Three Years Here

This week marks the 3-year mark in our current residence. As I’ve done semi-annually since we moved in, I will hereby provide an update on improvements we made to our home in the past six months.

By the way, if you’re interested, here’s the blog post detailing what we did during the six months prior to these most recent six months.




-Refinished the floor.


Yeah, I’m a little sad about this, but we really didn’t make any improvements in her room during the past six months. But we came really close. For one thing, I obught the quarter-round needed to complete the trim. I painted it, too. But at the moment, it’s still sitting in the garage, so I can’t really count this as an improvement yet. Isla’s room still lacks a doorknob, too. I took in the original doorknob to have it refurbished. So…any day now her room will have a doorknob, but right now nothing.


-Replaced smoke alarm


-Installed face cloth holder.


-Replaced one miniblind with honeycomb blind.


-Replaced smoke alarm

-Replaced three miniblinds with honeycomb blinds.

Okay, if you’ve been to my house, you might know that we have four windows in our living room, so admittedly, it’s kind of weird that I only replaced three of the four. But here’s how that happened:

First, I accidentally broke one of the crappy old miniblinds about two weeks before Emmett was due to tbe born. So, for a few days, we had no treatment on that window. Jennifer said something like, “I don’t want to be giving birth in the living room with the window wide open like this,” so I went to the store and purchased the style of honeycomb blind we now have.

Second, a couple of month later, Menard’s was having a sale on window treatments, so I stopped in to buy the other three. But they only had two. So that’s that.


















-Removed gazebo.

Yep, the big thing is finally gone. Now I only own two buildings instead of three.

-Removed the lower portion of our deck.

-Installed planter against deck.

Okay here’s what it looked like in mid-June with the Gazebo and half the deck gone:

Planter 1

Notice how it’s just one big muddy area, the planter I used to have abutted to the lower deck is now dismantled, and the remaining deck is being propped up by retaining wall bricks.

Here we are a couple of weeks later:

Planter 2

Now the deck is being held up properly, with treated-wood beams. I’ve also leveled the ground in front of the deck somewhat and I began installing treated planks on the right side of the deck. This was to form the back side of the planter.

Planter 3

Now you see the planter is starting to take shape. All the planks are installed, and here you can see I am installing the first level of bricks. It’s important to tamp down the ground before placing the bricks in place. No need to waste money on a fancy tamper when there’s a perfectly good 3-and-a-half year old available.

Planter 4
Here’s a close-up of the planks. Notice Isla figured they made a good canvas and penciled in some artwork and her name.

Planter 5Here’s some more progress. Now you can see two rows of bricks are in place, and the third row has begun. Meanwhile, Isla supervises. 

Planter 6

Here’s the finished project. Six rows of bricks. Lanscaping fabric installed, and then a thick layer of mulch.

-Weeded, installed landscaping fabric and mulch to one planter on south side of house.

-Installed brick walkway leading from workshop to driveway.

-Weeded behind garage, installed landscaping fabric, retaining beams, and rocks.

This was a big job, but it was also a lot of fun. Owen and I went behind the garage one morning and hacked, pulled, and hedge-trimmed our way through. Some of the weeds were taller than me, and the resulting brush filled five large yard bags. I forgot to take a before photo, but here’s an after…

Behind Garage

Owen enjoys the fact that he can now cut through this way on his way to his friends’ houses.



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Naming the Baby, Legally

After much back-and-forth between my wife and me, it appears we have finally settled on a name for Emmett. And…drum roll, please…it’s the exact same name we gave him the night he was born.

At the moment, his name isn’t legally registered anywhere. Sure, we’ve blogged about his name, and my medical insurance provider even sent us an “official” wallet card with his name on it. But he doesn’t have a birth certificate yet. There’s no rush, really. I don’t really need to “prove” that he exists until early next year, when it’s income tax time and Emmett becomes yet another of Daddy’s Little Tax Write-Offs. Until then, well, who cares whether the government knows he exists or not? It’s probably better that they don’t know he exists, actually, becuase then there’s less chance that they’ll draft him into a war for liberty oil.

Our first child, Owen, was born at a hospital, and one of the staff members there took care of the birth certificate paperwork. She simply asked me what his name was going to be. I spelled it for her, and then she completed all the other paperwork.

Kid number two, however, was born at home. I asked one of the midwifes if she took care of the birth certificate stuff, and she said something like, “I can, if you’d like me to, or you can just call the county at 651-blah blah blah, and they’ll send you the papers to fill out.” I’m such a nerd that I actually thought it would be fun to fill out the papers, so I called and got them myself. I planned to blog about the paperwork, but I forgot. Luckily, unprotected sex has granted me another opportunity!

