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Joel Minor

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amazing [Oct. 11th, 2009|09:14 pm]
Joel Minor
Last night, around dinner time, Mom called from her new TracFone. I knew she and Dad were driving back from a trip to Quebec, so I figured they were just saying hi from the road. Mom's reception was bad, she kept cutting out, but I could tell something was wrong, especially after she said, "I have a lot of news."

Turns out Dad fell down a 25-foot cliff that morning, straight into a fast moving stream. He and Mom were hiking at a roadside stop, and he slipped on some wet leaves. He landed on his shoulder and banged his head, but was able to pull himself out of the stream. Mom yelled to him to make sure he was safe, then ran to the car and drove to a gas station where they could call for help. It took EMS an hour and a half after getting there to air lift him out of there.

The EMS guy who waited with him while the rest of the crew figured it out said over 95% of people would have been killed from that fall, probably by hitting their heads on the rocks. He must have hit in just the right place, in terms of his body and the ground. I wonder how this will affect the rest of his life--something like this has to be life-changing.

Mom said she thought she was watching him die, and the scene kept replaying in her head. She almost fell off the cliff herself, trying to see and hear him--she hung onto a tree branch. Turns out he has a badly bruised lung and buttocks, 3 major head wounds, and lots of fractures. He has many broken ribs, pelvis, and lots of hairline cracks/breaks on his back. Amazingly, with all that, they discharged him this morning! I can't believe they let him out, but it sounds like insurance wouldn't cover another night in the hospital. Typical. Apparently x-rays didn't show anything major enough to keep him there, but I sure hope this wasn't a mistake, especially since they have a long drive home yet.
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where's your...? [Aug. 30th, 2009|10:51 am]
Joel Minor
How do little kids know this? I think it's pretty common well before age two--pointing to parts of their body upon the question, "Where's your...?" It's not like most parents sit in front of their kids and say, "okay, this is your mouth, this is your nose..." or, at least I didn't. Maybe Angie does that while I'm at work! And it's not like we use the words and point to the places when talking to each other.

Is it one of those things like playing "peek-a-boo" and making attempts at animal noises when asked "what does a ____ say?"--something just about every kid goes through early on, before really learning to talk? While every kid is of course different, there seem to be constants. They're fascinated by balls and by trains, they bounce to music, love to wave bye-bye...there must be others I'm not thinking of right now...

All part of becoming self-aware, I guess. I could pick up a book on baby development but I'd rather just wonder.

We stumped her on shoulder, though.

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spooky [Aug. 16th, 2009|11:05 pm]
Joel Minor
This afternoon I was working at home on a digital collection project about the Branch Davidians, entering metadata for documents written by a couple of the survivors of the federal assault on their home in 1993. Eli and Angie got back from the swimming pool, and while Angie was taking a shower Eli hung out beside me at the desk. Out of the blue he said, "when everyone dies it will be the end of the world."

I was taken aback, not only at the comment in and of itself, but at the coincidence about what I was working on--the writings of an apocalypse-centered church. I asked him what made him say that. He paused, looking very serious, and said quietly, "the cats." "What?" I asked, not understanding. He lied down on the floor and said, "the cats made me say it."

Great, our new kittens, seemingly so sweet, playful and innocent, are sending telepathic messages to my son about everyone on earth dying!

Actually, he likes to blame the cats or his sister for anything he might have done wrong...but still, it was a weird comment coming from a four year old, and at the time it came.
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eli's favorite record [Aug. 11th, 2009|11:08 pm]
Joel Minor
The other morning Eli woke up, walked out to the kitchen where I was eating breakfast, and sang, "all thoughts are prey to some beast, all thoughts are prey to some beast!" Then a minute later, "and I am a child of linger on, I peer through the window gone."

I could immediately relate. The songs from Bill Callahan's latest masterpiece, "Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle" have been running through my head randomly lately too. That's what happens when one listens to the same record almost every day for a month or more. Usually I'm not one to play a record too many times in a row, even if I really love it, for fear of it going stale. Luckily, this one hasn't yet, even though I usually comply with Eli's insistent requests for "the record I like." I find I crave it almost as much as he does.

One night a week or two ago, he and I weren't getting along. We were upset with each other most of the evening. After he settled down and I read him a couple books in bed, he said quietly before drifting to sleep, "Dad, we didn't play 'too many birds' tonight." (That's his favorite song on the record.) His comment touched me, and reminded me of how much music means to him--how it's what will soothe him and make him bond with me, more than anything else.

He's taken a keen interest in my records for at least a couple years now, wanting me to hold him up so he can watch it spin, or to chase him around the room while it plays. Last summer he really took a shine to Baby Dee's "Safe Inside the Day" and Bonnie Prince Billy's "Lie Down in the Light," but only a few songs off of each. There have been other songs here and there off of other albums, but not until Callahan's has he connected with an entire one.

We took a two-day car trip to Kentucky and back in July. I had the idea of making a playlist of his favorite songs so far. He loved it, and it went a long way toward keeping him entertained. I could tell afterward it meant a lot to him that I did that. As with any kid who likes music, if it's catchy and he can sing along, he's all for it, and wants it over and over and over. And I think that's what "Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle" has going for it--almost every song is catchy and sing-along-able. But unlike most music made for kids, I can enjoy it too, given that Callahan is such a wry songwriter, with great depth hidden under simple melodies and phrases.

That's not to say there haven't been a couple trouble spots for a kid's ears--namely, an instance of the f-word (which I strategically try to sing over with an alternate word), and the last song, a nine-minute epic with the chorus "it's time to put god away," which troubled him for a while (he has been learning about God at the Episcopal pre-school), but we have fun with it by putting in other words, like "it's time to put dad away," or "it's time to put maddie to bed."

I originally was going to write something more generally about music in this entry, but this record specifically has become such a keepsake already of this moment in eli's life, I had to get something down before the moment inevitably passes.

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2008.03 [Mar. 17th, 2008|10:36 pm]
Joel Minor
You just love to fly, Madeline. Just about every time I hold you you push yourself forward until you are lying flat on your tummy with me holding you from underneath. Then I start running around the living room with you like that, away from my body, your head held up and strands of drool dangling out your mouth. Eli then gets in on the fun by running around in front of us, pretending like the flying baby is going to catch up to him and spit up on him!

You smile and laugh at Eli all the time, even when he's in one of his morose moods. Having an older sibling will undoubtedly make you want to do things quicker, like crawling, walking, etc. We got out Eli's old high chair (which he stopped using only since you were born and Mom was here and started putting him in a booster seat instead) so you can be upright and more level with us while we eat.

This past weekend you started rolling, and now it's like you are impatient to get totally mobile. You tend to roll over from your back to your tummy, then get stuck there, and let out a crazy combination of wails, screeches, howls, squawks and squeals, like an old alley cat getting tortured. Eli thinks that's pretty funny, just like us, although at some point we come to your rescue. It must be tough being a baby! Lots of work to figure out how your body works and to coordinate your limbs.
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2008.02 [Mar. 6th, 2008|09:14 pm]
Joel Minor
We are in a hotel room in Corpus Christi, kinda bummed about the lousy weather, which kept us inside longer than we would have liked today. We went to the Texas State Aquarium in the morning, paid a total of $45 to get in. Of all the attractions--dolphins, jellyfish, stingrays, otters, birds, sea horses, etc, the highlight for you, Elijah, was the elevator! Pushing those up and down buttons is quite a thrill. That's what you like most about the hotel too. You were excited all week to "go on our trip," but I think you over-hyped it in your mind. In fact, you still bring it up like it's still going to happen. News for you--this is it!

Tomorrow we hope to visit a beach, but with the cold front moved in, it might be too cold and windy. We came here so I could go to the Texas State Historical Association meeting, but the sessions so far have been less than exciting. I hate to leave the family cooped up in the hotel room while I am gone, too. I went to the Texas Oral History Association reception today and got to talk to a few longtime members. They are excited to have new blood. I hope to someday get our writers oral history project going at work, but lately I've been working on a grant proposal to create a website about the Branch Davidian standoff. Seems I'll never leave that behind, although it will be exciting and give me lots of good experience with digitization and online exhibits.

Elijah, since starting daycare at "Miss Laura's" you have really come out of your shell around other kids. You are not so timid around them and love to play with random ones at the playground and with the kids around the neighborhood. You still love to charm adults, though, and use catch phrases like "of course" when conversing with them. You love to play games with us most of all--Memory, Cat in the Hat, Go Fish, Candyland are your favorites. We forgot to bring any games on the trip so yesterday we found a Target and picked you up another version of Memory. It's helped you (and us) stave off going stir-crazy in the hotel room!

Madeline, you love to watch us, especially your big brother, and give out big smiles. You fuss when you are not getting attention yourself, when you hear stuff going on but can't see it. You twist your body around in an effort to see, and cry out until one of us picks you up or at least shows our face to you. You love to gnaw on blankets and on Eli's old, stuffed inchworm toy. Your teeth must be coming in!

I find it hard to resist you. In the morning, even when I'm in a hurry to get to work, I feel like I need to hold you if just for a second, and when I get home I have the urge to pick you up. If the day goes by and I haven't held you yet I feel a little uneasy. Best of all is having you beside me on the bed and listening to you gaa and goo in an obvious attempt at talking. I have to admit it can be trying to put up with Eli whining or talking back, which makes the baby experience all the more delightful! A much simpler pleasure.

I've started planting around the house already. First, Joe helped me plant a roughleaf dogwood tree, which I hope will eventually provide us with a bit more privacy on the east side of the house. We were going to make it the placenta tree, but found out you're supposed to bury the placenta first then wait a year before planting a tree, because the placenta is so nutrient rich it will kill the tree if the nutrients haven't had a chance to soak into the soil first. So, the placenta still sits in our freezer. Then, I planted a few more shrubs last weekend, which, if they survive, will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. We're still getting cold weather off and on, so hopefully the shock won't be too much for the plants.
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2008.01 [Jan. 31st, 2008|09:18 pm]
Joel Minor
I can't believe it's been Christmas Day since I last posted an entry, and here we are at the last day of January. Work has steadily picked up, and of course we're still adjusting to life with two little ones. Seems like there's so little time to ourselves, with Angie still working in the evenings and on the weekends.

Madeline, you have lost that puffy newborn look and have picked up that chubby baby look. You pay attention to your surroundings much more, and welcome us with open mouthed smiles. It is quite heart-warming! You still want no part of a pacifier, and we haven't bothered trying to feed you with a bottle filled with breast milk, mostly because that's working out okay so far. Thankfully you are spitting up less and are more content with lying in a swing or on a mat with baby things hanging above you. That helps when we are trying to get supper made or tend to Eli's needs. You still prefer to be held upright against a shoulder, though, being walked around. You don't have much patience for us sitting down with you when you're in the mood for us walking with you!

Elijah, you started part-time daycare at Laura's house just up the street. At first you were tentative and the other kids made you nervous. But from the reports we are getting you are quickly learning to participate and have fun. We will keep you going over there until the summer, then hopefully start you at a church daycare in the fall, mostly because your friend Georgia (Laura's daughter) will start kindergarten then and you would probably be the oldest one at Laura's at that point. We want to progressively get you around more kids your own age or slightly older, and into other, structured learning/playing environments. It looks like you won't get to start kindergarten until the fall of 2010, since the cut-off date is Sept. 1. By that time you should be raring to go and easily on the same learning level or above of your classmates.

Since last entry we've gotten new furniture in the living room. We came into some money unexpectedly and decided it was time to let our ugly, well-used furniture go. We donated it to Salvation Army. Eli, you wanted the men who came to pick it up to stay and play with you! Then, just a couple days ago, we got a new TV. Angie's parents were here this past week and they surprised us by buying us one for our birthdays. I can't wait to watch movies on it. Again, it was time to let our outdated TV go. We'll probably just donate it too.

Eli, you had fun playing with the gliders your grandpa brought over, and of course, throwing the football around with him and taking him along on your trike rides. You also enjoyed playing Memory with your grandma, and are starting to get a real competitive streak in your blood with that game. Grandma and Grandpa also bought you a bunch of new Thomas the Tank Engine toys. Something about trains that kids just love. It's fun to listen to you play with them and have them talk to each other.

Sometimes I look at you, Eli, or listen to you, and am struck by how much of a boy you have become. Maybe it's partly due to having Madeline around now, and how little she is, although she's almost doubled in size herself! Eli, you are articulate, but I also think that having Madeline around has made you less willing to express yourself with words than with whining and shouting. I guess you figure, if it works for the baby, it should work for you!

It was funny (though not at the time) when we took you both in to the doctor for check ups and shots. Maddie, you had no idea the shots were coming, so all the screaming happened afterwards. Eli, you knew quite well what what happening, so all the upheaval happened beforehand. It took three of us to hold you down and administer the shot, then, as soon as it was over, you stopped, as if to say, "that was it? not so bad." But of course, you have made it clear you don't want to go back there and let that happen again!

Madeline, sometimes I really want to move time forward even faster and see what you will be like at Elijah's age. It's still hard to tell what you will look like and act as a toddler. I also look forward to you and your brother being able to play together. But when it comes down to it, time moves fast enough as it is, and I'm just enjoying all the pleasures that having a beautiful, healthy baby around brings.
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2007.19 [Dec. 25th, 2007|09:46 pm]
Joel Minor
Christmas Day. Started as just another day, as far as Eli was concerned. Around 7:30, you come into the room and stand at my side of the bed to ask if I want to get up. When it's obvious I need a little coaxing, you go and get my bathrobe from the closet and put it on top of me. Then you go get my slippers and put them on top of the robe. Lastly, you get my glasses from the bathroom and put them on the night stand. At this point I know it's time for me to get up so you can dish out your "pink cereal" (cherry granola--your favorite).

Even though you had plugged in the Christmas tree before coming to get me, as usual, you had forgotten that this was the morning to finally open all those presents under the tree. So we all ate breakfast, and after reminding you a number of times, you were ready to start ripping and tearing. Of course, the fun for a three year old (at least this one) wasn't so much seeing what was inside, but the act of unwrapping them all, one after another, regardless of whom they were supposed to be for.

Since Grandma left on the 12th we've been adjusting to just the four of us. Since Madeline is right there now, making noises, you are unwilling to crawl in bed with us in the middle of the night after you wake up, and since Grandma is gone you can't snuggle up with her. So you prod me out of bed, somewhere around 2:00, and I follow you to your bed, where we get in and fall back asleep. As soon as I wake up again, a half hour or so later, I sneak back to my bed. Often you are back in there again, around 5:00 or 6:00, to do it all over again.

Needless to say, it's taxing on me, and we are going to have to figure out a new routine before I start going back to work in a week from now. We've tried to bring this up to you numerous times, but you deny any need to change your precious routine. I foresee another difficult adjustment period, for all of us. And not just regarding nighttime habits. You are going to have a hard time sharing Mom's daytime attention with Madeline, who of course will demand a lot. So we are planning on getting you into a part time daycare or preschool, for your benefit and for Mom's.

Since Grandma left I've been cooking more, and it's kind of fun to get into that again. Today I planned out, purchased and cooked a Christmas dinner. I was quite a bit hung over from the wine the night before, but pulled it off (with Angie's help, thankfully). I needed a nap after that, much to your chagrin, Eli. There were new toys and games with which to play.

I recently read a story in the latest Parabola ("The New World" issue, which I mentioned came on the day you were born, Madeline) about a young man's struggle to figure out the world and the universe, who gets advice from his father to first find his plot of land, so to speak, and then from that spot discover the bigger picture's meaning. That story spoke to me because I can often be impatient and frustrated with myself for not having gotten enough reading, writing, traveling, self-examination done before now being given this immense responsibility of providing for and raising a family. I can understand better now the worth of having my feet planted firmly in place as a way of productively searching inward and outward for existential or metaphysical answers to life.

It still will be an exercise in patience, for the search will be delayed, prolonged, adjusted, but it gives me a sense of legitimacy and normalcy that I didn't have when I was trying to do it all on my own. It's hard to explain, but it comes down to changing into new routines and finding inspiration in new places. I may feel too tired or be unable to find enough time these days to pontificate much and be a productive writer, but this phase won't last forever either, and if I pay enough attention, I will have gained plenty more experience to produce rewarding output when time and energy are more plentiful.

Madeline, your day today was of course like any other to you, being a mere six weeks old. I love having you around--the wide-eyed faces and the cooing, grunting noises you make, the way your awareness seems to expand a little every week, along with the length and weight of your body. It's crazy how quickly a newborn changes. I try to enjoy each day with you and not let my petty, adult worries distract me too much. Just holding you to my chest, your warm head with its soft skin and fuzzy hair against my cheek, is so soothing. There is a power you as a newborn have, in that helplessness and innocence, which surely gives me a sense of place and purpose.
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2007.18 [Dec. 1st, 2007|11:19 pm]
Joel Minor
We finished the bookshelves four days ago. I have to say they turned out pretty well. The finishing touches helped me feel especially good about the whole project, because they cover up the little imperfections that were causing me stress along the way. Now that it's all over I feel like it was well worth my time. I say that because I was often not feeling that way throughout the process. Now I just want to sit in that room and admire them! So I moved a chair in there and set up some speakers for the iPod. Make it a reading room that hopefully will get used regularly.

The shelves sure give us a lot of space. Right now we have all our DVDs, 7" records and books on there and there's plenty of room to spare. It makes me want to go out and buy more books! I even reserved a few shelves for Eli's books and DVDs. Speaking of you, Eli, we went out and got you some toy tools because you were so intent on exploring my toolbox. It was hard to get upset because you just wanted so badly to help, but on the other hand, many of those tools a three year old should not be touching.

As expected, time is moving quickly. Madeline is already two and a half weeks old. Grandma only has a little over a week left to stay with us. It will be hard for Elijah to see her go. She has become an integral part of your life now, from when you wake up in the middle of the night to when you go to bed. She is so adept at helping you learn new words and concepts. I fear Angie and I will be too worn down and distracted to give you such attention. You are going through a hard time right now, having to share the attention of your parents and accept this strange new creature that is your little sister.

You seem so much now like a little person, full of emotion and perception and personality. Right now, though, in this transitional time, you seem full of anxiety, rebelling against every little command and circumstance. Neither Angie nor I are known for our patience, so I foresee a period of adjustment for all of us. It's up to us, as the adults and parents, to show logic and restraint, so we have our years of experience cut out for us.

Madeline, you are already showing signs of a similar headstrong nature. I know newborns are alike in insisting on their immediate needs being met right away, lest much noise be made, but your one-track mind about feeding is something to behold. You are a determined baby girl, and though content so much of the time, you don't put up with delays in feeding. You can root with the best of them!

Elijah, you gave Madeline a kiss on the head twice today, completely of your own accord, which was very sweet and a good sign that you are not only accepting your baby sister but appreciate her too. Today when driving back from Gruene and she was wailing like there was no tomorrow to be fed, you, sitting beside her, rested your head against Grandma and quietly waited out the storm. A couple times today I heard you repeat what Grandma has said to you: "If she cries, she cries." You are catching on, I think, to the concept that some things you are powerless to change and by accepting them as they are, they are not so stressful or scary after all. That's a lesson everyone has to continue to learn, well into maturity.
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2007.17 [Nov. 19th, 2007|10:36 pm]
Joel Minor
Madeline, you are a beautiful, colorful, healthy baby. When awake you move your eyes slowly about, with your mouth often open wide, rooting for mom's breast. You make the cutest grunting noises, and occasionally belt out a short cry. Mostly you are so content, wriggling your arms and legs and even trying to lift your head if we have you in our arms. You are already up to birth weight. For a couple days we were concerned because you weren't pooping, but once you got going you haven't looked back! It flows in one end and out the other!

Elijah, you are somewhat dismayed and nervous about your little sister. A couple days ago Angie took her friend's advice and gave you a disposable camera and said it was from Madeline. You proceeded to take all sorts of photos, of her and of us and anything else that happened to be in eyeshot. You were so cute trying to aim it with both eyes open and you didn't stop until the roll was done. That helped to warm you up to Madeline but it's still tough for you sharing attention and having your mother be out of commission while she recuperates. Your grandma, though, has done wonders in making you feel involved and intellectually stimulated.

Perhaps against better judgment, I've decided to utilize this time off from work to build bookshelves in the guest room. Mom is a big help with that too, although she is just as inexperienced with such a thing as I am. We are still able to clean and cook for Angie, but I hope I am not neglecting you, Eli, in the process during this crucial time of change. You get upset so easily and are almost always underfoot. I am trying to maintain patience. Tonight it was nice to be in the garage staining the wood while you rode your tricycle around the driveway singing nursery rhymes to yourself. Tomorrow I want to get a set of toy tools for you so you can participate in the project, much like you do with your toy vacuum and toy lawn mower. It's so touching the way a child wants to emulate an adult, especially his parent.

And of course I don't want to miss out on this last-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cherish a newborn baby, so, Madeline, I hold you whenever I can, during those brief stints between sleep and nursing. I love your pink, soft skin and expressive face and voice. We all agree you look so much like Elijah did! It is therapeutic to just sit and hold you or even to change your diaper. I love the way your legs stay folded up, like a frog, or how you quack like a duck. What a wonder you are. That's all I can say right now. I hope to go into more details on that wonder when I'm not so tired.

Oh, and the day of your birth, I received my new issue of Parabola. The theme is "The New World." How appropriate! It reminded me of getting the "Marriage" issue at the end of January of 2004 when Angie and I were first expecting Elijah and had just started planning our wedding. I love those coincidences. On Sunday Eli, Grandma and I went to the SMUUF service and were pleasantly surprised to see a picture of Madeline in the bulletin. We of course will save it for you. Everyone there was so happy for us. There's nothing like a newborn baby to make people feel like celebrating. It's funny because my mom is telling just about every stranger she meets--clerks in the stores, and the like. Even they smile and congratulate me.
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