I’m Going To Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Stevie says, if memory serves, the jokes from Tim started about an hour after he started work at the City of Casa Grande.

“So what? You turned state’s evidence? You’re hiding out here? No Italian moves to Arizona unless they’re hiding something,” said Tim.

And by the end of the work day, my husband Steven would forever be known as Stevie “The Fish” Romano. Because, you know, all Italians need to have a nickname.

From there, the practical joking only escalated. Tim is a joker, and Steven is always game to play along. After months and months of being startled by Tim sneaking up and pounding on his office window and taping a dirty “Will Work For Food” sign he’d found in the parking lot to Steven’s door, Stevie “The Fish” finally got a chance to retaliate.

As Steven left work so we could fly to New York for vacation in July 2009, he snuck into Tim’s office to steal a framed photo of Tim’s wife from his desk. Every day of our weeklong vacation, we made sure to take photos showing Tim’s wife enjoying her impromptu New York vacation. Here are a few of the highlights…

We’ve got Tim’s wife making Gary’s famous cheese dip, and checking out Donny’s new barbecue grill…

Tim’s wife enjoying some Entenmann’s doughnuts with the Meyer’s…

Tim’s wife with Aaron “The Base” Moranz and Scott “Money” Geminn…

Tim’s wife with Audrey and Lorelei Heath…

Tim’s wife with the world famous Candlelight hot wings…

Tim’s wife with the Filippelli’s and the Kennedy’s…

And Tim’s wife, seeing her first ever New York Mets game at the new Citi Field in Flushing Queens…

I gotta admit, Steven and I were pretty proud of ourselves for that little prank, and everyone in the City of Casa Grande offices had fun receiving a daily email and seeing the pictures of Tim’s wife in New York on Facebook.

After that, we knew, Tim was going to have to get creative to get back at Stevie “The Fish”.

Other than a farewell cake ambush that was caught on video on Steven’s last day at Casa Grande, all has been quiet on the Tim pranking front.

Until today…

The UPS man rang the bell and left this package at the door. Even if Tim hadn’t contacted me through Facebook two days ago, I would have known immediately who the package was from as soon as I saw the label. I laughed and set it aside. Steven came home from lunch and immediately tore into the package…

Well-played Mr. Proffer. Well-played.

But be warned, Prank War 2012 is on. And you should never underestimate Stevie “The Fish”.

Something In My Yard Is Out To Get Me

Something in my yard is out to get me.

I sneezed over 78 times today. After that, I lost count. And leave it to my 2-year-old to laugh and make fun of me, running around the house and mimicking me while I’m in the midst of a violent sneezing fit. Little turd.

Apparently, I’m allergic to something. Bad part is, I don’t even know where to begin. It’s like a game of nature-themed Clue outside right now, trying to figure out who’s the culprit. In my yard alone there are over ten varieties of tulips, seven varieties of daffodils, eight varieties of roses, handrangeas, various ornamental grasses, a peach tree, a magnolia tree, a lilac bush, grape vines, ornamental pear blossoms, and several dozen other plants and assorted foliage that I can’t even begin to identify. Hell, the only reason I knew the items on the list above is because the former owners left behind a list of some of the things they planted.

And right now, everything is blooming.

I didn’t always have allergies. Growing up, I never remember having any issues. Except for the occasional cold or flu, and one bout of mono that landed me in the hospital for three days the summer before my sophomore year of high school, I was a pretty healthy kid. I never even had the chicken pox!

It wasn’t until my college years that I began to suffer seasonal allergies. Just about the time that the prettiest flowers started blossoming, my sinuses would revolt and close up tighter than a Venus Flytrap. Boy, I tell ya, there’s nothing sexier than a girl whose face is perpetually damp from the steady flow of liquid draining from both eyes and nostrils. Add a layer of redness around the nose, bloodshot eyes, and enough phlegm to fill a small bathtub and I start looking like one of the animated corpses from The Walking Dead.

I thought it must be something on the East coast–some sort of tree or flower that I just wasn’t used to, sending my sinuses into overdrive–but even now, after moving to Arizona and settling back in Nebraska, the allergies return like clockwork every spring.

