Saturday, February 28, 2009

4 Weeks Old

At her 4 weeks check-up Miss Gwendolyn weighed 10lbs even and measured 22 1/2 inches long.  She's a growing, healthy little girl and for this we are truly thankful!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bedtime Reading

"It doesn't matter what you read," they say, "only that you're doing it."

Armed with this advice from child developmental gurus, I have begun to read to Gwendolyn in the evenings, to get her to sleep. Just about the time Sara and I want to retire, after Gwendolyn's last feeding, she gets fussy and wakeful. So I take her from Sara, swaddle her tight, wrap her in a blanket, lay her gently in my lap, and tap my foot to get the rocking chair going in its slow creaking rhythm. And I read to her.

Dr. Seuss, you wonder? Perhaps a little Winnie the Pooh? Not for my daughter. My little queen gets nothing but the best--nothing but Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain.

Oh, yes. That's right. Nothing like a little 12th-century history to put a young lady to sleep. And her father gets to read something that's been on his reading list for several years. It's a win-win situation.

Furthermore, Gwendolyn gets some subliminal education on her name. Here's an excerpt from the History, regarding Gwendolen, daughter of Corineus, wife of Locrinus:

"Some time later, when Corineus was at long last dead, Locrinus deserted Gwendolen and took Estrildis as his Queen. Gwendolen was most indignant at this. She went off to Cornwall and there she assembled all the young men of that region and began to harass Locrinus with border forays. At last, when both sides had gathered an army together, they joined battle near the River Stour. There Locrinus was struck by an arrow and so departed from the joys of this life. With Locrinus out of the way, Gwendolen took over the government of the kingdom, behaving in the same extravagant fashion as her father had done." (ii.5; Lewis Thorpe, trans.)

That's right. I hope my Gwendolyn will be strong enough not to take any crap from a guy, either.

I'm not sure how much of that she's picking up right now, though. After all, about five minutes into Geoffrey, she looks like this:

Geoffrey died about the year 1155. I don't think he'll mind that his prose puts my daughter to sleep.

~ emrys

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Tidal Wave

Yesterday Emrys, Gwendolyn and I were on the receiving end of a tidal wave of love shown to us by our church community.  The ladies of the church organized a family dinner and baby shower to welcome Gwendolyn.  Delicious food was enjoyed and then we were showered with gifts. 

As I sat in the front of a room full of friends, gifts were handed to me to open, opened and then quickly followed by another: truly a tidal wave of gift receiving activity.  To be honest, it was quite overwhelming as I tried to show appreciation for one gift, to at least make eye-contact with the giver and mouth a “thank-you” across the function hall, another gift was poured into my lap.  Then the wave shifted as I took Gwendolyn and Emrys got to open some of the gifts.  I sat back for a minute and watched my daughter, sound asleep and oblivious to the activity, unaware of the outpouring we were receiving on her behalf.  I watched Emrys as he opened gifts and hammed it up for the middle-school girls who were taking pictures for us.  My life is so amazingly different than it was a year ago.

Today as I “dry off” a bit process the experience, I cannot begin to put into words my appreciation for the thoughtfulness of the gifts and generosity of our community.  I folded clothes that my daughter will wear in the coming year(s) and think of those whose generosity has helped fill her dresser.  I look at the hand-made gifts and think of the time invested in their art, simply to bless us.  I look at the bath stuff and think of the generous spirits who contributed to help care for Gwendolyn.  I look at the feeding items and think of the generosity that will help feed my baby girl.  I look at many blankets we’ve received from friends around the country, and I am blessed by the thoughtfulness that will keep my daughter warm and give her a soft place to play. 

I’ll write thank-you notes and try, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to truly express the fullness of the blessing I’m feeling today. 

Thank you all.  Your generosity, time, thoughtfulness and talents are truly appreciated.


Saturday, February 21, 2009


Parts of this entry are not recommended for middle-school age children.

4:30 am, the baby goes off.

