Living With Kids: Ann Farnsworth

Note from Design Mom: This is a home tour from October 2015 that you may have missed. It’s full of wisdom on parenting and aging and loss. I needed a dose of Ann’s perspective today, so I’m republishing it.

——
Ann is so great. I read her words, and they fill me with such warmth. I love when people have dreams and add them to their daily to-do lists.

If you’re a young parent or just dreaming about kids, I hope you find Ann’s words to be a sort of manual. (I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it’s all going to work out as it should. And you’re going to be great at this.) If you’ve been parenting a while or even grand-parenting, you’re going to love this, too. Ann’s words are like a giant hug and a pinch of inspiration.

Please jump right in to hear about this big family and how their well-worn house helped grow them all. Welcome, Ann!

Hello, everyone! My name is Ann, and I am probably older than most of you! We have a large family, and our youngest just turned 11 this year. We have ten children, and yes, we wanted every one of them! I was 23 when I had the first and 44 when our last baby was born. I love my own siblings and wanted my children to experience the magic that happens in a noisy, messy, creative, huge family. My husband could be considered a saint for agreeing to marry me; he is such a great father, which made this whole thing possible. I don’t know if the children love what we have as much as I do, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our oldest son, Dale, died when he was two. He was beautiful. He taught me to be a mother and we miss him every day.

Jody, our oldest daughter, was only eight months old when he died, and she learned to walk that week looking for him. Jody became the perfect oldest child (which worried me) although she probably would have been happier in the second child role. She is talented, a prolific reader, and a magnificent friend.

Our daughter Michelle was born at the hospital only a few blocks from our home, She was a twin and her brother didn’t live; his name is Tommy and she feels him close to her at times. She is artistic and empathetic and all girl. She is married and has a daughter of her own; Eleanor is doing a great job of teaching her parents what family is all about.

Tracy was born two years later. She is spunky and is effortlessly cool and we all notice a distinctive energy around us when she is near. She is married and lives far away. Our world just expands with each child that leaves to chase their dreams.

Stan was next and we were all excited to have another boy. He was quickly commandeered to be the prince in the girl’s imaginary play. As a child, we noticed that he loved to work and, although he has some learning disabilities, he has only grown more diligent and capable since then. In our family lore, he is the one that decided to run around upstairs with a bucket on his head and took a tumble all the way down a long flight of stairs. The bucket actually protected him from harm.

Scott followed 17 months later. He never went through the terrible two stage, was always agreeable and easy going. I used to worry that he would rebel in some crazy way but he never has. He has a special light in his eyes and understands how to get along with everyone.

John was born three years later. He was 10.5 pounds and never has figured out how to go slowly or how to be careful. He does everything full out and we love what he brings to our family. I wish you could read his letters to us: he is an expressive and a talented writer. We are all anxious to see what he does with his gifts.

Peter is next. He was due just before Christmas and born just after. He is responsible, somber, and very smart. He told us when he was four that he wanted to be the president of the United States, and I don’t doubt that he will do something big with his life. He is still in high school and would love to be considered a nerd.

Samuel is the last boy. He is tender and bright, he loves music, and used to hum while still a small baby. He taught himself to play a few hymns on the piano and when our church needed a pianist one day he volunteered to play. In the meeting we couldn’t find him and finally realized that he was at the piano. None of us knew that he could even play.

Karen is our caboose. What would we do without her? She taught our boys what girls are made of and she keeps up with them and their shenanigans. She can re-load a Nerf gun faster than any of them. She will wear a dress but only with leggings so she can still run and play.

These children taught me how to love and that love has grown and flourished until it has increased my capacity in enormous ways. I feel privileged to be connected to them in such an intimate way.

We moved to St. Charles, outside of St. Louis, from Washington DC and initially rented our home. We moved here just months after our son died and so leaving was bittersweet. We were anxious to find a place to raise a family and we fell in love with the neighborhood’s beautiful architecture, sidewalks, and huge old trees. The Missouri river runs alongside Main Street just a few blocks away.

I remember the moment we first saw our house. We parked under the beautiful maple tree at the curb and as we walked on to the front porch a feeling came over me that we were home. The neighborhood is charming, alleys run through the middle of every block, and our elementary school is only a block down the street. Our home was built in 1905, as a duplex. Once we bought it, we were able to offset our payment by renting out half of the home. It has gone through several renovations over the years, each side in different styles.

After living in the home for a while we started making it our own and turning it from a duplex into a single family home. I love the tall windows, the solid doors, the old wood floors and the brick interior walls. I love that there are huge Victorian mansions on the same block as the smallest cottages. On Sunday mornings we wake up to the ringing bells of three churches.

