Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Okay, here are a few pictures of the Subaru Crash



This is a picture of where I slid off the road.  As you can tell by the tire tracks I was spinning out of control at the time that I launched the Subaru.


These two pictures is where I launched the car into the culvert.  The best I can gauge it was about 10 or 12 feet in the air while still spinning and landing about 6-8 feet down.



The last two are top views from the road level which shows how far down the car flew and where it landed.



I thought for sure the car was totaled.  It took two and a half hours and two four-wheel drive tow trucks to get the car out.  But after cleaning it off it was only the front left tire and suspension that were broken and some of the trimming in the front and side.  Honestly this car is built to last!

As I reviewed the accident I realize how much worse it could have been.  If I had lost control a few seconds earlier I would have hit the cement beams holding up the overpass I had just crossed under.  If I had been just a foot or two over my underside of the car would have caught on the cement lip on the culvert and it would have been a much different type of accident.  God's hand of protection was clearly on me while I was spinning out of control.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Sophia is home and we are one happy family!

Thanks you for all of your prayers.  More pictures will be posted soon.

Love,

Daddy

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Sophia Elisabeth Monreal Pictures


Here's the official birth information:

Sophia Elisabeth Monreal
Born at 7:44 AM on November 2, 2009 at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, ND
Birth Weight: 5 lbs. 9 ozs.
Length: 16 3/4 inches


Mom and baby are doing great!  She is out of the incubator and into a crib for the evening.


If thing continue to go well she be brought into the room with Jennifer tonight for the night!


It is possible that she can go home at 35 weeks which will be on Thursday!


Please continue to pray for health for both mother and child.


Sincerely,

David and Jennifer Monreal

Monday, November 02, 2009

Good Night Sophia Elisabeth Monreal



Dear Sophia Elisabeth Monreal,

What a day it has been.  We have been excited and nervous for your arrival for months.  Last night as your mom and I prayed we knew that a journey was ending and a new adventure beginning.  Your name means wisdom and we have asked for God’s wisdom every step of the way.  At so many points along this journey we didn’t know which way to go and the Lord provided the way and made our path straight.

Having you has been quite a journey, and I mean that literally.  We drove thousands of miles over the months for doctor’s appointments and your mom was willing to go through a lot to see you born healthy.  It was also a spiritual journey of trusting our Savior and trusting that He gives wisdom to those who ask in faith.  Watching you be born and hearing the sound of your voice made it all worth it.

We have longed for another child and we have loved you from the moment we knew you were coming.  The moment I saw you for the first time a place in my heart opened up for you and I sensed a new pool of love for you without loosing a drop of love for your brother and sister.

Another little girl in the house! This morning as I held you in my arms I thought of all the joy we will share in life: dances with daddy and walks in the park, going out for ice cream and swinging in my arms, these are the things I look forward to.  I told you all about your big brother and big sister, how much they love you and how happy they are that you’re here.  You’re big brother is all boy so you better watch out!  But big sis will take you under her wing and teach you everything she knows.

We talked all afternoon and I never wanted to put you down.  I kissed your forehead and I kissed your cheek.  I laid you on my chest and watched you fall asleep (I started to fall asleep too!).  These days are so short and one has already passed.  Days will turn into weeks and months and years.  In all those future days, here are two things I always want you to know.  First, I will always love you and nothing will every change that.  Second, it is my greatest desire to see you come to know Jesus as your Savior and walk with Him each day.

I have never missed a day of telling your brother and sister I love them and on this, your birth day, I want you to know how much I love you too.  I will always remember our first, best day we spent together.  You are daddy’s little girl and you will always be my little sweetheart.

Good night Miss Sophia Elisabeth Monreal!

Love,

Daddy

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A moment to say thank you.

Dear Friends,

As we continue to be in the midst of a whirlwind of crises and challenges I think it is only right and fitting to express my thanksgiving to our Lord and Savior for His sustaining grace and the depth of love He has shown through so many. As we have gone through these last several months (and honestly continue to go through them), the Lord has provided many people who have loved us, cared for us and met practical needs. Beyond that, we have known that a great many people have prayed for us fervently and faithfully and we know that we have been sustained by God's grace in answer to many prayers. So I want to thank the Lord and also thank each of you who have read these blogs and specifically prayed for me and my dear family.

Although this in no way diminishes anyone's acts of service, I would like to take a moment to specifically thank one person whom God used to minister to me personally. He is a personal friend who also served as one of our summer interns at the church. His name is Cody Wilde. Cody is finished up his undergraduate degrees in Minneapolis and said he would stop by while I was in town for Grace's pacemaker surgery.

With Jennifer in the hospital in Fargo on bed rest with our third pregnancy and no one able to travel with me I knew that there would be a deep sense of "aloneness" while anticipating the surgery and waiting for it to be completed at Children's Hospital. On one level I knew it wasn't a major surgery but emotionally it was difficult having had so many things go wrong the last time and a two day stay at Children's Hospital in San Diego turned into almost two weeks in the neonatal intensive care.

Cody stopped over the evening before the surgery and hung out in the hotel with me keeping me company as Grace was going to bed. He offered to stop by the following morning after Grace was taken back into surgery. After walking with Grace into the surgical room and watching my little girl be put under, Cody was there in the waiting room to hang out with me.

We talked a little bit about the surgery and a host of other topics. When Grace came out of recovery and we were able to go up to the room Cody graciously went with us. He spent the day there just hanging out, talking, and helping like there wasn't anything else in the world that he needed to do. He stayed there until it was time for us to go to bed. In a sense it was nothing but to me his being there was everything. Not through anything he said or did, but just his being there with me was a reminder of God's grace and goodness and in a very real sense God's answer to many prayers for us by you.

The surgery went great and we found out the day before that one of the delicate aspects was not needed after all. But the emotional drain of anticipation and the stark reality of driving your child across the state alone to have surgery was difficult. I was reminded once again of the mystery of ministry to others. Most often it isn't what we say or do that has the most lasting impact, but our willingness to be there, to really be there for another person that makes the difference.

I have many people to thank and I hope to be able to effectively do that over the coming weeks but I didn't want to miss this opportunity to thank one person specifically for making a difference in my life at a very straining time.

Thank you Cody for being there for me.

Your friend,

Dave

Friday, October 30, 2009

Things aren't slowing down yet...baby coming soon!

Dear Friends,

I just pulled in the driveway from Minneapolis after a very successful pacemaker surgery. Miraculously, she did not need the lower lead (wire) changed. For four years technicians complained but it tested perfect in the office on Wednesday and directly on Thursday during the surgery so the procedure itself was very minor. There is a bit of pain and always the possibility of infection but it was a very simple procedure compared to a bit more delicate if they had needed the change.

Okay, baby stuff. Things still look good with Jennifer and Sophia, however, the doctor still wants to deliver early by C-section THIS MONDAY MORNING AT 7:15 AM. Low fluid is the main concern again with the AFI's coming in around 3 or 4 but the biophysical profile and the doppler cord have all been excellent. I don't know exactly what to say about this whole thing but will reserve my judgment until after speaking with the doctor. But, unless things change it looks like Monday morning it is.

Keep this in prayer that the baby is strong, healthy with good lung development.

Sincerely,

Dave

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

As the world turns...

12 hours later and a totally different situation. They took the biophysical profile again this morning and what was bad yesterday (2 out of 8) was perfect today (8 out of 8). The doctor said that there is no likelihood that we will be having the baby this week.

