Monday, May 30, 2011

Marriage Maintenance - Communication II

Communication Part II -

Pastor David Baudoin at our church, Crossroads Church in Lafayette, oversees the pastoral care and counseling for the church. Admittedly, it is something that he loves.

Lee asked him if he ever does "how to keep a marriage healthy" counseling. Pastor David said, "Establish couch time."

I had heard of this before in a book that changed my parenting life - Baby Wise. Oh my helped us get Bella to be the awesome sleeper that she is.

Anyways, "Couch Time" is where for 15-20 minutes after Dad gets home from work and says his hellos to the kids, he sits on the couch with mom and they talk. It can be about their day, dreams, whatever...And dad can say to the kids when they come up to him, "No, this is Mommy's time with Daddy."

So, since we are often outside when Lee gets home from work, or we meet him somewhere after he gets off, we are going to call it "Talk Time." It will be our time to talk about the day or whatever we want. It is time for us.

This is not selfish...this is healthy. Our kids need to see that we love each other, that we want to be with each other...and honestly, mommy and daddy come first to each other. There will be time for Lee to chase Bella around the yard or pull grass out of Brennan's mouth (the boy loves to eat grass - he's such a boy!!!)...but when Daddy gets home, he's going to have a few uninterrupted minutes with Mommy. Bella will be told to wait. Brennan will eventually be told to wait. And as they get older, they will learn not to interrupt this time unless someone is bleeding to death...and I really hopes that never happens, but I know that it could.

A healthy marriage is the best gift we can give to our children...and really to everyone around us.

Marriage Maintenance - Communication

Lee and I have talked about marriage advice lately...what we've learned in the past 8 years's one topic:

GOOD Communication is vital to a healthy marriage.

You may hear this a lot, but it is something that each couple has to learn. You cannot just expect to have good communication with each other. You have to learn.

As a woman, I often expect Lee to be able to read my mind. To know what I'm thinking. And often, I think I know what he's thinking - and usually, I am totally wrong. We have to verbally talk about it out loud...not just in our heads.

Also, you have to learn each other's communication style. Lee is confrontational and wants to talk about it immediately - to have it all out in the open. I'm a mental processor. I want to think about it, analyze it internally, and then I may or may not be ready to actually talk about it. It drives him insane that I won't immediately tell him what is bothering me. He literally has had to drag it out of me for 8 years. It hasn't changed. He asks me over and over and over until I respond. Every once in a while I will say it immediately, but more often than not, it takes a while for me to talk - and then it's sad because I sometimes just explode on him.

We are very careful about not attacking each other. We don't argue with loaded guns from the past. We know that we each have a mental list about the other about things that bother us that we've learned to live with, and most of those things have been addressed at one time or another, but we do not talk about those things whenever we are in a heated discussion or argument. We do our very best to stay on topic. We try not to say hurtful things. And honestly, whenever hurtful things are said, at a later time we've told each other what hurt our feelings.

There are some fun things about our communication that has happened over the past 8 years...
* Inside jokes that only we get - and it is usually just a regular word or phrase that cracks us up
* Finishing each other's sentences - when we do think alike, it's a great feeling to be on the same page
* Knowing what each other is thinking without using any words - we can just look at each other and know...and usually our eyes light up and a smile spreads across our faces
* We know what to say that can make each other laugh, even when one of us is not in the mood to laugh

Communication is such an important part of a marriage...and we are still growing in this area. There is still a lot for us to learn, but it is definitely worth learning.

A healthy marriage is the greatest gift we can give to our children.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Even When It Hurts

We have decided to get Bella's tonsils removed. It breaks my heart to think about it...Actually, today for the pre-operation appointment, I was sick to my stomach. Just ridiculously nervous. And then the blood work...I'm thankful that her daddy takes care of those things. I just heard her screaming, and I knew I wouldn't have done well back there. He's a good man.

So, next Friday, we'll take our itty-bitty, baby girl to the surgical center for surgery. I'm not looking forward to it at all.

It's crazy that we have to make decisions for our children - even decisions that will be physically painful for them. I know that she is in pain now, and I know that the surgery will cause even more pain. The nurse today told us not to look in her throat after the surgery because it will look like something from a sci-fi movie! What the heck are they going to do to my baby!?! But I know that she will be better afterwards. She'll sleep better...just all around be better...after the healing period...which is about 2 weeks.

