Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day 1: New baby. Her name is Ivy


Diaper change #1 on day #1
 The sun has set on Ivy's first full extra-womb day on Earth. 
 The first day is so cool! Her skin is magically smoothing out and literally cleaning itself. 




She's opening her eyes and crying and mostly finding a breast to "slurse" (sleep and nurse).



We're in bed until Shaw comes around 3 that will be interesting for sure. Part of me wishes we could have just her for days, but part of me knows it will be a richer experience with Shaw. We'll have the mornings in bed while he's at school until 12:30 and I'm off work for a paid month of parental leave! Cheers to good the good benefits of my low paying higher ed job!

I'm on feeding and cleaning duty, but no chores, they can come after bonding. I'm laptoping when they doze in our room, which is lit well by a sunny day.

Laura said "I'm feeling things I've not felt in a while, like food going down into my stomach, which is not where it used to be, it's actually lower where it should be!"

The First Week 

Midwife says for the first week, visits under 30 minutes, only once a day for all folks, and for me not to leave Laura alone for long. Her mind and body are geared to be very near people the first week, even is she doesn't know it. Accept outside help for Shaw play dates, activities, school drops, shopping, but I can do the inside the house stuff to keep the visitors at bay.


Today was was mostly silent, wonderful, family bonding, with some cries and poop. 

Birth Log, Labor memories, notes, and eventually, photos, for our two births.

The day after the birth of our second child, Laura said "I yelled back at those contracts. You can't given into them, have to show them who is boss!"

Here's my logs from both Ivy and Shaw's birth.

Ivy

  • Feb 26th, felt weird at night
  • Feb 27th, “crampy” AM
  • Noon, Caleb comes home. Officially on leave. Contractions start soon after arrival, inconsistent though with her leaning on counter, a few moans. Light lunch. pacing. squatting. Set up pool, called pool rental for better liner. Should have done a dry run, but it worked out.
  • 3pm. short walk around the block, with contractions every 5 or so minutes, for 20 or so seconds. A few heavy ones.
  • 4:30. Midwife check in. Laura feel is ok for now, no need to come. Midwife says call when over 30 seconds, heavier, and under 7 min apart. Or anytime we feel the need for her. Abby arrives, Laura’s informal Douala and friend this time. Bland veggie Thai noodles and soup ordered by Laura’s demand. Moaning starting with a few contractions, but not consistent. light meal.
  • 5:30 called midwife in. Active labor starts. Mary Lawlor, and her assistant, Alex Holding arrive. This makes four folks.
  • Laura settles in kneeling like with Shaw, but this time holding the edge of our bed. This make my even easier job, much easier, since I can sit or lie on our king bed, while I do Laura’s preferred job for me of always being in front of her, with an arm for her to capture, try and strangle, and use to rub her face very hard while in a contraction. She’s push, rambling, complaining about pain and suffering, asking questions, pooping, peeing, bleeding, and pushing...pushing, in that birth way that is so strangely driven from something out of her control. We’re both along for the ride. The moaning is the key information, as it has been escalating since noon, steadily. Water through a straw, she wants the lights off, so candles are lit for us to to. Lights come on every few contractions for midwives to check heart beat, blood pressure.
  • 8:22 water breaks in this position, clean-up follows with fresh “Chux” pads, or under pads, our birth kit towels, etc.
  • 8:44 baby born. Wow! She nurses immediately, in a way with her face burried and being very still, that convinced me she was suffocating. Apparently, a key skill babies have from the moment of birth, is that they can breath while their mouth and nose is full mashed into an engorged breast, because she did. I did ask to make sure though. I cut the cord after a few minutes to let the goodies in it get pulled into the baby for nutricion.
  • Placenta next after longer than last time
  • Pain and suffering for Laura. 3 ibuprofen is dosed, the first medicine in the process. Clean up, checks by midwives, getting comfy, new bedding. The cord has a little bloody episode, it’s fixed with a clamp.
  • 9ish. Baby weighed, 9lbs 2oz...OMG. 11oz heavier then Shaw...not expected by anyone. Baby health check.  Try to pee, she almost drops while being escorted to bathroom, too dizzy, sits on toilet, no pee. Back to bed. “Pee of the century” happens later.
  • The strange Vernix that covered the baby is disappearing...smooth skin undernearth. She’s a natural nurser. Have hardly seen her face.
  • I’m instructed to cook her a good meal so she’s not weak in the AM. 3 eggs, spinach, and her favorite ham. Eaten. Tea.
  • Change sheets and pad, again, move into sleeping positions. I do a few emails and texts, she sleeps. I join her and Ivy. Heat turned up and house locked down for a warm safe night in wintery Vermont.  

