Thursday, August 30, 2012



I have a serious problem with beating myself up over mothering and housekeeping issues. It's affecting every aspect of my life and stealing my joy. Doesn't this sound like a fun post?!

The things I hear other moms mention in passing become standards I have to live up to. The smallest piece of advice or wisdom I overhear becomes the rule. When you comment in passing that you had dinner guests and your kids behaved well and sat quietly for the meal, I consider it a failure on my part. Although our kids would sit, they certainly wouldn't be quiet! Nevermind the fact that you have a 5-year-old who sets an example, or that you have plenty of nights where they don't sit perfectly. But I don't even want to combat this twisted thinking by explaining away your accomplishment, I just want to have the confidence in my parenting to completely separate my style from your style, my progress from your progress, and my parenting journey from yours (and everyone else for that matter!).

I thought I was being healthy by limiting my "mom" talk with friends and forgoing all blog reading. Don't get me wrong, this did help. But the most innocent of comments become fuel for my self-deprecating, so avoiding the stimulus isn't the answer. I have to turn these lies into truths.

This might be the craziest part of all: I actually think I'm a good mom. I think a lot of what I do is good for our boys and our lifestyle and our desires for them.

So where's this coming from? I really don't even know where to start, aside from asking the Holy Spirit to start revealing the answers to me so I can start believing truths.




As you know, comparing can be very dangerous, especially because we never know the whole story. I can look at someone else's life and think it may look easy but we don't know all the hard work that person put in, or the extra things that are happening that can be extremely hard. It would be easy for me to feel sad that Ada isn't doing all the things other 8-month-olds do, but I've decided not to compare Ada to other 8-month-olds. I am choosing to only look at Ada and be glad that she is progressing and encourage her when she is not. I believe we need to use this same philosophy on ourselves and each other.

You are a good mom--a good Mom for Levi, Everett, Hayden and soon-to-be baby. I totally get the feelings of being inadequate and yet also believing I am doing ok. Your Everett gave up the pacifier way before June. Heck your kids are actually going on the potty! I could make that a reflection of my parenting, but instead I have to realize that June is on a different pace than your boys. We can use the information we do hear from other moms and let it be a trigger to try for those things when our kids are ready. If we notice another kid our kid's age doing something on their own, it's a reminder that our kids can try that too. We just may not have thought to let them.

You and I have talked before about the perfectionist inside of you. I think a lot of Moms struggle with this and if we can get to the root to why we want to be perfect in certain areas maybe we can set ourselves free. I believe we can do this through intimate relationships and like you said, asking the Holy Spirit for help. Talking about this with each other and encouraging one another can be a great gift!

I wonder what others think about this. Do they struggle with it? What are some ways they have gotten over being in these situations?


P.S. I'm not sure I ever said she was quiet. Did I say that? That's a rare one! She's rarely quiet.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I keep hearing how if you cook with your children they will like more things. I try this often and I think it's only happened one time. Catina has two cook books and loves looking at them but barely likes eating anything suggested on the inside.

 After all this...her response was "I don't like it!" And if big sister says it, so does little sister.

Monday, August 27, 2012

God Complex


This is my last week of my twelve-week journey. I'm excited about all I've learned but there is this odd and fearful feeling that I'm not quite finished learning some big things. I pray I can keep my ear listening to what actions I need to take to refine my life even further, and I hope I won't miss out or take too long learning the lessons that can draw me closer to Jesus.

This fall is going to be very full with almost every morning filled with therapies. I've trimmed my schedule but still feel the tight squeeze and hope to trim a bit more. I love people and as an extrovert my cup is filled and overflowing after spending time with them. I've realized that my love language is time spent, so between this way of loving and the way I receive my energy, it's going to be a sacrifice to not be with all the people I want to spend time with. At the same time I know I can learn a lot by just focusing on our home life during this season.

