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.