Damn you beautiful foliage! I love you, but my clogged head hates you. Can’t we strike a truce?

Until then, I’ll pop a Zyrtec (no more make-me-jittery-and-keep-me-all-night-clenching-my-teeth-ClaritinD for me thanks), and pray that I can make it through another spring without sneezing so hard I pop a blood vessel.

Wish me luck.

I’m Baaaaaaaaaaaack!

As you probably noticed, I took a few days off from the blog. Nothing crazy. No earth shattering catastrophes or alien abduction or wackiness (well, nothing outside the usual wackiness around here). Just a few days spent with some very dear friends who came for a visit from Arizona.

We had a blast.

The worst part, though, is trying to readjust now that they’ve gone home.

The house is too quiet, and we’re trying to work our way back into something of a schedule. Cadence and Electra are both wondering where their friends have gone, and Steven and I are missing the good company and conversation that we always enjoy when Ervin and Erin are around.

It’s been just over 24 hours since I dropped the Flores’ off at the airport, and we’re missing them already.

I’ll share more of the fun tomorrow, but for now, here’s a little glimpse of the five fun days we spent with our friends…

And yeah, you know my kid is the joker who shoved an Funyun in her mouth for the photo. 🙂

Two Years Ago Today…(part 4)

Just before 1:00 a.m., a crowd of nurses burst into the room and turned on the lights. My eyes had never left the monitor, as the numbers jumped and fell erratically with each contraction. Somehow, I thought if I stopped looking, even for a moment, I might lose her.

“Okay, dear, we’re here to get you prepped for surgery,” one of the nurses said, matter-of-factly. “The baby has had enough. It’s time to get her out of there.”

Steven sat up on the couch and listened as the nurses talked us through the procedure, letting us know what to expect. It was a flurry of activity. The next thing I knew, I was being wheeled out of the room, leaving Steven to change. He would have to wait in the hallway outside the operating room until after the anesthesiologist administered my spinal.

The operating room was so bright and white that I had to close my eyes for a moment. Sitting on the table, the anesthesiologist told me to lean forward and hug the pillow in my lap. There was a small pricking sensation in the middle of my back, and then what felt like a sudden jolt of electricity running down my spine and into my legs. The doctors told me to lie back on the table, and stretch my arms out straight from my sides, where they were secured to the table with straps.

By the time Steven entered the room, the lower half of my body was completely numb. Steven pulled his stool up near my head, after the doctors explained that was the best place to sit if he wasn’t interested in seeing what was going on behind the curtain during the surgery.

Everything seemed to happen all at once. Steven and I gave each other nervous smiles as we listened to the doctors talking on the other side of the curtain. The spinal medication had done its job. I wasn’t feeling much of anything at all, except perhaps the slightest sensation of pressure in my abdomen.

“This is it,” the anesthesiologist said suddenly, tapping Steven on the shoulder. “Stand up if you want, and you’ll see your daughter being born.”

From the moment we first got the positive pregnancy test, Steven adamantly insisted that he wanted to see absolutely nothing in the delivery room. Hell, just watching the videos in the childbirth class we’d taken had traumatized him so much that to this day, he still shudders just thinking about it, so I was shocked when he actually stood up and peered over the curtain.

“Uh-oh,” the doctor said loudly, and Steven sat right back down again, his eyes wide. I watched as the color drained from his face.

“You okay?” I asked. He nodded, but didn’t speak.

I gasped as there was suddenly an enormous amount of pressure on my chest. It felt as though one of the doctors had climbed up and was sitting on my ribcage. I couldn’t breathe, and I was being rocked back and forth on the table. Steven squeezed my hand.

“You okay?” He asked. I gasped and nodded.

“Nothing to worry about,” the doctor said from behind the curtain. “Looks like the reason Baby Girl was delayed was because her head was stuck, but she’s comin’ now.”

Suddenly, there was a short cry, and a flurry of activity.

“Here’s your baby girl!” the doctor said, holding her up just high enough for me to see her for one short minute before a nurse whisked her away. “Congratulations Mom and Dad!”

