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Pumpkin Town Mishaps

This weekend, my mom and I took the kids to Pumpkin Town, the most brilliant fall-themed marketing ploy this side of the Mississippi. What started as a pumpkin patch a few years ago has turned into a mini carnival, complete with ponies, wagon rides, climbable bales of hay, toddler-sized John Deere tractors with pedals, and - the main attraction, ironically the only one not even remotely related to anything stereotypically "fallish" - an oversized inflatable slide, a la Jupiter Jump.

Last year when John and I took the kids to Pumpkin Town, the slide experience (now, this is going to be a big shock, so brace yourself) was a real fiasco. Tickets for the slide purchased three scrambly, giggly climbs up the huge cloth balloon, and three correspondingly squealy, ecstatic, hair-mussing, whip-lashing trips down. However, the creators of this system made several assumptions when conceptualizing these rules: first, they assumed all kids would be appropriately intimidated by the ticket-taking authority figure; second, they assumed all kids would find three trips down the slide sufficiently thrilling for one fall season; third, they assumed all kids had parents who would be physically capable of catching the ones to whom the first two assumptions may not have applied. They weren't counting on Quinn's uncanny knack for being simultaneously incapable of climbing up the steep ramp without stumbling and yet also somehow capable of eluding the grasp of his teeth-clenchingly humiliated parents every single time he tumbled down three, four, five times more than his ticket had authorized him to do. Driving home after that experience last year, we told ourselves and the kids that we wouldn't be returning to Pumpkin Town in 2005. Quinn responded with as much intense rage and hatred as you would expect if we'd just sentenced him to be de-toenailed. Oh, the shrieks. Oh, the loss of a certain pre-schooler's dinner when a certain pre-schooler chose to stand in the driveway and continue to rage against the Pumpkin Town authority machine rather than come into the house with the rest of us.

Pumpkin Town became something of a disciplinary legend after that -- a point of reference, if you will. For the rest of the season, every time we drove by, Quinn would pipe up from the back seat, "we can't go back this year because I misbehaved?" I'd always matter-of-factly agree, and then he'd say, "but I LIKE the slide! Next time I can only have three turns?" This was the one punishment that the kids seemed to take seriously, and the one John and I actually managed to stick to consistently; we didn't go back last year.

This year the inflatable slide tickets purchased FIVE trips down, and my mom and I started warning the kids about it as soon as we had the tickets in hand. Pumpkin Town's popularity has clearly skyrocketed in the past year, because there was a long line of other slide enthusiasts ahead of us. The kids kept wanting to run off and hijack the toddlers' play areas rather than wait, but other than a few near escapes, we managed to keep things under control, all the while talking about how much fun those FIVE trips down the slide would be, and reminding them that the ticket-taker made the rules, and the rules said everybody could go down the slide FIVE times before they had to - without screaming or physically accosting anyone - GET OFF THE SLIDE. I counted out loud every single time Quinn came down: Four more! Okay, three more! Only two more! This is your last one, Quinn! Then I bolted to the exit opening and prepared to be humiliated and scramble up the apparatus to grab him before he got away from me again. He saw me positioning myself, smiled, and made a move to bolt back up, then heard my mom threaten not to let him ride a pony. Problem solved.

This year, the worst thing that happened in the car on the way home was that after I told the kids not to touch their faces or mouths until we'd had a chance to wash their hands, Quinn, clearly itching for some form of rebellion, held his dirty pony-petting hands up to his wide open mouth, tongue extended as far out as physically possible, index finger placed threateningly above it, looking at me mischievously from his carseat through the rear-view mirror. "No!" I screamed at him, "Quinn, you were petting those animals, there could be manure on your hands, you could get sick!" His still-extended lizard-like tongue s-l-o-w-l-y moved its way closer and closer to the contaminated finger, finally making contact at the base, then disgustingly licking aaalllll the way up to the tip. Bryce couldn't contain his sheer delight at Quinn's never-ending ability to find new ways to explode The System*. The back seat roared with their insane laughter. My mom and I used their distraction as a chance to hide our own silent, teary laughter, and then I pulled myself together and started my lecture on hygiene and obedience, which eventually led to my use of the phrase "poop residue," wherein I discovered that my sons ARE Beavis and Butthead, huh huh she said 'poop.'

*Thank you, Emily. I'm stealing your phrase. It's too good.

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