I believe that God allows us to go through things that are painful to help us be better afterwards. It is not a pleasant experience to go through...and sometimes it feels like it could be a part of a science-fiction movie...but once the pain heals, I can be a better person if I choose to be. God doesn't force anything on us, but He allows us to have the opportunity to grow.

I'm nervous for her. Really nervous. Sick to my stomach about the whole thing. Yet I know that this is the best thing for her right now. And she's 2, so she won't remember much of anything about it. And she has no choice right now but to trust my opinion about it. I am doing what I believe is best for her.

God has my best interest in mind too. He does things for me because He knows what is best for me...even when He knows it will hurt. Yet the difference in scenarios is I have a choice to trust Him or not. I want to do my best to trust Him at all times in every situation and circumstance. Even when it hurts.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Maintaining Our Marriage

This summer Lee and I will celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. It's crazy to think that 8 years have passed by, and yet it seems like we've been together forever.

I can remember when I realized that Lee was my best friend. Something crazy happened at a store that I was in, and I was laughing about it, and he was the first person I thought to call instead of my girlfriends Sylvia or Kate, whom I would have normally called first. In that moment, I knew that he was my best friend...and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

I believe that Lee and I complement each other - not like "compliment" which is nice things we say about each other.

Complement is
1. something that completes or makes perfect
2. the quantity or amount that completes anything
3. either of two parts or things needed to complete the whole; counterpart.

His strengths are my weaknesses, and my strengths are his weaknesses. We really balance each other out.

But we are still 2 individuals. We still have our own likes and dislikes - and they are not always the same.

One thing I have learned over our 8 years together is the importance of doing things together, and then doing things apart. It's important to me to let boys be let Lee go out and do guy things. I can honestly say that when he comes home he's a better man. I don't demand that he do things with me first, or help me clean the house first...and usually when he comes back he does a lot for me and with me without me ever asking.

He knows the same goes for me. It's important for me to get out with the girls. To go shopping and get pedicures. Girlie things. I'm better when I return too.

The hard part is with our kids. We both feel guilty now when the other one is at home with the kids. If I leave him at home with the kids, I feel bad for leaving. If he does something after work, and I'm at home with the kids, he feels guilty. It's a no win situation right now. We are having to work through it and realize the importance of doing things for ourselves.

We are fortunate to have some wonderful babysitters who absolutely adore our kids. I think that they are more disappointed to leave when we come home from a date than our kids are about them leaving, which is (and says) a lot. It is a huge blessing to have these girls who love our children. And it is a blessing that these girls see it as an investment in our marriage. We are so grateful for them!!!

Date nights are important to us. It's hard for us to do things without talking about work or kids. But we have to do it. It's necessary for us and our marriage and our kids. A healthy marriage takes a lot of doesn't just happen. Just like any friendship can grow apart without healthy maintenance, so can any marriage.
And a healthy marriage is the greatest gift we can give to our children.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ironic Security Check-Up

Irony...thanks to Alanis Morissette's song Isn't It Ironic when I was in high school...I can easily remember what this term means...and even used to teach my students.

My faith has been high lately...we've been more financially blessed lately...and then we get hit with a whammy...maybe even a double whammy.

We've decided to have Bella's tonsils taken out. She's miserable, and she's not seeming to get better. She'll have good days, but then most days lately, she just wants to lay around and eat salty popcorn. And although that is a wonderful way to spend 1 day, several days of that for my normally bouncing-off-the-wall little girl is just not normal.

So, in making the appointment, the nice receptionist who does this all of the time, says that she'll call our insurance for us to find out what we'll have to pay.

I'm thankful that we have insurance, but we do not have the best insurance plan in the world. We are self-employed ministers, so we have our own plan, not a group plan. Again...there are a few benefits, but it's not the best.

So, we're going to have to pay a chunk of change to have this procedure done because we haven't met our deductible.

And we have most of the is just going to take away from what we have in our savings account.

I'm not writing this for my own pity-party. I was actually down-hearted when I heard the amounts we would have to pay for the doctor and hospital. I know that God is going to provide, and it's another time for Him to show His faithfulness to us.

So, the irony is that I wrote about how I was full of God provides...and now I'm being tested in this area all over again. And honestly, it is not about knowing that God will provide. It's about my attitude...and how I need to have joy in seeing Him provide. I should not be glum about the finances or the state of my bank account. I should be happy to know that this is another area where God will show Himself faithful to us yet once again.

