Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Worth as much as the first

So this blog sort of shut down after Jacob turned one. Here's a crazy notion, that adorable little monster is now a two-year-old who generally resembles a person.

He can walk, talk, throw, arguably catch, dance and play with the best of toddlers and in my humble opinion, he is the best of toddlers.

But Jacob isn't alone. He has a younger brother!

With two kids I was far to tired to chronicle the journey of birth and early parenthood but the new one's name is Nathan and never has there been a more smiling child.

The second kid might get hand-me-down clothes, he might get old toys and used stuff, but every hug and kiss Kelli and I give him are brand new and just his. In some ways having two has been more challenging, but in many ways it is easier as we've done the newborn thing before.

Nathan is still an infant but he'll be six-months-old later this month.

He is my second son. His birth was the second time I felt love at first sight. But when I see his perfect smile, or see his big brother and him play together, there's not a doubt in my mind.

The second is worth just as much as the first!

I love my boys.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Today, a year ago, changed my life for the better

"Its ok. It's going to be fine. Just remember to breathe."

A year ago today I kept repeating those words, but to be fair, I was saying them to myself, not to Kelli. In fact, she wasn't even in full-blown labor yet, but I had a hunch July 23 was going to be the day.

I don't remember everything from the day of Jacob's birth. I remember watching movies at home. I remember a long debate over whether it was time to go. I remember Kelli's face winching with contractions.

I loosely remember getting in the car. I remember the 39284754829 steps of the LONG walk from Christ Hospital's parking garage to the maternity ward, the early exam, lots of waiting, suddenly less waiting, then more waiting, epidural time, Kelli in no pain, then Kelli in lots of pain and then....


Louder than a Banshee and with more confused rage than I'd ever heard, a perfect little boy shouted his hello to the world. Around 6 a.m. Jacob was the alarm clock for the world that day and he's never stopped shouting. Anyone who has met my son knows that he wants you to know he's here. He won't let you forget, not that you could.

The little guy we'd once affectionately called "Baby Buttface" because he made his mommy not feel well was suddenly out and able to express his own displeasure with things. He was a pink and perfect and STRONG little person.

As soon as Jacob was out, even before his "Grand Hello," Kelli and I had a similar reaction. Something about that first sight of the boy led me to utter a guttural, primal sound I cannot recreate or explain clearly. It was a sigh, a laugh, a shout. Maybe it was part cry, part prayer. My conscious brain wasn't a part of that sound, but I felt it in my soul. I finally understood love at first sight.

The past year has been amazing, challenging and altogether just a big ol' bunch of WOW.

We took him home, fed him, changed him, loved him. He screamed and cried. We screamed and cried. He slept, we didn't. We slept, he didn't. We experienced the fear of his illnesses and trepidation of waiting for milestone.

Kelli and I spent hours in conversations like this.
Me: "I think he's swinging at nothing."
Kelli: "No, he's trying to grab Mr. Lion."
Me: "If anything he's reaching for Mr. Turtle. Pshaw....Mr. Lion."

Eventually his eyes focused on us, and I think he fell in love too. He rolled, he held his head. He sat.

He smiled, he cooed, he laughed, he crawled.

He's been a pumpkin, Yoda, Santa and and Elf.

He experienced his first falls, first foods, his first move to a new home.

Now he stands, talks, crawls at light speed and is thinking about walking. He cuddles and hugs us back. He says Daddy, duck, uh-oh, bottle, baby and doggy, all in his own Jacob dialect.

He can get into things you'd never imagine and still to this day if he doesn't think you're paying attention, you'll hear that Banshee cry until you give him what he demands.

Being a parent with Kelli has been such a wonderful adventure and we're excited to be doing it again. Today though is all about the baby who is becoming a little boy before our eyes.

I love you Jacob Michael Stegeman. Happy birthday little buddy. I can't wait to get home from work and give you and your mom a big hug and kiss.

Your whole family will be there to celebrate this weekend and let me let you in on a secret....You're going to LOVE cake.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Growing our family and happy about it

Though it is about the blurriest ultrasound I've ever see, the photo above is the first photo of the newest member of Kelli's and my family. That's right, as if any of you haven't heard our shouts of joy, Jacob is going to be a big brother.

It has been nearly a year since I posted on this blog and that was for Jacob's baptism. Since we made the announcement of Jacob's little brother or sister's existence (due Feb. 27), we've got a ton of support from our wonderful and loving family, as well as from most of our friends.

A few though, while not being rude about it, have seemed more concerned than elated for us. Friends, I understand where you are coming from. 

Yes, I work three jobs over the course of the year to pay bills.
Yes, Kelli babysits to help pay bills.
Yes, life is stressful with one small child.
Yes, it will be more stressful with two small children.
Yes, a house is expensive and so are student loans.
Yes, life is expensive and something always comes up to cost money.

