Mateo Week 2

So much progress was made since last week, it is hard to believe it’s only been seven days! So here’s the skinny.

Nicole
Nicole is feeling pretty great. She still has a little pain here and there but for the most part, I have my wife back. It is so nice to see her existing without nausea. She continues to enjoy her favorite meals and my mom is here to indulge her every craving. The only other ailment she has is a new insatiable appetite for buying baby stuff. Thanks to Etsy, we’ll be broke in by the end of the year. haha! Of course pumping breast milk means she has to get up multiple times a night to do the deed and as you can see, I am doing my best to support her. ha!

Mateo
The boy continues to impress us and the NICU staff! He is now taking nearly all of his feedings by bottle, which means the gavage feeding tube will soon be history. His umbilical IV is gone. He has started gaining weight and is now 4 lbs 2 oz, up from 3 lbs 14 oz. He has been maintaining his own body temperature for a while now and last night we had the biggest milestone yet: moving him to an open crib! The way the NICU is set up, the front area is reserved for the babies who are literally on their way out the door. That’s where Mateo’s new studio apartment is. With all his health issues addressed, all Mateo needs to do now is eat and grow.

So when does the boy come home?
This is a question we haven’t had the guts to ask yet. Honestly, Nicole and I prefer to take it day by day and when good things happen, they happen. Focusing too much on some hopeful end date would likely take away from our enjoyment of the time we currently spend with the little guy. So during each visit, he receives our full attention and energy and we figure the nurses will let us know what we need to know. And on that note, the nurse practitioner told us that she will be off for five days in a row and that she was disappointed that she wouldn’t be around to see Mateo go home. Now she didn’t say specifically WHEN he was going home, but she seems to think he will be gone by the time she returns at the end of next week. So using my highly developed Jersey logic skills, it would seem that our little man could be coming home sometime next week. Anyone else think he looks a little like a Christmas elf? 🙂

Mateo Week 1

I decided I would give a weekly update on Mateo’s progress until we have the little guy home. So here’s how things went down during week 1.

Nicole

Since Nicole had a C-section, we were able to stay in the hospital for a full four days. The nursing staff was awesome and the room was more like a hotel than a hospital. Despite having a nice big TV, our laptops, comic books, iPhones, and iPads, we spent the vast majority of the time talking. This proved to be a much needed break from “reality” that gave us time to really process and comprehend our newfound roles in life. After all, we are no longer just Nicole and Marc. We are now Mom and Dad. For two confirmed DINKS, that’s a lot to digest!

The four-day hospital stay was a blur but there were some notable events and milestones. First, Nicole started pumping breast milk. At this sensitive stage in Mateo’s growth, mother’s milk is truly the best medicine as it is packed with nutrients and antibodies that are specifically designed for his particular needs. This is biology at its best and it reminds me of why I fell in love with science. In the first few days, all we were able to get were tiny amounts of colostrum. Although we knew this was normal and it would still be a few days before Nicole’s milk came in, it was tough for her not to become discouraged. Fortunately, I was able to entertain her by doing an old lab trick called the “human centrifuge”. When she only produced about .25 mL of colostrum, it was really difficult to collect anything at all. The colostrum tends to coat the sides of the pump chute and never really makes it to the reservoir. Daddy to the rescue! By holding the assembled collection vial in my hand and spinning my arm like a windmill, I was able to extract a few precious drops. I would then collect these drops with a small syringe and run the sweet baby nectar down to the nursery. Now we will never know just how much this extra effort will impact baby Mateo’s recovery, but it certainly made a new dad feel like he was contributing to the process. And the new mom was encouraged because she was providing the thing her instincts told her her baby needed the most. By day 3, her milk came in and we now have a significant frozen surplus!

We came home from the hospital on Tuesday and Nicole was pleasantly surprised by her mommy sanctuary. Little did she know I snuck away each day for about an hour while she napped, and with the help of my mom and cousin Traci we cleaned and organized the nursery. The baby shower took place less than a week before Mateo’s big entrance and obviously we weren’t quite ready for all this. As always, family is there when you need them most. So all Nicole had to do was come home, relax, and heal.

Mateo

How’s the boy doing? In a word, great! He made significant progress in just seven days.

Breathing
His breathing was pretty good to start, but he did have an occasional spike in respiration rate. As a result, he was given CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) via those little nostril prongs. Essentially, Mateo was taking every breath on his own, but the positive pressure kept his airsacs open. Every day, the pressure was decreased until exactly seven days later (Friday) when the prongs were removed. He is now breathing comfortably and steadily and we can see his entire face. w00t!

