden spoon or clean hands, stir until combined. Form into 1 1/4-to-1 1/2-inch meatballs. Insert 1 cube smoked mozzarella into the center of each meatball and form the meat around it, enclosing the cheese.
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour equal parts olive oil and vegetable oil to fill the pan halfway. Heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 350 degrees F. In batches, fry the meatballs until dark brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
Place the fried meatballs on a foil-lined baking sheet. Put in the oven and bake until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly, then serve immediately with marinara sauce, if desired.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Hair "How To"

Since my blog topics lately have been admittedly "mommy issue" or "baby focused" heavy, I decided to throw in a post about hair! This video is several minutes long and in response to those who have asked me how I do my hair and questioned how long it took to style. Here, I walk you through it. (disclaimer: I'm not quite sure why it sounds like I have a lisp! lol) If this is your cup of tea, enjoy!

PS- in the video I forgot to mention that you can also use a thin, 1" hair straightener to do the same job that my curling iron did. Sometimes I use my straightener instead just to mix it up. It gives a slightly different look but it's really similar. Yet another tip from my awesome hair dresser. :)

20 Week Ultrasound

The 20-week ultrasound is a pretty big deal. It is a chance for the technician to measure everything that needs measured, like head size, and to check for all necessary things to be there, such as the right number of bones in legs, arms, fingers, (Sonographer:"You can see he has three bones in each finger." Me: "wait- where do you see them?? WHAT?! I cannot believe you're counting each of those little things! But I'm glad you are!") and toes.

They count the chambers in the heart and make sure blood flow is good. They check for holes. They confirm that kidneys/bladder/lungs are all working. Confirm normal umbilical chord flow. Check for brain cavity development and cysts. Count every little bone in each finger!? Look to make sure there is no cleft lip and a normal nasal cavity. I mean, seriously- it's not a simple "Oh yeah, his heart is beating" kind of check-up! (Liam's heart rate is 155, he has no heart murmur, and no, she said, there is no weight to the old wives' tale of heart rate revealing boy or girl.)

I think, with Roman's 20-week ultrasound, I didn't understand just how serious a check this was. Last time I was just excited to see my baby on the screen. Then we walked out saying, "Whoa- they can see all of that?!" This time, though I was still excited to see Liam hanging out, I understood the heaviness of the ultrasound. I walked in praying that all would be flawless and hoped to walk out relaxed and relived that a little boy was growing perfect and healthy inside me. But I was aware that not everyone has that experience, and just because we had one healthy baby doesn't mean we would have a second one. Can you imagine how much your life would change if the technician found something seriously wrong with your baby?

I also find it to the risk of over-dramatizing it...a profound experience. It makes me feel so close to God. Because when you see that little baby in the womb- all 12 ounces and 10" of them- you feel like you're seeing something only God gets to see. And with every "the kidneys are functioning perfectly" or "his ankles are perfectly formed" comment, I breathe a "Thank you, God." It's just amazing.

But the results of yesterday were great! We have a perfect, healthy, growing baby boy with no physical concerns at this point. He is 3 days bigger than normal- not enough to change a due date for. And the highlights of the appointment: we got to see him 1)swallow, 2)stick his tongue out, 3)flex his bicep (I think that was a warning for Roman!) and 4)suck his thumb. His profile already looks different that Roman's did "in utero." And it took my mild freak out session yesterday morning and made me realize that I was, in fact, ready to love and raise another little boy. I'll still enjoy these next 20 weeks with our family of three, but I'm no longer as worried to become a family of four. :) All in all, a good day.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Today we are 20 weeks pregnant with Liam- HALFWAY. On one hand I feel like time is passing way too quickly because the thought of having a newborn again in 20 weeks is intimidating and I doubt my magical mommy superpowers. But on the other hand, I feel like I have been pregnant FOREVER. How can I possibly only be halfway??

