Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Day in the Life

Okay, so it's Saturday morning after the last day of school yesterday, but I have been meaning to jot down what a typical day is like lately so I'll always remember. We'll just pretend that this is from earlier in the week.

Most mornings, Levi sleeps in bed with us from about midnight on. He wakes to eat around 3 or 4, and then falls back to sleep for a couple or a few hours. If I'm not exhausted, I get up and work on some sewing things or read, just get some things ready for the day; otherwise, I look at that cute baby, then close my eyes and hope for another hour or so before I really have to get up and be a grown-up.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I drive Ethan and Jonah to the high school, but the other days, Ethan usually drives them in my van since he's done with classes by 11 those days. If Levi is still asleep, then Caleb is in charge and he listens out for him until I get back home, usually a whole ten minutes later, ha. Isabelle leaves at 7:15, but Caleb gets to stay home until 8:10. It gives us some nice one-on-one time together.

Sometimes we start our day with a "mercy bath." Because sometimes wipes just won't take care of things, if you know what I mean.

Lots of mornings we just enjoy each other's company. I have learned by now how quickly these stages go by, and I try so hard not to take any of it for granted. I find myself savoring this time together.

Levi adores his little sheepies bouncy seat now. He has learned how to make them wiggle and he gets really tickled by that. He spends a few minutes in his seat while I clean up the kitchen, vacuum, or put in laundry. Then it's time to get dressed for the day. If he's in a good mood, then I can put him in his crib with a toy for five minutes while I hop in the shower; if not, then I skip the shower and hope to get one in later in the day. On those days, we go for a nice, long walk and I'm super sweaty and gross by the time we get back anyway, so it works.

I had been running errands and such in the mornings because he would fall asleep and stay asleep for hours afterwards, but not so much anymore. We're still trying to find our rhythm, I guess.

I've been trying to stay active, which can be a challenge when I'm sooo tired, but I think it helps. I'm relieved not to be going through this phase in the dead of winter. Some walks are quite lovely, others, maybe not quite as lovely. Levi isn't shy about letting me know that he would rather not be going for a walk, but that's okay. You do what you gotta do. I'm also lifting hand weights and adding in reps of jumping jacks, leg lifts, etc. in between folding laundry and things. At my 6-week appointment, I had lost nearly all the baby weight, which surprised me. I was pretty pleased with that! Last week I had to go to the doctor's again (bronchitis stuff, ugh), and I was down another eleven pounds. I feel like I may be finally getting over this plateau. Who knew all I had to do was have a baby?!?!? ha ha ha ha

I'm also trying to eat more mindfully and creatively- I need to learn more about veggies I'm not used to cooking with and eating. Most days I make a quick salad with chicken or turkey and have fruit. I used to love cottage cheese with fruit but I'm still off dairy for the time being.

Of course I make time for taking photos. Lots and lots of photos. My darling subject isn't always in the mood for it, ha ha.

Big sister gets home at 2:35 and Levi lights up at the sight of her. Then comes Jonah, and finally Caleb. They all seek him out to spend a few minutes with him, and it is the sweetest thing ever.

I can't say that Levi is happy all the time, but he does have a sweet disposition. And boy is he alert! We like to play a lot during the day, and he LOVES to hear me sing. So sweet. Sometimes it will stop him mid-cry and then he smiles up at me. Talk about making my heart explode!

We endure lots of screaming and fussing in the early evening, from about 6 to 8, but thankfully this trend seems to be changing a bit. Around 7, Daddy gives Levi a bath, which he really enjoys (most of the time). Then we change him into a onesie and long socks- he's in an in-between size, and footed pjs are either too small and his legs are cramped, or so big that his feet get lost and caught up inside the legs, and it's incredibly difficult to find non-footed things in his size. So we improvise and it works great. After I feed him and we cuddle and rock for a bit, I try to put him in his crib. More often than not, he fusses and Bill ends up rocking him for several more minutes and then doing the transfer. He's much better at that than I am. Some nights, he's up in an hour, and then again every two hours all night long; other nights he sleeps till midnight and then wants to eat around 3am. I keep my expectations low.  :)

We are so in love with this precious little miracle. I am thankful for him every minute of every day.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Levi's Birth Story

So. I think my blogger name/identity crisis is over, and I've decided to go back to my original blog name, well, with one slight change that is. Insert all the heart eyes here!!! Blogging used to be so much fun, before the marketing and business side of things, before thinking through how my posts would rate with audiences, how my numbers look... and it wasn't much fun anymore. I miss the days when it was just about sharing stories about life and meeting other Moms who were right there in the trenches with me. By the way, if you've been reading for a while, thanks. I hope you find encouragement, or at least a little laughter here. If you're new, then welcome! It was the perfect way to record our family's shenanigans, and I'm so thankful for that because without it, so much would have been lost- I always say, "oh I'll remember," and yet I never, ever do. So anyhoo. We're back to 4 Sons Plus 1... Super Cute Girly Girl.

