Neola Bethany: 4 Months

14 Sep

Neola turned 4 months on September 12. This post is over a week late but I wrote it right at 4 months. It just took me this long to put the photos in it!

Size

Neola is now 15 lbs 4.5 oz (71%), 25.25 inches long (80%), with a head circumference of 16.54 inches (85%). She is starting to outgrow her 6-month sleepers but is still wearing size 2 diapers. Long and lean!

Sleeping

Neola is still a rockstar at night and usually gives me one stretch of between 5 and 8 hours. She usually wakes up around 3/3:30 to eat, then again at 6 or so. I usually put her back down until about 7:30 (unless I foolishly change her diaper between sides, then she’s awake for the day —which thankfully I only did once).

Not sure if I mentioned this in a previous post but Neola never did really like being swaddled for sleep (our only child who didn’t!). So she’s been using straight sleep sacks since about 6 weeks old. She is still sleeping in the Rock n Play. I’ve tried putting her in the crib a few times but her legs wake her up. I’m trying to muster up the courage to go for it (same with potty training Corbin!).

But during the day… 😩

I am extremely thankful for a healthy baby and for the fact that we have a few tried and true ways to get Neola to sleep, but this whole catnapping thing is for the birds. I was just reading Annabelle’s 4-month blog post and that girl took a 3-hour nap every day! But she was definitely our easiest baby. Neola hasn’t napped longer than 30 minutes since she was probably 2 months old. Our pediatrician said she might sleep more after getting her vaccinations — our other kids did — but nope, didn’t affect her at all. I’m glad she didn’t have a fever or anything, but couldn’t she have been just a little sleepier than normal?!

Since it’s still nice out, we swing Neola in the hammock swing for almost all of her naps. Her other naps are either in her carseat or while nursing. She likes being pushed across somewhat bumpy ground (like a yard) in the stroller or being swing back and forth in her carseat. I have some gnarly calluses on my right hand to prove that!

Eating

Neola is doing great nursing! She likes bottles less and less. I’m so happy that I didn’t give up and that I muscled through the frustration and discouragement.

I think she nurses every 1.5 to 3 hours, but I honestly do not keep track of the time. We just have more of an intuitive rhythm/flow, and a “when in doubt, nurse” kind of approach. #fourthchild Our days are so chaotic that I often look at the clock and realize that even though it only feels like 9:30, it’s actually noon and I have to make lunch!

Neola is still a spit-up, drool machine. She wears bibs almost all the time now, or we have to change her shirt every 20 minutes.

We plan to start Neola on solid foods around 6 months.

Development

Neola is a very talkative baby, and just in the last couple of days, she has started giggling, specifically when I tickle her neck (cleaning spit-up out of it!). She’s also very smiley and patient — she puts up with so much from her siblings!

Her torticollis is getting better — she will voluntarily turn her head both directions now (though it does seem like she maybe still favors the one side a little more). We haven’t been doing the exercises very often with her 😬 but she is getting more time in the Bumbo, Baby Bjorn, and being carried around. I’m going to break out the jumperoo one of these days too. (Update: Since writing this post a week ago, I did break out the jumperoo. She loves it!)

Our Brand of Crazy {A Day in the Life}

8 Sep

Baby #4 is now 4 months old, so we’ve pretty much gotten into the groove of being a family of 6, and let’s just say… it’s nuts.

I know more than a handful of families who have at least 4 kids, and I’ve had to be very careful to not compare our level of activity, sanity, and general having-it-togetherness to theirs, and think, “But why can they handle doing x and y with 4/5/6 kids, and we can’t even find time to clean the bathroooms?” The short answer is: because we’re us, and they’re them.

Here’s a little peek into our brand of crazy:

Our days usually start with Corbin (3.5 yrs) getting up at the ungodly hour of 5:30. He wanders out of his room (which he now shares with Annabelle) into ours, and we pull him into bed with us, hoping he’ll go back to sleep. Sometimes he does. Most times, he doesn’t. He does lie there until 6:00 or so before whispering, “Mommy, hungryyyyyy.” So then I have to get up. I grab him an applesauce and fig bar, and make myself a cup of coffee while he watches the iPad.

Emma (8.5 yrs) and Annabelle (6.5 yrs) usually wander out of their rooms between 6:30 and 7:30. Now that Emma has her own room, she comes upstairs every morning after making her bed, getting dressed, combing her hair, and brushing her teeth. I don’t even tell her to do that! #winning

Travis and Neola are usually up by 7 or 7:30. Travis is a night owl and lately has been working extra at night (his company is super busy) and going to bed late. Neola always wakes up happy, and I usually wait an hour or so to feed her. The girls like to hold her in the morning, and Neola is also usually content to lie on her activity mat.

Once all the kids are up, they go from zero to 60 way too fast. Sometimes they dive right back into whatever they were playing the day before, sometimes they invent something new. (This morning, Emma came up with her play hairdresser stuff and now we’re doing spa day, and it’s not even 8:30.) Last week, they were sending their backpacks from the deck to the swing set via an umbrella “basket” sliding down a rope, and then playing together on the platform of the swing set. I don’t even know what!

Around 8 or so, I wrangle them for breakfast, which is usually some combination of toast, yogurt, cereal, or protein shake. Each of them asks for a different variation, but I allow it because 1) then they actually eat it and 2) all of the options are easy to make. I try to start school while they’re eating because they’re a captive audience, but sometimes I end up having to feed Neola or wrangle Corbin, or pick up a mess, or who knows what.

From breakfast on, the day is a blur. The biggest challenge I have is getting the girls to sit down for our combined subjects (Bible, Memory Verse, Poetry, and History or Science) while also trying to occupy Corbin with an interesting-enough activity that won’t require too much supervision or result in too big a mess. (Sensory bins, painting, kinetic sand, even markers are all no-go’s. He makes a mess with everything.) If he’s not content to play with toys, we usually do play dough or water wows, he works on something at the table with us, or we move school outside. Some days, though, he watches iPad until our combined subjects are done and then one of the girls goes to play with him.

And usually, just about the time Corbin is occupied, and the girls are at the table, and I start reading, Neola starts crying because she needs a nap. Ok, new plan! The easiest way to get Neola down for a nap is to swing her in our chair swing (I guess they’re called a hammock swing?) outside — meaning I sit in the swing with her. If we just started school, I have the girls come outside with me, and either I read or they read while I’m swinging Neola. If we had covered a few subjects before she got fussy, then we just take a break.

Then there are the days that the older kids are just riled up. They’re giggling at everything, or chasing each other around, or fighting over toys, or won’t stop trying to talk to each other while I’m reading. Or they really want to do a certain activity while I read (like swing, or monkey bars, or twirl in circles) but they can’t do it while also paying attention (as evidenced by their inability to tell back what they learned, or know what happened in the story). Or my favorite, I’m reading and they get up and walk away without a word to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. ?!?!?!?

After our combined subjects, the day is a flurry of feeding Neola; keeping Corbin out of trouble; getting snacks and making lunch; putting Corbin down for a nap; alternating math, reading and language arts with each girl; getting Neola to nap; switching laundry; cleaning up random wrappers and sippy cups; discovering inside toys that are outside and outside toys that are inside; sweeping up sand off the kitchen floor; drinking yet another cup of coffee; trying not to care that the oven, microwave, refrigerator, kitchen sink, dishwater front, sliding glass door, master bathroom, and windowsills are all disgustingly filthy; changing diapers, poopy and otherwise; and diffusing umpteen fights over ridiculous things.