“You want me to go?” Steven asked. I nodded, and he took the camera over to where the nurses were cleaning and weighing our daughter.

“Oh my God!” Steven exclaimed, as he snapped photo after photo. “She looks just like Beau! And she’s got a ton of black hair.”

I craned my neck and could just see her tiny red feet waving as she cried. The nurses swaddled her snugly and handed her to Steven. I almost laughed at loud at how gingerly he held her as he walked over to me.

I stared in awe at her tiny, perfect face.

“Hi Cadence,” I whispered, kissed her soft white cheek. “Hi my baby. We’ve been waiting for you.”

Steven and I smiled at each other, and at our tiny daughter. Then it was time for the nurses to take her and Steven to the nursery while the doctors finished my surgery. Lying on the table, staring up at the bright white ceiling, I smiled to myself as I tried to imagine what our lives would be like now that Cadence was part of them.

Sitting here now, two whole years later, all I can say is that life has gotten infinitely better.

First, there was a year of firsts for all of us. There were first steps, first words, a first tooth, a first bloody boo-boo. Steven and I were pooped on for the first time, puked on for the first time, and got sick as a family for the first time. We slept through the night for the first time, heard that infectious baby laughter for the first time, and have gotten so frustrated we had to put Cadence down and let her cry for the first time. We took our first road trip vacation, traveled on our first airplane, and mastered walking in a first pair of shoes. We saw the first of many unique dance moves, tried dozens of first foods, and wished our beautiful baby girl Happy Birthday for the very first time.

And since that first birthday party in 2011, life has only gotten more interesting. Our tiny baby has grown into a sweet, sassy toddler who wakes every morning, bouncing to get out of her crib and go conquer the world. We even had to install a crib tent to keep some of her exuberance contained. Otherwise, I fear no one in our house would be getting any sleep.

Cadence loves jumping on the couch and playing in the dirt and singing along with the “Uh-Oh Uh-Oh” song (Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue”), which she asks to listen to at least three dozen times a day. She loves to “coll-ee” (color) and read her “Bye-bo” (Bible), harass our dog “Yeah-yeah (Electra) and watch her favorite movies. Her latest obsession is “Waaaaaaaaaaaaalllllleeeeeee” (WALL-E), which she asks to watch at least 17 times a day. And when we say no, she moves onto the others on her list of favorites “Ummp” (Up), “Nan-go” (Rango), “Pah-da” (Kung Fu Panda) or “Mna mnas” (which is “Minions” aka Despicable Me). She thinks it is deliriously funny to act out and recite lines from her favorite scenes, and Steven and I think it is deliriously funny to watch.

It’s been two years of craziness filled with laughter, tears, frustrations, surprises (both good and bad), sleepless nights, early mornings, trial and errors, bumps, bruises, triumphs, failures, new beginnings, changes, road trips, lazy days at home, a whole lot of memories, and a whole lot of fun.

And here’s to many more!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Cadence LaRue!

Two Years Ago Today…(part 3)

I managed to get a few hours sleep, even with the nurses coming into the room periodically to check on me through the night. The contractions began shortly after I swallowed my second dose of medication, at least that’s what the doctor told me when she came to check my progress as she made her final rounds around 5 a.m.

“Still no change,” she said, shaking her head. “You still haven’t dilated passed two centimeters, but you’re having some pretty steady contractions. You’re still not feeling any pain?”

“No, not at all,” I said, shaking my head.

The doctor stood watching Cadence’s vitals on the fetal monitor for a moment.

“I can’t wait to see this little girl of yours. The ladies have been talking about her all night out at the nurse’s station,” the doctor said, meeting my gaze and smiling. “She’s the most beautiful baby we’ve ever seen on the monitors. That little heartbeat is as steady and strong as we ever get to see. Some of these other babies have us running in and out of the rooms all day and night worrying, but not your beautiful girl. She’s keeping us very happy out there!”

I smiled and rubbed my hands above the fetal monitor strapped to my belly. “Thanks, I can’t wait to finally see her too. It’s nice to hear she’s doing well. I’m just hoping she hasn’t gotten too comfortable in there!”

