Author Archives: masonymelissa

Update on the Kiddos

photo copy 5Liam and Sofia are now 3 years and 22 months respectively. My, how time flies. It’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks we will have a 3 and a 2 year old. I know it’s a cliche comment and ubiquitous sentiment among parents, but it is nonetheless true that your children grow up faster than you can possibly anticipate – literally right before your eyes. It’s so very hard to believe that Liam was born 3 years ago, and perhaps even harder to believe that Sofia was born nearly 2 years ago. It really just seems like a few months ago that our baby girl entered the world on a lukewarm (seasonal for Destin, FL) Thanksgiving morning, changing our lives even more radically than just 15 months prior when Liam made his debut. In some ways it is sad that the baby phases have passed, but on the other hand it is exciting to see them grow and mature, and to watch their personalities emerge day by day. It is sometimes exciting, sometimes funny, sometimes exasperating, but always fascinating.

Before getting into specifics about Liam and Sofia, just a few general thoughts on being a parent and father. In the Bible, King Solomon – in one of his few known psalms – writes that “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3). This is undoubtedly true, for children are indeed a gift from God and a reward in the sense that they are completely undeserved blessings. Melissa and I adore Liam and Sofia, and have been eminently edified by their presence in our lives. Yet they are unmerited blessings: we did our part from a biological standpoint, but from there  – beginning with fertilization of the egg – we did nothing. Who our children are and how much joy they bring are determined by God alone. We did nothing to cause them to have such fun and entertaining personalities. We did nothing to ensure they were born healthy and have remained so since birth. In sum, we cannot claim credit for any of the innately wonderful attributes of our children; that they are so wonderful only draws our eyes heavenward, because left to our own devices Liam and Sofia would probably not be so wonderful.

It’s not that we are particularly bad people; the reality is no one deserves the incredibly awesome gift that are children. Indeed, children serve as a reminder that God does not give us what we really deserve, because if He did we would be in for nothing but tragedy, heartbreak, and turmoil. But the good news is God is defined by faithfulness and steadfast love (to use Old Testament terminology), and it is just that love that caused Liam and Sofia to be who they are. As U2’s famous lead singer says in Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, “along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that ‘as you reap, so you will sow’ stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.” Bono nails the difference between grace and karma, and there is no better of demonstration of the profligacy of God’s grace than children. Liam and Sofia are unmerited gifts; I cannot express the fullness of gratitude I have for those gifts.

In addition to demonstrating God’s grace, being a parent also helps us understand the greatness of God and our relationship with Him. As a father, I love Liam and Sofia unconditionally; I love them because they are, not because of some inherently lovable qualities. But part of loving them means both giving them things they don’t want and withholding things from them they don’t want withheld. For example, though generally fun and cheerful, Liam is not a big fan of food. Sometimes it seems like every meal is a major trial prodding him to eat just a basic requisite amount of nutrition. (Why this is the case is a mystery to us: Melissa and I both love eating, especially when it can be done guilt free) To a 3 year old, the necessity of eating is a mystery. He doesn’t understand our insistence on a full meal, and his feelings are hurt that we would force him to do something he doesn’t want to do. The only way he eats sometimes is with discipline, or the threat of discipline, and even then it is very reluctantly. It’s sometimes hard to understand this reluctance to eat – why does he get mad at Melissa and me for insisting he do something that he absolutely must do for survival? Why is something so enjoyable and so necessary such a source of conflict?

photo copy 3The reason is because Liam, as a 3 year old, can be stubborn and is unaware of his own lack of knowledge and understanding. All he knows is that he wants to play instead of eat (a common 3 year old mentality). He can’t grasp that something so unappealing could be so fundamental to survival. All he knows is what he wants in the moment: to play, explore outside, work on a craft, read a book, or basically do anything other than eat, and on a certain level he resents the fact that we force him to eat. He fails to grasp that we force him to eat because we love him, and that not only is eating necessary, but it will make the playing and painting and exploring outside that much more enjoyable. Our insistence on doing something he dislikes stems from our love for him. If we did not love him we would not care whether not or eats. So what he resents us for making him do, we make him do because we know it is the best thing for him.