But it also includes the kids playing store and doctor; riding their bikes or pushing each other in the jogging stroller; drawing funny pictures; creating Barbie worlds or truck crashes; pretending Duplo blocks are fruits and vegetables at their farmers market; and getting dirty outside.

School-wise, it’s seeing Annabelle finally read a story, completely on her own, and be so excited about it. It’s having Emma say her favorite subject is math, and that she likes multiplication and division more than addition and subtraction. (!!!) It’s watching them create imaginary worlds based on what we just read about, or having them ask questions about something, googling it, and learning about it together. It’s seeing siblings playing together for hours on end, the little brother wanting to be like his older sisters, and the baby sister getting oodles of attention all day instead of just hanging out with boring ole mom.

So it’s crazy. But rewarding. But also crazy. And exhausting. That takes us until whenever Travis gets off work, which is usually between 5 and 6 pm. One of makes dinner while the other wrangles the kids (some days, I want the peace and quiet of cooking; other days, I just. can’t. and I deal with the kids while Travis cooks.) We eat around 6 or 7. Corbin hardly ever eats what we make. He is the *pickiest* eater! Annabelle puts a small fight but usually eats it all. Emma is almost always a champ (because she wants dessert).

Around 7:30, we start the bedtime routine, which is: give the kids melatonin and vitamins, tell them what to do next at least 4 times even though it’s the same every night (jammies, brush teeth, potty), catch them lollygagging in the hallway or doing “one last thing” with a toy, and threaten to either throw their toy in the river or give them a spanking. After all that, Corbin (and now Annabelle, since she moved to his room) watch 5-10 minutes of “baby truck” on the iPad. We try to read picture books with them but often run out of time (see aforementioned lollygagging). I’ve been reading Emma a book before bed, but down in her room. (Bedtime downstairs with just her is a different world from the circus upstairs!)

After the older kids are in bed, we finish loading the dishwasher if it’s not already done, I fold laundry and tidy up the upstairs (the downstairs only gets picked up once every couple of weeks at this point). Neola usually nurses and goes down around 8:30/9. Sometimes Travis works on his computer or down in the garage. Sometimes I take a shower because I didn’t get one in the morning, or even change out of what I wore to bed the night before. I always end the night with either reading or watching a show. I just finished reading Anne of Green Gables. Now I’m reading The Moonstone and watching Victoria on Prime.

I honestly think that if Travis and I both could figure out how to fit in a Bible quiet time most days and a workout 3 times a week, and if we could hire a cleaning lady to come every other week or once a month, we’d feel like this life was fairly manageable. At least, manageable until our kids get a little older and we get into a different season.

When Corbin was born, I felt like any margin we had had with only two kids disappeared. If you got behind with three kids, in sleep or house projects or whatever, you just stayed behind.

Well-meaning people told me that having 4 kids was just like having 3 kids.

…It isn’t.

My friend Sarah put it well when she said, “Until that 4th baby can actually play, you’re just adding a baby to the craziness of your first 3 kids. The newborn/baby stage is hard no matter how many kids you have.”

If 3 kids was a marathon that Travis and I were able to run with a very slow, focused pace as long as it involved no detours or side shows, then 4 kids is a relay race where we have to hand off kids or tasks or duties to other people every so often. We can’t carry it all ourselves. Some parents might be able to with 4 kids (or maybe they just act like they are able to), but we are finding it difficult.

Travis’ job lately has been stressful because he says they’re putting out one (proverbial) fire after another. They’re just moving from crisis to crisis. There’s no time to be proactive or intentional. They are overwhelmed by the amount of work, and completely reactionary.

That’s our parenting life right now too. Overwhelmed by the amount of work. Moving from crisis to crisis. But nevertheless, we must strive to be intentional. It’s hard to believe parenting can be any harder than it is now, but I do believe that the challenges continue in different form as kids get older. So if we’re not intentional now, then when?

Homeschooling definitely adds to the crazy and I’ve wondered more than once in the last few weeks if we should just send the kids to public school. But for this school year, we are here, taking it one day, one moment at a time, and trusting God to redeem our failures and stretch our two mites into enough.

Neola Bethany: 3 Months

19 Aug

Our sweet baby girl is now 3 months old! We have officially survived the Fourth Trimester. 🤪

Size

Neola doesn’t go back to the doctor until 4 months but she is starting to wear her 3-6 and 6-month clothes and wears size 2 diapers.

Eating

The biggest news this month is that Neola is officially nursing 100%! Back in her 2-month post, I mentioned that Neola was nursing better, and that whenever I offered her a bottle, she only drank 1-2 oz. Slowly, that amount dwindled down to nothing. I did still do a bottle in the middle of the night (and then pumped) for another week or so after that, but one night, I just decided to nurse her and see how it would go. And it went great! I was more than happy to not have to pump anymore, so we are done with bottles. She still does drink a bottle of formula every now and again (nice to still have the flexibility of not being the only one who can feed her), but I am so happy that nursing is working out for us, after our rocky start. (I will say that feeding Neola bottles when we were out and about, instead of nursing with a cover-up in this intense summer heat, was very nice. But whatcha gonna do.)

Similar to Corbin as a baby, Neola makes a clicking sound when she nurses, which lets her swallow a lot of air, which causes her to burp and spit up quite a bit. I’m not concerned about it (Corbin outgrew it), but it does make for a lot of laundry! Thankfully Neola seems to be past the “gassy and uncomfortable” phase of things.

I don’t keep track of how often Neola eats. I only know that 1) it’s enough and 2) she’s content. I do really enjoy the days that Corbin’s nap coincides with Neola needing to eat (which it does fairly often) so I can sit in my rocking chair, in the silence (while the girls have their screen time), and take a little nap while she nurses (because it’s one of the few times she actually naps peacefully).

Sleeping

Neola is thankfully very consistent at night (if she wasn’t, I would be losing my mind!). She usually goes to sleep for her longest stretch between 8 and 9, and wakes up between 1:30 and 2:30. She goes right back down and wakes up again between 4:30 and 5:30 (usually 3 hours from when she first woke up). Then she usually falls back to sleep for another hour before she’s “up” for the day.

So we start our days around 6/6:30, which is generally when Corbin wakes up too. Neola has stretched her awake time out to be… honestly, I don’t even know. 😂 Who has time to keep track of the time? The days are just a blur.

Part of what makes things tricky to keep track of us that Neola is queen of the catnap. She frequently falls asleep nursing but wakes up right when she’s done. (I don’t want to cut her off because I want to make sure she’s getting as much milk from each feeding as possible.) She also doesn’t like being put down even after we get her to sleep in our arms. If we try putting her down, she often wakes up after just 5-10 minutes. Even if you hold her, her naps are most often only 30-45 minutes.