 

Shaw

April 28th,

Caleb: Pre labor snuck up on me, but Laura knew at morning Yoga "something was happening". Laura: Those lower ab cramps were back with a vengeance by mid-afternoon. Kam stopped into the porch and witnessed me "having a moment." I still wasn't ready to get psyched because I knew from Anji that they could go on for another week. I don't remember the sequence of events well, but I felt like I wasn't able to get anything done, including make lasagna. I finally gave up after cooking the pasta halfway. Then I went to bed and waited for Caleb to finish making it and bring it to me. But...She felt more strong pushes every hour, then more often, until about 11pm when she was in bed moaning every 5 or 6 minutes with contractions around a minute. I felt during the afternoon that she was just getting ready to maybe go into labor. Then it hit me when she started long, loud hummms and moans and chants of "I'm relaxed, I can do this, I want this, I'm relaxed, i'm open, open, it's Okay, the baby will come, hummmmm, hummmmmmmm, hummmmmmmmmm". We called the Doula, Libby who was here about 11pm.


April 29th

By 3 am the moaning and loud with contractions that were a minute or two long, every 2 to 3 minutes, for half an hour. I had taken an hour nap 1am-2pm. Libby sat with Laura who liked all fours and then finally in bed on her side. Laura would go limp between contractions and sleep sometimes for 5 minutes. Laura says: "I had heard that the laboring mom should "rest" or even SLEEP between contractions, but thought, "I'll believe that when I see it." Well, it truly does happen. I felt like I would put my head down and no sooner would be up again omming. No idea that five whole minutes would have passed." We were nervous that Libby wasn't in charge of calling of midwife and instead asking us if we wanted to call her. How would we know? But she was on it when it was time and said to call.

Anji and Lucina arrived at 3am. Laura was full in the ommmmmm zone.

They checked in on my smart phone contraction timer logs. They checked in with Laura, watching her and asking her questions. They disappeared and let Libby and I continue to help Laura. We set up the tub. The shower thing didn't fit, and I cursed myself for not testing it early, despite being told it would fit the shower. I used the sink, which we had tested, and prayed silently that it would have enough pressure to push water up the stairs. It did! We filled the tub. Laura got in and for 1.5hrs slipped in and out of the world. She ate a little Yogurt, continued her sipping water with a straw, had some honey, and Ensure we had lying about, even though it was strawberry cream flavor and sucked. Great to have the Ensure! Used it for days after for calories with no chewing, something Laura was insistent on.

Then the bathroom and pushing labor. Lunging in the door frame. Screaming in my face. Crying. No drugs though, not even a peep from her to have any meds or make it stop. She was in a "bring it on" mood mostly. Anji had a mirror and was watching every contraction. Then it was obviously getting long after two hours of all fours on our thick wrestling style stretching mat. We moved into the bedroom. She couldn't make it on the bed and had a lot of pushes on the edge of the bed, forcing Anji with a mirror almost under the bed. I could see the mirror. It was intense. The head and hair were there, then gone, then there, then gone, then a little more then gone. On the bed, back down, the midwives insisted. Laura had hated this position from the get go, or the idea of it with no leverage and being "squishy" and would not do it, but it worked for a while. But it seemed to fade then. Then the midwives got noticeably agitated and Anji said "OK Laura, you've got to push and get this baby out. I'm going to tell you what to do, and you're going to do it." and she would flip Laura on all fours, and then back on her back, and see what worked. The Olive oil came out. The fingers reached inside and pulled. Then a moment and Anji said "episiotomy" to Lucinda. A little sewing scissors came out and snipped. Blood.

Anji decided Laura needed support on her back so the ladies moved her to our oak wood floor. She pushed and there was suddenly a baby crying. Anji surprised me by telling me to quickly say hello so it hears and sees me too, not just Laura. I went down to Laura. Shaw was amazingly alien, looking, smelling, shaped. Laura was spent, but radiant too. When I finally sat back up, my hands were like a horror movie!

Cleaning up and going to bed was a blur.

April 30th, Caleb

It was definitely a life changing event for us. And a life creating one for Shaw. For me, witnessing that much pain, physical intensity (to the breaking point and beyond) blood, gore and exhaustion, while at the very same time knowing it was welcomed, purposeful, and as natural as can be, was one of the more humanizing events of my life. Shaw is sleeping and not crying much. So far he's pooping, which is key because it means he's nursing effectively (even if we can't tell at the time). Laura made it to the porch today for 2 minutes before back to bed. We're feeling very supported by family and friends.

