I'll write more as I get time, but for now a link to Keaton's gallery.
The play-by-play folks, the birth entry. I'll do my best to update this with info as things proceed, rather than doing one entry-per-update. Get your fingers on F5, and refresh often to get the latest.
Friday, 11:11am: Sharaun calls me at work to ask if I'm planning on coming home for lunch. She also mentions that she's noticed some "spotting," which is kinda too gross to really explain - but could mean things are starting to happen.
Saturday, 8:45pm: Sharaun and I throw in one of my favorite movies to pass the time, Castaway, and settle down to watch. She mentions that there's been more "bathroom signs" of impending labor (nasty details left to the imagination).
Sunday, 4:20am: Sharaun wakes me up to say she thinks she's had a couple contractions, which came about 20min apart. We decide to begin timing.
Sunday, 5:45am: Contractions confirmed! Now about 10min apart. We both wake, take showers, and begin to gather the final gear we'll need to take with us to the hospital.
Sunday, 6:11am: Contractions now 5min apart... that was... unexpectedly fast... we're putting things together, leaving soon if the next few are ~5min as well.
Sunday, 7:08am: Contractions have slowed now, coming about 10min apart currently. Still at home, ready to go when the time comes.
Sunday, 8:15am: Still spot-on 10min between contractions, although I can tell by watching her they're getting stronger (more hurty). She's actually able to sleep in the 10min between them, and I just plan to let her stay here as long as we can.
Sunday, 8:45am: What started out as a sunny-looking morning has quickly turned grey and is currently threatening rain. Sharaun's asleep, contractions still about 10min apart - with a few variations (she either missed one or slept through it). I'm just sitting here... trying to find something to do... waiting for the rain.
Sunday, 10:05am: Waiting patiently, Sharaun's now up and the contractions seemed to have slowed to something between 15-20min. I microwaved a bowl of last night's leftover spaghetti, I know it's not really a spaghetti time of day - but I've been up long enough my belly's telling me it's lunchtime. Anyway, what better than my favorite food to give me the strength I'll need to see Sharaun through. Until more nothing happens...
Sunday, 10:25am: Word's getting out - friends've been calling, offering assistance and well-wishes; nature is still taking its sweet-ass time. In fact, Sharaun hasn't had a contraction for 40min now, and I'm hoping this whole thing isn't just false labor. We're about to take a walk around the neighborhood - before it rains - to see if we can't jump-start the process.
Sunday, 11:30am: With nearly two hours gone since her last contraction, I was beginning to wonder what was going on. Then, she had what she "thinks" was a contraction. Maybe the walking worked... the timer's counting, maybe we'll get started again.
Sunday, 12:15pm: Third contraction on a 20min beat-rate... we back on track? Stay tuned...
Sunday, 1:22pm: Contractions falling off again, almost 40min between this time. If timings were all the info I had, I'd diagnose it as "false labor," but the books say there's no pain associated with those irregular contractions - and she's definitely in pain with these. Of course, they also make the blanket statement that, "nothing is absolute in any pregnancy."
Sunday, 1:40pm: Finally called the doctor, who said that she doubts it's false labor - since Sharaun is already several days overdue. The post-40min contraction came a mere 15min later, so maybe things are picking up. I guess this is really it, just a frustratingly random "it."
Sunday, 2:45pm: Still lumbering along at this odd pace... 40min, 15min, 20min, no discernible pattern. It's raining now, and I, having been up since before 5am, decide to take a nap on the couch. Funny how urgent I thought things were 'round about 6am this morning... woulda been less rushed had I known I'd be catnapping on the couch come 2pm. Maybe this baby is trying to teach me patience...
Sunday, 3:55pm: I took all sorts of higher mathematics courses on my road to an engineering degree, so while I'm sitting here timing these contractions I'm trying to fit them to some model. Math be damned, though, I can't find anything "regular" about these things to save my life. The last five?: 14min, 7min, 28min, 27min, 21min, 11min (all about 1min long and, according to Sharaun, equally painful). My only thought is, Sharaun's labor is going to be just like Sharaun: hopelessly disorganized.