My husband is very handy and I don’t know of another place where we could have gone from one child to nine with plenty of room to work, play and live.

St. Charles was still a small town when we moved here in 1986. It has since grown, but much of the growth is in the far flung areas of the county. The old part of St. Charles, where we live, has stayed much the same. We are only six blocks from the river, and Main Street is a regional attraction for shopping and dining. We have festivals year-round on the riverfront and the fourth of July celebration rivals any big town show. Parades come down our street, and when our children hear the ‘whoop’ of a police siren they immediately run to grab a bag and head for the front porch to collect their share of the goodies.

Our schools are all within walking distance, which makes it possible for the kids to participate in extra activities. The elementary school is a block away, we homeschool them during middle school, but the high school is about eight blocks from our front door to theirs.

If you visit St. Louis be sure to spend an afternoon at the Magic House — a hands on discovery museum for younger children, the Butterfly House — all things butterflies, the City Museum — built from reclaimed architectural and industrial objects it is a playground for young and old, and the zoo — which is world class and free. St. Charles has a first class library system and way cool city pools.

And if you like Italian food you need to visit the Hill, an old Italian neighborhood that has some of the best Italian restaurants you will ever visit. And don’t get me started on the ribs or the jazz or the baseball. It is a major city with a small town feel.

One of the perks of older homes is definitely having a generous front porch. It spans the front of our house and is an extension of our living space. We have a couple of springy chairs and an old wooden trunk to hide all kinds of play paraphernalia, skates, mitts, and balls. We watch the world go by from our front porch.

Our kitchen is the most used room in the house. My husband loves breakfast, and it is the meal that our whole family eats together most. Our kitchen table is an ancient pine trestle table with benches on either side so it is easy to squeeze in to fit anyone who is visiting at meal time. We bought it battered and I love not having to worry about keeping it pristine. We cover the dents, glitter, glue, and general signs of use with a tablecloth when company comes. We found a very old mirror at an estate sale and it leans against our kitchen wall. Our little children have figured out so much watching themselves in that mirror. Only I was sad when the lower reaches of it stayed clean because it meant that our babies were growing up.

Our family room we call our ‘window room’ and it is the gathering place for our family. We have a wood burning stove in one corner, and during the fall and winter months it is a project to find, load, stack, split, and burn firewood. Although it is messy, I am in love with the heat that wood puts out and a fire always draws us together.

I found some old wooden spools that we use for stools in front of the fireplace. They were over 100 years old when I bought them and I figured that if they had survived that long there wasn’t much we could do to hurt them. In our window room is a spot universally known as ‘the corner.’ It is the spot where the kids build forts and since they spend hours putting them together they are allowed to keep them up for several days. Forts seem to bring out the best in all children: it fires their imagination, encourages cooperation, and they go to sleep at night dreaming of their adventures. One of the best spots in our house is on the mantle in the window room. We have a row of little clocks, one for each of the children, set to their time zone. They are a reminder that my kids are somewhere out in the world even though some of them are too far away to hold.

The last best thing about our home is the secret stairway/clubhouse. When we began combining the duplex into one home we closed off one of the stairways and it has become the stuff of heady dreams. Every time we have visitors they beg to play on the secret stairs.

Our style is very simple, I love a clean home but I also love the imaginative play of happy children. Those two objectives tend to clash, so I live trying to achieve a proper balance.

Our house works because of a couple of things. We have three full bathrooms and plenty of living space so we can all escape to a quiet room when needed. We have room for two fridges in the kitchen: one we call Dad’s fridge and one we call Mom’s fridge. Mine is close to the sink and stove and houses the basics. Dad’s fridge usually holds the fun food: fruits, cheese, and the ice cream. We also have two washers and two dryers, which I would recommend for anyone with a bigger sized family. It is nice to be able to soak a load while still keeping up with the regular routine. And if one of them breaks, it isn’t such an urgent repair.

As my children have gotten older I no longer do six loads of laundry a day or need to sweep the floor quite as often. There isn’t as much grocery shopping and meals can be a bit more simple. I have always been a reader, but writing my own book was a very challenging task.

My book is a historical mystery like DaVinci Code or Raiders of the Lost Ark, and based on a true mystery. It is titled The Throne of David. It took me nine months to write and I submitted it to one publisher and one agent. Both of them wanted the book, which was a little surreal. I knew I loved the story, but to have someone with taste and clout agree with me was exciting. It was released on August 11 and it has been a whirlwind since then. It would make a great movie because of all the history and action, but the love story was the most fun to write. It is a PG-rated book! I wrote exactly what I like to read.