But you know what? Until the belly becomes large enough that it makes simple tasks, like picking an item off the floor, seem daunting, I will ask that the next 20 weeks take their time. The nursery isn't done (though the bedding is ordered!- I love Etsy but that's another post for a different day.), Roman is so much fun to play with, I am treasuring the special time we have right now when life is just the two of us during the day. And I love that Jerry and I can take turns with him, giving the other one a break. After Liam comes, we'll be man-on-man defense.

I have never once wavered in the desire to have two kids close in age. Jerr and I would like three or four kids total and we'd like them to be all fairly close in age. That being said, here is my disclaimer: we'll see if we can actually handle that, taking it one kid at a time! Who knows the special needs a future child may have or the challenges that come our way. No matter what, it's important to us that we have the time needed to raise each child well, and the money to provide them with every opportunity/sports camp/music lesson they need to grow their gifts. If that means we stop at two, then we stop at two.

From the moment we officially decided to try for a second child, I have always felt a little freaked. (If you know me well, that makes total sense- no explanation necessary.) I'm sure that's the way it is for any family once they finally decide to add another person. It completely changes life. But I remember my friend, Carmen- mother of 4- telling me that adding a second or third (or fourth!) child to the family is just like the decision to add one: it seems harder than it actually is once you're doing it. The thought of having two sounds a lot scarier than actually having them, just like the thought of having Roman scared the bajeebers out of me but when I found myself taking care of the little peanut that I had birthed, it happened without thought.

Yes, I'm aware that my workload is about to increase big time. And I've already been prepped that the first year is really hard when having two close in age. But I've also heard that after the first year it's a gift because they have a playmate in each other- and hopefully a best friend.

I want my kids to love each other like a best friend so badly.... And I know that the way we raise them can help promote that close relationship. But the truth is that just because you're siblings doesn't mean you'd choose each other as a best friend- or a friend at all! Siblings can be such different people that living in peace is the best they can do. But oh, how I desire friendship between each of my kids. It would be neat to see that happen, if it does. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Lesson from a Friend

Today's post is from my friend Jeanne's blog. I checked in and got her permission to share it because I thought she had some great perspective on raising kids. With three of her own (ages 3,2, and 8 months), she's got some great experience! She's one of my "go to" moms and has given me countless helpful tips and solutions to the world of babies/toddlers.

While Roman and I were on the East Coast for a visit, we drove to Charlottesville, Virginia, where we are hoping to live after our military career ends next December. This also happens to be where our friends Jeanne and Paul Duval live! What a great excuse for a visit. So Roman and I stayed with her and her brood (her hubby is deployed right now to the middle east) for a night and got to experience life "a la Duval."

Jeanne and I met while waiting for our husbands to return from a deployment to Japan while we were all stationed in California. We also met another girlfriend, Kayla, who has also continued to be a very dear friend of mine. Since our California years, Jeanne has had 3 kids, lived in Italy for 3 years, and moved to Charlottesville. I have had one and a half kids and lived in California for 2 years and Hawaii for 3 years. Our husbands do the same thing in the Navy and we have not all been together since...well, never if you count the kids involved! I met the Duval kids for the first time during this visit and she met Roman and belly (Liam). My, how life changes in a few years! I love that we've kept in touch and become even closer in spite of the distance.

With that introduction, I now present to you: Jeanne Duval!! (thanks for your permission to share this, Jeanne!)

(and yes, general public, I know I could have just linked you to her blog but it's secure and you couldn't read it! Doesn't this feel a little bit more special? Secretive?) ;)

We're not crazy! We're enthusiastic!

This week, the kids and I have been working on some welcome banners for Lauren's arrival on Monday. Not only have we had a lot of fun with paint, crayons, markers, etc but I have had a BLAST teaching them about enthusiasm.

I think most people, especially my husband, are generally shocked by the emphasis that I put on making sure incoming guests receive an enthusiastic welcoming, birthday's always have balloons and signs, and general tone of voice in conversation. For some reason, these are things that God has put on my heart and I know are very important.

