Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
We have been living in our new house in Bryn Athyn for almost a month
It's been a busy month of unpacking, visiting with friends and
family, and lot's of shopping. Thea and Cirdan will be going to
Kindergarten and 1st Grade in the Bryn Athyn Elementary School, which
now has a dress code. So we've very quickly learned the location of
many thrift stores in the area, and have been putting together a
school wardrobe for Thea and Cirdan.
As we near the end of the month and the beginning of school for Thea,
Cirdan and I, we are feeling mostly ready.
Zoe is now 3 months old. She smiles a lot, and has even blessed us
with occasional laughter and cute "talking." Just the other day we
tried putting her in the exer-saucer, which allows her to be in a
standing position. She loves watching her older siblings. Thea and
Cirdan and Jaden have taken to running or riding their trikes around
the front porch of our house. Often times letting Zoe watch this
racing event will calm her down when she's crying. And just like
Jaden at this age, Zoe also loves to be outside. She has moved
out of the bed-buddy, and into her own crib, set up in our bedroom.
Unfortunately she hasn't been sleeping very regularly lately, so
Tirah has not been getting good nights of sleep, but hopefully that
will improve. Zoe has been getting a little bit more used to me.
I've been able to hold her for longer periods of time while she
remains happy. Tirah has even had the chance to go out and about at
times, while I've had the four kids at home. But she definitely
still prefers Tirah to anyone else, especially when she's upset.
Jaden is now two. He has entered the realm of "two-hood" with a bit
of a whine. He has started throwing more tantrums lately. But he
still remains one of the cutest kids on the planet. We had a nice
little birthday party for him, here in our new house. It ended up
being a small party, but I think that was a good thing in the end.
Since we've moved, we've gotten back into singing lullabies to the
kids at night, and Jaden very often will sing along with, much like
Thea did at this age. It's wonderfully cute.
We've taken the opportunity of the change in life associated with
moving to make some other changes in our habits. We've gotten back
into a very nice bedtime routine with the kids. After cleanup and
teeth-brushing are done, we read a story from the Word. And then we
read a story of the kids' choosing from our bookshelf of kids books.
Then we sing some lullabies and say the prayer, and then end with a
few more lullabies. This has really helped the kids settle down in
the evening, and I think helped them feel more comfortable in a new
Cirdan is 5. He is looking forward to Kindergarten. He hasn't
really expressed any nervousness about it, which I'm assuming means
he doesn't feel nervous, which is great.
Here at our new house, his favorite thing is that we now have a Lego
room. Our house is a 5 bedroom house with 3 bedrooms on the 2nd
floor, and 2 on the 3rd floor. The 2nd floor has our bedroom, the
kid's shared bedroom, and my music studio. The third floor has
Tirah's craft room, and our guest room, which also doubles as the
Lego room. While I was growing up, my favorite toy was Lego, and
over the course of my childhood I collected quite a bit of it. Since
most of my Lego contained small parts, and because we lived in small
houses up until now, we hadn't brought my Lego out of storage until
now. But now that we have the space, and Thea and Cirdan are old
enough, all my Lego is out of storage and able to be played with.
Cirdan loves this, and often spends most of the day in the Lego
room. He especially likes the Lego knights and Star Wars Lego.
Here's a funny story. I can't remember now if this was Cirdan or
Thea who said this, but one of them did.
I was reading the story of Jonah to the kids. After the story we
started talking about it. One of the kids, Thea or Cirdan, said:
"It's a good thing that Jonah started listening to the Lord, and
doing what he was told, because if he didn't, then the Lord might
have given him an even worse Time-Out than the whale!" :-)
Thea is 6, and is entering 1st grade. I think she's a little bit
nervous about it, but much less so now that she's had a chance to
meet her teacher and see her classroom, and even meet some of her
Thea has been able to set up a little "office" area at the top of the
stairs on the third floor. She also has a drawing area set up in the
very sunny dining room. And as always, she spends a lot of time
drawing and doing projects. She recently came up with a very
clever project: She took an old birthday party hat and cut the very
top off. She then drew a picture of stars and a moon, and taped the
page over the wide end of the cone-shaped hat. She then presented it
to us as a telescope. You hold it up to the light, look through the
small end of the cone, and you see the moon and stars. Very fun!
Tirah has been having fun getting to see so much of her family and
friends lately. Our life has definitely been more busy socially
since we moved, which right up Tirah's alley.
We're coming up on the 1 year anniversary of Tirah's mom's death, and
it's definitely been quite the emotional process for Tirah over the
last year. But combined with everything else going on in our life, I
think it's ultimately been a good emotional process, something that
has helped Tirah become aware of, and focus in on many aspects of her
Tirah is about to face the challenge of being the stay-at-home mom
for 4 kids, after having worked for many years outside of the home.
We've had a wonderful summer of being at home as a family, and now
we're all about to be tested in this new life we've chosen.
