Friday, June 29, 2012

I Heart Ada


Today we went to the hospital to have Ada's follow up echocardiogram. This is a day I've been anticipating since the day we found out that she had PDA. I remember being so shocked because the fetal echocardiogram was perfect and was surprised that something could be wrong. What is PDA?

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a heart problem that affects some babies soon after birth. In PDA, abnormal blood flow occurs between two of the major arteries connected to the heart. These arteries are the aorta and the pulmonary artery.

Before birth, these arteries are connected by a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus. This blood vessel is a vital part of fetal blood circulation. Within minutes or up to a few days after birth, the ductus arteriosus closes. This change is normal in newborns.

In some babies, however, the ductus arteriosus remains open (patent). The opening allows oxygen-rich blood from the aorta to mix with oxygen-poor blood from the pulmonary artery. This can strain the heart and increase blood pressure in the lung arteries. 

- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

We got to the hospital early and it turned out to be a whole hour early due to a mix up with appointment times. We decided to hang out in the courtyard where every five minutes a hospital employee walked by to ooh and ahh over Ada. Ada smiled for some but most of them got the "who the heck are you?" look. Ada can be very shy and has even started to hide her face a bit if she isn't sure of you. 

I'm six months old! Photo taken by Ann.

The whole time we waited, and as we walked in for her appointment for the second time this morning, I felt nothing. I was prepared in my mind for the worst and had even postponed putting in ear tubes thinking there was a chance of a heart surgery coming up. At the same time I really felt like she was fine and this appointment would be routine. I know it sounds silly to feel both but I really did!

Right before she was stripped down. Photo taken by her Daddy, Greg.
We stripped Ada down to be weighed and she is now a whopping 12 pounds 7 ounces! After taking her blood pressure and oxygen (which was perfect) they brought us into another room to start the echocardiogram. The procedure is a lot like an ultrasound with the addition of an EKG. The technician can't tell you anything, so you wait out the test wondering what in the world you just saw on the screen that looked like valves in the heart. Kind of. The test was about 15 minutes long and after 5 minutes Ada decided to let everyone know that she really didn't like lying still while someone rubbed a knobby thing with wires connected to it near her face, so she started to open her mouth and try to suck on it while fussing.

Ada connected to EKG. Photo take by Daddy, Greg.
Dr. Humes, the cardiologist, walked in and I immediately felt good. He is a very kind man and has the most amazing bedside manner. He was the same doctor that conducted Ada's fetal echocardiogram. He reviewed the pictures and asked us to meet him in another room where he then listened to her heart. After he was done and I was dressing Ada, he told us everything looked great and her heart is good! Tears immediately started flowing and I felt so much relief. My little baby is ok!

A few weeks ago we went to the ENT and it looks like Ada will need ear tubes, which seem like no big deal next to HEART SURGERY! While Ada is under they will conduct an ABR which is the most accurate hearing test. This was done to June when she was 6 weeks old. I'd been concerned before Ada was born and wanted her to have an ABR. Since June passed the newborn screening test in one ear and later it was found to have a mild loss in that ear, the ABR was the only thing that detected her loss. Since both Greg and I have a gene that gives our children a 1 in 4 chance of being deaf I am glad we will have this test as Ada's baseline for future hearing tests.

We are meeting so many new people who have Down syndrome or have children that do and it has been so exciting. Everyone has been amazing and we look forward to the new friendships Ada is bringing to our life. Hopefully I will take the time soon to share some of those stories with you.

Next week we will see you in the U.P., eh? CAN'T WAIT!




The relief I felt when I got this news is NOTHING compared to how you guys must have felt! I know you would have been fine if surgery was needed, but there's no doubt this is the best news! So many praises for Ada's health and her impact!

Are the exclamation points too much?! Too bad!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vintage Sign

We found this in our house when we first moved in. We love our city and
 love that we found this old sign. - Ann

Monday, June 25, 2012



I can't believe I have to confess this, but I must:
I overdress my babies.

Until they're old enough to keep on blankets, I consider their bed clothes both pajamas and a blanket. Makes sense, right?

