Neola Bethany: 11-12 Months

22 May

I failed at writing a post about Neola when she turned 11 months 🤦‍♀️ so there’s a lot to write about in this post!

11 months
12 months

Size

Neola is pretty much all in 18-month clothes these days. She can still technically wear 12-month sleepers, but they are getting too small. I need to put them away. She’s still in size 3 diapers though, and size 3 shoes. Compared to our other kids at this age, Neola is kind of a string bean.

At her first birthday party (a party to celebrate all the kids’ birthdays since they are all only 1.5 months apart)

I haven’t scheduled her 1-year well-child check yet… We found out in April (right after she turned 11 months) that Neola has hip dysplasia in her right hip. I had been noticing clicking in her hip (or knee I thought, I couldn’t quite tell where it was coming from) and asked her pediatrician about it. She wasn’t too concerned. Then I asked the physical therapist we were seeing for Neola’s torticollis (which has 99% resolved, yay!) about it, and after observing that Neola favored one leg over another, and was non-weight-bearing still, she suggested getting an x-ray. So we did, and turns out she does have hip dysplasia. We were referred to Gillette Children’s in the Cities, and had our first appointment on May 17. Neola will need to be treated, and in a spica cast for 3 months. But more on that in a different post!

At Gillette Children’s

Sleeping

Neola hasn’t made any progress in her sleeping habits, and I haven’t pushed it because of the unknowns involved with her hip dysplasia. So for now, we are just sticking with what works, even though it’s hard.

So, what does work? Well, since my last post, I finally went all in on the floor bed (I’m on a twin mattress and Neola is on her crib mattress) and took down Neola’s crib. I did that because she was sleeping better on the floor with me, and the crib took up so much space that our floor beds had to be in front of the closet, which made my pillow situation tricky because the closet doors would make noise when my pillows pushed against them.

Then
Then
Now

For Neola’s eleventh month of life, I was trying to get up after putting her down at bedtime to do dishes, tidy up, fold laundry, set up coffee for the morning, hang out with Travis a little, etc. Inevitably, Neola would wake up right after I went to bed, or wake up before I was done with whatever I was doing, so I was going to sleep around 11 PM. More recently, however, I have been so incredibly tired after getting Neola to sleep that I either have to take a “nap” from about 8 to 10, then get back up to do whatever, or just go to bed with her.

I still hold Neola for the two naps she takes a day (she usually nurses to sleep). It’s a little tricky sometimes with the other kids, but Travis is also home working all day, so he checks in on them every so often (and they go bother him some too). They often play outside during her morning nap, and the girls usually watch a show during her afternoon nap (which is when Corbin is also napping 🙌).

Soaking up the nap snuggles because they won’t last forever
She still loves napping outside.

Eating

Neola is a pretty good eater. She likes most food. Her favorites are puffs, teething wafers, turkey lunch meat, salami, sausage, cheese, clementines, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, peaches, graham crackers, and pizza. At this point, we pretty much feed her whatever we’re eating (as long as it’s soft enough).

Birthday donut 🍩

She has been mildly sick for about the past month… it started with a clear runny nose that we attributed to teething, but that continued and morphed into so. much. mucus that she would gag on the gunk in her throat and blow snot all over me while she was nursing. Then she got a bad cough, and finally we discovered just last week that she has a double ear infection. But this is really the first time she’s ever been sick, so thankful for that! I mention it here, because it did affect her appetite. But now that she’s on antibiotics, she is eating more again.

Epic snot bubble
What a legend.

Development

Neola started crawling for real the day before she turned 11 months. Before that, she would scoot around by getting on her hands and knees, and then sitting back down, swiveling in a different direction. Since she was “backing up” and not seeing what was behind her, she sometimes got herself stuck doing that…

She is very curious and loves checking things out — even outside! She has no qualms about digging in the dirt or sand, picking up leaves, pinecones and sticks, and grabbing handfuls of grass. She is even pretty good about not putting those things in her mouth.

Ice is a different story…

She is not pulling up to stand yet, but she will pull up to kneeling. We weren’t sure if we should encourage her to stand or walk with her hip dysplasia, but her doctor said it was totally fine, so we will try working with her more on that.

She still doesn’t love the baby carrier but will tolerate it every once in a while.

Hiking in falling snow

Neola can clap, and bang two toys together. She loves emptying containers, and ripping paper, toilet paper, tissue paper, etc into little pieces. She also loves grabbing books and dumping out the dog water dish.

She still enjoys going on walks (it’s still an almost foolproof way to get her to sleep if needed) and loves swinging, but beyond that, she hates being cooped up. She wants to explore!

Neola often smiles with her nose scrunched up. It is so cute!!

Other things Neola does often are rake her fingernails across my chest (so painful and it leaves scratches!) and try to put her fingers in our mouths. She also likes to try grabbing eyeglasses off people’s faces. I usually nurse Neola when she’s tired but if I nurse her when she’s not in the mood to sleep, she often gets bored and bites me. 😖

Neola still gets a LOT of attention from her siblings. Corbin has gotten better at actually playing with her, which is so sweet. He still is a little rough, but Neola rolls with the punches (sometimes literally) quite well.

Neola’s siblings push her around a lot in this truck.
The girls put that backpack on her.
The girls all wore floral dresses on the day we dedicated Neola (March 13).

And that’s Neola at 12 months!