For those of you who have dreams and feel torn by all that is expected of you, try to remember that the merry-go-round of motherhood does slow down. Enjoy the ride if you can. Be the mother that they need and you will look back and enjoy remembering the days of mothering young children. And you will be able to help them leave your home with enough love tucked in their pocket to last until they figure things out for themselves.

Someday you will find that things have settled down and all the stored creativity within you will find a way to express itself in unexpected ways. Writing this book has been a great adventure and my abilities haven’t been damaged at all by the wait. I sometimes feel like ‘The Throne of David’ is another child, conceived in love and nurtured by my hands. It comes to life whenever a new reader opens it and begins reading.

The day our son died I remember noticing his two year old smudges on our full length windows, his little sister’s sticky prints right below his. The next day our good friends, not know just how precious those smudges were, came over and cleaned the windows for me. It was so sad that he wasn’t here to press his face against the window ever again. That whole experience changed how I felt about my children and as a consequence, everything seems precious and fleeting. I think I needed the attitude adjustment.

When I see a toddler, I see someone working towards independence and being vigorous about expressing themselves. Teens don’t seem much different. Their world is bigger and more dangerous but it is all part of the continuing process of creation they are involved in. We decided to homeschool our children during middle school. So much of their self esteem is developed in the difficult atmosphere of middle school, and we wanted to give them a bit of time and space to grow into themselves without all that drama. By the time they get to high school, they are ready to jump into the best of what is offered.

I love toddlers and teens — they are both a blast to get to know. My husband calls it ‘getting to know if they like chocolate or vanilla,’ and everything else that makes them unique. As a family we have standards of behavior but generally allow them a lot of space to find what they love and how it is going to work in their life. We are the backup, and they are the principal player in the creation of their life.

I always wanted a large family and the best part of adding a new baby to the mix was discovering, over time, just who they really are. I love that they seem like strangers to me for a while. Each of them is a unique and endlessly fascinating person, and it still amazes me that I get to be an important part of their life. Collectively, they have taught me to be a mother.

And then, it is heartbreaking to watch them suffer in any way. We know that it is part of all of our lives, but it is hard when we can’t protect them from important lessons. My brother’s daughter had cancer when she was just two years old. She is fine now but my parents suffered as they watched my brother deal with all the decisions to be made and consequences of making them.

I think the most important lesson I have learned is to realize that I don’t have the answers, I am not even sure I know the questions. We jokingly throw up our hands and say that they don’t come with a manual, but they do. We don’t have to figure it out all on our own.

When Michelle was about three she turned into a world class whiner and it just about drove me crazy. I spent a lot of time lamenting her new way of dealing with life and then realized that she was the child and I was the mother. She was reacting to me and if I wanted her to change I would have to be the catalyst instead of expecting the three year old to change on her own. I knelt by the side of my bed that day and told God all about my problem, I opened my heart to him and then asked for advice. The thought came to me almost immediately: Hold her.

So, I held her in the morning until she crawled off my lap to go and play, and I held her in the evening before I put her to bed. It wasn’t hard. I could hold her and read a book or watch the news, but it was fun to talk to her and listen to her little stories, too. Almost immediately the whining stopped; she just needed my touch, and that contact filled up an empty space within her. We both benefited from my prayer that day.

Don’t be afraid to have high expectations of your children. We do not have any room for fighting or quarreling in our home. There is no big punishment if they slip into that behavior and we do not play judge and jury. Whoever is involved in the contention just gets to spend time away from each other, alone, until they adjust and decide to get along. It isn’t that they aren’t allowed to feel angry or grumpy, but it isn’t acceptable to inflict it on the rest of the family. The kids have learned to get along, to work at getting along.

I wish someone had told me about the joys of growing older. As I entered my 40s everyone my age was busy fighting gravity while I was still having kids. I was too busy to even notice the inevitable aging, and I am glad now that I didn’t get distracted by the search for eternal youth. No one told me that reaching 40 is liberating, but it is. And your 50s are when you finally figure out how cool you really are!

When I start to worry about my hair or my skin I think about my Grandmother Merrell. We fought over who got to sit in her lap because she was so soft. We loved looking at her false teeth soaking in a glass by her bed at night. She wouldn’t let anyone take pictures of her because she had a facial tick. We didn’t care about any of that. She loved us and she always had ice cream in the freezer, and any of her grandchildren would describe her in the most glowing terms. I look in the mirror now and see my mother and I know that someday soon I will be looking at myself and seeing my grandmother. I hope I can do this with class!