Solomon is 32. He is looking forward to Theological School. He
hasn't really expressed any nervousness about it, which I'm assuming
means he doesn't feel nervous, which is great. ;-) This past month
has been such a whirlwind of logistics and general household tasks,
that I almost haven't had time to think about my new life as a
Theological School Student. Just a few days ago, Tirah's sister
Abby came by and babysat our four kids for us, while Tirah and I
escaped for some wonderful time away. We went to the Willow Grove
Mall, and sat in the Food Court eating french fries, and just talking
for an hour. I know I certainly felt like I was waking up out of the
stupor I was in, induced by the sheer busyness of our life. Tirah
had the wonderful idea of using one of the Lori and John Marriage
Exercises that we've learned to really dig deep into how we were
feeling. We were each able to express to each other how excited and
nervous we were about our new life. It was very enlightening and
conjoining for us.
This past month we were very happy to attend two marriage support
groups for the Theologs and their wives, led by Lori and John Odhner
of Caring for Marriage. Not only was it great for our marriage, but
a wonderful way for us to meet some of the other Theologs and their
This past weekend Carl Smith came down to visit, and we went to the
Bryn Athyn Swim Club pool. That was lots of fun. They have a kid's
pool that is only 1 and 1/2 feet deep. It was perfect for Thea and
Cirdan. And eventually they even got brave enough to try the adult
pool with us.
It's been interesting getting used to the idea that everything down
here is a lot closer together. In Kempton, anything that you had to
get to was between 15 minutes to 30 minutes away. Down here
everything is between 5 and 15 minutes away. In Kempton when you're
driving through a town, you know you've left the town because it
turns into farmland. Down here, you drive from town to town without
ever leaving the "town." It has been nice to have shopping trips
not take up so much of the day.
As I mentioned before, we have shopped at a lot of thrift stores in
the area. Our primary mission was to find school clothes for Thea
and Cirdan. But a by product of those shopping trips has been that
we've been able to buy really cheap movies! In Kempton, we used to
have Carl Smith's movie collection (hundreds of DVDs) in our home,
for people to come and borrow. And because that was the situation,
Tirah and I never bought movies, because we could always watch Carl's
movies, Since we moved, we're back down to our original small
collection of mostly VHS movies. But then all of these thrift
stores have huge collections of VHS movies (because everybody wants
DVDs these days) for around 50 cents a piece! So we've been able to
boost our movie collection very inexpensively.
One of the things that has made our life a little stressful this past
month is that our mail has been a little goofy. Because of a series
of circumstances, our mail could end up being delivered to one of
about 4 different places:
1. For some reason, my forwarding request, back at the Lenhartsville
post office, didn't go through right away, so some of our mail was
sitting up in Lenhartsville, with no where to go.
2. Here in Bryn Athyn, we have a street address, but like most
Theologs I planned to pick up my mail at the Theological School. But
if a piece of mail had only our street address on it, and not the
College Post Office Box number, then our mail could end up sitting at
the Bryn Athyn post office, with no where to go.
3. If, perchance, our mail managed to get to the College, but went
through the hands of someone who didn't know I was a Theolog, then it
could end up sitting in the College Students mail box, with no where
4. If it managed to get to the Theological School, well, for the
first half of the month, I didn't have a mail box there!
It's all getting sorted out now. I've talked to the Bryn Athyn post
office, I've talked to the College and Theolgical School offices, and
I've started seeing forwarded mail, so it's all good.
F.Y.I., if you want to send us mail, please be sure to include PO Box
717 on the address, or even add it to the Zip Code, like this:
Solomon and Tirah Keal
865 Fetters Mill Rd.
Bryn Athyn PA, 19009-0717
We love our house here. We are definitely going to be spoiled by
it. After 3 years of school, and very likely being sent somewhere
else, we very probably won't have a house this big again. So we're
trying to live in the moment, and enjoy our time here. We have a
fireplace in the living room, and I now have a real piano. Can you
believe I haven't owned a real piano until now? Just keyboards.
One of the things we love about Bryn Athyn is the variety of church
services here. We've been able to take our kids to the younger
children's service at the Cathedral every other Sunday. And I
believe it's every Sunday once school starts. There's a
contemporary service every Sunday. There's the Ivyland Church, and
the Lord's New Church nearby. And just this year, they've started a
new service called New Church Live. New Church Live makes the
contemporary service look like the traditional service. It's
definitely stretching a lot of people's perspectives on what is
worship. In many ways it's more like a Christian Rock Concert that
what a lot of us would call "church" based on what we grew up with.
I think it's good. It's still in the early phases, and I think it
needs some tweaking, but I was very grateful for what it did for my
spiritual life the week I went to it. And they're also started New
Church Live for kids, so eventually our whole family can go to it.
On Monday I go to Orientation, and on Tuesday our new life begins.
Wish us luck!
I'll try to send family and house pictures soon.
Thank you to all of you who helped with our move. We could not have
done it without you!
May the Lord bless you all!
Zoe (3 months)
Friday, July 24, 2009
It's been a busy couple of months trying to get ready to move to Bryn
Athyn. We will be moving over the weekend of August 1st and 2nd.
We'll be packing the truck here in Lenhartsville on the 1st, and
unpacking the truck in Bryn Athyn on the 2nd. And by the way, if
you live in Kempton we would love your help on the 1st, and if you
live in Bryn Athyn, we would love your help on the 2nd.
Zoe just turned two months old on the 21st of July! Unfortunately,
like many of our kids, she has been suffering from colic and over-all
fussiness. But between fussy bouts, she is the cutest thing ever.
