Friday, December 21, 2012

Come, Jesus, Come!

Friends,

Right before Thanksgiving Jen and I discussed taking the month of December off of blogging. It's been over a year of her and I writing together and it has really been fun. Writing has helped us both process the thoughts in our heads; it gave us a moment to pause and think about our feelings and beliefs.

During the week of Thanksgiving Jen found a lump in her breast. She immediately called the doctor because of the history of breast cancer in her family. We were hoping it was just a blocked milk duct but, after a whirlwind of appointments, found that it was cancer.

Everything happened very fast and of course the fact that she's at the end of a pregnancy had an impact on the decisions her, Levi, and her doctors had to make.

A couple of weeks ago she had a lumpectomy, putting off a mastectomy until the summer, once baby was born and chemotherapy was complete. The surgeon found that even though the tumor was small and in an early stage, it was fast-growing and there were precancerous cells left behind. She needed that mastectomy ASAP.

The baby will be born early, some time early January, followed by surgery and then chemo.

To say this is overwhelming is putting it mildly. There is so much to think about, and with four little ones three and under it is going to be an exhausting year. Both sets of parents will be coming to help. I plan to go out the last week of January. I know her church family is going to love them with meals and help. It's a time for Jen and Levi to receive.

In an e-mail Jen wrote to close friends and family she said:

Please pray for the obvious, that I will be cancer-free. That means a lot of things have to go right, but basically we just need me to be healthy. Of course as a mom my burden is the impact on my family. I know this will put extra pressure on Levi (who already gets bombarded every evening with 3 boys who are obsessed with his every move!), who never complains but already carries so much weight in our home. Our parents have generously offered to stop their lives and stay with us for some of these crazier periods, so we're beyond grateful for that. Unfortunately many of you know more than I do about what's ahead of me since you or your loved ones have gone through cancer with all its baggage. You especially will know how to pray.

Please pray for Jen and her family. This season of Advent is a time preparing for our Lord to come. June was born Christmas Eve three years ago and I followed the path of Mary and felt her anticipation of His coming. This year Jen's cancer has brought me to a new place of desiring Jesus to come. Not just anticipating Him, but truly wishing He would show up and bring us Home. It's a longing I've never truly grasped before. Please pray with me for Jesus to come in this situation and heal our Jen.

Love to you and yours,

Ann

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Trip to the ER

Jen,

Today I write to you with no encouraging words but just to let you know how I am doing. I am exhausted and deflated. I was hoping my last post would detail the end of the hoopla of life hitting me but, no, it wasn't. I hadn't left the house from this past Thursday until Monday night. Here's why...

We left for Texas the Friday before Thanksgiving and came back that Tuesday. The trip was good, it was just all the traveling. Four planes, three kids, 1000 suitcases (ok so it felt like 1000), weird naps, 1,000 miles of walking (I might not be exaggerating on this one) random food, and the list goes one. My kids did amazing! I don't think there was one meltdown. They love being with their cousins so their favorite stuffed animal could be on fire and they'd be fine. 

Cousins at Sea World!
Wednesday, our first full day home, was going to be a day of rest. June threw up most of the day. We put sheets down randomly on furniture and the rug because you never knew when it was going to happen. The kid never even whimpered! Thanksgiving was a throw-up-free day but June kept complaining about her mouth hurting and started screaming when she ate. Since she is not a complainer I knew it was bad. I took her to the doctor who couldn't find anything wrong. We were waiting for a nurse to come in with June facing me when she got this look in her eye and she puked all over me. From the top of my shirt to the bottom of my pants. The nurse was taking a really long time so I started to yell "Help!" Of course, I didn't want to be too dramatic so I started off just yelling "Excuse me, I need help!" When no one came I just started yelling loudly! The doctor came running and saw me. I didn't want to stand up because I didn't want to get it everywhere. UGH! GROSS!

We laid low on Friday when Friday evening Ada threw up. She had nothing left to give and dry heaved until 1:30am. It was so awful. Saturday she barely ate. I kept her hydrated but by Sunday morning I was growing concerned. Everyone was stir crazy so after two days of telling the girls we couldn't go cut the Christmas tree down Greg decided to take the two older girls and I stayed home with Ada. She would not drink anything. Ada would back bend and shove the bottle away. I finally called the doctor and since she hadn't peed in over 24 hours they told me to take her to the ER.


Searching for the perfect tree! (Photo by Greg Ehlert)
I'll spare you all the details of the ER (i.e. moaning man yelling profanities and policeman delaying an arrest) but let's just say four and half hours and 5 nurses trying to get an IV into Ada wasn't a trip to Candyland. At one point four nurses were each holding a limb tapping away at Ada's veins to find one. They failed four times and then called the pediatric nurse from another floor who tried and failed as well. We then started to give her Pedialyte and she actually took some. The took her blood and found she was dehydrated and her blood sugar was low. 


Ada sleeping on me in the ER.
As of Monday she still was having a hard time drinking anything. I am starting to use the syringe like the doctor suggested to get some liquid in her. She has peed some which is good. Please pray for Ada and pray for me in caring for everything. One moment I am great and the next moment I wonder how we are going to do it. Thank God for Greg who is a true partner!

Ann
_______

Ann,

I want to push the pause button for you! This is crazy. As if vacation doesn't throw off a family enough, now you have sickies.

