Christmas Program

Tomorrow is a big day! Cole will be in his very first Christmas show ever at our church. I can't wait! Granted, he's only singing a song that might last two minutes if we're lucky. But he'll be so cute in those two minutes, singing and shaking his jingle bell. Um, that sounds funny. But really, he's shaking a real jingle bell. Ha ha! A friend of mine said, "I can't believe you're old enough to have a kid in a church program!" Well.....thanks.

I'll post pictures and probably video for sure!

A Revelation

I have been given an amazing gift this Christmas season. It was probably costly, but not expensive. It is laced with beauty, but not found in diamonds or jewels. No, this Christmas season I've been given the gift of understanding.

Understanding how awesome it is that Jesus came to our world.

Understanding the idea that He began His journey to redeem the world on that lonely Christmas night.

Understanding what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.

In my devotions, I've been reading about the promise of Christ throughout the entire Old Testament. How Christ has reigned supreme since the very beginning of time. God revealed Christ for the very first time when He said to the serpent, "You will bruise His heel, but He will crush your head." Again, He declared the promise to Abram when He declared that "all the peoples of the earth shall be blessed through you." Abram knew God wasn't talking about Him, but of the One who was to come through Abram's line of descent. David received the promise of the Messiah when the Lord God said, "your kingdom will reign forever." Again, David knew it had nothing to do with him, but everything to do with God redeeming the world.

In the book of Isaiah, we find four songs of the servant, which can also be referred to as Messianic prophecies. One that has always been read during the Christmas season is Isaiah 9:6-7:

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."

What I find to be amazing are the verses that precede this text, rarely ever read together:

"Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan - The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For unto us a child is born...."

Do you see what I'm getting at? How incredible it is that the one who brought peace came in the form of a baby! I have many other thoughts on this that I will write in another post, but for now I want to focus on the issue of peace. Reading my friend Sara's blog the other day, reminded me of the war-filled world we live in. Having her husband as an Army Chaplain, I doubt that she is ever able to think otherwise. It is sad for me to read stories of real people who are losing their lives. Men and women who are fighting for our country, but also wars that are taking place around the world that we don't even know about. Civil wars like the ones in Africa, tribal wars, religious wars, etc. take place always. Will peace ever come to be in this world of hatred and hurt?

Yet, in this passage in Isaiah, God says that there is One greater than all of this. There is One who will bring peace. And peace means so much more than just an absense of war or an inner calm. My devotion suggested it as, "completeness, wholeness, fullness, soundness, firmness, safety, well-being, prosperity, and contentment." Being a Wonderful Counselor indicates wisdom and royalty; "Mighty God" is associated with power and victory; "Everlasting Father" points to His eternal and divine origins; and "Prince of Peace" means he brings peace and well-being to the earth.

It is so humbling to me to think of my God coming to earth as a human. Think of a baby you know and love; maybe your own child. Think of Christ in that precious form. Knowing that those tiny hands would be nailed to a cross. That those tiny little feet would take the grueling steps toward redeeming the world as the world threw insults and hatred at him. That his sweet, soft skin would be covered in stripes of blood. And that through all of this, we have the promise of peace. True peace that no President, pastor or peace treaty can provide.

Why is it we tend to bypass this great truth? Why do we only look to the cross on Easter? For truly, that little baby was looking to the cross on that miraculous Christmas night. I will never cease to be thankful.

Things I Love About Being a SAH-Mom

  1. Waking up in the morning and knowing I don't have to hurry to get somewhere
  2. Being able to stay in my pajamas all day if I so choose
  3. Being surrounded by three little ones who love me regardless of me staying in my pajamas all day
  4. Cuddling in a blanket with Cole while he drinks his chocolate milk and watches the Disney Channel
  5. Getting little hugs and kisses all throughout the day
  6. Being the one who gets to give hugs and kisses back
  7. Teaching character traits to my children
  8. Watching the excitement in the kids' faces when they learn something new
  9. Knowing that what I'm doing will make a difference someday, even if it doesn't seem so today
  10. Knowing I'm doing what God has called me to do
  11. Snuggling my girls while they get ready for/wake up from their naps
  12. Being satisfied when I get stains out of clothing that should be impossible to get out
  13. Making a place for Jake to come home and enjoy after a day at the office
  14. Baking with Cole
  15. Hearing all of the stories Cole has to tell me
  16. Hearing the girls' sweet giggles and coos
  17. Watching the amazing imagination of a 2 1/2 year-old
  18. Building forts
  19. Building puzzles
  20. "Building" respectable little people
  21. Basking in the accomplishment of having the mound of laundry done, the dishes done and the house cleaned
  22. Accepting that those duties will begin again tomorrow, but being thankful that there is no pressure from a boss or CEO to get on top of them right away
  23. Praying with Cole at night
  24. Making a difference in the lives of my kids and my husband
  25. Just being there!
I mean this post in no way to imply that moms who work outside of the home do not enjoy these things. I just think that I forget all of the benefits I have to staying at home. I don't have someone commending me on a daily basis, nor do I have the satisfaction of bringing home a paycheck as a physical reminder that I am contributing to the family. So, while it's been a rough week with the kids, and while the idea of a vacation is about 18 years away, I just wanted to make a list of all of the things that I love about them and why I'm so glad that I have chosen to be at home with them 24/7. It's all about perspective, baby!

Blah Blah Blah

Ugh! Have you ever had those total brain freezes where you have




I feel like I've been in that stage for the last few months now. I have to apologize to all of my bloggy friends who faithfully check up on us to see how our family is doing. Unfortunately, this momma just has nothing to write! I have many ideas in my head, but they come out in the form of a;lskdjfopwerkja;cipawendcvoudoqhwig!!!

So, I've learned that when all else fails, post pictures of the kids!


An American Blessing

I did it.

I am proud to say that I exercised my right to vote today. As I stood in my newly digitized voting booth, I thought of what a real privilege it is that I get to vote. So many people around the world don't have a choice on who their country's leader is. I'm so thankful that I do. I was reminded of that when Jake was talking to Cole about why it is so important that we go and vote.

