Christmas!

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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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.

Top of the Food Chain

Eli is 3 and a half months old. That is totally insane to me.

It seems like just last week that I was in the hospital telling friends and family that we were expecting. All the nervous/excited talks that Allie and I had, sort of knowing what to expect and also having absolutely no idea. We forced friends to promise to still come hang out with us, and their faces clearly said, “Heck no, I’m not coming over to your house with your screaming baby,” possibly fearing that we might pour them a nice glass of wine and suddenly dart out the house and never return.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and my wife caring for Eli, but I think I’m also learning quite a bit about people in general. Babies are like these little raw humans, with all of the elements of humanity but without the ability to calm themselves down, talk, or avoid hurling their own fist into their eye socket.

The day an elephant is born, it has the ability to run away from lions. It took this kid three months to be able to accidentally roll himself onto his stomach, and even then he just starts screaming because if we don’t roll him back over he could suffocate. This is the animal that conquered the rest of the beasts? If somehow we were to find a panel of aliens and parade in front of them an infant version of every creature on Earth, then ask, “Which of these do you think grows up to control the fate of the rest?” I have a feeling that Eli would be pretty far down on that list.

But, it happens. I can already see his brain working and developing behind those eyes. He recognizes Allie and I just by our voice, and mimics our facial expressions. If one of us makes a vowel sound over and over, I can see him study our mouths and try to get his lips to do the same thing. He’s persistent, somehow managing to wrench his hands out of his swaddle blanket no matter how tight I wrap him up. Centimeter by centimeter, he wiggles and wiggles and wiggles and manages to get his fist into his mouth. Or eye socket. (Close enough, little dude.)

I shouldn’t really make fun. I’m just dexterous enough to feed and clean myself, but not enough to actually put a pair of socks and a long sleeved shirt on a wiggling baby.

Even in this totally non-autonomous state that he’s in, he still tries to do things on his own. He tried to take off his own diaper the other day, loves sitting in his Bumpo seat more than anywhere else in the house, and pretty much won’t eat unless he gets to put one of his hands on the bottle to act like he’s feeding himself.

Silly kid, you’re not able to take care of yourself yet. Just wait until you’re older, until your whole world is under your control. You’ll make your own money, live wherever you want, eat whatever you can afford, and be the lord of your own castle. Your work and abilities will provide for you and yours.

At least, that’s what I used to assume. Watching Eli, though, I don’t think its true. I think more often than not I’m probably just putting my hand on the bottle, pretending that I’m the one in control. Caring for him has showed me how well cared for I am and how dependent on the surrounding community everyone is. Society and the polis, as it turns out, is essential to human nature.

Eli is also pretty easily distracted, and he has a tendency to be much more interested in the spinning fan than his own father’s face. It is disheartening to imagine the potential increase in father/son interaction we would have if only my face spun around and possibly had plastic crap dangling from it.

I wonder how often I do the same thing to him, choosing to play Doodle Jump on my phone rather than being fully present with my wife and son.

Even at this moment, I’m looking up random stuff on the Internet on how to best format HTML from an iPhone.

Here’s to getting back to life, the awkward tango between our distinct natures, one fully capable of mastering the breadth of human emotion and community and the other just looking for a good nap.

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2 Months

It has been a few weeks since I last blogged. No apologies though, for fear of sounding like these people.

Over the next week I’ll post a few posts and pictures from Eli’s first two months in our family. He went to his first MLB game, the aquarium, and found out that he absolutely loves bathtime! It’s sure to be fun!

Here’s a few pictures…

Eli Quinn the Eskimo* Got Here

Now everybody’s gonna jump for joy.

Eli Quinn Harrell
April 18, 2011, 3:23pm
9 lbs, 4.7 oz, 20 in

On April 18, 2011 at 3:23pm, my life changed forever as my family grew from 2 to 3.

