Monday, December 26, 2011

Nolan walking!

He has been improving his mobility quite a bit over winter break! This was shot at Grandma and Grandpa Riedl's...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Jehovah Jireh

"The Lord will provide" is what Jehovah Jireh means. Sometimes it is difficult to refer to God as Jehovah Jireh, however. Does He really provide for us? Or do we provide for ourselves?

39 days ago, Jen and I experienced something that has given us assurance to know that God should definitely be called Jehovah Jireh. He provides for us.

Our whole marriage has been a struggle financially. We moved to Portland from Seattle after being married only six months. Jen worked low wages and I found minimum wage work as we slowly used up our savings. I eventually took out loans and went back to school to get my masters degree in teaching. This was bad timing to be looking for a teaching position, as most school districts were making budget cuts and laying off teachers. I was eventually offered a full-time job teaching in Ontario, Oregon, so we moved our little family of three to the small town on the border to Idaho.

We thought it would be easier to pay the bills with my new teaching position, but we were wrong. We both wanted Jen to work at home raising Nolan, but didn't have any experience with the strain of having only one spouse bring home an income. The money we had saved when we were both working disappeared in our move from Portland and with each month of additional bills. We worked hard to be responsible and tried our best to cut expenses, rarely going out to eat and even starting to coupon with every trip to the grocery store. But we still were losing money each month.

The point of me writing all of this is about money. ...Duh... Not about how little we have, but about how much we were giving away. Over the past four years of marriage, we kept telling each other that we didn't have enough money to pay bills and also give 10% tithe or offering to church. So we didn't give. Well, not much. Maybe 10 bucks a month or something ridiculously convenient for us. We kept telling ourselves that because we didn't have enough money, we could give our time instead. So we served. We spent a lot of our time serving in the children's ministry instead of giving money.

This leads me to what happened 39 days ago. We are sitting with a cranky, fidgety Nolan on Sunday morning listening to our pastor's message about money. He starts talking about how the church budget had literally run dry. He told us, like so many times we've heard before, that God will provide the money even though we had not been meeting the monthly budgets to pay the church bills.

Up until this point, Jen and I both wanted to tithe enough for it to be giving Him the opportunity to provide for us. We wanted to actually trust God rather than just trying to make ends meet on our own. And we were in no position to do this. The minimum payments on our student loans were almost 50% of our monthly bills. Thinking about this statistic, I knew that we didn't have much hope for fixing this problem ourselves. I certainly knew I didn't want Jen to go back to work and have to put Nolan in daycare. We wanted to trust God with our finances for the first time in our lives. We didn't even have to discuss it...after the service, we both had the same conviction to give 10% of our income to the church, even when there was no way we could afford it. We were trusting that God would do something.

It only took 24 hours for God to work! The next day I heard from a friend about a plan that Obama was trying to pass that helped out graduates who are burdened by paying off their student loans. After doing a little research, I found out that this was called the Income-Based Repayment Plan and only certain people qualify for it. Jen and I looked into it, learned that we do in fact qualify, and stayed up late that night applying for the plan together.

While we would have likely discovered the repayment plan eventually, even without tithing 10%, we are certain that it was more than just a coincidence in timing. Right after we both decided to go out on a limb and be faithful to God with our finances, He answered our prayer quickly and revealed His faithfulness to us. We were guided to a place where we were not feeling the burden of bills that has weighed us down since getting married.

And two days ago, on my last day of school before winter break, I get a call from a lady at Home Depot telling me that a man came in to anonymously buy us a new washing machine. Our current washing machine has been leaking and slowly dying, and apparently someone we know who referred to himself as "Santa" wanted to be extremely generous and buy us a new one! Jen thought it was a joke at first, but we went in to the store to confirm the order and have it shipped to our apartment. We were racking our brains trying to think of who it was that could have done this for us, but then we stepped back and realized that we already knew who "Santa" was. It was God.

God has provided so many things in our lives, even when we don't even realize it. This Christmas season has been extremely special because God made it clear to us that He is the one giving us gifts...not just at this time of year, but all day, every day. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and it was especially clear to us here. We will always look back on this time as evidence that God is at work in our lives. He is Jehovah Jireh and we can only respond by giving up our lives (which includes our money) to serve and love others.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Another double coupon week!

I think we are to the point now where we have enough stuff stockpiled to wait and buy things when there is an awesome deal.  We are also at a point where we are cutting back on our monthly grocery budget.  It is a great feeling to know that we have saved so much money already, and now we don't have to worry about buying things!  I love being able to go into my pantry and just pull out what I need.  This week Albertsons was having a promo where you get $10 off the purchase of a gift card for every $30 you spend on select Procter and Gamble items.  I bought Albertsons gift cards with my transactions, used them on other transactions, and ended up with all these things!  The retail cost would have been $173.84.  We got 10 boxes of Cheerios (good thing, because they are both mine and Nolan's favorite cereal), four 100oz bottles of Tide, a bottle of Downy, 8 cans of Pringles (Aaron was excited about that one), 2 boxes of tea bags, 3 boxes of Hamburger Helper, 2 big bottles of shampoo, and 6 jars of applesauce (another of Nolan's favorite foods).  With the P&G promo, coupons, and sales, I spent $66.66.  Couponing success!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hopefully the last weekend of doublers for a while...

