Category Archives: parenthood

Meet my new addiction

Macy Elizabeth Howell was born on 09/16/10 at 12:38 pm.  She weighed 6 lbs and 6 oz and was 19 inches long.

Of all the things I could say-  of all the things I have to tell you about, dear readers-  I am not going to distract you from looking at perfection.

Say “hello” to my new addiction.


Fetal Monitoring and Uncomfortable Furniture

The wife has had 2 elevated blood pressure instances. I mean like WAY over her normal levels. Last Thursday, at our weekly checkup, our Dr. was concerned with the blood pressure score and admitted her to the hospital to do a biophysical profile that led to an overnight stay. Her bp levels were normal at every 30 minute interval. No sign of high bp at all. Odd. Very odd . Pregnancy induced hypertension??? Morning came and went and we were set home at 2pm with orders to collect urine for another couple hours and return it to the lab after 4:50. Everything was fine except my wife was put on bed rest for a week.

Fast forward to today. My wife was readmitted to hospital with extremely high blood pressure with rumors of inducing the baby floating around. Guess what, her bp is normal and baby has a avg heart rate of 147 bpm. Again I ask- pregnancy induced hypertension?

As she lays there in relative peace; I watch the readouts on the monitor concerning the contractions and heart rate sensors trying to predict the next contraction. (I’m getting better.) My wife is tough, smart, and brave – not to mention cute. That is what makes this time hard on me. I am powerless to truly comfort her, sure I can crack jokes and rub her back but that isn’t what she needs and I can’t give it to her and that sucks.

A Conscience Examined

I was doing some reading and came across this.  Can’t explain why, but thought I should share it with all of you.  Enjoy.


A Conscience Examined

I ask you, how can God’s love survive in a man who has enough of this world’s goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?  Little children, let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it.  This is our way of knowing we are committed to the truth and are at peace before him no matter what our consciences may charge us with; for God is greater than our hearts and all is known to him. 1 Jn 3: 17-19

It is all very well to sit each morning and meditate, doing our best to connect with God, filling our hearts with truth, rising edified.  But what happens in the rest of the day?  We have done the discerning of God’s will, now comes the aligning with it.  Now comes the participating in God’s work.  We have oriented ourselves toward heaven, now the rubber meets the road.  Now we put one foot in front of the other.  Now is the time for action.

And it is the action, the loving in deed and not merely talking about it, that is our way of knowing we are committed to the truth.  How do we know we are good?  How do we know we are Christian?  Or Moslem?  Or Hindu.  By your fruits.  By their fruits you shall know them.  By the fruit of our labor.  By actual labor.  By our work.  It is not a matter of belief.  Unless belief means action.  To find out what we believe actually, examine our actions.  How we live.  That shows what we believe more than our words.

So.  The theory is that God’s will for us will be some form of creativity and redemption.  Since these are God’s jobs and we are happiest when we participate in God’s work.  That’s not a lot to go on.  We don’t know whether our impulses are good, though we have dedicated ourselves to God and asked God to take charge of our impulses, showing the way.

And then there’s that troublesome bit from Paul about seemingly accomplishing evil when he intended good.  Poor me.  I can’t do the good I intend.  So you could have good intention, you could see the good that you are trying to accomplish, some creative or saving goal, and you fail to reach that goal.  You don’t know how to reach that goal.

A mother wants her son to stay in the state of grace.  To avoid drugs and drinking to excess and casual sex.  She wants to do things to cause this to happen.  She tries to think of things to do.  She tries kindness.  She fixes his favorite food.  She urges him to go to church.  To go to college.  She wants him to associate with good people.  He won’t listen.  Her attempts at conversation end up preachy and screechy. They get to be ugly encounters.  She nags.  She feels she has lost her boy.  Everything she tries fails.  Now she feels that she is a failure.  Her self esteem is low.  She doubts she is a good person.

Hundreds of things like this play out in our lives.   I don’t pretend to have the answers.  Certainly my simple religion is not the answer.  And I would argue that these things are beyond religion.  It is too much to expect a religion to find the answer to every problem.  It is too much to ask a religion to have a formula for converting each moment of your life, each phase that you go through, each phase of each relationship, into bliss.  Into each life some rain must fall.