Jaundice
Although neither of us saw any yellowing of his skin, blood tests showed that he did have a touch of jaundice. So there were several days when he slept in his little tanning bed. This is pretty standard stuff even for full-term babies. In Mateo’s case, it was completely expected because he isn’t receiving full feedings yet. Excess bilirubin (a by-product of old red blood cells) usually passes through the gut and comes out in the poop. Since there is no poop yet, the bilirubin builds up causing the condition known as jaundice. Phototherapy is the answer as it breaks down the bilirubin into products the baby can get rid of. As the feedings increased, so did the poopy diapers and as a result, he is done with his phototherapy.

Eating
Since Mateo’s gastrointestinal system is so new, he isn’t quite ready to take on full milk feedings. So over the course of the week, the nurses slowly introduced milk with only 1 mL every three hours via a feeding tube in his mouth. As the volume of milk went up, his supplemental IV nutrition went down. By the end of the week, he was up to 23 mL feedings every three hours, and the IV was down to a trickle. We are expecting the umbilical IV to be removed early in Week 2 since there really isn’t much need for it anymore. His mouth feeding tube was removed on Friday and replaced with a less intrusive nose feeding tube. As he begins to take more feedings by mouth, either at breast or by bottle, there will be less and less of a need for the nose tube and eventually that will come out too.

Thankfully, he is getting 100% breast milk right now. Nicole is providing an ample supply. Once he gets to his full 30 mL feedings, they plan on fortifying the breast milk with a special formula to help him pack on the pounds.

Weight
Mateo entered the world at 3 lbs 14 oz. As is the case with all newborns, he lost some weight initially. We knew this so we really didn’t inquire about his weight until this Friday. He apparently worked his way up to a full 4 lbs, but then dropped back to his birth weight. But we are trending in the right direction now and with full feedings and fortification, we expect his weight to start climbing this week.

In summary, the NICU is nearly done fixing everything that needs to be fixed. From here on out his stay in the NICU will consist of eating, sleeping, pooping, and being loved. Nicole and I are making two visits each day and we usually hold him for at least an hour. He does latch on to Nicole’s breast but he’s a little young for the whole sucking, breathing, swallowing thing just yet. Most sources say this level of coordination doesn’t begin until week 34, which is this coming week. But at this point, if he latches and gets his feedings at the same time, we have everything in place if/when he decides to suckle.

I think I’ll close this post out with a little video of Mateo sneezing.

Hello Baby!

Nicole and I would like to introduce you all to Mateo Xavier Spagnuolo. Our bouncing baby boy arrived on 10/28/11 and weighed in at a whopping 3 lbs 14 oz. Yep, he was a bit ahead of schedule. 7 weeks in fact. We are still a little dumbstruck by all of this but Nicole is healing well and Mateo is a spunky little dude.

Many of you are probably already aware that Nicole’s pregnancy has been anything but typical. She started getting sick the day after she found out she was pregnant and the nausea continued well into the third trimester. This wasn’t the kind of “sick” you see in movies where the woman runs to the bathroom, pukes, and then goes back to work like nothing happened. This is the kind of sick that lands you in the hospital getting fluids through an IV. She began taking Zofran after we tried just about every natural remedy we could think of. The Zofran did help her keep food and liquids down, but it didn’t do much for the constant food aversions and general misery of a constantly nauseous state. Without revealing my beautiful bride’s vital stats, I can safely tell you that she lost 15 lbs before the end of the second trimester. It was only this past week that she finally reached her pre-pregnancy weight. The poor girl has endured what is easily the most trying 7 months of her life. Despite the grim picture I’ve painted, her spirits were high, all pre-natal visits went great, and she knew it would all be worth it in the end. We were blissfully unaware of what nature had in store for us.

Around 3am Friday morning, she started getting cramps at fairly regular intervals. Our first thought was Braxton Hicks (false labor) contractions. After all, she hadn’t experienced any noticeable contractions up to this point and she didn’t know exactly what they felt like. But because the contractions were regular, frequent, intense, and getting worse, we began to suspect something was up. After noticing some spotting, we called our Doula and she recommended we go to the hospital immediately. To make a long story short, Nicole’s placenta was detaching from her uterus thanks to a condition known as placental abruption. Her contractions were by no means normal and the pain was nothing short of excruciating. It was only well after the fact that we found out just how much danger both she and the baby were in. Fortunately, her body gave her enough advanced warning that we were able to get to the hospital before things to escalated to a level I don’t even want to think about. There is no doubt in my mind that we narrowly dodged a bullet. We arrived at the ER at about 5:15 am and at 7:31 am our baby boy was breathing his first breath of air, delivered by an emergency C-section. I guess we won’t be taking the “Pickles and Ice Cream Tour” we had scheduled this weekend.