I'm ready for a break!  For the 4th week in a row, Alberstons put doublers in the paper.  Couponing takes a lot of work, not to mention that I have been getting up early and going shopping, before things sell out!  I went to Wal-mart this week too, to price match Tide since Albertsons did not have "Free and Gentle" that I use to wash cloth diapers.  Here are this week's purchases: 5 boxes (big boxes this week!) of Honey Nut Cheerios, 1 box of Lucky Charms, 2 boxes Saltines, 6 boxes Barilla pasta, 10 cans Cream of Mushroom soup, 2 frozen Marie Callenders pies, 4 jars pasta sauce, a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, 5 boxes Pasta Roni, 2 cans coconut milk, 2 cans evaporated milk, 1 frozen orange juice concentrate, a canister of hot cocoa mix, a gallon of milk, Crisco oil, a bag of hash browns (OreIda is local here!), 4 boxes of cream cheese, 4 cans Progresso soup, a bottle of Tide, 2 bottles juice, a pack of 4 cans of sparkling juice, 2 bottles Aveeno body wash, 2 bags of marshmallows, and a bag of Twix minis (for Aaron's stocking!  Don't tell him!).  The total cost before sales and coupons was $206.71.  I paid $77.18.  Eventually, I might even be under budget for groceries!  :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Couponing is addicting!

Albertsons had doublers for the 3rd week in a row last weekend (and there are rumors of double coupons coming AGAIN this weekend!).  It was also the first weekend I got 5 Idaho Press-Tribune newspapers delivered to my door!  I ended up buying 3 more newspapers at the store, which meant I had 24 doublers to use!  I definitely added to our stockpile!  This week's purchases include: 10lbs flour, 4 lbs powdered sugar, 4lbs brown sugar, 4 bottles of juice, 6 cans Progresso soup, 2lbs Tillamook cheese, a gallon of milk, a loaf of bakery French bread, 2 cans of cranberry sauce, 4 boxes of brownie mix, half gallon of soy milk, 5 packages of Oreos, 2 bags Werther's candies, yeast, 12 bags of microwave popcorn, 2 cans of SpaghettiOs, a package of Bear Creek soup mix, 8 jars of applesauce, a box of cake mix and frosting, 8 Yoplait yogurts, a sippy cup for Nolan, and a bottle of iced tea.  The total value of all my purchases was $252.84.  After sale prices, 3 trips to the store, 8 transactions, and more than 50 coupons, I paid $59.46.  I could get used to this.  I don't think I'm obsessed or addicted, but, embarrassingly, there have been multiple times when I have been woken up in the middle of the night by a crying baby and realized that i have been dreaming about coupons.  How could you not be excited about saving so much money???

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Daily Battle With Poland Syndrome

Many people have commented on my previous post (I Have Poland Syndrome) that they admire my courage and bravery in sharing my birth defect with the world. They appreciate that I look on the bright side and love life, being confident that God made me this way for a reason.

Well, I want to let you in on a little secret... I'm not courageous. I'm not brave.

I'm self-conscious.

Now, some of you might think that I am courageous relative to others that have Poland Syndrome. Others with this birth defect are afraid to even tell their closest friends that they have a misshapen body and a figure that would get stares from people at the pool or beach. That may be true, but it is hiding the whole truth.

The reality is that all of my family and friends often forget that I even have Poland Syndrome. They thought it was interesting at first, and now they don't even notice it. It is not who I am, it's just what's under my shirt.

The real battle is with my own self-image. I still see my one-sided chest every morning. Every day I see my puny right bicep and thin arm. When I have my shirt off at the pool, I often intentionally put my towel over my right shoulder in order to hide my missing right pec muscle. When I pose in photos, I often intentionally stand on the left side of people to show off my left bicep rather than exposing my right. These are things I think about.

The first photo above was taken four years ago when we moved to Portland. I have this photo in a frame by my desk at work and every time I look at it, it reminds me how I purposefully stood that way to hide my right arm. I like the way I look in it because it shows off my left bicep and pec muscle.

The second photo was taken about a month ago. In this photo, I immediately look at my right arm and see how small it looks. Many would say "Aaron, it doesn't look small. It's not a big deal," but it looks small to me. I struggle with focusing on all of the joys in the photo. I'm not ignoring my beautiful wife and cute son on a beautiful day at the pumpkin patch, it's just that my eyes keep panning down to my arm.

This is the battle of self-image that I struggle with. It's not eating me up inside or anything. I live a pretty normal life. Most of my time is spent thinking about work and my loving family that I come home to every day. But those other times of the day when I am daydreaming or looking at photos, I see a man who is not as physically attractive as I would like to be.

The life-long battle of being self-conscious is one that will never end. I am constantly fighting these self-image issues and accepting the fact that I am different. Some days I love being different, while other days I wish I had a normal chest and two normal arms. It's a battle that I don't think I'll ever win... but I don't ever plan on losing the battle either.

God tells us in the Bible that although I want to do good and think good thoughts, evil is right there with me. The battle of my flesh is raging with what I know God wants: He wants me to focus on the love that Jesus covers us matter what we look like. My body will eventually waste away and die, and it is what's in my heart and soul that counts. Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ!

Related posts:
I Have Poland Syndrome
My Tattoo
Will My Child Have Poland Syndrome?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reflecting on God's Faithfulness

I was hunched over, face on the floor, crying out to God. Two and a half months ago, at the beginning of the school year, I was alone. I moved here to Ontario, Oregon, without my wife and son. My evenings were excruciatingly lonely and filling with worries about what the middle schoolers might do to me the following day.

Each night I had to put together sad, pathetic meals with only plastic silverware and paper plates. After living in a comfortable motel for a week with a cozy bed, I moved into an apartment with no furniture and empty cupboards.

I couldn't wait for my family to join me.

