Archive | July, 2022

Neola Bethany: 13-14 Months

24 Jul

Neola is 14 months old as of July 12. These past couple of months with Neola have been so fun! She’s not walking yet, but getting oh so close!

In Neola’s 11-12 month post, I didn’t mention anything about what we did for her first birthday. Her actual birthday on May 12 was pretty lowkey — we had doughnuts for breakfast (that we had just bought that morning from Cub), played in the rain, had McDonald’s for lunch, and went to soccer practice for the older kids at night. #fourthchild #firstbirthday

But we celebrated all four kids’ birthdays with our families on May 21. We did a (very, very loose) superhero theme. It ended up being a FREEZING day. We had the older kids’ soccer games that morning, and I ended up running home between games with Neola to get winter gear for everyone because we were all turning into icicles. For the party, we ate food and played with water balloons (for the kids, the fun of water balloons outweighed how cold it was).

Size

A week after her first birthday, we took Neola in to the doctor because she had had a ton of mucus, a bad cough, and was super fussy/clingy (unlike her), and it has been going on for almost three weeks. Turned out, she had a double ear infection. 😢 So we gave her amoxicillin for 10 days and she was better…

For about a week. Then she got the same thing again: congestion, cough, fussy. After two weeks, I brought her back in. Another ear infection. 😢 Now she was put on a stronger antibiotic, Augmentin. She hated the taste of that medicine, and it gave her a bad diaper rash.

During that same time, she got two new teeth on bottom, and two molars on top. And then she got Covid on top of all that! Needless to say, there have been some rough nights of sleep!

Long story short, I just took her in for her well-child visit on the day she turned 14 months, and she is now 22 lbs 9 oz (76%), 2 feet 7 inches tall (81%). At her (sick) doctor appointment on May 19 (only a week after her first birthday), she was 21 lbs 10 oz and 2 feet 6 inches tall.

Sleeping

Neola’s sleep is still not ideal. But since I’ve been sleeping on the floor with her (I’m on a twin mattress, she’s on a crib mattress), the wake-ups are generally not terrible (unless there are a LOT of them, then it’s painful). On an average night, she probably wakes up 2-4 times, nurses, and goes right back to sleep. On a rough night, she wakes up 6-8 times, and sometimes cries when I try to roll her back onto her mattress.

She mostly sleeps on her side, though recently she has started sleeping on her belly a little. She rarely sleeps on her back anymore. I am encouraged that there have been a few times when she has fallen asleep on her own (with me laying right there) after flopping around a bit (as opposed to nursing to sleep). She has also fallen asleep in her crib a few times after crying for 5-10 minutes (I reserve that for the times when she won’t settle down and go to sleep, even though it’s bedtime). That’s progress!

She is still consistent in her napping preferences: she falls asleep either nursing, in the stroller or in her carseat. I actually wish she didn’t fall asleep in the car so easily because she will take a 20-minute cat nap at 5 or 6 PM sometimes when we’re on our way home, and then she’s wired until 10 PM. We also discovered that she likes mowing the lawn with Travis.

Her typical schedule is wake up around 6:30 AM, first nap 9:30-10:30, second nap 1:30-3:00, bed around 7:30.

I’ve been tempted to feel guilty about Neola’s sleeping habits, and while they are often challenging (because holding a baby for naps when you have three other kids is hard), I come back again and again to the conclusion that these are just the circumstances God has for us right now, and we don’t need to “solve the problem.” Thinking that we can (and should) “fix” this leads to us trusting ourselves, instead of trusting God.

I’ve also reminded myself that all of our other kids had their own unique sleep challenges at this age, but are sleeping champs now, so we must’ve done something right! And I also found a community of people on social media who are supporting kids’ sleep habits without sleep training. Those are the messages I needed to hear: It’s ok to not sleep train! It’s ok to share a bed on the floor with your toddler! It’s just a season!

Eating

Neola is an eating champ! She eats almost anything. She loves pretty much any kind of meat (lunch meat, chicken, brat, pulled pork, pork tenderloin, taco meat, salami, meat stick, summer sausage). She also LOVES cheese (we mainly feed her cheddar and mozzarella). She also loves berries, grapes, watermelon, teething wafers, Graham crackers, Goldfish, and raisins.

I always feed her breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then usually a couple of snacks too. Sometimes she eats a snack while I’m making food, and then she eats more while we’re eating. I’m actually kind of amazed that she’s not chubbier based on how much food she eats. 🤷‍♀️

She’s still nursing, mostly in the middle of the night, but also before both of her naps (if I’m planning to hold her, otherwise she will fall asleep in the stroller or carseat without it), and when she goes to bed. We’ve given her cow’s milk a few times, but she doesn’t seem to love it.

