Thursday, May 13, 2021

Announcing Baby #3!!!

 There's another baby on the way in our little family!
We are so thrilled that God is blessing us again with another little one! We love our babies so much and truly, being parents has been one of the greatest joys of our lives. 
Maxwell baby #3 is set to join our clan in late September of this year and will be just 15 months in age behind Elliot. I'm at 20 weeks along and everything has been pretty typical thus far--sick as a dog when I'm sick, and feeling absolutely amazing when I'm not. =) The boys are little troopers even when I'm not feeling well and it's the days of morning sickness that I am doubly thankful for our already established routine! Elliot obviously doesn't get what is going on but Axton is much more clued in this time and it is really cute to watch him process. He loves to give pat pats to my tummy and talk about "baby Rex and new baby". (he has decided that "Rex" is much easier to say than "Elliot", so now he always calls Elliot "Rex", and since I refer to Elliot often then as "baby Rex", we had to come up with something new for, well, "new baby".) 
(I know this picture is basically a duplicate of the top one but I just have to post it-look at Axton holding just Elliot's thumb. =) I didn't notice it before but John pointed it out to me and now I have to chuckle every time I see it!)
                                
Photography credit goes to my sis in love who was so kind as to come over the other evening and get these pictures for us in our backyard. Thank-you, Sarah!

Outfit details: The boys' matching shirts I got in-store at Old Navy last winter for $1.47 each. (I was so excited =)) Elliot's shorts are Old Navy/clearance, Axton's are Cat & Jack/thrifted, and their sandals are these and these from Children's Place/clearance. 
John's jeans are these/Silver brand in medium indigo, boots are Ariat brand, and tee is Eddie Bauer in Sable.
My sandals are these/Amazon, jeans are Liz Lange maternity brand/thrifted, and tee is Old Navy in Seafoam color

Happy Weekend from our growing family of almost five! =)
-Chels

(Note: all of the items linked in this post are items that I own and love! The Amazon links are affiliate links. Please read my affiliate disclosure here)

Friday, May 7, 2021

Denver & Praise's Wedding & Weekend in Iowa

I love sharing posts like this, because weddings are one of my favorite things in life, and when it is one of my siblings getting married, it is just REALLY my favorite thing ever. The best wedding I've ever been to was obviously my own (smile, heart eyes, and all the things) but next to that my siblings' weddings rank right up there at the top. It is so hard to believe that this time it was truly a baby brother getting married. I saw truly because I remember super well when he was a baby, and Not sure how Denver is old enough, although, to be honest, we've been expecting it for a while--he was the sibling who always said he would get married at 16 and beat all the rest of us. Clearly that didn't happen, but waiting a little longer brought him to a GEM of a lady and I'd say we all agree with him that it was worth the wait-he got an awesome girl! My brothers are amazing so I really shouldn't be surprised that they have all married the cream of the crop type of women! So fun to welcome Praise as the sixth "married in" on the Bontrager side!
Their wedding day was a beautiful one, March 20th, and I thought it would be fun to share a little recap of the day and weekend we spent in Iowa celebrating them! 

