Managing Time for Side Projects

I’m quickly coming up on my two year anniversary at my day job. I’ve learned quite a lot in my professional experience as an iOS developer. But one unfortunate side effect of doing something that I love during the day: it’s hard to find the time and motivation needed to work on my app projects, even when the desire is there.

Max’s tweet was originally about trying to work too much. But I felt inspired to address some of the issues as to why I feel I don’t work enough, whether or not that’s true.

The Problem(s)

Here are a few of the issues I’ve found myself facing:

  • Too Many Ideas – My mind seems to come up with new side projects at least once a month. Of course, there’s no way for me to complete (or even start) many of these. But this has been happening for a while. I still have a file in Evernote with about 6 years of app and service ideas. I want to work on one, but I sometimes get distracted with my list and lose focus on what is achievable.
  • Wrong Project Scope – For the ideas that I am able to actually work on, I find myself dreaming up massive plans. ‘Maybe I’ll completely rewrite X!‘ ‘I could do Y like this, but if I do it like this, it’ll be future proof and everything!‘ What was going to be a simple project that I could enjoy working on becomes a large project that might as well take my full time.
  • Too Little Time – I know what you’re going to say. “Isn’t that the whole point of this post?” Well, yes. But it’s worth mentioning. It’s hard to work on side projects when you spend time playing games or watching TV.  If you’ve set aside time for yourself, you are in control of what happens with that time. And that doesn’t always mean those desired projects get a share of it.Nor does that take into account responsibilities you might have if you’re a husband or father and the time you need to spend with your family.

The Solutions(?)

Before I had my current job, I did a lot of my development work on the side. Sometimes I even found some time during the lulls of the day to get a little bit of work done. But now, I have to try other things.

A few things I’ve ultimately realized:

  • I have to make up my mind. Some work I’ve done on my projects lately has stalled because I can’t make up my mind on what to do. In one example, I’m considering using Realm as a data store. I use Realm at work. It’s something I’m fairly comfortable with. But then I think that I could use this time to try working with Core Data again. Or maybe I’ll just stick to using SQLite directly but use a new library. Soon, I’m stuck in this cycle of each direction being one to consider, but I end up doing nothing but considering choices and don’t end up going any one way. So I’ve started telling myself, as my own boss on these projects, that I have to make a choice, stick with it, and move on.
  • I don’t have to be perfect. Similar to the last point, these projects exist for me and me alone. While I am particular about the quality of my own work, I am not going to be pushing these through any kind of code review. So I can let some things slide. If anything, it gives me things I can address with future releases. But ultimately, I don’t need to perfect something before I release it. So long as it works, I can be content.
  • I have to know what I’m doing. I’ve been a fan of Asana for several years. While it was great for my day jobs, I started using it over a year ago for my side projects.  It doesn’t need to be as complicated as my day job (with Epics, Work Requests, and Iteration planning), but I do need to have some idea for what I want my deliverables to be. Setting that for my various projects, including reasonable feature sets for various stages of release, is helping me to make progress.
  • I need a long term plan. I decided earlier this year to go overboard and plan out my 2018 project goals. I’ve got quarterly release goals (mostly Alpha and Beta releases), planned App Store releases, and a general idea of what I would like to accomplish this year. All of it is set up to be achievable but not overwhelming. So no, I’m not launching 6 new apps this year. Yes, I’m hoping to have at least 1 app update and 1 new app on the App Store by December.1

Overall, I’m not getting as much done with my side app projects as I’d like. But as I am a developer during the day, that takes a lot of my developer energy. And lastly, I have to balance my interest in side projects with my family, which has my ultimate priority. Thankfully, it’s kept me from being a workaholic.2

In my case, I just have to accept the reality: I can’t do what I once could. But that’s okay.3

  1. I said it was achievable. I didn’t say it was impressive. 

  2. As much as I love to work. 

  3. I started this blog post shortly after Max’s initial tweet, and that was 4 days ago. Shows you how my time is allocated. 

Clips, iOS 10.3, and the future of 32-bit apps

In March, alongside a few hardware announcements, Apple also unveiled a new media sharing app called Clips. Clips was released today. Reviews seem mixed. But I’m not here to talk to you about Clips.

iOS 10.3 was released to a vast majority of iOS devices on March 27. It was a huge behind-the-scenes update that migrated iOS devices to Apple’s new file system.  But I’m not here to talk to you about iOS 10.3.

What I am here to talk to you about is 32-bit app support. It’s definitely coming to an end. And this might affect some apps you like using. For me, some of my favorite games fall into this category. Want to see which of your apps won’t work on future iOS versions? Head to Settings > General > About > Applications to see the list.