We took our kids along with us today and waited in line. I asked Cole this morning if he wanted to go and vote for the next President with us. He got really excited and told me he wanted to go vote. I wondered why he was so quick on his feet to get dressed and head out the door. Any other time I'm trying to get him ready for something, it's like pulling teeth with him.

Then, I got it.

As we stood in line, Cole asked me, "Mommy, where's the nest present?" It all makes sense. He didn't care about the President. But he hears the word present and he's there! I spent the next 15 minutes or so explaining that we weren't getting a present, but voting for the Pres-i-dent. He was none too impressed. Thankfully, the precinct judge had a licorice in her pocket. I'll be darned if that kid isn't so spoiled.

Oh well. Maybe he'll be more interested in the President in 2012. Although, it might help if that candidate has a Twizzler in his pocket!

Something New

Did you know that blogger just came out with a new page element that lets you be a follower of a blog? It's awesome! Instead of bookmarking all of the blogs I read every day and then going through my whole list, I just become a fan of those blogs and then the new posts on those blogs are all shown on my dashboard! It's awesome!!

So, if our family is one you check in with every day (and thanks to those who do even though I haven't been the best with my blogging consistency) just click on the link to the right of our page and follow our blog. Trust me - it's so cool!!

Hayden's Turn!

"Well, now that it's over, I think that was kind of fun!"
Hayden is a trooper with cereal. She didn't take to it quite as quickly as Maurah, but has now discovered that she LOVES her cereal time. As soon as we put her in her chair, she gets excited. She is really interested in eating and drinking, watching us anytime we have food or a glass in our hands. It's fun to tease her and watch her eyes follow as we move our forks back and forth. Some would consider this mean - - - we consider it our dinner entertainment!! =) Isn't she so sweet?

Maurah's First Cereal

Maurah ate one whole ounce of cereal today - beautiful!

I realize this may not be that large of an event, especially compared to all that babies learn to do in the first year of their lives. But think - the very act of eating is what kept our baby girl in the hospital for 80 days. 80 days.

And so today, when I offered her cereal for the second time in her life, I actually wondered if she might have difficulty learning to eat solids. But she proved my doubts wrong by opening her mouth, bite after bite and swallowing each taste of rice cereal. I don't remember it going so well for Cole even!!

The only sad part was that Hayden was sleeping, so we don't have pictures or stories of her yet, but I will make sure to post as soon as I do. Until then, here are some to enjoy of Maurah! Dear Lord, thank You so much for bringing us so far. Thank You that Maurah is healthy and is progressing along as she should. Thank You for your unfailing love and faithfulness and for protecting our family.

New Tricks and Pics

Here's an update on the girls:

  • Maurah and Hayden both rolled from their tummies to their backs last Wednesday.
  • Hayden rolled from her back to her tummy yesterday.
  • Maurah rolled from her back to her tummy today.
  • As far as we can tell right now, Maurah may definitely be Dad's girl. All Jake has to do is walk in the room and her face lights up like you wouldn't believe. I've never seen such a big smile on such a small baby. It's too sweet!
  • Hayden is really into talking. She will just lay in her crib and babble for the longest time. It's so nice to wake up to this sound over the monitor versus screaming that she wants to eat!
  • Both of the girls are really getting interested in toys and it's so fun to have them be more interactive. Jake and I don't really enjoy the newborn stage where babies don't really "do" anything, so we're really loving this phase with the girls.
  • The girls LOVE each other. It's neat to see them bond already. Whenever we lay them down together, they end up holding hands. Could anything be sweeter?
Maurah enjoying some time outdoors
Hayden and her favorite toy - her tongue
Maurah & Hayden

Catching up a bit

So, here's the latest.

Many of you saw on my Facebook profile that we were thinking we'd have to find a new house to live in. The reason for that is this:and this:

and this!Indiana definitely got its fair share of rain two weekends ago. The first picture I took is a field that leads up to a beautiful Catholic church. As Jake and I drove home from our church on Sunday, we found the field to be completely covered in water, looking like a lake. The second picture is one that shows how high the water was up on our van - to the doors to be exact. And this last picture shows how the lake we live on rose so much, many docks were covered in water. I have never seen so much water in my life. It took Jake and I an hour to get home from church and, finally, after attempting three different routes that were blocked by police officers, we found a road that led home - - - - to a home with no power, that is! We quickly packed overnight necessities and headed to our friends', the Evers', who gave us great shelter from the storm for the night. We were warm and cozy and it was wonderful! Cole made cookies with MacKenzie, and Shelley and I stayed up way too late watching a ridiculous movie that was supposed to be scary, but in the end was pretty hysterical. Our power was on and we were able to return home the next morning, but were so glad to have the time spent with friends.

In the town of Munster, where we lived just last year, a family in our church is still recovering from the flood where their entire basement was filled with water and it was coming up onto the main floor of their home. Just down the street from them, a house exploded. Roads were closed, schools closed, we saw a semi split in half from a tree falling on it - - - it was crazy.

SO! From all of this, we got a bit of flooding in our basement and discovered spores of mold that came through our drywall. We knew we couldn't stay in an environment that invited mold, especially with the kids and were planning to have to move out. But Landlord Ron (the most wonderful landlord ever!) saved the day. He and another guy (I forget his name so we'll call him Gut-out guy because he gutted out our house!) came and took our drywall out where mold had collected. They will come back at the end of the week to put up a charrail and some white paneling at the bottom so that we can pull it out easily if it begins to collect water. I am so glad that mold didn't grow in our wood because we would be done for then! I can't tell you what a relief it is to not have to move!!

In all of this, please keep in mind people who were not as fortunate as we have been. Many people's homes have been destroyed. With the economy in the state that it is, it's not an easy task for families to restore their homes to a livable status. We often think of flood victims on coasts - I know I was shocked to see Indiana get the weather it did. But we definitely have flood victims all around us right now and people are still recovering. Prayers are greatly appreciated!!

It's Snot Funny....

