Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas 2012: Mancala

During Christmas 2011 I learned to play Mancala with my brother-in-law. It’s a fun game that involves moving playing pieces around a board with the object being to net the most pieces in your end bucket. After looking at the game board, I thought it looked kind of like a football field, with two end zones. I had so much fun with my brother-in-law that I decided to make him a football-themed Mancala board for Christmas 2012.

The project itself wasn’t too difficult (in hindsight). All I had to do was take a pre-existing Mancala board, sand it, stain it green, paint white lines for the yard markers and end zones, apply some University of Michigan logos (my brother-in-law is a huge fan), and cover the whole thing in polyurethane. The problem was that I didn’t have hardly any of the tools that I needed for the project. Over the course of Fall 2012 I managed to sand a Mancala board, but I wasn’t able to find green wood stain until just before Christmas.

All weekend before the big day I stained it, re-stained it, painted, and repainted, and finally put on polyurethane. The last of which was still drying when I wrapped the present, but when we opened presents on Christmas Eve night, John was pleasantly surprised with his gift. We even played a few rounds, with me losing big at first, but ending the evening with a big win against him. Now he’ll have one more U of M item for his collection, and I have a good experience that will hopefully lead to my own football Mancala board—except I want one with the Detroit Lions!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Top 10 from Christmas 2011

I found something I wrote last year about my top ten memories from Christmas 2011. After a little bit of polishing, I think I should share it. I can't wait to come up with another top ten list for this year.

After a fun and busy six days of Christmas vacation, I’m back home with Hannah and Abigail. The house is slowly coming together as new presents find their places and holiday decorations slowly make their way back to storage. After thinking through the past six days, I’ve come up with my favorite present and list of my ten favorite memories:

Favorite Present:
Hannah got me a Kindle Touch this year, and I’m convinced that reading is going to be my new favorite hobby, so consider this your commercial interruption to my post. I brought The Hobbit with me to read out of anticipation for the movie coming out next December, but I finished it so quickly it’s a good thing I had my Kindle. Since then, I’ve knocked out quite a few chapters of both the Bible and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’ve also tried out the Kindle’s experimental web browser and I can send emails, tweets, and update Facebook, among other things. I’m quite satisfied with my experience so far. You have to get one.

Now, in a generally descending order (though I’m only certain that the #1 item is in its proper place), here are my favorite memories from Christmas 2011:

10. Breakfast at the Nawrot’s
On Christmas morning Hannah and I pulled ourselves out of bed to get ready for breakfast over at my sister Amy’s house. My parents got over a little early to help with the meal preparation, while Hannah and I (mostly Hannah) took care of the little munchkin. Alyssa was still in bed when my parents left, so she rode with us.

The Nawrot family had opened all their presents that morning, and John was playing a Wii boxing game while Katelynne and Kyleigh ran around with their new dolls. Hannah called me up to help with setting the table, so I didn’t get to see John finish his round.

Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, the best French toast ever, biscuits and gravy, and, for me, black and blue preserves made from blackberries and blueberries. Delish!

9. The White Elephant Gift Exchange
The Walt’s like to have a fun white elephant gift exchange. Each of us brings a couple white elephant gifts which we all put in the center of the table. We then take turns rolling dice, trying to get a combination of 7, 11, or doubles. If you get the magic number, you get to pick a present from the center or steal from someone else.

Once all the presents are out from the center (or if you have all the presents you’re allowed to get), you have the option of making a trade with someone if you roll the 7, 11, or doubles. After a while someone will say “Let’s go around the table once (or twice),” and then we open the presents. Sometimes you’ll get an ugly ornament. Or some bars of soap. Or some hot chocolate mix. We don’t really care what we get, just the fun we have doing it.

8. Fancy Nancy with Katelynne
My niece Katelynne (a little over 3 and a half) likes the Fancy Nancy books. So much so that she will walk up to most anyone in the house and ask them to read to her. Since Abigail is only a few months old, we don’t get to do much reading to her, so this was an extra special treat for me. It was like a chance to see what life will be like once Abby’s old enough to read to. Though Katelynne’s attention span doesn’t last much longer than a book or two, I felt extra special that she spent so much time with her uncle.