Professional photo credits go to the gifted photographer, Laura Nerness Photography, who did a wonderful job capturing the day!
John and I and the boys arrived in Iowa late Thursday night. (midnight) We've done a lot of road trips with our babies so they have learned to do pretty well in their carseats, and they did great overall on the drive. 
This time we stayed at my dads hotel in Kalona. It worked out great to be at a central location and have our own quiet little corner to take the boys for naps and rest time. 
Friday morning found us dropping the babies off with Nana at the farm, and then doing a little shopping at the local Amish bulk food and discount store. We usually try to stop by there on our Iowa trips to stock up on my hometown favs and all the good deals at the discount grocery store! 
For lunch, we had a last minute girls date for gyros at Alexandros with the ladies pictured above-two of my sisters and a dear friend who was a bridesmaid in the wedding. (fun story-this friend is actually the one who introduced my sister to her now sisters-in-law, who introduced her to their brother, and then one of them caught the eye of my brother....and hence this wedding! Awards to you if you tracked with all of that...=)) It was a lovely hour packed with one of my favorite lunches from Kalona, and good conversation.
Next up was coffee with the bro at the beloved Kalona Coffee Co. Kalona just holds a special place in my heart for a lot of things--it is truly a one-of-a-kind town. The coffee shop there is the best. And quality time with a sibling there is always a great idea. My husband was so sweet to take the babies to the hotel for their naps so that I could spend all this time with friends and family! Such a blessing.
Friday night was the rehearsal. This was the only picture I took, sadly! I thought it was pretty cute how Elliot got to join in the mother's procession with the groom to be. =) He sure loves his Nana Bontrager!
Saturday dawned bright and beautiful---wedding day! My guys looked just handsome as could be...and I loved this view of them as Axton was trying to stand just like his daddy. SO CUTE. Elliot caught a little cat nap in an upstairs classroom while Axton floated back and forth between ushering with daddy and helping mama (yours truly) welcome in guests at the guestbook. I loved that chance to get to talk with every guest who came to the wedding. So fun!
Got a quick picture with the groom a few hours before the ceremony!
Elliot sat with my uncle for most of the wedding ceremony and he was just good as gold overall! 
Low-quality picture of some high-quality people! So thankful for my siblings and all they mean to me!
(fun fact: the bridesmaids dresses my sisters are wearing are the same style as the bridesmaids dresses they wore for my wedding, only in a mauve blush color!)
Our little family of four! Axton's little hand motions crack me up every time I look at this photo. =)
These two little brothers are just the sweetest things that have ever happened to John and me! We love them so much and they light up our lives every day in countless ways! 
Their matching shirts are from Carters, although I for some reason can't find the exact link. (I got them in store the week before the wedding) I buy most of their clothes thrifted so they don't usually match but I had fun getting these matching shirts for them to wear to the wedding and again for Easter.
Elliot's grey pants are Gap and his shoes are Carters, and Axton's pants are Children's Place and his shoes are Sperrys! All of them were thrifted except for Axton's pants. Also a very random tip for you mothers, but Carter's socks are the best quality baby socks I have found and they truly last! After a few Walmart fails, I now buy only Carters brand. So worth it.
With my hot and handsome wedding date. =)
And then because I always love hearing outfit details, so I assume some of you might, also...=)
His suit/shirt is J Ferrar, shoes are Stacy Adams, and tie is a navy tie from another wedding. My shoes are Bar III/Macy's (gift from John) black knit pencil skirt is H&M/thrifted, cream tunic is Umgee brand/thrifted from ThredUp, and necklace/earrings are Old Navy.
Axton hanging out with Nana on Saturday.
The wedding reception was at a local Christian school in Kalona. It was a beautiful celebration with a delicious meal and so many wonderful family and friends!
Sunday morning we attended my home church in Washington Iowa, and Axton was mesmerized by the children's choir that was singing that morning!
We spent Sunday evening at the farm with my mom and grandma Stoltzfus. It was very special to see her again; I hadn't seen her since my grandpa's funeral in October 2019. I'm so thankful we got to spend this quiet evening together and that my boys got to know their great grandma Stoltzfus a little bit.
Elliot visiting with his great-grandma Bontrager and great-grandma Stoltzfus.
Monday morning found all of us (well minus the newlyweds of course!) at the farm for a big family breakfast. So fun to all hang out together again. It was also extra special to have both of my grandmas there!
Zoom in on Elliot's grin. This kid loves the camera. Or more accurately his smile is probably due to the fact that he adores his daddy who was behind the camera. =) 
After breakfast the little menfolk all got to go visit the cows. These three ADORE the farm life. =)
SO cute.
Big smiles with Aunt Liz!
Denver and Praise, we are SO happy for y'all!
 The whole clan! We now number twenty-six with two more on the way! Love this bunch so so very much. 