The doctor laughed. “Oh don’t worry about that. She’ll come out one way or another! Are you sure you’re okay? And you don’t need any pain meds?

I shook my head, and the doctor left me to rest. On the couch beside me, Steven slept soundly.

My breakfast tray was delivered at 6:00 a.m., and I couldn’t decide whether I was excited or slightly depressed that I was still being fed at regular intervals, but it didn’t stop me from devouring everything on the tray. I even ate the oatmeal, and I hate oatmeal.

I turned on the television and watched a bit of the local morning news and Live with Regis and Kelly, before breaking out my crossword puzzle book. Steven woke around 9:00. A bit more color had returned to his face, and he admitted he actually felt a little better. Discovering that he had no clean clothes left in the suitcase (everything he packed had been completely sweated through during the worst of the colitis flare up), Steven decided to make a quick run to Target for a change of clothes.

Shortly after Steven left, there was a knock at the door.

“Yoo hoo! I’m heeeere! You can go ahead and have the baby now!” called my sister Kassie as she charged into the room. Momma Dawn followed, laughing.

“You’re freakin’ crazy!” I laughed.

“I’m not kidding,” Kassie stated, plopping her computer bag and purse down on the couch. “I took off work to be here today, just so I could watch my little niece Cadence being born. I’m ready, so let’s do this already. Stevie’s sick, so he’ll probably end up passing out, and I’m his back up, right?”

Momma Dawn just shook her head. “You better quit saying that,” she told Kassie. “I’m pretty sure you’re to blame for Stevie’s colitis. You spent all these months praying to be the one in the delivery room, and now Stevie suddenly got sick? I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

Kassie’s mouth fell open.

“Mom!” she cried. “That’s a terrible thing to say!”

“You know, Sis. I think she might be right,” I said, taking Momma Dawn’s lead. “You are going straight to hell. I can’t believe you prayed for my husband to get sick!”

Momma Dawn and I giggled as Kassie loudly defended her innocence.

For months, Kassie had been begging, pleading, insisting, and even downright demanding that she was going to be in the delivery room when Cadence was born. She’d even come along to one of my prenatal check-ups thinking maybe she could formulate a game plan with my doctor. I’d relented enough to tell her she could be in the room while I was in labor, but reiterated often that as soon as it was time to get down to the nitty gritty of pushing and actually delivering the baby, she was going to have to retreat to the waiting room along with everyone else but my husband.

But Kassie is not the type to just give up, and when she found out that the doctors planned to start me on Pitocin if the current round of oral medication didn’t put me into active labor, she went ahead and took the day off work, certain that I was going to deliver before the day was over. Armed with her laptop, her cell phone, and a purse full of snacks, she was ready to wait it out.

A little over an hour later, Steven returned with a bag of new clothes. He apologized for taking so long (since the Target is only a few blocks away), and told us that apparently the Target employees had taken one look at him when he shuffled in the door wearing his full hobo outfit (which, at that point, was beginning to emit a rather foul odor), and assumed that he was a homeless person looking for something to shoplift.

Still a little disoriented from the medications, Steven was having trouble finding everything he needed. He’d picked up a package of socks, a couple pairs of boxer shorts, and an ASU t-shirt, but was having trouble finding a pair of pants. He didn’t want jeans or slacks or anything with a tight waist, since his abdomen was still pretty tender. He’d been wandering around for about 20 minutes, trying to find a pair of sweatpants or pajama pants or something, when he realized that he was being followed and carefully monitored by two Target employees. Embarrassed, he approached one of them, explained that he had been in the ER, and that his wife was now in labor and all he wanted was a change of clothes. With a sympathetic smile, the young man helped Steven pick out a pair of black wind pants with an elastic waistband.

Freshly showered and dressed in his new clothes, Steven almost looked normal again.