Sunday, 4:45pm: ... 20min, 10min, 6min. In birth class they talked about contraction duration, time between contractions, and how much they hurt. The whole time my nerd brain is translating this laytalk into frequency, amplitude, and wavelength. Right now, on the graph in my head, this is one of the effed-up-lookinist "periodic" waves I've ever seen.
Sunday, 5:30pm: Although not every contraction is 10min apart, the amount of them that are seems to be increasing. The contractions themselves are actually pretty consistent, being, for the most part, uniformly ~1min long and pain enough that Sharaun stops talking and concentrates on breathing. We shall overcome.
Sunday, 6:00pm: 10min, 12min, 16min. That's the patterniest few I've seen in a while. I think, if they stay <20min apart for another 30min or so, we'll call the doc and see if we can head up to get a check. Worst thing that can happen is they send us back home.
Sunday, 6:30pm: Three more at 10min or less apart. We decided we will wait for that 5min-apart milestone before rolling out to l'hopital. If she stays consistent, I'd expect that to take at least 2-3 more hours.
Sunday, 7:30pm: Every time I get excited about these things coming faster, they reset - to torture me I think. Only two in the past hour, but that last one made her yelp out... so much stronger than anything thus far. I'm thinking a well-planned nap now might be in order, as she looks determined to wait till Monday (Grandma's birthday, on Sharaun's side, maybe she knows...)
Sunday, 8:00pm: Let's recap: Sharaun's been in labor now for about fifteen hours. Although, it hasn't been super intense (easy for me to say). Despite my protestations, she just cooked us both grilled cheese and tomato soup, simply taking a break for contractions (10min, and then 11min, after the two 30min-apart ones, if you're keeping track). She's been eating normally, napping, and taking it easy in general. For a woman in labor, she's sure sucking it up.
Sunday, 8:30pm: Ooowwwwww.... I'm gonna call these new kinda contractions: Contractions 2.0. Contractions 2.0 do not look fun. Contractions 2.0 look downright agonizing, squirmy and stabby. If you're keeping track, it went: 8min, 10min, 24min, 9min. As maygsters said, "Come on Keaton!"
Sunday, 9:00pm: Contractions 2.0 continue, but 25min since the last. I can tell Sharaun's starting to think about just how painful these things will get, knowing how much worse they've already gotten. Hey Keaton, here's a picture of your brave mommy workin' you out early this morning.
Sunday, 9:45pm: Waffling between 10min and 25min apart, which, looking back, has actually been going on for a while. Nothing new... still waiting.
Sunday, 10:30pm: I guess I'm beginning to let my guard down; took off the belt, shirt, and finally took my wallet and keys out of my pockets - subconsciously admitting that we'll likely be bedding here again tonight. Sharaun is apologizing to me, telling me she feels like she's disappointing me because the whole thing is taking so long - as ridiculous as that sounds. And, for the records, we had another 40min wait and then two 9min back-to-backs. As random as ever.
Sunday, 11:00pm: We've decided to try and go to bed, but continue to time the contractions. For timing, I've been using the stopwatch function on my cellphone, in lap-time mode. You can keep a running log of both contraction duration and time between - and store it off every 20 "laps." It works well. Right now she's on her longest 10min streak since way earlier today at three in a row. While we can get sleep though, we're gonna go for it. I'll continue to post as we wake for contractions.
Monday, 12:36am: No sooner have we settled into bed do the regular, strong 7min contractions come. And, I'm up now because Sharaun's water broke - that's it folks, we're off to the hospital. She's finally coming!
Monday, 2:08am: Sharaun's admitted and hooked up to monitors. The wireless is on lockdown, but there's a phoneline and I'm winging bits and bytes at a whopping 26.4Kbps. Contractions are <5min apart and look absolutely awful. No word from the attending yet, but as soon as there's something to report you'll see it here.
Monday, 2:30am: Oh. My. God. This looks unbearable. I actually had tears in my eyes watching that last one... and there's nothing I can really do aside from rooting her on. Wow.
Monday, 4:00am: There's a pull-out bed in the room, and I've been trying to catch some sleep while Sharaun moans her way through her contractions, which come about every 3min now. I think she was a little discouraged when the nurse told her she was only 2cm dilated - but they did say she should progress at about 1cm per hour from this point on. She toyed briefly with the idea of some narcotic to take the edge off, but decided against it. Until later.
