The Sulzbach Family Journal 2020

Collage of Sulzbach and Griffin family members

Each December, I think about how nice it would be to write a Christmas letter. This year, I finally did it by writing occasional entries along the way. We now have something resembling a letter—even if Christmas and New Year’s Eve have come and gone.

Speaking of Dec. 25, that’s when Erica and I learned that we’re going to be parents! We are terrified and overjoyed. Despite the state of the world, we believe God’s timing is always best. Your prayers are appreciated! We’re expecting Baby Sulzbach in late August 2021.

With love,

Jonathan, Erica, and Baby

Jonathan, Erica, and Baby

January

1. Erica and I stayed overnight at my parents’ house in Maple Valley. We inflated our inflatable mattress in the second bedroom—before now, we had not used it ourselves but had kept it under our couch for guests. We discovered that the mattress is painfully uncomfortable. Sorry, guests! Erica tried sleeping on the downstairs couch but later rejoined me around 3 a.m. We didn’t sleep much.

Breakfast was scrambled eggs and croissants. Grandma shared some jam she made, which Erica enjoyed. Around noon, Sarah (my sister) and the boys (her sons Gideon and Isaac) came over for chili. We all listened to a read-aloud performance of The Wonky Donkey, first by Grandma, then mom, and lastly me. Erica lost at least one sock during our journey. She is often visited by pesky sock gremlins.

2—4. Monica and Alyssa (Erica’s mom and sister) stayed overnight. We watched an episode of The World According to Jeff Goldblum, an episode of The Dog Whisperer, and several episodes of The Imagineering Story. The ladies ventured to the Cheesecake Factory Thursday afternoon, and we made po’mo’shroom (short for poor man’s guacamole and mushroom) burgers for dinner.

Erica with her green backpack; Alyssa with her blue backpack
Erica and Alyssa with their backpacks.

Friday, the ladies took Erica to an appointment for an allergy test. She is severely allergic to dust mites and slightly allergic to dogs. The ladies had visited Specialty’s during their Seattle day trip and rode the bus instead of driving. Alyssa got a backpack like Erica’s. They named them Pike and Pine, or blue and green respectively.

Jon holding the crockpot lid while chili cooks
Waiting impatiently for the chili to cook.

For dinner, we had homemade chili with cornbread muffins and a sourdough baguette. We watched some Mad TV comedy sketches on YouTube featuring Miss Swan, then concluded with more of The Imagineering Story.

22. After a 7-year phobia caused by not going, Erica went to see a periodontist today. I am proud of her! They said that her teeth, gums, and bone density are great. Such a relief. Erica had feared the worst. I took the morning off from work to accompany her. In the waiting room, they had a fish tank where I spotted a tiny blue tang and two smaller fish that resembled clown fish. The bigger of the two was protective of the little one. Its mother, perhaps? There was another smaller fish that scarcely moved, but when it did, its movements were quick and deliberate.

After Erica’s appointment, we celebrated with a late breakfast at Patty’s Eggnest and Turkey House. I had a Benedict with corned beef and hash browns, and Erica had a veggie omelet.

25. We decided to celebrate Erica’s birthday early because her actual birthday weekend was going to be busy. We made good on an old promise by going to the Cinnabon at the mall! It was so delicious, so tasty, and Erica couldn’t get enough. She scraped the box for the last bit of icing. We decided to make it a birthday tradition. We also went to Barnes & Noble for beverages and cookies. While there, we bought a tin of green tea flavored with vanilla, but it tasted like fish oil to me. Erica loves it.

Vanilla cupcakes with white buttercream icing and rainbow-color sprinkles
Photographic proof that said cupcakes once existed.

31—Feb. 1. We visited my parents to celebrate Erica’s birthday. My mom made frosted yellow cupcakes, and they must have been delicious. I don’t recall having any before they disappeared. The following morning, my mom, Erica, and I had breakfast at Windmill Bistro in Sumner. My dad stayed home because he wasn’t feeling well.

March

31. Everybody is self-quarantined per the governor’s mandate. We found Quilted Northern toilet paper at Walmart and an enormous pack of ultra soft Charmin at Costco. It seems the TP hoarding is finally balancing out in Lynnwood. We had previously visited Fred Meyer, Rite Aid, and Safeway without any luck.

Staying home has been nice for me, but staying indoors has been difficult for Erica. We’ve taken several walks, and they help us feel like the world is sane. The birds and squirrels are chipper. Their lives have probably improved. Mine certainly has. I’ve been working from home since March 17. Erica and I haven’t had time together like this since I was unemployed. Those were difficult days. Now it’s much better. She can rest, and my job ends at 4:30 p.m.

This evening we had homemade crockpot chili (we call it our “all day chili”). Erica has a wonderful sense of taste for seasoning and bringing out flavors. Lately, we have been wondering if she is pregnant. Having this additional time together has been invaluable for our marriage.

July

18. Erica and I planned to walk 5 miles today along the trail behind our apartment complex. When we reached the parking lot near LA Fitness, we noticed a group of ladies standing around. Two of them were looking at a turtle. We took a peek too, and Erica identified it as a red-eared slider. The creature’s shell appeared to be molting. Erica suspected it was dehydrated.