–-

Thank you so much, Ann, for your wisdom and honesty. This sure was a treat. I’m sure many of our viewpoints have been readjusted by your thoughts. Also, “hold her” is probably one of the best parenting golden nuggets I’ve heard in a while. (Remember Lynne Knowlton’s advice? Just love them. Genius.)

Any older parents out there? I’d love to hear your experiences! Do you find it easy to make friends with the younger ones, or are they in complete shock when they hear you’ve got older kids? Tell us how you’re different and better in your 40s; we all want to hear those stories!

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

156 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Ann Farnsworth”

  1. This series is so lovely-thank you. The narratives are so very thoughtful and soul-full and really exemplify that everyone has their own struggles that are not always readily apparent. Ann, I found your words and story particularly special, thanks for sharing!

  2. Not one thing about Ann’s life or home bears any resemblance to my own, but I could not love this one more. I love the smudges on the doors, the messes I know must be there somewhere, the history of the house and family, the idea of God as parenting manual — all of it. The realness, the focus, the love. Perfectly inspiring and comforting. Thank you, Ann.

    1. It is interesting that most of my closest friends have totally different lives, personalities and even goals but we are just happy in each others company. Thank you for your comments!

  3. It´s interesting how you focus on the question of older parents. I live in an apartment in Hamburg/Germany. There are eight units in our building with six kids between five mothers. Not one of us was younger than 37 when she had the first baby. I was 38 when my son was born. One neighbor has two kids, she was 41 and 44 when she had them.

    Being an older parent it so normal for me, that I don’t consider myself an old parent. But it probably depends on where you live. I know that in smaller cities in Germany the average first time mother is about 28 years old.

    1. When I was having the younger children people assumed I was young too, if the older kids weren’t with me. I know I do that as well, our kids betray our age!

  4. Whoa! I grew up in St. Charles and went to Benton for part of elementary. The architecture in that neighborhood is just incredible. Thank you for sharing and congratulations to Ann on your book!

    1. I am so happy to hear from you, did you go to high? What years were you there? You can attest to the wonderfulness of St. Charles!

  5. Home Schooling kids for the middle-school years is such a brilliant idea! So many things make sense about this especially building their confidence and independence for highschool and the world beyond. I work at home and am inspired to start exploring this idea for my now 4th grader. Maybe research k12 for this? I sure would have loved the idea to “skip” middle school!!

      1. Our son Samuel who just started high school this fall after three years at home has fallen in love with math and isn’t behind at all, what do they do during middle school???

        1. I homeschooled my daughter for middle school too. She didn’t skip a beat when she started public high school. She’s been successful academically, made friends, did a lot of activities right from freshman year. I’m contemplating it for #3.

          1. It is hardest for girls, I am convinced but our boys thrived at home and were just as ready to get back to regular school. Girls get so many conflicting messages from everyone it is nice to just let them be innocent children for a while longer. There is time enough later to tackle the tough stuff. My humble opinion!

  6. And now I’m crying. I have a two year old son and I totally lost it when I got to the part about the smudges on the window being washed away. I’m looking at the smudges on my windows a little differently right now.

    1. I lost it at the same point, as I was just sitting here thinking that I should really clean my smudged windows today. I think I’ll leave them alone instead.

    1. Now that our Stan is grown I can say we are pretty good neighbors, there were a few years where he would pick flowers for me everyday and they were all from our neighbors yard. Patience with other peoples kids is close to sainthood!

  7. I admit I lost count of the children at one point, but it’s a sweet home. My mom is one of 10 and had that same bench in the dining room. We also make more room at home by occupying the downstairs appartment.

  8. Thank you for this wonderful series and for Ann for sharing her home and family. This made me both want to hug my little ones longer and look forward to the future! Perhaps it also made me feel like a 4th child wouldn’t be so hard….

    1. Each one gets easier and makes everything harder at the same time, but it is all worth it and is a gift to the other children. I think it tells the older ones how much you love them when you want another. But that might just be me!

      1. My mom has always said that the 3rd kid is the hardest. Then, the kids outnumber the parents and you have more children than you have hands. The good news is, after 3, you can add as many as you want and it’s not that much harder. I’ve got 6 right now, and have to agree that it’s not really harder than 3. For me, though, going from 0 to 1 was the biggest adjustment!!

        1. 0 to 1 was the biggest adjustment for me, too! I still just have two kiddos (Cordelia is 3 and Petey is 20 months old), and I’d love more but just can’t stomach it right now! It’s not the newborn that scares me- it’s having to take care of two toddlers at the same time! And somehow going from 2 to 3 does seem like a big leap.

