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September 29, 2009

Poking Fun at the Stuff on T.V.

Joel and I are watching the new PBS/Ken Burns project: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. The early episodes of the series capture the nativity of our nation’s most sacred parks, Yellowstone and Yosemite. Customarily, Burns tells the birth stories by artfully juxtaposing images of flowing waterfalls, magnificent mountains, intimidating grizzlies and burbling paint pots with quotes from park pioneers (interpreted by the likes of Adam Arkin, John Lithgow, and Tom Hanks) and interviews from park rangers, historians, writers, and ... a John Muir scholar?

During the program the guy who voices the sentiments of John Muir is also interviewed - presumably as himself - and is credited as Lee Stetson, John Muir Scholar. John Muir Scholar??? Not an expert on naturalism, or conservation, or nineteenth-century American history, but an expert on John Muir! What’s so bizarre is that this guy, wearing a flowing white beard, looks just like John Muir, and also seems to have some kind of affected Scottish accent. It’s so bizarre that it makes Joel and I giggle and ask each other, “Who IS this guy?”

Thanks to Google, Joel quickly finds Stetson’s website. Weird, this mimic has a website!? Suddenly, Joel spies the word “actor” and all is made clear. This guy’s to John Muir as Hal Holbrook is (was) to Mark Twain. And what’s more, Joel reads, the website says that Stetson is available to act like John Muir scenic tours, community gatherings, and private parties.

Perfect! This just what we’ve been looking for Adelaide’s Fourth!

I can see it now ... A gathering of about 25 to 30 half-pints (and their parents). Colored balloons. Party favors. Gaily-wrapped gifts. Everyone’s about to dip into a slice of chocolate cake when Joel stands up and announces to an eager band of preschoolers, “Okay, everybody! Adelaide ... Look who’s here, John Muir!” Enter stage right, Lee Stetson, the John Muir scholar!

I wonder how much he charges.

September 19, 2009

A Morning in the Orchard

Oh joy for the harvest! We have been anxiously waiting for the autumn air to turn chill, for the leaves to begin to crunch, and for Wilson’s Apple Orchard to open their gates!


We snagged our favorite snacking apple, Honeycrisps, from the tippy-top of the lush trees, but also bagged two new varieties, Prairie Spy and Luna Red. Chosen for their great names, but also intended to marry their respective tart and sweet flavors in a homemade apple tart.



The morning was fresh, warm, and bright. We pranced through the beautiful orchard and plucked choice specimens from trees.


Giggly games of hide-and-seek quickly (d)evolved into our new game: Quarterback Sack. Adelaide and I invented the game the previous Sunday watching poor Aaron Rodgers get sacked by the Chicago Bears defense. It’s a simple game: Player One shouts “Hut One! Hut Two!” and then throws the ball (real or imaginary) at Player Two. Player Two catches the ball (real or imaginary), and then Player One tackles Player Two while screaming, “Quarterback Sack!” Adelaide loves this game. She especially loves to be Player One.


After a working up an appetite playing Quarterback Sack among the trees, we hiked back to the barn to settle up and pay for our rosy-cheeked loot. We supported our local farmers by buying 20 apples, a kid-sized t-shirt, a woodcut print, and a freshly-baked apple turnover. We settled down under a tree on an orchard-facing slope, munched our PB&J picnic lunch, Honeycrisps and still-piping-hot turnover.



Above photo courtesy of Adelaide.

September 17, 2009

One September Day

The alarm rang at 5:30 this morning, but I had already been awake for a half hour feeding a restless five month-old and waiting to hear the alarm ring.

A short while later, showered and dressed, Joel perked a pot of coffee and made us Toads-in-the-Hole for breakfast.

I coaxed Adelaide out of her warm bed, into her clothes, and down to the breakfast table by using her black-and-white dog, Puppy, as a puppet: “I want some dog cereal!” Puppy barked. Adelaide picked at her Life cereal.

The four of us trudged out the door and into the garage where our Taurus stood ready to convey us to our varied appointments when we spotted our neighbors’ yard.


Tp-ing: this old school expression of juvenile high spirits made us all smile as we headed down the road.

I arrived at work to find that I was to be pulled (re-assigned to cover a staffing shortage on another unit) to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit [NICU], Bay 5 (i.e., Feeders and Growers) today. Hooray! Although being pulled to another unit is always disorienting, I really liked my last pull to Bay 5; although the last time I was pulled there was my first day of being sick with Swine Flu! The nurses are super helpful and friendly, all the nurses always get a lunch, and basically one passes a fairly benign shift holding and snuggling newborns (something that I rarely get to do in my Mother-Baby job). As a bonus, I attended a NICU staff meeting entitled “Facebook at Work: A Good Use of Your Time?”