When I have to say "no" to spending time with people I feel this twinge of guilt; I'm worried that those I say "no" to won't believe that I love them. I also know that there are many times I can neglect my own needs and at times my family's by "making sure" others feel loved. It's the "God complex" disease that rears it's ugly head every so often in my life. Absurd! It's embarrassing to admit and weird to even think that I could somehow control and make sure that people feel loved...which I can't, but I can easily burn myself out trying. I believe it's a fine line of people-pleasing and truly loving. 

Sometimes I believe the lie that I'm being selfish if I don't continue to give and give and forget that even when I focus in on my own home I am still giving. I need to remember that I've been given three little people who need a lot right now and who will live their lives by watching my example. No pressure there.

I'd love to get a better handle on this and ask that you and our friends share any thoughts they have. 



I know this is The Struggle for you. What's so crazy is how this quality is also such a unique blessing! I've walked beside you for so many years and I've seen the pros and cons to this incredible gift. It's that whole battle of knowing how to apply it in a new season.

I can't relate to the desire to be with people so often, but I can relate to sometimes overlooking the people under our feet right now. Like we've talked about so many times, there's a fine line between being too inward focused (on the family) and just doing our job as wives and moms. I think it requires constant evaluating. I know you want to teach your girls about loving others and serving, and there's no doubt they're picking up on these priorities.

Feeling thankful for your honesty.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Scary Babysitter


So I was lying in the boys' room the other night, telling them yet another Mowgli story, and I had a thought: I would never hire the teenage version of myself to babysit for my children.

As a teen I was the "block" babysitter. I'm pretty sure these parents had no clue how dumb I was because they left me with their babies when I was barely 12.

But as you know I am useless at nighttime and, pre-kids, I could sleep through an explosion. I remember parents always explaining they'd be late, and after their kids when to bed to "feel free to relax on the couch and fall asleep" until they returned. Of course I never planned on actually falling asleep, but then I probably shouldn't have covered up, laid back, and rested my head on their comfy throw pillows.

I remember one time in particular when I was babysitting for the O'Riordans, the pretty family in the biggest house on Ferris. I was awakened at midnight by Mr. O'Riordan standing across the living room calling, "Jenni? Um...Jenni!" I startled awake and mumbled something about the book I was reading (no book in sight, by the way). He said, "Wow, you were really out." I stumbled around the living room and couldn't even coordinate my hands to grab my jacket. Maybe the worst part was the 6-house walk home accompanied by Mr. O, me trying to find something redeemable to discuss about the evening with their 3-year-old terror. What must he have thought?

Well they asked me back again and again, so they must not mind a babysitter who would sleep through their kid's screams and a burglar axing down the door. They must have really needed those nights out!




And now you wake up at every sound your kids make! The irony.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Which Foot?

Catina always seems to have a hard time figuring out which shoe goes on which foot. I heard about this tip where you can find stickers, cut them in half and then put one half in each shoe to make a picture. We found heart stickers at the dollar store and did just that. It was fun and super helpful! After doing this project I found out you can buy stickers just for this purpose. The Dollar Store is cheaper but if you are interested these look like a lot of fun!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ada Makes Three!


A few weeks ago Ada had tubes put in her ears. She had some fluid at her first ENT appointment and when they did a hearing test she wasn't hearing.

The day of the surgery Ada went 21 hours with no food, between needing an empty stomach for surgery and not giving her food other than sugar water once she woke up. The surgery went well and while she was under they did an ABR (Auditory Brain Response) test. June had this when she was 6 weeks old. Her hearing came back normal which was a sigh of relief because it's one less thing to be concerned with. Keeping hearing aids in a little one has been a challenge, and from what I hear it's harder keeping them in the ears of a child with Down syndrome because the cartilage in their ears is a little floppier.

"But Daddy, I'm so hungry and they are making me wear this huge gown!"
Ada rolls over on purpose all the time now and is trying to get up on her knees to crawl. She can sit up for brief moments and enjoys playing in her Bumbo with a tray. When she is hungry she smacks her lips. We are starting to sign with her and we play the little game "How big is Ada?" and lift her arms up high. Now she is starting to bring her arms to her face when we say this and she grins from ear to ear. In September she will have a 2 1/2 hour eye appointment to figure out what her vision is like.

