Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Our family grew a little bigger in August with the arrival of Olivia Noelle Sulzbach. From not sleeping to not eating to having torticollis and severe digestive reflux, Olivia has been through a lot. We would be residents of the funny farm if not for the outpouring of physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial support from family and friends. Keep the prayers coming! We await the day when we can share with Olivia the great things God has done.
Jonathan, Erica, and Olivia
Dec. 29, 2021
Dec. 31 to Jan. 1. We began the last day of 2020 looking up OBGYNs and midwives in our insurance network. We were dismayed to find that our insurance is not accepted at the locations Erica had in mind. However, this helped us discover that we’ve been paying out of pocket expenses for most of our doctor visits. I remarked to Erica on several occasions that our insurance didn’t seem to be doing any heavy lifting. Now we know why! Thankfully we’ve been able to afford the care.
1. We rang in the new year by watching Parks and Recreation. The day itself was low-key. I resolved to mail our Christmas letters, but first I had to print and fold 15 copies. The photo collage that Walgreens printed turned out nicely, even if part of my head was cut off. Oops.
Next, I purchased postage from the post office using their automated kiosk since they were closed. Then I found some lovely green envelopes at Staples. They were sold out of printer cartridges, so I had to cross my fingers that our existing cartridge would get the job done. Sometime this year, we would love to get a better printer. I would especially like to print custom sleeves for games and movies.
2. We went for a walk today carrying our umbrella. I snapped a few photos of Erica because I hardly took any last year. As time rushes by, I want to remember as many of our days as possible. Our lives are already changing in anticipation of the baby.
The Christmas letters were dropped in the mailbox today. We played some video games (Link’s Awakening for Erica, Animal Crossing and Golf Peaks for me) and watched a good bit of Stargate SG-1 on Amazon Prime. The stream quality leaves much to be desired.
3. It’s the third already! Tomorrow I go back to work, or more accurately, I resume work at the dining room table.
14. We had our first appointment with the midwives and our first glimpse of “monster,” as Erica has taken to calling our child. While the snapshots don’t show much, our kiddo is doing well. Beforehand, my nose led us to a coffee shop inside the clinic named Whidbey Coffee. This was a pleasant surprise because I proposed to Erica on Whidbey Island. I had coffee and a white chocolate raspberry scone, which Erica helped me eat. If we get a dog someday, we’ll probably name it Whidbey.
15. We had Subway sandwiches for lunch.
18. It’s MLK day, so no work for me. We lounged in bed for a good chunk of time. Erica needed to complete some lab tests, so we drove to the Schmidt Medical Building. This was one of three places we visited last year when she stepped on a screw. Mill Creek Family Practice operates inside the building, and they allowed me to accompany Erica upstairs.
Afterward, we got a few essentials from Fred Meyer: Tylenol, Listerine, tortilla chips, and donuts. We finished season four of Parks and Recreation before playing games into the early hours of the morning.
23—24. After several postponements, our nephew Gideon stayed overnight with us on Saturday. He mostly played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on our big TV while I tinkered with my website. I have been dutifully teaching myself PHP as it relates to the WordPress publishing platform. PHP originally stood for “Personal Home Page,” but now it means something less comprehensible.
On Sunday, Gideon and I tried two-player mode in The Swords of Ditto: Mormo’s Curse. We ran around slaying monsters and uncovering treasure. Gideon was especially proud of how many hours he spent playing games from Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning—upwards of ten!
30. Saturday we visited my folks to celebrate Erica’s 32nd birthday. My brother Dan came over for a little bit, which was a nice surprise. Monica, Adam, and Zach arrived later and we all had a great meal of enchiladas verde.
For entertainment, the guys teamed up against the girls in a lopsided game of A to Z. Zach forged his own path as a team of one. He rolled terrible dice and drew even worse cards. The team of me, my dad, and Adam reigned victorious. It only now dawns on me that we played A to Z with Adam and Zach.
14—15. Erica and I went for a walk along the snowy trail and had soup at Azul. I made a video blog of our outing. At Central Market, we bought Fruit By the Foot for Erica. On our way back, just outside the apartment, I stepped in a slushy puddle.
President’s Day marked our 12-week appointment. On the monitor, we finally saw something resembling a little person. “Smidge” turned over and waved at me!