Unnngghh. "I'll get the diaper." Sara grunts her acknowledgement. I roll out of bed and shuffle over to pick up Gwendolyn and take her into the bathroom.

I lay her on the changing pad and fumble around with her pajamas and onesie. Every snap button takes focus and effort. Step by step. Take it slow. It's early. Gwendolyn is grunting her displeasure, not yet moving to full wailing mode. That usually comes with tightening the diaper cover.

Rip, rip. The velcro on the diaper cover scratches the wee-hour silence. I pull the teeth of the diaper hooks out of the cloth. Here comes the part that requires coordination. I wipe a hand over my face and feel the crust in the corner of my eyes. Gwendolyn grunts, as if to ask me when this will be over with.

Then I hear the rumble from below: the tell-tale sign that the GI production line is about to distribute a package. I put a finger on the front of her folded cloth diaper, as if to prevent the thing from being blown off. I'm glad that didn't happen ten seconds later. I open up the diaper, pull it out from under her, and wipe the undercarriage.

Then I hear the gurgle.

It's now 4:35am, so the neurons are firing slowly. Too slowly. The gurgle announces that the GI production line is backed up and will momentarily release back-pressure. There ought to be sirens for these things. A single neuron--the late-night grey-matter security guard who's a little overweight and clumsy with his radio--sounds the alarm. Where's the burp cloth?!

Too late. A cascade of milk streams out of my infant's mouth and nostrils, coursing over her cheeks and onto the changing pad. There is the sour report of partially processed milk.

It's 4:36 am, and I finally get my hand on a burp cloth. I bring it to Gwendolyn's face and begin mopping up the slippery spill.

Then I hear the rumble again.

That single-neuron rent-a-cop in my brain drops his radio and wets himself. I know that sound. Hands frozen with a milk-soaked burp cloth around the face of my infant daughter, my bleary eyes look down at the naked underside of this milk-processing plant that is melting down and running over in all directions.

I hadn't put a new diaper down there yet.

Never was the word s**t more appropriate. The hard-earned final product of baby digestion ejects from its holding chamber all over the previously reusable diaper cover. How does she do both at once?

With the resignation that comes easily at 4:37 am, I finish cleaning up the top end. Now she's quiet, having relieved all production pressure. Thank God for that. I reach into the diaper drawer and pull out another cover. Somehow, in the Child Chernobyl that was my early morning, we hadn't managed to get anything stinky on the changing pad. That's one less piece of equipment we'll have to wash this week.

It's 4:40 am when I hand Gwendolyn to her mother for nursing. I've got one and a half hours left to sleep--if I can get the image of what just transpired out of my mind.


Family Picture

I've had a few folks point out the fact that there are lots of pictures of Gwendolyn and Emrys on here but none of me - so here's a family shot from almost 2 weeks ago now.  More to come as I begin to come out of hibernation a bit more.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Laundry Realization

I was fairly aware that with a baby in the house there would be more laundry, especially since we're cloth diapering.  But somewhere in my head when I worked it out, it came to an extra load of kids clothes - they're small after all - and a couple loads of diapers.  The X-factor that I didn't account for:  all the Mommy & Daddy clothes that get spit-up on.    *sigh*  I get it now, and I'm even more thankful that we have a washer and dryer!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Just in Time for Spring Training

Many of you know that my brother is a HUGE Boston Red Sox fan.  Now that he has a son, and I am Aunt Sara maker of crochet baby blankets, this only seemed fitting.  Hopefully it will become a favorite.  It's different from any of the other crochet projects I've done and I was pretty happy with how it turned out :D

Making Faces With Daddy


...And Smiling!

Monday, February 16, 2009

First Bath

Gwendolyn got her first real bath on Monday and she liked it as long as Dad was quick enough with the warm water: 

Decisions Decisions

Emrys and I have both taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicators on a number of occasions for various professional development activities.  One of the perspectives of this particular indicator is how you gather information and make decisions.  I am one who weighs all the options, researches options upside down and inside out and generally over think things before I make a decision.  Emrys will just make a decision on the fly and go with it.  

