Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This Is Madness! No, This Is Sparta!

In early 1942, a magazine called Illinois High School Athlete was published to inform its readers about the annual high school basketball tournament. Inside that particular issue, educator, member of the Illinois High School Association, and editor of the magazine, Henry Van Arsdale Porter had a poem published, which he entitled "Basketball Ides of March." In this poem, Porter described the insanity of the Illinois high school basketball tournament that included over 900 schools, all playing for one championship. The last few lines of this poem contain the beginnings of a very famous phrase we hear at this time every year.

Now eagles fly and heroes die
Beneath some foreign arch
Let their sons tread where hate is dead
In a happy Madness of March.

As one can see, Porter is credited with originating the phrase "March Madness." Through the years (and a lawsuit brought by the IHSA), the term has come to refer to the Division I college basketball tournament held every March. 

While a 900-team tournament sounds like the epitome of madness, Mr. Porter never saw lunacy like what happened in the Gilpin family during the third month of 2011. To say that the past month has been eventful would be something of a gross understatement. Then, to say that it was all done with an infant in tow would exhaust anyone. Years from now, I have a feeling, I will remember this month as the true "Madness of March."

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
The first event wasn't experienced by Kellee, Brody, or me, but it is mentioned here, because it contributed to the Madness. My brother, Kirk, found out earlier in the year that he had been hired by the Norfolk Southern Company. We were, and are, so excited for him. He had been looking for a job for over a year, and this was a welcomed sight. He went to Atlanta to interview for a management position, then waited for several weeks before receiving the call welcoming him to the team. 

Continuing a small theme of understatements, I will say that he was excited. The madness ensued when he was told some of the places he would be training: Norfolk, Virginia for a few weeks, then a trip to Atlanta for a while. This wasn't to mention the places he may have to travel to "just because" they need him there. He was told that after a year he would be living and working in St. Louis, MO. For him, it appears the Madness is only beginning.

The Place That Launched A Thousand Ships
Earlier this year, my grandmother called to tell me that she, my grandfather, and my 5 year old cousin, Abby, would be going to "The Cabin." This cabin is located in Helen, GA, and is one that they own and rent to those wanting to visit the Bavarian-themed Alpine Village. When it isn't being rented (or really, whenever they want to) they will travel from their home in Gulf Shores, AL, and stay for a few days. It is great, and convenient, that Helen is only a couple of hours away from our home, in Cleveland, TN.

We traveled to Helen and made it just in time for dinner, which was Gulf shrimp chowder, green bean casserole, and grape salad. (The menu items aren't important, but they did serve as a reprieve from the Madness.) The next day we all went to downtown Helen: a quaint town with lots of small shops, beautiful architecture, and the Chattahoochee River (of Alan Jackson fame) running right through it.

We had a great time, spending a few days with my grandparents (Brody's great-grandparents) and my cousin, who took every opportunity to inform Brody that he was now the baby of the family. Just keeping up with her was Madness, in its own right. She would dance around the room, try on several different changes of clothes, show Brody how to crawl, and nudge her way in between my grandmother and Brody. While doing this last one, the following conversation occurred.

Abby: [hitting her Gammy with her elbow]
Gammy: Abby, you are hurting my arm!
Abby: It's not your arm, it's God's!

Touche, Abigail. Well played.

No Sign Of Marc Cohn, Anywhere
Just a few days after getting back from Helen, we loaded up the van, once again. This time we were headed to Memphis, by way of Northport, AL. The reason we were going was to attend the annual lectureship at the Memphis School of Preaching, the place where we lived for the first two years of our married life. It is always good to go to the lectureship, not just because of the spiritual boost you get, but because of all of the friends you get to see, again (some you haven't seen since last year's edition of the lectureship).

This was, obviously, Brody's first lectureship, and I wanted to make the most of it. We introduced him to a lot of great people, and we also started his preacher file. We took pictures of him with several great preachers. My hope is that, years from now, he will be so thankful he had been associated with some of these men, even if he won't remember it. Perhaps in the coming years, we can add updated pictures to the file. Among those with whom Brody appears are Curtis Cates, Garland Elkins, and Tom Holland. 

Growth and Development
It was at the end of this week (April 2) that Brody became 6 months old. He has seen so much in only 6 months, and we have seen even more out of him.

He rolls over whenever he can. Then, not being satisfied with where he is, he will roll over again. Gone are the days of being able to change him without having to use one of your hands to hold him still.

