We are blessed to live close to family, and we have a lot of them. The majority of my immediate family live within 30 minutes of our house. As in, anyone closer than a third cousin lives in the Metroplex. Allie’s family is a little more spread out, but both of her parents are in the area as well as her sisters and a host of step-family.

So, we see everyone at Christmas. EVERYONE.

Eli enjoyed it thoroughly, and we had no major melt-downs. All of this is a good thing.



Way too Long

It’s been a really long time since I’ve posted on this blog. The problem was, I couldn’t decide what I wanted this blog to be. It was a goofy mix of personal writing and pictures of Eli at the zoo, none of which made sense together. So, I’ve made the decision to separate blogs and leave this one as primarily family stuff and another as primarily theology/creative stuff.

This ought to provide some balance to my two worlds, as I feel torn between the desire to be a boundary-defying social critic and a dude who cleans up a lot of baby toys. I’m both, but want to maintain two separate online personas.

Anywho, I’ll start posting some pictures from the last few months. Exciting!

Eli Got Wet

Last month, Allison and I had Eli baptized at the church we’ve been going to.

It was a big step for the family, and so far one of the biggest parenting decision we’ve made. Neither Allie or I were baptized as infants, nor were we raised in faith traditions that do that sort of thing. For me, baptism was taught as something that had to be a conscious, fully-rational choice to be a christian forever and ever and ever and therefore was an impossible sacrament for babies. Fourth graders; however, are assumed to have the rational/spiritual capacity to make this lifetime election.

That way of doing things just doesn’t make sense to us.

But, as Eli is our first child, we had to discuss the precedent we were setting for ourselves and our future children if we did choose to baptize him. Our current church is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (a denomination that believes in / practices the baptism of infants), but we’re not by any means devoted to this one particular brand of faith and have no plans to only attend EPC communities for the rest of our lives. Honestly, I am just barely comfortable with going to any church at all. What if we move to Austin and join a community that we feel ok with theologically but they are picky about the whole kid-baptism thing? How do we explain denominational/theological distinctions to a 6 year old who wonders why his older brother got baptized but he didn’t? Do we have to make infant baptism a non-negotiable in future church hunts, which is already the most depressing and horrible experience associated with attending church?

We still don’t have remarkably good answers to those questions and are going to have to deal with those issues as they come up. It all turns out to be much bigger than how old a kid ought to be before you dump water on his head. I struggle with the fact that I even go to a brick-and-mortar church with a budget and staff and debt and denominational BS and politics and stereotypes and precedents and the like. I believe that most of those things present theological and practical problems that I’d rather not have to deal with. Regardless, this is where we find ourselves.

Here’s what it came down to: we believe that there is a God and that He loves our son. We believe that a spiritual life involves a duel movement– God towards man and man towards God. The tradition of baptism that I was raised with celebrates that second movement, marking an individual’s choice to live life with God. Infant baptism celebrates the first movement, that God loves this cute little sack of bones and instincts and already has a plan for his life to be meaningful. Mostly, it marks our intentions as parents to raise Eli to know that love is better than hate, peace is better than violence, and humility is better than power.

It was a special moment. Lots of family and friends came out and we felt very well supported.

Thanks to those who came out.


Crawling Boy

Eli has begun to crawl.

Sort of.

He hasn’t really mastered legs and arms working together in unison, but he is able to “swim” over the floor. The most surprising thing is how fast it happened. Two weeks ago, we could leave Eli playing for a few minutes while we left the room to make a bottle and he’d stay content in one place. Now he can be chewing on table legs, pulling electric cords, or eating my soccer shoes within seconds.

It’s cute. And I’m not stupid, I knew (from careful observations of others in this species) that eventually, he WOULD learn to crawl and move around. But what I didn’t realize that was with the dawn of movement would also come the Age of Discipline. When he just sat in one place or giggled or ate or even cried, there was nothing for either Allie or I to say ‘NO’ about. Now, he could pull the Christmas tree down or electrocute himself.

The first few times we said no, he just stared at us blankly and kept doing whatever he was doing until we physically picked him up and moved him. Today, I think he started to recognize our tone and the little dude cried when we said that he wasn’t allowed to eat the penny he found under the couch. It was heartbreaking for me, but I know it’s necessary to keep him from being the kind of adult that I don’t want him to become.




I Really Like Christmas

This being a dad stuff does weird things to a guy.

One minute, you’re listening to
Studio 360 and some novelist is talking about his inspiration for a Post-modern zombie novel, and the next you’re in the Dunn Bros. parking lot getting way too emotional about the thought of your infant son coming home for Christmas when he’s 30.

This song is a perfect Christmas song for me. He’s honest, funny, and not a Christian….
who really likes Christmas. Moreover, he gets Christmas. While bands of mindless Faithful roam malls and rack up debt and refuse to recycle, this guy just nails what makes Christmas meaningful.