Of course this means that we will be going ahead with Grace's surgery (or at least that is the plan as of this moment). We want to avoid having her surgery the same week as the c-section which is why we scheduled it for this week rather than waiting a few weeks longer. We never anticipated Jennifer would have to go into the hospital early.

I'll keep you posted if (or when) things change.

Thanks,

Dave

The Very Latest on Jennifer and Baby Sophia

Here’s the latest.

Jennifer is in the hospital with a heart monitor to track the baby’s heartbeat. With low amniotic fluid they want to make sure the baby isn’t in any duress. So far so good with that. The biophysical profile (measurement of the amniotic fluid, small movements and large movements) was not good today. They checked the blood flow in the umbilical cord, which was good so no immediate urgency. However, if things don’t improve most likely they will decide to take the baby early. They will do another biophysical profile in the morning, which will determine the course of action.

This would put Grace’s surgery on hold for a few weeks. Honestly, unless things turned out perfect tomorrow we would put it on hold. It was our hope to have this surgery before the baby arrived but even if things are tentative with Jennifer and the baby I couldn’t risk being away with Grace in Minneapolis having the pacemaker replaced. We have a few months window to work with so we would reschedule sometime in November or early December and just run a test sometime in November to check battery life and function of the pacemaker.

Also, Jennifer’s grandmother is not doing well and doctors indicate that she does not have long to live. She had a stroke a month back and has not shown any signs of recovery or responsiveness. More recently she has had congestion and pneumonia and her heart is failing. She is a believe which brings comfort in the midst of hurting.

Honestly this seems like a lot and it really is. But the one thing that I keep in mind is that problems are moment by moment and we don’t face the full weight of it all at once. We are weak and powerless and I don’t realize that any more than at the moments when there is absolutely nothing that I can do. But God’s grace is sufficient and His power is perfected in our weakness. We are not handling this well, God’s grace is enabling us to handle things well. We are not sufficient in ourselves but we are trusting God and hanging on to Him knowing that He is holding us securely in His strong and gentle hands.

Sincerely,

Dave

Monday, October 26, 2009

Never a dull moment!!!

Dear Friends,

Brief update. Jenn went in to the doctor today for her twice weekly test and things were not as good as they have been. The fluid is again low and there isn't a lot of movement but otherwise the baby looks healthy and there is good blood flow through the umbilical cord. The short of it is monitoring tonight and see how things go. If they don't look good for the baby then they'll decide to deliver. If they stabilize then she'll be in the hospital for a while with bed rest.

Of course this put's Grace's surgery up in the air. We'll see how things go tonight before making a call on going to Minneapolis. If Jennifer is only being monitored then we'll get the surgery done but if there is a chance of delivery this week then the surgery will be put on hold.

More info coming as I find out more!

Sincerely,

Dave

Friday, October 16, 2009

Time for Grace's pacemaker to be replaced

Dear praying friends,

We went to the cardiologist for our semi-annual visit at the beginning of October and already knew that we were in the last 3-6 months before Grace's pacemaker would need to be replaced. The battery life is almost gone so it is time.

We could wait a month or two to get this procedure done but with Jennifer scheduled to have a c-section on November 19th we decided that it would be better to take care of this now before the cold, snowy weather is upon us.

Grace and I will be driving to Minneapolis on October 28th for the pre-op and the surgery will be done the following morning at 8:00 AM. This should be a relatively routine procedure with the one caveat that they will have to replace the lower (ventricular) lead (a "wire" sewn onto the exterior of her heart). Grace's pacemaker is located under her sternum and other than the scar is it not noticeable. This is still the best location to give her complete freedom and mobility without worry.

Later in life they may decide to place it under her pectoral muscle but that would limit repetitive motion with her arm that might cause issues with the wire wearing over time. We want to give her maximum options for her interests and activities. With this location her only concern would be full-contact sports which she would need to avoid. We're not too worried about that anyway.

Please remember us in prayer as we travel and as she undergoes this procedure. She should only be in the hospital for 24 hours if all goes as planned. You can look at the blogs for November 2005 to read about the first time this was done and all the problems we had. Things definitely didn't go well that time but we trust for better situations now.

We should be back in town late on Friday, October 30th.

Continue to pray for Jennifer the baby and our son Alexander as they will not be traveling with Grace and me.

Sincerely,

David Monreal

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

weekly Update-October 13, 2009

Dear Friends,

No news is great news as far as this blog is concerned. I do want to keep you updated on how things are going but be assured that they are going great at the moment and we continue to pray that they stay the same way.

All of the tests are coming out absolutely ideal at this point in the pregnancy and we have every confidence that if we stay on the present strategy we won't have more issues before delivery. Things are going so well we have scaled back from three visits to the doctor down to two visits per week. For most pregnancies that would be excessive but for us it is a relief and a huge improvement.

We've gone from inpatient hospital bed rest with tests run daily down to home bed rest (which does include sitting on a reclining chair in the living room) with an IV and twice weekly visits to the doctor. At this point the doctor doesn't want to change anything which might risk a relapse with low amniotic fluid or increased risk for heart block. At present both those risks are very low and we want to do everything we can to keep it that way.

We have confidence in God's guiding hand of the doctors and us to find solutions to our issues that have protected our baby and lowered the risk of lifelong issues. We thank you for continuing to pray and to keep up with this blog post. Sorry for not posting last week but like I said, no news is good news.

With Love and gratitude,

David Monreal

Friday, October 02, 2009

Weekly Update-October 2, 2009

Dear Friends,

I want to continue to share the good news regarding our pregnancy and the health of Jennifer and our baby. Jennifer continues to be at home on an IV and complete bed rest. We have gone in twice this week for testing and both times all the indicators are that things are fantastic and progressing well. Jennifer will go again this afternoon for testing and I will post an update if anything changes.

I continue to thank you for your prayers. I know that it is God's grace and strength that have sustained us during this harrowing and trying time. For a time there it looked like we would have a severely premature baby with not the best chances of surviving and thriving. Every week the baby remains inside Jenn's womb is one week closer to a healthy baby and a full-term delivery. The doctors are very pleased with the turn-around and in spite of the unusual positive response of Jennifer to IV fluids they are content to keep doing a strategy that works.

If you have any questions or there is some aspect of the pregnancy, Jenn's health or the baby's health please feel free to drop me a line and I'll answer your question. Just to let you know, any posts on this site will go directly to my email address so I can be contacted through the blog page as well as directly.

With love and thanksgiving,

Dave

Friday, September 25, 2009

Jennifer is coming home!

Dear Friends,

Things continue to go well and we had our appointment with the doctor today. Things looked so good we all agreed it was time for Jennifer to go home and continue the pregnancy at home under home bed rest. The AFI was over 12 today and everything looked absolutely great. How much things have changed over the last few weeks when we thought we might be delivering at 26 weeks!

The insurance company approved a home IV for Jennifer (always subject to review after the fact!). We will still be coming down to Fargo three times a week for the PR interval test for the heart and the Doppler Cord study like we have been doing for several months now.

Please continue to be in prayer that the AFI (Amniotic Fluid Index) stays up. We have about 8 more weeks until the baby is here!

Sincerely,

Dave

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Consistent Stability

Dear Friends,

There isn't really too much to report since last time regarding updates to Jennifer and the baby. The AFI has generally been between 8 and 10 cm which is a good number and the PR interval is steady around 117. There doesn't seem to be any major concerns at the moment which is great. They did a growth study and our little girl was tracking at 29 weeks and 2 days weighing in at around 3lb and 7oz! Our intention is to have a c-section around 37 weeks which would put a tentative delivery date of November 19th, a week before Thanksgiving.