The hours ticked by slowly, broken up only by the nurses coming in and out of the room to check my progress. While the contractions continued to increase in duration and intensity, I still wasn’t feeling any pain. Around noon, a nurse informed me that I wasn’t going to be taking my final dose of medication. My contractions were too strong and too close together, but I still wasn’t dilating. The doctor wanted to give me an hour or two to rest, and then they were going to start me on Pitocin.

“Once we start the Pitocin, things should really get moving,” the nurse assured me. “Pitocin always does the trick.”

Kassie smiled excitedly, yet I was skeptical. It had been 36 hours with absolutely no progress other than some very strong contractions. I was starting to wonder if Cadence hadn’t built herself a little fortress inside and was staging a stand off.

At 2 p.m., the nurses began administering Pitocin through my IV. We spent the afternoon watching the contractions rise and fall on the monitor and listening to the blip, blip, blip of Cadence’s steady heart beat.

Around 5 p.m., Kassie and Momma Dawn finally had to give up and head back home, much to Kassie’s disappointment.

“You better call me the minute anything happens!” she insisted. “I’m staying at Mom’s tonight, so I can be back in a half-hour if necessary.”

I laughed. “Don’t worry, Sissy, I will.”

She and Momma Dawn gave me a hug, and then headed out the door.

Every time the nurses came to check my progress (which seemed to be every hour at that point), I cringed. I was getting sore, and really tired of hearing, “Wow, still just two centimeters. I can’t believe it.”

I began asking the nurses about the possibility of a C-Section. One of my doctors had mentioned it several weeks ago during one of my routine exams. He said he didn’t want to alarm me, but I had a pretty narrow pelvis, and he said he wouldn’t be shocked if I ended up having a C-Section. He’d given me several pamphlets describing the procedure, and told me that the best thing was just to be informed and prepared for whatever might happen during my delivery. Now, as my hospital stay was beginning to seem endless with no signs of any progress in my labor, I wondered if he had been right. The nurses said they would mention my concerns to the doctor on call.

At 6:30, the doctor arrived abruptly and informed me that he was going to break my water.

Steven and I looked at each other wide-eyed.

“But, the nurse just checked me and said I was still two centimeters,” I said, watching him pull instruments from a drawer next to my bed.

“That’s right,” he said. “Your contractions are very strong, but we’re just not seeing any other progress. I’m going to break your water, and then we’re going to up the level of Pitocin, and that should get things going here.”

Before I could protest, the doctor asked me to lie back. A moment later, it was done.

“Now, do you need anything, any pain medication, or any questions before I go?”

I shook my head. Tears had welled up in my eyes. I wasn’t in any pain, but for the first time, I was scared.

The doctor left as quickly as he’d arrived.

“Okay dear, don’t be afraid to call us if you need anything,” the nurse said, readjusting the pillow behind my head. She pressed a button on my IV stand to increase the Pitocin flowing into my veins. “I’ll be back to check on you shortly.”

“Holy shit!” Steven said after the nurse left. “What the hell was that?”

I wiped the tears away and shook my head. “I don’t know.”

“Are you okay?” Steven asked, coming over to the side of the bed and squeezing my shoulders.

“Yeah, I’m okay…I just…I wasn’t ready for that,” I explained.

“Why didn’t you ask him about a C-Section while he was here?” Steven asked.

“I don’t know…I guess he just didn’t seem like he was really keen on the idea, you know?”

Steven nodded.

“Well hey, look at the bright side,” he said.

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“The season premiere of LOST starts in about ten minutes.”

I laughed. “Damn, Cadence better hold out a while longer, then!”

Steven laughed and hugged me. He moved my IV stand, and pulled a chair over close to the side of my bed, and then took my hand and held it.

Halfway through the two-hour season premiere, the nurse came in to check on me.

“Do you need anything?” she whispered, noticing that Steven and I were engrossed in the program.

“No, thank you,” I whispered back.

“You’re okay with pain? You don’t need any meds?” she asked.

“No, I’m good,” I said.

“Okay, what I need you to do is to turn and lie on your right side, okay?”

I rolled over to my right. “Like this?” I asked.

“Yep, that’s perfect,” she said. “You’re having some really strong contractions, and the baby doesn’t seem to like it very much, so we’re going to try a new position.”