Leading up to that time, there were a lot of things that could have been pretty stressful or upsetting, but for some reason Allison and I never felt scared or frustrated. The experience was calm, relaxed, and easy. Our goal was a healthy mom and healthy baby, and we both had full confidence that no matter what the road to get there looked like, our result was going to be two things:

1. A healthy mom
2. A healthy baby

I know it doesn’t always work out that way, but we’re grateful that for us it did. Some combination of good doctors, good spirits, luck, and miracles were at work. Which were what isn’t for me to find out.

After he was born, I rolled him into the hospital room and all of the family oohed and ahhed for a few minutes before they all got shooed out and it was just the 3 of us (Allie, Eli, Me). In that moment, I realized a distinct difference between man and woman.

The first time Allison held our son, she soothed him and gave him his first meal. She told him how excited we were that he was a part of our family, and how much we loved him already.

The first time I held Eli, I just stared at him in a stupor.

Then I cried a little.
Then I prayed.

His first few days in the hospital were full of visitors, family, friends, nurses of all varieties, test (after test after test after test), pediatricians, surgeons, social workers, a crabby lady demanding money, lactation consultants, etc etc. I can’t really remember all of it. Thanks to those of you that came by and called and texted and facebook-ed well wishes. It confirmed what we already knew: we are loved, and our baby is welcome in this world.

Being home has been better. Allison and I have been alternating between exhausted and exhilarated, sometimes feeling both at the same time. Thanks to the support of family we’ve gotten (some) sleep. The phrase “one day at a time” makes a lot more sense now. There’s not really any other way to do this.

I go back to work tomorrow, and while it will be nice to stretch my legs a little I will be sad to leave my new family.

More pictures can be found on my dad’s flickr as well as my facebook.

*Allison told me I had to make it clear that “Eli Quinn the Eskimo” is a totally unauthorized nickname that in no way reflects her approval or and thus the use of which must be limited.


Baby Room!

I’ve realized that the only reason anyone comes here is for BabyTalk.

So, let’s give the people what they want!

Allie’s official “due date” is Friday, but we’re trying not to get ourselves too wrapped up in that date because our doctor seems perfectly happy letting us go past 41 weeks. Allie, on the other hand, is understandably less enthusiastic about that plan.

But, whenever the little man does decide to announce himself, we are (mostly) ready to bring him home. Here’s some pics of what will soon be his new room!

walking into baby's room

baby bed! Allie was intent on having a red crib, but the only ones we found were stupid expensive. A crib from Ikea + red paint + a helpful mother in law = a red crib!

Baby bedding was a big topic around here for quite a while. We finally found this set from a lady in New Orleans, and are both very happy with how it turned out next to the red.

This dresser was in my grandfather's apartment before he married my grandmother in the 50s. It was in my aunt's room when she was a kid and in my room when I was a kid. With a fresh coat of paint, it's on to store the clothes and diapers of the 4th generation.

Rocking nook! My parents bought this chair when my sister was born and both of us were rocked to sleep in it. My sister used it with her kids, and now Allie and I get to use it with our little man.

My parents' main present to us for the baby was buying all of the closet shelving stuff so that we can (desperately) try to stay organized.

Baby on Board

Or,
Oh God, That Thing in My Wife’s Stomach Has a Chin

Earlier this week, Allie and I were finally able to go to our 3D/4D ultrasound that had been delayed because of bad weather. I barely understand the concept of a normal ultrasound, something about soundwaves bouncing back to create images (though that’s also how I would describe radar) so just go to wikipedia if you really want to know how this all works.

Alls I know is, we were able to see with depth how the baby looks right now.

Before we went I was nervous, because I had googled some 3D ultrasound images and the results were horrifying. My hope was that it was the sort of deal where everyone else’s baby looks like just some shriveled, bloody old man when it is born, but when its your baby you insist that it is the most beautiful miracle ever and show pictures of it to everyone you meet.

Thankfully, the pictures we got were not horrifying, but were in fact the most beautiful pictures ever. I guess our baby is the exception, a handsome little guy with chubby cheeks and his mom’s chin. A few people have said that he looks like me, which is sort of cool and sort of offensive at the same time.

Just kidding, it’s cool.

 

A few more are up on our flickr page, if you’re curious to see more. http://www.flickr.com/photos/gingernotebook/