Like I mentioned earlier, Neola got two more teeth on the bottom middle (for a total of 4), plus two of her top molars, bringing her up to a total of 10 teeth. Now I think she’s starting to work on the bottom two molars. Teething affects her sleep a little, but it mainly makes her clingy and snotty during the day. This girl produces so. much. mucus!

Development

Neola is a mover and a shaker these days! She learned how to pull up on things and crawl up the stairs (but not down) around 13 months, and is getting into all sorts of things these days. She is pretty timid when it comes to learning how to walk though, and doesn’t even have much interest in pushing the alligator clacker around.

Her favorite activities these days are playing in the sandbox, playing in the water table, pulling tupperware out of the cupboard, crawling up the stairs, and nesting on the floor mattresses in her room. She enjoys swinging, but definitely gets to a point where she’s had enough sitting around and wants to get out. She also loves ripping apart tissues, napkins, wrapping paper, books, etc.; digging through mommy’s purse; and pulling books off bookshelves.

Neola is curious and likes checking out almost everything — except her baby toys! She plays with those the least. (After her hip dysplasia surgery, I might declutter most of her baby toys… we’ll see if she plays with them more when she’s not mobile.) Her favorite thing to play with is my earbud case (now with the earbuds taken out). She opens and shuts it, opens and shuts it.

Speaking of which, because Neola got Covid right before her surgery (and still tested positive two days before the surgery even though it had been over a week since her initial positive), her surgery got rescheduled to August 18. So we have a whole other month to do summer activities that involve water and sand. 🙂

Since her first birthday, Neola has gone kayaking on our river, boating on Gull Lake, camping at Itasca State Park, and on an weekend trip to Duluth.

She is almost always a trooper, and actually did no worse than normal with sleeping away from home, which is all I can ask for (haha!). The hardest thing about camping was that she just wanted to put the rocks at our campsite in her mouth all the time!

Of course, Neola still gets a lot of attention from her siblings. Corbin has started really playing with her too, which is super sweet overall, but he often gets a little rowdy and makes her cry.

Neola is the sweetest little girl, and we love her so much! I am really trying to soak up the baby stage with her, because it is going by so fast! She’s almost a toddler already! (single tear)

And that’s Neola at 14 months!

Thoughts on Marriage After 15 Years

1 Jul

Do you, Kathy, take Travis to be your husband, your partner in life and your one true love; will you trust him, respect him, laugh with him and cry with him; loving him faithfully through the good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles you may face together? Do you give your hand, your heart, and your love, from this day forward, as long as you both shall live?

On my wedding day, I answered “I do” to that question.

After 15 years, I still do.

But it’s not without sacrifice. On your wedding day, you acknowledge that the future may not be all sunshine and rainbows, but you have no idea what that will entail, and honestly, you are so in love with your new spouse, it’s hard to imagine a time when your marriage vows could be put to the test.

But in the 15 years Travis and I have been married, our vows have been tested. In every conflict and season of bad times, we have been faced with the question: were we serious about the promise we made that day?

The truth is that there are times when you don’t like your spouse. When you feel like there’s no possible way you two could be any different. When their quirks and idiosyncrasies drive you up the wall.

Many in our world hold themselves apart from their spouses, and when things get hard and their love grows cold, they cut bait and move on.

God willing, Travis and I won’t. We will continue to go to battle for our marriage. Whenever we find ourselves fighting against each other, and not for each other, we will regroup. We will humble ourselves, have the vulnerable conversations, and be willing to sacrifice and change for the good of the other.

And it is a battle. There is a spiritual war going on in every Christian household, with Satan and his demons trying to destroy, or at least disarm, the powerful picture of Christ and His church that is marriage. Satan wants the husband to pursue his own interests at the expense of his wife and family. He wants the wife to disrespect and mock her husband behind his back. He wants disunity in parenting decisions. He wants lack of intimacy. He wants two people who pass like ships in the night, orchestrating a chaotic life, with neither love nor friendship between them.

So Travis and I cannot be content with drifting apart. We can’t just focus on other things and let it happen. At the first hint of distance and disunity, we have to take action. We must apologize and admit, when the other confronts us with ways we’ve wounded and harmed. We must swallow our pride and insults. We have to refuse to bring up the past in begrudging ways. We have to choose to believe that the other person is sincere in their love and desire to change. We need to be willing to learn and grow from our mistakes, or to at least try imperfectly to do things differently. We must extend grace to the other person when they fail again.

Those things are not easy to do. In fact, they are the very opposite of easy. They are the hardest work. Fighting for my marriage requires fighting against my natural human instincts of self-righteousness and pride, of feeling justified and without blame. I must be able to admit when I’m wrong, and to see my husband’s side. Even when I think I’m right, I must be willing to allow that I could be wrong…

Because I am a sinner just like my spouse.