But what is so easy to forget is that our relationship with our children mirrors our relationship with God, only more so. God gives us commandments and precepts and limits not because He doesn’t love us, but because He loves us beyond comprehension. If He did not love us He wouldn’t care what we did or how we acted. But because He loves us, He often wants us to do things we can’t understand and don’t enjoy doing, and often withholds things from us that we resent Him for withholding. Seeing my relationship to Liam – my 34 years of learning and knowledge and experience and development compared to his 3 – makes me realize that my relationship with God is even more lopsided. He is infinite and unfathomable, and I am a very finite 34 year old. He is infinitely wiser and more understanding than I am, and moreover knows all that happens, both past and present, and weaves all things together for His glory. That I can struggle with and occasionally resent God’s direction in my life is so incredibly foolish and immature. Liam should simply trust that as his loving parents, Melissa and I will always do what is in his best interest. We may not do what he wants, but we always act for his ultimate good. So it is with God and us. He always acts in our ultimate best interest, even if it is unpleasant and painful in the moment, and even if we can’t understand it. So being a father and showing love for Liam and Sofia, and seeing that love misunderstood and not comprehended makes me realize how much easier life would be if I would simply trust and obey God. If Liam can trust two well-meaning, loving, but finite parents, we all can trust an infinitely loving and infinitely wise God.

Moving on from the esoteric, one of the most fascinating aspects of parenthood is seeing the personalities of my children. In many ways they are their own unique person, but in some ways that are obvious amalgamations of their parents. In our case, the most obvious demonstration of this is the blend of their social tendencies, because that’s where Melissa and I are most different. Melissa is warm and outgoing and mostly extroverted, whereas I am much less outgoing and generally introverted. Liam and Sofia are sort of a hybrid of both of our personalities. Liam, for example, loves being around people. He likes being around adults, and he likes being around other kids. He rarely goes off and plays on his own – he almost always wants to do something with the nearest adult or other child. He also loves talking. Being around Liam is to get a running commentary on life literally from the moment he wakes up until he goes to bed at night; I usually leave the room after tucking him in while he is still talking. Even so, he tends to be shy around new people. He gets an embarrassed look around new people (more adults than kids), and takes a while to warm up to strangers. But once he does warm up, it seems as though there is no cooling him down. I love this about Liam, because it is very different from me. I am not a talker and don’t have a strong need to be around other people – Liam is very much the other end of the spectrum.

photo copy On the other hand, Sofia is much better at playing by herself and is generally less vocal than her older brother. She likes being around people and probably “talks” more than the average toddler, but compared to Liam she is an absolute wallflower. She is giggly and silly and fun to be around, but she also likes going off and “reading” a book by herself. She likes people, but is happy by herself as well. However, she is much more outgoing and does much better with new faces than Liam. She has no problem talking to anyone or interacting with anyone in just about any context. She smiles and enjoys attention from other adults – very different from Liam. And yet, unlike Liam, she generally doesn’t need other people or kids around all the time. It’s as if Liam has a harder time interacting with new people but is very outgoing with familiar people, whereas his younger sister does much better with new people, but generally doesn’t need to be around others as much. Thus their social sensibilities are basically a mix and match of their parents social tendencies.

As I posted last year, Liam and Sofia are different in a lot of ways. It has been especially fun watching Sofia’s personality emerge over the past year. She is generally very easy going, reacts well to change, and like both her parents, loves to eat and sleep. Liam is ready to go and talking 90 to nothing from literally the moment his eyes open (usually VERY early), while Sofia takes a little while to get her act together in the morning; we often find Sofia with her “lovie” covering her face in the morning. As alluded to above, Sofia loves eating to the point of going overboard at times, while it’s like pulling teeth to get Liam to take a single bite. Sofia likes reading. She has her set of favorite books at different times, and likes adults to read to her as well as “reading” on her own. She likes wearing scarves, necklaces, hats, and shoes, and constantly rifles her Mommy’s drawers to get her clothes. She also loves her family, and is very unhappy when anyone leaves the house. Most of all she loves Liam, and follows him everywhere he goes, to the point of seeming like his shadow sometimes. She is observant and we often find her gesturing like her older brother, even to the point of imitating very subtle movements and expressions. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the Sofia is watching and learning because she is so much less vocal than her brother, but it is obvious that she truly is a sponge when it comes to observing what’s going on around her. It’s really hard not to love Sofia: she is so easygoing and not the least bit stingy with smiles and giggles and kisses. She is an absolute joy the vast majority of the time.

Liam is a joy as well, but in different ways. He is very thoughtful and tenderhearted, and very sensitive to others’ feelings. It truly bothers him when he thinks others are down or sad, even if it is on a video or TV. Yet not only is he sensitive others’ feelings, but he is also sympathetic and tries to comfort people when he senses they are unhappy, either with a hug or some other expression of affection. He has called Melissa beautiful (unprompted!) on multiple occasions, and will say to us randomly “I love you so much.” He is also very intelligent and inquisitive, always more interested in how toys work than actually playing with the toys themselves. He likes reading books, but only reads them with one of us; unlike Sofia, he usually does not like reading on his own. Liam loves firetrucks to the point of obsessiveness. He watches videos of firetrucks, he has at least a dozen toy firetrucks of various sizes and shapes, and he loves sliding down “poles,” whether they stair rails, chair legs, door frames, or really anything that he can wrap his legs and slide down. We are always putting out pretend fires and turning off alarms, and he is always cognizant of where smoke detectors and fire alarms are when he goes in a new house or building.