Actually, the minor keys are richer.  A life without hurt is empty.  I am almost tempted to say that God knows this.  That God arranged it, strangely, contrary to logic and all expectations, to enrich life.  To give wisdom.  To improve our self esteem.  It’s even scriptural: the father disciplines his sons.  It is part of creation and redemption.  There is benefit in suffering.  It creates beautiful people.  Ones who have muddled through disaster and not lost faith.  Muddled through each morning consulting God, connecting with God, pledging themselves to participation in God’s creative and redemptive work.  Trying to discern the best course of action.  Taking whatever actions seem most likely to bring a good outcome.  Living through bitter times, always oriented toward the good, always oriented toward the ultimate outcome.  Striving for salvation.

If we could open our eyes we might see in the disabled, in those muddling through with little mental capacity or physical grace, without limbs or sight or hearing, the bravest people on earth.  And those most connected with God.  Those being creative and redemptive in their own persons, just by living their own lives.  We might see a thing of beauty.  Instead we avert our eyes.  We shut off empathy.  We do not want to feel what these people feel.  We cannot put ourselves in their place.  We would rather not see.  We feel awkward and embarrassed.  We don’t know how to act.

Wait.  Didn’t we just this morning pledge ourselves to Godly action.  To lives of creation and redemption.  And we know this only when we act on it.  So OK.  Focus.  Look.  What a brave person this is.  One of God’s best.  Good morning to you.  A cheerful good morning to you.  Praise God for your bravery.  Show me how to live will you?  Let me in on your secret.

What?  Can’t we say these things?  Shouldn’t we?  Can we at least acknowledge their existence? Can’t we at least affirm them?  Make eye contact.  Give a smile.

And what about seeing my brother in need.  I who live well.  Who have furnished myself with a sufficiency of this world’s goods.  What about all those in distant lands who are starving.  Those suffering from war.  Those whose lives are hard because of local politics.  Because they live in the wrong place. Because they were born there.  The author of John could not imagine a world where the suffering of others around the globe is brought daily into our living rooms.  Still he or she seemed to speak to that.  How can God’s love survive in a man who has enough of this world’s goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?

I am a man who has enough of this world’s goods.  I do not wish to close my heart.  But what do I do?  Should I give away my stuff until my brother has as much as I have.  Until I am in the same state as those suffering from famine?  Do I need to suffer from the same level of violence as the least of my brothers?  Or is it enough to write the occasional check?

Gee I wish I had an answer.  I know that some people have given up everything and put themselves in harms way for the poor and downtrodden of this world.  I haven’t.  I enjoy my wealth.  I wish I had a way of knowing that I am not called to follow their example.

OK maybe this.  Think of Beethoven.  Think of Newton.  Think of the entrepreneurs of the industrial age.  We are not all called to work with the poor.  We are all called to be charitable in our own constellations of personalities, in our own circumstance.  We are called to share our lives and our sustenance, but not to the point of not caring for ourselves.  Becoming dependent on others for necessities.  If I were poor in my old age, I would be a burden on the state or on my children.  They write of Jesus that he said the poor you will always have with you and you can help them whenever you wish.  As if the goal of creation and salvation is not an utterly equal distribution of wealth.  As if we should not stop all other efforts until the problem of poverty is solved.  As if poverty is not only the only priority.

Some are called upon to push creation further.  Some are called upon to achieve in other spheres.  To push back the frontier that divides ignorance from knowledge.  And many of the greatest breakthroughs, many of the enterprises that have changed our lives for the better, alas, even the inventions that bring the pictures of poverty and war into our living rooms, were motivated by profit; by the lure of great wealth.  As if there’s a place for greed.  A benefit.

We are all called upon to create beauty in our relationships. To pour out love in them.  To sustain them.  To make them holy.  And to redeem whatever relationships and persons we can.  Help with self esteem.  Affirm.  There is enough to do in our own circumstances.  And to some degree we should remaining open to helping those in other circumstances.  And yes some of us are called upon to take ourselves out of our comfortable circumstances and put ourselves in those of the poor and suffering.