And that is really what it all comes down to. Do I really believe that I am a sinner, in need of a Savior? That I am just as much to blame for the problems in my marriage as my husband is? Maybe even more so? Do I believe that I am hopeless and helpless without the intervention of God in my life?

Or do I grumble against my husband, focusing on what he should be doing differently? “If only he had a daily quiet time… If only he worked less… If only he put his tools away… If only his dirty socks were taken off right-side-out… If only he contributed to household chores more… If these things were done my way, we wouldn’t have an issue. Therefore, my husband is the problem.”

I confess that I am often tempted to think that way. But he could say the same about me. “If only she didn’t care so much about the house being clean… If only she didn’t let the kids watch so much screen time… If only she didn’t buy the kids so many treats and toys… If only she gave me more physical affection and intimacy… If only she supported me more in my hobbies and time away… If these things were done my way, we wouldn’t have an issue. Therefore, my wife is the problem.”

This way of thinking will destroy a marriage if left unchecked. Like John Piper illustrated in one of his marriage sermons, when we discover that the landscape of our marriage is littered with cow-pies (all our problems and tensions and disagreements), we must get out our pitchfork and scoop all the cow-pies into a pile. We don’t pitch our tent in the middle of, or even next to, the cow-pie pile. We go find a clean area, no matter how small. That’s where we pitch our tent and live our lives. When we have to revisit the cow-pies, we will. But we will not live there.

Practically speaking, that means that I have to practice gratitude and focus on the positives. What does my spouse do right? How does he communicate love and commitment? He might be showing love and respect in a way I don’t recognize. Even if it’s not my love language, I can affirm what he is doing, while also respectfully reminding him of what does make me feel love and respected.

Finding a clean area free of cow-pies means finding some way to have positive interactions with my spouse. If all we talk about when we’re together are stressful things like work and parenting decisions, or if the only time we see each other is when the chaos of home life is bombarding us, no wonder we’re having a hard time!

Not living next to the cow-pies also means that I lay down my demand that things be the way I want them to be. If I get mad at my husband every time I’m doing laundry and have to flip his socks right-side-out, I’m living next to the cow-pies. If I rehearse over and over in my mind a careless word he spoke to me without bringing it up with him, I’m living next to the cow-pies. If I am angry and bitter at him for saying he wants to do something differently, or for making a different parenting decision than I would have made, I am living next to the cow-pies.

So I must believe that I am a sinner just like my spouse, and be willing to admit that just because something is my way doesn’t automatically make it the right way. Humility is willing to admit fault and to change.

On the flip side, do I also believe that because Jesus died for me and I now have the Holy Spirit, I am empowered to change? That I am not captive to my personality or habits? That God is able to grow my spouse and me together, and bridge our chasm of differences (or at least use our differences together in a divine balance).

As Christians, we should never say, “That’s just the way I am” or “I can’t change.” We can recognize that we have unique personalities determined by God, but we must submit even our personalities to God and allow Him to sanctify them. That means we have natural tendencies, but we can fight against them if they are causing sin or strife in our lives.

In my own life, I have long struggled with anger. When I am hurt or sad, I don’t cry or mope; I get mad. When I feel overwhelmed and flustered, I get irritable and impatient. When I am tired and clumsy, I get frustrated. When I am too hot or too hungry or have to pee really bad, I get angry.

But does that mean my anger is ok? “It’s just the way God made me.” No, it does not mean that it’s ok. The way God created me does not give me license to sin. I must be willing to place my whole self on the altar, to allow the Spirit’s sanctifying power to cleanse all of me — my quirks, my interests, my strengths, my weaknesses, my hobbies, my tendencies — ALL of me.

Marriage has revealed so many layers of sinfulness in my heart over the years, and often the process of sanctification seems incredibly slow. Like, so slow that I seriously wonder if anything is even happening. But I cling to the promise in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 regarding sanctification that “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” He WILL change me!! As I look back on 15 years of marriage, I see how He HAS changed me. I’ve matured and deepened in my faith and in my relationship with Travis. So often it didn’t feel like I was growing. But the Spirit was indeed at work. The key is to keep pressing forward, and keep desiring to change. Like A.W. Tozer says in The Pursuit of God:

“Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life in hope ourselves to rend the veil. God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and trust. We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon it crucified. But we must be careful to distinguish lazy `acceptance’ from the real work of God. We must insist upon the work being done. We dare not rest content with a neat doctrine of self-crucifixion.”

The promise of 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 is so great that I’ll quote it again to end this post (using the Phillips translation):

“May the God of peace make you holy through and through. May you be kept in soul and mind and body in spotless integrity until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is utterly faithful and he will finish what he has set out to do.”

Ask God to be faithful and present in your marriage, and watch Him finish what He has set out to do!