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! 

Love, 
~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 (www.photographymhc.com).

















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!

~CoffeeCubBuster

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sheer Strength

I have had several people recently tell me that I am a "strong" person, and I should take some credit for my ability to walk through my story with a smile still on my face.
I do not think this is a coincidence colliding with the fact that Matthew and I recently conversed about the lost art of humility. Humility is lost because even those who desire it, misuse and misunderstand its definition. It is not self-deprecating, nor is it false martyrdom. True humility only exists when the beholder is oblivious to its existence, yet its illumination attracts everyone else.

It is not with modest roots or humility that I claim no credit for my persona or attitude, and I am not blowing smoke when I say that I deserve no accolade. It is sheer honesty when I say that it is God and God alone who enables us to walk with joy in the midst of trials.

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10
 Before I lose those of you who don't like scripture quoted at you... hear me out...

If I am strong, it is only because God made me that way. It is not something I mustered on my own. Accepting praise for my behavior would be the equivalent of my children taking credit for staying warm and dry during a cold and rainy November morning. They may be comfortable, but it is because I dressed them, turned on the heat, and closed the windows. Taking it further, it is because my husband works so hard to earn money for us to pay bills and live in our home. Even further, I believe the talents and abilities we were given to raise our children, hold a job, and even understand what is means to be warm and dry comes from God. Every talent we possess does not just happen because we will it into existence. As hard as I may try, I don't think I'll ever be able to sing like Carrie Underwood or Aretha Franklin. It is just not going to happen for me, no matter how hard I try. Likewise, no matter how much you want to be a "strong" person, it won't happen for you unless God gives you that ability. I may not happen until you recognize the ultimate giver.

This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,"  Jeremiah 9:23

So know that if you ever hear someone say, "It's not me, it's God." It may not be a cliche or over-used church phrase, but rather their honest belief that they can do nothing apart from God. When you are in that close of a relationship with someone, you realize your life would not be what it is without the other person. It's the same for your Heavenly Father. Once you get to know Him.

Levi is starting to like baths!  But Silas does not like Levi's Mohawks I just found out.

He does, however, LOVE the tent we put up in place of the rocket ship!

I cannot wait for the day when we can actually go on a camping trip bud!

Each day is a joy when I get to watch these lives change and grow. Simply miracles.


~Strong Buster

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Halloween

Like most things in 2015, our Halloween/Matthew Birthday was a bit out of the ordinary this year too. Instead of passing out candy or roaming around our neighborhood, we went across town to Cartersville to sweet Kyra's sweet family and trick-or-treat with them for a little bit. Silas LOVES Ellie, Reid and Kyra's middle daughter. They are buddies and it was precious to watch them run around together.
I loved my little monsters and wished I had more time to come up with an adult version of the Pip and Posy Scary Monster book costumes. 





Quick update on our little monster:

- Levi has been on the acid-reflux med for a week now, and he's still spitting up anytime he's awake at the end of a feeding (his feeds still take one hour to cycle through 120 milliliters of milk). It's hard to always force him to stay asleep at the end of his feeds, so I'm looking into what else (if anything) we can do to help him keep food down better.
- Levi is up to a whopping 14 pounds 13 ounces! Happy 8 month birthday big boy!
- While we see minor improvements in his feeding and hand therapy, the marathon will continue. I have already been told that it may be years before he gets his g-tube out, so don't be shocked at the snail pace. I think those who keep up with him don't always know the importance of small victories (like not spitting up when a pacifier touches his gum line- YAY!). He's taking some drops of milk by mouth, but feeding therapy is never a sprint people. If you want to learn patience, have a child with special needs. I'm beyond grateful for Levi's needs because it only makes me a better mom, a better wife, and a better person.
- He's much more adjusted to his leg braces, and we'll see his orthopaedic doctor in a couple weeks to check on the development of his feet. 
- Praise God we have all been healthy for quite a while!

Happy birthday to my unbelievable husband too. He happens to be one of the most amazing people I know. He makes me better every day I'm with him. And he's one of the few people who'd rather celebrate his birthday by focusing on others enjoy his day than focusing on himself. Love you Matthew!