Now, after surviving one quarter as a full-time middle school math teacher in the poorest county in Oregon, I can see God's faithfulness. At the time, I felt like I would never get through the stress and pain of being a new teacher in a new school in a small town far away from the city I know so well. I'm currently feeling relief as I am beginning to get into a comfortable rhythm as a teacher. Tonight I ate a warm, delicious meal cooked by my beautiful wife. We have also been crawling around on the floor, playing with my cute son.

Even though life feels much better now, we are still experiencing stress and pain. I still work 65+ hour weeks as a new teacher. It's difficult to keep from thinking about anything other than solving for x and trying to figure out who is throwing the damn paper airplanes in class. I can't spend as much time with my family even when I know that I need to. Life is still really hard right now.

Thankfully, I look back on how God was faithful to me when I was hunched over, alone, crying on the floor of my empty apartment. He brought me my family and a warm meal. And he will do it again. There is a lot to look forward to.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Great deals at Albertsons this week!

Not quite"extreme" couponing like on TV, but I am pretty proud of myself.  Included in today's purchases: 9 boxes of cereal, 18 cans of vegetables, 4 cans of pineapple, 2 bottles of Torani syrup (can't live without it now that the closest Starbucks is a solid 30 minute drive away), 4 boxes of Jell-o pudding mix, 2 jars of peanut butter, 4 cans of SpaghettiOs, 4 boxes of pasta, 12 bags of microwave popcorn, a dozen eggs, and two 2.5lb beef roasts (yum, pot roast!).  The total value? $163.16. I spent (drum roll please)...$65.71!  AND, I have $9 in Catalina coupons to use on my next purchase.  :)

Learning to coupon

I have decided that I am going to learn to coupon. I decided to start with Rite Aid, which has a straight forward rewards system and is very coupon friendly.  In the past month I have scoured blogs, printed way too many coupons from the internet, and sharpened my math skills calculating the best deals.  I ended up with a free tube of toothpaste, free chapstick, 38 cent boxes of Kleenex, and got PAID to buy Zicam (cold medicine).  So now I am expanding to couponing for groceries, and working on building a stockpile.  I added Albertsons to my weekly calculations.  These are pictures of the deals I got last week (10/30/11): Tide, two bottles of conditioner, a bottle of shampoo, two packs of gum, two boxes of cereal, two bottles of corn syrup (for Special K bars as soon as I score some cheap Special K!), cornstarch, baking powder, spices, and ten yogurts for under $12 total.  At least it's not an expensive hobby!  :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

4 Years of Marriage

This past year of marriage I have fallen in love with Jen more than I thought I ever would. Year 4 was definitely the big one...the tester of how our marriage would hold up under pressure.

Big events happened over the past year:
- Nolan was born
- My first [partial] year of teaching
- Jen went back to work (even though she wanted to stay home with Nolan)
- I stayed at home with Nolan (even though I wanted to go back to work)
- I was able to work as a long-term sub at the end of the 2010-11 school year (neither of us could stay home with Nolan)
- I accepted a job in Ontario, Oregon, and I was away from Jen and Nolan for 2.5 weeks
- We knew absolutely nobody in this town
- Now, we are starting to settle in and meet people from church

I missed my wife. Those 2.5 weeks of being away from Jen were a BIG deal. After you spend every day with a person for 4 years, being apart seems very lonely. I spent a lot of time thinking about how much Jen means to me. I missed her so much.

I admire my wife. Jen trusted me enough to follow me across the entire state of Oregon, away from friends and family. Go figure...I finally get a full time job, which means she gets to stay home with Nolan...but it's a home in a city foreign to us. She came here and was more supportive to me than I could have ever imagined. And she has even started a new hobby: Couponing! I admire her so much.

I love my wife. Jen is such a servant to me, and she conveys Jesus' love through her actions. She was courageous, moving here, is meeting other moms, and starting to get involved with helping in the nursery at church. I love her so much.

I am extremely thankful for the relationship that we have. However, it could not have happened without all the arguing along the way and Christ's redeeming hand keeping us on a firm foundation. He is our rock and our faithful guide.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Interviewed by Ontario's Newspaper

I was recently interviewed by a reporter from Ontario's local newspaper. It was fun! Click here to read about it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Moving to Ontario, Oregon

A week ago, I drove approximately 360 miles and 6.5 hours through the Columbia River Gorge, over the Blue Mountains, and across the dry high desert to the small town of Ontario, Oregon. It is right on the border of Idaho and the last stop on I-84 before crossing over the Snake River. There are only about 12,000 people living in the city, and I accepted an 8th grade math teaching position at their only middle school. I'm pumped!

Ontario Middle School is filled with staff who are so welcoming and willing to help me out. I have had so many people offer me a place to stay, to drive me around, and advice about the town. I have felt nothing but comfort in my new position, and I can't wait to meet my students! There are many positive things that seem to be happening in the district. There is construction on new buildings at the middle school and the high school, so it is clear to me that the kids have people who really care about them.

My home for the past week has been the friendly neighborhood Motel 6. It has been a nice place to relax while searching for a rental in the area. I ended up finding a great place in the north end of Ontario and plan on moving my small pile of belongings in tomorrow. The funny thing is that some of the people from my school have told me that it is the "bad" part of town. With drugs, drive-bys, and stabbings. Stuff like that. My immediate thought was, "Hey! It's just like home in East Portland!" After riding my bike all over the city, it really doesn't seem that bad to me. And besides, I believe that if there is something wrong with a neighborhood, you need to be the change you want to see there (I think that's a quote from somebody famous). I talked to Jen about it and we both like the idea of living in an area where we can be a positive influence, rather than just fleeing to live where nobody is struggling to get by. After just a week of being here, it seems to me that there is a great need in this city. There is a need for unity and integration between neighborhoods and communities. I really hope to help Ontario as a teacher and now as a resident.

