Two facets of fatherhood, and some mundane updates with cute baby pictures

I.

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.

Simon and Matthew — 2019-03-13

II.

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.

III.

Simon is now 6 months old, and a lot has happened since I last wrote about being his dad.

Simon and Matthew on the couch — 2018-12-09

At the same time, it’s all pretty mundane. Simon has a simple routine:

  1. Wake up around 6 a.m.
  2. Eat
  3. Play
  4. Eat
  5. Nap around 8 a.m.
  6. Sleep for 1 hour
  7. Repeat

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.

At the Goeke Christmas Party — 2018-12-15

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.

Simon and Willow — 2019-01-16

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.

Simon in his stroller — 2019-02-03

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.

Homecoming from an overnight work trip — 2019-02-12

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

On the bed in the nursery — 2019-02-26

He’s generally happy playing by himself, happier when one of us is playing with him, and even happier when we’re all together

Simon in the alternate car seat — 2019-03-13

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.

Simon with Ophelia and Viola — 2019-03-15

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 loves antibiotics — 2019-03-16

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.

Trying some food — 2019-03-21

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.

On his side but not rolling or crawling yet — 2019-03-19

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.

I just want to brag a bit

We’re about as ready to have a baby as we can be. We’ve actually been preparing in earnest for a few years now, beginning with buying this house and then trading the truck in for a minivan. There were some major renovations that came with the house, such as repairing termite damage to the floor joists and girders, the wall studs and ceiling beams in the front room, some foundation damage from a tree root… and then we had to get a new roof last summer. Oh, and two summers ago I replaced all the power outlets with ones that have covers built-in so kids can’t stick things into them. But this summer has been really baby-inspired.

  • Because the nursery is typically 8-10 degrees colder in the winter, we tore off some drywall with the intent of adding insulation to the exterior wall. It turns out that the wall was insulated, but the termite damage had left a gap between the floor and the wall that went straight into the crawlspace. So we insulated and blocked that up.
  • Put up ceiling fans in the nursery and guest bedroom.
  • We also did some other constructiony things like replacing a rotting wall on the shed, painting the shed, replacing a column on our front porch, and lots and lots of thinning flower bulbs and spreading mulch.
  • April has done a ton of reorganization, cleaning, and furniture assembling (crib, bassinet, shelves, etc.).
  • While exploring the crawlspace to make sure there weren’t any other gaps between the floor and the wall, I found that the ductwork was super damp. The condensation had caused rust, which then led to some small holes in the ductwork. These have now been patched and the ductwork insulated.
  • We had a vapor barrier installed in the crawlspace to help reduce humidity further and prevent insects from burrowing up into the crawlspace.
  • The vapor barrier (sheets of plastic spread across the ground and up the walls of the crawlspace and the piers supporting the house, then sealed with tape and tacked to the walls) made it evident that pipes were leaking. Turns out our entire plumbing system was close to failing, so we had it replaced. The galvanized steel pipes were so full of rust, and metal chunks were flaking off because of the rust. Now we have pex everywhere.
  • Hopefully, the pex will help prevent our pipes from freezing like they have the last two winters. I’ll also be blocking up our foundation vents properly this winter.
  • After all the construction, we had the ductwork professionally cleaned.
  • Our thermostat went out, but I was able to get it replaced under warranty. This came with an extra room sensor, so we now have a remote thermostat sensor in the nursery. We also have a video baby monitor with three cameras that we can put in different places or travel with.
  • Rugs have been shaken and cleaned, floors have been swept, everything has been washed, etc.
  • April has begun preparing freezer meals so that we have around 2 weeks of food that we can just pop into the instant pot or oven without having to do much prep or thinking.
  • We acquired a deep freeze so we have room for freezer meals, etc.
  • After all the construction, we had the house fully treated (crawlspace, attic, inside, outside) for all manner of insects, but mostly spiders.
  • We’re going to a birthing class on Monday nights that has been tremendously helpful and eye-opening. Tomorrow night, we have a hospital tour. Next week, we’ll install the car seat.
  • Our friends and family have been so generous and we now have enough baby clothes for probably the first year and a half, as well as plenty of cloth diapers.