7. The Plunger Present
I’m not sure why I liked this so much, but my mother-in-law, Sharon, bought me a toilet plunger for Christmas. I suppose the fun started when we went in the house and there was a funny looking present near the tree that looked suspiciously like a toilet plunger and had my name on it. When Christmas came, sure enough, it was a plunger.

I spent a good part of the morning using it to poke Hannah and other members of the household. Sharon assured me that it was new and hadn’t been used, but it was still gross enough to bother my wife. That’s good enough for me.

6. Assembling a Jewelry Box
My sister-in-law, Deborah, got a large jewelry box from her mother for Christmas. Unfortunately, it had “some assembly required.” I got a chance to play handyman and enlisted the help of Deborah to put it all together. It wasn’t a tough job, but it was an opportunity to do something unique with my sister-in-law. I like to try to do something special with each of my sisters over Christmas, and since Deborah is my sister-in-law, I like to be able to do stuff with her too.

5. Mom’s Scavenger Hunt
All growing up my mother played a sadistic game with my sisters and me. She’d hide our Easter baskets (and occasionally our Christmas presents) and leave us clues to find them. This might sound like a fun game, but when you consider her clues, it seemed like characters in a horror movie locked inside a house with a sadistic serial killer had a better chance of escape than we did of figuring out each of the clues. I still remember following a clue that told me to look in a chicken coop for my next clue, and specifically said “It’s not on the door.” The coop had three doors, and after searching all around inside, I found the clue taped to the outside of the coop on a door.

This year I hid my mom’s present and sent her running around the house with a few impossible to figure out clues. It was all fun. My favorite clue was just a quote from a Doris Day movie. Once mom figured that out, she had to run downstairs and look through the movie boxes for the clue that was hidden inside. She guessed the wrong movie and had to head back upstairs for help before she figured out the right one.

4. Trinity Christmas Eve Service
Trinity Community Church in Big Rapids had an amazing Christmas Eve service, with music, lights, dancers, and performers. It wasn’t just the traditional music, but modern treatments like songs from Chris Tomlin’s Glory to God in the Highest album. There were even some spherical paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling that raised and lowered throughout the performance. That and the pastor, Garry DeBock, gave an excellent and dramatic presentation of the gospel. It was great to see my family members singing in the choir as well.

3. Spite and Malice
My brother-in-law likes card games, especially games where everyone plays for himself and you can potentially keep someone from winning even if you yourself are losing. He’s kind of like the Detroit Lions ruining other teams’ chances of making the playoffs. Hence, I had to introduce him to the game Spite and Malice.

The game is just like it’s name: you have the opportunity to mess up your opponents by giving them extra cards or making them lose their turns. He loved it. And we all did too. I’ve never liked it when people play dirty, but when playing dirty is just part of the game, it makes it fun. Since there are so many of us that we can’t always play Canasta or Euchre without leaving someone out, Spite and Malice was a great way to include everyone.

2. A Mid-Morning Meeting with Ann
When Hannah and I tell people that we’re friends with and like to visit our high school Spanish teacher, most people are surprised. But if it wasn’t for her I can’t imagine that we’d be so involved in Spanish-language ministry in Indianapolis. Even in high school we’d talk about matters of faith and family, and when we were planning on getting married, she and her husband gave us some much-needed premarital counseling.

Ann received us into her home for a couple hours and we enjoyed walking together and talking together over tea. Ann’s always been a great person to talk with. Before we left she even gave us a Christmas present for little miss Abigail: a Little People Nativity set. It was a wonderful and cozy time.

1. The Crashing Christmas Tree
My parents’ Christmas tree should have been lighter this year since most of Amy’s and my ornaments are hanging on our own trees. But for some reason, maybe because of overuse or perhaps because the kids like to pull on the branches, the tree finally decided it was time to expire. While we were opening presents and marveling at our newfound toys, we all heard a low cracking, like wood that was giving to under the strain of some enormous weight. It wasn’t wood. It was the plastic stand that supported the tree.

