Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Messy Order

Besides making sure coffee has begun its aromatic brewing process, one of the first things I do in the morning is put the dishes away that have sat overnight in the drying rack, which happens to be right next to the coffee pot.  I can't help it, they are in my line of site as I pour my gift into a cup. As a human being, I thrive best when I can start the day with a little order. In my home, everything has a place, and even if things get crazily out of order throughout the day, I at least like to start and end the day with organization. I was genetically predisposed to love categories, definitions, and metaphoric boxes. I hate clutter and love neatness. Thanks momma. There may be cobwebs on all my baseboards and sticky crumbs scattered in kitchen corners, but as long as it looks relatively neat, I feel a little more peaceful.
Yet, this love of boxes limits me when it comes to understanding the creativity of my Creator. God doesn't fit into a box or a mold. God chooses things that seem messy sometimes, but He is a God of order. We cannot comprehend His order and creative neatness. How is it that He is aware of every leaf that blows in the wind? How does He love me every moment while simultaneously loving those people who are currently crying in hospitals, or tragically killed and persecuted, or those lost to addiction or fear at this very moment? I can't fathom this kind of omniscient love that maintains no bias. Without even realizing it, we all have some sort of definition or mental image for God. We place parameters around the one who invented parameters. Job 38 gives a voice to God who asks mere man, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?"  Humbly, Job realizes how little we know as human beings. We were made in his image, which gives explanation to our desire to define, our desire to create, and our desire to give order, but we must be careful when we  start giving God orders or believing we somehow know the ways of the world. As Ecclesiastes states, "Even if the wise claim they understand [what happens under the sun], they cannot really comprehend it" (8:17). I am thankful we can't understand everything because then we would all think we were God (which many already do).

Summer is giving way to beautiful creativity on the part of the Smith boys too. Never under estimate the power of boredom. That's when the real genius is put to the test.

Silas decided to make his own kite, and he informed me that measurement MUST be perfect for a perfect kite to fly perfectly.

It was a huge success on a rainy day. Couldn't have come up with a better activity if I tried. 

Sweet boys chilling with their baby brother.

Levi update below!

After all our road travels, we've discover this great gem to help with nap time in the car. 

Roman enjoyed meeting his extended family at the beach. 

Gibby was the best sand digger in the family!

Thanks for a great time Gibby! We love you!

It's been such a blessing that Levi can travel more this year. We had a good doctor appointment last week before we left for the beach. When he first walked in, our GI doctor wasn't thrilled with the nutritionist's positive notes on Levi's progress. His job is to get Levi on the growth curve (currently he's not even in the first percentile unless you look at the world curve where he sits around the 8th percent), but after much conversation about why Levi shouldn't be forced to use the feeding tube at night to increase weight gain (because I reminded him of all the vomit), he was actually pleasantly surprised that I don't care if Levi is smaller than his friends for the next five years. He said most parents stress over the growth curve and simply want their child to "catch up." Because Levi is "nutritionally sound" and getting what he needs to at least gain an ounce every few days, we actually discussed taking out Levi's feeding tube this fall! I didn't do any cartwheels at the mention of a tubal extraction because I've learned to wait patiently for things to come to fruition. I'm just thankful Levi isn't losing weight even if he is just "holding his own" right now. For now, he's doing great trying new foods, and I will definitely let you know when we have a G-tube removal party! :)

Thank you for all your prayers. We will head to the orthopedic doc in a couple weeks to check on his bones! For now, we will keep on with all our efforts trusting in the creativity of God's perfect plan for Levi and our family.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Foggy Breath

"It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do" (Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility). 