Red-eared slider turtle on a rock beside water
Not actually our Oogway but one that looks just like him.

So, we picked up the turtle with the intent of taking it to a nearby pet hospital. The turtle urinated on Erica’s hands and scratched her while attempting to escape. The lady at the pet hospital gave us some towels and two phone numbers. Neither place could accept a turtle, and because his species was considered invasive, he would be euthanized if we brought him in. We said thanks and declined.

Leaving the pet hospital, we stopped off at Central Market to use the facilities. Then we continued on the trail and sought an appropriate place to release Oogway (we named him that in honor of Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda). We found an opening to the creek that runs parallel to the trail. A dad and his little girl were wading in the water. The girl wanted to touch Oogway, but we warned her that he bites and scratches. Once we set him down, Oogway pushed off from the shore and swam upstream. He should be OK since he is likely an apex predator. Have we doomed the entire creek ecosystem?

29. Lake Stevens School District announced that it would be reopening in the fall with no in-person instruction, only distance learning. I posted some materials to the district website late in the evening after the decision was finalized. Earlier, I worked on a social media graphic that went through four revisions.

October

4. Five years of marriage! The cabin we stayed at last year was closed for the pandemic, so we booked a hotel at La Quinta. Hardly romantic, but we’ve talked about downsizing our monstrous California king mattress to a queen. This seemed like a good way to test drive one.

On our journey, we discovered WinCo Foods and were amazed by the variety of bulk candy they sell. We filled our stomaches with Mike and Ike, Tootsie Rolls, Dots, Good & Plenty, and more. With Erica’s help, I began writing a cheat sheet of the phrases and concepts we’ve developed during our marriage. Here are the top ten:

  1. The issue is rarely the issue; the heart of the matter is often several layers deep
  2. Feelings are real; they may not always be true, but they do come from somewhere and shouldn’t be dismissed
  3. Different is not the same as wrong; there are often multiple ways of reaching the same goal
  4. Give each other the benefit of the doubt; ask questions instead of making accusations
  5. Address issues sooner rather than later; left unchecked, a mole hill can become a volcano
  6. Even if you can’t relate, keep trying; the effort to bridge the gap can go a long way
  7. Be gracious to one another; when you don’t understand, be especially gracious
  8. Listen before trying to solve the problem; a solution is not always the remedy
  9. Don’t punish one another or threaten to withhold affection
  10. Don’t expect anyone to read your mind; use your words

November

1. Today I started NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. My goal is a 25,000-word novella. Most folks aim for a 50,000-word novel, but I doubt I have that in me.

21. While heading to our apartment with the boys (my friends Sean and Andrew), Erica kicked and stepped on a large screw. It punctured her shoe and stabbed her big toe on her left foot. We got her inside the apartment, and then she spent some time in the bathroom alone, resolving to take care of it herself. I played the husband card, insisting that we get her treatment.

After cleaning Erica’s toe and bandaging the wound, I drove us to the nearest walk-in clinic at the town center. It was closed. So, we tried the hospital located across the street and up the road. One lonely car was parked outside, and the building doors were locked. Lastly, we drove to Providence near our local Fred Meyer. Thankfully it was open.

The doctor tried persuading Erica to get the Tdap vaccine instead of only a tetanus shot; in fact, the tetanus shot was not available separately. She was reluctant but changed her mind when the doctor explained that all expectant mothers should have the Tdap vaccination. We’re not pregnant yet, but we know it’s a possibility.

31. I reached my NaNoWriMo goal! Clocking in at 25,212 words, the story is barely underway. It’s going to be a novel.

December

25. Today Erica and I have become parents! We had our suspicions, as did our mothers. Now we can confirm that the pregnancy stick has shown a solid blue vertical line. Erica assures me this is proof positive. I feel duty-bound to complain that the Clearblue pregnancy stick has been badly labeled, as the positive result is shown on the packaging to resemble a plus sign. Alas, I am too overjoyed to care.

We are pregnant. Praise God! Now the planning and panic begins. Will it be one child? Multiple children? A boy or a girl? Whatever the outcome, whether healthy or unhealthy, normal or abnormal, we will love and cherish our child with all of the love that God has grown in our hearts. He will be praised as the author and finisher of our lives and faith.

27. These are the early days of the first trimester, so we are concerned about our munchkin “sticking” to the wall and growing properly. We’re also reading the labels on every edible (and inedible) item we own. Yes, the year is winding down, but we already feel ourselves winding up for 2021.

This evening I measured the nook in the corner of our apartment to determine if a crib will fit. The shelf above the washer and dryer has been allocated for wipes, diapers, and related paraphernalia.

30. This is the last entry for the year. We continue to rent an apartment in Mill Creek. This area has become home for us despite our efforts to find a house during the summer. This is where we are supposed to be for now. We recently reworked our living room and our bedroom so that both feel cozier and more personalized.

I am on winter break but will return to work for the school district on January 4, 2021. My dual role as a graphic designer and webmaster for Lake Stevens has been a tremendous blessing. We watched The Gospel of John today and were encouraged. God continues to provide for us. We know the path ahead may not be easy, but it will be good because God is good.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

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