You might’ve gotten a glimpse of this even without going to the Settings app. One other change in iOS 10.3 noted by people before and after release: Apps not compiled for 64-bit present an alert to the user upon launch. This alert says that the app in question will not work with future versions of iOS.

Now, why did I mention Clips earlier? Because Clips has some notable requirements. Sure, it requires iOS 10.3. That’s the latest OS release, and its no surprise that Apple will target the latest release with its latest apps. But the hardware requirements don’t include all devices running iOS 10.3. Specifically, Clips only works on 64-bit devices. Don’t believe me? Check the bottom of the Clips site and try to find a 32-bit device in the list of supported devices. You won’t find any.

Another big tip: iOS 10.3.2 is available for developers to test. It is only available for 64-bit devices.

The writing is clearly on the wall: 32-bit apps will soon be unsupported in iOS. But while some think iOS 11 will be the big cutoff, it may be sooner than most people realize. If you see your favorite apps in that list in your Settings app, consider contacting the developers of those applications. Urge them to update their apps.

I know I don’t want to lose my favorite games.


On Apple’s new new iPad

This week, Apple announced a few new or updated products via press release. One of those was a brand new iPad model. Known only as iPad, it’s an update to the 9.7-inch iPad model but staying below the new Pro line in terms of functionality.

There’s been some confusion as to the iPad’s name, as well as Apple’s approach to its design and price. But if we take a moment to analyze its name, I think we can put the rest of the details into place.

Apple is calling this simply iPad. Specifically, it shows up as iPad (5th Generation)1 on Apple’s site, which is leading to issues on Wikipedia, as the iPad Air was unofficially known as the 5th generation iPad. Why is Apple calling it the 5th generation iPad?

Ultimately, I think we can consider the iPad itself having ended as a product line with the 4th generation iPad. When a new 9.7-inch iPad model debuted in 2013, it came with a new name: the iPad Air. This began a new line of Air model iPads. These models kept pushing the envelope forward in terms of weight, thinness, and power. I still think the iPad Air 2 is a very capable iPad, even if Apple no longer advertises it on their website.

Apple's two iPad Pro models
Apple’s two iPad Pro models

That said, the iPad Pro line is yet another new line of iPads. The fact that the iPad Pro 9.7-inch model happens to have identical dimensions to the iPad Air 2 just shows the evolution of that sleek, powerful design.

With the Pro moniker, Apple is clearly targeting the iPad Pro towards those wanting to do more with their iPad. Looking to do serious work? Here’s an iPad that also supports a convenient Smart Keyboard and state-of-the-art Apple Pencil.

The iPad (4th Generation), the predecessor to the iPad (5th Generation)
The iPad (4th Generation), the predecessor to the iPad (5th Generation)

What about the consumer? That’s where the iPad (5th Generation) comes in. This iPad isn’t a new Air model. This isn’t related to the Pro models at all. Instead, this is the follow-up to the iPad 4. As such, it’s able to get away with a few things.

First, we can revert to the design of the iPad Air. Sure, it means the iPad is thicker than the Air 2. But it still is a great size and, more importantly, is still close to 1 pound in weight. That makes this iPad one you can hold for a longer period of time than the iPad 4 (or older).

This older design also shows up when we look at the various technologies used in the iPad (5th Generation). The display is still of Retina quality, but it lacks the anti-reflective material that’s built into the latest iPads. We also see Apple resorting to the older antenna bands for the LTE models.

However, despite having some older technologies in this new model, they can also throw in some very capable internals. The A9 chip, while technically over a year old, is still more powerful than what’s in any other consumer-targeted iPad model. This puts it on par with the iPhone SE, another iOS device considered to be for those looking at a more price-friendly option.

This leads me to the second point: price. Because Apple is using a mix of older technologies and designs along with semi-newer chipsets (which, as a volume purchase, likely cost less the more Apple integrates them into products), they can also release this iPad at an amazing price: $329 for 32GB. That’s the lowest any new 9.7-inch iPad model has ever sold for.

The lower price leads me to two conclusions:

  1. Apple is going to create two tiers of iPads like they’ve done for years with the MacBook line. The average consumer will go for a powerful-but-not-too-powerful MacBook, while professionals will grab the MacBook Pro. Similarly, the iPad line will be what most consumers will need. And at a new lower price point, there’s very little reason for someone to get one of these iPads, especially as an upgrade from an older model.
  2. The iPad Mini will never again have the top-of-the-line specs. Right now, the only iPad Mini left in Apple’s lineup is the iPad Mini 4. The only configuration is a 128GB model for $399. I still think the iPad Mini line has a place with certain audiences, but at best it will share the same specs as the new consumer iPad line. At worst, it will disappear completely.

Overall, this new iPad will be a very positive thing for Apple. The lower price should bring in new iPad owners, as well as move those with anything older than an iPad Air 2 to upgrade.

