Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Baby bureaucracy

Today we had our regular doctor's visit and were introduced to the bureaucracy of having a baby. Because you knew there had to be some.

We got a 4-page consent form, describing all the things that could possibly go wrong during labor. Fun times reading that. I'm glad they gave it to me now, instead of making me sign it as I'm in labor. We also got a health care proxy form, although we already have those so I'll just give them a copy of the one that we did with our attorney.

And then we got the form to fill out for the birth certificate. Of course, we can't fill out the most interesting parts yet, like the baby's name, gender, date and time of birth, etc. But we could fill out our names, dates of birth, places of birth, and my marital status (that seemed old fashioned). Additionally, Massachusetts needs to know our race and ancestry. We're only allowed to check one box for ancestry. I was trying to figure out if I should check the "Lebanese" box (1/4 of my ancestry) or the "European, specify" box (the rest of my ancestry, although spread out across the entire continent of Europe). I ended up checking both boxes. The best part was the "optional survey" at the end, in which they asked me and Jim if we found it difficult to fill in boxes about race and ancestry and asking to tell them how we felt about that. No joke. :) Ha.

Other things I learned: They don't send you the birth certificate in the mail. You have to wait 30 days and then request one (with check or money order, please). It seems like we should get at least one freebie. We pay enough in taxes, after all. And on the contrary, you can request automatic issuance of a Social Security card, which will be sent to you in the mail free of charge.

Additionally, they want the name of the pediatrician we've chosen. Good thing we started thinking about that last week. :) Actually, we lined up an appointment to meet with one next week. But I guess they notify the pediatrician when the baby's born, which of course makes a lot of sense. I wonder if the pediatrician will come to the hospital to check on the baby, or if that's done by the pediatricians on staff at the hospital?

Anyway, all very interesting and important information. The baby's not even here yet, but there's already paperwork to be done! :) On the other hand, it means that she'll soon be here, and that's pretty cool.

Monday, March 30, 2009


By special request, here are two pictures of the cuckoo clock:

The face of the clock (the bird comes out of the little door at the top of the face of the clock):

Full clock, with pendulum:

This clock belonged to Jim's grandma. It had been broken for a while, and his grandma told him that if he could fix it, he could have it. So Jim brought it back to Boston and somehow figured out how to fix it! (He thought it would be a good way to learn how clocks work for his future project of building a grandfather clock). It has been working since January and we have it in our kitchen, next to the pantry door. We just have to keep remembering to pull the weights so that it keeps running. We have to pull the weights usually twice a day. It "cuckoos" on the hour and the half hour, and that's when the little bird comes out of the top of the clock.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Jim put the second coat of polyurethane on the cradle this morning. Looks great!

We are heading out to Marlboro this morning to have brunch with some friends. It's pouring rain - a little early for April showers, but it's better than snow.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cribs, cradles, and baby

Jim's back from San Diego, the weather's great, and it's only Saturday. What more could we want? Today Jim put the first coat of finish on the cradle. We are doing a clear, polyurethane finish. There are probably lots of nicer finishes we could've done, most involving oil, but we are running out of time and we've had pretty good luck with poly in the past. Jim finished our front door with it about 6 or 7 years ago, and it came out great. As with the door, the cherry wood is a beautiful color, and as time passes, it will darken. Plus, each coat only takes a few hours to dry. He'll probably put 3 coats on. He's working on the top of the cradle now (head board, foot board, side boards, roof). Later, he'll do the bottom and the rockers, and then he'll attach the rockers to the bottom and bottom to the top, and it'll be done.

We also looked at cribs today. We wanted to do a little comparison shopping with Babies-R-Us and went to a place called Baby Furniture Warehouse in Braintree, which was supposed to have great prices and great quality. It was recommended by the Baby Bargains book that has sort of become my bible and security blanket for purchasing all things baby. Well, I think this place carried some higher end and designer furniture, but with fancy brand name comes higher price, and we simply don't need a top-of-the-line, designer crib for the relatively short amount of time we'll use it. We did find one brand, Romira, that seemed particularly well-made, but $800-$900 for a crib? I think not. Even if it does have dove tails. To be honest, the cribs all start looking the same after about 5 minutes of shopping. So we're sticking with our original plan and getting the crib from B-R-U. Unfortunately, it's temporarily unavailable on-line, so we'll have to make a trip over there to order it. Maybe we'll do that tomorrow when it's supposed to pour rain.

