Friday, December 30, 2011

"I'll call you on my break"

I usually call Hannah on my breaks at work. It really stinks when I leave my phone at home.

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Wencl
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2011 8:51 AM
To: Hannah Wencl
Subject: Phone

I can't find my phone. I think I left it at home today. I will try to call you, but the calls will have to be brief. Sorry. My number is 317-XXX-XXXX.


-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Wencl
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2011 9:02 AM
To: Hannah Wencl
Subject: Phone

I'm stupid. It was in my pocket the whole time.


Friday, December 16, 2011

On Being a Parent

By Hannah.

"So do you like being a parent?" The question caught me off guard. In our culture, too often children are a sticky, smelly interruption to life. Some couples put off having them for a decade or forgo the idea altogether. I constantly see studies that estimate the average cost of raising a child, as if parenting were measured in dollars and cents. Not everyone should have kids, not everyone can handle the same number of children, and no one should pursue the blessing of having children to an extreme (think 20 kids). But parenting IS a beautiful blessing, in spite of the sacrifice, for at least 5 reasons. They're why I like being a parent.
  1. Being a parent is rewarding. Every morning I pick Abby up out of her crib, give her a kiss, and see her smile. Those moments are worth more than any amount of money. I've seen her change from a tiny newborn who can barely lift her head to a 2 month old who sits supported and almost rolls over. I can't wait to see her grow even more over the years. Knowing that I have the privilege and awesome responsibility to foster this growth is amazing.

  2. Being a parent puts you in the spotlight. From the minute she was born, a little person is taking in my every word and action in her presence. The way she interacts with her future husband, her beliefs on everything from God to homosexuality, the way she talks, how much she reads, what she wears, and a million other aspects of her life will be influenced by me. She may not realize it, and as a teenager she may soundly deny it, but it's true nonetheless. Not only do I have God and a "host of witnesses", I have one very small little witness watching me.

  3. Being a parent forces you to see life from a new perspective. When I traveled, I used to plan exactly what I would wear each day based on who I would see, what I was doing, etc. Now I carefully pack all the clothes that Abigail might possibly need. Then I grab underwear, a couple pairs of jeans, and some long sleeved shirts or sweaters for myself. I used to have a meticulously clean apartment, partially because it made me feel good about myself. Now I still keep it clean, but I do it for my husband and for Abby. I wouldn't want her playing on dirty carpet. I guess it's made me less selfish.
  4. Being a parent connects you to other people, especially other parents. On a recent trip to Kroger, I noticed the old lady behind me in line smiling at Abigail in the cart. "She's precious," the lady commented. I probably never would've spoken to the lady if it wasn't for my baby. At church, I've gotten to know a lot more moms through the nursery and just by meeting them. My dad has Parkinson's disease, but one smile from Abigail can rouse him from his chair and have him smiling and talking like a boy on Christmas morning. Bring up the topic of childbirth, the cost of baby clothes, or crying and you instantly have a connection to other parents. Even older children seem less threatening to talk to than adults. Children break down our walls of self-absorption and timidity.
  5. Being a parent is a huge ministry. Parenting is a picture of God's love for us as his children. God loves us unconditionally. God lovingly disciplines and corrects us. God protects and provides for us. God never leaves us. Although I'm not perfect (surprise!), I can attempt the same for my child. Together with her daddy, I can give her a small glimpse of God's love for her. And unlike church ministries where people can leave, she's a captive audience!

So do I like being a parent? Absolutely.

The Stupid Bear Song

From: Hannah Wencl
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2011 2:01 PM
To: Andrew Wencl
Subject: (none)

Please pray for me. I'm crying and stressed. If I have to hear the stupid bear song another minute, I think I might lose it. Abby is taking crib naps today but it still takes an hour to get her down…

I'm trying to get her down for her 2nd nap. If it doesn't work in 15 min., I'm sticking her in the car seat and going out for sanity's sake.
I love my wife.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thanksgiving, Part 3

Amy and her husband, John, hosted Thanksgiving this year. The turkey was great, as were the big bowls of mashed potatoes. I think we even had potatoes leftover, an uncommon feat when Amy, John, and I are in the same room. There were plenty of eats to go around, but I felt like I didn’t eat as much as in years past, which is a good thing, because there were plenty of desserts to enjoy later.

After lunch we moved downstairs to watch the Detroit Lions play the Green Bay Packers. I love watching the game as part of our Thanksgiving tradition. I really don’t know how my Hoosier neighbors can live without seeing the home team play. Of course, since the Colts haven’t won a game this year, I understand about this Thanksgiving.

We snacked a little on crackers, cheeses, dips, and other sweet things to munch on. I think most everyone had some pop as well. Abigail slept through most of the festivities, but I did get to read a few books to Kyleigh, Amy’s youngest. After three or four books I was happy she wasn’t into chapter books yet and that her bookshelf was upstairs. When we were done reading she’d take the book upstairs, pick out another one, and come back down. This process went on for probably four cycles. Amy says she’s a little book worm.

Amy’s basement/family room was great. She had a beautifully decorated tree with seemingly nothing but Hallmark ornaments, from Scooby Doo to Mickey Mouse, to the nasty RV from the movie Christmas Vacation.

The rest of the weekend seems a blur to me now. I knew I should have written this up last week.

One evening we played a six-handed game of Canasta, something I don’t think we’ve ever done before. It was fun, and Amy and I almost won. We missed the 5,000 points to win by a measly five points. The following hand ended only slightly better than Custer’s Last Stand, and we lost. I’ve been riffed a lot for journaling during a card game and she’s never let it go, so it was fun to show I can pay attention during a card game even if I can’t win it.