While I know my children will gain some of these qualities by my example, I also know the responsibility I have to teach them about enthusiasm. I am currently reading TLC's The Duggars 2nd book. In both of their books, they have had some incredible insights. One of my favorites was this one:

"We teach them [our children] to overcome shyness by constantly reminding them of another foundation of our faith: Jesus' instruction to treat others the way you would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). To us, it's not cute when our little ones turn away when someone speaks to them, or hide their faces in Mama's skirt, or stare back, wide-eyed and worldess; we believe that behavior is disrespectful of the other person. In contrast, eye contact shows respect; it tells the other person, You're important; You're special.

Turning away means the child fails to acknowledge the other person, and it also nurtures in the child a self-centered focus, something we want each one to learn to overcome as he or she matures."

This excerpt explains my thoughts perfectly! It's about respect. It's about showing other people that they are worth your time and energy to put forth a little bit of effort on their behalf.

This week, we have been practicing self-introductions on the phone. They are so funny! If you call the house any time soon, most likely I will have have of the kids pick up and you will hear, "Hi, I Paul" or "Hi, dis Cafrine". Haha. Baby steps.

So, just know, that if you spend a birthday with us, you will probably have balloons, a sign, and cake. If you come to visit we will either be waiting in the airport, in the driveway, and possibly even holding signs. If you call, we will answer with "umph" so you know that we are excited to hear from you. And if you speak to us, we will be sure to look you in the eye and answer you. We want you to know that you are important to us and that we appreciate the relationship that we have.

Happiness is...


Happiness is little boy kisses. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


We are smitten kittens with our new digs. :) Thank you, Lord. It has so much SPACE!!!! My kitchen is massive compared to the old one. We were living out of 8 cabinets...I now have 24. PLUS about 10-12 drawers. Bigger? I think so! We have one more bedroom and one more bathroom, plus a two-car garage versus a one-car garage. It's also a house built for a handicapped family again (this is our second one...I'm starting to think the Navy is trying to tell us something about our family! Ha!) so all the bathrooms and hallways are wider than normal.

Alright, so I have some pictures. But keep in mind nothing is finished. It's all a work in progress. But at least you get the idea of the new Becker casa and can feel connected to us even if you're far away.

(the last picture is of the "boys' hallway. Liam's room is on the left, Roman's room is straight ahead, and the bathroom is on the right. You can see our other hallway that leads to our master bedroom and the front door in the top picture.)

I feel like I've been walking around in disbelief at our blessings lately. Liam is coming!!! And is healthy and strong. Roman is a dream of a child. Our house is a total gift. My husband/marriage blesses my socks off. I mean...I seriously walk around with a grin on my face mumbling "thank you Lord" over and over all day long. Incredible.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Digs

We JOYFULLY handed in our keys to the old house yesterday, after passing our final house inspection. Because we did it ourselves, we saved $245.00. Go Becker power! After our experience trying to clean with a toddler under foot, however, we have decided to make sure we have budgeted to pay the cleaning fee when we leave Hawaii and not have to do all the work. Sometimes it's just worth paying to have it done, if you can afford it. We couldn't right now; hence, the required elbow grease. But done and done.

I mentioned trying to clean with a toddler around. It turns out I hugely underestimated how much longer this would cause every task to take!!!! When cleaning the old house, one of us had to entertain Roman so that he would be safely away from the chemicals and situations that could hurt him. So instead of 4(ish) hours of double-timing the cleaning, it took us parts of 3 days. We have to work around nap schedules for decorating the new house because we can't be drilling in holes to hang the television when dude man is sleeping. And I can't work at unpacking boxes all day while Jerr is at work because my little love machine deserves for life to continue as usual- ie. playing with Mama, exploring the world, on-schedule nap times, and set meal times. So the only "moving in" that gets done is after he's asleep or once Jerry comes home from work, when one of us can hang with Ro while the other does something. And let's be real- lately that means Jerry doing the work because he's a man and the most pressing tasks at hand are hanging televisions/curtains/pictures and not perfectly decorating the little nooks and crannies. YET. And since he has magical powers of hanging things that I don't naturally have, the workload falls to him. Yes, I've honed in on my skills in the power tools department when necessary during deployments that took him away,but I have since traded that set of skills in exchange for my "mad" mothering abilities. It's his "area." And he feels manly pride for doing it. So he can go ahead and hang those curtain rods for me. My, just look at those bulging muscles go to town! ;)

All of this is good and natural and expected. But the "get it done" woman inside me is screaming and shaking the bars that are keeping her captive. I am going CRAZY not being able to do things that used to take me a quarter of the time to do.

