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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fall 2016 Family Portraits

I think all Moms agree: getting pictures done is one of the most nerve-wracking, stress-inducing things of all time. Yesterday was humid and sticky hot (so much for fall, ha!), and sometimes it's kind of annoying to be a girl, if you catch my drift. But we got some good ones, and though I am my own worst critic, finding every.single.flaw in every.single.shot, I know I'll treasure these. I already do. I can't believe they are all mine. Well, ours. You know what I mean. ;)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

First Day of School 2016

We haven't had a traditional "first day" back to school for several years now, so this felt really bittersweet. But good. =) I love this school system. That helps a lot.

Biggest and littlest. Does it get any sweeter than this? I doubt it. (Ignore the dead plants, please and thank you, ha!)

Off to 10th and 11th grade. I'm so proud of them! Of course they're both playing soccer at the new school. Ethan plays for Varsity and Jonah for JV. They are really terrific young men, so friendly, thoughtful, and kind. Most of the time, ha. And super smart. They are So. So. Smart.

This girl is off to the fourth grade! It seems like just yesterday I was sending her off to preschool for just a couple hours a week. She is continuing with piano this year and wants to try basketball this winter. Hooray! Gymnastics has been fun, but I think our time with it has come to an end. Though little miss doesn't know that yet. Oops.  :/


I always give her the option of wearing something that I haven't made, and I can only think of one time when she chose a store-bought outfit. We both love this skirt! And I really love that smile!

I can hardly believe that my "baby" is entering the eighth grade. He is such a kind-hearted, helpful, and friendly kid, I just love him to pieces. He continues to move up in the ranks at Civil Air Patrol, and each step brings him closer to getting his pilot's license. Couldn't be prouder!

He just reached out to her and told her to have the best day. I'm savoring this moment because many of the other moments are not nearly so cute between these two lately. Argh.

We're now in our third week and things are going well. Levi has no real schedule - and still doesn't sleep at night - so we just do what we want. I know first hand how incredibly quick these years fly by, so I keep that in mind with my little guy, especially when we may not be having the best day. But there is always something good in it all, isn't there?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our First Summer as a Family of Seven

Yes, I'm still among the living. Barely. Just kidding....kinda. ;) Baby boy has not yet learned the precious, precious value of sleep in any form, be it nap or nighttime, and we are exhausted. But. We are so in love!!! We had a big scare earlier this summer when Levi began to cough uncontrollably and really just struggled breathing; it wasn't whooping cough but pneumonia. Poor baby. I felt even worse because he got it from us when we all had pneumonia weeks before- it was a highly contagious strain, which doctors assured us babies rarely get. Famous last words. So after Levi's x-rays were read, the doctor called us and told us to get checked into the hospital right away. As in, skip dinner and just get there. That was a difficult night to say the least, but he responded well to the meds and we were allowed home the next afternoon.

Overall, our summer has been a good one. I was just going to say, "not great," but it HAS been great, just not exactly what we're used to. It has been a while since we've had a baby around here after all, ha. We've enjoyed hanging out with family and friends at home (hello pool! such a blessing!) and a few trips to the lake, but only one trip to the beach and zero trips to any of our favorite tourist-y type places. In time. =)

Here is a smattering of our summer photos. I definitely keep my IG account much better updated. I'm bethanylivs_life over there if you want to say hi and see what we're up to.

Levi, around 2.5 months

first night out all by myself in over three months- got a haircut :)

big discovery upon leaving the beach this day...

...a tooth! 3.5 months old...too early for teeth!  :(

Ethan's 17th birthday
we hid gift cards under all the balloons in his car! ;)
and yes, I stood out there in the pouring rain doing this!

such fun that day!

Now that the boys are older, I don't feel right about posting so many pictures of them on here, that's why they seem a bit...lacking. They are all as handsome and active as ever, let me assure you.

School starts this week, and I'm ready. I do have mixed emotions, but I'm looking forward to finding a new norm, some structured time. A new season to welcome in and get familiar with. If anyone reads this blog anymore, I hope your summer was a good one and wish you well if you're dealing with new routines and schedules as well. =)

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