Monday, 8:00am: While I had 240min of fairly restful sleep, Sharaun had approximately 80, what look to be torturous, contractions. Can make a guy feel kinda guilty, but I was exhausted. No significant update on progress from the doctors... they say they're waiting for contractions to get closer together and very strong. I think that's got Sharaun worried, as she's curling toes through these already. More to come...
Monday, 8:20am: I read most of the recent comments to Sharaun, and saw her brighten a little for the first time. For those of you who've not given birth - they hook mom up to these monitors that chart contractions, drawing little peaks and valleys. The digital display has about ten little subsections on it, one of which charts Sharaun's progress. Other mom's laboring in other rooms have their own little square and graph, meaning all the moms can see the other mom's graphs. Sharaun's been watching one graph like a hawk, as the peaks showing regularly on it are at least 2x as high as the peaks showing on hers. This must be a terrible feeling. "Am I gonna have those kind?," she asks, "I can't do that!" I don't mean to paint it all doom-and-gloom, she's doing great, and has been a little soldier through it all.
Monday, 9:00am: Sharaun was able to talk to her mom a little between contractions. The attending doctor came in and said much of the same, albeit more professionally since he was wearing a tie and had pens in his breast pocket. Since her water already broke, they don't do regular exams to track dilation/progress - as it just introduces unnecessary foreign junk to the baby. So, they're waiting to judge dilation based on contraction frequency and strength - and the doc guesses she's still in the 2-3cm range. I've been reading her the blog comments as they come in and she really enjoys it and wanted to make sure I tell everyone "thanks" from her.
Monday, 9:20am: When I mentioned yesterday that I “might bring my laptop to the hospital,” Sharaun surprised me by responding, “Yeah, I thought you would – you can blog from the room if you can get online.” For a wife that complains I spend too much time in front of this thing, she’s been really cool about it sitting on my lap while I hold her hand through the contractions. The doctor came in and recognized what I was doing, “Blogging the birth?,” he asked. “Yup!” I’m actually happy that I was able to get online, as I think we’ll be glad one day we have this turn-by-turn account of things. Or, maybe not.
I feel like I might be portraying too grim an image of this whole thing. Sharaun’s not in abject misery, not writhing in pain this entire time or anything. Things aren’t all puppies and kittens, but in between contractions she’s mostly her normal self. I can tell she’s ready for something to take the pain away, and I hope that comes within a couple hours or so, but it’s not like she’s on the racks or in an iron maiden. So, keep the well-wishes coming, just don’t imagine a scene where she’s giving birth naked covered in fire ants or anything.
Monday, 9:50am: Sharaun found a better way to sit, the hospital bed was really bugging her – and she’s now resting in a rocking chair and doing better powering through things. Outside it’s really coming down in sheets, we’ve pulled back the curtains and are watching the storm. Nurses are coming more frequently now, not sure if that means anything – but they do keep assuring her she’s “making progress.” They brought her some Jell-O and apple juice, and somewhere from deep in the bowels of this place I can smell real food – which she won’t get, but is grabbing me by the nose and making me think thoughts of McBiscuits or something.
Monday, 10:30am: Don’t tell the doctors, but I’ve snuck Sharaun a couple pretzels from my Gardettos. Pretzels I can spare, those little brown crunchy toasts – I’m holding those over her head until she can produce a baby. They moved her contraction monitor, and it turns out she was having those 2x peaks all along – they just weren’t being captured properly – that gave her some confidence. The rain has stopped.
Monday, 11:20am: Not jack going on. Unless, of course, you call uterine contractions pushing a living being out of my wife’s cooter “jack.” They ask her, on a pain-scale of 1-10, what her contractions are like. When we got here, they were a 5; now she says they’re 8s. Pretty bad when the nurse described a 10 as “getting run over by a truck,” I mean, since everyone knows what it feels like to be run over by a truck and can easily use that experience as a comparison point. Anyway, still ~5min apart, still hurty-lookin’, and still waiting. Rain came back.
Monday, 12:10pm:Coming up on twelve hours of labor in the hospital, on top of all day at home yesterday. Sharaun still doing well, but she’s wisely trying to catch some Zs in between contractions (which is nearly impossible). Within the last half-hour, the contractions have actually slowed… perhaps we’re in for still longer.
