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May 24, 2009

Fambly Partay

Yesterday, our family hosted a party to celebrate Marmee's birthday with friends and extended family. Many loved ones from near and far arrived to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and the company ... Of course, it helped that the assembly included a couple of new babies.

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Charles, Henry, and Grandma Vi

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Adelaide, Henry, and Auntie Phoebe

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Henry and Grandma Molly

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Cha-Cha and Owen

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Adelaide ran around all day, playing with new cousins, getting messy in neighborhood sandboxes, sampling lots of cake frosting, and skipping her afternoon nap. After a late supper of Mac n' Cheese, Adelaide asked to settle on the couch and watch a movie. She passed out during the opening credits of Aladdin.

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Unlike his sister, who slept through the night until 7:30, Henry decided that the nighttime was when he had his mama's undivided attention to complain about a snuffly nose that he's been coping with since our trip north. Still, after a restless night, he awoke bright eyed and even gave D a big good morning smile!

May 23, 2009

Just a Couple of Wild and Crazy Guys

Henry, at 7 weeks, and his cousin Owen, at 6 months, got to spend some quality one-on-one time together this weekend.

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Henry's first attempts at social smiling captured!

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Life is just a rollercoaster ride for these two ... We wonder does this photo capture their personalities? Hang on, Owen! Woo hoo, Henry!

May 20, 2009

Travelogue

Yesterday, Henry, Adelaide and I finally put off the inevitable and made the 400-mile road trip from Iowa City to St. Cloud. Yes, we braved the unforgiving highways and freeways to seek out the comfort and relaxation that only Marmee and D’s house affords and left Joel to his own devices and plans in Iowa City. So we awoke at the usual hour, fed Henry, and were off on our adventure at 7:40 a.m.

If you’ve ever driven alone with a little person, you know the stress and anxiety that can come with not being able touch, feed, comfort, or help that little person while you’re driving. I remember an innocent Target trip that turned into a screaming, crying nightmare on the road between Vermillion and Sioux Falls when Adelaide was six months old. I think that I bawled all the way home. Typically, our travels find me at the helm of our Taurus and Joel straining his back by twisting and turning around to pass Adelaide a drink of water or to read her a story. So to say that I was intimidated to make this necessary trip with two little people without Joel was an understatement.

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Still, we strive to meet new and frightening challenges, so off we went! As I said to my dad when I called him to let him know that we were on the road, “Every mile is one mile closer.” By 8:20 a.m., we’d left Cedar Rapids in the dust and had stopped at a small, very rural, very unpretentious gas station in Urbana for a potty break. When your travel companion is a 3 year-old statements like, “I have to go potty,” get a rapid response no matter what the locale or local color. Lugging Henry into the ramshackle gas station in his car seat and holding Adelaide tightly by her hand, a gentlemanly farmer, sporting his manure-stained work duds and a toothless grin, held the door for us and we managed the break without incident and we’re back on the road within minutes.

We navigated the confusing interchanges at Waterloo, and were soon smoothly sailing up Highway 218. This particular stretch of road, between Waverly and Mason City, is a favorite along our trip with its rolling hills, bucolic visitas, and minimal traffic. We paused briefly at Charles City to nurse, use the restroom at a medical clinic (we tried and failed to find a city park!), and comment on all of the ‘spinning wheels’ (as Adelaide prefers to call windmills).

And then, finally at 11:45 a.m., there is was: The Welcome to Minnesota sign!

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To reward our fortitude, we pulled into the first Minnesota rest stop and visitor station for a break. The sky was blue, the breeze warm, and the playground was all ours! We picnicked on cheese and crackers, carrots and cucumbers, and strawberries and cookies for about 45 minutes. Adelaide happily danced between our picnic table and the playground. It was an inspired break, giving all of us respite from the hot car and then, the courage to push on.