Another Wencl tradition was the decorating of Christmas cookies. One year we didn’t have many Christmas cookie cutters, so we used Halloween ones and enjoyed our “Christmas bats.” Though we didn’t have Christmas bats, we still had a blast. I turned a star shape into the starfish friend of Spongebob Squarepants, Patrick. Amy’s become a pro at decorating cookies, which is great because I’m extremely slow and methodical. Katelynne, my niece, made some cookies as well, and Amy thinks they were much better than some of mine. She’s probably right. Hannah was a little excessive on her sprinkle use, so I made a few “monster cookies” by dumping the extra sprinkles over a few cookies I had frosted. The results were significantly less appealing than a Thomas Kinkade painting.

Alyssa spent some quality time with Abs, though I don’t think she got to hold her as much as Deborah. She told me that she talks about me a lot with her coworkers and said she wanted to introduce me to them. Hannah and I stopped in to see her late one night and she had her chance. She introduced me to Preston, who was working the grill. She informed me that he had to deal with an explosion of sorts in the restroom, so Hannah and I decided to get an eggnog shake instead of something off the grill. Just in case Preston doesn’t wash all that well.
All in all, Thanksgiving was a wonderful time. I enjoyed spending time with the Walts making new memories and with the Wencls adding to old ones. Christmas is right around the corner, and I’m excited. Abigail has gotten bigger and seems to change a lot in a few days’ time. I can’t wait for everyone to see her again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Black Friday, Part 3

The next stop for us was Big Lots. I’ve not been a frequent shopper at Big Lots since the nearest one to where I live in Indy is in a “rougher” area. But dad works at the one in BR, so we decided to pay him a visit since he was up and working anyways. Big Lots didn’t have a lot to offer, but we did look through the cheap DVDs (are you beginning to notice a pattern in my shopping habits?). Amy and I both found a movie we wanted, but since there was only one copy at the sale price, she let me have it. She was going to give it as a present, so that was nice of her. I decided to pass on the six dollar seasons of Walker, Texas Ranger, though.

Our shopping was just about done at that point. There wasn’t a whole lot more we wanted to do or see. We stopped at McD’s, but the girls just wanted something off the dollar menu. I guess mom’s promise to cook us breakfast was too good to pass up on. And here I was willing and able to get them specialty drinks. They’ll probably hit me up for an eggnog shake next time I’m up.

We ran into Julie Cole again at McD’s, but we were off pretty quick and didn’t stick around to chat. We decided to hit Menards.

If you’re not from Big Rapids, you need to understand something. Meijer is crazy. Walmart is insane. Menards tops them all. Its parking lot, one of the bigger ones in BR, is always overflowing with people to the point that cars are lined up on the grass (or in the snow, depending on the weather). It has one entrance, and one exit. Everyone is funneled through the same doors. It opens the doors at 6am. The store is a recipe for chaos, and even though we were going in over an hour after the sale started, we knew we were in for some fun.

We managed to snag a real parking space and hiked up to the entrance. The return line was over twenty people long. Somewhere on the other side of the store the checkout line would be worse. Much worse.

As we made our way past the first few displays of merchandise we found my great aunt Marcia and her boyfriend, or her “man friend” as my grandma sometimes calls him. They were looking for something or other for a home construction project. We said hello, called them crazy for going out on Black Friday at their age, and moved on. I managed to snag a gift for the wife, along with some candles, a two dollar knife that I still won’t stop playing with (here’s why), and some other items for a shoebox present for children in poverty back home in Indy.

While I was looking for those items Amy and Alyssa managed to snag what they were looking for and I had to call them on the phone to find out where they were standing in line. I violated one of the cardinal rules of Black Friday shopping to cut in line to be with them.

The line moved slow.

That’s an understatement. It moved painfully slow. Holding twenty pounds of oddly-shaped items, including glass candle jars, is not easy. As time goes by you want to set something down, and I did think about dropping Hannah’s present. Amy and Alyssa weren’t much better, but Alyssa was nice and helped Amy hold stuff. Between that and letting me ride shotgun, she was doing her best to be on the nice list and get a present from her two awesome siblings for Christmas.

Compared to the chaos at Menards, our final return trip to Walmart was nothing. Most of the displays had been either removed or moved out of the way. The store actually had an 8 o’ clock sale, and Amy was on the lookout for a Disney movie. Dad gave her a five dollar coupon off a Disney movie. He didn’t have one for me. She was always the favorite, you know.

Stacked on the movie display were blue Nintendo Wii’s. People had been standing in line and fighting over the things less than twelve hours prior. Now there were probably seven or so that no one was even interested in. Such is the vanity of our consumerism.

Back at the Wencl home mom had made up some pancakes for us to enjoy. She had real maple syrup and a special blueberry syrup, both of which were delish. The perfect end to a fun-filled shopping experience with my two sisters. I think it was their favorite part of the weekend. I think it was mine too.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Black Friday, Part 2

After I came home from the 10pm madness of Black Friday in Walmart, I waited until 11:30 to snag a $1.99 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory DVD (the original movie). I called Alyssa to see how she was doing and got ready for bed. I set my cell phone alarm for 3:30am and went to bed. At midnight I heard the cuckoo clock and thought, Alyssa got her laptop, and happily drifted off to sleep.

