Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Case of the Disappearing Pumpkin

Sam didn't finish carving his pumpkin last weekend on Pumpkin Carving Day. So, on Monday (Halloween Eve), after school and after finishing his homework, he figured it was time to get down to business.

He did an excellent job but when we were ready to put the pumpkin outside, it was too dark for a picture.

The next morning, I thought I would set the pumpkins up to get a picture of all three of them together in the morning light but it was still too dark.

I went inside to get some breakfast and wait for it to get a bit brighter.

When I went back outside, there were only two pumpkins remaining on the fence.

Where was my pumpkin? Had it fallen or been pushed off the wall? These two looked like they had been up to something.

I looked over the fence and saw this trail of pumpkin pieces leading down into the darkness.

I grabbed the walking stick my dad had sent as a gift to Sam and started down the steep hill in search of my pumpkin.

I found her cap under a tree.

Then, there she was, lying alone at the bottom of the hill.

Officer Dixie investigated the crime scene.

What happened to the fatally wounded pumpkin?

That is the question for the Great Pumpkin Detective.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pumpkin Carving

As you've seen from my Halloween flashbacks, pumpkins are an important part of our Halloween tradition. My mom informs me that she took Sam and a friend of his from Iowa to Carroll's Pumpkin Farm w/o me one year when he was visiting Iowa and I was working in St. Louis. I do vaguely remember encouraging them to keep up the tradition. She doesn't think she has any pictures of the trip.

I asked my mom if she had pictures of us carving pumpkins on previous Halloweens. She said that while we did carve them (and roast the seeds) nearly every year, she doesn't think we usually took pictures. Apparently, we didn't take pictures as often back then. I am thankful for digital cameras (Thanks, Jim & Liz for our first one.) and the way they let you take pictures of things you might not be willing to use film for or want to pay to develop.

This classic shot is one I am happy to have captured on film. Whether he knows it or not, Sam inspired all of this Halloween reminiscing. On our way to the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch, he asked, "Mom, do you remember that time we got that really big pumpkin? The one that was almost as big as me?" I didn't really know which pumpkin he was thinking of but I was so happy he was having fond memories I answered, "Yeah. Wasn't that great?"

I really wanted to remember. So, I dug out the photos (which I love to do anyway) and started looking at Halloween as a category.

Sam looks like he is straining so hard in that picture. I'm trying to remember if at this early age, I had already enacted the, "If you want it, you have to carry it." rule about pumpkins.

Sam always wants the biggest pumpkin and I would love to get it for him but I also know that I usually end up hollowing-out both his pumpkin and mine. The having to be able to carry it rule seemed like a reasonable compromise.

That first year, Sam and Trevor were most interested in the rotten pumpkins and the bugs on them.

Here is another one of those tiny pictures. It looks as if my child is trying to see if he is strong enough to be able to buy this pumpkin.

I figured this was the pumpkin Sam was thinking of when he asked, "remember when?" It was the one I was thinking of because of the picture. Pictures do so much to preserve memories. I don't know if he carried this pumpkin. It looks pretty big. Maybe I broke down and got a "big" one that year.

And while I usually, like to pick out our pumpkins during our trip to the pumpkin patch, it was dark this year and the place didn't take credit cards and we didn't have much cash on us.

These are the pumpkins we picked up at a nearby greenery this year. Sam's is the big one in the middle. He did carry it.

Unfortunately, we picked these pumpkins up late on a Sunday morning after running errands. Then, we had lunch and went to the school to play with the new balls we'd picked up at Target that morning. That afternoon, we made some phone calls, did some reading and started thinking about dinner. Sam wanted to carve our pumpkins that day. I had wanted to too but we just ran out of steam (and daylight).

I told him he could carve his if he wanted to. He started poking holes into the top, making this intricate pattern around the stem. Then, he tried diligently to use the tiny pumpkin carving saw to get the top off but it was to no avail. We'd told him he'd need to use a real knife to get it off and I meant to help him but was bushed and didn't get around to it. I thought we'd do it the next day but school and dinner/homework kept us busy every weeknight. By the time we were ready to carve pumpkins, last weekend, his original pumpkin was rotten.

Cam took Sam to Safeway to get Pumpkin #2 (seen in the background).

Sam watched Cam get the top off his pumpkin.

Then started with the intricate dot pattern again...

The guys are thoughtfully proceeding.

I didn't have a new idea for a face so I decided to carve something besides a face in mine. I'd carve a star. See Cam's blog for my less than stellar results. Then, I decided to carve a face on the other side. Except that the other side wasn't so pretty. What about on the side? Fine but it left my pumpkin a bit weak.

Cam's was shaping up nicely.

Finally, Sam broke through. Cam and I were done. I was on the phone talking with my friend, Melissa about possibly meeting up around her dad's house in Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving.