As she has gained weight and gotten a little older, she is starting
to look more and more like her siblings. And we've also been graced
with the occasional smile lately, which is just heavenly!
All of our kids have at some point in their infancy had nicknames.
And without trying to do so, all of our kids have had nicknames that
began with the letter "B". Thea was "Boo" (inspired by the Pixar
movie "Monsters Inc."), Cirdan was "Bear," and Jaden was
"Bubba," (because the first noises he made were "Buh Buh").
Recently Tirah was watching a nature show on TV that was documenting
the work of some people who save orphaned baboon babies, and raise
them to be re-released into the wild. These little baby baboons
were not only very cute, but they also looked a little like Zoe! (or
she looked like them) So we've been trying out the nickname
"Baboon" with Zoe. I don't know if it will stick or not, but it does
start with a "B"!
Jaden will be two years old on August 11th, just after we move to
Bryn Athyn. He is our little ray of sunshine. At first we were
worried that he might feel replaced by Zoe as the baby of the
family. But he absolutely adores Zoe, and at the same time seems to
take some pride in feeling like a bigger boy because of her. He
kisses her, and rocks her in her swing, and sings lullabies to her.
He is, however, very much a Papa's boy. I think he's O.K. with the
fact that Zoe takes up a lot of Tirah's time. After all, he has been
used to Tirah being at work, and me being at home for most of his
little life. The real test will be once I start school full-time. I
don't know how he'll react to that. It will probably be a hard
adjustment for him.
Here are a couple of cute Jaden stories and quotes:
One time I was reprimanding Cirdan for doing something wrong and I
had to threaten to give him a time-out after I counted to three. So
I counted to three:
"One.... two... three!"
And then from the corner of the room, without looking up from his
toys, Jaden called out, "Four."
Lately Jaden has been learning the Lord's Prayer. He's been hearing
his older siblings say it every night for the past year or so, and it
has finally sunk in enough that he has decided to join in. Much
like his older siblings at this age, it sounds a bit like this:
"Fodder.... Heddens.....Name!.... Come.... Done.... Eert!.... Day....
Bed.....Debts.... Debtors!.... Not..... Shayshun.... Evil.... Dum....
Tower.... Jori....Edder.... Amen!" He actually says even more of it
than that these days, but that was one of his first renditions.
Cirdan turned 5 years old on June 13th. We had a very fun birthday
party with family and friends, and he did a very impressive job of
sharing his new toys with other kids. He still has his difficult
times, but we're able to get through to him a lot more often.
Here's a cute Cirdan story:
We were reading the Christmas story one night, because that's what we
happened to be up to in our nightly readings, even though it's summer
time. I read the story and then asked a couple of questions at the
end. One of the questions I asked was, "Do you remember what the
choir of angels said when they visited the shepherds?"
They got the first part right: "Glory to God in the Highest!" but I
had to prompt them for the last bit:
Solomon: "... and on earth..., peace... and...."
It's been interesting getting used to having 4 kids, and learning how
to keep track of all of them. Thea and Cirdan are allowed outside by
themselves, but Jaden needs supervision if he goes outside. Not
long after Zoe was born I remember doing a quick mental calculation:
"O.K. I see two kids and a baby, alright good." But after a second
I remembered that we have 4 kids not 3! Sure enough Jaden was
happily playing outside, very proud of the fact that he got out there
without getting caught. I need to somehow update my mental
calculations when I try to keep track of our kids.
Thea and Cirdan have been getting ready for school in Bryn Athyn.
Thea will be in 1st Grade, and Cirdan in Kindergarten. They both
got a chance to see the school when we went down for their
evaluations. I think Cirdan's pretty excited. He's a very social,
friendly boy. He always says "Hi" to strangers, and likes to play
with other kids.
The Kempton Kindergarten is a little different from the Bryn Athyn
Kindergarten. Because the Kempton Kindergarten meets only 3 mornings
a week, and the Bryn Athyn Kindergarten meets 5 days a week, they
cover a lot more material in one year in Bryn Athyn. So Thea may
have a little catching up to do. But it's mostly things like knowing
lower case letters, and counting to 50, and over the summer she has
not only shown interest in learning those things, but she's gotten
pretty good at them. So I think after she gets used to the newness
of a different school, she'll fit right in.
This summer, Thea and Cirdan have really enjoyed playing on our quiet
little street here in Lenhartsville. They've become good friends
with two other kids who live up the street from us who are 5 and 3:
Theo and Clara LaMastra. And between playing with those kids, and
Tirah and I having our hands full with two babies at home, we've
loosened the apron strings a bit with Thea and Cirdan. When we
first moved into this house, we wouldn't have let them run up and
down the side-walk and cross the street without us with them. But
this summer that's what we've been doing. I think it's been good for
everyone. It's given Thea and Cirdan more freedom and independence,
especially when our time is taken up with taking care of Jaden and
Zoe. And it's also given us the chance to practice "Letting Go";
always a hard thing to do as a parent. We feel sad that we'll be
moving away from this quiet little street, and the home that it has
On June 24th, Tirah and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary!