She’s also a little tricky to get to sleep for naps. If we’re at home, swinging her in the chair swing outside is a sure bet. She loves that thing. Another trick we use is to put her in her carseat and either swing her like a pendulum, carry the carseat around while we load the car and get ready to leave, or attach the carseat to the stroller and push her slowly through the grass (she likes it bumpy, but not too bumpy). If we don’t get her to the point of being almost asleep or sleeping in her carseat before putting her carseat in the car, she just cries on the car ride. (She’s kind of a high maintenance baby!) Thankfully, Neola is very happy and content whenever she’s not tired or hungry.

Neola is still sleeping in her Rock n Play at night, but we are going to start transitioning her to her crib. It’s just hard to rock the boat when things are going so smoothly at night! But she’s getting too old for the Rock n Play.

Development

Neola has started babbling and cooing quite a bit, and I just love it! As of 3 months, she was just starting to find her hands, but I’m a week late finishing this post and she chews on her fists quite a bit now!

We have seen a physical therapist for Neola’s torticollis (keeping her head mostly turned to one direction) twice now. Neola had almost full range of motion (passive) at her first appointment and made even some progress in the three weeks between appointments. We are supposed to do stretching and strengthening exercises with her whenever we can, which some days is not at all, and some days is a couple of times. We also try to have her spend time not laying on the back of her head while she’s awake. She actually doesn’t mind tummy time (all of our other kids hated it). She also likes sitting in her Bumbo and being worn in the baby carrier facing out (but since her neck muscles are still a little floppy, we don’t do that for very long). She doesn’t like the baby carrier if she’s facing us.

Neola is such a sweet, happy girl, and gives big grins to the people she recognizes (and even some she doesn’t!). She loves the attention she gets from her siblings (which is a lot!) and hardly fusses at all even when they are carrying her around, sitting her up, moving her from here to there. Emma took it upon herself to learn how to change Neola’s (non-poopy) diapers. And she does a great job! When Neola is fussing, Emma or Annabelle will go pick her up and calm her down. They can even lift her carseat to swing it a little. It is so great to have older kids who are able and willing to help!

My dad and stepmom came to help with the kids at the end of July while Travis went on a team-building trip with his co-workers in Key West. We went to Pillager Beach together, and then I took the older kids to the bouncy house one day and the park another while Susan watched Neola.

And that’s Neola at 3 months!

Neola Bethany: 2 Months

13 Jul

Neola was 2 months old yesterday, July 12. Today would’ve been my mom’s 68th birthday. She has been gone for 5 years. How she would’ve loved to cuddle this sweet little babadoo!

Size

Neola is now 12 lbs 8 oz (78%), 23 inches long (74%), with a head circumference of 15.5 inches (85%). She just started wearing 6-month sleepers and will be moving to size 2 diapers any day now.

Eating

Neola is doing a lot better with nursing. Around 5 or 6 weeks, she started nursing without a nipple shield. That helped encourage my milk letdown, but then she would sputter and choke on the milk. Over the last couple of weeks, though, even that has gotten better, and she hasn’t had to pull off to cough or catch her breath as much. I still offer her bottles of formula if it seems like she might still be hungry, but most of the time, she only eats 1-2 oz from them. So it seems like she is getting almost enough milk from nursing! I still might go back to the lactation consultant just for the weight check before and after a feeding.

Neola tends to be a snacker and a catnapper. With the chaos of three other kids, I haven’t kept track of her eating and sleeping schedule much, but I would guess that during the day, she eats every 2 hours or so. Which brings me to…

Sleeping

A handful of times so far, Neola has taken an afternoon nap long enough that I’ve contemplated waking her up (3-4 hours!). I’ve even gone so far as to walk into her room with the intention of waking her up, but then thought better of it while standing there staring at her sleeping. I wouldn’t have any issues with her taking long naps if there was a guarantee that she would still sleep a long stretch at night. Thankfully, even on those long-nap days, she still slept well at night, and now I think she’s probably old enough to not mix up time of day like really new newborns do.

For the past couple of weeks, Neola has consistently lengthened her longest nighttime stretch to be 5-6 hours (yay!). She slept in her swing for a while, but now she’s back to sleeping in her Rock n Play. She’s pretty unpredictable during the day, but at night, her general routine is to go to bed for her long stretch between 9 and 10. She wakes up between 2 and 4 am to eat — I usually feed her a 4 oz bottle of formula since 1) it’s faster to prepare and 2) I don’t want her to have to deal with milk inundation from nursing, since she’s still just getting the hang of it. I feed her half the bottle, and about the time she starts falling back asleep, I change her diaper and burp her. Then I feed her the other half of the bottle, half-heartedly burp her (if she’s asleep, I can never get a burp out of her), and put her back down. Then I pump and go back to bed. The whole thing usually takes about an hour.

For the first 6 weeks or so, I would give Travis the monitor after that late morning feeding and go back to bed until 8:30 or so. But now that Neola is going a longer stretch at night, I don’t need to sleep in like that much anymore.

Neola wakes up for the day between 6 and 8. She wakes up happy and content, and only cries if she’s been awake for a while and no one has come to get her.

Her awake time between naps these days is about an hour or so. She likes being held for naps, and often wakes up 10-15 minutes after we put her down. Even when we hold her though, she’s just not a great napper and wakes up every so often, whether from gas pains or just being a light sleeper.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that she dislikes the baby carrier. The last couple of times I’ve tried, she just screams. She’d rather be put in a sleepsack, held horizontally in our arms, and bounced or walked around (but it’s hard on our back and arms!). She also really likes swinging with us in the chair swing outside. The other way she will consistently go to sleep (which we really only use if we’re going somewhere soon-ish) is if we strap her into her carseat and swing her back and forth like a pendulum (also hard on the back!). She also likes riding in the car or in her stroller if we swing her a little first and get her sleepy — but the key is to keep moving!

Development

Neola began smiling around 6 weeks, and has started cooing and making adorable baby noises just in the past week or so. So fun!

She is still very easygoing (if she’s not hungry or tired), and still gets plenty of attention from the girls. Corbin has started paying more attention to Neola too, and being a little less careful around her.

Emma can “fart” her like Travis does (bicycling Neola’s legs, and then pushing both of her knees into her belly — sometimes she farts like10 times in a row doing that!), and Corbin tried doing it the other night too (ha!).

Neola loves to lay on her back and look around. Unfortunately, she has a strong preference to look to the left (she can look to the right, but hardly ever does on her own), which has led to her head getting flattened a little on the left side. I asked her pediatrician about it yesterday, and she recommended that we see a physical therapist to hopefully lengthen the muscles on the other side of her neck, which would encourage her to look both ways. If that doesn’t work, she’ll have to wear a helmet (sad day). Hoping physical therapy works!

Neola seems to be gaining better control over her hands, and has comforted herself a few times recently by bringing one to her mouth to suck on. She has also sat in the Bumbo a few times (with us supporting her head). We have been really slacking on tummy time, but she hasn’t seemed to mind it the few times we’ve done it. Our pediatrician said that could help with the neck muscles too, if we put her down for tummy time with her face turned to her non-dominant side. There have been a few times so far, too, that we’ve put Neola down on her back and she’s rolled all the way over to her side. She might beat all of her siblings in how fast she learns to roll over!

Neola’s main nicknames at this point are Baby Sister, Babadoo, and Babaduke.

And that’s Neola at 2 months!