I'm getting awfully tired of lugging around all this extra weight. It really seemed to hit home this afternoon. I took a nap on our couch out on the front porch. When I woke up, the sun was in my eyes so I tried to sit up quickly and I couldn't. Jim ended up helping me sit up. Then I started walking around and I just felt like my body had been filled with cement. I can't garden - Jim worked the compost into the garden this afternoon, to get the soil ready for planting in a couple of weeks. It's hard to put on my socks and shoes. All I feel like doing is sitting around. I feel like a slug.

Tonight we have friends coming over for dinner and we're going to cook out on the grill. I love that. It's a sure sign that summer is really going to come.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Why I Love Spring

This is why I love spring:

(From the flower bed next to the stairs).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Immigration jumble

Some of you may wonder what exactly I do for a living. I just found a great depiction of what I deal with everyday. This chart appeared in the October '08 edition of Reason magazine. It went along this this story.

This chart is actually a simplified version of the immigration process.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cradle Assembly continued

The cradle is basically assembled now. Jim attached the roof this morning, and that was the last gluing we'll have to do. You can see that roof's still clamped, as the glue dries:

Here's the whole thing. You can see that Jim sanded down the box joints on the footboard and they look nice and smooth now:

The bottom and the rockers will be attached quickly with screws. We probably will wait on attaching them until after we put the polyurethane on.

You might ask what the next wood project will be after this. Jim is thinking of redoing some of our kitchen drawers, since it'll allow him to practice different types of joints. He'll try to do some dovetail joints too. He already did our utensil drawer and it is so much nicer than what we had before, which was about one step above particle board and was falling apart. Now it's really sturdy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Progress Photos

Here it is, the headboard is all done, and the cross brace (which holds the hood) is now being glued. The hammer is to hold the cross brace down while the glue sets. Sorry the pictures are not so great...
We have also started to cut and join the roof. That should be done tomorrow. As we speak the foot board is setting.

Still to do:
1) Finish the roof
2) sand the box joints on the foot board smooth.
3) Assemble the bottom, and route bevel around the edge of the bottom
4) Attach the bottom to the "box".
5) finish the wood with some form of sealant, which at this point, is going to be Polyurethane.

Cradle assembly

We are finally assembling the cradle! Last night we glued the headboard on to the sideboards, and this morning we glued the footboard on. The box joints look fabulous! In fact, the whole thing looks great. This afternoon, we have to go to the woodworking store to get some thin pieces of cherry for the roof, as well as the wood stain. Norm recommends a "Dutch oil," because it ages well on the cherry wood. So we need to find that at the store. He says it's easy to apply. But I would imagine that just about anything in woodworking land is easy for Norm.

It is really exciting that it's all coming together. You just can't buy something like this at Babies-R-Us. Of course, I looked on e-Bay and there are some antique cradles there. But this one will be made by us. Maybe someday it'll appear on the 22nd century version of Antiques Roadshow. :) Ha.

For now, we're off to do some grocery shopping. I'm going to make m'judra for a shiva that we're going to tonight (our friend's father died last weekend).

By the way, did I mention that it's the 2nd day of spring??

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cradle Part III

Just a quick update, much has happened since the last posting:

The bottom is complete, both the cradle bottom, and the rockers are done. After some smoothing the rockers slide right in and are set to be attached with a simple screw. (There will end up being 4 screws in the whole thing.

All the box joints are done. This turned out to be fairly easy, just a few hours of work per side. I was thinking it would be a few days of work per side. After most of the wood was cut out with a router, I squared them off by hand. It helps when you have razor sharp chisels. I also used a square block to make sure my cuts were perfect, a tip I learned on (http://woodtreks.com/how-to-hand-cut-precision-dovetails-the-tails-part-2-of-2/77/). In short everything came out great.