Jennifer remains down in Fargo, 70 miles away from our town of Grand Forks. For those of you who haven't read the previous posts, this is because there are two tests that need to be run that cannot be done at the local hospital, the PR interval checking the speed of communication between the upper and lower chambers of the heart and the AFI which is an Amniotic Fluid Index that they want to be above 8cm ideally at this point in the pregnancy. They do a doppler study on the flow of blood in the cord which is something they are not yet trained to do here in Grand Forks also. One other concern, when this all started they feared a very early delivery for which Fargo had the neonatal intensive care facilities that can handle severely premature babies.

At the rate that Sophia is growing we might not need to pull out the premie clothes if we come close to that 37 week goal. We'll keep you posted. We are meeting with the specialist tomorrow to find out if he wants us to keep this strategy up or try something else. We'd love nothing more than for Jennifer to come home but we don't want to risk it if the stakes are too high. We need reasonable assurances that things will continue to remain stable.

Sincerely,

David Monreal

Friday, September 11, 2009

Things Keep Looking Good

I just got today's results from our Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI) and the p-r interval. Both look absolutely great! The AFI was at 10.18 cm and the p-r was steady at 117 on all three tests. This is incredibly good news and gives us a lot of hope and confidence that we will carry the baby to term which is better than it was just a few weeks ago when it looked like we might have to deliver incredibly early.

On a discouraging note, Jennifer's grandmother on her mom's side had a stroke yesterday. She is in the hospital and there is a bit of swelling on the brain, she took a hard fall and broke her nose and as of last night weren't able to fully assess the damage. She is 85 years old and in moderately good health otherwise. Please continue to pray.

I was also saddened to hear yesterday that the younger brother of one of my best friends from high school passed away early this week from an undiagnosed heart condition at age 37. My prayers go out to the family at this time as they grieve and if things were different with our situation I would be out there to share this time with them. Life truly is brief.

Sincerely,

Dave

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

No news is good news

Dear Friends,

It has been a few days since my last post. First of all, let me say that things are very stable at the moment even though Jennifer is in the hospital and will remain there for the foreseeable future. We might try to get her back home sometime soon but the unborn baby's safety is our first concern. I'll let you know how that progresses as we continue.

We have gone back to three full tests a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday unless there are problems that develop during one of the tests. Due to the holiday we are doing tests on Tuesday and Friday.

Yesterday's tests results were all great! The p-r interval was between 113-125 (110-140 is normal range), and the Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI) was at 8.14-10cm which is also great. 10 is ideal so we are doing fine.

By the way, I am a teacher at heart so I try to make these blogs both informative and educational (gee, I sound like PBS). So if you want to learn more about what is going on or why they are doing what they are doing please read the earlier posts. Also, to find out all the details about the situation we are facing with Jennifer and baby Sophia or to find out how things worked when this happened with Grace you can click on the 2005 May-November posts.

All the other stuff is just my ramblings about life but it might we worth a read if you're bored. Thanks for thinking about us, checking up and most of all for praying. Without the grace and strength of our Lord Jesus Christ we are week, frail and fearful people.

Sincerely,

Dave

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Latest on Jennifer and Baby Sophia

Dear Friends,

Here’s the latest information about Jennifer and Sophia. We met on Wednesday with the specialist and he understands that our desire is to do whatever works and will be helpful to see the baby come to full term. It was very different from the situation on Monday for which we are both very grateful.

It does not follow the normal pattern that being on an IV should have as dramatic of an impact as it is having. However, there is a possibility that the dexamethasone that Jennifer is taking somehow makes it less effective for her to hydrate orally and it have a direct impact on the amniotic fluid index (AFI). But there is a lot we don’t know about this particular dosing which is higher than for other types of difficulties in pregnancy so perhaps this higher dose has different characteristics than at lower doses.

Her AFI was at 8.7 on Tuesday and 8.5 on Wednesday. Today her AFI was at 8.2 which is still an acceptable reading. Since it seems to have stabilized with the IV we have scaled back taking the AFI every day and will only do it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays along with the p-r interval. That was great on Wednesday and today it was between 113-119, which is perfect.

Another amazing answer to prayer a friend from San Diego is going to fly out here and help us with the kids until Jennifer is released from the hospital or the baby is born. She has cared for her children and grandchildren and is wonderfully qualified to help us. She and Jenn are wonderful friends and our children know her from her time in the church nursery with her. She will be here in just over a week. I cannot even begin to express how blessed we are that she would be willing to minister to our family in this way. (We have warned her the winter is a little more brisk than San Diego.)

What are the possibilities that Jennifer might be able to come home under home bed rest? That is a good question and one that we will be exploring in the next couple weeks. We are hesitant to suggest another strategy which might put the baby at more of a risk especially when we have found a strategy that is working and would allow us to continue to full term (or a few weeks early with a c-section which is most likely).

If things continue to go well we might explore seeing if perhaps Jennifer could hold a good AFI without an IV or we might see if it is possible to have home nursing with an IV. Again, the concern is that we wouldn’t have the same level of care and it is much harder to have true “bed rest” when you are at home which we found out with our first child. Our first priority is doing everything we can to have a healthy full-term baby. It isn’t ultimately about our comfort or convenience if it means sacrificing our baby’s wellbeing.

We appreciate so much your love, prayers and practical support. For those of you from around the country and overseas reading this blog let me brag on the church family here for a few moments. They have organized daily meals for us since Jennifer went into the hospital, a few ladies have come over to clear, others have volunteered to help clean and another gave us gift certificates for several hours of cleaning. Also, they have lined up childcare every day so that I can be free to visit with Jennifer since taking the kids every time is difficult for the kids. I could go on and on sharing how our church family has rallied to our side during this trying time and you can imagine how much this has encouraged and helped us.

I’ll share more in a few days. We won’t be doing more tests until Tuesday so it is unlikely that things will change much between now and then but if they do I will let you know. Otherwise, look for a blog post sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Thank you for your love and prayers,

David Monreal

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Good News, More Good News and Hmm?

Good News

First the good news. Everything looks great with the baby. Jennifer went back on an IV on Monday afternoon and the Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI) was 8.7 yesterday and 8.5 today and it also visually looked good as well. It seems that the IV has helped bring the fluid level up and stabilize it like it did with our first pregnancy. In some ways this defies expectation because good hydration only accounts for 10% of the amniotic fluid. However, it seems to have an almost immediate and dramatic effect in bringing the level up.

It looks like we have found a strategy that both helps the baby’s heart develop without heart block as well as deal with the issue of low amniotic fluid.

More Good News

Without much discussion whatsoever the doctor agreed with this strategy and is pleased with the results of what is happening. We had hoped to be transferred to Grand Forks where we live but they are unable to do two of the tests (The Doppler color blood flow study of the umbilical cord and the p-r interval reading). There was also talk of Jenn going down to Sioux Falls, SD to be under the daily care of the perinatologist but we determined that this wasn’t necessary.

Hmm?

It looks like Jennifer is going to stay under hospital bed rest with an IV for the foreseeable future. Our due date is December 10th and it seems like a very real probability that Jennifer will be in there until the baby is born. Most likely we will deliver by C-section around weeks 36-38 which would put us around November 12-26 depending on the size and lung development of the baby. Wait a minute! It is only September 2nd. Exactly! Hmm.

