Planned Parenthood (or something like that)

We had our first child after we were married nearly four years. It seemed like a good plan. And it was!

He was a perfect baby. He was beautiful. He was healthy. He ate well. He slept well. He was always happy. He loved everyone he encountered. We were clearly excellent parents.

We weren’t just good parents, we were brilliant and so good at this ‘baby thing’ that we decided to plan our next child right away. Finding out that we were having a second child on “Perfect Baby’s” first birthday seemed like a dream come true. And it was. She arrived only a year and half after her brother, tiny and pink and so soft that my rough hands could barely feel her tenderness. She looked like a little rose bud. Our planned had worked!

So there we were with two cribs, two high chairs, two diaper pails. Our new addition would certainly be as sweet and easy and happy as her (only slightly older) brother. This planned parenthood would prove our brilliance to those who had doubted our wisdom – naysayers all! Big Brother went to bed every night promptly at 8:00pm and didn’t wake up most days until 8:00am. We were certain Baby Sister would get into that groove, too.

But Baby Sister had a different schedule in mind. She began crying (no – let’s call it screaming) at 8:15pm. This usually only lasted 3 or 4 hours EVERY NIGHT. Her pediatrician said she was colicky. Of course all the “old wives” (mother and mother-in-law) with their old wives’ tales, offered little comfort. Try lying baby on her stomach across your lap after nursing. Try rubbing baby’s tiny belly after nursing. Try nursing baby before she started crying. Try waiting to nurse baby until she was really crying hard. Try having Daddy hold baby after nursing because baby could sense Mommy’s tension. The message that I was receiving: TRY NOT PLANNING ANY MORE PREGNANCIES. They won. The naysayers. The “I told you so”-ers. What in God’s name had we been thinking?

So we battled on like war-weary soldiers fighting a lost cause. We knew that we might never survive, but we also knew that we could never surrender. The mockers and naysayers would win! We couldn’t let that happen. So we carried on. Night after night we rocked and cuddled THE TERROR. Night after night we soothed THE BEAST. Night after night we cried ourselves to sleep, we three, while (only slightly older) brother slept through it all.

And then six months later it happened. A miracle. The colic stopped. Our angel appeared. She became the most beautiful baby girl that the world has ever seen. She and big brother became best friends. They were inseparable. They literally grew up together. Often mistaken for twins, Baby Sister and Big Brother were usually in lockstep. Once again, we were brilliant parents. We were unstoppable. And few years later when a sort of general amnesia clouded our colicky memories, Baby Brother joined our ranks. And we lived happily ever after. Until adolescence.

But that’s another story of survival…

Baby’s Breath

2:00 AM and the baby is crying. It requires every fiber of my being to pull myself out of my dream of being single and carefree and childless. When I finally realize that my beautiful wife has finally drifted off to much-needed sleep and is even more exhausted than I am, I rouse myself and stumble into the nursery, There he is. Warm, wet and bawling his little blue eyes out. I change what by now must be the 10,000th diaper and look at that face which is a startling reflection of my own. Why did we do this? What were we thinking?

Shh! Shh! Shh! I plead with the 2:00 AM screamer, hoping that he won’t wake the five year-old and three year-old who will be bounding out of bed in mere hours wanting breakfast and love and attention. I wonder then if the milk is bad and if we have enough cereal in the pantry. I know I’m running short on attention but I remember that I’ve been told (or read in Reader’s Digest or some other scholarly tome) that love multiplies it never divides. And so I trudge on.

I pick up the squaller and cradle him in my arms and I am overwhelmed by the sweet aroma of baby’s breath. That sweetness is nearly miraculous and I am humbled and frightened because fatherhood is a daunting responsibility.  I carry him to his mother’s arms and lie down next to them. Suddenly everything seems manageable. Somehow we will make this work. 

As I dose off to blessed sleep, I think of the young nurse in the hospital, who just a few short months before, was surprised how happy and excited we were when learning that this was our third child. Perhaps she had never smelled sweet baby’s breath or had never experienced the soul-transforming power of a tiny heart beat next to her own. 



Our baby boy was born on the day after Father’s Day in 1983. But that moment; those memories, were yesterday, and today, and tomorrow and will remain with me for the rest of my life.




Today I’m counting my blessings.

In 2004 our first granddaughter was born. In 2008 another granddaughter was born. In 2010 a grandson joined our brood. In 2013 our third granddaughter was born. In 2016 our blessings continue! Gwendolyn Elizabeth Wilhelm was born last week. That makes four granddaughters and one grandson in case anyone is keeping score. So we are definitely granddaughtered. And I love these girls (and that boy)!

gwenWhen our first granddaughter was born I didn’t know that one tiny little creature could possess such transformative powers. But she changed my life forever. She made me realize in so many ways that life is worth living and that our world needs more love, especially the kind that little girls bring. Maurice Chevalier sang “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” and I do. I thank God each day for my beautiful granddaughters. They are kind, brave, smart, and loving little girls. Someday they will become women who are kind, brave, smart and loving. And they will make our world a better place. These granddaughters of mine might do great things. These granddaughters of mine might create new inventions, cure diseases, save the environment, create peace in our world, and be remembered throughout all of history as heroines. None of that matters to me because they are already my heroes. Their joy fills my soul.