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We arrived in the Cities at about 1:30 p.m., and made our way through treacherous construction and hazardous drivers. Adelaide opted to skip her usual nap and instead asked every few minutes or so, “Are we there yet?” or “Where’s Marmee and D’s house?” On 494 just near the Minnesota Vikings HQ, Henry had a strange screaming fit that I can only attribute to the recent Favre negotiations (I digress: It’s a confusing time for all of us, isn’t it?). He self soothed by the Wayzata exit and we shot out of the Cities afternoon congestion and onto the final stretch.

The 45-mile push from Maple Grove to St. Cloud is a blur. All I remember is calling my mom at work as we neared St. Cloud and she cheerfully chirped, “Stop by my office!” With her office poised just off 94, I didn’t need to be asked twice. We sped toward Marmee’s office with such great purpose that I missed the turn into her parking lot. I said, “Oops, Adelaide! I’ve missed the turn!” Adelaide promptly replied with great disdain, “Are we lost?”

Thankfully, we weren’t lost, and our long journey had at last come to a close at 2:50 p.m. For a few days anyway ...

May 15, 2009

Onesie Model

Henry has been the lucky recipient of several rad, new onesies to celebrate his birth. This afternoon, Henry asked to model some of his favorites:

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For now ... (Thanks Dave & Norah!)

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For later ... (Thanks Josh & Steph!)

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And for later, later! (Thanks Phoebe & Dave)

May 14, 2009

Firming-Up Future Plans

Over Memorial Day weekend, Adelaide, Henry and I plan to drive north to visit family in Minnesota while Joel will stay behind in Iowa City, playing host to a bunch of chums from high school.

Tonight, Adelaide and I discussed the weekend's plans over supper. We talked about how we would drive north to Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, past the windmills and the 'Welcome to Minnesota' sign, through the Big Twin Cities, all the way to Marmee and D's house. Adelaide offered that she would show Henry around Marmee and D's house, and she would play with their Care Bears and their dollhouse and she would sleep in her Princess Bed (an inflatable air mattress featuring the visages of the Disney Princesses). We then discussed how Papa would stay at our house for the weekend, and talked about how Papa and his friends would play games, have a barbecue, and maybe have a fire in the fire pit.

We paused to take a few bites of supper and to scold a squirrel on the birdfeeder, and then had the following exchange, verbatim:

Ae: We'll go to Marmee and D's when it's summertime?

Me: Yup. Very soon, you and Henry and I will drive to Marmee and D's. And what will we do when we get there?

Ae: Play with toys, like the Care Bears, right? And I will sleep in my Princess Bed, right? It's waiting for me?

Me: Yes, your bed is waiting for you.

Ae: And Papa will stay here, right?

Me: And what will Papa do?

Ae: He'll play with his friends, right?

Me: Mmm-hmm.

Ae: And they will do laundry. And drink beer.

Sounds like a great weekend, just Joel and the guys, sitting around folding towels, discussing the merits of liquid fabric softener, and having a little PBR ASAP.

May 13, 2009

Routine

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These past weeks have found our family settling into a routine of late nights and early risings.

We’re learning to manage, cope, and balance. I often found myself giving this advice to new parents in my job: “You need to take turns caring for the baby and for each other” or “Try to find a balance between getting things accomplished and just doing the minimum necessary.” Smarty-pants nurse, right? I am learning that my own advice is easier said than done.

So, we’ve been working at doing some every day and doing nothing every day. Somedays doing some means just getting Adelaide’s hair in pigtails for preschool, feeding Henry, and showering. Other days in doing some we check things off To-Do lists, like getting announcements in the mail or changing the batteries on all of the smoke detectors. Still other days doing some means that we fritter away a morning at Menards picking out annuals for our pots and playing on the sample playground because it will make our 3 year-old laugh. Doing nothing means sleeping in the middle of the morning or the middle of the afternoon because Henry is finally snoozing peacefully. Doing nothing means reading James Swanson’s Manhunt and daydreaming about Lincoln-themed family vacations several afternoons in row. Doing nothing means making a To-Do list and then ignoring it. Doing nothing means staring at Henry for the better part of an hour, trying to get him to smile.

