Archive for October, 2010
The witches, ghosts, goblins, and ghouls have come and gone for the evening. They visited us in ravenous hordes, leaving us just barely enough candy for my own personal consumption. My poor children, each having lugged home a bag the size of a mature wolverine and approximate weight of an anvil on Jupiter*, are unknowingly going to be making a donation to Puddin’s Backup Snicker and Twix Collection as soon as I finish this post.
I’m teaching them about sharing, see. Just kind of on the sly.
Anyone who knows me well likely knows that as far as I’m concerned, Halloween Iz Da Shizznit. I think that means “I like it” to the kids on the street. Sadly, I’m not 100% sure about that, so I guess I should speak a little more plainly; I heart me some Halloween. It’s been my favorite holiday since I was knee-high to a grasshopper**. Now, I realize that if most kids, and adults as well, were given the choice of picking only one holiday per year, the overwhelming majority would go with Christmas, with Arbor Day running a distant second. And really, who could blame them? Everybody loves a sackful of free gifts from a jolly old dude in a red coat.
Not me, though. For me, the scariest night of the year always trumped Christmas. Don’t get me wrong. Christmas is plenty cool, and I certainly put Santa through the paces in my youth, but that’s another post. Christmas, though, is largely about moral lessons contrasted with unbridled avarice, as well as seeing if you can make it through a whole day with your distant cousins without a WWE Pay-Per-View event erupting spontaneously.
Halloween, though, is about imagination, and it’s just about the only holiday for which that’s true. On Halloween, we carve frightening faces into gourds and light them up to protect us from the spirits of the damned granted a night to walk the Earth. Most Halloween traditions are based upon conjuring up thoughts and images that scare the crap out of us. There’s no single entity assigned as the focus of our dread, instead we concoct frightening images of witches, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, vampires, IRS agents, and High School chemistry teachers.
Throughout your life, when you turn off the lights on your way to bed, you often involuntarily end up walking down the hall a little faster because there’s an image in your head to fear. Halloween celebrates that image, encourages us to add detail to it, and gives us control over it. But if we didn’t have the imagination to begin with, Hallmark would have a damned hard time making any money off of holiday.
So, while I enjoy the costumes and the trick-or-treating, the men dressed as women and the women dressed as…well…partially undressed women, those but things are fun little add-ons for me. And honestly, as a parent of four small children, I don’t usually mind too much when the passing out of candy is finished for the evening. The whole business is no small amount of works for people like us. Fun and rewarding, yes, but work nonetheless.
Long story short, it’s not the trappings of Halloween that I love so much, it’s the make-believe.
I have a very active imagination; my brain likes to make things up. For such individuals, almost every one of those made-up things starts with a dark, spooky night where the wind whistles a lonely call and things go bump, or worse. Halloween is the one holiday of the year that requires stoking that sense of imagination, and that fact scratches me right where I itch.
I love Halloween, and always have, and you can be damned sure I’m always going to celebrate it.
With as many Snickers as I can eat.
has more gravity than Earth; stuff weighs more there.
**I don’t really understand that expression, but I’m pretty sure it means since I was young.
I probably don’t mention it enough, but by and large, the Puddinette and I are blessed with relatively calm and mostly well-behaved children. I say relatively and mostly, of course, because any human, miniature or otherwise, is occasionally going to test the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Our kids are no different in that regard, but by and large, the biggest problem we have to deal with is when one of my darling offspring calls another a “stinky-booty-face” or something of the like as the result of a dispute about which of them is currently the rightful ruler of the remote.
Honestly, who hasn’t called their own spouse a “stinky-booty-face”, or worse, over the remote control?
So, yes, we’re lucky. My evenings are largely filled with simple refereeing. Nobody’s setting fire to the neighbor’s cat or anything.
Until it becomes bedtime.
I’m not sure what it is, honestly. I suspect that the forces of Balance in the Universe are paying me back for all my own childhood bedtime misbehavior, which was not inconsiderable. Plus interest, compounded over 24 years. Whatever the cause, though, bedtime is a constant annoyance. Still, I can usually get everyone in bed with a few hugs and a nightly minimum baseline of threats. If I’m lucky, I’ll only need to intervene after the lights are turned off once.
Some nights, though, well, some night are like tonight.