May 1st: 

Laura two days later, worried about a burp, but worried that she's too worried: "I don't want you to choke on your own spit up, is that so wrong?

You laugh, but I'm trying to find in this damn book where it says how to keep him alive at night. Are all my fears unfounded since I can't find them here?"

Friday, February 27, 2015

It's a Girl!

Only 4hrs of active labor, born at 8:44pm, inches from where Shaw was born at our house. 9lbs, 2oz. We're calling her Ivy. We're all going to sleep safe and sound.

The actor Leonard Nimoy, (Spock on Star Trek, and so much more) died this day as well.  I can think of no better way to remember this hero of mine, then the arrival of our own alien to this world.

Ivy, may you live long and prosper.
Ivy. A few seconds old
As Nimoy said in an interview, "I didn't become an actor to become famous, I did it to make an impact." I feel the same way about daddy blogging today. Lets all stick together and help each other though the amazing job of parenting!

Pre-labor. "I feel weird, a little crampy, strange." Prelabor starts, scared, excited, prepping for protrolling, procuring, and 5 S's.

Something is afoot, or two.

This morning there were some signs, a little blood, discharge, and "cramps," with moments hunched on the counter.

"Crampy" means what exactly?

I had to explore the words "cramps" and "crampy" with Laura for a bit, to understand them. I've only had cramps like leg cramps, and stomach cramps after say, too much nachos and beer. None of this is at regular intervels, hopefully.

It turns out the word also means "contractions,"! as in regular events that could be timed! So, there we were, in prelabor all of a sudden. Grab the timing apps (we're using the free Full Term this time). Laura wanted to go for a walk, but it was about 4 degrees out. These crampy contraction thingies come about every 15 minutes, very mellow. Midwife coming at 10am for an already schedule appointment. Grandma picking up Shaw from school, just in case. I brought Shaw to school and I'm wrapping up at work while her mom and brother say hello and then head out until called back.

The first days with a new baby are hopefully coming.


We learned with Shaw that we like to limit visits to an hour or less each day, in the first few days, even for grand parents and best friends. They all want to help, and stop by a lot more then that, but really, folks in house just add stress in ways that are hard to communicate, but are very tangible. I have plenty of time to do all that is needed since I'll be off work. After a few days of brief daily visits, then I'll need A LOT of help.

We had to be firm in this, but it was the most wonderful time getting to know a new being in the world. With Shaw, Laura was mellow, quiet, nursing and resting. I was coming and going, doing laundry, dishes, cooking, errands, etc. Or as my daddy friends and I say, "patrolling the perimeter and securing protein!"

I'm scared, excited, and I hope to be patrolling, procuring, and doing the 5 S's soon. They are trickier to get right then they seem, off to study up, and perhaps write a post on it...


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Swimming Lessons (and hero dads)

I met a hero dad today at the swim lessons Shaw and I got to on Saturdays, I'll get to that.

 

Swim Lessons


But to the point of swim lessons. I'm currently not a big fan of lots of lessons for kids, perhaps because I didn't have many. My wife had a lot, and she's told me she would have rather had more time with her parents, then rushing off to music, horse riding, and all manner of lessons after school. I side with the camp that favors free discovery type play in the woods and with toys like Legos, books, and some Apps, and time with the family.


I am for swim lessons (and maybe music lessons, but perhaps that's the beginning of the end...). I think they are more then a good skill a well rounded person has, they are a crucial skill for all humans who love on a planet that is mostly water. They can not only save your life, but also other people's livess

 

Hero Dad


He had tattoos and the large arms and chest of someone who's either been something like a logger, or a weight lifter. He was at the swim lesson with his son, perhaps 3 years old. We chatted. It turns out he was a single parent, and a stay home dad with his young son. He seemed like a good guy, caring, communicative with his son, etc. He remarked that he managed to be a weight lifter, hold a job and finish a chemistry major in college, but that being a single stay at home dad was infinitely tougher. Bravo dude. Way to man up in a positive way, I thought. Warmed my heart.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An ode to good gloves, quality, craftsmanship and keeping what works.

Disposable vs well-made?


My mother and father lived in Anchorage Alaska in the early 1960s, right before I was born. A few years ago, my mother gave my wife Laura some old black leather gloves she bought there, 50 some odd years ago. How she managed to keep them all these years, and moves, I don't understand. But does she still has a kitchen knife from that time too! And she did have a secure storage shed away from the fray when she was a hippie...

These gloves are so well made and warm to this day, it's astounding. They are, I think, made of dear skin leather and pure wool on the inside.
My mother's old leather and wool gloves form Alaska in the early 1960s, today in 2015. 

