Summer Update

There’s so much exciting news to share in this post!

New Baby 🙂

A little over a month ago, my wife gave birth to a baby boy. It was a bit of an ordeal. He was over a week overdue so we went into get induced into labor. She tried for 36 hours and maxed out on Pitocin. By then her water had been broken for too long leading to a risk of infection for her and the baby, so the doctor said she needed to get an immediate C-section.

The C-section seemed to go really well. The baby measured 20 inches and weighed 7 lbs and 7 oz. But the nurses immediately saw that he had respiratory issues due to meconium aspiration (basically breathing in poopy amniotic fluid). They hooked our baby up to oxygen, suctioned his lungs, and then whisked him away to the NICU — my wife could not even hold him before he was taken away. I went off with the baby and sat outside his room while a team of doctors and nurses attended to him.

To put it mildly, I was quite worried at this point. I felt waves of emotions I had never felt before. One nurse privately told me she thought our baby’s condition was serious. I was also worried about my wife whom I last saw shaking and shivering due to the anesthetics they had given her.

Our baby continued to labor to breathe and his low blood oxygen levels kept setting off the alarms. But hour after hour he started getting better and he would strain less to breathe. He would grab on to my finger and I hoped to myself that this small act provided him with some comfort.

By the next day, the face mask had come off, replaced by thin tube taped to his chin that went into his mouth. My wife was also able to come down the next morning to see him. They bonded almost immediately.

I made the trip from the NICU to her recovery room dozens of times even though it meant going down two stories and to a different wing of the hospital. I didn’t want the baby to feel alone, but I was also concerned for my wife. Sometimes I pushed my wife in her wheelchair, other times I escorted my parents or in-laws to see the baby or my wife.  Two days after he was born, he was finally discharged from the NICU and he spent another day with us in the recovery room.

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Tiny feet!

It’s now six weeks later. He has grown so fast! The last time we took him to the pediatrician, she said he was 88th percentile in height and 65th percentile in weight. That was a few weeks ago and since then he’s already gotten much bigger. He’s gone from size 1 in diapers to size 3. What can I say, kiddo just loves to eat!

My wife has maternity leave for another 6 weeks. We’re trying to figure out childcare now. I think we are going to opt for a part-time nanny and my parents can be the backup caretakers. It’s going to be a little expensive as pre-baby I always thought we could look after the baby ourselves. But I think it will be good to get some help and keep doing what we’ve been doing until we can figure out a groove.

Now I have to figure out nanny agreements, taxes, etc.

New Hobby

A while ago I was looking for a new hobby. I wasn’t playing piano as often due to lack of interest and/or skill. I wasn’t playing golf as often due to not having the time. I wasn’t going to the gym as often because I was just lazy. I figured with the baby, I wouldn’t have time for a new hobby, but I also needed to get the house in order before he was able to crawl and eventually walk. The hobby found me — woodworking.

The living room of our house has a niche next to the fireplace. It’s a relic of the 90’s that is intended to house a bulky CRT television. It looks like this:

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We thought it would be a good idea to turn the niche into a reading nook and recapture otherwise wasted space. I went into SketchUp and devised some plans.

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Early plans for our reading nook

 

At this point I only owned a 10″ compound miter saw and a drill, both recently acquired for other projects around the house, so I needed to buy even more tools. That led to a bit of a slippery slope, which I’ll summarize later.

I started by constructing the frame for the bench. I wanted to use dimensional lumber for the frame because I figured cutting plywood accurately without a table saw would be beyond my initial skillset. My initial design called for 2×4 lumber all around. But I wanted two drawers for storage, and soon realized that I would not have enough vertical space since the niche was raised off the ground by 7.5″. I ended up going with 1×4 lumber in all areas except the center supports, which remained 2x4s.

It was apparent pretty early on that constructing the frame would be more difficult than I originally thought. Nothing in the niche was level and the side walls were bowed. Rather than stick flimsy shims under square and straight frames (which in hindsight might have been the smarter play), I decided to cut all pieces to custom lengths. This meant the frames might be oddly shaped parallelograms and trapezoids, but at least the top would be level. Not only would cutting wood for the frame be tough, this approach also meant building and installing drawers would be that much more difficult.