The next thing I know the tree is falling towards me. Fortunately someone was between me and the tree. Unfortunately it was my wife and infant daughter. Without really thinking I sat up and reached out my hand to grab the tree somewhere near the top. Though some branches reached down and touched my wife, the tree didn’t fall on her or Abigail, and I was able to hold it up until someone was able to lift it off of us and we were able to move to a more comfortable location.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Wencl Boy

It's a boy! By the way, this is NOT the picture that
makes it obvious we're having a boy ;-)
So this is it. It's official. We're having a boy. All of a sudden this pregnancy seems so much more real. Hannah's only recently starting to show, and with us being busy with Abigail, work, church, and eight million other things, we haven't had a whole lot of time to just sit, think, and dream about baby number two.

After we got the ultrasound and it was pretty conclusive we were having a boy, I finally had a chance to think. A boy. Not just one kid but two now. Up to now Abigail has been the one and only, and she's been enjoying it a lot. When number two arrives (who we've decided to call Lukas), I won't be able to think of the one without thinking of the other. One's a boy and one's a girl. One will be older, and one will be younger. I'm going to treat them differently because of these things. I'm just afraid that I may end up being harder on Abigail because she's older. Or maybe I'll be tougher on Lukas because he's a boy. I don't know, but I certainly won't be able to treat one a certain way without thinking about how that affects the other one.

Fortunately, it will be a long time before the two are even remotely in the same developmental stage of life, so some differential treatment will be necessary and completely okay. It's exciting. And new. And I'm very excited that Lukas is officially the "last Wencl boy."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10/3/2012: From My Life Journal

October 3, 2012

Abigail turned 1 on September 30, and that makes me think back on my first year of parenting. I’m still very new to this.

I remember when Abby was born that I was in the middle of my Biblical Interpretation class. I held her in one of the hospital’s cozy chairs while I finished up a chapter. Schooling hasn’t been the same since. I suppose part of growing up is the addition of more and more responsibilities. When I was in school I found the pressures of homework, sports, and chores to be overwhelming. Now I look back and shake my head at all the time I wasted while complaining about how much I had to do.

Perhaps it was Abigail’s early exposure to books that has turned her into a little book worm over these past 12 months. The six-hour car ride up to Michigan was fairly pleasant in part because she was able to entertain herself for upwards of fifteen minutes at a time paging back and forth through her books. Hannah and I like to read to her even if the content is a little repetitive for us. We hope that our love for reading will transfer to her and someday we’ll be able to take her through The Chronicles of Narnia, Fig Pudding, Mystery of the Pirate’s Ghost, and other stories we enjoyed as kids. Given that she will pull her books out and page through them herself without any prompting from us, I’m sure we’ll enjoy those books and who knows, maybe even travel to Middle Earth together.

On Monday, October 1, just a day after her birthday, Abigail was playing in my parent’s living room and managed to close a folding chair on her hand. Both she and the chair fell over before anyone could grab her and we could see that her ring finger on her left hand was bleeding. I got a cold wet washcloth and put it over her hand. Her fingernail had ripped off.

There’s a lot of panic squeezed into the moment you find out your child is hurt. Until the extent of the damage is known your heart is gripped by fear and uncertainty. In the long scheme of things a torn off fingernail is not the end of the world. But it still hurts in real time, and it’s difficult to describe how that hurt is transferred to a parent’s heart as they cradle a crying, hurting child in their arms. It’s similar to the physical sensation you get riding a roller coaster just before the big drop. You feel something rise in your chest, only it doesn’t drop until the crying stops and the Band-Aid is applied and mommy tells her little girl that everything is going to be okay.

I still feel reverberations of that roller coaster feeling just thinking about what happened. It’s scary. Abigail has pretty much forgotten it. The next morning when she saw the folding chair she got all excited, smiled really big, and stretched out her hand toward it. She was shaking, she was so excited. I’m glad that she’s okay. There are going to be a lot of hurts in life and Hannah and I won’t always be there to hold her until the pain subsides. But God will. And I’m thankful to have a heavenly Father who is always there for me, even when I don’t realize how He’s working. My prayer for Abigail is that she will get to experience that same comfort from God as well.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Little Personality

From Hannah:

Before Abigail was born, I would watch children playing and wonder about her little personality. Would she be a sweet, outgoing child like her father? Would she be the quiet kid reading books in the corner like I was? Or would she turn into the popular athlete that I always wanted to be, amazing people with her abilities? At 9 months, her personality is still growing and developing, but we definitely see certain emerging traits.