I am at home with the kids today, all four of us with stuffy noses, warm heads and bad attitudes. Everything is green - - - I wipe green noses, change green diapers and try to ward off the green-eyed monster that lies within. It's hard on days like these to not be envious of Jake, who is downtown Chicago with three students, hanging out at Moody and visiting the city for the day. When I signed up to be a stay-at-home mom, I didn't realize what I was choosing to miss out on! Then again, if I wasn't with the kids all day, I'd miss out on even more, wouldn't I? I have to try and keep that perspective on days like today.

So, how do you explain to a 2 year-old that we're all tired, and we're all sick, but that gives none of us license to throw fits and be off the charts rude? Or, does anyone have suggestions for how to entertain a sick toddler who isn't really interested in being engaged with anyone or anything (besides the obvious answer of TV and movies!)? By the time I get any responses, we'll all be back to healthy and normalcy again, but we'll just save them for next time

Hope your day is a little less green (in more ways than one!) than mine.

The Latest Cole-isms

We are in the midst of watching Cole's language progress greatly. Here are a few recent stories that might be fun for you to read:
  • Last night while Jake and I were checking to see if Cole might have a rash as it became apparent that his diaper was bothering him, he said, "Hey, don't touch my penix!! Dat tickows!!" Jake and I burst out laughing, not even trying to hold it in. I was proud of him for saying the correct name because I can't stand when people teach their kids little pet names for their anatomy. It was still so funny to hear it come from his mouth so unexpectedly - - - - and as long as he doesn't yell it in public, I think we'll be okay.

  • The other day Jake was talking to Cole and was trying to joke with him. Cole looked at him and said, "That was kind of funny, Dad!" Apparently his standard of funny has raised and Jake doesn't quite meet that expectation anymore. Good thing he's got a hilarious momma!! (Right, Aunt Heather?) =)

  • While Cole is pretty hysterical, he can be awfully sweet too. This morning he was sitting on the couch next to Hayden and I heard him "teaching" her by saying, "See? You have toes, I have toes! You have legs, I have legs! You have hands, I have hands!" It's fun to see him turn more and more into the big brother who is also a teacher, a comforter and a friend. Sometimes a bully too, but thankfully the girls haven't picked up on that yet!

Now, get your kleenex ready.

A week or two ago, Cole was looking at the pictures I have setting on the ledge that follows the stairs down to our basement. I was in our living room when he came running in with a frame in his hands.

"Who's dis wif Gramma Jammet?" I replied, "That's Grandpa Mart. You didn't get to meet him."

"Weww.....Cole wansa' see him!" I said, "You know what honey? You will get to see him someday because he's in Heaven with Jesus now. He went to Heaven just two weeks before you were born, so you didn't get to see him yet. But you can one day."

"No, Mom, he's at Gramma Jammet's house! I wansa' go to Gramma Jammet's house!" Then I realized that he recognized my Grandpa from pictures in my Grandma's apartment. We resolved the issue of him wanting to go to my Grandma's house because that's what we're doing next weekend.

This struck me so deeply though because this was my first conversation with Cole about someone we know and love very much being in Heaven. Isn't it amazing the things children can understand? He walked away from that conversation happy to know that Grandpa Mart is in Heaven and especially that we're going to "Gramma Jammet's" soon. I left that conversation with a sadness that my grandpa never did get to meet Cole and also filled with the wonder of whether or not our loved ones really can see us from above. Sometimes I highly doubt this. But if so, I think I can see the smile my Grandpa had on his face as he watched our conversation.

Blue Jean Ladies

Maurah, Hayden

Thought these were just too cute to not post! They're getting so big and are so close to rolling over. Bundles of fun!!

Thoughts on the Three T's

Training: No, not for a marathon. Not for the Olympics. Not even for riding a bike. Training as in toilet training. What in the world? Why is this such an ordeal? First of all, our toilets are too tall for our toddler - even with a stool. What's up with that? And why did no one ever tell me I'd have to clean up pounds of poop found all over my house because he doesn't want to be in a dirty diaper? (Pounds may be an exaggeration....or maybe not). And why is it so easy to poop everywhere BUT the toilet?

Teething: Who decided it was okay for both twins to teethe at the same time? And when I'm toilet training my two year-old? (Say that five times fast! I must be on a T spree!) Orajel and Tylenol (ooh! another T!) have become my best friends yet again. And the up-down, up-down of these teeth! Just come through already!

Tears and Tantrums: These two are lumped into one category because they undoubtedly go together in our home. It always seems that Cole is throwing a tantrum while the girls are screaming bloody murder. Or is it that the girls are screaming bloody murder while Cole is throwing a tantrum? Either way, you can't have one without the other. They all really egg each other on. Especially Cole and Maurah. If Cole is crying, Maurah starts crying and vice versa. What is the deal with that? By the end of it all, I want to be in tears or throwing a tantrum of my own!

I'm Tired! (Ha! This T thing is fun!)

The Gift from Grandma 'Laine

While on vacation, Jake's grandma passed away. Really, it was a blessing, as she had been suffering for the last 15 months or so. It was last May that we were told she was going to die, but she hung on until just last week. Something Jake and I were concerned about was where she stood before God. For the longest time, she really had nothing to do with Him and didn't concern herself with the thought of meeting Him face to face. Then, she met her Hospice chaplain and all of that changed.

Christmas 2007 was the first time Grandma 'Laine had ever mentioned anything to me about God. I will never forget sitting in Jake's parents' house where his grandma brought up meeting this Baptist chaplain whom she surprisingly felt very connected to (she herself being raised Catholic, they obviously had very differing views). I walked away from our discussion encouraged that this man may be one of great influence on Grandma.

Never again were spiritual matters spoken of. So when we attended Grandma's funeral this last Saturday, my heart was heavy laden with fear that she really wasn't in peace. Then, Lee, her chaplain, got up to speak. What I appreciated so much is how well he knew Grandma 'Laine. Stories that he shared made it seem as if he had been a part of the family for years, rather than just a visitor in her home now and then. He took that one step further and asked where the grandson was who just had the twins. Jake raised his hand. Lee then looked at me and said, "I want you to know, Mom, that we prayed for you and those twins every time we were together. We practically willed those babies out of you and for you all to be safe. Whenever I asked Elaine how I could pray for her, she said, 'We have to pray for those twins.'" Jake and I were both moved to tears, feeling so loved and touched.

