August 30th, 2016:
Lessons Learned By A New Father (Part 1)

Here’s the first installment of stuff I’ve learned in the past 10 weeks of new fatherhood:

    Stay Puft Baby and Dad

  1. The first 2 weeks are tough. More difficult than you can imagine. Everyone says this. You think you know what it means. You’re wrong.
  2. Weeks 3-4 are better than the first two… but your brain will be erased and you won’t remember how bad 1 & 2 were. Weeks 3-4 are about as bad as you imagined 1-2 could be before baby arrived.
  3. After week 6, it gets a lot better. You come out of the haze and really realize that this new person is in your family. By week 10, you’re interacting with her and you can barely remember the first month.
  4. Take lots of pictures/videos. Everyone tells you that it goes by so fast and they grow too quickly. It’s true.
  5. Diapers aren’t as bad as you imagined… especially if baby is nursing. The first few days are a horror show (meconium), but really, it’s not too bad.
  6. There will be blow outs… big time. My wife is a scientist and bought a case of “blue pads” used for surgeries, etc. We put them on the changing pad as well as line her car seat with them. Keep a few in your diaper bag for impromptu changing. Lastly, make sure the “seal” around baby’s legs is good by pulling the diaper up on her waist after securing it… like you’re putting a pair of shorts on her. Nothing can stop the dreaded “rooster tail”… it’s just going to happen some day(s).
  7. Gripe water works. All of the articles/books I read said that there’s no scientific evidence for it to work (our baby showed no signs of colic, so that may be a different story), but a dose of gripe water and a little patting on the back and she produces some of the most amazing belches and stops crying
  8. Your wife will need a break… especially if she’s nursing. As soon as you can prepare a bottle and baby is ready to accept it (check with your pediatrician), offer to take the last feeding of the night and put her to bed… or tell your wife to go out shopping for herself and stay home and feed baby. (Just make sure you time everything right so that you have enough milk and/or mom comes back in time.)
  9. A bedtime routine is key. Our baby has slept in her room, in her crib, since she was 2 weeks old (before that we tried a bassinet in our room). Having a bedtime routine was key to making that happen. On bath night, she gets a warm bath… but otherwise, it’s the same every night: mom puts on a lullaby and dims the lights. I undress baby and change her diaper (if needed). Mom applies night time lotion. I put baby in her swaddle. Mom feeds baby. Usually she’s asleep by the end of the feeding and mom waits 20 minutes, then puts her in her crib. 90% of the time, that works. The other 10%… well… all bets are off
  10. Speaking of swaddles: they work… just be sure that you follow the instructions for your swaddle blanket or quick-swaddle. Talk to your pediatrician about positioning baby’s head. Baby should always sleep on her back.
  11. We found out about swaddles in on of our classes, but we also learned about the 5 S’s for getting baby to calm down/sleep from “The Happiest Baby On The Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp: Side, Swaddle, Shush, Swing, Suck. Look it up… it helps, but as you’ll find, nothing is a guaranteed solution
  12. We’ve always cooked dinner together, and doing that with baby is a challenge. We found that a bouncer or car seat on the kitchen counter (if you have space) works well. We tried wearing her in a front-carrier, but worried about hot spatter from pans could get her. Of course, be careful with cutlery, spices, or other hot liquids.
  13. Bonding time helps. If you’re only holding baby when she’s crying, that’s all that you’re going to get out of it. Make time to play with baby (tummy time included) and I find that just a minute of fun when changing diapers or getting dressed means a lot before my day starts or before baby goes to bed.
  14. Teamwork helps. My wife and I have always teamed up: hobbies, chores, projects, and now baby. We calm each other down and cover for each other when we’ve just had enough. Teamwork can be fun too… and makes bath time a lot safer.

Well, that wraps up my first installment of lessons learned. There’s a ton more and I’ll try to provide ongoing updates.

- Duane

July 3rd, 2016:
Car Update: Camaro Emerges

After many struggles with my Firebird I finally got it started, only to confirm that my last hurried fuel line repair wasn’t good enough. So, I took a break to focus on my 10-year newer old car: 1999 Camaro. It has been sitting for over 2 years, but I thought it would be a better candidate to get on the road.

I removed the cover, knowing that I had some mildew to deal with in the interior… however, I also discovered that I had left the passenger window open about an inch. More than large enough to let mice in and definitely enough to let the stink of my old pole barn set in. We had some work ahead of us: deep cleaning, odor elimination, flushing fluids, cleaning out acorns and mouse nests.

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During the next 2 weeks, I spent the better part of 3 days cleaning the interior and prepping the engine. The only surprise was a mouse mess to clean up in the C pillar that I missed on my first pass. I used our commercial carpet cleaner, baking soda, Lysol disinfectant, water/vinegar, clove/water (to prevent mildew), and eventually bleach/water. Ultimately the mild bleach solution was most effective at neutralizing odors. I let my car bake with the roof off and doors open in the sun. All in all, there is a marked improvement in odor. Continuing to let it air out in our garage that has just recently been upgraded by Insta Garage Doors of San Bernardino county, has continued to help.