But not one of those things listed above gives Kelli and I the slightest pause in choosing to celebrate with great joy the coming birth of our new child. Children are a gift from God. For every challenge Jacob has presented, he's been a tenfold blessing.
Some more answers to common questions.

Was this pregnancy planned?
We don't plan pregnancies in this family the way some would describe things. God does. But since you asked, we did not attempt Natural Family Planning either. We were open to a child, and we got one.

Are you worried?
Only in the sense that taking on the responsibility for a new life is a daunting task. In that regard, I think all parents have a healthy sense of worry. But Kelli and I are a couple of hope, faith, and a surprising resiliency.

Are you excited?
You bet your butt! I have no idea who this little person inside Kelli will be. He or she could be another little Jacob with crazy energy. They could be a shy little one. They could be an athlete, they could have health issues. They could be anyone, but whoever they are, he or she is our child, and OF COURSE we're excited.

How will you make it?
We just will. We'll work harder. We'll work longer. I'll give up sleep or recreation. I'll pray and I'll toil and I'll hug and kiss my kids and wife and tell them I love them.
The idea that you need to be rich to properly care for kids is a myth. Kids don't need NIKEs and PS4s. They need food and clothes and love (not cheap, to be sure) and even a generation ago the middle and lower middle class managed to have 3-5 kids and still make due without assistance. Have a little faith in me. I'll provide for my family.

Here's a long story. Skip to the last sentence for the point of it all.

Last night, Kelli, being pregnant, wasn't feeling well. With much to do in prep for Jacob's birthday party, I needed some help. Kelli's mom came over to watch Jacob so I could do yardwork.

In the course of yesterday, I broke a brand-new baby gate, dealt with my busiest day of the month at work, ran to the store to get Kelli some meds, mowed a lawn, weeded some flower beds, sprayed the yard and fixed the back stairs and lawn timbers.

Before Grandma arrived, I ate two cold hot dogs for dinner while holding a screaming Jacob.

While I was at it in the yard, despite a lawnmower and headphones, I could hear little Jacob screaming away inside with Grandma. See, the poor kid hasn't been feeling well and is getting over a virus.

In fact, he's been such a holy terror that I have resorted to deep breathing exercises more than once to help me deal with him.

BUT, then came bedtime. Still fussy, and going without Kelli who had retired early to bed, Jacob and I headed up for story time. We read the children's Bible account of John baptizing Jesus, played with his little yellow duck, and said our prayers.

Right before bed I gave my son a kiss on the cheek and a hug. He said. "Daddy" and hugged me back, laying his head on my shoulder.

And right there, in that one moment, Monday was a great day. 

Kids aren't granted to everyone, and that's ok. But for those of us blessed enough to be parents, the chaos, the crazy, the stress, the occasional feeling of hell, doesn't even begin to compare to those beautiful moments where it is all worth it.

Now here's something I'd like to prepare you all for.

We're not done, Lord willing. Kelli and I choose for moral reasons to not use contraception. While we reserve the right to observe her body's natural cycle for the purpose of spacing children (NFP), we are still young and extremely likely to have more kids. We are open to having them.

(Edit: While we believe ourselves to be in compliance with moral law on these matter, do not construe this as a judgement against those who make different choices. God is the judge of such things, not me.)

How many?

I don't know. I'd love to have 3, 4, 5 etc. But if God gives us 8, 10 or 20, our happy duty is to be their parents. A parent accepts their child with love.

I will continue to give of myself fully to my wife and family. Kelli does the same for me. We are blessed in so many ways and if God chooses to bless us with more children after "Stege-baby No. 2," skip back to the above questions.

Yes, we're excited.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Baby Jacob Reflections: On Baptism, faith, family & friends

This past Saturday may go down in my memory as one of the most awesome days in my life.

Before Kelli and I undertook the sacred vows of the Sacrament of Marriage we were asked "Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?"

We said yes and three years later God let us know we'd be given the opportunity to follow through on that. As you all know by now it was July 23, 2013 that we lovingly accepted Jacob Michael Stegeman into this world, but it was August 24 that we accepted him, in the presence of our family, friends and faith community, into the Church.

With a beautiful ceremony, held appropriately in the context of the Mass, and witnessed by everyone from Jacob's 8-month-old cousin Daniel to his two great grandmothers (one of whom is over 90) Jacob became a part of the faith that stretches back all through the ages.

In Jacob's name, we asked that he be baptized. Before proceeding we, and by extension our Godparent & Christian witness, were asked "In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?"

In so much as we can understand such a massive task, we said we do.

