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August 19, 2012

The Drought Comes Home

It seems as though the drought of 2012 (the worst in 60 years or the worst since the Dust Bowl in 1936, depending on what source you listen to) is over. We've had a few rainy days these last two weeks, and, for the first time since June, I had to mow the lawn yesterday.

Not mowing the lawn is a mixed blessing. Since the fellowship started up in July, I've been about 10% more weary and stressed out, and have been very pleased to have one less thing to think about (throughout July of 2011 I had to mow twice a week). On the other hand, having to mow made me keep up with picking up dog poop and yard debris, and made it much more likely that I'd be hanging around outside with the kids.

The drought has been terrible for many people, grocers, restaurant owners and staff, and consumers (The usual thing is to think chiefly of farmers suffering through a drought. The everyday work of farming is difficult, dirty and dangerous [I've done a little agricultural labor during the summers of my youth], but almost all of them have federally-subsidized crop insurance that protects them from drought. No such program exists, I'm sure, for restaurateurs.). Let me just raise my fist and proclaim that it has also been hard on parents. All summer long we have had to grunt and sweat through outdoor fun that leaves us withered and parched (the kids, of course, don't seem to mind the heat). The ban on watering lawns and washing cars made the filling of a backyard kiddy pool feel like a transgressive act akin to bootlegging or illegal gambling ("Hey, Henry. Keep it on the down-low, but word is that Jimmy's breaking out the Slip-n'-Slide on Tuesday if he can find a good scout. You in?"). We have had to plod through desiccated neighborhoods to get to arid parks surrounded by drooping trees that shed their leaves like flakes of dried skin.

It was on one such outing to a park that I felt a little overwhelmed by it all. Henry had brought his sand toys and wanted my help to make a castle. Of course in order to make a castle, you need that compact moist under layer of sand that actually sticks together. We dug down and down. We kept digging until we got to the hard and cracked dirt under the sandbox. That layer of moist brown sand didn't exist- the whole foot-thick sandbox was composed of fluffy dry white silica. I held up a fistful and stared at it in disbelief. We were not sitting in a sandbox, we were perched on the tip of a sand dune that seemed to extend down into the dusty planet like an iceberg beneath the waves. I felt the sudden urge to grab Hal and scramble out of that sandbox, lest it pull us down to become mummies in the earth.

August 16, 2012

First Grade!

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Today is the first day of school here in Toadsland!

Armed with her backpack hip messenger bag full of colored folders, spiral-bound notebooks, and communal tissues, and a belly full of blueberry muffins, Adelaide was all business this morning when we dropped her off at her classroom. She settled right into her desk chair and advanced on a coloring sheet that was waiting for her. We had a squeeze and "kiss hand" good-bye at Adelaide's new desk and left her in the capable hands of her new teacher. Joel and I commented as we walked to the office to drop off some lunch money and our textbook fees, "Gosh, this is completely different from last year! Did you see all those teary parents in the media center, trying to hold it together?"

Still, we wandered around the outside of the building on the way out to the car and peeked in Adelaide's classroom window for a last glimpse. Adelaide's teacher, already lecturing to her group of eager, rapt students, smiled and waved when she saw us. Caught! We quickly ducked out-of-sight and giggled at ourselves.

August 12, 2012

Adventureland!

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In Iowa, there is perhaps no place that bespeaks summertime fun better than an amusement and water park just outside of Des Moines called Adventureland. Boasting favorites like the ferris wheel, the scrambler, and the flume, Adventureland has that cotton candy-lemonade-funnel-cake-inspired whimsy and that scream-your-head-off delight that one finds defying gravity and racing faster and faster and faster in circles. Most respectable, academically-inclined families that I know here in Iowa City take their kids to Adventureland once each summer, just before school starts, as a big farewell to summertime.

Yesterday, my dad took us all to Adventureland.

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The site of his annual company picnic, we commented all day, "What a great company to work for!"

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There were so many smiles and laughs and thrills all day ... We began our day with a trip up, up, up on the ferris wheel to get a good lay of the (Adventure)land and saw the gleaming state capitol dome from our perch. Adelaide's first ride after the ferris wheel was a ride called G-Force with her papa; she loved every minute of her little body hurtling and bashing around her cart as they felt g-forces. After the excitement of G-Force, we tried a more sedate kiddie-ride for Henry and Adelaide and laughed as we watched Adelaide inwardly say "ho-hum" at the creep-a-long pace of the ladybug.

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Henry, a scant 38" inches high, was able to ride almost all of the rides with a grown-up. He smiled and said "Whoa!" with me on the whirling, twirling, up-and-down Lady Luck. We ate fried chicken, sweet corn, and funnel cake. After lunch, we had the day documented by getting our photo taken at an old-time photo booth. We settled on a Old West saloon-themed image and were surprised when Joel and D looked just like they'd stepped out of the pages Lonesome Dove after the costumers had dressed us up in our saloon-wear (Henry piped up to the photographer as she was posing us, "I want a gun." I quickly added, "I believe we all want guns, please." We don't get to hold a lot of guns in our day-to-day lives.)

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We stood in line for over an hour to get wet on the Raging River, then stood in line for about three minutes for this crazy, dizzy, spinning space capsule ride that made us all have to go to the bathroom. We floated down the lazy river at the water park, navigating our way between mildly boozy couples on tubes (we elected not to partake of the swim-up bar, this time).

We pounded the pavement at Adventureland for about seven hours. And then it was time to go home.

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We drove back to Iowa City, exhausted, but happy.