Many prayers for Ada and I'm glad to hear that as of Tuesday morning she's eating larger amounts. It's so heartbreaking to have a sick child, especially a baby. Sweet girl.

Love and prayers,

Jen

Friday, November 23, 2012

Celebrating 3 Years

Ann,

I wonder when a child's birthday stops bringing you right back to their actual birth day? On Thanksgiving we celebrated the twins' third birthday. Just thinking about their birthday sends me right back to that day--I can smell the hospital's hand sanitizer and taste the fear in my mouth.

On Saturday night, November 21, Levi and I went to the movies. That afternoon we'd purchased our final "major" baby item, our carseats, and gone to dinner. It was a great day together. During the movie I'd noticed some "cramping" and decided to get up and walk around the theater to see if they would subside. They ended up coming every 15 minutes. When we got home and they weren't slowing down, I called the labor and delivery unit as instructed, and they recommended I come in to get checked if they started speeding up, which they didn't. I was 34 weeks along and still believed I'd have babies on their due date: January 1, 2010.

The next morning I noticed more cramping as I got ready for church, and I even remember putting my friend's hands to my stomach after church to let her feel what a contraction felt like. I just figured I was on my way to bedrest.

After church Levi made us lunch and I took a spot on the couch, trying different positions to let get the cramping to subside. I figured I'd better start timing the cramps because if I had to call the hospital the nurses would certainly ask. After 10 "cramps" in an hour (I'd refused to call them contractions) I decided to call, which earned me a trip to the hospital.

On our way out the door Levi asked if we should grab our cell phones and I said not to bother. I was sure we'd be back in a couple hours, and the only change would be a prescription for bedrest for me.

When we arrived at L&D they noticed I was effacing and contracting, and after receiving meds to try and slow down labor I was still progressing. Babies were coming. Today. Now.

Since my first childbirth experience was also considered an emergency situation, the cloud of fear hung over that L&D unit for me. In fact since that experience I'd attempted visits to friends with new deliveries and I just couldn't. I'd make it to the sign-in desk and have to send a nurse in with my gift and apologies.

On that Saturday afternoon the doctor remained very calm but explained that Everett was breech (he was Baby B) so a cesarean was recommended. OK, fine, but were we seriously going to HAVE BABIES TODAY?

The moment she yanked them out of me the entire room full of scrub-dressed folks breathed an audible sigh of relief. For their age they were big and very responsive. Each baby weighed 5 pounds, 9 ounces.

Levi at about 5 days old

Everett, also 5 days old

Since they were wheeled straight away to the special care nursery I didn't get to see them for many hours, but the kind nurses brought me printouts of digital pictures of my boys. I was in the thickest of fogs: fatigued, shocked, drugged, and elated.

Since this was the winter of the H1N1 flu, only Levi and I were allowed to hold our babies, who never saw a room outside of that nursery. Even family who visited could only look at them through a 6 inch-wide pane of glass, that was by sneaking them down a back hallway to the staff entrace.

I remember being discharged on that Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, driving home without babies. I don't mean to be melodramatic, but to leave a hospital once again without babies was excruciating. The twins were not ready to come home, and we were told it could be a month or more before they were eating well enough and stabilized.

I went to the hospital twice a day for that week a half after my discharge, snuggling and feeding the babies who I was convinced had no idea I was that mother. The cold wind hitting us every night as we left after the 9pm feeding was a cruel reminder of our babyless house. For some reason I just could not believe that a day would come when everything was fine and we would have a house full of screams and dirty diapers.

Boy, was I ever wrong. (Levi is on the left in all pics except where noted.)




Everett (l) and Levi (r)








Jen

_________________

Jen,

Way to go on getting me all teary eyed! Love these boys and I love remembering with you the day they were born. It was scary to say the least but it was so relieving the day they came home from the hospital. Happy 3rd birthday Levi and Everett! I love you!

Ann


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Advent

Jen,

We haven't even hit Thanksgiving yet and my mind is reeling. It's been quite a few years since I felt this way. I make a conscious effort to be done with my Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving so that I can just enjoy the Christmas season and all the events that come with it, but this year has caught up with me. Lately,I can only think about one week at a time, which doesn't allow much for planning ahead.

We've celebrated Advent since the beginning of our marriage but even more intensely in the past five years. Advent means "coming" and we focus on preparing our minds for Christ's coming. When I miraculously was pregnant with June it was amazing to walk in the footsteps of Mary. June's due date was Christmas day so we could follow her journey closely. Greg and I felt deeper emotions that year about the coming baby and reading about Mary.

This season has become a time of reflection and worship on the One we are aiming to live for. I hit a crazy wall last week with stress. I tend to take things in stride. When my phone broke and after five long drives to the store and crazy outrageous stories of why I couldn't get a phone which then left me without one for four days, I was calm. When the roofer said he'd be done with our roof by Monday and Thursday came around and they were stilling pounding during nap time, I was calm. When Greg decided to fix the light in our kitchen which turned out to be a bigger project than expected, I was calm. When someone backed into my car so I could no longer get out my door, I was calm. When I received a bill for Ada's echo-cardiogram that happened this past January along with the bills from her birth, I started to feel the pressure. And then when we received five party invites for the same week all on different nights, I started to freak out!

What will my Advent look like? Will I experience peace? Will I experience the anticipation of His coming? Will I deepen my belief and revel in joy? 


