Monday, February 11, 2013

The cabin fever of a new father

A project of a new father on paternity leave from Robs perspective as written by Mark Fellows,

 Read by Rob for accuracy.

The time of the up coming birth of your first child can be a time of celebration in the creation of a new life.  A time of love. A time of wonder.  A time of joy.

For me it was a time of uncertainty, and a little fear.

I joked with my wife and friends that while my wife would be giving birth to our first child, I would like to be at the mall. 

Stop what you are thinking.  I was only kidding!  Sort of.....

I have to say for my wife and I as a young athletic couple, the birth went rather smoothly.

It was the time after the excitement, when the baby was already here and Jenny was busy with all the mundane activities and hard work that comes with a newborn, and I was busy thinking about all the time I had to stay at home, and not go to Wal-Mart, or Tractor Supply Company or Bass Pro shops, or go out to lunch with the guys at work that became daunting to me. 

Hey don't judge me!  Have you had a newborn?  This is my first. 

We humans have a hard time adjusting sometimes to a radical change in our lives.  To maintain our sanity, we tend to concentrate on the mundane things in life that anchor us to the reality we know.

Now as I said, my wife gave birth to a healthy baby, and we were home.  Most of the excitement, and anxiety was over.

Now it was time to think about how to allot our time.  For Jenny her time would be locked into constant feedings, fussing, and diaper changing.

For me, my time was tied up in an occasional holding of the baby while my wife ate, or maybe when she took a much needed 30 minute nap, and of course an occasional diaper change.

Most of MY time however ended up being about me thinking about my need for activities to stimulate me mentally at home and  wondering if I should slip into work for just a bit...... 

My friend Mark for those who don't know him, can be a bit of a smart ass.  I try to involve myself in as many things I can, and when I come across a project that Mark finds odd, he is quick to poke a verbal jab at me.

He has been quick to make fun of me about my experiment on composting that I did on my apartment kitchen floor to see if I could get the ingredients just right, in order let the pile digest the scraps, and keep it from smelling. 

I view this as a complete success!  It didn't smell the apartment up at all, and the pile continued to shrink over the weeks!

we had no problem with bugs, smells, or anything!

The next project Mark found amusing was my experiment to make a Cob(think adobe, but better) brick.  Again, a complete success, but then I had a 30 pound block that basically looked like a 30 pound block of turd sitting on my apartment balcony that I had no idea how to get rid of, or had any use for.

On on the following project, I texted Mark with an occasional picture of the progress along with information about how things were going. 

He told me he found the texts were some of the funniest he has ever read, and seemed to have lots of interests, and an occasional quick,jab about my predicament.

The project I chose to fill my time is below with pictures during the critical steps.

Perhaps you have heard of the trend of concrete kitchen countertops? 

As a person that chose engineering as a career, I seem to have a need to find things to keep my mind occupied with technical puzzles. 

The above picture is the polished countertop I designed and poured in my basement after carefully making a mold, and planning out the position of those white decorations you see in spots in the picture. 

If you look closely, you may notice that they are positioned as star constellations. 

I used 6 bags of concrete, and bought a special cement mixer from Harbor Freight to make the job easier.  The lattice of rebar frame sitting in the unfilled mold took me about a night to complete.

I would say this countertop weighed about 350 pounds. 

Now the installment of a huge slab of concrete into your kitchen is not something most people would take lightly.  Most of us would want plenty of people around to handle such a large, heavy and difficult item to install...

However, you may be underestimating the stir craziness of a new father at home on paternity leave.....

Finally, I couldn't stand it and decided that I am an engineer and a smart guy, and I can probably just handle this install myself....

The picture below, is the next chronologically...

The picture above was one I sent to mark at about 10pm, after it had been stuck for quite a few hours that said "Now what?"

Like a good, concerned friend Mark sent a reply back not saying, "Don't worry buddy, I'll be right over to help!", but instead his text said "got yourself in a real pickle didn't you?" , and nothing more.

Now I don't know if you can imagine, but if you get a 350 pound slab of concrete stuck on your front steps to the entry of your house, propped there precariously with step ladders, and with your sensible wife and newborn inside, it can be a time of anxiety....

A time of self doubt.  A time of questioning your decision making skills.  A time to wonder if you made a huge mistake?

This was a time of emergency! I knew I had better take some medication to help keep me calm in this crises. 

The Camel snus packets(think of Skoal Bandits chewing tobacco) helped get me through this stressful evening and gave me some re-newed self confidence....

Maybe things aren't that bad after all I thought... 

Everything seems better with a little nicotine!

The following picture, was the next day when it decided to rain. 

When I woke up in my bed I thought "Ah, a new day with a renewed sense of confidence and possibilites."

Then I thought "oh yeah", and went out the basement door, and looked at my job for the day.

All this still looks a little daunting but remember, I had had a few hours sleep, some daylight and the nicotine of the snus packets to keep me calm! 

For some reason, when you are in the middle of a difficult project when you get stuck, things look much much more dire at 10pm at night when most people are relaxing to go to bed, and you know you may have made a mistake, and less daunting during the day when most people are doing most of their daily activities.

The next picture in the series is after I figured out how to move the concrete slab from its home on my front porch steps. Utilizing the tried and true technology of the good ole hand truck.

When I sent this text message, it read.  "this is how religions start..."  

You just know I was thanking god, and any Deity I could think of for this the above picture....

Yeah!  I'm not as stupid and rash as I have constantly been telling myself since getting this stuck on the front porch!

Instead of being stuck precariously on my fronts steps using step ladders, it was actually inside, partially mobile, and even on the right floor of the house to install it!

The next picture in the series is just 7 hours after the picture with it stuck on my front steps, blocking the entrance to our house.

Maybe now, after the crisis is over I should make a fake concrete countertop out of foam and balance it on step ladders in order to scare away any unwelcome visitors to my house?

My new countertop!!! 
Now the countertop is installed, and the ends justify the means!

Even my wife Jenny couldn't argue that.... 

We now have a new concrete countertop in our kitchen only 23 snus packets, 6-10 Red Bulls, and a few hour chewing my fingernails later!

This is one project I did that Mark didn't have his usual stinging comments about...

In fact, he was really impressed, and since Mark wrote this, I will tell you, I was REALLY impressed with this all!!!

Marks Perspective :

Rob said he has some stretch marks on his pecks and deltoids from frantically heaving this around by himself, and is surprised he made it through this endeavour without any injuries...

I told him he could put this on his resume as his latest engineering project!

Getting that text late at night that said "now what?" was hilarious!  I have never done something like this, but as a guy prone doing things half cocked, I can relate...


The first time I saw actual fly paper in about 20 years, it was hanging in the kitchen of Robs brand new house...

Seriously, I don't know where all the flies came from.  There was no indoor compost pile, but it was a little unappetizing looking at them while my wife and I consumed one of his delicious dishes he made us for dinner... 

Seriously, he is a very good cook!

Rob's idea of "helping" with the new baby, as written my Mark :)

Update as of 2/17/2013: Below is Robs diagram on our dry erase calander on how he performed this feat....

To the left, of the diagram is Rob's tractor.
The stick figure is obviously him on a step ladder
The thicker rectangle is the concrete slab
This should all make it clear to you...