All of this is exacerbated by the natural "nester" that I have found myself to be. I'm like a little bird, in that way. I cannot tolerate a "nest" that isn't completely settled and decorated perfectly for my family. I love to fluff and preen and collect just the right little feathers to stick between the twigs that will hold my babies and welcome my papa bird home each night.

But I will look at this as an opportunity to learn and grow. Right? One that teaches me patience. Grace. Flexibility. Ah, learning experiences.

Sometimes I think that's just a term given for frustrating situations that kind of suck a little bit!!! ;)

Oh, and I want to say pictures are "coming soon." But after reading this post, you should know better, even if I don't. You'll see pictures in about 5 years when I finally get everything settled.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Creativity Strikes

While visiting my parents this past week, I made my annual pilgrimage to Hobby Lobby. If you haven't heard of the amazingness of this store, it's a glorious home decorating store with ridiculously affordable prices. (I just discovered TODAY that you can order online, too! So if you don't have one in your area, check it out. Fall decorations are incredible right now.)

I save up for this trip and go crazy every year, always bringing an extra suitcase with me for my discoveries. This time I grabbed a few more things for fall, (because I add to my collection every year to make it cheaper than buying the amount of decor items I'd like to have all at once) and all the decorating things I need for Liam's room. I couldn't have done it cheaper or better anywhere else. :)
I made two trips there, the first with my mom and sister, and the second with one of my very best friends, M.

I showed M an amazing bolt of fabric that I had become smitten with after my sister pointed it out during the first trip. "Oh, man, M...I LOVE this fabric and wish I was crafty enough to make it into something to put in my house."

I was talking to the crafting goddess, however, and she replied, "Lauren, you can. Make it a table runner. Get some hem tape that adheres when you use an iron to apply heat, cut the fabric, fold under all the edges with the hem tape, and make it in 5 minutes."

And so we did. :) Two runners for a total of $17 in fabric and $2 in hem tape.

(Forgive the stark white walls sans picture...we're getting ready to move tomorrow. Proof of fabulosity? The runners still look amazing!)

Allowed to Fail Spectacularly

I'm doing a book study, "The Ministry of Motherhood" by Sally Clarkson, with some girlfriends on Tuesdays and this morning's reading rocked my world. I thought I'd share. :)

(See, who wouldn't want to settle in on a couch with comfy pillows/blanket, a sleeping puppy, and a cup of homemade Caramel Macchiato)

Chapter title: The Gift of Grace
p. 27
"Peter was a strong, active man. He was used to making decisions, being dependable.(btw, I find myself relating to Peter SO MUCH in scripture. Rash, passionate, and a good heart that sometimes runs ahead of itself into disaster or foolish choices!) It was natural for him to assume that by his great effort he would "help" the Lord get his message to the world. Yet Jesus, knowing the need of Peter's heart, allowed him to find out differently. He allowed Peter to fail spectacularly so he would finally understand that grace was the key to serving God and His kingdom. Not by his own strength and courage, but only by God's constant grace and mercy would Peter be able to deliver Jesus' message to the world- a message that would then be wrapped in the grace and mercy he had come to know so well."

Mercy and grace are two of God's qualities I find so hard to accept toward myself. Thank you Lord, for those teachable moments that are blaring-ly obviously right now and I see that You allowed me to fail spectacularly to understand You that I can have grace and mercy for others and for myself.

[mimicking my best radio announcer voice]

"And this is Lauren Becker, with your daily thought to ponder, signing off." ;)

(One last look at the canine who is trying to undermine my efforts of being productive. Ms. Tricky McTrickerson over here, trying to woo me with promises of warm puppy body and blissful sleep....Rude.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Problem with Casseroles Is....