photo copy 6The most interesting thing about Liam is his incredibly expressive vocal ability. He talks virtually non-stop, and talks well. He may be small for his age and a finicky eater, but few 3 year olds, especially boys, can match his verbosity. He is always talking about everything, and usually makes coherent sense, if not logical sense. This is fun and entertaining most of the time, but can he exasperating at others. For example, last night during a typical showdown over his dinner, he said his food was “not my problem,” and that was after, while I attempted to feed him a forkful of food, he turned to me and said in a vice of unmitigated annoyance, “Stop it, I’m trying to talk to Mommy right now.” I admit I laughed both times, violating the cardinal rule of parenting. But that’s the great thing about his loquaciousness: we always know what he’s thinking and feeling. If we have this much fun talking with at age 3, I can’t wait to see what’s it’s like in 10 years!

I could go on, but I’ll end here for the night. I have a wonderful family, a true example of God’s amazing love and graciousness. Melissa is a great wife and mother as I wrote last year, and since that post she has demonstrated those qualities to an even greater degree. I am so thankful for her and for our phenomenal children!



Blue M&M


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Filed under Liam, Parenthood/Pregnancy, Sofia

Did they really come from the same gene pool?

They both came from the same womb just 477 days apart, and they both share certain faint physical traits with Melissa and with me. But otherwise, is there any reason to believe they have the same parents? Sure, Sofia looks like Melissa in some ways and maybe like me in a few minor ways (lucky girl!), and Liam shares some of my physical traits and a few of Melissa’s as well.

Yet for the small ways they look like their parents, they look absolutely nothing like each other. Liam is blonde with a round face, while Sofia has brown hair (not much of it) and an oval, pudgy face. Liam has always been small for his age  – 10th percentile in weight as of his last doctor’s visit – while Sofia has always been average to above average in size (50th-75th percentile in weight). Liam has mostly rough, dry skin, while Sofia’s has always been smooth and soft. Sofia has always had the little baby fat rolls, while Liam never really had them. Sofia has a big, open mouth smile with dimples, while Liam has more of a beaming grin.

Yet beyond their static physical differences, they are also dynamically disparate as well. Sofia never stops moving. And no, that’s not hyperbole: the little wiggle-worm has been in perpetual motion since conception. Melissa felt her moving non-stop in utero, and she hasn’t slowed down, even after birth. It doesn’t matter if she’s eating, sleeping, or just sitting in someone’s lap, some part of her body is moving: twisting her feet at the ankles, reaching for some irresistible object with her hands, or generally contorting and twisting her little slinky of a body. She wakes up in such radically different positions and locations in her crib from where we put her down for the night, we are suspicious she makes late-night excursions around the house. She has been rolling over since before she was 4 months, and now at 7 months is basically crawling. Sofia has no problem with tummy time, and if she sees something she wants across the floor, she at least makes an effort via rolling, pseudo-crawling, etc. to get it.

Liam composing his first concerto at 16 months old.

Liam runs and walks around like any 23 month old boy, but he can also sit still for long periods of time. He is perfectly content to sit in our laps and read books, watch Sprout TV, or teach me how to use the I-phone. Perhaps simply savoring his food, Liam has never fidgeted considerably while eating. Neither has he felt any sense of urgency in gaining mobility. He rolled over for the first time at 4 months, but rarely did it for the next few months, and did not crawl until he was 11 months. He took his time walking as well, refusing to go it alone without the security blanket of an extended parental finger until he was nearly 14 months.

Sofia enjoys eating. She has always breastfed well, and as a result we waited until she was nearly 6 months old before feeding her solids, whereas with Liam we started at 4 months. It has always been a bit difficult getting Liam to eat: he is picky and impatient when it comes down to sitting down for a meal. He prefers to eat his food on the go, or at least graze during the course of playtime. And he has always had certain likes and dislikes, and he can be fickle: a banana-avocado  combination (“bananacado”) was initially positively delectable, but over time morphed into something repulsive. He was never a big fan of yellow squash or anything green. Now ice cream (helado) is a favorite, along with bread (pan); vegetables are unpopular. Sofia just likes food. Any food.

Their vocal emanations are also near-opposite: Sofia doesn’t “talk” much, Liam never shuts up. Indeed, our 23 month old is so loquacious I’m really curious to find out what we’re missing when he finally develops the ability to enunciate fully. He carries on a running monologue from the moment he wakes up to the moment he falls asleep. Liam is not “awake” until he’s talking. I’ve gotten lectures on all sorts of things, most recently the mechanization of a lawn mower. Granted, there were some fuzzy moments, but he clearly said “gas” while pointing to the gas can, “round-round-round” while pointing to the engine, “push” while pointing to the handle, and “grass” to top it off. And after we pick him up from the nursery after church, there’s no need to wonder what he was up to: he gives us a play by play all the way to the car. This is nothing new. From 2 months old he was “cooing” incessantly, and from 3 months old was prone to fits of hysterical peals of laughter. Only when in the company of strangers does he become somewhat reserved.