There are positives and negatives to introducing a new little person into one’s family milieu during a decidedly heavy-duty residency rotation. On the plus side, I am on maternity leave, which gives Joel a certain amount of freedom to start early or stay late, trusting that I will care for myself, Henry and Adelaide. But, that responsibility has also been a big part of the challenge of this time; Joel sometimes has to stay. It’s all part of this thing called ‘doctoring’ ... Joel and I were just musing the other day about the time in medical school when he’d have to be on-call for 24 hours and then follow-up the call with (at least) half a clinic day. We grumbled at the time, “Why do they think that we need to learn about being on-call?” This year, we’ve definitely learned about what it means to be on-call and to be on an anatomic rotation (like gritty Surg-Path or knee-deep Autopsy) versus a clinical rotation (like friendly Microbiology). It comes down to a matter of sleep.

But, we’re figuring it out. And we’re trying not to worry about the world just around the corner that has me returning to work in June and Joel doing yet another Surg-Path rotation in July. But for now, it’s May and the rain is tapping on the window, the laundry is rolling around in the dryer, Henry is asleep, Adelaide is playing with her friends at school, Joel is diagnosing somebody’s something, and I’m having that second cup of coffee and blogging. It’s a little of doing nothing and a little of doing something. It's a good morning.

May 6, 2009

Back to the Mushroom Forest

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Last Sunday, our family officially brushed off Winter's cobwebs and went for an invigorating tromp in what we lovingly call the Mushroom Forest (or Woodpecker Nature Trail at the Coralville Lake and Fossil Gorge). Why the Mushroom Forest, you ask? Last fall, the trail was teeming with varied and sundry fungi specimens. Last Sunday, we only saw a couple of slime molds, but still had a great time. Adelaide tried out her new ruby-slipper Crocs and Henry wobbled along cozily in the Bjorn not caring a fig for our adventures.

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Ever the naturalist, Adelaide brought her trusty flashflight - or torch, as she prefers to call it; maybe we've watched too many episodes of Kipper lately? She used the flashlight to peek down many a gnome hole in search of the shy creatures, but everyone must have been at church because we didn't even catch a glimpse of a pixie.

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Except this one, of course.

May 2, 2009

Stunt Dad

As a younger man, I would occasionally take part in amateur theatricals. I played many different kinds of roles, but I always especially relished a part that would require that I be beaten up, stabbed, beheaded, or in some way violently killed. Part of the fun, of course, stretches back to childhood games. When G.I. Joe shoots Cobra Commander in the gut, all eyes are on Cobra Commander's death throes. Joe may be the hero, but for a little while all he can do is stand alongside everyone else as a great villain meets his end.
The other part of the fun is the skill required in making a fight scene that is harmless and controlled down to the smallest element look absolutely deadly. Before every show we'd run and re-run all the fights and deaths as part of our warm-up until all involved were satisfied that the mayhem would run smoothly.
Of course, live theater is what it is, and many fights devolved into chaos. Once in High School I played Hamlet, and in the climactic duel with Laertes my sword broke, the blade singing out into the audience (startling, but not injuring, a classmate). My friend Nate, playing Laertes, suddenly found that my fore-shortened sword would sail right through his pre-positioned parries, and Hamlet stabbed Laertes multiple times in the chest before Laertes was able to deliver the poisoned blow required to finish the play.

I don't have time for theatricals these days, but I'm still fond of a prat-fall or a stunt. Adelaide, fortunately, is happy to be the instigator, and whenever I push her on the swings she'll eventually call out, "Walk in front of me, Papa! Walk in front!"
"What?" I'll say, the oblivious fall guy. "Walk in front of you while you swing? Why, what could go wrong with that?"
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The three keys to this stunt are 1) Not bracing for the impact, which is always hard when you know you're going to take a hit. 2) Exaggerating the impact. 3) Pretending to really be hurt after you hit the ground. Roll around a little, come up holding your ribs, wheeze, and maybe get light-headed and fall down again. If you, too, want to be a stunt dad or mom, simply find (or create) a child with a slight sadistic streak, apply these three steps, and soon every kid on the playground will be laughing at your antics. Or maybe crying a little. If you do a really good job.