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The Great (Carved) Pumpkin

‘Tis the season of poorly constructed 300 thread count ghosts and cheap plastic goblin masks, of thoughtless overindulgence of candy corn and gummi worms, and of course, the creepy but warming orange glow of hundreds of hollowed gourds.  Yes, it’s Halloween again, one of the more unique American holidays, a day filled with as intricate preparations and celebrations as any other non-governmental holiday warrants.  In our particular case, this has included several previously documented trips to the pumpkin patch, a recent Mom’s group playdate of which I am only privy to a few hastily snapped pictures (non-members were not allowed, let alone working spouses), and a relatively disastrous Boo at the Zoo.

But last weekend, we traveled a ways up north to attend a rather unique event with a few friends, the annual Enchanted Beaver Lake, a festival of lights the likes we had never seen before.  Beaver Lake is a county park in central New York, based not surprisingly around a lake, possibly filled with beavers.  As such it features a rather sizable nature center, and several trails that wind through the woods, ostensibly for “city-folk” like myself to “get me some nature.”

But this particular night, the park was transformed instead into a maze of Jack o’ Lanterns, hundreds in fact, that lined the two trails that wound through the dark forest.  It was actually a spectacular experience, for we were pretty deep in the pitch black woods, guided only by the glowing remains of these hacked gourds, featuring carved visages of every conceivably variety.  Pop culture icons, cartoon characters, ghoulish figures, gap toothed faces, even NFL and MLB logos graced these orange orbs, each providing a small beacon of light in an impenetratable forest.

Justine, for her part, was not particularly a fan of this whole affair.  This was partially our fault, because it was well after her bedtime before we even hit the first trail, and partly her fault for normally heading to bed so early.  It also became apparent that dragging your 18 month old toddler into the dark, dank woods with only ghostly images as a source of light was not a particularly good idea.  But we muddled through, enjoying it despite her protests.  And we were able to get her to sit next to a few of them, the rather intricate dragon pictured below my favorite of the bunch.

Happy Halloween!

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“Well, this isn’t very exc…WHOA.”

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Live and Let Diaper Vest

This is a repost of my column on Dad Blogs, Armed And Fatherly, copied here as part of an ongoing effort to archive my various musings that biographers and/or Presidential librarians will probably someday want easy access to.  This happens to be one of my favorites, and originally was posted June 7, 2009.

Rain drizzled silently around him as he crouched outside the compound, weighing his options. He reached inside his DadGear Diaper Vest and pulled his smart phone out of the built-in cell pocket and studied the floor plans again.  His mission was to get in, get the package,  and get out without being noticed. This would be another dangerous adventure, and one vital to the freedom loving citizens he was out here to protect. Unfortunately it was also his night with the twins who were sitting quietly in the double stroller next to him.

“Damn last minute canasta,” he muttered, sliding his phone back into the pocket.

The secret agent identified dozens of potential entry points, but only one was wide enough to accommodate a double stroller, and it was currently guarded.  He opened the DadGear Messenger Bag that hung easily on the stroller using the built-in stroller hangers and carefully pulled one of the chloroform infused wipes from the convenient wipes access window.  Defying local laws, he left the twins unattended for just a moment, snuck up behind the guard and held the wipe over his nose until he fell unconscious.  He stuffed the guard in a nearby bush, retrieved the twins and snuck into the compound, making his way to Mendoza’s office and the package that awaited him.

He was jiggling his keys in front of one of the fussy twins when another guard turned the corner. He tried to dart behind a secret agent shaped Norfolk pine but it was too late – the guard had spotted the stylish green retro stripe on his messenger bag.  The uniformed man locked eyes with him, and then started to reach for a large alarm switch on a nearby wall.  Thinking quickly, the secret agent yanked a BPA free glass baby bottle out of one of his bottle pockets and with a quick underhanded motion whipped it at the guard.  The bottle slammed into his temple, and he crumpled to the floor.

“Cow moo you,” he said, as he walked over, retrieved the bottle, and handed it to one of the twins, who happily took it and began draining it’s contents.  He then pulled out an abnormally large nylon rope that fit surprisingly well in the spacious messenger bag interior pocket and began tying up the unconscious guard.  Grabbing a set of lockpicks from one of the smaller zippered pockets on his vest, he deftly unlocked the office door and then tossed the set to one of the twins who happily shoved them into his mouth.  He muscled the stroller through the door, and spotted the package sitting on a nearby desk.  As he silently pulled the door shut behind him, he heard the rather ominous click of a gun being cocked.

“I’ve been expecting you,” said a voice from the dark.  Mendoza emerged from the shadows, waving a pistol at him.  Both men steeled for the inevitable back and forth of quips that would generally highlight this situation – until suddenly Mendoza wrinkled his nose.

“Chloroform?  Cyanide gas?” he said, raising his gun. The secret agent looked equally as confused. Then they both looked over at the twins, both of whose pallor had darkened by several shades of red.  With a knowing glance, Mendoza holstered his gun.  “I have three evil triplets at home – I’ll help.  Really though, you shouldn’t bring kids to these things.”

The secret agent nodded and unzipped his vest and pulled two diapers from the large concealed diaper pockets on either side of the vest.  He handed one to a visibly impressed Mendoza and then reached behind his back, unzipping another hidden pocket and pulling out a changing pad.  He unfolded it and both men started changing the twins.  Mendoza looked around for wipes – the secret agent quickly unzipped the wipes access on his vest and handed him a few.

The two men finished their chores, and strapped the twins back into the stroller.  Then they reset to their original positions, the secret agent once again staring down the barrel of Mendoza’s Glock facing another seemingly inescapable situation.  Then he noticed they had left the soiled diapers on the floor and his face bent into the standard secret agent smirk.

“Could you throw those in the messenger bag, and then we can get back to this,” he said, gesturing to them.  Mendoza sighed, holstered his gun, grabbed the diapers and walked over to the stroller. Opening the flap, he dropped them inside.

“Feel free to grab a wipe while you’re in there,” the secret agent said.  Mendoza nodded – the especially pungent diapers had left a foul smell on his hands. He pulled a wipe and quickly washed his hands with it.  The secret agent made a face and then gestured to his nose, making the universal sign of “the booger.”  Mendoza, embarrassed, quickly turned and began blowing his nose with the wipe, and then suddenly collapsed, a faint look of recognition and horror in his face as he realized his mistake.

The secret agent stepped over his fallen foe, grabbed the package and dropped it into the messenger bag, removing the soiled diapers and dropping them next to Mendoza.  As he pushed the stroller out the door he thought for a moment, and then shrugged his shoulders.  Not the best one-liner, but it would do.  He turned and said with classic secret agent nonchalance…

“Keep the change.”

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