Everything from the profession of faith by renewing our own baptismal vows to the clothing in his white garment to the anointing with holy chrism, was just beautiful, but more than that, it was supernatural. On August 24, our son became a new creation, claimed for Christ and we, as parents, are charged to live our vocation by raising him up for God.

I'm rambling, sorry. What I'm getting to is this.

This is a fallen world. Sin and death abound. A culture of death constantly attacks the culture of life and truth must often take a back seat to personal whims. In a culture like this, living that vocation seems impossible. It seems daunting to raise our son in this kind of world.

We know nothing is impossible with God, and after Jacob's baptism I felt even more strongly about just how God will help up in this case.

Our help, provided by him, will be the people standing around the font with us.

There were nearly 40 close relatives and friends there. There was Father Terry, our Godparent Karyn and Christian witness Cari. Kelli's parents, my parents, Jacob's great grandmas, Kelli's and my other siblings, cousins, aunts & uncles, friends, etc.

Past them was a packed church. A whole parish of people who we will meet and work and worship with over the years to come.

Symbolically, united with us there as well was the entire Church.

We are not alone in raising him. Jacob is not alone in being raised. He has a family in Kelli and I. A family in our extended relatives and friends, and a family in Christ's church. He has been marked with the indelible sign of the spirit that will remain with him forever.

I don't know how Kelli and I are going to raise him to be a strong, Catholic man in a world such as this. But I know the grace of God has been poured upon him and that is stronger than any worry.

Thank you so much to everyone who was a part of Jacob's big day. Thanks first to God, His Church, and Father Terry.

Thanks to my beautiful wife who was radiant and kept him calm all of Mass and who will no doubt be the backbone of his morality.

Thanks to our Godmother Karyn and Christian witness Cari, to Scott and Lynne for their help with the party, to Kelli's parents for making her the woman she is, to my parents for dealing with me and to everyone who came or prayed for us.

Thanks also to the St. Martin community for their tremendous welcome, and to the photographer who showed up so we'd have pictures we all can't wait to see.

Thanks everyone. Saturday was beautiful. With your help, and the grace of God, Jacob is hopefully in for a beautiful life.

Friday, August 16, 2013

On the persecution of Christians

Taking a break from the Baby Jacob posts for a moment I wanted to vent a little bit.

I often hear it said that Christians in the West are not persecuted or discriminated against. As an absolute, that statement fails like most absolute statements do, but I will grant that the U.S. government and associated secular culture does very little if anything to prevent the free exercise of my religion. Sure there's issues with the HHS Mandate, adoption laws etc., but by and large, we Christians still enjoy a majority status that keeps our actions tolerated for the most part.

But here's the thing, the U.S. is still kind of a newbie on the world stage. Christianity goes back 2,000 some years and in that time it's enjoyed periods of great peace, and great tribulation, in many countries. Look at the Church in Russia, it was a state religion, then it was suppressed. Stuff works in waves.

Many of us think of Mexico as deeply Catholic, but just in 1917 it was illegal in Mexico for the Church to teach. From Wikipedia, "The 1917 Constitution outlawed teaching by the Church, gave control over Church matters to the state, put all Church property at the disposal of the state, outlawed religious orders, outlawed foreign born priests, gave states the power to limit or eliminate priests in their territory, deprived priests of the right to vote or hold office, prohibited Catholic organizations which advocated public policy, prohibited religious publications from commenting on public policy, prohibited clergy from religious celebrations and from wearing clerical garb outside of a church and deprived citizens of the right to a trial for violations of these provisions."

Look at Egypt right now. More than 50 churches have been burned to the ground and Christians are being killed. For that matter look at the laws concerning Christians in most Muslim lands, they're harsh. 

In Europe, England specifically, where same-sex unions were recently legalized, the Church of England is facing litigation that is is discriminating against gays by not recognizing their unions.

Here in the U.S., we might have to pay for contraception. By comparison, our problem isn't that bad, sure. And I do not see a direct slippery slope situation that turns us into Mexico 1917, or Egypt now. I don't think it's a stretch that we could end up in England's shoes, but I digress.

The point is, when our religious freedoms are abridged, even slightly, it does open the door to more. Politically, that's just how the government works. When the U.S. government takes an inch, it doesn't give it back. 

This is not fear-mongering. I'm not saying we're all about to lose all our freedoms because of contraceptive mandates. 

I AM saying that our brothers and sisters in other lands face a real persecution with some facing risk to their lives, and they're still going to church and standing up for the faith. If they can do that in the face of those odds, surely we can all stand up here where our freedoms are still respected. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Reflection 12: Ch, ch, ch, changes

So it's been three days or so since the last update. In that time, Jacob started eating again just fine, Kelli came down with mastitis, Grandma Riehle stayed the night while Kelli had a fever and I was at my wits end and I went back to work at Kings Island.