Nicole and I were originally aiming for a natural childbirth. We’re not super “crunchy” or anything but we did want to let nature take its course as much as possible with intervention only when necessary. While doing our research on the birthing process, we watched several documentaries and read a few books that had a way of villainizing the American medical system. I don’t plan on getting into any commentary on that, but all I can say is thank goodness we had this system at our disposal when we need it. Our baby now has a sporting chance at a “normal” life, despite opening his eyes to a world he wasn’t supposed to see for a another seven weeks.

So now, in true Spagnuolo style, Nicole and I are sitting in our room at the hospital accompanied by our laptops, iPads, and iPhones. That’s just how we roll. With a baby in the NICU, you have a lot of time on your hands and its nice to have some distractions. But rest assured, we are allowing plenty of time for our little one. At this stage, it is mostly hands off. In the mean time, we ponder the future and share laughter, tears, elation, fear, apprehension, optimism, and joy.

Our baby isn’t out of the woods yet, but the prognosis is good. His breathing is just about normal now and he is incredibly feisty. He has a touch of mild jaundice and is undergoing a little phototherapy. He was apprehensive at first but once we explained to him that this was just like using a tanning bed, he seemed to become much more comfortable with the idea. Fist pump!!!

We truly appreciate all the well-wishes and kind words from our online and offline friends. Most of you have been a part of our lives in some way since 2006, so it feels very natural to share some intimate details on the next leg of our family’s journey. We are lucky to have so many friends. Please direct all thoughts, vibes, prayers, positive mojo, or whatever else you’re into directly toward our little Mateo. And in 18 years, lock up your daughters (or sons, just because we’re open-minded that way)!

Below are a few additional pictures of Nicole’s first moments meeting our son. Also our first family shot and the Wushi Finger Hold. Skadoosh!

*Update*
A few folks have inquired about the name choice. Here’s the skinny. I picked Mateo because I thought it sounded cool with our last name. I originally thought we would spell it with two t’s (Matteo), but Nicole preferred the single t. It took all of five minutes to pick the name. Nicole and I don’t really put a whole lot of stock in baby name origins and meanings and instead we go with what feels right. After all, Mateo means “Gift of God”. Sort of ironic coming from two non-religious people. But there is no doubt that the boy is our “gift”. As for Xavier, that comes from Nicole’s grandfather. But I told her I would always insist it was inspired by Professor Xavier of X-men fame.

I Hate Your Avatar!

Welcome to the first of what will likely be MANY posts in this category: Douchebag Awards. Anyone who produces content for public consumption will no doubt have to deal with their fair share of ridiculous requests, harsh criticisms, and hurtful/hateful commentary. You quickly learn NOT to feed the trolls! Responding to these people with aggression or *gasp* logic, only serves to give them a sick satisfaction while making your life a living hell. Remember that old saying? “Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty and the pig likes it.” So what I’ll do here is post the person’s comment, followed by my actual response (if I gave one). Then I’ll give the response I really wanted to give, but decided against. Yeah, this should be fun and therapeutic!

The Douchebag

I, REALLY, wish you would change your profile picture on the Woodworker channel! When I have your webpage open, I have these buggy eyes looking at me — it is irritating! I like your videos; and, since I have have watched so many on YouTube, every time I open YouTube, there is your picutre on my main screen suggesting videos you have made. I, actually, get annoyed opening YouTube because I recognize I am going to have your buggy eyes on my screen! (I, also, think it would add some professionalism to your website if you had a more respectable picture.) So, if it isn’t too much trouble, I, personally, would very much appreciate a new look! Thank you very much!!!

My Response

Well, you’ll be happy to know I did change the picture, primarily because it was well overdue. Unfortunately, this picture might annoy you too. I like to have fun with my avatars so there might be numerous versions in the future that you don’t like. Going with a boring corporate logo just isn’t my style.

What I Really Think

So this one is rather tame. But on a Sunday morning, something like this just disturbs my serenity bubble. I guess that’s what I get for checking my email on the weekend.

Here’s what this guy is actually talking about. I highlighted an example of the size and location of the image. Now I’ll be the first to admit that my picture is a little unsettling and most people would be a little weirded out by it. That’s what makes it so great!! But if you are SO bothered by that little thumbnail that it begins to impact your overall enjoyment of YouTube as a whole, perhaps “disturbed” really is a good word for you! With all the social media and content sites I visit on a daily basis, I see more than a few avatars that annoy me. I just can’t imagine having the audacity to email the person to ask them to change it. Maybe that’s just me.