Our actions show our faith.  And so to see our faith, examine our actions.  If we believe in love, we will love.  If we believe in redemption we will redeem.  If we believe in sacrifice, we will lay down our lives for our friends.  What form this takes in our circumstances cannot be predicted or prescribed.  You must be creative.  You must connect with God and learn to discern.   Let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it.

Written by: James Stemmle

Westminster Dog Show and Parenting School

As my dog was walking across the floor I realized that a dog food commercial was on the TV.  This commercial was endorsed by the Westminster Kennel Club.  That got Symon and I thinking about the Westminster Dog Show and the “contestants.”  The dogs are in competition ONLY because their owners make them.  If the owners left the stadium I believe the dogs would play and frolic like the happy little creatures they are.  No competition, no “Best in Show,” no excessive grooming, nothing that makes a dog not be a dog.

I think there is a lesson here.  Parents are guilty the world over of the crime of forcing their kids into dance competitions, baseball tournaments, twirling competitions (or twirl-offs as those in the know call em).  Parents or dog owners or whoever needs to let the kids be kids and the dogs be dogs.  Manufacturing competition where none naturally exists HAS to have its own ring in hell.

I hope I don’t push my kid into believing that competition is essential for EVERY or any DEFINING moment of her life.

My Life the Romantic Fairy Tale

As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance refers to a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was particularly current in aristocratic literature of Medieval and Early Modern Europe, that narrated fantastic stories about the marvelous adventures of a chivalrous, heroic knight, often of super-human ability, who goes on a quest. Popular literature also drew on themes of romance, but with ironic, satiric or burlesque intent. Romances often reworked legends and fairy tales and traditional tales about Charlemagne and Roland or King Arthur. A related tradition existed in Northern Europe, and comes down to us in the form of epics, such as Beowulf, which were deeply imbued with dreamlike and magical elements foreign to the classical epics.  However, This is not that sort of tale:

Long ago “a crowned god of war” and “the little wise one” conceived a child.  This child grew into a  woman whose name , when translated into English, meant “the beloved, merciful legendary princess.”  She was well educated and eloquent.  She was looked on fondly by all those around her.

Far away, around the same time, “a crowned wagon driver” wooed “the unheeded prophetess” and convinced her to marry.  Their union resulted in a man/child, whose name, when translated into the English tongue, meant  “eminent, crowned, gift of God.”  The boy’s mother thought this was accurate, but it was kind of a joke to those that knew him.

The man/child and the princess met one day years later in the area know as the “mouth of the river.”  The man/child made the princess laugh, so she kept him around and eventually they fell in love.  They eventually were married (after the man/child chased a demon into the land of  “Ta-Has”).  Not long after their marriage they produced a child named  “Gift of an attentive bountiful God.”   This child was lauded as the greatest arrival on the planet since the one they called “MC HAMMER.”  Truly a great and fortuitous event!

Don’t know where I was really going with this but, I was thinking about what our kid’s name actually meant.  So, I looked it up…then looked up the wife…then looked up the ME…then our parents.

…I am still dazed since the LOST “finale.”

Fear and Clothing in Parenthood

OK, OK, OK, I will admit it.  I am HORRIFIED about being a parent.  Well, not really ABOUT being a parent, but about me being a parent.  There are a few areas of parenting that are making  my tummy grumble.  My “later than usual” age is a concern, my apparent inability to maintain commitments, and my complete mental disconnect on the sizing of baby clothes are concerns that make my supper haunt me in the night.


“Parenting is a life long commitment.”  Those words are in every “NEW PARENT” book I have read.  I think the parenting illuminati want that fact to sink in real good so you don’t forget it.  MESSAGE RECEIVED!  Since I have realized that this child will be a permanent facet of my life, some things have began to resurface.  Notably my past failures at honoring commitments.  Those that know me, or those that will openly admit in public to knowing me, would know that commitments are something that I have not been the best at keeping.  Let me elaborate a touch.   I can’t keep two socks together for more than a week.  I have to leave myself notes to feed my fish.  In 1992, I told my mom  that I would help her weed a flower bed.  Hasn’t happened…I hope she forgot.  I signed up for inter mural ultimate frisbee so my friends could actually field 11 players (I was #11)…I completely forgot, never went to one practice and have always wondered why those guys were suck dickheads that semester.