Onto Levi's birth story:

Right before Easter weekend, I whipped up some final caps and outfits for little man because I thought he might be on the way early, and I just had to have a bunny hat in case. You know, priorities. ;) The contractions never amounted to anything, but they got quite strong and lasted several hours each time, often all during the night. Of course. All along, I had the option of a scheduled c-section but I was really aiming for a natural labor and delivery.

Earlier, around 37 weeks, my doctors were getting slightly concerned about baby's weight (he had no name, not even a contender, until the 11th...or rather 28th... hour!) and scheduled me for an ultrasound to check. Baby boy measured in at a whopping 7 lbs 13 oz, Caleb's exact birth weight- how funny is that? The technician kept apologizing that she couldn't really give me any good pictures because his head was so low and pressed tightly against my pelvis. Wasn't really news to me. ha ha I'd been hoping for at least one pic, but nothing that day. The doctors said everything looked perfect and we could progress with the plan for a VBAC.

The rest of the pregnancy truly flew by. We had our big trip to Florida, the baby shower, friends' showers and parties...all kinds of things to keep me busy and occupied. Suddenly it was time to pick an induction date in case he didn't arrive by his due date because then he would be too big and it would be too risky for both of us. The first options given were late March, but I desperately wanted it to be April. Who knows why? I've never had a spring baby, and April sounds so springy. Although I was not so secretly hoping to avoid April Fool's Day as his birthday, but really, what can you do? No need to worry, he wasn't going anywhere.

We decided on April 4th, one day before my due date, to try to get things rolling. First things first, I needed an IV in case of the need for another emergency c-section, and that was scaring the pants off me more than the thought of delivering this baby. I hate IV's. Hate them. They burn and itch, make my hands go numb, and generally make me queasy all over. The one I got that night was no exception. Horrible! (I ended up getting a new one in the next day because it got all stopped up. Lucky me.) I'd also tested positive for the Strep B (?) think, so I needed a steady dose of antibiotics for little one's sake. My body didn't tolerate the meds well either, so they flushed them more, which increased the amount of swelling considerably- I still can't wear most of my shoes and flex my ankles at 10 weeks postpartum!!! Crazy!!!

I was thrilled, however, that my wonderful OB wanted to try some newer options instead of simply hooking me up to the big stuff right away. This may sound shocking to you, and I apologize in advance (if you're taking a sip of something, swallow it first because it may make you die with laughter/horror, in which case you'll be wearing that drink), let your mind ponder this gem: cervical balloon. Apparently someone discovered pressure points on the cervix and...ugh, never mind. But it worked! Contractions picked up and I was 4cm by midnight. Bill had gone home, since we thought we'd have until morning before any action happened, to stay with the kids and get everyone ready for school the next morning. But the nurses told me I should call him, so I did, and then we put in the call to my Mom around 12:30 to come to the house. My Dad answered and I'll never forget how grumpy he sounded, which isn't like my Dad at all. Hello? Having a baby here! You should anticipate middle of the night calls when you are the call people. ha ha

Bill arrived back at the hospital around 1:30 am. I was trying to be brave and all, but I think I was relieved having him there. And then of course, everything stopped. So frustrating! I made zero progress for the next ten or so hours. I was trying to remain positive, but I was feeling tired at this point, having been in the hospital since early evening the night before and basically getting no sleep all night. My nurses were such sweet and caring people, and I was later told that everyone enjoyed hanging out in my room- it sure helped me having everyone congregate in there with me! We told stories and laughed, and they were so encouraging when contractions did periodically come, because when they hit, they hit hard. Wow. But still no progress. I knew it was time for the big P by then. It wasn't what I'd wanted, but I was at peace with it.

I was relieved that baby boy's heartbeat stayed regular and strong. This had been the problem with Caleb, and ultimately why I was rushed in for the c-section, so that was a huge relief. The Pitocin took effect pretty quickly, but then that, too, seemed to stall out. My parents stopped by to visit, and we ended up chatting with a nurse who grew up living just around the corner from our house. When they left, things picked up again, and I was feeling hopeful. I was checked after several more hours of even more intense labor, and nothing. Nothing! Not even one cm! I admit, I was getting discouraged after having been positive and upbeat - mine was the party room, after all ;) - for so long. A midwife that had been hanging out with us suggested breaking my water, so I knew if that happened, baby was coming one way or another within the next twenty four hours.