4. We visited Hey Baby! in Kirkland to find out if we’re having a boy or girl. The lady led us into a dark room with a plush bed and several monitors. It was bizarre. Beforehand, I had convinced myself we were having a boy—if only so that I could begin preparing for our inevitable “manly talks.” But lo! We’re having a girl! Her name will be Olivia Noelle. What a relief. We struggled to come up with any decent boy names.
21. Today we went on an adventure to Seattle. The sky was gray and rainy for most of it. Our bus (512) dropped us off a few blocks from Erica’s favorite backpack shop, Fjäll Räven. Good luck pronouncing it. We visited Pink Gorilla (a used game shop) and got Erica a copy of Dragon Quest Builders for PlayStation Vita.
28. Palm Sunday. We visited CrossPointe Baptist Church today after several weeks of streaming services online. I had a sense of déjà vu when viewing the building on Google Maps. Turns out I had visited CrossPointe years earlier after first moving to Bothell. We talked briefly with Pastor James and learned that he was an interim pastor for Trinity Baptist Church. Small world!
Afterward, we had noodles and a sandwich at What the Pho in Bothell. Our server Jay knows our orders even before we do. Neither of us could finish our bowls, so we took them home for later. At a 76 station, we both spotted a sign that read, “Dippin’ Dots Sold Here.” Erica had been on a quest to find Dippin’ Dots for nearly a week, so she was elated. I liked the rainbow sherbet flavor but disliked the burning sensation. Did you know they use liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze those little dots?
Next, we stopped off at the apartment to grab an umbrella and put our soups in the refrigerator. We proceeded to WinCo for a grocery run. Our bounty included blueberry Eggo waffles, Apple Jacks, and Nerds candy (watermelon and cherry flavored). We returned home and rested for a bit. Erica snoozed while I spent time (and money) on eBay tracking down the last few games on my wishlist. I played Detective Pikachu before we both decided to watch something. We pushed through the pilot episode of Royal Pains. It’s now after 1 a.m. and my eyes are drooping.
31. Today I failed as a husband and a father by feeding brandy to my pregnant wife. The chocolate and pistachio Mozart Piano Bar that I bought a few days earlier was made in Germany. The final ingredient listed in the nutrition facts? Brandy. We only discovered this after wolfing it down and remarking that it tasted boozy. My first glance at the ingredients had been for wheat, dairy, or eggs. I never thought to look for alcohol!
Erica quickly ran to the bathroom and upchucked into the toilet bowl. Crisis averted. The candy bar was intended for my mom as an Easter present because it featured Mozart and piano keys on the packaging. We agreed to eat one and buy another if it was any good. The moral here is never eat anybody else’s candy, especially if you’re pregnant.
5—11. Spring break! I took a full week off work. Most of my time was spent laboring on my custom PHP WordPress template. I know just enough to realize that I need to know a whole lot more. Progress is slow.
On Thursday, Erica and I had our 20-week appointment for Baby O. Her size, weight and development are all within range. Erica has felt increased pain following the appointment and can no longer distinguish between pain caused by digestive issues and pain caused by the baby’s position. What we know for certain is that Olivia doesn’t like to sit still. Erica keeps me updated hourly on our daughter’s shenanigans.
30. Erica called the midwife team in the morning. She experienced a lot of pain and some light bleeding on Thursday, which had us both concerned. Earlier, her midwife Becky told us over the phone that she wasn’t worried. However, the midwife she spoke with Friday said it would be good to get checked out. Erica made an 11:15 a.m. appointment and everything appeared OK. There was no obvious cause for the bleeding. It stopped on its own and hasn’t returned.
During Erica’s appointment, I got a coffee and an apple pie from McDonald’s. Afterward, we went to Red Robin to celebrate the fact that nothing was wrong. We visited Another Castle (a used game shop) but didn’t buy anything. On the way home, we stopped at Walmart for snacks and I purchased New Pokémon Snap. In the evening, I played Carto on Xbox by activating my trial version of Game Pass. It’s a neat game where you rearrange pieces of a map to alter the world.
1. We had a lazy morning sleeping in. Erica got a shower while I called used game shops for Game Boy Advance games. I drove to Another Castle in Marysville to buy Metroid Fusion and trade in some games. Then I picked up Erica and we visited their Edmonds location. They claimed to be holding a copy of Golden Sun for us, but it was actually the sequel. The guy behind the counter tried to convince us to buy it even after we explained that we didn’t want it. He turned to his manager for approval, asking to lower the price for us. We restated our gratitude but declined again. Some folks are pushy. We soothed our disappointment over not getting Golden Sun by eating out at Wendy’s. I played A Boy and His Blob for several hours before calling it a night.