Sofia chuckles…occasionally. Mostly she smiles and lets out excited little squeals in the heat of the moment. She hums with approval while eating, and whines in disappointment when she isn’t being fed fast enough or when the meal is done. She lets out a frustrated “ma-ma-ma” or “da-da-da” when she’s not perfectly content, which is rare. For all her love of movement far beyond that of her brother, she is relatively mute compared to his verbosity.

And of course their personalities couldn’t be more different. Liam is always into something. He’s inquisitive, curious, and patient when it comes to figuring things out. He is also finicky, picky, and has definite ideas about the way things should be and has no problem vocalizing those ideas. He has a bizarre obsession fondness for vacuum cleaners. He likes pushing them, he likes watching other people push them, he likes turning them on and off, and he likes detaching the hose to get those hard to reach places. And he likes actually vacuuming. If the vacuum gets put away, a fit will follow. And speaking of fits, Liam throws them. Often. Indeed, if there’s one area of clear precociousness, it’s his penchant for epic tantrums. Melissa – and me, but mostly Melissa – has done a great job disciplining and correcting him and he has improved considerably, but there was a time when it looked the Terrible Twos were starting very early. Yet he is also extremely loving and gentle. He loves snuggling and loves doing things with us: he likes reading with us, playing with us, and teaching us things. Liam is very sensitive, and always try to “comfort” us and Sofia if he senses we are unhappy. Most of all, he just enjoys being around his Ma-ma and Da-da.

And in that regard they actually similar: both of them love being around us. Neither of them tolerate being “on their own” for more than a few minutes. Yet even with us, Liam can still be prickly at times. Sofia is just happy to be there. She is extremely generous with her wide smiles, and really only cries if very hungry or tired. For the most part she is profoundly content as long as she’s with someone. She’s happy to bounce in her jumper, to play with her toys, to hang out on her play mat, to eat, to sleep, and she’s even fine with riding in the car now. If Liam isn’t perfectly content he has never been shy about letting us know; Sofia has seemingly never been discontent.

Yet for all their many differences, I could not be more proud of either of them. I love Liam’s talkative particulars, and I love Sofia’s jolly equanimity. They are both wonderful children in their own way – truly gifts from God. Just as racial diversity gives us a glimpse of heaven, so too does the varying personalities of our children. I can only imagine what a 3rd would be like…



Filed under Liam, Miscellany and Tomfoolery, Parenthood/Pregnancy, Sofia

Why the Supreme Court was right to uphold a terrible law

Full disclosure: I am totally opposed to the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare). It is a well-intended but horribly executed law that harms patients, health care providers, and the economy (the job losses will be significant), and benefits no one other than insurance companies. The law has noble intent: to expand health coverage for more Americans. But the law is a ramshackle dunghill of poorly conceived ideas that lacks reason, coherence, and efficacy. It is a gross expansion of federal power with very little tangible benefit from said expansion. I completely support its repeal, and believe it is the single most important issue in the November elections.

Yet as bad as the law is and as much as I wanted to see the Supreme Court strike it down today, after reading the opinions (yes, I actually read them), I cannot disagree with Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion in upholding the law. The reason I can’t disagree is based on understanding the role of the Court. The Supreme Court does not make law or policy – that is the job of Congress and the President. According to Article III of the Constitution, the Supreme Court rules in disputes about the interpretation of laws, treaties, and the Constitution. Part of that role includes Judicial Review: determining if a law passed by Congress is Constitutional. Thus the purpose of the Court’s decision today was not to decide if Obamacare is a wise, good, or effective law, but to determine if there is any way that it passes “Constitutional muster.”

The core issue of this case – and the reason 26 states sued to block the law – is the idea that a federal mandate to purchase insurance (or any product) is beyond the powers granted to Congress in the Constitution. The states argued that there is no legal right for Congress to force people to purchase something they may not want to purchase, and therefore is exercising a power it is not granted in the Constitution. The government (ie, President Obama’s lawyers) argued that the law is permissible because Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution expressly allows Congress to “regulate…commerce among the several states,” and to pass laws that are “necessary and proper” according the powers they are granted. Their case centered around the notion that everyone is a participant in the health care market, whether or not they have insurance, and therefore Congress can regulate that market and force people to purchase insurance. They also argued, secondarily, that if not a mandate then the law is effectively a tax, and Article I, Section 8 expressly allows taxation.