Thoughts on Grief: Our Dog, Katy

7 Jul

We lost our dog, Katy, today to old age. She was roughly 13 years old, though as a rescue shelter adoptee, her age was always more of a guess. We used her adoption date of August 9 as her birthdate, and knew she was roughly a year old when we adopted her, putting her birth year at 2008.

Back when we first adopted Katy, I blogged about it. You can read that post here. In that post, I said, “Katy is such the perfect dog for us that I feel totally blessed by God through her. Since she is a year old, she’s pretty much done growing, she is totally house trained, and she is pretty obedient to our commands. Best of all, she’s the perfect size to cuddle with me (which she loves to do!) and she’s strong (typical of her breed) so that she can still run and hike with us, once she is cured of her heartworm (a condition she had when we adopted her…but the Boulder Vet Clinic will treat her for free because we adopted her from the shelter).”

Right after we adopted her, we were walking out to our car with her on the leash. I was a very green dog owner, and knew practically nothing. Turned out, her collar was on way too loose (and Katy had a very thick neck compared to her head, so it was very easy to slip things off over her head), and she ended up pulling out of it, and running off across a busy street and into another parking lot. Travis and I ran after her, yelling. Thankfully, the Humane Society staff saw what had happened, and came out with treats and helped us corral her.

She did that several times in the first six months to a year that we had her. If we held the front door open too far or too long, she was out the door and down the street. I’d follow after her on foot, and Travis would get in the car. No matter how much I called Katy, or even when Travis arrived bearing treats, she would act like she didn’t know us and keep running. She even ran off once at elk camp. Thankfully, we always got her back (but I always wondered if that’s how she ended up as a stray dog in the first place, because it seemed like she had had an owner before). She eventually bonded with us, and stopped running away. She actually became very reliable on sticking close to us.

Katy was a great dog, and we really loved her. For three years, Katy would drape across my lap and cuddle whenever we watched TV (until I got pregnant with Emma, and then had no lap!). She slept in our bed (until I got pregnant and needed the extra room for pillows!). She even snuggled headfirst into the bottom of my mummy sleeping bag when we were up at elk camp. She loved going on runs and hikes, and always had more energy once she knew we were headed home.

We always laughed that Katy didn’t do many traditional dog things. She didn’t like playing fetch. She didn’t like water. She didn’t dig holes. She didn’t slobber. She didn’t chew things up. We’d feed her, and she would eat it whenever she felt hungry enough. And until we got Charlie in 2010, she didn’t even bark. We didn’t even know if she could bark. She was so well-behaved that we left her free-roaming in the house while we were at work, and she never had any accidents or did naughty things.

But then we got Charlie, and Katy’s personality changed. She started being guarded about her food, started chewing on the couch, started barking (she would even bark at the sound of a doorbell on the TV). But Katy had a friend now. Since they could no longer be trusted in the house alone, we left them in our laundry room while we were at work. We had to replace the trim in that room before we sold the house, because they destroyed it. I worked only 5 minutes or so from our house for a few years, so I’d come home on my lunch break to take them on walks. Then I worked from home for a year and not long after Travis switched jobs and started working from home, so they once again had free reign of the house.

We took the dogs camping, hiking, backpacking, running, walking. We took them to dog parks occasionally. We tried teaching them to walk next to us on a leash, and then gave up. In Colorado, our friends, D and Doug, would watch Katy and Charlie any time we went back to Minnesota to visit family.

In April 2013, Emma was born. I’ve already mentioned that Katy got booted out of our bed and off of my lap during pregnancy. Then life with a newborn diminished our attention to the dogs even more. But they never retaliated. Instead, Katy would sit in front of Emma’s room like a guard dog. Around our friends’ kids, and as Emma grew up and we added other kids, both dogs, but Katy especially, demonstrated loads of patience and gentleness. I never worried about her reacting poorly to attention from kids.

In March 2014, we sold our house in Wheat Ridge (suburb of Denver) and moved back to Minnesota. We lived with Travis’ parents for three months while we looked for a house. During that time, Katy and Charlie got so much exercise that they both lost a good 5 pounds (and that’s quite a bit when you’re only about 40 to begin with!) even though we were feeding them twice as much. Katy’s personality changed during that period too, as a result of being so active.

In June 2014, we moved into our current house, and about a year later, finally put in a in-ground fence. Katy was never one to run around on her own, but she liked exploring. At one point, she had a pustule on her belly that we were covering with old t-shirts, pulled into a knot on her back with ponytail holders. She’d go off exploring on the woods at my in-laws’ house and come back shirt-free. She and Charlie wrestled and play-fought, and she was always the leader on walks (whereas Charlie’s personality has always been more bungling, Eeyore-like, and “Squirrel!” ADD).

Katy was a fast learner, and a smart dog. She caught flies in her mouth, and was great at catching food too. She laid down on her belly, her rear legs tucked underneath her, and her front legs crossed like a lady. Both her ears stuck straight up, until she got a hematoma in her left ear one winter. The vet had to cut it open to drain it, and that ear never stood up again. Katy was prone to tooth decay, so in Colorado, we had her teeth cleaned every year (which required her to be put under). Our vet up here never thought Katy’s teeth looked bad enough to merit that.

Over the past couple of years, Katy’s age began to show. She slowed down. She didn’t like going on walks much anymore. Her back legs got weak and she often fell down on our wood kitchen floor, unable to get back up. She grew deaf, and could only hear you if you clapped really loudly. She became ravenous, and often bit your hand if she even thought you had food in your hand. She pooped and peed in the house if you didn’t let her out often enough, or at the right time before/after/during feeding. When she wanted to come back in, instead of pawing at the door like she used to (I’m guessing she just couldn’t, with how weak her back legs were), she’d grow impatient and circle the house, checking every door for someone to let her back in. Travis would see her run past his office window several times in a row.

We joked (and lamented) often in the past year that she was more active in her sleep than she was when she was awake. She loved sleeping on her side and putting her feet up against a wall, bookshelf, laundry basket. Then she’d dream she was running, and her toenails would tap against the hard surface. It was often quite loud, and would wake me up several times a night. It drove me crazy! I’d get up and pivot her away from the wall, because if you tried to move her, she’d make her trademark yelp that sounded like a sick walrus.

There were many moments of frustration and flippant, inconsiderate comments on our part during the last few years. It was hard to deal with a needy dog while taking care of three kids and being pregnant (and now, having four kids, one being a newborn). But I’m so grateful that we were faithful to Katy, knowing that she was too old to go live somewhere else. Travis and I wondered many times over the past 3-4 weeks what we should do about Katy. It just wasn’t clear. So I prayed for God to make it clear.

Late last week, we came to the conclusion that it was just time. Katy wasn’t going to get any better, and we were sad that she kept falling. So this past Monday, we called and made an appointment to have her put down. We wanted to wait until the girls were here (they’re still up at my in-laws’ cabin) but then Katy stopped eating. She even refused to eat turkey lunchmeat, which is not the Katy we knew! So we moved the appointment up a day, to this afternoon. But she passed on her own. Corbin, Neola and I were at the park. Travis had come upstairs for coffee, and heard Katy yelp in the garage (we had moved her out there on the dog bed, because she had soiled the carpet where she was laying inside). He could tell the end was near, and so he stayed there and petted her until she was gone. She was laid to rest near our garage.