Remember how I'd been complaining about Hayden waking up every single night? The other night I tried something crazy, something I secretly judge other mothers for: I sent him to bed in a cotton pajama with SHORT SLEEVES, and NO SOCKS on his chubby little feet. This is quite a change from his fleece footie PJs I'd been using. And he slept through the night. Fluke?

Next night, similar getup. Success.

Next night, similar getup. Another success.

Same temperature in our house every single night, by the way. (You know I get up several times a night to make sure each room is a consistent temp, turning on/off fans and heaters and covering up children.)

I might be a freak.


P.S. And for any other moms who are searching for some random sleep solutions: Remember my saying that he was also wet every time he woke up at 2am, despite the size 6 nighttime diaper? I found a solution that has served me for a week! I give him a bath every single night before bedtime. The minute his booty hits that water he pees like a fountain. Empty bladder for bedtime? Check.



I am laughing because, although I have thoughts like yours, I only make the effort to actually check on them once in awhile. I figure they will let me know if they are uncomfortable. Oddly enough your point is a great one and made me realize that Ada sleeps better when she isn't over-bundled. Sometimes I am pretty sure she must be cold but it's the nights she is cooler she sleeps! Go figure.

Since we are discussing night time I just went in and snapped a photo of her. I never understood the footie pajamas with short sleeves but now I do! Someone was using their noggin.

As for the bath before bed time...I wonder if that only works for boys. And for the record you are a freak!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Walking on Water


The other night I was reading to the kids a children's version of Matthew 14:22. It's the story where Jesus' disciples see Him walking on water and Peter asks Jesus to bring him along, too. Of course you know the story, but the paraphrased version from their book really hit me. It said, "Peter, when the storm came you stopped trusting me."


Right now my storm is figuring out how to parent what I now consider to be preschoolers. This is a whole new challenge, and more than ever I feel my actions making a huge impact. I have such an intense desire to have obedient, respectful children, and sometimes I end up impatient and too stern in my quest to obtain this. We've talked about this a million times. I am a mix of super-duper loving and sweet and very affectionate, and then I can be  very stern and serious about my expectations. I don't apologize for this, but I will challenge myself once again to consider the means to my end. I can "get" obedience, youbetcha. But in the long run don't I want them to make the choice to be obedient and not be commanded to do so?

My point is this: What if I let up on the seriousness and sternness? What if I (GASP) act more patiently and kindly, sort of like HE COMMANDS US TO DO? Do I trust Him enough to honor that sort of parenting style and still give us respectful, obedient children?

Even as I write this I feel torn because I am certain He was speaking to me, and yet I also know my personality and I know how difficult it is to manage three young children. This is not the environment for a soft-spoken mom. I need kids to cooperate and act quickly and I do believe that's realistic, the trick is to figure out how to "get" that while still exhibiting the Fruits of the Spirit to my kids.

What are your thoughts?




I read your last question and laughed! Really? You think I have it figured out? 

I remember when Catina was June, Everett and Levi's age and I wondered why God chose me to be a parent because I didn't really feel like I was doing a very good job. Do you remember this video? If I had the original version I would've posted it but you get my point. I was laughing while taping Catina's temper tantrum but there were many times I was so impatient with her. She could be very defiant and I thought it was all my fault!

Greg and I chose to follow the Love and Logic approach which really seems to be a good balance for us in being stern and loving. We have read their books and have attended a seminar and it all sounds good. It hasn't always been easy to put into practice but they share some really great ideas and concepts! 

Everyone is going to choose something different for their family and ultimately you have to go with your gut. I believe you will when you and Levi have found the right combination and really I think you already have. We won't always trust and be walking on water in every situation, but there are some days I believe we will venture out and do a leap or two across the sea to meet the One who is our ultimate guide. Jen, let's also remember to forgive ourselves for the days we sink, because we will.

I know you aren't asking for this, but you are a great mom and you even thinking about this question makes you even greater. 


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Slow Dryer

We are doing a bit of a remodel in our kitchen. It has been a long process with three kids and when staining wood we can't dry our clothes in the dryer or they stink. We happen to use cloth diapers so here is my way of drying diapers. Very sloooooooowly. Absorbent diapers take all day! The girls had fun though! - Ann

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Let's Share What the Lord Has Taught Us


Its weird but the past week I've been thinking about Elisabeth. I think mainly because whenever I think of our journey towards children I remember her and how her short life really taught us a lot. 

