Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Smelly Stable

A sweet man once asked me why I read the Bible over and over. Hadn't I already read it all the way through? Well... I had, but I truly gain new insight almost every time I read it. Not every time, because my heart and mind are not always in the right place to hear from God, but very often I find either passages that seem brand new, or ones I've memorized that have completely new wisdom to impart.  Now, with new children's versions floating around my home, I'm actually seeing familiar stories with fresh eyes. Take the Christmas story for instance. Silas has a picture version of the nativity scene that seems a bit more involved than I remembered.
Instead of just the camel, sheep, and donkey, there are real barn animals pictured. There are rats running around the manager and piles of mud and manure, which struck me as uniquely realistic. That's when I started imagining an exhausted pregnant teenager disgusted and frustrated with the environment of her first labor and delivery. I wonder whether she (being only human herself), complained to her new husband about the conditions in which she was going to give birth to the long awaited Savior. That's when another amazing reality hit me.
I knew that God's entrance into humble circumstances was foretelling, I just never realized how humble the circumstances. No one except the smelly animals, and the simple shepherds were there to witness the arrival of a king. How completely counter-cultural to our world today. When royalty or prestige is entering a room, we all have well-understood behaviors and traditions to uphold. But Jesus has been telling us since he his birth that we are never to belong to the world, look like the world, or accept every cultural standard. We are to be set-apart, different, and radical when it comes to our lives here on Earth. Only then can we become more like our perfect Jesus Christ. 
What this practically looks like for each of us is different, but I continue to pray that I will not only be counter-cultural in a way that resembles Christ, but that I will willingly seek a humble existence.
To quote my favorite Christmas song... well my favorite song... "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Heaven's love reaching down to save the world."

Our little Levi certainly helps keep me humbly on my knees. Neither medicine seemed to fully abate Levi's incredible vomit, so we are now trying a continuous feed in the evening and less feeds during the day. As I sat defeated with Silas after praying God would help Levi, the Holy Spirit spoke right through my little-big man. "Mommy," he said with an uncertain smile. "I'm proud of you mommy. I'm proud of you for checking on Levi."  Wow..... the tears came, but so did my joy with them. How thankful I am for the humility and for God speaking directly to my heart this Christmas!

Sweet Levi at a very early bowling match (tried to get it in early before the crowds)

Silas at the same bowling match.

Silas came in first place! (I think we all should get to use the dragon.)

With the hot weather, some fun snow activities were in order to get us in the holiday spirit!

Silas loved his first time ice skating at Avalon!

Although he only lasted about 30 minutes.

But he didn't even have to take off his shoes!

It's no wonder both my boys have been sick recently. They just love each other.
~Coffee CubBuster

Friday, December 18, 2015

To ski or not to ski

Why do people ski? It's very expensive, the preparation, clothing, and equipment are kind of ridiculous, there is a good chance you could get seriously injured, and it's physically exhausting. I've only been skiing three times in my life, but I LOVED it each time, and I hope I get the chance to go again one day.
Well I think skiing is very similar to parenting little ones... with one major difference of course. When you look at our lack of sleep from our babies, who can drive us mad at tired moments, with the illnesses that make life that much more difficult, alongside Silas' new deceit and intelligence (he'll throw out a potty request or "what is that over there mommy" when we are trying to reprimand him). Couple this with physical exhaustion, diminishing finances, additional yucky chores, and Levi's physical disabilities, and you'd probably think we were done having children. You'd be absolutely wrong.
The major difference between skiing and kids (besides the obvious unconditional love, joy and laughter they bring) is that you can always go skiing again (pending no permanent broken bones). I thought about it the other day as I plopped my weary self on the sofa after both boys were asleep. These days may be hard at times, but they are fleeting. We all know time flies, but Christmas like birthdays and other future vacations come every year. Children are only children one time. Once you are done having kids, or once your babies grow up and stop adoring you with every bone in their bodies, you will never get to relive those moments. You can't "renew your young ones" like you can your wedding vows. It's just not possible to go back and raise babies once they (and you) are fully grown. Grandchildren are just a different breed. Your little ones may be little in your eyes forever, but they will leave, spread their wings, and make their own way.
Thus, I will seek to cherish even the most pressing moments with this reminder. As tiring as it can be to have Silas want to read a book at six in the morning or be held when he's under the weather, as demanding as Levi's cry for attention can be at five in the morning, as frustrating as a two-hour long dinner with a toddler can be, or the snail speed of feeding therapy with Levi,  I won't get to do it much longer. I am blessed, and I actually love these long days with a strange sort of love. I hope and pray we get to have more babies one day if God wills it, and I challenge myself to love the sleepless nights all the same.

