Torino’s Weekend with Grandma and Grandpa

Grandma and Grandpa Cornell came all the way out to Austin, Texas from Santa Rosa, California just to meet their new little grandson, Torino.

Grandpa and Torino Grandma and Torino
While they were here, my dad and I were talking about how to keep some of the unlandscaped dirt from washing away in my new backyard.  We thought we might find some brick fragments or rocks at the construction site where they’re expanding our new neighborhood.  So off we went in my little Mini Cooper to see what we could scavenge.

In our first trip we found some bricks in a trashpile and loaded up on a bunch of those.  But then I realized that quite a lot of those bricks were whole and intact, and that they’d make a great landing at the base of the stairs from my back porch.  So back we went for more.

On the second trip, we found another trashbin with parts of an old fence thrown in.  My 70 year old dad climbed in and started throwing out fenceposts, ripping them off the fence segments and concrete blocks whenever those were in the way.  Oh, how I wished I’d gotten a picture of that.

I started getting a bit embarrassed about how much we were “acquiring.”  When I mentioned it to my dad, he said, “Oh, this is nothing.  Your grandfather would have taken every scrap and built a barn out of it.”

A few days after they left, I found myself wishing I had a few more bricks, so back I went to see how many bricks I could find in the trashpiles.  Four days and I don’t even want to know how many Mini Cooper trips later I had acquired almost a full pallet of good usable bricks.

Stacks of Bricks
Now, to lay out my brick paths.

Torino’s Debut

We booked a follow-up session with Christie Stockstill (who did our Pregnancy Session) for right after the baby was born to catch all his freshness and tinyness and adorableness.

Again, Christie was just wonderful playing with us and the baby and taking some amazing shots all the while.

And so, without further adieu, I give you: Torino’s Debut.


Legend of the Red Flowing Cloth

Our photographer, Christie Stockstill, had this fun idea to play with a long flowing red cloth in both the pregnancy session and the newborn session.  The sequence came out stunningly.

Billowing 1
Billowing 2
Red Cloth 3
Red Cloth 4

Poh Poh

A few days before Torino was due to be born Serene’s mom, Winnie, made the long and adventurous trip all the way from Malaysia.  And the adventure was on from the very start; due to flight delays and reschedules, it ended up taking her over 48 hours to get here.  Ouch.  Such a frustrating way to start a journey to meet your grandson!

Well, the grandson was 10 days late, so we had some time to take Mah around and play a bit in Austin.

We went for some good local BBQ at Rudy’s.

Rudy's BBQ Brisket Poh Poh at Rudy's
Wandered downtown a bit.

Poh Poh in Downtown Austin
Tried some local food trucks.

Poh Poh at the Cuban Food Truck Topher and Serene at the Fusion Food Truck
We went to the Ladybird Wildflower Center.  The bluebonnets were in full bloom.

Poh Poh with Wildflowers Poh Poh with Wildflowers
Poh Poh with Wildflowers Poh Poh with Wildflowers
We even got her out on Town Lake for some Stand-Up Paddleboarding, though she didn’t actually stand up.  She ended up just kneeling or sitting on the board like a kayak.  But it was still good fun.

Poh Poh on the Paddleboard Poh Poh on the Paddleboard
And then Torino was finally born, and Winnie was promoted to Poh Poh (“Grandma” in Mandarin).

She stayed with us at the hospital the entire 4 days we were there, and when we got back she took on all our cooking, cleaning and laundry.

Many Chinese cultures have a whole special postpartum diet for the new mother.  It’s tied into their Postpartum Confinement practice.  So she had the whole recipe book of special dishes to make for Serene.  I tasted several of them, but she prepared separate meals for me and herself as well.

Even ignoring the confinement stuff, having somebody around to make sure there’s food on the table (let alone yummy home cooked traditional Chinese food), and cleaning up the kitchen afterwards is such a huge huge blessing for new parents.  Those first few weeks, we probably would have been eating dry cereal out of the box and stale graham crackers.