Even though Zoe was still very new, we were able to go out! We got a
babysitter for the three oldest kids, and we took Zoe with us. We
went to Wegmans and got our traditional anniversary meal: chicken
strips, french bread, yummy cheese, Martinellis Sparkling Apple
Cider, and then of course, a very yummy dessert of healthy "no
refined sugar" ice-cream and cookies. And we took that meal with us
to the local drive-in theater and we watched the latest Pixar movie:
"Up". We also took one of the seats out of our van, and brought the
baby swing with us, and we were able to put Zoe in the baby swing in
the minivan while we watched the movie and ate our dinner. Zoe
fussed a bit, but we were able to watch most of the movie. It was fun.
Since we won't need two cars in Bryn Athyn, we sold our Subaru
Outback wagon to my mom and dad, and we used that money to buy
ourselves a really great anniversary present: a Sleep-Number bed!
It's been really great. I've never slept very well, and I've
noticed a big change in the quality of my sleep. It's also a King
size bed, which we've been thinking of getting for a while. So now
we all fit when the kids come tumbling in in the morning.
Towards the end of June we got to visit with my cousin Lesley from
New Zealand, and her husband Jonathan Longstaff and their two kids.
It's always fun to visit with other parents our age who are going
through the same things we go through every day. There's a great
sense of comradeship in that.
After the really fun Kempton 4th of July celebration, we headed out
to Ohio to visit Tirah's dad and two of her sisters for a week.
That's right, we drove 12 hours both ways with a 6-week-old baby! I
know... what were we thinking?! But actually it went as well as
could be expected. It's actually closer to a 10 hour trip, but we
stopped as often as the kids needed to. And we had a great time
visiting with Tirah's family in Ohio. Vacations are an odd thing to
attempt when you've got little kids, because no matter where you go,
the poopy diapers and tantrums and chaos follow you too. We were
really just moving our crazy schedule to a new location for a week.
But it is more than that. It's a nice change. And especially at
this time of our lives, it was nice to not think about all we had to
do to get ready to move for a whole week. Thank you Morfar for
making that possible!
So now we're down to packing, packing, and more Packing. It's a hard
thing when you've got a newborn in the house. Fortunately we've had
help. This Sunday (July 26th) after church, we'll be having a Going-
Away party here at our house, or a "House Cooling" party, as Tirah
likes to call it, since we never had a "House Warming" party when we
moved in, just over a year ago. If you're in the area, please drop by.
The next newsletter I write will be from our new house in Bryn
Athyn. Aside from my 4 years in college in Bryn Athyn, I've lived
in the Kempton area since I was 8 years old! Because Tirah and I
both went to college in Bryn Athyn, and we have many friends and some
Echols family there, there are many happy things about moving. But
it will be very sad to be moving away from all of my family, and my
childhood home. Plus, our kids have grown up with my parents as a
regular part of their lives. This will be a big change for them.
So there is happiness and sadness about this move. It's a change,
and change is always hard, even when it's a good change. And I think
this will be a good change for us.
That's all for now.
Jaden (almost 2)
Zoe (2 months)
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Well, I have two big pieces of exciting news to deliver in this
First of all, I'm happy to announce that I have been accepted into
the Academy of the New Church Theological School! For those who are
unfamiliar with that; it is the seminary for our church which is a
Christian church called the General Church of the New Jerusalem.
http://www.newchurch.org. So I will be in school for three years,
and then hopefully entering the role of a minister in our church!
What this means is that we will be moving to Bryn Athyn PA. The
Academy is now offering a stipend for Theological School
students. So I will be getting paid to go to school. Which means
that Tirah will be able to quit her job and become the full-time stay-
at-home mom for our children. The Academy also has housing for us,
which we have seen, and it is very cool. It's a beautiful old 5
bedroom house in Bryn Athyn on Fettersmill road. The old Ken
Synnestvedt house, for those that know where that is.
We will be moving in August, and I will be starting school in
September. We will really miss living in the Lenhartsville/Kempton
area, but we are also really looking forward to living in Bryn Athyn
Let me fill you in a little on the process that led me to making this
decision. Here is an excerpt from the application essay that I wrote:
After I graduated from Bryn Athyn College of the New Church with an
interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts in Religion and History in 1999,
I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. I had
interests in many things including Religion, History, Art, Music, and
Writing. I also had an interest in courting a certain young woman
named Tirah, who is now my wife. I considered the ministry as a
calling to pursue, but I decided that at that time in my life I was
lacking in certain traits that I thought to be important in the role
of a minster. These traits included things such as: being able to
speak well in public, being a natural leader, and being comfortable
in large social gatherings. It also mattered to me that Tirah had no
interest in being a minster's wife, and that being the daughter of a
General Church minister she was very familiar with the downsides of
that lifestyle. And so because I had the ability to get a job
working for a contractor in Kempton, I took that job while I
continued to consider other long-term career ideas.
In 2001 Tirah and I were married, and after about a year we started
a family. Meanwhile I spent much of my free time working on music as
a hobby and a side-business. Because of downsizing in the
construction company I worked for, I was laid-off after 5 years. It
was a scary time of life, with now 2 small children to support.
After much soul-searching and praying, we decided to take a leap of
faith and see if I could earn a living for our family from music.