There is this pang I feel whenever I am alone in the Meijer parking lot because this is where I was when I called to see how you were doing and found out that she had passed. I had just gotten off the phone with Jen B. trying to figure out if I should call you. I was really worried because the night before you had been rushed by ambulance to the hospital. I called you and started babbling on about some nonsense. When I took a breath you told me you'd delivered Elisabeth but that she was already gone. You had named her after me. Elisabeth Ann. So special.

After we had talked a bit I called your friend Erin--now a person I will forever feel linked to. We cried together and it was so good to know that someone nearby loved you. I really wanted to hop into the car and get there as fast as I could. I really wanted to hold Elisabeth before she had to be removed from your room.  But I knew it was not my place. Your parents and in-laws were coming and I knew it would be way too much to have us all there.

When I got home I googled how to love someone who was going through infant loss, and two things I read stood out to me. One was to use her name--don't act as if she didn't exist or that she was a secret. Secondly, to call the person if you wanted to. I called you a lot and you almost always answered and it was always a relief to hear your voice even if you were having a super sad moment.

I was wondering if you could share with our friends some things in the coming weeks. Could you tell your story? Could you share what you appreciated about those who supported you? Can you share what God has taught you about Him because of this experience?




I agree, her 6 minutes on earth (and the years waiting for her) culminated in some seriously intense spiritual moments and also some incredible lessons. I'll start right now by listing a couple of the things I appreciated during those times after her diagnosis and subsequent birth and death.
  • People acting normal towards me, and yet somehow acknowleding the circumstances. I was very nervous the first time I'd see people after she was born. If they never acknowledged the situation I would be uncomfortable and unsure if they were even aware. Awkward.
  • Meals. I hate to cook so it seemed extra special to have someone go to that length.
  • Cards and flowers, no matter how soon or far after the date. It was nice to get those straggler cards and it made me feel like we were on people's minds even after the fact.
  • One friend told me she was uncomfortable and didn't know what to say to me, but wanted to be supportive and yet knew she'd say the wrong thing. I loved her honesty.
We were (and still are) part of a great church family who showed us so much support and love, and I know that was a big piece of the puzzle for me. And I've said it a million times but there is no way I could have felt such support if it weren't for our friendship. As close and I am with Levi, and as much as we digress and process together, there is nothing like a best friend, another woman, holding you up with understanding and prayer.



Friday, June 15, 2012

Where's My Starbucks?


Before I had kids, I remembering referring to the option of being an at-home mom as a luxury. I hate to admit that I even used that term when explaining to a frugal and sacrificing at-home friend why we planned on my return to work after babies.

I suppose I thought of it in terms of a formula: If dad's salary minus mom's salary equals the two-income lifestyle we currently live, then we're approved.

I honestly didn't consider the fact that when people chose to stay home it actually might mean a massive change in lifestyle. And I'm not talking about skipping the Caribou coffee on the way to work, I'm talking no new clothes, no dates, no convenience foods, no non-family vacations. I know our parents lived like this when we were kids, but I though at-home moms today were supposed to dress cute and go to the gym every day with a Starbucks in hand.

I do not care if a family chooses to be double-income or not. I believe it's a SUPER personal decision, one that each family has to weigh for themselves. I went back to work after the twins were born, but when they were 7 months old our company went through a merger and the staff were all permanently laid off. Since I'd just found out I was pregnant with Hayden we decided it was best to test the at-home waters. We laughed at the budget and the bare-bones life we'd have to lead, but for that season we thought it was the best choice.

The old me would have said that I couldn't stay home, that it was ridiculous to live so frugally and kind of sadly. I assumed it would be bad for my mental health to feel beholden to the budget and live in outdated cargo pants. I assumed it would be ridiculous to ask me to forgo my salon color! (For the record, Revlon Colorsilk Medium Blonde, $6.99. Livin' frugal, baby.) Somehow for me, this has all been fine. And to the mom who gets the gorgeous, layered color by a stylist? Good for her, truly. (I should have enjoyed it more when I did it!) And let me be clear: we still have cable, I just bought some new shirts, and my hair looks just fine.