Recently I was preparing a wonderfully warm bubble bath for two of my three dirty boys when my eldest walked up with his matter-of-fact face and asserted, "mommy, I'm tired of you and daddy always saying things to me." Before I let out the laughter bubbling up in my belly, I calmly asked, "What sort of things?" Silas said, "I don't know, but you tell me a lot of things, and I just want to play and do what I want." Ohhhhhhhh..... I'm glad we got that straightened out! I proceeded to explain that his daddy and I were equally as tired of repeating ourselves and "talking" to him all the time, so if he would simply learn to obey our requests the first time they are stated, then he wouldn't have to hear us  "say things" all the time.
After the laughter stopped ringing in my own ears, I realized that my son sounded a lot like my husband. Maybe it wasn't just the apple falling too close to the tree, and maybe I can't attribute the lack of listening to a stubborn gender gene. Maybe I really need to think about the broken record that I play through my constant love of words. When you are naturally extraverted and also love language, sometimes words pile on top of words until your audience stops listening and starts thinking about their next meal. As an English teacher though, I teach the importance of using words sparingly. I remember lessons in my classroom that I taught to prove "less is more."  Too often students wanted to fill up pages with meaningless words in order to hit their required page length. Thus, editing was a constant process, not a one time skim. (Please don't judge this blog on those same standards. A full-time mommy loses her editing time and talent.)
I must begin to see the correlation between my high school teaching and my own life. (Don't we all see things more clearly in others than in ourselves?) If I want my son to practice self-control or speak in a quiet voice, I think modeling that behavior has a longer lasting impression than repeating the requests. Think about it: the things we saw our parents do tend to stay in our memory longer than the things they said. Unless of course the things they said and the things they did lined up with each other. Then there's an honest long-lasting lesson.
Regardless of whether you have children or not, we are all going to leave behind a legacy when we leave this world. Whether it's the people around your cubicle, the people on the golf green, or the people following your social feeds, everyone will be remembered in a certain light. Instead of wasting so much of my breath trying to impart "wisdom" on my children that I hope they remember when I'm gone, I really could live a much quieter life, being "slow to speak" (as I long to be), if I exemplified the behavior I want to see in my little pupils. I completely negate all my requests when I start barking them and then mumble to myself like a crazed maniac. Too much breath simply fogs up the message anyway. It's much clearer when there aren't words in the way, says the word-lover.

Here's to a quiet, yet loud-moving summer! Speaking of quiet- this big boy still doesn't say much, but his actions speak so much louder than words!  Show me how big you are now Levi...

Wow!  That's pretty big bubba!

Oh man, I'll let the other kids know that Levi is back in town!

Boys club- holding the first fruits of our garden in case they get hungry.

Homemade carwash!

When there's a swim meet at the pool and everyone's pumped to get wet, water balloons are the perfect fix.

This kid is doing great with eating! No day is the same in terms of his tolerance and  texture. Sometimes he does great with something and then the next day gags on it, but at least he is always up for a challenge, like the chicken leg challenge of 2017!

This was huge! He hasn't really done stairs this big by himself before, but he's been working hard in therapy! We are so thankful for our awesome therapists! And Levi! Go Levi Joe!

~Breath Buster

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Remembering Day

I know that Memorial Day signifies different emotions for different people. Some see it as a sweet reminder of those who have given their lives in battle. Others focus on the start of summer and smell of barbecue and long weekends. Still, many people no doubt have a palpable taste of loss and mourning the brothers who died alongside of them. I do not personally feel that true sense of mourning on Memorial Day, but that doesn't mean I do not appreciate those men and women who lay down their lives for my freedom and justice. I just can't empathize and appreciate the day as it deserves. But we all have an area of life that we can appreciate more thoroughly than others.
In watching my baby Ro Ro grow, I have a deep understanding and thanksgiving for his natural ability to develop.
Fun fact: all three of my children have been on feeding tubes at the beginning of their lives. However, sandwiched in between my natural developers grows a sweet boy that still holds a hole in his belly for emergency purposes. He has required the aid of many great people to develop properly, and I do not know at what point those persons will be a distant memory. Thus, my appreciation for infant milestones is a bit more accurate than others. This doesn't mean I should fault those who take such easy growth for granted because I would hate for my fellow soldiers to hold a grudge against my lack of understanding Memorial Day's significance. Instead, we should always maintain our unique appreciations no matter how many years pass.
Maybe you appreciate your health more than others because of a chronic illness. Maybe it is a better understanding of financial stability because you grew up in extreme poverty. Or maybe it is an appreciation of every little American invention because you reside most of the year in a country without electricity. Whatever it is, big or small, don't judge others for not recognizing something properly. Be grateful you have that uniquely wonderful perspective, and work to hold on to it, as well as learn to appreciate new aspects of life that may not hit close to your home.

We cannot thank our soldiers enough who fight the good fight in this broken world.

I think Roman's quick development is helping little Levi work harder because he doesn't want to be surpassed by his baby bro. Levi's doing amazing with eating solids. We just have to pace him a little better or he'll stuff his mouth full and have no room to chew.

We had a great visit with the hand specialist doctor last Friday. Levi got both hands x-rayed and all normal growth plates, bones, and joints are evident. His flexibility in his right hand looks good, which is what we watch for now. During growth spurts, there is a chance he could stiffen his hand, but hopefully that will resolve itself or never happen. At this point we just have to continue with therapy. Only the future will tell whether he needs any surgeries in that right hand or not.

Please pray for our nutrition appointment next week. His weight-gain is key at this point in whether or not we have a foreseeable g-tube extraction date. We'll get input from our nutritionist next week, and then see our GI doc two weeks later.
Lastly, we will see Levi's orthopedic doctor in July to determine how much longer he has to wear leg braces at night. We are hoping to be done with those metal shoes soon because Levi is starting to hate them. Plus it makes for difficult bed-sharing during travel. You could wake up with a huge bruise the way Levi flings his legs around at night!

