And Three Beautiful Daughters

Stories of my family...and other stuff

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Loma Prieta 1989

October 17, 1989, 5:04pm

Hollister, California 

            I was twelve years old, and I had never experienced anything like it before.

My first clue that something was amiss was the flickering of the lights in the house; however, I was unaware that something so minor could precede something so major. You see, it was an old house, and we often had problems with the circuit breaker tripping, causing the lights to go out.

It was dinner time, and I was headed downstairs to the living room, dinner in hand, to sit down to an enjoyable half-hour of a re-run of The Facts of Life.  Ya take the good, ya take the bad, ya take ‘em both, and there….  That’s about when the lights began to flicker.  I turned back from heading to the living room, to go fix the circuit breaker, which I assumed was the problem.

I’m pretty sure that having spent her entire life in Hollister, which has two major faults running through it, has given my mom a special sensitivity to what happened next, because, the next thing I know, she was yelling at me to get under the table.  Those first few seconds of wondering what in the world she was yelling about were quickly interrupted by a clear understanding of what, quite literally, in the earth she was yelling about.

I can’t remember exactly how it started, but I remember flying under the dining room table as the floor beneath me shook violently.  My mom stationed herself in the doorway between the kitchen and the hall; my brother, Tim, in the doorway between the dining room and the living room.  It shook.  It shook hard.  I can remember sliding around on the floor, under the table, holding onto its legs.  My mom was yelling, and I was yelling.  I looked at Tim and saw fear.  Crashing noises made the terror worse.  Yes, terror.  I was terrified.  Is the house coming down?! 

The shaking began to slow until finally it was over. 

They say it lasted only ten to fifteen seconds, but does it really matter how long it was?  That fifteen seconds of terror, changed the lives of many, many people.  People lost their homes.  People lost their lives.  People lost their loved ones.

 We were all okay.  The house was pretty much okay.  Some dishes and stuff fell from the cabinets, and a large crack appeared on one of the living room walls.  When my dad got home, we went for a drive through town.  A house we used to live in had jumped ten feet off its foundation.  Some buildings in town had fallen.  Personal injuries in Hollister were limited to bumps, bruises, and broken bones.

The next three weeks we had to deal with eighty-seven aftershocks (fifty-one of which were on the first day after the initial quake), registering greater than 3.0 on the Richter Scale.  Not fun, when our nerves had already been shattered by that initial 6.9 monster.

Twenty years ago yesterday, the Loma Prieta Quake of ’89 was the largest earthquake in California since the ’08 San Francisco quake.  It took place on the San Andreas Fault outside Santa Cruz, California.  By the way, I mentioned two faults running through Hollister, one is the Calaveras Fault, the other…the San Andreas.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rocket Girl

She (Amy Jo) packed her bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine a.m. (actually 9:08am)
And I was as high as a kite by then (sorry Elton no drugs necessary)
I miss the girls so much I kiss my wife (I tried to, but I got the not-right-now-I’m-having-a- contraction hand signal)

I don’t think it’s gonna be a long, long time (I was standing right there)
Till touch down brings me round again to find (I was there, but the doc wasn’t)
That baby Paige’s birth was oh so fast (understated for effect)
Oh no no no she’s a Rocket Girl… .

Okay so my attempt at altering the lyrics to Rocket Man (sorry Mr. John) may have been a stretch, but the new baby’s arrival having been such a quick trip, I gave her the appropriate title of Rocket Girl.

Two and a half weeks before the due date we were told that the baby was still breech and a C-section was scheduled for July 3, only two days before the due date. On Monday, June 23, Amy’s check-up revealed a bottom-down baby and a cervix (sorry guys, when you talk about pregnancy these words come up) that was not ready for labor or delivery. That was an emotionally rough day for Amy. She was large…it’s okay to say that about a pregnant wife…right?…anyway she was large and uncomfortable. The ultrasound showed a large quantity of amniotic fluid (I know, I know, guys, just look away during the scary parts), and from the baby’s measurements the computer estimated her size at 8lbs 13oz. (The ultra sound was taken two and a half weeks before the due date. This was certainly not a pleasant prospect for a mommy wanting to deliver vaginally.) Because of the breech position, the PA advised to do everything possible to prevent labor, including resting with feet up and drinking lots of water.