Now, I'm not advocating for everyone to get a pair, since they are probably very expensive to find new, and deer would become extinct.

But I do wonder - how many cheap, essentially plastic material, gloves have I've gone through in the time I could have used one pair of these?

My mother also brought back a pair of real Eskimo-made Mukluk boots, but that's another post. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Recipe for how to make Lox, gravlox, aka "smoked salmon" at home

Learn to make simple Lox (Salmon) at home using only your refrigerator, salt, sugar and a few days waiting.

I searched through a lot of recipes before I found a few simple ones I liked. But I couldn't find any recipes with pictures to help me see if I was doing it right, so I wanted to put up this primer to show and not just tell. My first batch was fantastic (and about 1/2 the price of deli-bought Lox) and my whole family not only loved it, but also lived to tell about it!

The Concept

Ahhh, Lox! That salty, sumptuous, strong-scented, smoked salmon.

Or so I thought. Then I set out one day to make Lox at home- and the first thing I found out is that there are many types of Lox and tons of recipes that take from 5 minutes to literally hours and weeks.
Kosher Salt (get small flake)
But all Lox is not complex, especially Lox that is not smoked or uses alcohols. Here's the skinny:
  • Lox. Simplist and the one made here. Salmon, salt, maybe suger and pepper. Weighted down or not.
  • Gravlax (aka Gravlox, or Gravdlax.) Like Lox, but with herbs like dill or tarragon and an alcohol like Brandy, Aquavit, Vodka, etc. Definitely weighted down.
  • Nova Lox (aka Smoked Salmon.) Lox with a complex smoking procedure after.
All the recipes call for different measurements and ingredients, but there's a underlying pattern to them all. Basically you're going to put salt and some other stuff on fresh raw salmon and let it "brine" in the refrigerator for a few days while the salt "cooks" the fish and gives it that famous taste. It's strange to think of eating raw fish that has been in the fridge for a week without cooking it, but salting food, especially meat and fish, goes way, way, way back as a preservative. Once you try this you'll see why. It tastes great and it's easy.
Brown sugar, small flake sea salt, pepper

Ingredients

I looked at a lot of recipes and found I could vary the amount of salt and other ingredients to taste, as long as I remembered that you really just need the salt to do the 'cooking' trick with the raw fish.
I made my first batch for myself to see how it worked. Now I keep a batch around whenever I have the time.
Here's what I ended up with as a recipe for myself.
  • 1lb fresh thick salmon, sliced in two equal pieces. The best of course would be wild-caught Alaskan king salmon. You're going to sandwich the two pieces together, skin side out, so try to get a piece that is consistent in size that you can cut in half, or have the fish folks slice two equal slices.
  • 3-8 tablespoons Kosher flake salt.
  • 3-8 tablespoons brown sugar (regular will do)
  • 1-tablespoon coarse fresh ground pepper
  • Filets of salmon with brown sugar, salt and pepper
    1 Good quality zip-lock freezer baggie
  • Flat-bottomed bowl
  • Something to weigh down the salmon with (dish with a soup can in it, etc.)
  • Optional: 1/4-cup fresh dill, vodka, gin, cognac. You can mix up about 2oz each of mint and parsley (flat leaf) with dill. Also, a subtle but very important spice is crushed star anise, using about two stars of it per pound of fish.

Recipe

  1. Wash and pat dry the salmon and lay skin side down and:
  2. Sprinkle all the salt on, with more in thicker areas.Sprinkle pepper on top of salt. Use 4-8 tablespoons depending on your taste for salt.
  3. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of pepper.
  4. Put any optional ingredients on top, gently if it's liquid so as not to remove salt from salmon.
  5. Sandwich the two salmon pieces together
  6. Put in zip lock bag, with as much air sucked out as possible.
  7. Put in flat-bottomed bowl (in case bag leaks.)
  8. Weigh it down (to help salt get into fish.)
  9. Put in bottom of fridge for 1-4 days. I did 4. I saw some recipes call for even longer.
  10. Flip salmon every day to mix juices up.
    Salted salmon in the refrigerator, double bagged with cans for weight
  11. Take out, gently rinse off salt mixture from salmon, pat dry.
  12. I then slice it against the grain of the salmon very thinly and taste a piece. If it's too salty, I gently rinse the slices in cold water and pat dry. I like to slice it all at once because it's a smelly job. Refrigerate, lasts for a week or less.
Chow down! My favorite way is on a fresh plain toasted bagel. I like plain bagels so as to be able to taste the salmon unfettered by flavor in the bagel. I use plain, or maybe chive, cream cheese, some capers, and a very few onions, and that's it. Lox is also great in scrambled eggs with cream cheese added at the last minute, and on crackers.
More Info.
  1. Wikipedia Encyclopedia Entry with Links.
  2. Nova Lox (cold smoked) recipe
  3. A totally insane tomb of a recipe!
Other recipes online:
  1. Cooking.com
  2. Chef Cuisine.com
  3. HomeMadeSimple.com

Building a tiny house in Vermont.