Ada's sisters teaching her fine motor skils.
I can't remember if I told you about her thyroid test. The poor thing had to have blood drawn from her arm. Fortunately, the test was negative and she doesn't need to be on meds at this time. Speaking of not remembering, I've been slipping in this area. By the time my first two girls were six months old I felt like I was getting out of the fog and things were becoming easier. That has not been the case this time. Sometimes I wonder how I am going to get everything done and, oh, sometimes I remember I really don't have to get everything done! I've had friends tell me they would meet me somewhere and later I'll realize I thought it was a dream and barely make it to the destination.

Sisters playing princess in their castle tent.
I feel like some days I can keep up with the steam roller but others days it's brushing up against my back side and I'm going to be squashed. I'm hoping this Fall when things are a bit more scheduled my mind and body will keep up better. How do we fit it all in? Or what don't we fit in?

Catina and June holding hands while swinging.
I'm really excited about what the Lord is teaching me but now I need to listen and find out how I'm suppose to live life in this new way and turn from my old ways. Incorporating this new life and keeping up with three children seems complicated without serious boundaries. My biggest fear in all of this is for friends to not understand and think I am brushing them off or not wanting to be around them. I wonder if others deal with this same issue and I wonder what they do about it.

Pray for me!




Thanks for your honesty. I'm so glad we can talk about this even in a season where we're grasping for time to connect over the phone. Even with friends as close as us it's easy to just get bits and pieces of each others' lives and really have no clue how they're doing or feeling. Thanks for sharing, and know that I'm interceding!


Friday, August 17, 2012

End of Summer


As we await the 20-week ultrasound for this baby, I'm finding myself thinking a lot about our experience with Elisabeth.

First of all, it's exactly the same time of year! The due dates are only 9 days apart, so all of the milestones are coming at the same time, particularly this one. Although I love the smell of a new season in the air, it brings some sadness and loneliness for me.

So here's the crazy part: the thing I keep remembering has more to do with infertility than with our loss. I'm not sure why, but here's the memory that's sitting in my gut:

Before we were able to have children I remember wishing so hard to imagine what it would feel like to sit in a hospital bed with that ugly gown and no makeup, hair a mess, with a swaddled baby in my arms. I would see these classic pictures on Facebook and shudder. What did that baby smell like? How did the mom feel? Were there visitors? How was her labor? (And how happy must she be to post that hideous picture of herself?!) When the mom was younger than me, like 10 years or more, it was particularly painful. Those were the moments I played with the idea of "no fair."


Even though my labor and general birth experience was pretty normal when we had Elisabeth, I was well aware that I still hadn't experienced that "picture." I think that's what this season reminds me of, the time when I realized I still wasn't going to have that kind of "normal" experience. And of course I've had three healthy babies since then, for which I'm indescribably grateful, but a memory is a memory and I can't change that feeling in my gut.

Sometimes I feel so far from infertility, and then I have those moments like this where I could be right back there grieving and waiting. I don't claim to be, nor do I want to be, the spokesperson for infertility, but I do hope these memories make me open to using my experiences to help others if opportunities arise.




I've been thinking the same about this pregnancy. When we talked on the phone earlier this week we realized we no longer think of the ultrasound as a way to know if we are having a boy or girl, but a way to know what will our baby be like. Are they healthy? Will they have special needs?

It's like we've walked through the door of a different dimension and we can no longer see how things used to be. Even though this side of the door is hard I wouldn't trade it. It's who we are today and again we pray our experiences can help others and even ourselves.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Surrendering to the God of Jonah


These past two weeks have been crazy amazing. I started this 12-week journey expecting the Lord to speak to me, but I had no idea what He'd say. I did know He wanted me to set this time aside to listen and right away I felt His presence. I began to be enlightened on some things in my life; those things would've been enough for me to call this journey a "success" but the Lord had more to say.