After work on the drive to pick-up Henry, Joel informed me that he also had an excellent day, one of his last on this blissed-out elective rotation. His advisor approved off all of Joel’s research efforts and thinks that there’s publishable material somewhere in all of the head and neck cancer that Joel’s been engrossed in.

We picked up Henry, who had made good use of all of the extra provisions we sent along to daycare. He’d eaten 14 ounces of bottled breastmilk and soiled the spare duds we had packed. Also, his charming care providers used his footprint to stamp a white ghost on a little Halloween display in his classroom. Cute!

With Henry securely fastened into his car seat, we were off to snag Adelaide before heading home. On my way to the backyard, where I knew Adelaide would be (covered in sand, head-to-toe), Jill, one of the school’s directors, approached me and said in her ever-cheerful voice, “I just want you to know that Adelaide bit Fiona today.” And, according to a couple of eye-witnesses, Adelaide announced that she didn’t want to be Fiona’s friend in front of Fiona, Fiona’s mom, and everybody this morning at breakfast. As Jill and I discussed possible reasons for and solutions to curb this behavior, Fiona’s mom walked in and together the three of us gently talked about the matter, laughing and joking (somewhat), but I was utterly disappointed. How can my kid be the mean kid? I am flummoxed about the biting and the unfriendly announcement, because Adelaide has been talking non-stop about the new girl Fiona and how she wants to have Fiona over and Fiona this and Fiona that.

Joel and I quietly chewed on this new, unpleasant development in Adelaide’s behavior as we made supper (grilled sausages and a yummy new salad with garbanzo beans, zucchini and corn). Adelaide was given a Take Five for sneaking out of the garage door and running across the street to play with the neighbors’ Tp. Do you know how fast the bus drives up our street?? I shuddered to think, and then I slurped down two T&Ts (TGIF! Oh wait, TGIT!).

We headed out into the night air, bound for Dane’s Dairy. We spied a Blue Heron in our murky neighborhood pond en route, but missed the snapshot of the bird flying away above the pond by a long shot.


We made it to Dane’s and indulged.


Adelaide fell off the yellow horse and bumped her chin. Despite the fact that she cheerfully obeyed our urgings to “Get back on the horse what threw ya!”, it was tears all the way home about sore chins, bug bites, lost flowers, and being hungry. Henry coo’d and smiled, happy to be outside. We spied Venus in the fading light, or at least, we thought it was Venus.

I popped a snorfly Adelaide into the shower and scrubbed away the sand, while Joel and Henry tidied up the kitchen. Adelaide screamed as I brushed her hair, but was soothed by the Calamine treatment I gave her multiple bug bites. Joel lotioned Henry’s dry skin, put him in comfy p.j.s, and we switched. As I nursed Henry to sleep, I heard Joel reading Elmo Can Use the Potty and Madeline and the Bad Hat and then, mercifully, it was lights out for both the Peep and the Squeak.

Now it’s 8:55 and I’m blogging and Joel’s stretched out on the couch, reading Eclipse, but is using his expensive English Major to pretend it’s Ulysses. The dishwasher is running. The crickets are chirping. Faintly, I can hear cars zooming.

Ah, a good, long day in the life.

September 11, 2009

Great Moments In Theological Debate

Last night Adelaide and I were reading a picture book about the Nativity. It was also a Counting Book, the kind of thing where a simple story is told and, for some reason, things happen from one to ten. In this case, the narrators are contemporary farm animals remembering the events of the Nativity as their ancestor cows, donkeys, doves, etc. experienced them. First ONE cow mentions the stable, then TWO donkeys talk about Mary's mode of transport, then THREE doves talk about... atmospheric conditions or something. It's a nice little book with clean 1970sesque illustrations that we inherited from the Wurzberger's collection of Golden Books.

After we finished the book, Adelaide pointed at Joseph and asked, "How come Joseph doesn't talk?" The picture she was pointing at was a typical portrait of Joseph: bearded, thick brown hair, an expression somewhere between smiling and frowning, standing a little bit back and giving baby Jesus a speculative eye.

"I'm not sure," I replied, "but you're right, in most of these stories Joseph doesn't say much. Maybe he's a little scared or suprised."

"Maybe he's just shy," Adelaide offered. Adelaide is often just a little shy with new people. I agreed that Joseph might have been a shy person. "He's shy like Bigfoot!" Adelaide elaborated.

"Okay," I said hesitantly, "so Bigfoot is sort of like Joseph."

"No," Adelaide corrected, pointing at the picture, "Jospeh is like Bigfoot."

September 8, 2009

Weekend Snapshot

Ahhhh ... Labor Day. What's this holiday all about anyway? We are certainly not laboring.

