Sunday, December 28, 2008


Here's the latest picture of our youngest kiddos.

At our first ultrasound, our ob/gyn only saw one baby.

At our second ultrasound, a couple of weeks later, another baby popped onto the screen. What excitement! We were expecting twins. However, it appeared that both twins were in the same aminiotic sac. Apparently, this happens in a small % of twin pregnancies. It's referred to as "mono/mono" or "momo"... and it's very dangerous for the babies. I read that there is a 50% mortality rate for momo's (although our ultrasound specialist said it was 60-80%!). Also, successful momo pregnancies usually end with bed rest from 24 weeks or so (when the babies become viable) until birth.

Our ob/gyn referred us to an ultrasound specialist, but we had to wait for about a week and a half before we could get it. This was a little bit of an anxious week - we were ecstatic at the thought of twins, but concerned they they might be "mono/mono" and might not make it. We reminded ourselves that God is in control.

About a week ago, we had the ultrasound at St. John's The Perinatal Center(*). The ultrasound tech took several pictures and measurements of our babies. It was so cute - they looked like they were playing patty-cake at one point (communicating in secret twin sign language, maybe?). Another time, Baby A had her head on Baby B's belly. I'm saying "her" because that's just my guess; we should know the sex for real in a couple of weeks. But the tech couldn't see a membrane between the babies - they looked momo to her.

Then the specialist doctor came in and took a look. Praise the Lord - he found a membrane between the babies! So we are very thankful for that.

This wikipedia article describes the different kinds of twins pretty well: "Fraternal" twins always have separate placentas and amniotic sacs.

"Identical" twins can have separate placentas and amniotic sacs. (This is "di/di", the safest). Or they can share a placenta and have separate amniotic sacs (mono/di, this is most common for identical twins, and is what ours are.) Or they can share both placenta and amniotic sac (mono/mono, the most dangerous).

The specialist told us about the greatest danger to our mono/di twins - something called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome ( He said this occurs in about 20% of mono/di twins. So far, our two look completely fine, no evidence of this disorder. Please pray that they will continue to grow and develop healthily.

(*) the sign in the perinatal center says "The Perinatal Center", so I figured I should leave the "The" in there.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Stan "writing in cursive."
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I've Been Working on the (Model) Railroad

When John Henry was a little bitty baby,
No bigger than the palm of your hand,
John Henry's mammy looke dup and she said,
"My Johnny gonna be a steel-driving man,
my Johnny gonna be a steel-driving man."

On the day after Thanksgiving, I started trying to set up an old model train that Rebekah's dad had given me. This train is an American Flyer setup from, I don't know when, maybe the 50's or 60's. Anyway, after picking up a "lockon" clip, I was able to get it running a bit Saturday night. So we began nailing the track to my train board.

The train board is a 4' x 4' sheet of 1/2" plywood, painted green, to look like grass and to look like Christmas.

This picture is from Saturday morning. Each tie on the model railroad is held down with two tiny tacks. I held the tack in my left hand and sat a punch on top of it with my right. Then "Jake Henry" hit the top of the punch to drive down the tack.

It was fun getting to do this with Jacob, and I think Jacob enjoyed it especially because he was able to do something important.

Later, I got Stan into the act - I had Stan pick out the nails and set them into the holes in the ties.

The tasks were a little tedious, but both kids kept at it until we had nailed down all of the track. This took a while!

I fiddled around with the train a bit. I sanded all over the tops of the rails with 100 grit sandpaper. I tweaked the tender and the searchlight car so that they wouldn't short out the track. I took the engine apart and cleaned up the area where the brushes contact the rotor. I tried to clean all the contacts, and sanded down all of the metal wheels. Now it's working pretty well! I'm still getting a little sparking from one of the tender wheels.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Every other year for the past few years Brian's parents have taken all of us kids to Branson for a family vacation. Every year we enjoy the time more. This past year we got to go down for 4 nights (our longest time ever). It was so relaxing! Brian's dad is a farmer so it is hard for him to get away from the farm for an extended amount of time. It was wonderful to spend all that time together. Mom planned amazing meals and she even put together a family trivia game that got everybody riled up and arguing over how many points partial answers garnered (will some people ever grow up!?) :-) I admit I enter in to the competition with as much gusto as anyone!

We are so grateful to have close siblings and parents. Thanks Mom and Dad for another fantastic Branson vacation. We are making wonderful memories to share for a lifetime!

The beautiful (and huge) cabin we got to stay in. I didn't get a single shot of the view from the back deck, but it was breathtaking. We were up on a cliff overlooking a lake with hills of trees surrounding it. It made for some beautiful mornings and sunsets.