The Raw Struggles of a Homeschool Mom

2 May

I make plans. They look so good on paper. I feel optimistic, like maybe I could actually get all the stuff done that needs to get done. I’m not being unrealistic. Maybe ambitious, but not ridiculous, right?

Then life happens, and I am forced to admit that yes, any ambition in my season of life with my specific kids is ridiculous. If it’s not the baby crying or needing a nap, it’s the toddler/preschooler throwing another tantrum and becoming the wedge pulling me in multiple directions. And if it’s not him, it’s my big girls complaining about school or whining about my making them clean up the messes they’ve made. And if it’s not them, it’s the dog chewing up a poopy diaper or my husband venting frustration that he can’t find the tools that HE moved. NO ONE COOPERATES. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS THE ASSIGNMENT.

I feel good on the days we actually do more for school than just math and reading. Not just because I feel like the girls are learning more, but also because those extras are fun. They’re creative, and not just the “bang it out so you’re done” school.

But those days are few and far between. 

This season of life — baby who won’t nap without being held and wakes up 4-5 times a night (on a good night); preschooler who is intense, loud, and over-dramatic; homeschooling 1st and 3rd grade; husband who could be (and should be) working 60 hours a week — is breaking me. Both Travis and I are being swallowed up by so much stress and chaos that we might go down with the ship, and never recover. 

What does God want? Put aside the voices of other homeschooling moms, and even my own standards, and ask, What does God want from my day? Does He want me to follow the schedule I’ve laid out in my planner, forging the path no matter who I mow down or flatten? Or would He rather me walk in obedience, which looks like trust and patience? No yelling, no forcing, no threatening. Just clear expectations, and appropriate follow through.

I can’t live that way. That’s my first response. Because how would anything get done? And how can I keep my cool when they are so stinking disobedient?!

But what if, just like tithing is an expression of trusting God to materially provide what we need, acting in love and patience was an expression of trusting God to multiply the time? Trusting that what He wants us to get done WILL get done. And whatever does not get done, didn’t need to be done.

But I don’t want to surrender control to my schedule, and my agenda. I have surrendered everything else! I have surrendered my body, my time, my sleep. I have given up my hobbies, my lunch, my sanity. Must I also surrender this?!? 

“I just want to…” The death knell of those words. That’s what I was thinking this morning. “I just want to do school so we can be done!” And “I just want to go on a freaking walk!!” Those words are my discontentment. Those words are me saying to God, “I don’t want this life. You are not enough for me.” 

After studying Jesus’s awe-full sacrifice on the cross, how could I possibly say to my Lord that He’s not enough for me? I am not enough for Him!! He is everything for me, and more. 

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. I am so overwhelmed by emotions, by frustrations and feeling thwarted by my kids in every aspect of life. Help me see and believe that YOU ARE NEVER THWARTED. Your plans are ALWAYS accomplished. Do I believe that? Do I believe that Your plans for my kids will be accomplished? 

I don’t want to admit that I’ve been wrong. I don’t want to go back to my kids, with my tail between my legs, and say that *I* was the one in the wrong this morning. Because THEY…!!! But I must. I must repent. I must choose God’s way. I must surrender. If I want true freedom, true peace, true contentment, I must do it God’s way.

Give me the strength, Lord. Give me the kind of strength You had during your trial, beating, and crucifixion. Strength borne out of complete trust in the Father’s plan.

Comfort and Deprivation {Lent 2022}

27 Mar

We’re about halfway through the Lenten season. I don’t always give up something for Lent (I don’t believe it’s biblically necessary to do so) but I do like how it increases the anticipation of Easter, much like Advent does for Christmas.

Often when someone gives something up for Lent, they use the time or resources they would’ve spent on said thing and focus on God instead. Instead of scrolling social media, they pray. Instead of buying Starbucks, they donate to a charity. Travis and I gave up grains for Lent, which hasn’t really resulted in either a time or money savings (in fact, it has cost more money and taken more time to prepare foods that don’t contain grains).

So what’s the purpose then? Well, not eating grains has prevented me from eating the usual low-hanging fruit of cereal, bagels, quesadillas, toast, mac & cheese. And those first few days were rough, because it felt like I was hungry all the time, but couldn’t just go grab something. I had to slow down and make something to eat. As I reflected on that, I saw how my soul is constantly thirsty, but I often try to appease it by grabbing the easiest thing — another cup of coffee, a glass of wine, a movie, a book, shopping, social media. My real need is to slow down and nourish my soul with God’s word.

After those first few days, we adapted and it wasn’t as big of a struggle to not eat grains. But as the days went by, I noticed how much comfort I usually derive from my food. Not that I was emotionally overeating before, but I never felt deprived. Now I felt deprived, because certain foods that I enjoyed and wanted to eat were off-limits. The feeling of deprivation is the reason why I don’t do diets, but for the period of Lent, I let that feeling remind me that I’m not supposed to feel comfortable and satisfied here on Earth. This world is not my home. I am a sojourner, an exile.

Because we stopped buying bread, tortillas, mac & cheese, etc. during this time, the kids have also been “deprived” of their normal foods (though they do still eat some grains in the form of crackers and stuff). They have done well overall with the difference, but it gave us an opportunity to talk with the girls about the anticipation of heaven, and how we shouldn’t feel completely at home here, because the world does not love Jesus.