I received nine pages from the Minnesota Department of Health. Some of the papers provide the instructions, one is for entering the birth certificate information, another two are for creating a birth record, another is a birth attendant’s affidavit, and two are for ordering my own copy/copies of the certificate.

One of the instruction sheets stipulates that “You may give your baby any name you choose,” and it even points out that you can bestow the new bundle of joy with mom’s last name, dad’s last name, a combination of the two, or something completely different. So we could name our baby Emmett Skywalker if we wanted to. But thankfully, a family-wide poll yielded only a single vote in favor of this option.

The instructions then clarify that, really, you can’t give the baby any name you want. First, you are limited to 50 characters per name. So Emmett-supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is perfectly acceptable, but Emmett-supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-antidisestablishmentarianism? I’m sorry, but that’s going too far.

Also, parents are limited in the characters they use. All 26 letters of the alphabet are acceptable, but you can’t use numbers. This is why we aren’t going with “Emm3tt”. You can’t use accented characters, either, so you can’t name your kid Øwen, and certainly not Çéñö! I think this is a bit weird, I know people with such diacritics in their name, and I wonder if those are really on their birth certificate or not…? The instructions are quick to point out that “names can be pronounced as wished,” so we could spell it “Guflerken-werken” and then just pronounce it “Emmett.” This harkens back to my original idea before we had kids, when I proposed that, whatever name we choose, we just slap a silent J at the beginning so that we all have names that start with the same letter. Thus, we’d have Jowen, Jisla, and Jemmett.

The only punctuation you can use in a name are the apostrophe and the hyphen. So, while Emmett! is a clear violation of state law, E’m-m-e-t’t is perfectly fine.

The instructions also call for only a first, middle, and last. But, again, with a 50 character limit, you’re free to saddle a child a big clusterfuck of a name (like the British royal family sometimes does), as long as you don’t tip to 50-letter scale. So, Emmett Bo Bemmett Banana Fannah Fo Femmett would be totally find for a first name. The middle name, obviously, would then proceed with Fe Fi Fo Memmett – Emmett.

Another interesting sheet calls for the baby’s race/ethnicity. This form makes it easy for white folk, because “white” is listed first. And if you check white, that’s all you need to check…they don’t ask any further questions, like if we’re Italian, or Swedish, or French, or whatever else counts as white these days.

Other ethnicities require a bit more teasing out. For example, if you check “Asian,” they next want to know which subcatergory you belong to. They provide a few boxes, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hmong, and Vietnamese, but then they have a box that says “Other” and a blank line asking you to specify. I wonder if the person who created this form just listed off all the Asians he could think of and then just made an “other” box when he got stuck. Same thing for Black – there are subcatergories for Somali, Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Nigerian. But appearantly Ugandans, Tanzanians, Rwandans, and Gabonese are just gonna have to break down and write out their ethnicity.

Either way, no problems here!

There’s another page that requests “Characteristics of Labor,” and there’s – no kidding – a box that says “none.” I checked that one, because clearly my wife’s labor had no characteristics.

Then there’s a page that says “Place of this birth,” and gives the options of hospital, mother’s residence, or other. What’s funny about this, though, is that the next page says that “the hospital will print a verification copy of the birth record for you to review and make corrections.” Really? It will? Which hospital? And will it really be the hospital, or someone who works there? And does this apply even if the baby was born at “mother’s residence”? or “other”? Should I wait until a hospital prints this verification form? And why can’t I just review the original form itself, since it’s right here in my hands?

Anyway…I’m off to get this thing notarized.

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Three Books, Two-and-two-twelfths Recommendations

In the past couple of weeks, I have finished reading three books. Let me tell you about them…

The first one I completed was Earth: The Operator’s Manual, by Richard Alley. This book discusses the history of humans’ energy harnessing and consumption as well as the resultant climate change. That’s what got me into the book, at least. But the book really pulled me in with the first few chapters, which aaaaaaexplains how humans evolved along with the consumption of fuel. In fact, one idea that I ofund fascinating was that, by cooking our food (which requires releasing greenhouse gases), our ancestors’ bodies required less energy to digest their food. Alley points out that other mammals use a huge portion of their bodies’ energy just to digest food. But since we cook most of ours, the hard part is done before it even enters our mouths. This frees us up to expend our calories on other things…like thinking.