  1. For instance, in the list of supported devices for the new Clips app

[Updated] Watch faces

One thing I do like about the Apple Watch is the ability to easily change your watch face. Very quickly, the Watch can go from being a simple time piece to something very personal. As I’ve now spent 48 hours with a Watch, I wanted to share how I’ve set up my Watch faces. I’d also love to hear comments on how you set up your faces.


Before I begin, note that the complications are likely to change as I try more apps for Apple Watch. I know I’ll drop some of these eventually. But for now, these are the ones I’m using:

  • Battery – Temporary while I learn how long my Watch will last during the day
  • Activity – The main purpose for buying the Watch was to help me be more active. So having this visible at all times is a must.
  • Date
  • Weather – Makes it real quick to see how things are outside
  • Calendar – Being able to see when my next meeting or event occurs at a glance is great.

Now that I’ve listed all of the complications, here are my Watch faces.


Apple Watch Utility face

This Watch face is my main one. I like the overall appearance of it, as it feels like the kind of watch face I’d want even on a mechanical watch.  I have this one when I’m not working (and sometimes when I am). I have the Battery complication in the top left, Activity in the top right, Date with the day of the week inside, and the weather along the bottom. When I drop the Battery one, I’ll move the weather to that corner (even though it’ll only show the temperature) and replace it with the calendar at the bottom.


Apple Watch modular face

This is my current Watch face during the work day. The center complication is the calendar because of the amount of data it can show. It’s a bit odd to see the time off-center, but I will let that slide given the amount of data all of the complications can show.


Apple Watch color face

I thought I would use this one more, but I don’t use it as much anymore. I do like how it’ll show color more than the Utility face. When I go out and want a little fun with the Watch, I’ll use this and tweak the color.


I do miss complications when using this Watch face, but this is a fun one to sometimes switch to at night.

Timelapse / Photo Album

Apple Watch photo album face

These are my evening Watch faces for when I don’t need to see data but want to see something personal, especially with the Photo Album face. I look forward to creating some Live Photos next week and making Watch faces out of them.

There are other faces I don’t use. I don’t have anything to say on them really. The ones I just listed are my favorites thus far. But I’ve not had my Watch for months like some people, so I’m sure this will change the more I use it.

Update (Dec 1)

Having had some more time with my Watch, I’ve cut down on some of the faces that I was using before and added a few new ones.

Utility, as mentioned above, is still the same, but it is now my main Watch face.

Modular, while still the same, is hardly used anymore. It’s nice, but I find it doesn’t provide me as much useful information while I’m working at my desk. If I was working elsewhere and not always near my computer’s calendar, then maybe I would find it more useful.

I’ve made some new additions to my faces.


Apple Watch simple face

As the name implies, this is a simple face. I use this when I’m out or at meetings. I think it removes enough distractions to allow me to focus on where I’m at without feeling the need to always glance at my wrist.

Modular (2)

Apple Watch sleep modular face sleep++

This is another Modular set up. However, I use this one specifically for when I sleep. The center complication is for the app Sleep++ by David Smith. When I’m ready for bed, I’ll switch to this complication, set my alarm, go into Airplane mode, and then tap on the center complication to take me to the Sleep++ app to start tracking my sleep. The other complications, including the weather and sunrise/sunset, seem appropriate for this watch face.

Limiting Distractions: Notifications

Sometimes, especially if you’re like me, you’ll be on a roll when it comes to work, perhaps figuring out a program you’re working on, when you suddenly get interrupted. And just like that, your mental focus is gone. What were you doing? You’ll figure that out after a few minutes.

Notifications can sometimes be that interruption. Sure, it may be cool to have your iPhone docked next to your computer. But if the constant comments on Facebook are distracting you, is that a good thing to keep in sight?

The better question: are you in control of your device, or is it in control of you?

While I’m not one to disable all of my notifications1, as some have done, earlier this week I started disabling notifications that I had set up for some time. In particular, anything with a social element has been muted. My iPhone and iPad no longer have permission to display notifications, play sounds, or show a badge icon. In short, if I want to know what’s going on there, I’ll find out when I manually check those platforms.

Even if you’re a heavy Twitter user, is there any reason why you need to be disturbed with every mention? Is something so urgent that a social media message should disrupt your life? I’m doing my best to say no to those questions. My iOS devices are useful. To me. They respond to what I want to use them for. And that’s how this relationship will stay.

  1. Yet 

iOS today view widgets and margins

One of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with while working on an app has been the today view widget. The widget I’ve been working on is very simple: 2 buttons and a label. Yet, there were a couple of issues I kept running into.