I’m thankful God made it clear, that we had time to be more intentional with Katy, that she died at home instead of a vet office. And I’m thankful that God blessed us with Katy. She was a great dog, and I hope that I see her again in heaven someday.

Pregnancy #4: 6 Weeks Postpartum

23 Jun

Neola is 6 weeks old today, which means I am 6 weeks postpartum. I’ve posted about my postpartum journeys with each of my other three pregnancies, so no reason to stop now!

Physical Recovery

I didn’t have any tearing or stitches, so no issues there, though I do notice that my tailbone still hurts if I recline on it when I’m slouching.

The afterbirth pains were intense again, and even the maximum dosage of Ibuprofen and Tylenol with Codeine didn’t keep them under control, but heating pads were a lifesaver. The pains lasted for 4-5 days after Neola was born.

My bleeding was never very heavy, but it did last a whole month, which got really old. I took stool softeners for the first couple of weeks, and didn’t have any issues there, thank goodness.

For the first few weeks after birth, I found it taxing to walk around or bend over much, but by about week 4, I felt my stamina and core strength getting better, and now I can walk several miles and be fine.

My ab muscles are non-existent, and I have only done a couple core workouts, so that unfortunately has not gotten much better. I notice this the most when I have to hold Neola for a long period of time — it ends up being really hard on my lower back. I was wondering the other day, “What would it be like to care for a newborn when you’re actually in shape?” I have never had that experience.

But on the whole, I have to say that the physical recovery from birth has been smooth.

Weight / Body Image

I’m about 13 lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight.

This pregnancy has been the slowest and consequently most frustrating recovery in terms of weight loss. I still can’t wear any of my pre-pregnancy pants, even the ones that I bought around this time with my other pregnancies. My body shape stores extra body fat in my stomach, so I can get all of my pre-pregnancy pants on but some I can’t button at all, and the others cause major muffin top action and are frankly just really uncomfortable. I’ve bought a few pairs of pants and shorts trying to find something I can wear right now (so that I can stop wearing my maternity leggings!), but haven’t had much luck. I am planning to go shopping this weekend, though, and hopefully find something. I’m pretty sure this is the result of all that candy I ate during pregnancy (whoops), and maybe age? Let’s go with that.

That said, I am extending grace to myself. My body just created a human being. It’s only been 6 weeks. I know from my previous pregnancies that it takes time to get back in shape, but it will happen eventually. It’s just a season… my LAST postpartum season!

Emotional

Speaking of which, that has been the main thing I’ve reminded myself of during the past six weeks: This is just a season. It’s just a phase. This is the hardest it will ever be [in terms of physical exertion and balancing the needs of four young kids]. It will get better. We will figure out a rhythm. Life will find a new normal, where we feel mostly adjusted. Don’t worry about the things that aren’t getting done right now, or that we don’t have time for. This is just a season.

Both Travis and I have had hours or days when we can’t see the truth in what I wrote above (it doesn’t help that he’s extremely busy and stressed at work right now), but overall we’ve been able to keep these challenges in perspective, and maintain our hope and optimism.

Back when Corbin was born, I really struggled with feeling isolated, like I was always feeding a baby or sleeping while my family hung out without me. I prayed about that a lot before Neola was born, and I think God answered that prayer by making her unwilling/unable to nurse, which forced me to pump and feed her bottles. Bottles meant feeding Neola could be done by anyone, so the girls, Travis, and grandparents have all shared the load. It’s not the answer to prayer that I envisioned, but it has made the issue of feeling isolated from my family non-existent, and for that, I praise the Lord!

I’ve also been reading We Would See Jesus while pumping. I read that book several times back in college and early married life, and it’s been such a good reminder that I have access to Jesus wherever and whenever, that I don’t need to be having a consistent quiet time or praying a certain amount to have a relationship with Him. It’s also been a great reminder that Jesus sacrificed everything for me, not just some things, so I can sacrifice for my kids, trusting that God will not only provide, but bless abundantly.

My biggest challenges with managing four kids on my own while Travis is working have been 1) Corbin and 2) the messes. Corbin is a handful. We are trying really hard to have him watch less iPad, but that means that instead of sitting in one spot, he’s making messes or playing outside only God knows where. He’s hard to keep track of. Even when I take Neola outside to feed her a bottle, Corbin only stays on one side of the house for 5-10 minutes. I think that’s the biggest difference between him and the older girls — they would play in one area for an extended period of time. He is all over the place. Not only that, but he also gets into trouble. He dumped out containers of water in the garage, took off his diaper and pooped (not on purpose, but because he’s not at all potty trained) in the playhouse, rode his bike down the driveway out onto the road by himself several times (good thing our neighborhood is pretty quiet). He often plays with water and soap in the bathrooms, and gets into the girls’ makeup. He brings indoor toys outside. He puts the riding toys in the kiddie pool. He definitely keeps us on our toes!

And then there’s the messes. I have tried and tried to get Emma and Annabelle to pick one mess up before making another, and reminded them while they’re making a mess that they’re going to have to pick all of it back up. But the reality of the situation, I’m realizing, is that their energy to make a mess—I should say “get toys out” or “create imaginary worlds”, because their play is at least always intentional these days—is always going to outstrip their energy to clean it up. And then you add Corbin into the mix… the end result is that there are all manner of toys strewn in every location imaginable. Thankfully our house is tucked in the woods so I don’t feel pressured to have things cleaned up for any neighbors.

I am trying really hard for both my kids’ sake and my own sanity to remind myself that it’s ok for toys to be scattered around. It’s ok if playing hard with things occasionally results in something being destroyed or broken. My kids are making memories and using their imaginations, and not wasting their lives watching a screen all day. I’ve also been tapping into the things I learned in counseling—when I sense I’m starting to get overwhelmed, instead of flying off the handle, I calmly ask the kids to pause what they’re doing and clean up one mess. (Because, I’m realizing, it’s not messes in general that stress me out, it’s when there are messes everywhere.)

And as always, coffee is a lifesaver and consumed in copious amounts. When I am up for the day after too little sleep, a cup of coffee brings me joy and reminds me that it will be ok.

Neola Bethany: 1 Month

14 Jun

Neola is one month old! She was 4 weeks last Wednesday, June 9, and one month on June 12.

Size

Neola just had her well-child check today and she now weighs 10 lbs 11 oz (83%)! She is 21.25 inches long (50%) and her head circumference is 14.75 inches (75%).

She outgrew her newborn sleepers around two weeks, and switched to size 1 diapers at 3.5 weeks (but that was mostly just because we ran out of newborn diapers, and have a ton of size 1!)

She seems to have a longer torso and short legs like Corbin did, because length-wise, she fits just fine in 3-month sleepers, but 3-month pants are too long (and she’s apparently completely average in terms of length!).

Eating

Neola is still drinking bottles of breast milk instead of nursing. During her third week of life, she did nurse a little after a feeding to fall asleep, but in week 4, she wanted nothing to do with nursing. I’m still hopeful she can turn it around as she gets older but who knows.

She eats every 3 hours on average, but has gone 4-5 hours between feedings once a night (and sometimes during the day when I’m busy with the kids and forget to go wake her up).