Tomorrow the three older kids are having their annual school Halloween parties, with costumes, cookies, cupcakes, and critters, so obviously there was already a sense of excitement in the air. On top of that, a new Shrek Halloween special was on TV tonight, which added on to the general evening merriment.
So, clearly, when it was time to brush their teeth and go to bed, everyone went right up to the bathroom and calmly applied toothpaste to their enamel.
And I’m the Bathsheba, Queen of Lollipop Guild.
After telling the oldest boys to turn off the TV and get ready for bed, they stormed into the hall bathroom like a Wehrmacht invasion in 1939. Hoping that they could at least finish the prep work before I needed to take personal command, I paused briefly to chat with the Puddinette about a post-bedtime grocery trip for essentials. As she rattled off the list of weekly sale-items, I applied my best selective hearing skills, because honestly, sometimes you just don’t feel like picking up dill pickles at 9 o’clock on a Thursday evening, regardless of how many you can get for $10.
It was irrelevant, though, because before we could finish our market negotiations, I heard The Squeals of Bickering from the bathroom. Obviously, just brushing one’s teeth, taking care of the rest of your nightly routine and getting out of the bathroom, is a process too straightforward for a seven year-old. And really, why go get right in bed and start reading when, instead, you could take a few minutes out of your busy evening to pester one of your siblings?
So I donned the trusty Drill Sergeant façade and broke up Ali-Frazier II in the bathroom with a few well-rehearsed orders.
Not too long afterward, the nightly reading was complete, hugs were applied, youngsters were tucked-in, and the lights went out.
I then made the mistake of walking past their bathroom again, where I noticed that the toilet was clogged. Now, sometimes there’s…um…stuff that lets you know a clog is in process. Other times, though, it takes the practiced eye of a part-time Smitty to identify the slightly lowered level of water available in the bowl.
And yes, I’m plenty practiced there.
Needing validation that the toilet was clogged, I of course proceeded to do the one thing you should never do in such circumstances; I flushed.
Now, usually, when you’ve got a little clog-age going on, the water will rise to merely frightening levels before slipping past the blockage in the drain and seeping away. Sometimes, though, when you’ve got a good solid dam down in there, that water’s going nowhere.
And the toilet just keeps filling.
And that’s when you realize with a start that it’s not going to stop before it hits the Level of Doom.
As I watched the water rise, the situation before me hit home, and I dashed away for a plunger. Now, I’m not and never was a fast guy. In high school, I ran the 40-yard dash in 5.8 seconds*. But tonight, with the impending threat of toilet overflow, I was back in the bathroom, plunger in hand, before you could say, “1.6 Gallons per flush.”
But it was too late. By the time I got back, the water was still contained by the bowl, but just barely. There wasn’t even enough room in there to add the plunger without pushing past the volume limit. I was doomed. So I did the only thing I could; I turned the water off at the feed line to the tank, and quickly grabbed some towels.
Luckily, the Puddinette has trained me doggedly over the years to easily identify which towels could be acceptable for emergency toilet overflow duty and which would result in the slow, painful plucking of my neck hairs in the middle of the night while I slept.
As the water crested the bowl and began hitting the floor, I arranged the emergency towels for greatest expected effect and waited for the flood waters to recede.
And that’s when I heard it: the tell-tale signs of Ali-Frazier III revving up in the bedroom.
It turns out that one of the ‘Pops had taken the other’s wallet, and was being somewhat coy about returning it. Having exactly zero units of patience remaining for Bedtime Shenanigans during Toilet Crisis 2010, I stormed into the room, my blood boiling and my eyes the color of crimson flame.
Walletgate was resolved quickly and effectively, and both Puddinpops where made to understand that if I heard so much as a whisper of thought that suggested further bickering this evening, both of them would be dressing as Little Bo Peep this year for the school Halloween party as well as Halloween itself. I even considered throwing in the entirety of the following week, just for good measure.**
Ten minutes later, thankfully, the tide had receded, the plunger had done its job, and the flood was cleaned up.
And not a single peep was heard from anyone’s bedroom.
Which is good, because I wasn’t sure where I was going to get two Bo Peep costumes at 8 AM.
*Hey, I was a lineman. We aren’t known for speed.
**I wouldn’t really do that. Probably. I don’t think.
In case you missed it, I came clean in yesterday’s post and copped to the fact that for the week or so prior I’d been in Europe. The point of that particular post was to give kind of a fly-by of my thoughts regarding my first trip to both Europe and a formerly Eastern-bloc country. In my mind, though, what I thought about it isn’t the most interesting thing. For my two cents, I’m always more curious to hear what people believe is the most surprising thing about a trip like that.