  1. When loading the widget, my buttons will appear and layout. With a button tap, the two buttons change size to what is constrained in the Storyboard. This only happens when the widget is loaded and with the first tap. Subsequent taps don’t affect it again.
  2. The widget, as much as I tried, would not appear as it did in the storyboard. Things weren’t centered properly.

The first item I still haven’t solved. The issue that ended up solving the second item is what I thought was affecting the button layout. Essentially, here is what I had: left button is x points from the left edge of the view, is y points from the right button, and has a width equal to the right button. The right button is the same except it has a constraint to the right edge of the view instead of the left. I had hoped that this would lead to a dynamic button size that would change on various devices and widths. Unfortunately, the small issue with the resizing buttons kept bothering me. If someone can figure this out, let me know.

The second issue was actually fairly easy to figure out. If you look at any of your current widgets, you probably notice two different layouts: ones that are full width, and ones that start indented.

I thought that Apple wanted all widgets indented, but there are even some of Apple’s own widgets that are full width. While it wouldn’t solve the first issue I was having (and gave up on), it did impact why the storyboard, set to the width of the device, wasn’t looking like what my widget was showing.

To solve this, make use of the NCWidgetProviding protocol. There is a method called widgetMarginInsetsForProposedMarginInsets  that you can use to either accept the default margin or set it to a custom value.

By removing the insets, I suddenly had a widget that not only was centered but also was taking up the space in the view as it was in the Storyboard.

If you want to see what I was working on, check out Countr on the App Store.

The advantage of digital work

I’ve had for over 10 years. This WordPress site has been up for over six. Yet, I always felt like I wasn’t writing as much as I wanted to.

The very thought of writing can be intimating when you feel you have a lot you want to say. For instance, I recently completed our birth story post. I had started on it shortly after the birth of our son. But as time went on, it kept getting put off. The idea of being thorough with what I was writing held me off from just sitting down and finishing it. Would I miss something vital? Would people like what I had completed?

That last thought is something that I also struggle with when I’m developing apps. Sometimes I get so caught up in making things just right that I don’t release an update as quickly as I could. But sometimes, you just need to sit down and go through with something and deal with any missed details later.

The advantage of digital work: it can always be touched up.


Our Birth Story

It’s hard to believe that our son, Tiberius, is already six months old.1 In some ways, it has felt like he’s been here with us forever. In others, I can’t believe that he’s even here with us. Before too much time passes, I wanted to share our birth story.

Our Plans

natural birth in progress sign

My wife Shannon and I, early on, had every intention of having as natural of a birth as possible. We did research on hospital births, caesarians, epidurals, vaccines, and anything else that might come up around the birth of a child. In the end, we made the choice to plan for a home water birth. With that intention, we sought out a midwife to help us prepare for our home birth.

We had already known that we were going to move when we found out we were pregnant, so before our move to Arizona in September, we began looking at midwives around the Phoenix area. After a few FaceTime calls to some prospects, we settled on Crystal.2 All of the midwives we spoke to were definitely educated and qualified. However, my wife also wanted a midwife that she would be comfortable with and that would be there for us when we needed her. Crystal proved to fit all of our needs.

Our other request before moving was to line up a doula. For those that don’t know, wikipedia provides a somewhat dry definition:

A doula is a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during, or after childbirth, as well as her spouse and/or family, by providing physical assistance, and emotional support.

For us, having a doula meant added support for both my wife and I. While the midwife would assist with the actual birth, we knew that additional emotional support would be of great assistance to my wife, while also providing a support so that I would be able to assist without feeling overwhelmed.

Again, we took a look at our options for doulas around Phoenix. In the end, Rebecca was our choice. Just like with choosing a midwife, we wanted someone that we both would be comfortable with. After an almost two hour ‘interview’ over Skype, we felt comfortable with our decision.

birth team rebecca crystal rose

Over the following months, our lives continued on as we had planned: we eventually packed, moved, and settled into Tempe, Arizona. That was in early September, still a couple of months before Bear3 was due to arrive.

In the weeks that followed, we continued forward with our plans. We started purchasing items that we would need for a home birth, such as items that would work along with the birth pool we were renting. We also planned where we wanted the pool to be. In the end, we chose to have the pool in the bedroom. It would provide easy access for my wife to get back into bed should she need to, plus it would keep her close to the bathroom should she need to use it.

There was one more thing that we wanted with our home birth: a photographer. While not necessary to the birth process itself, we wanted to be able to have photos and videos from the birth of our son that we would be too busy to take ourselves. Several factors came into play with our ultimate decision for a birth photographer. First, we wanted someone that could take good photos and knew how to capture important moments. Second, we wanted someone that did a good birth story video. Several of the potential photographers did videos, but they didn’t always seem to be a story video; some seemed to just be plain video of births. We wanted something more. And lastly, we wanted a good photographer that could meet in our budget.

