Sunday, January 9, 2011

All the Pretty Typos

In an effort to jumpstart the blogging here once again, I'm warming up to more posts by publishing a link to my typos blog, the simply named Book Typos.

Or, if you'd like to see more of what I've been reading, try Goodreads, and search for jesteram.

Or, if you're interested in seeing another online project to which I rarely post, check out Halfpenny Orchestra.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Volcano Story

Hattie Rose dictated a story for Sarah today--her first ever original creation she wanted written down. It's sign she's following in her father's footsteps. It's also a sign of ... well ... here it is:

"A large volcano. Spread out and burned! This rocks! And the people was dead. And the bones. And the blood. And it's arms, and it's head. And it blowed down."

Ed. note: "This rocks!" refers to the actual rocks flying out of the volcano, as in "These are rocks!" or, in the children's colloquial, "This is rocks!"

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Don't Think I'll be Getting a Personal Pan Pizza

Remember Book It? Pizza Hut teamed up with, I dunno, books, I guess, to encourage elementary school kids to read in the late '80s. We all got nifty blue buttons with empty spots for yellow-star stickers. When you filled your button up with five stars, you got a little pizza.

I loved reading. I still do. I was always reading anyway, so the Book It program made me feel like I was getting rewarded for essentially a biological imperative: "Good job breathing today, kid. Let me guess: pepperoni?"

Early this year, the SLO County Library system announced an Adult Winter Reading Challenge that made me think of Book It for the first time in decades. The organizers even promised prizes for people who complete the task: 10 books, selected from various mandatory categories, by mid-April. Something makes me think the reward isn't a pizza, personal pan or otherwise, but I still wanted to do it.

My life today, however, isn't as commitment free as it was back when I lived on pretty much nothing more than books and pizza. Between two newspapers to run and two children to keep alive, not to mention a wife I like to spend free time with, I'm finding I don't blaze through the books as quickly as I used to. My annual foray into songwriting with FAWM probably didn't help much, either.

What initially seemed like a fun challenge has become something of an albatross or millstone or whatever around my neck. I'm already embarrassed because I'm pretty sure I won't read 10 books by the deadline. Not even close.

I just finished my first book: John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, chosen to satisfy the "American Classic" category. I'd never read it before, but I had wanted to check it out for quite some time. It was probably a mistake, though. I truly thought it was a phenomenal read, but as the first volume of 10 to be tackled, it probably wasn't a wise choice.

Favorite passage, by the way: "And the people listened, and their faces were quiet with listening. The story tellers, gathering attention into their tales, spoke in great rhythms, spoke in great words because the tales were great, and the listeners became great through them."

I'm now reading Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl (for which I'm also leading a month-long discussion over at Goodreads) to satisfy the "Science or Science Fiction" category, which really seems like two very distinct genres to me. Since I tend to read multiple books concurrently, I'm also a chapter or two into Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (for "Mystery").

One category on the list I'm still puzzling over, however, is "Self Help." I'd like to start making my own mead—you know, because I need another hobby—but I'm not sure if a volume on such an endeavor qualifies. Any suggestions? Aside from the snide and the obvious? Or The Zombie Survival Guide, because I've already read it?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

So Do We Get That Week Off?

Hattie was just flipping through Sarah's recently purchased yearly planner and came across a slip of paper with some bad news.


"Due to a printing error, the dates 24-30 are missing from the January 2010 monthly calendar in this edition of the Barnes & Noble 2010 Desk Diary.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused the reader."

Obviously, they're not sorry enough to let the reader know this fact upfront, before the reader buys the defective thing and starts writing in appointments.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We Are Still Here

So, having a toddler and an infant apparently make it harder to blog consistently. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway. And then I remembered that a post doesn't have to be long or involved or eloquent or interesting, though that last one helps, I suppose.

It doesn't have to be timely, either, which is why I'm posting some pics from mid October, from our annual trip to the Avila Valley Barn pumpkin patch with the Rookses. We've been getting pumpkins there every year since there were just four of us. Now there are eight, and it's so fun to see the girls rummaging through the leaves, searching for pumpkins to take home. (You can see more colorful results at Hattie's blog.)

Is more blogging more frequently on the horizon? Yeah, sure. Believe what you want.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

August and Everything Before

As you may recall, this summer started with a baby. Matilda Jane joined the Miller family in May, wriggling and crying and kicking off a season of activity.