The next morning I woke up at 3:30am, dressed, and snuck out of the room before Hannah could wake up. I figured I’d go downstairs and wake Alyssa up for a fun morning of Black Friday shopping. I walked down the hallway and found Alyssa putting on her coat! Amy had called her up and was waiting outside in the van to take her shopping. The bums were going to leave me! I threw on my coat and ran out to the van before they could drive off without me.

Alyssa opted to sit in my niece’s booster seat so I could enjoy the comforts of riding shotgun. She’s not a bad sister after all.

The 4am sales began big at Meijer. As we walked in through the automatic doors I could see the video game department had a line snaking its way through the aisles to the entrance. I was glad I didn’t want any of that merchandise.

I made my way back to the movie section. Amy was picking up some Pillow Pets and Alyssa disappeared somewhere. We met up with our cousin, Chris Healey, and his mom. He is probably a black belt when it comes to being a Black Friday ninja. Both of them were spotted the night before at Walmart, but they’re so stealthy, I never saw them.

I snagged a couple of the three dollar movies on sale and after some waffling, picked up a present for a very special someone… Kudos to Amy for the suggestion! We had a little bit of time before the next store opened, so I asked Ames to take me to Lowes so I could pick up a few storage totes for Hannah.

From there we made our way up Perry Street to Kmart. There was a line across the front of the building, so after parking we trotted to the back where we met Julie Cole and her husband. When the doors flew open at the front the other newcomers avoided going to the back of the line and instead rushed in with the other people near the front. These are the things that keep me coming back to Black Friday shopping.

I didn’t have anything I wanted, but Amy almost convinced me to buy a fleece comforter for our bed. She was going to, but they didn’t have the color she wanted. As we stood in line to check out, Amy and Alyssa both pointed out that they were carrying everything and I was being a bum. Amy brought two fruit snacks with her (she wasn’t expecting me to come), and she proceeded to share with Alyssa while the two taunted me. This has pretty much been our relationship our whole lives. They took pity on me and shared, perhaps because I told them I’d take them to McDonald’s later. I spotted more of Amy’s comforters at the front of the store and grabbed one for her, so we were even.

More to come…

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Black Friday, Part 1

Yes, I created this logo.

This year I went Black Friday shopping with my sisters. Amy's got me by about four years, and Alyssa follows me by the same.

As kids we didn't do a whole lot together because of the age gap. We shared no friends in common. I was Amy's annoying tagalong, and Alyssa was mine. Now that we're older, the age difference is a lot less of an issue, and perhaps not spending so much time together has allowed each of us to develop and mature a little more into our own persons to the point that we've finally come to recognize that each of us can be fun and interesting.

I've never done Black Friday with my sisters. I fancy myself a Black Friday ninja, so I prefer to go solo to avoid being held up by other people. But this year I wasn't too enamored with any of the deals, at least not the ones I could afford. So I went with my primary goal to have fun. Add two sisters and practically no sleep to the mix and I had a pretty good chance of accomplishing that goal.

Black Friday actually began on Thursday. Alyssa wanted to get a new laptop, so she decided to go to Walmart for the 10pm sale and wait in line for the computer until midnight. She and mom went to pick up Amy, and I drove separate so mom, Amy, and I could leave as soon as we were done shopping.

I stood in a crowd of people all waiting for the 10pm countdown to end so they could stock up on cheap DVDs and Blu-Ray disks. I didn't have anything on my list from Walmart's sale. I scanned the selection of movies and called Amy and Alyssa to find out what they wanted.

At 10pm the plastic came off and so did the gloves. The idle mass of people burst to life and I saw individuals grabbing up multiple copies of the same titles. You'd think they were one-time-use DVDs by the way people were stacking them in their carts.

I grabbed a few and made my way back to where Alyssa was waiting in line. The ravaged displays of deal busters looked like the inside of my mailbox. (Our mailman believes it is a small trash compactor).

I couldn't find her, so I called her for directions. She was already bored and still had an hour and forty-five minutes before the plastic would come off her beloved laptop. When I found out she was collecting a specific TV series, I went back to the ravaged racks and picked up the last two copies. Alyssa was a little more uplifted by that, but was sad again once she realized the only thing she had to entertain herself was the back product description of the two TV seasons I gave her.

I finally reunited with Amy and mom at the front of the store. Amy returned to the fray for some kids'  clothes and returned instead with a kids' game. I believe she called me a freak when she found out I didn't get anything (who goes shopping at 10pm without any intention of buying anything?). I suggested she could wait for a ride from Alyssa since I was the only one with a car. For those of you who don't know us, that's just playful banter between siblings. The morning shopping would be better. Much better...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanksgiving, Part 2

Big Rapids is a small town. I never really thought so until growing up and moving away. Having gone to both Morley and Stanwood Elementary Schools, I always thought Big Rapids was at least a middle-sized town. Maybe it is. But after spending a lot more time in bigger cities like Indianapolis where I now live, my perspective has changed. Of course, I now know a lot of people who believe Indy is small, since they grew up in much larger cities. Perspective is subjective, I suppose.

Two Pink Monkeys
Even though I wear a blue Colts jersey and we’re establishing our family in Indy, I will probably always consider Big Rapids as my home. It’s where I spent most of my youth, where my parents and in-laws live, where I met my wife, and where I graduated college. There’s a lot of nostalgia, memories, and time invested in BR, and even though most people I know in Indy have never heard of it, it’s one of my favorite places to be.

