Friday, June 20, 2014

Building an easy toddler picnic table

A few days ago I went to Home Goods to kill time and take a breath. Many of us may ask how somebody with 4 toddlers have time to kill? But those parents with multiple know better. When we have the small change to get out of the house and take a little time for ourself in the middle of the morning or night when everybody else is busy, we go to stores and walk around just to breath and have a "spiritual" quite time.

Anyway, going back to business, I walked into this little picnic table and it was love at first sight. I set it in the middle of the store floor and ask my older toddler who also take advantage of those quite times to seat and check dimension and functionality. He looks so happy and comfortable that I impulsively decided to buy it. Then I check the price tag, it was 79.99. Then I though hmmm it looks a little clumsy and not very well build but the structure is simple, maybe I can build it for less and a little stronger. So I left the store after I took a few pictures from all angles and I used my hands and body for measures.   I always feel like I am stealing when I do that, I guess is a designer kind of values. But lets face it, this picnic table you are about to see are as common as italian bread.

Back at home I looked at the pictures and I did a little research online and I was lucky I found some plans and dimensions very similar to the one table I wanted.

Since i don't have a big saw machine, I went to Lowes and I picked my lumber and I ask them to straight cut most of the pieces (the angle cuts were made at home with a little jigsaw).

I choose the cheapest pine wood they have which is still nicely finished and I made sure all were straight. The table need only two standard  lumber size: 3"x1" and 6"x1" and some screws to put them together. I didn't know what screw size so I picked 1 1/2" long wooden screws (the good quality golden one)

Lumber Cutting List 
ItemSize / DescriptionQuantity
aLegs1x3 (actual size 3/4" x 2-1/2") 23 1/2" long and angled each end 30 degrees off square. See diagram above.
bCross member table top supports1x3 (actual size 3/4" x 2-1/2") x 16-1/2" long. Angle each end. Angle is for decorative purposes only.
cCross member seat supports1x3 (actual size 3/4" x 2-1/2") x 33" long. Angle each end. Angle is for decorative purposes only.
dBrace / Spreader1x3 (actual size 3/4" x 2-1/2") x 28" long (The original table was around 24 inches but I made it larger to gain more leg room and less unused overhanging)
e/fTable top boards1x6 (actual size 3/4" x 5-1/2") x 36" long. Panel e is straight and f are for angle in side boards only for safety purpose (mark 1" in one side and make a 45 degree mark to cut) 
gSeat boards1x6 (actual size 3/4" x 5-1/2") x 36" long.Angle is for safety purpose (mark 1" in one side and make a 45 degree mark to cut)  


1.   Cut all the pieces of lumber using the list provided. I choose to do most cuts in the store then I cut angles at home using a cheap jigsaw

2.   On an even surface make up the two end frames. To do this first lay the legs members (b) and (c), i.e. table and seat supports, flat on the ground and then lay the legs (a)in place on top. Ensure the seat/table supports and the legs are as dimensions shown in the 'end profile' diagram above. Fasten together using 4 1-1/2" wood screws at each intersection. 

3.   Stand the two end frames up and fix the brace (d) in place using two 1-1/2" wood screws at each end. Ensure the brace is in the middle of the two end frames and flush with the top. This brace also acts as a spacer for the two end frames. 

4.   Lay the remaining five boards, i.e. two seat boards (f) and three top boards (e), in place on top of the seat and top supports. Check that the overhang is equal at both ends and that all is square 
Fix boards (f) to the seat supports (c) and boards (e) to the top supports (b). Use two 1-1/2" wood screws at each meeting. 

After 1 1/2 hour of labor the table was done, I get  a little help form my father in law holding some of the pieces for me to screw them together and Lorenzo hiding pieces of wood around the garage and playing with small cut pieces. 

We try the table immediately after put together, to make sure height and leg room is good enough for 4. Needles to say they loved it and get it to use immediately. We are still planning to sand the borders since they are a little too sharp and paint it, but that is another project. I will update as soon as it is completed. 

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Celebrating Father's Day with 4 Toddlers

This year we decided to celebrate Father's day quietly. We didn't plan to anything this Sunday since kids don't really understand yet what all this is about. To have a memory of this special celegration we decided the day before to go to one of those "Paint-your-own-pottery place to create a piece of art that we will keep and share with them in the future.  We recorded a few fragments of the experience and created a little video for you to enjoy.

Happy Father's Day!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Walk Lily, Walk!

To celebrate Lily's first walk, we decided to do something special. A video involving all the family to cheer it up for her and our favorite show and show man RuPaul Drag Race The entire video was capture with my phone and then edited in iMovie. It was a lot of fun to do but much fun to watch.