We celebrated Hattie's second birthday on June 14 with a sushi party in the park. There was real sushi to eat as a main course, and candy sushi to eat for dessert. The centerpiece was a California roll-shaped cake that Sarah designed, with shredded coconut for rice, fruit jellies for the various fillings, and orange jellybeans for roe on top. If only this were a color-friendly blog ... .

All four of us went camping with my parents and four other families in mid-June. Technically, only Hattie and I went camping, but Sarah and Tilly did come up to the mountains for a day so a lot of our friends and their families could meet the newest girl in the group. Hattie and I stayed two nights in my parents' trailer while Sarah and Tilly traveled back to Sacramento to visit with Sarah's family. We ate s'mores, rested in hammocks, played games. You know, camping stuff.

Hattie has been talking about the trip ever since, mostly because she saw a black bear within seconds of our arrival. We pulled up in our van and looked through the windshield: Bear. Right there. The last night we were there, it raided the camp for hot chocolate. It devoured all the Nestle but left the Swiss Miss. Take from that what you will. Hattie spent several days over the last week telling us that's she's going to go camping with Grandma and see a bear again.

Besides the close-ish encounter with wildlife, Hattie's favorite part of the trip was visiting the lake, splashing around, and climbing on rocks. She's like a mermaid, freakishly born with legs instead of a tail. Also, she breathes air.

In July, we went to the Central Coast Renaissance Faire, as is the Miller custom. We opted not to go in our traditional costumes, since wearing shorts and a T-shirt is so much more comfortable and allows plenty of freedom of movement for eating shepherd's pie and drinking pomegranate mead. We also ate Hawaiian shave ice, funnel cake, and an enormous breakfast burrito with salsa, none of which--correct me if I'm wrong, history majors--is exactly historically accurate. (I later learned that pina colada-flavored syrup wasn't invented until the 1700s.)

Hattie's favorite part of the day was the jousting, which also--I believe--was a bit of an anachronism. The knights autographed pieces of broken lance after the event. For a fee. That went toward care of the horses, which they had "rescued from a life of boredom."

This summer has also included a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a 1-year-old's back-hills redneck party with roast pig, a brave trip to the drive-in to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Hattie couldn't believe we ate nachos and hotdogs in the car and got to watch a Goofy cartoon before the movie started), live music and dancing at a bar, plenty of dress-up, and the birth of a couple new friends! Some of those activities may find their way here in the coming days and weeks, though two girls underfoot makes for sporadic blogging.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tilly's Birth Story

First and foremost, I'd like to note that I caught her. Literally. She was dropping toward the floor and I stuck my hand out and caught her like she was a softball.

But a lot happened before that.

Sarah and I had been planning a home birth. Hattie, after all, was born at home (yes, by choice), and by all accounts, she's turned out fine. At 2-years-old and counting, she's talking and walking and pretending to be a giant spider--all the normal things.

Some mounting complications prompted us to reconsider our original plan. As this long-stagnant blog has indicated, Sarah spent a while in the hospital for a stomach bug. Shortly after her recovery, we were forced to move into a new house. We believe her sickness and the stress of the move conspired to start contractions, far too early. She went on bed rest.

Once she got her contractions under control, Sarah's blood pressure began rising, to borderline dangerous levels. We worked at keeping her healthy, and rest coupled with a high-protein diet seemed to be effective, taking us into a window in which the baby was considered full term.

Two weeks before her due date, Sarah began to have trouble feeling the baby move. After a particularly long stretch of apparent fetal inactivity (about 18 hours), we went to the hospital to get checked out. Turns out the baby was fine with a strong heartbeat, but Sarah's amniotic fluid was almost dangerously low.

Together, we considered the string of complications and consulted with our midwife and an OB who helped us when Sarah had been sick. We all ultimately agreed that induction would be the safest route, especially since the baby was doing so well (even if she wasn't really moving around). We could wait and try to get Sarah's amniotic fluids back up to safe levels, but if she worsened, we'd be going into labor with a less-healthy baby and more stressed Sarah.

The biggest relief to Sarah came in learning that she wouldn't have to be given any Pitocin--her biggest fear. In fact, all she needed was Cervidil, a minimally invasive drug that would kickstart contractions. It didn't even go in her bloodstream.

