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October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Deciding what Adelaide would be for her first ever Halloween was not tricky … All we needed to do to find costume inspiration is to look to her seventh month demeanor, habits, and talents.

1. One of Adelaide’s best talents is shrieking. Her nearly inaudible high-pitched shriek, often emitted when she’s pressed to do something against her will (like take a nap), often alerts neighborhood fauna of her gross displeasure and disgust.

2. On Friday, October 13th, Adelaide’s left and right lateral incisors appeared on her top gumline, giving her a very humorous, sinister snaggletoothed look or just like a second-grader who’s lost her two front teeth.

3. It is with grim, pursed-lip weariness that I inform you that Adelaide’s most influential habits continues to be her regular nighttime wakefulness.

So, add them up, Friends! What shrieks, has fangs, and is nocturnal?

A Vampire Bat, of course.


However, Adelaide is not celebrating Halloween in the guise of a bad or evil bat.

Today, Adelaide and I went to our local old folks home to judge a costume contest and spread a little ghoulish holiday cheer among the residents. A friendly-looking scarecrow approached us and cooing over Adelaide said, “You’re just too cute to be a bat, little girl!”

We beg to differ, Lady! Is this a face only a mother could love?


We love bats. Bats are an important part of our ecosystem and have been long abused and mightily mistreated because they have been misunderstood and gotten a downright bad rep being associated with the usually-harmless legends, lore, and fun of Halloween. Do a little research, and you’ll find that bats are cool, too.

Oh yeah, and have a happy, spooky Halloween!

October 25, 2006

On the Hunt: A Triptych

How is Adelaide like Nine?



followed by a confrontation,


concludes with a loss of focus.

Losing Focus

October 23, 2006

(Extended) Family Fun

This weekend Marmee, Big D, Erna, K&C, even Shelby, made the trip to South Dakota. We circled our wagons in the autumnal chill and warm ourselves by the fire of family in our cozy flat.

On Friday during school, one of Joel's classmates inquired, "So, what are you gonna do with your family this weekend?" Joel replied, "Oh, well, we'll probably just sit around and watch the baby." Truer words were ne'er spoken ... Adelaide, in all her attitudes and guises, was laughed at (and with), snuggled, passed, kissed, hugged, flattered, and complimented.

Bathtime Buddies.jpg

As with many family gatherings, we enjoyed one another's company mostly over Stroganov and wine, football and Leinie's, but we did manage to get out of the house for a little bit of exercise, and stumbled upon a rare find: a new, paved hiking trail in Vermillion!


Our time together, so fleeting, was relaxing and comforting ... Indeed, our togetherness makes us closer, and as we parted ways on Sunday, we found ourselves looking forward to the future gatherings, when the new baby, looks, walks, and talks like this baby:

Swinging Sister

October 20, 2006

Field Trip


This past Wednesday night, Adelaide and I drove to Yankton to take Joel out to supper before he began to patients during a requisite call shift. We poked around the medical student cubicles, had a snack in the conference room, and indulged in a salty chinese buffet before saying "Good-night."

October 18, 2006

Mantle of White

Last night, it snowed.


October 17, 2006


Orange is the new black, after all.

The beneficiary for my first completed knitting project (other than washcloths) after finishing Adelaide's strawberry-colored baby blanket is once again Adelaide ... Surprised? I didn't think so.

It's just that baby things come together so easily and quickly. Relatively.

I fashioned this little tot-sized sweater after a pattern I found in Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Knitted Gifts - a book that I really just ought to buy, since I've had it checked from the public library for nearly eight weeks now. Hoverson's pattern book is divided into five sections based on the length of time it takes to complete certain knitting projects like felted potholders, baby bonnets, hourglass sweaters, and blankets. Hoverson's test knitters must have been paid handsomely to sit around, munch catered lunches, and knit all day long, because for me - with my daily squiggly nearly-seven-month-old companion - the projects aren't really last-minute. It took me more than the suggested four-to-six hours to complete Adelaide's sweater and I even omitted a portion of the pattern that called for a buttoned placket because I couldn't figure out how to do the cable cast-on. Ironically, I ought to have brought a banana bread offering to the Stitch n' Bitch goddesses (and, I believe, a god) who gather at our local coffee shop and asked for their intervention with the placket; I fear Adelaide will only be able to wear this sweater for the next week or so thanks to her giant (inherited) head.