Although I’m naturally a sentimental guy who looks more to the past than the future, I was looking forward to making new memories with Hannah and Abigail this Thanksgiving. The morning after we arrived in town, we piled into the car and drove a mile down the road from my parents’ house to spend the morning and early afternoon with the Walts. Hannah’s Aunt Janice had flown up from Florida to spend some time with Hannah’s mom, Sharon, and to see her great-niece Abigail.
Deborah, Hannah’s sister, couldn’t wait to see Abigail and had a hard time sharing her with anyone else while she was there. A friend of hers came up to me in church on Sunday and said even he had heard Deborah was savoring every minute with Abs. Deborah couldn’t come down when Abby was born, so she had to wait almost two months to see her. Since Debs was working a few days while we were up, no one seemed to mind that Abby could usually be found in her arms when she was around.
Tummy Time: All the girls were getting in on it.
One of the things I most enjoy doing at the Walt household is playing games. Normally we play Golf, Farkle, Sorry, or Phase Ten. I have my best winning streaks in the Walt home, so I don’t try to avoid playing Phase Ten, which I normally consider a sick and twisted game. You would too if the game ended and you were still on the third phase. That’s just wrong.

As Abs is growing bigger we give her more “tummy time” to allow her to strengthen her muscles and work on rolling over (she still a little young for that one yet). Sharon, Janice, and Deborah enjoyed playing with Abigail on a large blanked on the floor. Hannah’s noticed that Abigail likes to see people whenever she’s awake, so despite being a little fussy at first from a sensory overload, she got all the attention she needed over the break.

Abs and Gramps: Abigail and Mike having a good time.
Hannah’s dad, Mike, has been battling with Parkinson’s Disease for some time now and it often leaves him tired. Though he didn’t get to hold Abigail nearly as much as everyone else, he still had some precious moments with his granddaughter that we were able to record both on photos and film. We look forward to many more of these experiences and seeing smiles all around at the joy he and she get to share.

When it came time to leave Deborah didn’t want to say goodbye. Even though we’re coming back for Christmas, it was hard for her to meet Abigail and say goodbye in just a few short days. I’m glad Abigail had that effect on her. Sharon and Mike took it a little better, but I strongly suspect there were some teary eyes behind the windows as they waved goodbye.

Stay tuned for more on Thanksgiving with the Wencl family.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving, Part 1

I create all of my "My Life" logos
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend has always been an important one for the Wencl family, and since Hannah has joined us, I get to celebrate with the Walts as well.

Hannah and I weren't sure what to expect from this year's trip up to Michigan since we had an extra package in the back seat—Miss Abigail Renee Wencl! Just a few days shy of eight weeks, she'd never been on such a long car trip and Hannah and I weren't sure if she'd sleep the whole time, scream the whole time, or pull off a combination of the two during the six hour car ride. Add to that all of the baby items (necessary, my wife assures me), and the car was cramped with stuff. I feared that Abigail’s things would take first priority, followed by Hannah’s. Somewhere near the end of the priority list my things would find their place, or not find there place, as the case would be.

Hannah picked up a new windshield wiper at my behest since a good portion of the trip would be traversed in wet weather. The wiper was in the back seat and I had to put it on. My lovely wife, no doubt in an effort to conserve space, threw out the packaging for the new wiper and left me clueless as to how to attach it to the car. The old one came off easy enough, but the new one was slightly different and took multiple attempts to secure to my satisfaction.

Center of Attention: Adored by
her grandparents and auntie.
I-69 is terribly dull. It’s mostly just straight driving the whole way and the scenery hardly changes. Add in some rain and a little bit of driving in the dark and you have a recipe for heavy eyelids and light snoring. I was glad Hannah was taking that part of the drive. Abigail slept most of the way, but feeding time came early and I transitioned to the driver’s seat a half hour before hitting the Michigan state line. The halfway point of the trip is about fifteen to twenty minutes inside Michigan.
During the rest stop Hannah learned how to change a baby’s diaper in a gas station without one of those drop-down changing tables. I’m not sure how she did it, but she insists it was sanitary and also insists we only stop at gas stations with restaurants attached—they always have changing tables.

Unfortunately, that meant I would be driving completely in the dark and in a constant drizzle that didn’t end in Lansing like the morning weather report had suggested. My companion in conversation took a brief nap so I listened to an audiobook to keep myself somewhat coherent during the drive as I took in the hypnotizing windshield wipers as they swayed back and forth, beckoning me to drift out of consciousness and onto the rumble strips.

Caught in the Middle: She can't avoid it!
The closer we got to Big Rapids the more excited we got. When we saw the first exits for Morley our anticipation grew. It’s always been hard for me to accept just how far Morley is from the Big Rapids exit. We crossed the Muskegon River where I went fishing with my dad and sisters as a kid and we found seashell and lizard fossils and I would ride my bicycle in the summer.

As the big Menards loomed into sight and I flipped my right blinker while tapping the break, we let out a little cheer. We’re here! We’re home. Our Thanksgiving break had hardly begun.

Monday, November 14, 2011

From Hannah's Perspective

From Hannah:

It’s 9 pm and Abigail is crying almost inconsolably. She’s been changed, fed, burped, swaddled, and rocked, but still the crying persists. This evening is no different than nearly every evening from about 6 to 11 pm. The doctors called it colic, but the medicine they gave her for colic didn’t help much the first night we tried it. Sometimes I’m tempted to feel resentful towards my adorable bundle of joy when we spend most of our evening trying to soothe her every day. I remember when we used to be able to go shopping on a whim or watch AND hear a 2-hour movie in 2 hours.