In my case, you’ll never guess the answer; it has nothing to do with Poland.
I was gone for just over week, which turns out to be the longest consecutive number of days I’ve been away from my wife since the day we were married. There was a brief period when the Puddinpop, The Sequel was just a few months old that I stayed Minneapolis for two weeks. Smack in the middle of those two weeks, though, I came home for the weekend. Since then I’ve never been away from the family for more than a night or two at a time.
Because I’m rarely away from them for very long, I don’t truly see my kids on a daily basis. Yes, of course, I lay eyes on them nearly every single day, but my mind doesn’t see them for how they really are. When I look at them I see only my perception of them, which typically means those little kids that still need bathroom step-stools and special car seats.
In other words, I see them the way I remember them, not for what they’ve become already in such a short span of life.
When the Puddinette picked me up from the airport Monday evening, she had the Princess and the Attitude with her, and the two older boys were at a class. When I got into the car, the ‘Tude went off a giggling litany of “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” for nearly a full minute before he broke off to ramble on about every single thing he saw outside his car window while we drove. At that moment, I took a good look at him for the first time in over a week, and I couldn’t help but wonder who’d replaced my cute little baby with a child taking up so much of his car seat. I’m mean, sure he looked like my little Attitude, but he couldn’t have doubled in size after I left, right?
We immediately proceeded to the pick-up point for the Puddinpop pair, and waiting for them to emerge with the other kids in the class. When they finally came marching out in a herd of children, I almost didn’t recognize either of them. My eldest two children have grown tall and lost their childish features. They’re boys now, schoolchildren; no longer the little tykes that seemed so likely to fall off their bicycles.
Ironically, the only one of the kids that didn’t seemed vastly different to me was Princess Puddinette. I’m not sure exactly why that is, but it’s either because she’s currently at the age I always tend to think of them at later on, or she’s always going to be the same little girl in my eyes.
I’m both pretty certain and half afraid it’s the latter.
At any rate, yes, of course I knew (intellectually) everyone’s true relative size before I left; I’m not an idiot. But when I looked at them before, I rarely saw the boys they had become. Instead, my mind’s eye saw them for me. Having been gone for so long last week, though, my brain must have let go of some of those old, inaccurate, perceptions to which I had been clinging desperately.
My children are growing up, slowly, a little bit each day. And because it’s every day, it’s a simple thing to overlook the subtle changes, to never really replace the pictures in your head. One day, then, you go away for a week and come home to find them partially grown; those pictures in your brain burn away like morning fog.
There were many surprising things about my visit to Poland. Without question, though, the most surprising ones greeted me joyously when I got home.
Now I just hope it’s a long time before I have to go on an extended trip like that again. I’m not ready to come home to teenagers.
I hear that the Internets ™ are abuzz with various reports of Puddintopia’s sad, unexpected demise, or, um, something like that. Regardless of whether or not such gossip is actually floating around out there*, I can say with near absolutely certainty that rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
Admittedly, I thought I might be dead at one point, but it turns out I was just on a ten-hour transatlantic flight. If you’ve flown to Europe from Atlanta, let me tell you that it’s the kind of thing where each minute stretches before you like Christmas Eve does for a 6 year-old. You can only hope that Santa will leave you that super cool Transformer to make the waiting worth the torment. Of course, I suppose I can’t complain as much as your average Joe. Reason #137 that the company I work for rulez is because they shell out for the Business Class seats for working trips to our plant in Poland.
Actually, I feel way bad for the other First-Classers. I expect they shell out that kind of dough specifically to escape the riff-raff like me.
Anyway, yes, I was away for a little over a week visiting Poland. That’s why there have been no updates. I had better intentions, of course. I was loath to leave you with nothing for so long. The goal was to write a Halloween-themed short story over the Atlantic and post a piece of it each day. Unfortunately, my laptop is roughly the size and weight of a World War II-era aircraft carrier, and burns electricity at the same rate. I dragged the thing out to start work somewhere over Newfoundland, but there was just no way to achieve anything creative with that monstrous thing in that seat, First Class or not. The best laid plans…
By the way, I would still consider the Halloween-related short, if someone was interested. You know where to find me.
