Yesterday morning, I worked in the attic for a couple of hours shifting insulation and putting in a 2′ wide floor. I got about half done.
Then, we went to brunch with Kate, a friend of April’s from college, and her SO Kevin.
I wore Simon for the last half hour of that, then we went home for a break and a change before heading to Wonders of Wildlife where we spent over 3 hours wandering through the aquarium (which was pretty great, and I’ll write a review about it later) and Wildlife Galleries (lots and lots of taxidermied animals, which wasn’t thrilling).
And eventually, back home to watch some TV and finish a movie on the couch.
Suffice it to say that my back and hips were killing me this morning. Simon’s not super heavy–probably around 15 lbs. now–but getting out of bed was a struggle and I was really stiff and sore.
Not too many years ago, I would have grabbed a handful of ibuprofen and washed them down with coffee. But instead, I grabbed my yoga mat and did 20 minutes of stretching.
It always amazes me how much better I feel after some yoga. I know in advance that it’s going to help, but that doesn’t spur me to do it regularly. Instead, I turn to it when I’m hurting, and after 20-60 minutes, I feel great. Much better than I would have after 5-6 pills.
Medicine isn’t always a drug. Sometimes it’s stretching, and sometimes it’s talking with someone, or it could be going for a walk in nature, or eating a healthy meal. I’m glad that I have added the tool of yoga to my wellness toolbox so I don’t have to rely on pills quite as much.
In many respects, I don’t feel like my life has changed tremendously since having a son. I had been preparing to have a kid for years and was very ready.
There have been some minor material changes. Less time to play video games. I don’t watch TV nearly as much. I need to be a bit more flexible with my time and willing to drop whatever I’m doing to take care of him. But it’s not a burden because I knew in advance that it was coming.
A lot of new parents go through a period of mourning and grieve their loss of freedom, but I mourned in advance.
Also, April is awesome, and I continue to marvel at how much of a difference having a great partner makes.
I continue to be thankful in all situations. We are blessed beyond measure.
There has been one significant change in me that was completely unexpected.
I used to hate “working with my hands.” I didn’t mind physical labor, but I felt like I was terrible at skilled physical labor, and I knew almost nothing about anything that needed to be done. So any work on the house was daunting to me. And because of this, I had almost no tools, which meant I never had the right tool for the job and that made any kind of work even harder.
Everything we did last summer wasn’t terrible but felt a bit like a sacrifice. It was worth doing, but not how I would have liked to spend my time. Now I kind of like this work. It really surprises me.
My father-in-law helped me build some bunk beds, and I am putting down flooring in our attic to make it easier to install ducts and bathroom exhaust vents. When I squeezed through the crawlspace last summer, it felt like a huge ordeal at first. Now, I’m working in the attic and it’s ho-hum no big deal.
Since we bought this house, I’ve been happy to invest in it. I don’t mind spending the money or hiring people to do things because this is our forever-home. We’re going to live here for as long as we can, which means we’ll get to enjoy all of the improvements to the house. But I haven’t wanted to do the work myself, even to the extent of hanging shelves, because I considered myself bad at it.
I’m learning that I’m not bad, that I can learn to be better, and that my family inspires me to invest the effort, not just the money. I’m happy to work on the house myself because it helps me become more familiar with it. And by knowing the house better, I feel like I can serve my family better.
It was a completely unconscious shift for me. But I was reflecting on my lack of dread when I crawled out of the attic for the first time and started thinking about everything that I needed to do. I needed to buy plywood, and a jigsaw, and build a floor, and cut holes in the roof, and install exhaust vent hoods, and and and… and it was all fine. No dread.
What changed? I want to take care of my son as best I can, and I want to prepare our house for more kids. Because someday, I hope that we’ll have a couple more, and they’ll all want to take showers, which causes humidity, which needs to be vented out properly because otherwise we’ll rot the decking and cause mold and that’s not good for anyone.
It’s like a switch flipped. I have a motivation to learn and grow in this area, and I guess that’s all I needed.
At the same time, it’s all pretty mundane. Simon has a simple routine:
Wake up around 6 a.m.
Nap around 8 a.m.
Sleep for 1 hour
And he goes to bed sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. Meanwhile, I’m working during the day while April devises educational games to keep Simon engaged and growing both physically and mentally.