I am going to chose to spend our Advent focused on Him and most likely we are going to have to say "no" to some really great things. Hopefully I will take the time to share more about how we celebrate Advent. For now I ask for your prayers. That we would truly celebrate this upcoming Advent season and that we don't give in to the busyness that this season can bring.


He is coming!

Ann

________

Ann,

Prayers indeed.

Jen

Friday, November 16, 2012

Giving me a break

Ann,

So in our lifetime of friendship have you picked up on the fact that I'm a bit hard on myself? Well this week I had a little revelation. Here it is:


Give yourself a break.
Stop thinking that
EVERY. SINGLE. MOVE.
has eternal consequence.

That seems contrary to what I'm told in faith-based resources, but since the author doesn't know me personally, it's my job to take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. Since I am SUPER literal and serious, I have GOT TO CHILL OUT if I want to remain a healthy person while I raise these little guys.

Case #1: I'm starting to recognize and accept that some things are for a season. I mentioned to you the other day that I'm in a season where the boys are hard to take grocery shopping. I feel like a lazy mom if I shop without them, and I feel like I'm witholding a good learning experience from them, so I try to just suffer and bring them. But all of a sudden it's occurring to me that I DON'T HAVE TO SUFFER. We can work on this skill later, or in small doses, or who knows when! Sorry to yell but this is a huge weight lifted.

Case #2: Remember when Hayden was a baby and the twins were...well...babies, too? I had trouble taking them anywhere that didn't offer a cart. I recall taking them to a doctor's appointment and calling you crying afterward because it was so hard. Once we were in the room it was fine, but getting a newborn and two 14 month old babies from the car to the waiting room put me over the edge. You asked me if there was anyone who could have helped me and I remember saying "They are my responsibility." I can't recall your exact response but I think it was something like, "You are stupid and stubborn and I want to choke you. ASK FOR HELP."

I'm sure to the casual observer the obvious lesson here seems to be just that (help), but first I had to work through the belief that they're always my responsibility. Of course they are technically, but it doesn't make me negligent to ask for help for ONE APPOINTMENT. (More yelling, sorry). It doesn't mean I'll need help forever, it just means that for that moment, in those circumstances, I needed more hands. Period. No big deal.

I know these seem like small revelations, but I'm starting to recognize the not-so-healthy tapes playing in my head and figure out how to turn the channel. This onceisn't 100% there for me, but I'm definitely making progress!

Jen

________________

Jen,

This is very good news to hear! I am so glad you are recognizing the need for help in situations. Asking someone to hold the door for you while you try to get three kids into the door of a building is not asking a lot. Yes, I'm referring to the time you took the kids to the doctor by yourself and I'm being sarcastic about how ridiculous you can be. So glad I don't have to yell at you because you seemed to be doing all the yelling (Heh, heh).

It is humbling to ask for help and humbling to receive it. I can say from experience that, although humbling, so many people are longing to be a part of something. I know that you allowing them to help you would bless them and bring a sense of purpose to them. Even the person just holding the door for you is going to feel a little good inside for helping the crazy women with the four kids under three and under. God has called us to love Him and love others but what if we don't allow others to love us? What if we won't receive the love that is being offered?

I definitely will continue to pray that you find out more why its hard to accept help. If I could give you anything it's that. I always wish I lived close so I could help you. I wouldn't wait around for you to ask. I'd force it on you. 

Soon one of your blessings of a friend will be leaving for another state. I know she's been a great help to you and the boys love her. I'm praying for that void to be filled with others around you and that you'd learn what you need for help and how to allow others to do that.

Ann

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Yielding

Today's post is written by a good friend of Ann's named Melissa. They meet regularly to discuss Jesus and their struggles. Recently, they have been discussing the fruit of the Spirit and in particular self-control. Earlier in the year the Lord showed Ann through the book of Jonah that food had become an idol to her. Although this revelation was fascinating it didn't take away the desire for food. This post sums up a lot of what Ann is learning. We are grateful for Melissa's insights she has received and her willingness to share them.

Life has been kickin' since coming home from South Africa in August. I have been go-go-going with work and church and life and friends and volunteering. It has been great, but my time in SA was not nearly as full of tasks and I spent quite a deal of it in my head--learning about myself and about my God. And that was really great.

It has been a struggle to transition back into the warp speed of "The West." I find myself savoring every spare moment of solitude. (Please note: coming from an extreme extrovert, those words carry a great deal of weight!) Though a To-Do list looms and days roar by, it is the moments of introspection and prayer I am able to squeeze out of my schedule that drive me. They are all the more precious now.

I have been contemplating a couple major themes in these times alone with my Savior. There seems to be a boulder in my path. A lump in my throat. A pebble in my shoe. No matter where I turn, some information or reference to these issues is before me.

One of these major themes is Self-Control. I am probably the only person who struggles in this area, so just bear with me for the rest of this blog post. ;) I share as a glimpse into what God is doing in me, but maybe, just maybe, it will speak to what is going on in some of your lives as well.

A couple weeks back, these were the insights flooding my mind, journal pages, and correspondence with confidantes:

I have been realizing that I don't believe God is in my ability to control myself--it baffles me that it is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. I can't believe that when you have the Spirit in you, you are able to display better self-control. It really grows as you allow the presence of the Holy Spirit do its work in you? Crazy!