So, what was it like? Surely I have a litany of comments about my adventures in Poland, right? Well, maybe, someday. But I’m not ready yet, and it might take me more than one trip across the ocean to give it the full Puddintopia treatment. Of course, there are all the standard observations I expect people make when they visit Europe for the first time. Those are:
- Wow, this place seems kinda old;
these people have a culture nearly a thousand years old, why can’t they seem to get with the antiperspirant program;
- Holy Cow! Would it kill them to get some toilet paper up in here that doesn’t qualify as heavy-grit sand paper? I’m not planning to manually plane an oak tree or degrease a 1967 V-8 engine with the stuff!
On several occasions, different members of our host team asked me if it was my first trip to Europe. When I told them yes, they inevitably asked what I thought of Poland. To be honest, I didn’t know how to answer. In fact, I still don’t. I intentionally tried not to have pre-conceived ideas, because if I’d allowed myself any, they would have largely consisted of James Bond-style, Cold War-era stereotypes.
Those would have been very wrong.
What I found is that the countryside is beautiful, and the farms we passed on the roads between cities were gorgeous and looked very well-kept, even for being several hundred years old. I also found that nearly everywhere you look you can see signs of a country less fortunate, meaning less wealthy, than ours. We are blessed with an abundance of energy and food, quality roads, and relative safety. And even though we consistently give up our freedoms, we are still lucky to have many of those as well. In contrast, my travelling companions and I were pulled over one day, arbitrarily, by Polish police, just to check the papers on the car.
All that said, I think there’s an important lesson to be learned from my new Polish friends. It seems that whatever else, they value the moment and yet plan for the long term. The culture is not nearly as fragmented or short-term as what you usual find in the US. They have a toast for every occasion, and never shy from having a good time; in fact, a Polish wedding celebration usually lasts two days.
What stuck with me the most about my trip was that in all my time in Poland, I only saw one fast food place, a McDonald’s. I rarely saw a single person eating alone, but instead usually found a group of friends or family sharing a meal together. Along the same lines, the buildings I saw were mostly made of stone, not just wood and dry wall, to last the test of time. In both things, you can see the benefit of strong foundations, the patience of knowing the right way.
The people bind themselves together, the same way they make structures that hopefully will stand for generations.
There is certainly a lesson in that for us, regardless of our relative wealth. In some things, we have made ourselves too poor.
*There’s nothing of the kind floating around out there
It should be obvious by now that I’m in the habit of referring to my youngest son as ‘The Attitude’, theoretically because he’s been demonstrating “terrible-twos”-like behavior for the better part of the last nine months. In all honesty, though, that really isn’t fair to him. He just turned two yesterday, and quite frankly, he’s been demonstrating an attitude since day one.
My son was prophesized to be born the size of a Winnebago. Two weeks before his official due date, an ultrasound estimated his expected birth weight at almost 11 lbs.
That’s a mid-sized bowling ball, between you and me, Russ.
The OB was understandably concerned that if nothing was done until his due date, my poor wife might be called upon to push the equivalent of a VW Beetle through a piece of PVC pipe. So an induction was scheduled for a week prior, should the little guy not decide to make an appearance before then.
Six days before said scheduled induction (11 days before due date), the Puddinette started feeling some contractions. Regular contractions. Timeable contractions that took her breath away. But The Attitude had already had us to the Labor and Delivery unit twice for false labor.
The Puddinette was having No More of That Business.
For the record, my wife is not a fan of false labor. For one thing, it’s like, holy baby tease, Batman. No one wants to get all excited that This Is It, and roll up into Delivery just to be sent away empty-handed while as a bonus, some OB nurse gives you the “Aww…poor, confused, pregnant woman” look.
Yes, that’s insult and injury, by the way.
For another thing, by that moment in our lives, we’d already birthed three children. We were supposed to be old hands at it, seasoned pros. Veterans like us, the Puddinette assumed, were expected to know the difference when it came to real labor and false labor. And she’d had enough of having false labor explained to her as if she was some wet-behind the cervix first-timer.
Also, my wife is an RN, and registered nurses are known to be terribly non-compliant when it comes to All Things Medical. Look it up, it’s a documented fact.