The matching ensemble was pure coincidence!
This is what happens when you eat too much Halloween candy!

~Halloween Buster

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Change

Halloween (and my husband's birthday) came and went, and I will soon post a few pics of the sugar-filled weekend, but we had a busy week so this post has been in the making for several days...

Change.
The word gives some people spinal shivers. Such people would rather have a spinal tap than experience any uncomfortable altercations to their normal life.
Other people feel a sense of excitement. Exhilarating surprises are eagerly anticipated.

There are of course moderates in both parties, but either way, you either tend to like or dislike change. I used to be one of those people who worried incessantly about potential future life changes. Now, however, I've come to learn that we as a species are quite adaptable. New change happens to be extremely endangered because once we've experienced it, it's no longer new. It is amazing how quickly we adjust to new surroundings, new hardships, new norms. Whether it be an unforseen change in our own circumstances, or one we willfully assume for the sake of potential hope, the aspect of change is short-lived, so there's really nothing to fear.
The desire for calm stability is innate, but who said change isn't the catalyst for stability. If nothing ever changes, circumstances tend to be more and more unstable. Forced sameness inhibits our natural state of change. We are aging (change); we are growing (change); we are learning (change); when you try to stop the learning, growing, aging process, no matter how old you are, it's unnatural and only harms your ability to experience peace. Running from change usually only creates a greater more difficult change to occur in the future. Whether it be changing how you've always done things or changing your physical address, don't clench at change. I'm not saying we should force it, but we shouldn't fear it.
I just finished reading about the life of Moses, and it's interesting how quickly God's people forgot the miracles he performed to save their lives. They whined and complained every time things got a little bit hard, and they questioned why they ever changed their initial circumstances. Whenever things seemed to be ominous or uncomfortable, instead of praying to God for help and trusting in His perfect time to save, they'd complain to Moses,
“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Exodus 16:3
"But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” 
Exodus 17:3 
They forgot how unhappy they were in Egypt when their present circumstances were not ideal. How often do we do the same thing. Whether it's an uncomfortable situation at work, in marriage, with kids, or a friend, we long for days that are simple and unchanged because we lack the imagination to see the beauty in hard change. The metaphorical manna, quail, parted sea, or flowing water is unimaginable until it happens. Don't wish away your days, or hold too tightly to days that are passed; it may just be that you have to embrace a needed change in order to experience a new kind of joy. 

We have adjusted to all kinds of change that are no longer strange. At first Levi hated his casts, then he adjusted to the change to the point where he hated when they were permanently removed. Then he hated his leg braces; now, once again they are completely normal to all of us. The idea that Levi couldn't spit up was a bizzare and worrisome at first, but currently Levi  is throwing up almost every feeding. I can pinpoint exactly when it will occur between a thirty minute time frame. While this isn't a welcomed change, he seems to feel so much better afterwards. We are giving him some new meds for it and praying we don't have to have the "Fundo" surgery again (as long as he is gaining weight, he won't need it). We've undergone so many changes in a short amount of time, I'm sure this one will be short lived too. It is not strange to me that Levi doesn't eat with his mouth, but I will welcome that change in the distant future whether that future is next month, next year, or several years down the road. We must trust, and when we forget how to trust, we must remember all the miracles we've already witnessed with our little man! 

Change is inevitable, and it is often the starting point for witnessing miracles. 

These boys change every single day before my eyes. It's a daily miracle.

This was a change: first he wouldn't put on his highly coveted, blue monster, Halloween costume; then we practiced without putting on the head, and he was a happy old lady!

Our first fire of the year. I love the change of seasons!

Changing our pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns is always fun!

I love that Silas loves fall as much as I do!

Seeing Levi practice sitting has encouraged this big boy to practice with him. He's a great therapy helper!

A new change: Silas is learning to be an i-phone photographer. I said, "Silas quick take a picture of Levi learning to stand without his shoes on!" Ask and you shall receive.

And receive more than you ask for...
Love the changes!

~Changing Buster