All the pregnancy/baby books talk about making a “birthing plan” and bringing several copies of it with you when you go to the hospital. The plan is supposed to be a formal document of how you’d like your birth to go down: drugs/no drugs, people in the delivery room, dad cuts the cord, etc. We didn’t do a birthing plan. In fact, we thought the idea was kinda stupid, a little too Our Bodies, Ourselves or something. We just came up here trusting that the hospital, which is where everyone goes to have babies, knows how best to make our baby work.
Monday, 1:00pm: Nurse measured again, little-to-no progress from this morning’s 2cm (she’s right about 3cm now, but moving very slowly). The nurse suspects the doc will resort to pitocin soon to get the lead out of this whole thing. Stay tuned.
Monday, 1:10pm: Doc's call: epidural followed by pitocin – to be administered in the next 5min or so. Not sure when I’ll update next, as the drugs will likely make things move pretty fast. Until I can…
Monday, 2:30pm: I guess I overestimated the fast-actingness of the pitocin, they actually start it off slow and ratchet it up every half hour until mom responds. Not that it won’t speed things up, but I think I’ll have time to at least post a few more updates. Prior to the drugs, Sharaun’s contractions slowed considerably, there was more than 40min between her last and the pitocin – almost like they’d dried up again. This is one stubborn baby… just like her folks. But, the down-time did give her a chance to sleep. She immediately passed out, and I’m hoping what little slumber she got was somewhat recharging. After the drugs, they encouraged her to sleep while the pitocin went to work on her now-numbed body.
Meanwhile, I called in a favor and have our good friend Kristi bringing a Chipotle burrito up to sustain me – because… y’know… I’m doing so much work and all. Lord let this child come soon! Sheesh.
Monday, 2:50pm: Drew the curtains and turned off the lights and TV (which was filled with daytime crap anyway – three judge/court things and soap operas – unemployed people sure get the shaft when it comes to entertainment). My burrito should be en-route, and I don’t plan on eating it in the room – I’ll sneak off somewhere and chomp it down then chase it with some gum so nary a whiff of pico remains on my breath. Looking at her now, asleep, she actually looks pretty peaceful. I’d imagine that will change here within a few hours (please... not another 12) as she moves into the “pushing” phase.
We wanted to thank everyone for the comments on this entry. I read them to her as they come in and it's a really cool way to get well-wishes from the digital peanut gallery. E-labor, the newest thing... we're so on the cutting edge.
Monday, 4:05pm: Pitocin in action – from 2cm to 6cm in under 2hrs. They just put all sorts of internal monitors up in her bidness – looks like there’s a server room up in her belly with all the cords coming out (nerd humor, if you don’t get it just move on). Epidural also in action, she’s moving through contractions with just a sense of pressure and the littlest of pain. I did my best to weasel an approximate timeline out of the nurse team that descended here minutes ago – and was told that, although nothing is for sure, she should be moving now at more than 1cm per hour – and that pushing could last anywhere from 1-3hrs. Adding up the worst case, that tells me that I can expect our daughter to make an appearance sometime before 11pm. Man… that still seems so far off…
Monday, 5:05pm: Both of us taking the down-time to sleep. Nurses say she's still at 6cm, but that she'd only just turned 6 the last time they checked an hour ago. They are still fiddling with the pitocin to try and get the contractions more regular - as they still seem to want to space out randomly. More waiting and, if we're lucky, a little more sleeping.
Monday, 6:52pm: 9cm. Sharaun’s got a case of the shakes, and feels nauseous… the nurses say both are a reaction to the epidural and just fatigue. She’s asked them to back off the epidural, as she’s worried she’s too out of it to push (which, again, I think is more nerves than anything). She’s managed to go to sleep again. It's just about killing me to see her so scared. 9cm is close y’allz… I’m thinking it could be soon.
Monday, 7:08pm: Holy sweet crap, this thing is taking forever. I swear, we’re approaching the 39 hour mark from her initial contractions, and the 18 hour mark from her water breaking. I was OK with it before, but now it’s beginning to drag on like it’s never gonna happen. If I’m this tired of being here and doing this, I can’t even imagine how she feels.