Tuesday, June 24 was relatively uneventful other than the continual prodromal labor (look it up) and the occasional passing of (okay men you might want to cover your computers with some sort of towel in anticipation of the next phrase) some bloody mucus (I warned you). My parents came over in the evening, and we played some Canasta. (Mom and I wiped the floor with Dad and Amy.) Tuesday was pretty much a day to come to grips with the reality of the Caesarean. We had resigned ourselves to it. Mom and Dad’s visit was basically for moral support.

We went to bed around 10:30 and watched some TV. I fell asleep about 11:45, but Amy was still awake feeling those annoying prodromal contractions. At 11:55, I was jarred awake to the sound of a surprisingly calm voice saying, “Ken, my water just broke.” As I recall, my first words were, “Really,” like she was teasing me or was confused about what she was actually feeling. Like a dummy, instead of moving into action, I looked between her legs…duh…she and the bed were soaked. That’s when the confusion of a sort of panic met with my having just awakened. I reached for my packed bag, like I was getting ready to leave. Wait…I’m still in my PJs, i.e. my undies. Amy was still lying on the bed in a virtual sea of “water.” (On a side note, we call it the ‘water’ breaking or the ‘bag of waters’ breaking, but this having been our first experience with ‘ruptured membranes’ being the start of the labor process, I would like to say once and for all that the look and smell of amniotic fluid is nothing like water.) My mind began to clear and I realized I needed to help my wife, so I went to get some towels…I went to get all of the towels. Next on my midnight-half-asleep-panicked mind’s list was calling Grandma to come over and watch the big sisters, while we head to the hospital (hosipal according to Hailee).

When Grandma came over, she wisely suggested calling the hospital so they would be prepared for a possible C-section. Also, we live an hour and twenty minutes from the hospital, so there was no way of telling how far advanced Amy’s cervix would be by the time we got there.

During the noise and confusion, big sis Hannah woke up. Amy went in to tell her that we were leaving to go to the hospital to have baby Paige. Hannah sweetly replied, “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“I’m sorry the baby didn’t turn.” It’s enough to bring the toughest daddy to tears. You see we had been very open with the girls about the baby’s position and the expectation of Mommy having to be cut open to get the baby out. We also had been praying that Paige would turn so Mommy would not have to be cut open. So the last Hannah knew, Paige was not in position and Mommy would need surgery. (Lest any overly cautious parents be taken aback at our frankness with our girls (as the nurse was at the hospital), they have five very close cousins who were all delivered Caesarean, so the reality of surgery during delivery is understood very well.)

We finished dressing, getting our bags ready and putting towels on the passenger seat of the car. Then we were off…except for the empty gas tank. We fueled up…then we were off.

We had made a trip to the hospital a week prior only to find out that nothing was happening. With this trip, there was no turning back, no mistaking Braxton Hicks or prodromal labor for real labor, no embarrassment about having to come home after the trip. This was the real deal. That was comforting.

Now, I am normally a reasonable driver when it comes to speed. That night was not a night for reason. The stream of green lights through Los Banos due to the lateness of the hour helped, but there is no good excuse for an hour and twenty minute drive taking 50 minutes…no good excuse except for 80 mph and a leaking wife. I figured if a cop stopped me, he’d understand. Thankfully, it was an uneventful trip, well, uneventful for us. A stupid opossum decided to lope across Fairview Road right in front of my 65mph speeding minivan…quite eventful for the opossum.

When we arrived at the hospital, I went in and got a wheel chair for Amy. We didn’t want to take any risks with the water leaking further, risking a prolapsed cord (again, look it up). Amy had had very few, light contractions on the way to the hospital. As far as we could tell, she was not officially laboring yet. The nurses confirmed that with the straps and monitors they put on her belly.

The nurse checked Amy’s cervix and found that she was dilated to one centimeter and that it seemed that the head was down. That was at about 1:15am on June 25.

Now, to make the long story short, Paige was delivered at 9:08am. Amy’s labor didn’t begin until about 2am so the labor was only about seven hours long, which is relatively quick. Hannah was delivered after about eighteen hours of labor, and Hailee came after fourteen with an induction. But the real “Rocket Girl” part of the story comes toward the end of those seven hours. Sorry,
no spoilers. Keep reading.

The nurse called the doctor, and the doctor said…NO MORE MONK…sorry wrong story. The doctor said to induce her with pitocin because of the ruptured membranes. Apparently, according to the nurse, once the waters broke we were on the clock. They wanted the baby delivered within twelve hours. Also, the doctor asked to have Amy checked again in an hour by two nurses to confirm that Paige was head-down.