What does that mean for the kids and me? Honestly I haven’t quite figured that out yet. But what is most important is that Jennifer is healthy and the baby is doing well. Everything else is but a momentary hassle. Please keep us in your prayers, especially for the kids who have to deal with the absence of Jennifer here to love and nurture them. Also, pray for me that I can stand in the gap and be extra sensitive to their needs during this short period of time.

Sincerely,

Dave

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Medical Update #6 on Jennifer and baby Sophia

Dear Friends,

A bit of good news amidst the confusion. The Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI) was back up today to 8.7 but the doctor is concerned that it is only "artificially inflated." We are still confused as to why having the fluid up through hydration and an IV is worse than doing nothing and having the baby in duress and possible being delivered dangerously early.

What really bothers us is that when we had this situation with our daughter our doctor in San Diego was glad that he could find a strategy that worked and kept the fluid level up even if we weren't able to keep it up without an IV. It seems to me that it is better to have it up even if it is through an IV than having one more negative factor that might adversely affect the baby.

We are meeting the doctor tomorrow and I am hopeful he can explain his rationale and strategy in this pregnancy. Over and over again I have reiterated that we want to take the safest and wisest course of action to ensure the best possible outcome. I am coming to wonder if there are not other factor or considerations that are affecting the recommendations of the doctor other than the well being of Jennifer and the baby.

At present we are happy with the results of taking a cautious approach to the situation but frustrated and confused why the doctors are not excited that the very outcome we'd hoped for is actually happening. I suspect it is going to be an interesting conversation we have with the perinatologist tomorrow. I will keep you posted on how that goes.

Dave

Monday, August 31, 2009

Quick Update on Previous Blog

Dear Friends,

I asserted a little influence and was able to get them to start the IV again. Apparently the perinatologist doesn't want to "artificially" inflate the Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI). On the face of it that is transparently foolish and dangerous. After our insistence the on call doctor agreed to order the IV even though the specialist decided against it.

They will keep the IV going at least until Wednesday when we meet with the perinatologist and come up with a plan of action from there. I'll keep you posted on the AFI's and the situation with the doctors.

Dave

Medical Update #5 on Jennifer and our unborn baby Sophia

Dear Friends,

Well, the roller coaster continues. We thought that things were great and we were hoping that Jennifer might even be going home today but that is not going to be the case. Since being taken off of the IV yesterday the AFI has dropped from 10 back down to 4.2-4.5.

What is even more disconcerting is that the doctors want to wait until tomorrow to put Jennifer back on an IV to “see what happens.” To me it is the height of negligence to play a wait and see attitude when a child’s life is in the balance. It would seem wise and prudent to me to put her back on an IV until they can figure out what is causing the fluid to drop so dramatically or why the being on the IV seems to bring up the amniotic fluid so quickly.

Part of the problem is that they are treating this based on what most pregnancies do even though we have a clear history that has demonstrated that hydration and an IV was effective in bringing up the AFI when this almost identical circumstance occurred with our first child. One of the things that I appreciated with our old doctor in San Diego was that he was not willing to play the odds and instead took every precaution to make sure that the baby was safe.

Needless to say, this cavalier approach is very disconcerting to Jennifer and me. The textbooks may say that an IV won’t make that dramatic of a difference but our previous case history and the effectiveness of bringing up the AFI should be enough to have them put Jennifer on an IV just to be on the safe side.

I’ll let you know more at things progress. Hopefully it doesn’t turn into a medical difficulty merely because the attending physicians are not willing to look at the evidence that flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

Sincerely,

Dave

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Medical Update #4 on Jennifer and our Baby Girl Sophia

Dear Friends,

I wanted to give you a brief update of where we are at the moment and for the most part it is very good news.

The Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI) was at 10 cc today, which is ideal. It is a dramatic improvement from the 3.9 cc that we were on Wednesday and it looked like if things continued in that direction that an extremely early delivery was inevitable. As I mentioned previously the p-r interval tested yesterday at 113 (110-140 is the range we want so this is great).

The one thing that is a bit concerning but not earth shattering is that Jennifer’s blood sugar level was on the borderline for having gestational diabetes. They are monitoring it and we’ll know more when we talk to the doctors in the morning.

Since the AFI was at 10 the on call doctor decided to take Jennifer off of the IV to see if the level will stay up on its own. That will be a huge determining factor if Jennifer is able to come home on Monday. One thing we don’t know which I suspect is that Jennifer will be on home bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. That was the route we had to take when we were expecting with Grace, our first child.

With Grace Jennifer yo-yoed in and out of the hospital for several weeks with the fluid continuing to drop once she was home to the point that the doctor decided the only way to keep the AFI up was to have Jenn admitted for complete hospital bed rest. The problem was that Jennifer couldn’t keep her AFI up at home with no children under foot! But, of course, each pregnancy is different even though we do have a track record we can refer back to. All of this is only for a short time in relation to having a healthy, thriving child so whatever we need to do is worth it!

Thanks again for praying. Also, feel free to forward the link to this webpage to anyone that you know that might be interested.

With Love and Gratitude to our Great God and Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Dave

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Medical Update #3 on Jennifer and our Baby Girl Sophia

Dear Friends,

Things are starting to turn around for Jennifer and our unborn baby Sophia!

First of all, we have results back that Jennifer did NOT have H1N1 (swine) flu. In fact, it tested negative for influenza A and B so it must have been some other virus that was affecting her.

Secondly, the Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI) was measured at 8.9-9.0 cc this afternoon! Ideal is 10-11 cc so this is amazingly good news and a dramatic increase since Wednesday when it was at 3.9 cc. Hospital bed rest, a lot of liquids and a continuous IV have made a dramatic difference. I would also add that God has been gracious and merciful in intervening because even doing all those things doesn't guarantee it will go up and the doctor told us on Wednesday that it might increase it 10%. I think he meant to say 150%.

Finally, the other good news is that the p-r interval was back down around 113. Usually they like to take it three or four times to get the range since it is difficult to be absolutely precise every reading; they were only able to get one good reading today.

So, does this mean that Jennifer is coming home? I'd like to say yes, and that is my hunch, but we won't know for sure until Monday at the earliest. The on-call doctor was in today and told Jenn that if she were his patient he would keep her in until at least Wednesday. But the perinatologist (OB specialist) will make that determination after a full growth study and AFI on Monday.

We had this same problem with low amniotic fluid with Grace. Jennifer bounced in and out of the hospital repeatedly from weeks 28-31 before the doctor decided that the only way they could keep the AFI up was for Jenn to be on hospital bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. This doesn't have to be the case but it would entail that Jenn stay off her feet completely if she is going to complete this pregnancy at home.

I would say that unless something drastically changes before Monday that we are at least temporarily out of the woods but we aren't home yet. Once again I cannot say enough about my church family here who have been so loving, encouraging and supportive throughout this ordeal. I have to admit that it was heart rending to hear the doctor even hint that the baby might fall into duress and not make it.

It also reminds me how much we take precious things for granted until things change. With Jennifer gone I immediately realize how much I rely on her to take care of the kids and do so much around the house. More than that, I realize what a precious gift her love and companionship are on a daily basis. Putting the kids to bed and finding how depressingly quiet the house is without her laughter and conversation. Even knowing that the separation is only temporary doesn't make that longing any less strong.

I pray that this situation is quickly over and I also pray that I have a lasting reminder of how amazingly special my helpmate truly is.

Dave

Friday, August 28, 2009

Medical Update #2 on Jennifer and our Baby Girl Sophia


Dear Friends,

I am heading back down to Fargo for the day but I wanted to give a quick update on what's been happening and where we are at the moment.

There is good news and not so good news to report.