2. Taxes and medical bills. I watched White Collar while Erica worked on her custom Game Boy Advance SP in transparent blue with glow-in-the-dark buttons. We visited Providence in the evening to test for a bladder infection.
After that, we picked up Erica’s antibiotic prescription and got sandwiches from Central Market. Andrew and Brooke were there, so we chatted a bit. Erica got a chicken salad croissant sandwich, and I got an olive loaf sandwich with pork, artichoke, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, and mozzarella. Later, I resumed watching White Collar while Erica took a bath.
4. This evening, I shaved and gave myself a haircut. Cutting my own hair is always an adventure. It’s difficult to recall the first time I acted as my own barber, but I imagine it was due to disappointment after visiting Great Clips or a similar establishment.
For many years, my dad used an electric kit to trim my hair and my brother’s hair when we grew too shaggy. Those were small exercises in maintenance rather than full-blown lock-lopping endeavors. More comprehensive cuts required a visit to Dick’s Barbershop in Kent, part of a shopping center known as Four Corners. One of those corners was home to a Dairy Queen, a music shop, an ATM, and a hardware store. Memory suggests a Shakey’s Pizza lay across the street, but I don’t know what filled the other three corners.
So yes, cutting my own hair came later. I had observed both my father and the barbers work their wizardry. After each haircut, I still felt that remedial work was required. I used a pair of scissors and a mirror to tidy up the edges. My efforts gradually emboldened me to cut larger swathes. Soon I was acting as my own stylist, saving money and getting results—not always great results, but results wrought by my own hands.
More to the point, I had been feeling like a greaseball all this week, so I rewarded myself with a shave and a trim. Sometimes a shave and a trim are separate procedures. Other times, an over-zealous shave becomes a sloppy trim, which then necessitates a remedial haircut. Years of self-styling have done little to improve my skills. I haven’t learned any new tricks, so I am stuck repeating the same mistakes.
After lopping off too much on one side and not enough on the other, I gave up and hopped in the shower. That’s when I noticed a bug in the tub. Pests that crawl into our bathtub usually perish. This critter resembled an earwig but was in fact a silverfish. When I turned the water on, the poor bugger began to drown. Compassion overtook me and I scooped him out using a wash cloth. His water-logged antenna were stuck to his body; was I too late? He seemed mostly dead.
After my shower, I placed the silverfish in a glass jar with tissue paper to soak up the water. He slowly returned to life and bobbed his antenna. Then I set the jar outside on the deck, setting him free into the night.
17. We arrived early to Erica’s appointment today. Along the drive, we passed a McDonald’s, a Wendy’s, and a Burger King. I knew the hospital coffee shop sold sandwiches, so I held out for something healthier than fast food. That proved to be a mistake. By the time we had parked and entered the building, I was feeling lightheaded. My stomach audibly pleaded for sustenance. Coffee alone wouldn’t cut it!
I dragged my carcass to Whidbey Coffee on the first floor while Erica found a restroom. The shop’s cold case was empty save for two items: a beige-colored vegan burrito filled with multicolored cabbages, and a more traditional-looking sandwich called the “Peppenwolf.” I glumly paid $7 plus tax for the latter and regrouped with Erica.
Our destination was the Tan section of the hospital. On our last visit, I had been told to wait in the hallway while Erica sat inside the reception area. At the appropriate time, husbands or significant others were escorted through a separate door in the back. Classy. Erica sat with me in the hall today while I dug into the Peppenwolf and proceeded to eat the most disappointing sandwich of my life.
Individually, the Peppenwolf’s five ingredients are wonderful. Ciabatta bread is airy on the inside and crusty on the outside. We sold it at Albertsons when I worked in the bakery department. Salsa verde adds fire-roasted flavor to enchiladas, taquitos, and tortilla chips. Arugula’s earthiness enhances any salad. Pepperoni is a classic, mouth-watering pizza topping. Caramelized onions? They’re the smoky-sweet heart of a mushroom burger. But oh, when those five ingredients combine?
I’m reminded of the eco-friendly Saturday morning cartoon show Captain Planet and the Planeteers. The Planeteers were five teenagers of varying ethnicities who received power rings corresponding to the elements. When they combined their powers of wind, earth, fire, water, and heart, Captain Planet swirled into existence to save the day from pollution.
If Captain Planet ever had a doppelgänger, his name would be Peppenwolf. While I sat in the hallway and unwrapped my meal, Erica checked in at the reception desk. A sign on the door forbade food and drink, so I had to work fast before they called her name.