After a game of basketball:

Stan measuring up at Silver Dollar City. He got to ride almost all the kiddie rides and he LOVED them. He is our little daredevil already (doesn't he look it?)
On the swings. If you look closely you can see some more of our family in the background.
A shot of the guys and kids on the kiddie roller coaster:

Here we were almost ready to leave Silver Dollar City for the day and were enjoying some music

Jacob and Hud trying to see who is taller:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mel and Me

Mel and me, having a little photo shoot (thanks to Brian!) before going out to dinner to celebrate her birthday. Melanie lived in Texas for a few years before moving back to St. Louis last year around this time. It is great having her back. She is one of my very best friends. All of us, but especially the boys and me (since she's over most often while Brian is at work) love having her around and she is a huge help to me. A couple days ago, she came over and did my dishes! That was so sweet! We have so much fun together; I'm so glad she's back and I hope she never leaves St. Louis again!
Mel, I love you so much!!

Goofing around.....

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Field Trip

A couple weeks ago Stan and I accompanied Jacob's class on their first field trip. We went to Eckert's Apple Orchard. It was SO much fun! We had wonderful weather - actually kind of hot for September, but I'm not complaining about hot - not after the constant coolness of Seattle! Going to Seattle taught me, among other things, to appreciate the change of seasons and the hot weather. Those who know me well, are now yawning, as I am constanly saying these kinds of things about the weather. Back to the field trip - I really enjoyed spending time with and getting to know the kids and some of the moms better.

Here we are on the back of the wagon being pulled by a tractor to go out into the orchard and pick apples. There were quite a few of us who brought little ones with us, so it turned out to be a pretty big number of people. The more the merrier!

Jacob with his wonderful teacher.

After we picked apples and had a picnic lunch the kids played. This is a huge pipe like slide that went through a hillside. Stan had no qualms about going down, even though it was VERY long.

As soon as Stan saw the put-put he began asking to go over to play. When I finally let him, he played for a good 10 minutes trying to get the ball to go into the hole. It was hilarious watching him, because he kept falling backwards over the side of the wall. He'd fall down on his bum, get back up, concentrate, get all set up to put, then fall over again.

Having fun at Eckert's. This is my favorite picture from the day.

After successfully navigating the Corn Maze.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Heart Rate Hijinx

Thanks to Dan, I can now log heart rate over the course of a ride. Here are examples of a few recent rides (speed + HR):

Ride to Klondike on the Katy Trail (look at the spike at the end going up the hill to the park!)

Ride back from Klondike (I didn't have the strap on the first 20 mins or so)

Maplewood Saturday morning group ride
Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 29, 2008

Katy Trail ride back home.

It began raining lightly as I loaded up the bike for the return trip. I was apprehensive. I hadn't expected any rain; in fact, I had postponed the trip from the previous weekend because of predicted scattered thunderstorms (it didn't rain until later, though). But I had thought this weekend was going to be dry.

Since I hadn't expected any rain, I hadn't brought any rain gear at all. I put Jacob's "soft shell" on him. But it wasn't a true "shell" at all - the fabric is like a soft shell, but it didn't have significant water-repellant ability.

For myself, I just put on my regular bike outfit - shorts and a jersey. I had a long-sleeved base layer, but I figured I would save that for when I got to feeling really miserable.

As we began on our trip back up the Katy, we passed a few riders who had left from Klondike (many of the other campers had brought bikes along, although I was the only one who biked in.) They were all bundled up in long hooded raincoats.

We hit the trail and I brought the rig up to cruising speed. The rain was coming down, not severely, but sufficient to get us wet and cold. I remember thinking to myself, "Ok, this seems bad now, but in about an hour, I'll think back about how comparably comfortable this half-soaked condition was."

Interestingly, we saw several times more bikers on Saturday, even in the rain, than we had seen on Friday night.

Thankfully, the rainshower was short-lived. By the time we got to Defiance, the rain was no longer falling. We pulled off the trail and rode to the bike shop in Defiance. At the shop, we bought a 24oz of Coke (Jacob had dropped one of our Aquafinas playing "baseball" at the camp and broken it), a couple of ponchos (just in case), and some special Jelly Belly jellybeans.

The Jelly Bellies were raspberry and blackberry flavored, and were made of a central jellybean part covered with little cruncky candy bead "seeds". Jacob wanted to get them for his mom... sweet. The whole family enjoyed trying them on the next day. Reviews were mixed.

Anyway, thumbs up to the bike shop in Defiance - they were friendly folks with clean restrooms. They do bike rentals, and they even have Ted Drewes frozen custard.