Sleeping Techniques...

There are days that taking the triplets for a nap is a fight. So many things need to happen for all 3 to fall sleep around the same time without waking up each other, but... there are days that a nice chicken and avocado meal will make it. Lily is also trying her first chicken leg.

Friday, June 13, 2014

From Two to Four it feels the same.

Yesterday my partner, our surrogate, our good friend Eileen and I went to watch TWO: The story of Roman and Nyro, its a documentary about two dads (Desmond Childs and Curtis Shaw) and their surrogate Angela. We were specially invited by Lisa Roberts, a real friend of the couple on the movie. I saw the trailer a few months ago and I was looking forward to watch a movie where I can see 2 dads like us (saving the fame and money) how they handle 2 older kids and the general dynamics of a family without a mom.

Before arriving to Studio@620 we decided to meet with our surrogate and have dinner, it has been a long time since we have to see her and have an adult conversation. The only time we saw her after the babies birth was a family visit and all our kids and her mother were present, so the conversation was limited to baby stuff, the kids latest accomplishment and things of our daily life.

This time I was expecting to talk more about ourselves, our feelings, thinks like that. Well it didn't happen right aways. It not that simple to switch your mind from a long day of work and busy traffic getting there and talk about how you feel. So our conversation was light while we enjoy our delicious dishes and then we walk to the place where Two was about to be screened.

I have to say in the last couple of days with patrick we had some frictions, silly discussions about silly difference that we always have and we were a little short communicating and showing much affection for each other. So I was a little concern about how that will be perceived for others. That was a perfect opportunity to share a positive experience watching the movie that I though it will reveal many secrets of how to be a family. So i was a little concern about our attitudes during this social moment.

When we arrived to the Studio@620 we were received by Lisa Roberts, our friend who organized the event. She, as always, was very warm and welcoming and immediately introduced us to an adoption attorney and a single dad who went through surrogacy as well. It was a little awkward since they ask a couple of questions and we (our surrogate and us) never talk openly about our journey. But after clarifying she was our surrogate everything run smooth.

Desmond, Angela, and Curtis with Roman and Nyro at Desmond and Curtis' New York wedding

As soon as the movie start, I don't know if it was the images, the dialogue or the music but all my emotion were out! I though, oh my, it is going to be one of those movies now...  They show their childhood as gay and coming out to their family and the struggle as persons; the celebrity vail felt right away and now we can see 2 common people with common issues and that created the first connection. Then I was introduced to their spiritual path, how they met and all the signs they have received during the process. Again I was able to relate and cry a little more. Saving the distances, the India trip and the glamour of their life. I have realize our journey was so similar, the same feelings of fear and disconcert when we had a pregnant person by our side and parenthood started to feel real, the same hope, the same anguish and love.

When they walked into a Fertility Clinic in LA and I could recognize the lobby, because we when to the same clinic and talk to the same doctor, thats when I get totally disarmed and give up on the resistance to feel. That was our life story in front of us. Nothing more to scrutinize . Just tears flowing down like a river.

By the time both children were been born in the movie, Patrick and our surrogate were both crying like children. I started wondering how many things we never get to feel or express until now that we have the opportunity to have a mirror in front of our eyes.

Observing postpartum Angela, their surrogate, I was able to understand to a even deeper level how precious is the gift that our surrogate has given to us, not only the physical struggle but the emotional part.  What is was even stronger was to understand that we have created a connection even if we don't get together often that goes beyond the maternity clinic were we split in separate ways. We never really say good bye for good and there is much more in front of us.

I am not going to spoil the rest of the movie because it is really worthy to go an watch it,  even if you never experience any of this. Its a beautiful movie about life, family and love. Love that goes beyond the traditional understanding of human relationships. Its a way to reaffirm that we are all connected no matter how private or public you can make your family goes. There is pure humanity behind all this no matter what other may thing about gay surrogacy and same sex couples and their family.

With Patrick, my parter we watch the movie holding hands, because all these feelings were about us. We forgot the day before argue and we connect again in a common place of love.

We talked later after the movie, since we conveniently left our cars a few blocks away by the restaurant where we had dinner earlier. We walk her to her car and talk about profound feelings,  she was able to explain with more details the feelings i was always scared to hear, how she felt when the journey of pregnancy was over. It was a liberating and loving experience to meet with our lovely friend for life "Angela" as I will call her now in the blog.

We are now looking forward to meet again with the children and have a good time. Almost like a big, extended family that we always will be.