A couple weeks into the journey, I was with some friends and we were creating Jesse Tree ornaments, and the ornament we were working on pertained to Jonah. For some reason this story stood out to me and shortly after I happened to try and find one of Levi's sermons on podcast (Jen's husband). I couldn't find the one I wanted, but instead ended up listening to one that happened to be about Jonah! I listened not only to that sermon on Jonah, but the rest of the series as well. I felt a stirring inside. Many things stood out to me, but mostly the part where Levi pointed out that the Lord provided a whale to swallow Jonah to save him from drowning and to show Jonah that He was loved. The word "provided" was the key word. I started to believe that the Lord just might have some kind of message for me in the book of Jonah, in particular in the fourth chapter. I told some friends about these crazy occurrences and they just kept coming.

The show Catina asked to watch this week. For real!
On vacation, the book I was reading mentioned Jonah and then my friend, Jane, told me that she had heard through our friend, Heather, that a local church had done a series'll never guess what--Jonah. I listened to those sermons and began to imagine what I thought the message for me could be. Two Mondays ago I posted where I was at in my journey and I asked you and others to pray that I would begin to understand why the book of Jonah was significant to me. In my head I was thinking maybe the Lord was calling me to be some great prophet and the people I spoke to would miraculously be changed by the words that proceeded from my mouth. All coming from the Lord, of course.

I sent the prayer requests mentioned in a post two weeks ago to Jane and she wondered if maybe the two requests were somehow related. I was very confused and thought how could my eating issues be related to Jonah? Was I to be a great prophet and tell people to eat right? HA! When I asked her why she thought the two were related she said that when her and Heather were talking, Heather mentioned that sermon the pastor gave a definition of an idol (putting anything above the Lord). Jane wondered if somehow the idol mentioned in the Jonah sermon could be related to food in my life. For the life of me I could not recall hearing anything about this in the sermon but took note and decided I really needed to listen to that sermon again.

A few days later our friend, Liz, called and told me that the sermon at her church that Sunday was about what? JONAH! SERIOUSLY?! NOOOOOOO WAAAAAY! Liz said that the pastor talked about the fourth chapter. In this chapter the Lord "provided" a plant to shade Jonah from the extreme heat. Jonah loved that plant and became a little fond of it so the Lord provided a worm to kill the plant. This plant was Jonah's "precious" and the Lord loved Jonah so much that he killed it so that Jonah would experience His grace and love and not to look to things.Liz described that the plant was both the idol and the "precious." It was the thing that operates in your life as your functional savior and you may depend on it to make life "work." We often aren't even aware of what our functional savior is until is is taken away from us or stops working for you.


Ohhhhkay. So now Jane was mentioning idols and Liz was mentioning idols and maybe just maybe food can be an idol for me. I decided to go back and listen to that sermon Jane was talking about and halfway through he began to talk about idols. And not only did he talk about idols for a little bit, but the whole second half of the sermon was about idols. HOW DID I MISS THAT THE FIRST TIME? Maybe I wasn't ready to hear and maybe just maybe I was listening to it while cooking dinner and tending to three children. The verse he quoted was Jonah 2:8, "Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them."

Whoa! I've always had a hard time accepting the Love of Our Father. I can tell you and my next door neighbor that Jesus loves them but time and time again I learn this same lesson. Jesus Loves ME. The whole book of Jonah shows a loving God who pursues His people. He provides for them, sometimes in ways they'd rather not experience like whales and worms, but through this they are reconciled to Him and they experience His grace and His peace.

This is a lot to take in but I am excited to embark in his next step of how the Lord will provide for me to tear down the idol of food so that I can relish in His Love. That I may learn to surrender to this God that Jonah had a relationship with, and that I would accept His grace and mercy. Again, I ask for your prayers that I will take the steps needed.




This is really cool. I'm so glad you've recorded these details so in the future you can look back and really appreciate how His hand orchestrated all this! (Like when you're a famous prophet and all.)



Friday, August 10, 2012



So, it's no secret that I've been an animal lover for as long as I can recall. One of the things that attracted me to Levi was his love for animals, too, especially dogs.