The result of all of this was that my wife was not about make another hospital visit until she was DAMNED sure we were looking at an impending birth event. So she told me to go about my Wednesday night business, and she’d let me know if she thought we should do anything. Recognizing the look she gave me at that moment as the one that essentially means “Go ahead, jackhole, say it. Say something. Say anything. Before you finish talking, I’ll have both your hands and the anatomical parts responsible for this situation removed and stored in a jar of formaldehyde as a future example of when to keep your trap shut.”
Learning when not to argue with a pregnant woman who may or may not be in labor is the first step on the path to long-term wisdom.
So after I got the kids to bed that night, four hours of dutifully ignoring regular contractions finally got to my beautiful wife and she admitted that maybe it was time to go.
We quickly arranged a visit from the mother-in-law to sit with the quiet house while the kids slept, and I drove to the hospital. No, there was no crazed 100 mph dash through Northern Kentucky. When you get to labor #4, you kind of realize that these things tend to take enough time that you can save your Dale Earnhardt impersonation.
Upon our arrival, we got the fetal monitor hookups and settled in for some scintillating observation. Of course, the Attitude being a well-earned nickname, the contractions that had been so regular for four hours suddenly became intermittent, and my wife began steeling herself for the Walk of Labor Shame from Labor Triage to the car.
A bit more observation yielded a few more contractions and a cervical check, which proved that things were far enough along that going home would likely only result in a return trip in a few hours later. So we got a birthing suite and a Pitocin drip, and got Ready to Rock. After all, as stated before, we were Old Hands at Birthin’ Babies, and labor with each of our kids had been half of the child before him/her. Puddinpop – 20 hours; Puddinpop, The Sequel – 9 hours; The Princess – 4.5 hours. So I was expecting we’d pop a Lifetime movie on the hospital TV and be snuggling together as a family by the dramatic end where they female protagonist learns a valuable lesson in avoiding cougar-style relationships with controlling psychopaths that run donut shops.
However, the “The Attitude” has never shown interest in following conventions; twenty-two hours of labor yielded no baby and little additional progress. All the medical staff involved was more than a little confused. No fewer than three additional mobile ultrasounds were then performed and looked at by two different nurses, an attending OB, our OB, and I believe the Pope himself before they settled on the very technical conclusion that he was “cock-eyed.” Not breach, not transverse, cock-eyed. He was lying slightly slanted, or kinda diagonal. We just had to hope he’d get around to re-orienting himself the right way and drop.
As an added bonus, the Puddinette developed a fever and on a couple of occasions throughout the course of the day her blood pressure had fallen into “how is she not unconscious, or at least asking for her Strawberry Shortcake doll” levels. Long story short, although we really wanted to have the little guy the old fashioned way, and the OB really wanted to let us, sometimes you just don’t get what you want.
Fearing complications from the fever, blood pressure, and lack of progress, we all finally realized we’d have to learn to live with a Cesarean section.
Our fourth child, our third son, was born at 16:10 on 10/16/2008, exactly two years ago yesterday. My youngest son, The Attitude, was an easy baby following a rather trying delivery, but has since definitely grown into his nickname.
My only hope is that our journey from his second birthday to his third isn’t the struggle it’s shaping up to be.
I simply don’t have enough bourbon for that.
Happy Birthday, little dude with attitude, your mommy and I love you bunches.
My youngest son, The Attitude, is going to turn 2 years old tomorrow, which means I’ll finally be justified when referring to his more…um…trying…behaviors as being a product of the terrible twos. It also means that in keeping with modern societal customs, we’ve invited our families over to la casa de Puddin for an afternoon birthday soiree, complete with the obligatory dips, pizza, presents, and cake.
I hate having the people over.
Well, wait, that’s not entirely true.
Actually, it’s not true at all. Mom, please put down the phone, I don’t need to be given “a good piece of your mind.”
Honestly, the Puddinette and I very much enjoy having guests in our humble abode, and wish entertaining more frequently was simpler. Unfortunately, though, when you have four kids and a fairly demanding schedule of commitments, that’s a much easier said than done, if for no other reason than the dreaded House Prep.
Everyone likes to pretend that when they have people over, their guests just show up, out of the blue, and the condition of their house at that moment is inconsequential because they live in a monument to perfect organization and cleanliness.
Of course, that’s ridiculous. At minimum, most people have a sink full of dirty dishes, a half-empty, open box of Kix on the counter, a pile consisting of at least two weeks’ worth of junk mail, and some form of hosiery, either socks, stockings, or something….else…on the floor in front of the TV.