I will confess that I haven’t stuck to no grains 100%. There have been a few times when I was so. hungry. (breastfeeding mom here!) that I caved and ate a bowl of oatmeal. It’s also birthday season in our house (all our kids’ birthdays are March, April, and May), and we had Neola’s dedication. So there’s been some cake. But giving up something for Lent is about the heart, not some legalistic requirement. Since it has caused me to reflect on and examine my desires for creature comforts and the lack of deprivation in any area of my life (except sleep!), I would say that it has accomplished its purpose so far.

It has also shown me that while I don’t plan to continue the no-grains thing indefinitely, I do differentiate between grains that are worth eating, and grains that are not. A grain that is worth it for me is a burger bun. Eating a burger without a bun is just soooo not the same. Another would be pizza — I love me some pizza (though the cauliflower crust kind from Costco is great too!). A grain that is not worth it for me is spaghetti, or really any type of pasta. I don’t ever crave pasta, so I don’t feel deprived not eating it.

Only 3 weeks to go until Easter!

Hope: Don’t Give Up {2022 Focus}

23 Mar

My word for 2022 is HOPE. The subtitle for that word is Don’t Give Up. The Scripture God gave me for the word HOPE is Lamentations 3:21-23 —

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

An alternate translation of verse 22 is:

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.”

It is God’s mercy to me that I am not consumed by this season of life (parenting four young kids and homeschooling). It is because of His compassion to me that I haven’t given up and curled into the fetal position indefinitely. There are so many moments, even whole days when I am tempted to. Because it all feels like too much. From my viewpoint, I am falling short in every area — parenting, homeschooling, homemaking, personal goals.

When one is trying so hard to do something right and well, but still meeting with failure, it would be understandable to just give up, right?

But God’s steadfast love prevents me from giving up. He sustains me by giving new mercies every morning, mainly in the form of HOPE.

The way I’m viewing HOPE is this: Hope doesn’t give up. Hope doesn’t look at the challenges before it and grow discouraged. Hope isn’t cynical or pessimistic. Instead, Hope continues to believe that things can change. Hope keeps showing up, pressing forward, living faithfully into God’s calling for that day. Hope accepts what God allows, even if it is not what was wanted.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to “call to mind” God’s mercies for HOPE so far this year.

When I want to work out in the morning, and be productive after the kids go to bed, but sleep deprivation from baby Neola makes extra sleep the greater priority, I have to remind myself of hope.

When I feel incapable and daunted by the thought of and need for potty training Corbin and sleep training Neola, I remind myself of hope.

When the girls are showing troublesome attitudes and Corbin is throwing yet another tantrum, and I am tempted to feel like I’ve failed them as a mother because of what I’ve allowed them to do, or acted like myself, I remind myself of hope.

My natural human reaction to these discouraging and overwhelming situations is self-pity. Like Oswald Chambers writes,

“Most of us collapse at the first grip of pain. We sit down at the door of God’s purpose and enter a slow death through self-pity.”

(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

But HOPE reminds me that I don’t have to give up, or collapse in the face of these challenges. God gives new mercies. I can trust Him to keep providing, day by day, what I need. I can trust Him even if I don’t meet my goals, if I lose my temper again, if my house is a mess, if I can’t figure out how to get Neola to sleep better. My purposes may remain unfulfilled, but HIS purposes will be accomplished.

God’s provision of new mercies every day won’t mean that I wake up in the morning or enter different situations feeling competent or on top of things. I hardly ever feel that way, and I actually think that is intentional on God’s part. Jesus fed 5,000-plus people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. He didn’t produce a banquet table laden with food. He just stretched the existing food farther. He takes the little that we have, and He makes it enough, as we need it.

As I’ve been digging into Lamentations 2:21-25, I read in a John Piper sermon transcript (from almost exactly 28 years ago),

“Our task today is not to have the strength needed for tomorrow’s burdens. Our task today is to live by the mercies given for today, and to believe that there will be new mercies for tomorrow. Today’s mercies do not include strength for tomorrow; they include faith that tomorrow’s unseen mercies will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

(John Piper, “Today’s Mercies for Today’s Troubles,” March 13, 1994)

I love that. Like the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness, God gives just enough for each day. I must live in moment by moment dependence on Him. And because His provision of mercy for this day, this moment is always sufficient (and abundantly so!) for my need, I can always have HOPE.

Here’s to a hope-filled year.

Neola Bethany: 10 Months

20 Mar

Neola is 10 months old as of March 12!

Size

Neola went to the doctor on March 6 for her 9-month checkup, and was 20 lb 9 oz (80%), 29 inches tall (85%), with a head circumference of 18.5 inches (98%).

She is wearing mostly 18-month clothes now, though some 12-month things still fit. I will say that I have zero tolerance for annoying clothes with the #fourthchild so some things that Emma and Annabelle wore quite a bit, I haven’t used at all with her because they are just so high maintenance (mainly dresses and non-onesie shirts). So I did just buy her some more long-sleeve onesies and pants in size 18 Months, because she’ll use them even during spring here in Minnesota.

This month, I also passed along a lot of our baby gear to a friend who is having her fifth (and thought she was done after four, so got rid of her baby stuff then). I got rid of all baby clothes 9 months and under (I’ve saved a few things, but most I am donating), our Bumbo seat, Rock n Play, all our bottles, pacifiers, bouncy seat, playmat, and swing. I will probably be sad later, but right now, I am just on the high of freeing up space!

Sleeping

Neola’s sleep is still a struggle. I just went back and read all the 10-month blog posts from our other kids and it’s safe to say that Neola is the worst in the sleep department. (Neola, your sleep is the woooooorst!)

