Friday, October 31, 2008


Lyla's first Halloween!! So exciting! No need for much commentary. Here's the run down:

5:00 pm - Dinner with the neighbors
6:00 pm - Trick or treating (we went to a total of three houses, not really that exciting for kids under the age of two).
6:20 pm - Back home to give out candy
7:30 pm - Over-stimulation achieved! Time for bed!

Here's the pictures:

Lyla getting dressed:

Lyla and our neighbor Ian:

Posing with mommies:

Lyla kept breaking parts of the pumpkin stem off and putting them in her mouth.

Goofing around while waiting for dinner:

Being silly with Dad during dinner:

Headed out trick-or-treating:

What a silly bear:

Alright Dads! Now we're talking. Trick-or-treating is great!

Sitting handing out candy with Andy and Mandy:

Posing in our neighbor's fake cemetery:

Look mom! I'm scary:

Grave digging!! Fun!!

We also carved pumpkins this year, though Lyla wasn't part of the process. I was feeling industrious so I tried something my mom taught us when we were kids where you carve a relief of a picture into the surface of the pumpkin. Being one of those nerdy dads who's completely wrapped around his daughter's finger, you'll never guess what i carved a picture of:

You can see the original here.

And here is it all lit up:

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's that time of year

Freaking winter!! I tell ya. I love the changing seasons, the trees, the crispness of the air, that winter smell. I even like snow. But one major difference between here and San Diego is how many freaking time we get sick because of how freaking cold it is. I think last winter I got a total of five severe colds. It isn't even November and I've already had one... and it's turned into a sinus infection. Ugh! Nothing quite like having your teeth hurt because of a sinus infection.

I will tell you, the only thing worse than having a cold is having a young child with a cold. So here's a recap of our last two weeks. Ready? Katherine gets sick, down for three days. Kevin gets sick, down for three days. Katherine gets food poisoning, down for two days. Lyla get's sick, down for three days. It was a dark dark time. Especially because when you weren't sick, you were worn down by having to take care of a sick spouse and a baby. Not fun. Fortunately, we're on the road to recovery.

I think the hardest was dealing with sick Lyla. She's never been sick like this and she just seemed so helpless. Especially at night because she was uncomfortable and thus didn't want to sleep. Which meant, no sleep for us. Fortunately the recommended treatment for a baby with a cold really worked. It is: steam, salt water, and suction. After the first night of being up with her, I wasn't shy about administering it (even though Lyla really didn't like it).

For us, steam was either running the humidifier and trying to get her in the path of its vent or taking her in the shower and letting it run hot. So over the last few days, Lyla took three showers, which she liked moderately more than her baths so it may become part of the routine. For salt water, we bough a nose sprayer designed for children. Of course Lyla did not like the intrusion of me jamming it in her nostril and had to be held down to administer it. Though I think she recognized the good it was doing because she would lean forward to line her nose up to it, but then she'd turn away when it got near her face as if she had suddenly realized what was about to happen.

Suction consisted of post-salt water, sticking an aspirator (a rubber bulb with a nozzle on one end... kind of like a tiny turkey baster) in a nostril, releasing the squeeze bulb and drawing out... (what's the polite word for snot? mucous?) mucous. That girl had a lot of mucous. She also had no hesitation about how much she dislikes the aspirator. Not fun trying to pin her down and jam something in her nose. All while being gentle and reassuring. Especially when your reward is mucous. But despite the discomfort and potential trauma, Lyla's health improved quickly and she's almost past it (she is sleeping through the night again).

So the pictures are of Lyla up late because she couldn't sleep. Sad because of the cold and being tired, yet somehow still in a good mood. Glad to be reading books with mom and dad.

And this picture is just a taste of all the cute pictures of Lyla in winter gear that you can expect over the coming months.

Also, Friday is Lyla's first Halloween and I guarantee you that if you check back in in the coming days you will not be disappointed by how freaking cute she is in her costume. Yay baby costumes!!! Oooh, Lyla's going to be 11 months next week. Do I have to stop referring to her as a baby?

Final count: 4 uses of the word "freaking"; 4 uses of the word "mucous". I smell a Pulitzer... actually I don't smell anything. Freaking mucous!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's a boy!!

Or at least it will be sometime around March 17, 2009. For all y'all (that's southern for "those of you") who didn't know, Katherine's pregnant!! Again!! I know!! I can hardly believe it either!! Especially because Lyla and her little brother are only going to be 15 months apart in age. Next year is going to be CRAZY!!

Anyway, yesterday we went in for the ultrasound and the baby looks real healthy. We also found out the child's gender (we like to know the gender. I respect those who wait to find out a lot but Katherine and I both really enjoy knowing). During the ultrasound the little guy was being shy but the tech was able to get pretty good confirmation that he's a he. I personally hadn't spent much time before the ultrasound speculating about the gender, mainly because I didn't want to expose myself to the possibility of being excited. And also because I remember the rush of emotion when we found out Lyla was a girl and just the onslaught of anticipated future Daddy/Daughter experiences that came flooding in.