In the end, we chose Kelly. From her online portfolio, we knew that she could catch those rare and wonderful moments that we would be too busy to catch. Plus, her video offering was indeed a birth story, not just a birth video.

By the middle of October, we had all of these elements of our birth team in place.

Getting Closer

With our birth team figured out, things seemed to turn into a waiting game. Our estimated due date4 was November 17. It was just a matter of getting to that date and seeing what would happen.

Of course, as is to be expected, we were approaching November 17 with little sign of when things would begin. And then November 17 came and went. Was something wrong? Was the baby okay? Yes, everything was fine.

When it comes to babies, they come when they come. Just because a baby hasn’t arrived by the time of an estimated due date doesn’t mean that you should start to panic. When humans first started having children, did they count out 40 weeks and stick to an exact calendar?

Of course, we not only weren’t rushing to have our son arrive, but we also came to a realization. One day, while checking one of her ‘monthly tracking’ apps, Shannon noticed that our guess as to when we had conceived was different from the actual data. In short, we were off a week. Instead of November 175 beginning our 40th week, it was really November 24. We had an extra week.

That extra week was very important for us. According to state law in Arizona, after 42 weeks, if the baby has not been born, care must transfer from a midwife to a doctor in a hospital.6 We were doing our best to stay away from unnecessary medical intervention, so we were glad to have a little more breathing room.

Still, we were caught in a waiting game. Even if everything is going fine, you can easily get anxious. When will we see our little guy? When will things start? What will be the first signs?

Saturday, November 29, we thought we would be finding out those answers. On that morning, Shannon thought that her water had broken.7 Our morning plans quickly changed into waiting to see what would happen. Was she feeling any contractions? Was this finally it?

While my wife had been feeling Braxton Hicks contractions for some time, she wasn’t feeling anything else. And after a check by our midwife, it was determined that her water hadn’t broken yet. Another sigh of relief: if she had broken her water, we’d be put on a clock. With no rupture, we had no such rush.

With these false alarms, we began to question just when our son would arrive. He would obviously be after his estimated due date. How far after? It turns out, not long.

At Last

house rules

Among all of the hype and planning as we prepared for our son’s arrival, I was still working. Thankfully, I’m fortunate to be able to work from home. My typical morning involves me waking up next to my sleeping wife, giving her a kiss, and heading across the hallway into my office. In the last couple weeks of pregnancy, she was having difficulty falling back asleep in the middle of the night, so I would occasionally find her awake and laying in bed. Sometimes she’d be reading. Other times, she’d be journaling her day and her feelings.

On the morning of Thursday, December 4, as I began to stir, Shannon looked over at me with a smile. “Are you ready to have a baby?” she asked. Was I ready? We’ve been ready for weeks! What could she mean by that?

“Good, because I’ve been having contractions since 3am.”

What? That’s the past five hours!8 It was looking like the long-awaited day had finally come! If everything went well, we’d be meeting our son that night.

I knew that, once things started moving, our birth team would need to be assembled. But I didn’t want to jump the gun, either. For instance, our photographer doesn’t have to be there at the very beginning; she was there to document our birth story, so she would need to be with us closer to the actual birth. I was not wanting to go too long without any guidance, though. So right away, we made sure to text our midwife for her feedback. Based on everything my wife was feeling, she felt we had some time to go.

As the day progressed into the early afternoon, Shannon was starting to feel stronger contractions. I was doing my best to be supportive, but there was only so much I could do without feeling overwhelmed. So we decided it was time to bring in our doula, Rebecca.

From early afternoon on Thursday through the birth of our son, Rebecca was there supporting us and helping Shannon to cope with her progressing labor.9 I know that, without her being there, and the subsequent assistance of Crystal and Rose, that this would have been an overwhelming experience for both of us.10

Moving into the evening, it was obvious that it was going to be a long night. Based on how Shannon was progressing, we didn’t see the need to contact Crystal yet. But Rebecca stayed with us. Despite it starting to get dark outside, there was a lot of activity still going on inside. My wife was in a lot of pain from her contractions, which were continuing pretty regularly. The later it got, the more tired we all got. I felt bad that I hadn’t gone through the contractions and was able to get some rest. Meanwhile, Shannon was switching positions between the birth pool and our bed to try and become comfortable. In time, after becoming exhausted from almost 24 hours of labor, she was able to get a little bit of sleep.

shannon birth pool

As we slowly progressed into Friday morning, it became clear that our baby was still a couple of hours away from coming. When it comes to the ‘pushing phase’ of labor, a typical first time mother could spend two hours doing so.11 Just to be safe, we called up Crystal and had her come by to see how things were progressing. Around 9am, she arrived and began doing some checks of both mom and baby.