The other thing about the comment that makes me laugh is the attempt to appeal to my need for professionalism. Thanks for the sound business advice YouTube guy! Where should I send the consultation fee? One of things that makes The Wood Whisperer special is the fact that it is NOT perfect or politically correct. Over the years, our videos, merchandise, and website have certainly become much more polished and I do pride myself on delivering a high quality product. But the heart, the humor, and the humanity is all still very much intact. If I ever lose those things, I give you all permission to kick me in the balls.

I once received an email from a lady on Facebook complaining that my recent mention of “menstrual cycles” was the last straw. Whoops! Ultimately, I realize that my off-color humor may not be for everyone. But seriously, there are plenty of woodworking resources out there that are completely devoid of personality, humor, and life. I would be an absolute moron to try to complete on the level of pure information. My only competitive edge in this industry (and the only reason The Wood Whisperer exists), is because of the humorous, irreverent, human, and sometimes self-deprecating spin. And much like any good joke, some won’t get it, some will be offended, but many will LOVE it. You have to break some eggs if you want to make an omelet.

How Not to Make Money on the Internet

As someone who has been running an online business for the last 5 years, I have gained some perspective on what its like to make money on the web. Since it is my livelihood, it’s something I think about constantly. But you might be surprised to know I am rarely thinking about ways to make MORE money. Instead, I find myself wading through the available options and opportunities, trying to decide which methods are acceptable for me, my business, and my audience. The end result is typically significant amounts of money being left on the table. Most times, I simply ask myself, “Would I want to be advertised to in that way?” If I’m not sure, a quick conversation with Nicole usually closes the deal.

Once you have a website with a decent and consistent flow of traffic, opportunities abound! While capitalizing on all those opportunities may line your pockets in the short term, it will no doubt jeopardize your relationship with your audience in the long term. So you really do have to be careful about your choices in monetization options. Now I’m no expert in this area, but I do know what works for me.

I believe a content-producer has the right to monetize till they’re blue in the face and I would never begrudge someone for doing so. But when it comes to my audience, I have a certain level of respect and friendship (if you can imagine such a thing happening with thousands of strangers), that I don’t want to jeopardize. So ultimately, I’d rather lose money and gain respect. After all, if I am smart about my monetization methods, that long-term respect can lead to even greater earnings potential in the future.

It is becoming a habit of mine on this personal blog to let loose some fairly personal details, so let’s keep that theme going by reviewing a few of the monetization opportunities I routinely turn down and why. Again, this in no way meant to be advice or a “how-to”. Most of the time I’m just “winging’ it” anyway! These are just personal opinions, gut feelings, and general principles that I feel make The Wood Whisperer the company that many folks know and love.

First off, here are my three rules concerning advertising:

1. Respect the content!
2. Never mix content and advertising in a deceptive way.
3. Always keep the reader’s/viewer’s experience in mind.

With those in mind, here are the dirty rascals…

Text Link Ads

This monetization method involves partnering with a 3rd party company that combs your site for keywords. If they find a keyword that matches up to an ad they have in the database, the word is hyperlinked. Every time the link is clicked the site owner gets a small amount of revenue. This breaks rule #1 and #2 in a very deceptive way. When I click on a link in an article, I expect this is an item the author is linking to as an extra resource or even a product they specifically recommend. But that is not the case. These links populate based on whatever keywords are in the database and the author has little to no control over them. Fortunately, text link ads are pretty easy to spot as they are typically double-underlined.

I like to think of my articles as mini conversations with my readers. Imagine talking to someone and saying, “So I went into my shop (CHECK OUT SHOP.COM!!) yesterday and used my iPhone (BUY iPHONES HERE FOR CHEAP!) to take pictures of a beautiful maple board (MAPLE FLOORING AT DEEP DISCOUNT PRICES)”. Not only is that annoying and irrelevant, it’s counter-productive to my ultimate goal: keeping people engaged and on my site for as long as possible. It just isn’t worth the $0.15/click to send you away from my site in the middle of our conversation.

Breaking Articles into Multiple Pages

About.com, I’m talking to you! This drives me nuts as a reader. I have a scroll bar on my mouse and I enjoy using it. There is really no need for a small article to be broken up into 4 pages. The only logic I can see behind this is the fact that it boosts page views. If every article takes up 2-3 pages, that’s 2-3 times more page views than if the article appeared on one single page. So its a great way to inflate your numbers to please advertisers. Unfortunately, the reader is on the losing end, having to click through multiple pages to read a very short article.

