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