The states (ie, the law’s opponents) responded to these arguments by stating that the Commerce Clause allows only the regulation of commerce, not the creation of commerce. The core of their argument was that if Congress can regulate an “activity” that exists merely by virtue of being alive, then the government has truly limitless power. They also argued that the tax is really a penalty, not truly a tax, based on the wording of the law itself. What’s more, President Obama was emphatic that the new law was not a tax. In his now infamous interview with George Stephanopoulos, the President was unambiguous that Obamacare was not a tax. In an act of either flagrant hypocrisy or outright deceit, his lawyers argued that it was a tax while the President himself argued that it was not a tax!

In his well-written opinion, Chief Justice Roberts makes the compelling case that the states were mostly correct: Congress CANNOT mandate the purchase of a good or product. The Chief devotes almost the entire first half of his opinion to explaining this concept. He wisely points out that the Constitution does allow for the creation of certain things in Section 8 of Article I, but commerce is not one of them. So he agreed with the opponents of the law in that regard:

Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do. The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers.

I agree with this completely. Congress does not have the power to force people to purchase a good or service that they do not want to purchase. To allow such an action would give virtually limitless powers to Congress, as the Chief Justice implies. Likewise, the “Necessary and Proper” clause does not apply because such a mandate is not proper according the logic above. Thus the core argument of Obamacare’s proponents was eviscerated by the 5-4 majority opinion.

But it doesn’t end there. As Chief Justice Roberts noted – and as all the justices agreed – when the Court determines if a law is Constitutional, it must make every effort to read the law in a way so as to make it Constitutional. In other words, it should look for every way to uphold it, not strike it down. This is appropriate and correct: Congress makes and passes laws, the Courts rule on those laws. It would be wrong to try to find any way to overturn a law passed by the legislature – laws must be presumed to be Constitutional, unless there are glaring problems that cannot be resolved.

Yet despite acknowledging such glaring problems, the Chief Justice ultimately concluded that the law could be considered Constitutional – but only narrowly – as a tax. While acknowledging that the intent is to coerce people to purchase insurance, Chief Justice Roberts notes that the law essentially levies a tax against those without health insurance, and since Congress has the ability to levy taxes, this allows the law to stand. But again, he notes that Congress cannot mandate the purchase of a good, they can only collect the tax from individuals who do not purchase the good. Therefore it cannot be illegal not to purchase health insurance, but it can be illegal not to pay the tax.

The 4-justice minority – possibly at one point the majority – argues that interpreting the mandate as a tax is wrong because the law itself doesn’t consider it a tax, and wasn’t strongly argued as tax before the Court. As this portion of the dissent reads (likely authored by Justice Antonin Scalia):

The Government’s opening brief did not even address the question — perhaps because, until today, no federal court has accepted the implausible argument that §5000A is an exercise of the tax power. And once respondents raised the issue, the Government devoted a mere 21 lines of its reply brief to the issue. Petitioners’ Minimum Coverage Reply Brief 25. At oral argument, the most prolonged statement about the issue was just over 50 words.  One would expect this Court to demand more than fly-by-night briefing and argument before deciding a difficult constitutional question of first impression.

In determining whether, in fact, the law imposes a “tax” or a “penalty,” he also says:

We never have classified as a tax an exaction imposed for violation of the law, and so too, we never have classified as a tax an exaction described in the legislation itself as a penalty. To be sure, we have sometimes treated as a tax a statutory exaction (imposed for something other than a violation of law) which bore an agnostic label that does not entail the significant constitutional consequences of a penalty — such as “license” (License Tax Cases, 5 Wall. 462 (1867)) or “surcharge” (New York v. United States,supra.). But we have never — never — treated as a tax an exaction which faces up to the critical difference between a tax and a penalty, and explicitly denominates the exaction a “penalty.” Eighteen times in §5000A itself and elsewhere throughout the Act, Congress called the exaction in §5000A(b) a “penalty.”

The Chief Justice answers this charge, however, by noting that at this point the main objection is simply over how the exaction is labeled:

The joint dissenters argue that we cannot uphold §5000A as a tax because Congress did not “frame” it as such. In effect, they contend that even if the Constitution permits Congress to do exactly what we interpret this statute to do, the law must be struck down because Congress used the wrong labels….Interpreting such a law to be a tax would hardly “[i]mpos[e] a tax through judicial legislation.” Rather, it would give practical effect to the Legislature’s enactment. Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in §5000A under the taxing power, and that §5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. That is sufficient to sustain it.

In other words, even if poorly “labeled,” the tax is still fundamentally a tax, does not force people to purchase insurance, and therefore is within the enumerated powers of the Constitution. So the law is upheld, but not for the reasons the President and his lawyers argued.

The current justices of the Supreme Court.