And yesterday the same thing happened. We saw that he's a boy and immediately I started thinking about my little man and playing catch and wrestling and teaching him to work on stuff and teaching him to be respectful and polite and chivalrous. It was (and continues to be great). Another thing I'm excited about is that he's the first boy among Katherine and my siblings. He has an older sister and two older girl cousins. Man are they going to terrorize him. It will be so much fun.
We've already received a number of suggestions for names from our family. Fortunately we have a lot of great names among the males in both our families. Right now the working name is "Michael Jeff-Jeff Stephen IsTheBest David Robot Awesome Dude 3000 Ring". Katherine and I are going to keep the real name to ourselves (probably) until he's born (like we did with Lyla), but think that might be easier said than done this time.

Anyway, we're super excited and it was so great to see him on the ultrasound. He's so cute. I can't wait to meet him.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lyla's new word

Our routine most nights is: a little before 8 pm, Lyla and I head upstairs for "night night." She usually waves (not necessarily to anyone) as we say "night night" as we're going up the stairs. We go into her room, turn the lamp on low and grab her pajamas and a diaper. We then head into the bathroom where I was her face, hands, and feet, change her diaper, pretend to eat her hands and feet, and put on her pj's. We then say "night night" to Lyla in the mirror, then I lean her down so she can switch off the bathroom light. We say "night night bathroom", "night night hallway", "night night stairs", and "night night door". Then we sit in her chair and give her a bottle.

Every night, as she's eating I pray for her. I pray that God will pour his grace upon her, that she would know him, that she will lead a life of love and obedience to him and that he would be glorified in her life. I pray for wisdom, humility, love and patience as parents. I pray for protection, health, and growth. I pray for our family and the different people in our lives. I then thank God for his grace and mercy, his love, his Spirit, and his Son. And then I say "amen".

Some nights I finish before she does, some nights she finishes before I do. I then burp her, and then lay her in my arms. I say "night night", carry her to her crib, tell her I love her and set her in with her bear.

Tonight she finished her bottle a little before I finished praying so I wiped her mouth and sat her up as I finished my prayer by saying, "... and thank you for your Son, and it's in his name we pray. Amen."

And tonight, for the first time ever, Lyla replied (clear as day) "Ah-men."

God is amazing.

Nap time.

As Lyla gets bigger little behaviors/mannerisms/etc. start developing that make her seem more and more like a little girl (as opposed to a baby). For example, when sleeping, she will role all around in her crib often ending up in some really funny sleeping positions. See for yourself:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Simple pleasures


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 08 - understanding poverty is the first step to solving the problem.

Today is Blog Action Day 08, an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Its aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.

I signed up to participate because poverty is something that we (the Rings) have been thinking a lot about recently. There are a number of things in our lives that have raised our awareness of poverty: our church is located in a poor neighborhood and we've been more involved in outreach ministries; the recent economic hullabaloo has set a lot of people back financially; we live in an economically distressed state (I'm referring to Michigan); and we live in an economically distressed state (I'm referring to the impact that starting your own business has on your income stream). But most importantly, I personally cannot think about the scandalous grace bestowed (undeservingly) upon my by my Lord and Savior and not be moved to take part in His mission to rescue the poor and the suffering in this world. Especially because of all the blessings that I do have that make me rich beyond my wildest dreams (what blessings are those? just take a look at the pictures in this blog. I definitely don't deserve a family as wonderful as Katherine and Lyla).

For me, there are so many things that I thought about posting like how business can be a platform for raising people out of poverty, or how we in America really are shielded from the levels of extreme poverty that exist throughout the world. But I would rather spend this time addressing what I believe is a major weakness in most efforts to address poverty: a limited understanding of what poverty is.

If you're like most people (myself included) then you probably think about poverty solely in terms of financial resources, or rather, the lack of financial resources. Based on that definition of poverty it is natural to think that if we can create mechanism for poor people to get financial resources (charity, job creation, job training, etc. etc.) then they'll be able to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and build a better life for themselves. In perusing the different blogs that are participating in Blog Action Day, I see this way of addressing poverty is prevalent.

Unfortunately, this definition of poverty is limiting and leads to ineffective efforts as is evident in the fact that poverty still exists. In over 50 years of coordinated, global charitable efforts aimed at eradicating poverty, over $2.3 trillion has been spent with little to show for it. Efforts based on false assumptions about poverty are ineffective because they do not speak to the true problem which is bigger than just lack of money. I believe (and hope you will think this way too) that if we are to effectively love and serve the poor, we must approach them from a way that recognizes and understands the nature of the challenge.