Unfortunately, as I cut the last joints this morning we had a horrible accident. Part of the side split off. Luckily it was a clean cut and a bit of glue will make it stronger than ever. On the left is a picture of the side (now glued together). On the right is a picture of the crack. If you pay attention you can see the crack under the point of the screw driver. The good news is glue on a joint hat runs with the grain is actually stronger than the wood itself. That means if I beat this side with a hammer it will break somewhere else before that joint breaks again. You will notice I use a template to keep the box joints in line for the glue up. I had to be very careful to not glue the template to the side.

Also, here is a picture of the headboard, footboard and sideboard connected together. To the right is a close up of the box joints. Its not tightly fitted, so you may see some gaps. After the final glue they should all be gone (I Hope).

Tonight Jeannie and I are off to restaurant night in Beacon Hill with some friends. This afternoon we are going to enjoy the weather. Jeannie is baking raisin bread, and I am making sour dough.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Today was "errands" day at our house. But they were a little more unusual than most weekends. For example, I finally found a place to donate all my old law school textbooks. I'd been looking for a place for a while, and most places don't take old textbooks. But this time I found a place called "Got Books," which stations large metal containers in public places, like at the library. They seem to take everything. So I was finally able to empty out that big box that has been sitting in our study for probably a year.

The real goal, of course, is to start to get the room ready for Baby K. Right now, I just have a couple of piles of baby things from Christmas and a large garbage bag of baby clothes that a friend passed on to us. We still have to get our large, heavy dresser out of storage and figure out where it will go. (That will operate as a changing table). We also have to figure out where we're going to put the crib, when we acquire that. Because we have built-in bookshelves all along one wall, it's going to be a challenge, particularly if we want to keep our desk and computer in the room too. I have a feeling that they will get moved to another room though.

We (mostly Jim) also worked more on the cradle. It is really coming along. Jim was able to square off the box joints on the headboard so that they will properly connect with the sideboards. It actually took less time than anticipated. Then we went to Rockler in Cambridge to get a new router bit, since he burned out the one he was using to cut the box joints. Tomorrow he's going to cut the box joints on the sideboards and square them off. We also have to work on the hood of the cradle. But we are able to assemble parts of it now. It's really cool.

Jim is making pizza for dinner tonight. We were going to have fish, but for some reason, the thought of fish continues to turn my stomach. It's like the last remnant of the morning sickness. I guess I was never a big fish-eater to begin with, but it really makes me nauseous now. It's too bad. Many types of fish are actually supposed to be important things to eat during pregnancy, because of their high Omega-3 content, which helps in the baby's brain development. But I guess you can only eat things that are appetizing.

Our ultrasound on Monday went well - the baby is approximately 3.3 pounds, according to the size of her body parts, as measured on the ultrasound. The images weren't nearly as clear as before, but they were able to do a "4-D" image of part of her face (she was covering the rest of her face with her hand - quite a shy one). Technology is a great thing.

I've just been told that the pizza is ready so off I go!

Sunday, March 8, 2009


The last few days have seen much progress in the woodshop. My dilemma creating box joints has mostly been solved. While we won't know for some time if its truly solved, I have a plan and things are progressing well. To make 18 inches of box joints, I cut a template using the jig. Remember, the jig only supported 12 inch wide wood. I then took the template and and a pattern router bit to cut the fingers. After one set of cuts, I shifted the template.

This worked, the backs of the fingers are somewhat rounded, and I will need to square each one by hand. This will be painful. However, I have ordered things to keep my chisels razor sharp and with some luck they will arrive this week.

This weekend saw two new developments too. While waiting for the sharpening tools I cut the bottom to its final size. Unfortunately, I cut it an inch short. A very amateur error, but I am an armadillo. When you use a tape measure, and want precise measurements, you always start from 1, since the end of a tape measure wiggles a little bit. I did this, but didn't add an inch into the final measurement. Oops! We plan to cut the sides one inch shorter later this week.

With much love I managed to cut the rockers for the bottom. The first rocker was cut with a router and a belt sander. After about two hours of work it was where I wanted, I used the pattern bit in the router to duplicate it on a second piece of wood. It came out well, but the router bit jammed up and burned the wood. Some planing and sanding fixed the black marks.