Still, in honor of National Knitting Week (October 14 - 21st), I encourage all of you in Toadsland, get knitty wi' it!

October 10, 2006

Political Footwear

Canuck Pride

The hard-soled, good-for-bronzing infant shoes of our youth have been replaced by fancy leather moccasins bearing the familiar symbols of childhood: reindeer, lollipops, or the Canadian flag.

October 9, 2006

The Force of Habit

Many people have verbal habits: words or phrases that they routinely use without thinking of it. I had a colleague once who would frequently preface many otherwise perfectly straightforward utterances with the word “honestly”, as in, “Honestly, I’m incredibly pleased it’s payday.” Shortly before I left the job I teased my colleague about this habit, “When you don’t say ‘honestly,’ should I wonder if you’re lying?”

I find myself remembering a lot of these verbal tics, from my Scoutmaster who would finish a great many of his already difficult-to-follow instructionals on emergency first aid or wilderness survival with the unreassuring “…aaaand so on and so forth,” to the guy who lived down the hall from me in college who would end a large minority of his sentences with “’nshit” (“Hey, when I’m all done with my calculus ‘nshit, you wanna head to the caf for some dinner ‘nshit?”).

Many people fortify their speech with these old stand-bys as a kind of verbal shorthand. My Scoutmaster, for instance, had taught something like five thousand callow youths how to tie a bowline, which is the knot that if you could perform it one-handed, could be used to tie a length of rope around your waist which could then pull you out of a lake or a river or a deep hole into which you’d fallen and broken your arm and were otherwise unreachable except for with a length of rope. As I belonged to an accident-prone Scout Troop, this scenario did not seem at all wild.

Upon teaching perhaps his five hundredth callow youth, he’d probably become pretty good at teaching the one-handed bowline. Somewhere around three thousand, he most likely started cutting corners and, after getting through what he deemed to be the tricky part of the one-handed bowline, “aaaand so on and so forth,” would spill out of his mouth, and he would move on to the next ephebe with the kind of manly efficiency that is so striking in the middle-aged white male dressed in short green shorts and long red stockings. Of course, the greenhorn he had left behind would be left (if they were me) with a sad tangled length of rope and the difficult-to-shake notion that anyone attempting to rescue his busted-arm-self would run out of patience long before the bowline was successfully completed.

For those of you for whom she is the main attraction of this website, here's a gratuitous picture of Adelaide dressed as a sprout.
Force of Habit.jpg

Thus does haste make waste, mode of speech-wise, and in no venue here in my third year of medical school is that more obvious than in the clinic. If my old Scoutmaster had taught five thousand young scouts the one-handed bowline, the clinicians I follow have seen, on average, fifty thousand patients in the office setting. Of course, no two patients are alike, and the clinicians I follow that see a wide variety of complicated cases (i.e. my Internist and Family Practice docs) seem to be free of verbal habits.

One attending, however, sees a great many of the same type of patient: the perfectly healthy pregnant woman. Perhaps as a form of self-defense, he has reduced the talking part of these office visits to the following three questions, always uttered with the same tone and inflection: 1) “Having any contractions?” 2) “Any bleeding?” 3) “Any questions?”

He occasionally embroiders upon this pattern, inquiring about fetal movement or nausea, but for most patients I can (and don’t) silently lip-sync the dialogue along with him. As a further shortcut, he refers to all of his patients (regardless of age) as “Kiddo.” Medical students (at least male ones) are referred to as “Dude.” Surprisingly- perhaps because he has sleepy eyes, a goofy grin, and a pleasant tone of voice- he is considered one of the friendlier doctors around.