Homemade doughnuts were so fun to decorate, but the sugar high aftermath was not as enjoyable.

When left alone on the deck, I found Silas to be a sweet home-builder for a little lost ladybug.

One of the many reasons Silas still enjoys his crib instead of a big boy bed!

We continue to realize that Levi is not as delicate as he seems. He loves to be thrown in the air, play with his big brother, and hold his own with toy instruction.

Silas is hands down my kid. He LOVES to teach Levi everything, especially his book knowledge.

Again... my child... He has a new love of "cleaning" with mommy.

I think it's more the squirt bottle he loves than the actual cleaning! He may get his first job at a car wash though.

Levi started some new meds to help contract his stomach muscles quicker (helping to get the food down faster to slow the spit up). Unfortuantely, medicine number one failed, but medicine number two seems promising. Still spitting up a lot, but less than before. If this doesn't help him keep food down, we will start a new feeding schedule, which would be a step backward for therapy, but worth it if he gains weight again!

We are so grateful for all the love this holiday season, and if we haven't reached out to you personally, please know we love and cherish you in our hearts this Christmas!

~Skiing Buster

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Happy Spitter

I recently grabbed coffee with a sweet girl that I watched grow through high school. I was privy to her accepting Christ, taking her first mission trip, watching her parents fight over her and her siblings custody, as well as seeing her enter her first serious relationship on her way to college.
When we met the other day, she was still the same sweet, sensitive heart, but she had lost everything about her identity.

Not only has her life spiraled into chaos and confusion, but she believes in nothing and everything. At times careless, at times homeless, and at times lifeless, she graciously opened her heart to me once again as she seemed desperate to expunge some of her deepest shame.

With all the love I had, I sought to understand and comfort without agenda or judgement. One thing truly struck me though. She explained that after many years of over-analyzing, over-stressing and over-thinking her decisions to the point of migraines, she now believes that following one's feelings and emotions is the best way to live. In other words, if it feels good, it must be right.
I enthusiastically and equivocally disagreed. I told her that we can't trust our thoughts or emotions because both are so unpredictable and unstable. Lack of sleep, hormones, environments, and simple daily circumstances can change all of our thoughts and feelings at any moment.

I decided to open up and confess my own sin as she had so graciously done.
I told her that if I always trusted my thoughts or feelings to guide me, at this point in my life, I probably would have hurt or killed one of my children, cheated on my husband, and maybe even taken my own life. It may sound dramatic, but I'm sure we can all agree that even for a split second if we became the "Yes Man" to whatever felt good, we'd all commit similar crimes.

She was then baffled and asked how I live if I can't follow my own thoughts and emotions. I said that I believe that I must have a "True North" so to speak. I need someone that is perfect in every way to guide every one of my decisions. Someone whose "thoughts are not my thoughts" and whose "ways are not my ways." Someone who never ever changed. God granting me His son and His Spirit is the only way I can proceed in life. Once I pray and take steps forward trusting His guidance, I can rest assured that peace and purpose will reign for the good no matter the circumstances.

I continue to remind myself of my own words these past few weeks, which have been a little more draining than we would have chosen on our own. In any given day, Levi goes through at least three outfits (I go through a few myself), at least ten burp cloths, five bibs, and usually a linen change or carpet clean. This is all due to the fact that Levi's spitting up is outrageous. We are talking pools or lakes, not simple streams or rivers. I have another child, so I know what "normal" spit up it is like. This is a whole different monster. Thankfully, he's what doctors call a "Happy Spitter." It doesn't seem painful for him, so hopefully no acid is hurting his esophagus. However, we have now seen a new GI doctor, who had some great insight. Because Levi's weight gain as slowed down significantly, we are trying different kinds of meds to speed up his stomach muscles to get the food down quicker before he can feel it and want to throw it up. We have a few routes we can take so that we aren't putting him under the knife again. I am thankful for this new doctor, and I am hopeful Levi will not let this new bump slow him down. When he's not throwing up (which can span over an hour on and off both during and after a feed), he's the sweetest, happiest, most chill baby I've ever met.

Thank you for continuing to pray for him and our family as we figure out the best forms of care for our little man.

No matter what a day brings, we have to seek God to give us a good perspective and help us enjoy the moments. One great byproduct from all this spit up and doctor's visit is that I actually feel like we are soaking up the true meaning of the season! We don't have much left over time for the distractions, so we have to stick to the point! I love this time of year, and I love it even more with three sweet guys in my life.

Nothing like a good cookie mess to make you smile.

I love that this little man can sleep anywhere at any time.

At a local battle field, I told Silas to make a battle face as I tried to explain what the word meant.