Gwen is not even two weeks old and she has already carved a hole in my heart that only she can fill. She brings me great hope for our future. She will fulfill dreams that have yet to be dreamed. She will witness things in her life that I cannot even imagine. She is a precious gift from God. I will always be her grandfather and she will always be my granddaughter. We are linked forever. Nothing will ever change that.

I believe that all of my granddaughters (and my grandson) are reminders that God thinks this world is worth carrying on. While I’m holding Gwen in my arms, it’s easy for me to imagine that someday she may be steadying my old hands and helping me walk alongside her. She may be the one who brings this old man comfort in his final days. And I will have one more blessing to count.







Hope For The Future

I had a friend who used to say, “Babies are a great way to start people.”

And it’s true. I don’t think anyone would be excited to bring home a bouncing baby adult. No one would consider a snarky teenager their bundle of joy. There is nothing precious or particularly sweet about a menopausal woman or cranky middle-aged man, no matter how much pink or powder blue they’re swaddled in.

So starting humans out as babies is our best hope for the future of humankind. We fall in love with those adorable, helpless, innocent beings and then we’re hooked for life. Sometimes as parents (on the darkest days of teenage drama) we look back on memories of our babies and remember why we loved them so much in the first place. And we carry on (and so do they). According to a recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology scientists have discovered that the scent of a newborn baby taps right into the pleasure centers of a woman’s brain. So women are programmed to love their newborns (even the ones that cry a lot). I think this sweet baby smell-thing works on dads, too. I’m not a scientist but I can tell you that it worked on me. After all these years I can still remember the smell of our babies. And if I sit quietly for a moment and concentrate, I can still feel their tiny hearts beating against mine. The joy of holding a newborn is simple and profound and truly spiritual. Confirmation of God’s love for us and acknowledgement that we should continue.

AinsleySo it’s with great joy that our new granddaughter Ainsley joins the human race and brings hope for our future. She is already loved and she will undoubtedly fill the world with joy. She may do great things some day but none will be more special than the day that she was born. She is God’s proof that life is worth living and that our world needs more love. We will cherish her and in return she will give us happy days and peaceful nights. We will cheer her and in return she will give us hugs and kisses and good wishes. We will carry her and someday she will gently hold our old hands and steady us as we walk beside her.

We will give her love and she will give us hope. And she will be a constant reminder that God hasn’t given up on us yet.



Nothing Lost in Translation

Two of our grandkids are in England. They arrived here last week and they don’t leave until next week. That’s three weeks of grandparent time! Anna is now four and Noah will be two in September. For the record, they brought their parents along but this week Mommy & Daddy have taken a little side trip to Scotland. So it’s just Anna, Noah, Deb and me at home this week. It’s sublime.

My favourite times with them are the quiet times. Like when Noah sings “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or when Anna tells me, in a whisper, that she has been missing me very much since I moved to England (pronounced Ing-Gull-land). This morning I got Noah out of his crib and his sweet sleepy morning smile nearly made my heart burst. And last night Anna curled up with me on the couch while Deb got baby brother to sleep and gave me kisses that would have melted the coldest of hearts.

The active times are fun, too. Probably more fun for Anna and Noah. They are happy, loving, active children – with an emphasis on active. Noah is like a baby Houdini. He can escape any high chair or car seat and climbs, jumps and runs (even indoors). Anna is a girl who has a lot to say – a whole lot. She often engages in a running commentary and is very well-informed about things beyond most four year-olds’ grasp. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I cherish every moment of our time together. It’s just that I realize now why God gave us our children when we were younger.

Last night I was greeted in the garden by both of them running toward me when I got home from work. You can’t buy that kind of love. Tonight we played in the back garden while dinner was being prepared. It takes quite a bit of energy to keep up with these two. But it’s worth it. They’re worth it! I love them so much.

Angels at Winchester Cathedral

And they’re funny, too. In our family we say, “funny trumps all” and we have shared lots of laughs. Noah thinks it’s hilarious when I make a funny noise (and of course it’s only truly funny when he then mimics me). After being presented with “Union Jack” pinwheels, Anna informed us that they’re called “wind-blowers in her country.” And she thinks that English Olivia is very humorous (Olivia is an animated pig who speaks American English at her house and the Queen’s English on our telly here). This evening Noah dipped his little hand in the bird bath next door, made the ‘sign of the cross’ and started singing Alleluia. O holy Noah! Have we visited too many churches and cathedrals?