On the positive front the amniotic fluid level continues to rise with Jenn being on complete bed rest, lots of liquids and an IV. We are back up to 5.7cc (Ideal is 10cc and under 8cc causes concerns). On the not so positive front the p-r interval is again climbing and is back up to 129-137 range which is up from Wednesday of 113-117. It ought to be between 110 and 140 so we aren't in a danger zone yet but it also shouldn't fluctuate much at all throughout the entire pregnancy so the fact that it is, in itself is cause for concern.

What we don't know is the why question. Is it because Jenn is on Tamiflu© that is causing the fluid to drop? Is the massive dose of dexamethasone to help the baby's lungs develop causing the p-r interval to rise? Are there other factors involved that we don't know of yet? Perhaps the flu itself is part of the issue? The other thing we don't know is how long Jenn will be in the hospital.

We had this happen with Grace and they were able to get the Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI) back up with an IV. But they put her on complete bed rest. Even with that it still increased over time and she had to be in the hospital for the duration of the pregnancy. It seems like the IV might work for the time being but we'll have to adjust so that Jenn actually does get complete bed rest at home.

But I'm jumping the gun a bit. We still need to get over these issues before they will release her to go home.

Keep praying!

Sincerely,

David Monreal

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Medical Update #1 on Jennifer and our Baby Girl Sophia

Dear Friends,

This blog originally was started to give one place for updates when we were pregnant with our daughter Grace. People could come here any time and find the most up to date information and leave comments and I could access it anywhere and share with you the exact situation at it developed. It has rambled on since then but it is time to go back to its original purpose.

We are currently at 25 weeks and 1 day in our pregnancy with our daughter. After experiencing complications with our daughter Grace (see June-December, 2005 for all the details) we have high-risk pregnancies with two beautiful children and no miscarriages. Grace developed 3rd degree heart block in the womb and received a pacemaker 6 weeks after she was born.

Since that time they have learned more about this particular antibody that causes heart block and have developed a test to see if it is developing before it actually becomes irreversible. More than that, they have learned that 4mg of dexamethasone taken daily before it moves to 2nd or 3rd degree heart block on only stops the progression of heart block but reverses it back to absolute normal with no heart block later in pregnancy or after the baby is born.

Things were going fine for us and we were monitoring the situation aggressively. However, on August 10th the markers that we were monitoring started to go past the danger point and we decided on August 12th to begin the steroid treatment. By our appointment on August 17th the heart rate (p-r interval) was back within totally normal range. For those who are interested it has been consistently at 113-117 and had been as high as 146 (with a few over 150). Normal range is 110-140.

Shortly after this the entire family became ill, starting with the children and then me. It seemed to spare Jennifer at first and we were hopeful that it would miss her. We all had flu type symptoms that seemed to possibly by N1H1. The kids and I recovered quickly from the most severe symptoms. However, around August 17 or 18 Jennifer started showing minor symptoms and by the 19th was seriously ill. Even before testing (which we have yet to receive the results!) she went on a 10 day regimen of Tamiflu © and has only started to feel better this past Monday.

We went in to see the specialist for our twice weekly visit to Fargo and the heart situation is still completely stable and we are hopeful that it will stay that way. However, they now noticed that the amniotic fluid level is dangerously low. I’ve learned that 10cc is a good range to have and they get concerned if they cannot measure 4 pockets of fluid less than 8cc. We had this problem with Grace and if it dropped below 5cc, Jenn had to go to the hospital for inpatient bed rest.

The fluid level was 4.7 on Tuesday.

Strangely the doctor sent us home and told us to return on Wednesday. On Wednesday the fluid level had dropped to 3.9cc and Jennifer was admitted to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo. They have her on oral fluids and an IV in hopes of raising the level of amniotic fluid as a consequence. Initial tests today show an improvement as the fluid level was at 4.8cc.

We don’t know what caused the low fluid level. With our daughter Grace the doctors just assumed it was a byproduct off the heart block. But with this baby not having heart block we are starting to wonder if it is because of the dexamethasone. There is an off chance that it Jennifer could have gestational diabetes so we are going to ask the doctor to have her tested for that because that is on the list of other possible causes. We have been told that this drug does sometimes cause that or it could be that Jennifer is dehydrated and doesn’t know it.

They are also giving Jennifer several rounds of high dose steroids to help the baby’s lungs mature quicker in case we have to deliver before full term. They did this with Grace and Alexander as well and both of them prove daily that they have fully developed lungs!

Please continue to pray for Jennifer’s health as well as the baby’s. Specifically, pray that the fluid level increases, that Jenn can come home from the hospital, that there are no further complications in the pregnancy and that the baby will come to full term.

If you have any other questions feel free to email me through this blog or directly. I will try to post answers and give further updates on this blog page.

One further thing, I would be remiss if I did not mention the absolute love and support that I have felt from the church family here in Grand Forks. At the moment it is difficult to think clearly enough to even know what we need but people have been wonderful in showing love and support and creatively trying to think for us on what we might need down the pike. I have often commented that the church should be a foretaste of heaven and these last few weeks I have had a little glimpse of it here in this quiet Midwestern town.

Thanks!

With much love and appreciation,

David Monreal

Monday, August 24, 2009

An Open Letter to the Members of the ELCA

“Here I stand. I can do no other.” Martin Luther - 1521

“I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.” (Psalm 119:16)

The Reformation dispute between Martin Luther and the Catholic Church came to a head at the Diet of Worms in 1521 when Luther was called in to renounce his teachings and the 95 Theses he tacked on the church door of Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. As Luther saw it there were two interrelated issues at stake. First, was the authority of Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) as the sole source for doctrine and practice as opposed to the twin authorities of both Scripture and the tradition of the church. Second, was the issue of faith alone (Sola Fide); that a person is justified by grace alone through faith alone. Following Aristotelian from-matter schema, the formal issue was Scripture alone and the material issue was faith alone.

In other words, the underlying issue was the question if God’s Word alone was the only rule for faith and practice or if tradition came alongside and carried equal weight. How this worked out was that the Catholic Church came to a different understanding of salvation because they based it on the twin authorities of Scripture and church tradition. Since both carried equal weight it was Scripture that ultimately was reinterpreted to line up with tradition. Any interpretation of the Bible that ran counter to tradition was disallowed.

Luther’s core conviction was that God’s Word alone binds the conscience and is the sole authority in doctrinal matters. When called to recant he spoke plainly, “Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

Thus began the Reformation that is our history and heritage as Christians. There are interesting parallels between the discussion in Luther’s day and the debate within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The material issue has to do with the acceptance of the practice of homosexuality among the laity and clergy. But underlying the issue is a question of the authority and clarity of the Word of God. Is God’s Word the sole authority in doctrinal matters and do we accept the clear and plain teaching in the Bible or do we allow the changing mores and cultural climate of our day to reject these teachings? Like those in Luther’s day, we are allowing the sentiments of men to reinterpret and redefine what God has clearly said in the Bible.

It is both sad and ironic that the very church that bares Luther’s name would abandon the clear teaching of God’s Word in order to be more in line with the sentiment and spirit of the age. Unwittingly many have overturned the very foundation of the Protestant Reformation and the core convictions of the very reformer they view as their founder.

Many in the Lutheran Church are saying that this issue should not divide the church but rather people should focus on what unites them. If one cannot agree on the very source of authority for faith what is left that unites them? This was the very reason Luther left the Catholic Church and took his stand. I believe those within the Lutheran Church who know Jesus as their Savior must once again have the courage to take a stand and do what is right before God.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hmm, a bit of irony here...