My loving wife showed her complete dedication to me by being willing to move across the entire state, away from friends and family to a small town where we know absolutely no one. It has been very difficult being away from her and Nolan, but thankfully due to the internet and the new Google+ Hangouts (see pic), Jen's beautiful smile and Nolan's adorable noises are just a few clicks away on video chat. They will be joining me in just a couple short weeks, and Portland will be in our rear view mirror.

I believe we have a great opportunity to make a difference in the city of Ontario. There are many people here that are hurting, and I hope that God will use the Riedl family in a way that pleases Him.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

S-A-H D Lesson #8

Stay-At-Home Dad Lesson #8: I'm done.

I have learned a lot from being at home with Nolan. Living the stay-at-home life for a parent has been an eye-opening experience.

I'm done staying at home full-time. I accepted a job as a math teacher (more details in the next post), and Jen will finally be able to do what she has been wanting to do for a long, long time... to be a stay-at-home mom!

Fitting into our roles is something we have been looking forward to for years. I have always wanted to be the breadwinner of the family, and she has always want to stay at home with our child(ren). It has been very rewarding for me to take care of Nolan as he has grown from a 2-month old when I started caring for him full-time, to a super-crawling 8-month old. I have learned many lessons and I'm glad you were able to read along with me on my journey. I certainly believe that I have a new perspective on what it is like to stay home raising a little human being. The struggles, joys, hardships, and laughter has given me insight about how Jen will be feeling when she begins the same journey.

Below is a quick summary of all of my stay-at-home dad lessons and what I hope to do in my role as a full-time working parent:

Lesson #7: Baby Einstein is ridiculous.

  • I plan to spend time with Nolan and play with him, even when I have lots of grading to do at home.

Lesson #6: You learn as you go.

  • I plan to be patient with Jen, because I know that she will care for Nolan differently than I did.

Lesson #5: I need a kiss when you get home.

  • I plan to kiss Jen immediately (and passionately, haha) when I get home from work.

Lesson #4: The fruit of this labor does not blossom immediately.

  • I plan to thank Jen for the hard work she does as often as possible.

Lesson #3: Some days, you just don't feel like taking a shower.

  • I plan to tell Jen that she is beautiful. She is beautiful no matter if she has showered or not.

Lesson #2: I need to get out of the house!

  • I plan to give Jen opportunities to spend time by herself, with friends, or with us outside our home.

Lesson #1: When your baby is sleeping, do chores as fast as humanly possible!

  • I plan to help her with chores around the house as much as I can.

I love you Jen, and I respect you for wanting to stay home with our son. It is admirable, humbling, and exhausting work. I praise God for providing me with a partner who wants the very best for our children, just like I do. You are my Pookie. ;-)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

S-A-H D Lesson #7

Stay-At-Home Dad Lesson #7: Baby Einstein is ridiculous.

We borrowed a Baby Einstein DVD from the library, popped it in, stuck Nolan in front of the TV, and watched what would happen.

We were stunned.

It was mesmerizing! It was beautiful! It was........ ridiculous.

On the DVD we watched, it was just normal everyday stuff moving around to some classical music. I listed some examples of what I saw on the screen below.

I saw...

  • A toy turning around in circles.
  • A flashing light glimmering off a shiny object.
  • A little train going around a track.
  • Liquid dripping out of a bottle.
  • Hand puppets moving across the screen.
  • A girl playing a toy piano.
  • A girl playing a toy saxophone.
  • A girl playing a toy drum.
  • Balls rolling across the screen.
  • An adult hand stacking blocks.
  • Plastic toys spinning around.

All of these scenes were simple, basic, normal things that I could have done with everyday objects right in front of him. Baby Einstein is nothing special. It's just typical, everyday stuff.

I understand there are some situations where just putting your kid in front of the TV for a long period of time would be helpful, but I know that some people actually consistently show these DVDs to their babies because they think it will make them smarter. Ridiculous.

All you need to do is spend time with your child, play with them, and show them interesting things that they have never seen before. Develop a relationship with your child. Get to know them. Find out what they like. Take a variety of objects in your home and show it to your child so they learn about the world. Have them touch it, put it in their mouth, and discover new things around them. All these will do wonders for their future.

Monday, August 8, 2011

S-A-H D Lesson #6

Stay-At-Home Dad Lesson #6: You learn as you go.

When I first started taking care of Nolan several months ago, he was about 2 months old. I barely had time to do anything for myself. At that time, I thought it was crazy how some parents are able to take care of twins, or even children at different ages...and don't get me started about how on Earth someone could possibly take care of sextuplets or some insane fertility accident. How exhausting!

If you had a newborn and a 2-year old, for example, how would you get the baby to sleep when the terrible two-year old is screaming or misbehaving or going psycho? I know you would try to do nap time at the same time, but how could you do that in a small apartment? They certainly couldn't share the same room, could they?

That's what I used to think about. But now, I see that you learn to be more efficient as time goes on. Nolan is our first child, and this is obviously my first time taking care of a baby full-time. It makes sense now, looking back on the last few months, that I have become more efficient and smarter with how I schedule a daily routine. Likewise, it makes sense that you would also learn as you go when it comes to multiple children. Thankfully, I have had the help from a lovely wife to answer my questions, as well as help from the wonderful internet, family, and friends.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

S-A-H D Lesson #5

Stay-At-Home Dad Lesson #5: I need a kiss when you get home.