But we could never battle for long.
~Spitting Buster

Friday, December 4, 2015

Do as I do

Parents often think they can get away with murder and if accidentally caught in the metaphorical outhouse by one of their curious children, just echo the tried (but not true), "Do as I say, not as I do."
What many of us don't realize (or simply try not to acknowledge) is that this saying is almost nearly impossible for kids to follow. Think about it, the things we saw our parents do, even if taught otherwise, are the very subconscious things we find ourselves repeating.
From infancy, children are under estimated, and their cognitive abilities to decipher fraud is remarkable.
I recently experienced the power of actions with our oldest son. I have told him for a long time (because I feel like if I start early and repeat it, it will miraculously happen..... ha ha) that we should give away some of his toys at Christmas time since he always receives new ones. He insisted that he loves every single one of his toys, and he'd rather keep the old ones than get anything new. Although I'm sure this is just a hoarding selfishness that we all innately maintain, I couldn't seem to express the joy of giving like I had hoped. (I do realize he's not yet three years old, but I do believe in starting as soon as possible).
However, just before Thanksgiving, Matthew and I did a massive clean out of all our closets. Silas was an observer to this wonderful purge, and literally after about thirty minutes of watching us make piles of our things to "give to people who don't have as much," Silas went and grabbed his favorite pair of boots and said, "Mommy I want to give these to someone who doesn't have shoes!" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. These are literally the only shoes he wants to wear. Then it dawned on me. How could I expect Silas to give away his toys if I didn't follow my own advice.
Teaching and preaching are certainly needed, but when we don't practice those actions truly, our children know we are hypocrites. We can't ever expect our children to be outstanding citizens, selfless leaders, or generous givers, if we aren't any of those things ourselves. This modeling extends to every area of our lives. The days I lack patience, I see the spiral of disobedience  and crankiness in my own children. The days I approach life as a gift, there is a sweetness that spreads through our whole family.
Now I recognize that I do not have control over anyone else let alone their actions and emotions, but I must continue to live the kind of life I hope to see my children one day emulate. It's just that simple.

This is the earliest we've ever put up our tree since we were actually home this year. Christmas is so much more exciting through the eyes of little ones!

This is what happens when mommy doesn't pack a spoon. I love boys!

Levi is getting good at his own therapy!

I could just sit and stare at our beautiful tree all day!

First time Levi has sat in a high chair! He's growing up.
Tid Bits on Little Levi

~ Levi is still spitting up almost every feed, and while he's up to 15 pounds, his weight gain has slowed. Please pray for his nine month appointment on Tuesday! Hoping to get some good advice or encouragement on his progress.
~Levi is starting to roll slightly by himself even with his leg braces on! He needs a little help with his right shoulder because it gets him stuck, but he's improving nonetheless!
~ Levi is NOT sitting up solo yet, but at the adjusted age of 6 months, we still have another month before they want to see him do this. (Although we have learned to be very VERY flexible with milestones markers.)
~Levi has tried banana, avocado, oatmeal, rice cereal, and sweet potato! We are talking tiny drops by spoon and the rest through his G tube, but it's always exciting to try new things with our little man!
~We have learned never to have expectations or impatience with our sweet baby boy, and I'm thankful to enjoy our new normal together.  Besides the obvious unique difficulties, Levi is one of the easiest babies I've ever met.
~We will continue with therapy this month, and we will see a lot of our important doctors in January for progress reports and updates (i.e. feet, hand, g tube)

Thank you for praying for us!

~Doing Buster

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving together

I'm not one to be described as quiet. In fact when a developmental psychologist told us last July to make sure we talk a lot around Levi so that his language develops properly after being in a quiet NICU for four months, I told her that that would absolutely not be a concern in our home. Even Silas can be found talking to himself on a daily basis. So when this season of "quiet" staycation approached during the holidays, I wondered if I'd feel isolated or lonely. The exact opposite has occurred. We are certainly social people, but being "forced" to change up our daily life and sit still with each other under one roof has been amazing.
Matthew agreed that everyone should take such a time of hiatus every so often just to evaluate what we are doing and why we are doing it. For the first time in my life, we had only three people at our Thanksgiving feast (four if you count the few minutes Levi was awake). While it would seem sad to some, it was beautiful because we were so thankful to all be home and healthy together. I really wanted to invite someone.... homeless, lifeless, lonely, or otherwise displaced, but we knew Levi didn't need extra germs, and we couldn't find any open slots anywhere to host someone we knew. Thus, I cooked my very first feast for the most and least picky eaters I know: my husband and my toddler. It was magical! Levi even tried his g tube out with some festive sweet potatoes (he's not a big fan by the way).
I don't think I've ever had more to be thankful for than I do this year. We've been through a lot this year, but it makes each quiet moment that much more treasured.