While I can certainly see the dissent’s argument – and it is a compelling one – I can’t really fault the Chief for his ruling. Remember, his job is not to determine if the law is good or if it was “sold” to the American people honestly, only to determine if it passes Constitutional muster by any means, and in his view it does. Furthermore, he drew a clear, bright line limiting the federal government’s power under the Commerce Clause. It is abundantly clear from his opinion that Congress cannot mandate people to purchase a good or service: in that sense the reality is that the “mandate” was struck down, but the law was able to stand. I’ve read some opponents of the law blast the Supreme Court ruling and the Chief’s opinion. While I would have been happy to see it go, I can’t find fault with this ruling.

As for President Obama, this will likely turn out to be the ultimate Pyrrhic victory. While his signature legislative accomplishment is allowed to stand, it is forever labeled a tax – something he vociferously denied on multiple occasions.  Americans don’t like taxes, and in an election year it will be extremely difficult for the President to defend an already unpopular bill, especially now that it is undoubtedly a major tax increase. The Republican base will be extremely motivated, and many others (a clear national majority) who are opposed to the bill will see it as a major reason to not only vote for Mitt Romney (who has pledged to repeal the law entirely), but also Republican Congressmen as well. Furthermore, it takes away the core principle on which the law is based: that the government can force individuals to buy health insurance. That notion is gone. So now the President is left with an unpopular law that can only be viewed as a tax increase. It could be a classic case of winning the battle but losing the war.

The Supreme Court is my favorite part of government. Located in a shimmering white neoclassical building across from the Capitol, with an elegant chamber ringed with beautiful friezes, it projects an almost divine, or mystical aura. While the Court certainly makes bad mistakes (see Dred Scott vs. Sandford), in general it seeks to ensure justice. Nine wise individuals with impeccable knowledge of Constitutional law come to reasoned, thoughtful decisions. I like the formality, the reserve, the tradition, the lack of video coverage, the mysterious ways the Court reaches its decisions – it provides such a nice contrast to the bombast of Congress. Even if I do not always agree with the Supreme Court, I can always revere it.

In the end, as much as I detest the ACA, I can’t argue with the Supreme Court’s decision in light of the way they reached that decision. They clearly reinforced the concept of the enumerated powers and crystal clear limits on the power of government in the lives of its citizens. But rather than simply tossing out a bad law, they found a way to uphold it. Now it’s up to the people to determine the fate of Obamacare. Election day is just months away – the people will have the ultimate say on the fate of the law, which is just what the Founding Fathers had in mind.


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The Excellent Wife

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. – Proverb 31:10

The first line in a Hebrew acrostic poem about the “excellent” or “virtuous” wife, the above quote seems to me a vast understatement; even on the most literal level, I can’t fathom the notion of trading Melissa for the most precious gem at the 5th Avenue Tiffany’s or Cartier. The message here, I think, is that an excellent wife is worth more than anything in the mere material realm – her value is beyond compare, far exceeding the ability to quantify in numerical fashion. Her magnanimity is so great that it exceeds the ability of language to describe. In a word, she is priceless.

My wife, Melissa Turnbough Mandy, is indeed priceless. She is the reason I get up in the morning and do what I do during the course of my day. She is the basis for virtually all of my decisions, she is the wind that fills my sails as I journey through the seas of life. (And lest you think that metaphor is more than a bit twee, consider that the Bible uses the same metaphor in Hebrews 6. If God provides the current and hope in Christ anchors the soul, then Melissa certainly billows my sails.) When I wake up in the morning the trajectory of my day is irrevocably launched by her. More than merely a friend or helpmate or mother of our children, she is the catalyst of my life, the nucleus of my existence.

Melissa’s worth is certainly boundless, but beyond her worth she is a gift from God. As the verse implies, finding a good wife is extremely difficult – if not impossible – because such a “search” is undertaken on human terms using human faculties. God brings the truly excellent spouse into our lives, often in vividly apocalyptic fashion. I wasn’t looking for a wife and on my own I would have been hopeless. But through His perfect, supernatural divine work He brought us together. I do not deserve Melissa; for me she is a shining example of His mercy and grace. In His manner and in His time we can all have someone excellent, as long as well allow Him to define what “excellent” really means. And His definition of excellent is found in the remaining verses of Proverbs 31.

I won’t go into a lengthy discussion of the specific virtues listed in Proverbs 31, but I will say that Melissa embodies them all to varying degrees. Specifically, she is wise, shrewd, an excellent mother, good with finances, plans ahead for the household, possesses a vision for the family and put a plan in motion to that end. She is highly regarded by her peers and family, and above all she “fears the Lord,” and desires to glorify Him in all she does. It is impossible to reach a higher pinnacle of excellence than that.

At the Nashville Zoo.