A few months after we were married we adopted Buddy, our 14-year-old golden. We adored him and embraced the "childless with dog" lifestyle and eventually bred him and got Augustine, his beautiful, blonde son. We loved our dogs and really didn't mind everything that went with it: chasing them through the neighborhood when they escaped the yard, frequent vet trips, and even hiring housesitters when we'd go out of town.

Enter kids. Before the twins could crawl, the dogs spent days lounging beside them, taking a sweet protective role.

Sweet Buddy watching over Everett and Levi
when they were just a few months old.

But the minute the twins could crawl and bother the dogs, we had to start separating them. Little by little life got more hectic and the kids were unpredicatable with the animals, so they spent a lot of time away from us. It made me sad but it really wasn't an option.

Everett, Levi and Buddy once again.
Augie was probably digging his way out of the backyard.

Now that the kids are older they spent a lot of time around the dogs and they all get along wonderfully, but I'm not gonna lie--it's totally insane. Three kids chanting "Mama, mama, mama" plus two barking dogs are usually enough to make my head spin, especially with one canine who constantly digs out of the yard and escapes! Even with our dogs who are older and trained, it's a lot to handle. Not that I would change it for the world, but I have to admit that having animals during the kids' younger years is an added challenge. On the other hand I would encourage everyone to expose their kids to animals in the family. But don't say I didn't warn you.




If I could have a dog like Buddy I just may have one...some day! I remember when Catina was two years old we came to visit and how gentle Buddy was when Catina would lie down on him. He's just so loving. You're a great mom to all five of the beings you take care of!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Prayers for this Little One

Hey Jen and Friends,

I love to read blogs and keep updated with a blog called "Little Wrtter Momma." She is currently writing a blog for her 4 month old niece who is in need of a liver. Please pray this happens soon. For more of her story click on the button above! Thanks for taking the time to love this family.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Housekeeping Fun?

The following post is written by our friend Liz who lives in Chatanooga, TN with her husband and two daughters under 2 1/2. Liz works part time from home at a public relations firm, is a great cook and enjoys running! Ann and Liz met five years ago through their husbands and were a part of a book club where they read crazy and amazing books they wouldn't otherwise read. Liz is constantly striving to be a better wife, mom, daughter and friend which Ann very much appreciates.

Dear Jen and Ann,

"Now is not the season to be OCD about your house. Tired mama, put down the vacuum and engage with that little girl who's been begging you to read her some books all afternoon. And just accept the reality that Cheerios are going to be found in every nook and cranny of your couch, bed, chairs and car. We're aiming for happy households, not perfect homes."

Sometimes when I read "mommy blog" posts that start off like this I just want to scream, "I AM paying attention to my children! I AM reading them stories, engaging with their hearts, playing games, telling stories, singing songs. I AM, I AM, I AM!" I know the heart and intention behind such blog posts is good, but honestly they often make me feel a bit criminal for wanting to bring some order and cleanliness to my household and for wanting to encourage some independent play in my 2-year-old who more often than not would prefer to be suction-cupped to my side.
Living Room
I suppose there could be some moms among us who need to hear this message and who really might not be paying enough attention to their children. However, I'm inclined to believe that the majority of us who are raising our children in an era of over-parenting are doing just fine when it comes to engaging with our little ones. My fear is that we read these posts, then turn away and think "Oh, well, I guess I'm supposed to give into my toddler's constant demands that I pay him/her attention since the goal isn't a perfect house, but a happy one." It's almost like we're taking this as a carte blanche to ignore our other responsibilities, which in a way is easier than trying to teach patience and independence to our young ones.
Dining Room
Maybe this is just me, as I know I have a sensitive conscience and always feel these posts are directed right at me, when maybe they are not. I'm not sure. Any moms out there who can relate?



So funny because Jen and I talk about this a lot. I have a couple thoughts that are in line with what you are saying. Love the pictures by the way!