We were so blessed to have Winnie take care of us those first few weeks.  And we’re thrilled she was able to be there when her first grandchild was born.

Poh Poh and TorinoPoh Poh and Torino

A Muaks For Wifey

To my dearest and most beautifulest wifey, an unbelievably wonderful woman, an incredible friend, a delightful companion and a fantastic mother,

A Muaks for Wifey


Introducing Torino Lee ZiCornell

My baby son is born!

Torino Lee ZiCornell

Torino Lee ZiCornell
Born 4 April, 2012 at 10:16 PM in Austin, TX
Weight, 7 lbs 6.5 ozs; Height, 20 inches

Momma and son had a hard time of it.  But to get the full story, I need to start a few days before.

Serene was a bit over a week past her due date.  If she didn’t go into labor within the next day or so, she was scheduled to be induced.  But since she’d been having Braxton-Hicks and Early Labor contractions for several days, the doctor, mid-wife and all the nurses were certain she wouldn’t make it to her scheduled induction.

Two days before the scheduled induction Dr. Schmitz declared that Serene was dialated to 4 centimeters, and everything was ready to go.  She was sent home to wait for labor to start.

The next day was sunny and warm, in the upper 80’s.  We opened all the windows and enjoyed the fresh air.  Mid-afternoon I found Serene in bed, bundled up in a bunch of blankets.  The thermometer read 86, but she said, “I’m cold.”

I’d heard that the pressure of the baby during late pregnancy could squeeze some of the mother’s arteries, causing poor circulation, so I got her up and walking around.  She paced around the house, flexing her toes in the carpet and swinging her arms like a power walker.  But after some time of that, she was still cold.

I kissed her forehead in affection.  She was hot.  With a bit of an internal kick for not checking her temperature earlier, I grabbed a thermometer and plugged it into her mouth.  It came out at 101.4.

After checking with the doctor and getting a follow-up reading of 101.7, we were rushing off to the hospital.  Since Serene was already scheduled for an induction the next morning, she said we might just need to induce now to separate the baby from whatever was causing the fever.

They were very efficient at the hospital.  By the time I got the car parked, they had Serene in a room with a baby monitor on her belly, a nurse taking her vitals like blood pressure and such, another nurse putting an IV in, and another going through her admittance interview, along with the Dr. Miller reviewing and directing everything.

The IV turned out to be a bit of a problem.  They made 7 (SEVEN!) attempts before they got one in that would flow, and it wasn’t flowing well so they put another in as a backup.  For those of you not so good with math, that’s EIGHT big needle insertions.  I looked away a lot.

While they were doing all that, the baby’s heartrate was racing up in the 180-190 range (normal is between 120 and 160).  At one point it dropped down to around 75.  They shifted Serene around and it came back up, but that was enough to convince the doctors that the baby was in distress.  So they began prepping for an emergency cesarean.

There’s a scene that is apparently cut from every TV show and Movie in which somebody is rushed into an emergency cesarean, or any other surgery.  That’s the one where an administrator comes up to the father-to-be with a stack of legal paperwork and a pen.  Honestly I have no idea what all I signed.  At that point, it didn’t matter.  All that mattered was that they save my baby and save my wife.  I nodded at whatever the lady was saying and signed.

During the surgery preparations, the baby’s heartrate remained high but consistent, so the Doctor decided the cesarean didn’t need to be an emergency, but did need to be done quickly.  So moments later, she was trundled off to the operating room and I was ushered over to get scrubbed up and dressed.  They made me wear a hairnet.  I’m bald.

Bald Guy in a Hairnet

I wasn’t allowed to go into the operating room until they had Serene anesthetized and everything ready to go.  I spent a very long 15 or 20 minutes sitting out there in my hairnet and zoot suit wondering what was happening with my wife and baby.