Facebook Mentions

This is a fairly new one for me. I was recently offered $50 to do nothing more than say, “Check out Website XYZ” on my Facebook page. Much like my Twitter account, every post is coming directly from me. If I post a link, I see it as a genuine recommendation about something I think my audience will enjoy. My reputation is attached to that recommendation. Dropping a meaningless ad in there just feels…..icky. My status updates on social media sites are essentially my words. And at this stage of the game, I just don’t feel the need to monetize my words in that way.

YouTube Description Ads

This is also a fairly new development. I have to routinely turn down offers to insert links into my video descriptions on YouTube. Frankly, these just piss me off so I usually don’t even grace them with a response. YouTube’s linking rules are so stringent that I’m lucky to have my own link in there, let alone someone else’s!

Excerpts in RSS Feeds

When you run a blog, you usually have a choice as to how your RSS feeds appear in readers. You can set it to “Full Article” or “Excerpts”. In my opinion, excerpts are completely counter-productive for the reader and possibly even for the author. They are nothing more than teaser content used to hopefully drive the reader to the source website in the hopes of increasing traffic. But for people who read hundreds of blogs in a reader, its a good way to find yourself booted off their reading list. The way I see it, I want as many eyeballs to see my content as possible. Half of the battle when you produce content online is awareness. Why limit your potential by gimping the technology? This is one of those trade-offs again, right? Is the minor increase in traffic worth the cost of convenience to my readers? For me, the answer is no.

Pre-Roll Video Ads

Now this is the one that will most likely boggle your mind. I know it certainly boggles mine. A few years ago, Blip.tv (my video host) started implementing a robust ad program. You can turn on pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads by simply checking a little box. In order to entice you into opting in, they display a little message at the top of your dashboard telling you how much money you COULD be making based on the past performance of your videos. As you can see, I have $1900/month just sitting there, looking all sexy sporting that “come hither” look. Truth is, I have toyed with these ads in the past. And while I will defend my right to turn those ads on, I just can’t get myself to do it. Every time I press play on one of my videos and see an ad for Trojan Condoms, or Febreeze, or Best Buy, a little woodworking gnome dies. It just doesn’t feel right to me. As much video as I consume online, I am completely jaded to pre-roll ads and I think most folks are in the same boat. But as long as we have sponsors on our site, I just can’t justify extending the distance between my viewers and my videos by 30 seconds.  Believe me, it’s incredibly difficult looking at what essentially amounts to my mortgage payment sitting there just waiting for me every month. But I honestly feel that providing a more enjoyable experience on my site leads to more positive juju and more time spent exploring what my site has to offer. Monetization will have to come in other ways.

The Guild

The Wood Whisperer Guild has become, hands down, the largest source of revenue for my business. For those who aren’t familiar, this is the paid membership portion of my website. Having a membership site coupled with a popular free website means I have near constant opportunities to slip in a plug for the Guild. But most times, I just don’t. I will occasionally mention an upcoming build or send out a video featuring a segment from a Guild video. But I make sure the segments are always complete thoughts. No cliff hangers, no teasers, no up-sells. In fact, if you go to the home page now and you don’t know what the Guild is, you’d have a hard time knowing the option even exists! FYI, this will change to some extent with a future iteration of the website. I do plan to make the Guild’s presence a little more obvious.

But despite this lack of a hard sell, the Guild is thriving! Why? I have to believe it is because of some of the things mentioned above. Of course we have great woodworking content and I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into my videos, but I like to think we helped foster a culture of woodworkers that folks just want to be a part of. An honest to goodness grassroots effort where all are welcome to participate and attitudes are checked at the door. Dropping $199 on an online membership takes a lot of trust on the part of the user. And this is where I feel I am getting the most payoff from all of my previous “lofty” views and policies toward advertising and dealing with people. I have established a trusting relationship with my readers and as a result people know what to expect from me. They either think the membership is worth it, or they don’t. There is very little suspicion or debate about whether I will deliver on my promises; only questions about whether what I promise is worth the asking price. When someone does approach me with a sense of doubt about the program, I simply tell them to wait. Enjoy the free site for a few months and make a decision at that time. In the end, they usually wind up joining after a few days. So when asked why I don’t push the Guild more aggressively, the simple answer is (thankfully) because I don’t yet need to.

Sometimes these posts just become a stream of consciousness and I don’t really even know what I expect to accomplish with them. I suppose mostly its a form of therapy for me. I enjoy sitting in my recliner letting the words flow out. The fact that people actually read them is pretty freakin’ awesome. So hopefully this provides something useful to someone. And if not, at least it gives you a little more insight into what makes The Wood Whisperer tick. Perhaps in the future, I’ll talk a little bit about the monetization methods I find fruitful and why.