Another attending of mine leans heavily on “You know what I mean?” to fill the space in between sentences. There may have been a time when he said this to make sure that the patient understood and to allow them an opportunity to ask questions. Now, however, like a fashion sense developed to be attractive in the 1980s, his phrase accomplishes the opposite of its original purpose, as he says it with so little curiosity and accompanied by such a surprisingly baleful glare (he is generally a very amiable guy) that patients find themselves simply nodding rapidly in response, as though a teacher had suddenly nailed them with the old “Have you been listening?”

When he appends his catch-phrase onto the description of a procedure or the possible complications of that procedure, I morbidly watch the patients’ affirmative nod suddenly change into a blank inwardness, and then sudden anxiety, as follows:
Doctor: “So we’ll make an incision a little below your costal margin, you know what I mean?” [The patient nods affirmatively, thinking, “Right. An incision, that’s like a cut. I’m totally picking up what he’s putting down.” The patient suddenly develops an inward look. “Wait, where’s my ‘costal margin’?”) “Now, possible complications of this can be infection, damage to your biliary tract, and bleeding, you know what I mean?” [The patient nods, they know all these words. Except for maybe ‘biliary tract’. The patient develops an inward look as they wonder what exactly the doctor means by “infection, bleeding, and damage.” Then they suddenly look anxious.] I have never heard a patient say, “No, wait. I don’t know what you mean. What happens if I bleed, get infected, and you damage my Bel Air Track?”

I am still learning how to be a doctor, but I have seen my own proclivities toward cutting verbal corners. Those of you who know me personally know of my ability to mutter. I have found that, unless I’m alert, I can make one of own routine phrases, “Have you had any changes with your urination?” sound like one medium-sized word. The patients I mutter this to, bless them, can always tell by my tone of voice that the right answer is, regardless of what I actually asked them: “No.”

October 2, 2006


Each year, I return to a hodgepodge of fiction favorites. These tried-and-true pet tomes are decidedly based on the turning of the seasons. For me, it is a clash not unlike atonal singing to pick up a copy of Anna Karenina during summer’s heat, or choose to sail away with Captain Blood while snow is falling and whirling outside the window. Some out there in Toadsland would probably say just the opposite, and that fiction at its purest is escapist, and so there is no better time to be marooned on hot, turbid Tortuga with the Captain than while the real world is frigid and cold. But, we all have our preferences, and for me there is a time for everything under heaven, or more specifically, autumn is a perfect season to read Ray Bradbury and Connie Willis.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

In the Fall of 1994, I was a sophomore in high school and worked away my afternoons and evenings arranging the stacks at our local B. Dalton Bookseller. Occasionally, the company mandated we booksellers to wean the shelves of their excess and strip books – or ruthlessly tear the front cover of a paperback from its binding and in an instant render the text unsellable. One afternoon, I sat in the back, pulling covers from ancient romances and decrepit science fiction, when a flash of pink and gray caught my eye: Something Wicked This Way Comes. Part of the joy of being an adolescent, being employed at a bookstore, and being assigned to strip, is the sitting around and casually perusing your way through imagined sandy beaches, windswept towers, foreboding nineteenth-century back alleys, or haunted black caves in the hours of the late afternoon. On that particular day, I never left Green Town, Illinois. Each and every autumn since I pull out my treasured, stripped copy of Bradbury’s nostalgic, coming-of-age nightmare and relive that moment of my own young life all over again.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

I cannot exactly remember when my friend Kris loaned me her treasured copy of Doomsday Book. But, she promised, “If I know you, I know you’ll love this book.” I remember consuming the entire medieval time travel tale one rainy October afternoon, being as swept away by the story as the novel’s heroine is swept away by kirtles, tolling bells, fleas, and buboes. Ah, the Black Death … A topic quite near and dear to my heart (and the theme of my undergraduate thesis: Shakespeare and The Plague). Kris was right about me loving Willis’s sci-fi fantasy, and just yesterday – when I discovered to my horror that our local library does not carry Doomsday Book (and the nearest library that has a copy is in Spearfish) – I purchased an almost-new, used copy from our village bookseller. Some afternoon in the near future, I’ll eagerly crack the binding and find myself in 14th century England all over again.