No one wants people to see how they really live.
The Puddinette’s blood is likely just about boiling at this point, because she’s undoubtedly convinced that by suggesting that our home doesn’t exist in a permanent state of museum-like perfection readers to immediately conclude that we obviously live a lifestyle worthy of a Hoarders two-hour special.
For the record, that’s absolutely, positively, so not the case. I’m not a complete heathen, and my wife would never, ever allow it. In fact, the Puddinette maintains a marvelous household, and our only potential problems are based on the facts that a) I’m responsible for maintaining the condition of the hard flooring (because she can’t do everything herself), and b) children do not, as a rule, care terribly how deep the pile of toys in which they live grows.
In other words, while my wife would prefer I mop the floor daily, my inclination is to break out the mop and bucket when I deem that our kitchen tile has taken on a somewhat rustic appearance. For the record, my opinion has very little weight in the matter. Beyond that, we live with the constant struggle of trying to get our children to not leave shoes, toys, and/or Silly Bandz in the middle of the floor.
My mother has, in the past, given my wife the second-best compliment a mother-in-law can bestow (behind only the never-before-spoken phrase, “I think your biscuit/cake/pie/roast is better than mine”): she has said that the Puddinette keeps our home spotless. And really, she does, with very little help from any of its inhabitants.
Not that it matters; tomorrow we’re having guests. And although there’s little doubt in my mind that our families and friends would be happy to visit regardless of the state of our home, this evening’s schedule reads “House Prep for Party”. Just as it would have read for my Mom if it was my 10th birthday. When people come over, House Prep is what you do.
Looks like I’m doing some floors.
The thing is, that’s okay, even if they weren’t too terribly dirty to start. A clean floor makes the Puddinette happy. If all it takes to make one’s wife smile a bit is the judicious application of a mop-head and a little elbow-grease, well, show me the bucket.
Rumor has it I don’t mind a little clean floor, myself.
Our smiling pumpkin,
brightly lit; taken too soon.
Curse those rotten kids!
As I walked in the door from work this evening, I was greeted by the Puddinette’s incredulous-and-very-irked Look of Helpless Sourness. Usually that’s reserved for instances such as when the poorly-named “customer service” lady at Wal-Mart does her best battle-axe impersonation, or impromptu road construction creates an unavoidable traffic snarl that interrupts the daily schedule. It’s better than many other states of displeasure because it almost always results from one of those random things in life that happens over which you have no control, but that you’re not going to just accept without the minimum requisite grousing.
On a positive note, it usually means I don’t have to effect any Child Attitude Adjustment. Days when various degrees of CAA are required as soon as I walk in the door aren’t good days for anyone.
Happily, this wasn’t such an occasion, which was made plainly evident by the energetic bouncing of each of the older three kids as soon as I walked in. That kind of barely-contained-Tigger-style-enthusiasm means but one thing: there’s a scandal afoot, and they all can’t wait to tell me about it.
As my second foot crossed the threshold and the door closed behind me, three excited voices exploded: “somebody stole the pumpkin!” Of course, I didn’t understand at first, because when three children that can barely control themselves try to tell you something simultaneously, you might as well be standing at the top of the Tower of Babel.
A few moments later, I finally realized that they were trying to tell me that someone, perhaps those rotten kids*, had stolen the electric light-up pumpkin from our front porch. Looking to the Puddinette for confirmation, I again got the Look of Helpless Sourness, and a curt nod of her head. “Yes, it’s gone.”
This, sadly, is not the first time such Busch-league larceny has been thrust upon us. A month or so after we moved into our house, the Puddinette got a big, lovely wreath to decorate our door. Well, at least she told me it was lovely. I’m capable of appreciating a floral wreath on only the most basic level. Floral? Check. Wreath? Check. Doesn’t look like it was assembled by a litter of German shepherd puppies with impaired vision? Check. My criteria are easily satisfied.
Anyway, within a month of acquiring the thing, it disappeared. The worst part of that particular disappearance was that I heard the miscreants at work; the wreath hook scraped against the door while they fiddled with it. Unfortunately, I dismissed the noise as the wind, and her pretty new wreath was never seen again.