Cam ended up helping Sam empty his pumpkin out. Then, Sam decided he was done for the day.

Trixie inspected.

Cam arranged.

The pumpkins glowed.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Halloween on Waveland Avenue - 2004 & 2005

I have trouble getting photos I've uploaded to Yahoo Photos to come out a normal size when I want to use them again. I hope these photos look ok when they are posted. One of our computers is on the fritz and I can't access the original files of these photos. I'm glad we archived them at least.

Cam likes Flicker better than Yahoo Photos. Last year, I uploaded almost all of our photos to Yahoo Photos and was reluctant to switch to Flicker. Plue, the number of photos you can put on Yahoo Photos for free is unlimited. There is a limit on Flicker. I did decide to uploaded some photos there too. Feel free to check out my Flicker account. Cam's is more complete. He is listed as my only contact. Do you have a Flicker account? You can create one for free. If you do, let me know.

Anyway, back to the near present. After being in a relationship together for almost a year, Cam, Sam and I moved into our first place together on Waveland Avenue in Chicago on Halloween weekend of 2004.

Before we had even finished unpacking, we met the Erenberg's. Eileen (here with Nikki and Kellie) and her son, Luke noticed Sam and were excited at the possibility of a new boy moving in across the street. They introduced themselves right away and invited us to come trick-or-treating with them that weekend. Talk about welcoming. We were so blessed to have them as neighbors.
Here's Luke, he was a ninja that year.

Jack (the red ninja) lives next door to Luke. It was fun for Sam to have two ninjas living so close by.

Sam was no ordinary ninja. He was a space ninja. Everyone loved the "night vision goggles" he'd decided to wear with his costume. While I went around with Eileen and the kids, Cameron stayed behind to give out candy. You can sort of see him in the background.

The battle was on. No one can beat Space Ninja.

Kellie waited patiently for us to move on down the road.

Cam got creative and joined the fun with his costume. He was creepy in this face paint. Now who looks like a zombie?

We trick-or-treated with the same group the following year but when it was time to head out, I realized the batteries in our camera were dead. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of trick-or-treating in 2005. I did take some with Eileen's camera. If she sends them to me, I will put them up.

I remember Eric and Sarah came by and sat out on the porch with us watching the Trick-or-Treaters. They stayed at the house for a bit so Cam and I could take Sam out together. Then, when we came back, we encouraged Eric and Sarah to take Sam around. We thought we'd explained to them what part of the neighborhood we'd already hit and what was still open but Sam led them right back along the houses where he'd already trick-or-treeted. Eric and Sarah were laughing about how people said, "Hello again" to Sam. Oh well. Luckily, our neighbors were nice.

Happy Halloween, Chicago. We love and miss you.

Monkey Business - Halloween 1998, 1999 & 2000

As I mentioned in my post about Sam's first Halloween, his dad and I separated in September of 1998 when Sam was 14 months old, a couple of months before his second Halloween (this one).

I was upset, depressed and had too much time on my hands. I decided that a good way to occupy myself, be constructive and feel better would be to make a Halloween costume for Sam. My sewing ability, however, is next to none.

Luckily, my friend, Melanie, an apparel design major in college, agreed to help me. One day, we went to the fabric store together and I picked out the pattern for this monkey costume. She helped me get the right amounts of the material I would need. Another Saturday, Sam & I went to her family's house outside of Rowan, Iowa. There, Mel & I spent all day putting the costume together. I couldn't have been happier with the results.

Sam, however, had mixed reactions. As you see in these pictures, he sometimes was quite happy in the costume but on Halloween night, he was tired and cranky or hot or something. Whatever it was, he didn't like having the costume on at all. I spent about eight hours making it that day and he spent about 30 minutes wearing it that night.

The next year, (1999) the costume still fit and Sam didn't mind wearing it so Sam was a monkey again. It looks like his dad took him trick-or-treating without me that year. I'm sure we also trick-or-treated around my folk's neighborhood but I can't find any pictures.

The following year (2000), Sam and I had moved to St. Louis in early September. The company that recruited me and relocated us had put us up in temporary housing for our first month. We must have had our own place by early October but I don't remember what we did that Halloween.

I'm sure they had a party and we celebrated at daycare. I do have this picture of Sam in a mask he made at the Downtown Children's Center shortly after we arrived. Maybe we decided to be low-key that year. He looks as happy in this mask as he did in the monkey suit.

Sam's First Halloween - 1997

Since Sam was born on July 16th, he would have been 3 1/2 months old on his first Halloween. I have a wonderful picture of him sitting up at four months but as you can see from these pictures, he wasn't quite there yet. As a result, we went for comfort in his first Halloween costume. It was basically pjs with a little Winnie the Pooh hood.

