10.17.2014

Five on Friday {Fall Edition}

I haven't done a Five on Friday post in a long time and thought I would do one as a catch up on our Fall so far. It has been a busy, busy, busy September & October!
Lots of fun has been had.
Five on Friday - Fall Edition

{ONE}
Nothings screams Fall like College Football. I love football, both college and NFL.
One of my favorite things about going to the University of Colorado was going to the football games on Saturdays. Our stadium was right on campus & myself and my soccer teammates would all walk to the football games together. So many great memories. And, our football team was actually good then. Ha! I am excited that Colorado is in the Pac 12 because that means they come to the Bay Area now for games. Colorado was play Cal in football at the end of September, so I knew we had to go!
It was so fun being back on a college campus watching football! We sat in the Colorado section, so even though we weren't the home team, sitting with all the Colorado fans & signing our fight song made me feel like I was in college again.
At half time they had a bunch of high school bands throughout California perform & our high school band happened to be there. So random! (Kevin and I were not in band, we are 2 of the most un-musical people there are. Ha!)
The game was amazing! Colorado lost 59-56 in Double Overtime, but it was still tons of fun! Here I am hanging out with Chip, our mascot!
I thought we were just going to the Colorado vs. Cal football game, but I was wrong! Kevin surprised me with a night away at the Claremont Resort & Spa! He arranged for his mom to watch our kids and right before we left for the game he told me to pack an overnight bag!
We have been to dinner at the Claremont, but have never stayed at the hotel. It is beautiful! And, has the most amazing views of San Francisco Bay!
This was a belated anniversary trip. Our 12th anniversary was in August...the day before school started, so we weren't able to get away then.
We had a nice slow morning walking around the grounds of the hotel & drinking coffee by the pool with views of the Bay Bridge.
Morning Coffee in bed watching Football? Don't mind if I do!
 It's so nice to have a night away without kids. 
We don't get away nearly enough, it's hard to do that with 3 kids, but I am thankful for the times we do get to recharge & not deal with the demands of kids.
Our 24 hour get away ended with an amazing brunch....Bloody Mary's and Eggs Benedict! Yum!
This weekend was definitely one of my favorites this Fall.

{TWO}
Can I complain about the weather we are having here in California?!?!
This is what the weather was last week:
 I am sorry, but 97 degrees in October is NOT okay. It's just not.
 Swimming in mid-October? Just crazy.
This hot weather in October is just not good for California. 
We are in a MAJOR drought. Major.
Here are some photos of one of our lakes.
2011 is on top & 2014 is on the bottom.
Can you believe it? So, so, sad.
We are on major water restrictions!
Pray for California! We need Rain! And cooler temperatures!

{THREE}
Rodan + Fields ACUTE CARE is pre-launching this Wednesday, October 22nd!

Fill a wrinkle, while you sleep....no needle required! Love these results after just one use:
Erica used it on just one side:
This just isn't for wrinkles, it works on scars also.
Look at the before & afters of this girl's scar that she got from a dog bite when she was younger.
The special for Acute Care is that you will get it at the Consultant Price of $165.After that, it won't be available until January and the cost goes up and will be $198.
If you would like to get the Acute Care Special on October 22nd, send me an email:
melissa_larson17(at)yahoo.com

{FOUR}
Today is the 25 year anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake.
I was in 5th grade when the Big One hit. I will never forget that day.
Destruction all across the Bay Area. Freeways collapsing.
 I was at my house when it happened, talking on the phone to my friend Holly.
I remember the line got disconnected and our house just kept shaking and shaking.
You could literally hear the rumbling of the Earth.
I froze...then remembered to duck & cover!
 We just had few things fall off the walls and nothing major broke. We were lucky.
The picture above is the Bay Bridge. The top collapsed on to the bottom. My 8th grade Algebra teacher's husband was the last car to get thru & part of the freeway fell on the back of his mini-van.
It was insane.
Can't believe it was 25 years ago. It seems like it was just yesterday!

{FIVE}
Giants are going to the WORLD SERIES....again!!!!
 Last night's game was AMAZING.
Ishikawa's walk off homer in the 9th inning to win the game...it was a storybook ending!

Kevin and I were jumping up and down, cheering & screaming so loudly that it woke up Kate!
 We love our Giants! Born and Raised Giants fans in our house!

We won in 2010 and I went to one of the games...It was amazing, one of my Bucket List items!
Read about it {HERE}

 We won in 2010,  2012 and now in 2014 we are going to the World Series again!!!
 
So much fun!!!

So, there you have it....my FIVE on FRIDAY!
TGIF.....it has been a looooong week here, it's been conference week at school so that is always crazy and busy! I am looking forward to a relaxing weekend!
Hope YOU have a wonderful weekend!