Lee continued to let us all know that Grandma is definitely in Heaven because she told him that often she wondered why she didn't die last year. He said that in the last couple of weeks before her death she said, "I now know why I didn't die a year ago. I wasn't ready then. But I am now." This brings tears to my eyes even now as I write. What a beautiful gift. Sometimes we have no idea why things happen the way they do. For the last year, I had such a hope that Grandma was surviving because God wanted her with Him and she needed the time to come to that. What an awesome, beautiful picture I have, thinking of her meeting her Maker for the first time.

People have said to me, "Some vacation!" when they have heard of all of the events that took place. No, it wasn't the vacation we had dreamed about. But it was one of the most beautiful gifts we've ever been given.

Grandma Janet

We paid a visit to my Grandma Van Geison during our stay in Michigan. My grandma and grandpa have always been a huge part of my life, and unfortunately, my grandpa passed away two weeks before Cole was born. So I am so thankful we get to have my Grandma Janet in our kids' lives. Cole got to eat her yummy brownies and watch the big tractors dig for a new building right outside her window. Then, we were paraded through the dining room where all of her neighbors and friends could meet the girls and say hi to Cole, who they watched grow from when he was just a tiny baby. It brought back memories of when I would go to the farmer's market with my grandpa and grandma in the summers and they would tell every vendor there what my name was and how happy they were that I was staying with them for a while. In the same fashion, my family was "shown off" and it was so nice to hear about all of the prayers given on our behalf through the beginning of this year. It's always so neat to meet people who have been praying for our girls - people we don't even know all that well. We are going to see my grandma again in a couple of weeks when we have our family get-together. I will definitely post more pictures from then!


Hayden and Maurah are just starting to really recognize each other. While on vacation, they would look at each other and coo and laugh. At one point, it was almost like they were having a conversation, taking turns to "talk". It's so fun watching them grow and become more and more like "real" babies - not the preemies we've had for a while!

At John Ball

What was I thinking?

Markers? Really? I'm a glutton for punishment.

A True Christian in the Making

Once again, we've been away from home for a while so it's been some time since I've blogged.  We spent some vacation time in Michigan and there's a lot to share, but I will save that for another day.

I heard a great message from my former pastor and the verses he used really spurred me to study some of Paul's letters again.  Something that's on my mind today is what I read during my devotion time yesterday.  I'll just write it here so it's easy to see where I'm pulling things from.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again:  If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!  Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.  Galatians 1:6-10

Paul is writing because some Jude0-Christians were telling the Gentile Christians that they still needed to follow OT laws, especially the practice of circumcision, along with believing in Christ to be justified.  Basically, it's the issue of justification through faith or works.  I think this text applies very heavily in the church today though as well.  Here is an excerpt from my journal reflection:

I wonder how often we, as believers, try to change the gospel in order for it to fit what we want.  And not just the gospel, but all of God's Word!  Why do we believe that gossip is okay and bitterness and malice toward others is deserved if they've offended us?  Why do we make ourselves righteous in our hatred for our brother?  Lord, why do I try to please men?  Why do I allow people to "throw me into confusion" when I know what it is You require of me?  Why are the people throwing me into confusion other believers?  And am I guilty of doing the same?  If I continue to please men, I am NOT  a servant of Christ.  Please work in me, Lord, and rid my heart of all of men's standards.  Fill it instead with Your Word and Your truth.  May I be Your servant and Yours alone.

I've just been wrestling with this key issue a lot lately, feeling like I'm not the person I know I need to be and even want to be for Christ because I put other people's expectations and beliefs above His.  The second I start defending my sin, albeit a sin as "small" as gossip, the second I start to pervert what God's standard is for me as a follower of Christ.  After all, isn't that what "Christian" means?  To be Christ-like; little Christs.  How many of us live like that?  

I am making every effort from this day forth to truly be set apart.  And if that means that I stand alone, so be it.  Because I know I'm not alone.  And He is far greater than any man who could stand beside me.  Is He to you?

Lest I Forget...

It has happened again.  I am in a slump spiritually and have been pining for that deep community to come around me and lift me up.  So, tonight, out of sheer boredom (please don't ask how I'm bored with three kids because I can't answer you!) I decided to go back and read some of my earlier bloggings.  Wouldn't you know, about a year ago this time, I was dealing with the same struggle.  And wouldn't you know, God answered me once again, only with my own words.  How convicting and humbling!  Go here to read what I'm talking about.  Once again, God just amazes me.

Back Online

Well, sorry that it's been so long since I've written - I'm sure you got pretty tired of looking at pictures of my cats!  Unfortunately, my laptop was broken, probably by a certain someone who stuck a thermometer in the side of it and broke the tip off.  You can just guess who that someone is!  So I now write to you from my new desktop - ahem, did I mention it's a Mac?  Let me just say - 


We are just going through a breaking phase around here.  In a matter of five days, Jake's phone was broken, our computer got its temp taken and then our washing machine kicked the bucket too.  So, we've made three major purchases in the last two weeks.  Dave Ramsey would not be proud of the Mannes at the moment.  Hmmm.....that's just depressing to think about, so....moving on!!

Have I mentioned yet that Maurah and Hayden are smiling?  I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look back at my last few posts.  But they've been smiling for a few weeks now and Hayden actually laughed at me the other day!  They are so much fun now that they're social and showing their love for us in return.  I'll try and get some cute pictures of them and post them.  But in the meantime, just enjoy the next posts I've put up and the fact that you don't have to face our furry felines any longer!


