Thursday, March 27, 2014

Celebrating Lauren Ham

My second daughter, Lauren Michelle Bottoms, was born March 21, 1985. You can see Lauren's red hair in this picture taken at the hospital. You can also see Lauren holding on tight to the hospital pacifier. Lauren was a pacifier baby for several years.

I was happy to enjoy one-on-one time with Lauren in the hospital because I knew she'd have to share time with Jenny once we went home. Lauren was a very alert baby.

Lauren was beautiful in her little blue dress as we prepared to bring her home. It's funny how quickly little baby girls can wrap their dads around their little fingers.

Grandma Bottoms was waiting for us at home with Jenny, who was happy to see her new little sister. The girls shared a bedroom in the house we lived in beside Grandma and Papa Bottoms.

Lauren was a big baby when she was born, weighing 10 pounds 4 ounces. Papa Bottoms proudly pointed her out to others looking in the window, saying she was "the healthy-looking baby." Papa was very proud of all of his grandchildren and loved talking to baby Lauren.

Lauren was a happy baby from the time she woke up in the morning until she fell asleep at night. Her favorite person of all was her big sister, Jenny.

Lauren liked playing with toys, especially Jenny's toys. By the time Christmas came, Lauren could sit up pretty well by herself but wasn't crawling yet.

This has always been one of my favorite pictures of Lauren because it captures the wide-eyed wonder with which she looked at the world then and now.

Lauren loved her chocolate cake at her first birthday party. Lauren liked to crawl with toys in her mouth and could walk while holding hands but would cry if you let go of her hands.

Lauren took her first steps in May at 14 months and there was no looking back. We bought our first house in June, just before our trip to Kansas. For the first time, Lauren had her own bedroom.

I began working full-time when Lauren was just 8 weeks old, so we couldn't take a trip to Kansas that summer. Lauren was baptized in Kansas when she was 15 months old by Fr. Tom Tank, my childhood priest. Her Aunt Kathy and Uncle Mike were Lauren's godparents.

Anything Jenny did, Lauren wanted to do. The girls played stuffed animals, Barbies and My Little Ponies together. When Jenny wanted hot nails on her fingernails, Lauren needed hot nails too.

On October 15, 1987, Lauren became a big sister when baby Jack was born. From the beginning, Lauren was excited about having a baby in the house and loved to help and play with Jack.

Grandma Bottoms made Lauren this pretty dress and a giant stuffed bunny for her fourth birthday. Lauren always squinted her eyes when you told her to smile for pictures.

Whenever we visited our relatives in Kansas, we tried to get all of my parents' grandkids together. This photo is of Lauren with her siblings and seven cousins at Worlds of Fun during a visit in 1989.

Lauren attended preschool at Timberlake United Methodist Early Learning Center and joined Jenny at Heritage Elementary School when she started kindergarten in 1990. What a big school girl!

Although there are lots of professional pictures of the kids, this is one of the few taken of the entire family. We had this photo taken for our church directory.

Lauren started baking with me when she was 2 years old. When Jenny's friends came to our house to play, Lauren and I would bake cookies. In this picture, Lauren's making Christmas cookies from an old family recipe passed down in my Mom's family.

John and I separated in 1991 and divorced. As a single parent, I did a lot of things with the kids, including hiking. On this hike at Fallingwater Cascades, a photography group was at the bottom of the falls. One of the photographers took this family picture, which is still one of my favorites.

Lauren looked cute in her poodle skirt and pink and white saddle shoes for 50s Day at her school. Lauren liked school and enjoyed violin lessons, dance, gymnastics and playing with her friends in elementary school.

My Mom always hated having her picture taken, but she was all smiles in this 1996 picture, my favorite photo of my kids with my Mom.

Lauren has always loved animals. This is one of the puppies our dog Cindy brought to our house when we lived in the country. When we moved back to the city, we brought Cindy with us but had to find a new home for the puppies, who had grown into big dogs by then.

In the summer of 1999, we took our best family vacation. We picked up my sister Kathy in Kansas and traveled across the country, stopping to visit with my brothers Bob and Mike in Colorado and my sister Nancy in California. We posed for this picture at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Lauren played flute in middle school and continued at Heritage High School. In this picture, Lauren is posing with her friend Lyndsay Ballowe on a marching band trip. Lauren, Lyndsay and their mutual friend Jessica Blankenship were best friends in high school.