Recently, we went to the children's museum in Flint. My girls love that place! They have these different areas for pretend play. Their two favorite sections are the theater dress up area because as you know my girls love to dance! Their second favorite is the little town where you can go to the grocery store or post office, and cook your food in your own little kitchen. My Mom and I were watching the girls play and commented how we didn't have an elaborate, fun place like that when we were kids. My mom is an early childhood educator and she reminded me that up until 100 years ago kids worked. They worked in factories and on farms and there was very little time for play. I'm very grateful that my girls won't have to work so young, but I do believe that they should share the responsibilities with the family in caring for our home. There are many circumstances that are contributing to children leaving our parents' home later and later in life, but I believe our children not really knowing how to work adds to that trend.
Catina and June playing at the Flint Children's Museum

When Catina was two I started handing her a dust rag to help me dust the house. Now I did not expect her to clean well, but she found it fun to imitate me and we would make up songs as we went. Since then, Catina has seen the musical "Annie" and we sometimes pretend we are scrubbing the orphanage from its grime. Now when I ask Catina if she'd like to help me dust she jumps at the opportunity and does a great job. She even lifts up objects to clean underneath them!

I don't believe Catina needs to clean all day or have a ton of responsibilities, but we as a family we do need to share in the chores around the house to keep what God gave us in good shape. Plus, if you help mommy clean then mommy has more time for reading and playing!
I'm with you Liz, I'd love to hear more thoughts from moms on the balance of playing and keeping house.


Friday, August 3, 2012

The Sleep Manifesto


Just in case anyone who reads this post would like a fast ticket to feeling out of control, I'm going to share a few tips I've picked up along my short journey of parenting. Let's call it:

THE SLEEP MANIFESTO: How to Drive Yourself Mad
  1. Read every book, article and post on sleep. 
  2. Dread the infinitely annoying question, "Does he/she sleep through the night?" and feel the need to respond honestly.
  3. Ask your friends how their kids are sleeping. Commence comparing.
  4. Rehash your evening to your best friend and/or husband every morning.
  5. Believe friends with older kids who say "It gets better!" They aren't lying, they're just callous.
I know my bar is high. All three kids are on the same schedule, but so help me, when someone falls out of line it's like my entire day is out of sync. This is another great tip--expect perfection. Because failing's fun, right?

Of course this is so much worse when the kiddos are young, which is why I do actually have some honest advice that I'm giving myself (and ask that you remind me of this when baby comes):
  • It's only a season.
  • It does get better in a lot of ways.
  • And finally, IT IS WHAT IT IS.




You hit the nail on the head on how to keep yourself insane! Let's just add the fact you'd love for all three of your children (or for you the twins) to sleep in the same room. Greg and I have a dream that our children will share a room and in this they will learn to share and love one another. We are hoping to prepare them to share and love people that they encounter and what better place than to start in your own home?

At times it is completely insane! We've had so many variations of how we've gotten the girls all to share the same room. The most current version is where Ada is on the floor in the office, June starts off in our bed and Catina goes to her own. All three girls go down one after another in half hour increments starting at 7pm. When Greg and I go to bed we carry the two younger ones into their beds and one by one they wake us up in the morning. Catina and Ada are rarely the issue. It's our ever-so-sweet and smiley 2 1/2-year-old, June. She loves to throw stuffed animals into Ada's crib or pull Catina's hair once she is asleep. She drives me mad! We've tried time outs and waiting, waiting, waiting for her to fall asleep before Catina goes to bed, but she is stubborn enough to wait us all out. We finally came to this solution and for now, it works. Whew, and good night!

Here is a sweet photo of Ada sleeping in the office. Isn't her sleep position amazing?!

I'd love to hear any tips from our friends if they have any. Or would that just drive us more batty?


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Twin A

These pictures of Levi were taken when Jen and the boys came to our home for Ada's dedication. They were within the first moments of him arriving so he wasn't really sure why I was sticking a camera in his face. He decided later to help me out with the fake smile below. The real one is adorable but I wasn't able to capture it that time. - Ann