Once they let me in, I found Serene’s head poking out of a blue fabric wall.  She was shaking uncontrollably.  They said this was a side-effect of the anesthesia.  I was allowed to hold her hand, but I wasn’t allowed on the other side of that wall where they were performing the operation.

Baby at the NICU Station

After not very long at all one of the doctors said to Serene, “You’re going to feel a bit of pressure on your chest.  Do you feel it?”

Serene said, “It feels like somebody is standing on my chest.  Does that count?”

Moments later we heard the first cries of our baby boy.  He was whisked across the room to the Newborn Intensive Care station to prepare him to be moved into the NICU.

Knot in the Cord

And moments after that we heard a whole commotion from the doctors.  “Look at this!  Do you see this?  Look there.  Wow!”  Apparently in addition to having the umbilical cord looped around his neck, it was also tied in a knot.

Once they got most of the blood and fluid cleaned off him, they let me come over and meet him.  And they let me briefly carry him over to Serene so she could meet him before he and I left for NICU.

My Newborn Son My Newborn Son and My Lovely Wife
In the NICU they hooked him up to all kinds of machines and monitors, as one would expect of any given intensive care unit.  They had to pull several blood samples, give him a whole series of antibiotics because of Serene’s infection, as well as several immunizations, so they needed to insert an IV into him.

My Baby in the NICU

The IV turned out to be a bit of a problem.  Besides being my wife’s son, he’s also a newborn infant.  They tried one hand twice, the other hand once, a foot once, an ankle once and another foot twice.  To tally that up for you, that’s SEVEN attempts to stick a big needle into my newborn son.  I watched and wrung my hands and hopped from foot to foot.  They gave up after 7 attempts, however that meant each dose of every thing they needed to give him had to be given by a shot.

They kept Torino in the NICU for 12 hours.  I spent the first few hours with him, then slept on the floor in Serene’s recovery room, which was kind of like a hotel room with a bunch of medical equipment in it.  Since he was doing so well during those 12 hours, they allowed him to come to the recovery room with us the next day.  This was really fantastic so Serene could start learning the whole breastfeeding thing and mommy and baby could finally bond.

My Newborn Son and My Lovely Wife My Newborn Son

The rest of our stay in the hospital was a flurry of post-partum nurses giving Serene antibiotics and checking on her, NICU nurses checking on Torino, various Doctors coming through to do their thing, and so on.  Torino was released from NICU two days later, and we all came home three days later.

A Little One: Stubborn, Lazy or Cautious?

This little baby is already a week late.  It’s hard waiting for him.  We’re ready to have our little boy in our arms now.

The nurses say the average for a first birth is 8 days late, so by that metric he’s right on time.

Serene has been having contractions every night, from 30 minutes apart to 8 minutes apart.  She hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in a week.  After a week of these Braxton-Hicks contractions, we’re wondering if we’ll even recognize it when true labor starts.

There are all kinds of suggestions on the internet for how to encourage labor to start.  We’ve tried many of them, but some of them just seem too crazy to be real.  Drinking a glass of orange juice?  Really?  That just sounds coincidental to me.

Doctor Schmitz said if he goes over 2 weeks late they’ll induce, but she’d rather let him arrive in his own time.

My DIY SUP Racks

Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) is a lot of fun.  We really enjoy getting out on one of the nearby lakes whenever we can.  But the boards are BIG.  Up till now we’ve been storing our boards at a self-storage unit.

Since we recently moved into our own house with our own garage, I wanted to move them here.  It’s such a pain having to go to another facility to load the boards, then again to drop them off, every time we want to go out on the water.

Sad SUP Boards

I was hoping I could stand them up, since we have nice tall ceilings… but the boards are taller.  So I’ve been laying them down along the side, leaning them against the wall.

Besides being messy and ugly, it’s also bad for the boards because it’s easy to open the car door into them or step on them, and the wall because the boards keep bashing against it every time we use them.  All in all, Badness.