We had our first Christmas, which we celebrated quietly at our home with April’s parents and brother Adam. We typically celebrate Christmas whenever April’s other brother, Eric, and his wife Stephanie can visit, which meant this year (2018) we celebrated at Thanksgiving. So actual-Christmas was delightfully low-key.
Our dog Willow pretty much ignores Simon. This can be problematic when she wants to be on my lap and Simon is already there because she may try to crowd in anyways. She hasn’t actually stepped on or hurt Simon yet, but we’ve had a few close calls, so we keep a close eye on her.
She doesn’t dislike Simon… she just doesn’t seem to notice him.
Early on, Simon wasn’t fond of the stroller so we always wore him when we walked. Now he’s liking it a lot, though the weather hasn’t permitted us to walk with it much. We’re looking forward to the warmer months a lot so we can get out and he can see more of the world.
My first work trip since Simon was born was an overnight to St. Louis. We used Google’s Duo app for a video call the night of the 11th and Simon recognized me through the phone and was all smiles, which was exciting. I was worried that he wouldn’t engage with me on the phone, but he did and it was heart-melting.
In April, I’ll be gone for a week, so we’ll be using Duo a lot
He’s generally happy playing by himself, happier when one of us is playing with him, and even happier when we’re all together
We’re finally making some good headway on saving up money and paying off all the recent home repairs, just in time to spend a bunch more money.
Both of our vehicles needed new tires, and the minivan had run-flat tires (supposedly they won’t go flat and you can drive up to 50 MPH for 100 miles or so on them even if they get shredded) that added a lot of cost. I had replaced the run-flats once before, but that was just a couple of years ago and I was shocked that they were already worn down. It turns out that these run-flat tires are 2x the cost while lasting half as many miles, and if you want to use regular tires (which last twice as long and cost half as much…), you have to actually replace the wheels too.
So in addition to new tires for the Civic, we got new wheels and tires for the Odyssey, which cost about as much as the run-flats would have. But now, when we need to replace the van tires in the future, it’ll be a lot cheaper.
While the van was in the shop, we used one of the car seats that Eric and Stephanie bought for storage at our house, and Simon really enjoyed having me sit in the backseat with him. It turns out that, with a rear-facing car seat in the Civic, the passenger seat has to be so far forward that I couldn’t fit into it.
Unlike Willow, the cats seem somewhat curious about Simon. But they don’t necessarily love him. Ophelia has bit at Simon once (though she didn’t actually get him), and they don’t go out of their way to snuggle with him.
I prefer their avoidance to Willow’s lack of noticing that Simon exists. And sometimes we can get cute pictures like this before they run off
Simon got his first ear infection in March and he LOVED the medicine. We had to spray a saline solution into his nose several times a day, which he hates and screams and cries about, but then we give him his medicine in the morning or evening and it’s all smiles and delight.
Simon is trying food now, and sometimes he likes it! For instance, he hasn’t been fond of applesauce, but he does like applesauce with cinnamon. And he loves banana, but is less fond of avocado on its own. Avocado plus banana plus cinnamon is amazing.
Also, bone broth? He loves bone broth. Sadly, bone broth doesn’t love him as much.
Simon is 6 months old today. They have probably been the best 6 months of my life, and I am so blessed to have the family that I do.
In a few weeks, we’re going to have a new shower installed in our master bathroom. The base of the old (fiberglass) shower had cracked through, so the subfloor may need to be replaced, and the walls were pretty bad too. So the whole thing is going to go.
Knowing that our attic is over-insulated with up to 2 feet of blown, loose fiberglass insulation, I kitted up to crawl through it, all the way to the far corner of the house, and check out what the master bathroom looked like from above. This was my first time going past the attic door, and unsurprisingly, it was quite a challenge. What I discovered was that not only is it hard to get to that spot above the master bath, but there’s nowhere in the roof suitable for venting back there. I had figured that, worst-case scenario, I could run a duct up to the ridge vent, but the ridge vent is pretty far from that fan.
So I need to install some vent hoods, but I’ll need to wait for it to stop raining first. Lowe’s doesn’t have the hoods I want, but I found them from Home Depot and ordered two. Because, of course, our other bathroom isn’t vented either, so I might as well do both at the same time.
And since this means I’m going to be crawling around the attic repeatedly, I’m also going to buy some plywood and build myself a path on top of the ceiling beams. I was able to crawl around balanced on them, but it was tricky and unnecessarily dangerous. I’d really like to not fall through the ceiling, so putting down ~20 of those boards should help a lot.