In the past 2 years Melissa has been tested by the Refiner’s fire, and proven to be of exceeding worth. In that span she has had two children, the first of whom was a very poor sleeper. Melissa was repeatedly sick and exhausted in the first 7-8 months of Liam’s life, and just when things started to improve, we found out – to our great shock – that she was pregnant again. After a physically trying pregnancy she had a long, arduous labor. Throw in my Achilles’ heel injury that left me virtually immobile for a month, the usuay daily difficulties and illnesses that come along, five moves, two job changes for me, and a spattering of financial difficulties (mostly beyond our control), and you begin to understand the trials she has endured. And now there’s the “great matter” spoken of in my last post – that alone has been as difficult as everything else combined.

Yet here she is, after everything still the same wonderful person, excellent wife, and superb mother. She gets up early in the morning, breastfeeds Sofia, and then gets Liam out of his crib as soon as his eyes snap open and he is full chatter mode. She then cares for them, which includes trying to coax Liam into eating something – anything – and taking care of 7 month old Sofia. She balances their naps – which usually do not coincide – all while taking care of the normal chores around the house, along with anything else that comes up during the course of the day. You moms know how difficult all this can be, yet despite being exhausted at the end of the day, Liam and Sofia are the last thoughts on her mind, as she checks on them both before going to bed. Over the past 3 months she has had to do all this without my help other than on the weekends, which is obviously a draining experience for her. Yet she loves her job as a wife and mother, and performs both with effortless sublimity.

The fact of the matter is that I am deeply in love with her, and always will be. Melissa is my best friend – the one person I confide in and the one person I absolutely have to talk to on a daily basis. Life without her is truly unfathomable. She is  a blessing, and one that I absolutely have not earned and do not deserve. I fall short as a husband on a consistent basis, but my aim is to enrich her life only a fraction of the extent to which she enriches not only my life, but all those around her. You are my jewel, Melissa: you make the world more beautiful every day.



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Sweet Sofia

Sofia, you are almost 6 months old. You are the definition of sweetness. I can honestly say I have never met such a good baby and get to be your Mommy! 

You tried solid food (rice cereal) for the first time yesterday, May 19th. You LOVED it. I think you were more than ready to start eating solids. I can’t believe you are old enough to be eating solids.


You sleep on your belly. You basically crawl in your sleep and end up in all sorts of weird places in your crib. You can turn from your belly to your back which you do while you sleep and get very frustrated because it wakes you up. Overall you are a great sleeper. You sleep around 11 hours at night and take two naps during the day. We usually can lay you down and you go straight to sleep.

You are starting to grab at everything! You love to play with sophie the giraffe. You chew on anything that gets in your grasp. When I’m holding you you love to chomp on my chin. Your eye hand coordination is starting to develop. I love to watch you look at your hands as you move them towards your mouth or towards a toy. It is truly amazing how much you’ve grown.

Patient. Sofia, you are the most patient baby. When you wake up in the mornings after sleeping for 11 hours you don’t yell for me to feed you, instead you have a huge smile and patiently wait. Sometimes I can see you are frustrated or want change but you will wait if I simply talk to you and tell you that I will come to you soon. Your thumb helps you through the tough times of the day. It is adorable how you suck your thumb when you need a little comfort or when you are tired!




You use to hate your car seat but lately you have done much better, which I am so grateful for! Car rides are much more pleasant now!

First time in your Jenny Jump Up.

You love to be in the k’atan carrier facing out. Anytime you are fussy and I need to get things done I simply strap you on and we go about our business. You kick your legs and get so excited. Although with your newly found ability to grab anything within site I have to be a bit more careful!



The exersaucer is one of your favorite activities lately. You also enjoy watching the yorkies play. But your favorite person to watch is Liam, he makes you smile all the time. He is your biggest source of entertainment!

My favorite time with you is right after a feed. You have this drunken smile and are usually somewhat giddy! This is “our time”, you hold my finger or my shirt and we laugh back and forth. I love looking into your big blue eyes – I see such tenderness, innocence, love and joy. On that note you smile so easily which everyone around you LOVES. If someone simply looks at you give us an ear to ear grin. Your smiles makes the worst days worth it all. I cannot tell you the times when I have been sad, angry, frustrated and I look at you and your smile melts my bad emotions away.

You continue to be our surprise baby and I love you more every day.

With all my love,

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Liam Lately

The Mandy family has been experiencing a lot of changes lately so blogging hasn’t been first priority. Regardless of the craziness going on in our lives our children are still the most important. They are both the biggest gifts from God.

Liam’s personality at 21 months is:

-Sweet. He gives us unsolicited hugs, cuddles up and is overall sweet and loving.

-Caring. When Sofia is crying he will go over to her and give her her chupete. When we fake cry he will come over and pat us.

-Smart. Yes, every parent thinks their child is smart but Liam is truly unique 😉 He watches us do something once and can repeat our actions exactly. I must watch every thing I do in front of him!