I think that’s one of the reasons why God gives us children. They force us to grow up and become less selfish. I thought I had reached the pinnacle of unselfishness after getting married (don’t try to confirm that with my husband), but God still has more work to do. My life is a vapor of a few decades. But the legacy that I pass on to Abigail, she to her children, and they to their children… has eternal implications. That truth carries me through the screaming evenings right now.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Yes, Hon, we’re going to need that

I may be stepping beyond the bounds of propriety here, but my wife feeds Abigail “the natural way.” Although at first she didn’t think it seemed so natural, she’s since gotten the hang of it (no pun intended). Hannah’s got it figured out too.

She’s not the all-natural au natural kind of person who wants to share this experience with mall passersby or the people sitting with us in church, either. That’s why we’re thankful to have a nursing cover. It’s like half an apron, only wider and doesn’t tie in the back.

Tongue-tied? I think it means she's concentrating.
Like any nifty tool designed to make our lives easier, it is only useful insofar as we have it with us when Abigail decides she’s hungry. This Sunday it proved to be as useless as a green binky at 4 a.m. (which is pretty useless if you’ve ever had need of one at 4 a.m.).

We got together with some friends to celebrate a birthday at a local restaurant. On our way in I asked Hannah if she had grabbed the diaper bag. That is a misnomer. To Hannah, a diaper bag serves one primary purpose—storing diapers. Since she wasn’t planning on changing Abigail’s diaper at the Olive Garden, she left it in the car. A few minutes later Abby started crying.

Fortunately we had Abigail’s green blanket with us, so we could engage in the natural feeding method. But I felt like a doofus for holding up a green blanket over my wife, who also felt very much like a doofus. At least we were both feeling silly together.

You’d think we’d learn. But no, we’re not into that kind of thing. So we went to a missions expo at a local church. Yet again we left the diaper bag behind. And yet again my dear child became hungry. Hannah and I sat at a table in the cafeteria area (how appropriate) while I held a green blanket over the two Wencl girls and tried to console myself with the fact that at least she didn’t have a diaper blowout.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hubby first, Daddy second

As much fun as a newborn can be, one thing Hannah and I haven’t forgotten in the month we’ve had Abigail is that we are, first and foremost, husband and wife. Abby is very much a part of our family, but she is not a part of our marriage. And marriage is easy to neglect when we only pay attention to that which is most urgent.

In the past month I’ve managed to buy my wife a new piece of jewelry (completely random—there was no special event or occasion), and she’s been able to take us out on a date, without Abigail tagging along.

We like to take walks in the evening, pushing Abs in her stroller, while the two of us talk about things besides diapers, screaming fits, and cute photos. It’s not that we’re trying to grasp at something we’ve lost or pretending we don’t have a child. We just want to remember that as much as she’s “Mom” and I’m “Dad”, we’re “wifey” and “hubby” first.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why I Love the Newborn Stage

What is it about the newborn stage that we parents love? I love it. I laugh and joke about the diapers and the screaming, but I really do love this stage. This may seem counterintuitive to folks who don’t have children, especially when they ask me how it’s going and I respond with something like this:

I’m tired. Even when I was in college I don’t remember being this tired. There’s something that makes you feel grumpy and pitiful inside when a child is screaming to the best of her ability less than a foot from your face. It’s loud. It’s bothersome. And unless you can figure out what’s causing it, she’ll keep going on like that until your eyes are bloodshot and you seriously think about driving to Wal-Mart with a sign like those people who give away kittens as you’re going in for eggs and milk. I think new Army recruits get more sleep during the first week of boot camp than I’ve gotten in the last three.
My friends with children either nod knowingly or laugh maniacally, depending on the age of their youngest and whether or not they think they’ll have another. My friends without children give me a puzzled look and say something like, “Reason number forty-three why I don’t want to have children.”

Daddy's Sweet Heart: You bet she is!
But the friends without children are missing it. I love the newborn stage. Like I said, this is counter-intuitive to some, so I’ll try to explain it as best I can.

I think the reason we all love the newborn stage is because a newborn is so needy.

The only thing Abigail can do for herself is vacate her body of fluids (poop is not a solid for newborns), suck, scream, and sleep. She prefers to do the first when we’re getting ready to go, the second when we are with company, the third while we are sleeping, and the fourth when we can’t take a nap. She’s more or less inconvenient.

But that’s the point. Abigail can’t use the bathroom by herself, make her own food, deal with her issues, or go to bed and wake up at a decent hour. She’s incapable. She’s dependent.

Dependency is the key thing. When she moves on to the next stage she becomes a little less dependent on mommy and daddy. Though we talk about how much we wish they’d sleep through the night, when she finally does, it will mean she’s taken another step towards independence. She no longer needs me to get through the night.

Time goes on and she doesn’t need mom to feed her. Doesn’t need dad to change her diaper. Doesn’t need us to rock her to sleep in our arms. Little by little Abigail will grow independent of us. Eventually she’ll develop friendships—growing independent of our social interaction.

Time and time again when Abigail exhibits a little more independence from us we’ll look back to this stage and remember. When she goes on her first sleepover, we’ll remember how she couldn’t sleep for a few hours without one of us near. When she gets her license, we’ll remember how she couldn’t move without one of us carrying her. When she goes to college, moves out, or gets, we’ll remember that for a brief moment in time she was all ours and her whole life revolved around us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Life is No Longer Boring

This is from my older sister, Amy. Katelynne is 3 years old and Kyleigh is only 1. Glad to know we’re not alone.