...absolutely NOTHING.

I love a good casserole. They taste so good EVEN IF they include ingredients you don't usually like on their own. Like peas. They usually include every food group so you don't have to think about what sides to serve with it. And for no-food-touchers, like me, you eliminate the stress of perfectly separating each food on your plate (Or plate and bowl. Or plate and smaller plate and bowl. Yes, I'm being serious.) so that juices do not touch gravies do not touch meats or veggies.

So this is my ode to casseroles.

One of which will find its way into my oven in about an hour.

Which I will then eat.

And rub my tummy with joy and give a sigh that expresses all is right in my world.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

It's Hard

It's hard to be a career woman who has temporarily become a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) for a few years to raise her children until they're in school. Sometimes I feel discounted for the experience I have. I taught for four years and have spent more time in that profession, with that identity, than I have in the profession of motherhood. Yet I find myself involved in conversations of catch-up at home sometimes feeling as though I am no longer considered to be a teacher. It makes me sad to hear comments about education directed to those who are currently teaching, and not also being included. I still care. I still consider myself a teacher. And I plan on going back. I plan on getting my Masters Degree. In my eyes, this incredible opportunity to raise my children personally is a season. Not a permanent change.

Now, I don't believe I have a single friend or family member who purposely discounts my experiences or excludes me from conversation topics. It's just how conversation works- you talk to a baker about baking, a businessman about business, a teacher about teaching, and a mom about mom-ing. And I never would have considered how it would feel to change careers and "give up" an identity that you used to hold dear to you. I think that is a good byproduct for this season of my life- I am now aware of how it feels to change a career. Any career.

Sometimes, too, I feel like I need to hold up my hands and say, "Wait! 1)I do not think more highly of myself and lesser of a working mom because they are doing what they have to do to pay bills." Or even if they're working because that's what they'd rather do than stay at home! 2)"We are not rich- in fact, money is really tight because we're living on one income." 3)Or explain that "I can still hold an adult conversation with a mind that is informed." I still know what is going on in politics, world news, US business, etc. even though I can now converse about scheduling, dirty diapers, and the best way to erase the pain during teething.

I'm still me. I am still a woman who is a teacher. I didn't magically lose the 4 years of experience I gained teaching. And I understand how completely BLESSED I am to be able to stay home and teach Roman. See, I'm still a teacher. It's just that my pupils have changed. I have switched from teaching music to jr/sr high schoolers to teaching life/manners/colors/etc to a 1-year old.

Sometimes it's hard to experience a career change. It makes me wonder if my dad misses talking about farming. I'll bet he misses conversations that make him feel respected for the knowledge he has on the subject. I'm also willing to bet he'd still love to talk about it. He probably still knows all there is to know. :)

I Married a Man Who... (Aug edition)

After my first "I Married a Man Who" post, my friend commented that I should make it a monthly post. And I loved the idea. So if I remember to do it, there will be an "IMaMW" entry each month.

So for the August edition, I married a man who:
-pays such attention to my needs that he is one step ahead (ex. when doing the dishes, I wash and Jerr dries. As soon as I let the water out and rinse down the sink, he is standing beside me with the dishtowel ready so that I can dry my hands.)
-sends me a sweet, "Good Morning" text every day before he goes into the office so that I have a wake-up message from him to start my day.
-is willing to put in the effort to maintain me. When he can tell there is something bothering me, he doesn't pretend that all is well and ignore it until I finally crack and bring it up. He will ask me what's going on at the first sign of tension he notices in my voice. It makes me feel pursued.
-hears that I went to Hobby Lobby during my visit home, and upon hearing "the damage" spent, he says "I'm okay with that!" because he loves a well-decorated home as much as I do. And he knows that a homey abode is important to my overall happiness in life. I'm a natural nester and now a stay-at-home-mama.
-tells me I'm his best friend and doesn't think life is as fun without me when I'm gone. :) It's nice to be LIKED by your husband. (you know what I always love them but you don't always LIKE them!)