Other than, you know, the whole Jesus thing. But if he can understand peace and the joys of family and contentment, I’m pretty sure he’s closer than most church-goers I’ve met.

identify yourself.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with a case of identity. It’s hard to know who I am, certainly, but understanding what the hell that question means is even harder.

Working at a grocery store, I have befriended lots of regulars. These relationships are (sort of) important to me, consisting of pleasantries and surface questions (baby pictures, the Rangers), and are way better than being hated.
About half are moms. I like them a lot, they always ask about Eli and offer gentle, Whole Foodsy advice on how to properly blend beets and convince our pediatrician to delay shots. They gave me presents when Eli was born and think I’m exceptional because I remember that they like almond milk. Just so we’re clear, they ALL like almond milk.

The males talk to me about baseball, assume I’m politically conservative, and vaguely invite me to houses of adult entertainment. They aren’t as interested in almond milk. Eventually, though, I know that they will ask me, with varying degrees of subtlety, just what the hell a hard-working, college educated young man such as myself is doing unloading palettes of coffee/cheese at a grocery store. It’s well intentioned and as fair a question as any, I suppose, and I have a variety of answers.

I graduated in May 2009, just a few months after the economy tanked, so this is all I could find.
I needed a job with insurance after my wife became pregnant, so I had to put my freelance writing career on hold.
I always intended to change the world, but got fired from a non-profit job and became disenfranchised with everything related to professionally helping people.
I want to be a poet, so this is just to pay the bills until I can get a publisher interested.
I’m researching a novel.

All of these are true, to varying degrees. But they’re also mostly lies.

I don’t know who I will be, or what I will eventually do for money. Right now, I am a good father and husband. That’s all I know.


This is a poem by Louis Jenkins, an overlooked prose-poet from Minnesota. I really enjoy his deceptively light style. It’s like biting into a marshmallow only to discover there’s a peanut inside, and then after trying a few more discovering that you really REALLY like marshmallow covered peanuts.

Anyway, this is one of my favorites of his. It’s from the collection North of the Cities and is exactly the kind of poem I wish I had received from the Muse.


In Sitka, because they are fond of them,
People have named the seals. Every seal
is named Earl because they are killed one
after another by the orca, the killer
whale; seal bodies tossed left and right
into the air. “At least he didn’t get
Earl,” someone says. And sure enough,
after a time, that same friendly,
bewhiskered face bobs to the surface.
It’s Earl again. Well, how else are you
to live except by denial, by some
palatable fiction, some little song to
sing while the inevitable, the black and
white blindsiding fact, comes hurtling
toward you out of the deep?

NYC 2011

A few weeks ago, we decided to go on our first family vacation… to New York City!

Seems random, but Allie’s mom was there on business, which meant that we had a free, built in babysitter. We stuck with Eli most of the time, but took a few outings on our own… primarily to see ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway. That was SWEET. We also saw ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’, and while it didn’t suck, it wasn’t the freaking Lion King either.

Eli did great. We had 4 flights total (connecting both there and back) and he didn’t cry or fuss or make that much noise at all on any of them. The other passengers; however, were super-quick to give us evil death glares in the terminal. And while boarding. And while going through security. And pretty much everywhere within a 2 mile vicinity of an airplane. I very much wanted to, at the end of each flight, stand up and demand apologies for all of the mean things that these people were thinking as they stared at us and squinted prior to taking off. Allison (wisely) insisted that I refrain.

Some of the highlights were going through Central Park and the famed Central Park Zoo, visiting the Cathedral of St John the Divine on the Upper West Side, Times Square, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Eli is a natural people pleaser, and I found that carrying him around was an instant way to make the mean New Yorkers be nice and wave. I really liked watching him look around at all of the action and try to take it all in, just like his pop does. Before we left I assumed that he was just going to be this warm lump that we carried around with us while we did whatever we wanted, but he turned out to be genuinely interested in the city and a natural traveler. He actually had fun! Which was cool.

Here are some of our favorite pictures, but a lot more are uploaded on our flickr page.

Eli playing with Mom on the plane ride

Eli enjoyed the city, but he was MOST interested in the construction site across the street from the hotel.

Family Photo in Central Park

You know that Eli rocked on the Big Piano in FAO Schwarz. Several other very cute non-staged photos on the flickr site.

Eating Time

Last night, Eli ate people food (aka not liquid from a bottle) for the first time.

We were trying to wait until the 6 month mark, per our pediatrician’s recommendation, but he hadn’t really been eating well for a few days and we thought a little cereal might help. We did get it cleared by the good doctor first, don’t worry.

Eli loved it!

Here’s his first few bites of rice cereal.

First Bites from Steven Harrell on Vimeo.

Once he got going, he wasn’t shy about it. Mom wasn’t working the spoon fast enough so he tried to take matters into his own hands. Results were messy.

Gimme that Spoon! from Steven Harrell on Vimeo.

And a few more pictures of the whole event.





He (obviously) needed a bath after this event.