For instance - if we're down in town and it's heading towards mealtime, Emrys's response to getting hungry and toward mealtime is "let's grab dinner".  In my head, it's getting towards mealtime and starting to get hungry and my process looks more like this: "How many more errands do we have?  Can I last until we get home where I know there is food in the fridge?  Did I bring any snacks with us to hold us over? Do we have room in the budget to eat out?  Yes.  Fast food or sit down?  What am I hungry for?..." and it goes on and on, all before I even mention aloud the possibility of going out.  

So now we come to other decisions.  Like when we want to introduce a bottle to Gwendolyn so that I can get a snippet of rest from feedings.  Friday night, as part of my processing, we pulled out the bottles we had gotten as baby-shower gifts (thanks again everyone!) and experimented to see which nipples had the slower flow rates that would be less likely to confuse Gwendolyn if we introduced the bottle and were switching between bottle and nursing.  (Granted we'd already given her a pacifier which has caused no problems or confusion.)  Then I wasn't sure when we should introduce the bottle, wait until she was 3 weeks old? older? sooner?   And I was trying to process all of this in a mostly exhausted state.  
So, at about 9pm it seemed that Gwendolyn was going to bed, so I promptly crawled into bed too.  (Sleep when baby sleeps, right?)  But she was just kidding.  So with one arm draped over the side of the bed to her bassinet I was holding the pacifier in place and stroking her cheek hoping she would go to sleep only to realize with each of her fusses, that I'd fallen asleep in between.  So Emrys took her downstairs, and I passed out.  
Next thing I knew it was 4am.  Gwendolyn was fussing, I'd been sleeping for close to 7 hours.  What on earth!  So I got up, changed a diaper and fed her and we all went back to bed.  I was amazed that she'd slept so long.  Saturday morning I was talking with Emrys amazed at this and asked what time she's finally gone to sleep and he said about 10:30.  For a moment I felt bad that he'd been up with her for so long after I went to sleep, but it didn't last long as I had relished every minute of that sleep and felt like a new person!  I mentioned that I was amazed that she had slept that long between feedings.  
"Oh yeah, she was hungry, I fed her the two ounces of milk that were in the fridge, then she went to sleep."
So Gwendolyn was introduced to the bottle, I got some much needed extra sleep and dad's decision making skills are saving me from continued research and over analysis on when the best time to introduce a bottle will be.  Best of all - dad can start taking the middle of the night feedings too!

Mechanical Advantage

Somewhere along the line, the Lord made the decision to give human beings opposable thumbs. This innovation to manual anatomy allows humans to grasp things with a circular grip (as when you make the letter "O" in sign language). Without the ability to grasp in such a way, tools as we know them (like sewing machines, chainsaws, and fountain pens) would only be works of art, employable only by some alien race. (Can you imagine a cow trying to operate a sewing maching with its hooves?) In fact, the opposable thumb has long been counted one of the primary features that make our species so gifted and powerful among the creatures.

Some other animals do have opposable thumbs, however; humans are not unique in this way. Most apes and monkeys have opposable thumbs--sometimes on both hands and feet. Pandas, koalas, and a whole phylum of tree frogs in South America have opposable digits on hands or feet. Hence the ability of pandas to eat bamboo like lollipops, koala's ability to sit on the side of a tree trunk for long periods, and tree frogs' ability to . . . well, do tree-froggy things.

Opossums also have opposable thumbs--but only on their rear paws. (Thank God! If they had opposable thumbs on their hands and reproduced the way they do, they'd rule the world.)

The proper use of an opposable thumb does not come immediately to humans. Discovering the power and ability of this thickened, strong digit takes time and practice. So when Gwendolyn Hope emerged into the bright world with us, her thumbs lay limply next to her forefingers, awaiting patiently the time when she would get around to exercising them.