The Peppenwolf consisted of dry bread pockmarked by soggy reservoirs of salsa verde. Wilted forests of arugula tasted like dirt. My tongue was assaulted by dual layers of mildly-spicy pepperoni. Let’s be real. At best, pepperoni gives you a splash of salt and fat. It’s not meant to be the meat of a sandwich. It only made me thirstier, and the ciabatta bread had taxed my salivary glands dry.
Foolishly, I washed everything down with my leftover coffee, which did not compliment the flavors. Now I really needed something to drink. Alas, the drinking fountains were deactivated and wrapped in plastic. I stumbled into the men’s restroom and flushed out my mouth with tepid water from the sink. I checked my teeth for stray bits of arugula. The hunger pangs had ceased, only to be replaced by a stomachache. Mercifully, Erica shared her Rolaids with me.
The remainder of the appointment went better. I managed to keep the food down while Erica got her checkup. I’m glad to report that she and Olivia are doing well. Next time, I’ll eat breakfast beforehand or settle for some old-fashioned artery-clogging goodness from McDonald’s.
26. Today’s baby shower got off to a bumpy start. Walking from our apartment to the car was like wading through boiling soup. We left after twelve and didn’t arrive at my folks’ place until 1:45 p.m. Traffic on 405 South was stop and go. We ran the car’s air conditioner the whole time.
We didn’t know what to expect for the baby shower since neither of us had been to one. My folks’ place was well-packed by the time we finally arrived. The theme was Winnie the Pooh. Decorations were yellow, black, and white with honeycomb shapes and cartoon bees. Delicious food, fun games, and plenty of presents—so many presents! Our families, specifically the ladies, put together a wonderful celebration.
I’m struggling to imagine how everything will fit in our tiny apartment. The generosity of our friends and family is both humbling and overwhelming.
27. The heatwave continues. Our portable air conditioner is doing its best, but the temperature hike has sadly decreased its effectiveness. We can only enjoy relief by standing in front of the machine. Erica already struggles to keep cool, so she has been eating a lot of ice. Running cold water over a washcloth and wrapping it around Erica’s ankles helps with the swelling.
Sleeping was difficult last night. We’re both exhausted and feeling like zombies. Our friends Jared and Jessica have invited us over to enjoy their air conditioning and maybe even catch some Zs. We’re looking forward to that and plan to bring some tasty treats.
28. It’s another toasty one. Our time yesterday with Jared and Jessica was wonderful. We chatted a little, had some delicious food, and even made time for a siesta.
29. The weather feels more manageable today. We are heading to Snohomish at 11:30 a.m. for lunch with my coworkers who want to celebrate Baby Olivia. We will be eating at the Cabbage Patch, a multi-story restaurant converted from a house located off Main Street. We always enjoy visiting Snohomish thanks to Grilla Bites and the Snohomish Pie Company.
9. Due to Erica’s low iron levels, we scheduled an iron infusion at Evergreen Health. The only available appointment was at 7:30 a.m., so we went to bed early the previous evening. My body refused to cooperate beyond driving us there and back. Upon our return, I slept for about an hour until my body had finished “cooking,” as I like to say.
10. This morning I’m getting ready to travel south to Elma for a celebration of life. My cousin Stephanie passed away unexpectedly last year, and the health restrictions at the time prohibited funeral gatherings. Erica will be visiting her folks while I’m traveling. The ride would be too much for her. Baby Olivia has been giving her a lot of discomfort. We’re expecting she may arrive sooner than her August 23 due date.
22. Around 4 a.m., Erica’s water broke. We are currently gathering our wits and getting ready for the hospital. Monica will be here around 6:30 a.m. to drive us since our car broke down last week. I am excited but struggling to keep my eyes open. Erica hasn’t been sleeping much, so she’s wide awake and nervous. Our bags have been packed for over a week. Everyone has been wondering when Olivia will get here. My guess was Aug. 5, and my mom’s guess was Aug. 7. Olivia’s official due date is not until Aug. 23. She may arrive a day early if labor progresses well.
For breakfast, Erica helped herself to a chocolate protein shake. I drank a cup of coffee and then polished off a leftover turkey sandwich from Subway. Few things make me happier than a sandwich! I’m not a morning person, but the promise of a good meal can right any wrong. We will be leaving in the next few minutes. Timestamp at 6:33 a.m.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”Psalm 139:13—16
27. Today I am getting the first of two shots for the Pfizer vaccine. The FDA finally approved it four days ago, so now I have someone to blame if I grow a third eyeball or mutate into a kumquat.
