Friday, August 31, 2007

Why the System is set up for TWO Parents

When your husband says he's not refereeing the Labor Day Cup (in another town, 120 miles away) this year because, well, you have a six week old and a three year old and perhaps it's prudent to keep the two parent system going as long as possible, LISTEN!! Silly me thought being alone with two kids for three days wasn't much different from being alone with one. Josh and I have a really wonderful tag-team system set up...we both work, we both do household chores, and since a momma naturally has to be with a baby pretty much 24/7, he takes on lots of one on one time with Sierra, which keeps everyone pretty happy. We're good about eating in shifts and sharing nighttime parenting (I get up and nurse, he changes diapers and sheets if necessary). There is a reason this whole baby making thing was set up as a two person system---it takes (at least) two people to give the kiddos the attention they need and deserve and still stay sane!!! This is also why everyone thinks their kids are cute--baby cuteness is an evolutionary mechanism to get parents to invest the energy it takes to raise these little people to self-sufficiency. Please pray to the higher power of your choosing that they decide to sleep in tomorrow!!! ;-)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

We make the cutest babies ever! ;-) Sister love...Aside from the times she's had friends over, Sierra hasn't really played with her toys at all since Sedona was born, she just wants to be with Sedona 24/7.

I can't emphasize enough how much quicker the second one grows up :-( My newborn is already a chunky baby!! Sedona sleeping on Daddy

Our nephew, Silas, holding Sedona. No, she didn't cry the whole time, this was right when she got fired up--aren't you impressed that a 14 year old boy is trying to calm her and not freaking out??

Our niece, Caris, holding Sedona

We were talking at work today about how much effort it takes to raise children and how only a momma knows how it's all worth it. Yes, I'm on call 24/7 for the rest of my life; yes, I've rarely eaten a meal uninterrupted in 3 years; yes, 9am is now really sleeping in; yes, I'm sometimes tired of carrying snacks, sippy cups, diapers, extra clothes for everyone (including me) and taking 10 minutes to get everyone out of the car to run into the store for one thing; yes, I spend a large portion of my day with Sedona tied to me in the moby wrap so I can work and still fulfill her needs. BUT Nothing is sweeter than rolling over to nurse your sweet baby at 3am (she sleeps with us) and then watching her drift back into sleep; nothing is as heart warming as your toddler walking up to you and saying, "you look pretty momma"; no prior achievement seems to match the grandeur of learning to roll over or bringing home the first school worksheet where all the numbers are written correctly; nothing makes you fall in love as much as watching your husband be the perfect daddy (yes folks, he stays in constant physical contact during labor/delivery, changes diapers, supports breastfeeding 100%, dances, plays soccer, goes to swimming and music lessons, patiently sits through explanations of every school paper, co-sleeps, makes lunches, and reads bedtime stories!). Sure there are tough days, but our hearts are so very very full :-D

50 books in a year

(transferring this over)

Okay, so last year (March 6, 2006-March 6, 2007), I read 30 books. Not quite my goal of 50, but still pretty good! It was a total of 8,222 pages too--approximately 20 a day, with a 2 year old around, I might add ;-)

Anyways, time to start a new year, and I'll keep the same goal, even though it may turn out to be even more ambitious with another baby on the way. 50 books by April 8, 2008!

1. Elizabeth and After by Matt Cohen---Fiction book, which isn't what I usually read, so I'm not a real fair reviewer. I thought the whole structure (going between time frames/generations) was a little difficult to follow--just made it hard to keep the people straight at first. Also just a generally messed up story, you're not really sure who you're "rooting" for since the sterotypical "good" guy isn't so good and the "bad" guy isn't all bad. I picked the book up off the $1 clearance rack at HPB and it was definitely worth that and the time to read, but I'd have been annoyed if I paid more for it. (384 pages)

2. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl---Historical Fiction....loosely based on the real lives/characters of Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell and their publisher, Fields, in immediate post-Civil War Cambridge. I wouldn't have finished this book if I weren't reading it for a book club, I just couldn't get into it at all at first. After the first 100 pages or so, it REALLY picked up and then I couldn't put it down. Ended up being a really good mystery that kept you guessing at the real culprit until the very end. (418 pages)

3. A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich--Really interesting book. Each chapter starts with a small section of the diary and then there is a long explanation/background from the author. Martha Ballard was a midwife, but the book centers more on women's roles of the time in general. (352 pages)

4. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik--One of the reviews on the back cover calls this book a "guilty pleasure" and that just about hits the nail on the head.  I'm pretty sure this is the first true "chick lit" book I've read....something I wouldn't normally touch with a ten foot pole if it weren't for the need to space out and relax in order to stay pregnant 8 more weeks.  I was pleasantly surprised though.  About a group of women who meet when their kids are babies and have a book club together for the next 30+ years. (404 pages)

5. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser--I know I'm supposed to be reading easy, non-stressing stuff, but gawd I needed a break from fiction!  I don't eat at McDonald's anyway, but the fact that my 2 year old shouts out "McDonald's!  Nuggets! French Fries!" every single time we pass one (despite the fact that she's only been twice, maybe 3 times in her life to meet up with friends and play) pushed me to read this book.  Nothing I haven't heard before, but probably a wake up call to most.  I'm not sure the disparaging remarks about Subway franchises were quite enough to squelch my foot-long turkey breast on wheat with extra honey mustard addiction though... (288 pages)

6. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella--Yes, more chick lit.  Honestly, the most shameful thing is that I feel the need to hide the book when I'm out in public--I'm a grown woman and 7 months pregnant in the Texas heat, I can read what I want, damnit!  Okay, seriously though, read it for a book club (after The Dante Club we all agreed to something light) and it was enjoyable and easy and all, but I don't feel driven to get the rest of the series or anything.  (350 pages)

7. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling--I've avoided the hype for 9 years (according to my copy--looks like the first one came out in 1998), but with the last book coming out this year, I decided it was finally safe to start reading (I didn't want to get stuck waiting for the next one). Not as good as I expected from all the attention it's gotten, but I am impressed by Ms. Rowling's ability to come up with an intricate and original story-line. And for all the conspiracy theorists who say Harry will die in the final book....there does seem to be a fair amount of fore-shadowing in the first book that points to exactly that. Hmmmm(320 pages)

8. Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling--See above (341 pages)

9. Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling--See above; So far each book is better than the one before it...definitely a nice surprise (435 pages)

10. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling--Okay, now they're starting to get a little scary. Not sure I would've read this one to a younger child. In the middle of this one, Sierra woke up one night having a nightmare and I actually had a brief moment of thinking she was crying b/c someone was attacking muggle children....(752 pages)

11. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling--Yup, still scary. This is the last book I have and Half Price Books doesn't have the 6th one right now :-( (870 pages)

12. Natural Birth The Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon--We read this book before I had Sierra and the Bradley childbirth method worked fabulously to get me through childbirth without any pain medication. With the second munchkin on the way I decided it was a good idea to re-read the book and just make sure I hadn't forgotten anything major. (272 pages)

13. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown--I thought this was a really interesting book. I was surprised how much of it tied into things I've read in the past (namely, lots of the goddess worship stuff is covered in the book "Sex in History") (454 pages)

14. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams--Not at all what I expected. I was thinking this was gonna be a science fiction book that tried to make some sort of statement about life or something. Nope, just a humor book. Very funny, but it would've been great if Mr. Adams had chosen to actually have an ending to the book rather than just stop writing. It's my understanding that there are follow-up books, but really ought to end each book, even in a sequel. (320 pages)

15. Talking to High Monks in the Snow by Lydia Minatoya--Memoir about a Japanese-American woman and her travels through Asia. Worth the two bucks I spent on it, but not an especially well written book. (269 pages)

16. The Restaurant at the end of the Universe by Douglas Adams--Sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. More of the same. (250 pages)

17. Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger--Originally sold under the title Lost Moon. If you've only seen the movie and enjoyed it, I highly recommend the book. I guess books are usually better than the movie, but I always put this sort of in the category of books about the Titanic--I know exactly what's going to happen, so how interesting could it really be? Turns out really interesting. There is MUCH more to the story than what's in the movie, plus they go through a lot more background...from medical tests selecting the first astronauts, the Apollo 1 fire, on through the investigation after Apollo 13, plus nifty pictures of the damage to the service module, etc... Well worth the read. (382 pages)

18. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Why'd they have to go and do that?!? (652 pages)

19. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. A fitting end, but just *tad* too happy of an ending (759 pages)

20. Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson. Interesting fiction that follows several generations of women. The story was good, but it was confusing to follow due to the set up (can we please just stick with chronological order aside from the occassional flashback or foreshadowing??) and the names (let's see...hanna, johanna, anna--am I really supposed to keep them all straight?). I liked that it was set in Sweden, always nice to learn about someplace new. (368 pages)

21. Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston. One of those books you're supposed to read in high school that we were never assigned.  It's a good story, probably eye opening to those who might not know anything about the Japanese Internment camps.  Unfortunately, the "goodness" of the book was erased by the commentary on the back cover, which states, "As haunting as The Diary of Anne Frank..."  I'm sorry, but ummmm no.  No matter how wrong it is to imprisson US citizens just because they are descendents of a certain country, a minature town with admittedly not great housing conditions, but schools, medical care, unlimited access to mess halls, etc... in no way compares to hiding out in fear of your life and then being sent to a Nazi concentration camp.  (203 pages)

22. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. One word-Disappointing. The book had good information, but was really poorly written. It's like she was writing for a literary journal. I (along with the rest of the book club) was really expecting this to focus on the girls in the Iranian book club, and it didn't at all. The book was an awful lot of the author's literary criticism. Like I said, interesting information about revolutionary Iran (which ties in quite well with current events and gives you some food for thought), but definitely not a quick read. The author herself sums it up perfectly..."I am too much of an academic: I have written too many papers and articles to be able to turn my experiences and ideas into narratives without pontificating." (347 pages)

23. The Handmaid's Taleby Margaret Atwood. If you liked 1984, you have to read this. It's another cautionary, science fiction type thing. Instead of technology and all that being involved though, a fundamentalist religious sect takes over and makes women absolutely subjected to the control of men. The main character is a handmaid (one of the few still fertile women left following toxic build up in the environment), which mean it's her job to get pregnant and provide her "Commander" with a baby. Has a lot in it to think about. (320 pages)

24. Better Off by Eric Brende. Anyone who's interested in self-reliance and off-grid living will enjoy this book. Josh and I both read it and we've been trading ideas about "homesteading" right where we're at for a few weeks now. The author (upon graduating from MIT, of all places) spends 18 months in an Amish-type community with his new wife. There's little religious cohesion in the group, but they follow that philosophy of no motors, very little technology. I especially liked the fact that they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant and decide to stay put and have a homebirth with the local midwife--for what was surely a momentous and bit scary event, he covers it in a few pages and describes it with all the normalcy it deserves. (248 pages)

25. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. See my post from November 5, 2007. Excellent book (464 pages)

26. Night by Elie Wiesel. If you didn't read it in school, you need to now. Classic recounting of holocaust concentration camp life. (411 pages)

27. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Another classic must read, but not quite as horrific as Night. (304 pages)

28. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Read this one for book club. Yet another good fiction book (they might just get me reading fiction after all!). So the story is made up, the setting is *reasonably* factual (not completely, but close). Think of the movie Titanic--totally fake, the background's real. Amazingly interesting and quick read--I was done in a little over a week. (512 pages)

29. America's Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides. If you're looking for ways to stretch a dollar--live on one income, pay off your mortgage, retire early--this book is definitely worth your time. Just about anyone who knows me would agree that I'm one of the most thrifty (or cheapskate?) people they know, but this book was still useful. Each chapter ends with an "assignment" and you pick whether you fall into the "timid mouse" "wise owl" or "amazing ant" category, so you can use the basic ideas or go all out depending on your situation. (276 pages)

30. Affluenza by John DeGraaf, et al. This book has a lot of good ideas and information, but (as Josh pointed out) it is definitely geared toward the "MTV generation". Each section is only half a page long and that gets a bit annoying to those of us with normal attention spans. Main idea--spend less, work less, live more. Basically my life philosophy. (236 pages)

31. Best Practices: Difficult People: Working Effectively With Prickly Bosses, Coworkers and Clients by John Hoover. I have a belief---if you think everyone around you is wrong, you're probably part of the problem. Unfortunately, this applies even to me. Since I recently chose to stay at my job for the time being, I decided being miserable everyday was not an option and I should do what I could to improve the situation. So, I checked out three books from the library in an attempt to improve my supervisory skills and my reaction to certain situations. This book is a very quick read and chock full of good, implementable ideas (160 pages)

32. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. Another fiction book for book club. The basic premise is that a woman goes into labor during a blizzard. Her husband is a doctor and ends up doing the delivery (along with a nurse). This is in the 60's and surprise, surprise, it's twins. The woman (of course, b/c no one can possibly give birth without general anesthesia and stirrups....but I won't get on my soapbox about the deplorability of western birthing practices, especially in the 60's) is not aware of all this and it turns out the second baby has Down's Syndrome. The husband/doctor sends the baby away and tells the woman she died. The book is about everything that unfolds after that. It wasn't a horrible book, but it wasn't as good as I expected. I don't highly recommend it (432 pages)

33. The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't and Why by Jeff Gillman. This one isn't really meant to be read cover to cover, so I'm only going to give myself credit for 50 pages. I mostly flipped through and only read the entries for the things that we've tried or might address a problem we've had. In general, it's well thought out though and has good explanations for each recommendation (for or against a certain remedy) and each one is given a rating of 1-5 quickly labeling it anywhere from harmful to beneficial (50 pages)

34. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult. Very good fiction book---dead newborn found on Amish farm, Amish girl charged with neonaticide. Would've been even better if I hadn't already seen the TV movie (and not realized it) I kept having deja'vu through the whole thing and guessed the ending about half way through. Still kept me up until 11pm (way way way too late when you have baby that wakes you up 2-3 times a night to nurse and you have to be up at 6:30am) because I just couldn't put it down. The ghost story was totally unnecessary and freaky, but besides that I don't have any complaints. (432 pages)

35. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult. Another good book--uses a running idea of Dante's Inferno and adds in a tenth level of hell. If you live locally and want my honest, more thorough, review of the book you'll have to ask ;-) (416 pages)

36. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It's local book group has gotten me hooked on a fiction writer--gasp!! That hasn't happened since junior high. This one is about a school shooting. I'm loving that Ms. Picoult has a totally different story for each book and each seems extremely well researched, allowing her to create a completely believable background. Purely story-wise, I didn't like the way this one seems to end. It's hard to explain my point of view without giving away the ending to those who haven't read it, but it was my view that precisely those people who were always "on top" end up that way at the end (yes, the two people focused on in the last chapter), which seems hugely unfair. I'm not quite sure if this was an intentional, "see, they didn't learn anything", or if the author (sadly) really didn't see the point she was making. (464 pages)

37. Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House by Valerie Plame Wilson. Review in my general blog (end of March 2008) (411 pages)


Should anyone out there be an MD and work with moms/ really oughta think twice before you prescribe vicodin to the mother of a preemie (still in NICU) who is already having apneic episodes. And just in case you forget that, the fact that the baby starts having more episodes the evening after mom starts supplying breastmilk for feeds really ought to be a warning.

Likewise, before prescribing Bentyl to a mom who is nursing a newborn, try looking it up. When the pharmacist refuses to fill the script b/c of the danger level and mom calls you concerned about nursing after the dose YOU already gave her, the appropriate response is not, "oh, it was just one dose, it's fine". Try trusting the patient a bit and give the mom info about the drug--perhaps she doesn't think it's "fine" to expose her baby to a drug that falls in the "possible hazardous" category and risks apnea, tachycardia, and constipation in her infant.

Surely I am not the only professional in town with a copy of Medications and Mother's Milk. It really is an excellent book. There is no right or wrong answer to whether a drug is "okay"--there are risks and benefits to taking and not taking a medicine and then to BF or not BF following taking that medicine, but that's the mother's choice...please give her the information!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Make Milk, What's Your Super Power?

Premature babies that are fed formula rather than breastmilk are 6-10 times more likely to acquire necrotizing entercolitis (NEC). Of babies who acquire NEC, over half may die.

Premature babies that are fed formula rather than breastmilk have been shown to have an IQ that is 9-12 points lower (as a frame of reference, lead poisoning lowers IQ by 4-9 points)

Breastmilk improves gut, eye, brain and immune system development, lowering the infant’s risk of illness, asthma, allergies, diabetes, obesity and even some childhood cancers.

Some mothers of premature babies are unable to provide breastmilk because they may be on medications, have certain illnesses (since preemies are more fragile, things that are fine for the mom of a full term infant may not be okay for a preemie), or because they simply have not been able to pump enough due to stress or a combination of stress and having multiples.

But healthy nursing moms can help by donating their breastmilk. The milk is collected, tested for fat and calorie content, pooled together with milk from other moms, pasteurized and sent to sick babies. Some milk banks are even starting to provide donor milk that is no longer appropriate for sick babies (lower calorie content, or older batches) to cancer patients whose immune systems have been weakened by chemotherapy.

I just finished my initial screening to be a donor (something I’ve wanted to do since Sierra was a baby) for the Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin. If you’re interested in being a donor, check out the Human Milk Banking Association of North America

Old Pics

In unpacking, I finally found old disks of the pictures I rescued from my laptop before it finally died (note--don't buy computers at best buy, or at least, don't expect them to live up to their own "no lemon" policy)

This pic makes me want to climb again SOOO badly!!! Circa July 2002, "No One Gets Out of Here Alive" at The Buttermilks in Bishop, CA. Now that Sierra has her own shoes, I need to get our wall put up at home and start teaching her some climbing skills :-D
This is Josh on that (in)famous Snake Dike climb. The climb was so easy compared to the hike in, but this pitch was pretty sketchy for the lead (not so fun for those of us following either, but at least we weren't fighting drag the whole time ;-)

Ode to the Gecko

The first night I stepped in the shower and saw a small gecko/lizard-type thing, I wasn't scared or concerned, but did expect Josh to at least catch it and release it outside when I told him about it. Instead, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "so?" The next night when it was still there, Josh pointed out that the spiders that had been living in the corners were gone--probably courtesy of the gecko, so I decided he (she?) could stay. It's been at least two weeks now. The gecko lives in the drain and when you turn the shower on, he pokes his head out of the drain, then runs to the corner to hang out until you turn the water off again. I believe he has turned into a pet, because I noticed his tail has been pulled off recently and I find I'm actually concerned and wondering what happened...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Then and Now

Just a few "then and now" pics:

Sierra as a newborn

Sedona as a newborn

Sierra dancing with daddy at one month old

Sedona dancing with daddy at one month old (yes, I just happened to catch this, it wasn't planned)

The Business of Being Born

I just found out about this film today. It's a documentary produced by Rikki Lake about the birth culture in the US today. It's my understanding that the film pretty strongly advocated midwife assisted homebirth and even shows Rikki's homebirth. Definitely a must see! The only showings currently listed are in LA, NYC and Portland (at the Gentle Birth Conference), but more are being added and it will be out on DVD at some point.