Her naps are *almost never* over an hour long (on a rare occasion, she will take a longer afternoon nap, if I nurse her the whole time). Most of the time, her naps are 30-45 minutes. She nurses to sleep 95% of the time (I try not to, but she fights me until I do it), but I can detach her, hold her for another 5-10 minutes, and then put her down in the crib. She will stay sleeping initially, but always wakes up after 15 minutes or so. So I try to only do that for her morning nap (I don’t want her to get overtired).

Because her naps are so short, she still takes three naps a day (occasionally four). She is usually up for the day around 6/6:30 and goes to bed around 7:30/8. Her bedtime should probably be earlier some nights, but that means Travis has to put the older three to bed by himself then, and I feel bad doing that night after night.

We have worked out a decent system though — once all kids have put pajamas on, brushed their teeth, and gone potty/had a diaper change, I go nurse Neola, Corbin watches iPad, and Travis reads a book to the girls. When he’s done reading, the girls go to bed, and Travis moves to Corbin’s room (Corbin has developed a bad habit of wanting us to sit in his room until he falls asleep). This is also the routine I follow if I have to put all the kids down by myself, though I put the girls down earlier and then nurse Neola in Corbin’s room while he falls asleep. Four kids at these ages/needs is a juggling act!

I’m kind of in a quandary for how to fix Neola’s sleep habits, because our house is always so loud, and Corbin almost always interrupts her naps, and how do you time a baby’s naps while taking care of 3 other kids and homeschooling?? And then at night, even if we wanted to let her cry it out, Corbin’s room is right next to hers, and the girls’ room is right below. Uff da.

Between Corbin’s intensity and Neola’s sleep struggles, this season of parenting is relentless and has humbled me more than any other, save the season of when Emma was a newborn. There is rarely a moment when I feel like I have things under control, and even when those occur, they are invariably followed by an incident that reminds me clear as day that NO, no, I do not have things under control. I am not in control. God is in control. (See me doing a science experiment about bird beak shapes with the kids {fun! success!}, followed by Annabelle and Corbin fighting over a laundry detergent pod, and it exploding all over Neola’s nursery, staining the carpet blue. 🤦‍♀️) I have many more thoughts on this, but will stop there. Maybe the rest will make it into a different blog post.

Eating

Neola is a champion eater. While we were in Florida, she decided that she didn’t want to eat purées anymore. She would let us feed her a few bites, but then wave her arms in front of her face, knocking the spoon down.

So now she eats table foods. And the only food that she has tried and not liked was avocado. She does like: grapes, clementines & mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, bananas; chicken, turkey lunch meat, taco meat; teething wafers, puffs, waffles/pancakes; cheese, yogurt, scrambled eggs; cooked broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes, green beans.

She has also tried ice cream and cake, and liked those!

She is still having issues with constipation. 😕 It got better when we were taking her to see a chiropractor, so we thought it was solved, but then she started pooping only a very little bit again back in January. Our pediatrician recommended giving her watered-down apple juice, and that has helped. We’re also going to try a prebiotic. If those don’t help, we’ll probably go back to the chiropractor.

Neola is still nursing. I nurse her before every nap (trying to move this to after her naps so that she doesn’t nurse to sleep), and she still nurses in the middle of the night. We tried giving her a bottle of formula in Florida when my milk was low after being sick, but she had no idea what to do with it (we haven’t given her a bottle since she was about 3 months old). We have an anniversary trip planned in a neighboring town at the beginning of May… hoping to have a couple kid-free nights but we’ll see!

Development

Neola is mobile, but not crawling. She gets around by leaning forward on to her belly, then scooting backwards and spinning around. She also rolls from her belly on to her back, but then kind of gets stuck there. She is also not very steady standing up yet, and doesn’t pull herself up at all, though I can see that she is getting more curious and wanting to do things like that.

She started saying “nana” in addition to “dada” and it is so cute! Baby talk is just so precious. She has also started fussing a bit if she wants a toy but you don’t give it to her, or if you take a toy away from her that she wasn’t done playing with. Love seeing their personalities emerge!

Neola hasn’t figured out how to use a spoon yet, (but we haven’t really given her many chances), but she does know how to tip up a sippy cup.

A few firsts for Neola during her tenth month of life were:

* going to the ocean

* riding a Ferris wheel

* swimming (I think technically her first time was before she turned 9 months while we were in Florida but 🤷‍♀️)

She also started sleeping in my bed toward the end of February… 😩 Now I’m on a mattress on the floor in her room.

And that’s Neola at 10 months!

Neola Bethany: 9 Months

20 Feb

NINE months!! So hard to believe!

Size

Neola will go to the doctor for her next well-child checkup when we get back from Florida, and I will come update this then. But we weighed her while we were packing for our trip and weighing suitcases, and she was right around 20 lbs.

She’s still wearing size 3 diapers, but we’ll probably buy size 4 when we run out (which will be a little while as we just bought a box from Costco right before we left for Florida).

Neola is wearing all 12-month clothes, and starting to wear some 18-month too.

Sleeping

The only notable thing in the sleep department for this month is that Neola is officially out of her Rock n Play! Before we left for Florida, we had Neola start sleeping in her Pack n Play. Since she’s not close to crawling really at all, we felt comfortable using the infant insert for the Pack n Play (a shelf that keeps them up higher). We also positioned the Pack n Play in a similar spot as her Rock n Play had been, and she really didn’t skip a beat with the transition. So that’s really encouraging!