Throughout the book, Alley notes how our use of power has been a good thing. And when it has turned sinister, such as when we almost depleted all of our trees when we primarily burned wood for fuel, we turned to alternative energies, such as oil.

Alley actually paints a very positive picture of humanity’s future, despite his air-tight and easily understandable case that humans are causing global climate change. Alley cites as an example the story of how residents in Edinborough used to just dump their waste out onto the street. In fact, the city smelled so bad that people were forced to burn paper to cover up the smell of feces in their homes and taverns. Eventually, people decided they needed to change the way they did “business” in order to make their town a better place. We can do the same today – a lot easier than I though possible.

Alley’s book was so good that I was not too interested in starting the next book on my shelf, Timothy Ferris’ The Science of Liberty. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book: was it a political book? A history book? Did it mostly talk about science, or democracy? The answer was yes.

the-science-of-liberty[1]In this sweeping book, Ferris covers so much about science and history that I often had to reread paragraphs just because I wanted to make sure I got everything out of his words. Ferris discusses how the rise of Enlightenment values (such as liberty, equality, and democracy) gave way to a flourishing of science, and how that was only possible in such civilizations. Ferris talks about the close interplay of science with Enlighenment individuals, such as Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson. Ferris also delves into the inevitable questions that arise with such a topic. For example: If science only flourishes in democracies, why did Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and the Chinese mainland dominate scientific achievements for a while? And, What so special about science – isn’t it true that there are many ways of “knowing” and scientific findings are only the result of the (usually white men) who uncover them?

Harris also explores the difference between economic freedom (such as China has) and personal freedom (such as China does not have). He draws in interesting diagram of how to think about various political ideologies – it’s not a line between conservative and liberal, he says (by the way, this made a lot of sense to me; the idea that there’s more a “diamond” including progressive and totalitarian ideologies). He points out how the nation with the greatest amounts of liberty have led the way in scientific triumphs and in quality of living – starting first in the Italian city-states, moving on to the Netherlands, then to England and France (well, on-and-off in France), Scandinavia, the United States, and finally, all over. Harris talks candidly about the flaws and failings of some scientists, the stupidity of applying post-modernism to science, the enormous stupidity of North Korea, and how, in the end, liberal democracies win the day. And by “liberal,” by the way, he doesn’t necessarily mean “Democrat Party,” he means, “allowing personal freedoms.” This was an awesome, comprehensive tome. I checked it out from the library, but I’d like to own a copy.

The third book I finished recently was one that I’ve been reading to Owen. It’s a compilation of short stories and, I kid you not, the title is Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things That Aren’t as Scary, Maybe, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents Who Disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Farf, and One Other Story We Couldn’t Quite Finish, So Maybe You Could Help Us Out. This insanely titled book (which now sets a new record for me for longest-titled book I’ve ever read) begins with an introduction by Lemony Snicket and then twelve short stories and a crossword puzzle. Noisy

And here’s the funny thing: over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about a very good book that just happened to suffer from a very bad introduction. Click here to read that post. But here, I finally found the opposite: this less-than-mediocre book has quite possibly the best introduction I have ever read. Owen didn’t even want to read it, he wanted to skip it and get right to the first story. But I told him we should give it a try, even though introduction are often boring. Turns out, Snicket’s intro was so hilarious, I had to stop reading several times to wipe away the tears of laughter. Owen even copied down some of the intro to bring to school and share with his friends. And, for days afterward, Owen I were quoting from it, to hilarious effect. For example, when he came home from school the next day, I asked him if he disocvered any talking paper weights (okay, you had to be there).

The gist of Snicket’s top-notch intro is to inform the reader that, while there are many tedious stories out there, the stuff that follows in this book is nothing of the sort. But there’s where the book faltered.

The frist two short stories, though not outstanding, were certainly not tedious. Owen and I enjoyed both “A Small Country” and “Lars Farf.” Meanwhile, “Each Sold Separately” (which consists almost entirely of advertising slogans) was too forced and went right over Owen’s head (he was born long after most of these ad campaigns were retired), and “Spoony-E” was a pointless graphic comic wherein to friends decided to fight some bad guys, then engage in said fight. That’s all. There’s nothing to it, and the only thing that saved both it and “Each Sold Separately” from being tedious was their short length.