We left the bike shop and continued on our ride. Jacob decided to start singing. So we sang, There is a Fountain Filled With Blood, Grace Greater Than All Our Sin, and, On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand. I think some of the other trail users were a bit puzzled. And I was riding so hard that I barely had breath to sing.

After we had ridden for a few miles, Jacob told me to stop - he had seen an animal at the side of the trail. He said it was white, and it looked like a hedgehog or something. I figured that what ever it was would have run away by the time we got back to it, but we pulled over and walked back to see what it was. There, in the grass about 20 feet or so to the side of the trail was not a hedgehog, but the biggest mushroom I have ever seen!
It's a giant puffball mushroom!

Did you know puffballs are edible? We left this one in the woods, though.
We kept on riding. Some of the trail was like this: road and fields on one side, trees on the other.

We found two box turtles. One of them was shy and hid in his shell, but the other was much bolder and continued crawling without paying much attention to us at all.
Jacob is wearing my base layer under his "soft shell" to give him more warmth. I was plenty warm, just from pedaling.
Jacob complained that he was tired when we were about a mile and a half from the St. Charles trailhead. And before we knew it, we were back at the car, loading up!
Posted by Picasa

Klondike Park Pictures

Hmm, it may take me longer to write about the Katy trip (in hours) than the whole trip lasted. Anyway, we rode around a bit on the paved trails at the park. There's a nice paved path that goes around (and slightly over, across a low bridge) a lake created by the former quarry. After we rode around the lake a couple of times, I headed up the road to the conference center. On my way, I ran into a friendly bike-mounted park ranger. Like most people, he thought our bike was pretty cool, and he asked me a few questions about tandems. I guess he was thinking of getting his own tandem. I asked him about the trail to the overlook, and he showed me what direction it was. He didn't follow me up the overlook trail.

The trail up to the overlook was really steep (I didn't have my Garmin on, so I don't know the exact grade - I bet it was over 10%.) but it was quite short. It was fun and just a little strenuous. Here are some of the sights from the overlook.

Labadie power plant on the other side of the Missouri River.

You could see really far, even on an overcast day.

Some cliffs in the background, even up on top.

Don't throw stuff over the edge!

After checking out the view, we headed back to the campground and began packing up. Right as I was taking the tent down, it began it rain...
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Breakfast on the Katy

Breakfast on the Katy was pancakes, and they were pretty iffy.

I really had never made pancakes before. I used a box of "just add water" pancake mix. And just added water. So far, things were going swimmingly.

I poured a pancake into my $7 steel "nonstick" fry pan from Wal-Mart. A short time later, I tried to flip it. BURNT and STUCK in the middle, still pale around the edge.

I did the same with the next pancake.

Finally, I worked out a system. I would take the pan off of the fire, slip a little peice of butter into the pan, and mash it around with a paper towel. Then, I'd pour in a tiny little (2-3") pancake and cook that.

Our nifty little tiny propane stove also puts out a tiny little circle of heat. So it's really easy to scorch a pancake while the outside is still practically raw.

I brought two cups of mix, and we eventually ate almost all of it, except for what was used in the pancakes below.

One thing that worked like a champ was the little lexan French Press; you can see it full of coffee in the picture. I made a pot on Friday night, but I didn't want to drink it all because I didn't want to be up all night. It was good and strong. The coffee on Saturday morning was mighty fine as well, and I think I drank it all.

After brekkie it was time for cleanup (again), and we dropped by the playground. This was one of those new-style playgrounds with all the rope equipment, and the little climbing wall. Jacob was a little too small for it.

After some time at the playground, I grabbed my camera and we decided to check out some of the paved trails in the park...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A little more Katy

We got to Klondike Park a little bit before dark. Klondike Park is a pretty new park, I think. It used to be a sandstone quarry.

The quarry part in the middle is now a lake. There is a trail that goes around the lake and over a corner of it on a bridge. For some reason, the lake reminded me of Yellowstone. It's a little bit other-worldy around the lake, because there's a lot of fine white sand underfoot and the vegetation is a bit odd. I didn't take any pictures of it, though.

Like I said, Klondike is a pretty new park, and its camping facilites are fairly luxurious. You can rent, in decending order, a conference center, cabins, deluxe tent camping sites, and basic tent camping sites.

For some reason, Klondike calls the deluxe sites "basic", and the basic sites "primitive". The nicer of the sites has a picnic table on a concrete slab with a metal roof overhead. I didn't see the "primitive" sites, but I think their picnic table is uncovered. Personally, an uncovered picnic table is not really "primitive" to me, but I don't know much about camping.