Having a plywood path will also make it easier to move around some of the insulation. There are some drifts where it’s at least 2-3 feet deep, and other areas where it’s just a few inches. Having a stable platform will make it easier to get up there with a rake or something and push it into the areas where it’s lacking.
I took a few days off this week to do the work and then recover from it, and it doesn’t look like I can get everything done. I can go ahead and put up the fan, but I need to check with our roofing company to make sure that installing the vents myself won’t void the warranty. If it would, I’ll need to hire them to do it. The hoods won’t arrive until Friday, and I’ll pick up the plywood on Saturday.
But that’s alright. Working on the house doesn’t fill me with the dread it once did. I keep doing stuff and not destroying anything, which is encouraging, and I think I’ve got a pretty decent plan that will make our attic a lot easier to work in going forward. Right now, it’s nearly impossible, but building a 2-foot wide platform all the way through (with a few offshoots over some of the rooms) will help a lot.
April and I watched Behind the Curve on Netflix last night, a documentary about flat earthers and this movement that has really sprung up in just the last 4 years. There are now thousands of people who believe that the earth is flat, and the documentary interviews some of the leaders in the movement, attends their international conference in 2017, and records some of their experiments that attempted to prove the earth was flat.
Like many conspiracy theories (and for the flat earthers, calling it a conspiracy theory isn’t pejorative—they allege that there is a conspiracy perpetuated by all governments, education institutions, and scientists), there is an overlap with other conspiracies. A large number of Flat Earthers also tend to be anti-vaxxers (people who are opposed to giving kids vaccines or getting vaccines themselves), and they tend to reject any scientific finding by anyone but themselves
One segment of the documentary was of an astrophysicist meetup and a speaker was talking about how the scientific community often does a disservice to people who believe in these conspiracies. Because the people who have bought into this are often intelligent and inquisitive, and they have the potential to be great scientists. But either through miseducation, or trauma, or something else, their very healthy skepticism has been turned into a denial of science and a belief in only what they themselves can observe and measure. And even then, as the documentary highlighted, people in these movements will often reject their own measurements if those measurements don’t support their worldview.
That speaker at the meetup said that, rather than push flat earthers and anti-vaxxers and similar conspiracy theorists to the fringes, and just ignore them, we have to engage. But we shouldn’t engage argumentatively. Rather, we should recognize their intelligence and curiosity and say, “Let’s go explore together!” And in exploring together, the hope is that people will find the truth.
But that left me with the question: what do you do when the people with whom you want to go exploring:
Don’t trust the map? They want to make their own map. But they also don’t trust cartography instruments or physics.
Reject anything that doesn’t fit with their conspiracy? Everything you find (reality) that doesn’t fit will be rationalized away.
I thought that the documentary was actually very kind and generous. It didn’t mock, and the scientists interviewed were similarly gentle. They are all educators to one extent or another and want to help people understand the world better.
But none of them could tell us how to engage with flat earthers. Because even when the flat earthers in the documentary did some really neat science experiments, and those experiments proved the earth wasn’t flat by virtue of their own hypotheses and measurements, they then rejected the outcome and did a new experiment. Which also then proved the earth wasn’t flat. So they then invented a new rationalization for why their experiments weren’t aligning with their worldview.
How do you go exploring with someone who rejects what they see? I truly want to know. I feel that this question is central to so many challenges we are experiencing in our world today, and particularly in the USA where anti-education sentiment and science denial are resulting in deadly epidemics and people being put into positions of leadership who reject the findings of 97%+ of climate change scientists.
How do we go exploring with someone whose views on science, politics, society, and how everything works is so different? How do we not push them to the fringes? Because I don’t want to push people away. I don’t think any of us want to marginalize others. But I legitimately don’t know what else to do other than disengage.
Before April and I got married, we decided that we wanted to live our lives fully together. One way that this was represented was combining everything we owned: all of our bank accounts are combined, and we’re each other’s beneficiaries on everything.
I always assumed that this was the default in marriage, but I’ve been meeting more people for whom it isn’t the case. They might have some joint accounts, but other separate accounts. Some couples split up the bills, with one person paying the mortgage and the other paying utilities and for groceries and whatnot. Others stay completely separate and split the cost on everything.