Cross posting this because it was such a cool project.

Building a tiny green, energy efficient, passive-ish solar, rental/guest house in our Vermont

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Wonder of Sheep Skin Fleece for Babies

Two words about real sheep fleece: "neutralize," and "urine."

Oh, and "temperature," "regulation."
Our recently reconditioned sheep fleece, with a dollar for scale.
When my wife first brought me to a farm in the woods near our town to buy a natural $120 real sheepskin fleece when our first child was about to be born, I thought she was nuts. That's was way too expensive! Although I did like how much it made me feel like a Viking when I held it.



But after using it with our son for months and months, with the inevitable leaky diapers, and not having it smell like a never cleaned gerbil infested nest, I was amazed. No wonder they've been used for thousands of years. Lanolin helps neutralize urine. Sheepskin regulated temperature in the cold and hot, and keeps it's insulating power when wet. And a recent study also found sleeping on animal skins can reduce asthma

We gently washed it with wool soap, every few months and air dried it. By the time our son was done needing it it was a little raggedty.

So, we just sent it away to be reconditioned, for $5.00, believe it or not! The shipping was 4 times that. and, its like new. 

We also broke out the co-sleeper I built to get ready for the baby, but that's another post.
DIY co-sleeper, attached by out of picture shock cord to bed.


Waiting for a birth is a little bit like war - All waiting and then screaming, blood and gore.

I know it's coming, the blood, gore, stress, trauma, and then hopefully - survival and celebration.

It's a little like war, in that it's mostly waiting around until it happens. And it happens very fast. Last time my wife said "I'm going to stop making this lasagne." The next thing I know she's moaning in bed like she's been shot. No matter how much I think I'm ready, I know I'll be surprised when it happens and take a bit of time to realize that it is actually happening.

It might be a call on my phone at work, or a call from the next room, but it will be the same message - "it's happening." I'll be home, or I'll race home.

I'm trained. I've been a home birth with our first son - 13 hours, three rooms and a pool, ended up having the birth on the wooden floor of the guest room.

The moaning will start and we'll call the midwife. The moaning will slowly escalate. The pool will be set up and filled from the shower. She might use it, might not. The hall way and door frames were popular last time. They are good for bracing. The moaning will get louder and louder. The water will break. Then the pushing screams will start and the midwifes will get into high gear.

She'll grab my hands, my shoulders, squeeze and scream. Her physical strength will be shocking.

We might have a "transport" to the hospital (1/2 mile away), if something goes amiss. There could be a death, or two. Most likely, the baby will be born at home and everyone will be healthy.

Blood and gore will be everywhere after the birth, and I'll feel and smell it when I am instructed to say "hello" to the baby as it gasps for air and cries in my wife's arms.

She'll be radiant and totally, completely, spent.

I'll secure protein and patrol the parameter.

We'll clean up. She'll nurse and sleep. I'll make a few calls and texts. 

Soon, the baby will start to recognize me and I'll do the five S's we've learned from the book, "The Happiest Baby on the Block": Swaddle, Side, Shhhh, Swing, Suck.

I'll take her outside in a few weeks when her cries will know longer be soothed by the five S's and nursing alone. Like our son Shaw, I believe that when we leave the house, she'll magically quiet down as the door opens. The fresh air and big sky of the dangerous and wonderful outdoors will cause her to suddenly be very quiet.  We will bond as we walk alertly in the big outside in the world, as we have for thousands of years.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cell Phone Service: Off contract! Testing Republic Wireless

Summary: So far so good with Republic Wireless's $25/mo plan. 

I've been hating my 2-year contract smart phone companies for years. I'd had AT&T and Verizon and iPhone's and Android phones.

The idea of bonded servitude and bad customer service was only possible in a market that was immature had little competition of different plans. That is finally changing with companies offering different services and lower price plans with no contracts. Some companies are using your home wireless internet, and any other wireless internet, for voice when you're in range, which also saves fees of cell signal usage.

I've been watching the company Republic Wireless since they came out, but I was under contract. I finally made the Switch mid February when I had my papers to be a free man.