The same can’t be said for some of the other stories, unfortunately. “Monster,” “Sunbird” (written by Neil Gaiman, whose book American Gods I quit midway through due to its excessive tediousness), and “Grimble” all exemplify tedious. “Grimble,” in fact, is the worst story in the book. A boy is left at home unexpectedly while his parents venture to Peru. They leave him notes around the house, and he finds them and goes about his week. Each day of hte week is accounted for, complete with the contents and preparations for each meal – precisely the kind of tediousness Snicket lampooned in the introduction. Owen and I considered abandoning all three stories (and a couple others) out of sheer boredom, but pushed through for completists’ sake. The book’s title also promised a “story we couldn’t quite finish, so maybe you oculd help us out,” but I saw nothing of the kind. Presumably it was an initial marketing contest that has since expired, which renders the title partially incorrect. Oh – I shold mention that my favorite story was “The ACES Phone.” This poiniant tale of a cell phone that guides humans to dogs in distress was well-written and fun to read. I am considering adding it to my very short short story story collection. I recommend it.”The Contests of Cowlick” was decent as well.

Bottom lines:

Earth: The Operator’s Manual – A

The Science of Liberty – A

Noisy Outlaws – C (but read the introduction and “The ACES Phone”)


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Baby #3

So, the birth of our third child means that Owen has now graduated from Older Child to Oldest Child, while Isla has now been saddled with a chronic case of middle-child syndrome.

Visit my wife’s blog post for all the details about our latest baby, Emmett Porter, by clicking this link.

Emmett1This is Emmett

I’m taking four weeks off of work to stay home with Jennifer and the new baby. My tasks as a postpartum mid-husband have consisted largely of providing meals for Jennifer and our non-nursing kids, as well as keeping up with the dishes and the laundry. The meal department has actually been easier than you might think because Jennifer prepared and froze several meals before the birth and left instructions on the fridge for me. So mostly I’ve just been reheating. A couple of people have given us some pre-made meals, as well, and Jennifer’s brother and his wife brought over some dinner from Buca. So, I’ve actually enjoyed getting the food ready. The biggest concern has been making sure that we eat re-heated items before they go bad.

Sometimes, I’ve had to prepare meals with Emmett in my arms. I’m quite proud of my ability to perform household chores while holding an infant, but there are occasions when I have to put him down. Just the other day, I laid him on the couch. Here you can see Emmett sleeping on the couch while his sister snuggles up to him:

IslaEmmettAnother lucky-for-me aspect of my paternity leave, is that Owen is still in school. I took him to school on his first day back, and he brought with him a 5×7 photo of his new brother (the same photo as shown at top). His teacher allowed him to put the photo on the overhead projector so the whole class could see it and Owen had the opportunity to regale everyone with a detailed description of Emmett’s birth. Or maybe he just told everyone Emmett’s name and birthdate.

After dropping Owen off at school that first day, Isla and I came back home and, for some reason, I just thought she was so cute while walking with her umbrella, that I just had to take a picture. So, here you go:

SprintPhoto_b3dl5rIncidentally, when Emmett finally attends his first day of Kindergarten, Isla will be starting 4th grade and Owen will be a 9th-grader.

Just for fun (and just because I happen to remember all this at the moment), I thought I’d make a quick list of the last bits of entertainment I consumed prior to becoming father to Emmett. I meant to do this prior to Owen’s birth, but I forgot…

Last complete book I read before Emmett’s birth: The Book of Numbers
Last movie I saw: Kill Bill, Vol. 2
Last movie I saw at the theater: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Last complete TV series I watched: Community
Last TV episode I watched: “The Wedding (Part 1)”
Last complete album I listened to: Songs of Bo Redoubt
Last song I heard: “O Mary Don’t You Weep”

Emmett’s birthday also marks the only time I went to work the same day my kid was born. I was at work for close to three hours when Jennifer called and asked me to come home. Owen was born on a Saturday and Isla was born just after 5:00 in the morning, so going to work on either of those days really wasn’t an option with those two. In fact, I even worked form home for a few hours prior to Emmett’s birth. All in all, I logged something like 6 hours of work that day, and he was finally born when less than 10% of the day remained.