I guess sometimes I feel defensive when I sense someone thinks like I used to, that being home is a luxury, one they couldn't possibly consider. Again no judging, but I wish I could tell then what I know now, that living within some tight means has opened our hearts and increased our faith beyond measure. It's not sad, and it's not impossible (I know there are exceptions), it's just a choice. If you say you want to go back to work because you're sick of coupons and cheap dates and fixer-upper cars, then I say go for it. It's a choice. On the other hand, if you truly want to stay home, I bet it can also be a realistic choice. Just don't sell yourself short, it's amazing what you can live without.




I really struggled with this when first having Catina. I desired to stay home but couldn't understand how we could make it on one income. Somehow I felt I would be considered lazy if I stayed home with one child. What is really strange is that I knew friends that did stay home and didn't consider them lazy! Double standard I guess.

After June was born it didn't make sense for me to work. I told myself that I was staying home for at least this time while my kids are young. It took me a year and a half before I felt comfortable being a stay-at-home mom. Even now there are days where I start wondering what I will do when they are in school all day. Not because there would be nothing to do; I know it would be easy to fill my time with volunteering in the classrooms, maintaining the kids' schedules, and our home. I am already thinking about what I can do so I won't feel this nagging at the back of my mind that I'm still a stay-at-home mom and wondering if I should be doing more.

Sometimes I feel guilty I am not contributing financially, but like you said we need to live in faith that He is providing! That doesn't mean we should be foolish, but we also need to know that nothing is guaranteed. The Lord is our provider and even if I were to get a job today there is no guarantee that I wouldn't be laid off the next week.

You know what is even crazier? I really love being at home! I have no desire to work anywhere at this point. It's weird and odd to admit this because I never in a million years thought that would be me. I'm not sure how much of the "guilt" was from the expectations I thought people had of me, the expectations I had of myself, or my worry over not having enough money for all that we needed. I write this after having some time to myself you know I totally have those moments where I want to just walk out and live on my own in a loft apartment somewhere fancy and eat nice food in peace.

I struggle at times with wanting more. I'd love to think that if we had more money I'd totally be fit because we'd belong to a gym, and we'd take these awesome vacations to Europe. I do love that our family can have a life full of joy without that stuff. We can improvise, be creative and live our lives not holding these things as necessities but thanking God for the luxury of having a home and a variety of foods to eat. I want to always be able to hold our hands palms-up and not just spend the money we do have but choose to give it away.

You and I could talk forever about this topic! We both know there are exceptions to all of this. I know my sister would love to spend more time at home but in this season she is working so her husband can finish nursing school. This is a wise decision. Her husband can begin a career he enjoys because of this education and then she can choose whether or not she should return to working part time or not at all depending on her desires and her family needs.

What I know we both hope is that we can choose to stay at home or not, and feel free in that choice and not worry about judgements. And for those that want to stay at home, we hope they would truly know whether or not it's something they should do, and they would feel the peace to take a leap of faith and try it. I also know there are moms who are staying at home because they feel it is expected of them and they really wish they could work. Hoping for freedom for all in their choices.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Clothes Dividers

Catina tends to get bored during quiet time which is the two hours that June takes a nap. She's been playing on her own the first hour and then I have been coming up with projects she can help me with. We decided to make dividers to divide the girls clothes since they share a closet.

We took a cereal box and then covered in with scrapbook paper on both sides.

We then traced a CD and cut out the circles.

We used a child sized tea cup to make the hole in the middle.

We then googled images of the beginning letters of each girl's name, downloaded them and shrunk them to size in a Word document. We printed two copies, one for each side.

The finished product!

Monday, June 11, 2012

I'm Not Expecting


This first week and a half engaging in healthier habits has been good. Good but different than I thought it would be. I thought I'd be having a hard time keeping up with a better food plan but instead I have had a hard time acknowledging some emotions and thoughts I didn't realize I had.

Ever since my 20-week ultrasound with Ada I have made comments that this would be the last child that came from this body. Most people took this to mean I had a very difficult pregnancy. The pregnancy itself was not anything different than most people experience, it was the doctor's appointments, the unknown of whether she had Down syndrome and the pressure I felt to give people answers. I wasn't even sure what I meant when I made this comment until this week.