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Police say an upstate New York man concerned about the negative portrayal of Muslims in the media beheaded his wife after she filed for divorce.

Muzzammil Hassan (moo-ZAHM'-mel HAH'-sahn) is charged with murdering his wife, Aasiya (AH'-see-ya) Hassan. Police say she had an order of protection against her husband and he had been kicked out of the house they shared in Orchard Park, near Buffalo.

They accuse the 44-year-old Hassan of cutting off his wife's head at the TV station where he launched his Bridges TV network in 2004. In an AP interview, he said he hoped the network would balance negative portrayals of Muslims following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Hassan surrendered at the police station after his wife's death.

AP article from February 17, 2009

Monday, November 24, 2008

Further thoughts on Gay "Marriage"

I would like to share with you some random, long-winded thoughts on gay marriage. For the sake of brevity I have not included much by way of supplemental material on some of my more debated points but I will gladly point anyone in the proper direction if you would like to know the basis for my comments. Also, I would challenge those who disagree to provide counter-balancing arguments based on science, history or tradition.

What strikes me so often about this debate is that instead of reasoned arguments based on logic, ethics and truth what often happens is name-calling and straw man fallacies. To call me a bigot, homophobe or worse yet, “a fundamentalist Christian” does not refute my arguments but reveals the lack of arguments for the opposing side. I would rather get into a knock down, drag out discussion based on the issues than to have someone sling mud at me and then be self-justified in putting me in my place. As has been said, “when you throw mud at someone else you must realize you are only losing ground beneath your own feet.”

These are not intended to be the end all or be all of the argument and they are not even in totally logical or sequential order. But they are some thoughts I have had on the issue over the months and I have promised many I would comment on the raging battle. Much more could be said and will be as other weigh in.

Please, let me know your thoughts but I am looking for a civil discussion and not a shouting match.

1. Why must we equate a relationship of a man with another man or a woman with another woman as the same thing as a man with a woman? My point, which I will expand upon later in different forms goes to the heart of the issue. We are arguing about the definition of a word and that definition brings to mind specific thoughts, ideas and emotions. We can move the debate to “rights” or “equality” but the foundational issue is what is the definition of marriage? Do we maintain the historical, traditional, cultural definition or do we change the definition to broaden it to include any two legally consenting adults?

2. Further, why must we say that religious arguments are inherently invalid but a secular argument is valid? Isn’t the very difference we are discussing a difference in belief systems? God vs. no god, transcendent morality vs. relative morality? Why must we de facto disallow one view from the outset because it doesn’t line up with the opposing worldview? Why is it inherently wrong to make a distinction and limit the definition of the word and therefore the concept of marriage to refer to the intended permanent, monogamous, heterosexual relationship between a man and a woman? As soon as a person brings up an argument from religion he is dismissed and the basis for his argument is seen as invalid. But saying there is no god is also a philosophical proposition as well. And basis my arguments on the belief that there is no god is also a philosophical position. To argue that there are transcendent values based on a deity is a philosophical position. But to say that morals are relative and situational is also a philosophical position based on the belief that there is no transcendent order and that life exists by random chance over time. It is based on the assumption that we are all there is and that we based right and wrong on what we (or the majority of culture) decides is right and wrong.

3. Why are opinions based on emotions and personal sentiments inherently more valuable that opinions based on religious convictions and personal beliefs? On what basis does anyone make moral or ethical arguments? I based my arguments on “something” even if that something is my own subjective experience. A Christian bases his beliefs on the Bible and his understanding of a transcendent, eternal God. A Muslim bases his beliefs on the Koran and his understanding of Allah. A person who has no transcendent belief system bases his view of right and wrong on philosophical and ethical arguments created by philosophers. Some base it on tradition. Others base it on majority opinion. Others base it on their own personal beliefs (emotions, sentiments, opinions). All of us seem to inherently work out of a moral framework that we have learned and accepted as true. Perhaps this is what theologians and philosophers call a conscience. I would define a conscience as the internal moral mechanism based on the moral teaching that we have had that we accept as true and through which we determine if something is “right” or “wrong.” If that is the case then aren’t we just arguing beliefs based on perspective? And if that is the case then aren’t the religious arguments as valid as the non-religious arguments? If not, on what basis do you make that judgment?

4. Why must we be willing to ignore 6,000 years of recorded history, tradition that transcends national boundaries and cultures and the beliefs of the majority of people in our country to attempt a social experiment that will alter the very fabric of our society? This is really the rub of the issue on a cultural, practical basis. If the vote in California, lets say, had gone the other way and voters had approved gay marriage would we be having this discussion? It seems to me that the democratic process works as long as the decision goes my way. We have history, tradition and religious beliefs that are being ignored or disregarded for the sake of changing the fabric of society. Will gay marriage affect me? Surely it will because it changes the definition of marriage for everyone, not just homosexuals. If words are used in our thinking to define concepts then changing the definition of marriage is not only about changing words but changing concepts and thoughts. If gay marriage is viewed as “right” then to disagree is inherently “wrong.” We have already seen cases (perhaps rare at the moment but can it be forever?) where certain ideas are viewed as not only inherently wrong but also illegal and criminal. If we change the definition of marriage and allow for this right then those who speak against it are inherently wrong. Further, if that is the case and those words (sermons) are twisted and used for malevolent ends could it not be argued that those words are “hate speech” and should be censored? Certainly they could and conceivably they will over time. This would be a slippery slope if it has not already happened in other contexts (Canada and Europe presently). Why is it improper to define and limit a definition that has served society for written history?

5. What does it matter to me personally what other people do? It matters a lot! There is general morality that says some things are proper and some things are improper within society. We limit people all the time for the general good of society. One may certainly not run naked in the park or have public sex. Why? Because there is a consensus that those things are outside the bounds of public acceptance. We do so for the sake of children and for the sake of generally accepted public decency. If gay marriage is allowed then whenever the discussion comes up in a school classroom the teacher will be obligated to give every perspective on the issue or be accused of discrimination. Why should my child be forced to accept a position that we believe is morally unacceptable and against both history and tradition? Why should I have to explain to a toddler why the adopted child has two daddies? Once could say, oh you don’t have to accept it or teach it as morally valid to your children. But what would happen if a child stands up in a public school setting, say in fifth grade and says that homosexual marriage is wrong? That student would be corrected by no less an authority than his teacher with the full weight of the educational system behind that instructor. A classroom of young, impressionable minds is going to not hear equal time for opposing views but will hear what is the accepted and “legal” view. Even if it is never brought up in school or taught about (however unlikely a scenario that may be) it will still have to be addressed on a regular basis since it would be an accepted and protected part of society. So to say that gay marriage doesn’t affect my family or me and I should let people do whatever they want is just not accurate. I read recently the analogy of a large boat where one person is trying to drill a hole on the bottom. It could be argued that we should leave that person alone since his decision is not affecting you directly since he is not in your part of the boat. But to allow him to exercise his freedom on his side of the boat surely will have an effect on you as it brings down the whole ship. Likewise, changing the definition of marriage changes it for everyone not merely for those who are homosexual. His drilling a hole in California certainly will affect my end of the boat in North Dakota. Anyway, if that weren’t the case why would people from the rest of the country be so bent out of shape with what California decided? Their decision doesn’t affect everyone else, does it?