In the meantime, it’s amazing to think that Jennifer and I now have three kids. Wow! I am now the father of three children! Three! Do you know what this means? It means that the number of children I’ve fathered is now equal to…

-The number of cups of coffee I have consumed in the past 15 years
-The total time, in minutes, that I’ve played Candy Crush
-The number of times I have verbally recited the Pledge of Allegiance
-The number of complete calendar years I have ever gone without wearing a necktie
-The total amount, in grams, of baby formula I have ever purchased
-The number of meals I have eaten from McDonald’s since 2002
-The number of times I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean
-The total amount, in dollars, that I have ever spent at Wal-Mart
-The total number of times I have worn a costume for Halloween
-The number of times I have been the Best Man in a wedding ceremony
-The number of complete cigarettes I have smoked
-The number of times I’ve been laid-off
-The number of birthday presents my parents and grandparents have ever given me
-The total number of coffee makers, snow blowers, smart phones, lawnmowers, and new cars I have ever purchased
-And the number of times I changed a diaper before my first child was born

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Getting Ready for a Home Birth

So, kid #3 is due any day now. And, like kid #2, we are planning to birth this one at home. In a tub. This requires a bit of planning.

Two weeks ago, I was completely stressed-out that we weren’t ready. Last week, I felt better, but remained anxious because some little odds and ends weren’t quite tied up yet. I even took a day off work to try to finish about ten things on our list. My success rate was approximately 30%.

But I think we’re good now.

First, here’s the tub:Tub

Why have a tub? you ask.
Yes, it’s true, we already have a bath tub. In fact, we have a Jacuzzi. But this tub is larger than even our Jacuzzi. It’s deeper, and has a greater diameter. There’s also a comfortable pad on the bottom – and it’s sitting on our living room rug, which, in turn, is on another pad – so it will be softer on Jennifer’s knees. It’s also easier to get around it. Our Jacuzzi is fixed up against the wall, but here, Jennifer, her midwives, or anyone, really, can access the tub from whichever angle is easiest.
It’s also nice to give birth in a living room, next to the fireplace, instead of in the bathroom, next to the toilet.
Of course, this thing weights an awful lot. So I was a bit scared that our 90-year-old beams wouldn’t hold and the tub would come crashing through the floor. Egro…

BeamsThis is the scene exactly 8 feet below the tub. Notice I have installed two metal pillars (rated to withstand 12,000 pounds), one under each beam. I call this homeowners’ insurance. It’s so safe that I even let my 3-year-old stand underneath.

But back to the living room…

Camera and Tripod

Our new video camera is in place. The battery is charged, the data card is inserted, and we’ve affixed it to our oh-so-adorable 12″ tripod. It’s now lying in wait on our shelf above our TV. When the time comes, I will power it up and hit record. The underwater cam is arriving today. Just kidding. There won’t be an underwater cam.

Meanwhile, on another wall of our living room…

MantleHere’s our mantle. Notice the candles on the left. That’s to give the room a real candle-y feel.

Mantle DetailHere’s a close-up of our mantle. The little white card you see in the middle is a card Isla made to welcome the new baby. She made it in December, so it’s been sitting around for a while. And since our baby won’t be born knowing how to read…it’ll probably be sitting around for a while more. The little green object sitting right in front of the card is a rubber anklet Owen made for the baby.

Now let’s head into the dining room…

CandlesHere are some other items we’re gonna need: A small fan to point at Jennifer in case she gets hot; a photo camera for me to take pictures of the baby; some candles to burn during labor (Jennifer says they help her “focus”); and a CD of Mickey Hart’s album Music to Be Born By, which I will play while Jennifer is in labor. This album played during Isla’s birth, and it’s pretty kickass for activities such as pushing out a human being. There are also two sets of headphones for our two kids, and if you have to ask why we need those, then you weren’t within a half mile of Jennifer the last time she gave birth.

CanvasThis photo shows what is immediately to the left of the objects in the previous picture. You’re looking at a canvas, acid-free paper, and a stamp pad. The canvas is for making a placenta print, which actually is pretty cool, so stop cringing. The paper and ink are for footprints.

Now to the kitchen…

Kitchen CounterHere are some large pots. The midwives will be using them. To the right of the pots is a flashlight, just in case they need to see inside someplace dark. And if you’re curious as to why there’s a space heater there, well…it’s not a space heater. It’s a box that used to house a space heater. Notice the box is lined with a plastic garbage bag. This can be set near the birthtub – or anywhere, really – and used as a mobile trash bin. A similar box is sitting in the living room, filled with towels we’ve saved just for this occasion.

Penninsula This is a Birth Kit we had to order. There’s all manner of stuff in here for labor, delivery, and postpartum. Just trust me on this one.


And here is our fridge. There are six sheets of paper magneted to the door. Three of them discuss dinner options and how to prepare such meals; two of them explore the world of making lunch and snacks for kids; the last one (top right) is a list of phone numbers I will, or might, need (I blocked out most of this sheet to hide the phone numbers).

Did we miss anything?

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