I am alone with a crabby baby all day. I need to know that my hard work is appreciated. The best way that I feel like my bringing-home-the-bacon-breadwinner-of-a-wife is thankful for me is when she comes home and kisses me before she does anything else.
Old photo from 2009 surfing trip

I heard once somewhere, maybe a college course, that one of the best ways to succeed in having a quality marriage is by making sure to kiss each other when you see each other after work. I think that is so true. It certainly helps with me. I am much more loving and serving to my wife when she shows me that she appreciates me through a simple kiss. Even if I had a bad day, it can all turn around when I know my wife wants to kiss me.

This is something I really need to remember when I am the breadwinner again (someday) and she stays home. I need to remember that the rest of the evening when I get home from work depends on my first few actions when I come home.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

S-A-H D Lesson #4

Stay-At-Home Dad Lesson #4: The fruit of this labor does not blossom immediately.

I like to be productive. I like to see results right away. When I am used to that type of work, it is difficult for me to be a stay-at-home dad.

When someone stays at home to raise a child, it takes a lot of labor. That is obvious. Taking care of children is a lot of work. However, the fruit of that labor is not immediate. It takes many years to see the fruit of good parenting.

My cranky baby boy
The funny thing is, it also takes many years to see the bad fruit of bad parenting. Once the child realizes that they have choices and decisions to make in their lives, they decide to disobey the parent(s). All of these years of laboring to take care of your child is thankless work. Thankless work that does not pay off until they are older.

Jen is much better at this type of work than me. I get bored with changing diapers and having my son scream into my ear when I am trying to get him to sleep. But I know it will pay off in the end. I do it because I have to love him in that way. I don't know how Jen can find so much joy out of those thankless chores, but I am just glad that she fits into that role with joy in her heart.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nolan's First Swim

We were lucky enough to get to go down to Arizona to visit Jen's family this past weekend. Of course in the Arizona summer we wanted to go swimming, so we took Nolan for his first swim! It was lots of fun and Grandma was able to film it (below). He was so excited and loved it!

S-A-H D Lesson #3

Stay-At-Home Dad Lesson #3: Some days, you just don't feel like taking a shower.

We just got back from visiting family in Arizona, which is exhaustingly hot this time of year. This morning, I woke up...well, I kind of woke up as Jen was getting ready for work. I realized that I was supposed to be looking after our son who was peering over the edge of our bed. Lunging for him, I had forgotten how much traveling has an impact on my energy level. I took Nolan downstairs as Jen finished her morning routine, not thinking about my funny hair standing on end. Jen kissed us goodbye, and with a frown on both of our faces, I closed and locked the door.

All I had on were shorts. Nolan had more fabric covering his body than I did. Hours went by, we played, watched TV, then decided to take a walk to the mailbox a block away. I put on a t-shirt and flip-flops, grabbed my keys, and plopped my 7 month old in the stroller.

While walking down the street, I realized that before I had a child, I would never have done this. When it was just Jen and I, and even when I was a bachelor, I always took a shower in the morning. It was just part of waking up. I would absolutely hate to be out in public without showering. But now, sometimes I just don't feel like it. And I think that's okay.

Oftentimes husbands complain that their wives may "let themselves go" after being married for awhile or after having kids. Staying at home, I see the other side of the coin. Why must you always get ready for the day and pretty yourself up when the day doesn't involve adults and usually includes green bean spit up on your shirt? I understand that Jen wouldn't want to come home to me every day with funny hair and stinky, which is why I usually try to clean myself up in order to give her something nice to look at. However, sometimes I think the occasional lazy day is certainly understandable. And I'm sure she would agree.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nolan Videos

Here are a few recent videos of Nolan, since I have been staying home with him this summer. Enjoy!

Just in case I forget to post a video, here are the sites I keep updated consistently:
Videos - YouTube
Pictures - Picasa Web Albums

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Pick-up/Put-down Method

Our six month old son does not like sleeping.

Nolan does like eating, however. He falls asleep eating all the time. Many parents just put their child into bed after feeding them to sleep. The problem with that is often Nolan stirs in his sleep, barely waking himself up, and then he doesn't know how to put himself back to sleep since he depends on eating to do it.

Many other parents try the "cry it out" method. This supposedly tires the baby out from crying by themselves, so they just fall asleep on their own. I tried this with Nolan when he was younger, and I got to the point where him crying for 45 minutes straight didn't seem worth it.

We decided to try a more balanced approach to putting our son to sleep: the "pick-up/put-down" method. It is relatively simple. Pick up Nolan when he cries, and then put him back down into the crib when he calms down. Repeat. That's it. Eventually he rolls to his side and falls into a nice deep sleep. Sometimes it may be repeated many times, over and over again, but it is worth it. He learns to depend on sleeping in his crib rather than during feeding, and he doesn't cry for long periods of uninterrupted contact.

This method is also a great way to get to know my son better. During this time, I develop a better understanding of his mood, feelings, and attitude. My patience is also being transformed during this time, giving me a desire to love him through an exhausting up/down routine. If I am putting him down to nap, it takes approximately an average of 10 minutes before he falls asleep, and then he naps for about 1.5 hours, depending on the day.