A few weeks ago, Kellee noticed what she thought was a tooth coming in. After a little more investigation, she found that he was, in fact, getting his first tooth! Now, he has both of his front bottom teeth breaking through. I know they hurt him, but he is doing so well with the whole process.

There's a tooth in there!
He now can hold himself up on his hands and knees, like he is going to crawl. He rocks back and forth, wanting to go forward so badly. He then pushes with his hands and goes backwards.

For some time now he has been able to stand up, with some help in the balancing department from someone, of course. He will move his feet to walk, if he is steadied along the way.

It was during this week that he learned he could say "baa baa." He has not let anyone forget he knows how to say it since that time.

Unfortunately, and in a way, fortunately, he has arrived at the "I Don't Recognize You, Therefore I Am Leary Of You" stage. He will still let others hold him, but not as long as he previously would. Soon he's wanting Kellee or me to hold him.

The Sunshine State
The height of the month-long lunacy actually began in the first few days of April, but will be included, for obvious reasons. The three of us traveled to visit good friends in the southern part of the Sunshine State. When I say "southern part," I mean "the southern part." It's way down there!

In the 1880s, Kentucky US Senator, John Stuart Williams founded a small town on the Gulf Coast of Florida. For the next few years, newspapers gave the town its present-day name when they began describing the abundant fishing and beautiful climate as "surpassing that of Naples, Italy." It took us about 130 years, but at the end of March, the three of us made our way to Naples, Florida.

Our first flight was out of Birmingham, AL on Friday, at 9:00 am. Kellee's mom took us to the airport, leaving at 7:30 am. On the way, the Madness reared its ugly head. There was a traffic accident on the interstate. Coupled with the early morning commute, this made us a little late. No worries, however, we made it to the airport at 8:34, plenty of time to board the plane. Unfortunately, the time to check baggage (we had one big bag to check) ended at 8:30! We were forced to change our flight plans, opting for a 3:00 pm flight which put us in Ft. Myers/Naples at 8:00 pm.

Brody had no problem with flying. We took four separate flights over the weekend and he went 4-for-4 in sleeping through the flights. Most of the time he took a bottle while we were taxiing to the runway and was asleep before we were in the air. Kellee and I may have seen all of the Madness, but he slept right through it.

The next morning (Saturday), we had breakfast we our friend, Bobby. He preaches for the church in Naples. We met him and his family while we were in school in Memphis. He showed us around Naples (super nice) and took us by the church builder (even nicer). We ate lunch with him and his family and went back to their house afterwards. Bobby and his wife, Renee, have four children: Sydney, Savannah, Salem, and Sutton. Not one of their children was old enough to remember us when we lived in Memphis, but they warmed up fairly quickly. To say they took to Brody is yet another understatement. "I think Brody is hungry," "Can I hold Brody?" "Does Brody play Wii?" "Brody wants to throw football with me."

The next day (Sunday) we worshipped in Naples. They even asked a visitor (me) to lead singing. We had a great time with everyone and look forward to the next time we can visit with the Neapolitans. In the afternoon we ate lunch with several members at Carrabba's. The chicken marsala was delicious, but little did I know it would be my last meal for 24 hours (more Madness)!

After lunch and Brody's nap, we had about 45 minutes to introduce our little boy to the beach. We hurried to the shore and took a few pictures of him in the sand and putting his feet in the surf.

He really liked the sand, and he always smiles when someone pulls out a camera. He especially liked his new swim trunks and surfing shirt.

He wasn't sure about the water, at first, but soon was enjoying it as much as we were enjoying watching him in it.

We had a wonderful time in Naples, visiting friends, seeing the famous Naples Pier, and getting pictures with Brody at the beach. The whole trip was definitely worth the Madness.

The next morning (Monday) our flight out of Ft. Myers was a 6:00 am, which meant getting up and leaving before 4:00 am. Surprisingly (or maybe it shouldn't be), Brody handled it better than anyone: happy from the hotel to the airport, then asleep from the time we walked onto the plane until we landed in Atlanta. 