          It’s so fun to read about big families, though! I’m really hoping to have more in the future ;)

          1. I love your kids names! Your first two are so close – I wouldn’t think about another one for a while. It does get easier and the love between your children can be magic. I don’t believe that everyone needs to have 10 and I also believe that every child should be wanted. They deserve that…love your comments!

  9. Thank you for the advice from a seasoned professional. It’s well appreciated. I needed it – especially the part about a reality check. Motherhood is such a bag of mixed emotions.

      1. Go Cardinals! In case you didn’t know, Ilene is one of your biggest fans. I am an Ilene fan as well as a Cardinals fan, so it just makes sense for me to be an Ann fan too! I never realized you lived in St. Charles, and I met Ilene in 1986. My obsession with the Cardinals began in 1980, for no particular reason. I just know greatness when I see it!

        1. Cardinal fans can be like that – this year is a great year to love them! Ilene and I have a mutual admiration society thing going on. You know how awesome she is!

  10. Dear Ann,

    I have read Design M for nine years and really enjoy the home tours, but yours has been my favorite, ever, hands down times ten. Thank you so much for sharing your home, love, and wisdom!! Also, I love to read and will check out your book.

  11. I have read and enjoyed many interviews in this series before but this is the first time I have felt compelled to comment. What a beautiful and inspirational piece this was. I will carry her wisdom with me for some time after reading it, thank you for sharing Ann.

  12. This is without a doubt, my favorite of the home tour posts. Ann, you are lovely and your words are inspiring. I am in the thick of little ones right now, and I found so many thoughts that I will come back to in the coming days. Thank you so much!

  13. such an inspirational and up lifting read! I am a mother of 5 and I loved your quote ” Our world just expands with each child that leaves to chase their dreams”. Our oldest just left for college (while our youngest started K5) and these words were a balm to my feelings of our first leaving home. Thank you so much!!

    1. Thank you! I never expected such kind comments. 5 is awesome and isn’t it amazing how much things change when just one of them leaves??

  14. I am truly inspired after reading this. I have a one year old and we’ve had a rough day. Thank you so much for your wisdom and perspective.
    P.s. When you were sharing those pics of the house I couldn’t stop singing ” meet me in St. Louis, Louis…”

  15. Oh my goodness, I can’t begin to tell you how much I needed to read this. Today, especially. It’s the second day of my kids’ fall break from school/preschool, and 2 full-time working parents wrangling a 3 and 5 year old while struggling to keep up with everything is exhausting. But after reading this all I feel is lucky. So lucky to share these moments with my babies.

    I’m still fighting back tears at all of the lovely sentiments expressed here about motherhood and childhood, and feel like this will be one to come back to whenever I might need reminding. Thank you for sharing Ann!

  16. So much in these sage words. I want to come sit at Ann’s kitchen table and just talk and glean mothering wisdom. This is my favorite home tour ever – because it was a tour of the maternal heart of this home, not just a tour of a house. This is such a great reminder that I need to develop friendships with women of all ages, because there is such good advice to be had.

  17. I loved reading this. It’s my birthday today-49-yikes! It was so great to read about someone who’s down the road a bit from me with really positive things to say about aging. I have a range of ages too-my oldest is almost 18 and my youngest is only in 1st grade. I love being the “older” mom-I feel so much calmer and relaxed. As much as I enjoyed the baby and toddler stage I am finding the older kids really delightful (much to my surprise!!)

  18. This was my favorite home tour as well (and I love all of them). Ann, thank you for your wisdom. I bookmarked this so I can read it again. It sounds like you have created a very beautiful life and family.

    1. I have bookmarked it too! I know my mother will want to read this over and over, and my son Samuel (the one in the tree) will want to prove he was famous once. Thank you so much for your comments!

  19. Ann, I loved your tour. Thank you for sharing your experiences. What wonderful reminders of why are here in the first place!

  20. What a lovely post to read! I loved hearing about each child and their personality traits. I love the photos of the house and how it just looks real and not like a magazine spread, too.

    1. You just spoke to my biggest worry! Our house has great bones and I love having lived there for so long but I am not the design type. I consider the smell of cookies my ‘thing’, so thank you for your kind words.

  21. Oh, I can’t even say how much I loved this, from the smudges onward! So many thoughts I will be returning to and calling to mind when my 3 are maxing me out…thank you for sharing!

    1. Three is the best, they help raise each other. But you are outnumbered and sometimes it is obvious. Thank you for loving my smudges!

  22. I have a 3 almost 4 year old who is testing me on every way possible. You’re comment about holding your daughter struck so deeply with me. I’ve just had a new baby 4 months ago and maybe that is what’s missing. Thank you for your beautiful words!