-Kind/Gentle. When playing with other children, Liam never hits back when he is hit, he simply looks down and walks away. He is quick to let others play with his toys. He is gentle with the yorkies when he pats them. He also pats me when I hold him, I am desperately in love.

-Funny. He is a jokester. We play this game where he “fake” laughs and then I “fake” laugh until we start to really laugh. He is just silly. He has the best laugh and smile.

-Stubborn. Our boy likes things a certain way and everyone around knows when he doesn’t get his way. We are working very hard on being consistent with disciplining him but this is an entirely different post.

-Chatter box. Boy does Liam like to talk. Sound familiar?!?!? He might look exactly like his Daddy but he seems to have his Mama’s personality! He prayed yesterday for the first time “Cheesus na-no amen”  which means “Jesus, thank you amen”. He literally walks around all day talking. I cannot wait until I can understand every word he is saying. He is at the age where he is convinced he is speaking in English/Spanish but in actuality it’s Liam speak. I feel bad that he is frustrated, I am frustrated too!

When you are frustrated or tired your lovies always seem to help. We have about four of them and there is no tricking you into a new one anymore. (They don’t have the most pleasant odor so I’ve tried replacing them). You call them all “ellell” now for Ellie. We NEVER leave home without one!

I know this is silly but I often think about what kind of man Liam will become. I think he is out to a great start! He certainly has a wonderful role model in his Daddy. Liam, I pray for you so many times a day – for your development, your future, your decisions, and even the woman who will become your wife. Our Heavenly Father has given me the biggest gift in loaning you to ME! I cannot tell you enough how much I love being your mother.

Liam patting Sofia

Silly boy.

He is beginning to climb on/in to everything!


Getting your very first haircut. The original Ellie tagged along offering a little comfort and support.

Liam and Mama at the Zoo.

With all my love,

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Short and Sweet

Well, Mason and I both have several half-written blogs but nothing completed as of yet.  Honestly, a lot of my blogs seem silly to finish now. I am constantly inspired by my sister (in-law), Brooke, she is great about writing blogs that are short and sweet. They are a perfect little  insight to their world, which is exactly what I love!

We are a busy family of four! We move to Franklin, TN next week and I, for one, am feeling extremely excited! But that is an entire post on its own.

Some random Mandy Family facts:

-At 18 months Liam weighs 24 lbs and is 32 in long

-Sofia at 2 months weighs 12 lbs and is 23 in long.

-Melissa 2 months post-partum weighs…well, lets just say I’ve got a few more pounds to lose…

-Liam is saying about 30 words, some in spanish and some in english. His new favorite is “WOW, cool” (we have no idea where he learned that phrase). He is learning to say please and thank you. He mostly signs please and he says “nah-noh” for thank you.

-Liam has also been learning his body parts in both languages. He still gets a bit confused at times but one thing is for sure, he knows where his OJOS are… just ask him in spanish the next time you see him 😉

-Liam prays with us, bowing his head and holding our hands in the process, and says amen.

-When one of us “fake cries” Liam will run over and pat us, he always wants to make sure we are ok.

-Liam is doing and saying all sorts of fun things. I truly love every day with him. I fall deeper in love with our sweet boy every day.

-Sofia started smiling a few days after her one month birthday and has been a smiley girl ever since!

-Sofia has started to “talk” in her own special babble. She hasn’t become very vocal just yet but we love the few squeaks and squeals that we get to hear occasionally.

-Sofia is sleeping through the night (which Liam did not do regularly until he was EIGHT months!!!) This has been a blessing in so many ways. I thank God every day.

-Sofia is overall an easy going, pleasant baby. She is growing so quickly and is a joy to have around!

-Liam and Sofia don’t really interact much. He loves to give Sofia her chupete (paci), it ends up being more like a forceful pushing of any part of the chupete in her mouth, but, it is sweet none-the-less. He also likes to put music on for her when she is in her swing…or maybe he just likes to push the button, all the same, it is some sort of interaction.

Well, enough words, here are some pictures from the last month:

Matching outfits - note poor Sofia's newborn rash, it has thankfully cleared up!

Poor girl isn't super photogenic at this stage. She is beyond adorable in person. Promise.

Thanks for the outfit "Zia" Tania!!

Liam LOVES to read!

Our best friends from NYC came to visit us. We are hoping these two will be brother-in-laws one day!

Sofia's first bottle of expressed breast milk.

Silly Mandy Photos ahead:

I promise I don't kiss like this 😉

Alright, enough of our family photo night…

"I'm never coming back. NEVER!"...Yep, some days are just this kind of day.

And here are some beach pictures:

There are so many more photos but I think I will close for now. I hear the homemade cookie dough in our fridge calling my name….mmmmmmmmmm, warm cookies and cold milk. Nothing like it.


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