I remarried in 2000 and Lauren gained a stepbrother and stepsister. My kids already had two stepbrothers, the sons of their stepmom Vicki.

Lauren became an aunt when Jenny and BJ's son Kyle was born in 2001. Lauren loved playing with Kyle on Grandma house days when Kyle came over to stay with us.

Lauren was a good student in high school and stayed busy with band, school and friends. We were all so proud of Lauren at her graduation.

Lauren attended Lynchburg College, first studying psychology and later nursing. In this photo, Lauren poses before her first day of college.

In 2004, we visited Kansas to celebrate my Dad's 80th and Mom's 79th birthdays. All seven of my siblings were there and nearly all of my parents' grandchildren. Kyle was my parents' only great-grandchild when this four-generation photo was taken.

Nearly all of my parents grandchildren and their great-grandchild posed for this picture at the birthday celebration. With 19 years between the oldest and youngest child in our family, my parents' younger grandkids were near Kyle's age.

Lauren and Jessica were sisters of the heart. Lauren moved in with Jessica and her husband in 2005 and became an honorary aunt to Grayson, their son. This picture was taken on Jessica's 20th birthday.

Lauren is a great aunt to Kyle. Favorite Aunt Lauren and Kyle always found time to have fun whenever they were together.

Being an aunt is fun, but being a mom is even more fun. Andrew Keegan was born June 5, 2008. It was wonderful to be in the room when Andrew came into the world.

Lauren's best friend Jessica always told people that Andrew would be born on her birthday and he was! Jessica and Lauren always thought they would raise their kids together. Jessica posed for this picture with Andrew and her kids, Grayson and Galyn in August 2008. Sadly, Jessica was diagnosed with cancer a few months after Andrew was born and died January 2, 2009.

Lauren and Steven enjoyed a mini-vacation while Steven was on leave before he was deployed. Saying good-bye is never easy, especially when someone you love is going so far away.

Lauren and Steven were married January 29, 2009 in a small ceremony when Steven came back from deployment. Afterward the ceremony, we all went out for dinner together.

What a sweet looking couple Steven and Lauren were then and are now. They've dealt with all that life has thrown their way with love and grace.

Andrew looks amazed at the fact that he was standing all by himself. Andrew started walking before his first birthday. Lauren was a great Mom, just as I always knew she would be.

Lauren and Steven celebrated Andrew's first birthday with a family party at Riverside Park. The weather was nearly perfect, one of the benefits of a summertime birthday.

Alexis Rose Ham was born April 17, 2010, Lauren's second child and my first granddaughter. What a sweet baby girl and a proud Mom!

Andrew thought his new baby sister was funny. Andrew is a great big brother and he and Alexis have become such good friends.

Steven's parents Lisa and Antonio Adessi came up from Florida for Andrew's second birthday and Alexis' Baptism. This four-generation family photo was taken at John and Vicki's house after the Baptism.

Like Andrew, Alexis started walking before her first birthday. She was so proud of herself and so was Lauren. Keeping up with two active toddlers kept Lauren busy.

Lauren and Steven celebrated Alexis' first birthday with a family party at Riverside Park. The weather was great and both of these princesses were beautiful.

Being a stay-at-home Mom means more than playing with animals, watching cartoons and having fun with your kids. Parenting is a lot of hard work, but you'd never know that looking at this picture.

Lauren's always been a family-centered person and that hasn't changed since she became an adult. I'm blessed to be the Mom of these three wonderful adults.

Lauren is a great wife, mother, sister and daughter. She's also a beautiful woman, inside and out. I'm very proud of how Lauren and Steven have worked to achieve their goals.

Steven has been working and advancing his career by furthering his education since his discharge from the Navy. The proud family showed off Steven's degree from National College in May 2013.

Lauren enjoys spending time with her friends too. Candice, Katie and Lauren have known each other since their sons were in preschool together. Now they volunteer together in the boys' kindergarten class.

I'm grateful that Lauren, Steven, Andrew and Alexis live so close to us. It's a wonderful gift to watch my baby girl raising her babies. I'm been blessed to share so many happy times with Lauren and her family and look forward to many more happy memories.

Happy Birthday to my beautiful daughter, Lauren Ham and thanks for the memories!