Like me, she is strong willed. If Abby wants something, she is determined to get it! If she doesn’t want to do something, she refuses! Today I moved the fascinating fan onto the ottoman and out of her reach. Abigail crawled across the room to the ottoman, pulled herself up, and stepped around it with an outstretched arm, reaching for the fan. When that approach failed, she crawled over to the nearby bench and tried to climb on top to reach the fan. Fortunately (for me), she can’t climb yet.
Her strong willed nature can also turn to stubborn refusals. Last week at a friends’ house, Abby screamed when I gave her to Daddy, even though she normally loves him. She only wanted mom at that moment and let everyone know by angrily screaming. Since I was trying to help my friend make dinner, I totally ignored her screaming. When she realized that no one was going to give in after a minute, she calmed down and enjoyed time with Daddy.

In spite of her strong will, Abigail is joyful and eager to please people she knows. Daddy walks in the door after work and she smiles like crazy and gives him a hug. She has learned that people get a kick out of waving bye-bye. When she wants attention, she starts hiding her face to play peek-a-boo or growling – two behaviors that always earn a smile or at least an “aw, how cute” from people. She loves smiling at people and giggling with them. Her stuffed animals receive a lot of love as Abby enthusiastically hugs them, bites them, and drags them around with her.

Abigail is extremely curious about the world around her. As an infant, she had difficulty nursing because she was too busy looking at her surroundings. If I carry her, she tries to grab at objects on the wall. She loves watching people from her stroller as we walk past the pool or through the mall, especially children at play. Abigail wants to see, touch, and put her mouth on everything.

Watch Abby play and it’s plain to see that she is observant and explores her world systematically. I brought out her xylophone the other day and she spent at least 10 minutes feeling every bump and key. She turned it over and spun each wheel, chewed on the stick, and stuck her finger in every hole in the back. Books intrigue her too, even if she’s just sitting and turning the pages by herself. One of her favorite games now is to point to the pictures on the wall. Andrew or I lift her up and she studies the people in the pictures. Sometimes she will repeat ‘ma-ma’, ‘da-da’ or ‘ba-ba’ for ‘Abby’.

As she grows up, I’m sure her personality will change and grow. For now, I’m excited to see her develop from a baby to a toddler. No matter what she’s like, her father and I will always love her.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 26, 2012 - She called me "Dada"

She calls me "Dada."
June 26, 2012, marks a very important date in my life. It was on this day that my daughter, nearly nine months old, raised her little hand towards me and said, "Dada." She's been saying "Mama" for a little while now, but since she's at home with Hannah all day, I wasn't surprised. Getting her to say "Dada" has been my little project as of late.

Each day Hannah and I pick her up and take her over to the three family portraits hanging in our living room. I point to Hannah and say, "Mama." I point to Abigail and say, "Abby." I point to the picture of myself and say, "Dada."

This morning we were goofing off on the bed. I lift her high up in the air and act like I'm going to throw her into the pillows. Actually, I just ease her down quickly so she gets the rush without the possibility of harm. As she buries her face into the blankets and sheets she giggles and laughs. Its enough to make me want to ask the boss for a day off. Today, after we'd had our fun, I rolled off the bed to get my things together to go to work. I stood up and that's when she did it. She looked up at me, rolled back on her butt out of her four-point stance, raised her right hand towards me and said, "Dada."

At that moment in time I knew that my little girl recognized who I was and wanted me. She didn't want me to go to work, she wanted me to play. It's hard to pack up your things, hop in the car, and spend another day at the office after something like that. There's magic in a moment so pure and happy where someone so small calls out to you to be with her. She's growing up so quickly. I'm just glad I get to experience these moments with Hannah and Abigail.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reflecting on Brian's Winter

I was cleaning out my digital files and discovered this piece written August 12, 2011. It's worth a share:
Every year I try to pay attention to the changing of the seasons, from summer to fall. It can be easy to suddenly realize that he trees are no longer green, but shades of red, orange, yellow, purple, and brown. Before I know it I’m throwing on a sweater over my shirt as I get ready for work. Ears of corn, cherries, and apples go on sale at the local grocery store.

These are all signs. They’re all indicators that the world is changing, whether I like it or not. It is a reminder of things past and a warning about the imminence of the future, of things unknown.