Between her various positions, my wife was also occasionally in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet. At 930am, with an audible splash, she finally had her water break. With that having taken place, we knew we were now on our way to seeing our son. Crystal checked to see how dilated Shannon was; she was between 4 and 5 centimeters. At that point, we had hoped that labor would have progressed smoothly and swiftly. We had the birth pool full and warmed up. We just needed to welcome our son into the world.

The Unexpected

We kept our positive view for much of Friday. As the afternoon started to come and the contractions got more painful, we needed to see how well things were progressing. Between her contractions and all of labor, the baby should’ve been moving into position and her body ready to welcome him into the world.

Around 4pm, Crystal did another check of her cervix to see where we were at. Between 5 and 6 centimeters. We weren’t there yet. In fact, in the several hours of painful labor my wife had endured, there seemed to be little progress.

But there was more. Upon inspecting my wife’s progress, she also found a warning sign: meconium. Meconium is essentially baby’s first poop, composed of what the baby has ingested while in the uterus. Normally, this would come out in his first diaper after birth. But it being in the womb meant one thing: he was in some level of distress.

shannon crystal heart beat

Our midwife was also checking our son’s heart rate. While still beating fine, her results were showing that he went from being an active participant to a passive one, despite all of the contractions. Labor requires participation from both mother and infant. For him to not have a fluctuating heart rate at this point in labor indicated that he may not have the strength required for the ‘pushing phase.’

After almost forty hours of labor, we made the call: we’ll beam him out with a  transporter. Sadly, being stuck in the 20th century, we had to go with the more realistic option: transferring to the hospital.  We already had one in mind from prior planning with Crystal, and we made the call early enough that it wasn’t an emergency situation.12 Unfortunately, having planned a home birth, we had not packed a bag to take to the hospital. And for some reason, while putting things together, I didn’t think about packing enough for four days. Thankfully, the hospital we went to was only thirty minutes from home.

We arrived at the hospital around 7:30pm. We chose this particular hospital due to their reputation for being pro-natural birth in as much of a way as a hospital can be. Starting around 8:00pm, nurses, doctors, and a hospital midwife hooked Shannon up to several monitors and began tracking how she and our baby were doing. At this point, she had been in labor for 41 hours, with intense contractions for at least half that time. She “opted” for an epidural. [In her words, she “earned” it.]

crystal shannon hospital

At that point, we were still hoping for a natural, vaginal birth. We had gone to the hospital with the goal of still delivering as planned, just with a larger team ready to take care of our newborn once he arrived. Because of our son’s signs of distress, the initial plan was to give my wife Pitocin to speed up the labor process. By this point, though, our son’s heart rate was decelerating. Even if we sped up the process by artificial means, it still could take up to two hours to get through the pushing phase. Would our son have the strength needed to participate in that?

In the end, after careful consideration, we decided that it would be safer to go with a Caesarean section. It wasn’t at all what we had planned but, at this point, it was our best option.

Operation ‘Operation’

shannon hospital hallway crystal

The decision to go with the Caesarean was made before 11:00pm. By 11:15, Shannon was rolled out towards the operating room so they could prep her for the surgery. At 11:30, I was summoned to join her.

Now, this is something that I’m particularly glad about: I could go into the operating room with my wife. When my dad talks about my Caesarean birth, he says how he wasn’t allowed in there. I’m very glad that I could be there with my wife during our son’s birth.

I also was glad that they allowed our photographer, Kelly, to join us. We had originally planned for her to do video of our home birth. However, they would only allow her to take still photos in the operating room. Still, it’s better than nothing and definitely allowed for some great and memorable shots.

The concept of surgery in general has me thinking that it’ll take a long time. So when we were heading to the operating room, I was a bit unprepared when our midwife asked me, “How does it feel to know that you’ll see your son in a few minutes?” A few minutes? It was a question that brought on a surreal moment. He would be here. I remember how long my father’s heart bypass took, and I was expecting this surgery to last for a good amount of time, too. But a few minutes? That was a lot sooner than I was anticipating. And I was excited. And nervous. And everything in between.

me hospital thumbs up

After some minutes in the ‘prep area’, Kelly and I were finally escorted into the operating room. I think it was about 11:45pm at this point. I was put at a seat next to my wife’s head so we could talk. A blue drape was up, preventing us from seeing the surgery from our seated13 positions.

Shannon wasn’t feeling anything that the doctors were doing. I couldn’t see anything from my seated position. All I heard was the idle chatter from the doctors while her and I talked a bit. After a few minutes, the anesthesiologist asked me, “Do you want to see your son being born?”

That was a deep question at the moment. I mean, we had planned for a home birth, so I was prepared to see him be born. I was even ready to catch him in the birth pool. But I wasn’t prepared to see him born surgically. Then again, he’s only born once, so I wanted to see. So after just a couple of seconds, I replied in the affirmative.