So, it's not my faith this time, it's my attitude. I need to be grateful for God's provision no matter what my circumstances are. I believe God allows us to go through different things to change us. To make us more like Him. I will be of no benefit to the Kingdom of God if I stay the same or go back to the woman I was yesterday.

And there is no need to hold on to what He's given us. It is His in the first place. I need to find security in Him and not my bank account.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Is That to You?

"What is that to you?"...These words tumble over and over in my mind...

They come from a passage in the Christian Bible. In the book of John chapter 21, Jesus is talking to a few of His disciples. Peter was being reinstated...being forgiven, after he had just denied that he knew Christ, even cursed Christ at the time when Jesus was being condemned to death. Then Jesus commissioned Peter to take care of His followers. After doing this, Jesus then told Peter that he would not have a pleasant death, but it would glorify God.

Peter turned around and saw John, another one of Jesus's disciples. John was often referred to as "the one whom Jesus loved." He was personally close to Jesus, and Peter asked "Lord, what about him?"

John 21:22 Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."

Wow. What is that to you? You have to do what God has called you to do, and not worry about what anyone else is doing...or going through - good or bad.

Life isn't fair. Things happen all the time that I don't understand, and I certainly don't appreciate it, especially during the hard times. And, I'm not going to lie, sometimes it can be difficult to see good things happen to others that aren't happening the same for me. It is hard to see bad things happening to people who don't seem to deserve it.

But that doesn't matter. I have to do what God has called me to do. To go through the trials, tests, experiences that He wants me to go through. These things are allowed in my life to make me a better person. To make me more like Christ. And He wants that for others too...He knows best, I don't.

My spiritual journey will not look like anyone else's. Sure, I may go through some similar things in life, but it will not be exactly the same as someone else. And, I will not respond like someone else may. I have to keep my eyes on Jesus. How He deals with someone else - whether blessing or trial - it should make no difference in me doing what He has called me to do.

When things don't go the way that I think they should go...What is that to me? I must keep my eyes on Jesus. I must follow the path that He has laid before me. I must keep putting one foot in front of the other and follow Him.

Where He leads me, I will follow. I must keep my eyes on Him and not on myself or everyone else around me.

Summer Time

I love the smell of baby's sunscreen. It just makes me think of the summer. I like that it comes in a spray form is easy to spray the kids - Bella even thinks it is fun - and then we just rub it in. I did miss a small part on her back when we were outside all day for our Leader Appreciation Day. But, she is already turning brown. She's going to have a pretty tan. She's such a pretty girl anyways...

(Bella and Brennan are sharing their pool with Tiffany, one of our student leaders)

I love seeing Bella in a bathing suit. She's so ittybitty...and it is just adorable. And Brennan in a bathing suit is just too cute as well. I'm looking forward to playing in their little pool with her and Brennan. I know that it is going to be a lot of fun for all of us. She is going to wear herself out playing out there, and I will enjoy myself watching.

I love being out in a boat on the water. My daddy is to blame for this - he is the one who took us, who shared with us his love for fishing and being out there. To feel the wind on my face...the sun shining down on ice cold dr. pepper and a turkey is all a part of what I love. My daddy is also going to be helping us with this. He bought a party barge, and it was closer to my house than it is to his. So, we got to pick it up for him, and we are going to get to try it out for him for a little while. :) There are some repairs that needed to be made, and Lee is going to get to do it. It's a good project for him. It's generous of my dad to share this with us. I am so stinkin' excited about this...I know my dad has said before that a boat is just a hole in the water that you throw money into, and although this is true, a boat for us is an investment in our family. It is time away when we don't have the chance to get far away and we are in need of a break. This is going to be a glorious thing for us!!! I don't know who is more excited - us or my dad.
*On a side note, my mom did share with me her motion sickness :) but it doesn't seem to be as bad for me on the water as it is in a car...a car just kills me. I can get nauseated in a matter of seconds!! Thankfully I can still enjoy being on the water.

These are just a few of the things I love about summer. I'm thrilled that the summer is here for us to enjoy being together as a family!

What do you love about the summer time?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Better Money Manager

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail..."

I've heard this for years now. Years. I've heard it applied to all kinds of areas of my life.