“Is everything okay?” I asked.

“Yep, we just want to make sure your baby is comfortable.”

The nurse stood for a moment watching the monitors, and then she turned and left.

Steven and I made it through the end of the show, and then flipped through the channels for something else to watch.

A group of three nurses came in and stood for a few moments, huddled around the monitors.

“There, do you feel that?” one of them asked me.

“No…feel what?” I asked.

On the monitor, I watched the little line steadily climb to the very top of the screen and stay there.

“You don’t feel anything at all?” another nurse asked.

I glanced over at Steven, and then back to the nurses.

“No,” I said, not really. I placed my hands on my stomach. It was hard like a bowling ball. “I mean, if I touch my belly, it’s really hard and tight, but it doesn’t hurt or anything.”

“See! I told you!” the first nurse said to the others. The three of them laughed, and then stared in apparent disbelief at the monitor until the line began to slowly descend again.

“Okay, well you just let us know if you need anything, okay?”

“Sure,” I said.

The three of them left, muttering quietly to each other.

“What was that about?” Steven asked.

“Dunno,” I said, shrugging. I glanced at the monitor, watching the line begin to rise again. “I think maybe those are contractions, but they’re not hurting or anything.”

“You don’t feel anything at all?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No. My back is a little sore from lying in this bed all day, but otherwise, nothing hurts.”

“Leave it to me to have all the labor pains huh?” Steven said laughing. “My wife has a uterus of steel. You could probably carry Superman’s baby, you know.”

I laughed. “You’re freakin’ crazy! I guess we better try and get some sleep though. It’s getting late.”

Steven turned out the lights and crawled back into his nest on the couch. I was just beginning to doze when another nurse came in and turned on the light next to my bed.

“How are you doing?” she asked.

“Okay,” I replied.

“Are you needing an epidural?” she asked.

“Oh no, I’m fine,” I said.

“Okay, well let’s have you roll over on your left side for awhile okay? We saw baby’s heart rate dip again with your last big contraction, so we want to get her in a different position for a bit.”

“Is everything okay?” I asked. Steven sat up and listened.

“Everything’s fine right now,” she said. “We’re just keeping a close eye on the baby. We don’t want her getting too stressed out since your contractions are so strong. Okay, that’s good. Try to get some rest if you can, okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

The nurse turned the light off and left.

Lying on my left side, facing the monitors, I stared at the blip, blip, blip of Cadence’s heart. The number that had been so steady since we first arrived in the hospital Sunday night was fluctuating wildly. I watched the number go from 145 to 155 to 170 to 65 as the line for my contraction steadily climbed. For a moment, the number disappeared, blinked 0, then 125…

140…

145…

For the next several hours, I couldn’t tear my eyes from the monitor as the numbers rose and fell with each contraction. The nurses began to reappear like clockwork, every ten minutes or so, to help reposition me, and I began to detect genuine concern in their faces. I was starting to think that Cadence wasn’t looking so beautiful on their monitors anymore, and I could feel the icy fingers of fear beginning to creep in.

“Has the doctor said anything about a C-Section?” I asked. “Because I’m okay with it. I mean, really at this point, if the baby is starting to get stressed out, then I am all for it. I just want her to be safe.”

“He hasn’t said anything yet,” the nurse replied. “But I am going to page him now to let him know what’s happening, and we’ll see what he says.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Seriously, this is getting ridiculous!” Steve said, as soon as the nurse walked out the door. “Something is obviously going on with the baby, and nothing is happening. I think the next time they come in, we just need to insist that they do the surgery.”

I nodded. “I’m starting to think so too,” I said. “Have you been watching the monitors?”

“Yeah,” Steven said. “Her heart rate is all over the place, and the nurses are obviously worried about it because they are in here every five minutes.”

The door opened and a nurse arrived as if on command.

“See what I mean,” Steven said..

“Well, the doctor called and we gave him the update, and I let him know what you said about a C-Section,” the nurse explained, curtly, and I wondered if she didn’t quite agree with the orders she’d been given. “He said he wants to up the Pitocin again and give things a few more hours to see how it goes, and then we’ll take it from there.”