I miss him :) See you in two days, Jerr. xoxo

Monday, August 1, 2011

Roman's 1st Birthday Party

There are many more pictures on facebook of Roman's birthday party we had this past Saturday, but I can narrate better (aka- blab on and on) via blog. :) Plus, there are some things that worked beautifully and I want to write them here so I can look back for Liam's 1st birthday and do things the same way.

Note to self: we forgot to sing "Happy Birthday" to Roman!!!! lol (just realizing this as I write) Make sure to do this, and to use the #1 you bought for the birthday cake, next time!

I never imagined a birthday party could be this stress-free, this easy, or this FUN! I owe our friends M and R, along with M's hubby, for the lack of stress and hardship. When you have friends helping to set up and tear down, it's pretty simple. Not to mention when said friends are also making the cupcakes, deviled eggs, egg salad, and pasta salad, you only have to buy the meat/buns/toppings and a big watermelon and you're done!

The party was outside from 3-5pm. Both of those worked perfectly for us. It didn't need to be any longer but we used all the time we had, and having it outside meant I had no stress about how my house looked or what kids were doing in my house, and I got to come in to a tidy house even after hosting a 42-person party. Beautiful.

Order of events
2:50: bounce house set up for the adults to, safety check. We couldn't allow kids to get hurt. You understand.
3-4: grill/eat
4: have each kid(s) who brought Roman a gift open it for him. This was amazing and we'll do it again for every one of the 1st birthday parties we throw for our children.
4:30: bring out cupcakes and let Roman experience his first (sugar-free, all natural!) birthday cake (my friend R suggested doing the cake last in case Roman got messy. This way the guests wouldn't have to wait on us to get him cleaned up for the gift opening part.) Again, the order of things worked really well and we will do things this way again- thanks for the great advice, R!
3:30-5: bounce house open for the enjoyment of kids everywhere!!!
5pm: adults take over bounce house once again now that the kids all went home!

We are so grateful to our friends who came out to celebrate with us. We have a group of friends so much like family that the day felt full and happy in spite of being blood-relative-free. We are so blessed. I can't wait to show Roman these pictures when he's older and tell him how loved he was, even from the beginning of his life. Thank you all for the role you play in raising our son. It truly takes a village to raise a child. xoxo

Beauty From the Ashes....

It seems that death is an inescapable part of life. I hate that it is.

My friend, J, lost her husband to cancer last year.
My friend, K, lost her boyfriend when he was killed in a riptide- today is the 10 year anniversary of that.
My friend, J, lost her dear friend when she was murdered by her husband in front of her two children a few months ago.
A young teacher my age, whom I enjoyed teaching with, died suddenly in her sleep last year.
A student I taught and was very fond of died in a car accident while traveling between home and college.
9-11, Katrina, Haiti's earthquake, Japan's tsunami. New Zealand's earthquake. TRAGEDY.

This blog post is in NO WAY a comment directed to any of those above-mentioned friends. It is simply the words that have been resounding in my heart through each one of these events. And a blog is supposed to be about what is on your mind/heart/calendar, right? And so these are mine.

It seems death is usually accompanied by "why?" Sometimes it's rhetorical, other times is angry and accusing. Usually directed to God. And why wouldn't it be? He's God.

And as my friends have gone through these losses in their lives, I have prayed my heart out. But praying isn't like rubbing a lamp. God isn't a genie, here to grant my three wishes. Sometimes I feel like my prayers have been answered with "no." And that sucks! Why, God, didn't you save their loved one? Dear God, please stop that plane from hitting the second tower... But I'm glad I have a God I can't manipulate. What kind of a God would He be if I could?