At 2:15 the pitocin was kicking in with some mild, regular contractions and the nurses both checked the cervix and the baby’s position. The cervix was a loose 1-2cm and the baby was now officially head-down. What a relief! But we were still cautious, because Paige had proved to an amniotic gymnast. We were concerned that through labor she may turn. The nurse said that the doctor would be in around 7am and would check her again then.

For the next five hours the contractions became increasingly closer and stronger. Sorry, Amy…I slept a lot during those hours. Hey…I was conserving energy for...for… for to help my wife, okay! It was during these hours that I would begin to say something to Amy and would get that aforementioned hand signal.

The doctor finally came to see her at about 7:45am. He checked her and said that she was at a loose 4cm and the baby’s head was definitely down but still far back from the birth canal, so no C-section on the immediate horizon. Amy’s labor pains were getting worse, but she refused an epidural, so the doctor prescribed fentanyl for the pain.

By the way, thank you to Drs. Armstrong and Barra. Checking a cervix is both personal and painful. These doctors are both gentlemen and very careful. When the nurses would check Amy, particularly when they would check the baby’s position, Amy would grimace with pain. When Dr. Armstrong checked her and the baby’s position, I intentionally watched her face…barely a wince. When Dr. Barra checked Amy throughout the pregnancy, he made a point of saying, “Excuse me,” just before he began the exam. Gentlemen.)

As the doctor prepared to leave I shared some birthing history with him. When Hailee was born the nurses had checked Amy at 4cm, and Hailee was born very soon after. Dr. Barra barely made it to the delivery room in time to deliver her. I told Dr. Armstrong that once Amy hits 4cm she progresses very rapidly. He accepted the information graciously and walked out.

At about 8:50am Amy’s fentanyl fix petered out, so I went to the nurse to ask her for more. The nurse came in and said that the dose Amy received was only expected to last an hour, but before she could have more the nurse needed to check the baby’s position and the heartbeat. She examined Amy and said that she was at 6cm and the baby’s head was not yet settled down into the cervix. She was still too far back. Because of this the nurse gave the impression that the baby wasn’t going anywhere. After the exam, Amy said she needed to pee. The nurse had previously pulled a mobile potty stool by the bed, so she wouldn’t have to walk far. Amy sat down and the nurse told her to only do number one and not number two. Amy said she needed to go number two, but the nurse urged her to resist. She climbed back into bed. By this time the contractions were nearly overlapping each other and Amy was in a lot of pain. The nurse began working to find the heartbeat again. Amy told the nurse that she was feeling the need to push. The nurse said that as soon as they found the heartbeat, they would give her more fentanyl which would help take away the feeling of the need to push, because the baby was not ready for it. Amy insisted that there was nothing she could do, so the nurse decided to check her again. Hello! The baby’s head was down the birth canal and on the verge of crowning. The nurse went into overdrive trying to round up the doctor and the other nurses. Within moments the nurses were there and the instrument tables were in position…but no doctor. Of course I just stood there like a big dummy, gently telling my wife, “Try not to push, the doctor’s not here yet.” I believe the response was, “I HAVE TO PUSH…I CAN’T STOP!”

With one big groan from Amy, Paige’s little head popped out. The nurses responded well, checking for the cord. “No cord,” was the phrase they used, which surprised me, having been present at the birth of my other two girls. (With both Hannah and Hailee the cord came out with the head.)

They gave Amy the okay to continue to push. With one more contraction and another groan, albeit a smaller one, the rest of that little bundle slid right out onto the table. Oh yeah, did I mention…no doctor. The nurses began checking her and one clamped the umbilical cord. Amy leaned forward trying to see her. I’m not sure if she was trying to check on her, or if she was just curious about what was going on down there. It was then that the doctor came in. Guess what his first words were. He turned to me and said, “You weren’t kidding!” Duh.

He clamped the umbilical cord again leaving a small space to cut. He handed me the scissors and showed me where to cut. Snip, snip...and she was off. They wrapped her in a blanket and gave her to Amy for a few moments, before whisking her off to suction fluids out of her, give her her first immunizations, weigh and measure her (7lbs. 6oz., 19½ inches long, nowhere near the 9lbs. we were expecting). So the crazy trip ended, or has it just begun.

