About Us, Personal Growth

Couch Time

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(Fair Warning: This post has more transparent and personal insight on life and marriage than most. If that’s not your thing, scroll along. If it is, enter your email on the website for a free subscription. There may be more transparency coming ; )

Now for the actual text:

There is not, for all practical purposes, a couch in the Ahlmann Family Airstream. By that I don’t mean there isn’t one, for there are in fact two. (Separated by a table at the front end, they frame the dining room, living room and bedroom, as the table sinks to form our bed.) But for practical purposes, or rather one specific purpose, a couch doesn’t exist.

I can see I will have to explain.

The purpose to which I refer is the occasional evening when a casual conversation becomes a constructive discussion. Or worse, an unconstructive one. You know, the kind of marital debate that requires private time of reflection because further exchange is going nowhere, and the passing thought appears that spending an evening on the couch, with a little distance, might be a viable and even beneficial option.

But for that specific purpose, a couch doesn’t exist. Because the couches that do exist convert to become the master bedroom, i.e. the one and only cushioned surface available for sleeping, with little opportunity for “distance.”

The décor of our Airstream thus encourages what any good marriage counselor recommends: Solve your issues before you go to bed (however long that takes.) And that length of time, interestingly, seems to be unchanged since we first got married 12 years ago. The topics of constructive discussion have evolved (we spend little time now arguing money or sex, the statistical #1 and #2 sources of marital strife), but we do occasionally spar on topics of life plans, raising children (and related coordination), and a recent category that I will call “great ideas that Christian can sell everybody in the world on, except Rachel (because she has already seen through them).”

For those evenings, when opposing views require focused verbal exchange, we are stuck to sort it out. Stuck to agree, at least, on where to cordially park the topic to be solved another day.

Christian

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About Us, Personal Growth

Guns, Deer, and the Joy of Parenting

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“Hey Dad!” said Caleb as I headed out the door. “When you get home from work, we should have a drink and talk about hunting a deer.”

I concealed a laugh, and simply told him “Sure. Sounds good son.” But Rachel, standing behind him, appeared equally amused.

For the “drink,” it turned out, he was happy with milk. But he had a very clear intention with the topic of conversation. “Dad, I need to learn how to kill deer.”

The request, and the “need,” surfaced an amusing truth: For a kid at age 6, Dad is still assumed to be the definitive resource on anything he needs to learn. It matters not that Dad has never shot a deer, or that he has shot exactly one turkey. And even that was the result of one gaggles foolishly predictable travel pattern near the office around Thanksgiving, not Dad’s impeccable turkey calling skills or any enviable outdoorsman-ship in general.

The turkey adventure had stretched into the night, with Rachel and a YouTube instructional video on the front deck to guide our plucking and cleaning process. It’s worth noting that Rachel, unlike most spouses, did not respond negatively to my call about a large bird in the back of my truck, in need of plucking.   Fortunately for the rest of us, her interest in fine food from fine sources outweighs the initial inconvenience of plucking.

And that may become the perfect match. If Caleb learns to hunt, under my guidance (or rather, via Dr. Grant Woods at www.GrowingDeer.tv as interpreted through Dad), and Rachel enjoys cooking the quail, deer and turkeys that march regularly within rock-throwing distance of the Ahlmann Family Airstream at Six Sigma Ranch, this could turn out well. (The buck pictured above is one of the local residents.)

So far we’ve sighted in uncle Michael’s air rifle for target practice. It can, according to reliable sources, also serve to take down my young protégé’s first game, including quail, as soon as he can reach around the stock and look through the scope at the same time. Stay tuned.

Christian

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Photo Credit: Bob Minenna

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About Us, Personal Growth

Letting Go.

dsc06932Our son was 45 minutes old when he stopped breathing. He was born, and began to nurse. Then he went limp and turned blue.

The day before began like every “we’re having a baby!” story. Rachel went into labor and we went to the hospital. Nurses worked and friends cheered from afar. But no baby arrived. A combination of bad angle and a big head (blame his father for the cranial circumference,) made him stuck, and left mother and baby exhausted. The result was an emergency C-section that his doctor later confessed was the most difficult he had performed in his three-decade career. And yet, he extracted a perfect baby boy, whom the nurses cleaned up and handed over before leaving the room to fill out their charts. There we were, suddenly a family of 3 in perfect peace, until our new family member turned blue and stopped moving.

It was a miracle that Rachel noticed, in a dim room with 45 minutes of experience as a mother, that something was wrong. And I didn’t believe her at first. “Hey, come here, he’s not breathing” she yelled. Calmly I told her that he was a tired infant, and probably just went to sleep. But his arms flopped behind his back when she raised him into the air to prove her point, and I quickly caught her mood.

I ran into the hall where I met the same calming response that I had given Rachel, until the nurses saw my face. Then one of them, a fiery woman from somewhere in Eastern Europe, elbowed her way through the crowd. Her expression made it clear she was in charge of reviving babies, even if not specifically assigned to them.

What followed was sixty seconds of hustle that felt like an hour, as she worked a facemask attached to a clear plastic bulb the size of a football. The baby went from blue to purple, then dark pink and finally turned the pink-ish peach color he was supposed to be. But he still wasn’t right.

The next two hours included tests and x-rays in a small room, blood samples and murmurs among the nurses. He was alive, but not lively. And his blood sugar was too low. Then an x-ray showed a collapsed lung, which prompted a call for a helicopter to a larger hospital.

Somewhere between the blood samples and the helicopter, I realized that nothing I could do would change the outcome. And so far it seemed that nothing the nurses could do would change it either. As a person of faith, I spent most of those hours in intermittent prayer. I thanked God for the blessing of a son, but finally accepted that the baby was His to give and take. I prayed to keep him, and then left it in the hands of God.

It’s a lesson that I have to learn again and again. It’s not my stuff. It’s not my work. It’s not even my kid. It’s all God’s stuff, and I thank Him daily for letting me take care of it. That prayer, the “God, it’s yours to give or take, and it’s all for your glory,” doesn’t mean I always get to keep it. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. But it lifts the anxiety from my shoulders to His, and brings a sense of peace.

Rachel and I had been awake for a long time when the helicopter arrived, so my father gave me a ride to the larger hospital. Rachel stayed because of her surgery. It was strange to approach the front desk and answer my “relationship to the patient.” I thought for a moment, and then said for the first time in my life, “I’m his father.”

The doctor in charge of the infant unit looked toward an unlabeled crib in a brightly lit room. “There he is,” she said without expression, and pointed when she realized I couldn’t recognize him yet. He was covered with wires and monitors, blinking and beeping. “And he’s fine.”

“What do you mean?” I asked her. “He’s fine,” she said again. “He’s tired from a rough day, but he’s sleeping and doing great. He’s fine.”

That day I handed Caleb to God, and God gave him right back. We still monitored his breathing for months, but it never stopped. The collapsed lung on the x-ray was in order by the time they got him off the helicopter. That too, belongs to God.

Christian

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About Us

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have an Announcement.

IMG_4408  <–  That’s the Ahlmann clan right there, in case we haven’t gotten to meet you yet. And depending on when that happens (us meeting you), there may be one more of us.  Yes, indeed, we’re expecting another Ahlmann at the end of January.  Caleb and Elizabeth are pretty sure it will be a baby girl, which means they’re carrying around a stuffed pink sheep and announcing it to be “mommy’s baby.” If you have seen us recently, you’ve probably noticed that Rachel has a little bump.

On this blog, the only change you might see is that posts could happen after midnight, in between late night burpings and diaper changes.  We will do our best not to let sleep deprivation interfere with the value of the content.

Rachel and Christian

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