In the book Brian’s Winter, an alternate sequel to Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, the main character is oblivious to the changes around him. His focus on day-to-day survival in the Canadian wilderness leaves him unaware of the cooler nights and colorful displays in the treetops until one day he wakes up and discovers a foot of snow outside his shelter door.

I loved Brian’s Winter. After I had read it in Middle School I gave it to my dad to read. I don’t know how, but that book has formed a link in the chain that connects me to my dad. Every year as the weather starts to cool and the trees start to fill with color, one of us will mention the beginning of that book. It’s a reminder to be watchful, to recognize that things are changing and that we much change with them.

My dad’s getting older. I’m going to be “Dad” soon. The responsibilities keep piling on, and the temptation to look back on the past is as strong as ever. Dad turns 51 this year.

Maybe that’s why Dad’s usually the first one to bring up Brian’s Winter. It’s a reminder as much to himself as it is to me that we can’t dwell on the past. We can’t even maintain our focus on the present. Like it or not, things are changing. The only way to be ready for it is to look ahead.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

An Inopportune Walk

This evening my wife decided to take a walk at a most inopportune time. The timing was less than ideal, as Abigail decided to start crying almost the instant the door closed, and I was all alone for however long a walk Hannah would take.

I finished the line of Greek homework I was on, hoping it was just a moment of restlessness on her part, but the English translation was made and my child was still expressing her discontent the only way she knows how. I laid the laptop on the floor, took a deep breath, and walked into the room from whence the commotion was originating.

There in the dark lay a poor mess. Although she's never seen any shows on Animal Planet, she was imitating with great success the death roll of a saltwater crocodile while still in her crib, the wooden bars preventing her from rolling out of the crib. I picked up the puddle of mush as leaving her in the crib would do nothing to aid her in returning to her restful state, much less in returning me to mine.

Hannah is quite skilled in turning a puddle of mush back into a sleeping infant, whereas my efforts at soothing the sobbing semiconscious mass had little effect, no so much as upgrading the puddle into a halfway gelatinous mix of tears and child. For a moment I was transported back to the first few weeks after Abigail came home from the hospital and turned me into a chronic consumer of caffeine. During those nights I was overcome with both despair and annoyance because the bubbling mass of tears was interrupting my already limited window allotted to sleep.

But tonight was different. I've mellowed out some since those first few weeks, and I hear that's a good sign that the sleep deprivation hasn't left any long-term damages to my body or psyche. Looking down into the drowsy eyes and gaping mouth, I saw a precious gift of time. The changes that have occurred in Abigail since last September are so profound that I can't help but think of how little time we have before our children leave their current stage of life forever. She won't always be this little. She won't always be this dependent on me. Wisdom tells me to take it all in one moment at a time and cherish it while it lasts.

An inopportune walk. A timely reminder.

Noisy Neighbors

I've never really been bothered about living in an apartment. It's conveniently close to work and church and conveniently easy to maintain (no yard work, little interior work). The whole house-hunting experience has been frustrating at times, and even scary when I stop to consider some of the upfront costs (repairs, fixtures, lawnmower, etc.). Last night I was reminded that apartment living isn't always the greatest thing.

As I've been sick since Thursday evening, I have been napping the last couple of days. Yesterday I took a nap while Hannah went to Enfoque, our Saturday night Hispanic church. With no one to wake me up, I got a good three hours in. By the time Hannah and I were ready for bed, I was a little restless. Come 1:00 am or so, I hear voices and laughter coming from outside. Since I wasn't getting any sleep in edgewise, I came out to the living room and peeked through the blinds. Seven or eight people, men and women, were in the parking lot after apparently having spent the last few hours enjoying the night life of Indianapolis. I couldn't tell if anyone was drunk, but they were certainly being loud and obnoxious at 1:00 am.

I decided to grab my laptop and look up the number of the Lawrence Police Department. No sense calling 911 for a little disturbing of the peace. The officer on the other end of the line was nice, and I'm thankful for the men and women who work 2nd and 3rd shift just to keep us safe. He told me he'd send an officer out to check on it. Within ten minutes I didn't hear any more noise outside.

In the 3+ years I've lived in this apartment complex, I've never had to do that. Of course, Abigail has been thus far unsuccessful at waking me up in the middle of the night, so it's possible my snoring has drowned out any obnoxious noises coming from outside. I guess I was just lucky last night. Whatever the the reason I've never had to do this before, I'm very happy to be looking for a house if nothing else for the chance at some privacy.