Olivia has been inconsolable for the past few hours. Both grandmas and auntie Alyssa have tried their hand at placating our little lady. Our daughter knows what she does and doesn’t like. Unlike her parents, she has not learned how to cope with the way life subverts our expectations. We love her dearly and will endeavor to meet all of her needs; however, the distinction between “needs” and “wants” is worth noting.
1. Last night marked my second defeat participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I’m grateful for the challenge. I’m also disappointed in myself. I strove for writing the full fifty-thousand words this year but only (only!) logged 49,010 words. I will polish off those remaining 990 words in January after taking a month-long break.
Erica has lamented that we don’t do much together in the evenings now. This is a fact dictated by parental duties and the never-ending needs of our daughter. In November, I wrote like a madman every night, so it will be good for us to carve out some time for each other during winter break.
Looking back on this year’s events, I see that the journal entries dropped off following Olivia’s birth. Those were harrowing days that I can’t bring myself to write about yet. We’re doing much better thanks to help from family and friends.
25. Today is Christmas! Olivia woke me around 6 a.m. with an obnoxiously loud flatus (gas). In the future, I hope she’ll wake us with pleas to open her presents instead. Last night, I was finally able to soothe her to sleep using a combination of side-to-side and up-and-down rocking. I’m hopeful that this breakthrough means I can be a bigger help to Erica. Our peanut is doing a little better with feedings but remains averse to sleeping. Aren’t babies supposed to eat, sleep, and make messes? She does at least one of those well.
When I got up to change Olivia’s diaper, I peeked out the window to check for snow. We received a light dusting that will likely melt when the sun comes up. Still, I’m pleased that Olivia’s first Christmas out of the womb is a white Christmas. It’s been a full year to the day since we learned of her existence. The saying is true: a baby changes everything.
Last night, we spent Christmas Eve with the Griffins at their Bothell apartment. Zach brought home delicious pizza from The Rock, and I ate way too much. Erica had a sad Daiya pizza with fake cheese since she can’t handle dairy. We were excited for Olivia to open her first Christmas present, but she was tired, cranky, and didn’t know what to do. She’s only four months old, so we shouldn’t have expected much. Our evening—and a fun game of Mario Party—ended early. Taking Olivia anywhere rarely feels worth the Herculean effort.
Sometime in the New Year, the Griffins anticipate moving back to eastern Washington or possibly farther to Idaho or Montana. We are saddened for a bunch of reasons but remain grateful for all the support they have provided. The cost of living in Washington is staggering. Before our lease ends next October, we will have to make our own decision about moving.
Olivia has fallen back to sleep, so I’m going to get some Zs. We plan to visit my parents later today provided the dusting of snow doesn’t freeze over. Hopefully our peanut won’t have another meltdown.
27. Two days after Christmas and there’s lots of snow on the ground. I still need to defrost the car so we can take Olivia to her appointment this afternoon. Earlier, I took out a trash bag full of dirty diapers. Our apartment’s trash compactor was surrounded by discarded Christmas trees, at least one mattress, and numerous cardboard boxes dusted with snow. I couldn’t get close enough to the machine to turn it on. However, someone left the door ajar, so I was able to toss the whole bag. This is my life now. I am a flinger of feces.
Sometime this week, Erica and I are hoping to reconnect with my friends Sean and Andrew. We’ve been able to stay in contact using FaceTime and Skype but haven’t met up in person in over four months. It would be nice to do something before the year ends.
Sean and I recently started watching classic Doctor Who while Skyping. We count down to zero and hit “play” at the same time to synchronize the episodes. If we work through the BBC’s entire catalog of 26 seasons, we’ll finish around the time Olivia graduates high school.
My goals—or resolutions—for 2022 involve finishing the first draft of my novel by the end of February and updating my website on a weekly basis. Writing has definitely helped me maintain my sanity. With our lives seemingly turned upside-down, both Erica and I are desperate for some semblance of order. Writing provides that for me. I think video games provide that for Erica when she can find a spare moment.
This will be the last entry for the year. I have yet to make a photo collage and get prints ordered from Walgreens. The current edit of the Sulzbach Family Journal clocks in at over four pages, so I will make an “abridged” edition for printing.
Here’s to a brave and bold 2022 without any fear!
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9