She has increased her feeding amounts from 1 oz that first week, to 2 oz the second week, to anywhere from 2.5 to 5 oz the third and fourth weeks. Most often, she drinks about 3 oz. We burp her every ounce or two, otherwise she swallows too much air and spits a lot of the milk back up. She has some pretty impressive burps!

I am still pumping, and aiming to do so every 3 hours, but between feeding Neola a bottle, burping her (which sometimes takes a while), changing her diaper and possibly her outfit, and managing the other kids, it sometimes stretches to 4 or 5. The first couple weeks, I was getting 3-5 oz per pumping session, but now I usually get about 3 oz. We are also supplementing with formula as we need to.

Neola makes the funniest sounds when she’s eating — lots of squeaking, groaning, and nose-whistling. She also farts a lot when she first wakes up and gets out of her sleepsack. She’s had two blowouts so far… just today, she had such a blowout that it was literally dripping off the back of her sleeper (and onto my dad’s T-shirt 😬).

Sleeping

Neola still sleeps most of the day, but has periods of time when she’s alert and happy. I haven’t watched the clock at all like I did with her siblings to know how long she stays awake. If she’s been awake for a while and starts getting fussy, then I know it’s time to put her in her sleepsack and get her to sleep. She sometimes wants a pacifier, sometimes not. Sometimes she wants a little snack before going to sleep, sometimes not.

When she’s awake and happy, Neola loves looking around, and doesn’t protest at all really when getting jostled around by her older sisters (who treat her like a living doll). It seems we are constantly telling Emma and Annabelle, “Careful! Sit down with her. No, you may not do x and y with her; you’re just not old enough.”

Sometimes after being awake, Neola is difficult to get back to sleep or won’t let us put her down. She is tricky that way! She’ll fall asleep drinking a bottle and you think you’re golden but just a few minutes later, those little eyes pop open again. Or you’ve been holding her for a while and are confident that she’s pretty out so you put her down, but just 5-10 minutes later, she’s awake again. Or she’s out but gas pains wake her up.

If she keeps waking up when I try to put her down, I put her in the Baby Bjorn. She seems to like it for at least the length of one nap so if I can’t sit and hold her because of needing to help the other kids, then I put her in there. Honestly, if this is as fussy as she gets, she’s a pretty easy baby!

Besides the Baby Bjorn, Neola mostly sleeps in the Rock n Play, but during the day, she also naps in the swing. Overall she’s not a fan of her car seat, and will only sleep in it if she’s asleep when we put her in it.

Development

Neola loves looking around and is a pretty content baby. She has started cooing and smiling a little. She has pretty good neck control for her age, and doesn’t seem to mind tummy time (but we haven’t done a ton of it).

Neola Bethany: 1 Week

21 May

Neola was one week old on May 19, our 14-year wedding anniversary.

Unfortunately, her first week of life outside the womb was a blur of doctor appointments. We got discharged from the hospital the day after she was born, around 5 PM. Since I was Group B Strep positive, they wanted us to go see our pediatrician for a checkup right away the next day just to make sure everything was ok. So we did.

Before our appointment with the pediatrician though, we had to stop back by the hospital for Neola to get her hearing test redone (her right ear had failed the day before, but the way they test the hearing is so pathetic!!). She passed that time just fine. We also met with the lactation consultant because Neola was having trouble latching in the hospital, so one of my nurses helped me start using a nipple shield (which I’ve never used before). We weighed her before and after feeding, and she didn’t really gain anything, but we chalked it up to my milk not fully being in yet.

At the appointment with the pediatrician afterward, we discovered that Neola’s weight was down to 7 lbs 7 oz (from 8 lbs 4 oz at birth). Since my milk was just starting to come in that day, Dr. Winter wanted us to come back on Monday for a weight check.

At the appointment on Monday, Neola was down to 7 lbs 4 oz. I nursed her while we were there, and we weighed her before and after, and she had only eaten 0.5 oz. No wonder she wasn’t gaining weight! They also wanted her bilirubin to be checked, so the lab come up and poked her heel. Poor girl! It took the lab tech a good 10 minutes to get the blood, and even then, she wasn’t sure it was enough. (It was.) Her bilirubin level came back at 17.7 — high, but apparently not high enough to treat.

We scheduled another appointment with the lactation consultant for Wednesday. In the meantime, Dr. Winter told us we should start supplementing her nursing sessions with bottles. Since I was already using a nipple shield, she explained, there wouldn’t be any nipple confusion with using bottles that early. At her age, Neola should be drinking 2 oz per feeding, at least every 3 hours.

Neola took to the bottles like a champ. We started her off at 1 oz, but quickly increased it to 2 oz. I was mostly able to pump 2 oz consistently after nursing attempts, but we did get some premade formula from the pediatrician, who said we could mix breastmilk and formula together if we needed to (and we needed to).

At our appointment with the lactation consultant on Wednesday (the day Neola turned 1 week old), Neola had gained 4.5 oz! She was up to 7 lbs 10.5 oz, which meant she was only 7% down from her birth weight (from 11% before). They apparently want babies to be back up to their birth weight by 2 weeks, so I feel like she’s right on track for that. We again weighed her before and after a feeding, and she only took in 6 mL with the whole nursing session. She latches fine, but just doesn’t suck fast or strong enough to get my milk to let down — with or without the nipple shield. Part of that is the sleepiness from the jaundice. She got a heel poke after that appointment, and her bilirubin was up to 18.8. (Since I’m posting this a little late, I can say that she got heel pokes again on Thursday and Friday, and she went down to 18.2, then 17.3, which satisfied our pediatrician. So we are done checking her bilirubin!)

She’s had plenty of wet and poopy diapers, and her poops started off as the dark meconium, but have changed to the yellow mustard color. She is sleeping much better now that she’s taking in enough milk, but part of that might be the jaundice. She has a hard time staying awake drinking a bottle, and falls asleep almost immediately when I try nursing her. I’m going to keep trying to nurse her, but for now, bottles seem to be the way she’s going to build up her strength and energy.

Which means I pump every 3 hours, even at night. Valine, the lactation consultant, gave me some tips on how to maintain my milk supply while pumping, since when I’ve pumped before after I went back to work, my milk supply eventually dried up. I discovered that my breast pump flanges are a size too small, and I wasn’t pumping long enough. Just since yesterday, I’ve seen my pumping yield go from 2 oz every time, to 2.5-3 oz. So that’s encouraging!

As far as personality, Neola hates being cold, and has strongly disliked diaper changes overall. She has a good loud cry when she is upset. When she’s awake, she is pretty mellow and likes being held. She seems to prefer either not having her arms swaddled, or just one swaddled. She sometimes takes a pacifier.

She’s been sleeping in her swing or the rock ‘n’ play during the day, and just the rock ‘n’ play at night. Sometimes we have to wake her up to eat, and sometimes she wakes up on her own. I just borrowed a Moby wrap from a friend so that when my MIL goes home, it’ll be easier to be outside doing stuff with the other kids. And we bought a new car seat that snaps into our jogging stroller (our old one expired) so we can take her on walks that way too.

Emma and Annabelle were over the moon for Neola right away, and very eager to help, which was a little stressful because they wanted to do things slightly outside their capabilities, and they were competing against each other for turns holding Neola. But now they’ve mellowed out a little, and are better about taking turns.