This is a photo of the three horizontal frame elements. The 1x4s laying on the top show the curvature in the side walls. I generally used pocket hole joinery for the project using a Kreg K4 jig. It took a lot of trial and error to get everything level.

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I connected the frame elements using more pocket hole screws.

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Here I placed a piece of 24″x48″ oak veneer plywood on top to get a sense of what the top surface would look like.

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The plywood is not quite wide enough to fill the gap, plus the curvature is still visible.

I scribed the curvature of the walls on both sides of the plywood and used a jigsaw to cut the curves. Next, I cut the board in half and trimmed it some more until a piece of 1×2 could be placed in the middle and it was flush to the front. I also made the face frame using 1×2 lengths of solid red oak.

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Starting to look like furniture!

The next step was to build the drawer boxes. Rather than learn to make dovetail or even rabbet joints, I made the boxes using pocket holes again. I didn’t want to have to buy a router or table saw just to make the drawers. I made the drawer boxes out of 1/2″ oak veneer plywood. I had to remake each box two or three times to get it to the right size.

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This is the first box I made, but I stupidly forgot to subtract the width of the drawer slides so it barely fit.

After I finished the two drawer boxes and they seemed to fit in the frame, I attached the drawer slides. Over the next few days, I fiddled with the frame, even chiseling out chunks of the frame itself, to try to get the slides and boxes to fit as intended. By building the frame as I did, I could not guarantee the vertical members of each frame element would line up and have a fixed width between them. I ended up using a square to find the ideal line for the drawer slides, then cut shims to act as spacers for the drawer slides so the slides would sit on that line. I also had to remake the boxes one final time as I realized the drawer slides were really 1 1/6″ wide, not the stated 1″.

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I built each drawer front by edge joining two pieces of oak hardwood.

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Because I was building flush-fit inset drawers, I had to make extra sure that the drawer face would be flush with the frame. I had to keep tweaking the drawer slides to ensure this worked out.

I ordered some drawer pulls, installed them, and did a test assembly.

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Getting an even reveal (the gap between the drawers and the frame) was tough and I had to spend a bit of time getting it right. I hadn’t yet gotten it right at this time.

I spent several days fretting over the finish. I thought I wanted to stain it a darker shade to accentuate the brass on the pulls. But after doing several tests on scrap pieces, I thought staining the oak looked unnatural. In the end, I just applied spray lacquer to the drawer fronts and the frame. We both like the two toned look due to the redder hue of the wood used for the frame.

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All finished, except the cushion and lighting

I decided to outsource the cushion and they quoted me about $250 for materials and another $150 for labor. It’s a little on the high side, but I checked the proposed materials and the foam and fabric they suggest seem high quality and their pricing is in line with what I saw online. Another reason I’m inclined to go with them is that they did us a solid a few months ago by repairing an upholstered chair for a reasonable price when no one else would take on the project or otherwise quoted almost 10x what they charged us. I’ll also have to get an electrician to hardwire and install the light.

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View of the room littered with baby stuff

This has been a fun, if not occasionally stressful, project for me to take on while my wife is still on maternity leave. I ended up buying a lot of tools for this one project so I have to make it up by building shelves for the room (a reading nook needs a place for books!) as well as designing and building closet systems for the bedroom closets.

This is a rough list of the tools I’ve had to buy just for this project:

  • Makita cordless circular saw ~ $120
  • Track saw guide and adapter ~$100
  • Kreg K4 jig ~$100
  • Kreg microjig adapter for drawers ~$50
  • Makita jigsaw ~$120
  • Makita random orbit sander ~$80
  • Foldable 72″ workbench ~$300
  • Shop vac and various dust collection adapters ~$150
  • 4′ level ~$30
  • Various clamps, including this awesome clamp which is one of my favorite purchases ~$60
  • Toolboxes ~$70
  • A scribe ~$10

This does not include the wood, screws, sandpaper, stain, lacquer, and other sundries I needed to complete the project. I learned early on that quality tools are key. I typically default to Makita now because their tools are really well made. I bought a Ryobi jigsaw at first for $40, but it took 90 seconds to cut through 1″ out of 24″ length of 3/4″ thick plywood and couldn’t make it without choking several times. The Makita by contrast cut through the entire 24″ length with ease and made a clean cut at that.