Several months later we determined that it would take years to earn a
living from music, and that we needed a more immediate solution to
support our family. After more praying and soul-searching, and many
discussions about masculine and feminine roles with my Pastor, Lawson
Smith, we decided that it would work for us (for the time being) to
switch traditional roles. So Tirah got a job while I stayed at home
with the kids and tried to pursue a music career in the hopes that it
would eventually make a living for our family. And I must say that
we found surprising benefits for all of us in this less traditional
and somewhat less than ideal situation. I will talk more about those
Just last year, after almost 5 years of being a stay-at-home dad,
Calvin Odhner was telling me about his experience as a theological
school student, and he told me that he thought I would make a good
minister. Calvin and I had worked on music projects over the years
in my studio, and invariably we would find ourselves distracted from
the task at hand, and find ourselves talking about spirituality and
the Church. Throughout the previous 10 years, whenever the idea of
the ministry had come up, I continued to dismiss the idea based on
my original conclusions after graduating from college. And that is
what I initially did with Calvin's suggestion this time. But after
talking with him, something made me stop, go back, and really
consider it. I spent some time looking back at those 10 years. I
began to notice the things that led me to becoming a different person
today. I began to realize that my conclusions of 10 years ago didn't
necessarily apply to today.
Some people talk about experiencing a "call" to the ministry. For
me, I think it was more like "call-waiting." I think that the Lord
may have been dropping little hints to me, sort of like the beeps on
a phone, while I spent 10 years talking on the other line.
As I looked back, I noticed that some of these "call-waiting" beeps
1. Becoming interested in the work of marriage support, learning how
to lead a group, and - along with Tirah - starting our own marriage
2. Leading a workshop for one of the "Caring For Marriage"
conferences, along with Tirah.
3. Working to try to get a contemporary service started in Kempton.
4. Working on the committee for the creation of a new Kempton Worship
5. Leading a discussion group on how the pop-culture book and movie
entitled "The Secret" compares to the doctrines of the New Church.
6. Compiling a series of quotes from the Writings about the Lord's
Prayer for the purpose of helping myself and others to really think
about the Prayer while praying.
7. Becoming interested in comparing various translations of the Bible
and how that helps one to gain a better sense of the underlying truth.
8. Feeling inspired to start work on the eventual (hopeful)
publication of religious books of various kinds including a
children's book, a novel, a Bible workbook, and a New Church
parenting book based on the insights I gained from being a stay-at-
Until recently, I had seen most of the above listed "beeps" as simply
hobbies: These were things that I felt called to spend time on,
despite the busyness of being a stay-at-home dad with a home-based
music business. I began to think with excitement about the
possibility of marriage support being more than just a hobby; of
discussion groups becoming regular classes; of having more time and
ability to help start a new worship service; and of the book ideas
that I've had as being possible material for sermons. I have a love
for the "beeps" I mentioned above. And the idea of having the chance
to spend more time doing the things I love is a part of what I find
attractive about becoming a minister.
Recently, both Tirah and I have felt a desire to switch roles again.
And when I mentioned the idea of the ministry to Tirah, this time she
didn't hate it. In fact she liked the idea! She too had gone
through a process of looking back to find that the conclusions she
made years ago, didn't necessarily apply today.
Individually, each of these things didn't seem like a call to the
ministry. But looking at them collectively began to seem like a
call. It started to feel like this could be right for me; for me and
Tirah; for me and my family. It felt like it could be the Hand of
Providence. I think the Lord was trying to call me, but I was on the
After 10 years, I no longer have the same reservations about my
leadership, social, and public speaking abilities. Not only have I
now had some life experience with each, and also don't fear them as I
I'm inspired by the story of Moses when he said "O Lord, I'm just not
a good speaker. I never have been, and I'm not now, even after you
have spoken to me. I'm clumsy with words." (Exodus 4:10) And when
Gideon said, "But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the
weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my
entire family." (Judges 6:15) I too have struggled with a lack of
self-confidence. And yet, the Lord was able to turn Moses and Gideon
into effective leaders. These stories tell me that it's not so much
about what I can bring to the ministry, as it is about what the Lord
can bring out of me.
I will not be giving up my music. I will be putting it on the back-
burner for a while, but I'm not turning off the flame. My music
business may slow down for a bit, but I really hope that I can use my
music in my ministry. I'm inspired by the work of Christian artist
Chris Rice, who used his music as a means to minister to young people.
I'm really excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. I'm
excited by the thought that my unique personality traits, talents and
interests could be a useful addition to the role of the General
Church Ministry in service to the Lord, the Church, and the world.
The other exciting news we have is that we have a new baby girl in
our family! Her name is Zoe Joralyn Keal. She was born at home on
Thursday May 21st, at 4:00 PM. She weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces at
birth. We now have 2 boys and 2 girls. "Isn't this cozy? Girl,
Boy, Boy, Girl." (Name that paraphrased movie quote.) Every one of
our children now has at least one brother and sister.
Zoe was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, torso,
and limbs. Even after she was untangled, she remained very purple
until a few minutes of breathing turned her a nice healthy pink.
She has very dark hair, and a lot of it. No sign of a red-head this
time. She'll probably have Tirah's hair color.