Now I will have a child.  I can’t forget to feed her.  I can’t forget to bathe her.  I can’t forget where she is.  I can’t forget that she can’t tell me what is wrong (at least for a while).  I can’t forget that this commitment is not something that I can casually forget when a motorcycle rides by and my brain has a mini-I WANT THAT-seizure. FINANCIAL ADVICE OF THE DAY *** BUY POST-IT NOTE STOCK *** I am going to need a lot of those little yellow pads.

Age Fears

This is what I am REALLY afraid of.  This hypothetical example of a picture of my daughter and I in the upcoming years.  I am currently 34 years old.  Macy and I will have a LARGE generation gap between us.  You think I am blowing it out of proportion? For those mathematically challenged here is a cheat sheet for ya.  Lets look at exactly how bad its gonna be.

Macy’s Age                                  My Age                                     My Situation

o                                                            34                                       All is under control

10                                                          44                                       1st knee replacement

20                                                          54                                       3rd knee replacement

30                                                          64                                        Looking for my teeth

40                                                           74                                Yelling at “kids” on the lawn

50                                                            84                               (I can’t think this far ahead)

Ya get it now?  I am going to be an out of touch codger when she is 18-30.  OMG I need to hire a large orangutan to follow her around and assault anyone who approaches her during my declining years.


Understanding Baby Clothes

FYI future dads: Children’s clothes are not sized like everything else.  S, M, L, XL, and XXL do not apply to children’s clothes.  You need to take a class on this.  I am not even kidding!  For starters memorize this:

Age/Size Weight Length Bootie/Shoe Size Sock Size
Newborn Up to 7 lbs Up to 17″ N/A N/A
Up to 3 Months 7-12 lbs 17-23″ 3 Up to 6 Months
3-6 Months 12-17 lbs 23-27″ 4 Up to 6 Months
6-12 Months 17-22 lbs 27-29″ 5 6-12 Months
12-18 Months 22-27 lbs 29-31″ 6 12-24 Months
18-24 Months 27-30 lbs 31-33″ 7 12-24 Months

That chart will get you through the start but the Toddler Years have a system all to themselves. Here are some lines from other websites that are supposed to help decode this mess:

“Up until the age of 24 months, if an item

is labeled “12 months” or “18 months” without an age range, translate it to mean “9-12” or “1218” months. A size chart is

always more accurate than an

age range in determining the best fit for your child, but when there is no size chart, or even an age range, always select one size up from your child’s current age.”

Did you get that tip?  Easy to understand huh?  Here is another nugget of wisdom (* I DID NOT MAKE THIS UP):

The overlap between Toddler (2T, 3T, 4T, 5T) and Child (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Does this fit?

sizes is a little confusing, particularly because different brands have different criteria for distinguishing between the two size types:

– Some Toddler sizes are roomier in the bottom to accommodate diapers

– Some Child sizes are narrower and longer (Size charts will indicate this by showing a similar weight range but larger height range than the corresponding Toddler size)

– Some Child sizes are the exact same size as their Toddler counterparts, but have a different cut and style

SEE!! There is no consistent measure for baby’s clothes.  OMG, I am sooo screwed!

If you don’t believe me by now…Here is one last thought taken from a well respected parenting website.

“Buying baby clothes is a lot like playing the lottery; you hedge your bets on a number, and hope it’s the right one.”

Thank god my wife is smart.

A Parenting Quiz Yields Unintended Answers

In my ongoing quest to learn everything there is to know about becoming a parent (I know it is a futile gesture, but it makes me THINK I am being productive.) I decided to take a parenting quiz.