So much of this was possible because of April’s parents, and between the support of our family and our network of friends (which, again, kudos to April… she does such a good job of making sure we stay connected to people despite my inclination to never leave the house or talk to anybody), we feel ready. We feel secure and supported. We know that we have people to catch us and help us. And we’ve learned so much from everyone.

I want to celebrate this. We did good. I can’t wait to meet our baby. We’re about 4-7 weeks away!

City Utilities Cuts Neighborhood Water Without Notice

City Utilities TrucksI was surprised to see the City Utilities trucks on my drive home from work today, just as one might be surprised to see a clown car or a tank. I know these things exist, I just don’t see them in my day to day life, and certainly not on my street. As I squeezed past them, I wondered what they were doing and wished they had posted some sort of neighborhood notice, but whatever. I recognize that they can’t always give notice when they’re working in a neighborhood, so I pulled into our garage and thought nothing more of the matter.

That is until I tried to turn the water faucet on a few minutes ago and got nothing but a gurgling sound and a bit of air. I tried some different water faucets, then went down to the basement to make sure a pipe hadn’t burst. As I started to call City Utilities to find out if there was an outage of some sort, it dawned on me… “There were some CU trucks just down the street earlier. I wonder if they did something?”

Venturing outside, which I so rarely do unless provoked, I tried our outdoor spigot and then knocked on the doors of a few neighbors. It’s a mixed blessing that no one else seems to be home tonight, I suppose, and I quickly found myself wandering down to the CU trucks just a block away to find out what was going on. As I approached the truck, four men in a huddle turned to me.

“Your water’s down,” one of them said.

“Yeah, I wondered about that,” I replied.

Their huddle dissolved and one grabbed a tool, another a hose, and a third began to walk towards the front of the truck while the fourth picked up a large, metal T-pipe. “We’ll have it fixed in just a few minutes!” the presumed leader said.

I loitered for a few seconds more before heading back to my house. Nothing more to see here, move along.

Photos of New Furniture

New furniture! April tells me the cats are freaking out 😛

We’ve got a giant brown SumoSac on the way and a cover for the old sofa (linen coloured). The old dining table, three dining chairs, and old coffee table are in the basement. They will soon be joined by the armoire to make room for the sumo sac. We’re increasing our comfy seating from 3 to 8 total seats in the living/reading rooms.

(I think I’m going to stop calling it the formal dining room and start calling it the reading room. I actually prefer “family room,” but April likes “reading.”)

From the reading room Directly from the reading room New furniture

See more on Flickr.

First Christmas Tree

When I was very young, decorating for Christmas was a big family event. My mom and dad and I would get all the decorations out and have something for every room in the house. There were bows and ribbons, wreathes and ornaments and stockings. It was crazy, but we had a ton of stuff, so decorating took the better part of a day.

But as my parent’s relationship began to decline, my dad decided not to join in the decorating anymore. My mom and I would soldier on, hanging lights and ribbons and ornaments while he sat in the recliner, occasionally commenting or, more often, seeming to ignore the proceedings.

Then, growing discouraged over the years, my mom stopped decorating as well. Even after my parents got divorced, I had to haul all of the decorations in (around half a dozen of those giant Rubbermaid containers; probably more than half a dozen, actually) and put them up myself. In retrospect, I wonder why I never flat-out refused–I guess that obeying parents was pretty well ingrained in me–but I hated doing it. It was so much work, and I didn’t even care anymore. It felt like we were trying to dress up an ugly scar, cover it with incense and tinsel to make all the rest of the anger and bitterness go away.

And of course, it didn’t work. So for over a decade, I’ve rather disliked Christmas and everything it came to represent. More work, more commercialism, more fighting over my affection, more guilt trips and frustration. Throughout most of college, I spent Christmas alone, or near enough. Maybe a day or two with each of my parents for the first few years. Then I met April.

I was still pretty Bah Humbug last year, not really wanting to decorate and not appreciating much her attempts to do so. I really didn’t like my apartment much, and we were really poor. But this year, now that we have our own house and can afford some of these things… I’ve been really excited. I have really enjoyed buying the decorations and putting them up, and I like having them. It’s been wonderful.

