Archive for the ‘Family & Fatherhood’ Category

On Monday I took our oldest son Gregory (who’s almost 3 now) to Grand Island to take a train ride on a real train. As compared to the little mini train at Stolley Park which he has ridden numerous times.

Eastern view of the Operaton Lifesaver train.

Eastern view of the Operaton Lifesaver train.

Our original plan was Gregory and I would ride the train and Vanessa and Zeke would go shopping. We wanted to take Zeke with us but weren’t sure how long it would take and didn’t want him to get too fussy. As it turns out we ended up taking him anyway and took the ride as a family. This was our first train ride as a family. This was also Vanessa’s as well as the kids very first train ride.

Gregory enjoying the view

Gregory enjoying the view

The whole event was sponsored by Operation Lifesaver to educate people about the dangers of rail crossings. They had a small presentation before we started which was very informative. I have decided that I will be taking the kids to do this again in a few more years when they can understand it a little better, as here in Nebraska we have a lot of railroad crossings and a ton of rail traffic.

Train Route

Train Route

Our route started in downtown Grand Island and through a small town called Campbell and stopping in Central City about 22 miles north-east of Grand Island. The trip to Central City we went backwards and then on our return we went forward, since they don’t turn the train around.

All in all we had a good time, and will probably do this again next year.
Vanessa & Zeke
The Family

We also happened to be riding the train with the Grand Island news crew who were doing a piece for the evening news on Operation Lifesaver. We made the news for about 30 seconds on each broadcast. Gregory made the spotlight and got a nice close up shot.


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Since we first moved into our new home, I have begun research on Do It Yourself projects to improve our home. DIY projects if done right and with a little bit of research can add equity to your home and can give you the feeling of accomplishment of doing it yourself. If done right it can save from a little bit of money to a heap of money (depending on the project and scope).

My first major project on our new (99 yr old) house is to update some of the electrical wiring and add a few circuits to the existing panel. Firstly let me explain that I am not a licensed electrician and when I first started undertaking this project I didn’t know much more than the basics about residential AC wiring/electricity. My first step was to do some major research on residential electricity, wiring and the NEC or National Electrical Code. With a good grasp of the basics of electricity and it’s dangers and a good understanding of how a residential home is wired. I had to learn about the NEC. The NEC essentially is the code requirements for how wiring, panels, and other electrical requirements for all aspects and areas of the home among the other covered areas (i.e. industrial, commercial). Most of the NEC code requirements are safety requirements to reduce death and injury from electrical shock as well as reduction of electrical fire risks from wiring. The NEC is updated on a somewhat regular basis and is the basis for most local codes, however some local areas have much stricter codes than the NEC requires and makes it extremely important to check local codes in addition to the most current NEC regulations.

After letting all that information settle a little bit I was ready to get started. My first part of this project which I have completed, was to place two pull chain lights in my unfinished laundry room area on a switch, and remove several older sections of wiring that were no longer in service but still hot and wired in. At this point I wasn’t ready to put a brand new circuit in and run the wiring. There was a junction box with two existing circuits directly in the middle of the room that made it easy to tie into one of these.

My next step was to start tracing lines out on the circuit I was going to tie into to make sure that I wasn’t going to fry anything and not overload the circuit. The two lights in question were already on the circuit already so overloading the circuit would not be an issue. I just had to make sure that I knew what wires were what circuit. This turned out to be a chore as throughout the years several new junctions were added above the ceiling panels in my basement and there is a ton of wiring running through the basement, old knob and tube, 40’s synthetic shielded cable and modern Non-metallic all throughout.

Before I kill the power and start ripping wiring out, it’s wise to check and make sure I have all the tools, parts and supplies I’ll need. Here is what I used:


  • Voltage Tester
  • Hammer
  • Pliers (Lineman’s, Needle-nose)
  • Screwdrivers (#2 phillips, flathead)
  • Extension cord
  • Trouble Light w/ clamp, and flashlight
  • Corded drill and bits
  • Tape Measure
  • wire stripper
  • cable sheath splitter


Parts & Supplies

  • Electrical tape
  • Wire Nuts (sized for wiring used, 12awg) about $2-$3 per bag of 25ct depending on the size.
  • 25′ of 12-2 cable (12-2 stands for 12awg(gauge), 2 conductor +ground) approx $12 for 25′ roll, I also bought a 100′ roll of 12-2 for the rest of this project and future projects @ $30 for 100′.
  • 2 metal 4″ square extra deep junction boxes and covers (metal ones are a bit more expensive but a little more durable @ approx $3 ea with the covers)
  • 1/2″ insulated cable staples (about $2.50 for box of 50, and $10 for 500)
  • 1 1/4″ #10 wood screws (for mounting J-Boxes) box of 50 for just over $2.
  • Surface mount extra deep gang/switch box ($5)
  • Surface mount cable tray 48″ ($8)

Once the correct lines were traced it was time to kill the power to the circuit and test it for voltage. This is where an audible voltage sensor for $9 at Menards payed for itself on the first day.