Cole and Hayden

Leto and Lexi

Yea!  We were reunited with our nephew, Leto and new niece, Lexi, this weekend!  We were so excited to see them again (along with their mom, Rachael) after not seeing each other since January.  We lived about 5 minutes apart for the first eight months of Cole's life while we were in Michigan and spent at least three days a week with each other, so the transition of the Pendleton's living in Alabama and us in Indiana has been one that was difficult at times.  Especially since Rachael and I were expecting at the same time again and we knew we couldn't make the trip to visit each other and our new babies.  So Sunday was a special day when we could visit again.  And the kids and I will be traveling up to Michigan this next Sunday to spend even more time with them.  We can't wait!  Cole is already missing his buddy, Leto.  And I can guarantee that many more fun pictures will come from that trip!
Jake tried to convert Leto with his hat (Leto's dad, Mike, is a Fighting Irish - uh oh!)
Aunt Megan and my first niece, Lexi Em!
Uncle Jake and Lexi
Best Buddies

Grandma Millie

This past weekend we drove to Huntington, Indiana to visit Jake's great-grandma.  We all know her as Grandma Millie.  She is 98 years old and is one of the most wonderful women I've ever met.  It's really a testimony of her love and devotion to her family to see how four of her nine children live close by her and almost every year, her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now great-great-grandchildren gather together to celebrate her birthday and honor her.  With every visit, I learn of more stories of how she put her faith and family first in all she did and lived with nothing, yet loved with everything.  She can't see or hear well, but when you walk on her porch or into her kitchen and yell into her ear who you are,  she welcomes you with a loud scream of joy and a kiss and hug to follow.  Jake's mom mentioned how all of the grandkids (she being one) felt like they were Grandma's favorite because of how she made them all feel so special and she continues to do this with her great-grandchildren and all of our kids as well.  She was especially enthralled with the twins this trip, remembering stories of her own twins.  I told Jake on the way home that I wish I could have known her in a time where we could sit in the kitchen with a cup of coffee, ask many questions and soak in as much wisdom as I possibly could from her.  But even just in sitting with her on the front porch, I have learned so much about humility and what it means to truly love.  These are pictures that our family will treasure forever.  I'm so glad that our kids have the chance to be loved by Grandma Millie.

Grandma, Maurah and Hayden
Grandma feeding Hayden
Our kids with their Grandma Tammy and her Grandma Millie
Maurah, Lexi and Hayden with Grandma
The twins and Grandma

Cute, aren't they?

Well, we think they are! These are our family cats, Mittens and Jackson. Unfortunately, the reason for this post is because we cannot keep them anymore. With the addition of the twins, we are finding ourselves incredibly overwhelmed with responsibility to the kids and aren't able to maintain the kind of care for the cats that we need to be able to give them.

SO!! Anyone interested? Or do you know anyone who would be interested?

Let me give you a few details on both of them.

Mittens is our first cat that we got the January after we were first married. She was in theAnti-Cruelty shelter in downtown Chicago and I knew she was the one immediately. She is now six years old. She was skiddish when we first got her, but has become such a great family cat. She is fixed and has all of her claws, but really doesn't do anything with them. Cole tackles her all of the time and she has never once turned on him, although I wouldn't blame her if she did! We have just begun allowing her outside and she really enjoys this, coming back when she's finished exploring in our yard. So, she'd make a great indoor/outdoor cat or whichever would be preferred. She is such a lovey girl and we feel very sad about having to let her go as she is the first pet we've ever had. Her ideal family would be one that could spend some time with her, but doesn't have to be around all of the time.

Jackson is our tabby cat who is now 3 years old. We got him from a friend of my sister's as a kitten and have been loving on him ever since! He is the most lovey cat I've ever met. If you could put him in a baby carrier and carry him around all day, he'd be the happiest cat ever! He is also wonderful with children and has been through the ringer as well, getting attacked by Cole all of the time, but always keeping his sweet demeanor. He is fixed also, but is de-clawed in his front paws only. Jackson's ideal family would be one that would be around a bit more - you know, where he's not at home all day and night alone. He needs attention now and then, and sadly this is why we feel we can no longer keep him in particular.

Both Jackson and Mittens have been left in our home together for a couple of weeks at a time where we just gave them a ton of food and water and gave them a clean litter box and they both have done great. There really aren't problems with them at all, I guess, which is why it's such a bittersweet thing to have to give them up. But we can't continue to keep them and know we're not taking care of them the way we should be. They have dropped very low to our totem pole of priorities, as I'm sure many of their ancestors have had happen to them when babies come around. Just think of Lady and the Tramp - - - oh, wait. That's about dogs - - - -but still the same idea!!

Cole is going to be heartbroken and for that I'm very sad. But we just want our cats to go to a very loving home/homes. Obviously it'd be awesome if we could give them both to the same person, but I won't keep my hopes up for that! Just a loving owner/family for each of them is all we need! So please think about it if you're interested or help us get the word out. Thanks so much!

He's stolen my heart

Cole is growing into such a great young boy. As much as I still want to consider him my baby, there is nothing "baby" about him. He is very verbal, which can make life crazier or more calm, depending on the moment. The thing I'm noticing the most though, is how great of a heart he has. Jake was leaving for work this morning and Cole said, "Bye, Dad! I love you!" What a joy to hear that come out of his mouth with no encouragement from either of us. He loves the girls just the same too, constantly wanting to snuggle them or give them a blanket. He talks to them in the sing-song voice we do too, saying, "Hell-o-o! Hi, pretty gwiwly (girly)! Hi, baby gwil!"

Some famous quotes include:

"You okay?" - said when we hurt ourselves, cough, sneeze, or he knocks us down in wrestling. And he doesn't give up asking until he's assured that we truly are okay.

"Thank you!" - now unprompted and sometimes even before you give him what he asked for!

"Oh, that's fun!" - said very emphatically about everything from building with blocks to changing the babies' diapers to us doing yardwork

"Play me!" - his sweet request given many times throughout the day - heartbreaking when I have to respond that I can't play at that moment

His imagination is growing like crazy right now and it is so fun to talk to him about the monkeys outside our windows (squirrels) or why his toys have to sit in time out.

He enjoys reading his Bible, especially about Adam and Cain. (Not sure exactly why he always lumps those two together, but we'll take it!)