Friday of last week, as I held Gwendolyn on my thighs, I put my huge forefingers under her tiny digits. She wrapped her thumbs under my fingers and pulled. Here is the God-given wonder of human anatomy at work in my daughter. Of course, that little quirk of design did not explain the full impression of the moment on my heart. Something more awe-filling struck me then--something more spiritual than biological--about the fact that my daughter had grasped me for the first time. She could hold on as I pulled my hands away from her then back toward her again. She has mounted the learning curve of grasping, holding, and embracing that will make her more human than any anatomical mechanical advantage can. She will be a child who can hold her parent's hand; a girl who can hold a doll or ball; a woman who can embrace a lover's soul; and perhaps a parent who can cradle her infant's head. Praise the Lord, who knitted her together in her mother's womb.

This also means that she can be a rower. Hallelujah!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


As I have written before, I make an effort to craft an anniversary gift for Sara out of the material for that anniversary year. Though year two was supposed to be cotton (according to tradition), I got a bright idea and decided to make something out of wax. (I think I had been addled by the Pasadena smog.) In November of 2003, I went to Target and bought a huge cauldron-shaped candle. On the outside surface I etched the words "Happy Two Years Sara & Emrys, 22 Dec 2003." I then filled in the etching (here's where my hand-crafting came in) with red and green wax. When lit, the candle glowed from the inside. I thought it looked pretty cool. Here's a recent photo:

The easiest way to carry this candle was to pick it up by the top rim. However the candle weighed about ten pounds, and repeated liftings stressed the integrity of its structure. A couple of weeks ago it cracked and a large chunk came out of the circumference of the candle:

Sad day.

Quite frankly, the piece didn't do a lot of work in our household. We had to clear the coffee table to bring it out, and since its original wick died we had to put our own votives inside. As a result, it didn't get much use. So Sara and I agreed today that this gift, having fulfilled its purpose as expression of love, could be retired. Please play a round of taps, lift up a prayer to the Almighty, or have a Guinness--whatever might be your fitting salute to a gift that after five years finally gave up to the disorder of the universe.

Sara wants me to record that "retirement" does not mean "being thrown away." We try to give things more lives in this household. In the spirit of use-reuse-resurrect, Sara will be melting down those ten pounds of wax and making citronella candles for this summer. What more fitting way to say "Happy Anniversary" than to repel mosquitoes? I don't know of one.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From Your Screen to the Page

In an effort to pass on to our progeny (of which we now have one) something tangible of our story, we have published one portion of our blog in hard copy. We've found a website that "slurps" one's blog entries and formats them for printing in book form. After some months of editing and formatting, we ordered a hard copy of our blog entries from the first three months of 2006. 160 pages and $60 later, we have a gorgeous hard copy that one day will pass into the hands of our child(ren).

In case you're interested in doing this yourself, the website is

On the off chance that you might be interested in acquiring a hard copy of our Down Under Adventures from 2006, it can be purchased at I've been instructed to tell you that the book contains many more photographs than the blog does; we culled our thousands of photographs from this time of travel, and put hundreds more in the book. All for your enjoyment!

We plan on keeping up the work--both blogging and putting chunks of past years in print. Stay tuned!


The Grin

This entry contains elements which may not be suitable for young children. Parental discretion is advised.

Newborns cannot smile. Smiling is a developmental milestone in the life of infant that comes after hours, days, weeks of observing other faces and learning to use those muscles. Frowning, crying, and the scrunched-up face of effort come naturally from the very beginning. Smiling takes a while.

So we have learned to observe, as all new parents do, the sign that Gwendolyn is moving some milk through the lower reaches. The scrunched-up eyes, the solemn grunts, the wide-eyed pauses ("Is it out yet, I wonder?"), and the quaking limbs of effort show us that something's going on which will require parental attention later. (But not too soon, lest we get hit by evacuating product.) Gwendolyn knows the universal human experience of moving her bowels.

But every once in while, after a particularly dense push or a rumble that echoes through the double-gusset diaper. Even though she's only 12 days old, when the product has been shipped, I could swear that the corner of Gwendolyn's mouth goes up just a bit, to show she appreciates the value of what's just come to pass. She may not be able to smile yet, but I'm pretty sure I've seen her grin.