Voltage Tester

Voltage Tester

Voltage tester detecting voltage

Voltage tester detecting voltage

Of course one should always test on a known hot circuit before testing a circuit after killing power. Once the power was killed for that circuit and all lines proven dead it was time to start ripping out the old wiring. I had planned on using the existing holes in the beams that the existing wiring ran through so I had to remove most of the old wiring first. Had I chosen to use another method or run new wires I would have run as much wiring as possible before killing power and thus reducing the amount of inconvenience time to the family. Since we are living in the house the least amount of down time for the circuit the better.

Once the old wiring was removed it was time to install the two new junction boxes and tie J-Box 1 into the existing circuit and run the continuing wires that went on to the rest of the circuit.

J-Box 1

J-Box 1

In this J-Box are two parts of the circuit; 1) Always hot portion that extends to J-Box 2 and the rest of the tied in circuit, 2) A switched sub-circuit to run the two lights.
Wall switch

Wall switch

On the switched portion of the circuit, the hot cable runs down the wall through a cable tray to the gang box where the switch is and from the switch back up to J-box 1 where it splits off to the two lights.
Light 1

Light 1

Light 2 & J-Box 2

Light 2 & J-Box 2

From J-Box 1 an always hot cable runs to the new J-Box 2 and on to the old wiring back upstairs. Another switched cable runs to Light 2. When I first started planning this part of the project this area of the basement wiring had me concerned. The person who wired this circuit before had placed 1 hot cable into the J-Box with the light and 7 other hot cables running out. Three of these hot cables went to absolutely nothing. In fact one cable loosely ran down the stud next to the dryer and was taped off on the hot with a small piece of electrical tape. This to me was a major safety and fire hazard to say the least. This could easily have been fixed by simply killing power and removing the unused cables from the box. I decided to add the second J-Box to this area to reduce the amount of wiring going into the small light J-Box which was originally crammed full of splices. The new J-Box is big enough to accommodate the existing wiring and then some with room to spare if need be.

Once all the cables were ran each part of the circuit was stripped and securely spliced together with wire nuts and tucked away neatly in each J-Box. I waited on placing the covers and securing everything until everything was tested and proved to be in proper working order.

After everything was tested the power was killed again and all J-Boxes were closed up and everything was double checked. I turned the power back on and we now have a set of switched lights in the basement instead of pull chains, and some old fire hazard wiring was removed.

In the near future I will be replacing the simple lights in the basement and placing two fluorescent light fixtures, as well as adding a new circuit to the breaker panel.


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My Sick Children

Yesterday I found out that both of my boys have RSV. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a respiratory infection that usually is like a bad cold except in infants. I have a 6 month old infant who has it pretty badly and my 2 1/2 year old toddler has it again as well. We’re not sure if they got it at the Child Watch at our YMCA or before that but we gave them a call and informed them anyway, just in case. My youngest is on nebulizer breathing treatments to battle the infection. My toddler has had RSV before we believe, because he had bronchiolitus which is usually caused by RSV in toddlers as well as pneumonia. We’re hoping Ezekiel does well on the breathing treatments and keeps eating, otherwise we may have to take him to the hospital if he gets dehydrated. Gregory is doing fair, he just has a slight cough. He was well enough to spend some time outside with me this afternoon.

This afternoon I took Gregory outside to play while I chopped some wood for the fireplace downstairs. It was some good excercise for me as I’m way out of shape and Gregory had a blast running around outside. Of course he saw what I was doing and wanted to cut wood too, so he ran around with a stick and whacked logs pretending he was swinging an ax, which was very cute. It made me really look forward to the times here in the near future that we can spend together as father and son. I started thinking about all the things that I want to do with him and I can’t wait until he is just a tiny bit older. That’s not to say that I’m not enjoying him at this stage. He is very observant and very smart. He catches on faster than you would think and is as smart as a whip.

I feel pretty bad for my wife though as Ezekiel won’t sleep unless he’s in her arms and is fussy most of the time. I think all my wife got done today was get a shower and check her email for 10 mins this afternoon. At the least I was able to get Gregory outside and get him some excercise and get him out of her hair for a little while this afternoon.

Tomorrow if time and children permit I’d like to take the van in the shop and check out the front brakes again, and clean off the pads and rotors at the very least as they have been squeeking pretty bad here lately, and I want to look at the pads and see if I should replace them with some better quality ones. Hopefully next Tuesday I can get my car in the shop and have a friend help me pull the catalytic converter and “fix” it so my car will stop dieing on me, plus get better gas mileage.

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Today I brought the last few items left at the apartment and did the final cleaning. I didn’t do all that much cleaning as I know they are going to take my security deposit and will pay someone to come in and clean the place anyway. I’m also not going to do them (property manager) any favors, since they wouldn’t do me any favors let alone take care of their responsibilities.

Now I am just glad that the move is over (for a few months), and I don’t have to deal with that horrible place anymore. Now I can concentrate on getting ready to move into my new house.