Even with the toddler tantrums, he's a pretty easy boy. I count to "1" and he's doing what I've asked him to do (the max is 3). What's funny is that I've never even gotten to 3, so he doesn't even know the consequence at the end. (Once again, not sure why that is, but we'll take it!) =)

He is by far not perfect (see previous post for an example) but we are enjoying this stage of life with him so much. "2" definitely has its challenges, but I'm finding it more rewarding than any age he's ever been. For the first time, I am starting to see some of the fruits of our labor. And what a blessing it is!

Just wondering...

Why is it that much more fun for a 2 year old to dump all of his toys out at the same time?

Much to Jake's enjoyment, I have gone as far as taking pictures of Cole's toys and making signs to put on his toy bins so that he is able to put his toys away, where they belong, mostly on his own. My husband gets a giggle out of what he calls my "teacher mode". I thought it was a brilliant idea. Well, it was a brilliant idea in my head, at least.

The picture went something like this:

Cole wants to play Mr. Potato Head? He opens the drawer with Mr. Potato Head, and plays with the little spud. He wants to play with his cars? First, he puts Mr. Potato Head and all of his accessories away, then he gets out his bin with the cars.

After all, isn't that what the gazillion of toys in his room are for? To play with them?

Is this a funny concept? What am I missing here?

Oh. Maybe the fact that he's a 2 year old.

Happy Anniversary!!

Yesterday was a glorious day. We started our morning with Jake making breakfast for us all and we actually got to sit at the table together and eat - there was real conversation happening! And neither of us was holding a baby or bouncing a baby! Do you realize how monumental this was? At this point I knew, this day was gonna' be special!

And it was.

We then took a walk down to the lake. With the girls in their double stroller and Cole in his wagon, we made our way two streets over to the water. It was beautiful weather and we took advantage of it! Cole likes to walk down the dock and watch all of the boats and wave runners go by. The water and sky were both a radiant blue. We didn't stay long, but it was just nice to get out of the house and enjoy some fresh air together - fresh air that didn't involve yardwork, which is what we'd been doing the entire day before!

Then, Jake and I got a treat later that afternoon when we dropped the kids off and went downtown to celebrate our anniversary. We decided to be bold and try a restaurant we found online called Zocalo's - a trendy, authentic Mexican restaurant. The atmosphere was casually romantic with dark wood, bright paintings and candlelight at each table. The food was wonderful - many foods that we had never tried before. Here are some pictures -
Jake's sampler of drinks
Jake's dessert - Apple crepes - Delicious!
My dessert - Molten Chocolate Cake - Melt in your mouth goodness!

Unfortunately, we didn't get a picture of our appetizer, which was so beautiful - and more importantly, so tasty! And I wish our entree pictures had turned out better - but they don't look so appetizing in the photos. To give you an idea of how eclectic we were, Jake's meal included a cactus paddy - which they were out of, sadly enough, but what a crazy thing! I had a tuna steak over orzo and Jake enjoyed steak medallions in a really hot, but so yummy sauce.

After our three course dinner, we drove around our old stomping grounds, fondly remembering our early years of marriage living downtown. We then drove to Lincoln Park where we found a bench amongst the flowers that were fully in bloom and gorgeous! We read through the message our pastor performed in our wedding ceremony and then read the vows we wrote to one another. We decided year that we would focus on one thing to work on and grow in for each other in the next year. This was our new vow - or an old vow that we realized we needed to work on. I am really excited to have started this tradition with each other that we will revisit every year when we celebrate our anniversary.

Getting a little silly
(We asked a random stranger in the park to take our picture - didn't he do a great job? Come to find out, he is a writer who took a few other pics of us along with the architecture in the background to use in his writings - you just never know where you might see us again!)

We had such great time, realizing how much FUN we have with each other. It's hard to remember that sometimes when we're constantly serving others, namely our children. Dr. Stowell told us once that if we keep working at our marriage now in the midst of the craziness, we will have ultimate ecstasy when our children are grown and it is just the two of us again. Many couples seem to miss this - I hope we don't. If the friendship and bond we have now is nothing compared to what we can have, then I am certain great things are in store for us. Thank you, Short family for taking care of and loving our kids so we could focus on why we fell in love in the first place!

Five great years - and many more to come...

Just because....

They're so stinkin' cute!!



Back in the saddle...

We're BAAACK!!!

This is my first post since both of our girls have been home and our family is complete. Honestly, it's a miracle that I am even able to sit down and write this while all three of my children are tucked in their beds, sound asleep. I hesitate to even breathe too loudly for fear that this moment will end too soon!

Things haven't slowed down a bit now that none of us are residents in the hospital anymore. I don't know why I thought life would become a calming normal once we were all together - boy was I naive!! We got to spend a whole one day as just the five of us before we had to be separated once again. I think about that insurance commercial that says, "Life comes at you fast" - no kidding!

Our house, come to find out, had mold and mildew growing in the basement due to much flooding from all of the snow and rain we had this winter/early spring. I am dreadfully allergic to both and we of course feared the kids would develop asthma or allergies, so we (the kids and I) trekked up to Michigan to stay with our family. It wasn't too bad being a single parent once we got there - however, the ride there was one of the most horrible things I've experienced. When I arrived at my parents', my mom said, "How was it?" with a sympathetic look as if she already knew the answer. I replied, "We all cried at different points of the trip!" Once I got over the initial pain of the drive, we had a wonderful time. We actually ended up staying at Jake's parents' where his dad and sister helped out a ton when they were home. We had a wonderful time visiting friends and family we don't get to see often and were kept busy having visitors every day! It was great and of course I loved introducing the girls to everyone.

This visit lasted a total of a week and a half. For the last week, Jake was on our senior high missions' trip in Tecumseh, Michigan where our group participated in GROUP Workcamp. The kids had a great time helping people in need of repairs to their homes and came back a more solidified group. We are loving how every time we get together, we grow closer and closer with our students, and Jake had a wonderful time building even deeper relationships with them on this trip.