Overall, I love this method, and it works very well for Nolan. It may not work for every baby in the world, but it is a nicely balanced method that gives my son the rest he needs and time for me to relax by myself.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

S-A-H D Lesson #2

Stay-At-Home Dad Lesson #2: I need to get out of the house!
I am back into the swing of things with Nolan. Now that school is out, we don't need a babysitter anymore, since I can stay home and watch him over the summer. It is quite a bit different now, at six months, than when I was watching him three months ago. Now he is crawling, eating solid foods, and beginning to finally act more like a human.
It is not necessarily more difficult to take care of him at six months rather than three months, it is just a lot different. He still requires a great deal of attention, but thankfully I don't need to hold him as much and that's nice since he is getting heavier by the day.
After being around many people day after day when teaching, it is a big change to come home and not even be able to hold a conversation with him. It is draining being the only adult in the room for so long...I find myself wanting to get out of the house and interact with other adults. Thankfully, now that it is sunny outside, I can take Nolan on walks for some fresh air and vitamin d.
On evenings when we have something scheduled with friends, I feel much more excited to go than I did when I was teaching. Working at a middle school is certainly draining, which is why I was always tired when I got home. When staying at home, I am actually more energized when Jen comes home from work.
It is very interesting to view it from this perspective. I hope to use this understanding in the future, and I will make sure that when Jen stays home, I will think of her need to get out and be social.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nolan in his crib

I posted this video on facebook a few days ago. I have been staying at home with Nolan ever since school has been out, and I must say that he is much more interesting than my 8th graders. :-) Being a stay-at-home dad again is much different than it was three months ago. This age (6 mo.) is so much fun! Can't wait for him to start crawling... he is almost there!


Friday, June 17, 2011

New Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail

Well, it looks like I'll be attempting another MAX Challenge in the near future! Here comes light rail into the south... Milwaukie!! Can't wait for the new bridge!

The MAX Challenge: Taking MAX to the Max!
MAX Challenge Success!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two Working Parents

"It sucks," says Jen.

"Agreed," I replied.

I was teaching at a middle school as a long-term sub from September to January. Then I took a break (well, it was good timing since my job ended) to spend time with Jen and Nolan. I was a stay-at-home dad when Jen went back to work. And big surprise, on April Fool's Day (no joke), I get a call from the principal at the middle school asking me to finish up for the rest of the year. This is a great opportunity, so I know I should jump at it.

The dillema is... should Jen quit her job and look after Nolan? After much thought, we decided it would be wise for us both to keep working and find someone to watch our boy. We thankfully found a great friend willing to take him on, in addition to her own toddler.

Both of us working, away from Nolan (thankfully only temporary, until June), is one of the hardest things we have ever done. We are both control freaks and having our son in someone else's care (even a trustworthy person) is very hard for us. We honestly don't know how parents leave their kids at daycare without it bothering them.

God is teaching us a lot in this phase of life, and we will appreciate it so much more when we settle into the roles we want to be in: Dad working full-time in a contract job, Mom working full-time at home, and Nolan working on his napping routine rather than a car seat routine. Until then, even though "it sucks", we will take these speed bumps as best we can, praising God for pruning us along the way.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Will My Child Have Poland Syndrome?

What's the number one question people ask when you tell them you are going to have a baby? "Is it a boy or a girl?"

When Jen and I started telling people we were going to have a baby boy, I occasionally heard another question. "Is the baby healthy?"

I started to think about all of the traits that I could possibly pass to my son. Some would be good, and some would be bad. I naturally thought of physical traits first, which led me to wonder... "Could I pass my Poland Syndrome to him? Would he be healthy?"

What does the word "healthy" really mean, anyway? Does it mean that if the baby is healthy, then they won't have to grow up with unnecessary difficulties? And what difficulties might they be? Physical difficulties? Mental difficulties? Emotional difficulties? What about situational or social difficulties?

The reality is that everyone has difficulties in life. Everyone has flaws. Paul said, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Rom.3). No one is perfect, and everyone is unhealthy in one way or another.

The Bible says that all children are a blessing! If a baby is born "healthy," then that child is a blessing! If a baby is born with Poland Syndrome, then that child is a blessing! If a baby is born with Down Syndrome, then that child is a blessing! If a baby is born with Tay-Sachs disease and will not likely live long, then that child is still a blessing!

We named our son Nolan, and he ended up being born large for gestational age (LGA). This condition affects about 8% of all births, and it basically means he was a big baby compared to most. It hasn't really been a problem for him (other than having a difficult birth), although some LGA babies have problems regulating their blood sugar, some have jaundice, and some have respiratory distress. We will certainly find many flaws in our son as he grows up. The biggest flaw being sin, of course.

God still works through people, no matter what difficulties they have in their lives. No matter what sin. God takes the crap in our lives and uses it for good. In Romans, Paul continues in the next verse by writing, "and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ." He redeems us and can use our imperfect bodies for wonderful things.

Many people with Poland Syndrome worry about passing it on to their children, but since it is a congenital birth defect that is not a genetic disorder, then it scientifically cannot happen. The only way to get the deformity would be by random chance. Nolan does not have Poland Syndrome, and the likelihood of us both having it would be something like 1-in-a-trillion.

Even if our son did have Poland Syndrome, Jen and I wouldn't be worried. What we all really need to be concerned about are the sin problems in our lives. God loves us no matter what our size or shape is, but sin is what He hates. Sin is the only flaw we have that God wants us to change.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

S-A-H D Lesson #1

Stay-At-Home Dad Lesson #1: When your baby is sleeping, do chores as fast as humanly possible!

The first thing I have learned may be the most important if you actually want to get a lot done during the day. If Jen is off to work before I get a chance to get myself ready, I have to wait until Nolan's morning nap before I do my own personal grooming.