Yesterday we spent half the day looking at carpet for the basement of our house. We will probably get carpet in the main, family room and up the set of stiars going to and from the basement. A small strip of vinyl for the newly repaired side entry, once we decide on what kind of vinyl we want there. Hopefully there will be enough budget with HDC to carpet the second bedroom/office downstairs as well.

I am also really looking forward to going to church this weekend. Due to our emergency move, I have missed my last off-weekend to go to church. That means I haven’t been to church service in 3 weeks so I am ready to get back to my normal schedule, which is only every other week.

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Over the last week or so, since our sudden move began, I’ve had a sudden realization, a wake up call. I’ve had the realization that over the last 6 months since I have been in the control room at my job that I’ve gotten way out of shape. Originally when I first started there I would walk anywhere from 3 to 7 miles a day. This I know because I would wear a pedometer to work every day to see how much I was doing. Now that I’m in the control room, I’m lucky if I walk 100 yards all day, besides the walk to and from my car.

Over the last week since I started moving all this furniture, I’ve continually found myself out of breath and tired. Also added to that is the fact that I had just quit smoking about 2 years ago and the excercise I was getting when I first started was taking off most of the weight I put on after I quit smoking. Now I’ve put that back on and few more pounds.

It’s now time for me to wake up and smell the coffee and renew my YMCA membership and get back to the gym. If not just for myself but for my kids, so I can be healthy enough to see them grow up. Not that I have any real control over how long I’ll live or anything but why add another risk factor for my health.

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The Last Straw

We are about two months away from closing on our new (wonderful) first home. Meanwhile we are living in our apartment that is falling apart at the seams. From the first month we moved into this apartment we have asked the landlord/property management company to fix our front door. Sometime before we moved in the door was kicked in, and instead of replacing the door jam as they should have done, they just placed some screws to hold it in place. The door is still not fixed after two years of repeated requests to repair it. Not only is the door in serious disrepair but, it is so weakened that a child could easily kick the door in even with the deadbolt engaged. Also the door is so damaged that it leaks cold outside air in very badly. The last straw came the other day when we had a small blizzard with winds around 30-40mph with some heavy snow. We noticed that not only was there massive amounts of air coming in through the door jam but there was now snow blowing in as well.

The other things that our landlord refuses to fix: Our electric stove is about 15+ years old and the burners are shot, and only work occassionally/sporadically, the carpet is at least 10 years old and there is absolutely no padding whatsoever. The landlord refuses to de ice the sidewalk in front of our apartment or any other for that matter. To top that all off, our landlord raised our rent by $15 two months ago.

Our close friend offered to let us live in her basement for the next two months while we wait to close on our house. So, now we are in the process of moving our things once again and probably will be living out of boxes for the next couple months.

We have been wanting to get out of this apartment for a number of months now, and we were hoping to be able to close on our new house sooner; however this is a blessing in disguise. It will be a pain to live out of boxes for two months, and I don’t want to have to move twice, but it beats living in that horrendous apartment.

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First off I would like to apologize to all those who have faithfully read my blog and have wondered where I have been these last few months and what I’ve been doing.

I took a break from the blog to deal with some issues that have arisen. God has been working in my life on certain issues. One of these issues has been what to believe in regarding the Calvinist viewpoint versus the Arminianist view and where do my beliefs fit in the spectrum. I have been struggling with this issue for the last 6 months to a year. Just a few months ago however after much study, meditation and discussion with my wife, I decided that I cannot let my pride, or self-centered nature prohibit me from knowing God’s true nature and His will. I could no longer deny the truth about God’s grace and my depravity, nor could I deny His electon of me into The Kingdom of Heaven.

This has been the hardest thing to come to terms with that I have encountered since being changed forever by Christ. For the longest time I held fast to the belief that somehow my “free will” either stood on equal grounds with God’s will or that somehow I could choose God. I had to come to a realization that we do have a will of our own however that will was tainted when Adam fell into sin. I also had to come to a realization that God foreknew me and predestined me to be one of His children, not based upon anything I did or didn’t do. Since then I have had an amazingly clear perspective on my life, on God, and His word, and His sovereign will in my life and the world in general. I’ve also had an even more amazing sense of gratitude since this realization than when I first believed. Everyday I wake up feeling so blessed that He chose me.

I will post more shortly on this subject specifically and go into much more detail then.

Some other things that have been happening in my life:

  • God has blessed us with a beautiful healthy baby boy on August 4, 2008, Ezekiel James. He is now 5 months old and just learning to roll over and eating his first solid foods.
  • God has blessed us with our first home. We are due to close on the house when all the renovations are done in/around mid March.
  • After much research, trial, and experimenting we have found out what our 2 year old son’s digestive problem has been. Originally we thought it to be Gluten intolerance or Celliac’s Disease; however after further research and some dietary experimentation, we’ve discovered that he’s Fructose intolerant.
  • We have a major trip planned to visit my family in California in February of 2009. My parents have payed for all of us to come visit, and we have a huge itinerary scheduled for the whole week.

Anyway this is what has been going on in my life over the last 6 months. I will be back to blogging at least on a more regular basis.

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