I’ve got one of those fatigue headaches that just blanket your brain in a dull pain, and I’m just so tired of seeing her upset. Again, I guess when I write about things they tend to be the more negative ones – this whole battle isn’t being fought from the trenches nearly as much as I may make it sound. It really is hard though, to try and reassure someone that everything’s going to be OK and not have those assurances ring hollow.
The doctor came and dialed back her epidural, at her request. She’s still asleep, and a thousand things are still beeping and dinging and clicking and whirring like we’re on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise (the 1960s one, not the Next Generation one).
Monday, 7:36pm: 9.5cm, they're making preparations to push.
Monday, 8:00pm: Delivery room is a hive of activity. Doctor’s on her way, Sharaun’s either rested and rejuvenated or her adrenaline is kicking in – as she’s back to her normal “with it” self and can converse without scaring me to death that she’s totally whacked. Myself, I think I’m in that “could lift a car off a trapped child” rush – like I just dove out of a plane or something. I’m up and about, pacing mostly, waiting for the “rah rah push push” part of my job to start. Oh man I am so excited right now…
Monday, 8:20pm: I guess it’s kind of the calm before the storm. The nurses are letting Sharaun “labor down,” meaning the contractions now are more to drop the baby lower into position – rather than dilate her. I’ve been encouraging her to get as much rest as possible, and can see her soldiering up for that last charge – mentally preparing. I got excited a little early, but it hasn’t really worn off at all.
Updated as I can...
Nine months is a long time to wait people. But, it's to be expected and so I didn't have much trouble dealing with it, being patient while biology ran its course. But, every post-due-date day I endure makes the pain of waiting that much more acute. Now, my chest barely contains the swells of anticipation which flood in each time I think about another day going by. It's like a never-ending Christmas Eve to the 6yr old expecting a new bike under the tree, hour after hour of that gut-drop feeling you get as you top the 1st hill of a roller coaster or go weightless at the apex of the chain on the swingset before coming back down. It's absolutely ridiculous. I made the mistake of letting myself expect her on, or before, her due-date - I made very little mental provision for her coming late, even though I'd been thoroughly warned it was more than likely for a first child. Listen to me, she's not even technically 24hrs overdue at the time of writing - and you'd think I've been in birth-limbo for a century.
When I was a kid, my brother and I would fantasize about creating robot-clones of ourselves. After we had these robot clones, we'd surreptitiously send them in place of our real selves where the situations was such that we'd rather not be there. For instance, these robots would go to school for us, do chores and homework for us, while we lazed about idly, wasting time doing whatever we wanted to. I think it was more of my idea, but I do remember talking to Frank about it and agreeing on the plan's high level of bitchin'ness. Anyway, the reason I bring it up now - I had a similar idea the other day at work. Usually, I log on and check my work e-mail a couple times from home each evening. Working across multiple time-zones, it's highly beneficial (not to mention makes a good impression) to check mail during non-US working hours. By logging on and firing responses at night in the Americas, you can potentially avoid the obligatory 12hr turnaround when talking with folks in Asia or Europe. And, besides, logging on at night and getting a "jump" on the work of tomorrow makes me appear productive and dedicated - things which the hippie in me spits on, but the yuppie craves.
Anyway, while swamped yesterday afternoon, I ignored incoming e-mail, thinking instead how how I'd at least have 30min or so that evening to catch up. That's when I remembered the robotwin idea of my youth - albeit a slightly more realistic incarnation. What if you could hire a secret assistant? Someone who you could train at what you do, and who could share you workload. Only you would know about this person. It wouldn't work for all jobs, but for a job like mine where there are significant behind-the-scenes in addition to the face-to-face aspects - I could see it working. This secret assistant would have access to my e-mail, could read and respond as me, could produce items tasked to me, and could take care of all sorts of things supposedly "owned" by me. That presentation I'm giving on Thursday? He did it, I just show up and present it. That response I owed customer X? He wrote it, with the knowledge I passed to him during training. You could do the work of two men, you'd be Superman. Better yet, if your kid is going through college and has chosen to follow in his dad's footsteps and study pop's job - sign him up for some unpaid OJT. Genius, right? I'm totally getting a secret-assistant.