The Yosemite Trip

This is the story of that trip to Yosemite Josh and I took. There are edits I'd really like to make, but I'll stop myself and leave it as it was originally distributed to friends and family 8 years ago. I wrote the original story (in regular type), then Josh added to it (in italics), then our friend Scott added in his thoughts (in bold). I'm burying this back at the beginning of the blog because that's where it rightfully belongs and because it's so long and I don't want to clog up the current posts by just posting it.

Hi all. Last weekend I took another trip to Yosemite. One day, Josh Hill, Scott Swetnam, and I climbed Snake Dike--up the backside of Half Dome. We had planned on 3-4 hours of approach, 3-4 hours of climbing, and 3-4 hours of descent. Josh managed to get us up by 4:30am to start an adventure none of us had intended. Here's the story of it.
Howdy, this would be josh.
So it was a good idea at the time when I proposed it. Everybody seemed to be in agreement that it would be a long hike but worth it when we reached the top. Now I am banned from planning climbing related adventures
Hi, Scott here.
Kimberly Eneks took the time, very shortly after arriving home, to write down the thoughts and experiences she had on our “Let’s go to Yosemite and climb Half Dome, I found this really cool route” climbing adventure. Thank you Joshua. Actually, that’s not fair. (Kimberly and I promised to give Josh a lifetime of grief, and vowed never to let him come up with the basic frame work for any future trips; so, it is my duty to continue that which has already begun). We were all willing participants, skilled in our activity of choice, and very eager to accept this challenge. We did our research, practiced our skills, developed a plan, and made our preparations so that we could climb the 5.7R, Snake Dike route up to the top of Half Dome. I should point out that I am writing these words, after several days rest, because I thought it would be: 1) interesting to add my experiences and recollections, of the same event, to Kimberly’s, 2) helpful in identifying “lessons learned”, and 3) fun. So, here in all of it’s glory, or lack there of, are the combined recollections and comments of the events, which occurred on July 23rd, 2002. The names have not been changed. (We have all, already been blabbing, and claiming this adventure as ours…so what would be the point of starting this story with “Dude, I heard about this group of climbers…”).

We woke up around 4:30am on Tuesday morning. Stumbling through the dark, trying to fish our food out of the bear box without waking up the entire camp, we had no idea we were starting our very own Yosemite epic. We drove to the trailhead and as we strapped our gear on our backs, we were all pumped up for this climb. Pumped would be an understatement, on our way back to the car the next morning no one remembered it taking this long on the hike in. All the guides said it was six miles, about 3-4 hours, to the climb, and then another nine miles to hike back down after the climb. The guide actually says “3-4 hours for the approach, 3-4 hours for the climb, and 3-4 hours for the decent”. So, that’s 12 hours, plus a few for fudge factor, makes 15: 4:30am plus 15 equals 7:30pm…cool, “Let’s go”. We were prepared for this--we had all planned on a moderate climb surrounded by "very strenuous" hiking. We packed in enough water to get us to the waterfalls and a water filter, and started up the trail by the light of our headlamps. Though the gear became increasingly heavy, the ropes increasingly bothersome, and the water increasingly scarce, we made it to the top of Nevada falls in excellent time. “What a gorgeous hike past two incredible waterfalls…I bet they’re even prettier when the sun is out”. Our legs were tired, but we were in good spirits and psyched about climbing to the top of Half Dome. We sat down and broke out the water filter---filled our stomachs and then all of our nalgenes and water bladders.