6. We make a mistake to equate historic civil rights that were based on nationality and skin color to gay rights that are based on sexual behavior and lifestyle. It has never been conclusively argued that homosexuality is genetic in its basis. In fact, much logic and science goes against a purely genetic argument. Studies of identical twins have shown conclusively that it cannot be a purely genetic basis. If it were purely genetic there would be a 100% concurrence rate (just like eye color, looks and physical traits). I would suggest that there is a complex matrix or influences that move a person to homosexuality and not a small percentage of those influences are from early childhood. This also explains why some people remember thoughts or feelings from early childhood. Further, if homosexuality were purely genetic and true homosexuals by definition did not have children biologically then prior to common fertilization treatments the “gay gene” would diminish from generation to generation. To put it in straightforward terms, let’s supposed that everyone on an island were purely homosexual, if you were to go back to that island in 75 or 100 years, how many people living in the island would be homosexual? The obvious answer would be none because there would be no next generation. Therefore there would inherently be a diminishing pool of the gene, as natural selection would eradicate that gene over time. The argument would have to be that homosexuality is a recessive gene. But if that were the case then wouldn’t everyone pick up a dominant heterosexual gene since presumably his or her parents were heterosexual. One could argue that there are many bisexual parents who don’t know or deny their homosexual tendencies but then it could be argued that there are many closet heterosexuals among the homosexual population. Worse still would be to say that homosexuality were a genetic aberration which then begs the question if it should be tested for and eradicated if found. I don’t intend to solve the “nature vs. nurture” argument for homosexual behavior but want to make the more modest argument that it is far from certain that homosexuality is genetic and that much argues against a purely genetic basis.

7. We must not mistake the argument for “civil rights.” This is an argument not over rights, which homosexuals have in most states under “domestic partnership laws,” but an argument over the nature and definition of the CONCEPT of marriage in our culture. The concept of marriage has had a very specific and limited application in western civilization at least from the times of the Romans. Further, it has been associated in our culture most directly to religious ideals stemming from the pages of the Old and New Testament. To acknowledge this is to merely acknowledge our history and heritage. Now some desire to change this and ignore this history and cry “foul” is anyone else brings this up. Why must we ignore the history and heritage of the majority of people who have lived in our country for the sake of an untried social experiment by expanding the definition of marriage?

8. During my Masters Degree studies I did extensive research on the question of homosexuality. First, a person must have two discussions because the nature and practices of male homosexuality are very different from that of female homosexuality. Reasons, rationales and potential causes seem to vary from the onset of the discussion so I will direct my comments to male homosexuality for the moment. Among the male homosexual population I was shocked to find the level of sexual partners to be shockingly distinct from the heterosexual population. It is not uncommon for practicing male homosexuals to “cruise” for an anonymous sexual encounter without strings attached or any intention for a relationship. This is based purely on physical attraction and desire. This is much more so than in heterosexual relationships. Some could argue that is true among heterosexual guys as well and I would grant the point. Men in general tend to be more focused on sex regardless of the existence or depth of a relationship. In general that is not the case for women but our culture is trying to change that. However, by in large it is still true that women do not seek anonymous sexual encounters with men. But this brings me to my very point. In a heterosexual relationship there are two people with different biological and psychological makeup that offset one another’s drives and desires. Together they bring a level of stability and consistency that is not found among practicing homosexual men. I think it could be decisively argued that the woman in the relationship pushes the couple towards stability and permanence even as the man in that relationship may initially be motivated more by physiological drives. Together they have the biological basis for marriage, both the permanence and stability of lasting relationship and the sexual drive that pushes people toward sexual encounters and procreation.

9. It could be argued that the institution of marriage is crumbling and that the idea of stability and permanence is from a bygone era. That may be the case to some extend but the solution is not to change the definition of marriage and bring into it a situation where the “couple” is inherently more promiscuous and less likely to remain in a long-term commitment. I believe the answer lies in the very opposite direction. We must strengthen the institution of marriage and hold it in high regard for the sake of the stability of our society and the future generations. So often people rise or fall to the level of expectation that is placed upon them. If we view marriage as a contract of convenience that is easily entered into and more easily dissolved then people will not weigh the decision heavily before entering in. However, if we as a society view marriage as a special relationship with clear boundaries and expectations then perhaps over time a greater number of couples will rise to the challenge. Will we ever have a perfect marriage in our culture? Of course not. We are too selfish and self-centered for that. But could we have a better situation? Absolutely. But the exact wrong answer for that is to broaden and water down the definition of marriage to allow for any two adults to become marriage partners.

10. If we do this, why stop there? Why not allow three people to get married or four? On what basis could you argue against polygamy if you allow for homosexual marriage? Who are you to decide what is right for three other consenting adults? Or four? Or five? The same arguments that justify homosexual marriage also justify polygamy? What arguments would be different? Why is two people “right” but three people “wrong”? The same arguments used to limit marriage to a man and women are the same ones that argue against polygamy. But to allow for homosexual marriage is to open the door inherently to all other types of social arrangements under the broadened definition of “marriage.” On what basis do we allow one and disallow the other if all we have is our own subject, personal opinions? Could we argue that it is better for society to disallow polygamy? Could we say it is better for children to disallow polygamy? Could we say that it flies in the face of history and tradition to disallow polygamy? Or does a proponent of gay marriage say we just like one and don’t like the other? As the philosopher Francis Schaeffer once quipped, “modern man has both feet firmly planted in midair.”

I share with you my thoughts, observations and ruminations to stir dialog and debate over the issue of gay marriage. Clearly I don’t think the issue is resolved and I don’t think that secularists have the moral high ground over those who hold to transcendent morality. We live in a pluralistic society and we need to allow all voices to be heard and weigh in on the argument. We should not inherently disallow arguments merely because they are based on religious teaching. Further, we need to question the basis of secular arguments for at the core they are based on personal, subjective opinion and nothing more. Even the notion of “rights” is based on the belief that there is transcendent morality. If a secularist wants to argue that there are transcendent rights not based on religion or ideas of God then I would like to hear his rationale.

As I said, much more could be said but it will need to wait for another post. I trust this challenges your thinking on this important cultural issue.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Moving to North Dakota-Volume 2


I know, ya'all were wondering whatever happened to volume 2? I didn't think about how hard it would be to chronicle our move with no real computer access.

Well, my Mac is up and running and I can give you a brief update on how our move has gone. The last you heard we were busy packing the house and getting ready for the movers. The movers came on October 24th and began packing things up and loading them onto the truck. Jenn and the kids went up to her parents' house the day before since it was getting dangerous to have the kids there while we were packing the last of the stuff. No toys, no TV, no comfort.

I was up late the day before packing and woke up early to finish as the movers were loading things onto the truck. After things were loaded I hung out with one of my closest friends for the evening before driving up to Glendora to be with Jenn and the family. It was sad to say goodbye but we had opportunities to see many people and many others came by the house the last few days we were in town.

We had a week between our furniture leaving and our following behind in cars so the family went up to Glendora to visit Jenn’s family and enjoy a week of no responsibilities. We went down to Mexico one last time before moving up to the Canadian Border. One friend of mine said only we would go to Mexico when we have one week left in Southern California!

We finally left for Grand Forks on Thursday, October 30th leaving mid-morning with the intention of staying in St. George Utah that first night. We drove right through the heart of Vegas. I was amazed to see that even the gas station also doubled as a casino. I wouldn't have been surprised to see a slot machine in the bathroom. I'm sure it is only because they haven't figured out sanitation issues or they would have them. Other than getting gas, we didn’t stay in Vegas for too long however. That was our first time in Vegas and I highly doubt I’ll be back there anytime soon.