Patience, however, at 1 year and 3 1/2 months, was able to pull off this remarkable princess look.

See what I mean about Sam & Patience always being close?

Sam's Grandma Bucklin, (Sandy to me) is holding Sam in this picture. She is a kind, loving, involved grandmother. Often, she sends cards to Sam and pictures of the happenings of his cousins in Iowa. Just this Halloween, she has sent two packages. One had a singing card, a singing pumpkin man and a glowing jack-o-lantern along with her traditional homemade popcorn balls and a bag of 100 Grand bars. The second package had a light for the inside of his pumpkin (we're hoping to get them carved today), more popcorn balls and some frosted sugar cookies (his favorite).

Around the time Sam was born, his dad and I went to see a debt counselor who explained to us that in our current situation, our expenses each month exceeded our income. When I was pregnant with Sam, I'd put him on the waiting list for a daycare near our home in West Des Moines. After he was born, I was eligible for seven weeks of paid time off. During that time, I felt like I almost never put him down. He liked to be held and I loved holding him. I didn't understand how the daycare could have a 4-1 child to staff ratio for babies. When I asked, they said, you can put a baby in his bouncy seat and read a book to him and he will listen. I thought to myself, but he hates his bouncy seat. I didn't want his little heart and spirit broken at eight weeks. What seemed like a good option before he was born, no longer seemed right now that he was here.

Enter my parents. They offered to co-sign a debt consolidation loan so we could slowly start to dig our way out of the hole being young and married during college had for left us. My mom offered to watch Sam while I was at work (talk about close from the start, you should see those two play). And they even offered to let us move into the second story of their home. I didn't want to move in with them. I was a mother now and wanted to feel like an adult who could take care of myself but apparently, at 25, I just wasn't able to make it happen.

Sam had his own room, his dad and I had a room, we had our own bathroom and a tiny area with a desk and couch in a loft above my parent's living room. We didn't have much privacy or autonomy as a new family but we were owning up to the reality of our financial situation. My parent's home was about an hour away from the jobs Sam's dad and I were working in Des Moines which made for a long day, especially since Sam wasn't sleeping through the night yet.

As grateful as we were for this support, it was a strained situation. When Sam was four months old, his dad came home from a football game he'd attended at the University of Iowa and said he wasn't happy. I wasn't sure I'd been happy for a long time but I didn't know what his point was exactly. We had a child now and had to figure out how to make it work, didn't we? We tried for awhile longer.

All of us lived together in this house in Newton, Iowa, home of Maytag, population 15,000 until Sam was 14 months old. Then his dad moved out. The Labor Day weekend after Sam's first birthday, we told my parents we had agreed to separate. We hoped that we'd both be happier apart. My parents were less than thrilled. Again, they likely saw the hard reality I would have ahead of me as a single mom but they didn't see the secret unhappiness I had been harboring for so long. While it was incredibly hard doing things on my own, I know Sam and I are better off and happier than we would have ever been if I had stayed in that relationship.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

We Needed The Force - Halloween 2002

For some reason, probably because I worked all day on Halloween that year, I didn't get good pictures of Sam and Jon on Halloween in 2002. I did get one shot.

Sam went as Anakin Skywalker. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clone Wars had just come out. It is the movie where Anakin is beautiful, a 19-year-old bad ass and appears to be a good guy. Sam didn't know he would end up as Darth Vader yet.

Jon went as the Red Power Ranger (armed with Yoda's light saber). I know nothing about Power Rangers. Both of them had to wear sweatshirts under their costumes that year but it looks like we got by without gloves at least. While the photo is less than impressive, I assure you the fun they had running from house to house trick-or-treating in my parent's neighborhood was extraordinary.

Speaking of going as Star Wars characters for Halloween, did you see this picture of my brother and me dressed as Luke Sykwalker and Princes Leia? It is referenced on Cameron's blog in the post where he compares me to a zombie.

The reign of the firefighter - Halloween 2001

I'm sure we weren't the only family to end up with a firefighter costume the October after September 11th. I don't remember it being a particularly political purchase, just one we both liked. Sam got good use out of this costume. The first time he wore it was to a party we'd been invited to at the City Museum in St. Louis. In this shot, he is playing with my friend Kendra's son, Chavin.

The party was a media event. I was no longer working for the company that had moved us to St. Louis but Jennifer, a friend of mine who still worked there, invited Sam and I to come as her guests. I had just been offered the pork job which was kind of funny but impressive from an ad spending point of view so I was feeling up for socializing.

The City Museum is a really cool place. We had lots of fun playing and exploring. The party was a blast. I think I had my palm read. Sam and Chavin loved this giant slide they had there.

Actually, I think Sam and I had just gone down it together in the above photo so I must have liked it a lot too.

On Halloween, we trick-or-treated at the homes of some people we knew in our neighborhood. Here Sam is standing with our downstairs neighbor and friend, Carmella.