Mama and baby are doing very well. Tirah seems to have bounced back
very quickly after this birth. We took Zoe on her first car trip at
only a week old, and we took her to Bryn Athyn at only a week and a
The kids adore her, especially Jaden. He constantly wants to hug and
kiss her, and do Ugga Mugga with her (rubbing noses).
"Zoe" means "Life" in Greek. We think a lot about life these days:
We are all about to enter new phases of life. Thea begins 1st grade,
Cirdan begins Kindergarten, Tirah begins the challenge of re-entering
the role of stay-at-home mom with 4 kids, and I begin Theological
School. And of course this new life in our family in the form of Zoe
herself. This is the first birth in our family when there has been
something scary about the birth itself. With the umbilical cord being
wrapped around her body, Zoe's heart-rate was low in the womb, and
for the first couple days of her life she struggled with choking on
her own saliva. And so we think about the fragile precious nature of
the life that we are given from the Lord. And then we think about
the Lord Himself, Who is the source of all life, and Who is LIfe Itself.
"Joralyn" is Tirah's sister's name. A name which I believe was made
up by Tirah's mom (Correct me if I'm wrong Echols Family). As the
story goes, Jori was going to be Jorum if she was a boy, but she
ended up being a girl, so they created a feminine version of Jorum.
Tirah and Jori made a "deal" with each other when they were
kids. They both liked each other's names, so they each decided that
they would name one of their children after their sister. So Zoe's
middle name is honoring that childhood deal, as well as honoring Jori
herself, and the whole Echols family; an Echols Family name. And the
name also honors Tirah's mom as the creator of the name.
It wasn't until after we had named Zoe, that we realized that she has
a really cool nickname already built in: "Z.J."
Zoe was baptized by her grandfather, Clark Echols, on Memorial Day,
May 25th. All of my family, and many of the Echols family were able
to be present for that.
Moving up: Jaden will be two-years-old in August! He's not a baby
anymore. He's a little toddler. The other day he came running into
the room screaming for joy at the top of his lungs. We stopped him
and asked him to please stop screaming because Zoe was asleep
upstairs. He looked at us, and said, "O.K.", and he then proceeded
to run out of the room screaming. He says that a lot. He's always
been a very agreeable little kid. But I'm starting to catch on that
when I tell him to do something or to stop doing something and he
says "O.K. Papa!", it really just means, "I don't know what you mean,
but I acknowledge that you're talking to me Papa!"
But actually he really does understand a lot about what goes on
around him. Recently he has started telling "knock-knock"
jokes. Mostly they are his own version of the "knock-knock" jokes
that he hears Cirdan and Thea making up. Jaden's usually go
something like this:
Jaden: "Knock Knock!"
Me: "Who's there?"
Me: "Bananna who?"
Jaden: "Janen!" Or somebody else's name.
Jaden has also really started developing his imagination when
creating little games for himself. Very often I will hear him
creating little dialogue when he's talking on a toy phone or when
he's making two of his toys talk to each other. Very often the
dialogue goes starts with something like this:
His vocabulary increases every day, but there are a few words that he
still doesn't quite get. For example he hears me refer to my musical
instrument of choice as either a "piano," or a "keyboard." In his
little brain there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason as to what
the difference between those words is, so he's decided to mush them
together to create one word that describes that instrument, and that
word is: "Keener."
Another funny thing that he got confused on for a while was, when he
saw someone mowing the lawn, he would say that they were doing the
laundry, or rather in his brain: doing the "lawn-dry."
Cirdan will be turning 5 in about a week. As I'm sure I've said
before, age 4 in our household seems to be the hardest, and it's been
really fun to see Cirdan maturing out of that phase into his soon-to-
be 5-year-old state. Sure, he still gets mad, and screams, and
throws tantrums, and hits and takes toys, but Thea still does that
too occasionally. But there's definitely been a shift. He seems to
be more aware of himself and his surroundings. He, like Thea, seems
more interested in learning things now. Here's an example from just
the other day:
Cirdan comes up to me and says, "Papa, is 'Twinkle Twinkle' a song
And I say, "No."
And he says, "Good." and then walks off singing, "Pinkle Pinkle
Not only was he aware of the rule we have about not singing songs
about the Lord in a goofy way, but he was aware of it enough to catch
himself at it, and check with me about it. I was blown away by that.
Thea just graduated from Kindergarten. She is a bright, creative,
sensitive, young girl. She's is constantly drawing, or playing the
piano, or making up songs, or creating elaborate games. She also
thinks a lot about things. Recently, after talking about Adam and
Eve, she asked me:
"Papa, how did the Lord make the first people? Because people start
as babies, but who was there to take care of the babies? Were the
first people babies or grown-ups?" Not an easy question to
answer. It's the chicken and the egg question. I had to begin my
response with, "That's a REALLY good question!" I love the fact
that my kids are getting old enough that I can have real substantive
conversations with them.
Now, as I said before, even Thea still throws tantrums. One night
as I was putting the kids to bed, and Thea was throwing a tantrum, I
was struck by this analogy: Thea was demanding that I get her
blanket from downstairs, and I was asking her to ask nicely, but she
was refusing. Thea was being rude to me, and therefore she was not
getting what she wanted. Her own actions were preventing her from
getting what she wanted from me. She was angry at me, because I
wasn't doing what she wanted. Even when I reminded her that if she
spoke politely, I would love to help her, she remained stubbornly
rude and angry.