But she still wakes up 3-5 times a night. I am very thankful that she almost always nurses and goes right back to sleep, which only takes 15-20 minutes. And during those rare times when she doesn’t go right back down, she’s never crying (unlike some of our other children at this age…). I think the biggest issue with her sleep is that my milk production isn’t the best. Down here in Florida, I got (what we think was) influenza, and had a fever for about 36 hours. That didn’t help my milk production at. all. (There were a couple of nights when Neola wouldn’t even let me put her down.) We tried buying formula and giving her a bottle, but she just chewed on the nipple. So I guess I will just try to stay hydrated, eat some oatmeal, and deal with it.

As far as napping, Neola has been a good sport about taking naps in the car here in Florida. I’ve been trying to time it so that we leave to go do something when she needs her first nap, so that she gets a decent nap in the car.

Her second nap is sometimes in the car, and sometimes back at our house. And she still takes a third nap, so that kind of varies as well. To get her to nap at the house though, I have to be nursing her. If she refuses to fall asleep nursing, we have to drive her around. (Hello Starbucks at 4:30 PM.)

Once we get back to Minnesota, we’re going to really work on getting Neola to take naps on her own.

Eating

Neola is still eating primarily purées and baby cereal, though we are starting to branch out into other soft foods, like mandarin oranges, peaches, blueberries, and cheese. She is getting better at picking up food like puffs with her fingers.

Neola has 4 teeth (the 2 in the middle on the bottom and the top), and the next 2 teeth on the top (the lateral incisors) are really close to popping through.

She has bit me a few times nursing but thankfully it’s not a regular occurrence.

Development & Personality

Neola is a pro at sitting up now, and sometimes leans so far forward for something that she ends up on her belly. She can hold her weight up with her arms for 10 or so seconds, and I’ve tried getting her to bend her legs and stay up on all her hands and knees, but she won’t do it.

Neola’s favorite thing to do these days is grab fistfuls of our faces or necks, and those little nails are sharp! Goodness!

She also loves to kick both legs up and slam them down on the floor together — reminds me of when I used to bounce myself up to my feet from my back on a trampoline. We can hear her doing that in her Pack n Play, and she also does it during diaper changes.

She enjoys going for walks in the stroller, but won’t fall asleep unless she’s 1) really tired, and 2) in her carseat clipped in the stroller. I’ve had limited success with her in her Ergobaby. She really just doesn’t like facing in, I think because she’s so curious and because she really loves kicking her legs. I tried buying a cheap baby carrier down here so she could face out but it put all the weight on my back, and I just don’t want to spend a lot of money, when we’re so close to no longer needing one.

Neola still shrieks loudly when bored or tired (and with the echo in our house here in Florida… plus Corbin’s yelling… 🤪😵‍💫).

Neola has gone swimming 4 times in Florida so far! Her first time was in a 93-degree private pool 🙌. She protested briefly but then loved it. The second time she went was in a natural springs, which was around 72 degrees. Third time was a public pool around 80 degrees. And the fourth time was our community pool, which was only 70 degrees! The more she goes in the water, the more she likes it, which is good, because we go swimming at the beach a lot in Minnesota during the summer!

Neola is also fascinated with leaves, grass and sand. So you can’t just put her down outside anymore!

We can tell Neola misses her jumperoo — we miss it too! I’ve been trying to give her time standing up and jumping on my lap, but we will be happy to get home to all our baby gear!

And that’s Neola at 9 months, in Florida!

2022 Goals: Consistency

31 Jan

Wait, what is this? A blog post that isn’t an update about a child? Yes!

With the turn of the calendar to a new year, I have felt God enabling me to do more than just survive. Because that’s what I have been doing since Neola was born last May—simply surviving. Part of doing more than surviving for me is reconnecting with the things that bring me joy. My husband and kids bring me joy for sure. But writing… writing has always been the thing that gives me the “I was made to do this” vibe.

So here I am. I have dreams of coming to this space (still, after starting this little ole blog back in 2008!) from a coffee shop table with a hot caramel latte, complete and coherent thoughts whirling from my fingers to screen via full-size keyboard. But in reality, I’m chicken-pecking and constantly recorrecting it on my phone while nursing a baby with a lukewarm cup of home brew, and my other 3 kids are watching screens. Because that’s my reality right now.

And that’s what I’m learning: to make my dreams, goals, desires work with MY life, with my REALITY.

It seemed that no sooner had I written down my goals than they were jeopardized by lack of sleep or a baby who wouldn’t go to sleep when she normally does. And I was reminded of why I haven’t made goals for many years. Really, since laying down my dream of writing a book.

Because I am not in charge of my own time. My family owns it right now. And truth be told, having goals or plans outside of being a mom and wife often leads me to resenting the fact that I am a mom and wife. I’m sure most moms have had the experience of planning to turn over a new leaf of getting up before the kids only to have them in turn randomly wake up earlier than normal.

I don’t, however, think the antidote to that uncanny conundrum is to just give up trying to do things. That’s what I had been doing, and also why I was burned out. And when I’m burned out, I hold on to my husband’s free time with a death grip. He has been trying to do more than survive for several months, and I pretty much told him that I just wanted him to acknowledge the ship was sinking, and to go down with it (and me) instead of trying to rise above. How ridiculous is that?? But when you’re underwater, breathing through a straw, you just. can’t.