Today we got our first tree together, and we opted to go with a real tree rather than a fake one. It didn’t really have anything to do with my family having always had a fake tree… actually, our plan was to have it on the front porch. But when we got to the tree place, it was really windy outside and it occurred to us that a tree on the front porch, as cool as that would be, would probably blow over a lot and cause all kinds of problems. So now it’s in our living room.

This isn’t our first Christmas together (actually, it’s our third!), but it feels almost like a new beginning. It’s the beginning of the holidays becoming a pleasant and positive time again. It’s the beginning of those memories finally healing some. It’s the beginning of a wonderful Christmas.

Mr. Fix-it Handyman

Mornings are the best time for me to write. This is clearly something I’m going to have to get over, since I only have two mornings free a week, but on those two mornings (Saturday and Sunday, in case you hadn’t caught that) I like to indulge myself. I make coffee and sit down to write for a few hours in blissful joy.

Except it hasn’t been happening lately. It seems like there’s always something that needs doing, and then I spend all morning doing it and don’t get any writing done. Yesterday, the sink/garbage disposal was backed up, and I spent two hours messing with it before getting it fixed. At that point, I wanted to take a break because I hadn’t had breakfast, we were having lunch with April’s parents in a couple of hours, and after that Emily was going to come over with her wonderful truck Stanley to cart all our recyclables to the recycling center.

I got the sink fixed, but no writing was done yesterday at all. We did finish watching Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer last night, though.

Filled with good intentions, I got up this morning (about an hour and a half before April) to write, only to discover that my website isn’t working correctly. It’s a bug I’ve encountered before where, following an upgrade to the latest version of WordPress, I can log into my main blog but not any sub-blogs (Poetry, Stormsworn, Newlyweds, etc.). Since I specifically wanted to write on the Newlyweds blog, I had to fix this.

An hour and a half later, I’ve rolled back the upgrade and gotten it working, but now it’s time to make breakfast and get ready for church. No writing accomplished. After church, we need to go grocery shopping, followed immediately by a meeting at Borders for NaNoWriMo, which will be followed immediately by D&D.

A whole weekend with no writing. It’s a good thing I didn’t organize any sort of “creativity session,” as I wouldn’t have had time to participate. It’s been a full, good weekend, but I’m sad about the lack of time to write.

I have a ton of reading to do for Buddhism (ack! test tomorrow night!!), I need to catch up on philosophy lectures, I’m trying to stay committed to my workout routine, and there just isn’t enough time. Maybe I’ll cancel on D&D tonight…

At least everything is fixed and working again. Until next time.

What One Man Can Do, Another Man Can Do

I’m sure I’ve seen the phrase elsewhere, but it first entered my lexicon after reading this page of Dr. McNinja. The alt text to the image is the title phrase of this blog post, and it has been surprisingly inspiring for me.

Something exciting about our house is that it’s already wired for Ethernet. Therefore, there’s an Ethernet jack in the living room, but it’s in the corner adjacent to where we placed the TV and, subsequently, the XBox 360. There were holes drilled in the floor for speaker cables (the previous owners had surround sound in the living room), but those holes weren’t big enough for an Ethernet cable. So I bought a drill.

In the course of this exercise, I had to crawl under the house (into the crawlspace; the basement only goes up under the formal dining room, and the living room, office, and front porch have just a crawl space under them). The “door,” if you could call it that, to the crawlspace was tiny, maybe just a foot and a half square, and loose rock and dirt and spider webs were poised to greet me on the other side. It was daunting, but I knew that I wanted this wired properly, and since I’d already drilled the holes…

The home inspector went into there (weeks ago, when we had the home inspection done), a more portly fellow than I am (though not by much anymore, much to my chagrin), so I knew it could be done. What one man can do, another man can do, I kept repeating to myself. I crawled in.

And it was OK. I got the cable through, though I had to go back into the house and drop a straightened hanger through the hole in the floor, go back outside to twist it around the cable, and then return to the living room to pull it up through the floor. I also went to Ace Hardware and purchased some wood filler to seal up the gap around the cable. I was crafty, and as someone who sucks at working with his hands (on anything other than computers, with which I’m practically magical), I was pretty pleased with the outcome.

Now, if AT&T could just get our freaking DSL straightened out and working, all of that work and effort would actually have a point to it…