My response to controlling my behavior has always been two-fold: I either think it is entirely my job and God has nothing to do with it (and he has nothing to do WITH ME until I can get myself under control) OR I try to hand complete control over to God because it is too hard to do on my own and then I can blame Him when things go wrong.

The first option: it's impossible. I can't control myself on my own. I am powerless against the pull of sin on my desires.

The second option: God refuses. He will not take over control of my life. I am not a robot. I have free will. He will not call all the shots for me. He wants me to realize we are in this thing together. He isn't going to take over for me. He knows I will just blame Him for whatever happens--He knows, because even though He doesn't have control now, I still blame Him!

So, where does that leave me? How does God's presence in my life result in self-control? Who is in charge, which duties are mine and which are the Holy Spirit's? I think it goes back to "We are in this thing together." Yes, it is true that I have to hand over SOMETHING to Him--I have to trust Him. I have to trust that He wants to live intimately with me. I have to trust that His wisdom will guide me in the right directions. I have to trust that He loves me unendingly.


Click here to read the rest of this post on Melissa's blog.

  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Til Death Do Us Part

Ann,

Do you ever have those moments that seem fairly mundane but you know they're being seared into your memory, sure to mean something later?

When Levi and I were dating we went to the theater and saw "Dead Man Walking." There's a group counseling scene with a married couple discussing the death of their young daughter. She'd died years before and their marriage was suffering because they were dealing with the grief so differently. Details are fuzzy, but at one point they stop and ponder over the line in traditional marriage vows, "Til death do us part." Levi and I both let a "woah" fall out of our mouths, and then we looked at each other and said it again, shocked that we both had the same reaction. Little did we know how that statement would similarly impact our marriage.

During the time we waited for Elisabeth to come and in the months immediately after, Levi and I were very much in sync. We preferred to use the same language and tone when referring to her life and death, and we desired to keep most of our feelings between us.

 
As time passed, it was clear we were grieving very differently. Neither was doing it right or wrong, we were doing what felt like healing for each of us. But in the moment you do feel like the death is parting you.

Last week we recognized the anniversary of Elisabeth's birth and death. To recognize her short life, the first three years we participated in a charity walk for a nonprofit that helps families dealing with neonatal and infant death. This year we couldn't make it, but I still took some time alone around "her" date. Levi is very supportive about doing the charity walks, though I know he'd prefer to skip them. He also encourages me to take that time alone every year, and even listens lovingly as I have my annual outpouring of emotions, though I know he'd prefer to skip that, too. It has taken me a long time to realize that his way is healthy, too. He's not verbal like I am, and he also doesn't find it healing to relive pain. Makes sense! (I don't see it as pain, though, and that's partially why I find it healing.)

Actually I asked Levi to read this message to you and he had some pretty profound things to say:

I agree, I don't want to talk about our experience in depth or detail. My moments of reliving happen alone, where I feel like I have control over how long and to what degree I want to go down the road.
 
When we are going down that road together I feel like I am on a tandem bike and I want to stop, so put my feet up. But because you're still peddling, we continue down the bumpy road that I know leads to a pool of tears. Once we are on the road I feel badly because of my resistance and my lack of commitment of getting to the end, but I'm a control freak when it comes to my emotions and I don't want to "go there." So this journey feels unnatural to me, but I am often jealous of the ease with which you venture there. My biggest fear in going down this road is that it will bring me back to the day that it happened--the worst day and one of the best days of my life. A day where the pull of emotions was so intense it made me physically ill. On one hand we had a daughter that I wanted to hold and love, but she was not meant for this world and our short time with her seemed just that--too short.


Obviously he is still grieving too, but you can see how complicated it gets when you're trying to do it in tandem.

My heart breaks for people who encounter these types of situations and I can understand completely how it can become a wedge in a marriage. I think it will be a lifelong work, and I pray we can continue to respect one another's paths to health and healing. 

Jen
________

Jen and Levi,

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of Elisabeth's story. All three of you have taught me so much about faith, hope and love. Your lives truly reflect His glory and I will continue to pray for your marriage as well as solicit continued prayers for mine. Looking forward to the day where you both can ride tandem the way you would like to.

Ann

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Catina's Golden Birthday

Jen,

Catina turns six today! She keeps calling it her golden birthday since she's six on the sixth. 

Catina is my baby of faith. Waiting and believing that some day she'd be here and then when she was here sometimes feeling guilty that I wasn't always happy that she was. Being a parent is hard work and when she'd have a temper tantrum or act outright defiant I was beside myself wondering what I did wrong. I've learned since then to not believe the lies that created guilt and to allow myself to be frustrated or disappointed and to pray and consult with Greg on how to be a better help to her.

Picture by Clay Carnill

This past week I helped out at her Halloween party and it was an overwhelming feeling of amazement as the party carried on. I had a few moms come to me to tell me how Catina is the talk at home and how their kids just really love Catina. My response was always the same in stating that Catina loves people and she's a great girl. Every time the mom would reiterate that she was truly special. 

A few weeks ago Catina received a note from a boy that told her he loved her. I wasn't really sure how to take it and when she asked me to read it I read it very casually. I didn't want to make a big deal about the love part but inside I was freaking out a tiny bit. At the Halloween party the little boy's mom told my mom that her son had some behavioral issues and that he was so grateful for Catina for befriending him and that he wanted to express how much he loved her. Really? How sweet is that? Not only that Catina was doing a good job being a friend but that he was appreciative and wanted to let her know. That's incredible!