10.16.2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

It's no secret that I LOVE pumpkin.
Once October hits, I am all about pumpkin.
Pumpkin decorations, the pumpkin patch and pumpkin bread (to name a few)
I love everything pumpkin....EXCEPT for Pumpkin Pie (it's a texture thing) and I can't drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes..so gross...you can read my letter to the PSL {HERE}
One of my favorite things to do in October and November is to cook & bake things with pumpkin in them. I am going to try and post a pumpkin recipe once a week until Thanksgiving.
Last week, I posted my Pumpkin Ice Cream Cake {Recipe HERE
The weather finally dropped below the 90's, so I decided to make some pumpkin cheesecake brownies.
 Here is what you need:
- Box of brownie mix (for a 9x13 dish)
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup of canned pumpkin
- 3 oz of cream cheese
- 1 Tablespoon of Butter
-1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
- 1/2 Teaspoon of ground cinammon
- 1/2 Teaspoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1 Tablespoon of Flour

 Directions:
In a medium bowl, add the brownie mix AND the ingredients according the the brownie mix (eggs, oil, water). Mix according to the box directions.
Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and spread the brownie mix into the pan. Set aside.
In a different bowl, add the 3 oz of cream cheese and the 1 tablespoon butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for about 30 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until well combined, about 1 minute. Then add in the 1 egg, the 3/4 cup of pumpkin, 1 teaspoon vanilla, the cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Beat until combined. Stir in the 1 tablespoon flour. 
Scoop the pumpkin/cream cheese mixture in several mounds on top of the brownie batter. 
Using a narrow metal spatula, gently swirl the cream cheese mixture into the chocolate batter.
 Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let the brownies cool in the pan before you cut them up.
 You can eat these warm, but I actually prefer them cold!
After I cut them up, I layered the brownies between sheets of waxed paper in a covered airtight container and I kept them in my fridge. You can store them in the fridge for 3-5 days.
I really love the combination of brownies & pumpkin. It is the perfect afternoon pick me up with some iced coffee or hot coffee.
I hope you love these brownies as much as I do.
 They would also be delicious with a scoop of vanilla (or pumpkin) ice cream on top.
Everything is better a la mode!

If you love pumpkin as much as I do, you can check out some of my other pumpkin recipes:

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles {HERE} Pumpkin Cheesecake {HERE}
Pumpkin Bars {Recipe HERE}
Next week I will have a savory pumpkin recipe for you! I think you will love it!

I would love to know.....what is your favorite recipe with pumpkin? 
Mine is Pumpkin Bread!

10.15.2014

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day

Today, October 15th is National Day of Remembrance for Pregnancy and Infant loss.
This includes all babies who have died because of miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, or any other infant death.
I have shared my story of loss before and I will continue to share it every October 15th because it is a reminder to me (and hopefully others) about God's love & faithfulness.

It reminds me that
God has a plan for my life (and yours!) and that HIS plan is better than my plan - Always.

I had 2 miscarriages before I had Kate.
 
  Ectopic Pregnancy at 6 weeks on October 22, 2002 (due date June 23, 2003) 
Miscarriage at 10 weeks D&C on October 25, 2005 (due date May 26, 2006)  

 I still think about them & wonder.
Were they a boy or a girl?
I could have a 11.5 year old and an 8.5 year old.


But then I wouldn't have my Kate, Claire or Luke.

 God has a plan. His timing is perfect. Trust in Him.
This is what would remind myself during my saddest days.
In the process of having miscarriages & sharing about them, I have met many, many women who have lost their sons and daughters. I have friends, family & co workers who have had miscarriages. I have several friends who have lost their babies at full term, days & months after having them. I can't imagine the pain they have suffered.

The Lord has broken my heart for families who have to endured these types of losses. I don't fully know the pain these families have gone through, but I have felt a small fraction of it.
 
This is one of the reasons I felt called in 2008 to become a volunteer photographer for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep 6 years ago. I cannot take away the pain of someone's loss, but I can give them something to remember their child by. You can read about my journey to become a volunteer with them HERE. 
  
For those of you who are new to my blog or haven't read it before,  here is my story of loss:
(I post this every October 15th)
 
Kevin and I got married on August 24, 2002. We wanted to wait 3-4 years to have kids. I was on the pill and took it religiously at the same time every day. Imagine my surprise when I found out I was pregnant 2 months after we got married. We had always wanted kids, just not so soon after getting married. I went to the doctor & they gave me a due date of June 23, 2003. I was FREAKING out & couldn't believe I was pregnant. This pregnancy was our "honeymoon baby". Apparently I got pregnant on our honeymoon.  
Unfortunately, a few days after I found out I was pregnant in October of 2002, I woke up to an intense pain on my left side & when I went to the bathroom I was massively bleeding & then I passed out. Kevin rushed in and woke me up & we rushed to my doctor & after some tests, he informed me that I was having an ectopic pregnancy & that I had to go immediately to the hospital for emergency surgery because the condition was life threatening for me. 
So, that Tuesday night in late October, I was rushed to the hospital for surgery. Luckily, I have one of the best doctors in the area & he was able to save my left fallopian tube (it was already starting to rupture). I am glad that I was unaware of how serious ectopic pregnancies can be. I didn't realize I could have died if my tube ruptured. Even though my doctor saved my fallopian tube (and my life!), I always wondered how this would effect my ability to get pregnant & have kids. One of my biggest dreams was to be a mommy & for the next few years I wondered if that would ever happen. 
  
  Fast forward to the summer of 2005.  