For us, we have everything together. And every account is in Mint.com, and we can both see every financial transaction.
I felt like this was a pretty high level of integration and transparency, but last week we finished putting together our estate plan after several months of talking about it and working through the process. An estate plan is similar to a last will and testament, but because we have a kid, it gets a bit more complicated. Instead of creating a will, we wanted to create a trust.
You can’t leave stuff to a minor, so you have two options. You can leave everything to the people who will become your child’s guardians, or you can create a trust. If you go with the first option and something bad happens, like the new dad is in a car accident and gets sued, the person suing could take all their funds including what you left to your kid. But if you put the money into a trust, then it’s safe; it can only be used for your child(ren).
So we wanted to setup a trust, and along the way we also setup a health power of attorney (POA) and a financial POA so people could make decisions for us if we are incapacitated, and lots of other paperwork. One of the things we setup was a POA for each other, so I can sign things on April’s behalf and she can sign things on mine.
The lawyer told us that April didn’t need to come in to pick up the binder at the end of the process, so she stayed home with a napping Simon. While I was reviewing the documents, I found a minor typo that needed to be corrected, so the paralegal tore out two pages, printed new ones, and we needed to sign them. But since I have POA for April, I could sign on her behalf rather than dragging her into the office.
This was a whole new level of… I don’t even know what to call it. Financial togetherness? Legal entanglement? Our trust is revocable so we can amend or tear it up whenever we want. But when I was driving home with all the paperwork, I had this feeling like we had leveled up. While all our stuff was shared, we still very much had a legal firewall in that I couldn’t sign things for April and she couldn’t sign things for me. That’s important to me: I want her consent on things that affect us and vice versa.
But I know that we’re responsible, and we care about each other, and we won’t abuse this. And it’s kind of neat, because removing that legal barrier then means we have to rely on our love and trust. It reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the state of Pennsylvania about Quakers: you can’t legislate morality. And by removing the legislation that prevented us from committing one another to legal or financial agreements, we now have a greater obligation to be moral and ethical with and to each other.
It doesn’t change anything in practice for us. But it did prompt me to reflect on this, and that reflection filled me with happiness. I love that I found someone I can trust and who trusts me.
I often do an end-of-the-year blog post in which I reflect on the year that was. These are often very long, and this year I thought about breaking my reflection into multiple blog posts, one per topic area, to make it all a bit easier to digest.
But truth-be-told, I don’t want to. When I was a teenager, or in my early 20s, I blogged incessantly and shared everything with everyone. These days, I just have no interest. If you, the person reading this, and I are close, then you already know everything. If you’re reading this and don’t know, then we’re not close.
And unfortunately, that’s been one of the major challenges with 2018: the number of people I’m close with continues to dwindle. If I’m going to invest my energy sharing thoughts and feelings with someone, I would like that time to contribute towards building a friendship with someone. Blogging doesn’t do that.
I’m not ready to close this down yet. 2019 may bring some interesting things that I’ll want to blog about. But having a purely personal blog is of less and less interest to me.
What can I say about 2018? My job is awesome, my wife and son are awesome, and God is awesome. And I am growing some friendships through our church, which is great. I’m going to try and make some new friends in 2019; if I want to be close with more people, then I need to meet more new people.
I spent 2018 with some great books. I spent time well caring for my wife and now my son. I invested further in our home. I worked hard and continued to build a fantastic team at Adaptavist. I lost 50 pounds of fat. I don’t think I could have spent 2018 much better than I did. It has been a good year.
When I was in elementary school, I learned about our system of government and its checks and balances. I knew that our democracy had its problems, and we have corrupt politicians and whatnot, but I believed in the system. I think of our government as being resilient, and that as our society and people grow and learn and improve, that our countries policies would too. That’s how we expanded voting rights, and improved equality, and so many other things.
I don’t know what I’m going to teach my son. The next few months and years will determine that. But right now, I see our checks and balances being undermined. The highest court in the land is being stacked with pro-Trump justices, gerrymandering has contributed to Republican majorities in federal and local positions, and now the person overseeing the investigations related to our president has been replaced by a person who is avowedly pro-Trump.
Marching probably doesn’t do a lot of good. At least, not in Springfield. But it is better to do something than nothing, and it gives me the opportunity to write about it. If nothing else, I can teach Simon about why we fight losing battles. It is important that we communicate our ethics, morals, and values.