We’re having a big adventure with our grandchildren. And we’re all learning some new things. And confirming some things that we already knew. Like how much we love one another. And how it’s okay to be apart for a while because we’ll always be connected.

Nothing is really lost in translation. Love is universal and is not bound by geography, custom or language. Children are called by many different affectionate names in Britain. They might be called dear, dearie, flower, love, chicky, duckie, or wee ain. I like to call my grandkids ‘Tunia & Buster even if their given names are Anna & Noah.  After all, wasn’t it Shakespeare that said “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”?



Little Peeper

Thirty two years ago my life was changed forever. Our daughter Elizabeth Grace Wilhelm was born. It seems like yesterday – she was like a rosebud wrapped in a blanket. 6 bs. 10 oz. & 18″ long. So tiny. So pink. So beautiful.

Elizabeth Grace was too big a name for such a tiny little girl – almost at once she became Bess and because of her big blue eyes I often called her Peeper. She stole my heart and I was immediately wrapped securely around her tiny little finger. Speaking for all daddies of daughters – it’s a place we love to be!

Bess has been trying to “get big” her whole it seems. As a toddler she wanted to be as big as older brother Tyson and for a while at about age 10 or 12 she might have been a half-inch taller (although there seems to be significant debate concerning that assertion). At age 3 she became a big sister to baby brother Blake and assumed the role with confidence. A favorite family photo is one of her holding baby Blake while she is really still a baby herself.

Bess then...

Always the peace-maker and diplomat of the family. She has made the boys be better brothers by her very existence. She is the heart and soul of our family. Her beauty, like her mother’s, comes from deep within – she makes everyone she encounters better for having known her. She is her mother’s daughter!

And she’s fun and funny! Laughter has always been held in high regard in our family and she has provided much of it through the years. She’s almost as funny as I am.

She was a determined student and athlete. Although she was smaller than most of her classmates she never “took a backseat” to anyone in her class. Playing basketball when you’re 5′-1″ takes guts (sorry Bess – I know that you’re really 5′-2″). She graduated at the top of her high school class and went on to win scholarships to the University of Wisconsin where she graduated with a double major.

She’s now a wife and mother of two and that is without doubt her greatest accomplishment. Her daughter and son are reflections of the love that she and Travis share. Their faith, their love, their hope for the future is wrapped up in those two wonderful little creatures. Amazing!

...and now.

So there you have it. She is big now. Big life. Big dreams. Big hope. Big love.

But today she’s still my little girl. My Little Peeper. And I hope she never gets “too big” for that.



P.S. Peeper, I’m glad you’re my Peeper, Happy Birthday! – Love, Dad

Grandsons Are Grand Indeed!

Grandson Noah

This week our dear friends Jeanne and Bob became grandparents for the first time. Their joy – Oliver a healthy baby boy! My school chum Cecilia was also recently blessed with grandson James. Grandsons are God’s assurance that he hasn’t given up on this messy, wonderful world which we inhabit.

Of course nothing is sweeter than a newborn, especially your own grandson. It’s another chance. A new hope. A future. A legacy. So much expectation placed on such tiny shoulders. But guess what? It doesn’t matter. No one else will ever fill that special place in your heart that only he can hold.

As much as we need our grandsons, I believe that they need us, too. We grandparents are the ones who can listen to them, mend their broken spirits, and reassure them that no problem is too big to fix or no disappointment worth their sweet tears. Everything will be alright – with a cookie, a hug, a wiped tear and a kiss. They are perfect in our eyes – and that’s as it should be. Our love for them is unconditional. We may place all our hopes and dreams upon our sons (and daughters) but our grandsons have met our every goal just by smiling at us or speaking our name or holding our hand. I like to think that the way I love my grandson is the way that God loves me – no strings attached.

So Jeanne and Bob and Cecilia and all of you that have grandsons, go grab your boys and give them a squeeze and remind them that you will love them even on their worst days. And that you will always be there to cheer them on; sing their praises; wave their flag; and love them; until your dying day.

All grandsons really need to do is accept our love. When it is reciprocated is when we get a tiny glimpse of heaven. And that’s as it should be…



Here’s a video of my sweet Noah –

Be Prepared!

Be Prepared! That’s the Boy Scout motto. It’s also good advice for most situations in life. We all know how to be prepared: put on clean underwear, check your oil, look both ways before you cross, replenish your First Aid Kit, take cover, get insurance, wear protection, know your escape route, fuel up, put your head between your legs, etc., etc., etc.

But sometimes even the best laid plans fail. And we have to “pick up the pieces” and move on. Or we can just sit and cry. I usually prefer to cry while I’m “picking up the pieces” but that’s just me.