I wish I could share her joy at the realization of a full diaper.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Naps Like a Champ

I am so incredibly thankful that my little girl will sleep anytime - anywhere:  including at night.  Last night she 5 hours straight baby!  While I know this can change at a whim - for now, I'm taking it for the blessing it is!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Weighing In

Gwen was born at 7 pounds 13 ounces.  By the time we left the hospital she had the on-call pediatrician concerned because she was down to 7 pounds 8 oz.  We weren't really that concerned, she hadn't been eating well yet.  Monday when we saw our pediatrician she was down to 7-6 and our doc wasn't concerned.  She sent us home with instructions to try to feed Gwen every two hours during the day and hopefully to see a gain of an ounce a day by today's weight in.  

So we bundled up, and off to the doctor's office we went.  They put us back in an x-ray room since it was the only exam area that hadn't had sick people in it.  The nurse brought in the scale and weighed little Gwen.  Then the doctor came in and said "are you sure?!" and double checked the scales and weighed Gwen again.  Gwen weighed in at 8pounds 2 ounces- a full 12 ounces since Monday.  No more waking her up to eat during the day!  

And as a bonus she's letting us sleep for 4-5 hours at a time at night.  That is one prayer that I'm so thankful to have answered- a baby that is a good sleeper!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Chocolate Cake Song and Dance

Gwendolyn was awake and active this afternoon, and Sara had a craving for chocolate cake. These are the ingredients of happy parenting.

It's important to stimulate kids from a young age (say I, who am on my first child). What's more, music and dancing are important parts of culture to which every child ought to be introduced early. Enter The Chocolate Cake song.

Bill Cosby, in one of his classic stand-up routines, told the story of when his wife left him home alone with the kids for an evening. Finding them uncontrollable, the Dad told them that if they settled down he would give them chocolate cake for supper. So was born the song, sung by a clan of Cosby kids dancing a silly dance around the house:

Dad is great!
He's givin' us chocolate cake!

Dancing around the stage, head bobbing, arms flailing, knees bent, lips out, butt wiggling, Bill Cosby introduced us to the joys of kids playing hookey from the normal rules of life. Of course, when his wife gets home and witnesses the conga-line of kids circling the house all hopped-up on chocolate, the cake-peddling Dad discovers that making the kids happy doesn't always make for peace in the marriage.

Today I had nothing to fear for domestic peace, however, because Sara was making the cake. So while I held Gwendolyn, ushering her around the kitchen to discover the kitchen mixer at work, the cool window in the oven, and the joys of licking the bowl, I danced with her to the great Cosby-chant:

Mom is great!
She's makin' us chocolate cake!

Which, if you're feeling theological (and that often happens to me while I'm dancing with a newborn in my arms) can be expanded to:

God is great!
Invented chocolate cake!

So Gwendolyn and I, much to the amusement of Sara, sang the Chocolate Cake song and danced the great Chocolate Cake dance in her first kitchen romp. Someday my daughter will be able to appreciate homemade chocolate cake. For now, she just needs to learn the joy of song and dance.

Mom is great!
She's makin' us chocolate cake!


What's in her Name?


The Welsh word gwen meanswhite, fair, or blessed. The word dolen refers to circle or ring. Thus in the name Gwendolyn we have called our daughter blessed ring. We hope that she will be, as all the faithful of Christ, like a signet ring of the Lord Yahweh: a constant display of the presence, power, and love of the living God.

I have taken inspiration for this meaning from the book of the prophet Haggai. In this short story the Lord tells Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, that he has been chosen by God to be a signet ring of the divine presence, a blessing to the people. And the work of Zerubbabel's hands, if in accord with the Lord's will, shall be blessed. So do we hope for our daughter. 

We hope that she will carry with her and shower upon others great blessings of imagination, compassion, and wisdom. May she be, like a ring given in promise, a sign of covenant relationship. May her presence be a reminder of the Spirit’s love for everyone she meets. 