My mouth dropped open to protest, but I closed it again.

“Oh geez,” Steven muttered.

The nurse pressed the button on the IV to increase the dose.

“Okay, now let’s have you lie on your right side again, and we’ll see how the baby likes that.”

I turned to my right, but twisted just far enough so I could still see the fetal monitor.

“Okay, she looks good. We’ll try that and see how it goes,” the nurse said. “Are you okay? Do you need anything? Any pain meds?”

“Nope, I’m okay,” I said.

“Alright dear. Just buzz if you need anything.” The nurse turned out the lights as she left.

“This is freakin’ ridiculous,” Steven muttered.

I didn’t say anything. In the darkness, I stared at the monitors.

145…

145…

145…

My stomach tightened and the line began to rise on the screen, signaling another contraction.

148…

155…

162…

127…

77…

43…

22…

0…

0…

0…

To be continued…

Excavation 2012 – Day #4 – Mmmm…Pappadeaux

The first (and so far the only) time I visited New Orleans, I fell in love. There is just something enchanting about that city–something that pulls you in, that changes you, and that keeps a little piece of you long after you’ve gone back home. The same thing happened to my husband the first time he went there too. Had we actually been able to find the time to go on a honeymoon after we got married, New Orleans was at the top of our list.

We’ll get back there someday but, until we do, we are on the lookout for anything that is inspired by our second favorite city (second only to New York City, where we met).

Back in January of 2009, I stumbled across Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in northern Phoenix when I was looking for a good seafood restaurant where we could go to celebrate Steven and our friend Foerth’s birthdays. It was almost a 90-minute drive from where we lived at the time but oh, was it worth it!

We had to wait over an hour for a table, and it wasn’t even a busy night. We didn’t care though. We grabbed a beer at the bar and sat outside listening to the jazz band until the hostess called us.

The food was amazing–as close as you could come to authentic Cajun and Creole food in the Arizona desert. Everything was fresh and perfectly cooked. We ate shrimp and oysters and alligator. We dared each other to try an order of frog legs, and guess what? They do taste like chicken.

Foerth put away a platter of assorted fried seafood that was bigger than his torso (lending credence to my theory that he does, indeed, have either a hollow leg or the fastest metabolism of any human being that ever lived), while Steven savored every last bite of the biggest lobster the chef could pull out of the tank. All I can say is that I’m glad the restaurant was so crowded, because my husband was moaning loudly with every bite.

Now, one thing Steven and I like to do when we stumble upon an amazing restaurant is to get ourselves some kind of souvenir. Sometimes it’s as simple as a matchbook or a business card. Sometimes it’s a t-shirt (if they have a cool one) or a commemorative glass. We’d noticed that our pint glasses from the bar had the Pappadeaux logo on them, so we asked our waiter if we could buy one.

Whoever first came up with the phrase “food coma” is dead on. The three of us were in a daze, we’re not even sure what happened next. When our waiter came back to settle our bill and bring us our packed leftovers to take home, he brought a bag with four Pappadeaux pint glasses, free of charge, about a dozen lobster bibs, and a whole handful of the Pappadeaux wet wipes that Steven had been using to remove the layer of butter from his face after his meal.

Woohoo free stuff!

Of course, we should have just thrown away the wet wipes and bibs and saved the glasses, but there’s something about free stuff that makes people momentarily insane. So instead of chucking this stuff three years ago when we should have, we threw it in a junk drawer that was eventually emptied into a box when we moved to Nebraska and has been sitting in our basement waiting to be unpacked…until today.

Here are a few things we’ve learned…

1. Wet naps, even sealed in the nice plastic Pappadeaux packaging, do not stay wet forever. Use ’em or lose ’em people.

2. Our dog really will eat anything that resembles food…even a cartoonish-looking picture of a lobster printed on a paper bib.

3. My husband is a good sport when it comes to modeling for my blog. Here,  he is sporting a suit of armor and loincloth fashioned from paper bibs. Mmmm…sexy!

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