I don't know if anyone else noticed, but the "PortGate" headline on CNN seemed to waffle yesterday. When I 1st checked CNN upon logging on at work (my modern-day substitute for the morning paper), the headline read: "Bush: 'People don't need to worry about security." Reading a headline like could give a body the feeling that GWB isn't taking the country's security in general seriously (hey, I said it could be read that way - not that that's what was intended when it was written). Then, sometime before noon the quote changed to: "Bush: 'People don't need to worry port about security," my own emphasis added. Then, around 1pm it was back to it's original form. The addition, or not, of the security qualifying word "port" seems to make a pretty big difference in the statement, at least to me. In the port version, Bush is simply saying that people not need to worry about that specific aspect of US security, i.e. the administration's got that locked. In the portless version, I don't know about everyone else but the feeling I get from the quote is one of a president being too complacent, even downplaying the import of national security. Funny that they changed the headline, I wonder what the real quote was? A Google News search for the exact phrase "people don't need to worry about security" turns up a ton of PortGate articles, while the phrase "people don't need to worry about port security" turns up zilch. Wonder how that errant "port" got in there... wish I had a screencap.
Stumbled on a really cool website the other day called freecycle.org, where people start up geographically-based "communities" of users that post things they are giving away instead of simply trashing. Kind of like the "free" section on your local Craigslist - but better because it's all free. There are nearly 300 members in my own 'burg, and just doing a cursory perusal of the messageboard I found several completely free items I wouldn't mind taking off someones hands. What a cool idea, this is why I like the internet - it's a big hand-holding group dry-hump.
Goodnight folks, here's hoping she comes tonight.
Due-date came and went (well, technically, since I write the next day's entry the night before - at the time of writing we've got about 5hrs of due-date left). Not too big of a surprise, since "they" say most 1st-time moms are late - but it does make the itch of waiting that much more acute. But, wait we will.
Ready for me to flex some advice on ya? Here's a little thing I've transformed from common-sense into words, just for the sake of filling a blog. It's something I do subconsciously at work and elsewhere - and I think it's had a big impact on how much "wisdom" I've viewed as having. I've written about it before, but never really formalized the thought as well as I did today for someone at work (which made me want to write it down in that form, to remember it better). Here goes:
Knowledge is binary: You either know something, or you don't. Despite the apparently grim coin-toss odds, you can do something extremely simple to give yourself an edge over the average body.
To break it down a bit: When someone asks you a question, there's 50% chance you'll know the answer, and a 50% chance you won't. If you know the answer, you look good; if you don't, there's potential for you to look bad. But, people, I'm here to tell you're wasting 50% of your brain on stuff you don't know, when it could be put to much better use. How? #1: Fill it with knowledge of the stuff you don't know, i.e. learn. #1 requires significant effort on your part, and isn't as easy or intuitive as #2. #2: Fill it with a list; a list of people you know, and, more importantly, the things those people know. That way, instead of being helpless when a question falls into your "I dunno" category (50% of the time), you can reference your list of "what the people I know know" as a backup. Sure, you may not be able to answer the question on the spot, but maybe all it requires is a discreet 30sec phone call, or an e-mail.
The goal here is not to pull a "who's that man behind the curtain" bit, convincing others you're a sage when you're just a good networker pilfering others' wisdom. You're not taking credit for answers you got from someone else, you credit them when you need to. On the other side of coin, when you run a question you don't know by someone and get an answer, playing the middle-man between asker and knower - you've just added that answer to your arsenal, your repertoire. In essence, you just moved it from the "bad 50%" to the "good 50%" in your brain. Congratulations, you're now smarter because of who you know. And, next time you get that question - you can produce an answer on the spot.
Part of the reason I like the internet, and projects like Wikipedia, is because they embody this idea of communal knowledge. A central repository of shared knowledge, everyone getting smarter from what everyone else knows - the slow infusion of little fractured pieces of knowledge to the masses, to be used and possessed and improved upon by all. In my previous entry I put it like this, "...strive to know where knowledge is - even if it’s not in your own head." I couldn't have said it better myself, or something.