And that's just a little snapshot of the wedding weekend from my point of view!
-Chels

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Birth Story of Elliot Rex

The story of my second son's entrance into the world is so so very different from the story of my firstborn. And yet, as I reminisce back on both births, I am reminded not just of the differences, but also of the similarities.
Pain. Hands down, these were the two most painful experiences of my life.
Joy. The moments that they each entered the world were also two of the happiest of moments of my life.
(June 17th and the last full bump picture I took before Elliot was born.

I had my first Braxton hicks contractions about a month before Elliot was born. And then on the 18th of May, I started having intense contractions. They were like the real deal and close together. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't have cared too much at the thought of baby coming early (although a month is a little too early!) but John's brothers wedding was that coming wkend, and I didn't want to miss that wedding for ANYTHING.  I spent that day and the next in bed, drinking water and resting, and the contractions stopped completely. 

Nothing happened for the next few weeks. Well, no contractions, that is. We took a the wedding road trip and hosted a big bridal shower and had multiple batches of company though, so we had plenty going on! But PTL baby obviously got comfy and decided to stay put after all. =)
(Axton "giving baby brother sugar" during our time in the sun Thursday afternoon, June 18th. 
Little did I know that this would be the last picture of my bump with Elliot on the inside!)

June 18th was a day just like all the others that week. I felt great, did housework, sat outside in the sun while Axton played, etc. That evening we went on one of our routine evening walks with John's brother and his family. Toward the end of the walk, I had one slight contraction, but really didn't think anything of it, because I had had a small one that afternoon, and it wasn't that substantial. It was so tiny I barely even thought of it as a contraction, more just like a little twinge of something...

I had a hard time going to sleep that night but that was just because I didn't feel tired. Finally I drifted off probably around 11pm? I must've hardly slept at all because when the contractions woke me up, my first thought was that I hadn't slept yet. In comparing timing later, I realized that I must've slept at least 20-30 minutes before the contractions started. But it wasn't much. I was quite groggy with the first few but didn't stay that way for long as they intensified. With the first few, I remember thinking to myself, "ah, labor is starting....but maybe I'll be able to go back to sleep and sleep through these early contractions for a while?" That was clearly an ignorant thought! A few contractions later and I realized that I was definitely done with sleep for the foreseeable future.

I quietly moved out to the living room couch without waking John. I knew (thought!) we had a long labor ahead of us and I wanted at least one of us to get a little more sleep yet! I had the contraction timer downloaded on my phone and I started timing my contractions. Within half an hour they were two minutes apart and extremely regular. I was groaning through them almost right away which was different than with my labor with Axton, and John woke up before long. He sat with me through a few and then said he was going to call the doula. I was adamantly opposed to that---she had spent upwards of 20 hours at our house when I was in labor with Axton and there was no way I was going to do that to her again! I protested as best I could with the 60 seconds or so that I had between contractions.

John called the doula and let her listen to me laboring. (she told me later that when she heard me she knew I was really progressing) Based on that and the length between contractions, she headed our way and John called my midwives. I was borderline frustrated because I just "knew" that everyone was coming way too early, but I really didn't have the energy to disagree because those contractions were building up right on top of each other. I headed back to my room to do my makeup because I just like to be prepared like that. Note: applying mascara while in active labor takes forever!

My doula arrived at 2am and she could tell right away that things were flying. The midwives were on their way, John was filling the birth pool, and suddenly one of the contractions turned into a sudden urge to push. I remember thinking, "I don't know why, but I have to push!" With Axton's birth I didn't even have the slightest need to push until hours and hours and hours into the labor. So that need to push took me greatly by surprise. I think I said to my doula something like, "yikes, I've got to push!" It started happening every couple of contractions-it was like I just could not help myself, I HAD to push. 

Over the next hour I labored mostly in the living room or the bathroom. I hadn't been laboring long enough to feel hungry but I did throw up. (same as last time) 

*Quick note to other mamas: if you are like me and have a hard time keeping food down during labor, try drinking some kind of sparkling juice/beverage. The sugar/sweet gives needed energy and it seems to stay down better than snacks, maybe because it is a liquid! This has been a lifesaver for me in both of my labors!