The Mannes were reunited a little over a week ago on Saturday in our mold-free house and are not making plans to be apart again for quite a while! The girls are growing and have become very acclimated to us and our noisy home and I think Cole doesn't even remember that it was ever just him. He loves being a big brother and he is such a good helper - sometimes too good (think picking up the babies when they're crying!).

So, we are back and ready to have some normalcy - even if it's some crazy normalcy! It's nice to not be writing about doctors and nurses and treatments all of the time. Many more fun stories and thoughts to come!

And the Winners Are...

Well, Jake and I are making our names for the twins public knowledge now. They are:

Maurah Kate and Hayden Charis

Maurah is pronounced like Laura and then the "ch" in Charis sounds like /k/ and the "a" is a /long a/ sound. I'm so excited that we're telling because I felt awful when people would ask me what our names are and I'd have to respond with, "I can't tell you." Jake and I realized today that neither of us really minded and felt like we had to keep it a secret, so I have no idea why we didn't just tell people to begin with! But maybe it's better this way because we've had them for a while and know that we don't want to change them. Just a few more months and we'll get to meet Maurah and Hayden!


I've been reading a book about healing and, in it, the author points out something pretty interesting. Usually when we try to go about healing ourselves, we think that we need to erase the painful things that have happened to us - that we will truly feel restoration once we have no marks on us any longer. But wounds that are left untreated or covered, as many of us tend to do, don't heal as they should.

I think that the self-help industry jumps on this bandwagon and makes their billions off of it. "Just follow these few simple steps and your past will be forgotten completely."

But what if we're not meant to forget all together? What if our pasts, as painful as they may be, are supposed to be with us always? I'm not saying there isn't hope for restoration - of course there is. But when Jesus came back and appeared to Thomas, He appeared with the scars on His hands and feet. John 27 shows Jesus inviting Thomas to see His hands and feet and even takes Thomas' hand and puts it to His side where He was pierced. Jesus is in His glorified body, yet the scars are still visible.

I think our scars are supposed to be visible too. Really, it is through our scars that we are able to minister to others in empathy. When we have lost a loved one or had someone wrong us in such a horrible way - we can find restoration in Christ so those scars don't hurt anymore. But then, we can take ourselves, scars and all, and minister to others. We can take others' hands and say, "See me. Hear me. I care about you and I can fully understand what you are going through."

I don't understand why so many people are into erasing their past hurts when we can use them in such a way to bring glory to God. In reality, it is usually the hard times that mold us into the people we are - they are part of our identity. And for us to be able to take them once they are healed and give love and encouragement to someone else - what a gift.

Starbucks IV

Saw this on another blog this morning and thought it was so funny - - - - and sad enough, too true for my life somedays! Although I am trying to cut down on caffeine while pregnant, this picture gives me great joy - - - - maybe when my steam starts to run out, I'll just look at this picture and dream of my Starbucks IV!

A Portrait of Heaven

It seems our church family has been surrounded by death lately. In the last two weeks, Jake and I have attended two funeral services and have one more to attend this weekend. In the midst of all of this, I have gotten what I think is an amazing picture of Heaven. One of the men who passed away has been a Christian for many years and has served the Lord in full-time ministry for over fifty of those years and is a patriarch of our church. He worked as our Visiting Pastor right up until he was no longer able to leave the house, which was just a couple of months ago. His wife is still continuing that ministry as he is now in the presence of the God he worked for on this earth for all of his life.

The second man who passed away recently is the father of a very important family in our church. This man was a believer for many many years as well, raising his family to know and love Christ. He was a doctor and although not considered in full-time ministry as a position, he and his wife served faithfully in their church home and started up ministries that are still thriving today.

The third man whose funeral we attended was just 31 and had been married for three months. This was the hardest funeral I have ever attended, but it's the piece of the mosaic that makes it that much closer to completion. This man had just accepted Christ a few months before his passing. He was not well-educated in Biblical knowledge, and his job was a "normal" position of an electrician. He didn't carry with him the status a doctor has, or the pedestal pastors are usually put on. But he was a minister of the Gospel, sharing his faith with his family and telling them about Jesus and the exciting faith he found in Him.

When I think of these men together, I get a bit teary. In an earthly sense, they had nothing in common. But through their faith in Christ, they had a bond and now they are all in Heaven, rejoicing together with their Heavenly Father. I love that Christ takes us all, don't you? I love that we don't have to be perfect because He has taken care of that for us through His death and resurrection. I love that Heaven is a hodge-podge of believers and that none of us will look the same, even in Heaven. I just love how God works - and am thankful that He takes broken vessels like me.

The Battle of Self

The last couple of weeks have been very interesting in the Manne home. Many scenarios have arisen that continue to point Jake and I in the direction of growth. Whether it's an issue in our marriage, in parenting, or in our ministry in the church, we have found that these last few days have hit us hard with conviction after conviction. In a world where everyone is "always right," and humility is hard to find, it can be very difficult to receive these conflicts with grace and with true reflection on why these issues have come up and what we need to do in order to resolve them. In every case thus far, the solution depends on us changing something about ourselves, which we all know is not an easy task. It could seem that getting defensive and fighting back would be easier, but it's really not. Taking things personally and out of context of the spirit they're intended only brings dissension and even more hurt. So I am working on having a spirit of humility and discovering the amazing grace that God provides in situations such as these.

Proverbs 3:7 says, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil." How often do we think we're doing the right thing - and that the right thing automatically means it's the wise thing? I am learning through these difficult times that me acting out of my own wisdom is still me acting out of foolishness. Only God's wisdom is true wisdom - and if I act according to His knowledge and wisdom, then many problems in my life wouldn't occur. However, this takes much change on my part. I have to learn what it means to listen to God and to find His wisdom. I don't even know what wisdom looks like, let alone how to find it in all situations. But - that's where another common Scripture comes into play.