    1. They struggle so much as they grow, sometimes it feels like everything they want is the opposite of what would be best for their mother. My hardest children – as little ones – were the most easy going as they got older. Hang in there!

  23. This is one of my most favorite ‘Living With Kids’ posts you have ever published. I love the sincerity in which Ann writes and coveys her normal, precious, amazing life. What a blessing she is to her kids and grandkids. I want to have such an outlook on life like Ann! Thank you for your wisdom about ‘hold her’ and the fingerprint smudges. I also loved the advice on ‘no room for arguing or fighting’. From a mother of four: THANK YOU!

  24. I found this through Michelle, a friend from college, and so appreciate the beautiful thoughts. I love your connection between toddlers and teens, and your beautiful story on parenting with prayer. Thank you for the reminders, hopefully I can send my kids out of the house with a pocket full of love!

    1. Michelle, who taught me so much about being a mother! Her smile is still as real now as when she was three. Thank you for your comments!

  25. Thank you Ann, you are lovely. Each piece of advice is just beautiful and I am so glad you shared from your heart. I have been so busy lately and my little ones have been acting up more. I slowed down today and just held them. Skipped errands to play on our patio and just soaked in my girls and I noticed we were all happier. Lately with all the negative things happening on the world, I have felt so weighted down and fearful for my girls. Your perspective has helped me. Thank you!

  26. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    Oh golly how I loved this tour. The image of your son’s fingerprints on the window will remain with me and will remind me of all that is fleeting. I’m an older mom. I’m 49. My daughter turns 13 (!) tomorrow and my son is 9. It took us 12 years from start to finish to make us a family of four. Our dear Alexander passed away at birth along the way. He taught me to love being a mother too. Bella and Isaac joined us through adoption. I would have loved more (I think… we will have a teenager in the house soon) but it was a long hard road. We thought better of it when we realized that saving for retirement and college would have to come before more fertility treatments or adoptions. But now I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are just right. I’m SO excited to be almost rocking 50. In the last year I ran two 1/2 marathons and I’m training for my third. Never did that before! I’m done with nonsense and negativity. I know now that I know almost nothing. I’m more curious than ever. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be trying more things that I never thought I would. Thank you for reminding me to be at peace with the state of my house. It is a disaster most of the time. For a super visual person like me it can be a bit crazy making (maybe even a lot crazy making). But it is fleeting and eventually I’ll have two clocks set at my kids’ time zones on the mantle. Your home says HOME to me. So lovely. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. I wondered if there would be readers that remind us all how fortunate we are to be able to have children and to treasure them all the more, thank you!

  27. Ann!
    I have been following the blog for years and I have never felt the need to comment on any post until today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are such a blessing. I want more motherhood advice from you – I just might move to St. Charles :). I want to be more patient, present, and as you said be the mother my children need. You are absolutely right about the merry go round of motherhood. There will come a time when I can tap into all of my other passions. Thank you for sharing. You have inspired so many moms today! This post has been bookmarked and will be re-read frequently.

    1. You are so sweet to write, I have just been so happy to read how you all like my smudges and imperfections. St. Charles and I would welcome you with open arms!

  28. Thank you very much, Ann, for this incredibly heart warming story.
    It was exactly what I needed this days.
    I`m a mother of 8. All of them urgently awaited and loved. My husband an I are both 40 and enjoy the being young with the children. When you have the mix of teens and babys there is no time and no place to get in trouble with getting older and I love that.
    Our children are between 2 years (twin girls) and 18 and we are still wondering if we should add one more precious baby to our large family… so your story was really inspiring to me.
    all the best for you and your family,
    love,
    Elisabeth

    1. Twins! I had trouble with extreme nausea with my pregnancies and used to tell myself that if I could get two for one I would love that, until I had the newborn and realized that I was so glad I just had one to wake me up. I know it works out but I admire mothers of twins. You will know if you should have another, I don’t doubt that. And not everyone needs to have this many, it isn’t a virtue, just a gift. Bless you!

      1. Oh yes, it was the same with me. The nausea was so extreme with all of my pregnancies, but with the twins it was worst. I was glad to have some help for the first months of this pregnancy, otherwise I don`t know how we should have come along. But twins are such a blessing and such a big deal and a big difference to only one baby, I think, at the same time.
        And you are right. I really know, that there has to be one more…it`s not that easy to say that clearly… because nearly anybody can unterstand why… I think you can.

        1. You just know if you are listening, and not everyone is supposed to have a huge family. Sometimes that child needs something different from their childhood. I tell my friends not to even think about another for that first year or so because it is too scary to get a great answer. You did it in spite of the nausea, my hat is off to you.