Picture by Clay Carnill

Catina's teacher has written us a few notes stating how much she loves having Catina in class and that she wishes she could keep her. She describes her as amazing, kind, and smart, and she came up to me at the party and told me that kids want to be around Catina because she shares.

Ever since preschool Greg has done such a great job explaining the purpose of our lives, to love God and to love others. He'd ask Catina daily who she loved at school that day and would ask her to find someone who may need extra help and to love on them. It's one thing for us to teach these things to Catina but at that Halloween party I was overwhelmed by how much Catina is living that out. 

Picture by Clay Carnill

Before the girls go to bed we pray together and we ask them if there is anything they'd like to tell Jesus. Catina's answer every time is "Tell Him I love Him more than anything else!"

What an incredible gift my oldest daughter is! There are times I can be critical and see the things she needs to work on but experiencing a day like the Halloween party I'm reminded about how amazing she is. 

May she continue to love Him with all her heart, soul and mind, and may she always love her neighbor as herself. Be with me in prayer for our children that they will live this out.

Ann
_______

Ann,

I'm so glad you were able to hear from others what a great girl you're raising. You know how intimidated I am to pass along my faith to my kids, so this is a good lesson for me: Just do it and at some point they start to live it out!

Happy Birthday, Catina!

Jen

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween

Jen,

This is the first year June really understood what was happening as she walked to each home. By the time we got to the third friends' home she looked at me with her huge eyes and said "CANDY?!" It has been a fun tradition visiting friends by car and then stopping at another home as our final destination for cider and donuts and a walk through their neighborhood.

Seriously?


Oh Mom!



Catina at her school party.

June at her school party.

Ann
_______

Ann,

Yes, our boys definitely understood it this year, too! To the extent that I had to leave our church's "trunk or treat" party because I could not stop them from eating candy. I'd lost all control.

I'd purchased three pirate costumes for the boys and made that our theme. When we tried on the outfits pre-Halloween little Levi wanted nothing to do with it--he wanted to wear the exact same Buzz Lightyear shirt he wears every single day of his life and pretend that was his costume. This is why it's wise to purchase $4 costumes from a resale shop.



Jen

Monday, October 29, 2012

In The Trenches: Infertility

Today's guest is Jen's friend, Asta. We love her witty comments and her heart. Her daughter, Stella, sent her paci away to Ada when she gave it up. How sweet is that?

Jen,

I thought I was going to hyperventilate. Could you actually be pregnant with another baby? I checked the text message again, and yep, it was really from you, and no, it didn't seem like a joke. Of course I was ecstatic for you. I've seen you walk through infertility and the loss of your first child (and then thankfully, the births of your boys). I knew this new life meant a lot to you.

But even in the joy, my stomach sank. There are days when motherhood just about does me in, and I only have one child. I can't imagine being you and facing the prospect of four kids under age 4! And yet, what's one of my highest desires right now? It’s to get pregnant and add another child to my already crazy life.

Asta, Stella and hubby Isaac after completing a 5K mud run!

This isn't my first time dealing with infertility. It took several years of trying to finally get pregnant with my daughter, Stella. We've always wanted at least two kids, preferably spaced the "optimal" 2 years apart. Well, Stella turns three soon and I'm not pregnant yet, so obviously God is running late according to MY perfect plans.

The waiting game is different this time around. Thankfully, I do already have a cute little girl living in my house. I'm usually too busy with her to dwell on what I'm missing. One hard part about infertility now is that my life is full of other mommy friends, and there's always somebody announcing a new pregnancy! I see other families with more kids and feel sad that Stella doesn't have a sibling yet.



Over the past few months, God has been working in my heart, and I am mostly at peace with waiting. To get there, I had to deal with some ridiculous lines of thinking. They seem pretty absurd now, but that’s where I was.

Ridiculous thought #1- "The reason I'm not pregnant is because I haven't proven myself as a good mom." It's as if I imagined God looking down on me and saying, "Hmm…that poor dear can hardly handle one kid. I'd better go easy on her and not send another!" Or worse, I must be doing such a horrible job that he's regretting His decision to let me be a mother in the first place.

While there are a lot of things I don't understand about God, I'm 99.9% sure that's not how it works. Lots of people who have NO business being parents have gotten pregnant (and reality TV wouldn't be nearly as entertaining without them). I don't actually believe that only those who are worthy receive joy-filled bundles from the stork. And yet…if I don't watch out, it's easy to feel like I must not deserve another child.

Taking after her dad.

Ridiculous thought #2- "I am such a wimp for thinking that parenting one measly child is hard work." Because I'm not dealing with, say, a newborn AND a toddler at the same time, I have a hard time feeling worthy of the exhaustion that comes with being a mom. My friends with two or more kids are the "real" moms, while I'm stuck back at the rank of "junior" mom.

I'm still wrestling with that thought, because, at the very least, more kids equal more laundry, and that sounds harder to me. The truth I try to hold on to is that God has given me THIS life for a reason. The comparison game can mess with your head no matter what aspect of life you apply it to.

Jen, I would love your prayers as I continue to wait and learn how to deal with God's answer of "maybe, but not yet."

Asta
________

Asta,

I am so thankful for your honesty. You are in the trenches and so many couples can relate (though I wish that weren't the case).