This is when we decided to start "trying". We got lucky & I got pregnant the 2nd month after we started trying. I was due May 26, 2006. Kevin and I were thrilled. I couldn't wait to have a baby & be a mommy. I was relieved that the ectopic pregnancy didn't effect my ability to get pregnant. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I went in for blood work to make sure my numbers were doubling. My dr called and told me my progesterone was low & I needed to be on progesterone suppositories 2 times a day. Let me tell, you , those are NOT fun. Nasty. 
My pregnancy was progressing, at 6 weeks the nausea hit big time & I was throwing up 2-3 times a day. I was miserable, but it was worth it. We had our first ultrasound at almost 6 weeks to make sure the baby was in my uterus and not my tube. The baby was in my uterus & I scheduled another appt at 8 weeks for the heartbeat check. The 8 week ultra sound was no so great. There was a heart beat, but it was very low & took my doctor a long time to find it. He said I needed to come back in a week for another heartbeat check. At that appointment, there was still a slow heartbeat, but the baby was not growing on track & was only measuring 7 weeks. My doctor warned us not to be too optimistic, but I still had really bad morning sickness and was getting sick a few times a day. I thought that was a good sign. I had to go in again at 10 weeks for another heartbeat & growth check. At the 10 week appointment, the heart had stopped beating. 
We had lost the baby & my doctor scheduled me in for a D&C that night. 
It was a Tuesday night in late October, just like 3 years before.  
As I walked into the hospital for surgery, I felt like I was on Groundhog Day. Another surgery to remove another baby from my body that didn't make it. After my D&C, I was going through the motions of life. We were told to wait 3 cycles before we could try again so that my body could heal. Those were 3 very long, hard & dark months for me. I was numb. My 2nd miscarriage hit me so much harder than my first one. I was mad at God for taking this baby from us. It took me about 6 months to process it.
 During that time, I had a lot of support from family & friends and for that, I am thankful.  
I am thankful to my awesome & supportive husband who would hold me as I cried many nights mourning our loss wondering if I would ever have a baby. I would cry myself to sleep whenever a friend told me they were pregnant. I was truly happy for them, but SO sad for me. It was just another reminder of what I didn't have. I am thankful to our pastor who helped me process some of my feelings & emotions during the months after our loss. 
  I am thankful to my mom who encouraged me during this time & gave me hope (she had 4 losses in between me & my younger sister including an ectopic & a placenta separation at 21 weeks).  
I am thankful for my best friend AK. She had 2 miscarriages around the same time I did. I was able to call her & cry with someone who was going through the same thing I was. She understood my pain. 
  I am thankful to my dear friend Lorie who had suffered 2 losses. She shared her prayer journal with me & held me up in prayer when I was too sad to pray for myself. After we good the go ahead to start trying again, it took us 3 months and we got pregnant in May of 2006. We found out on Kevin's 31st birthday, (a week before my "due date" with my 2nd miscarriage) We were excited, but I was really nervous about having another miscarriage. I was a stress case & paranoid my entire pregnancy. On January 23, 2007 , I gave birth to our beautiful Katelyn Grace.
It was a moment I will never forget & an emotion I can't put into words.
One of my favorite pictures EVER (30 seconds after Kate was born)

I was reminded again at the miracle of life when Claire was born 6 years ago and when Luke was born 2 years ago.
God has a plan. His timing is perfect. Trust in Him.

My kids are a reminder of that truth.

 
I never thought I would say this, but part of me is grateful I have been through miscarriages because it has given me compassion & a heart for those who have also suffered losses. My miscarriages caused me to cling to God & put my faith, hope & trust in HIM instead of myself. 
It drew me closer to Christ as I clung to Psalm 20:4: "May He give you the desires of your heart and make your plans succeed." 
God was faithful to me even though many times, I have been unfaithful to Him. 
  I am thankful to God who carried me through a dark time & showed me that He was there for me & He did have a plan for me & that HIS timing is better than my timing.
 Because of this, when I hear of others who have suffered a loss, I mourn with them. I pray for them, I listen, I cry with them. My heart breaks with them.I can't make them feel better or make their pain go away, but I can make it less lonely. 
 I have learned a compassion that only comes by walking in those shoes. 
I was reminded again & again that God has a purpose & a plan even when I don't understand.  
 What I have learned through my journey is that I was NOT alone during a time where I felt so alone and when it seemed like EVERYONE around me was pregnant, except me. God was there, carrying me through this tough time.
 
I discovered that intercessory prayer is powerful. 
To have people praying for you when you don't have the words to pray yourself is humbling.
If you have lost a baby through miscarriage or infant death, I want to pray for you on this day of remembrance.

So, if you are one of those women who needs prayer will you please leave a comment on this post and tell me your name so that I can be praying for you?


I have changed the comments so that you can comment Anonymously if you don't want to leave your name.

If you are someone struggling with infertility, I want to pray for you.

If you are waiting to adopt, you will also be lifted up in prayer.
If you want, you can include the nature of your loss, and the child's names so that we can pray for you. 

If you want to leave an anonymous comment, you can do that also.  
If you haven't lost a child, will you join me in praying for those who have?

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