Then again, that's assuming my future neighbors aren't like my friends' neighbor who occasionally stands in front of his sliding door in the buff.

Monday, April 30, 2012

House Shopping

Throughout all our lives we’re always doing things for the first time. As I move into adulthood, these firsts become more expensive, more time-consuming, and more terrifying than anything I’ve done before.

When I got married I lumped a bunch of those firsts together in one package. It was the first time I’d lived apart from my parents, the first time I moved out of state, the first time I entered into a rental agreement, the first time I was 100% responsible for my well-being (and that of my spouse), and the first time I did a few other things that go along with marriage.

Having Abigail a bare seven months ago was the culmination of a nine-month series of firsts such as looking at ultrasounds and taking my wife to whatever restaurant sold the food she was craving at the time.

There’ve been a lot of firsts. Now I’m looking at buying my first house. If you think it is like looking for an apartment or shopping for a car, you are like I was a couple weeks ago, never having gone through the process myself. Now I’m in the thick of looking for that oh-so-special place to raise children and root my family. Soon, if all goes well, I will be signing eight million forms, all of which can be used against me to rob me of my investment and leave me on the street with much less than I have now.

Even though marriage is a lifelong commitment (at least for us it is), it didn’t seem as financially scary of a commitment as a 30-year mortgage does right now. I can’t just downsize if times get tough or pull out altogether and move to a new city. I can’t sit back on my cement patio and watch the mowing service take care of the property around me. I can’t make a phone call to management to replace the toilet or change out the electrical sockets. Each of those things will be my responsibility and on my dime. And if water starts pouring out all over from behind the bathroom wall, it’s not as though I’ll get an upgrade and a month’s rent free (this never happened to me by the way).

For these reasons and more this whole thing is a little scary. But I have a few things I’ve come to accept that I believe will help me through this transition:

1. God is in control. The reason I made it in to work today is because God didn’t plan for me to die in a traffic accident this morning. Anything that comes my way, good or bad, is part of God’s providential care over my life.

2. Something will go wrong. Even if we find the perfect house on the perfect lot, the seller accepts my initial offer, the most knowledgeable inspector gives the house a clean bill of health, something will go wrong. A pipe will bust, the wiring will have to be replaced. The roof will leak, the windows will have to be replaced. That’s when I will likely experience buyer’s remorse. But it’s okay. Refer back to #1.

3. My wife loves me. No matter what, if we get the house I want or the house she wants (hopefully there’s a point where these two wants converge), my wife will love me.

Am I a little nervous? Yep. But I’m a lot more confident now because I’m not in this alone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Birthday Celebration

From Hannah:

I had one of the most memorable birthdays ever this year. When I turned 12 or so, my birthdays started becoming somewhat monotonous. I expected a cake, a few cards, and maybe a gift or two. I remember celebrating my 22nd birthday with many friends, a sombrero, and Mexican food. The rest blur together in my mind. But I’m pretty sure I won’t forget this year’s celebration.

This birthday started out as expected. I’m not that excited about cakes, so my husband told me I could pick out another dessert. I chose 2 ‘muffins’ that tasted more like cupcakes. We hired a babysitter and planned on going to Puccini’s for dinner.

I thought I’d take my usual morning break from Abigail to run errands. I cheerfully loaded her up and drove to my friend’s house. Unfortunately, my predictable day became unpredictable. As I grabbed the diaper bag and unbuckled Abigail from her car seat, I placed my keys in my purse. Thinking I wouldn’t need the purse just to drop Abby off, I left it in the back seat. My car locked automatically as I walked inside.

A few minutes later, I waltzed out only to realize my mistake. Now I was stuck in Fishers (about 20 minutes away from home) without a car. My friend’s car is currently awaiting repair, so I didn’t even have the option of asking for a ride. Reluctantly I dialed my husband’s number, desperately hoping he would respond well. I left a message asking him to pick me up at his convenience. I decided to make the best of the situation and I actually enjoyed hanging out at a friend’s house for a few hours. I felt a little guilty for making her entertain me though. When Andrew arrived, he handed me a McD’s frappe and seemed surprisingly happy. He still glanced at the clock every few minutes.

“What time do you have to go back?” I asked. That’s when my husband told me he took the rest of the day off! My friend volunteered to stay with my sleeping baby while we enjoyed walking around the Hamilton Town Center, an outdoor mall.

In our busy lives, we rarely get the time to ‘date’ alone. We felt like a couple giddy college students again. The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough; I opened my present from Andrew and several cards from family. In the evening, we enjoyed a meal without the baby. The birthday muffins tasted magnificent.

Most importantly, I learned that little hiccups in the day can actually make life fun; but not exciting enough to lock my keys in the car again.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Basically Nothing, Right?

From January 17, 2011. I misplaced the file for a little bit.

If you zoom in you can see my contorted body wrapped
around her left pinky.
My coworker asked me if Abigail was doing anything yet. I thought for a moment and said, "She can hold her hands together."

He nodded and said, "So, basically nothing, right?"

True, in the great span of child and human development, she's not got much under her belt yet. Hannah and I are just thankful and excited about all the changes that are taking place. Holding her hands together is a big jump from what she was doing last month.

Here's a list of the big changes I've noticed:
  1. She can hold things. Including her hands, a rattle, stuffed animals, and whatever else we put into her hands. We're still working on getting her to reach for new objects, but she will grab and release anything we give her.

  2. She fits and sits in a Bumbo chair. This means we can prop the child up almost anywhere-on the table, on the bed, on the floor, on the couch-which frees us to use two hands at once, like eating, doing your hair, cleaning the living room, etc.

  3. The Diaper Genie needs frequent changes. Abigail's diapers are getting bigger because she's growing and she's filling them more often. Fortunately I haven't had to do too many that come with substance. Hannah also learned the value of making sure the diaper is strapped on correctly after having to borrow a shirt and pants from a friend we were visiting.

  4. She likes to snuggle. Up until now, I've been ranked only slightly better than complete stranger on Abigail's list. She'll put up with me, but she prefers to have Hannah in visual range or she gets upset. This past weekend she warmed up to me and decided she likes to snuggle. We keep each other warm and she melts my heart. What can I say?

  5. She's drooling a lot. I've taken to calling her Drooly Androols when I wipe her face. Clear drool is fine. When it’s cloudy white is when it's disgusting. Eeeeewwww!!!!

  6. She smiles. She's been smiling for a while, but it seems like the smiles keep getting bigger. She coos and kind of giggles, making most any time with her a great time.

Friday, January 27, 2012


From Hannah:

I didn’t always want to be a SAHM (stay at home mom). As a high school student, the idea of wiping kids’ noses and bottoms all day seemed unappealing. I did recognize the value in spending time with my children, so I tried to chose a career that would be conducive to raising children. For that reason among others, I chose teaching. Everyone knows that teachers get out of work at 4 pm daily and have summers off, right?

I learned that a teacher’s job never ends. Andrew works 8-4:30 year round, but when he comes home his work is done. Teachers have staff meetings. Masters classes. Sports games. Grading. Lesson plans. Field trips. They put in enough work during the school year to make up for the summer off. And I wanted to teach in a Christian school, where you work even harder and get paid less. I soon realized that teaching is not an easy career to mix with children. I admire those who can do it. I can’t. Before we got married, my husband told me he had always wanted his wife to stay home with the kids at least part time. He has been a constant encouragement.

Now I am a SAHM, along with 25-35% of women with children under age 6. Everyday I get to watch my daughter grow. I saw her first smile and heard her first giggle. I take her to all her doctor appointments. Some working women can still feed their babies breast milk, but it’s not even a question of ‘if’ for me. She’s only a baby once.

Instead of hearing a report about my child, I give reports about her to whoever cares (and even those who don’t). I’ve seen quality daycare facilities, with their bright, cheery rooms. But as her mother, I love her more than a daycare worker who has 7 other screaming babies in a room. One worker told me that many babies show more excitement when they get dropped off with the teachers than when they get picked up by their parents. My heart would break.

If I did work, a tremendous portion of my salary would go towards childcare. (I don’t have a convenient fulltime grandma like a few of my friends.) I would have to pay around $200/week for a baby at many daycares here. A Christian schoolteacher doesn’t make much anyways; I wouldn’t show much of a profit for my labors. This way we get to save the childcare money.

Extra perks of staying at home include a relatively clean house and home cooked meals most days (though this is more of a perk for Andrew, not me).

I even get breaks. A friend who watches Abby a few hours a week, my women’s Bible study, and the church nurseries all give me refreshing breaks from my adorable child.

As most SAHMS will tell you, life is not all home cooked meals and playtime. Some days it can be lonely going for 8 hours or more with no adult conversation other than occasional phone calls. I participate in many church events and go out a lot, but some days I find myself alone with a 4 month old. Andrew comes home with stories about crazy employees and disciplinary actions. I talk about Abigail and grocery deals.

In our culture, working moms sometimes look down on us SAHMs as if we were incapable of handling work and children. The first question most people ask when they meet is, “Where do you work?” When I answer, some consider me the equivalent of a high school dropout on welfare. I graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree, thank you very much.

I thank God for my husband’s job, but we realize it’s one income in a two income society. We have to do without the smart phones, enormous TV, Honda Odyssey, giant house (for now), gym membership, Mary Kay makeup (Andrew really misses it), Hollister clothes, dates at Fogo do Chao, and vacations in Cancun. My children won’t go to the Children’s Museum every weekend, play with the latest toys, or wear Baby Gap – unless it’s from a garage sale.

In spite of the disadvantages, for me it’s worthwhile, at least now. I almost certainly won’t stay home for the rest of my life, but I want to be Abigail’s primary caregiver while she’s little. After all, I am her mother.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

10 Memorable Events of 2011

Hannah's list

1. The day I took a pregnancy test at my husband’s request, sure that he was wrong this time, we found out we were expecting after all! My emotions were a bundle of terror and joy, but I really had no idea what we signed up for.

2. When Michiganders say, “there’s a lot of snow,” you know there’s at least 6 inches. We felt adventurous and drove about 15 miles north in 6 inches of rapidly falling snow to see a good friend’s new baby. The snow reached the bottom of the car and I drove 25 on 465. One look at Lucia’s little features and Betzy’s grateful face made it worth the drive, although I’m not doing it again!

3. In March, we celebrated my 23rd birthday with lots of people, a cake shaped like the Bible Andrew gave me, and lasagna. I’d graduated from college, worked, been married for 3 years, and generally felt much older than 23. My 30-something friends were envious though J.

4. Once a year Andrew takes a week-long intensive seminary class. This year, Andrew spent a week in Louisville studying the New Testament while I visited family in Michigan. I enjoyed the time with my family, especially my mom, before the baby came. We missed each other and talked on the phone until late at night, but absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

5. Andrew’s Grandma Wencl died in April and we drove 10 hours to her funeral in Minnesota. I added beautiful Minnesota and utterly boring Iowa to the list of states I’ve been in. I learned more about my husband’s relatives and Czech heritage as I met aunts and uncles, cousins, and random relatives. It was the first funeral I can remember attending, but not the last.

6. Ironically, in the year our daughter began life we saw more funerals than ever before. God took one of our high school friends, Ashley Cottle, and led her into His presence. A few weeks after our Minnesota trip, we drove to Michigan to be there for her husband, another friend. I don’t have more words, only this; we will never forget her life.

7. Pregnancy can make a woman feel as attractive as a giant mushroom, but Andrew surprised me with a date to the apple orchard. We ate lunch, picked 5 pounds of apples, and dreamed of next year when Abigail could run around with us.

8. After an induction and easy labor, Abigail entered the world just a week late! Both of our parents traveled the 5 hours to see her and help us out, which is the only reason we survived the first few weeks! Our church family encouraged us with visits and yummy meals. Food seemed boring when I had to cook again.

9. New parents have notoriously low sleep meters – and time with each other. For Andrew’s birthday, I sent 1 1/2 month old Abby to a friend’s house for a few hours. We celebrated Andrew’s 24th birthday with a homemade hamburger and fries dinner (his favorite) free of interruptions from a fussy baby.

10. For me, Christmas tops the list of all other events in the year. We spent Christmas with family. I realized that Christmas revolves around Abigail now for us; she received more gifts than both of us, as it should be. Eggnog, cookies, way too much food, card games, Mancala, gag gifts, and old friends completed the Christmas experience.