Corbin says Baby is cute and brings her toys. He also likes bringing me my nipple shield — “Try it!”

And that’s Neola at 1 week old!

Neola’s Birth Story

14 May

Neola Bethany was born on May 12, five days before her due date of May 17. She was 8 lbs 4 oz and 20 inches long, with a full head of hair like Annabelle and Corbin.

This time around, I decided to do an elective induction. Corbin was 8 lbs 15 oz at 39.5 weeks, and even though we knew we were having a girl and boys tend to be bigger than girls, subsequent babies tend to be bigger too. So to avoid a bigger baby, and be able to arrange childcare for our other kids easier, I was induced.

We were told to arrive at the hospital around 7 AM. We were moving slow the morning of the 12th, so we got there closer to 7:30. The birthing floor was really quiet that day, so the nurses were expecting us, and showed us right to our room.

First, we talked about the plan with my nurses, Jess and Katy — I was Group B Strep positive, so needed to have antibiotics started first thing. I was already dilated to 2 cm at my last OB appt so was hoping that the doctor would break my water first to see if that would start things without Pitocin. If not, then we would start Pitocin. While the antibiotics got going, Katy got us checked in. I watched part of a Burn Notice episode on my phone while waiting for the OB on call, Dr. Senica, to arrive.

At 9:15, Dr. Senica attempted to break my bag. It was tough apparently, and he tried a few times before saying he thought he nicked it. My antibiotics had a little bit longer to go, and while I sat there in bed, I felt some leakage, and discovered that indeed, my water had broken. After the first round of antibiotics were done, the nurses unhooked me and Travis and I walked the birthing floor for a while. I ate some Jello, sat on the birthing ball a little, then they hooked me back up to monitor baby and contractions for a bit. Nothing much was happening, so I walked around some more.

By 12:15, things still weren’t happening, so we started Pitocin with my second round of antibiotics. Travis ate lunch. I was super hungry, but apparently, they don’t let women in labor eat anything but a clear diet anymore in case of emergency c-section (sad day!).

Before the Pitocin had had a chance to kick in, I had a few real contractions so things had started to pick up a little. With the Pitocin, I started having contractions more consistently, and they were getting stronger. At 1:15, they increased my Pitocin to 4. Once they were satisfied with seeing baby’s heartbeat during contractions (now 3 minutes apart) and had checked my cervix (now dilated to 4 cm, 75% effaced), I decided to labor in the tub for a bit. The contractions were strong enough that I had to stop talking and breathe during them, but felt pretty normal otherwise.

After 30 minutes in the tub or so, I decided that the contractions were strong enough to warrant nitrous oxide. So I got out of the tub, got back in bed, and started nitrous oxide around 2:30. Travis got my music going on the bluetooth speaker.

By 3:15, I was starting to feel a lot of pressure, and the pain was getting to be incredibly intense, so I asked to be checked. I was 7.5 cm and almost fully thinned out. My nurse Jess said she thought I would be ready to push soon, so she asked the front desk to nurse to page Dr. Senica. “Tell him she’s at 7.5 cm and feeling pushy.” This was also the point where I started questioning why I had thought it would be a good idea to not get an epidural. Jess said she could start the liter of fluids for an epidural, but she didn’t think I would make it (it takes at least 45 minutes). The point of no return.

Contractions got incredibly intense from there. They were 1-2 minutes apart, lasting for a minute. I kept my eyes shut the whole time, and was in the zone. I shifted in bed from sitting cross-legged to hanging one leg off the side so that Travis could massage my lower back during contractions. The pain radiated through my lower back to my sides and hips.

For the most part, the nitrous oxide really helped to take the edge off the contractions, but as I entered transition, and got closer to pushing, the nitrous actually felt like a burden to hold, and I was groaning/moaning so much during them that I couldn’t breathe the gas in, so I ended up not using it a ton. I did use it a little between contractions.

At some point, I started feeling a lot of downward pressure, and was starting to scream a little at the pain, so Dr. Senica came in. He checked me and said I was still right around 8 cm (if he stretched it), but I was in such an incredible amount of pain, and feeling so much pressure during contractions, that I think he decided to stay and help baby along. Having to bend my legs into the stirrups with that pain in my sides and back — oh man, it was absolutely horrible. Suddenly, so many memories of my other birth sans epidural came flooding back. And just why am I doing this again!?!

During the next few contractions, Dr. Senica tried to help my cervix dilate those last few centimeters so that I could start pushing. He had me gently push with a few contractions too, and then he said I could go for it. I have never felt that kind of pain. I think because this labor went so much faster than with Annabelle (my other unmedicated birth), it was that much more intense. I was screaming my head off, with the nurses and Travis holding my legs up (because I just wanted to straighten them from the back/side pain), everyone in the room telling me I had to push now, and I could do it, and hold my breath in and bear down with everything I had, and I felt completely confident that the description I used last time — that it feels like you’re taking the biggest poop in the world and it’s tearing your insides out along with it — was 100% accurate. During contractions, I wanted to cry because I just wanted to pain to be over, but it wouldn’t be over unless I just pushed through it.

As I bore down during contractions (Travis wrote down that I pushed 8-10 times), there were points where my body just took over and pushed for me, which is kind of cool when you think about it that the body knows what to do, but it also makes me feel out of control and scared. Finally, baby’s head was out. I had to take a break though — everyone kept telling me, “The head is out. You need to keep pushing.” After a break, I did it. I screamed louder than ever, and it was SO incredibly painful there are not even words to describe it, but FINALLY baby’s body came out. Neola was born!! She came out crying right away. Like last time, I laid there for a while completely dazed and saying “Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap.”

Dr. Senica clamped the cord, then had Travis cut it. Neola was completely covered in vernix, so the nurses toweled her off a little before putting her on me skin-to-skin. (I still got completely covered in the sticky white stuff.) Meanwhile, Dr. Senica was pushing on my stomach to release the placenta. One more push from me, and the placenta was out. I asked Dr. Senica if I had torn — he said there was one small nick, but that if he could stop the bleeding with a little pressure, I wouldn’t need any stitches (and he was able to, so yay!) The nurse took baby’s vitals while the rest of them cleaned up the birthing mess. I asked to get some pain meds for the afterbirth pains, because with Corbin, they were intense.

After a little while, I handed Neola to Travis so that I could eat my dinner. With just the baby blankets on, she ended up getting too cold (body temp was down to 97 something). So they brought her back to me for more skin to skin. She started moving her mouth so I tried nursing her, and she did latch a little that first time.

By 6 PM, Neola’s body temp had stabilized enough that they were able to weigh her, give her a bath, the eye drops, etc. Then I took a short bath to soak my bum, which felt amazing.

Between 6 and 9 PM, it was a cycle of checking mom’s and baby’s vitals, seeing if Neola would nurse (she wanted to suck on something, but wasn’t latching), and me eating. I ate 2 personal pizzas, 2 bowls of fruit, a brownie, a chocolate pudding, and a fig bar.

A little after 9 PM, my night nurse, Heather, brought me a stool softener and more pain meds, and then we tried to go to bed. Travis walked Neola around the room for a while, but she wouldn’t settle, so I took her and tried to nurse. She wasn’t interested — she was spitting up amniotic fluid — so I just held her upright in the chair for a few hours, and she slept well that way.