I figured that testing my newly acquired parenting knowledge could give me some feedback as to my “readiness” for this part of my life.  As I read the some of the  questions and the answer choices I noticed something…one or more of the answers is complete child abuse – either mental or physical or both.  You don’t believe me?  Look at this question:

5. It’s a Saturday and you’re going out with your little boy. You watch from a bench as he runs up and down the slide and plays with his friends. Then you watch him walk up to a man sitting on the bench across from you.
*Run after him and give your son a re-run of the “Don’t talk to strangers” lecture.
*Watch cautiously and wait until your son has stopped talking to him and continues playing. There are many people around. He wouldn’t do anything right?
*Walk casually up to your son and ask him a question or divert his attention (tell him that you are going to take him out for icecream or challenge him to go on the big slide, etc.) so that he would walk away from the stranger and sit down and talk to him about the safety rules that come into play whenever we go out.
*Walk up to him quickly and hold him by the ear as you drag him away, then yell at him, take him home, and promise never to take him anywhere ever again because he is stupid and he never listens.

Please note answer #4.  Here is the summary: Drag him by the ear while yelling ,because you just reduced his ability to hear by 1/2 by destroying the ear you are pulling on, at him about how stupid he is.

Does this really happen so much that it is a viable answer choice?  This pattern was repeated over and over in the quiz allowing you to resort to violence and child abuse OR suffer a mental breakdown for yourself.  Want an example?  Here ya go…

13. Today, after school, you went to your child’s school to pick him up. You showed up a bit early, so you are just watching the class as they are packing up their things and getting ready to go home. On the side, you can see your son and two of his friends playing with one of the class toys, a green dinosaur, and then you see that your son has pushed one of the other boys to the ground and took the toy from him. What would you do?
*Hold him by the ear and yell at him until you reach the car.
*Ask him why he did it, and explain that there is no good reason to hit anyone. Then make him apologize.
*Make him apologize and tell him that he is grounded and he cannot play any of his games for a week.
*Hit your head against the wall and cry because the world is ending.

This question dosen’t LIMIT you to auditory canal child abuse (#1) it allows you to have the choice of a mental breakdown(#4).  How thoughtful.  I am sure that the  kid in question appreciates that consideration.

I WANT to believe that these horrible choices are meant to be so SHOCKING that the quiz taker will never pick them and maybe remember this quiz when the impulse to destroy the child ear leaps into their mind when the “good china” gets broken.  However, I can’t help believe there are parents who resort to violence when a child disobeys, smarts off, or commits any infraction what so ever.

OK, I admit I know some parents that do leap to physical punishment over a more communicative and less painful method of compliance assurance.  Admit it,  you know them to, maybe not the same people, but the same type of people.  I think they are lazy parents and need to be more concerned with the development of the child rather than the 10 minutes of silence the physical abuse yields them or they want to be OBEYED that they will make sure that happens at any cost.

I have never SAID anything to any of them when they “disciplined” their child in front of me because:

1) I had no kids of my own.

2)  I don’t know what’s led up to this instance.

None the less, I knew that exchange between parent and child was wrong and I am positive my face reflected that.  Yet, I have never said anything.  So, I apologize to all the kids who have been disciplined in front of me in an inappropriate manner.  My silence is inexcusable.  I am typing this apology because I know you couldn’t hear me…due to the ear pulling and yelling.

I am going to try to not ever do anything to my child that hinders trust, fosters fear, or causes them physical pain in any way.  I know that people’s definition of abuse, discipline, corporal punishment differ.  However, I think that most impartial observers can tell when it goes too far.

Parenting is going to be hard but not hard on my kid.

Anyone got any bows, glitter, or pink tutus?

For the Record: I would not have picked this outfit.

The doctor has confirmed it.  We are having a girl.  I will pause now for your applause. (((PAUSE)))

Thank you.

My wife would like to make her official statement  regarding this news:

“PHEW!!! I am glad it is a girl, but a healthy boy would be ok too.  WOO HOO…ITS A GIRL!” Read the rest of this entry

Looking forward….

The future is a vast and ever changing cloud of possibility.  Now that the kid is in the mix…that cloud is much bigger with 10000 more possibilities.  UGHHH…lets assume that my new kid-to-be is free of all diseases, forms of chromozone abnormalities, and all the billions of things that could go wrong with a pregnancy and appears … normal.  YAHOO!

What if he is a bad kid…the ones that cry just to cry on airplanes, the ones that give teachers ulcers, the kind that make you not want kids in the 1st place.  OMG that would be a nightmare!!! Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: