Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pumpkin Carving Date Nite 2008

Included below are results from our pumpkin carving date nite. Click each picture to enlarge it.
Becca's is the classic Jack-O-Lantern face. Mine is the free-hand Sherlock Holmes sihouette (I look down on those who use templates/stencils).


Scott's BEFORE (35.79 pounds!)/AFTER:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Yankee Stadium Update

For those of you who haven't frequented the Bronx lately, I took some pictures this week of the exterior of the new Yankee Stadium. eNjoY.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Counting Walnuts

With the purchase of our house its previous owners threw in a black walnut tree at no extra cost. It is a tree that stands over 30 feet tall in our backyard and has a trunk almost 24 inches in diameter. According to the property survey, the tree is ours because its trunk is contained on our side of the property line (barely)...and that couldn't make me happier.

Our majestic black walnut tree sprouts with leaves later in the spring than most trees, but blankets 2/3 of our backyard with shade throughout the summer. It starts to drop walnuts in late August, and is completely bare by mid-October (I don't touch a rake after the third week in October). I love our beautiful black walnut tree and, sadly, I am not completely joking when I say that I have developed a bit of a Jonah-style crush on our tree (see Jonah 4). I did not plant the tree and in my 1.5 years serving as Head Groundskeeper at 30 Broad Street I have done nothing to cause the tree to improve in any way--I haven't even named it (Editor's note: it is an unproven fact that the life expectancy of a car, machine, or other large, complex, inanimate object increases dramatically if that object is referred to by name. For example, Becca and I, not wanting to take the risk of having our boiler unexpectedly burst into flames, have named him Brutus the Boiler). I merely pick up walnuts before I mow, spend a few hours raking leaves in October, and I am otherwise hands-off when it comes to the tree.

But about those walnuts...

I wish I had an excuse better than 'curiosity,' but I don't. I wish I could say that I counted each and every walnut that fell from our tree this year because I want to be able to document and track the health of the tree by comparing walnut crops from year to year. I wish I was following through on a promise to a deceased relative, or because I lost a bet, but no. I counted every single walnut that fell inside the bounds of our fences this year for no other reason than BECAUSE I WANTED TO.

Our town collects vegetative waste every Tuesday, so as I gathered the walnuts, I loaded them into my garbage pails in increments of 500. The number 500 was chosen both as an aid to help me remember, but also because 500 walnuts is nearing the maximum amount of walnuts that can be dragged across a lawn by a 175 white boy.

Of course, after I had counted a few hundred, I was bound to keep counting by the same powerful internal forces that won't let me start reading a new book until I have finished reading the book that I am currently in. It's the same force that made me cry and pout as a 13-year old boy when my parents decided to take the family away from home over Thanksgiving weekend instead of hosting Thanksgiving at our house. It's the force that makes it so that when I start in motion on a task, it takes a significant effort to get me to divert from that path.

Any walnuts that fall in August usually only come loose because of a strong storm. There is a gradual progression in size to the walnuts that fall naturally throughout September and October, from the size of golf balls to the size of racquetballs. From what my eyes can tell, my tree is officially bare for the year, and I have reached my total for the year 2008.
In 2008, I collected a total of 4,773 walnuts which fell from my black walnut tree. Keep in mind that approximately 35% of the tree's branches reach over into the backyards of my neighbors. There were probably at least another 1,500 walnuts that fell outside of our fences.
The sum of the story is that our tree produced a lot of walnuts. The moral of the story is that I am weird and counted each and every walnut. The lesson learned is that I probably could have read a book or two in the time wasted by dragging out my autumn yardwork by counting walnuts one at a time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Misty Assests

From my paychecks between July 1, 2008 and September 30, 2008, I made contributions to my 401(k) Plan totaling $830.76.

During that same time period, my balance suffered a loss of $967.80 (11.5% of my previous account balance).

I am reminded of the warning in the book of James, which reads:

"Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit, yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." - James 4.13-16

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

On Being a Husband to a Pregnant Wife (Installment 2)

When Becca and I first learned that a fertilized egg named Harold had set up shop in Becca's womb, it was all we could do to keep from blurting the news to the whole world immediately. A baby had been the desire of Becca's heart (Psalm 37:4) for many many months, and we were overjoyed to be able to share what the Lord had done for us (Luke 8:39) with anyone who would listen. I set up a hierarchical list of people with whom we wanted to share the news before it became "public knowledge," and we started making phone calls and house calls to friends. I eventually announced our pregnancy at the church picnic, we launched Becca's blog, and the world officially became in the know.

Without fail, everyone's first reaction was one of excitement, smiles, hugs, and kisses. Most everyone goes through the same set of questions: How far along are you? When's it due? Are you going to find out the gender? Are you nauseous? These are all fine and good. It's a blessing to be able to share such joy with those you love, and an equal blessing to be able to see their reaction.

What has been extremely disappointing has been what people often say after they are finished asking the first set of questions. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I have observed that many people feel the need to try to discourage us. I believe that it’s generally unintentional, but it happens often enough to note the trend and to not like it.

Some of the most common examples:

Oh, you’ll hate cloth diapers. We tried them with our first and couldn’t last more than a month. You’ll get sick of it real fast--just wait and see!

Have you started to gain weight yet? Get ready for blimp mode-you’re gonna get so fat!

Oh, have fun trying to breast feed. Your nipples are gonna be sore for months.

Enjoy your last few months of alone time. You won’t be able to leave your house for the next 10 years without a metric ton of baby stuff, and car seats, and diaper bags, and toys, and…and…and…

People also share unsolicited horror stories about labor, or not being able to breast feed, or not losing weight after delivery. People project their own worst-case scenario onto us and our pregnancy and all but assure us that we are doomed to share in all the terrible aspects of their first pregnancy.

I don’t understand what motivates people to share what they do. I don’t understand what causes someone to brush through seeming obligatory responses of I’m excited for you and You’re going to be great parents and skip ahead to the doom and gloom stories that everyone seems to have queued up just for us. Does anyone care to edify and encourage new parents? Even if every negative word were absolutely certain to come to pass, would it be necessary to share it?

When a friend pulls into your driveway with his new car, do you feel obligated to remind him of how much his car has depreciated since he bought it or try to get him to think about when he will have to junk it? No—you open the door, take a deep breath of the new car smell, and probably don’t even think about declining his offer for a ride around the block.

I am not foolish enough to think that Becca and I are fully equipped to be perfect parents at the moment. There are myriad things that I am sure can only be learned on the fly, as we go through our first pregnancy and become parents for the first time. But as we have done throughout our marriage, we are eager to glean wisdom from those who have trod the road on which we find ourselves presently traveling. We love asking questions of trusted friends and family, and generally receive counsel well.

We are not foolish enough to expect a flawless pregnancy, a Nicole Eskow-type labor experience, and a dreamy life as parents of a newborn. We understand that breast feeding doesn’t agree with everyone. We know full well that cloth diapers will be more of a challenge than disposable. We know that a baby will change our life forever. We don’t know everything, but we know enough.

I just wish that more people would respond like Walter Stuber, who heartily shook my hand and beamed as he said You're gonna love being a father! It's wonderful! Better yet was the reaction of his daughter, Deb Stuber, whose reaction reads as follows:

It will be so wonderful to watch him/her grow! The Creator of life is amazing. I can't think of anything that has affected our life more than experiencing childbirth! You will see your Creator in a new light.

How refreshing!