Isn't that just like how we sometimes treat the Lord? We may not
get what we want in life, and we get frustrated or mad, and we think
it's because the Lord hasn't given us happiness, when really it's
because we're refusing the let the Lord give it to us, because of our
own actions and attitudes. It's amazing to me how often the truths
of the Lord's reality are played out for us on this little stage
About a week before Tirah's scheduled maternity leave began in May,
Tirah realized that she wasn't going to make it mentally. She was
thinking so much about the pregnancy, the baby, our life, parenting,
etc., there was no room left for work. So she decided to use some of
her paid vacation, and she went on maternity leave a week early. So
Tirah was home for most of the month of May. I was able to take her
to the Kempton Ladies Banquet on the 9th. At the time, we thought
that Zoe might come at any minute. Our midwife was hoping Tirah
would have the baby then because she was about leave on a week long
vacation. Well as it turned out, she went on vacation, and got back,
long before Zoe was born, so it all worked out well in the end.
As I said before, this birth was a little scary, because of the Zoe's
heart rate being low in the womb, and then seeing her all tangled up
in the umbilical cord, and all purple. With the intensity of child
birth, it didn't really hit us until later how things could have been
so much worse. This was the first time our midwife told us that we
might have to consider going to the hospital. Fortunately, we didn't
have to go, and Zoe was born at home, and is alive and well, thank
the Lord! Tirah is very much in love with her new little daughter.
After Tirah's mom died last year, Tirah has had a renewed
determination to tackle the challenge of parenthood. So, while it
will be really hard for her to jump back into full-time parenthood as
I begin Theological School (especially now with 4 kids!) she is
looking forward to the challenge and the learning process that
parenting is. We are all beginning new adventures this year.
It's really nice that Tirah and I have now walked several miles
(about 4 years) in each other's shoes, which I think will be
extremely valuable experience for maintaining a healthy marriage as
we make these huge life changes. I will get home from work every
day and have a pretty good sense of how she's feeling, and vice versa.
So that's the news in our family.
We hope that you are all doing well!
Cirdan (almost 5)
Jaden (almost 2)
Zoe (2 weeks)
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Boy has life been busy lately. I keep waiting for life to get back
to Normal, because then I will have Time to do all the Important
Things I want to do. But as Dr. Seuss so aptly put it: life is no
fun if you're stuck in the Waiting Place.
Part of my intent with this series of "monthly" email newsletters was
to capture some of the wonderful developments that I get to witness
as a stay-at-home dad. It's hard not to feel bad that I haven't
captured all of them because of missing months. But once again, life
is best lived in the present, not the past. Maybe as I write this
newsletter some of the cute things I have watched my children do or
say over the past couple of months will come back to me.
My last real family newsletter was in November, and then a quick
Christmas newsletter in December. A lot has happened since then.
Starting with the cutest member of our family:
Jaden Micah is over 1 and 1/2 years old. He is capable of walking up
and down the stairs on his own (which is nice because "No more baby-
gate!"), and he can even do a few steps without holding on to the
railing. He has a constantly growing vocabulary. Just yesterday I
heard him say "Amazing!" His favorite toys are cars, and
specifically the toy cars from the Pixar movie "Cars." His favorite
character being Lightning McQueen who he calls simply "Queen," and
then close seconds being "Mater" and "Doc." I will often find
Jaden face down on the living room rug with cars lined up inches from
his eyes, and then I will hear a tiny voice say, "Eddy, Et, GOOOoo!"
Since Tirah and I have finished our album of Love Songs, Jaden will
often point at the iPod and say, "Mama singing?" to ask to hear her
singing on our album, especially when she's at work. Jaden says,
"Mama a work." when Tirah's at work, and then when I start telling
the kids that Mama will be home soon, Jaden will say, "Mama
homing?" sort of a squooshed version of "Mama coming home?"
His vocabulary includes words like, "Tractor," "Truck," "Puppy Dog,"
"Diaper Change." He can count to 10 with a fair amount of
accuracy. And recently I heard him put together this sentence:
"Thea and Cirdan are outside." It sounded more like: "Thea a Canan
a ouside," but he got all the important parts of the sentence into
his observation. One evening when Tirah mentioned to Jaden that
supper was ready, he called in a loud voice into the living room:
"BODY.... COME.... ABLE!" ; essentially his own version of "Everybody
come to the table!"
Jaden also likes to pretend to talk on the phone. Sometimes he will
pick up a domino and put it to his ear, pretending it's a phone. I
often think: what a different world our children are growing up in,
where a domino is just about the right size for a pretend cell phone
for a kid. I can just imagine that our grandchildren will be
talking on little Star-Trek-like communicator pins, and that cell
phones will be seen as big, bulky, and old-fashioned.