Within a half hour, the intensity of the contractions skyrocketed and I could barely speak. I remember feeling extremely anxious and nervous about how well I could tolerate them if they lasted for hours and hours more. I didn't want to give in to panic, but I think I was teetering close to the edge. I was having trouble forming coherent thoughts and I couldn't catch my breath because there were so few breaks in between. I don't know if that freaks the average person out, but it was doing a number on this asthmatic, ha. I distinctly remembering wanting someone to punch me really hard and just knock me out. I actually begged Bill to do it. Sadly (or wisely), he refused. It all sounds rather melodramatic now, but at the time, in the height of that pain, I didn't think I could get through it. I had been praying and conversing with God all day long, feeling so grateful and excited, but at this point I was simply delirious with pain. I may have asked God to 'take me home' once or twice. That embarrasses me to write, but that's what agonizing pain will do to a girl I suppose.

Fiiiiiiinally, I made it to 10 cm but the doctor said I still wasn't quite ready to push. When he left the room, my sweet nurse told me that if I needed to push, then to push. And then things got really real fast. The doctor was called back in and after my prayers for death went unanswered, perfect little Levi Matthew entered the world at 8:35 pm Tuesday night. To this day, I cannot adequately express that moment. Such relief and tender, indescribable joy. The instant this sweet little miracle was placed on me, so many wounds in my grieving heart were soothed. How I had ached for another child. The years we spent trying to adopt again, the babies that we said goodbye to because they would not be joining our family. That pain goes deep, its roots reach far and wide. But here was this precious gift, someone I never thought I'd know, because I never envisioned God allowing me to carry another child. We are not ruling out adoption in the future, but for right now, my heart is quite happily full. =)

 all packed and ready for the hospital
(I found those printable on Pinterest- they were so helpful to see during labor!)

 about an hour before leaving for the hospital

 from a few days prior, but a view of the front
whoa, baby!

 so excited to meet this baby!

 and here he is, perfect and healthy

 this squishy face!

 Exhausted, feeling like a truck had run me over, but oh so very happy

Jonah and Caleb meeting little Levi for the very first time, around 9:30 pm
 I was afraid Isabelle would never get back to sleep if she came to the hospital that night, so we had Ethan stay home with her; I've regretted that a little bit, but they both met Levi early the next morning

Levi's first bath- that face! I love it so much!
His hands are still so expressive, and in constant motion

 one completely smitten Mama

captivating his Daddy

 look at that face!

 cheeks and chins for days...such a sweetie!

I had dreamed of a newborn "swaddle photo"
it was snowing and dark, so I laid the blanket on the couch by the window and did my best

baby wrinkles!

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Life with Little Levi

Whew are the days flying by! I need to document them before they're all gone and I've forgotten the details. Those are the things I cherish most. I want to write Levi's birth story, too, while it's still (sorta ...sigh...) fresh in my mind. Thank you to everyone who prayed for us throughout this journey as well. I am still so in awe of this precious little boy!

This is just about the best sight a person can ever wake up to. Can't.Get.Enough. !!!

Isabelle is in heaven. Even when Levi clearly is not, ha.

It took four full weeks for his eyes to heal- I'll explain in his birth story post- and I could just stare at them all day long. Oh wait, I pretty much do! He is so sweet and I cannot even remember how I lived my life without him in it. So far it looks like he will keep those gorgeous baby blues!

Bedtime cuddles. Look at the way he stares up at her.

Oh hey, here I am. This was taken about 3 (?) weeks postpartum. I am NOT one of those who instantly snap back into shape, not even when I last had babies in my twenties. That's okay. I'm enjoying life too much to be stressed out about body issues, and I am watching what I eat and going for lots of walks. At my 6-week appointment, I had lost 29 pounds, so just a few more before I'm back at my pre-pregnancy weight; however, that was still several pounds more than I want to be, so I'm still working on it. I'm glad I've learned to be a bit more gracious with myself. :)

I have soooo many pictures on my phone, but we got a new computer and I haven't figured out all the kinks and stuff, so I just basically use that as an excuse to never upload any of them. One of these days... there are some really sweet ones of Levi and me, and of our whole family. I post more regularly on IG at bethanylivs_life if you want to follow along there.

Well I had better head off to bed since I don't know how many times I will be up tonight. Oh dear. ha ha We had a nice weekend with graduation parties, catching up with friends, and a small birthday celebration for my husband this afternoon...though I've got a few things up my sleeve for this week to celebrate. Hope you had a good weekend, too!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

He's Here!

I had the best of intentions to introduce this sweet little guy last week, but...