Spiritually - if you don't have a designated time to spend alone with God, you aren't going to do it. It doesn't just happen. *True

Working out. Eating right. *True

Time/Scheduling. *True

Spending money - making a budget - *True. True. True.

We don't really have a lot of flexibility in our personal budget. When people hear how much money we lived on 4 years ago - like what our grocery budget was, they have a hard time believing us...and although our budget has increased some, so has the size of our family!

Lee and I have been challenged to become better stewards of the resources God has given us. A steward is another word for a manager. We want to become better managers of what God has given to us. Especially in the area of our finances.

We don't have any debt. We paid off the student loans, credit cards, and other debts that we had. We don't own a single credit card, and we haven't for almost 6 years now. We have a credit score of zero. If we wanted to get a loan, we would have to have a huge down-payment to get it.

People ask us, "What will you do if you have an emergency?"

Our answer is that God has always provided for us. Always. We have paid for our vehicles (and we have been extremely blessed by people who have given us over time a car and 2 trucks - even though we no longer own all of those vehicles), medical bills, and everything else cash. And it has always been there when we needed it. Always. It is quite amazing to look back over the past 6 years and see how God has provided for us.

I would almost throw up at the beginning of every month - especially on the 5th - because our rent was due and our check wasn't in yet. Still God provided.

We even got a reimbursement check from the hospital. We had to pay for Bella, but all of my expenses were taken care of. And we received huge discounts on Bella's bills.

It really is living by faith. I have faith that God is going to provide what we need when we need it. And I know that He will because He's done it before, and He doesn't change.

It doesn't always come in the way I think it will, or even when I think it will, but God provides for us. And we are being able to keep money in our emergency fund/savings account, which is a huge blessing. We don't have everything we want, but we certainly have everything we need.

Yes, I want to own a house, but right now, I'm sitting in a beautiful 3 bedroom house in which our rent just went DOWN...yes, that is right, the price has been reduced because we've lived here for a year. It will stay at this lowered price for the remainder of our time here. The brand new A/C is blowing cold air...the brand new dishwasher gets my dishes clean, and the brand new refrigerator is keeping our food cold...and all of these new things were at no extra expense to me. We are very blessed.

I want to be careful with how we use the money that He provides. So, I'm jumping on the bandwagon of couponing. I've clipped. I'm going to organize the coupons as well as our budget and our meals. I'm going to shop with my coupons. I'm going to save our family money. I'm ready for the challenge to be a better manager of the money God has given us.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Latham Shrimp Boil in Buras

I decided to spend the week in Buras.

My cousin Lydia has been wanting to boil something for a while now, according to my parents, and she took my visit as the perfect excuse for a boil.

So, my dad made a phone call, and within hours had a friend bringing him enough shrimp to boil for our Latham Aunt Rhonda and Lydia were going to get everything else that goes with a boil - corn on the cob, sausage, potatoes, onions, garlic, mushrooms. My dad already had a stash of turkey necks to add to it.

My family has even done more, like hotdogs, broccoli and cauliflower, but this was a simple boil.

I love that this is not out of the ordinary for my family...that Bella will grow up familiar with living off the land with fish and shrimp, and even produce as we will reap the benefits of my parents' garden, and hopefully we'll have a garden of our own one day.

It's a good time when our family is together. We sit on my parents' huge porch and just relax, enjoying the food and the companionship. My family is full of hilarious people, which is why Lee fits in so well.

I am proud to be a Latham. I am proud that I grew up in Buras. And I am happy that I can return there with my children and share with them the beautiful place that I call home.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We Are All Better for It

It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday....but I'll take with me the be my sunshine...

Yes, that is a Boys II Men song...back in my day that was every high school graduating classes' song...

It really is hard to say goodbye. This is the first group of students that we are saying "goodbye" to who started college at the same time that Lee and I started the internship. 4 years ago. So much has happened in 4 years.

I was thinking back to our first spring banquet. I was pregnant with Bella. My belly was barely showing. I was poking it out to make sure that it showed. This year, I stood there with 2 children.

My physical presence at the cafe is barely a fraction of what it was when we first started Chi Alpha. But I have embraced and am living in freedom to be the mom and wife God has called me to be. I love Chi Alpha so much, but it is second to my family. I am thrilled to work at making my home a safe, comforting environment for my kids and my husband. It is not just our is our home. We lived in a few places before moving to our new house, and although it is really old...really old...this is our home. And I am enjoying making it a home for us.