The other day I somehow found myself looking for an old entry to reference in one I was writing, and I ended up re-reading this one from July of last year. And, far from the usual feeling of ho-hum I get when I peruse my past writings, this time I was actually impressed. I really like that entry, and wish I could write more like it. The style is engaging, and I like the detail. Also on the "me" tip, I found the comment Pat attached to this picture of me from a past camping trip pee-your-pants funny. Oh... wait... right there... that's it... almost... yeah! Sorry, my ego just had an orgasm.
Where are you Keaton? You don't love us enough to come out? We're ready, and I think we've been waiting pretty patiently - so why do you keep standing us up? Goodnight.
We've arrived. The due-date: Judgement Day, the Reckoning.
Sitting at home early Tuesday afternoon, cellphone earbud and microphone dangling from my ear as I sit, muted, on a conference call. I had a dentist appointment over lunch, and decided to work from home the remainder of the day. Not because my numb mouth was too great a discomfort, no, more because I just wanted to be home - wanted to be close to any potential action, wanted to be near Sharaun. I feel like, if I can just be home, something might happen. Anyway, prepare for an entry having almost nothing to do with the fact that today is my daughter's predicted due-date.
Does anyone else remember Rocketbals? Oh man, I so remember Rocketbals. Back in 5th grade, my elementary school went through something of a Rocketbal craze. Not unlike the run on Yo-Yos that happens in the days after the Duncan man comes to school, someone brought a Rocketbal to school one day and next week the skies above the playgrounds were thick with the things. I've always thought they were the coolest toys, and so simple: a small rubber ball (slightly bigger than a golf ball) with a loop of colored surgical tubing inserted through the center and glued to the thing. You'd put your thump in the loop, pull back on the ball, and let the thing fly. They'd go hundreds of feet into the air, and, with practice, you could actually get pretty good at aiming and playing catch with them. I'm assuming they went the way of the Jart - being banned as too dangerous or something - but I've always rued the day mine was swallowed by a storm drain. Thinking about it the other day, I decided to long onto the dub-dub-dub and do some hunting. Turns out, that great finder of lost childhood memories: Ebay, had one available. I immediately put in a bid and am anxiously awaiting slinging one of these things around again. Seems like I'm not the only one who's searching for one, I mean, they were dang cool... when I get one I'll post of video of it kicking ass - so you can visualize just how dang cool.
Note: After writing the above some time ago - I discovered that the original Rocketbal company went out of business, and a new company bought the patent - reissuing my childhood favorite as a dog toy, the Go-Frrr. When I found the site linked in that last sentence, I immediately remembered seeing one of these Go-Frrrs across the street at the local pet emporium. Anyway, I ran right over and bought one. I don't care if you call it a Rocketbal or a Go-Frrr - these things are freakin' awesome.
Oh man I can't wait.
I know it seems like an odd thing to do, but I've decided I'm going to try and cultivate my own yeast - for no other reason than just to see if I can. For a long time, I've been fascinated with the idea of food-sources - meaning I've often wondered about our intrepid pioneer ancestors and their ancestors before them, and how exactly they managed to make the basic foodstuffs we today are so accustomed to picking up at any corner store. Bread, especially, has been an item of wonder - being the ultimate staple it is. Sounds simple, wheat for flour, some water, and a leavening agent. Oh, but that dang "leavening agent." I've brewed on this all before, and had some success using the ultimate resource of the internet to satisfy my curiosity - but I've long wanted to actually put some of that learning into practice.
Anyway, following these excellent instructions - I've begun the process of getting my own "starter" going. This basically involves mixing some flour and water and letting it sit until it "catches" the wild yeast and bacterium that in the flour to begin with as well as floating around in the atmosphere. Once it's nice and "soured," you've got a natural yeasty "soup" that can be mixed with plain dough as the leavener - it's a base material that you use to make your breadstuffs. Amazing that the process is so simple... dough left out will sour, and grow bacteria and yeast - at that point, rather than throw it away, you mix the bubbly froth into virgin dough to infect it and make it rise. Voila, you've got homemade yeast. You can do the same thing with water and starch, like water that potatoes or pasta have been boiled in. Making yeast is as simple as providing a nice home for the microscopic beasties that are yeast.