We point, we look, we zone out. Life is a verb, right?

Adelaide and her friends, The Centipedes. Adelaide is a little nervous about every kind of bug, except centipedes, of course. Also, the outfit is an expression of defiant independence.

Henry hams it up with a big ol' gummy grin ... Where are we going? Who cares! The milky lady is here!

P.S. Hawks blocked Northern Iowa 17 to 16. Go Hawkeyes!

September 4, 2009

Hawk Pride


Tomorrow is the Hawkeye's first home football game of the season against Northern Iowa.

Traffic was already congested this morning around the hospital and Kinnick Stadium as pre-tailgaters begin their tailgating mayhem with coolers of beer, tents of fried food, and wagons of Hawkeye apparel. Black and gold flags flapped in the brisk morning wind atop the stadium, heralding the start of the season. On the way to preschool, I told Adelaide the story of how she charmed a bus full of weary travelers by shouting "Gooooooooo Hawkeyes!" as we drove by the stadium one afternoon a little over one year ago.

When we arrived at school, everyone was already gathered in the front room for Circle Time, listening to Renee (one of the Grown-Ups, as Adelaide calls her) read a story. Typically, the story is a favorite from children's literature, like The Hungry Caterpillar or Curious George, but today's story was entitled Hello Herky! and discussed the finer points of Iowa football fandom.

The recitation of Hello, Herky! concluded with a rousing - and I mean rousing - chorus of 2 - 5 year-olds shouting the Iowa Fight Song. To my utter disbelief and surprise, Adelaide sang-shouted along!

Goooooooooo Hawkeyes!

September 2, 2009

Jam Day


UP from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,

The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.

Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple and peach tree fruited deep,

Fair as the garden of the Lord
To the eyes of the famished rebel horde,

On that pleasant morn of the early fall
When Lee marched over the mountain-wall;

Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.

From Barbara Frietchie by John Greenleaf Whitter

Morning broke coolly this morning; the thermometer's arrow pointing at 45 degrees. A perfect day to steam up the kitchen with a delicious, sticky mess of Rosemary-Peach jam.

In between parenting the tots and tearing through the pages of my ICPL Summer Reading Program prize, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, I blanched, peeled, and sliced a bunch of yellow Missouri peaches. Around lunchtime, I nestled four carefully selected twigs of rosemary into the sliced peaches and dropped healthy cups of granulated sugar atop the fruit and then, waited. And read ...

The Civil War has always held a peculiar spell over me. Maybe it's the Structuralist in me, but I can't help but love the juxtaposition of the North and the South, brother against brother, Industrial versus Agrarian societies, slave and free, united or divided. Shaara's narrative is a perfect realization of this juxtaposition. Again, I am spellbound by Shaara's descriptions of the perfect and necessary horror of that particular war. I keep thinking as one page leads to the next, "This is a great book."

I've stirred up the sentiments for a lost time in this year's jar of Rosemary-Peach jam. In a way, it's kind of fitting ... According to the Missouri Compromise, the South is only about 100 miles as the crow flies directly south of our house.

September 1, 2009

A Good Hosting

After two weeks of hosting, we packed ourselves off to Minnesota on Friday morning to stretch out and revel in the luxury, kid-friendly guest atmosphere at Marmee and D's house.

On the long way north, we stopped for lunch at Uncle Charles City in northern Iowa and made a brilliant discovery at a little park in town ...


Probably homemade? Probably over fifty years old? Probably the best two-person swing ever!

After hitting rush hour in the Cities - and cleverly avoiding the stop-and-go with the use of our own personal Minnesota G.P.S. (i.e., my dad) - we finally made it to Marmee and D's after nearly 9 hours of travel. Ugh.

Still, after a good night's rest, we easily put the long trip behind us and settled into mini-vacation mode. Joel arose early on Saturday and shot 18 holes at the V.A. golf course, while the rest of us went shopping. Adelaide found a sweet pair of bright red Bumpers!


Henry just had to have a new baby pirate skull-and-crossbones cap to prevent the constant scratching of his head. Self discovery is such a great thing, but it's kind of too bad when it leads to a seriously ouchy head.


Henry was also the beneficiary of a bath-in-the-sink, courtesy of our hosts (and with some assistance from Erin and Adelaide).


Marmee and D's has become pretty much our Only Vacation Spot. Where else could you go for freshly baked cinnamon rolls, cozy beds, decadent nightcaps, lots of laughs, and plenty of hugs? Joel gets a chance to be alone on the Back Nine. I get a chance to check out expensive knickknacks at speciality shops with my mom and sisters. Adelaide gets a chance to play Soup in the hot tub with Papa, Erin, and Big D. And Henry gets lots of snuggles and love from everyone.