To attach the rockers to the bottom, we needed a sliding dovetail joint. I had never done one before, but after some practice it turned out to be somewhat easy. Hear is Jeannie putting one of the grooves in the bottom. Here is a picture of a sliding dove tail, ours came out picture perfect. By using the sliding dovetail, the rockers and the bottom will be able to expand and contract due to humidity and will not crack the bottom of the cradle. Because the rockers and the bottom expand and contract in different ways, the joints can't be glued. As the rocker expands it will just slide in the track.

Next up, waiting for the sharpening stones. They are in transit from Cambridge Ohio to Cambridge Mass as we speak. Then I can get to work squaring the box joints.... The clock ticks on.

BTW, for those of you who think you saw a typo: Think again. Here I am working with Jim. He does most of the work, I am just comic relief.


The highlights of the day:
1) Going to Winchester to see this museum, especially this exhibit, which was a group of black and white photos of people diving into a pool of water at Quincy Quarries in 1938. I believe the photos were used for a Life Magazine article. There were also some famous color photos of Ted Williams at age 19 as rookie for the Sox.

2) Getting our first ice cream cones of the season at Dairy Queen on Washington Street in the Point. Wow, if that's not a sign of spring, I don't know what is. We got our usuals: Jim got a medium chocolate cone with rainbow sprinkles; I got a small vanilla cone with chocolate dipping. Frozen Freddie's opens around March 25!!

3) Napping on the front porch with Jim.

4) Cooking burgers out on the grill!

Beach and dogs

We ended up going to Newport yesterday for lunch. What a beautiful day. It was in the 60's all day and sunny. We stopped at a Subway and got subs, and then parked at Second Beach. There were about 50 people surfing. It was interesting to watch them. It just seems like it would be so cold to go surfing, even with a wetsuit on. The way wetsuits work is that first you have to get wet, and then the wetsuit traps the water, and your body warms it up, protecting you from the cold water on the outside of the wetsuit. But this still involves having to get wet in that really cold ocean water. I don't know how they do it. They must really love to surf. One thing that I thought was odd was that there weren't any women surfers that we could see.

In addition to the surfers, everyone else seemed to have brought their dog to walk on the beach. There were dogs of all sizes, and many of them went in the water too. There was also this truck from a dog obedience school. We were watching the driver put all the dogs back in the car, and at first, he seemed to have remarkable control over them. He opened up the van door and the dogs lined up and got in the car one by one. They were all big dogs - huskies and labs. We were impressed. Then, before the man could close the van door, a little Boston terrier walked by with his owner and started barking at the dogs in the van. One of the dogs from the van jumped out of the van and attacked the little dog. At one point, it didn't look good for the Boston terrier - the big dog had practically his whole head in his mouth. The owners of the Boston terrier seemed to be frozen, not knowing what to do. And the obedience school man just stood there too. As the fight was going on, the rest of the dogs in the van piled out again and started roaming around on the beach. It was all very funny. The man really had no control over the dogs at all. He was finally able to break up the fight, but then he had to hunt around for the other dogs.

This was our lunch entertainment. Then we went for a walk on the beach:

The tide was coming in so we had to be careful not to get our shoes wet. There were all kinds of interesting shells on the beach. After that, we drove home. We did our grocery shopping, then I made an endive and pear salad for the potluck dinner, and Jim did some more work on the cradle. It looks like he figured out his problem with the box joints! I helped him with some joinery, gluing two pieces of wood together and clamping them so they stay.

Today is another day of beautiful weather, although I hear that we might get freezing rain or snow tonight. Ugh. We will probably check out the photography museum today.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Odds and ends

It's about 60 degrees outside this morning, which hopefully means the snow will be gone soon. Jim is in the basement, working on his box joints for the cradle. I just finished the budget for March and have been watching my cat, Solomon, attack the rug in this room. He runs up to the rug, lays on his side, grabs a side of the rug with his four paws, and with a crazed look in his eyes, starts kicking it with all four legs. I don't know why he does this. Maybe he has spring fever. I know that I do.

The week was relatively quiet. Work has settled into a pattern where my bosses will tell me by the week whether they're going to cut my hours further. This makes it really easy to schedule clients for appointments and plan for hearings (not). On the other hand, it means that I'm still working 4 days a week for the time being, and this is good from a financial perspective. The prospect of being out of work with no income for 3-4 months for my maternity leave is sort of hitting me and freaking me out a bit. We will need to do some major cuts. So the longer I can work up until the baby comes, the easier it'll be.