However, as I let it run (trying to work through the fuel/stabilizer in the gas tank, it started to overheat. Yesterday, I replaced the the thermostat, but the old one looked like new. I’m hoping that I just failed to bleed all of the air out of the cooling system last time (which is a common issue with aluminum block LS motors). If that’s not it, a replacement radiator cap might be the solution… but I dread that I could have a bad head gasket and air/oil is getting into the coolant. Though my time is limited at the moment, I hope to figure out what’s going on before my birthday in mid-July. I just want to drive it around for 1 day…


- Duane

June 29th, 2016:
A Wild Kara Appears! (Part 1)

On the Friday before Gina’s due date we learned that Kara was breach (butt down) and were scheduled for a C-Section on her due date. We were a little bummed out that Gina’s recovery time would be longer and that much of what we learned in our baby classes wouldn’t be used… or so we thought. Kara decided to surprise us:

On Sunday, June 19th, we went to church as usual and performed during the service (Gina sings and I play guitar in the praise band). During a particularly energetic song, Gina started to feel a little… weird. We went home to have lunch prepare for a Father’s Day visit with my family when Gina started feeling contractions… real ones. Excited to use some of our training, we started timing their frequency and duration. We quickly reached 5-7 minute intervals, but the duration was still around 30-45 seconds. After an hour-or-so, we decided to go to the hospital and check in… since Gina wasn’t supposed to go into labor due to baby being breach.


After checking in, we were ushered to a triage room where Gina was hooked up to some monitors, got checked out, and then told to go back home. I thought Gina might take a swing at the staff! When asked when we should come back, they said “… when the contractions are 5 minutes apart and stronger…” We ended up going to the parking lot, watching “House” on Netflix for a while, then going to a market and walking around/buying some water to drink. Not sure what to do next, we just went home.

Once home, we tried to eat lunch and wait it out: more Netflix and a few phone calls to alert family of the false alarm. Gina called her parents and after a brief conversation, hung up and immediately her water broke. Big time. For real. No mistaking what just happened. Our previously calm demeanor stepped up to “go time”: while Gina got cleaned up, I took care of the new laundry tasks. We were definitely anxious and our next trip to the hospital was definitely more hurried, but still calm.

This time it took longer to get into a room… at least it felt longer. Our nurse took a little longer than we liked to hook up the monitors (again… compared to the first visit). After we explained our concerns, she stepped it up and we heard Kara’s heartbeat. Our nerves calmed, we settled in and waited for the staff to confirm that labor had begun. Once that was complete, we were scheduled for an… um… unscheduled…(?) C-Section at 9:00. The next 40-ish minutes were a whirlwind: operating room (OR) cover-alls, spinal anesthetics, waiting outside the OR, then in the OR seated next to Gina.

It seemed like just a few minutes later that we heard Kara cry… loudly. Our daughter had arrived and our biggest adventure together begins.


- Duane

June 6th, 2016:
Firebird Update – More Fuel Leaks

Today, I ran out during lunch and bought a fuel line repair kit. After an extended day at work, I ran out to the shop to see if I could get my Firebird fixed. The repair took about 30 minutes and the results looked good:

New section of fuel line out of the fuel filter

New section of fuel line out of the fuel filter

However, I noticed during the installation that there was potential for another leak on the inlet side of the filter… this might have been a much older leak that I mistook for a brake line leak when I parked my car 6 years ago.

I continued prepping the car by changing the coolant and installing the re-charged Optima red top battery. Excited, I ran into the house to get my keys and returned to the barn where I turned the keys to the accessory position. The good news? The fuel pump energized. The bad news? The pressure caused a pretty nasty fuel leak right where I suspected.

I’m not going to run out to the auto parts store again, instead I ordered the parts and a better tube bending tool online. It should all be here in plenty of time before the weekend. However, there’s an increasingly good chance that we’ll be heading to the hospital to welcome our daughter. Who knows, maybe this will be her first car? Nah… I wouldn’t do that to her 😉

Update: Camaro

- Duane

June 6th, 2016:
Thoughts and Regrets Regarding Storing Cars

The registration tag on my 1989 Firebird expired in 2000. That’s not to say that I haven’t driven it since then… I have, but only to relocate it. That stock 305 cubic inch engine generated only 170hp… nearly bested by my 1998 4 cylinder Subaru (165hp and a whole lot lighter). Well, I guess that explains why I wasn’t driving it much. To further complicate things, I bought my 1999 Camaro in 2001… and there was really no competition. I still love my ’89, but haven’t driven it much.

Firebird Uncovered

To be honest, the same goes for my Camaro. Both have been resting in my backyard workshop. I did my best to prep them for long term storage: battery tenders, fresh oil, fuel stabilizer, fresh antifreeze, etc. I even placed a moisture absorbing container of desiccant in each of them. Car covers protected their paint. I did some things wrong and knew better. I left them both on the ground, surely (temporarily) flat-spotting their tires. I accidentally left the passenger window cracked in my Camaro, leading to mildew on much of the interior leather… and apparently a few mice visited occaionally. I didn’t start them up every month to let the engines run.

About 2 weeks ago, I figured that it was time to clean out my shop before the newest addition to our family arrives. Then I figured I should take it a step further and actually reorganize and insulate my shop… and that meant moving my long neglected f-bodies around.

Uncovering them, I was impressed that they’ve held up so well despite my neglect. A trip (or 2) to the auto parts store and I was prepared to swap a battery (the Optima in my Camaro survived), change the oil and filter, flush the coolant, replace the trans fluid (in the Firebird… Camaro has a manual), replace the fuel filters in both cars and replace the fuel in the Firebird. Oil, coolant and trans fluid in my Firebird all went smoothly. The battery was dead, so I couldn’t fire it up… which was good because I needed to drain the fuel and change the fuel filter. All was going well until I got to the second fitting on the fuel filter: I twisted the solid fuel line. Dammit.

Here ends the story for now. I will get parts to repair the line tomorrow and will likely start my Firebird for the first time in 6-ish years. Hopefully the next update will be less exciting, if that’s possible.

Update 1: Firebird

Update 2: Camaro

- Duane