I got the $99 Moto X phone and $25 a month unlimited 3G text, phone and data plan. No contract. Ahhhh. And I can change plans from $5 a month to $40 a month, any month I choose.

Republic Wireless only has Motorola's Moto X phone, with four models to choose from. They use a hardware hack (modified hardware on the phone you can't change) to force the phone to use your home wireless internet, and any other wireless networks you go on at work or play, for voice, text and data. If there is no wireless, I think they use Sprint cellular.

So far, it's working fine. Some static on wireless sometimes. About the same signal with cell. I have terrible cell service my building, so now I have excellent service because I use the work wireless.

The Moto X is fine. I'd rather have an iPhone, but this will do. I am getting used to the little tiny icons on the top of the phone for text and message notifications, vs the red numbers on the apps themselves. The screen isn't as pretty as my ancient iPhone 4, but it's fine.

I'd really like a big Samsung Galaxy or iPhone, since I use my phone so much now for work. But I'd rather be paying $25 a month vs $50 to $70, be a free man, and not have to suffer bad customer service, and ad campaigns that I totally can't identify with from companies stuck in the 80s and 90s.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Dinner out with kids

Summary: Dinner with little kids can be tough, but that's what I signed up for - even on my birthday.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that parenting is a lot about being a trooper. Tonight, we took Shaw and grandma to a giant domino maze at the local art museum. Big hit with Shaw, especially helping to sort the 37000 dominoes after they all fell. Fun stuff. 

At the event, we ran into two couples we are good friends with from Shaw's school, so the next logical step was pizza out. It was a big event, reason to celebrate, and nobody wanted to cook. I was feeling pretty low, kind of a chemical thing, maybe brought on by being actually 49, but maybe just from too much heavy, salty meat-food, wine, no gym, not enough water, and low winter sun over the last weeks.

So, I was faced with being alone at home for dinner, with a family for dinner who really wanted to be out, or out for pizza dinner with little kids. I figured I'd be low anywhere, so why not go to dinner.

It was chaos, peppered with mediocre food, interrupted discussions, and trips to the bathroom to change pee soaked pants (A huge TV was near the table and Shaw isn't used to Cable, so he forgets).

It was also my birthday. We'd had my party on Friday, which was great, but this was my actual day.

I rallied, it was fun to be with our friends and the kids loved it. Was I relaxed? Did I enjoy my food? Did I have some good conversation? No. But this is what I signed up for and I wouldn't change a thing.

If I was single this night, I would have had a lot less love, and a lot more of a hangover.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Review: GE Geospring Hybrid Hot Water Heater


UPDATE March 2015 : Still saving us money and not using oil for hot water. And and not a peep until December 2014 when the filter light started blinking. Then it wouldn't be reset, so matter how clean the filter.  I surfed the forums and long term reviews online. There seems to be some issues out there with this heater. I called GE and they said they'd send all the parts and include the labor. The parts came in the mail to our hose, and they looked to be the entire heat pump unit and drain tray. The labor was covered and well done. We're back in business and happy.

Here's some 2014 research and advice on hot water heaters from the excellent Green Building Advisor site: "Deciding on a Hot Water Heater: Why we chose an electric water heater instead of a solar water heater."

UPDATE: August 2nd 2012, about 3 months of usage shows an increase in our electric bill of between $15 and $20 a month on Heat Pump Only setting. Well worth the install!

ORIGINAL Post: Installed End of March 2013: We’re finally off oil for our residential (bathroom, kitchen, laundry, etc) hot water! I’ve just completed the installation of a GE Geospring hybrid heat pump hot water heater. It’s really magical to know that our hot water is heated from taking the heat out of the air in our basement, and the byproduct is a dehumidifier and air circulator! Our basement is a consistent 65 degrees, either from the spill off heat of our oil boiler in the winter, and summer heat from upstairs in summer. It’s very well insulated. So far, we have it set for heat-pump only, so the electric coil doesn’t come on at all. The downside is that if you only use the heat-pump, the recovery time is much longer than a normal hot water heater. We’ve yet to run out of hot water, but we’re frugal, with only one bathroom, two people, and one baby. We have low flow shower and sink heads.

Our hot water baseboard is still from a Peerless oil boiler that’s about 10 years old. It’s a good boiler, pretty efficient for its time. But it was also heating our residential hot water, and with not storage tank or electric hot water heater. All summer the boiler would fire when we took a shower or did the dishes. I thought about on-demand, but we only have propane, no natural gas, and our basement is warm and while dry, it could always be dryer. Our basement is completely foam insulated, air tight.

Our 1907, 1300 square foot home in southern Vermont has been totally re-insulated with cellulose in the walls and 18″ in the attic. This brought us down from about 750 gallons of oil a year for heat and hot water, to 350 gallons a year.