Zero hour, 9:08 am. From the exam at 6cm to delivery was about 5-7 minutes. Yeah,…she’s my Rocket Girl.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bobcat: A Missed Opportunity

My family lives out in the country in the central coast region of California. More than out in the country, we live in the foothills of the Diablo Range, part of the Pacific Coast Ranges. We are only seven miles from the nearest large town (pop. 36,000), yet this out-of-town location provides us with many opportunities to view an array of wildlife.

Since we moved here we have seen red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, golden eagles, American kestrels, turkey vultures, blue herons, snowy egrets, red-winged blackbirds, various species of sparrows, great horned owls, barn owls, and other sundry birds. Although we’ve never seen them, we’ve heard screech owls as well. We’ve also seen cottontail rabbits, ground squirrels, grey squirrels, gophers, mule deer, wild pigs, coyotes, and bobcats. Friends in the area have told us that a mountain lion had been seen nearby, but we’ve never seen any.

I love taking pictures of the wildlife around our house; however, many are very shy and difficult to approach, let alone photograph. I have tried many times to get a good picture of a bobcat. (We see bobcats more frequently than once a day.) The pictures usually are blurry and dark, because the bobcat is running, and I have taken the picture at dawn or dusk.

This morning I was working outside the house at about 7:15. The sun had not yet risen over the eastern hills, and I thought to myself that this would be a prime time to see a bobcat. No sooner had I thought it, I turned to see a bobcat about ten yards from me. I’m not sure if he knew I was there, although, as alert and skittish as they are, I have hard time believing that he wasn’t aware of me. He was trotting casually away from me and was quickly out of view. Naturally, I did not have my camera with me.

Later, I left for work in my truck. As I drove towards the main gate, at a distance, I saw a small, dark lump in the grass. I thought, maybe, it was a gopher poking his head out of a hole. I drew closer noticing it was too large to be a gopher, so I slowed down, hoping it was a bobcat. Rolling the window down to get a better look, I approached it cautiously until I could clearly see that it was a bobcat crouching tightly to the ground, staring directly at me. I stopped the truck. The cat was not more than twenty feet straight out my driver’s side window.

Why didn’t he run? My truck was positioned between him and his escape route. Consider for a moment what the bobcat thought of me. I was a larger predator, which could possibly outrun him. He was too close to me to feel comfortable trying to outrun me. So he crouched, either hoping that I wouldn’t see him, or if I did, that he would be ready to fight or run if necessary.

The question now was whether or not I had my camera with me.

You know how sometimes your thoughts are clearly and precisely thought out, yet occur in split seconds. That’s what happened to me right then. I wondered if my camera was in the truck, but to reach the right conclusion I had to think about the last time I saw my camera. I had cleaned out the truck just ten minutes earlier and had seen the camera on the back seat. Logically, if I had been cleaning out the truck then the camera would have gone into the house; however, I remembered having seen the camera but not having picked it up.

The cat was still crouching in the grass, so I quickly threw a glance over my shoulder to the back seat to see if the camera was there. Aha! It was!

Fearing that taking my eyes off the cat would give him the opportunity to escape, I knew if I was to get the camera I would have to do it fast. I’m not a very small man, so throwing myself into the back seat to snatch the camera was probably dumb. To my knowledge there were no adverse consequences of my uncoordinated stunt except that I probably looked ridiculous, but my only audience was a frightened bobcat.

I thought for sure that my flopping around in the truck would have given him the best opportunity to escape. Maybe he was as dumb as I was, because he was still sitting there, and now I had the camera.

I tried my best to keep my face towards him while trying to operate the camera. I turned it on. You’ve got to be kidding me! The batteries were dead. Slowly, while keeping my eyes on the cat, I reached into the case and felt around for more batteries. There were two more double-A’s and a double-A battery pack. I was pretty confident that the individual double-A’s were dead as well, so I grabbed the pack. The battery pack had a specific way of going in the camera, so I needed to look down to get it in correctly. The cat was still there sitting quietly. I looked down to get the pack in the camera, and then I closed the camera. I looked up.

Wouldn’t you know that was the opportunity he took? I watched him gracefully bound away.

Of course, now I was hoping those batteries were dead, too, so I wouldn’t feel so bad about his having run away. They were. But I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I checked the individual batteries I passed over earlier. They worked.

There’s no guarantee I could’ve gotten a picture, but had I, it would have been a good one. As often as I see bobcats, there’ll be other opportunities.