Believing in Him doesn't mean I understand Him or His ways. But saying "God, why??" means that we recognize that God is big and strong enough to have done something to stop it. And if He's big enough to do that, He's more powerful than we humans are. Isn't that something you want from your God? I sure don't want to worship a human...we're pretty unreliable and weak. I don't want a God like me. I want a God who is stronger than I am. I want a God who created the earth by speaking it into being. And the reality is that if we believe God to be big enough to do those things (stop someone from dying, prevent world tragedies, etc), isn't it possible that He is a God also big enough to work in ways we don't understand? Isn't it likely that He sees/knows things we don't? A God like that does things that don't always seem right to us- sometimes it can seem downright WRONG in the small picture that we understand the world to be. But He doesn't answer to us. I'm glad I have a God who does His will- promising that it's good and perfect, though not pain free- even when I don't feel like it was the best way. Who am I to think I would have done it better?

I have been told before that people who believe in [a] god are just weak and are using that god as a crutch because they can't handle life on their own. I disagree. I have a living, breathing relationship with God that has experienced Him- I know what it is like to stand in His presence. I know what His Voice sounds like. I know what it feels like to be personally and lovingly disciplined by Him. So I won't be convinced that He's not real. And while I will admit that "I can't handle life on my own," it's not in the way that they meant. It's more like asking, "Why would I choose to struggle through this life alone when I don't have to? Why would I choose to walk through quicksand while wearing a 100lb pack when I have Someone bigger and stronger next to me who will carry the burden and will hold my hand while giving me help to get out of the muck?" That doesn't seem weak to me. It seems smart. I'm glad I have a God who doesn't promise that life will be easy, but who guarantees that I don't have to carry the load or walk alone. Who am I to deserve that?

And I think questioning God and crying out in pain is perfectly okay! David is one of my favorite guys from the Bible and as I work through the Psalms each night before bed, I'm struck by the honesty with which he talked to God. What stands out, however, is that as soon as he finishes saying "God why are you ignoring me?!?!? Pay attention to me! I have been yelling out for help for so long that my voice is dry and cracking and I am about to lose it!!!" he finishes with- "But you are God and I trust You to do Your thing. I will worship you in spite of it all." That's the key. We can bring our raw emotions to God- let's face it, "hiding them" by not saying it doesn't hide diddly squat from God- but remember to put Him in His place and remind yourself of yours when you're done, lest you start thinking of yourself as greater than Him. What kind of god are they if they are weaker than you??

Job watched his entire family die, his body was being destroyed and in constant pain, he lost his business and his house. Even his "friends" stood there trying to figure out what he had done to deserve it. And finally Job had enough. So he questioned God...and I get goosebumps every time I read the four chapters (Job 39-42) with God's response. Here is the gist:

Job 40:1 Then the LORD said to Job, 2 "Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God's critic, but do you have the answers?" 3 Then Job replied to the LORD, 4 "I am nothing -- how could I ever find the answers? I will put my hand over my mouth in silence. 5 I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say." 6 Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind: 7 "Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. 8 Are you going to discredit my justice and condemn me so you can say you are right? 9 Are you as strong as God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? 10 All right then, put on your robes of state, your majesty and splendor. 11 Give vent to your anger. Let it overflow against the proud. 12 Humiliate the proud with a glance; walk on the wicked where they stand. 13 Bury them in the dust. Imprison them in the world of the dead. 14 Then even I would praise you, for your own strength would save you.

Boo-yah, Job. And boo-yah Lauren, when you question God with a mouth that is bigger than your rightful size.

Job 42 wraps up that section:

1 Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 "I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. 3 You ask, 'Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?' It is I. And I was talking about things I did not understand, things far too wonderful for me. 4 "You said, 'Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.' 5 "I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. 6 I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance."

So basically, these are the thoughts/scriptures that have been running through my heart, especially the past few months. This isn't a sermon, nor is it words to make the pain easier. I actually hate when people throw scripture and "profound life statements" to those who are experiencing great pain and loss because I don't think that's the time it's received. Those things don't mean much until the pain is over and it's time for the rebuilding.

But what I know of my Jehovah God is this- His will is good and perfect. (Romans 12:2) He doesn't often do things the way we would do them. (Isaiah 55:8-9) And He brings new mercies every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) He brings beauty from the ashes. I will pray over and over again for this.