But despite the initial costs, it felt good to actually make something on my own and I was pleased with the outcome.

My next house project is to replace all of the electrical outlets with tamper resistant outlets. I have a feeling that will not become a hobby. My sore fingertips can attest to that.

Financial Odds and Ends

Having a baby has also meant getting our financial lives in order. We bought term life insurance policies in June, and we are about to retain a lawyer to draw up our estate planning documents (mainly a living trust). We’re also going to pay them to do estate planning for my parents.

I had no idea how to find decent trust and estates attorneys, but stumbled on a group called ACTEC whose fellows are all highly regarded practitioners. I cross checked the list against some of my former partners who only handle 9 figure estates and sure enough only 2 of them were listed out of the entire local practice group. Of course, that meant many of the local ACTEC fellows also focused their practices on the UHNW segment, but we found one who was willing to work with us and their rates seemed reasonable.

We’ll see how that turns out.

I’m also in the process of merging my 401k plans together. I have a plan from my second firm that I really like and a plan from my third firm that I dislike.  I also have a solo 401(k), but my plan does not accept incoming rollovers. The idea is to shift my solo 401(k) to a new provider that does accept incoming rollovers, and then roll in my two employer sponsored plans. With the latest trade war volatility I’m concerned about rolling funds over at the wrong time. I’m still kicking myself for not requesting rollover checks when the S&P hit 3,000.

***

The past few months have been life changing and I’m looking forward to seeing our baby boy grow up in the next few weeks and months as well as getting our financial house and physical house in order!

5 thoughts on “Summer Update

  1. Congratulations on the baby boy!! His feet look so long, like they’re made to support a very tall human! His birth also led to my favorite phrase you’ve had on your blog, “(basically breathing in poopy amniotic fluid)”.

    This was a great life update, I was glad to hear that it sounds like everything is going really well for you and family! The nook looks great–what a nice, productive hobby. It’s a great place to sit and read, too, given the great natural light from your beautiful windows! Woodworking is exactly the kind of project I hear is great in early retirement. I hope my early retirement hobby is equally fruitful; I’ve always wanted to try throwing clay, so that’s #1 on my list. I also hope to get back into reading for pleasure — hope some of that takes up some of your days, too! (Although it sounds like work keeps you pretty busy, even now.)

    Congrats again on all the great things that have happened in your life this year! As always, I’ll look forward to the next post.

    • Thanks Taylor! Always good to hear from you. Have you watched the Netflix show about glass blowing (Blown away)? My wife was watching it and I thought their creations were so cool. It’s not pottery, but kind of related! My projects have been more utilitarian, but would love to get more artistic too.

      We did go look at fabrics for the cushion today — that’s kind of a passive artsy — and all the swatch books made my head spin. Sometimes too many options is not a good thing. Kind of like retiring and having too many options you end up just watching TV 🙂

      How many more years are you thinking of staying in Biglaw? I personally don’t know many people in Biglaw who have voluntarily tapped out, except partners who retire in their 50s and 60s and disappear off to Hawaii. Then again I’m not sure someone who knows me in real life would think that I’ve tapped out — I try not to give off that vibe!

      Anyway, hope you get to enjoy the weekend!

      • That’s so nice! We did a glass blowing class as a work event not too long ago, and it was wonderful. I (ostensibly) made a bowl, which sits on my desk and holds some random trinkets, and I love seeing it — glass blowing would be a great hobby, maybe your wife will pursue it! I’ll have to check out the Netflix show.

        Sorry about the decision fatigue about the fabric! I’ve come to just passing burdens like that on to others, under cover of “making everyone happy.” 😉 Because for me, it’s just like you note, and if I get overwhelmed by options, I simply resign myself to more mindless passing of the time, like TV.

        Thanks for the questions about my career! Happy to answer them, but would be more comfortable doing so by e-mail if you don’t mind. My e-mail address should be confidentially hidden behind my comment.

  2. Congrats on the little bundle of joy. Do you have an email I can reach you at? I’ve been following your path since law school and would love to bounce some ideas off you, if at all possible. Thanks!

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