During the night, I showed Heather that Neola wasn’t latching, or that she would latch but then stop sucking almost right away, and she ended up bringing me a nipple shield to use, which helped a lot. Neola was still sleepy enough that she wasn’t interested most of the time, but it did increase her sucking when she was interested.

Unfortunately, the combination of Tylenol 3 every four hours and Ibuprofen every eight wasn’t enough to keep on top of the afterbirth pains, so I ended up cramping quite a bit during the night. But Heather brought me some heating pads, and those really helped a ton. I had her reheat them probably half a dozen times.

Travis took a shift with Neola during the night, and toward morning, Heather helped me do skin to skin again in bed with Neola, and she slept contentedly that way for several hours (which meant mommy got some sleep too!). That is a sweet memory with my last little newborn.

Just before 7:30 AM, Heather introduced our new nurse, Amber. Then the pediatric nurse came in (I was nursing at the time, so she came back a little later), as well as the OB on call. They all said that as long as baby passed her 24-hour tests, and we scheduled a follow-up with our pediatrician for the next day (because of my being Group B Strep positive), we could go home at 24 hours.

We ate breakfast, Travis took a quick shower, and then around 11 AM, Travis left to meet the kids and his mom at a park (they were all missing us), and get coffee from Caribou. I tried to rest during that time, but Neola wanted to nurse. After he got back, I downed my coffee while the nurses took Neola’s newborn photos, and then I laid down for an hour or 2. I didn’t technically get to sleep (too much commotion in our room), but I was 80% out of it. Then Neola wanted to nurse again.

Around 3:15, Travis was napping, but I woke him up to take Neola so that I could shower and pack before 4:03, which is when the nurses were going to come do Neola’s 24-hour tests. While they did her tests, Travis ran a load of stuff out to the car. By 4:45, all the tests were done, and we were on our way out to the car to head home with our newest little. By 5:15, we were home! Big sisters ran outside, ecstatic to meet little sister. So sweet. My heart was bursting.

And that’s Neola’s birth story!! More details to come in her weekly updates.

Annabelle Lyn: 6 Years

10 May

Annabelle turned six on March 27. She’s just finishing Kindergarten (homeschooling) and will be in 1st Grade next year! That doesn’t seem possible.

For her birthday this year, Nana and Papa K came down in the morning for presents and cake, and then just our family went to Upnorth Bounce House and had dinner at China Garden. We also had a joint birthday celebration/sleepover at a hotel and waterpark for her and Emma with a couple neighbor friends.

Size

Annabelle is 46 lbs (60%) and 3 ft 10 inches tall (61%). She is wearing size 6/6X or Small for clothes, and size 12 shoes.

Eating

Annabelle still LOVES yogurt, and eats it every morning for breakfast. She also loves quesadillas (on the stove, not in the microwave), PB&J sandwiches, bacon, scrambled eggs, fig bars, applesauce, most fruit, cucumbers, shrimp, and pizza. She is not a fan of mac & cheese (though will eat it occasionally), carrots, and most dinners we make.

Sleeping

Annabelle will still occasionally nap if given the opportunity, but most days she wakes up between 6:30 and 7, and goes to bed between 7:30 and 8. Every once in a while, she has an accident in the middle of the night but for the most part, she is able to wake up and go potty in the bathroom.

The girls still share a room, though they are now downstairs. At first, they were in an area at the far end of our basement that didn’t have a door or wall, but now that area has a door and a wall, and the girls have moved into the other bedroom downstairs. We bought them a bunk bed too — Annabelle is on the bottom bunk. The girls still go to bed at the same time, and usually wake up together or within 30 minutes of one another.

Development

Academically, Annabelle likes doing hands-on things like cutting, gluing, coloring, tracing, worksheets, etc. and has less patience for things that only involve thinking, talking, or listening. Whenever we use manipulatives in math, she takes forever and a day rearranging them, and telling me everything except the actual answer. She took the Iowa Basic Skills Test just last week, and during the listening portion when she was supposed to listen to a story and then choose the picture that corresponded, she would imagine her own story and choose the picture based on that. She loves telling stories, and talks so fast and excitedly that it can be hard to understand her.

Annabelle is still working on mastering letters and their sounds, identifying written numbers, and doing simple addition and subtraction, but she’s definitely made progress this year. With letters, i and j are hard for her to remember, and with counting, she gets tripped up on the switch in tens (20, 30, 40, etc.). But we have been working through the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and she has learned how to sound words out. She also did well with the lessons in her math book. Her attention span in the other subjects like History and Literature was a little spotty, and she frequently complained about not wanting to do school, but since she was only in Kindergarten, I didn’t really push it much. But my expectations will be higher next year!

Homeschooling this year has meant lots and lots and LOTS of sibling time. Annabelle plays well with both Emma and Corbin. She is very easygoing and willing to share most of the time (though sometimes she does get possessive of things that she hasn’t had much of a turn with, due to her siblings’ hogging it).

When disagreeing or fighting with Emma, Annabelle tends to have meltdowns and come crying to us instead of handling the situation herself (but Emma is bigger and stronger, so I kind of get it). Travis and I have to intentionally remind ourselves that most likely, the situation isn’t as bad as Annabelle is making it out to be. We have been trying to use Connected Families’ Peace Process model to mediate conflict, which involves getting both girls calm, asking for both sides to share their point of view, and then asking questions that help them think of a solution to the problem.

Annabelle and Corbin don’t fight all that often (unless he destroys something she was playing with, or they both want the same toy), and generally Annabelle enjoys having a younger sibling who is mostly willing to do what she wants to do (Emma tends to be the ringleader when Annabelle plays with her). Corbin doesn’t always cooperate though, so Annabelle is really looking forward to having a baby sister who can’t say no to rides in the stroller, or being held like a baby.

Emma and Annabelle still spend most of their time playing Barbies, dolls, or dressing up as princesses, but they also enjoy playing in the woods, imagining they are like the Boxcar Children. Annabelle loves making mud pies, cakes, and other concoctions in buckets and pie pans with dirt, sticks, rocks, leaves, mulch, and pine cones.

Annabelle hates getting her hair brushed, and almost always had a head of very unruly hair, but she has gotten better at being able to brush it herself when we ask her to, or when we’re going somewhere.

The girls’ room has been downstairs since this past January, and Annabelle would never remember to put socks on when she got dressed. Then when we wanted to go outside and were putting on winter gear, she would realize she didn’t have socks, and whine for someone else to go downstairs to get her socks because it’s “just so far away” down there. We started telling her to “remember socks!” when we sent her down to get dressed. Thankfully the season for socks has passed for the time being, but we are seriously contemplating storing their socks upstairs in the foyer for winter.

Annabelle is ofte goofy and has the best facial expressions. Some examples:

This past winter, Annabelle went ice fishing with Travis several times, and actually caught some fish on her own! When we were down in Florida during February, Annabelle also went mini-golfing for the first time, and rode carnival rides like the Scrambler and Pirate Ship for (almost) the first time. We also found a couple of baby turtles in the swimming pool that we rescued to safety in the nearby pond.

And that’s Annabelle at 6 years!