Here is Levi Matthew, born on April 5th, 9 lbs 10 oz, 21 inches

He is a dream come true and is such a good baby. We are all doing well. =)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Bless This Nest Bird-Themed Baby Shower

I can't believe that my baby shower was a whole week ago! It was a beautiful, sunny and warm day, just the perfect Spring day, and I was so thankful. We're facing a snowstorm for tomorrow.  :(

I had the most wonderful time at the shower, so grateful for everyone's joy and generosity as we welcome this new little love into our family. My Mom and one of my best friends from church put everything together for me, except the decorations, which I volunteered to do myself. It kept me busy and suits my perfectionistic personality to a tee, so win-win.

Blurry pic- actually, most of my photos on Blogger are "fuzzy" now, totally annoying, and I'm not sure why- of me with my best girl. She isn't in any other pictures because she was off and running around with her friends the whole time. She's my social butterfly for sure. (If I look tired- and super swollen- it's because I am!!! ha)

Our entryway. I made the wreath on the door by snipping off the flowers of some bunches and hot gluing them on. There is also a little feathered birdie on there. Toss some tall blooms in a galvanized bucket to dress up en empty corner and you're done.

There is also a sweet ceramic bird with a couple of faux eggs in the plant pot. Just a little something to carry on the bird/nest theme; plus, they are all decorations that I can use from year to year for spring.

Our shoe storage became the table top for the party favors and a few other spring touches.

There were rice krispie pops and dipped Oreos. Originally I had planned on making cookie pops from the Oreos but I could not get them to cooperate. Like, at all. The cookie kept cracking or breaking every time I tried to push the stick in the creme filling. After a dozen fails, I opted for Plan B. The krispie treats were still kind of a pain but at least they worked. If I were to make them again, I would insert the stick to make the "hole," then take it out and dip it in the melted candy before inserting it back in so it would form a sort of glue when it hardened. I couldn't find the right size plastic bags, either, so I got a bigger size and simply cut them down and tied the ribbon around. Just call me MacGyver.  :)

I'm not a fan of this brass chandelier (at least it's the real deal and not the faux really cheap looking brass that's on the market today), so let's pretend it's a lovely black one. I never did get a photo of the table when all the food arrived- it covered the entire table runner! Thank you, family and friends!

This little bunting is hanging by the crib now- it fit perfectly between these windows. They are the fabrics I used in baby's quilt. You can kind of see the gift table in the other room- didn't get a photo of that either. The white table houses or TV until we can get it mounted above the fireplace, so my husband brought the TV to our room for the party and it became the perfect gift table. I draped a swaddle blanket over the top, and it looked very sweet.

The sweet ceramic birds were on sale at Michael's. I had been searching everywhere for birds and they were all too bright or just plain ugly. Hooray for Michael's!

Word document on basic card stock- simple but effective.

Adorable bow tie napkins- after making a few of these, I decided that it was kind of a pain to have to unwrap your fork from a napkin, and then the napkin was all wrinkled and looked used, so I settled on these for decorations. I think that worked perfectly.

White tulips, carnations, roses, baby's breath, and a handful of bright daffodils were the perfect assortment.

More birdies and a bird cage, so simple and they can be used again and again. (I'm thinking of adding a small plate collection to highlight this wall...)

Easter time is THE perfect time for a bird-themed baby shower. No shortage of egg candies, decorative grass & faux eggs! That poor table runner looks sooo wrinkled- I ironed and ironed it but to no avail. Hmpf.

Things got busy before I was able to snap a picture of the drink stations. There was a punch bowl and some pretty pitchers, that's easy enough to imagine, right? One thing I did that I will definitely do in the future- I bought some colorful sticker labels for each guest to label their (clear plastic) cups and it worked wonderfully. No wondering whose cup belongs to whom. I've seen people use tags with mason jars, which I love, but I didn't want the expense of purchasing all of those.

Our sun room was the perfect spot for setting up a little diaper station for guests to write notes of encouragement for those middle of the night diaper changes. I also added a basket of envelopes (for thank you cards) and asked everyone to please fill one out with their address- nobody minded and it sure saved me a ton of time and effort from having to look up addresses and write them all out.

I love how this turned out. We jokingly refer to this ginormous mantel as "the beast," but I think it looked sweet like this.

I still pinch myself at the thought of a little baby boy wearing these precious little things! Just two more weeks!!!

You gotta have a baby shower selfie. =) I made this dress thinking that it would be very forgiving after baby's birth, without the belt anyway...we shall see, ha

I realized too late that I should've had my Mom take pictures on my camera and not hers, so I'm waiting for those pictures. They're mostly of my friends & family and me, but I think there may be a few other miscellaneous ones as well. I'll add them to this post once I get them.

I may have already shared this picture but I don't care- it makes me smile so. Now we just need the baby!

Okay, now I'm off for some last-minute things and then the big plan for later today is to pack my hospital bag. What do you even put in a hospital bag anymore? I think I'll only need my camera and our going-home outfits...