I am also thankful for your friendship and support, and the example of great parenting you've shown me (People, Asta's daughter ASKS for broccoli for breakfast), and how you continue to serve and seek Him in all of this.

Ann and I have had you on our prayer list for a long time and will continue to intercede for you!

Love,

Jen

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stereotype

Ann,

Does everyone assume at-home moms are lonely?

On Monday morning I took the boys to storytime at our local library. I was planning on meeting a friend but her plans changed.

After the books and singing I got the boys settled with their toys (the incentive for sitting through the aforementioned). I noticed the women next to me chatting and I struck up a conversation with one of them. She asked if I had heard of this particular mom's group and was I interested in being a part of it? She was very kind and explained how nice it was to have an activity option every day and partake in adult conversation, especially since she was at home full time now. I took her business card and out of obligation and said I'd look into it.

After I left I replayed the interaction, trying to put a finger on my discomfort. Is it because I'm usually the one inviting people to things? It is strange to be on the other end I suppose. But as I thought more I realized exactly why it was awkward for me: She assumed I was lonely. Her mention of adult conversation and activities presumed I needed both. She probably saw a tired-looking pregnant lady dragging around three busy boys and assumed my life was isolated and chaotic. I'm not offended by this--she has no idea what my life is like! And after all, I was there alone...and looking tired and pregnant! Come to think of it, when I see another mom alone at storytime I sort of assume she's lonely, so why wouldn't they assume that of me? (And I've even mentioned MY moms group to one of them!)

I don't feel lonely in the least, nor do I feel isolated. But it got me thinking--what picture do people have in their minds when they find out someone is an at-home mom? And do I see myself as "one of them" or do I still feel like there's a stereotype and I don't fit it?

Jen

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Jen,

It's funny because if anything I crave alone time. I understand that you can feel lonely even in a room full of people but it's not something I feel often in this season of life. Sometimes I think a moms group sounds like fun but every day? How do they have the time?!

I've seen this go around Facebook a few times. Funny, eh?


Ann

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

How To Tell Your Children About Down Syndrome

Jen,

Recently,a friend asked me how to explain to their child what is Down syndrome. I told her I wasn't exactly sure how to explain it because it's hard for me to wrap my brain around it! It's hard to explain a syndrome that used to limit people and now because of Early Intervention and Medication Intervention people are living two to three times longer than they did before, AND are capable of doing so much more than they ever could before. It's hard to explain a syndrome that talks about an extra chromosome. Um, yeah, like I really get what I chromosome is!

I've recently seen two videos I thought would be good to share. This one you can share with your kids.



I love this next video because it shows great diversity. This you can share with your kids, too. Don't worry there's nothing risky about it! They just might think it's a bit boring.



Our family is constantly learning new things about Down syndrome. For Catina and June, Down syndrome will not be unusual to them. I also believe that children are being taught younger and younger about acceptance of all types of people. It's our job as a parent to show acceptance when we encounter someone who is different than ourselves, and to ask questions and or find out more information to help our kids have a better understanding of those around them. This can help them know how to relate in a positive way.

As our lives progress I'm sure we will learn more about Down syndrome and better ways to explain to others what it means. When we do, I'll be sure to share!

Ann

P.S. To our friends who are "listening" in. This week we have received three requests from women who are waiting for their future children. Please remember to keep those who are trying to get pregnant or waiting for a child in your prayers. It's much appreciated!
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Ann,

Thanks for the videos!

I wonder if I know how your friend feels about telling her child about Down syndrome. My boys are obsessed with Ada and think (or hope!) every baby they see is her. I know a day will come when I'll need to explain what's different about her, and I feel like in that moment I have the chance to really set a standard for the way they accept others for the rest of their lives and I want to do it right. At the same time, I realize "that moment" has really already happened! I just have to keep those lines of communication open like you're saying.

And many prayers for our friends who are waiting. My heart aches for them and their journey.

Jen





Friday, October 19, 2012

Work At Home Mom

Ann,

I've always felt a little less-than when people comment about women being great multitaskers. I've always known I had trouble multi-tasking, but this phase of life has really brought it to the surface.

What's particularly difficult for me is juggling the day-to-day versus the brain-required tasks. If I have something on my list that I know will consume my brain, it actually BEGINS to consume my brain the minute it hits the list. Even though I know full well I can't even give the task an ounce of energy until kids go to bed or Levi gives me time on the weekend, it will weigh me down like a ton of bricks, making those already-difficult every tasks almost impossible. This is an issue with working out of the house.

I've been doing this freelance work for more than a year now. I am so thankful for the work. We started praying that God would somehow provide more income (even though I wasn't looking for work and Levi's salary was set in stone). A week later I got a call from a previous employer asking me if I could do some projects on the side for him. No coincidence. I love the work and the flexibility; it's actually the perfect scenario for me.

But sometimes the work isn't just PowerPoints and marketing posters, it's laying out a book or going back and forth with printers. Knowing the task is going to require concentration, not to mention parts of my brain that are a little dusty, I start feeling the pressure...and the pressure makes even the most menial of everyday tasks feel like an obstacle to that Brain Task that's coming. Doing laundry feels like a burden because I have this Task waiting for me, nevermind that I know full well I can't touch it until tonight!

Of course I'm learning to manage all of this, but I just completed one of those weeks where my whole family felt this weakness. Thank goodness my husband can crank out some laundry!