The second night we stayed in Idaho Falls, ID at a place called Le Ritz. I was afraid the place was going to be a dive but it was an absolutely great hotel with spacious rooms, great service and a wonderful hot breakfast. In fact, both of the first two hotels were great. But our good fortune would not hold out for a third night.

We drove through Idaho and most of Montana. We stayed at a Best Western in the town of Glendive. I would change the spelling of the place to glenDIVE because we did not have a good experience there. As we drove up to the Best Western we were greeted by the Russian Mafia. Perhaps a slight exaggeration but not by much.

There was one door into the place and outside the door were six or eight guys all standing around chain-smoking. They were all rough looking characters and as we approached we could hear that they were all speaking in Russian. Who knew? The cloud of smoke parted enough for us to find the door handled and enter. They kept a really close eye on our vehicles, so much so that when I came back out one of them was scoping out our 4Runner! Maybe he was looking at our California license plate or else he was just checking out our car alarm system.

We had our attack Labrador, Zoe in the back so I wasn’t too worried (yeah, right). We did bring everything in without incident. They had reserved two very nice SMOKING rooms for our convenience. Maybe they just smelled all the smoke on our clothes from walking in the building. We switched that in a hurry. Our rooms were smaller than any other place we have stayed and I thought it was a mistake because of how much they charged us. No refrigerator in the room and barely enough room to put down our luggage. Not fun. We couldn’t wait for morning to come.

We got there so late we needed to get something to eat. Jenn’s dad and I decided to go out and find something open. He decided to drive which was fine with me after having driven for the last 10 hours. We drove around but the only place that was open was a “Taco John’s”. For those of you not from the Midwest, Taco John’s is like Taco Bell. Believe it or not it is actually a chain of “Mexican” food. How Mexican can a restaurant be with the name John. Shouldn’t it be “Juan”?

Two blocks before the restaurant we found the city of Glendive’s main source of income, their speed trap. HALF-way across the bridge the speed changes from 45 to 35 MPH and then to 25 MPH as the bridge ends. One of Glendive’s finest was kind enough to pull us over and give us a $65.00 reminder. He actually pulled us over as we were pulling into Taco John’s. We had to pay cash because we were from out of town and they were afraid that they wouldn’t get their money if we did it by mail. The mayor has to eat, ya know.

I needed change so I walked to the drive through of Taco John’s to break a $20. The cop didn’t carry change with him or it has been a busy night. We finally paid the ticket and drove to the drive through after that 20-minute ordeal. By this time it was 10:05 PM. You guessed it, Taco John’s closed at 10:00! We ended up going to a gas station to buy food. Needless to say, I drove.

The last day of driving was beautiful and uneventful. We only got separated once the entire drive but it was 45 minutes before arriving in Grand Forks when we were going to Wal Mart in Fargo. Good old Wal Mart, or as I call it, “My second home.” We were out of diapers, wipes and milk (nothing important).

We finally got to Grand Forks, got the keys to the house and saw it for the first time. Did I mention that we bought the house off the Internet. Okay, not exactly but that’s too long of a story to get into now. It really was the first time we were seeing our new house for the first time. But we absolutely love it so no complaints there. It wasn’t organized enough for us to stay there so we all stayed at a local hotel. This was one we’ve stayed at before so it wasn’t an issue.

Grace loves popcorn. That may seem random but she was asking for popcorn for hours so I bought some microwave popcorn for the hotel. The only thing worse than burnt microwave popcorn is burnt microwave popcorn in a small, enclosed place with no ventilation! We thought we were going to end up evacuating the hotel there was so much smoke. If anyone from the hotel reads this I’d suggest you check your smoke detectors.

Later that night I awoke feeling very nauseous. I figured it was the microwave popcorn smell lingering in the room. But in the morning I felt even worse, achy and feverish. I told Jenn to take the kids to breakfast as I didn’t feel well enough to go. Shortly after she left my body decided it wanted to return all the food I had eaten for a refund. We thought it was food poisoning (from the gas station in glenDIVE perhaps or the sandwiches we bought at Wal Mart). But apparently I had caught a stomach fu.

I was sick from Monday through Friday, Grace got sick on Friday and was better by Sunday night and Jenn got sick on Friday night and was felling better by Monday. Alexander managed to miss the entire thing! Strange that the kid who picks up random things off the floor and puts them into his mouth is the only one not to get sick!

Well, that’s about it other than unpacking our home and office. With all the illness things have been slow going but the church ahs been absolutely wonderful bringing over meals every night of the week and volunteering to help us unpack. Now that everyone is healthy we should be able to finish the last of the boxes.

Sorry for the long delay before finishing the story but I hope that you had a few chuckles and enjoyed the story of our journey. By the way, sorry Chuck for your speeding ticket. I would have driven.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Moving to North Dakota-Volume 1

We're packing up the kids and moving to Grand Forks, ND!
I thought I would chronicle our move from San Diego to Grand Forks, North Dakota for you, our family and friends.

On a day here in San Diego where it was in the mid-90’s inland I received an email to make sure I check with the National Weather Service as several of the roads through the mountains were closed due to snow, SNOW! Talk about a quick reality check.

We began packing today and I have about half of my office already in boxes and hope to finish with that tomorrow. We also have friends coming over to help us pack tomorrow so we should get a good jump on it. One of the things that always runs through a person’s mind when he is packing is that now would be a good time to get rid of some of that useless stuff that you have acquired over the years. All I can say to that is, “Yeah, right.”

Mind you, I have every intention myself of doing that and have divested myself of many things over the years as I have moved from apartments to condos or condos to a house but it seems that the stuff just multiplies faster than you can give it away. I recall throwing out all of my neon clothes from the 80’s only for it to be replaced with equally trendy and later discarded clothes from the 90’s. Now, it is close to the end of the first decade of the 21st century and I’m going through my clothes again. Why do they look similar to the stuff I threw out in the 80’s? Hmm.

We’ve done a few things over the last month in preparation for our move. We have visited both Jenn’s parents in Glendora and my parents in Waukesha, WI. By the way, I ended up on the evening news while I was up there (boy, that was a loaded statement). Seriously, click here to read the transcript and watch the actual video. It was a “man on the street” interview about some vandalism that was occurring in the area. I told them I was from California just visiting my parents before moving to North Dakota. If you listen carefully they never say I actually live there. Tricky. At first I thought they lied.

Anyway, we also took the kids to Disneyland (for three full days!) with special “Southern California Special” tickets. That was a lot of fun for a day. We also went up to Julian, CA for a few days at a Bed and Breakfast in a small mining town in the mountains to celebrate Jenn’s “29th birthday.” It was Apple Harvest time so we enjoyed fresh baked pie along with wonderful food and quiet strolls through the town.

A few weeks ago I celebrated my 40th birthday party and was reminded not to give a one year old a piece of cake and turn your back for a minute. Turning 40 was no big deal actually. I didn’t have any existential experiences or profound realizations of my mortality. We had about 40 people over to the house (the number was purely coincidental) and had a great time celebrating. It was interesting watching some of my younger friends in their 20’s hanging out with people in their 70’s and 80’s but everyone had a good time. What made it extra special was having one of my closest friends in the world who was my Best Man at our wedding fly out to celebrate the day with us. If you read this Jason, thanks for celebrating another decade with me!

Well, that’s enough of a rambling blog for the night. I’ll throw some pictures up as we pack for the move and give you the blow by blow of all the action. We have movers this time so maybe I won’t break a bone like I did on one of our previous moves…maybe.