I think I’ll go charge my batteries now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Four-Way-Stop

I have an issue with a few California drivers. The issue, particularly, is how they deal with four-way-stop intersections. (I understand that this problem probably reaches beyond my cozy corner of the continent, but since California drivers are the ones I deal with most, they are the ones I'll pick on.) I know, I know, it seems a bit trivial, but it really irks me that people don’t know their driver handbooks or at least disregard them.

Of course, you know the laws regarding four-way-stops, but I’d like to briefly go through them. The first basic rule is that the first vehicle to stop at the intersection is the first to go. The rub is when vehicles get there at the same time. Two vehicles pull up to the intersection at the same time on opposite sides of the street. Let’s say one is going north and the other is going south. The vehicle going straight or turning right has the right-of-way over the vehicle making a left hand turn. Hopefully, turn-signals have been engaged, if necessary, to indicate to the other driver the vehicle’s intentions. If two vehicles arrive together with intersecting paths, i.e. one is heading east and the other is heading south, then the vehicle to the right has the right-of-way, no matter what. If three arrive together, the far right-hand vehicle still has the right-of-way, followed by the next right-hand vehicle and so on. Finally, if four arrive at the same time, one car at each of the four stop signs, the right-hand rule falls apart. In this instance and only this instance someone needs to signal to someone else to go through. Courtesy reigns during this scenario, for the vehicles are at an impasse. There is no other option.

Now, let’s move on to my problem. Here is the scenario. I pull up to an intersection at the same time as a vehicle to my right. Following the driver handbook rules, I wait for the other driver to pull through. He has the right-of-way, so I let him go, but he doesn’t go. He sits there and looks at me, waiting for me to go. I don’t go, because I don’t have the right-of-way. Unfortunately, I apparently am the only one who knows this. Finally, he waves me through. What?! Don’t you know your driver handbook?! You have the right-of-way!! Don’t wave me through!! But, in the interest of time and courtesy I pull through.

Another situation that has happened is equally disturbing. I pull up to the intersection at the same time as another car, only this time I am on the right. Just as I begin to take my foot off the brake to drive through, the driver waves me through. Really?! You’re gonna wave me through?! I have the right-of-way and already know it?! Don’t wave me through!! So, naturally, I punch the accelerator, swerve through the intersection, just clipping the front bumper of the offending vehicle, shake my fist angrily at the annoyingly, unnecessarily courteous driver, and speed off down the road. Then I clear my head and realize I’m still at the stop sign. So, I finish releasing the brake, slowly apply my foot to the gas, and nicely, discreetly drive on my merry way. I know it won’t be the last time I have to endure another four-way-stop.

By the way, thank you to all of you who have met me at these intersections and followed the appropriate procedures. I love you.

Now, if only I could solve the problem of world hunger.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Hannah!!

I would like to say first of all that I will try my best not to get bugged by my many friends who do not update their blogs frequently. I have been in the blogosphere for several months now and this is my second posting. I wish I had many excuses as to why I have been so slow; however, I have none.

Today is a very special day. It is my daughter, Hannah’s, fourth birthday. Happy Birthday, Hannah!!

She is a very special girl to my wife and me. (Of course, so is Hailee, but this is Hannah’s day.) Amy and I wanted children right away when we got married, but that was not God’s will for us. Amy suffered three miscarriages in the first four years of our marriage. That kind of thing is very private and disturbing to a couple, but God showed His grace through it all.

Finally, we found out in the spring of ’03 that we were pregnant again (yes, I said ‘we’). God graciously allowed this baby to go to full-term, and on January 15, 2004, we had a very special gift given to us.

The story of Hannah and Samuel in the book of I Samuel was a great help to Amy and me through those first four years. As we read about God’s grace to Hannah (in the Bible) and we experienced God’s grace in our lives through the trials and the successful pregnancy, we chose to name our new daughter, Hannah Grace

Now, she is four years old, and we have two daughters with another child on the way. Praise God for his all-sufficient grace!!

Friday, September 14, 2007

An Explanation

Well, this is my first ever blog entry. It has taken a while, but my recent activity on Facebook has kind of stirred me into finally setting up my blog. I have (hopefully) linked my blog to my facepage so any of my friends on Facebook can access my blog from there.

The title of my blog is a reference to the evening stories I tell my daughters. If you have been in our home at bedtime, you may have heard this phrase as part of my nightly routine with the 'beautiful daughters.'

In the coming weeks, I will post some pictures of our family; however the bulk of my photo and video posts will be on Facebook.

My family and I are preparing for a week of special services in Lodi, California this week. Please pray that the Lord would be glorified. So long.