I have to admit that when it comes to our pumpkin theft, though, I just don’t understand. We live in a nice suburban neighborhood. Sure, we’re not rubbing elbows with NFL superstars sporting a barn full of cars, but it’s not like we live in a demilitarized zone or have to go ducking from car to car to avoid making eye contact with local street thugs. The only local street thugs around here are the neighbors with the fancy green lawns that make guys like yours truly feel a tad inadequate about his crunchy, brown tribute to Arizona brush.
OK, fine, I’ll admit that this kind of thing is possible anywhere a teenager can drive by on the way to some constructive loitering. But why us? My neighborhood really gets into dressing a place up for trick-or-treats and is thusly chock full of tree-bound ghosts, blow-up spiders, and that cottony web-stuff that reminds me how much I hate aspirin bottles. Heck, a family one street over us has a full-scale scarecrow, and there’s a house on the next corner with a two-story witch hanging from its eaves.
Our external Halloween decorations? Well, apart from a couple of real pumpkins that my long-deceased paternal grandfather somehow leaves on our front porch each year from beyond the grave, we used to have one lone light-up pumpkin. That’s it. We’ve got plenty of stuff inside the house to remind us of the witching season (since it’s my favorite holiday and all), but that simple pumpkin was all we had outside. And now it’s gone.
I want my Halloween decor back, and I want those
rotten kids to learn that taking someone’s porch pumpkin is Just Plain Wrong. But I suppose I should accept that for as long as there’s going to be lawn decor and kids with little to do, stuff like this is going to happen.
I suppose I just need to get stuff they can’t take anymore. Like rocks. Or painted boulders.
Anyone know where I can get a 160-lb solid ceramic lighted fountain pumpkin? I’d like to try and see them snatch that.
*That would refer to the the generic, rhetorical those rotten kids; a group that each of us belonged to at one point or another
I am deserving of a good talking-to, internet-based readers, and I readily admit it. I have gone for much too long without a post or even so much as another lame haiku. Many apologies to all. But…I had a good excuse! The Puddinette and I were off on a lovely anniversary trip to French Lick, Indiana, and as much as even she enjoys a good post, there are times when I’m expected to show her my Complete and Undivided Attention.
I even skipped watching college football on Saturday. So you know, it was important.
With my lame excuses thus offered, it is my great pleasure to present…
The Puddintopia Ten-Year Anniversary Trip Spectacular!
Chapter 1, Saturday Afternoon
We arrived Saturday afternoon around 3 o’clock, and checked into the hotel first thing. My feeling has always been that when it comes to hotels, the earlier you can check in, the better. That way, if you’ve been stuck with the room with a sprawling human-like chalk outline or, worse, a comforter with a questionable stain (and really, when it comes to bed linens, what stain isn’t questionable?) there’s plenty of time to find a replacement room that doesn’t give you the willies.
Finding our accommodations not just acceptable but downright nice, the Puddinette and I headed out for our first excursion in town: the local winery and café. We were greeted with something of a surprise when we entered the establishment: the tasting bar.
Now, I’ll admit that I don’t make many winery visits. Usually when someone talks about wine and how great it is, they follow that by trying to cram a big, bold, dry Cab (that’s short for “Cabernet Sauvignon” for the unfamiliar among you like myself) down my beverage tube. The thing is, though, I don’t like dry wines. I know they’re supposed to be all complex and stuff, but to me, they Just.Don’t.Taste.Good.
Don’t hate me because they’re not my thing. I would never look down upon someone who doesn’t like a bright, floral, bitter-as-a-cantankerous-old-man-in-a-porch-swing-complaining-about-the-kids-these-days IPA. Yes, I personally get plenty of happy vibes from of a tasty Bell’s Hopslam, but I can respect those that loathe and fear the bitter beer face. So, along those same lines, cut me slack. Perhaps someday I’ll learn to appreciate the sterols in a rich, dry red, much as I learned to like hoppy beers and broccoli. Until then, no thank you, have you got any dessert wine?
Anyway, so I’m not familiar with the whole winery visit thing. Thus, imagine my surprise when we belly up to the tasting bar and a nice fellow with several tattoos and fire-engine-red Mohawk asks us what we’d like to try. I scan the tasting list looking for prices. I find none. My bewilderment is epic. And then I noticed all the other tasting bar patrons having smallish sips of many varieties with nibbles of cracker in between. Finally, it occurred to me that the tasting samples were free.