Jen


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Jen,

I think its unbelievable all that you do. I'm glad the Lord has given you strength to do it all. You are doing amazing job and I don't believe this is your weakness. You actually got it all done even if Levi did the laundry. I don't doubt that this feels heavy on you and there are times I wish you could quit even though you don't mind the work. I'm glad you and Levi are in it together.

Seriously, Jen, there's nothing that could've made this week better except hiring a sitter and having someone else do the work!

Ann

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rusty Art


Greg and I love rusty garden art. We bought this on a romantic get away in Hocking Hills. Maybe some day we will take a welding class and weld lots of big art together!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Oh My Little Ada!

Jen,

Most days I don't dwell on Ada having Down syndrome. I do think about it every day because as a mom I really have to. I think about if I have all her doctor's appointments scheduled; I think about whether or not she's had enough tummy and sitting time each day, if she's held a spoon, if she's tried picking up puffs by herself, etc. Now I do believe a lot of moms who have typical children think about these same things, but I'm thinking about them because I want Ada to reach her highest potential alongside Down syndrome.


Ada is now sitting up and clapping. She seems to be raising her arms when we say "How big is Ada?" At times I wonder if that is an accident but I have to believe she really does get it. She loves to be bounced up and down and will laugh like crazy when I do it. She's eating baby food really well and has started to eat puffs and soft bread. She is constantly up on all fours rocking like she is getting ready to crawl.


So hard to get this girl to smile for the camera because she's obsessed with grabbing it and observing!
Last week I took her for her 9 month appointment and she is a little over 13 pounds. She's still in 3-6 month clothing and can wear 6 months but it's a little baggy on her. It actually works best to wear 3-6 month pants and 6 month tops. You know how much I hate changing bins for clothing the first year of life so most of the time she just either has to go baggy or a bit short. Poor thing!

Her doctor is so pleased with how she is doing. He said she is on the curve in every way for a typical child. This is good news right? But somehow it feels strange to be excited about that. I mean, wonder if she wasn't? She'd still be Ada. We'd still love her. It's in these moments I get confused as to how I should be hoping. Do you hope for the smartest physically fit Down syndrome child who can compete with some typical children? It just seems weird.


Sitting up like a big girl in her crib.
 At the Down syndrome walk this became evident to me. People send me Down syndrome articles and videos all the time. I totally appreciate them. It's great to see. I remember people sending me, and at times still do, all the videos about children who were deaf and could speak well or who turned out to be great musicians. Great for those children and great to know about the different potentials children with these disabilities can reach! At the same time I wonder if my child can't do those things will that be disappointing? I really don't want to be disappointed in them especially if it's not their fault.

It's this weird conflicting emotion that goes on inside of me. When these moments come I remind myself that I just want each of my girls to be the best they can be. To reach their full potential and not the full potential of what their disability is.


Another weird conflicting emotion races through me when someone sends me a video or article about a person who has one of my children's disabilities and says "Wow, can you believe they can do this?" I am surprised at their unbelief and sad that they didn't realize that, yes, these children can do these things.
They do them all the time. 

June helping Ada in therapy.
I feel burdened at times of having to be the advocate for the deaf or those with Down syndrome. I don't really want to be the educator but the Lord has placed me in this position and continues to give me in Grace and Patience to share what these children can do and be. Even in this burden, I can become excited about it and think about my future. Will I be someone who leads parents who have children with these disabilities? Will I be able to run an organization that advocates for them? Will I be able to come alongside a parent who is having a hard time dealing with their child's disability?

A few years ago I thought that when my children were a bit older I'd finish my Masters in Counseling. Now I am realizing why I wasn't able to finish that degree and wonder what He has in store for me. The Lord placed these three girls in my home to not only give me the opportunity with Greg to love and raise them, but to change me and put me in a place that will be able to help those around me. Isn't that amazing?!


Thanks, again, for letting me express honestly!


Ann

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Ann,

I love this statement:

When these moments come I remind myself that I just want each of my girls to be the best they can be. To reach their full potential....

I know it's coming from a bit of a different place when your kids have a disability, but it's such a great mantra for all of us parents. Just putting on the blinders to everyone else and wanting them to be the most loving, smartest, joyful version of themselves.

Thanks for making us think!

Jen



 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bereavement Photography - Who Knew?

Ann,

One of the questions that stuck out to me when I was in labor for our firstborn:

If your baby does not survive, are you interested in having a bereavement photographer come to capture some moments with your child?

Um, NO. Big fat no.

I remember sitting in the bed laboring for Elisabeth, who had a 1% chance of surviving, filling out pages and pages of forms. We'd hoped to prepare for this moment in the coming weeks, doing our version of a birth plan. But she was coming early, so we were timing contractions while we were talking about what to do with her remains if she didn't live.

There was no doubt in my mind that I did not want photographs of our deceased baby. It felt so melodramatic and honestly, a little creepy. I knew we wouldn't have pictures of her around the house, so what was the point?

I am so glad those nurses ignored me.

The antepardum nurses were familiar with these situations and wisely took it upon themselves to call in a photographer who volunteered her time with an amazing organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. NILMDTS is a national organization that gathers professional photographers who have not only incredible talent in their profession, but hearts of gold. They are called upon in these tragic moments to capture the memories of families in infant loss situations...at no cost at all to the families. (A NILMIDTS photographer was called to photograph the loss of the Duggar baby a couple years ago. You might have seen those precious pictures.)