Then, we headed out to the suburbs to trick or treat with our friends. Conner was Sam's best friend at the Downtown Children's Center (where I paid more for childcare than I paid for rent). Julie had been a single mom with her daughter, Erin. She sort of took us under her wing.

Sometime later, outside our house on Russell Blvd., less than a block away from the Missouri Botanical Garden, Sam was playing with the garden hose in his hat.

He looks serious in this shot.

Then, he decided to fill his hat up with water and dump it onto his head.

It was hilarious.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Later that month... 2003 Halloween - Sam & Jon

Thanks for letting me stroll down our pumpkin patch memory lane.

It is fun documenting these old memories and going through non-digital photo albums.

In anticipation of the 2006 Halloween Holiday, I wanted to flash back on costumes over the years too. Rather than starting from Sam's first Halloween, since my last post was a bit heavy, I wanted to share photos from later that month and continue the story of our 2003 Halloween.

I don't remember the exact date, but sometime between the pumpkin patch and Halloween, I was offered and accepted a job as a media supervisor with JWTSC in Chicago.

It still wasn't a job that was in-line with my spirit but it was going to pay me enough to support myself and Sam in Chicago. It would take us to a new city; allow a new start with new opportunities and new people. I would meet (and fall in love almost immediately with) Cameron Maddux.

But I didn't know all of that yet on this Halloween day. On this day, we were reveling in the company of our friends in Des Moines.

Jon and his mom, Amy Jo lived across the hall from us for two years. Amy Jo was a single mom too. The boys' temperaments were so similar that they played together incredibly well. It was wonderful for them to be able to wander across the hall in their pjs and see if their friend was available to play.

It was awesome for Amy Jo and me too. We were able to empathize with one another and offer support and encouragement.

If I needed to run to the store quickly and didn't want to have to drag Sam out of the house, I'd check to see what was happening next door and often, Sam could just hang out until I got back and vice versa.

We've recently reconnected with them and heard about how Amy Jo is in a long-term relationship and even has a new daughter.
We are anxiously awaiting updated photos and wanted to share these with them.

We had many adventures with Jon and Amy Jo. One time I took the boys to the pet store and came home with two hamsters and one cage. The idea was that they could share them, passing the cage and the hamsters back and forth between our homes.

The hamsters didn't really cooperate. They would bite which hurt. They were rewarded for this behavior by being dropped and set free.

(I'm not sure how much time I spent, tearing the place apart looking for an escaped hamster but it was plenty.) They were penalized for this behavior by being held too tightly and chased by cats.

They made a mess, spreading wood chips everywhere. No one liked cleaning up after them and Amy Jo said they stank. I think we had them about a week before we took them back to the pet store and begged them to keep them.

Speaking of cats, our cats liked to be outside then too. Often, we let them out on our balcony. They would jump onto the entryway of the door between our apartments, using it as a bridge over to Amy and Jon's balcony and back.

At some point, Jon decided he needed a black and white cat like Sam's cat. They got a black and white cat. They talked about names and Amy had some good ideas but Jon insisted that his cat be named Dixie like Sam's cat. So they had their Dixie and our Dixie became, "Big, Fat Dixie."

Sam and I used to go to educational programs at Saylorville Lake. One time, we went to one on Frogging. We hiked around a pond at night with a flashlight to no avail. While they were singing all around us, we didn't see a frog one. Until, we were leaving and these bigger boys (probably about Sam's age now) held up a huge frog they had caught. We stopped for a closer look and they said we could keep it. Without stopping to think what that would mean for the frog, we jumped at the chance. We were thrilled to have some time with this impressive creature.

We brought him home in whatever container we had with us. The next day, we bought a frog habitat, did some research and started feeding him live crickets from the pet store.

The first time we fed him, he ate all of the crickets in a flash. It was quite impressive. Then, somehow, the cats got the lid off the habitat (or he hopped and knocked it loose) and the frog escaped. We couldn't find him anywhere. I was afraid the cats had eaten him but since I couldn't find even a trace of him, I hoped he'd turn up alive. Eventually, he did. Our friend, Noah found him behind the couch.

We cleaned him up and put him back in the tank. We kept buying crickets but at some point, he stopped eating them. The last time, we fed him, he just let the cricket hop on his head and didn't do a thing. He was starting to look a little yellow too. We decided it was time to take the frog home.

At first, the boys didn't want to give the frog up but I compared him to ET saying how even though ET loved Eliot, he couldn't stay with him because he missed his family and friends back home and how he being away from home was making him sick. They agreed that we should take the frog home.

We drove back out to the place we'd found him and let him go. As soon as he hopped into the water, he gave a massive kick and was gone.

We loved having these guys as neighbors and do miss them greatly.