Cirdan Ewan is 4, and he'll be 5 in June. I think I've mentioned
before that the age of 4 in our house seems to the hardest. He works
hard at flexing his Will, and practicing his "No!" He pretty much
refuses to eat supper, and Tirah and I have decided to stop fighting
him. We ask him to sit at the table with us, but we don't force him
to eat food. He just has to deal with the consequences of hunger,
and he usually does that by being delightfully starving in the
morning. (That "delightfully" was smothered in sarcasm by the
way.) We feel very much like Bill Cosby: "We don't care about
justice, we just want QUIET!" It's amazing what a difference there
is between eating supper while having polite pleasant conversation,
and eating supper while exchanging yells and threats. Lately, we've
been choosing the former. Maybe we're being push-over parents, but
it's seems better than constantly forcing our child to eat food amid
tears and screams. Hopefully it's just a phase he's going through.
Cirdan has a strange relationship with food. And I can't say it's
entirely foreign to me. I was a very picky eater as a kid. And in
some ways I can understand a little bit of what he's going through.
For some reason, he decides that he doesn't like a particular food,
and so his brain sends signals down to his taste buds, and he will
actually start retching after putting something in his mouth that
just a few years ago he couldn't get enough of. He decides it's
yucky, and so it actually BECOMES yucky to him.
It actually works in reverse too. Just like he has decided that he
hates certain foods, he has also decided that he loves certain foods,
and he will eat them no matter what. Tirah made a batch of cupcakes
one day, but she accidentally left them in the oven too long, and
they got a little bit burnt. But the kids were so determined to eat
them that they did anyway. As Cirdan sank his teeth into a darker-
than-chocolate chocolate cupcake, he walked out of the room saying,
"It tastes a little yucky, but it's so delicious!"
Cirdan's favorite thing these days is super heroes. His current
favorite is Buzz Lightyear from the Pixar movie "Toy Story."
We think that Cirdan is also suffering from growing pains in his
legs, which is something I suffered from as a kid.
Thea Clarity is 6 years old. She is loving Kindergarten. She is
bursting with creativity, and helpfulness lately. At night she often
includes in her personal prayer: "and please Lord help me to obey
Mama and Papa."
She can draw amazingly detailed pictures of mermaids, and
princesses. She even understands a little bit about perspective, and
what the human body looks like at different angles. She is taking
piano lessons from Meema (my mom), and loving them. Not only does
she practice what is in her piano books, but she also picks out other
songs she knows, and even composes her own songs sometimes. There
was one day that she played the melody of a hymn on the piano for
worship in her Kindergarten class.
She is also learning how to read analog clocks, and will often tell
me when it's lunch time or snack time or clean-up time.
Tirah has a little more than a month left in her pregnancy when our
4th child will be due, some time around May 17th. She's getting to
that part of the pregnancy when it's just tiring to do anything.
It's hard for her to get comfortable at night. She goes on
maternity leave on May 16th. She's still learning to deal with the
loss of her mom, but the busyness of life often takes up all of her
mental energy. But amid all of that, she pulled together the energy
to record an album with me, and perform in a concert!
Here's a bit of a recap of the last couple months:
January was a mad scramble to finish recording and replicating our
Love Songs album before the Marriage Conference in February.
On February 2nd, Thea turned 6. On the 11th we had a surprising heat
wave and were able to play outside! On the 14th and 15th we went to
the Marriage Conference in Bryn Athyn and officially released our
Love Songs album, as well as performed a few of the songs. On the
19th, Tirah turned 29. On March 2nd we had a snow day, and then on
March 7th, another heat wave. On March 10th I turned 32. We then
spent the next couple weeks preparing for a concert at Creekside on
March 21st featuring the songs from our new Love Songs album,
"Forever and Eternity." We put together a family band for the
concert, featuring me and Tirah on vocals, me on piano, my mom on
guitar, my sister Roxanne on flute, my sister Tamar on keyboards, my
uncle John on bass, and my friend Matt on drums. It was a lot of
fun! We got it on video tape, so I'm hoping to post some of it to
Youtube some time. Then it feels like our whole family has been
sick ever since. We're just starting to see the light at the end of
that tunnel, which is part of why I haven't been good about writing
Tirah and I have spent a lot of time this year considering a possible
major change for our life. We've spent 4 years now in a
stereotypically role-reversed situation, with me as the stay-at-home
dad, and Tirah as the bread-winner. We are looking into a
possibility that might mean we switch back in the near future. But
nothing is set in stone yet, so all I will say is that the
consideration of this change has been occupying a lot of our time
this year. More on that in future newsletters.
After being sick for 2 weeks, I am REALLY looking forward to throwing
our windows open soon, digging the screens out, going for walks in
the flower-scented air, and stretching our hibernated bodies.
"Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying. You'll find the
bright places where Boom Bands are playing." - Dr. Seuss
Happy Spring everybody!
Jaden (1 and 1/2)
Baby (minus one month, and counting...)
Thursday, February 12, 2009
This isn't the REAL family newsletter yet.
But I wanted to quickly let you all know that Tirah and I have
finished our love songs album!
It's called "Forever and Eternity." And we got it done in time for
Valentine's Day, and the Marriage Conference in Bryn Athyn. Yay!
To hear clips from the album, and/or to read the lyrics, and/or to
learn more about the album, please go to:
The REAL family newsletter will be coming soon, complete with piano-
playing 6-year-olds, and talking 1-and-a-half-year-olds.
Have a great day!