Thank you for all your love and prayers, and thank you again to all our soldiers!

God bless you!
~Memorial Buster

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Helping hands

Letting someone help you isn't always easy, nor is it always helpful, but it's definitely essential, not only for you, but for them. In the same way that children must learn to take care of themselves through trial and error (even if their clean up work makes your clean up harder), likewise when you accept help, you may actually give someone joy in serving; they receive an opportunity to shine and grow their strengths in ways they wouldn't otherwise be able to do.
I recently watched my friends two children for just over an hour, to give her a little break. While it wasn't a ton of help on paper, I definitely loved being able to be the one giving help rather than always receiving it. Plus, we you always try to do everything yourself, it is easy to get a big head.
During our recent ten-day trip to Texas, I was constantly on call with my kids. Being on the road had its ups and downs, but by the last few days, I was starting to feel pretty good about my ability to travel with little ones. We had unpacked and re-packed six different times by day seven. We even stayed in one hotel for just an hour nap when we found out a larger space was available across the street (in which case I didn't let any child under the covers to avoid the cleaning fee). The kids were pros at sleeping now!

One morning I had all three kids quietly eating by themselves in a hotel breakfast area without any high chairs! I was able to go get my coffee around the corner and come back to sweet obedience. But it goes without saying, "pride comes before a fall," and in my case, it was a literal fall. When I attempted the same strategy the next morning, something inside my gut told me to take Levi with me. He was a little too fidgety, and Silas was a little too interested in the lobby television that morning. No sooner had I grabbed my paper cup around the corner that a bloodcurdling scream echoed throughout the entire hotel. Little Levi had fallen out of his chair and decided to make the biggest scene on the planet. He was absolutely fine, both physically and emotionally, but I, on the other hand, was embarrassed beyond belief. I had just been asked by a man and his wife if I needed any help to which I politely responded, "Oh I'm fine, I'm used to this." It was that same man and his wife who ran to save my middle child. Talk about a punch to the gut. I just wish it had been me that had fallen instead of little Levi.
There's no shame in accepting help, even if you don't think you need it. Sometimes it is simply for your own humility sake, or the sake of your children's.
We were able to take some vacation time before Matthew's conference and stopped by a few of our favorite reality television locations:

While these pit stops meant nothing to the kids, I was in hog heaven. Plus, it's no coincidence that The Magnolia Silos was also discussing the topic of "confidence." As Joanna Gaines explained, "we're not talking about the strut-your-bikini-on-the-beach variety. We're diving deep into a quiet kind of confidence that allows us to live our lives bravely, unfettered by popular opinion or nagging fears." In her recent journal, she opened up about a time she was unable to perform all her daily responsibilities because of a back injury, and at this particular time, she realized that when she stepped back and let others do the problem solving, "[they] came alive as they were given space and encouragement to really go after it without [her] standing over their shoulder." This is another real reason to let go of control and let others help. There are always times when we have to step up and do ALL the work ourselves, so when a time comes when someone wants to take something out of your hands, as long as that something isn't what brings you to life, let them. It may very well help them discover a strength they never knew they possessed.
All in all, it was a great trip. I just wished I'd been able to get some pictures of the boys with their cousins, but a little bug on my nephew's part kept us apart quite a bit.

Whenever this happened for more than five minutes...

This happened.

A pit stop in Memphis meant Roman got to meet my BFF's new baby boy, John.

Papa came out from San Diego to see all his grandsons in one place!

After being grandpa doctor for one nephew, he took his other ones to their first baseball game!

Since Papa is a baseball player himself, this meant the world to him!

The Frisco Texas Rough Riders had a great stadium!

Thanks to Aunt Nicole, we got to stay in Fort Worth and see these awesome "Water Gardens."

And splash grounds!

Fountains were a little too much for little Levi, so he stuck the the rock area. 

Forth Worth cattle run was a favorite stop!

And when daddy had to work, we just looked for acorns and sewer drains. I love boys!

This sweet face was a sweet traveler! He's changing daily!
So thankful we could travel, but so thankful for a home to come back to at the end of it!