It was at this time that I gained the nickname “Mr. Enduroman”, not really sure what happened but I gained my second, third and fourth wind all at the same time. It felt like I was floating over the terrain. I had to stop and wait for Kim and Scott several times. This feeling lasted for several hours and when it was gone I don’t remember crashing back down.
We left the falls with seven liters and significantly more weight to carry. It was less than an hour later that the climber's trail branched out from what we called the "people of the path" trail. It was only now that we learned what "very strenuous" actually meant. We had a faint, but definite trail for another mile or so. For the “use, and enjoyment”, of the Yosemite park staff, there is a workout facility located in the park. Weight machines, stationary bikes, and a stair-step machine are all housed in a portable building which has a spectacular view of motor pool filled with dead, busted, and rusted park vehicles. We walked along a fabulous trail, and ascended some 2200 vertical feet…did I miss something somewhere? We hit Lost Lake--actually more of a marshy swamp--where Josh proclaimed, "if I was a moose, this would be heaven". All semblance of a trail disappeared. There were cairns to follow--the problem being that you could see up to seven at any given point and they all led in different directions. We consulted our topo (which said skirt the slabs, so we walked a straight path to the base and started walking…well sliding and scrambling) and directions that only said there was some bush whacking and exposed fourth-class slabs involved. We could see Half Dome looming above us, so we just did our best to follow where we saw little vegetation and the faint traces of old footsteps. The whole time we were losing altitude and looking for any sign of human activity that would have recently passed through. I felt like a tracker looking for broken branches, foot-prints, litter, anything.
We eventually got to a point where we couldn't move more than three or four feet without the gear getting snagged in trees. We had to move up the slabs. No pro, no ropes---and they weren't kidding when they said exposed. Whoever thought this was fourth class was off their rocker though. Some parts of this trail were definitely 5.7 territory--maybe harder. We had planned on being at the base of the climb by 8:30, maybe 9am. Remember when we stopped to fill our water containers at the top of the falls, yep, 8:30, or maybe 9am. Sometime around noon, 10:30 to 11:00 with the sun beating down and the water running low, we finally found what the guide called "sandy switchbacks". We were once again on the trail, but sandy switchbacks really meant big, steady looking rocks that came loose with the slightest pull, tons of dead pine needles, and a feeling that at any second your foot might go sliding right off sending you careening back down to the very far away bottom of this peak. Feeling a bit dizzy, I sat down for a rest. We rested many times trying to look for the “right” way to go. We are all sipping water less and less, realizing the situation we are in. Contemplated eating the second of my three power bars---knowing I'd regret it later. Sipped at precious water trying to find the balance between dehydration now, and dehydration later. “This is bad”, and yes, I read your mind. This is the point where I remembered that ‘Murphy’ is a very patient, and opportunistic fellow. Thoughts of bailing danced around my brain, enticing me with thoughts of camp 4 and the cold Merced River I could find below. Trouble with this climb was that the only way to bail was to go up---to climb to the top and take the hiker's trail down. There was no safe, feasible way to turn back from here. A bit of shade and a cool wind sent us once again on our way.
We finally reached the base of the climb around 1pm, maybe later. We were too tired to care too much about the time. That, and we all understood we were committed no matter how long it took. It is a feeling I had not known before, that the easiest way down is not retreat but to actually finish. I finally indulged in that power bar. We had drunk all but three liters of water---enough for us each to carry one up the climb. We put on harnesses and gear, flaked ropes, and stood at the base looking up. At this point, we were wondering why this was suddenly the climb while the approach was just a hike---this looked just as easy, if not easier than the stuff we'd just walked up. It really was, there is a picture of me posing, actually laying down, frolicking on the rock, enjoying not having to bush-whack anymore. Ok. So, we have used all of our fudge factor, and then some, …ETA back to Camp 4 is now 11:30pm…cool, “Let’s go”. We had no bivy gear, no clothes that would have been really safe to sleep in at this altitude, where the temps dropped dramatically at night, so time was an issue---Josh took off to lead the first pitch. Remember how I told you that the climbing guide said”3-4 hours for the climb”? Well, that estimate is based on two climbers…add one climber, double your climbing/belaying time… ETA back to Camp 4 is now 3:30am…crap, “Let’s go”.
The climb was a nice break from the pain of the day---easy climbing, fun times at the belays, and a sense of accomplishment. Despite Josh's short-lived illness and dropping a power bar, a bandana, and an expensive pocketknife, we were enjoying ourselves. In case you missed it, a lot of things happened during that last sentence. At this point, I can safely say that Joshua and I were thankful for the following things: someone invented the drop seat climbing harness, baggies come assorted, useful sizes, and chalk bags can hold more than just chalk. I am additionally thankful for Josh’s comfort level related to “movements” while on rock, and his good aiming skills. Josh thought that Kimberly, and I, were going to be paparazzi like opportunists and try to catch him “with his pants down”. Kimberly, and I, never looked up: one, we could be hit by something falling from the sky, of a substance and size, that hasn’t fallen from the sky since the time of giant, prehistoric birds; and B), we knew we would be seeing the full moon before too much longer anyway.
The bandana, and what was left of a Power Bar, falling was interesting, but the knife was impressive. Dropped gear is a reality of climbing and I am very glad that no one was below us on the route, but like I said, it was impressive. It just kept falling… and falling… eight one thousand, nine one thousand, …damn! I like to think that my knife, like Excalibur, is buried to it’s hilt, in some rock at the base of Half Dome, waiting for some worthy individual to come and claim it. Again, I am very thankful that someone wasn’t, down there waiting for Excalibur to arrive.