“Then you’d better stand up.”

Stand up? Right now? But I’ve only been in the operating room for a few minutes, and I swear that my wife wasn’t cut open when I walked in. Sure enough, I stood up and saw the doctors doing a few clips and then pulling my son out of my wife’s body. That was a lot faster than I expected. And it also was amazing to see and hear him. Shannon, while hearing him right away, would be seeing him real soon.

And there he was. All 7 pounds 11 ounces of him. The doctors brought him over to show him to us briefly before handing him off to be cleaned in the corner of the room. And while he was a totally new being, someone that I had never set my eyes on before, he already seemed familiar. He also wasn’t a huge cryer, likely being worn out from labor, so it was almost like he was glad to be out and in the dry world.

me shannon tiberius hospital operating room

After given the opportunity to clip the rest of his umbilical cord, they finished cleaning him up and wrapped him in a blanket. Then he was back with us. One other thing we both were grateful for: because everything was fine, he never left our sight. After being cleaned and brought over, he was with us for the rest of our time in the hospital. I hear not all hospitals are so baby friendly. We’re glad that the one we chose was. That’s why we chose it, after all.

Moving Forward

As tough as the actual labor and birth process may have seemed, there was more to feel afterwards. It did pain us that we didn’t get the home birth that we originally wanted. We had done everything we could have to avoid a Caesarean. Yet, that’s ultimately what we ended up having to do. And in time, we’ve come to terms with those feelings. And we know that we can always try for those plans again with another child in the future.

Ultimately, we’re glad that Tiberius was born healthy. And over the past few months, we’ve seen him start to develop his personality. We’ve seen him smile. We’ve seen and heard him laugh and giggle. We’ve seen him begin to sit up on his own. And we’ve watched as his first two teeth have started to come in.

We couldn’t have asked for a better baby than Tiberius. He’s the very best, and we love him so very much.

hrach family

  1. Previous drafts of this post had the terms “over two weeks”, “over three weeks”, “over a month”, “three months”, and “almost six months”. I guess I’ve been working on this for a while.  

  2. Crystal also worked with an assistant, who was also well qualified. For us, that was Rose. 

  3. Bear was our nickname for our son; it still is, though we’ve added a few more 

  4. It’s never an exact due date, no matter how many ultrasounds and examinations are done. Why? Because each baby is different, and sometimes you don’t know exactly when the baby was conceived. 

  5. Roughly 

  6. At this point, the state would consider the pregnancy to be higher risk, though just crossing the 42 week mark doesn’t spontaneously put the baby at risk. 

  7. Obviously, water can’t break. This term refers to the spontaneous rupture of the amniotic sac surrounding the baby. 

  8. Don’t ask when I get up for work. 

  9. Rebecca went home for a short while, so she wasn’t with us continuously, though she was there for us all evening; we definitely appreciated it. 

  10. Not like it wasn’t overwhelming in its own way. But this is definitely an experience best shared with those that are knowledgable and experienced with labor and birth. 

  11. Of course, each mother and each pregnancy is different and will have its own unique timing. 

  12. We needed to go, for sure. But we didn’t need to be there within five minutes, nor did we need to get an ambulance. 

  13. Or, in my wife’s case, laying flat. 

Why I Buy Apple

Over the years, there have been some articles looking at the differences between owning a Mac and owning a PC. Some people try to create a comparable PC to an available Mac. Others have noted the difference when it comes to enterprise support costs.

Over the last decade, I’ve had my share of laptops. Before I became an Apple user in 2009, I had used a Gateway and Dell portable. I still own the Dell, though I don’t use it anymore. Once I got my first Mac, a mid-2009 15-inch MacBook Pro, I knew I wasn’t going back. It was not just the hardware quality but also the software. OS X was such a change from Windows, and the features built into each Mac, whether with the multi-touch gestures or the operating system itself, meant I was never going back to Windows as my primary system.

Earlier this week, I had to drop off my current Mac at the Apple Store. In short, my trackpad stopped functioning as it should. While a minor issue in itself, proper use of the trackpad is required for me to use my computer on a daily basis. So, early Monday afternoon, I dropped off my MacBook Pro at the local Apple Store. Thursday morning, I got a call saying that it was complete and ready to be picked up.