Our son Tyson, who is in the Air Force, was due home from his tour in Korea on Thursday but his flight was cancelled due to equipment failure. So what was supposed to be travel on Wednesday/Thursday became travel on Thursday/Friday. Of course we were all disappointed and some plans needed to be scrapped and others amended. But Ty’s home now and that’s the important thing. Still none of us was prepared for the travel interruptions – ugh!

Last weekend I really needed to get some things done on Sunday afternoon but my grandson woke up from his nap with a loud cry. I rescued him from his terror and held him close. Soon he was back asleep in my arms. Listening to Noah’s sweet breath sounds and feeling his tiny heart beating in rhythm with my own, suddenly all the important things that needed to be done weren’t so important or necessary. Holding him was all that mattered.

During Advent we’re reminded to “Prepare the Way of the Lord”. I’ve decided that preparing for God is exactly opposite of preparing for an earthquake or tornado or any other calamity. There’s no ‘stocking up’ or ‘hunkering down’ required. Preparing to receive God in my life requires that I just be. That I find the peacefulness in my soul. That I stop doing. And that I just let it happen. It’s in the darkness that I see the light. It’s in the quiet that I hear the song. And it’s in the stillness that I am moved.

Oh, I know that I need to be more prayerful, more loving, more giving and more tolerant but that will only happen when I allow Jesus to takeover and I stop planning my next move. So right now I’d just like to hold Noah again and let it be.

Mary said, Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. Luke 1:38



P.S. I suspect that Mary was no more prepared when Jesus was born than I am today and still He comes…

Boys Will Be Boys…

Well maybe it’s true that “boys will be boys” but it’s also true that boys will become men. And as I prepare to celebrate my grandson Noah’s first birthday this weekend, I can’t help but wonder what kind of man he’ll be someday. Certainly he’ll be strong and kind and generous like his Daddy and smart and loving and faith-filled like his Mommy.

Noah already has a distinct personality. He’s happy. He’s curious. He’s affectionate. He’s fearless. And he is single-minded in his determination (he gets what he wants through sheer brut force, when flashing those big blue eyes fails – which is rare). He looks up to his big sister who will no doubt someday have to physically look up to him. But Anna is clearly in charge and Noah seeks her approval in all things. This will likely be a life-long goal.

"Do it again, Pawpaw!"

He’s a Momma’s boy but he’s Daddy shadow. He loves to hang on his Nana but Pawpaw can make him giggle the loudest. He likes to play “rough and tumble” but he still likes to cuddle. He’s just a sweet boy. And I suspect that he will be a sweetheart of a man one day, too.

He’s blessed with loving, caring parents, a sister that adores him, and doting grandparents. Some people might say he’s a lucky boy, but we’re the lucky ones. We get to take part in the life of this beautiful gift from God who fills our days with so much joy.

I pray that he always knows how much he is loved. And I hope that all his dreams come true.

Noah, Here’s a little video I made just for you. ~ Love, Pawpaw

Did He Crack It?

My eleven month old grandson Noah is a rough and tumble boy. He started walking about a week ago and now he (sort of) runs. Keep in mind, he has a 3 year old sister that he’s trying to keep up with. Also he is fearless (or clueless) about careening through dangerous piles of toys or around sharp corners or heavy objects that are easy to pull off of a table. He is just a curious little guy that deals with the consequences of his curiosity on an “as needed” basis.

Fearless Noah

Because he has excellent parents that run a lot of interference he luckily has had a lot of near misses. Only on occasion does he really get hurt. And most of the time when he stumbles and falls (or pulls something down on top of himself) he doesn’t show any signs of hurt or distress. Usually he just shrugs it off and moves (quickly) on to the next adventure. Always with a smile. Always with renewed determination. Watching him (and his parents) is like watching a finely tuned and well rehearsed ballet. It just flows – effortlessly.

Now I will admit that my heart has stopped a time or two while snatching Noah out of the jaws of a near calamity. But then he looks at me and smiles that big toothy smile and I just want to join him on his further adventures (but with everything padded and all the dangereous stuff put up!).

His big sister Anna has coined the phrase, “Did he crack it?” Which means: is there blood? It (this usually means his head) is not cracked unless there is actual blood pouring out from somewhere. Thankfully this rarely happens. And even more thankfully I have only witnessed it a time or two. But even without blood there are lots of little bumps and lumps. And I’m dreading the day when I’m the ‘adult in charge’ and there is more serious injury. It happened to Nana (Deb) on Friday and I think she cried harder than Noah. I know that I will get my turn – I just hope he doesn’t “crack it” on that fateful day.

It’s exhausting at times being a grandparent. Still it’s the best fun that I ever get to have. And as long as Noah keeps smiling (even after a few tears) he and I will just keep stumblin’ along.