So, since no one else wants to tell about the climb, I will. Starts with a 5.7 slab that was actually quite enjoyable. That was also my first 5.7 trad lead. What a way to initiate a new grade.
The second pitch was a bitch. Traverse right 30 feet, place a .5 cam, climb up 100 feet, clipping two bolts along the way, traverse back left 20 feet clip a bolt, continue traversing 20 more feet to the anchors. Make an anchor and back traverse to the last bolt to unclip it lessening the pendulum for the second. Lets just say this whole pitch was a test of my patience with all the rope drag since I was screaming and cussing the whole time about needing slack. Oh yah, this is still all slab and on the last traverse there is zippo for your hands, nary a crystal in sight, just palm the rock for balance. My nerves were on end at that point. From here on out you are on “the dike” which is a rib of rock that juts out about a foot and is two feet wide in places. The dike reminds me of a dog breed called a rhodesion ridge back. The rock is full of pockets and chicken heads that make the climbing almost mindlessly easy. Although with the 150-foot run-outs my mind was amazingly focused.
Third pitch was my sickness pitch. The three of us had a heart to heart about the situation we were in. I was feeling really sick from my body going into dehydration mode and because I had to take a crap. So I fished a couple of zip locks out of the pack, thank you Scott, and made my way to the third belay. I could see Kim and Scott below as I did my business thinking the whole time a camera would appear for a papparazzi shot or two.
Once I did the fourth pitch my mood changed because we were more that half way through the climbing and I realized we would make it after all. Up till this point I had been going through various scenarios about SAR coming in to rescue 3 gumby climbers stuck on 5.7 snake dike. That embarrassment alone was enough to keep me going.
I soloed pitch 7 and 8 by tying in short while Scott belayed Kim, to speed things up a bit, they are only 5.3 and I really wanted to be done and off that rock.