H.V. Porter once wrote in Illinois High School Athlete, "When the March madness is on him, midnight jaunts of a hundred miles on successive nights make him even more alert the next day."As I sat in seat 34E holding a sleeping 6 month old, his mother sleeping (or at least trying) in the seat next to me, I started thinking about the Madness of March. While it had been quite a month, and it seems like all we did was rush, there wasn't a moment I would have changed. The "midnight jaunts" were adventures in and of themselves, only to leave us feeling ready for the next to come along. We saw so many people, so much of this country, and so much of each other, that it would be a shame to trade any of it for any thing.  Somewhere over Georgia, I watched the sun rise to meet another day. Another day of Madness. Another day of Meaning. Another day of Memories. Was all of this truly madness, or was this just life sharing itself with us? I, for one, would like to think it was the latter. Because from up here, the Madness is a beautiful thing. And the one enjoying the view is 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Everything I Need To Know, I Learned From A Three Month Old

We've all seen the posters hanging in kindergarten classrooms that proclaim that all of our necessary life lessons were learned before the age of 7. Statements such as "Don't hit people," or "Share things" are always at the top of the list in an attempt to sway your opinion as to the need for any further schooling. These posters have given rise to other renditions with many sources of complete knowledge added at the end: "My Dog," "Fishing," and even "The Wizard of Oz" (e.g. "Faith, Hope, and Love can work wonders, but ruby slippers can't hurt, either").

Our son, Brody, was born on October 2, 2010. As a result, January 2nd was a fairly big milestone. My son was three months old. I had been thinking of a a way to express the past quarter of a year in a blog post, and began to think of some of the things he has learned (holding the pacifier with no help, holding his head up, pulling things towards him, and grabbing the cat when it is too close). At the same time, I tried to think of the things that I had taught him (that his Dad is a nut). I soon realized that I wasn't the one teaching lessons, at this point. For some reason, the "All I Really Needed to Know..." posters kept running through my mind. I realized that instead of being the teacher, I was the pupil for three months. So, with respects to all the others, "All I really needed to know, I learned from a three month old."


Brody has always had a head full of hair. Even before he was born, a particular ultrasound technician could not stop talking about his hair. She pointed to it, circled it titled it on the computer screen (just in case we forgot what it was), and generally couldn't stop talking about it. Now, it seems like he has more than ever. As a result, it's sure to get a little messed up. When you live by the motto Sleep as you lie your hair rarely stays as it should. I've learned, though, that bad days, hair or otherwise, are not as bad as we make them out to be. It doesn't bother him at all that his hairstyle sometimes resembles a cross between Albert Einstein and Carlos Valderrama. He continues to smile and be happy. I've learned that, sometimes, we need just to smile and be happy, regardless of how bad the day is going. It seems to help it be not so bad.  


While he is a very good baby, and rarely cries, he does, on some occasions, get worked up. Sometimes, it happens quickly. Maybe he's preoccupied with the dog, or grinning at Mom, but his whole demeanor changes very quickly. He is grinning, then he stops, then he starts crying. If you don't know better, you might think you did something to him. You might try to soothe him with a pacifier, or stand up and walk with him, or you might lie him down and try to make him grin again. Nothing, however, works. It isn't until he gets that bottle that he stops all the fussing. He doesn't gradually stop, he immediately stops, and acts like nothing has ever been wrong. I've learned that, as much as we get worked up about things, sometimes we need to relax, have something to eat, and let everything calm down. Sure, our lives are filled with pressures and difficulties, but if we just slow down over dinner, or even a snack, those things might not be as bad as they first appeared. 


Anyone who has ever seen Brody smile will tell you: He doesn't do it half-heartedly. He doesn't give a grin out of one side of his face, or even give a fake smile. When he smiles, his whole face smiles. His eye brows stretch, his forehead pulls back, his head sometimes moves from side to side, his tongue sticks out, and he shows all of those beautiful... gums. He's working on the teeth thing, but that will come. I've learned that if you are going to do anything, you have to go with everything you have. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Don't go at it with half of the effort when all your effort makes it that much better. This world would be a much better place if we took a lesson from Brody: Smile with your whole face.


Obviously, Brody as a baby is going to have his attention drawn to everything, because everything is new. He is learning so much, though he is only 3 months old. He hasn't learned to use his hands like he will, so for now he uses them like you or I would use two sticks to pick up something. Whatever is the unfortunate object to be trapped between his arms is squeezed and slowly brought towards his face for closer examination. Only recently has a third step, Put into mouth, been added. I've learned from him that we should take the time to concentrate on the things that we consider small, simple, or mundane. Just because we have done things a thousand times, doesn't mean that they aren't important. Everything is still new to him, and we treated most of the things (and people) around us that way, our lives would have more joy in them. The simple things need as much concentration as the big things. 