Grandma's stay meant a great night sleep for both mom and dad. She's our hero.

Things are going OK except that Jacob HATES going to bed. First time we put him down between 8-10, he just roars for at least 20 minutes, sometimes longer. There's nothing to be done. If he goes to long Kelli rocks him a bit, if not he will eventually fall asleep.

At the moment, he's screaming his head off again. In fact, it's been almost two hours since his last feeding and he's still roaring. We've checked on him, changed him and rocked him a couple times but still he roars. It USUALLY just happens for this one cycle and then he gets back on track, hopefully it continues.

So leaving for KI this morning was harder than I thought it would be. It was a little like after the honeymoon when I had to leave Kelli for the first time to go to work. I just really didn't want to go. Today was the same kind of thing as I kissed Jacob goodbye, then Kelli.

Once I  got to work, it was business as usual and it was nice to get into a little routine. Jacob is still unpredictable and loud, like every baby ever, but he's adorable and he's ours. We're just starting to learn that life can return in some ways to normal while in other ways it's changed forever. Right now, for example, we're watching Monk on TV, but since Jacob wouldn't stop wailing and its almost feeding time anyway, he's laying on Kelli's chest as I type this. I gotta go feed him soon.

So Kelli got the antibiotics she needs, I got some sleep, work will send a paycheck, and God willing Jacob will go to sleep soon.

Oh, and visitors. JC and Mary stopped by the other day when we took Jacob to the doctor.

Perhaps most excitingly, Mema Stegeman, Jacob's great grandma, got to visit Wednesday. With that moment, and the adorable photo now on facebook, the oldest and youngest people I know were in the same room. Jacob was so calm with her and Mema is still a natural. I'm so glad he got to meet her and I hope she sticks around long enough for him to remember her.

Wednesday night Grandma Riehle stayed over. Thursday Grandpa Riehle brought Arby's for lunch and Friday Nana Stegeman (my mom for those of you keeping track) came over with her friend Di to see the little guy. Nana brought some Graeters.

Anywho, that's the update. Peace out folks.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Reflection 11: No ideas

UPDATE: So when we got in touch with the doctor they said to bring Jacob in, and to hurry since the only open appointment slot had just begun. Again, Group Health for the win.

Dr. Maloney's assessment was that either A: Jacob wore himself out so bad last night he's just too tired to eat, or B: There was some issue with Kelli's stored breast milk. He advised us to go home, pump and give him the fresh stuff. He acknowledged the boy may have reflux but he's not sure yet. He also said to page him later after we try a couple more feedings.

We went home, Kelli pumped out 4.75 ounces and Jacob DOWNED 3.5 like it was nothing. Kelli decided to try a different bottle as well, which may have helped. I'm not willing to say everything is fine just yet, but the kid drank like a boss.

If he does it again next feeding and we call Maloney and he says no worries, I think I'll be just happy as can be with a fussy, angry, healthy baby.

Original Post:

So I'm at a loss.

Last night Jacob slept through his 7-10ish area cycle just fine, but after that didn't sleep for 10 consecutive minutes until about 6 a.m., and only then because I let him lay on my chest and I just held him.

Also during the night feedings he was a little terror, battling the bottle, but still eating. Then this morning, he refused the bottle entirely. On a whim, we decided to make a bottle of formula and try that. He ate 2.1 ounces of it. Usually lately he'd been eating about 3 ounces of breast milk each feeding.

Perhaps as a result of not sleeping, he's been a big sleeper today (parental napping has ensued) and when we woke him up for his last feeding (formula again since it worked before) he took down only about 1.7 ounces. After both feedings there was no wake time, just a brief fussy time then baby Jacob in a formula coma and down for the count til the next feeding.

We searched the internet high and low for answers with no luck.

Don't get me wrong, we love that he's sleeping a little bit now, but we can tell something's not all right since he'd been doing much better. We called his pediatrician but it's been several hours and we haven't heard back. Guess we'll try breast milk on the next feeding with formula as backup, unless doc responds with a better plan.

All I want is for this little guy to be ok. I moan and complain about the sleep and the diapers and the late-night feedings, but I really truly don't mind any of it if the kid seems to be thriving. When he is struggling, that makes everything harder. He's do for a feeding in a couple minutes, but Kelli's asleep and I'm going to let them both nap an extra 15 minutes so hopefully he'll get more hungry.

So barring a call from Dr. Maloney, we're at a total loss. We don't know what to feed him, whether we should let him sleep longer or shorter, whether he's sick or well, and whether he'll sleep at all tonight.

I may be returning to work at KI tomorrow for a brief 4 hour morning shift and I hate to leave Kelli to deal with him on her own, but I guess its a nice trial run for when I go back to the real job. Here's hoping Dr. Maloney calls soon and gives us some piece of mind.