I see in myself this pendulum, swinging from the extreme of determination on one end to the other end of giving up. I desire consistency, but it can so easily become a measuring post for failure. Like so many other things in the Christian life, only God can enable me to live in the middle, to hold it all in gracious balance. To pursue those things that give me life, but to not despair, wallow, or get angry when life happens. To hold desires in my heart, but not let them despotically rule my will.

What does that look like practically? One of several things I’ve learned from a mom on Instagram named Phylicia Masonheimer has been to have several slots during the day or week when something can be done. If Neola doesn’t go to bed until 9:00 on the night I was supposed to do the budget, it can slide to a different night that week, because I only have 2-3 things to do each week after the kids go to bed (instead of allotting a different thing each night so that if life happens, the wrench thrown in is a big one). (The other things I learned are: when you’re making a routine for your family, don’t add new stuff in, just arrange the stuff you’re already doing; and instead of following a schedule based on the clock, follow a routine — an order in which you do things.)

I also just read two great books by Dana K. White called How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind and Decluttering at the Speed of Life. I’ve always been an organized person, and have done quite a bit of purging, but over the last year or two, I’ve let the things coming into our home greatly outpace the things leaving our home. Dana writes that anything that I can’t keep under control is clutter, and that habits are the way of routinely keeping that clutter under control.

We’ve had a good system down for dishes and laundry, and right now we hire a cleaning lady. But the areas in our house/lives that routinely get cluttered/neglected are: the kitchen counter (specifically, the paperwork that I shove into a big pile so that it doesn’t appear messy); the wall cubby/shelf area in our master bedroom (it’s out of the reach of the kids so it ends up being a dumping ground); our budget; and our photo memories. So far, I’ve determined to do the budget or work on a photo book once a week (alternating every other), and to sort through paperwork once a week.

And when life happens (like it did this week), I will type out blog posts on my phone, in the dark while waiting for my kids to fall asleep, which is what I’m doing now (nursing the baby only lasted for about half this post).

I will end this blog post with a thought I’ve had about why people like the feeling of a new year and resolutions. There’s just something about the feeling of a clean slate, right? God created us this way, to thrive on being made new, and experiencing His new mercies every morning:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

“[See] that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)

Even if the goals and plans I typed out here lose steam or morph over the course of this year, I am thanking God for a constructive, motivated start to 2022. ❤️

Neola Bethany: 8 Months

13 Jan

Golly, I feel like I was just writing Neola’s 7-month post. Time is going so fast! This little girl is so fun.

Size

Neola is now wearing mostly 12-month clothes, though some 9-month things still fit. She’s still wearing size 3 diapers, and doesn’t really wear shoes yet (we do have some little boots that fit her right now, but not sure what size they are)!

I haven’t mentioned this in a post yet, but with Neola (#fourthchild), we have pretty much gone the completely practical route in terms of dressing her. She will occasionally wear a dress to church, and a cute, more practical outfit when we go to homeschool group or BSF, but most of the time, girlfriend is in fleece footie pajamas. It’s just so easy and warm!

Sleeping

Nothing much has changed in the sleep department. Neola takes 3 naps a day (while I either hold or nurse her), the first about 2 hours after she gets up, and the others 2.5-3 hours after she wakes up from the previous nap. She naps for 30-45 minutes usually. Every once in a while, she will sleep for 60-90 minutes (but that requires her not getting interrupted, and she gets interrupted a lot).

She typically goes to bed between 7 and 8. When and how often she wakes up during the night is constantly different. Some nights, she first wakes up before I even go to bed. Other nights, she doesn’t wake up until 3:30. And she’s still in her Rock ‘n’ Play (but we’re going to start trying to get her to sleep in the pack ‘n’ play in preparation for our month in Florida in February). She usually wakes up for the day between 6 and 6:30.

I have been hesitant to let her squawk/fuss in the Rock ‘n’ Play, just because she’s getting too old for it, and I don’t want her to get too upset in there. But there have been a few different mornings when I hear her happily cooing a little around 6, and I wait to go into her room until she gets upset, and she actually ends up going back to sleep for another 45-60 minutes!

I have also gotten Neola to take a nap in the Ergobaby outside a couple of days (in 30-degree weather!), so that bodes well for Florida when we’ll be out and about more (but then we won’t be wearing snowpants and winter hats)!

Eating

Neola is still doing well eating solid foods. We’re sticking with the purees right now. She seems to like them better than small chunks of food — I gave her little bits of strawberry and cheddar cheese, and she didn’t seem to care for either one. But she does really like teething wafers, and she also enjoys the challenge of getting puffs in her mouth (she can kind of do it, but it’s tricky still!).

Her favorite foods are whole milk yogurt (blueberry, peach, and pear flavors); baby cereal; and fruity purees, like Pear, Banana, Apple blends, etc. She’s not a huge fan of the vegetable purees, though she will eat some.

One potential explanation for Neola not sleeping great at night is that she is getting her two top front teeth. I just noticed them poking through this past week. I’ve been giving her ibuprofen every night before bed, and try to remember to give her some before we put in the church nursery or BSF. That seems to help when she’s tired and with other people. Otherwise, she seems to be fine, as long as she gets plenty of things to chew on.

Development / Personality

Neola did roll over from back to belly a few times this month, but now she would much rather just sit up to play with toys — she gets upset spending much time on her back. She wants to see all the action (and not be stepped on, or have things dropped on her, probably!). She still tips over a decent amount, so we definitely have to sit behind her, or surround her with pillows, but she made a lot of progress in just the past couple of weeks. I also tried having her stand up and hold on to the side of the bathtub the other night while Corbin was taking a bath. She could stand for 5-10 seconds before her knees would buckle.

Neola seems to be getting tired of the same old baby toys. We are definitely in the phase of “What other random thing would be safe for me to give you to chew on?” Like this bottle of lotion. Or that marker. Or this Ziploc bag. Or an empty disposable water bottle (cap and ring removed). She, like most kids, is most interested in the forbidden things, like my water bottle or protein shake cup — especially when they have water or shake in them! If I take a drink while holding her, I have to pin her arm down so that she doesn’t reach up and grab it, causing me to spill.

Neola still enjoys her jumperoo, but we are getting rid of her playmat and swings. Even though there’s a tiny tinge of sadness in saying goodbye to those things that we’ve had since Emma was a baby, there’s more freedom! So glad to be freeing up more space in our home! Since our kids are 8 years apart from oldest to youngest, we have a decently wide swath of age-appropriate toys. And babies in particular just need so. much. gear!

This past month was Neola’s first Christmas. We spent it in Nevis with Travis’ family. I had pajamas for Neola that matched her siblings, but they weren’t fleece footie pajamas (they were out of them in that pattern 😭), and I was only about half alive because Neola slept terribly over Christmas, so I never mustered up the energy to put her in the matching pajamas.

Neola also went in her first snow fort this month (we have SO much snow!).

She also got blankets, pillows, and stuffies dropped on her from the top bunk (Annabelle); swung outside in her pink swing without being able to see anything (oops); and tried on swim goggles (hilarious). She didn’t cry at any of that! Such a good sport.

She also sported matching pigtails with her sisters. ❤

Corbin has taken much more interest in Neola the past month — maybe because she’s more interactive? Regardless of the reason, it’s adorable!

And that’s Neola at 8 months!

Neola Bethany: 7 Months

16 Dec

Neola is 7 months old as of December 12.

Size

Neola is starting to outgrow her 9-month clothes, and can easily wear her 12-month clothes now. She’s still in size 3 diapers.

Sleeping

Oh man. Sleep with this girl is rough. This past month, she has had a few 5-hour stretches but more often than not, she’s up every 2-3 hours. I definitely think she’s getting some more teeth (I recall from our other kids that teething can last for a month or more before the teeth pop through!) so I do give her ibuprofen every night before bed. But I’m also wondering if her poor napping habits have something to do with her bad nighttime sleep…

(She stayed sleeping on the floor for about 5 minutes after I put her down… we had to go somewhere and I went to find her carseat.)

Neola often only naps for 20-30 minutes at a time, which is just not long enough. It’s been hard to change that because 1) #fourthchild and 2) she won’t stay sleeping after you put her down and 3) she’s a pretty light sleeper around noise.

BUT in just the past couple of weeks, Neola hasn’t wanted to be swung to sleep in the chair swing. Instead, she’d rather be bounced in our arms, and then rocked in a chair, or nurse to sleep. I think that’s progress! At any rate, I’d much rather sit with her in the recliner than the chair swing.

I’m trying to focus on putting her down 2-3 hours after her previous nap (and not pushing her too long) and getting her longer naps — at least 45 minutes to an hour. Unfortunately that means pausing school during that time, and letting the older kids play unsupervised while I sit with her in the nursery. I don’t worry about Emma and Annabelle, but Corbin still gets into trouble (read: makes a huge mess or destroys something) every once in a while. But what can I do? Even sleep training gurus say that night sleep is usually the first to fall into place. On the other hand, it is sweet to rock Neola.

Neola has also been a stinker about switching to the crib, and wakes up even more often when I put her in there. I bought a weight sleep sack hoping that would help, and it did a little, but not enough (and Neola seems to only like the weighted sleep sack in small doses). So she still mostly sleeps in the Rock n Play. It’s just so hard to make changes that result in less sleep! We have talked about sleep training, but I hate to do that when she appears to be in pain.

I’m trying to remind myself that all of our kids had unique sleep challenges at this age, and there will be a day when she figures it out. All we can do right now is pray for wisdom to manage things well and keep trying to nudge things in the right direction.

Eating

Neola has been doing a great job eating solid foods! Most days, she eats 2-3 “meals” — usually around our breakfast time, around lunchtime, and right before dinner. So far, she has tried avocado, banana, applesauce, yogurt, baby cereal, cheese, and a variety of store bought purées — blueberry apple, butternut squash, sweet potato, apple banana grape, etc. She has liked almost everything, but sometimes she don’t seem very hungry and loses interest after 8-10 bites.

Before starting solid foods, she had had trouble with getting backed up and not pooping for as many as 10 days (apparently normal for a breastfed baby, but she seemed really uncomfortable), but we took her to the chiropractor 6-7 times, and that seemed to help. Since starting solid foods, she’s pooped every 1-3 days. She does still get kind of fussy right before she has to poop, and has lots of gas. When she finally does poop, more often than not it’s a blowout that requires you to wash the outfit she was wearing, plus anything else she came into contact with.

Development

Neola hasn’t completely figured out how to roll over yet (we are still majorly slacking on tummy time 😬 but she’s close!). She is getting better at being able to sit up on her own. She is now sitting in highchairs at restaurants, in the shopping cart at stores, and in her infant sled outside.