Humanity cannot live without hope. Hope is that which imagines a future better than the present. Hope is the mother of all change for the good. She displaces fear and keeps despair at bay. To live with hope is to cast off sparks that set the world ablaze with new possibility. Thus in the name Hope we have asked the Lord to make her a light in the darkness. May her presence inspire others to better things; may her voice call hearts to labor for the divine in the midst of the human. May our daughter’s life be a promise of greater things to come, a Blessed Ring of Hope.

There is a happy double entendre in the translation (though not in Welsh): blessed ring of hope can refer to a sound, like a bell of hope tolling in the village. So we ask that the life of our little one might be a clarion ring to the world of something higher and better. May she be a song of blessing, singing the harmony of the Father of Lights, from cradle to grave and beyond.


Positive Extortion

I'm convinced there are some professions whose sole basis for operation is extortion. They acquire money by offering to do for other people what other people could perfectly well do for themselves, but for the lack of some bureaucratic designation or certification.

Lawyers are one of these professions. Recently I had to get a lawyer to certify that our congregation existed in county records. I went down to the county clerk, found all the pertinent records, and discovered that our congregation had not been dissolved. Work done. However, it was not enough for me to get that information and report it to the bank (from whom we are trying to secure a loan). The bank needs a lawyer to do it. What took me two hours of my own time now must be done by a lawyer, who will charge us between $400 and $500 for the service. The reason? He has lawyer-letters after his name.

I am often convinced that automobile mechanics make their living on the same premise. Thus I was reluctant to take our Mazda, which had been misbehaving on start-up, to the mechanic. Surely I could fix this myself. It's either the battery (ruled that out), empty fuel tank (ruled that out), the starter, or the fuel pump.

(Before I continue, recall that in "Occam's Razor," dated 4 January, I discovered that our Mazda wouldn't start because of low fuel in the cold. My discovery was in error. Doh! Just a few days later, our Mazda failed to start again, with a full tank.)

So we're back to the starter or the fuel pump. Now, I have access to ramps, and could get the car up on the ramps, get on my back in the snow, and fish around in -5 degree weather trying to sort this out. Or I could take it to the shop. I could suffer and do it myself, or get extorted out of significant amounts of money. I could bash my head against a rock or against a hard place.

My decision was aided by my lovely wife's keen observation that loss of money is often more desirable than loss of temper or sanity. In the face of this wisdom, the next time the Mazda started we took her to the shop.

Was it the starter? I waited for a week to find out. I was prepared to pay a couple of hundred bucks to have a rebuilt starter put in (just to get us through the next 90,000 miles). Or was it the fuel pump? This would be a higher-ticket item, but still worth it given the excellent record of this car. I braced myself to pay two hours of lawyer's wages to get this thing fixed. Whatever the cause, I was sure that the mechanics would tell me something I already knew and was prepared to hear.

They told us it was the clutch linkage.

Huh. I never thought of that.

The automobile experts discovered what I probably never would have: that the clutch linkage was loose. Since a depressed clutch is required to start the car, when the clutch didn't properly engage the car wouldn't start. So they tightened the clutch and the gear shift, and handed us a bill of $93. More knowledge, less work, less money, less frustration. Huh. And the Mazda drives like a dream.

Maybe professional extortion isn't always so bad--if it gets the job done. Kudos to the guys at Russell's Garage. Do this kind of work, and you can have my money.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Small Town Medicine

There are many things I enjoy about or local, small town medical practice.  All three of us are now established patients under the same roof and have wonderful doctors who take time out for you.  
Yesterday we took Gwen to our local peditrician/family doc to get her weight checked out, chart established etc.  The doctor spent the better part of an hour with us gathering information and checking out Gwen.  All was well with Gwen.  However in the information gathering, it came up the Emrys & I had both lapsed on our tetnus with pertussis shots.  So, thanks to small town medicine, Doctor went, grabbed our files, two syringes and, at Gwen's visit, Mom and Dad both ended up with tetnus shots!  At 4 day's old she's not even old enough to appreciate the "see it's not that bad" factor!  

Oh well.