I know that people ("experts" who write books) say that at some point during the next few months Brody will start recognizing people. With that recognition comes the "unrecognition" of many. For right now, I love the fact that Brody will let anyone hold him. It's as if he feels that, as long as it's all right with Mom and Dad, it's all right with him. Everyone who wants to hold him gets to do so. Usually each holder gets to enjoy a face smile (see #3 above) and might get a chance to rearrange some out of place wisps of hair (see #1 above). I know that this might soon vanish for a time and he will only let certain people hold him (which has its perks, too, as long as you are a member of the club), but for now I am learning that we shouldn't be strangers to people. It doesn't matter who someone is, where he comes from, or what he is wearing. Everyone deserves a smile and to feel like he is important. Brody knows that all ready. I guess I just need to relearn some things. 


I have tried my best, from the very beginning, to be one of those parents that changes diapers. Some (perhaps those of other generations) leave those to be done by someone else, more than likely the mother. I didn't want to do that. Kellee does so much around the house, preparing the food, cleaning up afterwards (and that's just with me!) that I want to do what I can. So, among the things I can do, is change diapers. Unfortunately, Brody is much better at making them than I am at changing them. The key about diapers is this: Avoid the big mess! Now I know when that last sentence is read that there will be two main reactions. The first will be from those parents of children who are older than Brody. The second will be from those who either have no children, or who have children who are younger than Brody. Those in the first group will say "You haven't seen anything, yet!" Agreed, parenthood is all about relativity, which is why his "big" messes are big. The second group will understand that when it comes to babies, messes are messes. They happen. They are unavoidable. The main thing is that you avoid the big ones. We have had a few: He has peed on the TV from his changing table. Then there are the times when the diaper isn't tight. Then Mommy gets to do one of the things she does: Laundry. With parenthood, of course, comes many messes. Some are your fault, some are not. The most important thing is that when they happen, you clean them up, even if they aren't your fault. 


From a very early age, Brody has been able to hold his head up very well. It isn't without its wobbles, but he tries. Now, he hardly moves when he sits upright while being held. While this isn't something one thinks about often, sometimes, holding our heads up is an accomplishment in and of itself. I've learned that sometimes we need to be satisfied with simply holding our heads up. We attempt so many things from day to day. Many of us challenge ourselves with things we aren't sure we can do. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. When the latter happens, we need to get back up and hold our heads up. Doing that is an accomplishment. 


Our daily routine is almost a habit by now. I get up with Brody (usually between 7 and 8:30) and let Kellee sleep for a while. Then she gets up and I go to work. I come home in the afternoon and we take turns with him until it is time for bed. (There are a lot of naps and meal times in there that I did not mention.)  Most of the time he likes having the attention. If I am watching TV or looking at something else, he will do everything he can to get me to look at him. I am, of course, happy to oblige and often rewarded with a face smile. Sometimes, however, he seems content to be left alone. He might be in his bouncy chair, lying on the bed, or placed snugly on a chair. He snaps out of it after a few minutes, but for that time, he just seems to be content. I've learned that we should sit and be still once in a while. Being still does not mean doing nothing. It might give us time to notice some of the small things we have been overlooking (see #4 above), present us with a way to clean up a big mess (#6), and more times than not, end with a face smile. 


Brody has grown to like his Bumbo. For those outside of "the know," a Bumbo is a seating apparatus that allows small children to sit up right. It gives them the support they need when they can't support themselves. Certainly, he will one day outgrow it. But, I know that there will be more Bumbos for him. They may not be blue, squishy, and small, but they will all support him. He will have friends, teachers, and, of course, lots of family members who will support him in whatever he does. I've learned that I should never outgrow my Bumbo. I have so many people around me that support me in the things that I do. Outgrowing them leave me without the support I need. We would all do well to recognize our Bumbos once in a while. And whatever we do, don't outgrow them. 


Without a family Brody wouldn't be here. So to say that family is important is kind of an understatement. But to see all of his family when they are with him is something very special. One can't help but acknowledge that family is important. In every way, I have learned that family is very important. Could you ask for anything more?
As one can quickly surmise, when it comes to imparting life lessons, I am a little behind. Not to worry, his mother and I have a few yet to teach. For now, however, this young 3 month old has taught me more than I thought he could have. It's just another reason why I am