I loved starting the week with Kyra and Reid's youngest girls!
I'm blessed to know these sweet ones.
We miss you already girls. Great practicing for the big feast day.
I told Silas a random story about popping "thankful balloons" on Thanksgiving with handwritten thankful notes inside (not sure where I come up with my stories sometimes). He couldn't wait to start this tradition. It was a blast!
Levi looked like this when Thanksgiving dinner started. Mommy loves you so much.
We felt a bit gluttonous feasting on so much by ourselves. Truly blessed!
My first turkey turned out great! Thanks to my mom who telephoned instructions on how to pull out the insides first! Ick....
Well posed baby!
The perfect weather has made for a wonderful week!
Happy First Thanksgiving sweet boy!
Family First Thanksgiving!
Thank you Lord for giving us each other for Thanksgiving!

~Together Buster

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Want to die?

If I told you that I was jealous of my friend Kyra who died three months ago would you think I was depressed? If you don't know Jesus, you probably would. It's true. I'm jealous of her, sometimes more than others, but many times it feels like she received an invitation to the unbelievable feast, and I'm still slowly nibbling saltines. The party started, but I didn't get invited.
Don't misunderstand... I LOVE my life, but after Kyra died, I realized even more what the Bible means when it speaks of our "true home." Instead of wanting to do certain things "before I die," I will be ready and excited when God calls me to Heaven regardless of what I've accomplished. Not because I long to see Kyra, but because I long to see God.
While I think I'd miss my family and friends here, I know I won't miss them when I'm in heaven singing praises to my creator.  Loving this life more than Heaven just means we haven't quite grasped our purpose of becoming one with God. We certainly can't grasp the amazing bliss of Heaven, but I do understand that when I die, I won't have to grapple with my selfishness or pride, nor will I have to live in a world of ugly pain. For this reason, I try to live each day simply knowing these moments are breathlessly temporary. Whether you are in a blissful season or aching hardship, it's all temporary.

Paul's words express this notion so much better: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith" (Phil 1:21-25).

So while I am here, I can't help but be excited! The invitation will be here before we know it, so rejoice in each day that you get to love those around you.  Instead of focusing on our differences, we should focus on how similar we all are. After all, we are ALL made in the image of God. 

 It's been beautiful beyond words to see Levi smile more! What a gift!

Thank you for praying for him!

- Orthopeadic doc said his feet are looking great so we'll go back in a couple months to re-check and hopefully move to a sleeping only leg brace in 2016!
- Levi has been doing well with his banana milk too! Not his favorite thing to do, but his therapists are happy to see him tolerate drops!
- While we ended up not qualifying for an in-home nurse care (long story but crazy insurance stuff, so only had one a couple times in October), Levi will now be getting both speech (feeding right now) and physical therapy in our home every week!  
- Prayers that Levi can continue to strengthen all his muscles, especially that right side of his body so that he can hit some major milestones like sitting up without assistance, rolling, right hand grasp, eating, etc. 
- Levi got his first real cold, and so far he's handled it well! The fear with illness is that he will either choke on all the extra mucus, or his premature lungs will struggle and pneumonia will ensue. But God continues to show us how strong he's made our little Levi. Thank you for prayers! Tomorrow he'll get his second shot that only qualified kids get for RSV during cold and flu season. So thankful to live in a time that has so much assistance for little preemies!

We are blessed and so excited about celebrating the upcoming holidays with BOTH our boys! 

~Dying Buster 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Welcome to the walls Levi

Most people snap those precious, first baby photos between birth and two months of age. Well, our little Levi will finally get some wall time here at the Smith house now that we relished in a short, but very sweet, photo shoot thanks to our friend Morgan (

And thanks to my sweet friend Dana, I am hopeful that Levi will one day take a picture likes these sweet preemies too:
Little Things

Little Levi is doing well too...

- After a month with his leg braces on, we will see his orthopaedic doctor on Monday to check the progress. Hopefully we only have two months left of all day  brace wear!
- After a GI visit this week, it looks like much of our future progress is at our discretion, and with feeding specialists' guidance, Levi tried his first taste of what I affectionately call banana milk soup today! He's had a few drops of milk by mouth before but nothing else, so this was HUGE! While he gagged somewhere between eight and ten drops, we are so excited to move towards a realistic oral feeding goal. He will most likely bypass bottles and pacifiers all together, but hopefully with patience and prayer, Levi will eat normally one day!
-Levi now has two different hand splints, and while we see some great progress, he may need to have reverse constraint therapy in the distant future (constraining his strong hand so that he is forced to use his weak one. I mean why would he want to use a weak hand when the strong one is so much easier.)

Thank you for loving our family! We are so very thankful for each of you!