I found some wall racks online running about $60 per board, but they didn’t look very sturdy.  I found some DIY plans for wall-mount surfboard racks, but those didn’t look like they could handle the extra width and weight of a SUP board.

So, I daydreamed a bit, and stared at things around me, like the closet rail and some bookshelves in my office.  I came up with a plan.  So here’s what I did.

Here’s the recipe (yields a rack for 1 board).


Rack Parts
  • 2 heavy duty 20″ triangle brackets
  • 2 small 90 degree angle brackets
  • 2 10 3/4 bolts
  • 2 10 nuts
  • 6 10 washers
  • 2 90 degree angle 3/4″ pipe insulation foam
  • 1 6 foot straight pipe insulation foam
  • 4 80lb wall anchors
  • 1 7 foot long 1′ rubber shelf liner


Brackets Attached
  • Attach the angle brackets to the triangle brackets to form a lip.  The end of the angle bracket should point upward from the top of the triangle bracket. This will cradle the edge of the board.  Use 1 bolt and nut with 1 washer on the nut side.  (See the picture worth 1000 words to the right.)
  • Fit the 90 degree pipe foam over the angle bracket, and the straight pipe foam over the top arm of the triangle bracket.  Cut the straight foam as needed.

Foam Wrapped Foam Wrapped

  • Measure from the ground to the height you want the boards.  I put one board at 5 1/2 feet, and the other, staggered, at 3 1/2 feet.  Keep about 3 feet between the brackets.  Hold the brackets in place, use a vertical level to make sure they’re straight, and mark the holes with a pencil.
  • Sink the anchors at the holes you marked with your pencil.  Screw the triangle bracket to the anchors. I added a washer to better secure the bracket.

Sinking Anchors Brackets Attached

  • Measure about 12-15 inches above the attached brackets; mark it with a pencil.  Attach the shelf liner above the mark using a staple gun.

Attacking the Liner

Tada!  Done.  Plunk the boards up there, give a whoop and grab a beer.

SUP Racks! SUP Racks!

Aaah!  I’m quite happy with the results.  Makes me feel like a Maker.  Sorta.

A Little One: Already a Model

We found yet another excellent photographer, Christie Stockstill, to take some pictures of Little Momma Serene while she’s still pregnant with Little Lo.

We had a great time with Christie, and she churned out a fantastic set of photos for us.

Billowing 1

Christie brought this long diaphanous piece of cloth for us to play with.

Billowing 1

Billowing 2

We wrapped it around Serene, then I stood off the side and flapped the ends of the fabric up and down like I was trying to fly.

Billowing 2

Red Cloth 3

Serene made like a butterfly with the cloth.

Red Cloth 3

The Bridge 1

I was happy I got to be in some of the shots too.

The Bridge 1

The Bridge 3

The pregnant Mommy is the star of this show, but I'm happy to provide a solid supporting role.

The Bridge 3

The Dandelion 1

Serene had never blown a dandelion before.

The Dandelion 1

The Dandelion 2

This is her very first time.

The Dandelion 2

At the Park 2

I loved having the kids playing in the background. It makes the shot feel more alive.

At the Park 2

The Hat 1

We played with a floppy hat.

The Hat 1

The Shawl 1

It was getting a little chilly, so we pulled a shawl out to wrap Serene in.

The Shawl 1

The Brick Hut: Getting Close

The new house is getting close to done, and everything is looking great.  But we still have over a month to wait before we can close on it and move in.

They’ll be doing a lot of finishing work during that time.  Review, fix, review, fix.  I guess it’s a bit like the QA cycle in software development.

All the appliances are in now, so Serene got to see her new gorgeous 36″ range and double-oven setup.  (She’s 7 months.)

Range and Dual Oven Sink and Counter

They have the garage door, and it’s opener in place.  They’ve also put in the irrigation system in the front along with all the trees and shrubberies.  (Nee!)  But they haven’t been able to put the sod in because it’s been too wet.  I guess soggy sod doesn’t sit so soundly.

Garage Door Garage Door