Tonight we're going to a potluck dinner for a friend's birthday. I'm supposed to make a salad (as usual), which means that I need to do some grocery shopping today. We might also check out a photography museum in Winchester that I just read about on the Boston Globe. I love photography. It looks like they have a pretty small collection, but it's something to do. Tomorrow we might drive to Newport, RI. I love the weekends. I don't have to think about work, I can try to get my life back in order, and I get to hang out with Jim. Pretty cool.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Cradle ...

As many of you know, I have recently taken up woodworking. While on hiatus from my economic degree (while we await the arrival of the newest member of our family) I decided to take up woodworking. I figured there is never a time when we shouldn't be learning something new. So, I took a class, and made a box. The class was great, I learned a lot. Needless to say I was somewhat motivated to make a clock. The clock bit is another story: I canned the clock idea and set my talents (or lack there of) on the production of a cradle for the soon to be little one.

Rather than do a contemporary mini-crib, I set my eyes on a Norm Abrams special from the PBS TV Show "New Yankee Workshop." I got the plans for the cradle from the library, and started building up my workshop. We picked cherry wood, which is beautiful and gets better with age, and started acquiring tools. As I explain to my wife, all men like tools: This is not a stereotype, since its 100% true. And so, the journey began.

While many of you who talk to me on a regular basis know, the last few months have been quite an oddesy. While I have not been side tracked by the sirens of other projects, I have faced quite a steep learning curve. Its so steep, with so many challenges I have decided to blog about it. The end goal can be seen above. Thank you to to Patick Fitzgerald (http://www.barelyfitz.com/homepages/patrick.fitzgerald/woodworking/cradle/) who did a much better job than I will ever do. Get a good look at it, you may not see something so beautiful for a while.

Making the sides, top, and back was a bit of work. Though that part is done. Multiple boards needed to be jointed together, a process which I figured out with a lot of help from my better half.

Boards were purchased [left] (for much more than about 10 cradled at Babies are us of course). A table saw was aquired, a router was upgraded, router bits were mail ordered and returned, jigs were sent for, and clamps were aquired. In the end boards were biscuted (don't ask) and joined. Some of the joints were wrong, the boards were rejoined. In the end, we were left with some very beautiful big rectangles of rich cherry. Sucess; it took us about three weeks.

Within a weekend the bottom, sides and headboard were finished (almost) [See to the left]. Then the fun started. To connect the sideboards and the footboard requires Box Joints, also called Finger Joints. They look strikeing, but I had never made any in my class. Luckily we have web access. I got a special finger joint jig, some special router bits, and a whole lot of cheap wood from Home Depot. I practiced, and practiced and finally got pretty good at it. We cut the joints for the footboard. They came out well. You can see them in the picture o the left. By the way, figuring out how to round out the footboard was fun: The solution involves a peice of quilting thread, a pencil and a ruler.

The hard part is the headboard. Its to big to fit in my box joint jig. To get a bigger Jig is a many hundreds of dollar problem, and a place I dare not go. So, I did some surfing on the web and came up with an alternative plan. I could make a jig for my table saw to cut the joint for the headboard. The picture is below on the left. If you search for table saw jig for box joints you will see how it works.
I then did what any reasionable person did. I practiced. Before I cut into the headboard which cost a small fortune in wood, I needed to prefect (or become a least somewhat compitent) making these joints. Mostly I failed. I cannot reliably produce the joints on the table saw.
Sometimes it works for me, but not always. This is a recipy for failure. Thats where I am now, I am going to teach myself yet another method of making these joints: Doing it by hand. Thats really hard. I have had to invest in yet more tools: sharpening stones for my chissel set. That said, I have alot of confidence things will come out OK.

However, if they don't, I have started this blog so at least you can partake in my Odissy on the road to a well made cradel. The plan is to have it done by April 1st. All we need is a FOX TV crew here, it will be like in so many reality shows: A tight deadline, lots of problems... Will he make it? Keep following, you will be the first to know.