After making the decision to induce, we were checked into a birthing suite at French Hospital. We decided to pretend like we were at a hotel with room service--people brought us food, there was a TV and an adjustable bed, and staffers changed the sheets if necessary.

We hastily wrote a birth plan, noting that Sarah didn't want any pain medications, that I wanted to catch the baby if possible and cut the cord, and we generally wanted as natural a birth as safe and possible. All of the nurses and our OB agreed with the plan. We were impressed with how receptive everyone was to our wishes. The first nurse who attended Sarah noted that she had had a home birth 30 years earlier and believed in the birthing process. She assured us she would make sure that her replacement at the next shift felt the same way.

Sarah got her first dose (and an IV with hydrating fluids and some antibiotics, too) at about 6 p.m. on Sunday. Sporadic contractions began after a few hours and ran throughout the night. At the next morning, they gave her a second dose, and regular contractions soon began in earnest. She eventually hit her stride and labored mostly with just the two of us (and occasional visits from the nurses). Sarah didn't want anyone else around--probably in reaction to Hattie's birth, attended by myself, our midwife, her three assistants, both our moms, Sarah's sister, our friend Andrea, and her newborn Natalie. This time around, Sarah wanted me and only me. I was husband, father, and doula all rolled into one.

Our nurse, Suzanne, complimented Sarah on how well she relaxed and responded to my voice and touch. She said she could tell that we worked well together as a couple.

Throughout the labor, Sarah threw up several times, but that was still a marked improvement upon her first labor experience. She thinks the IV keeping her hydrated was a big part of how good she felt.

At about 1 p.m., Sarah was checked: 7 centimeters. Sarah got up to take a long, hot shower, and then her mom and sister brought Hattie so they'd be ready when the pushing started.

At about 3 p.m., the doctor checked Sarah again. She was at 8 centimeters, and the OB felt Sarah would labor for a while longer. Sarah's sister, Mary Rose, stuck around for support, and I continued encouraging Sarah to relax, change positions often, and go to the bathroom.

On one trip to the bathroom, she began pushing. I know, because I asked her: "Are you pushing?" She said she couldn't stop, so I called the nurse in. Sarah's bag of waters broke. I looked, and could see the baby crowning. The nurse told Sarah to walk back to the bed between contractions, but Sarah asked if she could have the baby on the toilet. When the nurse told her that wasn't an option, Sarah decided to get on all fours on the bathroom floor, which was fine by everyone.

She pushed once, maybe twice more. Our nurse, Suzanne, was calm and happy. Staffers stuffed blankets and liners as best they could under Sarah's hands and legs. The doctor arrived and asked for oil. I looked and saw a bulge where the baby would be coming out and stuck my hand there. A moment later, Sarah gave a push, and at 3:30 p.m., Matilda Jane Miller's head dropped into my waiting palm. Her body flopped along my arm.

Sarah's mom and Hattie had been in the hallway, but came back when they heard what was clearly Tilly being born. Upon realizing that Grandma couldn't get into the room, Hattie assessed the situation and reached out for a passing nurse so she could get in on the action.

In the bathroom, I quickly lifted Tilly to my chest, and in so doing accidentally tore the umbilical cord. Our doctor pinched off the cord and clamped it almost immediately for minimal blood loss to the baby. And she didn't even flinch. Seriously, the OB was a machine. We highly recommend her.

Someone asked Sarah how she felt, and she said, "I feel great!" My wife is awesome! Tilly was bundled and given to Sarah, who returned to bed to snuggle our new daughter and encourage her to nurse. Sarah suffered a second-degree tear (not as bad as with Hattie), but was otherwise fine.

Hattie almost immediately tried to feed Tilly some pretzels and apple juice. After a traditional post-partum dinner from Firestone (courtesy of the Rookses) and some light visiting, Sarah, Tilly, and I settled in for a good night's sleep before going home the next morning. Before we checked out, all of the staffers who had contibuted to our care checked in again. The nurse Suzanne told us she had been honored and blessed to be a part of Tilly's birth, which meant a lot to us.

We were honored and blessed by the help and encouragement we received from family, friends, and others throughout this pregnancy and birth. We're excited for you to meet Tilly, and if you've met her already, we're excited for you to see her again.