The midwives came in around 3am. Someone said I needed to get in the birth pool and I told John, "I don't want to!" (ha, I probably sounded like a 2 year old or something!) Much as I wanted a water birth, I had bad memories from the birth pool with Axton's birth-I had been in and out of that thing so much then! In my mind it was just entirely premature for me to get in and I just didn't want to get in and have things slow down and have to get back out. 

Somehow, in spite of my stubbornness, they convinced me to that it really was a good idea to get in. Once I was in the pool, around 3:10am, it really did feel so good and I was glad I was in, even though I knew I'd probably be in and out again like last time...

In between contractions I was able to sip some sparkling juice which tasted HEAVENLY and so refreshing! One of my midwives asked me what time Axton usually wakes up and I told them "7:30am" to which she responded "aww, there's gonna be a little brother here for him to meet when he wakes up!" and I thought, "wow, they really are optimistic, bless their hearts."

That thought was at 3:15am.

Suddenly, at about 3:20am, the pushes weren't random, but were every contraction. I HAD TO PUSH every time and all of a sudden it hit me that maybe this train was really moving a whole lot faster than I thought it was.

The next ten minutes were fully focused on pushing and bringing our little man into the world. John said I was squeezing his hand so tightly that he was going to take off his ring in between pushes...only for the next ten minutes there was no in between anything-it was one after another and I was getting closer and closer!

At exactly 3:30am little Elliot Rex arrived! As he was born, the song "In His Time"was playing on my birth playlist, and it was SO fitting, especially after the trauma of Axton's birth. Truly, Elliot's little story felt so redemptive and healing for my heart. It was a beautiful experience and once again I was just in awe of God's amazing design in the gift of LIFE!

"In His time, in His time. He makes all things beautiful in His time. Lord please show me every day, as You're teaching me your way, that You do just what you say, in your time." 
Back in bed, warm and cozy, just an hour after Elliot was born. This was one of my favorite parts of the home birth-being able to relax in my own bed and rest on my own schedule. I knew I would love a home birth but it was honestly just above and beyond even what I thought it would be! I HIGHLY recommend!

John and I had a couple of hours to just lay in our bed and soak in the amazing-ness of everything and little Elliot. Because my labor was so short, and had started in the middle of the night, we hadn't even told anyone I was in labor. (with Axton, we had ended up telling both of our families so that they could be praying for us, especially with the length and complications) So it was pretty wild to think that there was no need to contact anyone or anything because literally nobody knew anything, and it was still the middle of the night! The timing was really great. Finally around 6:30am, we face timed our moms. They were both so shocked! When they answered their phones, I could see a mixture of questioning and worry in both of their faces...and then I turned the phone away from John and my faces and down onto little Elliot! Our moms were both SO surprised! We also face timed Gigi to tell her in person since little Elliot Rex was named after her husband, John's late grandpa. That was a very special moment as well. It was an honor to get to name our son after his great-grandpa Rex.
Such a praise-even though Elliot was 8lb 4oz-almost a whole pound bigger than Axton-I hardly tore at all and didn't have to have any stitches! 
My amazing birth team. These ladies are rockstars and I cannot brag on them enough. Having midwives that I completely trust and love has been invaluable!
First picture of the little brothers together. Just beyond sweet. We took a video of Axton coming into the room and meeting Elliot for the first time and his reaction was just honestly the cutest thing ever. He was so inquisitive and smiley and adorable with Elliot. I will treasure that video always.

Our baby, our Elliot Rex Maxwell, was finally here!
And that's the story of his little grand entrance into the world.
-Chels

Note: The items linked in this post are items that I own and love. The Amazon links are affiliate links. Please read my Amazon affiliate link disclosure here)

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas 2020!

 













Merry Christmas!
-Chels 

*Many thanks to my sis-in-love Sarah for the beautiful photoshoot, and to Rachel Wyatt for the lovely graphic design.