Proverbs 3:5-6 say, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." This is such a commonly used piece of Scripture. It's printed on pretty paper and matted in beautiful frames, stitched on pillows and etched onto many a coffee mug. We've all heard it and we can all recite it. But in my Bible study the other day, I found something about this verse that no one ever told me and it makes this verse that much more important and powerful. The Hebrew word used for "paths straight" means more than guidance. It means that God removes the obstacles, making a smooth path or way of life or perhaps better, bringing one to the appointed goal. So applying this to the above-mentioned conflict of me battling myself in order to change, God does that for me when I acknowledge Him and seek His wisdom for my life. Isn't that amazing? God removes the obstacles - and in this case, I am my own obstacle as I try to be wise in my own eyes. I am encouraged now and excited to see the growth the God brings as a result of all of the "messiness" around us right now. And I encourage you to see how God may be drawing you in to see His wisdom all the more closely as well.

The Art of Getting a Toddler to Sleep

Last night was a big milestone in the Manne household - Cole slept in his toddler bed for the first time! I wasn't sure how I should go about the transition from crib to big bed, but knew that I needed to do something before these babies come so that he could get comfortable in his new bed before he sees us taking the crib away and giving it to the babies. So last night we had our usual Mommy/Cole cuddle time and then I laid him in his bed and rubbed his back for three songs on his CD that we always play for him. He was out like a light by song number two. The biggest thing is that he slept through the night and even slept in this morning! I think Jake and I struggled sleeping more than Cole did as we're trying to get used to having a monitor on again and not freaking out about all the creaks and noises we hear through it.

Then, we come to today. I figured that naptime might be more difficult than bedtime mainly because he's more tired at bedtime and it's lighter during the day than at night. I laid Cole down and patted his back again, but could tell from the look in his eyes that he wasn't about to fall asleep with me at his side again. So I said "Goodnight", and left the room. Cole played for about an hour before I heard silence. I wish that I hadn't gone into his room when I did, because when I opened the door to lay him back in bed, he was already there, cuddling with his blankie and I think he may have gone to sleep on his own. But, because I disturbed the process, I ended up having to rub his back again.

My nightmare come true is if we end up like those overdramatized families on SuperNanny! However, I don't think that 15 minutes of back rubbing is too bad of a habit, do you? All in all, I feel like the transition is going very smoothly and I'm very excited about it, even though my baby has nothing baby about him at all anymore! I guess that's what I'm striving for as a parent though, right? For my child to become more and more independent every day. It's one small step for Cole, one giant leap for Mom! =)

A Big Boy Bedroom

Just wanted to share Jake's and my latest project that I'm so excited to have completed. This is Cole's new room that we painted and finally have in order. He's still in his crib, but as you can see, the toddler bed is ready for him - we'll keep working on that transition! Anyway, his room before was all white and terribly boring - now it's become my favorite room in the house. I learned something on this project too - if an idea sounds too easy to be true, it probably is! All we have left to do is the nursery - and much to Jake's dismay, that is the room with the 12' ceilings. I know he's not looking forward to that, but thankfully, it will be the last room he'll have to think about painting for a very long time!

Bring on the Pink!

It's official - we found out today that we are having two girls! The news has finally sunk in and we are very excited. Jake and I went to the at-risk doctor today and I think we were pretty consumed with some anxiousness and maybe fear about how healthy the babies would be. Because of that, we didn't have that many thoughts about the gender of these babies. So now the news is kicking in and we are very excited to have a room in our house that will have some pastels! The babies seemed very healthy with Baby Girl A weighing 1.1 pounds and Baby Girl B weighing 15 ounces. Apparently, I'm not gaining weight the way the at-risk doctor would like me to, so he's setting me up with a dietitian - funny - I always thought it'd be cool to have a dietitian so I could lose weight and be in amazing shape - not to gain weight that I'll have to try and lose later! I will now be seeing this doctor every two weeks as well, which puts me in a doctor's office once every week. I'm glad they're making sure all is well with the twins, but I also laugh inside and think How did women have twins before ultrasounds and technology? My goodness, the precautions they take! But again, I'm just glad to know that we will definitely catch anything that might go wrong. So, as I was told today, prepare to buy more shoes and welcome to the world of pink!

The Messiness

As I've been going through my quiet time each morning, I found myself studying Christ's birth during this Christmas season. Never before have I taken the time to think about the nativity story, as I usually just go along with the usual picture we've all been given since we were children. But this year was different and it started with a message I heard about the messiness of what Christ was born into. The nativity scene I display in my home is quite pretty...very plain and definitely not showy, but I make sure that the shepherds and wise men are placed "just so" amongst the animals so that they are symmetrically placed and we get an unobstructed view of each of Christ's visitors. However, my nativity scene doesn't have dirt around it anywhere, and it definitely doesn't smell like I'm sure the manger would smell. The animals I display are clean and leave no unwanted waste behind them. Isn't it funny that we make sure our nativity scenes are so perfectly beautiful when the real scene where Jesus was born was anything but? Of course the story we are so familiar with is beautiful solely because it's about Jesus' birth. But the situation He came into was anything but perfect. I was reading this morning again about Mary and Joseph and how they probably endured incredible ridicule from their communities. The Bible doesn't tell us so, but we do know that Elizabeth and Zacharias were ridiculed when they couldn't conceive, so it's only logical to believe that Mary and Joseph endured the same type of hardship - if not worse - when Mary was told she was pregnant and she wasn't even married yet. Still.....Mary and Joseph obeyed and it was all worth it when they saw the face of their son - their Lord.

So what are we called to in our lives? Much like Mary and Joseph, and that manger scene, I find myself in "messiness" much of the time. Many of my life's circumstances are not the perfectly beautiful ideal that I had in mind when I dreamed of life as a little girl. Still, I am realizing that God has called me to fulfill many different roles amongst the messiness. As a wife, mother, and follower of Christ, life isn't always filled with a pleasant aroma. But I am seeing now that when I choose to obey as Mary and Joseph did many many years ago, I too see the face of my Lord more clearly. There is nothing more beautiful and no feeling compares. Of all of the gifts I've been given this Christmas season, this lesson is one I am most thankful for.

A New Spark

June also brought with it a somewhat new adventure for Maurah.  She joined MainStage Academy of Dance in the winter and showcased her work t...