I'll make sure and keep you updated on the progress of my starter, like it matters. However, the natural extension of this experiment is to take it out of my middle-class, mortgaged-to-the-hilt kitchen and make it more challenging. The end-goal here is to understand how Joe Ancienttimes made his bread, with only what he had around him. And, because it's a fantasy of mine, the question I'm truly after boils down to: "Stranded on a desert island, could I make my own bread?" That one, and it's cousin-question where the desert island is replaced by a post-apocalyptic barren landscape, are the real reason I want this knowledge. You'd need some kind of material suitable for transforming into flour: wheat, rice, potatoes, corn, rye, nuts, etc., some water, and some time - salt would help, but is not 100% necessary.
That's relatively simple, right? So, I'm on an island - I find some nuts, or some cattails or some reedy thrushy things, boil some pre-salted seawater to remove any living nasties - and I'm good to go. Ferment-up some starter and get to baking on hot stones left in the fire. Soon I'd be making Island Flapjacks with coconut syrup. If you find this at all interesting, check out this Cree Indian recipe for Bannock (traditional Indian cake), made with corn, flour from cattails, and wood ashes as baking soda. Imagine the process by which people came to try putting the ashes of last night's fire into the next day's food. Awesome.
During this whole process, I learned that all bread was once sourdough - although it likely wasn't called that because not all of it was actually "sour." I was getting hung up on the term "sourdough," which true bread aficionados take to mean any starter created using the above process - not to mean bread that tastes sour, like the San Francisco stuff. All "yeasts" of old were produced this way, and then dried and stored for later use. Modern commercial yeast are laboratory-bred for fast-action and "neutral" flavor - while bread flavor of yore was based on several different factors, including starter cultivating temperatures and mixtures, and of course the breeds of yeast and bacteria that were floating around the region from whence they came. Once you got a starter that made good bread, you held onto it - drying it and using it forever and ever to reproduce the flavor. Yeah, I'm kind of skipping over things like salt-rising bread and the non-leavened breads - but my focus today is on "making yeast." Hey, it may be boring to you, but to me it's totally amazing to think of old world folks arriving at these processes via trial and error. But, let's move on anyway...
Oh my God, I seriously wrote about bread and Rocketbals. Sorry Keaton, daddy loves you.
Birth-Eve. 24hrs and it'll be the day the doctor predicted as our daughter would arrive. I know, due dates mean little, but it's a psychological milestone at least. This weekend, Sharaun took the advice of a friend and went to get a pedicure, so her toes are now neat and pink - the idea being that at least they'll be more pleasant to look at for the umpteen hours where they'll be front and center during labor. And, on top of those pink toes, she affixed little stick-on letters, one per piggie, that spell: "YOU CAN DO IT." Y'know, the power of positive thinking and whatnot, plus - it shows she's got a fine sense of humor about the whole deal. I'm more ready than ever, in fact I'm downright impatient... wanting pretty badly to just be able to hold her in my hands, covered in vagina-juice or not.
Monday was a vacation day, Presidents Day here in the States, and it was a gorgeous one. The rains of the weekend-proper ended and we had a crisp clear day, colder than normal but with a nice warm sunshine to help balance it. I spent the morning working around the house, doing more nesting. Cleaning bathrooms, hanging new shelves, and putting the baby swing-thing together. For that last task, I moved the truck out of the garage to gain some working room, put some Otis Redding on the stereo, and puffed my pipe as a I pieced the thing together. I love being able to smoke my pipe while I work. The other day, I even puffed it as a mowed the lawn - people driving by must've thought they'd time-warped back to the 50s to see me. One day, I'll have a real man's "den," with a large standing floor globe, shelves of leather-bound books to match the leather sofas, and a pipestand next to my chair, again, leather with brass brad seams. Isn't that every man's dream? A cloistered room with a hunting lodge vibe, warm fireplace and maybe bearskin rug? Yeah... one day...
Recently, I discovered the excellent Cheetah line of CD/DVD burning apps - which are free. Up until now, I've been using CDBurnerXP Pro and BurnAtOnce, both of which are good - but the Cheetah apps do a better job of integrating users' most frequent burning and copying tasks into one nice UI. So, if the trial version of Nero that came with your new laptop is expired, check them out here, good stuff.