I have such a deep love and respect for the students of chi alpha. So many of them have jobs to put themselves through school. They take over 12 hours of classes, have a ton of homework and assignments, and still invest their lives into others. It is not an easy task to be a leader in Chi Alpha, but it is definitely worth it. And for the international students who come...I think they are the bravest people in the world. Learning in English is hard enough, and for it to not be someone's primary language - oh my word...they are amazing. And many of them don't know anyone when they get here. I honestly don't know how they do it. Totally brave.

My life looks very different than it did 4 years ago...Lee and I often talk about how different we are now after being here. We haven't just invested in the students' lives, they have invested in ours. We're all better for it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Roller Coaster of a Life

I feel like I live on a roller coaster at times. Up and down...way up...way down...It's unbelievable how fast it can happen. I am not a huge fan of roller coasters...and it has probably been 10 years since I've been on one. I remember standing in line for hours and hours for a lot of roller coasters Labor Day weekend at Six Flags in Arlington, and the ride itself was over in less than 5 minutes...some of them were even less than 2 minutes...and I was in line for it for an hour. Was it really worth all that wait?

And the buildup to get to the top seems so slow, and then the downfall is so fast...hmmm...sounds like my life at times.

I must say, that I personally feel like I'm on the upside. I don't feel like I'm on a downward spiral that is never going to end. That is a good thing. I've been down in the dumps's no fun for me or anyone around me! Poor Lee doesn't know what to do when those moments happen.

I think what happens is when I feel down, I feel like I'm all alone. Like no one understands. Being a mom (in my world at least) feels very lonely at times. And it took me a long time to not feel left out all of the time. It was weird how life seemed to just move on without me...How Lee and I began to live in totally different worlds, when for so long we lived in the same world. After having Bella was when we had to begin to work really hard on our marriage - more importantly, our friendship. We had to (and still have to) work to find things in common. Just like any friends can grow apart with time, a husband and wife can too. It takes a lot of work to stay together on the same page...and in the same world.

I'm happy to say that I don't feel left out anymore. When Bella was little, I did feel left out. Even isolated. I tried to be a part of things only to be frustrated. Now, I don't let it bother me. Ok, so occasionally it does get to me, but then I have to think through it. At the moment, my kids are still little, but...It will not be this way forever...

And I'm realizing more and more that I'm not alone in this whole mommy business. There are so many women who are where I am, who have been where I am, and who will be where I am. That is a comforting feeling...I don't feel so crazy! :)

So, wherever you are...whatever you are facing...just remember...It will not be this way forever...the roller coaster ride ends, you get off, and get in line for another one - that's the joy of being in the amusement park of life!!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My New Hobby!

I'm going to start a new hobby now...I'm jumping on the bandwagon and will do my best to begin this thing of couponing. I don't plan on going extreme about it, but I am planning to start saving my family some money. I should have been doing this years ago!

When we started Chi Alpha, I left my teaching job...which means that I left my teaching salary. The awesome thing about being a teacher is getting paid all year long, even when you have the summer break. So, we started the internship in June, and I still received paychecks until August. So, in September, we started receiving our income in a different way.

We are not paid a salary by Chi Alpha. We are supported by our family, friends, churches, and businesses who send money to an office in Springfield, MO. This money is designated to us...and when we started doing Chi Alpha, we didn't have a lot of people on our support team. We only get the money that is sent in, and there were months when it just wasn't a lot. Thankfully, over the 4 years that we've been doing this, we've had a number of people join our team to help us in our budget requirements...and we're close to being at 100% of what the national office of the Assemblies of God expects us to have. (I wrote more about this in another can read it by clicking here).

Anyways, I'm going to start couponing!! I know that I can't do these major hauls like on Extreme Couponing on TLC...and I'm not sure that I want to do something that big ever. But I'm really excited about saving money for my family. I chose to leave my teaching job to be a full-time Chi Alpha missionary. I chose to stay home with my kids and help with Chi Alpha when I can. And this is an opportunity for me to have fun being a good steward of the finances that God has given us. I don't want to spend 40+ hours a week doing this, but I do hope to turn this into a fun hobby for me...and reap the benefits of saving money...It's going to be another adventure!!!!!