  29. This… series I love. And this post is the best one ever. Thank you so much for it… I needed to hear something in there. Our oldest (of eight) just turned eighteen and I feel our world and dynamic changing as he ventures forth. I want my younger children to grow up with the same magic and adventure… but I just can’t see how our story is going to pan out with one player missing from the fold, and then another and another and another. It is the first time I have have felt a gasp in my parenting step… all those sleep-ins and tousled heads and arguments over the last piece of toast are actually going to come to an end. And family holidays – we didn’t have nearly enough of them… then again we were far too busy putting toast on the table!!! Memories we’ve made a few… but my word it takes a fair leap of faith to traverse this next step in the road. It was so very good to hear the story of someone who doesn’t see the steps as an end of a chapter but as a new beginning, what an inspiration!!!

    1. 8 kids! I wish we were neighbors! It only gets better but get that last, iconic family portrait to hang on the wall – it will never be easy again. Thank you for your comments.

      1. How lovely are all your replies – I am just reading away and soaking them in. I think we would be great friends… we are a little faraway in Cape Town South Africa, but somehow your tree climber and mine have already connected us over the ocean!!! All the best to you and yours!!!

    1. I hope you smiled a little too! I never want to make people feel too sad about our little son but he is such a huge part of our life I can never leave him out either. Thank you for sharing.

  30. This one resonated with me! I’m the 9th of 10 children. My mother had her first at 23 and her last at 44. I was born when she was 40. She also lost one six days after birth. My love and respect for my mother, and all mothers of large families has grown immensely as i have had kids of my own. Thanks for sharing your home and perspective Ann! I’m appreciating my busy toddler a little more today.

    1. I am the oldest of nine, so I am the quintessential bossy older sister, my siblings are gracious and allow me to be in charge most of the time! Bless your mother, tell her hey from someone who understands!

  31. Oh, this was great! I grew up in the area (graduated from StC West), and live in O’Fallon. St. Charles County and the St. Louis area is such a great place. Love St. Charles and Main Street.

    I’m excited about your book! I will have to read it. I am a huge fan of our libraries – did you do any event with your book at the library? I would love to attend that.

    Thanks so much for your home tour and sharing your parenting experience. I especially loved your story about your 3 year old and how you handled her whining. So simple, yet so effective and powerful.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    1. West! The best rivals ever. Not that High is much competition. The book is at the library and I would love it if you would reserve it and read it. If my sister wrote a book I would check it out at the library instead of buying it. Thanks for saying hello.

  32. “Hold her”, beautiful. I can’t go back but I will pass on to my daughters when they become mothers. Thank you

    1. It is never too late to figure out how to love them, I still need my mother’s love and I am 55 – and lucky to still have her here. Thank you so much for commenting, it means so much that we have connected.

  33. Cynthia McGrath

    Thank you Ann for sharing your lovely home and story! Gabrielle, this was your best post ever in this series…Ann’s honesty resonated so strongly and in a pinterest-driven era, her shots spoke volumes. She showed us true love, real priorities, and a sense of place that made her story vibrate. Ann, you are the REAL DEAL and I loved meeting you today!

  34. Ann,

    Your story and perspective touched me so much that I forgot to really even look at the pictures of your home the first time through. I am silently and (hopefully) stealthily crying at my desk. I am amazed and humbled by your positive outlook on life, even in the face of unimaginable loss. My day is richer, and my life a little better, because you allowed us a peek into yours. Thank you.

    1. I did the same! I was so captivated by the words, I skipped the pictures soaking up everything Ann was saying! This was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for your honesty and love. Your children are so blessed to have you.

    2. Mallory, thank you so much. It truly means a lot to me. I really didn’t think all the details through when I agreed to do this post and you guys have made it an experience I will never forget.

  35. Hi Anne! I remember you and your husband! He used to drive me and my older sister Alissa’s bleary-eyed selves to seminary before the crack of dawn every weekday before school for a while. He was always so unbelievably cheerful that early! LOL My family remembers yours fondly, and my mom (Vicky) still brings you up once in a while. I was very surprised to recognize you and my hometown in this blog that I’ve been following for years now. I miss living in St. Charles, but my husband’s parents live on 8th, so I get to go back “home” once in a while. We moved ego NC and have four children. I’ll have to pass this post on to my family! Thank you for sharing! It made my day.

    1. I can’t believe we are reunited on a blog! I adore your whole family and miss them now that they have moved far away. Is it still raining where you are??