On the topo for this climb, the route suddenly stops, after eight pitches on a 60m rope, and it says, "third class slabs forever". Forever is roughly equivalent to a thousand feet, and by this point we were down to half a liter of water and were so tired that it was a struggle the whole way. I started counting steps—the most I could do at once was fifty.
I preferred to climb to the beat of songs playing on the jukebox in my head: “Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch, who watches over you? Make a little birdhouse in your soul”, or …”guess that’s how Engin’ Joe got his name, he cooks beef in a barbeque stand, ever since the day that he mangled his hand. He just keeps on smok’n cigarettes and briskets man. IIIIIIIIII ain’t joke’n”. (Thanks J.) The key here was to keep setting intermediate goals, and keep yourself moving. “If there is a large mountain that you must climb, it doesn’t do you any good to stand at the bottom doing nothing”. – Unknown. The rock began to level out, we realized what we thought was just another false summit was actually the real thing, and the sun was just beginning to set.
To the west, the sun was disappearing, bathing all the rock we were on and could see to our East in a gorgeous orange light. To the east, a full moon was rising. We reached the top forgetting all our troubles--we felt great, we had conquered our own physical limitations and reached some sort of uneasy compromise with the rock. We watched the moon come up, took the obligatory summit shots, and walked to the edge to peer down. I could hear my friends that were on the regular route right now. Later, back at camp, I found out from a member of their group that bailed two pitches up that their approach was just as bad as ours--probably worse since they had planned on a three-day affair and carried the gear for it. They seemed to be having a good enough time for now though. The temperature was quickly dropping and the wind at the peak was horrendous, rendering our thin pants and shirts useless against the cold. We had to go down before it got any later. Half Dome time…9 o’clock…temperature…darn chilly!
There were the three of us and one other soul on half dome then. It’s not often you get to be alone on that particular piece of rock.
We found the cables and started sliding down them. At the bottom of the cables, we had no food, no water, and nine miles to get back to the car. At the bottom of the cables that other person that was on half dome offered us his water after hearing what we had been going through. Thank you for the kind gesture. We started down the endless steps down little dome. Toward the bottom, I heard a slide behind me followed by "Shit!" uh oh---Scott had slipped. I turned back to see him sitting on the ground, with his leg out stretched. (The leg with a knee that has a tendency to dislocate). I went toward him with my mind racing.... there’s no way Josh and I could get him back, we had no water to leave him. Mike, down at camp 4, was the only one expecting us back, would he call SAR if we didn't turn up tomorrow? Fortunately, a few curse words later, and with a little help, Scott stood up and continued on the trek. I don’t know if other climbers suffer from a similar affliction, but I seem to have a difficult time traversing relatively flat terrain. Fortunately, due in part to a lifetime of practice, I have mastered the art of the tuck and roll, and the only thing bruised was my ego. The relief I felt gave me a short-lived burst of energy. We got to the trees, where it was strangely humid and oppressively hot. We still had about three or four miles to the nearest water. My hips went numb from the weight I was carrying, the numbness dissolved into a burning pain that nothing would relieve. I switched the weight completely onto my shoulders and plodded along, stumbling over rocks in the path and eyes going blurry from occasional tears that seeped out. After what seemed like forever, we finally reached the water. We broke out the filter and started filling the nalgenes. I quickly chugged half a liter trying to relieve my thirst. Being on top of a waterfall, with no windbreak, in the dark is not the place to chug cold water. I don’t know about Kimberly, but after drinking about a liter of very cold, filtered river water, Josh and I experienced very strong, full body shivers. Talk about rapid cooling of the of the body’s core temperature!. It feels like breaking a fever and happened within 30 seconds of drinking all that water and was gone in about 5 minutes. WOW. We were all soon freezing, and huddled behind a small boulder to escape the wind and take a short rest. Someone asked what time it was--12: 30am. There were still 4 miles to go. We were all still shivering, and beginning to doze off, so we loaded up all the gear and got moving again.
We opted for the slightly longer, much easier John Muir trail from this point. All of the headlamps, except my Tikka, finally flickered out, and we stumbled along by the moon light, tripping over rocks, wishing we could just lie down and sleep, but not stopping. More than once I wondered why a squirrel or lizard wasn't moving out of my way only to discover it was a rock. When Scott walked up on a deer, he thought it was just another trick his brain was playing until it finally leapt up a wall. I don’t know if was so much “tricks of the brain”, as it was what do we do know. Here we are on a trail, cut into the side of a steep mountain, and a very large, startled animal was blocking our progress. The whole march down from Nevada falls was done on auto-pilot. Just placing one foot in front of the other, repeat. We plodded along, wondering just how long we had walked this trail the morning before and if we were in fact in the right place. When we finally got to the car and turned it on, we checked the time--4:08. I managed to fall asleep before we even got back to camp 4. Knowing there was the smell of food on everything we'd taken that day, we chucked all of our gear in a bear box and crawled into the tents to fall asleep.
By 8am, the camp was awake and ready for another day, and there was no way we could escape the noise and stay asleep. We stumbled outside for breakfast, and Mike came to check on us, "Dude! I was gonna call the rangers if y'all weren't back yet--we had an awesome party last night, we were saving beer for you". We told our story, and rehashed the funny, and not so funny parts of it for everyone as we dumped and sorted our gear. A short breakfast and we were ready to climb in the car and get home. I managed to sleep away about ten and a half hours of the eleven hour drive, and still crash into bed for another nine hours of sleep when I got home.
All in all, it wasn't so bad. I learned that I'm in control, everything is a matter of mind over body, and my body can do amazing things when I tell it to. The view from Half Dome as the sun was setting and the moon was rising is one I will never forget. The feeling of accomplishment knowing I've done something not all that many people do is one that's addicting. I'll have more Yosemite epics.... ones that are much more eventful, but this was an experience that I definitely learned from and that will stay with me for a long time. I swore I'd never climb Half Dome again. I doubt you could get me around the back side, but maybe after the memory starts to fade you might find me on the regular route one day. Right now though, El Cap with her 15-minute approach is sounding pretty good....
So, there you have it, our epic tale. Granted, it’s nothing like the epic stories we have about Jason and the Argonauts, or expeditions on Everest. However, I cannot ignore the fact that we could have had a very different outcome. Our pre-trip planning could have been better, and without a doubt, we should have carried more water. I believe that there were several factors that had a significant impact on our ability to survive what had the potential of being a real disaster. First, we let people know what we were doing, the route we were going to take, and when we expected to return. Second, we maintained good communication within our group. We “checked in” with each other, and didn’t bury how we were doing under a layer of bravado. This helped us constantly evaluate our abilities, strengths, and weaknesses in a constantly changing environment. Third, we didn’t panic or surrender to our circumstances. We were able to understand our situation, explore our options, and develop/re-develop a plan that was both safe, and workable. We were a team, and we successfully utilized all of our available resources to achieve a positive outcome. I guess that leaves only one question to answer…. Would I do it again? Yes. Maybe not the same trip, but I will definitely go on another adventure with Kimberly and Joshua. We had way too much fun, and Josh and I have a lot to learn from Kimberly. You see, Kimberly is more of a boulderer than a traditional climber, like Josh and myself, and she has this theory about the approach…

Written 7-26-02

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It begins...

Yes, I've officially jumped on the blogger bandwagon. It occurred to me tonight that I was blogging in my head during my shower. I used to talk to myself, but it seems the conversation in my head has become one-sided as of late...not sure if that's a sign of diminished mental capacity or improving mental health. So the first thing to explain is the blog's title and address...

'twas a midsummer's night in the midst of camp 4 and not a climber was sleeping, not even the squirrels...(or the bears for that matter--ever tried to sleep while a bear rattles the metal box full of food about 20 feet from your oh so very flimsy tent?)

Yeah, so even though Josh and I knew each other for quite a while, we officially became an item (or, rather, it became clear we would soon get over our age difference hang ups and become an item) on a trip to Yosemite. On that trip we stayed in Camp 4 (duh, where else would a climber stay while in the valley?) and climbed the route "Snake Dike" on HalfDome (thus the blog address). I tried other addresses...camp4, perpetual chaos, controlled chaos, perpetual motion...they were all taken.
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