~Helpful Buster

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dear Moms,

Not everyone is called mom, but everyone has a mom. Whether that mom is down the street, in heaven, adopted, a distant acquaintance, or your best friend, everyone was born of a woman, and thus Mother's Day is a holiday that is understood in some easy or hard way by all Americans.
As I walk in these familiar, yet uniquely designed shoes of many women before me, I am struck by the difficulty of the Hallmark holiday. Some people ache to become pregnant mothers, while others ache to hear their mama's voice again. Your mom may be your ideal parent, or she may have been a huge disappointment, but someone helped keep you alive from infancy to adulthood, and that is whom you should thank this Sunday.
I'm reading a sweet little book called Mom Enough by some fellow sisters, and I greatly appreciate the idea that motherhood is not an extra hobby we take on because we are bored; nor is it an activity to enter so that we have some cute clothes to buy or cute pictures to post.
I walked with a fellow mommy last week, and we shared some of the "hard" of mothering. My friend recognized how few young moms want to admit the hard parts of parenting for fear of isolation or judgement, and how older moms seem to have parental amnesia from early years comparing their teenage and adult children's hardships therein minimizing a young mom's tiresome troubles. I hope that no matter what "hard" or "easy" phase of life you are in right now, you will be an encouraging ear to someone who feels like they are drowning. Leave self-righteousness at the doorstep and realize that we all face our own hard in our own way at our own time. Instead of comparing those hards, just listen and love. I love what one of the authors of Mom Enough says about the job description for moms:

Lay yourself down. Sacrifice yourself here, now. Cheerfully wipe the nose for the fiftieth time today. Make dinner again for the people who don't like green beans. Laugh when a vomiting child thwarts your plans. Lay yourself down for the people here with you, the people who annoy you, the people who get in your way, the people who take up so much of your time that you can't read anymore. Rejoice in them. Sacrifice for them. Gain that which you cannot lose in them.
It is easy to think you have a heart for orphans on the other side of the world, but to resent the demands of the children in your living room. You cannot have a heart for the gospel and fussiness about your life at the same time. You will never make any difference there if you cannot be a peace here. You cannot have a heart for missions without a heart for the people around you. A true love of the gospel overflows and overpowers. It will be in everything you do, however drab, however simple, however repetitive. (Rachel Jankovic) 

To all moms (and dads for that matter) everywhere, especially those who have been moms without the biological attachment, thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for giving of yourself even if you never felt celebrated on "Mother's Day." There is one who sees all, and He celebrates His love for you every single day.

And a little about those who call me mommy:

I am thrilled to thank you all who read this little blog and pray. Little Levi can suck from a straw!  THIS IS HUGE! While his stamina still needs to build, it's a big milestone for the little man. Levi did great after surgery, and he's still eating very well, but more like a 12-15 month old diet than a two year-old diet in addition to all his extra caloric Pediasure. We are just thrilled that he's motivated and continues to make improvements with self-feeding.
While I'd hoped his balance would improve after surgery, I've come to recognize that Levi is showing some signs of sensory processing disorder. Many NICU preemies struggle with sensory input, but thus far, we've been so thankful to hear from his therapists that Levi has NO issue with sensory input. However, he may have slightly the opposite issue. As we always thought it humorous to watch Levi stumble and laugh like a drunken sailor shaking his head and falling down, I believe (and this is not a clinical diagnosis, just talk with therapists and my own mommy intuition) Levi has excessive post rotary nystagmus. Before you go looking it up, let me explain. Basically Levi has a little vestibular dysfunction, meaning he is hyposensitive (not hyper) to movement. This means that Levi craves movement like a thrill seeker; his eyes don't catch up with his body when he gets dizzy, he loves increased sensory input like falling or banging himself. At this point, his OT says he should grow out of this, even though he'll probably always love the fastest rollercoasters and highest mountains, but for now, please pray for wisdom as we continue to watch the sweet boy grow and develop in his own perfect way.

Other milestones were hit by my baby Ro Ro too! I forgot how quickly babies change when they are on a normal developmental curve. Roman had his six month appointment today, and he's 16 pounds, which is just four pounds short of catching Levi. He got his first two teeth already, his first swing ride, his first Johnny jumper experience, and many first table foods. He's the sweetest little bug, and I love watching all three boys talk and play together.

Silas finished his first year of preschool, and continues to be the best big brother I've ever known. I'm nervously excited about our road trip to Texas tomorrow! It'll be a Mother's Day weekend I'm sure I'll always remember!

Some much needed shenanigans from our home to yours:

A sweet Mother's Day musical. Can you spot my boy in the red shirt middle.

He sang with pure gusto!

Two days before they broke ground. This tough man showed no symptoms! I welcomed change.

Cool as a cucumber.

Oh so that's what the word "suck" means!

I could get into this!

This boy... oh my heart. 

So far eating is at the top of his "likes" list. 

Levi keeps wanting to show that he's bigger than Roman. :)

Ro Ro finally found his feet. Even when sleeping, they are still there buddy.

Best seat in the house. 

Sweet boys watching Si man be silly.

Nothing better for boys than sand and trucks. 
Except maybe puddles and jumping!

And mommy's phone.

 There's nothing quite like it--- Happy Mother's Day!

~Mommy Buster