Thursday, April 17, 2008

Respect the wash!

Last weekend the incessant, abominable wind that’s been plaguing us for a large part of this Spring season took a break. Saturday was a beautiful day – highs in the low 70’s, a brilliant, cloudless sky, and only a light breeze. Of course, we had to do something outdoors!
Papaya Daddy, after some meditation on various options, came up with a brilliant idea – something that would effectively balance my advanced state of pregnancy & lower energy levels, the young ages of our children, and his own perennial desire to do something non-standard. We would pack a picnic & drive out on dirt roads to a new section of the wash that runs near our house. Then we would park our vehicle, shoulder our food, & explore the wash, enjoying a delicious outdoor lunch when we found a nice spot.

So we packed a lovely picnic (leftover homemade portabella mushroom pizza, cut-up apples, & homemade sugar cookies), included plenty of water, strapped the eager kids into their car seats, & headed out. We drove about five miles down the main highway (paralleling the wash), turned onto a dirt road, and within a quarter of a mile, were crossing the wash at a new spot. As we drove down into the wash, we saw a faint track that actually followed it. Papaya Daddy turned off the dirt road & into the wash, followed the track for about 100 meters, decided he had found a good place to park, turned around, pulled to the side of the track (just in case another vehicle happened to come along while we were parked) & came to an abrupt stop.

Something about the way our vehicle stopped caused Papaya Daddy to try to start again. We did not move. He tried a little harder. The wheels turned but we didn’t really move. He got out of the car & tried pushing us while I pressed the accelerator. Initially it felt like we were moving. However, upon closer inspection, we came to the sinking realization that our movement had been a downward rather than a forward one. We were stuck in deep sand.
Not the kind of picture you see in magazine advertisements!

Considering that we were bound to get our new SUV stuck sooner or later, this was not a bad situation. We were stuck in a fun spot the kids would love exploring. We had a great lunch packed. There was plenty of daylight and nowhere else we had to be that day. It hadn’t seriously rained in 2 months, so flash floods were highly unlikely. I probably wouldn’t go into labor. We even had great cell phone reception, so if our efforts at extricating ourselves proved useless, we could call for reinforcements. So we released the kids & hunkered down. (Actually, Papaya Daddy did most of the work I’m about to describe. Owing to strong Braxton Hicks contractions that assailed me every time I tried to do any serious digging out, my efforts were confined to occasional digging, material gathering, child care, and operating the Pilot from the driver’s seat when applicable.)
After digging the tires out (the front tires were buried 6-8 inches), we attempted to build a little “road” for them, hoping to get out of the hole we were in. We started exploring the trash in the wash, and scrounged up some old clothes & underwear, a few torn roof tiles, the front of a stand-up fan, and a small piece of particle board. The kids helped us build about three or four feet of “road” in front of this, made from dry, dead, stick-like weeds we pulled from the wash.

The kids help make a "road"
Papaya Daddy got his feet firmly planted behind the car, & pushed again while I tried to drive. We moved about three feet & started spinning down into the sand. So we dug out, rearranged our trashy “road” materials, and tried again. And again. And again. And again. Each try, we moved two or three feet. Occasionally, I’d think we were really starting to get going & would press down excitedly on the accelerator, only to spin the front tires & bury them deeply – a reflex that sorely tested Papaya Daddy’s patience!
"Couldn't you tell the tires were just spinning down???"

Papaya Daddy trying to smooth out the sand in front of the Pilot

INTERMISSION: Meanwhile, the kids were having a marvelous time exploring the wash, climbing the sandy cliffs, & enjoying our nice picnic. We did take a break to join them for lunch, then got back to our work.

After about 2 ½ hours & many attempts, we had moved about 20 or 30 feet and were almost back on the original track going through the wash. To our discouragement, however, it turned out that this track was only a thin crust over more deep sand. We had driven on it without a problem when we already had momentum, but it seemed doubtful that we would be able to get up on top of it from a position of complete inertia. The kids were past their naptime & beginning to tire, Papaya Daddy & I were definitely tired, I was beginning to suggest calling for help, and the adventure of being stuck was losing its sheen. But Papaya Daddy wasn’t willing to give up yet. All we needed was a longer “road” to give us the momentum we needed to navigate the sand.

All our road materials were shredded by this time, so we made a new exploration of the wash. The abandoned couches & rusty stove didn’t benefit us much, but we did discover a couple of true treasures. Papaya Daddy unearthed two large pieces of absolutely disgusting, stained, half-burnt carpet (about four or five feet long), & I proudly returned with a three or four foot long piece of old particleboard that looked like it had, at one time, been the wall to a rabbit hutch (it had a window cut in it). Never before have we appreciated the wash’s trash so much.