The cost for the heater was $999.00 plus tax, on sale in MA at Lowes. The installation was about $500 since we had to run a new 220 line to a new breaker, and we needed a $170 mixer valve Vermont requires. So, about $1500.00. With this hot water heater keeping the furnace off all summer, and keeping it from firing extra in the winter, we forecast somewhere around $400/year savings. The heater does use electricity to power the compressor and fan, so we’re estimating that it will be $200/year in electricity at the most, so that’s $200/year savings. Not a bad projected ROI.

Canon G7 X long term review.

Update:  I had had banged up the lens retractor from daily use at work and home, and from not using a hard case on my belt. I sent it into Canon customer service repair and since it was under warranty they sent me a new reconditioned camera with charger, and battery! I love Canon customer service!

Summary: I've carried it daily on my belt for 11 months and used it at work, and home, to blog phots and videos. I'm still in love with the G7 X. Sure, it could be faster, and I wish the mics were on the front for better audio and not clogging. But it's the largest camera I'm able really carry everywhere, and so far, the best resolution and usability for me! I tried the Sony RX100 I, II, III and also loved them, great cameras... But personally I like Canon's heavier metal construction on the G7 X, Canon's UI that I'm used to, and Canon's customer service for repairs and warranty support.

Pros (for me): Canon G7 X

  • Great heavy feel and construction
  • Resolution and low light shots on Auto rock
  • Manual control is great. Dedicated exposure dial, making for three manual dials in all. 
  • Video is amazing, really. 
  • 24mm-100mm lens. I need the wide angle.
  • Flip to selfie touch screen view finder, with heaftier hinge then Sony because it only goes one way. Have to flip camera to get over crowd shots, but can flip images in post.

Cons (for me): Canon G7 X

  • Top mounted mics
  • Slow sometimes. But with a fast SD card, fine for my usage.
  • Battery life
  • External battery charger, easy to loose
  • Touch screen doesn't flip down for taking over the head shots like on the Sony.
  • Video button could be more recessed.  
  • Wireless to laptop could be way better, easier and simple to set up. Wish it didn't use proprietary software to do it at all.  
  • I'd like to be able to upload directly to YouTube, etc. if in a wireless zone.

My wife has had to get used to the fact that I always look like I have some sort of malignant growth on my right hip. It's actually just a camera case on my belt. I have it if I'm awake, and sometimes even if I'm asleep.
My "growth" as my wife calls it.


Since I always have a camera, I use it a lot. Or perhaps it's the reverse, anyway, I need a new camera every year or two. Recently, I've been neurotically trying to pick which camera to buy next.

I have a lot of good justification to get one, really. My Canon S110 is banged up, and not that great anymore (video still rocks). My second child is about to be born. I am closing in on being 50 years old (49 Feb. 16th). My desire to blog has reached a boiling point that seems to be finally pushing me past just talking about blogging a lot. My grandmother Rhoda taught me to invest in three things in life: Education, your own house, and the tools of your trade. She also liked to travel, by blue chips, and drink 1.5 oz (never more) of good Vodka every night before dinner (never after), but that's another post. I teach Web media production and do instructional design work at Marlboro College, so work demands a good camera. They have an SLR, but it's huge and not on my belt. I have naturally documented since my first Instamatic 110 camera and Mac computer.

So, it's time to shop! Often the first step in any good project, be it the hardware store or Amazon.

I have waited to get a 1" sensor, 20MP, point and shoot since Sony released the famed RX100 in early 2012. The New York Times said this camera was the best point and shoot ever made. It is an SLR sensor on your belt for sure!

I am terribly difficult to give gifts too, so asked my wife and family to all focus on birthday funds for on an RX100. I then spent weeks in my spare time researching the next two iterations of the camera - the RX100 II and RX100 III. The RX100 II has a 28mm to 100mm lens, flipable view screen, hot shoe, and wifi. The RX100 III went back to a 24mm lens, but only to 70mm, with a fully flipable view screen and a real view finder, wifi, etc.

At the last minute I returned the RX100 and got a RX100 II (DP review). I just used it for two days. It was amazing with both photos and video. Ironically, my brother David was visiting from China after being away for two years, and he had an RX100 III, but he needs the latest and greatest, and can afford it with a good job and being single still. I tried it at my birthday party. The old fashioned view finder was cool, but hard to use for the new reading-classes me. Otherwise, the flip to selfie view screen rocked. I felt one-upped, but I couldn't justify the extra cost for the III.

But I soldered on and took my RX100 II out for a few spins.