Once he is finally sleeping, I quickly take a shower, eat breakfast, shave, and brush my teeth before he wakes up. His naps range about 30min-2hrs. I never know how long I'll have, so I need to go fast with whatever I do. Even this blog post I'm writing while he is napping, so I am typing super fast!

Other daily stuff I have to do while he naps includes doing the dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning up, make myself lunch, etc. If I have time after all that, I don't know what to do with myself! By the time I figure out what work I can do for either my teacher website or the community garden, Nolan's cute little cry echos through the monitor. I am amazed at how little I get done.

It's worth it, though. He's worth it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rock-A-Bye Baby: Sad, But It Works!

My son was crying and I didn't know what to do to calm him. I tried talking to him, bouncing him on my knee, and swinging him in my arms. Nothing seemed to work.

I felt a song coming on. Rock-A-Bye Baby was all that came to mind, and slowly the lyrics started coming back to me from memory. Jen had to help me out with the last line, but we finally remembered it all:

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

What kind of sick, twisted song is that?! Why on Earth do people soothe their baby with a song about a baby falling to their death out of a tree? And if the fall wasn't enough to kill the little one, then the impact of the cradle following right behind is sure to finish them off!

But still, it worked like a charm. He stopped crying and enjoyed my singing! Thankfully he isn't yet able to comprehend the meaning of it, otherwise he might have nightmares about falling.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Stay-At-Home Dad Journey Begins

Jen went back to work today. And I am staying home with Nolan, our 2 month, 3 week old boy. Right now he is sleeping, so I'm getting lots done...even writing a blog post!

Background Info
Many of our friends know that Jen and I have relatively conservative views on family management. Jen wants to stay at home with the children, and I want to be the sole breadwinner. These are the roles that we talked about before we got married and we knew that it would work very well for us since we didn't disagree. We plan on having lots of kids in the future. Probably around 4 biological kids and then who knows how many more foster kids after that. We have this idea of practicing on our own and then having some experience before taking on foster children. All in all, we love kids and we want our home to be very plentiful and [hopefully] fruitful.

Why Is This Happening?
When we found out we were pregnant with Nolan, I was just finishing up my masters degree in teaching without a job, and Jen just got hired at a great job. Fast forward to Nolan's birth, and Jen took maternity leave while I was in the middle of a long-term substitute position teaching middle school math and science. Fast forward to now, and my teaching position has ended and Jen's maternity leave has also ended. What to do? Jen can't quit her job because I don't have full-time work. I could try to do full-time subbing while Jen stays home, but that would be an unwise plan for deciding how to provide for my family. We ended up deciding that I would get a taste of what a stay-at-home parent goes through, and Jen would get a taste of what it is like to be away from one's child for the majority of the day.

What I Hope To Learn
I am hoping to realize that being a stay-at-home parent is harder than it seems. Especially when it comes to feeding my boy, because up until this point he has been used to breastfeeding, and now we are trying to get him to take a bottle (which has been only partially successful up to this point). Only once have I tried to get him to take a bottle when Jen was out running errands, and that was a screaming failure. We'll see how it goes for the second run when he wakes up!
I hope to discover techniques to be more efficient.
I hope to identify with the emotional drain being at home with a baby can have on a person.
I hope to gain a greater respect for stay-at-home parents and come to a better understanding that this is a full-time job.

What I Am Comfortable With
Because I have been helping Jen out so much with the basic day-to-day chores that come with taking care of a baby, I feel very comfortable with many duties: Holding him, singing to him, talking to him, dressing him, changing diapers (even blowouts), sucking out boogers, burping him, taking his temperature, and [most importantly] figuring out why he is crying. It has been extremely helpful to have a few weeks of paternity leave to learn the various responsibilities of caring for a baby.

Biggest Challenges
I believe that the hardest thing for me to deal with is the bloodcurdling screams that I am likely to get when he wants the breast rather than the bottle. I am prepared to be as patient as possible and will force myself to put him down and go to another room for a breather if I get frustrated. We'll see how I handle it. The only other thing I can think of is cooking. I told Jen that I would cook dinner at least twice a week (I hate cooking, by the way), so I need to find some motivation to do that with a cheerful heart.

Final Thoughts
Overall, I am very thankful to have this opportunity to learn more about my son and what it takes to be a stay-at-home father. Maybe I'll even learn something I never expected to. I'm trying to keep an open mind about it, since it is a new experience for me.

Please pray I don't drop him.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Diaper Love

My son just peed on me. And he didn't even think it was funny!

There is very little interaction between him and I. The majority of the interaction between us is when I change his diaper, when I burp him, when I put him to bed, and when I have him sleep on me.

And what does he do? He stares at the lamp.

There's not much I can do right now regarding being a father, other than being sacrificial. I have to sacrifice my time, my pleasures, and my life to serve him. He can't do it on his own, so that's how I show my love for him. When he gets older, I can show him love through more interesting stuff like teaching him, training him, having conversations with him, guiding him, and leading him to be the man that he ought to be.

So, for now, I'll keep changing his diapers, hoping that one day his conversations will be much more interactive and two-sided as he grows up to be a man that loves God. Lord willing. I pray.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Being a Birth Partner

Being a birth partner is more than what you just read in a book.

She started having contractions. This was labor. I drove Jen to the hospital on the morning of December 16th, 2010, not with a panicked craze, but with an excited nervousness. We made our way up to the maternity floor of the hospital ("it's on the 3rd floor because you leave with three people" was a common mnemonic device we heard). As we entered our delivery room in the very early morning, we noticed the complete darkness that loomed outside our window.