Since being a Mac user, I’ve never had to drop off my computer for repair work. Having faith in Apple’s support system, I knew that my trackpad would be repaired. But that wasn’t all that they touched. Upon receipt of my computer, I saw the product repair summary, which had a total of three items:

  1. Top Case w/ Battery – The retina MacBook Pro is created with the trackpad and keyboard being part of the top case on the laptop. To fix the trackpad meant replacing that entire piece. So, this I expected. (Though the new battery wasn’t expected, but I’ll gladly accept it.)
  2. Bottom Case – According to the summary, there was a sign of a wobble in the enclosure. If there was some kind of battery issue that lead to my failed trackpad, I can see why this might come in. Wasn’t expecting this, but I’m glad they found it.
  3. Audio Board – While I typically use headphones with my Mac, I haven’t noticed any issues with the sound from the internal speakers. Yet, somewhere along the lines, someone checked my system and determined that there was distorted audio coming from my computer. This replacement was definitely not foreseen by any means.

After three days without my computer, I had it back with the issue fixed and with other items that I didn’t even suspect also fixed. And while the laptop is a mid-2013 model, I bought it refurbished back in September, meaning that it is still in the one-year warranty that comes standard with the laptop. So the cost to me for all of this repair work was nothing.

I realize that this is a typical Apple story. But for me, I have a prior negative story to contrast it with. Back in 2006, I was still attending university. I had a laptop I was working to death in my engineering courses. Going with the advertisements in the day, I ended up with a Gateway. While I don’t recall the specs of my device at the time, I do recall trying to get that laptop fixed.

While I had some experience with custom desktops, I had no experience with troubleshooting issues on a laptop. So, when my 1-year old laptop started taking over 12 minutes to come out of hibernation, I knew something was going on with it but wasn’t sure what it was exactly.1 I decided to bring it back to the place where I had bought it, Best Buy, and see what the Geek Squad could do. After a check of the system and hearing about the symptoms, they packed it up and sent it off to be taken care of.

After a week, I got the call that my laptop was ready to be picked up. So, driving to Best Buy, I excitedly picked up my laptop and brought it home. I wanted to see how much better it performed. Would it be just like the first day I turned it on?

In a word, no. The computer still took over a half hour to boot. What did they do when I had shipped it in? Investigating the paperwork and making a few phone calls, I found out what was fixed: the case protecting my laptop screen. The techs apparently saw a crack and replaced it. Of course, replacing my laptop case wasn’t related to the symptoms I was seeing. The techs did nothing to address my actual concern. It wasn’t until the 2nd time that I sent it in that I was able to finally get it addressed.

That one experience turned me off from computer support for many years. And it is also one of the things that I truly appreciate about Apple. I have a friend that once went through a handful of iPod Touches. Why? The home button stopped working. The device was in warranty, and each time he took it in, they would replace it with a duplicate device.

For me, being able to take in my MacBook and get it repaired to an extent beyond what I had even expected is the kind of support I would gladly pay for. And it was provided for free. Apple might sell their devices for more than the competitors, but their service is top-of-the-line. I can’t think of any other tech company that provides similar service. If there is any reason to buy Apple, this is it.

  1. Yes, it was the hard drive, though I do recall there were other problems with the laptop at the time. I wasn’t good with this stuff back then.  

“Hands free”

This week is turning into an impromptu test of my iPad productivity. After a hardware issue with my Mac, my main productivity driver, I’m now without it while it is sent away for repairs.

My day job requires the use of a clunky Windows PC and, while that still works, it’s not capable of the scripting that I occasionally need to do, nor does it create an effective way to work with my project tracking workflow that I had already set up through the use of my Mac as a second computer.

So this week, I’m channeling my inner Federico Viticci and trying to use my iPad to fill in the gaps. While acting as a second screen, it’ll also provide some limitations for me.

First, I typically would use my Mac to keep several items in full screen, including Asana, where my work tasks and our internal issue list is duplicated. While there is an iOS Asana app, it isn’t the same as having the full webpage available on my Mac’s external display.1

I’m also missing the coding tools that I enjoy working with during the week. Particularly, I’ve been working on an internal site project and my own iOS apps. With no Mac, I’m not only separated from my code (which is safely backed up via a full Time Machine backup), but I’m also without applications such as Xcode. It’s a time like this that I wish there was some form of Xcode for iOS.

With my day job requiring that loaned Windows PC, I’m still able to perform my day job. The data systems I interface with daily require Internet Explorer, sadly.  So my day job is still intact. But not having access to the little tools, scripts, and tricks that I would use to help me get through my work day is forcing me to make these changes this week.

All isn’t lost. I’m writing this post via mobile Safari, and there are some things that I am hoping to finish writing this week. So my writing ability is still intact. It just feels naked to be without my main system. But it doesn’t mean I can’t still save the world with a kettle and some string. And look at me, I’m wearing a vegetable.


  1. Yes, I do have it open on my work PC. However, Windows 7 (and Windows in general) is terrible at making it easy to transition from one app to another without breaking your workflow. I’m constantly distracted by trying to click and click just to see a quick note and come back to where I was at before.