At this point I may have reached my capacity on the children I raise well, but more than that I fear that if this body produced another child it would come into this world with another disability. I love my children like crazy and I believe I have accepted their bodies even if they are different than the typical child. Of course this is not without concern for their future and the way society may accept them. My prayer always is for a loving community to surround them, that they would be confident in themselves to be who they are, and strong enough to advocate for themselves.

Ada, 5 1/2 months
When struggling with infertility I often struggled with the feelings of inadequacy. Now in my brain that does not make any sense. I had little control over my body and couldn't control if it would or would not get pregnant, but deep in my heart there was a sense and wondering if somehow it was all my fault. I wanted to give my husband, Greg, children and now again I am struggling with feeling that I am stopping the process of giving him one more. I am feeling this same way about Down syndrome.

I wouldn't want Ada to not have Down syndrome because, well, Ada wouldn't be Ada anymore, and I truly am looking forward to the continued change in our family's hearts as we realize that we don't need to look or be a certain way. That we just need to embrace who we are and accept the love of our Creator. At the same time I don't like that she will struggle with sitting up, eating, walking, talking, etc. I don't want it to be hard for her! I can also feel this same heaviness for June having to wear hearing aids. To me, I forget they are even there and I think she looks bare without them but I am sure not all of society will see her like I do.

Catina and June selling lemonade
I am grieving the potential of another child because at times I wonder if maybe we'd welcome one more if we didn't have the extra time put into exercises, therapies and doctor's appointments. At the same time it's been nice to think about gaining my own body back postpartum, to eat and be who I should be physically to stay healthier for myself and for my family. 

It's also been nice to think these are my girls and let's just focus on them for now! For so long we were trying to conceive that it's become a natural part of who I am. Even with my first periods after Ada I had this pang of sadness that I wasn't pregnant, and then would remember I had a very young baby. My mind had been conditioned to grieve each month and now I can release that and be grateful for the THREE children I have! Three, Jen, can you believe it?

Sleepy Ada
This is just the beginning of what I am embracing and understanding. Greg is so loving and reassuring that we are in this together and he is grateful for our lives now. This is helpful. Please pray for me as I sift through these thoughts and emotions and pray that I continue to learn more about what it means to be loved by Jesus.




Thanks for your honesty and a peak inside your deepest thoughts.

I remember having conversations about whether or not we'll know when we're "done" having kids (dreaming that we'd actually have the choice!), and I know we never considered what you're experiencing.

Praise God for a wise and loving husband, and three precious girlies. I do pray that you would embrace Christ's love and reassurance while you journey.

Makes me think of this beautiful song:


Friday, June 8, 2012

One Day, Two Families


Thanks for all the great pictures from our families' day together in Frankenmuth!

I'd called the city offices to ask about a recommended park, and they suggested Memorial Park and then Kid's Kingdom, a school playground behind the park. I think both turned out to be great suggestions.

Love the picture of our Brady Bunch families:

Eherts: June (2.5), Catina (5.5) and Ada (5 months)
Mattesons: Everett (2.5), Hayden (15 months) and Levi (2.5)
There was plenty to do and the kids had a blast running around, playing on the playground and flying kites.

One of my favorite moments of the day was Everett sneaking over to talk with Ada and touch her head. Since he's never held a baby or shown any interest, I was so surprised when he wanted to hold her!

Thank you for bringing lunch AND a grill to cook it on!

It was really special to see our kids connecting and playing together, and I loved watching Catina treat the boys like her buddies.

I think all of our kids were asleep before we left the playground parking lot!


Thanks again for a great day and I'm so thankful to be able to have time together as families.




It was a great day with perfect weather! We flew our kite in the back yard for a few days after that. Too bad we couldn't take naps on the way home!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

First Tooth Lost

Catina lost her first tooth. For a week she had been wiggling it with her tongue, and driving home one day she shouted "My tongue keeps saying to my tooth 'Hey, tooth! Ya wanna dance?'" This girl has no lack of imagination.

When the tooth finally came out I asked if she wanted to get a prize from the tooth fairy or money. She chose a prize and then asked how was I going to let the tooth fairy know. I told her that I would tell her in my mind because we were very close. - Ann

Monday, June 4, 2012

Week One


As I sit her I am eating a Trader Joe's dark chocolate peanut butter cup and feeling frumpy. I have gained 8lbs since Ada has been born and I feel out of control! I can blame this on hormones, lack of sleep, new baby, etc. but I know I need to get things back under control so I can feel better about myself.