Since I am at my core an engineer (thanks Dad!!), I believe the first step of solving any problem is correctly defining the problem. Katherine and I were recently introduced to a book (thanks Stephen and Aunt Vi!) that, more than any other material, opened our eyes to the nature of poverty and provided a simple but powerful framework that has revolutionized how we are going about solving the problem. The book is A Framework for Understanding Poverty, by Ruby Payne. I highly (HIGHLY) recommend that everyone read this book. I will not try and cover everything that the book goes into but would like to share what (for me) was a mind-blowing revelation about true poverty that shifted my whole paradigm and enabled me to understand poverty in a completely different light. To start, Payne expands the definition of poverty in a way that captures the root of the problem:
Poverty is the extent to which an individual does without resources.

Payne identifies eight vital resources:
1. Financial – having the money to purchase goods and services. While not the only resource involved, it is obviously one of the most crucial for helping persons out of poverty.
2. Emotional – being able to choose and control emotional responses, particularly to negative situations, without engaging in self-destructive behavior. Emotional resources are especially important in helping persons develop the stamina and perseverance necessary to learn and adapt to the new hidden rules and to keep them from slipping into old habit patterns.
3. Mental – having the mental abilities and acquired skills (reading, writing, computing) to deal with daily life. Literacy and other mental and cognitive capabilities enable persons to be
more self-sufficient.
4. Spiritual – believing in divine purpose and guidance. Regardless of one’s particular faith tradition (or lack thereof), spiritual resources help one discover a purpose to living and see oneself as capable and having worth and value.
5. Physical – having physical health and mobility. This again contributes to self-sufficiency.
6. Support systems – having friends, family and backup resources available in times of need. This resource may include emotional, financial, academic, informational or other practical supports, such as babysitting.
7. Relationships/role models – for children especially, having frequent access to adults who are appropriate, who are nurturing to the child and who do not engage in self-destructive behavior. Young people especially need positive role models, and relationships have been found to contribute significantly to learning.
8. Knowledge of hidden rules – knowing the unspoken cues and habits of a group. As indicated above, remaining unaware of the tacit rules of the middle class may severely hamper one’s ability to achieve success in school or the marketplace.
One other thing that Payne talks about is how there are two types of poverty: Generational and Situational; acknowledging that someone can become poor due to changing circumstances (death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, etc), whereas generational poverty describes families that have been poor for two or more generations. Just this insight alone has helped me to make sense of a lot of the struggles my family has endured since my mother passed away. That single event took key resources away from me and my siblings in at least three different ways:
Emotional - having to deal with the flood of emotions (sadness, guilt, fear, etc.) of the situation;
Spiritual - questioning the core spiritual issues like the purpose of life and seeing ourselves as having value;
Support systems - the loss of probably the biggest anchor in all of our support networks.
Describing our struggles as a struggle with poverty has helped me to understand many of the choices and behaviors in my own life and the lives of my family that I didn't recognize or understand before. It also helps me to understand the depth of the challenges we face and how to address them.

So what? My point in all of this is not to deride efforts to serve persons living in poverty. My point is summed up by Habit #5 of Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Poverty is a serious problem. Billions of people suffer from the oppression, isolation, and depression of living without resources. And if we (whoever we are) are to be part of the solution, then we must truly understand the problem. Please, please read Ruby Payne's book and open your eyes to the poverty that is all around you.

And to everyone who is doing something about it, especially our friends and family who give of themselves, who serve, who work hard, who teach, who train, who parent, who mentor, who pray, who minister, who heal, who encourage, who employ, who inspire, who suffer along side of those in need, who feed, who clothe, who shelter, who love... THANK YOU. My heart breaks when I think about the all of need in this world and I thank each and everyone of you for the hope that you give me through what you give of yourselves. Thank you.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Do you have a case of the Mondays?

These might cheer you up:

This one's over a minute long. And it should come as not surprise to anyone that I'm smitten over Lyla so give me a break already. I take long videos. If you can find a better use of 90 seconds than watching such a sweet little girl, perhaps just isn't for you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

More awesomeness.

Lyla has a great personality. Which is pretty amazing; for one, Katherine and I feel so blessed that Lyla is such a terrific kid, well tempered and almost always full of joy. For two, she's hilarious, like how she fake laughs whenever we're laughing at something. She just does all these great things, like playing peek-a-boo behind the coffee table.

Anyway, we were sitting around this morning and we completely filled up our camera's memory card in like 10 minutes just trying to get pictures and videos of her being a little goofball. First, riding the rocking dog (like a rocking horse but it's a dog):

And then wearing a paper bag as a hat:

And from Wednesday, helping mom put laundry away:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Where's Lyla? Where's Lyla?

Um, awesome.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Get Well Soon, Aunti Jessi!

Lyla just wants to say thanks for the awesome new monkey pj's! And we all hope all parts of recovery go quickly and well!