Amy is a 4th grade element-
ary teacher in Big Rapids, MI.
There is nothing like being a parent. It makes you wonder what you did with yourself when you were only focused on you. This morning I wondered how boring my life used to be too... Let me explain:

6:15 a.m.—Katelynne woke up and was crying in less than five minutes because she wanted to wear a dress, and I said probably not today due to the temperature outside.
6:25 a.m.—She continued cry because she wanted mini-wheat cereal.
6:35 a.m.—She threw her cereal because I asked her to put on a shirt (not a dress).
6:36 a.m.—She ripped the shirt off her head… and so goes her morning.

Kyleigh woke up with a stuffy, boogery nose, and a dirty face (I wasn't there for bed time; I was over at a friend’s for girls’ dinner).
She happily got dressed and even sat while I did her hair. Then she took Katelynne's flung cereal and ate it, sending Katelynne to more tears.
Kyleigh wanted to brush her teeth with her mouth full of mini-wheats. She proceeded to sneeze, shooting mini-wheats all over Katelynne's face and hair and shooting snot out both nostrils and onto her shirt.

And that was all in less than forty-five minutes.

I got to school and talked with my coworker, who has a 6 month old, and we discussed our mornings and how different life would be… and boring.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Getting Married can be Stressful

I was looking through my emails and came across one I sent to a friend back in February of 2008. I had written something on Facebook about getting ready for marriage being "stressful and fulfilling". The friend asked if there was something she should be worried about because she anticipated getting married in the next year or so. Here's what I wrote:

What is so stressful? The whole concept of going from having something to having nothing but the other person is crazy! For one thing, I worry about stuff, and if I'm not worrying, Hannah certainly is. We have all kinds of things to worry about, such as where to live, how to afford it, insurance costs, going to school, taxes, Christmas presents, birthdays, where to spend holidays, the wedding plans, and all the other things that go along with getting ready for marriage.
 It's kind of funny how we think we have to have everything worked out perfectly for a marriage that will last for 70+ years (if I'm lucky enough to live that long). We might as well be trying to figure out where we're going to live when we retire! Some things can't be planned for (i.e. what if Hannah gets pregnant the evening of June 14?), so worrying isn't going to help anyone. Even still, there are so many little details that we're trying to work out that it can be stressful at times.
 There is a lot of stress in our lives right now with the wedding, work, family, church, and school, but that really has helped solidify our relationship. I am so committed to Hannah that people at school don't seem to get it. As much as I may get frustrated, I know that God has brought us together for a reason, and I am comfortable knowing that He is in control—which is a good thing because I am not in control, and if Hannah were, I might worry a little bit more... Just kidding.
 Anywho, there is something so... fulfilling knowing that you love someone so much that you would give up everything for them. I guess that is part of the reason why God likens the relationship between true believers and Christ to the image of a groom and his bride. Well, it's late and I have to go to church in the morning. See ya soon, I hope!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Yellow Muck and Dirty Hands

I’m sure my daughter will be mortified one day by all these diaper blowout stories, but I doubt she could ever be as mortified as her mother and I have been while experiencing them. Besides, she keeps giving me so much material to work with, both literally and literary, that I can't help but write something.

My Little Angel: Silent but messy.
My wife and I were prepping to leave for our book discussion group at church when we decided to check Abigail’s diaper. When I undid the semi-velcro straps and lifted the flap, I saw a small amount of number two at the bottom of the diaper. Although Abigail was only 13 days old at the time, we’d already figured out that she doesn’t do diapers that way. She will either have a full diaper or an empty one.

I decided I didn’t want another experience wherein she finishes her business as I’m attempting to switch out a clean diaper for the dirty one. My previous attempts have met with as much success as Indiana Jones’ attempt to swap a bag of sand for a golden idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Naturally, I resealed the biohazard, unbuttoned and pulled up the bottom half of her onesie, and decided to wait a few minutes for Abs to finish what she started.

That was mistake number one.

I held her on my lap and clicked around on my laptop while I waited, eating an apple. After a few raspberry noises from her bottom half, I decided it was time to go back to the changing station, assess the damage, and make the swap. Keep in mind that the time to leave for church is still counting down.

As I set down my apple and reached under my little darling to carry her to the changing table I discovered her diaper had leaked. The texture is similar to pond muck, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of holding it in your bare hands, but a lot more horrifying due to the surprise.

As I briskly walked to Abigail’s room I saw a long, diagonal yellow streak across the front of my shirt. At the changing table I grabbed a wet wipe with my one clean hand and wiped off priority number one: my dirty hand. I then took off my blue shirt and turned my attention to my child.

Abigail was surprisingly quiet throughout the whole experience. Her onesie, which I had unbuttoned, had a small stain on it, so she would need new clothes before we left for church as well. The leakage point on the diaper was near the top in the back, so it was accessible to her hands, which were waving around like mad.

I went to grab another wet wipe but discovered our container was empty. I called in Hannah to come in and hold Abigail’s hands up so she couldn’t get the dandelion yellow all over them while I tore at a package of spare wipes.

I removed the diaper and lifted up Abigail’s bottom by her ankles to do yet another damage assessment. It wasn’t too bad. Most of the explosion had been contained by the diaper, and with a few wipes I had managed to get things set in order again.

Then Abigail did something new.

She turned her head to one side and started spitting up her supper. Since her back had largely been spared from the diaper mess, she decided to mess up her hair, neck, and shoulder area with white milk spittle.

With a clean diaper on her bottom I grabbed some more wet wipes to get to work on her face, hair, and neck.

She was finally clean.

I handed her off to Hannah and went to work cleaning the changing pad. I had to get a plastic grocery bag to seal off the diaper before tossing it in the diaper genie because there was no way to contain the mess within the diaper itself.