Then, as Jen and I waited in silence for each succeeding contraction, I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to finish reading my book about how to be a good birth partner for my pregnant wife. Was I prepared enough? Would I fail as her support? Would our memory of Nolan's birth be Daddy screwing up?

Instead of worrying about it, I decided to just take it one step at a time.

"Do you want anything to eat?" I asked her as we put down our bags.

"No thanks," she replied. "Not really hungry."

"Okay. How about some music?" I suggested.

"That sounds good. You know what I want to listen to."

I pulled out my laptop and turned on Christmas music as we started to settle into our room. From that point onward, I realized that preparing to be my wife's birth partner started long ago. It started when our relationship began. All it took was getting to know her, what her needs are, loving her, and being by her side throughout labor. And...trying my best not to annoy her...after all, she's in enough pain already.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nolan's Birth Story

On December 15th, 3 days before baby Nolan was due to arrive, I had my last appointment with midwife Linda. I had been dilated about 1cm a few weeks before and had been having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions, so I was glad when she announced that I was now 3cm! My plans for a short labor were coming right along. Since my cervix was open, she also swept my membranes (separating the bag of waters from the edge of the cervix by massaging it--not too pleasant, and it leaves you feeling pretty crampy, but it is supposed to help bring on labor). I asked her how big she thought he was and she said 7 or 7 1/2 pounds. I said "Good, because my husband was over 10 and I don't want a 10 pound baby!" She assured me that she had seen 10 pound babies, and he wasn't going to be 10 pounds...she also told me that she guessed she would probably see me in the hospital on Friday when she was on call. I left feeling very confident that Nolan would be here soon.

Four hours later, around 8:30pm, I started having contractions. These contractions felt different and a bit more uncomfortable than the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having. I was finishing up making turkey soup for dinner and in between stirring I watched Titanic on TV and laid on the exercise ball while Aaron timed contractions with an app he had downloaded on his phone. They remained about 5 minutes apart for 2 hours, so we packed the hospital bags and I decided to call the midwife. Wendy was on call, and I was expecting her to tell us to leave for the hospital, thinking my baby boy would be born that night, but instead she suggested that I stay home as long as possible if I really wanted to avoid medical intervention (which was my hope for my labor). Disappointed, I got off the phone and Aaron and I waited some more. At 1am, my contractions were not any different so we decided to go to bed in case this was not real labor and Aaron had to go to work in the morning. As soon as I laid down, my contractions shortened to 2 minutes apart and became more intense. After an hour, I woke Aaron up and told him we needed to leave.

We arrived at the hospital just before 3am where Wendy checked me and said I was about 5cm dilated. The nurse monitored Nolan and my contractions for a little while and then told me to alternate walking in the halls and resting on the exercise ball or in bed. So that's what we did...for 5 hours. My contractions had slowed when we reached the hospital and I remained at 5cm until the new midwife on call, Mary, checked me again at 8am. She gave me the option of going home to labor longer, or having her break my water to get things moving. I definitely did not want to go home and do this, so we opted for breaking my water. Almost immediately my contractions were much stronger and more regular. I couldn't walk comfortably anymore so I swayed on the exercise ball and breathed through contractions for another couple hours.

The hospital has a jacuzzi tub and my vision had been to labor in there during transition, the hardest part of labor from 7-10cm. When I was really uncomfortable on the ball, I decided to get in the tub, even though I hadn't reached transition yet. I wasn't in there very long when my contractions became almost unbearable. I actually asked the nurse about my options for pain medication but she knew that I had wanted a natural birth, so they moved me to the bed and Mary checked me again--7cm! I had only barely made it to the beginning of transition.

The last few hours of labor are a blur... Mary kept encouraging me to do just one more contraction, or two more contractions, over and over again, and she never mentioned medication and I didn't ask again. I know that I was moaning through contractions, something that I didn't expect. Aaron was doing a great job encouraging me, getting me drinks, and keeping Christmas music playing the whole time. I also remember changing positions a lot--the anterior lip of my cervix would not dilate and I had to move around to try to make it go away. The worst part of the whole thing was probably the last half hour before I began pushing--I had the horrible urge to push and wasn't able to--Mary didn't want me to bruise or tear my cervix. Eventually, she held the little edge of my cervix out of the way so I could begin pushing. When I got the ok, I assumed it must be nearly over, but I pushed for an hour and a half--the hardest and sweatiest full body workout of my life. And, it turns out that Nolan was much bigger than anyone expected. His shoulders got stuck and he did not cry when he finally came out. The midwife had to cut the umbilical cord (a job Aaron was hoping to have) so that he could be taken across the room to be checked out quickly before Aaron and I got to meet him. Nolan Zachary Riedl was born on 12/16/10 at 1:47pm, weighing 9lbs 8oz and was 21 1/4" long.

Nolan's here! About 20 minutes old...
All bundled up! 12.16.10

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chai Spiced Bread

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1/2 cup prepared, room temperature black tea

1/3 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp cinnamon, divided

1/8 tsp cloves

1 cup powdered sugar

3-5 tsp milk

Grease loaf pan (or use muffin papers to make 12 muffins). Cream granulated sugar and butter. Beat in eggs, tea, 1/3 cup milk, and vanilla (mixture will appear curdled). Wisk in flour, baking powder, cardamom, salt, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and cloves just until smooth. Pour into loaf pan or spoon into muffin pan. Bake loaf 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees (18 minutes for muffins) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan and then remove and cool 30 minutes more. For glaze, stir together powdered sugar, remaining 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and enough milk just to make it spreadable. Spread glaze over bread or muffins and let cool completely.