Our first try with these reinforcements was still a wash, but got us further than anything thus far. And on our second try – oh, joy – the Pilot actually continued moving past the end of the “road”! The tires fishtailed & spun in a disconcerting manner for about 50 feet, and then, as I continued to move forward & gather speed, I sensed the wondrous feeling of the tires actually gaining purchase on the track. We were going to make it! Of course, I didn’t stop the car until I reached the packed down dirt road crossing the wash. Papaya Daddy & the kids ran jubilantly behind me, & we broke out the cookies (as we drove home) to celebrate.

Papaya Daddy re-lays the road prior to our final, successful effort! (You see only a part of the track of our previous efforts.)

It wasn’t the picnic we had envisioned, but it does make a great memory. And we learned that deep sand & 2 wheel drive vehicles (even SUV’s with high clearance) aren’t a good mix. From now on, we will respect the wash & explore it on foot only!

"When do we get to eat cookies?"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Belly pics! (33 1/2 weeks pregnant)

Here are pics taken this morning at 8 months pregnant. Note the incredible Arizona sky!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Finally, an update!

Hi, everybody! I'm back from a very, very long hiatus! Maybe, now that I've broken the ice, I'll start blogging once a week or so again! Anyway, here's a quick recap of the past four or five months:

* Morning (all-day) sickness finally petered out around Christmas time, although it still bothers me if I get too tired. It did last long enough to help me get excused from jury duty in early December (I was extremely close to actually being selected for an attempted murder case being tried at our county seat, a good two hours drive away)! So at least the nausea had some redeeming value!

* I am currently 33 weeks pregnant & will be full-term (37 weeks) in a month! Due date is May 27, but I expect this baby to follow the path of her siblings and come a week or so early.

* I am great with child. Not quite as great as the tape measure says I should be, but reasonably great. I finally bit the bullet & attended my first doctor's appointment ever for this pregnancy about a month ago (bad, bad, example, Ms. Public Health Degree Holder, wife of MD) We had a bit of a scare when my belly measured almost 7 cm. smaller than it should have (i.e. my belly measured 21 weeks pregnant when it should have measured 28 weeks). I got an ultrasound the next day & the baby was exactly on track for dates, measuring in the 50th percentile for a 28 week old baby in every measurement taken! My amniotic fluid levels & everything else was normal. I'm not sure where my body was hiding the extra 7 cm. of baby, but it's bloomed since then & I'm now only measuring about 3 cm. small (which is not worrisome since I was 3 cm. small for both of my previous pregnancies). In any case, I don't feel or look small! I've finally achieved the stage where even strangers (for the most part) feel safe commenting on my expectant state. I'll try to get a good belly shot sometime!

* We appear to be gestating another little girl. That means that when we get together with my sister's family, the poor Papaya will remain the only male among 6 cousins! The Papaya seems to be dealing with the news with equanimity, and we are very happy about another girl. We have a name picked out, but we have to keep something secret until delivery! I'm afraid that unless we get incredibly creative, it won't rhyme with a tropical fruit. We may have to expand our produce options as far as nicknames go.

* Exciting travels since my last blog post include a Thanksgiving trip to visit my sister & family in Pennsylvania as well as my parents (and a multitiude of other gathered family) in Maryland. My family then convened in Arizona for a wonderful late Christmas & New Year's celebration. In February, we packed up & headed out to Germany for a week with Papaya Daddy's family (his parents live in Bavaria). We had an easy trip there, a wonderfully relaxing visit with family, and a hellish trip home that required about two or three weeks of recovery time. It included 48 hours of constant travel, punctuated by about 3 or 4 interrupted hours of sleep. Only two hours after finally arriving home again, Papaya Daddy succumbed to an intense bout of food poisoning that kept him up for a third night & landed him in the ER, hooked up to IV fluids & antibiotics, by the morning. I can't say I'm enthused about international travel again anytime soon.

*I love homeschooling the kids! Both kids enjoy our times of reading great books together, our "trip around the world" theme, and our nature walks. The Papaya is learning to read & write at a leisurely pace, and is showing a decided aptitude for math. In fact, he enjoys it so much that we use math lessons as a bribe to get him to nap ("If you nap, Papaya, you can stay up later than the Banana & have a math lesson!") - and it works! Granted, we have a really fun math curriculum we use for the late night sessions that includes a lot of games and no workbook work. Papaya Daddy & I try not to get too obsessed planning out the next 12 years of school!

* The health center here is currently shortstaffed & Papaya Daddy has been working way too much and too hard. We hope this state of affairs will end soon, as three new physicians are scheduled to begin work between June and September. For now, we're just enduring & plowing through.

That's all the news from our little corner of the Colorado Plateau. I really do play to update more frequently in the future - maybe I should even try to commit to every week! Keep your eyes open for some great pictures of last weekend's trip to Grand Falls, Arizona - coming soon!

P.S. Here are some recent pictures of the kids - taken at night in dim lighting, but still fun!