I finished the task by cleaning my hands on a wet wipe and went back into the living room to pick up my stuff, finish my apple, and head off to church.

As I came into the living room I saw that the apple had fallen to the floor, likely when I got up rather quickly from the couch. Since I was still shirtless, I headed over to the bedroom to pick out another shirt to wear.

I rested my hand on my thigh and—déjà vu—pond muck sensation. I looked down only to discover that the diagonal streak across my blue shirt extended to my blue jeans. The yellow on my hands was just like those dandelion paintbrushes we made when we were kids. I turned and ran into the bathroom to wash it off. Hannah had left her curling iron on the sink so I grabbed it to move it.
Yellow Muck: There's more where that came
At this point I’m not sure what numbered mistake I was up to, but this was definitely the next in sequence. I’m not sure how many people decide to curl their hair two minutes before they have to leave, but my wife is definitely one of them.

I gave a little yip, which my wife describes as more of a shout, as I rapidly let go of the still hot curling iron. Grabbing it by the handle this time, I moved it away from the sink and twisted the knobs for the sweet relief of cold water, half forgetting that I originally went to the bathroom to wash muck off my other hand.

I changed into a new shirt, new pants, and washed off my apple. Hannah put Abigail into a sleeper outfit and gathered the car seat, diaper bag, and my bag with class materials. We got to the church on time, but I now have a little more grace in reserves for people with children who show up a little late now and again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rushing to the Hospital

Proof that my wife has a sense of humor. From Hannah:

Newborns bring much joy, but they also bring a state of wakeful exhaustion. One look at a parent of a newborn and you will see the unmistakable symptoms: bloodshot eyes, dark circles, and overall lethargy. Talk to the parent and you may notice some incoherent speech and impaired judgment as well.

Such was the case Tuesday around 9 pm. While I attempted to feed Abigail and convince her that she was tired, I looked down at my exhausted legs. I blinked twice. Was I delusional? No, my eyes showed me deathly blue-gray legs that looked bruised in places. Like any rational person, I texted my husband:
I dont know if i am ok. My legs are blue gray like a giant bruise all over and are numb Hannah
He was at a friends’ house and rushed home without even finishing his sentence or saying “Goodbye”.

“Where are you? Can you hear me?” he yelled as he burst through the door. Reassured that I hadn’t passed out, he looked at my legs, eyes wide, and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness! Let’s go!”

The baby was packed in the car seat in record time and we were out the door in a matter of minutes.

On the way, Abigail decided that we were trying to return her to the hospital and protested by screaming the whole way there. Meanwhile, I tried to call the OB doctor.

“Maam, I’m having trouble hearing you. Please move away from the baby.”

By the time we arrived, I had given up on the phone doctor. I ran into the emergency room while Andrew looked for a parking space. He parked 5 miles away and managed to calm the screaming baby.

Inside, we waited for the doctor. When he finally came, he looked puzzled. “Usually blood clots cause blueness in one leg, not two,” he said. He ordered a CAT scan. My husband and I looked at each other, both of us seeing huge dollar signs in front of our faces. “Is it really necessary?” he asked.

He assured us it was, then, with a flash of inspiration, said “Well, let me try one thing first.” He reached for a wet towelette and wiped my leg. Amazingly, the scary blueness vanished.

I was released moments later. “You have been seen for blue legs that are the result of leeching from your blue jeans.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Diaper Blowouts at 5 am

Little sleeper: The resemblance is uncanny.
Abigail has grown a lot since we took her home from the hospital. It’s hard to believe what a week or two will do to the body of a newborn. It’s also hard to believe what a week or two will do to the bodies of the parents of a newborn.

I came into work today and it wasn’t long before my coworkers were pointing at me and saying, “He’s got the look. Look at his eyes.” Apparently new parents have a look that betrays just how tired they feel. I can almost hear my dad’s Barney Rubble laugh that he does when he’s feigning pleasure at the misfortune of others, usually mine.

Truth be told, Hannah and I both look pretty good considering how often we’re getting up at night. Actually, Hannah’s been getting up a lot more than I have because I can’t feed little Miss Abigail.

I left the house for work this morning with a mix of joy, relief, and apprehension. I got up at four to change a wet diaper and calm Abs because she had just fed and was still fussy. She hadn’t filled her diaper with number two for almost 24 hours and we were worried Hannah would have to take her to the hospital after I left for work.

Then at five my dear wife had her second encounter with “diaper blowout”.

I was lying in bed and could hear the screaming through the baby monitor. It was Abigail, not Hannah. I learned that if the baby monitor reaches its red peak enough times in a row, it begins to sound an alarm, as if someone could possibly sleep through the screaming.

I shut of the alarm and decided to check on Hannah and Abby, since whatever Hannah was doing wasn’t helping calm the child down. When I saw the diaper blowout, I realized why Abby was inconsolable.

Somehow Hannah had already taken care of the dirty diaper, but the changing pad looked worse than Bob Ross’ palette after painting a forest of “happy little trees”. I asked Hannah to give our little wonder a bath while worked on making the changing pad white again. I’m glad these things are waterproof.

The little screamer didn’t really enjoy her bath, which made parents and child just about even, as far as I was concerned. After the bath I put a new diaper on Miss Abigail, dressed her in a new outfit, and realized it was time to start getting ready for work.

Believe it or not, I really do consider this whole experience to be fun!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Back to Square One

I am now a father. I have a daughter who, when her diaper is dry, her tummy is full, and her consciousness is awakened, is looking at everything. She’s taking in new information all the time. She sees lights, hears sounds. She looks at Hannah and me every day. What is she seeing?