There are ten so-called "basic" sites, and we got No. 9. One thing that's weird is that the tent sites were all clustered fairly close together. I guess that's nice if you're camping with another family. The family next door in No. 10 was a couple with a maybe 3-y/o girl, and they were nice and quiet. Some of the other campsites were noisier, but 9 and 10 are slightly set off from them, so it didn't bother me.

We got our tent set up before it got dark. Our tent (The North Face Tephra 22) was certainly the smallest in the campground. Then, I tried to get a fire going... a couple of false starts and a lot of blowing, and we had enough fire to roast some hot dogs. I put some pre-doctored baked beans on the propane stove while the weenies were roasting.

We ate in the dark wearing LED headlamps.

After hot dogs, I cleaned up in the very nice camp kitchen located on the side of the bathroom/showers building. Then we made S'mores. Then I cleaned up again, and we went to bed.

Our chocolate bars had become totally liquid on the ride down, but I laid them flat on our metal pot lid and the chocolate hardened by s'morestime.

Jacob (with a few tips from Dad) was a masterful mello toaster. He perfectly browned every one.

The picture above is two really bad pancakes from breakfast. Maybe I'll BLOG about that tomorrow!

view of the lake

The mighty Labadie power plant is across the river, and we could hear its steady thrum all night long. I pretended it was a soothing drone like the pounding of the surf at the beach.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Katy Trail Part 1

It took a long time to get everything set up after we got to the trailhead (by Trailhead) in St. Charles. I think we finally hit the trail at about 3:45.

The trail conditions were pretty good. Occasionally, I would ride over some deep ruts that had been cut across the trail by our recent rainstorms. But overall, pretty smooth sailing. We rode for about 10 miles or so without any significant stops. I was hoping to get halfway before we started snacking...

At about ten miles in we stopped at a historical marker (Lewis and Clark slept here) and ate some "GU".

This stuff isn't really a good snack for youngsters. I also had some Hot Tamales candy (Jacob called them "Hot Duds") that worked better for Jacob.

The section of the trail from St. Charles to the Page Extension bridge is fairly dull and unpleasant, but once you pass under the Page bridge, you enjoy riding that is more secluded and scenic.

Sometimes we had fields to the east and trees to the west. Sometimes we had trees to the east and trees to the west and trees over our heads. Sometimes we had trees and swampy flooding to the east and bluffs to the west.

There was a lot of flooding. Some of the water was green on top. We had a brief discussion about whether the green stuff was algae or duckweed. I'm in the algae camp.

This is the Daniel Boone Judgment Tree Memorial. There used to be a big tree here where Dan'l Boone would listen to people's cases and pass judgment. But the tree died, I guess, and there's a small tree there now.

Here is our bike at the Judgment Tree Memorial. You can see that it's loaded down. We had firewood, a tent, sleeping bags and pads, food, cookware, a camp stove, clothes, and probably some other stuff that I'm forgetting. You can see that Jacob has a horn and speedometer on his handlebars.

Here is Jacob goofing around at the Judgment Tree Memorial.

At one point, I ran over a dark-colored snake that was stretched across the road. He was only a foot-and-a-half long or so. We stopped to take a look at him, but by the time we had walked back to where the snake was, he had gone. I guess that means he survived.

We had forgotten water bottles, but Rebekah had set us up with some 20oz Aquafinas. Water was running thin on this trip. The guide map says that there is no water between St. Charles and Defiance. Believe it. There is a nice trailhead with restrooms at Weldon Spring, but no water. Even at Defiance, I think you'd have to go into the town to get a drink; the trailhead is without water (correct me if I'm wrong).

It was starting to get darkish when we finally got to Klondike Park.

The final hill into Klondike topped out at 15%, according to the Garmin. My HR topped out at about the same time (194), as can be seen on this graph:

Hmm, my last two pictures aren't clickable; I'll need to fix that.

Posted by Picasa

Getting Ready for the Katy

Last Friday, Jacob and I went on a Katy Trail bike camping trip. In the morning, I loaded our tandem on my car and took it to work. In the afternoon, Rebekah brought Jacob up to my workplace, and Jacob and I left from there.You don't have to have a special tandem rack to carry a tandem bike. You can carry a tandem on a trunk rack if you take off the wheels. Here I have a 1998 Cannondale RT1000 on a Saris Bones trunk rack. I tied the forward and aft ends of the bike to the loops under the bumper for a little more stability. It worked - the bike was very stable on the rack.

While I was putting the bike on the car, a couple of hot air balloons flew over our house. Last weekend was the Forest Park Balloon Race.
Posted by Picasa