  36. Living with Kids is my FAVORITE series, and this has to be my favorite one yet. I love her “hold her” advice (which I implemented as soon as I read it – it’s so obvious that I can’t believe I haven’t thought of it!) and her beautiful tribute to motherhood.
    Seriously, this is the best.

    1. Too sweet and I thank you so much for taking the time to comment, it means a lot. When I pushed that send button, I had a minor panic attack but you guys are seriously the best.

  37. Oh Ann,

    This was the perfect post that came at the perfect time for me. Just two nights ago the weight of all my fears of time passing me by and what have I done with my life and not having time to do the things I want to do came to a head and I was feeling like such a failure. I knew my “logic” was off… if a friend was telling me all the fears that were pouring into my head I would have been able to address each one of them and explain that her fears were not actually reality…but often the positive self talk and readjustment of perspective is just not something we can do for ourselves (at least not in the moment.) I mean I still had what amounted to a mini-breakdown, but reading your words the very next day also felt like a little nudge to my soul that everything was as it should be. Knowing that my 3rd (and last) child is about to turn 2 I find myself both wanting to treasure the last days of her babyhood slipping by and simultaneously wanting to “get on with it already!” and move on to the next phase. Thanks for helping me see–from a different set of eyes–just how valuable these days are. AND for letting me know there will be time for all that creative energy and opportunities that I’m worried will somehow be sucked dry when I eventually have time. Anyway, thank you…this was probably my favorite home tour ever. Also, I love the clocks that you have for each of your children–the love you have for your family overflows from every corner of your home. Thank you.

    1. I am so glad I could help! I used to try and tell my husband that the days drag on so slow but the years just fly by. I am glad you love the clocks, I totally stole the idea from a friend but it is brilliant and a gentle reminder that they are still yours. I hope tomorrow is sweet!

  38. What a lovely home, packed so full of love and real life! Absolutely my very favorite house tour ever, thank you so so much!

  39. Thank you so much for this post. I am a mom of six, 8 mos. to 12 yrs. I am homeschooling them through middle school for the reason you mention – my parents homeschooled me through 8th grade and it was truly a gift to spend those years in the safety of my home! I loved your words and your spirit. Being a mom is just so hard, and hearing from someone a little further up the path was what I needed today.

  40. Just have to say that I am truly blessed by your story Ann. Thank you Gabby for giving Ann a chance to share about her beautiful family. Thank you Ann for the wisdom that you so humbly imparted. I am in a hard place with our youngest son. I am in the process of figuring him out and figuring out how to pray for him. In this process, I am seeing that the Lord has some things to change about me. Thank you for giving me a whole-picture of what family life looks like from the other side. I look forward to reading your book!

    1. Thank you for sharing with us all, I’ll bet you have some back up prayers sent straight to heaven on your behalf. Your son is so lucky to have you as a mom. My mother had 8 kids and she said that it didn’t occur to her to pray over them so specifically until the last and they feel like they avoided so much teenager angst by including God and His whispering’s with this child. The rest of us kind of figured things out on our own and it was so much harder. Bless you!

  41. After raising 5 children, I cherish moments like hers. Now I get to cherish moments far between with my grandchildren, going on Number 12 right now., who are all over 500 miles away. Ann’s comments on the smudges on the window reminded me of when one of my granddaughters came to visit with my daughter. She left little handprints and smudges on the TV and I left them there for months after she left. Those little handprints made my heart smile. We miss those things when they are gone….

    1. A mother and grandmother after my own heart! We only have one grandchild so far but I am not worried, with nine children we are bound to get more. Thank you Ruth.

  42. I know this “earth mother” Ann, she is my friend. I’m happy to know people like this who are sincere, honest, loving, giving, thoughtful, and always smiling. Ann, thank you for sharing your family…I mostly got to know your sons….they are absolutely amazing young men. You should be so proud of who they are becoming….really cool, sometimes nerdy, always laughing, HARD WORKING, and seeing them as friends to each other is a wonderful quality about your family. My hubby and I have four children and ten grandchildren…the adventure does not end…you will continue to learn about who they are, as they marry and have children. Enjoy the incredible ride…hugs work wonders! xo

    1. Hey Gloria! You can tell everyone that you got to see every room in the house clean at the same time. Take care of those grandbabies!

  43. I was 38 years old when our 6th (and last) child was born. I thought it amusing in elementary school, because my child was my youngest/last child, and for most of the other mothers, their child was their first and oldest child. We got along fine but we did have some interesting discussions!

    1. I adore young mothers, they have such certainty that they are doing what is right with none of the cynicism of many parents of older children. It is beautiful. I love older mothers because so many things are done almost effortlessly. And I love watching the older siblings carry the baby on their skinny little hips!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top