I have a Bible on my dresser that I believe is the Word of God. I have a relationship with the Creator of the universe because He sent His Son to endure what I couldn’t, to die in my stead, and to rise to life. Will she see this in me?

The only way to show her is to read that Bible, living and doing what it says. To pray to that God in proportion to my faith, my thankfulness, my dependence on Him.

Really, it isn’t any different than what we expect a new believer to do. Read the Word. Pray. Live out your faith every day. It’s like going back to square one.

Spiritual growth and spiritual maturity is not measured in levels. It’s measured by movement. All believers who are growing and maturing in their faith should be at square one. Praying. Reading. Living. Doing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Diaper Blowout (Not, it's not a Sale)

Bath Time: Do I look like trouble?

Yesterday Hannah and I were a little worried that Abigail was having some kind of a problem because she wasn't filling her diaper. It turned out to be a very big problem, but not for Miss Abigail.

Hannah checked her diaper around seven o’ clock and there was a little brown spot, so she decided to change it. Shortly after removing the diaper Abigail had a small explosion similar to what you’d expect a power washer could produce. In fact, I think we needed a power washer to bring a little order and sanity to the whole mess.

Fortunately for me (but not for Hannah), I was working on homework at the time. Even still, I distinctly remember seeing the onesie Abigail had been in at the time, and I wondered how the baby had managed to escape without injury. After countless wet wipes, three or four diapers, and a new onesie, she was like a brand new baby.

Hannah is now convinced that I have to change every one of Abigail's diapers until I go back to work on Tuesday to make up for what she had to go through. Thus far they’ve been quite manageable.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The First Night Home

Finger-licking good: Sleeping as if last night never

I used to think I knew something about parenting. At this point I’m rebuilding from the ground up. My first night home with Abigail… I don’t even know how to describe it. As we transitioned from daytime to bedtime she transitioned from cute little baby to angry howler monkey. Until you’ve been up all night with a toothless, two-foot long person screaming incessantly a few inches from your ear you will never understand.

Thank you Mom and Dad.

This little exercise in futility lasted until around 5 a.m. Every half hour or so Hannah and I would switch being with Abigail. I’d rock and coo her as best I could, change her diaper, and the like. Hannah would feed her and do all the above as well (minus the diaper changing).

After four hours of fun Hannah and I relented on one of our convictions. We know that pacifiers can interfere with breast-feeding, since the baby can get confused over the different shapes she’s putting in her mouth. We’re willing to take that risk if it means getting a little bit of sleep at night.

Today we’ve taken a nap, and we’ve been trying to keep Abigail from sleeping all day like she did yesterday. I had a bad feeling that last night would be rough since she hadn’t been awake much during the day. Little did I know…

I’m hoping tonight goes better. But if not, at least I don’t have to go anywhere in the morning.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Abigail Means "Her Father's Joy"

The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. Proverbs 14:10

On September 30, 2011, at 3:43 pm, weighing in at 8lbs. 2oz. and measuring 21½ inches long, Abigail Renee Wencl was born.

What does a father feel the moment he sees his daughter enter the world and take her first few breaths of air? Truly it is an experience like none other I have had in my life. I could describe it as joy. Pure elation. Wonder. Excitement. Mystery.

This experience was shared with only a few. A doctor, a nurse, a nursing student, none of whom could possibly have felt the same way Hannah and I did when I saw her. Our close friend Roksana was there too, and we were all overjoyed. My joy was the joy of a new father, and not just that, but the joy of Andrew. Hannah may have had similar feelings to what other mothers have had, but no one else was pushing out Abigail. The joy of our daughter’s birth was all her own. Though we were all overjoyed by the same experience, Hannah’s was unique to her and mine was unique to me. It think that’s part of what makes it so special.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cortland Apples and Me

I recently rediscovered my love for Cortland apples. When fully ripe they are a dark, muted red with a soft, sweet interior. Since most red apples cause my throat to tighten (allergic reaction), I was a little hesitant at first to try them.

It only took one bite for me to remember when I had last tried them. They were a treat for me as a kid. Dad would take a knife from the kitchen drawer in one hand and a Cortland apple in the other. He was very methodical, but quick. In no time he’d peel the entire apple leaving one long, curly, red skin on the counter. I’ve never been able to peel more than a couple of inches, but Dad’s apple peel was almost always intact.

Next he’d core out the center using the same knife. He’d stick it through the top and twist until he was able to hollow it out from top to bottom. When he was done, he’d hand it to me. I used to think of them as doughnuts. I’d ask for a doughnut apple and he’d go through the process.

I never knew what type of apple it was until just recently when Hannah and I went to Tuttle Orchards just east of Lawrence. We arrived a little early in the season (since we wanted to go before Abigail was born), and they only had two types of apples available for harvest.

A half hour and twenty dollars later we had enough apples to last us a while. We got a few tart apples to make pie (Hannah made two and an apple crisp), but the majority were Cortland apples. I pulled the red wagon and snapped photos while coaching Hannah on how to choose the “right” apples. I’m a Wencl. There’s a “right” way to do everything, even apple picking.

After dropping off all 24 lbs. of apples in the car, we ate lunch at Tuttle Orchards. They only sold lunch on certain Saturdays, so we were fortunate. We ate cider-cooked bratwurst, chips, apple sauce, and, of course, apple cider. It was probably the best bratwurst I’ve ever had.

I now like Cortland apples for two reasons. Here’s to many more!