This past week I invited some moms to join in a project with me and I was jealous of how many of them were saying "no." It wasn't the fact that they were saying "no" and I couldn't, it was because they knew their limit. I'm not sure I know mine. I know I have a high capacity but there still has to be a limit to what I should be doing and I'd love to find out what that is for this time in my life.

Awhile back I read this hefty book called "The Spirit of the Disciplines" by Dallas Willard. In this book he explains two different kinds of disciplines; abstinence and engagement. I've decided to take the next twelve weeks to practice these disciplines and pray that the Lord gives me insight on how I should be spending my time.

I've created an eating plan that will help me to abstain from eating food beyond the calories I should be eating. Every night I am pretty tired from tending to the home and three girls all day, so I have been watching t.v. in the evening. I plan to limit this time to either watching just one show or none at all.

In the spirit of engagement, I hope to exercise three times a week. I also plan to read the book "Made to Crave" by Lysa TerKeurst again. It's this great book about craving Jesus over food but really just to crave Jesus above all things. I have been reading a gospel a month with some friends and I hope to complete the book rather than get two thirds of the way through like I usually do.

Please pray for me as I embark on this process. I'd love to take this time to really seek His face and hear from Him.



This is so great. I've been praying for awile about the "limit" issue, at your request. I'm trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you!

I believe this is just another layer of being present in our lives. I could go on and on about how I can relate, but suffice it to say I am excited by this and hope we can encourage each other!


Friday, June 1, 2012

How I Survived 14.5 Hours in a Child-Filled Van


That was a seriously long ride to Michigan. Google doesn't figure in multiple stops with kids, so the 12-hour ride to my parents' house turned into 14.5 hours. It was basically an entire day as a court jester.

If for no other reason other than to remind myself what worked and didn't, here's what I learned:
  • A few weeks before the trip hide the toys you'll be offering en route.
  • Eat while you drive, move at every stop. We bring a cooler and feed kids (entertainment!) while we drive, and then find parks and open spaces to take our breaks. We even do this in the winter. 
  • On that same note, longer stops seem like a waste of time, but they do a better job of tiring out busy boys.
  • Don't try to feed Subway to kids in the car. And if you dare, be sure to get a knife with which to cut the subs. Forks are not made for this purpose.
  • Don't bring so many toys into the van that you can't even find the ones you're looking for.
  • Take a preventative Tylenol before you even leave your driveway. Road trip + young kids = headache
What is even more difficult is a smooth reentry. I am shaken for days after a long trip, with unpacked bags and a house that is suddenly nonfunctional and completely disgusting to me even though it's been cleaned by the lovely housesitter. My wish list:
  • Give housesitter a "family's coming home" grocery list so you don't have to feed the kids water and cheeze-its for breakfast on the first day back.
  • Hire a cleaning service to make the house itself feel like a vacation getaway.
  • Hire a babysitter for the first day back so you can unpack and get organized in peace. (Maybe she could bring the groceries? Hey, I'm even practical in my rich-girl dreams!)
While I'm at it, I might as well wish for a court jester for the road trip. But then how would these crazy memories be made?




I totally feel for you. I remember last April just before I was pregnant with Ada we drove 2000 miles with the girls and then I took the girls by myself to New Mexico on a plane. This is when I learned Catina gets air sick and now car sick. We are going to try sea sickness bands soon to see if that helps. We've also moved Catina's seat to the middle rather than the far back. It makes it much harder on me to get June back there but Catina isn't complaining of being sick so it's worth it!

I am actually collecting new dollar store items and toys now for our trip in July to the Upper Peninsula. This will be our ten hour drive this year. Hmmm...I wonder how long it will really be. 

I bought this handy dandy bag thinking somehow it will make the trip better because I will be oh so organized. I'll let you know how that works out. Heh!

Also, I fortunately have a Mom who lives close by who leaves milk in the fridge and some bananas. You should get one of those to move close to you or maybe just maybe you can move closer to her?

So happy you made the effort to come see us even though you were busy with family!