Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Don't forget your smile

If nothing unexpected comes up, at this time next Monday we'll be in a plane headed homeward. Our first week of vacation was enjoyable. I have coughed quite a bit more than normal, but as long as I keep taking the 12-hour Mucinex every 10 hours I've been fine. (As far back as I can remember I've needed to take stronger doses of medicine than "normal" people -- and usually for longer periods of time than others. When my 4 wisdom teeth were pulled, they told me the dose of anesthesia I took should have put someone twice my weight out.)

This morning I donned my favorite winter-time t-shirt: it's a large yellow smiley face wearing a Santa hat. It works rather well at home in south Florida as well as indoors here in Pennsylvania. On the occasions I've gone outside here, I make sure to bring along an extra flannel shirt and hooded, lined, wind-breaker.

Before breakfast my wife informed me she wanted to go shopping at the shops at "The Promenade." I offered to go with her to "Help watch the kids," which is code for, "Please don't leave me home -- alone -- with the Varmints 3 -- again -- for several hours -- on my vacation!!" She doesn't know the code, yet; I expect it won't be long before she deciphers it.

I'm not exactly certain what attraction "The Promenade" has here in PA. I can understand a bunch of shops grouped together, all with exterior exits (and no interior connecting hallways) in south Florida (if the sidewalks have awnings or some other type of rain protection). I understand it in Florida because it's warm there. We only get a few weeks of weather cold enough to warrant breaking out my flannel shirts. However, here in PA it gets cold -- and very windy -- and sometimes there are large patches of snow and ice to traverse when walking and driving outside. Perhaps outdoor shops are a novelty?

Whatever the attraction, we went. It was cold -- and windy -- and although there was no ice on the ground, little white flakes of snow were whipping past us. After a quick walk-through of L.L. Bean (the Varmints 3 enjoyed peering into the fish tank, Daddy liked browsing through the various multi-tools, and Mommy just wanted to be able to say she'd "Been there"), we decided to go down to Barnes & Noble. The wind was chilly, so we didn't dawdle.

The Varmints 3 weren't impressed with Barnes & Noble. They did enjoy digging under the clearance table in the bins of stuffed Halloween toys -- for all of 30 seconds. Then they admired the various tractor calendars -- that lasted less time than digging in the bins. Then we discovered the Children's section. It had a Thomas the Train table set up (and track glued down) to amuse the little people. I quickly went to the clearance tables, and after a bit, picked 3 books. (I was rather pleased that my 3 books retailed over $75, but only cost me $10.) I went back to "supervise" the train table with the Varmints 3 -- and had a good time with the turntable, roundhouse, and miscellaneous rolling stock they had put out for the children. The other small kids were surprised to see a Daddy on the floor playing with trains, so I got a few free hugs before my wife finished and we left.

Our fun had not yet begun. On the way back my wife and I convinced her Mom, that since we were already out, they should stop for groceries, while I took the kids, went down the road to the gas station, and filled the tank. This car automatically locks all the doors when it's put in drive, or park, or switched into reverse. I've never seen a car lock itself up so often. Before leaving the grocery store I took the ignition key off of the ring (so they could swipe the little discount tag at the checkout). Upon getting out at the gas station, I had the presence of mind to grab my windbreaker (the wind was briskly driving the snowflakes across the top of the hill) and the car key, but didn't think to grab my flannel shirt -- or check to be sure the doors were unlocked before closing my door. I did however, check it AFTER I closed it: the doors were not unlocked. Even better, the ignition key doesn't open any locks (a supposed "safety" feature). Best of all, neither "Nana" nor "Pop pop" have ever used the electronic keypad to unlock the doors -- they don't even know if it works! (In my mind, that just did not compute; why would you purchase a car and not ask if everything on it worked?) While pumping the gas, I calmly called my wife -- so as not to cause a panic in the backseat.

The guy in the store liked my Smiley t-shirt with the Christmas hat. He even laughed when I told him it was a "Little colder here than it is at home in Florida." When I got back to the car, Little Bear was very unhappy when I didn't immediately open the door and get in the car. It didn't help to play "peek-a-boo" either -- he freaked out and tears were flowing immediately. Neither Tank nor Sugee Boogee cried though. They matter-of-factly attempted to unhook their car-seat belts. Little Bear was so hysterical his attempts to help them were only a hindrance.

After 20 minutes of coaxing and talking to them through the windows, Tank was disturbed that he still couldn't unhook his belt or get out of his coat -- he REALLY wanted to unlock the door for me -- he wanted to be first. Sugee Boogee was 3/4 of the way out of her car-seat and could reach the lock, but lacked the strength, knowledge, or concern of the boys. Content in her own little world, she calmly played with her seat, sang songs, and waved at me. Little Bear, still bawling uncontrollably, finally wriggled himself up out of the middle seat belt. He unlocked the door as my wife called for the last time (I lost track of the number of calls that went back and forth).

A good Samaritan at the grocery store overheard a phone conversation and offered to bring her (and the rest of the keyring) up to the gas station to let us into the car. She thanked the nice lady as she got out of her car, and waited at the store for our return. It's a good thing she called that last time, I wouldn't have been there when they arrived.

This evening after dinner, Little Bear looked at my t-shirt and said, "I think you are a Smiley man because of your smiley shirt." I tried to explain that we shouldn't forget our smile when scary things happen, because Jesus is watching over us, but he was more interested in hiding under the bed, and not missing his turn in the bathtub. It was an eventful day -- but I just realized, I forgot to ask if they even needed to swipe the little discount tag at the grocery store.

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