Neola is very curious and instantly grabs anything within her reach, which now makes it impossible to do anything while I’m holding her. She also shows her affection by grabbing my hair or neck with her iron grip and digging her nails into my skin (I have scratches to prove it!). She also gives “kisses” by putting her open mouth on my face.

She’s still very talkative and gets incredibly (somewhat annoyingly) loud at times, usually when she’s getting tired. Sometimes I’m trying to instruct the older girls about something school-related quick before trying to get Neola to take a nap, but I can’t because I can’t think or be heard over her shrieking.

Neola loves being outside, and still takes a nap outside 1-2 times a week (bundled up in her stroller).

Neola has also started to develop “stranger danger” and has gotten extremely upset a few times while being taken care of or held by someone else.

Neola loves playing with toys and can hold them like a pro now.

And that’s Neola at 7 months!

Neola Bethany: 6 Months

20 Nov

Neola is 6 months old already! Such a fun age. I love it when kids get old enough to start entertaining themselves a little, and when they start eating solid foods, it’s such a game changer. I don’t, however, enjoy the teething process, but what can you do?

Neola’s nicknames these days are Babaduke, Babadoo, Babby, Bibby Babby, and Babbalicious.

Size

At her 6-month well-child appointment, Neola was 17 lbs 8 oz (74%), 26.25 inches tall (62%), with a head circumference of 17.48 inches (95%). She weighs more than Emma did at 6 months, but less than Annabelle or Corbin did. She’s also about 1/4 inch taller than any of the others at this age.

She is wearing 9-month clothes and size 3 diapers.

Sleeping

Neola has been having some rougher nights with more wake-ups (which our pediatrician interpreted as an indicator of being ready to start solid foods). We did just start feeding her baby cereal this week (the day after her appointment) and she slept a lot better. But time will tell if that was just a coincidence.

For naptime, we still swing her in our indoor chair hammock, or get her to sleep in her carseat, either by pushing her around in the stroller or swinging/carrying her carseat around. She doesn’t fall asleep nursing during the day as much as she used to, which is probably good for the long term, but I am soooo sick of swinging her in the chair hammock. I have tried different strategies of putting her down after getting her to sleep, and am often successful in transferring her, but she almost always wakes up after 5-10 minutes.

We are also in the midst of transitioning her from her Rock n Play to the crib. We bought a Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack, which has definitely made a difference—she used to wake up immediately when we tried to put her in the crib, but now she will stay sleeping for a couple of hours at night (we don’t try at all for naps). But Neola has been dealing with a lot of congestion the past couple weeks (from teething and/or a cold) and has been gagging on mucus, so I have been starting her in the crib at night, but moving her to her Rock n Play if she wakes up a lot.

Once we get her sleeping in the crib all night consistently, I will work on putting her down for naps when she’s awake but drowsy. Someday!

Eating

Neola got her first two teeth — the bottom middle ones — about a week before she turned 6 months. And she might be getting the top two also because of the aforementioned congestion/mucus and nighttime waking. Nothing has shown up or poked through yet!

I also mentioned that we started her on baby cereal. Emma and Annabelle are all about feeding her! Neola did great. At first, she just wanted to grab the spoon because she thought it was a toy but by the end of that bowl, she was eating like a champ. Neola has grown to not like formula, and we haven’t given her a bottle since the end of August, so it will be nice that she can eat without always being nursed now.

She has also tried avocado a few times, which she seemed to like, but maybe not as much as the cereal. In the next week or two, we’ll try giving her banana and yogurt.

Development

Neola is still a very talkative, smiley girl. She is so easygoing and tolerates so much chaos and stimulation from her siblings. And she is so patient — I can know that she’s hungry or tired for 20-30 minutes, and be busy making lunch, or changing a diaper, or in the middle of something I just needed to do “really quick”, and as long as one of the big girls or I am holding or playing with her, she’s content. She does finally hit her limit sometimes though, and then she is not afraid to let you know she means business.

Neola still hasn’t rolled over at all but it’s not that surprising because we have been terrible about giving her tummy time (#fourthchild #andiveneverbeengoodatthat). She is getting better about sitting up — sometimes she has enough balance to stay up for 10-20 seconds, but most of the time, she still falls over almost immediately.

She loves her jumperoo (what kid doesn’t?), playmat, and enjoys facing out in the baby carrier (her little arms and legs go crazy!), but is becoming less and less a fan of the Bumbo seat. Which is fine, because now she can sit in her highchair.

Neola got her first haircut right around 6 months. The back of her hair has mostly been rubbed off by her turning her head back and forth when she’s trying to go to sleep. The top of her hair can’t figure out which way it wants to lay (but if you comb it over after a bath, it does mostly lay that way). But her sideburns! They were down past her ears. 😂 So I trimmed her sideburns to be above her ears, and trimmed a tiny bit off the top of her hair.

Emma and Annabelle are still very helpful and loving with Neola. Lately, they’ve been wanting to carry Neola in the Baby Bjorn — which doesn’t last long, because Neola is heavy!

Neola had her first Halloween this month. She just wore her bear snowsuit, and was a great sport tagging along for a Trunk or Treat and trick-or-treating with her siblings and some neighbor friends.

Having three older siblings means lots of chaos, manhandling, and stimulation, but Neola is so easygoing with it all!

We love our little Babadoo!