Here's some video. And some photos below. This is by far the best point and shoot I've every used.

I did notice the 28mm lens was harder to frame up for selfie type video blogging then my current 24mm lens. And the controls are hard to get used to since it's a different brand.

Then I started re-researching Canon's very late response to these Sony powerhouse RX's - The G7 X (DP review). It's a first generation, always dangerous, but it has some things I'm into. The view finder flips all the way over for selfies like the III, there's a touch screen, and the lens is 24mm to 100mm. And it's the same cost as the RX100 II.

I just ordered a G7 X and returned the RX100 II. 

I have been carrying a Canon Powershot point and shoot camera on my belt most every day, since the early 2000s. These first Powershots were awesome little cameras, metal at first, with real view finders. They would take excellent photos for use on the Web and you could carry them everywhere. I had SLRs in the film days, but they were too big for me to really use. I'm the type of photography that needs a camera that I can carry every day, all day. I buy a camera very couple of years since I use them so actively. I moved to the Canon Powershot "S" series and thought they rocked, and they did. Nice manual dial and metal body, but small. I've occasionally tried Panasonic Luminx, Sony Cymbershots, etc. Great cameras all, each with their strong points.

But I usually end up with staying with Canon since I know the controls and workflow.

We'll see if this remains true. I'll update this blog with my tests of the G7 X.

Pure Wool Sweater

Laura knit Shaw a pure wool sweater and he's finally big enough to wear it, and like it, AND be able to let go of his other "magic" sweater that was cute, but cotton, which not fit for a Vermont Winter. The sleeves are still long, and the turtle neck curls over, but I actually think that is good for not being scratchy. Here's the pattern: Yankee Knitter Designs #21 Roll Raglan for the family. By Melinda Goodfellow.






Saturday, February 14, 2015

A melting Shaw. An achy dad. And the famous Harris Hill Ski Jump!

Shaw, with a friend, about to melt down at our famous ski jump weekend.
Shaw melted down today in a very cold place, and I got very sore and tired. We were at our little towns world-class ski jump competition! It was a strange meltdown that Shaw had. My achyness - sadly, not abnormal.

Shaw got into a "nooooooo" mood at about noon at the blistering cold outdoor event. It took us a while of treating him to French fries and hot dogs, warming him up, checking his pants for ashamed of poos, etc. before we realized that he was just tired from a very active morning playing with my brother David who is visiting from China after two years away.

An interesting lesson. I was convinced he'd pooed himself and was hiding it under his layers of wool and silk since it was way before nap time. But he was tired. In the thick of him crying, then stopping, then saying "Noooo!" to everything, even the thing he was saying "no!" too...I didn't think he might just be unable to communicate the he was tired and overwhelmed. That is a big word for a little guy!

Laura took him home since she was ready to get out of the 10 degree weather herself. He mellowed out quick and passed out in the car.

I stayed at the ski jump event with grandma and took some photos and video. 

A truly wonderful thing about our little 12,000 person hamlet is that is has the largest ski jump in Maine, NH and VT. The Harris Hill ski jump. Since 1922 they've been jumping here and after a 2009 rebuilt,  in 2012 and it became an FIS Olympic qualifying jump! It's a small town, with a big world jump.

Dad and David had to beat ANOTHER big snow storm before it hit Portland, ME, so they left when Laura took Shaw home. I stayed until Betty made it, bundled up in two coats and four hand/feet heat pads. She's a trooper.  We hiked up the stairs to the amazingly good seats this small event has.

After 4 hours in 10 to 15 degree weather I made it home, had an early dinner and then got very, very tired! I took a deep, almost uncontrollable micro nap and woke up sore and chilly. Oy. Getting old. Needing cardio and not just light weight lifting a couple times a week.

Photo album


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Baby Girl - incoming!

I'm starting this blog as an older dad (born 1966) who is expecting his second child - a girl, god willing and the creek don't rise! 

Laura is due Feb. 26, according to our midwife Mary Lawlor. We're having another home birth. I respect Mary's 20+ years of experience and concede that she'll probably be right. But, the less reliable 20-week ultrasound tech said Feb. 17th. I say Feb. 15.



Maybe that is because I turn 49 on Feb. 16. Also maybe it's because Laura seems ready to pop with comments like "I feel weird" and "I'm crampy."

And, she'll be done with her part time work as a paraeducator at a local public elementary school Feb. 13th. But since there's relatives coming in on the February 13th for dinner, and we're going to Brattleboro Vermont's famous Olympic qualifying ski jump is on Saturday February 14th and Laura has prenatal Yoga...I say the 15th!