Free samples of alcohol?!?! What a country! *wipes a tear*
But like a teenage behind the wheel of a car for the first time, I was noticeably nervous and didn’t want to seem overly-aggressive. No, you can’t try them all, I told myself. That would be irresponsible; rude even. In fact, I bet if you get drunk at the tasting bar, they take your picture and have a caricature artist render it into a cartoon of you with a drowsy look, bubbles around your head, and an empty bottle in both hands. The sketch will then hang forever on the Wall of Shame in the employee lounge.
I limited myself to what I thought was a very respectable four samples. The Puddinette, ever more conscious of not taking advantage, would have stopped at three, but I simply had to try the cherry wine. And the establishment was likely happy that I did because that taste resulted in the purchase of a bottle that is resting happily at this moment in a cabinet at home.
The wife and I had a lovely time sampling sweet wines which were all D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. We then had a smallish snack of Italian bread and toasted ravioli in the café with a glass of the goodness. It was a wonderful time and a great way to start our weekend adventure. Mass props to the vintners, wine makers, or whatever they’re called, and all the other dudes and dudettes that helped us appreciate the liquid grapes at the French Lick Winery.
So then, what did we learn on Saturday afternoon? We learned that sometimes people who want you to buy their alcohol will give you free samples as long as you don’t make it a point to end up like Otis from Mayberry. We also learned that the Puddinette and I both appreciate a yummy sweet wine, something that we’d not realized in our previous decade of marriage. I assure you, though, that this fact will not be lost in the future. The Puddinette rarely reaches for a tipple nowadays, because our life is crazy and making an individual strawberry daiquiri is inconvenient. Now that I know I can simply hand her a glass of rhubarb wine after the kids go to bed, though?
Well….I might just have to invest in some Barry White to go with that.
If you had to pick a moment, just one, to say was the single best memory of your life, could you do it? Could you sift through all the birthday parties, the family dinners, the first dates, and lazy Sunday mornings and settle on just one single thing? It’s harder than it sounds; a life lived to even half its potential is full of memories.
It’s not difficult for me, though. I don’t even have to give it thought.
Ten years ago today, the Puddinette told me in front of a church crowded with our friends and family that she promised to love me with all of her heart, forever (I make that no simple task, I assure you). Later that evening, we shared our first married dance together, as newlyweds do, and that brief few minutes is the single favorite moment of my life.
For the time that Leann Rimes’ “How Do I Live” played at our reception, my new bride and I held each other, barely spoke a word, and simply reveled in being together. There were 300 people looking on, and honestly, there could have been 300 thousand. To my mind, there was no one else in that room just then, or for that matter, in the whole world.
It’s a lot to say that of all the special moments in our life, that one is the most special to me. But without that one, all the others would mean so much less. Successes and failures, joys and pains, highs and lows, are all magnified or eased, respectively, because of the love of my wife.
The Puddinette held my hand at my grandmother’s funeral, and it brought me comfort. I held her hand at the moment each of our four children left her and entered this world, to help her ease their arrival. I’ve held her when we’ve gotten devastating news that seemed like a bad dream you couldn’t wake up from and we’ve held each other in celebration of news so wonderful it can’t be described or discussed so much as just enjoyed.
I love her so much it makes my chest tight and brings a lump to my throat.
In the past ten years, we’ve been through all the things they tell you about before you get married, but don’t believe will happen. Hard times, joy, laughter, tears, bad news and good. Through it all, at every one of those moments I’ve stopped briefly to give thanks to whatever higher power(s) are out in the universe that she was put here just for me, and that I was led to her, as blind as I was then.
Marriage is so much more than a ceremony or a vow, a ring or a Saturday event. It’s a commitment to give all of yourself to someone else and the collection of experiences you share afterward. The priest who celebrated our wedding whispered to us on the altar after we’d exchanged rings, “relax, you’re married now.” In God’s eyes, the Church’s eyes, I guess that’s true. But in my eyes, the first moment I realized that my life and her life had become one thing, together, forever, was when we danced our first dance.
It’s been ten years since that perfect dance with my new bride. Ten years that she’s been putting up with my crap; ten years of sharing a life that’s somehow more than the sum of all its (increasingly crazy) parts.
Ten perfect years I would not have traded for anything in the world. I can only hope that the next ten be as perfect as these; I have little doubt that they will.
Happy Anniversary, Querida. Te amo con todo mi corazon. Te amo mas que tango las palabras.