When our photographer walked into the room I wept with relief. We'd been taking pictures of her with the disposable cameras the unit donates to parents like us, and you know how low-quality those images are. There was a soft morning light coming in through our window and since she'd been born just an hour before, she looked quite alive. I know that sounds harsh, but of course it was important to capture how she really looked when we met her. We knew the professional photos would be amazing.

Of all the keepsakes we have from her short life--her hats, blankets, pajamas--it is the pictures that I treasure most. It is literally all we have of her, and we are forever grateful. No, we don't have photos of her around the house, but I have them in books and in special spots, and I treasure those moments when I can take a glimpse at her sweet little body again through these impeccable photographs.

I hope anyone who finds themselves in this scenario, or knows someone who is walking into this, will pass along the NILMIDTS information. It is truly priceless.

Jen

________________________

Jen,

Thank you so much for sharing this information. You explain it so well and after what you've been through with Elisabeth I've realized how important it is to have those pictures. When Elisabeth was born I wanted to so badly get in my car and drive to see her before she left you. Since it wasn't best for me to do this, I was so very grateful to see the pictures of her. She is so precious in this picture! 

This month is National Infant Loss month as well as National Down Syndrome Awareness. Who knew we'd be sharing and remembering the same month for our babies.

Ann

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Today Is June's Day

Jen,

It's me again! Today I'd love to tell you more about June and how I really have this love hate relationship with (almost) three-year-olds. Seriously, LOVE and HATE!

June is my go-with-the-flow-with-a-million-smiles girl. She's very grateful and is constantly saying "thank you" for everything you do or give her. She's had about three tantrums in her entire life and those have all happened within the last couple of weeks. I contribute this to her becoming almost three. I don't understand why people say that two-year-olds are terrible because it's when my girls have turned three that they have realized that they want to be babies AND they want to be big girls all while trying to tell Mommy what to do. 

Dirty face girl saying "hi" to her Auntie.
Now, I am not saying that Juney (that's what we often call her) is never disobedient because she truly is my explorer. She's the one who I find standing on Ada's bum when I enter a room or the one who has peeled off all the wall decals because she wanted to know how that worked. This summer she won a flashlight for having books read to her from the library. Catina won that flashlight weeks and weeks before June, who doesn't have time to sit because she is busy exploring. Also, once June did earn the flashlight she decided she needed to know how it worked and disassembled it until there were no more pieces to come apart. 

This is how I found her flashlight. Don't knock the 80s style sheets! We got them for free. ; )
Every morning we have this little argument about wearing her hearing aids. She covers her ears and says "no hearing aids" and then "no brusha my hair." Yes, she is Italian and says "brusha." Typically once I get the hearing aids in she doesn't bother them, but whenever we obtain new ear molds she decides she doesn't really like them (Maybe because they fit better?) and pulls the aids out it seems EVERY HOUR! This time around she has pulled them out so often that the tubes came out of the molds and now I have to bring her in to get new ones. Thank you, now we need to drive 30 minutes for a screaming appointment to wait two weeks until they are delivered, all to start this all over again.

I go back and forth on whether or not we should be forcing her to wear the aids. I do know the facts that show that if a child wears their aids a majority of the time at a young age that their speech is much better later on in life. This can make me feel guilty at times when I let her wander without them. At the same time, I always wonder if she will grow up and tell me that the reason why she didn't like the aids is that they always made this weird sound in her ear or gave her headaches or were too loud. Ugh, how awful would that be?

My ballerina princess. She is loving ballet class!
Now all of this could be her stage, right? Like when we try going pee pee on the potty and she yells. Yes, she yells "NO CHOCOLATE, MAMA!" OK so chocolate is not an incentive for June to use the restroom. She has decided she wants to be a baby right now and wants me to feed her a sippy cup like a bottle. Once in awhile I will consent to cuddle her. I know this is all the inbetween I'm a baby but I'm a big girl stage. Is the hearing aid issue the same thing? Also, what's up with not going in the potty but wanting to put on her own shoes and socks?

June is graduating soon out of the Early On program and will continue her parent tot class along with going to a speech therapist once a week. Right now her speech therapist comes to our home and plays games with her. In these next weeks we are meeting her in a classroom setting where I am not in the room. They will be testing June for her receptive and verbal language. Although June is talking in full sentences her articulation is hard to understand at times. 

This girl is very hard to get out of bed. At times she pushes my face away or rolls over under the covers.
The opposite of Catina who you might call Tigger in the morning.
We are also concerned she doesn't always understand things. She is very literal which is so much the opposite of me and just like her Dad. If you tell her to ask for something nicely she doesn't realize that she should say "Milk please" and instead will say "Nicely" no matter how many times I try to explain that to ask nicely please to say "please."(Here is where I look into the camera like Jim on The Office.) If you ask her to show you her ballet dance she will point to how to get to ballet even though I try to tell her I want her to show me the steps to the dance. This will be our challenge. Mama is figurative and Juney is very literal. 

Prayers for the ever-dreaded, not-really-happening potty training, speech therapy testing, and for patience with my little explorer.

Ann

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Ann,

Never a dull moment! What an example at how siblings can be so different, which of course means we have to change our approach with every single child.

Prayers continue!

Jen